Monday, December 15, 2014

I myself will search for my sheep: Devotion from Ezekiel 34:11-16

11 “‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
             Ezekiel 34:11-16

Today we are sheep.  Not just any ordinary sheep we are God's sheep.   Ezekiel speaks of the Lord saying,  "I myself will search for my sheep and look after them."  I wonder why it says, "I myself will search..."  Wouldn't it have been just as accurate to say, "I will search for my sheep..." ?  Not being a Hebrew scholar I'm not going to try to explain how the Hebrew words came to be translated that way. However, I know that when I say the words,  "I myself will do something..."   I'm trying to communicate that I'm personally taking responsibility for something.   I'm not going to hire someone to do what I'm going to do.   In sales we might say,  "I'll take care of it myself." This is meant to give confidence and assurance in the heart of our customer who trust us to accomplish what we say.  Perhaps that is what God is communicating.   He's saying, "I'm not going to send another I'm going to be your personal shepherd.   I'm not going to send an under shepherd to do the work that I intend on doing.  

I think God is saying your that important to me that I will be your personal shepherd who will come and search for you my lost sheep.  I will protect them.  I will lead them into green pastures.  This is God's guarantee that when we are lost "He" will come after us.   and don't you know that that is the promise of Christmas?   Its the promise that Jesus, who is the Divine God, came into the world to be our Savior!  "...and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us." (Matthew 1:23)

God came in person.

Yes, God sent John the Baptist as a messenger to let us know he was coming but God came in person to do what only God could do.  He came to take us out of the kingdom of darkness and to bring us into the kingdom of light.  He came to Judge the living and the dead.  He came to die for the sins of the world.  Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  John 10:11

Now this is not to say that God doesn't use under shepherds to minister to each of us.  That is the role of the pastors and elders of each church.   But even then, if those "under shepherd" are negligent or not able to lead us and protect us from the crises of life,  God promises that He will Shepherd us.  The responsibility falls upon God's shoulders.  And those are pretty good shoulders indeed.   1 Peter 1:3 tells us,  "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 

Indeed God sent His best for us.  God came in the flesh and dwelt among us!  So as the Apostle Paul proclaims and asks,  "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all- how will he not also, along with him,  graciously give us all things?"  (Romans 8:32)

To Ponder:  The shepherd has come to you. God is looking for you.  Will you trust Him?  Will you follow Him?  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The way of restoration. Lamentations 3:21-26

Jeremiah was a prophet of God during very difficult times.... As God's spokesman he was there to warn the people of the impending collapse of the City of Jerusalem..... and after the fall he remained in Jerusalem speaking on behalf of the Lord to those who had been exiled to Babylon.

He gave the people an explanation of how their sin had brought this disaster upon them.  He also  spoke of the eventual hope of the nation which would return to Jerusalem some 70 years in the future. This wasn't the greatest news for those still living in Babylon.   For those he offers the instructions recorded in Jeremiah 29:4-14 as well as here in Ecclesiastes 3:21-26.   His instructions tells them to live faithfully and seek the Lord with their entire heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 and Lamentations 3:25

This would be their hope to sustain them and it is our hope as well.

Jeremiah could offer this advice because he knew of the Lord's faithfulness and forgiveness that after the time of disciple had done its work the Lord would help them to find the road of blessing again.    This is the process of restoration and this process is often painful but it is a grace of the Lord which would bring the people to a deeper intimacy with the Him.

With this belief in his heart Jeremiah would say what we find recorded in Lamentations 3:21-23 ... Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Perhaps each of us can speak of the faithfulness of the Lord in our past and in our present.   Many of these times we wonder why we deserved his favor.  Yet one thing we find throughout Scriptures is that God is with us in a special way.. and there is a special blessing reserved for those who seek him with their entire heart, despite the troubles around them.

