Psalm 18: 1-5; 16-19; 30-31 Verses 30-31 – As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?
Mwanza, Tanzania is the city where my family & I lived and worked during our two-year volunteer mission stint. The city is also known as Rock City with granite outcroppings stretched across the southern shores of Lake Victoria. When you observe how some of these massive boulders sit precariously atop one another you can’t help but see the creative hand of God in the formations.
When the psalmist prays, “God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge,” we aren’t using an image of a small polished rock that we can put in our pocket. We are also not thinking of the rock as cold, hard, and unfeeling.
When I pray, thinking of God as my rock I think of characteristics like strength, protection, shelter and unmovable. I find myself thinking of the safety of hiding in the cleft of the rock. No matter what storms may come, how much our world is turning upside down there is nothing that can move that rock in whom I put my trust. This is why, no matter the reason, we can hide ourselves in the cleft of our protector, our God—our Rock—and he will provide shelter for us. He will keep us safe from the storm.
O God, our Rock, we turn to you and give you praise because you are strong and powerful. We hide ourselves in you and thank you for surrounding and protecting us. In your perfect name. Amen.
1Kings 9: 9-18. Verses. 11-13 – The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
In my early days as a young believer the group of people I hung around with were the kind that always wanted something spectacular to happen, assuring them God was present with them. When I first read these verses, it gave me a new and lasting perspective of what to expect from God.
Wind, fire, and earthquakes were all recognized as signs of divine power and revelation in ancient times, so it makes sense that God chose to reveal himself in connection with those things. But God shows here that he is not in the wind, or the fire, or the earthquake itself. Instead, God speaks to Elijah in a gentle whisper. So, Elijah experiences the presence of God by means of a gentle, whispering voice in the midst of silence. And Elijah covers his face, knowing he is in the presence of almighty God.
I was so thankful that along with this group of friends I hung around with I also had mature, even keeled people who spoke quietly and confidently about the presence of Jesus in their lives while serving on the mission field and in everyday life. God shows just as powerfully that the Lord who speaks gently with a whisper is the same God who can tear mountains apart and break down evil. And when he asks, “What are you doing here?” he shows that he has plans to keep bringing his kingdom into this world, and he calls us to enter the work with him.
Our heavenly Father and our great God, keep working in our midst. Make your Holy Spirit powerfully present in our lives. Help us to keep listening carefully to your still small voice that we might be in step with what your plan is for us. Amen.
Luke 9:1-2 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he empowered them to proclaim the Kingdom of God, but it was also accompanied with authority to drive out demons and heal people from disease. The ministry of Jesus was to minister to the complete person. A holistic approach was the foundation of how to minister to people so, it is no surprise that he sends out the disciples to do the same.
In the same chapter Dr. Luke recounts the miracle of feeding 5,000+ people with five loaves and two fish. The disciples had not yet learned that at the heart of holistic ministry is compassion. They preferred to send the people away. The circumstances were too difficult. Jesus on the other hand is moved with compassion and performs another miracle.
It is important to realize that the people who heard the gospel and who were healed, and fed were not all saved and sanctified saints; they were not followers of Jesus, not fully committed disciples who were ready to embrace Jesus. Yet when Jesus saw their hurts and needs, he responded with love. Jesus knew that many of them would abandon and even turn against him later. Even so, Jesus was moved with compassion, seeing their need. In the same way, he has compassion today when he sees the hurts and needs of anyone created in the image of God.
We have daily opportunities to come alongside the people around us. It could mean dropping by the hospital or the nursing home for a visit. Perhaps it involves cooking a meal for someone. Maybe it includes simply listening to another person’s story. When we realize that we too have been empowered by Jesus to do ministry, remember that at the heart of holistic ministry is compassion.
God, help us to see the needs of others not as interruptions, but as opportunities to reflect the love and compassion of Christ for people who need it. In his Jesus, Amen.
Philippians 4:20 (NIV)
To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
The church I grew up in ended every service with the singing of the doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…., Praise Father, Son & Holy Ghost. World without end. Amen!
I have to admit that it did not mean much to me back in those days, however, the repetition certainly deposited those truths in my head for all my life. Doxology is praising God for who he is. It is giving God the glory that is due him for his radiant holiness. In thanksgiving we offer up gratitude for something we have received. But in doxology we honor the very being of God. We exalt and praise the Lord simply because he is God.
