Thursday, December 31

Happy New Year ....

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2010! We have no idea what is ahead for any of us this year. Like the football teams that will suit up, some will win and some will lose. So with us, some of us might lose weight! Some of us might not! Some of us might launch out on a new journey that we do not see yet. Some of us might not make it to 2011. We do not know. Their are many variables.

Aren't you glad we do not have to worry about the variables? They are not really in our control. Our God, in Jesus Christ, is in control and waiting at each variable we will experience. We are not like those that are without Christ ... we are not like those that have no hope

Christians should be among the most "reckless" in the world. Our lives should not be marked by fear of the unknown. Today is our opportunity to turn over to God in reckless abandon. Today is a day for trust and stepping forward with no fear.

Today was never in our control. Today was always a gift. Tomorrow is in Someone else's control and we can trust Him.

Matthew 6:25-34
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

DevoLink will begin again on January 4th ... God willing! :)

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Monday, December 28

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - Part 6

What does it mean to let my heart "prepare Him room"? How does that happen?

Christmas is a good time to think through God's desire to live IN people. Jesus was the God Man. He was 100% God and 100% Man co-mingling without confusion.

As Christains, we believe that God is able to live inside of us because of the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus comes to take place in our hearts. He is Lord of the heart and desires to have room to grow in there.

How does that happen?

First by Awareness - I must be aware that I NEED to give Him room. I must be conscious of my need of His grace and forgiveness TODAY. I must be conscious of the spaces that He still does not occupy.

Second by Willingness - I must be willing to give Him room. I must act on the grace and forgiveness He offers TODAY. I must be willing to give him the space He desires in my life as Savior AND Lord.

2 Chronicles 16:1-10

1 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah.
2 Asa then took the silver and gold out of the treasuries of the LORD's temple and of his own palace and sent it to Ben-Hadad king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus. 3 "Let there be a treaty between me and you," he said, "as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me."

4 Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. They conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim and all the store cities of Naphtali. 5 When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and abandoned his work. 6 Then King Asa brought all the men of Judah, and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using. With them he built up Geba and Mizpah.

7 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: "Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. 8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen ? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war."

10 Asa was angry with the seer because of this; he was so enraged that he put him in prison. At the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people.

I'll bet most of us would not choose the Book of Chronicles as "one of our favorites" in the Bible. It doesn't seem as practical as the Book of Corinthians. Yet there are nuggets on every page in Chronicles. God speaks in the OT and the NT!

Asa was stuck in a tight spot. He was being attacked by his brother in law. Israel was related to Judah but at odds. They were brothers at war. When Asa had finally had enough he took matters into his own hands. He struck up a bargain with a neighboring king. He made a treaty.

Asa was a man of action. He was not going to be denied. But, he made a fatal flaw, he turned to the King of Aram not to the Lord. The test revealed that he his heart was not near the Lord.

I see myself in King Asa. He's not a bad guy. He wants to do what it right most of the time. But when the pressure was on he turned to other sources than the Lord for help! Too easy to do. It is really easy to get angry or turn inward. Too easy to turn to others to find relief. Too easy be practical.

It sounds like this: "The Lord does not care about this small issue. The Lord is not able to help here. I will act and see what happens. I cannot wait. I must find help now."

When the Lord caught up with Asa He challenged his heart. He revealed that he had to prepare some room.

The Lord gave me this passage early Sunday morning after a relational squabble with my brother in law at the Christmas cabin. God wanted tested to see what was in my heart. I still have a lot of growing up to do. I still have to prepare Him room.

Pride is such a heart killer. It makes us turn to wrong things and turn on people. The Lord wants to examine our hearts today to see if we will give in and trust Him.

We need Awareness and we need Willingness. So, now you are aware that God wants all of your heart ... are you willing to give it?

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Wednesday, December 23

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - Part 5

Merry Christmas!!! This is not a celebration of Winter ... though many are getting more than their share of cold this year! This is the time we celebrate the Light that came into the world.

Without light, seeing is meaningless. Without light, color is meaningless.

John 1:1-9, 14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overtaken it.

