Thursday, March 31, 2016

Changing Doubt into Worship

24Now Thomas (also known as Didymusa ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20)

Thoughts: Thomas would be a good modern non- believer.  He would not believe.  He saw Christ's death.  He knew of the nail marks and the piercing of His side.  He was devastated by the death of Jesus and did not want to be disappointed with wishful thinking.  Many today would rather doubt and be wrong than believe and be disappointed.  This is wrong-headed thinking.  Not only is Thomas steeling himself against hope.  He is also not allowing himself to find truth.
      It is no accident that Jesus came right through the locked door to a group of people who all saw Him at once.  It made His appearance not only amazing but miraculous.  The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest miracle.
      Jesus commanded them to have peace, and commanded Thomas to do things so that he would believe.  Unbelievers should also seek peace by trying to put themselves in a position to believe.  What would they have to lose?
          Thomas's response was, "My Lord and my God!"  He worshiped Jesus.
          Jesus rightly said, it is more blessed to believe without seeing than make seeing a criteria for belief.  Most today will not see all the evidence for Christ.  Some will never look- having made their mind up that the skeptics are right- and miracles just don't happen.  Faith and sight are not the same thing.  If faith is caused by sight then that is okay.  But faith without sight is strong.  Paul reminds us, "we walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). This means we don't have to touch the wounds, see the risen Christ, or audibly hear His voice to believe.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to have your peace.  Help me to recognize you not by sight but by faith. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Listening to a Woman on the Resurrection

11Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20)

Thoughts: Jesus appeared first to women.  For some that made the story unreal.  In the ancient world women were not respected.  One of the early opponents of Christianity, a man named Cleopas, said that Christianity couldn't be true because who would listen to the testimony of women?  Today, many feel that because Jesus first appeared to women alive, it made the story that much more believable.  For who would design or make up a story where women were the chief first witnesses?   In some sense, Jesus lifted up women as the first to experience and convey the good news- the best news- of the resurrection and thus our own hope of life beyond the grave.  Jesus knew Mary.  Instead of arguing with her about her gardener theory, or her theory that someone had stolen the body, He simply said her name.  Mary Magdalene had been saved once from demons and mental illness.  She would not forget the voice of peace.  We should remember that the risen Christ knows our name and cares about our misconceptions and unbelief.  But He cares more that we be comforted with the truth of His resurrection. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you know me by name.  May my life always point to your resurrected life.  


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Listen to Words of Peace

19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20)

Thoughts: In our world of turmoil, fear, trouble, and terrible terrorist acts, we need to listen to the words of Jesus saying, "Peace be with you."  In our world where we wonder if one thing is really as good as anything else- and if there is really any truth in the world... where the meaninglessness of half truths and too many choices distract our minds we need to hear, "Peace be with you."
      Jesus not only offers us peace from fear- peace from the worst life can offer (death);  He also offers us a purpose.  We are called not just to have peace, but to pass that peace- share the peace of Christ with all the forgiveness, grace, love, and hope with others.  Jesus doesn't just tell us to have peace- He sends us out to spread the peace.  To whom will you go today or tomorrow?  

Prayer: Lord, help me to really hear deep down, your words of peace.  Give me an opportunity to share your peace with others.  

Monday, March 28, 2016

Were Not Our Hearts Burning within us?

30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.32They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. (Luke 24) 

Thoughts: The two disciples walked with Jesus for several hours but did not recognize Him.  They were not expecting Him to be with them.  But looking back, they heard the voice of God in two places: scripture and in communion.  It wasn't just being on the road where they heard the voice, or looking at the birds, landscape, or view.  Rather it was when He explained the scripture that their hearts burned.  It was when they broke bread with Him that they recognized Him.  Today still when we listen to Christ in scripture and in communion in worship- we experience the spiritual presence of the living Word- the Living Christ.  

Prayer: Lord give me ears to hear you speak in scripture and in communion with your people.  



