Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pesty Paragraph breaks - Both are Signs of the Spirit!

31 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.
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. (Acts 4)
In our drive to compartmentalize and catagorize every aspect of our lives, we often divide things in such as way that they are distracting and misleading. For example, in between these two verses in my bible is a paragraph heading that separates these two blessigns of the Holy Spirit: boldness in sharing our faith, and the fellowship of community that He brings us into.  When we are filled with His Spirit, we experience both, and He expects us to be involved in both. Each one will also build the other. As others come to faith, we will have more people to fellowship with, and as we fellowship with others who share their faith, we will be motivated to do the same. May we allow Him to do this in our lives today. 

Monday, February 27, 2017


So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2
Paul's call to community here is one of the most memorable statements we find on how we are to perceive ourselves in the body of Christ. We are to focus on Him, and what He has done for each and every follower. And if there is one word we can use to describe Him, it is UNSELFISH. He did it freely for us. As we look at our lives individually, and at ourselves communally, our biggest problem is selfishness.  We do not "Look to the interests of others." We think only about ourselves, which is totally contrary to Who Christ is and what HE is like. As long as we think selfish, we cannot think Christ.  He has not put us into His Body, or His local community just for us.  If you are in a community of 100 people, 99% of the reason you are there is NOT about you - it is how God wants to use you there. As we live unselfishly, we are blessed, ministered to, and grow, but the main reason we are there is to help others grow - for us all to be more unselfish. As you plan your day today, be intentional about being unselfish. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Sign of Greatness...

10 But David's heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord“I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”

David did some really dumb stuff - sometimes listening to bad counsel, at others, like on this occasion, NOT listening to good counsel.  But whatever he got himself into, David maintained a heart that was open to God's conviction. When rebuked by God's prophet, or maybe proded by God's Spirit, he ended up admitting: "I have sinned, please forgive."  It was a contrast between David and the king that was before him, and most that were after him, which makes him the standard by which all Kings of Israel and Judah were measured, until the Messiah came.  David is a good example for us. Maintain a soft, teachable, and submissive heart before God. Then our lives will leave the impact we long for.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sickening Scriptures...

26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it. Daniel 8
Daniel had been used by God to not only interpret dreams, but to tell the dreams themselves to the kings who had had them.  But Daniel also had dreams and visions, which, when he recevied them, he asked to understand them. But that did not always happen. Here, this vision of the future overwhelmed him-even sickened him. It was too much to handle.  Sometimes scripture can do that to us: we read it, struggle with it, and have to come back to it later. After all, it is the Word of Eternal God, who sees so much more, knows so much more, and can do so much more than we.  We should not be able to handle it all at once. We need His Spirit, some struggling of the soul, and some time for it all to come together.  May we never lose our awe of scripture.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

God Has a Better Way...

17 As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20 And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. Daniel 1
Daniel and his friends found themselves in quite a dilemma: they had been put in the special training program of the emperor, and provided with what was though to be the best food for the brain. It also happened to be ceremonially unclean for the young Jewish men.  As with the experiences of other characters in the books of the Writings (like Esther) Daniel stood on his convictions, with the real possibility of negative repercussions, and boldly, but respectfully, asked that he and his friends be asked to prove there was a better way, better food. After an initial test, they were granted permission. From their experience comes a phrase that we still use today. In what really matters, wisdom and knowledge, God made them "ten times better" than the others in the program. There was no comparision.  As a result, these young men were placed in positions of authority and influence.  That is where we should want to be - in a place where God can use us to make a difference.  For that to happen, we need to be willing to courageously follow God's ways, let Him open doors, and trust His ways and times to show His power.  Do you really believe God has a better way? 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Way Back Up

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
    unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
    that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
    a man, about the punishment of his sins?
40 Let us test and examine our ways,
    and return to the Lord!
41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands
    to God in heaven:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
    and you have not forgiven.
Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has hit bottom emotionally.  After a long life lived calling his people to repentance, mourning the premature death of Josiah the great reformer, and then watching each subsequent king go deeper and deeper into "doing evil in the sight of the Lord," he has now witnessed the fall of Jerusalem. He has lost everything.  Having spent the first half of this book mourning these losses as not only national, but personal, he brings himself and his people back to the very character of God.  In verses 22-36 he reminds us of the love, mercy, faithfulness, compassion, and justice of God.  God has been right, and we have been wrong.  He is sovereign and we are not.  We need to call out to Him in confession; He will listen. Jeremiah has hit bottom, and is not looking up. Where are you looking?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

What do we pray?

