Friday, July 31, 2009

Abundance Mentality

"Some give feely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water."
(Proverbs 11:24-25)

When we're at our best, we humans are a generous people. Despite the "provide for yourself" mentality that often creeps into American culture, generosity "looks good" on us. I believe we were created to give - by a God who models it over and over!

And yet we're facing times right now when we don't have "as much" as we have had in the past (though compared to roughly 2/3 of the rest of the world, we in the US are incredibly "wealthy"!). The tendency is to want to shift into "scarcity mode"... to close up the purse-strings, so to speak, and focus more on us than others.

Proverbs 11:24-25 has a different perspective... an abundance mentality! When we give freely, the writer says, we are blessed. When we hold back, we suffer. It doesn't make sense to our rational brains... and yet, when we think deeply enough about it, our spirit tells us that it is TRUTH.

PRAYER: You have been so generous to me, Lord. shape my heart so it overflows with that same generosity to others... today and everyday. Give me an abundance mentality - not scarcity! AMEN.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sacrificial Love

"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh."
(Romans 9:2-3)

Passion. Emotion. Depth of Feeling. Sincerity. Sacrifice. It's all here in these early verses from Romans 9. Paul, who "grew up" as a devout Jew (which is putting it lightly!), then experienced a conversion as an adult, and became a follower of Jesus. He ended up becoming one of the most prolific (and effective!) church planters in Christian history! Much of the New Testament are the letters he wrote to believers in the churches he helped start.

What was hard for him to deal with, however, was that most of the people who welcomed him and his message of Christ's love, acceptance & forgiveness, were non-Jews (aka "Gentiles"). his life had been radically changed for the better, and his "own people" weren't open to hearing about it.

He writes, in chapter 9, how much it pains him that his fellow Jews haven't come to know Jesus and he'd even sacrifice HIS relationship with Him, if it would bring others to the faith. Wow. That really flies in the face of the "it's-all-about-me" mentality so many of us have. What passion, emotion, depth of feeling, sincerity & sacrificial love.

(I have so much to learn...)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

(Romans 8:35-39)

Sometimes I encounter a passage so powerful that it speaks for itself. Today is one of those days. Hear these words from the 8th chapter of Paul's letter to the church in Rome:

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 8:35-39)

What a gift. What a love. What a Savior!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Wise Also Learn

"...let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure..."
(Proverbs 1:5-6)

Public school starts soon in Hawaii. Emily starts Intermediate School on Thursday. Ezra starts his sophomore year next Tuesday. Learning/education is in the air!

Today I began reading Proverbs. It's a book with countless "pithy" sayings. Wise sayings. Educational sayings. There's a human tendency to want to say, however, "I already know that!" and gloss over potential instruction (or is it just a "guy thing"?). But here in the very first chapter of Proverbs, the writer comments how even the WISE and DISCERNING can learn from these! (Maybe that's why they're "wise," they keep learning!)

It really is true that learning is a lifetime project. If we're open, there's SO MUCH God can teach us. Heck, that's why we read the Bible in the first place, right? To hear a word of insight, instruction & wisdom from God.

PRAYER: Keep my heart, mind & spirit always open to learning whatever I can, Lord. AMEN.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A New Song

"O sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things."
(Psalm 98:1)

I haven't done any research on this, but I'd venture to say the phrase "sing to the LORD a new song" appears at least a dozen times (or more!) in the Book of Psalms. Maybe it was one of those common expressions that everyone used "back in the day." Who knows. But for some reason, today God put it on my heart, as I read Psalm 98.

Sing to the LORD a new song. Not the "same old same old" song I've been singing for a while now. Whether it's the way I pray... or relate to God... or tell others about my faith... God has done (and continues to do) MARVELOUS THINGS! Surely I can come up with a "new" response to God's grace, can't I?

PRAYER: Thank you so much, Lord, for the many ways You continue to bless, surprise, and sustain me each and every day. In both my strong and weak moments, You remain steadfast - calling me forward to be the person You created me to be. Help me TODAY to sing of Your greatness to someone new. Help me to be more aware of Your presence. Help me to love You a bit more deeply than yesterday. Give me a new song today, oh Lord! AMEN.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


"...whoever walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me."
(Psalm 101:6b)

David is credited as the author of this Psalm. It's a psalm dedicated to a king's rule with justice & integrity. He pledges to "walk with integrity of heart" and keep his eyes away from the things he shouldn't be focusing on ("anything that is base"). He promises to uphold truth and goodness, and will root out anyone among his staff who does otherwise.

