Saturday, August 30, 2008
It is sad to think there are some, if not many, who have this same view. They may not say it in so many words, but, as they say, actions speak louder that words. Behavior reflects belief. We do as we think. Our interest in religion and faith sometimes appears to rise and fall based on our needs. We turn to Him in times of trouble, but don't think much about Him when things are going well. This view reduces God to a tool for self-help.
The reality is that we can't get past God because He is God. Denying Him does not in any way diminish His existence. The person who does is diminished and is ultimately punished. The irony is that God alone can truly help. In Him alone are we able to find peace and life. He makes this possible through His "intrusion" in our little world.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Galatians 2:9-10 (NIV)
9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Paul doesn’t seem to be in total awe of the three he refers to as “reputed pillars”. This does not make me think he thought in any way negatively about them, only that his allegiance was to Jesus. He recognized that they were like him: servants and fellow followers of the Christ.
Their one, simple request, that he should remember the poor, reminds me of two things that are fundamental to be a follower of Jesus: being a Christian is based on a loving heart seeking God and loving others, especially those in need. Paul confirms this focus. It is the very thing I was eager to do.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Psalms 2:7 (NKJV)
7 "I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
The eternal Word becomes the Son
The salvation of the world
Something new, yet done before the foundation of all things
He enters into the fabric of creation
That we might enter the life of the Spirit
Reborn in Christ, the begotten Son
We become children of God
Well pleasing in His sight
Cherished in His heart
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Galatians 2:6 (NIV)
6 As for those who seemed to be important--whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance--those men added nothing to my message.
Our worth is not defined by the perceptions of others or those we may have of ourselves. Our sight is skewed by physical, mental, and emotional filters that result from our genes and experiences. We come from a set of parents into a particular place and time in creation. No one else will have the exact same journey. Like each snowflake that falls to earth, we are unique.
God’s view of our worth is entirely different than ours. He sees beyond the surface. The contents of our hearts are plainly before Him. When He looks at us He sees us in a way that is not bound by our limitations of time and matter. Being God and beyond creation, He is able to see the full scope of our being, from before birth to the fullness and beauty of our eternal self all in the same instant.
He sees and judges us truly. He alone is able. It is humbling to think that He loves us so that He sacrificed His Son that we could be with Him. That is our true worth.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Isaiah 29:13-14 (NIV)
13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.
14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish."
We must be careful not to fall in this same state that God denounces in
If we do not feel some sense of the wonder, splendor, awe, and glory of the Lord, should we not question how close we came to His presence? If we do not feel the warmth of His love and Spirit, can we say that we have worshipped?
Worship takes place in the heart. It is the heart God seeks, and the heart that God will judge. It is with the heart we answer God. It is with the heart we experience His wonder. Head knowledge will not save us. Loving Him and worshipping Him with all that we are will.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Galatians 1:11-12 (NIV)
11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.
12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks of his experience with Christ. Not only was there the dramatic encounter on his way to
We, like Paul, receive this gift from God. We do not receive it from man’s imagination and we are not saved by following any rules or dictates of man. It is instead the work of God through His Spirit within each of us. It is only accomplished by God therefore no one can boast and all glory belongs to Him.
God does choose to reveal Himself through man. We serve that purpose in living a life for God and telling other the good news of life, love, and peace. We are to be witnesses of His message of mercy and salvation. We receive the gospel; we do not create our own.
We are called into unity with others in the body of Christ. This is done through love and the Holy Spirit. There is one Spirit, one Son of God, and one gospel that saves. This is our reference point for life. This is the Truth. God is Truth. If we deny this, we deny God.
If we truly seek Him we will change. He does not. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That is why He is Truth.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
A hallmark of a follower of Christ is captured in this verse, in the last sentence in particular. If we seek the approval of anyone above God, we dishonor Him and turn away from the gospel. This is the basis of sin, trying to please men or self rather than our Father and Creator. We all deal with this temptation. It may be easy to resist more obvious trouble areas, but some may be more subtle. The arguments and language of the serpent of old are well adapted to our times and for each individual. Our weakness is no different from that of Adam and Eve for all our knowledge and wisdom.
