Two Worlds

Today’s Reading:  Luke 16

Do you spend much time thinking about Judgment Day? When we (the Bible Journal community) studied Revelation back in mid-2016, I remember concluding Revelation 20:14-15 had the potential to be the scariest verses in the entire Bible.  They describe Judgment Day – the day each of us will find out if our name is written in the Book of Life and we get to spend eternity with God, or if it is not and we are condemned to spend eternity in torment, away from God.

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15).

The parable of the rich man and the beggar in Luke 16, our scripture for today, takes us back to this setting.  The story isn’t about Judgment Day itself, but gives the perspective of someone (the rich man) who had been living in Hell for a while.  Jesus uses this story to teach his audience (and us) some very sobering lessons about Judgment Day.  Let’s look at a couple –

  • We must declare Jesus as Savior and Lord while we are still living.  Salvation is the free gift of God, but it isn’t automatic.  We must choose to put our faith in Jesus.  Like the rich man who had the opportunity to help Lazarus every day, we have more than one opportunity to choose Jesus during our lives on earth.  We don’t get to change our minds after we die.

But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us’ (Luke 16:25-26).

  • God’s word has already given us all the evidence we need to come to faith in Jesus.  Our sin and need for a Savior is evident throughout the Bible.  If we are unwilling to accept this reality and reject God’s word, no miracle will change our hearts.

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’(Luke 16:31).

Here is the good news – for those of us who have already put our faith in Jesus Christ, Revelation 20:14-15 aren’t scary verses at all.  We know our names are written in the Book of Life and look forward to spending eternity with God in Heaven.

If you are reading this post today and haven’t already put your faith in Jesus, it isn’t too late.  Today can be your day.  Will you say this prayer with me?

God, I confess I am a sinner and deserve the consequences of my sin.  I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead.  Today, I ask for your forgiveness.  I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I accept you as Savior and Lord.  Amen.

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

 

Kingdom Tales – Matthew 13

From childhood to adulthood we all loved to hear fairy tales growing up. These stories have a beginning, followed by a challenge, there’s someone who provides hope, and at some point shows us an amazing future. These stories can include knights, princes, princesses, “bad guys”,  kings and kingdoms. These stories usually have a battle between good and evil.

In Matthew 13 there are 8 parables told in the 52 verses.  Jesus takes common things that we can relate to and constructs short stories within which He communicates  something better than any Fairy Tale.  He tells us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like, They are also known as, Kingdom Tales! And, for those with open ears and open hearts, He reveals the Kingdom of Heaven. Where instead of a Fairy-Tale ending, we get an opportunity to see, hear, and be part of a Kingdom Tale ending.  Amen!   We can believe that while in this interim of time we have on this earth we are promised with open ears and hearts that we should repent and believe.

Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Psalm 103: 19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.

Matthew 13: 11, Matthew 13:24, Matthew 13:31, Matthew 13:33, Matthew 13:44, Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:47, Matthew 13:52 all tell us what the Kingdom of heaven will be like. I can’t wait to see you there. 

Dear God, thank you for sending us a King, who offered us His Kingdom.  That when we repent and say we believe can enter into this kingdom one day.  God we know He is coming again, and His kingdom is in our midst for those who have welcomed the King to reign in our hearts.  There are battles we will face every day in sin and brokenness. God, I know I don’t deserve a place in this Kingdom, and there is nothing I can do to prove myself worthy.  But through your love, grace, and sacrifice, you’ve provided a way for us all.  We have a King that is victorious over all.  God, thank you for your Living word that we use daily to draw closer to you and your Kingdom.  We love you, Amen.

 

The Sermon on the Mount: The Reset

Today’s Reading Matthew 6

 

Over the last several years, I have come to embrace the concept of the Reset.  It is a concept that allows you to manage the complexities of life with a reasonable expectation of change.   The definition of insanity is where you continue to repeat the same thing over several repetitions with the expectation that things will change.  The concept of Reset knows that the result will have an impact at a later time, yet not instantaneously.

