Lent: Day 30 – There are times in our lives when things are really bad. Feelings of fear, oppression, disappointment, frustration and loss have become overwhelming. Absolutely nothing could be worse, than the way things are right now. Then one day you find the strength through God’s word to make a move in a different direction towards something that is both plausible and doable. However, instead of things getting better they get worse. Every ounce of strength and faith we have in God’s word, will be tested by those who refuse to see what we see and refuse to know what we know within your heart, through Christ. During the time of struggle, whatever time we take to understand God’s presence in our lives will be lifted up as Christ himself was lifted up. However, as we draw closer to God in the spiritual, the powers (depression, fear, jealously, pride, anger etc.) that belong to the physical realm begin to fight back. We don’t have a Moses per se, someone in the physical who can respond for us. What we do have is Christ within us by whom we respond in faith. Our faith becomes your shield in the face of those who put a stumbling block before us. What others intended to be a nightmare for us, has now become their nightmare because faith is like fire to those who do not believe. God who is faithful, will lift us up and continue to move us in the direction he intended us to be, in reconciliation with him. Believe and Live!
Exodus 5:1-6:1 ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it,…Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.’
Mark 9:42-50 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea…‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’
I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Lent: Day 27 – How many times have we found our selves alone and “sitting by a well,” not realizing that in the well there is life-giving water? Even in his fear, God provided for Moses. We mistake a lot of things for love and we mistake love for a lot of things. Christ was despised, rejected, suffered death and was buried. In spite of all he endured, he simply loved them more. No matter our circumstance, we must be transformed by his love, not by what we think it is but rather by what we know and believe it to be according to God’s word. Then his resurrection will be our resurrection.
Exodus 2:1-22 Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.
Mark 9:2-13 …for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way…if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
But you, O Lord, are enthroned for ever;
your name endures to all generations.
You will rise up and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to favor it;
the appointed time has come.
Lent: Day 20 – Israel (Jacob) had become quite prosperous in the land of Canaan. Having to go down to Egypt had to be very difficult for him to do even though it meant he would get to see is son Joseph. God however, assures him that it would be okay; he has not forgotten his promise. Upon arriving, Joseph advises his father and brothers to simply be honest about whom they are. It’s a risky situation since shepherds are absolutely loathed in Egypt and yet it is definitely the right thing to do. After all what else or who else should they be? When God chose Abraham he did not call him to be a king but rather as the shepherd that we was, to be the father of many nations. Through Christ, God calls us as we are, to be shepherds of the Gospel and before we come to experience and believe Christ for ourselves we essentially are sheep without a shepherd. Paul himself, with all his education and status as a Roman citizen and a Pharisee, was a sheep without a shepherd before Christ called him to be an apostle. Perhaps even as Christians we are lead in directions we don’t necessarily want to go, when we remember who we are (Christians) and why we were called (to build the body of Christ), like Israel, God will be with us and continue to provide for us even as he faithfully brings us to where he always intended us to be.
Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34 I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; …When Pharaoh calls you, and says, “What is your occupation?” you shall say, “Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors”—in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.’
Mark 6:30-46 and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
1 Corinthians 9:1-15 If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Lent: Day 9 – The Apostle Paul in all his wisdom can be very convicting at times. I think he relished every opportunity he had to get “in the face” of those who simply refused to believe in the Christ as the Messiah. He didn’t however spend a lot of time seeking out those people who did not believe or those convinced they already had it figured out. He used to be one of those people. His greater challenge, which he took on with such passion, was to those who would believe just by hearing, the seekers still asking questions and the truly lost caught in situations, of which, they by themselves, can’t get out. At any point and time in our lives we may find our selves in one of those three categories. It is at this point when knowledge and meditation of the scripture comes to our rescue to remind us of who we are and that God protects his own, wouldn’t you? It is so good to know the Lord. It is so good to know that we have not been left alone and so good to know that when we hold to the Christ within us we are protected by his grace, love, and mercy. Thank you Paul, for your words to the Corinthians today, upholding who we are and reminding us that God protects his temple and we are the temples.
1 Corinthians 3:16-23 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
…all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
When Jacob left Laban, God instructed him to do so. No longer did Laban favor Jacob, namely because Jacob’s wealth was amassed through God’s favor and subsequently as a result of Laban’s selfishness. What did Jacob owe to Laban? Nothing. Jacob belongs to God not to Laban. There are many people who will favor us because of what they believe they can gain from us. They enter into God’s favor and into God’s presence with us by pretending to be on our side or traveling this journey with the same goal and purpose of a life redeemed and reconciled through Christ. In reality their motive is skewed and eventually they come out of their sheep’s clothing. When this happens we may find our selves in a place we don’t necessarily want to be. That’s okay! God knows his sheep and his sheep know him. The sheep always have favor with God! Keep listening, stay alert, return to his Word and believe in his truth. Eventually, like Jacob, God will call you out and lead you in his favor, to where he wants you to be.
