They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.  John 20:9

Hearing has never been a problem for me.  Understanding has.  For example, as a child, I heard that Jesus loved me but I did not understand the ramifications of that until midlife. I heard that Jesus was powerful enough to perform miracles, leaving his spectators open mouthed, yet I didn’t understand that he might perform one for me.  I heard that Jesus was forgiving but feared he might not forgive me for certain sins.  Truth wasn’t mine until I embraced them as mine.

I often know too much.  I often experience too little.  I can be saturated with information, while my heart shrivels from lack of application.

Jesus told his disciples repeatedly that he would die and three days later rise again.  Yet when Peter and John found the empty grave, they were stunned.  Why?  Hadn’t they been told?  John relates the reason: “They did not understand.”  They had heard the words but had failed to internalize them into their experience.

What keeps my faith purely intellectual?  Maybe I’m afraid to believe good news.  That I’m valuable to God.  That He longs for a relationship with me.  That fairy-tale love really does exist.  That I matter.  That I was created to house the glory of God.  What if I’m wrong?  Won’t the despair be overwhelming?

What truth have you heard but still don’t understand?  What hasn’t penetrated your heart yet?  Can you find one today – just one – on this Good Friday?  Jesus’ sacrifice was meant to completely sanctify us to such an extent that our entire belief system would be saturated with the good news of the Gospel.  It takes guts to believe – but God is up to the task of giving us faith beyond ourselves.

Expose any pockets of unbelief and give me courage to make every Word of Yours my own.  In Jesus name, Amen

My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.  Psalm 119:136

It’s hard to know whether David is crying for the people who break God’s law or for God as He watches His people break His law.  We know firsthand the pain of watching others reject God, live on the edge of an abyss, and eventually shipwreck.  We see those we love languish without the Word and every part of them grow more sickly.  They hear the truth but reject the One who would bring God’s shalom to their brokenness.  I need to give thought to how God feels as He watches His children reject Him.

God doesn’t behold my life with a casual attitude of indifference. God is the engaging, heartbroken Father who watches sin impact the one He loves.  I have often rejected the paths He designed for me and missed out on the very reasons He created me in the first place.  I don’t want to waste any of today, time given to me by a Creator who thought of me before I was even a microscopic being in my mother’s womb.

Perhaps David sits with God and weeps with Him over the ways He is being hurt.  Just as we knock on the door of someone we love to grieve with them over a crippling loss, David visits God.  On Maundy Thursday, as God remembers what it was like to watch His Son die, how many will remember with Him and share His grief?  As God watches the world He made slowly erode and groan for His redemption?  As God watches the church of this age mingle their affections with the stuff of Babylon, how many will tearfully repent on their behalf and soothe the ragged edges of God’s heart?

God is touched when we are emotionally invested in His heart.  Because of His desire for our fellowship, He’s chosen to be affected by whether or not I bend my heart in his direction or withhold it.  Bendetti, the 13th century hymn writer of the Stabat Mater, was one day found weeping in public.  When asked the reason for his tears, he said… “I weep because Love goes about unloved.”

I sit with You today, remembering Your journey with Your Son.  I’m sorry people rejected Your gift of Love.  I’m sorry for each time I have doubted it for myself. Amen

The Sound Of Running Water

April 17, 2019


About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

At the pinnacle of Jesus’ suffering, the cry of a child to His Father was heard but it was also a direct quote from the Psalms. He chose the words David spoke in Psalm 22 when David expressed his own anguish.  Jesus was tied to David just as we are joined with our spiritual ancestors.  Their lessons of faith become ours.  Their life experiences serve as part of our curriculum.  Their heroic moments inspire us.  Their stories of failure warn us and their stories of despair comfort us.  Their voices resound with clarity for any of us committed enough to read their stories.

If Jesus quoted scripture during His darkest hour, I see that it’s live-saving for me to do the same. How humiliating to recall how everything but scripture came off my tongue in the hardest of times.  My words revealed a distrust of God and despair.  I found that whatever words erupted out of spirit when I was in a lot of pain told a lot about my faith at that moment.  For Jesus, He was so immersed in scripture that He quoted it in His darkest hour.  He did not feel like He was quoting David’s words; no, they had become His own.

I’ve learned the hard way that if the only time I turn to scripture is when times get hard, I’ve not prepared well for inevitable time in the valley.  I’ve put myself in a position where there will be nothing but a dry reservoir from which to draw.

In my forties, I began immersing myself in the word of God.  Tragically, I missed the thrill of it for the first half of my life.  I was shortsighted for many reasons but I also failed to see the cumulative effect of such a discipline over the course of many years.  One reason God spoke His words was so they would run through my heart like a river, bringing continual refreshment, wisdom, and connection.  If I treasure them, I will hear the sound of running water.

Nothing is more critical today than making your Word my own.  It is the pen of Your Spirit that writes it on my heart so that my default language is your language.  Remind me of this, Father.  Amen

Expectations and Anger

April 16, 2019


Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God.”  Matthew 27:39-40

The majority who saw Jesus crucified thought he was weak.  If he had exerted his power by saving himself from the cross, they might have spoken of his strength but we would not have a Savior!  His accuser’s perception of what was weak and was was strong was entirely wrong.  They were living life in the moment.  They were not able to see that the power was in the cross, the thing that looked like it inflicted shame and defeat.

God has appeared feeble to me at various points in my past.  Like those who hurled insults, I have been known to cry out, “If you are God, come and down and change this.”  Yet, the sources of pain that seemed to much to bear tempted me to demand deliverance.  But in the end, they have become the very things through which the power of the cross has been showcased.  Where I was weak, through Christ I am strong.  Where my heart bled, through Christ my scars bear the handiwork of his grace and glory.  The things I thought would destroy me have, in essence, saved me.  All of them have been the doorway that brought me to the end of myself and to the beginning of new life.

