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February 28, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Exodus 20. 13

“You shall not murder.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

I am sure that for nearly all Christ followers this particular commandment or law is framed as a “happening to” instead of a happening by. The willful and intentional cessation of life does not appear on the radar screen of Christians as a viable option to describe how they will be in right relationship with others. Martin Luther promoted the “just war theory” and it can offer some justification for the willful and intention killing of others in the act of war for the purposes of defending a righteous way of life against an evil force. Some modern day individuals have sought to rationalize abortion as not being labeled as murder with arguments about when is a fetus a living being. We even know of “self-defense” as the legal option to avoid a murder sentence. It sounds a whole lot like “kill before being killed.” Yes, I know, it is easy for me to question these positions because I have never been faced with them. I have been faced with the gospel of Jesus Christ who had definite opinions about this righteous directive concerning how we honor the lives of others.

Two teachings immediately come to mind which might serve as precedents for how we might understand the “interpretation” of the law to match the suggested paradigm of “you have no need to….” From the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5. 22) “Murder” in this sense takes on a much different meaning as to the application of the directive. The harm to a person is not simply the willful and intentional cessation of life so that the body no longer functions but it is extended to how a person’s life and demeanor is changed negatively by another person’s actions. Could it go further than than? Have we ever said in anger “I could just kill you?” as with Juror #3 in the movie “12 Angry Men”? We might have even said it to our children as parents or to our parents as children. Yes, I know that is a horrible illustration but the thought may have crossed our mind when we are so angry and frustrated and for Jesus even the thought counts (reference the teaching of “Do not commit adultery” and the application of lustful thinking. Matthew 5.28) So, we may not have murdered anyone but just thinking about doing harm to another physically, socially or emotionally reaps a spiritual negative consequence under the understanding of God’s law. That consequence is judgment because the action taken to spur the consequence was an act of judgment.

So, we do not have to be like the rich young ruler who felt justified because he had never “murdered” anyone. He held to the most legal application of the law of never being convicted of the crime. But, what of the “sin” of murder which God declares we have no need for with His Holy Commandment? We are challenged to investigate our own thoughts and actions according to the reality of having first the right relationship with God. That relationship invites us to trust in Him with all things including our very own lives. Jesus taught, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body. They cannot kill the soul. (How well Jesus would illustrate that point with His crucifixion and resurrection!) Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both in “hell.” (This warning is defined by the very warning to not be angry with one another as an equivalent with murder itself as was previously mentioned. (See. Matthew 10. 28f) Jesus, who fulfilled the call of the law, showed the world that there was no need for anger, hostile thoughts and even the resulting actions of emotional, social and, in its very extreme application, physical harm. Is anyone outside the realm of “guilty as defined”? Thanks be to God for His mercy and grace on all of us who have sinned and fallen short of trusting God completely with all our thoughts and actions. But, why would we not have need to even be angry. The world is filled with reasons to be angry at ourselves, a family member, a neighbor or, more conveniently, a stranger. But, those reasons may have their root in a protection of one’s own way of life or thinking as being more superior to that of others. God declares we have no need to walk that path if we just awesomely and extremely trust Him for all things and in all things. He calls us to abide in His peace, in His mercy and in His provision. Hard to do? You bet it is hard. It is harder still when we try to walk it alone. But, we when walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still and with all who will trust and obey. Even if we might forfeit our lives in that trust or they are taken from us because we believed in the providence of God, the murderer cannot take our soul as it belongs to God. To Him be the glory because He will repay us far more in the fullness of life than we could ever imagine to obtain in this one by “murdering” others and promoting ourselves.

I know, easier said than done. But, so is the life of a Christ follower. Jesus never promised an easy road or one that may not put us in harm’s way for the sake of the gospel which is our very life. But, He did promise protection of our spirit and the provision of our earthly lives. He even laid down His life and was “murdered” for our sake so we would enjoy the full benefits of a right relationship with God forever. I know I have a way to go in this area but by the grace of God I have a chance to get it right still and so does every other mighty man of God.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will be leading God’s people in worship, praise and service this weekend
* For those impacted by the 8.8 earthquake in Chile and the resulting tsunami
* For those who are struggling in life through the veil of depression that they may come to know
the veil has been torn in two freeing them to come into the presence of God without fear and
find peace and healing in abundance unto eternal life
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family; we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide and for her healing from grief in this time of transition

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Lisa is recognized for her years of service at UPC
* Lisa has been invited to meet the head of the religion department at Baylor as a next step in
her interview process

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, how precious is life which You have created to be created in faith, hope and love. We commit ourselves to honoring that life and seek your mercy when our very thoughts bring a stain to the lives of others as well as ourselves tantamount to murder itself. Holy living is serious business, Lord, which You have shown us through Your Son Jesus the Christ. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit so that we may honor that call to holy living as did our Savior who had every human reason to be angry, lash out and even protect Himself from harm but instead laid down His life as an atonement for sin and a lesson for righteousness. AMEN.

