Monday, February 29, 2016

Listening for Daily Bread

Give us this day our daily bread.

Thoughts: This is a lesson for us to listen to God as the giver.  Our hands are up and out to the One whose Hand brings us life.  This is a listening posture- hands up and out.  This is a daily need.
     We need to pray daily for daily bread.  We need to daily thank Him for the gifts He provides.
One of those gifts is a Word from Him.  He (Jesus) is the bread of life- the bread of heaven (Jn. 6:35). He is nourishment for our eternal soul- sent down from heaven to earth for us.  As we open our mouth to receive bread, we should open our hearts to receive the bread of life.  Let us listen to the Bread of life ask us to ask- "Give us this day our daily bread."

Prayer: Lord, give me more of yourself. Give me yourself daily.  Let me ever ask for more of you.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Listening to the Kingdom come

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:10)

Thoughts: Listen... the kingdom comes.  It comes not with mighty banging of drums, parades, elephants marching, and trumpets blaring.  It comes not with talking heads in the media analyzing everything.  It comes quietly- one prayer at a time- one deed done with kindness at a time.  It comes with one person at a time doing the will of the Father, longing and praying for God's will to be done on earth.
     Jesus wisely taught us to pray and long for the will of God- the kingdom to come on earth.  As we pray for it, we desire it.  As we desire it, we work for it and focus on it.  As you pray, listen for the kingdom coming in your heart.

Prayer: Lord, come.  Let your will come to me- let me come to your will.  Let your kingdom come through me, with me, despite me.  Use me, O Lord, to bring the heavenly kingdom down to this lowly earth.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Listening in and through the Greatest Prayer

9“This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, (Matthew 6:9)

Thoughts: Many speak of listening to God in prayer.  The scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit helping us to pray and giving us the right words and inner groaning (Rom. 8:26).  So the Spirit encourages us to pray in certain way- and as we listen to His promptings and as we listen for God's peace and wait on God we may hear something of God's character and voice.
      In this great prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray in this way.  It is a prayer not merely to be respected, it was meant to be a rabbinic memorized prayer by the followers of Jesus; used as both a model and as an actual prayer.  In commanding us to pray this way, He would have us listen to the prayer that the Spirit gives us through His Word.
       "Our Father."  God is not merely our God Almighty high and above us.  He is above us with might and respect as a father is above a young child.  Jesus taught his followers to pray "Abba, Father" (Mk. 14:36; Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15).  This is a name of trust and love.  Listen to the love Jesus commands us to have for God in prayer.
       "In heaven."  God is with us as Father.  But He is also transcendent- in heaven.
       "hallowed be thy name."  The name of God is to be treated with holiness and respect (3rd commandment).  
      All in all, God calls us to listen to Him with love, respect, and holiness.  

Prayer: Father, let your character flow to and through me.  Give me ears to hear your Spirit speaking in prayer.  

Friday, February 26, 2016

Not Listening for Earthly Applause

1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4) 

Thoughts: There is always a balance between 'not hiding your light under a bushel" (Mt. 5:14-16) and "not to practice your righteousness in front of others."  The balance is this- we live for the applause of God, not for the applause of others.  None of us deserves accolades.  If we do any good, the glory and credit should go to God who motivates, prompts, equips, and puts us in a position to do good (cf. Eph. 2:10).  The reward that is the greatest is the reward from God.  The question is, do we have faith that God really does care about what we do.  Do we really care about pleasing God and trusting in His reward.  Jesus teaches us here to give to the needy, but do it quietly and as secretly as possible.  The reward we work for is not that people would think we are so generous, or that we get a huge tax break.  Rather we are called to seek to honor God, quietly and well.  I know a man who is very wealthy, ,and he see his wealth as a gift from God.  He is always looking for ways to help in the church, and to help others.  He has given millions to my friends church.  Yet other people in this same church give far less, but give it only in flashy ways.  I don't think Jesus would say it is wrong for the government to encourage charity by deducting taxes- He probably would support it.  But such motivations are secondary compared to the greatest motivation of pleasing God and showing love for Him by helping another.  

