September 14, 2019
YOU BELONG HERE
1 Corinthians 12:27
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
Even though you and I do not know each other, with complete confidence I can say to you: you have gifts to offer for the good of the whole body of Christ! Though our culture prioritizes the skills, money, and beauty of an elite few, within the life of the church you and I are meant to be reoriented to what is actually true and eternal. Church is meant to be a taste of heaven, a place where we step out of the chaos and confusion of the world around us and remember afresh what is ultimately good and true.
Have you ever visited a great Gothic cathedral? These buildings, in their very bones, were meant to draw your eyes heavenward, to feel as though you’ve just entered into another realm, another dimension. And while this may sound and feel a bit airy and abstract, this vision is also profoundly practical for how we live day by day!
The “taste of heaven” that these churches remind us of is a world in which the whole of creation – every nation, every tribe – is living in perfect relationship with God as our creator and sustainer. This means that right here, right now, you have gifts to offer to the body that makes us more of who we are meant to be, a truer reflection of the church as it is meant to be.
Paul uses the image of a body to drive this point home. He is mindful of our temptation to prioritize parts of the body over and against the others. We decide the eye is more important than the hand, ears more than the nose. Perhaps, using his list of gifts within the church, we decide prophets and teachers are more significant and valuable than gifts of healing or tongues. To undercut this sizing up of gifts, Paul reminds them (and us) of a powerful truth: whatever you do for God is always secondary to the fact that you are loved by him and belong to Christ.
Do you believe this? Are you comfortable in your own skin? Are you able to be at peace with the gifts God has given you that only you have to offer? Can you celebrate and cultivate those gifts rather than thinking about what you wish you had that you don’t have?
You and I belong to one another, and you belong here. We must be able to celebrate the gifts God has given to others, while at the same time boldly embracing and cultivating the unique people he has made us to be!
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:” (1 Peter 4:10)
How can you more faithfully celebrate and cultivate the unique gifts God has given to you?
September 13, 2019
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, …’”
In the forests of northern Europe and Asia lives a little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it.
Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.
The Lord wants His people to keep themselves separated from the filth of this world at all cost. In today’s Bible reading, the Lord told the Jews to put a blue thread on the borders of their clothes:
“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.” (Numbers 15:38)
When they saw the blue, they were to remember God’s holy purpose for their lives and to keep a distance from sin.
Do we remind ourselves often of our high and holy purpose for living?
September 11-12, 2019
FASHION OR FAITH?
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
Os Guinness tells of a Jewish man, imprisoned 15 years by Soviet authorities for political dissidence, who became a Christian while in the terrible Gulag. He was sustained throughout that long ordeal by his faith in the Savior, and by the memory of his 4-year-old son he hoped to see again one day.
When he was finally released, the man anticipated the reunion with heart-pounding excitement. How thrilled he was to notice as they hugged each other that his son was wearing a cross!
After they had talked about many things, he asked his son, now 19 years old, just what the cross meant to him. His heart was crushed by the answer: “Father, for my generation the cross is just a fashion statement.”
The apostle Paul saw the cross as a symbol of the very core of his faith. It bore witness to his radically transformed life. He testified:
“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
What about you? Is the cross just a fashion statement? Or does it inspire you to echo Paul’s heartfelt boast in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ?
September 10, 2019
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
In her book Wearing God, author Lauren Winner says our clothes can silently communicate to others who we are. What we wear may indicate career, community or identity, moods, or social status. Think of a T-shirt with a slogan, a business suit, a uniform, and what they might reveal. She writes, “The idea that, as with a garment, Christians might wordlessly speak something of Jesus—is appealing.”
According to Paul, we can similarly wordlessly represent Christ. Romans tells us to:
“clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:14)
What does this mean? When we become Christians, we take on Christ’s identity. We are “children of God through faith”:
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26–27)
That is our identity. Yet each day we need to clothe ourselves in His character. We do this by striving to live for and to be more like Jesus, growing in godliness, love, and obedience, and turning our backs on the sins that once enslaved us.
This growth in Christ is a result of the Holy Spirit working in us and our desire to be closer to Him through study of the Word, prayer, and time spent in fellowship with other Christians:
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
When others look at our words and attitudes, what statement are we making about Christ? When others see us, may what they see speak well of our Savior.
