Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to Flee, without running away...

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:20-26 ESV)
Paul was exhorting younger Timothy to take a bold stand for Christ and His Church, without being stand-offish.  He warned him to avoid things that keep us from moving forward. We need to flee from those fleshly sins that so easily entangle us, and also the bickering that pulls us apart. He wants us to be ready servants, who are not caught up in sin or controversy.  It takes a Christ-like humility and gentleness to deal with ourselves and one another this way.  But the rewards are priceless: knowing that I, and we, are in God's will - the perfect place to be.  There's no running away from that.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Scattered to Share

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.  (Acts 7:54-8:5 ESV)
Just as Jesus promised, proclaiming their faith in Christ brought the wrath of those hardened in thier self-righteousness.  What we find is the tale of two deacons.  These two men, both full of the Spirit of God, had been selected to serve the widows in Acts 6.  Both were used by God to share the Gospel of Christ with others.  Stephen stood and was stoned; Phillip scattered and was well received. Both were being obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit in what they did. We need to be willing to be either one.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How to respond: Speak up and/or Scoot!

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
(Matthew 10:16-23 ESV)
Of all the promises in scripture, one of our least favorite is the promise of persecution for our faith.  Sometimes we can get a self-righteous attitude about it that makes us feel vindicated, but it really is no "fun."  But it is an opportunity for us to see what God will do through it. He may put us in places where we can speak up and make Him known, or He may make it an opportunity for us to "move on down the road" to see if there are seekers who want to hear about Him.  In either case, what matters is that we stay faithful to Him. He is the Constant in whatever may come our way. He will see us through.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fight or Flight?

And there was war again. And David went out and fought with the Philistines and struck them with a great blow, so that they fled before him. Then a harmful spirit from the LORD came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand. And David was playing the lyre. And Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he eluded Saul, so that he struck the spear into the wall. And David fled and escaped that night.
Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped.
(1 Samuel 19:8-12 ESV)
What a contrast!  In the first statements we find David the warrior courageously fighting the enemy.  In the second, we find him on the run.  Had he lost his courage?  Was he scared of Saul? By no means.  We are talking the same "man after God's own heart" with the same convictions.  He knew God and His ways well enough to know when to fight or take flight.  He had the promise of God that one day he would be king; there was no reason to stay there and fight for it.  Sometimes death is even the easier, more cowardly path.  We can want to avoid the pain, the effort, the struggle.  But David chose to wait, to watch from a distance, to run.  He knew what happened long term with Moses, and can still happen today.  Know when to fight; know when to flee.  Either way, seek God's direction.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Experienced at Fleeing...

One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well. (Exodus 2:11-15 ESV)
As we saw before in this chapter, Moses was proving his "qualifications" for leading Israel out of Egypt.  The passage goes on to tell how he was willing to Stand Up for others. He had courage. Here in these verses, he was an expert at fleeing Pharaoh!  Those two may sound contradictory, but they are not. Fleeing is not always cowardly.  The "Exodus", the way out, was not just running away from captivity in Egypt. It was also taking a journey with a goal.  It was going to what God had for them. Moses was not just running away; he was running to where God wanted him, when and why He wanted him there.  Sometimes we do not flee not because we are being courageous, but because we are being lazy, complacent and compromising.  We need to be prepared to flee to experience God's best.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When God says Flee... (or float...)

Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  (Genesis 6:11-14 ESV)
Sometimes in scripture people had to flee because they had done evil (the Fall, Cain, Cities of Refuge, etc.).  But many of the events were actually opportunities God gave His people for good - the Ark, the Exodus, etc.)  At times, God wants us to be around to see what He has done - to survive the disaster so we see more fully His sovereignty, His grace, and His plan for His people.  So he calls on us to flee - to move out of our comfort zone for our own good, to leave what we see as security, but is really a time-bomb waiting to explode.  It takes a lot of sensitivity to His voice to know if it is our fears or guilt, or His voice speaking to us.  The point is, we need to be prepared to hear and obey. We don't want to miss the boat, the pilgrimage, or any other journey He has in mind to get us to the other side.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Wrong Reasons to Run...

Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:14-16 ESV)
The scriptures include numerous incidents where people flee, are on the run, trying to get away. Some are for good reasons, some not so much.  It began in the garden with Adam and Eve trying to hide from God.  Never play hide-n-seek with the Omniscient One.  Cain had to run because of his grave sin against life.  Egypt tried to flee from Israel while standing in the Sea after Israel had fled from Egypt.  The New Testament warns us to not find ourselves a fugitives from government because we have done evil.  There are times to flee, and times to stay and stand.  Knowing the difference requires making sure we stay with God where He is going and taking us, or making a solid rock upon which to stand.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Be Slow and Show before you Speak

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
(James 1:19-27 ESV)
James is down to earth and practical.  If we are going to speak up about our faith - and we should - we need to demonstrate in our lives how our faith has influenced us for good.  If we are going to speak up about injustice  in the world - and we should - we need to live lives demonstrating justice for those who need it most - widows and orphans.  Our speech must be pure at all times if we expect people to take what we say seriously.  We need to control our tongues and not lash out angrily or without thinking of the consequences.  Self-control in word and action - marking the control of the Holy Spirit evident - that will make people take interest in what we have to say.  Without that, we're just an obnoxious, clanging cymbal.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Deserving a Hearing...

