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Showing posts from March, 2011

Day 19 - A vision of God not Politics

Today's reading is Isaiah 6.1

Isaiah 6 begins with...
"1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple."

In the midst of a national shock, where all wonder what will happen next, Isaiah sees the Lord. It is a reminder to him, and to us, that rulers and nations come and go, but the Lord remains forever. Politics by nature is transitory. The debates that happen in state capitols and nationally in Washington seem important, and often are, to us. But, when governments have come and gone, the Lord remains constant. Politics by nature is focused on the temporal, and usually involves the "power" of a group "over" those who don't have the power. Sometimes rebellions occur among minorities, but usually those who have "power over" win the day. The temptation to become frustrated with politics is real. When those who we agree with are in power we defen…

Day 18 - Testing or Resting

Today's readings come from Exodus 17:1-17, and Psalm 95.

The two readings go together. The Psalmist in Psalm 95:7-9 (NIV), says...
7 ... Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert,
9 where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.

Exodus 17 gives us awareness of what he's talking about. Exodus 17:1 (NIV)
1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.

The children of Israel are in the desert, only recently having left Egypt through a powerful display of God in parting the Red Sea so they could walk through it on dry land, no less. Yet, here, things were not one of "look what God just did for us", but rather...in Exodus 17:3 (NIV)
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, &…

Day 17 - Our Faith in Our Holy God

Today's reading is from Psalm 11

Psalm 11:1-7 (NIV)
1 In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: "Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.
5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.
6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.
7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.

It's not always easy for us to understand God as Holy. We can't see "holy" readily around us. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle first, and then the Temple had the "holy of holies". When Moses met God in the dese…

Third Sunday in Lent

There is no devotional readings on Sundays during Lent.

Today we worship the Lord who saw our need and sent his only Son into the world to bring about our redemption, and rule over his Kingdom.

Peace

If you're reading along through the Bible in a Year, read I Samuel 4 - 8.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Day 16: The Miracle of the ordinary

Today's reading is in Mark 6

The flow of this chapter keeps your mind turning over and over. The thing that strikes me is how almost all events are ordinary...and how Jesus' presence takes that ordinariness and turns it upside down.

The ministry in his own area where he grew up highlights the lack of faith among those who saw Jesus as nothing more than what he had been up until age 30 when he began his ministry - a carpenter. They could not see beyond the ordinary of what they've always seen...and so they missed who he really was even when miracles were being performed.

"Then Jesus told them, 'A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.'”

What they had was God among them and they couldn't see it. When Jesus then sends out the disciples a short time later, he keeps them simple in their going - this sense of your work is done in the ordinary.

John the Baptist's martyrdom stands as a contrast bet…

Day 15 - Our Compassionate Savior

Today's reading is from Mark 5.

Try closing your eyes and imagining the scenes that occur here.

There's a man possessed by demons: Mark 5:1-2 (NLT)
1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes.
2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him.

There was a woman who had been suffering with a bleeding disease: Mark 5:25-28 (NLT)
25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.
26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.
27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.
28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

And there was a daughter of the leader of the local synagogue who had just died: Mark 5:35-36 (NLT)
35 While he was still speaking to …

Day 14 - A simple Prayer

Today's reading is from Psalm 70. It's short, simple and straightforward.

Psalm 70:1-5 (NLT)
1 Please, God, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me.
2 May those who try to kill me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace.
3 Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”
4 But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “God is great!”
5 But as for me, I am poor and needy; please hurry to my aid, O God. You are my helper and my savior; O LORD, do not delay.

The psalm of David begins with that simple prayer. "Please God, rescue me! Come quickly, Lord, and help me." In our flesh we resist the urge to say the words. We are not dependent upon anyone. We are designed by God to be dependent, not alone, not making it on our own. First our dependence is upon him - "love the Lord your God with all of…

Day 13: The Temple & the Fig Tree

Today's reading is from Matthew 21:12-22 (NIV)
12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
13 "It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.
15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.
16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, "'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
18 Early in the morning, as he was on h…

Day 12 - Embrace Doubt, Hang on to Faith

Today's reading is Mark 9:14 - 24

The story in Mark's gospel of the boy who was dumb and suffering from seizures of some sort is filled with drama - the disciples who could not drive out the spirit; the Pharisees and teachers of the law hanging around to either make fun of, or to argue about how such a thing should be done; the boy who has a mind, but has not been able to express himself with words and suffers the uncontrollable grip of pain over his body, seemingly at random moments; and the father, who simply wants it all to end, but is not sure if it ever will - even with Jesus around.

