Saturday, November 27, 2010
1 Thessalonians 1
1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you. 2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.
Lord Jesus--There is power in the activity of prayer and of thanksgiving that is mingled with God's grace. There is power to change lives...power to change my life in a way that will brings glory to You and increase my usability for him.
3 We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus--There is a progression here…a progression that starts with work that is produced by faith. Faith is directed toward God…God does not show us faith, I show you my faith by my actions. In the mixture very soon is love. Love that is not focused on anything but the will of God being worked out in real life.
Real life is messy at times and always confusing. But with a health does of love mixed it, it becomes God's grace worked out within me. Faith that works is a faith that understands the economy of grace. There is nothing that we can do that will in anyway increase the amount that God loves us. Our work springs from our love for you and our desire to express that love in visible ways.
Lord Jesus--In this day give me ways to work in a way that shows you are alive in me.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Lord Jesus--I have been thinking about little things while looking at the sea and the sky. A lost cell phone...a lost blue shoe...a direction needed. So many times it is in the little things that I dismiss you and think that they are too small for you to be concerned about. In my mind, you are concerned with world peace, the state of economy and the instability of our present culture and lifestyle, but do you care about the little things that consume my days? All of those large issues I am sure that you intercede to the Father about.
It was just a cell phone, a symbol of connection in my time...a piece of silicon, wire and plastic. But it was a connection from vacation to home, friends and family, it was something that brings a sense of safety in a world that can be fightful. We were in Hatteras looking at the Lighthouse on a late fall day in North Carolina. As we started lunch, Sarah's phone was noticed to be missing. As we were blessing the food Jim prayed that Jesus would help us find that cell phone.
As I sat there listening to the prayer a smile crossed my face...that was Jim being Jim...thoughtful, and kind to mention a cell phone over the blessing at lunch. I thought a bit about what the wait staff a little girl with the nose ring...What might she be thinking of our little clan gathered around the table holding hands and asking for blessing for our food and direction to a lost cell phone?
So the plan was set to return to the Lighthouse and retrace our steps to see if we could find a cell phone somewhere in that place of sea, sky and light. We had as usual gone out of the normal boundaries of good visitors and had tried to find the ocean to get pictures of the light house from the ocean. I was not terribly hopeful as we fanned out to our assigned locations to search, Janice was going to the shop that sold trinkets to see if it had been turned in.
The rest of us traced steps where the cell phone could be. Jim and I had just start to scan the ground on our piece of ground when we heard Jay and Sarah calling to us that they had found the cell on the ground and in working order. Amazing.
So that brings me to the question that is running through these brain cells tonight. Does Jesus care about little things like cell phones? Yes. Is He with us in our days filled with lost cell phones and dropped connections? Absolutely. Thank you James for the reminder over lunch...Thank You Jesus for the reminder over a found cell phone in working order on the grass at Hatteras.
I guess that would have past as a memory of a vacation spent on a sand bar over Thanksgiving had it not been for a pair of blue crocks that Bee was wearing on the beach. Melody, Bee and I were walking the beach...there were the waves and chasing after a little one while taking pictures of the seagulls and the waves. It was windy and the waves were rough. Bee tired of walking and at some point her blue crock shoes got put in the pocket of my jacket. She ended up on my shoulders as we walked back against the wind toward the house. The dunes were steep as we worked at getting all of us back to the house. It was as we started across the dunes that I noticed I only had one blue crock...blue is Bee's favorite color after all.
As I walked down the beach back towards where we had been looking for a blue little crock shoe, I was praying...God of wind and waves, of redemption, and of grace so amazing, can you watch over a blue crock shoe of this little one? Can you guide my steps to find a little bit of blue plastic in all of this sand and wind.
I sensed you with me on that beach in the wind. You were talking to me of a God who cares about little things and big. A God that uses all of the incidents of my life to form your image in my heart each day that I am willing to include you in my wanderings. You want to have unrestricted access to my heart and mind, not just in time of quiet reflection, but right in the middle of the mix it up day that I almost always have.
Your presence with me in the small things confirms in my heart that you are with me in the large things. You are with me in the smile toward a stranger who seems to have his face frozen in a permanent grimace. You are with me as I try to connect with the store clerk with a joke. You are with me when I think of the future and what direction you would have me set in the coming year with church and family...you are with me even as we approach the end of the age. I need fear nothing but not including you in the little things of my life...the very places where you are needed the most.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Lord Jesus--This is the only time that Matthew records you appearing to the disciples. They had gone to where you had told them to go in Galilee. It must have been a place where they had been with you before. Maybe this was the same mountain where you had done some of your teaching from. It could have been a place that was associated with safety and rooted in they collective experience. At the very least, it was a place where you had chosen.
