Thursday, December 31, 2015

Persecution: Being seen as The Problem

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”  (1 Kings 18:17)
Whenever Ahab saw Elijah, he said "Here comes trouble..."  When we are serious about standing for God, speaking and living the Truth, and unafraid to take God's side, we will be seen as the problem, and will be mistreated in varieties of ways.  We can expect that.  But we also must beware crying "victim", which Elijah went on to do.  God's response to that is "What are you doing here?" We are not alone; He is still our Sovereign Lord; He will see us through our struggles and suffering and loneliness.  In a pagan culture such as ours, we will be seen as "the problem", but if we respond with faith and trust and continue to act in a Christlike manner, no one will be able to point their fingers at us and honestly say we are the problem.  And our conscience will not convict us; we will remain confident despite any suffering we may face.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Evil, Envious Eye

As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated,
“Saul has struck down his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?” And Saul eyed David from that day on.
The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.
Saul was afraid of David because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. So Saul removed him from his presence and made him a commander of a thousand. And he went out and came in before the people. And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him.
(1 Samuel 18:6-15 ESV)
Persecution of God's people is a thread throughout history since the Fall.  Here, David is blessed by God for his willingness to freely and courageously serve God and His people.  When others saw that God was blessing him, they took notice.  For most there was no competition; they were just glad to have David on their team.  But for Saul it was a cause for envy, fear, and hatred.  He wanted David out of his sight and out of his life - permanently.  That attitude leads to persecution - mistreatment for doing good and seeking to be right before God.  Sometimes it comes from those who are part of the same team, who at least proclaim to belong to God's people.  Then it is a double blow: it hurts sincere followers and it destroys the testimony of God's people.  Persecution: don't be surprised when it comes, and don't allow yourself to become its tool.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making life Bitter for the Blessed

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
(Exodus 1:8-14 ESV)
God had promised to make Abraham a great nation.  He kept His promise, and his people were persecuted.  Fear and envy moved in Pharaoh's heart to be a ruthless taskmaster to break the backs and spirits of God's people.  It's what we would expect in a fallen world.  The good news is that it backfired.  The more he persecuted them, the stronger they became.  That is a history lesson for us all.  We should never feel abandoned by God if we suffer for proclaiming or living out our faith. In our weakness, He will make us strong and do more that survive.  We will thrive.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Where did this come from?

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
(Genesis 4:3-8 ESV)
In a real sense, this is the first act of persecution recorded.  Abel did it right; God approved; can was jealous; he tried to get rid of the envy by getting rid of his brother.  To be sure, there is some learned behavior here.  The structure in phrase :Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it..." is the same as the one in chapter 3 - describing Eve's desire to take over headship from her husband.  Envy. That idea that someone else has something you deserve, and if you cannot have it, they will not either.  It's a thread in the Bible.  Where does it come from?  Within.  And that's where it needs to be resolved.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Living in the Light Here and Now...

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
(Ephesians 5:3-16 ESV)
Not only is the The Light to be seen as we look back to Eternity Past and forward to our Eternal Hope and home, it is something we should live in here and now.  Central to this passage is that imperative: "Walk as children of light!"  The light is not just before and at creation, at the incarnation and at the end of the Revelation.  The Light is a present reality in the lives of those who follow Christ.  It is seen when we allow Him to reveal and remove the darkness from our lives - our speech, our attitudes,our actions.  May we let His Light shine today!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Looking Ahead to the Light...

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
(Revelation 22:1-5 ESV)
As we look for Light in a dark world, we can look back to the coming of Christ as the light of the world, back to God's words at Creation: "Let there be light." and even further back to eternity past, as He has always been the Light.  We can also look ahead and see Light in the future.  Our eternity in heaven with God will be one of consistent, glorious light.  There will be nothing that hides from the light; we won't have to pretend our holiness anymore; everything and everyone will be healthy and whole; we will be with Him.  All will be well.  Let us look forward to that Light in hope with full assurance and joyful anticipation, much more than a child who has waited and watched for Christmas.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Glorious Light!

