Thursday, September 30, 2010

Conditions of The Heart

Matthew 6:16-24
Most of this section deals with money if we look at it from just the surface. Going deeper it really is dealing with matters of our heart. Pastoring a church I know there really is not a church that ever has too much money, yet the issue is usually not about money it is about the heart of the people. We give our hearts, make commitments, to many different things. We can see what those commitments are in terms of where we spent our time, talents and our treasures. Looking at these three reveal the condition of our heart. The ways we spend our money whether we have little or great amounts, shows the condition of our hearts. When we hoard it, we are saying we trust money more than God. This is not to say we should have zero savings, what I am saying is are we going beyond savings into hoarding what God is calling us to release, this is not just a money issue, it is the condition of our heart.

Acts 9:1-19
During the formative years of the church it could be argued no one had a harder heart toward the Way of Jesus than Saul. On his way to arrest followers of the Way, Saul has a dramatic encounter with Jesus. More than a physical blindness is the result, there is a change in heart. His heart of stone is exchanged for a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel). After the divine heart surgery Saul becomes Paul and goes on to be the most effect church planter in all of history. Like with heart surgery on our physical bodies careful follow up is required. From time to time we need to have a check up on the condition of our hearts, is the stone coming back? What's the condition of your heart?

Psalms 15
What is required for worship? That is the opening question of the Psalm. Notice the answer, it has nothing to do with the appropriate clothing, nothing to do with financial status, in fact it has very little to do with outward appearance, it is about the heart. Worship is not about style of music, what the preacher says or does not say, what is included in the service etc... Worship is a matter of the heart. We can say and do all the "right" things yet never have our hearts meet with the heart of God. The requirement for worship, willing heart.

Genesis 34-35
If you have been following along our soap opera now turns to additional generations. Dinah, Jacobs daughter, is taken and raped by the people in the land where they live. As you might guess this becomes problematic. Before long there are brothers oozing testosterone plotting and killing all the men of the city. First however, they tricked all the men into circumcising themselves. Tragically, the only mention of Dinah is the violation of her. Not attention is paid by the Scripture writer as to what was happening in Dinah's world. Yet we have revealed the heart of her brothers. Rather than allowing God to avenge the violation, they take matters into their own hands. The reveal they are ready for killing at a moments notice. Jacob who had been down a similar road has his heart broken by what has happened to his daughter and what his sons have done. It seems he had learned from the past and his heart was in a different condition.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Salvation From God At The Center

Matthew 6:1-15
It is not only the law Jesus addresses in the Sermon on the Mount. Spiritual disciplines is also part of the teaching. Insight is offered in how to conduct ourselves when we fast and when we offer acts of righteousness. In this section we find what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer. Not offered as the only way to pray, or even the exact words, the prayer is offered as a model for the areas of prayer. Unfortunately over the centuries the prayer has become a repeated verbatim. This has caused in some cases a lose of meaning behind the prayer. Next time you say the Lord's Prayer I invite you to really think about the words you are saying and not blindly offer the words because it is what you do.

Acts 8:26-40
The story of Philip is one I greatly enjoy. Another one of the Deacons from chapter 6 is now found going around preaching, teaching and being a conduit of God's work. Philip finds himself on lead to a place where he teaches the Ethiopian about who Jesus is that Isaiah points to. Conversion happens and they stop to baptize the Ethiopian. Once the baptism happens Philip is take to another place by the spirit. There are many things we could look at in the passage, the one I want to highlight today is the evangelism of Philip. It would have been easy for Philip to say I am only a deacon, set apart to serve the widows their food, and not tell people about Jesus. Yet he was so in love with Jesus and so full of the Spirit he could not help himself. Often we do not engage in evangelism because we have a greater relationship with this world and fear than we do with Jesus.

Psalm 14
Salvation is from our God and God alone. No matter how hard we try we cannot save another person, and we are not working to convert people to our kingdom. God is the one who will care for the evildoers, God will care for judgment and revenge. So what is our role, praise God and so fill our lives with the Spirit of God, that people see God not us first.

Genesis 32-33
In the midst of Jacob meeting up with his brother whom he deceived several times, there is a wrestling match with God. One of the possible interpretations of the wrestling match with God has to do with Jacob and God coming to terms on the way Jacob has conducted his business up to this point. From this point on in Jacob's life there is no more deception on his part. In fact as Jacob emerges with a limp and a new name, there is a difference in how Jacob conducts his business. While most of his life Jacob followed after God, this wrestling match became a conversion moment. God was a part of Jacob's life yet there was much Jacob took into his own hands. Once he is names Israel, the reliance on God increases exponentially. Perhaps our struggles are producing a greater faith in our lives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

God's Ways Are Not Ours

Matthew 5:33-48
Once again Jesus takes the established law which the people then and a now for the most part like, and turns our understanding. In all the cases presented in today's section the law seems to permit returning wrong for wrong. Jesus shows that is not how it works in God's world exactly. When we are wronged we are to return wrong with good. Returning with good actually brings about shame to the person who wronged us, not because we have done harm to them. The shame is from our blessing them when their intention was harm. I wonder how that would look today?

Acts 8:1-25
Here we find humanity acting to slow down Christianity before it really gets going. From our human understanding if we want to stop something we attack it. God takes the attack of humanity and uses it to spread Christ throughout the region. As the religious leaders of the day tried to stop the spread, the message of Christ spread all the more quickly.

As the spread happened there were people who received the message, believed and were baptized yet still did not quite get it. Simon is given as an example in this text. He sees the Apostles do great works and wonders, and he wants in. Rather than seeking after God and forming the live God is calling him toward in Christ, he tries to buy it from the Apostles. Simon is using a human method to accomplish what only God can do.

Psalms 13
I am sure you have noticed by now that our timing and God's timing are different. When things are going what we would call well time seems to move too fast. When we are struggling time seems to move too slow. In reality our interaction with our situation has nothing to do with time. Time passes as it will, the difference is in our perception. I am sure you would join me in saying we like life to work out how we plan it and prefer it. The challenge is we do not always know what is best for our life. God knows what it will take to form and mold us into the person we are being called to be. So when we cry how long o Lord, I can hear the response, until you are who I called you to be.

Genesis 31
The soup opera continues. We last saw Jacob tending the flocks of Laban while engaging in a little genetic engineering to build his own flocks. In this episode we find Jacob packing up his family and running away from Laban. In the process Rachel steals the household gods of her father. After several days Laban catches up to Jacob and his entourage. After some good arguing and name calling an agreement is reached. Interestingly Rachel continues to lie about possessing the household gods. This could be written about for house, not the space or time, suffice to say it is not good. In the end Jacob and Laban go their separate ways and murder is avoided for the time being. As all this is happening we are finding out about the character of the people God is using to establish a people. Honestly, their character is suspect at best, lying, cheating, stealing, some pretty flawed people. Still God works with and through their brokenness to establish the people of God. I guess their is hope for the rest of us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

And I Thought I Had Problems

Matthew 5:21-32
Jesus continues his midrash, interpretation of the Jewish law. In each case the establish standard is recognized, then raised to a new level. Previously Jesus commented that he did not come to abolish the law, rather to fulfill it. Apparently fulfilling it meant going a lot deeper than simply doing and not doing the right things. Jesus moves from actions to the motivations connected with those actions. Our thoughts are brought into the equation. Further the ways in which we deal with things is more drastic. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. I am grateful for a non-literal reading here, yet the point remains get rid of the sin in your life and be ruthless about it.

Acts 7:36-60
Stephen continues his defense before the council. At first the story they expect to hear is continued, and then Stephen turns the tables. From a legal defense standpoint Stephen made a tragic mistake, he confronted his accusers about their murder of Jesus. As might be guessed this was not a popular thing with the high council. Before the chapter ends we find Stephen getting stoned to death with this guy named Saul watching and approving. Stephen held his ground and made his stand. There were many ways he could have avoided death, yet he knew he must make his stand. Interestingly right until the end Stephen is seeking God's forgiveness for those who are killing him, the words uses are similar to ones Jesus uttered at the cross, forgive them they do not know what they are doing. What a witness of faithfulness in the midst of persecution.

Psalms 12
I suppose Stephen could have written this Psalm, if not write it I am sure it was in his mind and heart at some point in the above described trial. It can seem like all the godly people are gone and all we see is death and destruction. Oppression, poverty, hunger and deadly disease seem to prevail, yet God speaks in the midst of it all and says I will protect. I have no doubt happens in a supernatural way, I also have no doubt this happens when we, the people of God, take up the mission of God in the world as taught by Jesus Christ.

