“Our Calling…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew, chapter 28:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+28&version=NLT

 

He is risen indeed brothers and sisters.  The greatest news ever to hit humanity.  We have hope.  We have healing.  We have the promise of everlasting life.  Let us encourage one another to take the Great Commission seriously.  How will you share this life-giving message with those around you?  This is our most basic calling…

Gracious Lord,

I believe in You.  I believe in Your resurrection.  I trust in Your promises.  Help me to be an Easter person every day this year.  Teach me to be an evangelist worthy of being called one of Your own.  

In the name of the risen Savior I pray,

Amen

“The Death of Jesus…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew, chapters 26 and 27:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2026&version=NLT

Have you ever experienced a tragedy?  Have you ever woke up and started your day like any other only to end it paralyzed with grief and confusion?  I have.  And it seems as if, in times such as these, my confusion overwhelms me more so than any other emotion.  What is happening?  How could this be?  I don’t know what to do…

We condemn the disciples for deserting Jesus on this night.  But I have compassion for them.  Even though He had repeatedly warned them about what was coming, I have a feeling they didn’t understand.  Or if they did, they were not prepared for it so soon.  It is the same with us.  Even if we are expecting someone to pass away, we are never prepared for it, or the emotions that come with it.

I picture them, scared, sickened, dizzy.  Maybe some couldn’t breathe.  Maybe some had chest pains.  Most likely fight or flight took over some of their minds, and when Jesus said we will not fight, instinctually they didn’t know what else to do but run.

I can image all these things because I have been there.  And in those times I don’t think.  My instincts take over, and I am not in my right mind.  I am sure that if I had been there, I would have acted in the same way as they did.

So today I thank my Savior for understanding my weakness, as He understood theirs.  I thank Him for not holding this against me, but having mercy for me instead.  I thank Him for being willing to sacrifice Himself for someone as unworthy as I am.  And I thank Him for His unending grace, that continues to minister to my soul each day.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

“Your Soul Is At Stake…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew, chapters 23-25

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2023&version=NLT

We are coming down to the end of Christ’s passion, and as we journey forward we can feel His anxiety and His sense of urgency building throughout these chapters.  It is almost as if you can see Him, speaking more loudly and in a more rushed tone of voice.  In these final days before His death, He seems to be desperately trying to get one point across:

Get your heart ready, time is short!

We see multiple parables and encounters that relate to this theme, and I am struck by the intensity of them.  What I am taking away from these 3 chapters is this:

Jesus is going to come back, and most of us won’t be ready.  Frightening isn’t it?  When He returns, and His angels begin gathering up the faithful, will I be one of them?  Will you?  I don’t claim to know anything more than what these particular scriptures tell us.  But these are the main points that I am hearing loud and clear:

1.  Jesus will come back

2.  He will gather up the believers

3.  Many people will be left behind

4.  Religious activity will not get you recognized.

5.  Faithfulness is the key

6.  It takes a lifestyle of daily faithfulness to prepare ourselves for the judgment.

7.  No one knows when He will come.

 

As I read these passages, I was overcome with grief for those that were left behind.  In all the stories, those folks that thought they were doing the right things, those folks that thought they had more time – they were tragically mistaken.  And the door closed on them.  Forever.  I don’t know about you, but a life sentence in eternity, with no chance of parole, is a harsh thing to imagine.  And yet, Jesus says, many church folks will end up there.

So what does it mean to be faithful?  I think that is something that each one of us needs to really spend some time with.  We need to be praying and asking God to show us the paths of righteousness and help us to walk them.  But I do believe that going through the religious motions is definitely not the way.  This is just my opinion, but going to church, serving on a committee, and throwing a $20 in the plate every now and again is probably not going to cut it.  As He says Himself, even being a devout tither won’t get it either.  So what will?

As I said earlier, we each need to be seriously asking that question for ourselves.  But two things were pretty clear to me.

