Finding God in the every day

Week 8 Day 7

James 1: 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 5:7-8 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.

            When I was a young father my mother would often upbraid me in my more impatient moments with this phrase; “You can’t put old heads on kids.” Sometimes she would emphasize my immaturity by adding the word “Still”. Since I have clawed my back into the love of Jesus our Christ I have noticed that our almost overwhelming need for “cutting to the chase”, “settling the question”, and in general overcoming any interruption in our personal spiritual journey has brought about an extreme impatience that leaves no time for God’s grace and his lovingkindness to work their magic in someone’s life, especially those with whom we are uncomfortable or conflicted.

            In Jesus’ day the Pharisees, and their true masters, the scribes who interpreted “the law” were very much like us, that is those of us in the Church today who “know” the way of grace.” How often I have been quick to condemn, or dismiss someone out of hand because I did not approve of what they were doing with their lives. Would that I had been as quick to condemn my own impatience and angry outbursts in the name of “righteousness”.

            If we look, the signposts of unrighteousness in our own lives are plain to see, but as scripture says, “the god of this age* (note small g) has blinded the minds of unbelievers…”( 2 Corinthians 4:4)

            It is my sincere prayer today that for  me, and as well for you,  “the scales would fall from our eyes” that we all may begin to see  clearly how Jesus would have us deal with one another with truth, justice, and mercy, walking humbly before our God.

Finding God in the every day

Week 8 Day 6

John 13:34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

            Several years ago I was on a family camping trip in the Adirondack mountains of New York state. On one particular morning it was determined that this group of between twenty and thirty people would go out to climb one of what are known as the Eastern High peaks. The particular mountain chosen was called Mount Ampersand. If any of my readers know this mountain it offers some unique features. First it may be climbed in a day, second, it is just rugged enough to give the climber a sense of what it must be like to attempt more difficult ascents. Third, while potentially treacherous in bad weather the mountain offers spectacular views of the three Saranac lakes, and several other ponds as well as a glimpse into one of the “forever wild” areas of the Adirondack park.

            On this particular day our very disparate group of housewives, husbands, children and teens began at the trailhead with mixed levels of enthusiasm. Soon, however the young, the strong and the healthy were way ahead and the rest of us were straggling along behind as best we could. About midway on the journey those of us on the lower reaches of the climb began to hear shouting and as we looked ahead, we saw a large group of high school age young people coming down the mountain together. In the middle of this group about eight of the crew were carrying a young lady who had slipped on the wet trail near the top and had either sprained or broken her ankle. As we moved aside to let the group pass I noted that as the eight young people took turns carrying the injured girl they would speak tender words of encouragement to her and each other. At the rear of the procession was a youth leader from the Younglife youth ministry team who were responsible for the group.

            I was amazed then, and still am today of the tenderness and love expressed by this group of youn Christians. I cannot, nor would I presume to vouchsafe any person’s faith or level of understanding of Christ’s love, however, what I observed that day was to me an unspoken testimony of Christian love in action.

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love…” Peter Sholtes (1966)

Finding God in the every day

Week 8 Day 5

Philippians 2:9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

            Have you ever asked yourself why does my praise to God matter? Have you ever wondered; What is the point of worship? One of the worst affects of sin, the turning away and systematic killing off of any sense of God in the here and now,  is our inability to look beyond our myopic view of self and be literally forced to acknowledge the presence, power and compassion of our Creator God. We become so hardened tour own perception of our needs and desires that there is literally no room to even consider the One whose ways are so much higher than ours.    

  It is impossible, once coming to the realization of this great God and his loving Son, Jesus,  to fail to cry out in praise and worship. Even when we are distracted by circumstances here on this earth, this plain, these times, by His Spirit we are inexorably drawn to the only One in the universe who can help us see beyond the here and now and find in Him the equipping to survive these days in expectation of a complete deliverance to His glory. Sing Hallelujah!