We cannot live in the moment, daughter of promise.  Things are not as they appear.  We cannot judge whether or not God is powerful by looking at our present circumstances and setting up a criterion by which God must prove himself.  We need only look back to see that He has already done that.  We need only look ahead to see that he is a King who will rule throughout eternity.  What could be more powerful than the cross and future glory?

Your plan for me is redemptive Lord.  I trust you with my life today.  Amen

A King From Nazareth. Really?

April 15, 2019


It is holy week.  I will be deviating to Hebrews to walk through these days with you.

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross.  It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.  John 19:19

It is said that Pilate designed the sign as a reproach.  The hidden meaning was, ‘Can you imagine anyone from Nazareth claiming to be king?’  Earlier in Jesus’ ministry when his humble beginnings were discussed, some had said, ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ The place of Jesus upbringing had been a stumbling block to many in believing he could be the Messiah.

God will exalt whomever he chooses.  None is disqualified for lack of breeding.  God is found in unsuspecting places.  His face shines through unexpected vessels.  After all, Jesus was born in a stable.  Who thought to find God there?

I am convinced that I have looked too hard for God in places where I assumed he would be found.  The larger the church, the more of God you’ll find, right?  Not always.  Christian entities might be well funded, utilize the latest marketing strategies, and offer everything from self-help groups to aerobics, but the system can still be carnal.  While size can be a sign of blessing, we must not forget to look for the face of God in Nazareth.  He may be found behind a shabby storefront.

Finally, what if you are from Nazareth?  You feel discounted.  Your calling is not taken seriously.  Your confidence is marred by your lack of credentials.  Jesus died beneath a sign of reproach, but no one was laughing three days later when he rose from the dead.  If God chose you to do great things, no birthplace and wrong last name can thwart the purposes of our sovereign King.

Jesus is my brother, from Nazareth.  Use my life, God.  I’ll do my part.  I’m confident you will do yours.  Amen

The Perfect Confidant

April 12, 2019


Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. Hebrews 5:8

There is a pregnant moment between an offense and sinful response – whether a thought or a behavior.  The offense happens and then comes the temptation.  Then, a pregnant moment of decision when the heart decides how it will respond.  To ‘learn obedience’ is to learn to handle the pregnant moments within that temptation time period.  That’s where Jesus achieved victory.  That’s where my victory lies.

Think of Jesus as a child and let’s consider that he also had those pregnant moments in temptation..

 

  • He’s a toddler. He’s happily playing with a new wooden toy Joseph carved for him. A sibling or a friend takes it away from him. Mary encourages Jesus to share it. If Jesus were tempted as we are tempted, there is a pregnant moment where Jesus is encouraged by Satan (not His own nature – since He is holy) to hoard it, not share it. He’s like me. Temptation says, “The toy is mine. My father made it for me.” But Jesus chooses to share.
  • Jesus is outside playing with his friends and is having a good time. Mary yells from down the street that it’s time to come and help His father with the chores. There is a pregnant moment where He is tempted to ignore His mother’s voice. He’s having too much fun. But Jesus chooses to obey.
  • Jesus is a teenager and sees a group of friends plotting to cheat. He speaks up to expose their sin. They turn on Him and He is beaten up and bruised badly. There is a pregnant moment where He is tempted to disown their friendship and find a way to get revenge. Anger is hot and His body is sore from their beatings. Jesus moves through the temptation successfully and chooses a righteous reaction.

None of this was easy for Jesus. None of these pregnant moments are easy for me. As I think of Him in the throes of temptation, having to learn obedience, I am very aware that Jesus is my refuge when my temptations are too great and I fear that I will choose to sin. He knows. He is the perfect confidant. He is the One who lives to pray for me day and night – that I will learn obedience. He, from the inside of me, gives moment-by-moment grace to move successfully through the temptation phase to victory.

Open my eyes to Your struggle with Your humanity. You are a refuge for a soul in distress today. Amen

Not Playing Fair

April 11, 2019


Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Hebrews 4:14

Satan is my accuser. He’s relentless and he doesn’t play fair.

  • He tempts me to sin and I buy his idea. I indulge and then he has plenty with which to charge me.
  • He reports my sin to God and demands that the sentence of the law for that crime be carried out.
  • When Satan comes to accuse me, he meets Jesus, my Priest and Mediator. I picture Jesus dressed like a priest.
  • How does Jesus respond to the accusations? He cries, “She’s forgiven! She’s justified!”

Satan accuses me in two places; before the throne and to me directly. If I forget that I am forgiven and justified, and forget about that meeting between Satan and Jesus, I’ll be vulnerable in the presence of condemnation. I have to remember that he will mimic the voice of my conscience. He knows that I want to please Jesus and avoid sin. He knows that I take my conscience seriously ~ so how insidious for him to speak to me in a way that sounds like a guilty conscience. Here are some examples from personal experience.

SATAN’S VOICE GOD’S VOICE
You should read your Bible more. What kind of a Christian are you? Come home! I really miss you.
Your prayer life stinks!I hope you’ll talk with me. I’m the
perfect listener and I have so much
to tell you.
You failed again? God is so dis-
appointed in you.
I paid for your sins; past, present, & future. Today is a clean slate. It’s my gift to you. Live forgiven!

What is my strategy for overcoming the accusations of Satan? The blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony. Rev. 12:10,11  I ask God for a hedge of protection, a blood shield, between me and the accuser.  Then, I speak up and state my status as God’s child.

Oh Jesus, I am forgiven, I’ve been bought with the blood of Christ, I am holy in Your eyes. I say to my enemy, ‘Be gone’! Amen