Prayer: Lord, let me keep my giving secret.  Help me to be able to give- and give well to you quietly.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016

It Has Been Said... But I Tell You

Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them...whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:17,19)
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder" ...But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...anyone who says "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Mt. 5:21-22)
You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery."  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. (Mt. 5:27-28)
It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress." (Mt. 5:31-32)
Again, you have heard it was said "Do not break your oath"...But I tell you do not swear at all." (5:33-34)
You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (5:38-39)
You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."  (5:44-45)

Thoughts: Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.  Jesus did not stop the Old Testament Law  but built on it.  He went further about stopping hate, stopping adultery, protecting marriage, keeping our word.  Then he went further than justice. Jesus knows that the ultimate justice is from God.  If we humble ourselves the ultimate judge will lift us up.  Turning the other cheek leaves revenge in God's hands.  Loving your enemies and praying for our persecutors does not make us a doormat.  It actually calls God's powerful, just attention to our need.  Jesus does not nullify the Law, but builds on it- going further into the heart of God's purity and love.  Over and over Jesus says, "You have heard it said, but I say."  He is asking us to listen to Him as He enhances what God has already said- making it clearer, stronger, and more meaningful for all time.

Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear your voice.  Give me the strength to live as you would have me to live.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Listening to Jesus' Voice

1Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them.
He said:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Thoughts: The teachings of Jesus are stunning and still ring true in our world.  He turns the world upside down by turning what is ultimately valuable upside down.  So the ones blessed are not the rich and comfortable but the poor and those who mourn, the merciful and peacemakers.  Many follow Jesus not because of his miracles or his resurrection, but simply because they agree with his teachings.  However, His divinity and miracles give credence and attention to His teachings.  The power of Jesus is not just in His teaching, but it is certainly in His teaching.  Jesus changed perspectives here.  He encourages His followers to focus not on the temporary but on the eternal.  He talks about those who are persecuted here will be rewarded in heaven.  He also wants us to focus not on human blessing but on God's blessing- which is based on a different value system.  You also see here great emphasis on humility- the meek- the poor in spirit- the mourning.  This sets the pace of New Testament teaching- humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.       Jesus invites us to listen to Him instead of listening to what the world values. Jesus sat down to teach, which encouraged the people to sit down and listen.  We too need to stop, sit down and listen to God's values.  

Prayer: Lord, let me hear your values and put them into practice.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jesus Helped Which encouraged Listening

23Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,g Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matthew 4)

Thoughts: Jesus was a great teacher.  But his teaching became more than normal because of his healing powers.  He healed people who normally were not healed- the paralyzed, the diseased. Sometimes helping people gains a platform to hear the most important news ever given.  Is this wrong?  Is it wrong to attract people to hear great teaching by helping them?  Some have asked the same question of modern missionaries who feed the hungry and house the homeless but also encourage these same hungry and homeless to hear some hope.  For some this is manipulation.  But for Christians they go hand in hand.  We are called to care for the whole person- their physical needs- like sickness, hunger and sadness- by bringing not only food for the body but hope for the soul.  The best healing comes from having hope.  Chaplains in the army and the hospital bring courage to those who are afraid and hope to those who are discouraged.  There have been numerous studies about the positive effects faith (and chaplains) have on those with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).  My friend who teaches chaplain says that the military calls chaplains "Troop multipliers" because they deter people from suicide or giving up.   To say that Jesus was right is silly.  Who am I to judge the rightness of Jesus?  But to honor Jesus by following His example is important.  Christians are called not just to help others with their spiritual needs (like forgiveness, hope, encouragement), but such things interact with the physical (psychosomatically), and we are also to help people with their physical needs.  God did not just create us as spiritual beings, but He also created us as spiritual beings. 

Prayer: Lord, give me the eyes to see the hurting- both physically and spiritually.  Help me to honor and glorify you in every way I can, helping others out of love for them through your love.   

