Finding time

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

The Lord answered, ” Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” ~Luke 10:38-42

“When the Master invited the Governor to practice meditation and the Governor said he was too busy, this is the reply he got: ‘You put me in mind of a man walking blindfolded into the jungle- and being too busy to take the blindfold off.’

When the Governor pleaded lack of time, the Master said, ‘It is a mistake to think that meditation cannot be practiced for lack of time. The real reason is agitation of the mind.’ ~From Taking Flight by Anthony de Mello

Heavenly Father, Help me to not be overly busy this day. Help me to make time for You for I know when I make time for You, so much more of my day falls into place. Amen.

To think or to feel

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life- giving spring. ~Rev. 24:4-6 (CEB)

“The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your hurts to your head or to your heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down into your heart. Then you can live them through and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds. . . .

Think of each wound as you would of a child who has been hurt by a friend. As long as that child is ranting and raving, trying to get back at the friend, one wound leads to another. But when the child can experience the consoling embrace of a parent, she or he can live through the pain, return to the friend, forgive, and build up a new relationship. Be gentle with yourself, and let your heart be your loving parent as you live your wounds through.” ~From The Inner Voice of Love by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Lord, as I learn to work through life’s struggles, help me to feel Your loving embrace this day. Help me to be healthy and whole. Amen.

Death sentence

It was customary during the festival for the governor to release to the crowd one prisoner, whomever they might choose. At that time there was a well-known prisoner named Jesus Barabbas. When the crowd had come together, Pilate asked them, “Whom would you like me to release to you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?”  He knew that the leaders of the people had handed him over because of jealousy.

While he was serving as judge, his wife sent this message to him, “Leave that righteous man alone. I’ve suffered much today in a dream because of him. ”

But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and kill Jesus. The governor said, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

“Barabbas, they replied.

Pilate said, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said, “Crucify him!”

 But he said, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere and that a riot was starting. So he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I’m innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It’s your problem.”

All the people replied, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Then he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified. ~Matt. 27:15-26 (CEB)

Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murder, an insurrectionist than it knows to do with the Prince of Peace? There is a sense in which an assassin’s attempt on the pope’s life is less shocking to our world than the pope’s forgiveness of him. Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice isn’t it possible that we would take Barabbas, too? ~From What Will You Do with King Jesus? by James A. Harnish

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen. (Psalm 130:23-24)

A dangerous disease

I’m not saying what I’m saying because the Lord tells me to. I’m saying it like I’m a fool. I’m putting my confidence in this business of bragging. Since so many people are bragging based on human standards, that is how I’m going to brag too. Because you, who are so wise, are happy to put up with fools. You put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone places themselves over you, or if someone hits you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we have been weak in comparison! But in whatever they challenge me, I challenge them (I’m speaking foolishly).

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. ~1 Cor 11:17-22 (CEB

We have an inborn persisting tendency to attribute to ourselves the success of our spiritual life, the resistance we offer to temptation, the devotion we achieve, the discipline we keep and the good works we do. Surely we thank God for all that, but in our heart of hearts we congratulate ourselves on our exploits, and secretly worship our sword and our bow. We take as done by us what is done by God in us; even obvious graces from heaven stick to the soul and seem after some time to be connatural to us and springing from us. That is spiritual pride of the worst kind, and if it really takes hold of a soul, is enough to stop any spiritual progress at all. The disease is as dangerous as it is common. ~From Faith for Justice by Carlos G. Valles

May I give all the glory to You O Lord, for not by my power but by Your power have I been enabled to go about Your work for the Kingdom. Thank You for working through me, empowering me to be more than I ever could be on my own. Amen

Trying to be

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified self with its passions and its desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. ~Gal. 5:22-25 (CEB)

 

Faith does not always come easy. Sometimes it comes after a long road of holding on to the “I can do it myself”, after a last- ditch effort at “self” control. Often faith doesn’t come until we have tried everything else. Am I trying to be who Jesus wants me to be or do I trust Jesus to be who he is in and through me?

Only Jesus can be Jesus. And he wants me to have faith to let him be himself through me. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit.” A few years ago there was a catch phrase, WWJD, “what would Jesus do?” Without relying on the Spirit to work through me this quickly becomes about my performance. But if through my faith, his spirit lives in me then I will see fruit of the spirit begin to show through me. We will know we are living by the Spirit when we see “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control.” (Gal 5:22-23)

Receiving faith does not happen automatically in the life of a believer. To live by faith I have to get rid of the “try hard life” and experience the truth of what it means to let his spirit flow through me. I need to let the peace of Christ rule my heart. By opening my hands to let Jesus work through me I am able to watch with hopeful expectation letting peace do peace-like work.

