Saturday, March 31, 2012

On Being God's Man or God's Woman

Reading and studying the Bible often leads us to characters God dealt with, one on one. He seemed to have "HIS" chosen ones (and chosen, they were) to speak to and through, to handle various problems, to deal with the sins of nations, or to bring individuals back to himself.

My mind has been wondering recently, "How do I become one of those that God uses in important ways?" I even wondered if God were to be authorizing an updated and current events 'Bible,' would my life be one that he used as an example for good or bad?

Today's scripture is brief, only three short sentences. But it says so much.

2 Peter 1:1-2
1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Peter tells us he is a servant and apostle of Jesus. There is a reason the scripture is worded like that. God knew and Peter knew and I hope you also know, before you can be God's man or woman, you must take on the spirit of being a servant. Jesus is our example here, too. Read Philippians 2:5-8.

Peter addresses his letter to people who have received a faith that is as precious as Peter's faith is to him. Today we can examine our faith and in prayer we can petition God to "increase our faith."

Then Peter pronounces a blessing on those who receive his letter, including you and me. That blessing is for grace and peace to be yours in abundance. Like the eagerness to shake hands or exchange a hug, we see Peter's example here to pronounce grace and peace in abundance on our fellow Christians through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What's In A Name?

My dad's mother was named Ila Mae. Also in the extended family were Ella Mae, Ethyl Mae, Lela Mae, and all of them were called by their first and middle names.  That in itself was somewhat confusing to us as kids growing up and trying to remember which of the Mae's belonged to which uncle, and in most cases I would have to think of them as a couple before I got the right Mae. To add to the confusion my mom's mother was named Lena Mae, and as far as I know, she was the only Mae on that side of the family. Two of her brothers did marry women named Ruby, so it was a little confusing to have two Aunt Ruby's .  To really make this confusing was the fact they both lived in the same community so everyone in the little town, not just the family, started calling them Hardy's Ruby and David's Ruby.  Then Hardy died but everyone still called his wife Hardy's Ruby, until a few years later when she married again to Bub. You might think they started calling her Bub's Ruby but that wasn't necessary because David's Ruby had died and now there was only one Ruby. Oops, I messed up. I just remembered Hardy and David had a brother, Hubert, that married late in life to a woman named Laura Mae. My apologies to anyone on either side of my family with the name of Mae or Ruby which I have left out. I do know when I was growing up it dawned on me one day how fortunate I was to not be named Ron Ruby-Mae.

Names have important meanings to us, just as they did in Bible days.  For example, the name Aaron means "mountain of strength," and the name Rachel means "little lamb."  It's an interesting and sometimes humorous study to trace the meaning of names.

Matthew records the birth announcement of Jesus in Matthew 1:21, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Then two verses later, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, “God with us.” If we go back to the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus, we find some other names. Isaiah prophesied," And he will be called  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  That's a lot of names for a newborn baby. Truth be told, those names and others which refer to Jesus demonstrate his awesome power and his willingness to bring us God in the flesh.  It is of eternal importance that we come to know Jesus through all these meanings. There will be times when you need to know him as Wonderful Counselor, and at all times we need to know Jesus as "God with us."  Remember, this Jesus will save us from our sins.
The song is true, "There's something about that name."  Paul, in writing to the Philippians, says the name of Jesus is above every name. Look at the text, " 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God,  did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself  and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father " Philippians 2:5-11.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lord, Give Me a Drink

