Monday, April 30, 2012

Be Still

by Timothy Howe

Typical Day
     The alarm clock goes off. It's five a.m. The mind is wrested from the dream sphere. The head lifts from the pillow followed by stretching, dressing, and then the morning's exercise. Shower, shave, brush teeth, dress again. Read a few inspirational verses from the Bible. After that, water the garden, make breakfast, rush children to get dressed and ready for school. 
     Turn on the computer. How has the "to do" list grown exponentially since last night? Twenty-four emails and three texts to return. Four very important phone calls to make. Several urgent work assignments due immediately loom just behind the one that is past due. Get to the office. More phone calls await. Knock out two emails to find that five have taken their place. Work non-stop through the morning and the "to do" list grows
     Phone call disrupts all plans - have to make a visit to someone in great need. Grab lunch, attend 1:00 meeting, have a productive afternoon, but still behind on assignments. Have to take a couple home. 
     Time to head home, oh but wait, today is soccer practice. And volunteered to coach tonight. What time is that? Oh, now! Rush home. Attend practice. Gulp down dinner. Help kids with homework. Try to catch up with work assignments left undone. Stop part way to help kids through bedtime routine. 
     Go back to finish assignment, where was I? Knock that assignment out. It's 11:14. Should work a little more, but why am I so tired? I guess I'll get to that one tomorrow. Brush teeth, get ready for bed, lay down. It's 11:31. 
     The body is exhausted, the mind keeps going... I should have spent more quality time with my wife tonight. Why did I get so upset with the kids this evening? Ah, man, I meant to have called Mr Johnson today. Wait a minute, I need to redo that last assignment - I should have written... etc... Look at the clock - 11:52. I need to fall asleep.    ...   5:00 a.m. the alarm goes off.

Does this sound something like your day? It seems that if anything categorizes us today, it is the word busy. We are all busy. In fact, it seems that we are all too busy. If we are lucky, we stay ahead barely. Most of us don't seem to be capable of that though. We live with the constant pressure of more to get done. 

I am convinced that we are not meant to live this way. We were not created human doings. We are human beings. Life is so much more than what we accomplish. And yet, we spend our time rushing from accomplishment to accomplishment. How can we change things? 

When a sporting event seems to be out of control a coach has a valuable tool. It is called a "time-out." That means that play stops. The team regroups, recenters, refocuses, and restarts. In a time-out, usually the coach will focus attention on what really matters so that the team can be most effective. 

Call Time-Out
We need to call time-out periodically. If your day is anything like the one described above. Find moments to call time-out. 

Psalm 46:10 (ESV) says
Be still, and know that I am God.

We will look at why the Lord wants us to be still and know that He is God starting tomorrow. Today, let's make our "urgent assignment" to find time to simply BE STILL. Can we do that? Let's find moments to halt the merry-go-round, get off and be still. Go to a quiet place, take a walk, turn off the TV, put the computer to sleep, park somewhere and just Be Still. Let the King of heaven speak to you.

For your pleasure, I have embedded Steven Curtis Chapman's song, Be Still and Know" below. May it help you be Be Still. 

Be Still. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

What Encounter Are You Expecting?

by Timothy Howe

Let's recap from the week. Peter and John encounter a man unable to walk who desired money. The encounter took an unexpected turn when they took the time to actually notice him. They turn the encounter into an opportunity to demonstrate both God's love and power. The larger community encounters God in a more significant way as result of the event. 

A Chance Encounter Becomes Life Changing
A chance encounter for a man expecting to receive a little change turns into a moment in which his life is changed, a moment in which he becomes able to freely worship God for the first time in his life, and a moment when an entire community witnesses God’s power and presence as a result. 

I'm sure the beggar did not wake up that morning thinking that he would have a new lease on life in a few hours. He had been in the same predicament every day of every week of his life. There was no reason to expect things to change. And yet they were about to change in a radical fashion. 

What about us?
I wonder how many times we begin our day expecting this sort of change. I doubt very seldom if ever. We get used to the same set of problems, the same fears, the same obstacles.  We are often like the man simply asking for a little bit of change, when the reality is that God has a great big change in store for us.