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:9-14 ESV)
The light of the star.The brilliance of the angelic host.  Both lit up the sky that night.  But the brightest Light lay in the manger.  HE is true light, pure light, the source of all light. When one comes into contact with Him, the impact is overwhelming - we must choose Light or flight.  We can come and see and bow down and go ahead changed, or we can glimpse and go away cold, hard, foolish.  May the Light shine bright in our hearts and homes today.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Right Light and the Right Angle...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
(John 1:1-5 ESV)
In many homes over the next day or two a lot of pictures will be taken.  Everyone will be looking for the perfect Christmas picture for the family scrapbook or social media post.  In our celebrations we also try to picture perfectly that first Christmas and what the Nativity was like, and the picture perfect Christmases of days gone by.  These require lighting, focus, and angle.  John, after many years of contemplation gives us a different angle and different Light.  For him the vantage point is eternity, and all the light he needs is found in the Word.  His very presence in the picture makes it just right. His being the focal point as the Creator and Savior of the World makes this picture a 360 degree masterpiece. There is no more perfect Christmas picture possible. Come, look at The Light.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Being able to see the light...

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. (Psalm 36:7-9 ESV)
God's love and light go hand in hand. When we receive His love for us in Christ, we are finally able to see clearly. His light becomes our light, where everything makes sense, where we can see Him, ourselves and the world around us as things really are. The darkness of this world hides so much from us. It cannot see Him or understand Him. Though we cannot fully do so until we are in his presence, it's a whole new world here and now when we see His light and are drawn to it. How will we respond to His love, His light today?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

God's Brilliant Plan...

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
(Isaiah 42:5-7 ESV)
Isaiah lived in dark days.  All around he saw his people drifting away from God, their leaders turning the wrong way for hope and security.  It was like being in a dark tunnel.  But then He began to reveal through Isaiah a message of hope - His Servant, A light to the nations.  Isaiah's message of gloom then began to intermingle with this: "Look for the Light." He is coming. Our hope is not in ourselves; it is in Him.

Monday, December 21, 2015

We need someLlight over here!!!

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
(Isaiah 9:2 ESV)So there I was... looking for something I needed, and needed soon.  It is an unlit room, so I looked for a flashlight... with working batteries!  None was found.  I needed light...  Isaiah saw how much we need light.  In this highly Messianic passage, he goes on to give a message of hope that the Light, the Baby, the Prince of Peace is coming.  We just need to be willing to recognize that we are walking in darkness.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Here is what love looks like...

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:7-19 ESV)
We often refer to I Corinthians 13 as the Love Chapter.  I would contend that this chapter is every bit as much so.  John says: "Here is love - Look at what Christ did, when He did it, why He did it. We see here the love of the Father and the Son.  We also see the love of the Spirit, as He is willing to come into the loves of yet imperfect believers.  The real question is: what kind of love do we see in us? All of the above demonstrations of the love of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - they would imply that we would demonstrate similar love toward the rest of the Family. As we celebrate the first coming of Christ, let us celebrate it as Love come down, Sent, and Staying around, in us.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Love between the lines...

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
(Luke 2:14 ESV)
Love... overused and abused in our culture.  Yet it does keep the fruit of the Spirit bundled together; it does express God's motivation to act upon our behalf and send His Son.  So why is it not mentioned right here at the Incarnation? Why does God not say: "Here is my love demonstrated for you!"? It does.  For those of us around longer than the laptop, we always memorized this account in old King James Version: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."  Goodwill. It's not just a secondhand shop.  The term the New Testament gave a new twist for love - that we use for the unconditional, abundant love of God - agape' - carried with it this sense of "goodwill." To love is to desire what is best for the other, and to speak and act in such a way to bring that about, no matter how much it costs me.  When God sent His Son it was not so much because he was pleased with how wonderful and holy we are, but because of His goodwill, His love, toward us.  So there is love here in a very real way.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mature but healthy joints...

