Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 9 - Outsider In

Day 9 - Outsider In.

Ruth 1:16 (ESV) - 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER

On January 1, 1892, seven-hundred immigrants passed though the brand new processing center on Ellis Island, New York. Weary from the difficult weeks-long passage across the Atlantic, they carried their suitcases into a kind of promised land, where it was less likely they’d die of starvation or war. Millions followed in their wake.

One of the most famous immigrants in the Bible was a young woman named Ruth. More than a millennium before Christ, she chose to immigrate to the land of the Hebrews, but not because it was a land of opportunity. Not because there was more food there than in her native Moab across the Jordan River (in fact, the opposite). Not because she was assured of a job there. Ruth immigrated to a strange, alien place—leaving her family and friends, her culture, and her prospects for marriage behind—because of her commitment to her mother-in- law, Naomi.

Newly widowed, Naomi was returning to her native Israel, when she was stunned that her beautiful daughter-in-law, Ruth (also widowed), was insistent on sticking with her. “Where you go, I will go...your people will be my people and your God my God.” 

It was Ellis Island in reverse. A young woman immigrates, not for greater opportunity, but because of a greater loyalty. The bond was formed by “covenant kindness” (hesed). Young Ruth had been given that kindness by Naomi, and it was covenant kindness that bound Ruth to her mother-in-law.

Little did she know then that once in Israel, she would be shown covenant kindness by a man named Boaz. Little did she know that years after marrying Boaz, one of her grandsons would grow up to be anointed king of Israel—King David himself.

Don’t ever count out the outsider. God often takes the outsider, the person despised for his or her ethnicity, the foreigner, the marginalized, the weak, the obscure to play an important role. This requires us to reimagine our place in God’s plan—and to believe that God may be using us in ways today that we don’t even know. Certainly the young woman from Moab did not imagine we’d be contemplating her today.

PONDER: How might you express covenant kindness to someone today?

DISCUSSION or REFLECTION:
Ruth was having a very rough life. Her husband had just died, leaving Ruth a widow. When the time came for Naomi, her mother-in-law, to be able to move back to Bethlehem, she encouraged Ruth to stay in Moab. The amazing part of this story is Ruth’s response to Naomi. Ruth says that she refuses to leave Naomi no matter what. This is a huge sacrifice. It means she will give up her home, her friends, and everything familiar to stay with her grieving mother-in-law.

Read Ruth’s response to Naomi in Ruth 1:16 again. What was Ruth giving up to stay with Naomi? When have you had to give something up in order to do the right thing?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

DAY 8 - Terms of Endearment

Day 8 - Terms of Endearment

Exodus 19:5-6 (ESV)  Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

What do you call the people you love most? Probably something more than their name. For some people we come up with terms of endearment, things like “honey,” “sweetheart,” “pumpkin,” or other customized terms, which are so personal or quirky we would embarrassed if they slipped out in public. For some people we come up with grandiose labels: “my beloved daughter,” “the best of the best,” “one-in-a-million.”

When the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai, soon after the Exodus from Egypt, God explained how he had “carried [them] on eagles’ wings and brought [them] to himself” (Ex. 19:4). This is a powerful statement. God swept the people up to be with him. There in the desert, with the mountain as eternal witness, God bestowed his covenant on his people. Truly a marriage made in heaven, solemnized with terms of endearment: “treasured possession,” “kingdom of priests,” “holy nation.”

The whole earth is God’s, but these people would be “treasured possessions.”

Some of them would have the job of “priest” (which means someone who “stands” for God before the people), but all of them would be priests—a kingdom of priests—because every man and woman would stand for God.

God is Lord over the nations, but the Hebrews were called to be a “holy nation,” which means “different” or “distinct.”

In 1 Peter 2, in the New Testament, these terms of endearment are repeated:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

To understand what it means to be called, we need to comprehend the terms by which he calls us. God’s call is not the command barked by a drill sergeant. Not pleading. Not negotiating.
God’s call bestows identity on us. It makes us who we are. Treasured, priestly, holy.

PONDER: How will this week be different if you “stand” before God and “stand” for God in the world?

