Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wake Up To The Risk! 3 - 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. (v.10)

Sometimes we think about the risk involved in giving. If I give some of what I have, doesn't it stand to reason that I will have less? Isn't it possible that I can run out of what I'm giving away? If giving is losing then that would be true but when Christians give, they give out of a supply that God provides. Our giving is done with the element of faith which says, "I can't out-give God." And, it's true! God always has more for us to give. There are a few words in this text that really stand out. They are God's verbs, his action in our generosity; "supply," "multiply," and "increase." In other words, out of the resources that God has available to him, i.e. "EVERYTHING", he will supply what we give away, he will multiply what he gives us to give away in proportion to how much we freely release. Then, when we step back to look at the result, we see an increase in effectiveness because he stepped in to bless the giving from the very start. His work in us is so much better than when we try to go it alone, giving from what little we have rather than from the rich supply he gives us to give.
Lord, help me to realize that the supply you have for me to give is already in my possession. Give me the courage to give it and the faith to trust that you will delight in multiplying my capacity to give. Help me see how you are at work in my life to increase my effectiveness for your kingdom's work. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Wake Up In The Solitude! 6 - Luke 4:1-44

"And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.'" (v.42-43)

These words from today's text come right after Jesus taught and healed many on the busy day before. He got away to a quiet place the next day but not for long. People chase after Jesus as though they could posses Him and keep Him for themselves. Do we blame them? They had never before witnessed God's blessings so greatly. Yet, with His blessings, Jesus would also teach us his generous ways, that He belongs not only to us but to all. His kingdom knows no human boundaries. I think sometimes we forget that Jesus must be preached and His ministry extended EVERYWHERE! He's not just for our church gatherings and quiet personal devotion. We can't just keep Him here for ourselves.

Lord, for the sake of all people, fill me with a passion like you have, to spread the Word without limits. Amen.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wake Up To The Conversation! 3 - Psalm 34

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps

around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,

for those who fear him have no lack! (v. 6-9)

This poor man... I know that I can be guilty of self pity from time to time. "Poor me" echoes through my mind when I think about my trials. Then I often feel ashamed, knowing that so many others face things far worse than I do. Well, that's when the poor man needs to cry out. God will indeed save us from our troubles and give us a new perspective on our situation. It comes when we "fear" him, "take refuge in" him when we "taste" his goodness. I like to remind people that the fear of God has two ends of the spectrum. On one end is the fear that makes us tremble at His wrath and power, the fear of his righteousness in the face of our poverty. The "poor man" or the OLD mann as I like to say, is oriented toward fearing God this way. He knows what he deserves. But on the other side of fear is the amazement of something too wonderful to fathom. God, is his grace and love has brought his wrath down on the Sacrifice and extended forgiveness to the poor man and made him a NEU mann. The NEU mann is oriented toward a fear that hold out his hands to the extended arms of God. He is oriented toward a fear that worships the amazing God of Grace and Glory. So, do you want to see the "poor man?" Look in the mirror and realize that you can call out, you can fear God and lack nothing when he saves you.

Thank you lord for hearing my cry to you. Teach me to fear you in worship for you have made me NEU in Christ. Amen.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Wake Up To The Conversation! 2 - John 15:1-17

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you."
There are some very important words in these 3 little verses that need our attention today...
Jesus is the vine... He is the living God and our life as a Christian flows from him to and through us because we are branches.
The Father is the vinedresser... He is looking for fruit in the lives of all Christians.
In me... These verses talk about Christian people. The words, "in me" denote a relationship with Christ whereby life, his life, his righteousness, flow from him to his people.
The branch that does not bear fruit... This is not a dead branch, it is a living one. Remember the words "in me". Yes, Christians can have a living faith and go through periods of fruitless living. What does the vine dresser do?
He takes away... Here's where the most accurate translation is helpful. The Original Greek DOES NOT SAY "he cuts off". Here's an excerpt from Bruce Wilkinson's book, The Secretes of the Vine. Bruce was having coffee with a vineyard worker in California who explained it this way. "New branches have a natural tendency to trail down and grow along the ground. But they don't bear fruit down there. When branches grow along the ground, the leaves get coated in dust. When it rains they get muddy and mildewed. The branch becomes sick and useless." Bruce asked, "What do you do? Cut it off and throw it away?" "Oh no!" he exclaimed, "The branch is much too valuable for that. We go through the vineyard with a bucket of water looking for those branches. We lift them up and wash them off. Then we wrap them around the trellis or tie them up. Pretty soon they're thriving."
That's a great illustration to ponder. In our struggle to contend with the OLD mann, even the NEU mann will experience fruitless periods of time. That's when the world's dust and dirt needs to be washed so that the branch does not die.
Now, there's still some controversy around this interpretation. After all, the vinedresser is looking for fruit and there will come a judgement. James says, "Faith without works is dead!" Lying in the dirt of worldly living will eventually kill us. Dead, we would fall from the vine and from the life he wants to give us. When a Christian examines himself, as we do before communion and preferably every day, we confess our sins and repent. God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us. he "takes us away" from the dirty ground and lifts us up.
Branches that produce fruit are pruned... Our lives need the attention of the pruner's knife. It doesn't kill the branch to get rid of some of it's useless and weak parts, rather it allows more life from the vine to invigorate and produce more excellent fruit. Missionary and Martyr, Jim Elliot used to say, "he is no fool who loses what he can not keep to keep what he can not lose."
You are clean because of the Word... It is God's Word that made us clean through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need God's Word to daily keep us in a clean condition.
Lord, thank you for keeping me alive in Christ. Thank you for cleansing my in His blood and bringing forth fruit in my life. During those fruitless times I pray that you will forgive me and make me strong. Cut away, with your pruning knife, the OLD mann, so that the NEU mann is strong and bears much fruit. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Wake Up To The Conversation! 1 - Luke 11:1-13

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say..." (v1-2a)
What follows these verses is, of course, the Lord's Prayer. But the reason I want to focus on the verse and a half before it is that we see the disciples and Jesus in a very special moment together. The disciples want Jesus to teach them something that seems really basic. After all, by this point in their lives, a group of Jewish men should know "how" to pray. But there's really more to this. I think the disciples were looking to learn to be more intimate with God in prayer. I think that's what Jesus modeled for them. As parents, many of us made the pledge, at the Baptism of our children, that we would make them disciples of Jesus. We promised to teach them. I pray that all of us would take the opportunity to help our children take their prayer life to a more intimate place with God. I ask, are we modeling that for our children? Would they ask one day, "Dad/Mom, teach me how to pray like you do."
Lord Jesus, So that I may be ready for this task of teaching my children, teach me how to pray. Amen.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Wake Up to Wisdom! - Day 7 - Psalm 119:89-176

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path." (v. 105)
Well, how could I not pick this classic verse for my focus today? It's a short verse and a simple, short application for me today. If I'm living in a dark, uncertain world, why wouldn't I take the light I need? All kinds of dangers and traps abound. God's gracious Word exposes those traps. But not only does it illumine the dangers but also the path ahead.
Lord, lead me in the light of your Word, For Jesus' sake, Amen.