1.  Heart condition – I believe that Christ will judge our hearts, minds, and attitudes without giving a second thought to our public activities.  Did I love others? Did I forgive?  Did I do my best to lead other people to Him?  Did I take care of those that couldn’t take care of themselves?  Did I give and serve with a cheerful and generous spirit?

2.  Relationship – Do I have a deep relationship with Him?  Did I spend time with Him daily?  Did I immerse myself in His word, so that I could be transformed into His likeness?  Did I put Him above everything else?

For me, only by doing these things daily will I become like Christ.  Connecting with Him occasionally, worshiping Him only through convenience, and serving Him on a couple of days a year will not prepare me for His coming.  I don’t think on that surprising day, I want to try to explain to Him why He hasn’t heard from me in a while and why I have been too busy to attend worship this month.  My soul will ride on that conversation.  I want it to go well. I just want to hear those grace-filled words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Come into the joy of your master.”

This message was so very clear for me.  I would love to hear some feedback about your impression of these parables and encounters.

Blessed Maundy Thursday Friends.

 

Heavenly Father,

You try so hard to get my attention.  And You wait for me to get it, so that I will not perish.  Praise be to mighty Jehovah!  For you are merciful, slow to anger and quick to forgive.  Speak to me Lord, in ways that I can understand.  Show me the faithful path.  Walk with me each day, and lead down the path to salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Show me how to finish well.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

 

“Wake Up…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew, chapters 20-22

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2020&version=NLT

Wow.  Here we are half way through Holy Week.  The pace of the scriptures in these three chapters picks up dramatically as we witness the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  

The overall message for me in these three chapters is the same.  I feel the tension in Jesus’ heart, and the passion in His in His words. “Wake up!  You are missing the point! Change your ways now, while there is still time.”  

Through the parables, the clearing of the Temple, the confrontation with the religious leaders – Jesus is making His last effort to reach us.  I think it is the same today.  Here I am during Holy Week, busy, running, doing life just the same as all other weeks.  But after reading this, I stopped this morning.  I just let everything on my mind go, and I spent some time in the labyrinth just soaking up His presence.  And I am thankful for that.  He spoke to me in wonderful ways.  He gave me some guidance I had truly been in search of for a long time.  I was at peace.  What a gift.

I hope that where ever you are, you will make a conscious effort to slow down and spend time in His presence over the next 3 days.  Accept the gift He is offering, while you have the opportunity.

Peace friends.

Heavenly Father,

I admit, some times I just don’t get it.  I am so busy focused on so many things, that I breeze right by You without a thought.  Forgive me.  Help me to develop the discipline of solitude in my life that I might have a richer experience of Your presence and grace.  Thank You for Your patience with me.  After reading today’s scripture, it is obvious that I truly don’t deserve it.  But You give it freely anyway.  How wonderful a King You are.

Help me to live into Your presence deeply this week, and to soak up Your Spirit.

In the name of the Rock I pray,

Amen

 

“Connection…”

I just had to share this experience with all of you. For those of you in my local community, you may have heard about a prayer experience that my church hosts each year during Holy Week. Multiple different prayer venues called, Quiet Spaces, are created in an attempt to help us find our own unique way of connecting with God.

I was in one of these spaces, dedicated to Orthodox Worship and religious icons, and had the most amazing experience of Christ. I had walked into the room just to light some candles, and an image of Jesus just captivated me. There are probably a hundred pictures of Jesus in the room, however, this one held me spellbound for the longest time.

I looked into His eyes, and felt His sorrow, physically. I studied His expression and saw so much pain. It was gut-wrenching and I can’t even describe it, but it was a truly powerful experience. I felt as if He were right there in the room with me saying, “all this for you.” There are no words.

I figure many of you would expect me to promote this event here. I am part of the team that sponsors it. But that is not why I am writing about it. I am writing about it because my heart was deeply touched by my Savior. And my desire is for each of you to have the same sort of experience. It is life-changing to get up close and personal with the sacrificial Lamb of God.