The word doxology comes from Greek and literally means “glory word.” We see God’s glory, and we speak a word of wonder as we send that glory of God heavenward.
Doxologies flow from Paul quite often in his New Testament letters—and usually near the end, as we find here in Philippians 4. Doxologies of many kinds should regularly flow from our hearts and lips too. Our glorious God is worthy of all the glory we can bring back to him.
All praise and glory belong to you, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. You are holy, pure, righteous, and we have the great joy of resting in your great beauty. YOU are Worthy! Amen.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Vs.10 – 11 (NIV)
I am sure you have all heard the phrase: “Bigger is better.” It is funny how we always seem to run after what is bigger, faster, more powerful, etc. Even when it comes to church life we always look to those ministries or church fellowships that are bigger and have greater influence. Early in my ministry life I heard a pastor speak of the church he pastored as small but mighty. They never reached the 200 mark in attendance, but they were regularly sending people from the church out into ministry.
The psalmist reminds us that God is not impressed with size and strength but with those whose character honoured God and were faithful in their responsibilities. Throughout scripture we see that there was always a remnant that remained faithful. From that small remnant of faithful and dedicated people would raise up his nation or his church and his purposes would be fulfilled. Even Gideon who amassed some 32,000 warriors was directed by God to take just 300 to defeat the enemy.
God does not need bigger or more powerful to carry out his plan for this world. He needs faithful, dedicated, committed and loving people who are willing to listen, to obey and to boldly carry out his plans for his kingdom. So, don’t ever consider yourself inadequate or insignificant. The Lord is looking for those who fear him and put their hope in his unfailing love.
Make me an instrument in your hands. Make me a faithful warrior in your kingdom. Help me always to lean on your unfailing love. Amen.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Vs. 28 (NIV)
Dr. Tom Dow was my theology teacher. He told me one day that I just might be too pragmatic to be a theologian. That came at the end of a discussion with several students around the “eternal security” question. If you are unfamiliar with that issue, there are two schools of thought. First, one theological position is that once we accept Jesus as saviour, we can never lose our salvation. The second position is that God holds us, protects us and keeps us but not against our will and we can walk away from salvation if we choose.
My position is that you can prove both points from scripture, therefore my final theological stance is this: As long as you are in Christ, you are eternally secure. Apparently too pragmatic to be of any theological value.
But when the Bible talks about the assurance of our salvation, it is completely different. There’s nothing said about the “likelihood” of being saved. Instead there’s the ironclad promise of Jesus himself.
The Bible teaches us that, first, Christ gives us salvation. And he personally makes sure that no one can snatch us out of his hand. That’s why those of us who know Jesus as Lord and Savior don’t have to worry about the probability of salvation. Instead we can serve him with joy and thanksgiving.
Don’t worry about the theology of eternal security. Be constant in your love for Jesus and you will be blessed with the blessed assurance of Jesus salvation and God’s love.
Jesus, thank you for your salvation, forgiveness, and love. Father, thank you for your firm grip that holds me in safely and securely in your hand. Amen.
1 Peter 2:4-8
For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Vs. 6 (NIV)
What a delight to be a child of God! This delight is based in the fact that Jesus is my Savior and my brother.
When I am feeling pressed, down, and defeated by personal sin, the constant attack of guilt, or the fear of punishment, I focus on Jesus my Saviour. The Bible tells me that Jesus actually became sin for me (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through his suffering and death, he removed my guilt and set me free from condemnation (Romans 8:1). Jesus is truly a friend of sinners like me.
And when I face life’s daily struggles, I focus on Jesus my Brother. Jesus too experienced temptation, betrayal, and loneliness. He was tested in all ways and yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Because he shared all of life’s joy and pain, he is able to and desires to help me.
When I sense the Father’s uncompromising love, through Jesus, I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude, and I want to live with him and for him every day. We are his children and as Peter says, we are each a “living stone” in the building that Jesus has established: the church. We are all part of something greater and we all live the role God has given to us. There is no place for personal pride, rather we serve together, living as a child of God with humility, childlike trust, and complete surrender to Jesus. If we all live this way and all do our part the church, the body of Christ will stand as a beacon of light to the world.