In my booth at the antique show, there is an old-looking antique crock that catches quite a bit of attention from shoppers. Lots of collectors use the old crocks for primitive decoration in the kitchen, and some of these crocks are still used as containers.  But this one, which is from the late 1800's is very different.  The bottom is constructed of a porous material and the keen observer will notice immediately this crock could never hold any liquid. The contents  would leak out. Closer observation of the crock tells a curious shopper it is made by the Fulper  Pottery  Company, and it is labeled "Water Filtering Crock."  It is designed to be placed on top of another container, and water filters from the upper crock and drains into the bottom. I  have tried it, and it takes about 45 minutes for the process and you have one gallon of filtered water.
I wondered about those having water filtering in the 1800's, especially since that was before medical science was warning people about micro-organisms and germs unseen by the naked eye. It took someone older than me to explain that in those days, water was usually collected from rainfall off the roof of a house, and ran through gutters to a downspout and into a barrel. And, in those days, the main job of a water filter was to remove things like grasshopper legs and bird feathers.  Do you care for a drink of water from my water filtering crock? Me either.
Pure, refreshing water satisfies our thirst.  There is actually a reason why our doctors tell us to drink more water. It's good for us. As good as pure water is for our bodies, I want to point you to the living water that Jesus talked about in John 4. He speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well and their conversation leads him to tell her about "living water," and those who drink of it will never thirst again. Jesus continues, "The water I give him will become in him a spring of water, welling up to eternal life." Okay, I concede. The water Jesus can give sounds more appealing than my crock-filtered water.
 If you are familiar with the story from John 4, then you know that Jesus is referring to himself as the living water which satisfies our spiritual thirst.  To "drink" of the water he offers implies a constant total commitment to him. It isn't a onetime exposure to the living water, but a continuing renewal of receiving the life giving spiritual nourishment we need. 
If you seek your own demise, one way to make that happen is to stop the intake of liquids. And if you are disconnected from the source of living water, Jesus himself, you will dry up spiritually, becoming like the description from Peter, "springs without water." 2 Peter 2:17
This picture of Jesus being the living water, brings so many Old Testament prophecies to have greater understanding.  When Isaiah addressed the subject of nations that attempted to overcome God's people, and addressed rebellious Jerusalem, and pointed all people toward following God and his precepts, he spoke of the salvation that would come to the faithful. He told of them learning that God is their salvation.  Then he says, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Isaiah 12:3
Our constant prayer should be, "Lord, give me a drink."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Objects of Your Worship

In the 1970's, we were given a trip to Acapulco, Mexico. It was exciting to see and experience the Mexican culture, beautiful buildings, market places, exotic restaurants  and a beautiful hotel on the beach of Acapulco Bay.  From the beach, looking back towards the mountains , I remember seeing some kind of huge monument which drew my attention.  I originally thought it was probably some historic spot which reflected their culture or religion. Although a visit to the monument was not listed on our tour, it still fascinated me and I kept wondering what it was all about.  I researched it when I got back home and learned it was a monument erected to two American investors who had taken a chance and a lot of money and transformed Acapulco from a tiny Mexican fishing village, to one of the most popular tourist locations on the globe. The citizens of Acapulco had all, in one way or another, improved their economic status because of those two men, so in a culture that was always anxious to build a monument, it seemed only natural to build one for these men that had changed their lives. 

One time Paul visited a city and was amazed at all the monuments and structures he saw, because each one had been built in honor of various "gods."  Perhaps there was a monument for the god of the sun, the god of rain, the god of mothers-in-law......the list is endless. In fact, for everything that you can name that was a priority to someone in that city, it had a monument. These were places where the gods of everything could be worshiped and adored.  

I can imagine the look on Paul's face when he read the inscription on one monument and it said, "To an Unknown God."  Just in case these people had overlooked some god , and they sure didn't want any god to be mad at them for being left out, they had this one built for the Unknown god. Or perhaps there was a god that was greater than all their gods put together, and although they did not know him or what to call him,  they sure wouldn't want that one left out either. Here's what Paul said to them, recorded by Luke in Acts 17, "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."  Paul used the opportunity to teach them the God who is unknown to them, can be known, and loved, and worshiped, and adored.  We worship some strange things these days; popularity, prestige, money, worldly goods. Perhaps we should examine our priorities; our devotions; the objects we worship. Ask yourself, what comes first in your life....WHO comes first in your life?   
Aren't we a blessed people when we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? The blessing continues when we devote ourselves to the God who loves and forgives, and brings us into his family. Only the foolish would worship anyone or anything else.   


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Equipment We Need

When Paul was getting near the end of his encouraging letter to the Ephesians, he brought a very important warning to them and to us. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. "

 And a couple of verses later he repeats, “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” We know the things Paul was referring to. Things like “the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet that have been fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” That’s quite a list of the defensive and offensive characteristics we are going to need if we are to be successful in handling the schemes of Satan. I keep looking at the list and seeing areas where I have been weak…..areas where I need to grow.

Paul wants us to see when we are lacking in any of them, Satan plans his attack on us in the area of our weakness. That should prompt me to heed his instruction and make sure I am using every available tool that God has provided for my spiritual protection. Make no mistake, Satan and his attacks on God’s people are real, so we must be ready and equipped. Greater thought should be given to that readiness.  He does come after us from time to time. He is described like a “roaring lion” wanting to devour us. But God provides the weapons that insure our victory over the evil one. How foolish for us to remain unequipped when we are given the tools for winning every battle.

Oh, there is one more thing Paul adds after he gives the list of equipment. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”


Monday, March 26, 2012

How Should We React?