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)
It's that time of year when anything can ache... especially the joints.  But God's people have different kinds of joints - ones that are strong and healthy, yet mature.  Those joints are words and actions of love toward one another.  Those things bind us together, not bind us up.  Such words and actions are deliberate, yet sincere; focused, yet spontaneous; humble, yet confident.  Let's do this!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Love Helper

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15-21 ESV)
God Loves us!  He has demonstrated that. Our proper is response is to love and obey Him.  We need help with that - a lot of help.  Jesus' statements here are not stand-alone proverbs or random. The very next statement after his connection of love and obedience is the promise of the Holy Spirit to help us love and obey. He loves us enough to give us what we need to do what He wants us to do.  Do we trust Him? Do we love Him? Will we obey Him?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

God's Love... Steady as she goes...

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
(Psalm 33:1-5 ESV)
The one word Old Testaments writers used to describe God's love more than any other is Steadfast.  When in poetry, like here, the accompanying term used is God's faithfulness.  We can count on it. Often times we get stuck in the mud of our existence and do not see what is all around us. We miss God's love around us.  We miss out on the joy of His presence.  We feel as if we are in a boat lost at sea, when in fact He is right here, watching, waiting, overseeing the course of our lives.  May we not ignore Him today.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Being loved...

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 ESV) 
Moses goes to great pains to emphasize this true about love: It is a choice. God chose His people Israel not because they were perfect or powerful, but because He chose to pour out His love upon them. Paul makes a similar statement when he talks about New Testament believers being "chosen before the foundation of the world." God does so for two reasons: 1) to emphasize our value, our worth, found in relationship with Him, and 2), to illicit a proper response from us, the loved: to trust and obey. Being loved is a wonderful place to be. But it is not to be taken for granted or a license for evil; it is a privilege that draws us to live lives worthy of such love.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Love Story begins...

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:1-3 ESV)
This is the very first mention of love in scripture.  It was an accurate statement: Abraham loved Isaac immensely.  He was the hope of his life.  God asked: "Who do you love the most?"  That is the question that runs through scripture: "Who do I love most? Who does God love most? What does love look like?"  This picture lays the foundation for all else: love sacrifices; love trusts; love acts.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Deep Joy

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)
When a child of God has joy, he or she often responds with singing and shouting, and when you are really joyful like David was - leaping!  But what is this? Leaping with joy over being persecuted??? When we understand the greatest joy possible, yes.  Joy is finding our fulfillment in God and His plan, and being willing to share that with others.  If we receive backlash, that is merely reinforcement that our joy is properly placed.  So today, may we rejoice in a Savior sent, His salvation accomplished, and the privilege of being a part of His plan.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Being told we should be joyful...

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:9-11 ESV)
The first reaction of the shepherds, understandably, was fear.  Bright lights before the light bulb, an alien from somewhere else - that's enough to shake anyone up.  The reason to not fear? Replacing that fear with joy.  The reason to rejoice?  The Savior has arrived.  The fact has not changed - rather, it has only intensified through the course of events of His life, death and resurrection.  The question is: how are we responding to it? Joy or fear?  Listen to Linus.  "That's is what it's all about." Come out of the fear and into the light, the joy of Christ.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What joy does...

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)
We have already seen that joy can be demonstrated outwardly with singing, shouting, leaping and dancing.  But there are other things we do that demonstrate our deepest joy - what it really is that gives us most satisfaction and fulfillment.  We pour our all into it.  Christ calls us to pour that into our relationship with Him.  Nothing else compares in value, and where our treasure is, and our heart is, we will invest ourselves most deeply.  Have you found The Joy? Does it show?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Come and Clap!