I became familiar with the concept in the beginning of my career as a pharmacist.  At one of my first assignments as a newly credentialed pharmacist, I had the opportunity to work with many different individuals. One such individual would consistently finish a closing shift with everything in disarray.  Each morning after the individual worked, I would have to open the pharmacy, which was in a state of chaos and flux.  After a couple of weeks of this behavior, I allowed myself to listen to the concept of RESET.  I would come into the pharmacy without being disgruntled and upset and saw it as a chance to RESET the pharmacy and then create a place of healing and peace. This allowed me to take control of the situation and not allow others to determine my overall mindset and spirit.

Over the last several weeks, we have been able to enjoy the risen Christ and the Easter season. Until recently, I did not know that the season of Easter is 50 days, which span from Easter Sunday to the day of Pentecost.  This is a season of RESET.  Christ has reset the complete bounds of death and sickness and darkness.   Before the Passion and the cross, Christ was teaching about the RESET in his Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew Chapter 6, Christ is resetting our perspectives on several critical points in life: Giving, Prayer, Fasting, Money, and Worry.  Anyone of these items would and can cause chaos in the absence of Christ in the first century.  These same items that are preached on at the mountaintop are some of the items that we still have issues with today if we are not in the company of Christ.  Even if we are in true devotion of Christ these five things still shake us daily, but we have a anchor in Christ to keep us focused.  So how does Christ walk through these five:

  • Giving: Give without being boastful and give with a sincere heart. It’s not for the outside to know how much or how often you are giving.  God sees the heart and not the hand.
  • Prayer: God knows the desires of the faithful and the prayers of your heart before you can create the words.  It is not the performance of the prayers, yet the time spent in devotion with him.
  • Fasting: God does not take pleasure in your hurting and suffering as a show, but he wants the time of your devotion from other things( fasting) and focusing the time on Him. He will provide all of the things that you need for growth and survival and prosperity.
  • Money: God creates the opportunity for you to have wealth and prosperity.  He doesn’t want money or riches.  He creates these with the spoken word, he wants you to desire His presence as much as the riches the world desire.
  • Worry: When we RESET our purpose and understanding, then worry will cease to be.  We know that we will be cared for and reside in the promise that God has for us.  This knowledge will then allow us to not focus on the unknown, yet embrace the being of God.

Father,

As we reflect on the Sermon on the Mount, we see that is relevant today as it was when you spoke these words into existence.  Allow us to not get caught up in the chaos of the world, but be able to allow the Holy Spirit to RESET us daily in the knowledge of your mercy and grace. Amen

Do You Feel Blessed?

I have had a few people over the past few weeks say to me, “You are an open book” or “you wear your heart on your sleeve”.  My husband even told me last night that he is always wondering what details I am going to tell when talking to a friend.  See, the thing is, I tell it like it is.  I don’t worry about what people will think about me being honest about my situations.  If you ask me how things are going I will be totally honest with you.  And, if my husband had it his way, I wouldn’t be so honest.  

All this to say, the past year, months, and weeks have been hard.  God has truly put a desire in mine and my husband’s hearts to follow Him closer.  We have felt the urging to live life differently than we have in the past.  This has meant looking at our lives in detail, where we live, where we work, how we do life.  We have and are making significant changes in how we do life.  But, of course I will be honest…I do not feel always feel blessed.  It is hard!  

I am thankful, once again, for this Bible Journal, it makes me spend more time than I normally would focusing on one chapter of scripture.  Today we are looking at Matthew 5, The Sermon on the Mount.  I am going to focus on the first 12 verses which are referred to as the Beatitudes.

Jesus gathered his disciples and began teaching.                                                       The disciples at this time were probably weary from all the work they were doing.  They were probably a lot like we are, exhausted by the end of the day. Constantly thinking about all they were  doing, and wondering if they were doing it right?  Were they pleasing god?  They might have been overcome with sin and shame or guilt.  But, Jesus looked at His followers and this is not what He saw, and that is not what He sees when He looks at us.  He sees the blessed sitting among Him.  

Here is what Jesus said to His Disciples and the large crowd that gathered.  This is from the Message…

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are-no more, no less.  That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘careful,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world-your mind and heart-put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete for fight.  That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.  The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

“Not only that-count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throu you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens-give a cheer, even!-for though they don’t like it, I do!  And all heaven applauds.  And know that you are in good company.  My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:3-12

God is not surprised by our circumstances.  He knew exactly what my husband and I would be facing in these days seeking Him.  He knew that we would face times of frustration and persecution.  This is why Jesus preached about these subjects in the Sermon on the Mount.  He gave His disciples and US promises to cling to in EVERY situation.  (read above if you skipped over it:)

We can stand strong under any attack and remain hopeful when everything and everyone else is telling us to give up.  God will come through for us.  He sees the faithfulness of His people, and He promises a great reward awaiting us in heaven.  

