Cornerstone

Matthew 21, Psalm 94

By definition, a cornerstone is “a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls.”  Historically, the cornerstone was the first stone set in a new building.  It was carefully selected and placed, becoming the reference point for the rest of the building.  The Bible often references the cornerstone of our lives.  This stone is special and set apart, selected and laid by God himself (Job 38:4-7).  It has been tested and it is precious. These ensure a firm foundation (Isaiah 28:16).  This cornerstone is an anchor point for an entire building; his temple.  It consists now of apostles, prophets (Ephesians 2:19-21), saints, the chosen as his royal priesthood  (1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Peter 2:9).  Each of us, placed securely and carefully around the cornerstone.

We get to choose a cornerstone upon which to build our own lives.  Just like the Jews in Matthew 21, we have a choice.  We either choose Jesus for that stone, or we reject him as that stone.  Trouble comes in the rejection.  You see, failure to place Jesus as the cornerstone, doesn’t mean that we have built an inferior house.  No, it means that we have built a house without God.  A house without life (Genesis 2:7, Acts 17:25).  In fact, Matthew 21:44 gets right to the point, reminding us that our rejection results in death. 

As we consider that truth, it is right to consider our current state.  Maybe our lives already have Jesus as the cornerstone.  In that case, the fruit will be obvious.  Our lives are exuding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  If these are missing, however, what are we to do?  That, my friends, is the wonderful thing about the Gospel. 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22)

In order to receive his mercy and place him as our cornerstone, there is only one thing required.  Believe.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

Courage

Luke 23

What emotions arise in you when you read of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and burial in Luke 23? Although I know it was part of God’s plan and Jesus willingly gave His life for you and me, anger at the Council, Pontius Pilate, and the people yelling “Crucify Him!” is one feeling that is stirred up in me often times.

Today though, let’s focus on the courage shown in Luke 23, instead of the cowardly actions of the Council, Pontius Pilate, and the people. The first act of courage we see is shown by Jesus. I had a Sunday school teacher growing up who would cry nearly every time he spoke of Jesus’ death. In my young age and immaturity, I did not understand why this moved him so much. Now older, and maybe a tad bit wiser, I think about the sacrifice, pain felt, and courage shown by Jesus to justify not what He had done, but because of what I have done, and it can move me to tears often, too. Watching The Passion of Christ movie really helps to grasp this. If you have not seen this movie, I strongly suggest you do.

The second act of courage in Luke 23 is that of one of the two criminals being crucified next to Jesus. While the people below and the other criminal being crucified mocked Jesus telling Him to save Himself if He truly was the Christ, this criminal stepped up with great courage. He was willing to be different and asked Jesus in Luke 23:42 to “remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Although we don’t know his name, we are assured that Jesus does. He says in Luke 23:43, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” This is also a good reminder for each one of us and to others we love that need to know Jesus that regardless of what sins we have done and no matter how many times we’ve committed them, anyone can be saved if they believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness, even in the last seconds of their life. It is never too late.

The last act of courage we see is that of Joseph of Arimathea who went to Pilate in Luke 23:52 and asked for Jesus’ body to give him a proper burial. Had he not just seen what they did to Jesus and the contempt they had for Him? But greater than that, we are told in Luke 23:50 that He was a member of the Council…the same group that had Jesus arrested and just asked Pilate to kill Jesus. However, Luke 23:51 tells us that he was “looking for the Kingdom of God” and that he “had not consented to their decision and action.” Wow…talk about showing courage and a willingness to stand up for what you believe is right!

As I reflect on this, I ask myself the following questions. Am I looking for the Kingdom of God like Joseph of Arimathea? Am I willing to take a stand, despite criticism for doing so, like the criminal on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him in paradise despite mocking from the other criminal and likely the people below? Am I willing to be different and live the type of life we are called to live as the Bible instructs us? Or am I conforming to what the world tells me is right? Although I can never be perfect like Jesus, am I striving to be more like Him daily and following His example? Am I like the criminal who gave His life to Jesus? Am I like Joseph of Arimathea who was willing to be different, not only risking his reputation, but potentially his life? Or unintentionally and unbeknownst to me, am I more like one in the crowd yelling “Crucify Him?” I do know one thing is for sure, I am forever and immeasurably grateful for Jesus’ love, mercy, forgiveness, and saving grace!

