Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"It's all about the gift"

Merry Christmas to everyone!  I hope this has been a wonderful day for you.

As always Christmas has been lots of fun at the Brown home.   We start by opening up our presents before 9:00 am while enjoying the smell of home made cinnamon rolls in the oven.   My wife makes the best!!

As a family we especially enjoy watching each other open the gifts we bought for them.  I think we like watching their reaction to the presents as much as we enjoy getting our own.  Okay  maybe that sounds like an adult thing to say but it is true.  I guess it only makes sense that if we have searched for the right gift we are anxious to see the reaction when it's opened.

When it comes to gifts, I think sometimes we know we've bought the right one!  Sometimes its because of all the hints. hahah  .Other times we're not sure if the gift is destined for the service desk return counter or not.

I think we did good this year.  I don't think that anyone will have to fight the lines to give back gifts!

Yes gift giving at Christmas can be a lot of fun and hopefully your loved ones enjoyed everything you selected for them.    Socks seemed to be a real theme for our family this year.   Christmas socks for the girls and the older boys (I'm the oldest boy of course) received everyday crew socks!  We needed them...  I know I have a lot of holy socks to throw out.  Movies was also a hit.  Everything from adventure, comedies, love stories to Disney.  There's no reading material this year.  We'll maybe next time.

Hopefully along with all the wonderful gifts you'll remember the greatest gift given by the greatest gift giver of all.  Yes, today we celebrate that we have been given a Savior.  I'm pretty sure God knew that he had the right gift for us and I'm sure that he waits with anticipation to see how we'll respond to that gift.  I wonder how sad he is when we reject or turn away his gift.

This Christmas receive the gift of Jesus.  I know that you'll be glad that you did!

Now it's on to another Christmas tradition around the Browns.  Taking naps and enjoying the smells of the traditional Christmas Lasagna.  Oh what a gift it is to have a wonderful wife who's also a great cook!

God bless and Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God with us

 Isaiah 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and[will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:20-25

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”] (which means “God with us”).24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.


The Christmas story is a story of the greatest love of all. It is also the fulfillment of the prophecies of Scripture. Specifically today I want to consider Isaiah 7:14. The word given to the prophet Isaiah that Jesus would be born of a virgin and that this son would be called Immanuel.

You might ask, "Does it really matter... the virgin birth I mean. Perhaps it is hard to believe and it surely had never happened before or after but I believe it's critically important. 

The virgin birth makes perfect sense if we are to believe that Jesus was fully God and fully human. 

 In the same way that the  Spirit of God hovered over the waters at the first creation as recorded in  Genesis 1:2, now the spirit of God would once again hover over Mary and she would conceive new life. In Luke 1 starting with verse 34 Mary asks, "How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."  

Truly only Jesus could be called the Son of God because he was not the son of any earthly father. 

 Jesus was God and He was man.  Without the virgin birth the Spirit of God would have to come upon Jesus in the same way that the Spirit had come upon many others before. Yet to do so would mean that the Spirit would have entered into an imperfect man since all men or women born of human parents have a sinful nature. Jesus could be perfect because he had and was the very essence of God's perfect nature! At the same time he was born of a human so Jesus knew the temptations, pain and feelings of humans.   

 This is truly mysterious and truly amazing. It is also how God could become Immanuel which means God with us. Yes, the Spirit had descended upon many women and men of the Bible but now God would dwell inside the body of a man from beginning to the end. What a truly amazing mystery!!

 But that's how much God loves us!

 Why don't you spend some time in prayer today to say thank you.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The greatest miracle of all! Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

So what was the most amazing miracle about the Christmas Story?

Was it the angels appearances to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds?

Was it the star that shined in the sky and the Wise men who traveled so far to follow it?

Was it the virgin birth?

Was it the choice for Jesus parents lowly and humble Mary and Joseph?

I think that the biggest miracle is Christ Birth.   Jesus our Lord humbly entering the world as a baby.  Never mind that it seems unfitting for a king!   Never mind that Mary and Joseph could find no room in the inn.  But how could God fit inside a mothers womb?  How could Jesus be fully human and fully God at the same time?  God incarnate..... really?   That's the mystery that I can't comprehend. 

Yes Isaiah proclaims, "For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders."

God with us.  Emmanuel!  That is the most wonderful and the most amazing miracle of all.

With that one miracle everything changes doesn't it!  Hope is reborn and peace seems possible even in our world today!

God with us.  Think about that this morning?  Think about the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to live inside of us?

The star and the angels were more flashy.  The three kings from a far more royal looking.  The virgin birth is more controversial.   But the true star of Christmas was a small baby born in a manger bed.

Have you made Jesus the star of your life?   Does he have first place in your heart?  Christmas is a reminder of another miracle that happens every day as people put there hope, trust and life in the hands of their Savior.

To Ponder: Why don't you renew your faith in that miracle today?

 Our salvation in Christ is a miracle that each of us can have a part in this morning.  Yes, All of us can join the Christmas story!  Because Jesus came for us.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So what's the celebration all about? Isaiah 9:6,7

"For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this."

