Friday, January 30, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 20

Day 20 Restoring Broken Fellowship

Have you ever felt expendable? Like you just weren’t needed or wanted? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a disagreement? While these feelings hurt whenever you experience them, they hurt the most deeply when they happen with someone we care about. It hurts so much because it breaks our fellowship with them. We turn away from each other.

Usually, we do not mean to hurt people. Broken fellowship frequently is a result of some kind of misunderstanding. Perhaps we thought someone said one thing when they really meant something else. Maybe we weren’t listening well and missed a crucial part of what was being said. Maybe we overheard a conversation and didn’t have the proper context. We might even have some strongly held opinions (or even pet peeves!) that differ from others.

When something breaks our fellowship, we have to stop and make it right. Right. That word sometimes is the very source of the problem!

When it is more important to be right than to be righteous (in right relationship), we’ve lost sight of the target. Our hesed has faltered—we have chosen not to serve or submit or lead with love, grace and mercy in our dealings with a brother or sister.

We have a problem. Our relationship is not right. That means we are no longer right with God, either. Our coach may give us a time out to get our act together—and we’ll be smart if we ask him to help us make it right NOW!

It is not easy, but it must be done. Not only for the sake of our brother or sister—but also for the sake of our relationship with God. Jesus tells us clearly that the way we treat each other is how we treat him—and John makes that painfully clear as well. (You’ll read about it next week.)

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us the model for dealing with conflict. If you have a problem, you deal with it directly—don’t assume someone else will do the dirty work for you. You must go in private and discuss the matter directly with the person. Our blood covenant together requires us to make it right—and hesed shows both the required attitudes and actions.

Remember from Day 3 that the driving purpose of God is reconciliation—so emphasize getting right, not being right. You may not agree on every point of fact, but agree to disagree agreeably!

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. While you’re reading, look for clues to right relationships.

Keep Breathing!

When you invite God to fill you today with the Holy Spirit so you will be able to remain on target and faithful to God’s purpose, ask him to reveal to you a relationship that needs to be made right. Make a plan to meet with the person—sooner rather than later! Thank God for his amazing hesed toward you by reconciling you through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 19

Day 19 Cultivating Community

Have you ever planted a garden? It takes some good planning to be successful, doesn’t it? Well, growing authentic relationships in the covenant community takes planning, too. Where does the cycle start?

Soil preparation.

Why do you think that is? Because if the soil is not properly prepared, the seeds you plant may not grow and produce a crop that can be harvested.

So what is involved in cultivation? Well, there are pulling weeds and removing rocks and breaking up hardened clumps. Then there’s enriching the soil with fertilizer so there are plenty of nutrients nearby to feed the growing plants. Sometimes you need to add sand to the soil if there’s too much clay for air and water to circulate.

Sounds pretty complicated…

Relationships need cultivation too. Love and unity only grow through openness and honesty, humility and generosity, accountability and responsibility—the koinonia (authentic “in common” relationships) of growing more like Christ together.

Then there’s the maintenance tasks: more weeding, watering and feeding…until the plants are mature and the harvest is ready to be gathered.

If you are trying to grow outside authentic community, you will find it very difficult—your intimacy needs will be hard to fill. We need each other to help cultivate and maintain God’s Covenant Community. (See Hebrews 10:23-25)

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. While you’re reading, look for the kinds of cultivation John was encouraging them to do.

Keep Breathing!

As you invite God to fill you today with the Holy Spirit so that you will be able to remain on target and faithful to God’s purpose, see if your bike needs any maintenance! Is there any dirt or grime that has collected—slowing you down?

Take a look. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything that’s getting in your way. Confess it to God and let it go. Thank him that Jesus provided all the power needed to wash it away.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 18

Day 18 Experiencing Life Together

As the Covenant Community grows larger, we must purposely grow smaller. It means that each person has a place to be known and cared for by a few people. It also means that we know and care for a few people. It is the only way for everyone’s basic intimacy needs to be met.

Knowing and being known are essential to healthy relationships. It is what makes them “real”—we frequently use the word authentic to describe “real” relationship. Authentic relationships have some basic characteristics. The Greek word koinonia to help us get a better picture.

The Greek word koinonia literally means to hold in common. The first century church fellowship was often identified using koinonia because they were a people whose behavior showed that they were obviously united by what they held in common: Jesus Christ as Lord of the Covenant Community. But the bigger concept beyond the literal meaning is much richer because it shows the joining of the Covenant Community with the Eternal Community:

Koinonia: the love and unity between brothers and sisters in Christ (characterized by openness, honesty, generosity, humility, accountability and responsibility for meeting each other’s needs) because of the Holy Spirit’s presence in them.

And the characteristics that identify koinonia are hesed in action!

This is a picture of what can happen in small groups! Does this look like any small group you’re involved with?

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. While you’re reading, notice the importance of knowing Christ—especially now that you understand a little better what it means to know someone!

Keep Breathing!