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;    let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80

The Psalm was looking on the disaster he called his nation. It was not good.  Everything had fallen apart; they were the laughing stock of the world.  So what are the bookends of his prayers?
"Restore us. We need you."  That really is how our prayers should begin and end, in good times and bad.  If we do not pray that way when things are going well, we tend to forget Him in our ingratitude. That leads to us find ourselves in the condition we do.  "Restore us, O God." Never a bad prayer to pray, beginning today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

More than a momentary miracle

So couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with letters from the king and his princes, as the king had commanded, saying, “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the Lord your God, that his fierce anger may turn away from you. For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.” II Chronicles 30

Hezekiah, besides having a really cool sounding name, made some pretty cool things, like "Return to the LORD."  He had just experienced the power of the LORD in their deliverance from invasion by the mighty Assyrian empire. He did not want the opportunity to be missed, when it was so clear, for his people to learn a spiritual lesson that would change their lives.  So many times we let these teachable moments pass, without going deep into what has happened. GOD had just shown his character: that He is gracious and merciful, as well as powerful.  We tend to see either one side or the other, seeing God as a big ogre to be avoided, or a tender doughboy to not be feared.  HE is neither. It is only when we see Him in His fullness that we can and do respond properly to Him. Otherwise, rather than running toward Him, we either run from Him or ignore Him. Don't miss the moments, when God gets your attention, to turn and look intently not only at what has happened, but what it reveals about God.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

When you set your heart to seek God

Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.”
II Chronicles 19.
Something happens when one sets his heart to seek God.  That is what is said of Jeshoshaphat at the end of the paragraph before this one.  How one "Sets his heart" affects the decisions he/she makes and the actions he/she takes. It is outwardly observable. So we see Jehoshaphat, and any other of the revival kings of the Old Testament, taking action to "bring the people back to God," including using God's standards for judgment and justice, and seeking Godly counsel himself - surrounding himself with God's priests and prophets. His final challenge to these appointees was to "act courageously", as showing God's justice may alway be right, but it is often not popular.  May we set our hearts to seek God, His wisdom, and His justice today.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Last Psalm...

II Samuel 23
 Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, the son of Jesse,
    the oracle of the man who was raised on high,
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
    the sweet psalmist of Israel:[a]
“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
    his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
    the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
    ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
    like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
    like rain[b] that makes grass to sprout from the earth.
“For does not my house stand so with God?
    For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
    ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
    all my help and my desire?
But worthless men[c] are all like thorns that are thrown away,
    for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them.
    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
    and they are utterly consumed with fire."

These are not so much the last words David ever spoke, but they are his last Psalm. David realized that God used his experiences to teach. David's life was, as Paul said it, for our example. What had Daivd learned that God wanted him to sing to us, to say to us? That God blesses those who live in the Fear of the LORD.  God had blessed David the King, then used him to bless His people, shining His light, like the sun, and watering them like a gentle rain.  David could look back on his life (which he did in the previous chapter) and see God had used him. The last verses present the contrast: the impact of one who does not live life in the fear of God: they do not leave behind blessing, but only pain; they are to be gathered and burned in fire, leaving nothing of value for anyone.  What kind of Psalm will there be to be written at the end of our lives?  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Treasure!

Proverbs 31:10-12 
An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
God gives many gifts. Some are small, and almost insignificant, except to those who receive them.  Others are overwhelming, like a life-long wife.  She is to be treasured, appreciated, valued and celebrated.  We so easily take for granted any of God's gifts.  May it never be so for our spouse.  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Everywhere, especially here...

The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth[c]
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!

Psalm 29:9
The voice of the Lord is heard, and seen, everywhere.  The old question asks: "Does a falling tree make a sound if noone is there in the woods to hear it?"  Wherever here is, God is there.  From the quiet woods, to the bustling temple. But where is he especially? In the presence of His people, who have come to worship Him.  If you want to see God, go to where His people gather to humbly worship Him and seek His face.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Good Ole' days... Really??!?

10 Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
11 Wisdom is good with an inheritance,
    an advantage to those who see the sun.
12 For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money,
    and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
13 Consider the work of God:
    who can make straight what he has made crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:10-13

Ah, for the good old days. Really?  Why look there and not to the future? Can we go back and straighten out the road God has taken us on?  Or should we, like the writer, examine where we are and consider where we are heading? Should we not, instead trust in All-Wise God to show us the way ahead? The fact that we are still here, still have breath, and live "under the sun" is enough indication that life is not over, so we should see what He has yet for this life, and even more so, the life to come.  Stop looking back!  Look ahead and see what God can, and will, do.