Perfect In His Eyes

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Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 14, Romans 12, Jeremiah 51, Psalm 30

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

 I am just loving these words for a Monday morning! Doesn’t this just make you wish you were one of the Romans? As much as I would love to meet Jesus, I think I’d put Paul on my top ten list as well. In just a few sentences he gives us so much wisdom that can truly sustain and fortify us. Once again, I left writing to the last minute this week, and I’m so glad I did. It’s almost as if God speaks to me so much more clearly when the “hour” is upon me! Let’s start at the beginning. Paul says, “I’m appealing to you by the mercies of God.” He’s picking up a thread previously woven in this letter. He’s reminding the Roman’s of God’s mercy in their lives:

  • Freedom from death (5:12-21)
  • Freedom from sin (6:1-23)
  • Freedom from the previous law that fosters sin (7:6-25)
  • The gift of the Spirit (8:1-17)
  • God’s plan to conform believers to the Son (8:29)
  • God’s faithfulness to keep promises, especially those made to Israel (11:25-29)

In other words, Paul is saying, look at all the great things God has done for us. Now, the least we can do is give our bodies over to him. He’s challenging us to push back against the urge to passively conform to this world. Rather, he wants us to be active in our pursuit of transformation through continuous renewal of our minds. I love what he says next, “…by testing we will discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2). This week we finally got a diagnosis for our 5 year old son, who has suffered with illness for months. When his physician called us to tell us he has Crohn’s disease, we didn’t shed tears. Instead, we felt relief. As parents, we felt that we could finally give Oliver’s body over to God’s care. We knew that we had run the “race” of medical testing and intervention for Ollie, now we leave it to Him. As I send my first born to Kindergarten tomorrow morning my heart is heavy with the knowledge that he has seen more pain, more suffering and more fear than most 5 year olds. But at the same time, I know that I will experience absolute joy when he bounds off to hug his little friends and be with the teachers he loves. He is our living sacrifice.

But God has given us freedom from death. He reminds us through Paul’s letter to the Romans that God is faithful and he keeps his promises. What may feel broken today; our bodies, our hearts or our minds will help us to discern the will of God tomorrow. Whatever sadness, whatever hurt or anger you have today, give it up to Him. Remember that through mindful, purposeful renewal of our mind we can discern what he wants for us. Know that you are good, acceptable and perfect in His eyes.

Vacation

long lakeJudges 18; Acts 22; Jeremiah 32; Psalms 1–2

Today, I sit atop a hill overlooking a beautiful lake in Northern Minnesota. Despite my surroundings, there is a risk that I waste my vacation. You see, I have a tendency to bury myself in activities that occupy my mind and consume my time.  Ironically, these are the same distractions that I find at home. In the end, they are pointless and unfulfilling. How then, do I overcome my tendency to escape life and replace it with a fruitful vacation? Today’s scripture provides the answer. Psalm 1 invites me to spend my time pursuing God. One step in doing so is to,

delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law, meditate day and night. (Psalms 1:2)

Instead of using my week to escape reality through books, television and the internet, I am choosing to spend some time delighting in the laws of the Lord.

  • Reflection

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,my shield, and the horn of my salvation,my stronghold and my refuge,my savior; you save me from violence.I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,and I am saved from my enemies. (2 Samuel 22:2-4)

  • Beauty

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

  • Silence

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalms 46:10)

  • Gratitude

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

As I connect deeper with the word of God, I find refreshment, restoration, and, yes, vacation.

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord

Dear Readers,

It is Monday which means this post is supposed to come from Jillian however, her son Ollie is still in the hospital, and still in severe pain. The McGriff family is now seeking answers after Ollie’s recent surgery.