InhaleInvite God to fill you right now with the Holy Spirit so that you will be able to remain on target and faithful to God’s purpose. Exhale—release any selfish desires for intimacy in order to accept God’s desire—hesed! Push those pedals—keep serving and submitting and leading. Keep loving and being gracious and giving mercy…whee!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 17

Day 17 A Place to Belong

Have you noticed that Americans have a love/hate relationship with belonging? We want to belong—as long as there’s no commitment required. Marriage, family, schools, churches and neighborhoods are all types of communities that have suffered terribly in the past 50 years from this unwillingness to commit to each other.

During the same timeframe, we have seen a huge rise in gangs—which all require absolute commitment. Militant religions and many cults and religions, are similar. They require staggering commitment—even the sacrifice of one’s life.

Something must be wrong here!

God created us with the need to belong. Not a want or a desire—a need. That need has a name: intimacy.

When the need for intimacy is not fulfilled through right relationship with him and his covenant community, people look elsewhere. But exactly what is it that they are looking for? Dr. David Ferguson and Dr. Don McMinn, of Intimate Life Ministries, have documented this need in their book: Top 10 Intimacy Needs. In this wonderful little book, they go on to explain the dynamics of intimacy. (We encourage you to check out their website:

Come to find out, intimacy is not just an American need—it’s cross-cultural, intergenerational, life-long and continuous. Not only is it OK to have these intimacy needs, it’s dangerous to misunderstand the importance of meeting these needs:

  • It’s dangerous to think we are self-sufficient. Not only will we neglect meeting our own needs, we will neglect the needs of those around us. (See Revelation 3:17.)

  • It’s dangerous to have a mindset of entitlement—selfishly demanding that everyone around you be responsible to ensure that all your needs be met first. (Very little serving or submitting or taking the initiative here!)

  • It’s dangerous to think our needs are a result of sin—that there is something wrong with us when we feel these needs. (Look at the intimacy needs of Jesus—the only sinless human!)

So, just what are these top 10 intimacy needs? They are: acceptance, approval, encouragement, support, affection, security, respect, attention, comfort and appreciation.

While each of us has all of these needs, we will have a different priority. One person’s order—even their top three—may be completely different from another. This difference shows, again, the importance of spending time getting to know yourself and others—so you can learn how to meet their needs and help them learn how to meet your needs.

The Intimate Life Ministries mission is one of restoring what they call Great Commandment Love (what you’ll find in Matthew 22:37) to the church.

Hey, would you look at that? This sounds like hesed—serving, submitting and leading with love, grace and mercy.

That’s exactly right! When we practice hesed, we are keeping covenant. We are loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength—and our neighbor as ourselves.

God’s complete and faithful hesed toward us provides a way for all these needs to be met—either directly through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our hearts or through the Covenant Community. That is why it is so important for us to love each other. Because if we do not love each other, then we are letting God down—we are breaking covenant with him and missing the mark. And God calls missing the mark sin.

This is the commitment that is required for belonging—spending quality time together. Hanging out together. Knowing there is someone in your corner. If the Covenant Community doesn’t get it right, where do people turn?

Well, go back and review today’s first two paragraphs…the alternative is not pretty.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. While you’re reading, look for the importance of doing what is right—practicing hesed.

Keep Breathing!

This third week we want you to accelerate a little. Invite God to fill you today with the Holy Spirit so that you will be able to remain on target and faithful to God’s purpose.

Feel him helping you pedal. Thank him for giving you his family so he could fulfill your need to belong. Ask God to help you identify your top three intimacy needs—and look for one opportunity to meet an intimacy need in someone else.

Now we’re picking up speed—hang on!

Monday, January 26, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 16

Day 16 What Matters Most

Up to this point, we’ve used rather broad strokes to introduce you to the concept of covenant keeping. And just as it was the “main thing” in Day 10, it is “what matters most” today.

Last week we worked to widen our concept of worship to include expression of our love for God by how we love each other. This is important because God always meant for us to have dynamic relationships with each other as a result of our dynamic relationship with him. That’s the whole point of having a covenant.

So this week we’re going to introduce you to a word that may be new to you—or that you’ve heard but didn’t understand. It is the Hebrew word cHesed (pronounced HEH sed, with that guttural ch sound). [I’m going to leave the “c” the rest of the time—it okay with either spelling.]

The only reason we use a foreign word in our daily speech is if there is no way to translate it clearly into English. Hesed is such a word. It is the root of what we have been calling covenant keeping and is quite complex and deep in meaning. Hesed basically means to promote the best interest of your partners, according to the terms of the covenant. Clear as mud, right?

So, you ask again, what does hesed mean and where can you find it in the Bible?

The English words used to translate hesed most frequently are love, grace and mercy. They describe the attitudes that encourage you to promote the best interest of your covenant partners. They are words that show restraint of self in order to show favor to another. That’s half of hesed.

Words that Jesus used to describe the actions that are to be prompted by our love, grace and mercy are serve, submit and lead (initiate good). That’s the other half of hesed.