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Listening to the Easter Message

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2There 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. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then 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.”
8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10)

Thoughts: The women were afraid.  This is mentioned a couple of times.  They were not afraid of the guards or the weight of the tombstone any more.  They were afraid of the mystery of the resurrection and the supernatural intersecting with the natural.  The angel told the women to not be afraid (5); The women were afraid (8); Jesus told them to not be afraid (10).  You can add to this that the guards trembled with fear like dead men.  Fear was definitely a part of the resurrection story.  But the message from both the angel and Jesus is clear- "Do not be afraid- and spread the good news!"  This is the message today.  Even in the face of terrorism.  Do not be afraid of them- but spread the most important news- that there is life after death (that even Roman guards or terrorists cannot take away).  Sadly, the women didn't listen to the angel- so Jesus Himself had to tell them.  We are slow to listen to God's Word- even if an angel comes to tell us.  We are naturally like Zechariah who didn't really listen when the angel said his wife would have a son though they were old.  We need to listen to the message to have peace and not be afraid.  

Prayer: Lord, let me hear your voice giving me peace.  Let your peace fill my body.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Buried

42It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid. (Mark 15)

Thoughts: There were some things about this burial that make it certain, assure that Jesus was really dead, and point to the resurrection.  The timing was specific- the day before the Sabbath at evening.  The person who did the burial was a man of integrity and a member of the Sanhedrin.  He went to Pilate, who approved of the burial.  Pilate certified Jesus' death- by professional executors (vs. 44).  Joseph wrapped the body and rolled tomb over the entrance.  
    Jesus really was dead.  This makes the resurrection that much more amazing.  Burial also is the next step to being forgotten.  Jesus was not dead and gone.  He would come back.  Death did not have power over Jesus, but neither did the tomb.  

Prayer: Lord, give me hope.  Help me to understand and listen to your power to overcome death, the tomb, and all evil.  




Thursday, March 24, 2016

Is It Me?

20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”...
31Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“ ‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’c
32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.  (Matthew 26:20-25, 31-35) 

Thoughts: We will never fall away, much less would we run away, deny or betray our Jesus.  It is easy to make promises in His presence.  Likewise it is easy to make promises when we are in church or even reading the Bible and praying.  But when the tough times come.  When someone who opposes the faith shows up- it is easy to back down.  Faith is a strong thing, but faith is tested for its reality when it is opposed.  How gracious are we toward those who oppose us?  Do we get our backs raised up- like an old cat, or do we carefully and prayerfully listen?
     Judas betrayed Jesus. He was the treasurer.  Jesus knew ahead of time he would.  But all of the disciples wondered, "Is it I?"  In some sense it was.  They all ran away.  Peter was actually braver than most- he followed with John right up to the house of the high priest, where he was confronted.  John (18:10) indicates Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant- a brave thing to do.  But all of those who had seen the miracles, the walking on water, the calming of the storm, the feeding of the 5,000, the healing of the blind, the deaf, the lame; they had heard the wonderful teaching-  still ran away- leaving him alone.
      So, "Is it I?"  is a good question to ask on Maundy Thursday.  It is tonight when we remember Jesus is arrested and runs away.  It is tonight when we remember the Last Supper when Jesus predicted the betrayal, the denial, and "you will all fall away on account of me" (26:31).  When we sin, when we act as if He is unimportant or worse- we don't know Him, we are "falling away on account of Him."  We are too complacent, I believe, about our falling away. We chastise our guilt and shame away- but it is the sad wrong that we ignore. Guilt is not always a bad thing.  Wrong is always a bad thing.  The sad thing is IT IS I.  As the song says, "I crucified thee."  

Prayer: Lord, It is I.  I have run away when I should have stayed.  I have been ashamed of you when I should have been bold.  I have walked too much by sight and not enough by faith.  By your great mercy and grace forgive me.  Help me up as you helped up Peter and the disciples- that I might serve you in the power of your resurrection.  




Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Redemptive Suffering

 18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  (1 Peter 1:18,19)

Thoughts: Suffering can and often is redemptive.  Here are a few small examples: The mother who stays up late nursing a sick child through their illness;   The doctor who goes to the hospital in the middle of the night to deliver a baby;   The kidney donor who gives a kidney so their cousin can live;   The teacher who loses sleep night after night grading papers so her students will know what they did wrong and improve;   The soldier who puts himself at risk to protect his people- or takes the grenade so the squad will not all die;   The person who gives up something for themselves so they might give financially  to others in greater need.  Such small examples of denying self and taking up a cross point to the greatest example of redemptive suffering.  
        The passage above talks about our lives being empty.  This emptiness is not resolved by silver and gold.  The real emptiness is resolved when Christ came to set us free from our sin by giving Himself as a payment for sin.  As 2 Corinthians (5:21) puts it- "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God."  Or as Christ Himself put it, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mk. 10:45).  Christ's death was a redemptive ransom.  It was a payment for our emptiness, giving full meaning for our lives.  God came to set us free and died to set us free that we might live.  If God did that for us- we ought to perceive our eternal value.  We have a reason to live- and the emptiness of meaninglessness and lovelessness is gone.  We are not redeemed by a million dollar ransom but by the God who made the Universe- who made all we see.  His value is far greater than anything that any king, any government can give.  We are redeemed from an empty, meaningless, worthless way of living.  We are given an eternally meaningful, purposeful way of living. We are bought with a price.  His suffering for us is not to be taken for granted.  But truth is, we take the mother who stays up late, the doctor who goes in the middle of the night to help, the kidney donor, the teacher, the generous person for granted. How much more do we take the Greatest Redeemer for granted!

Prayer: What thou my Lord hast suffered was all for sinners' gain: mine, mine was the transgression, but thine the deadly pain.  Lo, here I fall, my Savior!  Tis I deserve thy place; look on me with thy favor, and grant to me thy grace.
[From "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" Ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux]




In fiction, The Mockingjay, Katness Evergreen takes her sister's place in the deadly Hunger Games so that she would live.  Taking the place of another to set them free even if it means your own suffering is the type of Redemptive Suffering of Christ.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Not Fearing Those Who Can Destroy the Body

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" (John 20:19)


And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

     Today the American consulate asked Americans in Brussels to "shelter in place."  On Holy Week I am reminded of this passage in John 20.  The disciples were sheltering in place with the doors locked in fear of both the Jewish leaders and the Roman soldiers.
      Jesus had earlier warned his fearful disciples not to fear those who can destroy their bodies.
      In the midst of their fear, Jesus appeared.  His message to them was to have peace.  The first words of the resurrection are "Fear Not!" The angel said it to the women (Matthew 28:5).  When Jesus appeared he first said, "Greetings" then said, "Fear not!" (Matthew 28:10).  It is clear that the message of the resurrection is to not be afraid but to have peace.  It was after the resurrection that the Disciples took this message to heart about not fearing the ones who could destroy their bodies.  All but one of the disciples died a martyrs' death.  They went from being afraid to being bold.  

      The terrorists will not win if we are not terrorized or fearful.  The Romans and local leaders tried to terrorize the Christians, but the resurrection of Jesus emboldened them.  They began to get that even if people destroy our bodies, they cannot destroy our souls. 

Prayer: Lord, we pray that you would receive those who have died in Brussels with mercy and grace.  We pray for their families, that you would comfort them.  We pray for our enemies- that you would change their hearts and open their eyes to the evil they are doing- and they would turn away from their destructive ways.  Deliver us from evil, O Lord.  Give us wisdom to understand how to protect ourselves.  We ask your protection upon us.  We pray for the churches in Brussels that you would strengthen them.  We pray for the message of your church to stop fear and bring peace.  Help us to live as people of the resurrection, who have peace that passes all understanding.  





      

Monday, March 21, 2016

Listening to the Suffering of Others

4Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,
5saying,
“When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
6buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat. (Amos 8)

Thoughts: God cares for the poor.  In these verses as in many others, God shows concern for the poor and berates those who show no concern.  The prophet Amos is especially incensed that the rich of the land are more concerned about their drunken pleasure than the needs of others.  It is amazing how people who do not really rub elbows with the poor, can put them out of their mind.  Human selfishness takes over and we close our ears to those who are hurting.  Often the biblical quartet of need are the orphan, the widow, the refugee, and the poor (Dt. 10:18; 24:17; 27:19; Jer. 7:6; Zech. 7:10).  Part of caring for the poor is going down to their level and listening to them. If the rich only have contact with the poor when the poor come to the level of the rich then the poor are still invisible.  When the poor are invisible we simply seek to make profit off of them, in effect buying them for fashion- a pair of sandals.  Being honest and listening to the needy is a part of being a faithful Christian.  Christ came to help those who were needy- identifying with them in a manger, on the cross. 

