Monday, December 10, 2012

The Seeking God

Psalm 136:23  It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;  (ESV)

If there is one thing that is clear in this Psalm it is that the steadfast love of God endures forever! When God makes a covenant you can count on His absolute faithfulness. He keeps His end of the bargain no matter what, no matter how long it takes. He is ever merciful, always kind to His sheep. The sun comes up each day, because He is faithful (v. 8). He delivered His people and gave them the land because of His hesed (v. 21-22). "Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever"! (v. 2)

Pastor Jeff was speaking on Luke 15 yesterday, and it hit me that in all three of these parables (the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son) it is God who does the seeking. It is not about us diligently seeking the kingdom. God diligently pursues us! It is He who remembers me in my lowly estate. It is God who went after me when I was openly rebelling against Him. He is the loving Father constantly calling home this prodigal. Jesus died for me - this is the blood covenant testifying of His unconditional love for me. The Father will never let up on His end of the bargain! Jesus only asks one thing from me. Come and follow me! Be my disciple. Join me on the mission. And I will give you abundant life.

I am Yours. Bought and paid for. I lay my life down (again) as a living sacrifice. Where You lead me, I will follow. Holy Spirit give me ears to hear and eyes to see. Grant me conviction, discerning of spirits, and faith. Teach me, Lord Jesus. Guide me. Father I present myself as a living sacrifice. I am Yours. In Jesus' name...

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever" (v. 1).


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Do Not Give Up!

Psalm 126:6  He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.  (ESV)

There is a time for sowing and a time for reaping. When it is time to sow, you must go out and sow (Prov. 20:4) whether you feel like it or not (v. 5). Here the Psalmist recalls a time of great rejoicing (v. 2), when the Lord had brought a great deliverance/victory to His people (v. 1, 3). But now the people find themselves in need of God's restoring again (v. 4). But they must "sow in tears" if they are to "reap with shouts of joy" (v. 5).

I always say that we must continue to cling to & trust in God through the trials if we want to come out of it with a stronger faith on the other end. If we abandon God during our trial we will be blind to His work in delivering us as well as the work in our hearts in the midst of it. We must continue to do the acts of faith, continue to live the life of a follower of Jesus even when it seems like God does not hear us, doesn't care, will never deliver us. Pray, continue in fellowship, worship the King, receive solid Biblical teaching, allow others to bear your burdens, continue in devotions, meditation, fasting.

Brad, you must continue to sow if you want to see the harvest. Do not give up. You will not be like the sluggard who seeks at harvest and has nothing because he failed to plow in autumn (Prov. 20:4).

"Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,

for it is time to seek the LORD,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." (Hos. 10:12)

Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, help me, strengthen me to be faithful when its hard. Holy Spirit grant me a gift of faith - for this is hard for me. Lord Jesus pour out Your righteousness upon me. "Dear God, perform Your work in me. Do Your work through me."* I am desperately in need of Your strength, Your grace!

In Jesus' name - Amen,

*from Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

RE: Trust

Psalm 124:6-7  Blessed be the LORD,
  who has not given us
  as prey to their teeth!
We have escaped like a bird
  from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
  and we have escaped!  (ESV)

What vivid imagery: if God had not delivered us, these enemies would be tearing us apart - sinking their teeth into our flesh. It is an image of narrow escape at the last minute - like a bird caught in a trap who manages to break free just in time. Oh the feeling of freedom (joy and triumph) as he flies away!

Once again it is as sovereign creator God, that He is able to deliver us. He is powerful, all powerful. I am limited, weak, finite. The truth is I am bothered by this. I want to have all I need to deliver myself. I feel more secure this way. I don't want to have to trust someone else. On the other side of the coin - oh the feeling of relief when I realize I don't have to do it all on my own (be all), especially when I know that ultimately I can't. I can't control everything.

God, help me to embrace this joy of release - the peace of dependence on another. Holy Spirit imprint an understanding of the character of God upon the retina of my brain that I might not forget Your loving kindness toward me (hesed). The truth is that I probably have more trouble believing that "You will" more so than "You can." I ask You to receive me, loving Father, just as I am. I thank You Jesus, my friend, my Lord, my brother for demonstrating so clearly and tangibly - How great the Fathers love for us!

In Jesus' name - Amen,

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

For Them

Psalm 9:10  And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.  (ESV)

Justice (the purpose for which God established His rule - v. 7) includes the idea of God's care for those seemingly  forgotten by society (the needy and the poor - v. 18). God does not forget the cry of the afflicted (v. 12). 

God has not forgotten you. You who weep. You who cry out in anguish over the loss of a child, perhaps yet unborn (hope stolen), or a husband lost, fallen in battle, perhaps in some far away land. How can I do less than to feel God's heart for these afflicted, poor, forgotten, broken, abused hopeless. God forbid that I should be like the nations who are "but men" (v. 20). But I have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

Oh God, move me with a heart of compassion for all those who weep and mourn. May my heart never turn away from one who is hurting. Break my heart for the hopeless. This is mine in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5) - a heart of humility. Let my heart break for what breaks Yours. Lord I give You my heart, my soul. I live for You alone. You alone are good. You gave Your Son to free me from selfishness. And so I give You all of me, for Your kingdom. God bless a mother who has just received news in Ohio that her child is dead.

In Jesus' name... So be it in me,

Friday, February 24, 2012

No Fear

Psalm 7:8-11a  The LORD judges the people;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous -
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,  (ESV)

Look at the confidence with which David here is able to approach God. Even inviting God to judge him. We know that David was not a perfect man. And yet somehow he is able to approach God with confidence, even knowing that He is a righteous judge. David has been wronged here - unfairly accused and so he cries out to the just judge for vindication.