Hesed, then, means to serve, submit and lead with love, grace and mercy. This is how Jesus acted toward God and man. This is how we are to act toward God and each other. If we do this, we are keeping the terms of the covenant. Now, when you read in the New Testament that we are to do these actions and have these attitudes, you’ll know you are reading about hesed—covenant keeping.

Now you know why we like to use this unusual word—it brings this amazing concept to mind. With some practice, it will for you, too.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. While you’re reading, notice the importance of remaining and continuing. Look for signs of hesed in actions and attitudes.

Keep Breathing!

You’re doing great! Two weeks of inviting God to spend the day with you. One week of including God in your conversations and activities. Today, you’re looking for power to pedal by inviting God to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you will be able to remain on target and faithful to God’s purpose.

Flash—the Holy Spirit is part of God’s hesed for us! That is why you can keep going—even if you think you can’t move another inch! The Holy Spirit keeps the pedals moving. (See Romans 8:26!)

Friday, January 23, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 15

WEEK 3 – Fellowship: You Were Formed For God’s Family

[Note: Remember that this was written for use every day of the week--but I'm only publishing them Monday-Friday! Don't let that "week 3" confuse you ;^)]

Day 15 Formed for God’s Family

We have used many images of family life these past two weeks. And we’ll be using more in the weeks to come—but especially this week.

For some of us, the use of this image of family is difficult to relate to because our family circumstances have not been especially healthy or happy. If this is your circumstance, we have good news for you!

When we are adopted into God’s family, we get a new Father and the perfect Big Brother! If we will let him, God will re-parent us toward more healthy and happy family relationships.

Family relationships. That means that this week we’ll be looking more closely at what it means to be part of God’s family. We’ll look at attitudes and behaviors we must allow God to change so that our experience together on earth will further prepare us for eternal life in heaven.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Remember to feel the flow of John’s thoughts this week, so that you’ll have a better understanding of John’s words.

Read 1 John 2:18 through 3:10. While you’re reading, notice the importance of belonging.

Getting In Shape

This third week we want you to accelerate a little. Invite God to fill you daily with the Holy Spirit so that you will be able to remain on target and faithful to God’s purpose.

We all need signs and markers along our exercise route. You know, it’s like when you get to the house with the big fence (and bigger dog behind it), there’s just three more blocks until you’re home. Or, we need that buddy to keep us faithful and moving along at a good pace.

Now that you’re inviting God to spend each day with you, including him in each conversation and activity, it’s time to ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit every day so you can do his will. (See John 14:16-27.)

Let’s take a good, slow stretch to keep that muscle from cramping!

Whoa…we’re moving beyond asking God to come along with us – we’re asking the Holy Spirit to take us along with him! That’s a very different story. Hold on…the scenery’s about to change drastically!

The good news is, we’re moving from going on foot to riding a tandem bike. Perhaps you’ve heard that story about riding a tandem bike with Jesus as the driver in the front seat: You can’t always see where you’re going, you don’t get to steer, but you’re confident in your destination and you’re not pedaling alone. And when the going gets tough, Jesus shouts back to you: “just put your head down and keep pedaling.” Then, when you get to the top of the hill and stop for a rest, the view is astounding – and the ride down is exhilarating!

  • Invite God to spend the day with you.

  • Invite God to join each of your conversations and activities.

  • Invite God to fill you daily with the Holy Spirit so that you will be able to remain on target (obey) and faithful to God’s purpose (loving him and others).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 14

Day 14 When God Seems Distant

In sports a time out can be called for many reasons. Sometimes the coach needs to give the players a new plan. Sometimes the referees need to discuss a call. Sometimes a player needs to talk to the coach. Sometimes it is called to cool down heated tempers.

If you didn’t call the time out, it can seem frustrating. But if you see it as a moment to rest and reflect, then it is a gift! And when play continues, you will be better for it.

Even best friends sometimes need a break. While God always keeps up with us, we can have a hard time keeping up with him. Our signals get crossed. We lose our focus—forgetting the play.

God never makes us do what we’re not ready to do. Sometimes he has to let us catch our breath and take a time out. (In Matthew 11:28, rest means just this kind of break!)

Don’t worry when God seems distant. He hasn’t gone anywhere. The problem is with our perspective. Usually, we have moved away from his view. No wonder we can’t see him!

So put down your burden and refresh yourself. Call an intermission—pause for a time out. After you’ve caught your breath, check your position. Where are you? What’s going on?

Then check in with the coach and ask him if you’re ready to get back in the game. If he says yes, get back in there and keep going. If he says no, then take a seat and wait patiently—he’ll show you what you need to do next.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:12-17 one more time! While you’re reading, think about how challenging it has been to read this passage these last seven days. Hey, does this feel a little like a drill? Bingo!

You can think of it as a boring drill, or you can think of it as a way to get stronger and more intimate with God. That’s part of what discipleship is—working at reading God’s Word and getting it into your heart.

