Wise Words

Now in my sixties, I reflect back on wise spiritual leaders who had a positive impact on my life. In Bible school, God used my Old Testament professor to make the Word come alive. My Greek teacher relentlessly employed high standards to goad my study of the New Testament. And the senior pastor in my first pastoral ministry shepherded me in building vital ministries to help others grow spiritually. Each of these teachers encouraged me in different ways.

King Solomon wisely observed some ways that spiritual leaders can help us grow: “The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd” (Eccl. 12:11). Some teachers prod us; others build solid spiritual structures into our lives. Still others, as caring shepherds, are there with a listening ear when we hurt.

The Good Shepherd has given leaders a variety of gifts: exhorting, developing, and shepherding. Whether we’re a leader or a learner, though, He desires that we maintain humble hearts and a love for others. What a privilege to be led and used by our Shepherd to encourage others in their walk with Him.

Give us the wisdom we need, Lord, to encourage others in their spiritual walk. We know we need Your Spirit’s power to do that. Use the gifts You have given us to help others along on their journey.
May our words reflect the heart of God and His wisdom.

Holiness Has an Edge

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2

All of us who have kids have been guilty of ending an argument about why they should or shouldn’t do something with the conversation stopper: “Because I said so.” The reply is powerful because it has an edge to it. There are times when God is edgy with us. We’d like to stand there and argue with Him, but He keeps saying things like, “Because I said so” or “You be holy, because I am holy.” His call to holiness in our lives has that edgy sound.

In the Old Testament, when God wanted to bring that kind of holy edge to His people, He showed up in a place called the temple. God’s holiness came from another world and engaged with yours and mine. Jesus’ birth was a holy invasion—it came with an edge—from another place, another world, another reality. It cut through pretense by coming as a peasant baby born in a stable surrounded by sheep and goats. It cut into religious and political agendas by displaying genuine humility as a way to power. It sliced through the stuffy, hot air of classicism by first announcing His arrival to lowly shepherds working the third shift outside the city limits. It carved away centuries of religious oppression and hypocrisy by showing the power of quiet innocence. Holiness in God’s terms has an edge.

And it’s not only edgy in its essence; it’s also edgy in its demands. Because we represent Him, we are called to live with a holy edge. To live with a holy edge means to live differently—to make daily choices that square with God’s holiness; to stand for right in a wrong-headed culture; to preserve honesty, justice, and integrity no matter what. It means to replace greed with generosity and to forgive the cruelest offense. To serve others instead of ourselves, and to use our power to bless others instead of using it to advance our own agendas. It’s that kind of edgy living that makes a huge statement about the distinct difference that a holy God makes in our world.

When God first spoke to His people through Moses, He told them to live in and enjoy the land He had promised to them. But they were to live with a holy edge. They were to live differently than their pagan counterparts, uniquely reflecting the Holy difference of the true and living God.

Don’t lose your edge! Holiness sets you wonderfully apart in an increasingly unholy world. It’s no wonder that He said we should be holy because He is holy!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • In what ways do the people around you see you as different because of your walk with Christ?
  • In what areas of your life do you feel you’ve lost your edge? What can you do to reclaim it?
  • Take some time to read through Isaiah 1:1–31; 2:1-22; 3:1-26; 4:1-6; 5:1-30; 6:1-13. Isaiah addressed his words to a people who had lost their holy edge. Write down some of the insights you gain from reading these passages.
  • Write down a prayer you can use daily, asking the Lord to sharpen any dull edges in your relationship to Him—your words, thoughts, attitudes toward others, and so on.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/holiness-has-an-edge/

Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.

Did earth or heaven ever behold a sadder spectacle of woe! In soul and body, our Lord felt Himself to be weak as water poured upon the ground. The placing of the cross in its socket had shaken Him with great violence, had strained all the ligaments, pained every nerve, and more or less dislocated all His bones. Burdened with His own weight, the august sufferer felt the strain increasing every moment of those six long hours. His sense of faintness and general weakness were overpowering; while to His own consciousness He became nothing but a mass of misery and swooning sickness. When Daniel saw the great vision, he thus describes his sensations, “There remained no strength in me, for my vigour was turned into corruption, and I retained no strength:” how much more faint must have been our greater Prophet when He saw the dread vision of the wrath of God, and felt it in His own soul! To us, sensations such as our Lord endured would have been insupportable, and kind unconsciousness would have come to our rescue; but in His case, He was wounded, and felt the sword; He drained the cup and tasted everydrop.

“O King of Grief! (a title strange, yet true To Thee of all kings only due) O King of Wounds! how shall I grieve for Thee, Who in all grief preventest me!”

As we kneel before our now ascended Saviour’s throne, let us remember well the way by which He prepared it as a throne of grace for us; let us in spirit drink of His cup, that we may be strengthened for our hour of heaviness whenever it may come. In His natural body every member suffered, and so must it be in the spiritual; but as out of all His griefs and woes His body came forth uninjured to glory and power, even so shall His mystical body come through the furnace with not so much as the smell of fire upon it.

http://www.crosswalkmail.com/ShareArticle.do?perform=view&articleID=hfbhfvmfv&siteID=thwmzjlcmwmlpcgbfrdsdljphffpwvldzzg&recipID=526889780

The Lord Loves Whatever Is Just and Good by Mark D. Roberts

He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth.

Psalm 33 begins by inviting those who are godly (or righteous) to sing joyful praises to God (v. 1). They are to use musical instruments, played “skillfully,” to enhance their worship (vv. 2-3). Then, the psalmist offers a rationale for such praise. Verse 4 emphasizes God’s utter truthfulness and trustworthiness. Verse 5 adds, “He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth.”