But in verse 6, sandwiched between all these pledges & promises of the king, is an interesting statement: "...whoever walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me." The king has an entire staff of people devoted to "ministering" to him. Whatever he needs, they'll take care of it. But David seems to be pointing to something greater here. Anyone in ALL the kingdom who walks with integrity (ie. "blameless") will positively impact the king's soul/spirit ("minister" to him). Anyone! Not only that, but it's as if David is looking for people like that to surround himself with.

Skills & aptitudes are important, indeed. We need people around us who are competent & professional. But could it be that David is recognizing the need for people who simply live right... are honest... full of integrity?

PRAYER: Help me to live right, oh God... and may I, too, LORD, be surrounded by such beloved people. AMEN.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Direction & Correction

[from July 15, 2009]

"Then David said to God, 'I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands.'"
(2 Samuel 24:14)

David is in distress. He realizes he's committed a sin against God by demanding that a census of the people be taken (some believe that act began to take away from God's role of being the "sole arbiter of the destinies of the nation and its people"). When the 9 month project was over, David felt convicted to the heart & repented.

An interesting thing happened next. God gave David 3 options for his punishment: a) 3 years of famine, b) 3 months of being pursued by his enemies, c) 3 days of pestilence. David responded by putting himself (and the nation) in God's hands. In effect, he didn't choose - he let God decide. The reason: he knew God was gracious & merciful.

Wow. I probably would have had my own opinion. Id' have thought long & hard and tried to calculate the least destructive option. But David didn't. He threw himself on God's mercy and God's choice. 70,000 people still died, which was indeed a tragedy... but it could have been much worse!

As King, David was ultimately responsible for everything that happened in the kingdom. His actions meant the death of 70K innocent people. He had to live the rest of his life with that. But hew as also wise enough to know that his wisdom may not have been "the end all and be all" of wisdom. Perhaps God' wisdom was even greater?!?

I wonder how much energy we waste by setting our own will/plans for the future. Sure, it's good to have goals and aspirations... but when we push toward something God may not want for us, we do more harm than good. The challenge: place ourselves in God's hands of mercy & trust that he'll lead us where we need to go. Period.

PRAYER: Whether it's good fortune or the ramifications of my own win, LORD... I want to be able to put my WHOLE trust in you. Lead me where you need me to go. Help me to willingly accept both direction and correction from You! AMEN.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes...

"But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that (Jesus) did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they became angry..."
(Matthew 21:15)

The leaders of the Jewish community were getting increasingly frustrated & upset with Jesus (it would soon cost him His life, too!). At the start of what would be his last week of life, in Jerusalem, Jesus is preaching, teaching, healing & even cleansing the temple (see Mt. 21:12-13). "Amazing things," as Matthew puts it, "were happening." But what really sent the leaders off was hearing the children sing praises to Jesus.

It's one thing, I guess, to lead an adult astray... but to "corrupt" the innocent children - that's going too far! (At least that's what the leaders must have thought). Jesus quotes Psalm 8 when he said, "Out of the mouths of babes..." to remind them that God LOVES to hear the children praise Him!

One of my favorite times each Sunday morning in worship is the "Time with the Children." We're also about to start summer VBS at our church here in Aiea. Sunday School and Youth Group also remain a steady part of our church's life. All of these help our children (and youth) learn about God - His amazing Love - and (hopefully) it inspires them to sing their own praises to God. Matthew 21 reminds us that this is a vital necessity - for our children to voice their love & adoration for the King.

PRAYER: May I continue to spend time helping our young people find their own expression of love for you, Lord. May I not discourage even the littlest ones among us to cry out in praise. And may I help other adults come to konw just how much we can learn from our children. AMEN.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Learn & Rest

[From July 4, 2009]

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)

At times, life is hard. We've all experienced difficulties at one point or another. Maybe that's why this passage from Matthew 11 is so comforting to so many who have heard it. Who wouldn't want their burdens lightened or rest for their soul?

But today when I was reading this chapter, my heart paused on "take my yoke upon you and learn from me." It's not just "let me ease your burdens," as if we had no responsibility other than dropping our cares & problems at Christ's feet. No... we're called to LEARN from Jesus. To follow his pathway ("yoke"). Jesus isn't a "magic pill" that erases all struggles. However, when we read, study & commune with Jesus... when we seek to truly learn the message and motives he espouses... we begin to see how life's cares no longer oppress.

PRAYER: You are the One true burden reliever. You walk with us and ease our troubles when we trust in you. But I want to be open to really learning from you, Lord. Remove from me a self-centered heart. Keep me open to drawing deep from the well of your life, death & resurrection! AMEN.