Tuesday, May 31, 2016

EXPLORE IT! - Psalm 63

The introduction to Psalm 63 says that this is a psalm of David written when he was in the Desert of Judea.

He writes:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

This was a difficult time in David’s life. He was on the run from Saul who was out to kill him over his own jealousy of David’s success.

And so David fled to the desert for safety. But the desert is a dangerous place on its own. There’s snakes and scorpions… and of course, there’s no food or water.

So where did David go to survive?

The scripture says that David went to a place in the Desert of Judea called En Gedi.

The area of En Gedi is one of the most beautiful places in all of Palestine. It has many trees, and waterfalls, and pools, and caves… and hyraxes (Google them, they’re cute). And this is where King David and his men hid when they were being pursued by Saul.

En Gedi is an Oasis in the desert, fed my many springs the bubble up out of the ground. And the water from these springs is pure – it’s referred to as “living water.”

“Living water” is also the way in which God refers to himself. He tells his people to come to Him, the spring of living water, and he will also make springs of living water flow out of them. You see, he wants us to share the life and hope that he’s given to us with others.

In Jeremiah, God accuses his people of abandoning Him, the spring of living water, and exchanged him for cisterns – pits in the ground that held muddy water and that didn’t hold that water very well at times, letting it lea out. And Jeremiah says how foolish to exchange the God of En Gedi, the God of the oasis in the desert, for the god of the muddy leaky pit in the ground. He says that the names of those who forsake the spring of living water will be written in the desert dust. And like the desert dust, the hot wind will blow them away.

Because what else do you have in the desert if you give up the oasis? You have nothing but dust.

And so when David wrote Psalm 63, he was in the desert, both figuratively as he was on the run from Saul, as well as literally. And David learns that in the desert, he has nothing. He has absolutely nothing going for him but God. And he learns to rely of God for everything. He learns to thirst for God in the painful desert of his life. Because without God, what else does he have?

Monday, May 30, 2016

READ IT! - Thirst Things First (week 1)

In the Psalms, David says that God satisfies him like eating a good meal satisfies his appetite. He also says that he thirsts for God. Is that how God is to you? Does God satisfy your thirst? Think about that as you read these passages.

From the Torah: Exodus 17:1-8
From the Former Prophets: Judges 15:1-20
From the Latter Prophets: Ezekiel 47:1-12
From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry: Psalm 63:1-11
From the Late Books: Nehemiah 9:9-21
From the Gospels: Matthew 5:1-12
From the Epistles/Revelation: Revelation 22:1-21

From the Torah

The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-8

From the Former Prophets

Later on, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson took a young goat and went to visit his wife. He said, “I’m going to my wife’s room.” But her father would not let him go in.

“I was so sure you hated her,” he said, “that I gave her to your companion. Isn’t her younger sister more attractive? Take her instead.”

Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.

When the Philistines asked, “Who did this?” they were told, “Samson, the Timnite’s son-in-law, because his wife was given to his companion.”

So the Philistines went up and burned her and her father to death. Samson said to them, “Since you’ve acted like this, I swear that I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.” He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them.

Then he went down and stayed in a cave in the rock of Etam.

The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?”

“We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.”

Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?”

He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.”

They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.”

Samson said, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves.”

“Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. 

The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

Then Samson said,

“With a donkey’s jawbone
    I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
    I have killed a thousand men.”

When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi.

Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi.

Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Judges 15:1-20

From The Latter Prophets

The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side.

As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and then led me through water that was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep. He measured off another thousand and led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, but now it was a river that I could not cross, because the water had risen and was deep enough to swim in—a river that no one could cross. He asked me, “Son of man, do you see this?”

Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.”

Ezekiel 47:1-12

From the Books of Wisdom and Poetry

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.

But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Psalm 63:1-11

From the Late Books

“You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. You sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

“You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

“But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and they did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies.

“Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

Nehemiah 9:9-21

From the Gospels

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

From the Epistle/Revelation

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” 

Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

Revelation 22:1-21

Saturday, May 28, 2016

HOPE! - What is Tithing to Me?

What is tithing to me?

