Sunday, February 28, 2010

Genesis 41:14-45
Psalms 8, 24, 29, 84
Romans 6:3-14
John 5:19-24

“What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)

I think that is a wonderful question to ask. God who, as stated in the Psalm, created the heavens and earth, the moon and stars, decided to create us in His image and for his glory. Why?

I have recently felt completely overwhelmed with my schedule. Trying to balance school, work, sports, scouts, college applications, etc., is difficult. At times, I just feel neglected or as if I’m battling life all by myself. Also, at an age where one can question the purpose of life, I wonder who I am in the grand scheme of things. In the history of my life, what will I accomplish? Who will I impact? While life can seem to last, we are but dust in the course of human history and, even more so, the history of the world. My time here is barely significant. So, again I ask, who am I that God should be mindful of me?

I won’t even try to answer this, but instead I will celebrate in its truth: that God is mindful of me, that God is mindful of us. I think that is a very important thing we must never forget. While life can get overwhelming and frustrating and stressful, and we may ask why any of it matters and if anyone cares, we know that God does. And while we may seem insignificant in comparison to the heavens and earth and the moon and stars, I feel all the more special to know that God, who has power beyond belief, looks out and cares for me; that He is mindful of me.

--TV

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Genesis 41:1-13
Psalms 55, 138, 139
1 Corinthians 4:1-7
Mark 2:23-3:6

I am not very good at keeping the Sabbath day holy. The Pharisees thought that Jesus wasn’t very good at it either, and they took it quite seriously. They took it so seriously that the plot to kill Jesus seemed to start with Jesus breaking Sabbath law.

Frankly, I’m a bit jealous of those who do keep the Sabbath -- conservative Jewish folk or maybe the extreme Hassidic Jews who keep to the letter of the Jewish law. Imagine having a day without work – of any kind. No turning on a light, no cooking dinner, no laundry, no checking of email, no TV, no homework. It’s hard to imagine such a day…a day to simply rest. Actually, I wonder if I would go a little stir crazy, since I’m so used to every minute of every day being dedicated to something or someone.

There is something to be said for rest, for a day of rest. I think God gave us that commandment because He knew how crazy life could get for us and how hard we would work. Through that commandment, God gave us a gift – a gift we so often turn away. I think if we all really did learn how to give up work and responsibilities and how to slow down one day a week just to spend time with family, read a book, play a board game, or take a nap, we as a society would be so much better for it. We’d be happier people with less stress – and, my guess is, less disease. We’d just be better.

I think Jesus was showing us that the letter of the law isn’t as important as helping people and generally doing what is right. But, at the same time, the law was given for our benefit. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is something I hope to make time for this Lenten season, and I hope to develop that practice into a habit that will last.

--MAM

Friday, February 26, 2010

Genesis 40:1-23
Psalms 40, 51, 54
1 Corinthians 3:16-23
Mark 2:13-22

As the mother of a young child, I spend a lot of time wishing my daughter would just listen to me and do what I’m asking of her.  Just put her coat on, wash her hands, take her medicine.  And the subtext here is always “because I love her, and I’m trying to help her do what’s best for her.”  But my daughter’s reaction, more often than not, is to ignore me.

And to be honest, I can understand how she thinks.  She’s trying to master so many tasks in her world that, of course, she wants to do things her way.  Do I always feel like picking up after myself or eating what I’m supposed to?  No.  Do I always listen to those messages God is sending me about what I should be doing? 

In the hectic swirl of life, I imagine I miss a lot more messages from God than I receive.  And I actually follow through on what He asks less often than that.  It’s a challenge, but a good one, to try to make myself listen more -- to God and to everyone I interact with.  It’s a challenge to really focus on what they are trying to tell me, and to try to do what I am being asked to do, even if it’s not easy, or not what I wanted to do. 

When my daughter refuses to get in the car because she’d rather crouch in the grass, delighted by the first robins of spring, maybe I should listen to her.  Maybe God is trying to tell me, through her, that my destination will still be there, but the return of spring each year is a miracle that should be celebrated at this moment.  Maybe He’s trying to tell me that the wonder of children, of these little moments, is what gives life its richness…because He loves me, and He’s trying to help me do what’s best for me.

