Saturday, April 29, 2017
Psalm 116:16 O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!
The Psalmist has a heart filled with gratitude for the things of God. Even in difficult hours there is something that can be praised. This servant of the Lord knows that his life has been greatly influenced by his mother. She was a woman who served God and therefore placed before the Psalmist a model for holy living. The blessing of his childhood has brought him into a life of thanksgiving. He has learned to call on the name of the Lord and to publicly avow his faith. He rejoices and praises the Lord!
Sometimes the role of godly parents is overlooked within the Christian life, however, we know the it is foundational to being a Christian. Studies show that the greatest indicator of church attendance in adulthood is church attendance in childhood, when brought to church by a parent. The seeds of faith are planted in the hearts and minds of very young children. The investment of godly parents into the lives of their children will have an eternal payoff.
I have been blessed by godly parents who are now aging. I’m discovering how much I have depended upon them throughout the years for their wise counsel and daily prayers. Conversations have become a little more difficult as their senses are no longer as sharp as they used to be. Sometimes I have to raise my voice to be heard, or the important conversation from the previous day is completely forgotten. Little by little the relationship I’ve enjoyed with them, the one I’d taken for granted, is slipping away. I will miss the way things used to be, but I will forever be grateful that they invested in me.
I will not forget the daily devotions around the breakfast table as a child. We read from the Egermeier’s Bible Story book every morning, year after year until finally the cover fell off the book. We prayed together for the day. My mother would have her personal devotions after we left the house for school. I know she read the word, underlining those Scriptures that meant so much to her, and carefully wrote our names on her prayer list. My father always had a tender heart for those who were in need. He might take us along to help someone out or show us a place that suffered from injustice. He would tell his children that they could grow up to do anything in the power of the Spirit. They were our cheerleaders and champions.
The Psalmist must have felt the same way about his mother. He was the child of a servant of God and was grateful. I’m grateful for that which has been handed to me by my parents. Now my prayer is that I can be a good parent and grandparent to those who are coming after me. I want to be faithful, so that they can be faithful.
Lord, I am so grateful for my godly parents. Please, help me not to take that for granted and may I also be a woman of faith who passes along my love for you. Amen.
Friday, April 28, 2017
Isaiah 26:3 Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
in peace because they trust in you.
Those who put their trust in the LORD will experience perfect peace. This is literally “peace, peace.” This is a place of genuine and full well-being. Not just a passive form of peace, but the fact that our lives our are steadied by resting and trusting in the LORD. Imagine having the rocking ship steadied by the hand of God and this brings peace into every facet of our being. We are kept in peace, -- peace steadying us in the storms of life. This is two-fold, perfect peace.
It seems to me that this perfect peace, this two-fold peace, encompasses both mind and body. The perfection of this peace is that it reaches through every part of our being and brings us to a place of complete and total peace. This is only possible by participation in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ entire peace fills our entire being and we rest upon him in every facet of our lives. This includes the physical and the emotional. We become so focused on Jesus Christ that we have complete and total rest in him. It is with the coming of the Savior that all of this is made possible. Our resurrected Lord provides the pathway through which we may experience this perfect peace.
I’m reminded of the old hymn by W.D. Cornell.
- Far away in the depths of my spirit tonight
Rolls a melody sweeter than psalm;
In celestial-like strains it unceasingly falls
O’er my soul like an infinite calm.
Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Coming down from the Father above!
Sweep over my spirit forever, I pray
In fathomless billows of love!
Buried deep in the heart of my soul,
So secure that no power can mine it away,
While the years of eternity roll!
Resting sweetly in Jesus’ control;
For I’m kept from all danger by night and by day,
And His glory is flooding my soul!
Where the Author of peace I shall see,
That one strain of the song which the ransomed will sing
In that heavenly kingdom will be:
Marching down the rough pathway of time?
Make Jesus your friend ere the shadows grow dark;
Oh, accept this sweet peace so sublime!
I’m grateful for the perfect peace that God can give us in the midst of this storm called life. This peace is dependent upon our complete and total trust in the resurrected Messiah. The Prince of Peace promises that peace will be brought to perfect completion in and through those who have their steadfast faith in the Lord.
Lord, may every day be a day of complete and entire trust in you. Amen.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
1 Peter 1:8 Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Resurrection power is revealed in and through Jesus’ followers. The first century of Christianity was filled with those who never had the opportunity to personally meet Jesus and yet, they grew in their faith. They loved Jesus without having ever seen him. It was in their faith journey that they grew in their love and discovered an indescribable joy. This relationship with Jesus transcended the things of the world and they lived in the glorious salvation of their souls.
There are days when my mind is filled with everything that is happening in my life. The reality is that there’s not a lot of joy in that. However, when I slow down and spend time in the word and quietly listening to the voice of God things seem to change. There is such a joy and peace in the presence of the Lord; a peace that transcends everything that we may have to be doing that day. We are drawn into that place of indescribable and glorious joy.
We don’t have the privilege of seeing Jesus, but we do have the blessing of knowing him. The indescribable joy that was experienced by the early followers of Jesus is available to us in the very same measure. The only thing inhibiting our experiencing indescribable and glorious joy is us! If we refuse to create space for this relationship with Jesus we will miss out on the joy that he has for us.
We do not see him, but we know him. The peace of the resurrected Christ transcends everything on our schedule today and we can journey rejoicing in indescribable joy.
Lord, thank you for the great joy of your holy presence. Amen.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Matt. 12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!
After everything that Jesus had done and the religious leaders had observed they wanted yet another sign. This would be the sign of the resurrection, but they would refuse to accept it. Because they were evil and adulterous, they believed that they needed yet more proof of Jesus. The sign of Jonah would be repeated in Christ. Three days Jonah was in the grips of death but then he was spewed out onto dry ground. He went to the people of Nineveh and they repented. Now, they were to experience the resurrection of Jesus Christ, something much greater than Jonah having been in the belly of a fish, but they would reject this sign. The sign of Jonah was the risen Lord, and just as the Ninevites would have the opportunity to repent and respond, so would all the world now have the possibility of knowing Christ. The religious leaders who believed they were too good to accept this sign of Jonah would die in their sin.
