Wednesday, May 31, 2006
We see in this passage Isaiah speaking about the branch of the Lord and how He will bless it. One of the reasons why I love the Bible is how everything comes together. In Romans, Paul talks about how those that believe are branched graphed into the tree of life (Romans 11: 17-20).
Branches separated from the tree are merely dead sticks. The Lord wants to nourish us, to cause to grow, to give us life. But, the receive His life giving power, we must stay connected to Him. I have a friend of mine whose spiritual advice to me is always: Pray, read the Bible, and go to church. That's pretty good advice.
For us to stay rooted in God and be the branches He wants us to be, we must stay in Him. That means we must seek His face, read His Word, spend time with His people. In short, pray, read the Bible, go to church. Today, are grounded into the tree of Life? Or are you a dry stick?
New Testament Lesson
We see that in the church, we are all different. We have different graces, different talents, different callings. We are each called. Make no mistake about it. If you are a baptized Christian, then you are called to something by our God, and that calling is not to sit on a pew only. You are to go and be faithful to God in all your life.
But, one calling is not better than another. Just because I'm a preacher doesn't mean that I'm a better Christian than anyone or that my calling is superior to any else, it is just different. Everything we do in church is supposed to be for the Glory of God and the unity of the Body of Christ. We should do nothing about of selfish ambition, nothing our of pride, nothing out of wanting our way only.
Everything in church should be done for God's glory.
The folks in this town didn't respond to Jesus the way other towns did. Normally folks came from all over to hear Jesus and have their loved ones healed. Today, this town asks Him to leave. Why? Well, he brought change. He brought power. Jesus didn't come to leave things the same, He came to change us into what God would have us to be.
Jesus is dangerous. He will not leave you alone. He will not leave you in your sin. He will not allow you to remain unchanged. And, we don't like that. So, we ask Him to leave. But, that doesn't work, so we leave. We don't come to church. We don't read the Word. We don't pray. So, that way, we don't have tolisten to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, telling us that we need to change.
Today, how do you respond to Jesus?
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
1 Samuel 16:1-13
We see in David nothing outstanding, yet he was the one that God choose to lead His people. The Word says that God doesn't look at the things that we do, God looks inside at the heart. God saw inside of David something that no one else could see. This has two words for us.
First, God sees what you can be. God sees something special inside of each of us, for we are each made in His image (Genesis 1:27). He sees what you can be, what is special inside of you, that no one else possesses. You are a special person, unlike anyone else in all of creation. You have special gifts and talents that no one else has. God sees what you can become.
Second, that means that He sees who you really are. We all hid things. We hide our sin. We hide our secrets. We hide our disobedience. We don't like to let others see who we really are. I like to joke and say that everyone behaves for the preacher. Some folks don't, I know that, but many do. Our outside image often is very different from who we are on the inside. But, God knows what is inside of us. Just as He was able to see David's heart and righteousness, He can also see if our heart matches our what we say that we are. Today, does you heart match your lifestyle? Or, do we live one way and claim to be another?
New Testament Lesson
This passage has one of my favorite verses in all the Bible. That we may be able to know that love that surpasses knowledge. That is a great gift for us that believe, that we can know this love of God that is greater than our minds' ability to understand. Through the grace of our Lord, we can know just how much God loves. And, as Paul writes, that love can be that which gives us deep roots and a firm foundation.
Today, do you know that great love of God? Have you pondered just how much God loves you? Have you drank deep from His river of life? Friends, we can be loved like we have never been loved before! Today, do you know just how much your God loves you?
We see two stories in this passage. First we see Jesus tell His followers that they must follow Him first, be obedient to Him first, and leave everything else behind. You know, that's nice in theory, but we don't really like doing that. We see in this passage, that folks respond in different ways. One says he will, and Jesus said be careful, you will be giving up the things of the world, for foxes have dins but the Jesus had no where to lay His head. Then, another says that he will do, if he can bury his father first, to which Jesus said let the dead bury the dead.
If we are placing anything, anything in life above Jesus, we are not worthy of Him. Those are harsh words. That brings up storms in our lives, because we don't want to give up these things we've grown so accustomed to. But, Jesus said we must.
Then, we see how He handles those storms. He calms them. If we follow, if we trust and obey, He will calm the storms in our lives. He will speak peace, either to the raging sea, or our raging heart. Today, if you walk with Him, you can find peace. Today, do you follow? Will you allow Him to calm your storms?
Monday, May 29, 2006
Friday, May 26, 2006
Anyway, things should be more normal in the weeks to come. Have a great weekend.