What encounters are you expecting today?
What encounters are you expecting today? How will God work through you today? Do you trust that God has your best interest in His care? Is your walk with Jesus such that you are regularly coming to a point of worshiping the Father? How is your walk with Him impacting those around you? 

If you want to see your walk deepen and God to fill you each and everyday, all it takes in an invitation on your part. He is there waiting and willing to be a part of your life, to make it a witness to those around you, drawing them to Him through you. Please take time to focus on Him today.

I invite you to encounter the Lord today.

Once you have encountered the Lord, the question turns to what will come out of that encounter.

How will you lead someone 
else to encounter Him today?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What are the effects of your faithfulness?

by Timothy Howe

Soon, we will be traveling back to Southern France to spend time with friends and show the kids where they were born. We are going at a great time of the year to witness the fields of flowers that inspire centuries of artists. It is a region of immense beauty that has been cultivated for centuries. And that is the key. Southern France is beautiful in part because of the faithfulness of those who till the land to render it beautiful. 

This is nowhere more noticeable than in the region's most important crop, grapes. Large vineyard estates exist where workers have spent countless hours for years cutting, nurturing and tending to vines to cause them to produce the best fruit possible. The fact of the matter is that if you want a good harvest you have to be faithful in your work to create the right conditions for the effect. 

For the past couple of days we have been looking at the story of a man healed by Peter and John in Acts 3. Their faithfulness effected great change in his life. Why did they stop and allow Jesus to change this man’s life on this day? What was the purpose of this miracle? I think it is clear from the text and from our knowledge of what temple worship was like.  In order to understand the purpose of this miracle, let’s now look at its effects.

The first effect is that the man walks.
The first and most immediate effect of this miracle is that the man could now walk. We need to understand that Jesus encounters this man where he is in need because he cares about him. As we consider this miracle, and as we consider Christ’s involvement in our daily lives, it should be comforting to us that Jesus cares about us personally. The Lord cared about even the lowliest of the low as an individual. We can be sure that he cares for us in the same manner. Rest assured that Christ cares about the daily affairs of our lives and wants the best for us. He actively works to meet our needs and to work around us and He does this simply out of His love for us.

The second effect is that the man worships.
This second benefit of this miracle is actually its most profound. The man sat outside the temple gates begging for alms because it was a place where those who wanted to worship God were passing as they entered into the temple. For years he watched the faithful enter into the place of worship meeting the Lord without ever entering himself. 

Due to his disability he was not permitted by law to enter into the temple to worship. And the fact that since he had been crippled from birth means that he has never been able to worship inside the temple. He was cut off from meeting the Lord. To be so close, but yet permanently far from the center of worship of God had to have created a feeling of destitution and infinite separation.

When Peter heals the man in the name of the Lord, the man begins to do two things: (1) to walk, and (2) to praise God. Previously he had seen worshipers as they came and went or even peered through the temple gates. Now he himself was a worshiper. After his healing, he cannot contain his excitement. He freely worships God. From this point on, he will be able to go directly into the place of worship.

Jesus’ healing in this case is in order to draw the man to Himself. Jesus intends the best for us, not just that we will be happy and self-confident, but in order that we will come to Him. He works in our lives so that He will be lifted up. The Lord’s involvement in our lives provides the chance to come give Him the glory that it due Him. And His action on the cross took away all the barriers to that worship. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection eliminated all obstacles to worship. Everyone is able to accept the new covenant of which Christ is the mediator promised in Jeremiah 31:31 and testified to in Hebrews 9:15.

The third effect is that the man witnesses.
The most far reaching effect of this miracle is how it provided a testimony of God’s power and His presence. A crowd quickly gathers to see what has happened. They recognized this man as the one who had sat next to the temple gate for years begging. Some of the crowd may very well have been some of the men who had actually carried him there that afternoon.