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples.
Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know,
and a nation that did not know you shall run to you,
because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel,
for he has glorified you.
“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
(Isaiah 55:1-12 ESV)
How many classic, well-known verses can you fit in one chapter?  Here we have a whole chain of them leading up to this one great promise: "You shall go out in joy!"  That's what we're all looking for: true joy!  The path to joy features coming to Christ for His free gift, listening to Him, crying out to Him, taking His way instead of ours, seeing Him keep the promised of His word.  When we do, we will find ourselves in a culture of joy, where it is (super)natural for us to rejoice, as if everything and everyone else is doing it too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

If we don't rejoice... The wilderness will

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
(Isaiah 35:1-4 ESV)
We have great reason to rejoice: In God's character and His great acts of creation and salvation.
The rest of creation even sees that, and will rejoice as it watches.  Will we?  As Jesus said: "If you don't there will be a rock concert!"  Let us rejoice with singing, shouting, leaping and dancing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Glimpse of what Joy looks like...

“Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the LORD has ransomed Jacob
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the LORD.”
(Jeremiah 31:10-14 ESV)
Joy.  It is often expressed with singing, shouting, even dancing.  In its truest form it is a response to Who God Is and what He has done; it is taking pleasure in Him.  In this prophetic picture of the restoration of Israel, we have a picture of abundance, with all sorts of outward expressions of joy.  But the most telling comment is the one at the end - when God's people are satisfied with God's goodness, when He is enough, all we need - when He is our pleasure.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A song of Joy for the whole day...

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
(Psalm 65:5-8 ESV)
In this song, the psalmist views the created world as capable of having joy.  In this last verse he says that the whole day, morning until evening, is made to shout for joy. God wants joy for our day, all day. If the inanimate mountains and seas can look out and see joy, how much more should we, as we consider the greatness of God, our salvation and our hope.  If we will stand in awe of Him, joy will fill our hearts.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Peace on Earth

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:10-14 ESV)
A quiet home.  The hum of the refrigerator. The tick of the clock.  Sometimes peace seems obvious.  Sometimes it does not.  These shepherds were afraid - for their safety, their jobs, their future, and at this point, their lives.  Peace is not the absence of noise or concern or uncertainty, but the conquering of fear when Someone enters the scene.  He is here; he is in control; all will be well with my soul.  Peace to you.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Pathway to Peace...

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)
Paul tells us here at least two things contribute to peace in our lives: Prayer and Practicing the positive promises of God.  When we pray with thankful hearts, God works peace in our hearts.  And when we practice what God has revealed as good and right, peace also prevails.  Can I hear  a little "Trust and Obey" in the background???

Friday, December 4, 2015

Figuring this Peace thing out...

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:44-50 ESV)
Jesus' words troubled many people; especially those who trusted in their own righteousness. His response to Jesus was the exact opposite of this woman, who recognized her own sinfulness and Jesus' holiness. She welcomed Him as Savior. When He tells her to "go in peace", she is receiving what we all need and long for: forgiveness, knowing we are safe(saved), assured that all will be well. Simon, the host, was left with no such peace, because He refused the righteousness God has provided in Christ. Christ came to give peace. May we recognize and receive it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Righteousness and Peace...

For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
(Isaiah 32:14-18 ESV)
Isaiah watched his world crumble around him.  The government was corrupt; the people were immoral; wars and violence increased.  Yet he also was given words of hope and comfort that some day there would be peace.  What God makes increasingly clear to him and to us is the relationship of peace to righteousness.  This right-relatedness to God and others is the only thing that brings true peace into our lives and our world.  Nothing else "works". Everyone wants peace; we want this wholeness, completeness, this security of knowing all is and will be well.  First must come righteousness through faith in Christ.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Help Lord! I need Peace...

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4 ESV)
David was up against a wall, with many out to get him.  How did he live all those years on the run, How did he sleep at night. Even though his mighty men of valor protected him, he knew how vulnerable he was (he himself had more than one opportunity to take out King Saul unprotected.) Where did David find peace?  "You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety."  Peace. Deep down within we want it more than any exciting thing in our lives.  To be able to sit quietly, knowing all is well and will be well when we get up tomorrow.  Thou we all seek it (and are often told in Scripture to do!), it is something we cannot make, earn, buy or steal; it must be received.  Call out to Him. Know Who He is and you are.  Peace.