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

490 years before Jesus was born, Socrates was talking about our need for light. I think there are many interesting things here worth considering.

Inside the cave
Socrates begins by describing a scenario where what people take to be real would in fact be an illusion. He asks Glaucon to imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood: not only are their arms and legs held in place, but their heads are also fixed, compelled to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which people walk carrying things on their heads "including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials". The prisoners can only watch the shadows cast by the men, not knowing they are shadows. There are also echoes off the wall from the noise produced from the walkway.

Socrates asks if it is not reasonable that the prisoners would take the shadows to be real things and the echoes to be real sounds, not just reflections of reality, since they are all they had ever seen or heard. Wouldn't they praise as clever whoever could best guess which shadow would come next, as someone who understood the nature of the world? And wouldn't the whole of their society depend on the shadows on the wall?

Release from the cave
Socrates next introduces something new to this scenario. Suppose that a prisoner is freed and permitted to stand up. If someone were to show him the things that had cast the shadows, he would not recognize them for what they were and could not name them; he would believe the shadows on the wall to be more real than what he sees.

"Suppose further," Socrates says, "that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn't he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn't the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn't he be distressed and unable to see "even one of the things now said to be true," viz. the shadows on the wall?

After some time on the surface, however, Socrates suggests that the freed prisoner would acclimate. He would see more and more things around him, until he could look upon the Sun. He would understand that the Sun is the "source of the seasons and the years, and is the steward of all things in the visible place, and is in a certain way the cause of all those things he and his companions had been seeing"

Return to the cave
Socrates next asks Glaucon to consider the condition of this man. "Wouldn't he remember his first home, what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow prisoners, and consider himself happy and them pitiable? And wouldn't he disdain whatever honors, praises, and prizes were awarded there to the ones who guessed best which shadows followed which? Moreover, were he to return there, wouldn't he be rather bad at their game, no longer being accustomed to the darkness? "Wouldn't it be said of him that he went up and came back with his eyes corrupted, and that it's not even worth trying to go up? And if they were somehow able to get their hands on and kill the man who attempts to release and lead up, wouldn't they kill him?"


Let me make 3 points:
1. People need to escape the cave, climb to the surface and see the light of the Son!
2. Seeing the Light changes our desire for the praise and awards of those that still live in the cave. Why would you want to receive the awards and recognition of those that only see shadows cast on a wall?
3. Folks don't like thinking they are in the dark. 490 years before Jesus was born Socrates noted that some of the cave dwellers would seek to kill the Light messenger. That is exactly what they did 30 years after He was born in a manager.

Praise! We get to celebrate the Light that came into the world!!!

DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.

Thursday, December 17

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - Part 4


John 1:1-18

1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.

18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

That is the best Christmas present we will ever receive!!!

Praise the Lord for this incredible Christmas Gift!

Identify one highlighted benefit above, write it on a piece of paper and carry it with you all day today.

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Wednesday, December 16

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - Part 3

I've had all sorts of pets: cats, dogs, turtles, guinea pigs, birds, hermit crabs, blue-bellied lizards, ants and a few more.

I remember getting an ant farm in the 70s. For some reason they were the rage back them. I remember being fascinated for the first ... oh ... 30 seconds! Boring!

It was awesome to look at these little insects for a short period of time. But seriously! Who thought this up? Who'd spend money on such a thing? Clearly my parents!

Isaiah 9:1-7

1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.

4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.

5 Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

This is Christmas! God came to earth. God came as a baby. He entered our world to save us from it! The Creator became a creature.

Try to imagine owning an ant farm as a kid and wanting to warn the ants that little brother was about to pour water in the farm and many would die. Imagine choosing to become an ant, enter the ant farm just so you could save them from drowning.

All analogies limp ... and the ant analogy is limping ... but think it through. Would you take the place of an ant to save ants? Would you limit yourself to such a degree to save one of them?

God did!

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

He came in love to restore us to Himself. He did not come in malice or anger. He came to rescue the dark dwellers. He came to rescue to hurting. He came to rescue those who realize the world has nothing to offer.