To hear that something has happened and now he is walking around must have stirred curiosity and excitement among the masses traveling to the temple.  Immediately they ran to where Peter and John and this man were standing. And his standing was a loud testimony to the power of Jesus. Peter wastes no time in beginning to share about the source of that power. He takes the crowd back to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and culminates in sharing about Jesus the Messiah.

Here is where the ultimate purpose of this miracle and of all miracles comes to fruition. A crowd of thousands have been able to witness the power of God and now want to know more about God. They want to know God and Peter shares with them how this is possible. This encounter will lead to over 5000 people believing in Jesus (Acts 4:4).

Christ is definitely interested in our daily lives and in drawing us to worship Him, but His desire is to draw all men to Himself. As we allow Him to rule in our lives, He will beckon others to himself through our witness. We can point His power and His presence in our daily lives.

What will be the effect of your faithfulness today?
Just as Peter's faithfulness ultimately led to thousands believing in Jesus, we have the ability to effect great positive change through our faithfulness. But nothing will result if nothing is attempted. Today, seek out how you are going to demonstrating God's power and His message. And may He produce a great work through your faithfulness. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who am I supposed to serve today?

by Timothy Howe

Yesterday, we saw how Peter and John during their faithfulness to the Lord took the time to notice a fellow person’s very real needs and came up to the point of meeting his needs thereby supplying action to their faith. Let’s hear how the story unfolds.

And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he was clinging to Peter and John all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.                                         Acts 3:7-11 NASB

Peter touches the man.
Peter and John have already surprised the beggar by fixing their attention on him and not just looking past him. Peter then takes the bold step of reaching down and taking him by the hand. Let’s think about how powerful this action would seem to the beggar. A man ignored by society, hardly ever even noticed is now touched by someone who has taken the time to offer him a kind of hope never before imagined.

The man stands up.
The book of Acts records what happens next – a miracle! The man, with Peter’s help, stands up. As he does, his feet and ankles strengthen. The text says that he leaped onto his feet. He had never walked before in his life and now he finds himself dancing before the temple. What must he be thinking? He clings to Peter and John overwhelmed by their generous act.

All are astonished.
But he would not be the only person astonished that day. The crowd who had come to worship at the temple saw what happened. The Bible says that they were filled with wonder and amazement.  Why shouldn’t they be? How often do you see someone healed? This event draws a crowd. Peter and John suddenly find themselves in a position to share about the One from whom this power emanates. Here is where the purpose of Christ’s engagement in our daily lives becomes clear.

Who was at work?
We must notice that it was not Peter who healed this man. Peter healed the man in the name of Jesus Christ.  The Biblical understanding of the term “name” is a great deal more than an appellation, than what you call something. The term “name” connotes among other things, character, nature and presence. The idea that Peter heals the man in the name of Jesus goes so far as to say that Jesus’ character, his nature, indeed, his very presence is there causing the healing to take place. We know this is possible because of the Holy Spirit who had descended on the apostles on Pentecost in the previous chapter. 

Who is at work around us?
Peter and John were able to accomplish this wonderful deed through the power of the living Savior in their lives. Their accomplishment began by being faithful in worship and faithful in service to others for the Lord. They were attuned to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and were ready when the moment arrived to do a wonderful work. The same power is available for each of us who are called according to the Name of the Lord. If we are walking faithfully with Him and we are intentionally looking for opportunities to minister, we will find them. 

Who am I supposed to serve today 
through the presence of Jesus in my life?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What possesses true value in life?

by Timothy Howe

This week I will be looking at "What do I believe possesses true value in life?" I will be looking at a wonderful out of a book called Acts in the new Testament. Here is the beginning of the story: 

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour; the hour of prayer. And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms. But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!”                                                   Acts 3:1-6 NASB

Background – Afternoon Prayer
Peter & John indicate that they still held onto some of the Jewish customs at this time in that they were keeping the hours of prayers. Jewish custom was to pray at 9:00 in the morning, noon, and 3:00 in the afternoon. The ninth hour refers to the 3:00 prayer time, which is also time for the evening sacrifice, known as the Tamid. This means that there were sure to be a lot of people at the temple at this time.