DISCUSSION or REFLECTION
Nicknames can be a really fun way to learn about another person. When we hear a nickname we can tell certain things about that person. If you are discussing with someone, talk about all of the nicknames you have for one another. Are some sweet? Are some funny? Name as many nicknames as you can. Afterward read Exodus 19:5-6 together.
What “nicknames” does God give his people in these verses? Read John 1:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and Ephesians 2:10. What does God say about us in these verses? God calls us his “children”, “new creations”, and “treasured possessions.” How do you feel knowing that this is what God thinks of you?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Everybody is called.

“Everybody has a vocation to some form of life-work. However, behind that call (and deeper than any call), everybody has a vocation to be a person to be fully and deeply human in Christ Jesus.” 
― Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives 


“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship 

Day 7 - This is Personal

Day 7 - This is Personal

Exodus 3:4 (ESV) - When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
 (EXODUS 3)
There are two kinds of fire you can have in your house. One is a monster that will move from room to room—leaping, growing, devouring. The other resides in your fireplace. It is controlled, friendly, and inviting. It draws you in. It brings people together. It warms you but does not burn you.
The day the angel of the Lord appeared to 40-year-old Moses in the flames of a burning bush, human history took a leap forward. On that day, God introduced himself. The religions of the time were about “the god of rain” or “the god of wind” or “the god of earth.” But the one true God—the actual Creator of all things—showed himself in a small way, in a small fire, in a small bush, which mysteriously, was not consumed by the fire.

Then came the call: “Moses!” A name. And an introduction: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” A name based on names. This is personal.

It is only a personal God who would say, “I have seen the misery of my people,” “I have heard their cries,” “I have come down to rescue them.” Then the call, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” This is personal.

God is not a thing to be found, an energy to be harnessed, an idol to be handled. God’s call begins with God’s self-revelation. God calls when we least expect it. God calls us by name, and then he tells us his name.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of Matt, Christy, Gerome, Bianca, and YOU. This Creator cares for what he created and who he created. He hears our cries. He knows our faults. He understands our doubts.

He calls because he cares—and then he sends. Moses must stand before Pharaoh, held up by the power and the word of the Lord.

God sends us into the world for this same purpose: that God may reclaim real people. The rescue continues because bondage is real: personal sin, abusive relationships, human trafficking, class domination, government corruption, economic injustice. This is personal—and it always will be.

PONDER: Who do you know that is a victim of some kind of bondage, who needs to know of the God of Exodus?

DISCUSSION or REFLECTION: 
When we arrive at this passage in Exodus, the Israelites are slaves in Egypt. The Israelites were miserable in Egypt, and they suffered terrible conditions and felt abandoned by the God of their ancestors. Fortunately, our God is a God who cares. He is about to show up in a huge way for his people.
Read Exodus 3:1-9.  Why did God say he was talking to Moses? God came to help his people. God still helps his people today. Where do you need God’s help? Who do you know around you that is sad, afraid, or lonely? What small things could you begin to do to share God’s love with those people?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

THE CALL

“Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

—Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life

DAY 6 - Holy Fire

 Day 6 - Holy Fire
Exodus 3:1-2 (ESV) -
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.
(READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER)

Backyard fire pits are a great attraction for children. Whether one is burning fallen branches after a late spring storm, roasting hot-dogs, melting marsh mallows, or simply burning scrap wood on a cool fall evening—almost anything is a good excuse for kids to build a backyard fire.

In Exodus 3, the old shepherd Moses comes face to face with a very different kind of fire—one that changed his life, and that of a nation. Well into his 80’s, with over 40 years of experience herding sheep, Moses was well acquainted with the vast wilderness terrain of western Horeb and its grazing places. Just another day on the pasture turns into an extraordinary encounter as an angel of the Lord appears to Moses in the flames of a bush on fire. Curiosity takes hold as Moses notices the burning bush is not consumed.

In the ancient world, mountaintops and fire often symbolized divine presence, and both collide in this gripping account of Moses’ encounter with the living, holy God. Out of a burning bush, God’s presence is terrifying and his voice is real as he calls out: Moses, Moses! Moses barely gets the words out, “Here I am.” What else could he say? God instructs him to kick off his sandals as a sign of reverence for the holy ground he is standing on—a common practice in the ancient world, and even today in many parts of the world. God identifies himself as the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As God describes his identity, Moses, shoes kicked off, has most likely fallen flat on the ground, hiding his face before the holiness and majesty of the God who calls. All of this is a necessary prelude to what God will ask this old sheep herder to do—lead his people out of slavery from Egypt, a daunting task that would change Moses and a whole nation.
But before that ever happened, there was a necessary prelude: Moses had to be confronted with and respond to the holiness—the utterly terrifying and glorious holiness of God, the one who calls. Prelude to “doing” is always a bowed and prostrate life and heart before the holiness of God.