Heavenly Father, I want to do your will. I try so hard yet it seems that I am always falling short of what I think should happen. Help me to let go and let You work through me. Through me let Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control shine. Amen.

 

Mercy and grace

During that day’s cool evening breeze, they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God in the middle of the garden’s trees. The LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard your sound in the garden; I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree, which I commanded you not to eat?” ~Gen 3:8-11 (CEB)

 

 

What happens when we feel guilt and shame? What are we to do when we find that we can no longer hide behind Self-reliance? We need forgiveness and new life. God gives us both. When we realize that we cannot stay behind our masks our world feels turned upside down. We no longer know which way is up.

When we come out from behind our masks we don’t find what we deserve, we find mercy. In the garden God killed an innocent animal, this first sacrifice pointed to the future sacrifice of Christ. In his great love and compassion God provided an escape from the wrath they deserved. This is mercy.

Mercy as beautiful as it is is not enough. It is only protection. God took the skin of the animal and fashioned a new identity for them (Gen 3:21), one on his terms. This was undeserved, this is grace.

So, mercy protects and grace provides. It is hard to accept life that we have not worked for or earned, but the only way we can live is by feasting on the Tree of Life. A few thousand years after the first Adam, one comes to show us how to live by the Tree of Life. Jesus shows us what life could look like when we depend solely on God to provide.

Adam and Eve received mercy in the garden when God sacrificed that animal. He gives us the same mercy through the sacrifice through Jesus’ blood on the cross. Jesus received the punishment that was meant for us. But where does grace come into the picture? God knew we would need a hiding place, but he doesn’t let us stay hidden by our terms.

Yes, Jesus died for our sins. Truth is that we also die with him when we are baptized. If we died with him, then when he was buried, we were buried, when he arose, we rose (Rom 6:4-8).

The good news is that we do not have to manufacture our own hiding places. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)Through his death Jesus is now our safe place. This is grace.

In the self-reliant life my behavior determines my acceptability. But when we realize that we are loved by God unconditionally we find that it is also safe to love others as God guides us. When I realize I already measure up in Christ (2 Cor 3:5-6) I don’t have to measure myself against others. When I realize my needs are met through Christ (Phil 4:19) then I don’t look to others for my needs. When I realize that I am righteous through Christ (2 Cor 5:21) I don’t have to rely on self-righteousness.

Through Christ it is now safe to love God and it is safe to love others (Matt 22:37-40).

Heavenly Father, Thank You for sending Your son into the world to provide mercy and grace. Thank You for helping me choosing life. Help me to love others as You would have me love. Amen.

An awakening

When the crowd heard this, they were deeply troubled. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Change your hearts and lives. Each of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children, and for all who are far away—as many as the Lord our God invites.” ~Acts 2:37-39 (CEB)

Maybe it is hearing tv evangelists or street corner preachers that plant the idea in our heads that coming to Christ is a lightning bolt moment. While coming to Christ may seem like a once-in-a-lifetime experience it is really an ongoing journey within us. Conversion is a lifelong process of turning more and more fully toward God in all that we are, possess, and do. I can look back over my life and see earthshaking moments that seemed to shift my life more in line with Christ. But such moments are just part of the process not the end as I give myself over to the transforming power of God.

It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that change is not instantaneous. While conversion requires our decision and action, it takes time to change us into the image of Christ. I have also learned that it took time to develop my bad habits so it will also take time to undo the habits I have formed. Without the work of undoing the bad habits they will come back or new bad habits will take their place. (Matt 12:43-45)

Macrina Wiederkehr in her book, A Tree Full of Angels, gives us an insight into Paul’s conversion experience, “When Saul was knocked down by that flash of lightening, that was not conversion. That was just God getting his attention. The conversion came as he groped his way in blindness to Ananias, able to see with interior eyes because he had no external eyes to depend on. His conversion continued day after day as he began to give meaning to his new name, Paul. He was still in the process of conversion when he was on his way to Rome in chains.”

I get a glimpse of Paul’s ongoing conversion when I read in Romans 7:15-21, “I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, its sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me.”

