Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Servanthood

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Back when I was training to become a YoungLife leader, one of the scripture passages that we had to memorize was Philippians 2:5-11. In that passage, Jesus is said to have been in His very nature God, but made Himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant instead. And, as we all know, His obedience even to the point of death is the ultimate expression of that servanthood.

As I was reading John 13, I couldn’t help but see the direct expression of the Philippians passage in the actions of Christ.

John 13:7
“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” – NIV

In this verse, Jesus gives us a visual illustration of the divine descent to our needy planet. He removes His normal clothing and wraps Himself with the garment a slave would wear. He performs the most selfless of tasks for the sake of His beloved disciples. And when He is done, “He put on His clothes and returned to His place.”

How hard is this for us to grasp? I get almost outraged when asked to complete a task that I believe is somehow below me. To someone with that mentality, this passage is more than humbling.

Jesus left the glories of Heaven in order to wash our feet, but sadly, this is a servanthood that we mistakenly tend to feel entitled to instead of recognizing the incredible condescension God undertook in order to meet our most profound needs.

The Lord of Lords is at our feet…are we treating Him that way?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Be a Daniel

250/365

When Jehoiakim reigned as King of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. After the victory King Nebuchadnezzar asked one of his officials to find all of the young men who were handsome, excelled in learning, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. Among these elite young men was a teenager named Daniel. These young men were taken from their families in Judah and forced to serve the King in Babylon. At that time Babylon resembled the culture today. People thought for themselves and strayed from the Lord. Daniel’s ability to live in Babylon, remaining faithful to Christ, makes him my hero.

I admire Daniel because he possessed humble wisdom, boldness, and faithfulness. During Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he dreamed and became troubled. After his astrologers failed to interpret his dream, he called upon Daniel to interpret it. Before interpreting the dream, Daniel gave thanks to the Lord and praised Him for His wonderful works and wisdom. Thus Daniel interpreted the king’s dream and gave all the glory to the Lord, humbling himself. Daniel’s boldness showed in his attempt to witness to the king when he pleaded, “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed” (Daniel 4:27, NIV). Even though King Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the kingdom, could have punished Daniel because of his insubordination, Daniel chose to witness. King Darius the Mede took over kingship of the lands of Babylon, and his advisors were jealous of Daniel’s influence with the king, so they convinced the king to institute a decree that anyone who did not worship the King be thrown in the lion’s den. Daniel, as was his faithful practice, opened his windows towards Jerusalem and prayed three times a day to the Lord. After the king’s advisors arrested Daniel and threw him into the lion’s den, the king woke up, ran out to the lion’s den, and shouted down to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20b). God shut the mouths of the lions and protected Daniel from the lion’s. Remaining faithful to the Lord, Daniel prayed even though he knew that he would be thrown in the lion’s den.

My parents tell me to “Be a Daniel” which means to exemplify Daniel’s humbleness, boldness, and faithfulness. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” This verse accurately represents Daniel’s life; he renewed his mind daily with prayer which enabled him to not conform. My ability to be like Daniel begins with my relationship with Christ. Intimacy with Christ allows me to live in this world but not be changed by this world.

- Marcus (9th grade, Hawaii student)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Expecting

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I wasn’t sure when I was going to start writing about this, but I suppose that now’s as good of time as any to begin. We’re pregnant! In about 6 months Brian and I will welcome our first child into this world. Heaven help us.

Throughout these past few months, I have to wonder if God even recognized me. I have driven myself to panic on more than one occasion and, suffice to say, have almost been preparing my heart for the worst in relation to this pregnancy. Not allowing God His place in my heart, I have felt no comfort or peace about this pregnancy the entire time.

Every possible thing that I could have worried about, I did. And, now that I know everything is ok, I can’t help but feel what was at the root of all this anxiety: An unconcealed mistrust.

It just goes to show the full span of God’s patience to give us this miracle in the face of my behavior towards Him. The past three months have gone as such:

Month 1-

Me: Terrified to the point of shame that I would not be able to conceive a child.

