Posts tagged God
Fingerprints of God

12   As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. - Colossians 3:12

The other day, I had coffee with a dear and valuable member of my church. The time together provided me the opportunity to point out the ways I had witnessed compassion and kindness in him that, in my estimation, wasn’t human. I told him that I was taking what I saw as evidence that the Holy Spirit was finding a willing partner in him.

My hope in the conversation was twofold. First, I simply wanted to share how excited I was at being able to witness God reflected in him. Second, I was hoping to encourage him on the off chance that he wasn’t aware.

It is far too often we Christians aren’t aware of the ways God pours into and through us. We have a hard time believing that we, as Paul says in our text, are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” But we are. And this is not because of how compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient we can be. This is true because God chose us in Jesus. Period. God chose us even when we were anything but compassionate, kind, humble, meek, or patient.

Then a crazy thing starts to happen when we become aware of that chosen-ness. A fantastic thing begins to happen when we believe that we are beloved. We learn to live from that relationship. We live like we are part of who God is and what God is doing. We clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Often, that starts pretty small… so small that, maybe, no one notices. But it shapes us as willing partners with the God who continues to choose us… pours his love into us. Thus shaped, we clothe ourselves a bit more… shaping us more… clothing us more until we find people over coffee remarking about the ways they see God’s fingerprints all over us.

I like those kinds of coffees. I am in awe of the way that God choses and clothes his people… even people like us.

Jesus, open our eyes today to know your great love for us. Help us to believe that you have chosen to pour the fullness of yourself into us. Inspire us to partner with you by clothing ourselves for the relationship. May our lives slowly begin to testify to You with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

 

Keenan BarberGod, Holy Spirit
Monday Message: Samuel Hears God

By Drew Hanson, Family Ministries Director

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1

In the story told Sunday, Samuel hears the voice of God. Even though Samuel is still very young, this event launches him into his life as one of Israel’s greatest priest, prophets, and leaders. It is a fun story; a story we love telling in Sunday School, as Samuel hears his name called and thinks it is Eli, the priest in charge of Israel’s worship and of Samuel’s development as a servant of the Lord. The story takes a serious turn, though, when God’s message comes to Eli through Samuel. 

God’s message to Eli, Israel’s priest, is that his job as priest is coming to a shameful close. Eli was not able to prepare the next generation of priests – his own sons – to be faithful priests. His sons are despicable priests, profaning God with actions and words. But Eli, imperfect as he is, does not allow this to diminish his role as Samuel’s mentor. He failed his first try to equip the next generation of priests, but in Samuel, he sees someone he can mentor. 

And so it is Eli – who is not at his best in his relationship with God – who leads and demonstrates to Samuel how to listen to God (v. 9). Then, Eli, when he hears the bad news against him, says “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” It is as if Eli uses his some of his final words in Scripture as priest to teach Samuel one last lesson: obedience to God, even if it’s against you, is crucial in our relationship with God. 

We are faced with Eli’s challenge. We are not always at our best in our relationship with God. We are imperfect. We sin. We fail, at times, to prepare the next generation for its responsibilities. But, we must never allow these failures or imperfections to keep us from continuing to mentor and lead the next generation. This past Sunday was Youth Sunday at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church. At our church, we recognize that our youth need Christian mentors. They don’t need perfect mentors. They don’t need mentors who have everything together, spiritually or otherwise. They need mentors who have walked the road of faith, no matter how bumpy it is, and still have a relationship with God. Young people need mentors. Can you pick up the call to be one?

For the youth of our church, you can also look to Samuel as a guide. Samuel listens and follows the leadership of his mentor, Eli. This act of following launches him into a career of being one Israel’s most important leaders.  When you find a mentor, learn from their experience. Learn from the mistakes they have made. Ask them about their faith, their walk with God. Ask them about bumps in the road and ask them about good times. Their experience with God will help you in your own discipleship. 

Lord God, you have placed us in others’ lives to lead. Help us to be faithful mentors. You have also placed others in our lives to follow. Help us to be faithful students. Give us the desire to continuously learn about you, follow you, worship you, and obey you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday Message: The tension of God and justice

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 
II Peter 3:8-9
 
Talking about justice and God at the same time is always full of tension.  It causes some people to immediately become tense, expecting a heavy handed message of guilt and judgment.  Others immediately go on the offensive, interpreting the injustices of the world as proof that God is either absent or not as good as the Bible would have us believe.
 
In both of these typical responses, we misunderstand God’s heart for justice.  I read a great quote the other day that stated: “God’s justice is actually this much longer arc that stretches all the way to flourishing.”  (You can check out the article here).  This quote mirrors II Peter 3:8-9 in adding two things to the conversation of justice: grace and time.  God’s intention with justice is not punishment.  God’s intention is to bring all people to salvation and flourishing. 
 