When Jesus asks the father, "How long has he been like this?", the father's answer is "since childhood". When we face pain, suffering, disease, moments of disorientation that last for long periods of time...days turn to weeks, weeks to months, months to years...it can lead us to a place of sincere doubt.

Does God know? Why will he not act to change things? What have I …

Day 11 - Faith is...

Today's reading is Romans 4.

Scripture defines faith itself: Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

In Romans 4 Paul highlights this principle and makes it clear, God did not "invent" the idea of faith with the coming of the church. Abraham, long before the incarnational coming of Jesus, the Church, the Apostle Paul, exercised "faith" in believing...trusting in the promise of God and scripture. That trusting is believing and it is the substance of faith.

The end of Romans 4 summarizes the principle so beautifully: Romans 4:16-25 (NIV)
"16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
17 As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in …

Day 10: Listening to Understand

This is the second Saturday in the 40 days of Lent. We're reading Mark 4.

When Jesus taught he often used Parables. They were stories that related to everyday life - seed of grain, fields, landowners, debtors, etc. - and he used the stories to teach Kingdom truths.

In chapter 4 of Mark he teaches the parable of a sower. The seed falls on four types of ground, but only one type of ground bears fruit. On the other three types of ground the seed is lost - it fell, but it didn't bear root. We don't have to wonder about the interpretation because Jesus himself interprets the 4 types. One falls on a hardened heart, one on a heart that gives access to Satan, one is so consumed by the world around - it's riches, it's concerns, etc...that the seed simply has no place in that tangle of weeds. Only does it fall and bear root when it lands on a welcoming open heart.

In the parable of the lamp that follows I think Jesus makes the point of what the teachings he gave are all …

Day 9: Not Understand Who He Was

Today's reading is Mark 3. It's the second Friday in Lent and on Fridays and Saturdays during Lent we'll read through the gospel of Mark.

Reading Mark 3 is a lesson in understanding who Jesus was, and what he was about. It starts off with Jesus' healing of a man with a deformed hand on the Sabbath day. When Jesus asked them whether or not it was right to do good, to restore, to heal, on the Sabbath...no one would respond. You can sense the crowd of Pharisees knew the answer was "yes", but wouldn't say anything taking the posture of "I dare you" to Jesus' questions. The response of Jesus is telling:

"He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!"

The crowds following Jesus, along with his healings and deliverances set the stage for the two main things to follow.

First, Jesus selects the 12 disciples who…

Day 8: The Temptation of the Temporary

Today's reading is in John 6:26-34

In John's gospel the people who had witnessed miracles and been fed bread miraculously come looking for Jesus. Simply put: they want more. Jesus speaks truth to them:

John 6:26-29 (NIV)
26 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.
27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."
28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

The truth is that the temporary needs of their lives became the sole object of seeking Jesus. But it was not those temporary needs that Jesus wanted them to see as the object of their pursuit. To believe on him was to trust him...to place their lives, their…

Day 7: God's delight

Today's reading is from John 15: 5-8

"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.
But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!
When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father." (New Living Translation)

Jesus' teaching to his disciples the night of his arrest reminds me of the delight he must have had with his disciples. Here they were, three years of being with him, listening to his teachings, watching him as he ministered in the realm of the Kingdom.

Jesus came to do what neither Israel, nor any human system could do. He is the vineyard, and he promises "much fruit" in his followers. The invitation is to "attach…

How Can We Help in Japan?

I know many of you have seen the devastation that has taken place in Northern Japan. I've had a few people ask me where we might be able to help.
I am forwarding to you a couple of places that I have some awareness of, and have supported in the past, and trust that most of what is given to them ends up in relief, not in Administrative costs. (There's always some Admin costs).

1. World Relief is a Christian agency rooted in the Midwest...solid people. Check out their website about Japan at: http://worldrelief.org/Page.aspx?pid=2897

2. CRASH stands for Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH). It's a network supporting Christians to do relief work in Japan and around the world. Check out their site: http://crashjapan.com/

3. Salvation Army is well known, and large...they have always been involved in disaster relief. Their international page is: http://www.salvationarmy.org/ihq/www_sa.nsf

I personally will send some money...consider doing it more than onc…

Day 6: The fruit of Repentance

Today, read Psalm 51, and then back to John 15: 1-4 again.

In John 15, Jesus talked to his disciples about "abiding"...staying attached.

"I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me."