Think of it. The Lord “loves whatever is just and good.” The Hebrew word translated here as “whatever is just” is tzedaqa, a word that is sometimes translated as “righteousness” or “justice.” It refers to a quality of relationship between people in which all is well, where people treat each other according to God’s good directives. The Hebrew word rendered as “[whatever is] good” is mishpat, which is often translated as “justice.” Mishpat is used in the Old Testament to describe the decisions of wise judges and the rulings of benevolent kings. It is the quality of leadership for which we yearn in our officials, whether they be in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government.

But all of us, in one way or another, have the opportunity to exercise tzedaqa and mishpat in our lives. Every time we treat a colleague with kindness, every time we embrace a family member with love, every time we reach out to help one who is needy … in these and countless other ways, we live according to God’s tzedaqa. And God loves it when this happens. Moreover, when we guide our children to make good decisions, when we exercise our authority in the workplace with wisdom and compassion, when we live out our citizenship responsibly … in these and countless other ways, we demonstrate divine mishpat. And God loves it when this happens.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In your relationships with family and friends, as you do your work each day, do you live in such a way that God loves your behavior? You cannot earn God’s favor by your good works, but you can live so as to give God joy. How might you do this today? Tomorrow? The next day?

PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for loving righteousness and justice. Thank you for caring about what I do in my daily life, thus giving me the opportunity to worship you each and every moment. Help me, by your Spirit, to act with justice in all my relationships and to exercise wise, faithful leadership. May I give you joy by the way I live, not just when I’m at church or doing my devotions, but each and every moment of each and every day. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/lord-loves-whatever-just-and-good

Knee-Deep In Daffodils

When the first flowers of spring bloomed in our yard, my 5-year-old son waded into a patch of daffodils. He noticed some debris from plants that had expired months before and remarked, “Mom, when I see something dead, it reminds me of Easter because Jesus died on the cross.” I replied, “When I see something alive—like the daffodils—it reminds me that Jesus came back to life!”

One reason we know Jesus rose from the grave is that, according to the gospel of Luke, He approached two travelers headed to Emmaus 3 days after His crucifixion. Jesus walked with them; He ate dinner with them; He even gave them a lesson in Old Testament prophecy (24:15-27). This encounter showed the travelers that Jesus conquered the grave—He had risen from the dead. As a result, the pair returned to Jerusalem and told the disciples, “The Lord is risen indeed!” (v.34).

If Jesus had not come back to life, our faith as Christians would be pointless, and we would still be under the penalty of our sin (1 Cor. 15:17). However, the Bible tells us that Jesus “was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25 niv). Today, we can be right with God because Jesus is alive!

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today; I know that He is living, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He’s always near. —Alfred Ackley © Renewal 1961. The Rodeheaver Company
The empty cross and the empty tomb provide a full salvation.

The Day of Atonement, Part One by Deidra Riggs

He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people.

I try to avoid blood at all costs. Yours. Mine. It doesn’t matter. It’s not necessarily about the blood. It’s about what the presence of blood means. It rarely appears easily or without trauma.

When my children were young and my husband and I heard a cry from one of them in the other room, I always sent my husband in first. I’d stand frozen in place, holding my breath, with my hands over my eyes. When enough time had passed, I’d call out to my husband, “Is there blood?”

Blood is messy. But then again, so is sin.

Right from the beginning, when Adam and Eve stepped away from being at one with God and, instead, hid from him in the garden, God chose sacrifice to cover them. One life, in exchange for theirs. And it was like that from then on. In order to receive forgiveness of sin, a sacrifice was needed. Over and over and over again, because that’s how often we need it.

Years later, the Old Testament priests would continue this practice by making sacrifices in the Temple. First, for themselves, and then for the people. Blood spilled, sacrifice made, sins forgiven. Atonement. A foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice which would be once, and for all.

Years ago, I heard someone describe atonement this way: “You can break down the word to understand its meaning. At. One. Atonement is the act of becoming, once again, at one with God.” In the Old Testament, the priests made atonement on behalf of the people, wiping the slate clean until the next time they sinned. God knows that we are prone to wander. He knows our hearts and minds—when left unchecked—bend toward the things that take us far from him.

So, because of his great love for us, God sent Jesus. The Bible calls Jesus God’s only begotten. And I imagine God stood breathless as Christ hung on that cross. Jesus made the final, traumatic, bloody sacrifice. It was the sacrifice that—once, and for all—made it possible for us to be, again, at one with God.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What does the word “sacrifice” mean to you? What is the significance of the temple sacrifices in the Old Testament? Do you feel “at one” with God? Why or why not?

PRAYER: Man of Sorrows! What a name for the Son of God, who came, ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; sealed my pardon with his blood. Hallelujah! What a Savior! When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring, then anew his song weill sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!

“Hallelujah, What a Savior!” by Philip P. Bliss, 1876. Public domain.

http://www.thehighcalling.org/reflection/day-atonement-part-one

Abraham’s Life of Faith

He went out, not knowing where he was going —Hebrews 11:8

In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26.

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason—a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.

The final stage in the life of faith is the attainment of character, and we encounter many changes in the process. We feel the presence of God around us when we pray, yet we are only momentarily changed. We tend to keep going back to our everyday ways and the glory vanishes. A life of faith is not a life of one glorious mountaintop experience after another, like soaring on eagles’ wings, but is a life of day—in and day—out consistency; a life of walking without fainting (see Isaiah 40:31). It is not even a question of the holiness of sanctification, but of something which comes much farther down the road. It is a faith that has been tried and proved and has withstood the test. Abraham is not a type or an example of the holiness of sanctification, but a type of the life of faith—a faith, tested and true, built on the true God. “Abraham believed God. . .” (Romans 4:3).

http://utmost.org/abraham%e2%80%99s-life-of-faith/