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Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent Interlude


“So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I send it.” Isaiah 55:11 NAS

My plans post Thanksgiving weekend, after special time with family and worship community, were as usual for this time of year: to prepare for Christmas and once again try to find time to let the meaning of the season be an anchor in the usual busyness. 

My plans changed that Friday with a trip to  the emergency room followed by admittance to the hospital.

My plans for this holiday season have been completely upended by the unexpected.

And yet as I've begun to adjust to this year's reality I find myself once again seeing and hearing Christ's gift once again as brand new, with the fresh life giving joy of a new born babe.

His entrance into our darkness in whatever form that might look like.

His SO unexpected grace that defies our sinful, selfish hearts.

His promises that are eternal, merciful, life giving, and fulfilled by His birth, death, and resurrection.

His Presence and hope upending our fears.

His surrounding protection of prayer and support of family and friends and total strangers that breathe mercy and care and time and understanding.

His understanding of how much we are broken. Of His poured out life for us. 

Gift beyond measure. Grace beyond comprehension. Christ our Saviour is born.

Advent invites us to recognize the shadows and barriers we have set around God’s promises and reopen His call to pursue life under His influence. And watch our hope soar into new territory as we see His glorious ‘impossibles’ unfold.

            “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.”

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."


Blessing on this Advent. Blessings on your new beginnings ahead.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Call: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


                        Call


                        We are quick to call out

                        complaint—condemnation

                        put each other into boxes

                        good—bad, in crowd—out.


                        Grace declares

                        everyone who calls

                        on His name alone

                        shall be saved—

                        no other measure.


                        Love searches darkness
                       
                        waiting to embrace

                        accepts all voices

that respond with hope.



            

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reflection: Everyone: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     Do you believe that everyone who calls on His name will be saved? Why or why not?

2.     In what ways does that make you uncomfortable?

3.     How can our actions and speech influence other people’s perception of God and Jesus?


Share: What is the most meaningful name of God to you?



Monday, November 23, 2015

Everyone: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry

Reading: Acts 2:21

“Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Everyone.

We are so busy categorizing each other. Putting each other in boxes, including ourselves that we daily reject—sin—against the Lord’s absolute, eternal, invitation. And sometimes we know that we do.

Who calls.

A choice. His gift of free will is not overridden. He calls everyone. Not everyone responds. He alone knows whether each heart has fully answered or is still struggling with whose name to follow. As Creator He alone knows everyone most personally from the inside out.

 On the name of the Lord.

How do we speak His name with or without words? Do others see His truth, invitation, mercy, and desire to call on His name? Or do they see us giving lip service while we hold tight to our personal likes and dislikes, our self management of our own lives?

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.”  Isaiah 40:28 NAS

Lord, please build Your house into each of us, and build us into Your house, that our diversity and uniqueness honor Your gift of life and Your grace that alone saves.



Psalm of Worship: Genesis 1:21


“So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Friday, November 20, 2015

Glorious: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


                                   
                                   Glorious


Sun and moon created for light

brought into creation on fourth day

brought herald new of Messiah’s birth.


Show obedience only to God,

once again will announce events

of eternal significance.


Grasp darkness

begin battle

bring judgment and redemption.



Glorious day of Presence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reflection: Display: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reflection Questions


1.     Do you think our world today, our personal culture, and our houses of worship are in more danger of false ‘gods’ than previous believers? Why or why not?

2.     Why does a fa├žade need wisdom and honest clarity to expose?

3.     Are there seasons or situations in our lives when we are most vulnerable?

4.     How can we help to sustain an obedient, believing faith for ourselves and for each other?




            Share: What is one way you screen authentic from false worship?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Display: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry

Reading: Acts 2:20

“The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.”

Signs that the Lord alone can bring about.

Regardless of our advanced sciences or technology. Far beyond the capacity of special effects. Impossible for our most ingenious imaginations to conceive.

Impossible to be manufactured by man or imposters. His display alone. His power.

Centuries earlier God unveiled the weakness of the Egyptian gods revered and feared by multiple cultures of that era. “One by one, the Lord turned their idols of worship into symbols of disease, destruction and loathing. Plague by plague He challenged each Egyptian god. He stretched forth His hand and proved their gods false and powerless before Him, the Creator, the true source of life-giving waters.”