In the middle of seeing you for the first time since your death, there was worship and doubt mixed together. That mixture happens to me sometimes. You meet with me in the middle of a frenetic life and I find myself drawn to your majesty. But at the same time I find myself doubting...can this really be true? Can the God of the universe really want this kind of relationship with me? Then there is the command.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
It wasn't a small thing that you asked these 11 men to do. The world surrounded this little group, and the time they had spent with you was time that had changed them. They had watched you heal, teach and touch what would never have been touched by the rabbis of their day. They knew that there was a world to win. It was with your authority that you sent these men out. You sent them out to make disciples not converts who knew your commands and followed them.
There was also a promise...
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I depend on this promise in this age that I am living in. I walk by faith in this world you left your people in. You did not put limits on your being with me, either in time or in space. Where ever I go you are there. You surround me and encompass my steps. As long as I am obedient to your mission and your call on my life, I can be sure that I am not alone.
Monday, November 22, 2010
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’
There were limited choices available for the chief priests and the elders. That is the way that you make my life as I approach decisions related to you. It is either allowing you to be who you are: the Son of God. Or I have to make up my own stories. The sad thing is there is no power in my stories. It is only in your story owned and lived out in my life that there are hope and grace revealed.
14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
Lord Jesus--Let me always swimming with the current of your grace.The work of God can not be stopped by lies or by deception. It will simply flow by those who are not willing to swimming in the current. In the end the only people who were hurt by this deception were the chief priests and the elders who missed out on what you were doing all around them.
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.
Lord Jesus--The epicenter of the earthquake that shook all of Jerusalem was located at the sight of your tomb. The angels were at last free to work, I am sure they had been looking from heavens gates and holding themselves back from intervention on your behalf. Now there was something that could be done. I wonder how the honor of being at the tomb was decided. I am guessing everyone wanted to be the one chosen. I am sure the Father had his plan, and knew of the desire of the ministers of His direction.
It is in the empty tomb, and grave clothes left abandon that there is reason for hope to exist in my heart today. Death is not an end, grace can even fix what appears to be the ultimate victory of Satan. The epicenter of grace is found at the empty tomb, that stone should really be our symbol not a cross. The cross is the symbol of Jesus giving himself for us, but that stone is the testimony that there is hope in obedience to the call of God. There is hope beyond this life, I am not sure that we could have easily put a stone on a chain and worn it around our necks. The essence of grace is that stone rolled away because resurrection life had to get out. It would not be kept sealed in the place where Satan had left it.
4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
Lord Jesus--The men were down for the count, fainted dead away. Was it the angels or the glory that threw them on the ground. I am not sure which but they were eating dirt before they knew it. I am wondering if maybe these could have been some of the same men who mocked or murdered you. A Roman legion is large, but could it be that some of the same men were on this grave detail?
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Lord Jesus--These women who could not leave the quest to follow you even when all hope seemed to be gone were rewarded. They were the first to see you alive and to worship you. This was the beginning of resurrection life that would transform the church.
Friday, November 19, 2010
57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.
Lord Jesus--Joesph was willing to come out of the shadows at your death. I wonder what feelings he had as he talked with Pilate. Was he thinking that there might be a cross with his name on it? I suspect that the sadness and the frustration of not being able to help in your hour of need was overwhelming. This small thing was all that he could do. It was at least a place where the last acts of care for you could be done
And the women were there. Why is it that it was the women and John who were not afraid to be with you through the darkest hour. There is special grace given to those who are called to the hard places where all you can do is be a presence of care in the middle of such pain. Could Mary Magdalene smell the perfume she had anointed you with as she stood at the foot of the cross? What a brave soul. She was someone who could not forget the change that you had brought into her life. John alone of the twelve was able to watch you pass into the keeping the Father. John was at the cross...he could do nothing but look in your pain filled eyes and watch...he could accept into his care your first-born's responsibility for the care of your mother.
62Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63and said, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I am to rise again.'
These are the same people who had visits from the dead saints or had at least heard of the sightings of some of the very people who they knew and respected. I am willing to wager that at this point they did not think that this was out of the question. I wonder if some of the Pharisees and chief priests had got a visit from their Rabbi long gone to his reward.
64"Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." 65Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how."