Result: We conceived in a matter of weeks.

God: Here aren’t you satisfied?

Month 2-

Me: Obsessed with the idea that I would lose this pregnancy.

Result: 7 Week ultrasound with a healthy baby and strong heartbeat.

God: Here aren’t you satisfied?

Month 3-

Me: Convinced that our baby’s heart had stopped and I had miscarried.

Result: An 11 week listen to the baby’s heartbeat holding extremely strong at 160 BPM.

God: Here aren’t you satisfied?

In the last twelve weeks, God has done nothing but prove His faithfulness to me time and time again. And still, the fearful voices in my head were all that I would listen to. When I heard our baby’s heartbeat, it was almost as if God was shouting in my ears to trust Him. Crying out that I should be joyful in this and let Him fight for me.

Of all the sounds in the room that day, the loudest one was from someone 2 inches long.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Recline and Dine

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As John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” reclined against Jesus at the Last Supper, he surely felt the comfort and joy that not only accompanies a close human relationship, but that comes only from knowing divine companionship as well.

Perhaps the other disciples, while enjoying the company of Jesus as well, envied John’s closeness with Him. I can’t help but feel as though I would. We too, long to recline at the table with Jesus. We crave that familiarity. So, we draw near to Him and pray that He draws near to us.

And what do we expect to find? Like John, do we hope to feel the comfort and joy of this human yet divine companionship? We are absolutely right to think so. But, contrary to our own expectations, there is more. Piercing the moment is this sorrowful revelation:

John 13:21
“I tell you the truth; one of you is going to betray me.” – NIV

Divine intimacies bring not only joy but sorrow. Do we want a fellowship with Christ? We may indeed have it, but with all of its magnificent rewards will come a cost – partaking in His sufferings as well.

If we are ever to reach any depth of maturity in Christ, we must know that He and this world do not mix. We tend to avoid pain at all costs, but we are unrealistic and deny His call when we expect to know Him without knowing the grief of His rejection.

When we recline and dine with the Son of Man, we are choosing the magnificence of His incomparable glory. But in that, we are also becoming close enough to feel His pain.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask Yourself

247/365

How many times a day or week do we find ourselves doing things that we don’t particularly want to be doing? I think of this often around the holiday season with all of the built up expectations that inevitably encircle these times of merriment.
We run here to be at this house. We drive there to be with this group. We go to this party to be joiners. We go to that dinner to be communal. And all the while, what we really want to be doing, is sitting at home with our glass of hot chocolate watching Christmas Vacation.

Holidays aside, I can’t help but feel like this “have-to” mentality follows our everyday lives as well, especially in the realm of spiritual disciplines. Really be honest with yourself…do you get untainted joy from tithing every week? Do you feel nothing but excitement as you get up Sunday morning for church? Does that Wednesday night Bible study really meet your needs, or could there be some other cultural motivator behind your inclusion?

Isaiah 1:12
“When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you…?” – NIV

In those times when we are finding that our spiritual motivations behind our commitments are not entirely heaven-sent…what does God say to do? Stay home! Do not waste His time going through the motions of spiritual disciplines when your heart is nowhere in it the action. No discipline is better than false discipline any day.

Not one time does the Lord COMMAND our presence in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. Not one passage of scripture DEMANDS our attention to Bible study or even Christmas Eve service. God never ORDERS that our children attend vacation Bible school.

What does God command: That we love Him above all others and that we know Him to be the Son of God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Great Plans

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Have you ever wondered what God’s plan is? Not just His plan for your own life, but His plan on the whole? If any of you know me at all, you know that I am all about the plans. Let’s be organized, prepared and structured to achieve whatever objective we set out to achieve.

A simple look at the history of the church will make it obvious to anyone who cares…God is a planner. The things that happen today were planned long before we were even thoughts in our parent’s heads. God is organized. God is structured. God is prepared.