The Beautiful Gate
Peter & John walk up to the temple and they are approaching the gate called the “Beautiful Gate” when they see a lame beggar asking for money. There were 10 gates that led directly into the sanctuary from the outer court. Nine of these were overlaid with gold and silver, but one was this amazing decorative Corinthian Bronze gate. This one gate would have been far much more expensive than the other nine and is undoubtedly the one that the two disciples are approaching when they encounter the man asking for money.

Three Pillars of Judaism
Rabbis taught that the three pillars of Judaism were (1) the Torah, (2) worship, and (3) kindness. Giving alms to the poor would clearly fall into this latter category. For the people giving alms, though, it was more about the action than about the person to whom the generosity was shown.  The beggars would be there shouting out “alms, alms for the poor” hoping that someone would take enough notice to drop a coin in their direction. The passersby hardly noticed the beggars and if they did it was a brief glance, perhaps full of pity, perhaps with a sense of embarrassment.

Intently Fixed Gazes
When Peter and John hear the man calling out on this occasion, though, they offer him more than a glance. The scripture says that they “fixed their gazes on him.” Peter then went so far as to tell the man to look at them. They would fully appreciate him as a fellow human being, a brother in difficult circumstances. This was so much out of the ordinary that the man began to expect something special as a result this encounter.  Would he get a lot more money than usual? We can only speculate what he may have thought at this moment, but I am certain that he would not have imagined what was about to take place.

Ignoring Temporary Solutions
Peter quickly makes things very clear. He tells the man that he will not be getting any money that day from them. I can imagine Peter motioning to the door of the beautiful gate which contained no silver or gold insisting that neither did he have silver or gold. But just as the magnificent door before them was much more valuable than the silver and gold gates, what they have to offer the man is also far more valuable. You see, money would help him temporarily. It would take care of some of the symptoms of his problem, but it would not take care of his problem, which is that he cannot walk.

Implementing Permanent Solutions
Jesus is so much more interested in healing our problem areas than he is in just treating the symptoms. This man was about to encounter that care. Peter simply tells the man to “walk!”  I am sure that anyone present, including the lame man were thinking, “what is Peter thinking?” The scriptures say that this man was crippled from birth. He had never walked before in his life. Surely he has been begging outside of the temple for many years. People have passed him day after day, perhaps pitying him, perhaps scorning him. Peter himself must have seen him out begging on other trips to the temple. How could he expect that this known invalid could get up at walk? He expected it because he knew of the power of the Holy Spirit that filled him. He expected it because he had walked with Jesus for 3 years watching him heal the sick. We will learn this week what happens to this man.

Today, let us contemplate what has transpired in the story so far.

1. Peter and John are remaining faithful in their walk with the Lord.
2. During their response to the Lord, these two men have taken the time to notice a fellow person’s very real needs. Part of this includes the recognition of the person, not just his predicament.
3. These two men decided to focus on a permanent solution for the man, not just addressing his temporary necessities.
4. Peter and John attach their actions of mercy with their faith and their faith with actions of mercy. They get it that the two go together.

What do I believe possesses true value in life? 
     To answer that question consider the questions below. 
     Am I remaining faithful in my walk with the Lord?
      How am I permitting the Lord to work through me?
      Am I looking for moments of intentional ministry?
      How am I making an eternal significance?
      How does my faith match up with my actions?

How we answer these questions begins to demonstrate what we consider as truly valuable in our lives. We will see much more in the week ahead.

Friday, April 20, 2012

He has entrusted us

 by Timothy Howe

Today, we finish looking at Psalm 8. 

               Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
                   and crowned him with glory and honor.
               You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
                   you have put all things under his feet, 
                         all sheep and oxen, 
                         and also the beasts of the field,
                         the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, 
                        whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
               O Lord, our Lord, 
                      How Majestic is you name in all the earth!
                                                                  Psalm 8:5-9 ESV

The glorious God shares His authority with us. 