Genesis 29 and 30
As I read these pages I am convinced I am reading something written for soap opera television. Jacob falls in love and is deceived. Then he has two wives which becomes four. Before it is all said and done he has four wives and twelve children. Still living in his mother's homeland tending his uncles flocks, Jacob prospers. There is a confrontation brewing between his father-in-law, Laban, and Jacob over the work agreements Laban had not fully honored. While all this is going on God is at work putting together the family that would be the base of the twelve tribes of Israel. Looking at it this is one messed up family. Dysfunction seems to be everywhere. There are half brothers and step children, all totaled a very confusing family system. Still God is at work. Even when we think our lives are messed up, and they might be, we are not unusable by God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Knowing The Story

Matthew 5:13-20
Jesus continues what is often called the Sermon on the Mount. After the reminder that God views the world different than we do, Jesus reminds us that we must stay connected with God, or we will lose our flavor. Then comes important words. All of them are important, however these words need to be carefully read and obeyed. Jesus says he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The law matters and we need to pay attention to it. At the same time Jesus hints that we must pay attention to the lay as God has given it, not simply are religious has taught and formed it over the years. In the next few sections Jesus will reinterpret the law for the people. Being that Jesus is in his very nature God, this would be God's perspective on the Law not humanities.

Acts 7:1-38
The trial of Stephen is underway and it is his turn to offer a defense. As a starting point Stephen selects the Abraham then moves to Moses. Remember the charges against him were that he was speaking against Abraham, Moses and the Temple. Quickly Stephen shows he knows the story of the people of God which had been handed down through the centuries. At the end of today's reading we see him pointing to a the person to come that Moses spoke about. In building his defense Stephen did not argue about what he was teaching or even beliefs, he simply told the story of the people of God. I wonder how often we argue and defend God when all we really need to do is tell the story God has been writing in our lives?

Psalm 11
I am grateful for the imagery of God as a refuge and the Lord being in the Holy Temple. There are plenty of times when I need a safe place to go, that is the definition of refuge, and God is the ultimate refuge from all that I would need protection from. God being in the Holy Temple says to me that God is always ready to meet with me in worship. It does not have to be Sunday morning, I do not need to have music, liturgy or anything but a heart that is willing to reach out and sit in the presence of God. At any point in life God is in the Holy Temple offering refuge to all who would come.

Genesis 27-28
Once again deception enters the family of Abraham. Jacob deceives his father Isaac in order to get the blessing intended for Esau the firstborn. The most confusing part is not the deception, rather it is the idea that God seems to be honoring it. Twice Jacob uses deception to steal from Esau and God continues to bring blessing to Jacob. However, from before they were born God had spoken to Rebekah about the fact the older shall serve the younger. It seems the events are fulfilling a plan God has. AS all this plays out it is interesting to note where each son turns following the blessing mishap. Jacob is sent by his mother to her family, which if we remember is Abraham's family. Esau goes to the household of Ishmael, still family of Abraham however not the family line of the promise. The roots of modern day Islam are traced back to Ishmael and Esau, while the roots of modern day Christianity and Judaism trace back to Isaac and Jacob. The root story is the same yet the branches take very different patterns. One through a prophet Muhammad, the other through a Savior, Jesus. The story that is your story makes all the difference.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A God's Eye View

With the turn of a page we begin the Sermon on The Mount. Quite possible the longest of the sermons presented in the Gospels, Jesus teaches the basics of life in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the words of the Jewish rabbi this would be Jesus' midrash, or his take on the Law. The opening of the sermon shows the audience he is coming at things from a little different perspective than they were use to. Jesus outlines how the poor, the mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted will have special status in the kingdom of heaven. In Jesus day and in ours that is not the list of people who are thought to be in special connection to the kingdom of God, especially by those who should know better the church. With these words Jesus is making clear the view God has of humanity is different than the view we have of ourselves.

Acts 6
In this chapter of Acts is when we meet Stephen. One of more memorable characters from the Scriptures, Stephen is raised up to be in the ministry of what we call today a Deacon. His role was not to be a teacher of the word or to maintain the order of the church, rather it was to serve those in need. Still we find Stephen could not keep from telling people about the wonders of God, and God used Stephen to show the world the miraculous of God. The end result is the religious people get made and seize Stephen bringing false witness against him. The religious people of the day cannot see what God is doing and they are more concerned with their human construction.

Psalm 10
Anyone who has followed God has had those moments of feeling like God is far away from them. Some might say they have never experienced that, I doubt the truth of the claim. All of us from time to time wonder why God feels so far away. There are all kinds of reasons for this feeling, the psalm writer points the the wicked who have no regard for the Lord, yet they seem to prosper. In some shape or form we have all been there at some point. As is often the case with the Psalms, by the conclusion of the song, it is remembered that God is right there and will take of the earth, all creation, better than we could. It is God who knows the plan not us.

Genesis 25
The development of the Abraham family line is quite interesting. You first have Ishmael who is technically the first born. You have Isaac the favored son, and other children from various women. That in itself is a whole topic not to be dealt with here. Before his death Abraham sends all the folks away except Isaac. However upon the death of Abraham Isaac and Ishmael stand together to bury their father. Ishmael then goes his way and from him comes what the NIV calls the twelve tribal leaders? Sounds kind of like Israel to me. In fact Isaac would have Esau and Jacob where once again the firstborn is not treated as such. Form Jacob would come the twelve tribes of Israel. Within two generations the promise to Abraham is being fulfilled. Still God was not working in the ways people thought to be common. Normally it would be the firstborn who would become the family leader. The firstborn would have a place of privilege, not in the case of Isaac and Jacob. God seems to work from a different viewpoint.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Healing, Stirring, Obedience

Matthew 4:18-25
The ministry of Jesus gets going strong without a long ramping up period. Once the door opens Jesus is on a full out pace to get the Good News among the people. One of the early activities is to gather around him the people who will continue the mission after his death and resurrection. There is not room for negotiations, Jesus asks you to follow, you either go or stay on the fishing boat. Peter, Andrew, James and John decide to follow. From there Jesus jumps in, preaching, teaching and healing. It seems as though the healing attracts many people who were in need of the healing touch of God. Often it is wondered if God still does these things, the simple answer is yes. The more complicated answer is Jesus longs to have that presence in our lives, yet we often do not leave enough room for the Spirit of God to work.

Acts 5:17-42
Peter is going about the plan of God to bring Good News to the people and the religious people of the day get upset and have him and other disciples arrested. The Lord lets the out of prison and the go right back to their work. The religious leaders of the day are not real thrilled with all this and they decide the must do something. Peter and the gang have them pretty stirred up. At the edge of death a voice of reason steps in and reminds the religious people, if this is of God, then we do not want to fight it, if it is of human origin then it will die on its own. The disciple continue the work of Jesus in many ways, including stirring the pot.

Psalm 9
This is one of the longer of the earlier psalms, yet its message is pretty basic. No matter what happens we praise God. Not only that we praise God, that we do it with our whole heart. When we are ready to take matters into our own hands, we must simply turn to God in praise.

Genesis 24
Here we have one of the great stories of the Bible. Abraham realizes he is nearing death and wants to make sure his son Isaac is all set to have a wife and continue the family. The long trek is made back to the home lands of Abraham to find a bride from among the people. Through some pretty amazing circumstances Rebekah is raised up by God. It is like a love story we could find in theaters today. They never knew each other, yet from the moment they set eyes on each other they know that is the person God has selected for them. As the story continues they live the life together and from the couple comes Jacob who would be named Israel, form who all the tribes of Israel would come. Not only was this a storybook romance, it has the hand print of God all over it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 4:12-17
Fresh from baptism Jesus begins to preach. Here in a brief and often overlooked verse we find Jesus giving the overarching message of all his preaching, "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." Salvation matters and we must choose what we do with Jesus death and resurrection. The primary reason Jesus came was not salvation it was to show people what it was like to live the kingdom of heaven. His death and resurrection made it possible for us to live fully in that kingdom in the fullness of time, yet his life and preaching shows us how to embody that now.

Acts 5:1-16
It is one thing to deceive humanity, it is another thing all together to attempt to deceive God. When we tell others we have brought everything before God there is know real way of knowing whether this is true or not through human eyes. However, God knows what you have given and what is being held back. The problem is not in holding back as much as it is in putting on the face of giving everything when you have not. All that we are and have has been given to us by God, and we are entrusted as stewards of it. That means we can manage it how ever we see best. By the same token there will be a calling to account for our stewardship. How much did we give to God?

Psalm 8
A pure song of praise lifted to our God. All of creation is indebted to God, and God has made all of creation glorious. Not much more needs to be said than O Lord our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Genesis 21-23
The person Abraham most longed after is requested of God. Issac is requested by God, and Abraham is willing. There are many things about this passage which I do not like, not the least of which is the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son. Yet here is a picture of how things work in the kingdom. The willingness is what God was testing in Abraham. God may not have us sacrifice that which is most precious to us but there may be a test of our willingness. There are times when we are in fact asked and expected to give up that which is important to us. More than a willingness, and actual sacrifice. Still before the point of sacrifice the issue of willingness must be wrestled with.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Temptation, Praise and Bartering

Matthew 4:1-11
The temptation of Christ is one of the passages of Scripture which gets brought out annually, usually around the beginning of lent. Here three times Satan tempts Jesus, and Jesus rejects the temptation. Among the many fascinating issues in this section the most fascinating is the fact that Satan offers things he does not have the capacity to offer. The basic offer is this, if you do things my way, regardless of what God might think, you will be better than fine you will have all you ever could imagine. Many good people have been pulled into this deception. Satan offers something which he cannot possibly deliver, and most find out after it is too late the real story. The only response to the tempter is returning to the teachings of God. While Satan cannot deliver on the promise God will deliver every time, however it is on God's terms not humanities.