The Sermon on the Mount was so timely for me!  I have been mentally and physically exhausted by all that we are dealing with.  May I remember these Beatitudes and hide them in my heart.  Jesus is near and He can turn every poor situation for our good.  If you have hard situations in your life, read verses 3-13 and hold on to His promises!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus the Healer

Today’s reading is Mark 5.

My wife Paige was not feeling well this last weekend, so as one usually does when one feels sick, we went to the doctor. She was promptly diagnosed with strep throat, we were given a prescription for antibiotics, we picked them up, and went on our way. After a day of rest and medicine, voila – she felt healthy and well again. Not once did we stop along the way and say anything like “hey, I don’t know if this doctor fella really knows what’s up. It might not be worth checking with him, but why not?” Sure, there’s a lot of trust to place on our medical professionals, but when comparing their expertise against the possible consequences of not going to the doctor, putting trust in our doctors is easy to do.

We see Jesus in this chapter healing three people from a range of afflictions. One man is driven mad by a multitude of demons, A woman has uncontrollable bleeding, and a young girl sits on her deathbed of an undisclosed illness. The way Jesus handles these three different situations and brings healing contains some wonderful truths we see in our own lives. All three stories are equally important and worth your time, and we see Jesus wield supreme authority over all things – even beginning to prove to God’s people how death itself can not stand against Him. But for brevity’s sake – it would be way too easy to write for days about this whole passage – I want to specifically focus on a single moment of this scripture that stood out & moved me: when the sick woman approaches Jesus.

In Mark 5:25-28, as Jesus travels towards Capernaum after crossing the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd congregates around him of people excited to see the Jesus they’ve heard so much about. Among the masses is a meek woman, suffering from some medical issue that had caused her to discharge blood for twelve years. The terror and agony this woman’s affliction has wrought her must be tremendous, with no end to her frustration. The passage says “she had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” So for a dozen years, this woman had been seeking care for her illnesses, and with no answers to show for it, she had only continued suffering and nothing but dwindling funds to show for it.

So when this woman takes a chance and pushes her way through the crowd, just for the opportunity to graze Jesus’s clothing knowing that her troubles would be over, we see an incredible display of faith. Mark describes her train of thought simply: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” No “maybe”, no “might as well try”, just “I will be healed.” It is the absolute certainty with which she pushes through the crowd to share that moment with her Savior that relieves her suffering.

Now, it’s easy to see how amazing this display of physical healing is. A woman beset with illness for 12 years that no doctor could cure, healed in an instant by merely touching Jesus! Yes, this is amazing, and a miracle only our Creator could perform. But remember – this is all happening before Jesus died for our sins. At this time, the people of Israel were still living according to the Old Testament and the laws that God has commanded Moses to share with the Israelites. People in Israel at this time were very much under the constraints of purity and holy impurity – and Leviticus’s rules on what made someone ritually unclean. According to Leviticus 15:25, “If a woman has a flow of blood for many days… she is ceremonially unclean.”

This woman’s affliction went beyond physical pain and discomfort – she was exceptionally unclean. Unable to properly worship, and seen as impure in the eyes of those around her due to the suffering she was enduring. Worst of all, she endured ritual separation from God due to her impurity and her unrepentable sin. According to Scripture, only after the bleeding had ended and she could give a burnt offering would she be free to participate in worship and congregate freely. And in the daily life of the Israelite of this time period, worship was a lifestyle & a community, and being unclean meant being cast out from society. For twelve years, this woman was ostracized, forced out of her community, searching desperately for a cure. Even being near this crowd around Jesus and possibly making anyone there unclean as well could have caused an uproar.

