Friday, April 17, 2020

April 18 - What Does Joy Look Like?

What does joy look like in your life?  

When I first started dating my husband, I was like a scared little rabbit.  I had been divorced after 25 years of marriage and was beginning to emerge into a new life.  After a year of being single, I started dating a wonderful man, but there was a part of me that was terrified, fearful of exposing my vulnerable heart.  

When he sent me flowers, my heart skipped a beat.  But, I remember confiding in my friend, “Why is he being so kind and thoughtful?  I’m not sure I can trust it!  What’s his ulterior motive?”  She said, “You know Mary, sometimes people truly are kind. Sometimes they do things because they really are genuine.”

I was experiencing the JOY of a new relationship, but it was foreboding.  I kept thinking, “It’s too good to be true, I can’t believe it or trust it!” 

Foreboding joy is “dress rehearsal for tragedy.” It's preparing for the worst even when things are at their best.  

In Luke 24, when Jesus appears to His disciples after His Resurrection, verse 41 says, “And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement . . .”  They were experiencing foreboding joy!  Can you blame them?  On Good Friday, they watched as Jesus was arrested, flogged, and brutally crucified.

After His Resurrection, Jesus continued to appear to them, reassure them and teach them for 40 more days.  As He prepares to physically leave them to return to His Father, He speaks a blessing over them that holds inherent power!  While He disappears into the clouds, they are not sorrowful, but filled with JOY!

The disciples are radically changed by the fact that Jesus TRULY is alive, that death had been defeated!  The worship Him and praise Him wholeheartedly.  They no longer held back or hid in fear and shame!  They joyfully and confidently did the things Jesus commissioned them to do!

They wholeheartedly believed the truth of Jesus' resurrection and unending love for them, and the joy of that truth permeate everything in their lives. 

Lord, help me to press into the TRUTH that You HAVE risen from the dead!  Your victory proves that You are powerful, and nothing can stand in the way of Your love, not even death! You will never leave nor forsake me!  And as I wait for the time when You will return to bring me home, I give myself, joyfully and wholeheartedly to You.  Continue to transform me, Lord, and let this wholehearted, uninhibited joy touch every part of my life. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 25- A Know it All

1 Corinthians 8:2-3

The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (NIV)

I have to admit, these two verses have me stumped. Everything I read about them only confuses and muddies the water. The best I have been able to discern is that knowledge without love is meaningless. Much like everything, if love isn't at the center, what good is it. Knowledge that is used to make one look important, or worse yet, to point to another's insignificance, is useless at best.

Just because a person presumes to have some bit of knowledge, that person doesn’t necessarily have the right kind of knowledge. But if someone loves God, it is certain that God has already known that one. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (Voice)

Some of us view our education as a mark of excellence, a tool which makes us worth more than someone with lesser formal instruction. Schooling is often looked upon as a thing that makes us worth more than another. Truth is, success or failure does not rest on how much we have learned in classrooms,.but how much we have learned in relationship with Jesus and have treasured in our hearts. It is a long way from the mind to the heart. (See Romans 11:33-36)

We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know to answer these kinds of questions—but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never really know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all. 1 Corinthians 8:2-3 (MSG)

For the longest time I used to equate success and happiness with how much money I could earn. It was important to excel in the area of business. Then, when business failed, my life seemed empty if not meaningless. At some point Jesus entered the picture and my self-worth was redefined. Love is the proof of knowing God; the one knowledge that counts in life.

Talk about how your education impacts your worldview and your impressions of others with much less formal training.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

March 23 - Power Struggle

John 5:16-30

So many of the stories we read in scripture lately, tell us how the Pharisees and religious leaders are always just around the corner, watching. They could be the stars of a murder mystery. In fact that is just what they are. Their plotting and devious presence is for the purpose of stopping this man, Jesus, at any cost.

They are threatened by Him. Jesus has become popular and His eloquent teaching and magnetism scares them. They have seen the miracles he has performed, and they have heard Him proclaim His relationship to God the Father. So, they charge Him with blasphemy and do all they can to rile up the crowds. They are attempting to stir up the people so that Jesus isn't an issue anymore.

Little do they know; Jesus will always be an issue. He is touching the hearts of fishermen, and farmers. He is capturing the attention of those who are poor, weak, sick and dying. He is curing them, gathering with them, and loving them. Tax collectors are His friends. But He doesn't play favorites. He was there for everyone then, just as He is here for everyone now.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were allowing Satan to use them to stop the spread of Jesus' Words. Did they recognized His holiness, and did they fear the competition? I think so. They were well versed in scripture and knew of the coming Messiah. I dare say, some probably recognized Jesus as the One. So, a power struggle ensued; except, it was not struggle for Jesus. He was and is the One who has all the power.