Monday, February 22, 2016

Listening Means Dropping

18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20At once they left their nets and followed him.
21Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4)

Thoughts: The call of Jesus was heard by the first disciples.  Evidence John gives us is that they had heard his teachings before.  But when the time was right and ripe, Jesus called to them and they responded.  They responded concretely by dropping their nets and following Him.
       Jesus still calls to people today.  He calls them to not just do something good- but also to change their lives- drop their nets.  Following Jesus, you see, is not just a matter of going one way- it is not going many other ways.  To follow Jesus, the disciples had to drop their nets.  We must hold onto this life lightly- being willing to drop whatever nets we own to answer God's call.  

Prayer: Lord, when you call, help me listen and respond.  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Listening in Temptation

1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempteda by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’b ”
5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’c ”
7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’d ”
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’e ”
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4) 

6Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4)
Thoughts: Is it possible that it is in times of temptation that we are able to listen to God's voice?   Certainly when Cain was being tempted God spoke clearly to him.  God told Cain sin was crouching at the door.  He asked Cain to be careful, but Cain would not listen.
       In the temptation of Jesus, Jesus quoted scripture- applying it to his life's situation, and to the temptation that He faced.  It is often in the midst of trials and temptations that we hear God speaking to us.  The devil tempted Jesus to show his divinity early by satisfying his comfort, by doing a miracle for show, by giving into evil in order to achieve popularity.  It was in facing these temptations that the Word of God spoke to Him and then the angels attended Him.
        Truth is temptation makes us feel that we are alone against the world.  But truth is God is there in His Word speaking to us.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to hear your voice in temptation.  Give me grace to listen to your voice over the voices of others.  

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reacting to Gunshots Heard

 2“Son of man, speak to your people and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, 3and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, 4then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not heed the warning and the sword comes and takes their life, their blood will be on their own head. 5Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves. 6But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes someone’s life, that person’s life will be taken because of their sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for their blood.’ (Ezekiel 33) 

As I am writing this, an active shooter is reported at Columbiana Centre Mall about 15 minutes away- a place I have been to many times.  The place is being evacuated now- which is quite a task with over 80 stores.  It seems to be an isolated incident between two parties at this point.  But we have trained ourselves correctly so that if we hear gunshots then we should evacuate if possible.

Almost the same time that the report came in of an active shooter, the major networks were declaring Donald Trump won the South Carolina G.O.P. Primary, which in itself is a type of "shot heard round the world."  Trump's triumph is a signal of a perception for a need for a major shakeup in our country and its economy.  There seem to be a lot of powder kegs ready to be lit all around the world- North Korea, Iran, Syria, Lybia, The ISIS captured territory and more.  The votes for Trump (and somewhat for Bernie Sanders) appears to be a vote for a radical change of direction from both the Republican and Democrat status quo.

We should always listen to the warnings.  Listen to the shots- the trumpet sounds that tell us something is wrong.  In fact, part of our job (described in Ezekiel 33) is to warn people when we see danger.  Ben Carson said in his concession speech we cannot continue down the same path for it leads off the cliff.  However, if we warn people and they continue on the path that leads to the cliff, then that is their issue.  Our job is to listen and to warn.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Government as Important but Secondary

t15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial taxa to Caesar or not?”
18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (Matthew 22)

Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
11Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. (John 19:10,11)

Thoughts: The Pharisees and Herodians were on two different sides trying to entrap Jesus.  The Pharisees were very religious, the Herodians were more political and secular.  The Pharisees were concerned that Jesus not go against the Jewish law and heritage by putting a pagan first. The Herodians were wondering if Jesus was going to encourage his followers to break the law.
      Jesus basically had a separation of church and state here.  He was saying Caesar has a role, and God has a role.  While all the world is the Lord's, God allows for secondary power in the form of human government.  God also allows for support of this human government.   Jesus even admitted when he was arrested and about to be judged and crucified by the Roman governor said that the government's authority is secondary and given from God.
     In the end, whoever gets to be president of the United States will have only a secondary authority.  But as citizens in a country, we are called to take part as we can to pay taxes as well as to vote or run for office.  It is important that Christians be good citizens- even the best citizens.  Yet, our final citizenship is in heaven.  We always obey God rather than human beings when they conflict (Acts 5:29).  It is this ultimate loyalty that has kept Christians from emperor worship and brought them into persecution.  Yet governments and nations come and go- presidencies and reigns end, but God's reign goes on from generation to generation.  

