Wednesday, September 30: Revelation 7- Will I be faithful?.

Whether it is the 144,000 or the multitude no one could count, the example is the same. These people willingly died for Jesus rather than deny Him. They were faithful through ordeals and died in the process.

Their witness screams a question to me, “Will I be faithful no matter what?”

I cannot answer this question with absolute certainty; I have never been tested to the point of death. But I can say that I pray I would have the faith to stand for Jesus no matter what!

My desire is to be faithful to my Savior, Jesus, like the faithful people mentioned in this chapter of Revelation.

Lord, Jesus, I pledge my life to you. You are my life. You are my hope. You are my Lord and pledge my life to You. … In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen

 

Tuesday, September 29: Revelation 6- How different the reactions.

Stark contrast… that’s what I thought.

When the Lamb opened the 5th seal, those who had died as martyrs for the faith greeted the Lord by name and asked how long.  The Lamb blessed them with white robes and told them they would have to wait a little longer. It is a poignant scene. Those who have loved the Lord in life speak with Him honestly and listen respectively. They are clothed with honor for their new life to come (9-11).

But when the next seal is opened and the terrors of God begin to fall on what is left of humanity on earth. People, whether kings or paupers, run and hide fearing the day of wrath coming from the Lamb.

Connection, conversation, respect and honor fill one scene and one group of people. Fear, hiding and running characterize the other.

What differentiates these two groups of people? Faith, belief and confession of their faith and belief in the Lamb before others is the difference. One group loves and serves the Lord and the other does not.

I have staked my future on the Lamb, have you?

Jesus, I am Yours. Use me to spread Your name and Your fame across the earth. And, Lord, if the path You have for me is martyrdom, I pray that I may accept that road with total trust in You like my sisters and brothers mentioned with the opening of the 5th seal.

All to Jesus I surrender… Amen.

 

Monday, September 28: Revelation 5- Songs to the Lord.

These pictures of worship before the throne in Heaven give me chills. To be numbered among the redeemed and to be singing to and praising the Lord with redeemed and perfected saints in Heaven blesses me.

God alone is worthy… the Lamb is worthy to receive honor and glory and power… (11).

The absolute focus of worship upon the Lord convicts me as I consider so much of our worship these days. There is no mention of the worshippers or self in any way. Total focus is on the One who sits on the throne and the Lamb. God’s redeeming work coupled with God’s absolute position to be honored and glorified is the total focus of these songs of worship.

There is no ‘me’… no God saves me; Oh, God loves me and this is why I sing. There is no, I am blessed and so I praise God. There is not even any mention of ‘Oh, how he loves you and me’…

I recognize that these songs are not the sum total of worship displayed in the Bible but they are in such stark contrast to many of the present day worship songs and hymns we use that I feel convicted.

The worship I see in Revelation 4 & 5 shows worshippers with their faces in the dust singing songs totally absorbed in the person and work of their God, our God.

A worship leader I know and respect sometimes says, “Our worship on earth is rehearsal for our eternity of worship in heaven.” Maybe we should change our lyrics to reflect more closely the worship glimpses we have of worship in heaven… just a thought.

And maybe I need to alter my personal and private worship similarly…

All hail the power of Jesus name …

Crown Him with many crowns…

Praise to the Lord the almighty the king of creation…

Praise the name of Jesus…

All glory laud and honor…

Praise to You my God and King worthy alone are You to receive the praise of men and women…

Amen.

 

Saturday, September 26: Revelation 4- Honor God.

As worship spontaneously erupts before God’s throne in heaven we read, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever (10).

The image of the elders falling on their faces before God on the throne captured my attention. Reverence and honor came to mind as I considered the elders actions. In the face of the glory and majesty of God there was no other appropriate action than to fall on their faces. The way John describes the moment the elders voluntarily fall down before the Lord. They abase themselves in the presence of Almighty God.

Thinking about the elders caused me to think about my reverence of God. I may not be in heaven before the throne of God but the Lord still deserves the same honor from me.

I also thought that it is not the action of prostrating themselves per se but the honor that is due to the Lord. In other words, it is not whether I lay out before the Lord that is at stake, but whether I honor Him… in how I speak and live that matters right now. When I am ushered into His presence I, like the elders, will likely fall on my face before Him. But now….it matters how I live and how I speak about Him.