1 Samuel 2:1-10
We see in this passage that the Lord lifts up the needy and those that are in distress. That is a notion we see a lot in Scripture, that God intercedes for those that are weak, for those that have no other help? Why? God helps everyone, but it seems like in the Bible that He most often intercedes for those that are in the most need of help.
Maybe because they are the ones that realize that God is all that they have. Wesley warned the Methodist against becoming rich, not because richness was evil (in fact, there were even rich Methodists during his day), but because earthly wealth will take your mind off of God. God should be foremost in our minds; not our stuff, not our money, not our cars, not anything else, other than Him. But, our stuff crowds God our of our thoughts, our minds, and our lives.
Now, am I saying that you need to go home and throw away your TV? No, I am not. But, I am saying that if you don't have time to pray because you watch too much TV, or spent too much time thinking about money, or spend too much time playing ball, or shopping or hunting, or whatever, then you might need to stop that activity. If any earthly activities take so much of our time and thoughts that we don't have time to pray, then friends, we simply are walking with the Lord as we should be.
New Testament Lesson
We are saved not by what we do, but by faith. We are saved by what God has done for us, not for what we have done for our selves, now, we must do our part. We must except that gift, we must respond to grace, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must live as God would have us to live.
But, we did not save ourselves. God saved us. We are not worthy of that salvation; that is why it is a gift. One of the things that we are Christians are sometimes prone to do is to think that we are better people than those that are lost. We are not. We are saved by grace, and we need to remember that. We are sinful, we have fallen down, and we should never think of ourselves as more than we really are. Now, the Word says in Psalm that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, so we should never think that we are of no worth, but we should also remember that is by grace, not by our actions that we are saved.
Today, we must strive towards what God would have us to be, but remember that is is God that is at work within us, and if we are too boast, let us boast in the wonders of His grace.
We see in the first passage that not everyone that says Lord, Lord will enter into heaven, but those that are obedient. I've shared this with my church before, but I've never met a lost person. Or better put, I've never met a person that says that they are lost. Everyone, not matter how far away from God they are, claim to be a Christian. Now, they may have no evidence of God in our lives, no proof of His grace, no fruit of the Spirit, no signs of obedience, but they say that they are a Christian.
Today, we see that not everyone that calls him Lord, Lord, will enter into heaven. Today, it doesn't matter if with your mouth you call Him Lord, what does you life say? We cannot say with our lips that His is our Lord, if we deny Him with our lives. Today, do you call Him your Lord? Today, does you life match what your lips say?
Monday, May 22, 2006
"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell, choose it."
CS Lewis, The Great Divorce
Friday, May 19, 2006
We see in this text some of the festivals that the people had, and they were to keep these days, no exceptions. In seminary, I took a class on modern Judaism, and someone asked the professor Rabbi Micah Greenstein of Temple Israel in Memphis, what was the holiest of all the Jewish holidays. He said the Sabbath. He said it was given each week and it was the holiest, even as holy as Passover or the Day of Atonement.
Do we as Christians think of our Sabbath (Sunday) as holy? Do we really? Or, is it a day to sleep late? A day to watch football? Hunt? Cut the grass? I know that many of us have to work on Sunday, that is a reality of modern life. Nurses can't take off. etc. But, if we are not required to be a work, what are we doing? And even if we are at work, do we think about the fact that this is the day that our Lord has given us to worship? There are sometimes reasons why we can't go to Church. I understand that. But, we should never, never, never think that Sunday is a day that was created for out thoughts and pleasures alone. It is a day of rest, but it is also a day of reflection and worship of God.
We cannot take God's Word seriously unless we take the command of keeping Sabbath seriously. Where will you be this Sunday? What will you be doing this Sunday? We are to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
New Testament Lesson
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
We see in this passage that there are those that oppose God and oppose His plans. Sometimes we like to speculate on who the man of lawlessness could be. While that may be fun, a greater question is how are we like the man of lawlessness? How do we oppose the plan of God? How do we oppose the work of God? How do we not do what God wants us to do.
We can't always solve all the mysteries of life, but we can look within our own soul and see how we may be unfaithful. We can looking within our own lives and see the places that we have not handed over to God. We can look within and see the places where we will not submit to God's law. Before we worry about all the mysteries that we can't fully understand, let's first make sure that our heart,t that live is submitted to God.
There is a difference between judging and looking at fruit. I can't look inside and see some one's heart. Only God can do that. But, I can look and see if that person is producing any fruit. The children of God are called to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Today, what fruit are you producing. Before we look at other's fruit, let's look at our own.
