Service

Day 150

Prayer for the day

In your great mercy, O God, answer me with your unfailing help.

Scripture for the day

2 Chronicles 13-14, John 12:1-26

“My Father will honour the one who serves me.”

Jesus’ words to his disciples are exciting words. Words that tell of a final reward for our work in this world, that promise better things for those who serve. Yet he doesn’t speak about the nature of the honour. Nor does he necessarily delineate what kind of service this is.

Jesus does say that service to God will require everything. God will require the loss of our lives in order to be honoured by the Father through service.

This teaching comes immediately after honour has been bestowed by the crowd for raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus contrasts the honour of the crowd, which is fleeting, with honour from the Father, which does not come because of one great act, but because of a regular, life-long death to self that fulfills the demand of God for the fullness of our lives.

We see the same kind of thing happening in the First Testament with the stories of two kings of Judah who seek the word of God and his favour for their protection. God favours Judah as they seek him not because of their worthiness but because of the humility they display by refusing to defend themselves but instead trusting in their God to defend them. Asa takes this self-sacrifice further and rids the country of idolatry as much as possible. He follows the dictates and laws of God, and is honoured and rewarded by “rest”…the land rests from war because of the righteousness of the king and because of his reliance on God for everything.

What a wonderful connection: reliance upon God and service for God will end in honour. What the honour looks like may not be obvious, but it is promised by the God who will deliver.

Acceptance and Rejection

Day 149

Prayer for the day

Gracious and upright is the LORD; therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

Scripture for the day

2 Chronicles 10-12, John 11:30-57

As a pastor, I’ve experienced acceptance and rejection in any number of ways. It is, in fact, not unique to pastors, but part of the human condition. We seek approval, or followership, or inclusion with a group of people, and that group of people will evaluate us based on any number of criteria, and either accept or reject us.

Unfortunately, there is little we can do to garner either acceptance or rejection. Even Jesus couldn’t get everyone to accept him. There was significant rejection, rejection to the point of murder, in the life of Jesus as in the lives of people today. Jesus did not force acceptance on them, nor did he beg for it. Jesus offered the people a choice to accept or reject, he spread his love and care to them, he spoke to them and shared the will of God the Father with them, and allowed them to choose acceptance or rejection as they would. There would be consequences either way, as there will be for us, but he offered the choice.

In the story of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, we see the same choice placed before the people. There are some who reject the kingship of one or the other, some who accept the kingship of one or the other, and they do so for an incredible variety of reasons.

There is not a lot of good reason on the human side of things, but as we read through the account in the First Testament, we see that it is not simply human thinking, but we see God’s purposes being met by the actions of these humans. We do not know how or why our acceptance or rejection happens, but we do know that God desires acceptance, not of certain people, but only of Christ and his sent-ness.

May we have to sight to see and accept.

Life

Day 148

Prayer for the day

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore.

Scripture for the day

2 Chronicles 7-9, John 11:1-29

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

Life. We all have life, yet how many of us truly live? The life we live in the here and now seems to be different than the life Jesus promises in the Second Testament. The life Jesus speaks of is a life that does not end. We live in a world where life ends too quickly, too regularly. Death always has the last word here in the life we live.

The life Jesus speaks of is a life that does not end with death having the final word. It is a life that continues in death. It is a life that cannot be dominated, extinguished, or discontinued. It is the life in Christ, the life given by God, that remains regardless of attempts to snuff it out.

Solomon hears the same thing from the God for whom he built the temple. He hears God say to him that the people he leads, the people who will follow him as their king, are God’s people. And God’s people have the ear of their God. They have more than God’s ear. They have God’s care, God’s character, God’s design for them. If they humble themselves, says God, if they stay on the straight and narrow, if they continue in the path that God has set for them.

What we often do not remember is the opposite that God speaks to them. If they follow, if they obey, if they are humble and repentant, they will live. If not, if they fall to wickedness and idolatry, they will die. They will fall.

Believing. Living. Following. These will give life. These will give the life that Jesus says will not succumb to death.

Touchpoint

Day 147

Prayer for the day

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore.

Scripture for the day

2 Chronicles 4-6, John 10:24-42

There are places that seem to connect us more fully to the presence of God. Most of us recognize that these places, whether the mountains, or other natural phenomena, cathedrals or homes, are not holy in and of themselves, but instead, they provide reminders, gentle or otherwise, of the presence of God in the world, and in our necessary response to God.

When Solomon built the temple, he was proud of the achievement, happy with what the hands of the Israelites and others had wrought. But he was not foolish enough to believe that God could be contained by walls of stone and curtains and gold.

