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The Open Door

The reading guide I am following for some of my devotional reading has me reading through the book of Revelation to end the year.  Today’s reading was Revelation 4.  The opening of verse of this chapter gave me pause this morning.  The verse says, “After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven.”

As I meditated on this passage, the image that kept coming to my mind was an open door in heaven.  I imagined a door that had been left cracked open just a bit – probably by accident.  I imagined my desire in wanting to sneak a peek inside – to get even a glance of what might be on the other side of the door.

Open-Doors

I began to pray that God would allow me to have a glimpse of him today and experience his nearness – even for just a moment.

And then it dawned on me like the sun that was rising outside my window – God left that door open on purpose – – for me!

God gives each of us the opportunity to experience his presence each and every day.  The question is, do we take the opportunity when it arises.  Or are we so preoccupied with getting things done that we fail to even see the chance when we have it?

God is leaving the door to heaven open for you today.

Take a peek!

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One of my readings this morning was from the book of 1 Peter.  In chapter 1, the author encourages us to remember how important we are to the Father.  In the aftermath of the meaninglessness that happened Sunday – with questions unanswered and unanswerable – many are grasping for anything.  This passage gives us something we can pull up close.

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

The author reminds us that as believers, we are just passing through this world – this is not our home – we are foreigners here.  But he also reminds us that we are of paramount importance to the Father.  YOU were redeemed from an empty way of life at a most extravagant price.  Your eternal security was purchased not with earthly wealth but with something far more precious.  Your redemption and hope was paid for by the very life of God himself in Jesus’ death on the cross.

Let that truth wash over your heart this morning.  God loves you!  You are a prized child.

There will never be answers this side of eternity to some of the questions we ask regarding what happened in Sutherland Springs on Sunday.  But what we hold on to today is that this is all temporary and there is so much more beyond what we can see.  What is truly important is that we are loved by God and redeemed by his grace.

Walk into that grace today!

 

As a believer in America, what is going through your mind this morning?  What can we do to ease the suffering of those directly affected by the shooting yesterday?  How do we move forward toward celebrating a new Sunday this week without the horrific tragedy of yesterday at the forefront of our minds?  Will we gather free of fear and able to focus on heart-felt worship?  Or will we be tentative and distracted?

Yesterday was the first of two consecutive Sundays set aside as International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  We live in an era in which Christians are persecuted.  There are countries around the world that do not allow open worship of Jesus.  And even in our own country, the church is being painted as an institution of hate instead of the gathering of believers who love.

Jesus prophesied and said that if we follow him, we will be hated by the world.  This is nothing new.  But when something like the shooting in Sutherland Springs happens so close to home, this prophesy takes on powerful significance.

So what do we do?  How do we move forward?

First, we pray.  We pray for our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs.  We ask for God to bring healing – both physical and emotional as well as spiritual.  We ask God to find us faithful as the larger church in being strength and encouragement for those who were directly impacted by this act of cowardice.

Second, we trust.  Not one of us knows what tomorrow will bring and because of that fact, we must approach the day in one of two ways.  We either hide in hopes of finding protection, or we trust God to walk with us through whatever this day may bring.  I choose to trust.

No matter the evil we face in this world, God is bigger!

Never forget that fact!

Always Reforming?

Yesterday marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses being nailed to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  As we have reflected on the changes brought about by that act, we have recognized the debt we owe to those early reformers.  Our focus on grace alone through faith alone comes directly from this movement.Wittenburg door

But I have wrestled with something for the past several weeks leading up to this momentous day.

Are we still in need of reform?

It is said that the generation of leaders after Martin Luther held that every generation is in need of reform.  I believe that is true.  The Gospel message does not change.  The fact that all people are sinners in need of saving does not change.  The truth that salvation comes only by God’s radical free gift of grace does not change.  The reality that this grace must be received by each individual through a heartfelt trust and faith does not change.

But what does change is how we live with these truths and how the church seeks to carry out her calling into God’s mission in light of these truths in an ever-changing culture.  We walk a line between being in the world but set apart from it.

I believe we are guilty of gross negligence if we acknowledge the courage and boldness of Martin Luther and other reformers but do not take a serious look at where we may need reform today.  What are the areas we have conformed more to the world than been transformed to God’s kingdom and rule?  Are there areas of life and ministry where we have lost sight of what matters most?

Holy God, show us your ways!

