Wait Continually

17 Jul

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So you, by the help of your God, return,

Hold fast to love and justice,

And wait continually for your God.

-Hosea 12:6

 

God is speaking to the tribes of Judah and Ephraim, calling them back to Himself. He spoke through the prophet Hosea to remind them of the care and guidance He had provided for His people. These tribes were about to break a covenant with Assyria to make a deal with Egypt. They had lost sight of God’s promise to them and Hosea called on them to trust the Lord.

Love, justice, and patience are key traits of those who follow after God. This verse assures us that the One who calls us to live according to these traits will equip us to develop them. He is like a magnet to those who align themselves with Him. Though we pull away, we are drawn back by His love and provision.

We may feel the burn of the fire we so foolishly touch, He places a soothing balm on our burnt skin and restores us.

As the psalmist testifies (Psalm 40), He lifts us out of the miry clay and sets our feet on solid ground. He puts a new song in our mouth so that we can proclaim His greatness.

Wait continually…keep the faith and remain on the path. To the right and left are temptations aplenty that flash on the periphery, but we must keep our eyes before us as He lovingly and skillfully leads us to green pastures and still waters on the other side of the valley.

Act Like Men

20 Jun

manly-manBe watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

 

 

 
ACT LIKE MEN

What does it mean to act like men? How does a man act? Especially in today’s culture that wants to equalize the genders – making women tough and men soft. Today’s men are more sensitive, kind, and nurturing.

The days of men smoking cigars in the waiting room while their wives gave birth with a doctor and nurses is a “manly” tradition that gladly went by the wayside. For too many generations manliness was equal to machismo, and men were expected to be harsh, aloof, and uncomfortable with feelings.

I don’t think Paul was thinking along these lines when he instructed the mean of Corinth to act like men. After all, he had just finished telling them to show extreme charitable love. No, I think Paul was talking about

Courage…resolve…sincerity…integrity…drive…protectiveness…paternal nurture.

Masculine traits often miss the gentler side of manhood. Being a man is not about chauvinism and emotional distance. Paul wrote the “love chapter” to men as well as women. Love is not a feminine quality, but a human quality. Specifically, it’s the hallmark of Christians who want to reflect the nature of Jesus.

Patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and charity are manly attitudes. And men are to be leaders in these behaviors. We are to show the way and not shrink back. We are not to respond in anger when wronged, but refuse to be provoked to exasperation.

Men figure things out. They build and fix; they work hard and see things through. A man seeks the truth and makes a way for others to enter in. Men are standard bearers of hope, guiding the way without fear or discouragement. As our culture becomes more chaotic and complex, where sides are taken and hatred is seen as a fitting response to differences of opinion, men must act like men and display their strength in love and charity.

Called “As Is”

22 May

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Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. this is my rule in all the churches. I Corinthians 7:17

Paul is writing here to the church in Corinth and this verse is in the middle of his teaching on marriage and sexuality. He expands the message at this point to include various situations a believer may be in when they choose to accept Christ.

The core message of this verse is to encourage contentment, or at least acceptance, of one’s station in life. We shouldn’t strive for what we don’t have – money, circumcision, freedom, or marriage.

We spend a lot of our lives being dissatisfied. We compare our lives to others or to an ideal cultural standard, and expend great amounts of energy anxious to acquire what we lack.

Paul wants us to put our energy toward things that are spiritually important – like unity, service, and holiness. Discipleship is not about becoming more like Christ, not conforming to church and community expectations.

I don’t think Paul is crushing all ambition in this chapter. Instead, it’s a matter of discerning our calling and position, and letting God work through us and in us no matter our condition.

Any ambition that rises up within me needs to be prayerfully considered to determine whether it’s my flesh wanting to achieve and accomplish for some earthly reward, or if it is truly the Lord planting a seed of possibility that I am to pursue with His guidance. If it is of the Lord, He will equip and empower me. If I find that I’m anxious and struggling, I have to realize the root of the dissatisfaction and ask the Lord for the strength to accept my condition.

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Lord, help me to lead the life that you have assigned to me and not waste effort pursuing someone else’s life. Give me the ability to discern whether ambition is from you or my flesh. Thank you for using me in my current circumstances.

Enriched in speech and knowledge

24 Apr

“that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge”         1 Corinthians 1:5

Enriched in speech and knowledge. More clearly, they were abounding in these. A special, Holy Spirit enabled comprehension of spiritual things. They were able to explain, with “holy eloquence” and understand the message of the gospel, a rich treasure of holiness that they should cherish.

The Geneva Study Bible commentary states, “He refers to that by name which they abused the most.” The Corinthian church had this precious endowment and neglected it to the point of abuse.

Paul first recognizes and congratulates the Corinthian believers for possessing the endowment, gaining ground on which to build his argument that they were lacking.

The fact is, we are Corinthians in a new age. We love to study Scripture, and we can often explain it with an illustrated, 3-point outline, yet we lack the spiritual discernment to see that the truth that we preach has failed to take root in our own lives. We enjoy the game, but resist the transformation required of a disciple.

Prayer:

Lord, may I be transformed as I consider the gospel and the truth that it conveys to my life. May I have holy eyes to see my arrogance and lack of zeal to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. Make we aware of the treasure you have placed in my heart and mind, and help me to invest it wisely for true spiritual relationship with you.