-BP

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Genesis 39:1-23
Psalms 19, 46, 50, 59, 60
1 Corinthians 2:14–3:15
Mark 2:1-12

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
         And the firmament  proclaims his handiwork.

There is no speech, nor are there words;
         Their voice is not heard.
Yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
         And their words to the end of the world.

(Psalm 19:1, 3-4b)

I will forever marvel at the natural wonders set forth by God.

Many people feel closest to the Lord when they are face-to-face with other people, and, indeed, I believe that one of the best ways to glorify God is by going to others who have not heard of His glories, who have not heard of the salvation that is available to us through Jesus Christ.

I have done that, through door-to-door evangelism programs such as Evangelism Explosion, through mission trips, and through sharing the testimony of my journey to Christ in groups both large and small.

In this time of Lent I find myself burdened for those who have not heard, for there is no one to tell them. These verses provided some small measure of comfort. “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” Could it be that the glories of the Lord are manifest to all who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear? I know when I get down to my personal needs in seeking God, I most often find myself under a tree, or in a meadow, or by a stream away from people…..alone, not with nature, but with God Almighty Himself.

--LSH

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Genesis 37:25-36
Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72
1 Corinthians 2:1-13
Mark 1:29-45

“…Strengthen me according to your word. Direct me in the path of your commands, For there I find delight.” (Psalm 119: 28;35)

My favorite place in my house is on the family room couch. From this vantage point, sitting among my comfy pillows, I look through the picture frame created by the window casings at an outdoors that is ever changing with the seasons. In the summer, I can see a forest of trees, tall and spindly, reaching to the heavens, with twigs and branches all intertwined. I love watching how storms make the branches sway like a mast on a ship. The fall season brings a kalidescope of color with leaves in multitudes of red and orange; they swirl and flutter. Winter’s fingers create icy crystals on leafless branches; they cling and then drip, changing once more to the peak-a-boo green buds that burst out in the spring. Those treasured times, when I am quiet in my own house, are when I spend a few moments reflecting on God’s scripture, searching for direction, guidance, and meaning to life through the Bible, and finding strength in His word.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

Even Jesus needed time to be alone and time to reflect. Taking a walk, getting a breath of fresh air, enjoying quiet time in nature is not just “what the doctor ordered,” but how we can get back in touch with God’s Word. May you find some time to be at peace with the Lord. May you find some time to connect with God’s Word, observe nature, and spend some quiet time centering your thoughts and prayers and speaking to God.

Heavenly Father, Thank you, for the beauty of nature that surrounds me. I know, that in order to understand Your Word, I need to set aside time, dedicated time, devoted time, focused time, to read scripture and to reflect on what Your Word means for my daily life. Thank you. Lord, for giving me this special day and this special moment to breathe, to reflect, to share all my worries and to know that you keep me in your care.

--JML

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Genesis 37:12-24
Psalms 45, 47, 48
1 Corinthians 1:20-31
Mark 1:14-28

I remember being dropped off at my dorm after a date and looking across the parking lot to see two figures silhouetted against the dark, and one took his hand and hit hard and violently the other in the face. I knew who they were, and I was outraged. There had been rumors that he abused his girlfriends, and now I’d seen it. What’s worse was the hypocrisy – he was a pre-ministerial student. A sense of “someone should do something” incensed me and even more so later upon finding out the entire incident had to be dropped because she wouldn’t press charges.

In Psalm 47, the Bible juxtaposes two emotions — joy and fear, and, oddly, one is the result of the recognition of the other: “Shout for joy, For the Lord Most High is to be feared.” Why would we be joyful because He is to be feared? One reason supporting scriptures tell us is because only He can mete out true and unerring justice. When that kind of justice will be realized, there will be great rejoicing!

One aspect of God’s justice was fleshed out in the coming of Jesus. Jesus left the world without excuse. He judged rightly good from evil, right from wrong. We have to trust that the rest of His perfect judgment will come and walk in confident, reverent respect. This brings a shout of joy from our lips!

--SAD

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Daniel 9:3-10
Psalms 63, 98, 103
Hebrews 2:10-18
John 12:44-50

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing…” (Psalm 98: 4,5)

One of my earliest and fondest childhood memories is singing in Sunday School in our tiny United Methodist Church in Pennsylvania. I loved those songs – “If You’re Happy and You Know It…,” “Climb, Climb Up Sunshine Mountain…,” “This Little Light of Mine…,” -- and many more. I loved doing the motions, and I especially loved when Mrs. Linaberry asked me to come to the front, stand on a chair, and sing a solo. Why she asked me, I have no idea, but I’d stand on that chair and sing my heart out. For as long as I can remember, I believed in God and loved Him, and one way I expressed that love at a young age was by singing.

When I was in elementary school I joined a JOY Club, led by a woman from our church. We met once a week in her home, memorized Bible verses, and, of course, sang. The JOY Club song began and ended like this: “Jesus and Others and You, what a wonderful way to spell Joy…. Put yourself last and spell Joy.” I was a joyful little girl, and I often sang the song to remind myself that God came first.

More recent memories of joyful singing are from our time in Panama from 1998-2001. We attended Balboa Union Church in the old Panama Canal Zone, and one of our ministries was to serve Sunday dinner at Brown’s Home, a humble little house for the elderly in the hills of Panama City. It was a wonderful ministry that we did as a family, and one of the residents, George, will live in our hearts forever. George is blind, not from birth or illness, but because years ago he put a gun to his head after losing his job and his wife. When we met George we had no idea of his past pain and suffering, because he was always so joyful and truly thankful for his blessings. And every Brown’s Home visit ended with a wonderful treat -- George singing in his beautiful baritone voice, “How Great Thou Art…”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the many reasons You have given me to be joyful. Let me always sing your praises, like the little girl on the chair in Sunday School, with a heart full of love for You.

--JAP

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ezekiel 39:21-29
Psalms 30, 32, 42, 43
Philippians 4:10-20
John 17:20-26

Dear Reader, today’s readings are for February 20, however I am writing this in early January. God’s message and counsel in today’s readings are particularly relevant for what is happening today, as they always are.

Today’s newspaper headlines describe the devastation in Haiti following the earthquake. This is truly a catastrophe of major proportions. As believing Christians, how do we reconcile such misery and pain with a loving God?

Today’s readings speak of being restored to God’s grace and favor after our moving away from him. It is very human of us to interpret human suffering as God’s anger and to respond with our own anger and frustration. In doing so, we move farther from Him and the restoring love He has for us.

I have a good friend living here but with immediate family living in Haiti. I talked with him today, and he told me his family is alive and that their house is still standing. While they have survived the immediate crisis, normal life will be very difficult with the complete destruction of normal services infrastructure. It is natural for him to question why a loving God would allow such a disaster on a people already suffering. While my attempt to encourage him was weak, his response was strong and positive. He has hope that, as a direct result of this catastrophe, the people of Haiti will now address the necessary changes within the country required to secure long term stability and prosperity that has hindered their development in the past. He expressed the hope found in today’s readings. God will restore us to His favor and He will protect us. We, however, must be willing to accept His love and to honor Him in our lives.

I retired this month after working for 44 years. It is an opportunity for me to reprioritize my life going forward. How will I spend my time and talents? Just as Haiti has the opportunity to prioritize how they will use the international aid that is being provided, retirement has provided me that same opportunity.

I pray that God will be at the center of that decision-making with the hope that we will be restored to God’s grace and protection for the future.

--JDD

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Psalms 31, 35, 95
Philippians 4:1-9
John 17:9-19

I’m pretty bad at helping people that aren’t like me.

This wasn’t always true. I used to go out with our old church on Sundays to hand out sandwiches to the homeless. I remember working in the church basement to make a ton of bag lunches with apples, milk cartons, and ham and cheese sandwiches. We may have made peanut butter and jelly, too, but peanut butter is so gross I’m sure I’ve blocked it out.

Sometime after high school I got selfish. I stopped going around the city to hand out meals; I decided it was more “important” for me to help my friends. Sure, I felt bad about those people on the street, but I am busy. I barely have time for friends. So I should just focus on that.

How often do I think about those people on the street right now who haven’t had jobs for years. How about those kids in Jamaica I visited who lived with no water or electricity and had scrawny goats wandering their neighborhood that would become their dinner? Almost never.

Today, I worry a lot about our economy and the people I know who lost jobs. In reality, I am thinking about people like me. They’ve become the only ones I actually show that I care about.

What one, small thing is God telling me to do to help someone or some cause that’s important to me? Is it helping the family I adopted for Christmas that’s a single mother and her 4 kids living in one room, without space even for mattresses to sleep on? What is God telling me right now to start doing so that I can focus on people who aren’t just like me? What is He telling you?

Peace

--TEL

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Habakkuk 3:1-18
Psalms 37:1-18; 19-42
Philippians 3:12-21
John 17:1-8

This past fall I had the immense opportunity of being able to study abroad at Oxford. However, about a month before I returned to the States, my wallet, and everything in it, was stolen. It's funny how much you can take the little things in life for granted. It's funny how much silly little green paper can stress you out. All of a sudden, I went from being able to go out whenever I wanted to having to ration everything I was eating for the next three weeks. If I was hungry or tired, I couldn't go out and buy a sandwich or a latte. I couldn't go out with my friends to restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, or concerts. At first, I was angry and frustrated -- how could my last month at Oxford be ruined like this? Why did I have to be suddenly plagued with so much worry and stress, especially with final papers rolling around?

But when it comes right down to it, God really does provide in times of trouble. Although my wallet was stolen, my passport and my library card weren't -- so I could still complete my academic work, and I could still come home in December. And I was never really without support systems -- my friends were willing to loan me money, and my parents sent me some in the mail. My very last day in Oxford, I even found a hundred dollar bill that I'd tucked away and forgotten about, so I could buy a bus ticket to the airport to come home and even do some Christmas shopping. Even in the midst of this temporary ugliness, God was there in the background, taking care of me in ways I needed the most.

But what was most valuable to me about the whole experience was that in the midst of the holiday season, which is so often plighted by consumerism and excess, it was humbling to have to be purposeful and deliberate about every single little thing I did and bought. After wandering around Oxford for days with my stomach growling with hunger pangs, spending five dollars on a meal for a homeless person rather than on a latte suddenly made more sense to me than ever before.

-CMM

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday


Amos 5:6-15
Psalms 32, 95, 102, 130, 143
Hebrews 12:1-14
Luke 18:9-14


Where have you been?


Where are you going?


What is your life coming to?


Where is the meaning?


Where is the purpose?


What's left when we are all through?


Over thirty years ago, when I was a young (er!) man, I heard a song by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson, who was then just out of her teens herself and one of the seminal artists of contemporary Christian music. The key lyrics in "Mirror" resonate with me through the years:


You're searching for Jesus, looking to find


Hope for tomorrow, and some peace of mind.


Well you can find him in the Bible, in many churches that I know--


But 'til you find him in the mirror, you've got a long way to go.


Jesus challenges us to look into the mirrors of our soul, and not to shrink back from what we see there. If the sight isn't pretty--and it often isn't--so be it. There is no repentance without recognizing ourselves for who we are, and leaving behind, forever and without reaching back, those aspects of ourselves that keep us from becoming more like Him. With that thought in mind, let me look at my reflection, or rather let me consider what Jesus would observe if he regarded me closely.


Could I be the Pharisee? (Reflected, all is fair I see!)


I wear a spotless robe of white


and stand behind the altar's bright gleaming linens,


stand with the priests, and bear the altar gifts of bread and wine.


My hands are Purell-purged and clean.


I say the ancient words: the Lord's body and blood keep you safe and alive forevermore,


to the kneelers at the rail, to the humble and sometimes to the lost and desperate.


But I have never truly known that desperation.


If I give a tithe to the treasury, it is not money I shall ever miss.


If ever I go hungry, it's never from a bare pantry.


I pray for myself first. I pay myself first. I feed myself first.


I shall not go to the heavenly banquet first.


And yet, like tax collectors, I am deeply compromised.


I do a bit of Caesar's dirty work, take a little on the side, and then some.


I am part of this carbon-emitting, credit-chitting economy


Pumping greenhouse gas and bleeding cash


from the children left to pay the bills when I retire.


Will I beat my breast? Will I muddy my face?


Will I square my accounts with all?


Will I know Messiah when he passes by and calls?


For me, thirty-plus years of knowing the truth have not brought me consistently closer to attaining true repentance. I am always turning and returning. But I no longer have the luxury of a lifetime stretching before me--I have but fifteen left of my allotted three-score-and-ten. This Lent I can begin another journey, be born up among clouds of witness, and end up in a different place than before--if I choose to. And, God willing, the man in the mirror may have attained something more of the quality of Jesus than when I began.


--MLB

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Philippians 3:1-11

This passage from Paul is really inspiring. Frankly, I didn't notice that at first, but once I read it a few times, I finally got it. What makes it so great is Paul's background - of growing up a faithful Jew, of being educated in the finest schools with the finest teachers and being a faithful follower of the law of God.

And then He met Jesus - not in person when Jesus was alive, but after his resurrection, Paul met Jesus. From that point on, all of his history - his upbringing, his education, his very high status in society - didn't mean anything. He was absolutely willing to sacrifice everything for his faith and relationship with God. It really is unbelievable when you think about it. And, frankly I would find it really hard to do.

As we enter the season of Lent tomorrow, we enter a season of sacrifice. We acknowledge Jesus' sacrifice for us and we offer some sort of sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for all we've been given. As we go through the season of Lent, may we remember Paul's words that are so astounding "whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him."

May we make our sacrifices to God with Joy, relishing in the love that God has for us.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Romans 14:1-23

Lord, help me to live with the knowledge that I will one day need to give an account of myself before the One Righteous Judge.

Let me not judge others--lest I myself be judged--and found wanting.

Let me not put a stumbling block in the path of anyone who is seeking You.

Let me take no pride in differentiating myself in what I eat or drink, or decline to eat or drink.

Let us all celebrate our God-given diversity. Let us hold our differences in the tension which only the Cross can unite.

Let us look ahead to that day when every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Romans 12: 9-21

With all this snow, I've found my normal routine disrupted. There is definitely a positive side to that; I've had an unexpected breather between what was the most demanding holiday season I've ever had personally and the rigors of a priest's Lenten schedule (with Lent starting this Wednesday).

The downside is that it is easy to lose track of what needs to be done when. Like this devotional, for instance. I just remembered it now, several hours after when it should have been posted.

Fortunately, it is an easy reading. No obscure images, no tough issues, no questions in regard to what the writer is talking about. But if this passage is easy to understand and write about, it is equally hard to live. I do not know that there is one line in this whole passage that, as good as it sounds and as right as I know it is, would not give me trouble in faithfully and consistently putting it into practice across the board.

Take the very first sentence, for instance. We are to let love be sincere (or genuine) by hating what is evil and clinging fast to what is good. That is probably well worth memorizing and plastering on our bathroom mirror, the refrigerator, the dash of our car, in our office. It is well worth committing to prayer and whole heartedly pursuing as a goal.

But the sad truth is…standing firm against evil and resolutely holding fast to what is good is a huge challenge. Evil, in its less blatant forms, can be so alluring and inviting. Being good—little goodie two shoes—in a culture that would rather take things more casually—can be exceptionally difficult. Sadder still, that means that far too often my love will be compromised and self serving.

So there it is. You probably don’t need my help in the slightest to understand perfectly well what is written here. But my guess is, we all need God’s help—and lots of it—to live it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Romans 12:1-8

In Romans 1 - 11 Paul gives us the basic framework on which a Christian understanding of sin, salvation, and sanctification is based. It was the most thorough and systematic presentation of Christian truth up to that time and many would say since that time as well.

Beginning in chapter 12, Paul turns his attention to the implications of the truth he has just presented. In other words, in light of what God has done, this is the way we should live.

Verse 12:1 is one of the most important verses is the Bible. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship." This verse contains, perhaps, more key theological truths for its size than any other. God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices which means to put aside our own desires so we can follow Him. As gratitude that our sins have been forgiven, we should put our whole heart and mind into accomplishing His will and forego our own.

In verses 4 - 8, Paul tells us about the means, or gifts, God has given each of us to accomplish His will. To use these gifts effectively we must:
+ realize that all abilities come from God
+ understand that not everyone has the same gifts
+ know what we do best (i.e., what gifts we have been given)
+ dedicate our gifts to God's service
+ be willing to use our gifts to their utmost - not hold anything back from God's service

Finally, and this is a lesson I again was taught this week, all of us must realize, especially me, that our gifts cannot do the work of the church alone. Everyone's gifts are needed. We should praise God for people with gifts that are completely different from our own and be grateful that the abilities of others can make up for our deficiencies.

