In the evenings I look at news feeds, and grow ever more discouraged about how the world is going the wrong direction. I made it through the cold war of the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s with a modicum of sanity. Now, there are people who believe we are about to experience a new cold war. … And there are the terrorists, doing unspeakable acts in the name of their god. … There are more millionaires and billionaires in the world than ever before. There are more people on food stamps than ever before. The middle class is slowly disappearing.
This morning I received an email from the National Day of Prayer Task Force, containing a prayer for America by Max Lucado. I found some peace in reading and praying it. My hope is that you will also.
Steve @ DCC
Not to us, O Lord, but to You goes all the glory.
We depend on You. You give birth and breath and determine our days. You make every nation and set every boundary. We exist by Your power.
We exist for Your glory. Showcase Your power through this land. Display Your justice in our courts, wisdom in our governments, guidance in our schools and love in our homes.
Have mercy upon our sins. We have disrespected Your word, disregarded Your gifts, discarded Your children. We are sorry. Forgive us, dear Father.
Grant strength to all our leaders. May they serve You first and honor You most. Remind us of the brevity of this life and the beauty of the next. Prepare our souls for the day we meet You in eternity.
This we pray in Your holy name,
Day 30, "To the End of the Age"
Well, this is it. Last day of our 30-Day Journey with David and Kim. I hope that it has provided encouragement and inspiration to those who have been involved. I know that it opened my eyes to some things that I had not considered before.
With this final lesson, David and Kim end with the Great Commission. Jesus essentially lays out his plan for each of us with regards for evangelizing the world. He has the full authority to do this, and we need to remember that we have been commanded to do these things by the person who has ALL authority. Regardless of what other rules people put in our way, we have been commanded by God to proclaim his Kingdom.
But it doesn't end with proclamation or even baptism. Once a person accepts their place in the Kingdom of God they continue to grow by learning and obeying. Jesus ended his instruction with "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." You may recall as a child when the fore department paid a visit to your school and taught you how to stop drop and roll if you caught on fire. It's not just enough to be taught what to do, you have to put it into practice. You have to obey. It does you no good if you catch on fire and think about what it means to stop, drop and roll or the theological significance behind those words. You have to obey the instruction for it to do you any good.
Our actions do not save us, at least not with regard to our eternal salvation, but they are evidence that we truly believe what Jesus said. Without obedience, we are like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. He likely knew that it was better to build on the rock, but he decided to do things his own way instead and as a result he suffered calamity. If we know the teachings of God, but do not OBEY them, our foolishness will have eternal consequences. Fortunate for us, we have the Spirit to encourage and guide us as we learn to obey.
Mike @ DCC
Day 29, “Sacrificial Extravagance”
While Jesus is reclining at the table (the traditional posture during more formal meals and dinner parties in that time and culture), a woman approaches Him. That is unusual in itself, because Jewish women didn’t normally attend banquets for men except as servants. But in addition, she breaks a jar of very expensive nard and pours the entire contents on Jesus’ head.
The woman’s actions result in criticism from some of those present. But Jesus not only recognizes her motives, but also publicly defends her. It isn’t that He doesn’t share the others’ concern for poor people, but the world would have only one Messiah and His death for their sins, so those facts were of greatest importance at this point. Jesus points out the woman’s horizontal act harmonized with God’s vertical implications.
In contrast to the woman’s devotion to Jesus, Mark inserts Judas’s decision to betray Jesus at this point. Nothing is said of Judas’ motive in Mark. John’s gospel informs us Judas was a thief. Judas’ act sets in motion the plan of the religious leaders to have Jesus put to death. God uses Judas’ and the religious leaders’ horizontal intentions to accomplish His vertical plan.
Our motives, our horizontal intentions, may not always match with God’s vertical plan. I am thankful that He can use even our misguided deeds for good. When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers who sold him into slavery, he said (Genesis 50:17),
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Steve @ DCC
Day 28, “A Dream Can Change Anything”
After reading this I have to admit that I do not recall ever getting a message from an angel, let alone God, in a dream. However, that does not mean that God hasn't given me messages / direction, even if it took several attempts before I realized God was talking to me, not someone else.