Driving out the “Ites”

21 Sep

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And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of the land to a good and broad loans, a land flowing with milk and honey, to a place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. -Genesis 3:8

And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. -Genesis 23:31

In order to possess the land that God has marked out for the Hebrew people, they had to drive out all of the inhabitants of that land. To avoid becoming defiled and corrupted by those in the land – those who followed other gods – the people of Israel needed to push whole nations away; all of the “ites” had to be expelled.

Metaphorically, we need to drive out the “ites” from our lives in order to take possession of the spiritual land the Lord has planned for us. We can’t allow remnants, rituals, or riches to remain or we may be tainted by the seemingly harmless, but truly dangerous elements that have taken up residence in our promised land.

What are the “ites” that must be driven out?

  • Pride?
  • Selfishness?
  • Settling?
  • Jealousy/envy?
  • Anger?
  • Ambition?
  • Safety?
  • Wealth?
  • Logic?

We must identify our “ites” so we understand the enemy that must be expelled.

Pray that God would reveal a map of the landscape of your heart and give you the courage, resolve, and spiritual strength to put on the spiritual battle armor to begin taking possession of your promised land.

God is Faithful, But He Often Takes Us on a Circuitous Path to Blessing!

9 May

winding-pathWe like formulas. We prefer proven methods. It gives us comfort when 1+1=2. But when the secret sauce remains hidden, when the logical approach doesn’t bring the sensical solution, when 1+1=8.3, we lose heart quickly.

God is completely dependable and will fulfill His promises, but not always in a straight line. And it drives us to discouragement, wondering if he really loves us. Have we misunderstood? Have we sinned in some way to cause Him to delay? We cry out, “Why, Lord, do you tarry?” I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do, remained faithful, and still things aren’t working out the way they’re “supposed to.”

There are promises in the Bible that sound formulaic: do this and this blessing will come. It seems straightforward and simple, but complexity and delay seem to discount the promise.

Some reminders from Scripture will give us proper perspective and allow us to remain hopeful when the rules don’t seem to apply to our situation.

1 Peter 3:8 – But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

Isaiah 55:9 – As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.\

Ecclesiastes 8:17 – then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

Romans 11: 33 – Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

We are bombarded with advice that promises a path to a sure win. And for some those best practices do work. But often, for the one the Lord is wanting to shape for depths of holiness, trust, and usefulness, the path is more circuitous and the formulas worthless. For such a person the only sure thing is to stay faithful and obedient.

The beginning days are often the hardest, and we must not quit. God’s provisions along the way are often just enough, and we must remember to thank Him. First comes obedience, then the blessing. He takes the impossible and glorifies Himself through our dependence.

We miss so much with God when we wait for favorable circumstances. The glimpse of the promise must be enough for us. Follow His “go” and don’t lose heart when His leading is surprisingly vague and changing. Don’t analyze it – just follow the path that is lit before you, even if it’s just one step.

The Handwriting on the Wall and Other Knotty Problems

18 Sep

Screenshot 2015-09-18 08.06.50Because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshaz′zar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation. – Daniel 5:12

The Party Comes to a Horrifying End

Belshazzar (which means ‘Bel Protect the King’) used temple objects for personal pleasure and praised the false gods associated with gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.

Then…

The dismembered hand appears from nowhere and begins writing on the wall in a language unknown.

His loins loosened (He peed his pants –or worse!); literally, the knots of his loins were undone.

His knees knocked

So…

Wise men were brought in to decipher the writing, but none were able to translate the script.

Terrorized

Fearful

Baffled

The queen mother comes to the rescue…remembering Daniel.

Daniel…chief of magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.

Because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.

These were valuable characteristics. Although now an old man, Daniel had not changed. When we’re first introduced to him in Daniel 1:17, he is described along with his friends…

”As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all letters and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”

And we see that things haven’t changed. Daniel still has godly credentials:

  • Excellent Spirit
  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Explain Riddles
  • Solve Problems

He was one who could untie knots, and this was surely a knotty situation!

Accolades & gifts promised and declined. Daniel didn’t want recognition and treasure – he was an old man who had lived his life without compromise.

Moral of the story?

  • Humility – Daniel didn’t use his knowledge and understanding as a badge of honor. He was confident in God, not himself. But the king’s arrogance landed him in this knotty situation, and he stood their in front of Daniel soiled and terrified, begging for help.
  • Giving God glory (recognizing the true source) – Pride and ignorance caused Belshazzar to praise himself and the false gods of his culture. While his father had encountered the true God and given Him honor, the son failed to do so and the handwriting on the wall spelled the end for him.

The message was:

  • Our days are numbered – We have a finite lifespan on earth and God alone knows the number of days set before us. We must make the most of our time and align ourselves with our Creator.
  • We have been found wanting – Our failed attempts at holiness, at being “good” of our own effort, have fallen short of God’s perfection. The Judge who sits on the throne has handed down the verdict: we are found wanting. Thank God for His mercy and grace and the gift of His Son to pay the price that we lack.
  • Our kingdom is temporary – We spend much time and effort in creating our own little kingdoms here on earth. We amass as much as we can and work hard to control our circumstances to make our lives “heaven on earth.” But our earthly existence is nothing compared to the riches of His Kingdom, which we must keep in mind and allow this perspective to motivate us toward heavenly objectives rather than earthly gain.
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