Monday, December 31, 2012: Philippians 4- Unity is important.

I chose to meditate on verses 2 and 3 because I don’t recall meditating on these verses before. I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Unity is so important that Paul singled out these two women, pleading with them to lay aside their differences and agree with each other for the sake of the body and the Lord.
I tried to imagine this situation in a present day church. I thought of a former pastor or well-respected member who had moved away writing a thank you letter for mission support he or she received. In the midst of the letter s/he pleads with Joan and Patricia to lay aside their differences for the sake of the body! Even more they ask another well-respected person to step in and try to moderate the difference (‘loyal yokefellow’ is certainly someone the community knows and respects).
This is not an insignificant sidebar comment in a ‘thank you’ letter.
My sense is that unity is a BIG deal for Paul and something important for the church as it lives day to day as the body and as it lives as a witness for Jesus in the world.
What price do we pay today for unity? Do we treat unity as important and therefore fight for it, as Paul seems to be doing? Or do we not worry about unity, allowing discord and disagreement flourish among people, even leaders, within the church?
Unity is a more important element of life together in Jesus’ Church than I often give it credit.
Where do I allow unity to remain? How do I negatively impact unity in my church? If I am going to take unity as seriously as Paul, I need to answer questions like these… and so do you.
Lord, I fear I do not have the fervency for unity that You do. Help me to grasp the importance of unity and then to understand what I should do to foster it within my community of faith.
Lord, this is a scary prayer. I will need the passion of David and the wisdom of Solomon to live out my role in protecting and nourishing unity… Help me, Lord, help me. To Your honor and glory, I pray. Amen.
 
 

Saturday, December 29: Philippians 3- Rejoicing as a safeguard.

I love the opening sentence… Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you (1). I particularly appreciate the final 6 words.
Rejoicing as a ‘safeguard.’ Hmmm, that is a though worth pondering.
What is it about rejoicing that causes it to be a safeguard? When I rejoice my heart lightens. It soars. I find myself in a positive emotional place. (Or is it that I am in a positive place so I rejoice? I suspect it can happen both ways.) These are all good things, which safeguard me from depression and negativity. This is certainly one way rejoicing provides a safeguard.
Another thing for me is that rejoicing in me grows when I focus on the positive. Rejoicing comes when I count my blessings, when I pay attention to the big and small touches of God’s gracious hand in my life.
When I am in the midst of a problem or storm, life stinks. But experience has shown me that even then God’s gracious hand is active in my life and I can see it if I look. During Hurricane Sandy, the wind roared, the tide rose, huge trees fell and the power went out all around our area. A couple of days after the storm I visited with a dozen people in our church hit hard by Sandy. Over and over again people shared stories of small and not so small graciousness from the hand of God. In one place many trees were down but somehow they all fell around and between houses with no significant damage to life or home. Others mentioned that the weather was unseasonably warm so being without power wasn’t causing them to be too cold. Others were thankful they had friends they could stay with, and so went many of the comments. Devastation lay all around us, yet most folks were able to be thankful for something and to rejoice in those often little gifts from God. This is another way rejoicing is a safeguard.
I can always rejoice in Jesus, my Savior. Certainly this is a safeguard for my soul and life.
And so my morning went as I thought about rejoicing as a safeguard…
Lord, as I sit for my remaining time, I am counting my blessings and giving You thanks and rejoicing in who You are and how You touch my life for good in so many ways…
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation. O my soul praise Him for He is my help and Salvation! All you who hear, now to his temple draw near, join me in glad adoration. …
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing!...
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see….
Lord God, Father, Jesus, Spirit, my heart rejoices in You my God! Alleluia Amen.
 

Friday, December 28: Philippians 2- People of service.

The American dream, becoming whomever you want, often means dreams of success, becoming the star athlete, famous actor, important politician, running a successful business, writing a bestseller and the like. Fame, fortune, honor, importance, self-sufficiency, independence… these are the stuff of our dreams.
Who dreams of coming in second, of being the lab tech, the assistant this, that or other thing? Dreams are of the limelight not the backlight or shadows. And yet for every person out front receiving the accolades and honors, there are many more people whose work and service was necessary in order for the honored one to be honored.
In reading today I found myself attracted to Epaphroditus. Of him Paul -the great apostle Paul- writes:
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me (25-30).
This is most of what we know about Epaphroditus. He was the church messenger who was sent to Paul to be Paul’s aide, helper, personal assistant and gofer. Had he not gotten sick and almost died, most likely we would never have known he existed. And yet Paul calls him my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier. Additionally Paul charges the church to Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.
Paul’s commendation of Epaphroditus shows he was a man who was worthy to be emulated. He played an important role in God’s kingdom advance.
As I sit here I am realizing God and our world need men and women like Epaphroditus, people who serve and care and labor, not for recognition or limelight, but with honor and understanding of the big picture!
I need to think more about this…
Lord, help me to hold Epaphroditus in high esteem. He labored for kingdom sake in the shadow of Paul. He sought no honor other than he was serving You. He placed his life in peril for You. Yes, Lord, I honor Epaphroditus and I seek the character he displayed even as I labor to serve You. Through Jesus my Lord, I pray. Amen.
 
 

Thursday, December 27: Philippians 1- Quest for best.