Find one thing that speaks encouragement into your heart and let it refresh you while you’re warming the bench!

Keep Breathing!

Today when you ask God—your new best friend—to spend the day with you, transforming your conversations and activities, thank him for his rest. Take a time out from things that are wearing you down. Breathe in his Spirit—exhale your frustrations. Don’t be in a hurry to jump back into the rat race.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 13

Day 13 Worship That Pleases God

The Hebrew Shema talks about loving God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. The word strength is really the key to the proper understanding of this verse.

Have you ever heard the word vehement? (It is pronounced VEE ha ment.) Well, it captures the Hebrew concept that is usually translated strength. Vehement means something that is characterized by forcefulness of expression or intensity of emotion, passion or conviction.

Worship that pleases God, then, is meant to reflect love that is expressive, emotional, passionate and perceptive. It is to be a reflection of the depth of our intimacy with God. God wants to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (See John 4:23-24). He wants to be worshiped with the totality of our lives in complete openness and honesty. Giving part of yourself or trying to hide something from him just won’t do.

The important thing to remember is that God’s friendship with each of us is unique—and our expression of that friendship may be different from others. Worship that pleases God allows each person enough freedom for his or her own expression of spirit and truth—while exercising enough restraint for good order in our unified expression. It is not to be either/or. It is to be both/and.

So when you consider your response to God’s intimate friendship, it may inspire you to raise a hand (or both of them!). It may inspire you to close your eyes and ponder the words being said or sung around you. It may cause you to confess and repent. It may send you to your knees. It may sweep over you and brings tears to your eyes. It may make you dance and clap with joy. It may inspire you to hug your neighbor.

If your worship does not reflect all that God has made you to be—or has been less than completely open and honest—look for the Spirit to ask you to change.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:12-17. While you’re reading, look for things that can cause you to be closed instead of open—or not relating honestly with God and others.

Keep Breathing!

Today when you ask God—your new best friend—to spend the day with you, transforming your conversations and activities, check the choices you have been making. Are your choices being restrained by your love for God? Do they represent a living sacrifice—spiritual worship?

If not, take a cleansing breath—and exhale any disappointment with yourself. Wipe the sweat off your forehead and look beside you—God is still there.

Just keep after it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 12

Day 12 Developing Your Friendship with God

What do best friends do?

They spend lots of time together. They find themselves wanting to be together as much as possible. They make the other laugh when one becomes too serious. They quietly hold hands when one is sad and down. They gladly listen to all the joyous details of success. They graciously allow the venting of every ounce of frustration and failure. They encourage and scold—as needed.

This work must be done personally. You can’t be best friends second hand. It would be like reading everything written about and by someone famous—and thinking that knowing everything about him or her makes you their best friend.

Knowing all about someone isn’t the same thing as knowing them personally. Say you were to meet that famous someone—running up to shake their hand and say, “I know all about you. I’m your biggest fan.” What would be their response?

They would stare at you with a puzzled look and (if they were a kind person) extend their hand saying, “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

God has given us his Word so that we might get to know him. And we need to invest the time to understand what he wants us to know. But through the Holy Spirit, God wants to make that knowledge intimately personal.

Intimate knowledge draws us closer. God may not have favorites (as Charles Stanley said), but he does have intimates—those who take the time and energy to know him well. When we love him with everything he’s created us to be, our friendship deepens—and our behavior changes.

Because it’s not just about knowing God’s Word—it’s about doing what God says. It’s not just being “in Christ,” it’s behaving “like Christ.”

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:12-17. While you’re reading, look for words that suggest relationships.

Keep Breathing!

Today when you ask God—your new best friend—to spend the day with you, transforming your conversations and activities, ask for help you get to know them better. Look for ways to take one thing you know about God and put that knowledge into action.

Having trouble putting your finger on what you know about God? Maybe these suggestions will get you started:

  • Their pleasure to be your Father, Elder Brother and Counselor

  • Their promised presence

  • Their love and forgiveness

  • Their desire for intimate friendship

Monday, January 19, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 11

Day 11 Becoming Best Friends with God

How many really good friends do you have? Someone you can count on to always be there for you? Who really knows you, but likes you anyway?

If you have one, they say you are considered fortunate. If you have two, you are truly blessed. If you have three, you realize just how much time you must invest in these kinds of relationships! And that’s why most people consider themselves fortunate to have one good friend—because friendships take time.

But what does it mean to have a best friend? It’s more exclusive than a good friend, isn’t it? The word best really means there is only one.

Do you have a best friend? Maybe it’s a sister or brother. Maybe it’s your spouse or significant other. Maybe it’s a childhood friend who has shared all of your life’s experiences.

Well, have you ever lost a best friend to someone else? You might still consider them your best friend, but they don’t feel the same way about you any more. Boy, that hurts!

If your best friend is a person, they will—sooner or later—let you down. They may change and have different interests. They may move far away. Ultimately, even if they are your faithful friend their entire life, they will die.

