Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional October 16-20

Devotional for Oct 16-22- Mark 11:14-28

This week’s scripture is long, rich and deep.  So I wanted to break it up into chunks and look at it over the next several days.  I hope that as we reflect on Jesus, His power, and His presence it will help us all return to normalcy after the difficult days we have just endured.  May God bless you in your study this week.

Day 1: Luke 11:14-18: Where Do Your Demons Hide?

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 

Jesus drives out demons, cures the sick, and encourages the sad.  Whether the demons in your life are physical, emotional, or spiritual, Jesus has the power to cure you.  Jesus welcomes our requests.  He invites us to seek His healing.

One of my favorite preachers, Tony Campollo tells of feeling convicted that he had not prayed for healing for others.  So after church one Sunday, he invited anyone who wanted to come forward for prayer.  He did not promise any miracles, only that he would pray. A man with terminal cancel came forward.  So Tony prayed for him.  A little while later he received a call from the man’s wife.  Tony asked if he had been healed.  She told him that her husband had died the day before.  But, she said, he was so wonderful the days before his passing.  He was no longer cruel, but instead kind.  He wasn’t fearful but hopeful.  She said, “He wasn’t cured, but he was healed!’

Jesus is desire is that you grow increasingly dependent not independent of Him.   Sometimes we receive relief from our suffering in this life; sometimes we do not.  But as we pray for healing, we become people of hope.  We find our place at the feet of Jesus.  And we believe His promise that one day all will be well, and we will rejoice with Him forever!

Prayer for Self: Lord, you know where I need healing.  I bring before you my needs…  Give me the healing I need so that I can be a blessing.  I will give You the credit and use my new freedom to honor You and bless others.  I place myself, and my need, in your hands.

Prayer for My Oikos: You know who in my Oikos needs healing.  I lift up…  Give them healing that leads them to You.  Help me to be a person who helps them with faith in the process of growing deeper in faith, wherever they are today.  Thank you for your grace to me and those I love.

 

Day 2: Luke 11:19-20: By What Power?

19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

It’s easy to get swept up in the momentum of this passage and miss this fact:  the Pharisees were driving out demons.  So was Jesus.  So were many others in this time.

There are many ways to drive out your “demons”.  You can find inner strength and discipline from within yourself to overcome.   You can find a personal coach or group to challenge and encourage you.  You can remake your emotional support system of friendships. You can feel better about yourself by serving others.   But if you overcome your “demons” by letting Jesus have more of you and your life, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.

I am more intentional about reading, prayer, and meditation in the recent weeks and months because of my need to not just replace one set of addictions with another set.  I need Jesus to be my center.  I am making it my habit to stop more regularly for time with God.  I hope to learn to slow myself down enough to stop and pray every time I’m aware of feeling uneasy.  I’m not there yet, but my hope is that Jesus will become more and more my center in all things.  I am praying the same for you.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, there are many things that are important, but relationship with You is what is truly necessary.  Help me to remember that You come first, and that the world can wait for a minute.  Remind me of Your presence.  Reveal Yourself to me in a variety of ways.  Help me to truly walk with You throughout the day.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, my Oikos needs to see me at my best, when I am centered in You.  Help me to love them by taking care of my relationship with You.  I pray that the peace that You give to me would spread to those in my world that so desperately need it.

 

Day 3: Worse Off Than Before Luke 11:21-26

21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.

23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

When we find healing through anything other than Jesus, the effectiveness of our healing is directly tied to the strength of the person or process from which we found healing.  If we have overcome by self-control, our healing is only as strong as our self-control.  If it’s through a relationship, our healing depends on that person or people.  But when we are confronted by a stronger force, we find ourselves overpowered and very likely in worse shape than before we had the earlier victory.

As I made some new food choices in the past year, I found that all the other temptations in my life had increased in volume in my head!  Food had been a drug for me that helped me cope with life.  When I took that prop from my life it left me emptier than I had been.  Very easily, this could have led me into far darker places than I had been before I had started to eat a little better.  I know that if I use anything or anyone else other than Jesus to be the place of my healing, I will end up in worse shape than I began.   Jesus’ love and direction is the place of true healing!

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me not to replace one addiction with another.  Help me to see that I cannot depend only on myself, my programs or my friends.  Help me to see that You are the one who leads to true healing in my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, if I am tempted to be the “savior” of someone in my Oikos, remove me from that temptation.  Let me point them to You.  I can not be enough.  But I can point to You, who Is enough.

 

Day 4: Luke 11:27-28 Blessing Goes to the Faithful…

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

It’s hard to read what subtext of what this anonymous woman is trying to say. Is it praise for the wisdom of Jesus and a blessing upon those who had a hand in God’s revelation through Jesus?  Is it a reminder of the importance of women?  Of mothers?

But once again, Jesus redirects.  The blessing of God is not that such wisdom has been birthed into the world; blessing comes to those who put into practice God’s will for their lives.  Knowing that Jesus is your Savior is not enough to keep us from stumbling back into darkness.  We can say with lips and believe in our mind that Jesus is God, but if our lives continue to live contrary to Jesus and His best for us, we will find ourselves in deep darkness.

The split between what I believe and what I do can be overwhelming at times!  We know that we will never be entirely free from the temptation and the giving in to sin.  But if we are mindful of Jesus, we can turn to Him and confess and be restored.  We can leave behind in that moment the thought or action that was less than God’s best.  It isn’t that we won’t stumble; the quality of our life is determined by how quickly we turn back to Jesus.

Prayer for Self:  Help me to want what you want.  Make me away when I have thought or acted in a way that is less than what You want for me.  Help me to turn back to you and not only know, but experience, true forgiveness.

Prayer for Oikos: Help me to forgive others and ask for forgiveness from those in my Oikos.  Let me be one who helps others recover, not one who puts up roadblocks toward relationship and forgiveness.  Let me encourage those in my circle to be free in You.

Daily Devotional October 9-14

This week Chris Price is sharing from her life in our devotional time.  While her experiences are her own, her sharing her process of grief and faith is valuable to all of us, whether we are experiencing loss at this moment of our life or not.  We will get to experience what faith looks like through her life as she shares with us this week

Out of the Darkness.

Day 1

Psalm 23:  1 The LORD is my shepherd;     I shall not want.   2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;     He leads me beside the still waters.   3 He restores my soul;     He leads me in the paths of righteousness     For His name’s sake.   4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,     I will fear no evil;     For You are with me;     Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;     You anoint my head with oil;     My cup runs over.   6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me     All the days of my life;     And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Over my desk is this plaque in this house we laugh a lot we try our best we tell the truth we hug often we make mistakes we never give up we always forgive we always have fun but above all we love

Love I’ve learned a lot about love these past few months. How easy it is to say the word but to actually love to the point of doing what’s best for the one you love is almost unbearable. For more than a year I was told my husband’s body was giving out but denial was how I lived The last few weeks and days before his going home to The Lord were so frightening to me I lived in deeper denial. Walking through the shadow of death with him was real, deep and heartbreaking for me. All of me wanted him to stay with me so much so that as he took his last breath I beat on his chest and shouted NO I am not ready come back! And he did BUT len had changed in that moment as he came back his face shone there was no pain of body on his face his skin was radiant and most there was a twinkle in his eye along with a huge smile len had been with Jesus but because he also loved me so he came back for me as I said it’s okay len I knew in my heart it was okay to say good bye hear on earth for len was going to a better home than the one here on earth we had made together There was no evil to fear The Good Shepherds staff was with both len in death and me in life Surely goodness and mercy will be mine all the days of my life and then I will dwell in the House of The Lord but not right yet I wake up weeping and yet He restores my soul each day for The Lord is my Shepherd!!!

Prayer for chris: oh my Lord I don’t want to walk this path I know in my strength I can’t walk this path. I feel I feel I feel and I don’t want to feel. Where is the chris that could walk on water with you where is the wind beneath my feet where is life here on earth now  for me Jesus be my renewal be my comfort

Prayer for oikos: Lord when I see those I love in need of my help please help me not to selfishly deny them God’s best by hanging on to them in order to keep me contented in my world it is in loving and giving we receive and not selfishness.

 

Day 2

Luke 9:38-41  38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”     41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

I listened intently to Pastors sermon on this because my Lord has brought me through this story the last four months. My God purpose has changed and yet not so much changed as enhanced to include a wider scope of who chris is to be. As len became more ill and my grandchildren were and are going through crisis God shut down my ministry that took up so much of my time with a sewer problem I became a full time homemaker again first hesitantly and then I found my play spot with God finding peace and actually a lot of joy to my surprise Then len went home To God!!! I remember following the ambulance to the hospital and God whispering to my heart he’s gone chris let go There was peace but also disbelief no no no As the day continued I slowly began my plan of survival First step move my husbands chair not get rid of it but move it Second step start sleeping with my husbands shirt Tried step three but found there was no sure footing slowly I have rearranged my whole home trying to fix the hurt and sorrow of weeping. God has graciously come alongside and prospered everything I set my hand to. I have become consumed by the hospitality of my home All has been carefully put into place in order to accommodate all who wander in and out BUT NOW is the time to evaluate chris not the house The house is a home not a shelter To be a home there must be a soul and what’s a soul without Jesus It is not that I lost Jesus it’s that I have planned so many ideas on how to be busy that I have not looked closely into the eyes of my LORD My pain has driven me into a frenzy of activity not necessarily bad but not all Jesus has for me Yes I have blessed my family with comfort of this world but at the expense of my own souls best. God is not angry with me for this in fact He played along because in His love for me He knew this would get me through my initial shock at pain. Right now though all major points of hospitality have been done now what? Time for my deeper walk with God BUT what if?

Prayer for chris: Now that the busy is achieved what now? I find I am more afraid of Your voice into my life than the workload of life. It is so easy to do what I am familiar with. What guided me before has to become my past because LIFE HAS CHANGED AND THERE IS NO GOING BACK Lord I am not asking You to tell others to help me I want to give You my permission for You to help me to simply sit at YOUR FEET

Prayer for oikos: As I sense Your sweet Spirit urging my loved ones into a deeper and even a scary for them relationship with You let me come alongside. Let us share cry and laugh together seeking the best for each other not just good.

Day 3

Nehemiah 1:3-4  3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.”      4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

When the doctors told me that keeping len alive was possible with machines BUT len the man he was how he thought felt prayed was gone I didn’t put len on machines. My husband hated hospital stays and even just visiting the doctor brought him stress but what about my life and stress if I put him on machines he would still be on earth with me but would he really? So it was that as I received the words of the doctors the walls of my life so far fell down the gates of my faith began to burn with the fire of sorrow so I wept and prayed to The God of Heaven who was still my God but really heaven was now a huge chasm separating both len and I and God even felt distant with that  food had no appeal to me I am a survivor left in the captivity of this world in great distress. It has taken all I have learned and put into practice my whole life to just get me thus far the walls of my life have been built on the firm foundation of Christ with God as my loving Heavenly Father but but but Mourning has become my daily life and the burden of mourning is physically tiring. Prayer before God though is energizing. Not like the energizer bunny however who unlike the commercial claims sooner or later is going to need new batteries In my sorrow I have found I don’t need a new God but a deeper relationship with my God. The God I served since a little girl is still my God but now I am not serving len my beloved husband God will really become my all sufficient God. Len provided through God for my needs and I could see how now I can’t see a way of provision here on earth so time to go deeper.

Prayer for chris: Lord this hurts and sometimes it hurts even more knowing that this is what You have for me today!!! Seeing is believing is what the world says and I am surprised to find I too have put a lot of faith into what I see. Lord help me continue my walk with you discerning the way I should go even when I can’t see a way

Prayer for oikos: Lord as others have provided for me let me share so that they too may be encouraged to reach those in their circle that so need Your touch Please Lord don’t let the fears and realities of this world break down the gates of our faith

 

Day 4

Nehemiah 2:1-8 1 And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. + 2 Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.”      So I became dreadfully afraid, 3 and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?”     4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?”      So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”     6 Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.      7 Furthermore I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah,  8 and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Jesus showed up at a wedding and provided the good wine needed Jesus showed up at my wedding too and through the many years we had together provided the wine we needed Jesus also showed up at len and I’s parting here on earth with his dying with a smile and twinkle in his eye and yes in my sad face at his going home to God. I am struggling through this process My own crying has driven me to truly comprehend with compassion on those who weep. All too often when asked how are you I have said fine how about you and got the same reply Now I say I can’t do this I can’t hide my grief with this trial of life it has broken my heart but I also find I don’t want to burden all of you with my sad face I so want to like the internet instantly get past this mourning If I just had enough megabytes    The second part of this scripture speaks to the preparation to serve Prayer and then seeking what is needed to go and do. Though sad I  still am slowly getting back my passion for serving. As I serve my home and family I am gaining strength to live for God again. Now where do I serve outside my home or is Jesus even calling me outside my home. When I cook a pot roast or turkey or ham dinner I use my oven not my microwave. For this old lady it’s the old fashioned way that brings out the flavor of the meat. This requires lots of checking on the meat while it cooks basting turning up or down the oven heat and sticking a fork in it towards the end to see if its done. There is a set time for cooking and so it will be for me in weeping according to the good hand of my GOD upon me.

Prayer for chris: Lord staying and feeling sad is hard on me I just want this to end but deep down what I really want is to have len back and our old life together I confess this is selfish on my part but real to me all the same please help me let go of the past and begin to reach for my future in You

Prayer for oikos: as we live together in love let us so strive to bless the others in our lives that we lose sight of who we are and live real without masks

Day 5

Romans 8:26-29    26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.     28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

The Spirit I don’t know how to pray for myself right now my groanings wake me up at night weeping for what I have lost. Knowing that all things work together for good is what holds the glue of spiritual life together despite circumstances. Purpose now is my question for myself before God. Verse  27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Why I fret is that I look around me at the wind waves the storm of life overflows into my spirit I have played with God all my life by asking for this or that not always worldly and He has played back answering it never really occurred to me before what a big role The Holy Spirit played in this. Understanding 100% the will and purpose of God is never a sure thing it’s a stepping out of the boat playfully which brings me to the first part of verse  29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, In my heart I want to be conformed but I hate the pain of the mold. AND I am in this mold alone with God. You are there alongside but God must do His work in my heart uniquely just for me

Prayer for chris: Lord I find that my spirit is weak as well as my flesh. I shrink from the pain of the mold struggle with trust and I even try to run from Bible Study and Prayer for fear of You showing me more I need. I feel so overwhelmed by my own needs it’s hard to have relationship with You and others. Please help me step out of the boat again in love looking deeply into my Lord and Savior Jesus not circumstances.

Prayer for oikos: as we look at those around us we love help us see their pain as well as we see our own. In love let us step out and seek to ease their pain through the love You have given us. Let their purpose in You be so real to them that as their light shines in the darkness they feel the joy of Your Holy Spirit also so real they can’t help but recognize Him.

Devotional for October 2-8

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”- Luke 11:1-13

Prayer is talking to God.  We will look at several aspects of this scripture about prayer this week.  May God bless you and draw you deeper into His Presence through prayer.

Day 1 Adoration- “‘Father, hallowed be your name…” v.2

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned the] with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[
g] feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
– Psalm 8


In verse 3, the psalmist invites us to worship God by considering how the work of creation reflects the character and love of God.  Not only did God create a world full of beauty for us to enjoy, He placed us here to see, smell, hear, taste, and touch tangible evidence of His goodness.   God’s goodness is seen in His most amazing work, us.  His love is displayed in not only giving us an awareness of the beauty of His creation, but to allow us to respond to Him in worship!

In the movie, The Shack, God says, “The real flaw in your life is that you don’t think that I am good.”  It is so easy for me to take for granted God’s character- His goodness, His grace, His love.  The evidence is all around me.  But the critical step to move me from self-centered angst to joy is to adore God, note merely for what He has done, but for Who He is and how He reveals Himself to me.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I can get so focused on what is wrong in the world, that I forget to see You and You reflected in the glory of creation, in the Bible, and in the love you have surrounded me with.  I choose to reflect on Your majesty, Your Goodness, and You Love in this moment…

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray that you would give those in our circle of relationships an awareness of Your glory.  Help me to be one who points out your perfection.  May we be aware of how Your goodness is what keeps us alive and encouraged.

Day 2 Confession- Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us and lead us not into temptation.’ V.3

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to theLord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
–Psalm 32:3-5

 

What do you need to confess to God?  He already knows!  Owning before God how much a debtor you are to God’s grace is both an act of contrition and an act of worship.  We say that we are sorry before God and He listen.

 

But He doesn’t merely hear, he forgives!  When we turn away from our sin and turn and place our trust in Him, we are freed from the guilt of sin.

 

What do you need to confess to God right now?  Some things are harder to confess than others.  In this moment confess to God what you know of what you have done that has harmed you, others, or his creation.

Know, truly know, that you are forgiven and cleansed from your sin!  When we refuse to acknowledge that we are forgiven and hold on to guilt we put a gulf between ourselves and God.  This is not God’s will for us.  God sets us free!

Prayer for Self: You have heard my confession Lord.  Let me know that I am forgiven.  Renew my soul.

Prayer for My Oikos:  I pray for those I have harmed.  Forgive me.  I pray for those who have harmed me.  Empower me to forgive them.

Day 3 Thanksgiving- The Fatherhood of God

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” –v. 13

 If the Spirit of God is leading you, then take comfort in knowing you are His children.  You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!” as we would address a loving daddyThrough that prayer, God’s Spirit confirms in our spirits that we are His children. If we are God’s children, that means we are His heirs along with the Anointed, set to inherit everything that is His. If we share His sufferings, we know that we will ultimately share in His glory.- Romans 8:14-17

God is our Abba, our daddy, through Christ.  We have been adopted into His family.  We no longer have to be afraid or alone.  We now belong to God’s forever family because of the sacrifice of Jesus.   We must not ever think of God as less than our Father, even though He is so much more!

In the The Shack the character playing Jesus says to the main character imagining sinking into inky black waters, “You’re imagining a future without me and that future does not exist”.  My anxiety is dangerous when I imagine a world where either Jesus is not present to rescue me or that He is not good.  Neither is true.  The same God who has rescued me from trials real, and sometimes just imagined,  is my rescuer help is the present and will be so in the future.

What do you need to ask your Father for?   He has unlimited resources.  He knows what is good for you.  Ask Him and let Him direct your path.  God wants to hear our needs and wants, even when they aren’t what He wants for us!  Trust God to sort out what He will give you.  But turn to him as the loving Father that you can pour your heart out to.

Prayer for Self: Abba, I trust you with my life.  Help me to remember to trust You when I get angry or afraid.  Help me to see that if I ask You will respond with what I truly need.

Prayer for My Oikos: Let me live among my Oikos confident in who I am because I belong to you.  Thank you for giving me all the relationships that you have.  I am grateful.

 

Day 4   Supplication –“ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”-v.8

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the Lord when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted
”- Psalm 116:5-10

 

We are invited by Jesus to go after God for what we need.  When we need comfort, He is available to us.  When we need guidance, He will direct our path.  When we need to be corrected, He will direct us back.  Whatever we need, God invites us to ask Him.

 

I did not sleep well this week.  I truly struggled.  My anxiousness and fears kept me from getting the rest I need.  I confess this knowing that what I need to do is to ask God to be Lord over all the things that I am struggling with.  I have said those words, and even meant them for a minute!  But I take the worries back on to my own shoulders instead of trusting God with them.  Let us truly trust God to meet our needs- He is good!

 

Prayer for Self:  Lord, God, here are my needs….. Please give me what I need rather than what I want.  Help me to trust you.  And if this is a time of doing without so that I can become more dependent on you, help me to trust You with all things.

 

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, thank you for the resources- emotionally, spiritual, tangible, that you have provided to me through those you have put in my relational world.  Make me grateful for them even in times of struggle.  I put them, and myself, in your care.

Devotional Sept 25-Sept 30: One Thing is Needful

Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

What is not merely important, but necessary?  Increasingly, I see that it is my time in the presence of Jesus.  This week we will look at different ways to experience the presence of God in our lives.

 

One Thing is Needful Day 1: 1 Timothy 3:14-17

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[ may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

There is no substitute for the Word of God to direct us to the truth of God, His nature, and His love.  God inspired the human writers of the Bible and then preserved His word to come down to us.  Through reading the Bible, we discover who God is and who we are.

What is your habit of reading the Bible?  By virtue of the fact you are reading this, I know that you have brought the discipline of reading the Bible into your life.  Reading the Bible is important, but God also wants us to learn how to apply the Bible to our lives.  A simple approach to interpreting scripture can be found in these three steps

  • What does the scripture say?
  • What does the scripture mean?
  • What does the scripture mean to me?

Some scripture readings are a soothing balm for our soul.  But not every scripture reading is easy or comforting.  Some challenge us and our behavior.  Others are troubling because we don’t understand what God is up to or why.  It is by leaning in to God’s word, even when it is uncomfortable, that we find a real relationship with God. When we allow the scripture to inform us, we discover God for who He really is, not just as we want Him to be.  The Bible is the way we find relationship with God, we find our path to a life of purpose and meaning, and eternal life.

You can’t skip this step of reading and applying the Bible personally if you want to become more like Jesus!  I confess I have.  There are times my Bible reading has been less about personal growth-  more about learning so that I can teach and studying so that I can preach.  But that isn’t what Jesus wants for me.  I must meditate on different scriptures than the ones that I am teaching on that week.  I can’t skip this step of personally apply the Bible.  Neither can you.  But don’t worry, we will never run out of new inspiration or new insight for our lives.  The Bible is truly amazing! We will always be challenged, encouraged and inspired as we go deeper and deeper into the Bible..

Prayer for Self: Thank you God for preserving your Bible and passing it down to us. Lord, help me to take personally Your Word so that You can transforms my life.  May I be willing to place my will under the authority of Your Word even when it’s hard, when I don’t understand, or when I am angry.   Help me to live to find real relationship with You through Your word.

Prayer for My Oikos: You said, Lord Jesus, that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (Matthew 4:4).  Help me to bring forth Your Goodness in my speech.  May your words direct my actions and thoughts as well.  Help me to nourish my Oikos with Your Word.

One Thing is Needful Day 2: Matthew 6:7-13

7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

 

Can you come before God simply and honestly?  Our small group, many from a catholic background, coined a phrase- “free range prayers”.  This is contrast to memorized, rote prayers that many had learned growing up.  Are you comfortable bringing to God what’s on your heart?  Are your prayers “free range”, or are they caged behind formalism and shame?  While I tend not to hide behind ritual prayer, I can hide behind praying for others or praying for ministry work.  But to be healed, to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, I must come to God as His child, and bring my hopes and fears into His presence.  I need to sit and tell Him my heart even when my heart is not in the right place.

Jesus did give us a structure even as he invites us to be incredibly real and personal.  A way to remember the way Jesus told us to pray in the scripture above is the acronym ACTS.  The outline is not to be used as a way to avoid God, but to remember some of the ways that Jesus told us to come before Him.

Adoration: Give God praise for who He is- his beauty, love and perfection

Confess: Admit to God what you have thought or done that is less than God’s will for you.  Agree with God that you are wrong.  And then breathe in the unlimited forgiveness that God offers us through Jesus.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for all the ways you can think of for what He has given you.  Gratitude is the antidote to much of the spiritual maladies that plagues us and come out in anger, sadness, or emptiness.

Supplication:  Ask God for what you need.   He is the Good Father.  Jesus taught- you do not have because you do not ask.  Bring to God your needs.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I adore you.  These are some of your qualities that stir my soul….

Lord Jesus, I confess I have sinned in these ways…  Change my heart so that I want You more than I want this sin.  Forgive me.  Help me to know and feel forgiven.

Holy Spirit, I thank you for doing these things in my life…May I see everything in my life as a gift from you.  Help me to be grateful in all circumstances.

Lord I need…  Help me to wait on You to provide and not strike out on my own and take shortcuts.  Help me to see you as the Savior of every area of my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Meet the needs of those in my circle.  I am available to be your instrument to do that.  Show me how.  You are the LORD!

One Thing is Needful, Day 3: Psalm 103:1-5

O my soul, come, praise the Eternal
with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am—
praise His holy name.
O my soul, come, praise the Eternal;
sing a song from a grateful heart;
sing and never forget all the good He has done.
Despite all your many offenses, He forgives and releases you.
More than any doctor, He heals your diseases.
He reaches deep into the pit to deliver you from death.
He crowns you with unfailing love and compassion like a king.
When your soul is famished and withering,
He fills you with good and beautiful things, satisfying you as long as you live.
He makes you strong like an eagle, restoring your youth.

Worship is how we re-orient ourselves to God.  Worship reminds us that we are not in charge of the world, our relationships, or ultimately even responsible for rescuing ourselves.  We are the created; we have a loving Creator.  Let us turn to Him, who has been so good to us.

A single moment of worship can change how I am experiencing the world.  I struggle with anxiety and sometimes my worry feels overwhelming.  But recently, I was feeling pretty lost, and I turned to this scripture in the translation above (The Voice).  And I went from dreading the day to bounding into my day with joy.  I pray that will be your experience of worship as well.

Let me invite you to write a simple line or two of how God has shown you goodness.  This will be one of your acts of worship today.

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

Prayer for Self:  May I praise you with everything I am, everything I hope for, and everything that You have given me to praise You with.  I need you Jesus!  Please heal and encourage me through your Goodness.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray that my actions toward those I love would spring from my worship of You.  May I be confident in You as I spend time with them.  May I treat them as fellow dearly loved children of Yours.  May my experience of your joy and peace spread to those who You place in my path today.

One Thing is Needful Day 4- 1 John 4:10-12

10 This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 So, my loved ones, if God loved us so sacrificially, surely we should love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God with human eyes; but if we love one another, God truly lives in us. Consequently God’s love has accomplished its mission among us.

How does God’s love complete its mission in us?  By our pouring out God’s love to others in the same way that God poured out His love to us. In this way, God truly lives through us.  We complete the circle of love that God created us to live in.

Have you ever been frustrated with a string Christmas tree lights?  All of them have to be working for the string to light up.  When one is broken, the rest of the string is dark.  Not only do we need to have God’s love flow into us, we need God’s love to flow out of us.  We need to have God’s love flow through us and those in our world to experience God’s love through us.  God designed us to live in community, to share God’s love with those in our family, our Oikos, and beyond.  Particularly with other believers, we are energized and empowered to live.

When I get frustrated at myself, or the world, I tend to not to let in the love of God or others.  I choose to isolate myself.  Sometimes I’m not even aware that I am doing it.  Yet I know that only by letting in God’s love, and the love of others, am I going to flourish in life.  And just as importantly I need to pass God’s love on.  It is God’s plan for me to share His love- not that I have to somehow personally generate love, but be a pass through of God’s love and the love of other believers.  May we stay connected to God and each other- this is necessary for us to live out our faith together.

Prayer for Self: Lord, open me up to let in the power of Your love.  I also need to let in the love of others.  Help me to invest my time and energy in being part of the community that you have created for me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, pour your love into my life so that I can pour your love into others.  This is how my mission in life, what You have called me to do and be, will be complete.  Help me to see the value in small moments, and help me to be willing to be fully present with those You have placed in my life.

Devotional for Sept 18- 23: Forgiveness

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This week we are at the story of the Good Samaritan.  Perhaps the central, but unspoken, theme of the story of the Good Samaritan is the power and nature of forgiveness.  The expert in the law wanted to draw rigid lines on who was worthy of love.  By contrast, the Samaritan was willing to forgive the offenses of his national enemies.  Forgiveness is bedrock of hope, faith and love.  Without forgiveness, we are without God and His power in our world.

Forgiveness Day 1- Romans 5:6-8

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The central event in of human history (and our very lives!) is this- Jesus died on cross for us.  Jesus voluntarily surrendered his life so that we could be forgiven for our sins and be restored to the person we were created to be and into God’s forever family.  His death invites us to experience freedom from guilt, anger, hopelessness, meaninglessness, and despair.  We were once on our own; now we have God as our true Father.  We once had to rely on ourselves and our resources; now we can call on resources of heaven to deal with the troubles of the day.

But in order to walk in the newness of life that Jesus purchased for us on the cross, we have to accept the forgiveness we have been offered.  We need to accept that we need to be forgiven- we have harmed ourselves, harmed others, and harmed God’s creation.  But not only do we need to accept that we need to be forgiven, we need to accept forgiveness.  It is not enough just to acknowledge that we have done wrong, we need to accept the outpouring of God’s grace and let it into every nook and cranny of our souls.

Forgiveness is not a one-time event. We must daily choose to accept both that I need a Savior and let His love pour into my heart.  I find it easier to acknowledge my sin than to let Jesus love me.  Others find it easier to let God’s love in than to name their sin and its consequences.  Both are necessary if we are to live the life that Jesus wants for us.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I pray that I may grow in dependence on Your forgiveness and Your grace.  When I feel shame at needing your forgiveness, heal my heart so that I can stand before you.  When I feel anger that keeps me from seeking Your forgiveness, help me to kneel before You as the God who is Righteous.  Thank you for Your call to relationship, hope, and wholeness through forgiveness.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to see other with as people just like me, in need of a Savior.  Help me to have compassion when they slip into shame, anxiety, or anger.  Help me to be one who points them to You, the Solid Rock of life.

Forgiveness Day 2- Matthew 5:43-48

 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Jesus is identifying the way our  present world is, isn’t he?  Love those who are on your team, hate those who disagree with you.  But if we have received forgiveness through Jesus’ death on the cross, we no longer have that option.  Jesus forgives us- we did, and do not, deserve His forgiveness.  So we are called to forgive others who do not deserve forgiveness.

For me, this has grown harder, not easier in the last few years.  As I am more in touch with my emotions and the emotions of others, the hurts done feel deeper and harder.  I am more aware of the consequences of what others have done to me and those I love, and it is harder for me to let go of that pain.  Pain is real, but it is not the ultimate reality.  Deeper still is love expressed through grace and forgiveness.

This weekend we will be showing the movie, The Shack.  This movie is about the journey of forgiving that which feels unforgiveable.  I don’t know if there are big hurts that seem unforgiveable in your life.  But in order to be set free, we need to forgive.  We need to let go.  And instead of holding on to our pain of the harms done to us, let our souls be free to cling to Jesus instead of the pain that has defined so many of us for so long.

I have said for years, “If you want to motivate me, tell me that I can’t do something.”  Trying to prove myself comes from a very deep seated sense that I am inadequate and unworthy as a person.  Ultimately, I need to forgive and be forgiven for the harms that have caused, and harms I have caused myself, that have led me to believe that I am unworthy.  I need to be set free.  And that only comes through the power of forgiveness from Jesus.

