Eternal Perspective

What if the first text you receive today says:

“Jesus will return today at 8:43pm”.

What would your next step be? Would you still get up and get ready for the day? Would you go to work? Throw that load of laundry in? Take the kids to swim lessons? Watch the news? Who would you call? Are you panicked or relieved? Would you drop everything and stare at the sky waiting? Is Jesus a friend you can’t wait to see or is there fear at his coming?

Or worse yet, what if the text read:

“Jesus came back yesterday. Why are you still here?”

In 2 Thessalonians 2 the people were confused about the second coming of Jesus. Some thought that due to the harsh persecution of Christ followers, Jesus second coming was imminent. Others thought the second coming had already occurred. They were fearful. Paul needed to clarify the things that would happen prior to Jesus return to get the people back on track. He encouraged them not to be fooled by what others were saying but to remember what he had told them. He was honest and reminded them that there will be great evil in the world but God would prevail. God’s plan is not to strike fear in His people about His return but to bring hope.

This brings a little perspective into my daily living. Suddenly the things that vie for my attention are no longer that important in light of Christs return. Do I really believe that Jesus is coming back? How does my life reflect that I believe this? Currently my life is busy with work, kids, baseball, basketball, laundry, and lots of time in the car. My prayers are typically requests to help me get through a busy day, energy for the evening after a day at work, or just a good night sleep. Not much “eternal perspective”. I think a great evil in my world is busyness to the degree that I don’t consider my eternity or Jesus return very often. This chapter has been a good reminder that this is worthy of my time and thought. Especially to share with my kids.  God has given me these moments with kids, baseball, basketball, and laundry to find the eternal. In each of these “things” there is heart and a moment – a divine appointment by God.

We do not have to fear the second coming of Jesus when we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. We look forward to it with great anticipation. Especially when we practice having an eternal perspective. And we have the Bible – the written Word of God to redirect us when we get confused and start listening to the world.

Romans 10:9-10 “For 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. For it is by believing  in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the scripture tells us, “Anyone who believes in him will not be disappointed”.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words. ”

This could happen tomorrow or it could be in 1000 years. Matthew 24:36 says, “However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the father knows.”

May you have an eternal perspective today and share it with someone else. Jesus is coming back!!

Shelly

 

 

 

A Rumor of Life

Today’s reading is Matthew 28

This is the account after Jesus death on the cross. He had been placed in a sealed tomb with guards for 3 days. The guards were there as requested by the Pharisees. They remembered Jesus saying he would rise on the third day.  If the guards were in place the disciples wouldn’t be able to steal him away to falsely fulfill Jesus words. The Pharisees were afraid Jesus may actually be who he said he was. (Matthew 27:62-65).

In Matthew 28, Mary Madgdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. They probably hadn’t slept and were feeling heavy hearted and dismayed. They went expecting to care for Jesus dead body but instead they were met with an earthquake and an angel telling them that Jesus was not in the tomb!! The guards passed out in fear. The angel said “don’t be afraid” and instructed the women to go tell the disciples. They were the first to learn and share the good news of Jesus Resurrection. Jesus meeting them on the way sealed the deal for them. He reminded them” Don’t be afraid!”

In Matthew 28:8 it says they were “frightened but also filled with great joy!”. I love this description – just like any great adventure in our lives should feel. We may be frightened but also filled with great joy as we share the good news of Jesus resurrection that brings us eternal life.  The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) all account for this event with different perspectives and details but the bottom line is the same in each account….Jesus was not in the tomb!  Matthew 28: 6 says “He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen”.

Unfortunately some guards at the tomb went to the leading priests to tell them what happened. The priests bribed them to keep that news to themselves and instead say the disciples came in the night and stole Jesus body. The guards were paid off and everyone agreed on the story. This sad theory still circulates today.

Jesus goes on to meet with the disciples in Galilee and he gives the Great Commission. Matthew 28: 18 –  Jesus came and told his disciples,” I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This is the ultimate fork in road. Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after being crucified? Do you believe the tomb was empty? Are you frightened but also filled with great joy at the thought of Jesus dying on the cross for your sins and then rising from the dead on the third day to give eternal life?

“Don’t be afraid”. Go and tell the good news.

Shelly

Mark 10

Today’s reading is Mark 10.

