Mandatory Testing (Life Journal – 4/17/2015)

Scripture

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. (Matthew 4:1-2)

Observation

  • The Spirit leads Jesus (1) to the wilderness and (2) for the purpose of being tempted
  • The Amplified Bible also has Jesus led to (1) the desert and (2) to be tested and tried.
  • Strong’s suggests that the wilderness is more testing and trying than tempting?
  • “Then” links back to Jesus’ affirmation at this baptism

Application

God led Jesus to be tempted or rather tested. The scene that follows is one of testing – is Jesus the One? is he the Messiah? Will he follow the path laid before him at his baptism or will he follow another path?

If the Spirit leads Jesus to be tested… and we follow Jesus… then it seems we, too, will be led to be tested. We will be tested on the same things – are we committed to God’s will above ours? Is God the source of our life and vitality? Will we worship God and God alone?

The way of Christ is a way of testing. We are not saved by this testing – far from it. We are, however, refined and im-proved by it as God’s Spirit works in us.

Prayer

Lord, test me today. Show me where I am not following your Son and your Spirit faithfully. Show me where my character is not on the road of Christ. Show me where I worship things other than you. Test me, try me. All out of your great love… Amen.

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Life Journal (4/15/2015) – Matter of Heart

Scripture

When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:31-32)

Observation

In yesterday’s reading, Samuel learns that God looks on the heart – here David speaks of the heart. His brother accuses him of having evil in his heart (vs. 18)

Translation footnotes have vs. 32 as literally in Hebrew – “Let not the heart of a man fall upon him.”

Application

In 1 Samuel’s picture of David, “heart” is a repeated theme. He is selected by God because, as the Lord tells Samuel, he is a man after his (God’s) heart and then when he goes to anoint the next king the Lord again says this to him.

Here, David speaks of the hearts of this fellow Israelites – perhaps his own as well. Some translations suggest that the one whose heart is failing at the challenge of Goliath is Saul rather than Israel generally.

How do we cultivate a heart like David’s – that faces challenge without failing? How do we confront challenge without fear, without surrendering?

Perhaps the answer lies in the earlier assertion that David is “a man after his own heart.” To be after God’s heart is to have heart that wants what God wants, that loves as God loves, that is transformed by the desires of God and therefore – as David says here- need neither fear nor fail.

Prayer

Lord, give me a heart after your own heart. Make my heart anew today into a heart like David’s that can face the world without fearing, without failing, because it wants what you want and loves what you love. In the name of the one whose heart was yours, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

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Life Journal (4/14/2015) – Inside Information

Scripture

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)

Observation

Samuel’s standards are not God’s – Samuel cannot see as God sees.

“Surely” is an assumption God repeatedly fails to meet.

Samuel is not to look on his appearance BECAUSE God has rejected him (David is later described as handsome).

Application

I love numbers, things that can be quantified and measured. Math in my later college years became my favorite subject. But God’s reality is not measurable in any meaningful way – it is not an objective reality like temperature or even softly scientific like the consumer price index.

God’s judging the heart is meant here as a positive thing. God will not evaluate us based on our observable merit to do or be but on our hearts. Our external qualifications do matter. I don’t think God would ever call me to sing, for instance.

But the heart is where God measures. And every person can cultivate a heart pleasing to God! It has nothing to do with money or appearance, natural talent or valuable experience. The heart is where God sees and where God best and most works.

I will never attain the measurable goals that haunt me. I will never be someone whom the world would judge successful or influential. But God, who sees my heart, can find me acceptable and can, in truth, make me so despite all evidence and appearances.

Prayer

O God who sees – I am anxious sometimes that you can see my heart, can pierce the veil of my mind. But the heart you see and the mind you can measure can change in ways my outward person cannot. You can mold me, shape me, grow me inside – sometimes in utter contrast to what can be seen or judged. May I live today as one who wants a heart that you will find pleasing and let the outer things that cause me such inner pain fade away. Amen.

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Monday Morning Musings – After Easter

I am returning to my daily Life Journal readings but miss my more general musings and so will return to those as well each Monday. Yes, it is Tuesday – I decided to begin posting again when too much of Monday was gone.

I took vacation last week including Sunday. It was nice to be away from the daily routine and to get a few things accomplished (although not all or even most of what I had planned!).

While we live in a post-Easter faith, we also live in a pre-parousia world. Christ came once and rose but has not yet consummated what began at Easter. To the extent that we know the power of Christ’s resurrection (Philippians 3:10) and suffering as his followers the resurrection is a present reality. But the world, the creation, the universe continues with death in its many incarnations reigning.