Lord Jesus--I wonder what is behind these words of Pilate. There is resignation in these words. Pilate is a leader that had to deal with the after math of the jitters that occur whatever there is a earth quake, not to mention the people raised from the dead and the open grave that no one could miss. Pilate is a man who knew the limits of power. Military power can only do so much. It can kill, it can reach a goal, but it can not hold back the power that he had seen demonstrated.
In death you shook the world, you did what military power could never do. Shake my world push the limits and change what nothing else can change.
Lord Jesus--There is no limit to what you can do. The grave could not hold you. Help me to trust the power that raised you from the grave and nothing else.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
51And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
Lord Jesus--I wonder if anyone from the religious elite got visits from the resurrected saints that Friday? Would that have shaken their resolve? I can just imagine the conversation... Resurrection day was tasted in Jerusalem on that Friday. Death is not something that is static for those who know Jesus.
Astonishing things were happening all around Jerusalem. I wonder if it made the religious elite think about what they had done. There were things happening that just did not happen everyday. The veil in the temple spontaneously tearing from top to bottom opening the holy place in the temple for all to see. It must have been disconcerting to those who over saw temple functioning. Especially, when one of the accusations that were used against Jesus just hours before had been that he said that he would destroy the temple. Then there were the visits from the saints from the past, making an unscheduled appearance.
54Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"
Lord Jesus--Sometimes it is those who seem to be the farthest away from spiritual things who really are the closet to listening to you. This centurion that was so famular with death, was able to see that something had happened and credit it to God. I wonder if this solder who participated in your death, ever came to know you. Could it be that the very person who drove the nails into your hands and feet came to know the power of grace? That would be just like you, Lord.
Lord Jesus--I live in a time that astonishing things are happening. Foundations are being shaken that have made the Christian community feel secure. In times that are filled with change and transition, let me be like this centurion able to see with my eyes what is happening with clarity and give you credit for that change... Even when it means that fundamental change is required.
Lord Jesus--In this day that waits for me, help me to see your direction and listen to your call.
44The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. 45Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?"
Lord Jesus--I will never know the darkness and pain of that hour. You went there for me. My sin pinned you to that cross. In these hours you experienced all of what it meant to be the offering for sin.
47And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, "This man is calling for Elijah." 48Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49But the rest of them said, "Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him."50And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
Lord Jesus--Thank you for your death on the cross. It was love that brought you to that place. This amazing, and extravagant example of love compels me. But the people who were standing just feet from you had no clue as to what was really happening. For them it was something to observe and see if Elijah showed up. They had no clue that Elijah had already shown up on the mountain.
Lord Jesus--There are so many times when I am clueless just like these casual observers of the Crucifixion. Extravagant, and amazing grace is unfolding all around me and I am unaware of it. Don't let me be a casual observer to your grace flowing all around me instead help me to learn how to swim in it.
Monday, November 15, 2010
33And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 35And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there.
Lord Jesus--The solders that were just carrying out orders were there and you knew they would be. They were not there by accident. Were they? The Father knew from eternity past that these few men would be the ones to murder you.
The Father could have made sure that their grandparents never existed. It was an act of Divine grace that these men were even alive. And yet here they are...sitting at the foot of the cross. They were so close to grace being poured out and yet so unaware.
37And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS." 38At that time two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.
Lord Jesus--You were there between to thieves. You were there in the middle of them. That is much like you had been all a long with the sinners. You left heaven for this very reason to be on that cross.
39And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross."
Lord Jesus--Even as you were dieing the people continued to miss the point. They were so concerned about the temple that they missed the point. You didn't need to come down from the cross even though you could have. The reason that you came to earth was for the very people who were wagging their heads at you and insulting you in death.
41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42"He saved others; He cannot save Himself He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43"HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'"
Lord Jesus--As you hung suspended between Earth and sky, they walked by only feet from where you stood, yet they were firmly standing on the wrong side of grace. Asking for a sign that if given would have destroyed the plan of God.
The priests and scribes were asking for what could never happen if the economy of grace was going to be established. The age of law was passing before their eyes as you hung there the perfect sacrifice being offered on our behalf.
Lord Jesus--Where are the times in my life when I ask you to do what can't be done if the plan you have in place is to be fulfilled? In this day that has really already begun, help me to be aware that you are at work in ways that may not make sense to me, but you see it so much clearer than I because you have been between earth and sky.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Lord Jesus--You suffered at the hands of Pilate. Then there was humiliation at the hands of guards that were looking for amusement at the expense of the condemned. You understand injustice right to its core.
29And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"30They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.
Lord Jesus--Did any of these solders ever come to know you and regret these moments of cruelty? This was execution that was meant to make a statement. It was not just death at the hands of the executioner, but execution tailored to repudiate and annihilate who you were.
