50 And Counting!

Friday:

Every year seems long to me. Yet every year has its joys. Every year has its difficulties. One week from today, God willing (and the creek don’t rise) I will have lived 50 years. I am writing about it today because I’ve made the decision not to write next Friday, and the Psalm designated for today’s readings, as I approach a half-century of living, has encouraged me to reflect on my own joys and difficulties. I don’t make it a habit to be so introspective at this time (I generally leave that for New Year’s Eve), as I much prefer to simply enjoy a birthday so close to Christmas, mixed with rest and festivities. I believe Psalm 40, a thanksgiving for deliverance and prayer for help is a perfect example of Alpha and Omega. Years (in terms of the physical) have a tendency to flip-flop and sometimes they start out very good and end very badly. Other years begin very badly and end very well. Either way, no one can argue God’s faithfulness through it all. I have come to more fully recognize my own way of thinking on the matter in that there is no specific place (physically) that I need (as oppose to want) to be because God is everywhere. Any road I travel will be filled with joy and pain (prayerfully more joy than pain). My goal is to reach beyond that physical (Philippians 3: 12-16), and then put it into practice, and not simply to merely understand that it exists. Who am I but a vehicle for God’s Word, a vessel for His Spirit. In spite of myself, God chose me any way, knowing my weaknesses. He knew that through Him, I am capable of surviving them all. God knew that my day would come when I learned the true meaning of freedom, power and authority. God knew that I would learn to trust in my faith and to have faith in my trust in Him. God knows who I am. We all have that day (as opposed to other days if you know what I mean). Everyday he gives to me, is an opportunity to change my way of thinking. I know for myself that when my own child reaches higher understanding I am so pleased. If I can feel this way for my own child, how much more will God be pleased with me? God willing and the creek don’t rise, 50 doesn’t look so bad. Praise be to God!

Psalm 40:1-3; 16-17 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord… But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’ As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained. 

When The Bridegroom Comes

Thursday:

No doubt, we grow tired from waiting. We grow anxious. If something takes too long we get worried. We begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, the “something” that we’re waiting for is not going to happen, even when we are assured that it will. We all have experienced events that didn’t happen within the time we expected and while we were waiting all kinds of interference took place. Today I am remembering the story of Jesus falling asleep in the boat while he and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). When Jesus became tired he took the time he needed to rest. Even as they were waiting to get across the sea through a storm, Jesus slept. We often forget that physical rest is very important in this journey. We know that one day a year we celebrate Christ’s birth. One day a year we commemorate his death and one day a year we rejoice his resurrection. Throughout the rest of the year we are awaiting his coming in Glory. Amidst the pushing and the shoving, the constant attacks and distractions and the rising and calming of storms, our preparation for the coming of Christ will need to include some rest! If we have an intimate relationship with Christ, the peace of God within us is the faith and confidence we have to take the rest we need as we wait, even in the midst of those storms. When the bridegroom comes, will we be ready?

Matthew 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise…As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.. 

Keeping Awake!

Tuesday:

During this advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded a lot about preparation and keeping awake for the return of our Savior. Particularly, today’s reading warns us to not be caught unprepared. This morning I am remembering the story about Jesus cursing the fig tree because it had no fruit (Matthew 21:18-22). It seemed awfully unfair to render such harsh punishment especially since the fig tree had no way of knowing that a hungry Christ would come strolling along its path. Although the question could be asked, “whose responsibility it was to tend to the fig tree,” I can relate to the humanness of Christ who experiences hunger, desire (to be fed), and the frustration and anger when his expectation is unfulfilled. What I also see is that when his disciples question him, he essentially assures his disciples and us, that we are not the fig tree! I know for myself, had I witnessed this experience, my initial thought would be; “If Christ would do that to a fig tree, what might he do to me?” The last thing I would want to do is disappoint someone who has that kind of authority. Yet in hindsight I know that there are situations I’ve met in life where I have fallen short of God’s expectation. Apart from this fact, Jesus says; “By faith, we have that same authority.” Life is not without disappointment and living is not without expectation. Thus, I believe the message to stay awake is not simply about living according to God’s Word because quite frankly there are many “unproductive fig trees” in the world. We have to be able to recognize those unproductive situations that may ultimately cause us to be unproductive. Instead, we are encouraged and reminded of the authority we have by faith in Christ to “move them out of the way,” because our purpose and goal is very clear. Don’t give away your authority through Christ. Keep Awake!