God’s presence did inhabit the place, filling it with smoke, but Solomon clearly did not believe that this was the entirety of God’s presence, or that the whole of God’s presence was contained by the building. For Solomon, the temple was a touchpoint, a place where heaven intersected earth, a place where the divine was remembered, worshipped, and a place where the connection between heaven and earth could happen clearly. When people prayed, they prayed to God even as they oriented themselves to the temple. When they sacrificed, the temple provided the venue. When they sang, it was on the way to the temple, but always the temple was to be the signpost, the clear link, to the God who inhabits heaven and earth.

And this God came, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells the religious leaders of his day that he is the messiah, the anointed one of God, that he is in fact God’s son, God himself. And many of the people believe in him, because they see in him the embodiment of what the temple was meant to be.

Jesus clearly points people to God. As long as they have eyes to see, they see the Almighty.

Glory to God.

Wisdom to Rule

Day 146

Prayer for the day

Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Scripture for the day

2 Chronicles 1-3, John 10:1-23

Rulers these days don’t really experience a lot of accolades for their wisdom in leadership. Most of the time we jeer and revile our political leaders, lampooning their mistakes and laughing at them when we’re not busy screaming at them for their political blunders. This kind of dismissal and distrust is not simply relegated to the political sphere, either. And probably for good reason. We have few enough good examples of leaders who really know how to lead, and to do it well.

With the plethora of leadership manuals, books, seminars, and videos, you would think we would have a world full of incredible leaders. But we don’t.

One of the big problems is that rarely does the leadership we see seek the kind of leadership that Solomon asked for. Notice that Solomon did not ask for success, or wealth, or even that the people he lead would be well-off. He asked for wisdom and understanding to guide him in his leading of the people of Israel.

In this request, Solomon recognized the true mark of leadership, what would actually cause people to want to follow, and to thrive in their following. They would follow someone who wisely lead.

Jesus shows himself to be the same kind of leader in the discussion of the good shepherd. He speaks of the kind of leadership that knows its followers, a leader who is so intimately connected with those he leads that they follow not out of fear, not out of duty, but out of a sense of belonging and loyalty that goes far deeper and motivates far more strongly.

May today be the day you pray for leaders (or yourself, if you are one). Pray that the leaders who lead you would be wise. Pray that God would give them his own wisdom, and that in that wisdom they would be the Christ-like “good shepherd” who knows his followers, and whose followers know him.

Think what kind of world we could see!

Where it all comes from…

Day 145

Prayer for the day

Let them know that you, whose Name is YAHWEH, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 28-29, John 9:24-41

It’s always amazed me that we cling so tightly to things we know we can’t take with us. We try so hard to hold on to our money, our fame, our success, and our lives. Look at commercials these days and all they try to sell you is the ability to hang on to what you don’t own. Stay young, stay rich, stay healthy. But they can never deliver.

On the flip side, you have the people of Israel. When David reveals his plans (God’s plans) for the temple, the people respond with overwhelming support for the idea. Not only do they support it vocally, but they pour their money into it. They bring what they can and more to ensure that the temple is built exactly to specifications.

Notice though, what David says about their gifts for the temple. He says not that the people were generous, but that God was generous to them, and that their girts were simply a return to God of what was already God’s to begin with. Their response to the building of the temple was thanksgiving for the gift of God.

The blind man healed by Jesus had a similar response. Jesus had healed him of his blindness, and he couldn’t understand how the religious leaders could believe anything other than that God had healed him.

His response was a recognition of the gift of God. He knew that his sight was a gift, and he was grateful to God for his good gift to him. The people of Israel knew that everything they had was gift, and they thanked God for it by returning it to his glory.

When we experience the gifts of God, how do we respond?

A Prophet

Day 144

Prayer for the day

Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out.

Scripture for the day

1 Chronicles 25-27, John 9:1-23

If you spend any time reading the scriptures, you’re going to run into the word “prophet.” A lot. There are true prophets and false prophets, prophets who speak for the True God and prophets who speak to please listeners. In the First Testament reading, David appoints a group of people called prophets. Their job is to prophesy and accompany prophecy with music.

Most of the time when we see the word “prophet” we think of someone who tells the future, like a fortune teller at a county fair. We think of one who can see far into the future, a prognosticator who glimpses the things in our future, or reads the fates, and tells us exactly what will happen.

While the scriptures DO use the word “prophet” to denote someone with this ability, it is certainly not exhaustive. In the First Testament, the prophets that David appoints do far more than just tell the future. They are the speakers for God, the ones who stand between God and the rest of humanity as the conduit of conversation, the vessel for speech, and the deliverers of Divine will. The prophets speak before God and for God to the people. And they do so with joy (largely) and thanksgiving.

In the Second Testament, the prophet continues to be someone who is more than a fortune teller. Jesus is called a prophet by the crowds, and they use the word to mean someone who has divine insight, someone who knows the mind of God and communicates it not only adequately, but well, to the people. The prophet, this Jesus, is someone who can interpret for them what the requirements and will of God really are.

Jesus continues to stand for us as the one who communicates the mind and will of the Father. We would be wise to listen to the prophet.