 Knowing this Jeremiah would write..  I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;  it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  Lamentations 3:24-26

Today we have difficulty with this idea of waiting quietly for the Lord.  When marriage troubles come, when financial struggles are on the horizons, when our lives are broken we tend to turn everyway but to the Lord and these behaviors bring our ruin much faster than the trials at hand.   Instead of waiting to see God in the midst of our pain we turn to addictions, new relationships, and we run from the Lord.  In this case perhaps God's only course of action is to allow us to fall or to discipline us. But even if we are falling his hand is close to us and protecting us.  Remember God is always waiting for His prodigal son and daughter to return.

Today I pray that you will lift your burdens to the Lord.  I pray you will trust in his faithfulness even when you don't understand.  I pray that you will seek the Lord and turn from any evil ways which harm others and side tract God's restoration in your life.   Remember God's hand is very near the broken hearted.    

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Monday, September 29, 2014

His Mercy in the midst of the storm...Lamentations 3:22-23

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."   Lamentations 3:22-23

Perhaps you've spent a morning reading through the book of Lamentations. Ok.  probably not but if you did you might feel rather depressed.   But why such despair?   The nameless author of lamentations is thought to be Jeremiah the Prophet who witnessed the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem.   Much of his Lament speaks of the broken city and its suffering people.

Its a rather sad book and we might think about Jobs words and suffering.  The major difference is Jeremiah knew that the suffering came as a result of their sin.

Yet in the midst of his Lament we find words of hope.  Hope because Jeremiah knows the character of God who disciplines us because of our sin but always stands faithfully beside us to bring us into times of blessings and mercy.

In Jeremiah 29:11-13 He writes to those who have been exiled into Babylon after the same defeat.   He says to them (speaking for the Lord) saying,  "I know the plans I have for you",  declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Than you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."   I blogged about last month.

Jeremiah's words both in Lamentations 3 and in Jeremiah 29 are words that can give us comfort in the midst of our person pain, anguish of heart, and lamentation,    Perhaps you are like Job and have no responsibility for the cause of you affliction or you are like the Children of Israel who find themselves crying out because of the consequences of Sin.    Either way God's character has not changed.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ has bore the pain and the punishment for our sins on the cross yet there are natural consequences that we cannot avoid and God still disciplines us out of love.  But we must remember as we suffer the natural consequences that God is with us.  God loves us and God will restore us.   His mercies are new every morning.

Application:  In the middle of your struggles thank God for his presence with you and for the blessings even in the midst of the storm.  We may not see relief from all the anguish of life right now but we can mature in our faith. We can learn to trust.   We can feel the love of the Body of Christ surrounding us.  We can get stronger. We can seek the Lord with our whole heart.  We can develop a deeper intimacy with the Lord then we ever thought possible.  These are the blessing and the mercies of the Lord that may only come as we go through the pains of life.

Indeed the Lord understands our lamenting but God always holds out hope for His plans and His character is never changing. God is with us through the storm."Because of God's great love we will not be consumed."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Settle in with prayer. Jerehmiah 29

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon;  "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there, do not decrease. "Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers,  you too will prosper."
 Jeremiah 29:4-7

These were the words of Jeremiah in a letter to those who were carried away in exile to Babylon.   Other false prophets spoke of a quick return to Jerusalem.  They promised that God would bring them back out of his strength, goodness and grace.  Their words brought hope.  Their words were the one's they wanted to hear.  Their words brought joy and meaning.  Yes the people wanted the false prophet's words.  They wanted to leave this God forsaken land in which they were taken captivity.   But their words were not God's words.  Their words were hollow and empty and over time these empty words would bring greater despair. 

Jeremiah's words told them to settle down.  His words were to make roots where they were for they would never return to the Promises land again save for their children.  It would be 70 years if God was truly speaking through Jeremiah. 

Seventy years!  It's enough to make you despair.  Yet, Jeremiah says to settle in,  make this place your temporary home.  Have children.... and teach them about the home that they will return to some day.  I added that last part but I believe that is was implied. "Yes, teach them to be good Jewish boys and girls and prepare them for the day they will return."  

I read someone who wrote something like this.  "Do you know your children may be your greatest contribution to the world." 

