Friday, March 31, 2017

Right before their very eyes...

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. (Luke 9)
These three followers of Christ had an awesome opportuity to get a glimpse of His glory, as they witnessed his conversation with two of the greatest heroes of faith.  But what they heard did not include his classification among them, but above them all.  God calls Him His Son.  End of experience, end of discussion - fulfillment of message.  This of course came after Peter's own proclamation of Who Jesus was - the Christ.  Looking back we might think" Wow, who wouldn't believe?"  But their faith came first. Seeing is not believing. We see and hear when we believe.  How much do we miss seeing and hearing due to our lack of faith?  How much has God already shown us, but we have turned a deaf ear and closed our eyes to it? What will there be "right before our very eyes" we miss today?

Thursday, March 30, 2017


23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9)
Shame. It's been around a long time - since the Fall.  its a matter of what we are ashamed of.  Faith in Christ defies all false shame.  There is nothing shameful in admitting you are a sinner.  There is nothing shameful in declaring that you trust in Christ as your Savior.  The shame comes in when we try to hide our sin or the salvation Christ has provided. To take up the cross is a public display of identification with Christ.  The concept of "following" here denotes an all-out commitment and devotion to the one being followed. And to deny oneself is simply to take yourself out of first place to follow another.  It is a denial of all selfishness, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness.  It's no shame to do so.  So, are we ashamed of anything today? Should we be? Take all shame to the Savior. He specializes in "despising the shame" and taking care of what really brings it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Command to Silence...

21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9)
Peter had just blurted out what everyone else was convinced up, but afraid to say out loud. It was almost blasphemous if they were wrong: "Jesus is the Christ, the One God had promised to send." We often wonder why it was such a hush, hush secret, since He had come to save the world.  We are simply told thinks like "His hour had not yet come."  In other words, He was ready to save, but the world wasn't so ready for Him.  We like to come up with these "why" questions to avoid other ones, like: "Why don't we tell people more often of our faith in Christ?" That is something He HAS told us to do, yet we fail to do it well.  Let's stop questioning why Jesus did or said something so much, and focus more on our failures to do what we've been told, or to do what we've been told not to do.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Radical words...

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
This chapter is full of dramatic events. It begins wih Jesus sending out his disciples with his message of repentance, and they disturb the peace of a complacent world.  He then feeds five thousand plus, and his reputation spreads further.  His presence is being felt far and wide, even to the palace of ths king.  But how deep has his message hit? Is it just a pop craze, or is there substance to what He is doing?  He and we find out with this response of Peter.  Though we are often slow to see and share, Peter finally blurts out the truth about Who Jesus is.  What will result, as we go on to see, is how important this statement is.  There will be a major shift in what Jesus says and does which makes this revelation almost sink into the background.  But it cannot. It is foundational. Jesus is Messiah, and that makes a world of difference in what happens next...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Psalm 25: 4 ,5
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.
Always a good prayer for a long-day road trip!
May he guide us all through this day.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Priority One Another

Ephesians I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Paul the Prisoner of the Lord.  That meant a lot of things, not the least of which was this: he had no choice as to whether to go to church.  And he missed that. This, along with the fact that he established many local churches and visited them, gave him a perspective we might not fully appreciate: Don't take the importance of your life in the church so lightly!  The church needs you and you need the church, so take good care of it.  What that boils down to is taking good care of the oneness that we have in Christ. Rather than fighting against the Holy Spirit who binds us together, we need to go all out to sustain that unity through our actions, attitudes and words.  What will you do today with and for your church? 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

First things First.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5) 
So often, if not always, our vertical relationship with God intertwines with our relationships with others, and each affects the other.  We can never hope to have a fully functional relationship with anyone else - spouse, parent, child, boss, co-worker, etc., unless we first are in right relationship with God.  So why does God here instruct us to make that relationship with another right first? Because He knows how much we want to feel good about ourselves.  We will always do the easiest thing to make ourselves feel better, leaving behind the harder thing which will truly move us to making all things right. It's easier to write a check than give an apology.  Another example is the rich man who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. He saw doing all the things on the checklist as easier than doing what was hardest for him: letting go of his stuff and giving it away to the poor, and fully trusting God to provide what he needed.  In both of these cases, the instructions are the way to make both the vertical and horizontal relationships right at the same time. So, doing first things first, is really the first step in doing both. What hard thing does God want today?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Resolve before Response

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1)
We know that "A soft answer turns away wrath" - that how we react to another person who is angry will determine a lot of what happens in the situation, and, more importantly, in that relationship.  Yet we keep falling into the trap: we react with like anger, and things quickly escalate, the encounter erodes, and those words we talked about yesterday bite us.  So what are we to do? It all goes back to resolving ahead of time that we will open our hearts and ears, and take our tongues out of gear to listen not only to the person, but to the Holy Spirit.  In a culture where quick whit and rapid response are glorified, this is counter-cultural, but it is essential for the building up of community and one another in the Body of Christ.  Before you begin your day, change gears and open your ears.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spiritual snakebite kits

 ...but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3)
Poisonous snakes: that's what our tongues are.  They strike hard and fast, but their harm is enduring and even fatal.  Words can kill.  Once they're out, they're out.  Most people are not prepared with a "snake bite kit" - they must be on hand and applied immediately to save from the poison.  So it is with our words; we rarely retract quickly enough for the harm to not endure. So what is the cure? To stop being a poisonous snake. And that transformation can only take place from the inside out - a change in our nature. We must resolve to do all we can to "maintain the unity of the bond of peace" with our tongues, by allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our minds and our mouths.  And we can prepare ourselves for snakes - realizing we will be bitten by words wrongly spoken, and our snakebite kit is the fruit of the Spirit.  When the snake bites us, may he/she bite into a piece of patience and self-control, not a shovel beating it (which at that point will do no good.) Lord, tame our tongues today.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Going above and beyond...

