Holy Week Devotional – What Do You Expect?

The Lord’s Day, March 25, 2018

Read Matthew 16:15-27

15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” …

…  22Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

What Are Your Expectations?

Each day I rise with expectations, you likely do too. Maybe a heart that is hopeful for good, for success, for love, for peace, for acceptance and kindness. Do you know your expectations?

Today we mark the remembrance of Jesus “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem, the beginning of Holy Week, the week in which He dies. That was not what His friends expected. Rarely do we expect death – and we certainly do not invite it.

In Matthew 16:16, Peter makes an honest confession of who Jesus is – He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. A profound truth that Jesus says will be the foundation of His church, the family of God. Then a few moments later, after Jesus predicts and invites His death, Peter is contradicting the Christ and receiving a strong rebuke from the Lord.

It is mind boggling how quickly we can move from getting it right to getting it terribly wrong. From walking in step with Christ, to arguing with God, certain our way is right.

Peter had expectations of Jesus, and none of them included His death. And when Jesus signaled that He would not meet Peter’s expectations, Peter got in Jesus face and said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Peter was so confident in his expectations of Jesus, who he should be, how he should live. Yet his confidence was not guided by truth, but his own desire. His desire, though seemingly kind and good, would have aborted the work of the cross, salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation to God, eternal life and glory.

Wow! I suspect it just seemed good to want Jesus to live. But Peter’s expectations were flawed. What are your expectations? Are you open to different outcomes? Are you willing to remove “should and ought” from your expectations of others? Are you open to receiving, in this moment, each moment, what God has for you – even if it is not what you expect?

Prayer:

Father, I welcome everything that comes to me today, because I know it’s for my healing. I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my expectations and surrender them to You. I am open to Your love and presence and Your action within me and in the world today. Amen.

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10 Basics of Relational Wholeness

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Read Exodus 20:17 (10th Commandment)

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” 

COVETOUSNESS & CONCLUDING the 10

The wrongful desire to have the possessions of another – covetousness. This commandment is a summary commandment that simply speaks to a wandering heart. If your heart and mind covet, and go unchecked, then the preceding boundaries (commandments 5-9) will be broken and your neighbor’s life, house, family, marriage and business are destroyed.  This commandment speaks to the heart preceding damaging actions and challenges us to have a heart righteously oriented for the good of others.

Let’s recap the 10 … and maybe you could memorize them, with the help of your fingers, as a family this weekend.

  1. Have no other gods before Me.
  2. Do not worship images or created things, I am a jealous God.
  3. Do not carry My name in emptiness.
  4. You have the privilege of a Sabbath rest in Me, treasure it.
  5. Don’t diss your Momma or your Daddy.
  6. Don’t murder or hurt one another.
  7. Don’t be unfaithful to one another.
  8. Don’t steal from one another.
  9. Don’t lie about one another.
  10. Don’t desire your neighbor’s stuff.

Notice the relational aspects of the Ten Commandments.

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 11.27.12 PM

The first four are about our relationship with God, while the next six are about our relationships with one another. Clearly, a loving God who made us from a loving relationship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) for loving relationships is concerned about the quality, character and care of our relationships. He insists that we be relationally protective of Him and one another.  As He is good to us, He commands that we be good to Him and to each other.

That’s the point. Do no harm to others. Do not relationally hurt others. Why? Because it is the antithesis of love. Hurt people hurt people, but love covers a multitude of sins. We are called, even as broken hurting people, to love one another. With our wounds and limitations, we must try to love as we have been loved. When we choose otherwise, we choose a cycle of destruction that leads to death.

PRAYER:

Father, as we prepare to begin Holy Week, make us mindful of the boundaries you have given for our good and Your glory. May the cost of my rebellion – the suffering, humiliation and death of Jesus – lead my heart and mind to be good and kind to others, for my good and Your glory. AMEN.

I Have Nine Fingers & That’s A Lie

Friday, March 23, 2018

Read Exodus 20:16

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

As I mentioned before, God gave us 10 Commandments and 10 fingers – I think so we could have 10 handy reminders of these 10 relational guidelines. Relationships matter to a loving, relational God. And false witness against another is anti-relational.