Acts 4:23-37
Fresh off what could be considered a victory with the religious leaders of the day, Peter and John do not spend time bragging about their conquest, they turn the community to prayer. The focus is not on their authority, or their own ability. The focus of the early believers gathered in that space and time was God and the power of God. They were so focused in God it caused them to view their possessions differently. Sure each of them had things which were a part of their household, yet if there was someone in need they would not consider it theirs, it was God's to be used by the community as there was need. What might happen if that was how we lives today?

Psalm 7
Here the psalmist is recognizing they have messed up. Their drive to follow God has been clouded by poor choices. However the work to right the wrong is underway. First stop getting right with God. The time of restitution will come, yet it cannot come until we reconcile with God and get our lives back in line with God. If we make things write with everyone else but fail to reconcile with God we will be in no better place when all is said and done.

Genesis 18-20
The journey and story of Abraham continue. I gain so much hope from reading about Abraham. He has high moments where he follows God so closely and other moments where that is not the case. One of the high points is when Abraham barters with God over the Sodom and Gomorrah. At least it appears God is allowing Abraham to barter. Perhaps God know already what will be found and the number of righteous in the cities is less than 5. Still God allows Abraham to know a God who is willing to enter into conversation. Not a God who is deterministic and we have better learn to deal with that, rather a God who draws near to us as we draw near to God. The bartering has less to do with the cities as it does with the revelation of a God who comes near.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Early Tests

When God initiates a great movement among the people it seems early on there are some tests of those who God has placed in leadership. The way these tests are responded to often sets the tone for the entire movement.

Matthew 3:13-17
As an elder in the United Methodist Church I have had several opportunities to baptize people. It is one the most favorite things I do in the life of the church. Still i could not imagine what was going through the mind of John the Baptizer when Jesus presented himself for baptism. The whole question of worthiness comes right smack in our face. Who is it that would be worthy to baptize Jesus? None of us. Yet Jesus humbly submits to the role John must plan in order that the plan of God would be fulfilled. What must we do in order that the plan of God might be fulfilled?

Acts 4:1-22
Peter and John, not the Baptizer, find themselves in trouble because they healed a man in Jesus name. The religious leaders realize they are in just as, if not more difficult position as Peter and John. If they condemn the healing that will bring trouble because the people can see the healed man. However, if they allow this to go on without some form of correction, the followership of Jesus would grow. They tell Peter and John to go, but not heal or teach in Jesus name. I love the response of Peter, who should we obey, human voices or the call of God. Quite a response to an early test.

Psalm 6
We serve a relentless God. There are times when the relentless nature of God becomes overwhelming. As God continues to shape and mold us into the persons we are called and created to be, it can be overwhelming to have God constantly pushing us. Further, it seems when we are feeling overwhelmed others pile on about the unfair nature of our God. We nearly reach our end. That is where we find the writer of this psalm. Yet there is a cry to God and mercy is found. We get tested on every side, do we cry out to God, or do we just cry?

Genesis 15-17
In these three chapters there is enough to write about for several days. Today I noticed something which I had not noticed in all the times I have read and taught this passage. When Ismael is born Abram is 86 years old. It is not until He is 100 that Issac is born. For 14 years there is the tension of when humans try to solve a challenge only God can solve and God's solution. For 14 years Abram had to come face to face with his hiccup in faith. There was a constant reminder of how Abram tried to solve the challenge his own way. Our poor choices are rarely fatal, however they have consequences which will stay with us for some time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hard Words

There are seasons in life when we need words of comfort and healing. There are other times when we need words of joy and encouragement. We also have seasons when we need hard words that challenge our very foundation.

Matthew 3:1-13
John the baptizer was the one raised up to prepare the people for the mission and ministry of Jesus. The temple courts were not his grounds or teaching, not even the streets and houses, the message John was bringing was reserved for the desert, the wilderness. People would have to intentionally travel to places they are not use to going to see John. Their reward upon arrival was a message which was hard to swallow. John called people out and challenged the religious people of his day. The church people he called a brood of vipers. In case you are not sure that is not a compliment in any generation or context. The hard words of John were not for shock value or to upset people, it was to point them to Jesus. Is it time for some hard words?

Acts 3
Peter and John are making their regular trip to the Temple for prayer, imagine that a daily trip to to gather for prayer. On the way they come across a crippled man begging. After a healing in Jesus Name the crowd calls into account what happened. Rather than complimentary words, Peter brings a hard teaching. Pointing out the fact that many of them had missed the work of God in Jesus. The challenge is simple, turn from your wicked ways and recognize what God has been doing in their midst.

Psalm 5
The psalms are filled with words that are poetic and often hard to really understand. Psalm 5 is not one of them. It is real basic, when we follow God and the teachings of God, the protection of God is with us. we will experience God's favor. When we go our own way and reject God, our lives will come to ruin. Not complicated, but difficult to hear and wrestle with.

Genesis 12-14
Abram sets out following God. Before too long he is in Egypt lying about his relationship with Sari. Soon after that he is dividing the land with Lot and helping push back the ungodly people. I often expect my life to be a long consistent climb on the ladder of faith. Not jagged but a smooth walk where I am always gaining. It was not true for Abram, or really any of those mentioned in the scriptures, what make me think that would be true for me. Abram was a confused mess of trying to remain with God, and balance his personal concern. Sound familiar? In the end righteousness is found only in follow God's concern not our own.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Struggle For Something Greater

At some point in every persons life there is a struggle to reach greatness. For some the struggle is short lived and the idea of greatness is put on the shelf. For others it remains a constant and healthy goal. Still others are so preoccupied with greatness they are blinded by their quest.

Matthew 2:13-23
It seems in the journey toward greatness there is a time of exile. Times in life where the calling may seem hard to find due to the circumstances we find ourselves in. The child Jesus was taken from his birthplace off to Egypt for protection. It seems God uses Egypt as the place of preparation for the next great move of God on earth.During their self-imposed exile t o Egypt Herod's quest for greatness lead him to murder all the boys 2 and under in the land. a little for site this not only caused undue pain, it also created a possible problem for the nation in a few years when there were no new recruits for the military or other functions. The quest for greatness caused Herod to not only miss it in Jesus, but to be blinded in the quest and cause other challenges.

Acts 2:22-47
The quest for greatness is not only a personal pursuit. The new community of believers longed to live as God directed them. It was not their own greatness rather the greatness of God they were seeking. Greatness was found in how they lived together the life Jesus had taught them. A communities greatness is measured in how God is able to use them. In Acts God used the community to add to the number daily those who were being saved. The community, not perfect, functioned to God's greatness in such a way God could use them for great Kingdom work.

Psalm 4
From a demand to an affirmation. That is the journey of the Psalmist in this psalm. "Answer me when I call" words all of us have uttered at some point, perhaps even to God. The writer sees only greatness fading, the enemy keeps getting the upper hand and struggle comes the way of the writer. Yet by the conclusion of the short Psalm there is a recognition of the greatness of God. Our only hope at anything great is not about us, or our ability. Our greatness is found only in God and our obedience to God.

Genesis 9-11
God has pressed reset and all creation restarts with Noah and his family at the center. It is once again shown where there is family there is dysfunction. However, creation is once again being filled with humanity. Thus once again the striving for greatness shows up. People had a common language and common drive. The decision to build a tower to the heavens was made and begun. God could see where things were going and intervened. If allowed to continue humanity might believe it is in there own greatness they have life and breath. Ultimately leading to humanity thinking it did not need God in their lives. God confuses the languages and scatters the people not because he is worried about having to share power, rather because he sees that humanity will become self reliant.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Trouble With New

Whenever something new and different comes along, not everyone reacts the same. While some are excited and ready to move into a new reality, others are resistant and attempt to stop the new even to the point of ridicule.

Matthew 2:1-12
The story of the magi is one of those classics of the church year. Only Matthew records the events, yet they are a standard to most church cycles. Magi have classically been thought of as royalty when in actuality they were scientists. More specifically they were astrologers. They watched the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to understand the workings of life and creation. The downside of them being astrologers is they often ventured into areas the Lord has clearly fenced off, mainly the practices of predicting the future and things we might consider part of horoscopes or psychics today. Yet they read the stars and recognized the arrival of the Messiah. When Herod found out, the plan to end things before they really get started goes into full swing. Something new was happening and it was going to cause Herod problems so he worked to eliminate it.

Acts 2:1-21
The believers were gathered on a Jewish holy day, Pentecost, and in prayer when the Holy Spirit makes its grand entrance. Never before had the people of Jerusalem and the world experienced such and thing and they were left trying to understand it. Some chalked it up to too much wine. While others were simply amazed. God had been revealed in a new way and there was uncertainty about what to do next. Peter steps forward and tells the crowd how this is God at work. We shall see where it goes from there.

