Committed 5

Faith isn’t easy – I wish I could say that it is.  Belief in God, commitment to following the ways of Christ is not simple.  It is challenging and brings with it some disputes that will likely arise between you and others.

Jesus was well aware of what problems true faith might bring.  What shocking declarations does Jesus make?  What is the conclusion in verse 38?

Such comments from Jesus himself can cause some discomfort and even discouragement in believers.  Jesus – the one who says to come to him when we are heavy-laden – has now said that his teachings are not going to bring about peace.  He has introduced a sword – conflict – to the lives of those who will be committed to him.  He even goes into detail claiming that members within a family will be at odds with one another, and that we should not love our parents as much as we love Jesus.

Although disturbing, there is naturally quite a bit of truth in all this.  And I also believe it may not be quite as literal as we may at first take it.

Should we love Jesus over everyone else, even our parents?  Of course.  We should love God over all things.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t love our parents or others in our family.

Jesus did bring peace to the world, in spite of what he says in verse 34.  We have peace in knowing that God loves us so much that Jesus was willing to die for us.  But our faith can also be a source of dispute.

If we will be truly committed to the Lord and our faith it will mean that we must put God and the good of His kingdom over everything and everyone else.  This may cause some clashes between you and loved ones.  Others may want you to have less faith and pay more attention to what is going on with them.  Some may criticize your faith and want you to be more like everyone else in the world.

We must be prepared for the occasional dispute and disconnect with loved ones.  If we will be completely committed to the Lord – which we are called to do – then there will likely be those times of conflict.  But this doesn’t mean we don’t love our family and friends.  It just means we love God more.

We must take up our cross and follow Jesus.  We must take up our faith in who Jesus was and still is.  We must take up our faith in the love of God and move forward in complete commitment to God in all we do.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How will you take up your cross?

This concludes the 10/2 Grow daily devotions for this spring.  We pray that all will have a safe and happy summer. – Roger and Peggy

Committed 4

An object at rest tends to stay at rest.  Someone in our church commented about people who simply stop attending church or avoid getting involved in church activities, that it may not be a conscious choice to step away, but rather is the tendency to do less and less because it is easier.

As graduates face a new phase of their lives, we all are faced with choices.  We can continue as we have been.  We can re-energize ourselves and try out new approaches and deeper faith.  Or we can fall into a sort of apathy and do less and less.

As each of us crosses the threshold of a new day we are faced with choices in our lives.  Some may choose to do those things that are of no benefit to themselves or others.  And they may claim that they have fallen to temptation.  They were drawn away from what is good and helpful.

But Paul makes an observation about temptation in his letter to the Corinthian church.  What does he say about temptation?  What does he say about God?

We all face temptations of one kind or another.  This is nothing new.  Everyone is tempted, and I believe the root of temptation and sin is selfishness.  That is what is common to man.  We all have a tendency to want to do whatever satisfies and pleases us.

But there is always a way out of any temptation.  God will not allow the temptation to be so strong that you cannot resist it.  How is this possible?  God is with you in all things and God is more powerful than all things.  Therefore, if God is with you and you rely on God you will have the strength to resist anything.

Although you may be starting a new stage in your life it is important for you to bring part of your old life with you.  As you encounter new ideas, as you explore your place in life and in the world bring with you the teachings you have received in the past.

As you face each new temptation, every lure that might draw you away from the faith and into a life of doing the wrong things, harmful things, bring with you the knowledge and conviction that you are loved by God and He is with you in all things.  Take with you the commitment of being in a relationship with the Lord.  He is with you to help you escape the temptations and lures of incorrect living.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What temptations are you facing now?  How can you overcome the temptations that you are facing?

Committed 3

About mid-way through my college education I moved out of my parents’ home and shared an apartment with two other guys.  We were young and rebellious and seeking our way in life.  One comment that sticks with me is something my roommate often asked – “Will people say we lived together for two years and came out with our heads together?”

At the time we were convinced that all of our conversations and ever-changing convictions would result in enlightenment.  We would emerge from this uncertain time as people who had a very clear picture of the meaning of life.