Finding God in the every Day

Week 8 Day 4

Psalm 147: 6The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.

              Humility is one of the most amazing characteristics of a person who is truly devoted to God. Humility positions us to be found solidly in the stream of God’s mercy and grace. Humility defends us from much of the worry and fear experienced by the prideful person. Humility helps us to hear, know, and understand God’s call as we reflect upon and imitate the humility of Christ. When we empty ourselves of the pretense of being anything other than a “sinner saved by grace” we can begin to see what Jesus sees in everyone around us.

              I am constantly amazed at how quickly pride and arrogance, presumption and insensitivity rise up within me as I read or observe provocative news stories or experience imagery that is really only designed  to elicit the kind of responses that occur unbidden in my spirit. Lord, help me.

              When we live our lives in constant “overload” we are liable to be subjected to every “anti-Christian” impulse that Satan can whip into a frenzy in order to cause us to fail and fall in our relationship with the Lord Jesus. But, we have an arsenal of weaponry that the devil cannot overcome. We have the forgiveness of Jesus, we have the promise of His intercession before His Father, we have the synergy of prayer within the body of Christ, and we have the mighty testimony that Jesus has saved us by His incomprehensible sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. Praise the Lord. Sing , shout for Joy.

Finding God in the every day

Week 8 Day 3

Jeremiah 3217 “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

            If you were to read the whole chapter of Jeremiah quoted here you would find what I believe is one of the most hopeful incidents and prophecies of the Old Testament. Jeremiah, imprisoned within the courtyard of the guard arranged to purchase land from his kinsman and made sure all of the documentation would be preserved for the coming day when the Israelites would be freed from Babylonian captivity. The year was far off in the future, The Babylonian siege was still under way. Jeremiah knew King Zedekaih would be carried off with the other notables of the land, and yet he had enough hope, and clear sight of God’s promise to make this seemingly outrageous plan. To be sure, like so many things in Jeremiah;s life this was to be a symbol to the rest of Israel that God would deliver them in time to come.

            The point her for us today is whether you believe in a God who is willing to intervene in the lives of his people.  Well, do you? I have wrestled long and hard with this question, and I can and will answer in the affirmative. I do believe in this amazing God who intervenes. Scripture tells us that it is true. Hebrews 7: 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them., Romans 8: 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us., I John My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

            Moreover, I can and will testify at every opportune moment that God has intervened in so many miraculous ways in my life that even though I might now be aware of it in the moment, upon reflection I understand that His guiding and merciful hand have saved me even from my own folly.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him, How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er…Oh for grace to love him more.. Louisa M. R. Stead | William James Kirkpatrick© Words: Public Domain Music: Public Domain

Finding God in the every day

Week 8 Day 2

Week 8 Day 2

Psalm 45:4

In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.

              I have been struggling lately with much of the lyric and subject matter of both music and preaching. I seem to be hearing an awful lot of what I would call “determinism”, that is to say that the focus, the sum of all things is the ego. What I “feel”; How I perceive; How this (or any) circumstance or situation affects me.

              Much of Christian music, even some of our most cherished melodies have at their core some level of shouting about “what Jesus has done for me”. All well and good. There is, however, a dynamic that we seem to largely pass by in favor of our own celebrations. That is the very essence of who we say we are.  Deuteronomy 10:12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

            One of my favorite Christian worship songs, now perhaps existing among the cobwebs in my mind is entitled Majesty. I think I like this song because it is at once invitational, congregational, and at no point does it elevate me or my feelings above the adoration of the most high God.

Majesty worship His majesty/Unto Jesus be all glory Honor and praise

Majesty kingdom authority/Flow from His throne/Unto His own His anthem raise

So exalt lift up on high/The name of Jesus

Magnify come glorify/Christ Jesus the King

Majesty worship His majesty’Jesus who died now glorified/King of all kings

© 1981 New Spring (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) Jack Hayford

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