Finding God in the every day

Week 8 Day 1

I Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

              This complex recipe for attaining to the peace of God is very simply expressed but can be oh so difficult to master if we try to do achieve any of these “commands” in our own strength. These marvelous points of peace can only arise out of a heart that is truly given over to the Lord JesusIsaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

            And there is the rub. When our eyes are on the world there arises in us the pride and self-centeredness, the acute awareness of how unjust and unfair the world really is. Paul’s invitation, his recommendation, his command if you will is to learn, to exert our will in the strength we are given to look above and beyond the world and see the glory of heaven. When we have met his Spirit all of this begins to make sense in a way that is so counter-intuitive as to be revolutionary. We see, what we choose to focus upon. Hebrews 12:Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

            What are you looking at today?

“O soul are you weary and troubled,

no light in the darkness you see.                                                                     

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free                                                     

Turn your eyes upon Jesus…” (Helen Lemmel , Public Domain

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 Day 7

Week 7 Day 7

Finding God in the every Day

Exodus 32:19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

            Here at the end of this week I look back and assess and measure my own performance at “practicing what I preach” and find myself ashamed at my outbursts of anger against childish behavior, municipal authorities and what I consider to be moronic malcontents tearing apart our nation. I have managed to conjure up in my mind every sort of evil behavior and rightly or wrongly attributed those behaviors to be the source of my frustration.

            But frustration is the key word here. A long time ago some psychologist or other explained that anger is the voice of frustration, moreover anger is a parasite emotion feeding on our frustration. What they seemed to fail to get at is that our frustration and anger seem to arise out of our own ego-centric self-importance and the effrontery of any cause to stand in opposition to “my way” of doing things.
            Moses was a man who had to learn to sublimate his ego, to forego his righteous anger in favor of God’s wisdom. So transformed was he during the long process of life in the wilderness that he was even bold to call God to account and persuade Him to relent of his anger. (Read all of Exodus Chapter 32)

            As I sit here feeling a sense of deep shame at my behavior and over-reactions this week I can only seek God’s forgiveness first, the forgiveness of those whom I have offended, and pray for the further refining and tempering of my spirit, mind and body. Truly, loving others as we love ourselves may be the most telling command that Jesus ever expressed. Matthew 22 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 Day 6

Image result for Image, Divergent Paths

Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on it day and night.

One of my favorite poems from child hood is Robert Frost’s Stopping by woods on a snowy evening. Within the lines of this poem is the idea of a divergent path which calls the speaker out of the ordinary routine of travel and travail. So accustomed are he and his horse to the routine of his labor that this moment of speculation causes, he believes, some consternation for his horse.

When we consider and perhaps strike out on a divergent path we are stepping utide of the familiar. To follow Jesus in this life is definitely stepping out of the familiar. It almost seems at times that we begin to live life on two plains, one rooted here on the earth with all of it’s problems and worries, the other exalted in the heavenlies at the feet of our Lord Jesus, our Christ.(Ephesians 2:6) The ways in which we cope with this seeming duality are the very fabric of being a Christian in the world today.

I believe that there comes with time a tempering of our passions and a perspective other than the purely visceral and reactionary. The thing we often do not consider, is that the more balanced we become in Christ and the duality of our existence the more Christ’s chief enemy seems to take an interest in us. (John 16:33) The only responses we can make to this is to “resist” (James 4:7) and to pray (I Thessalonians 5:17) and to trust in the Lord in all things. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 DAY 5

Finding God in the every day

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,

              Of the 181 times the word “filled” is used in the New International version of the Bible I think this is perhaps the one which best expresses the deep satisfaction I have in knowing the man called Jesus, the Christ. It sums up all at one go the relief, the joy, the sense of well being that comes over me in any dire and dangerous circumstance. This is not some “Pollyanna” denial of reality, it is the sure confidence that only comes from knowing the deep, deep love of God the Father through the willing sacrifice of his only begotten son. That God was willing to pay such an enormous price for my inclusion in the grand scheme of Heaven shatters any resistance I might harbor in my inner being.

              We have seen the word used as a warning, as a prophecy of doom, of the looming nearly crushing weight of God’s wrath on this sin filled world. Woe is me that for far too long I was a part of all that. But, once I became aware of God’s great love for me and Jesus’ willing and obedient sacrifice on my behalf , it was as if I had broken though a barrier that I had never realized was there.

