Thursday, March 31, 2016

Remember



Scripture:


Matt. 28:16   Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Observation:


As the gospel of Matthew comes to a conclusion we find the disciples still celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They are excited and yet apprehensive. They worship him, but some doubt. Jesus approaches them and reminds them that he is the all-powerful God. They are to remember that they are disciples of the one who has all authority in heaven and earth. It is in that remembrance that they are to go make disciples and baptize. It is that remembrance which they are to pass on in discipleship and it is living in the remembrance of his presence.

Application:


I think we all tend to suffer from short-term memory. Throughout life we have experiences where the Lord answers prayer and meets our needs. We experience Jesus in the midst of a crisis and yet, in the next moment we forget. Doubt begins to creep in and we wrestle with our faith. It is in those moments that we need to stop and remember all that Christ has already done for us. The children of Israel were encouraged to set up stones or markers are reminders of God's activity in their lives. These served to bear witness to their children of all that God had done; they were markers of remembrance.

The disciples struggled and doubted and yet Jesus continually reminded them to remember. We, too, are encouraged to remember. Jesus still has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” Jesus still commands us to “go and make disciples.” Jesus still reminds us that he will be with us always.

Once they were empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit the disciples were able to live into this remembrance and it was embodied in their daily lives. We are invited into this remembrance which leads and sustains us in a life of going and disciple making. The Holy Spirit now serves as the marker of remembrance. The daily infilling of the presence of the Holy Spirit becomes the sweet fragrance of Christ to the world and an ever-present reminder that he is always with us.

Prayer:

Lord, may my life be a living remembrance of you.  Amen.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

When the Truth is Inconvenient



Scripture:

Matt. 28:11   While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened.  12 After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers,  13 telling them, “You must say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’  14 If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”  15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.

Observation:

The story was quickly spreading regarding the empty tomb. The idea of Christ’s resurrection would have been terrifying to the priests and elders for it would have confirmed the divinity of Jesus. Not only would they have to accept his resurrection, but they would have been guilty of condemning to death their Messiah. The truth would mean confronting their own sin and failure. 

Rather than dealing with the truth they decided to concoct a lie. Not only did they lie, but they bribed others to lie as well. The more they refused to confess that Jesus was the Messiah, the more tangled their deceit became. Maintaining the lie was all about self-preservation in the eyes of the people and for this they were willing to go to hell.

Application:

I think that we all probably hate being wrong. Admitting that we have made a mistake means that we have to humble ourselves before others and ask for forgiveness. That makes us incredibly uncomfortable and we may go to all kinds of lengths to prove that we were right — even if we were wrong.

In this way we can understand those priests and elders who really didn’t know what to do about the empty tomb. We are also faced with the reality of the empty tomb and a very alive Jesus Christ. In his grace he is continually reaching out to us and drawing us into a redemptive relationship with him. Acceptance of him into our lives requires a confession of Christ as Lord and for some, this is simply far too inconvenient for if Jesus truly were the Messiah there may just have to be some life change. Instead we barter away our faith so that we can continue to live the kinds of lifestyles that make us “happy” and “comfortable.” The presence of a resurrected Christ just might be too hard on our own desires. We make excuses for our own self-centered lifestyles and then walk away from the truth of the risen Messiah.

The truth about the risen Lord is not meant to be convenient — it is a hard truth! When confronted with Jesus we can face him honestly, accept him and allow him to do his marvelous and transforming work in our lives. Anything short of this makes us just as complicit as the the priests and the elders who felt the truth simply too uncomfortable.

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for the joy of serving a risen Savior.  Amen.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

The Cornerstone



Scripture:

Psalm 118:14-24

14 The Lord is my strength and my defense[a];
    he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
 through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
 you have become my salvation.

22 The stone the builders rejected
 has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
 and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day;
 let us rejoice today and be glad.

Observation:

The stone that was rejected has become our salvation.

Application:

In light of yesterday’s celebration of the resurrection of our Lord we can see that the rejected stone has become our salvation — our cornerstone! It is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is our strength and defense. It’s time for shouts of joy for Jesus has done mighty things. He has become victorious over sin and death!  We will not die but we will live because of what he has done for us.

We realize our inadequacies but he still saves us and takes us on a pathway that leads toward him. Yes, the stone that the religious leaders did not want — the Messiah that did not fit their understanding became the cornerstone. He is risen from the dead — and it is marvelous!

The Cornerstone has been laid — He is Risen! “Let us rejoice today and be glad.”

Prayer:

Lord, today we rejoice in our risen Lord!  Amen.


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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Transformation of the Flesh



Scripture:


1 Peter 4:1-4

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.

Observation:

We don't know exactly what was happening on that silent Saturday but by Sunday everything was different. Jesus suffered and died in the flesh making it possible for us not to be controlled by "human desires." As a result of God's activity humanity is empowered to live by God's will. The transformation means that we do not have to be controlled by the flesh and live into every lustful passion which comes along.

The first century followers of Christ had experienced this transformation and refused to live like the world. Compared to the activities of those around them the Christians must have seemed like prudes and because they refused to engage in the things of the world, those around them maligned them.

Application:

Christ's death and resurrection resulted in the possibility of transformation for God's children. When we continue to live into the desires of the flesh we are denying the resurrection of our Lord. Our lives are transformed and we don't do all the things that the people of the world do. We don't make excuses for participating in activities because we simply can't control ourselves. We don't engage in activities to be approved by the world around us. Remember, these early disciples were maligned because they were different and that made people around them uncomfortable.