February 27, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Exodus 20. 12

“Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is
giving you.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

We often look at the Bible as a spiritual history book authenticated by archeological finds to bookmark and footnote events where God related to His people just as it says. There may be a tendency to overlook the strongest element of present tense and future promise. The biblical record of God’s interaction is a living entity, God-breathed and filled with the opportunity of an eternal lifetime for those who will believe it, receive it and share it intentionally with others. This is exactly how God desires to deal with us through His living Word. The biblical witness portrays brings to our minds the image of both father and mother and the multiple characteristics which this Heavenly Parent exudes. Building upon the commands already given and the extended application of their teachings parents are not merely a man and a woman who are joined together in love producing future generations of mighty men and women through faith, hope and love. No, indeed they are far more than that. They are blessed with the responsibility of producing between them, or allowing the Holy Spirit of God through mutual agreement, a more realized earthly image of God for all the world to see. But, more importantly that for the whole world to see it is for those future generations to know there is a God who loves and cares and provides for them through their parents.

Our spiritual and earthly lives are reshaped each day to better assimilate the blessed future which is ahead. They are more than responses and consequences of past events, although past events certainly have the power to influence our daily lives especially when they have been left unreconciled. Our daily and future lives are dependent upon the most significant event in our past with the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He lived His life in honoring God the Father so that His siblings (all of us) might be restored to the family and live long in the land that God has provided and is providing. Yes, we have no need to worry for daily or future concerns and resources when we honor God by honoring our fathers and mothers just as Jesus honored His, both earthly and heavenly. This is not a call to conditional love or agreement. God is not striking a deal with His children that if you do “this,” I will do “that.” Instead, God is sharing the reality of His love by making it a daily and renewable opportunity for mercy and grace, charity and love, hope and promise.

This command is stated in the positive and is a transition from the outline of a right relationship between man and God (the first four descriptions of why we need only God and no other) to how we live in right relationship between all members in the greatest human community- the family of God! God’s promise is a legacy that is passed on from generation to generation. It is a part of our spiritual DNA no matter how much sin may believe it has restructured it. The call to parenting and bringing children into the world joined with the pure desire of sharing love made vibrant in children is strong. It is a key and essential element in defining who we are as God’s children and future parents, as parents and future grandparents, as grandparents and future great-grandparents (we should all live so long). Ultimately, it is a definition of the consequence of honorable parenting and being honoring children. That consequence is a promise of what happens as we live in right relationship with God and one another. That promise is a home that will never disappear and a homeland that will never been taken away. David spoke of it as a shepherd who understood the nature of the Great Shepherd. Jesus spoke of it as a craftsman who understood the nature of the Master Craftsman. We speak of it as children who are becoming parents who are growing in the understanding of the nature of the Ultimate Parent- God our Heavenly Father. He is not limited to stories of the past. His time has not faded upon the pages of family records. He is a living God whose greatest desire is for His children to live forever with Him in the land He is giving to all of us daily.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will be leading God’s people in worship, praise and service this weekend
* For those impacted by the 8.8 earthquake in Chile and the resulting tsunami
* For those who are struggling in life through the veil of depression that they may come to know
the veil has been torn in two freeing them to come into the presence of God without fear and
find peace and healing in abundance unto eternal life
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family; we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide and for her healing from grief in this time of transition

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Lisa is home
* Lisa has been invited to meet the head of the religion department at Baylor as a next step in
her interview process

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, thank You for loving us and going the extra miles to help us love You and one another so that we can enjoy all that You are giving us. Bless these parents and children in a mighty way today and receive all the thanks and glory they will bring to You in their obedience and desire to love one another as You have loved them. AMEN.