I found myself attracted to the sentence that begins in verse 9.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.  And within this sentence was the thought that we should abound in knowledge so that we can discern what is best.
Discerning what is best. That idea captivated me as I sat with the Lord this morning.
The world is filled with many good things and sometimes I see decision making as a battle within self to choose what is good and to avoid what is bad. As I meditate on this phrase though, I am realizing life is more than choosing between what is good and what it bad.  Wow, we want to discern what is best. We want to discern the “goodest good,” if you will allow me to use such improper English.
I am wondering if I, too, often settle for good without giving any thought to what is best. My mind is whirling. Don’t settle for merely good, discern the BEST and do that. This adds a deeper dimension to decision making,   one that will take time to digest.
Lord Jesus, I am not sure how to pursue this quest for best. I sense You, the Father and Spirit would be delighted to see me embark on this quest, so all I know how to pray is help me begin… In your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.
 
 

Wednesday, December 26: Ephesians 6-Order in life.

Children & fathers, slaves and masters, yesterday wives and husbands, Paul gave instructions to each under the umbrella of mutual submission (5:21). There is a societal order to life. In order for life to function there is an order. It seems to me this word from God is asking, no directing, us to fulfill our role in the order with dignity and honor as if we were serving God Himself.
This thought quickly flipped to myself and the functions and roles I play in life…husband, father, adult son, worker, boss. I am hearing the Lord say to me to fulfill the duties of each role as if I was serving God directly, as if God were my wife, child, parent, boss or employee. Admittedly thinking of God in some of these roles is strange, but I got the point.
I thought about the roles I have that include authority and remembered Jesus who taught His disciples that the greatest in the kingdom comes as one who serves not one who lauds it over others as the Gentiles do (Mark 10:42-45). That puts a different spin on being a boss or father!
A second application I had went like this.  How can I appropriately display the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:21-22) as I live out my various roles?
Yes, life has an order to it, and God says fulfill my roles with the grace that Jesus provides…
Lord, thank You for the circle of people in my life. Help me to love and serve them honoring You alone who is Lord. Amen.
 
 

Tuesday, December 25: Ephesians 5- What Pleases the Lord?.

Merry Christmas!
And find out what pleases the Lord (10). What a great line. I love it. It makes perfect sense. Find out what pleases the Lord and live that way!
So I began thinking.  How do I find out what pleases the Lord?
Well, clearly God’s Word is involved. As I read and study The Word, I will better and better understand the heart beat of God.
Personal prayer, speaking with the Lord will help me know and understand God’s heart beat. I know myself well enough to know that I need to make sure what I believe I am hearing from God is in accordance with His Word. I am a great rationalizer and can fool myself into believing that things I like to do God likes me to do!
Talk with and read what those close to the Lord says pleases Him. This can be very helpful. There is incredible wisdom in the saints who have gone before us. Again, experience has taught me that I must weigh the comments of these other folk against the Word of God. They are not perfect, after all.
Ultimately it comes down to doing those things I know please the Lord. I suspect that most of us who have been Christians for a while know plenty about what pleases the Lord. The key is spending our time doing them…
Well, I have some things I should be doing…
Lord, thank You for this simple gift from Your Word…loving neighbor, living the fruit of the spirit in all interpersonal interactions. These two things which I know please You are enough to keep me going for the rest of my life.  My problem, Lord, is doing them, not so much knowing them. Give me strength to live for You today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
 

Monday, December 24: Ephesians 4- making every effort.

I appreciate those passages that give me a handle on how I am to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. This chapter has a number of handles, manageable chunks that give me an answer as to what should I do/how I should live now that I name Jesus to be Lord of my life.
My eyes and heart focused on the first ‘handle’ in the chapter. Verses 1-3: I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. How should I live? I should live worthy of my calling as a child of God, an heir with Jesus in my Heavenly Father’s family. And I live worthily by:
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Being humble and gentle… seeking the good, lifting up and encouraging others before myself and doing what I do with a kind, gentle spirit.
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Being patient bearing with one another in love… giving people space to grow as God would have it, not losing my temper when things don’t go as I plan or want. Making love my aim… remember 1Cor 13:4-8!
<![if !supportLists]>·         <![endif]>Making every effort to keep unity.  It is so easy to slip into looking out for #1 or dividing the body into groups –the ‘spiritual’ and ‘less spiritual’, the ‘righteous’ and the ‘not-so-righteous’, the ‘in and the out crowd’, the ‘important’ and ‘not-so-important’. ‘None of this’, says the Lord.
Well’ God has certainly given me a handle on how to live for Him today and every day.
Now comes the question.  Will I do it? How about you?
Oh, God, I am incapable of living this way apart from You and the presence of Jesus through the Spirit in my life. Help. Help me. Help me to live a life worth of the calling I have as Your son. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 