As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:
(Acts 21:37-40 ESV)
Paul was bold to speak out in the name of Christ.  He was not afraid to press for justice and his civil rights.  But he also realized he needed to deserve to be heard.  First, he had to demonstrate he was no troublemaker - just trying to stir things up to attract attention.  He had to speak the language of those whom he hoped would listen, be it in Greek or Hebrew.  And he had to have something worth hearing. Of course, the Gospel is always worth hearing, even over and over again. But we need to make sure we are presenting it in such a way that it is relevant to where people are, and we are, at that time.  It is imperative the message is heard and seen.  May we set out to gain that hearing.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Clear Speaking is not always understood...

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8:12-19 ESV)
Jesus had come as The Light, walking and talking in the darkness.  He could be seen and heard. He spoke as One with authority, and supported what He said with what He did.  It was as plain as day. Yet people could not see, and hearing they could not hear.  Sometimes we will speak truth over and over and many never seem to get it.  They did not know, and therefore they are hindered from knowing any more.  May we still open our mouths and our lives, and let God open their hearts and their minds.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Strength to Speak and be Spoken to...

And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”
When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and was mute. And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.”
Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”
(Daniel 10:10-19 ESV)
Daniel had seen, heard, and spoken much in his God-adventure in a pagan land.  But this was too much.  As God's messenger spoke to him what was going on "behind the scenes" in the spiritual realm, Daniel was overwhelmed, even terrified.  Part is what he saw; part was the realization that what God showed him was to be spoken by him.  He was being entrusted by with with the message. We have been "put in trust with the Gospel", as Paul puts it.  It is a deep mystery, yet to be shared, to be spoken.  Sometimes our call to speak can seem overwhelming, even terrifying. We need strength to do so.  But the same One Who gives the message also will give the strength and courage we need.  Let us ask HIM for it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sneaky Speaking...

Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king's son-in-law.’” And Saul's servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king's enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king's son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David's enemy continually. (1 Samuel 18:20-29 ESV)
Saul's method of communication was less than moral.  It was a method preferred by many: speak behind their back, and hope it catches up to them.  Count on gossip.  Verbal manipulation. He counted on David communicating the same way.  The first time, David did not take the bait at all. He refuses to speak the same way. He forthrightly answers in humility that he is not worthy to marry the king's daughter.  This too Saul hopes to use against him.  But it backfires.  Sneaky speech has a way of coming back on you.  David succeeded in winning the hand of Michal and the heart of Israel. Honest and humble speech - that's the way of the Godly.  May we watch what we say today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Speaking... not your gift??? No Excuses...

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:10-12 ESV)
Moses had demonstrated courage and a willingness to stand up for what was right. He was willing to take the humble place out of the limelight. He was NOT willing to do one thing: Speak up. He felt disqualified. No such thing in God's plan. The same God who made His mouth could put words in it. The same goes for you and me. I remember the first time I had to give a speech. I was in college. It was more like a comedy routine, and the joke was on me. To this day, I still feel unqualified, hoping to not say something stupid. But God keeps saying "Speak up." And it's not just to pastors/preachers/teachers/evangelists. We all have something to say. Speak up.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The GOD Who sees and Speaks

The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” (Genesis 16:7-13 ESV)
The True and Living God sees and Speaks. We see that from Day 1 in creation, but especially in cases where people are being mistreated. When Cain becomes envious and angry against Seth over their offerings, God speaks up on Abel's behalf, and when Cain murders Abel, God sees and speaks up even more forcefully. The same happens here. When God sees how Hagar is being mistreated by Sarai, He speaks to her words of comfort and hope, and when things go further downhill, HE speaks to Abraham about her mistreatment. God sees and speaks. His desire for us is that we, like Hagar will speak on His behalf as well - that He is the One Who "looks after me," - that HE is the God of Seeing, not just some idol or distant, unconcerned Force.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stand Together...

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV)
Paul challenged this weak and wimpy church to stand up and stand out in the midst of an evil culture, and to not give in to all the temptations that would put them away from Christ and apart from one another. We must be ready to stand boldy, but not arrogantly, realizing we need Him and each other.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Knowing Where to Stand...

... Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.
(1 Peter 5:5-12 ESV)
Sometimes it is hard for us to know when and how to stand up for what to believe.  But where to stand is never an issue.  Peter says we are to Stand in God's Grace.  Taking a stand for our faith is never upon our own righteousness or ability or "infinite" wisdom.  It is a humble stance under God. We need to be ready - prepared - watchful.  There is a battle going on.  We will suffer, but if we are standing on Grace - what God wants to do in and through us - He will help us stand when and how we ought to, and we can be confident we are on the right side.  May we humbly stand for Him.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Taking a Stand for Truth and Justice

And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
(Acts 5:21-32 ESV)
There they were again - Standing in the temple preaching about Jesus - the exact thing they had been warned and threatened not to do.  Why? Sometimes it's a choice: what pleases God verse what pleases men.  And it was a stand for the Truth.  The truth of the Gospel was being squelched. The leaders had tried to cover up the facts of Christ's death and His resurrection.  Finally, it was a matter of Justice: Jesus was innocent and was killed by the powers to be.  It all sounds almost like a D.C. inner-beltway soap opera.  But it was far more important.  Let us be willing to stand for the truth, for justice, for Christ.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Standing up to Speak Out

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV)
Jesus could not help but Stand Up and Speak up about Who He was and why HE had come.  Though most of the time he, like other Rabbis would sit to speak,Jesus at times stood up and said something so significant it took everyone aback.  It was like being at a business meeting and have someone who never says anything stand and say something profound.  As  shy and quiet as we may be, God offers us all opportunities to take a stand on what we believe.  May we stand and speak well of Him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Mandatory Stand...

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. (Daniel 1:1-5 ESV)
As God's people, we are often faced with opportunities to stand for what we believe. People are watching us and listening to us, even if passively, and evaluating the authenticity of our convictions. Sometimes there are "built in" events in our lives where we stand before a watching world. That is where Daniel and his friends found themselves.  They were going to be evaluated after three years; they would stand before a pagan king.  They wasted no time preparing to stand. When their menu was changed to one that violate their convictions, they took a stand.  When they were ordered to worship an idol, they refused.  When they were told to not pray to God, they continued to do so.  They took their stand day by day, event by event, so when the big times came, to stand before the King, they were ready.  May we live our lives being ready by standing on our convictions every day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Standing up or Standing around???

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47 ESV)
Many of us know this account as one of our earliest and best-known Bible stories as a child.  Yet we often fail to get the import of this event in history and the call it makes on our lives.  As the passage begins, we find the giant coming out and standing there, mocking the Israelites and their God. We find the army of Israel standing around listening, complaining, and getting on edge. And we now have David, taking a stand against the giant.  When he suggests taking a stand, even his brothers and fellow Israelites mock the idea.  Standing around saying your God is the greatest is okay; taking a stand in His name is taboo.  But David does.  The tide of war against the Philistines is turned. David becomes a household name.  The Fear of the Lord spreads.  It happens when God's people take a stand.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Stand in Silence and See

When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:10-14 ESV)
Standing.  Sounds simple enough.  But it's hard when you're scared.  When we are scared (not if), we have all sorts of other emotions that rush in telling us to do things.  Various situations call for different kinds of responses.  Standing is often one we do not consider, unless we stand frozen in fear.  God's call was a different kind of "standing" - a confident standing in faith to watch Him at work.  On some occasions we are called on to stand up and speak up; but at times like this silence is golden. We need to see that anything we say or do is not what makes the difference; it is standing in trust of Who God is and what He has said.  It can be one of the hardest kinds of standing there is, but what if the people had not obeyed? What if they would have scattered and been slaughtered or submitted and returned to Egypt. They would not have seen, and their story line would have been far different. Let us listen to the Spirit of God tell us what kind of Stand HE wants us to make today.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Not a Loophole...

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
(1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV)
For many of us, the first clause appears to be one that disqualifies us from its instruction. We would loudly (and proudly) proclaim "I'm not rich!"  That's because we always point at others who have more and make more, without looking at most who have and make far less.  In fact, we are rich. And in our society, we put our hopes and meaning for life in what we have.  We have the possibility of sharing. It's an option.  But we are not so "ready to share."  Paul's instruction is for us.  We need his admonition like in II Corinthians 8:
        We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:1-7 ESV) Let us be ready to share with fellow believers and show the love of Christ.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sharing that one big thing...

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 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 7:36-50 ESV)
Simon had opened his home to Jesus with a lavish dinner, making him his special guest.  But neither one was to be the focus of this event.  It ended up being this woman, who gave lavishly out of love for Jesus, because of what He had given her: forgiveness.  Earlier in this chapter Jesus had raised the widow's son, just like Elijah, the prophet who shared.  This was an even greater gift: forgiveness.  Jesus makes some bold statements about this gift that we are to receive and also to pass on, like in Matthew 6:14,15: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Forgiveness: that one big gift to receive and give.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Share, don't send...