Transformation of our flesh is possible because of Christ's transformation. He has made the pathway possible for us and during this day of silence. During this Saturday in the tomb, may we contemplate all that he has done for us.

He gave everything to give us everything.

May we submit our all to his transforming resurrection power and experience renewed life in these earthly bodies. We can live freed from the flesh because he died in the flesh. Thanks be to God!

Prayer:

Lord, please empower me to live life in the power of your Spirit. Amen.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Power in Silence



Scripture:


John 19:8   Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.  9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.  10 Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”  11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”  12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

Observation:


There were so many things that Jesus could have said in response to Pilate — but he says nothing. There is no need for words for they are powerless. Jesus in his silence was living into kingdom power. What God was going to accomplish in and through him was far greater than any words which could be spoken. Real power was at work. Temporary human power from position couldn’t compare to what would be unleashed in Christ’s death. The silence was filled with divine power.

Application:

it is in our humanity that we want to fight back with words. When we are offended or someone has misunderstood a particular situation we believe that we need to speak up and set things right by our words. What would happen if we followed the example of Jesus Christ and kept our mouths shut? Jesus’ life and actions unleashed the power of God. The power of God is revealed in and through us by our actions and not necessarily our words.

It’s Good Friday and our journey will lead us to the foot of the cross. Don’t try to explain it. Keep your words to yourself. Simply kneel down before our Lord and experience his power at work.

Be still.

Listen.

Don’t speak.

In the silence kingdom power is unleashed and we are set free.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your incredible gift. There are no words.  Amen.


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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Proclamation



Scripture:
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,

11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."

11:25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

11:26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Observation:

The Apostle Paul is concerned with behaviors in the church at Corinth. He reminds them about the way in which they remember that fateful night when Jesus had fellowship with the disciples, breaking the bread and drinking the wine. The people of Corinth were not faithfully participating in this Lord’s supper and while Paul quotes Jesus, that this is to be a memorial — a remembrance of Christ’s activity, he ends with his own personal comment. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The key word here for Paul is “proclaim.” He doesn’t say that you “remember.” The actions of the church at Corinth were testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ. The way in which they were partaking in the Lord’s supper was their proclamation about Christ and it was incongruent with the life of the Messiah.

Application:


By partaking of the Lord’s supper we are to be mindful of all our Savior has done for us and we are challenged to follow him more closely. This means that there is to be a consistency in our behaviors and that of Christ. Our participation in Christ becomes witness to the victory over sin and death which occurred on the cross. If there are inconsistencies in our daily lives, then we become unfaithful witnesses to Christ’s death.

The Lenten journey has brought us to that fateful evening when Christ gathers together with his disciples. Most would go on to become faithful witnesses to his death — one would not. Many of us will worship together on Maundy Thursday and partake of communion as we remember what Christ has done for us. May God challenge us to consider whether our lives are faithfully proclaiming the death of our Lord. If we are unfaithful witnesses may we be willing to bring our lives and our actions under full submission to the one who gave everything for us. 

Prayer:


Lord, search my heart and life and reveal the areas where you need to shine your light so that you may be reflected in all things.  Amen.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

For the Love of Children



Scripture:

John 13:31   When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.  32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’  34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Observation:


The journey with Christ continues in this very intimate night with the disciples. Jesus washes the disciples feet and then they fellowship around the table. It is a blessed event until Judas can bear the burden of his duplicity no longer and he runs out. Jesus knows what all of this means and realizes that the events are being set into motion that will ultimately lead him to the cross. It is at that cross where heaven and earth will collide and the pathway for adoption into God’s family made possible for his followers. They have no idea what this means but he gives a hint when he calls them “little children.” The term is used here for the first time and it is one of sweet endearment for those whom have become his beloved and who will eventually realize their place within his kingdom. The explosive power of the cross will release the overflowing holy love of God and those adopted into his family will be filled with God’s nature which will be visible to the world around. This is the glory of the Father, to be seen in the Son and in the many children so that the world will recognize the family by their overwhelming love for one another.

Application:

Most parents would do just about anything for their children. This past weekend our two daughters were together which is quite unusual since they live several thousand miles apart. I have to confess that I was just a little jealous because when we talked on the phone they were having such a wonderful time together — I just wanted to be there with them too! Enjoying the presence of our children and now our granddaughter is a blessing to us and a reminder that for the love of our children — we would do just about anything.

Our heavenly Father was willing to do what it would take to save his children. God was to have been glorified through his children — his reflection made visible to the world. Because his children refused to be in an intimate relationship the glory of God was not being revealed. The Lenten journey is consumed by an overwhelming love of dearly beloved lost children. It’s a path that led Christ to give up himself for the sake of the children.

God's children are not defined by any kind of race, citizenship or religion. When we see the news this week we are greatly disturbed for there are those who seem to be openly against Christianity. Do we think that this is something new? Jesus, on the very night that he was betrayed, knew exactly what it meant for the world around him to be hostile. He was betrayed by one of those within his inner circle and yet, he went to the cross -- even for Judas!

As we enter the journey with our Lord we are to consider what we might do for the love of the children. A world of lost children, even those who may call themselves our enemies, are in need of restoration and this requires sacrifice. If we truly love God, then we have experienced holy love. This holy love compels us to participate in the Lenten journey and sacrificially live in service to others. Holy love is not protective of self-interest, it is self-sacrificing for the sake of others. Following Jesus to the cross is heart-breaking because only there can the immeasurable love of God be released all for the sake of the beloved children.