We may be in the camp with the scribes and Pharisees asking for a sign from the Lord. Often when life feels as if its closing in and darkness is surrounding, we seek just one more sign when the reality is that we have already received the greatest sign in the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The sign of Jonah has already been demonstrated to us and we are invited to believe in the risen Savior.
Just like the people of Nineveh, salvation is at hand when we repent and believe. Repent means that we turn from the ways in which we have been living, we turn from the attractions of this world, we stop living in sin, and we respond to the grace of our Lord, believing in the resurrected Jesus.
We continue to be in the season of Easter and there are many who will have gone to church on Easter Sunday who rarely attend any other time during the year. They may even have joined into the proclamation, “He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed!” in that Easter morning worship. But did we really believe what we were proclaiming? Are our lives a testimony to our faith in the risen Lord? Have we seen the sign of Jonah and taken action?
It’s easy to point fingers at the religious officials but far too often when we peel back the layers we find ourselves standing there among them. If we have the sign of Jonah and if we get to live on this side of the cross, then our lives should be changed. Lip service once a year to the risen Lord is not life transformed by resurrection power. The people of Nineveh will rise up and condemn those who have received the sign of the cross, but have refused to repent. Something much greater than the sign of Jonah is here — He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!
Lord, may this day be one in which we live in the power and presence of our risen Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
1Cor. 15:19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
The early Christians faced many trials for being followers of Jesus Christ. They were persecuted, often losing their jobs or positions. Many were tortured and martyred. The loss of livelihood meant there was no status to be gained in society. Rather, this was a life that may have been fraught with suffering and sacrifice. Therefore the hope in the resurrection took the people to a far greater understanding than simply this life. Jesus broke down the barriers between life and death and opened the passageway to life eternal. Paul encouraged the people to not lose hope because of the realities of this life, but to live into the resurrection and eternal life. It was the resurrection that opened up eternal possibilities for all of humanity and provided opportunity for hope to reach beyond the current circumstances.
Having an eternal perspective begins to transform everything that we do in our lives. At the same time, when our vision is limited to that which we can only see right now, we are in trouble. This statement was an acknowledgement of the difficulties that we face in this life. If we are simply hoping in Jesus because we believe that he will bring us health and prosperity, we have the message of the cross and resurrection wrong. If we are to follow Jesus then we should not expect an easy life. Jesus walked through many dark and difficult days and suffered to bring us peace. He became the first fruit of those who would fall asleep and then reawaken. It is his resurrection that brings us great hope for it is simply the doorway into life eternal which is much more than we can ever begin to imagine.
Hoping in Jesus reaches way beyond our current circumstances. We are invited into a new life that will never end when we are united with the resurrected Lord. This is the hope in which we find great peace. Our current circumstances may not be resolved before we fall asleep in Christ but this is not our hope. If this were our only hope, Paul suggests we ought to be pitied. We are lifted to a place where we discover hope in that which is unseen. Hope reaches beyond our current problems because the resurrection leads us to another dimension. My hope is in Jesus, and not just for this life, but far beyond.
Lord, my hope is in you today and forever. Amen.
Monday, April 24, 2017
1Cor. 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.
In this letter to the church in Corinth Paul continues to bring home the point of the resurrection. Everything was different as a result of Christ having been raised from the dead. He preached this as a fact which became the turning point of history. From this time on the Christians viewed death differently than those in the secular world. Their language surrounding death became that of sleep. This was nothing to fear for there would come a time when the individual who died in Christ would again wake up. This was now fact because Jesus was the first who had been raised from the dead, preparing a pathway for all of those who would come after him. Paul preached the resurrection as a fact which would, and did change history.
There are facts in life which we believe intellectually and there are those which affect us in practice. I have always been struck by the illustration of the man who walked the tight-rope across Niagara falls. He was able to cross over from one side to the other, and then made his return. The crowd was in awe of his talent and applauded him. Next, however, he retrieved a wheel barrow and asked the crowd whether they thought he could make the crossing with it. Of course they applauded and said they were sure that he could. However, it was the next question which led to silence. Would there be someone willing to get into the wheel barrow? No one responded for there is a giant leap from simply believing the facts and living the facts in faith.
The resurrection is a pivotal moment. Jesus has walked the tight rope to hell and back and is now the first fruit of those who will die. Next, he invites us to participate in his life. Intellectually we can do that, but in reality, it’s more difficult. We are to climb into life with Jesus, heading out into perilous spaces where we will not always be safe. The Lord reminds us that he will be with us and care for us because he’s already been through it all. At the same time we may be clinging to our own personal safety nets, none of which will save us from death. Ultimately death will come to everyone but what comes after depends on whether we have trusted in Jesus.
The fact is, Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!) The result of that fact is victory over death. Jesus has already made the perilous journey safely and now he reaches out his hand to all of us and tells us he will safely see us through. These are the facts. What will we do with them?
Lord, may my vision be clear as I keep my focus on my resurrected Savior. Amen.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
John 20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Thomas’ interaction with Jesus comes as a climax, for now the entire discipleship community is embracing the resurrection. Thomas is the last to finally believe and it is his response that is surprising in its theological grasp. To declare Jesus Lord and God is to begin to understand the very nature of Christ who was human and divine. The Son is like the Father in that he is truly God. He is also truly human for the wounds in his flesh are those of a man who has suffered greatly. The declaration becomes the culmination of a faith statement by all of those who are embracing the resurrection and are then ready to assume their responsibility within the life of the new church that will be birthed on Pentecost.
Last evening my husband and I were taking a walk down a beautiful pathway that leads to the Plaza in Kansas City. It’s the old Trolly Track and is often filled with joyful runners, bikers and those like us, walking. As we crossed one street to meet up with the path on the other side we encountered a young family. A father, mother and two young children were standing there on the pathway and as we neared they seemed to want to speak to us. The woman spoke up and said, “Do you have any questions about Jesus?” We told her no, that we really didn’t and that actually we were both ministers and had just been talking about the Lord while on our walk. She seemed a bit surprised but shared with us that they attend an urban church in downtown Kansas City and have felt that they need to ask people if they have questions about Jesus. She was delighted to tell her daughter that we knew Jesus. We then parted and went our separate ways but I was impressed with her willingness to publicly declare that she knew Jesus. I recently read about a well-known atheist who is quite disappointed when professing Christians don’t try to share their faith with him. His point was that if we actually believe that we can have eternal life with Christ and it means that much to us, why wouldn’t we want to share that news with other people? A bit convicting!