Jesus is walking and teaching. In reading through this chapter I catch myself putting my human emotions and frustrations on Jesus. Everywhere he goes people are following him and waiting to hear him speak. The Pharisees are always trying to trip him up like they did with their question about divorce. Then he has to explain to the rich young man that he must sell everything and follow Him to gain eternal life and the guy basically said no and “went sadly away”. The disciples never quite “get it” either and Jesus spends extra time explaining that He will die and rise again. They also struggle with selfishness and Jesus has to stop and teach them about being a servant and how to be the “least” among them. It sounds a lot like parenting to me and I get exhausted for Jesus. But He never got exhausted.  He knew the road he was walking and all the conversations, healings, and confrontations were important. They were all  leading Him towards the goal of providing salvation for the world. He never got annoyed with the questions or frustrated with their lack of understanding or knowledge. He kept on teaching and healing and loving.

In the midst of the teaching, training, and healing Jesus stopped to bless the children. In verses 13-16 parents were  bringing their children to Jesus for blessing and the disciples tried to keep them away. Jesus said “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God”. Then he took the children into his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

These children were not asking difficult questions about theology or dealing with adult attitudes. Their parents told them about Jesus and they were thrilled to go see him. They knew he was doing miracles and they were listening to all the talk around town about him. They had no questions about stepping into his arms and receiving his blessing. And Jesus was happy to give it. Pure joy. Faith.

I pray this prayer over my kids at night, that God would lay His hand of blessing on their heads. This is a reminder to me that He has a path for their lives that I do not control. It reminds me that the blessing of God is bigger than the sports they play, the grades they get, or the school they go to. There is an eternal perspective that far surpasses anything of this world. And I pray that they would know the blessing of God so when they face persecution for their faith they will continue to stand by it.

I pray this for you today too. That God would lay his hand of blessing on your head and you would receive it in faith. That your faith would be like a child and you would be able to accept all that Jesus has done for you on the cross.

Shelly

Mark 6

In today’s reading, Mark 6, we find Jesus back in his hometown of Nazareth.  It was the Sabbath and He was teaching in the synagogue.  After listening to him speak, some people basically started saying who is this guy and who does he think he is.  Then Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.”  Verses 5 & 6 go on to say:  “And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He marveled because of their unbelief.”

 

Just two quick thoughts/questions for us to ponder this morning as we get over the hump today.  One, why is it easier for us to believe something amazing could come from a stranger than it could from someone close to us?  Two, how disheartening was this for our lord and savior:  “…He marveled because of their disbelief.”

 

Give those two some thought this morning…and then find a way to show someone the love of Jesus, today.  Have a blessed Wednesday!

MT

 

Isaiah 55

Today’s reading is from Isaiah 55

Easter is still on my mind. I remember watching the Passion of The Christ when it came out at the movie theaters in 2004. I was so emotional as I watched, instead of read, all that Jesus endured to get to the cross. So overwhelming. Reading the words on the page I can easily skim over the flogging and the beating, but to watch it acted out in real time is another experience entirely. Half the time I had to look away. It was too much. I wanted to yell at it to stop and then get up and leave. But knowing that it was “My Jesus” made me not able to get up and walk out. This is the Jesus I said yes to many years ago but I had never put a visual connection to His sacrifice until that movie. I couldn’t walk away from that moment and forget about it because it wasn’t just a movie for me. It is the core of my belief about God and Jesus and His plan for this world. I wasn’t a spectator to some fairy tale but rather watching the very thing that I believe and center my life upon.

I am amazed when I think about Isaiah prophesying about this moment before it even happened.  He spoke of the Messiah being beaten and sacrificed, but also the hope and the beautiful plan for our forgiveness through Christ. A plan that was so beyond what we would expect. In Isaiah 55 he starts out by saying that this message is for EVERYONE! It is for those who are thirsty yet have no money to buy anything and it is for those who have plenty but aren’t satisfied. He urges them to seek the Lord while there is still time and to listen. Isaiah 55:3 says, “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake”. He was preparing the way for the Messiah, but why would God save the world and our souls this way? Surely there was a better option that didn’t require so much pain.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Who am I to question the divine plan of the almighty? Instead I will humbly accept the sacrifice that I do not deserve.  The ultimate sacrifice paid on my behalf. I am humbled and thankful and overwhelmed.

Shelly

 

A Needed Boost

Today’s reading is Haggai 1

Haggai was a prophet that God used to remind the people of their priorities. A long time ago the Babylonians had destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem which was a symbol of his God’s presence.  Then years later King Cyrus said that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. They started to rebuild but after awhile they lost their motivation and they stopped. I think over time the people became complacent and forgot their purpose. Instead they focused on building up things for themselves. Haggai received  a message from the Lord to get the people going again and give them a much needed boost.