Prayer:

Lord, our hearts break for our world today and we are tempted to take a protective stance. May we be willing to follow you to the cross, sacrificing all for the sake of those whom you love.  Amen.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Serving as an Advocate



Scripture:


John 12:20   Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.  21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Observation:

We are not sure exactly why these Greek folks approach Philip, but they do. There seem to be a couple of explanations including the fact that Philip is from Bethsaida — and maybe these folks were as well. Or, Philip and Andrew, while both Jews, had Greek names. The Greeks may have felt more comfortable coming to someone with whom they may have had some kind of a connection.

The timeline is also just a little difficult to sort out but it may have been that in this very week Jesus had been at the temple, driving out the traders and declaring that this was to be ‘a house of prayer for all nations.’ If this word had reached the ears of God-fearing Greeks, they may have been inspired by the hope which they may have sensed in what Jesus had to offer. It’s interesting to note that in the very week when the Jews are turning against him, Gentiles are reaching out toward him.

Whatever the exact reasons, both Philip and Andrew ended up acting as advocates for these Greeks. There was some kind of a connection and the disciples became advocates for those who wanted to be included in the good news. Philip and Andrew responded and became the bridge to those Greeks, introducing them to Jesus.

Application:

I wonder whether those Greeks would have ever gotten close to Jesus had it not been for Philip and Andrew. There are people in this world who will not make it close to Jesus unless we act as an advocate as well. This encounter was during Holy Week — a time in the Lenten journey when things began to shift. The end of the week would be tragic — and victorious at the same time. In many ways it didn’t make sense to the disciples' human minds and sometimes things around us don’t make sense either.

We are encouraged to be advocates for those who need a bridge to Christ. In the case of Philip and Andrew it may have been where they were from — or their names. Whatever it was, there was something that created a connection.

Often when we meet someone for the first time we have a conversation in which we try to make connections. We ask if they know “so and so” and if they’ve been to “such and such” a place.
A couple of weeks ago my husband Chuck went to get his hair cut at a mall in Florida. Before heading out that day he prayed that God might lead him into conversations that would be used for his glory. He went to one of those places in the mall where you don’t need an appointment and sat down and began a conversation with Veronica. As she cut his hair they were looking for those connecting points. She mentioned that she used to live in Ohio and after a few questions there was a point of connection. Veronica had been raised in a small Nazarene church in Ohio but had been running from the Lord for quite a period of time. She was trying to raise her children, was struggling, and wondered what to do. Chuck was the bridge, reconnecting her with her faith. He encouraged her to take her children to church and to make the Lord a priority in her life. Then, he prayed with her. He was the bridge, or the advocate, whom God chose to use that day.

How often might those connections be made, if only we were attentive! We all have ways in which we can serve as advocates to bring people to Christ. On the Lenten journey, may our eyes and ears be open to the needs of those around us, and to the connecting points which allow us to be advocates for others.

Prayer:

Lord, open our hearts to your leading. May my heart break for the lost around me and may I serve as your advocate in your kingdom’s work.  Amen.

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The Perfect Tent



Scripture:


Hebrews 9:11-15
9:11 But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation),

9:12 he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

9:13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified,

9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

9:15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

Observation:


The greater and perfect tent of Christ became the completion of all things. The earlier tabernacle where sacrifices had been made was not the ultimate answer for humanity. Human hands had built the tabernacle and place of sacrifice but now, the work of Christ would be complete through Divine intervention. 

Application:

The Lenten journey has brought us to Holy Week and we journey together with Christ to the cross. It is not an ordinary journey for it is not constructed by human hands. It leads to the perfect tabernacle, that place where we can be restored as God's holy people.

I'm afraid that sometimes it's easy to become comfortable with the things made with human hands. We understand those things because they can be seen, touched and held. The Lenten journey is a faith journey because it doesn't lead to the things that are easy for us to see. For us to enter into Christ's place of perfection, we must step out in faith and follow him all the way to the cross. The cross didn't look very victorious to Jesus' disciples but that's because the battle wasn't being won against earthly powers. The Romans didn't realize that their rule was simply temporal and that their great Empire would one day vanish.

We can't always see the victory but that's why we have to continue onward in faith. If things seem bleak, just think about this week and what it meant for Christ and the disciples. Following Christ is not always easy and it requires a life of faith. We must continue to have hope in the things which are unseen. The greater and perfect tabernacle was not visible during that first Holy Week and yet a small band of disciples remained faithful. It's worth it. Hang in there. Trust in Jesus. Follow him and be restored as a child of God because of the unseen perfect tabernacle.

Prayer:

Lord, some days it feels harder than others to press on in faith. Please help me to press on in following you on this Lenten journey. Amen.


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Friday, March 18, 2016

On the Road to Jerusalem



Scripture:

Mark 10:32   They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him,

Observation:

Jesus knows where he is headed and with confidence leads the way to the cross. Following behind him are two groups of people. The disciples are quite amazed at his sure steps to the place where he says he will meet his death. Another group of followers are straggling a little bit further behind, afraid of what is going on. Should they really follow him to Jerusalem or not? They are not sure and they are living in fear.

Over and again in Mark we see the intentional teaching that Jesus provides for his disciples. While they are amazed at what he is doing, he takes them aside and makes this another teachable moment. They must understand what it really means to be on the road to Jerusalem.