But ultimately I discovered that we were wandering around in the darkness of ignorance and selfishness and human gratification.  I did not come out of the experience with my “head together,” but was more confused than ever.

As I grew older and more experienced I returned to the foundation of my faith.  I returned to the things I had been taught in church.  And it was through examination and prayer and study that I found a strong connection to God which is now unshakable.  I have my “head together” now because of my strong faith in God.

Today’s passage is part of one of the letters intended to offer guidance to the young believer, Timothy.  What caution is offered?  What positive assurance is given?

We do not need to be young and inexperienced to be pulled away from our faith.  The world offers temptations and lures to young and old.  There are a wide variety of ways to look at the world and life, different views on who God is and whether or not He even exists.  Others provide suggestions on what is suitable for eating based on religious beliefs.

But what Timothy is told, and what we should also see, is that there are many who will abandon the beliefs in Jesus and pursue strange and convoluted ways of finding God and inner peace.  We should not be one of those who follow ridiculous teachings or superstitious practices.

We need to see that God has created all things to be good.  And if we can remain firm in our connection to the Lord, through prayer and study we can establish an unshakable faith in the one true God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What gives you confidence in the teachings of Jesus?

Committed 2

It can be both an exciting time and a frightening time when graduation rolls around.  It is exciting to know that a chapter of our life is ended and we are ready to embark on yet another new chapter.  But with that can come the uncertainty of what the future holds.  What will we do?  How will we do it?  Do we have what it takes?

The same is true of our faith life.  We can rest comfortably in the familiar beliefs we have always held.  We may even see our Christian faith as something safe and simple.  But that is not where we need to stay.  We need to move forward in faith, grow in our relationship with God and dare to do holy things.

The author of Hebrews offers some words of encouragement.  What confidence should we have?  Who guides us?

The message on Mother’s Day was about the roots of our faith and mention was made of all the people who have guided us in our beliefs.  So many people, our parents and other spiritual leaders from our youth, have helped to mold us into the faithful people we are now.  We are influenced by the faithful who surround us in our lives today.

Hebrews tells us to remember our leaders, those great saints of the faith who have paved the way of our connection to God, who set an example of love and good works in their lives.  We should consider the results of their lives, the confidence in God they held.  And we should learn to imitate their ways, to live as loving Christians in the same way they lived.

But more than relying on the examples set by faithful ancestors, we have confidence in our Lord.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He is the greatest leader we can have, the best example on how to live and love.  We must root our faith in the Lord.

And so, as we face the uncertainty of the future whether we are a graduate or simply moving ahead in our life, we must place our confidence in the teachings of Christ.  We must look to the exemplary lives of our religious leaders.  And from all of these we can gain the confidence and knowledge, the ability, to move ahead in our faith.  We can grow into new Christians with a new faith, a stronger faith, a deeper commitment to God.  We have been shown how to be better Christians, more confident believers.  We must live out our heritage.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What gives you the confidence to grow in your faith?

Committed 1

2 Peter 1:12-18

Did man really go to the moon?  There are many people who believe it is a big hoax.  That everyone involved in the space program, the media and the government were somehow convinced first to lie and then to maintain that lie for the rest of their lives.  But WHY? Watch the Mythbusters video clip above to see at least one bit of evidence busted.  

Today's reading is about the truth.   Peter is already referencing the rumors that everything about Jesus was made up.  But why?  What purpose does it serve to make up a story that puts you in the line of fire of the Romans and the Jews?  Who does it benefit to watch your friends and fellow believers martyred and tortured? 

And that is precisely what Peter is experiencing.  The other disciples (and very soon Peter himself) are dying just for sticking to their story. 

In today's world many people still claim that Jesus' ministry, death and resurrection was just an elaborate hoax.  That there is no basis in fact for anything that happened.  That the witnesses were either suffering from mass hysteria or that they were all in on the lie. 

But Peter reminds us that it wasn't something that they heard about or made up.  They were eyewitnesses to the whole thing.  They saw the majesty themselves.  They heard God's voice when Jesus ascended into heaven.  They saw him, touched him, ate with him, walked with him and it was real.