Haggai 1:3-6 So the Lord sent his message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? This is what the Lord Almighty says: Consider how things are going for you! You have planted much but harvested little. You have food to eat, but not enough to fill you up. You have wine to drink, but not enough to satisfy your thirst. You have clothing to wear, but not enough to keep you warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! (New Living Translation)

Basically he told them that they had everything they needed but were still unsatisfied. Haggai got the people back to rebuilding the temple – eternal work. Sometimes we need someone in our lives that speaks truth and encourages us like Haggai. Are you living in luxury and working hard to keep it that way instead of building up the kingdom of God? Are you successful but still not satisfied?

Last December I stepped down from teaching in the 2’s and 3’s department at church.  My reasoning was that I had given it a good go for almost 10 years and it was time to move on to something different. The first month after quitting I will admit I enjoyed the freedom of no Sunday commitments, no lesson to prepare, no 2 service Sundays, and I could come and go with barely having to talk to anyone! And then, before I knew it, that became my routine. My intentions were always to find another area to serve, but guess what? I forgot to look for something else and now I’m not serving at all. Looks like I stopped building the temple. I forgot the importance of serving and how God uses that to draw me closer to Him.  The Good news is that we are His temple through Jesus Christ and we can rebuild anytime with a repentant heart. It is a conscious change of priorities. And with obedience to building Gods kingdom and making that a priority, God is with us.

Haggai 2:13 – Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave the people this message from the Lord: “I am with you, says the Lord!” (New Living Translation)

Romans 9:31  – What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (New Living Translation)

Shelly

Debating God

Today’s reading is Habukkuk 1.

Habakkuk was a prophet of the Lord who was struggling with God’s plan. Instead of running from God he shared his concerns very vocally with the Almighty.  He was willing to ask hard questions and wait for a response.  In Habakkuk 1:5 God responded, “Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” God then goes on to tell Habakkuk about the Babylonians and how he will use them to bring about His plan. This is still a concern for Habukkuk and he continues to debate God’s actions. And God responds again to his questioning with plans that are far beyond what he could hope or imagine.

In the end, Habakkuk is brought to greater faith in the Almighty and he puts his trust in God’s plans. When you are upset with the way God is moving in your life do you let it pull you away or do you dig in to your faith?

Practice personalizing Habakkuk 1:5 in times of questioning God’s actions.

“I will look at the nations and be amazed! I will watch and be astounded at what you will do! For you are doing something in my day, something I wouldn’t believe even if someone told me about it.”

God’s ways are not our ways….but prayer (and sometimes prayerful debate) brings us closer to the heart of God and His plans. It increases our faith.

Habakkuk 3:17 “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.”.

Shelly

Justice, Mercy, Humility

Today’s reading is Micah 6.

In the beginning of Micah 6, the prophet is urging the people to remember all that God has done for them. The miracles, the deliverance, and the people he sent to lead them. He tells them to “remember their journey” (6:5). After sitting down to realize and remember all that He has done…..then what? How do we respond to all the ways He has cared for us? The Israelites had in mind to offer their most prized possessions, even to the extreme of their first born. But Micah goes on to tell them what is required of them. It is not the sacrifice of things they own but rather something much more eternal – their hearts.

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

Act Justly  – Living with a sense of right and wrong – as defined by the Bible.

Love Mercy – Contains the Hebrew word “Hesed” which means “loyal love” or “loving kindness”. Mercy – compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender. (Dictionary.com)

Walk Humbly – The heart’s attitude toward God. Do you really know and understand WHO the God is that you worship? Do you live in fear of the Lord and his mighty power? Are you truly humbled by his justice and mercy shown to you on a daily basis?