The woman on the street asked if I had any questions about Jesus. The reality is that probably most people have questions about Jesus and even those who consider themselves Christians may not really understanding. This profound declaration by Thomas is rather mind-boggling. We embrace Jesus who died in the flesh and yet worship him as our God. This changes everything! The man whom we follow leads us to a place in which we can be adopted into God’s family. Jesus who came in the flesh made it possible for all flesh to have intimate fellowship with the Triune God. It’s a bit overwhelming. It was for Thomas and yet, when he finally grasped the moment, he was changed forever.
What would we declare today if we were asked about Jesus? Can we really embrace that Jesus is Lord and God? If so, then we would live our lives in a way that reflected that belief. I feel convicted and wonder about my own personal declarations of Jesus. It’s easy enough to do it behind a pulpit — everyone expects you to do it there. But what about on the street, in the plane, in a car, or in the line at McDonald’s. Is there something about my life that reflects an encounter with the risen Lord?
We continue to live in the Easter Season and along with the disciples, we may have doubts, but there comes a time when those must be put aside. We embrace the risen Lord and declare that he truly is God. The world will never be the same.
Lord, please help me to live as one who has felt your scars. Amen.
Saturday, April 22, 2017
John 20:19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
As the disciples gathered in fear, Jesus came and spoke peace over them. He was born as the Prince of Peace and his desire was to bring peace to this world. The new kingdom ushered in by the Messiah would bring a new kind of peace, one that was not the result of worldly circumstances, but of participation with our holy God. While some may see this as an ordinary greeting, it became unordinary when the resurrected Jesus spoke. These words were the fulfillment of the vision from the Father. Now, the peace of the Father would rest upon them and they would become ambassadors of that supernatural peace to the world.
Far too often in life there are circumstances that become extremely difficult. We begin to wonder how we can make it through trying times. We cry out and wonder just where God might be in the midst of life! It is exactly in those circumstances that God wants us to discover Jesus’ peace.
Jesus stepped into the space when the disciples were at the height of their anxiety. The doors were locked as they gathered, fearing the religious leaders. They had no idea what they were to do in the midst of this crisis, but before they could take any action, they needed to know the peace of Christ. It is in the midst of our struggles that our anxiety can become heightened. We can become paralyzed by our circumstances and wonder whether we can ever go on. We begin to dwell on the challenges and refuse to see the opportunities. We join the disciples in the locked room, hoping against hope that no one figures out where we are.
Jesus had a different life in mind for his followers then and today. When the resurrected Savior steps into our space he speaks Peace he breathes life into us. Suddenly the anxiety is gone as we place all of our dependence upon the risen Lord. He takes upon himself all of our cares and fears. God has already made provision for the days ahead. The job of the disciple is to accept Jesus’ peace and then deliver that peace to a needy world.
Jesus was sent by his Father to bring peace to the world. The Prince of Peace fulfilled his mission and now he was commissioning his disciples. We, too, are commissioned. We are to receive the peace of Christ and be sent into the world
May peace be with us as we go in the presence of our risen Lord!
Lord, your peace provides comfort beyond my imagination. My heart rejoices and is grateful. Amen.
Friday, April 21, 2017
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
Paul was radically transformed by the vision he had of the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road. He understood that Jesus had reached out to him by grace. The combination of grace and resurrection power had made him the man he was. “I am what I am” was the way in which he now described himself, as a person who was a partaker of the divine nature. Because of the resurrection he was a new man and his gratitude for this transformation would define the way in which he lived his life.
The grace that he received did not mean that he would be inactive, but exactly the opposite. He felt so unworthy of this grace that he wanted to give back to Christ. He certainly never thought that he could or should be considered to the disciples and was humbled to be privileged to serve Jesus in this way. Now, he wanted the Corinthian Christians to know that they too could live in the grace of God which reaches out to them from the cross and the empty tomb. Because of the resurrection, Jesus could transform their lives as well.
Paul’s life was defined by the resurrection in so many ways and he was grateful. If we were to examine our own lives the resurrection should be the defining moment. Only because of the resurrection of Christ “I am what I am.” In other words, it is our relationship with the resurrected Christ that gives us our identity. We become truly human when we are in Christ because humanity was created to be in relationship with God. When we use the excuse, “I’m only human” we get it wrong. Maybe the excuse ought to be, “I’m only a fallen human.” When we are truly human then we can declare with Paul, “I am what I am” because we are now completely new in the resurrected Lord.
Along with Paul I believe that we are challenged to live a life of gratitude because of the resurrection. Paul worked incredibly hard for the kingdom, and we are called to live in this way as well. Because of the resurrection we desire to share with others what Christ has done for us. Because of resurrection power Paul was effective in his ministry. We are not to work on our own, but within the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Because of the resurrection everything in our lives is changed. I become who I am because I am in Christ. Resurrection power spurs us on to participate in kingdom business and we give all that we have, working harder, because we have been graciously saved. The resurrection changes everything and should be the defining moment in all our lives.
Lord, I am so grateful to be living on this side of the cross. Please, help me not take it for granted and live wholeheartedly for you every day. Amen.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Joshua 3:17 While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.
It was time for the long journey in the wilderness to come to an end. The Israelites were now to cross over the Jordan river and enter into the promised land. Passing through the water seems to bookend the story which began with Moses as the leader and the crossing of the Red Sea. Now, the people are to show the same type of faith and trust in God. In complete obedience they follow God’s instructions and the priests with the Ark of the Covenant step into the water of the River Jordan. This is an act of faith because the river is at flood stage and the author makes great note of this. The river is overflowing and just as Moses had led the people to safety, beyond the reach of the destroyed Egyptian Army, now Joshua is leading the people on the final step of the journey, led by the presence of God, across the Jordan and into the promised land.