One thing that fascinates me about conspiracy theories is that EVERYONE has to keep the secret.  Not one person can ever back down or get scared.  And in all the years since the moon landings, no one has ever come forward and admitted the hoax.  As a matter of fact, when astronauts are asked about it, they get pretty hot under the collar.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Do you believe the story of Jesus?  Enough that you would stand by your story even in the face of sceptics?  Even in the face of danger?

Life on Fire 5

In his conversation with Jesus about being born again, reborn by the water and the Spirit, Nicodemus recognized that a person cannot enter the womb a second time.  What he failed to see is that we are not supposed to enter the womb a second time.  When we are born again we are not to return to the safety of our previous life.  We are to move forward, advance into a new life.

As we receive the Holy Spirit we are born anew, born into a new life and a new way of having faith.  This is not simply an exciting and emotionally charged moment that is meant to fade.  It is a beginning.

The writer of Hebrews speaks about what we are to do as believers when we are born anew with the Spirit.  What are all the things we should do?  What happens when we fail to do that?

Many of us I am certain have felt that mountaintop experience when we are filled with the joy and love of God.  We may have been in a moving church service, or we may have been part of a rewarding mission project.  We may have simply seen the awesome presence of God in a sunset.  The moment is exciting, thrilling, breath-taking.  But so often we “come down” from this emotional high and life returns to that normal, mundane pace.

An encounter with the Holy Spirit is more than just a momentary high.  It is a chance to become a different person and start living out our faith in new ways.  If we will accept the presence of the Spirit, make it part of who we are and be changed by it, then we will live out our faith.

If we claim to believe in God and yet we ignore the moving of the Holy Spirit, refuse to allow it to make us new, then we have little hope.  Instead of embracing the fire of passion for God we will be consumed by the fires of regret and a failed faith.

Living with a new faith perspective requires that we pay attention to how we can help and encourage others, how we can share God’s love.  It means abandoning the old way of living, of working to avoid sinning.  It also involves being intentional in our faith life, attending worship and other gatherings of Christian brothers and sisters so that we might be part of the body of Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How will you commit to meeting together with other Christians?  How will you spur others on to good deeds?

Life on Fire 4

In a recent meeting with other pastors we were taught that there are some things that cannot be brought back once they have passed.  Words spoken.  Time.  Opportunities.  When words are out of our mouth they are gone forever, unable to be brought back in.  When time has passed there is no way to get it back.  When opportunities come and we do not act on them they are lost.

The arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is recounted near the beginning of the Book of Acts.  From that point on we see the working of the early believers, the differences they made throughout the known world, the lives that were impacted.

Paul and Barnabas are traveling around the region sharing the good news of Jesus.  They have arrived in Pisidian Antioch, a city in what is now Turkey.  As they preach the Jews who have gathered are jealous that the message of salvation and God’s love is including the Gentiles – those outside the Jewish faith.  How do these two apostles respond?  Why do they preach to the Gentiles?  What was the response?

In his ministry Jesus declared that he was sent for the chosen people of God, the Jews.  But since so many failed to recognize his ministry and his authority he opened the message of salvation to the entire world.  Paul was one of the leaders in the early church who focused a great deal on the Gentiles.  He and Barnabas explained that the message was given to the Jews first, but since they rejected it the Gentiles were now invited to receive God’s salvation.

Like the wind that blows through the trees and over the fields, the Holy Spirit and the grace of God cannot be contained.  The Holy Spirit touches on the faithful and will remain with those who accept it.  But for those who ignore the Spirit they are passed over and the Holy Spirit moves on to others.

We can experience the presence of the Spirit time and time again in our lives.  The question is, will we accept it?  Will we allow the Spirit to change us?

If we do not, we do not stop the Spirit.  It moves on to others and we have missed that opportunity to live a life that is changed and on fire for God.  We must choose to receive the Spirit.  We must choose to be changed and made new.  We must choose to be on fire for God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you choose to receive the Spirit?  Are you willing to be changed?

Life on Fire 3

In the movie “The Weather Man,” the character played by Nicolas Cage is a television weather man who is often frustrated with his inability to be accurate in predicting the weather.  He is told several times that there is little he can do about it, and reminded that “It’s the wind.  It blows everywhere.”