Now I’ll confess, I titled this devotional with a lie; I ommitted one of my fingers. It’s 90% true, but still a lie. Is that a violation of this commandment? I think not, because I find no grounds on which that omission does you any harm. It may not be helpful in establishing my character as truthful, which only harms me.

This commandment, in keeping with the relational theme, has as it’s standard harm to another. My lie, though 90% accurate and harmless, is still a lie. Some would say this commandment forbids it, but I don’t think it does (though Col 3:9 and Eph 4:25 would).

Importantly, the focus of this commandment is a lie or mistruth about or to another that could unjustifiably harm them or others. Let me explain… It is justifiable if a man comes to my door with a weapon, threatening to harm my wife and family, to lie to him to protect my family. It is justifiable, if you serve the U.S. Military in the battlefield, to wear camouflage to intentionally deceive (lie to) your enemy – you must, otherwise, you and your fellow soldiers will be hurt. This commandment does not compel truth that puts others in the way of unnecessary harm, but it forbids lies that wound another whom you are called to love.

For example, if a car salesperson lies to a prospective customer (neighbor) to win his business, he has violated this commandment, putting his gain above his neighbor. If you speak a falsehood about a person (or a half/unsubstantiated truth), then you potentially wound the perception others have about their character and wound that person. The point is, we are forbidden from deceiving or potentially hurting others with untruths, when such untruths are not clearly justified to protect the innocent (or those engaged in a just war).

The New Testament axiom to cover our 10 fingers would be: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mk 12:31).  In other words, would I want to be talked about in this way or would I welcome this untruth as truly good for me? If the answer is no, then our mouths must at least be silent, or at best, speak the truth – for “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).  

PRAYER:

Father, sometimes the truth is simple and sometimes these things are more complicated than we might like. Give me the wisdom to speak truth in love, for the good of others and for building them up in love. Amen.

Give a Little Bit

Thursday, March 21, 2018

Read Exodus 20:15

“You shall not steal.”

and John 10:10, Jesus said:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Socrates said that “no one knowingly commits an evil action, evil is turned into good in the mind. The thief convinces himself that he has a right to the object he desires. He needs it more than the other does. It is rightfully his.” The psychology of a thief!

Have you ever stolen anything? Most of us did as little kids. A child is usually unaware of the depth of the offense until a parent prompts him/her to take back the candy or whatever shiny thing was stuck in their pocket. An adult may take supplies for the office or embellish deductions on their Income Tax Return, or worse. It’s all the same, just a matter of degree. Steal, kill and destroy rather than live in true abundance.

The problem is a distorted belief system that wounds others for our benefit. It’s rooted in one or all of the following:

  • I deserve more than I have;
  • I deserve to have “it” now;
  • God will not provide what I need, so I need to take it;
  • A delay in having it is intolerable (unwilling to sit with delayed gratification);
  • I deserve what another has – they don’t (or they can afford the loss).

The challenge in every instance is “I” comes before “You.” You are sacrificed that I might be satisfied. The message of the gospel is that Christ sacrificed himself to save and satisfy you. The result was eternal life for us and everlasting joy for Jesus and us.

In the end, we must choose to hurt others for our gain, or we can trust that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

PRAYER:

Father, in a world that is often driven by greed, excess and an insatiable appetite to have, make my heart content in You and willing to give.  Amen.

 

 

40 Days Devotional – Fidelity Matters

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Read Exodus 20:14

“You shall not commit adultery.”

Matthew 5:27-28 And Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The statistics on infidelity are iffy, as most are reluctant to bring this sin into the light. Sexual sin has long been hidden in darkness, as shame resists exposure and the cure of the light of Christ.

So, depending on the research, rates of infidelity range widely from 22% to 63%. Recently, the Ashley Madison cheaters’ hookup website was hacked and 37 million user account details were leaked to the world. That is 60% of the 60.8 million married couples in the United States. Add to this pornography, which NBC News reported was a $97 billion industry in 2015, and it’s clear sexual sin is pervasive.

Why so rampant? Sex is obviously a more enticing sin than others (less than 18,000 murders last year in the U.S.). Our sexuality taps into something essential within us. We are sexual beings, both male and female, made for loving relationships, made to procreate, to enjoy companionship and intimacy by our Creator. Monogamous, faithful, intimate marriages are called to illustrate the fidelity God, who is ever faithful to each of us, giving endlessly to His bride, the church of Jesus Christ (Eph 5:32).