Saturday, December 22: Ephesians 3- Proclaiming God's eternal purposes

I have read Ephesians 30-50 times and I am still amazed how rich and powerful each chapter is when I read it again.
Two sentences begged me to meditate upon them this morning. The first is found in verse 6, This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Through the Gospel, through Jesus, the entire world have become heirs with Israel. Through the Gospel and through Jesus, everyone has access to be part of God’s unique and special family! I sat and pondered that incredible blessing. Through Jesus and faith in Jesus, God has opened the doorway for everyone to know Him. I am so blessed, you are so blessed. But I heard a faint charge as well in these verses. Blessed as we are, we are the doorway for those who have not yet heard to hear and enter this awesome relationship with God the Father! There remains much work to be done telling the world and all peoples about Jesus. And so I pondered what God would have me do to tell the world about Him.
The second sentence comprises verses 10 and 11. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. I was awe struck. After pondering how to tell all nations about Jesus, I read that through us, God is also showing heavenly rulers and authorities His eternal power! God is using us –the Church- to proclaim His eternal purposes to Satan and His minions! WOW! Every person saved from Satan’s hand, every people group with a living church is a declaration of God’s eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord! Halleluiah!
Lord, may my life lived well, result in choruses of praise to You. To You, Oh God, be the honor and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
 

Friday, December 21: Ephesians 2- By grace you have been saved.

Twice those words are repeated, by grace you have been saved… I found myself sitting with those words.
First I personalized them, By grace I have been saved. God did it all for me… God saved me, none of my saving was my doing. God did it all. God reached down into the slimy pit of hell and snatched me up and out! Me! God did this for me. (I remembered from yesterday that I was chosen for this honor before the creation of the world! Wow!!) I can’t even begin to understand why me… but I will rejoice in God’s gift to me,
Next I pondered the word ‘grace’…unmerited favor, getting what we/I do not deserve. The criminal receiving a pardon, the student caught cheating a passing grade, Ebenezer Scrooge’s visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Grace, getting what we do not deserve.
Finally we/I have been given grace. We have already received it. This is not a future hope.  It is a present reality, which brings with it a future hope the promise of eternity with God forever once our time this side of the grave is over!
What a wonderful morning with my Lord…
My heart sings Your praise, Oh Lord; Father Son and Spirit. My soul rejoices in You, God, my Savior. You redeemed me from the pit and set me on solid ground. You transformed my eternity to one that is filled with hope and promise and Your presence. You have set me to be a light on a hill shining so all may see You.
Praise to You Lord, the Author of Salvation and the Savior of my life. Amen.
 

Thursday, December 20: Ephesians 1- The glow of God's truth.

I find myself sitting and basking in the wonder and glow of this chapter. After the formal opening, it begins declaring that we have been chose by God to be holy and blameless and that before the creations of the world. Is this amazing or what?! Christ-followers were in God’s eye before He created a molecule. I really can’t grasp that. I just sit with it, letting it wash over me like a warm shower.

And after Paul expands upon all that comes with being chosen, and it is a fantastic journey through verses 3-14, Paul shifts to thanksgiving and prayer, during which the position and power of Jesus is lauded.

What a journey with the Lord, my Lord, the One who chose and saved me this day.

Oh, Lord God, I am close to speechless that You chose me! You guarantee my inheritance!

I pray that Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is effective in my life.  That I may know You better and more fully and that the eyes of my heart may be opened to You more and more each and every day until I am called to be with You in glory forever. I pray this in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Wednesday, December 19: Galatians 6- Doing good.

Yesterday I read about being free to love and serve… that message is still resonating in me. I have been saved for a purpose to touch lives for good and God, to love and serve and thereby tell God’s story and proclaim His Gospel.

Paul looks at a similar theme from a different angle in today’s chapter. If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. … A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good…. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (1, 7-10)

From the selfish side, when we do good, we are sowing from the Spirit and therefore will reap from the Spirit, eternal life. I like that. I want that.

From the duty side, do so much good that we become weary doing good to everyone, sinner and saved, fellow Christ-follower and people of a different religious persuasion.

Doing good… I wonder how much good I can do today?

Lord, help me be a ‘do-gooder’ all my life long for Your Name Sake. I pray in Your Name, Jesus. Amen.

 

 

 

Tuesday, December 18: Galatians 5- Freedom.

Another rich chapter. My heart soared as I read verses 13-14, You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. …

Called to freedom… those 3 words sound luxurious! After begging and chiding the Galatians not to be circumcised and fall out of grace and back under the law, Paul pens these liberating words. You… were called to be free.  I can feel the weight of having to do ‘this ritual’ and ‘that religious duty’ lifted off my shoulders!

Without any break, Paul continues expressing the wonderful reality of this verse. We are called to be free.  Free, that is, in order to serve one another in love. I am no longer a slave to myself, to selfishness, to destructive vices.  No, I am free to love and serve others!!! I am free to inject love into arenas filled with competition and envy. I am free to spend time with people passed by, by others because I am no longer bound by performance-based relationships (I give to you so you have to give to me). I am free to live differently because Christ lives in me and God defines my worth not others or the world-system of which I am a part.

Wow, this is freedom of a magnitude the world apart from Jesus does not know!

You were called to be free … [to] serve one another in love.

Oh, Jesus, I want to live in Your freedom! I want to live with Your love. Oh, Jesus, I want to serve as You served! Help me, I pray. Amen.

 

Monday, December 17: Galatians 4- Abba, Father.

I have had a number of nicknames throughout my life and the interesting thing is you can tell the era by hearing the nickname. Names are part of our story. And the names we have for others tell some things about the nature of our relationship.

Verse 6, spoke powerfully to me this morning. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." I have heard Abba defined in different ways. ‘Dear Father’ and ‘Daddy’ are two frequent interpretations of Abba.

