Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lent: Time of Confusion?

Have you ever watched trading on the floor of the commodities exchange?

A mob of traders yelling and screaming, flailing and waving, flashing signs and trying to communicate.

To the outsider it looks like a zoo: confusion, pandemonium, complete and utter chaos.

That was the picture that came to my mind as I was reading John chapter 7 this morning.

Everyone shouting their own thoughts, feelings, or locked in on their personal agenda.


- When Jesus' brothers suggest he go to Jerusalem to advertise himself as the Messiah, he tells him he's not going yet...but then he does go in secret after they take off (vv3-10).

- The crowd in the city is talking about Jesus. But they couldn't agree. Some were saying, "He's a good man". But others insisted "He deceives people" or "he is demon-possessed" (vv12-20).

- People are trying to kill Jesus and he knows it (v 19), and many in the crowd know it (v25), but others think Jesus is paranoid (v20).

- One group tries to seize Jesus (v25 & v 30) but they are unable to "because his time had not yet come".

- When Jesus tells the crowd he is only going to be with them for a little while longer, his words create more confusion and questions than faith and belief: Where is he going? Is he going to another country? Is he going to teach people in another place? We don't get it!

- Some of his own people did confess him to be the Christ (v41) but others completely disagreed and couldn't possibly come to that conclusion (vv27, 41-42). Others opted for the "middle ground" and considered him to be the Prophet (v40).

- Fed up with all the disruption, guards were sent to grab Jesus...but came back empty-handed. When their authorities questioned them the guards admitted that they had been mesmerized by his words. "No one ever spoke the way this man does."

- Then the authorities started arguing among themselves about what they should do with Jesus. Should they grab him and punish him? Or should they give him a hearing? (vv45-52)

As you reflect upon Lent and Jesus' purposeful movement toward the cross, consider that his journey was a time of great confusion. People couldn't decide who he was. They couldn't decide what to do with him.

And we are no different today.

As John 7:43 tells us, "...the people were divided because of Jesus."

My prayer for you is that you will investigate for yourself who Jesus is and you will discover who he wants to be to you.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Catching the Wind

No one can see the Kingdom of God
unless he is born again. (John 3:2)

We often take that sentence to =

"we can't get to heaven unless we're born again".

But is eternal life the only point Jesus is making here?

Nicodemus, a religious leader, has come to see night.

Nicodemus, a religious leader, is not understanding what Jesus is talking about.

Nicodemus, a religious leader, does not comprehend God's Kingdom.

A little later in this chapter we hear John the Baptist tell us we can:

...only receive what is given...from heaven. (John 3:27)

We can only understand if God gives understanding.

We can only believe if God gives us faith.

We can only see where God is at work if God gives us eyes to see.

Nicodemus will only understand if he asks and God responds.

Jesus tells Nicodemus:

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sounds, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)

God's kingdom is the place where God reigns.

It can be in your heart.

It can be in your home.

It can be in your church.

It can be in your relationship.

It can be in your finances.

Getting in on God's Kingdom can be a little like "catching the wind" or predicting where it is going blow next.

NO WONDER prayer, scripture, fasting, and other tools are so important.

How else will we be able to co-operate with God?

May the Spirit give you a passion for seeking His Spirit out today.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Would God Entrust Himself to Me?

I'm driving a car that isn't my own for the next few days.

We had a mechanical failure with the little stick shift I've been driving. And with three drivers in our family and only one vehicle, my mom and dad thought we could use a little help between now and the time we acquire another car.

So they loaned us something of theirs; something that has value. They let us borrow mom's car.

Driving a vehicle that isn't mine reminds me of the years I worked for a rental car company.

People would do the most repulsive things to and in a rental car. They would mistreat the vehicle because they knew it wasn't theirs.

They'd bang it.

They'd stain it.

They'd grind it.

All because they knew it belonged to someone else and they believed they wouldn't have to take responsibility for it in the long run.

My mom and dad trust us not to wreck her car or leave it damaged. They trust us to treat their car like it was our own.

Got me thinking:

What is the most valuable thing you own?

- home - car - family - pet

- reputation - savings - health - friends

To whom would you entrust it?

...Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. (John 2:24)

Jesus would not give himself fully or commit himself to the people in Jerusalem who saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name (John 2:23).

Were they "quick-decision" people who hadn't really counted the cost?

Would they turn on Jesus once the miracle stopped?

Were they only following because of what they could get from him?

This all makes me wonder: what keeps God from committing to me?

Is there anything I can do that would allow God to trust me?

In Micah 6 God speaks through the prophet about what He does not want.

Shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?

No. God doesn't want pomp and ceremony.

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

No. God doesn't simply want valuable sacrifices.

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with tens thousand rivers of oil?

No. God doesn't want me so He can get His hands on my stuff.

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:6-7)

God's not seeking to cause pain and suffering and torment for the enjoyment of it.

So what does God want?

He has showed you...what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly

to love mercy


to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Think about that last one for a moment.