That’s why God (Father, Son & Spirit) wants you to let them be your best friend.

  • They really know you—and love you anyway!

  • You can always count on them to be there for you.

  • They will never let you down because they’ll never leave you—forever.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Readthrough 1 John 2:12-17. While you’re reading, look for examples of the benefits of counting on God as your best friend—instead of depending on things or people in the world.

Keep Breathing!

Today when you ask God to spend the day with you, transforming your conversations and activities, tell him you want him to be your best friend. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what it means to be best friends with God.

Friday, January 16, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 10

Day 10 The Heart of Worship

Why do we talk about getting to the heart of something? The heart of something is the most important component—the main thing. If you can understand that main thing, then you have a chance to succeed.

If living up to our created potential and saying “yes” to God are what make God smile, how do we get a handle on how to do that consistently? We go to the second part of our covenant formula.

The first part is pretty easy—since God did all the hard work. To be part of the covenant, we have to be “in Christ.” We do that by accepting God’s offer of adoption—joining the family of God.

The second part is where the rubber meets the road. To remain part of the covenant, we have to become “like Christ.” The terms of the covenant are all about the attitude of obedience. We call this covenant keeping. It’s living up to our part of the bargain.

So, if we can understand covenant keeping, we will understand the main thing about worship. And if we understand the main thing, we’ll feel the heartbeat of worship inside us.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied by quoting from the Old Covenant Law: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Yes—that is this week’s memory verse! He went on to add that there was a second command like the first: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus put them together because the truth is that if we really love God completely, we will love each other, too. This is what it means to be “like Christ.” We show our love for God by loving each other. Jesus showed his love for God by becoming a man and offering his life as the blood sacrifice so that we could be his brothers and sisters. Jesus wasn’t content to just have it all for himself—because God wanted to include all of us in his family. Jesus showed that he loved God by loving us.

"Therefore I urge you brothers in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1,2 (NIV)

Parents try to teach their children to help each other, to share, to take turns, to include everyone. In the beginning it sounds a lot like nagging, but the parents keep at it—hoping that it will sink in. Parents know that the children have learned well when they see them actually loving each other.

  • When the older ones help the younger ones—without having to be told to do it—the parent smiles.

  • When one child freely shares his most treasured toy with another, the parent smiles.

  • When children take turns so that everyone gets to participate, the parent smiles.

  • When a child reaches out to include one who is sad and feels left out, the parent smiles.

Why does the parent smile? Because the child has made the proper response to the parent’s teaching. The child has understood the instructions and internalized them—as evidenced by their ability to choose proper actions in response to various circumstances.

God smiles at these sweet deeds because they are actually a type of worship. When we come to understand why we need to obey our parents, we will understand why we need to obey God.

God considers this worship because worship happens when we make the proper response to his actions.

  • He creates—we praise and admire.

  • He inspires—we use our imagination to create, too.

  • He speaks wisdom to us—we echo his words with one voice

  • He gives the gift of music—we sing and make music before him.

  • He sets our hearts in motion—we dance before him.

  • He reaches out to us—we reach our hands up to him.

  • He shows us the depths of his love for us—we share that love with others.

  • He gives us resources—we use them to help in the family business.

  • He forgives us when we let him down—we forgive others when they let us down.

  • He pulls us up when we fall—we help another get up when they fall.

Do you see a pattern here? We’re giving glory to God by reflecting Christ in our actions. That’s worship—and it’s expression is not narrow, but very diverse and broad. (We will look at the different times and places we worship later this week.)

The heart of worship is keeping covenant because that is the proper response to God’s action in making covenant with us.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:12-17. While you’re reading, look for examples of covenant-keeping behavior.

Keep Breathing!

Today when you ask God to spend the day with you, tell him you really want him to transform your conversations and activities.

Start by looking for just one piece of evidence of his action around you—and ask him to help you make the proper response. Warning: that response may or may not be in your comfort zone.

It will, however, be an act of obedient covenant keeping. It will show God that you’ve been listening. And it will reflect the image of Christ to those around you.

Most of us know that worship happens during church services. But that’s not the only place. It happens in small groups and in our individual relationship with God. Worship is supposed to happen all the time. As a matter of fact, it’s going on in heaven right now! The more practice we get with a lifestyle of worship here, the more ready we will be to worship God for eternity in heaven!

Stay with it—you’re making God proud to work out with you!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 9

Day 9 What Makes God Smile?

There is nothing that makes God smile faster and bigger than when we say “Yes, Dad” with a smile on our face and eagerness in our voice—and then go off to do what God asked us to do.

We know that obedience is important because it is such a big theme in the Bible. There is a reason it is such a big deal. That reason has to do with covenant. So, let’s take one more step in our understanding of God by understanding more about covenant.