Isaiah 9:6-7

Its Christmas season and there are few texts that say Christmas better than our scripture for today.   I remember in High School and perhaps other times in life singing this text as a part of the Handle's Messiah.   It speaks of the peace that will happens when the Lord sits upon the throne of David.  It will happens as Christ brings justice, righteousness to this world.  The government will rest on his shoulders not on the shoulders of elected officials, frail sinful leaders and judges that lack wisdom and understanding.

We long for this day...   So why celebrate today?  Have you looked at the world lately?   Do we have a reason to be joyful? Do we have reasons to be hopeful?

I guess this is a good question that we generally try to avoid at this time of the year.  For some Christmas is just a month to put the blinders on.  At best it is a celebration of family and friends.  I heard on the news that the average family spends $700 at Christmas time.  That's a lot of cash!  So has Christmas become a huge boost to the economy?  Perhaps but come January is there any more peace and good will on earth? 

Maybe Christmas is just time for Children.  I guess you could say I'm being a pessimist.  Oh don't get me wrong I love Christmas and all the lights, special concerts, services and giving gifts.  So perhaps Christmas is just a rehearsal for the peace on earth that is yet to come?

Or perhaps Christmas is about something much more as the Grinch would learn.

Perhaps Christmas is like a seed that has yet to grow to full bloom.  Its a confirmation of the Peace that can be and will be.  It's about a hope that we have now because a Savior, the son of Peace has entered our world.  Perhaps Christmas is a Dream that started at Jesus Birth and will find it's completion when our text is fulfilled.  Perhaps Christmas is a celebration that we have already won!  Perhaps Christmas is a challenge and a hope that we will become the people of light that the world is so desperately waiting for!  

What is Christmas to you?   May your preparations focus upon the true spirit of hope, peace, joy and love this Advent season.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Letting people know why we are thankful. Psalm 105:1-9

Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always.
Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
    his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers his covenant forever,
    the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
    the oath he swore to Isaac.
On this Thanksgiving there is so much to be thankful for but most of all we must be thankful for God's faithfulness to His promises and for his wonderful acts.   There are indeed many ways to say thanks and I hope that you will do this around your Thanksgiving tables but also out in the world in which we live.  When we proclaim God's goodness to the world  others will come to know him and this is the best way to say thanks to our Lord!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The best way

"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

 Psalm 139:23,24

As Christians we know that God looks beyond our actions and sees our heart.   No one else can truly know our hearts.  No one can know our motives and anxieties but this is what David invites God to do.   In addition he ask God to point out his offensive ways and lead him in the way everlasting.  

 Our Bible verses for today would truly be a life changing prayer for all of us don't you agree?   Wouldn't it be amazing if every Christian opened his or her heart to God each morning for God to search and to test?  But more than that wouldn't it transform our lives if each person set their minds and their motives in alignment with God's everlasting ways?

We've all heard the saying "but at least his motives were good."  This is said when we mess up accidentally.   Like when we give money to a person who goes off and uses it for alcohol instead of food to feed his children. Yes sometimes our motives will be good and we will end up doing the wrong thing but if our mind is in tuned with pleasing God first these incidents will be much less.

Most of us however get in trouble with sin when our motives are not pure.

We yell at someone because we want revenge and we feel we have been violated. We venture onto a less than appropriate web site not because "oh.. I don't know how I got here...?"   The problem is our motives which lead to our actions.  

Behind all of these motives is selfishness.  This is the biggest battle of our heart.

Our daily moment by moment battle is whether God and serving others is first and foremost in our heart or if we are most important.  This is the real battle of life isn't it but who wins that battle is going to determine our smallest actions and ultimately our life.

David also asks God to know his anxious thoughts.   These are like our motives but a little different.  As a person we might really want to do the right thing but we are anxious and afraid.  These anxieties can easily effect our actions.   I think David wants to trust in God so much and to love God so much that he will act with integrity each and every moment.

God can be trusted.  God is all powerful and God loves us and God is our great protector.  So if we are praying and asking God to lead us and if we act with integrity and the fear of the Lord (which brings wisdom)  than we can act in full confidence.

To ponder:  Are your actions tainted by your anxieties and selfishness or are they inspired by your unselfish love and trust in God to care for you.  

If your not sure or if you waver back and forth, Perhaps our text for today would be a great prayer. Commit it to memory.  May our love and trust in the Lord rule all of our motives, comfort our fears and lead our actions.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You're only fooling yourself.....God knows Psalm 139:1-6

God knows everything...  We can't fool God... The Lord has searched us.  The Lord knows when we sit.  When we rise.  The Lord knows our thoughts.  He discerns our going out and our lying down.  God know everyone's thoughts, words and deeds.  If you think about that for just a second you might be tempted to tremble say,  "God knows that?  He saw me when I said those words and did those deeds?  What hope do I have to stand in his judgement.

In addition God knows our ways.  God knows our words before they are spoken?  How can this be?  And if this is true...  which is the greatest surprise that God is capable of doing such wonders or  that God still loves us?