February 26, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Exodus 20. 8

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

I wonder why so many people have such a difficult time with this particular commandment. Many Christ followers want to dress this day up in words, actions and appearance so that it looks different than all the other days of the week. There really isn’t anything wrong with that except the intent might fall more on the hypocrisy side than on the holy side. “Holy” points God’s mighty men in the direction of “belonging to God.” Paul wrote to the early church a reminder that as Christ followers they were a royal priesthood of believers. That meant they were “holy.”
They were set aside and apart from the defining moments of the world and known as those who loved God and were loved by God. Their entire lives were supposed to be different from the world and strangely the same from one day to the next. Yet, it is this one day of the week (which is the “last day of the week,” Saturday by Old Testament reckoning) which stands apart from the rest because it is supposed to be the sole possession and opportunity for God and mankind to celebrate their oneness as holy beings. It certainly does not mean to intimate that the other six days do not belong to God nor that they have no part in declaring a separation of heaven and earth- God and man. Quite the contrary!

Six days a week every Christ follower, every mighty man of God, works and labors in the service of God to provide for self, family and others. Their industry is an opportunity to bear witness to the mercy and grace of God expressed in gifts, talents and abilities. Those six days are the “working out” of our relationship with God and humankind. These are the days of witness and service as the works of faith. But, this seventh day which God set aside from the season of creation until this very moment and beyond is different in that there is no working out of relationships or proving of faith. Rather, this day is established by God as a time of celebration of the right relationships we have been invited to participate in despite our sinfulness. This is a day of mercy, grace and freedom to bask in the forgiveness of our sins and our restoration into the family of God which Christ Jesus has made possible for us to enjoy. Honoring the Sabbath day is the Christ follower’s way of teaching the world there is no works-righteousness in the Kingdom of God only righteous works. The Sabbath is not a day on which and in which we work to be Christian. It is a day of consecration that the work of salvation has been completed so that we can be known as a Christian, a Christ follower.

When we honor the Sabbath day by remembering to keep it unstained from the falsehoods of the world that say “you must work, work, work to live, live, live” are we not making the day and the message holy? It is in our holiness that we can say “we live, live, live so that we can work, work work!” We are set apart to do good works as the good work has been done in us. We do not need any day for righteousness to be worked in us. We need only a day to let God’s righteousness work fully in us apart from all the cares and calls of the world and make His joy as well as our be complete!

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will be leading God’s people in worship, praise and service this weekend
* For those who are struggling in life through the veil of depression that they may come to know
the veil has been torn in two freeing them to come into the presence of God without fear and
find peace and healing in abundance unto eternal life
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family; we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide and for her healing from grief in this time of transition

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* God’s strength to remain humble when the situation by human standards would warrant
otherwise
* Lisa has been invited to meet the head of the religion department at Baylor as a next step in
her interview process

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, we thank You for the gift of Sabbath where we can rest from the labors of the world and allow You to revive in us the good work of salvation known by faith with hope in love. AMEN.

February 25, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Exodus 20. 7

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless
who misuses His Name.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

Let me quickly review the premise of these studies on the Ten Commandments. They are indeed the Law of the Lord, His commands which prescribe the identity, meaning and purpose of engaging a right relationship between Him and His mighty men. They are statements of truth which His Son, Jesus our Christ, fulfilled perfectly in His earthly life as a model for how we can live on earth as it will be in Heaven. The intention is not to say “You must be perfect in order to gain Heaven.” As human beings living in a world changed by sin’s presence and being influenced by sin’s consequences in our own lives we have all fallen short of our intended identity. Fortunately, we have Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is His image in us that makes it possible to step back onto the road of righteousness and be a part of the blessing which God has purposed. So, while the law defines the boundaries of righteous living where we should not go and what we should not do, its corollary seeks to engage within each of us that not only should we “not do” the actions and thoughts which are listed but that we have no need to engage them.

So, while there are other “gods,” their shelf life is short and their power to transform lives into fullness and grace is non-existent. If we are already privileged to be connected with the best, the Lord God Almighty, then why spend any time with the rest? We not only should not have them because it is offensive to God and harmful to ourselves, but we have no need for them when we truly walk with the Lord.

Equally, there is no need for idols, symbols and icons to be images or reminders of the presence of God either in His mercy or His wrath. He created us in His image and therefore we do not need anything made by our own hands to represent God- we are God’s representation of God on earth as He is in Heaven. At least, we ought to be! Jesus said, “If you see Me, you have seen the Father. The Father and I are one just as you and I are one. If you love me, follow my commandments and love one another.” So, instead of spending time objectifying God so that we can keep Him visible before our eyes we ought to be spending time developing that image of God before His eyes as if we are the mirror image of God.