I'm struck by the words, "he cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't bear fruit, and he prunes the branches." I remember 30 years ago we bought our first house. It was a little cape cod in Randolph, and it had a huge backyard with a number of fruit trees and a long trellised grape vine. I knew nothing about what to do with them, but in the church was a master gardener - Herb Scott.…

Day 5: Jesus, The True Vine

Today's reading is from John 15:1-4

Each year the Israelites celebrated the Passover season as a week-long festival. The day of Passover was surrounded by the Feast of Unleavened Bread - all of it a picture of God's deliverance of them from Egypt. When they came to the land that God gave them, God described it as a land of "milk and honey". It was fruitful with vineyards that they did not plant and they began to reap the fruit of the vines immediately. They were "in" Israel because of God's redemption, and they were "blessed" because they were "in".

The night Jesus met with his disciples to celebrate the Passover, he opened his heart to them in the John 13 - 17.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. …

1st Sunday of Lent

In Lent, Sunday's are always Worship Days and there are no readings.

"This is the day that the Lord has made,
let us rejoice and be glad in it."

If you're reading along in the Bible in a Year with me, read Joshua 9, 10, 11.



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Day 4: New Wineskins

Today's reading for Lent comes from Mark 2.

There are four main events in this chapter that capture the heart of what Jesus came to do. He heals a paralytic on the Sabbath, and then calls Levi, (who we know as Matthew) to become one of his disciples - a man that the religious Jews look down on as disreputable. Then he gets involved with the Pharisees about fasting and finally about the Sabbath.

Among the many things this chapter says about Jesus and his purpose, one verse especially sums it up:
"“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”

All of the things Jesus does here is meant to demonstrate the difference between the Kingdom of God - which is a place of healing, inclusion, forgiveness, grace and freedom - from the religious spirit that was so dominant in the Pharisee's rule.

Religion is a false god. It is not simply that people are conservative,…

Day 3: A King & The Kingdom

Today's reading is from Mark 1. During this Lenten period we will read through the Gospel of Mark on Fridays and Saturdays. We'll finish the whole book during Lent.

In today's reading, we see upfront what Jesus was all about. He didn't come to just to die - although dying for our sins would have been wonderful enough. He came to claim God's authority over all of the Fallen creation. He came to announce the Kingdom of God - the ruling authority of God over all of the earth, which is his creation.

In verses 14 & 15 we read: "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Everything that happened before these verses demonstrated his authenticity to proclaim the Kingdom's reality and presence. Everything in the chapter after this demonstrated that authority over the Fall and the rule of sin b…

Day 2: Lent, Hail King Jesus

Within a day of the events of Bethany, Jesus heads toward Jerusalem. The week is a Passover week, and his decision to celebrate Passover with his disciples in Jerusalem begins this week. Imagine the scene as Jesus mounts a donkey and rides into the city. The prophetic picture was captured by Zechariah (9:9-10) several centuries before:

"Rejoice, Opeople of Zion!
Shout in triumph, Opeople of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.
I will remove the battle chariots from Israel
and the warhorses from Jerusalem.
I will destroy all the weapons used in battle,
and your king will bring peace to the nations.
His realm will stretch from sea to sea
and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

The symbolism was easy for the Pharisees and Scribes to read. Jesus is coming in as the Messiah, the King. He is not merely a religious rabbi, he is the King of the Jews. He is not just King of the…

Day 1: Lent, Determined to Go

If you're reading through the bible in a year, go to the end of the devotional. For day 1 of Lent, read Luke 11:47-50.

In John 11, Jesus goes to Bethany, a village just two miles from Jerusalem, because his friend Lazarus has died, and he is going to raise him from the dead. To the disciples, the journey represented danger:

But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”
In spite of that, Jesus is determined to go. He knows exactly what he is doing, and going to Bethany, no matter how close to Jerusalem is his way of saying, "I lay down my life, no one takes it from me."

After the resurrection miracle, the Pharisees hatch their plot because they see in Jesus a rival to their rule. John 11:47-50 records it:

"Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous s…

Blessings, Curses & Being Aware

Today's reading is from Deuteronomy 27, 28, 29.

The readings towards the end of Deut. become sweepingly broad. The writer is describing the overall nature of the covenant with God.

In obedience the covenant is filled with blessings.

In disobedience the covenant is full of curses.

I can't help but read this and sense the national dimension to our relation to God. Granted, the US is not Israel. God's covenant with Israel was a special one, and not to be confused with anything related to the United States. People do that at times and it isn't a fair exegesis of scripture.

But, what is fair is that its obvious God sees the nations of the earth and there are ways in which the nations express faith in GOd, and there are ways in which they do not...and that is worth thinking about.