Jesus came because of that weakness, to do what we could not. He offers His strength to us. We receive it by following Him. We follow Him by seeking to please and love Him. We do this through faith and obedience to Him, not to ourselves or those around us.
What may seem pleasing to us may not be pleasing to God. This may be a good question to ask ourselves now and then, or when we are in doubt. It will always be a good question to ask of God.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV)
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine-- the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.
9 In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."
The mountain of the Lord
His Son, Jesus
Spreads a feast before all peoples
For those who come to the table
Life is brought forth
Death has been defeated
No longer are we shrouded in clothing of the grave
But covered with the garment of His righteousness
How great is His salvation
Our trust is in His mighty arm
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Galatians 1:6-9 (NIV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--
7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks harshly of those who try to change the gospel message into something different than the one he preached. Even in the earliest days after Christ came, the gospel that Jesus brought faced the onslaught of man’s interpretation, modification, and desires. God’s ways often do not seem reasonable to man. Surely God didn’t mean that? I don’t believe in a God that could allow this or do that.
I read somewhere this truth: it doesn’t matter what we think of God, but what He thinks of us. His ways are not our ways. He sees where we cannot.
Paul says twice that anyone who preaches a different gospel is worthy of condemnation. Other versions translate it as accursed. In plain English, let him go to hell!
The gospel is serious business. It is not a nice idea or wishful thinking but the salvation of God. Jesus said He is the only way to God. When we receive Him, we receive God. Preaching or following another gospel will take one to another destination. Our decisions and actions will be judged on the basis of His gospel, not on ours.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV)
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."
Genesis 3:6-7 (NIV)
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
This story brings forth the creation of a different sort: that of self. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents man deciding for himself what is good and evil. No longer are Adam and Eve to trust God as His children and obey this one “must not” command. They become self-aware and self-conscious in a way that becomes their downfall. No longer will they be walking in the fullness of life that is only possible with God, but they will find themselves expelled from the garden of life, which is the presence of God.
Their eyes are opened but they see shame and fear. We see this repeated in our own children as they become aware of their own body and self-consciousness grows. We learn to hide and cover-up, making coverings for ourselves. We take pride in our adulthood. We place trust in ourselves. When we are young we tend to think we know it all and will live forever.
In the New Testament Jesus tells us that the
Jesus came and made that possible. He is the tree of life that Adam and Eve left behind. The fruit from that tree is desirable for wisdom and life. Come, eat and live.
Friday, August 15, 2008
There are two accounts in this chapter in which Jesus asks the same question: “What do you want Me to do for you?” Jesus grants one and does not for the other. Why?
The first one comes from two of His closest disciples. Though they have been following Him for sometime, they had not fully come to understand His teachings. They asked to sit beside Him in places of honor when He sat down at last on His throne. Their answer to the question asked by Jesus exposed a selfish motivation that did not reflect a changed heart. It was for something that was not compatible with the will of God.
The second one comes from a blind man begging on the side of the road. He had not been following Jesus but he cried out for mercy, the very thing Jesus was offering. When asked the same question, his reply was for healing. Jesus did so, opening not only his eyes but the eyes of his heart. He then began following Jesus.
This same question is before you and I each day. How we answer reveals much.
What do you want Me to do for you?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Mark 10:46-52 (NIV)
46 Then they came to
47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you."
50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Jesus heard the voice despite a large crowd and despite some in the crowd trying to hush his cry. He stopped and said, “Call him.” He calls out to Jesus and Jesus responds, sending others to the man. That is the way God chooses to reach out to us, in and through others. Just as Jesus was the face of God, we are to be the face of Jesus. It is a tall order but all things are possible with God. Bartimaeus eagerly gets up, jumping up and throwing off his cloak he goes to Him.
Jesus then asks a puzzling question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Surely He could see that this man could not. So why ask? Perhaps one might ask why we should pray to the one who knows our every thought. It must be for us. He gives us the freedom to choose. It is our place to ask Him. He calls to us but we are to come to Him. From His Word all of creation comes into being. His Word is spoken to us, and with our words we confess and acknowledge that truth of that Word. Our healing comes from His power and mercy, mixed with our faith. Love is perfected in weakness. In weakness comes strength.
“I want to see.”
Bartimaeus received his sight. This sight allowed him to follow Jesus. He did just that.