So why the huge problem? Satan attacks and distorts what is most important to God. Destroying sexual intimacy is one of Satan’s prime vehicles to target and hurt God’s children. Distorting intimacy with cheap substitutes destroys our intimacy with God. The beauty of loving relationships, the blessings of fidelity, and the glory of intimacy with God and each other is radically damaged. Intimacy is sullied, shamed and shattered, rather than celebrated and enjoyed in God’s given context.

Fidelity matters… a lot. If lost, it is worth fighting for, recapturing through repentance, by working together in the light to pursue our good and God’s glory.

PRAYER:

Father, no sin can separate us from you and no scheme of the devil can ultimately distort your love. So where we’ve failed, lead us to repentance, forgive us, and give us the will to fight together for the beauty of fidelity.

P.S. If you want support in the fight, on any level, please contact Pastor Rob (pastor.rob.gibson@gmail.com)

 

 

 

40 Days Devo – Don’t Hurt One Another

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Exodus 20:13

“You shall not murder.”

OF COURSE! 

This commandment lacks nuance. Maybe we would gladly skip over it, looking for more refined instruction that does not fall in the “Captain Obvious” camp.

Not so quick. The story of family begins with Adam and Eve dishonoring the Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 4.33.53 PMwishes of their heavenly Father, breaking the 5th commandment. Then on the heals of their turning from God, something He says brings
death, their eldest son Cain, in a fit of jealous rage, kills his little brother Abel. The first murder of the Bible follows the heals of a mom and dad disobeying God.

It would seem a family would be alarmed by such violence and put a stop to the relational destruction. How could they let it happen again? But Scripture says the story gets worse. Moses murders a man to ‘right a perceived wrong.’ Pharaoh murders the babies of Israelites to ensure they don’t outnumber and overtake his government. King David murders Uriah to cover his adultery. Herod Antipas murders John the Baptist to silence his voice against his incestuous behavior. Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, is murdered by the Romans and Israelites because he threatens their governing power and their religious status quo. And James proclaims “you desire but do not have, so you kill.”

There is a theme that James summarizes: we kill as a means of control. We so desperately want our way, control of our life and circumstances, that we will mortally wound another human being to fulfill our pleasures (James 4:3).

Jesus says, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).  The choice is to kill – with a look, a manipulative word, cutting sarcasm or force – to get what we want, OR surrender our desires, our “rights,” in the moment, to the eternal love of God. The former has left a trail of sin, suffering, brokenness and blood. The latter provides freedom. Jesus’ way leaves a legacy of love. Today, will you “kill” your neighbor or choose love?  

Prayer:

Father, history is full of demanding violence and death. Today, fill me afresh with Your Spirit of love and peace. Give me the grace that I may surrender to your love and trust you to provide more abundantly than I could ever ask or demand to be satisfied by in this world.

 

40 Days Devo: The Fifth Commandment

Monday, March 19, 2018

Read Exodus 20:12

12“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Love Expressed at Home

The 10 Commandments give us tangible expressions of how we are to love God and each other. The fifth commandment turns from our relationship with God to how we care for and love one another. But, of course, the two are not disconnected. John says, we cannot say that we love God, while not loving our brother, mother or neighbor (1 John 4:20).

So love must start at home. If we claim to love our heavenly Father we must respect and honor our earthly parents too. It’s important to note, the word “honor” is the same word for weight. It has the sense of weighing the value, impact and importance of the God given relationship with our father and mother.

St. Augustine said:

“It is your parents you see when you first open your eyes, and it is their friendship that lays down the first strands of this life. If anyone fails to honor his parents, is there anyone he will spare?”   

Life is a gift of God, and he chose our parents as ministers of this gift. It is an affront to the ultimate Giver of life is we dishonor His instrument. This perspective applies for even the worst of parents, who failed to nurture, provide and protect their children – and there are too many of those these days. Even these were used of God for initiating life. Many more loving parents have poured their heart, soul and strength into their children. And as God’s instruments of blessing, these parents, imperfect as all are, deserve a weight honor.

Prayer:

Father, may the love you have shown in giving me life through my parents, and the blessings of this life, move me to honor my parents. You know they are not perfect, rather they are broken, and bear their own sin, suffering and damage. But whatever the limits of their love, may your limitless love flow through me toward them. Amen.