Application:

We are continuing our Lenten journey and for all of us this includes going up to Jerusalem. Our spiritual journey takes us somewhere on the road to Jerusalem. We belong to one or the other group. This means that we may find ourselves with the disciples, amazed at what is happening and not fully understanding — and yet, willing to follow. This attitude of our hearts will take us further down the road than we can imagine. They couldn’t comprehend everything that was happening and yet they followed along in faith. Jesus continually amazed them because he was not like any kind of earthly leader. His confidence in the mission was unmistakable and they were determined to stay close to him and follow Jesus all the way to Jerusalem.

We may also discover that we are a part of the second crowd who found wholeheartedly following Jesus quite difficult. They loved being touched by him — experiencing the miracles. This was great but really following him to Jerusalem — that would be hard. No longer was this message about them having good things happen in their lives, but this man was talking about suffering and death. Now, they were afraid. Maybe this Christ was going to expect too much of them and this wasn’t really what they had bargained for. They began to slip back and become consumed with fear. For all of us, the Lenten journey may suddenly become too serious — too real — too difficult and we are not sure that we want to continue.

The Lenten journey leads to the cross and life in the kingdom. This is a new reality in which we are invited to live. The more that we know Christ, the closer we draw to him and the more we will be amazed. He takes time to gently teach and lead us in the way to go. The more that we hold back, the more we will become fearful and the temptation run from him, great.

Our Lenten journey brings us to the Jerusalem road. How we will make that journey depends on our closeness to the Savior, who is trying to lead us to life in the kingdom. Join the crowd of the amazed, draw near to him, and he will teach and lead you in the way to go.

Prayer:

Lord, please draw me close to you and give the strength and courage to follow you on this journey.  Amen.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Salted with Fire



Scripture:

Mark 9:49   “For everyone will be salted with fire.

Observation:

This verse comes after the section where Jesus talks about stumbling blocks to the kingdom. This includes issues in our own lives which may cause us to go astray or, leading others astray by our own behavior. To be present before God we must be purified.

If you look up commentaries on this verse of scripture you will find multiple explanations as to its meaning and yet, there is a bit of consensus around the idea that salt preserves and fire purifies. Translating this portion of scripture from the original text is quite difficult and the idea of being “salted with fire” is a bit tricky so we will go back to the two concepts of preservation and purity. Relating those concepts then to life in the kingdom and not being a stumbling block to others, Jesus is explaining to his followers that they are to be purified and preserved to be servants in the kingdom of God.

Application:

The words of Jesus ring down through the centuries for his disciples of all ages. We are to be purified and preserved as we follow Christ into kingdom living.

When I was younger I heard a lot of preaching on all the things that we were to do and mostly the things that we weren’t to do. We were known for being rather legalistic and eventually we realized that knowing Christ wasn’t about being legalistic. We relaxed a bit but I’m afraid we went too far to the other side and suddenly everything has become permissible. There’s not much talk these days about purification and yet there is an expectation from Christ that those who serve faithfully in the kingdom are pure and preserved.

We need to live with clean hands and a pure heart and this is only possible through the ongoing indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives. We need to be filled to overflowing with the Spirit who continuously purifies and preserves us so that we may live lives reflective of the kingdom. This purity of life does not become a stumbling block to others and while we don’t want to become legalistic again, the more that we follow Christ in the kingdom, the further we live from the things of this world. This is a life of purity in which we do not engage in questionable behaviors. There is a dramatic difference in our attitudes, activities and day to day responses to the world around us.

The focus of the Christian life must not be on the things that we don’t do — but the things that we do! What we do is follow Christ into a deeply intimate relationship with him through the infilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. The very nature of God, holy love, fills his children to the point where his love leaves no space for sin. The Spirit not only purifies but then preserves us day in and day out from the temptations of this world. We do not have to live defeated Christian lives. Jesus tells us that we can be overcomers because we will be salted with fire.

Prayer:


Lord, please salt and fire me today.  Amen.
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Monday, March 14, 2016

Face to Face Power



Scripture:

Psa. 31:14        But I trust in you, O LORD;
        I say, “You are my God.”
15     My times are in your hand;
        deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16     Let your face shine upon your servant;
        save me in your steadfast love.

Observation:

The Psalmist had his moments of difficulty in life and as he struggled he was constantly brought back to his relationship with the LORD. No matter what, he was going to trust in the LORD. No other god would be his salvation — on the true LORD! Too many things were out of his control and so he willingly placed his life in God’s hands. Yes, there were enemies and there were persecutors but he knew that he could trust in God.

David, himself, kept his face turned in the direction of God. He wanted everything that the LORD had for him. As the radiance of God’s glory shone upon him, the very nature of God filled him. This face to face relationship resulted in power infused by holy love. It was an indication of a life to be sanctified to God’s eternal good and in this David found his own salvation.

Application:

It’s easy to get caught up in the situations which surround us and feel as uf they are going to swallow us up. This happens when we take our eyes off of the face of God and onto the things around us. Remember what happened to Peter when he was walking on the water? As long as he looked into the face of Christ the swirling waters could do nothing to him. There was face to face power — that power that radiates from our Lord just when we need him! But when Peter got distracted by the waters and began to look down, he started to sink. There was no power in looking at the rough waters of this world.