So I encourage you to visit Quiet Spaces at some point during this Holy Week, if it is possible for you. If you truly want to learn to pray and connect with Christ, this is an extraordinary way to do that. If you are not able to visit this location, visit your own church. Spend some quiet time in your sanctuary. Or take a walk outside in God’s cathedral. Any way you do it, seeking God is always a sacred encounter.

Peace my friends.

“Family…”

Our reading comes from Matthew, chapter 19

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2019&version=NLT

This chapter contains one of the most well-known passages of Jesus’ teachings.  However, that isn’t what grabbed my attention this morning.  Instead, there is an underlying thread throughout the chapter about family.  Marriage, children, fathers, mothers.

It occurs to me that we, as a general rule, we don’t consult God on these relationships.  For example, how many of us asked God to show us the person He has chosen for us to marry?  How many of us consult God on the number of children we should have, or if we should have any at all?

In matters of family, we are so driven by emotion that God is rarely a part of the plan, unless there is a problem.  Then we pray for God to fix it.  No, we allow our desires to make these decisions for us.  And many times, our emotions end up destroying our relationships as well.

Today I am renewed in my conviction that I should be praying over my relationships a great deal more than I currently do.  God is profoundly interested in my family and our strength for the long haul.  I believe it is time to invite Him into our circle in a more intimate way, that we may rely on His strength to sustain us.  Life can get rough sometimes, without God, how are we going to make it through to the other side of those trials intact?

Heavenly Father,

How I praise You, for the gifts You have given me in providing me with a family.  My marriage is a holy covenant, help me to treat it that way.  My children are a legacy from You, help me to lead them well, and love them even better.  Protect my heart, and Dons, from the assaults of the enemy that seeks to destroy this union You have created.  Help us to maintain a relationship based on trust, honesty, respect, and forgiveness.  Create in us a desire for purity and integrity as we deal with the outer world, so that our relationship will never be jeopardized.  And help us to model, for our children, a deeply healthy and satisfying union.

In the name of the Shepherd I pray,

Amen

“Conviction…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew, chapter 18:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+18&version=NLT

 

I got so much out of this chapter.  I was absolutely being led one way in my study, then I got to the final paragraph.  And God dropped a sledge hammer on my head.  FORGIVENESS.  There it was, again.

I believe we all have a sin problem of some sort.  We are all fallen and, in some way, sadden God’s heart.  My biggest problem is unforgiveness.  At least, that is what God continues to tell me.  I don’t walk around as a bitter person.  Most things I am able to let go, because I know the hearts of most people and I honestly believe that if I am hurt it is normally unintentional.

BUT, I have a couple of offenses that are really hard to get over.  And I have honestly tried.  And I have prayed for years about some of them.  And when I finally think I have gotten past them, I get a reminder that shows me how very wrong I am.

And I really hate it when God reminds me of it.  Why are you kicking me when I am down, Lord?  Isn’t my 97% good enough?

God laughs at me.  Probably more than I think.  It is ridiculous to think that God will accept anything less than 100% when it comes to the state of my heart.  And He never said following Him would be easy.  He never said, “Just forgive those that are easy and don’t worry about the hard ones.”

It is the hard ones that chisel away the hard places in my heart.  And I am finding that to be a long, slow, painful process.  But if I want to call myself a disciple – I have to let Him do that work.  And I have to admit first that I need it.  I could lie to myself, I guess, and look at all the ways I am trying to be a good person.  I could tell myself that I am growing in my faith by my good deeds and Bible studies.  But what good is that when He is still telling me I have a problem?

Some days just don’t start out with a song and a smile do they?  I guess how I start the day doesn’t really matter, as long as I finish the day one step closer to Christ.  Let’s hope…

 

Gracious Lord,

It never is fun to hear that you aren’t perfect.  But I do thank You that You are working with me now, instead of letting me wander down a path of destruction.  Please give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that will accept Your guidance with gratitude.  Let Your Holy Spirit indwell me richly, and change me from the inside out.  

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen