Category Archives: Musings

Fresh and seasoned thoughts about the practice of Sabbath.

Devo on God’s Word: May the Message Live on in Me

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Colossians 3:16

God does not give of himself to us in partial measures. What we have of God, and from God, we have in abundance. He throws us a feast, even in the presence of our enemies.  In God, our cup runneth over.  He gives his children what they need, a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, and poured into our laps.

When the Bible speaks about our savior, there are just a few pages to cover his birth, his miracles, his prayers.  There are many pages taken with his teaching.  And many more pages committed to his death, burial and resurrection.  We have a rich account of his life and we have the undying testimony of the early church who were eyewitnesses to his glory.

The message of Christ should be as alive today among us as it was in the hearts and minds of those early believers.  The message lives on in our dogged dedication to discipleship. The message lives on in the acts of love we perform in Jesus’ name.  The message lives on as we die to ourselves in order that Christ might live through us.

When Christians, who have been deeply touched and blessed through their relationship with Christ, come together in worship, they cannot help but to lift their voices in joyous songs to God.  Our hearts are full of gratitude to God for his abundant salvation.

Have you taken stock concerning how the message of Christ inhabits your life?  Is it a welcomed guest?  Does it come and go according to your mood?  Or do you enjoy its permanent company as you learn from the founder and perfecter of our faith?

Do We Want God, or a Myth About God?

This morning we are looking at a difficult message from Scripture. In the book of Leviticus, God gave specific details as to how the sacrifices were to be presented at the Tabernacle.  Certain parts of certain animals were to be offered at certain times for certain offenses, and all of these instructions were to be followed to the letter.

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I don’t know if the events that take place in Leviticus 10 occur the day following the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests in Leviticus 9, but one thing is clear:  the trespass that brought death to Aaron’s sons came pretty quickly after they received their instructions and began their ministry.

Leviticus 10 is a difficult passage because it confronts the warm-fuzzy thoughts we have about God.  The story of the death of Nadab and Abihu are a corrective for a Me Centered, Emotionally Fueled, Permissive kind of theology.

There are three errors this passage aims to correct:

1. God Does Not Have To Be NICE.

God is not limited to being nice, according to our notion of what nice is.  God is a Great Physician. He uses his scalpel, when necessary, to root out sin so our lives might be fruitful. God does not have to be nice, but we can trust that God is GOOD.

2.  God Does Not Want To Be Our Cosmic Buddy.

I had a hat (purchased for me in California) that read, “Jesus Is My Homeboy.”  As fun as that hat was, I didn’t wear it out in public.  God does not want our fraternity.  God seeks to develop “Fear of the Lord” among his followers.

“Fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom.  Familiarity leads to discursiveness.  “Fear of the Lord” leads to awe, reverence, respect and an appreciation of the grace of God in our lives.

3.  God Can Be Accessed Any Way We Decide

Nadab and Abihu brought “Strange Fire” before the Lord.  The NIV translates it as “Unauthorized Fire.”  The exact meaning is shrouded in confusion, but the point is clear enough:  God was not pleased with their innovation or their imagination.  The sacrifice he desired from his priest involved a commitment of Obedience.

The rejection of the “strange fire” is a reminder that not every path leads to God.  Not every good intention will be accepted.  Not ever heart that feels a spiritual warmth will be embraced by the Almighty.

God doesn’t move as we expect him to move; he is much better than that.  Even when he isn’t “nice” he is good.  And we trust his goodness.

God is not our buddy; he is our Creator, Sustainer and Savior.

We come to God by the grace of God.  We offer to him fire that he has given us: the fire of our faith.

May the fire of faith in Christ be so  brilliant that it illuminates our path from here to the here-after.

 

Devotion on God’s Word: I Must Be Transformed!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 
Romans 12:2

Transformation is God’s goal for our lives.  As the Father leads us by the hand, by the heart, and by the mind, he is continually reshaping us into the image and likeness of his Son.

In order for our minds to be renewed, they must be filled with new information.  God’s word is information that leads to transformation.  As our minds are filled with his commandments, vision, and stories of sacred history, they shed the patterns of this world like a thick coat on a hot day.  The patterns of this world no longer hold us captive once we have seen the possibilities of the Kingdom of God.

The disciple who wants to please God considers God’s word.  Reading God’s word is a participation in the divine communication of truth.  The more familiar we are with God’s word, the more familiar we become with his will. God’s will for us is always part of his nature: “Good, Pleasing, and Perfect.”  God does no evil for he is love.  God delights in his beautiful creation so his will is pleasing.  And since God is perfect, and does all things well, his will is perfect.

When we find God’s will for our life, it becomes like the “pearl of great price.  The merchant that found the pearl went way and sold all he had in order to purchase it (see Matthew 13:45-46).  He rejoiced that he was able to exchange those things which are temporary for something eternal.  God’s work leads us to that precious, hidden pearl, of God’s will for us.

What are you holding onto that prevents you from accepting and participating in God’s will for your life?  The transformation of the mind begins with the intelectual conviction that God’s word is true and good and perfect and pleasing.  Pursue these things though God’s word and see if you will not grow up into Christ by the renewing of you mind.

Devotion on God’s Word. Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

The yoke of Jesus is not a yoke for beasts of burden, but for men and women with burdened souls and weary hearts.  Oxen and draft horses spend their strength, and exhaust their lives, leaning into their master’s yoke.  Jesus’ disciples take his yoke upon their shoulders to learn from him.  The yoke Christ offers gives us eternal life.

The yoke of Jesus is not a yoke of tyranny.  It is a yoke of love and grace.  His yoke is love because it is part of his invitation to salvation.  His yoke is grace because it offers rest and restores our soul.

A disciple can only bear one yoke.  Taking the yoke of Jesus means exclusive and absolute dedication.  When we are yoked with Jesus, we follow his direction.  We make progress in the Christian life as we yield to the savior.  The yoke of Christ’s teaching is our liberation from the past, our strength for today and our hope for tomorrow.

Christ’s yoke gives purpose to our life.  The animal that is unfit for the yoke is destined for destruction.  Jesus’ yoke is a sign of our worth and dignity.  We identify ourselves with the “King of kings and Lord of lords” as we wear his harness.

We do not bear Christ’s yoke alone.  The one who invites us to take his yoke is in the yoke with us.  We pull in tandem with Jesus.   In the yoke, Jesus bears the greater weight, and does the greater work, but he shares all the reward. Our work in the yoke is a work of gratitude and obedience.  His yoke is a daily reminder of our relationship with him. Jesus is always close at hand, right beside us, and leading us into the Kingdom of God.

Devotional On God’s Word. Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105

Light and darkness cannot coexist.  The deeper the darkness, the brighter even the smallest flame appears.  Light dispels darkness.  Without the light of God’s word, we walk in the darkness of confusion.  God reveals his path to us by the light of the Scriptures.  God’s word clarifies the path marked out for us with the brilliance of his wisdom.

The light of God’s truth brings every aspect of our lives into perspective.  In his light, we know who we are and by his light, we walk by faith.  Because we have his light we know where we are and where we are going.  Drawing closer each day to his light is the goal of our existence.

When we turn away from God’s word, we turn into our own shadow.  Rebellion against the light of God’s revelation makes our darkness unbearable. The moment we repent and turn back to the truth, the fullness of the light of God is present to us.

God’s word is a constant light.  Scriptures’ energy is never diminished and its flame is never extinguished. The closer we live by the light of God’s word, the more we gain from it.  The closer we live to it, the more of our path we can see by it.  The better we live with it, the more we embody the light.

God’s spoken word is seen best in the light of the living word, Jesus Christ.  John says of Jesus: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”  Jesus is the eternal word of the Father made flesh and sent to dwell among us.  God gives us his written word to study and obey, and he sends us the “Word made flesh” to follow and adore. The written word and the living word work in cooperation.

We find traces of Jesus all throughout the Scriptures.  And when we find enough of the Scriptures in our hearts, perhaps others will find Jesus in us.

Empty or Dead

Eastern mysticism teaches a person to empty one’s self of one’s self. 

Christ teaches us to die to ourself. 

When we die to ourselves we find the power of the resurrection alive within us. 

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

Luke 9:23

A Devotional on God’s Word (4/24/2016)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

God did not give us facts to know. He gives us truth to live.

To be sure, the Bible contains facts.  It is a reliable witness to God’s events in history.  But we dismiss the Bible’s claims upon our lives if we only receive it as a collection of abstract proofs.

The word “fact” is an abstraction.  Something is factual only in comparison to other statements about how we experience the world.  We remember facts, and recall facts, and quote facts to suit our arguments.  Facts serve our purposes. We arrange facts in order to tell lies.

Facts are safe.  Facts only make demands upon our intellect.  Facts fill our brain but leave our identity intact.

Truth, on the other hand, is concrete.  God’s word is truth. God’s word is the incomparable standard by which all our thoughts and actions and affections are judged.

God’s truth is dangerous.  It destroys our identity but resurrects us to new life. His word challenges our claims to independence from God and brings us into a relationship with God. We engage with God’s word in order to align our life with truth.

The truth we encounter in the Bible has its origin in revelation.  God speaks to us from outside our world of experience and reason and understanding. He tells us of his invasion into this world in order to call people to a different world.

