Monday, December 4, 2017

From Timidity to Worship

Moses... a name we equate with a man who did mighty things for God, but it didn't begin this way. 

While Moses was tending his father-in-law's flocks, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames from fire within a bush. EXODUS 3:1-2

The Lord said: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” EXODUS 3:12

Then timidity set in... 

And questions of doubt seemed to fill Moses' mind. I can just imagine his demeanor as he asked God these questions: 

  • Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me,"What is his name?" Then what shall I say to them? EXODUS 3:13
  • What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you?'  EXODUS 4:1

And excuses set in...

  • Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. EXODUS 4:10
  • Please send someone else.  EXODUS 4:13

By the time we get to chapter 14, the LORD had cleared every obstacle for his people to be set free and Moses was transformed from one full of fear to one who was full of faith with a heart of worship.  When the people were grumbling out of fear, Moses said: 

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.  EXODUS 14:13-14

As the nation of Israel crossed through the Red Sea, the LORD held back the waters. Once they were on the other side, with the Egyptian army in the middle of the riverbed, the LORD released the waters and swept the army into the sea. 

The response...WORSHIP!

Moses and Miriam led the Israelites in their first act of worship as a free nation: 

“I will sing to the Lord,
    for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
    he has hurled into the sea.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense;
    he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his army
    he has hurled into the sea.
The best of Pharaoh’s officers
    are drowned in the Red Sea.
The deep waters have covered them;
    they sank to the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, Lord,
    was majestic in power.
Your right hand, Lord,
    shattered the enemy.
“In the greatness of your majesty
    you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
    it consumed them like stubble.
By the blast of your nostrils
    the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood up like a wall;
    the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy boasted,
    ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
    I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
    and my hand will destroy them.’
But you blew with your breath,
    and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
    in the mighty waters.
Who among the gods
    is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
    majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
    working wonders?
“You stretch out your right hand,
    and the earth swallows your enemies.
In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.
The nations will hear and tremble;
    anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
    the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
    terror and dread will fall on them.
By the power of your arm
    they will be as still as a stone—
until your people pass by, Lord,
    until the people you bought pass by.
You will bring them in and plant them
    on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling,
    the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.
“The Lord reigns

    for ever and ever.”  EXODUS 15:1-18

Where might you need to trust the LORD today?  What doubts and fears are holding you back from taking a step of faith forward?

The LORD desires your heart to be filled with worship, not timidity and fear!

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Two Sides of a Coin

A coin only has value when it is intact. A coin cut in half doesn't have half the value, it has no value for its intended purpose. So it seems with Faith and Obedience. 

Jesus said: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? LUKE 6:46

Faith calls us into a different way of being. 

Jesus went on to say: "As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”  LUKE 6:47-49

Of course faith gives peace and the confident hope in eternity, knowing that our sins have been paid for. Faith also calls us to obedience, not to earn salvation, rather in joyful response to it. Paul talks about it as "the obedience of faith." They are intricately connected. 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, ROMANS 1:1-6 

Through Jesus we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith. When asked “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  

Love God AND Love your neighbor as yourself

When we love another, we desire the best for them. I think of parents raising a child, providing all that is needed for the child to thrive, provisions of food, clothing, shelter, nurture through interaction, education and accountability. All of this comes in the context of relationship.  

It is impossible to love another if we are not in relationship with them, and so BEING the neighbor is at the heart of obedience. 

In what way is the Lord challenging you to BE a neighbor today? 

Monday, November 27, 2017

He is Kind to the Ungrateful and Wicked

For the last many months I've been thinking about the postures of Jesus. I deliberately began paying attention to the ways in which he is present in different situations, with the hope that I will be shaped to approach people with the same posture. 

In my reading of Luke 6 this morning, as I read on blessings and woes, and love for enemies, Jesus says of the Most High (God): 
"...he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." LUKE 6:35-56

OK... OUCH! 

Once again God's mercy challenges me! God does not pour out what the ungrateful and wicked deserve; rather he is kind and merciful. God furnishes what is needed, exercising compassion.  

I see Jesus on the cross, saying "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing. And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at him.LUKE 23:34-35

How does this affect my daily posture? 
  • Instead of responding with resentment when people are ungrateful; exercise compassion
  • Instead of responding with judgment and condemnation towards those whose conduct is outright wicked, exercise compassion and seek to understand. 
The words of Paul come to mind as he write about love in action" 

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  ROMANS 12:9-21

Lord, when my gut reaction is towards resentment, when I'm inclined to be cynical, snarky, or sarcastic; when my inclination is towards judgement and condemnation... I pray for your Holy Spirit to remind me of YOUR MERCY!  While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me... for the ungodly.  