Matthew 24:14
“And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – NIV

There is no clearer statement in regards to the goal of history than this passage found in Matthew. History has never been about wars. It has never been about political evolution. History isn’t even about biological advancements. History is about the Kingdom of God and its proclamation to all peoples.

It says straight in scripture, when the Kingdom had drawn its members from every people group in the world, Jesus will announce the end of human history.

Contrary to what many people believe, humanity is not just drifting through history, we have been given a goal. We are to point to Christ, the sum of all things. I can’t help but wonder…what does my life point to?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's In a Name?

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The “name” of God is the holiest and most sacred of all words, especially in the Jewish context of Jesus’ ministry. There is simply an inexpressible reverence for His name that we often fail to appreciate being that we come from a culture that incorporates the Deity into common slang.

This inherent reverence exists only because of the awesome power of the Person it invokes. There should be nothing more mysterious, more feared, more awe-inspiring than “The Name” of the living, eternal God. And yet, if it is not spoken in the confines of a ministry, do we even really notice?

The enemy of God has spent centuries trying to spoil the Name of the Most High. But, alas, he cannot, and will not, ever be successful in this endeavor. Where he can be victorious though, and has been, is that he can create the illusion that the Name of God is something that is used so freely, His importance gets disguised in pronouns.

“Oh my God”

“For the love of God”

And then numerous profane phrases that I’m not going to mention here.

John 17:11
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…” - NIV

Monday, September 20, 2010

Honesty for $.99

244/365

Every Sunday I do my wifely duty and head off to the grocery store. Every week I grab my cart and make an immediate B-Line for the fountain beverage station. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a nice drink while they grocery shop?

Anyway, after obtaining my usual 22oz Dr. Pepper, I’m off. Up and down every aisle. Having the meat man repackage all my meat into servings meant for couples and not just families of 3! Stopping at every single free sample station and really taking my time as I head down the magazine lane.

I finally reach the checkout and I’m inevitably faced with what some would consider a dilemma: Pay for your unmarked, and now gone, soda… or attempt to leave the store having consumed a refreshing beverage at no cost? Naturally, I always hand the check-out girl my soda cup and just tell her that I had been drinking it the whole time. She gives a small nod and scans the cup’s barcode to ensure full payment.

Now, this is obviously no big deal. I am not curing a disease. I am not defending this conglomerate against a would-be robbery. I am not even being all that nice about my check-out procedure. And yet, every single time, I walk out of that place feeling like such an amazing Christian.

This week, I sat in my car and just thought…really? Is my everyday life and surrounding culture so dishonest that I consider myself a cut above the rest just because I paid for my $.99 beverage? Is life really so deceitful that we can build our self-worth on free Dr. Pepper? My thinking is…that’s exactly what life is.

Micah 6: 10-11
“Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth you've piled up by cheating and fraud? Do you think I'll tolerate shady deals and shifty scheming?” – The Message

Friday, September 17, 2010

Straight Paths

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Luke 9:61-62
“Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” – NIV

This passage always confuses me. Personally, I think that this request from Jesus’ would-be follower didn’t seem all that out of line. Everyone, when setting out on an adventure, says good-bye to their family…don’t they? I would venture to say that we seldom go anywhere of significant distance without alerting at least someone. So, why does Jesus have a problem with this request?

He gives us the answer in His response; Jesus does not want anyone looking back. The issue isn’t the casual good-bye; the issue is where the heart is focused. Jesus’ call is always immediate and thorough. Never, for one second, think that His timing is anything but purposeful. When He does call, it is the appropriate time to turn our heads solely toward Him.

Naturally, in our humanity, we often let the preoccupations with life distract our gaze. The message is simple as this: Our path toward Jesus must be straight and unhindered. Those who look behind do not make straight paths.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Joseph

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I’m not sure if I have shared this bit of information on here before, but if I have, here it is again. Nemo has not always been my only Chihuahua. A few years ago, I made the decision to buy another one for Nemo to have a brother. His name was Joseph and he was the cutest thing ever.