Last week was filled with bumps in the road, unplanned detours, a change in the status quo of a significant part of my life, and a huge change in  our likely future. As many have quipped, I needed to return to work to recover from my vacation!

The point is that the Easter reality is only real to the extent that we allow it to be so. Until Christ returns and death dies, we need to appropriate its power and know its reality in the midst of the death where we live.

 

 

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Holy Saturday (Life Journal – 4/4/2015)

Scripture

 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away.  He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.  Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.  Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:38-42 NIV)

Observation

This is the last thing we hear before the Resurrection – the burial of Jesus. John goes from here to the first day of the week and Easter.

John alone talks about a garden – the garden where Jesus is betrayed (18:1) and a garden where Jesus is buried and the first witnesses to the Resurrection  see him.

The emphasis on secrecy is real here: Joseph goes to Pilate privately, Nicodemus was the one who went at night to see Jesus in John 3. And the burial seems to be one of convenience – do it quickly so no one will notice or know?

Application

John says nothing about Saturday here. Matthew tells of the chief priests and Pharisees going to Pilate too but nothing about the disciples. Luke tells us the women make ready on Saturday to return on Sunday to finish the job of preparation of Jesus’ body.

I’ve realized how hectic this day usually is for me. Things to be done before Easter morning. Sermons to finish. Family plans to make ready. Most years, including this one, there are events at church on this Saturday between the cross and the empty tomb.

That day on the first Easter weekend was a day of Sabbath – a day for rest, for reflection. The hurry to bury Jesus is part of that reality. I wonder today if we don’t need a rest , too, today instead of how most of us spend this day as Christians. To rush from the cross through the day to Sunday is to miss something. To miss the enforced stillness and quiet. To miss the pain, the grief, the loss, that comes following death.

Today will have little Sabbath for me. But it should. Perhaps it must for tomorrow to be what it should be too.

Prayer

O Lord of the Sabbath, on that Sabbath before Easter morning Jesus’ friends rested but perhaps knew little rest. On that Saturday they waited anxiously for what was to come yet with the enforced day of retirement. Force me today to pause, to rest, to wait rather than to rush through this day and into and over the day to come. Amen.

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Good Friday (Life Journal – 4/3/2015)

Scripture

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,  and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer.  “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:8-11 NIV)

Observation

Pilate’s power is subservient to that of God… he tells Jesus in vs. 10 that he can free him or crucify him. But Jesus – despite all appearances is the one in control. God’s power is the power under which all things are happening.

“Therefore” is interesting. The ones who handed him over did not have power over him rather God did. Yet they took power, they took control of Jesus who was not theirs to control.

Application

Do I take control over Jesus – is “my” Jesus the Jesus of the cross or the Jesus I want to control? The cross breaks all human power. It trumps all human imagining or human manipulation.

I cannot control the Jesus of Calvary. Yet I try. I want Jesus to work for what I want, to lead me where I have determined to go. Not to the cross. Not to Calvary.

Pilate asks Jesus from where he comes… Jesus at this moment is focused on where his mission takes him. But where he comes from – God – is also where he is going.

Pilate cannot stop God’s love and mercy and power. Pilate cannot control the redemptive purposes of God nor God’s servant Jesus. Nor can I. The cross says I cannot.

Nor should I… the cross reminds me that what I imagine God wants for me is, without God’s guidance and revelation, so far off the mark. The cross of Jesus is not what anyone imagines nor dreams of reaching with their lives. But it is Jesus’ destination and Jesus’ place.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, Bearer of the Cross, Crucified One — just as Pilate had only what power you allowed him, so I must yield to the power of your cross on this Good Friday. May I see in this day anew what it means to take up the cross and follow you, to lose my life rather than to try to save it, to be poured out as you were on this day. May today I live as one who yields to the power of your love and true might  as revealed in your death. Amen.

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Holy Thursday (Life Journal – 4/2/2015)

Scripture

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:2-5 NIV)

Observation

Jesus has is actions rooted in God and God is his source. For Judas, the devil is his inspiration.

Jesus’ action here ( washing the feet and stripping to his inner clothing ) is because of two things: God’s putting all things under his power AND that he came from and was returning to God. God is the reason for his action.

Application

Why do I do what I do? What is my motivation? What is the source of my actions and words? John paints a stark contrast between Judas’ motivation in the devil and Jesus’ rootedness in God. Perhaps it is always that stark and I don’t want to see it.