Psalm 3
All of us at some point have a time when we feel like it is the world against us. The list of those try to stop us is far greater than those who are helping. The psalmist was there and then remembered that God is bigger than all the others. When it comes to protection, no one dies it better than God. Not only is God the protector but God is the sustainer and deliverer. Basically, no matter what we face in life God ready and able to see us through, in whom do we trust?

Genesis 5-8
I am always fascinated by the story of Noah. There are some really fun little details in the story which I will not get into here but I encourage you to read through for those interesting details. Overall you have Noah who is claimed to be the only righteous man on the earth. No pressure there. God selects Noah to build an ark in the desert and load all the animals and his family on it because God is about to restart the who dog gone thing. Along the way Noah I am sure faces ridicule and people question his mental stability. I am sure there was not shortage of names he was called or insults flung his way. Still Noah was steadfast and built. The day came, the boat was loaded and the Lord hit reset. A new beginning.

Where are you trying to make something new? Where are you facing opposition? Are you turning to God or your own understanding?

Thursday, September 2, 2010


All of today's readings involve aspects of creation, or the difficulty in starting fresh. We are only a few days away from an new school year in our area. It seems fitting to look at new beginnings and restarts.

Matthew 1:18-25
The rebirth of Israel, the people of God, is shared in this passage in Matthew. When Jesus is born, a fresh start is available to the people. The way of redemption is announced and relationship with God is re-established. The method of it happening, well that is another story all together. Mary, a virgin pledged to marry Joseph, gives birth to a boy even though she has never been with a man. The arrival of the redeemer is clouded by inappropriate social actions, and the threat of divorce. Not exactly a glorious entrance. Yet the desire of God to be in relationship with creation is stronger than the social norms, and there is a reassurance of God at work. The faith of Joseph and Mary is spectacular. In the face of not fitting in with society, they follow God with all they have. I wonder what God is calling to us?

Acts 1:12-26
The disciples have traveled with Jesus, wept as he hung on the cross, and rejoiced in the resurrection. They have received their marching orders, ready to continue the work. They were together praying and waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. During that time it is determined to return the number of Apostles to 12, a very important number, the twelve tribes of Israel. Here we have the formation of church leadership. Jesus commissions the group to go and be witnesses, proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth. Before the power of the Spirit can be unleashed, the people need to get their acts together. This is found in their prayer and preparation for what God is doing. The creation of the church is here, the power is given when the preparation is fully engaged.

Psalm 2
Whenever there are positions of leadership power dynamics are at work. This is true at all levels, especially in the leadership of a country, Here is Psalm 2 the reminder is to the kings of this world to remember there is someone who is greater than them. The admonishment is to remember we are all responsible to God in accordance with the places of power we occupy. We are to all lead in the fear of the Lord, and to take refuge in the Lord, not our power and our own wisdom.

Genesis 3 and 4
Here we find the fall of Adam and Eve and the inception of the first families. There is more in these two chapters than I can write in this limited space. I will focus on a small sentence in toward the end of chapter 3. God recognizes it is dangerous to leave Adam and Eve in Eden because the tree of life is there and their obedience is suspect at best. If Adam and Eve eat from the tree of life, they will live forever. The tree of life is one of those things which shows up periodically throughout the scriptures. One of the most notable times is in Revelation. The tree of life is the center of the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. When Christ returns and the relationship between God and people is as intended, the tree of life becomes the source of everlasting life. One creation is restored the tree of life may be partaken of. God does not want the tree of Life eaten from before then because forever would be filled with separation of creation and God. By the end of Revelation, the breech has been fully repaired and forever is with God. In this small sentence in the beginning the promise of of the end is established.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Get Up, Dust Off, Jump Back In

Often I am overwhelmed by the sense that other people are so much better at following Jesus than I am. All the disciplines I set out to keep in my life eventually go by the wayside. My most common response is to over correct and add more to the plate. As you might guess this causes the failure to only feel greater. Having said that, I am once again getting up, dusting off and jumping back into the year long scripture journey. This time around I am not coupling it with reading through the Bible in 90 days, I am engaged for the long haul and hopefully for some deeper reflection. So here goes.

Matthew 1:1-17
I have often wondered if the editors of the Bible had an understanding what makes a book interesting. In the Old Testament we start off with Genesis. the creation story is nice, but all to quickly the reading gets a little more difficult. The New Testament is no exception. Page 1, Matthew and a genealogy. Why would you start with that? The Book of Mark leaves all that out, why not use that as the lead? Perhaps it has to do with understanding Jesus did not simply break into our world in some obscure way. It is important to see the deep connection with Israel all the way back to Abraham. When I say Israel, I do not mean the nation state we see today. I mean the people of God, the chosen. Long before they had a land they were Israel. Jesus the Son of God, also the son of David and the son of Abraham. You know Abraham, the one who was promised more children than sand on the shores. The one who would be blessed to be a blessing. Yeah he is part of the family tree. The opening of Matthew, once you get past the names, is important in reminding us that Jesus is the continuing work of God among the people in effort to restore our relationship to God. The hope is we will once again be the Kingdom people.

Acts 1:1-11
The death and resurrection has happened and now we are getting the account of the movement of believers. In the midst of uncertainty, and a desire to flea from Jerusalem for their lives the believers are told to sit and wait for what God has promised. The gift of the Holy Spirit is coming and when they receive it, the work of God will go into full swing as the rest of the redemption story is written. Jesus is taken up into the clouds and the disciples are left standing looking up. Angels appear and wonder why they were looking at the sky and not doing what Jesus had said. I wonder how often we are gazing at the sky wondering what will happen when we simply need to follow the instructions of our leader, Jesus.

Psalm 1
The contrast of good and wicked is front and center here is this first Psalm. The good will be like a tree planted by the water, fruitful and pleasant. The wicked will not they will perish. The indirect teaching is follow the paths of righteousness and keep from wickedness. Goodness is found in our relationship with God and the actions that relationship produces. When we rest in God, or plant our lives in God, we will be like the fruitful tree. When we plant our lives in places other than God, we will perish. Where are you planting your life?

Genesis 1 and 2
I have always wondered why there were two stories of creation. As best we can tell until Adam, there was not one there to take notes, or take pictures, or place the happenings of Facebook or Twitter. So how is it there are two stories about the same unseen event? I could bore us to tears about the different groups of people who were contributing the writing of the Old Testament. It took nearly a semester to cram a two day lecture into my brain. Our first account is has more detail, the second is almost the readers digest version. No matter, two stories does not change the overall story. There was nothing, God acted and there was creation. To this day the debate rages about the details. There are the seven literal days folks, who say the earth, Adam and Eve were created in literal 24 hour periods. There are those who say the "day" was a time period which could have been millions of years. Still others think the whole thing is foolishness. I would like to leave room to say that day one described in Genesis might have been the Big Bang. We know that God created, it does not say how creation happened.

Anyway. The point is not how long and exactly what happened. What matters is God created and entered into relationship with that which was created. Man and woman, land, sea and sky all were created and entered into relationship with. Eden was created and Adam was assigned the task of working the garden. The parameters for life were given, eat anything except from this one tree. Creation, humanity and God lived in perfect relationship. There was no shame, and life was as the creator intended. Too bad the story continues.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 21

Luke 6:17-26
As Jesus was teaching and healing we come across Luke's account of what are called the beatitudes in Matthew. The bless and woes of those who are poor or rich, hungry and thirsty. This basic teaching flies in the face of what that, and ours for that matter, society holds as normal. The best explanation of this passage I have heard reminds us this is not about possessions as much as it is about remembering our need for God. Those who are poor, hungry or thirsty know they need God for everyday. Those who are rich, do not know hunger, or thirst can easily forget their need for God. Therefore those who are poor today will be rich in the Lord. Who are you?

When I travel I love getting to my destination, and I love even more getting home. A reality for my life is that either is a temporary stop. Whether on the road for ministry or pleasure,or home from the road, I will soon depart for another destination. Never do I get to the place where I have arrived and will not leave that place again. It seems the same with our faith journey. There is always more in front of us. We can always go deeper in the Lord and be taken to more places than we thought possible. Arrival in our journey is equivalent to death whether physical or metaphorical.

2 Kings 16-17
This section of scripture is the first telling of Israel being taken into captivity by the Assyrians. For centuries the people of Israel have been going their own way instead of following God. To the point where there is a split of the people of Israel and Judah. Both portions of the people of God struggle to remain true to the teachings of God through Moses. Finally the Lord has had enough and the Assyrians are used by God to take the people into exile. There was fair warning, yet the people would not change their ways. Soon Judah will follow suit.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 20

Luke 6:1-16
Questions of the sabbath. This is one of the areas I struggle with greatly. I have read the Old Testament more times than I can count and I know what the big ten tell me about the sabbath. Yet when I look a the life and words of Jesus it seems the sabbath has been altered. Perhaps more than altered the sabbath has been clarified. The religious people of Jesus day boiled the sabbath down to a list of things you could and could not do, but did it remind people of their relationship with God? That is the measure of sabbath, when we break the regular patterns of life to make sure our lives are firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:1-9
If life is about the credentials we carry, Paul had some pretty incredible credentials in the religious world. The religious establishment of his day held Paul in high regard, he did it right and followed all the right things. Yet Paul willingly gives all that up for the sake of Jesus Christ. I wonder if we would give up all the esteem and respect the world offers us for the sake of Jesus Christ?