Disaster and turmoil in our world is nothing new. Every generation has faced its own troubles and difficulties with natural disasters.  The anniversaries of the terrorist attack on 9-11  remind us of how quickly our ease and comfort can turn to fear and doubt.  The resulting wars and political unrest have now brought the fear and doubt to global proportions.
Is there a remedy to the bad stuff that goes on around us? Life threatening weather events,  violence in the neighborhoods and destruction on the battlefield brings us to the point of wondering how God's people should react.  Some would even pose the question, "Should God's people react?
In a world which we are called to be Jesus in the neighborhood as well as the mission field, God's message of love and forgiveness is still the answer.  Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves, would bring a halt to a lot of the turmoil. Getting back to the basics of learning Bible concepts for everyday life would be good medicine for all.
What will you do if your house burns? What if your home is consumed by flood waters?  What if terrorism drives us from our place of work, or the house where we live, or the place where we worship? The questions are real because we know each of these events are possible.
I read a story about Hollywood actor Dean Jones, shortly after accepting Jesus, suffered the loss of his elaborate home during one of the California wildfires several years ago.  When firemen arrived on the scene, Jones was sitting on an overturned bucket amid the smoldering remains, strumming a guitar and singing, "Amazing Grace."  It was as if he was sending the message, "No matter what happens, God is still in control. He is my priority and I am His."
Christians are called to be servants to those in need, and it really is a wonderful thing when we can do something for those who have suffered loss.  But above and beyond all we do and all we give to those in tragic situations, I hope we leave them with the message that God loves them and we love them, too.  ”Love can build a bridge, between your heart and mine. Love can build a bridge, don't you think it's time...don't you think it's time."


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Increase our Faith

Faith must be important. It keeps showing up in the Bible. New Testament pages are covered with faith during events, encounters and examples. Our definition for faith comes from Hebrews 11:1.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

How sure are you of the things you hope for? And how certain can we be of things we do not see? We are a people who are accustomed to tangible proof. It must be something we can see, hear, touch, smell or taste. God wants us to know him through another dimension....the dimension of faith. Faith lets us know and experience spiritual things with the same degree of reality as something tangible that we hold in our hand, or see with our eyes. Your faith may begin as small as a mustard seed, but the devoted searcher for spiritual realities learns quickly to pray, "Lord, increase our faith."

Read the entire chapter of Hebrews 11. See the examples of how faith works. You will do well to bring the reality of faith into your experience.

In your activities today think about the things you are sure of, by faith. Is your faith evident in the decisions you make?

Pray that your faith will increase. With the increase, seek new experiences where your faith can be an example to others.

In what ways has your faith given you strength to face difficult moments. Is your faith as real when you experience good times?


Friday, March 23, 2012

Have You Seen God Today?

Psalm 19:1-6
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
 the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
 2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
 3 They have no speech, they use no words;
 no sound is heard from them.
 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
 their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
 like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
 nothing is deprived of its warmth.

So what's the answer......have you seen God today? The Psalmist is giving a message to those in those in those in anyone who needs reassurance that God exists. Psalm 19 tells us to just open our eyes. Without speech or words or sound being heard, we can see God as he is declared in the he is proclaimed by the skies. Knowledge of God is continuously revealed.

Look in the everyday things you have taken for granted. God is there.

Look for new insight of God and his workings in places and circumstances where you have not looked before. God is there.

Think about the ways a new understanding of God can bring about a new you. God is there.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Roll Away the Stone

The story of the raising of Lazarus, recorded in John 11, brings us to see perhaps the greatest miracle Jesus performed, but also gives us vital information to seeking our victory over death. Lazarus was dead and Jesus had been summoned by the family. The delay of Jesus' arrival brought about another problem. When he got there, Lazarus had been dead for four days. Still, Jesus had ordered the stone which covered the tomb to be removed. 

 John 11:38-44
 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Can you see parallels between the death of Lazarus, and the spiritual death of those without Christ? Those in such a hopeless condition have the same needs as Lazarus, and that need is LIFE. Think of the events which led you from your spiritual deadness to the life that Jesus gives.

When the stone was taken away, Jesus prayed. He prayed that those who witness the events about to happen would come to believe he was sent by God. Perhaps we would do well, to pray that God's working in and through us, will be a testimony to others.

When the stone was rolled away from Jesus' tomb, only his grave clothes were found inside. Anything that was associated with his death would contradict his resurrection life, so they remained in the tomb.  Now notice Lazarus. He was alive, but still bound by the clothing of his deadness. Jesus said, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."   The relics of his deadness were making poor testimony to his new life.  Likewise, when Jesus brings us life, we should get rid of the remnants of our deadness. Think about any "grave clothes" you need to discard.  Your new life in Jesus then becomes a testimony because "the old has passed away; behold the new has come."