Last week we learned a number of things about covenant. Once we understand the importance of having covenants, we can begin to look at the way God chose to make them. Basically, God put together a formula for covenant with four parts:

  1. Parties – those who take an oath to abide by the terms of the covenant.

  2. Terms – the responsibilities of the parties to keep the covenant.

  3. Promises – the benefits of keeping the covenant.

  4. Consequences – the cost of failing to keep the covenant.

Every covenant had each of these four parts, although the details could differ from one covenant to another. (And God made quite a few covenants, as you can see in the Old Testament writings.) The covenant that we are invited to take part in is the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

A summary of the New Covenant and its covenant-keeping formula looks like this:

In Christ + Like Christ = With Christ


(those included in the covenant)

In Christ


Those who choose to be “in Christ” (part of the body of Christ, the church) through accepting God’s offer of reconciliation and adoption


(requirements of covenant keeping)

Like Christ


Those who live like Christ (loving God and one another) find that the requirements of the covenant are, by definition, being kept


(for faithful covenant keeping)

With Christ

All the faithful (those “in” and “like” Christ) share with Christ all he is and has – now and forever


(of rejecting God’s covenant offer)


Those who reject God’s offer of reconciliation through Christ live apart from his presence – now and forever

(Don’t panic—we’ll unpack the details of this formula before the end of our Journey together!)

We know that obedience makes God smile because the New Testament records that it made God very happy that Jesus was completely obedient. There were, of course, many difficult things that God asked Jesus to do. And so Jesus may not have always been a picture of outward cheer and joy as he went about his duties. But there was never a hint of rebellion—he never put his will before the Father’s will. He knew what he had to do—and for him, that included becoming our covenant-making sacrifice by his death on the cross. Because he was fully human, he got tired and was hungry and lonely—the same stresses we all experience. And because he was also fully God, he never lost sight of the goal or stumbled on the path to accomplish that goal.

That means that it is our attitude that makes God smile. It is our willingness to do what he asks us to do that makes him happy. It is the “If I ask you, will you?” question that we face every day. And as long as we keep answering “Yes, Dad” and then do what he asks us to do, God will be smiling.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 2:12-17 again (you’re getting the hang of it). While you’re reading, look for the signs of the attitudes God wants to develop in us.

Keep Breathing!

When you invite God to spend the day with you today, tell him that you really do want to include him in every conversation and activity. What will that look like? Well, it won’t be like having an imaginary friend you talk to out loud (like Harvey the rabbit in the classic story).

It probably will feel more like knowing your mother can hear what you’re saying when you’re playing with your friends. The difference is that, while your mother may yell out the window for you to play nice and use kind words, God speaks quietly into your heart. He asks if you will remember his presence. His gift of free will allows you to ignore him. You have to choose.

Don’t let that feeling stop you from including God—let it transform what you say and do! The sooner we admit that God sees and hears everything we do—whether we invite him or not—the further down the road to obedience we’ll get.

Hey, this is a workout—you’re supposed to sweat!

But listen to the coach say, “Come on—take a deep breath. Now exhale all the way. There, isn’t that better?” That cleansing breath is critical for moving forward.

When you get to that moment of choice, take in a big breath of God’s presence. Then exhale your doubts and look over at God. He will be smiling.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 8

WEEK 2 – Worship: You Were Planned For God’s Pleasure

Day 8 Planned for God’s Pleasure

When you plan out a masterpiece—whether it’s a work of art or a dinner or a vacation—you usually are doing it because it makes you happy. It gives you pleasure. You like planning it and you like doing the work, because you want to get the pleasure of experiencing the result.

The only thing that compelled God to create was the desire to create. We can understand that, since we are created in his image. We create because we are creative.

Just as we don’t plan to have a disaster, God didn’t either. He knew that free will and choice would make his creation more challenging—but God is always up for a challenge!

And so God planned all of creation and they worked together to make it—with the best brought forth last: man. All the other parts of creation were things other than God, but man was made in God’s image. They would be able to walk together in the cool of the garden. They could do things together. Nothing is more pleasant than that!

One of the amazing things about God’s plan for man is that we may have the blessing of children. This is one of the ways we get closest to understanding God and his plan in creation. When we decide to have children, we understand that there will be many things that we can’t control (remember Day 2?), but we plan for the best possible outcome—a healthy baby.

When that baby arrives, the pleasure is just impossible to describe. That baby is our glory. We dress him or her up to show off to everyone. We listen for them to say: “What a beautiful baby!” “He looks just like his Daddy,” or “She has her Mommy’s eyes.” We can just sit and watch them all day long when they’re darling babies.

When they get to be toddlers, it gets a little more challenging—we have to deal with their ability to talk and walk. They seemed so much sweeter when they couldn’t talk back or get into things…. But then they learn to say precious things, like “I love you!” and they run to you and fly into your arms and give you a big bear hug.

And on and on it goes—they go to school and then off to college and careers and possibly get married and have children and slowly become real adults who begin to have a deeper appreciation for you because they have their own children and home and life.