              I am pleased every day to have the privilege of declaring his mighty work on my behalf and telling anyone who will listen that He is waiting to do the same for them. He has already accomplished your salvation to eternal life, simply ask him to help you turn away from the sin of your life and embrace a new life in Him. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! II Corinthians 5:17

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 Day 4

I Samuel 12:7Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

A study in contrasts

            God throughout the Old Testament used some people very powerfully to become the accusers of leaders simply by pointing out to them the truth of their circumstances. As here, Nathan puts it straight that he will not let slide any kingly spin which might attempt to gloss over the abduction of Bathsheba, their adultery, and David’s proxy murder of Uriah. Similarly, Daniel was used by God to point out, at the risk of his very life, the numerous failings and dubious decisions of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

            Unfortunately, in this day and age of eavesdropping and evil nosiness, which is a way expressing what the old timers would call our “prurient interests”, everyone is looking for a way to gain fame and fortune by catching their neighbor in some sort of compromising moment. Grab it on your cell phone and upload it right away to social media. In this time of extreme oversight, and de-contextualized information we would do well to forego the temptation to be so far out on the limb of accusation that we are in danger of cutting it off behind us. I am reminded of the situation in East Germany after World War II when neighbor was encouraged to spy on neighbor and report everything to the state authorities. Elaborate listening systems were installed in houses and apartment blocks. Cameras were everywhere. It was truly a frightening time. To my chagrin, nothing has changed. “J’accuse” has become the lingua franca of people everywhere seeking the moment of fame that might come to them by “exposing” someone else’s moment of weakness.

So, what’s the difference between Daniel, and Nathan and the types of accusers we see today? Very simply it is the imprimatur, or endorsement if you will of God the Father. Remember, Jesus said, Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? …(Matthew 7:1)

             I believe that if we were to set about removing the planks in our own eyes we would have enough lumber to build the largest tabernacle the world has ever seen.

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 Day 3

Finding God in the every day

I Corinthians 5:For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 

The problem with selling Jesus

            In the years since I began in ministry I have seen the very ethos of evangelism change, and so called “church growth” become and industry. Every industry needs salesmen and women, every industry needs promoters, every industry needs measurements and qualifications and some way of doling out rewards. This is uniquely true of the models that we have seen in church growth and promotion, wherein Pastors become “CEO”s, ranchers and corporate leaders, let alone becoming authors and book publishers. Unfortunately, as with so many things the potential to overstate, oversell, and to plain deceive have all become part of the ethos of evangelism today.

            We must constantly be reminded of these words from Paul to the Corinthians and acknowledge that we just don’t do things that way anymore. We are to be as Christ in the world not drag the world into our outworking of faith. So, what does this take? I believe that the first place we need to begin is to become extremely intimate with the scriptures and with the Holy Spirit in prayer, and in our willingness to forego the ego driven nature that must have some sense of personal victory and praise from some human superior that we have acknowledged Christ is our judge none other. we may respect church leaders, but we must not make them into little gods. No methodology no technique will ever take the place of simple loving Christ like grace demonstrated in action and words

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 Day 2

II Peter 1: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an [h]utterance as this was [i]made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this [j]utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

19 [k]So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

II Peter 1: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an [h]utterance as this was [i]made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”— 18 and we ourselves heard this [j]utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

19 [k]So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

              A word about testimony if you will. When Jesus said to Peter and the others “You shall be my witnesses” (Matthew 28:19) I think he knew that he was about to unleash a firestorm that would change the world. This statement from Peter in what we call his second epistle is a clear expression of his bona-fides, his right to claim and proclaim the things he is writing to the diverse, dispersed, harried and harassed churches throughout the Roman empire.

              When I attended Bible college I was taught that a clear concise “testimony” of Jesus in my life, from my perspective was essential. My testimony should not glorify anything or anyone, including me, but should point clearly to the love of God and the grace I have received through Jesus the Christ od my salvation. Anything else was to be considered dross and a rude, even cruel waste of the time and attention of the person to whom I would witness.

