Seeking Our Own Safety

Read:

“. . . hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Acts 15:7


Reflect:

Obstacles. How we handle them is a matter of perspective. Some people see obstacles as a puzzle to solve, some see obstacles as opportunity to grow, while others see obstacles as a threat. Obstacles come in all shapes and sizes. The essence of obstruction is anything that impedes our progress in a particular area.


The spiritual obstacle of deep-seated fears freezes us up, so as not to believe and we dare not risk faith in God. Since the garden, we’ve been living in fear.


One of our most basic desires is the desire for safety. We are all surrounded by innumerable dangers and we all defend ourselves against them as best we can. We want safety from sickness, we want to be safe from financial worries. We invest in insurance, shore up savings accounts. We want to be safe from loneliness, so we cultivate friendships. 


However, there is the danger of our desire becoming distorted and inverting into dread and danger. Something that would have otherwise been common sense strategies to endure life’s continual challenges, now are clung to as if they are our personal saviors. The tighter we hold, the less likely they will solve our fear.


The house, the career, the pension all become an idol in the present and assume a position to which secondary things have no right. Idols have a way of making us a terror-stricken, tormented creature serving lesser things as though it were a god, then finding no assurance of real safety. In seeking our own safety, we become a slave to it.


We must reroute our confidence in people and things so that it rests on God and nothing else. For the council at Jerusalem the tension had to be resolved. Something or someone is going to determine the direction of our life. It will either be the law or love. One will have to win out over the other. We each must decide.


Respond:

a. Make a list of your priorities.

b. Where is God in your pursuits?

c. How are you prioritizing His presence?


Stepping on Toes

Read:

“After there had been much debate, Peter stood up . . .” Acts 15:7


Reflect:

Salvation isn’t just an experience of each individual. Rather, each of us are to be attached to the local community of faith.  Were Christianity to be a purely individual pursuit, we could declare our freedom in the Lord and follow the impulses of our preferences. But Christians are united in one body, the church, in which we must learn to live and work together. 


The problem facing the apostles was uniting the Jews and the Gentile believers in the church. These two groups had different ideas and different customs. Each of their practices were offensive to the men on either side. So, the council had to lay down guidelines in the interest of unity within the church. 


The point of the council was that no offense be given nor a stumbling block be put in the way of anyone seeking to know Jesus, and nothing would endanger the unity of the body.


Today, social media has eroded our decorum and decency towards others. We are too quick to send out our opinion, offense, and objections. We’ve grown increasingly insensitive to others. We just want to be heard, to give our two cents, and move on without any regard to the wreckage our words leave behind.


We would do well to remember we are a part of a larger reality – the church. We should not be callous in the exercising of our freedom, stepping on the toes of those who aren’t as free as we are, not for ourselves, but for the many, so that they might be saved. Let’s remember the church exists for the promotion of His kingdom and not our own.


Our freedom in Christ is wide, but the boundaries are drawn by love. Therefore, every concession must be made so that we live in unity, so that we can give of ourselves without a distraction to the work of God.


Respond:

What freedom in your life are you willing to limit in order for others to see Christ more clearly?


The Ministry of the Shepherd

I feel honored and privileged each week as I pray for our Church. I read and I listen, in contemplation as I'm led, I write. I write our devos in the hope to amplify and apply the sacred text. I write trustfully that some small part of the truth of the text will lodge in the heart and ultimately be incarnated in our living. This week we take a break from our study of Acts to focus on the daily art of considering Jesus. Read them prayerfully, intentionally and instructively. If they speak to you, share them with others. Blessings, Dave Edwards

Read:

“I am the good shepherd; . . .” John 10:11


Reflect:

Jesus is the Shepherd of our soul. This is one of the oldest descriptions of God. It’s not an abstraction, or a religious bit part He sometimes plays. It’s the core of His identity. Knowing Him as the Shepherd of our soul profoundly affects our perception of reality.  The prophets and poets knew Him as the Shepherd of souls.