September 8-9, 2019
“then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,”
Pride forgets where it came from. Humble beginnings and dependence on others seem to get erased from the memory of someone influenced by pride. Pride may get promoted, but it forgets those who contributed to the process of success. It is forgetful either intentionally or unintentionally. Pride loses its focus on who was really responsible in furthering its career. There is too much credit given to self and too little credit given to others. Pride forgets its family. Sometimes it gets so busy in work or play that it fails to involve the ones who provide the platform for its performance. Pride takes family for granted and ignores their needs. It is selfishly wrapped up in itself. Pride forgets the feelings of others; it is insensitive and obnoxious.
Pride is not afraid to crush someone’s spirit on the way to success. Pride forgets others, while humility includes others; Pride takes all the credit, while humility shares the credit; Pride discourages, while humility encourages; Pride pontificates, while humility prays; Pride talks too much, while humility listens liberally; Pride blames, while humility takes responsibility; Pride is oblivious to good manners and courteous conduct. It is all about itself, with little or no regard for the needs of others.
Above all else, pride forgets God. It may talk about God but only as needed to rubber-stamp its plans. Pride subtly uses God to carry out its agenda, and it forgets to see God for who He is. Almighty God is high and lifted up. He is holy, and His expectations are love, fear, and obedience. Pride forgets that God governs the universe and all its inhabitants. God is engaged with you up to the smallest of details, and He knows where you are and where you need to go. He wants you to remember His pristine track record of faithfulness. His past provision is a predictor of His future provision. Pride forgets this; it has amnesia to the things of the Almighty. Pride may say it believes in God, but its actions communicate agnosticism. It is too busy to create margin for its Master.
It is imperative you allow Christ to keep your pride in its place. It can only be conquered with humble dependence on God and obedience to His commands. Humility displaces pride and bows down before Divinity in prayer. Humility remembers God’s faithful deliverance from darkness into light. It remembers God’s salvation from sin and self to grace and service. Humility remembers to love God and people first, and subjugates its needs so that they are second. It has tremendous recall for good because God is its leader. Humility remembers how generous God is, and is generous in return. It understands and remembers what’s important to the Lord, and then invests its energies toward His initiatives. Humility remembers to thank others and to pray for them. It is extremely grateful, and appeals to heaven on behalf of people.
Humility remembers because it cares. The Bible says,
“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD.” (Zephaniah 2:3)
Consider joining a community of Christ followers who walk in humble love and obedience.
September 7, 2019
“Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
King David was intoxicated. He was under the influence of his wealth, power and fame. David had become proud and self-reliant. His prosperity had lulled him into a state of undue security and independence from God. However, when calamity struck his life, David cried out to God for mercy. He acknowledged his sin and repented. And then he thanked God for His deliverance, having learned a priceless lesson through his painful ordeal.
Becoming secure in the Lord is a process of learning to rely more and more on the love and grace of God in your life. No matter what the media and today’s culture tell you, your identity and confidence should come from Him and not your own abilities or possessions. You are made in the image and likeness of the Creator of the universe. Your value is priceless. You are “fearfully and wonderfully made””
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)
His loving thoughts toward you are too numerous to count:
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18)
The Father values you so much He sent His Son Jesus to die so you could have a close relationship with Him. Your sin is covered with Christ’s precious blood so that when God sees you, He sees His Son’s righteousness.
Be intentional about turning off the media sources each day and spend time soaking in God’s Word. Allow the Holy Spirit to reveal your true identity. Praise God for His incredible mercy in your life. Thank Him that your security rests in His grace, not in your personal merits. Pray that your leaders on Capitol Hill will also depend on God for their security instead of power, prestige and possessions.
Presidential Prayer Team
September 6, 2019
THE BLESSINGS OF CONFESSION
1 John 1:9
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
When I was in my late twenties, I lived in Houston, Texas where I was an elementary school teacher. During Sunday morning church service one week, I noticed an announcement in the bulletin for a special Wednesday evening event called a Solemn Assembly. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I liked attending special events at my church, so I decided to go. When I arrived, I was handed a small booklet at the door, then I found my seat in the sanctuary and waited for the event to start.