He no longer sat by the roadside, bound by the hopeless darkness of eyes that do not see, but followed after the healer Who brings light to the world. He went from going nowhere on his own to embarking on a journey with the Word of Creation. Oh, the things we will see along the road.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Mark 10:35-45 (NIV)
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,
40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.
42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Many times we ask God for things that are contrary to our good and to His will. This can happen out of selfishness, bad judgment, misunderstanding, or ignorance. This is not to be intended to be an exhaustive list, but gives the idea. I think it can be said that such a request came from a combination of all four. The other ten disciples became indignant, but in their hearts they wanted the same thing.
Jesus addresses the root of the problem and one of the main principles of the new kingdom. We are not to be served, but serve. This becomes the measure of greatness and the measure of a changed heart. Jesus demonstrated this in coming, in His life, and in His death on our behalf.
Placing others first shows our love of God. As we do for others, we do for God. This is our obedience and thanks to the Father. We become like Jesus, even the Son of Man.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."28 Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
Jesus is speaking of the contrast between the riches of man and the riches of God. It is more difficult for a person to lose or give up much than it is to give up less, even if the much is just an illusion. It takes great faith to let go of something in your hand for the promise of something that is to come. That is why faith can be so hard, to trust and believe.
The disciples were right to ask, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looks at them, surely in love for that is why He came, and tells them what is impossible for man is possible for God. He addresses them as children. In the
The disciples have left everything to follow him. Jesus answers and comforts Peter as He tells him of the riches of God. We don’t receive deeds to a hundred homes or suddenly have a large household to fill those homes. Remember that hymn “the things of this world will grow strangely dim”? The so called riches of this world fade as we enter the household of God and the body of Christ. We stand in the fellowship of brothers and sisters beyond number. As we grow in our understanding of what is real we are increasing able to see the abundant life given to us today and the promise of eternal life to come. We begin to see what is meant by the reversal of first and last. What we gain in Christ is worth more than anything and everything we could do on our own.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Mark 10:17-22 (NIV)
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow
22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus had just told the disciples the key to entering the kingdom; it belongs to those who come as a child, with no reservation. This man is earnest in his question; he really wants to know and to be sure on inheriting eternal life. Doubt must be present for him for him to ask the question. Despite his best effort, he senses something to be missing.
Jesus sees it immediately. He looked at him and loved him. He looks at all of us in the same way. No matter where we are or what we’ve done, His heart yearns for us, His love is bigger than we can imagine. He sees not only our imperfection, but beholds the incredible being of our potential, the beauty within us all.
The man is too attached to his possessions. Since he asked, Jesus told him. He wasn’t ready for the answer. It was too much for him. He seemed so close for Jesus said there was only one thing he lacked, he felt that he was almost there. All his careful observance of the commandments was paying off, just one more thing and he could be assured that he had made it. But the one thing lacking was too much for him to overcome. He sadly turns and walks away.
We all have or have had something in our lives that are too much for us to overcome. That is why Jesus came, isn’t it? In a few later verses, Jesus tells the disciples that all things are possible for God. Where we can’t, He can, and He did. We don’t have to turn away. He came to walk with us and show us the way. He is the one thing we all lack on our own. He came that we would lack nothing.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NIV)
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you?
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.
3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.
5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
The old covenant served to point men to God, but it was not able to save for who could be perfect in keeping the law? That is why the letter kills. It exposes our weakness and sin. Once exposed, we are then subject to the judgment of our failure. The resulting judgment is death.
The new covenant of the Spirit is released to free us from the confines of the bondage to our nature. In a sense, the old covenant was like an envelope which contained the message of the Spirit inside. That is why Jesus said He came to fulfill the law. He opened the envelope, making God’s salvation and mercy available for all. The envelope became His Incarnation as one of us, yet containing the exact image of the living God. It was opened on the cross and made known through His resurrection. Out of that came the Spirit that gives life.
His Word is His written letter to us.
Our lives are living letters, “known and read by everybody.”
What we do with the letter will mean life or death.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Revelation 22:17 (NIV)
17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Isaiah 45:22-24 (NIV)
22 "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.
24 They will say of me, 'In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.'" All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.
These verses speak to the fact that the gift of salvation is available to every person, even to the ends of the earth. The invitation has been given and the Word has been spoken.