Numbers 32; Psalm 77; Isaiah 24; 1 John 2

The world might see these struggles as a reason for a decrease in faith, but what we’re observing from Jillian’s Facebook posts is that their faith has remained strong, and seems to be growing stronger. Jillian referenced the following verse as Ollie’s verse, and this speaks volumes as to where they are choosing to put their trust.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you’re not following Jillian’s story, this Facebook update sums up much of what is going on. It is post from a mother who yearns for relief for her son, for healing, and for answers.

I’ve been with Ollie all day until this evening. Today was hard as post op pain came in a big way. I tried about everything I could to help him today but the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. Overall he looks worse than when this started….mostly because he’s weaker, in more pain and is so malnourished. He cried a lot today and then would sleep. Mercy came at the end of the day with some better pain meds and some news that maybe the antibiotic they are trying is helping a bit. Lynden was able to get tomorrow off so I came home alone with the girls tonight. The house is so empty without O. I laid in his bed and shed a few tears. My heart is so torn as I miss the girls so much and now feel so badly leaving the hospital. I want him home. His Star Wars backpack is still sitting by the back door…his shoes kicked off on the rug. He needs intentional prayer that this fever will not come back. That his biopsy will yield answers soon and that his pain will subside. We need an end to his pain. We know in our hearts that God has a plan for us. Pray it’s revealed gently and soon. ~Jillian McGriff 5/21/16

Psalm 77 is part of today’s reading and the more I read it, the more it just feels like a McGriff family Psalm in their current situation, and somewhat mirrors Jillian’s FB post. There is despair, crying out, faith, and memories of better times.

The McGriffs have asked for nothing but intentional prayer. With that, can I ask that you read Psalm 77, and consider it the “McGriff family prayer”, and please pray with, and for them? Psalm 77

To donate a meal, time, and/or finances, please go to: McGriff Family Meal Train

Don’t Forget

A string tied around an index finger

Numbers 28; Psalm 72; Isaiah 19–20; 2 Peter 1

Have you ever paid attention to the collection of things in our lives designed to be reminders? As I look around my room, I see all sorts of things. I have a clock that keeps me mindful of what time it is. I have a bulletin board that holds invitations, famous quotations, and certificates, reminding me of good things. I have pictures of my family and friends. They remind me of who they are, how much I love them and really great experiences that we have enjoyed. Unfortunately, these things have failed to become reminders. Instead, I pass by them every day, mesmerized and tranquilized by my busy life. As I flop on the couch at the end of a long day, they cannot compete with my television, as it blurts and blasts [seemingly] innocuous messages.

This random busyness separates us from our hearts causing them to stagnate and lie dormant. This is not at all what God planned for us. Sure, we have faith that we are saved and will live with God eternally, yet we fail to break through and experience him today. Why not? Peter explains that we have failed to grow in our knowledge.  When we do, he says, we will gain self-control, with continuous dedication, resulting in brotherly affection and, finally, above all, love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Did you hear it? Love. It is the thing that we are chasing so endlessly, it is reconnection with our hearts.  Sadly, like the song says, we are Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places. Or, perhaps you are not looking for it at all, being content to live the busy and distracted life I described earlier.

Is there any hope? According to 2 Peter, the answer is yes.  It says, “those who fail to develop, shortsighted or blind.  They forget that they have been cleansed from their old sins” (2 Peter 1:9 NLTse). You see, when we don’t engage God and grow with him, we quickly revert back to our old lives. Wasn’t it these old behaviors that led us to the Cross in the first place? We are, in fact, living our old lives. If you are like me, that is a disappointing and shocking realization. This does not, however, lead me to despair.  Instead, it is a reminder.

Today, I am reminded of my failure to achieve the life he calls me to and also, of his abundant mercy. Thankfully, His mercy is new every morning and will never end (Lamentations 3:22-23). I am reminded that no matter how hard I try, I cannot change myself. Instead, I must put on the clothing of Christ, which is love (Colossians 3:14-17). All of this brings me to one last reminder, that the fullness I seek is made possible by a single, great sacrifice. Today, I am drawn, again, to the cross. This time, I come not so much for what it will do for me, but for what it can do through me.