While there are challenges in each stage of their growth, there can be tremendous pleasure, too. And when they make good choices, you are so proud. And when someone says, “They’re really a chip off the old block!” it makes you even more proud. And when they say how proud they are to be known as your child, well, you just choke back the tears.

And that’s worship in a nutshell.

God planned us so he could love us. That gives God pleasure. God also planned to be loved by us. And when we love him with everything that he created us to be, well, he just chokes back the tears.

And that means that we’re going to do everything we can to help you express your love for God in every way you can.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Remember to read through the entire passage without stopping. We want you to feel the flow of John’s thoughts so that you’ll have a better understanding of John’s words.

Read 1 John 2:12-17. While you’re reading, watch for John’s many reminders of who we are as God’s children. Do you see yourself?

Getting In Shape

This second week we want you to build your strength by adding this exercise to last week’s: How would your life change if God were a welcome participant in each conversation and activity?

Have you ever been with someone when they come across a friend? What happened? Perhaps the person you were with didn’t introduce you, or they picked up a previous conversation in which you weren’t included. Did you feel as if you were suddenly invisible? Ouch! Worse yet, did they say things that embarrassed you or perhaps betray another’s confidence? What did you do?

Once you’ve gotten accustomed to realizing God spends each day with you, work hard not to say or do things that would make him sad or uncomfortable. Thoughtlessness of this kind really puts a wrinkle in intimate communication! It will bring a tear to God’s eye—but not the kind we want!

Are you panting a little? Yes, this is a little bit harder. It takes a little more concentration. The coach shouts: “Breathe, breathe!” And if you will inhale God into everything you do, you will begin to feel more confident about what you exhale being pleasing to God. Remember:

  • Invite God to spend the day with you.

  • Invite God to join each of your conversations and activities.

Here we go!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 7

Day 7 The Reason for Everything

Let’s do a quick review of our first six days:

  • While it’s all about God, he wants to include us in his purpose!

  • God has provided a safe environment in which to grow in relationship with him.

  • We have the proper perspective for relationship with God through covenant.

  • Our relationship with God is meant to last forever.

  • We have taken a closer look at life from God’s view.

  • We choose to embrace the changes God desires, so that we don’t lose sight of Heaven as our destination.

What is the point of all these thoughts and activities?

It is wrapped up in the word glory. Have you ever noticed that we use a lot of words that we don’t know how to define? We kind of know what they mean, but we can’t explain them very well.

Glory is one of those words.

If we’re going to understand that it’s all about God and that we bear the Image of God and are to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ—we’d better understand something about glory.

Basically, glory has to do with the attractive, visible characteristics of something or someone. Let’s take a look at three examples from the Bible. (Remember now, the first two are examples from 2000 years ago—a different time and different culture.)

  1. A woman’s hair was considered her glory. Long, beautiful hair was particularly glorious because it took time and work to grow it and care for it well. (Think: no crème rinse or blow dryer or curling iron.) Properly cared for, long hair was an attractive, visible characteristic of someone who was considered a proper lady. (Hair that was cut short, or shaved off completely, usually signified the woman was not married and not respectable.)

  2. Likewise, a man’s glory was his wife. An attractive (see above) and hospitable wife was a visible characteristic of the man’s good judgment and excellent leadership of, and domestic provision for, his household. Think of The Wife of Noble Character from Proverbs 31!

  3. Finally, God’s glory is man – the Image of God. The only man who reflected that image clearly was Jesus Christ. However, when man (male and female) functions well in the covenant community, the characteristics of God are both visible and attractive to those who witness it.

Giving glory, then, states that some visible characteristic is worth being publicly acknowledged for its beauty or truth or strength or wisdom. It is giving credit where credit is due.

The attractive, visible characteristics of Christ that are seen in Christians, then, are not to be sources of praise for the individual. They are not to be viewed as evidence of great personal character or ability, but as evidence of Christ’s character and ability in them. They are to be a source of giving glory to God.

When we say “glory to God” we mean that we choose to acknowledge that the character of God is visible and beautiful when:

  • We are amazed at the tremendous complexity and variety and beauty of God’s creation—with no exact duplicates!

    • We acknowledge that each child born is a unique and special gift from God to the world. That child’s potential is to be acknowledged and nurtured on purpose toward God’s purpose—no one else can take their place.

  • We experience the gifts of music, whether vocal or instrumental, God has given man.

  • We experience the imaginative and creative abilities God has given man to make new things out of the raw materials God created.

    • We experience the beauty of art, whether drawing or painting or sculpting or writing or capturing images on film.

    • We wonder at those who study science and technology and their many innovations throughout history.

  • We see lives transformed and reconciled by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the covenant community.

    • Through the joyful exercise of the Spiritual Gifts by every one of God’s people—according to the direction of the Holy Spirit.

    • Through the building of caring relationships in small groups.

    • Through the fervent and effectual prayers of God’s people.

    • Through the humble acts of service with and for God’s people.

    • Through the loving hands of God’s people that reach out to invite others to join the family.

