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November 2015
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January 2016

Life Matter - A Little Longer

"The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands" - Psalm 138:8.

David wrote of his confidence that the Lord would vindicate him and make everything right that had turned so wrong. Vindicate is defined as "to clear, as from an accusation, imputation, suspicion, or the like." It can be  difficult to trust the Lord to vindicate you, especially in this age when people regularly resort to the court system to gain the advantage or revenge over those who injure you. God is clear that vindication and vengeance are His duties, and not yours. In the book of Revelation, we see those who were martyred inquiring of the Lord about their vindication, and He gave them this response: "They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,were killed just as they had been" (Revelation 6:10-11). Are you tempted to seize control of the timetable for your vindication? Is God telling you to wait a little longer? Can you trust the Lord to clear you name, even if it happens after you are gone?

Today's reading - Psalms 136-140

Life Matter - God with Us

"He swore an oath to the Lord,
    he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
'I will not enter my house
    or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes
    or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the Lord,
    a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob'" - Psalm 132:2-5.

David swore an oath that he would build a house for God's presence, and that house, the Temple, has been and is the focus of Israel for the last 3,000 years! Yet David's preoccupation with a building is not God's highest priority, for God is more interested to live in His people's hearts than in a building. Today, God's people are still concerned, sometimes infatuated with "God's house," when it is only bricks-and-mortar, a functional place to house worship activities. Joseph had a dream that Mary was going to have a baby boy, and that His name was to be Jesus, and Matthew explained why that name: "'She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means 'God with us')" (Matthew 1:21-23). Does God actually live in a building, making it holy? Are you more concerned with church buildings, or God's presence in the hearts of His people, including your own? What are the implications that God is living inside you?

Today's reading - Psalm 131-135

Life Matter - Earned Joy

"The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy" - Psalm 126:3.

The Christmas story is full of joy. Joseph and Mary were joyful that they had a son. The shepherds were joyful that the angels had announced the birth to them. The angels were joyful that God's purpose was being fulfilled through the events in Bethlehem. And the Magi were joyful, for after having traveled hundreds of miles, the star led them to the exact spot where Jesus was residing: "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:9-11). Can you see that the Magi paid a price to find Jesus, and so, in a sense, they earned their joy because they responded to the star in faith, and were rewarded? What star is God showing you that you need to follow? What will it be like when you find what the star is taking you to?

Today's reading - Psalms 126-130

Life Matter - God's Favor

"Lord, do good to those who are good,
    to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
    the Lord will banish with the evildoers" - Psalm 125:4-5.

The words of the psalmist in these verses is vaguely reminiscent of the words the angels said to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests"' (Luke 2:14). The Lord's favor was on Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi, who were all upright in heart, while God relegated evil Herod to irrelevance, after he tried everything possible to destroy Jesus, who he perceived (correctly) was a rival to his throne. Part of God's favor is His guidance, and on one hand, God showed each character in the Christmas story exactly what they were supposed to do through the shepherd's angels, Caesar's decree for a census, Joseph's dreams, and the Magi's star. On the other hand, Herod rejected God's directive to worship Jesus, and instead tried to wipe Him out. Are you obeying God's guidance through the means He has chosen to use? What does God's favor on your life mean to you? Take some time to read the Christmas story in Luke 2 and Matthew 1 and 2 today, looking for examples of God's favor that you can apply to your life right now.

Today's reading - Psalms 121-125

Just in Time for Christmas

I trust you and yours have had a blessed and Merry Christmas. My family spent the day in Virginia and had a wonderful time together. Before we left to be there, I had been trying to get in touch with Pastor David Koech in Bomet, Kenya. Pastor David oversees Kenduiwo Orphanage (with 80 children) and also pastors a church in the hills above Bomet. I wanted to send David some money, but could not get in touch to let him know. Finally, I talked with him by phone and told him $1,100 was coming his way. This is the email he sent after the phone call:

Praise the Lord Pastor John,

Our God is faithful. Thanks to God for using you always to remember us even though you are far from us. Cow Money God answered prayers today. In the morning, I left my home going through Tenwek to Bomet looking for a way of shopping for my big family for Christmas. There was no door open. When you called me, we were heading back home with our small vehicle empty. Immediately I saw the strange number and I remembered you, brother. We went home happy and praising God as if our car was already full. We were excited to inform the family that we will be shopping for them tomorrow. Thanks again. We still have our 80 kids, so please continue praying for us.

Pastor David

The picture above is Pastor David and his wife Sarah last March, when we gave them money to purchase a cow for the orphanage. They are among the finest people we work with in Kenya, and are worthy of all the support we can give them.

