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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Hebrews 13:1, “Let mutual love continue.”

Often early grade teachers have said they learn a great deal of the children’s home habits in the first week of school during snack time. Some children say please and thank-you automatically. Some demand more. Some wait patiently for their turn. Some jump up and grab. Some use language that requires censure. Some bow their heads or fold their hands in anticipation of a prayer.

We all have the tendency to absorb the atmosphere around us. It’s up to us to decide whether we do it willingly or instead create a counter-balance, a determination to be different.

Over and over Jesus reminds His followers of God’s love. Again and again He exhorts His kingdom people to love one another. To exert care and witness and prayer from a center based on love.

What do I want to pass on to my circle of people? A critical spirit that seeps into their confidence, or a sense of compassion that reflects back their own worth.

Often, too often, I don’t even think. I just react. Lord, may I be so full of Your character and Your heart that I can only pass on Your love and forgiveness. Make my habits a reflection of Your qualities.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 69:36

the children of his servants shall inherit it,

and those who love his name shall live in it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.”


An acceptable worship. Levitical priests were well schooled in the forms of acceptable worship. They performed their mediation with committed precision. The offerings, the oil, the grain, the washing, the clothes: everything aligned towards reverence and awe, acknowledgment of God’s power. They trembled before the altar—hoping, praying for sin’s removal.

A burnt offering.

Questions lingered. Was it sufficient? Would God stop listening? Was it correct? Limited in reach. Liable to repetition. Then came Jesus to the altar. An acceptable worship that cannot be shaken or changed or corrupted. Crucifixion.

A consumed fire.

An acceptable worship. A heart of thanksgiving. A will set to serve. A mind focused. Welled deep in scripture. Committed to prayer and fellowship. In reverence and awe acknowledging God’s grace. Trembling before Your altar Lord, I come. Asking to be accepted as a living sacrifice.

A love kindled.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 136:26

O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


In heaven there is no question of who is in command

and the angels are free to minister wherever You call.


In heaven there is no hesitation upon demand

of need and the angels respond to each request immediately.


In heaven there is no challenge to obey and the

angels act in faithfulness to serve the Master as messenger.

On earth we quarrel over who is right

and bind ourselves in continuous dispute.


On earth we demonstrate ingenious

ways to stall and act with reluctance.


On earth we argue and second-guess

each nudge creating rifts in loyalties.


On earth we wonder why our Lord’s kingdom does not come.

Why we wait upon His promises. Why we wait for His return?


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 143:10

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.

Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Luke 21:31, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”


We all try to live by our convictions. They resonate within us—who we are—why certain choices—how we react. They are the fuel that burns within us. Without them we can shrivel, become robots, empty.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.”

What do I see, Lord? Do I see You at work in my life? In Your world? Or is my vision clouded by bias or ignorance or self-centeredness? Am I blind to Your touches of grace and mercy that soften rough edges? Without recognizing them I can become bitter, close-minded, narrow.

Your light transfuses our senses. It spreads out in rainbows, scatters in prisms, shatters in diamonds. Sear Your light into my heart and will and vision, Lord.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 36:9

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

John 3:3, Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Many animal species are born blind. They ‘see’ with their senses—smell, touch, taste. When their eyes open they see the den prepared for their birth: a cardboard box, a thicket, a cave. Curiosity draws them further. They peek around corners, peer through foliage. Sometimes receiving encouragement. Sometimes a cuff. The daring press forward, the timid retreat. As their strength gains their world expands. Their vision is enlarged. They begin to see the world through their parents’ eyes. Towards maturity.

I too am limited to my senses and my experiences. I can relate only to what I see around me—where I am--whom I’m with—in relation to me. Unless.

Miracle of birth. Born from above? A perspective completely foreign to my capabilities but given by God. Sight to see His kingdom. Vision to encompass His world. New territory to explore under His direction.

If I am willing to look through His eyes—His heart—His will. Lord, may I seek Your panorama.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 14:2

The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Luke 15:24, “‘for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.”

Newspapers eager to find different angles for their features often report how cities clean up their streets, shuffle of their homeless, and drive dignitaries pre-determined routes to hide certain areas. Relief organizations often meet bureaucracy or apathy in attempts to reach those in need.

Every country, every city has the lost and abandoned. They are on the streets, in jails, orphanages, hospitals, school and homes. Some are rejected. Some themselves reject. Families torn by war rejoice when re-united. Families torn by choice walk with sorrow.

