Monday, April 20, 2015

Be One

MONDAY // READ
Psalm 4
When I call, give me answers. God, take my side!
Once, in a tight place, you gave me room;
Now I’m in trouble again: grace me! hear me!

You rabble—how long do I put up with your scorn?
How long will you lust after lies?
How long will you live crazed by illusion?

Look at this: look
Who got picked by God!
He listens the split second I call to him.

Complain if you must, but don’t lash out.
Keep your mouth shut, and let your heart do the talking.
Build your case before God and wait for his verdict.

Why is everyone hungry for more? “More, more,” they say.
“More, more.”
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day

Than they get in all their shopping sprees.
At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together.

John 3:1-8
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.

But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.

All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption of God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got him all backward.

So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways.


TUESDAY // Be One
We are not just called Children of God, but in fact are Children of God. It says the world doesn’t recognize us because they don’t know who he is or what he’s up to, but I wonder, do we recognize ourselves? Because most of the time our words fall short to describe who he is and to know what he’s up to? Well, that at times, seems impossible!

Yet, John reminds us: Friends that is exactly what we are! As impossible as it may seem we are Children of God! Do you know how this can be? Because God says it is through Christ Jesus! You may think it crazy and other people may not get it but this is who God says we are and what God says about you is what counts. People say all kinds of things as to who they think you are and they use a tone as if this is true but God sees things as they are, so only he can tell us the truth about ourselves!

To be called children is to be claimed by a father. This means we come from him and if we do then we act as he does. I guess this leads us to the whole sin issue. Part of what we do or the actions and behaviors we exhibit come from an understanding of who we are. What we do comes from what we identify ourselves with. John is saying if you truly are a Child of God and you start to believe that you are, then that belief should carry you away from the sin we might indulge in. When our eyes are on the beauty of Christ and our focus is on who he says we are, then how can we settle for anything else?

I guess it comes down to our actions, doesn’t it? We can say all kinds of things to fool people into thinking we are on the straight and narrow, we can in fact, say things to fool our very selves that same thing.  Yet, John says it is the person who acts right who is right. The core of who we are is our belief and our core is always shown in our actions. It’s our mask we wear and the words we say that are used to cover our actual us. It’s like someone who smiles; if you want to know if they’re truly happy, look at their eyes, not their smile. It’s the same here- don’t listen to someone’s words, look at their actions.

Let our actions align with who God says we are. If you want to know you believe you are a Child of God, then act like one, no, BE ONE!


WEDNESDAY // CHALLENGE
To believe something takes work and then again it doesn’t. That doesn’t make sense so let me explain.  C.S. Lewis once said that the more we do for someone we love, in a certain sense, makes us love that person more. A great musician (sorry his name escapes me) once said to learn everything about an instrument you possibly can and then forget all that you learned and play out of passion. You find you play better; it just naturally flows from you. Another thing, when we sleep we have to get ready for bed, we have to lay down but we have to allow sleep to take us over.

With each illustration here we see that we have to get acclimated, we have to put in some work but our goal is that it starts to become a part of who we are; something that we want in our lives. You see, without it being or becoming a passion we desire, it just becomes a check-list, a monotonous thing to do. Sometimes we might not have a desire to believe and sometimes we need to work at it but the hope is as we go, it starts to become a desired thing, a more natural thing.

Pray that God gives you strength to work and soft, open hearts to receive his transforming love in your life. This is where belief is conceived; in between our practice and God’s passion he puts in us.


THURSDAY // REFLECT






FRIDAY // PRAY
Lord, 
Enlighten what's dark in me. Strengthen what's weak in me. 
Mend what's broken in me. 
Bind what's bruised in me. 
Heal what's sick in me. 
And lastly revive whatever peace and love has died in me.
In Jesus name, amen.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Eye Witnesses

MONDAY– SCRIPTURE READING
From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another, as the sacrificed blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purges all our sin.

If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.
I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.

