Archive for August 2015

Speaking for the Father

John 7:15-18; 8:26-28, 38a, 40; 12:49-50; 14:10, 24

The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (John 7:15-18, NASB)

Father, when Jesus spoke,
He spoke only
Your words for
Your glory.
In everything He said, He was
completely dependent on You,
completely obedient to You,
completely humble before You.

Thus in every situation, under all types of pressure,
He spoke with
confidence,
boldness, and
authority,
for He only spoke the words of Almighty God.

Father, to the people who hear me,
speak Your words.
Speak Your wisdom.
Speak Your love.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Speak Your Word, My Father
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Abraham and Ishmael

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Genesis 16; 21:9-21

God’s blessings don’t just come to picture-perfect families. God also blesses in those families filled with conflict and turmoil.

For Sarah, the pain of her childlessness was so great that she was willing to give her husband to another woman – her maid, Hagar. But this didn’t bring Abraham his heir, and it brought only trouble to the family. When Hagar conceived by Abraham, the relationship between Hagar and Sarah was strained to the breaking point. The pregnant Hagar fled and ended up alone in the wilderness. Only the intervention of God’s angel brought her back to Abraham’s household.

Once Isaac was born to Sarah, the conflict between the two wives boiled over again. Sarah demanded that Abraham drive out Hagar and her son, Ishmael. Imagine the inner turmoil that Abraham must have experienced. Both women were his wives. Both boys were his sons. But God came to Abraham and gave him the assurance and direction he desperately needed:

  • “Do whatever Sarah tells you. She is right – your descendants will come through Isaac, not Ishmael.”
  • “I will take care of Ishmael and will make him a great nation as well, simply because he is your son.”

Through this difficult circumstance, God proved Himself faithful, not only to Abraham and Sarah but also to Hagar and Ishmael. They were soon alone in the wilderness without food and water. Hagar was so desperate that she left the boy by himself simply because she couldn’t bear to watch him die. But “the God who sees” came to her rescue again, as He had when she fled years before.

True to His promises to Abraham and Hagar, God made of Ishmael a great nation. He is considered the father of the Arab peoples. Thus God made Abraham the father, not just of one great nation, but of two – Israel and the Arab peoples. And in Christ, Abraham became the father of an even greater nation – the “holy nation” of all those saved by faith in Christ (1 Peter 2:9). “All those who believe are children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).

God’s blessings are real and His promises prove true even in the most troubled situations.  The darkness of human distress can never snuff out the light of God’s love.

Long-term Obedience

Genesis 6 – 9

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7, NASB)

Sin had become so extensive and intensive on earth that God regretted making the human race:

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:5-6, NASB)

But one man pleased Him. The righteousness of one man convinced Him that the human race was worth saving.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LordNoah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:8-9, NASB)

God spared no efforts in saving this one man and his family, and through him, our entire race. God directed and enabled Noah to build a huge boat: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high, with three decks.

Based on the biblical record, scholars estimate that it took Moses 50 to 120 years to build the ark. Noah persevered for all those years based on a warning from an unseen God, and in response to a judgment that had not yet happened. Can you imagine the ridicule, the expense, the frustrations he endured? How many pleasures and practical matters would have been crying for all the attention he lavished on the ark!

But he obeyed, and continued to obey, while everything around him called his obedience foolish and meaningless. For him, faith in God was sufficient proof of things he could not see (Hebrews 11:1).

The result: Noah’s faith saved not only his entire family, but our entire race.

God inhabits timeless eternity. He is patient and so longsuffering. To please Him, we must learn to trust and obey as Noah did. We too may have to patiently persevere through years of seemingly fruitless effort, in the face of opposition and misunderstanding.

Father, in this prolonged trial,
keep me strong in faith.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: By Faith
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Only by the Lord

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

My fruitfulness flows from the presence of Christ within me. I am completely dependent on His working in and through me.

That’s why my devotional life is so critical – not just in those special private times but also as I look to Him throughout the day. Such prayer keeps me in touch with Him and open to His influence. Without it, I tend to sink into preoccupation with myself and lesser concerns.

Writing teaches me this dependence more than anything else ever has. Every morning when I get up and begin, I have to face my own inability and release the work to Him: “Lord, this time is Yours. I can only work as You enable me. I look to You now and will just follow as You lead.”

This is especially necessary when the task gets difficult. When I get stuck at a spot, my first instinct is to press harder. I want to get past the frustration and finish the job. But I’m learning I have to stop and pray: “Lord, I did not choose this task, nor can I make it happen. It is Yours. I am simply available to You.”

I have to open myself to Him and wait, letting Him work in His way and time. And He does – beautifully, bringing me solutions and directions I never could have found on my own.

Frequently the wait is relatively short. Something unexplainable just happens when I release the task to Him. He works so naturally and perfectly.

Yet sometimes the wait is longer. I’m forced to live with unfinished business, and I can become anxious and discouraged. During such times, I repeatedly go to Him, intent on talking about the doing. But He wants to talk about us. He reminds me to look at Him, enjoy Him, and be at peace in Him. He invites me to just rest in His doing.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

Remain in him by praying to Him throughout the day. It will help keep your heart set on Him. And you will know that He, himself, is life’s sweetest gift and the source of all your fruitfulness.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: As I Pray
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Abraham: God’s Promises

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Genesis 12:1-7

God blesses His people. The same sovereign God who spoke the universe into existence also speaks all His best into the lives of those who trust Him.

