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Showing posts from October, 2010

Cultivate your relationship with God

22-23Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong. (Romans 14:22-23)
Paul spends almost two chapters in his letter to the Roman church to describe the conduct becoming of a child of God.  In summary, he spent a full chapter on the futility of trying to impose your way of believing on another individual.  This summary was in response to the issues at hand in the church whereby the members were at odds about whether you were free to worship this way or another in Christ.  They were trying to impose "rules" into the relationship they had come to experience in Christ…

Love from the center

9-10Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. (Romans 12:9-10)
It is so easy sometimes to just "fake it" when it comes to loving other people.  We make everything "look good" on the outside, but on the inside we are really just not all that into it!  Loving others is a LOT of work!  I don't think God challenges us to do anything more difficult than to love unconditionally, just as he loves us.  We almost always have "strings attached" when it comes to demonstrating our love to another human being.
If you don't believe that, then let me ask you if you have ever felt a little bit slighted when a courtesy you have extended to another has been overlooked when you have needed that same courtesy extended in your life?  Maybe someone overlooked an important date in your life, or perhaps they did not pick up on a hint tha…

Embracing Arms

32-36 "So, my dear friends, listen carefully;
   those who embrace these my ways are most blessed.
Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
   don't squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me,
   awake and ready for me each morning,
   alert and responsive as I start my day's work.
When you find me, you find life, real life,
   to say nothing of God's good pleasure.
But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul;
   when you reject me, you're flirting with death."
(Proverbs 8:32-36)
Wisdom, in the book of Proverbs, represents not only a characteristic we develop, but a person - the person of Jesus Christ.  The very life of Christ was a display of wisdom by which we can pattern our daily walk.  Our writer spent the first eight chapters of this book reminding us of the importance of choosing wisdom over any other action.  If something is repeated that many times in Scripture, it is pretty important that we put on our spir…

Never sorry you knocked!

9-10God's a safe-house for the battered,
      a sanctuary during bad times.
   The moment you arrive, you relax;
      you're never sorry you knocked.  (Psalm 9:9-10)
There are many walking this earth today that feel that they are persistently beaten down - worn out by hard or unnecessary abuse.  They have suffered repeated blows to their ego, emotions, or physical well-being.  The repeated blows have made damage that seems to do nothing more than place on display the defects of our lives.  David probably was feeling a little of this with all the things he was dealing with as King of Israel, the anointed of God.  
What?  The anointed of God, the one hand-chosen by God, felt beaten down, abused, emotionally spent, like his life mattered for little in the scheme of things?  Yep!  Nowhere in scripture is it recorded that David was any less of a "human being" than the rest of us!  He experienced emotional disappointment at the hand of friends.  His life was in turmoil at t…

Straight Paths - Part II

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.(Psalm 119:1-8)

In examining this passage, I am challenged by the meaning of the word “follow”.  To follow implies many things that I have come to appreciate: To accept the authority of the one we make a matter of our focus or attention – it implies a condition of obedience to the authority and counsel of our righteous God.To come to a specified place in a specified time, sequ…

Straight Paths - Part I

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him.That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it.Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel.I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.(Psalm 119:1-8)
It is a comforting thing to understand the direction we are headed – to clearly know the paths we are to follow, the things to avoid.  We often head off in directions unplanned for us, venturing out on our own completely unaware of what lays in wait along the path we choose.  It is a God-honoring thing to await his course direction – it is even more honoring t…

God's Dependable Love

16-17 And me? I'm singing your prowess, shouting at cockcrow your largesse,
   For you've been a safe place for me, a good place to hide.  Strong God, I'm watching you do it, I can always count on you—God, my dependable love. (Psalm 59:16-17)
Understanding the background of this Psalm might help us understand these words even more clearly.  David, as King of Israel, was in heated battle with the Edomites in the Valley of Salt.  The Edomites were descendants of Esau, one of the sons of Jacob.  Esau is probably best known as the son who sold his birthright for a pot of stew (Genesis 25).  As the firstborn of Jacob, he had the full right to the inheritance of his father (a double portion).  In a time of weakness, hungry and weary, he "sold out" to his twin brother.  
Esau's family became a band of nomadic raiders settling in the region just south of the Dead Sea - the land that Israel would realistically pass through on their way to Canaan as they existed Egypt.  E…

