Daily Devotional

Week Two, Day Three

sbaker : October 1, 2014 4:00 am

Ephesians 5:22-33

The institution of marriage is a lightning rod topic today. From the courthouse to the campus, from politics to parenting, marriage has been debated, defined, and redefined. It has been highly esteemed and hardly acknowledged. For some it is the foundation of the family while others see it as a foregone fad. Public opinion appears to be changing, but marriage is originally and ultimately God’s idea.

In the book of Genesis, we read, “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man…Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:18-24). Here in the original paradise, God draws man and woman together for the first wedding.

The final wedding is also recorded in Scripture. As simplistic and serene as the first appears, the last leaves us awe-struck with wonder at the magnitude of this star-studded event. Revelation 19:6-9 gives us a sneak peek at the most dramatic event in the history of the world. The day is coming when the bride (the church) will be united to the groom (Christ our Lord) in the most glorious occasion of all time.

There is a point to this historical perspective of weddings. In short, God the Father has woven a wonderful metaphor throughout Scripture and throughout time that paints a picture of the reality that is hard to describe. This metaphor describes a covenant relationship between Christ and His church. It is a picture of love that the world desperately needs to see. And, it is on display in Christ-centered marriages.

Most of us have heard Ephesians 5:21-33 read aloud at a wedding or two. I’d like to suggest that this passage is not only prescribing love for us to emulate, but describing Christ’s loving relationship with us. Did you catch that? This is more than a “how to” manual for our marriages. There’s a wedding celebration coming soon, and we’re not only invited, we’re the ones walking down the aisle!

Our ridiculous love (men) points to Christ. To the degree that we faithfully and sacrificially love our wives, we bear witness to the Groom who was and is and is to come. Our ridiculous love (ladies) provides a tangible expression of the church’s response to the loving headship of Christ. This submission and respect is a harbinger of a wedding and marriage beyond our wildest dreams.

This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.

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Week Two, Day Two

sbaker : September 30, 2014 4:00 am

II Samuel 9:1-13

Everyone has a dinner table of some kind. We typically think of it as a routine piece of furniture in our homes marked with functionality, rather than theology. Most of us seldom pause to consider the importance or meaning behind the everyday use of our dinner table.

II Samuel 9:1-13 is our focusing passage today. This brief story inserts the word “table” on four separate occasions (13:7, 10, 11, and 13). King David, out of love for Jonathan, Saul’s oldest son and David’s dearest friend, wondered if there was anyone left in Saul’s household that he could show God’s loving kindness. Specifically David was looking for the opportunity to be hospitable. So, King David, full of love and hospitality, intentionally looked for an opportunity to open his dinner table to someone in Saul’s family. David calls for a servant in the house of Saul by the name of Ziba and asks him this loving question: “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba responds with these simple words: “There is still a son of Jonathan, he is crippled in his feet.” (II Samuel 9:3).

So, David invites Mephibosheth to dine at his table as if he were one of his own sons. Some cynics suggest that David only showed this love because he desired to keep an eye on a possible rival to the throne. After all, they suggest, ancient kings typically wiped out all threats to the throne. What makes their view unlikely is the way the story teller inserts the word “kindness” throughout the narrative (9:1,3 and 7) It would have been a colossal insult, according to Eastern custom, to invite someone to eat at your table and then betray them. To dine at the king’s table was an honor of the highest kind. It was an expression of great grace, of loving provision, and of merciful protection.

Tie this story of David and Mephibosheth to that of Jesus. The Gospel writers, especially Luke, portray Jesus regularly and often at the dinner table. Consider the upper room story of Jesus telling the apostles that He must suffer, die, and rise again. At that dinner table, He knows that He will be betrayed and that His disciples will abandon Him.

Fast forward to our day. Every time we share in the Lord’s Supper together, we are reminded that our King invites each of us, crippled and broken by sin, to dine with Him. Talk about ridiculous love! Will you share your table? Ridiculous love is like that!

This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.