Any personal strength which we think we may have will be drained from us when we fixate on everything that is raging around us. We are invited to join with the Psalmist in saying “But I trust in you, O LORD!” In the midst of difficulty we are called to lift our faces to the face of God so that he may shine his face upon us. We don’t have to live in fear of God turning his back on us. He never will! He constantly reaches out to use, welcoming us back toward him and into that powerful face to face relationship. The only reason we lack the power of that relationship is because we turn our back on him — or lower our eyes from his gaze. At that moment our strength becomes sapped.

The beauty of a face to face relationship with God is that it is infused with holy love. This incredible love of the Father is deeper than anything that we can ever begin to imagine and holds us steadfast in the midst of lifes storms and tragedies.

Lift up your eyes. Look into the steadfast and loving gaze of the LORD — and his holy love will pour out like a warm and healing balm. That balm reaches in and brings healing to the deepest wounds of our being and knits us back together with his mighty power, enabling us to be transformed and overflowing with his love out to minister to others. We become agents of his steadfast love through face to face power.

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close to you and strengthen my gaze that I may be empowered by your holy loving presence.  Amen.

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Help My Unbelief!



Scripture:

Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.”  24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Observation:

The father had watched his son suffer his entire life. He was often seized by a spirit which would send him crashing to the ground, sometimes into a fire at others into the water. That he had survived this long may have been because of the love of the father who watched over and cared for him. Now he saw his opportunity — maybe this Jesus could save his son! But he wasn’t quite sure!

He asked Jesus to have pity on him and help, if he could. And there was the problem — the “if” of that statement. Jesus then spoke to the need of the man. Jesus can do this — but the father needs to believe in Jesus. Obviously he just wasn’t totally convinced that Jesus would be capable of taking care of his son. The father realized his own deficiency of faith and that he was the one who needed spiritual healing. While he wanted the spirit to be cast out of his son, he needed to have his unbelief cast out! He had some faith — but was not filled with faith and needed every part which was not filled with belief in Christ to be healed of that unbelief.

Application:

It was not Jesus who needed to pray for strength to heal the boy — he had the power! The problem was the faith of the father and he was the one who was in need of prayer.

Jesus is just as powerful today as he was then. He invites us into his kingdom through prayer. It is in prayer that he begins to shape and form us, filling up the spaces of our unbelief with complete and total faith in him. We are in need of healing before he is able to work in and through us.

The father was willing to blurt out his deepest need — “help my unbelief!” This was his greatest need and not until we are able to confess our unbelief can we be healed of our need. Too often we come to the Lord with our wish list of prayer requests when what we really need is his healing touch in regard to our faith. We may be right there with the dad — I do believe — at least somewhat. But when things get tough I struggle with my faith and unbelief begins to creep in and it gives space to doubt. I do believe — but please help me with the areas of my unbelief. It is in that space that we realize that our faith is not in what Jesus does for us, but in Jesus alone!

Prayer:

Lord, take the space of my unbelief and so fill it with belief in you that it flows out of every part of my being!  Amen.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Facing your Fears



Scripture:

Ex. 2:5   The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it.  6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said.  7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”  8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.  9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it.  10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Observation:

Pharaoh was determined to kill the Hebrew infant boys. Moses’ mother was desperate to save her baby boy but she couldn’t hide him any longer. Pharaoh’s own daughter is the one who saves the life of this little Hebrew boy and she doesn’t seem to do this in secret but openly adopts and cares for him. What is quite striking is the way in which Miriam approaches Pharoah’s daughter, suggesting that she could find a nurse for this baby. One can only imagine the fear of Moses’ mother when she comes to meet Pharoah’s daughter. Stuart tells us, “So the determined mother met the daughter of the source of her worst fears, God having turned the circumstances toward hope and salvation.” (Stuart, D. K. (2006). Exodus (Vol. 2, p. 92). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers)  But she faced her fear and became part of the salvation of her son, and ultimately her people.

Application:

Sometimes it seems difficult to trust God, especially when it means facing your worst fears. We all have things that create fear in our hearts and the enemy wants to take those fears and immobilize us, keeping us from the mission. I’m sure that both Miriam and her mother prayed as they made their way to Pharoah’s home. They were walking into the house of the enemy and they needed God’s strength.

We need God’s strength as we walk into his mission in this world. There may even be moments when we have to come face to face with our worst fears but if we don’t, there will be no victory. God provides the courage in the moment of our weakness and the mission is fulfilled when he is in it!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for examples of those who have gone before us and the courage they have found in you.  Amen.


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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Women Fearing God



Scripture:


Ex. 1:15   The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,  16 “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.”  17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.  18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?”  19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.”  20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong.  21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.  22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Observation:

Shiphrah and Puah — two names which are probably not on the tip of the tongue and yet the listing of their names is very significant. They are delineated for emphasis so that they would be remembered as heroes of the faith.

More than likely they were the leaders of the midwives of the Hebrews. This would have been an entire team of women — who themselves had borne no children — but who helped others to deliver theirs. They were called in by Pharaoh and instructed to kill the baby boys but the women feared God. This means that they were honest, faithful, trustworthy and religious women. They had greater respect for God than they did for Pharaoh who probably tried to bribe them into doing this for him. More than likely he offered them some sort of reward for following through while threatening their very lives if they were disobedient.