The Psalmist understands something that we take for granted today, but should be considered shocking. We have seen how that we are puny in the grand scheme of the universe. Yet the maker of the universe, the One who dwarfs it in every way imaginable, this same God esteems us. God esteems you. David says that he has made us just a little lower than the heavenly beings and given us glory and honor. David is aware that we were shaped out of the dust of the earth, but also made in the “image of God.” We share in glory and honor only so far as the Lord gives it to us. We are of the earth and in charge of the earth. We rule over everything on the earth.

This metaphor of a created being, yet one having authority, the work of God who has all things under our feet hints of the Messiah who is coming who will be both fully Human and fully Divine.

The Service of Animals 
By claiming that man rules over the animals, David is making a bigger claim about God. He states that God has given authority to humans to rule over the animals of the earth, the birds of the heavens and the fish in the seas. This means that human beings are higher than those creatures. He has already hinted at our resemblance of God’s very image. What he is doing is tearing apart the religious myth systems of all the peoples around Israel. Egypt may be the best example. Egypt had a system of gods who ruled the world and the cosmos. These gods were different forms of the heavenly bodies – the sun, the moon, the earth, and the underworld. Other gods were deified animals – the jackal, the bull, the ram, a bird, etc. David is shouting out loudly that the Lord is not a cow or a dog. He is the Divine and these false gods are really nothing more that our subject.

He also declares that God esteems us higher than the animals we are put in charge of, but we are their caretakers. We are God's stewards of this planet and all species on it. We must protect it. The things of this world are not greater than humanity, but they are humanity's responsibility. You are God's most prized creation and you are set in charge of the rest.

Practical Dominion
How do we have dominion over all the earth practically speaking? There was a time when our society was agrarian that this was more easily understood. Well, obviously taking care to not pollute, to not waste and to not harm animals continues to fit this description. So does recycling, eating healthily and taking care regarding what products we purchase.

There is another way that most of us demonstrate dominion in our lives, however. This is with regards to our personal environment. I have often heard people who got themselves into to trouble find ways to blame some one else. It's the "the-devil-made-me-do-it" syndrome. People blame the way that they were raised, life's disappointments, temptations, emotions, and many other things for making poor decisions. We were created to have dominion. You have authority over all these things.Take charge and be a good steward over what God has given you.

The Marvel of the Name 
David reinforces the majesty of the Lord by singing again of His Name. He is a marvel, he is magnificent. He is greater than the enormity of the universe and in comparison we are hardly anything. But in His majesty, He has made us just below Him. We dangle just between the angels and the beasts and it God who redeems us to glory.

This Psalm teaches us to set our attention on the one Who created all things, Who sustains all things, and Who esteems us above all things. 

Know that you are special 
and choose to live like it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

His Love is Amazing

by Timothy Howe

In looking at Psalm 8, we have seen how glorious is the Lord. We have seen how he has shared a measure of that glory with us His prized creation. Today we see how this glorious God relates to this sometimes inglorious creation. 

This psalm speaks to the Fragility of Man.
                When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
                      the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
                What is man that you are mindful of him, 
                      and the son of man that you care for him?
The raw wonder of God in the voice of the shepherd is loudest in this stanza. Perhaps on starry night David is looking up and trying to comprehend the wonder of the universe and then realizes that God was even greater. He tries to say this by stating that God created everything not by his hands, but by his fingers. And yet, quickly returns to earth and sees that the great heavenly bodies that God was able to create with just His fingers far outweigh mere mankind who is bouncing around on one of these heavenly bodies. David could not have known just how tiny of a speck our earth and our existence in the universe really is.

The glorious God is caring. 
Yet, he captures very well that the idea is marvelous that God who is greater than all in existence, which makes human beings look puny in whatever formula of comparison you can come up with, cares for us puny beings. The poetry slips right off the tongue.
What is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
“The Son of Man” is a phrase that literally translates “son of Adam.” Simply put, it is a human being. But David did not just say “a human being.” He chose a phrase that was picturesque and descriptive which showed the nature of human beings. We are the descendants of a created being, not even the created being itself. Once against illustrating the gulf between us and God. In addition, this phrase came to be a royal title. 