Monday, November 30, 2015

And did I happen to mention peace???

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)
In these two so-well known verses, God has Isaiah use the word peace twice in so many lines. As much as we think "shalom" was an every day word in ancient Israel, it was not so much an everyday event in life. The term is used much less than others. But the time surrounding the promised Child is one dominated by peace; it is endless; it is the bottom line; He is the Prince of Peace. Deep down we all are looking for and longing for shalom. It is found in Him.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finding Hope when you're not Happy

He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:16-24 ESV)
Jeremiah had seen his life work of preaching repentance go up in smoke - literally. Despite His preaching and pleading, the people of Israel fell and were exiled. Life was as much fun as chewing gravel. That bad. His hope was all gone, and an uncertain future was before him. So He called out to God and called to mind His great faithfulness and mercy for each new day. Whatever the future holds, He holds us, therefore, we can hope in Him.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hope in context...

“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV)
Many believers cling to the promise of verse 11 - that God has plans for us, so we can have hope. Specifically this promise was made to the people of Jerusalem and Judea as they were being taken into exile in Babylon. It was not general or individual. But in it we do find applicable hope, because it is based upon the character of God, and He does give us reason for hope. Rather than cling to it as one's personal life verse, however, it would be more applicable to see it as a promise to His people corporately. He has plans for us. When we turn away and get off track He will discipline us and allow us to go through the wringer. When we come together and pray, He will here. God wants us to be people of hope - not that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but that He will never turn His back on His people calling out to Him in prayer together.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hold Fast to Hope

[17] So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, [18] so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. [19] We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, [20] where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV)
The main Hebrew term used in the Old Testament for "hope" carried with it something of the idea of "something to hold on to." What do we have to hold on to when it comes to our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of our sins? The very character and promises of God. Not only do we hold on - we are anchored; we are held on to. He holds us within the veil, keeping us in God's protective care and Christ's eternal forgiveness. We have every reason to hope in Christ: God Himself guarantees it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Honey and Hope...

[13] My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. [14] Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 24:13-14 ESV)
Most of us like honey. It is sweet and natural, adding to pleasure in life. Here it is compared to wisdom. Wisdom adds hope to life. Through God's perspective, found in His Word, we are able to see beyond the temporal temptations, as well as life's setbacks, to see what is real, important, and lasting. In short, we can live life in realistic hope if we live by wisdom. In a very real sense, without wisdom we will find ourselves without hope. Let's eat some honey, get some wisdom today, and see what God has in store.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Our Hope... is Him

[18] Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, [19] that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. [20] Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. [21] For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. [22] Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:18-22 ESV)
We trust in so many people and things. We are let down. But there is One in Whom we can trust that will never let us down. Individually, and as His people, we need to trust, to wait upon, to Hope in Him. May He be our Hope and stay today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finding Hope - it's not always easy!

But you, come on again, all of you, and I shall not find a wise man among you. My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. They make night into day: ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’ If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:10-16 ESV)
Job was willing to admit his struggle in finding hope during disaster. He knew that in God, and only God, was there lasting hope, but he did not always FEEL that way. Sometimes His only hope was for Sheol, death. But that was not the solution - never was, never would be. Because what then happens to our hope? Does it just "go away?" Does that not just make my life to this point meaningless? No, there is something, yes Someone who transcends even death. He is the One in Whom we must find hope. Job is determined to find his way through this and share it with others. Press on!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hope in the Midst of Horrible

Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth and put my life in my hand? Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation, that the godless shall not come before him. Keep listening to my words, and let my declaration be in your ears. Behold, I have prepared my case; I know that I shall be in the right. Who is there who will contend with me? For then I would be silent and die. Only grant me two things, then I will not hide myself from your face: withdraw your hand far from me, and let not dread of you terrify me. (Job 13:13-21 ESV)
Job had lost everything but his life and wife (and we're not sure if that was a blessing or not...). Life was horrible. He was struggling with feelings of whether he would be better off dead. Yet thoughout his saga he finds reason to Hope. He truly believes in his ultimate salvation. He realizes the only thing He needed was the Hand of God, and for him to have the perspective that His hand was a loving one, not a heavy one of vengeance and terror. There is hope in the midst of the horrible. We can look ahead in hope.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Body Armor for the Church.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 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, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:16-20 ESV) We often look to this passage in an individualistic way for the spiritual disciplines of our walk with Christ. I have known some very godly believers and leaders who have "put on the armor daily", using this passage as a guide. But somehow we tend to forget that this letter is primarily about the body of Christ, the Church. We need to have a fellowship mentality in our prayers; we need to keep temptation away from us as a group of believers; we need to be praying all the time. And foremost in our mind needs to be what Paul wraps up with: boldness and clarity in proclaiming the Gospel. As we once again look back to the early church in Acts, that is the what and why of their prayers - that God would protect His church and embolden them to proclaim the Gospel - that nothing: sickness, persecution, laziness, or any sin, selfishness or opposition would hinder that call of the Church - to be His witnesses. May we be "praying at all times" in this way.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Prayer: The problem's not with God...

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8 ESV)
Why should we pray and persist in prayer? The very character of God. Even when it SEEMS like He is not listening, that is not the case. He is nothing like this civil judge. He is just and good and listening. We cry out not for justice but fairness; we are NOT good like He is; we do not persist; we do not listen well. The last line tells it all. Will He find faith? Will He find us trusting in God for all He is, and seeking Him with all our hearts?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What our Prayer says about what we believe...

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:1-13 ESV)
Jesus' answer to His disciples was not simply WHAT to pray, but how to pray - pray believing in God as our loving Father, Who is inherently Good and wants to bless His children. Pray persistently, because He loves to hear our voice. Pray listening to Him as He speaks back about His will and our need to forgive as we have been forgiven. What do our prayers reveal about our faith?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Story Behind the Story: Prayer

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. (Acts 10:1-2 ESV)
Most of us are familiar with this account in the life of the early church, where the Gospel began to make inroads beyond Judea and Samaria, into decidedly Gentile territory. It is a story of prayer - Peter was praying about where to go and what to do, and Cornelius was praying to know more of God's will, and God made it a three-way conversation despite geographical location. It all began because both men were men of prayer. All the great movements of God begin with people who pray. God brings them together, empowers them through His Holy Spirit, and great awakenings happen. Let us pray alone, and ask God to give us those with whom we can pray, then step back out of the way and see what He does.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Getting Serious about Prayer...

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, 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 12:1-5 ESV)
Earnest prayer. The passage goes on to describe what that looks like - God's people gathered together praying, even though that groups them together and makes them more vulnerable to discovery. It means praying so intently you almost miss the answer when it comes knocking at the door. It means praying to the point that when it is answered, there is no doubt in anyone's mind what has happened: God answered. We rarely pray like this, even in the most dire situations. But when we are committed to the truth and to true fellowship as believers this is part of the package - crying out to God together when any obstacle to the proclamation of the Gospel occurs. What hindrances do we need to pray about so the truth can be proclaimed boldly, freely?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prayer: Shakin' things up...

When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31 ESV)
There is no denial that the early church was a church of prayer. It was a daily event for the believers to gather together and sharing a common spiritual experience, including "the prayers."(Acts 2:42). The result was bold and effective proclamation of the Gospel, both by the apostles and by the people in general. So how did they pray? What did they pray. They began with true praise to the Sovereign Lord. They believed in Him so much, and in his control and power so much, that they were able to say: "Lord, You know the persecution we're receiving as followers of Christ, and we trust You to take care of that in how you see fit. As for us, help us remain steadfastly bold in our faith and our words. Help us to step back and watch You work and do what only You can do. " May we pray and see Him shake things up today.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Longing to Break Bread