Peace


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The Art of Worship

Today's readings are in Deuteronomy 24, 25, 26

The first of these readings give law regulations for cases of divorce. Jesus would state 1400 years later that is was "because of the hardness of the heart" that God made allowance for divorce to occur. Other laws followed relating to miscellaneous social items...all important in their own way.

Two interesting (they are all interesting in their own way) principles that surface in the passage is God's welfare system and ways in which the poor are treated, and the last chapter of our reading in relation to worship. First the poor. Many of the laws that relate to the poor seem to want to do one main thing: preserve their dignity as human beings. Reading the passages makes us aware that to be poor doesn't mean God looks at them as lacking in character or respect. The way in which we respond to the poor has much to do with our own blessing.

"When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not g…

Laws & Consequences

Today's reading is in Deuteronomy 21, 22

Much of what is in these passages still has a lot of relevance, in principle form, to today. It's easy to read this and dismiss the value, or relevance of what it's saying. DO we really need to not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together? And, what about those "tassels on the four corners of the cloak"? Yet, pay attention, not to the specifics, but to the principles and values that the laws are based on. For example, the tassels aren't well defined here, but in Numbers 15:37-41 they are explained:

Numbers 15:37-41 (NIV)
37 The LORD said to Moses,
38 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.
39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hear…

Cities of Refuge and Concerns of War

Today's readings are from Deuteronomy 19 and 20.

The first part of this restates the creation of "Cities of refuge" in the new land. Remember, Deuteronomy means second law and is a re-statement of the principles of the first law. So why do it? The main thing is to reemphasize that capital offenses, such as pre-meditated murder are not to be tolerated; but justice demands fairness in terms of dealing with those offenses. In this way, Israel as a nation was far ahead of the nations of its day.

The second part has some interesting rules connected to who goes to war and what happens when warfare occurs, even down to the trees they could cut to use for part of the warfare.

As we read, it's easy to dismiss the value of this all. We don't have these cities of refuge, and we have a military that fights with technological means, but the principles of justice, mercy, even concern for the environment all stand out and remind us that every generation has to learn how to …

Kings and Prophets

Today's readings are in Deuteronomy 17 & 18

As this young nation gets ready to enter into the land, two new offices of leadership are recognized for the first time - Kings and Prophets.
They are completely different offices, but both exert leadership and influence on the lives of the people.
The section we're in continues to be an expansion on the theme of the first three commandments that refer to God. Moses will not be going into the land and as leader of the nation he has already given leadership over to Joshua. The law gives rights to humans charged with serious crimes; but individual responsibility is established, nonetheless.

The fact that Moses outlines the responsibilities of a King suggest that God made allowance for that kind of leadership "down the road". It would be several hundred years - after the period of the Judges - before Israel would seek a King. Perhaps the major hesitations have to do with their tribal distinctions as 12 tribes, and the desi…

Loving Obedience

Today's readings are from Deuteronomy 11, 12, 13

Reading through the Bible in one year is best done in daily steps. I remember the first time I tried reading through the entire scriptures; I would find the need to sit down and read several days at a time just to catch up, and it felt like the whole year was just trying to keep up to get through it all. It's a bit like fasting followed by overeating...not recommended. I say all of that for those who find themselves at times struggling to "catch up"...the key might be in leaving what you didn't read behind and just start anew...AND, that is the lesson out of the reading today.

Anything we do for God needs to be done out of loving obedience. The problem, as Moses so aptly describes in this reading, is that we lose focus and we are tempted to substitute faithfulness and loving obedience for expediency and cultural accommodation. His warning was to the Israelites to live with a sense of loving obedience to God, and…

The Need for Remembering

Today's readings are from Deuteronomy 8, 9, 10

Alzheimer's Disease is a terrible disease. I saw it firsthand when my mother contracted it in her 60's. She lived ten more years with it, but it was a steady downhill slope of forgetting. The problem is that it's bad enough to forget where you are, what you're suppose to be doing, why you went one place or another; but it's worse to forget relationally. To forget who your friends are, to not recognize your grandchildren, or even your children.

We all have times of forgetfulness...most of the time it's harmless. It usually is no big deal, although at times it can lead to stress in relationships...as in forgetting a lunch meeting, or to return a phone call. Most forgetfulness is unintentional - we simply get busy with other things and forget! Yet sometimes forgetting is part of a bigger issue - we don't want to remember. We tell ourselves a lie, that the person is not that important, or they can wait,…