What a wonderful counselor and a mighty God. What a peace-loving Father.

Take time to meditate on the titles for the Son of God, born in Bethlehem:
*Wonderful Counselor
*Mighty God
*Everlasting Father
*Prince of Peace

Is God speaking to you about any of these qualities today? How can you focus on one of these qualities during your Christmas celebration this month?

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Tuesday, December 15

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - Part 2

Sesame Street was always good at teaching through skits and music. To teach discernment they would sing the song: "One of these things is not like the others".

Cookie Monster would have 4 plates of cookies. Each plate would have 2 cookies but one would have 3. And so the song would begin ... "One of these things is not like the others".

When we come to Christmas and consider the baby born that day compared to all babies before or since, One of these was not like the others!

Isaiah 8:19-22; 9:1-2

19 When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.

1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death.

Ever wonder how Eve's kids turned out? Yesterday we learned that her first born son, the son she thought would be Messiah, murdered his kid brother out of envy. His judgment was to wander in dark wastelands.

Ever wonder how Eve's kids turned out? Look at the passage above. Stressed. Unsatisfied. Angry. Fearful. Gloomy. Sounds like a dark wasteland. That is where sin took them over the years.

Ever wonder how Eve's kids turned out? Look in the mirror. Stressed? Unsatisfied? Angry? Fearful? Gloomy?

When we were lost we were without God and without hope in the world (Eph. 2:12). Isaiah 8 sounded like the condition of our souls. BUT ... God!

Just when we thought there was no hope God springs forth in brilliant light! A great light begins to shine. The Light of the world was coming in to the world to light the way and offer hope (John 1:9).

When does this take place? CHRISTmas! This is what Christ brought with Him.

What an indescribable gift is the Lord Jesus Christ! We are so unworthy of His care and affection. We are so worthy of the darkness and gloom of Isaiah 8 but we have a God that pulls us through to Isaiah 9! We have seen a great Light. It is not a force but a person ... a baby!

Ever wonder how Eve's kids turned out? One of them was not like the others.

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Monday, December 14

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room - Part 1

If you are like me then you are more ready for a break from work/school than you are ready to worship Jesus for coming to earth.

There are so many distractions during this time of year. I am hearing the Christmas music playing but I am not really listening yet. I am humming some of these songs but they aren't getting past my mouth to my heart.

I thought I would get an early focus on Christmas this year. We have 11 days before we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus ... are you ready? Is your heart prepared to give Him room?

Genesis 3:8-19

8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

12 The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”

“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. 15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

16 Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

17 And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”

Christmas began in a garden. Christmas began after the fall to be more accurate.

Buried in this pronouncement of God is the promise of hope. Behind this horrible pronouncement stands the shadow of a baby in a manger.

Our English translations do not do justice to the words found here. Let me show you what I mean:
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring (plural) and her offspring (singular). He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is a prophecy that the coming Messiah would save people from darkness and sin. The offspring (plural) of the serpent will do battle with the offspring (singular) of woman. In other words, one baby would come from the womb of a woman and rescue people from the effects of the Fall. One "seed" or offspring would be able to change the impact of all others.

Eve now needed to be rescued by one of her own children. Could that be Cain? She might have easily thought so.

"Cain's mother mistook Cain for Christ. As soon as Eve saw her first-born son she no longer remembered the anguish. What a joyful woman Eve was that day! Put yourself back into her place. Eve had brought banishment from Eden on her husband and on herself by listening to the father of lies. But the Lord God had come down to Eve in her terrible distress and beginning His book of promises with His best promise, had promised to her that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head and should thus redeem and undo all the evil that she had brought on herself and on her husband.

As we know now, Cain was not to be the Christ. No. The angel Gabriel was not sent to Adam and Eve. The angel of the Annunciation who stands in the presence of God passed by Eve and Sarah and Rachel and Hannah and Elizabeth and all the other mothers in Israel and came to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph."

Alexander Whyte, pastor in Scotland, 1890

Christmas is the promise of hope for you today.