Psalm 139: 5 says, "You hem me in behind and before, you have laid your hand upon me."  I read that passage to a woman of great faith this week and she spoke about the comfort it brought to her that God hems her in like a great big hug of love and protection.   As I read that passage over indeed I could not give a better interpretation of what that verse means.  No wonder David would proclaim in the following verse, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."

Indeed these things are too lofty for us to understand.  It's like trying to comprehend the expanse of the universe We know that there can be no limits to the universe.  Could it be that there is no limits to God's understanding and to God's love?  Again like David this is beyond our understanding because all we can understand with our finite minds is what we see here on Earth.  We can only imagine incomplete and imperfect love because its all we have ever experienced in our relationships with others.  But could it be that there is a love far beyond our capacity to understand?  A love so great that it would go to no limit including a cruel Roman cross to both prove its love and take the barriers away from our capacity to know God personally, intimately and forever?

Indeed through faith we believe that God looks into the dirties places of our heart and says, "I love you and I will help to clean you up if you let me".  " But even if you don't let me in,  I won't stop pursuing you until we have the intimate relationship I created you for.  Isn't that the message of the gospel?

To ponder:  Is there places in your heart and life that you're trying to hide from God?  You're only fooling yourself.  Why don't you marvel at his grace and humbly accept God's loving arms that hem you in behind and before. So today don't turn away God's love embrace it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ascending into the presence of the Lord Psalm 121:1,2

Psalm 121 is one of the songs of ascents that we find from Psalm 120-134.  Many of these are written by David but our Psalm for today was written by that famous writer named anonymous.  The psalms of ascents were perhaps song or spoken as the faithful ascended the hill/mountain toward the City of Jerusalem for one of the three major festivals each year.  Perhaps it was song or repeated as the priest ascended up the 15 steps to minister in the temple of the Lord.  The songs of ascents were short memorable and poetic in nature which made them perfect for this purpose.

Most of the songs also had a positive uplifting mode to them and all of them have a note of hope associated with them as does our song of ascents for this week.

Though we don't worship God in the Temple,  today when we think about prayer or spending time with the Lord we can still have this attitude of ascending into the Lord's presence and our Songs of ascents serve as good models for us.  

The nation of Israel looked at Jerusalem and the Temple as the special place where God could be found.  Today many people look at their church as that special place.  However the New Testament teaches that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.   So we don't have to ascend anywhere to find God though many people find it helpful to have a special place set aside for prayer.

Perhaps as we pray today we can visualize approaching the Lord.  We can come with expectation and joy!  We can come with humility as one approaching a Holy God.  We can come with hopefulness knowing that God cares about us and will do whatever is necessary to draw us closer to himself.

Our Psalm proclaims in Psalm 121:1,2

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Our Jewish friends have ascend the hill leading up to Jerusalem for centuries with anticipation that they would encounter and find help from the Lord.   Though we don't have to go anywhere let us not take our special place and position before God for granted.  

Prayer:  Dear God in our hearts today we ascend  in your courts.  We humble ourselves before you for you as our holy and majestic Lord.  In this place we confess our sins and ask you to test our heart.  It is in this place that we give you thanks for your forgiveness and seek your wisdom.  Open our hearts and quiet our minds that we would find you.  In Jesus name Amen

Ponder: I'm so glad that I don't have to climb a mountain to find the Lord but perhaps setting side time and pushing away my cares so I can focus on God is an even more difficult mountain to climb.   But it is worth the climb.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—" Psalm 103:2

There has certainly been a lot of discussion about insurance these days.   And when it comes to insurance one of the important questions is about the benefits and yes the price for those benefits.
For most of us there is great uncertainty about the benefits and the price of those benefits in the coming years.

But when it comes to God and a relationship with God the benefits are "out of this world"  and you can't beat the price. there not free for they cost Jesus his life but for us the cost is as simple as our faith and trust.  That sounds like a wonderful deal especially when you consider the benefits.   However I think we all take the benefits for granted or at least we forget the benefits so let the psalmist in psalm 103 remind us once again of the benefits or our faith.

To summarize the list:   God forgives sins, heals diseases, redeems our life from the pit, crowns you with love and compassion,  satisfies your desires,  works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed, makes know the ways of Moses and the deeds of Israel
Those are just the benefits found in the first seven verses.  Note that I highlighted the verbs to demonstrate God's action but the benefits go on. 

The rest of the chapter speak to his compassion, love and the slowness of his anger.  The benefits continue with love being shown to those who don't deserve it.  So great is his compassion and love he removes or sins as far as the east is from the west.  He has the compassion of a father for his children.  He has everlasting love toward those who fear him and those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.    And if we think that these benefits only last for a short time we need only be reminded that the Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all.  In other words  his word is final no one can come along and change the rules.  God's benefits cannot be revoked!   

I don't know about you but those benefits far exceed anything that Flo can offer when it comes to insurance and there is no better bundling of those discounts.  In short its an unbelievable deal.

 Its too good to be true but if we believe in his benefits we will surely do a lot of praising!  Its not surprising that in this psalm David starts the Psalm saying,  "Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Praise the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-"  Actually David proclaims, "Praise the Lord" six times!