Prayer for Self:  Help me to forgive others.  I know that I need to forgive them because You forgave me.  I also know that in the end forgiveness is both about offering others grace, but also about allowing me to let go of hurt and pain so that I experience grace.  Jesus forgive me for my hard heart.  Help me to know how to forgive.  Jesus, I can’t forgive without Your power.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to forgive those in my Oikos.  Help me to see that they need me to tell them they are loved and forgiven.  Help me to see that I need to do that for myself and for my relationship with You, as well.  Thank you for power to forgive.

Forgiveness Day 3- Colossians 3:12-14

12 Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. 14 But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together.

The daily grind of doing life together creates the little (and big frictions) that keep us on edge.  Jesus calls us to a different kind of life, the kind of life that models compassion, kindness, patience and forgiveness.   Forgiveness is the oil change of our daily life- this is just what needs to be done in order for us not to break down because of the impurities in our soul.

Sticking with the engine metaphor, love is the lubricant that keeps us from overheating when we rub up against each other.  Who in our church family needs your compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience?  How needs your forgiveness?  Who needs your love?

To repurpose the words of the old Spiritual, “It’s not my brother, it’s not my sister, it’s me, standing in the need of prayer”.   I need your love, forgiveness, compassion and forgiveness.  I know that we all do.  But as God calls me to pastor our congregation, I need extra grace as I work out my faith journey in front of you.  I am grateful to all of you who offer me grace.  May God teach us how to love and forgive each other for His sake and for the joint mission He has called us to embark on.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I think of those who I’m irritated with.  Help me to see them as You do.  Help me to love and forgive them.  Give me grace, so that I have grace to give.  Thank you Jesus!

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, may forgiveness flow between me and those in my relational circle.  Help me be willing to go first, to offer forgiveness even when others have not yet asked for it.  Give me a heart to live in right relationship with each You have placed in my world.

Forgiveness Day 4- Acts 9:1-20

Back to Saul—this fuming, raging, hateful man who wanted to kill every last one of the Lord’s disciples: he went to the high priest in Jerusalem for authorization to purge all the synagogues in Damascus of followers of the way of Jesus.[a] His plan was to arrest and chain any of Jesus’ followers—women as well as men—and transport them back to Jerusalem. He traveled north toward Damascus with a group of companions.

Imagine this: Suddenly a light flashes from the sky around Saul, and he falls to the ground at the sound of a voice.

The Lord: Saul, Saul, why are you attacking Me?

Saul: Lord, who are You?

Then he hears these words:

The Lord: I am Jesus. I am the One you are attacking. Get up. Enter the city. You will learn there what you are to do.

His other traveling companions just stand there, paralyzed, speechless because they, too, heard the voice; but there is nobody in sight. Saul rises to his feet, his eyes wide open, but he can’t see a thing. So his companions lead their blind friend by the hand and take him into Damascus. He waits for three days—completely blind—and does not eat a bite or drink a drop of anything.

10 Meanwhile, in Damascus a disciple named Ananias had a vision in which the Lord Jesus spoke to him.

The Lord: Ananias.

Ananias: Here I am, Lord.

The Lord: 11 Get up and go to Straight Boulevard. Go to the house of Judas, and inquire about a man from Tarsus, Saul by name. He is praying to Me at this very instant. 12 He has had a vision—a vision of a man by your name who will come, lay hands on him, and heal his eyesight.

Ananias: 13 Lord, I know whom You’re talking about. I’ve heard rumors about this fellow. He’s an evil man and has caused great harm for Your special people in Jerusalem. 14 I’ve heard that he has been authorized by the religious authorities to come here and chain everyone who associates with Your name.

The Lord: 15 Yes, but you must go! I have chosen him to be My instrument to bring My name far and wide—to outsiders, to kings, and to the people of Israel as well. 16 I have much to show him, including how much he must suffer for My name.

17 So Ananias went and entered the house where Saul was staying. He laid his hands on Saul and called to him.

Ananias: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, sent me so you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

18 At that instant, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see. So he got up, received the ceremonial washing of baptism[b] identifying him as a disciple, 19 ate some food (remember, he had not eaten for three days), and regained his strength. He spent a lot of time with the disciples in Damascus over the next several days. 20 Then he went into the very synagogues he had intended to purge, proclaiming,

Saul: Jesus is God’s Son!

This is the process of forgiveness and grace for Saul (later to know as the Apostle Paul). Spend a moment considering how his story of faith is like yours and how it is different…

I grew up in the church.  I never killed anyone.  But I have harmed many in my desire to do what I thought was God’s will, as Saul did.  But through my journey of faith, scales have fallen off my eyes.   I see clearly my need to love others and proclaim that Jesus is the only answer that will bring hope- hope for me, hope for the world, and hope for eternity.  And the basis of that hope is coming to Him and confessing to Him daily how much I need Him.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I need you.  You are the one who has transformed and transforms my life.  Today I confess that I need your forgiveness.  I am tired, hurt, and stubborn, and I still don’t want to trade my dissatisfaction for your grace and the hope that You renew when I turn in reconciliation to You.  But I know I need to.  Give me the willingness to let go and let You lead.

Prayer for Our Oikos:  Lord, they need to see Your hope shine through me.  Renew me as you are in the process of renewing the world.  Renew my relationships through Your grace.

 

Devotional for Sept 11-Sept 17, The Call

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5 ‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8 ‘When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.9 Heal those there who are ill and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin (chore-a-zeen)! Woe to you, Bethsaida (beth-say-dah)! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre (tire) and Sidon(sigh-don), they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.15 And you, Capernaum (ca-per-num-accent on the per), will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[b]
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’

18 He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22 ‘All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’ –Luke 10:1-24

The call on these people lives, and the idea that we may be called to do the same, can seem overwhelming. But this week we will look at God’s call of people and how He empowers them to do exactly what He has for them. Let us listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit to understand how Jesus calls us to minister to our Oikos and world.

The Call Day 1: Nehemiah 1:1-4

I, Nehemiah, am the son of Hacaliah. These are my words. They tell my story. During the winter month of Chislev in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I’s reign, I was in the fortress of Susa 2 when one of my brothers, Hanani, came from Judah along with some other men. I asked them about those Jews who had escaped—who had survived the exile—and about our city, Jerusalem.

Hanani and the Judean Men (to Nehemiah): 3 It’s a disaster. The survivors of the exile who are in the Persian province of Jerusalem have been wronged and are hated. The wall of Jerusalem has been reduced to piles of rock, and its gates consumed by flame.

4 Hearing this, I was overwhelmed with grief and could only sit and weep. For days I mourned this news and sought the audience of the True God of heaven, praying and fasting before Him.

When we remember September 11th, 2001, we remember disaster. From a distance, we watched over and over again the replay of the towers collapsing on themselves. My sister talked about people telling her, with a sense of both grief and relief, that loved one’s body parts had been found at ground zero. As tragic as these notifications were, they allowed them to know that their loved ones had indeed perished on that terrible day and to grieve. Most of us here didn’t lose loved ones in that vicious attack, but we suffered together as a nation in those horrible days. We grieved for other’s losses and our losses as a nation.

Nehemiah found himself in a similar situation. Loss and destruction had come upon his people. Jerusalem was in ruins. He wept at the state of his nation. In this moment of devastation, Nehemiah models for us what God’s people need to do in times of dismay. We need to fast and pray to God for meaning and significance in the midst of the tragedy. It is often in the midst of our darkest days that we realize what is most important and are most able to hear God’s direction for our lives.

Are you suffering today? You have a choice. You can ignore or not engage with your struggles and miss hearing God’s call and direction for your life. Or you can seek God’s will for you and your Oikos and allow Him to bring meaning to your hurt. It is in the moments of struggle and pain that I often find clarity in my calling. Mostly God has revealed to me a refining of how I’m parenting, husbanding, or leading other as I go through my own experiences of pain and loss. My reaching out to God in the midst of hard times gives me necessary course corrections in my following of Jesus. Allow God to use the struggles, big or small, to speak truth into your life about what matters now and what matters in the scope of eternity. Embrace your call. You are called to be God’s emissary in the world.

Prayer for Self: Lord, as I remember 9/11, help me to be a person of compassion. I pray for those who are still struggling with loss from that terrible day. Lord, you know the losses in my life- please help me to see how they can bring me into closer dependence on You and Your will for my life now and for eternity. May you be glorified even in my suffering.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, you know the pain in the lives of those I am close to. You know, far more than I do, about how much they have lost. Help me point them to You, the Healer, the Redeemer of all that has been lost. Give me sensitivity and grace for the work You want me to do in these incredibly tender areas.

The Call Day 2: Joshua 2:8-14

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”

Rahab was a Cannanite prostitute.  She recognized these foreigners who came to her home as belonging to a nation of people who follower the true God.  So she hid their spies on her roof and sent her own countrymen on a wild goose chase to protect them.  She feared God, and because of this she accepted His call to protect these men.

Rahab is an unlikely person to be used by God for his mission in the world, right?[1]  Yet she responded to God’s call and was listed as one of the ancestor’s of Jesus, and a person of faith (Hebrews 11:31) and good works (James 2:25).  She was not in a strong position when she was called by God, but she stepped into faith and God honored her for it.

Are you willing to accept God’s call to love and serve those He has placed in your relational world, your Oikos?  No matter what your past is, or how little you know today of Jesus, are you willing to share with them what you know of Jesus?  It is not always simple or easy. I like to be like and I like to fit in. But if we want to experience the most out of life and have a legacy for eternity, this is our opportunity.  Trust Jesus to give you courage and direction, and don’t be afraid to step out for Him.

Prayer for Self: Lord, there are so many reasons why you shouldn’t choose me to be your ambassador to those You have placed in my circle of friends, family and neighbors. But You have chosen to partner with me to share your love and goodness.  I can’t do this without You.  Give me strength and courage for today, and I will come back tomorrow and ask for new courage and strength then.  Thank You for loving me and choosing me as Your own.

Prayer for My Oikos: Thank you for allowing me to be in relationship with others.  Let me live for You in their midst.  May You be glorified in how I related to my Oikos.

The Call Day 3: Isaiah 6:1-8

In the same year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a grand throne way up high with a flowing cape that filled the whole temple. Bright flaming creatures waited on Him. Each had six wings: two covering its face, two covering its feet, and two for flying. Like some fiery choir, they would call back and forth continually.

Flaming Creatures: Holy, holy, holy is the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies!
The earth is filled with His glorious presence!

They were so loud that the doorframes shook, and the holy house kept filling with smoke.

Isaiah: I am in so much trouble! I’m ruined!
I’m just a human being—fallible and stammering.
My lips are encrusted with filth;
and I live among people just like me.
But here I am, and I’ve seen with my very own eyes
none other than the King, the Eternal, Commander ofheavenly armies.

Then one of the flaming creatures flew to me holding a red-hot ember which it had taken from God’s table,the temple altar, with a pair of tongs. The creature held it to my lips.

Flaming Creature: Look! With the touch of this burning emberon your lips,
your guilt is turned away;
All your faults andwrongdoings are forgiven.

Then I heard the Lord’s voice.

Eternal One: Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?

Isaiah: Here I am! Send me!

My initial response to being called into ministry was that I was unworthy.  I knew myself.  I knew my heart.  I was unworthy.  But what I didn’t know then, and I want you to know now, is that if we are in Christ, we are made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21) not by our actions but by the action of Jesus.

What have you been forgiven from?  Only you know.  But are you willing to let that past sin go?  Are you willing to stop feeling guilty or useless to God because of what you have done?  Are you willing to stop doing the things that lead you farther away from God?  Letting go of the past allows you to be embraced by the One who loves you more than you could ever fathom.

Let me encourage you to embrace your calling as a follower of Jesus, one who chooses to live as Jesus’ ambassador in the world.  Certainly we can’t do this without daily grace.  We need to be forgiven by God.  We also need to confess to someone else (Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.- James 5:16).  Choose to be God’s person in your family, in your neighborhood, and in your work.  And you will experience the presence and blessing of God in a powerful way that you may never have before.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I confess to you my sins….

Thank you for forgiving me and making me whole.  I could never experience freedom from my harms to self and others with Your payment for my sin.  Lord, let me know who You have placed in my Oikos to confess to, so that I might experience the deep healing You want for me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I want to love those You have placed in my world.  Give me the strength to do that.  Let me know that I am qualified to be Your ambassador to my Oikos because of Your sacrifice on the cross.  I am grateful for Your call on my life.

The Call Day 4: Judges 6:11-16

11-12 One day the angel of God came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, whose son Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, out of sight of the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”

13 Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, ‘Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?’ The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.”

14 But God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. Save Israel from Midian. Haven’t I just sent you?”

15 Gideon said to him, “Me, my master? How and with what could I ever save Israel? Look at me. My clan’s the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.”

16 God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

So the story begins with Gideon hiding in a winepress.  He is afraid.  And he is immediately addressed as “O mighty warrior”.  Gideon, first blames God for his cowardice and then questions God’s judgment.  He will do that many more times in Judges 6.  And yet the truth is that, with God’s strength, Gideon is a mighty warrior who will utterly defeat the Midianite menace.

You, when you are embracing your God given calling are exactly who God says you are.  You are no longer bound by your own limitations or thinking.  The God of the universe is the source of your strength.

Who does God say that you are? I am slowly (way too slowly) learning who God has made me to be.   Who is God calling you to be for family and friends?  What name does God call you by?  Remember, you are not going because you think it’s a good idea- this is God’s idea and God has called you.  He will empower you.  Trust in Him. Be bold!

Prayer for Self: Lord, I doubt.  I am afraid.  Help me to spend a quiet moment with you, right now, contemplating how You see me…

Prayer for My Oikos: You are calling me to do more than I can (or even want!) to do in loving the people in my circle.  I need You.  Give me Your heart and Your vision for my Oikos.  Make me bold for You.  I believe You are going to do great things for the people You have placed in my life.

[1] Actually, Jesus says that the sinners and tax collectors are more likely to find ask for forgiveness and find salvation that self-righteous religious people.  But still, we generally assume that the “good people” are more likely to be used by God.

Devotional for Sept. 4th– 10: Follow Me

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”- Luke 9:57-62

Jesus invites us to follow Him.  In following Him, we are not losing our most precious possessions or our identity. In following Jesus we find our most precious relationship and new life that is found only in Him.

 

Follow Me Day 1: John 1:35-42

35-36 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”

37-38 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”

They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.

40-42 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus.

Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”).

When we choose to follow Jesus He changes us.  Peter was given the name: Rock Jesus would later say about Peter’s confession (“You are the Messiah”), “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”  Peter is the emotionally charged disciple, a  jump first think later man,  who Jesus would change and he would  become one of the building blocks on  which Jesus would build His church.

Who did you used to be before Jesus got a hold of you?  What has been changed, extinguished or amplified as Christ has increasingly become the center of your life?  This process of becoming who Jesus has made us to be does not happen overnight nor is it without pain and suffering (Peter denied Christ three times!).  But every growing Christian is in the process of becoming more the person that Jesus called us to be.

God is calling me to be increasingly dependent on the love and care of others and particularly of Himself.  I previously prided myself on being self-sufficient, that I could handle anything thrown at me.  Well, that was true and not true.  I would bull my way through life armed with a nice array of addictions and an ability to channel anger at those who presented safe targets for my outbursts.  As I follow Christ, I am following Him to a place of increasing dependence, of needing God’s rescue daily to get through the day.   I don’t know if my true name in Christ is “Tissue Paper” (quite a step down from “Rocky” in my thinking), but this is what I am experiencing as I follow Christ daily.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to follow You.  Help me to learn who you want me to be, what my new identity is in You.  Help me to follow you in my relationships, in my work, and in my Oikos.  I pray that I would be transformed by my daily interactions more, rather than less, into the person You  have created me to be.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord Jesus, use the people of my Oikos to teach me about who you want me to be.  May the reflection of You I see in them lead me to increasing faithfulness.  Thank you for giving me my team to love and serve.

Follow Me Day 2: Luke 9:27-30

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, “Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!” When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!”

29-31 He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” 

Become what you believe.  Every guru is the world would envy this one liner.  But even from the most hard-eyed pragmatist would say this is true.  We eventually become what we believe

If we believe we are a victim of people or circumstance, we will become a victim.   If we believe that we are right in all circumstances, we will become self-righteous.  If we believe that faith in Jesus is the most precious commodity in the universe, we will become true believers who will find eternal life in the midst of our ordinary human lives.

My struggle is that for too long I have straddled two worlds, one trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus and the other trying to be a “success” in the eyes of the world.   This has led to a bifurcation of my soul and led to very large cracks in my personhood that have damaged me, my family, and many of you.  I am truly sorry for my double pursuit and the ways it has led me to hurt you and myself.  I am finding that only in following Christ will I be free.  Pray for me to seek Christ and His Kingdom first, each and every day.  And I will pray the same for you.

Prayer for Self: Lord, forgive me for wanting the Gospel and the World.  Teach me that I will only find true rest, true wholeness in You.  Lead me in the everlasting way.  Help me to see that the opinions and values of others will be meaningless in the Kingdom You are establishing even now that will last for eternity.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, show my friends and family that the world is not enough.  I pray they would learn this lesson before it’s too late.  Help them to see that they will find life, real life, only in You.  Turn their hearts to You.  Let me walk with them as they seek You.

Follow Me Day 3: 1 Corinthians 1:11-14

11 Brothers and sisters, some people from Chloe’s family have made it clear to me that you are quarreling among yourselves. 12 This is what I mean: Each of you is saying, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in Paul’s name? 

Apollos was the highly educated smooth-talking non-jewish Christian, popular with the Greeks in city of Corinth.  Cephas, Peter, was the Rock, the disciple who had walked with Jesus and been commissioned by Him.  Paul, is the ultimate Jewish leader who had it all and had given it all away to follow Jesus.  All of these men would be Christian celebrities today- with names bigger than Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, etc.  If they were alive today, each would probably have their own following and followers who would be critical of the other Christian mega-stars in a sort of weird competition for their adulation.

But Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, points out the cardinal truth- not one of them died to pay the price for their hearers sins.   Not one of them lived a sinless life.  Not one came from heaven to save the world.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus is worth following.  May His name be praised!

Let us then choose to be followers of Christ first.  Yes, we belong to our church, our Oikos, our families, and in very real sense, ourselves.  But not one could die for you.  Not one could pay the price for your sin.  Only Christ.  Only Jesus the Savior.  Before you decide anything today, do not do it on the basis of what you, your family, your Oikos, or your church wants- do what Christ would have you do.  Only in Him do we find rest for our souls.

I am a people pleaser.  Too often I want other people to like me more than I want them to like Jesus.  I am learning that I do not need to be the center of attention, even when it’s just two of us talking.  Christ needs to be the center, whether or not I am talking about Him or whether I’m talking with someone who doesn’t know or want to know Him.  Jesus and His agenda need to be my agenda.  And then I will find my true place in this world and the next.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I want people to love you, not just like me.  Thank you for giving up Your life for me, so that I might truly live.  Help me to live in such a way that my actions point to You and not to me.  May you lead and direct me in ways that give you glory.

Prayer for my Oikos:  Lord, I pray that the people in my world would not be overawed by the cult of personality, but would be drawn to Your humble heart.  You died for each of them.  Help them to see that beyond stardom there is true life, and that life is found in You alone.

Follow Me Day 4:Matthew 4:18-20

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

Peter had already met Jesus (see day 1).  He had followed him for a while, but had at least taken the day to go back to work on his fishing boat.  Jesus invites them to leave behind the necessary business of life to take on the tasks of eternity- the destiny of the souls of women and men.

Does it seem too hard to be a fisher of men and women, to evangelize other people?  It is!  It is also not our job.  Only Christ can change a heart.  But our job is to share what we know, however little or much, of Christ with those God has supernaturally and strategically placed in our relational circles, our Oikos.  We share God’s love and grace, the rest is about our friend’s relationship with God.

I have had the privilege of praying with many to accept Christ over the years.  But like Tom Mercer, Oikos leader, says, we did not lead them to Christ.  We got to pray with the individual.  But almost always it was a friend or family member who introduced them to Jesus and His love.  Don’t give up!  You are exactly where Jesus wants you to be, to share God’s love and Good News with those in your relational world.  You are the person closest to Jesus that some in your circle know.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to be one who is willing to be Your hands and feet in the world.  Give me a heart to love those you have put in my relational world.  Give me an open heart to respond to the needs of those in my circle who today need you.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray for a receptive heart for those in my network.  I pray that they would be willing to respond today to your love.  Help them to see that you are the only way.  May I be useful to You in sharing Your love and hope with those I see today.

 

Devotional August 28- Sept 1: The Opposition

Scripture for Sunday September 3

49 “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

50 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[b]?”55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.- Luke 9:49-56

We live in a time of conflict, both personally and politically.  How do we engage with those who harm us?  This week we will be looking at scriptures that teach us how we are to engage with those who oppose us.

 

The Opposition Day 1: Psalm 143:7-12

7Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

One commenter suggested that this is David’s prayer when he was being hunted by Saul and Saul’s army.  This psalm offers us tremendous transparency of soul.  There is admission of fear.  A faltering of Spirit.  Dependence on God’s rescue.   Hope that God will restore him.  And a desire for vindication and vengeance on his enemies.

What do you think of the psalmist’s calls for destruction of his enemies?  Is that how we should pray?  Yes and no.  Yes, we need to bear our souls to God and to cry out to Him from fear and pain.  We should not try to sanitize our hearts desires from God.  He knows.

But is it God’s will to destroy other people, no matter how wrong or abusive they are acting?  Should it be our will?  How do we engage with those who have wronged us?

In truth,  we can pour out our hearts and desires and always trust God not to grant us our prayer request just because it is our desire.  Even if this is the prayer of David’s heart against Saul, he did not carry out the vengeance that he prayed for when he had the opportunity to do so.  He had Saul cornered more than once and refused to strike him down.  May we pour our heart out to God, allow Him to refocus our hearts, and then do what is right in His eyes.

Prayer for Self: Lord, you know who I see as my opposition.  You know who I count as my enemies.  I give them into your hands.  May you mold my heart into the position where it is most useful to You and Your will for my life.  Please protect me from others and from myself.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, if there are any in my relational world, in my Oikos, who feel like my enemies give me direction.  Teach me how to live with them.  Show me how to pray.  And change and mold our relationship into the one that You desire for us.

The Opposition Day 2: Romans 12:17-21

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Who is the person you have the most trouble getting along with today?  Who is the person you have the most trouble seeing the reflection of God’s beauty in in your world? The scary part is the person who is probably causing you the most discomfort today is someone who is very close to you, not a stranger. If you can identify who that person, or those people, you have taken the first step to personal spiritual renewal.

But the next step on the journey is to choose to do good to and for that person. To discover their unique and beautiful design that God has made in them.  To choose to act with grace instead of judgment, or even justice!  These choices are not easy, but they are healing.

This is much easier said than done.  In fact, the closer that person is to me- friend, Oikos, or family member- the harder it is sometimes for me to let go of my feelings of hurt and betrayal.   I sort of expect to be misunderstood or mistreated by outsiders, or at least I can choose to not take it very personally.  But with those closest to me I have a harder time responding with love, grace and generosity when I feel wronged.  This is one of the reasons I need Jesus!

Prayer for Self: Lord, forgive me for my lack of forgiveness and grace.  You told me that I will be forgiven by You as I forgive others.  Make me one who chooses to pursue goodness and grace rather than getting even or getting my own way.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that I might both forgive and be forgiven by those in my Oikos.  Help me to pursue them with goodness and not wrath.  Help me to love and forgive those closest to me, and may Your Spirit direct me today as I live and work with those in my circle.

 

The Opposition Day 3: 1 John 1:8-10

If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.

I am a sinner.  So are you.  How does this truth change our interactions with others?

There is a story told of a community of monks from a long time ago.  A young monk had sinned; the council of elders had been summoned to decide the appropriate penalty for his sin.  They were all gathered except the oldest and wisest monk of the group.  When they went out the door to look for him, they saw him laboring up the road, slowly, with a heavy sack slung over his shoulder.  The group ran to him to relieve him of his burden.  When they got to him they saw that he was carrying a sack of sand with the mouth open and sand spilling out as he walked.  When they asked him why he was carrying this burden he said, simply, “It is a hard thing to come a judge a brother when my own sin is constantly pouring out behind me.”

When I think about others who have harmed me, or those I love, I need to remember that my own sin is pouring out behind me.  Our being a debtor to God’s grace is the basis for life, relationships, and healing in Christ.

Prayer for Self: Lord, my own sin is hard to look at.  And some of my attitudes and actions I just don’t want to see.  Help me to enumerate them to You, not because you are unaware, but because I need the healing and humility that comes from confession.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that there would be someone in my Oikos to whom I could confess my sin.  I pray for the courage to ask for forgiveness to ask others I have wronged for forgiveness.  May I receive others in my Oikos with grace, those who seek forgiveness and those who don’t.

The Opposition Day 4: John 3:16-17

16 For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. 17 Here’s the point. God didn’t send His Son into the world to judge it; instead, He is here to rescue a world headed toward certain destruction.

Jesus did not come to our world to judge it.  Even though He would have been right to judge humanity, He came to love us, teach us, and die for us.  Very often I think of this when people say that the world is falling apart.  Yes it is.  Bu the God who made it, saved it, and sustains our world in love is holding us up every day.

Some days the “wars and rumors of wars” (points to the first one who finds that Bible reference!) both local and national, political and personal, make me feel fearful.  But my job is not to be afraid.  It’s definitely not to condemn.  It’s to walk through this world knowing that Jesus loves me, saves me, and sustains me through troubles.

More than that, Jesus invites us to partner with Him in His work in the world.  How can you partner today in loving, and sustaining your world?  Let us pursue Jesus in all these things.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see the business we are in together, the business of reconciling people to You.  Give me wisdom to understand what truly is important and what isn’t.  May You be glorified by how I live and move in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to not condemn the people in my world when their actions don’t meet up to my standards.  Help me to love them.  Thank You for showing me the way by loving me even as I am unable to meet your standards.  Thank You for grace and give me grace to give.

Devotional for August 21-27: Seeing Jesus as He Really Is

Luke 9:28-36

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

As I began to prepare for the devotional this week, I felt a pull to try to get us to think about seeing Jesus as He really is.  So this week, I am sharing devotional thoughts from various people- Napoleon, Spurgeon, Gabhart and C.S. Lewis.  My hope is that these various different perspectives will help you see more of the glory and majesty of Christ in the universe and in your life.

Day 1: Seeing Jesus as He Really Is

But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.- Colossians 2:9-10 (The Message)

I Know Men Napoleon Bonaparte

“I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and whatever other religions the distance of infinity… Everything in [Christ] astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and his will confounds me. Between him and whoever else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by himself. His ideas and his sentiments, the truths which he announces, his manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things.

“His birth, and the history of his life; the profundity of his doctrine, which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is of those difficulties the most admirable solution; his gospel, his apparition, his empire, his march across the ages and the realms, — everything is for me a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into reveries which I cannot escape; a mystery which is there before my eyes; a mystery which I can neither deny nor explain. Here I see nothing human.

“Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love; and, at this hour, millions of men would die for him.

“I have so inspired multitudes, that they would die for me. God forbid that I should form any comparison between the enthusiasm of the soldier and Christian charity, which are as unlike as their cause!

“But, after all, my presence was necessary: the lightning of my eye, my voice, a word from me, then the sacred fire was kindled in their hearts. I do, indeed, possess the secret of this magical power which lifts the soul; but I could never impart it to anyone. None of my generals ever learned it from me. Nor have I the means of perpetuating my name and love for me in the hearts of men, and to effect these things without physical means.

“Such is the fate of great men! So it was with Cæsar and Alexander. And I, too, am forgotten; and the name of a conqueror and an emperor is a college theme! Our exploits are tasks given to pupils by their tutors, who sit in judgment upon us, awarding censure or praise. And mark what is soon to become of me: assassinated by the English oligarchy, I die before my time; and my dead body, too, must return to the earth, to become food for worms. Behold the destiny, near at hand, of him whom the world called the great Napoleon! What an abyss between my deep misery and the eternal reign of Christ, which is proclaimed, loved, adored, and which is extending over all the earth!”

For a moment the emperor was silent. As General Bertrand made no reply, he solemnly added, “If you do not perceive that Jesus Christ is God, very well: then I did wrong to make you a general.”

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see that you alone are perfect, possess perfect beauty, and the rest for my soul.  Help me to be willing to follow you into every battle of my life, raise up your values in my world, and be willing to sacrifice everything I have to be faithful to you, my King.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray that those in my Oikos would have their eyes open to Your unique character.  May I articulate how you give me direction and hope.  Help me to live as Your subject in the midst of those closest to me.

 

Day 2: Seeing Jesus as He Really Is

Jesus asked “Who do PEOPLE say that the Son of Man is?” (Mt 16:13)

Inspired by Herbert C. Gabhart- He Was Everybody, Only a Little Taller

To the artist, He is the One altogether lovely—Song of Solomon 5:15
To the architect, He is the Chief Cornerstone—1 Peter 2:6
To the astronomer, He is the Sun of Righteousness—Malachi 4:2
To the baker, He is the Bread of life—John 6:35
To the banker, He is the Hidden Treasure—Matthew 13:44
To the builder, He is the Sure Foundation—Isaiah 28:16
To the carpenter, He is the Door—John 10:7
To the doctor, He is the Great Physician—Jeremiah 8:22
To the educator, He is the Great Teacher—John 3:2
To the electrician, He is the Light of the world—John 8:12**
To the engineer, He is the New and Living way—Hebrews 10:20
To the farmer, He is the Sower and Lord of harvest—Luke 10:2
To the florist, He is the Rose of Sharon—Song of Solomon 2:1
To the geologist, He is the Rock of Ages—1 Corinthians 10:4
To the horticulturist, He is the True Vine—John 15:1
To the judge, He is the only righteous Judge of man—2 Timothy 4:8
To the juror, He is the Faithful and True Witness—Revelation 3:14
To the jeweler, He is the Pearl of great price—Matthew 13:46
To the lawyer, He is Counselor, Lawgiver, and True Advocate—Isaiah 9:6
To the newspaper man, He is Good News of great joy—Luke 2:10
To the oculist, He is the Light of the eyes—Proverbs 29:13
To the philanthropist, He is the unspeakable Gift—2 Corinthians 9:15
To the philosopher, He is the Wisdom of God—1 Corinthians 1:24
To the preacher, He is the Word of God—Revelation 19:13
To the priest, He is foreshadowed in the Tabernacle—Exodus 25:8**
To the sculptor, He is the Living Stone—1 Peter 2:4
To the servant, He is the Good Master—Matthew 23:8–10
To the statesman, He is the Desire of all nations—Haggai 2:7
To the student, He is the Incarnate Truth—1 John 5:6
To the theologian, He is the Author and Finisher of our faith—Hebrews 12:2
To the toiler, He is the Giver of rest—Matthew 11:28
To the sinner, He is the Lamb of God who takes the sin away—John 1:29
Who is Jesus to you?  Which facet of the character of God do you need to bring more into your life and relationships with Him?