Yes future generations would have to rebuild the great nation of Israel.  For now they had to settle in and pray.   They would pray for the nation that things would go well for them and pray for the hope of future generations.  Pray, call out, seek God, live productive lives and provide for their children..   They would be the seeds of future blessings.  There's would be the great sacrifice for future generations and if they were lucky they would find some joy as well.

Today, I wonder how much we think about the future generations?  Their Hope?  Their world? 

It might have been easy for the people of Israel siting in exile to say,  "Why bring children into this God forsaken place?"  "Why bring children into this world with such struggles and pain"...  

Have you ever said that about our world?  If you have I believe Jeremiah has some words for you and me.  "God is faithful."  "God has plans."  "God will honor your sacrifice." God will listen to your prayers for them."    

Prayer:  Today we call upon You and seek You with our heart.   Please bring this nation back to its greatness again.  Please help this place to be a nation where we and our children will prosper.  Protect our children.  Oh Lord, may they see a future peace that we could only dream about.  In Jesus name, Amen

Friday, August 8, 2014

God has a plan for you. Jeremiah 29:11-13

Jeremiah 29:11-13New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

This is one of the great promises offered to God's people in the Old Testament and it came at a very difficult time.  The people of Judah were exiled to Babylon as prisoners to live in a foreign land.  These were tough times and Jeremiah the Prophet wasn't promising any good news anytime soon.  While some false prophets were promising that God would soon return the captives to Jerusalem, Jeremiah was relaying God's words to settle down for the long haul; seventy years to be exact. Surely the people were in despair... Yet Jeremiah offers these words of hope.  Words that told them that God still had a plan for them. God had not abandon them.  

Perhaps you find yourself in one of those places today.  You've had a major disappointment and you wonder where is God?  You hurt, you're disappointed, you're confused, you feel lost.  If you're in that place today, these are good words for you.  God has a plan and it's a plan for good and not for evil. A plan to prosper you and not harm you.  

God is still with you.  So don't despair. Cry out to the Lord.  Seek him with your whole heart and you will find him.  And for the Christian finding Christ is the greatest joy.  

In the end, this life is bound to kick us and bring us down.   Sometimes it kicks us because we did something we shouldn't have done.  This was why Judah found themselves in this predicament.  But, even in the difficulties we can find forgiveness, joy and peace.  The greatest joy comes from God's presence with us as we seek the Lord with our whole heart. 

The people of Judah surely wished things could return as they were, and in comming generations they would know that blessing, but in the midst of their captivity in Babylon they could still experience the presence of God.

Prayer:  Dear God I wish that things could be different for us today but we trust you know you know what is best.  Forgive us of our sins. Today, we cry out to you and we trust that you have a future plan.  And Lord, while we wait for that plan to take shape, help us to find joy in the midst of sadness because you are with us.

A thought for today:  Even if you have lost someone or something very dear in your life, seek the Lord with your whole heart.  God may not heal that hurt but God will give you a new hope.  Remember God loves you and God will never leave you.

God Bless You!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Are you thirsty today?

Isaiah 55:1-2

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

There are two verbs that stick out as I read those verses;" come and listen".  Both are active.  Both assume that there is someplace for me to go or something for me to hear.   Both also assume that I need to stop doing what I'm doing... but as I do there are great promises, satisfaction and even riches!

But read those words again.  This time as if they are offered by a carnival worker calling them out at his post on the midway...  He's a salesmen promising the world.  Yet there is something different about the words offered here.  You don't have to put any money down to buy the next cure all elixir.  No, if a man with a wand and a big hat was yelling out such promises to those walking by we would all turn away saying, "Right... what's the catch?"

Now let's read this a second time.  This time listen as if Christ is calling out to us.   This sounds a little different coming from his voice. But Jesus could say these things and actually he did!   let me take you to Matthew 11:28.  Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble and heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Today my guess is we are looking from satisfaction from many things in life and sometimes we are paying a high price!  Some of these are good but don't forget that only Christ can satisfy our deepest longings...   So, come and listen he's patiently waiting for you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The pain, the victory, the wonder, the shame, the Cross Isaiah 53

Isaiah 53: 4-5

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

First of all Isaiah 53 is an amazing passage!  To think such accurate words could be written about Jesus the Messiah who would be born hundreds of years in the future!  Amazing.  Only God could see and inspire Isaiah to write such words!

but when I read that text over and over and allow my heart to hear and feel what it says, I have a mixture of feelings from sorrow, sadness, pain, surprise, and guilt. Most of all I feel greatly thankful for God's grace shown to us in Jesus Christ. 