The mantle of leadership was passed from one who had been faithful to another who would reflect the characteristics of the other. The people would reflect the obedience of those who had crossed the Red Sea before and would now step into the flooded waters of the Jordan. Victory would finally be within reach for those who were coming home to live as God’s faith and obedient children. God provided a sign of fidelity to these, the chosen people. It was time to make it all the way home.
There are times when we are asked to step out in faith into what appears to be raging flooded waters. It’s hard to imagine being obedient when it looks like everything around us will be all-consuming. This just may be the very place in which we live, and yet, God calls us on us step out in faith.
Just as Joshua’s life was to mirror that of Moses, so our lives are to mirror that of Christ. That’s what Easter made possible! The resurrected Christ makes participation in him possible for all of those who have chosen to step into the flood waters of faith and be united with Christ. Joshua mirrored the leadership of Moses as a faithful servant. We are to mirror the servant-leadership of Christ who washed the disciples’ feet. Joshua and Moses led the people in faith through the waters. Jesus led the disciples to cross. It is in the troubling times that we find our greatest victory. If we refuse to go through the high water, or take up our cross and follow Jesus we will never get to experience the fullness of life that God has in store for us.
Faithful obedience on the part of the Israelites finally brought them home. Faithfully following Jesus will lead us to that place where we will finally feel that we are at home, children in the Father’s kingdom.
Lord, please help me to live my life in total obedience to you. Amen.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Col. 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
If we are not careful a battle of authority will wage within our beings. Paul uses the language of “rule” here in regard to peace. It is a sporting word, much like an umpire who determines the call, or who wins the day. We are to allow Christ to be the one to make the calls in our lives, in complete and total submission to him and his will. This is where the Christian life must begin and it will lead to gratitude. This kind of peace means that we don’t have to live in fear or anxiety in regard to decision-making. Instead, we live in complete and total dependence upon the One who rules in our lives.
This leads to continual and on-going spiritual growth and development in the life of the individual. The word of Christ is to dwell in us and this can only be done by studying the word. This must be made a priority for far too many don’t spend the time necessary to know the word well enough to allow it to dwell in our lives, leading and guiding us on a daily basis. From this study we are to teach and admonish one another. This spiritual life is not to be lived in a vacuum, but to be lived out in community. This fellowship of believers are to have times of teaching, admonishing, and singing praise to God. The variety of music listed may just encourage our hearts as it seems that there are different types of music, including psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. These songs are to come from deep within our hearts of gratitude and should be sung as wholehearted praise to God.
When Christ rules in our lives and we spend time in study and worship, we will be transformed in action. The result is that everything that we do and/or say will be done in the name of Jesus. Our actions will be a thank offering to God.
As we continue to celebrate resurrection power we come to understand the incredible ability of Christ to transform. This is what Paul understood and desired for those to whom he was ministering. I believe he prays this same prayer for all of us, desiring that Christ would so rule in our hearts that we would be transformed. The outline for the Christian life which he proposes is quite simple.
1. We are to allow Christ to rule in our hearts, to be the judge or the arbiter of our lives.
2. We are to live lives of gratitude, being thankful.
3. We are to study the Scriptures and allow the word to become a part of who we are.
4. We are to be a part of a community of faith who can teach and admonish one another.
5. We are to worship the Lord with gratitude. This includes singing a variety of songs and styles.
6. We are to live out our faith in action.
7. In every aspect of this Christian life we are to be giving thanks to God.
When Christ rules in resurrection power we are transformed. This becomes visible in all that we say and do and the result is God glorified.
Lord, may the peace of our resurrected Christ live in me today and always. Amen.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Col. 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ transformed everything. As Paul writes to the Colossians he reminds them what life lived in the resurrected Christ is to be like. No longer do we continue engaging in the activities that were a part of our previous life. Instead we are renewed and all the barriers of the world are destroyed. In Christ all divisions are absorbed. Participation in Christ results in renewal of the image of God. Christ becomes the all in all.
How easily do we throw around the phrase, “He is my all in all” without really thinking about what it means. The implications are astounding when we realize the results of resurrection power. Jesus broke down every barrier and created the possibility for every single person to be completely and totally united in him. It is in Christ that we discover what it means to be truly human. Jesus became fully human so that he could provide the pathway back for all of humanity to be restored in the image of God.
The divisions that humanity has created mean nothing when we are in Christ.
Complete and total dependence upon the risen Savior leads us to a place beyond our imagination. We are invited into participation with God through Christ. We are renewed and become more and more like Christ, reflecting him in our daily lives. Jesus really is all that we need. He is our all in all!
Lord, we continue to celebrate your resurrection power today. Please help me to participate with you today. Amen.
Sunday, April 16, 2017
John 20:11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Mary went to the tomb out of great sadness. Jesus, the man who had taught her so much was now dead. When she arrived at the tomb she discovered it was open and Jesus’ body was missing. This compounded her pain and she began to weep, the tears clouding her vision. One wonders whether her tears were accompanied by the deep sobs that often come from within our soul when we are in great pain. Bearing all of that anguish she looked into the tomb and found two angels who asked her why she was weeping. Her response explains the deep grief, for she believes that Jesus’ body has been stolen.
Stepping out of the tomb Mary bumps into a man whom she assumes to be the gardener. Vision still blurred by tears, she doesn’t recognize who he is until he speaks her name, “Mary!” In that moment her weeping is turned into joy for she realizes that this is Jesus, her Teacher. If he is speaking with her, then he is alive. The tears of pain were most likely replaced with tears of joy. Mary may have continued weeping but, following Jesus’ instructions she runs to tell the disciples that Jesus is alive!
We may be entering into this Easter Sunday as one who is weeping. Life itself has overwhelmed with daily struggles and difficulties. It feels as if the Savior is distant and unconcerned with the troubles that we are facing. Therefore we come with weeping and filled with grief. It feels as if Jesus is dead.
While we may begin today in this way, the reality of the resurrection changes everything. It radically transformed Mary’s life and resurrection power stands to transform us as well. We run to the empty tomb with all of our pain and frustration. Our vision is blurred by the tears, induced by the issues that we face. We can’t see Jesus through the struggles but we are still to run to the place where we might meet him. Jesus is right there, in the midst of the difficulties of life, revealing to us the power of his resurrection.
