A Slave to Righteousness

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S (Scripture): Romans 7:5 When we were self-centered, the sinful passions aroused through the Law were at work in all the parts of our body, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law. We have died with respect to the thing that controlled us, so that we can be slaves in the new life under the Spirit, not in the old life under the written Law.

O (Observation): Paul is still riffing about about the Law. Is one under the Law if also under Christ? No! How is this? The Law is for the living. In Christ, especially in baptism, we die and are re-born. Thus, we are released from the Law, and at the same time, are now slaves to righteousness, under the Spirit.

The Spirit’s calling compels us to respond…not just an obligation to pass or fail…but as an opening for doing God’s ministry.

A (Application): I see us constantly using the new Spirit in us as a new Law. We set up markers to see who is “really” doing God’s work. We measure public appearances, an abundance or a lack of social media presence, or popularity to decide who is being “faithful.”

The time that I spend in personal devotion and prayer helps me to remember that God is with me day in and day out, regardless of the standards I mentioned above. When I get away from this practice, I get out of focus.

The time I spend “digging daily” is a way of “mining for God’s presence.” I do this practice with several other folks. Something life-giving comes from doing this work with others. Is this devotion a new Law? Absolutely not! The practice of digging into God’s word daily is a great way to see the Spirit alive and well in my life and all around me…especially in troublesome times.

P (Prayer): Lord, sustain me in my journey as a space to righteousness. Amen.

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Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

  S (Scripture): Jeremiah 36:25 The king (Jehoiakim) did not even listen to Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah, who had urged him not to burn the scroll. 26 He also ordered Jerahmeel, who was one of the royal princes, Seraiah son of Azriel, and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest the scribe Baruch and the prophet Jeremiah. However, the Lord hid them.
27 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah after Jehoiakim had burned the scroll containing what Jeremiah had spoken and Baruch had written down. 28 “Get another scroll and write on it everything that was written on the original scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned…”
32 Then Jeremiah got another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah. As Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on this scroll everything that had been on the scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned in the fire. They also added on this scroll several other messages of the same kind.

O (Observation): King Jehoiakim didn’t like the words of condemnation written on the scroll that he eventually burned…the words foretold of the Babylonians coming and taking control of Jerusalem and the entire land of the Israelites.  

Was the king holding on because of pride?  Was he clinging to power and control?  Was he being brave in trying to take a stand?  

Seems like his pride was getting the better of him.  Seems like he was trying to hold on to a position of power, rather than power that comes from a Gospel movement.  

Taking a stand is okay when it is for the Gospel.   But when it is only out of pride or positional power…then perhaps that stand is for naught.  

A (Application):  How can one look at this text through the lens of “Give us this day our daily bread.”?  My devotions of late have me looking at the scriptures through the various petitions of The Lord’s Prayer. 

The idea of Daily Bread is much more than just food.  An expanded understanding of Daily Bread can include all that we need to be sustained in this life.  That includes provision of safety and anything else that God wishes to put forth.  

In today’s text, Jeremiah and Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe) are to be arrested, but for the time being, The Lord’s Provision comes in the form of hiding Jeremiah and Baruch.   

The king decides to burn the scroll that The Lord called Jeremiah to write out…but once again, The Lord provides.   They get another scroll, and The Lord’s Provision comes through again.  

No matter what the circumstances, The Lord will provide a way.   And even though people (including you and me) can get in the way, The Lord still finds a way to provide.  

That provision may not always be what we expect.  Imagine if you were the king.   What would provision look like?  Defeat!  Exile!  But then, for us sitting here in 2015, we know what eventually happens…God’s people are brought back from their Banylonian exile (another provision from the Lord).   And eventually, the stump of Jesse shoots forth to bring us the Savior, Jesus Christ.  

Good stuff.  God provides…just not always in a manner that we expect.  

P (Prayer): Lord, Provider, give us this day – and every day – our daily bread.  Amen. 

Give Is This Day Our Daily Bread

  S (Scripture): Jeremiah 36:25 The king (Jehoiakim) did not even listen to Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah, who had urged him not to burn the scroll. 26 He also ordered Jerahmeel, who was one of the royal princes, Seraiah son of Azriel, and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest the scribe Baruch and the prophet Jeremiah. However, the Lord hid them.
27 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah after Jehoiakim had burned the scroll containing what Jeremiah had spoken and Baruch had written down. 28 “Get another scroll and write on it everything that was written on the original scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned…”
32 Then Jeremiah got another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah. As Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on this scroll everything that had been on the scroll that King Jehoiakim of Judah burned in the fire. They also added on this scroll several other messages of the same kind.

O (Observation): King Jehoiakim didn’t like the words of condemnation written on the scroll that he eventually burned…the words foretold of the Babylonians coming and taking control of Jerusalem and the entire land of the Israelites.  

Was the king holding on because of pride?  Was he clinging to power and control?  Was he being brave in trying to take a stand?  

Seems like his pride was getting the better of him.  Seems like he was trying to hold on to a position of power, rather than power that comes from a Gospel movement.  

Taking a stand is okay when it is for the Gospel.   But when it is only out of pride or positional power…then perhaps that stand is for naught.  