We're all a work in progress!  I'd love to hear how this speaks to you today?  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Make the World a Better Place

There is a longing for the world to be a better place, one that has existed throughout the ages. There is a crying for things to be better, for someone to make it all right. The human heart cries out to God - we hear it in the words of the prophet Isaiah

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
    and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
    you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
   those who remember you in your ways. ISAIAH 64:1-5a

Today, we can wait with hope. Knowing the troubles and heartache we would continue to experience in this world, Jesus encourages us with these words: 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
JOHN 16:33

So we wait... with anticipation of something better. In this season of Advent, we wait... not with despair, but with hope.  The hope in knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and all of its brokenness.

And while we wait, we seek to be healers, through the love that comes from the Lord. 

We love because He first loved us. 1 JOHN 4:19

Michael Jackson wrote a song titled "Make the World a Better Place." 

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make it a better placeFor you and for me

Be encouraged by these incredible children who invite us to care enough for the living to put our love out into world and each do our part to make the world a better place.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Joyful News

In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, 
The gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him,
We're sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  EPHESIANS 1:13

I say it here again, once and for all, that you should understand the Gospel as nothing other than the divine promise of His grace and the forgiveness of sins.  For that is why it happened that previously Paul's Epistles were not understood and could not be understood, because they did not know what the Law and the Gospel really mean.  For they regarded Christ to be a lawmaker, and the Gospel a mere doctrine of the new laws.  That is nothing else than locking up the Gospel and concealing all things.  

The word "Gospel" [Evangelium] is Greek and signifies "joyous news," because it proclaims the wholesome doctrine of life by divine promise and offers grace and forgiveness of sin.  Therefore, works do not belong to the Gospel, for it is not Law; rather, only faith [belongs to the Gospel], for it is altogether a promise and an offer of divine grace. 

Whoever now believes the Gospel received grace and the Holy Spirit. This causes the heart to rejoice and find delight in God, and [the heart] then keeps the Law voluntarily, gratuitously, without fear of punishment, without seeking reward since the heart is perfectly satisfied with God's grace, by which the Law has been fulfilled.  

Excerpt from 365 Day Devotional Readings from Martin Luther Day by Day, August 9

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Wake Up and Be Awesome!

Wake up and be awesome!

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.  JAMES 4:17

Just do the right thing!  I used to say to my kids:
"If you knew is was wrong, why did you do it?"
To this question, there was never a satisfactory answer.

Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
by those who make peace.  
JAMES 3:18

How often are we tempted to want our own way and do what we need to do in order to get it.  We see it in toddlers, who whine and cry and sometimes throw tantrums in order to get their own way.  We see it in adults who manipulate, cheat or bully in order to get their own way.  Neither of these scenarios are pleasant to experience and certainly don't promote peace.   

We have an expectation for what we want, or how we want something to be, and will do whatever it takes to be fulfilled.  When focusing on ourselves, and only our desires, it is almost impossible to focus on the good for all concerned.  

We live in a battle every day...  a battle between good and evil, between our desires and God's desires.  In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul calls us to wake up and be awesome every day!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.  ROMANS 12:2

If we want to wake up and be awesome
we choose to be wise, do good, to care for all around us, 
and seek the LORD's wisdom to guide our day:

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.  JAMES 4:17

When we take in the Word of God every day, 
it becomes easier to wake up and be awesome!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

That It May Be Well With You

Hearing the voice of the LORD is one thing;
obeying the voice of the LORD is another.  

I've been reading Jeremiah and there is a clear message that the Lord is speaking and the people aren't listening.  He's longing for them to listen.  

The LORD isn't a tyrant of a master, He is a caring shepherd and loving Father who always desires the best for his children.  He wants people to have healthy relationships, meaningful work, abundance in provision, healthy bodies, and to care about their communities and the people in them.  

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat met.  For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.  But this is what I commanded them, saying 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.  And walk in all the ways I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.'  JEREMIAH 7:21-23

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he replied:
“The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  MARK 12:29-31

It was the same command that the LORD had give to the Israelites as they were entering the promised land:
These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. DEUTERONOMY 6:1-9

The LORD knows that we have temptations and distractions all around. 

He calls us back to focus on His good things, SO THAT it may be well with us

Take time to listen, and obey, so that it may be well with you!