The Gap Bridged
By using this phrase David is asserting several claims and thereby bridging the gap between God and man: (1) he is royalty, (2) this Psalm is not just a praise of God, but is meant to be understood that God cares for people personally, (3) and that God cares for him (David) personally. It makes the Psalm very intimate. 

The Gap Further Bridged
The good news is that God did not just permit the divide between His glory and His creation to remain permanent. He met us on our terms. He walked with Adam in the garden, spoke to Moses through the bush, met Israel at the Temple and ministered to Elijah in the cave. For Christians this phrase would take on a whole new meaning as it was understood in the light of the Messiah, the Son of Man who was also the Son of God. This mixture of imagery is evident in Philippians 2:6-11.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.                             Phil 2:6-11 ESV

The glorious One set aside His glory temporarily to walk among us and to begin the process of transferring that glory to us. He demonstrated his Amazing Love by coming to this earth and offering Himself on our behalf. 

Wherever you are in life, 
Whatever you are going through,
Trust that God already sees it, 
Trust that God already knows it, 
Trust that God already has plans 
to walk you through it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

He Is Amazing.

by Timothy Howe

Yesterday I wrote about the amazing the universe, our amazing world and the amazing micro-world. I then wrote about how the psalmist declared God's glory and then subsequent transferal of a measure of His glory to us. Today and tomorrow, I want to return to the subject of God's glory. 

Read Psalm 8 again.
                   O LORD, our Lord, 
                      how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
                   You have set your glory above the heavens. 
                   Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
                      you have established strength because of your foes, 
                      to still the enemy and the avenger. 

                 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
                      the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
                      what is man that you are mindful of him, 
                      and the son of man that you care for him? 

                 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
                      and crowned him with glory and honor. 
                 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; 
                     you have put all things under his feet, 
                     all sheep and oxen, 
                     and also the beasts of the field, 
                     the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, 
                     whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 

                 O LORD, our Lord, 
                      how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
                                                                    Psalm 8 ESV

Today, I want to look at the first two verses. 

                   O LORD, our Lord, 
                       how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
                   You have set your glory above the heavens. 
                   Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
                      you have established strength because of your foes, 
                      to still the enemy and the avenger. 

God's glory is marvelous.
The Psalm begins and ends with the same verse: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! The first “Lord” is actually the special name of God by Israel, Yahweh, and the second is Adonai, which means "Lord." Since the Psalmist is praising the very name of the Lord, Yahweh – let’s look at it for a moment. Yahweh comes from the meaning “I AM WHO I AM.” One other translation could be “He who causes to be” (Ex 3:15-16). He  spoke into existence all of creation and He  spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. His name is not to be used lightly or wrongly (Exodus 20:7) and represents all that is Divine. 

     God’s name is for all.
This Name is the Personal God of Israel. He is Lord, Supreme and also Personal. The same God who rules over all creation is the same God who is personally interested in your life. 

     God's name is above all. 
The double name emphasizes that God created and gives order to everything. He brought into existence the original creation and He returns into harmony the fallen creation. For Christians this carries the idea of God as Creator and Redeemer. 

     God’s name is regal and majestic.
The word “majesty” carries the idea of power demonstrated in a public fashion. It was used of a king and of pomp and circumstance. It reinforces the idea of God as Sovereign. 

God’s glory is complete. 
The psalm elaborates on God’s majesty set in the heavens above. Yet, the word “glory,” used to describe that heavenly majesty is a word that describes the inward, defining essence of an individual more than external magnificence. This conveys the idea that to see God’s glory is to know him personally. As wonderful as the heavens are, His glory is in another realm, even greater than the night sky and yet it is personal. 

God’s glory is ultimate. 
God’s majesty is further illustrated by the phrase “mouths of babes and infants.” Children are innocent and will only be able to communicate out of that innocence. Many parents have been embarrassed in such scenarios because a child will simply say what is true. So any declaration attributed to a child is understood to be inherently true and uncluttered. 