 It also reminds me of just how much God was and is in control of all things.  The Pharisees thought they were taking control of things when Jesus was arrested.  The Romans thought they were taking control as they put Jesus on the cross.  The demons of Hell thought they were in control when they crushed Jesus.  But it was really Jesus who, through his death on the cross, took control of my sin and your sin.  Yes at the end of the day and after the dust settled Jesus was standing in control!

No, I will never be able to rejoice at the cross because my Lord suffered such great pain.  I will never rejoice in the victory of the cross for my sins caused him to be there.  Yet, in a wonderful way we can have peace for on the Cross it was finished for now and forevermore.

To consider: Why don't you thank God today for the pain and suffering Jesus went through because of his love for you.  May we never grow comfortable with the cross and or forget what it means.

Remember peace doesn't come through possessions, achievements or luxury of our day.  Peace comes through the cross.  May we never forget the price Jesus paid for our peace.

Monday, April 28, 2014

God's Servant... Isaiah 42:1-4

Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;  I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations,  He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the
streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth Justice;  he will not falter or be discouraged til he establishes justice on earth.  In his law the islands will put their hope.
                                                                          Isaiah 42:1-4

These are prophetic words that speak about Jesus.  Actually if you were to read the entire chapter you would think that these words were written during the time of Jesus not hundreds of years before.  But these words must have surely brought hope especially for those who had to endure hearing the rest of Isaiah's message...  He wasn't generally speaking  kind and gentle words.

As we speak to one another however we must remember that we have a kind and gentle God for what is more fragile than a bruised read or a smoldering wick.  We must remember that we have Christ spirit and nature within us.  May it also be said of us that we showed mercy, kindness, and gentleness in a very rough world.

Today if your bruised take heart in knowing that God is faithful and there is hope both hear and in the life after in heaven.  God is tender enough to hold you but powerful enough to fight your battles and bring justice to the oppressed.  Our God is amazing.

Dear God we lift up our nation and pray that you bring justice and mercy to those who are broken and burned down and Lord it would be a privilege to be your servants to be used by you in this great effort.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Where is the Peace? Isaiah 9:6,7

On Sunday night during our Praise Service it was so nice to meet with a couple that serves in the leadership of an area church.  After the service they talked about how much they loved worshiping with us and how the worship of Jesus brought joy and peace to them.  No matter where they worshipped. 

I find that to be true as well.  I love attending worship in churches where Christ Spirit is lifted high in jubilant worship!  Somehow when Christ's church is together there is joy and peace like few other places no matter what is going on around in the world.  

I just wish I could visit other churches on Sunday Mornings sometimes.  But frankly even if I wasn't preaching I probably wouldn't do that because I find such joy with my friends at the church that I attend.  I find Christ living in them and this brings me joy and peace.

In our Scripture for today Isaiah offers prophetic words about the coming of Christ.  He speaks of the majesty of that child who will control all things.  "The government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end." Isaiah 9:6,7a

I know that these words speak of a day when Christ will rule on the thrown of David.  A day when his presence and rule will bring justice and righteousness.

When I hear such words it is easy to look at the world as say, "Where's the peace?"  I know someday the Lord Jesus will bring this peace to the world and this will be a most glorious thing!

But today we can find and should find this peace within the church.  We should find it as we worship with any Christian around the world or just next door.  If Christ rules in our hearts then we as His church should be one.

To Ponder:  Do I feel the glory of God ruling in my heart?  Do I feel the majesty of his peace in the church?  Am I, as a member of the body of Christ, working to bring Justice and righteous to the world?