That leads us to today’s thought which builds upon “we are the image of God fashioned by the creative power of His Holy Spirit regardless of how our human existence came into this world.” When we became Christ-followers with the intention of being God’s mighty men, we took on the transforming desire to be the incarnation of God to the best of our ability and to the fullest extent of the work of Christ in us. Another way of looking at this commandment is that we do not need to have any other purpose for our lives except to be meaningful to others by being all God has created us to be. We are, as His mighty men and brothers in Christ, the image and messenger of His Name. His Name is above all names and to use that Name for any other purpose other than glorifying God is a lie and misrepresentation of the truth. The truth is that we have the keys to the kingdom, dominion over the earth, authority over evil and the power to make a difference for the betterment of all of God’s creation starting with His people. Isn’t that what Jesus did? Isn’t that what Jesus gave us? Jesus never misused the name of God He was. He even declared, “I AM” when He taught the people about who He was. He was walking truth. The truth kept Him free and set others free. It will do the same for us. It is not the name of Nike or Ford or Sears or our favorite sports team that can proclaim the saving grace and mighty works of God. It is only the name of God which has been given to us because He desires us to be in the only right relationship that exists on earth or in Heaven. Can anyone else say that and mean it?

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those deciding how best to provide health care to the American people- perhaps they
should consult the Great Physician’s health care plan first before seeking ways to displace it
with human manufacturing
* For those working with God’s powerful creatures in sea parks
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide and for her healing from grief in this time of transition

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Community of helpers
* Lisa’s references are being checked and that they will overcome their concern about her
Being overqualified and therefore not committed to giving all she has to the job but to look
elsewhere as if this position would only be temporary by human standards

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, hallowed by Your Name through the lives of these mighty men in whom it lives and works with mercy and grace. AMEN.

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February 24, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Exodus 20. 4-5a

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them….”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

We are a people of tangibility. We tend to believe what we can see. Makes sense doesn’t it. If I can see it and put my hands on it, I have a better chance to control it, master it and make it my own. Of course, I am not speaking of “making it our own” as in we accept responsibilities for it but that we subdue it, tame it and turn it into an object. I think that might speak of an inability to truly enter into a trusting relationship with the Almighty God. We know that people and things will let us down but it is too difficult to imagine that we would cast our lot with something that is beyond our ability to control. Believing in an invisible God who makes Himself known in acts of blessing and power but warning His followers to avert their eyes because His glory is too great to behold is a challenge. It isn’t so much that God doesn’t want His creation to behold Him but that He did not equip us to do so. But, there are glory filters or blinders which keep us from looking upon God’s image and to see His fullness; it is called sin.

So God defined for His people that trying to capture His image in inanimate objects is a sin, just as it is to seek other means to complete our lives outside of a right relationship with God. The result of our decision to enter into a sinful relationship is ultimately death. For Adam and Eve it was expulsion from God’s intimate presence, the sentence of hard labor (toil from the soil for Adam and painful childbirth for Eve), and a limited number of years for their physical lives. The lie perpetrated by Satan which seduced Adam and Eve into surrendering their right relationship with God to self-centeredness saying “Surely you will not die” became a death sentence. Sin has a price, a costly consequence. The sin of idolatry wreaked havoc for generations afterward. Was it worth it? Consider the alternative of receiving a blessing of love through a thousand generations and you will see the dilemma. But, the problem is we humans tend to be so short-sighted and lose vision on the big picture. We need reminders and signposts along the way to keep us on track. Innocently we create images to capture the vision and serve us along the way. But, we turn things into ultimate realities and begin to live for them instead of living for God.

God’s command was to avoid substituting things for a relationship with a personal and living God. True relationships are revealed by the things we say and do but we are far more than our words and actions. God is truth and that truth is revealed in wise words and constructive actions. But, God is also spirit as well as truth. Nothing can contain the Spirit of God, it moves where it wills at the command of God. Things cannot order our lives nor can they create order in our lives. God declares that we have no need to depend on things of the earth to know Him. All these things are at the command of God who is their creator and sustainer. If we attempt to command them then we are at odds with God. Why do we need to be at odds with God when God’s desire is to even out our lives and provide mightily for them? So doesn’t it seem fitting that God is saying “Trust me and I will provide. You do not need anything to remind you of Me except for yourself. You are created in My image and cannot be improved.” Of course, we must be improved because sin came into the world. We invite it into our lives when we find ourselves needy and unable to wait on God. It is for that purpose that Christ came into the world as Jesus of Nazareth. He desired to restore the luster to our lives with His loving forgiveness, His ultimate sacrifice and His blessing of the Holy Spirit. If we have those things which the world cannot contain then we have all we truly need.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For safety for all those who will return to their normal routines today following yesterday’s
snow storm, especially school children and their teachers
* For the Guatemala peninsula area impacted by yesterday’s earthquake
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide and for her healing from grief in this time of transition