There wasn’t anything that I wouldn’t do for this dog. I bought him the best toys.
I fed him the best food. I frequently changed my schedules around so that I would have more time to be home with him. I loved him as a puppy and provided him with the best obedience training possible as he grew older. I spent all my money on teaching him what was right and what was wrong behavior. There was no reason whatsoever why this dog should have been anything but the most obedient and loved animal on the face of the planet.

Sure wish that was the case! This dog was awful! He would howl into the night if he wasn’t tired. He would mark his territory in every single crevice of my apartment. Even after 2 sessions of week-long obedience school, it seemed as though he had learned nothing! He would look me straight in my eyes and simultaneously hike his leg on my brand new couch!

Even now, I ask myself: What more could have been done for him that I did not do? But, when I looked to find my obedient, loving dog…I only saw defiance.

As I read through Isaiah, this reminds me all too much of the Song of the Vineyard. God is speaking about his people and all that He had wished for them to be:

Isaiah 5:1-2,4
“My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” - TNIV

Just as I sent Joseph to a family who didn’t mind his disobedience, what other choice did God have but to finally send judgment upon His disobedient people? Was there ever another choice?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is It Monday

241/365

Man, this morning started out rough. First of all, I woke up late (which isn’t exactly new, but still frustrating). I picked out my clothes for work (a black ensemble aimed more at comfort than style) and then got white dog hair all over it when I said good morning to my Chihuahua.

After changing my pants, I ran downstairs to take my dog out for a quick potty break before rushing off to work. Wouldn’t you know it…he couldn’t have been more stubborn this morning. The grass was still wet being so early and, frankly, he did not want to dampen his paws! He spent the first 5 minutes finding a dry place to stand…completely unaware of my tardiness and more focused on staying dry than relieving himself! After fifteen minutes of these shenanigans, he finally did a little something and I just gave up on the rest.

Of course, by this time, I have missed my window of no-traffic on GA 400 and now have to sit in crazy congestion for the duration of my commute. After what can only be called a lifetime, I finally see my exit. I veer into my exit lane only to be abruptly halted by these idiot drivers who are using the exit lane as a way to sneak ahead and cut in front of other drivers when they spot an opening. What cheaters! Laying on my horn for one of them, I made no secret how I felt about their devious maneuvers.

So, there I am, finally walking into my office building…at this point, really hating people all together (and strongly disliking Chihuahuas). And wouldn’t you know, this little old man was standing at the front door holding it open for me. He wished me a good morning and even alerted me to the fact that my shirt tag was sticking out behind my neck. Nothing major. Nothing extreme. Simple kindness. And my day has turned around.

Jeremiah 9:24
“…I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.” - NIV

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Barren Blessings

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Our church finally started the women’s Bible study last week. I say finally because the men’s study started weeks ago! I have just been sitting around the house waiting for the women to get geared up I suppose, and man, were they ever. We had a coffee and dessert bar to start the entire series and trust me when I say these women can cook. The desserts were awesome and the fruit bowl was beautiful.

After some time of socializing and meeting our fellow “class mates”, the lesson began. I have to be honest; I couldn’t believe the amount of transparency that made itself known almost right away.

The woman teaching that night was extremely open about her personal struggles with having children. (I was somewhat surprised at her openness knowing that, if I was in the same situation, I would be far too devastated to discuss with anyone…let alone a room full of strangers.) Anyway, this lady who appeared no younger than mid-40’s began to tell us of her years and years of childless living. As any would expect, her rollercoaster of emotions had an immeasurable amount of extreme highs and hopeless lows. Then, she pointed out the most obvious thing that just seemed to comfort everyone in the room at once:

Sarah = Barren. Genesis 16:2 “The Lord has kept me from having children.”
Rebekah = Barren. Genesis 25:21 “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife [Rebekah], because she was barren.”
Rachel = Barren. Genesis 29:31 “Rachel was barren.”
Elizabeth = Barren. Luke 1:7 “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren.”

