Names of God – July 3

Text: Luke 15.11-32 (Read it here)July3

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

(Luke 15.31-32, NIV)

Abba
Author: Rob Anderson

Father

Dad

Pops

Old Man

Parent

Parental Unit

Papa

Padre

Pa

Pappy

There are a lot of ways my children can address me. Some of the names are more reverent than others, but all of the above and more fit. I will be honest, however, there is one that gets my attention more than others.

Garrison Keillor once said:

The father of a daughter is nothing but a high-class hostage. A father turns a stony face to his sons, berates them, shakes his antlers, paws the ground, snorts, runs them off into the underbrush, but when his daughter puts her arm over his shoulder and says, ‘Daddy, I need to ask you something,’ he is a pat of butter in a hot frying pan.

It’s true. My daughter can simply say “Daddy” and my whole outlook changes. My daughter has interrupted me during more than one meeting, yet there has never been a time when the meeting was more important than what she had to say.

When Jesus came to earth, rather than avoiding saying the name of Jesus, which was customary in his day, he spoke of a relationship with his father that fit more with a “daddy” than “your most holy highness.” That’s not to say that Jesus did not respect his father or that his father was not worthy of all honor, glory, and praise (See Revelation 4.11, for example). That is also not to say that our relationship with God should be taken lightly. However, our Father in heaven, much like the father of the story of the prodigal son, is a God who longs for us to come to him and know him.

He is not distant from us. No, he is looking for us to run to him, arms outstretched, calling his name.

See also: Matthew 5.43-48; John 10.25-30

Questions:

How do you think you would have reacted to the “prodigal son” had you been his father? Was there anything in this story that might have caused you to see him in a favorable light?

How did the older son misunderstand his father? In what ways have you found yourself acting in similar ways to this son?

In what ways have you found God to be a loving, caring Father? How have the moments come about and have you always felt this way about God? How can you share this understanding of God with others, to that they too will have a good awareness of his nature?

Names of God – July 2

Text: Judges 6.1-24 (Read it here)July2

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.

(Judges 6.24, NIV)

Jehovah-Shalom
Author: Rob Anderson

If you have a child, it is a scene you are probably all too familiar with. It is late at night and one of those spring thunderstorms blows through. The lightning strobes through the windows and if it does not wake the child, the boom that follows closely behind certainly does. In seconds, that child is not longer in their own bed, but buried deep within yours, seeking out some sort of comfort … some feeling of peace.

If you are an adult, you may also understand that need for peace. Perhaps it is in the storms, literally. We know all too well the ability of nature to create catastrophic results. At times it may be difficult to be that calm, assuring presence when inside, you too are frightened by the potential outcome.

The storms may also be figurative. The bills need to be paid; yet you always seem to have just a little more month than you do money. You love what you do, but there is instability at your job. Layoffs are imminent, so they say. You have tried to raise your children in a way that will glorify God, but the choices they currently make do not align with that upbringing. Your heart is heavy as you see them walk a path they do not need to be on. Your parents can no longer take care of themselves alone and while you do not hesitate to provide the care they need, some days your desire is to crawl down deep in that bed where the reassuring voice insists, “Everything is going to be all right.”

In the midst of a world that seems to provide more chaos than calm, do not forget that God created this world to be a world of peace. In the Old Testament, the word shalom means peace, but it means much more than just an absence of fighting. It means a world that is exactly as it should be, everything fulfilling their created order. (See Genesis 2 and the peace of the garden for a great example.)

Just like Gideon built an altar to commemorate the fact that God was a God of peace, you too pause and remember the peace that can only come from God, even when the storms rage around you.

See also: Numbers 6.22-27; Psalm 122

Questions:

How do you think you would have answered Gideon’s question found in Judges 6.13? How do you try to answer that question when you are faced with similar circumstances today? How do you remember that the power of God is greater than the struggles of life?

In what ways have you seen God use the “weakest” and the “least” to do what God needed to have done?

In what ways have you found peace from your relationship with God? How can you share that sense of peace with others?

Vacation – June 30

Text: Revelation 6.1-8.1 (Read it here)20160630

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

(Revelation 7.11-12, NIV)

Silence
Author: Rob Anderson

It doesn’t end quite like you would expect it to, does it?

In Revelation 6, the Lamb begins to open the seven seals of the scroll found in heaven.

After the first seal is opened, there is a voice like thunder and a white horse rides out, bent on conquest.

After the second seal, a red, fiery horse, with a rider who has a large sword, having the power to make people on earth kill each other.

After the third seal, a rider is on a black horse with a pair of scales.

After the fourth seal is broken, a rider on a pale horse named “Death” comes, one which had the power to “kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”

After the fifth seal, the souls of those who had been slain call out in a loud voice: “How long?”

After the sixth seal is broken, there is a great earthquake. The sun turns black and the moon blood read.

So what would one expect as a climax after the seventh and final seal is opened?

