Friday, September 30, 2011

Sept 30 - Luke 3:49

He said to them,
"Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know that I must be
in my Father's house?"
Luke 3:49
According to the Gospel of Luke, do you know what Jesus' first words were?
As any mother can tell you, it wasn't mama. It was daddy.
I'm certainly sure that Jesus spoke before he was twelve, but according to the Gospel of Luke, the first words we're privileged to hear Jesus speak include the word, "Papa" -- "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house."
In the Gospels, Jesus refers to "my Father's house" four times.
  1. The first is in today's Gospel lesson, when he talks about the Temple in Jerusalem.
  2. The second time is in John 2:16 when Jesus upsets the moneychangers and points to the temple -- the house of prayer in Jerusalem -- saying, "Don't turn my Father's house into a marketplace!" 
  3. The fourth time is in John 14:2 when Jesus points to heaven as our eternal home, saying, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you."
  4. The final time is when the prodigal son says, "How many hired servants in my father's house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger!" (Luke 15:17).
The story of the prodigal is a little different. While Jesus is telling the story, it's not Jesus (directly) who's talking about his Father's house; it's the prodigal. It's essentially you and me. Through the parable, Jesus invites all of us prodigals to return to the house of the one, true, and forgiving Father.
God loves you, forgives you, and prays that you will always, constantly, and more frequently say, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
In Christ's Love,
a guy whose three favorite places
are home (home), home (church)
and home (heaven)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sept 29 - Matthew 1:4

and Aram [was] the father of Aminadab,
and Aminadab the father of Nahshon,
and Nahshon the father of Salmon
Matthew 1:4
I intentionally chose the most obscure of all the verses in the most obscure portion of the Gospels. Why? To make an important point.
You may have heard me tell the story of a missionary who was about to quit. The remote tribal people he was witnessing to just wouldn't believe. So he tried one last thing. He started reading them from the New Testament from Matthew 1:1,2,3 and 4.
In a culture where the most important person in town is the geneologist who keeps the history of the tribe alive, the people suddenly sat up and listened! They essentially said, "We couldn't believe in a superhero who walked on water and raised the dead, but this is a real person."
Here's the point ...
If you're ever like me, you're occasionally tempted to ignore certain parts of the Bible. They seem ancient. Cultural. Less relevant. Don't succomb to that temptation. Every word is there for a purpose. It is, indeed, the Word of God.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who was begat by Gary
who was begat by Almond

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sept 28 - Luke 1:76-77

And you, child, will be called
the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
Luke 1:76-77
At the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah said to his infant son, "You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways."
It should be noted that it wasn't just Zechariah who said this. He was "67 filled with the Holy Spirit and sp[eaking] this proph[etically]."
That was John's role. He did go before the Lord Jesus and prepare his way.
Have you ever stopped to think that this is your role too. You and I are to "go before the Lord to prepare his ways." It's not that God isn't always there before us. But in a darkened world, sometimes people need a visible witness. That's you and me. As the Apostle says in 1 Peter 3:15, we are constantly called "to give an account of the hope that is in [us]."
And what should our message be? It's the hope of heaven and the "knowledge of salvation."
And how does it come? "By the forgiveness of their sins." It's not cheap grace. It's the message John the Baptist himself proclaimed -- our repentance that leads to God's forgiveness.
In Christ's Love,
a guy whose called to walk into darkness
and be "a prophet of the most high" 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sept 27 -- Malachi 3:6-7

For I the Lord do not change ...
Ever since the days of your ancestors
you have turned aside from my statutes ...
Return to me, and I will return to you ...
Malachi 3:6-7
On the way out of church yesterday, someone came up to me excited. They were essentially saying that they'd returned to more regular devotions and were seeing God's fingerprints all over their lives.
They said, "Pastor, I remember you saying something about God saying 'draw close to me and I will draw close to you.'" I said, "Yes, that's James 4:8 -- 'Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.'"
"But it's something deeper," I said. "God never moves! It's just that when we draw near to him, we open our eyes (again) and see how close he's been all along!" Indeed, it's the old statement, "If you're feeling far from God ... guess who moved!"
Today's verses are at virtually the very end of the Old Testament. Just before talking about the coming of "4:5 the great and terrible day of the Lord," God-through-Malachi says, to paraphrase, "I, the Lord, don't change. I, the Lord, don't move. But you do! Y'all constantly turn aside. So move in a different direction. Return to me. And while I've never gone anywhere, you'll look up and notice me and feel like I've returned to you."
Oh ... and one last thing ... the final phrase in Malachi 3:6-7 is a good question that people ask all the time. God says, "But [in talking how to turn, return, and feel my presence] you say, "How shall we return?"
You ever asked that? Do you know how God answers? He talks about stewardship! He calls us to tithe. After pondering why we "8 rob God," he says, "10 Bring the full tithe into ... my house ... [and] see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing."
If you want to experience more of God, maybe you need to pray more ... maybe you need to study your Bible more ... maybe you need to ______ more (and you know what that is). Or maybe ... maybe you need to give more because there's nothing that says God I trust in you, like giving beyond our means ... and then turning around and learning that we can never out-give God.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants
his blessings to overflow

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sept 26 - Joel 2:1

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near
Joel 2:1

We're following along with Bible-in-a-Year. Yesterday, our theme was "Throw a Party!" Therefore, when I turned to Joel today, I was tempted to cite Joel 1:5, "Wake up you drunkards!"

But a good holy, God-honoring celebration is not the kind of drunkeness, sluggish, and fog that Joel (and so much of scripture) warn against!

