Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Out of the temple & into the lives of man"

Today's reading: Acts 7:44-50 (NIV) 44"Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46who enjoyed God's favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47But it was Solomon who built the house for him.

48"However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: 49" 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? 50Has not my hand made all these things?
Worship is important to God. We see in the last half of verse 44 that God directed Moses how to make the tabernacle.

The tabernacle was important to the Israelites as the stone tablets given to Moses by God remained there and in their company; it had not been destroyed or forgotten over the years. Yet Stephen knows that there is more to worshipping God than protecting the stone tablets in a safe container in a temple. Stephen points out that God does not live in houses made by man, he resides in the heavens and his footprints touch the earth.

God’s footprints are part of creation and remain with us now as we live in the Kingdom of God. God is timeless and unlimited in His love. He desires to be known by us. God has no boundaries either. You and I can not keep him in a box or in our church buildings, nor should we attempt to keep him to ourselves.

Being a witness of the mighty acts of God is what our lives must become. As a witness, we are obligated to God to give testimony of our faith. That is what Stephen is doing here, sharing his testimony through the words of the Old Testament to his people, for it is what they would recognize. Stephen longed for his new faith in Christ to become the faith his people. He was offering them a gift and some rejected that gift and some accepted. God has designed worship to be what He needs it to be in order to bring people to experience his saving grace.

Man must not change what God desires, as we make feeble attempts to do that, we fail. The best is yet to come in this kingdom and we must be part of the people of God, standing with God, telling of God so that He will dwell in the hearts of many more people each and every day.

"Come, now is the time to worship
Come, now is the time to give your heart
Come, just as you are to worship
Come, just as you are before your God
One day every tongue will confess You are God
One day every knee will bow
Still the greatest treasure remains for those,Who gladly choose you now,

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.

Come, now is the time to worship lyrics by Brian Doerksen

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Obedience - result of a lesson learned"

Today's reading: Acts 7:37-40 (NIV)

37"This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.' 38He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.

39"But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40They told Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don't know what has happened to him!'

Just a brief reminder, the scripture passages I have been writing about are those Stephen was speaking to the Sanhedrin. The footnote in my bible states Stephen used the word ‘ekklesia’ translated as ‘assembly’ to describe the congregation or people of God in the dessert. Stephen’s point was that the giving of the law through Moses to the Jews was the sign of the covenant and to continue to be God’s covenant people, they would have to be obedient.

Being obedient is not a simple task. Some toddlers in their growing years are searching the world they live in as if they were the only ones there and obedience makes no sense to them. As the Israelites waited for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai, they quickly became impatient and their lack of obedience to God was demonstrated in their rush to ‘carve’ their own God.

We have two dogs in our house, both rescued; one is here in her forever home, but Emmitt is a ‘foster’ that came to us from a pound. This is our first attempt of fostering a rescue and we agreed to try it thinking it would be fun! He definitely captured our hearts right away and he plays well with others but that is about it. We have taken him into our home and find ourselves with a boxer who behaves like a toddler. He is in his own world, trying to figure out our world and his past has definitely affected his progress. Obedience training is not going well.

The Israelites have also lived very hard lives in the past and Moses is offering them a way to follow God and be freed from bondage. As they approached their new territory and grew impatient, they strayed from obedience to God into refusal to wait for the Lord.

Obedience is the result of a lesson learned and from this comparison we learn that our lives and surroundings can change as abruptly as they did for the Israelites and for our dear Emmitt. God’s covenant offers us a way to be His people and we must push every struggle away; every evil force of wickedness must be casted out by God and not followed by man. If we begin to accept our own struggled lives and can’t seem to let go of the past issues, we are taking it on as a new possession, and begin to worship that possession.

There is nothing tangible in this world that we can take hold of that will offer us eternal life with our Lord and Savior. We must reach our hands out to the master, let His touch change us to be obedient to Him and life will be blessed!

Lord, let us not become an Israelite or an Emmitt and reject what is being offered to us freely; your love and grace through Jesus Christ our savior. You have blessed us, Amen.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Where are you standing?"

Today's reading: Acts 7:30-36 (New International Version)

30"After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord's voice: 32'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

33"Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.

35"This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, 'Who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert.

I am guessing at the time God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, Moses was about 55 – 60 years old, after all he was grown when fled Egypt and he had lived a lifetime in 40 years. We know from the book of Exodus that Moses married and had children during this forty years, but what I don’t know is if Moses had any regrets. I would hope not, I would hope that he recognized he was standing in God’s presence, living to fulfill God’s ultimate plan for his people.