Conversion is an awakening of the spirit. Suddenly the world begins to make sense despite the absurdity, the injustice, the pain. Our vision is opened up enough to be able to absorb the contradictions and the collision of opposites. We go from being blind or short sighted to seeing with God’s eyes. The love of God dawns upon us and with it comes the most amazing promise and a new hope. What we cannot redeem, God can, and what we cannot erase God will.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for Your grace that saves me. I thank You for awakening my spirit and the transformation You allow in my life. I claim the strength You promise as I try to do Your will, one day at a time. Amen.

Called to be me

He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. ~Eph 4:11 (CEB)

My daughter is on a mission trip with her youth group this week. As we gathered her things to go I told her that every time I pick her up from a mission trip someone tells me “Your daughter is a good digger”. She looked at me with all seriousness and said, “Well, when there is a lot you don’t know how to do, you find what you can do and do it well.” In one heart beat I went from laughing with my daughter to being proud of her. We could all do well to remember this in life. “Find what we can do and do it well.”

It is humbling when I look around at all the great things people seem to be doing. Always before me I can see what I don’t do well. But instead of focusing on what others are doing and what I seem unable to do, I need to remember that God doesn’t call me to what others do well. He calls me to what I can do well through Him who will give me the ability to do His will (Phil 3:14). God calls me to be me. If it is digging holes while others build decks, He will give me the strength to dig those holes. If it is to quietly sit with someone whose heart is broken while others lead thousands to Christ, God will give me the strength needed to hold that dear hand.

Paul addressed the Corinthians about this in the first letter to them, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” ~ 1 Cor. 12:4-11 (NRSV)

What God calls me to do is for the common good. He doesn’t call me to a work to make me feel good about myself. Ephesians 4:12 says our ministry is for the building up of the body of Christ. Galatians 5:25-26 reminds me that my work is to be guided by the Holy Spirit and that I am not to become conceited, competitive or envious of what someone else may be called to do. So even though I may think someone else’s work is more glamorous than what I have been called to do, I am to keep my eyes on Him and walk only this road His has given me.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the strength You give so that I can be all that I am meant to be. Help me to remember that all work is for the common good and not about me. Amen.

Joy comes in the morning

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. ~Psalm 30:5 (NRSV)

 
Sometimes the “dark of night” can bleed into day light hours. During these times it can feel so hard to hold onto the truths that I know. Even though I have taken a stand against a spirit of fear, though I’ve prayed for the truth to be revealed and that I not make things to be more than they really are, anxiety doesn’t always fly away instantly.

There is a moment of clarity though. The overwhelming clouds of doubt, fear and confusion do roll away. The peace that I prayed so diligently for does begin to light up the sky. Have my problems vanished? No, my situation has not changed but the attack on my sanity is gone. I still have to continue the work I know is ahead of me. With the rays of light that begin to light my horizon I know that the endurance the Bible promises me is filling my soul. Sweet breaths of air are drifting through me as the burden seems lighter to carry. The “joy that comes in the morning” is that peace that passes all understanding.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus to walk with me when I wander through dark times. Thank You for your Holy Spirit that gives me air so I can breathe. Thank You for the power of Jesus’ name that empowers me to endure the toughest storms that I may know the joy of the morning. Amen.

Shelter in the storm

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a hiding place from the storm, a shade from the heat. When the breath of tyrants is like a winter storm. ~ Isaiah 25:4 (CEB)

I attended a meeting one night and the facilitator accused some of us of not being thrilled to be there. He asked us to think of a word that described our feelings. When I thought about how I was feeling, I decided that I felt pretty good and I was glad to be there that night. At the same time I realized that this was not a complete picture of what I was feeling. On the surface I felt happy and peaceful, but underneath the calm I knew there still raged a storm, a storm that may never find rest this side of heaven.

I think this is what was meant about feeling peaceful despite life’s circumstances. Maybe you are in a storm right now. For you maybe your storm is an alcoholic or drug addict in your life. Maybe someone you love is dying of a terminal illness or you are dealing with grief and great loss. Maybe you personally are suffering with drugs, alcohol or a terminal illness. Maybe your financial situation is just about to swallow you whole. Despite the storms that may never cease this side of heaven we find verses in the Bible that tell us that we are not alone. That someone walks along with us in the storm. Isaiah 25:4 even tells me that I can hide away from the storm, find refuge from my distress. How do I find refuge from the storms? In fellowship with other Christians, reading the Word, singing hymns, prayer and worship. These things can provide a shelter and a resting place.

Heavenly Father, thank you for providing a shelter in the storms of life. May I frequently seek out your comfort so that I can continue in Your peace. Amen.

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