Prayer for Self: Lord, you know my needs.  You know what I need to let into my soul of Your grace.  Let me be willing to let You in Your Fullness into my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Help me to see what aspect of Your character those in my Oikos need me to point out.  Help me be transparent in the ways You impact my life.  Help me not to get in Your way or to try to be the savior of anyone in my Oikos.

 

Day 3: Seeing Jesus as He Really Is

Matthew 12:15-21

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21     In his name the nations will put their hope.

Our Beloved Physician, Charles Spurgeon

What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that he was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case. What a singular variety of evils must have met at his feet! What sickening ulcers and putrefying sores! Yet he was ready for every new shape of the monster evil, and was victor over it in every form. Let the arrow fly from what quarter it might, he quenched its fiery power. The heat of fever, or the cold of dropsy; the lethargy of palsy, or the rage of madness; the filth of leprosy, or the darkness of ophthalmia-all knew the power of his word, and fled at his command. In every corner of the field he was triumphant over evil, and received the homage of delivered captives. He came, he saw, he conquered everywhere.

It is even so this morning. Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that he will be able to heal them of their sins. My child, my friend, my dearest one, I can have hope for each, for all, when I remember the healing power of my Lord; and on my own account, however severe my struggle with sins and infirmities, I may yet be of good cheer. He who on earth walked the hospitals, still dispenses his grace, and works wonders among the sons of men: let me go to him at once in right earnest.

Let me praise him, this morning, as I remember how he wrought his spiritual cures, which bring him most renown. It was by taking upon himself our sicknesses. “By his stripes we are healed.” The Church on earth is full of souls healed by our beloved Physician; and the inhabitants of heaven itself confess that “He healed them all.” Come, then, my soul, publish abroad the virtue of his grace, and let it be “to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.”

Prayer for Self:  Lord, I need Your healing.  You alone can take my hurt and my pain.  Let me place my hurt, even the self-inflicted parts, on the You the only One who can both endure it and heal me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray for those of my Oikos who are suffering.  May they turn to You.  I pray that they might experience the healing that only You can give.

 

Day 4: Seeing Jesus as He Really Is

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”- John 14:6

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.”

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said, or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form.

We are faced with a choice when we see Jesus as He really is.  Is he the Savior or a savior?  Is He the Way or is He one of many ways?  Jesus claims to be the only way to God- will you believe and joyfully accept His grace or will you choose to reject His forgiveness and direction for your life?

Prayer for Self: Lord, we choose You.  In areas of our life where we are afraid or think we know better, show us that You are the One who truly knows what is best.  Give me a hunger for You and Your ways.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, some in my Oikos do not see You as their Savior.  Please reveal Your truth to them.  May I present Your Good News to them in a way that they can hear it joyfully.

 

 

True Greatness

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” –Luke 9:46-48

This week we will look at what it means to be great according to scripture.   This is different from how the world defines greatness.  This is different than the way we define greatness today. May we all aspire to the greatness that God defines.

Greatness Day 1: Micah 6:6-8

6-7 How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child,
my precious baby, to cancel my sin?

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

Sometimes we overthink what God wants for us.  We think we have to do something extraordinary to please God.  This was one of the themes at our church campout. We talked about the temptation to be spectacular.  But God does not call us to be spectacular, He calls us to faithful.  We are reaching for greatness when we act with kindness and justice to our neighbor, we faithfully fulfill our commitments to those we love, and when we take God more seriously than our own wants and ego.

In my marriage, I have often longed for the great gesture.  The perfect gift, the perfect evening, whatever.  But I think what makes  marriage work is the daily small kindness we share with each other.  The gentleness.  The putting each other first.  And bringing God and His Love to bear on our brokenness together, even when I’d rather wallow in my delusional self-righteousness, allows God to heal us.  When I do this with Lori and with others, I am honoring God and allowing His greatness to overshadow my brokenness.  Greatness is not in the big things; it is in the consistent following of God’s direction and love daily and in the less spectacular moments of life.  It is ultimately a choice to live in love rather than to try to be spectacular.

Prayer for Self:   Lord, help me to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with me.  Help me to see this is more important than being right, being popular, or being wealthy.  Renew my soul to want Your ways, and not mine.  Help me long to be who You want me to be.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I need you to help me love those in my circle.  To put aside my desire to impress them.  To not have to manage them.  But to love them humbly, with forgiveness, and with Your love.  You are great!   I want to love them because You first loved me.

Greatness Day 2: Philippians 3:7-14

But whatever I used to count as my greatest accomplishments, I’ve written them off as a loss because of the Anointed One. And more so, I now realize that all I gained and thought was important was nothing but yesterday’s garbage compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord. For Him I have thrown everything aside—it’s nothing but a pile of waste—so that I may gain Him. When it counts, I want to be found belonging to Him, not clinging to my own righteousness based on law, but actively relying on the faithfulness of the Anointed One. This is truerighteousness, supplied by God, acquired by faith. 10 I want to know Him inside and out. I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death, 11 so that I may arrive safely at the resurrection from the dead.

12 I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. 13 Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. 14 I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed. 

Greatness is giving up our grandiose self-centered dreams.  Greatness also lies in giving up settling for less than God’s best.  True greatness is pursuing God and His will for our lives.  This means forgetting our agenda and our past successes and failures.  It’s choosing to focus on God and His will today.  When we are overwhelmed with God’s love we can let Him guide us toward eternal life.

Greatness Day 3: Hebrews 11:32-40

32 I could speak more of faith; I could talk until time itself ran out. If I continued, I could speak of the examples of Gideon (Judges 6-8), Barak (Judges 4), Samson (Judges 13-16), and Jephthah (Judges 11), of David (1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Psalms) and Samuel (1 Samuel 1-19, primarily)  and all the prophets. 33 I could give accounts of people alive with faith who conquered kingdoms, brought justice, obtained promises, and closed the mouths of hungry lions. 34 I could tell you how people of faith doused raging fires, escaped the edge of the sword, made the weak strong, and—stoking great valor among the champions of God—sent opposing armies into panicked flight.

35 I could speak of faith bringing women their loved ones back from death and how the faithful accepted torture instead of earthly deliverance because they believed they would obtain a better life in the resurrection. 36 Others suffered mockery and whippings; they were placed in chains and in prisons. 37 The faithful were stoned, sawn in two,killed by the sword, clothed only in sheepskins and goatskins; they were penniless, afflicted, and tormented. 38 The world was not worthy of these saints. They wandered across deserts, crossed mountains, and lived in the caves, cracks, and crevasses of the earth.

39 These, though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. 40 That promise has awaited us, who receive the better thing that God has provided in these last days, so that with us, our forebears might finally see the promise completed.

While these great heroes of faith experienced the provision of God in the midst of often tumultuous times, they did not receive their full reward on earth.  As much as God did bless them, they were longing for something bigger than their lives.  They were looking for God’s kingdom and God being present with them.

Do you long for heaven?  All the sweetest parts of life are merely an appetizer of what we will experience when God is present with us and all sin is vanquished.  Loss and pain remind us not to put all our hopes in this life, God has something better for us.  Remembering the future allows us to live in the present more freely.

Knowing that we are going to meet Jesus gives us peace and freedom, because we know that the best is yet to come.  We can live for others.  We can love those who don’t love us.   We can forgive those who are not sorry.  We can lead extraordinary lives, find true greatness, because we know that God has something better for us, a life of meaning and purpose now and eternity beyond.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me see that you have something so much better for me that what I even want for myself.  Draw me into your presence, where I find real life, my real self, and eternity beyond.  Help me to aspire more than to get by, but to live out the reality that I want You and Your Kingdom.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, the place you want me to live out much of my faith journey is with those You have strategically and supernaturally placed in our midst.  Help me to live a way that radically honors You and Your ways.  May I do more than just the minimum, but seek to truly love those You have placed in my life.

Greatness Day 4: John 15:9-13

I have loved you as the Father has loved Me. Abide in My love. 10 Follow My example in obeying the Father’s commandments and receiving His love. If you obey My commandments, you will stay in My love. 11 I want you to know the delight I experience, to find ultimate satisfaction, which is why I am telling you all of this.

12 My commandment to you is this: love others as I have loved you. 13 There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends. 

True greatness is found in love.  Only through love can the world be transformed.  And we know this is true because this is Jesus’ strategy. `Jesus changed the world, and our lives, by giving His life for us.  When we truly love, can we be great for the Kingdom of God.  And in the love of Christ we find true, deep, eternal life.

I get fearful of expressing the love I have for others.  I don’t want to awkward.  And I certainly don’t want to be rejected.  But if I want to experience God’s plan for me, I need to show and express my love toward others.  In my family.  In my extended family, my Oikos.  And in the world.

Prayer for Self: Lord, forgive me for not even expressing the love that I have in my heart.  And help my love to grow deeper, richer and more abundantly toward others.  Lord, may I experience Your first love so that I can truly love others.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I need to love the people in my circle.  I need help.  Please remind me, encourage me, and empower me to love those I come in contact with today.

Taking Up Our Cross August 7-10

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

What images does the cross conjure up for you?  Is it a simple, splintery rough hewn wood contraption?  Is it a delicate piece of jewelry, gold or silver, finely crafted into an ornament to worn as both a symbol of beauty and faith?  Is it an ornament to the top of a church, an architectural monument announcing the house of Jesus?

For those in the time of Jesus, the cross was a symbol of death.  More than that, it was not merely death, but a tortuous death by suffocation.  It was also a symbol of shame- only non-Romans could be subjected to such a cruel death.

What could Jesus have meant by taking up our cross and following Him?  We will explore that this week.

Day 1: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”[c]

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

The signs of God’s blessing that the Jews looked for was a life of prosperity.  The Greeks tried to find transcendence through lofty thoughts; they could aspire mentally beyond the limits of human life and the nature.  Both sought to find the eternal in a private experience of blessings with God meeting their own needs.  God shows us through the life and teaching of Jesus that the way to find deep, meaningful life is to serve others sacrificially, not even withholding our very lives, as we love and care for those He has placed in our lives.

This runs against our well-entrenched self-interest.  Most of our thoughts are about how we think and feel.  Jesus invites us to go beyond self-centeredness and to engage with others by giving of ourselves without any thought of recompense.  The Wisdom of God is that we find the greatest satisfaction not in what we receive, but in what we give of ourselves to others.

Recently, a former Noah’s Ark parent reached out to me for counseling.  I had had a truly rough day; I did not feel like doing anything but wallowing in my anxiety and hurt.  The timing was tricky, but I was able to see him in the later evening.   The conversation was difficult; he was in a great deal of pain.  But being able to give to this man in this moment- the moment I least wanted to give- was restorative.  In this small example, I experienced that giving for others is what moves me from a life mastered by my own emotions, anxiety and hurt, into a place of connection with God and joy in being in partnership with him.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I am by nature very self-involved with my own feelings and fears.  Forgive me.  Help me to understand that even though I may not feel like living sacrificially for others in a given moment, I will be the one who benefits from giving of myself.  I will find Your presence and deeper relationships with You by loving the people You have placed in my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Laying down my life for some in my Oikos feels right and Good, Lord.  My wife.  My children.  But others, seem much less deserving!  Remind me that I was not deserving of your first love for me.  Help me to be willing to offer grace, unmerited sacrificial love, to those in my Oikos and the world beyond.

 

Day 2: Galatians 2:19-21

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Most of us (I think almost all of us!) are trying to live up to a particular standard of success, beauty, goodness, relationship, etc., that justifies us and makes us feel like we are ok in the world.  Sometimes that standard is one of comparison- as long as I’m not like that other person, I am OK.  It never works.

The problem is that we can never live up to or maintain that standard.   Whatever the Law that you have in your life to justify you, you can never hold on to that level.  What the Apostle Paul is communicating is that he could never justify himself against the standard of God’s rules- he has found grace instead in the person of Jesus.  He could never be good enough to earn heaven or relationship with God- through the cross Paul (and we) have been ushered into the presence of God and made right with God and righteous in the world.

I am stuck when I try to find my worth in my accomplishments.  They are never enough.  I am fearful when I base my worth in my family and friends- they can never be allowed to disappoint me or let me down. Basing my self-worth on comparisons is always flawed- there are always those who seem to have it more together.  I must give up my desires and ambitions and embrace Jesus and His cross.  Only Jesus can be the basis of my life.  When Jesus is the center of my world, I can feel secure in this world and in heaven beyond.  I must become like Him.  I must choose the cross over choosing success, fame, or power.  To be rooted in Christ means to be centered on His cross and the cross He has given me to carry as I follow Him.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see that the world is not enough.  You are.  Help me to choose You.  Help me to remember choosing You means choosing the cross.  Give me the spiritual power to turn my back on my longings, so that I can find my true needs me in my relationship with You.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, you call me to carry my cross as well.  Much of that will be living sacrificially toward those you have placed in my Oikos.  Give me the willingness to put your agenda for them in front of my own.

 

Day 3: Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. 30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Have you ever tried to carry too many things, awkwardly, all at once?  The load may not be too heavy, but carrying things awkwardly you can hurt yourself.  Once, in high school, I was told to lift a girl over my head in a melodrama.  She was tiny.  It was not difficult to lift her high over my head.  The problem came when she became afraid and twisted.  In an effort to keep her from falling I wrenched my back to catch her.  That was the first time I hurt my back, and every so often since then, it has ached.

I see this scripture as teaching us that we do not live our lives merely for ourselves.  We do have a load to carry- people whom we need to love as Jesus has loved us.  But allowing Jesus to be our Master is like a well made harness- we are cared for, paced, and not given more than we can handle.  On our own, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by taking on too much or doing it without the support of the Master.  When we put our trust in Him to lead us we will find meaningful work and meaningful rest in Him.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to trust you to lead me into the responsibilities you want me to carry.  Give me wisdom to know which burdens aren’t my responsibility.  And I need you to be my partner to pull this load- I can’t do it myself.  Thank you for coming alongside.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that I might demonstrate that I am not overwhelmed by my responsibilities, but am ok because I am trusting You.  Help me to both experience and share how Your love and encouragement keeps moving forward.  May I share Your rest with those in my relational world.

Day 4: Colossians 2:14-15

When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.

What addictions plague you?  The Bible teaches us that we have are all slaves to sin.  What addictions have a hold on you- alcohol, arrogance, approval,  attention, bitterness, caffeine, codependency,  competitiveness, drugs, excitement,  food, gambling, hoarding, internet/gaming, jobs,  isolation, laziness, lust, perfectionism, popularity, selfishness,  or soda (ok, I didn’t want to include the last one on the list)?  What have they made you do that was destructive to you or those you love?

But the truth is that Christ on the Cross overcame all of them.  He didn’t just win; He ran up the score on them.  He destroyed their power by His victory over them.  The most humiliating thing you could do to an army was not to destroy them- you would capture them, and make them parade naked in the streets so that you could mock them.  Jesus wants you to have this victory over your addictions in Him.

I have experienced some of these victories.  Addictions that used to control my time and way I engaged in the world no longer do.  For this I praise you Jesus!  I would not have won these victories in my own power.  But there are still more victories ahead- for me and for you.  Put your trust in Christ.  Follow Him.  Trust in the road to the cross.  As the old hymn sand, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace!”  May it be so as we seek Him!

Prayer for Self: Lord, I can’t express how grateful I am that things that once help me captive have been had their power over me broken in You.  I want to have more victories so that I can be a better parent, husband, and follower of Yours.  Help me to depend on You and trust in the process and power of the cross in my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to not be repulsed by addictions of others in my Oikos.  Let me see that they are not terminal; they are just in need of your healing touch.  Help me to be a person of compassion and grace.  Help me to share that you are the answer to the addictions that plague me.

Daily Devotional July 31-Aug 3

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to be a counselor at MAD(Music and Drama) Camp with many of our teenagers and adults from our church.  Pastor Byrdon of First Baptist Vallejo was the camp pastor and brought powerful messages to us twice each day.  The nugget that God worked with me on was my identity in Christ.  I have many roles, many ways to define myself.  I am a husband, father, pastor, church leader, coach, chaplain, counselor, etc.  But my primary identity is being the beloved of Christ.  Anytime I find my sense of self-worth somewhere else, I lose my way.  I want to invite you to consider how Christ is the source of your identity this week.  As the old hymn sang, “All other ground is sinking sand…”  May Jesus confirm your identity in Him this week.

Identity in Christ Day 1: 1 John 3:1-4

What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he’s up to.

2-3 But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.

One of the beautiful things about children is how much they love their family!  In a healthy family, they see themselves as part of a larger whole, part of a group that takes care of them and who delights in their unique presence.  This is a good way for us to see ourselves in Jesus.  He takes care of our needs directly and through other members of His family.  He delights in us.  He celebrates our uniqueness and loves to watch us continually grow and develop mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  As verse 2 says, who knows where we will end up as we pursue God and He is revealed more fully in our lives!

Anxiety is my constant companion.  I can dwell on what is needful or what has been lost.  As we get older, we see relationships drift, dreams evaporate, and people pass away.  If my identity is primarily in my relationships with others or in my accomplishments, I must work very hard to keep everything together, to make everything ok.  It will lead me toward manipulating others instead of loving them.  But when I fully aware of my identity as a child of God, and trust Him with the worries of my day, month, and future, I find pure joy in his presence.  I want that for you.  Whether your particular hang-up is like mine- anxiety- or yours is sadness, anger, bitterness, or whatever- find your identity in an ever evolving faith, characterized by ever growing love and trust in Jesus.  Then we can say with the Psalmist, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Lord, forever!”

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to find my identity in you.  Let me be still and know that You are God.  Give me the peace that surpasses all understanding.  Help me to see that You don’t merely tolerate me, You love me.  Help me to remember that, at least for today.  Tomorrow I will come back and ask for more grace then.  Thank you for Your unending love.

Prayer for My Oikos: Jesus, help me to love those in my world without needing for them to reciprocate in kind.  Lord, I need to ask for your supernatural power to do this.  Help me to walk through the world in the protective bubble of Your love so that I can be Your representative to my Oikos.  I love you; help me to love those around me.

Identity in Christ Day 2: Philippians 3:20-21

20-21 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

Do you believe in the power of God?  We are told that Jesus is going to make everything beautiful and whole.  Do you believe this?  Sometimes we doubt God because we don’t see Him working in our lives (and in the lives of those we love) in the way that we want Him to work.  Sometimes, this happens because we won’t get out of the way and let God move in us, or even in the people we love (side note- when you act as savior to a loved one, sometimes you are keeping them from finding their true Savior).  Sometimes, it’s because we don’t know what’s best, and God wants and is working toward what is best.  Sometimes resolution to the situation just takes longer and extended healing needs to happen, not just a cessation of the crisis of the moment.  Sometimes God wants something bigger that you can even imagine today. But be assured, Jesus will make everything whole and beautiful.

One way that I see the power of God is in opening me up to deeper relationships.  My relational world today is bigger than I could have imagined 5 years ago.  I may have about the same number of friends, but I love them much more.   I was closed off in some ways from experiencing relational wholeness.  It’s like a new world has opened up for me.  God wants to give you a bigger, more beautiful world that you now inhabit, not merely solve the problems of your world.  Open up to Jesus and let Him lead you deeper in love with Him, with others, and with His world.

Prayer for Self: Lord, in you I find beauty and wholeness.  Again I come asking for the vision and faith to truly dwell in Your love and grace.  There is something much bigger that you want for me than what I am experiencing today.  Let me trust you with everything.  Lead me in the everlasting way of Your love.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray that You would be moving those I love closer to Your beauty and wholeness.  Give them a sense that You are the place of rest and wholeness that they need.  Help me to point to you in the middle of our lives together.

Identity in Christ: Day 3 Colossians 2:6-12

Now that you have welcomed the Anointed One, Jesus the Lord, into your lives, continue to journey with Him and allow Him to shape your lives. Let your roots grow down deeply in Him, and let Him build you up on a firm foundation. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always spill over with thankfulness. Make sure no predator makes you his prey through some misleading philosophy and empty deception based on traditions fabricated by mere mortals. These are sourced in the elementary principles originating in this world and not in the Anointed One (so don’t let their talks capture you). You see, all that is God, all His fullness, resides in His body. 10 You, too, are being completed in Him, the One who has dominion over all rule, all authority. 11 In Him you were also circumcised, set apart by a spiritual act performed without hands. The Anointed One’s circumcision cut you off from the sinfulness of your flesh. 12 You were buried with Him beneath the waters of the ceremonial washing called baptism and then were raised up with Him by faith in the resurrection power of God, who brought Him back from the dead.

Are you letting Jesus shape you today?  When our identity is rooted in Jesus, we are continually growing in our faith and spiritual formation.  I hope that you can say you know more about Jesus, know Jesus more personally than you did a year ago.  When we let ourselves be led by Jesus we find many unexpected surprises; we find ourselves on journeys we did not expect to go on. The power of God is alive and active; have you chosen to let yourself be moved by the current of His love?

My prayer life has changed over the years.  At one point it was a laundry list of what I needed God to do for me.  That kind of morphed into a longish list of what God needed to for others as well as for me.  At other points my prayer life has been directed toward confession of my guilt before God.  But in more recent times, my prayer life has been more focused on experiencing the love of God for me personally and trying to live my life in the perpetual awareness of His presence, both during prayer times and in my moving through the world.  I do not know where the current of God’s power is going to take me next.  But I do know that God’s love and power are available to me whenever I turn to Him.  The more I give into letting Him move me on a daily basis, the more I can be confident that I am being shaped more into the person that Jesus created me to be.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to be truly willing to hear Your Word teach me.  Help me to be open to the tugging of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Make me more into the person You want me to be every day.  Forgive me for the ways I have chosen my ways instead of Yours.

Prayer for My Oikos: I know that You want to make me into a willing participant with You in sharing Your love and grace in the world.  Give me both the desire and the ability to love well those You have placed in my world.  Show me what I can tangibly do today to bless someone.  I am ready and willing to be Your servant today, Jesus.

Identity in Christ Day 4: John 15:12-17

11-15 I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.

Jesus is love.  That’s His identity.  And as we grow more like Him, it becomes our identity too, our primary way of living and moving and having our being in the world.  Too often people in our world are defined by ambition, anger, hurt, bitterness, or despair.  As we become more dependent on Christ, we will become more like Him.  In our identity as the beloved of Jesus, we become hope for our world.

I have a hard time feeling lovable.  It is my nature, despite my need, to push away the love of God and the love of others.  And when I am far from experiencing the love of God and others, I am most likely to act out selfishly toward others.  My need to experience God’s love is not only necessary for my personal well-being, but for those around me as well.  Allow yourself to experience God’s love and the love of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Only then will you be able to love the way Jesus wants you to love others.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to see Your love for me today.  Give me insight into how You have made me unique, how You have blessed me, how I have seen Your love displayed.  Lord, I need Your empowering love so that I can love the way You want me to today.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I know that the way I demonstrate Your supernatural love is by loving those who are not, by nature or my inclination, particularly lovable.  Help me to live for others, even those who will not repay my kindness.  Give me a clear direction with whom I can share love and grace today.

Devotional July 3-7: Christie P’s 20 Favorite Verses (Part 1)

 

In the next month you are in for a treat.  Christie Price agreed to write our devotional!  She has picked 20 of her favorite scriptures in the Bible to write and to share her experience with God through them.  I have been blessed by them.  I know you will be too.  Encourage Christie when you see her!  I want her to write more!

 

JULY 3RD ISAIAH 54:1-17

1 “Sing, O barren,     You who have not borne!     Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,     You who have not labored with child!     For more are the children of the desolate     Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD. 2“Enlarge the place of your tent,     And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;     Do not spare;     Lengthen your cords,     And strengthen your stakes.  3  For you shall expand to the right and to the left,     And your descendants will inherit the nations,     And make the desolate cities inhabited.  4 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;     Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame;     For you will forget the shame of your youth,     And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.  5 For your Maker is your husband,     The LORD of hosts is His name;     And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;     He is called the God of the whole earth.   6 For the LORD has called you     Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,     Like a youthful wife when you were refused,”     Says your God.   7 “For a mere moment I have forsaken you,     But with great mercies I will gather you.   8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment;     But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,”     Says the LORD, your Redeemer.  9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;     For as I have sworn     That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,     So have I sworn     That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.  10 For the mountains shall depart     And the hills be removed,     But My kindness shall not depart from you,     Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”     Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.  11 “O you afflicted one,     Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,     Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,     And lay your foundations with sapphires.  12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,     Your gates of crystal,     And all your walls of precious stones. 13 All your children shall be taught by the LORD,     And great shall be the peace of your children.  14 In righteousness you shall be established;     You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;     And from terror, for it shall not come near you.  15 Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.     Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.  16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmith     Who blows the coals in the fire,     Who brings forth an instrument for his work;     And I have created the spoiler to destroy. 17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper,     And every tongue which rises against you in judgment     You shall condemn.     This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,     And their righteousness is from Me,”     Says the LORD.

In my mid-thirties, I discovered this scripture in the middle of my midlife crisis. It still speaks loudly into my life today. First and foremost is the, 5th verse statement “For your Maker is your husband, The Lord of hosts is His name. ” Up to this point of my life God was God to me but never so intimate as to be my husband. Earthly husbands support all they can but have limits. Up to this point in life I had always depended on my husband to fulfill my deepest needs of my earthly life. After all, why else did God give me a husband? However, as a couple our life was changing, maturing, taking a new turn looking towards a new phase of growth for both of us. For me this took a turn that I was completely unequipped for emotionally.  Sooo I did what I did best at this midlife me, I transferred my lack of control and emotional health to my husband. IT WAS ALL HIS FAULT! He was failing to be my knight in shining armor, my prince charming! Isn’t this why I married, to complete myself, to become dependent on his completing where I lacked, wasn’t this his responsibility towards me? However, the more I ranted and struggled the further my husband retreated. Now read on verses remaining. Oh what promise if we take it literally. I did! This began the 3rd phase of my life which as it turns out was not and end as I first thought but a new beginning of a much deeper relationship with not only my God BUT my husband. Remembering who God was in the 1st phase of my life enabled me to trust Him with this new beginning in midlife.

Are you struggling to be a completed you? Does life overwhelm and cause you to look for others or excuses for your behavior or not being able to Spiritually seek God and not look to others for your completeness? Will you now this moment ask God to be the most intimate Person in life and look to Him, to be you’re not only your Maker, but Significant other? Our Redeemer lives within our beings He rose not from the tomb not to just prove there’s life in Him after death But for today!

July 4th Exodus 3:14-15

14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

Wow what a statement! In my mid-twenties, this scripture captured my imagination. All my life I have sensed there was God but this scripture captured who He was in five very small precise words. Never before had such a complete description of God been so well described to my mind not just my soul. God has made us thinking, conscious beings. Our minds while being able to distract us into wrong thinking can also be used to discern the most deeply spiritual aspects of God. We often try to place our thinking minds into the background believing this to be truly spiritual. Psalm 139:14-15 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You,  When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Ahh yes this speaks to all of me this includes my mind. God The I Am made me!  I Am  speaks of a being who IS. We also sense that we are and that causes our minds to seek answers and that causes thinking! I and many Christians call this meditating on The Word. If I sense that I am a being yet also recognize I am lacking how do reconcile I exist, where do I come from, where am I going and is it worth doing life? In my life this has formed my character. Not that I am all that, but with Paul, I know I am chief among sinners and not worthy, yet my Redeemer is my Husband my Maker, my I AM WHO I AM to me.

Are you the only I am in your character? A thinking mind is a requiring mind searching for answers in a world of many thoughts and all trying to say to you what is truth? If you can get your mind to simple truth, The Word jumps out and reveals itself to not just your mind but your soul. Can you today trust The Living Word to reveal to you I Am Who I Am?

July 5th John 6:28-35  

28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”     29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” 30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ”  32 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

In the mid 70’s bread went sky high in price! All I knew started to go to the day old bread store for bread. My mother and grandparents told me that during the great depression bread also was hard to get. Bread during this passage of scripture was also hard to get. It is said that bread is the staff of life. As a wife and mother bread is an important part of feeding my ever increasing family. It fills their stomachs and satisfies deeply their hunger.  This crowd was just fed in the desert by Jesus supernaturally but they were hungry again. Our bodies are made to be replenished by food daily. Jesus understood this and brought them around to the time in the desert with Moses and the desert wanders being feed supernaturally by manna.     32Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

What bread are you seeking for today? Some bread is very expensive I have a very great friend who loves good bread over dessert. I use to not be able to understand this being very partial to desserts. However, after being introduced to her variety of taste I can see her point of view. Are you willing to try Jesus as your Bread of Life today? Unlike a dessert which leaves a sweet temporary taste in both stomach and mouth This Bread satisfies the hungry soul filling to the point of satisfaction of your hungry spirit and it’s variety of taste never loses it’s savor. Every day This Bread is always new to me and never stale! I don’t go to the day old bread store for it but seek God and receive freely!

July 6th John 8:10-12

10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”     11 She said, “No one, Lord.”     And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Where are your accusers? Are they real or mainly in your mind? I have both, but my mind is the worst. While I can escape people long after they are out of my sight their accusations and questions live on in my mind! The old saying I learned as a child, sticks and stones remains, oh how I wish it was true! “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!” The woman of this scripture was caught red-handed so to speak right in the middle of her sin. No denying it there were witnesses to her lack of morality. I too have endured being caught red handed, on the ground defeated hopeless. Oh how grateful I am to hear words spoken I Am The Light of the world. Jesus is not just saying this to the fallen woman but to her accusers as well!  We all need His Light, not just the fallen, but any of us who think we can sit in judgement of others! How dare we place our self-righteousness above His Light. No matter how incriminating the facts we cannot judge. AND this includes ourselves when it consists of confessed sins. Words spoken either by others or your own mind will hurt and refuse to heal until brought into the standing I Am Light of Jesus!

