My Enemies Make Me Glad (Day 9)

The scripture for today’s 21 Day Challenge is Philippians 1:12-26

Scripture: What do I think about this? Just this: since Christ is proclaimed in every possible way, whether from dishonest or true motives, I’m glad and I’ll continue to be glad.

Observation: Whatever we go through is worth it if Christ is glorified.

Application: There are times that I have to admit to having a little bit of Martyr Syndrome. I am quick to find where I am being persecuted or unfairly judged by others and use that as a point of soliciting sympathy from others. I am not saying that Paul is guilty of this in our scripture this morning, but it is just how I see these words relating to my own life. Paul’s motives are impeccable, he says it does not matter if those who are preaching Christ are doing it out of good motives or out of selfish motives, it does not matter if they are for Paul or if they are against Paul, what matters is that Christ is being preached and he is glad for that. Further he says, from his prison cell, that it is unimportant as to whether he is released or he is executed. He personally would be glad to be able to go home to be with Christ in heaven, but he would also be glad to be released and continue his work for others.

That is the kind of attitude we need to have when we think of the things that we go through in life. If we feel that we are being persecuted or unfairly treated, we can use those things to serve God and witness of his forgiving grace and compassion for those who are suffering. If we are lifted up, if we are praised, we can use those things to witness of God and point to his Spirit that works within us. Paul says in v21 “Because for me, living serves Christ and dying is even better.” What a witness that is. We should adopt this frame of mind so that no matter what we do, it is all about Christ.

Prayer: Lord,

Help me to see that no matter what I think I’m going through in my life that it can be a way of serving you and glorifying Christ.

Love Michael

Yield: It’s not about me, it’s not about the things I’m going through, it’s about serving God.

He who comes after me (Day 8)

The reading for the 21 day challenge today is John 1:14-28

Scripture:
John 1: 15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'”)

Observation: We exist before we arrive.

Application: There are a lot of different directions we could go here. We could talk about whether or not we might have lived a physical life before this one because the priests and Levites asked John if he was Elijah or if he was the prophet in verse 21. We could talk about when the soul enters the body because if we exist before we arrive as an infant, then it could be that it happens at conception. Where does life really begin in the womb, or at conception? That conversation would be a high volume topic to talk about for sure. Predestination could also be something we look at here, if we pre-exist then perhaps we also have our destiny laid out before us even before our lives begin. It would be hard to argue that both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ had a destiny planned by God even before their physical birth. All of these would be good topics to discuss, but all I really want to say here is that John is pointing out not only that Christ was before him, speaking of the pre-physical existence of Jesus and John, but I think John was trying to say that Jesus was before all people. He was there in the beginning with God. Indeed, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the second part of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit that has always been and will always be. I will leave it to you to think about the other things. Feel free to discuss! J

Prayer: Lord,

I thank you that you sent Jesus to be your physical incarnation on earth. That you walked among us and taught us that your Kingdom is At Hand. Please help me to recognize your Spirit and your Grace in others that you place in my path.

Love Michael

Possible for God (Day 7)

The scripture for today in the 21 day challenge is Ephesians 2:1-10

Scripture: Ephesians2: it’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

Observation: What is impossible for man is possible for God.

Application: I can’t help but relate this reading today to my Sunday sermon. We talked about how the rich young ruler had come to Jesus and asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. Christ told him to sell all of his possessions, give the money to the poor and then come and follow him. This was a unique situation because this young man had an opportunity to be one of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples. He decided that his earthly inheritance was more important to him than his eternal inheritance. When he was leaving Jesus told his disciples that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples were astonished at this. They had thought that wealth was a sign of God’s favor and they asked, “Then who can ever be saved?” and Jesus said “What is impossible for man is possible for God.”

The scripture in Ephesians today reminds us that there is nothing that we have done and nothing that we could do in our own power to earn a place beside a Holy God in heaven. Rather, it is a gift of God to us, an accomplishment made by God through Christ Jesus and nothing we have done or could do would ever be deserving of such a gift.

I am so glad today that what I am not able to do, God can do!

Prayer: Lord,

Thank you for the good news that Christ has come and set us free from everlasting separation from you. Thank you for the great accomplishment that you made through Christ on the cross. All glory is yours now and forever.

Love Michael

Yield: I surrender any thoughts of me deserving my blessings because of my work, good deeds or morality because they are all nothing compared to God.

Wisdom from on high

Today’s 21 day challenge reading is from Galatians 1:11-24

Scripture:
Galatians 1:11 NIV

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.

Observation: There is wisdom and knowledge available to us outside of the physical.

Application:  Today was rough, I preached the memorial service of a congregation member.  It is always a difficult part of the job.  Today when I read this scripture I am reminded of something I said during the service. It is a quote from another of Paul’s letters.

1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Paul says he got his wisdom and knowledge from somewhere other than the physical world.  We are all able to access knowledge and wisdom from the same source as Paul did.  All we have to do is be open to the Spirit of God.

Prayer: God of all understanding, please help me to have ears to hear and eyes to see the knowledge and wisdom of you.

Love Michael.