Matthew 24:32-44 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what dayyour Lord is coming.

Matthew 21:18-22 ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea”, it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’

Waiting And Trusting

Monday:

For all my sons and daughters-

We’ve all heard the expression “seeing the forest for the trees.” It is an idiomatic expression used when we are overly concerned with the detail and unable to understand the whole of a situation. We’d like to think that it rarely refers to us. However, I believe that it often refers to each of us more often than we’d like to admit, particularly in terms of relationships. While it is important to focus on the well-being (spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual) of the self, we cannot escape how our personal well-being affects other people. I have come to understand that God alone sees the larger picture in each of our lives and what we see are merely snippets. Because of this, I have also come to more fully understand (through personal experience) that we should put our trust in God alone. This is not to imply that we should not trust anyone, but understand that faithfulness comes at a price. Be alert! Only one person has paid that price in full! Only one person continues to pay that price. In Him we celebrate. In Him we await his coming again! As we wait with patient endurance, we need to trust that with each other, according to God’s Word, we will do the very best that we can. For the times that we don’t succeed, we trust that each of us will just keep trying, even when difficult decisions have to be made either for the self or the other person. The days will come when we look back on the snippets and see how the whole picture is developing. We can’t however look too long because as long as we are on this journey the whole of the situation will continue to develop. So for now and every day, in our consciousness, we have only to accept where we are and trust that the Spirit of God within, will guide each of us until the whole picture is complete. Praise be to you Lord God!

Psalm 41 Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me. 

Matthew 24:15-31 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 

Revelation 3:7-13 I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, … I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

Modern Day Pharisee

Sunday:

Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ (John 1:6-8, 19-28) In today’s world perhaps we’ve all at some point and time faced modern day Pharisee types (and at other times played its role) who rightfully question authenticity. After all they’ve studied the law and presumably followed its instruction. They too have been waiting for the Messiah to come and they need to be sure. Of course, we know in the end many of them chose not to believe that the Messiah was in fact among them despite John’s message, but that’s not the point. When the question comes before us, just like John, we need to know who we are! There is no need for pretense because like John, God has already anointed us to do what he has called us to do. If we by our testimony, confess with our mouth God’s authority within us to use the gift that he has given, it’s not our fault they don’t believe or our responsibility to make them believe who we are. However, for those other times when our own authority causes us to question God’s authority and testimony within others, what will we believe? It may help us to remember, that if we ever begin to think that we are the greatest person in the room, among our profession, or even in our own ministry, we limit God’s possibilities for growth within us.

John 1:6-8, 19-28 ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”…‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ 

Rebuilding God’s Temple

Friday:

My momma always said, “Life was like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Forrest Gump 1994 Let’s face it chocolate is delectable, and delightfully pleasing until you bite into one and find something inside you could care less for. Some of you may be different but if I don’t like what’s inside I won’t eat it. If it’s bad enough I look for something to drink behind it to get the taste out of my mouth. I know it’s a bit extreme but its only candy right? What about the beautiful homes or buildings we go in to only to find that the toilets are dirty. Do you use the bathroom or wait until you get home or some other place where you feel more comfortable? In terms of one another, physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thankfully, in God’s eye we are all beautiful and God couldn’t be more pleased when we take the time to care for ourselves and the things God has blessed us with. Again, in terms of relationship with each other and things, are we not disappointed when we unwrap the gift and don’t like what we find inside? I believe that when we neglect the gift of the spirit force that God has placed within us God becomes very disappointed and he will spit us out or simply stop using us altogether. Funny thing though, whenever I sit down with the same box of chocolates I work hard to remember the chocolates I enjoyed and I don’t always remember which one had the filling I despised. Moreover, a dirty toilet doesn’t always keep me from returning to a place I thought was overall a very nice place to visit. I just hope that the bathroom is clean. The good news is that when we care for the good of the spirit within (confess, repent, reconcile and forgive), God forgets our past experiences and will always give us another chance to be everything plus more of what He always intended us to be.

Haggai 1:1-15 These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?… Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.

Matthew 23:27-39 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.