This gift of life requires something from us. There must be action on our part, a response of turning to God, to acknowledge Him and serve Him. The heart must be changed and seek Him. There is no other and no other way. His hand is outstretched, but we must place our hand in His. He gives us that choice.
Either way, we will come to Him. If not freely and on our own, in the end we will come to Him and be put to shame. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. Everyone will come. That choice is not ours, but we do get to choose how we will come.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.
14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
In the book of Mark, in the previous chapter, Jesus had just told the disciples that whoever welcomed little children in His name would be welcoming Him and His Father. Jesus turns around to find His disciples doing the exact opposite of His teaching. They had heard the words spoken but had not truly heard. True hearing is reflected in the change of heart or behavior. The words of Jesus had not penetrated through to the heart. The seed of the gospel had been sown but had not begun to take root and grow.
The heart of Jesus was grieved, and here the Greek word is translated as indignant. The disciples were standing in the way of the kingdom by their lack of understanding. I can imagine that Jesus’ voice might have had an edge to it as He told them in no uncertain terms how children relate to the
Then it says that Jesus took them in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them. The love and tenderness shown to those children is given to all who come to Him. That is how we are to receive the kingdom. Children have a much lighter grip on the ways of the world and of self. Letting go allows us to receive much: life in the
Let us enter His arms
For there we experience the peace and love of God
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Mark 10:7-9 (NIV)
7 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,
8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
Some Pharisees posed a question concerning divorce. They were trying to discredit Jesus. His answer speaks of the intention of God and the waywardness of man. Moses allowed divorce not because this was God’s design, but because man’s heart had strayed from the heart of God.
These verses speak to us on several levels about relationships. In one sense all of life is a parable which teaches about God. The union of a man and women was to be a holy transformation of two individuals into one flesh, a new creature. Man is not complete without woman. Scripture repeatedly uses the language of marriage to speak of God’s relationship with
We are prone to separate and be separate, from God and each other. We do this in our misguided seeking to fill the resulting emptiness. Only God will satisfy that hunger. We were made for Him and each other.
“…Let man not separate”
Monday, August 4, 2008
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
50 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other." NIV
The Word is a refining fire for those for those who accept and receive it. As we let the scriptures speak to us, our old nature begins to give way as the Spirit opens our eyes to the way of life.
Salt was used to purify sacrifices in the days of the temple. It preserves and seasons. I understand it is used even today in a ceremony in the Arab world to represent a covenant of brotherhood.
Jesus speaks then of the restorative and preserving affect the gospel brings to us. Elsewhere we are described as the salt of the earth, for in Him we have that same affect in this world. We are urged to keep the flame of the Spirit bright within us that we might show its light and be at peace; peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with each other. We are to pass the salt.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Mark 9:38-41 (NIV)
38 "Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."
39 "Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
40 for whoever is not against us is for us.
41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
The disciples think they have done the right thing by telling this man to stop doing things in the name of Jesus. The reason they gave: “because he was not one of us.” The Jewish way of thinking had always been from the perspective of them and us. They were to be a people apart, living in the revelation of God. But that is a natural characteristic of all of us. Perhaps that is part of our strategy to make sense of the world.
God calls us to come out of the world and be separate. It takes place on the inside. We still temporarily reside here on earth. This refers to a new people reborn through the Spirit and made alive in this world. He is doing something new. He is restoring all things.
The revelation of God continues. Jesus expands and alters the boundary of what it means to follow Him. The
We may find believers in unexpected guises and places, but we will know them if they live “in my name”. That is who we are; that is “us”.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Mark 9:35-37 (NIV)
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."
36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,
37 "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."
The disciples had just been caught arguing which of them would be considered greater and in charge within the new kingdom. They were still focused on old ways of thinking. Jesus once again turns everything upside down. The wisdom of the world does not reflect the wisdom of God. Being first is based on how we relate to others. In the
It is not the easiest thing to change one’s thinking, especially when we are bombarded with the conflicting messages contained in the marketplace of human thought and nature. It took the disciples time before they began to understand and we are no different. When we can look at others and see the child of God inside we begin to free the child of God within ourselves. Living from that place of the heart is the pathway to God. Welcome home.