My assumption would be that complete chaos would break loose after this last seal is broken. There has been a buildup of events, leading up to the culmination of … thirty minutes of silence.

Why?

I believe that once that final seal is broken, the deed is done. God’s punishment on the wicked and salvation for the righteous is complete and the only natural response to the sovereignty of God is silence.

In Habakkuk 2, we are reminded that false gods need to have their voices provided for them, but when the One in power is acknowledged, silence is the best option. There is no need to clamor or try to say just right thing. God has already done what needs to be done and now, we simply rest in his goodness.

Let all the earth be silent, indeed.

Questions:

Revelation 5 tells us that the lamb that was worthy to open the seals of the scroll that told of the final battle between God and Satan was a lamb that looked like it had been slain. Does a lamb, much less a slain lamb, evoke a sense of power and awe in your mind? Why or why not? In what ways does the death of this lamb actually indicate a power far beyond what it appears on the surface?

Stop and think for a moment about the 7 attributes applied to God in Revelation 7.12. What does it mean for God to be worthy of these seven things? How do these attributes help cement in your mind God’s sovereignty, that is, his worth as the creator and sustainer of the world, and in the book of Revelation, the victor over evil?

When the final seal of the scroll was opened, there was silence for half an hour. What did you expect to happen when this seal was opened, based on what you have read about the other 6? In what ways does silence actually show power, more power than a commotion would have indicated? What examples can you give that shows this to be the case?

Vacation – June 29

Text: Psalm 145 (Read it here)20160629

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.

(Psalm 145.1-3, NIV)

The Greatest of All Time
Author: Rob Anderson

In recent days, we saw the passing of Muhammad Ali, one of the greatest boxers who ever lived and judged by most to be the most recognized sports figure of the last century. Ali may be the only boxer I can recall seeing fight—I am not really a fight fan. There was something about him, however, that made people take notice. If you read boxing history, Ali fights were spectacles sights to behold.

What other sporting figures stand out to you as the greatest of all time in their respective sport?

What other sporting events stand the test of time as the greatest spectacle you have ever seen?

What events rank high enough on your list that in the years to come your children and grandchildren will gather around at family gatherings and hear you tell the stories of: I remember the time I got to see in person…

Let’s go a step deeper.

What events or moments in your life have been so impacted by God that you will tell of them from “one generation to another?” (See Psalm 145.4)

You may have seen the greatest boxer or baseball player ever to set foot in the ring or on the diamond, but you also have a God whose greatness no one can fathom. He is the good worthy of praise and glory and honor.

So, when is the last time you talked to others about the greatest of all time, the Lord Almighty?

Questions:

Have you praised God today? In not, why not? If so, why and how did you praise him? Why is God worthy of praise “forever and ever?”

In what ways has previous generations commended the works of God to you? What specific people and what specific incidents can you think of that demonstrate this? How have you done the same for others? What happens when one generation fails to commend God to the next? Can you think of any examples of this happening?

How reassuring to you is the fact that God is trustworthy and faithful in all he does? In what ways do you make these promises a foundational element to your life of faith? How would your faith walk be different if you didn’t have these promises to count on? In what ways can you eliminate doubt and fear from your life based on these promises?

Vacation – June 28

Text: Colossians 1.15-23 (Read it here)20160628

And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

(Colossians 1.18-20, NIV)

Substitute Teachers
Author: Rob Anderson

Think back to your elementary days. Do you remember that time you had a substitute teacher? So just exactly how did you act?

When I was in the fifth grade, we knew we were going to have a substitute for an extended period of time—several weeks. We were pretty excited about it and to be honest, it was for all the wrong reasons.

Even before the first day the teacher was absent, we were already planning ways in which we would skirt the rules and dupe the teacher. We would sit in all the wrong places and convince her that our “regular” teacher allowed all kinds of things that she in fact would never allow.

On the day the substitute showed up for class, we were in for a surprise. The “substitute” was actually a teacher who had been in our school the previous year. She knew all of us by name. To make matters worse, she went to church with me!

We knew we were defeated before the school day even began. There was no way we would pull a fast one on her.

When we read Colossians 1, I wonder if the first readers of the letter assumed about Jesus many of the things we did about our substitute. There is a sense that a substitute teacher is not a “real” teacher. (He or she wouldn’t be called a sub if he or she was permanent, right?)

When the first readers of Colossians listened to Paul, here is what they heard:

  • Jesus is the image of the invisible God
  • He was the firstborn
  • In him all things were created
  • He is the head of the body
  • He has supremacy

Jesus doesn’t sound much like a substitute or like he is playing second-fiddle, does he? And he is not. It is through him that we have salvation. He is the one who reconciles us to God. Without Jesus, we have no opportunity to be with God.

How do you look at Jesus today? Is he just a small part of the bigger picture or is he the one you allow to bring you into a relationship with God?