Caught Between

On August 25th, the lives of all Texans were drastically effected by a devastating storm.  Hurricane Harvey produced more rainfall in Texas than the United States had seen in one storm in recorded history.  Of course the damage caused by the rainfall was not all the damage produced by Harvey.  It was a Category 4 hurricane at land fall.  The initial destruction was due to 130 mile per hour winds and storm surges reaching 8 to 9 feet (or higher in some areas).

While most were not directly impacted, this storm affected all Texans.  Life changed for everyone for at least a week or two.  Hearts were drawn to those who were directly impacted.  Generosity was plentiful.  Donations of needed items as well as time and labor were offered from all over the state.  Honestly, there was a sense of renewed hope in the kindness of humanity – actually making one proud to be a Texan.

Now here we sit – two months removed from Harvey’s winds.  Two months ago, many of us were scrambling to make preparations – boarding windows, purchasing supplies, trying to find gas stations that still had gas.  But today many are still trying to find hope and desire to move forward.

For the bulk of the state, life for most folks is back to normal.  Even here in Corpus Christi, most people have rejoined the daily mayhem that is “normal” life.  But so many other people here in the Coastal Bend are trying to decipher what normal will be moving forward.

The experts are telling us we are looking at a 2 to 3 year period of rebuilding before we can expect a new normal (others are saying it will take much longer).  So what do the people do who are caught in the middle what once was and what is not yet?  Where do they find hope?

sunrise-over-lake-and-mountains-13826409293GfI am reminded of David’s inspiring words in Psalm 121 – “my help comes from the Lord.”  When things look darkest, we can know that there is help – there is hope.  We need to remember that this world is temporary.  We are not citizens of this world but rather simply passing through.

So what do we do in this in-between time – this time between what once was and what is not yet?

We lift our eyes to the Father and trust.

The Rest We Need

There is a direct link between trust and rest. When I finally decide to lay down on top of my bed at night, I am trusting the structure to hold me. I would not be able to completely relax if, with every turn and movement through the night (which are often and many) I were afraid the bed frame would collapse and I would end up on the floor.

In order to truly rest, we must trust.

Last week in our Bible study time we worked through one of the sermons Peter delivered in Jerusalem in the beginning days of the Christian church. In the third chapter of the book of Acts, we find Peter and John standing in the outer courts of the temple, calling people to repent and turn to God.

Peter offers two very powerful motivations to repentance. The first is that when we repent of our sins and turn to God, our sins are wiped out – blotted out – discarded – covered over! All the poor choices and mistakes, all the willful disobedience – all of it – forgiven.

But the second motivation Peter offers for repentance is that by confessing our sins, repenting and trusting God, we will receive “times of refreshing” from the Lord. The ASV translation clarifies that this “refreshing” comes from “the presence of the Lord.”

I don’t know about you but refreshment and renewal that comes from being in the very presence of God sounds pretty good to me!

What are you trusting God with today? Do you need a little rest and refreshment?

Whatever you are carrying today, God is big enough to handle it! Simply trust and experience his refreshment!

Be blessed with rest today.

Tend the Fire

In all my years of sharing my thoughts and my heart here in this way, I have never gone as long between posts.  I began this ministry and personal pilgrimage in 2009 with a personal commitment to write at least three times per week – recording in this format a little piece of myself each time.  There have been dry spells in my pilgrimage over the past eight years but never have I stepped away from this discipline for this long.

On August 25th, my life and daily routine was altered.  When hurricane Harvey hit land on that evening, I did not realize the way it would affect the days to follow.  Please understand that my family and I, our church family and most of Corpus Christi were hardly affected physically by the storm.  But those just over the bridge were greatly impacted.  So I am not referring to any real damage that I have had to deal with personally but rather in how we have chosen to respond to the devastation our brothers and sisters to our north have been living through (and will continue to do so).  In the coming posts I will attempt to unpack the experience of the last month.

But for today, I feel compelled to share what God reminded me of this morning.  My reading this morning came from 2 Timothy 1.  In the beginning lines of Paul’s letter to his protege, he challenged Timothy with this:  “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.”

fanning-flames

The reminder coming from God this morning was this – as believers we have received God’s spirit and his calling on our lives but we are tasked with fanning what we have received into flame.  It is so easy to let the fire go out.

I am not suggesting that we can lose the Spirit or the calling but we can lose the passion and the intensity of living out this calling with our entire existence.  Life happens – storms come our way that move us off course and before we realize it, the flame has died down.  It is our responsibility to tend the flame.

Today – tend the fire, fan the flame and live into the calling God has placed on your life!