Today is a day of great hope and peace. We may begin the day with tears of sadness, but they can be traded for tears of joy. We weep when we discover the incredible joy to be found in knowing the risen Lord who will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
Our weeping is turned into rejoicing when we are confronted with the risen Lord. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Lord, thank you for the joy of Easter morning. Amen.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
John 19:38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
The darkness of Jesus’ death was overwhelming to those who had seen him as their hope. There were those who had openly followed him and then there were those who had stayed in the shadows. Nicodemus had come to Jesus at night to learn more about being his disciple. However, in the shadow of the cross Nicodemus emerged from the night and declared his relationship with Christ by the way he responded to his death. He brought an enormous amount of spices to care for Jesus’ body. The cost of these spices publicly revealed his devotion to Jesus Christ. He had now stepped out of the darkness and into the light of following Christ — but was it too late?
Following Jesus requires a commitment on our part to step out of the shadows and into the bright light of following Jesus. Far too many of us may be living in the darkness of this day — Silent Saturday. One can only imagine how the disciples, and all those who loved Jesus felt on this day. If we don’t really believe in the risen Savior, we too will live in the darkness of the unknown. Nicodemus had heard the good news and yet, until the moment he steps out of the darkness and provides a hundred pounds of spices for Jesus’ body we’re just not sure where he stands. This is his moment of faith in Jesus, even when he believes the Jesus is dead.
What would it take for us to step out of the darkness in our relationship with Jesus? Are we willing to live out our faith in the brightness of the day for all the world to see, or are we ashamed of being a Christian? Just this week I was invited to participate on a conference call regarding “The Intersection of Religious Freedom and Women’s Rights.” Most of the discussion was surrounding radical Islam and the result on the rights of women. There are many who are so afraid of radical Islam that they will allow women to suffer because they don’t want to get involved. For instance, we learned that the locations of most of those who were kidnapped by Boko Haram three years ago this week have been identified. We know where these girls are, and yet, no one wants to go and save them because they find it too difficult or too dangerous. In this midst of this conference call one person spoke up and asked whether Christian missionaries were causing problems in the world. The woman who responded was the Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. One sensed that the speaker wanted to embarrass Christian missionaries who may be “interfering with human rights.” I was pleasantly surprised by the response from the Commissioner who refused to say a negative word about Christians. Instead she said that whenever there is a disaster anywhere in the world you will see Christians responding to help. They are the ones, she said, that provide education, health care, and disaster relief. Christians are making a positive impact on our world and there is no need to be ashamed that you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
It’s time for all of us to step out of the darkness and into the light, proclaiming our great love for Jesus. The faith of Nicodemus is amazing as he steps into the light even in the midst of Jesus’ death. He is dwelling in Friday and Saturday, not knowing that Sunday is coming. We know what will happen tomorrow and therefore we don’t have to have the faith of Nicodemus for we can move forward in resurrection power and follow Jesus.
Why live a powerless Christian life, stumbling in the darkness, when we can step out on faith into the light.
Lord, in the silence of this day we wait for you. Amen.
Thursday, April 13, 2017
John 13:12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
This moment where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples in one in which he models humility, not only for the disciples, but all Christ-followers who would come after. He humbled himself and then used his actions as a teachable moment. He didn’t just verbally teach them lessons, he acted them out. This was a visible image of the kingdom of God. The Lord and Teacher would humble himself to wash the feet of others. Jesus clearly said that this was an example to all of them that they were to live this kind of a lifestyle of service to others. It is in service to others that we discover that we are blessed.
There have been those throughout the centuries who have argued over whether Jesus meant that we are to wash others’ feet literally, or metaphorically. I think there is some truth in understanding this both ways. I will never forget visiting Mother Theresa’s home for the destitute and dying in Calcutta. The place was filled with those who were coming to the end of life and were suffering. I met a family from Germany who had brought there children there on holiday. Instead of spending money on themselves, they chose to come and literally wash the feet of others. They spent their days lovingly washing the bodies of those who had suffered the long-term effects of poverty. They wouldn’t heal them, but they would humbly love them and give them dignity during the last days of their lives. This is what Mother Theresa had challenged others to do — to follow the example of Jesus and to humbly serve others.
Whether we literally wash others' feet, or we live a humble lifestyle of service to others, Jesus expects action on our part. Something happens in that moment when we wash away the filth of others (physically or metaphorically), for it just may be that we experience personal cleansing at the same time. This is a spiritual moment, and encounter where we follow Jesus’ self-emptying which eventually leads to the cross. We are called to become Christ-like and Jesus gave of himself for the sake of others. We must give of ourselves for the sake of others. We can’t just read and study about what Jesus did to become like him, we must actually follow in his footsteps, follow his example, and give of ourselves to become transformed into his image.
The Lenten journey continues and today we remember the night that Jesus ate with his disciples. Remember that he took time out on this day to teach about humble service in the kingdom. It’s one of the last lessons he wanted to teach the disciples, so this was very important to him, and therefore it ought to be to us. Let us live in love as we pursue the one who loved us enough to give his life for us. Look for opportunities to serve others.
Lord, please help me to follow you and serve in humility. Amen.
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
John 12:23 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.
It was Greeks who had found Philip and asked if they could see Jesus. The significance in this moment is that Jesus speaks a truth to them regarding their adoption into God’s family. We are not sure that they understood what he was saying but it was another glimpse of the dividing walls which would be brought down through Jesus’ death. The glorification of Jesus would happen as a result of his death and resurrection. This was the week of his passion and so much would be changed before resurrection Sunday.
Jesus spoke of the single grain of wheat which would fall to the ground and die. Surely they understood this story for this was a very agrarian society. There was an understanding that the death of the kernel of grain would result in more life. Then Jesus applied this to his own life. He would be the one who would give up his life for so many others. What they didn’t understand was that in his death and resurrection, all, even the Greeks, would find their salvation. The servant who would give up his life would provide the opportunity for slave and free, Jew and Greek, male and female to become a part of the fruit. Now the door would be opened for all to follow Jesus and to serve together with him. The Father would honor the Greeks, just as much as the Jews, if they would faithfully serve the Lord.