I love the song “Standing on Holy Ground” especially sung by Barbra Streisand. I listened to it just a few nights ago which made this scripture especially meaningful. I want to imagine God’s voice speaking to Moses; I want to imagine the heat of the dessert sand on his feet. Something miraculous was happening at that moment - it was the presence of God speaking to Moses sending him forth to carry out His plan for Israel. The task Moses had ahead of him was to be the divine work of God.

When you and I respond to God we are in His divine plan, we are in His presence on holy ground. I can not say that I have heard the audible voice of God, but some people have. I recognize God’s voice speaking to me as the Holy Spirit’s nudge inside my heart and soul, and often time it is to become more involved in a specific ministry (His plan). His holy ground might also be a place where, or even when, something terrible has happened, which brings us to our knees and through which we humbly seek the presence of God, the redemptive power of God in the very midst of that terrible happening.

I don’t want to live my life out having regrets and I hope Moses didn’t. He had another forty years ahead of him in the wilderness, attempting to lead a group of people that often failed to believe in him and in God. We are told in the OT that Moses never entered the promise land. What I want to take from that is to always remember when I do what God calls me to do, what I do becomes a divine task. Where ever we recognize God's presence, that place becomes holy ground. Understanding this is to know I will have no regrets. Let us praise, praise God now, praise him anyhow, for we are standing in his sweet presence on holy ground.

Before I sign off, I want you to know Deb is at home recovering from her spinal surgery and says she is very tired but feeling much better. She sends her love and looks forward to getting back in communication with you.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Two questions - how do you respond?"

Today's reading: Acts 7:27-29 (New International Version)

27"But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' 29When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

These three verses describe true human nature. Instead of sounding like adults, they sound like children. “Who made you in charge?” is a question I often asked growing up, in an indignant tone of voice, of my brothers. No doubt they ask it of me, but of course I don’t remember that.

The man who questioned Moses is rejecting him totally by asking such a question in front of everyone. The scripture does not describe the crowd(s) but there must have been some unrest because of the murder the day before and because of the current mistreatment taking place. Upon being questioned very straightforwardly, Moses did what most humans would do, fled the scene. I can imagine it now, Moses saying to himself “I gotta get out of here, I really messed up and they are gonna kill me if they get a hold of me.”

I work in a fast-paced environment, some days it seems as if we can’t slow down to breathe with phones ringing, people walking into the office and questions coming from both sides. So it is definitely important for me to stay focused on my tasks, but also focus on the greater good. I must admit, I don’t always. My intentional prayers asking the spirit to be present with me all day and for me to recognize He is there easily get lost. Often, it is 4:30 p.m. and I have fallen short.

Even though Moses fled the scene, he could not flee from God and neither can you or I. God is there with us even when we don’t take the time to recognize his presence. Can you feel His mighty power and His grace? Of course we can, when we open our hearts and mind and souls to allow Him to penetrate us!

If someone were to ask you the second question Moses was asked - do you want to do to me what you did to him/her yesterday? (Paraphrase mine) – how would you feel? I think I would feel empty and embarrassed. The question itself would remind me of my previous failings and I would suddenly want to crawl under the desk and hide.

What do we do if we know we are headed down the wrong path? It is important to recognize it, own up to it and face the facts. Then we must reach out to God for help. Pray, ask a trusted friend to keep encouraging you, read God’s word daily to plant the seed of righteousness within your heart, recall how others have witnessed to you and build upon their experiences to grow yours. Determine what is right and what is wrong and make absolutely certain what you do and say helps to further the kingdom and give all glory to God.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"To assume or Not to assume?"
Acts 7:20-26 (New International Version)

20"At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. [A]For three months he was cared for in his father's house. 21When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

23"When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, 'Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?'"

I am not certain that we can truly understand this story if only read from the New Testament. At first read, there just seems to be something missing for me, perhaps it is the missing part about Moses floating in the basket amongst the reeds or the phrase he was powerful in speech. Since he decided to visit his fellow Israelites it seems he must know them quite well.

Moses was making an assumption of what his people would think, but he was wrong. Do we assume too much in our lives today? Making assumptions about other people is not a trait that I would want to pass on to my own children, but I know that I have. I am a strong willed individual and often share my opinions about situations and people when I probably should not. I need more education in the wisdom of God.

Arguments or disagreements with family, friends or co-workers are not good times unless we use them as a learning opportunity. The holiday season seems to be a time that families struggle with each other because of all the varying opinions we have about celebrating.

Oh come to my house, no – this year you have to travel or let’s have a small celebration without gifts this year. One of the best is – let’s go out to eat on Thanksgiving instead of preparing the entire meal. Don’t bring that last one up in our family, it won’t fly. We had to cook turkey and stuffing at home three days after my husbands double knee surgery, kids wouldn't have it any other way.