It is so easy to judge others. But, when we make a mistake, we want grace. We want others to receive judgement for their mistakes, but we want grace and mercy for ours. We must hold one another accountable and we must examine one other's fruit. But, we must also extent grace and forgiveness, for we each want grace and forgiveness extended to us. Let us take the planks out of our own eyes and let us help one another take the planks out of each others.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Old Testament Lesson
We see in this passage different laws. Some of which refer to pagan practices within the land. One of the reasons why God told the people not to get tattoos was because that was part of the pagan rituals of the other peoples. The same thing for consulting mediums.
Others deal with respect for other people, especially those that society looks down upon. It says that we are supposed to treat the elderly with the respect that they are due. It says that in doing that we show reverence for God. It also says that they are to treat the aliens within the land with the same type of respect, for they were once aliens in a foreign lands. Both of the these groups were often looked down upon in that time (as in ours). But, both groups are due the respect, for every one is do respect. Every person you ever meet was made in the image of God. Every person you ever meet is someone that God longs to call back home. Every one you ever meet is someone that Jesus Christ died to save. Everyone you ever meet is someone that is created to live in eternity in heaven or hell, depending upon their choice.
CS Lewis put it this way in his book The Weight of Glory
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. ... Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
That is how we should treat one another, that is how we should treat those that others despise.
New Testament Lesson
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
We see in this passage that God will bring judgment to those that have opposed His will. God will intercede on behalf of His people. God will judge the righteous from the unrighteous. God will bring vindication. The thing for us to determine is to make sure that we are on God's side. We must make sure that that we are doing His will. We must make sure that we are about His work, that we are living His way, that we are growing His grace. And if we do those things, He will protect us and save us. He will not forget His people, He will not forget His church. In the end, God wins. Let us make sure we are playing on the winning team.
If we seek first God's kingdom, then everything else will work as it should. If we seek God's kingdom, then the things of life will come. Instead, we often worry about the things that we can't control, we worry about the things passing. How much of us spent too much time worrying about trivial earthly matters when we should instead be worried about the things of God. We far too often are more worried about what other people think about us instead of being worried about what God thinks of us.
Today, where is your mind? Are you seeking first the things of this world? Are you seeking first the
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The Lord didn't say in the text that we could be holy if we felt like doing it, rather He said be holy because He is holy. That is one reason why we see so much in the Old Testament about holiness. God was raising up a people for Himself, and sense He is holy, they must be Holy. If they were going to be His people, they must be Holy, they must be different, they must be set apart. They must be who God wants them to be.
But, that is the Old Testament and the Law. We as Christians don't have to worry about all that, do we? We live under grace, not the law. Well, that's not really what Jesus said. Matthew 5:48
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.In the Methodist tradition Holiness and perfection are seen as the same thing; both are seen as being totally devoted to God and living for Him. Today, this is not something that we can ignore, but one that is commanded for all of us.
New Testament Lesson
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
We see in this passage what that holy life looks like. Doing good to others. Helping those that are in need. Helping the weak. Listening to God's spirit. Doing right. Today, you are called to something great, but great things start with simple acts of obedience to God. Today, be obedient to God, and that greatness hat He has for you will come.
Today, you cannot serve two masters. You will serve God or the world. You will serve God or money. You will serve God or the devil. There are not two choices about it. We all have a master, we all serve someone. If you are not serving God will all that you have, you are serving to the devil and the evil today. Ttoday, who are you serving?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
There are two important concepts we see all throughout scripture. We see first that we as people are sinful. We see it in the garden, we see it in Noah after the flood, we see it in Abraham, in Moses and in the people. We also see it in Peter, Paul, and all the others in the New Testament. And, we see it in ourselves. We see it in our world. It was once written that original sin is the only doctrine that can be proven by anyone; you teach a child to do right, they already know how to do wrong. Sin is a reality
But, in the same manner, we see through out the Bible that God longs to forgive sin. God longs to restore us, to make us whole again. Through Christ, those that believe are make whole. We see here in this text the ritual that the Israelites went through to receive that forgiveness on the Day of Atonement. Likewise, we have our own ritual of forgiveness, confession and repentance. We must confess our sin to God, and we must repent, or turn from it. Today, let us remember than we are born in sin and must constantly be searching our lives and our actions for the sin that is there; but let us also remember that that our God has made a way whereby we can be set free.
New Testament Lesson
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
So many worry about the return of Christ and the judgement that comes through it. We see in this passage that as Paul said,
God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.For the Christian, there is no reason to live in fear of the return of our Lord, in fact, we should live in hopeful awareness. Awareness that hits world is not our home. Awareness that there is more to this life than the world we see here. Awareness that we should be encouraged and joyful for we will one day be with the Lord.