When asked how I know God loves me I usually think about how I can live within myself and not go crazy. I am soooo human. Human in that lust of life is difficult for me to but aside. The speed of light is to fast for us as humans to go but today will you attempt to let go of preconceived notions and allow Jesus The Light of The World be your electric conductor to God? If so 1st John 3:20-23 admonishes us to we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Let’s get loving not condemning others or confessing who we really are to ourselves as well as God!

July 7th John 10:7-10

7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.  9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Throughout my life I have encountered many voices. To my great joy my God’s has been the loudest. For me this is because He has proven Himself to be true. True not just in how His Word interacts in my life with people and circumstances BUT an inner stability that brings peace and joy. Sometimes this is bittersweet kind of like a chocolate I love but there just the same. This I have learned since childhood. As a girl, I grew up on a ranch with lots of sheep. I was well aware of these docile creature’s mind set. The grass is always greener over there is very true for them and wander they do to get to it. Only by placing them in a secure well-guarded pasture are they safe. Sheep do trust their shepherds voice and do respond because they’ve learned by experience in their individual lives and as a cooperate he is trust worthy. I too have learned that Jesus stands at my gate to guard my journey. Life is not an endurance for me but a journey adventure.  The Door to this journey began as a small girl when decisions made in my life both by me and significant others around me impacted me. I quickly learned by experience that when I practiced looking at God my life fell into place and became  a lot less scary and security was from Him. He was my Door to life and that abundantly.

Most assuredly Jesus is calling! Every one hears BUT how do we respond that’s the twenty four thousand (actually most assuredly) the priceless question in life!  Do we hear His voice now or is our eyes on the greener (what we think is greener) pasture just beyond our gate. Will we stick our neck through the fence sort of speaking trying for the green or wait till Jesus opens The Door.  Once as a girl I heard the story of Jesus. I knew I needed help soooo I asked. He took me at my small girl knowledge and has been able to keep me as His sheep. Is He your Door to The I Am, your Maker,  Redeemer, your Husband?

Devotional June 26-July 1: Going Home (Luke 8:26-39)

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them,because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Jesus is a miracle worker!  He can transform even the most broken person.  What strikes me about this story is what Jesus does next- He asks the man who had been a terror to his friends and family to go home to them!  This week we’re going to explore what it means to go home.

Going Home: Day 1 (Genesis 33:23-31)

23 He sent them all ahead across the stream along with everything he had; 24 but Jacob stayed behind, left alone in his distress and doubt. In the twilight of his anguish, an unknown man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw he was not winning the battle with Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was thrown out of joint as he continued to wrestle with him.

Man: 26 Let me go; the dawn is breaking.

Jacob: I will not let you go unless you bless me.

Man: 27 What’s your name?

Jacob: Jacob.

Man: 28 You will no longer go by the name Jacob. From now on, your name will be Israel because you have wrestled with God and humanity, and you have prevailed.

Jacob: 29 Please, tell me your name.

Man: Why do you ask what my name is?

Right then and right there the man blessed Jacob. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel because as he said, “I have come face to face with God, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun began to rise as Jacob passed by Penuel, limping because of his dislocated hip.

Jacob had committed a great crime- he stolen the blessing of God from his older brother.  He fled his home rather than face his brother’s rage.  In his many years sojourn away from home, God had blessed Jacob.  But now Jacob knows it’s time to go home.  What will he face when he returns?  We can see that by the way he sends away all his family and all his possession he is anxious and fearful.  He has chosen to spend this very anxious night alone.

In his distress, God appears.  God doesn’t reason with Jacob, deliver Jacob, or command Jacob.  He simply wrestles with Jacob.  God keeps Jacob engaged all night, wrestling with him.  At dawn, it is time for Jacob to continue his journey home.  God tells Jacob to let go.  Jacob refuses to let God go until God blesses him.  God  give His blessing and a marker to remember the night he wrestled with God. Then Jacob goes home.

Do you wrestle with God about your past, your family, your relationships?  God invites us to wrestle with Him about the hurts we have received and the harms we have caused.  God is author and perfecter of forgiveness.  Do not stop wrestling with God about your hurts until He blesses you.  Wrestle with Him until He releases you from guilt, bitterness or whatever is harming your soul.  God will bless you if you wrestle with Him over the harms and hurts of your story.

At many points in my life I would have said that re-enagaging with the hurts of the past is pointless.  I would think, “Nothing can change the past.  It is what it is.”  I now see that this is not true.  By understanding your own experience and the context of the hurts you have caused and received, you can re-engage the people and yourself in the present with the grace of God.

Is going home to your family as difficult as it was for Jacob? Are their friends you need to reconnect with?  Are there those in your Oikos who need more from you?  Wrestle with God and then engage or re-engage with them after you have experienced God’s blessing.  While they know your past, consider that fact that they may not yet know the person you have become through your wrestling with God.  You are not the same person after receiving the blessing that Jesus will give you.  And know that you will not go back to them alone- the God who has wrestled with you will be a very present help when you go to your family.

 

Prayer for Self:  Help me delve deeper in the relationships that You want me to have.  Lord, there are relationships and events in my past that I am not ok with today.  Help me to be willing to wrestle with You about the pain I have caused or has been inflicted in me.  Heal me.  Teach me the true meaning of forgiving and being forgiven.  Lord, I bring before you this person, this situation, in my life….

 

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, open my eyes to those in my Oikos who need me to be fully present with them in life.  Give me insight and compassion.  Show me how to engage with those You have placed in my life.

 

Going Home: Day 2 (Ruth 1:18-21)

18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

20 “Don’t call me Naomi,[b]” she told them. “Call me Mara,[c] because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

b=Naomi means pleasant   c=Mara means bitter

Naomi is going home broken.  She and her husband had left Israel with two adult sons and now she is returning with none of them.  She returns impoverished and left without financial security.  She is angry at God whom she blames for her misfortune.   She is bitter.

But in the midst of her crisis, even while she is accusing God, God is already planting the seeds of her rescue.  She has returned home where her familial relationships will bless her.  She has been given a companion for the journey, her daughter-in-law Ruth.  And she has been placed in exactly the right spot by God for Him to work out the plan of restoring her life.  God will give her more in her older age than all she was so proud of in her youth.  God will bless her life with a home, daughter-in-law and son, a precious grandson, and a legacy of God’s faithfulness that will echo throughout eternity.

Some of us return home because we have no other options.  We, like Naomi, have lost everything and have nowhere else to turn.  But this crisis does not have to be the end.  It can be a major milestone in God’s plan to redeem our lives.  We do not need to feel shame in reaching out to our family for help.

Yet it is hard for me to ask for help, even from family and my church family.  I wonder if I would have had the humility to go home if I were Naomi.  Would I would have just wandered aimlessly, risking starvation, rather than admit I needed family?  Would I have not reached out to others in my church family in a life or death crisis?  I do not know.

Will you admit you need family?  We all have needs God want to meet through our family and/or the family of God.  Bill Withers song Lean on Me captures this feeling well.  The lyrics are in the original than in the version I grew up listening to

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on

This is my song of worship for today.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I need courage.  I need to admit my needs to others.  I need to come home to my family, and to my spiritual family.  Help me to share my needs with others, so that You can heal me through my confession and through the love of other believers.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, make me a safe person for others to come to in their brokenness.  Let me have the time and patience to listen and hear from others.  Teach me how to listen and walk with others, without trying to fix the problem.  May You build intimacy in my Oikos by my compassionate presence.

 

Coming Home: Day 3 (Nehemiah 1:3-4, 2:17-18)

They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven….

In the meantime, Nehemiah gets permission to go back to Jerusalem with help from the King of Persia.

17 Then I [Nehemiah] said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

When we survey our family, we may find that it is ruins.  Hopefully, our family is  more in need of routine maintenance than structural repair.  In any case, acknowledging the truth of our situation allows us to begin to see what is going on and to pray with clarity.  Sometimes seeing where our relationships have drifted or wandered off to is uncomfortable.  But understanding what isn’t working, and the damage that has been done, allows God to work in our healing and the healing of our family unit as a whole.

Follow the example of Nehemiah and begin the good work of rebuilding.  Every thriving relationship is a work in progress! Every family needs to correct its course every so often    Nehemiah probably felt overwhelmed at how broken his home city was.  But he began the good work of rebuilding and recruited others to help.  May God give us every resource of heaven so that we might build a healthy family and a healthy Oikos!

Prayer for Self: Help me see how my relationships with my family and my extended family are doing.  Give me the courage and clarity to see it for what it is.  I need your grace and love so that I can bring love and healing.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, give me insight into what needs to be repaired in my relational world and how it needs to be done.  Bring me a partner to help in this good work.  I ask that I bring healing to my Oikos, particularly to those who are a part of my family and the family of God.

 

Going Home: Day 4 (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Our ultimate home is with Jesus.  We will find our true rest and our true identity in Him.  This doesn’t mean that the work we do here is unimportant- as v. 9-10 state, we will have receive the rewards we’re due based on what we’ve done here.  But the Good News is that we will one day know the true rest and refreshment that comes from Jesus.

The question our Oikos book, 8 to 15: The World is Smaller than You Think, the author constantly asks is, “Why are we still here?”  Once we know Christ, we are destined for eternity with Him.  Why doesn’t God just beam us up immediately?  Paul refers to the same conundrum- when we are here on earth we absent from the immediate presence of Christ.  We are left here because there are people to love with God’s love.  Go home.  Love the people that God has placed in your world.  Knowing your eternal destiny allows you to love those in your world freely.  They don’t have to give your life meaning or save you.  Jesus already has!  But God has left you here to live in love with them.

Prayer for Self: Lord, thank you for saving me!  Thank you for inviting me to Your forever home.  Fix my eyes on You.  Help me to see the values of eternity and live them out here on earth.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, let me love the people in my relational world well.   May I be carefree to love them because I am secure in Your care.  Keep my eyes on eternity with you in all my relationships.

Daily Devotional June 19-25

Family Of God

19 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to see you.”

21 Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” –Luke 8:19-21

Jesus makes a shocking statement here.  What do you think it means to be family with Jesus?  We are going to be consider this week what it means to be the Family of God.

 

Family of God Day 1 Ephesians 2:13-19

13 But now through Christ Jesus you, who were once far away, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 So he is our peace. In his body he has made Jewish and non-Jewish people one by breaking down the wall of hostility that kept them apart. 15 He brought an end to the commandments and demands found in Moses’ Teachings so that he could take Jewish and non-Jewish people and create one new humanity in himself. So he made peace. 16 He also brought them back to God in one body by his cross, on which he killed the hostility. 17 He came with the Good News of peace for you who were far away and for those who were near. 18 So Jewish and non-Jewish people can go to the Father in one Spirit.

19 That is why you are no longer foreigners and outsiders but citizens together with God’s people and members of God’s family.

 

Jesus is the reason for our unity.  We come from different backgrounds.  We have different life experiences.  We have different ways of understanding the world.  But in Christ we have something in common- a Savior who makes a way for us to be in relationship with God.  In addition, Jesus shows us the way we are to engage with the world.  And importantly, he levels the playing field for all believers so that we could have true brotherhood with every other believer in Him.

Christian culture often mimics the outside culture of our world.  There are celebrities.  There are those in the in-crowd and the outsiders.  This is not what Jesus died to create.  He made us family by allowing His body to be broken for each and every one of us.  Because of His sacrifice, we are made one in Him.

I have been uncomfortable around people who have a different background.  I can feel threatened by people who have more than me and unpleasantly smug about those with less than I have.  Because of Jesus, I have only one vantage point- I am a sinner saved by grace.  And every other believer is with me in that category.  There is no longer any distinction between our position before God.  We are made to be one, one in love, faith and unity in Jesus.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me not to think to believe I am inferior or superior to anyone else.  All of us need Your forgiveness.  Help me to treat all people with the confidence and humility that comes from being Your child.  May I treat everyone with the respect and grace with which You invited me to find in You.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, many around me struggle as I do with feeling less than.   Some struggle with feeling that they are okay because they are doing better than someone else.  Help me to treat everyone in my relational world as you treat me.  Lord, give me the ability to see that You have made every other believer, and especially those in my Oikos, family with me by Your sacrifice.

 

Family Of God Day 2 Hosea 2:19-23

19 I’m going to marry you, and this time it’ll be forever in righteousness and justice. Our covenant will reflect a loyal love and great mercy; 20 our marriage will be honest and truthful, and you’ll understand who I really am—the Eternal One.

21     And I swear that when that day comes
I’ll answer the sky and prayers for rain,
and the sky will give the land the water it’s asking for.
22     And the land will give the grain and wine and oil the fertile soil they need to develop,
and the crops will shout back to Me, “God sows!”[d
]
23     I won’t just restore the agricultural abundance;
I’ll sow into My beloved land and plant the people in the land and make them My own.
To the one who has not been shown mercy,[e]
I’ll rename her Mercy.
I’ll tell Not My People,[f] “You are now My People!”
and he’ll respond, “You’re my God!”[g
]

 

The Bible tells us as believers, we have become the Bride of Christ.  We have been brought into the Family of God.  We once were orphans. We had been far from God, we had not experienced His mercy.  Now we are the very beloved of God.

This has been one of my goals for the last year- to experience God’s delight in me daily.  This is not pride.  This is not self-indulgence.  This is necessary for me to love the people in my family, in our church family, in my Oikos and beyond.  This is also necessary for you.  May you know that you are the beloved of Christ and a part of His forever family.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, thank you for loving me.  Help me to see my place in Your family.  Help me to know my value and worth to You.  Help me to live confidently because of Your love.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray that I would love each one in my Oikos as You love me.  Help me to reach out to them with love, compassion, and hope.  Be the center of all the conversations I have today Lord.

 

Family of God Day 3 1 Peter 2:4-13

Come to Him—the living stone—who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious. Like living stones, let yourselves be assembled into a spiritual house, a holy order of priests who offer up spiritual sacrifices that will be acceptable to God through Jesus the Anointed. For it says in the words of the prophet Isaiah,

See here—I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious;
Whoever depends upon Him will never be disgraced.[a
]

To you who believe and depend on Him, He is precious; but to you who don’t, remember the words of the psalmist:

The stone that the builders rejected
has been laid as the cornerstone—the very stone that holds together the entire foundation,[b]

and of Isaiah:

A stone that blocks their way,
a rock that trips them.[c]

They stumble because they don’t follow the word of God, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen people, set aside to be a royal order of priests, a holy nation, God’s own; so that you may proclaim the wondrous acts of the One who called you out of inky darkness into shimmering light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received it.

11 Beloved, remember you don’t belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile, so resist those desires of the flesh that battle against the soul. 12 Live honorably among the outsiders so that, even when some may be inclined to call you criminals, when they see your good works, they might give glory to God when He returns in judgment.

Our primary identity is now being a part of Jesus’ family.  This is a stumbling block for those who don’t believe.  It may create distance in them from us.  But in Christ, we are to live with love so that they might see our lives as a reflection of His first love.

Have you had the feeling of others recoiling from you when they find out you are a follower of Jesus?  I have.  There have been moments where it seems that others would rather have heard that I had leprosy than that I was a follower of Jesus.  God has called me to lean in to rejection, to allow them to have whatever reaction to me being “religious” that they need to have.  I must love others, even if they don’t understand me or reject me because I am part of the family of God.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see that those who push away from me because I am part of Your forever family are not rejecting me- they are struggling with You.  Lord, protect me from being one of the people who has brought You Name disrespect by treating the outsider badly.  May I love even when that love is not returned.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, there are some in my Oikos who are not believers.  Help me to not hide my identity from them, but to share the work You are doing in my life.  Help me be willing to invite them into the family.  Let me walk with great tenderness toward those who are outside the family of faith.

 

Family of God Day 4 Romans 12:9-15

Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically. Despise evil; pursue what is good as if your life depends on it. 10 Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. 11 Do not slack in your faithfulness and hard work. Let your spirit be on fire, bubbling up and boiling over, as you serve the Lord. 12 Do not forget to rejoice, for hope is always just around the corner. Hold up through the hard times that are coming, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Share what you have with the saints, so they lack nothing; take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.

14 If people mistreat or malign you, bless them. Always speak blessings, not curses. 15 If some have cause to celebrate, join in the celebration. And if others are weeping, join in that as well. 

Do you share your emotions with other believers? Jesus designed His family to be a place where we do not have to feel alone.    My experience as pastor has shown me that many, if not most, believers are lonely and do not have people to share their life, their struggles, and their faith.

Are you a safe person for other believers?  When they open up to you, to you respond with compassion or veiled superiority or judgment?  Or sometimes not so veiled?  We can get so caught up in Jesus words “go, and sin no more” that we forget to actually love and weep with each other the way Jesus did.  Conversely, are you excited for believers successes or jealous?  If you are ask God to work in your heart and confess that to another believer who will show and share grace with you.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, make me a safe person for other members of Your family to share the joys and hurts of life with.  Help me to always choose compassion and mercy first.  Help me to live with love with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Many in my circle are lonely, God.  Help me to reach out and build a bridge to them.  Give me the spiritual resources to shower them with love.  Heal me through being a source of healing for them.

Daily Devotional June 12- 18

Children

This week we are doing our Campout Vacation Bible School Friday night and Saturday morning.  It is not too late to register your child or invite someone else to register their child vbspro.events/p/acccvbs2017 (weird url- no www. in front or .com or .org at the end, trust me it works!).    Go to the same website to sign up to serve in one of several capacities in next weekend! As we get ready to serve our children and the children of our community, let’s begin with study and prayer on their behalf this week.

Children Day 1: Matthew 19:13-15

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left.

Children are important to Jesus.  Jesus praises them for being a model for what His Kingdom will look like.   Jesus lays hands on them and prays for them.  Jesus invites us to learn from them, to come, like children, into His presence.  This is the what heaven will look like.

I am too stubborn and too impatient to be childlike in my faith.    I, like the disciples, come to Jesus to get my agenda done.   My impatience and self-importance keeps me from resting in Jesus arms as He blesses me.

When I get too busy for children, and to approach God like His child, I am missing out on God’s Kingdom. I am also missing out on the blessing  and model that the children in my life are supposed to be for me.

Prayer for Self:  Lord God, help me to see that children and investing in them matters much more than other things I prioritize. You had a world to save, and yet You had time and patience for children.  Make me see the value of my children, our church’s children, and the children in my world.  Help me to see how important  and healing they are to my life.

Prayer for the Children In My Oikos: Lord, I pray that each child would feel loved and valued.  Help me to be one who builds up the children in my world.  May Your love be reflected by me to the children I am praying for and serving this week.

Children Day 2: Deuteronomy 11:1-5, 13-15, 18-21

Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place…

13 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— 14 then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. 15 I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Our children are can teach us much about faith.  They can model to us trusting God and living care free in the care of God.  What they lack, because of their age, is knowledge and experience.  They weren’t present when God rescued the people of Israel.  Nor  were they there with you when God rescued you.  They need to benefit from the experience of what God has done in your life and in the life of your family.  Secondly, they do not come to us knowing the Word of God.  We have the privilege of opening up to them the life giving words of Jesus.  In the process of doing these things- for our children, for the children of our church family and the children of our community- we remember our salvation and grow deeper in faith in Jesus.

I did not like going to church for much of my childhood.  Yet I am incredibly blessed that I was taken anyway.  When I reached my moment of crisis that drew me to Jesus, I had so many spiritual resources to draw upon. I knew, and was confident, in my ability to pray.  I knew that I was loved unconditionally by God.  I knew that Jesus could take away my sin.  I knew that He wanted me to turn to Him in the moment of crisis.  Let us fill the spiritual backpacks of our children whether they respond today to His love or if it will happen one day in the future.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to remember what it was like to be a child.  Help me to remember what life was like being a follower as a child, or what life was like not yet knowing You and Your love the way I do now.  Give me the insight to see how much the children in life need my experience and knowledge.

Prayer for the Children in My Oikos: Lord, help me to know how to communicate my faith journey in an age appropriate way.  Give me the insight into how to communicate the knowledge of Your Word to the children I will be serving.  May you bless all the teachers and leaders of children this week.

Children Day 3 Luke 1:16-17

 Here is his mission: he will turn many of the children of Israel around to follow the path to the Lord their God. 17 Do you remember the prophecy about someone to come in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; someone who will turn the hearts of the parents back to their children; someone who will turn the hearts of the disobedient to the mind-set of the just and good? Your son is the one who will fulfill this prophecy: he will be the Lord’s forerunner, the one who will prepare the people and make them ready for God.

The scripture here is referring to John the Baptist.  His mission was to prepare the way for Jesus.   A central part of that mission was to turn the hearts of parents back to their children.

How could this be necessary?  We love our children!  But it is so easy for us to get focused on the busyness of our adult worlds.  We can end up loving the children in our world them from a distance.  Let us engage with them in their reality, on their terms.  If you we remember from your childhood, there are very real difficulties that our children are going through.  Let us serve all the children of our relational world with consistency and empathy as they try to make sense of the world around them.  Let us tune our hearts to their hearts, so that we can share God’s love with the children in our world.

Prayer for Self: Lord, forgive me for being too busy for the children in my family and in our church family.  Forgive me for thinking their struggles in life are trivial in comparison to my adult responsibilities.  Make me into a compassionate listener to them.  Help me to show them how Your love makes a difference in my life and can make a difference in their life as well.

Prayer for the Children of My Oikos:  Lord, open the hearts of the children to me that you want me to love and serve.  I pray that I would know how to model and  seek forgiveness from them for my hard or busy heart in a way that honors their youth.  Turn my heart to the children You have placed around me.

Children Day 4 3 John 2-4

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

The Apostle John is a very old man when he is writing this.  Most scholars believe he wrote this down more than 50 years after the resurrection of Jesus.  It would also be my greatest joy, as it was for him, to hear that my children were walking in the truth of Jesus at the end of my life.

The best way to begin a journey is with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you want to go, it will  be hard to get there!   Most of us won’t live to see the last quarter of this century or into the 22nd century at all.  Many of the children we will serve at VBS this week will.  The world they will inhabit will be as unimaginable to us as the world we inhabit was to our grandparents.  But the word of God will remain.  Jesus will still be their greatest resource and source of hope.  Let us transfer the Gospel to these children with love, so that they will be prepared for all that life will give them and heaven beyond that!

Prayer for Self: Lord, I pray that my heart would be for my children, the children of our church family, and the children of our community.  Give me the insight to see how important they are.  Help me to do well in service towards them.

Prayer for the Children of My Oikos: Jesus, these children will inhabit a world I can’t imagine and won’t see.  But You will be present.  You will be their hope.  May they put their trust in you now.  May You draw them into a loving relationship that will last from now through eternity.  Thank you for being their Savior and my Savior.

Devotional June 5- June 11

What We Owe to God

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

What do we owe to God?  Understanding our real standing in relationship to God can be humbling.  To acknowledge our brokenness and sin can feel shaming.  But when we understand where we are in relationship to God, it allows us to see how gracious and loving God is towards us.    My encouragement for you this week in the readings is not wallow in feelings of shame, anger, disassociate or rebellion, but to consider soberly how much Jesus loves you.   He paid a huge price to redeem you and bring you into relationship with God.  You are loved.

 

Day 1: Genesis 3:13-19

God (to the woman): 13 What have you done?

Eve: It was the serpent! He tricked me, and I ate.

14 God (to the serpent): What you have done carries great consequences.
Now you are cursed more than cattle or wild beasts.
You will writhe on your belly forever,
consuming the dust out of which man was made.
15     I will make you and your brood enemies
of the woman and all her children;
The woman’s child will stomp your head,
and you will strike his heel.

16     (to the woman) As a consequence of your actions,
I will increase your suffering—the pain of childbirth
And the sorrow of bringing forth the next generation.
You will desire your husband; but rather than a companion,
He will be the dominant partner.

17     (to the man) Because you followed your wife’s advice
instead of My command and ate of the tree
From which I had forbidden you to eat, cursed is the ground.
For the rest of your life,
You will fight for every crumb of food
from the crusty clump of clay I made you from.
18     As you labor, the ground will produce thorns and thistles,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19     Your brow will sweat for your mouth to taste
even a morsel of bread until the day you return
To the very ground I made you from.
From dust you have come,
And to dust you shall return.

 

This passage is brutal.  It lays out for us some, not all, of the inequities and painful realities of life.  What is important for us today is to acknowledge that sin is the cause of the brokenness of the world and the brokenness with us.  This was not God’s will for us.  This is a result of human rebellion against God’s eternal plan.

I struggle with this.  While I am very much aware of my own sin, I struggle with being stuck with consequences of sin I did not commit.  I push back against living in a fallen world;  I wasn’t there in the Garden of Eden.  I didn’t throw away paradise for a stupid piece of fruit.  It wasn’t my fault.  However the Fall illustrates a more personal truth.  I did not make the choices that my parents, grandparents and more distant ancestors made that shaped my family of origin and the physical, emotional, and mental health scars that were inflicted upon me and were inflicted upon all of us.

If God had left us in the state, broken without hope, we would have reason to resent our ancestors and feel anger toward God.   But He didn’t.  He took the responsibility for the mistakes of every generation and dispatched Jesus, the Savior of the world, to offer salvation and healing.

I have to accept that there is hurt, sin and addiction in my life that I caused and other besetting sins that I did not.  But regardless of the cause, I need Jesus to heal my wounds.  In understanding my need for healing, I acknowledge the debt I owe to Jesus.   He has brought, and is daily bringing, healing into my life.  His healing and the hope He gives allows me to love Him, and everyone else in my life, more fully every day.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see how much I owe You.  I can never repay the debt I owe to You.  There is nothing You need from me.  I can’t reciprocate grace.  But I am grateful.  Help me to walk through the world with gratitude and not resentment.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, there are those in my relational world who are angry and not grateful.  Lord, help me to love them, even when they are being unlovable.  May my love demonstrated to them build trust with them.  May they feel Your love for them through me.  Heal them.  Help them to see that You are not distant, angry or vindictive, but long to gather them up in Your arms.

Day 2 Leviticus 23:39-43

39 If your fellow citizen becomes so poor that he must sell himself to you as a slave, do not treat him as a slave. 40 Have him work for you as a hired hand, as an outsider might, until the year of jubilee. 41 Then he and his children will be released from your service, and he will return to his family and to the property that belonged to his ancestors. 42 After all, they are My servants; I led them out of Egypt so they must never be sold as slaves. 43 You are not allowed to treat them badly. Instead fear your God.

This passage and the world it describes is a far from our times.  Thinking about selling yourself to pay a debt might trigger also sorts of emotions around the historical and the present day reality of slavery.  But here’s the parallel for us: we also find ourselves in a debt that we can’t pay.  We needed healing we couldn’t bargain for, without meaningful currency with which to bribe God who is the only One who can heal us.  We needed saving, both in this life and eternally, that we cannot purchase.

God shows His people that those in a position of dependency are to be treated with respect.  He commands them not to mistreat those who need saving, not to act like the nations who don’t know God and His mercy.  They are required to not only set them free, but to give them back their ancestral inheritance.  This is an incredible command to be generous.  Yet this is a fraction of what God gives us. God not only forgives our debt, he invites us to be co-heirs with Christ over all creation! (Ephesians 2)

The first three steps in the 12 Step traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous, etc.), are to accept that your life has become unmanageable and that you need the intervention of a higher power to restore you to sanity.  This is another angle into the truth that we need- we need God to restore us, to lead us out of the hurts of our life, and to give us peace only found in Him.  I am in need of grace daily.  Ironically, It is my instinct to resist God’s free gift of love and forgiveness.  But my life, and my eternal destiny, depends upon my throwing myself upon the mercy of God.

Prayer for Self: Somewhere, Lord, I bought into the lie that I could pay my way through life and eternity.  I admit that I need grace, I am not able to heal myself or save myself.  Help me to accept Your grace with gratitude, not resentment.  Make my gratitude spill into partnership with You in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos: God, show mercy on my people!  I love them.  But they are proud.  They are arrogant.  They are resentful.  Reveal your beauty to them.  Change them.  Make them hunger after You.  Let me be a light to them.

 

Day 3 Matthew 26:26-28

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 

Jesus is using very simple language and very ordinary symbols to express the truly extraordinary.  He is offering his body and blood.  He will be consumed by death in order to purchase the New Covenant, a relationship contract with God the Father that makes the power of sin null and void in the life of every believer.   He has signed the contract for our redemption in His blood and His broken body.  The only thing that needs to make this eternal contract fully executed is for us as individuals to agree let Him save us and lead us.

Recently, I had a powerful experience during communion.  I found myself sobbing as I waited for my turn to go forward and take the Body and Blood of Jesus.  The Spirit revealed that He loved me so much that he wanted me to take His sacrifice, not with sorrow but joy in Him and the gifts that He has given me.  I am set free by the sacrifice of Jesus, that should be more than enough grace.  But God, in His overwhelming goodness, chose to give me so many blessings on top of His free gift of salvation!

Prayer for Self: Lord, give me insight into how great Your sacrifice on the cross is and how it changed and changes my life.  Help me to not take You and Your sacrifice for granted.  Thank you Jesus.

Prayer for My Oikos: Thank you for giving me brothers and sister to share Your blood and body with.  Help our common reliance on Your sacrifice to be a bond that allows us to trust and live for one another.  May you be Head of the church and we be the body You want us to be.

Day 4 Colossian 2:13-15

13 And when your flesh was still uncircumcised—dead in transgression and swathed in its sinful nature—it was God who brought us to life with Him, forgave all our sins, and 14 eliminated the massive debt we incurred by the law that stood against us. He took it all away; He nailed it to the cross. But that’s not all. 15 He disarmed those who once ruled over us—those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.

Many years ago, I was debt free.  After struggling with debt for more than a decade I was able to pay off my credit card debt.  I remember the freedom of the moment.  But in truth it wasn’t because I had been supremely diligent.  Money had come from a very unlikely source in a large amount that had allowed me to experience the freedom of being debt free.

I have known both debt and freedom, and being debt free is far better!

Jesus came to pay our spiritual debt to God.  God does not hold our sin against us because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we continue to harm ourselves, and creation, and others by our dabbling, or drowning, in sin.  The removal of ongoing sin is of great importance to God, to us, and to those we love.

