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Showing posts from September, 2011

Branching Out

4"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me. (John 15:4)
I have this little vine that has been attempting to grow for about two years now.  Each spring, it sends out a little shoot, but before it can develop all that much, the hot suns of Arizona beat upon its fragile leaves and it withers.  After a particularly hot summer, it has only about 5 leaves at the very base of it.  I will cut is down, trimming away the dead shoots, and see if it has a chance to come back this fall, but I am not holding out much hope.
Jesus reminds us that we have to be connected to the vine if we are to bear any fruit.  Those shoots that I will trim away this weekend are indeed still connected to the vine, but they are definitely dead.  They were affected by their environment more than they were affected by the vine they were rooted to!  Some…

Ummm...can you say "depressed"?

11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?
   Fix my eyes on God—soon I'll be praising again.
   He puts a smile on my face.  He's my God. (Psalm 42:11)
There are a variety of psalms written by David that carry almost the same theme of desperation - intense desire to see God intervene in his life, some tragedy making his life almost unbearable, some sin keeping him out of fellowship with his creator.  This one has some "meat" to it that I'd like to explore this morning. David is lamenting over his circumstances - over his downtrodden disposition.  In other words, he is pretty well down-in-the-mouth - depressed beyond measure.  He is mourning over something or someone - the impression is that he has lost out on something in his life and he is in a deep, deep depression as a result.
He begins with the idea of being thirsty.  He desires to drink God in afresh.  Have you ever been so thirsty that you just guzzle down the fluids?  In Arizo…

A consuming fire!

What does straw have in common with wheat?
   Nothing else is like God's Decree.
Isn't my Message like fire?" God's Decree.
   "Isn't it like a sledgehammer busting a rock? (Jeremiah 23:29)
To a farmer, a crop of straw has little value compared to wheat.  Each has its purpose, but what is yielded in the return of the seed planted is much greater to the farmer with wheat than it is with straw.  If all the farmer is doing is raising a bunch of cattle, the straw might have a purpose - but it still has a very limited purpose.  God's word is as different from the words of others as wheat is from straw.  There is something infinitely more valuable in his word than that of man, no matter what authority that man may claim to have.
Israel finds themselves in a position of having drifted from what God had intended for them as a nation - they were in a position of seeking visions and messages from their prophets.  Yet, these visions and messages were just that - vision…

The Shepherd's Voice

1-5 "Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he's up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won't follow a stranger's voice but will scatter because they aren't used to the sound of it." (John 10:1-5)
We don't see too many sheep around my neck of the woods, but whenever I see them in the fields, grazing just prior to "lambing" season, I love to stop for a few minutes to watch them.  The ranchers have a few fields they bring them to just at that time, and those fields are usually rich with some type of crop that has been recently harvested.  The sheep appear to be eating the remaining &…

Give me space!

I run for dear life to God, I'll never live to regret it.  Do what you do so well:
      get me out of this mess and up on my feet. Put your ear to the ground and listen, give me space for salvation.  Be a guest room where I can retreat;
      you said your door was always open! You're my salvation—my vast, granite fortress.  (Psalm 71:1-3)
One of the things that I find amazing in scripture is just how many times we have the idea of "running to", "seeking", "hiding within", etc., as we examine the various responses we have toward the safety of God.  We run to him - hoping to find the answers we need.  We seek him out - because we cannot possibly find any other source like him.  We hide within the shelter of his wing - knowing that our enemies cannot possibly overtake us when we are that close to his heart.  Our psalmist reminds us that we will never live to regret these steps we take toward God!
Well, the simple truth is that we often run to God, see…

Bullies Beware!

3 Go ahead, examine me from inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night— You'll find I'm just what I say I am. My words don't run loose. 4-5 I'm not trying to get my way in the world's way. I'm trying to get your way, your Word's way. I'm staying on your trail; I'm putting one foot in front of the other. I'm not giving up.  (Psalm 17:3-5)
There is a national summit coming up about the effects of "bullying" in our schools today.  The issue has risen to the level that our government is actually stepping in to created "anti-bullying" laws and to present information that will help both parents and educators identify the "signs" that kids are being "bullied".  Isn't that a sad state of affairs for a nation to find itself in?  The need for a summit to address the effects of bullying!  David is facing some "bullies" in his life when he pens these words.  In fact, verse 7 says, "I am runnin…