This awareness of the return of our Lord should free us to live with abandon here. We should live sold out lives from Him, for what do we have to fear? Why should we be afraid of this world or its judgement. The only judgement we should fear is that of our Lord. Today, life in hopeful awareness of the coming of our Lord!
Today, we see Jesus teaching us that when we fast, we should not call attention to ourselves, but do it in quite. Two points. First, we see once again that our action of righteousness are not done for the sight of others, but rather done for God and are done to strengthen our walk.
Secondly, notice Jesus didn't say, "if you fast." He said "when you fast." When was the last time you fasted? Now, some of us have health conditions that will not allow us to give up food. Most of us do not, though. When was the last time we fasted? And, if we are unable to give up food, when was the last time we gave up something as an act of self denial. There too many references within the Word to the notion of "dieing to yourself" for us to ignore. Each week, we should have some day of self denial; to strengthen our walk with God and to really see how much we are controlled by other things. So, when you fast, or deny yourself, don't call attention to it. But, when you do, do it for God to know and for His glory. When you do.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
We see in this teaching that for Jesus, our heart must be right above all. Our salvation does not come from what we do, but rather who we are. Jesus tells us again and again that it it is not just enough to not do wrong, we must be right on the inside.
And notice, this isn't something Jesus said that we might want to do it. He said this is what we must do. Sometimes folks read these words of Jesus and think they are merely suggestions, they are mere an unattainable set of goals. It is not so. He sets forth for us in these passages on in Matthew that Christian morality must look like.
Morality is not just about our actions, it is about growing in grace. It is about become more and more each day what God wants you to be. We cannot be satisfied think that we have arrived, that we are what we should be. No! No one is what they should be. We all have room to grow and change and be more holy. This side of heaven, we have room to grow.
Today, does your morality come from your outward actions, or does it come from the heart? If is from the heart, it will shape our actions, but if our heart is dirty, then our actions don't mean much at all.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
We see in this passage as God is getting the people to go forth into the land He is giving them, He warns them that they should be different from the people that they are going to see. They must not worship the pagan idols, they must not partake in those evil things, they must not allow their children to become intertwined with the other nations.
Why is God doing this? Why can't Israel become friends with these new folks? Aren't we encouraged to be in the world, but not of the world? The reason why God says this is knows that they are prone to wander away from Him, and if they allow these idols to stay in their presence, then they too will engage in pagan worship. And if we look a couple of of books down in the Bible, we see that is what happened. The only way they could stay true is to get rid of the idols and sin in their lives.
So it is for us as well. We are as they were. We are pone to wander away from God. We give into temptation, we do things that are wrong. We commit sin each day. And because this sin destroys us, we must drive it out. We must not allow it to stand. We must allow God to search within us and drive out all sin. Because if we don't we will fall into that trap of sin again and again. The great hymn of the faith Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing puts it like this
O to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.
New Testament Lesson
1 Thessalonians 2:13-20
As a parent, there really is no greater joy than seeing your child achieve something great. I've had more joyous moments the past 2 years watching my daughter grow than I have had in all my life before. It is such a sense of joy, of pride, of all these things rolled into one.
We see Paul today say that the Thessalonian church gives him that same feeling of joy, for they have grown from what he has taught them. They have become more mature they have moved on to the deep things of Christ. We as Christians have the same ability that Paul did. We can pass on this faith to our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, to our children in church.
And if we think we get a sense of pride watching our children grow, imagine the sense of pride we will feel when our children grow in Christ. And it doesn't' have to be a child, but someone new in Christ. Are we taking the time to teach and enjoy fellowship to those that need to learn of the Lord? Are we taking advantage of that gift the Lord has offered? Thing of the joy that we rob them of by not sharing Christ with them, and think of the joy that we rob ourselves of.
We see in this passage what Christian righteousness looks like. It is not just about the actions, but about the heart. It is not just enough not to murder someone, but in our hearts, we must not hate. It is not just enough to "act right." Now, we should act right. Our actions must conform to what God wants us to do, but if we act right but have hate in our hearts, we haven't accomplished anything.
God wants to transform us, but he must first start with the heart. Today, are you actions right? What about your heart? Today, do you hate someone in your heart? It is not enough to not just murder. We must not hate in our hearts. Today, how is your heart? The Word says before we bring our offering to God, we must make things right with our neighbor. Before you go to church Sunday, is there someone you need make right with? The Word says that we must.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The Word says that the Lord spoke with Moses as a man speaks to his friend. What a great image of what prayer should be like. You know what it is like when you spend time with a dear friend, how you can speak and laugh and cry together? How you can have such a sense of peace and of joy? That is what prayer should be like.