The most familiar was David, who knew, “the Lord is my shepherd.” Isaiah has it, “He will feed the flock like a shepherd.” Ezekiel hears God’s promise of the great king He was going to send Israel, “He shall feed them and be their shepherd.” All these words spoken by these who followed Him, were as vivid in Peter’s memory as when they were first spoken, and far better understood when Jesus took the title for Himself to describe His commitment to others, “the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”  The word shepherd tells us of His ways of ceaseless vigilance and self-sacrificing love for His flock. Jesus the good shepherd ministers to His sheep in three ways:


HE GUIDES our steps: The ministry of our Shepherd’s care is to lead our soul in the path of righteousness, showing us the ways to walk where He leads. It’s Him directing our will with the gentleness of His love. As we learn to walk in His ways of wisdom, the loud voice of self is silenced so His voice may be more clearly heard. He says, “Come follow me,” and His sheep walk, not in darkness, but in light.


HE GUARDS from the snares of sin: Typically in Judea where sheep grazed, there was no protection, there were delusive paths where wild beasts roamed looking for prey. The shepherd stands watch, leaning on his staff looking over his sheep, every one of them on his heart. At the first sign of attack, he would spring into action to drag them from the attacker’s mouth. If we keep within range of His voice, then sin will never have its way. As He guards, we are to press close to His protecting presence.


HE GIVES shelter for our soul: He does not lead sheep to starve. Even in the most unpromising situations, He will sustain our soul.  He, Himself, is the pasture, as well as the Shepherd of the soul, and ever gives Himself to us who are in need of a changeless and perfect love. 


For He is the Good Shepherd.


Respond:

For a moment, wait in silence for the ministry of the Shepherd of your soul.

Consider Jesus

I feel honored and privileged each week as I pray for our Church. I read and I listen, in contemplation as I'm led, I write. I write our devos in the hope to amplify and apply the sacred text. I write trustfully that some small part of the truth of the text will lodge in the heart and ultimately be incarnated in our living. This week we take a break from our study of Acts to focus on the daily art of considering Jesus. Read them prayerfully, intentionally and instructively. If they speak to you, share them with others. Blessings, Dave Edwards

Read:

“For consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3


Reflect:

From where you stand things look tough and trying, it feels like hope has run out in you. There is encouragement in the struggle. It’s too soon to lose heart. Lift your eyes above their storms and struggles, consider all Jesus endured.


Consider Jesus endured more than we are ever called to suffer, yet spoke no words of impatience. He endured His suffering at the hands of injustice, and was cruelly and wrongly treated, yet only submission to the Father was exemplified through Him. He uttered no resentful words. In the face of accusations, Jesus held His peace. His sufferings were many and acute, but He did not give in to the impulse of sarcasm or revenge.


Consider Jesus. Christ’s endurance gives the example for every disciple to follow. Where He stood is where we are called to stand – placing our feet in the foot marks of where He stood. We stand not in the mocking, but the meekness; not the scourging, but the submission; not the dread and desertion of the Father’s love, but in the unrelenting devotion. We, like the Son, cry out to the Father, “Father, forgive them.” Like Jesus, we are called to live in complete surrender to the Will of God. His endurance is to be our pattern.


Considering Jesus’ way of living is completely contrary to the way we live. Our way of living often is in utter opposition to the high-spirited way of Jesus. We have such thin skin, the most minor insult sets us into defense mode, hurling back insult for insult, all while we call ourselves disciples. The cross is the ground for all our peace and hope, it’s also our pattern for living.


When you consider Jesus you realize that your bad day will never match the days of Jesus’ suffering. In considering Jesus, you see the tough times are but an opportunity to display your loyalty to the ways of Jesus, to cultivate the spirit of Christ, to act as His friend in tough situations. Considering Jesus in all things is a lifelong practice of filling our heart with Holy ambition, to be conformed to His likeness.


Respond:

Consider Jesus, think through how He would respond in your circumstances.

