What a Good Memory

What’s your favorite memory?
Do have a place or time that you enjoy thinking about, mentally revisiting? What is the first Christmas you remember? What’s the earliest birthday party that you can recall the in detail? Who has moved away or passed on and you find comfort in revisiting memories from your time with them? What memories bring you the deepest joy or stir your heart the most? Whether it’s your wedding day, the day you child was born, or the day you discovered the grace that God has for you, there are so many good memories that God has provided for us.

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Listen to David, stirred to remember the goodness of God, and put yourself in his shoes. Let your heart remember with his.

Psalm 105
1Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

God is good all the time. Remember that, okay? Whatever happened today, whoever gave you that sideways ‘complement’ the other day, whoever let you down…no matter what came about, God is good. That never changes. People can make dumb choices, have bad attitudes or completely forgot that they promised you they would do something…and that doesn’t change the fact that God has you, loves you and is providing for your tomorrow.

Human circumstances have nothing to do with how good God is, how consistent He is, how loving He is or how awesome He is…and He loves you.

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The Way of Deepest Honor

Father of mercy & grace, I praise You this morning for Your consistency & faithfulness. You are deeply loving, and amazingly generous with us who are so broken & so desperately in need of You. It is so easy for us to get hung up in ourselves, to focus on our own accomplishments & struggles. Thank You for these reminders about Your authority, grace & humble servanthood. Remind us again today what it means to serve like Jesus, having the same attitude humility. I pray this in His Name, amen.

Luke 22:24-30
24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.” We should probably reread that sentence every morning at least, shouldn’t we? Maybe we should put it on Post-It Notes, and tack it up around our home & work spaces, put one on our dashboard in our car & stick one on the handle of our grocery cart on days when we’re in a hurry, too. Jesus says, “Look, I see this world & it’s structures, I really do. I understand the social pressures & the expectations you put on yourselves & your culture presses on everyone…but I am different. And because I’m different, I want you do be different just like I am different. Look at my example. Examine what I’m doing. Look more deeply into me & put less stock into what this world says. Follow Me.”

For those of us who’ve spent any time with Jesus, we know this is the right answer. We know what His example is for us, but we still struggle like the apostles did with this expectation we see the world cramming in our faces. Humility is a trait that is definitely admirable, but in this world it will get you run over, left behind & forgotten. People who really accomplish things are bold & make a name for themselves. They are pacesetters & captains of industry. People take notice of them & they build a name for themselves, These are the people set as our examples. They write books & do interviews. They get things named after them & they gain the admiration of everyone. That’s what we’re trained to shoot for in this life.

Count Nicholas Von Zinzindorf said this though, and he is more on track with Jesus than this mindset of looking out for number one. He said, “Preach the Gospel, die & be forgotten.” Inspirational, right? We’re probably not going to see a poster made of that one & hanging on the wall of a Fortune 500 office anytime soon.

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This isn’t the way our world works. But this is the way of Christ. This is the reality that we are adopted into when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior & Master. Listen to Jesus again. Hear what He has to say.

“But I am among you as the one who serves.”

What would change in your world today if you and I really adopted that mindset? What will you do differently today if you choose to be forgotten so that Christ might be exalted? Who will you find to focus on if you take the efforts of your heart today and turn them toward that person in an attitude of servanthood like Jesus showed us? What kind of impact would you have on your family? Your friends? How might Jesus be lifted up & how might God be more deeply praised & glorified because of you?

Be among your peers today as one who serves. Walk among your family today as one who serves. Don’t seek your own way, your own priorities today. Walk like Jesus walked. Move in the rhythms of His grace. Wrap a towel around your waist & pick up the basin of water as you bend to wash the feet of those around you in His example & in His Name. You’ve seen the example of this world. You’ve seen what temporary things that accomplishes. Look instead to Jesus & serve today as He would serve.

 

The Perfect Priest

Father, Thank You for providing Jesus as our go-between with You. Thank You for His service at Your altar on our behalf. It really is a blessing to know that He has both served and paid the price for our offenses against You. Thank You for the guarantee of a better covenant through Him & the peace You offer through His blood. Amen.

We have spent the last three days reading and reflecting on Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. Let this passage be a guide to remember that role He serves in, remember what He has done for you and for me, for all of us who walk in His path. Let’s learn from His example, let’s worship Him in the rhythms of His grace. Take time, don’t rush and read through it as a meditation, be still/quiet and listen to the Word speak.

(Accents below are mine.)

Hebrews 7:1-28
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. 7 It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,

“You are a priest forever,
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Father, Thank You for providing Jesus as our go-between with You. Thank You for His service at Your altar on our behalf. It really is a blessing to know that He has both served and paid the price for our offenses against You. Thank You for the guarantee of a better covenant through Him & the peace You offer through His blood. Amen.

 

Psalm 119:97-104 // מ Mem // Sweeter than Honey!

“97 Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
    for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
    for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way.”