 

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Week Two, Day One

sbaker : September 29, 2014 4:00 am

I John 4:7-12

If my father were still alive and you could see the two of us together, your observation would be that we don’t look very much alike. His physical traits and mine were just not similar. Still, I will occasionally catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror (usually when I’m shaving) or see myself in a photo and be surprised at just how much certain facial expressions I make look like my dad. The DNA and physical traits from my mom’s side of the family tree are more dominant in me and determine how I look to this day. But more than genetics are involved in how a person looks.

 

So how does all this relate to the scripture we want to consider? Well, our teaching from I John is about a family trait that identifies all believers as members of God’s family. Genetically speaking, members of this family vary greatly in their appearances, but spiritually, we are unmistakably identified by the love we share with one another. The question is whether there is hope that we can truly share this spiritual trait with those we share physical traits. In other words, can we really learn to love our family as God has loved us?

 

Take some time to read I John 4:7,8 and let’s learn about how we were born to love those in our immediate family because we are related to and called to resemble our Heavenly Father.

 

1. Love is born of God. “Love is from God” and “God is love.” Love is arguably God’s most dominant and recognizable trait (technically, He is equally all of His attributes at once…but don’t dwell on this; it’ll hurt your brain). This means that loving one another is when we resemble him most.

 

2. Love was born to us. Not only does love originate with God, but His love was literally born into the world when Jesus was born. John says, “the love of God was made manifest among us” and “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” This is the “why” for loving those in our families.

 

3. Love is born in us. At this point, you may be convinced that you need to love your family. But how? Well, commit to cooperate with the spiritual love DNA that is in you. John says that, “whoever loves has been born of God.” Pray for strength today to exhibit the love of your spiritual heritage to the people of your earthly heritage. And try to imitate your Dad. In this way, the home becomes the place where we learn to love.

 

(This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.)

 

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Week One, Day Six

sbaker : September 27, 2014 4:00 am

 

“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

 

Each Saturday in this six week study, we want to pause and to give prayerful thought to how some of the Christian disciplines might assist us in experiencing the ridiculous love of God, and, in turn, sharing that same ridiculous love with others. On this Saturday, let’s consider the holy habit of meditation. The spiritual exercise, in particular, has caused a firestorm of controversy. Well-intentioned Christians have dismissed it as grounded in Eastern mysticism or New Age thought. No doubt, some authors and teachers have used the term as an “emptying of the mind.” Rather, here we are using the term “meditation” to refer to filling the mind with the Word of God. After all the Bible elevates the value of meditation. Take a look at Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 63:6; Psalm 119:97.

 

Let’s practice the holy habit of Christian meditation for a few minutes.

 

1. Reread I John 4:19 several times.

 

2. I’m drawn to the phrase “he first loved…”. Pay attention to whatever part of these seven words captures your interest.

 

3. What does that kind of love look like for you? Ruminate on it.

 

4. Slow down. Take this small verse packed full of incredible theology and turn it into a prayer.

 

5. Carry this verse around in your heart throughout the day. Listen for how the Holy Spirit might impress it more deeply into your Jesus-following-life. “We love because he first loved us” ridiculously!

 

(This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.)

 

 

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Week One, Day Five

sbaker : September 26, 2014 4:00 am

 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16,17

 

In our reading today, I’d like to draw our attention to the most famous passage in all of Scripture. This passage (John 3:16,17) acknowledges our sin, but champions the solution to our “sin problem.” Some have committed this passage to memory. Many can share some key phrases, but most misunderstand or misapply this wonderful truth.

 

This culture is sadly lacking Biblical understanding, nearly oblivious to the greatest act of love this world has ever known. Have you noticed that we’ve distorted the truth of this famous passage in our culture? How often do people outside of the church see Jesus as a good guy who found himself in a difficult circumstance, rather than a Savior destined to address our deepest need? Perhaps there is similar distortion in our churches too!

 

An insightful preacher once wrote: “The measure of God’s love for us is shown by two things. One is the degree of his sacrifice in saving us from the penalty of our sin. The other is the degree of unworthiness that we had when he saved us.” First, we blew it. Second, God’s love precedes our sin, is offered while we are in sin, and overcomes our sin! Simply put, we offered up sin to the Father and the Father offered up salvation to us through Christ.