Jesus, the one provided a pathway for the many — for all to have fellowship with the Father.
This is the last week of the Lenten journey and the closer we get to the cross, the clearer the mission of Jesus becomes. Jesus is willing to give up his life for everyone! He sees the bigger picture and knows that giving up his life will produce much fruit. We are then challenged to enter into that life of servanthood as well. We are to live in self-sacrifice for the sake of others. We, too, are to consider what we have as a sacrifice for many. The talents and abilities that have been given us by God are to be used in kingdom service.
The Lenten journey takes us to the cross with Christ. We may have many responsibilities in life but the greatest is humble service to our Lord. Our vision must reach beyond ourselves as we partner with Christ on this journey to bring others to the kingdom. What are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of others? We are also one, but our lives may be used for many.
Jesus is calling us into self-sacrificial service. We must be willing to give ourselves up to serve and to follow Jesus. This is not always pleasant, but Jesus is calling, the one for the many, to follow him.
Lord, thank you that you created possibilities for me to draw near to you. As a result, please help me to faithfully serve and follow you. Amen.
Monday, April 10, 2017
John 12:9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
It was just six days before the Passover that Jesus came to visit his friends in Bethany. Massive crowds of Jewish people had come to see the man who had been dead for four days but was now alive and walking around. His life was such a witness to the power of Jesus Christ that people came from far and near just to see this man who was alive! Every glimpse of Lazarus led to more power for Jesus and this was a threat to the religious leaders. Their convoluted plan was to get rid of Lazarus by killing him. What foolish thoughts to think that you would kill the one who had already been raised from the dead. If Jesus could raise him once, couldn’t he raise him again?
The religious leaders were still confounded by Jesus and could not understand the power and authority that he had. They were blinded to the fact that he was the Son of God, or at least refused to allow that to be a possibility. They allowed their minds to wander into foolish thoughts and ideas about how to stamp out this man’s life.
Foolish thoughts were the result of men desperate to retain power. Jesus and Lazarus were a threat to what they had come to enjoy in life. Instead of a genuine desire for the faith, they had become consumed by self-interest and self-protection. The result was that they were willing to allow others to suffer for their own benefit. Lazarus could simply be done away with if he was an obstacle to their success.
The goal of life for the believer will always be fully knowing Christ. There is nothing in this world that can or should take the place of Christ in the center of all that we do and say. Unfortunately, just like these religious leaders we can become distracted when we feel that we are threatened. The world begins to shift and change and we feel that we are losing our sense of security, then we can foolishly lash out at others, as if they are the cause of all our problems. Lazarus wasn’t the cause of the problems for the religious leaders, it was their own personal lack of faith. Trusting in their own plans was certainly foolish.
When we get our eyes off of Jesus we can be tempted by foolish thoughts. Those foolish thoughts lead us to human manipulation of situations and circumstances when God is simply standing by and saying, “trust me!’ The foolish don’t trust in God, but think that God needs their help. God doesn’t need our help, and simply wants all of us.
If only the religious leaders had turned to the scripture they would have known well:
Prov. 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be a healing for your flesh
and a refreshment for your body.
We step far from foolishness when we live in harmony with the Lord.
Lord, may I live in complete trust and dependence upon you. Amen.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Philippians 2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Phil. 2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus emptied himself to come to earth to provide a way of salvation for all of us. He knew what he was doing, but it wasn’t always easy.
Today is Palm Sunday and we usually focus on the excitement that was experienced in Jerusalem on that day. But what was it that would transform a cheering crowd into one clamoring for the death of Jesus in just a few days? The reality is that Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday well aware of what would happen to him by the end of the week. He was willing to go through it all for the sake of all of us. He had begun the journey long before, when he willingly gave up his place with the Father and was born as an infant, completely dependent upon the care of his human parents. Even then the healing work of Christ that would lead to the resurrection had begun. Jesus was creating a pathway for humanity to become like him. In the garden tomb he refers to his Father as also the Father of the disciples. The pathway for adoption would be completed in the acts of Jesus Christ.
While Jesus knew what he was doing, so we ought to be intentional with our actions. There may be times that we submit to unpleasant circumstances for the sake of others. In our desire to avoid pain and suffering, we may protect ourselves but create great loss for others. Jesus knew what he was doing and willingly submitted himself to every experience of Holy Week. As we follow Christ we take up our cross and willingly submit ourselves to his leading and authority in our lives. We intentionally go into those spaces where we may experience pain, all for the sake of the lost whom Jesus loves.
We, too, should know what we are doing when we follow Jesus. Sometimes it will be like Palm Sunday and others it will be like Good Friday, but all with intentionality for the sake of the world whom God loved.
Lord, please help me to live my life with intentionality for you. Amen.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Philippians 1:9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippian Christians is for us to abound in overflowing love. This is only possible when we get to know Christ at a much deeper level. The fruitfulness comes from service, but also from character. The character of Christ is revealed in the one who knows him with great knowledge and insight. The final result is God who gets the glory for this is the Lord’s work.
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. Making relationships a priority is not always easy when there are “things” to be done. If this can happen with our family and friend relationships, just imagine how easy it is to push aside our relationship with the Lord.
This has been a very busy week for me and if you look closely, I’ve missed two days of devotional thoughts. My confession is that I don’t function as well when I don’t have my morning time with the Lord. The other part of my busy week is not spending time with my family. Thursday was my husband’s birthday and I left the house around eight in the morning and got home a little after ten at night. When my meetings came to an end yesterday, I had promised him the rest of the day. I put aside my work and he and I went and walked and talked for several hours as we enjoyed the beautiful spring day in Kansas City. I wanted to give him my full attention and simply be with him. This is what Jesus wants from us too. He wants us to put down our work, set aside the cell phone, and spend quiet time with him. Only in this way will our hearts overflow with love, and be filled with Jesus’ knowledge and insight. Just as I bounce my life off of my husband and process what I am doing — so the Lord waits patiently for us as well. He wants to have those conversations where we talk about our needs and concerns.