Scripture reminds us that our world will again be called to choose, “For a time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.”
2 Tim 4:3

Keep us, O Lord, from the allure and intimidation of false power. Open our eyes to see Your wonders every day and trust only in You.


Psalm of Worship: Genesis 1:20

“And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’”




Friday, October 16, 2015

Portents: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



                        Portents
           

Portents in the heavens

speak His words

                        earth’s ground
           
                        nature rises in obedience

                        watch, listen, discern,

                        time does not arrive

                        un-announced.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Reflections: Signs: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     Think of a personal situation that caught you completely off guard but when you began to process you began to see a pattern. What would have helped you to prepare ahead of time had you the ability to perceive or receive warnings.

2.     Even in situations when a warning could not have been given ahead, how did the Lord’s words carry you through because of previous challenges you had faced with Him?

Share: What word of hope would you give to someone who has been given a difficult “sign”?


Monday, October 12, 2015

Signs: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Acts 2:19

“And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.”

How often do we look up: literally and figuratively?

How often do we pause to recalibrate with family, friends, work, God?

How often do we ask the Spirit to search out our heart motives and winnow out any false attitudes or goals that have crept in?

How often are we caught by surprise when caught in a personal upheaval?

Scientists have learned to track hurricanes, measure earthquakes, monitor volcanoes. They give as much warning as humanly possible when danger lurks, and yet, still, too often we ignore warnings. We become so confident over the storms that fizzle out that we stop watching and listening.

The Lord does not come unannounced.

We may be too absorbed to look and listen and watch and pray; but His signs for change will be spoken, whether words of warning or words of preparation. He will speak into our lives through our bodies, our souls, and our minds.

In nature His creation speaks. We watch sunrises and sunsets, cloud formations, wind and rain, to gauge our external environment and sometimes we listen. Sometimes His word is a quiet personal one to one message, as when He sent Ananias to heal Saul’s vision. Sometimes His word is worldwide as in the flood.

The Lord does not come unannounced.

Lord, please give us eyes to see, words to share, and hearts to trust and obey.


Psalm of Worship: Genesis 1:19

“And there was evening, and there was morning, the fourth day.”


Friday, October 2, 2015

Worthy: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry

         
           Worthy

           
We measure by

age, influence,

status, riches, as to

whom we consider

approved to deserve

supplications.

Worthy measured by

awe, heart humility

Spirit’s breathe

working through

all servants

slaves and free.

Words poured out in abundance.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reflection: Bondslaves: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions


1.     Do you tend to listen to Scripture advice by some trusted friends but not by others? What marks the difference?

2.     Have you had the opportunity to share truth unexpectedly? Has it helped you to recognize Spirit nudges on other occasions?

3.     Oswald Chambers says, “You may be a mouthpiece for God’s truth; but you cannot nourish the sheep of God unless you are willing to let God use you as broken bread and poured out wine to feed His sheep.”

How does this thought connect with this week’s verse?



Share: Do you feel qualified or not to share God’s word? Why?


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bondslaves: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Acts 2:18

“Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my spirit; and they shall prophesy.”

Even upon My bondslaves…, says the NAS translation. The prophecy repeated the message with a difference, now cutting through presumed hierarchies and gender and wealth. How astonishing the words must have been originally and here again repeated by Peter, a lowly fisherman, and again today in our era where we add the popularity of “who’s who” in our public consideration of others.

Bondslaves then bound by human ownership. Bondslaves now bound by Grace—sacrificial love—redemption—Jesus.

When God’s Spirit is poured out the people will prophesy—will speak His words into situations, into lives, into hope.  Perhaps even without their knowledge or understanding.

“For as the rain and the now come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth,
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding, in the matter for which I sent it. 
                                                                     NAS Isaiah 55:10-11

When the Spirit is present no one is exempt from receiving truth. When our hearts are faithful and ready we are not exempt from being messengers of His words.

Lord, please cleanse all our speech daily, by Your Spirit’s winnowing, so that with or without our knowing we will speak Your truth regardless of seen or unseen results.


