Live it! Blog

Tuesday, 16 March 2021 00:00

Isaiah 58:1-14

    I decided to iron the apron. You read that right. Why? I ironed the apron because it hangs in my kitchen. I am assuming that when people see the wrinkle free apron, they will assume that I am an accomplished chef and baker extraordinaire. In the same convoluted way, why do people go to great efforts to appear to be spiritual giants?  I grew up in a church that churned out Christ followers who met a similar outward standard of righteousness. Our frequent church attendance and outward appearances reflected a robotic obedience to God’s Word as dictated by our church. I attempted to earn the church community’s respect and honor by my adherence to their community standards. Read Isaiah 58:1-14: What were ways that these Jews measured their righteousness?  Why did these Jews and the people in my church choose to maintain their outward appearances of religiosity? Their actions demonstrated that they believed God was all about the rules and rituals and not the inward attitude of the heart. Just as my perfectly ironed apron would not convince people that I was a chef extraordinaire, they would rather taste what I cooked and decide on my skills, the world was not interested in the outward appearances of the religious robots, the world wanted to know if their actions came from their hearts. For the spiritual pretenders/robots, it was all about control: Controlling a chaotic world and attempting to tame a wildly immeasurable God. Rules and rituals can be weighed and measured and people can critique themselves and others based on how well they have kept the rules, while never addressing matters of the heart.

    Worshipping God is more than going through the motions. It is about giving up control to the Creator God of the Universe. How have you seen people going through the motions of worship without their hearts being engaged? In Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”  From the Old Testament days to today, people have struggled to avoid robotic righteousness. Jesus addressed this too, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1). Worshipping God involves more than observing rituals (like fasting), there needs to be an inward obedience to the Lord. (Matthew 23:25)

    How can we move from robotic, “outward appearance-oriented righteousness” to a “worshipping God heart attitude”? It delights the Lord when we delight in the Lord. There is a lot of discussion in our current culture about how to balance time. How can a person, who is not a robot, possibly fit in exercise, work, chores, family, friends, serve in their community and serve alongside their church family team? There is a push for people to address self-care, but do we address soul care?  To move from robotic obedience to joyful, soul deep worship, we need to invest time in our soul care. “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 58:8) How can you realign your time to spend time on soul care? I know I could probably, at least, stop ironing that apron. Elisabeth Elliot has said, “Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands.” 

lkb    

Monday, 15 March 2021 08:34

Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 5:12-16

“I just don’t have the time” might be our response when we’re asked to add one more thing—as worthwhile as it might be—to our already crowded agenda. It is essential that we prioritize our time, and no matter how we decide to do that, our schedules must include margins ... white space ... a sabbath! Here are a few suggestions that may help you do this:

· Picture your time as a wheel with God as the hub; then space the spokes to reflect the time you'll spend on any given part of your day.

· Don't let someone else's urgency be yours.

· Set boundaries and keep them.

Have you allowed yourself to be burdened by taking on too many tasks?

Our current sermon series, "Redeeming the Time" and this week’s topic, “My Time Is God’s Time," reminds us that our time is really not our own. What a timely reminder! (Pardon the pun.) The question we must constantly address is not, “Where can I find the time to do this or that?” but “How does God want me to use the time he is giving me?”

Do you feel obligated to accept every opportunity for service that you’re offered? How can you establish some limits and guidelines?

Today's Scriptures are directed to just one aspect of the use of time. It isn’t about work and activity at all. Rather it has to do with God’s instructions regarding the Sabbath. It’s a topic of much discussion and, unfortunately, a good deal of disagreement among Bible-believers. We would all agree, no doubt, that it is clear God wants his people to observe a sabbath. It is illustrated in the week of beginnings when God did the marvelous work of creation in just six days. Then, the Scriptures record that having “finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:2). Not only that, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (v. 3).

The omnipotent, all-powerful God didn't need to rest; nothing tires or exhausts him. But, knowing that the people he created would need a time of rest, he ordered the Sabbath for our benefit. Its purpose is to provide rest for human beings, who do become tired and need to recuperate. Jesus himself declared that the sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27).