For example, in Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells about a parable about "the land of a rich man [which] produced abundantly. ... [The rich man] thought to himself, '... I will pull down my barns and build larger ones ... And I will say to my soul ... 'relax, eat, drink, be merry.' ' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you.' "

Through scripture, our Lord keeps reminding us not to "get drunk on" nor "get consumed by" the things of this world. In Matthew 25:1-13, a group of partiers -- bridesmaids -- confronted a different kind of end to their life: the day of the Lord had come.

That is the message today from Joel: "The day of the Lord is coming. It is near!"

That's the message throughout scripture. John the Baptist called people away from the world and out into the wilderness. And while they were there, he invited them to "prepare a way for the Lord" and ready their hearts for the coming Messiah, by undergoing a baptism of repentence.

We too are invited pull away from the numbing influences of the world and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. It may be through the second coming. It's more likely to be a timely or untimely death. Either way, blow a trumpet -- in your heart or for the sake of others -- a prepare a way for the Lord.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who likes to quote a good friend,
"any day's a good day to go to heaven"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sept 25 - Nehemiah 12:27

at the dedication of the wall ...
they sought ... to celebrate the dedication
with thanksgivings and with singing
Nehemiah 12:27

At the end of the exile, Israel had finally rebuilt the city walls. As they paused to dedicate them, they celebrated with thankfulness and songs! 
Today's question is this: What have you recently built ... rebuilt ... restored ... or renewed? Have you properly celebrated?!
Celebration is the proper response to all blessing. For example ...
  • in Luke 15:8-10 who found a coin that was lost. What did she do in response? She threw a party, calling all her neighbors and saying, "Rejoice with me!" 
  • When the shepherd in Luke 15:1-7 restored the lost sheep to the flock, "he call[ed] together his friends ..., saying, 'Rejoice.'"
  • When the father of the prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) reunited with his lost son, he called for the fatted calf and threw a feast.
What have you recently built ... rebuilt ... restored ... found ... uncovered ... recovered ... discovered ... or renewed? Have you properly celebrated? Have you sung ... danced ... or thrown a party? Break out the BBQ and get out your dancing shoes, it's probably time for a celebration.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants an invitation!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 24 - Nehemiah 10:35

We obligate ourselves to bring
the first fruits of our soil and
the first fruits of all fruit of every tree,
year by year, to the house of the Lord
Nehemiah 10:35
Oath and obligation. Those were two key words as Israel returned from exile and renewed their covenant before God.
Listen to their oaths and obligations as they reconstituted their nation:
  1. They begin by promising not to separate themselves from foreigners -- and really the foreign religions (v 10:28).
  2. They promise that they will "29 enter into an oath to walk by God's law."
  3. They clarify what walking in God's law means: "29 observ[ing] and do[ing] all the commandments of the Lord our Lord."
  4. They promise not intermarry because that brings foreign influences and foreign religions into their homes (v 30).
  5. They pledge to trust in the Lord, even that might mean risking their livlihood! How do they do that? They acknowledge that the rest of the world may do business on the Sabbath, but even if it cost them in a worldly sense, they would "not buy from ... the peoples of the land ... on the Sabbath or on a holy day."
  6. They promised to re-institute God's plan of cancelling debts every few years (v 31) -- a plan that may appear to cost them, but would keep the nation from enslaving themselves with debt.
  7. And finally they promise that "39 we will not neglect the house of our God."
Money is the hardest part of our lives to trust God with. We say we "need" things, but things wither, rust, breakdown, and decay. What we really need is God. And giving says, "Lord, I trust in you more than I trust in money, earth, or things."
Therefore, their financial promises included bringing to God and his house ...
  • "35 the first fruits of every tree"
  • "36 the firstborn of our sons"
  • "36 the firstborn of our livestock"
  • and on top of that, "37 the tithes from our soil"
  • and on top of that, an additional financial gift -- "32 one third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God."
Which of these -- walking by God's law, not being swayed by the influences of the world around you, risking your livlihood to keep God's commands (including the Sabbath), and giving your first and best generously to the Lord -- is your biggest challenge?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's definitely challenged   

Friday, September 23, 2011

September 23 - Nehemiah 8:5

And Ezra opened the book
in the sight of all the people ...
and when he opened it,
all the people stood up.
Nehemiah 8:5
For years, the prophets warned Israel: "Follow God's Word. Follow God's commands. The alternative is destruction." Do you think the people listened?  No. So God -- as he warned -- took his hand of protection off. As promised, destruction came. Israel was overrun. Jerusalem was destroyed. And the Israelites became slaves and exiles.
But God did not forget his people! After a generation -- about forty fitful, fateful years -- God brought Israel home. Through Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the governor, the city walls were rebuilt and the holy city began to be restored.
As the project neared completion, Ezra stood before the re-formed people of Israel. He unraveled the scrolls -- the books of Moses, the Torah, the Law! And what did the people do? They stood up! Why? Such was their reverence for the word of God!
On that day, those standing people and that repentant nation was saying essentially, "We ignored the Lord, did it our way, and look what happened -- exile and destruction. So ... maybe ... maybe ... we should try it God's way!" With that reading of scripture, a golden age of Judaism began.
Our golden ages begin whenever stand before God and his word. Welcome back to daily devotions.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants tired legs
from standing too much!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Devo's are Back!!!

My "summer break" is over.
    My son is married.
        Fall programming has settled into a nice routine.
            And I hope you're as hungry for God's word as I am.
May God bless your journey!!!
In Christ's Love,
a guy whose journey is very blessed!