For years I have accepted the reality of my sins with shame. I’ve tried to hide my sin as best I could.  But this is an incorrect understanding of what God’s plan is for me.  What God wants for me is to be as transparent as possible.  His power is displayed when a great debtor to God like me is absolutely loved and forgiven.  In my imperfection His perfection, patience and grace is extolled.  It is easy to love a perfect person (think Jesus!).  It is the grace of God that He loves me and chooses to use my very broken life as a testimony to His love and grace.  In our strengths we reflect the glory of God; in our brokenness the light of grace shines through us.

Prayer for Self: I don’t know how my habitual sin is anything but offensive to You, but Jesus I thank You that You have not placed me on the sidelines of life as an irretrievably broken toy.  Thank you for repairing me daily so that I can be your partner in the world.  I know that you are doing the heavy lifting and I am no more needful to You and Your work than a 5 year old “helping” move furniture.  But thank you for parading Your grace to the world, showing Your unlimited patience with me.  I am grateful.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I know that many in my circle think their brokenness can never be overcome.  They believe that You are repelled by their sin.  Help them to see, help me communicate, that You long to bring them to Your love so that You can heal them and display Your grace in them and through them.  May we all come to transparency so that Your light might shine through our oikos.

Devotional May 29-June 4

Jesus the Messiah

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” –Luke 7:20-23

How is Jesus qualified to be the Messiah, the one sent by God to save us?  What qualifies Him to be your personal Savior? In what ways is Jesus the Savior of your life?  Our devotional will focus this week on just one passage, the prophecy of Isaiah 52-53 written about Jesus hundreds of years before He was born.  In this passage we see the qualities of Jesus foretold, the heart of God expressed for us, and our opportunity to choose Him.

Jesus the Messiah Day 1: Isaiah 52:13-15

“Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn’t begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn’t even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they’ll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they’ll have right before them.”

What does a messiah look like?  Every presidential election we hope that a “small s” savior will emerge from our political system to fix what is broken in our nation.  We go by looks- during the 20th century 22 of the 25 presidential elections were won by the taller candidate.  Most have been brash communicators, with a swaggering demeanor that exudes confidence, if not arrogance.  We look for war heroes, media stars, people who are “bigger than life”.

Jesus would never get elected in our system.  Jesus did not promise “peace through strength” but peace with God and others by identifying with the weak.  Jesus’ life and message is good news for the “have nots”, the poor and the outcast.  For the prosperous and secure, He is unsettling.  The constant temptation for a “have” believer is to try and re-shape Jesus in my own image.  I want Him to be a well-educated, middle class dad trying to protect his kids from vagaries of an uncertain future.  This is not who Jesus is, nor is this the content of His Gospel.

Jesus invites me, and us, to identify with Him and become like Him.  He invites us to offer everything we have to God with open hands.  He invites us to trust God to make a way for us, and our families, through the broken road of life. Here is a profound truth- I don’t get to pick who God’s Savior of humanity is or the content of His message.  Neither do you.   We must choose to follow Jesus if we want to experience salvation and personal transformation.

Prayer for Self:  Jesus, help me to love You for whom You are, not for who I want You to be.  Help me to love what you love, to love the people You love.  Mold me into someone more like You.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that I would not judge and/or dismiss those in my relational world who have brokenness and sin in their life that is different from my own.  Help me to have your compassion toward those who struggle in areas that are not even tempting to me.  May You show grace to me and through me to those You have put in my world.

 

Jesus the Messiah Day 2: Isaiah 53:1-6

Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.

We are sheep that have wandered off of God’s great pasture of blessing.  Wanting to go our own way, we have harmed ourselves and others.  This Bible calls these decisions, these thoughts and actions, sin.  We deserve to receive the consequences of our destructive thoughts and actions, the consequences of  our sin.  Instead of punishment, we have been offered grace by the One who took the cross to pay the penalty for our sin on our behalf.  We have been shown undeserved mercy by our Creator.

I recently got called out for not treating someone fairly.  It was painful for me to hear.  But they were right;  I was wrong.  For a good part of the day I was uncomfortable.  Feelings of shame stirred within me, both above and below the conscious level.  But instead of turning immediately to Jesus and the person I wronged, I stewed in my feeling of shame and failure.  I then acted harshly toward those closest to me.  Somehow, my discomfort at having fallen short of God’s glory did not make me more compassionate toward those I love, it made me more judgmental!

This is one of the myriad of problems of sin.  Not only does sin harm the person you sinned against, it harms us, our relationship with God,  and those we come in contact in the following minutes, hours, months, and years!    Lord God, give us a heart that runs to you for forgiveness and clings tightly to grace!

Prayer for Self: Lord, Jesus forgive me.  You loved me enough to endure a savage beating and a cruel death to be my Savior.  You gave everything.  Help me to hold my hands open to You and Your grace so that You can re-organize my heart with Your priorities and love.  Make me willing to admit fault and be willing to be the person You made me to be.

Prayer for My Oikos: Jesus, I know that you have sent me to my Oikos, to love them the way You love me.  In my sinfulness, I don’t want to love with selflessness and vulnerability.  Help me to be aware of both my sin and Your grace  Help me to the first to say, “I’m sorry” and one who is always willing to forgive, the way You forgive me.  Thank you Jesus for these people you have placed in my life.

 

Jesus the Messiah Day 3: Isaiah 53:7-10

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.

10 Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.

It is evident both in scripture and in our fallen creation (think about your garden) that something must die so that something new can live.  It is terribly unfair that Jesus had to die so that we could have new life.  But this was the punishment that had to executed on someone for our sin; thank you Jesus for enduring the cross so that we might have life.

For Jesus to be your Savior, the Savior of all that you have and are, what in your thought life and actions must die?  This is not a question of salvation.  For Jesus to be glorified in your life as your Savior, for His grace to reflect off you and through you, what needs to go? What is He desiring to save you from?  For me, my arrogance and pride must die.  My self-righteousness needs to be removed.  These characteristics defects, among many other even darker thoughts and actions, must be eliminated from my life.  Jesus did not die so that I could be among the walking dead- simply walking aimlessly through life waiting for my resurrection at His return.  He has come so that I might have life and have life to the full! (John 10:10)

For me this has led me, slowly, to a process of re-examination of my life, my habits, and my emotional health.   My process of forgiving others and myself has been laborious.   Through the process of confession over my actions and grief over the actions of others, I have begun to see myself and God’s world differently.   The ongoing process of the examination of my life, attitudes, and actions has made me aware of how desperate I am for God’s love and grace.  It has made me increasingly hungry for fellowship of other believers.  I, and we, stand in the need of His grace and the fellowship that comes through the Body of Christ.    For His grace and the forgiveness, and for the love I receive from you, I am truly grateful.

Prayer for Self: Lord Jesus, thank you for taking the unfair punishment for the crimes You did not commit, but I did.  Thank you, Father, for directing Jesus to the cross.  I don’t think my finite mind can understand the pain of the rift between the three members of the Trinity that happened at the cross.  But I am grateful to You- Father, Son, and Spirit- for enduring the separation at the cross so that I could have an integrated life, a life that goes forward into eternity,

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, my Oikos needs You to be Savior.  Individually.  Collectively.  We need You.  Please make Your love shine to us, in us, and through us.

Jesus the Messiah 4: Isaiah 53:11-12

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

This scripture, prophesied perhaps 700 years before Jesus was born, so accurately portrays the truth of Jesus’ life and actions.  Two scripture come to mind from the New Testament that explain this more fully.  First Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
                that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
                and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

The second is from Hebrews 12:2

Now stay focused on Jesus, who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor.

Jesus endured the cross with joy because of us!  Could it be that our most faithful possible response to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is not a sorrowful seeking of personal forgiveness, but a response of overwhelming gratitude expressed through the worship of the One who loved all of us so much?   Let us worship today the One who became our Savior, Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One.

Prayer for Self: Lord, all of creation explodes with life and color because You have set it free.  Creation groans for the final redemption that You will bring.  Make my life reflect the dazzling richness that you intended for me.  Thank you for creating me, loving me, and redeeming me.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help me to see the beauty of your creation all around me.  Help me to see the great beauty you have created in the lives of those in my Oikos.  Make me sensitive to the ways that each one has been shaped by You.  Let me celebrate the evidence of you in every member of my extended household of faith.

 

 

May 22-28 Devotional

God of all Nations

 

 

This week we will look at the story of a Roman Centurion (officer of 100 men) and his encounter with Jesus.  Let us think this week about who is the outsider, how does God relate to them, and how should we relate others.

 

 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. – Luke 7:1-10

 

 

God of All Nations Day 1: Genesis 11:1-9

 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

 

What was right about the idea of the people at Babel?  It was their desire to reach heaven.  In addition, they were willing to work together to create a lasting legacy.

 

Where they went wrong was in their desire to approach heaven and God on their terms.  We were not mean to relate to our Creator as an equal.  The wanted power and control.  They wanted to re-make the world in their image and not God’s image.  Pride inevitably goes before the fall.  Wanting to control our world can never be accomplished

 

I recently read this quote, “Control is the source of most of our pain.”  This is true for me- I create pain for myself and for others when I am trying to control the world.  God has created the world.  He alone is rightly in control.  Me fighting Him for control of the world and my world is only harming myself and others.

 

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me not to have to have control.  Help me to trust you with my life.  Today, I am afraid to trust you with everything.  Give me both a willingness to trust You with everything I have and am and give me the courage to try to live with open hands toward You.

 

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to trust you with my relationships.  Help me see that You are the one to heal others.  Remind me that it is not my job to correct others or fix them.  Let me trust you to take care of everyone in my life.

 

 

God of All Nations Day 2: Psalm 22:25-31

25From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!

 

God is the God of all nations!  No one is automatically included or exclueded from God’s offer of a place in His forever family.  While God brought His gift of salvation through the Jewish people, His gift is for everyone who is willing to let Jesus be the Savior and Leader of their lives.

Will you join yourself to God and be part of His forever family?  He invites us in, but we must choose to partake.  We must choose Him.  God does not merely call us to a vertical relationship with Him.  He invites us to be a part of a spiritual family and community.  He offers us life in the community of faith that will extend past our lifetimes and into eternity.

Prayer for Self: Lord Jesus, I choose you.  I choose to be your follower, trusting you to direct my days.  I pray that You would show me how to be part of Your family, and what my role in the family is supposed to be.

 

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray for those in my Oikos who need You.  They need Your love and Your grace.  Help my life to be one that reflects Your unconditionally love.  Lord I pray that they would not be overwhelmed, but drawn in, by your offer of unconditional love.

 

God of All Nations Day 3 Matthew 15:21-28

21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

 

Are you offended by Jesus’ actions here?  As hard as some of these words were for us to read (and certainly more for her to hear!) they illustrate a profound act of faith.  This woman was not Jewish- she was not even Samaritan.  She was from a hated alien race that rejected the God of Israel and participated in unspeakable abominations.  But she chose a different path, she sought Jesus and exhibited true faith.  This woman does not seek equality or standing before Jesus, she simply asks for grace.  And that grace is freely given by Jesus to her and her daughter.

When pushed, this woman’s faith (and need) was greater than her cultural identity or her pride.  I need to learn from this.  My sense of autonomy or pride can keep me from asking for help when I need it the most.  In times of hurt, sadness and despair I have failed to ask for help.

I suspect you have the same situation in your life.  Healing will happen in your life when you want grace more than you care about how others see you or how you see yourself.  When you choose to abandon yourself fully in the grace of Jesus, you will experience the life that God has always planned for you.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I pray that I would want You and Your grace more than my self-image.  I ask that you would help me to see that asking for help from others is not a weakness, but part of your plan for my life.  May I care less about how others see me, and more about the life you want me live in Your grace.

 

Prayer for My Oikos: Thank you for supernaturally and strategically placing the people you have in my relational world.  I acknowledge that they are there not only for me to share Your love with, they have been placed in my life by You to reflect Your love into my life, even if they don’t know You yet.  May I be willing to ask for help when the storms of life hit.

 

God of All Nations Day 4: Acts 17:22-33

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[c]

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

God is near.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  These truths came from Greek philosophy, and yet are affirmed by scripture.  They had part of the truth, but not all of the truth.  For the logical Greek mind there was a huge stumbling block to faith- how could resurrection from the dead possibly work?

Our life experience in some ways leads us to believe in God; in other areas our mind and emotions leads us away from placing our trust in Him.  Whether it is our intellectual struggles of trying to understand the ineffable God or our emotional response to the pain we have personally experienced, there is both an attraction and repulsion to trusting Jesus.  This is our story, but it does not have to be our future.

Just this week, I realized there were areas of my life that I was not really trusting Jesus to be Lord over.  I wanted control.  They were “too important” or “too sensitive” for me to hand over to God without taking them back into my own hands.  Not surprisingly, these are the areas of my life that most needs God’s healing grace.  What are yours?  God is faithful, bring him our questions, your hurts, your fears.  He will heal you.

Prayer for Self: Lord, want to trust You with everything I am, but I am afraid.  Help me to see all the ways in which You have been faithful with what I have given You.  Help me to know that I may not truly understand how everything works, I can place my total trust in You.

 

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord God, help me to encourage those in my circle to trust You.  Trusting is hard, but help me to show how trusting in You has healed me.  May I be a light to those in my circle, reflecting Your love and grace.

May 15-21 Devotional

Foundations

43-45 “You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds.

46-47 “Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

48-49 “If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” –Luke 6:43-49

 

What are the foundations you are building your life on?  This week we will explore what it means to build our life’s foundation on God and His love and grace.

 

Foundations: Day 1, Deuteronomy 32:1-4

Moses: Listen, O sky, so I may speak!
Pay attention, O earth, to what I say!
    Let my teaching fall on you like raindrops;
let what I say collect like the dew,
Like rain sprinkling the grass,
like showers on the green plants.
    I will proclaim the name of the Eternal;
I will utter greatness to our God.
    He’s the Rock, and His work is perfect; everything He does is right.
He’s the God who can be trusted, who never does wrong
because He’s righteous and upright.

 

God is our foundation!  In Him, we find a secure base from which to engage in life.  He is perfect in all His ways; we are blessed when we put the full weight of our trust in Him.

My own sense of the world can be skewed.  I sometimes believe things that aren’t true; sometimes I don’t believe the truth.  One time I was playing basketball and I was slapped hard on the hand when an opponent was trying to reach for the ball.  I didn’t think much of it; I took the next inbounds pass.  After dribbling twice, I picked the ball up and said, “Its warped” and threw it to the sideline.  There was a deformity on the ball, I thought.  Instead, it turns out the ligaments in my ring finger had been snapped; the ball was fine, my finger, and my perception, was not.  Our perception of the world is affected by our experiences, some of the warping of our souls that happen through the brokenness we experience in life.  Let us trust God, our Foundation, to be the arbiter of what is true, holy, and right.

 

Prayer for Self: Lord, I usually think I know what’s best for me.  Help me to see that You know what truly is best.  Let me trust You when my vision for my life differs from what Your Holy Scripture says is true.  May You be the foundation of my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I can see the skewed way in which those I love perceive the world.  May I see that I am just as guilty; may it lead to greater humility for myself and greater compassion for those in my relational world.  Please help me to be one who insists on Your ways, to live with love, mercy and grace in a world where that may not seem like the best option, particularly toward those in my Oikos.  May You be our foundation.

 

Foundations: Day 2,  Psalm 61:1-4

O God, listen to my cry!
Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
    for you are my safe refuge,
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
safe beneath the shelter of your wings! 

There comes a point in most military campaigns, and in every human life, when there is a need to return to a fortress for protection, to regroup and to resupply.   When our hearts are overwhelmed, God invites us to retreat into His deep, safe place of His presence.  He invites us to retreat, daily, to place ourselves under the shelter of His wings.  He will renew us, restore us, and refresh us for the battles of our days and our lives.  He will be our strength.

I sometimes think I have too much to do, or better things to do, than spend time in the presence of God.  Sometimes I don’t want to face Him or my own humanity.   It usually takes me a minute to be still enough to experience His goodness- my first thoughts are usually ones of guilt, shame, and judging myself.  But God does not merely tolerate me, He loves me. He invites me into his presence. He wants me to come rest in Him.  God delights in being our Savior.  He repeatedly tells us in scripture that the battle belongs to Him- our rightful place is cheering on God and His power through His action in us, through us, and around us.  Let us trust in the grace of God and approach His refuge with boldness.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, sometimes the battle has been too long.  Sometimes it has been too hard.  Always it is more than my ability to respond in grace and love.  I come now to rest in you.  Let me be still in your presence and listen to what You have to say.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Prayer for My Oikos: Above is a line to write down what you’ve experienced of God speaking into your life if You have heard something from him.  Lord, now I turn to prayer for those you have supernaturally and strategically placed in my life.  Help me to see that I have nothing to offer them that transcends normal human experience unless I have spent time in Your presence. Give me fresh spiritual bread to feed those in my world.  Give me the boldness to share what I am experiencing of you with those you have placed in my Oikos.  Thank you for loving all of us Jesus!

Foundations: Day 3, Ephesians 2:19-22

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

God has made us a family through Christ.  He has taken us who were once spiritual orphans in the world and is crafting a diverse group of people into one church, one people, on family centered around Him.  Much the way my wife is the heart of my family, Christ is the heart of our family together in God.

Once, maybe three years ago, I asked Caleb what he wanted to do in life.  When Caleb responded, he  said, ‘we will go here…we will do this…”  I noticed that Caleb always said “we” and not “I”.  I realized that his whole experience in life was through the prism of family- he did not do anything on his own.   Can you see your spiritual foundation in Christ through the prism of we?  Jesus and you and your church family all going through all of life together?  This is what I think God wants for us.

Prayer for Self: Lord Jesus, I am so grateful that you have brought me into your forever family.  Thank you for calling me Your own.  I am grateful that You are the foundation of my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I am grateful that You called me to a family of believers.  I am not always sure how to relate to some- show me how to live in grace and love with them.  May I see that You have called us together to love you and grow together in You who are head of our family.  Help me to invite those in my Oikos who don’t know You to join in our spiritual family life.

Foundations: Day 4, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

How are you building your life?  Is it ramshackle affair, just enough shelter to get you through the storms of life?  Or are you building your life in a way that there is warmth, shelter and safety not only for you, but shelter for your family, friends, and Oikos?  God in some way I do not understand will reward us in eternity beyond salvation for the work we do that honors His name and blesses others. Some will be saved as though through fire.  Others will be honored.  Rev 14:13 says

Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write these words: ‘From now on those who are dead who died belonging to the Lord will be happy.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will have rest from all their work. All the good things they have done will follow them.”

May we be aware that our good works will follow us to eternity.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to build my life with the imperishable materials of Your love and grace.   Help me to evaluate honestly how I am living today.  May my life reflect Your love and grace more every day.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to build on the foundation of Jesus in a way that allows others to experience Your grace.  May my life be a comfort to my family, friends and my Oikos.  Thank you for loving us so much!

May 8-13 Devotional

This week is a resetting of a devotional we did about a year ago.  We will be looking at a parallel to our study of the Sermon on the Plain, the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.  These teachings go together.  We will be reviewing the beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5.  Let me invite you to read these words in light of what we have been studying in the Gospel of Luke.

The Beatitudes Day 1: Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn,
  for they will be comforted.

Jesus gives you the opposite of what you expect.  In their culture (and in ours!) those who have success, wealth, and fame are the ones who are considered blessed or happy, not those who mourn.  Jesus invites us to consider two things- firstly, is all the fame, success and wealth in the world really going to make you happy?  And secondly, what if we did not condemn or exploit the world, but had a sense of Godly sorrow about the state of humanity and longed for God’s Kingdom.  We recently learned a song in worship

All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

Those who long for God’s kingdom will see it!

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me not to get too caught up in the values and success of the world.  Help me to be one who longs for You and Your Kingdom.  May I experience sorrow so that I can experience the joy of Your, and eventually my own, resurrection.

Prayer for My Oikos:  I pray that I might be a comfort for those in my circle who are mourning.  Let me point them to the hope that is found in You.  I pray for those in my Oikos who think this world is everything there is to be gained; give them a sense of Your eternity Lord!

 


 

The Beatitudes: Day 2 Matthew 5:5

Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

What does it mean to be meek?  The meek are those who are gentle, kind and peaceful.  This is in opposition to the world’s dominant culture, the Roman empire, which  despised meekness.  They believed that they ruled the world because they had the audacity and the discipline to take it.  Jesus was saying, no, Rome may now rule the world, but in eternity it will be ruled by the meek, led by Jesus (For more read Matthew 11:25-30).  Rome fell.  All empires have or will.  But the Kingdom of God will last forever.

Prayer for Self:  Help me to be peaceful in a war-like world.  Help me to show kindness instead of aggression.  Give me the faith to continue with kindness when cruelty seems to get more results in the world.  Help me to look to Jesus in these turbulent times.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray that each one in my Oikos might find Jesus, the one who’s meek and manner is mild who will give rest for their souls.  May we all see the way of peace in the midst of turmoil.

The Beatitudes Day 3: Matthew 5:6

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

This one is convicting for me.  I have, and do, hunger for food, affection, and success, among many other things.  Most of these hungers, even when temporarily satiated, have not been ultimately filling.  The more I long for them, the more I want.  There is no end to my wanting.  But when my heart turns toward Jesus and His rule, I find fulfillment.  It takes longer.  It is difficult to turn my attention toward it.  But finding God’s way, seeing people loved and served in Jesus’ name, is what is ultimately satisfying.

Prayer for Self: May I be satisfied with nothing less than You.  May I see all the good things in this life that I long for in light of your plan.  Help me not to take shortcuts.  Help me to trust that You are ultimately the one who fills my soul.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray for the addicts in my circle, those who are hungering for things that are destroying their body.  I pray that you would rescue them.  I pray that you would give them supernatural vision to see that there is eternal love available to them in You.  Use me to be an instrument of Your love in any way you choose.

The Beatitudes Day 4: Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Do you want a pure heart?  Or is their envy, cynicism, anger, lust, bitterness, hatred, and self-pity that you want to nurture in your heart?  Our hearts are not by nature pure.  They must be cleansed; cleansed by Jesus and His forgiveness.  It sometimes is easier to seek forgiveness and restorations for our bad actions.  Are you willing to bring into the light the dark parts of your heart to be transformed by Jesus?

Prayer for Self: Lord, search my heart.  Create in me a clean heart.  I know that you know my secrets, the dark thoughts that I harbor. But, help me to know that You know.  Give me the courage to turn it all over to You.  Help me to desire a pure heart.

Prayer for My Oikos:  I pray that you would renew the hearts of those closest to me.  Give them a desire to turn from those old ways of thinking and feeling that keep them stuck.  Help them see the path toward You and Your ways.

 

The Beatitudes Day 5: Matthew 5:10

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Living for Jesus will make others uncomfortable.  Some will feel judged by your lifestyle, even if you have shown nothing but love and compassion.  But we know this is the way it must be in this world, because this is what happened to our Savior, Jesus.

But there is a trap here.  We can be the opposite of Jesus, hypocritical self-righteous Pharisees who are persecuted for being obnoxious.  We should not take persecution as a marker to say that we are on the right track and become more obnoxious and self-righteous.  Let us pursue life with the meekness, purity and love with which Jesus lived.

Prayer for Self:  Help me to endure persecution the way you taught me to Jesus, by turning the other cheek.  Help me to show love to those who attack me.  Give me courage to not lash back.  Let me find my identity more fully You.

Prayer for My Oikos:  I pray for those who are experiencing persecution.  May You comfort them.  Give me the right words and actions to encourage them.  Thank you for the ability to continue through the renewing of the Holy Spirit.

May 1-7 Devotional

 

Giving to God, Giving to Others:

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”- Luke 6:48

This week we will be looking at how we can give to God and others.  Let us work through these days prayerfully, knowing that God is at work in us.  May God bless you as you think, pray, and study His Word.

Day 1 Give to God with Joy: 1 Chronicles 29

David (to the entire assembly): Although my son Solomon was chosen by God and has the ability to build a beautiful temple, he is still young and inexperienced for such a great work. This work is not for men—it is for the Eternal God. I have tried to help him as much as I can by providing gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stones (the onyx, inlaid stones, antimony, stones of various colors, precious stones, and alabaster) in abundance to use in my God’s temple. Furthermore I will give my own gold and silver treasures (in addition to the materials I have provided for the construction) to the temple because of my delight in the house of my God. These gifts include 110 tons of the finest gold, 260 tons of refined silver (to cover the walls of the buildings), more gold and more silver as needed. All of this work will be done by the skilled workers, so who then is willing give of himself this day to the Eternal?

Then family leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the managers over the king’s work, offered willingly. For the service of the temple of God they gave 190 tons and 185 pounds of gold, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron. Anyone who owned precious stones gave them willingly to the treasury of the temple of the Eternal, where they were managed by Jehiel the Gershonite. Then all the people rejoiced because the officers had given to the Eternal so willingly and wholeheartedly. King David also rejoiced greatly, and 10 he blessed the Eternal in a prayer before the assembly.

David: You are blessed, O Eternal One,
God of Israel, our father, forever and ever.
     All that is great and powerful and glorious and victorious and majestic
is Yours, O Eternal One.
Indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth belongs to You.
The kingdom belongs to You, O Eternal One, and You are the head of it all.
12     Wealth and glory come from You,
and You rule over them all.
In Your hand is power and strength,
and You use them to make great and strengthen everyone.
13     Because of your greatness, our God,
we testify about Your greatness and praise Your glorious name.

 

God allows us to partner with Him to build up His kingdom on earth.  This is not an onerous responsibility; this is an incredible gift.  The people here were planning for building a temple for God that many, including David, would never see built in their lifetimes.  But out of gratitude to God, they gave their best to God so that He could be glorified on the earth.

One year I was building houses with AMOR ministries in Baja California for some the most impoverished of an impoverished region. It reminds me of how you are inviting to give to God even when you may not feel that you have much to give.  I am not handy; you don’t want me to be the craftsman to build you a home.   However, there are things I can do and did do to help build these homes.  I carried thousands of pounds of cement mix.  I helped build the team of 50 that went down to build and I organized the logistics.  I raised about $10,000 for the project.  God allowed me to give what I had and could do,  so that the name of Jesus could be lifted up.

But let me tell you about the gift I got to give that is most precious to me.  Every day children from the community would come by and see what activity in the building process we were up to.  Many offered to help and were told they couldn’t. Still most children stayed all week to watch in spite of the heat of the day.  The last day we were there I saw a man on adjacent street pushing an ice cream (okay frozen colored water) cart.  I bought ice cream for all the children on site.  They didn’t know I did it, but I saw their delight in this very small gift.  I truly felt grateful to be able to give.

What is your part to give to building the Kingdom of God?  There are things you cannot do, and things you can.  Can you give with joy?  Because this is the kind of giver that God wants.

Prayer for Myself: Lord, help me to give to You with joy.  Help me to see my role is to give joyfully, not worry about what I can’t give.  Give me insight to see how my giving is building Your kingdom in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to partner with those in my Oikos to give to You and Your children.  Show me where we can work together to bless You and others.  Thank you for the opportunities you give me to serve and support Your work through the church, our community organization, and Your missions in the world.

 

Giving to Others Day 2 Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.

Do you see the poor as deserving generosity?  One of the temptations we face is to be overwhelmed at the needs of others around us.  This can cause us to grow cold, or even angry, toward those who need our assistance.

I worked with a mission group in central Los Angeles that brought in young men and women from throughout the world to live and serve the poor of Los Angeles.  One of their first activities was to spend a night on the street alone.  This was in the days before everyone had a cell phone; this task was lonely and dangerous.  The common experiences of these missionaries was to have homeless people approach them and offer them help, advice, or in a few cases given the little money that they possessed.  Sometimes are judgments of others, particularly the poor, are faulty.

Are you willing to lend to God?  His credit is good.  We have a small fund in our church bank account called the AmCan Fund, which is set up to meet the material needs of those in our community.  Consider making a choice to regularly give to that, or to LAAM, or another group that is actively involved in serving the needs of the poor.

Prayer for Self: Lord, give me a heart to help those around me.  Help me not to be overwhelmed with how big the needs are and how little I have to share.  Help me see those in need the way that You see me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Some in my Oikos have material needs that I could meet. Show me if that would be to Your glory.  Give me wisdom as to how to use the money you have given me to bless others.

Giving as a Lifestyle Day 3

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”- Acts 20:35

These are the words of the Apostle Paul.  After he became a follower of Jesus Paul gave his life to serving others.  And in giving selflessly he found that his greatest joy was not what he could take from life but what he could give to others. His story can become our story.

Have you experienced the blessing of giving?  Have you found more joy in giving than in receiving?  When Christmas comes around, I never know what to say when I’m asked what I want.  Part of that is I have way too much to begin with.  But I find that the more I focus on what I can give, at Christmas or in life, the happier I am.  When I focus on what I want, I tend to be angry and disappointed.  Jesus said it would be this way; let’s trust that He knows best.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me not focus on my wants.  I know that there is no end to them.  Help me to focus on what I can give to you and to others.  May I experience the true joy of giving selflessly.

Prayer for My Oikos: Jesus, please give me wisdom as to how I can give to them.  Let me see how You would use me to bless them emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Let me be one who shares Your grace with those in my world.

God’s Response to our Giving Day 4

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. –Malachi 3:10-12

God loves to give to us.  Much like a parent, He loves to give to us when He knows we will not use His blessings to harm ourselves, others, or our relationship with Him.  When we have choose to give to God, we will be blessed.

We can never out give God.  Henry P. Crowell founder of Quaker Oates gave 70% of his income away during his 40 years running the company.  He said, “As much as I’ve given, I’ve never gotten ahead of God.”  He testified the more he gave, the more he prospered.

God may bless us financially; God may bless us in other ways as well.  Trust God with your money; trust God with your life. He will take care of you.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to see that everything I have and am is from You.  Help me trust you.  I struggle thinking I don’t have enough; help me to see that I am secure in You.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help me to be a blessing to those in my Oikos because I am secure in Your love.  Help me to be one who gives first and does not wait to receive from others before I express love and care.  Help me to see that you will make everything ok when I give without return.

April 24-30 Judging Others

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.- Luke 6:47

This week we are going to be preparing for Jesus’ teaching on judging others.  For many followers of Jesus, there is a disconnection between knowing we shouldn’t judge others and the reality of minute-by-minute judging everything and everyone in our world.  While we are to judge, under the light of Scripture, our thoughts, behaviors and choices, let us contemplate this week what the scriptures say about judging others.