Psalm 31 Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am driven far from your sight.’ But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.

Magnets: Bread For Thought

Thursday:

The same sides of two pole magnets repel one another. The directional pool of electrons in a magnet is such that they go in one direction. Since the force is equal on both sides, and because they are moving in the same direction, when two opposite sides (i.e. north and south) are facing one another they immediately attract. However when the same sides (i.e. north and north) are faced together, and because they are now moving in opposite directions, they immediately repel. In terms of relationship, opposites may attract but only if they are moving in the same direction; i.e. shared goals, shared responsibilities, shared vision. Imagine cars on a one-way street. As long as they are all going in the same direction the flow of traffic moves without incident (except for the occasional annoying stops and double parking etc.). If a vehicle decides to come down that same one-way street in the opposite direction, chaos happens. Pole magnets do the smart thing and avoid one another. Reasoning humans on the other hand have a tendency to try and negotiate the misdirected vehicle (yelling that they are going in the wrong direction when it is pretty obvious at this point that they know this to be the case). From the very beginning, God’s vision for humankind has never changed, and the Spirit that God has placed within us remains the same. However in this journey we are often faced with principalities that are moving in the opposite direction from the Spirit force that God has given us. Instead of repelling against the negative principality we mistakenly try to negotiate with it. This I believe is where the chaos and conflict in our lives begins. The moment we begin to more fully understand the direction that God is moving us (toward him) is precisely the moment we must begin to avoid all things that move in an opposite direction and allow God to guide the misdirected vessels in the same way he is guiding us.

Celebrating The Gift

Tuesday:

I have always believed that the pathway to the cross is straight and the ground at the foot of the cross is level ground. The moment we accept Christ we become new creations but our trials don’t cease and they are not unique (1Corinthians 10:13). It may seem to us that we travel a curved road but in reality every experience we have is exactly the path we were intended to take. When we learn from the experiences along that path we move closer to that sacred ground. Otherwise to not learn from the experience simply keeps us bound and in place, never really understanding why and never really reaching our spiritual goal, that being peace and reconciliation with God. It is important to know that it is not God’s desire that anyone should remain stagnate and perish (2Peter 3:9), without understanding his love for us, but rather for everyone to be saved through Christ (1Timothy 2:3). God gifted us with his son for this purpose. Christmas may be the season we celebrate God’s gift, but everyday of our lives is an opportunity to celebrate having truly received his love and salvation, expressed in our heart, mind and soul.

Psalm 26:11-12 But as for me, I walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.

There are times when we feel like we have to break down brick walls, but true peace comes when we allow God to simply move them out of the way.

Preparing With A Purpose

Monday:

Honestly, for the Christian, everyday should be lived in preparation for Christ! This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyday should be perfect and without mistakes, missed thoughts or mishaps. Let’s face it, for many this Christmas holiday will be a temporary event and that’s okay. Holidays are simply opportunities for the larger society to remember, give thanks, show honor, and express love. It’s much easier for us to do when everybody participates in what is good. But it is also just as easy when everybody participates in what is bad. The reality of our life is who we are and who we claim to be in between the holidays. Do we participate in the wilderness of the larger dog-eat dog society (every man and woman for himself) or do we continue a life everyday that reflects the remembrance, thanks, honor and above all, love for one another, which the world only sets aside for certain times of the year? We do well to heed the words of Isaiah, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:1-11)” “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. (Isaiah 55:6)”

The crumbs that fall from God’s table are far more satisfying and rewarding than anything the world has to offer!

Psalm 25:9,12  He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. Who are they that fear the Lord? He will teach them the way that they should choose.

Psalm 9:1-2 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 15 O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. 

Heaven on Earth

Sunday:

Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven is a statement of faith living. It is a Kingdom consciousness, which assumes that everyone is a part of the kingdom. It doesn’t matter what we know or see, but rather what we experience from one another. God’s purpose is to be fulfilled and we each play a role in fulfilling that purpose. What many of us don’t realize is that the roles change. Life is very much about hungering, thirsting, feeling exposed, lost or held captive in varying situations. There are times when we are the “least of these.” The question before us is who will be there in this journey as we move in and out of these states physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Jesus says we are to be there for one another because to serve one another today is to serve God. It is earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 25:31-46 …for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.