One of our church leaders stood, welcomed everyone and introduced us to another man, a special guest, who said he would help us overcome obstacles in our lives. (Sounds great to me!) He said he would be leading us through the booklet we had received at the door and that many people would be released from bondages (Awesome!). He said many others would overcome unforgiveness (Fantastic!). And, he said we would leave feeling renewed, refreshed, and restored. (Can I get an “Amen!”). But then, the man announced how this would all happen: through confession. (Really?!) That didn’t sound exciting—or fun.
For over 90 minutes, the man read one scripture after another on particular sins with each page of the booklet being dedicated to one sin. One page at a time, he described sins in detail, read their corresponding scriptures, then invited everyone in the congregation to kneel, seek their hearts, and quietly confess to the Lord if needed and ask for forgiveness. We asked God to forgive us for gossiping, slander, stealing, lying, adultery, and other sins. You name it, we addressed it.
In those quiet moments with my head bowed, I became acutely aware of how filthy my heart was. Sins that I had overlooked became obvious. But even though I became aware of my sin, I became equally aware of God’s goodness, love, care, kindness, and mercy. I cried tears of cleansing as the man reminded us of the Lord’s faithfulness and when I stood to leave, I felt lighter. Weight had been lifted. I knew I was loved even though I had often dishonored and disobeyed the Lord through my attitudes and actions.
So often, confession gets a bad rap. After all, who wants to be reminded of all the horrible things they have done, said, or thought? But there’s good news: when confession is coupled with the truth that God loves us in spite of our sin, and that He is waiting with open arms when we confess to Him, refreshing comes.
Confession can be liberating, cleansing, and life giving. And, when we know that our confession is being gently received by our tender, Sacrificial Savior, it’s easier to say, “God, I’ve really blown it.”
I invite you to talk with the Lord today and ask Him to reveal your sins to you. Then, when He has placed a loving finger on a heart attitude or action, ask for forgiveness, do what you need to do to right your wrong, then thank the Lord for His loving reconciliation. Confession, when coupled with receiving forgiveness is something to be celebrated!
“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.’” (Psalm 32:5)
Ask the Lord to reveal your sin to you, then ask for forgiveness and receive His love.
September 4-5, 2019
“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'"
The first Bible I consciously remember receiving as a child was a small, pocket-sized Gideon King James New Testament. It’s bonded white leather cover and gift box made it feel like a prized possession, and at age 5, it likely was the nicest book I had to my name. I kept it in the box at all times, taking it out only occasionally to look at it with great wonder and awe. And while this reverence and devotion to scripture is commendable at one level, it also planted a seed that took years to uproot. Namely, the belief that the New Testament was essential to the Christian life, and the Old Testament an optional backstory that one could take or leave as they saw fit.
Simply put, the New Testament is unintelligible apart from the Old. If we do not know the promises of God and the hopes and longings of his people, how then do we rightly understand Jesus as the way in which God chose to keep his promises and renew the world? St. Luke was crystal clear on this point, and in many ways set out to write his gospel with this in mind. As he says in his opening introduction, his aim was to write an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled:
“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,” (Luke 1:1)
In his book Scripture and the Authority of God, N.T. Wright uses the image of boats crossing the ocean to help us understand how the Old and New Testaments fit together. We as followers of Jesus are people who have crossed the sea and are walking on dry land, and as a result the ship is no longer needed in the same way that it was before, and yet, the ship always remains a central part of our story and identity. As he says, “When travelers sail across a vast ocean and finally arrive on the distant shore, they leave the ship behind and continue over land, not because the ship was no good, or because their voyage had been misguided, but precisely because both ship and voyage had accomplished their purpose. During the new, dry-land stage of their journey, the travelers remain – and in this illustration must never forget that they remain – the people who made that voyage in that ship.”
I believe this is a key insight that keeps us from dismissing the Old Testament on the one hand, and from missing the fulfillment in Jesus on the other. God’s story reaches its climax in Christ. As St. Paul reminds us:
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Jesus reminds us that God is faithful to keep his promises and not one of them is forgotten. This was great news to Ancient Israel as they hoped and longed for God’s coming redemption, and it is great news for us today. If you feel forgotten or unseen by God, the witness of Scripture from beginning to end reminds us afresh that God tells good, long stories.
How does Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises help you navigate tricky and confusing parts of the Old Testament?
