Patient Hope

2 Peter 3:3-15a, 18

…in the last days scoffers will arise… (verse 3)

Scoffers come in many forms. Family members who don’t understand your faith, friends or co-workers who ridicule it; cultural systems that diminish or mock your beliefs. But perhaps the scoffer that is the hardest to handle, is the one that lives within your own head. Can you hear the voice of the scoffer?

  • “You’ve been faithful, where is the answer to your prayer?”
  • “Why keep trusting God’s promises? Things will never change. Today is the same as yesterday, why do you expect tomorrow to be any different?”
  • “Why not just have a little fun, live for today?

Peter reminds us how to address these mocking voices.

Don’t be surprised by their appearance. Your desire to live for the glory of God makes the enemy of God very unhappy. As Peter describes in his first epistle, the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Your righteous life is his appetizer! Your doubts do not necessarily suggest there is something wrong with your faith; they may indicate a space in your heart where God is expanding God’s territory or a space where your trust in God is a threat to the devil’s devices and he is out to get you!

God creates and God re-creates. The Trinity created the universe out of nothing; and when the world was destroyed by a flood because of evil, God re-created the earth. God did not and does not abandon the creation he loves. The scoffing voices may suggest otherwise, but God is powerful and committed to ensuring your complete wholeness. His timing may be different than yours, but remember: “God is not slow, he is thorough.” The apparent delay in the promise being fulfilled is purposeful, founded in love, not neglect.

A day is coming, we are promised, when Jesus will return. He will bring with him complete justice and salvation. We don’t know the day or hour, but we are to live in the hope of his appearance.

Who/what are the scoffers you encounter in your life? Where in your life do you feel God is slow in keeping promises? Peter reminds you of God’s power to create and to re-create according to God’s loving purpose. How does this impact your doubt?

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. (verse 14,15)

 Written for weekly devotional for CBC

Making Room for Relationships

John 15:7-17

Jesus tells us we can have whatever we ask on one condition: that we abide in his love. Abiding in his love means to dwell within the shelter of his loving character. His love is our home, the place we are welcomed, safe and our needs are met. From this place of being totally encompassed by the love of Jesus, what could possible be missing from our life that we would need to ask for? The answer: relationships.

The relationship Jesus experienced with his father is the model for our relationships, with God and with one another. Our scripture today paints a picture of such friendships.

Healthy and fruitful relationships require a connection to a source of love that is greater than our human affections. When we are convinced that we are completely loved and totally provided for, we are free to love the other without a hidden agenda. We can offer ourselves in love to the other for who they are, not who we need them to be. Love abounds. How can you ground yourself in God’s great and abiding love for you? Make the conscious decision to offer yourself in love to someone today, without expectation of return. How does this feel?

Jesus’ love led him to lay down his life for his friends. That probably won’t be the case in our relationships, but sacrifices will need to be made. Putting another’s interest above our own (Phil 2) means we may not get our way. Ouch. But we love in the same manner of Jesus when we suffer such self denial. In what way can you lay down your life for your friend? (Letting them choose the restaurant, giving them the comfortable chair.) Practice this today and notice how it impacts the nature of your friendship.

Jesus shared with his friends all he had heard from his Father, we should also share with one another the way God is working in our hearts. Take the risk of moving a casual conversation to a deeper level, tell a friend what God is teaching you about the life of the Kingdom. This is the path to deeper, more fruitful friendships.

We are not God, we do not have the capacity to love all people equally; but we can choose a few friends who we can commit to loving as best we can, offering them a physical reminder of God’s tender and present love. As has been said, we can be “Jesus with skin on.” Who can you choose to love?

Jesus said, “This is my commandment that you love one another.” Such loving relationships produce fruit that will last throughout eternity.

With you on the journey,

Debby

Written for CBC’s weekly devotional thought.

Making room for rest (Sabbath)

Making room for Sabbath

Sabbath, a day of rest; modeled by God in the creation account, commanded by God on Mt. Sinai and explained by Jesus as he walked with his disciples. Honoring the Sabbath is not just a cessation of activity. This might rest your physical body, but Sabbath is intended to refresh your whole self – body, mind and soul. How can we enter into the rest that re-engages us with God and God’s ways?