To ponder:   How much praising have you been doing lately?   If your low in the praise department could it possibly be that you've forgotten or at least taken for granted God's wonderful benefit plan?   If that's you I invite you to reread psalm 103 and marvel at God's great love

Monday, October 21, 2013

Enter his Courts with praise Psalm 100

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise: give thanks to him and praise his name."  Psalm 100:4

Worship in the ancient Jewish tradition was always filled with praise.  When Pilgrims traveling to the temple and the Courts of the Lord they began with praise and thanks giving.  When Pilgrims traveling from a distance caressed the mountain to view Jerusalem below there was shouting and spontaneous singing, laughing and dancing.  Such was their excitement about being in the Holy City! 

In the psalm for today the Palmist points out three reasons to worship and thank God.  In verse 5 it says, "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generation."   First God is good, Second God's love endures forever,  Lastly God is faithful.  When we put all these together we see a great picture of an awesome God!

Yes, God can do all things but is God good?  Oh course!  We might say this so flippantly without thinking about this attribute but just because God created us and God has all authority doesn't mean that God is also good.  God could have every right to be a judgmental and revengeful especially considering what we have done to our world and how we have hurt others and ignored God. But despite all of this God is good!  Our God cares for us and watches over us like a shepherd watched his sheep.

The Psalmist continues to build on to this statement by saying that God's love endures forever.   In the book of 1 John it says that God is love. God is the definition of love.  God is the essence of love and this love will last forever.  God's love is unchanging.

Finally God is faithful.  God is faithful to the point that when it meant that He would have to die on a cross, he would do it.  For he is faithful to his nature as a loving Savior.  Yes God is good.  God is love which will have no end and God is faithful to act according to his nature.   This is reason to give thanks.  This gives us reason to shout, to laugh, to sing, and to worship God with all that we have.

To Ponder:  When you come to worship on Sunday morning are you ready to shout for joy and worship with gladness?   Do you come before the Lord with joyful songs.  This Sunday enter the courts or the foyer or the sanctuary of your church with great expectation and joy!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Our Shelter Psalm 91:9-12

One of the important words of this psalm is the word refuge.  The Psalmist found refuge or a place of protection in the Lord.  In the Bible it says that the Lord is the defender of the weak.  The Lord is the defender of the pour and the righteous.  The Lord is the protector of those who turn to him.   God is our refuge. He is our shelter our fortress our rock.  In Him we put our trust and he shelters us under his wings. 

And don’t we know that there are many predators in our world.  There are those who would desire to take advantage of us, harm us and lie to us.  But out text says,  “If you make the Most High your dwelling even the Lord, who is my refuge then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.  For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways’ they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:9-12

Those are some mighty wonderful promises especially in a day of uncertainty.  But there are some conditions to these promises.  No there are no conditions to God’s love but we still have to make the Lord our refuge.   Just like we have to hide under a canopy or an overhang to avoid getting wet during a rain storm  so too we have to hide under the shelter of the Lord to avoid facing natural consequences.  Sometimes I think God allows those consequences to get us to return to Him.

So who is your refuge today?  Are you trying to go it alone?  Do you rest on your own resources, your mind, your spirit, your wit, your goodness, and your cunning?   How is that working for you?

In Isaiah 28 it says that we have made our lies our refuge.  I believe that statement is true of many people today.  They are so good at twisting the truth and fabricating lies that it’s hard for them to know what the truth is.  Some people are one lie ahead of the pack.  However this is an awful refuge.  It is building your house on shifting sands.  One day the lies will catch up to you.   The alternative is to build upon a firm foundation which is the Word of God.  Such a refuge will set us free, though the truth might be very painful like a surgeon’s knife at least at first.

To Ponder:  Is the Lord your refuge today?  In times of troubles do you always turn to Him or are there other places of refuge that you sometimes lean?   If that is the case I invite you.  Actually God invites you to rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  Make the Lord your God in whom you trust.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Early will I seek You and be satisfied all day long Psalm 63:1

 (Somehow my post was sent yesterday and not saved for me to complete.  So here is my official blog)

Psalm 63:1  "O God, you are my God, early will  I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you, in a dry and thirsty land."   KJV

When I was young one of the only times that I wanted to get up really early was on Christmas morning.   Sometimes I would try to convince my parents to get up as early as 5:30 am.   Usually we were up and opening presents before 7:00 am.  I couldn't wait to get up to unwrap the presents under the tree and to see what Santa Clause had left behind.  I guess I remember a couple other times when I wanted to get up early especially when I was going to go out early to go fishing with my Grandpa Fisher. There was a sense of excitement!  But especially when it came to Christmas there seemed to be a let down come the middle of the afternoon.  No not because I didn't get nice things that I enjoyed under the Christmas tree but because it was all over.

David in our Psalm shares this kind of excitement to be up early with his God.   Charles Spurgeon wrote of this passage saying, "Communion with God is so sweet that the chill of the morning is forgotten, and the luxury of the couch is despised."  Truly you can sense the note of excitement in his words.  But David's longing went much deeper.  There is a sense of desperation for the Lord like the longing we have for water and air itself.  The Apostle Paul would later say words like, "for me to live is Christ.."