PONDER: In an increasingly irreverent and casual world, do you have a vision of the holiness and majesty of God who, still calls people today? 

DISCUSSION or REFLECTION
In Exodus 3, Moses encounters God in a very real way. As Moses approached the burning bush, he was told not to come any closer and to take off his sandals. Both of these acts helped prepare Moses to hear from God. God talks to us in a variety of ways today. He can speak to us through other people, through a feeling we get, and even through circumstances to help us understand him.
Read Exodus 3:5-8. What did God ask Moses to do? What are ways that we still hear God’s voice today? What are ways we can create space in our life to better hear God’s voice?
 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Day 5: When People Mean Bad, But God Means Good

Genesis 45:7-8 (ESV) And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
(READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER)

One of the most discouraging things we experience is when life takes a very bad turn, and we wonder how God could possibly redeem the situation. It could be an untimely death, the loss of a job, the betrayal of a friend. Any experiences which seem to violate the essence of what is good and right.

On this point, the Bible offers a perspective that only faith can accept: God is able to use misfortune to move our lives in a direction that glorifies him. This is a paradox, but true: bad things may seem to get us off course, but later in life we discover how the altered course became a purposeful course.
What could be more wrong than a group of jealous brothers beating and leaving for dead one of their own? Joseph, son of Jacob, was one of twelve brothers who were envious of his character and so they turned against him. On a desert road they beat him, put him in a cistern, then sold him into slavery (Gen. 37: 23–28). 

In this way, the young Joseph came, as a slave, to the great superpower of the time, Egypt. With his gifts and his character, he rose to prominence—ultimately to be the most powerful person in Egypt next to Pharaoh. Amazing. Years later, in that position of power and wealth, he welcomed his estranged brothers, who came to Egypt seeking food during a great famine. 

When they realized the “Lord of Egypt” before them was the brother they had left for dead, they heard Joseph’s amazing interpretation: “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” Why? “To save your lives for a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7-8). 

What is the lesson here? Not that we ought to take bad things and call them good, which leads to moral confusion. Rather, God takes the results of bad things and turns them toward the good. So if your position in life today is the result of a bad turn of events—loss or sin or betrayal—you can know that God is able to take you wherever you are and use you for his good purposes.

PONDER: Who do you know that was able to take bad circumstances and turn them toward something good? 

DISCUSSION or REFLECTION:
Joseph was treated horribly by his brothers. Many years later, Joseph had a choice to make. When his brothers came to him in need of his help, would he return evil for evil? Or through forgiveness would he return good for evil?
Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave. Years later, when he met up with them again, this is how he responded (read Genesis 45:7-8). What was Joseph saying to his brothers? Does it sound like Joseph forgave them? Read Matthew 18:21-22. Whom in your life do you need to forgive?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day 4: Father of Faith

Day 4:  Father of Faith.
(GENESIS 12 - READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER)

It takes a lot of effort and faith to move your family to another city. You face the uncertainties of whether you will like the culture of the new place, whether that new job will work out, what it will mean for your spiritual life. If the move is an act of obedience because you believe God is calling you, the stakes are higher still.

But what if the history of the world hinged on your decision to relocate?

Abraham, the man called “the father of all who believe” (Rom. 4:11) moved with his extended family across hundreds of miles from Ur on the Euphrates River, eventually into Canaan (in modern geography: Iraq to Turkey through Syria into Israel). Faith indeed. But that was just the beginning. 

Look at this call:
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,

and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:1–3

To be called means to be sent: “Go.” To be called means to stand somewhere in the great timeline of God’s plan in the world: “I will make you a great nation.” To be called means to be elevated by God: “I will make your name great.” To be called means to be blessed in order to be a blessing to others: “I will bless you [...] you will be a blessing [...] all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
“All peoples on earth”? Four thousand years later, we know that the faith of Abraham, whereby he was right with God, is indeed a world-changing force. Abraham “believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:3). This kind of faith––openhanded, submissive, obedient, trusting––is the only way to be right with God. Millions of believers today––young and old, men and women, Chinese, Nigerian, Argentine, Swedish, American, Irish, Eskimo––are all called to this faith that binds us to our Creator. Then the blessings of heaven flow throughout the earth. 

