Saturday, September 29, 2012

40 Days in the Word

For the next Forty Days, Lake Murray Presbyterian (our church) will be taking part in a study/project called "40 Days in the Word" (written by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church).

It is almost forty days until the Presidential election- not a bad time to look to God.

There will be daily devotions, so we will not have competing daily devotions.

TEXT: to313131 (to receive a devotional on your phone)

or go to and sign in.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

9/15/12- Paul's conversion

 3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 5 He asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9) 

(Paul's conversion- Caravaggio 1600)

4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.  6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.  ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.  10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.  (Acts 22)

12 "With this in mind, I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. 14 When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.' 15 I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' The Lord answered, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. 17 I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles — to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' (Acts 26)

Thoughts: Paul's conversion story is recorded three times in Acts and referred to in 1 Cor. 15 and Galatians 1.  There are those who nitpick at the stories pointing out subtle, pointless differences.  None of these differences are significant.  We need to be reminded that the author of Acts wrote down all three accounts.  

9/16/12- Forgiving our debt

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Karl Menninger, famous psychiatrist and owner of the Menninger clinics said that 75% of his patients could leave his hospitals if they could believe that they were forgiven.   We all mess up- and therefore we alll stand in need of what we will study tomorrow: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."   Trying to pretend we are forgiven when we have not come to God asking is like trying to smile to someone on shore while holding two big beach balls under the water-- it takes so much energy and we need to let them go.  In fact, being forgiven of our debt is letting our past sins go and moving on.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to forgive others, and by doing so know I am also forgiven by you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

9-13-12 Paul the non-mysoginist

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Thoughts: I have heard many say that they refuse to read Paul's writings because of his attitude toward women.  Paul may not have  been a politically correct person of the 21st century, but if we refuse to try to compare him to people of our day, and compare him to the colleagues of his day, Paul shines brightly as a champion for women.  While he did speak out about women who talked in the middle of church, he did two hugely important things for women. 
    First he equated women with men in Galatians 3:28.  This was not done in Paul's day or culture.  Before Christ, women and men as well as slave and free are equal.  There is no distinction.  For women who had been second-class citizens, the idea of being one with men was refreshing. 
    But even more relevant, Paul, more than any other, replaced circumcision with baptism.  Circumcision was the sign of conversion to God for males, but not females.  Baptism is a sign of conversion for Christians now- and also like circumcision a symbol of belonging to God and washing away our reproach to Him.  Baptism was a single act that united men and women- there is now one Lord, one faith, and one baptism that unites us all.  The unbaptized and those who are focused only on our day do not realize what a revolution that was.  Paul baptized the first European convert, Lydia, in the river outside Philippi.  He did not wait for a man.  He commended Phoebe the deaconess.  He commended Junia as chief among the apostles (Rom. 16:7).  
     Paul has a freeing message for all people.  He did not come to just set women free or slaves free.  He came to set whosoever will come to Christ in humility and follow Him as Savior and Lord.
     Too many are quick today to call other people "haters."  We should be careful and listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. 

Prayer:  Help me to love and invite all people to you, O Lord.  There is not a soul who does not need you, including me, Lord. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/12/12- Debt to Be Forgiven

Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive our Debtors.

13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)

47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:47-49) 

Thoughts: We do not forgive simply because we ought to forgive.  We forgive because we have been forgiven.  The Christian basic message is that God came down to forgive us- not because we deserve it- but out of His sheer grace.  The one forgiven little loves little, but the one who is forgiven much loves much.  Some of the greatest saints have been the worst sinners- like Paul who took part in the murder of Stephen and persecuted the Christians; or Augustine who lived an immoral life style; or a Chuck Swindoll who became Born Again after his pride fell in Watergate.  When we have experienced forgiveness, then we know we are forgiven. 

Prayer: Help me to know of my forgiveness that I might spread the hope of forgiveness. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11/12 Forgiving Trespasses