David was in the literal wilderness of Judah which was more like a desert then what we would consider a wilderness.   He knew what it was like to run for his life from his enemies and seek the shelter in the Lord.   He knew what it was like to walk with the Lord.  In the KJV it says in verse 6 "My soul follows close behind you; Your right hand upholds me."

So here is the major difference between my times of looking forward to the morning and David's.  While the joy of the morning faded for me David's joy never faded.  He longed to be with the Lord morning noon and night and he found joy in the Lord at all times.  David in verse 3 and 4 proclaims, "Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you.  Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in your name."

To ponder:   May we all find such joy and anticipation to be in the Lord's presence today.   We have such a wonderful God.  If you're empty inside fill that place with God.  The Lord will not disappoint.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Early will I seek You

 (Somehow my post was sent yesterday and not saved for me to complete.  So here is my official blog)

Psalm 63:1  "O God, you are my God, early will  I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you, in a dry and thirsty land."   KJV

When I was young one of the only times that I wanted to get up really early was on Christmas morning.   Sometimes I would try to convince my parents to get up as early as 5:30 am.   Usually we were up and opening presents before 7:00 am.  I couldn't wait to get up to unwrap the presents under the tree and to see what Santa Clause had left behind.  I guess I remember a couple other times when I wanted to get up early especially when I was going to go out early to go fishing with my Grandpa Fisher. There was a sense of excitement!  But especially when it came to Christmas there seemed to be a let down come the middle of the afternoon.  No not because I didn't get nice things that I enjoyed under the Christmas tree but because it was all over.

David in our Psalm shares this kind of excitement to be up early with his God.   Charles Spurgeon wrote of this passage saying, "Communion with God is so sweet that the chill of the morning is forgotten, and the luxury of the couch is despised."  Truly you can sense the note of excitement in his words.  But David's longing went much deeper.  There is a sense of desperation for the Lord like the longing we have for water and air itself.  The Apostle Paul would later say words like, "for me to live is Christ.."

David was in the literal wilderness of Judah which was more like a desert then what we would consider a wilderness.   He knew what it was like to run for his life from his enemies and seek the shelter in the Lord.   He knew what it was like to walk with the Lord.  In the KJV it says in verse 6 "My soul follows close behind you; Your right hand upholds me."

So here is the major difference between my times of looking forward to the morning and David's.  While the joy of the morning faded for me David's joy never faded.  He longed to be with the Lord morning noon and night and he found joy in the Lord at all times.  David in verse 3 and 4 proclaims, "Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you.  Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in your name."

To ponder:   May we all find such joy and anticipation to be in the Lord's presence today.   We have such a wonderful God.  If you're empty inside fill that place with God.  The Lord will not disappoint.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A new Heart for a new day Psalm 51:10-12

The great King David had fallen into sin with Bathsheba and Nathan the Prophet confronted him sternly.  At this point David had several choices in how he, the King would respond.   He could have denied it.  He could have made excuses for his actions blaming the situation.  He could have cried, "I'm the King, I get what I want!"  He could have done any of those things.

  In our day we have seen these types of reactions over and over haven't we.  Why just last week a football player talked about how it was difficult for him to tell that he was driving so fast because he had a fast car and there wasn't much difference between 60 miles an hour and 90.  Frankly I'm not sure what kind of car he's driving but regardless I think there's a huge difference between those speeds.  Such excuses don't generally impress the police or the head coach.

David however chose another response.  He humbly accepted responsibility for his actions.  Such humility is difficult but when a prophet calls you out there's not much else to do.   Following his confession and his time of mourning David addresses the Lord again this time for mercy.  He knew God had every right to punish him, which the Lord would do, but David sought after the heart of God and asked for a redue.   In our text he asks, " Restore to me the Joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

David understood that he needed a new start and a new heart.  He needed a pure heart.  He needed the Holy Spirit within him.  He needed a willing heart or spirit to sustain him.  Without this transformation on the inside he knew that he was hopeless.   David knew his old heart and it wasn't very pretty.   David was a smart man.   He didn't just ask for forgiveness and then try his best to be good with the help of his old heart.   No he needed forgiveness and he needed a new heart.   Without the new heart David was destined for future failure just as I'm sure our football friend will soon be speeding Cleveland's highways at 90 miles an hour plus in the near future.

What about you?  What sins entangle you?  Do you simply ask for God's forgiveness every time or have you cried out for a new pure heart empowered by the Spirit of God. 
  If you want true freedom it starts with a new heart.  A heart filled with the joy that existed at our salvation.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Psalm 34: 8  "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."

I just love the imagery used by Old Testament writers.  It reflects the Eastern way of thinking that calls upon the senses, images and analogies to express important truths.  Instead of saying that the Lord takes care of us Scripture says, "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want." Psalm 23:1

  Instead of saying that God is dependable and faithful Scripture cries out, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."  Psalm 18:2

Instead of saying that those who read and obey the Law of the Lord will be blessed Scripture proclaims, "He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers."  Psalm 1:2

So it is that we are encourage to taste and see that the Lord is good.