Basically, the start of our entire humanity was built on the shoulders of seemingly barren women.

With faith and time, God opened all the wombs of these previously barren women. In two instances the women were clearly beyond child bearing years, yet they bore sons of promise.

I do not understand the ways of God, but I know he can and does perform miracles, even today.

For His Glory

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It is in the nature of man to ask why. We start the question as children and it never seems to leave our consciousness. We see tragedy in our world and we ask why. We see great things happening to everyone but ourselves and ask why. We encounter hardship and suffer loss, and still, we ask why.

As humans, we want to know the reasons behind everything that takes place. And even though we have been given the answer, somehow, it doesn’t seem to meet our wondering need.

John 9:3
“This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” – NIV

If we can just train our hearts and minds to remember that all things are about Him, perhaps finally, we will truly begin to see. Suddenly, it will all start to make sense. By our captivity, He is the Deliverer. By our sin, He is the Savior. By our weakness, He is powerful.

In reality, every single evil that we can even think of has the potential of being a platform for the goodness of our God. It really is all about Him.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Internet blunders

well, its official, we are giving up our internet. This inevitably means that posting my blogs on the weekends - as of tomorrow - will become an impossibility. Please don't think me a slacker or undedicated, just technically challenged :)

But, Monday through Friday it's on!

Redemption

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I just heard some of the most disappointing news today. A certain Christian musician, who I have a great amount of respect and admiration for, has recently made it public that he has been involved in an extra-marital affair for five years out of his six year marriage. This man has been significantly influential in the lives of high school students and can only be called one of their greatest role models...or, could be called.

At first, when I heard this news, I was incredibly disappointed. I couldn't believe how someone so obviously in tune with the Lord could wander so far from home. Yes, yes, we all are prone to wanderings...but this guy? This guy has made a living at walking uprightly and if he can lose his footing...what does that mean for the rest of us?

The longer I thought about it on my way home, the more I began to see this life event for what it actually was: The exact makings of an incredible story of redemption.

Only with God can we witness such events that will shake the very foundations of our faith and still see what amazing work He could do. This man now has the honor of being forgiven and raised up from what can only be called the bottom of the barrel.

"I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more."

Isaiah 43:25

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Benevolence Fund

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So, the other week at church, a benevolence fund offering was taken. This is an offering that's main objective is to help and assist fellow church members when life throws them some lemons. Right away, I loved the idea of this. I have always known that your church home was a place you could turn when your family fell on hard times, but I was not aware that a separate offering was taken for these purposes.

Anyway, Brian and I really wanted to contribute to this cause. We brought home the special envelope and were ready to contribute part of our monthly tithe to this cause. Right as we go to place the check in the envelope, we read the sticker on the front:

"This is to be given above and beyond your normal tithe amounts"

Now, being that this is my blog, I'm just going to speak my mind here and say that I'm not sure I agree with that mentality. It has always been my understanding that our tithe is going to the Kingdom of God in whatever regard He may deem necessary. As long as we are giving God what is His, are there only certain categories in which this is allowed?

I personally do not feel as though I have to designate my tithe to the church and the rest of my money to something else. If I want part of my tithe to help my fellow believers and parishioners, is that not what God would do with His money?

Just some thoughts for the day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blessed Believers

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John 20:29
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” - NIV

Not only does this blessedness apply to initial faith we have in our Savior; it is the sum of the entire Christian life. We are constantly asked to stake our lives on an invisible God and a risen Savior whom we do not see. His footprints are all over history, so it isn’t exactly a baseless faith. In fact, there is nothing na├»ve or blind about it. But, it is still often hidden to our 5 senses, and when we let those senses rule, we find the life of faith a little more difficult.

I often ask myself…how much of my walk with Christ is based on my five senses. Do I invest my heart in Him only when He is demonstrating His favor? Or, do I trust that His love is real even when I don’t seem to see it?