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Woundedness and the promise of healing
* This prayer-mail and the opportunity to share God’s desire to encourage men to be better
men, especially when they feel far less than that

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, forgive us for our short-sightedness and dependence on things to get us through life. There is no-thing like You because You are above all things. Help these mighty men to rise above the things in their lives and be known for who they are and not what they are. May their lives bring glory and honor to Your Name by which we live, serve and pray. AMEN.

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February 23, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Exodus 20. 2-3

“I AM the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall
have no other gods before me.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

There are the foot of Mt. Sinai Moses found the nation of Israel practicing idolatry with symbols that represented their past captivity. It was as if they were still connected to bondage in Egypt and all their complaints by an umbilical chord of faithlessness. Yes, it was a dischord of fear and anxiety of the unknown. This God called I AM was easy to believe in as a means of escaping a harsh reality. The reality of the power of this God whom Moses declared was a personal God with a name given only to His People was not doubted as to what He could do. But, now they were wondering “What has He done for me lately?” How easy it is for humans to jump on the bandwagon of convenience and ride out of town away from our problems. There is little questioning at the moment about rules, regulations, consequences, stipulations and expectations. During the 1980s there was a popular re-teaching of faith called “Beyond Easy Believism.” When everything is going well few stop and think about what is next. But, when rough spots in the journey begin to show up many start to ask “What were we thinking?”

This is what happened to the nation of Israel after 400 years of bondage. Their spiritual relationship was more “hand to mouth” survival than a true dependence and belief in God. They had no true relationship with God. They had lived in the culture of polytheism which amounted to gods of convenience, opportunisms and appeasements. They did whatever they needed to do to make it from day to day. They were willing to believe whatever was promoted in order to get along. Dr. Phil would have had a field day asking “How is that working for you now?” The fact was that it wasn’t working, it didn’t work then and it wasn’t working now. But, their spiritual default was set to do what was easiest to do- revert to past practices. So, when Moses descended the mountain of revelation with the description of what their new life would look like as they entered into a personal and spiritual relationship with God it was no wonder the primary hub around which all other descriptors would circle was God Himself.

While the commandment declared “You shall have no other gods before me.” and promoted monotheism as their new faith practice, it was an affirmation of an extended truth. That truth said “You have no need for any other gods. There is only one God who can give you what you really need. Have a relationship only with me and everything else will be taken care of.” It sounds a lot like the words which God spoke to Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was His sincere desire that Adam, and thus Eve, enjoy a full and eternal walk with the Almighty God who moved Heaven and earth to provide all they would ever need. The provision of freewill showed the true nature of God who loved His creation. The struggle Adam faced was no different than that of the nation of Israel in their journey to the Promised Land. It isn’t different than that faced by the mighty men of God today. Our spiritual challenge is to believe in the mercy and charity of God when we do not see Him as much as when He is clearly apparent to us. When our lives are full and we find it easier to be happy and content we give thanks to God and give little thought to the future when times get tough. This idea reduces God to a god who is servant to our needs as if we command Him. This isn’t what God had in mind. His words were spoken clearly, “Follow Me and I will bless you beyond measure.” If He could humble Pharoah, his army and the nation of Egypt; if He could part the waters of the Red Sea and hold them back with the wind of His own Spirit; if He could shake the earth and open the heavens to provide for millions of people, then He ought to be good enough to trust and obey. The old way only led to bondage and that road had become too easy to follow as was evidenced by their return to idolatry. The new way leads to promise, prosperity and a relationship with God no other god could provide. The choice was theirs and it is ours as well. If we have God then we do not need anything else, so why go there.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For the witness of trust and faith that will lead others to see God and choose to walk in
relationship with Him alone to overcome their connections to lesser and ineffectual gods of all
kinds
* For safety for all those who must venture into the storm today, especially school children and
their teachers
* For the signing of an interim cease-fire agreement between the Sudan and Dafur
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our troops overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience; especially now as Iran celebrates new breakthroughs in its nuclear
technology and as an Afghan offensive against the Taliban seeks success supported by a
capture a very high-ranking Taliban leader
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide!