 
(1 John 1:1-2:1, 2 MSG)

TUESDAY
The Eye Witnesses

There has been much debate over the last 30-35 years about how accurately eye witnesses can recount an event. There have been extensive studies done that show eye witness accounts can be tainted from the truth of an event to one's personal interpretation of an event. How one remembers an event can be swayed by their own agenda and even by how they are questioned when recalling an event. With the initiation of DNA testing to positively affirm guilt or innocence it has been found that an alarming number of those found guilty through eye witness testimony were actually innocent. Researchers say that recollection of an event can be skewed by a number of factors. How much distance is between a witness and the event can impact the accuracy of recounting the event. If a witness has a strong personal agenda or bias it can influence the way an incident is recounted. Violence of a event can cause witnesses to shut out many details of the encounter. Eye witness testimony can be impacted by many factors. In an article called Eye Witness Testimony, by Saul McLeod he states, "They (eye witness testimonies) are individual recollections which have been shaped & constructed according to our stereotypes, beliefs, expectations etc." With a statement like that from an expert, eye witness's accounts could be held in question. Yet many times,  in many ways, for many reasons we know that eye witness accounting can be a positive, encouraging, accurate thing. It is easier to accept an eye witness account when you know the person who witnessed, when you know the motives, the personal involvement of the witness.

This is where we find ourselves in 1 John 1:1-2:1. We find ourselves being mentored as followers by those who were eye witnesses of Christ. Can these eye witnesses be trusted as our mentors in the faith?  What are their motives and their biases? Are we willing to accept their claims as truth?  Verse 4 says, " We are writing these things so you may fully share our joy!"  Verse 2:1 states, "...I write this to you so you will not sin. "  Those seem like pure, unselfish motives for a mentor to have. Possibly the most compelling thing that would cause us to believe that these mentors are not in it for selfish reasons or self-focused reasons is the end of this passage. If you do sin (there's no expectation of perfection)...you are still worth caring for and Christ is the one whose righteousness will carry you through.  The mentors know who is the righteous one; and the sinner goes straight to the Savior, not through the mentor first.

I am thankful that God brings mentors into our lives to provide conversation, encouragement, accountability, wisdom beyond our understanding, and His love. I know many good mentors who may not be eye witnesses of Christ incarnate yet who are humble, loving
servants of His. Thank you God for mentors. 

WEDNESDAY
Challenge

Now, assuming  we are comfortable in our role as the mentored, we are presented with a challenge.

                                                  
LIVE IN THE LIGHT

God is light. If we are going to share life with Him then we will be in the light. Just by the very nature of light it can not come into the darkness. It transforms the darkness that it touches. So if you are abiding with Christ you will be in the light.
The challenge then is to examine your life for darkness. If there are struggles in your life you have not turned over to Jesus you will see darkness there. Are there secret parts of your life that you have (or think you have) intentionally withheld from Jesus?  Are there things in your life that need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light?
The challenge is to look at the sin in our lives. Claim those failures and turn them over to the light. Allow the healing power of God's light...His love to begin the healing process.


THURSDAY





FRIDAY
Think/Pray

Four things to learn in life;
To think clearly without hurry or confusion;
To love everybody sincerely;
To act in everything with the highest motives;
To trust God unhesitatingly.
Helen Keller

Adoration - Father, Your love is like a healing balm to us.  We rest in Your love.  We are renewed by the power of Your touch in our lives.  We are in awe of who You are and marvel at your wonders.

Confession - We know Father, we let You down.  Our failings are many.  Our motives impure, Our actions selfish.  We confess this to You and you free us from the grip of these sins.

Thanks - We are overwhelmed with Your healing forgiveness and love.  Our thanks are as numerous as the grains of sand.  We can never praise you enough for how you embrace us in our imperfections and love us into Your Presence.

Supplication - While we are here in Your presence, there is much that burdens our hearts.
We bring these burdens to you God, and ask that you give us direction, peace, insight, and confidence to move forward into the unknown. Help us to trust to You that which only you can do.  Make us available and equipped for this life of Following Jesus and Finding Friends.


Monday, April 6, 2015

The Race Not Yet Run

MONDAY // READ
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

TUESDAY // THOUGHTS

So, two thoughts on this. First, God sets Ezekiel down into the valley, amid the bones scattered far and wide—enough bones to make an army—and God tells him to prophesy. He does so, and the bones begin to take shape. They begin to form people, though lifeless, and take on faces and flesh. God then tells Ezekiel to “prophesy to the breath,” calling the winds to come and fill the empty shells of men and women. They stood to their feet.