God’s word is truth even when we do not understand it.  It is truth even when we do not believe it.  God’s word is truth even when we do not agree with it.

The only way to “correctly handle the word of truth” is to incarnate it.  When we obediently live the commands of God, and the teachings of Christ, and conform ourselves to the pattern of life given in Scriptures, we bring truth to life within our lives.

A Devotional Word on God’s Word

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:12-13

 

The Bible should come with a warning label. It is not a safe book.  Scripture is as dangerous as exposed electrical conductors.  It looks safe to touch and handle, but when we connect with it, it shakes us to our core.

The Bible is not like any other book we read.  Novels, textbooks, biographies, and reference books can all be set aside when we finish them.  God’s word, on the other hand, gets inside of us. It takes up residence in our hearts and we take it with us wherever we go.

God’s word does not seek our agreement.  Its claims are not voted on, or ratified, nor are we consulted in God’s instructions to us.  God speaks to us as a peerless authority.

The Bible’s goal is transformation. Transformation comes through mortification.  We die to ourselves, little by little, with each chapter, verse, and word we read.  In reading the Bible, we die into a new life.

We don’t read God’s word, we experience it.  When we open Scripture, we interact with God. God is present to us as we encounter him in his word to us.

Approach God’s word with fear and trembling.  Approach it regularly. Approach it reflectively.  Approach it seriously.  Approach it humbly. All of God’s children are students of his word.  We listen to it in the classroom of our devotion to God, and we live out his instructions in the laboratory of the world he created for us.

Opening God’s word is the bravest and best act of Christian obedience we can perform on a daily basis.

 

Study the Word Until It’s as Sweet as Honey

Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.
Ezekiel 3:3

We don’t have to think about our need to eat food.  When our stomachs are empty, or our blood sugar drops, the brain sends out signals we cannot ignore.  The body demands to be nourished.

Just as the body aches when no food is present, so the soul aches when it is not fed.  God told the prophet Ezekiel to “eat this scroll.”  God’s word is not to be read.  It is to be ingested.

We consume God’s word through our eyes.  We roll its themes, its doctrine and its instructions around in our mind.  But ultimately, it seeks to enter our hearts.  The mind is the vessel for abstractions.  Abstract thoughts can be appreciated, but they can also be ignored. The heart, the seat of our emotions, is where the word seeks to be planted. The heart deals with the word of God through action.

We have not fully ingested God’s word until we have “hidden it in our heart.”  The heart ruminates on God’s word.  The word is digested by the heart so that the word becomes part of our living experience with God.  In the heart, God’s word shapes our affections and our aspirations.

What we consume becomes part of who we are. Who we are is a product of what we consume.

Before we reach maturity as a believer, the word of God seems intimidating, foreign, and stale.  But after we get a taste of it, and feel the benefits of feasting upon it, we can’t help but want more of it.  As we grow in the discipline of study, we delight more and more in God’s word.  It becomes to us as it was to Ezekiel: as sweet as honey.

Our attitude towards the study of God’s word is reflective of our maturity as a believer.  We never run out of our supply of God’s word to consume. Our challenge is to develop an ever increasing appetite for the word, and an ever enlarging capacity to live what we have read.

What is Our Goal in Reading God’s Word?

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
Psalm 1:1-2

What is our goal in studying God’s word?  Blessing.  The first Psalm opens our minds to what the entirety of the Bible holds for us…a blessed life.  A blessed life is one that pursues the path of God.  God provides for his children who are “walking in the truth.”

The study of God’s word is not about gaining information, though it contains much information.  The study of God’s word is about transformation.  God reveals himself, and his will, and his desires for us through his commandments, through sacred history, and through the testimony of those who walked with his Son, Jesus.  Every serious believer must take God’s word seriously.

As we study God’s word, it exposes our sin and shortcomings. It judges every thought, inclination and affection.  It convicts us and challenges us.  And at the end of the day, it is the measure by which we can say if we were faithful or not.

God’s word is revelation.  In God’s word we hear the voice of God as he speaks to us.  As we muse on God’s word, “deep calls out to deep”, and our soul finds its creator and its captain. God’s word is God’s voice.  His voice always leads us closer to himself.

Psalm 1 directs us to a substantial life.  The chaff (vs 4) is blown away by the wind of judgment.  The seed and the kernel are saved, are kept, and are blessed by God.  Only by living the word does a believer “grow in grace and knowledge.”

Meditation, and the study of God’s word, requires more than reading. It requires engagement.  Studying God’s word is not merely a mental task.  It is spiritual work.  Engagement with God’s word works upon us to bring us to a place of absolute agreement with God.  It dissolves our will in to the will of the Father so that his “will may be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”