 

What do we do with this teaching today? It is important to understand that the Father’s love is demonstrated, not in a void, but in full knowledge of our sin. (Romans 5:8) The reality that “we blew it” did not give the Father an escape clause in His holy contract with us. He continues to pursue us and provide for us in our times of deepest need.

 

(This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.)

 

 

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Week One, Day Four

sbaker : September 25, 2014 4:00 am

 

“I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.” Song of Solomon 7:10

The Song of Solomon is an intimate musing of two lovers over one another. Many Bible scholars suggest that the entire exchange is meant to be an allegory for the intimate relationship between God and His people. Personally, I find it to be a great place to contemplate the love of God AND the love shared between a husband and wife. Whether an allegory or not, the book speaks to one of the deepest human experiences – intimate love.

An English writer and Catholic theologian, G. K. Chesterton, referred to the desire of God as a “furious love.” In our day and age, fury invokes images of rage and anger, but its more accurate definition would be the idea of “intense energy” (think about the fury of a storm). Song of Solomon 7:10 can give contemplative language to this furious love and desire emanating from God to envelop humanity.

There are at least three truths about God’s love from Song of Solomon 7:10 that I find encouraging every day.

- First, God’s love for me did not start the day that I was born. Human love is constrained by the limitations of the created order – boundaries like time and space. But God’s love is an eternal and limitless love; it has always been, and will always be, at its maximum expression (Ephesians 1:4).

- Secondly, I am encouraged that God’s furious desire is unconditional in the present. Human love is seen as a great virtue, and we all strive to practice it as much as possible, but love IS the nature and character of God (I John 4:19).

- The final encouragement comes in realizing that there is an experience of God’s desire coming that is far greater than any experiences of Him I have had thus far. My greatest hope in life comes in His promise to me as part of the eternal Bride.

On His day, whenever it shall come to pass, this love that has come to define us will finally satisfy the deepest desires of our soul. The barriers of sin will be removed, and the obstacles to experiencing the fullness of this love will have melted away. We will be ushered into the fiery presence of our doting Groom and finally know what He is really like. Until then, I rest and walk in the truth that, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me.”

 

(This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.)

 

 

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Week One, Day Three

sbaker : September 24, 2014 4:00 am

 

“The King of Israel, The Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil…The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:15-17

 

For decades, pizza has been a powerful elixir to draw students to church activities like moths are drawn to street lights. As a savvy student ministries pastor in the early 90’s, I led the charge in a simple outreach event in a friendly neighborhood of Mankato, MN. A trendy movie, a truckload of pizza, and a musty church basement were the main ingredients for an event that would give us ample opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to a gangly crowd of church kids and their friends.

 

Among them was Jimmy who was fourteen going on forty with a lifetime of hardships packed into the past couple of years. He told me that he would love to join us for the pizza and movie, but he simply could not attend the event. He then poured out stories of brutality and corruption that would make a mobster blush. As he concluded his spontaneous confession, he simply said that he was unfit for church and unlovable. My heart broke. He was so close to church but so far from comprehending the love of God. If I had the opportunity to talk with him today, I would talk with him about Zephaniah.

 

Zephaniah was a prophet with a powerful message of contrast between a wicked city and a righteous God. In three chapters of this Old Testament book, Zephaniah highlights the faithlessness of the masses and the remarkable faithfulness of God. Our verse for the day is an incredible picture of a father with his child. How incredible that the Father bursts into song, exulting over His children with “loud singing” and “quieting” them “by his love”? Jimmy didn’t know the kind of intimacy, protection, and love expressed in Zephaniah. Jimmy didn’t know the ridiculous love of the Father. He was wrapped up in the world’s narrative of earning approval and being “good enough” to be loved. That kept him on the outside, looking in.

 

That narrative is so consistently and loudly chanted in our society that it is hard to hear the sweet sound of the Father. If we listen carefully, we will hear Him singing. We will be quieted by His love!

 

 

 

(This reading in its entirety can be found in the “Ridiculous” book and study guide.)

 

 

 

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