Prayer; Lord, give me listening ears for the poor.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Listening to Suffering- Being Silent

7He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:12)

3The chief priests accused him of many things. 4So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
5But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed. (Mark 15;3-5)

Thoughts: The silence of Jesus before his captors is well known.  He did not whine or complain. He did not defend himself.
      The silence is not an accident.  It was prophesied, as an important part of the ministry of the suffering servant.  The servant suffers in silence- not complaining or whining, but full of strength, grace, and hope.   It is the silence of Jesus that shows a trust in God, and a listening to the voice and Spirit of God.  In His silence He trusts in the deliverance of God.
       In our day, we seek to distracted from suffering by texting, tweeting, snapchatting, instagramming, etc.  We need to be still and know that He is God.  We need to stop and listen in the suffering to the still small whisper of God  It is in silence that we can listen best.   Jesus did not ignore His suffering but embraced it.  Not in a masochistic or sadistic kind of way- but in a way of listening.  

Prayer: Lord, let me be still enough to hear you speaking through my pain.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Listening to Suffering- One Step at a Time

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. (Psalm 23:4)

When you walk through the fire you will not be burned. (Isaiah 43:2)

Thoughts: Suffering is not something we run through, but something we walk through.  We go one step at a time.  This is not just a common saying, but a Biblical concept.  We walk through the valley of the shadow, we walk through the fire.
     One of the few things preserved from the time of Jesus today in Jerusalem is the stairway from Caiaphas's house to the Herodian fortress.  These were the very steps that Jesus went down.  His rejection was hard, and he went one step at a time.  Perhaps in God's providence the steps are preserved to remind us of the long and painful walk of Jesus from trial place to trial place and eventually to the via dolorosa (way of suffering) to Golgotha- the cross.   Jesus teaches us to take suffering one step at a time.  The slowness of the suffering of Christ.
      When we walk, we find that the "Thou" of God- the Lord is with us, as He was with Daniel's three friends (Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego) when they were thrown into the fiery furnace.  God s with us if we will listen for Him and look for Him.  To do that we must walk, not run through suffering.

Prayer: Lord, teach me how to walk with you.  Let me walk through suffering through you- learning to trust you in good and bad times.
 

     



Listening in Suffering- our Alarm Clock

1Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Thoughts: This passage is classically described as a prophecy of "The Suffering Servant."   Christians see this fulfilled to a tee in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus himself hinted at this several times (Mk. 10:45; Lk. 9:22; Jn. 1:10-11; 3:16-19, et al.).  God came in a rare way- He came to us and we did not believe His message.  Instead of believing we made the Messenger- God Himself suffers.  Though we despised Him and held Him in low esteem, Jesus Himself did not give up His confidence in His message of hope and love and His confidence in who He was.  In the end, it is not the applause or approval of humans that is most important.  If we know God approves of what we do, then the approval of others pales in value.
       Jesus came to suffer.  Suffering in itself can be and often is redemptive.  Suffering is not just chaotic pain.  Nor is the purpose of suffering simply to motivate us to work hard so others will suffer less.  Truth is- all will suffer.  Good people and bad people.  All will die (unless the Lord comes back first).  Too many act as if they are surprised that the good suffer.  Christians should not be surprised.  After all- Jesus the holy and loving mand suffered.  The question is, how will we handle our suffering.  We should listen to this message of one who came to suffer on our behalf.  He gave Himself fully for us.  Suffering hurts, and the Bible does not deny the reality of it (unlike some religions that say suffering is an illusion).  It is to be faced.  It is to be fought.  We should recognize that one day suffering and sorrow will end.  But it is also to be listened to.  Often suffering is as C.S, Lewis put it, "an alarm clock" to wake us up to what is really important.  It changes our perspective.  Suffering can break us- if we turn from hope and God's way, but if we listen in the midst of it, suffering can make us into better people. 