Prayer: Lord, lead us.  Lord direct us into the future.  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Teaching in Parables

Mark 4:2-9 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Thoughts:  A parable was a mneumonic  device to help you remember what was said. Mathew parables were teachings that were cogent and memorable.  The parable of the sower was to tell us that we should open up to the Word.  Jesus wanted those who could to respond with love.  He was asking for those who could to hear, to grow, and bear fruit.  Part of hearing is remembering what we hear enough to act on it.  So a story of the word growing is better than just saying, "Bear fruit."  

Prayer: Lord give me ears to hear.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Listening to the un-analyzed Meaning

 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (John 1)

Thoughts: Tonight at our church Dr. Richard Burnett had a great point on listening to the scriptures and to each other.  He pointed out that we, as modern people, by our research and expertise think we have been able to fully understand the background of people and sift through what they say.  So, for example, someone says Martin Luther had a psychological problem with his father which is why he said what he did about the authority of the church.  We analyze where a person is from economically, psychologically, socially, politically, theologically, and then figure out if we should listen to them or not.  So we over-analyze without really listening to what they say.  So someone from New York is said to have "New York values" and that is why they say what they say.  Or someone who is a white southern girl has to have a certain viewpoint.  Or someone with an African-American background has to act or believe certain things.  We shouldn't say to someone who says something every time- "I know what you said, but this is what you meant."  Sometimes we need to listen to what people say.
     In this passage in John 1, Nathanael was pegging Jesus as someone who shouldn't be heard.  But just because Jesus was from this country town did not mean he shouldn't be heard.  People should be heard no matter where they are from.  
     Let us be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.  Let us not be quick to judge what someone "really means" but listen to what they are saying (this is somewhat true in politics today too).  We are too skeptical, critical,analytical in our society.  There is a sense where we need to be able to listen at face value to what others (and the scriptures) say.

Prayer: Lord, let me listen intently and truly.  Give me wisdom to discern your will and your word.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Forgiveness- but Leaving Sin

 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8)

Thoughts:  The Pharisees did not really want to listen to what Jesus said.  They wanted to trap Jesus.  But they ended up listening to Jesus anyway.  They listened to Him because their personal guilt at being judgmental and being sinners overwhelmed them.  We do not know what Jesus wrote on the ground.  Perhaps it was that all sin.  That Jesus wrote something indicates he was literate (contra some skeptics).  They ended up listening to Jesus and melting away in their judgmentalism.  The woman also listened to Jesus.  He asked her if they were able to condemn her- and she answered they could not.  Then he told her he did not condemn her- but forgave her.  Then he told her to go- but also told her to not sin anymore.  Jesus forgives us when we mess up.  But part of that is a recognition that we have indeed messed up and we shouldn't mess up again.  Too many stop only at the part where Jesus tells the woman, "Neither do I condemn you."  But Jesus also said to go and sin no more.  Lent is a great time to listen to these words.  Faithful listening to Jesus means trying to please Him.  Adultery is not the only sin- so no one could condemn her.  Yet it is indeed a sin- and should be left. 

Prayer: Lord. Give me grace to embrace your forgiveness- but also give me grace to leave my sin out of love for you.   

Monday, February 15, 2016

Listening Means not Interrupting

13To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

Thoughts: The person who knows the answer before hearing the complete question cannot be trusted.  Too many are anxious to give the answer before the question is completed- showing a type of haughtiness and a desire for attention and pride of knowing.  Part of giving the right answer is listening completely.  Somehow we must teach listening.  Listening involves patience and focus.  It means not interrupting, but hearing the person through.  This is very hard, but it is absolutely true.  Good listening allows the person to finish.  The Pharisees interrupted Jesus- they had ears but could not hear.  Being a person of faith means we are more interested in hearing God's will for us than expressing our answers or how we think it should be to God.  God knows all the variables and has a wider perspective.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a good listener.  Give me grace to be patient with the giving of my answer.  