God kept after me to go calling in Georgia, I finally did. He put people in my path encouraging me to teach, until I gave in and taught (not very well at first). I felt his pressure to serve in other ways. I would like to say that I listened to His voice and obeyed. However, my reaction wasn't immediate obedience, but that of reluctance to leave my comfort zone.
The comfort zone is a nice "horizontal" where I was content to just be a Christian. But not too much as that would cause me to work harder at serving and even to be tested. Too much time in this comfort zone could have prevented me from ever experiencing God in the "vertical" which is much more profound and will stretch you. It is interesting and also a blessing that God would not allow me to remain horizontal but pushed me toward the vertical.
Looking back, I now see my greatest periods of growth were nowhere near that comfort area I desired but instead when he stretched me to go vertical. A Preacher I once knew in Georgia stated "We need to get out of our comfort zone into the commitment zone." Are we committed? Do we dare to go vertical? I pray that God will continue to keep me from getting comfortable and keeps talking to me persistently, even if not in a dream!
Cary Howie @ DCC
Day 27, "The Heart of a Giver"
I definitely can't condemn Driftwood in any way concerning its giving. Our church has shown me time and time again just how generous the people can be. Even so, I am sure that there are some who feel like they should give, but for some reason or another simply don't. Maybe they feel like they can't. Like the devotion pointed out, it's not about how much we give but rather the condition of our heart in the process.
I kinda compare it to when Leslie and I go out to eat sometimes. If we go somewhere that requires a tip for the waiter/waitress we usually leave about a 20% tip give or take depending on the service. Sometimes, however, for no real reason we just feel generous and leave and extra big tip (Big in our mind anyway). I don't say this to brag, but the feeling we get when we do that is a great one because we wanted to bless that person with what is, in the grand scheme of things, really a pretty small gift. Leslie and I receive joy for doing that. So I wonder... what if every now and then, instead of getting out the checkbook and writing the standard check for X amount of dollars we wrote a check that was just more than typical because we WANTED to do something more to bless the church?
Again, Driftwood has shown me time and time again its generosity. Generosity that I have often been the beneficiary of. But every now and then maybe we ought to give something extra not because the church or our own conscience demands it but because we just want to bless God with a cheerful, giving heart.
Mike @ DCC
Day 26, “Can You Trust Him?”
There are two sentences I have seen, or heard, several times over the last 25 days. They have appeared in the devotions we are reading together. One of the sentences is repeated often in the reflections that have been emailed, paraphrased and reshaped to fit the point. I referenced one of them in the third morning message this month. Sometimes they appear separately, they both occur in today’s devotion.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
“Go vertical first and all the horizontal needs will be provided.”
They are becoming repetitive, recurring, repeated, returning, reappearing … like this is a lesson I have not learned. In the late ‘60’s, Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a Pete Seeger song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” And I rewrote the refrain to fit my point:
Oh, when will I ever learn?
When will I ever learn?
Can I trust Him? When I learn to trust, I will be on the path to restoration.
By the way, the letters “re” appear twenty-two times in today’s reflection.
Steve @ DCC
Day 25, "Who is in the Storm with You?"
Nelson Mandela once said: "I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." We all want to be brave. None of us desires to be a coward. We don’t want to be the one shaking in the corner, fearing what is to come. We want to be the one that stands tall in the face of adversity. We want to be brave.
But what makes us brave? What makes us able to stand up to the difficulties ahead of us? The disciples were terrified when they were in the middle of the storm. Why couldn’t they be brave? Jesus ultimately makes it a matter of faith. And really, the same could be said of any situation that requires bravery. You don’t act bravely if you fear that there is no way to overcome the obstacles ahead. You are brave when you face those obstacles, having faith that you will get through them. I’m reminded of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when they were threatened with the fiery furnace.
