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.

Connections to the Vine

I am very happy to announce the publication of my first book entitled Connections to the Vine.


This is something I have been working on since 2009. It all started here on this blog. This book is a collection of the posts that I’ve made here during the period of Jan 17, 2009- Jan 17, 2010. I was posting daily while doing scripture readings. It is a big book with over 700 pages and offers a year worth of devotions and scripture readings. You can read one a day or as many as you like at your own pace. It is available on Amazon.com for $8.99 as an e-book download Here You do not need to have a Kindle reader in order to read the book, you can get a free download at amazon to read it in. Free Kindle Reader

It is also available in paperback form for those of you who prefer an actual book for $19.95 from Create Space Here

This is a self-published work and has not been professionally edited so I would ask for your kindness if you find a mistake here or there. I have done my best with this first effort. I hope that you will enjoy the book and that it will be a meaningful part of your daily time with God.

Thanks to everyone who has followed this blog and to all my family and friends who have been so supportive of this work.

Love Michael.

 

If God is Your Co-Pilot, move over.

21 Day Challenge Day 2

Scripture: The reading for today is Acts 1:12-26

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it,’

and,

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’

 

Application: It is easy to convince ourselves that what we want is God’s will.

Observation: This is where Matthias is chosen to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. As I was reading this today the thing that came to mind was a question of whether or not Peter and the others had made the right choice. There were two men that they thought might be worthy of being one of them and they decided the outcome by praying for guidance and then casting lots. It was almost a roll of the dice that determined who would be the new member of their group.

I understand that they wanted to have twelve apostles, that was the number of men Jesus had chosen, and it was also a very significant number to the Jewish people in that it represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The scripture that Peter quoted from is from Psalm 69, a lament of David. There is no mistaking it as a prophetic Psalm as it parallels Jesus’ crucifixion story when it says in v21 “They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.” Peter relates verse 25 to Judas Iscariot and then jumps to Psalm 109:8 and adds “May another take his place of leadership.”

Did Peter and the other apostles convince themselves that what they wanted was God’s will without really being inspired by the Spirit? Jesus had told them to wait in Jerusalem; he hadn’t given them instructions to replace Judas. Also if we look at the rest of the New Testament it seems obvious to me that Christ made the choice himself with making Paul the replacement. We never hear about Matthias any more throughout the rest of the Bible.

I have to admit that I have been guilty of this myself. I have had my own agenda and convinced myself that it was the will of God without having proper confirmation. I think it is easy for us to get the notion that we hear God speaking to us and telling us to do things that we want to do. I don’t condemn Peter and the other apostles for the choice they made, I am sure that they honestly thought they were doing the right thing. Further I am not trying to convince anyone that the made a terrible mistake, it just seems that way to me. At the end of the day, we can only do the best that we can and try to listen with ears to hear what God is saying. I just think that sometimes we need to listen for a little longer than we do.

Prayer: Father,

Help me to refrain from making the wrong decisions and calling them your will. Help me to be prayerful and to have eyes to see and ears to hear when you truly are guiding me.

 

Yield: I surrender my own plans, I submit to God’s guidance.

21 Day Challenge Day 1

Hello everyone,

I am going to start a 21 day scripture reading challenge today and I invite you to join me.  This is a challenge that is being  provided through Youversion.com If you start today and go through 21 days of any reading plan without missing a day you could win an iPad mini.

I chose the

Deeper Into Scripture: A 21-Day Plan

Today’s reading is Mark 1:1-8

Scripture: 1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Observation: As I read through this the second time the thing that really stood out to me was the last part of the prophecy from Isaiah in verse 3, “make straight paths for him.”
Application: Yesterday I accompanied some of our Staff Parish Relations Committee members to a training event at First UMC in Cookeville.  While there we learned that the Bishop is looking to change and improve the way the appointment system works.  During the question and answers part of the training it seemed to me that the majority of the comments that were made were people looking for fuel for their fires.  In other words, I’m going to get an answer here and then take this back to the church and prove my point and say, “That’s what the District Superintendent says!”  I thought Rev. Archer did a fine job answering these questions with grace and sincerity.   I don’t mean to be harsh to those who made the comments, and perhaps I was looking through clouded lenses at the time,  but it seemed as though I could just hear the conversations and complaints and arguments that were truly behind the comments and questions.
As I read this scripture today I heard Isaiah saying, make straight paths for him.  To me that means we all need to be working together for a common goal, we need to lift each other up, we need to support each others ministries.  When it comes to relations between a pastor and their flock, the pastor should be loving the people, even the people who seem difficult to love, and the people should be loving the pastors, even the pastors that seem to be difficult to love.  Anything other than a loving cooperation of pastor and church members is, in my eyes, making crooked paths.  Complaining and mumbling, nitpicking and gossiping can kill a church, it can kill a pastor, it not only makes the path crooked and hard follow, but at times it can put a barricade on the path which has to be torn down before any progress can be made.
I hope that you don’t get the notion that I’m thinking about anyone in particular, or even any specific circumstance.  We all have our individual paths which are filled with unique situations.  My question is, “Are we making straight paths, or are we throwing rocks on the trail?”
Prayer:  Lord,
   Please help me to be always in a spirit of cooperation and grace when doing my work.  Let me serve you with gladness and take away any bitterness or complaining that may arise in my heart.  Grant me the ability to make straight paths for your coming.   Come quickly Lord.
Love Michael
Yield: I surrender my hurt feelings when people do not like me.  I give up my striking back.  I turn it over to you Lord.