"Walking humbly with God".

- "Walking" means motion; going someplace. You are not standing still. You're moving. You're growing.
If you're in the same place now that you were in a minute ago, you're not walking (or you're walking in circles!)

Would you describe your life of faith and what you believe as a walk? Or a sit?

- Humility is often expressed by the posture of being on our knees or on our face before God.

It includes confession of sin.

It includes leaving sinful habits, selfish actions, thoughtless words, & destructive thought processes.

Those who are truly humble give themselves away to God and to others.

Would you like God to be able to entrust the Spirit to you?

He will if you will entrust yourself to Him.

Scripture, prayer, and fasting are avenues we do just that. I give myself to God as I read, pray, seek and listen.

I know a number of you have recently committed yourselves anew to God. May you fully entrust yourself to Him and find that He is willing to do the same to you.

Grace & peace

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Praying: Hidden Things Revealed

In Matthew 11 Jesus prays a prayer and we get to listen in on it. What do you hear?

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned,
and revealed them to little children.
Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
All things have been committed to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:25-26)

Twice in these two verses Jesus talks about things that are revealed.

Once he says the Father has chosen to "reveal them to little children".

The second time he tells us the only people who know the Father or the Son are "those to whom the Son chooses to reveal" them.

This second "revealing" is a self-revelation: God shows people Who He is.

I've been praying this week for a number of people within our church family.

I've been praying that The Heavenly Father would reveal Himself to some fathers and mothers in our church.

I've been praying that the Son would reveal himself to some sons and daughters who are part of our congregation.

I'm reminded that if God doesn't reveal Himself to us, we won't know Who He is. Neither will our children. Nor our spouses. Nor our grandchildren. Nor our friends. Nor our neighbors.

Would you be willing to pray with me today that God would "choose to reveal" Himself wherever our people are?

Let's ask God to make Himself known in our midst, through Scripture, through prayer, through whatever means the Spirit chooses. But let's ask and let's agree to ask together.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What WON'T Happen If We DON'T Pray?

What WON'T Happen if we DON'T Pray?

I don't know the answer to that question. Prayer isn't a formula to be figured out or an equation to be solved. It is a relationship between God the Creator and us, God's creation.

But in my reading of Matthew and Mark over the past few weeks, something has become obvious to me:

The vast majority of people in the Gospels who were healed or had spirits driven out of them initiated their own healings or had friends who initiated their healings.

Some examples from Matthew (I just read Mark and it seems largely the same):

Matt. 8:2 (a man comes and kneels before Jesus)
Matt. 8:5 (a Centurion comes to Jesus and asks on behalf of his servant)
Matt. 9:2 (some men brought a paralytic to Jesus)
Matt. 9:18 (a ruler kneels before Jesus and asks for help on behalf of his dead daughter)
Matt. 9:20 (a women who had been bleeding for 12 yrs. touches Jesus)
Matt. 9:27 (2 men call out to Jesus)
Matt. 12:22 ("they" brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute)
Matt. 15:22 (a woman cries out to Jesus for her son)
Matt. 17:14 (a father approaches Jesus and asks on behalf of his son)

These are not all of the miracles, but they seem to be a majority. Check out the other Gospels and see if this holds true. I know there are several such as Peter's mother-in-law or others where Jesus seems to initiate. But that does NOT appear to be the rule. It seems to be the exception.

What would NOT have happened if those people did NOT seek out Jesus?

Now ask yourself this: "What will NOT happen today if I do NOT pray?"

May God give us a burden for praying and a determination and strength to pray!

Grace & peace

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Prayer: Ask, Seek, & Knock

Do you ever get discouraged when you pray?

Ever tempted to not pray?

Ever feel like nothing's happening?

You're in good company.

I wonder if those thoughts weren't on Jesus' mind when he said:

and it will be given to you;
and you will find;
and the door will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks receives;
he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matt. 7:7-8 NIV)

The past two Sundays we've talked about the discipline of prayer. We've been reminded that Christlike World-Changers pray.

Prayer is a two-part activity:
1.) It includes the praying person, or the PRAYer. That's you and me.

If we don't pray, prayer doesn't happen. If we don't knock, why would anyone open the door? If we don't seek, how will we find? If we don't ask, how can we expect anything to be given?

God intends for you and me to be key components in the prayer equation.

But prayer also includes...

2.) God (the Father, [to Whom we pray], the Son [in whose name, character, and will we pray] and the Spirit [who calls us, equips us, and intercedes in our prayers])

Listen to what Jesus says about the character of the Father:

Which of you,
if his son asks for bread,
will give him a stone?

Or if he asks for a fish,
will give him a snake?

We wouldn't do that. If our child is hungry, we'll give them something to eat. That's what a parent does. Well...

If you, then,
though you are evil,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven
give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matt. 7:9-11 NIV)

Any inclination toward good that we have is because of God's DNA in our lives. He made us in His image.