God tells Ezekiel the bones cry out—they were cut off; their race was not yet run. God promises rest, and hope; he promises to bring them up from their graves. But we see this has not yet taken shape. God says they will know him, and when their graves are opened. This story is not for the bones, but for us. It is a reminder that hope remains, even among dry bones.

Second, God invites the bones into rest. He tells these now less-dead souls that he will bring them back to their own land, that he will give them a place. We all need a place—somewhere we belong, somewhere we fit. Some place where we want to be, somewhere God wants us. It is in the place God wants us that we find rest. God wants to give us that rest, so much so that he will breathe life back into dry bones. This is significant, because that rest comes through relationship, and relationship through experience.

WEDNESDAY // Challenge

It is the same with God—we all have a relationship with God, and it is founded upon our interaction with God. It might be good or it might be poor, but it exists nonetheless. That rest we thought about earlier is a product of that relationship.

So, then, back to the empty, formless bones. God told Ezekiel to speak them back into life, and he did. God then said they had more to do—their graves would be opened and they would return to their place, to their home.

There is a line in the musical, Les Miserables, right after Jean Valjean promises to care for Fantine’s daughter. Fantine died knowing her daughter was safe—she found rest and peace—but Inspector Javert came to arrest Valjean for his years-old-crime of skipping out on parole.

Valjean says to Javert, “I am warning you Javert, I am a stronger man by far. There is power in me yet, my race is not yet run.” Valjean promised rest to Fantine, in the way of promising to care for her daughter. His race was not yet run. After years of running from Javert, he finally had somewhere to be. There was power in him.

Where does God have you, and are you resting in his purpose?

THURSDAY // REFLECT




FRIDAY // THINK & PRAY
Beware of any work for God which enables you to evade concentration on Him. A great many Christian workers worship their work. The one concern of a worker should be concentration on God, and this will mean that all the other margins of life, mental, moral and spiritual, are free with the freedom of a child, a worshipping child, not a wayward child. A worker without this solemn dominant note of concentration on God is apt to get his work on his neck; there is no margin of body, mind or spirit free, consequently he becomes spent out and crushed. There is no freedom, no delight in life; nerves, mind and heart are so crushingly burdened that God’s blessing cannot rest. But the other side is just as true – when once the concentration is on God, all the margins of life are free and under the dominance of God alone. There is no responsibility on you for the work; the only responsibility you have is to keep in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your co-operation with Him. The freedom after sanctification is the freedom of a child, the things that used to keep the life pinned down are gone. But be careful to remember that you are freed for one thing only – to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.

We have no right to judge where we should be put, or to have preconceived notions as to what God is fitting us for. God engineers everything; wherever He puts us our one great aim is to pour out a whole-hearted devotion to Him in that particular work. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might."
–Oswald Chambers


Lord, teach us to find rest in where you put us.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Greatness of God

MONDAY // READ
Psalm 40:5-10
Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you have planned for us.
None can compare with you, were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire--but my ears you have opened--burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come--it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.

Hebrews 10:4-10
It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
Then I said, “Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--I have come to do your will, my God.’”
First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire nor were you pleased with them”--though they were offered in accordance with the law.

Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second.

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.”

TUESDAY // The Greatness of God
“Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.”

One night a few years ago I couldn’t sleep and I was mad about that. Sometimes, during a bout of insomnia, I’ll suffer a panic attack, which is what happened on this particular, unfortunate night. So, I was laying there, awake, with my heart racing and the whole world feeling blurred and every one of my fears sprinting through my mind and I remember saying (aloud and in spite of a sleeping house), “This isn’t fair, God. There are seven billion people in the world. Give one of them anxiety. Give one of them stupid fears. Give one of them insomnia and just let me sleep.”

My sleepless self is my selfish-est self.

The thing that angry, insomnia-ridden me was failing to remember is exactly what this psalmist was praising God for: Many are the wonders you have done, the things you have planned for us.
Sometimes, when a whole slew of things go wrong, it’s easy to forget that God is active in your life. But, whether you recognize it or not: He always is, and He has more wonders planned.
Now, the “wonders” that the psalmist referring to just happen to be the most wondrous wonders of them all: Jesus’s coming and his sacrifice. This is emphasized by the phrases from the Psalm that are repeated by Jesus in Hebrews: sacrifice and offering you did not desire and here I am, I have come to do your will.