It is only in Christ that we can remain pure and blameless. When we get our direction from our time with the Lord then we can live and move in the direction that we are led. The Lord wants us to participate with him, being used for God’s praise and glory. When we overflow with the holy love found in the Trinity, God’s glory is seen in and through all that we do. Overflowing love comes from intimate participation with our holy God.
Lord, I love the times we get to spend together. I need you now more than ever. Amen.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Psalm 143:8 Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
This Psalm is written during a time of distress but the deep desire is for intimacy with God, not just for the end of difficulties. The Psalmist goes to the LORD in the morning, beginning the day in anticipation of steadfast love. This is the anchor for his day for the steadfast love of God keeps him secure throughout the storms of life. His trust is in no person, but in God alone. It is in this morning space of intimacy that the Psalmist receives his marching orders. As he lifts up his soul to the LORD, he has discovered that he will be taught the ways in which to go. This all happens when the Psalmist’s longing is for God.
What a great way to start the morning! The Psalmist lays it all out there for all of us. Our desire should be to know God, not to get things from God. Therefore, with anticipation of experiencing the steadfast love of God, we greet the LORD with the dawn.
There is something significant about starting out our day in the presence of the LORD. This time with God sets the tone for the entire day. Instead of living in the tension of everything that must be accomplished in the day, we live in the sweet peace of steadfast love. This is the very nature of God which is shared with us when we put our trust in the LORD. What does wholehearted trust of God look like in the tension of the day? There are plenty of things that we won’t understand along the way and yet we are to trust in God. In trusting we experience steadfast love. The arms of God that will hold us in the midst of everything that we are doing.
We may be pretty bright people, but our knowledge is nothing in comparison to God. Therefore we must learn to listen to the sweet still voice of God who will teach us in the way that we should go. There is guidance from God for every day. When we learn to hear the voice of God, or the sweet nudging we can take direction and be led through difficulties.
Recently I was driving through Los Angeles and the traffic there is rather notorious. I was using my phone’s GPS to get to me where I needed to go. Throughout my travels my phone would relay to me when there was a traffic jam and how I could be rerouted to get around it. If my phone can give me that kind of direction, can’t we believe that the God who loves us would want to give us those kinds of nudges and directions throughout the day?
When you forget your phone you feel completely lost. You have to go home and get it because you’re not sure how you would function without it.
When we forget to hear of the steadfast love of God in the morning we are lost. We don’t have GPS and we begin to head out and try to figure it all out on our own. Our longing for God ought to be greater than for our phones! Navigating life without the steadfast love of God and gentle direction will simply make life more difficult. Time to long for God.
Lord, may the longings of my heart always lead to you. Amen.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
2 Kings 4:25 So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.
When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; 26 run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” 27 When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.”
The Shunammite woman had great faith and yet she was struggling with what she was facing. She and her husband had shown great hospitality to Elisha and he was very grateful. The woman had been unable to become pregnant and this had caused great pain for this couple. During one of his visits Elisha declared that they would have a child, and the woman eventually gave birth to a son. Sadly, the little boy became ill and just before we reach today’s scripture, he dies in her arms. The only thing this woman knows to do is to go and find Elisha. She refuses to tell anyone that her son is dead, but instead declares on several occasions, “it is all right.” It’s not until she finally reaches Elisha that she allows her emotions to show and reveals the reason for her pain.
She knew there was one person to whom she could go for an answer to her problem. That’s why she told everyone else along the way, “it is all right.” They didn’t need to know what was wrong with her son because they could do nothing about it. She needed to get to Elisha whom she knew would take immediate action. Not only would he take action, but his action would have results.
The woman didn’t need to waste time telling everyone that her child was dead because she really did believe “it was all right” until she could reach Elisha. Her words were a statement of her faith to believe that it could be all right, as long as the powerful man of God became involved in her situation. She lived and believed “it is all right,” and it was.
Sometimes our circumstances may seem completely out of control. That “thing” that we have birthed may suddenly seem as if it’s on life-support. We may be struggling with relationships. Our finances may be deteriorating. We may have lost our job. It’s easy to worry and to fret and tell everyone we meet what is going on. It’s not as easy to calmly press on, telling others, “it is all right,” when we are in pain. More than likely we succumb to the temptation to complain and tell those along the journey what is going on. The problem is that when we respond in that way we become distracted from reaching our goal. For the Shunammite woman, her goal was to get to Elisha for she had faith to believe that he was the one who could do something about her son. When we are in the midst of extreme difficulty we need not get distracted from our goal of getting to Christ. To all others we declare, “it is all right” for they are but a distraction and a stopping point where we might complain.
The answers to our problems and needs are found by walking in the wilderness with Jesus. This is part of our Lenten journey. We are not to be distracted by anyone or anything that keeps us from getting to Jesus. Others cannot solve our problems but Jesus can. By faith we live in the “it is all right” until we fall at the feet of our loving Savior. There we cry out from the depths of our hearts and express to him our deepest needs. Jesus hears and will respond with empathetic holy love.
The day may seem daunting, but we press on in faith for “it is all right.”
Lord, may I press on in faith and not be distracted along my journey to knowing you. Amen.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. 9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. 12 Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.
This appears to be the first recorded meeting of worshippers on the first day of the week. This would have been a Sunday gathering and they came together to hear the word preached and to have a meal and celebrate communion. Paul was the speaker of the hour but he wasn’t going to just give a short message. Paul felt an urgency because this would be his last time to gather with this group of believers and he wanted to make the most of it.
You can imagine that the people were getting hungry but Paul kept on talking until midnight. The many lamps may have made the space warm and stuffy while giving off fumes. As a result a young man who was trying to listen was simply overcome. Some translations say that Paul talked “on and on.” Finally Eutychus (which means ‘Lucy One’) fell asleep and to his death. At that moment Paul rushed to his side and resurrection power was revealed. Eutychus was brought to life by Paul.
Paul probably realized that the people were hungry so they paused long enough to have communion and a meal, but Paul, not wanting waste any time kept talking with them until dawn. He used every moment to its fullest and those who knew the boy realized they had experienced a miracle. By the whole experience they were comforted.