As part of his encounter with the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus, Jesus explains about the working of the Holy Spirit.  What concept should not surprise Nicodemus?  What do we know about the wind?  How is this like the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is just as the wind we experience here on earth.  It is an invisible force, unpredictable and unable to be tamed.  We cannot know where the wind will blow or when.  We cannot know where the wind will go after it passes over us.

In the same way the Holy Spirit is part of the working of God, something we cannot comprehend because God’s wisdom and ways are far above our own.  We do not know where or when the Holy Spirit might move in our lives.  We must simply be prepared for its presence and be willing to be moved by it.

The early believers had no idea where or when the Spirit would descend upon them.  It came unexpectedly and in a powerful way.  As it filled each of them it changed them.  They went from being timid followers to empowered leaders.

But this was not the only time the Holy Spirit has ever been present.  The Holy Spirit can and does move in our lives today.  And just as a sailboat may have to adjust its sails so it might catch the wind and be propelled forward, we may need to adjust our hearts and souls to receive the Spirit.  When the Spirit enters in, surrounds us, fills us, we need to be willing to be changed people.  We need to be willing to move forward in boldness and certainty in our faith.

And we must move with the Spirit.  It may be for a brief moment, a short time of working in a powerful way for God.  Or it may be a long lasting effect, the Spirit making us completely new believers who have the Holy Spirit of God as that constant companion to be with us in all that we do.

If we love God and desire to serve His kingdom and share His love we must be willing to be those changed people and live a life on fire with the Spirit in all we do.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How far will you allow the Spirit to take you?

Life on Fire 2

The experience on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection is considered to be the birth of the Christian church that we are familiar with today.  The Holy Spirit descended on the gathering of believers and in that moment they were given power and authority and ability to preach the word of God to all the world.

In response to some skepticism in the crowd after hearing the believers speaking in various languages Peter explains the purpose of Christ’s ministry.  After Peter preached what was the reaction of the crowd?  What does Peter tell them to do?  What assurance does he give?  How far does this assurance go?

After the death and resurrection of Jesus the disciples were living in fear and avoiding contact with most of society.  But when the Spirit came upon them they were given a new boldness to speak about what they had witnessed.  Peter was able to stand in front of a large crowd and bear witness to the life and teaching of Jesus.  His preaching was so moving that the crowd was “cut to the heart.”  They knew they had to do something about their spiritual life.

Peter instructed them to repent of their sins, to be baptized in the new faith, and then they would also receive the Holy Spirit.  This invitation of the Spirit would not only change their lives and give them the promise of eternal life, but would also be something to change the lives of all the people they came in contact with.  Such is the power of God.

This promise is not limited to the disciples or the gathering of believers who first received the Spirit.  Neither is this promise limited to those who became followers of Jesus in those first years after the resurrection.  This promise of the Spirit, a presence that changes lives, that brings newness of faith, that brings a bold willingness to share the love of God, is meant for us too.

When we repent of our sins and we invite the Holy Spirit in we will begin living a life that is on fire for God.  We will be inspired – charged up – to spread the good news of salvation and the love of God with everyone we meet.  And in our sharing we will see others learn to invite the Spirit in to their lives and be changed.

We are called by God to be part of this fire of new life.  We are called to live a life on fire for the kingdom of God.  And we are called to share this fire with others,

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Are you ready to invite the Holy Spirit in to your heart?  Will you live a life on fire for God?

Life on Fire 1

Our worship services usually incorporate the use of candles as do most churches or places of worship.  These candles are not lit to bring light to the people who have gathered.  They are there to remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The flames we see on the candles are supposed to put us in mind of the Pentecost story – an event that happened on the fiftieth day after Passover (thus, “Pentecost”).  What was going on at first?  What happened?  How did the Holy Spirit appear?  What was the result?

Up until this moment we have been given the impression that the followers of Jesus have been fairly timid in their faith.  After the resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples twice as they hid behind locked doors.  In Acts 1:13 we see that they have gone to the upper room where they have been staying.

The Day of Pentecost begins with the believers being together in one place.  We have no other details but the implication is that these believers are again huddled in the upper room, a place of safety, a place removed from the world.  But the Holy Spirit invades this space.  There is a powerful wind.  There are flames.  And suddenly these timid believers are filled with the power of God and able to do incredible and miraculous work.