Hebrews 10:4 says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” I bet that was pretty scary for the people to hear at the time because sacrifice was how they made themselves right with God. They probably thought, “Well, if God doesn’t want our sacrifices, what can take away our sin?”

And the answer was sacrifice. Just not theirs. It’s only through Jesus’s sacrifice that we can bridge the sin caused gap between us and God.

There are a lot of ways that God has blessed my life (and I can remember that on stress-free restful nights) but the fact that Jesus came, lived, and died so that I--we--can have a relationship with the Living God is a blessing so big that I have difficulty comprehending.


WEDNESDAY // CHALLENGE
Have you ever heard the expression “count your blessings” before? It’s usually used in an almost snark-tastic way:


“Do you have Dr. Meanman for Chemistry?”

“No, I have Professor Friendly.”
  
“Well you should count your blessings for that.”


Well, I did a cursory search on the idiom’s etymology and you may be surprised to find that it didn’t sprout from a spiteful desire to remind people that their lives could be soooo much worse. The phrase may have come from an old belief that each person receives 100 blessings in a day--so counting them is kind of like a daily scavenger hunt.

So: that’s your challenge. Try to literally count your blessings today. Then, spread the joy by sharing one or two with your friends, family, or that whole host of people following you on Twitter.

For today, make, “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done” your mental mantra.

THURSDAY // REFLECT



FRIDAY // PRAY
Lord, help me to remember all that you have done for me.
Even on my hard days. Especially on my hard days.
On those days when I feel unworthy, unlovable, and like I just don’t belong, help me to remember how great your love for me is.

You wanted a relationship with me so badly that you sacrificed your son to bridge the gap between us.
That is such great love!

You have filled my life with blessings, grace, hope, and forgiveness and I am so grateful for that!

Lord, please help me shift the lenses through which I see the world.

I want to see through gracious, and thankful eyes, so that I never miss out on appreciating a blessing you’ve bestowed on me.

Lord, please help me open my heart.

You have loved me with forgiveness, mercy, grace, and sacrifice.

I want to learn how to love like that.

Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stone vs. Flesh

MONDAY // READ
Jeremiah 31:31-34
“That’s right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won’t be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master.” God’s Decree.

“This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree.

Psalm 51:1-12
Generous in love—God, give grace!
Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile,
put a fresh wind in my sails!
You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

TUESDAY // THOUGHTS

Ah the heart is a tricky, mysterious thing. I’ll let Jeremiah sum it up here: “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.” And God gets this and understands that the heart is where our true motives lie. Jerri (Jeremiah) goes on to say, “But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

This is leading up to Jeremiah 31 to the New Covenant where the law will be written on their hearts. Up to this point the law was etched on stone tablets where if they went against it, consequences follow. You see, the law only serves to let you know when you have done wrong, when you’ve messed up. When do you usually see the cops? When something is wrong. When someone has done something wrong, that’s when they come around and they represent the law. This New Covenant starts to make things more personal. With it written on our hearts, we start to see the things that God cares about and we start to care about them as well.

Ezekiel 36:26 says something similar, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
From this passage and Jeremiah’s, it seems that to have the Law written on our hearts, we need a new one, one that is scrubbed clean and cleansed with the Holy Spirit, one that is fleshy instead of from stone. It’s as though the flesh lets the Law sink in deeper. They’ve tried it written in stone and now it’s time that it is written somewhere else where it can permeate deeper, the heart.
Wednesday

WEDNESDAY // CHALLENGE
Take a moment this week to reflect on what you need to breathe out, like bitterness, anger, regret, etc. and start to exhale that stuff out so you have room to breathe in what you need, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.

Think upon Jeremiah’s passage and the Psalms 51 on what it might mean to have a heart that receives the things of God. Ask Him to come in and create a new heart in you. Ask Him what else you can do on your end to make this happen.

THURSDAY // REFLECT





FRIDAY // PRAY
Lord, thank you for your generous love
And unending mercy!
We both know the bad that can collect in my heart
Scrub it and make it clean again Dad
My offenses, it seems, to be aimed at You
I’m sorry! Sorry for being out of step with You
Allow me to walk by Your side once again My God
Create in me a clean heart that has a rhythm so beautiful
That the angels playing their harps right on key
Would pale in comparison.

This we pray in Your Son’s Name
Amen