How does the word “holy” apply to a sabbath?

Holy, or sacred, basically means “set apart.” Just as God instructed Moses to set apart certain utensils that were to be used only in worship ceremonies in the tabernacle, he wants us to be careful to set apart time[s] of sabbath in our lives. Doing so benefits us and honors God.

Are you regularly finding time to stop the time-consuming activity and simply rest?

Whether it's a whole day or some "sabbath" time each day, your heavenly Father knows how important it is for our physical and spiritual well-being.

My Time is God’s Time. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

jbd & gmd

Friday, 12 March 2021 00:00

Ephesians 6:5-20

Jesus, I have some questions for you. I’m thinking about those forty days you were in the wilds of the Judean desert and were tempted. Why forty days, and why go without eating all those days?

Well, Peter, I’m glad you asked. That experience was the worst thing imaginable. Ten days would have been bad enough, but forty! I almost starved to death. Actually, the Spirit led me out there. And in a desert, where are you supposed to get water or find a place for protection during the cold nights? It seemed especially ominous that wild animals were hanging around (Mark 1:13). I suppose they were waiting to devour the skin off my bones the minute I became a corpse. 

That sounds terrifying. Why did you have to go through that?

Good question. There were several factors. I imagine you can figure out some of it. For one, it was part of my introduction to living on this earth and dealing with the kinds of things you people have to deal with. My suffering was certainly an extreme version of human hopelessness; I could have died out there in the desert. Maybe it was a foretaste of things yet in my future.

Wow! I’m certainly glad you survived the horrible ordeal! Now, if I’m supposed to come up with a reason you had to go through that, I’m guessing the number forty might be a clue, like the forty years the Israelites were traipsing around the desert. Hmmm: forty, desert, hunger.

Good thinking, Peter. And add temptation to the mix too. Unfortunately, as you know, our people yielded to several temptations, such as, unbelievably, worshiping a golden calf. And I could have given into temptation too. It was right at my weakest moment—when I was at my wits end—that Satan came and tried to lure me into turning stones into something to eat. He was offering ways for me to escape what I was going through—shortcuts out of suffering. But in each case, it involved taking orders from him. But for my Father’s sake, and for your sake, I absolutely had to stand my ground against the wiles of the devil.

I think I’m seeing the point. The Israelites yielded to temptation and failed the test. But you resisted the temptation and passed the test! You are the true Israel; they proved they weren’t. Wow! You put Satan in his place and proved that it’s possible to have victory over the darkest schemes of the devil! 

Excellent. And when I responded to the devil’s temptations and said “It is written,” I quoted verses directly from the book of Deuteronomy, specifically from the context of the forty years in the wilderness. For example, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only!” (Deut 6:13).

Brilliant. I guess I should check out those verses in case I need them sometime. I want to resist temptation like you did.

Peter, you don’t realize now how important what you just said is. You will need every verse you can possibly memorize in order to resist the temptations you’re going to face. You’ll wish you were wearing the full armor of the best prepared soldier in order to stand your ground: helmet, breastplate, shield, sword—the full gear (Eph 6:13-17). Satan tried hard to entice me, and he’s going to work just as hard to take you down, to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31), to devour you like a lion (1 Pet 5:8).

Oh my, Lord! That sounds ominous. I don’t think I could ever capitulate to what Satan wants. Even if I have to die, I promise you, I will never give in to him! (Matt 26:35).

Well, Peter, don’t be so sure. Have you forgotten what happened in the Garden of Eden? Eve was apparently hungry, at least she wanted to eat the fruit of the tree God had said was off limits. And Satan told her she would not die if she ate some, like he told me that I would not die if I threw myself off the highest point of the temple. He even promised her that she would become like God, even as Satan offered me all the kingdoms of the world, if I would bow down to him. How ridiculous were those temptations! Even so, Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and the whole world has been suffering the consequences ever since. 

