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Life Matter - Craziness

"How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?" - Psalm 137:4.

A few of the psalms were composed while the author was in exile in Babylon during the sixth century B.C. In today's verse, the author was asking how he could be creative when the situation in his life and nation were so painfully chaotic. Yet, he was being creative as he wrote Psalm 137, even though the conditions were not ideal. Sometimes you can use the craziness in or around your life as a legitimate excuse not to produce or create; at other times, you can actually create the craziness as a cover for the fear that you will not be able to create. Rather than face failure, you will create a situation that prevents you from even starting. There was a man who told Jesus that he wanted to follow Him, but first had to go home and wait for his father to die (which could have taken decades). Here is Jesus' response: "Another disciple said to him, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father. 'But Jesus told him, 'Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead'" (Matthew 8:21-22). Jesus was saying to stop looking for excuses and follow through? Where are conditions preventing you from being productive or creative? Did you create that situation as an escape from responsibility? Can you still be creative even if you are in a tough spot if you stop making excuses?

Today's reading - Psalms 136-140


Life Matter - Dangers of Idolatry

"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    nor is there breath in their mouths.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them. - Psalm 135:15-18.

One of the many problems with idolatry is that it dehumanizes the worshiper. According to today's passage, those who worship idols become like those idols. They cannot speak, see or hear spiritual things apart from those that idolatry imparts to them. Idols can be either external or internal, physical or mental, animate or inanimate. Paul wrote to the Corinthians and advised them how to deal with idolatry: "What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate,' says the Lord. 'Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you'" (2 Corinthians 6:15-17). Check your heart to see if anything or anyone has taken a place in your life that is hindering your walk with the Lord and your ability to comprehend your true spirituality in Christ.

Today's reading - Psalms 131-135


Life Matter - Restoration

"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them'" - Psalm 126:1-2.

A few of the psalms were written in the sixth century B.C., and all of them were edited and took the shape we know today, when Israel was in exile in Babylon. They were pining away in a foreign land for their beloved Jerusalem and all that it represented. Then the Lord began to bring them back and it was almost too good to be true, but it was. You may have lost something, either through your own misdeeds or an act of God that defies explanation. Today's passage reminds you that when the Lord restores what you lost, it will be a joyous and happy occasion. God is truly a God of restoration, as was also pointed out in Joel 2:25-26: “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed." Do you need to be reminded today that your God is a God of restoration? Can you maintain hope that what you have lost can and will be restored? Can you thank God today for your restoration before you see it?

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130


Life Matter - God Over Nature

"Our help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth" - Psalm 124:8.

The psalmists repeatedly referred back to God's natural acts of creation to describe and frame God's majesty and power. Thus, they regularly mention the Flood, the Genesis story and the parting of the Red Sea as Israel left Egypt as examples of God's ability to help His people regardless of how daunting the circumstances seemed to be. Perhaps that is why Jesus on several occasions had encounters with nature that proved His divinity and His authority over the forces of nature that were overwhelming to the disciples, but were well within Jesus' power to control, as told in John 6:16-21: "When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened.But he said to them, 'It is I; don’t be afraid.' Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." Are you afraid of the forces aligned against you? Do you need a reminder of God's power over your situation that seems out of control? Do you need to call on the God of the storm to get into your boat today?

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125


Life Matter - Simple Things

"Praise the Lord, all you nations;
    extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.

Praise the Lord" - Psalm 117:1-2.

 

Today's two verses are the only verses in the entire psalm, making it the shortest psalm of all 150. It is not particularly profound, nor does it reveal some truth that cannot be found someplace else. Yet, it has a place in the inspired words of God, indicating God's approval and priority. How often have you not said or done something because it seemed so obvious or simple? You kept your words or idea to yourself because you did not want to come off as simple, shallow or even stupid. Today's psalm gives you a model to follow that no matter how something seems to you, it may have value to other people and to God! What's more, these verses summarize a simple yet appropriate behavior that is acceptable in every and any season - and that is the praise of the Lord your God because of His great love. Have you been too quiet because you have been judging either your unspoken words or undone acts of kindness or service? How can you become less critical of your own righteous impulses, no matter how simple they may be? Can you praise the Lord today for who He is and His great love, even if you are in a difficult place?

 

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120


Life Matter - Don't Grow Weary

"The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the Lord—
    small and great alike" - Psalm 115:12-13.

The Lord never forgets what you did for Him or for His people. It may seem like He has forgotten, but He has a sharp pencil and a big book and He writes everything down and in time repays and rewards. Paul wrote it best when he advised the Galatians: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers" (Galatians 6:7-10). Have you grown tired of sowing? Does it seem like God has forgotten your good deeds? Where do you need to renew your hope in giving or serving, and that God is watching and will not forget your cause or your faithfulness?