I believe I can safely say (or am I assuming) that most of us have had regrets about past assumptions. We should strive to learn from them by asking the important questions as Moses did – why do you want to hurt each other? They probably didn’t set out intending to hurt one another and neither do we, but it is a fact that despite all our good intentions, sometimes we do.

Our God of wonders is holy and just and He will teach us His ways. I have that faith and believe it - not merely assuming it of God. Go pick up the closest Bible to you and read any verse, in any chapter, in any book, in whatever version you choose and you will see that He WILL give you understanding and wisdom. When He knows you are ready, you be powerful in speech and action.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, MO.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"The Song of Deborah"

Today’s reading: Daniel 4:1-2

King Nebuchadnezzar, 1”To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: may you prosper greatly! 2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.”

I am straying from the book of Acts today (I don't think Deb will mind) for I have miraculous signs and wonders to share with you. I spoke with Deb’s husband Jeff this evening. When he answered the phone his voice seemed upbeat, now I have never spoken to him on the phone before, so I really had no idea what his voice would sound like. But I was intent in my listening for a sign.

And Jeff spoke “Deb is doing very well, the surgeon was pleased, he did some things he was not expecting to do, but also did not have to do other things he had planned. It was a successful surgery.” I can imagine it was the physician’s pleasure to tell Jeff and their family this good news.

The experience of a day in a surgery waiting room is different for everyone. Since I work in a hospital, I have had the opportunity to work the waiting room desk, updating the families about the progress of their loved ones. I have waited in the surgery waiting room in the dark of night for a friend’s friend that I didn’t even know – well worth the wait as our friend expressed his gratitude. Over the course of 35 years of marriage, I have sat in the waiting area 8 times for surgery on my husband’s knees and one long period of time during open heart surgery of 5 bypasses. I guess you could say I have a bit of experience.

No matter how often Jeff has been in a waiting room with his parishioners over the years of his ministry, nothing, absolutely nothing can prepare you for the span of time while waiting for that sign and wonder you so desperately desire to receive about your spouse.

Something that weighed heavy on Deb’s mind was waking up from the anesthesia; for 8 years ago she was in a coma like state for a couple of days and had many struggles. By this evening, she was sitting up in her bed, talking and relaxing – oh what a wonderful Most High God we have! Staff had even found a recliner for Jeff, so he also had been cared for.

Much like King Nebuchadnezzar’s eager desire to tell of his blessing, Deb shares her devotions for daily living with the world, as people in 7 countries subscribe to her blog posting. Tonight as you say a gentle, peaceful prayer for Deb’s great fortune today, take note of the miraculous signs and wonders all around you.

Deb would want you to take pleasure in them!

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgate UMC
Nixa, Mo.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Wisdom from God"

Today's reading: Acts 7:9-19 (NIV)

9"Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh King of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

11"Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. 13On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph's family. 14After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

17"As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.

Here we see that Stephen is continuing to remind the Sanhedrin the story of their ancestry, possibly to emphasize that the Lord God had been in control of His relationship with them from the beginning. He was taking a great risk doing this as they were teachers of the law and most certainly were aware of history and didn’t need Stephen to remind them.

I am a middle child, fitting between two boys; it was my older brother than I seemed to pick on when I was in first and second grade. We played outside a lot and for some reason, I had the ability to tie him to a tree and he couldn’t get loose. I’d go off with the rest of the neighborhood kids and the fun would continue. Inevitably my brother would get free and go tattle on me. Siblings sometimes do hang each other out to dry. Some things never seem to change.

What I see as important in this refresher course to the Sanhedrin is first, God gave Joseph wisdom and the goodwill of the king; secondly, Joseph eventually forgave his brothers for abandoning him and sent them for his father Jacob to bring the entire family out of the famine. This was a very rough society to live in, jealousy, even though not mentioned in the scriptures, had to be prevalent or why would the brothers have done such a thing, or why would the Pharaoh force the people to get rid of their newborn babies.

I have experienced jealousy in my own life in the past and I can say it is an emotion that can take everything good about a person and throw it to the wind. How we react to our jealous feelings certainly makes or breaks a relationship. God will give us wisdom if we only ask and He will also give us the ability to forgive our family members that become strangers to us. Take a little time this day and make a note of those family members you need to forgive or ask forgiveness from. Then begin the journey to release yourself from bondage and follow God’s direction knowing He will fulfill his promises to you.

Dorothy Brucks
Aldersgatechurch, Nixa, MO.