In Christ I can surely approach the righteous judge with confidence that I am upright in heart - for I am clothed in the robes of the righteousness of Christ Himself. What God has given me, no one can take away. This is a mystery - a sinner, yet righteous (ref.: Luther)! My shield is with God. I need not fear, I am a child of the King.

Come, Lord Jesus! Deliver Your justice on the earth. Let the righteousness of Your kingdom reign. Come Holy Spirit, direct my life. I submit, Holy Father to Your goodness and mercy. Your hesed endures forever. I am Yours and You are mine. I am my beloved's and He is mine. Your kingdom come... here, now.

In Jesus' name - in my world,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Are You Looking?

Luke 23:51b  and he was looking for the kingdom of God.  (ESV)

Joseph was looking for the kingdom of God (or waiting). Joseph is mentioned here in all four gospels (but is otherwise unknown - ESV Study Bible, p. 2011). It seems reasonable to presume that he may have been well known in the early church.

 Are you looking for the kingdom of God? Are you willing? Are you waiting? Are you receptive to spiritual things - the work of the Spirit. Are you looking for the work that God is doing in and around you - the kingdom in your midst (Lk. 17:21)?

Today I will look for the kingdom. I will wait on Your action, Your leading. This morning I am praying Your kingdom come, in my midst.

In Jesus' name - Amen,

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In the Interim...

Luke 19:13b  'Engage in business until I come.'  (ESV)

Well that's pretty straightforward. Jesus told this parable because He was nearing Jerusalem and eschatological expectancy was building - "they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately" (v. 1). Like the twelve didn't understand that Jesus came to Jerusalem to die (18:34), the crowds didn't understand that Jesus came to bring (initiate) the kingdom, not consummate it.

Do business 'til I come. That's really the whole point of this parable. Seeing this in retrospect is actually an advantage to us. We know that Jesus didn't come to overthrow Roman rule. The kingdom of God is already present in the advent of Jesus. But until the "not yet" comes we are to engage in the King's business until He returns. Brad, today, use your time, treasure and talents for the furtherance of His kingdom here on earth - in your sphere of influence: 'I give you authority!' (Luke 10:19).

Holy Spirit speak clearly to me today - convict my heart. Father God, my creator, give me strength to act - for obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 5:22). Jesus my Lord, teach me, guide my life - Jesus is Lord!

In the name of the King - King Jesus!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kingdom, Self Centeredness & Missional Living

Luke 17:33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.  (ESV)

Jesus answers the Pharisees question about the coming of the kingdom (they are thinking eschatologically) that it is already present in the person of Jesus and reign of God (ESV Study Bible, p. 1993 on v. 21). Then he goes on to describe the not yet of the consummation of the kingdom (v. 25f.) as a time of judgment (v. 29) and separation of the redeemed from the unregenerate (v. 34-35). Escape from the coming judgment is found in living a life that is (not self-centered) but outward focused/other-centered. Thus the missional nature of kingdom living.

I think maybe I'm beginning to get it. Self-centeredness and rebellion against God go hand in hand (ESV Study Bible, p. 1911 on Mark 8:35). And losing my self-centeredness means eternal communion with God (ibid.), both then and now.

God help me to find it. To finally get it. Holy Spirit come. Presence of Jesus come. Your kingdom come in the midst of me. Lord God, prepare my heart for missional other-centered, outward focused living - "Change My Heart O' God." Let my sufficeincy be found in You (Col. 1:15-23).

In Jesus' name - Amen,

Monday, January 23, 2012

Let's Get to Work!

Luke 15:20b  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  (ESV)

Three parables all focused on the rejoicing that occurs when a lost sinner repents (v. 3-22). And it all begins with the Pharisee's grumbling accusation that "This man receives sinners and eats with them" (v. 2). The father sees the silhouette of his son far off - probably recognizing his gate. The rejoicing, the compassion, the party: "let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (v. 23-24).

Let's not be like the older brother here: 'Him, you're letting him back in the house!?!' (v. 30f.). Brad, don't disdain the heart of an evangelist. You want others to affirm your gift? You can't be critical  of the gifting of another. The heart of the evangelist and the heart of a teacher work together to accomplish the great commission. "You bring 'em in, I'll disciple them." Repentance is at the heart of the gospel. When one sinner repents, it's time to throw a party! (v. 7, 9-10).

God bless my friends and brothers (& sisters) in Christ: the Pastor-Evangelists. Though it is not my gifting it is Your gifting for them and to the body, for Your glory. I repent for my judgmental attitude. 'Bring 'em in fellas* - and let's get to work!' Holy Spirit, put a check in my soul when the spirit of the older brother (the Pharisee) tries to rise up in me. Jesus I present myself as a living sacrifice - for Your kingdom, for Your glory.

In Jesus' name - Amen,

*with apologies, Ladies, for the non- gender neutral language here (That would have gotten me in all kinds of trouble in grad school!)

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Light Inside*

Luke 11:41  But give as alms those things that are within and behold, everything is clean for you. (ESV)

Jesus was just speaking in the previous paragraph about your whole body being full of light (v. 34). Here in the Pharisees house, He is similarly addressing "greed and wickedness" (v. 39) within. If the condition of our heart (inner self, real self) is good then we can freely give of that goodness within in the site God with no shame. This is completely freeing. But if there is darkness within us, all we can give is external appearance of obedience to a moral code or some (perhaps arbitrary) religious rule(s). But what about "justice and the love of God" (v. 42)?

Lord Jesus, search my heart. Know me, Holy Spirit for You now me. Fill me with light from the Father of light - for all good gifts come down from above (James 1:17). I am not deserving of this. But You have called me - "Come." You have loved me - Me! You have saved me - King Jesus. And now you bid me to "Follow."

In Jesus' name - Amen,


*taken from the title of the Album The Light Inside by Gary Chapman