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:14-20 ESV)
Jesus literally "desired with great desire" to have this Passover meal with his disciples. Why such great desire? Was He that Hungry? Maybe, but there were many reasons He wanted to do so. During that evening a lot of the things He had taught His followers would be brought together into a package. He would say and do things that would influence them for their whole lives and ministries, and for eternity. They would begin a new tradition for the Family of Faith, a new "Breaking Bread" that would characterize the Church. It was a commemoration that would keep them, and us, not only looking back to what He said and did, but forward to what He will do, and being with Him. May we long for this breaking of bread as much as He did.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bad Breaking of Bread

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come. (1 Corinthians 11:27-34 ESV)
The church at Corinth appears to have had some major issues, the most of which was selfishness. Even when it came to Communion, they forgot that they were "coming together" as the body of Christ. Breaking bread is a time to examine ourselves for what needs to change, and looking to one another to see what they need, not a time to focus on what I need and how others need to change.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Saying a mouthful with bread in your mouth...

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)
We all know that talking with food in your mouth is rude... but there are ways to talk without speaking a word. Breaking bread - commemorating Christ's death for us - and any other fellowship or sharing that takes place along with that, make a statement about what we say we believe; it proclaims our relationship with God through Christ. In context here, the question is: "Do our actions disqualify our words?" Do our selfish acts of unlove undo what we are saying when we break bread?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Breaking Bread: Creating memories

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)
Paul was a man on the move. His calling meant he met many people, seeing them come to faith in Christ. He might be somewhere two days or two years. This time when he left the area, he knew he might never be there again. He had much to share with these believers, and went on and on... The place was packed - it was window-sill seating only. The events that night were memorable to Luke as he records, and to all who were there. Luke says nothing of what Paul said that night; it is not just the Bible studies or sermons we remember, but the fellowship, the praying, the breaking of bread and all that surrounds them. We rob ourselves of them by not participating.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Breaking Bread to know more...

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:28-35 ESV)
This whole "breaking bread" thing is much more than a ceremony or a meal. It is part of a bigger picture. Those members of First Church of Jerusalem devoted themselves to it as part of their commitment to the teaching, prayers and fellowship of the followers of Christ. They wanted to know more of Christ, just as these two disciples on the road invited Him in to tell them more. And He did. And He does, when we will commit ourselves to know Him more the way He has designed it: Fellowship with Him and the Father and other followers, guided by the Holy Spirit.(I John 1). So let us not take this "breaking bread" thing so lightly. May we be found rejoicing like they did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Breaking that Unifies

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)
When we think of breaking something, our first response is that we will end up with lots of little pieces, leaving that item useless. But in the Breaking of Bread, when we celebrate what Christ has done for us, the Broken Bread unites us. We are brought together to focus on Him, our common salvation and calling, and His desire that we be One as He and the Father are one. Christ pulls us together from serving all our false gods to serve the true and living God. Breaking Bread reminds us of that. It should have both a purifying and unifying effect on us individually and corporately. But that will only happen if it is more than a mere ritual or reminder. The process itself, of breaking bread, when taken seriously and solemnly draws us and glues us. Let us break bread together, humbly and sincerely, celebrating our oneness in Him.

Monday, November 9, 2015

THE Breaking of Bread...

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
Breaking Bread was well known in those days. It was common, yet special. You would do it when you gathered with family during festivals or when special guests came. You actually did it every day, as the father would break bread, bless it, and pass it around the table. It was part of family fellowship, the family meal. It was something we know less and less of. But Luke records here that this was something more - it was THE breaking of bread peculiar to the family of God, the followers of Christ. And those they were doing it "day by day," quite often, it was very special. What were they doing that we are missing out on?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Classic Chapters #7

All Things New...

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21 ESV)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Classic Chapters #6

The coming of the Word-Light-Son-Messiah-Lord-Lamb

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1 ESV)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Classic Chapters #5

All Four Verses...

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53 ESV)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Classic Chapters #4

True confessions of God's Mighty Warrior - I'm Scared!

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. (Psalm 56 ESV)