Unfortunately, this does not resolve the tension.  It leaves us with two competing feelings.  On one hand, we feel grateful knowing the patience that God has shown us as he draws us to salvation.  On the other hand, we are uncomfortable with the wait. 
 
Everywhere this tension exists in Scripture, God’s people have joined together in prayer and lament.  Out of that prayer and lament, we become agents of justice that mirrors the heart of God.  We seek justice and grace.  We lament with the prophet in Habakkuk 3:2 where he prayed, “…in wrath may you remember mercy.”
 
Jesus, we ask that you would bless us with both your heart and your perspective.  Give us desire for righteousness and justice that is matched by mercy and love.  Where we find ourselves able, teach us to lament in prayer and to restore justice where we are able.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keenan BarberGod, Justice
Lenten Devotional Series: Music helps us to focus on God

 

Lent is a season of the church life where we prepare our hearts for Easter by being aware of our need for redemption.  Traditionally, Lent has been a time of fasting.  A choice to deprive one’s life of something to remind us of our dependence upon God alone.  

This lent, we at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church have decided to focus upon musical worship.  When we worship God, we essentially fast from our own tendencies to self-absorption, control, fear, anxiety, and an assortment of other problems of focus.  Instead of focusing upon ourselves, we rightly focus on God.

So this Lent, we offer a number of devotionals centered upon music.  These devotionals are meant to invite you into moments of worship throughout your week.



I can remember the point in my life where worship music transitioned from church into my car.  Shortly after college I was working at a bank in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.  The grind of my commute, my new lifestyle of “work-all-day-every-day” was different from my “wake-up-when-you-want, study-when-you-want” college lifestyle.  It was a bit of a shock to me.  I soon found that I was getting to work each morning in less than a good mood.

One morning, I realized that the radio personalities I was listening to on my commute weren’t helping my attitude.  So I turned the radio to a local Christian music station.  I believe I would have called the Christian music at the time “a bit cheesy.”  But I was desperate for as much positive to be poured into me as I could get.  

Before long, I found my mind and heart turning to God’s goodness and grace.  My morning commute became a time of worship.  This practice not only transformed my commute but affected the rest of my day.

Today, the songs have changed but the practice is the same.  I am blessed by the gift of music to help remind me that I am defined by the God who has called me, saved me, and sent me into my every day.  Each day, he does so with singing!

We’ve created two Spotify lists with some of the music we use during our two worship services.  Click on the link below to listen!

https://open.spotify.com/user/drewhanson89/playlist/3eDumU1iiYXgUqfthj7bq8

Taming the Heart
This devotional is designed to help us continue to wrestle with God’s Word during the week.  It is loosely based upon the Sunday sermon.

19
And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. - 1 John 3:19-20

The author William Faulkner once wrote, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.”  If there is truth to this statement, it is because it is a conflict that every single one of us knows.  

We live in a world that constantly advises: “Follow your heart and you can’t go wrong!”  At the same time, each of us knows the experience of our hearts “in conflict with itself.”  We can all understand what the apostle John refers to in this verse about hearts that condemn.

Our God says much about our hearts.  Never does he say to follow our hearts unless we are first delighting in the Lord (see Psalm 37:4).  This is because God knows that our hearts must first be tamed by Christ.  They must be tamed because of two forms of condemnation.

First, often our hearts condemn us without right.  Our hearts become a megaphone for our own fears, anxieties, doubts, and more.  Our hearts are the place that most clearly perceive the temptations and accusations of the Evil One.  

Second, our hearts often condemn us rightly.  Our hearts are aware of the mixed motives behind even the right we do.  Our hearts are aware of the evil that colors our every hour.  Rightfully, our hearts condemn us.

Into our heart’s condemnation, God speaks his grace.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” -Romans 8:1.  Jesus is victorious over the attacks of the Evil One.  Jesus’ love casts out our every fear.  Jesus’ grace covers where we fall short and his Spirit lifts us to partner with the fullness of his love for our world.

So, when our hearts condemns us, let us not take the word of our hearts alone.  Instead, let us invite God into the conversation.  “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”  There we find grace that will reassure us of God’s plans and purposes in and through us.  There we will have our hearts restored to us anew!

Lord Jesus, often we cannot begin the first step of faithfulness to you because of the condemnation we feel in our own hearts.  We confess this before you.  We ask that you would enter into our heart’s conversation. Tame our hearts in the grace of Jesus that we might be reassured of our place in you… that we might move in grace and love in the world you have called us to serve.  
In Jesus’ name, Amen.