Wishing you much success in your walk with Christ,
Richard Leach

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Hebrews 11:32-12:2

In the remaining verses of Hebrews 11, we read of people who were at odds with the powers of this world, unable to accept the status quo, not satisfied with a life that looked like the life of everyone around them. Years ago I read a book that spoke of well kept lawns as “sacraments of our suburban sameness”. The people listed here were people who didn’t keep their lawns.

Clearly, the call in these verses is for us to be willing to be at odds with the world as well. That shouldn’t surprise us. The church is literally meant to be those who are “called out”; called, as the KJV translated 1 Peter 2:9, to be a peculiar people. Are we willing to leave our lawns unkept?

But if we, like the people in Hebrews 11, are called to be out of step with the world around us, we are called to be in step with the people we find in Hebrews 12: the great cloud of witnesses.

Even more importantly, we are to be in step with Jesus himself. We are to look to Jesus and his example. Where we look is where we go. That’s why we tell people, for instance, to “keep your eyes on the road”.

It is no different with our faith. Where we look is where we go. Look at the world—catalogs, various web sites, the neighbor’s stuff, movies, magazine’s, TV shows—and consciously or unconsciously, we’ll end up looking just like the world around us, just like our neighbors, just like the people in the media. It’s interesting that this week Facebook has people substituting pictures of celebrities for the own profile pictures. I guess I’m just getting old and contrary, but I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that; why we’d want to give celebrities of all people that much time, focus, and attention.

But if we keep our eyes on Jesus, and we’ll find ourselves becoming more and more like Him.

Which brings us to the final question: Where are our eyes fixed?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hebrews 11:23-31

In our reading today, Paul uses Moses as inspiration for the Hebrew Christians to whom he is writing this letter. One verse in today's reading is of particular interest to me. It is verse 26, "He (Moses) regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward."

Two items strike my fancy from verse 26. The first is, "for the sake of Christ". Certainly Moses lived long before Jesus came to earth, thus what do these words mean? Perhaps they mean that when Moses suffered, he suffered with the same Christ whom Paul urged his readers to identify. We do not know how much Moses understood about Christ - we do know that Paul was asking the Hebrew Christians, and us, to identify with the attitudes and experiences of Moses.

The second item is, "looking ahead to his reward." Moses, being raised by Pharaoh's daughter, decided to leave Pharaoh's court and live with his own people. Can you imagine how others must have looked at this decision? Surely Moses' palace friends must have regarded his choice as stupid. However, Moses was looking beyond the short time, in comparison to all eternity, each of us spends in this life and looking towards his time in heaven. Moses knew that spiritual treasurers would last while material advantages and prestige are temporary at best. It is easy to be deceived by the temporary benefits of wealth, popularity, status, and achievement, and to be blind to the long-range benefits of God's kingdom. Faith helps us look beyond this world's value system to see the external values of God's kingdom.

Wishing you much success in your walk with Christ,
Richard Leach

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hebrews 11:13-22

Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. The ancestors of our faith. All of them "strangers and foreigners" in this world. All of them imperfect. All of them received promises from God that they didn't live to see, yet their hope and faith remained.

How is our faith? Do we hold on to the promises of God, come what may? Do we live our lives as faithfully as we can? When we make mistakes (as everyone does, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph) do we repent? Or do we justify those mistakes?

This chapter of Hebrews begins with "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Faith is based on something unseen. We don't need to have proof because we have promises. We so often can get wrapped up in the thing of this world, the messages the world gives us - all of them calling us to abandon our faith. It's so easy to get wrapped up in the day to day musings of the world... the state of the economy, what the leadership of our country is doing, injustices around the world and wonder... where is God? or even Does God exist?

It isn't until we seek God and find our own experiences of God that our faith will be strong enough to withstand the onslaught of doubt that naturally can come from being in the world. But just as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were "strangers and foreigners" so are we. We are in the world but we are called to be separate from it - at least to a degree. We live in the world to be the influence of the Kingdom of God on earth, but we must resist the temptations of doubt that will naturally bombard us. Instead, we must hold to the promises we've been given through Jesus Christ and understand that while we may not have seen the fruits of those promises, we, like those faithful ancestors before us, hold on to the promises of God through our Faith.