This first recorded Sunday worship service seems a bit crazy but at the same time it has elements that ought to bring us pause. There was much that happened that night but at the end of it all the people were comforted. Paul was going to be leaving them and probably never coming back. So, his presence, or imminent departure, provides the framework for this gathering. The worship gathering resulted in the people being comforted.
The people gathered on the first day of the week. This was to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection. It was a move away from the Sabbath day gathering of the Jewish tradition and means that the focus had become on resurrection. Everything changed on this side of the cross, including the ways in which people would worship. This was about praising and worshipping the God of resurrection power and this is what made the miracle of Eutychus so vital. This miracle of resurrection power brought emphasis to their gathering on the day of resurrection. Yes, they could believe in the resurrected Jesus because they saw resurrection power at work and they “were not a little comforted.”
Finally, they broke bread together. Jesus had told them to do this often — as often as they gathered together. They were comforted by this practice in worship for it reminded them of the presence of Jesus. They practiced what Jesus had done and remembered, not only his sacrifice, but Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
Gathering together to worship brought great comfort to these new believers. They gathered on the day of the resurrection, experienced resurrection power and devoured both the physical and spiritual word of God. It was a transformative event that would set a pattern. We are invited to step into that place of comfort every week and live in the shadow of resurrection.
Lord, thank you for the reminder that we are privileged to celebrate resurrection and to be comforted. Amen.
Sunday, April 2, 2017
John 11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Thomas is one of those characters who is misunderstood. The scene before us is Jesus preparing to travel to Bethany where he will raise Lazarus from the dead. The problem was that the disciples knew that if Jesus returned anywhere near Jerusalem they would all be in danger. Some have thought that Thomas’ reaction was rather dark and negative. Maybe he tended to be the “glass half empty” guy in the group but there was also some reality here. He was willing to go with Jesus and became resigned to the fact that they just might all die.
This may possibly have revealed a bit of doubt on Thomas’ part, or it may have been keen insight, we just don’t know for sure. We do know that Jesus didn’t rebuke him, neither this time nor in the future. While Thomas is willing to express his doubts, he also becomes stronger as a result. Ultimately Thomas lives out a life of faith and travels much of the world to tell people about the resurrected Christ. In this instance he may be misunderstood because as he voices resignation, he also voices faith. He was willing to go with Jesus and die.
It’s far too easy to judge people when we don’t know the whole story. Thomas is one of those who has been judged for 2000 years. Poor man! Even in this story we begin to judge him based on what we know will happen later. He bears the nickname “doubting Thomas” throughout all time! But was he really simply misunderstood. There are certain disciples about whom we know almost nothing and so this little glimpse of Thomas makes me think that he was probably quite misunderstood. There is more faith expressed in this statement of his then there is doubt. He may have been a bit of a pessimist (but honestly, Jesus did go and die!) — but maybe he was a realist.
Very rarely will people see things exactly the same way in which we see them. We judge people based on our few encounters that we have with them and from that we form an opinion on who they are and what makes them tick. The problem is that there is so much more to know and when we make decisions based on, say a Facebook post, or something that someone said about someone — we will misunderstand that person.
Jesus knew the true heart of Thomas and was never judgmental. Instead, Jesus lovingly continued to keep Thomas in his inner circle and eventually Thomas went on to become a great missionary. From this moment onward, Thomas is willing to give his life for Jesus and the mission. Jesus was patient, knowing that Thomas needed time to grow and develop his faith. He provided that space, and even the extra reassurance so that Thomas could become an incredible servant of God.
There may be a Thomas in our lives that is quite misunderstood. This may be someone who needs to be given the benefit of the doubt and space to become the person that God has intended. They may need mentoring and nurturing so that they can eventually flourish. No one needs to be written off, but everyone should be given a chance to be truly understood.
Lord, your love transforms those with doubts into those of great faith. May we reflect your love and patience with those around us. Amen.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The resurrected Jesus was staring them right in the face and yet they were struggling to understand what all of this meant. Suddenly Jesus was able to open their minds so that they understood everything that he’d been saying to them for the last three years. Now, it made sense. Jesus IS the Messiah for he has fulfilled all of the prophetic words of the Old Testament. Once their minds were opened they were able to receive and understand the word and then take instruction.
They were to go to Jerusalem where they would begin to see things unfold. They would become witnesses to that which they have never before experienced and they would wait for something new, but wait they would for their minds had been opened and they were understanding more clearly than ever before.
Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and then just stared at it, wondering what you just read? I’ve been there. My mind has wandered and sometimes I’ll get through a whole passage and then think, “I have no idea what I just read.” I’m pretty good at having too many things on my mind when I sit down to read the Bible as well and even though I am going over the words in my mind, my mind is really elsewhere.
Then, there are those circumstances when we really are focusing on our reading but it simply doesn’t make any sense. We may read it over two or three times only to discover that we still don’t know what it is that we have read. But then, there are those “aha” moments when we discover an unusual insight into the what the word is saying to us. Take, for instance, this passage today. I’ve read it many times and mostly my focus has been on the ascension of Jesus Christ and his preparation of the disciples. However, never before had I noticed the words, “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” Somehow I had just gone right past that, and yet there is such truth to be seen here.
These people had been immersed in the presence of Jesus for three years and still their minds were not opened. This means that I can spend lots of time in the word but there will still be so much more for me to learn. Every day that I spend time in the Scriptures I learn something new, or I’m challenged to new depths in my walk with Jesus Christ. I need to have my mind opened to the revelation of Jesus Christ which is found in the written word. The more that my mind is opened to the Scriptures, the more that my life is opened to intimacy with Jesus.
I pray that the distractions will become fewer and fewer so that I can really soak in the word which is before me every day. The more that I get to know Christ, the more I realize I don’t know Christ — for there is still so much more to God than we can even begin to comprehend. We lean into our relationship with Jesus and pray for our minds to be opened. It is in this way that we can continue to grow.
When our minds are opened we also become available for service. We are able to embrace the instructions of our Lord. No longer do they question Jesus, but they accept what he has to say and they obediently make their way to Jerusalem, awaiting the provision of the Holy Spirit. Their open minds are able to live in faith.
Lord, open my mind that I might see and understand your truths. Amen.