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* For good news for Amber Conway whose tests returned showing her free of brain cancer
* For vocational challenges that require leaning into God mightily

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, there is no need for any other God. You alone as sufficient to meet our needs. Thank You for loving us so much that we have been shown the door of opportunity which is Your Son and our Savior, Jesus the Christ. You have given us the key that unlocks that door called faith. Bless those who will exercise that faith and put the key to the unlocking of blessing and opportunities to know, love and serve You all the days of their lives. AMEN.

February 22, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Matthew 15. 3

“Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition.’”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

It remains to me a mystery why anyone would want to cross swords with the Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Scribes, and their followers, and the Pharisees were often found jousting in biblical swordplay. No match ever lasted very long. It often went like this: En garde, the Pharisee would lung, Jesus would parry and the Pharisee would often find themselves fallen on their own sword. I believe the problem would be that, as Matthew describes it in what is chapter 15 of his gospel teaching, the swords of the two individuals were vastly different. The sword of the Pharisee, or Scribe or follower, was the sword of tradition. Tradition had become an interpretation of the law created for the purpose of serving the individual holding to the tradition.
The sword of the Master was himself, the Word of God. The sword was not so much a weapon but a revelation, a force field of such magnitude that nothing on earth could defend against it. It was, as John the Presbyter revealed to the Church, a double-edged sword. Such a sword was effective regardless of which way it was turned; it remained constant, same and effective.

The Law which the Pharisees, and others, turned into “good words” and from which they created their traditions was a defense created by God to defend its wielders from the ways of the world which had become corrupted by sin. It is strange how the Ten Commandments (there is a difference between command and order) were seen more as a burden that could not be carried than the defining of a right relationship between God and man as well as man and man. As I sat in worship yesterday listening to a teaching on obedience, I was reminded of an axiom which I had been urged to keep at the forefront of all educational decision-making. That axiom stated “Rules without Relationships breeds Rebellion.” The Pharisees, and those who act like Pharisees even today, were less concerned about creating relationships as they were about empowering their own traditions. Jesus, on the other hand, was the most traditional person of all because He not only upheld the law by modeling it but He was the fulfillment of the Law.

The Law was a definition of those who desired to be in right relationship with God. Too often people have looked at the Ten Commandments as a fence to keep sinners out of the Promised Land of faith, hope and love. Instead, they were a definition of ten blessings of provision which God had fashioned for His people. Yes, you heard me correctly that the Ten Commandments are actually Ten Blessings. Instead of seeing “thou shalt not” when we read, study and model the command of God as if we are bound by our failure to please Him because they are too difficult to maintain we should see the provision of faith, hope and love provided to make our lives better. So, I offer the following restatement as a means of consideration, discussion and testimony as I revisit the Ten Blessings which are saying “You have no need for…, I have provided.” I invite you to join with me in discovering the blessings which God has made for us in Himself for the next ten days and find your freedom from the world’s traditions and your liberty in the Way of God.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will let the Law of the Lord rise within them to be defined by right relationships
in all things
* For Amber Conway, a seven year old who is engaged in a struggle for life
* For the signing of an interim cease-fire agreement between the Sudan and Dafur
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our troops overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience; especially now as Iran celebrates new breakthroughs in its nuclear
technology and as an Afghan offensive against the Taliban seeks success supported by a
capture a very high-ranking Taliban leader
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide!

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Thanks for a beautiful Sunday
* For Lisa’s safe and fruitful last week at UPC which started yesterday

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, Your Law is perfect reviving the soul. It is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. May its life-giving power redefine our lives from bondage to liberty as the truth shall set Your people free in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

February 21, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Psalm 119. 81

“My soul faints with longing for Your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your Word.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

My father was notorious for taking us on what seemed to me to be last minute Saturday trips. I recognize now it was a way of getting our family out of the house but that was never a stated goal. I suppose those were the days where children were to be seen and not heard, do what you are told and be quiet. This is what my brother and I usually did until it was too annoying to my father and then we started home again. I was never one to ask, “Are we there yet?” I do remember thinking it a couple of times because I just wanted to know how much longer was I going to have to wait to see where we were going. There were times when it felt like forever. I was encouraged to enjoy the world around me and take notice of something new. That helped. But if it was bad weather and I couldn’t really see much then I did begin wondering about our wandering.