1. Sabbath is bracketed by thanksgiving and praise. Begin your day by recognizing God’s constant love. Even before you rise from your bed announce to yourself, “This day is God’s gift of love to me.” Spend time telling God and each other about God’s goodness. Recall God’s wondrous works; stand in awe of God’s creation, be humbled by God’s work of salvation on your behalf, rejoice that God’s work continues to transform you into whom God created you to be. Singing is a great way for the joy of the Lord to be experienced. Raise your voice in praise through the day.

Psalm 92:1-5 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!

2. Sabbath reminds us of the end of the story (part one). God’s plan is for all evil to cease. It may seem as if the wicked have won the day. Worn down by both global and personal injustices in our world, it is easy to get discouraged and lose hope. This is another reason we need Sabbath rest. As we ponder God’s works and listen to God’s words, we are reoriented to the truth: God’s enemies shall perish. Evil will end. God’s righteousness will prevail. Remembering this give us courage to face the day and strength to fight the good fight.

Ps 92:6-11 The dullard cannot know, the stupid cannot understand this: though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever, but you, O Lord, are on high forever. For your enemies, O Lord, for your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered. But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

3. Sabbath reminds us of the end of the story (part two). Evil will perish, but God’s children will flourish. Life will continue to grow within us. Age will not diminish our beauty and fruitfulness. We are forever planted in God’s house.

Ps 92:12- 15 The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Our Sabbath day ends with recounting the many ways God’s faithfulness has been our rock and our salvation. We can sleep in peace, having been refreshed by God’s oil of gladness and truth.

Decision to make? try solitude

Mark 1:35-39

Everyone agreed, townspeople and disciples alike, there was a lot of work left to be done in Capernaum. Jesus had barely scratched the surface last night; he healed some of the sick and cast out some of the demons but not all of them. There were plenty more people in this town that needed his healing touch.

They all went searching for him the next morning, but couldn’t find him. Simon knew where to look for him though. He was used to Jesus’ early morning disappearances. He and his companions found Jesus in a deserted place, praying. In an almost chiding tone, Simon asked, “Where have you been? Everybody’s searching for you.” Suggesting, “Come on Jesus, we all want you to finish the work you started.”

Jesus had a different plan, though. Having spent time alone with his Father, he knew what he needed to do. He was to go into the other villages, proclaim the good news and bring with him healing and wholeness. Jesus went against popular opinion and listened to God’s opinion.

***

Notice that Jesus didn’t get to all the people who needed his healing touch. Being God, Jesus could have cured all who crowded around the door with a single word; but being human, he was limited by time and space, he could only touch so many people in any given hour. This demonstrates the way God desires to interact with us. God’s healing word is not a one-size-fits-all kind of healing. It is personal and customized to address your particular needs. God deals differently with your neighbor than the way God deals with you. Can you trust God’s goodness, even when it appears your prayers are not being answered?

Notice that Jesus was not swayed by the people’s expectations or their apparent needs. His time alone with his Father grounded him in his life’s purpose and directed his life’s course. He was to bring the good news to all the villages, not to be a vending machine dispensing healing on demand. When you are at a decision point in your life, make time talking with God your highest priority. Let your choice be guided by your life’s purpose.

Written for CBC’s weekly devotional

The Lord sends the Spirit

We lived through Hurricane Sandy. We know what the rush of a violent wind sounds like. It certainly gets your attention! Such a wind, accompanied by tongues of fire dancing among and resting upon the disciples, along with the ability to speak in a language not their own – well, that got the whole city’s attention.