If we will move forward in our faith we must be different than these early believers.  Rather than hide our faith and ourselves from the trials and temptations of the world, we need to put ourselves in the path of the Spirit.  If we will be moved forward by God, pushed along by His mighty wind, we must put ourselves in the path of that wind and allow the Spirit to move us.

We may not see literal flames appearing above our heads, but when we allow the Holy Spirit to move within us we will feel the fire of God.  We will feel that burning desire to serve the Lord, that fire that lets us know we are not alone in our working.  We are full of the power of God.

We cannot spend our life of faith huddled together with other believers and think we are doing God’s will.  Neither can we remove ourselves from the body of believers and think we are doing God’s will.  We must position ourselves to be available to the Lord.  We must open our hearts and souls to allow the Spirit to enter in, to fill us, and to move us out into the world in life-changing work.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you prepare yourself to receive the Holy Spirit?

Rooted 5

As part of my position as a pastor I am asked to perform funeral services for people I have never met.  On such occasions I rely on the surviving family to provide me with details and insights of the loved one that I might offer an appropriate service.  I am also quite open with the family when I tell them that I base many of my comments on how they behave.

I point out that a person’s life and influence may be difficult to sum up and remember in times of grief.  I can determine what type of person the parent was by how the children are living.

Today’s passage consists of two verses which comment on a wife and mother.  It is a celebration of all the goodness that is found in the woman being described in the 17 verses that precede them.  If a woman were to live in such a way as described in Proverbs 31:10-27 then that woman will be praised by her family and spouse.  She will be called blessed and seen as the best woman ever.

This praise comes about when a person provides a good and nurturing environment for the family.  This is what is being described in the earlier verses.  She provides food and clothing for her family.  She helps in business transactions.  She has strength and dignity.  But she also “speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

As we celebrate mothers this weekend we must also celebrate all women and the contribution that they make in developing and guiding young people into holy living.  Whether a woman is a biological mother or not, all women (as are all men) are called to be a person who helps to provide the deep roots of faith in younger believers.  They are called to be clothed in dignity and strength.  They are called to speak with wisdom and provide faithful instruction.

Those who live a life of holy example and good spiritual instruction will be called blessed by all around them.  They will cause the young who grow up under their guidance to be a blessing to others.  They will plant the faith of others by the stream of grace that flows from God.  They will nurture deep roots of faith.

Their goodness and holy teaching will be evident to those around them.  And such goodness in faith will be lived out through those who are taught.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What blessings can you pass on to others?  What noble things are you called to do?

Rooted 4

People in business and in real estate will tell you that there are three keys for success – location, location, location.  The idea is that in order to succeed you must place yourself in a location where you might prosper.  This is true of real estate.  If you want to have a nice home you must find a place that is in a good location, a nice neighborhood.

If you want to have a successful business you have to choose a location that will facilitate growth and good business.  Where you are is an important determining factor on your ability to succeed or fail.

The same is true of our faith and our ability to grow strong spiritually.  The psalmist offers some guidance on how to be spiritually successful.  What should a blessed person avoid?  What should a blessed person seek out?  What comparison is made?

A great deal of our spiritual potential is determined on how we are raised up.  If parents desire their children to live a blessed life, to have a prosperous life, to grow strong in faith then they must provide an environment that helps this growth.  Parents should guard their children against the negative influences of society and the world.  Parents should be an example of holy living.

If any of us – whether biological parents, adoptive parents, or spiritual parents – want another to succeed in faith, to be blessed by the presence of God we must put them in a location where they might succeed.  That location is provided by us.

It is the responsibility of parents and the responsibility of all other believers to provide a spiritually nurturing environment for another person to grow in faith.  This applies to all believers who are part of the body of faith where young children are present.  We all must set the good examples of belief and kindness and love for these youngsters.

It also applies to those who are young in their spiritual walk.  We all should be that guidance, that nurturing presence which encourages strong and holy living.  We must guide the young – those who are children and those who are new to the faith – in walking in the ways of God.  We must guide them away from the influences of evil people, of the temptations to sin in the world.

