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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Luke 17:21, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There is it!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.

Quickly we follow the magician’s movements, eager to catch his secrets. As the object vanishes we are sure we know the hiding place. There. A groan. He has successfully masked the signs.

Diligently Israel watched through the centuries, eager to discern Messiah’s time. With study and prayer and scripture, leaders and people together knew the signposts. Now. A sigh. God’s silence weighed heavily.

Quietly Jesus moved among them, eager to share God’s love. Visible representation of all the promises. Here! A call. Unrecognized, unnoticed, He did not fit their symbols.

Daily I look to discover God’s counsel, eager to prepare my day. With schedule and plans and projects, I present a litany. Stop. A pause. Whose signals have I followed?

Lord, You do not hide Yourself. You disclose Yourself in stars and seas and seasons. And although I trust and depend on Your physical realm, I forget to follow Your spiritual guideposts. And I try to make my own magic. Instead may I recognize Your kingdom.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 145:13

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Matthew 4:17, From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

“Detour Ahead.” The sign looms large interrupting our journey home. We groan and join in the snail-paced line curving away from the main route. No explanations. No idea for how long. And, as we crane our necks, no indication that anything is amiss.

Secure in our plans, succinct in our purposes we forge through our days and months. Alternately content or stoic we drive steadily, unless we hit a bump or experience a flat—or are told to repent.

Doesn’t that sound a little strange? Or Harsh? Repent! Repent from what? We simply live our lives as best we can, as good citizens and caring families.

“Storm eroded highway,” we discover later. The familiar stretch of roadway hid a loosened sinkhole. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that lead to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that lead to life, and there are few who find it.”

Dissolve my reluctance to repent, Lord. Direct me to watch Your warnings. To turn away from my ways to travel my roads and instead to follow Your path.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 85:8

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people,

to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Mark 1:15, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

“Believe in the good news.” Why do we need to be encouraged to believe? Why do we find good news difficult to accept? Frequently it seems, the good news is for others only. We hear the summons with a jaded ear.

Jesus’ listeners paid attention. At first. When they thought He meant Messiah’s arrival. At least, their version of Messiah. A conqueror who would put Rome to flight. Restore their nation. Replenish their storehouses. Recompense their suffering.

But they could not see past the work-worn hands, the simple dress. The good news was unrecognized in a poor carpenter from Galilee. Messiah proclaimed as royalty would truly be believable.

Just as I expect good news to mean instant answers to my prayers, relief for sorrows around me, release from needs. I don’t always realize Your quiet working Lord through all these situations; strengthening faith, softening hearts, serving. I am looking for my own version.

Build in me, I pray, ears to hear and eyes to see and a voice to share Your kingdom. To believe now.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 27:13

I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Matthew 13: 45-46, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Choices besiege us daily. Advertisers bombard our senses. Like bees in a hive they buzz. What to eat, to drink, to wear. But, still, we are grateful we can make our own choices, for the freedom to decide.

Time to deliberate. Time to spend. Twenty-four hours a day to choose. Gift of time. How to act, to work, to live. Freedom to barter our goods or cherish our belongings. Freedom to squander our talents or pursue professions. Freedom to follow or not.

Cross at the center.

Two-edged sword cutting across our decisions, calling us deeper. Away from the hum and clatter to a quiet center. Gift of repose. To talk, to laugh, to pour out our hearts. To be still.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus invites. And then waits for our answer. Freedom to choose.

Lord, You offer me pearls, the riches of Your inheritance, the promise of kinship, the treasure of a lifetime. But too often I am distracted by the baubles and glitter that fade. Help me to recognize true wealth. And choose Your ways.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 105:3-4

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Tales of adventure. Tales of mystery. Tales of treasure marked by an X. They captivate our childhood. Empty the pockets of a six-year-old, the hidden box of a twelve-year-old, the journal of a young adult. All treasure.

What is our treasure? Where is it? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” For what does my heart yearn. For what am I willing to give everything away. For what do I covet with joy.

Too often, Lord, it is the value of tangibles. Life, health, relationships, wealth, vocation, prestige. All fragile.

When will I seek Your treasure? Treasure that does not rust or decay or die. “Seek ye my face”, the psalmist prays. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I think it’s the word strive that stops me. It sounds difficult. And yet I would gladly pour all my muscle into digging up the X. Maybe that’s the difference. Concentrated effort for a short duration or commitment for a lifetime. But the reward is Your heritage.

Teach me Your values, Lord. Take my heart. Turn it toward Your treasures hidden in relationship with You. All eternity.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 16:11

You show me the path of life.