Honoring God… those words pound into my thoughts. Honor God. Respect God. Revere God… in thought, word, and deed by what I do and by what I choose not to do.

Lord, may the words of my mouth and the deeds of my life bring glory to You.  This, Lord, is how I might honor You today and all of my todays until I fall on my face before You when I enter Your throne room in heaven above. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, September 25: Revelation 3- God knows.

As I read these three letters, it hits me, “God knows!” The Lord says to all three of the churches, “I know your deeds…” (1, 8, 15). Those words smacked me. God knows!

God knows what I am doing and not doing. God knows what I am thinking.

The fact that God knows Laodicea is neither hot not cold (15) shows me that He knows intentions behind their actions! God knows my intentions as well as my actions. God knows…

I let that truth roll around and turn over and over in my thoughts.

I cannot hide from God what I am thinking or doing. I might be able to keep some things a secret from other people, but never from God.

Even though God knows, He still loves me. This is the facet of the truth that really blows me away. God knows my faults, sins, woundings, willful disobediences and He still loves me.

Even though it is a bit scary to be reminded that God knows, the comfort of His love for me, even though He knows, gives me great, GREAT comfort.

Thank You, Lord, God, for loving me. I am glad that You know. I don’t have to try to hide from You and I am loved for who I am, not some pretend fa├žade I construct. Praise be to You Lord, God. Amen.

 

Thursday, September 24: Revelation 2- Tests and testing.

 

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown (2 & 10).

The words ‘tested’ and ‘test’ caught my attention and I couldn’t shake them even after finishing the chapter. I did a little background work and learned they were the same original word and they mean what one would expect: examine, test, try, prove, to put to the test and the like.

In verse 2 the Ephesians tested those who claim to be apostles. Their tests showed that the people tested were not in fact apostles. I don’t know what the Ephesians used to test these imposters but I suspect it was likely something rigorous. After all it is no small matter if one is or is not an apostle. I wondered if we are appropriately testing pastors, guest speakers and the like who come into our parishes? Are they who they say they are? Are they faithful representatives of Jesus? Do we ‘test’ their messages? Let’s face it even honest faithful people can get some things wrong scripturally…! Testing of ‘would be’ apostles was one thing the Ephesian church got right! Do we???

In verse 10 Jesus alerts people of Smyrna that the devil will put some of you in prison to test you. I don’t like hardship. I don’t like pain. I don’t think anyone does. Nonetheless, it comes sometimes and at least in the case of the Smyrna Church, Satan’s hand was behind some of the hardships, pain and imprisonment testing the metal of the believers’ faith. When I go through hardships, am I faithful? That is the Lord’s Word to SmyrnaBe faithful, even to the point of death.

Those last words hit me… even to the point of death. How faithful am I when my faith is put to the test?

Testing is a good thing. It can protect us from wrong preaching, teaching and leaders and it can reveal places in my life that require shoring up and strengthening.

Tests are rarely easy, but they can be beneficial… that is what I am hearing in my time with the Lord this morning.

Holy Spirit, strengthen me so that I pass every test to the glory and honor of your name, my God –Father, Jesus Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, September 22: 3John- Who influences you?.

Some times the simple things are the most profound. John’s straightforward advice to his friend Gaius connected with me. Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God (11).

Seems like this is a no brainer, and really it is but being reminded of basic wisdom from time to time is healthy. I know it is for me anyway.

Do not imitate what is evil but what is good…

Who is it that I imitate? Oh, I have friends, mentors and people I admire and I know they have had influences on me. Choosing friends and those I hang with regularly is important and certainly impacts who I am and how I live.

But as I sit this morning, I also realize that media has a huge influence on me, partly because it has a huge influence on my society. And as much as I want to believe that I can live ‘beyond and above’ my society (which hopefully I am able to do in part anyway), I also know that my society and the area in which I live has a huge impact on me whether I like it or not.  When I travel in the developing world, I see how strong a grip the materialism of my world has on me.

Now not everything in my world is evil and even materialism isn’t evil but my world does influence me.

I began this foray thinking about influence and I don’t want to get too far afield. Media –radio, TV, internet, movies - have a huge influence, too. One small item, the houses portrayed in most movies and TV shows are a step up from real life. That subtly causes me to think about how my house can (even should) be bigger, better, nicer, etc. Influence...