After a period of time Pharaoh discovered that there were still a lot of little Hebrew boys around and he was quite displeased with the midwives. There are those who wonder whether the midwives lied in their response to Pharaoh or was their story the truth? It may have been the case that Egyptian women did not very actively participate in the delivery of their children. That they laid on their backs and expected a midwife to come and help them through most of the delivery. At the same time the Hebrew women may have been more “vigorous” — meaning that they were much more engaged in the process and the midwives may very well have told the women not to call them until the baby was coming out — or was out! The point is — this may have been a way that they got around the orders of Pharaoh and God may have given them the wisdom to have this plan. As leaders, they acted on that plan and saved many lives.
Pharaoh then commanded his own people to throw Hebrew boys into the Nile. As we will see, his own daughter defied this order and this may have stopped the genocide. Eventually this order would come back to haunt Pharaoh when his own men would be drown in the sea as they followed the Israelites during their Exodus.

Application:

I believe God is still in the business of calling female leaders to become heroes of the faith. We remember names from our own childhood readings of scripture — Daniel, David, Paul — but here are Shiphrah and Puah. Probably two names that you don’t recognize — and yet they are amazing women who feared God and are examples for us.

God is still calling women to be spiritual leaders for his people. These women were motivated by their “fear” of God. That means that their lives were entirely committed to being faithful servants of God, no matter what kinds of pressure they faced from the world around them. Historically God has used women to partner together with men, serving faithfully in the kingdom. There have been times when women have had to stand in the gap, becoming the stewards of the faith when it was under attack.

I believe we may be living in one of those times when the faith is severely under attack. There are those who want to kill Christianity and defeat the faith of the newly born-again. God is calling up his daughters and sons to remain faithful, defenders of the faith, and protectors of his children. The women were leaders who knew what it meant to faithfully raise up another generation. God is seeking out more Shiphrahs and Puahs who will fear him and be stewards of the faith during troubling times. When women fear God, he is able to use them in ways in which they would never even have imagined. Faithful stewards, willing to stand up to the corrupt authorities can change the course of history. Will we answer the call?

Prayer:

Lord, thank you Lord for your continuing call on our lives.  Amen.


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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Do You Get It?



Scripture:

Mark 8:14   Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.  15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”  16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.”  17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?  19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.”  20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.”  21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Observation:

There seemed to be much that the disciples didn’t understand and the gospel writer wants to help make clear. Jesus began telling them to be careful about the attitudes of the Pharisees and the infectious nature of Herod’s leadership. He was speaking metaphorically about the yeast working its way through into their attitudes. Again — they didn’t get it and they began worrying about physical bread. Evidently they didn’t bring enough with them for everyone and instead of understanding that Jesus was trying to teach them, they went off on a tangent talking about the bread. At this point Jesus doesn’t mince words and, speaking freely, he reminds them that he has been providing for their physical needs so that’s not the lesson! He reminds them that he provided the twelve and seven baskets full of leftovers — they had received all they needed. Physical needs had been met, but he was worried about their spiritual and emotional needs which were still highly influenced by the world.

Application:

How many times does Jesus have to teach us something for us to truly understand? The clear message to all of us is that he wants to help us with our physical needs. “Give us this day our daily bread!” He taught us to pray that way. Jesus didn’t give the disciples extra bread to carry around, which would have been a hassle and besides, it would have gone bad. Instead, in the very moment, he provided all that was needed.

At the same time, the seeds of doubt are sown by the attitudes of the world around us. We may witness first-hand the work of God in our lives and yet, tomorrow we may have doubts. This attitude was more bothersome to Jesus than physical food. He knew that the “yeast” of these thoughts or ideas would be destructive to the spiritual well-being of his disciples.

The same “yeast” can destroy us today. The seeds of doubt are sown by those around us, who would distract us from seeing God’s daily provision. Don’t you get it!!! I believe that’s Jesus’ cry to us as well. Take stock on all that Christ has done for us and don’t allow the doubts of the nay-sayers to influence us. We are to focus on Christ and all that he has done for us. This is where we are to live on a daily basis, in the new kingdom where the voices of this world have no place — because they don’t get it!

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the reminder and encouragement to remember what you have done.  Amen.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Kingdom Provision



Scripture:

Mark 8:1   In those days when there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them,  2 “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  3 If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.”  4 His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?”  5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”  6 Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd.  7 They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed.  8 They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.  9 Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.  10 And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.

Observation:

Some might argue that this is a repetition of the feeding of the five thousand but that is not the case. This is another test for Jesus’ disciples, an opportunity for them to reveal the ways in which they have grown spiritually. Jesus had provided for the five thousand when they were hungry, surely he would provide again! At least, one would assume this response of the disciples but once again they become anxious about finding enough food for these people. They have very little to bring to Jesus — but that’s all they’ve ever had. He breaks the bread and it becomes the gracious provision for all four thousand. Jesus provides for the physical needs of the people but also, in the breaking of the bread both here and with the five thousand and finally in the Lord’s Supper, he points to provision in the kingdom. The disciples are to live their lives in the kingdom where God provides.

Application:

Have you ever wondered why it took so long for the disciples to “get” it? It’s easy to be critical of them and what appears to be a lack of faith. At the same time I’m challenged to think about all the times that God has been faithful and provided in my own life and yet, when faced anew with needs, I display my doubts about his ability to provide. I’m right there with the disciples saying, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?”

Jesus’ provision goes beyond our physical needs for he realizes the depths of our spiritual needs. The people needed earthly food, but they also needed eternal food. The manna which came down from heaven was Jesus and he was the bread which they needed to sustain them. He remains the same today and continues to be available to us on a daily basis. It’s time in his word and prayer which provides for us. He speaks to us, leads us, shapes us, and forms us on a daily basis by his provision.