Psalm of Worship: Genesis 1:18

“To rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Visions: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


           
           Visions


            Holy Spirit poured out

            flowing like water

            over everyone, just as

            Joel prophesied

            new visions—new dreams

            fresh from God’s heart
           
            as a returning sunrise

            brings dawn into day

            so arrives this beginning.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reflections: Dreams: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



Reflection Questions



1.     Why do we need to Biblically confirm dreams and visions when they come into our lives?

2.     Do you think that sometimes we become so committed to verification that we ruin or manipulate God’s words? How?

3.     How does Paul’s example free us to recognize checks and balances without giving up?



Share: How have you received a confirmation in the past from the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Dreams: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Acts 2:17

“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

Just like the Israelites we believe in God’s prophecies and we know there are concrete stories of His revealed plans in visions and dreams. And yet often we hesitate to expect them into our everyday plans or even in quiet retreats for ourselves.

Or we do accept the dreams and visions and then promptly begin to second-guess our interpretation. The path to the vision is not the way we have chosen; it doesn’t seem to be well planned. It really doesn’t make practical sense. We are too young or too old. The cost might be too high.

We have an abundance of worrying barriers that we set up as our litmus test which too often wears us into such weariness that we give up before we even let the match light the fire. We forget that God will break through our ignorance and our misunderstandings.

At the end of his second missionary journey, after a sharp disagreement that separated Paul and Barnabus, Paul, along with Timothy, began a return trip through the towns and cities that had growing churches. However they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia and were not permitted to go to Bithynia. Can’t help but wonder if Paul questioned this sweep of barricades.

And then Paul received a vision of a man in Macedonia appealing for help. “..immediately we sought to go…concluding that God had caused us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:10 NAS

Paul didn’t worry over the closed and opened doors. He just kept moving. His heart was set solidly on going wherever God led him regardless of practicality, presumed common sense, or cost. He had learned to live actively into God’s words—His flow in His time—His vision.

Lord, help us all to see the dreams You inspire, and then, seek Your Spirit to guide us moment by moment.


Psalm of Worship: Genesis 1:17

“God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth,”

Friday, September 18, 2015

Spoken: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry



            Spoken


            Spoken words of prophecy

            so long ago proclaimed
           
            now perhaps only a dream

            never to be fulfilled

            sorrow edged thought

            stale bread today.

            No, Peter shouts. Words

            never lost or forgotten

            see, listen, understand,

            Spirit has come as promised.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Reflection: Now: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry




Reflection Questions


1.     Why do you think it is difficult for us to accept God’s promises as including us in the here and now?

2.     How does that sense of forgotten tempt us to wander away from God’s plans?

3.     Or encouraged a sense of coldness in our hearts?

4.     What word from the Lord do you need for a fresh vision now?


Share: What helps you to ask in hope and anticipation?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Now: Word Ambassadors: Prayers and Poetry


Reading: Acts 2:16

“No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:”

‘Do you remember when…’ are often words leading into stories around campfires and holidays when friends and family gather. And some reply to the proclamations as ‘that didn’t happen’, or ‘you’re imagining it.’ Or perhaps, a special circumstance is brought back from memories with a deep sigh and results in joy. Or a bit of sorrow that a dream didn’t get fulfilled.

And often we still take that same attitude into our present lives. It’s too late. That is meant for someone else—not me. I no longer care. I’ve had too many disappointments to try again. It’s just another false promise.

Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us. Our times make up a kind of atmosphere of existence; and all this is under diving arrangement. We dwell within the palm of God's handC.H. Spurgeon made this comment based on Psalm 31:15, “My times are in Thy hand”, noting that we are never apart from God and, “Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment.”


Peter reminded his audience that the words of the prophet Joel were meant for now. In their own time they were the recipients of the almost forgotten prophecies. Hear the words again he said; listen to the promise.

When John the Baptist began his ministry he reminded his listeners of Isaiah’s words, “Make ready the way of the Lord.”  Jesus began His first sermon with Isaiah’s words of prophecy, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me..”.

The promises were spoken in the past, but the time is now.

Lord, please keep us from wandering away from Your plans and visions You once ignited in our hearts and dreams. Give us clarity to recognize the ones we do need to let go of if Your Spirit  says no, but also give us courage to grasp those still ahead, and especially those we need to remember right now regardless of the atmosphere  surrounding us.


Psalm of Worship: Genesis 1:16

“God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.”



 
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