Thank you for helping us help them. There is still time to give a year-end gift toward the work in Kenya, for the needs do not stop once the holidays are over. There are school fees, along with tummies to fill and clothes to buy all year round. Your gifts, no matter how small, make a big impact, as you can see from the email above.

You can give through my website using PayPal or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your generous help, and may God bless you with a prosperous and purposeful New Year!

Life Matter - Family Joy

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine on us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar" - Psalm 118:26-27.

This is the time of year to celebrate and rejoice, for all heaven and nature sang to announce the birth of Christ. Rejoicing was a common flavor in almost all the Old Testament feasts and holy days. Here are the Lord's directions for families when they assembled together to celebrate: "Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own" (Deuteronomy 14:26-27). Notice that God commanded them to feast, and the feast included "wine or fermented drink." The most important thing was that the people were to rejoice in families, and also remember to share their joy and provision with the priests who were serving among them. Why do you think the Lord commanded His people to feast and rejoice? Are you rejoicing and feasting with God as your focus? Are you sharing with your spiritual leaders as you celebrate? Give some thought to the necessity of joy as part of your walk with the Lord as a family, and see what else you can do this holiday season to let the good times roll.

Today's reading - Psalms 116-120

Life Matter - Seated on High

"The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
    his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
    on the heavens and the earth?" - Psalm 113:4-6.

The Lord is exalted high above all things, which means He oversees them, but does not need them. His people are also seated with Him in that lofty position, and Jesus summed up their situation and status well when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place" (John 18:36). That means God's people should be involved in politics, business and social work, but they should not take their identify or give their allegiance to any of those. Paul described the posture of God's people when he wrote, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6-7). Are you seated on high with a heavenly view of the things of earth, or are you immersed in this life to the extent that it robs you of your heavenly peace? Do you love this world so much that it waters down and affects your commitment to the Church?

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115

Life Matter - Getting and Giving Mercy

"Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he saved them from their distress" - Psalm 107:17-19.

There are times when you mess up, and then reap the consequences of your actions financially, relationally, professionally and spiritually. Those consequences can be serious, but the Lord is merciful and will listen to your cries for help, if you are not proud and choose to humble yourself to ask for forgiveness and assistance. You don't deserve His help, bu,t that's where mercy comes in, for mercy is not getting what you deserve (and grace is getting what you don't deserve). Once you have received mercy, the best thing to do is to extend that same mercy to someone else, as Jesus made clear in His parable on forgiveness: "Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (Matthew 18:32-35). Do you need to humble yourself and ask for God's mercy for something you have done? Do you need to extend mercy to someone and forgive them for what they have done to you?

Today's reading - Psalms 106-110

Life Matter - Your Thoughts

"May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the Lord" - Psalm 104:34.

The psalmist prayed that his meditation would be pleasing to the Lord. That meant that the psalmist was not only careful to give God verbal praise, but he was also mindful of his thoughts, making sure that those were pleasing to the Lord as well. You have a running dialogue all day - with yourself - and God is listening in while you talk Have you ever thought about God listening to your thoughts, and making sure that they are acceptable to the Lord? The objective is not to think one thing that is inappropriate but then say something appropriate. to cover that thought. Your goal should be that your thoughts and your speech are sources of pleasure for God. The psalmist seems to give a tip on how to keep your meditation acceptable, and that is to rejoice in the Lord, thus providing fertile ground for good meditation. Jesus showed that God is concerned with your thought life when he confronted the Pharisees: "Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things?'" (Mark 2:8). What is your thought life like? Do you even pay attention to your thoughts or realize how important they are? What can do today to maintain your joy so that your thoughts are as pure as God wants them to be?

Today's reading - Psalms 101-104

Life Matter - Part of the Group

"Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture" -Psalm 100:3.

You are a "sheep," a follower of the Lord, no matter how mature you are or how many years you have walked with Him. Notice also that the psalmist was talking about multiple sheep, which constitute a flock. This means you are part of a larger group, which of course is today known as the church. All this requires humility - the understanding that you never arrive and that you are never to be alone, for you need the gifts, insight, and opportunities for love, personal growth and generosity that are afforded you in your group setting. Therefore, you are not only to focus on your personal well-being, but also of the health of your group or church. Paul wrote most of his letters to churches and not individuals and had this to say about the church in his letter to Timothy: "Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Are you part of a church group? Do you have its best interests at heart? Do you just show up from time-to-time, or do you invest time, money and your spiritual gifts to benefit others?

Today's reading - Psalms 96-100