Psalms 119: 153-160
The fear of helping people on a journey through the Bible is it will become a list to check off instead of a relationship that breathes life. The Scriptures are about bringing life and peace to those who would engage the journey, not simply add to an over filled to do list. May we read the Scriptures for what they truly are, not a checklist.

2 Kings 14-15
The list of kings rolls on, and so does the cycle. Some of the kings do what is right in the eyes of the Lord while others do what was evil in the eyes of the Lord. Whatever direction the king took so didn't the people. I am sure not all the people of God went the way of the kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord, just as not all went the way of those who did right. Nonetheless the leader was the person of influence and could let the people to faithfulness or destruction. This is a weighty thought for anyone who is in leadership.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 19

Luke 5:33-39
It is easy to become a person of misplaced devotion, or better said mistimed devotion. The religious leaders ask Jesus about the fasting habits, or lack there of, of his disciples. The answer from Jesus, is about timing. There will come a time for fasting, but not while the party is going on. Jesus is with them in the flesh and that will not always be the case. It is time to party with the author of salvation and giver of life. The devotion of the religious leaders was not the problem, recognizing the time for the right act of devotion was their struggle.

Philippians 2:19-30
Paul is most likely in prison writing this letter to a church he founded. Here we find Paul wanting to assure the congregation of care either by himself or by those he sends their way. Paul would like to go himself but cannot, and he does not want to send just anyone because some have shown to be false, nonetheless he wants to send a leader to them. Not for the purpose of yelling at them, but to encourage them in what God is doing among them.

2 Kings 12-13
The reform continues and attention is turned to the house of God. During the years of kings who did what was evil in the sight of the Lord the Temple had become a place of false worship and disrepair. Joash, repairs the Temple not as a building program but as a way to bring about reform of the spiritual life of the people. To repair the Temple they needed to be the removal of idols, and a reorientation of life around the presence of God. Reform always brings people back to the roots of faith, not merely cosmetic fixes.

Scriptures in a Year Day 18

Luke 5:27-32
Who do you spend time with? That is the question Jesus is being asked, does he spend time with all the religious or churchy people, or will he spend time with those who are less desirable? Jesus spent a good portion of his time with people that established religious systems had written off and not being worthy. Even further, "those" people were not just a harm to themselves but could bring you down in the process. The church people already, in theory, had a relationship with God and it was those who were "theoretically" far from God who needed a renewed invitation to relationship. We do have to be careful who we keep company with. There is a potential to be drawn back into a lifestyle which is not good for us. It is also possible to spend all our time with the convinced and miss the opportunity to invite.

Philippians 2:12-18
Continue to work out your salvation... There are many people who can give you a date, time and place when the got saved. It might be more appropriate to consider that day to to be when you realized the saving nature of God. Our salvation is not a momentary kind of thing. Our entire life is part of realizing the salvation offered to all through Christ Jesus. Once we have that awakening, the journey is not complete, rather it takes on a whole new perspective. In the world of Wesleyan theology the time after our decision to follow Christ is the time of sanctifying grace. Till the day we end our journey on this earth we will be working out our salvation.

Psalm 119:137-144
Following the teaching of God can be easy when things are a little difficult, the two hardest times to follow God are when things are going really well or really poorly. At one extreme we think we do not need God because things are going well, and on the other we blame God for our problems and thing a deaf ear had been turned to us. Both situations require us to have perseverance and a good memory of who God is and who we are.

2 Kings 10-11
Reform hits the people of the Lord. The cycle of faith found in the scriptures have come to a time of reckoning here in 2 Kings. Justice is poured out for the descendants of Ahab, and the followers of Baal reach their end. Then Joash comes to the throne at the age of 7. Before long reform comes and the people are turned back to God. It seems there comes time for reform and that time never truly passes.

Heavenly Father, purify my heart as I continue to work toward all you have called me. May I keep close to you and your word in all seasons of my life. Help me to be an agent of reform in this moment.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 17

Luke 5:17-26
In the previous section Jesus healed a man at had him follow the Mosaic law by going to the religious leadership of the day. This section tells a very different story. Jesus is teaching with a large crowd including the religious leaders of the day. Before he heals a man he forgives his sins. This is way outside of the Mosaic law. Forgiveness of sins involved sacrifice of animals and was done via the high priest at the temple. Jesus merely spoke and forgiveness was granted. We quickly see Jesus changing the established religious rules.

Philippians 2:1-11
"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus" (v5). After this grand encouragement Paul goes on to describe what he sees the essence of Jesus being and therefore what should be in our minds. The strength of Jesus came in what he gave up to live among us. The NRSV tells us that Jesus did not exploit the fact that he was God. I wonder how often we exploit our relationship with God? We try to gain something that is not at all about following God? Jesus had every right to grasp all that God deserved, yet he did not for our sake. We have some rightful claims because of our relationship with Jesus, but do we exploit them or do we function like Christ himself?

Psalms 119:129-136
Our own attempt to keep the scriptures as the rule of our lives. The pain associated with our own broken and fallen actions can be high. This helps us to be thankful for the grace and love of God seen through Jesus. Even more difficult is when we see others breaking ranks with the commands and teachings of God. It is easy to get angry, or offer judgment, when the deepest response is sadness. Why sadness? We have a record of what happens when the people of God do not live according to the call of God through the teachings of God. The Bible is an almost endless account of people who push away the leading of God.

2 Kings 8-9
Throughout the books of Kings we get real familiar with the phrase, the did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. King after king we find following their own desires and leading the people astray. God sends prophet after prophet in an attempt to call the people back to God, but the rate of success is very low. This section of scripture continues in that line. Once in a great while we come across a king who does what is right in the eyes of the Lord. Still the pattern kicks back in. It seems as though we are seeing the very reason God warned against a human king come into play.

Scriptures in a Year Day 16

Luke 5:12-16
Jesus is at it again, healing someone. Here after the healing Jesus tells the person to comply with the teachings of Moses, and present themselves to the priest. It would appear Jesus was following along with the religious leaders of the day and making sure things were above board. In fact the command the man healed to tell no one except the priest. I guess the other option is that Jesus was picking a fight with the priest by healing outside of the temple, and not by a member of the priestly family.

Philippians 1:21-20
"Living is Christ, dying is gain" A quick read of this section and Paul could sound suicidal. The reality is what awaits the followers of Jesus on the other side of death is life far greater than anything we can imagine. Paul is keenly aware of the glory which is ahead, yet he knows the work he was called to is not completed. No matter what, Paul glorifies God. I wonder if we are ready to take on that same mind?

Psalms 119:121-128
Have you ever wanted to feel protected from trouble? That is the cry of the psalmist in this section. Watch over me Lord, I am doing everything I can to follow you, please be my protection. Following the Lord can bring about challenge from the world around us, yet we can find shelter in the Lord from all that would work to bring us down.

2 Kings 6-7
The Arameans are laying siege to Samaria and they have cut off food from entering the city, a biblical times embargo. Four lepers were outside the city, fore they were unclean, and knew death was drawing near. They decided it would be better to die trying to live rather than simply sitting at the gate wasting away. The Lord had already cared for confusing and driving our the Aramean army, so the lepers found no one around and food in abundance. I wonder what would happen if we all had the spirit of life displayed by the lepers? The reality is we are all going to confront death and lose. The question is not death, rather will we live before we get there?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 15

Luke 5:1-11
Jesus had been teaching in the area, and needed to get away from the crowd a little. Into the fishing boat he goes. The night of fishing was over, we know this because they were washing the nets. The fishermen soon to be disciples, had just finished a long night of hard work, and Jesus says lets go out again. Once out there Jesus asks them to do something totally outside the normal, fish during the day. They listen and fish and need help bringing in the catch. From that moment those in the boats are hooked, and change what they are fishing for. Humanity becomes their catch.

Philippians 1:12-20
God uses poor circumstances for great good. Paul is addressing the question of people preaching the Gospel for the wrong reasons. The answer given surprises me every time I read it. Paul says as long as the Gospel of Jesus is going out, no matter the motive of the preacher, I will rejoice. God does not rejoice in the motive either, yet the motive is used to bring Good News to people who are thirsting for it. Another reminder that God is in charge of the ministry not us.

Psalms 119:113-120
The world we live in is not different than the world of the psalmist. There is a mix of good and evil, positive and negative. Often they reside within each of us at the same time. We are encouraged to focus on God to separate for us where we need to be and what we need to focus on. Keeping ourselves tuned into the teachings of God will help us keep from the pull of the evil in our world and life.