Judging Others Day 1: James 4:10-12

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  Do not criticize one another, my friends. If you criticize or judge another Christian, you criticize and judge the Law. If you judge the Law, then you are no longer one who obeys the Law, but one who judges it.  God is the only lawgiver and judge. He alone can save and destroy. Who do you think you are, to judge someone else?

God rightly has the role of judge of the world.  He created in all of us in love, established us in the world, and then placed us in His world to flourish.  When we break God’s created order, we damage our world, each other and our relationship with Him.  The Bible is very clear- the price of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  God takes our sin so seriously He sent His Son Jesus to earth to pay the price for our sin.

The problem is when we move from being conscious of our own sin to applying judgment to other people’s perceived failings.  When we judge other’s actions, we place ourselves in the role of God.  We are no longer sinners saved by grace, we are the proctors of judgment, an unqualified judge shaping the world in our image. We ourselves  are no longer under God’s Law, we elevate ourselves to be enforcers of it.  This is what the group that constantly fought with Jesus, the Pharisees, did.  They saw themselves as the arbiters of God’s law and condemned others for not living it the way they did.  This is a way to have your heart become hard, unaware of your own failings, far from God and adrift in the world. Let us be vigilant in placing ourselves as the recipients of grace and not the arbiters of judgment.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to trust you to be God and to make the world right with you.  Take away my need to control others behavior or punish them for what I perceive as poor behavior. Remind me that changing the hearts of others is beyond my control.  Help me not to try to take over Your role as judge in my heart.

Prayer for My Oikos:  I know that many in my circle feel judged, some feel particularly judged by Your followers.  Lord, help me to love them, not judge them.  Give me compassion for those in my circle that are doing things I know are harmful.  Remind me of Your grace as a live my life with those in my Oikos.

 

Judging Others Day 2 Romans 2:1-6

So you can see there are no excuses for any of us. If your eyes shift their focus from yourselves to others—to judge how they are doing—you have already condemned yourselves! You don’t realize that you are pointing your fingers at others for the exact things you do as well. There’s no doubt that the judgment of God will justly fall upon hypocrites who practice such things. Here’s what is happening: you attack and criticize others and then turn around to commit the same offenses yourselves! Do you think you will somehow dodge God’s judgment? Do you take the kindness of God for granted? Do you see His patience and tolerance as signs that He is a pushover when it comes to sin? How could you not know that His kindness is guiding our hearts to turn away from distractions and habitual sin to walk a new path?

We internally must examine the standard of God’s perfection against our imperfect thoughts and actions and daily ask for forgiveness.  If we are serious about growth, we invite another trusted brother or sister to confess our sins to.  The dangerous application is when we take that same internal dialogue with God and then apply that yardstick to others.  We need to be conscious of our own failings toward God; we don’t have to scorekeep and assign blame and judgment to others because they have fallen short of the glory of God.

Perhaps an analogy to family life is appropriate here.  When I need to correct one of my son’s behavior, I do not need my other son jumping in and heaping on judgment (or in one case adding violence to the mix!) as well.  The correction I need to do does not need to be validated by his sibling.  When our relationship is restored with my son through forgiveness, I don’t need his brother reminding him of what he did wrong in the past.  In the same way, we need to allow God to work His correction and not try to be that instrument of correction.

Several years ago, before Caleb could read, he had has mother read to him the Bible in large chunks.  He had listened to a passage in Leviticus about being ceremonially unclean and how those who were unclean could not enter the worship center, the tent of meeting.  So, he asked his older brother if he had taken a bath today.  When Josiah said no, Caleb told him that he was unclean and not able to go to the tent of meeting.  While we all thought this was super cute, it is not so cute when we tell others, directly or indirectly they are not clean enough, good enough, to be welcomed into God’s life or ours because of our judgment of their actions.  May God forgive us.

Prayer for Self:  Father, I don’t know why I like to pile on others who have harmed themselves with my judgment, but sometimes I do.  I guess sometimes it makes me feel that I am ok because I am looking down on them from my place of judgment.  Please forgive me.  I know when they are experiencing the consequences for their sin they are hurting.  Give me compassion not judgment.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray today for those in my circle who feel that they are too unclean, unwell, or damaged to experience Your forgiveness.  Help me to share Your love with them.  Help me to live with the vulnerability that shows that forgiveness is available to us all.  May you use the relationships you have given for healing me and others.

Judging Others Day 3 Romans 14:1-14

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.

6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:

“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”

So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.

13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.

 

Why does it offend us so much when people understand God’s grace and forgiveness in a different way than we do?  I suspect it has to do with a misunderstanding of God’s love for us.  If we think we need to earn God’s love by good behavior, we are forever trying to be good enough.  When we see others living differently,  we think that it’s unfair.  But this is not what God has asked of us.  Let us instead live the truth- we are the recipients of grace!  We have not earned God’s love, God has chosen to love us.  And because we have been loved by God, we want to please Him.  This is different from trying to just meet the minimum standard of being “good enough.”

Think for a minute about marriage.  In a good marriage, both spouses are intentional about trying to show love to the other in any way that they can.  In a bad marriage, they are trying to make sure they are only doing what is “fair”, 50%,  and not a single thing more.  In a really bad marriage, they are simply trying to do enough so that their spouse does not divorce them!  In your marriage to Christ, are you trying to find ways to please Him daily?  Or are trying to meet the standard of what is acceptable, and that’s all?  Or are you simply trying to avoid a great divorce where God will punish you?  Let us focus on how we personally can please God and not condemn others for how they are working out their relationship with the Savior.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see how I treat You.  Am I merely trying to do enough to stay out of trouble with You?  Or am I one seeking daily to please You by loving You and serving You in the world.  Turn my heart towards You.  I know the more I love You the more I will experience Your love and have love to give in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos:  May all of my relationships flow out of the overflow of your love and grace.  May I take the initiative to love them.  Thank you God, for each one in my circle.

Judging Others Day 4 Galatians 6:1-5

My spiritual brothers and sisters, if one of our faithful has fallen into a trap and is snared by sin, don’t stand idle and watch his demise. Gently restore him, being careful not to step into your own snare. Shoulder each other’s burdens, and then you will live as the law of the Anointed teaches us. Don’t take this opportunity to think you are better than those who slip because you aren’t; then you become the fool and deceive even yourself. 

Does this seem out of place with the other scriptures this week?  Is the Scripture saying, at long last, it is right and appropriate to judge others?  No. But we are to watch out for our brothers and sisters.

In my role as pastor, one of the hardest things to watch is when people throw their life’s work and family relationships away one small step at a time. Day by day they make small choices that damage themselves and those they love.  In some cases the cause of this destruction is addiction, in others its self-centeredness or misguided ambition. Many in our Oikos are undoing the good work they have done and our hearts break as we see them making these choices.

If they would identify us as a brother or sister in Christ, then, and without judgment, let us help them see the trap they have found themselves in.  Not to make a moral judgment about them or their character, simply to come alongside and help them see that they are stuck.  We cannot fix them or their situation- that is the prerogative of God.  But in relationships with them and Christ we can walk with them through their journey.

In the meantime we must be especially dependent on Jesus.  One of the worst things we can do is feel better about ourselves because by comparison to someone else we think we are doing well.  That just sets a trap for us that will keep us far from God and unaware of our own misguided choices.  Let us be available to God to walk with others and make sure that doesn’t take the place of being faithful to God ourselves.  We are not God’s understudy; we are a person who has experienced grace walking with one antoehr.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, forgive me for where I have gone wrong.  Help me to be aware of my own sin daily.  Make me humble enough to be a help to others around me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Make it very clear Lord, if You want me to point out a trap that someone you have placed in my Oikos has fallen in.  Keep my from falling in as well.  Help me to walk with them without judgment and with Your compassion.  May You bring healing to those in  my Oikos who need Your redirection.

God as Giver: Scripture for Next Sunday

Luke 6:31-36 The Message

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.

35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.

 

God as Giver Day 1

19 So out of the same ground the man was made from, the Eternal God sculpted every sort of animal and every kind of bird that flies up in the sky. Then He brought them to the man and gave him the authority to name each creature as he saw fit: whatever he decided to call it, that became its name. 20 Thus the man chose names for domesticated animals, birds, and wild beasts. But none of these creatures was a right and proper partner for Adam.

21 So the Eternal God put him into a deep sleep, removed a rib from his side, and closed the flesh around the opening. 22 He formed a woman from the rib taken out of the man and presented her to him.

23 Adam: At last, a suitable companion, a perfect partner.
Bone from my bones.
Flesh from my flesh.
I will call this one “woman” as an eternal reminder
that she was taken out of man.

24 Now this is the reason a man leaves his father and his mother, and is united with his wife; and the two become one flesh. 25 In those days the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

God created us.  Our lives are a gift.  Before we go on to anything else in our day, let’s pause and thank God for making us in love.

 

God created us to have meaningful work to do.  We were created to co-create with God, to partner with Him to create and to care for His creation.  Much of the work we do now seems either menial or trivial, but we were designed for work that will bless others and ourselves.  Pause and thank God for the work He has given you to do.

 

God created us for relationship.  We see this in the story of the creation with the coming together of Adam and Eve.  God created us in such a way that relationship with Him alone is not sustaining; were made to live in relationship with each other.  Pause and thank God for the relationships He has placed in your life.

 

Prayer for Self:  Lord, you know where I lack gratitude for creating me the way You have.  Help me to see every day, every job, and every relationship as a blessing from you.  Where I lack health, where I lack meaningful work, where I lack relationships, please lead me to the right place place and people that will sustain me and that will bring honor and glory to You.

 

Prayer for My Oikos:  Thank you for blessing me with the people in my circle.  Help me to be blessing to them.  May I tend to the relational garden that You have given me.  Thank you Jesus!

 

God as Giver Day 2

Psalm 145:10-17

10 All your works praise you, Lord;
your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does.

 

God is the giver who takes care of our needs.  God not only takes care of our physical needs, but promises to do so in such in a way that He brings glory to Himself.  Our proper response to God’s generosity is to worship Him and tell others of His generosity.

How are you doing with what God has given you?  This includes all the skills and abilities and relationship He has poured into your life.  Are you grateful for His provision?  Can you be joyful when God gives someone else something He has not chosen to give you?  How can you praise God for His provision for your needs?

Prayer for Self:  God, help me to be grateful for the way you provide for my needs and the needs of my family.  You have given us food, clothes and a home to live in.  You have given me many things I don’t need, but have wanted.  Thank you for taking care of my needs so well.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I know that part of the way you care for my needs is by the generosity of others.  Help me be generous to others in my Oikos that You have given me and beyond.  Make me a funnel of your blessing instead of a bowl.  Show me how I can bless others in my circle.

God as Giver Day 3

Matthew 6:25-34

Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up. 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you27 Worrying does not do any good; who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying?

28 Nor should you worry about clothes. Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow. They do not work or weave or sew, and yet their garments are stunning29 Even King Solomon, dressed in his most regal garb, was not as lovely as these lilies. 30 And think about grassy fields—the grasses are here now, but they will be dead by winter. And yet God adorns them so radiantly. How much more will He clothe you, you of little faith, you who have no trust?

31 So do not consume yourselves with questions: What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? 32 Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need. 33 Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too34 So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today.

 

God meets both our physical needs and our emotional needs!  God cares for us and wants to banish even worry from our lives.  He wants us to walk joyfully in the world, carefree in the care of God.

How are you doing with trusting God with your emotions?  Do you deny what you feel?  Or possible on the other side, have you made your emotions the god of your life that pushes you in whatever direction they move you?  How can you trust God with your emotions?  Remember what you are feeling, at the deepest level, expresses a desire for more of God and what He wants for you.

Prayer for Self: Lord, you know how I’m wired emotionally- you made me to be a person who feels.  Help me not to lie to You about how I’m feeling, but to trust you with my emotions.  Lord, I want you to mold and move my emotional life so that my life can be truly integrated to You and Your work in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to be available to the emotions of those in my Oikos.  Help me to listen even when I’d rather not.  Help me to be vulnerable with those in my circle, even when I don’t want to be real with their own emotional life.  Help me to be a person who is safe to live life openly with.

 

God as Giver Day 4

1 Peter 5:10-11 (Amplified Bible)

 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who imparts His blessing and favor, who called you to His own eternal glory in Christ, will Himself complete, confirm, strengthen, and establish you making you what you ought to be. 11 To Him be dominion, power, authority, sovereignty forever and ever. Amen.

God cares for our spiritual needs as well as our physical and emotional ones.  He knows that our very soul gets exhausted in the middle of our suffering some days.  The Holy Spirit continues to work in the strengthening of us for the trials of the day.  He has even provided us a spiritual home beyond the grave.  Our proper response to this is to offer worship to Him!

Prayer for Self: Thank you Jesus for loving me so much that You died on the cross for me.  Thank you, Father, for loving me by sending Your Son to earth to live and die on the cross for me.  Thank you, Spirit, for daily encouraging me and strengthening me for the day ahead.  Lord, I long to see You face to face!

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, some in my Oikos don’t even know they have spiritual needs.  Lord, I pray that their eyes may be opened to their need for You.  May I be a nurturing presence that fosters grace in the lives of those in my circle.

Holy Week Devotional April 10-16

This week’s devotional will trace the journey of Jesus on Holy Week. We will follow Jesus on His journey to the cross day by day.  Allow the Passion of Jesus to move you to further along the path in devotion to Him.  We will be meeting daily this week at 6pm to read and pray together.

Holy Week Monday Matthew 21:12-17

12 Jesus came to the temple. He drove out all those who were buying and selling. He upended the moneychangers’ tables and the dove-sellers’ benches.

Jesus: 13 It is written, “My house will be a house of prayer for all people,” but you have turned this house of prayer into a den of robbers.[a]

14 Then the blind and the lame came to the temple, and Jesus healed them. 15 Rings of children circled round and sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” But the priests and scribes didn’t understand. When they saw the upturned tables, the walking paralytics, and the singing children, they were shocked, indignant, and angry, and they did not understand.

Priests and Scribes: 16 Do you hear what these children are saying?

Jesus: Yes. Haven’t you read your own psalter? “From the mouths and souls of infants and toddlers, the most innocent, You have decreed praises for Yourself.”[b]

17 At that, Jesus left Jerusalem. He went to Bethany, where He spent the night.

This is the day after Palm Sunday where the crowds cheered him.  Jesus entered the Temple on the Monday of the week of His crucifixion.  The Temple was built out of devotion to God and was the center of worship and national identity for the Jewish people.  What was started as a convenience, allowing people to purchase the correct offering or sacrifice for the altar had grown into a marketplace that dominated the part of the Temple that the non-jewish people (The Court of the gentile) were allowed to enter.  The purpose of the Temple was to invite all people to come and pray and to experience the presence of God.  .  The children and those with needs came into the Temple where Jesus was to worship God and cry “Save us” (hosanna).  Jesus’ actions at the temple temporarily restored it to what it was designed to be; a place of teaching, healing and worship.

What needs to be driven out of your life so that you can worship God and be taught led and healed?  We are the new temple of God (see 1 Corinthians 6:19).  This Holy Week let us drive out everything that keeps us from being fully alive to God.

Prayer for Self: Lord, show me what needs to be removed from my life.  I want to able to hear your teaching and leading me over the cacophony of my wants and needs.  Remove everything that doesn’t honor you so that I my life can be an instrument of praise.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord I pray that my life would display Your grace.  May the imperfections of my life be a reason to seek community rather than withdraw from the people you have supernaturally and strategically placed in my world.  Help me to live my life in front of my Oikos in a way that pleases You.

Holy Week Tuesday  Mark 12:1-12

Then, using this illustration, Jesus spoke to them. He said, “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, made a vat for the winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to vineyard workers and went on a trip.

“At the right time he sent a servant to the workers to collect from them a share of the grapes from the vineyard. The workers took the servant, beat him, and sent him back with nothing. So the man sent another servant to them. They hit the servant on the head and treated him shamefully. The man sent another, and they killed that servant. Then he sent many other servants. Some of these they beat, and others they killed.

“He had one more person to send. That person was his son, whom he loved. Finally, he sent his son to them. He thought, ‘They will respect my son.’

“But those workers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

“What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the workers and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you never read the Scripture passage:

‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
11 The Lord has done this,
and it is amazing for us to see’?”

12 They wanted to arrest him but were afraid of the crowd. They knew that he had directed this illustration at them. So they left him alone and went away.

On Tuesday, Jesus did many things, especially teaching.  The parable above is directed at the nation of Israel. God is the vineyard owner who gave the nation of Israel a land and place to live and then built them a wall of His protective power.    When they refused to follow God’s plan and reach the world with His love, He sent many prophets to them to warn them to turn back to Him.  They refused generation after generation. They mistreated and killed the prophets God sent to them.  Finally, He sent Jesus, His Son, to them.  Jesus is telling them that they will kill Him and that God will turn over His mission to share His love with the world to others.   Jesus is the stone that these builders of the Jewish nation rejected, but we see Him as marvelous.

God’s mission in the world is love.

For God so loved the world that He sent his only son

God’s mission for us as his followers is too important to ignore by using our life to pursue our own self-interest.  We are to be funnels of grace not buckets that collect God’s favor.  Our mission is to share His love with those around us.  Let us embrace God’s mission for us and not wait until it is too late.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, You demonstrated Your love for me by dying on the cross.    Help me to experience the fullness and the immediacy of Your love.  Make me a person who is truly grateful for what You have done in my life.  May gratitude be the fuel that powers my day and my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, let me know who You want me to share Your love with.  I want to be willing to invest my life in sharing Your love with them.   Give me the courage to live vulnerably so that Your love can penetrate the resistant hearts of those I love.

 

 

 

Holy Week Wednesday Mark 14:3-11

3-5 Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. “That’s criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year’s wages and handed out to the poor.” They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.

6-9 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me. She did what she could when she could—she pre-anointed my body for burial. And you can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she just did is going to be talked about admiringly.”

10-11 Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the cabal of high priests, determined to betray him. They couldn’t believe their ears, and promised to pay him well. He started looking for just the right moment to hand him over.

How do you think you would have reacted had you been in this room when the woman poured oil and rubbed it on to Jesus’ head?  This was not a culture where women interacted with men who were not family members and certainly not with this physical intimacy. Would you have been angry?  Looked away in embarrassment?  Wept?  Spend a moment and reflect.

When Jesus has not worked things out the way you wanted Him to, have you been tempted to walk away?  To betray Him and your commitment to follow Him?   Jesus had to go to the cross to pay the price for our betrayals of God’s perfect ways, to pay for our sins.

Prayer for Self: I see Judas in me.  I get jealous of how You bless others.  I get angry when You don’t give me what I want.  I betray You when I want to get my way at any cost.  Lord, forgive me.  And thank You because I know You have, do and will forgive me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to stand with humility in my Oikos.  Help me to be grateful for them, with them and show generosity to them.  I pray that I would be as gracious to them as You have been gracious to me.

 

Holy Week Maundy Thursday John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Today is Maundy Thursday.  The word Maundy comes the Latin word mandatumMandatum translated into English means to mandate or command.  Jesus gave this new command- we are to love one another the way Christ loved us.  This is not a suggestion.  This is not if we feel like it.  This is not if we think they are worthy.  Maundy Thursday celebrates that we have a command from Jesus- Love one another!

How are you doing with this?  How do you love the people in your Oikos the way that Jesus loves you?  In light of the crucifixion of Jesus, how can you take this mandate and be faithful to it?

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to love You more.  This week I have been thinking about the price you paid because of Your love for me.  Let me be truly Yours.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to love others as You have loved me.  I am inadequate to this task.  You are the one who can enable me to love others.  I know that You never ask me to do anything that You will not empower me through the Holy Spirit to do.  May this be my Holy week offering to you- Help me love those in my circle in a way that reflects Your perfect love.

 

Good Friday

Come to our worship service at Jesus Risen Lord, 233 James Rd at 6pm tonight.  If you can’t attend, read Mar 14:12-15:41 prayerfully.  Imagine yourself in the crowd.  Offer to Jesus your thoughts, emotions, and reflections.

Devotional For April 3- 9

Scripture for Palm Sunday, April 9th

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

.

 

The Values of God Day 1: Micah 6:6-8

What should I bring into the presence of the Eternal One
to pay homage to the God Most High?
Should I come into His presence with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves to sacrifice?
    Would the Eternal be pleased by thousands of sacrificial rams,
by ten thousand swollen rivers of sweet olive oil?
Should I offer my oldest son for my wrongdoing,
the child of my body to cover the sins of my life?

No. He has told you, mortals, what is good in His sight.
What else does the Eternal ask of you
But to live justly and to love kindness
and to walk with your True God in all humility?

 

I am guilty of making things more complicated than they need to be.  This scripture reminds us of what God values, what God wants us to be and do.  Justice: we should treat each other with fairness.  Love and kindness need to be the rule, not the extraordinary acts of our life.  And to walk with God with humility means not usurping God’s right to lead us in the path that He wants us to go.

 

How are you doing with these three simple directions?  I am not doing as well as I could.  I often don’t want justice, I want my way.  I don’t often value love and kindness, when productivity and success are at stake.  And I struggle to let Jesus lead me; I want to lead Him and direct Him what He ought to do in the world.  Lord, forgive me.  Lord, forgive us.

 

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to love the things that You love.  Help your values to be the core of my existence on earth.  May my life reflect Your heart.

 

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray that I would treat those in my Oikos with justice, not taking from them anything that they deserve as Your beloved child.  I pray that I might be a person of mercy and not judgment.  And Lord I pray that all in my Oikos would walk humbly with You.

 

The Heart of God Day 2: 1 Samuel 16:5-7

“Greetings,” [Samuel] replied, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Perform the ceremonies to make yourselves holy, and come with me to the sacrifice.” He performed the ceremonies for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  When they came, he saw Eliab and thought, “Certainly, here in the Lord’s presence is his anointed king.”

But the Lord told Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him. God does not see as humans see, Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

Do you judge by appearances?  We all do, to one degree or another.  In fact God makes this point Himself- humans look at outward appearances but God looks into the heart.  Eliab might have been more handsome than his younger brother David, but David was the man after God’s own heart.

How is your heart doing?  Are you willing to tune into the frequency of God’s love?  Are you choosing to value people in the world not by their outward appearance or their social standing, but by the heart?  Jesus said that we act out of the overflow of our hearts.  Let us tune our hearts to Jesus!

Prayer for Self:  Lord, you know my heart.  You know what attracts me and what repels me about people.  Please re-calibrate my heart to line up with your Heart.  Give me eyes to see the world the way that You do.

Prayer for My Oikos:  God grant me the ability not to judge others by their outward appearance, but to see them the way that You do. When I am frustrated or even repelled by those you have placed in my life, give me the grace to see them are Your beloved child.  Give me the courage to love as You love me and love the world.

 

The Heart of God Day 3: 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Followers of Jesus are offered relationship with Jesus that allows them to experience the eternal qualities of God.  Have you experienced Faith, Hope and Love beyond human norms?  IF you lack them, ask Jesus to open your heart to them.

In this passage we see a few of the eternal qualities of Jesus that He has poured out for us to live out.  Followers of Jesus are people of faith.  Hebrews 11 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God.  Jesus said that if we had the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains.

Hope is similar.  Jesus gives us unshakable hope.  It is our hope in God’s faithfulness, His fulfillment of His promises that draw us forward.  We are to enjoy all the things God gives us in life, but we do not need to clutch them.  God has something much better for us ahead!

We will look at love tomorrow.  In the meantime, how are you doing with faith and hope?  Do you both believe and act in the world knowing that you belong to Jesus? Do you see that the things of the world are temporary but the Word of God is eternal?    Let us be people of faith and hope.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I thank you for this opportunity to experience the values closest to you.  By faith, I am drawn into relationship with you.  In hope, I wait for your eternal victory over everything that is imperfect. Thank you for giving me these gifts.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help my faith in You and the hope that You have given empower me to truly invest in those you have placed in my life.  May my faith that you are present, and my hope that You will make all things right, strengthen my resolve to invest in relationships today.

The Heart of God Day 4: 1 John 4:7-12

7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

God not only shows us what love is, or how to love, but God is Himself Love.

But as this scripture says, God has revealed Himself to us as love so that we could love those in our world.  When we truly love one another we have experienced the presence of God.  Love never fails.  Let us live in love with God today and love those around us!

Prayer for Self: When I think about how You love me, it makes it easier to love others.  Remind me today, Father, of all the ways you have demonstrated Your love for me.  May Your love by what fuels my day.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I know it is simpler to love others, but it requires patience and humility to not insist on my way.  Show me how Your love will allow me to continue on the path of loving others.  I pray that those in my circle would know that I love them.

Daily Devotional For March 27-April 2

 

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,  15 Matthew,  Thomas,  James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. –Luke 6:12-16

 

Called to Be A Disciple Day 1: John 6:44-45

4“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.  It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’

We may believe that we sought out God, but He is the one who pursued us into relationships with Him.  God loves us so much that He has chosen to have a deep, rich  relationship with us.  He not only wants us to know about Him, but to be instructed by God Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit in every area of our life.

Do you believe that the God who created the universe is not only mindful of you, but has called you by name to love and teach His ways?  This is the truth.  We are the beloved of God!

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to remember that You have called me to be Your follower.  You love and chose me!  Help me to be truly grateful for my call to be Your follower.  Let me be willing to learn from You in all that You want me to learn.

Prayer for My Oikos: God, Who is Love, please reveal Yourself to those You have put in my Oikos.  Pursue them as You pursued me.  Make Your grace so compelling that they want it above all else.  You are awesome God!

 


 

Called to Be A Disciple Day 2: Isaiah 43:1b-2

Now, this is what the Lord says:

Do not be afraid, because I have reclaimed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through the sea, I am with you.
When you go through rivers, they will not sweep you away.
When you walk through fire, you will not be burned,
and the flames will not harm you.

 

God says, “I have called you by name.  You are mine.”  God not only calls us to be His but then pledges to walk through all the pain we will experience in life.  He will protect us and one day call us to His, and our, eternal home.  We are truly loved and protected by God.

How many times, and in how many ways, have you experienced God’s protection and grace?  How many times have you worried about something and then God has protected you from it?  Even in those extremely tough moments in life when you have gone through the pit, have you experienced a profound sense of God’s presence in the pit?

We are loved, called, and protected by God.

Prayer for Self: Thank you Jesus for keeping me safe.  And in the truly tough times I know that You have, and are,  present.  Please help me to remember not to worry about tomorrow but to trust You with it.

Prayer for Our Oikos: Thank you for loving me through my Oikos.  Thank you for those you have called to walk with me through the tough times.  Let me be one who assists others through their time of troubles, assuring them of my love and Yours.  May you be glorified!

 

 


Called to Be A Disciple Day 3: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

26 Look carefully at your call, brothers and sisters. By human standards, not many of you are deemed to be wise. Not many are considered powerful. Not many of you come from royalty, right? 27 But celebrate this: God selected the world’s foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world’s weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong. 28 God selected the common and the castoff, whatever lacks status, so He could invalidate the claims of those who think those things are significant. 29 So it makes no sense for any person to boast in God’s presence. 30 Instead, credit God with your new situation: you are united with Jesus the Anointed. He is God’s wisdom for us and more. He is our righteousness and holiness and redemption. 31 As the Scripture says: “If someone wants to boast, he should boast in the Lord.”

God has called us to be His, not based on our merit, but based on His love.  We are not ‘good enough’ to earn God’s love.  We are God’s witness to the world; it is  through our weakness God is glorified.

Not that we are perfect, or will attain perfection in this life.  It is exactly our imperfections coupled with our hope in Jesus that allows the Gospel to shine.  We are not healed, but we are healing.  And in the midst of a broken world, we have an unshakeable hope in the person of Jesus.

Prayer for Self: Lord, make me a person of unshakable hope.  Help me to see that I do not need to hide in shame because I’m imperfect, but to live openly.  Help me to be confident in the hope you have placed in me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Help me to live my struggles openly with those in my Oikos.  Let them see not only my strengths and weaknesses, but my hope that You are making all things right and all things new.  May I help them to be honest before You and be healed by You.

 


 

Called to Be A Disciple Day 4: John 15:15-17

I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.

Jesus called us not merely to be his followers, his loyal servants, but to be His friend.  Jesus showed his love in this: while we were still stuck in sin and at war with God and His purposes, He died for each of us.  We have been shown eternal love.  We have been given grace

We are loved by Jesus.  So out of the love we have received let us love one another, especially those who truly know our heart.  May we see that love always wins in the end.  Choosing to live in love with Jesus and our world is the way to find eternal life.

Prayer for Self: I pray that I would be conscious of your love in all my interactions today.  Forgive me when I act less than lovingly toward others.  I am truly grateful for the fact that You love me and have chosen me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Help me see that one way I can love You is to love those you have placed in my life.  Help me to love them as unconditionally as You love me.  May I be known for being a person who loves in my circle.

 

Daily Devotional For March 20-26

Our sermon Scripture for next week is Luke 6:1-11

 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Sabbath, Day 1: Genesis 2:1-3

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

God did not need to rest from His labor of creation.  He did rest to establish the rhythm of life that we as His children need.

Do you a take a day a week to rest and be refreshed by God?  There are a thousand other things to crowd out taking a day to rest in Him.  Let me invite you to consider you approach to taking a weekly break from your routine to focus on God and his love for you.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, show me my need for Sabbath.  Show me my need for rest, particularly rest in you.  Help me to trust You enough to rest.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray for those in my circle.  Help them to see the need for rest, renewal and refreshment that You provide.  Help me to show the rhythms of grace in my life.

Sabbath, Day 2: Exodus 20:8-11

You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. You have six days to do all your work,  but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God. Keep it holy by not doing any work—not you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, or any outsiders living among you. For the Eternal made the heavens above, the earth below, the seas, and all the creatures in them in six days. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. That is why He blessed the Sabbath Day and made it sacred.

This is the fourth of the ten commandments given by God to Moses.  An important part of being God’s people was to set aside a day of the week to devote to God.  This was both a day of rest and a witness to the world in which Israel was placed of their full devotion and dependence on God.

Weekly congregational worship is a mark of a follower of Jesus.   While we live in the era of grace, it does not take away our need to set aside a day for worship, rest and enjoyment of God’s presence.  Centered on Christ, a weekly Sabbath will empower you to live in the world and live for Him in the world.