In that brief moment that her fingers then could grace Jesus’s cloak, the Lord saw her faith in full display. The message Jesus’s healing sends here is overwhelming: Jesus was the Lord of all, and had complete power over all things. Even, in this instance, Old Testament laws that required animal sacrifice to make up for our sins, as Jesus would eventually go to take the place of Himself. Jesus has shown this woman and the world with this one touch that absolute faith in Him can cast aside any uncleanness and any sin like it was nothing, no matter the severity or duration.

After Jesus tells the woman in Mark 5:34: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering”, we can only imagine the joy in her heart and the weight lifted from her shoulders. But what we can relate to is the freedom Jesus offers. When we ourselves come to Jesus in moments of hope, when we ache for a freedom from our own illnesses of the spirit and only want Him, Jesus says those same sweet words to us every time: “Your faith has healed you, go in peace and be free from your suffering.” Jesus alone can provide the deep and meaningful healing our hearts need. As Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 17:14, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved.” What an amazing Savior we have, who would offer His son as a sacrifice when we need freedom from the suffering we can never afford ourselves! Let us give thanks today to Jesus the Healer, the only one who can save.

– Ross B.

In the Boat

Today’s reading is Mark 4.

Mark 4 is jammed full of great messages and contains four parables, as well as Jesus calming a storm. We will specifically focus on the parable of a seed growing in Mark 4:26-29 and the storm in Mark 4:35-41.

Let’s begin with Mark 4:26-29.

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Easter time of year has caused me to not only have a heightened focus on the forgiveness of my sins through the cross and the promise of eternal life through His resurrection, but also the spread of the Gospel not through kings and queens or dignitaries…but 12 ordinary men. Most were fisherman and Matthew was a tax collector, known to be the worst of sinners. God, through these men, spread the Good News not by force or the sword, but through their faith and the boldness to share it.

This past weekend I went to visit my 99-year-old great Uncle Roy in the hospital. He is the last in our family from the Greatest Generation. He grew up during the Great Depression and fought in Europe in World War II. He faced more challenges and saw more bad things before age 30 than I hope I have to see in my entire lifetime. As I drove a little over an hour to Springfield, I didn’t know if I might find him sleeping and even unaware of my presence. To my surprise, I found him up in his chair wide awake. Although he may be in his final months on this Earth, his mind and memory is as sharp as ever. He shared some really special family stories I had never heard before and will treasure forever. Uncle Roy is related through marriage, so it was very cool when he told me my great grandfather Frank “Tubby” Wilson, his father-in-law, who was deceased before my father was even born, was “the finest man” he ever knew. He said he greatly was respected by many in his hometown, although he was a railroader during the Great Depression and not a prominent leader or businessman, because he cared for and raised his younger siblings when his father passed away young. Most importantly, he told me that Frank and my great grandmother Mayme Wilson were Christians and raised my grandmother and great aunt (Uncle Roy’s wife Almeda) in the church. This relationship with Christ in our family trickled all the way down to my brother and me with our children today.

Just think about this for a second, God used 12 ordinary men who were fearful for their lives when they thought hope was lost because the man they dedicated their life to follow who they thought he would become king died, to just a few days later become fearless to share the Gospel. This ultimately lead to my family knowing Jesus nearly 2,000 years later on a continent which wouldn’t be discovered until nearly 1,500 years later in a country which wouldn’t be founded until nearly 1,800 years later in a city 6,300 miles away (in case you are wondering…yes…I did do a map search from Israel to Beardstown, IL!).

Romans 8:26-27 says..

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

These are powerful verses when it says, “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” The fact that He cared about helping my family know Him that far away nearly 2,000 years later blows my mind. Think of all the things that had to occur between then and now for that to happen! As hard is it is for me to do daily, how can I then not believe He has a plan for and cares about every little detail and perceived “bad thing” that happens in my life? Like these verses from Mark 4, we ”know not how.” But, He connects all the pieces and makes amazing things come from bad things years and years later. His will is always perfect. And..”the will of God” cannot be stopped.

In Mark 4:35:41, the disciples woke Him from sleep in fear for their lives when the boat they were traveling in began to take on water during a terrible a storm. Specifically, Mark 4:40 it states…

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

What He’s really saying is…don’t you remember…”I’m in the boat. I am God.” Or as Psalm 46:10 states… 10 “Be still, and know that I am God…”

As our boats begin to take on water or we fear it might due to the storm which hasn’t even occurred yet from to the weather forecast in our minds (which is usually wrong often like the weather forecast on the news), we must remember to “Be still” and know that He is God. Let our hearts and minds be aware that He always has been..and always will be…in the boat.