Prayer is not as much about the words we pray as it is about spending time with our Lord. It is about coming into God's presence and bowing before Him.
But, you don't become best friends with someone the first time you meet. It takes a long time to know someone that deeply. Prayer is the same. The first time you pray, it may be hard and challenging and worrisome. But, keep praying. No one prays as they should. We are all learning and striving and praying. Is your prayer life not what you want it to be? Keep praying. Don't give up. The more time we spend with God, the more deeply we know Him and the more our friendship grows. Today, even when you might not feel like it; keep praying.
New Testament Lesson
1 Thessalonians 2:1-12
The Gospel is good news to those that believe, but it is not always received well by the world. It will face opposition. The church is to be different that the world and is not conform to the values of the world. And, if we live and preach the Gospel, we will face opposition. But, we must not be discouraged by this, for it shows we are being faithful.
And while the Gospel may not be received by all, it is needed by all. And we must be faithful. While we present the Gospel for the sake of those that are in need, we also present it to the glory of God. While we may be opposed by the world, God will be with us. The one that we seek to please in life is not the world, but God.
Today, are you living more to please the world? Or more to please God? He must be the one we are most concerned with, and we we face such opposition for the Gospel, know that He is with us.
Jesus tells us today that while we live by grace, grace is not an excuse to sin. Our righteousness must surpass that the Pharisees. What did He mean by that? It means that not only must our actions be right, but our heart must be right. You can do the right thing with wrong motives. That wrong motives invalidates the right action. For the Christian to be righteousness, it is not enough just to "do right," we must "be right." Like wise, our heart, our motives, they are worthless unless they produce a righteous life? What is a righteous life look like?
Matthew 22: 36-40
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Love of God and Love of neighbor. Today, friends, do you love your God will all you have? Do you love your neighbor as yourself. As Christians, that is what we must be doing.
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
We see here in this text a couple of things. First, we see that Aaron did not do a good job of leading the people when Moses was gone. Why? He was afraid. He didn't believe that God would be with him and help Him to lead the people. In short, instead of faith, he had fear. That is a choice we must make as well each day. Will we have faith, or will we be afraid. Do we believe that God has called us to this place, that God has called us to this mission only to leave us here? If God had called you to something today, He will not leave you there. He will give you the grace and the strength to finish whatever task He has called you to. Today, do you have faith, or do you have fear? The Word tells us in 1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.Second, we see that sin has consequences. Many people were killed in this passage as a result of their sin. While we should not fear circumstances, we should fear what sin can do to us. Sin is not a toy, it is not something to be played with. It will destroy us. Jesus did not come to earth and endure what He endured for us to remain the same. Today for the people, sin had consequences. Today, our sin has consequences for us, our church, and our family.
New Testament Lesson
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
John Wesley, when starting to send Methodist ministers out into America put forth a statement as what was required to be a "Methodist." He said the only thing required was this, “A desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins." Today, Paul reminds us in this text of the very same thing, that Jesus will save us from the coming wrath.
To speak of being "saved," means that we would be saved from something. If you are in a burning house and the fire trucks arrive in time to save you, you would be saved from destruction. In the same way, Jesus came so that we might be saved from something, that is the wrath of God. While God is love and God is mercy, He is also a Holy God that will not allow sin in His presence. Through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be saved from this wrath that is going to come.
Today, do you desire to flee the coming wrath? If, so, according to Wesley, you'd make a good Methodist! But in all seriousness, if you desire to flee that coming wrath, cling to Jesus.
Jesus calls us today to be salt and light, to be different, to stand out. Salt adds much to food, it gives us an added taste. Light drives out darkness and allows good to be done. We are to live in that same manner. We are to be as salt, adding life and joy to life. We are to have the joy that can't explained, that joy that comes from deep down, that only comes from God. I read an article recently be a minister that said that Christians should not always laugh so much, we should be more serious. I don't' agree. I think we are to laugh, to live, and to glorify God. As salt, we are to bring the life and joy of Jesus where ever we go.
Likewise, we are to be light. Light drives out the darkness. Our lives should be about driving out darkness in this world, in our community, in our families, everywhere we go. But first, we must allow God to drive out the darkness in our own lives. Today, are you walking in God's light? Today, is the darkness being driven out? Today, are living as a Child of light?