To be honest it’s not something I think about all that often. Both of my parents are Nazarene pastors, and growing up they taught me to tithe. They taught me to give 10% of all money I received to the Church. Whether I earned that money by working or received that money as a gift in a birthday card, I always tithed 10% of that money to the Church.

I may be unusual, but this was never a struggle for me. And it’s not because I’ve always been some guy who had more money than he knew what to do with. Most of my life so far has been spent living under the poverty line. When I was a kid, my dad would only get one meal a day, and that meal was a free lunch that the daycare he worked for provided for him. He didn’t eat the rest of the time. He went without to make sure that his family had enough. But it was just enough. And at the same time my parents worked as volunteer children’s’ pastors, and they always tithed (often more than 10%) to the Church. Even when it hurt. And so sacrificial giving was modeled to me from an early age. That’s why tithing isn’t a struggle for me today – because of my parents’ example.

Now did I ever wonder if I could find better ways to spend my money than the church could?


But the thing is – it was never really my money to begin with. Everything belongs to God.

Now could the different churches I’ve belonged to done a better job at allocating how the money they received through tithes and offerings was used?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Would I be better off keeping that money?

Certainly not.

Why do I say this?

Because money has a way of getting the better of you if you let it. Again, I’m probably an odd-ball this way, but I’ve never had a desire for money in and of itself. I’ve never wanted to be rich. I’m far more interested in the artwork on these green pieces of paper than I am in the green paper itself. I’ve always had a subtle hatred of money throughout my life. Maybe I’m weird that way. But I think a lot of it has to do with what I’ve seen happen to people who ended up loving money more than they loved God. I’ve seen people lose their homes. I’ve seen it split up families. I’ve seen it used over and over as way of promoting prejudices and even racism.

So, Pastor Daniel, why do you think money is bad?

I actually don’t think it’s bad at all. It’s just something I don’t care that much about. I understand the importance of money. I know that it’s necessary. Even referring to money as a “necessary evil” seems somewhat extreme to me, because I don’t see money as being evil. Like all parts of creation, it can be used for evil if we choose to worship the creation instead of the Creator.

Which brings me back to – it’s all God’s stuff anyway.

I need to trust him with everything. Not just 10% either. But all of it. Not just money. But my entire life. My entire self. It’s a trust issue.

If I ask, “Can I spend my money better than the church?” then I’m really missing the point… because it isn’t my money – it’s God’s. it isn’t my life – it’s God’s. And we know that God has proved himself over and over again to be both a generous and faithful God to us. We know that he will never leave us or forsake us. And if I can’t trust God with the money he let me borrow, how can I trust him with other things that aren’t so temporary – like my soul?

It’s all about trust. Tithing has not been an issue for me. But I do struggle with trusting God with all of myself. We all do. We are often like Peter, when Jesus asks us to do something, we ask, "Well, what about those other people? What are they doing?"

And like Jesus says to Peter, he says to us, "What about him? You follow me."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Living on Mission – The Tenth

Living on Mission – The Tenth

Many things about living missionally go against cultural norms and are sometimes even illogical when looked at through the lens of this world. Jesus teaches us that giving away our life is how we actually find it. He says to pray for those who persecute us, and that forgiving others is what opens the door for our forgiveness. Here’s another one – give a tenth of your income back to God.

Honestly, I’m learning to just go with it. When He says to do something, I need to just do it. I’m learning that His ways are not my ways, and His wisdom is way beyond anything I can understand. So, I’m learning to trust Him in everything.

I’m learning to trust Him with the tithe, too. When we think about it, the truth is that everything we have has come from Him. We like to think that we control our lives, but we don’t. He provides everything – down to each breath we take. When we embrace the fact that He gives us everything, we can learn to look at everything with a radically different view. We don’t feel the need to hang on to every penny when we truly know He is the one who supplies all we need. Our “things” lose value when compared to what really matters – loving God and loving people. When we live according to His ways, we begin to be transformed into the likeness of our generous Lord, so we may find ourselves giving more than a tenth back to Him. We might just come to the realization that it’s all His after all.

Let’s practice Living on Mission and give everything back to the One who supplies it all.

Pastor Angela