Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daniel 1 – Favor

Daniel 1 – Favor

What a great example of God’s hand working through unbelievers….”God had caused the official to show favor”. No doubt this official (another translation calls him the Prince of Eunuchs) was a follower of the deity of whatever the king worshipped. But Daniel’s disposition and God’s hand allowed him the wiggle room to show Daniel favor.
Even with his own life on the line, he allowed Daniel and the three men, not to ‘defile’ themselves with the royal food. Though not vegetarians these men were not only able to sustain them selves on vegetables and water, but became more healthy looking than any of the others.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your [c] food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
I think of the manner that I sometimes take with someone of opposing views or beliefs and the effect that has on my cause. Could Daniel have been indignant? Could God have still caused the official to relent? Sure…but Daniel, not knowing how or when God would intervene, decided to be gracious until He did. I guess the lesson here is ….. stand firm on your convictions, acts as if your position was fully dependent on your actions….then when God’s favor is placed on the situation, be sure to give him glory.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Psalm 78 – That’s Not Fair

Psalm 78 – That’s Not Fair

38-39 Yet he was merciful; 
he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, 
a passing breeze that does not return.
To me, the greatest thing about the mighty hand of God….is that he restrains it toward us when we don’t deserve it. He offers love, understanding, mercy…and grace. Romans 5:8 says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This may be a little corny… but when we are being stung by a mosquito….our natural reaction is to swat it, usually leaving a small black smear with some blood in it. We never think about the significance of that small life…..and its short life cycle, because we didn’t create it. You know I think about the ease with which God, in his full wrath, could just swat us out of existence…..yet he doesn’t. He remembers that we are but flesh, his creation, and he loves us.
But like my dad used to say….”I brought you into this world, I can take you out!” God’s mercy isn’t to be taken advantage of, or God isn’t to be though lightly…..his full wrath is still swift and just. In a few weeks at ANC we’ll be reminded of Ananias and Sapphira, and how God took them immediately. Romans 6:23 ….for the wages of sin is death! I just thank God that his mercy is exercised more than what is fair!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Psalm 76 - God's Got Game

Psalm 76 – God’s Got Game
4 You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains, rich with game.

Well I actually added that last comma….sorry God, but he does have game….and it’s rich.

I was just amazed yesterday, and I was searching for words to describe God….but realized that any word used, falls short. Not that ‘resplendent with light’ came to mind….but I realized that all these descriptions, are merely words trying to capture the glory of the Creator.
All the Psalms, 150 in all…..with all the words contained, still fall short. Yet we live as though we are serving a finite God. We give Him a Sunday or two every now and then to hold him at bay.
I read yesterday that in recent years, via the Hubble telescope that it is (conservatively) estimated that there are 350,000,000,000 galaxies….conservatively estimated! Why?
Why did our Creator create things that no one in history new about until recently. Maybe he is wanting us NOW to know….even with your fancy computers and cannot fathom the depth of me. You could spend your whole life trying to describe me…and still fall miserably short, not even scratch the surface.
God forgive me for not giving you my all, and forgive me for thinking you are smaller than you are.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Psalm 74 - It’s not about us.

Psalm 74 - It’s not about us.

I just found the tone of this Psalm very self –focussed. Maybe that is just a conviction I am having today. We’ve seen it before with the Israelites, and here the Babylonians have just overrun the Temple, plundered Jerusalem, and left the place in ruins.…and now they turn to God again?

20 Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.

Why is it that we do this….we are cruising along, not a care in the world, because things are going so well….and things turn, and now we remember….oh yeah God, we have a covenant. Have regard for it….even though I may not have.

And why does the Psalmist/we think that we need a reason to uphold a covenant OTHER than there is a covenant? God is continually upholding his end of the deal, the failure, when there is one, is ours.

And why do when bad things come, that we forget….God is in control of it all. That he knows what is going on. The same God that saves us, loves us..and because he loves us, he corrects us. Most of the time it is painful, but all of the time it is just. WE may not see it, but we aren’t God. So we need to quit acting like we are.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Psalm 72 - Cries

Psalm 72:12-13 For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.
Last night we watched the Lifeway videos that Jen Hatmaker had done for her upcoming book Interrupted, and I was reminded of my own journey and how the poor and oppressed were to me…..a people group, some other people “out there”, nameless faces that I was scared of, that I felt they wanted to harm me somehow.
The guy that did the interviews from Lifeway basically said the exact same thing to Alan Graham, founder and president of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. For someone (like Alan) who already has a heart for the homeless, the oppressed and the marginalized….there wasn’t a worse thing to say to him….His jaw tightened….his teeth were clenched…and as soon as the interviewer paused for an answer, Alan Graham said….”you know, your feelings don’t matter.”
This is who God directs his love and compassions and mercies toward. Jen, later in the interview, talked about meeting God there….in service to marginalized. He is there.
Once we strip away all the things that we have grown up believing about church, what it should be, how we are to behave, what we are suppose to learn and achieve, and take (like consumers)….we are left bare with…. “what have we done for the least”?