Christmas answers Eve's greatest need and our need as well. Christmas offers the rescue we all need from the effects of sin inherited from our family.

This passage says a lot about God and the gospel. First I see that God is holy and must deal with sin. He loves Adam and Eve and therefore cannot overlook their choices. So, we see a judgment for sin. On the other hand. I see a God that is merciful and willing to take that sin on Himself. He loves Adam and Eve too much to leave them in their sin.

That is what Christmas is all about. It is not just one of several competing Winter holidays!

Praise you God for your indescribable Gift!

DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.

Thursday, December 10

Jesus Story Teller - Review

For the rest of this week we will review the last 12 parables.

Maybe there is one you missed. If you look into the archives you can see the series and choose one you might have missed here or here.

Maybe there was one that God spoke with you about. You could take time to reflect and pray through those Scriptures.

Take 5 minutes to pray. If you do not know what to pray, pray through the Lord's Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Finally, take 3 minutes to listen to a song in the DevoLink Worship Center.

DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.

Wednesday, December 9

Jesus Story Teller - Part 12

One night the captain of a tanker saw a light dead ahead. He directed his signalman to flash a signal to the light which went.....
'Change course 10 degrees South.'

The reply was quickly flashed back...
'You change course 10 degrees North.'

The captain was a little annoyed at this reply and sent a further message.....
'I am a captain. Change course 10 degrees South.'

Back came the reply....
'I am an able-seaman. Change course 10 degrees North.'

The captain was outraged at this reply and send a message....
'I am a 240,000 ton tanker. CHANGE course 10 degrees South!'

Back came the reply.......
'I am a LIGHTHOUSE. Change course 10 degrees North!!!!'

Matthew 21:28-32

28 "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

29 " 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

31 "Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

They say attitude is everything. I would generally agree but not when attitude is all you get! Attitude without action is like a barking dog without a bite. There is sound and fury which ultimately signifies nothing.

The first son had a bad attitude. He did not want to work or obey the father. We are not told what he wanted to do instead. The bible does not talk about the xbox or playing with friends. We are not even sure what game was on the tv that day. What we do know is that he did not want to go and work.

The second son had a great attitude ... at least on paper. He said he was willing but ultimately did nothing. He did not act on what he knew. Maybe he got distracted.

Both sons had opportunity to reflect on the father. One changed his mind (v.29) for the better. The word μεταμέλομαι (metamelomai) refers to feeling remorse afterward and changing direction because of it. You might feel this after grounding a teen for 30 years and realizing this was in the heat of the moment, a bit aggressive, and should have only been 10 years!

The first son reflected on the grace and goodness of his father and changed his course.

The second son did not reflect on his dad and chose to not do anything. He was negligent of his responsibility and his pledge. I cannot judge him ... I relate to him. I have so many good intentions and unfulfilled promises in my wake.

Jesus is making a point. At the preaching of John the Baptist the folks were invited to reflect on the Father. The "sinners" did this. Those that had rejected the Father's direction were having a change of heart. They felt the regret of rejecting Him. These represent the first son.

The religious folks were the ones always saying "yes" to the Father but not doing anything about it. They were active in the ministry. They were busy. They were religious. Just not obedient. Just unwilling to do what the Father asked of them.

So, in the world of Jesus Christ, the prostitute and thief have more honor than the religious leader. The son who changes his mind and does what the father desires has more honor than the other son who was all words, no action.

Who was right with dad at the dinner table that night?

Praise the Lord, you do not have to be perfect. You might even be a prostitute ... if you will come to the Lord and do what He says you will have more honor than a "perfect", church-going, insulated, proud prig.

So, what is the desire of the Father?
1. To recognize that He is the Lighthouse of life. That we change the direction of our lives 10 degrees North because of Him. That we turn from our prostitution and stealing to Him. To repent and believe. To come under His care and grace.
2. That we come to the Father daily and direct ourselves to His settings. To stay humble and not think ourselves so mighty that we will not listen carefully ... and act.

DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.

Tuesday, December 8

Jesus Story Teller - Part 11

First things first ... that is one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It reflects the ability to put things in right order ... doing the more important things first. It is the ability to set priorities.