So John says do not imitate what is evil but what is good. The first step to doing (imitating) something is being influenced to do so…

This morning the Lord is impressing upon me to consider the things that are influencing me. Are they doing so for good or for evil?  I have to think more about this.

Lord, it is fascinating how a simple word launched my thoughts this morning. Stay with me, Lord, and help me process this Word from You. Through Christ, my Lord, I pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday, September 23: Revelation 1- Freed from our sins.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (5b-6).

What a wonderful gift God has given to us in Jesus… God freed us from our sins by [Jesus’] blood. I realize that for many, those words may mean almost nothing. In a world that doesn’t talk about sin very much, being freed from sin’s weight and stain probably means very little. But after a person has been honest with self about sin… their own (my own) sin, that statement is an incredible gift!!!

My thoughts circled around the word ‘freed.’ Sin –my sin –can enslave me. I tell a lie and now that lie is a prison in which I must live forever.

I have watched a TV show called Suits. A young hot shot lawyer at a major law firm, Mike Ross, is living a lie. He never attended law school and falsified records that he is a Harvard Law Grad. It seems like every show the noose of his lie grows tighter and tighter. He is imprisoned by his own sin, a lie.

The text reminds me that in Jesus, and through confession of sin, we are freed from our sin. Oh, there may be earthly consequences but God no longer counts our sin against us. We are freed from the yoke of slavery to our sin and the judgment that comes from it.

Mike Ross is a fictitious character. I am not and thanks be to Jesus I am freed from my sins by Jesus’ blood.

What a gift… what a delightful truth to meditate on today. I am forgiven… I am freed from Sins weight and guilt and shame and eternal punishment. Alleluia.

Thank You, Jesus… Thank You, Jesus… praise Your wonderful name.

 

Monday, September 21: 2John- How are you doing?.

John bangs the drumbeat of love again in this letter. Love is the defining command for Christ followers. Put succinctly, And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love (5-6).

Love is walking in obedience to God’s commands.

How can I show that I love God… obey His commands? That’s John’s messages. That’s the Gospel message. John bangs this drum in every writing we have from him in the NT. It MUST be pretty important!!!

My heart wondered how am I doing in my love for God? I review the 10 Commandments in my head. I consider the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) next. I call up Scriptures and Scripture themes from my 40 years of reading the Bible yearly.

How am I doing? Eh. Some faithful and some not so faithful. I can see places where I have grown and learned and matured, and others where I continue to struggle.

I see areas of advance and areas where I have lost some ground. I remain a sinner saved by grace, imperfect and impure yet deeply in love with God –Father, Jesus, Spirit –striving to live for my God despite my failures, seeking to walk in love which means obedience to the God who saved me.

Lord, God, I am so grateful for You. Please forgive my failures and strengthen those areas of my character and life that fall. Hone those areas that are mostly faithful to You that they would grow in faithfulness. Chisel me into a son prepared, if necessary, to die for You and the faith You offer, and who lives for Your honor and glory every day. I pray in Your blessed name. Amen.

 

Saturday, September 19: 1John 5- Whoever has the Son has life .

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. … Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1,10-12).

Whoever has the Son has life… this Word tethers me to my faith. I have life because I ‘have’ the Son, Jesus. I believe in Him. I worship and adore Him. I believe Jesus is the one and only Son of God who ‘tabernacled’ among us for a while. I believe Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And by believing these things I believe I have been born again and been adopted into God’s family. I have been redeemed and made new by God’s grace and Jesus’ atonement on the cross.

I sat and marveled today about God’s Grace saving someone insignificant like me.  I sat and considered how blessed I am…

Then I thought I have a great responsibility to tell people about how wonderful Jesus is! God is sooooo good everyone needs to know.

Thank You, Lord God. Thank You for saving me, for giving me life in Jesus. Thank You for the rich heritage of the faith, for Your Word and the people who have lived by and with Your Word for millennia. May I be a faithful link in the chain of faith that stretches back in time to John and the other Apostles. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

Friday, September 18: 1John 4- Love.

God’s first touch came this morning through the simplest of phrases… ‘Dear friends.’ God inspired John to have such an easy going style in this letter. I come away with the sense that this is a fireside chat between friends. John, the older wiser friend, is imparting his seasoned wisdom to his younger buds. There is no harshness in this letter, no confrontation. Instead it is filled with genuine concern… Here’s what I know. Here’s what I have learned. Here is truth about God and God’s way.