               I have come to understand that everyone who loves Jesus has a slightly different perspective and that with all grace being applied I should learn to listen rather than correct. We are all in a unique position. While we would like to be as privileged as Peter to have actually been with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration we must realize that these words which arerecorded for posterity in the canon of scripture bear an important and significant message for us to day. We must in every way possible “…work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)

           

           

Finding God in the every day

Week 7 Day 1

2 Peter 1:2Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us [a]by His own glory and [b]excellence. 4 [c]For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

            I have been “unpacking” this passage for a long time and have not yet come to what I believe is a full comprehension of Peter’s mind and heart as he penned this to a disparate and widespread church. At one level he definitely speaks to our constant grasping after more of everything. This acquisitiveness has been a notable characteristic of Western Christianity for as long as I can remember. Bigger places of worship, larger congregations, more resources, more activities, the list goes on and on. It is quite possible that herein lies the root of all of the church hopping that goes on.

            Peter’s wish and hope is that the believers would know and receive the “multiplied  grace and peace” which are imparted to us in the “knowledge of God and of Jesus”. Consider, the word “everything”. This word rendered in the Greek panta (panta) means literally “all things” and I believe speaks to every physical, emotional and spiritual need. The divine power of God is all encompassing.

            So then, you ask; Why do people suffer and go about bereft of even the needful things to sustain life? What kind of loving God would allow his creation to suffer? My answer is to go back and consider the “promises”, all of them. What happens when people go without, when people suffer and cry in anguish is the result of the world’s wholesale rejection of the Lordship of Jesus, and the unnatural infection (pandemic if you will) of rampant sin.

            Romans 819 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, [i]in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Finding God in the every day

Week 6 Day 7

Mark 4:39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

As a serving pastor I had the great need to utter these words to many grieving hurting and confused people who were desperately seeking answers to the question; “Why?” Storms of confusion, worry, fear seem to be gripping many people these days. Notice that Jesus did not say and never said we would be delivered from every trouble that came our way. Jesus was and is in the hear healing, mind transforming, and direction business in order that we may draw closer to Him. John 16:33 famously says; “In this world you will have tribulation…”. Note that it is not a might, but an positive declaration. Jesus knows the way of the world and of the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2 [NKJV]). He is not surprised nor undone by the evil that man does under the influence of the sin that is in them and the encouragement of the evil one. What he does do is speak to the inner heart of humankind and says to our fearful hearts “Peace, be still.”

Remember this when you are ready to “jump ship” in a state of panic over the way the world is being presented to you. Jesus still “sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” (Apostles Creed) Always remember, the desperate disciples went to the sleeping Jesus and woke Him up in their fear and asked him, “Don’t you care…” Fortunately the Lord is ever watchful and ever prepared to help us.

Finding God in the every day

Week 6 Day 6

2 Chronicles 5:13 The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.”

              Worship is at once a most personal and intimate experience. The worshiper and God in loving embrace as all of Heaven looks on. It is a time when healing happens, and hope is restored and direction is given. It is, I believe, the most sublime experience there is. It is also, a synergy that occurs among worshipers that binds together the very disparate spirits which are found in any gathering of believers in the salvation and grace of our Lord Jesus. This synergy which connects us may rightly be expressed as the presence of the Holy Spirit as the very presence of Christ himself. Okay, definitions out of the way; What’s the point?

              It always seems that in any worship experience I have experienced over the years the full force of human willfulness and self-interest has become a component of the time spent together. People come with their own agendas, people are vested in “correcting” the “impure” or “improper” worship of their neighbors, and worst of all intruding on that precious intimacy the individuals are intent on sharing with their creator. Before I let my own frustration get the better of me I need to recognize a few important truths. First, God knows every heart from top to bottom, inside and out. Second, I must accept the fact that You are not me, and I am not you. We are all at different places on the journey. Grace demands that we love one another. It does not mean that we trash someone or “correct” them. I think particularly of rambunctious children. These are the ones I love to see in the worship arena. Their intrinsic honesty, and their capacity for hope is right out there for all to see. Jesus cherished this and many other qualities possessed by children. Finally, our capacity to differentiate between momentary intrusions or annoyances and our vast spiritual connections and possibilities is the very stuff which commentator John Stott and others have said of the apostles. They were living in a dynamic tension “between two worlds” (The Spirit leads the Church into the world. A commentary on the book of Acts Intervarsity Press)