Thursday, February 28, 2013

Downward momentum...

 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after Ehud died. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.  Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Judges 4:1-5 ESV)
We are getting used to this phrase "again did what was evil..." as an introduction to each judge.  The people cried out in despair as they suffered the consequences of ignoring God, He sends a deliverer, they enjoy peace and quiet, and proceed to again leave God out.  Each time we God using some of the least likely people.  First, it was a little brother (Othniel), then it was a left-handed man; now it is a woman warrior.  Were there no men worth following?  God has a way of impressing upon us the importance of women in His story, but at the same time the tendency of men to go AWOL.  This leads us to situations where we cry out in desperation, since we, especially men, have failed to cry out in worship, dependence and trust.   May our prayers be the brakes on the downward spiral.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Repeat performance

 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel. And they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.  Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, and the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab. (Judges 3:12-15 ESV)
After my good buddy Othniel was used by God to deliver his people, it was not long before they fell back into their old sinful ways and were in bondage.  Things were so bad they trusted a left-handed man, (in that culture use of the left hand is still suspect.)  We so easily fall back into the same sins. It starts because we stop calling out to God when things are good, and fail to trust Him day to day.  So often it takes a crisis.  Let's not wait for that or settle for that.  Let's call out to Him in faith today!

Monday, February 25, 2013

One of my favorite guys...

 But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother. (Judges 3:9 ESV)
Othniel is one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament - not just because he was a good man from a godly family, but because of what he represents. He represents a time when some of God's people actually got it; they cried out to God in prayer, recognizing their sin and failure and need of God's turning things around.  We do need more Othniels.  But even more, we need to cry out to God for them.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Striving together

 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. (Romans 15:30-32 ESV)
Often the Apostle Paul seems bigger than life to us - the supersaint in a class of his own.  But though he was not dependent on anyone else for his spiritual life, he was very interdependent with fellow believers in his ministry.  He paints the picture for us here of running this race together, much like the preacher does in Hebrews 12.  We are not alone. God does not intend us to run alone. We are running together, praying for one another, that each of us will run the life God intends.  Prayer is a gift God has given to unite us as we run, that we carry on this conversation together.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pray for the persecuted...

 And when he(Herod) had seized him(Peter), he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:4-5)
From the get-go, Christ's followers have faced persecution.  He had told his Apostles to expect it, because He Himself had been mistreated.  What was the church's response?  Prayer.  As early as Acts 4 we find when they were arrested and threatened, they prayed.  We need to be praying for brothers and sisters around the world who are in prison, having their families threatened, and being killed for their bold testimony for Christ.  Let us not be so comfortable that we turn our backs on the brethren.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Praying in tune...

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)
Often, when I am praying, a song comes to mind to sing to the Lord.  As Paul instructs this church on their life together, I get the picture that worship involves teaching, singing, and offering prayers of thanksgiving to God - not as isolated tasks, but an integrated, flowing unity.  As the prayer develops and responds to what God has revealed, there is then a dedication in prayer, and actual living, to carry out what God has instructed.  The doing follows the worship of and conversation with God.  Do all to the glory of God, but first, find out what you're supposed to be doing.  After that, life is a musical...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

To the point...

 pray without ceasing,
(1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)
In the midst of a list of popcorn instructions, Paul throws this one in to the Thessalonian church - Keep on Praying.  We need to take this to heart not only as individual believers, but as churches.  The letter was to a church.  Corporate prayer is as easy to ignore as a church as it is an individual believer.  Let's do something!  Let's pray.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Unselfish praying...

 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,(Ephesians 6:18-19 ESV)
Often when we think about this passage and the Armor of God, we are thinking about protecting ourselves.  Paul points us outward, to praying for all the saints, for those who are more spiritual than we are, to those who have yet to know Christ.  How can we pray so unselfishly? Only with the help of the Holy Spirit, who strips us of self and gives us the heart and mind of Christ.  May He guide our prayers today.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The first thing to do is...