May the prophetic words of Isaiah 9:6-7 come soon.  In the Lord's time.  Amen

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The perfect atonement for sins. Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

 As Christians we have entered into the season of Lent.  This is a time of prayer.  It's a time of sacrifice, a time of confession, a time of service, and a time to renew our faith in Jesus.  At its best I believe it is a time to strive to experience what Isaiah experienced during his time of worship.  The parallels with this passage and Lent are very striking indeed.  In Lent we bring ourselves in worship to try to grasp the breadth of whom God is which is exactly what Isaiah is confronted with in the temple.  His encounter is so overwhelming that it brings him to his Knees in repentance much like the repentance that we seek during this special season of the year.   It is during the season of Lent that we are aware of our sins and the sins of our world which would lead Jesus to the cross.

There is one last parallel that I found in this passage which I had never seen before.  I find in both passages God's desire to forgive and atone for our sins.  In the old testament the coals of fire reminds us of the sacrifices and the burnt offerings provided each day for the payment of sins.  However in Lent we remember that it is Jesus who served as the once and for all perfect sacrifice.  The angels said to Isaiah "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."  As Christians we know that the perfect atonement comes from Jesus who takes away the sins of the world.

If you look through the old testament you will see that each page points to Jesus and as Jesus himself would say that he came to fulfill the Law.

As we enter into this season of Lent may we contemplate our sins and the sins of our world.  May we seek to have a fresh encounter with Christ.  Whether you sacrifice something as a reminder of your sins or add on additional practices as a sign of your devotion, never forget that His glory continues to fill our universe.  And the same power that shook the doorposts and thresholds of the temple at the times of Isaiah, is the same power that caused the earthquake at Jesus death and caused the veil that covered the Holy of Holies to tear in half..    It's also the same power that Caused Jesus to raise from the grave.  Its also the same power available to all of us who believe through the Holy Spirit.  That my friends is awe inspiring.   May it also inspire us to say..."Here I am send me" when the spirit calls our name.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Our great God in troubled times.. Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
This is one of the most powerful call stories in the Bible!  It happened at a time when there was great despair throughout Israel because their great and beloved King Uzziah had died.... He served for 52 years and was the only king most of them had ever known...  It was a sad time indeed... Uzziah had done many wonderful things but sadly his life ended in shame.   Because of a mistake in usurping the roll of the Priest he became leprous... It was a sad story....
Yet Isaiah came to the temple to worship God and it was in that context and through this experience that God proved to him that no matter how sad things were without their beloved King.... He was bigger and more awesome!
Frankly I don't think that Isaiah's mind was at all focused on Uzziah's death when he saw the angels and the Lord.... What do you think?
I think this is a great reminder for all of us.  All of us have faced situations that have caused our heart to sink.  Perhaps that's where you heart is today. 
But from this passage I see three important principles... 
1st  Even in the worst of times we need to continue to seek the Lord in worship.  
2nd. During those times of worship we need to place ourselves before the Lord and allow him to  
reveal his glory always remembering that God is bigger than any problem we might have.
3rd.  It might be at the time of our greatest despair that God will reveal his plan for our lives in a most powerful way.  (I hope to talk about that later this week if I do better at keeping up with my blog that is hahah)
To ponder.   What is on your heart and mind today.  Are you willing to hand it over to the Lord and sing with the angels,  Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty.?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Real love for Valentine's Day. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

     Ecclesiastes 3:8  a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Yes it is Valentine's Day so happy Valentine's to all my friends and family! 

  It just happens to be that I'm blogging in the book of Ecclesiastes as I travel through the Bible.   You all know that in Ecclesiastes 3 it says that there is a time for everything under heaven.   

You would think that every time is a time for love, right?   I mean is there ever a time to not love?  And what is this time for hate  or a time for war all about?

Personally I think it is because of the world that we live in.   I sometimes pray, "Lord teach me to love those things that you love and to hate those things you hate."   I think it is a good prayer?

Yes there are somethings that God hates.  I think he especially hates when people harm children and lead them astray.   But some might say,  "But what about the saying that we are supposed to love the sinner and hate the sin."   that's pretty good too...  though it is very hard for us to do in practice.

