Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strong and Weak

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b)

            That doesn’t make much sense, humanly speaking, does it?  Any athlete will tell you that strength comes from conditioning, and the goal is to get stronger and stronger so you can defeat your competitors and win.  Seeing strength in weakness is not on the radar screen of one whose goal is to be strong.
            So, what did Paul mean by this?  After all, he was himself an athlete, so it’s not as if he didn’t get it.  Actually, strength was his goal.  He wanted strength in his life.
            Think this through.  A newborn baby is totally weak and helpless.  It is only as strong as its parents.  One lone soldier is weak when facing a platoon of enemy soldiers, until the rest of his own platoon shows up accompanied with a couple of tanks.  A child being bullied by several other kids is weak until his brother, who is 10 years older, shows up; then, he’s strong.
            Paul had some sort of debilitating physical problem he called his “thorn in the flesh.”  He asked God to remove it, but God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Weakness thus gives opportunity for strength to rise to the surface so that its source can be revealed.
            So then, strength is as good as its source and is derived from its source.  If God, then, is that Source, then that is when we are actually at our strongest.

Father, We thank You that Your strength is now ours through our faith in Christ.  Amen

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Live Out Your Worship

“Let the name of the Lord be praised both now and forever.  From the rising of the sun to its setting, let the name of the Lord be praised.” (Psalm 113:2-3)

            Worship is to be lived.  That is God’s intention.  He never intended that worship be confined to a building, or to a place, or to a time.  We gather for worship at a place, at a building, and at a time, but if there is where it ends, we are off target.  We gather for worship in order to then scatter for worship.  We take it with us into the world, so that daily we may live out our worship of the Almighty, allowing His light in us to shine onto and into the lives of others.
            Worship is walking with God in the awareness of His constant presence.  This is to be experienced at the personal level first and foremost, and then it is to be expressed, demonstrated, and lived out before the world, so that others may come to glorify God with us.

Lord, As we experience worship in this day, help us also to live it out for Your glory.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Because He Loves Us

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find.  Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

            Psalm 107 recounts the loving and faithful works of God.  The psalmist spoke there of those who wandered in desolation and destitution.  God rescued them and let them to a place where they could then live a full life.  The psalmist spoke of those who sat in darkness and gloom, prisoners and exiles because of their rebellion against God.  They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God brought them out of the darkness and into the light.  The psalmist spoke of those whose sins were deep, but when they turned to the Lord, God sent His healing word.  The psalmist then spoke of those who traveled to distant places and faced great danger and lost their courage.  They were helpless, but God stilled the storm when they cried to Him in their distress.
            Jesus may not have had Psalm 107 in mind in the verse above, but His application certainly fits.  Keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, because you know the Lord is a loving and faithful heavenly Father.  Our Father loves His children, and when we keep turning to Him, He will give us good gifts – the ones we need.  Just because He loves us.

Lord, Apart from Your love we would dwell in darkness, but by Your love we are made alive like water on a desert flower.  Thank You for loving us.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Blindness of Self-Deception

“So if the light within you is darkness - how deep is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23b)

            Interesting.  Jesus spoke of darkness in the context of materialism in Matthew 6.  He began this part of the Sermon on the Mount by admonishing people to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth, because focusing life on possessions is the equivalent of making them your master.  Materialism can morph us into slaves, and in reality we may not even be aware that it is happening.  In that context comes His almost cryptic discussion or illustration using the eye.
            Jesus said that the eye is the lamp of the body.  If the eye is good, it is like the body is full of light.  If the eye is bad, it is like the whole body is full of darkness.  And if the only light you have in you is darkness, then that darkness runs deep and is, in fact, pitch black.  So, how does what we perceive as light become darkness?  Through self-deception.
            When we believe that our earthly possessions are the real fabric of life, we have succumbed to self-deception.  While it may feel like we are in the light, free and comfortable, and feeling good, we are unknowingly in the dark.  Self-deception has mastered us, and we never saw it coming.
            So, how is the blindness of this self-deception overcome?  It takes three conditions:  a realization, a decision, and an action.  In our hearts we first must recognize the truth of the temporal nature of possessions.  Then we decide that we would prefer to live in the light of God’s perspectives.  Third, we begin to live out our lives in relation to Him, serving Him as our life priority with all we have, including our possessions.  When we reach this point in faith, that is when the lights come on.