What Does God Really Want From Me?

 

 

In less than four months we have flown through an overview of the Old Testament, and just a week ago started into the New. Today we get to look at some of the first miracles Jesus did. Jesus finished filling His team of disciples during this chapter so these miracles took place very early in His ministry.

Easter weekend parts of my extended family gathered to celebrate. After reading through part of John, we had a discussion. A question was posed. Do you think it was easier to believe in Jesus during the time He was living on the earth or do you think it is easier now to believe, having complete scripture available to us? Have you considered this question before? As I read through the Gospels, story after story of Jesus miracles, I can’t help but put myself in the place of the people who had the opportunity to meet Him, hear him speak or even share a meal with Him and wonder what they thought as they encountered Him. If I were a towns person and word spread to me that Jesus was coming to my area to speak, would I have fought the crowds, cancelled plans and made the effort to go see what all the excitement was about? Would I have been willing to investigate if this really was the Son of God or would I have been scared to get sucked into a hoax and stayed away continuing to worship God as I had been taught. I even wonder what I would have thought of Him had I been one of His disciples. As I read Jesus’ teachings and look at the conversations He had with His friends, there are questions. The ones who spent the most time with Him didn’t always understand the big picture. They asked inappropriate questions and told Him He was wrong when He told them how things were going to go down later in His life. As I sit with this question today, I think I am drawn to continue working out my answer because I don’t want to miss out on what God is doing now, today in this world, in my town, in my family, and in my own heart.

Mark 3:1 Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and noticed a man with a deformed hand. The church leaders watched closely to see what He would do. The law said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath so they were using their knowledge of the law to try to get Jesus in trouble. Jesus knew how they were thinking about this situation, so He asked the man to come and stand in front of everyone; the church leaders, the church goers, and Himself.  Then He asked the leaders, “ Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save a life or to destroy it? They wouldn’t answer Him. How could they? Jesus was breaking the letter of the law but loving this man by physically healing him and drawing him into relationship with Himself by giving him a fresh start at life with a whole healthy body. The Pharisees may or may not have been able to know in their hearts that Jesus was right, but they so badly wanted Him to be wrong that they wouldn’t admit it. Especially in public! An admission would have undermined their entire livelihood! Verse 5 says, “ He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hearts.” Then he turned his attention back to the man and healed him.

The Pharisees hearts were not soft to Jesus and they had no desire to learn from Him or follow Him. If they had had real relationship with God, their spirits would have been drawn to Jesus as others were when they encountered Him. I’m guessing that selfishness, (putting themselves above God in their hearts) was ruling their hearts and actions. They wanted the money, prestige and power of “leading” the people. They had to have been afraid of losing their positions, which made Jesus a threat instead of their Savior. I don’t want my heart to be in that condition. I don’t ever want to be found trying to outwit God by turning events, motives, or actions into something they are not. When I am honest with myself, I have to admit I have done it and will do it again, maybe today. The Pharisees sin looks so blatant and obvious to us. We are tempted to judge their choices and feel smug, thinking that we wouldn’t commit such obvious sin in our own lives, but each morning that I start on my to-do list without spending time with Him first, I am being selfish and placing me, (my agenda) ahead of Him in my life. Each time I am unwilling to be interrupted for another person’s need, I am putting myself higher than God in my heart. When I want credit or notice for something I’ve thought of or done, I really want to be most important for just a few seconds instead of giving God His rightful spot. It may flesh out differently for all of us, including the Pharisees, but the principle is the same.

I am hoping that those of us reading Mark 3 today differ a bit from the Pharisees in that we have soft hearts toward God, that we desire to give Him His rightful spot in our lives.  We will miss the mark but I am praying that we will recognize our selfishness and ask God for forgiveness when we do. I hope we desire relationship with God more than anything else in life and that we are allowing God the freedom to work in our hearts and lives so that we miss the mark less and less as time goes on.