Prayer for Self:  Lord Jesus, I know I need you.  I get busy and worried and I have trouble remembering to trust in You.  Help me to remember that the most important thing I can do in my life is to trust You with all that I have and all that I am

Prayer for My Oikos:  Jesus, let me give Sabbath rest and rejuvenation for those in my circle.  May I be one who reminds them that they are loved, that they need to rest, and that You love them and want them to have relationship with you.  May I be a person of peace in my Oikos because I have experienced rest in you.

Sabbath, Day 3: Isaiah 58:13-14

“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

The command here in Isaiah is for us to stop and worship and enjoy God and His presence weekly.

This is hard for me.  There is always more work than time in my life.  I try to “steal a march” on some task by working on it on my day off, or sometimes not taking a day off at all. Yet I know the truth:  The joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:12).  God forgive me, and forgive us, when we are too busy doing life to enjoy You the giver of all life.

Prayer for Self: Lord, calm my anxieties.  Help me to see that my dependence on You is what is most needful. May I find joy in Your strength. Help me to see that worrying is not virtuous but actually a sign that I am not trusting fully in you.

Prayer for My Oikos: Many in my Oikos have anxiety.  Lord, please help them.  Help me to be one who not only brings peace and refreshment to them, but points them to You as the source of true Sabbath.  May You be glorfied in my circle.

Sabbath, Day 4: Hebrews 4:9-10

There still remains a place of rest, a true Sabbath, for the people of God 10 because those who enter into salvation’s rest lay down their labors in the same way that God entered into a Sabbath rest from His.

Sabbath is much bigger than rest.  It is a cessation of all struggle.  We will not find true Sabbath in our earthly life.  We will ultimately find true peace when we meet Jesus personally.

When the world’s brokenness is causing you too much pain, allow it to make you hunger for God’s eternal Sabbath.  Remember that the struggles of your day are not eternal; Jesus has come to save.  And in the midst of this life, remember that Jesus promise to all that are weary and heavy laden, He will give them rest.

Prayer for Self:  Give me a vision of heaven.  Help me to line my life up with my destiny in You.  May I experience the “peace that surpasses all understanding” today because I know You and where You are taking me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I want each one to know the rest that You bring.  Draw them to yourself.  Use me in any way You choose to be a part of the redemption of those in my Oikos.  May You be glorified in my circle of friends.
Daily Devotional for March 13-19 Luke 5:33-34

Scripture for March 19

33 They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”

34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

 

Fasting Day 1 Levitcus 16:29-31

 “This is standard practice for you, a perpetual ordinance. On the tenth day of the seventh month, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you are to enter into a solemn fast and refrain from all work, because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. In the presence of God you will be made clean of all your sins. It is a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. You must fast. It is a perpetual ordinance.

Part of the process God lays out for atoning for sin is an annual fast. God’s  commandment to fast was giving so they might experience deprivation so they could learn to put their trust in God.   While today our sins are atoned for by Jesus’ sacrificial death, fasting is still a way in which we practice depending on God’s provision as well as seeking His favor.

One of the benefits of fasting, whether is a complete fast from food or just a fast from a particular thing, is that our craving from what we have removed from our lives reminds us to seek God as our source of comfort and confidence.  When we are depriving ourselves, let us turn our heats to God in prayer.  It is these self-denying disciplines that overcome our innate selfishness.

Prayer for Self:  Jesus, I want to please you.  Show me what you want me to fast from and when.  May I be willing to seek You in even through personal discomfort.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, when I fast help me to remember that my fast is not merely for myself, but for others as well.  May my increasing dependence on You allow me to be blessing to those in my circle.  May Your Spirit shine through me as I fast and turn my heart to you.

 

Fasting Day 2 Esther4:9-17

Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said.10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

Here we see Esther and Mordecai (and their friends) fasting.  They were fasting as a plea to God to intervene in their circumstance.  While Mordecai reminds Esther that God’s sovereign will to save the Jewish people is certain, the price of inaction on Esther’s part could result in the wiping out of her family and many others.  So Esther asks God to intervene and to give her courage to what only she can do.

What do you need courage to do?  What are the circumstances of your life that inaction will lead to potentially disastrous results? Sometimes we need God’s strengthening courage just to engage with painful situations that we face.  If you are in this situation, consider a fast of some type to focus on this issue.  Fast and pray and ask for God’s guidance and power to see it through.

Prayer for Self: Lord, you know what things I need to address.  I may not even consciously be aware of what I need to face, but you know.    Help me to seek you, to fast, and to get others to fast with me for your work to be done in me and through me.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help me to seek the good of my Oikos in prayer.  Give me continued passion to look to You for Your Divine help for those I love.  Help me to be willing to lay down my self-centeredness and exchange it for devotion and love for You and for those in my circle.

 

Fasting Day 3 Isaiah 58:3-8

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Fasting is not magic.  We cannot manipulate God by denying ourselves.  Instead fasting should be in addition to our regular spiritual habits of seeking Him, doing justice, and loving others.  When we add fasting to our daily habits of loving God and loving others, we open ourselves to experience the power of God in our lives, in our Oikos, and in the world.

Who in your Oikos needs to have their chains loosened?  Who in your circle do you need to not only encourage, but to pray and fast for as well?  The power of God can break the power of abuse, addiction, and disease.  Fasting is not magic, but it is what we can do on behalf of those in our Oikos.  God is the great, and ultimate, healer.

Prayer for Self:  Lord God, help me to be earnest when I fast, not manipulative.  I pray with the psalmist “see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Lead me to Your heart.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help me to seek your favor for those in my Oikos by loving justice and mercy, serving them and holding them up to You    Give me a desire to do justice for others, even when  I do not personally benefit.  May you be glorified in my Oikos.

 

Fasting Day 4 Matthew 6:16-18

16 And when you fast, do not look miserable as the actors and hypocrites do when they are fasting—they walk around town putting on airs about their suffering and weakness, complaining about how hungry they are. So everyone will know they are fasting, they don’t wash or anoint themselves with oil, pink their cheeks, or wear comfortable shoesThose who show off their piety, they have already received their reward. 17 When you fast, wash your face and beautify yourself with oil, 18 so no one who looks at you will know about your discipline. Only your Father, who is unseen, will see your fast. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

The Pharisees fasted trice a week, among many other regular spiritual disciplines.   Yet what they were doing was not pleasing to God.   They were more interested in how they looked on the outside than how their hearts were being yielded to God.

We like to look good to others too.  I know that I am much more likely to follow through on a commitment if I have someone else I have to report to.  But my heart needs to seek God because of His love and what He has done for me.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to respond in gratitude because of Your love.  I did not choose You before You chose me.  May I live my life to please You, and not to impress other people.  Let me live to please You because of what You have done for me and those I love..

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to serve others out of a genuine love that comes from You.  May those in my Oikos know that I love them.  Help me to truly love and grateful for each one in my Oikos.

Daily Devotional for March 6-12

Sermon for Sunday, Mar 12 Luke 5:27-32

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Is our church safe for tax collectors?  If someone was selling meth on a Saturday night, would he be truly welcome here in those same clothes Sunday morning?  Or would we shun them?  We will explore the fact that if we want to be a disciple we must acknowledge that we are sinners.

 

Outsiders and Sinners Chosen by God, Day 1: Rahab (Joshua 2:1-16)

Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hillsso the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

Rahab was a Caananite who believed in the power of God and risked her life.  God used her to be an instrumental part of His plan for the taking of the Promised Land.  God could not use one of the people of Israel for this role; this job had to be done by an outsider He invited to join in His work.  She will become be recognized in Matthew 1 as one the bearers of the promise that led to the birth of Jesus.

God can use us where we are.  It is not always the longest tenured followers of Jesus who are best positioned to change the world for Jesus.  Many of you have far more and deeper relationships with unchurched people than I do.  Trust that God works through all who are willing to be useful to Him

Prayer for Self: Help me to see how I can use my position in life, where I actually am right now, for your glory.  Please take away the guilt and shame I may feel for not being further along than I am now.  Let me have the maximum impact with the people and circumstances in which I am placed.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that you would move powerfully in my Oikos.  May each one be drawn closer to You.  Use the times and circumstances they find themselves in to drawn them, and their Oikos’, toward You.

 

Outsiders and Sinners Chosen by God, Day 2 Jacob (Genesis 27:6-27)

Rebekah: I heard your father say to your brother Esau, “Bring me game and prepare for me some savory food to eat, so I can bless you before the Eternal before I die.” My son, listen and do what I tell you: Go to the flock, and bring me two of the best young goats. I can prepare the savory food for your father from them. I know just how he likes it. 10 Then you take it to your father to eat so that he speaks a blessing over you before he dies.

Jacob (to Rebekah, his mother): 11 Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I have smooth skin. 12 If father reaches out and touches me, he’ll figure it out and think I’m mocking him. Then I’ll bring a curse upon myself instead of a blessing!

Rebekah: 13 If that happens, then let the curse be on me and not you. Just listen to me. Go, and get them for me.

14 Jacob went and brought the young goats to his mother, who prepared a mouth-watering meal just as his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of her older son Esau, which were with her in the house, and she put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She affixed the skins of the young goats onto the back of his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 Then she handed him the delicious food and the fresh bread she had prepared. 18 Jacob went in to his father.

Jacob: My father.

Isaac: I’m here. Who are you, my son?

Jacob: 19 I’m Esau, your firstborn son. I have done as you asked. Now sit up and eat the game I have brought for you so that you can speak a blessing over me.

Isaac: 20 How did you manage to hunt the game and cook the food so quickly, my son?

Jacob: The Eternal One, your God, gave me success today.

Isaac: 21 Please come over here so I can feel you, my son, so that I know it is really you, Esau.

22 So Jacob went over to his father, and Isaac reached out and felt his hands. He was a bit confused.

Isaac: Your voice sounds like Jacob’s, but your hands feel like Esau’s.

23 Because of the young goat’s fur on the back of his hands, his father did not recognize him, and so Isaac proceeded to bless Jacob instead of Esau.

Isaac: 24 Are you really my son, Esau?

Jacob: I am.

Isaac: 25 Then bring the food to me, and I’ll eat my son’s game and give you my blessing.

Jacob brought Isaac the food, and Isaac ate it. Then Jacob brought him some wine to drink. 26 When he finished it, his father, Isaac, told him to approach.

Isaac: Please come near and kiss me, my son.

27 Jacob went over and kissed his father, and Isaac breathed in the scent of the outdoors on Esau’s clothes. Then he gave Jacob the blessing, passing on the promise of God’s covenant.

Jacob steals the blessing his father intended to bestow on his older brother with the collusion of his mother.  Jacob will flee his brother’s wrath and will live as an alien for a very long time.  But even this terrible action does not disqualify him from being used by God.  He will later be given the name Israel, the namesake of God’s people and the modern state.

Your past does not disqualify you from being used by God today.  Sit with that for a minute.  And breathe in grace.

Prayer for Self: Most gracious God, I am so grateful that you don’t hold my confessed sin against me. Help me to forgive myself.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that I would not hold the past mistakes of those in my Oikos against them.  Heal me so that I can treat them with grace and respect.  Give my supernatural power so that I can love them as You love me.

Outsiders And Sinners Chosen by God, Day 3 Ruth (Ruth 1:1-6)

 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

Here we are introduced to Ruth.  She is a foreigner who worshipped many gods.  Genesis says that the nation of Moab was founded out of an incestuous relationship.  She would have been looked down on because of her ethnicity and religion.

How are you doing today with people who are different from you?  Are you able to live up to vision of Dr. King, to not pre-judge people by the color of their skin, or for that matter their religious affiliation?  This refugee, like many others, will be instrumental in the work of God.  Let us welcome in the stranger and allow them to bring their unique perspective and relationships to our church family.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, I do not consider myself a prejudiced person, but there are prejudices in my heart against people who look, act, or talk in a certain way.  Help me to see past the exterior into the person that you have made.  Give me new eyes with which to see others.

Prayer for My Oikos: Help me to be free of pre-judging others so that I can love them.  Help me to see that it is often through the outsider that you do the deepest and most miraculous things.  Let me be open to You and Your work no matter who it is through.

Outsiders and Sinners Chosen by God, Day 4 Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

Lydiawas interested in God, but had not converted to Judaism when she heard Paul preach.  She heard the Gospel message of grace and responded.  Overwhelmed by grace, she chose to be baptized and then offered her resources to Paul.  She challenged him and said, in effect, if I am truly part of God’s familiy now that I have become a follower of Jesus and not a second class citizen, let me take my full role in the church by inviting you into my household. Lydia was a merchant in one of the most lucrative fields of the ancient world.   Lydia was where not only offering Paul and Silas a place to live, but take care of all of their expenses so that they could do full-time what God had gifted them to do.

Would you trust a new believer this way, to let them take care of you?  This vulnerability would be harder for me than preaching the gospel in an even hostile environment.  Let me invite you to allow those who are new or outsiders to not only hear the gospel, but also to care for you and me.

Prayer for Self: Lord, give me the ability to be vulnerable with others in the family of God, even those who are different from me.  Help me to be a person who trusts, not one who pushes others away.  Give me the courage to trust even after I have been left down.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to not only give to my Oikos, but to receive from them.  I pray that I would be humble enough to accept their help.  May I model humility as I allow others to come alongside me.

 

Devotional For Feb 27- Mar 5

Sermon For March 5 Text

Luke 5:17-26

17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

 

Healing Day 1: Exodus 15:25-26

25 Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord set down laws and rules for them to live by, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what he considers right, if you pay attention to his commands and obey all his laws, I will never make you suffer any of the diseases I made the Egyptians suffer, because I am the Lord, who heals you.”

The Israelites were desperately thirsty and had been out of water for three days  in the desert.  All of sudden they found springs of water.   The water was bitter.  God told Moses to throw a log in the water and miraculously the water becomes good to drink. They are able to drink deeply and quench their thirst.

The healing of God is also refreshing to us.   He is the God who will heal us if we stick closely to Him.  Are you willing to be healed?  Do you trust God to heal?

Prayer for Self: Lord, I want to be healed, but mostly I want to be healed without any effort or movement to follow You.  Help me be willing to follow You wherever You want to lead me so that my healing might take place.  May I be willing to go anywhere You lead me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Jesus, it so easy for me  to see the brokenness in others!  Help me to be one who walks with them in compassion, aware of my own need for grace.  Please give me the right words to say.  Help me to be faithful to lift them in prayer to You, the Great Healer.

 

Healing Day 2: Psalm 103:1-5

O my soul, come, praise the Eternal
with all that is in me—body, emotions, mind, and will—every part of who I am—
praise His holy name.
O my soul, come, praise the Eternal;
sing a song from a grateful heart;
sing and never forget all the good He has done.
Despite all your many offenses, He forgives and releases you.
More than any doctor, He heals your diseases.
He reaches deep into the pit to deliver you from death.
He crowns you with unfailing love and compassion like a king.
When your soul is famished and withering,
He fills you with good and beautiful things, satisfying you as long as you live.
He makes you strong like an eagle, restoring your youth.

God wants to be our healer- our healer in every aspect of life.  God certianly cares about your physical well-being.   Jesus also wants to heal your mind, your emotions, and you soul.  All that you are matters to Him.

It is often easier for us to ask for prayer for our physical health than for our emotional health.  It is very hard to admit, or even sometimes explain, when our soul is not well.  For most of us, we have to get close to emotional breakdown before we are even willing to admit it to ourselves.  Let us allow Jesus to heal every part of our personhood.

Prayer for Self: Lord, you know all my needs before I ask.  Give me the wisdom to know the root of the healing I need.  Give me the courage to face the broken parts of my health and ask You for healing.  Give me fearlessness I need to come to You for healing and the courage necessary to follow You to where I will experience Your healing.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray for the healing that is so needed in the ones I love.  May they turn to You for the all the healing they need.  Help me to show both love and compassion for the people in my Oikos.  I ask you for the endurance to walk with them toward You.

 

Healing Day 3: 1 Timothy 1:12-17

I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus.

15-19 Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.

Deep honor and bright glory
to the King of All Time—
One God, Immortal, Invisible,
ever and always. Oh, yes!

 

God has not only loves us, He truly and completely forgives us!  He  does not hold our past sin against us.  He invites us to be wounded healers, people with sin and hurt in our lives who are used by God to bring His healing to others.  Praise God for His choosing to work in us and through us!

How can you lead from a position of personal vulnerability in your Oikos?  What would it look like for you to share not only the places where you struggle personally, but to identify that it is your relationship with Jesus that give you hope for the future?  May God give us courage to do this.

Prayer for Self:  Lord God, thank you for prompting Paul to share his backstory to give us hope.  May I be willing to trust you with my hurts and the harms that I have done that You have forgiven.  May I be confident that I am made right, even made holy, in You and Your love.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help me to show those in my Oikos that You haven’t given up on them.  May You give them a vision of what their life could be if they put their trust in You.  May I treat everyone in my Oikos not based on their past, but in line with the future that You have for them.

 

Healing Day 4: Revelation 22:1-5

My heavenly guide brought me to the river of pure living waters, shimmering as brilliantly as crystal. It flowed out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, flowing down the middle and dividing the street of the holy city. On each bank of the river stood the tree of life, firmly planted, bearing twelve kinds of fruit and producing its sweet crop every month throughout the year. And the soothing leaves that grew on the tree of life provided precious healing for the nations.

No one or nothing will labor under any curse any longer. And the throne of God and of the Lamb will sit prominently in the city. God’s servants will continually serve and worship Him. They will be able to look upon His face, and His name will be written on their foreheads. Darkness will never again fall on this city. They will not require the light of a lamp or of the sun because the Lord God will be their illumination. By His light, they will reign throughout the ages.

A vision of heaven.  We will be made entirely whole.  Praise God!

Worship with the angels this morning.  Imagine your future home with Jesus.  Here’s a song that moves us toward worship and a vision of heaven:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdE03zRJtxw

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to see my life in the shadow of heaven.  Help me to see how precious You are.  May I celebrate the healing that is to come,

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord may I see how precious the people are you have entrusted in my Oikos.  I can’t wait to see them made whole, made new.  Lord, help me to love them and invite them to the wholeness that only You can provide.

Devotional For Week of Feb 20-26

Feb 26th When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Fishing

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

This is not the first calling of Peter to discipleship, but this is the one that sticks.  In Mark 1:16-20 we see that Jesus called Peter earlier and Peter followed Jesus.  We see in Luke 4 that Jesus is at Peter’s home and heals his mother, but that doesn’t stick either  So for reasons that are not presented, Peter is still not a converted follower of Jesus here.  This explains why Peter refers to Jesus as Master before his confession later.  But it is Peter’s exclamation that he is a sinner that qualifies Peter to be a disciple and disciplemaker.

 

 

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Go Fishing: Day 1 Jonah 1:1-4

The Lord spoke his word to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it, because I see the evil things they do.”

But Jonah got up to run away from the Lord by going to Tarshish. He went to the city of Joppa, where he found a ship that was going to the city of Tarshish. Jonah paid for the trip and went aboard, planning to go to Tarshish to run away from the Lord.

Jonah did not want to hear that God wanted him to preach to his enemies to the northeast, from Israel to modern Iraq.  So he took a ship to the west, possibly hoping to go as far west as modern Spain.  This was about as far as he could possibly imagine going away from where God asked him to go.

When God calls you to do something that you don’t want to do, do you run in the other direction? When God calls you to be still before Him, do you find ways to distract yourself from your experience of needing the presence of God?   When God calls you to reach out to someone in your Oikos, do you busy yourself in work so that you are too busy to hear God’s voice?

Prayer for Self: Lord, when I feel the tug to spend time with You, help me to calm my heart enough to be still.  When I feel the tug to minister to someone, help me not cover it with busyness.  When I feel You directing me, give me the wisdom to breathe and then follow You.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I haven’t always had people to walk with me through the tough times in life.  Help me be able to still walk with those You bring to mind that I need to reach out to.  Give me a heart for those people You have placed in my circle that allows me to be vulnerable enough to come alongside them.

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Go Fishing: Day 2 Isaiah 6:1-6

When I was first asked to serve in professional ministry I had an enormous sense that I was not good enough to serve.  I was very aware of my sin and felt unworthy.  God led me in that day to this passage

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted,seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King,the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

I knew I wasn’t good enough to be called or sent into ministry.  But here is what I could do- I leaped at the chance to useful to God and I was willing to go wherever He  wanted me to go.  I needed to learn that only God could make me “good enough” to serve Him.

In Christ, we are all made clean.  Jesus sacrifice on the cross is enough.  To say that you are unworthy (as I was mentally doing) is to say that Christ on the cross did not do enough to make you right with God.  Let us live with confidence knowing that we, in Christ, are a new creation.  We have been made in some inexplicable way the Righteousness of God.  May we always be willing to say to God, “Here I am.  Send me!”

Prayer for Self: Lord, I am unworthy to be Your servant, but I am willing to be!  Give me confidence.  Give me confidence not borne of my achievements, but that comes from what Christ achieved on the cross.  May my life be a song of worship to You for what You have done for me.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Here I am Lord.  Send me!

 

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Go Fishing: Day 3 Jeremiah 17:12-17

But we worship at your throne—
eternal, high, and glorious!
13 O Lord, the hope of Israel,
all who turn away from you will be disgraced.
They will be buried in the dust of the earth,
for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water.

14 O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
if you save me, I will be truly saved.
My praises are for you alone!
15 People scoff at me and say,
“What is this ‘message from the Lord’ you talk about?
Why don’t your predictions come true?”

16 Lord, I have not abandoned my job
as a shepherd for your people.
I have not urged you to send disaster.
You have heard everything I’ve said.
17 Lord, don’t terrorize me!
You alone are my hope in the day of disaster.

 

Jeremiah had a unique calling from God.   His nation, Judah, was to be destroyed. It was too late to turn away God’s wrath by asking for forgiveness and mercy.  His message was that the only course of action was for Judah to accept God’s punishment for the evil they had done.  Maybe God would relent, if not for them, then possibly for their children.  He preached the end of his nation and was frightfully unpopular because of it.  He had to do this for the last 40 years of Judah’s existence as a nation.

Even as we hold on to Jesus, whatever our calling in life is, it is through Him that we will find healing.  The circumstances of our life in some ways are the background; it is our relationship with God that is where we will find healing, wholeness, and eternity.  May we be able to live in the truth of God’s healing no matter what circumstances we are experiencing.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me hold on to who you have called me to be.  Give me clarity of who You have made me to be.  Open my eyes to my unique value in the world.  Empower me to be as faithful as Jeremiah in the face of opposition

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, help me be faithful to the commitments and people you have placed in my life.  Let me carry your message of love and reconciliation to them.  Keep me from using my frustrations in my relationships to bash to those whom You have called me to minister.

 

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Go Fishing: Day 4 1 Corinthians 15:3-10

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Paul here is reflecting on his identity to the church at Corinth.  He can’t change what he has done- it is clearly on his mind that he was a persecuter of the church before his conversion.  But in the end, he doesn’t let his past mistake keep him from living up to his calling as an apostle of Jesus.

I love the phrase, “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.”   Our past does not limit us from God’s work; in fact it is because we acknowledge our sin that we are particularly useful to God.  Let us go into our Oikos, conscious of both our sin and of God’s grace, and serve them as the hands and feet of Christ.

Prayer for Self: Thank you Jesus that you have saved me from my sin.  Lord, you make everything beautiful in its time.  I don’t quite understand how you take my ugliness, my selfishness, my past and use it for your glory, but that is exactly what you do when you use me to share you love with others.  May I be conscious of the grace you have bestowed on me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Jesus, help me to be like Paul.  May grace propel me not toward self-pity, but toward a life of love and service.  Help me to see how much my circle needs both my strengths and weakness, on prominent display, so they can see through me the grace of Jesus.  May You be glorified in my journey of finding and living out faith.

Devotional for Week of Feb 13-17

Jesus is not our “Personal” Savior

Of course Jesus is our personal savior.  We are saved by grace through Him and we have a personal relationship with Him.  But let’s not misunderstood what that means.  The people of Capernaum wanted to make Jesus their “personal” savior, who could be used by them to meet their specific local needs.  Jesus refused.   God cannot be controlled by us, we cannot use Him and His power for our purposes.  We need to see that God is bigger, stronger, wiser, and better than we can comprehend.  God wants us to experience the healing that comes from Him and then allow Him to direct our paths, not us to tell God what He ought to do.

Jesus is not our “Personal” Savior: Day 1 Psalm 104:24-33

There is so much here, O Eternal One, so much You have made.
By the wise way in which You create, riches and creatures fill the earth.
25 Of course, the sea is vast and stretches like the heavens beyond view,
and numberless creatures inhabit her.
From the tiny to the great, they swarm beneath her waves.
26 Our ships skim her surface
while the monsters of the sea play beneath.

27 And all of these look to You
to give them food when the time is right.
28 When You feed, they gather what You supply.
When You open Your hand, they are filled with good food.
29 When You withdraw Your presence, they are dismayed.
When You revoke their breath, the life goes out of them,
and they become, again, the dust of the earth from which You formed them at the start.
30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

31 May the glorious presence of the Eternal linger among us forever.
And may He rejoice in the greatness of His own works—
32 He, who rattles the earth with a glance;
He, who sets mountains to smoking with a touch.
33 I will sing to the Eternal all of my life;
I will call my God good as long as I live.

God is so much bigger than we can comprehend.  He has created wonders that take our breath away.  He has given us  so much more than we can see or even perceive.  God’s personal goodness and grandeur is beyond our comprehension.  I wonder if in heaven we will have more sense to experience of the wonders of God than our five senses can perceive now.

The correct response to the awesomeness of God is to worship.  Not merely for what He has done, but for the Wonder of Who He Is.  The greatest beauty in all of creation is merely a dim reflection of the splendor of God.  Let us worship Him for His beauty and perfection.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, my God, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth.  Help me to see the reflections of Your beauty around me.  May I be in awe and wonder when I contemplate You.  Lead me to live my life in awe of Your majesty.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, there is so much pain and ugliness right now.  Help me to point out the points of our life and creation that reflect your beauty.  May you be glorified in me and my Oikos.

Jesus is not our “Personal” Savior: Day 2 Acts 19:13-16

13-14 Some itinerant Jewish exorcists noticed Paul’s success in this regard, so they tried to use the name of Jesus, the King, in an exorcism they were performing.

Imagine this: There are seven of them, all sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva, gathered around a demonized man in a house.

One of the Jewish Exorcists: I command you to depart, by the Jesus proclaimed by Paul!

Evil Spirit: 15 Jesus I know. Paul I know. But who are you?

16 Then the man leaps up, attacks them all, rips off their clothing, and beats them so badly that they run out of the house stark naked and covered in bruises.

Using the name of Jesus for our own advantage is dangerous!  The seven sons of Sceva found this out very directly.   We still see this sometimes in the fall of a pastor or a famous person who has used the Gospel to advance themselves.   But I suspect that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.  The eternal consequences of using Jesus for our own ends may be much more serious.  In Matthew 25 Jesus teaches us that there will be some who call Him Lord that are sent away from God, with Jesus saying, “I never knew them.”

Let us daily humbly stand before Jesus and ask Him to be our Savior and the Leader of our life.  This is not a onetime event; we must constantly choose Jesus.  This is how we stay safe from the human temptation of trying to use Jesus to further our own ends.  It is the daily submission that keeps Jesus’ agenda on the front burner and not our own.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, forgive me if I have tried to use You, my faith, or anything You have given me in ways that dishonor You.  Help me to stand in front of You with a heart willing to go where You lead.  Help me to realize Your plans for me are better than any I have or could dream up.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray that those in my circle who identify as Christian would not use You or the  Gospel to further themselves.  I pray that each of us might work together to follow You in all things.  I pray that my world would see humble followers of Christ who want what You want.

 

Jesus is not our “Personal” Savior: Day 3 Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Place my yoke over your shoulders, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble. Then you will find rest for yourselves 30 because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus wants to gently lead us to new life. He wants to give us rest in the busyness and brokenness in the world.  But we have to accept His yoke, His leadership in our life.  As followers of Jesus we are not free agents; we have chosen to follow Him.

Are you willing to turn your life over to Jesus?  Good.  Are you willing to give today to Him? Sometimes that feels harder.  Let us be open to God’s Spirit leading us today.  And if we let Him lead, we will find true rest for our souls.

Prayer for Self: Lord Jesus, give me the humility to take on your yoke.  It’s hard for me to give up control of my direction and trust You with it.  Give me the courage to be willing to do what You want me to do, go where You want to go, and be present with You, to be still in the midst of a world with so much going on.  Please help me to see how I can follow You today and stay faithful to the commitments You have given me.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Father, there are many in my circle who are burdened by the world and need Your strength.  Help them to see that following You will give them rest for their soul.  May You show me how I can walk beside them in these days.

 

Jesus is not our “Personal” Savior: Day 4 Revelation 4

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

Revelation 4 is God’s revelation of heaven to John.  I suspect that this language is strongly figurative because we don’t have words to describe the majesty and glory of Heaven.  But in this passage we see human language trying to describe the beauty and majesty of the throne room of God.

Once again we are drawn to worship God for whom He is.  This vision of Jesus enthroned is not only a vision of beauty, it is a vision of our future.  We will see the throne room of God; not by words or metaphor but personally, bodily we will experience God in His eternal glory.  Let us draw into the overwhelming force of God and His love which will one day subsume all of creation.

Prayer for Self:  Lord God, give me a vision of heaven.  Give me a sense of eternity in my heart.  Help me to see what does not matter now and what does.  May I be aligned with the purposes of eternity even now.  Let me follow You and not my own best instincts today.

Prayer for My Oikos: Help me to live my life in my circle in a way that reflects the fact that I know Who holds my future.    Give me the direction and the strength to live sacrificially in my circle.  May You be glorified in my Oikos.

Devotional For Week Feb 6-10

Expectations vs. Reality Devotional (Luke 4:14-30)

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

We tend to see what we expect to see. We have put God, our loved ones, and ourselves in boxes of expectation that limit God’s power in our life.  This week we will attempt to see with fresh eyes what God can do in us, in our Oikos, and in our relationship with Him.

Day 1 Isaiah 61:1-2a
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God.

Did you notice that Jesus did not quote the last line of the above scripture when He was teaching in the synagogue? One of the main reasons that Jesus was rejected by most in His society was that he did not meet their expectations. They expected the Messiah to execute a fiery judgment against their enemies. Jesus did not come to bring destruction on the nations around Israel, but to proclaim the time of God’s blessing on all peoples. This was not acceptable to those who needed vengeance.