Monday, May 8, 2006
The people make the golden calf when they grew tired of waiting on Moses to return. They grew tired of waiting for God's plan to unfold. They grew tired of not having it done the way they wanted it done and in the time that they wanted it done. They grew tried of waiting.
Someone once said the hardest answer to prayer is not "No" or "Yes," but "Wait." We don't like waiting on God's plan to unfold. We want Him to hurry up. And when it is not on our schedule, we do as they did, we take it into our own hands. Now, we might not have every made a golden calf, but just like the people did in the text, we say, well, its not going to happen, lets do it another way.
And just like them, we get ourselves in trouble. If we we will just wait on the Lord. He has a plan, and it's better than ours. Today, what are you waiting on the Lord for? Today, what are you losing patience with? Today, where are you doing it your way, not God's way? Today, wait on the Lord. The word tells us in Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Today, wait on the Lord.
New Testament Lesson
We see in this passage verses that talk about husbands and wives, children and parents, master and slaves. In each case, they are to do right according to each others. Wives submit to your husband, but husbands, love your wives. So, the wife is to think first of the husband, but the husband is to think first of the wife. When we do that, we find happiness, because in that each person is think of the other, and each person receives what they need. We must not think that we are Lord over one another, but we are to love one another, and lay aside our lives for the sake of each other.
For a marriage to work, each person must love their spouse more than they love being right. They must love each other more than they love their own pride. Too often, we are too prideful to say "I'm sorry," or to admit our mistakes. The only way a marriage will work, or a friendship, or a family, is that you must be willing to lay aside yourself for the other. But, when both sides are doing that, there is peace and joy. When only one side does that, there is discord and hurt.
Today, in you family, in your marriage, both husbands and wives, do you put the other person first? Do you love them more than you love your pride? Do you think of them first? Because it is in these things that we see true love, for our example of love is Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for our sake.
This is one of the most famous and powerful passages in all the Bible. There is no way I can possible do justice to this passage in this short devotional space. I will say that notice in each one, there is that idea that we just talked about in the New Testament reading, that life is found in laying aside our life for something bigger. We see in this passage that only in realizing how much we need God can we find life, and that the life of a Christian must, must, must be different. Today, is your life different from those around you that are lost? Today, if you are a Christian, do you live in any different than the world? We must.
Instead of talking further about this passage, just read it, and the let the Lord speak to you right now. Listen to His voice. Listen to what He has to say to you.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Today, are we blessed? Today, are we living the way God would want us to?
Friday, May 5, 2006
We see Jesus first message or theme. Luke records Jesus reading from from the Old Testament about how God is going bring about salvation and healing and is rejected, while Matthew doesn't record a specific sermon, just the message of His preaching. Repent!
This is consistent with Luke, for the way that God brings about healing and salvation is through repentance. Isn't it interesting that this would be Jesus first message? Repent. While He would preach and live out the message of God's redemptive love, His first message was repent.
Repentance is the beginning step to knowing God. Repentance is not the end of faith, rather is is one of the beginning. Until God calls us with His prevenient grace to repentance as the first step in the journey of knowing Him. We cannot fully understand God's great love for us until we have come to understand just how much we need it. We can't understand the joy of salvation until we have been set free. We can't know that joy of communion with God until we see that our sin separates us.
And that is why we must repent of sin, because it keeps us from God. And no sin is worth being separated from God. No habit, no hobby, no desire, no anything is worth being separated from God. And the only way to over come that separation is to respond to God's grace and repent.
Repentance is not just feeling bad for our sins, that is conviction. Let us not mistake conviction for repentance. Jesus didn't say be convicted, He said, repent. It is not just enough to bad about your sin, what will you do about it? Repentance is a turning from.
And repentance is not just something we do preceding our conversion, it is something we must do each day of lives. We must allow God's grace to search within, find the sin within, and turn from it. Today, Jesus message to us is repent. Today, do you repent of your sins, do you turn from them? Do you turn to your God and live in His salvation? Today, repent, and believe the Gospel.
Thursday, May 4, 2006
There have been hundreds of books written about the 10 Commandments throughout the years. Many of us know them by heart, having learned them from childhood. They are in many ways the foundation of morality and proper living. Each one of the commandments has so much to say to us in today's world, and they have never been more relevant than they are right now.
Lets look, though, at 2 important themes we see in the 10 Commandments. The first 4 deal with our walk with God, and the second 6 deal with our walk with each other. In both areas, we must walk with integrity. We must try in lives to do right by God and by each other.
But, this is nothing new for Christians, for our Lord told us that the greatest of commandments is to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10: 27). This truth is something that we know.