When we provide a location that is holy and spiritually nurturing we are like gardeners planting trees near a stream.  The young among us are able to grow strong in faith and in a relationship with God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Examine the environment that you are providing.  Is it a place that helps others grow in faith?  Does it lead to a blessed life?  Are there improvements that should be made?

Rooted 3

We can tell from the conduct of people in this world that they do not have this guidance. But a sanctified child has access to the knowledge of what God expects, and from that he can make it his goal in life to act that way. He can set his will to do the right thing. He is sanctified, and divine guidance is what he gains from it. - John W. Ritenbaugh

Verse 14 seems at first like it is a great blessing to our children, and it is.  Our children are sanctified through our belief.  In plain English... our children are good in God's eyes because we believe in Him.  (And note that there is no age limit on this... I believe it carries into adulthood as well.)

But it is not only a blessing.  It is also a responsibility.  For those who have been taught by a Godly parent (or grandparent) we are given the task of living our lives the right way.  There are  expectations now.  

Recently my daughter and I were discussing a fellow student who is just 16 and smokes and lives in a way that really upsets Bren.  I asked her what kind of family this child must have grown up in to have that behavior tolerated and encouraged.  I doubt that this young man has been given much Godly guidance in his short life.    And not that he can't reach out to God and commit his life.  But without those around him encouraging him and guiding him, it will be much more difficult. 

So remember that although it's not your parents that get you into Heaven (or send you to Hell) a Godly parent is enough to sanctify you, making you aware of God's blessings and laws... and making you responsible for living your life in a Godly fashion.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Think today about the rules and blessings you parents gave you as you grew up.  If you had a Godly parent, how do you think your life would have been different without their guidance.  And if you didn't have a Godly parent, how do you think your life would have been different? 

Rooted 2

I apologize for a longer reading today.  But this is a story that I want to make sure is shared this week as we lead up to Mother's Day.  I have never struggled with infertility.  But over the years I have had many dear friends who have.  I know that this week is a very difficult one for them because of their desire to have children.  And I want to make sure we all read this story and remember Hannah and her amazing prayers.

Peninnah is not a character we hear alot about in the Bible.  But she was also married to Hannah's husband Elkanah and each year when they would go to the temple for a sacrifice, Peninnah would flaunt her many children to Hannah.  This section breaks my heart:

  ...her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.

I remember a time when my children were very young, when a friend of mine didn't want to be around me anymore.  We had been friends for years, but she withdrew because seeing other women pregnant and giving birth was just too much for her to bear.  I felt so awful, but there was nothing I could do about the situation.  I wasn't provoking her like Peninnah, but as time went on being around babies was upsetting to her.  

Hannah goes to the temple and prays so fervently that the priest believes she is drunk.  She begs God for a child.   She even promises to give him back to God (and she does).  God grants her prayers.

But the purpose of sharing this passage today isn't to tell our sisters struggling with infertility to just pray and believe and God will give them a child.  But rather to remind us to never be Peninnah to the Hannahs in our lives.  Be sensitive this week to those who want to be mothers so much that they prostrate themselves before God and pray to the point that others think they are drunk or obsessed or foolish.  Bless them and encourage them.  Pray for them and love them.  Let these beautiful women know that no matter what, God is with them on their journey and so are we. 

DAILY CHALLENGE:   Ask God to show you where those around you are hurting and could use some encouragement this Mother's Day. 

Rooted 1

Let God uphold you in His hands.

I have never met anyone who doesn't worry about their children.  When they are little we worry about their every little need.  Our lives as parents are consumed with the tedium of bottles and diapers and naps and pacifiers and the dangers from choking and poisoning and all sorts of treacherous things that can happen to them.  When they go off to school we worry about them fitting in, doing well, having friends and all of those things.   

My children are now beyond those stages and I feel like the real worrying is just beginning.  Will they pick the right spouse?  Will they find a job?  Will they ever move out?  (just kidding!)  (not really)

But today's reading reminds us that God has our children in His hands.  It doesn't matter whether they are infants or grandparents themselves -- when they do what God commands He holds them.  The Hebrew word used in verse 24 for "uphold" means to rest or lean against.  Like when you are exhausted and you lean against a wall.   You know it's going to support you.  