A (Application):  How can one look at this text through the lens of “Give us this day our daily bread.”?  My devotions of late have me looking at the scriptures through the various petitions of The Lord’s Prayer. 

The idea of Daily Bread is much more than just food.  An expanded understanding of Daily Bread can include all that we need to be sustained in this life.  That includes provision of safety and anything else that God wishes to put forth.  

In today’s text, Jeremiah and Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe) are to be arrested, but for the time being, The Lord’s Provision comes in the form of hiding Jeremiah and Baruch.   

The king decides to burn the scroll that The Lord called Jeremiah to write out…but once again, The Lord provides.   They get another scroll, and The Lord’s Provision comes through again.  

No matter what the circumstances, The Lord will provide a way.   And even though people (including you and me) can get in the way, The Lord still finds a way to provide.  

That provision may not always be what we expect.  Imagine if you were the king.   What would provision look like?  Defeat!  Exile!  But then, for us sitting here in 2015, we know what eventually happens…God’s people are brought back from their Banylonian exile (another provision from the Lord).   And eventually, the stump of Jesse shoots forth to bring us the Savior, Jesus Christ.  

Good stuff.  God provides…just not always in a manner that we expect.  

P (Prayer): Lord, Provider, give us this day – and every day – our daily bread.  Amen. 

God’s Effort, Not Mine or Yours

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S (Scripture): Acts 23:10 When the argument became so great the commanding officer feared that they would tear Paul to pieces, he ordered the detachment to go down, take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.
23:11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Have courage, for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”

O (Observation): Paul has been upsetting the apple cart. People are very upset with him, even with no real argument against him. The mob mentality is in full swing. He is claiming to have been in direct contact with The Lord…and they don’t like it all.

And Paul’s next step seems to be a trial in Rome. Paul will be facing the powers of the time, the worldly power: Caesar. In death or life, Jesus gives Paul strength.

A (Application): This is a pretty intense scene. I don’t know how I’d stand in the midst of that chaos. Of course, this is not so much about what Paul is doing, but about what God is doing through Paul.

I forget that ALL OF THE TIME!!!! I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think I have to face the powers of this world, my own struggles..alone. Yet I am not alone. God speaks words of hope and peace to me, on the mountaintop, in the pit, and everyday.

The power of these devotions lies not in my intellect or will power to get up early. Sure, part of this is brute force: waking up early, slurping coffee to wake me up, reading words through sleepy eyes. But it’s all about that grace.

God encounters me and interprets me through the Scriptures. The reading of the texts is my effort. The transformation is God’s.

I’m reminded in the daily digging into Scripture, that you and I are not alone. God is with us every step of the way. Get into the bible daily…not to impress anyone, but to have God leave an impression on your heart.

So grab a shovel…and start digging into Scripture daily! I’ll join ya!

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you are with us. In our times of trouble, you carry us through. Amen.

Calendar as Agent of Grace

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S (Scripture): Psalm 119:101 I stay away from the evil path,
so that I might keep your instructions.
119:102 I do not turn aside from your regulations,
for you teach me.
119:103 Your words are sweeter
in my mouth than honey!

O (Observation): The psalmist has been lifting up the joy of God’s word, especially, the hope and light it brings to a fallible world where people want to destroy one another. This entire psalm – all 176 verses – are dedicated to this purpose.

Psalm 119 stands as a reminder that God’s Word and the statutes that it sets forth are about lifting up life over death, wholeness over brokenness.

And meditating on the word is not a task to be endured, but a privilege and an honor to take in. In fact, the Word is sweeter than honey!

A (Application): I don’t know at what point this happened, but the daily reading of Scripture & posting a reflection on it has started to become part of my DNA.

Recently, my wife mentioned that she was surprised how easily I woke up each morning, regardless of the time at which I fell asleep. Last night, at our Confirmation Mentor night, one student regarded that the thing he found most interesting about me was that I did this blog every day, along with the scripture readings.

The groups of disciples that I lead now are being challenged to do this very same thing: to read the Scriptures daily and to reflect on them.

Taking on this task seemed mundane at first – it was very challenging. But somewhere along the way, God’s words have become sweeter than honey to me. This is become a whole lot more than just “reading the Bible more.” My daily rhythms have changed. How I spend my time has changed. And spending the first few moments of the day with the Lord has indeed been sweeter than honey.

This is not about fame, this is not about checking something off on my list. Rather, this is more about dwelling in the Word, sipping on a cup of coffee with Jesus at my side.

Having Jesus at my side is the only reason I can read Scripture and write this blog every day. And that’s the only reason why I am able to sustain this pace. It’s not easy…but the Lord provides what is needed: a shift in priorities, time, energy, etc.

Give it a whirl. Go to the Tools section on my blog and figure out how to get into the Scriptures daily. Send me a note if you need encouragement, I’ll be glad to help.

What’s keeping you from digging into God’s Word daily? What needs to shift in your life to make room for this daily time with God? Can you make some rhythms that are helpful? Maybe set the coffee pot before you go to bed? Prepare the kids lunches at night, so getting them of to school isn’t so stressful? Let’s explore it together and see where The Lord takes us.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that we already have all the time we need. Help us to set our lives around you, rather than our priorities. Help us to use our calendars as agents of grace, building in time with you, daily. Amen.