So, we talking about the 10 Commandments, the question really is not to we believe in them, do we believe that they are important, the question is do we obey them? It does no good for us talk talk about the 10 Commandments, for us to argue about them, for us to display them, unless we follow them. Do we love the Lord our God? Do we love our neighbor? For, we can talk all we want to about how great the 10 Commandments are, but if we don't live by them, what good have we really done?
Friends, our Lord wants us to serve Him not just with our lips, but also with our lives. For if our lives invalidate what our lips say, what good have we done? Our lives much match our lips, and if they do, then in that, we will give glory to our Lord and Savior.
New Testament Lesson
Paul here warns that we must be shaken by smooth sounding arguments. My mama always told me that people can twist the Bible to make it say anything they want it to say. I have found during my time in seminary and during my ministry that to be very true. A couple of things that we should take note of.
First, we must make that we really know the Bible so that we will not be shaken by smooth talk. We have to know the Bible ourselves. It is not enough for your preacher to know it, your Sunday School teacher to know it, your parents to know it, your children to know it. You must know it yourself so that you will not be shaken. Do you spend time in God's Word so that you will know it?
Second, we must make sure that we don't twist the Bible to defend what we want to do. We are supposed to used the Bible to know how to live, not use the Bible to defend what we've already decided to do. We must let the Bible shape us, not twist the Bible to make it say what we want it to.
A couple of things from the temptation of Jesus. First, remember yesterday we read of His baptism? That baptism was the beginning of His ministry, not the end. So is it for us. Baptism is not the end of faith, rather the beginning. Likewise, conversion is not the end of our walk with God, rather it is the beginning as well. Our faith should be constantly growing, changing, and being formed. We must never stop growing in grace.
Second, this passage talks about what we talked about in the New Testament Reading. How did the Devil tempt Jesus? He quoted the Bible to Him. The devil knows the Bible just as we do. How did Jesus battle them temptations? He knew the true meaning of the text. He knew the truth of the Word of God, and responded by quoting the Bible correctly back to the devil. I know I'm beating a dead horse here friends, but we must really know the Bible. It was in His knowledge of the Bible that Jesus was able to fight off temptation.
We can do the same thing in our lives, if we know the Word. Today, do we know the Word well enough to stand against temptation?
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
We see this passage the Lord descend down to Mt. Sinai. We see His holiness, His power, His might. We read it; they saw it. And yet, in spite of all they had seen: the plagues in Egypt, the Red Sea, the fire night/cloud by day, manna, and the Lord descending onto the mountain. In spite of all this, they still doubted. They still disobeyed. But, they just never got it, did they.
While we have never seen these things, have we not felt God's grace within us? Have we not felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Have we not felt the forgivness of our sins? Have we not felt the presence of God in a powerful way in our lives? Have we not seen God move in powerful ways in our lives, in the lives of church, in the lives of our friends, our families? Have we not seen God move in amazing ways, just like they did? And, we still disobey and doubt. They question is not why didn't they get it, but why don't you and I get it?
New Testament Lesson
This is one that I could preach on forever, and actually had to preach on at one point during my journey to ordination in the United Methodist Church. There is so much here. Through Jesus Christ everything, both seen and unseen, was created. He holds it all together. He is the head of the church. Not the preacher, not the bishop, not any source of human authority, Christ is the head of the church. So, the question for our churches is, are we following the will of Jesus Christ, are we doing things the way we want them done. Are we, in church, more worried about what we want, as opposed to what Jesus wants. It is His church not our church. He is the head, not me, not any human. Jesus, He is Lord of the church.
And we see in this passage that through Jesus, God is reconciling the world to Himself. Through Jesus, God has undone what we have done. Our sin separates us from God. Through Jesus, we can be brought back. Through Jesus, we can come home, we can be reconciled to the Father. Through Jesus, we can live at peace with God.
Jesus offers us this today. He offers peace and hope and love and the chance to be made right with God. The question is, do we accept?
We see in His baptism, each person of the Holy Trinity. We see the Son, being baptized. We see the Father, saying that He is pleased. We see the Spirit, descending as a dove. We must never forget that one of the main tenants of our faith is that belief in the Holy Trinity. We see that in this moment, each person of the Trinity is at work, as it is in our lives. In life, we are convicted of sin by the Spirit, and called into relationship with the Father by that same Spirit. The Son died for our sins and paid the price, so through Him, we come to the Father. And it is the Father that longs to bring us back home, but we cannot come to the Father but by the Son. And after our conversion, it is the Spirit that calls us to keep walking each day, closer to Father, through the grace of Lord Jesus, and by obedience to our Lord, Jesus.