2 Kings 4-5
The Healing of Naaman is a good lesson for us today in how God heals. Naaman expected the healing to come in a certain way, the way he had designed it. Yet God was offering healing an a way Naaman thought to be too simple or not worthy of a man of his position. God offers greater healing than we can imagine. Often we miss the healing of God not because of our level of faith, or the action of God, simply we are looking at a different thing than God is offering. God's plan of healing has so many more options to it than we can even begin to conger. May we be open to what God is offering to us.

Scriptures in a Year Day 14

Luke 4:38-44
At this point the public ministry of Jesus is well underway. Sick are being healed and demons are being cast out. We are told that Jesus entered Simon's home. This was a common name in Jesus day so we are not sure which Simon is being told of. Many have held the idea that it is Simon who would become Peter. Nonetheless, we are told that Jesus is in the business of healing people. Not just a select few, but all who would come.

Philippians 1:1-11
"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ." (v. 6). God is the one who is in charge of the community of believers, and it is God who is the lead actor not us. God began the good work among humanity, and that work will be completed. We are not guaranteed to see the completion only that there will be a completion. Our human tendency is to live in our narrow view of history. God has been at work all eternity, we only see a small portion.

Psalms 119:105-112
The word of the Lord is a lamp to my feet, we take this to mean we will be able to see what we want to our our path. This is simply not true. A light on the path shows what is in a small area, the area we need to see for our next step not much beyond that. We must trust the step we are shown is the step we we need to take and that it will lead us to the calling of God.

2 Kings 1-3
Transitions are always hard, can you imagine the transition from Elijah to Elisha. Elijah was the lead prophet of God for years and he was the one everyone turned to. The time had come for Elijah to be taken to heaven, and Elisha to takeover Elijah's place. The pressure must have been huge, and I am sure the people wondered if it would work out. Yet God was the one orchestrating the transition, not humanity. God brings transition to life and we try to manage it instead of allowing God to simply lead us.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 13

Luke 4:31-37
Fresh from being pushed to the edge of a cliff and an attempted death by his home town Jesus moves on to another place in ministry. The people there are not real sure about who Jesus is, they only know what the countryside rumors and gossip have afforded them. Yet the demon that inhabits a person knows who this person Jesus is and what it means for all that is evil. We have become so familiar with the stories and works of Jesus we take for granted the power which Jesus displayed. Along with that we begin to lose focus on the ability of Jesus to change everything. When the crowd did not recognize Jesus, the enemy did. Perhaps the same is true today, we miss Jesus in the crowd, but the enemy knows and fears. What would happen if we be came as aware and allowed the power of God in Christ to go before us?

Ephesians 6:10-24
When troops go off into battle they go armed for the fight. So often when we engage in a spiritual battle we do not equip ourselves. Paul reminds us the battle we are in is not against flesh and blood and therefore we need to equip ourselves differently. Many choose to ignore the idea of Spiritual warfare and hope it will go away. This simply is not the case. However, before we take on the Enemy we must be sure we have the correct equipment or it will get quite ugly.

Psalms 119:97-104
What good is it to study or meditate on the words of God? We study and seek, but why? The best answer I can give is to prepare us to live life. We can read all kinds of books on how to live, and we can study to gain all forms of knowledge. None of those readings will give us the wisdom required for living as God has called us. The wisdom and knowledge gained by scripture may not seem to address some of the struggles of our present age. However, there is more than meets the eye. Perhaps as we allow the Scriptures to shape us, the way we live will be different and change the ways of our world.

1 Kings 21-22
Right off the day time TV screen we have the closing interactions of Ahab. Elijah has warned and the king has not listened. His wife then hatches a plan to get what is wanted. Murder is part of the plan. In all we find the continuation of the kings of this earth, they do what they want to not what the Lord has called to. Even when the prophet of God speaks there is not return to God. The ultimate end is one of death and separation. May we not think this only happens to kings.

Gracious Lord grant that we might hear your voice. May we not take for granted the power of your Spirit in our lives. Help us today to look fully at your face and gain wisdom from you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 12

Sorry to all who read, I fell behind for all kinds of reasons, mostly excuses, but I am back now.

Luke 4:13-30
This passage from Luke is to me one the most important passages in the New Testament. Here we find Jesus' purpose statement taken right from the prophets. Within this quote from Isaiah we find what it is Jesus is going to be about, good news to the poor, release to the captive and year of the Lord's favor. This would include physically, emotionally, and spiritually poor and captive. Now years after this proclamation we can know Jesus is at work when these things are happening. If they are not we as the church are not fulfilling the purpose of Jesus.

Ephesians 6:1-9
While the end of chapter 5 has been used for great harm, the beginning of chapter 6 has been used for even greater harm. During slavery in the United States slave owners would have preachers come to the plantations and preach this passage without all the other information around it. The result was having the slaves to feel like if they were to rebel, they would be rebelling against God not only their master. Most slaves could not read, and therefore had to take the words of the preacher. While this passages reminds us of obedience, it also reminds us that we are all slaves to Christ. It is not human to human that true obedience is measured, it is in our relationship to God. I wonder how this passages plays with the Luke passage from above? Might be fun to let your mind run a little.

Psalms 119:89-96
The psalm writer continues to remind the reader or hearer, of the importance of remaining connected to the words of God. We cannot remain faithful to God if we do not become familiar and understand the words of God, and they are found in our Scriptures. As James will later remind us, hearing and learning are not the goal, living is the true measure of the knowledge of God.

1 Kings 19 and 20
Silly Elijah, he thinks he is the only one left who is willing to fight for God. Anyone who has entered into the service of God has felt this way at some point. When the question, "Does anyone else get this?" shows up on our lips we are at that point. I cannot imagine how alone and scared Elijah felt in those moments. Not to mention the huge responsibility to speak for God. Next God takes Elijah on a journey, literally, to respond to his cry. The end result is God reminding Elijah who is in charge and who has the plan. Our tendency is to only see what is right in front of us, and what our present circumstance is. When we begin to take a God's-eye view we see there is more going on than we can possibly engage.

Lord God help me today to be an agent of your Good News. Let the poor feel embraced, the captive free and all experience the year of the Lord's favor. Shape and mold me into the person you long for me to be. Give me a God-sized vision and a vision that is from your view. In Jesus Name, Amen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 11

Luke 4:1-12
The temptations of Jesus. Often I wonder why is it God would have Jesus be tempted by Satan. The common response was so that he would experience temptation just like the rest of us. Another common reason given is to show how to respond to temptation, with the words of Scripture. All of the above seems to be an appropriate answer as well. It seems twice Jesus faces major temptation, at the beginning of his ministry, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Both times Jesus is presented with options which would keep him from fulfilling his role in the redemption of relationship between people and God. When we give into temptation we are forfeiting our role in the redemption of relationship between us and God. In both temptations Jesus responds by choosing God;s glory over his own prosperity. I wonder what there is for us to learn in that?

Ephesians 5:22-33
Husbands love to read the first two or three verses of this section and stop reading. Wives like to skip the opening words and get right to the ending. The reality is we must read the whole thing. Wives and husbands have expectations of how they will be in relationship with each other, and it is based in our relationship with God. Verse 21 must be attached to this section as we are reminded to submit to God in everything. A husband is the head of the household as Christ is the head of the church. A willingness to die for the household is a part of being a good husband. Yet the wife must allow the husband to be that head. In our day and age these roles have been distorted for many reasons. Husbands have failed to live into their God called role, and wives have failed to allow their husbands that role. Really however, is is not about husbands and wives, rather it is about our willingness to allow God to have control n our lives, and trust the design of God for our lives more than what we think is the way to do it. No easy task.

Psalm 119:81-88
Anyone who has chased after God has asked this question, "How long God are you going to allow others to persecute me?" We may not use those words but we use the sentiment. Persecution and ridicule are often a part of the equation for a follower of Christ. This is so painful because no matter what we say, it matters what others think about us, or at least it seems to impact us more than we like. This is a matter of trust, do we trust in the Scriptures, God's teaching, or do we trust in others. When we got to the testing time in this decision we cry out to God, but where do we go for the answer?

1 Kings 17-18
This is quite possibly my favorite Old Testament passage. Elijah challenges the Ahab, the king, to a battle of gods. There is not philosophical debate. No theological treaties developed. There is a very public and direct confrontation. The heart of the question, whose god will show up and be revealed as God. the prophets of Baal do their best, and Elijah pokes fun at them as they cry to their God, and nothing. Elijah has them pour water on the altar three times. Interesting, that much water being used in a time of drought. A wealth of resource was being poured onto the sacrifice. The very thing the people and land craved, Elijah was sacrificing to God as proof of who is God. How often do we doubt the provision of God? How often to we withhold the very thing God is calling us to sacrifice? What or who are the false Gods we are trusting more than the One True God?