To meditate on God as ‘Abba’, as ‘Dear Father’, as ‘Daddy’, is powerful for me. I have a good earthly father, so I carry no unfortunate baggage when it comes to the term ‘father.’ However, to think of God, the perfect Father inviting me to call him ‘Daddy’ or ‘Dearest father’ blows me away.

God is inviting me into relationship by using one of the closest and most caring relationships humankind knows! Wow!

Awe descends. The One who made the stars and atoms invites me to sit on His lap, to be protected by His might, to be enthralled by His wisdom, to know His love and so much more!

I think I will climb onto Abba’s lap right now…

Dearest Father God, Abba, my Abba, thank You for this safe place, a place to be known, cared for and protected. Thank You that I may come to this place whenever I need.

Oh, Father, my delight is to be Your son and my honor to represent You when I am anywhere but with You. May others see in me, You… Amen

 

Saturday, December 15: Galatians 3- So much here.

Chapter 3 is one of those chapters where every paragraph and many sentences are a meal. There is so much here. Here are a few verses that jumped out at me.

Verse 2: I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

Verse 8: The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."

Verse 11: Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith."

Verse 28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For certain I could have chosen other verses as well. There is so much here.

I kept rereading those 4 verses…

From verse 2: obviously the receiving of the Spirit was not a theological statement. The Spirit provided a presence and a power that was noticeable. I pondered how the giving of the Holy Spirit has become an ‘add-on’ to the faith in our day… Do you have any thoughts?

From verse 8: I realized how often God’s global and all-encompassing plan for salvation has been from the very beginning. The great commission is not new; it is an obvious statement built upon God’s entire plan from the beginning.

From verse 11: it is all about faith in Jesus, not laws, not duty, not rituals! FAITH in Jesus!

From verse 28: human distinctions of gender, societal position and nationality/ethnicity have no place in the church. All are one in Christ!

These are some of the ‘meals’ I enjoyed as I sat with God and His Word this morning.

Lord God, thank You for the banquet You provide day after day. I bless Your name and am thankful that I have been invited to dine at Your table. Such is the gift of faith in Jesus. Amen.

 

Friday, December 14: Galatians 2- The heart of the Gospel.

Verses15-16: We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Is it observing rules and regulations or faith in Jesus that saves people? Faith in Jesus!

Here is the crux of Galatians. It is not any set of rules, Jewish laws or church laws that save. Only Jesus saves! Paul got this and when he observed Peter, who had come to visit him in Antioch, slipping back into law-directed living, Paul confronted Peter to his face (11).

It was Paul’s direct, person-to-person approach to Peter that caught my devotional eye.

All too often we humans (and I am guilty of this far too often as well) oppose and confront others in the shadows and through less than direct means, like passive-aggressive actions. When we see something happening

-we gossip behind the others back…

-we enlist others to help straighten the person out…

-we do nothing because we are afraid to hurt them or loose a friend, or…

-we triangulate, bringing in another party to do the confrontation…

Paul went straight to Peter and man-to-man dealt with the problem. It struck me. NO interpersonal games, Paul owned his observations and confronted Peter with them.

It turns out in this case Paul was correct and the implication is that Peter got it and the church was better for it.  If Paul had been wrong they could have ironed things out, Paul would have been corrected and, again, the church would have been better for it.

It took two Big men to have this situation work out. I see some life lessons in the ‘how’ of the story and not just the ‘what and why.’

Thank You, Lord, for showing me this. Thank You, Lord, for an example of ‘speaking the truth in love.’ Thank You, Jesus, that faith in You, not the law, is the way of salvation. And Thank You, Lord, for men who cared and dared to live it –imperfectly as all humans do. Thank You, Jesus, for faith to believe in You. Amen.

 

Thursday, December 13: Galatians 1- Known from the womb.

In many ways Galatians is quite a shift from the OT prophet Malachi, but in others, it is similar. Both Malachi and Paul use forceful words and images to gain the attention and challenge the faith of God’s people.

As I read through chapter 1 and came upon verse 15 a prayer struck my heart, “Oh God I pray that all of us who follow Jesus know OUR depth of calling…”

Here are the words that captured my attention: But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me …

Would that all of us who follow Jesus knew this… that God set us apart from our mother’s womb, revealed Jesus to us and called us by His grace! Wow!

We all are known from the womb…

We all have had Jesus revealed to us …

We all have been called by grace…

Paul was called to preach, but you may have been called to live for Jesus in the marketplace or as a stay-at-home mom, or in the medical field or teacher or… (fill in the occupation of your life). As ‘Christ followers’ we have all been called to lift up Jesus where we live and work and play.

Think about this as you live your life today… you are known and know Jesus and have been called to spread His message into the world.

Oh Lord, that everyone who reads this and who worships in a Christian gathering this week knows that we, too, are known and called to serve Jesus and the Gospel in unique fitted to who we are and how God has created us… I pray this for the Father’s Glory that the Son be lifted up as we live through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 


Wednesday, December 12: Malachi 4- O Happy Day.

Oh, happy day (oh, happy day)

Oh, happy day (oh, happy day)

When Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)

oh, when he washed (when Jesus washed)

when Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)

he washed my sins away!