There is nothing more memorable then the sense of taste.   My guess is that if I would tell you the names of certain Pizza restaurants you could remember the distinct taste of each one even if you haven't had that pizza in many years.   I can still remember or "taste" the Big Red Tomato pizza that I had with my roommates in College.  But it's not just the good tastes we remember because I can still remember the taste of hominy that we used to eat when I was growing up.  Yes our taste buds are powerful senses sometimes for good and other times.... not so good.  

There is also something very intimate about tasting.  Think about it isn't this the reason we love to take our dates out to eat wonderful foods.   The taste adds to the intimacy of the experience.   Having friends over for instance is that much more joyful and yes intimate when we share and taste wonderful foods together.  Some have even equated eating chocolate to some of the most intimate of experiences.

In addition when we taste or eat something we make a commitment of ourselves.  When I go to the market I "see"  lots of different foods.  I might even "smell" quite a few of them but it is an entirely different thing to sink my teeth into the food.   Usually the first thing we do is to use our eyes to see if something looks appealing.  With some foods we might actually squeeze them to see if they are fresh.  Others we will smell and if a food passes all those tests we make the commitment to buy the food and further commit ourselves to taste and eat it.   Which by the way when it comes to food eating it is the only true test to see if we like something or not.

For this reason it only makes sense that David requests that we "Taste and see" or that we taste and see for ourselves that he Lord is good! 

Today I encourage you to enjoy intimacy with the Lord.  Go beyond simply seeing and considering God.  Taste and see! Fully devour God in the same way you might enjoy a sirloin steak at Applebee's. Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Trust the Lord and be blessed as you take refuge in God!  After you have truly tasted God's goodness you'll ever forget it and you'll surely have no regrets.

These are the lessons we learn as we walk through the Word together.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Guardians of God's wonderful creation

I'm not sure about you but I have surely enjoyed many of the beautiful days this past summer.  I even enjoyed today which is just a little cooler but what a reminder of the wonderful fall which is to come.

As I type from by back porch I here the crickets chirping and the birds singing and I'm watching as the rays of the setting sun glisten through the trees. This morning I saw two wonderful deer in my back yard and I always enjoy the scurrying of black and gray squirrels.  Today we picked up apples, apple cider, pumpkins, candy, green beans and cheese from our favorite orchard store.   And when I look up into the heavens.  They are deep blue with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Indeed as David would say,

"When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?"  Psalm 8:3,4 
Yet God is mindful of us!  God loves us! 
I think that its safe to say that the beauty of this creation was given for us to enjoy but also to care for and to not take for granted.
Speaking again of humans David proclaims,
 5"You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8:5-8)
This by no means is a license to do whatever we want as "Lords" over the animals and creation.  God didn't put them under our feet to stomp on them.  Rather we are to love God's creation just as God loves us and cares for us.  This is a Divine mystery.  
Much has been said over the last 10 years about global warming or climate change.   Those who believe in this idea would claim that we have abused our rights as custodians of this planet and are in the process of destroying our atmosphere.   Frankly I believe that this is a little arrogant of us to think that we have the power to alter something so humongous as the atmosphere which God has put into place. In addition depending on the experts it seems like there is little agreed upon evidence to support it.  What we see in my opinion is the natural cycle of the weather which has gone on for Thousands of years.  Some might say for millions of years.  
But with that said I do believe in being kind to our planet.  I think recycling is a good idea both environmentally, and morally.  I believe we shouldn't be wasteful of our recourses which has caused the destruction of some of our rain forests.  And surely pollution during the 20th century had adverse effects on our environment and the health of countless people.   Yes,there needs to be balance and conservation.  It concerns me that we are such a throw away society and our landfills are pilling up with bottles, can's and Hamburger rappers.  
Sadly we throw away relationships just as easily sometimes.  Yet, God has been mindful of us.  God has been faithful to preserve us and give Jesus to die for us!  Surely as care takers of this planet we can help to keep it healthy and beautiful without going to the extreme.   
All of creation is in this together!  It's a gift to beheld and managed. 
Like David, we should shake our heads in disbelief that God has given us the privilege of enjoying it and taking care of it.  That's just one more wonderful aspect of God's grace and Glory.
Yes,  How majestic is your name in all the earth!  
but I better end this blog now before I get eaten up by the mosquito's!

Monday, September 9, 2013

What amazes you the most? Psalm 8

David is absolutely amazed at the glory and Majesty of God which is above all things.

David is absolutely amazed at God's creation:  The heavens which are the works of God's hands and the moon and stars that reflect His great glory!

But what perhaps amazed David most of all is that with all this glory,God looked upon us as just a little lower than the heavenly beings. This is more accurately translated that God made us a little lower than God himself and God crowned him with glory and honor.

This was shocking to David because he knew the sin of human kind and his own sin.  With this in mind God could have cast us aside and destroyed us if not for his grace.  Yet instead of casting us aside God gave his son Jesus to die for our sins and redeem us.   But it goes deeper than that.  Through his death we find forgiveness which is wonderful but the fact that we are restored to the position of Glory is unbelievable.

