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Showing posts from October, 2010

Success: It's Not What You Might Think

If there was ever an epitaph to envy it would be this one: "He was great in the sight of the Lord."

When the birth of John, who would be called "The Baptist," was born, the angel who delivered the announcement to his father, Zecariah, was told: "…he will be great in the sight of the Lord" —Luke 1:15, NIV.

John's birth, and the circumstances leading up to it, were miracles. Humanly speaking, he should not have been, but as the angel said to his cousin, Mary, "…nothing is impossible with God" —Luke 1:37, NIV.

We know nothing about John's childhood except the terse words of Luke 1:80 that say: "And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly in Israel."

John was a bizarre figure in Israel. His form of dress would have definitely put him on anyone's worst dressed list. His eating habits, while healthy, would not have made him anyone's popular dinner guest. Perhaps these…

While I'm Passing Through . . .

I read an excellent post this morning written by a friend (http://brendaflemming.blogspot.com/2010/10/lord-you-are-my-home.html ). It was a reminder to me about how important perspective is in determining what our priorities in life need to be.

Added to Brenda's post was an interesting incident that I read about in my devotions this morning. Jesus was coming to end of his earthly ministry and in one of those last discourses he spoke to his disciples about what was to come in the future. Among the things he said was this: "No one knows about that day [the coming of the Lord] or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house in charge of his servants, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight,…

WWJD

What would Jesus do? Several years ago this phrase was popularized, reprised from that famous work by Charles Sheldon, In His Steps, published in the late 1890s. In Christian circles the WWJD was everywhere and on everything. The idea was to filter every decision made through the question: "What would Jesus do in this situation?" and then do it.

As I read through the Book of Matthew in my devotions I can't help but be reminded how far from modeling Jesus' example I am. With more examples in hand than I can possibly work through in one blog (brevity being the number one rule of blogging), I will confine myself to one general lesson that arises out of a conversation I had yesterday with a friend.

The Lord never seemed to focus on his own needs. He was totally human, with all the needs common to humanity and all the accompanying temptations. Only on the cross did he ask for something to drink because he was thirsty. Obviously he had to eat and sleep and refresh himself…

Faith Asks, But Doesn't Demand

"When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cured of his leprosy" –Matthew 8:1-3.

I wish I had been present when this incident took place. The leper shouldn't have been anywhere near the crowd. People suffering from this contagious and devastating disease were ostracized from society, forced to leave home and family and live in misery as far away from populated areas as possible. When approaching healthy people they were obligated to call out "Unclean! Unclean!" so that people could avoid them. How this man managed to get to Jesus was a miracle in itself.

Jesus' fame had preceded him and the leper came in hope of healing. What most impresses me is his submission to the Lord. He knelt, but then anyone s…

I Hear the Prophet Callin'

My church is busily preparing for Christmas. Snatches of the cantata we are rehearsing run through my mind—sometimes the same line with maddening frequency. Today's line happens to be the name of the cantata and I can't get it out of my head. The brain is filled with "I hear the prophet callin', 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'" (Pepper Choplin, Lorenz Publishing Company, 2009).

As I sat down to do my devotional reading this morning, I was pleased to discover that my journey through the Old Testament has officially ended for this year and I am now reading through the New Testament. Guess what was on the agenda for today?

The Book of Matthew begins with Joseph's genealogy. It's always been a curiosity to me why his family tree is emphasized here since he was not the biological father of the Messiah. I suspect (though I confess I haven't researched this) that the key to that question is found in Matthew 1:17: "Thus there were fourteen generat…

An Encounter with the Book

Yesterday, over turkey and dressing, we got to talking about reading Scripture. I'm pretty sure that one has nothing to do with the other but the latter certainly had to do with my post yesterday on how few people actually bring their Bibles to church. One of my friends showed me his ipod? Cell phone? Blackberry? Whatever it is, my friend can access any passage of Scripture on it. When the Scripture is being read during the service or as the pastor preaches, he follows the reading on his "whatever."

Modern technology gives a new meaning to carrying your Bible to church, doesn't it? The point is, whatever form it takes, it's important to bring your Bible with you to God's house.

This theme of reading the Bible will not go away. I had to chuckle to myself this morning as I read the devotional reading assigned for today. The people have gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate their return and the rebuilding of the city walls. Ezra brings out the Word of God and: &qu…

Remember the Emperor?

There once was a king who, anticipating a special event, ordered two local weavers to prepare him a new set of royal robes for the occasion. The men promised that the suit would be so fine that anyone unworthy or incompetent would not even be able to see it. On the appointed day the two men arrived at the palace with the emperor's new costume. The king stood in front of the mirror as the weavers made a great show of clothing him in his new garments, making obsequious comments about how splendid their ruler looked. They tweaked a little here and tucked a little there. Then they stood back in admiration of their handiwork. The king was astonished. In the mirror all he could see was his royal person dressed in the usual undergarments. But since anyone who was unworthy or incompetent was incapable of seeing the suit, and the weavers obviously saw it, the emperor bit his lip and keep his doubts to himself.

The moment came, and the emperor strode out of his palace to make his way throug…

Cruising Isn't For Christians

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What pastor would have the nerve to tell his people that if they wanted to cruise through the Christian experience, they should go and join the church down the street? Apparently there is at least one, and his church is full of people who are working their passage rather than sitting on the deck basking in the sun.

As I began reading in Ezra yesterday I was reminded that if the church were a vessel, it would be freighter not a cruise ship. The Lord has moved the King of Persia's heart to allow some of the captive Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. Notice the telling little phrase: "Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem" —Ezra 1:5, NIV.

Anyone could have gone, but only those whose hearts God had moved would have volunteered for the "blood, sweat, and tears" involved in reparation of the disaster that had been left behind…