This speaks to me.

An older, wiser person in the faith clarifying things of the faith to younger folks in the faith…

I am the younger person in the faith and John’s words are piercing right to my heart. And John clarifies understanding about Jesus and the importance of love.

Jesus is real, He came in the flesh and is from God and is the son of God. And love, particularly for one another in the faith, is to be expected. Love is how God deals with us and love is how we should deal with others. LOVE… which first comes from and is modeled by God… is the way we should live.

Love is the hallmark of genuine faith in the genuine Jesus.

Wow, there is my one sentence take away for today… Love is the hallmark of genuine faith in the genuine Jesus. That’s a statement I can chew on for the day…

Thank You, Lord God, for the simple truth of Jesus.   Thank you, Jesus, for expressing and living Your Love for us, asking us in turn to love You and others in gratitude for You already loving us. Thank You and praise You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen and Amen.

 

Thursday, September 17: 1John 3- Better to please God than.

Two very different verses drew me in. I’ll take them in the order I read them.

Verse 6: No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Reading 1John can give me the impression that to sin in any way is an ultimate ‘no no.’ I realize that John is making the point that sin is not good, but sometimes my personal ‘guilty meter’ gets pegged with some of his sin verses. The phrase in verse 6 continues to sin actually gives me comfort. My sense is that John is drawing a line differentiating when I fall into sin and when I embrace it and continue to do it… maybe because ‘Ahh, God will forgive me anyway!’ For me, at least, verse 6 places an element of not caring about sin or as I said above, intending to sin in full mind and thought!

I am far from perfect and I do sin and do so regularly. But generally I don’t dismiss it or even look for it and continue anyway. This verse says to me that there is a difference between sin and recurring, wonton, willful sinning. No sin is good and I will always be a sinner in need of grace.  However, a redeemed heart and life filled with the Spirit shouldn’t look to sin but should look to live for Jesus and advance Christ’s cause in this world…

The second verse for me today was verse 13: Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. It took me by surprise. And the surprise showed me how soft I have become for the Gospel. I am surprised when I am disliked (I don’t think I am hated for the Gospel’s sake) because of my various stands built on the Gospel. I guess there is still a part of me that has the ‘fairy tale’ notion that as a Christ-follower everyone should at least like me. This has never really been reality for God’s people, except maybe for a few centuries when the entire Roman world seemed to be Christian. I am realizing more and more lately as my world passes into post-modernity that being loved by my world is not possible unless I capitulate on key Scriptural teaching.

So why do I believe this? And why do I fool myself into thinking everyone should love me when I stand with Jesus? And worse yet, why do I question when people don’t love me?  Even as I think about this, I realize that I am called to love others and if they are hating me because they are reflecting back to me my hatred for them… then I have a problem. But if I am living in a loving, Christ honoring manner and have to take a tough stand and am hated for it… I need to live with that. Better to please God as opposed to other people

Well, I have certainly traveled interesting paths in my reading and meditations today. May it be for the glory of God and the refinement of my life according to the way of Jesus…

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word… life for my heart and soul and mind. I praise You and pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

 

Wednesday, September 16: 1John 2- Live your faith.

There is so much in this short chapter. And having recently read Augustine’s Confessions, Augustine has an interesting and worthwhile section on verse 16, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life...

But as I sat with the Word before me today, it was the overall tenor of the text that got me. John’s opening target seems to be LIVE YOUR FAITH. I see many parallels with John 15 and his plea about remaining in the vine. And the proof is LOVE… as we love we show ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble (10).

Our loving of others is our proof that we are living in the light of God. Well, this causes me to look at the way I live. Am I loving? Am I kind? Am I patient with others, particularly those in God’s family? Do I forgive readily? Do I harbor hurts? The questions to probe my inner life keep tumbling out, spawned, I am sure, from the love definition in 1Corinthians 13.

It is so much easier for me to ask myself these questions than to honestly answer them. And my answers are mixed depending upon whom I ‘see in my mind’ when I consider my answers. It comes much easier to love some people than others. I am not sure why. But why isn’t really all that important right now. What is important is that I face my failings and grow in Jesus and His love toward all people.