A friend of mine, who is a devout follower of Christ, once told me, “If I lived in the time of Jesus, I would not have been one of His followers.” While this man loves Jesus and Jesus’ message, he knows that he is by nature a rule follower and would probably have ended up on the side of the Pharisees. His expectations would have kept him from experiencing Jesus.

I am incredibly blessed to have a friend who sees himself so clearly, but this confession should also be a warning for us. If Jesus doesn’t meet our expectations, are we still going to follow Him? We do not get to mold Jesus into our image; we need to let the Spirit mold us into the image of Jesus.

Prayer for Self: Lord Jesus, mold me into the person You want me to be. Help me to be focused on who You have called me to be. Let me stop putting You in a box of my expectations, but truly experience the transformative power of Your life through scripture, relationships and prayer.

Prayer for Our Oikos: Lord, help me experience a sense of place, presence and personhood in my Oikos. Let me accept the love that they offer. Help me to see Your love reflected in them and through them. May I be nourished by them as I love them with Your love.

Day 2 Mark 11:12-22 (The Voice Translation)

12 The next morning, when they departed Bethany and were traveling back to the city, Jesus was hungry. 13 Off in the distance, He saw a fig tree fully leafed out, so He headed toward it to see if it might have any ripe fruit. But when He reached it, He found only leaves because the fig season had not yet come.

14 As the disciples listened, Jesus pronounced a curse on the tree.

Jesus: No one will ever eat fruit from your branches again.

15 They continued into Jerusalem and made their way up to the temple.

Upon reaching the temple that morning, Jesus dealt with those who were selling and buying animals for sacrifices and drove them out of the area. He turned over the tables of those who exchanged money for the temple pilgrims and the seats of those selling birds, 16 and He physically prevented anyone from carrying anything through the temple.

Jesus (to those who were listening): 17 Didn’t the prophets write, “My house will be called a house of prayer, for all the people”? But you have made it into a “haven for thieves.”[b]

18 The chief priests and the scribes heard these words and knew Jesus was referring to them, so they plotted His destruction. They had grown afraid of Him because His teachings struck the crowds into astonishment.

19 When evening came, [Jesus and His followers] left the city again. 20 The next morning on the way back to Jerusalem, they passed a tree that had withered down to its very roots.

Peter (remembering): 21 That’s the fig tree, Teacher, the one You cursed just yesterday morning. It’s withered away to nothing!

Jesus: 22 Trust in God

Jesus is being mean to a fig tree here.  Why?  I definitely have thoughts about it. For today, I want you to consider why you think Jesus curses the fig tree.  The only hint I will give you is to look at the story between Jesus’ interactions with the tree.  Share your reflections in the comments

Prayer for Self: Lord, t+here are times when it feels like isn’t fair to me.  Help me to see what You are at work doing in me, around me, and through me.  Give me a vision of eternity in the midst of my daily struggles.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, very often I want to interpret Your work in the world to those around me.  Help me to be humble enough to admit to others that there are times when I just don’t know or just don’t understand what You are doing in their life or in my life.  May I be a person who lives humbly with those in my Oikos.

Day 3 Matthew 10:32-40 (The Message Translation)

2-33 “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?

34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.

38-39 “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.

Jesus want us to focus on our families, right?  Once again Jesus says (and often does) the unexpected.   What could Jesus mean by saying family members can be your worst enemy?  How could we not love our spouse, or our children most?

Jesus demands that we put our relationship with God first.  Only through loving God and seeking Him can we be free to truly love all the people in our life.   We need to love Jesus so much that His direction for us is more important than the opinion of the world, our family, or even our own opinions!

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to place You first in my life.  Show me Your beauty.  Remind me of Your grace.  Make the reality of Your love be central to how I live and move in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos: Thank you Jesus that there are people who you have placed in my life that are so dear to me and that I love so much.  But help me to desire You and Your kingdom more than any other thing, so that I can truly love You and love those in my Oikos.  May You give me the ability to love them purely because of your grace in my life.

 

Day 4 Matthew 20:1-2, 9-16

 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius (a full days wage in this time period) for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

What do you make of Jesus being unfair?  Is this unfair?  I would hate to have to defend this practice in front of a suing employee in court!

God is generous in ways that we don’t always like.  The men’s prayer group met this morning.  We were talking a little about how life isn’t fair.  One man can have a beer and another can’t without triggering addiction.  One person can eat a few slices of pizza and not gain weight while another gained 9 lbs overnight (true story).  God’s grace is enough for us, but sometimes it feels as though he’s given a little more grace and gifts to others.

Prayer for Self:  Help me not to be jealous of how you have blessed others.  Let me be not merely content, but grateful for what you have given me.  Thank you for your love and grace.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, thank you for giving me relationships.  Help me to be grateful for each person you have put in my life.  Help me be one who turns the conversations from judgment and jealousy to gratitude and love.  May I be your emissary to my Oikos today.

Devotional For Week of Jan 30-Feb 3rd

The temptation of Jesus is the topic of our sermon next Sunday.  Interestingly, every response Jesus gives to Satan is from the Book of Deuteronomy.  In the Book of Deuteronomy Moses is reminding Israel of what God has done for them.  Moses is instructing them in how they are to live and worship God in the Promised Land that they will soon occupy.   In these scriptures, we see God’s plan for us and how to defuse and walk away from the temptations that we face day by day.  For more study on this, I highly recommend Henri Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus. 

January 30: Day 1 Deuteronomy 1:3-8

In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the Lord had commanded him concerning them. This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying:

The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

God instructed Israel to break camp after 40 years in the desert and to take possession of the Promised Land.  Sometimes for us to experience the promises of God we must wait.  Israel was already very much God’s people as the wandered in the desert, but they had not yet experienced the God’s rest, the blessing God had for them.  Waiting is hard.

How do you do with waiting?  I am incredibly impatient!   I hate waiting in almost every circumstance.  But character is developed in waiting; learning dependence on God is invaluable.  At the same time, are you one who is ready to take hold of what Jesus went to the cross to take hold of for you?  I pray this morning that you would experience patience with yourself, your circumstances, and God as you wait for him to fulfill the promises He has given you for your life.  And then when He calls you to get up and take the Promised Land, that you would grasp everything He wants to give.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to be patient and watchful for You and what You want for me.  Give me patience and vision for the future if today is a day of waiting.   If today is a day of getting taking hold of what You want me to have, give me the energy and courage to follow You.  May what I do today be in response to what You have called me to do and be.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray for those in my Oikos who may feel abandoned and alone.  I pray that they would know that You still love them.  Help me to communicate your love to them.  Help me to encourage those who you have prepared blessing for to fully take and enjoy what You have placed in their life.

Jan 31: Day 2 Deuteronomy 8:1-4

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors.   Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.

 

Jesus replied, ‘Man does not live by bread alone.’   Like Satan’s temptation of Jesus, we are often tempted to only think in “practical” terms, on our physical needs, the things we can see and touch.  Certainly these things are important.  But ultimately, what matters more than our circumstances is God’s love and presence in our lives.  We are created in the image of God.  We are loved by God, we were loved by Jesus sacrificially.  In Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit to empower us daily.   God’s provision for us and delight in us is what is ultimately satisfying!

 

Have you learned to be satisfied by God’s love?  In many ways it’s like any other relationship- it’s about communication and time.  Hear from the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and other believers what God says about you.  Spend time communicating to God your wants, your needs, and your hopes.  If you continue in this, you will find yourself experiencing the power of God in your life.

 

Prayer for Self:: Lord, help me to look beyond my circumstances to You.  I commit to you today to spend time in hearing from You and communicating to You my heart. Give me the spiritual nourishment that only You can give.

 

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray that you would work in the hearts of those I love.  I pray that they would see that live is bigger than what they can see and touch.  I ask You, Lord, to turn their hearts to You.

 

Feb 1: Day 3 Deuteronomy 6:10-14

 10 The Eternal your God promised your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that He would give you this land. When He brings you into it, you’ll live in beautiful and spacious cities you didn’t build. 11 You’ll have houses filled with good things waiting for you—cisterns to hold water already dug out of the rock for you, and vineyards and olive orchards that you didn’t plant. You’ll have all you want to eat and more. 12 When this happens, be very, very careful! Don’t forget it was the Eternal who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves. 13 Worship Him, your True God, and serve Him and swear oaths only in His name. 14 Don’t become devoted to any of the gods the people around you worship. 

Worship the Lord Your God and serve Him only.    Satan tempts Jesus to worship him and in exchange he will give Jesus the world.  Jesus responds that He will choose His Father, that nothing will detract Him from that relationship.  He will not pursue anything that will keep Him from relationship with His Father.

What are the gods you are tempted to serve, that lead you away from your Heavenly Father?  There are certainly the destructive ‘gods’- among which are addictions, manipulation , and selfishness.  But there are “good” things that we can end up worshipping: work, family,  relationships, etc..  Ultimately our first love needs to be oriented toward God; every good thing God wants for us will flow from that.  Let us put our hope, love, and trust in God; He will supply our needs according to His riches and glory.

Prayer for Self: Lord,  I love you.  Help me to love you with everything I have and am.   May you work through all the brokenness in me so that I would find true satisfaction in you and all that You have given me.  Lead me away from the temptations that other paths offer.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, may people in my Oikos see that I have chosen to place You first in my life.  Help me to love them not merely with the love I have, but with the love You give.  May my worship of you flow into service to them, your beloved children.

Feb 2: Day 4 Deuteronomy 6:16-20

 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah.17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

Do not put your Lord God to the test.  At Massah, the people of Israel were thirsty and grumbled against God and His leader Moses.  They complained that God had taken them out of slavery in Egypt only to abandon them to death of thirst in the desert.  They did not see that God had a plan for them.

We think, perhaps because we know the end of the story, that the Israelites were foolish to doubt God’s plan and provision for them.  I think with the vantage point of heaven we will think much of the same thing about our lives.  We need to hold on to God and His promises despite what it may feel like today.

Prayer for Self; Lord, help me to trust You today.  May I choose to worship You, whether I am in want or in a time of plenty.  Give me the supernatural vision to see that You will take care of me.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, give me the supernatural vision to see that You are in the midst of ever person you have placed in my Oikos.  Help me to trust that You have a plan for them.  Help me to see my part in Your plan and to join you in the work you are doing in those closest to me.

Week of January 23rd

Baptism Devotional- Becoming God’s People

What is the sign that we have become God’s people? What steps do we need to take to demonstrate that we have been chosen by God and that we have chosen to follow him? In our era, it is baptism.   Baptism is our public confession of Jesus as the Savior and Leader of our lives.  In the Old Testament, the story of God calling His people out of Egypt and into the promised land illustrates God’s choice and their response to Him.  In addition, the story of leaving Egypt teaches us much about the meaning of being God’s people.  We will look at several events from the Exodus to deepen our understand of the meaning of baptism.

January 23rd, Day 1: Becoming God’s People

23 Many years later, Egypt’s king died. The Israelites continued to moan because of their bondage, and they cried out to be rescued from their oppression. Their cry for help ascended to God. 24 He heard their pleas and remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God saw the situation the people of Israel were in, and He was moved to take action.- Exodus 2:23-25

Part of becoming God’s people is recognizing our need for God and then crying out to Him.  The people of Israel were in slavery and desperate.  They cried out to God and God responded.

What are the things that you are in bondage to?  Have you cried out to God about it?  Very often, I don’t want to acknowledge the thoughts, addictions or emotions that are holding me down.  I am in pain, denial, or to much shame to bring my bonds to Jesus to have Him remove them.

The good news is that God has seen our situation and has moved to take action for us.  First and foremost, He sent us a Savior, Jesus!  But even in the smaller, more personal areas of our life, He is concerned.   He has sent help for us, through His Spirit, through His word, and His people.  Let us use the phenomenal resources that God has given to become free of everything that hinders us!

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to bring to you my needs, my real needs.  Lord, I bring before you……..  Help me to see how You have sent Help (the Holy Spirit) and how you will send help through Your people and Your Word. May I recognize my need for you in all the areas of my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: I know that many of the people in my Oikos desperately need you.  Please send help to them through Your Spirit.  Use me if I can be of help.  Bring healing and hope to those in my world.

January 24, Day 2: Becoming God’s People

Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. – Exodus 12:7-13

Our sin leads to death. Our actions deserve the judgment of God.  But in a wonderful predictive example of the cross, God told the people of Israel to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood over their doorframes. By this action the people of Israel were made right with God were exempted from the judgment of God.   In the same way, Jesus had to become the Lamb of God to take away our sin.   Jesus could not escape the cross and still pay the price for our sins.  This is a hard truth.  But the price was paid!  We have been set free!

Both the sacrifice at Passover and the one at the Cross are not to be accepted passively.  The message of both is that we must be ready to move in response to God’s offer of grace.  For the people of Israel, they were to eat the Passover and get ready to leave their homes quickly.  We who have accepted the sacrificial death of Jesus need to be ready to move quickly and decisively to serve others.  What an inheritance we have received from Jesus!

Prayer for Self: As the old hymn lyric read, help me to “move at the impulse of Thy love” Jesus.  May I be responsive to the world as you have been responsive to the needs of the children of Israel, as responsive as you were to my need for reconciliation with God.  Make me willing to be you emissary in the world.

Prayer for My Oikos  I pray that I would not take your love for granted.  I pray that your love would not make me sluggish.  I pray for a heart that desires you more than ever.  Help me to see the people in my circle with the same love and tenderness that You have for me.

January 25th, Day 3 Becoming God’s People

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” -Exodus 14:15-18

God led the people of Israel through the waters, through the Red Sea. Imagine the walls of water on both sides as you walk on solid ground between them.  The symbolism is similar to that of baptism; we walk from one side (slavery to sin) and pass through to the other side toward freedom and the promised land.  This act of going through the waters invites us to move from death to life, from slavery to freedom.

Would you take that risk today, to walk between the waters?  Or would you rather wait in terror for Pharaoh’s army to swallow you up?  May God give us the courage today to walk between the waters!

Prayer for Self:  Lord, you know the journey that I need to take that frightens me.  Give me the courage to trust in your restraining hands to keep me safe as I walk through these difficult situations.  Please give me a vision of the Promised Land on the other side.  May I be wholly Yours.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray for courage in my relationships.  I am the only “church” that some in my circle will experience this week.  Help me to be your agent for them in the world.  Let my life, words and actions reflect Yours.  May I reflect Your beauty in the world.

 

Thursday January 26th,  Day 4: Becoming God’s People

 “Fear the Lord, and serve him with integrity and faithfulness. Get rid of the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve only the Lord. 15 But if you don’t want to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Even if you choose the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live, my family and I will still serve the Lord.”- Joshua 24:14-15

Today we jump from the beginning of the move freedom to establishment of Israel in the Promised Land.  God has given them the Promised Land and they have settled in.  Joshua, their leader, is dying and gives them this farewaell address.  Even after all that God had done for them and every miracle they had witnessed, they still needed to daily choose to serve God.

Are you willing to choose to love and serve God today?  Or are their other ‘gods’ that you will serve with your attention, time, and money?  Being a follower of Jesus means choosing Him daily.  Who and what will you choose today?

Prayer for Self:  Help me to choose You today.  May I honor you with my choices.  Give me both clarity and supernatural strength to resist that which tempts me so that I can be completely yours.

Prayer for My Oikos: Some in my Oikos have chosen to follow you and don’t seem to be doing that today.  Give me the patience and forgiveness that You have so that I can continue to serve and love them unreservedly.  Help me to demonstrate before them that I have chosen you.

Week of January 16th 

John the Baptist and All That…

John the Baptist, Day 1

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’” –Luke 3:1-6

 

Who was John the Baptist?  John was a born to a couple that could not have children. Before he was born God chose him to prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1:5-25, 44).  He had a distinct way of life and lived up to his calling to prepare the way for Jesus in the world.

 

What is your calling?  Are you called to be a spouse, a parent, a friend, a servant, etc?  If you know who you are called to be, it makes the choices of your day simpler (though not simple!).  Invest your life in the relationships and tasks to which God has called you!

 

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to know who you have called me to be in relationship and service.  Help me to let go of all the other baggage I carry, so that I can be care free in the care of You my Heavenly Father. Give me the wisdom to know what is important and what isn’t.

Prayer for My Oikos: Help me to be an encourager to those in my circle, Lord.  Help me to prepare the Way for them to find You.  May you allow me to show love, compassion and mercy to those you place in my path today so that I can make path for You.

 

John the Baptist, Day 2

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done,20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison. –Luke 3:19-20

Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and was a very just punishment for what he did against John called the baptist  [the dipper]. For Herod had him killed, although he was a good man and had urged the Jews to exert themselves to virtue, both as to justice toward one another and reverence towards God, and having done so join together in washing. –Josephus, Antiquities

Here we see the shortest biblical account of John’s arrest in any of the gospels.  We also have text that interprets what happened by the later Jewish general and writer Josephus explaining that  the demise of King Herod’s army was God’s punishment.

The theme song of one of my favorite movies[1] states, “Telling the truth can be dangerous business…honest and popular don’t go hand in hand.”  Telling the truth can get you into much more trouble than a hoard of lies.  Yet, the truth can set you free, and the Truth (Jesus) will set you free.  May we be willing to speak the truth of Jesus in our world, no matter what the cost.

Prayer for Self: Lord, give me the courage to speak the truth of Your love and grace, both to those who don’t know you and those who do.  Give me the courage to follow you in living out my love for you against the harsh words of actions of others, even possibly those who are also believers in You.  May I stand for the truth of Your love and grace in every situation.

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, give me the grace to be one who speaks truth in love to those closest to me.  May I be gracious and supportive when it is the right time.  When it is time for me to respectfully disagree, give me the courage to do that as well.  May I point to you in my actions in my circle.

 

John the Baptist, Day 3

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” -Matthew 11:2-6

Even people of enormous faith (tomorrow we will look at Jesus’ evaluation of John’s faith) have moments of doubt.  John was looking at his upcoming execution and wanted to know if his life’s mission had been accomplished in preparing the way for Jesus.  Jesus assures him that He is the one.

Jesus invites us to examine the evidence of His life as he invited Jesus.  Jesus lived His life to bring life to others, to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the leper and even the dead!  May we fall more deeply in love and commitment to Jesus as we examine His life.

Prayer for Self:  Lord, help me to see with great clarity the life You led.  Give me a spiritual ability to see You as you really are.  May my life reflect and resemble the life You led 2000 years ago.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that the distance from Your life to now would not be a hindrance to those in my circle from seeing the powerful testimony of Your life.  May You give them eyes to see.  I pray that we would all know You as Savior and Lord.

 

John the Baptist, Day 4

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. – Matthew 11:7-11

John, according to Jesus, was the greatest person who was ever born before Jesus.  We see in John a selfless life, a life devoted to others, a rejection of the trappings of the world, and a consuming passion to see people re-connect with God.  We would do well to emulate John.

But this passage also tells us that anyone who is “least” in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than John.  What Jesus means is that anyone who asks Jesus to be savior and leader of their life has been given the righteous standing before God that is due to Jesus.  We no longer are considered by God by our own works; we are reckoned by God by the works of Jesus.  We do not get what we deserve, we get what Jesus deserves.  This is the essence of the Gospel!

Prayer for Self: Thank you Jesus that you won for me an eternal inheritance I do not deserve, but one that you fully earned.  May I be truly grateful.  May my life reflect the gratitude that comes from being set free by you.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, I pray that I might explain well the reasons for my home to those I love.  Give me the courage.  May I live with the confidence around them that comes from being fully accepted by You.

 

Preparation for Sunday

 

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

 

After this study, how do you see John the Baptist?

 

How is your calling like John’s?  How is it different?

 

[1] The movie is the much critiqued Ishtar.  If you are in the mood from silliness here is the link to “Dangerous Business” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiN3SL7SZ-Q&index=8&list=PL_1INuaqdZrCX75ouhk0e11XSsRmKrT-s

Week of January 9th

This  Sunday’s scripture finds Jesus as a twelve year old in the temple at Jerusalem even after his parents have left to return to Galilee.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

This week we will look at our center of worship, the church, and how we might be like Jesus in being found in the presence of God and God’s people..=

Jesus in the Temple: Day 1 (Psalm 122:1-2)

When they said, “Let’s go to the house of God,
    my heart leaped for joy.
And now we’re here, O Jerusalem,
    inside Jerusalem’s walls!

Before Jesus’ triumph on the cross, God’s presence was most clearly experienced in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Now, God’s presence rests on all believers through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus found his most comfortable place, at twelve, in the temple courts.

Where do you find the most natural place for you to worship?  Are you joyful when you go there to worship?  Let us not take for granted all that God has done.  Instead, let us go to worship Jesus with joy!

Prayer for Self:  Lord, let me delight when I come to worship you!  When I enter church may my eyes turn to You and Your goodness.  When I study, pray, and serve You, may I overflow with the joy that You alone can give.  May I be one who comes to worship with joy!

Prayer for My Oikos:  Lord, I pray for those in my Oikos who coming to church would be an awkward or fearful event.  I pray that you would speak to them and invite them to conversation with you, either in the church building or wherever they can come to you.  May each of those I love find a desire to worship You.

 

Jesus in the Temple: Day 2 (Psalm 84)

How lovely is Your temple, Your dwelling place on earth,
O Eternal One, Commander of heaven’s armies.
How I long to be there—my soul is spent,
wanting, waiting to walk in the courts of the Eternal.
My whole being sings joyfully
to the living God.
Just as the sparrow seeks her home,
and the swallow finds in her own nest
a place to lay her young,
I, too, seek Your altars, my King and my God,
Commander of heaven’s armies.
How blessed are those who make Your house their home,
who live with You;
they are constantly praising You.

Blessed are those who make You their strength,
for they treasure every step of the journey [to Zion].
On their way through the valley of Baca,
they stop and dig wells to collect the refreshing spring water,
and the early rains fill the pools.
They journey from place to place, gaining strength along the way;
until they meet God in Zion.

O Eternal God, Commander of heaven’s armies, listen to my prayer.
please listen, God of Jacob.

O True God, look at our shield, our protector,
see the face of Your anointed king, and defend our defender.

10 Just one day in the courts of Your temple is greater
than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather serve as a porter at my God’s doorstep
than live in luxury in the house of the wicked.
11 For the Eternal God is a sun and a shield.
The Eternal grants favor and glory;
He doesn’t deny any good thing
to those who live with integrity.
12 O Eternal One, Commander of heaven’s armies,
how fortunate are those who trust You.

 

Do you recognize these verses from our worship song, Better is One Day? Go ahead and listen and worship along with it now if you’re online.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VdUiKagWjU  If not, sing what you remember, even if it’s just in your head.  What experience did you have in worship?

Prayer for Self: Lord, better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere!  Where else can I find peace joy and strength for the day?  Where else can I see truly celebrate the beauty of the created and the creator than in worship?  May I be filled with joy because I have celebrated with you this morning!

Prayer for My Oikos: Thank you Jesus for giving me people to love!  May I treat each one as the gift they are to me.   Help my worship of you flow into a life of worship and appreciation of your great works.

Jesus in the Temple: Day 3 (Hebrews 10:24-25)

24 Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, 25 not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.

Jesus was found by His parents in the temple engaging in learning and discussion about God and His nature.  He observed the worship in the temple.  Jesus said to his parents when they came looking for Him, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Do you need to be in your Father’s house?  What can you find in the House of God that will encourage you, strengthen you, and give you hope? Will you encounter and engage with other believers?  Come, choose to make the our meeting together the center of your week to empower you for the days ahead.

Prayer for Self: Lord, I have taken for granted the awesome privilege it is to come to worship You.  I have taken for granted those who work hard to make it easy for me to worship and learn about You.  I have not valued the church family that you have placed me in as much as I ought to. Forgive me.  Help me to not go to church out of obligation but expecting to find You and Your people there.

Prayer for My Oikos: I pray that when those in my Oikos come looking for me, they know that church is a good place to start looking.  Help me to build a relational home with others in the church so that I can invite my friends to partake in the goodness of love from others in our church family.  Help me be a bridge to Your house.

Jesus in the Temple: Day 4 (Matthew 18:19-20)

19 And this: if two or three of you come together as a community and discern clearly about anything, My Father in heaven will bless that discernment. 20 For when two or three gather together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

There is power in coming together in the name of Jesus.  When we truly seek Him and pray, He opens up the power of heaven toward the things in His will in our lives and in the lives of those we love.  God’s power is the power to heal, make whole, and give us new life.

But we do not go to prayer for power, we go to prayer for Jesus.  We go because we want to experience His presence.  One of our praise song lyrics is, “Everywhere the King is, there is the Kingdom.”  The kingdom of God is wherever two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus to pray to Him.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to make space in my life to earnestly seek you with other believers.  More than just Sunday worship, give me the opportunity to struggle in prayer together with other believers so that we can see You work Your power in the world.  Help my faith to be built by seeing you work in power as we agree upon pursuing You and Your will.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me to gather others around me to pray for my Oikos.  Many don’t yet know you.  Bring people into my life so that we can pray and seek You and Your will for those who need You so desperately.  May You be glorified in our prayer times.

 

Today’s Devotional:

What is a Gospel?  The origin of the word comes from Middle English- the “God Spell”- the power of God.  In Greek its euangellia (euangelia) eu=good,  angellia=message or word(we get our word angel).  We are going to look this week at what a gospel is according to scripture.

What is a Gospel: Day 1 (John 20:30-31)

30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Near the end of the Gospel of John, John writes what the purpose of his gospel is: That you may believe that Jesus and have life, a full life now and eternal life beyond.  This is the purpose of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the gospel- our declaration of Jesus as the Savior and Leader of our lives.

Have you asked Jesus to be Your Savior?  To forgive you for your sins?  We live in a culture that both minimizes our personal responsibility for the harm we have done and also attaches blame to others- both individuals and institutions.  While harm, what the Bible calls sin, has been done to us, for any of us to be right with God we must first admit that we have harmed the world, others, and ourselves.  Only at that point do we understand the need for a Savior.  Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior?

Jesus as Leader, or Lord, is perhaps even a more difficult hurdle in our culture.  The idea that we should not be the gods of our own lives in very difficult.  Our culture’s arrogance in believing that we as individuals know what’s best for ourselves, both in the present and eternity, does not bear up under much scrutiny.  We have created a mess for ourselves, others and our world.  By contrast Jesus offers a lifestyle that brings healing, hope, and eternal significance.  Are you willing to put your trust in Jesus and His leadership?  This is what it means to believe in Jesus.

Prayer for Self: Lord, help me to examine myself and know what You want my next step in faith to be.  There are many hurts and harms in my life I have not asked You to save, or redeem, for eternal value.  There are also areas of my life that need to be submitted to Your leadership, to trust You with.  Help me to take the next step of trusting in You fully.

Prayer for My Oikos: Jesus, some in my life can’t imagine needing forgiveness or Your leadership.  I certainly can’t convince them of their need for You.  I pray that You would work supernaturally to overcome the obstacles that keep them from knowing You.  May my life shine for You as I daily submit to your leadership in my Oikos.

What is a Gospel: Day 2 (Matthew 1:1, 28:19-20)

This is the family history, the genealogy, of Jesus the Anointed, the coming King. You will see in this history that Jesus is descended from King David, and that He is also descended from Abraham.

I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission19 Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 20 Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.

The Gospel of Matthew was written to Jewish people originally.  So the gospel begins with their story, the Old Testament, and how they belong to God’s plan of salvation from the beginning.  But in the process of the Gospel of Matthew it expounds a greater truth: Jesus is the Savior, not just of the Jewish people like themselves, but the Savior of all people. Their new mission is no longer the restoration of their people, but to bring the Gospel to the entire world.

The message of the Gospel has a trajectory.  It moves from the personal, to those close to us, to the whole of creation.  The gospel’s work in our lives begins with our understanding of our personal need of a Savior.  It progresses to our understanding of how I need the leadership of Jesus.  But it does not end there.  As I grow in faith, I begin to understand my responsibility to love others and share the Good News of Jesus with the world in which I have been placed.  It means caring for those beyond my Oikos, those in the world I will never meet.  Our God is not the God of our nation, our people, or even our faith.  Our God is the one who “so loved the world that He sent His One and Only Son” to save the world.  Let us grow both inwardly and outwardly in living and sharing our faith.

Prayer for Self: Lord, give me the vision to see how your love has interrupted the trajectory of my life and brought me into a life of greater peace, faith and love. Help me to follow You today so that I may experience Your rescue and Your leadership in my life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Spirit, give me the ability to take the love and faith I have been given and spread it into the world that You so much love.  Help me to be kind, loving, and to serve the people in my Oikos and beyond.  May You, Lord, be glorified by my life today.

 

What is a Gospel: Day 3 (Romans 1:16-17)

 [The Apostle Paul on what a Gospel is] It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”

To experience the fullness of God and to live out the Gospel we must have faith.  While there are innumerable proofs of the validity of Jesus and His message, in the end we must simply choose: will we live conscious of the grace of Jesus and choose to follow His leadership?  Or will we go our own way?  This is not a onetime decision; this is a daily choice.  This choosing Jesus is what faith is.

Prayer for Self: Help me to choose You today, Lord.  Help me to put away my own fears and cravings so that I could focus on You and Your will for my life today.

Prayer for My Oikos: Lord, help me see Your love reflected in the ones You have placed in my circle today.  May I see in them the love You have give me for them and the love that You have for them.  Help me choose to see the Your image today in everyone that I encounter.

What is a Gospel: Day 4 (Mark 8:34-38)

34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.

The first time I heard this scripture read it was when I was a teenager watching the movie Bonfire of the Vanities.  In this movie, an archetype 80’s capitalist loses a considerable fortune, his family, and his reputation, because he believes that he is a “master of the universe” and entitled to everything he desires.

When we think we are entitled in life it is leads to us turning our back on God and using other people.   Instead, Jesus points us to a radically different path.  Jesus proclaims that we can find life by choosing to lay down our will and choose to follow Jesus and let Him lead us.  By choosing Jesus, we will find both eternal life and a life of purpose, meaning and fulfillment here.  May God bless you as you consider this heaviest of messages about the nature of the Gospel.

Prayer for Self: Lord, give me the courage to see my choices for what they are- either leading me closer to You or away from You.  Help me to see the message of the Gospel for me and my life.  Help me willing to be lose my life for the sake of the Gospel so that I might find real, eternal life.

Prayer for My Oikos: Carrying my cross somehow means that I must live my life in a sacrificial way toward those You have placed in my life.  Help me be willing to carry the weight of my calling to serve those in my Oikos today.  May You be glorified in my service today.