We may not recognize his provision for we may not be living into the kingdom. At this time in their journey with Jesus the disciples didn’t understand but they certainly did after his resurrection and Pentecost. As we travel our Lenten journey the kingdom has already been opened for us. Christ is risen and the Holy Spirit has been sent. Ours is the opportunity to live and joyfully rest in God’s kingdom provision.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the depths of your provision.  Amen.

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

“The Devil Made Me Do It”



Scripture:

Mark 7:14   Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand:  15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
Mark 7:17   When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable.  18 He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile,  19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  20 And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles.  21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder,  22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Observation:

Jesus made it clear that the motivations of the heart had a direct effect on personal behaviors. A heart change was needed for God’s people. The religious officials had been concerned about the disciples washing (or not washing) of their hands. What they didn’t understand was that all the external rituals that they could follow would do nothing for heart transformation. Whether they washed hands or not they were still guilty of all kinds of other activities — many of which they probably tried to keep hidden from those around them. They knew how to look good on the right occasions but when it came to their daily lives and their heart motivations, they were just as guilty as the worst sinner.

Application:

About the time I came into my teenage years the phrase, “The Devil made me do it” became quite popular. Flip Wilson was an American comedian who popularized this phrase during his comedy routine. It began with a character he created, a preacher’s wife, who simply had to buy a dress but when confronted with her purchase by her “Rev.” husband — she blamed it all on the Devil. There was no way she was going to take personal responsibility for her choice and neither did she recognize that her behavior came from her heart’s desires.

The Devil doesn’t make us do anything — the motivations of our heart will drive our behavior. Blaming the Devil means that we don’t take responsibility for our own actions, which Jesus listed; “fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.” All of these come out of the heart of an individual who refuses to allow God’s Holy Spirit to work to transform. The truth is that it’s painful, at times, to admit that we have areas in our lives which have not been submitted to God. It’s easier to go on pretending on the outside that we are doing all the right things without allowing God to work on the issues of our heart. The problem is that sooner or later the motivations of your heart will come through and be revealed in your behaviors. You can’t cover up or hide what’s in your heart forever!

There are no excuses for our behaviors and no one to blame but the issues of the heart that have not been submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ. When he comes in and fills us then our lives are transformed and his love leaves no room for sin. There is no room for excuses but only a life wholeheartedly submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the result is that Jesus will be reflected in every behavior.

Prayer:

Lord, search my heart and help me be fully submitted to you.  Amen.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Walking on the Water



Scripture:

Mark 6:47   When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by.  49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out;  50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”  51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,  52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Observation:

Throughout the gospel of Mark, water constantly reminds us of the untethered nature of things in this world. The waves and the added wind are symbolic of the turbulent world in which God’s children are to live and minister. The disciples were in the boat of testing and were struggling with nature, “straining the oars against and adverse wind.” But in the midst of it all, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He is living in a different dimension, a different kingdom in which the things of this world have no power.

He had been revealing the kingdom to them through his provision for them. The loaves had provided a basket of food for each of them. He was giving them a glimpse of the kingdom where God’s divine intervention was at work. Now, in the midst of the storm they seemed to have forgotten what he had shown them and they couldn’t comprehend who he was or what he was doing. It was all an invitation to join him in the Father’s kingdom, living in another dimension where they too would be able to metaphorically, walk on the water.

Application:

Jesus’ long journey to the cross was one in which he continually revealed the pathway to the kingdom. His death would provide opportunity for all of humanity to pass from death to life; from earthly to heavenly kingdom.. Over and over again Jesus was peeling back the curtain and allowing the disciples to catch a glimpse of his kingdom and yet, they did not understand — their hearts were hard.

I wonder how much we understand? Our hearts can become hardened if we are not open to what Christ has prepared for us and that is, life in the kingdom, and that includes walking on water! A few years ago our girls came home from school and told us a story that they had heard that day. They studied at a school where a number of children of missionaries attended. One of the fathers had read this scripture and decided that he would try walking on water himself. He had stepped off the end of a diving board at a swimming pool — and promptly sunk to the bottom of the pool. I say this to remind us that this isn’t what Jesus was talking about! Jesus was revealing that in the kingdom you can serve God without getting sucked in by the water of this world. You can walk on and/or above the water. Kingdom life takes us to a place where the wind and the waves don’t sink us.

If you watch much of the news cycle you can become pretty frustrated at the winds and the waves of this stormy world. As we make this lenten journey toward Easter, let’s put our entire trust in the Savior who leads us to Calvary and into a new kingdom. Let’s join him in that kingdom journey and walk on the water of this world in victory.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for the provision for the journey.  Amen.


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Thursday, March 3, 2016

God’s Unique Provision



Scripture:


Mark 6:30   The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.  31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.  33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.  34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.  35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late;  36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.”  37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?”  38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”  39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass.  40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.  41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all.  42 And all ate and were filled;  43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.  44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Observation:

It’s interesting how this story is famous for feeding the five thousand, however, if we look at the beginning and the end, it appears to be about much more. Yes, Jesus does this incredible miracle of feeding the five thousand, but why? The story opens by telling us about the apostles who are sharing with Jesus about “all that they had done and taught.” He had recently sent them out to minister, town by town and instructed them to take very little with them so that they would learn about his care and provision. They return to him, probably excited but also a bit worn out from the journey.

This is the opening scene — excited, but weary and hungry disciples. Jesus has a plan for them. He is going to take they away to get some rest so they got in a boat to go to a deserted place to rest and relax. The problem was that the people saw where they were going and when they arrived, they were overwhelmed at the sight. More and more people arrived and finally we know that there were at least five thousand men, not counting the women and the children.