The word "priority" was first recorded in 1387. We do not get "priorities" until 1970 and "prioritize" until 1973. Think of that. It is only in our lifetime that we have tried to place values judgments on what should be first in our lives! It is only since the 1970s that we have been managing so many competing things that we coined a word for the process: "priorities".

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."

14 Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" 15Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

First things first ... setting proper priority on things.

The "certain rich man" in this story had a prior thing ... he had something in the front of everything else. He had his world ordered. He was first on his list! He was all he saw. He was the prior thing.

Being the priority left little room for anyone else. This was a dark choice that he apparently did not notice. He was unable to see God or the effect of God in His life. As in most things, there is usually a cause AND effect. To see the effect without realizing the Cause can be devastating (see verse 20).

Being the priority also meant he could not see others. We are never told that he considered sharing or giving any portion of his increase to the less fortunate or to his servants or even to his friends. He wanted it all for himself. His goal was to eat, drink and be merry.

Most of us think through our priorities. We make lists and put those things in some form of order. There is nothing wrong with this ... it is survival in an information age.

But, is it possible to have a list of priorities and suffer from a lack of priority? Is it possible to get the list all right but be all wrong because we are missing the most important thing?

What is your priority? What comes first?

We can use how we treat others as a gauge for this. The Scriptures teach us that we are not to kid ourselves, if we say God is our priority but it does not show up in our love and care for others then we are mistaken and our priority is not what we think it is.

The certain rich man found out too late ... we do not have to.

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Monday, December 7

Jesus Story Teller - Part 10

Read that demotivation poster quote. That is the perspective of some.

We all look up and down the ladder of life. We gauge our skill, ability and success on a standard that goes up and down a ladder.

We look up the ladder to determine our goals and seek motivation. Welcome to the land of discontent.

We look down the ladder when we need to pick me up and want to make sure we are doing better than someone else. Welcome to the land of pride.

We look up and down the ladder for perspective ... but I am not sure this is a conscious thing.

Maybe there is a better way to gain perspective?

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."

14 Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" 15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

20 "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

This is a parable about perspective.

A man approaches Jesus demanding Jesus to make a relative pay him what is due him. What is his by right. He's right but he's wrong. He might have a claim but he fails to understand the more important things related to God and relationships.

He fails to release his claim because he's convinced he has a right. He lacks perspective. He cannot see beyond his rights.

So, Jesus tells a story about a man that lacks perspective. If you have "perspective" then you have the ability to see around you. You are not locked on. You are not blinded by greed or rights.

The "certain rich man" (v.16) did not have this gift. He could not see beyond his land, his production. He did not have perspective. We see this in 4 ways:
1. He did not realize that the land produced because God gave him the increase.
2. He did not realize that the increase might have been for the good of others not just himself.
3. He did not realize that he was poor toward God and that God took that seriously.
4. He did not realize that his earthly choices had eternal significance.

I see myself in the rich man. I have his lack of perspective at times. I am so focused on my need to provide for my family that I can lose my view. I confess that I do not see the needs of others as well as I see my own. I confess that I believe my paycheck is MY paycheck. I realize that I do not realize 1/2 of what I should. I confess that I am more concerned with my earthly riches than I am being rich toward God.

I can tell it by where I invest my time and money.

How about you? Can you identify with anything in this parable? Does this speak to you in any way? How is your perspective? Are you rich toward God? What can you do to gain perspective?

How are you investing your time and money?

We gain perspective when we look beyond the ladder and see God at work. That is true riches.

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Friday, December 4

Jesus Story Teller - Part 9

No one likes hearing others talk about themselves too much ... we are usually waiting for them to stop so we can start talking about ourselves. Maybe it is something we learn in our first 5 years and never quite grow out of.

It is so easy to jockey for position as we approach the check out lines at Walmart. You look to determine if you can make it to the line before the lady with 2 full carts and coupons falling out of her pockets.

Parking lot management fits in here too. Remember Black Friday? Did you try to park the car in front of a store?