Unfinished Products

29-30God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. (Romans 8:29-30)
It is very freeing to recognize that we have an example to pattern our lives after.  When we no longer have to "figure out" what it is that we are expected to be, how we are to live our lives, it is quite liberating.  Paul reminds us that we have a pattern for our lives established well in advance of each new breath we breathe.  God decided long before you or I breathed our firs…

King's Kids

1God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?  2 "Walk straight, act right, tell the truth.  3-4 Don't hurt your friend,
      don't blame your neighbor; despise the despicable.  5 Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe.  You'll never get    blacklisted if you live like this." (Psalm 15)
David asks a simple question of God - one that is quite often a consideration of humankind.  He wants to know who it is that God shows favor to - who is it that is welcomed into his presence, made to feel at home, enjoying the very fruits of his rule.  Then, as he heard his answer from God, he recorded those traits that we see in a man or woman of God that make him/her free to move about in the presence of a holy God.
It begins with learning to walk straight, act right, and tell the truth.  We don't do this on our own - it is impossible to do this without the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  At …

Forgiveness is a habit

3-4 If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance?
   As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that's why you're worshiped.  (Psalm 130:3-4)
We humans are "record keepers".  We manage to stuff all kinds of information into our brains - dates, times, events, memories, agendas, wishes, dreams - to name only a few.  We organize that information based on importance to us - prioritizing it and "packaging" it into "parcels" of thought.  If we cannot manage to store anymore, or feel that the information is SO important that we cannot risk losing it, we write it down, recording it for future reference.
This process works well for us if what we are "storing away" in the recesses of our brain, or recording on paper, has a significant meaning that will lend itself to our growth or development.  When we begin storing away the thoughts or memories that actually serve to tear us down, keeping us in a place of bondage to a past…

Architect and Builder

1-2 If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks.
   If 
God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.
   It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone.  Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves? 
(Psalm 127:1-2)
It is a beautiful morning - rain gently falling outside, temperature a delightful 64 degrees, and coffee brewing in the pot!  When the weather turns like this in Arizona, we celebrate!  The break in the heat is cherished and the gentle rains are definitely a thing we are grateful for.
I am also so very grateful for the Word of God - it is also a gentle rain that faithfully brings refreshment to the dry and weary soul.  It is an instrument of celebration.  That is what the Psalms really are - tools of celebration, songs of praise, and words of worship.  Our writer today encourages us to keep in mind the extreme importance of allowing God to be the "builder" of o…

Grow on!

5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (1 Peter 1:5-9)
Warm friendliness and generous love are the last two character traits that Peter is telling us need to be a part of our daily walk in Christ.  In another translation, these are referred to as brotherly love and kindness.  We think of friendliness of the characteristics that mark a good friend - no hostility, inclined to be amicable.  Why is this an important thing t…

Practiced Obedience

5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
To our good character (moral choices), spiritual understanding (discernment), alert discipline (spiritual development), and passionate patience (endurance and stability), we are to add reverent wonder.  Reverent wonder really comes down to one key word: Obedience.  We are to incorporate into our live the moment-by-moment "habit" of obedience.  Obedience br…

Passionate Patience

5-9So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (2 Peter 1:5-9)
Passionate patience - seems like an oxymoron, right?  Patience suggests the ability to wait - how many of us actually wait with any kind of passion?  In fact, if we were to be totally honest, we'd probably say that we dislike waiting because it seems like such a waste of time!
The very first definition of patience has nothing to do with waiting.  In fact, it has …