While Jesus was planning to care for the disciples, he looked up and saw this huge crowd, “and he had compassion for them.” Jesus, along with his weary disciples spent the day teaching all these people but it was getting late and now, not only were the disciples hungry — but so was the whole crowd. This was a deserted place because that’s how Jesus and the disciples had planned it — to go and be alone — but there was no food to be bought — let alone if they had the money. They had already figured it out that it would cost more than 6 months of an average salary to feed all these people and they certainly didn’t have that!

Jesus had been trying to teach them about provision. They had just returned from their trip where Jesus had sent them out and told them God would provide. They wanted to share the stories and tell how that was true — and that people had been healed. But before they could talk about all that God had done and how he had provided, THEY needed to figure out how to feed these people.

The story is again about God’s provision, yes, for the crowds, but very much so for his disciples. They themselves had very little to offer God. Who were they? Just a rag-tag group of fishermen and tax collectors! To feed this huge crowd there was so little — just five loaves and two fish. Jesus took the simple little things of this world and he blessed them. The result was that the disciples had everything that they needed to minister to this vast crowd — AND there was one basketful of food left over for every disciple.

Application:

The story opened with the disciples’ need — and ended with the need being met when they participated in Jesus’ ministry in the world.

This is God’s unique provision.

Prayer:

Lord, please help me to participate in your mission without fear.  Amen.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Delightful!



Scripture:

Psa. 119:97        Oh, how I love your law!
        It is my meditation all day long.
98     Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
        for it is always with me.
99     I have more understanding than all my teachers,
        for your decrees are my meditation.
100     I understand more than the aged,
        for I keep your precepts.
101     I hold back my feet from every evil way,
        in order to keep your word.
102     I do not turn away from your ordinances,
        for you have taught me.
103     How sweet are your words to my taste,
        sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104     Through your precepts I get understanding;
        therefore I hate every false way.

Observation:

Continuous meditation on the law becomes obedience in the life of one who follows God. The result is transformation as this individual faithfully follows the precepts of the law. Obedience then arises from the recognition of the divine authority of the word and ultimately, this turns to delight.

Delight is experienced in the sweetness of learning, memorizing and practicing the word. Ambrose says, “Let the prophet who has tasted this sweetness teach you, when he says, ‘How sweet are your words to my lips, above honeycomb to my mouth.’ What else can a soul desire when it has once tasted the sweetness of the Word, when it has once seen its brightness?” (LETTER 79)

God’s word, quite simply, becomes a sweet delight for those who are willing to meditate on his laws all day long.

Application:

I’m not sure that we have been taught well about spending this kind of time in God’s word and yet, the admonition to be in the word and prayer at all times comes to us again and again. It becomes a state of being in which God becomes the focus in all things. The great prophets who have spent time with God in this way are transformed to the point that they are emotionally and even physically satisfied by knowing God.

I am really challenged to consider what it would take to be so thoroughly saturated in the word. I have learned that the more time I spend with the Lord — the more time I want to spend with the Lord. The sweetness of him actually draws us to him, again and again and the desire to know more cannot be contained.

During this lenten season sacrificing some things of this world to spend more time in the word may result in a sweeter and more delightful experience than we can imagine.  Reading the word and studying will bring about great delight. Day by day we will begin to learn new truths, and step by step we will be led along the path in which we are satisfied by the sweetness of knowing him!

Prayer:


Lord, your love overwhelms.  Amen.


If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

God’s Provision



Scripture:

Mark 6:8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;  9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

Observation:

Jesus sends out the twelve to be engaged in ministry and as he sends them out they are given these instructions. Interestingly these are the same items that God instructs the Israelites to take with them when they leave Egypt. The children of Israel were to be prepared for a new and foundational shift in their relationship with God. The same could be said for the disciples for this signaled another major shift in humanity’s relationship to God. The old would pass away and the new would come and just as the Israelites were to be entirely dependent upon God for their needs, so were the followers of Jesus Christ. God provided for those who wandered in the wilderness and God provided for the disciples. The call was to a life unencumbered by the things of the world with the freedom to serve as a result of God’s provision.

Application:
Dependence upon God in all the things of life is not easy. I don’t think that this was easy for the disciples when they were sent off by Jesus. But they did step out in faith and trust him, that he would provide. The way of provision was to be through the people in the towns that they visited. Would they always be welcomed? NO — and if not, they were to move on!

Walking in faith on a daily basis is transformational to our lives. It is that daily walk in which we learn about his provision. We won’t learn about that provision if we are finding ways to take care of ourselves. For the disciples it may have been the temptation to take that extra pair of sandals or the second tunic. What is it for us? What keeps us from becoming unattached to our security blankets and completely trusting in God? (Check out this great blog post about Linus' blanket in the Peanuts Christmas Story)


The disciples were able to freely share the good news about Jesus Christ as they traveled and this became the focus of their lives. Just imagine if all of God’s children were unleashed from the things that tie them down to be engaged in kingdom’s work. The older we get we realize that this is all “stuff” and someday we (or our children) will have to do something with it.

I want to lean into a life where I trust God for his provision.

Prayer:

Lord, thank you for your promise of provision.  Amen.

If you would like to read more "Reflecting the Image"  click on the image to take you to the NPH bookstore.The book is also available in Kindle format on Amazon.com.


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