We had floor "seats" at the U2 concert. Just 10 people back from Bono on the stage. Great place to stand. But there were these "jerks" that kept jockeying for position, trying to get closer to the stage. There we were, waiting for 6 hours to be able to stand this close and these guys kept taking the better position. Truthfully, I would have done the same if it weren't for the social pressure. I wanted to be right at the stage.

All of these scenarios have something in common ....

Luke 14:7-11

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Great story. Very clear picture. Can you see yourself wanting the best seat in the house? Can you feel the tension? I can. This is a great story that captures the heart.

Jesus noticed how everyone went for their seats. This tells me it is a common problem that affects most everyone. We like to look out for ourselves for fear someone might get one up on us.
Most of what I do involves the Governor and his office, city/county mayors and council folks. I am in meetings with these folks most every week. Many times one of our Congressmen will also be in attendance. You can always tell when they enter the room as the noise settles down, heads turn in one direction and the cameras click, click, click away.

I am usually careful where I sit. It is so easy to make a mistake in one of these events ... to do the classic social blunder. This can come in many forms: sitting at a reserved table, talking Republican politics to a Democrat or picking up someone else's tea, bread or napkin.

Everyone wants to be near the Governor or mayor and will position themselves to those seats. But one must be careful, evaluate themselves properly and choose a seat that is equal to his/her station.

For Jesus it is much more simple, the guest should choose to sit in the "lowest place". This could even be a reference to the "lowest room" where the servants were. It would be like choosing a seat in the lower decks on the Titanic or getting the table next to the double kitchen doors.

Jesus commands his hearers to take the lowest place. Not in some false humility but in a true recognition that there might be others that are more important than you in the meeting. Please note that the view of who is important or not is from the host's perspective not the guests. You or I might not esteem someone highly, assume we are of more value but it is the view of the host that matters. We must always assume that he views others as more important than us.

If we choose the lower place seats and get left there than we have chosen wisely. If we are elevated by the host then we are honored properly. The word "honored" is the word for, glory or "weightiness of presence".

The final thing worth noting is that God is the ultimate Host. He is looking for us to take the lowest place and to be humble. He is looking for those He can elevate and give honor to. He obviously cannot and will not raise us if we are already raising ourselves up.

So, what do we do with this?

1. Start with God. He is the Lord. He is Creator. He is God. He is the ultimate Host. If we are going to be humble we are going to need to have a high view of God. I'd recommend reading AW Tozer: the Knowledge of the Holy or Francis Chan: Crazy Love to gain perspective.

2. Work on you. Life is about choices. Recognize others as more important than yourself. Do not look out only for your own interests but also the interests of others. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may lift you up in the right time.

3. Choose the lower place ... always. Don't you want the honor of God more than men's empty praise? If Tiger Woods has proven anything this week, you can have a billion dollars and all the praise of the world and still be unfulfilled! You can have it all and be empty! Only God is going to fill that hole. Even if you get elevated to the best seat at the table it is still temporary and unfulfilling as soon as it is over! Only God can meet our deepest needs. We need Him to lift us up. Let's choose to out serve our spouses at home. Let's choose to out serve at church. Let's choose the lower place. Let's humble ourselves and let God lift us up.

Next time you go to Walmart, think about this as you park, shop and check out. Choose the lower place. Walk from the farthest parking spot. Wait patiently in line. No one else may notice but the ultimate Host just might and that is what really matters.

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Thursday, December 3

Jesus Story Teller - Part 8

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls' teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the Body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

If we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching
Why aren't His hands healing
Why aren't His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus is the way

Luke 15:1-7

1 Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Sometimes religious people can be judgmental of those they deem "sinners". By the time Jesus appears on earth there is a deeply divided religious system separating the "righteous" and "sinners" from each other.

Being certain you are "righteous" causes stoppedupearitis. It keeps you from hearing anything that doesn't fit in your tightly crafted worldview. Jesus had a great solution for this .... tell a story. A story has the ability to get past the defense mechanisms we design to protect ourselves.