(oh, happy day) Ah, happy day

(oh, happy day) …

As soon as I finished reading this short chapter, I found myself singing this song. Malachi sees the day when Jesus will come, preach, teach, heal and point us to the Father through faith in Him. Because of Jesus, those who believe, have their sins washed away. Because of Jesus, those who believe, can be restored into a life-giving and eternal relationship with God the Father. Because of Jesus, we who believe, can be empowered to infect the world with Jesus’ teachings through the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

What’s more, when Jesus returns in glory for His ultimate return we will join Him in trampling evil and establishing God’s reign once and forever! What a happy day that will be…

Lord, may I live in joy and happiness for Jesus’ first coming and in expectation for His final return! Alleluia. Amen!

 

 

If you have been following me from the early days, You have now read the entire Bible, every chapter in every book at least once. And more than that you have read the NT at least 2.5 times. Congratulations, God’s Wword is filling nooks and crannies of your life.

I hope you will continue reading the Bible throughout your life… I will be and you are welcome to keep on reading with me.

To the praise and glory of God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace, Bill

 

Tuesday, December 11: Malachi 3- Robbing God.

The phrase ‘robbing God’ always catches my attention. How can a mere person rob God? The thought on one hand is laughable. Yet there it is, staring me in the face and it is God who uses it. Israel robbing God?

This issue is clear. Israel is not giving her tithes to the Lord. God’s people are not tithing.

I don’t really want to get into justifying the whole tithing (10%) thing here. God knows I am settled on that point and if you are reading this blog you need to settle that issue with the Lord. If you want to dialogue with me about it, send me an email and we can have fun discussing it one-on-one.

What does strike me is how we, God’s people in every age, come up with ways to give God the least we can without feeling guilty. These Israelites were not tithing, which was an OT law. In the NT Jesus talks about Pharisees who would set aside money as ‘corban’ so they didn’t have to follow God’s law about caring for aging parents. Paul has to remind the Corinthians about generosity (2Cor 9). It seems that honoring God and being generous toward God, particularly with our money and resources, is difficult for most of us.

I have no memory of ever having a conversation with anyone about how he/she could give God more! Every conversation I have ever had about money and God is just the opposite… what is the least I can give God and be ‘okay?’

So today I am thinking about my giving.  I invite you to do that, too. And how about this twist?  How about thinking how you can give more of your wealth and finances away to God-honoring activities.

Think about it…

Lord, create in me a generous heart… and the will to live generously toward You and the causes You delight in. Amen

Monday, December 10: Malachi 2- God's hammer.

Boom, the hammer of God comes down.

Priests, you are no longer faithful. You do not teach God’s Truth. Not only are you in error, but you are leading others into error. Boom!

Judah, you have broken faith. You have left the wife of your youth, divorced and pursued others. Boom!

Judgment is coming because you have perverted God’s Truth, saying evil in the eyes of the Lord is good. Boom!

I sit under the weight of this morning’s readings. God expects faithfulness to what He has said and written. It is not for us to re-write what God has spoken. It is ours to receive and live what God has spoken.

It is not for God’s teachers to explain away what the text says, but to teach it.

How sad our world must make God. Ancient understandings of the text are being discarded without Biblical reason or foundation. Personal faithfulness is being replaced by ‘do what you feel is right,’ even when there is no Biblical warrant for what you feel.

Oh Father, it is far too easy to point fingers at others than to listen and apply this to myself. I am a teacher. Lord, show me my places of error and misinterpretation, so that I may follow Your Wword!

Oh Father, it is far too easy to point fingers at others than to listen and apply this to myself. Show me, O Lord, where I disregard Your teachings on sexual ethic or other arenas of faith, that I may set my believing aright and live as You would have me live.

Oh Father, it is far too easy to point fingers at others than to listen and apply this to myself. Show me where I pervert Your truth and twist it so that my thinking is opposed to Yours.

Correct me, Oh Father, that I might live a life that pleases You, even if it does not please other people in my world. In and through Jesus, I pray. Amen. 

 

Saturday, December 8: Malachi 1- The best or not at all.

My talk with the Lord this morning revolved around the second section (verses 6-14). For me this section was summarized in verse 14 "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.

God wants us to give our best to Him or nothing at all.

The picture Malachi paints is a clear bait and switch. The people have choice flocks, which they say they will offer to God, but at the time of the offering they substitute a lesser deformed animal. God says “NO WAY, your best or nothing!”

I don’t use animal sacrifice, thankfully, so where does this touch my life? Do I talk myself into writing a lower amount on my weekly giving check because I think I can skate by? Is my devotional/prayer time with the Lord during my best time of the day or at some other time so that I can use my best time for work or play?

These are the kinds of thoughts I entertained as I listened to the Holy Spirit breath life into this text for me. Am I giving God my best or my leftovers???

Lord, You are God Almighty. Clearly You deserve the best. As Malachi says, ‘Would you give that to the governor?’  Forgive me when I choose to give You other-than my best, when I substitute something less than my best to You.

Wash me clean so that my life will honor You above everything else. Amen.

 

Friday, December 7: Zechariah 14- Holy/Wholly to the Lord.

As this chapter about what the Lord will do on ‘that day’ wound down the phrase HOLY TO THE LORD was in scribed on bells and pots (20).