Forgive me Lord for all the times I hold back from you the sacrifice you desire. Cleanse me from my my sin through Jesus Christ, that I may not chase false gods but chase you Lord with my whole heart. You have shown yourself to me might, now may I submit my life to you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 10

Luke 3:21-38
Luke's account of Jesus baptism is the most subdued of all the accounts. It is almost an oh yeah, when all the people were being baptized Jesus was too. When Jesus prayed after the baptism however things got a little more interesting. The Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This had not happen to any of the others baptized, only Jesus. Only Jesus caused the voice of God to be heard as well. This was no ordinary baptism, this was a proclamation of what God was doing in their midst. The genealogy while tedious, lets us see that Jesus has a heritage, and that heritage is just as the profits told it would be. The family line runs through David all the way back to Adam, which places Jesus firmly in the hands of God.

Ephesians 5:1-21
Be imitators of God! As if we did not feel enough pressure following Christ, now the standard is to imitate God. With that daunting thought ringing in our heads we must ask what does it mean to imitate God. First, this is not a call to become a god. There are some religious traditions which the end goal is to become a god. Paul is telling us to fashion a life so that our life is the embodiment of God here on earth. This will require a significant departure from the way the world around us functions. The theme of living differently continues here in this passage. Those who are following Christ live a life which is markedly different because of Christ.

Psalm 119:73-80
We are made in God's image, and by the very hand of God. In other portions of Psalms we are told we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139). God has fashioned us into the person we are, or at least the hope of the person we could be. When our lives become focused on following God, our lives begin to look more and more like what God has created within us. In this process others will scoff and think we are wasting our time. It is not our job to answer them with words, rather with our life and allowing God to take hold and shape our lives.

1 Kings 15 and 16
The tragedy continues. Not only does it continue but it seems to be getting worse. The only real exception is Asa, whose heart was with God. All the other kings we are told did even more evil than the ones who were before. They lead the people of Israel and Judah to worship false gods and act with the evil they were living. This is all a far cry from the days of David. Easy to forget is back to when the people asked God for an earthly king. It is intended the people of God would have no king other than God. Warning came from God about what would happen if they had an earthly king, and the people ignored it. Now as we read in 1 Kings, the fruit of disobedience is coming to bear.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 9

Luke 3:1-20
It is safe to say John the Baptist was not a shy and beat around the bush kind of guy. By most modern preaching standards he would not be well received. Calling people a brood of vipers is not generally a good opener. However, it seems to work for him and people become convicted and turn to the Lord. As knowledge of John grows people begin to mistake him as the long awaited Messiah. Quickly this gets cleared up by John, there is one coming whose sandals I am not worthy of working with. John knew is was not him but that he was preparing the way for what God was about to do.

Ephesians 4:25-32
Life in Christ is to be different than life before our decision to follow Christ. The way we conduct ourselves, the way we treat other people, all of it is to be different. As we follow Christ we become fundamentally different than we were before. Much time is spent telling people about how we follow Christ, and declaring our Christianity, I wonder if that time is equal to what people see in our day to day lives?

Psalms 119:65-72
We will get criticized for chasing after God. Many will not believe God to be true, while others will reduce God to a more manageable form. No matter how much others criticize and call into question to chase after God we must not stop. While there are many paths in life, and many options of how to live our lives, only one leads to truth. This truth we seek comes from only one source and that is God, and we learn about this God through the Scriptures. Hold fast to them and delight in learning from them.

1 Kings 13 and 14
The decline of Israel is in full swing here just a few chapters after the great Solomon dedicated the Temple to the Lord. The sons of Solomon have carried on the work of Solomon and taken it to a whole new level. God is pushed from the scene and other gods are invited in and worshiped. I wonder how often we do the same thing? Then we turn around and get mad at God for abandoning us when we are the ones who went our own way. God is always right there ready to receive us, only it is not on our terms it is on the term of God. As the people are lead farther from God by their earthly kings, God's grief increases and the people struggle more and more.

Lord, I am sorry. All too often I think I know what I am doing and how to best run my life. Quickly Lord I move away from you and get mad at you for leaving me. May I live the live you call me to live, and remain close to you. Grant me strength, and grace to chase after you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 8

Luke 2:41-52
Much ink has been spilled about raising children, and in particular raising boys. Can you imagine being the parent to Jesus? The child Messiah had an answer for everything his parents through his way, this is not unusual. However, his answers were truth. I love that the 12 year old Jesus is sitting with the teachers, listening and asking questions. This was long before it was thought a person could engage such people in this way. Yet, Jesus is there holding his own, This closes the book on what we have regarding Jesus' childhood. When next we meet Jesus he will be nearly 30 years old and ready to begin his public ministry.

Ephesians 4:17-24
Put away the former life, and renew the spirit of your mind by clothing yourself in Christ. When we commit to being a follower of Jesus Christ we no longer are to follow the passions which once held us captive. Our trajectory is to follow the lead of God. This one understanding, stated repeatedly in Scripture, is the key to following Jesus, and the most difficult. We are not to live as we use to or as all those around is do. We live unto the Lord.

Psalm 119:57-64
The Lord is my portion. Not a term we use very often and therefore do not understand it. A modern transliteration of this would be to say the Lord is enough for me. All around us there are people and things which pull at our affections and loyalties. It is easy to think that our enough is found in those things. The chaser of God always comes back to the fact that only God can be enough, our portion. The difficulty us not found in knowing God to be our portion, it is experiencing the fullness of what that means and how we go about that kind of life. The simple answer that is difficult to do, the Scriptures.

1 Kings 12
The sins of the father, Solomon, show up in the son, Rehoboam. Just like the Lord had promised, the unfaithfulness of Solomon has carried into his children and the kingdom of Israel is dissolved as God is removed from the equation. I am amazed by what happens when those who have been oppressed become the ones who are dominate. Logical might tell us they would be less likely to oppress as they have been through it before. History tells us the opposite. Those who have struggled and been oppressed will become the oppressor should the chance arise. Israel had arrived. People of the world feared Israel and wanted to be Israel all at the same time. Rather than use this position for the sake of God, the leadership and the people wandered away form God and went their own way. As a result God pours out judgment just as promised.

Lord you have shown us how we are to live. The need for transformation in our lives is no secret. I confess my pride in going my own way. Forgive me Lord, help me to follow you more than me. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 7

Luke 2:21-40
In accordance with the Law Jesus was taken to the temple for dedication as a child, and as the firstborn of Mary. Along the way they meet up with Simeon. A man of God on whom the Holy Spirit rested. While Simeon was not told by human mouth who the child was, the Holy Spirit showed him Jesus the Awaited One. This is yet another declaration in public of Jesus being the Messiah. Interesting his celebration was not just for Israel but for the Gentiles as well. Also they meet Anna, and elderly widow who celebrated and praises God for allowing her to see the Messiah.

Ephesians 4:1-16
Jesus is the head of the church. Not simply the man Jesus but the Lord Jesus. The One who defeated death and ascended to the Right hand of God. This is the One who is the head of the church. To the church Jesus gives gifts and abilities to all, and to some the gifts needed to be the earthly leaders of the church. All of the gifts given by the head of the church are for the purpose of the church to continue being the church. That all may continue in maturity, and that the church may be one. There is a pecking order in the Body of Christ, only it is a different kind of pecking order. Jesus is at the top, some are called apart, not above, for leading the church, and all are gifted for the work of the church.

Psalm 119:49-56
Do you ever get annoyed at those who claim to be of God, but do not follow what the scripture says? I know I do, then I remember all to often it is me who stands in that place. It should bother us when someone fails to live according to the Scriptures, especially when that person has claimed to submit the the authority of God found in the Scriptures, just as the Psalmist says in verse 53. Yet we must be careful as we all can stand in that place of disconnect. We must hold tight to what the Lord continues to show and lead us in through the Scripture.

1 Kings 11
The downfall of Solomon. The multiple hundred wives and concubines, most of which were women of foreign places. A little digging finds they were marriages of political and military alliance. All that Solomon had accumulated came at a price, in the end it turned his heart away from God. Much wisdom is shared with the followers of God by Solomon, and it is accurate and true. If only that wisdom could have been observed by Solomon all the days of his life. Because of his false ambitions, Solomon strayed from God and the cost was everything he had worked to gain. The great king who had built a house for God, turned his heart from the One True God toward the Gods of abomination as the NRSV translation calls them. Perhaps this is yet another picture of a paradise lost by the poor choices of humanity.

Forgive us Lord when our ambition becomes bigger than our connection with You. Help us to dream big dreams and have huge hope, may it all be in you not us. You of God are the only one worthy of our hopes, dreams and our praise. In Jesus Name Amen.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 6

Luke 2:1-20
The birth of Jesus, and the account seems to be somewhat ho hum until the shepherds get involved. The account is told very matter of fact, there was a census, Joseph and Mary got to Bethlehem, and while there they have the baby in a manger because the was not room in the in. But when the shepherds get involved there is a chorus of angels and great rejoicing. Looking back we know this was no ordinary day, and that was no ordinary child. Whether people confess him to be Messiah, Lord and Savior or not, there can be no denial since that moment no one person has ever caused so much fanfare over such a long period of time. Truly the world was never the same after the baby was born, and the rejoicing began.