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Believing Allows Hearing

YuuJohn 8:42-47 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Thoughts: Jesus is amazed that they could not hear His message- or hear the truth.  In the end He says a very strong but important statement, "The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."  God is the One who opens our ears.  He awakens us or regenerates us.  Without God's help our ears do not hear properly.  Despite what we might think, not everyone is teachable.  The basics have to be there.  The same with our soul.  It is not intelligence but responsiveness that matters.  Our first task is to give ourselves in belief and trust in God.

Prayer: Lord, awaken faith in me that I may hear and believe.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What is truth

I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. (1 John 2:21) 

I am the way, the truth, and the life.  (Jesus- John 14:6) 

37Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." 38 Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" 

Thoughts: What is truth?  Pilate obviously did not know though the truest man in the universe was before him.  The judge was not sure that there was such a thing as truth, and when that is the case, the giving into popular opinion becomes more important than doing what is just and right.  If there is no real truth, justice becomes only popular opinion.
     Tim Keller, in a recent sermon, had an interesting thought (that I paraphrase).  He pointed out that we may not like a God who disagrees with us or is truth.  So we start saying, "I don't like this about what God did."  Or, "I don't like a God who gets angry with people, I only want a god who is positive and always says yes."  Keller says we tend to think the same thing of human beings- we want them to be "yes men" or "yes women."  When we get married we are surprised that sometimes people we love rebuke us or go against our will.  But that is what it means to be human.  It is the same with God.  God has not only the right but ought to say no to us.  "The Stepford Wives" had a chip put in them so they always said "yes" and were only agreeable to do whatever the men said.  But in the end, these were just robots.  It is hard to love an appliance.  Love demands that we be free to say "no."
    Truth is not whatever we want to make it to be.  Truth is reality- and God is the deepest reality as the Creator of all- and Creator of all that truly is- the truth.  Those who say that all religions are true in all parts are really saying there are no true religions.  Those who say that we are better off without religion are saying the ultimate truths (and therefore really all truths) do not matter.  The Romans were willing to incorporate all religions into there pantheon of gods.  But the Christians (and the Jews) would have none of it, and were willing to die (like Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in Daniel) that serve the false gods.  The truth enables us to quit living in a selfish illusion world and start living in the world of reality where there is falsehood and truth- fake emotion and true love.
      There are many politicians who say whatever their voters wish to hear is the truth.  But there are rare jewels who will say and stick with their convictions.  They may not be elected down here- but they will be awarded in the next life.  In the meantime, we are called to speak the truth in love.     

Prayer: Lord, give me grace when others disagree with me.  Give me grace to conform to your will even if it is hard for me.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

First, Hear Him

37On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”c 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
40On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders
45Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
47“You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48“Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51“Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” (John 7) 

Thoughts: "Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him?"  Too many condemn Jesus without investigating his teachings and his person.  Our call is always to hear what Jesus has said, and listen by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus calls out to us all today- if you are thirsty- if you are unsatisfied with life- come to me.  When you truly come to Jesus it is as if the flood gates open and the rivers flow through you to others.  The people wouldn't listen long enough to understand that Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem and that Isaiah 9:1,2 speak of the Messiah coming from Galilee of the gentiles.  The crowd did not want to listen to his credentials or examine who he really was.  They would rather be comfortable in their unbelief.  

Prayer: Lord, keep me from being comfortable in my unbelief.  Rather help me to hear your voice.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Some Refused to Listen

60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirite and life. 64Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
70Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Thoughts: The Pharisees had rejected his teaching about his ability to give life and his being the way to that life.  This was the first of many times people rejected him openly.  Jesus already knew that Judas would betray Him and he made an inference to this devilish betrayal here (vss. 64, 70).  Jesus knew people would reject Him and this rejection and the cross was a major part of His calling from the beginning.  Jesus did not let rejection keep Him from answering His calling.
    Our call is not to take a poll as to what people think or whether people think we are doing the right thing.  If our Lord was rejected, we should not be surprised if people reject us for our faith in Him.  Just as Jesus set his face toward the cross, so we should seek to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. 

Prayer: Lord, let me follow you with focus and courage.  Thank you that you faced your cross.  Help me to follow in your steps.