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115


Life Matter - Grumbling

"Then they despised the pleasant land;
    they did not believe his promise.
They grumbled in their tents
    and did not obey the Lord" - Psalm 106:24-25.

The Israelites were a nasty, unruly lot as they left Egypt and made their way to the Promised Land. Even though God had showed Himself strong on their behalf and parted the Red Sea, they were obstinate and gave Moses a hard time and angered the Lord. One of the behaviors that characterized them during their Wilderness experience was grumbling, which is a form of complaining about their lives, conditions and provisions. They did this grumbling in their family tents, thus contaminating one another, creating a downward negative spiral that led them to disobedience and rebellion. Paul addressed the practice of grumbling in one of his epistles: "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky" (Philippians 2:14-15). Have fallen into the habit of grumbling? Do you complain about your life situation or the particulars therein? Do you gripe at home with loved ones, thus poisoning their perspective and teaching them to do likewise? Do you see the benefit of being positive and not dwelling on or rehearsing the negative?

Today's reading - Psalms 106-110


Life Matter - God is Ordering Your Steps

"He called down famine on the land
    and destroyed all their supplies of food;
and he sent a man before them—
    Joseph, sold as a slave" - Psalm 105:16-17.

When it is said that God rules in the affairs of men, the story of Joseph is a classic example of that truth. In these verses, the psalmist gives his view of that historical event and God's role in it. First, God created and used a famine to get people moving where He wanted them to be - specifically Joseph to Egypt, followed later by his family. God then sent Joseph, his father's favorite, to Egypt. Joseph was not sent as an emissary, however, but as a slave, betrayed and sold by his brothers. Why would God do something that seems so difficult and harsh? Perhaps because there is no way Joseph or his family ever would have gone to Egypt without the "help" of some circumstances that guided their every step, even though they were not conscious of God's guiding hand. Later, Joseph was able to summarize his life experience by saying to his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20). Can you trust God that He is ordering your steps to get you where He wants you to be, regardless of whether or not He has explained or you understand right now? Can you trust that God is using the circumstances in your life to prepare you for His purpose?

Today's reading - Psalms 101-105


Books, but No Shelves

Next weekend, August 29 and 30, is a big weekend for our work in Kenya. On Saturday at 1 PM, we have our annual Harambee luncheon at Bistro to Go at 415 East Ohio Street. Come on out and meet the Kenya team and hear what our plans are for the coming months (you can download more information posted at the end of this post). Then that evening we have our outing at PNC Park for the Pirates vs. Rockies. There are two tickets left if you are interested. Then next Sunday at 12:30 at ACAC is the first informational meeting for next year's trip from February 25-March 11. I hope to see you at one or all of these events, for the needs are great as you can read in Pastor Peter's latest update:

Dear Dr. John,

The holiday is going on well and as the WAPIS team and all our volunteers are busy with all the kids PeterCharityPicwho are coming in our libraries.This places have become a place of hope and transformation to many kids who had no space of study and talent formation.The impact of this is reflected in the end of the term results. Those directly sponsored by the PurposeQuest team have made us proud and Charity (pictured here) is a good example. Charity had a mean grade of B+ missing some few points from getting an A, which she is working toward, John had a C+, Mary had  a C, and our youngest KawaidaBoxesFelix has made great progress in his special speech development class after he suffered from meningitis. Kawaida School is well but they don't have shelves to store the books we donated (see left). If they can get resources to put some, then the books will last long.

We give God all the glory and thank all our partners for their unwavering support. May God bless you abundantly - Pastor Peter.

The school has the books, but no place to put them! We will gladly build the shelves once we have the Red Donate Buttonmoney. Will you help? You can give toward this library project through my website or by sending a tax-deductible contribution to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.  Thank you, and please let me see your face or hear from you next weekend!

Download Harambee Card


Life Matter - Hearing God's Voice

"Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the Lord and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them" - Psalm 99:6-7.

Moses, Aaron and Samuel called on the Lord and He answered them. God is always answering, but we are not always listening. When we hear, we sometimes mistake His voice for something or someone else. Take for example the story in John 12 when Jesus said, "Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:29b). In response to Jesus' prayer, this is what happened: "Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.' The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, 'This voice was for your benefit, not mine'" (John 12:30). The people who heard the voice did not recognize it because they were not really expecting to hear His voice. Therefore, if you say, "If only God would speak to me" about this or that, there is no guarantee you will hear God's answer unless you really want to hear it! Where are you having trouble hearing God's voice because of your inner turmoil or doubt? Do you really expect to hear? Are you tuning all your attention to hear, or are you holding back?

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100