Picking apart the word (Day 5)

Today’s reading in the 21 day challenge is 2 Corinthians 1:12-24

Scripture: The Message (MSG)

12-14 Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus.

Observation: Maybe it is a natural tendency for us to pick apart words of instruction.

Application: I have to be honest; I read today’s scripture five times in five different versions before I found what I feel God is saying to me about it. In the portion of the reading above Paul says (in The Message version) Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. As I thought about this it occurred to me that this being the second letter to the Corinthians that Paul was probably talking about behavior regarding the first letter. It is probable that both letters were written with a fairly short period of time in between them. So the people of Corinth must have been doing just what he tells them not to do, reading between the lines, looking for hidden meanings. Do we do that still? Do we look at portions of the scripture that we can turn to in order to support our own philosophy, desires or way of life? Do we listen to a sermon and hear selectively only what appeals most to us? If you ask my wife, she will probably tell you that I do that when she is talking to me. But I digress… Maybe we need to stop trying to plug scripture into our beliefs, and rather try to find the true meaning and heart of the whole.

Prayer: Lord,

Help me to take in the whole heart of your gospel. Let me not pick and choose what I want to focus on but instead let me live my life in full surrender to you.

Love Michael

Yield: I yield to God’s whole message, and surrender my attempts at picking it apart for my own benefit.

The foolishness of God (Day 4)

Today’s reading in the 21 day challenge is 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Scripture: 25 This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Observation: We are created in the image of God.

Application: Today’s scripture made me think about something that some people may think is totally off base. To be honest I am not so sure where I stand myself with it, but I will stop beating around the bush and get right to it since you probably already know the general direction of my thought from the title of the post.

The verse that I shared above speaks about the foolishness of God being wiser than humans and the weakness of God being stronger than humans. When I thought about this I asked myself, is there such a thing as the foolishness and weakness of God? Is there any area of God’s existence where he might do a self-evaluation and think that he needs to improve? I mean, Genesis tells us that we are made in the image of God. Psalm 82:6 says I hereby declare, “You are gods,
children of the Most High—all of you!
Jesus quotes this passage in John 10:34 Jesus replied, “Isn’t it written in your Law, I have said, you are gods?” If we look at ourselves very long we have to admit that we are all foolish and weak in varying degrees across the course of our lives. Even though God is much wiser and much stronger than us, is it possible that he, like all of us, has weakness?

I do not have a great theological wrap up here for this thought. I wish I could impart some wisdom that would answer this to my own satisfaction and to yours. I have to admit however that I am somehow comforted to think that God really did create us like him, and that we may be closer to the likeness of God than we realize. Call this heretical or blasphemous if you must, let the inquisitions begin, I am not troubled, I am inspired.

Prayer: God who created me in your image,

I marvel at the directions the scripture takes me at times. Please help me to find wisdom and guidance in order to bring myself into a closer walk with you and to become more like Christ.

Yield: I recognize that God is greater than my shortfalls, so I surrender my self-doubts and trust in his providence.

Abandoned by God, 21 Day Challenge Day 3

Scripture: Romans 1:24-32

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

Observation: Even if we choose to move away from God, there is still hope that can be found in forgiveness.

Application: Today I took my reading from the 21 day challenge into the Wednesday morning Coffee with the Preacher meeting. I didn’t preview the scripture before I got in the meeting, instead I just decided that we would turn to it and go from there. This was a tough reading and it brought up some of the controversy that is surrounding our United Methodist denomination today.

This scripture talks about people who were corrupt, of whom God had abandoned to their own hearts’ desires. That is the language that is used in the CEB version of the Bible.

24 So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires,

I like the NIV wording better because I don’t like to think about God abandoning anyone. I have often said, “You may abandon God but He will never abandon you.” This verse seems to challenge that notion a bit. We all have free will. God has made us to be creatures with our own minds and thoughts and with the ability to make our own choices in life. So yes, God will allow us to go off the deep end and dive into immorality and corruption if that is what we choose to do. We can be like the people that Paul is speaking about when he says in v25 that “they traded God’s truth for a lie.” In doing so we put ourselves in a position where God will leave us to our own desires.

As we talked together today the story of the prodigal son came up. The father in that story did not really abandon the son, I still have a hard time using that word here. The son made decisions and the father allowed him to do what he wanted to do, when he left for the far away land he also left behind the blessings and protection that the father was able to provide. His father never stopped loving him. Like the prodigal son, we can choose to leave God out of our lives, we can do our own thing, we can follow the sinful desires of the flesh if we choose.

What I think we took away from it all is that when the son returned to the father, he was accepted and forgiven. We may leave God behind in our lives, but there is always hope that we will return. I don’t want to think about God abandoning us, I don’t think that’s right, I think we abandon Him sometimes but He never gives up hope for us.

Prayer: Father of all of us,

When we chose to go the wrong way, when we choose to live our lives outside of your will, please keep drawing us back to you. Do not abandon us and allow us to wander on our own, seek us out and save us. Bring us back home.

Love Michael

Yield: I must always keep myself in the house of the Father. I choose each day whether to stay with God, or to go out on my own.