Psalm 119:97-104

==

Read this section of Psalm 119 again, but a little more slowly, listening to the heart of God being unfolded in the heart & mind of David.

Read it a third time, bit by bit, line by line and listen to the heart of God speaking to your own.

Read it a fourth and final time, and make it your prayer.

Acts 13:13-41 // Remembering our story

“13 Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and went back to Jerusalem. 14 They continued their journey from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any message of encouragement for the people, you can speak.”
16 Then Paul stood up and motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen! 17 The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors, exalted the people during their stay in the land of Egypt, and led them out of it with a mighty arm. 18 And for about 40 years He put up with them in the wilderness; 19 then after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave their land to them as an inheritance. 20 This all took about 450 years. After this, He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. 21 Then they asked for a king, so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for 40 years. 22 After removing him, He raised up David as their king and testified about him: I have found David the son of Jesse, a man loyal to Me, who will carry out all My will.
23 From this man’s descendants, according to the promise, God brought the Savior, Jesus, to Israel. 24 Before He came to public attention, John had previously proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. 25 Then as John was completing his life’s work, he said, “Who do you think I am? I am not the One. But look! Someone is coming after me, and I am not worthy to untie the sandals on His feet.”
26 Brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and those among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. 27 For the residents of Jerusalem and their rulers, since they did not recognize Him or the voices of the prophets that are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled their words by condemning Him. 28 Though they found no grounds for the death penalty, they asked Pilate to have Him killed. 29 When they had fulfilled all that had been written about Him, they took Him down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. 30 But God raised Him from the dead, 31 and He appeared for many days to those who came with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now His witnesses to the people. 32 And we ourselves proclaim to you the good news of the promise that was made to our ancestors. 33 God has fulfilled this for us, their children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second Psalm:
“You are My Son;
today I have become Your Father.”
34 Since He raised Him from the dead, never to return to decay, He has spoken in this way, “I will grant you the faithful covenant blessings made to David.” 35 Therefore He also says in another passage, “You will not allow Your Holy One to see decay.” 36 For David, after serving his own generation in God’s plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. 37 But the One God raised up did not decay. 38 Therefore, let it be known to you, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, 39 and everyone who believes in Him is justified from everything that you could not be justified from through the law of Moses. 40 So beware that what is said in the prophets does not happen to you:
41 “Look, you scoffers,
marvel and vanish away,
because I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will never believe,
even if someone were to explain it to you.”

Acts 13:13-41

For the Jewish people, it was common practice to look back and remember the history of God’s interaction with them. It reminded them of what God had done, what He had saved them from and how He had been at work throughout their whole history. Every year, as a part of their Passover celebration, they would recountt this story, and be thankful for what God had done.

It would probably be a good idea to to the same for our own lives today. Thank back through your own life. Remember where God has shown you mercy, grace and celebrate His handiwork. Remember His goodness and be thankful. Remember your own sin & weaknesses & ask God to continue to guard your heart and to grow you in wisdom, faith and understanding.

When we know our own story by heart, it’s that much easier to GoLove others because we are very conscious of what God has done for us at any given moment & then He can use that readiness to speak into someone else’s story through us.

It’s definitely worth remembering & celebrating His goodness, mercy & love, wihtout them we would still be subject to His wrath & destined for hell. So be thankful, remember your story today & how God has worked to bring you salvation through Jesus Christ. Write it down if you need to, but take time today and remember what He has done.

Acts 10:9-16 // Open doors

“9 The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, Peter went up to pray on the housetop about noon. 10 Then he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he went into a visionary state. 11 He saw heaven opened and an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all the four- footed animals and reptiles of the earth, and the birds of the sky. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”

14 “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything common and ritually unclean!”

15 Again, a second time, a voice said to him, “What God has made clean, you must not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into heaven.”

Acts 10:9-16

Peter was just being honest & working from his undertanding of God’s expectations, and was following the Law as it was laid out from Moses, who had received it from God. He was trying to be obedient. He was trying to be good & live properly, desiring to honor God in his body. God had given the Israelite people a different diet as a part of their being ‘called out’ from the other nations. They had to wear certain things, do certain things and eat certain things as a part of their national, cultural, spiritual identity. There were certain things that a Jew just did not do, eat or partake in. These are the things that idenitifed them as belonging to God. 

So, when Peter heard, “Get up, kill and eat.” what he heard was “Defy every part of who you are, and leave behind what God has called you to be.” and so his natural response was, “No!” Again, he was trying to be who he thought God wanted him to be. There were rules and expectations, laws, statutes and decrees to follow. They were just as much a part of him as the hair on his head & the toes on his feet.

But God had a plan to open doors for them and to grow His church through them, and that meant that it was time to look beyond just their Jewish neighbors and to expand into the Gentile nations surrounding them. Cornelius had just received a vision to unlock and turn the knob on his side of the door, and now Peter was receiving the vision to unlock & turn the knob on his. God was opening doors.