David repeats the same thought in Psalm 103:2-4 "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion."

To ponder:  When's the last time you stopped to consider God's glory?
When is the last time you considered your own sinfulness and wondered, "Why does God put up with me?"
  When is the last time that you considered that not only does God forgive your sin but he seats you with him in glory?  When is the last time that you said thank you to God for his grace?

In this world of science and reason may we never lose the wonder of God's creation, God's love and God's grace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A great leader starts with prayer: Nehemiah 1:5

It's one thing to mourn over a problem.  It's yet another thing to actually do something about it.

Nehemiah mourned over the broken walls of Jerusalem,  He prayed. He fasted.  He pleaded with God.  But he didn't pray that God would send just anyone he prayed that God would open the door so he could go.  He prayed that he would find favor in the eyes of the King so he would be allowed to go and lead the effort to rebuild the walls. 

In Nehemiah's prayer to God, he reminds God of his goodness and love.  He says, O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants the people of Israel." Nehemiah 1:5

I'm not sure that God needed the reminder of his great love but I'm sure that God loved to hear these words from a man of faith!  Surely the truth of these words reveal to us that Nehemiah's prayer was according to God's will. 

In the first Chapter of Nehemiah we learn that Nehemiah is the cup bearer to the King of Assyria.   As a cup bearer he bring the wine to the king and test the wine to make sure that it was not poisoned.  This was an important job and the life of the King depended upon Nehemiah.

Aside from the divine intervention of God it would have been very unlikely that the kings would allow Nehemiah to leave  but not only did the king allow him to go.  The king was willing to send him men, lumber, and a traveling visa giving Nehemiah his personal seal of approval.  You might say that God answered his prayer in a big way!

Yes, if you read the book of Nehemiah you will see the heart of a great leader with a huge vision and even tremendous faith and to complete the package we see that Nehemiah was a great man of great courage. 

But with all of these qualities in Nehemiah's favor his greatest asset was his prayer life.  Yes Nehemiah has obvious leadership qualities but no matter how great a leader you might be God is the one who ultimately brings about success.

Sadly we live in a day where leaders are a dime a dozen but prayer warriors are few to be found.

 To ponder:  What role does prayer play in your life as a leader?  If you're success is in direct proportion to your prayers what kind of results should you expect?

Let us all be thankful that God uses us and helps us to be successful by his grace even when we don't always pray as we should but better yet why don't we determine to make prayer a priority in our leadership in the church, in our home or in the work place.   These are the lessons we learn together as we walk through the Word together.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

the road of blessing starts with a broken heart: Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah was serving as the cup bearer for the king in Assyria several years following the exile of the people of Judah.  It was a dark time indeed. It was then that he heard word about the people who escaped the exile.  Hanani, one of his brothers, along with other men told him,

 "....Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." Nehemiah 1:3  Then he writes, "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven."  Nehemiah 1:4

If you read the book of Nehemiah you will see a portrait of a great leader.  Someone whom God used to accomplish his purposes to reestablish Judah by rebuilding the walls of the city.  This was a mighty challenge!  But today I want to point out that it all started with a broken hearted man who did two things.

1.  He inquired of the condition of the people back in Judah
2.   He mourned over the news of there great trouble.

Nehemiah had a passion for the people and a passion for the city of Jerusalem and I want to think about that today.   In my next blog I want to focus on the fact that he had an opportunity to be a blessing and the boldness to carry it out.

But let us never forget that before he did anything else he had a burden in his heart and he mourned over that burden.  Without such a burdened heart I'm not sure that Nehemiah would have done anything. 

It is understandable that Nehemiah was deeply troubled to hear news of his homeland.   But his attitude went much deeper.  His heart was crushed and deeply burdened.  Not only did he pray. He mourned and fasted before the God of heaven and I believe God honored him as a result.

  Psalm 34:18 says,"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

and in Isaiah 42:3  it says,  "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."

In Matthew 5:3,4  Jesus proclaims, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."

All of these Scriptures tell me that God is near us when we are deeply burdened.  He hears our cries and is moved by compassion.  But what really moves God is when we cry out to God in faith during our deep burdens.

The Psalmist wrote, "In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.  From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears."  Psalm 18:6  

Now it's not that God doesn't hear us when we offer our simple prayers for help.  We aren't heard just because we call to God in a louder voice but God hears more then our volume.  God hears our heart and responds with compassion.

Later you'll see that Nehemiah was going to be used to answer his own prayer and that is important but just for today let us not over look the importance of feeling the pain and suffering of others.   God meets us at that place.  Literally those prayers from our burdened heart are seeds planted and our tears are the first nourishment.  Yes God meets us there.  This is the place that we open up our heart and our hands before God.  At these moments God loves us and fill our hearts with hope.

At these times we either wrestle with God like Jacob or we surrender our heart like Isaiah.  Either way we are touched deeply by the hand of God and often a new call is placed upon our life.  Nehemiah would answer that call but he may have never heard the call in his ears if his heart wasn't first opened and rent before God.   