Jesus can humble himself because he was from, in, and going to God. His entire life is a continuum of God’s grace and love, power and authority. He can act humbly because there is no image to preserve… no self-interest to seek… no power to maintain. He acts out of his God-sourced life as he has done from the start.

Can I be humble today? Can I root myself, my actions, my words in God to the exclusion and trumping of all other sources? Can I humble myself because my self is God’s and from God?

Prayer

Humble One, ground my life today in the God who sent you and empowered you and claimed you. May I be so taken up in God that I can kneel at others’ feet to wash and to serve. I can do what I do not because of what it will gain me but because all things are God’s already including me. May I wrap the towel about my waist and kneel today in service, in love, as you did. Amen.

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Wednesday of Holy Week (Life Journal – 4/1/2015)

Scripture

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’”  So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. (Matthew 26:18-19 NIV)

Observation

Jesus tells them to go to a certain man – a specific man – to make the Passover preparations. Right before we are told “From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” (26:16) Both Judas and Jesus seem to have a plan for the days ahead.

Similarly – “appointed time” suggests a set time, a time toward which events are moving. Judas thinks he is in control of things but really Jesus is the one with the plan. Judas may have a plan but it doesn’t trump the plans of God in Christ.

I love to plan, to think about events and the future unfolding. But am I planning my own thing – maybe not a betrayal of Jesus on the scale of Judas’ betrayal. Or is it? Am I trying to work a plan that is not God’s? that is not what Christ is guiding me to do? After all Jesus said “Follow me” not “follow your own path and let me bless it ok?”

Judas betrays Jesus but perhaps I do as well. I have known Jesus longer than Judas did yet sometimes I do not follow him any more faithfully or completely. As the moment of Judas’ betrayal looms, I do well to consider my own acts of betrayal and abandonment of the Master.

Prayer

Lord, I cannot follow you while following my own plans and purposes. I cannot be faithful to you if my first loyalty is to my interests however I conceive of them. May I be sensitive today to the ways I betray you for my own gain and my own purposes. May I, unlike Judas, seek your grace and know your mercy even in those moments and from them and your grace and power move beyond them in the future as I follow you. Amen.

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Tuesday of Holy Week (Life Journal – 3/31/2015)

Scripture

“… and [Jesus] would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.  And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:16-17 NIV)

Observation

Jesus has just driven people out and is preventing people from coming and selling in the temple courts. YET he is also teaching at the same time.

Jesus quotes Isaiah (house of prayer for all nations) and Jeremiah (den of robbers) in his critique of them.

The area where they were selling / changing money was the area open to all… open to all nations as he quotes from Isaiah.

Application

The merchants were in the outer court of the temple, where everyone could gather. This area Jesus reclaims for worship and prayer where all could do so.

This Holy Week I can see my “courtyard” cluttered… filled with things that get in the way of worshiping, serving, and praying. And sometimes they are just as surely related to money and gain.

How can I keep the merchandise where it belongs? How can I keep open the ways to prayer, to worship, to service, to glorifying God?

Jesus can keep the ways open as he did then… may I be more willing and even eager for him to do so.

Prayer

Holy God, the courtyards of my mind and heart are just as cluttered and overtaken with the things of this world as your temple on that day Jesus cleansed the temple. My temple is more a place of robbers than of prayer. Cleanse the temple of my heart, clear the courtyard of mind, keep open the ways of my will as I move through this Holy Week again. Amen.

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Monday of Holy Week (Life Journal – 3/30/2015)

Scripture

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.  She did what she could. (Mark 14:6-8a NIV)

Observation

Is Jesus critiquing their concern for the poor – what had they done to help the poor?

Jesus seems to contrast her devotion with theirs, her extravagance with theirs. He also is distinguishing something that they can do always with something that is timely, for this moment alone (anointing him).

Application

Monday of Holy Week… not a day with memorable events like Palm Sunday or Holy Thursday or Good Friday. Mark remembers Jesus’ anointing (John 12 suggests it was Mary the sister of Lazarus).

This year, this day, I hear Jesus’ invitation to serve him in the moment. My tendencies are toward thinking and strategy, toward planning, toward reflection. This woman is not thinking of principles of Christian service or how to advance the mission by her acts. She is thinking of her love for Jesus. She pours out the perfume and likewise pours out herself to him.

What have I done today out such extravagant devotion? Does my life for Jesus overflow so powerfully and wonderfully?

Prayer

Lord, on this Monday I remember the woman who anointed you. She poured out her gift, anointing you for burial. Soon you would pour out yourself for her and for those in that room – and for me. Make my love one of extravagant devotion and overflowing adoration. Amen.

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