For God So Loved the World

John 3

I can’t remember a time that I did not know the words to John 3:16. It’s one of the verses I learned when I was so young that I can’t even remember not knowing it. My first inclination when writing this post was to focus on verses other than that one, simply because, well – we all probably know it already. Reading through the chapter to prepare for today though, that verse kept popping out at me. I started realizing that, probably because of its familiarity, maybe it’s something I take for granted?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

I want us to read this verse today like it’s the first time. Who does God love? The world. Everyone. All of the people of every nation and race, rich and poor, sick and healthy, etc. Jesus tells us God’s love is for each and every individual – no exclusions. Not only that, he loves us even before we acknowledge Him. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“He gave his only Son…” My children are so far from perfect it’s almost difficult to analogize this, but I cannot think of any earthly circumstance in which I would offer up one of them to be tortured and put to death on behalf of someone else. Much less if they other party was guilty and my child was innocent. As parents, we love our children and fiercely protect them from harm. My mind cannot even conceive of the kind of love that God has for the world that he could let His perfect and blameless son die the way he did for ME.

“…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Notice what God asks of us in return? Nothing! Jesus doesn’t start talking about the 10 Commandments and all of the laws and rules of the Old Testament. The gift God gave us was given freely. The gift of Jesus’ death on the cross is for everyone and anyone – The only caveat is that we have to believe in Him. God takes away the punishment for our son in exchange for our Faith.

Challenge yourself today to really meditate on this verse. Think about (1) God’s love being for E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. (something my pride struggles with sometimes); (2) the only thing God of us asks is that we believe (no “to-do” list of good acts before God lets us into heaven); and (3) give thanks to God in prayer for His merciful love.

According To Your Faith

Mark 2

Today’s reading has me thinking about paralysis.  Miriam Webster defines it as being powerless or ineffective.  Today’s story illustrates Jesus miraculous healing of a man that is physically paralyzed.  I picture him lying in a bed, or on a stretcher immobilized, unable to move at all.  I imagine him thinking about things that he would like to do with his life and wonderful things that he wants to experience.  I’m sure the doctors told him its impossible to change.  Those words led only to disappointment and depression.  Yet, something inside of him was still alive.  I think the same is true for us.  No, most of us don’t deal with physical paralysis, but we do struggle with mental paralysis.  think back to the definition.  Where in your life are you powerless and ineffective?

When we are honest, there are many things that we feel powerless over.  I’ll bet that careers, finances and families are among the top answers for that.  We know that our powerlessness is not right.  Intuitively, we know that something is wrong.  That’s why we continually reach for solutions.  Hopefully, we seek out something positive like a book, a friend or a support group.  Unfortunately, we often seek out less beneficial options like a bottle, a pill or isolation.  I wonder how long the paralytic in today’s story sought options like that?  My guess is that he did so continually, until he heard of this man named Jesus.  At that moment, he knew that nothing else would satisfy.

Little did he know the obstacles he would encounter when seeking out Jesus.  In fact, he was completely blocked.  The crowd was so thick and Jesus’ room was so full that not one more body could fit nearby.  And, so it is with us.  The instant we listen to that still, small voice telling us that a better life awaits, obstacles appear.  Maybe it’s an old habit, or perhaps the people we are surrounded with.  Truth is, there are so many things that will block our path of Jesus.  But, like the paralytic, we must find a way.  If we really believe that still, small voice, we will do whatever it takes.  The paralytic found himself on top of the house, being lowered next to Jesus through the roof!  Yes, that sounds extreme.  I believe with all my heart that if we really want to discover the life Jesus has waiting for us, we too must take a seemingly impossible risk.  Ironically, the risk isn’t what we think it is.  The risk is not about blindly taking a leap and hoping things work out.  The risk is about evidence.  Evidence of our faith.

Verse 5 shows us exactly how it worked.  It says, “when Jesus saw their faith.”  Do you know what that means?  It means the actions they took were the evidence of their belief that Jesus was who he said he was.  This happens over and over in the Bible.  Check out Matthew 9:27-31, for example.  Jesus miraculously heals two blind men and cites their faith (v29) for the victory.  My friends, this is not different for us.  The only thing left to evaluate is ourselves.  What actions are we taking that suggest Jesus is our answer to everything?  That is the evidence of our faith.

Father give us a clear picture of who you created us to be.  allow us a glimpse of what our life would look like if given over fully to you and provide us with the courage we need to act accordingly.  Your will be done.