Father make me a living stone that fits properly into the beautiful spiritual house that will draw others to your place of refuge and shelter. Lord keep me humble, childlike in my faith and willing to do whatever you ask me to do. Amen
Ephesians 1:3-14 (NIV)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. Vs. 4-6
Adoption is not a new concept in our family. Four of our five children are adopted and this year we have applied to adopt another son. At a family gathering I spoke with one individual and mentioned that we were in the process of adopting our foster son who is almost 18 years old now. Her question took me by surprise: “Why would you want to adopt him now that he is almost an adult?”
It took me all of a second to respond: “Because we love him and want him to have a family forever.” Paul is telling us in Ephesians 1 that God in all of his infinite wisdom and perfect foreknowledge adopted us. Why would he do that when he knew that we could never live a perfect life, we could never meet the standards of an almighty, all powerful God who is full of glory, majesty and is perfect in all his ways? Paul does not use any of those attributes or character traits to help us understand this adoption.
Paul uses a number of descriptors of God to help us understand his reason for adopting us. “In love he predestined us for adoption ..” “with his pleasure and will…” Through Jesus, God expressed his unfathomable love for his children – that would be you and me and many, many more.
It truly is humbling to know that God could love me that much. It is truly amazing that Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to endure the cross for us, to bear our sin. We ARE daughters and sons of the Most High God, loved by him, forgiven by him through Jesus, adopted lovingly into his family.
Father thank you for your incredible love for me. I am humbled by your willingness to make me a child in your family. Help me to live in a manner that will bring honour to your name. Amen.
Read Mark 5:22-42 (NIV)
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. Vs. 27-29
In the Swahili language the word used for a white person is “Mzungu” which literally means “a person that goes around and around.” I think when the word was established it was a bit of a slur on the pace that white people kept. Westerners are also known as watch people – those who are motivated by the time, rather than being motivated by an event or the meeting of people.
In our world where being busy is held as a place of importance and where we rush from place to place keeping appointments and maximizing our time, interruptions are usually an annoyance.
Jarius was a synagogue leader with a big problem. His daughter was very sick and despite the fact that Jewish leaders were opposed to Jesus’ ministry, here he was asking Jesus to help him. On the way to Jarius’ house Jesus is interrupted by a woman who was also sick, poor, alone and alienated from her community.
The woman driven by her situation and by faith goes into the crowd and touches the hem of Jesus’ cloak. She is immediately healed of her issue and Jesus makes sure to identify her to the community. Jesus calls her “daughter” a term of endearment and by doing so publicly is introducing her back into the community. She was not an interruption, she was a dear lost soul in need of a healing touch, a way back into her community and rest for her weary soul.
The next time an interruption happens in your life look past the immediate circumstances and you may be part of something that God has planned for someone else. What a privilege we have to be part of the work & ministry of Jesus.
Lord make me able to see you at work, that I might do my part. Amen.
Romans 12:14-16 (NKJV)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
My time in Tanzania has given me a love for the peoples of Africa. Having said that, the people I struggle with most in Africa are the self-appointed prophets of God. These people, both men and women, prey on the desperation of their followers. They promise great blessings from God while they are actually stealing the little bit of hard-earned money their followers have in their possession. These prophets strut around like they are to be honoured and praised. They drive off from the meetings in new SUVs and are dressed to the extreme, while their followers continue to struggle in poverty.
Jesus said, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Matthew 8:20 (NIV). Jesus was not about pomp and ceremony. His attention was fixed on bringing spiritual life and health to as many people as he could. His disciples understood the calling to follow Jesus involved also adopting the same lifestyle and spirit that Jesus displayed.
The apostle Paul was a prominent Jewish leader before becoming a follower of Jesus. He knew what it was to have power, privilege and perks that came with his position. Now that he was a follower of Jesus, he understood that the lifestyle of a follower is one of simplicity, kindness and humility. Paul reminds all of us that we do not stand alone or separate. We are a community of people, God’s people, and how we live, and act will speak to who and what we are as a community.
The great joy of being in a community is that we are supported and share together in the good times and the difficult times. In these days of “lock down” and virus fears, remember that you never stand alone. Jesus promises to be with us always, but so too does the rest of our faith community. We are one in Christ and stand together as one.
Lord help me to be a good witness to the world in the way that I live and help me to know and to be a good supporter to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.