I think about Jesus a lot.  Sometimes I think about his... less than loving words he spewed out to the Pharisees and other religious leaders.   Did he love the sinner?  I think he did.  I think that his harsh words were meant to get their attention! His anger was meant to stop them from their harmful actions.   Yes he was angry.... but yes... he loved them and wanted them to repent and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

 Jesus always knew what time it was and is!  

What time is it for you?  

Sometimes the most loving things  we can do is to deal directly with a problem in life.   Our motive is the key.  If we are addressing a situation with the  hope of eventual reconciliation,  first with Christ and then among ourselves,  we're probably on the right tract.

So out of Christ's Great love for you,  How do you think Jesus might address you today? How would he address your faults and failings?

 If you are interested and concerned that he might not be pleased... and if you are humble... Jesus knows that this is a time to extend to you love and grace.

So isn't it time that you fully embrace the one who loves you most.  You're His Valentine.  He offered his red heart of love to you on the cross.

Prayer:  Thank you God for showing us what love is all about.  Help me to love like you love even when I would rather turn away.    

Friday, February 7, 2014

In its Time: Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
               If I were to ask the question,  "Hey kids,  does anyone know what time it is?"
a certain generation would immediately  yell out. "It's Howdy Doody time!"   I by the way am not among that generation!  but I do remember being riveted to the TV to watch the Mickey Mouse Club and yes I was one of the millions of boys to have a crush on Annette Funicello.    I knew what time it was when that show was on. 
  But I don't think that our passage for today is talking about clowns or cute girls with bunny ears.    But the question, "Does anyone know what time it is?"  is an important one to ponder.
From our passage we learn that there are many times and many seasons.  (Frankly I'm looking forward to the season of winter to be over...).  I've read this passage many times and often at funerals to help to comfort loved ones of a deceased.  Indeed there is a time when we will be gathered up with the Lord. 
However, its equally important for us to look at the time in which we live right now.  It seems to me that you might say that there are many "times" throughout our day.   Now we all love the positive times of course.  A time to be born, a time to plant, a time to heal, a time to build, a time to laugh, a time to dance, etc.  Oh we love those times but the "negative" times are equally if not often more important.
The transitions necessary in life necessitate that we move forward and in the moving forward we often have to give up something.  This is the nature of life.  To get a new job we sometimes have to move away from friends we love.  Sometimes to make way for a new building we have to tear down the old one.  And when it comes to gardening you have to plow under the old each year to make room for the new.  I hate to say this but eventually you have to throw away some of your favorite old shirts that can no longer be mended to make room for more.  In my case my old shirts some how find there way into the "rag drawer".  Shh...  Don't tell my wife but I've been known to wash the old rags and wear them again from time to time.  Well I guess my wife knows that.  
I guess all of this goes in the category of change and change is not easy but it is necessary.  God has made our world that way but along with this truth is the promise of verse 11  "He has made everything beautiful in its time.
To ponder:   What changes and transitions is God doing or planning for your life?  Can you give thanks to God through the changes knowing that if we trust the Lord he will make all things beautiful.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Virtuous? what's that all about. Psalm 31:10-12, 30

Proverbs 31:10-12

New Living Translation (NLT)
10 [a]Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
    She is more precious than rubies.
11 Her husband can trust her,
    and she will greatly enrich his life.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
    but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.

Virtuous...  I wonder how often have you used that word today or perhaps this week or even the last month?   That's a word we don't use too often.   So I thought it might be good to look at that word for a moment.  First some synonyms for that word.   all right, decent, ethical, honest, honorable, just, moral, nice, right, righteous, right-minded, straight, true, upright, good

 Now a definition from  Wikipedia - Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality deemed to be morally good and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being. Personal virtues are characteristics valued as promoting collective and individual greatness.