Questions:

We often hear people talk about the “apple not falling far from the tree.” What do we mean when we say this? What characteristics do you have that you or others have seen in your parents or perhaps siblings? In what ways are your actions close enough to one another that you could even be mistaken for the other?

When we look at Jesus, we see God—the fullness of God dwells in him. How does this fact help you as you desire to know God? What things about God do you know only because you know Jesus?

What does Paul mean when we writes that Jesus is the head of the church, “so that in everything he might have the supremely?” What does it mean to be the supreme being? If Jesus is supreme, how does our life compare to his? How does this change or affect the way you chose to live your life?

Vacation – June 25

Text: Romans 8 (Read it here)20160625

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

(Romans 8.1-2, NIV)

More than Conquerors
Author: Matthew Killough

Conquer is not a word that we use much these days. I can’t remember the last time my neighbor mowed his yard and shouted loud enough for all to hear, “And that, my friends, is how you conquer Bermuda grass!” Perhaps you have over heard your co-works brag at the Keurig coffee maker, “I conquered those TPS reports like Genghis Kahn, SERIOUSLY!” However, at my office we just don’t hear that word much. Now, we are all very familiar with winning. Sports teams and participants are conditioned to win at almost any cost. The ability to win has even become very lucrative, as professional athletes across the globe are often millionaires.

So when we read Paul’s words to the Romans that we are “more than conquerors” we think we know what Paul is talking about: it must be winning. I beg to differ! Trust me, no one knew more about conquering than the Romans. Of course you know all about Julius Caesar conquering the known world and how his nephew, Octavian, brought peace to the Roman Empire through roads and the Roman army. But did you know that the Greek word that Paul uses for “conqueror” is actually made of two words: hyper and nike. Of course hyper means “above, beyond, more than.” And nike simply means “victory”. So when Paul uses the Greek word for conqueror he is literally saying that in all things we have a hyper-victory. However this victory does not mean the destruction of our enemies. Paul goes on to say that the hyper-victory is the fact that nothing: neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you feel estranged from God’s love? Has someone or some situation left you feeling as though God cannot reach you? Instead of knowing the victory that Paul proclaims in Romans chapter eight, you wonder if you were ever a conqueror at all. Let me assure you that these things are temporary. Even when we feel as though we are too weak to pray the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us (8:26). This is the glorious victory that overcomes the world!

Questions:

How scary is God to you? Can you think of a time in your life—perhaps now—when you feared that God would punish you or was perhaps anxiously waiting for you to make a mistake so he could smite you? How did you arrive at this conclusion as to the nature of God?

How does Paul’s statement that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus contrast or compare to your thinking in the previous question? How reassuring is this fact to you as you try to live your faith? In what ways do you still try to include a “but…” to this statement, as in, “There is no condemnation, but…”

How does the knowledge of God’s salvation coming through the power of his Son, not through your own power, alter how you attempt to live a life for God? In what ways does this actually make your life easier, and yet at the same time, a more powerful witness to God’s power at work in your life?

Vacation – June 24

Text: Matthew 12.1-14 (Read it here)20160624

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

(Matthew 12.11-12, NIV)

Sabbath Rules
Author: Rob Anderson

Earlier this year, our extended family spent a week at a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico. Literally just steps away from the white sands, the breeze coming in from across the ocean, the beautiful sunsets and the peaceful sound of the waves crashing on shore.

The picture you see on this page is the picture of my “breakfast nook” every morning. A cup of coffee in my hand, often times my Bible or a book to read. A lot of time was spent enjoying this view.

But a lot of time was spent ignoring this view, as well.

See, it is difficult for me—and my guess for many of you—to turn everything off and just enjoy the moment. Truth be known, it took several days to get to the point where I could relax enough to fully soak in the scenery. As long as there is wifi, there is work to be done and it is too easy to slip into the habit of making a day of rest a day of regular routine.

The Pharisees understood this. In their attempt to ensure people kept the Sabbath in accordance to God’s laws, they began to apply rule on top of rule on top of even more rule. Their intent was good, but the result was not and as a result, their rules superseded the purpose for the Sabbath: rest and remembrance of the God who made all things.

As you have read through these daily devotional thoughts during June, I hope you have been encouraged to take a moment of Sabbath here and there.

The work will still be there.

The moment may not.

Questions:

Why do you think the Jews were so adamant about making rules as to what one could or could not do on the Sabbath? In what ways is this just a natural reaction to following instructions—defining exactly what was required? In what ways does this run counter to the nature of God?

Why is it easier sometimes to follow the specifics of the law than it is to offer mercy? What are some times in your life that you wish you had been shown more mercy than sacrifice? What examples can you give where you wish you had shown more mercy than sacrifice?

In what ways do we as followers of Christ refuse to offer healing for people because they do not fit our definition of what it means to be the kind of people deserving of healing or forgiveness? In what ways do these actions and attitudes cause us to try to play the role of God rather then being individuals pointing others to the sovereign Lord?