God is most concerned about what is in our hearts.  When the Spirit is alive in us we display the fruit that only comes from God.  Galations 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  He alone gives us the ability to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

“The response of a Godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly). Gotquestions.org

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. NIV

 

Shelly

 

 

 

Love

Today’s reading is Song of Songs 2

We have been spending a lot of time at basketball and volleyball games. Rushing around from work to games and back home again. Its exhausting, but we wouldn't miss the games for anything. One particular day I arrived late to a game. Mike was already there saving a seat for me. I plopped down next to him with a weary sigh and pulled out my favorite Chap stick. I popped the top off, anticipating some relief to my Illinois chapped lips, and the ENTIRE contents of the stick fell out onto the ground. There is no 5 second rule to a gym floor. Mike watched the whole thing happen and saw the disappointment on my face. No words were spoken, but I knew he was with me in the pit of no chap stick. The next day I came home to a SAMs club box of 10 Chap sticks. My favorite kind! I felt so loved and cared for in that moment. It reminded me of the days I first met him and all the reasons I fell for him.
 Song of Songs is the ultimate book of love.  It opens with a wedding and then chapter 2 shares the "memories of courtship". It is a chapter of mushy poetry that likens one to a "gazelle" and the other to a "dove". It is obvious that they are infatuated with each other as they cannot stop gushing over one another. Have you been around this couple before? They are the ones in a room of 50 people but they only have eyes for each other, no one else exists. Often times this is the difference between newlyweds and those of us who have multiple years under our belts. Those days of poems and gushy talk often fade into the daily grind of work and responsibilities. But the days of infatuation are so important to our future  selves. They remind us why we got together in the first place. 

Song of Songs 2:15 "Quick! Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love, for the grapevines are all in blossom".NIV

Love is a beautiful thing but can be fragile too. The foxes are the little things that creep into our relationships. Selfishness, bitterness, pride. In this chapter the young women of Jerusalem are reminding the couple that there will be trouble. In the midst of seeing them so in love they want to instill a little reality and wisdom into their relationship. Be on the alert for the "foxes" that steal away the love. It can happen so quickly and innocently. The most beautiful picture of a marriage is one based on the love of Jesus.
Song of Songs 2:16 "My beloved is mine, and I am his". KJV
Today spend some time remembering your courtship. Remind your mate why you chose them. If you are in the position of not being able to remember why - ask God to reveal that to you. Marriage can be very difficult, with unexpected twists and turns. Situations change but God never changes. He is the one constant in the midst of instability.

Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of marriage. Thank you for your design and your plan. Forgive us when we stray from it, seeking our own desires. I pray that you would comfort those who are struggling. Please bring healing and peace to their hearts. We trust you to strengthen our marriages and protect them from the schemes of evil that would destroy the good you have started. May we be good to each other because You have been so good to us. Amen

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well". NIV
Shelly

Undignified

Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 6.

David is in the process of transporting the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem so God would bless them as a nation. He was in charge of it, along with 30,000 men. The Ark was sacred and carried with it a lot of rules and expectations for transport and care. It was no joke. The men were aware of this but even in this situation they became a little “loosey goosey” and forgot that there were serious consequences to disobeying. Poor Uzzah, in an attempt to keep the Ark from falling he reached out and touched the Ark. As a result, God struck him dead. Seems a little harsh but they were well aware of the rules and what would happen if they strayed from them….even if well intentioned. This was difficult for David to witness but I think it renewed a sense of awe and fear at the power of God and the rules set forth by Him. Again, it was no joke.

After this, David spent more of his time worshipping and sacrificing while transporting the Ark. He was seeking the Lord while carrying it to ensure he was taking it to the right place. David had heard how the Lord had blessed Oben-Edom’s home and everything he had because of the presence of the Ark of God. So David took the Ark to the City of David with a “great celebration”. They sacrificed animals, sang, danced, played instruments and shouted all to the glory of God. They were not worried about what anyone thought of them as they worshipped because they had witnessed the power of God through the death of Uzzah and blessing of Oben-Edoms household. They finally placed the Ark in the tent David had prepared for it and then he proceeded to care for the people by passing out food. What a day!! He went home on a high from all the praising and witnessing of God’s power only to be faced with his wife Michal who basically tells him how stupid he looked to everyone around him and that she was embarrassed. His response was perfect in 2 Samuel 6:21-22 “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes”.

When is the last time you were “even more undignified than this”?  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve looked on at  people at church with their hands waving around and thought they looked a little undignified. Unfortunately,  I judged much like Michal did in this passage. And like her, I  have missed out on the blessing of worship and praise with wild abandon. The people that have witnessed the power of God, close up and personal, are the ones that are not afraid to lift their arms and dance to the almighty God.  I challenge you to spend some time with God – singing, dancing, shouting, and blowing a trumpet if you have one. He is worthy of our praise! It can be a solo act in your living room and it is just as effective.

David Crower Band – “Undignified” https://youtu.be/hp7B5V-qpTQ

Shelly