Archive for November 2016

Peace

Christmas brings a promise of peace. Hear the prophecy of Isaiah:

“The wolf will live with the lamb…
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra…
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6, 8-9, NIV)

At the birth, hear the words of the angels:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace.” (Luke 2:14, NIV)

Peace is an absence of all conflict. But peace is not just an absence, it is a presence. Peace is harmony. Peace is complete well-being. It is wholeness and rightness. Peace is the reign of love.

Peace is Jesus.

He himself is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14, NIV)

He will be called…Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his…peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV)

The fruit of His presence is peace (Galatians 5:22). He brings peace to relationships. He brings peace with God our Father. He brings peace in the midst of all the pressures and troubles of this world.

Do not be anxious about anything, but…present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

Trusting Jesus brings peace. Seeking Him alone brings peace. This Christmas, receive the peace of Jesus.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Sweet Peace
Recording
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You Come

God, so eager to give,
You came to us.
You gave Yourself completely,
birth to death.
You became like us,
weak,
humble,
suffering,
dying,
so that we might become like You.

Holy God,
breath of love,
unbounded Spirit,
You come to us.
As we trust You,
though imperfectly,
You give Yourself to us.
You live and breathe as
Christ in us,
eagerly sharing Yourself with us.

God of unfailing promises,
You will come to us again.
At the perfect moment You will come
as a bridegroom comes,
eager to sweep away His bride on their long-awaited day.
All the universe will celebrate with us.

You came once,
in love.
Come again, Lord Jesus.
We are waiting.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Our God Came to Visit
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The Banquet

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Isaiah 24:1-3, 19-23; 25:1-10a

Are you ready for a sobering view of the future? Read Isaiah 24. It tells about the day when God judges the entire earth. As He has promised, He will cleanse this world of all evil in every form. He will remove everything that is not absolute truth, everything that is not love, everything that is not of Himself. Injustice, greed, lies, selfish lust – it will all be burned away. Imagine the devastation to the current world order! The entire earth will be shaken to its very core before the Unshakable Kingdom becomes reality:

Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed,
For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem.
(Isaiah 24:23, NASB)

Or, in the words of Revelation 11:15:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever. (NASB)

Isaiah 25:1-5 is then a hymn of praise to the Almighty King who brought about such judgment and salvation.

But notice especially the verses that follow, Isaiah 25:6-10a. Now that the Holy and Sovereign Lord of the Universe has re-asserted His rule, He celebrates by throwing a lavish banquet.

Of course, He will spread out all the very best nourishment for all His people. But pause and imagine what He promises in verses 7-8:

  • God will finally “swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time” (v.7-8a, NASB). Wow! And this was written many centuries before Christ.
  • “The Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces” (v.8b, NASB).
  • All the cursed fruit of all our sin – all our suffering, all our disgrace, all the shame that has engulfed our entire race – will be removed forever. He has spoken, and He Himself will do it (v.8c).

After all God’s people have gone through, imagine them crying this together, with all their hearts:

“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited.
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (v.9, NASB)

All that our hearts have longed for is coming. It will be full reality. Wait patiently.

Patient with Differences

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. (Romans 12:15-16, NASB)

Here in the Amazon section of the zoo, in a single cage I’m watching the squirrel monkeys nimbly leaping around in incessant motion. Meanwhile, slow-moving animals graze on the ground, and a two-toed sloth just hangs there.

God designs us so differently. We share the same space and time. But our metabolisms, bodies, experiences, and specific needs are so varied. We each perceive reality through our individual eyes.

Lord, I am a limited creature. Keep me humble. Help me always be patient with my fellow creatures, always kind to them, always anxious to learn from them.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Praise to You, Giver of Life!
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My Holy and Human Brother

Lord Jesus, You bring God within my reach.
You are flesh and blood like me.
You experienced life here as I experience it, in all its
weakness,
pain,
struggle, and
imperfection.
Yet in You I see the transcendent God,
and in a form I can
understand and
trust.
Almighty, sovereign God is real to me in You.
I can begin to relate to Him in You.

Holiness is also real to me in You.
I would never conceive of holy living,
never dream of it or
desire it
until I saw it
so beautiful and
desirable
in You.
And as I trust You,
You bring holiness into my
innermost heart and
outermost living.
You make me holy!
I can hardly even imagine it, and
yet it is true.

You prove to me that I can be both
human and
holy.
You prove to me that I can be a true child of God
here and now,
in this present, evil world.
You prove it by Your living example.
You prove it by giving me Your own Holy Spirit
to live and breathe and desire within me.
And You promise that
what You have begun,
You will finish, beautifully and completely.