And in verse 26 it says that their children will be a blessing.  But it means more than "their children will bless them."  It really means that their children's names will literally become a blessing.   When people talk about them, they will be blessed just by hearing the names.  

What a great thing for a parent to want for their children!  I want my kids to be blessings to others.  I want them to be so generous and loving and Godly that other parents say "Why can't you be more like him?"  (Oh, what a curse to put on my children from the world's point of view!)

Mother's Day is this Sunday.  DON'T FORGET!   It is through our parents and grandparents that we develop who we are.  It is through them that we learn to be generous and just and good.*  But it is in God's hands that we all rest.  He is the one who upholds us and He is the one who lifts us when we stumble.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Thank God for your parents.  Be a blessing to them, even if they are no longer in this world.  How can you let God uphold you this week.

*Even if you weren't blessed with Godly parents (and believe me it is a blessing) you learned these things.   Maybe it was even an "opposite" lesson of how you never want to be... but remember that God is our father and mother and loves us as His children.  So hang in there for this week of Mother's Day and be a great mother yourself or give yourself to a child who desperately needs Godly guidance.

Open Door 5

The other night one of the news channels aired video clips from the Rodney King beating, and the riots and civil unrest that followed.  It was a troubling time in our nation’s history.  The one thing that most people probably remember is the statement Rodney King made in an attempt to stem the violence.  He is famous for the plea, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Such a question might come up time and time again in any person’s life.  If there is more than one person in a single place there is likely to be some disagreement, some conflict that might arise.  But we as believers would like that everyone could just get along.

In the gospel of John we have a command from Jesus.  What is the command?  How are we to love one another?  What does such love show?

As children of God and believers in Jesus Christ not only should we desire that everyone gets along, we are commanded by Jesus himself that we should love one another.  And that is not a light command, not a simple request for affection.

Jesus tells us that we should love one another in the same way as he loves us.  Such a love is a powerful love.  The love of Christ is a sacrificial love, a giving love.  The love of Christ is an all-encompassing love.

Jesus was able to love all people.  He loves each of us even though we are sinful and not deserving of love.  He loved his enemies.  He loved the outcasts, the neglected, the unwanted, the unacceptable.

If we are to love others with the same love of Christ then we must learn to love all people regardless of our differences.  We must learn to overlook the failings of others – we don’t need to tolerate and accept wrong behavior, we just can’t allow it to be that barrier that prevents us from caring for others.  We must learn to accept those who are different than we are.

This means that we must open the doors of our places of worship to those who have no idea how to relate to God.  We must be willing to befriend those who society has cast aside, or who have removed themselves from mainstream society because they don’t feel worthy.

And more than opening the doors of our churches, we must open our hearts to truly and genuinely care for the new believer and the lost.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you learn to love the unloved?

Open Door 4

We were recently invited to a church member’s home for a dinner, their Easter celebration a week after Easter.  What a wonderful feeling it was to be asked to be part of this big meal, this gathering of so many people.  And what made it even better was that we were told not to bring anything.  We did not need to contribute to the selection of food.  We were just to be welcome guests at the banquet.

This was a great gift to us.  We did not have the opportunity to visit our own family on the holiday so we became part of a different family.  God offers a similar invitation in His revelation to John of Patmos.  What is God doing?  What does He offer?

In this passage we have a gift from God.  He offers the spring of life to whoever is thirsty.  That is, whoever desires to have a relationship with God, whoever desires to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord is welcome to drink from the abundant grace of God.  God welcomes all into His kingdom of love and mercy.

In addition to this the Almighty offers an inheritance of being part of the family of God.  Whoever overcomes, whoever is able to hold onto faith through the challenges and temptations of life will be made heirs of God’s kingdom.  They will no longer be separated from God but will become one of His blessed children.

What strikes me most, however, is that this passage begins with a declaration from the Lord.  “I am making everything new!”

What is it that God is making new?  He is making each one of us new.  We shed the old ways of living.  We shed our old fears.  We shed our despair, and in its place we become blessed children of God, saved by Christ and welcomed into the eternal kingdom.