PONDER:  How might your faith in God allow you to be a blessing to others today?

REFLECTION or DISCUSSION

In this passage, God calls Abraham to leave everything that was familiar to him so that, through Abraham’s faith, he would be a blessing to others. 

Read Genesis 12:1-4 as a family. God asked Abraham to move to a new place. How did Abraham respond to this call? What would it be like to move away from everything that is familiar to you? In what ways did Abraham have to trust God? What are some places where you have to trust God? On a sport’s team? At school? At home? What would it look like for you to trust God in those places?
 

Friday, February 20, 2015

DAY 3 - Starting Over

Re-imagining our place in God's Plan

DAY 3 - Starting Over

Genesis 9:1 (ESV) - And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.  (READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER)

When the last gun fired the last shot of the bloody U.S. Civil War, the quietness of peace came over the land. The severe judgment of war was over, but then the questions: How can a nation be restored? Will it be possible to start over? How do we repair our souls? The work ahead was not just about putting buildings back up where now there were cinders and ashes, but about reconstructing the soul of a nation. It took decades. It took faith and courage.
When we think of the story of Noah and the flood, we most likely think of the act of salvation—where a few human beings and species of animals were preserved in a great boat through the waters of judgment. But the climax of the flood story is the period of restoration that began when the survivors of the flood heard a sober call by God: be fruitful, increase, fill. God’s first call to Noah was to build a boat of salvation, but the ultimate call was to lead people into the “fruitful” life. Not just repopulation but true restoration.
Each of us come to some point in life where we need to start over—perhaps numerous points. Restarts include coming to faith for the first time, surviving a divorce, finding a job after the discouragement of unemployment, rehab after a difficult surgery, moving to a new city. In every restart we honor God when we obey his call to be fruitful, to increase, to fill. God wants to use us to bring value into the world. That includes work for which we get paid and work for which we do not. We bring value by building communities and relationships. We bring value when we get people connected to God.
Your start-over may look daunting. But the fact that God calls us to start over tells us that we will not need to do it on our own.

PONDER:  In what ways is God asking you to start over at this point in your life? What is the next courageous thing you need to do to make that happen?

Discussion or Reflection

When God flooded the Earth, he was hitting the reset button. God was starting fresh with creation and he gave them a new starting point. In some ways, God may be asking your family to start fresh. Where might you (your family) need to hit the reset button?

Read Psalm 23:3 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11 as an individual or as a group. What are things that are life-giving for you - your family? Things that get you excited? What are things that drain you (us as a family)? Where do you (does your family) need to hit the reset button? (In the ways we talk to others / one another? In our busyness? In our lifestyle? etc.)
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day 2: CHOSEN AND SENT... to build a Barge

Called... re-imagining our place in God's Plan (Day 2)

Genesis 6:5-8 (ESV)
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
(READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER)

The twentieth century was the most violent in the history of the world. Over 100 million people were killed in two world wars. This past century gave birth to words like holocaust, genocide, terrorism, and suicide bomber. Though these terms may be new, the reality of horrific and unimaginable evil is nothing new in the millennia of human history.

Genesis 6:5–22 records that in the days of Noah the “wickedness of man was great in the earth.” Three times in verses 11 and 12, the word “corrupt” describes the state of affairs in the ancient world—rotten, full of decay and ruin. God is sorry and grieved to his heart and pronounces judgement: “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land...for I am sorry that I have made them.” End of story? Almost, but for a man named Noah, who walked with God and found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

The story of Noah and his ark is often told as a cute and quaint Bible story, but Noah’s world was full of genocide, terrorism, violence, and pure, raw evil. In the midst of it, God chooses and sends Noah to take part in God’s own redemptive purposes. He gives Noah a monumental and ridiculous task: build a floating barge the length of one and a half football fields, fill it with two of every species and enough food to feed your family and the floating zoo. In the eyes of Noah’s world this is crazy, but God promises his deep, abiding and loyal commitment, covenant, to Noah. Twice the narrative states that “Noah did all that God commanded him” (6:22, 7:5) and the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that by faith, Noah took on the monumental task.

Noah’s obedience and faith-filled feat is a stark reminder that God can and will use anyone to be part of his redemptive plans—plans of rescue and restoration. He many not always call someone to monumental, “barge-building” tasks, but he does want his people to be part of his redemptive, gospel-centered work in this fallen world.