I found myself glued to that phrase.

I found myself thinking, what if that were said of me and of the Church, what differences would be seen in the world. I also wondered what differences would there be if it were written WHOLLY TO THE LORD?

First and most importantly regarding me… Wow, what would it be like if I were HOLY & WHOLLY TO THE LORD? How would this affect my use of time, money, etc. I sat here for quite some time thinking and wondering. I wondered if my life would look more like Francis of Assisi. Then I thought,’ no’, I am married with children, so a monk is not my calling. Honestly, no role models came to mind, so I abandoned the idea of a quick answer.

I kept pondering. Purely selfish expenditures of time and money came to mind. Now here were some changes that likely would happen. Instead, ‘God honoring uses’ would be given to those time/money resources… and so my morning went.

What would it mean in your life if you were HOLY & WHOLLY TO THE LORD? Think about it.

Lord, to love You with heart and mind and soul and strength is Your desire. I fall so far short. Help me, strengthen me, teach me, encourage me… that I might be HOLY & WHOLLY to Yours. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen

 

 

Friends, Malachi, which we begin reading today is the last book of the Old Testament. Chronologically it is the last book as well. After Malachi there were 400 years of silence before God again spoke, this time through the incarnation of Jesus.

 

Thursday, December 6: Zechariah 13- In the lap of the Lord.

Zechariah has many prophecies that connect to Jesus… strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered (7) is mentioned in connection with Jesus’ arrest in the garden.

It is wonderful to be connected to Jesus as I read The Word. Verse 7 brought me to Jesus, a wonderful place to hold my devotions.

Now connected with Jesus, verse 9 spoke to me. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'

Calling on the Lord, that is what I am doing as I sit with God’s Word… And God answers me, God sits with me. God calls me His own and reminds me that He is the Lord and He is my Lord. Oh, the wonder of sitting in the lap of my Lord God Almighty.

And this is where I spend my time this morning… in the lap, in the embrace, in the presence of the Lord!

Thank You and Bless You… Lord God Almighty, for who You are and for the all the time You incline Your ear to me… I am so blessed.

Lord,  fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might shout from the mountain tops, ‘The Lord Reigns!’  Blessed be the name of the Lord. Alleluia. Amen.

 

Wednesday, December 5: Zechariah 12 - what is your life built upon?.

What is your security built upon? On what/who does your strength rest?

As Zechariah looks toward ‘that’ day he sees Jerusalem strong and secure. Her security and strength does not grow from an inner resolve or massive army or a protector nation like Egypt. Instead, Jerusalem’s strength, security and protection comes directly from the Lord. Then the leaders of Judah will say in their hearts, 'The people of Jerusalem are strong, because the LORD Almighty is their God' (5).

How different that is from today. When I read the news about Israel, her strength today comes from her well-trained army, her consolidated front and the United States as her allies. Clearly today is not the day Zechariah envisions.

Zechariah’s description of Judah in ‘that’ day draws me to contemplate where my security rests. Is my security built on my government for protection, for retirement (social security), for health care? Is my security resting on my medical insurance, my 401k and my portfolio? Is my security build upon my ability to make a buck, my frugality or my ingenuity?

These are difficult questions to answer, because certainly some of my security rests in these places. They are all factored into my life-long stewardship plan. But my questioning must go deeper still. If all of my answers begin with ‘me’ and ‘my’ then I must beware that I have built a ‘house of cards’ that could come tumbling down at any moment.

Supporting my stewardship hopefully is the Lord as the true foundation of my life. My life, if I am truly a Christ-disciple, rests in His care and watchful protection.

My life is His; my goal, His glory; my future in His hands…

Lord Jesus, Father Almighty, Holy Spirit, I pray this is so. I pray that my hope and future and life rests in You. Only then can I be content. Only then will I rest. Only then will I be greeted into eternity with the words I long to hear, ‘well done good and faithful servant…’

I ,again today, pledge my allegiance to You, Lord God Almighty. Amen.

 

Tuesday, December 4: Zechariah 11 - God's Antithesis.

Sometimes seeing what is ugly or broken helps one to appreciate beauty.

I remember distinctly this river in Nigeria. Standing on the bridge looking down stream… the small stream flows irrigating some fields.  Though a bit brown you can see how the constant flow of water feeds the otherwise dry land.

Looking down stream

 

Turning upstream, I was horrified! The extreme litter and garbage was disgusting. Who would ever go in that river or use the water from that river for anything! Nauseating...

Looking upstream

 

God pictures for the people the anti-shepherd. For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs (16). And then He pronounces His curse upon this anti-shepherd, "Woe to the worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword strike his arm and his right eye! May his arm be completely withered, his right eye totally blinded!" (17).

Reading what this shepherd will be like helps me understand and appreciate all the more the gift of the Good Shepherd, Jesus who seeks the lost, heals the sick and cares for His flock even with His life…

Thank You, Oh Jesus,  for being the Good Shepherd, for saving me, caring for me and all those of Your flock. I love and praise You, my Lord and my God. Amen.

 

Monday, December 3: Zechariah 10 - Ask.

This chapter continues God’s message of care for His people Judah. God will watch over them. God will care for them.

The very first word of the first verse drew me into thought. Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.