God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands… Genesis 31:25-50
‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit…I know my own and my own know me… John 10:1-18
I write to you, …because you know the Father…because you know him who is from the beginning…because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-17
Distractions, diversions and deflections! It never ends. The moment you put your mind to a certain course of action, much like Nehemiah we too come under attack. The battle begins either in your mind (thoughts of doubt, uncertainty or worthiness) or from other people (known and unknown) or events. Theologian Thomas Fuller (1650) wrote; “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Physically speaking in nature this isn’t true. However, in life circumstance, it can be very real because when opposition and struggle are rampant we can’t always see the progression of light before the sun actually breaks the horizon. What we see are the distractions, diversions and deflections. The good news is that when we are able to discern these actions we have the opportunity to rebuke and resist them in the name of Christ and the manifestation of God’s purpose in our life will in time be realized. Even though we can’t always see God’s process, our light is the gift of the Holy Spirit within us, which brings with it both faith and hope and just like Nehemiah, our own walls of Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
Nehemiah 6:1-19 But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
James 4:7-12 Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Ephesians 6:11-13 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
In our happiest of moments we feel particularly blessed. Sometimes we forget that blessedness is like steadfast love, firm and unwavering, particularly in our unhappiest moments. Consider the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) given by Jesus on a mountainside, of which most of us are familiar. However, long before Christ’s sermon, are many assurances of blessedness, shared by the Psalmist. Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven…(Psalm 32:1-7, 10-11). No one event determines the whole of our lives (Proverbs 16:6,7), which is evidence of God’s protection (1Peter 1:3-9) for the believer who acknowledges and confesses any thought or behavior that is opposite of God’s perfect will. His will is made known through Christ’s journey towards the cross, which is now our journey to love God, love neighbor, trust God’s promises, and endure because as James letter reminds us, both the early and the late rains brings forth the harvests.
Proverbs 16:1-7 By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.
James 5: 7-12, 19-20 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
Matthew 9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;
I enjoy British sitcoms. One of my favorites is As Time Goes By. There’s an episode where the ex-wife of the main character (now newly wed) pays a visit to show off her new life of privilege. As the evening progresses it becomes obvious that she is a heavy social drinker and causes an embarrassing scene. Before she leaves for a trip to Barbados she stops by the next day to apologize not for her life, but for her behavior. She realized that her performance was a wasted effort on the newlywed couple that recently found each other again years after the Second World War. The ex-wife’s intentions were selfish and mean, but the lost relationship regained by the couple helped her to realize that her ex-husband’s new life, a display of everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3-5; Psalm 100:5; Psalm 136:1-3, 10-26) was as wealthy as hers and without a doubt far healthier. As time went by they both got what they treasured. Sometimes we don’t know who our enemies are. But if by our actions we are steadfast in our love for Christ, it never really matters.
Romans 12:9-21 ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Psalm 110 The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’
Jeremiah 15: 19-21 If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth. It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them.
Matthew 16:21-28 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?
“Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
In 70 CE the walls of Jerusalem fell, an event that occurred during the first of three Jewish-Roman wars. Jesus prophesied that they would fall but not before each of the disciples is brought to trial, false prophets come forward, and wars and rumors of wars would take place. What happened in Jerusalem could happen to any one of us. Each of us has probably reached a breaking point at some time in our lives when our defense mechanisms are at their weakest, and the walls we build to protect us lay in ruins. But how is it that Jesus after painting such a grim picture of future events can only offer “He who endures to the end will be saved”? Their mission of course is the spreading of the gospel, but if suffering hardship is part of the journey of believers what are we being saved from? Clearly, there is no way around the physical attacks. Thus perhaps for the Christian, our only true defense mechanism is the Word of God, but their strength is in our continual use of the Word and keeping it close in heart and mind (Deuteronomy 11:18) as we endure to the end, lest our walls continually fall down. Then shall our salvation be the preservation of the soul lived out in a Kingdom of Peace.
Mark 13:1-13 As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good newsmust first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 9:24 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable (physical) garland, but we an imperishable (spiritual) one.
Tuesday-July 26, 2011
Sometimes we put our faith in the wrong people, not realizing that beyond an earthly standpoint they have no power. Furthermore, when we put our faith in someone who’s motive for helping us is inconsistent with God’s purpose for us, I believe eventually that motive does not prevail. It reads in 2 Samuel 3, Abner a servant in the House of Saul (who has died) is becoming quite strong. In other words politically, he is rising very quickly. The problem is that Abner’s loyalty is in the wrong place and is soon accused by Saul’s son of violating his father’s household. We know that God has already anointed David to be King, here we see that God’s protection of his anointed extends well beyond immediate threats. Abner subsequently defects to David but his character is questioned and it’s too late. First and foremost our faith, hope, and trust has to be in God and he who is faithful will guide other faithful people into our lives who also put God first. Let us remember even Christ who desired the daunting task of feeding the five thousand, first looked up to heaven. Will we encounter other people and events intending to do us harm? Yes. But trusting in God first is our assurance that he has already prepared for that. God has already foreseen the collisions (including the ones we create our selves), and is working it out because through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we too are his anointed, no longer sheep without a shepherd.
Psalm 62:5,7 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
2 Samuel 3:6-21; Psalm 62; Acts 16:6-15