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me. (Philippians 2)
Paul was wowed.  That did not happen often with this man who saw the world. He had seen a lot, good and bad, but he was impressed with Epaphroditus and his life of sacrifice and service for Christ and His people.  He cared about Paul and had come to minister to him in a time of distress. He even cared when his home church was worried about him, and was distressed by their worry. He is an example of how we should feel and act towards our brothers and sisters in their times of sickness and distress, caring about their physcial, emotional, and financial needs, and doing all we can to sooth those hurts.  Epaphroditus is not just memorable for his name, but for the impression he left on Paul and the church.  May more of us follow his example of going above and beyond. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Practical Prayer: Elijah Style...

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.(James 5)
Elijah demonstrated practical prayer. He prayed for his people suffering famine and the effects of sin in the land.  He prayed prayers of confession and faith. He prayed publically and boldly.  He backed up his prayers with a life of faith.  As James tells us, his life of prayer is a challenge and an example. In reality, Elijah had no stronger foundation than we do for praying in this way. If we, through Christ, know the true and living God, and are a part of His people, we have who and what we need to pray this way. We just need to be willing to trust, to be open and accountable, and to be persistent in prayer.  Be an Elijah!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Real Deal

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12)
In context, Paul is talking about life in the body of Christ.  This is what it looks like to love God, and therefore, His people.  It means standing up to evil and for what is right.  It means that we can tease like family, but there is a deep sense of security in the family. It means showing respect, working hard together, sharing in joys and sorrows, lifting each other up in prayer. It means generous giving to one another and an open door to true believers.  Are we the real deal?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

If He did, we should all the more...

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. (Hebrews 5)
As the writer here elaborates on the priestly work of Christ, he brings out a fact that we see revealed over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer to the Father.  If this was true of Him, how much more so it needs to be of us.  The Son knew what the game plan was when He came.  He and the Father are of one heart and mind.  He by character says no to sin.  Despite all this, He kept coming to the Father to talk about the plan for the day, for the strength needed to carry it out, and for all those with whom He would have contact during that day.  He was light years ahead of us in wisdom, yet He kept coming back.  Any questions? Don't ask me. Ask Him. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Salvation and then...

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2)
If God's grace can save us, can it not then also change us?  That is the plan after all: God brings us salvation, then begins this transformation process, whereby we reject the selfish life and start living the godly lives He intends, while we wait for the life to come.  Christ's work is not just effective for our future home with Him, but even now - to buy us back from sin's slavery, so we can serve Him with our activity here and now.  We are in God's training program - where we are to be learning victorious living over sin's power and pull.  We now belong to Him in a double sense - as His creation and His redemption. Let us live for the One Who died for us!

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Relationships Replacement Principle...

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4)
Walking seems so basic to us in our daily lives, but yesterday I visited two hospital patients who are going to have to "learn to walk again."  Spiritually speaking, many of us need to start all over again. Our walk, our lifestyle, is one of anger and retaliation, marked by bitterness, loud outburts, and/or subtle slams behind the back, which bounce off our hard and self-righteous hearts.   In our anger, we want to see others falter and fail.  We need to stop "walking" that way.  Instead, in Christ, following after Him, ours is to be a life of kindness and forgiveness.  That's a lot less to remember and stress about.  They naturally flow from a tender heart that is receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and responsive to the love and grace of God in Christ.  The net results? The difference between throwing stones and pillows - someone (or everyone) getting hurt versus finding ourselves laughing together because the reasons we get so upset are so silly in light of all God has forgiven us.  Lord, teach us to walk.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lead, follow... don't get in the way!

12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4)
Paul was challenging Timothy to set the example, even though he was not the "eldest".  Yet, he at other times urged him to follow Paul's example, and even more so the example of Christ.  First and foremost, we are to be followers of Christ, in His humility and unselfish service and sacrifice.  But at some point, and hopefully more increasingly, we are to lead the way, first by example. Our speech, actions, and attitudes in life should demonstrate our faith and devotion to God, and to live by His truth.  But we cannot stop there. We must add spoken truth to our example - as Peter says, to be "Ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us." We must be ready to explain our example - that we are living to please our Holy, loving, all-powerful, merciful God.  While we do these things, one of the hardest things is not letting our words or actions get in the way - to make sure we do not hinder others from being drawn to God.  It's a tall order, but in pursuing these things we get to see how great our God, our Savior, and the Holy Spirit really are.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5)
Certain words come alive when you read them.  Like verse 15 above. The KJV uses an infrequent greek word transliterated "circumspectly", coming from the words for "circle" and "spectacle". We might say "Look around you! Consider the way your lifestyle impacts everyone you contact!"  People are watching us, to see if our walk matches our talk, to see how we wear the label "Chirstian", follower of Christ. They are watching our attitudes and treatment of other believers. They are looking to see if we are selfish, or like Christ, with our lives. Today, let's look around and see the eyes that see us. Let them serve as mirrors for us to see what we really look like, sound like, act like. Are we like Christ?