Prayer: Lord, let me listen to the hope found in your pain.  As I listen, let me find hope in my own pain.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Listening in Suffering

1I will bless  the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
2I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
4I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34) 

Thoughts: Let the afflicted hear what and rejoice?  Let the afflicted hear that I am glorifying the Lord despite what might go wrong.  In good and bad times- all times- I can find meaning and bless the Lord.
In our day, the secular west provides little ways to find meaning in suffering.  Suffering is to be avoided like bad weather- and endured like bad weather.  We have been taught that our true meaning is the pursuit of happiness- this is translated often as wanting health, wealth, and wisdom.  If any of these is taken away by sickness, bankruptcy (or fire) or something like Alzheimer's we have lost our ability to find meaning.  Perhaps in the west we work so hard at living longer- exercise, diet, and the artificial looking of youth (botox, makeup, contact/lasik,, etc because this life is seen as all we have.  With the focus only on this life, then the primary solution to suffering (apart from God) is to try to make life better for someone else coming behind us.
     Instead- the Psalmist says "let the afflicted hear and rejoice."  Let them hear that there is meaning- even in suffering.  So Paul could say, "Give thanks in all things" and "rejoice in the Lord always!"  God is still God whether in good times or bad.  There is purpose and meaning in suffering each day.  

Prayer: Lored, be close to me, and help me to find meaning in you.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Not afraid of Jesus

28When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes,c two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
30Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
32He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.33Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8)

Thoughts: For many in the West, a confrontation with demons seem remote.  We have psychologists who could have given  such people medicine to calm them so that no one would have to be afraid.  Yet no one could say that these two people in this remote region were not feared nor were they weak. No one had been able to do anything with them.  But Jesus did.  He healed them, and when he did the pigs ran headlong into the water.  Ironically the people did not care about these two.  They may have cared about the pigs (an unclean food to the Jews).  They may have cared about the power and bravery of Jesus- they wanted him to leave.  Instead of asking the healer to stay- they wanted to be left alone.  Today, so many of us are so secular- wrapped up in our commerce (pigs) that we have no time to deal with anything unusual.  We would rather not deal with God- we'd rather just go about our business with our low expectations of life.  Our task is when someone as helpful and great as Jesus comes knocking on our door- we should let Him in. 

Prayer: Lord, let me be welcoming to you and trusting in you.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Listen to His Power

23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8) 

Thoughts: Jesus would have us to listen to His power.  We do not listen to His power with our ears but with our souls.  He would have us trust in His power to calm the storm.  Jesus shows us how to trust. He goes to sleep in the middle of a storm.  Jesus, who calmed the demons, healed the sick, calmed the storm.  He asked the disciples, and He asks us- "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Put your faith in the Almighty.  Put your faith in the One who can calm the storm and raise the dead.  His power will help us to overcome our fears.  

Prayer: Lord, deep down I have fears.  But, go deep down with your Spirit and calm us. 


Monday, March 14, 2016

Listen to the Cost

8When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
20Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
21Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8)

Thoughts: It is easy to say, "I will follow you wherever you go" in a moment of religious fervor or inspiration.  At the last supper no one thought they would run away.  Peter said all would run away but he would never deny him.  We should make it our goal to not go away.  The last line of the great hymn, "O Sacred Head Now Wounded" prays this prayer:"Lord let me never, ever, outlive my love for Thee."  That should be our prayer and goal.  It was not wrong of the man to say, "I'll follow you anywhere."  It was also not wrong of Jesus to remind the man (and all of us listening in) that there is a tremendous cost to follow Christ.
       The cost is to give up stuff- even homes. Jesus never had a home.  He was forced to go to Bethlehem to be born- because of a taxation law.  He was a refugee to Egypt when Herod tried to kill the babies.  We must always hold onto our stuff knowing that this world is not our home.  We follow someone as Lord who had no palace, no gold- no savings account, investments, pension.
       The cost is also urgent.  There is always, always an excuse to wait or choose later.  But when Jesus prompts us, convicts us, urges us- we should respond and respond quickly.  "Let the dead bury the dead" means "Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead" there is other urgent work to be done.  When the enemy is at the gates trying to break in- it is not time to bury the dead.  When a fire needs to be put out- it is not time to bury the dead.  When the opportunity to make a difference and change the world is before us- it is not time to bury the dead.  The call of Christ is not secondary- not to be put on the back burner. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to see the importance and cost of following you.  Keep me from taking the task and goal of following you lightly.