Well, I went to all Beth Moore’s precepts classes….yes, but what about the homeless?
I taught Jr. High boys….yes, but what about single moms?
I sang in the choir, yes but what about children who don’t have a daddy?
I gave to Lottie Moon….yes, but what about taking a family who has lost their home into yours.
The verses talk about the cries of the needy….and they are there. The same cries we drowned out with our self serving, life numbing, busyness…. all in the name of Christiandom.
Pastors from other churches and people in other “flocks” are always asking us….how can we do what you guys are doing? Is it even possible? And the short answer is YES, listen for the CRIES!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Psalm 70 – EmUrgency

Psalm 70 – EmUrgency
5 Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; 
O LORD, do not delay.
Was David literally poor or needy?
I’m thinking this posture of David is one that we all need to take.
David could have said….Lord I got this world on a string….I am it’s king…what do you have to offer me, or better yet….what can I do for you today if I have time? Though that was never David’s heart….is it ours? We would never say that…. But I wonder if sometimes in our hearts that isn’t exactly what we give or say.
And I love that David seeks God’s urgency. I’ve done this so many times….but my prayers aren’t always answered in the manner or timing that I would have preferred.
As a parent, its one thing to be sitting in the living room watching the TV or talking to our wives….and one of the kids says…mom/dad can I get some help with this homework. We might say….give us a minute, or wait until the commercial. But one of our kids is hurt, or in trouble, or scared…..we drop everything to get there “without delay”.
David seeks God’s urgency….because he is in need.
As a Sovereign God, when we seek God urgently…and he responds to us, in his timing…..I wonder what that says? Maybe he is teaching us to wait on Him, maybe he is telling us He’s got this, maybe He is teaching us patience.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Psalm 67 – Global God

Psalm 67 – Global God
I got an email this morning before reading this passage….from Mari, a dear friend of ours. Mari was in the youth group with Brandon at my old church….she was good friends with Luis (from our church) and was instrumental in the Father’s plan of salvation for him.
Anyway, Mari is now in North Africa….serving with the IMB (International Missions Board) to teach English. But the main purpose for Mari being there…and the reason she signed up for this 3 year commitment, is to reach her region for Chrst.
So this passage this morning with words like nations, people and the ends of the earth….really made my mind and heart turn toward Mari. Then after reading Mike’s post I thought….okay….we are all teaching English is some capacity, but what is our real purpose. What are our barriers?
Mari has to be careful with her communication because she is in a Muslim country that is closed to the Good News. She communicates and talks about “the Father”, “prying for her”, Chrst the “LRD” the Kingdom….the same Kingdom we press into and try to make more tangible to our neighbors and our city.
Please join me in pryer for Mari, that the soil she is working will become fertile. That the language will ‘click’ and she is better able to communicate. Pry for Dora, Falicia and Amanca…who she asked we pry for.
I am cc’ing Mari to this email. If you want, let her know you are prying for her….what a privilege we all have to pry and openly communicate with the Father and each other. Love you guys!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Psalm 66 - Refined

Psalm 66 - Refined
10 For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver.11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs.12 You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
Refining is a difficult process, one that when we are in the middle of….we are never grateful. The helt during refining is at its hottest. I do love that God’s word refers to us as being refined. The fact that we are “precious” metals is a loving analogy. But then, God wants us to become even more precious, more valuable…so he refines us… remove any and impurities or imperfections.
When I think of the Refiner….and the process of removing the dross…..the black coat of burnt up impurities on the top of the melted, molten(liquid) gold or silver….scooping all that away…so that when he looks down into the pecious metal….He sees His relflection…’s a reminder during the refining process to remove all of the “stuff” that makes us look less like Him.
There is a song by Jeremy Camp called Empty Me….love this;
Holy fire burn away
My desire for anything
That is not of you and is of me
I want more of you
And less of me

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Psalm 65 - Floored

Psalm 65 _ Floored
5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
Spurgeon wrote of this verse;
God's memorial is that he hears prayer, and his glory is that he answers it in a manner fitted to inspire awe in the hearts of his people.
You know so many people try to do something with prayer….other than what God intends it to do. I’m as guilty as anyone.
Garth Brooks wrote about Unanswered Prayers, people always default to praying for healing, happiness, riches…..rarely do we pray for God “awesome deeds of righteousness”.
I truly believe this is the difference between 3rd world countries, where God seems to be moving in incredible ways….and right here in the good ole US of A, where people believe it to be preposterous that God awe them….besides, if we want to be awed….Star Trek is coming out in a few weeks.
I think if we were truly open to be awed by God….we would be. Maybe it starts with the prayers of a few men in Austin…God answer our prayers with awesome deeds of righteousness. Let us anticipate and look forward to your hand moving so obviously and greatly, that we are floored.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Psalm 64 - Create/Fight Injustice