I like the idea of a foundation of principle and moral being.    A foundation is what you build upon.  For example if the foundation of a building is poor no matter how you try and how beautiful the building eventually the building will have problems.  conversely if your building upon a good foundation you can always rebuild and make corrections along the way.  Now I know that it's not a good thing to compare a woman or a wife to a building. ha ha  So if I've offended anyone I'm sorry.  Its just an analogy even if it isn't very romantic.   But if you think about it there are some beautiful and exciting homes that anyone would love to live in that have sound foundations.  My guess is that the home listing doesn't mention anything about the foundation. 

Yes, most women would love to be called beautiful, exciting, warm, sensitive, intelligent, funny, talented, and creative.   I'm not sure you will get a big smile and a hug by calling your wife virtuous tonight at the kitchen table.  But how blessed you are to have a virtuous wife.  All those other qualities and characteristic I just listed build upon that foundation and we love our wives because of those things as well.  But I hope that each man has a virtuous wife and that each woman is a virtuous person.  These are the women that God blesses and these are the women that bless their children.

I believe the Bible speak of three great virtues.  Faith, Hope and Love.   These should be the foundation of all of our relationships and of course the foundation of our relationship with God.  We should have faith in God in all things  Secondly we have hope which is the certainty of God's goodness and love which the Apostle Paul says is the greatest of all.

For a Christian, virtuous starts with our relationship with God;  Our trust in God and our complete surrender to walk in the ways of God.   We will not be perfect but if this is not the desire of our heart then ours is a flawed foundation and we must repent and ask God to change and transform our heart to the image of Christ.

Tonight. If you are a husband of a virtuous wife find a way to let her know how thankful you are!  and if you are a woman of virtue give thanks to God for he will greatly use you to be a blessing to others. 

And by the way.... blessed is the woman who has a virtuous man as well.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How do we trust... In God Proverbs 3:5-8

Proverbs 3: 5-8   "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.   In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones."

Trust....  real trust assumes that there is a challenge or a risk doesn't it?  For instance you don't have to trust when you sit down on the chair at the kitchen table.  You can see with your own eyes and you have the experience of many sittings to prove that it is trustworthy.  I'm blessed with a very dependable car.  I can trust that it will get me where I need to go as long as I put in gas, change the oil and pay attention to the dash board lights.  Yes in a real sense I do trust my car.  Meaning that I believe in its dependability.  

 There are a lot of things that we trust in in a similar way.  We trust in our dependable washer and dryer.  We trust in our roof to keep us dry and our furnace to keep us warm.

Perhaps as I've been writing you realize that trust has two parts to it.  One is the object of our trust;  the chair, the car, the washer and dryer. etc.  And then there is the one whom trusts in, believes in, and actually uses or depends upon them.  I mean what good is a trustworthy car that we never drive?

However, trust gets a little more difficult when it comes to relationships doesn't it?  We want to be surrounded by people that we trust but from time to time we have all been burned haven't we.  Trust is hard for some people and understandably so in case of abuse or perhaps if our spouse has been unfaithful or if they have a history of squandering money.

But can we trust God?  You see our verses for this week only have substance to them if we can trust God. 

Another question to consider is this.  How much are you willing to trust?  I would have no problems trusting my car to drive across town but I'm not sure about going across the country.

The same question confronts us with God.  Will we trust and do things God's way in some situations but in others refer to our own wisdom or personal desires?

I think many people live life that way.  I suppose we have all fallen into that trap.  I bring this up at this point because the scripture teaches us to "trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding".   It seems to me that this is one of the great dilemma's of life.

Will we let God be in the drivers seat of our life at all times?   This kind of trust is hard.  Its the kind of total trust that Jesus showed in the father when he was on earth.

I believe that the promise of our Scripture for today requires such total devotion and "trust" but how do we do this when we don't always know what God wants?  Thankfully because of God's grace,  often we are blessed even as we stumble along in life.  But how many more blessings await those who fully trust in the Lord.   

 So where do we begin?

I think where most people need to start, when it comes to trust, is to develop a personal relationship with Jesus because its hard to trust the one you don't know.  

Prayer:  Lord I want to know you.  I want to trust you.  I want your wisdom for my life in all things.  Help me to trust your wisdom and obey your wisdom especially in those very hard times when we want to do things our way.  In Jesus name.  Amen