God's view of "sinners" is different than ours. The parable of the lost sheep gives us a glimpse into His view. It is a view we might want to adopt.
1. Something of value is lost (v. 4)
2. It warrants an all out search (v. 4)
3. It requires a celebration (v. 5-6)

Think through those 3 things in relation to yourself first. How does God see you? He sees lost things as having value and worth pursuing. He looks for them with the passion of a man who's lost his paycheck. He searches under stuff. He looks in the dark caves. He looks high and low. He looks until he finds. What is lost is of value to Him. He will search until he finds.

When he finds what He values he experiences joy. He calls together his friends to rejoice with Him. He throws a party.

That is how God sees you.

Now think through those 3 things in relation to someone you deem a sinner. How does God see them?

He sees lost things as having value and worth pursuing. He looks for them with the passion of a man who's lost his paycheck. He searches under stuff. He looks in the dark caves. He looks high and low. He looks until he finds. What is lost is of value to Him. He will search until he finds.

When he finds what He values he experiences joy. He calls together his friends to rejoice with Him. He throws a party.

That is how God sees them.

I tell you there is rejoicing in heaven when someone turns to God. There is rejoicing by the God of joy. The God that eats with sinners.

How encouraging is this story for "sinners" like you and me? We have a God that loves us! We have a God that wants us. We have a God that searches for us until He finds us. We have a God that throws a party when we are with Him.

That's how God sees you.

That's pretty amazing.

Listen to If We Are The Body in the Devolink Worship Center.

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Wednesday, December 2

Jesus Story Teller - Part 7

I had my first alcoholic drink with the pastor's kid. I was in high school. I was going to the Winter Formal with some good friends from church. We went all out. White stretch limo. Tux with a light pink jacket. I know it sounds bad but it was not as bad as it sounds. At least I did not have a Pirates of the Caribbean vintage, ruffled shirt!

While driving around in the limo, the pastor's kid asked if we wanted to get some "coolers". My date thought he was referring to Cactus Cooler, a relatively nasty soft drink. I thought he meant an Igloo cooler and wondered what we were going to put in it once we got it! Pretty much clueless.

I think I drank one 12 ounce wine cooler that night. It tasted better than I expected but it hit me like a bomb. I made a fool of myself that night.

What always shocked me was that I first learned to drink from a pastor's kid. Here I was supposed to be safe and away from the influence of the world. My parents were not concerned. After all, we were all Christians and in the same youth group. No problems ... right?

Matthew 13:24-30

24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28 " 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29 " 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

No wonder the Scriptures say that friendship with the world is hostility toward God! No wonder the Scriptures replay the imagery that we are soldiers in a battlefield! No wonder the Scriptures say we are to armor up and to have our minds sharp and to be ready for action.

We live in a battlefield. Easy to forget. Easy to get lulled to sleep. Easy to think we are safe. Even at church!

Let's pay attention to a few things in this parable:
1. Weeds came from an "enemy" (v. 25, 28). Someone that did not like the owner snuck in and planted bad seeds. Pretty clear in the rear view mirror that this "enemy" could very well be the devil. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis captures the subtlety of this enemy very well.
2. The presence of the weeds was not immediately obvious (v. 26). These grew under ground for some time and the farmer and owner did not know it. Apparently, weeds can co-exist for a time without anyone recognizing it. Eventually it will raise its head and be known.
3. Wheat and weeds grew together (v. 30). The wheat and weeds share the same resources of soil, sun and water. They live in the same place. They might even look similar for a period of time. But one is primarily a taker while the other is a giver. One uses resources without any benefit to the owner while the other provides the ingredients necessary to make bread and other things of benefit.
4. All will be righted in the end (v. 30). The owner will reveal the true position of each. The weeds will be bound and burned. The wheat will be placed into the owner's barn. Chuck Swindoll says there will be 3 surprises when we get to heaven: 1. Some we thought should be there won't be. 2. Some we thought won't be there will be. 3. Most importantly the biggest surprise is that I get to be there!

So, why this parable?