God’s glory is victorious. 
                   you have established strength because of your foes, 
                      to still the enemy and the avenger. 

This phrase may seem harsh to 21st century ears, so its context is required.  It was a phrase that was regularly invoked in war literature in the ancient Near East when speaking of the destructive, awesome power of an army or a ruler. In this case, David has turned the anthem away from human destructive power to cause it to focus on the awesome, infinity power of God. In that latter capacity, David declares that Yahweh has established strength against “his foes…the enemy and the avenger.” The terms “enemy” and “avenger” were common names of Satan. The enemy of God is obviously Satan.  

His name is above all. 
His gaze is fixed on you.

His name is glorious and yet personal. 
He knows you and your situation.

His name is victorious. 
He will lead you through today's difficulties.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You are amazing!

By Timothy Howe

I am continuously amazed at the creation around us. 

The Tiny World
Yesterday I was looking at  various microorganisms with one of my children for a school assignment. To see how all those bacteria, fungi, and micro-animals  were constructed left me with a since of amazement. The way in which they are vital to our environment and our personal health recalled my attention to the intricate nature of the world around us. 

The Cosmos
When I turn my attention  to the great cosmos, I am struck by the spectacular. The images from modern satellites leave me with a sense of awe. Our speck of dust floats through space, rotating about our star which rotates in our galaxy with billions of more also swirling around. What sights are displayed by craft such as the Hubble Telescope - gaseous clouds larger than galaxies, stars exploding,                  
stars merging together, 
or stars being "born." 

The World
Yet we live in between the infinitesimally small and gargantuan, in a world no less impressive. The vibrancy of the colors of flowers; the power of Iguazu, Niagara or Victoria Falls; the flight of bird high in the air; and the birth of a newborn baby each inspires us and reminds us of the magnificence constantly around us. 

And yet the splendor of this world begins with you. That's right. It begins with you and me, people. How is that? Well, certainly all of creation is amazing, but the scriptures tell us that we are God's most prized creation. 

Read Psalm 8 below.

                      O LORD, our Lord, 
                            how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
                      You have set your glory above the heavens. 
                      Out of the mouth of babies and infants, 
                            you have established strength because of your foes, 
                            to still the enemy and the avenger. 
                      When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, 
                            the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 
                      What is man that you are mindful of him, 
                            and the son of man that you care for him? 
                      Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
                            and crowned him with glory and honor. 
                      You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; 
                            you have put all things under his feet, 
                            all sheep and oxen, 
                            and also the beasts of the field, 
                            the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, 
                            whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 
                      O LORD, our Lord, 
                            how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
Psalm 8 ESV         

God Transferred His Greatness to Us
This psalm was written by David. You can imagine David the shepherd sitting out in the fields while watching his sheep and looking up at the sky and pondering the majesty of the Lord. The stars would have been a brilliant backdrop when considering the glory of God.

The psalmist acknowledged that creation is glorious, but he recognizes that the creator of that creation is more glorious since He created it. He also proclaims that of all of God's creation humans have a special place because God has chosen to transfer some of his greatness to us by creating us in His image. 

So, Celebrate
This particular psalm actually starts off with a technical term in its introduction. The term in Hebrew is gittith, which literally translates as “wine-press” in English. The phrase could mean “for a wine-press,” “to a wine-press,” “on a wine-press,” “at a wine-press,” “from a wine-press.” The first two possibilities are extremely doubtful. The last three all give the same idea – that the Psalm is meant to be sung while the grapes are being pressed for preparation of wine.

That would make this a harvest song, one full of joy and celebration. Indeed, all the Psalms with this term in the beginning are songs of celebration. The idea is that the song might be sung at the brief time in the ancient daily routine when people were most assured that they had enough. 

So, do you realize how much you are worth? You are amazing. Through out today, when things come along that get you down and cause you to think of the bad around you, remember that God created you special, and that He ranks you as important in His economy. You are not meant to only survive, but you are meant to celebrate. 