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
They were brave because they had faith. Without faith, these men would have never stood up to the king in this way. They would have only worried for their lives. That’s what the disciples were doing, worrying for their lives. But Jesus told them to be brave, to have faith. I think it’s fair to say that even Jesus experienced fear when he was approaching his arrest. He was not looking forward to the cross, and the pain awaiting him probably had him terrified. But he trusted in the Father’s plan and went through with it. He had faith.
We will all face times in our lives when we experience fear. It says much about us how we respond to that fear. Will we shy away from troubles or face them head on, confident in the one who is right here with us.
…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Mike @ DCC
Day 24, "Rejoicing in Relationship"
It's hard not to get caught up in the busyness of life. It's also hard not to get caught up in the busyness of ministry. Vocational Ministers aren't the only people in the church that devote a large amount of their time to ministry. But they certainly are some of the most vulnerable to getting caught up in the work and excitement of ministry. So much so that they may neglect their own relationship with God.
Others involved in ministry within the church must guard against the same types of feelings. For example, it's not too hard to imagine somebody getting so involved in taking food to the hungry and the shut-ins that they forget that they are serving because of what God has done for them. Without keeping our relationship with God a priority, even service to others can become nothing more than that, a public service.
Any way that we serve God and the church can become a distraction from our relationship with him if we let it. Teachers can get really excited when their class interacts with them, and one of the best ways to get interaction is to talk about life issues and current events. But doing this can end up being a distraction from our relationship with God. Counseling hurting members, worship through song, youth and children's programs... they all can become distractions from our relationship with God if we let them.I think this is part of what Paul was talking about in 1 Cor. 9:24-27. He concludes it with this:
No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Don't get so caught up in the excitement of your own ministries that you end up neglecting your relationship with God.
-Mike @ DCC
Day 23, "This is My Body"
In today’s prayer devotion we are reminded of how Christ would inject new life and meaning into the ordinary and routine. Every Jewish child is taught the Passover rituals from their very earliest years. They are given parts or roles to play in these traditions. But, as too often is our human nature, we can get caught up in doing the ritual “correctly” that is, horizontally, that we neglect the vertical, the connection with God.
I have always appreciated Driftwood’s tradition of allowing, inviting, our Christian men, young and old, to offer a meditation from their perspective. Over the years I have witnessed the calm and deliberate instruction of communion along with humorous or touching insights drawing us closer to a very alive Christ. I have drawn strength from watching men struggle with, and overcome their fear of being in front of people, because something bigger is occurring. Through all of this, I personally find freshness eachSunday as we gather as family ay our Lord’s Table. What could be a 52 plus times a year horizontal tradition is instead transformed into a very vertical, one gathering at a time at the feet of our savior.
Today my prayer is one of thanks. Thanks to my God who gave his son as my savior. Thanks to my Savior for submitting to his Father’s will for a sinner like me. Finally, another thanks to all the men in our congregation, who take the time to create meditations and conquer their own fears, schedules, and confidence to share their insights at Communion time and in the process helping it to remain sacred for the rest of us.
Cary Howie @ DCC
Day 22, "The Cost of Following"
Delaying certainly is dangerous, and not just for accepting the initial call to become a Christian and follow Jesus. I think for many, we often say to ourselves "When I get to this stage in my life, I won't struggle with ________ anymore, so I don't need to worry about resisting temptation now." The reality is, if there is a sinful behavior you struggle with, now is the only time to deal with it. You don't magically stop dealing with specific temptations because you hit a new milestone in life. You don't just stop struggling with greed, lust, anger, selfishness, drunkenness, or any other sinful behavior just because you've become older. You have to intentionally put those things behind you and leave them there as you move on in following Christ.
The other danger is that we aren't promised tomorrow. Saying that we will follow Jesus tomorrow after we take care of our stuff today may end up being too late. We also have it easy compared to the disciples back then. Where they had to literally drop everything and follow Jesus, leaving family, friends, homes, jobs, etc. we today usually have to give up much less and can often stay right where we are, at least geographically. There are some things that we may have to give up though, and it's not always easy. Just like the time of Noah, there will come a day when we can no longer delay and it is too late. Now is the only time to commit ourselves to the cause of Christ.
Mike @ DCC