And if we are inclined to do good towards our children when they ask us, think how much more God must want to do good to us when we ask!

Let's be at prayer today, Church! Let's be developing the power prayer habit of Matthew 6:5ff.

Let's be ready when God answers.

Grace & peace

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why I Pray

"Ancient words, ever true
Changing me, changing you."

Asking, "Why do I need to pray?" is probably a little like asking, "Why do I need to breathe." Everything else depends upon it.

The disciples were with Jesus nearly every day for three years. They watched him heal the sick, feed five thousand, teach with power, feed another four thousand, and you'd think their faith would be SET.

But in Mark 8:17-18 Jesus is frustrated with them.

...Do you still not see or understand?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes but fail to see,
and ears but fail to hear?
And don't you remember?...

My answer, if I am honest, is

"No, Lord, I do NOT remember. I'm HORRIBLE at remembering. I forget what You have done for me. I forget how You have proven yourself again and again. I am so easily distracted that this new challenge today seems overwhelming; unlike anything we've ever faced before...until I come into Your Presence and then in prayer, scripture, worship, or gathering with other believers, I'm reminded of Who You Are."

Then in a moment, the problem becomes diminished in the shadow of the One Who Was, the One Who Is, and the One Who Is to Come.

It is in activities such as prayer that I begin to understand.
It is in times of humble conversation with God that my heart becomes unhardened.
It is as I am still and interact with (or "know") God that scales fall down from my eyes so I can see and God graciously digs out ears into this block of wood I call my head so I can hear.

THAT is why I need to pray.

How 'bout you?

Grace & Peace

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jesus Called Her a Dog?

Ever think of Jesus calling people "dogs"?

Check out The Gospel of Mark 7:24-30.

What's worse, it's not a stuffy, egotistical hypocrite with whom he is speaking. It's the mother of a sick child who comes to see him and ask for her daughter's healing!

If it makes you feel any better, one commentator writes that in the culture of the New Testament, this particular word for "dog" means "little house pets" that would have had a relationship with the family in the home and garnered affection. This same commentator goes on to argue, as do many others, that Jesus' point is that he has come to the lost sheep of Israel, the Jewish people. This woman, a Gentile, is not part of the group to whom he has come to speak.

Jesus says, "First let the children eat all they want...for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs." Essentially, I have come to speak to my people. And maybe even more specifically, on this journey, he was focusing upon his twelve disciples with whom he was hoping to get away for a little time of instruction and prayer.

But it is at that moment that this woman gives one of the great, all-time responses.

"Yes, Lord...but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

The commentator referenced above writes, "Her reply demonstrates humility and faith."

I don't often picture Jesus stunned. But if he ever was, if ever he was caught off guard, this could have been the time. I imagine him nearly laughing with thanksgiving to the Father becuase this woman gets it. He is clearly moved by her response. For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.

Humility and faith.

As we focus our attention this week on prayer, I wonder if those two adjectives would describe your prayer life?



Humility suggests we are not owed anything, by anyone. Not God. Not others. We're just seekers, askers, beggers. We come as children, as little dogs in the house, waiting for the good graces and generosity of our owner. If we don't get it, we go. And when we see him later, we'll come back and try again. That's humility.

Faith suggests we have a deep sense of faith in the One to whom we are speaking. We believe that God is moved by such a reply. That God is able to do exceedingly, and abundantly, more than we could ever ask for or imagine.

I want to invite you to cultivate the attitude of this woman TODAY.

Seek humility. There will be chances in nearly every day of your life to develop it. Chances to serve. Chances to put others before yourself. Chances to love rather than react. Chances to forgive rather than hold grudges. Chances to give someone else the benefit of the doubt rather than taking the opportunity to explain how they've messed us over again.

That's how we develop humility. Jesus LOVES it.

And seek faith. Scripture tells us it is a gift from God. Ask for it. And look for chances to exercise it.

Then let's be ready this week to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church about prayer.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lips or Life?

"'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
(Mark 7:6-8 NIV)

You have let go...of God and are holding on

That's my summation of this passage.

Read in context, Jesus is being questioned about his disciples' behavior: they didn't wash their hands.

But Jesus is more concerned about those doing the questioning: he calls these guys "hypocrites".

How are you and I tempted to hold onto men and let go of God?

The list is endless. Here are just a few that came to my mind as I poured over this passage:

- Family can become more important than our Heavenly Father

- Political parties can become more important than God's will

- Money can become more important than God's work (serving God & Mammon? Not possible.)

- Teachers, preachers and evangelists can become idols ("I follow Paul. I follow Apollos.")

- Being in control can become more important than laying down our lives

- We might prefer having our own way to denying ourselves

- Our priority my be protecting our feelings instead of allowing the Spirit to use difficult words to produce Christ within us

- We may like being talkative and right, rather than quiet and humble

- We may choose to carry grudges instead of taking up our cross

I challenge you today to ask the Spirit, "Where is my talk not matching my walk?"




May we honor God with our lips AND our life!

Grace & Peace