God help me… I am calling to You. It is clear that I cannot do this on my own. My human heart is wicked in spots, still stained by sin. Forgive me and Lord, do surgery on my sin-filled areas that I may be Yours fully and more totally. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 15: 1John 1- FORGIVEN.

Many Sundays we hear these words spoken from up front after a time of personal or corporate confession, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (9). The ‘he’ is God. And just a sentence or two earlier, John reminded us, if we walk in the light, as he [God] is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (7).

Two words clicked in my thoughts… fellowship and forgiven.

Walking in the light, walking in faith with the God of the Bible, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, gives us access to total and unconditional forgiveness. The blood of Jesus washes us (purifies us) for all unrighteous and all sin. What a gift. There is no way in our own strength or ability we could have done enough to merit total and unconditional forgiveness! Gift… this is the great gift of God through faith in Jesus.

Being forgiven opens wide the door to fellowship with God, a total and open relationship with God, the maker of heaven and earth. No hiding necessary, no pretending necessary… we can know God and be known by Him.

O my, the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness is the gift that just keeps getting better.

Alleluia, what a Savior. Alleluia what a friend…

Jesus, thank You for the cross and the gift of forgiveness that comes with faith and belief in You and Your atoning gift on the cross. I am blown away by being totally forgiven and the incredible fellowship we have with You, the Father and the Spirit because we are forgiven and redeemed by You.

Bless You, Jesus, Father, Spirit. Praise You, one God –three in one. Alleluia Amen.

 

Monday, September 14: Psalm 61- The Lord my God.

David’s prayer caught me. My body sighed in rest and relief as his words and faith settled around me. I felt like I was nestled in the arms of my God. My heart/soul/body feasted on verses 3-4. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

God has been my refuge now for decades. Throughout my entire adult life I have known and delighted in the guiding of the Lord’s hand. He has led me places I never thought I would go. I have seen and experienced His wonder and been engaged in His bidding. I have met His people from many places of the world and they, like me, delight in the Lord.

I have served, prayed with and been blessed by African and Latin American brothers and sisters. I have sung choruses and hymns with German brethren and even though we didn’t understand each other language, there was a bond of brotherhood that is beyond description. God has opened my eyes to His work in the world and given me a small role to play.  I am blessed.

Like David I long to live in the Lord’s tent forever and I know I will when God calls me home to my eternity with Him.

So I sit this morning, relishing that God called me and saved me and loves me. I am His and He is mine. Alleluia… my heart is warm with love for the Lord.

Delighting in You Lord.  Praising You Lord with thoughts and words.  You are my God and I will serve You all the days You give me. Alleluia. Amen.

 

 

Saturday, September 12: Psalm 60- .

David again cries out to the Lord for help. He understands that God is his only true source of help. Verses 11-12 put this into words: Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.

I noticed that the intro to the Psalm says it is “For Teaching” which got me thinking about what this Psalm teaches me.

My first thought was that it reminds me that God is my true source of help. It is easy to fool myself into thinking that “I can solve all my problems!” Or that government will save me or my friends or…fill in the blank. While one or more of these entities might provide for me in a time of trouble, David helps me see that the hand that moved those who come to my help is the Lord. God is the one who deserves my trust and this is a truth I must never forget.

Another learning is that I can be honest with the Lord. David feels that the Lord is angry with him (them –the people of Israel) and he says so. Too often I mask honesty with God through pious words. David blurts out his hurts to God and David’s honesty is refreshing. I am thinking that too many prayers are sterile… and the Lord knows my heart is not sterile!

Another learning as I considered this Psalm is that I can learn from other people’s prayers. And learning from Scriptural prayers is even better because God inspired these prayers!

It has been a good day in the Psalms.

Lord, Your Word has engaged my thoughts and mind.   Please engage my heart, too, because an engaged heart is when I truly learn and grow. And this, Lord, is what I desire. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Friday, September 11: Psalm 59- Who do you rely upon?.

In our ‘I rely on me, I did it my way’ age we are our greatest strength. But David presents another way of living… The way of reliance upon the Lord.

The Psalm opens, Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me (1). And from that point on David is calling upon the Lord to come and be his strength, his protector.

David lives life leaning on the Lord rather than on his strength, his smarts or his army.

I considered this as I meditated this morning…

Upon whom do I rely?  Is it all about me and what I can do or do I rely on God to have my back and be there for me when enemies assail me?