September 3, 2019
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Have you ever been invited to a formal dinner with people you’re not entirely comfortable with? You may have been thinking about what fork to use, how to place your napkin, or how to engage in small talk without making a fool of yourself. Then think about having a picnic with friends. You don’t worry so much about a little grease on your fingers or what to say, you just enjoy their company.
Likewise, people often tend to be so busy minding their manners with God that they forget about what a gracious, loving, forgiving God He is. Jesus demonstrated what God is like by healing the sick, feeding the poor, and casting out demons. He put up with close contact with a bunch of regular guys for over three years.
Before He died on the cross, Jesus said:
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Also, the church is referred to as the bride of Christ, indicating an intimate relationship:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
You feel more comfortable around friends you’ve known for a while and like. Similarly, as you spend more time in prayer and getting to know God’s word, trusting in His love and sacrifice, you will increasingly enjoy His company and not be so concerned about minding your p’s and q’s. Meditate on God’s character, grace, and mercy. He is Holy and just, but He is good. Pray for a deeper friendship with God, and for people of this nation and all over the world to receive His love in Jesus.
Presidential Prayer Team
September 2, 2019
HOW DOES JESUS DEFINE GREATNESS?
“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28
Servant leadership is service to others. It is not jockeying for position, nor is it politicking for power. Instead, it is posturing for the opportunity to serve. This does not bode well for the insecure soul in need of abundant attention. Servant leaders avoid the limelight and serve in ways that many times go unnoticed. It is the little things that make a servant leader. It may be taking out the trash at home, or making the coffee at work.
No task is too menial for the servant leader, but there is something bigger than behavior that distinguishes a servant leader. It is attitude—an attitude of how to make others successful. He or she knows if those around them are successful then there is a good chance they will experience success. They are wise to want what’s best for others.
Self-service on the other hand builds a culture of mediocrity. It is all about taking care of my little world, not giving any thought to the needs of other team members. It is every man for himself – survival of the fittest. This self-service contributes to a scarcity mentality. If I serve you then you may look better than me—you may get all the credit. This fear of not being noticed facilitates competition instead of cooperation.
Servant leadership on the other hand is not caught up with getting the credit. The servant leader has put to death the need for self-recognition. The attention and credit can easily flow to others. This is the place where it belongs, as our humility cannot handle the attention. Like a lily-white body in a tanning booth, our humility burns up. Servant leadership resists this temptation to linger in the limelight. Instead, the servant leader may give away opportunities that come his or her way. Seek to serve and let status find you.
Jesus served quietly on most occasions and boldly as needed. No sincere seeker was neglected. His motive was to serve for the glory of God. His ultimate service was laying down his life for the human race. Consequently, followers of Christ can become a better servant leader because Jesus seeks to serve through you. You can’t, but He can.
Submit to Him and watch Him use you to serve. Die to getting attention and credit while celebrating the success of others. Quietly volunteer for the next lowly task. Set up others to succeed. Give away your life and you will find it. This is the way of Christ. This is the way to serve and lead. Submit to God, serve people—and others will follow!
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
Who do you need to serve for Christ’s sake that does not deserve your service?
September 1, 2019
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Ed DeWeese came home one afternoon to find that his home had been burglarized. Thieves had taken the TV, stereo equipment and jewelry--about $3,000 worth. He called his wife, Beth, at work and she rushed home. The police arrived and took a report. But the DeWeeses didn’t have homeowner’s insurance. So they prayed, “Lord, we have no insurance and cannot afford to replace these things. Please return them to us.” But then God reminded Ed that he himself was an ex-offender and had previously gone to jail for embezzlement. He said to Beth, “We must first forgive.”
After the thief had been arrested and released on bond, Ed asked a police officer to take him to the offender’s home. When Ed met the man who had robbed him, he said, “I’m the man you ripped off. But brother, I forgive you in the name of Jesus.”
Ed continued to visit him and gave a Bible to his little brother who had assisted in the crime. Soon, the thief told the police where the stolen items were hidden, and they recovered all the DeWeeses’ belongings. When the young man pleaded guilty to burglary, Ed testified on his behalf. He then helped the young man find a job. Most important, he and his brother received Jesus Christ!
Your past failures make you more sensitive to those who need mercy in the same areas in which you received forgiveness. Ask God for such opportunities to minister to others who need to experience His mercy.
Presidential Prayer Team
Go to August 2019 Archive