Ephesians 3:14-21
Paul is praying for the church in Ephesus, and for us as we read this passage. It is the desire of Paul that people would know just how much God loves them through Christ. Further we are reminded that God can do abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine. That blows my mind as I can dream pretty big dreams and make some absurdly large requests before God, yet I cannot find the edge of possibility for God. The power of the Holy Spirit offers us far more than is in our ability to grasp and understand. Not for the glory of humanity, rather for the glory of God.

Psalm 11941-48
"Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your ordinances." (v43) When reading through this lengthy Psalm it is easy to get overwhelmed with its length and miss the prevailing point. We are to have our lives orbit around the Scriptures. Not that we make the Scriptures to be God, rather we seek God every moment through the Scriptures. We are not to focus for mere knowledge, no, we are to read in order that we might meet with God and understand what it is that God is calling us to. Finding direction outside of the bounds of Scripture will leave us short of everything God has for us. That is why we keep the Scriptures so close and central to our journey with God.

1 Kings 9-10
Let the prosperity begin, rather let it continue. With the long list of all the stuff Solomon has accumulated and continues to accumulate it is hard to really imagine what it would have been like. Solomon has so much gold that he had to build special barns just to keep his gold. Entire cities were dedicated to caring for his horses and chariots. The prosperity of Solomon was unparalleled in all of creation. We might miss the fact of these cities really being military bases where war could be waged. We might miss the fact that the labor for all the development could be seen as an act of oppression. Never mind thinking about where all these riches were being taken from, and how Solomon was using them to supply others. Another little fact which is glossed over, his wife the daughter of Pharaoh. God had commanded the people to not marry people outside of the people of Israel foreigners because of their risk to lead their hearts astray. Solomon has placed himself in a very dangerous place and may not have even known it. God's promise was the same to him as it was to his father David, you will do well as long as you follow me. If Solomon turns from God, judgment will come. Let's see what happens next.

May we know your abundant power today Lord. As we come before your, hear the cry of our heart and give us the assurance that you are able to more than we can cry for or imaging. May we be people of Holy Spirit power, not to us but to your glory. in Jesus Name, Amen.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 5

Luke 1:67-80
The joy of a father is expressed here in this short section of scripture. Zechariah had been unable to speak for the duration of Elizabeth's pregnancy, and his response when his is free to speak is song. This is more than a father beaming about how great his son will be, this is the profound utterance of a man of God realizing that his child is hand picked by God for very important work in the plan of salvation. I am sure during his silence there was an abundance of time for Zechariah to reflect and listen for God. The day of his son's dedication was more than proud father, is about a follower of the Almighty realizing what God was doing through him in the his midst.

Ephesians 3:1-13
Paul speaks of the great mystery that God has been engaged in throughout history. That mystery become known in Jesus Christ. Why did God choose to reveal the mystery in Christ? So we can brag about knowing Christ and separate ourselves from those who do not follow Christ? No, so that we, the church, might fulfill the call of God in this broken world. That the kingdom of God would be embodied by the community of believers. It is through Christ we become part of the revealed mystery. It is also through Christ we are able to access God in boldness and confidence of faith.

Psalm 119:33-40
The writer of the Psalms continues to work on the theme of how important it is to know the precepts or statutes of God. The way we know these things is to dig into Scripture. When we are not focused on the scriptures and learn who God is and who we are called to be, we have a high tendency to wander from the path of faith. Some portions of scripture seem difficult to have a hunger for as they are challenging both to read and understand. However, if we ask God for a hunger, and we commit ourselves to the discipline of the scriptures, I believe God gives a longing for the scriptures.

1 Kings 8
Here we have the lengthy description of the dedication of the temple Solomon built for the Lord. As I read through all the details of Solomon begging God to be pleased with his work I cannot help to think about all the times when I act and ask God to bless what I have done. It seems to be there might be a little more wisdom in seeking what God is blessing and do that the asking God to bless what we have already done. Solomon put a heavy tax on the people to build the temple, along with forced labor to make it happen. From the description we get in several places the temple was quite a place to behold. Over and over we find Solomon begging God to be pleased with the work he had done. It is almost impossible for me to read the words of Solomon here without wonder how much of this is Solomon's great hope and how much of it was the leading of God? We shall see in the coming chapters as we look at Solomon's life that the teachings and promises of God are not always what Solomon follows.

Lord, may we not commit the folly of asking you to bless what we have already done. May we seek you and do what it is you are blessing. You are the leader and perfecter, not us. We submit to your leadership. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 4

Luke 1:57-66
John the one who baptizes is born. In accordance with the Law, the baby is brought before the Lord for dedication. Common practice was to give the child a name which had family roots. When presented and the name John is given, the people complain because there is no ancestry with that name. Yet God had commanded his name would be John. From the very beginning of his life, John forced people to look outside of what was normal. Still there was not doubt among those gathered that John had been set aside for a special purpose in the Lord.

Ephesians 2:11-22
Often we think the Gospel of Jesus only applies to the people we think it should. All throughout human history there is a track record of humans creating a list of those who get in and those who do not. The reality is we do not make that kind of decision. Paul helps the church in Ephesus realize that God does not create some of the boundaries we as humans create. The grace and love of Jesus Christ is available to all. The only boundary that is drawn is drawn by God and it is found in Jesus Christ. All who would confess their sin, repent and follow are accepted by God. The challenge is do we accept them?

Psalm 119:25-32
The NRSV translation of the Bible uses the word cling twice in the passage to talk about our relationship to God through the scriptures. This is a very graphic image about how tightly we are to hold to God. My middle daughter loves to throw her arms around my neck and hold so tightly to me that I do not even need to hold on to her. That is clinging at its best. Do we hold that tightly to the Scriptures, or to the God who offers them to us?

1 Kings 6-7
The building of the temple has always been a section of scripture that has both fascinated and bored me. Do I really need to know all the exact dimensions of a building that no longer exists? It is not like I am going to go out build another one in the back yard. At the same time it was decided important enough to be included in the body of the Scriptures, so I must ask why it is there. Perhaps it has something to do with God being a God of order. Maybe it is to see if the people would be obedient. I guess there is the possibility that it was Solomon grandstanding more than what God commanded. Remember the first "house" for God was a tent, and it was movable as God moved. A tent is a pretty humble dwelling for the God who created everything. It is not until after the Temple is built that God consents to dwell there. Still there is a condition, that the people, and Solomon must walk in the ways of the Lord. We shall read on to see how this plays out.

Lord we run so fast and often so far, then we hope you will bless our running. Father in heaven, may we first seek you, take on your mind and understanding as best we can, and then run. Forgive us when we have gotten ahead of you, help us to remain in you, clinging to you for all we have. In Jesus Name Amen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Scriptures in a Year Day 3

The journey continues, may we all hear from God through the Scriptures today.

Luke 1:39-56
Mary visits her cousin and from the moment she enters the house it is clear God is at work. We are told the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and the sound of Mary's voice. The Spirit revealed to her that Mary was not with just any child, that Mary would be the mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth is the first to offer earthly confirmation of what God had called Mary to. I am grateful for Mary's response, she knows this is not about her, rather what God is doing. Here we see the true heart of a servant pouring out of the one called to be the mother of God.

Ephesians 2:1-10
We all have walked and continue to find sin on our lives. Before realizing what Christ had done for us we were controlled by that sin but we are no more. Through the grace of God in Jesus Christ we have been saved from our sin. This grace is not something we have worked to earn, otherwise we might boast about what we have accomplished. Grace is the gift of God seen most perfectly in Jesus Christ. Once we have accepted the offer of grace we are called to live a life of grace, not just a momentary cleansing from sin. Freely we have been saved by grace through faith. Recognizing the great love and grace God offers us compels us to live differently than before. To live as God has called us.

Psalm 119:17-24
Follow God can often be difficult. It becomes even more difficult when the people around us ridicule and hold us in contempt because we follow God. For those who are still living on their own terms, living on God's terms seems like foolishness. Yet those who remain steadfast God will honor. Keeping our eyes focused on God, while challenging, is the work to which followers of Christ have been called. We must allow the Scriptures to be our guide and our counsel rather than the voices and call of this present age.

1 Kings 4-5
Now that Solomon is established as king he begins to set up his court and rule. The officials are named and the jobs are handed out. As we get into chapter 5 Solomon turns to completing the dream of his father David in building the Temple. As I read through all the resources available to Solomon and the situation in which he is ruling the people I cannot help but think about the United States. The abundance available to us is beyond comprehension. Solomon has the capacity to do whatever he wants and it will be cared for, even to the point of enslaving the very people he was granted by God to govern. In these early chapters it is easy to think Solomon was the ruler God intended and that all is going well. As the story unfolds we might find there is a different story being written. Perhaps all that Solomon has and does is not as godly as it first appears.

O Lord, grant that we may understand your scriptures more deeply. I give you permission Lord to mess with my thinking. Relieve me from thoughts which are not true to you. Replace in my heart your word that I might not only follow you, that others would follow you because of my life. In Jesus Name, Amen.