When the Bible says that God is a refuge, a help in times of trouble, a deliverer and a healer – that revelation is a greater reality than the keys on my keyboard in my hand right now. There is a profound blessedness in believing this truth. God will manifest His presence on those who believe Him without having seen Him.

The facts are simple: Believe and you will be blessed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Peaceful People

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When we base our contentment on our circumstances, we find that our lives have a way of repeating a cycle; we go through periods of peace punctuated by turmoil. We enjoy the equilibrium, but we often become quite unsettled when the storms of life actually hit.

John 14:17
“You know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” – NIV

Jesus spoke to His disciples as a storm began to swell around Him. He knew their world would be rocked. He knew that the very next day after He spoke about the Holy Spirit, their vision of helping the Messiah establish His earthly kingdom would die. Everything they had invested their lives in for the last three years would collapse right in front of their eyes.

When we are unsettled, we ask a lot of “why” questions. During these times, we must remember the promise of the Holy Spirit, a promise from a sovereign God who is an ever-present help.

The world can always find a way to create trouble in peace, but only God can create peace in trouble.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Side Dish

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Just when I begin to least expect kindness from this consumer culture of ours, God takes His moment to completely surprise me.

Brian and I have spent the last few days in St. Simons Island. The first evening I found myself out to dinner with a group of women that could only be considered high maintenance. Drinks were flowing, appetizers ordered and salads being delivered. All in all, it was quite the commotion.

Having worked in the restaurant industry for years, any layperson would figure that at least two servers would have been assigned our table. But, bless this poor older man's heart, he was the only one. I'm going to be frank here, we had that poor man running all over the place. A napkin here, a drink refill there. Some extra sauce here, some more lemons there. If he did have any other tables, they must have been forfeited in order to meet our variety of needs.

After orders were placed and time had gone by, our dinners soon began to roll out one at a time. Not only did this man get every single order correct, but he went the extra mile by bringing every single woman a side baked potato completely free of charge. When asked for the reason behind this special delivery, he simply said that he worried for the amount of food we ordered and didn't want anyone to find themselves still hungry.

How sweet is that? Nothing was charged for these extra deliveries and I found myself feeling more appreciative than hungry.

I feel as though I am the first one to rant and rave when service is not what I expect to receive, far be it from me to rave about the special surprises as well.

If you are ever in St. Simon's, visit the Red Barn Restaurant and come craving baked potatoes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Withered Offerings

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Luke 6:10
“Stretch out your hand.” – NIV

A man with a withered hand had come to the synagogue. We’ll never know – this side of heave – how this man’s injury had affected his relationship with God. We are left wondering, was he angry? Disillusioned? Content in the midst of his suffering? As with so many aspects of scripture, we can only guess.

What we do know, however, is that he was in the local place of worship on the regular day of worship. What we do know, is that this is where Jesus met him.

It is so odd to me how little Jesus asks of the man with the withered hand. His purpose was to create a stage for Himself in front of the unbelieving Pharisees, but this time, He doesn’t wait for a demonstration of faith as He had in other situations. In fact, He doesn’t even wait for the man to approach Him. Jesus singles out the recipient of His mercy and gives him only one instruction: “Stretch out your hand.”

Could it be that, sometimes, we simply demand too much of ourselves? We expect that Jesus needs this great demonstration of how much we love and adore Him before He will even turn His ear to our needs. There is no way that all we have to do is reach out, this just can’t be the case.

I suppose it is hard to recognize that fallenness is all we ever really have, and in His mercy, it’s all He ever asks of us.

Withered Offerings

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Luke 6:10
“Stretch out your hand.” – NIV

A man with a withered hand had come to the synagogue. We’ll never know – this side of heave – how this man’s injury had affected his relationship with God. We are left wondering, was he angry? Disillusioned? Content in the midst of his suffering? As with so many aspects of scripture, we can only guess.

What we do know, however, is that he was in the local place of worship on the regular day of worship. What we do know, is that this is where Jesus met him.