But I believe God is also making the whole situation of humanity new.  No longer are there a select few who are chosen by God.  His grace and mercy are extended to all people, all who are willing and who desire to connect with the Lord and accept Christ.

And in that we have a lesson for ourselves.  We need to make all things new.  We need to have a new way of looking at other people.  Instead of seeing some as unworthy to worship with us we must see that all are welcome in God’s house.  Instead of seeing some as people we want to avoid we must see them as friends we have not yet met.

Not only are we all made new through Christ, but our attitudes must be made new too.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What can help you get past your old attitudes?

Open Door 3

As part of our weekly worship service we sing the “Doxology.”  By strict definition a doxology is a song of praise, but this particular song is linked with the presentation of our gifts and offerings.  The words of the Doxology urge the praise of God and include the words, “praise Him all creatures here below.”

I don’t think we always examine the words we are singing each work.  The song encourages all of us, the people of the church, to praise God.  But the song also says that all creatures, all living things on earth should offer praise to God.

It may seem odd to us to imagine animals giving praise to God.  We may have trouble thinking about a bird’s chirp as a song of praise.  We may not be able to see the mooing of a cow as praise.

Psalm 148 is an offering of praise to God.  Who or what are the creatures that should praise God?  According to verse 13, why should all things praise God?

The buzz of a bee, the clatter of damaging hail, the wind that strips the shingles from our rooftops may not seem like praise to us.  These things may seem like negative things.  And we still may have problems seeing the barking of a dog as praise, especially when it keeps us awake at night.

But the psalmist realizes that all things – kings and rulers, young and old, animals and even the oceans – should offer praise to God.  Not only should all things offer praise, but I believe this psalm also recognizes that all things do offer praise.  The fact that the earth is so diverse, with so many different animals, each beautiful in its own way is a form of praise.  The incredible magnitude of God’s creation – the mountains, the oceans, the winds and rain – are all testimonies to the greatness of God.

But we must also see that all people are a form of praise to God.  The diverse and wonderful people that exist on earth have all been created by God and are loved by God.  We must open the door of our faith and the door of our heart to welcome all these people, those we do not know yet, into the glorious love of God.

God should be exalted over all the earth because His splendor is above all things.  We must open our eyes to see the beauty of all that exists and welcome all people as part of our praise to God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Who can you see differently through the eyes of faith?

Open Door 2

When I was a child I went with my grandparents now and then as they stayed at a house they rented at Grand Lake St. Mary near the town of Celina.  My grandmother would talk about going into town but she was so vague about it, making it sound like a place that was very far away and hard to reach.  As an adult I went back to the place and found the house where my grandparents had stayed.  It was then that I discovered that this mysterious town from my childhood was just about a quarter mile from where we were.

Criticized for his involvement with a Gentile, Peter has explained the vision that God gave him about being more welcoming to those who were not Jewish.  What did Peter learn from the men who had been sent from Cornelius?  What happened when Peter was with Cornelius and his family?  What realization did Peter have?

As a child my experience and thinking was limited.  Unable to actually see the town of Celina I imagined it to be this far distant place that I could never visit.  As an adult I was able to go where I wanted and that was when I learned how close the town was.

Peter had the same limited thinking.  His vision of faith was that God loved only the Jews and Jesus had come only for them.  But God opened his eyes.  God gave maturity to his faith.  In his experience with Cornelius and his family Peter was able to see that God was at work in people Peter did not know.

Even as a Gentile, as an outsider, Cornelius was a believer.  He did what he could to honor God and he was generous in his giving.  God spoke to Cornelius and had him find Peter so his faith might be strengthened.

As Peter preached to this family he saw the Holy Spirit at work.  God blessed this family and in that moment Peter was reminded that Jesus had spoken of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Peter was seeing this come to fruition.  He realized that God works in all sorts of people and we are not to have limited vision in our beliefs.

We also can begin to think that our small circle of friends and fellow believers – even the mega-church of thousands – are the only ones who really know that relationship with God.  We must learn that we should be open to the work of God.  The Lord is moving in the lives of all sorts of people and we must be open to welcoming them into the kingdom of God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What must you do to expand your thinking in faith?