There is no better example of that blessing than the story of Abraham. Read it all in Genesis 11:26 – 25:11.

According to Genesis 11, Abraham was the ninth generation after Shem, the son of Noah. When the Bible first introduces him, his name is still Abram (meaning, “the father is exalted”), and he is part of his father Terah’s household in Ur of the Chaldeans (in present-day Iraq). He moves with his father to Haran (in present-day Turkey), and there his father dies.

There also the Lord speaks to Abram, asking him to follow Him to a land He will show him. If Abram obeys, God promises him a number of magnificent blessings:

  • God will make him a great nation.
  • God will both bless him and make him a blessing. In fact, all the families of the earth will be blessed through him.
  • God will bless those who bless Abram, and curse those who curse him.

One might think that one so richly blessed by the Sovereign God would have an easy life. And indeed, God does lavish great material wealth on Abram. But like us, Abram was called to trust a God whose plan is sometimes mysterious and whose sense of timing is far different than our own.

  • The man who was to have descendants numerous as the stars of the heaven and the sand of the sea had no heir until he was 100 years old.
  • Though God had promised him that his heirs would possess the land of Canaan, Abram lived his entire life as nomad, living in tents, owning no land but a small burial plot.
  • Though God promised to stand up for Abram in all his disputes (blessing those who blessed him, cursing those who cursed him), the disputes and dangers just kept coming.

The God who blesses us does not promise a life of ease, but a journey of faith. That journey has a wonderful end for those who patiently endure.

Longing

For me, heaven is not a mansion,
a harp, or
angels’ wings.
It is not meeting old friends or
an endless family reunion.
That is not what my heart longs for.

My heart longs for You,
my Father,
my Creator.
My heart longs for my Savior,
my Brother,
my Wisdom and Holiness,
My heart longs for the Second Adam of all I will be.
My heart longs for the Breath of God,
the Wind of God,
the Life of God
blowing fully, freely, and unceasingly through all I am.

I long for
a heart,
a mind,
a world
permeated completely and forever
with God alone.

Come, Lord Jesus!
I long, and
I wait.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Longing for Jesus
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An Undivided Heart

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart
that I may fear your name.
(Psalm 86:11, NIV)

Father,
I am so easily distracted.
Success, failure,
abundance, need,
pride and insecurity
can either draw me away from you or
bring me running,
kneeling to You and
longing for You.

Father, though my mind wanders,
give me an undivided heart and
a life wholly devoted to You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: An Undivided Heart
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Undiscovered Blessings

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Deuteronomy 15:1-15, 18

God’s blessings are often dependent on our receiving them. To receive them, we must obey Him.

As God was forming the people of Israel into a holy nation – a nation to be His light to all the peoples of the earth – He laid out for them in great detail the blessings He would pour out on them if they obeyed, as well as the curses that would come if they disobeyed. Many of the laws they were called to obey concerned how they should treat each other. For example, consider these passages from Deuteronomy:

  • Every third year the Israelites should use their tithe to feed the needy in their town (14:28-29).
  • Every seven years creditors should release their debtors from what they owed (15:1-11). The exact details of this release are uncertain, but it is clear that creditors were to show mercy to those caught in the grip of debt.
  • Jewish slave owners were to release their Hebrew slaves in the seventh year (15:12-15, 18). They were not to send these slaves away empty-handed but were to freely share their own goods with them.
  • Israelites were forbidden to charge interest to their fellow Jews (23:20).
  • They were to leave part of their harvest in the fields and allow the poor to gather it free (24:19-22).

The rights of individual ownership were tempered with the absolute necessity of compassion and generosity toward the needy. God continually prodded them to treat their fellow Jews like family – like brothers. He reminded them that He had been generous and compassionate toward them, delivering them when they were in helpless bondage. He had never treated them with a tight-fisted, “This is Mine!” attitude, nor had He withheld His gifts because they didn’t deserve them. He now expected them to treat each other the same way.

God is still eager to bless His people in all our endeavors. He wants to lavish on us the many undiscovered blessings of love and unity. But we have to follow Him in treating His people with open hands and open heart.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Open Your Hand
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Living in God

Father, You are transcendent,
above all need and
all insufficiency.
Thus You are peace, and
trusting You brings us into Your peace.
As our grasping surrenders to You,
we are sufficient in You in every circumstance
as Christ was sufficient in You.

In You, we are without need.
We are fearless and free to love as You love,
selflessly and lavishly.
We are free for joy.
We are free for sacrifice.
We are free for fruitful living in You.
We are free to live as Christ lived,
from and
through and
unto You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: From You, Through You, To You
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Communion Face-to-face

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”
He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:14-15, 19-20, NIV)

Jesus, as one of Your disciples,
I see You standing before me.
In these Your final moments with us,
You act out what You are about to do for us.

You break the bread.
“This is My body, broken for you.
Take and eat.
As you do, remember Me.”

You take the cup.
“This is My blood, poured out for you.
Drink it,
and as you do, remember Me.”

I take the bread and the cup from Your own hand, and
I look into Your face.
You are the Bread of Life,
broken for us,
given to us.
Your life is the wine,
poured out for us,
spilled for us.

I feed on You, Lord,
and I live.
I take this,
eat,
remember You, and
give thanks.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Lord, from Your Hand
Recording
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