Again, Peter, being a ‘good Jew’ wouldn’t have even considered going into Cornelius’ house if God hadn’t done this, it was a part of his personal wiring. But God desired for Peter to make a personal connection with Cornelius and his family and that couldn’t happen from being standoff-ish and remaining on the front step. There had to be an open door and a collision between these two cultural worlds. The distinctiveness between the world and those who followed God were not going to be on a racial line anymore, but drawn on a line of love for all and an obedience to the heart & will of God. There was going to be a called-out-ness to them, but not through diet or dress anymore. This was going to be based on the heart, and so for Peter, the one with the barriers, God had to directly address those old habits, teachings and concerns. There was noting really spiritually wrong with not eating pork, iguana or beetle meat. Those animals were not evil or corrupt. Those laws were simply a part of their separated lives, and those doors were opened now.

We have a tendency today to draw lines and close doors that God never desired to be drawn or closed. “I won’t go into that part of town.” or “I don’t associate with those kind of people.” are things that shouldn’t come out of the mouth of a Christian. The only people that we are told to disaccoiate with are those who have been taught & know God’s expectations & have instead chosen to live in defiance of Him, people who are undergoing discipline by the elders of the church. Even then, that is for the purpose of restoration and a desire for them to understand what they are missing and how they have stepped outside of HIs will. But no social group, racial group or any other human separation should keep us from sharing the Gospel with anyone walking this earth. 

If tomorrow, you meet a homosexual, gluttonous member of ISIS who is a habitual liar and gossip…they need to hear about Jesus & God’s redeeming grace through Him. Even if that person represents everything that you cannot stand, whatever their combination of sins may be, there cannot be a locked door in the way that you have set up. God desires that they would have their hearts changed and that they would follow Him. He deisres to give them His mercy and grace and to offer them forgiveness…and He wants to communcate that through you and through me. If we are going to GoLove people, this cannot just be a mental acknowledgement that this needs to be done, but we must take it to heart and live it out personally. God has opened the doors for the Gospel message to spread to anyone and everyone, it is not for us to close them because we are uncomfortable. We must trust in His heart and do as He says. We cannot refuse for someone else what we have been afforded in Christ. That is not our desicion to make. The doors are open. W emust scatter seed and live in obedience to out Master’s call. 

  

Acts 7:37-43 // Jesus and the story of redemption (pt 4)

“37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers.” 38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him, but pushed him away, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron:

“Make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him.”

41 They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made. 42 Then God turned away and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:

“House of Israel, did you bring Me offerings and sacrifices

40 years in the wilderness?

43 No, you took up the tent of Moloch

and the star of your god Rephan,

the images that you made to worship.

So I will deport you beyond Babylon!”

Acts 7:37-43

Stephen is really on fire here at this point in his sermon. He is opening old cultural wounds and identifying embarassing things feom their collective history. Some of the religious leaders were behaving as if they had never done anything wrong in their service to God, and they turned a blind eye to the faults and patterns of their ancestors that they themselves were engaged in currently. 

Just like the Israelites rebelled and rejected God in the wilderness, they were now rebelling and rejecting Jesus in exchange for what they wanted to do and how they wanted to worship. They ignored the obvious signs and wonders and truths that He taught and performed and so they remained in their religion that they had crafted for themselves. It had become their idol, just like Molech & Rephan. They hadn’t been worshipping God, but their own system of belief. There may not have been a physical idol, but there doesn’t have to be one. It was simply a rejection of the truth for something homemade & ‘comfortable.’

As we walk with Jesus, we must be mindful to keep our worship focused on Him, on God, and not on a system or a religion that we craft for ourselves. It’s tempting to have a self-crafted religion, pulling bits and pieces from wherever we choose. But we must have our foundation in the truth, being held accountable by the Word of God, not by society or by some personal expectation or desire. Worship that is made for anything other than God Himself, as HE has revelaed Himself, is idolatry and we cannot pretend otherwise. 

We all have patterns of behavior that we fall back into, old comfortable sins, foibles and lies that we hae either scultped on our own or adopted from somewhere else, and we cannot pretend that God is pleased when we slip back into those old ways and habits. We must abide in Him, living & dwelling in His truth & presence. Again, to do otherwise is a misrepresentation of Him to others, and He will not honor those efforts or the lives behinds them. And So, as we GoLove others, we must do so in spirit and in truth, wholly worshipping God, properly, reverently and not in any way that we have devised for ourselves, spiritually compromised and corrupted by sin. 

I’m so thankful for the grace that God offers to us in Christ, because we are incapable of doing everything right all the time. So, even when we do slip up, even when we do begin to sculpt our own little idols, God is always there whispering in our ear, speaking to our hearts, communicating through His Word, ready to bring us back as we humbly repent. A daily dying to self and taking up of our cross is the best way to point our hearts in the right direction as we read His Word, seek Him out in prayer and follow in the rhythms of grace that Jesus taught us.