Well, it looks like a warning. It looks like an invitation to pay attention. Not everything is as it appears. Not all that call Him "Lord, Lord" will see the kingdom of heaven. Not all that make it through the doors of the church are really what we think they are.

We should expect that this is normal. The church is not a special place where our kids are safe just because they are in Sunday School! We need to be aware of what they are being taught and by whom. We need to pay attention to the content of their lives. We need to know what "Christian" friends they are spending time with.

Are you wheat or weeds? You are one or the other. Being wheat does not mean perfect ... we are talking about seeds, roots, stalk. It comes in stages. You have to be the right seed to be wheat. If you are truly saved you are wheat. You will continue to grow, in a mixed environment, until the end.

Examine yourself:
Might be good to picture yourself before God in judgment. Ask him to search you. Might be good to hear him ask questions and examine you and your choices. Might be good to do that now before you die.

Examine others:
This part is difficult for us in a tolerant culture. Expect that some in your church or even Sunday School class are weeds. Difficult to think through. You must be careful in doing this. Easy to become a conspiracy theorist. Don't want that. You just want to be wise and aware. Consider the outcome of their lives. Ask questions about what God is teaching them. Look for evidence of salvation. Let's continue to talk sports and kids but let's make sure we get to spiritual things too.

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Tuesday, December 1

Jesus Story Teller - Part 6


Beginning Anew

He came to my desk with quivering lip;
The lesson was done…
“Have you a new leaf for me, dear Teacher?
I have spoiled this one!”
I took his leaf, all soiled and blotted,
And gave him a new one, all unspotted;
Then into his tired heart I smiled:
“Do better now, my child!”

I went to the throne with trembling heart;
The day was done...
“Have you a new day for me, dear Master?
I have spoiled this one!”
He took my day, all soiled and blotted,
And gave me a new one, all unspotted;
Then into my tired heart He smiled:
“Do better now, my child!”

--Kathleen Wheeler

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27 The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.

29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'

30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

One of the greatest things about Jesus' parables ... the answer is at the end! We don't have to guess what the point of the story.

So, what is the point of this parable? God expects us to forgive each other. It is right there in verse 35. The enormous gap God had to fill to forgive us REQUIRES us to forgive others in return and whatever their sin against us. That's hard to take. We tend to have too much pride to allow us to be trampled on again and again.

Note the context: this parable is an answer to the question, "How many times to I HAVE to forgive someone?" The answer requires bible math. For most of us, 70x7=490, which is a lot in it's own right. But 7 is the biblical number of completion and 7x7 would have been a strong statement. 70x7 is off the charts. There is no missing what Jesus is asking for. Forgiveness is not optional.

Throughout this parable there are a some places that the hearers would have gasped in shock. (Each are marked above in blue).
1. The extravagant forgiveness of the king (v. 27). He had no obligation to release this man from his debt. In fact, it was his right to throw the man into debtors prison and sell his family. The man was guilty.
2. The shortsightedness of the forgiven (v. 28-30). You can feel the shock in the story. This man that owed $1,000,000 chokes a man that owes him $5. We stand in judgment on the man. We want to see justice served. That's good and fine, but we need to be careful ... this story is set up. We naturally judge the man for his ungrace and lack of mercy but in doing this we rightly begin to feel uncomfortable. We look at this shortsighted man and find he is a mirror for us to examine ourselves.

So, we NEED to forgive each other ... but there is another subtle point ... we need to be concerned when we see people treat each other with ungrace (v. 31). When we see other servants of the King not forgiving each other we are expected to take that to the King. It needs to bother us. I think the passage says they were "greatly distressed" over the ungrace of the forgiven, shortsighted man.

To say we need to forgive others is so obvious but needs to be stated. So, let's dig in ... Can you identify someone that "owes you" something? Maybe someone betrayed a confidence? Stole something from you? I could list a thousand offenses and maybe I would hit one or two. I find that God is better at helping us determine what needs attention.

Go to Him in prayer. Ask Him to reveal the names of folks you need to forgive. Release them. Do it because God requires it. Do it because it is good for you.
"Forgiveness is not something we do for others, we do it for ourselves - to get well and finally move on."

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