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

in your right hand are pleasure forevermore.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Mark 10:25, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Wisdom, worthiness, now wealth. None open the door to God’s kingdom. Wondering disciples question who, then, can be saved? What qualifications are yet obtainable? Who can turn the key? No man.

But the illusion weaves on through rich gains. Build. Build bigger. Build better. Boast. Blinded by silver, by gold, by name.

Worlds of splendor Satan bartered with Jesus. All the kingdoms of the world are yours if you worship me. As if he owned God’s own creation to give. Assuming a status based on accumulation. Jesus replied, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Satan left.

But what is impossible for man is possible with God. Bearer of hope, of mercy, of grace. Bearer of salvation.

Will I ever let go of my measures, Lord? Each time You plump my nest or praise my work I preen with pride. I forget Your call to be a faithful steward. To serve the people You bring into my life. To cater to needs through possessions instead of hoarding barns.

But then Lord, You startle me with outrageous potentials. Multiplying fish and bread. Walking on water. Nudging camels through needles. Crack open the door to Your kingdom. And true riches.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 118:20

This is the gate of the Lord; the

righteous shall enter through it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Matthew 5:20, For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Perfection. A goal we all reach for in different ways. Some paragons drive themselves and those around them to distraction in their search. Some display extreme patience and understanding with errors and mishaps, except in one special section of talent or gift or service when nothing less than excellence will be accepted. And there not the smallest detail escapes notice.

Artists often sigh at the end of a work because the vision that impulsed the idea could not be fully caught.

We strain. We stretch. We strive.

Pharisees and scribes purposed to keep the Law, to live holy lives, to maintain righteousness. As keepers and teachers of God’s words they knew His many promises to all who would be righteous. And they added codicils to the commandments to give themselves and Israel clearer boundaries.

To reach God’s standards. To be worthy of so great a love, so great a trust.

White washed tombs, Jesus said.

Perfection gone astray. The plan replaced the purpose. “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Wrap me up in Your righteous robes, Lord. Forgive me for looking for any excellence apart from You. Cover my heart.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 132:9

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,

and let your faithful shout for joy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Luke 17:20, Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed;”

“Sunshine expected early this afternoon. Warm weather inland.” In other words, bring an umbrella, we mock at the announcer. Despite scrupulous efforts to determine weather patterns, everyone has experienced so many opposite predictions that we often listen with a jaded ear.

Unless we are tracking with the scientists the paths of possible hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves or floods. Then we are relieved when the expected onslaughts dissipate. We listen with a joyous heart.

Stargazers study the heavens for comets, for nebulae, for galaxies. Seasons dictate seed plants and harvests worldwide. Seamen navigate by stars when modern technology fails. “And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,..”.

Observable things given by God as gifts, bringing varying degrees of order to our lives, offering stability in repetition.

Unlike God’s kingdom. Coming unexpected, coming in clouds, coming like a thief in the night.

So we’ll stay alert, watchful, Lord? Ready to receive changes with courage. Ready to hear Your whisper in the midst of storms. Stretch my heart beyond observation, beyond expectations, beyond stability. Stretch my heart to watch for You.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 34:15

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,

and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him, and be radiant; so your

faces shall never be ashamed.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kingdom Manna


Matthew 18: 3, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The dedicated docent rambled on through the details, emphasizing safety for the giant elephant seals and for us as we prepared to navigate their domain. Sun sparkled sand caught my shy two and a half year olds attention and he kneeled to sift it through tiny fingers. The docent paused mid-sentence. “Amen” my son whispered. “Amen!” he stated emphatically as the narration continued.

Throughout the two hour tour he silently rode his father’s shoulders, eyes dark with wonder. Then as the docent began his summary, “Yes! Jesus loves me” burst from my son’s lips. Startled, we smothered our laughter and moved as far to the back edge as possible. Shh, I touched my finger to his mouth. He reached over, patted me on the cheek, and sang even louder.

That evening we walked out to see the stars in the coastal sky. Astonishment rippled throughout his entire body. My son threw back his head and opened wide his arms.

“I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” Jesus said.

Too many times I have walked through Your domain Lord with a silent heart and blind eyes to the beauty surrounding me. Instead I swat at mosquitoes, moan at muscle aches, mutter at stumblings. Instead of worshipping You, of awe at Your creation, of wonder at Your details. Expand my sight Lord, to look for You and see You with a child’s eyes.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 119:37

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;

give me life in your eyes.

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