We see that we often speak of God or Jesus or the Spirit, but each person of the Trinity is at work at all times, bringing us to that closer, deeper walk with God, the Triune God that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
We see here that God is telling the people that He will come to them. He reminds them that He was the one that freed them from Egypt and now He is coming to instruct them to be who He calls them to be.
If God calls us, He will show us the way to go. He had a high calling for Israel, and in this passages, we see the way He will instruct them to be holy; He gives them the law, and by keeping that law they will be "set apart," or holy.
For us as Christians, through His grace, we become holy. Just as the people of Israel had to keep the law to be "set apart," so must we say yes to God's grace each day of our lives. And that means that we must allow God's grace to work in us and through us to change us, to transform us, to make us into what we should be. See, we are called, as they were called, to be holy. To be different. To stand out. Today, do we stand out from those that are not Christian? Today is there a difference between the way we live and the way that they live? If we are saying yes to God's grace, there must be. Today, are we living different?
New Testament Lesson
This passage talks about how we are to be within the light, and that light is supposed to drive out darkness. An interesting fact about darkness is that it has no physical properties. Darkness is merely the absence of light. The only way there is darkness is that there is no light. When there is light, there is literally no darkness.
In the same way, the areas of lives that are dark are the areas of our lives that we have not allowed God's light into. God's light will drive out the darkness of our lives; but first we must let Him in. Unless we allow His light to penetrated the darkness of our hearts, the darkness of those hidden place, the darkness of those hidden sins, His light does us no good. Today, what area of your life are you hidden from His light? Apart from His light, we are in darkness. What part of your life are you allowing to stay dark?
John tells us today that one of the things that Jesus will do is that He will divide the wheat from the chaff. One will be placed in the safety and security of the barn, one will be thrown into the judgement and destruction of the fire. There is unity in Jesus, all that believe upon Him can be one. But, there is also division and separation. We must choose. We must choose will we serve Jesus, or the world. Will we serve God, or our possessions. We will be faithful to the truth, or to our culture.
Jesus calls us to Himself, and calls us to leave behind all things that keep us from Him. Today, may we cling to Jesus.
Monday, May 1, 2006
We see in this passage that Moses listened to wise counsel. Moses was a pretty powerful guy. God had done a lot through Him. God had spoken to him and through him. Moses had every reason to think that he had it figured out.
And yet, he was not afraid to listen to someone else’s opinion. In fact, this opinion was so wise, it caused him to change the way he was thinking and the way that he was leading the people. In spite of all that he had done and all that God had done through him, he wasn’t afraid to listen and to change.
Today, we may have done so good stuff, but I doubt any of us have done as much for God as Moses. And if Moses was not afraid to listen to others, why should we be? If Moses was not afraid to take constructive criticism, why should we be? If Moses was unafraid to change, why should we be? Today, listen for God and listen for God speaking through others. Today, listen for ways that God make speak that will cause you to change everything you are doing. But know if God asks us to change, it is for our benefit and for His glory. Today, listen to wise council, just as Moses did.
New Testament Lesson
1 Peter 5:1-14
We see here in this passage a couple of important things
First, in v 3, we see that as Christians, we should lead by example. A lot of people like to talk about how much they love God, but what does their life show? It doesn’t matter how much we claim to love God, how much we claim to be faithful, how much we claim to detest sin. What matters is the example that our life sets. Today, do your claims about how much you love God match your life?
Second, we see in v 8 that the devil is a roaring lion, seeking to destroy. The way a lion attacks its prey is that it finds the one that is weak, the one that is separated from the pack. Today, are you weak in your faith? Today, are you separated from you “pack,” the Body of Christ? It is hard to fight off the devil, fight off temptation, and fight off evil when you are alone. We must not be. We must not live our lives apart from God and His church. Today, are you in the Body of Christ, or are you wandering off alone?
As God prepares to do a new thing, He lays the ground work for that new thing. Before Jesus came, John the Baptist appeared, and began to preach the same message that Jesus began to preach, Repent!
John was different than what folks were used to seeing, and he preached a different message. He only concern was laying that ground work for Jesus. He only concern was being faithful to God and to his mission. Today, what new thing is God trying to do in your life?
In your family?
In your church?
Has he sent someone to lay the ground work? Or is He sending you to lay the ground work? God is always up to something, and the great thing is that He chooses to use and you and me. Today, like John, are you focused on your mission and God’s plan? Today are you watching and listening for God will do? Today, are you letting God use you?