PONDER:  WHAT STEP OF GOSPEL-CENTERED OBEDIENCE MIGHT GOD BE ASKING YOU TO TAKE TO GET INVOLVED IN THE MESSINESS AND RUIN OF THIS WORLD?

Discussion or Reflection
Noah lived during an unstable period of history. God was grieved by his creation, and he chose to use Noah as a part of his redemption story. The reason God was able to choose Noah is because Noah had proven himself faithful.

Read Genesis 6:9. Noah followed God every single day. What are some ways that you follow God? Noah saved many animals, as well as people, when he built an ark for God. What are big things God might want to trust you with?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DAY ONE - CALLED OUT OF HIDING

Genesis 3:9-10 (ESV) - But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
(READ THE WHOLE CHAPTER)

The cry of the desperate mother filled the store as she frantically searched for her lost little boy. Ben, where are you? Ben sheepishly stepped out from behind the rack of dress shirts. Crisis over. Mother relieved.
In the opening pages of the Bible God calls out—not frantically but persistently to Adam and Eve: “Where are you?” Like Ben, Adam and Eve were hiding—but unlike Ben, they were playing no game. The setting in which God calls out sounds idyllic, soothing, peaceful; he is taking a stroll in the garden in the cool of the day. Yet for Adam and Eve there was no peace as they hid among the trees—hiding their shame, their nakedness, their guilt, their sin. Yet, God calls and pursues them. He calls out: “Adam and Eve, where are you?” God is not ignorant of their whereabouts but rather, his calling out is the first picture of God pursuing fallen, sinful human beings in order to rescue and restore them.
Adam’s response to God’s gracious pursuit is fear and hiding. “I heard you in the garden. I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” This blunt confession of Adam rings true to how humanity lives even today. Why was Adam afraid? Because his true, naked, fallen self was exposed. What does he do? He tries to hide from God’s presence “among the trees.” Today, people do the same thing— hiding one’s sin, brokenness, and nakedness “among the trees”—and there is a whole forest full! The human race hides behind the trees of denial, respectability, busyness, false intimacy, status, wealth, power, alcohol, or drugs. The forest is full and it is not hard to find a tree to hide from God’s pursuit. Yet God calls— not because he doesn’t know where people are—but because in fact, he does see us. The “hound of heaven” pursues us with what John Wesley described as a “gracious pursuit with a view to recovery.” Time to come out from behind the trees. God is pursuing. No need to be afraid. God calls: Where are you?

PONDER:   DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE YOU ARE HIDING OR RUNNING FROM GOD?  WHAT DOES YOUR "TREE" OR HIDING PLACE LOOK LIKE?

Discussion OR Reflection

God allowed Adam and Eve to eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the one tree that was off limits. In that moment, sin entered the world.

Read Genesis 3:9-10 again (individually or as a family). How did Adam and Eve react when God called out to them? Why? Have you ever done something wrong that made you feel like hiding? What happened? Read 1 John 1:9. How does God respond when we mess up? How is God’s response encouraging to you?

A February ReCap

BAPTISM CELEBRATION (Feb 8)We had the opportunity to xaptize SIX kids and teens at the Rio Rancho Aquatic Center on Sunday Night, February 8.  It was a great time!  Check out the video [HERE]

SENDING OFF GRANT (Feb 14)

Grant Delahunt (our Saturday Night Cajon player) has decided to take this semester off of college... sell all that he has... buy a 1992 Volvo Station Wagon and live out of the back of it for the next three months while serving the homeless.  We had the opportunity to pray over him before he left.  AWESOME NIGHT.  Follow his journey at his blog [LINK] or Facebook [LINK]

BABY DEDICATION (Feb 15)
Lifting up a child and their family to the Lord as they choose to follow God... THAT NEVER GETS OLD!  Congrats to Dylan and Taylor Tynes and baby Gibson!

TAKING THE TURN - The Chronological Gospels

As we have been going through the Gospels from the birth of Jesus to His resurrection, we have come to the last week in the Ministry of Jesus life.  We covered John 12 and his anointing [listen online] last weekend and we move to the TRIUMPHAL ENTRY this week [READ Matthew 21-22].  It is an exciting time as we lead up to Easter and the celebration of the Resurrection!