Father, Open our eyes to see the realities today You want us to see.  And help us then to respond in ways that glorify You.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Impact of God’s Love

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

            How far is “the east” from “the west?”
            Well, pretty far.  We all know that if you start walking due east and keep going, eventually you come full circle to your point of origin, because the earth is a globe.  The psalmist did not know this, though.  It’s not that he was not as smart as we are; he just did not have as much information as we have today.  He had never heard of “earth science.”  In his understanding, you could walk east and never find the end.  To him “the east” was infinite, and so was the west.  He did not think circular but linear.  So in his view, if you walk east and keep going, you just keep going infinitely.
            The psalmist helps us see that with God forgiveness is total and absolute.  When God forgives, it never comes back.  This is true because, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him.” (v11)
            May we be reminded today that our heavenly Father is compassionate toward us as His children, that He know we are “dust,” and that when He forgives us it is total.  His forgiveness is linear, not circular.
            The proper response to this is gratitude and praise.  And there is one more response that is equally appropriate:  just as He forgives us, we must forgive one another, compelled by love.  Forgive linear, not circular.

Lord, Help us today to practice linear forgiveness and unending compassion toward others because of the example we see in You.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Effective Praying

 “Whenever you pray…” (Matthew 6:5)

            Not IF you pray, but WHEN you pray, says Jesus.  Note the assumption and expectation of Jesus that His people would pray.  That understood, He gives us several basics that can help us pray effectively.
            First, we are to privatize and personalize our prayers.  He cautions us not to be like hypocrites who love to make their prayers public and long so people would be impressed.  All of us have heard people pray and wondered if they would ever finish!  Some of those “people” could even be us.  We should remember that it is God we seek to impress, not people, and He is impressed by prayer that is personal and private.  Alone, before God we pray.
            Second, we are to simplify our prayers.  God, who sees and knows the heart, is more concerned with the content of our hearts than with the multiplicity and complexity of our words.  Babbling before God is a useless waste of time and effort.  Simplify.
            Third, we are to contextualize our prayers.  We need to come to the realization that God already knows what we need before we ask.  Nothing catches Him by surprise.  We need to keep our prayers in the context of God’s constant awareness and His constant care for us.
            Effective praying is characterized by privatization, personalization, simplification, and contextualization.

Help us, Lord, to pray thus effectively.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Long View

 “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good,’ for he thought: There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8)

            The “word of the Lord” Hezekiah referred to was the prophecy of Isaiah: “The time will certainly come when everything in your place and everything your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left.” (Isaiah 39:6)  Isaiah prophesied this because King Hezekiah had shown Babylonian envoys everything in his palace, including his treasuries and his armory.  His action was a foolish expression of pride that would cost Judah.
            The only thing more foolish than Hezekiah’s action was his response to Isaiah’s prophecy.  Generally he said: “Well, that’s ok.  At least there will be peace and security in my lifetime.”  His response was self-centered and short-sighted.  Most self-centeredness normally turns out to be short-sighted.  Short-sightedness wastes future opportunities, and it impacts others beyond our view.
            Go for the long view.  Follow the God of the long view, who loved us before the foundations of the world were laid, and who brought millennia-long plans to fruition in sending His Son, so that we might have eternal life.  He is the One we need to follow, for it is in following Him that we break through our self-centeredness and our short-sightedness.  

Lord, We choose the long view, and we trust You to lead us in Your sovereignty to use us as You will in carrying out Your plans.  Amen.