 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.(1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)
Though fourth on the list of things the believers in Acts 2 did, it was one that was primary.  In fact, it's what they were doing when everything started - pray.  Paul tells us that the first thing we need to do is pray - for ourselves and others.  We need to pray that we will be who we should be, and that others without Christ will come to know Him.  Pray is that one thing we should do first, that we most often fail to do.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Breaking Bread Badly...

 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (1 Corinthians 11:20-22 ESV)
Whent the Corinthian Christians gathered together for the celebration of the Lord's supper and love feast, it was not quite like Christ had planned.  Rather than being a time of rich fellowship in Him, it was often a time of selfishness, comparision and gluttony.  Breaking bread, be it around a meal or His table, should always be a time of solemn thanksgiving and loving celebration. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Break bread, not heads...

 On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and taking him in his arms, said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the youth away alive, and were not a little comforted.(Acts 20:7-12 ESV)
The early church was intentional about gathering to break bread.  It almost sounds cold that Paul raised the young man up and then ate, but he knew the importance of what he was doing.  The "bread of life" of the Word of God was important to share before he left.  Everyone went away satisfied.  That is what it should be like whenever we break bread together - whether it be to celebrate the Lord's Supper, or just share around a table with other believers, there should be a sense of contentment and joy that fills our hearts, because of Christ.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bread from Heaven...

 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”(Exodus 16:4-8 ESV)
We need to learn to be content.  Like the people of Israel, we are often nothing more than a bunch of grumblers.  When the New believers in Jerusalem were "breaking bread", it says "they received their food with glad and generous hearts ." (Acts 2:46 ESV) Bread from heaven, like The Bread from Heaven, Jesus Christ, should bring a contentment and joy into our hearts worth celebrating.  What will we grumble about today???

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bread of life

 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35 ESV)
In context here, the discussion is about Moses and the Manna in the wilderness. The Jewish leaders were trusting in their dependence on and twisting of the Law of Moses to give them spiritual life.  It could not.  What they needed, and we need, is the true Bread of Life, the One who gives life, spiritual and physical alike.  Whenever we "break bread" and remember what He has done, we look to Him as the life-giver He is, the One in whom we believe. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The food's great... how's the service?

 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,(Acts 2:46 ESV)
The main part of this verse is the last line: they were joyful, content and giving. The service was great, whether it was in worship or fellowship. They had a new perspective on life and on others.  They did not tire of one another's presence.  It was not only what they did, but how they did it, together.  How will you spend your day?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Preparation for participation

 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:14-17 ESV)
Participation - taking part.  In our culture it seems almost a passive thing.  But the word here is also translated fellowship, sharing, communion.  What are we saying and doing when we share in the Lord's supper?  When we do anything together as the people of God?  We are sharing in Christ.  What a compelling thought to cast down any idols in our lives or in our life as the people of God. Get ready to share.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The seeds of fellowship...

 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
(Philippians 2:1-6 ESV)
Fellowship, refered to here as "participation" is the sharing of life in Christ.  It does not "come naturally", but supernaturally.  In order for it to thrive we must all be submissive to the Spirit of God, recognize the significance of others, and seek to serve Christ and others above ourselves.  We must not grasp at our own greatness, but go for God's glory above all things.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Where's the food???

 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:5-8 ESV)
Usually, when we see the word "fellowship" we think "food."  That's a far cry from a biblical understanding of what fellowship, sharing, participation, communion is all about.  In fact, the warning in this passage on fellowship is enough to take your appetite away.  Our fellowship is centered not around a spread on the table, but on a common relationship with Christ as our Savior, and the common mind, goal and desire we have as believers to walk with one another following after Him.  Yes, we can enjoy a meal along the way, but what makes it a good one, is our relationship with Christ.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Plural, as ususal...

 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.(1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)
When we look at the promises and blessings of God that we have in Christ, many of them are found in the context of corporate blessings.  Such is fellowship.  Yes, we all are united to Christ by faith - we have our own personal relationship with Him, but this Fellowship is something we are called to together.  The verses before us talk about the blessings of this fellowship, that together we will have sufficient grace, all knowledge, every gift we need to live out God's plan for us in Christ.  What a fellowship this is indeed!