Ask…

God is the maker of rain.God is the caretaker of Judah’s fields and crops. God will care for them. And yet the first word of this chapter is ‘ask.’

Ask…

It is as if God is saying ask for what you need. And isn’t that precisely what Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you (Matthew 7:7)? Yes, God will care and God will watch over and God will provide… but there is something about asking…

It seems there is something about being so dependent that we ask for what we need and God longs to give.

I am not a good ‘asker’ of anyone, so this word and this devotion is a challenge for me. But not the kind of challenge that seems grueling or difficult. It is hard because it calls me to a new place in my walk and relationship with the Lord. I am feeling called to that place of asking for what I need, what I would generally simply assume God would provide.

I am being invited into the place of asking…

Lord, I ask for daily bread… Lord, I ask for safety for friends in Nigeria… Lord, I ask for my kids, jobs and… Lord, for my church growth…

Lord, I am learning to ask. Help me overcome self-reliance that is a barrier between me and a deeper relationship with You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Saturday, December 1: Zechariah 9- God my defender.

Zechariah 9:9 is a prophecy Jesus fulfilled on Palm Sunday when He road into Jerusalem on a donkey. As familiar as that verse is, it was the immediately preceding one, which sparked my meditation.

Verse 8, the Lord speaking: But I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch. God faithfully defends His house, His family. As I read these words, I had a picture of God standing with sword drawn against any enemy saying, “Not My house, you will not overrun or destroy My family.”

I suspect that this so touched me because I have been studying 1Corinthians in the New Testament recently. In the early chapters of that letter, God says very similar things about the Church, His Church. God will defend His Church and no enemy from within or without will destroy Her.

As these thoughts tumble, I am reminded of Jesus who also said, “the gates of hell will not prevail against her” (Matthew 16:18)

God is the defender of His people, of this I am sure and in this I find my rest!

Oh Lord, thank You for Your strong arm and fierce love. Thank and bless You Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Friday, November 30: Zechariah 8- to the ends of the earth.

A sigh of rejoicing descended upon me as I read. God’s promise to restore will prevail. God will bring life to the captives and rebuild and reestablish Jerusalem after the captivity. God has not forgotten Israel. Their punishment is over, now the promises of God will flow again.

And the restoration of Jerusalem will have greater impact than the first time. 20-22: This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.' And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him."

God’s hope has always been the calling of a people from every tribe and nation. Even though Israel didn’t extend God’s love faithfully, God didn’t abandon His Abrahamic blessing to all nations. The time was coming when that blessing would be fulfilled.

Even the second Temple didn’t fulfill this Word, but when Christ came this Word began to be fulfilled. You and I are living in the time of fulfillment and we are the disciples of Jesus to take His name to the ends of the earth.

Oh Lord, empower me, empower Your church to proclaim Your Name and Word so that all nations and peoples will come to You. For Your glory, I pray. Amen.

 

 

Thursday, November 29: Zechariah 7- Look inside.

Elizabeth Elliot, a Christ-disciple I deeply respect once said, “The best we can hope for is mixed motives.” Her words are so true. Even in my moments of deepest reverence and love for the Lord, there are pockets and specks of selfishness and willful disobedience to the Lord. I am imperfect at best.

Knowing this, it is healthy and wise to probe my inner life from time to time and honestly ask myself…how am I doing and where do I need to grow and change?  God poses introspective questions through Zechariah to His people.

Verses 4-6 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: "Ask all the people of the land and the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?

Here lies my musings and meditations for today. Am I as sold out to Jesus as actions might suggest? Are the motives for my spiritual and religious actions God-oriented or self-serving? Wow, this is not easy to consider but as I probe and examine, Elizabeth Elliott’s words ring more and more true. I am full of mixed motives.

Lord, every day, every moment, I fall short of You. The grip of my frail humanness is stronger than I like to admit. You alone are worthy and perfect, I am not, but just speak the word and I will be cleansed.

Thank You, Jesus, for your cleansing blood. Thank You, Jesus, for Your gift of the cross. Alleluia. Amen.

 

 

Wednesday, November 28: Zechariah 6 - God calls the shots.

This brief chapter may be the most difficult in the whole of the Bible for me to understand. For the second morning –yes, second morning- I have wondered about both its meaning (I don’t think I understand it yet) and a word from the Lord I can hold onto devotionally. I actually took 2 days to figure out what to write. Yesterday both meaning and devotional thought eluded me and so instead of writing, I prayed and closed my Bible to return to it today.

This was a healthy moment for me in God’s Word. Just because I don’t immediately understand, does not mean I should close the book and give up trying to learn and grow. NO, just the opposite, I am human and will likely never understand it all. But I stay under The Word, letting what I do know and understand guide me as I seek to learn more and more from the Lord.

For the second morning, I labored to understand and/or to receive a piece of encouragement from the Lord in this chapter.

In past years, I would have simply pushed on to the next chapter; writing these chapter by chapter musings forced me to linger…

My determination (wrestling, wondering, searching what commentators have written) paid off as I realized, through verses 5 & 7, that God calls the shots. The angel answered me, "These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. …. And he said, "Go throughout the earth!" So they went throughout the earth.

First God is named as the Lord of the Whole World… quite a title. Then we see at His command the horses go throughout the earth.

God calls the shots. When God says it is time for judgment or time for His people to return or whatever He chooses, it happens. God calls the shots.

