Sunday July 5, 2015

IT IS COMFORTING to express our faith in terms of physical space, not only because we’re imperfect (we haven’t reached our destination) but because places fill our days.

Places are also integral parts of our spirituality in so far as we grow in God’s grace among the locations of our lives. As Robert Hamma puts it, “Particular places provide a structure and a context for our spirituality. . . . Christians, and indeed all religious people, have always had a sense of the importance of sacred places. . . . What is new today is a growing awareness of how our experience of places and spaces shapes our spirituality. . . . An increasing number of people are paying attention to how the ordinary places of their lives affect their awareness of God, of themselves, and of others.

– Paul E. Stroble

Saturday July 4, 2015

THE BALANCE OF WORD and silence is incredibly difficult for us to sustain because our culture is so oriented toward word and so ignorant of silence. Wherever we go, noise bombards us: elevators, shopping malls, offices, waiting on the telephone, car radios — everywhere!

Most of us have little or no experience of silence, and we may find it disturbing or alien. One minute of silence in a public meeting, even at church, can seem intolerably long. We seem to think that silence is the absence of something, and our nature abhors a vacuum. Yet we might wonder whether our near-frantic efforts to surround ourselves with noise suggest a deeper fear — that silence is the presence of something so powerful that it is to be feared.

Yet silence is essential for listening. How awkward to try to have a serious conversation with someone wearing earphones! How hard to communicate a message to one wielding a leaf blower! How impossible to reach someone absorbed in a television program! In any relationship there must be listening for there to be communication, and that is no less true of our relationship with God than any other.

– Norvene Vest

June 30, 2015

HOW DO I KNOW the will of God when I pray? It is contained in the Word. One special promise to me is 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Salvation of the lost is always God’s will. Nobody I intercede for is outside of this promise. I can pray with absolute confidence that it is God’s will that all come to know him. When the answer seems to tarry, I can focus on the character of God and remember that the Lord is never too slow to fulfill his promise. When I need perseverance, and I often do when praying for salvation for loved ones, I stand on the truth of God’s Word.

– Margie Burger

Monday June 29, 2015

BY COMPARING OURSELVES to others, particularly in ways that stack the deck in our favor, our prayers and spiritual posturing may reveal that we trust more in ourselves than in God. Or it may reveal a diversion on our part to avoid facing our own brokenness and fears.

Either way, as long as we can find someone worse off (in our estimation) morally, spiritually, or politically, we risk seducing ourselves into thinking we stand justified in God’s sight. Haven’t we just proved that? But justification does not come down to showing how fortunate God must be to have friends like us. Justification turns on whom we trust. To trust in self is self-justification. To trust in God, even when trust comes from a lowlife like this tax collector [in the parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14], opens us to God’s justification.

It is a scandalous parable, and the name of the scandal is grace.

May I see myself as you see me, O God, that I may trust my true self to you. Wholly. May I see others as you see them, O God, that I may accept them as you accept me. Graciously. Amen.

– John Indermark

Friday June 26, 2015

Faith is often expressed by the casual manner in which people act. The expression of their faith has an everyday feel about it. An old preacher once said, “If your stuff is thin, you will have to holler loud to make it thick.” A lot of hollering goes on because people’s faith is weak.

In the story of Elijah and the four hundred prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, after the prophets had wailed all morning for Baal to respond, Elijah told them,

Holler a little louder! Maybe he is meditating, or has gone on a journey, or possibly he is asleep. Holler a little louder! — 1 Kings 18:27, paraphrase

So, no hollering for us.

Casualness shows the confidence of our interaction with the rule of God from the heavens here and now. Casual confidence is what we see in passages such as Psalm 23. We need to take passages like this and meditate on them as something for our real life.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Stop there for a moment and think: You are going to go through this whole day without wanting. Obviously today is going to be different, isn’t it? But after all, that is what it says. And we have other passages from the New Testament:

My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 4:19

Is that real, or shall we just make another song out of those pretty words? “My God will fully satisfy all my needs.” So now you have that in your head, but what is in your heart and in your life? Concentrate on that question for yourselves as Christians. I want you to have confidence in the constant interaction that says, “Because of my experience, because it is reality,

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil.

Today you are not going to fear any evil. This is going to be another new day. “I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Don’t you suppose that that is something we would know, something we would know because of the presence of God actually making a difference in our lives as we trust Him?

Your rod and your staff — they comfort me.

Rods and staffs, that sounds like experience doesn’t it?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Psalm 23 was not written so that we could recite it at funerals.

One of our problems as a church is that so many of the wonderful statements in the scriptures that are meant to reflect the honest experiences of those who have learned to live in interaction with God are in fact ritualistically and magically quoted by people who don’t believe a bit of it, because they are scared to death! Nothing has ever happened to them that they are certain is the personal hand of God in their lives. And it drains the life out of those verses.

Take Psalm 23 into the day with you tomorrow. It is the presence of the Lord with us.

Psalm 23:1

Consider this passage from Hebrews 13:5–6:

For He has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?”

God’s presence is the whole story. This interaction between us and the God who is present with us always is what the resurrection is really about. The meaning of the resurrection isn’t just that Jesus won; it’s that He is now living with us. So how does that work? It works with words. The kingdom of God works with words. Remember, we are talking about a reality that is personal through and through. That chair you are sitting on, and all of the other things we are trained so carefully to believe are independent, are not going along on their own. They are all subject constantly to the will and word of God. That’s faith! That’s 23rd Psalm faith.
When Paul says things like,

I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to Him. — 2 Timothy 1:12

he is talking on the basis of experience. And that experience came about as a result of the encounter between himself and God and the daily knowledge of God’s hand in his life.

-dallas willard

Thursday June 25, 2015

WHEN WE READ the scriptures, we are introduced to a God of power. God’s power creates, redeems, liberates, and heals. I’m concerned, however, that we often speak about God’s power in a triumphalistic way. We say that when God’s power often come across like that, especially when people giving those testimonies look good, are well-dressed, and have better teeth than us.

But what do these grandiose testimonies mean to parents whose child has leukemia? What do these testimonies to God’s power mean to the thousands of young people in South Africa who are looking for a job? What do they mean to a mother of three, dying of breast cancer? What kind of God has been represented in these testimonies?

Although God is all powerful, that power is revealed in vulnerability, weakness, and suffering. That’s the gospel secret. The God we worship has come to us in Jesus.

– Trevor Hudson & Stephen D. Bryant

Wednesday June 24, 2015

ONE DAY after school, I went to the train station to do my part-time job of passing out leaflets. In large, bold print the leaflets proclaimed, “HOW TO GATHER TREASURE!” The tract listed several means for people to make a fortune, such as trading real estate, investing in stocks, saving more and spending less and so forth.

The tract make me think about what people consider to be treasure. Many of us worry about our financial security. We save and invest for our retirement, and we may save for our children. Knowing from the very beginning that we cannot hold goods or wealth forever, we still collect and collect. We seem to forget that one day all things will decay.

The Bible tells us that God’s love is our ultimate treasure and security, a means of exchange. We possess real and lasting treasure if we truly trust God to care for us.

Prayer: Infinite God, help us to place our fear and anxiety in your hands and follow you. Help us realize that our real treasure lies in heaven. Amen