God is glorious beyond measure.
God has made a glorious cosmos.
God made you His most prized creation.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why don't we leave well enough alone?

by Timothy Howe

 Yesterday we wondered why Saul was rejected? It might be good to do some back tracking on this to see how the OT gets to Saul in the first place. How did Israel end up with a king?

Samuel was a hero
Samuel is one of the biggest heroes in the Bible. He heard from God at a time when "the word of the Lord was rare" and "visions from Him were infrequent" (1 Samuel 3:1). Samuel was God's movement away from the corrupt House of Eli. Samuel heard from God. That is actually what his name means - he heard from God. He brought the worship of Yahweh back to its proper heights. 

Heroes aren't always heroes
Sad but true - all of our heroes fail sometimes. We have seen sports heroes fall to substance abuse. Religious heroes have moral failure. Political heroes turn out not to be who they were elected to be. Heroes are still human. They still fail. For all that Samuel did well, he also failed.

Samuel Started the Whole Mess
Samuel’s sin led to Israel’s misguided request for a king. (1 Samuel 8:1-3). What was Samuel's sin? There were two different problems. 

(1) Samuel chose the next judge, not God as was the pattern.
All of the judges in Israel's history until and including Samuel were selected by God. 1 Samuel 8:1 tells us that when he sensed it was time for a new judge, he selected the next judge. He did not wait on God to do what God had always done. The person who became famous for hearing from God, chose to act according to his own volition than to wait to hear from God. 

(2) Samuel chose a dynastic approach, his descendants, not through merit.
What is even worse is the fact that Samuel attempted to install his own sons in the authoritative position of being a judge, instead of allowing God to choose a godly man. When Gideon had tried to do this with his son Abimelech in Judges 9, things turned out terribly for his son and for Israel. One would think that a prophet of God would have learned from the past.

The Elders Ask for a King
Samuel's poor choice forced the hands of Israel's elders. The elders of Israel rejected Samuel's sons as judges over them and asked for a king instead. The poor decisions of one man, Samuel, prompted poor decisions from other people; and so a vicious cycle began that would have dire consequences for the people of Israel.

Tomorrow we will see how 
poor decision-making becomes infectious.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why David, Why Not Saul

by Timothy Howe

This week I want to look at something that frustrating me in times past. As many of you know, I like studying the Bible. I really enjoy learning about its history and background which serve to explain its teachings. Some of these teachings are not always super easy to decipher.

The events surrounding the lives of the first two kings of Israel is an area that once upon a time really bothered me. Many of you may know the story of these two men - Saul and David.

Saul a Man's Man
Saul was chosen by Samuel as directed by God. He was tall, good looking, and a fierce warrior. By all accounts he served as a faithful king with a few mess-ups along the way. He had a real temper and made a few inappropriate boasts, oaths and sacrifices. But we would almost expect these slight imperfections in our leaders.

David a Loyal Man
David followed Saul as king after Saul and his son Jonathan died in a terrible battle. This came on the heals of a strange and tortuous relationship between David, King Saul and Prince Jonathan. David had been in the court of Saul serving as both a warrior and a musician for the King. In addition, David was best friends with Prince Jonathan. David was grieved at his loss. At one point, Saul tried to destroyed David out of jealousy because David was becoming very popular in Israel, but David remain true to his King.

David a Failed Man
Eventually David replaced Saul and he then served as king. During his reign, David married several wives, something strictly forbidden by God; he had an improper relationship with another man's woman; he had that man killed; and he stirred up hatred between his own children that led to them killing each other. This sounds like really bad stuff. As bad as Hollywood could dream up.

Then why David over Saul?
Yet the Scriptures teach that God rejected Saul and took his throne away for sinfulness while it teaches that David was a man after God's own heart who would have someone sit on his throne forever. Indeed, the Messiah came from the lineage of David. What is up with that? Why was Saul rejected and David accepted as king?

This week I want to explore that question. Today, I want to focus on King Saul. What sin caused Saul to be rejected? You can find the answers in 1 Samuel beginning in chapter 9 or by clicking on this link - Saul Chosen to be King.

So, what is your first guess? What sin caused Saul to be rejected?