Discuss these verses and tell how they have impacted you, your life, and your faith. What do you think of the character of the Pharisees? Do you think any of them eventually repented and claimed Jesus?

Friday, March 20, 2020

March 21 - Content with Mud Pies

Read:  Mark 4:30-33

My grandson just turned 5.  I love getting to watch him grow and learn. It is so fascinating to me to watch a child discover something for the very first time. 

I have noticed as a mom and a grandma that very young children are especially curious about small objects.  What would happen if a young child found a tiny mustard seed laying on the ground?  Picture in your mind what they would do with it. Can you see them holding it in their hand, squeezing it between their fingers, and turning it this way and that way, hold it up to the light?  Can you see their curious minds studying this tiny little seed with blazing intensity?

What do you think they are thinking?   

Yet they have never seen a seed grow before.  They have had no experience yet with putting a tiny seed into the ground.  They could never in their wildest imagination know that out of this tiny little insignificant object, something HUGE can grow.  Something bigger than them!!

Aren’t we like that child?  We in our humanness cannot ever hope to fully grasp the grand, magnificent ways of God.  Our minds are too limited, to small.  We get glimpses, yet God’s ways and His Kingdom is far beyond what we can ever think or imagine.

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis.   

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. 

Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. 

We are far too easily pleased.”  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.

Lord, thank You for how far above our imagination You are!  Thank You that Your Kingdom and Your reign is far more expansive that I could ever comprehend.  Help me to trust that even the tiny, seemingly insignificant things that You have called me to do today are a part of Your grand plan for Your Kingdom.    

Thursday, March 19, 2020

March 19 - What's Yours is God's

Luke 19:11-27

When I was a little kid, I used to have a cassette tape of Bible stories for children. They were performed by one man who did all the voices. He was funny, entertaining, and I learned a lot. This story, the parable of the ten minas, was one of the stories on the tape. I have always remembered it so clearly--I can still hear the actor's voice in my head playing the parts of the king and each of his servants. When I was young, I couldn't believe the servant who had done nothing with his money. It just seemed so ridiculous! These other two guys clearly made a profit and worked hard; why couldn't he do the same? He always seemed selfish and paranoid to me.

Rereading this story as an adult, with student loans and a car payment and hope to buy a house soon, there's a part of me that understands the third servant's actions. If someone gave me $100 right now and told me to put it to good use for the kingdom, I know I would be tempted to use it for my own purposes. Worrying about money is stressful, especially when you feel like you don't have enough. It's the same with all of our resources--time, energy, talent. We can so easily get swept up in the material of this world and lose sight of our true purpose here on earth.

I think the key to this story is the fact that the king is the one who gave the servants that money, and told them to "put this money to work." The money was never really theirs in the first place. Just like everything we have, our money, our time, our energy, talent, relationships, possessions--none of it is really ours. They're all gifts from God. And what God asks of us is the same thing the king asked of his servants: to put our gifts to work for the good of the kingdom.

1. How are you using whatever God has given you for the kingdom?
2. How do you live daily life with open hands--open to what God asks, and open to what your neighbor might need?
3. What's one material thing in your life that you know you hold onto too tightly? We all have those things. Pray and ask God to help you release it in the knowledge that it's not really yours.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

March 18 - Persistence Pays

Luke 18:1-8

I remember as a kid, when I wanted something really bad, I would keep hounding my mother until she gave in. It was a lot of work, pleading and promising to do things for her, but in the long run I got what I wanted. Now, often the thing I was begging for wasn't that important (except to me), but in the moment it was all I could see. Mom knew there was no reasoning with me and so she relented. If it was something big and she told me to ask my father, that usually ended the conversation. I did not want anything bad enough to go that route.

In our reading today, there is a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him, seeking justice. (Luke 18:2-3) This judge kept refusing, but finally she wore him down. He got tired of dealing with her and so he made sure she got justice.

 My mother loved me, and eventually she granted my wishes. This just didn't care for the widow, but he tired of her whining and pleading so he too granted the widow's wishes. This scripture is teaching us that God, who love us so much more than anyone else, wants us to come to Him. He wants us to bother Him and persistently ask Him for what we want.

God will honor patient, persistent, persevering prayer. God will see that we get what we need and often what we want. "Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:24)

Is there something you are praying for now, something you desperately need answers to? Keep praying and don't give up. God is listening and will hear and respond.

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April 18 - What Does Joy Look Like?

Read: Luke 24:50-53 What does joy look like in your life?   When I first started dating my husband, I was like a scared little ...