Maybe you get the picture by now: it really is all about God. Everything that we have is a gift from God to be used according to God’s purpose, not ours.

Whatever you see or hear or do, remember to give credit where credit is due.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 1:1 through 2:11 again. While you’re reading, think about seeing God’s glory—his attractive, visible characteristics—when you read, “light.” You can also try substituting “refusing to help” for “hate.”

Keep Breathing!

Well, this is the last day of the first week of getting in shape. Good for you—you made it!

So, today when you invite him to spend the day, tell him that you know that it’s all about him. Thank him for wanting to include you in his day! Keep your eyes open for signs of God’s glory—and be sure to point them out to everyone you meet along the way!

You’re in great shape! Stay with us.

Monday, January 12, 2009

40 Days of cHesed—Day 6

Day 6 Life Is a Temporary Job

Have you ever had a summer job? Maybe you worked in retail over the Holiday season? Perhaps you’ve even worked for a temporary agency? That kind of job is known as seasonal work. Now the season may be of your design or not; but temporary assignments are not the stuff of career dreams.

Temp jobs are a path to get you from where you are to the next stop along your life’s journey. They are a means to an end, not the end itself.

There are people who work temp jobs on purpose. They like the freedom of knowing the start and finish dates of their assignments. They like the variety and challenge of learning new things and meeting new people. They like the comfort of knowing that even if they don’t care for the task they’ve been given, it won’t last forever.

All successful temporary workers have one common trait: they embrace change. They don’t expect things to stay the same. They know that change is coming. And they work hard at being flexible and adaptable—ready for whatever challenge presents itself.

We saw that we were made for eternity on Day 4. There’s a beautiful old hymn that goes “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” And that’s the truth. Don’t make your life here the end—remember that it’s just the beginning.

While we’re here, we’ll experience lots of temporary assignments! We call them stages or phases or transitions or cycles—the list of terms is really long. What they all have in common, however, is that wherever you are today, you’ll soon be moving on to the next step.

That’s because they all represent some type of growth—whether physical, emotional, intellectual, developmental, moral or spiritual. All of creation is continually growing or changing—it’s natural.

So, why do we even have to think about this? Well, because most of us just don’t like change. It’s uncomfortable because:

  • We like things to stay the same. (If it was good enough for Dad, it’s good enough for me.)

  • We like to be able to predict what will happen.

  • We like to be able to plan out our schedules.

  • We don’t necessarily like surprises.

  • We don’t like interruptions, either.

  • We don’t like to be inconvenienced.

  • We don’t always care to learn new skills.

  • We don’t always like to practice skills once we’ve learned them, either.

The secret is in knowing when to keep on doing what you’ve been doing and when to change.

Sometimes it is easy to see that change is coming—like with the seasons or the weather. Growth is another signal that change is coming—time for bigger clothes or a new school or even a new baby. Empty nesters are struck by the quiet—sometimes even wishing they could hear the sounds of doors slamming or music playing too loudly.

Other times, it can be very difficult to see that change is needed—like letting your children grow up and learn from their own mistakes. Career changes must sometimes be prompted by job loss—when we aren’t willing to step out and take the risk associated with growth. Changes in styles of dress or grooming can be even more difficult to make. Then there is seeing the need to address a prejudice or stereotype.

More than all these examples of physical, emotional, intellectual, developmental or moral change, we must be on the lookout for spiritual growth and change. We have to accept the changing assignments that go along with being in God’s family and bearing the Image of God—by growing to be like Christ.

Don’t make your life more difficult by making Knowledge of God an idol—something that you value more than knowing God personally. Knowing everything about God (even if it were possible) won’t bring ultimate success. The pursuit of ultimate knowledge (about God or anything else) is man’s biggest trap. God does know everything about everything, however. You can trust that he will be sure you know what you need to know when you need to know it!

We all have current assignments at home or at work or at school or at church. But have you considered whether you’re in the assignment that is best for you? How can you know? The only way to know your current assignment is to stay in touch with the Assignment Supervisor. Wonder who that is? That would be the Holy Spirit.

Give up a little of your resistance to change. Embrace the freedom of the temp job—take a leap of faith! Study to be prepared for any task placed before you, but leave the making of assignments to God. In God’s family business, we’re all workers—we’re not the boss. We’re working to get ready to retire from this earth and move on to heaven.

But if you’re still here, there’s still work for you to do.

"…I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven." Philippians 3:12b-14 (NLT)

Just remember to keep checking in—every day—throughout the day—to see what that work assignment is.

Today’s Look at 1 John

Read 1 John 1:1 through 2:11 again. While reading, substitute “lack of restraint” every time you read, “sin.” Does that change your perspective?

Keep Breathing!

When you invite God to spend the day with you today, tell him you’re checking in to see what the current assignment is. Thank him for his creativity in the variety of assignments in the business. Ask him if there’s a new skill he wants you to learn. Look for him to confirm any assignment change through the Holy Spirit in you—and the Holy Spirit in your brothers and sisters, too.