It is so odd to me how little Jesus asks of the man with the withered hand. His purpose was to create a stage for Himself in front of the unbelieving Pharisees, but this time, He doesn’t wait for a demonstration of faith as He had in other situations. In fact, He doesn’t even wait for the man to approach Him. Jesus singles out the recipient of His mercy and gives him only one instruction: “Stretch out your hand.”

Could it be that, sometimes, we simply demand too much of ourselves? We expect that Jesus needs this great demonstration of how much we love and adore Him before He will even turn His ear to our needs. There is no way that all we have to do is reach out, this just can’t be the case.

I suppose it is hard to recognize that fallenness is all we ever really have, and in His mercy, it’s all He ever asks of us.

Things that Last

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“Learn to hold loosely all that is not eternal” – Maud Royden

One of the saddest moments in a person’s life has got to be in facing later years and knowing deep inside that our life has been invested in passing things. Not once, when facing the idea of eternity, did we sit down and ask ourselves: What will really last?

We work hard, I know I do. We spend tons of money and time. We agonize over decisions that may only help or hurt us for a few decades, at best. And while we have legitimate responsibilities in this life that keep us more than occupied, we too easily become absorbed in the here and now. All the while, we squander away numerous opportunities to invest in eternal treasures.

John 6:27
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” – NIV

Other than God Himself, only two things are mentioned in Scripture as lasting forever: the Word of God and the souls of human beings. These two areas are where Jesus calls us to involve ourselves.

St. Simon's

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I am leaving for Saint Simons Island tomorrow morning at 5am for Drew and Cassie's wedding! Please consider the following 2 posts an investment of what is to come upon my return.

Unfortunately, I am not a genius. The idea of writing 4 blogs early - and worthy to be posted here - was just far too big of a challenge for me to accept. I did, however, complete two blogs for the next two days and will write Monday's when I return home.

Happy reading and have safe weekends! :)

Eternal Obsessions

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Matthew 6:9
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” – NIV

Occasionally in the Old Testament, God is referred to as Father, but He is never addressed in prayer as Father. Jesus’ intimate opening to prayer seen in Matthew may have completely stunned every single one of His listeners. They might not have been surprised to hear Him say “My Father”, since He clearly had some special relationship with the Almighty…But, to instruct His disciples to address God this way…was He out of His mind?!

That level of familiarity made God out to be accessible and affectionate – not easy concepts for those of us who were…and are…steeped in formal religion.

We often take this opening to the Lord’s Prayer to be a prelude of sorts, not unlike the salutation in a letter. But this particular salutation is actually the entire root of our faith. It is full of intrigue and a little mystery. There we are, waiting to get to the “good” part of prayer; the part about us, but this opening line is actually the best part of all.

This one line captures both the closeness of God and His unreachable distance. We cannot afford to skim over this. It will be our eternal obsession, Our Father in heaven.

The greatest commandment – to love our transcendent Father with all of our being –
beings here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thought for the Day...

229/365

Lately, these last couple months specifically, I have found myself becoming increasingly negative. Somewhere along the line I made the conscious decision that, in any given situation, I would rather be surprised and shocked by a positive outcome than be surprised and shocked for a negative one. The way I see it, if something does not go as planned and ends up in ruin, I would fare far better if I had seen it coming all the while.

Regrettably, this mentality has managed to morph itself into almost all aspects of my daily life, thus making my general disposition one of doubt and skepticism. I have been expecting the worst features in my coworkers to always appear. I have been preparing for harsh criticism for anything that I put out. And, most of all, I haven't been expecting much from life in general.

Living in a world of doubt is embarrassingly lonely. You don't always want to be the voice of negativity, so you say nothing. You don't always want to be a buzz kill, so you fester in remote solitude. And trust me, when you are hesitant to expect anything good, God will never seem farther away.

My thought for the day is that...finally...I am waking up. These things in my life that go horribly wrong, will the outcome be different if I am well prepared for the disappointment?...I think not.

Is the joy that comes with expecting the best worth forfeiting for the temporary shock that accompanies the worst?