You have been to the darkest places of human hearts, and you went there to make a way for grace to enter the world. Grace has to have been able to reach the very soldiers who humiliated you.
31After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. 32As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.
Lord Jesus--Help me to look for your grace in places where I would never expect it to reach, don't let me be satisfied with a small grace that only fits my limited categories. Help me to live out an extravagant grace
Monday, November 8, 2010
Some there had been touched by you and your teaching. There were those all through Jerusalem who had been healed by you and who had heard your voice in the temple teaching. Were there people in the crowd that day who were shouting for your release? Did they shout with all their might and still get drowned out? Sometimes all we can do is keep shouting even when it is drowned out by the crowd.
24When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves." 25And all the people said, "His blood shall be on us and on our children!" 26Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Lord Jesus--Pilate did not want to be responsible for your death and yet he was the one who signed the orders to have it done. He tried to make a stand for truth in the middle of an unjust proceeding. The Roman's who believed so strongly in the rule of law, ended up carrying out the greatest of injustice of all time.
Lord Jesus--In the day that will begin in just a few hours, help me to be a person sensitive to your voice and willing to speak out even when it doesn't seem like anyone is listening.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
11Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And Jesus said to him, "It is as you say."
12And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer.
13Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?"
Lord Jesus--The power of Pilate was fleeting at best. He was a governor who would soon be replaced. He governed an area that would in just a few short years erupt in rebellion against Imperial Rome. But for the time being he had the power to decide what was going to be done with you. This was one decision in a career of decisions. It is the one for which he is remembered. He was the one to condemn the Son of God.
So what can I take away from Pilate? He was someone that only had power over you because you allowed it. Power and influence are only on loan from you. They are not a right. The influence that I have is from your hand. Help me to use it in a way that honors you. All the places that I end up are places that you have allowed. Your hand is in it, and I can trust that you will give me the wisdom I need.
Lord Jesus--In the week that will begin in just a few hours help me to honor you in the ways that I use the influence that you have allowed me.
Friday, November 5, 2010
7And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a burial place for strangers. 8For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.
Lord Jesus--The early church knew where this field was without even thinking about it. It would be like me giving directions to Cafe Lena's..."Well you go down Washington and turn left on Broadway..." Even as Matthew was writing this there were those who may have whistled as they went by it's entrance. By the time the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD the memory was lost in the destruction, death and rubble.
9Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; 10AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER'S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME."
Lord Jesus--Matthew could have walked me over to that field and pointed out the graves that lacked any markers where the poor ended up. What was plain to Matthew as he wrote his gospel, has become an act of faith for me 2000 years later. I believe that there was an actual field that Matthew could have pointed out to me.
I accept what your word says. I believe that there was meaning in the fulfillment of the prediction of betrayal and its cost. I take hope in the fact that during a very dark time, you gave your people words of prophetic hope. Hope that spans the centuries.
I am sure that the Father knew from eternity past where the silver was going to come from that would form those thirty pieces of silver. He could have tracked the trail of those coins, just like United Parcel Service, before they became the cost of betrayal. Yet, the Father gave the words to the prophet Jeremiah and he allowed the silver to be mined. The Father knew what was going to happen to you and yet sent you here with those silver coins jiggling in the background. I find hope in that kind of love.
Father--In this day that will start in just a few hours, teach me more about grace help me to live it out.
1Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; 2and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.
Lord Jesus--Your trial was much like the justice that poor people get most of the time. There were no high priced lawyers for the King of Kings, just conferring between those in power. There was only the use of whatever power was available to get the Roman's to act.
3Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,
Lord Jesus--The motivation of Judas is a mystery. Why did he do what he did? Was it the money? Was it to feel important?
I would like think that I am somehow different and above the possibility of betraying you. Yet, we are not that much different, Judas and I. The differences are only the ones that grace received makes. Nothing more...there is nothing that I can add to that grace.
Saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to that yourself!" 5And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.
Lord Jesus--The weight of what Judas had done was too heavy for him to carry. He was able to see the reality of your innocence in the hands of a corrupt and bankrupt system as he realized that you were condemned.
Judas was left with remorse. He was sorry for his sin. Grace is never cheap...why is it that we have this idea that if we are sorry that it some how changes things. My feeling sorry is never enough. You do not want my guilt or my remorse you want to bring your grace. Whenever I hang on to my sin it is always too heavy to hold.
Lord Jesus, You bring me back again and again to the place of grace. Everything is grace received. Bring grace in this day...