Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 31, 2017

Freedom’s Truth

“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Gal. 2:14

Paul was not pleased with the choices of Peter and confronted him.  Gal. 2:11-13 describes the hypocrisy, according to Paul.  Here we find Peter flip-flopping between adhering to Jewish law and setting the law aside.  Paul called him out, as we find in Gal. 2:14:  “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” After all, this is the same Peter who told Cornelius in Acts 10:34, “…In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.”  Paul is telling Peter that Peter cannot have it both ways:  he cannot ask Gentiles to live as Jews if he has lived as a Gentile (at least periodically).

Freedom’s truth means there are no longer requirements under the law that will save a soul or provide for justification.  Both are acts of grace and faith – they are gifts given by a gracious God who longs to set His people free.  Peter would eventually come to his understanding of freedom’s truth and the hope is that we will be unchained from man-made traditions and customs that bind us rather than liberate us.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August 30, 2017

Prayer as Incense

“May my prayer be set before You Like incense.”  Ps. 141:2

Often I think of Anna in the Bible.  She was a widow who spent her days in the Temple.  She was what we would call today a prayer warrior.  It is very interesting the role widows had in the days leading up to Jesus and in the early church.  In my mind I picture Anna offering her daily prayers to God and God receiving them by their scent.

Prayers and incense are found together several times in Scripture.  Prayers, supplications, requests, and intercession are a pleasing aroma to the Lord.  I wonder if each one has a distinctive fragrance.  I wonder if God instantly recognized Anna’s prayers by their aroma. 

Then I turn to my prayers and I wonder if God can detect the fragrance as I set my prayers before Him like incense.  I hope they do; I hope my prayers make their way with the aroma God desires and notices.  He knows the prayers of my heart.  May He receive them as my offering.  May He answer me as He answered Anna.  May I be found in the uncontained Temple in these later years of my life, dwelling in the house of the Lord.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

August 29, 2017

Take My Yoke

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Mt. 11:28-30

Yoked is an ancient Biblical principle that dates back to the Old Testament.  Israel was yoked to the law and the law was not a light yoke, but a heavy one.  The requirements of the law consistently pointed out the sin of the people and the need for atonement.

Jesus turned that idea upside down, like He did with so many Old Testament precepts.  He desired that people still be yoked, but now the yoke was no longer to the law, but to Him.  All those who were struggling and suffering, the weary and burdened, could stunningly and simply come to Jesus.  When they came to Him, Jesus would give them rest.  He would offer His yoke, one that was easy.  His burden was light.  It was a complete exchange.

Friends, this is the offer that is available to us.  If we find ourselves exhausted from the fast pace of daily living, the workload and responsibilities, the endless series of to-do lists, there is good news.  We can come to Jesus, carrying all that stuff.  He gives us rest a yoke, and a burden.  He takes all the heavy burdens we carry and gives us instead what he has to offer.  There is then easiness and a lightness replacing heaviness and gloominess.

We can learn from Jesus.  We can learn from His gentle approach to us and His humility in dealing with us.  Our Lord doesn’t force things upon us, least not His yoke.  He offers it with kindness and goodness and love.  It is up to us to accept His offer.  When we do, we will find rest for our souls.

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 28, 2017

My Presence

“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Ex. 33:14

One of the ironies about prison ministry is the closer women are to getting released, the more anxious and nervous they tend to become.  There are exceptions of course, but as a rule, it becomes noticeable among the women.  After all, it is on the one hand freedom they have so longed for, and on the other hand a world on unknowns.  Will they make it?  Will they stay clean and sober?  Will they have a job, a place to live?  Will they see their children?  Will those broken relationships be restored?  It is the land of the unknown.

We encourage the women on the day of their release to be intentional about asking Jesus to take them by the hand and go with them.  It is much like this verse, and the dialogue between Moses and God.  Moses was insistent that God’s presence go with Israel.  We want the women to be equally insistent that the presence of the Lord, not confined to a tabernacle, temple, or church structure, to go with them as they leave.

The Lord’s answer provides such great comfort and hope.  Yes, He says; His presence will go with them and He will give them rest.  They will companionship on the journey and a constant reminder they are not alone.  They will be given rest – rest from worrying too much, rest in all the decision-making they find themselves doing.  They will rest in the travels through the wilderness, much like Israel.  God’s chosen people left Egypt and entered the wilderness.  God’s presence went with them.  God’s presence goes with each woman leaving prison who asks for it.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 27, 2017

The Servant Rhoda

“Peter knocked at the outer entrance and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.  When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!”  Acts 12:13-14

This is like a comedy routine of the early church.  Peter has been in prison and it is the night before his trial.  He miraculously escapes, thanks to an angel of the Lord.  Once Peter realizes what has happened he heads to Mary’s house, where there is a group of people praying for Peter’s release.

Now for the comedy: Peter knocks on door and a servant goes to answer it.  Her name is Rhoda, which means God’s unfolded love.  As soon as she recognizes Peter’s voice, she runs back to the group to announce that Peter is there.  She forgot Peter, forgot to open the door, and Peter had to stand there, knocking away until they came to the door.  Can you picture it?

Even funnier is the response of the group, gathered to pray for Peter’s release.  They proclaim it can’t be him; he is in prison!  They tell Rhoda she has lost it and when she persists, they think it is an angel.  That would mean they believed Peter had been killed and his angel showed up.  While all this is happening, just picture Peter knocking on the door.  After all, he is a wanted man!

It makes one wonder how many times we’ve missed something, even in the name of doing what is important.  It makes one wonder if we get so immersed in praying for something that when the answer has arrived and is knocking on our door, we don’t answer it, because we are praying that which has arrived!  It gives one hope, for if the early church engaged in such endeavors, then that is good news for us.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

August 26, 2017

The Lion and the Bear

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.”  1 Sam. 17:36

The story of David versus Goliath is well known around the world.  What is interesting about this verse is the significance of David’s past experiences preparing him for the present moment.  David is letting King Saul know that as a keeper of the sheep, David has been well trained in fighting off enemy attacks.  If lions or bears came against the flock, David would defend the flock and defeat the attackers.

It is also noteworthy that David has been “keeping his father’s sheep” according to verse 34.  What a perfect picture this paints of Jesus – the One who keeps His father’s sheep.  David is resolute in his promise that Goliath will end up defeated, just like the lion and the bear.  The reason for the defeat is that Goliath is going against Israel – the armies of the living God. 

What kind of spiritual training have we received in the past that has prepared us for what we currently face?  Are there Goliaths in front of us, defying and taunting us?  If so, think back to the lessons you have learned in God’s classroom and apply them as you apply the victory that Jesus secured for you.  Fear, worry, doubt, depression – they will be like the lion and the bear, because they have defied you, part of the army of the living God.

Friday, August 25, 2017

August 25, 2017

God’s Good Pleasure

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”  Lk. 12:32

It was like a perfect storm of events that came crashing into a life.  It was a season of death, loss, illness, financial concerns, and grief.  When one wave finally subsided, another one would come.  We found ourselves at hospitals, funeral homes and cemeteries.  We grieved with those who were grieving…and yet God was with us.

In this marvelous passage of Luke, which closely connects with Matthew’s, Jesus is telling the disciples to not worry.  Life is short, God is in charge and why worry about things we have no control over?  Instead, says our Lord, seek after God’s Kingdom first and foremost.  The other things you put aside will be given to you like a bonus.

Luke’s gospel records the next verse: ” do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”  We are very much a flock in need of shepherding and Jesus provides that as our ultimate Good Shepherd.  Since we have Him in our lives caring for us, we actually can surrender the anxieties and worries, giving them to the Lord.  What we receive instead is what we are hopefully focusing on – the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is the rule and reign of God in our lives, in our homes, and in our circumstances.

In that season of the perfect storm of events, we could weather it, because we kept our eyes on the Kingdom.. God lived up to His promise – He provided the Kingdom to us: the Kingdom of peace, of joy and of righteousness.  We were able to love and to listen, all because of what God had given us.  It was His good pleasure to do so.