Nameless and known. To God all sons and daughters for whom He waits. Steadfastly watching, waiting. With expectancy and hope and love. Unconditional. No questions asked. No recrimination. Open arms. Running towards us.

Eager to reclaim His own. Eager to shout. Eager to throw a party.

Near and far the sounds of joy travel. And others hear. And wonder. And marvel at Your love. And many may take their first step towards home.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 145:7-8

They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Luke 15:10, “Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Joyous choir. Sweet refrain.

A lost savior found.

Lifted voices chorus praise.


Revel hearts sing a melody.

Stray one safe.

Laud hosannas ring.


Host of Heaven celebrate

a child’s return.


Listen creation. His psalm.

Answered again.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 148:2

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Luke 15:7, “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Right living. Right attitudes. Right connections. All give us a breath of confidence and satisfaction. ‘All is right with the world’—we think.

Trials, temptations, trouble tend to lead us to frustration and despair. ‘Why me? What have I done to deserve this?’ We calibrate our worth according to the quality of our days.

Restoration comes to mind. How can I make this right and make life run smoothly? But I am still looking at surface issues. Unstable options. Outer conditions.

Turn to Me, Jesus says, and I will give you life. Right standing. A moral issue. An inside condition. Repent.

Ready to listen, I recognize I let my definition of righteousness cloud my real needs. Salvation. My walk with You, Lord. Recognition dawns. I am the sinner.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 51:12

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Acts 13: 39, “by this Jesus everyone who believes is set free from all those sins from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

Mosaic Law. A standard separate from neighboring countries. It included civil and judicial and social laws like the others, but went beyond to contain moral and religious criteria. Equal mandate.

Freedom to restore relationships between God and each other. Freedom to receive compensation. Freedom to retrieve dignity when slandered. Freedom to be righteous. Equal status.

Magnanimous provision. Minuscule details. Laws to cover every possible sin. Pre-conceived. Unintentional. Accidental. Potential. The applications went on and on and were still insufficient. Equal failure.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Equal cure.

Messiah. To set mankind truly free from outward and inward sin. Recognized and unknown. Public and private. To the Jews, the Gentiles, the rich, the poor, the slave, the free. The men, the women, the children, the outcast, He removes the weight. Equal freedom.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 81:6

“I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Found

Luke 9:11, “When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.”

He welcomed them. All of them. The curious, the hungry, the smug, the infiltrators, the sly. Welcomed them with words. True words. Not platitudes or clich├ęs or empty pledges.

Healing words. Hope filled words.

Not flung at them as a bone to a starving dog. Not in superficial tolerance for the sake of His reputation. Not as a publicity ruse.

New words. Necessary words.

Giving of His time and His care. Glad for the opportunity to share His kingdom. As a gracious host ministers to his guest’s needs; so did Jesus respond to each individual.

Grace words.

One who listens. One who cares. One who searches and soothes and saves. One who stays. Now and forevermore.

Oath words.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 107:20

he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

John 4:34, Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.”

When a newborn infant calls, everyone responds. Perhaps with stumbling steps, groggy eyes, or tentative touch, but eagerly. With joy. With delight to serve. We are theirs to command.

How quickly a few months/years change our responses as we evaluate demands according to our agendas. Wills clash. We bargain, juggle, coerce, manipulate, plead, insist.

When Jesus offers us life, we listen. Eager to hear of this gift. Grateful to relinquish the burdens our hearts hold. We respond with joy. With delight we pledge service. We commit to His authority.

How soon though Lord before I find my will rubbing against Yours? And I begin to complain. Or resist. Or outright disobey. Unwilling to see the barnacles of self and sin scraped off me. Unable to see the new maturity growing within when I do Your will.

When will I realize that Your ways develop growth. With joy. With delight. May I find the contentment of obedience, Lord.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 40: 8

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

Romans 14:7, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

For many centuries, in many nations, the code of rule included liege lords or stewards of monarchy or sultans. To these leaders the people under them brought tribute. Yearly supplies of food. Animals. Men when necessary to build or to fight. In return they received protection, justice, a measure of peace. A fair trade under honest leaders. A harsh existence under cruelty.

Supply and demand.

“For all the people to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” His kingdom over stretches all the earth over all the centuries over all that exists. He comes deserving everything we can garner. He comes with outstretched hands. But not to take—rather to give. Not a meager existence measured by whims of men and nature, but a richness of life immeasurable in content.