For the psalmist, the life of faith must have been like one of my long Saturday trips. The longer the trip the more likely it was to settle for any destination and stop short. Or, the longer the trip the easier it was to question the intention of the journey that seemed to have no particular roadmap. I did wonder from time to time if we had a specific destination or we were just out for a ride. It was on those days, I would never ask “Are we there yet?” I know I have felt like that on those difficult days in my life much as it had to be for the psalmist. It would particularly easy to question the journey when those difficult times turned into weeks or months or seasons or years. Regardless, the psalmist who was allowed to wrestle with the distance from the destination or the intention of the journey confessed, “…but I have put my hope in Your Word.”
In other words, God didn’t mind the psalmist asking from the backseat, “Dad, are we there yet because this sure has been a difficult journey?” However, just because “Dad” let him ask didn’t mean He had to immediately answer.

All of God’s mighty men, and those known by mighty men, have experienced or are experiencing that “questioning in the middle of the journey.” We are tired of that elusive solution and time of peace. We weary of the unknown wondering what is around the corner. We get upset at detour after detour where we can see where we want to be but just can’t seem to get there the way we are having to go. Sometimes, we just get tired of the drive and just want to settle where we are instead of pressing on to where we are going. Fortunately, there is a Word of hope for each of us. Whether it is the psalmist David’s “Good Shepherd” or the disciples “Passover Host” the truth is the same. I know where I am going. I am taking you to a place that is good for you. Trust me and believe in me.

It might be easier to be trusting like a sheep but I am not a sheep. It might be easier to be an overwhelmed disciple who feasts on the Master’s Words without considering until much later what the implications were but I am not that disciple. I am more likely to be that headstrong ram or Thomas the questioning disciple than a passive individual meandering through life. But, the point may be that I should be more like a passive sheep which trusts in the Good Shepherd alone. Or maybe I should be a more enamored disciple who simply soaks in the Word of the Lord. It doesn’t really matter much when it is all said and done because the bottom line never changes. No matter how long the journey nor distant the goal our hope continues in the His Word spoken as truth and lived as reality. In other words, “If we are not there yet, Dad, I am really glad to be riding today with You.”

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will lead God’s people in worship, service and praise this weekend
* For the signing of an interim cease-fire agreement between the Sudan and Dafur
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our troops overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience; especially now as Iran celebrates new breakthroughs in its nuclear
technology and as an Afghan offensive against the Taliban seeks success supported by a
capture a very high-ranking Taliban leader
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide!

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Thank God it’s Sunday!
* For Lisa’s safe and fruitful last week at UPC

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, Your Word is without flaw. Your intention is without fail. Your hope is without fear. Your truth is without falsehood. Our reality can never be without You. Thanks for being there with us and sharing the journey so we will never be alone. AMEN.

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February 20, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

Micah 4. 5

“All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the Lord our
God forever and ever.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

The Church is to be the true vision of what the real world is like. It is no Garden of Eden. It is not perfect. But, it embodies the truth of God and is encouraged to share that truth in life-giving services of faith, hope and love to all of God’s people regardless of their belief systems. The Church is not called to serve itself. The Church is called to serve others as it has been served by Christ who gave His life that it might have life.

When the Word of the Lord came to Micah the simple truth was proclaimed. The world shadowed by sin can walk any way it so chooses. If it chooses to follow other gods and deny the authority of the Lord God Most High, then let them do so. They future has been revealed and their demise secured. But, if any nation chooses to follow the Word of the Lord then it will share in the blessing of life with the promise of God securely fixed as it is for the nation of Israel.

But, what happens when Israel started to look more like the world than the kingdom? Their lives began to fall apart. Only by the extreme mercy of God have they existed apart from total annihilation. Their leaders fall short of high expectations into decadence. Their prophets and priests become blinded to the truth and keep an eye open only to their own profit and praise. Their citizens are ignored and the means of living are sacrificed to preserve the leadership. How many cultures and nations would fit this description throughout history? Are there any nations currently defined by this rubric of evil consequences? The answer is too many and yes, perhaps even our own nation.