How about you? …

Lord, help me take this Psalm to heart… to do more than meditate and ponder but to bring it into my living. As it says elsewhere, some trust in chariots, some trust in horses, but I will trust in the Lord, my God.

May this be true of me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, September 10: Psalm 58- How do you pray when you see evil in the world?.

How do you pray when you see evil in the world?

In today’s Psalm, David gives us a VERY strong prayer; in part he prays:

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;

LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions!

Let them vanish like water that flows away;

when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.

May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,

like a stillborn child that never sees the sun (6-8).

Compared with this, most of my ‘against-evil’ prayers are quite tepid.

I am sure some people might be upset by this prayer... “Not very Christian and certainly not very politically correct”.

I don’t think this Psalm advocates for this kind of prayer all the time or even any time someone hurts or disses us. But in the face of injustice in our world where leaders look the other way for expedience sake or collusion sake… that kind of vile behavior begets prayer of equal viscosity.

This prayer shakes me, charges me, and humbles me all at the same time.

God, teach me to pray… I mean really pray! God, give me Your heart; Your heart that loves and Your heart that hates evil and injustice. Teach me, Lord, to pray from Your heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Wednesday, September 9: Philemon- Refresh God's people..

I was captivated by the imagery in verse 7: Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

I wondered what it means to refresh the hearts of the Lord’s people. I tried to picture this in 21st century living.

Did he give liberally to the church? I doubt that was what Paul was talking about. He may have done this but the imagery seems much more people centered.

Was he one of those people who moved around after the worship, checking in with folks, speaking a good word here, lending a listening ear there? This could certainly be part of it.

Was he one of those people in the fellowship who everyone knows you can go to when you have a problem or issue? He holds confidences and seems to have wisdom for all situations.

I know a number of people who live in these ways. When I think of them a smile comes to my face because I know how many sisters and brothers in the church they have been there for… quietly refreshing hearts without any fanfare or acknowledgement. These folks are the backbone of health in the churches I have been associated with and they are a wonder to behold.

It seems Philemon was one of these folk and Paul honors him for being a refreshing brother in the church.

I wonder what I could be doing to be a Philemon within my church family?

How about you?

God, I have been refreshed by others… a word, a gift, a listening ear. Open my heart to others… that I might provide a word, gifts, listening ear, or what have you to sisters and brothers in my church family. Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 8: Philippians 4- People problems.

Isn’t the church supposed to be perfect? Aren’t all Christians supposed to get along? How can it be that these two women are having problems?  How is it that their problems are so significant that Paul chooses to address them directly and enlist the help of people in Philippi to mediate?

Even in the church… stuff happens.

Even in the church good people have issues with one another.

Listening to Paul address Euodia and Syntyche, it struck me that Christians are people just like everyone else. We have our weak spots, hurts and concerns. We are filled with the Spirit sometimes and very human the next.

Paul writes: I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life (2-3).

Despite our humanness Paul anticipates that these two women can work through their problems and become of the same mind. This phrase reminds me of Philippians 2 where Paul directs us to have the attitude of Christ… (see Philippians 2:6-11). Clearly these women were not living this way.

I wondered, do I?

My honest answer is ‘sometimes’. Some days and with some people I can live the attitude of Christ. Some people and some days bring anything but that attitude out of me. I could be Euodia or Syntyche.

I also thought about how much God values healthy appropriate relationships.  The fact that verses 2 & 3 are in Scripture speaks to the reality that the Father longs for us to maintain healthy and appropriate relationships.

As I was typing this last line God seemed to speak, “Bill, are there relationships you need to repair?”

Hmmm…

I ask the same question of those who are reading this blog.

Lord, help me to maintain my relationship well. Teach me humility when needed and also the courage to fight for health in all of my relationships. Lord, I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Monday, September 7: Philippians 3- A citizen of heaven.

On this day that remembers the men and women who died while in the US armed forces, I found myself drawn into the text by the phrase, our citizenship is in heaven (20)? I found myself thinking about this phrase and what it suggests are far as my living.

Our citizenship is in heaven… well, it means my citizenship is NOT here on earth. It seems to mean I should not focus my life around things of this world. Clearly I cannot step out of this world, I am part of this world but I cannot focus all my energies on the good things or bad things of this world.  Life in Jesus is not about where I live, what my house is like or my cars or my retirement account, or even my family or my health or my politics, etc. Obviously these are important but they cannot become my total focus. My citizenship is in heaven.