The great commission begins. Notice:

  1. The disciples were all together. The community created by a relationship with the living Christ is important for the sharing of the Good News. Remember that your witness to God’s love and power is made strengthened by your union with fellow believers.
  2. It is God who initiates and displays the power. The disciples were just the channels through which God spoke the good news. For the most part, they were unlearned Galileans. The only explanation of their ability to speak a foreign language was the power of God’s Holy Spirit. (not wine!) They were in the right place at the right time, aka obedience. Jesus had asked them to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. They did and wonders followed. Remember that it your part to faithfully obey God’s words and it is God’s part to empower you to share his love.
  3. God speaks your language. It was an amazed crowd that gathered to witness the event, but it was to individuals that God communicated the gospel in a language known only to them. God makes sure the message of salvation is spoken in a unique way that each and every person can grasp. Remember that God communicates his love and power to you in a personalized language only you can understand. Listen for it.

Acts 2:1-16

Written for Community Bible Church’s weekly devotion.

The Lord Appears

Several trusted friends had spoke of meeting the risen Lord. As the gathered and confused disciples were discussing this, Jesus himself stood in their midst. Peace, he spoke to calm their fear; and proof he showed to convince them that the rumors were true, he was indeed alive.

“Still they stood there in disbelief filled with joy and wonder.” (v41) They must have been in shock. Jesus alive? It seemed too good to be true. Their heads couldn’t take in what their joyful hearts already had received. (The heart often recognizes truth before our mind can grasp it.) So Jesus reminded them that the words spoken by the law, the prophets and Jesus himself were now fulfilled. As he taught them, their minds opened and caught up with what their hearts had already believed.

Jesus gave them an assignment, they were to give witness to what they had seen and experienced; and he gave a promise of supernatural power to accomplish the work. With minds equipped, hearts full of joy, and a job to do, they worshipped the risen Lord.

  • How do you dismiss or doubt other people’s experience of Christ?
  • What fear are you experiencing? Jesus wants to speak peace to your heart.
  • When have you known something to be true, even if the evidence suggests otherwise? How did you handle this incongruity?

Your assignment is to share with your “Jerusalem” what you have experienced in your relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit will clothe you in power and joy.

Luke 24:36-53

Written for Community Bible Church’s weekly devotion.

The Lord lives

When Jesus died, hope died; it was buried along with him in Joseph’s tomb. Sorrow, indignation and doubt blinded the two friends as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The death shroud that had so recently held Jesus still covered their eyes. Jesus was alive with them but they were consumed with their own story and so intent on talking about Jesus they missed an opportunity to talk with him.

It was in the breaking of the bread that life returned to their sorrowing eyes and grieving hearts. At last they recognized Jesus. He was with them even as they walked in the blindness of doubt.

  • In what areas of your life has hope died?
  • Who is your friend that shares your sorrow?
  • Jesus is walking with you right now, what keeps you from recognizing him?

Let us learn from the error of these two friends, stop talking about Jesus and instead talk to him. And let us follow their example, when Jesus gives clarity about an issue or reassurance of the truth, let us rush to share it with our friends.

Luke 24:13-21,28-35

Written for Community Bible Church’s weekly devotion.

Journeying with the Spirit -part 3 of 8

My dog Molly on the path I walk to work

Now, I do not claim to be an expert at this (following the Spirit’s voice), believe me I’m no Mother Teresa, but this I do know for certain:

Following the Spirit is simple, I’m not saying it is easy, but it is simple. It consists of knowing the Lord so intimately that you recognize God’s voice and then act on the Spirit’s nudges and prompts.

Following the Spirit is daring to believe that God abides within us, always guiding us into life and love and then trusting this truth enough to act on what our heart, our conscience or our soul urges or nags us to do.

This is a risky life. Heeding the nudges and the prompts the Spirit places on our heart could lead us down a path that we might not have chosen or that others might not have chosen for us. Most likely, it won’t be very efficient and it may take us off our predetermined course.

But, as the Gospels make clear, to go with the Spirit leads us to the people and activities that are most important to God.

Jesus came, not for the well, but for the sick; not for the rich, but the poor; not for the mighty, but for the lowly. As we follow his example the Spirit will guide us to the least and the lost, not the 99, but the one.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m no Mother Theresa, but I’d like to encourage us with a couple of things the Spirit has taught me that helps me in my desire to journey with the Spirit.

(part 4 will follow on my next post)