As God’s mighty men our voices must be lifted up and heard. We cannot whisper the truth of God speaking for His glory and against the predatorial presence of evil. It begins in our own homes and in our own lives. We must declare with our words and our actions that we walk with the Lord. The world is to be defined by our faithfulness. We are not to be defined by the world’s unfaithfulness.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will lead God’s people in worship, service and praise this weekend
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our troops overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience; especially now as Iran celebrates new breakthroughs in its nuclear
technology and as an Afghan offensive against the Taliban seeks success supported by a
capture a very high-ranking Taliban leader
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide!

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* Lisa blessed by a stranger and a call for prayer
* For another family weekend

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, anoint these mighty men with abundance as they accept the challenge and charge to walk the walk and talk the talk of faith, hope and love. May the world be changed by their commitment to be Your people and for You to be their God. AMEN.

February 19, 2010

HIS WORD FOR TODAY:

1 Chronicles 29. 6, 9a

“Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of the tribes of
Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge
of the king’s work gave willingly… and the people rejoiced at the willing response of their
leaders.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

The story is told of a chicken and a pig taking a morning walk through the country. It was a beautiful day with clear skies bearing the kiss of a rising sun. They heard people’s voices and followed the sound to see what was going on. They found people laughing and dancing in the town square for no apparent reason. The chicken was inspired by the spontaneous enthusiasm and said to the pig “These people must be very good people. Let’s add to their celebration.” The pig responded, “That sounds like a good idea. What shall we do?” The chicken thought for a moment and then replied, “Let’s give them breakfast!” The pig looked at the chicken with astonishment. The chicken asked, “What’s wrong with you?” The pig snorted and said, “That’s fine for you to say because for you breakfast is only a partial commitment; for me it is whole hog.”

It is wonderful to see how the people of Israel rejoiced and were happy at the willingness of their leaders to provide so abundantly out of their treasures for the building of the temple and to supply for all of its needs to the glory of God. It was wonderful to see how the leaders followed King David’s lead who had given above and beyond what was required out of his personal wealth to show his commitment to the project. It must have been an amazing day for the people of Israel to know they were going to be able to set out on this course of construction well-endowed. The same might be said today of Christ-followers who are so committed to the work of the gospel that they empty out their personal treasuries to support the ministry of Christ on earth. Yet, while financial support is more than appropriate and necessary it is only a partial commitment on their part. Too many Christ-followers have given of tithes and offerings with a grateful heart that nothing more would be asked. But, is that the truth?

Consider the rich young ruler who sought perfection and walked away sad because of what it would truly cost him to give of all he had. When we give to the Lord we must consider more than our tithes and offerings as a means of supporting the work of His Church for His people. We must consider going whole hog for the gospel.

PRAYER CONCERNS (share your needs and others in the comment section so that God’s Mighty Men can join prayer forces as intercessors of faith, hope and love)

* For those who will lead God’s people in worship, service and praise this weekend
* For the families impacted by the plane crash into an Austin office building on Thursday
* For the children and people of Haiti and the many struggles they are facing in every area of
their life and for those who are offering that nation assistance that it may truly rise up from the
heart; and for the rebuilders that they may build wisely upon the solid rock
* For our troops overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan
* For our missionaries who press into cultural frontiers with the Word of God
* For the resolution of unrest in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and for those who
put more faith in weapons than in the power of God to enforce ideologies instead of God-
centered obedience; especially now as Iran celebrates new breakthroughs in its nuclear
technology and as an Afghan offensive against the Taliban seeks success supported by a
capture a very high-ranking Taliban leader
* For the support and encouragement of those who are seeking employment and the peace of
mind that comes from trusting the process of God’s creation of a new opportunity with the
promise of vocational resurrection in its season
* For the revealing of the job God has for Lisa in the Waco area that will allow her to best serve
Him and our family we are now truly living by faith and truth in God who can and will
provide!

PRAYER CELEBRATIONS (where we see Him at work in the world):

* For those who were rescuers in the office building that was crashed into by a small plane
* For the positive experience Lisa was given during her interview as an affirmation of her gifts,
talents and abilities given by God to further His Work through her for the betterment of others
* For another family weekend

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, out of the treasury of heart, mind and soul as well as out of our pockets we consecrate ourselves to doing Your will and that Your purpose be accomplished through us. Let the people not be amazed at our sharing. May they be inspired in their understanding that a commitment to Christ is not a matter of dollars and cents. Rather it is a matter of being fully given to the one who gave His all for each one of us. May this giving bring glory and honor to Your Name which is mighty among men and throughout all the heavens. AMEN.

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