Praise to You, Jesus,
my holy and human Brother!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Holy, Human Jesus Christ
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Look to Your Father

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER 

John 6:26-40

We long for consistency in our lives,
especially in our relationship with our Father.
We sense moments of oneness with Him,
but soon our thoughts are pulled this way and that.

We long for Jesus’ relationship with His Father.
No matter how busy or pressured His life became,
He always seemed one with Him,
constantly focused on Him,
depending on Him,
open to Him.

Most of us fall far short of that relationship with our Father.
But as we look to Him more and more,
as simple prayer weaves itself
into the fabric of our moments,
we grow into Him.
The prayer that Jesus taught us becomes more and more
the constant cry of our hearts:

Our Father in heaven,
may Your name be glorified,
may Your Kingdom come,
may Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10, paraphrase)

Even when our conscious thoughts wander and
we seem to forget Him for a time,
our hearts remain focused on Him.
Increasingly we want only what He wants.
We love Him,
depend on Him, and
crave unbroken fellowship with Him.
This is the gracious Spirit of Christ,
putting down deeper roots in us,
growing and spreading in the garden of our hearts.

Father, Your purpose is to
bless me abundantly and
make me into the image of Christ,
with You as my true Father.
That is what I want as well.
Work Your will, whatever it is, and
help me trust You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Father’s Face
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Our Patient Father

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy…I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your  knowledge…Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you…is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:2, 4-5, 7-9, NIV)

These glowing words to the church in Corinth don’t seem surprising until I read the rest of the book and learn how carnal and spiritually immature they were. “Sanctified…you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge…you do not lack any spiritual gift…He will keep you strong to the end…blameless.” Lord, I’m not sure I would have spoken to them in these terms.

I am amazed that You look at us this way, Father. We are so selfish and immature at times – and yes, so pagan. Yet You have put Your life within us. We are rich in You, fully equipped in every way, on the road to being blameless. You patiently nurture and teach and correct us. You are not short-tempered with us. In fact, You seem to enjoy our growth process.

Father, thank You for Your tenderness. Keep me tender and patient toward those to whom I minister, those who share my failures and shortcomings. Give me Your view of them, Your heart for them, Your joy in their gradual growth.

Praise to You, wonderful Father!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Growing in God
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Hope Devotional

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1-2, NIV)

Lord, thank You for the joy and security of
living in Your presence.
I look back, and
I marvel at all You’ve done for me.
You’ve been with me every moment.

I look ahead, and
I see You there,
more real and more wonderful than ever.

And I know You are with us now,
loving us and
blessing us.
That gives me confidence and hope for every day.
You will be with us forever!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Live in the Promise
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How Do We Keep the Lord’s Supper Meaningful?

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

There is nothing magic about the Lord’s Supper. The eating and drinking in themselves won’t save us. They won’t draw us closer to God. They can become dry routine like anything else. How can we keep them meaningful?

  • The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance. Remember. Remember what He did, and remember He did it for you. Remember how dear was the price.
  • The Lord’s Supper is a celebration. Come joyfully! Rejoice in what He has done!
  • The Lord’s Supper is a feast. Your Banquet Host has spread a rich table of life and love for His people. Come and partake!
  • The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace. Realize how unworthy you are. Come humbly. Come seeking. Come with thanksgiving.
  • The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste, an anticipation. Look ahead to what it will be to sit down with Christ and all His people at the marriage supper of the Lamb. 
  • The Lord’s Supper is for all God’s people. Come with them, as a member of His beloved family. Be conscious of the togetherness. Enjoy His grace with His other children.

Our Deeper Need

Luke 17:11-19

They were desperate.
Ten were gripped by the physical and social suffering of leprosy
In hope they came and cried out,
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

They saw no immediate healing,
but He told them to go and show themselves to the priest.
That was what a leper would have to do if he or she claimed to be cleansed.
As they obeyed, they were healed.

Nine apparently had what they wanted from God.
He had been a way to make their life their own again.
They had their healing, so they were gone.

One of them thought about God
and about the Man who had brought Him near.
He thought about His great goodness,
about the mercy asked and received.
Somehow he had just met the Living God.
His marvelous compassion was now real and personal.
How could he just walk away?
He had to run and bow to Him.
He had to cry out and thank Him.
He had to worship Him with all his heart and soul.
For him, God’s gift was not the end.
It was a beginning.
He had to respond to Him.
He had to come.

Father, when I begin to realize You are,
Your lavish gifts are not enough.
I want to know You and
please You and worship You.
I want to love You and
walk with You and
trust You every moment.
I want to live in You and
for You and
to You alone.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Only You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

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