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

Thoughts: So what are we called to forgive- our sins, our debts, our trespasses?  All of the above may be the best answer.  The point is that we mess up, and need to be straightened out.  The person who thinks they do not mess up- that they do not interfere or trespass on another's property or have accrued a debt that they cannot repay then they have a blind pride problem.  We have a need to get rid of our sin.  It is not erased by drugs, by numbing the symptoms, or by pretending it is not there.  Our debt is built up not simply against another human being- or against humanity- or against the nature of but against God.  To be pardoned is to be set free from the jail of guilt and to be set free to be the kind of person we were designed by God to be and not be weighed down by our past mistakes.
    On 911 one has to ask what role does forgiveness play?  There are those who say that it has no role because the wound is still fresh and some are still trying to hurt us.  Yet, perhaps we can learn a lesson from two things: 1) Northern Ireland and Palestine where there seem to be multi-generational animosity and the teaching of the holding of grudges.  When there has been peace, there has been a huge push to forgive.  2) From American History: notably Pearl Harbor, Germany, and the Civil War.  After World War II ended the United States played a sacrificial role in restoring the industry in western Germany and Japan as well as Europe (MacArthur in Japan and Marshall plan in Europe) and the world today is better off for it.   I can remember in 1980 having a Japanese exchange student over to our house and a World War II vet in our church refusing to speak to him because of the animosity he was taught in the war.  Yet in the end, there was a breakthrough where he told him he forgave him/them.  It was a breakthrough that took a huge burden off of the veteran.  After the Civil War Lincoln gave his second Inaugural Address to soldiers who had lost limbs and to many who had lost fortune, friends, and sons in the war.  Many were out for revenge against the South.  But Lincoln's speech was one of forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation.  He said,  "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."  As someone who grew up in the South, I know there are many who are still mentally fighting the civil war by prejudice against African Americans or whites and by prejudice against northerners or southerners.  Grace and forgiveness is a better, healthier way.  Martin Luther King also rightly called not just for civil rights, but for forgiveness and reconciliation in his "I Have a Dream" speech.  Forgiveness plays even a corporate role among the nations.  It is a hard thing to turn the other cheek when the first cheek is still smarting.  But to not do so means to perpetually continue the conflict which means more than another cheek will hurt in the end. 

Prayer:  Give me grace, Lord to be a forgiving person and not one who purposefully holds grudges against others.  

WSC (Sloan 2012) Q. 105 What do we pray for in the fifth request of the Lord's Prayer?
A. In the fifth request which is "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors", we pray that God (for Christ's sake) would freely pardon all our sins, which makes it possible for us to forgive others.

WSC (1981 modern translation) Q. 104. For what do we pray in the fourth request?
A. In the fourth request (Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), encouraged by
God’s grace, which makes it possible for us sincerely to forgive others, we pray that for Christ’s sake
God would freely pardon all our sins.

(WSC 1647 )A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray
that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather
encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.

Friday, September 7, 2012

9/8/12- Jesus Knew About Bread's Importance

Give Us This Day our Daily Bread...

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4). 

Thoughts: Jesus knew the importance of bread.  This should not be overlooked, for to some God is so distant and transcendent that God cannot possibly care, sympathize or begin to understand the pains of hunger and the worries that accompany staying alive.  Before He ever began His ministry, Jesus fasted to the edge of starvation.  It was in His deep need that the devil came to Jesus and asked Him to abuse His power for His own benefit and worldly gain.  Jesus resisted simply becoming the goose that lays the golden egg (as he did when some of the 5,000 he fed wanted to make him King in order that they might have regular food).  Instead Jesus said that His bread is to do God's will- and listen to the words from God's mouth (cf. Jn. 4:34).  The hungry Jesus understands when we are hungry and in need.  The only miracle recorded in all four gospels is the feeding of the 5,000.  It shows Jesus' caring for the physical needs of those who came to hear and follow Him.  So Jesus asked His disciples to pray for daily bread in part because He knew of their hunger needs, and He wanted them to acknowledge the One who provides for us.  

Prayer: Lord you understand the fear of physical hunger and were tempted to worry about sustenance.  Help me to trust as you did, and have peace in your provision. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

9/7/12- God Given Talent

Give Us this day our daily Bread...

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa moderating DNC yesterday

Thoughts: The Democratic Platform had a debate yesterday that all humans need to have while they live.  The debate is: does God give us our abilities or not?  The Democratic National Platform had perhaps overlooked God in their language, and so some wanted to add "God" back in, but others did not.  If you heard the voice vote on the floor it was close (  Thankfully the moderator ruled that God should be added back in.  The vote was to add the words "God-given talent" back into the platform.  Is our talent God-given or not?  Is our daily bread a gift from God or not?  This, in the end, is a matter of faith.  Some think that all we have is from government, some think that all we have is from ourselves.  But the wise see more behind the scenes- the genes we have and the environment we have effecting what we have.  But if we go back even farther, we might see that we are not in charge of the genes we have or the environment we have- and both genes and environment are not cosmic accidents but were created by God.  If we believe we God is loving creator, then we ought to believe God did not just create the universe and run away- but He cares and even directs creation.
So a prayer for daily bread is not just a wish for something already accomplished in the past, but something that is accomplished anew every day.  God is not just the Creator but also the Sustainer.  All that we have- each day- is a gift from Him.