Our two measures

13-16 Don't carry around with you two weights, one heavy and the other light, and don't keep two measures at hand, one large and the other small. Use only one weight, a true and honest weight, and one measure, a true and honest measure, so that you will live a long time on the land that God, your God, is giving you. Dishonest weights and measures are an abomination to God... (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)
In the times that these words were penned, the trade of goods meant that there was a "measuring" of what was traded against a "known" weight.  In other words, if we wanted a pound of flour, we weighed it on a scale with a "known" one pound weight on the other side of the scale.  When they were balanced, we knew that we got exactly what we asked for - one pound of flour!  The caution given in this passage is that of having "two measures" - one allowing us to be honest, the other allowing us to be dishonest.  The idea is that of credibility!
When we…

Evidence of what is in the package

9-11 Word got out among the Jews that he was back in town. The people came to take a look, not only at Jesus but also at Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead. So the high priests plotted to kill Lazarus because so many of the Jews were going over and believing in Jesus on account of him. (John 12:9-11)
Lazarus became a living testimony of the power and deliverance of God when his life was raised.  He became a "threat" to religion the day he was raised!  The Jewish high priests are actually resisting his testimony because it was causing people to leave the "comfort" of religion to experience the dynamic of relationship.  The fact of the matter is that God uses people to do the work of bearing testimony to his deliverance!
We are never a threat to "religion" when we are just living in the status quo.  As soon as we "cross the line" into a real and vital relationship with Jesus, guess what....we become a "threat".  For the sake of clar…

I don't like to wait!

5-7Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two more days. After the two days, he said to his disciples, "Let's go back to Judea." (John 11:5-7)
These verses are taken from the story of the healing of Lazarus, a good friend of Jesus.  Lazarus is quite ill, near death, and his two sisters (Mary & Martha) send word to Jesus and his disciples.  Their intent would be that Jesus would come at their request and that he would intervene to heal their brother.  Their brother was not only their "kin", but in the economy of the time of this writing, he was their provider.  The single women were under the care of their male living relatives (father, brother, uncle, etc.).  If he passed away, it was a huge change in the lives of these two women.  Yet, their plea for his healing is likely motivated by their intense love for their brother.
What stands out is the delay we see in Jesus' res…

I ain't no quitter!!!

11-12 Now God, don't hold out on me, don't hold back your passion.  Your love and truth are all that keeps me together.  When troubles ganged up on me, a mob of sins past counting, I was so swamped by guilt I couldn't see my way clear.  More guilt in my heart than hair on my head, so heavy the guilt that my heart gave out.  (Psalm 40:11-12)
David starts this psalm with the words, "I waited, and waited, and waited for God..."  Have you ever been in the position of just waiting, and waiting, and waiting - all the while growing more fearful and frustrated that nothing is happening?  If you have walked with Christ for more than an hour, I think it is safe to assume that you might have experienced this kind of agony in waiting!  We don't understand the delays and we don't remember the next time how long of a wait it was the last time!
David's next thoughts are, "At last he looked; finally he listened."  That is often how we think about God when the …

Halted by our Guard

7-8God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life.
   He guards you when you leave and when you return,
      he guards you now, he guards you always. (Psalm 121:7-8)
When I was in the military, I had the unfortunate lot of pulling "guard duty" on a few select occasions.  The thing that struck me most was that I was guarding "stuff" that I had no clue that anybody would want!  Sometimes I'd be assigned to the motor pool - now, I ask you, who wants an olive drab sedan?  At others, I'd walk the perimeter of the base, looking for intruders.  Ummm....now, ask me if I EVER saw any?  Nope!  So, what was the purpose?  Simply because you never know when the enemy will attack, or at what location.  So you "prepare" for the worst!
Our passage today is taken from a psalm that celebrates God's watchfulness over his children.  The writer begins with the question, "Where does my help come from?"  David knew that his "help" came fr…

Don't quit on me now!

4-6 When they hear what you have to say, God, all earth's kings will say "Thank you."  They'll sing of what you've done: "How great the glory of God!"  And here's why: God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us. 7-8 When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, with your other hand save me.  Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don't quit on me now. (Psalm 138:4-8)
David had a special way of telling us about how God interacts with is children.  This psalm is just another example of what David had come to know about the Lord he served.  Imagine all kinds of this earth proclaiming that God is great and that his glory is high above all other!  David must have been speaking prophetically here, because we sure have not seen the day where we can say that the kings are giving glory to God like that!
The crux of this psalm is really fou…