And I, for one, would rather rest in the merciful and just hands of the Almighty, who calls the shots, than understand all His ways and so reduce God to being little more that a smart human.

Lord God, I surrender my will to You, my ways to You, my life to You… lead, guide, direct, even compel me as You wish. I bow to You who calls the shots, to You who are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Amen.

 

Tuesday, November 27: Zechariah 5 - Salvation and forgiveness .

If you have been reading with me for a while you know prophetic pictures like these are a struggle for me. It is hard for me to decipher both the intended meaning and a morning devotional meaning. Today proved true to form.

I read and re-read the chapter sitting under the weight of God’s Word.

The first vision speaks to the certainty of judgment of sin, which is where I landed devotionally. Thieves and liars will be banished. These are just 2 of the 10 Commandments. I wondered do they represent the whole of the 10 Commandments? In other words, anyone who breaks God’s law will be banished. Certainly seems plausible.

Hmmm, sin will be punished.  My thoughts dove deep. I am so guilty. As the weight of this (my) situation settled on me, its weight began to lift. But wait, this is not the final word. There is forgiveness of sins for all who call out to the Lord, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:13 & Romans 10:13). And if we confess our sins, John reminds believers, God is faithful to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).

Salvation and forgiveness… there is an answer for my (your) sin problem! Jesus.

I sat in silence for a moment, feeling the weight of my sin lift and gratitude in my heart grow. God did for me what I could never and would never have done for myself. Thanks be to God!

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of creation. Oh my soul sings for He is my life and salvation. All you who hear now to the Lord drawer near. Praise Him with glad adoration.

Thank You, Lord. Thank You.

 

Monday, November 26: Zechariah 4 - We need more than wisdom and power.

In the center of this prophetic chapter, which has numerous connections to the book of Revelations, sits a thought provoking sentence. Verse 6: So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.

Zerubbabel, how will you accomplish what God has for you to do? 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. That word shot like an arrow into my life.

How will I do the kingdom-things God has for me to do? Not by might nor by power, but by the Lord’s Spirit. That is God’s Word to me today.

The things God has for me (and you) to do, whether in the marketplace, home, community, or church, will be accomplished only through the presence and power of God’s Spirit in our lives. Human wisdom and power can only take us so far and they are never enough to have us accomplish what God has for us to do.

God’s Spirit, God in us, the Holy Spirit is essential to do the things of God. It is no coincidence that God told the church to wait until He poured out His Holy Spirit on them and sent them into the world with the message of Jesus. Acts 2 is essential for Acts 3-28! And the Spirit remains essential if we are to go throughout all the world in the name of Jesus.

Father God, thank You for giving to every believer in Jesus, the promised Holy Spirit. Help me, help us to rely on the Spirit as we spread Your kingdom throughout the marketplace, home, community and world. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Saturday, November 24: Zechariah 3- Hearing God's voice.

The scene captivated me.  Joshua stood there with Satan accusing and God defending. It seems like a good metaphor for life.  Satan on one side accusing me, baiting me, trying to lead me any way but toward faithfulness. And then there is God or his representative, offering me God’s Way, 'If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will…’ (7).

This battle depicted rages around me all the time. Satan luring me to move away from the Lord or accusing me, wanting me to feel guilty and ashamed.  Then there is God, calling me to His side, offering forgiveness and cleansing.

I began to ponder how I can resist Satan’s voice and respond to the Lord’s Voice. Maybe the most important step is to learn God’s Voice. For me, knowing what God has said in the Bible is really helpful because God’s Voice to me will always accord with the Bible. By learning God’s Word, I also know when Satan is trying to lure me away from God’s Way.

For me God’s Word is key in recognizing whether God or Satan is the voice I am hearing. How about you? Is God’s Word a foundation for you as well???

Oh God, thank You for giving us Your Word. Help me to treasure it for the gift it is. Thank You for Your Word, Lord. Thank You. Amen.

 

Friday, November 23: Zechariah 2- Many nations.

This chapter points to a day which is still to come when Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you (11).

Many nations … will become my people. God’s grand scheme from the beginning* is for many nations, all peoples (Gen 12:3), all nations (Mt  28:19), the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) and so on, will come to the Lord.

We sometimes think ‘the ends of the earth’ is a New Testament expansion of God’s plan, but no. It was God’s heart, intention and plan from the beginning.

I sat back and marveled at the wonder of this chapter. Then I began to ask myself (or was it God asking me?)….what was I doing to cooperate with God in expanding His name to all peoples and nations and the ends of the earth??

Is it simply enough to give some money to missions? Is it simply enough to be part of a church that gives 10-15-20% to mission near and around the world? What would God have me to do?  The two key words in this last sentence is ‘me do.’ This thought led me to prayer.

Oh Lord, show me what I can do… show me places I should go, show me people-groups I should pray for, show me missionaries I should support with prayer, finances, resources and anything else You desire. Show me, Lord, show me… Amen.

 

*The message of God’s grand scheme is so clear in this chapter, and yet I wondered if I would have noticed it had I not currently been taking a 15-week course titled ‘Perspectives on the World Christian Movement’. It is a powerful teaching. Consider checking it out at www.perspectives.org. If there is a course near you, I highly recommend it.