I wouldn’t say that I have been a political junkie in the past….but I did enjoy it. My dad got me hooked on it the first time he decided to run for city council. I was in 9th grade working his phone bank, putting out signs and just being as involved as a 15 year old can be. I went to breakfasts with him on Saturday morning, where he spoke to small groups of men about Economic Development and Tourism. I sat in his office as he and the mayor hammered out strategies and the way they thought the rest of the council would vote.
I learned early on the difference between conservative and liberal, I learned that I was conservative in platform and liberal in ideals….meaning….I was screwed up. I wanted all the things that government could provide….yet I wanted less government and government intrusion. I was pro-life, but I knew we couldn’t legislate morality (hasn’t worked yet). It seemed as though locally….I was a democrat, where I could see the money at work, and nationally I was a Republican. I loved Rush Limbaugh, yet I wanted local government to pass bonds for infrastructure and new ‘stuff’.
I wonder if anyone was as screwed up as me…with their affiliations? I tend to think they are…because man is selfish and tend to see the world as it relates to them….politically.
Well, I read the Psalm this morning, and my mind turned to politics.
Psalm 64:6 They plot injustice and say, 
 "We have devised a perfect plan!" Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.

I know this over simplification….but;
Dems tend to tug at the heart strings….appeal to the down and out, a promise of a better tomorrow, we’ll take from the filthy rich and redistribute so that life is more fair. They are the advocate of the little man..and they fight the injustice put on them by the GOP.

GOPers tend to circle the wagons, protect against the "money grubbing" Dems, “say” they want to downsize government….all the while…they grow it, they are pro-life, promise a better tomorrow and they fight the injustice put on them by the Dems.

I must say, that I have grown cynical (at least nationally where the big money is) They both have the perfect plan…and it is to keep the people at bay, create injustice for the other side to rally against, keep themselves in office as long as possible, while projecting this image of working for us….and creating/fighting injustice!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Psalm 63 – Anything I Want?

Psalm 63 – Anything I Want?
What a rich Psalm…..maybe someone should write a song…with some of the lines from it.
Something that correlates to a book that I am reading jumped out at me this morning. Verse 3 says;
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I am at a point in my faith life…that including folks who have not had a faith journey before, is becoming more and more natural. But there are so many times that I have acted like a bull in a china shop….and I did anything BUT glorify God.
There was this line in the book The Reason for God….where Keller is talking about people initially making the distinction between “religion” and the Gospel….and we’ve all heard this from someone who is not a Christ Follower…..”that is too easy….you mean, all I gotta do is have this relationship with God and I can do anything I want?”
The religious (or the Pharisee) might take this as an opportunity to jump down the throat of the irreligious…(and I have done this) to say, “No way sinner! you don’t keep on sinning so that grace is multiplied” (which is somewhat scriptural) you don’t trample on the free grace of God. What a stupid thought….seriously!”
The problem with that answer…is that it is spoken from a defensive posture. The Pharisee is more substantiated by his religiousness…than by God’s grace…therefore, he feels compelled to make another Pharisee than a Christ Follower living under grace.
And it came to me this morning….that nope…that type of talk was reserved for believers. When speaking to someone about Christ….with no faith background, we should just say yes….sure….you can do anything you want. Say yes so that this person may taste and see that Lord is good. What happens after that, as we all know…..Christ changes our wants.
The question that the seeker is asking is “spoken outside of an experience of radical Grace” (according to Keller). And I am not saying we should soft sell the Gospel….but our posture needs to continually be inclusive…and not exclusive. Because I truly believe that God’s love is better than life….

Friday, May 01, 2009

Psalm 61 – Day by Day

Psalm 61 – Day by Day
6-7 Increase the days of the king's life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God's presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
I was talking to Tate the other day and she revealed to me that she wanted to live to the oldest woman ever. My thought was…I sure wouldn’t want to live to be that old. I’m not really sure of her motivation….but I would bet that it revolved around the idea of just NOT DYING.
David here isn’t selfishly asking God to increase the number of days his life for his own glory….but so that he could serve Him, to fulfill his vows before God.
One thing that I love about this passage is the correlation between David’s words in verse 8; “Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.” And the passage in Luke 9:23-25 when Jesus is talking to his disciples “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
It is truly a daily journey, one with choices…and like David, we can choose to honor God or choose not to. Another great verse, Joshua 24:15 says that you must, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”