Perhaps you have a burden today.  Some people might tell you to just have faith.  Some might offer the wisdom of our times "Don't worry be happy."  But sometimes God uses our sorrow for good especially if we allow the Lord to be present with us and meet us.  Jeremiah 29:13,14a  promises, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord,..."

Yes your heart might be broken but don't try to patch it up, suppress it, ignore it or try to move on too fast.  Turn to the Lord in prayer and know that he will meet you.  Trust God with your pain.  Wrestle if you must but when morning comes let him have his way.  You too may find purpose and a new ministry.  These are holy moments lean into them, give the Lord your pain and know that in time God promises to make all things beautiful.   

Prayer:  Dear God bless my friends who are gripped in fear and pain today.  Give them faith.  Help them to open their hearts to you.  Help them to cry out to you.  May their tears be their nourishment and your gracious touch bring them new hope and direction.   Amen

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Our offering of praise! 1 Chronicles 29:11

So why do we give to God?  I think there are many good reasons but really the only one that matters. Simply stated, "God deserves our gifts."   God is worthy of all our honor and praise.

David in our verse for today clearly understood that.   In context, his prayer is his joyous response to the peoples gifts for the building of the temple and his joyous proclamation of God's glory. David proclaims,

 "Yours, O lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O Lord is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all."  1 Chronicles 29:11

Yes God is great! and we give as a way of praising him!  and this may be surprising but our generous, sacrificial and joyous offerings bring pleasure to the Lord in the same way that you find pleasure in a heart felt gift from your children.  Our gifts are the way we say,  "I love you." 

Does God really need our gifts?  Did God need such a lavish temple that was perhaps more elaborate and ornate than any other structure in existence?  Yes! God is worthy and God is able to provide for each person who brought forth their Silver and Gold.

Oh how sad it would have been if God's people didn't respond to David's plea to give to the building of the temple.  How sad it would have been if God's first permanent temple went unfinished because God's people didn't love him enough to fund it. 

To ponder:   What does my giving to my local church or to other mission causes say about my love for God?

Remember the amount of our gift is not as important as the heart of our gift.   A sacrificial heart gift from one person to the next will probably be drastically different but whatever your gift is.... offer it as an expression of praise to the Lord.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Being first in line for kingdom giving. 1 Chronicles 29:8

Before the building of the Temple in Jerusalem,  David encouraged and consecrated his young son Solomon who was given the charge over the completion of this great endeavor.  

David was also encouraging all the people to give from their possessions and treasuries to fund the building of this great and holy temple.   David said to the people in 1 Chronicle 29: 2a, 3a  "With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God-gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, .... vs.3  "Besides my devotion to the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple.... " Then he joyously expounds about the gold, silver that he has offered from his own treasury.

After he brought forth his great gift the leaders of families and tribes of Israel come forth and gave from their treasure as well!  Then in 1 Corinthians 29:9  it says,"Then the people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord.  David the king also rejoiced greatly." 

It was at that point that he offered the words of our text for this week from 1 Chronicles 29:10-13

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name.

This week in my blog I want to talk about why it is that we give to our mighty and awesome God!  Let us consider how our money, our talents and our entire life might become a gift to build the Lord's kingdom!

But for today I want you to notice that when it came to giving David lead the way.  He gave with Great joy and then his officials followed his example and the people rejoiced!

David practiced what he preached when it came to giving.  He gave with joy and it became and encouragement to the people and an example for them to follow.

Today if you're in a position of leadership or even if you're just a parent those around you and under you will notice your enthusiasm about giving to the Lord.  Now I'm not suggesting that we publicize what we give for the world to see.  This can become a sign of pride rather than a reflection of your glory.  With that said if you are a generous and joyous giver of your money, time and gifts,  people will notice and many will follow your example.

To ponder:  What does my life and my giving say about my love and devotion to God?

Prayer:  Dear God help me to be the first and best giver.  May the kingdom building begin with me!  and as we give help others to notice our hearts and find inspiration to give to your glory. 
In Jesus name.  Amen

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Search for wisdom like a hidden treasure.

Solomon could ask whatever he wanted of God and God would have given it.  Solomon chose wisdom...

Today we live in a world where possessions, accomplishments, vacations and money rule supreme.   Today we live in a world of selfishness, foolishness, and sin.  Today we live in a world void of wisdom and it's no surprising the world is in big trouble.

I don't want to go into all of life's problems... but I wonder what would happen if every Christian desperately wanted wisdom, asked for wisdom and sought out wisdom.

Solomon knew just how important wisdom was and it was a major theme in the book of Proverbs.
In Proverbs 2:2-8 Solomon writes.
"Turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He holds success in store for the upright,
    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones."
Wouldn't it be great to have that kind of wisdom especially considering all the challenges of our day?   But can we really have that kind of wisdom?
In the Book of James it says, "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you."   James goes on saying.  "But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord."  James 1a;5-8
To ponder:  Do you have the amount of wisdom you want or need today?  What would you be willing to do to get wisdom.  God says,"Ask and you shall receive!"
May it be that all of us would seek the greatest gift.   This is the blessing ahead for all who walk through the Word.