Supplication and deliverance.

For the asking. For a turning from the world’s methods to God’s. For simple words. Spoken in faith and trust and hope.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 116:18

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

Matthew 21: 31, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Compliance with the law is expected from all citizens. Prompt adherence to command is expected within all protection services: police, fire, military, medical. Parents consistently expect obedience from children. These boundaries protect us from anarchy, confusion, and chaos.

Submission.

Control is preferable.We choose when. We decide what. We create our plans.

Substitution.

Confident in status, confident in prestige, incredulous priests heard Jesus say tax collectors and prostitutes had priority. Those with no credits. Those with no credentials. Except one. Belief. “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Simplicity.

Cast my will into Yours, Lord. Crush any part that desires an alternative of no substance. Help me to choose Your way.

Sacrifice.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 116:17

I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

Luke 18:14, “I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Over and over again the people questioned John the Baptist. “Are you the One?” Their numbers grew—disciples followed—religious leaders came. A heady experience. An explosion of mission. An opportunity for status.

“There is One to come greater,” John replied. “Whose sandals I am not worthy to carry.”

Offering proof of merit, however, the Pharisee prayed a litany of “at least I am not…”. As a precaution against what he was? As a protection of his position? Pompous. Prideful. So bound by his own righteousness. So dishonest even in prayer.

The tax collector would not even lift his eyes. Could not face his God. Could plead only for mercy.

Over and over again I attempt to justify my errors by listing my successes. Or to bolster my failures with smugness at another’s faults. And am glad at least I am not a Pharisee.

Teach me Lord, true humility. The kind that does not recognize itself because there are eyes for no one else except You.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 119:15

I will meditate on your precepts,

and fix my eyes on your ways.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

Matthew 18:23, “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.”

Closed doors. Endings. Completed work. Often we need to finalize projects before we begin anew. Consider our accomplishments, resources, status before the next commitment.

Taxes each year. Spring housecleaning. Job reviews. Monthly bills. Oil changes. All maintenance designed to keep our many responsibilities on track. Helpful inventories to give our juggled schedules checks and balances. We settle our accounts.

Communion. Our spiritual check. Where we have the opportunity to search our hearts and be searched. To root out the bias that is growing. To re-evaluate our choices. To re-establish our priorities.

Together we stand before our King. Yet one by one He evaluates our circumstances. Am I pleading for mercy but holding a hardened heart? Am I seeking forgiveness while harboring bitterness or envy? Am I praying with habitual disbelief?

Cleansed, forgiven, restored are the acts of this gift of sacrament. If I am willing to come to the table honestly.

Thank you, Lord, that You wish to settle accounts with me. Thank you for Your thresholds.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 25:12-13

Who are they that fear the Lord?

He will teach them the way that they should choose,

They will abide in prosperity,

and their children shall possess the land.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

Matthew 18:4, Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


From a humble home so it

seemed this tiny babe born. So

poor a manger his bed.

Inheritance but servitude.


Yet a kingdom of glory left he behind. Grandeur

beyond belief.

Set aside for love.


Far from country journeyed they

men of wealth. Credentials great,

influence vast. Knowledge unsurpassed by

peers. Power.


Yet to this infant came these three to kneel. Bringing

tribute. Their homage

set aside for worship.


First position a place we all seek.

For accolades and self-esteem.

Boast of success, brag of

diligence. Ownership.


Yet He praises this child. Become so. Welcome such

a heart. Precious life.

Set aside for Me.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 101:6

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,

so that they may live with me;

whoever walks in the way that is blameless

shall minister to me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kingdom Manna

Grace

Mark 10:14, But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them; “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

His own disciples saw the children as an intrusion. They rebuked the parents for bothering Jesus. His time, His person, was too important to deal with those too young to comprehend His teaching.

Encroachment.

Even parents and teachers often dismiss spiritual questions as just curiosity and either ignore or talk down answers. ‘When you’re older—you’ll understand,’ we say. Except maybe it’s we who don’t understand.

His truth penetrates all ages. The children hear clearly, respond honestly, question often. They participate in the relationship without guile, without guilt. Moment by moment.

Expectancy.

Everyday Lord, help me to come to You with a child’s heart, open to new experiences. Willing to live an adventure. Learning to live in Your kingdom. Willing to be taught. Wide-eyed with wonder.


Psalm of Worship: Psalm 78:4

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

 
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