And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
(Mark 6:35-44 ESV)
Jesus shared his life with and for His followers.  He demonstrated that in so many ways, but one of the best known is the feeding of the five thousand.  The disciples were of the mind to send them away - the burden of feeding so many was overwhelming.  But Jesus had the resources and was more than willing to share them.  Not only was he showing His power; he was teaching a lesson on sharing - don't be so quick to send them away; see if there is any way you can share.  Those that do have entertained prophets and angels, and demonstrated Christlikeness in a very real way.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Go and Share

Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.
(1 Kings 17:8-16 ESV)
Elijah was a man on the run, being persecuted by Ahab and Jezebel for his faithfulness to God. But God did not want him running and hiding and having a pitty party for himself. He wanted him to go and share.  Not matter what is happening to God's people, he wants us to continue to share with others. He does not want us to become self-consumed.  We need to be prepared, be ready to live that way even in the hard times.  We need to be looking out for one another.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Start out Sharing...

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. (Exodus 12:1-4 ESV)
A New Year. A time when we make commitments to all sorts of changes. As the people of Israel set out of the land of slavery toward the promised land, the celebration of Passover was to be an annual reminder of where they had come from, and what is important. The first thing they are told to do is share. If their family was too small to consume the whole lamb in one sitting, they were to share one with a neighboring family. This is by no means an exception to the rule, a rarity. Think how much left-over turkey most households have at Thanksgiving, when having lots of family and friends over. Sharing was the plan. The back-up plan was to burn what was left. Sad to say, in our society, we often choose the back-up plan to the main one. We choose wasting over sharing. It takes planning and preparation to share. That's what God wants us to do: intentionally share. Not be forced into it, or drop a few coins in the bucket. Prepare to share. Think about ways this year you can share.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why bother saving?

So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.
(Genesis 41:56-57 ESV)
We Americans are rotten savers.  We live disposable lives. We live for the moment. That can and will be a problem.  There are times when we need to save. Not hoard, but save.  Especially as followers of Christ- not just for ourselves, but to share with others.  Savers are wise.  Savers work hard and store up for the unexpected and even more so for the inevitable.  The famine was going to happen.  Joseph knew it and he did something about it.  And he made sure Egypt had enough to share.  Do we?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Get Ready to Make Room

Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:14-22 ESV)
We often view God's plan with very selfish lenses.  We think of "What's going to happen to me?" God wants us to make some extra room - to share the salvation He provides.  Obviously, many of us are not so selfish that we would not include our family in our preparations, but do we go beyond that?  Noah's instructions went far beyond safe transportation and a year's worth of boxed lunches.  He was to look for what things would be like after the disaster, after the immediate threat, when God replenished the earth.  And to be sure, he could have squeezed in a repentant sinner or two.  When you think about potential disaster, are your thoughts totally self-preservation? Is there any room for thought on how to share with others?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

In the Event of Suffering for Christ

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,
I Peter 3:13-18 ESV)
Peter saw persecution, suffering for one's faith in Christ, as a very real possibility.  We need to be ready for it.  We are ready by being unafraid and unashamed to share His name.  We prepare by making sure we experience suffering not for any wrong we have done, but only because we are His.  We do so by respecting others and not acting like religious snobs.  Since Christ suffered as the  Righteous One for unrighteous sinners, we as His followers should pursue righteousness and not whine about suffering.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Red Ribbon in Suffering

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
(2 Corinthians 11:24-29 ESV)
Paul knew what it was to suffer for the cause of Christ.  Besides physical and emotional persecution, he bore the burden of the many churches God had used him to establish.  He felt responsible for every believer in those churches.  When they were attacked, he felt attacked.  Yet, he would rightly and willingly admit that what he faced was nothing compared to what Christ faced on our behalf, for our sin. How little true suffering we face for our faith.  Many across the globe are facing mistreatment which approaches Paul's level; we endure little. May we be ready to speak, stand, suffer that others know what He has done for them.

Friday, January 1, 2016

How to be persecuted... Tell the Truth

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
(Acts 6:8-15 ESV)
Stephen had a reputation for speaking and acting boldly for Christ.  He was no bully; he just allowed the Holy Spirit to work through him.  This brought great resistance. There was nothing about his words, actions or character that allowed them to attack him personally; he "looked like an angel."  As the account goes on, he proceeds to tell the truth, and the bottom line is: they had rejected and killed the Messiah, an innocent man.  This truth was more than they could bear, and Stephen became the first recorded martyr of the church.  This set up a long chain of persecution.  Being first is not always where you want to be; for your sake or for others.  But Stephen was... for telling and living the truth. May we not be ashamed or afraid of the Truth.