Ugh! The Fall is probably the saddest story ever to occur. What a contrast: Being in the bountiful Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were in the best of circumstances, yet failed. You, being in that barren desert, were in the worst of circumstances, yet prevailed. Amazing! I think maybe that’s why you came to earth! To correct what Adam and Eve messed up!

Yes, Peter, you hit the nail on the head. Well done. Except as you’ll find out in due time, I don’t like the notion of pounding nails into something.

Life Application Questions

  • What do we have to learn from Jesus and Peter and from Paul’s counsel in his letter to the Ephesians?
  • How can we prepare ourselves so wecan resist the devil’s attempts to take us down?

~ dbs

Thursday, 11 March 2021 00:00

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; James 4:13-17; 1 Peter 1:24; 2 Peter 3:8-9; 1 John 2:17; Hebrews 13:8  

“While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman…” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Words of promise—words of promise for the ominous events surrounding the return of Christ.

Without personally experiencing pregnancy, or labor pains, the Apostle writes as if he has been up close with women who have. He chooses the image of an upcoming onset of birth’s labor for a figure of speech, in explaining the timing of Christ’s return. 

Expectant women know that on a certain day—a delivery is coming. The precise hour of the clock, the bursting point of new life, is typically an educated estimation. Pregnancy leads to labor and delivery, and hopefully new abundant life.

Paul possesses a fully authorized understanding of Jesus’ imminent return. Consider Jesus’ true words which can be found in Revelation 16:15: “Look, I come like a thief!” Paul emphasizes, in writing to the disciples of Thessalonica, this certain-suddenness of Christ’s return.

No man, may claim to have been pregnant. However, some of us have lived with our beloveds, wives who are the mothers of our children. 

Personally, I have also watched from the appropriate sidelines, as my daughter and daughter-in-law traversed the pregnant path of labor and delivery. I number these among the most amazing experiences of my life. 

Now with deep anticipation, while hearing the groans of all creation, with other disciples I await Christ’s return. Truthfully, the fervent intense screams of church and society increase my anticipation. Come quickly Lord Jesus—we await your day.

Life Applications

  • When does life feel most secure to you?
  • When do you experience safety?

~ajs

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 00:00

Mark 13:32-33, John 9:4-5, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Galatians 6:10

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10 (NIV)

It’s always been a privilege to help others. Whether performing a simple task, providing transportation, or preparing a meal when a family member is ill, I’ve considered it an honor to assist.

Then I was the one who needed help. I was hesitant to ask. Sure, we’d been the recipients of a few meals after minor surgeries, but this was long-term. It was months. It was driving an hour to appointments for life-giving treatments, then providing an hour ride home. And there were meals on the days I didn’t feel well, not to mention the wide variety of gifted hats and scarves that would cover the sparse hair on my head. Our neighbor’s Life Group raked our yard and laid mulch. We felt loved.

I couldn’t have gotten through that season without the help of my Christian friends. Not only did they help meet physical needs, we were covered with prayer from colleagues around the world.

It gave it opened my eyes to view the body of Christ in ways I’d never seen.

Galatians 6:10 reminds us that our primary focus is to serve those in the church.

Homer Kent, Jr., writing in The Freedom of God’s Sons, Studies in Galatians (BMH Books, 2002, out-of-print) reminds us that believers are responsible for others in the faith. “This recognition of their spiritual union with each other because of their oneness caused the early church from the beginning to share their goods with one another and to be concerned about their brothers in Christ in all ways,” he said. 

“It is a biblical principle that members of one family have a special responsibility for one another (1 Tim. 5:8), and this is also true when the family is the spiritual one of the household of God,” he concluded.

Paul also reminds us that this service should not be in exclusion of people in the world. Dr. Kent writes, “There are countless opportunities to display one’s Christian faith by appropriate deeds. Therefore, ‘as we have the opportunity,’ the situation should be grasped to ‘work what is good toward all men’ (literal). The word ‘opportunity’ (kairon) is the same one which was translated ‘season’ in 6:9. There is a season for sowing just as for reaping, and that season is now.”

When have you been blessed by the household of faith?

What ways you have had opportunity to do good to your Christian family?

How have you have been able to do good to others (all people)?

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