On the positive side, I should consider what the important character traits of heaven, God’s world, are and focus on them. Loving other people and God and honoring God; these are 2 important traits of heaven. How can I incorporate these into my living? How can these become the focus of my living?

Somehow I feel like I am not even scratching the surface of this word…

Lord, keep burrowing this thought into me! Lord, keep piercing me, reminding me that my citizenship is with You and in You, not here. I don’t think I really get this, Lord… help me. Teach me. Show me. Lead me. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

Saturday, September 5: Philippians 2- Keep at it.

 “Keep at it,” those were the words that came to me as I began to processes this passage,  particularly verse 12, which is the verse that drew my attention.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,

Continue… keep at it… press on… push yourself… these phrases seem to tumble out of my thoughts. It seems like Paul was playing the role of the personal trainer providing that voice saying, “You can do it. One more rep, one more sprint…”

I absolutely believe God will see us through to the end (Romans 8, Ephesians 1) but we are not absolved from doing our part. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling… I have a role in my sanctification. I have a role in my maturity.

Emphasis is on a role. Neither is my maturity and my sanctification ALL about me. The sentence continues in verse 13, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

God is at work, too! Our working out of our salvation is a cooperative work with God.

My thoughts flip back to the word, continue. I have work to do… God desires that I work on deepening, strengthening and growing my faith. Seems to me this means continuing to read and study the Word (filling my mind with the things of God), praying (keeping my relationship with the Lord open and flowing), and living my faith in the way I speak and act (exercising faith muscles).

Clearly, I have things to do today and all my tomorrows…

Lord, show me how to live today. Show me things I can do that will make a difference for You in the world…open my eyes to people who need a word and good deeds I can do, anything that will help me grow stronger and bless You, my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Friday, September 4: Philippians 1- Faith begets faith.

The influence of an example can be powerful.

I saw this in what Paul writes: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear (12-14).

People have seen Paul’s boldness and effectiveness and it encourages them to be bold. People see the need.  Paul is not as free as he once was to proclaim the Gospel, so they step in and fill the gap.

Faith begets faith.

Iron sharpens iron.

A good example spurs on more good examples.

I began thinking… Who am I watching, learning from, and patterning my life after? Who are my examples?

How they live will affect how I live; this cuts both ways. Good examples can breed good behaviors and bad examples can breed bad behaviors.

Next I began wondering who is watching me? Who is patterning their lives after me? This led to the inevitable question. Am I a faith-filled, God-honoring, example?

How I live… how you live matters…

Think about it.

Lord, give me strength to be like Paul, a positive example for You and the advance of Your kingdom to the ends of the earth. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Thursday, September 3: Colossians 4- Counter-cultural living.

I love all the greetings and the ‘I’m thankful for this person and that person’ that so often ends Paul’s letters. I understand that communication was more difficult, as was maintaining relationships over large distances, back in Paul’s day. Even so there is a special quality to these greetings that touches me.

Paul is not a ‘lone ranger Christian’. Even though he is generally on the move, he remains connected with people who genuinely love and care for him.

And ministry is never about him. Paul is encouraging, calling, blessing and greeting others constantly, inviting them into ministry, spurring them on in ministry and so forth. And when some glory comes his way, he deflects it appropriately to Jesus.

Ministry for Paul is about God’s glory and the work of God’s people.

These were the qualities that seeped into my soul today…

Do I give all glory, laud and honor to my God –Father, Jesus, Spirit?

Do I lift others up?

Do I crave honor and recognition for myself, or am I willing to share it with others?

Simple ideas, yet so counter-cultural in the ‘me-focused’ world in which I live.

Lord, I pray that my life is a glory producer for You and never a life that steals glory for myself. To You all praise and honor belong. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

 

Wednesday, September 2: Colossians 3- Changed forever.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (1-2).

This is the essence of God’s Word to us through Paul in today’s chapter. As believers we are filled by God in order to live differently. And the differences will be noticeable.

The ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of our new living are no surprise. In fact they are spoken of elsewhere. Very little is original to the Colossians.

Even now, centuries after theses words were penned, the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ remain pertinent.