Prayer: It is not how much I have that makes me thank you, Lord.  It is that I am grateful to you that elicits thanksgiving and praise back to you.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

9/6/12- Praying for Bread

Give us this day our daily bread.

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14). 

27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.  35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:27, 35)

Thoughts: Abraham went up Mt. Moriah not knowing what would happen to His son, but trusting that God would make a way- and provide for him.  Abraham called Mt. Moriah- which is the top of Mt. Zion in Jerusalem- which became the place where the Temple is located- "The Lord will provide: (Jehovah Jireh).  The Temple was the place where sacrifices were made to atone for sin and guilt and provide fellowship with God.  The Temple is also where Jesus often taught- providing a way of life for us. On the top of Mt. Moriah you can see the place where Jesus died- the ultimate provision.  The best provision is the bread of life.  Jesus said to work not just for the food that disappears, but for the eternal food the bread of life.
    So many focus on this economy as the solution to all our problems.  But the real deep problem of life will not be solved by more money.  The greatest problem is the problem of the soul. So to pray for daily bread- we need to pray for more of Jesus each day- for He is the true bread of life. 

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to keep my eyes focused on you, the Bread of Life. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

9/4/12- Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread... (Matthew 6:11)

All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things. (Psalm 104:27,28)

Thoughts: Contrary to some, the government is not the one who gives us our provision.  Our bootstraps and intelligence do not give us our provision.  All that we see is not made by us.  God made it all.  But more than that, God did not just create it all, He actively gives us daily bread.  God is not someone who acted in the past in creation- so that the prayer reads "you gave us our bread."  Rather, each day God in a new provides for us.  Daily bread is fresh bread, and God provides for us freshly each and every day.

Prayer: Lord, I look to you to provide for me this day and every day.  Help me, and give me the health and ability to work and honor you.

Monday, September 3, 2012

9/3/12- Daily Bread

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. (Proverbs 30:8) 

Thoughts: Jesus' words call to memory Proverbs 30:8 which asks God not to give me too little or too much.  But Jesus changes it a bit- it is not "give me" but "give us." Christians are called not to be just concerned about ourselves, but also about the bread of others.  It is a good saying (Bruce Waltke quoted in Tim Keller's "Generous Justice") that "the righteous disadvantage themselves to the advantage of others, while the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves."  Who is the us here that we are to pray for daily bread for?  Some say the world, some say believers, some say our families or the church we are in praying this prayer.  Jesus leaves it purposefully vague- but it is an admonition to not think only about ourselves.  If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we should care about their getting bread just as if we were hungry for bread ourselves.  Jesus is concerned not about that all have luxuries or have the same thing- but He is very concerned that we care about the real needs of others.  To pray this prayer and not care (pray and act) about the bread of others shows a callousness that Jesus did not have when he walked on this earth.  

Prayer: Give me a heart, O Lord, for those who do not have the basic necessities of life.  Give me a compassionate heart for them as you had for me. 

(Sloan translation 2012) Q. 104 WSC- What do we pray for in the fourth request of the Lord's Prayer?
A. In the fourth request, which is "Give us this day our daily bread", we pray that we may receive a necessary portion of the good things of this life- given freely by God- and enjoy His blessings with them. 

(1647) WSC Q. 104- What do we pray for in the fourth petition? A: In the fourth petition, which is "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray that, of God's free gift, we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessings with them." 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

9/2/12- To Will God's Will

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

(Jesus in the Garden- Heinrich Hoffman)

Thoughts: Part of what we pray for when we pray "Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" is that we will God's will.  When we do not desire to do God's will- we allow our feelings and the influences of the world to push us into behavior we may regret.  When Peter denied Christ three times, he was not willing to do God's will.  But in contrast less than 24 hours before, Jesus prayed in the garden, "Father, not my will but thine be done."  We are inspired by Jesus' example to want to do God's will even when it is hard.  We should also remember that though there was a cross, it was God's will that his "servant not see decay"- and Jesus was raised from the dead.  God's will is the winning will- the winning side.  We need to will to be on the winning side. 

Prayer: Help me, O God to will your will, and follow in your way.