Connected to His Cross 

I feel honored and privileged each week as I pray for our Church. I read and I listen, in contemplation as I'm led, I write. I write our devos in the hope to amplify and apply the sacred text. I write trustfully that some small part of the truth of the text will lodge in the heart and ultimately be incarnated in our living. This week we take a break from our study of Acts to focus on the daily art of considering Jesus. Read them prayerfully, intentionally and instructively. If they speak to you, share them with others. Blessings, Dave Edwards

Read:

“. . . kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously, . . .” 1 Peter 2:23


Reflect:

Christianity separated from one’s thinking, values, interest, and actions is not Christianity. For the first disciples, every subject, relationship, task was connected to Jesus and His cross. It was natural for them to think like this, whatever came their way was sure to be influenced by their loyalty to Christ. 


We, too, cannot see things as they are unless we connect all our experiences to the One who has brought God to us. Peter was writing to people living in troubling circumstances who were being challenged to display the Spirit of the Lord, to do what He had done, to endure as He had endured. Peter had seen Jesus’ example first-hand of how He entrusted Himself to God.


Peter was there in the garden and saw Jesus’ bloody sweat. Peter was there when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss and saw the humility of Him placing Himself into the hands of His enemies. It was Peter, who drew the sword in defense of Jesus and heard the words of His Master’s rebuke. The same Peter followed Jesus into the courtroom, saw the Lord bound and reviled, and witnessed Jesus utter no threats while being insulted. It was Peter, who entered the empty grave of the risen One. It was Peter, who when forgiven of his faithlessness and fear, was assured by the Lord of his share of humiliation and agony of the cross. 


Peter had seen Jesus drink the bitter cup of betrayal of friends, along with being mocked by the very ones He came to die for and save. We, too, are called to have the same poise as Jesus in the midst of our own times of trial.


Response:

Our response of griping and complaining places us in a position of rebelling against the very circumstances He has called us to be faithful in. Make a pre-determined decision to handle the contents of your day with the same attitude of Jesus. 



The Simplicity of our Salvation 

I feel honored and privileged each week as I pray for our Church. I read and I listen, in contemplation as I'm led, I write. I write our devos in the hope to amplify and apply the sacred text. I write trustfully that some small part of the truth of the text will lodge in the heart and ultimately be incarnated in our living. This week we take a break from our study of Acts to focus on the daily art of considering Jesus. Read them prayerfully, intentionally and instructively. If they speak to you, share them with others. Blessings, Dave Edwards


Read:

“. . . our sorrows He carried; . . .” Isaiah 53:4


Reflect:

Life can leave us bruised, battered, broken and bent. Thankfully we are not left to learn how to cope with what appears to be unchangeable problems.


Isaiah pulls back the veil to show the full extent of what it cost Jesus to make us sons and daughters of God. His agony was the basis for the simplicity of our salvation.


As His disciples, we are called to walk in conformity to the ways of Jesus. As the believers of the early church faced persecution, they were not left on their own without a model to follow, for Christ had suffered, leaving an example to follow in His steps.


Jesus bore our sorrows. He didn’t use them as a reason for revenge or rebellion. When He was being wrongly, cruelly, terribly treated, Jesus didn’t answer back, knowing we are called to have the same response. Yet, you know you can’t do it because you want to fight back; you want your opinion to be made known, you want to be heard, you feel the need to defend yourself.


There is a breaking point in each one of us.  It’s the point in our obedience when our soul screams out “this is not fair!” The breaking point is where the nails must be driven into every last stubborn part of us, when following Jesus is tougher than imagined. 


Yet, it’s also a point of illumination when we realize the cross is the way to handle every situation and circumstance that comes our way. Jesus’ death on Calvary illustrates that redemption comes to us in the form of a cross. Suffering love is God’s strategy, His only strategy, God redeems through the cross. We overcome by surrendering to the cross in love and obedience.


Respond:

What’s your breaking point? Name it. Confess it. Know Jesus carried it.