I think of the ‘Don’ts’ as guardrails on the highway… they protect me from careening off the path and crashing.

I scan the ‘Don’ts’ again (5-11); they are not the character traits I look for in friends. This makes sense.  I don’t want these traits in my life so why hang around people who have them?  I don’t feel as if they are shackles. Generally speaking life would be better if everyone guarded their lives from these ‘Don’ts’… and prisons would certainly be less crowded!

Similarly the ‘Do’s’ (pretty much the rest of the chapter, verses 12-25) make sense. And the world again would be a much better place if everyone lived as these verses suggest.

What I recognized is that God’s way, accessible for all who are in Christ because we have God’s Spirit and power within us, isn’t some kooky way to live; it is a beautiful way to live.

Now on to living it…

I re-read the ‘Do’s’ and set my heart to live this way… today and all my todays. I know I will be imperfect in this living. Yet may God be glorified as I do.

God help me to live as You call me to live… through Jesus, by the Spirit’s power, for your glory, Father. Amen.

 

Monday, August 31: Colossians 1- Faith and Love.

Paul prays for the church in ColossaeWe always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you (3-6a).

My heart warmed and was drawn in by the phrase, we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people…

Faith and love seem to be connected, like two sides of a coin together representing one whole. This faith and love spring from the gospel that lives in God’s people of Colossae.

I found myself thinking and musing, “What a beautiful picture of our life in Christ this pair paints.”

Too often I watch people, myself included, separate faith and love. (I admit it is often easier to see the trait in others than myself. When this happens I need the courage to look in the mirror and see if this trait I noticed in others’ lives in me.) We speak of faith as if it is the precepts we believe, as if faith is the knowledge stuffed in our heads. Sadly, this ‘information-based faith’ is often divorced from how we live. So I can say, “I believe in Jesus,” but remain a bigot or remain uncompassionate about people in need and so forth.

Paul’s prayer highlights for me how delighted Paul is that the Colossians do not do that. They keep faith and love joined tightly connected.

Interestingly, as I muse, it is not love alone either. As if ‘all you need is love, love, love is all you need’, like the Beatles sang.

Love and faith, faith and love are joined together to create a life that pleases God. And the Gospel, presented correctly and growing rightly, ought to produce faith and love.

I came to that moment of my morning when it was time to hold the plumb line of faith and love up against my own life.

Does my faith in Jesus produce a generous portion of love in me… love for all God’s people? Is the love obvious, can it be demonstrated in my calendar or my check register, in my words, behaviors and attitudes?

It is wrestling with questions like these that connect me with my Father as I sit with His Word….

Lord, search me and know me, examine my heart that my life might be a gift and offering of love to You, My Lord and my God.

Purge out all evil and self-centeredness that remains in me so that there might be plenty of room for Your character and fruit to prosper and grow in me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

 

Tuesday, September 1: Colossians 2- Jesus is God.

Colossians gives us one of the richest pictures of Jesus Christ in the Epistles. Colossians lauds Jesus Christ as fully God. I was drawn to this truth as I read today.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority (9-10).

Can there be a more wonderful time of devotion than pondering the wonder of Jesus Christ, my Savior?!

In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form… While Jesus walked this earth He was totally human and fully God. Amazing.

Honestly trying to comprehend this is a bit much for my finite mind. I believe it, I take it by faith but I really can’t fully comprehend it. How can all of God be crammed into one finite human body?  This is beyond me to understand.

I am okay with this mystery of the faith. In fact it actually gives me some comfort because if I could fully comprehend God, then that god would have to be a mighty small god!

I wonder sometimes what it was like for the disciples and people who met and knew Jesus to learn that in addition to being Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth, He was also simultaneously God of the universe?!? That is Paul’s message.

And if we don’t get Paul’s point with the first clause, he continues:

He [Christ] is the head over every power and authority… I want to circle the word ‘every.’ Think of any power or authority in this world and in every world, Christ is over every one of those authorities. Isn’t this is another definition of God… that which is over everything thing else?

Jesus, my Lord, is my God. Jesus, my Lord, is THE God. And Jesus invites me to sit with Him and get to know Him. Jesus invites me (you, anyone, everyone) to walk, learn, follow and be His representatives in the world. Wow! I am blown away!!!

Bless You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and for revealing Yourself to me. Alleluia. Amen.