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Sunday, January 27, 2019

the thief

Opening Prayer: You, Lord Jesus, are the good shepherd.  You love me, protect me, provide for me, lead me, and guide me.  Let me hear your voice this day that I may follow you alone, and experience the abundant life you created me for.  Amen.

Scripture: John 10:1-18

Journal: How are you allowing the thief to kill and steal and destroy in your life these days?  What would it look like to allow the Good Shepherd to protect you from his attacks?  Will you let him?

Reflection: “The thief comes to kill and steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
     The thief.  What a perfect description of who our enemy is and how he goes about his business.  He comes when we are not looking, when we are not paying attention, when we least expect it, and he kills and steals and destroys.  Notice it doesn’t say he kills or steals or destroys.  It says he kills and steals and destroys—all of the above.
     He kills our dreams and our hopes and our faith by convincing us to believe his lies.  He steals our joy and our delight and our trust by making us believe things about ourselves and about our God that are simply not true.  He destroys our peace and our love and our gratitude by getting us consumed with ourselves and our circumstances—filling us with anxiety and insecurity and frustration.  And most of the time we don’t even realize that he is the one behind all of these things.  It’s simply masterful.
     So when Jesus draws our attention to the thief, and to his ways, it causes us to stop and say, “Hey, wait a minute.  What’s going on here?  Why on earth am I allowing this “thief” to come and go as he pleases?  Why do I continue to allow him to wreak havoc in my life?”  For if we were to realize that it is indeed the thief that is behind all of this carnage, we would not continue to allow him to operate unhindered.
     Maybe that’s why Jesus calls himself both the gate (John 10:9) and the good shepherd (John 10:11) in this passage, because he knows we are in desperate need of both.  We need Jesus to keep the thief out and keep him from coming and going as he pleases.  And we need Jesus to continually speak to our hearts and remind us of the truth of who we are in him.  We need his protection and we need his affection.  We are his sheep.  And his sheep must recognize his voice and run away from the voice of the “stranger.”  The voice of Jesus, our good shepherd, calls us by name and leads us out, into the truth.  The truth that sets us free. 
     So today I must say yes to the voice of the good shepherd and I must say “no, not today” to the voice of the one who comes to kill and steal and destroy.  That is the only way I will be able to experience the life and the abundance that Jesus promises.

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that you do not steal and kill and destroy, but that you give abundant life.  Empower me now, O Lord, to stand against the thief who is constantly trying to rob and deceive me, and help me to listen to your voice of truth, which alone can set me free.  Amen.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

being and doing

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us never to get distracted from the one thing because of the many things.  

Scripture: Luke 10:38-42

Journal: What is the relationship between being and doing in your life right now?  What do you think Jesus wants it to look like?  How does this passage speak to that?

Reflection: I have a dear friend who likes to say, "Being is more important than doing, and doing is really important."  I like that a lot.  It takes into account that there are so many necessary things in need of being done, while, at the same time, remembering that the only way to do them well is to do them from a full heart and soul—to do them from a place of overflow and abundance, rather than a place of desperation and scarcity. 
     It is the tension we live in when we are confronted with the words of Jesus to Martha and her sister Mary in Luke 10:41-42: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."  Or, in other words, "Don't get so busy doing things for Jesus that you forget to spend time with Jesus."  It is the being with that gives the doing for its power and fruitfulness.
     So let us consider, this day, how and when and where we will be with Jesus in a way that empowers and enables us to do things for Jesus.  Let us not allow the "many things" to distract us from the "one thing."

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, help everything we do flow from a state of constantly being with you.  Amen.


Monday, January 21, 2019

become

Opening Prayer: Remake me, O God, into the beautiful image you had of me before the foundations of the world. Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 139:14-18

Journal: Who are you becoming these days?  What is God’s dream for you?

Reflection:

     becoming

there is a dreamer
dreaming you

there is a you
so beautiful
and so pure
that still exists
somewhere beneath
the brokenness
and dysfunction

it is a you 
that has been
lost sight of
a you that
you no longer
believe in

but in spite of
all the wreckage
the dream still remains
buried somewhere
beneath the rubble

it is the image 
of the one who 
breathed you into being
with the divine breath
of his very own mouth
and longs to breathe
you once again

but this rebirth
cannot be achieved 
or earned
you cannot work
your way back
to this eden
you can only
be taken there 

give me your hand

Prayer

Closing Prayer: O God, make me back into the dream you initially had of me when you breathed me into being.  Help me to never settle for anything less.  Amen.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

repent and believe

Opening Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help me to repent and believe in the good news, for the kingdom of God is near.  Amen.

Scripture: Mark 1:14-18

Journal: What do the words repent and believe stir up in you?  How are they related?  How are they present in your life these days?  Which one is harder for you?  Why?

Reflection: The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)  I love that Jesus reminds us that repent and believe are a package deal.  One really does no good apart from the other.  All too often I forget that.
     I get repentance.  I really do.  In fact, during the course of a day I usually turn (or return) to Jesus over and over and over again.  My problem typically comes with the belief part.  It is the belief part that gives the repent part its power and its substance.
     If I repent and then fail to really believe that repentance makes all things new again, then it does little good.  I am still trying to earn my way back to Jesus.  If I repent and fail to really believe that God sees me the way he says he sees me, then I will continue to perform and try to make myself worthy of his love and forgiveness.  If I repent and fail to believe that what God says about me is really true, I will continue to be at the mercy of my own (false) inner narratives.
     Repent and believe means that the narrative of Jesus is the one that determines my life and my actions.  The narrative that says, “I love you.  You are mine.  Nothing in this world can ever change that.  You are valuable because I made you, because I dreamt you into being, because I created you fearfully and wonderfully.  You are my masterpiece, my poem, my work of art.  I imaged you before the foundations of the world and I breathed you into being with the breath of my mouth.  When I think of you it brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.  Live your life out of that love and affection.”  
     Now THAT is good news! 

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Help me to see, Lord Jesus, that repent and believe are a package deal.  Show me the places in my life where one, or both, are missing.  And help me to hold the two in harmony, that I might live the life you created me to live.  Amen.

Friday, January 4, 2019

done

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that we are clean and righteous and holy in you.  Now help us to live like it.  Help us to live our lives in loving response to the amazing gift that has already been given.  Help us to rest in the completed work that has already been done.  It is enough, nothing need be added.  Thank you!

Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-4

Journal: Is God’s purification for your sins enough for you?  How do you try to add to it?

Reflection: After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:3).  
     No High Priest ever sits down; mostly because his work is never done.  There is a constant need for sacrifice, because of the continual presence of sin.  Yet Jesus sat down.  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down.  Mission accomplished.  Work done.  It is finished.    
     Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was enough; nothing else needs to be added.  But the question is: Do we let it be enough?  Do we allow his sacrifice be enough for us?  And do we let it be enough for those in our lives?  Or do we constantly feel the need to add to it?  
     It seems like we are always tempted to try and add something.  In addition to his sacrifice, we somehow feel the need to add our own efforts, in order to work our way back into his good graces.  The problem is that we are already there.  All we need to do is repent—to turn back to Jesus—and let his finished work be enough.  Allow his work on the cross to be complete, and to receive it and rest in it.  To also sit down, if you will.
     I guess we do this because that is typically how human relationships work.  We might apologize to someone for how we have hurt them or let them down, and they might even offer us their forgiveness, but we are not na├»ve enough to believe that it ends there.  We are also going to have to work our way back into their good graces.  Which is a funny expression, because grace is not something that can be worked for.  But we—subtly, and not so subtly— demand it of each other.  We know the truth.  We know that we aren’t really going to be forgiven until we have earned it.  And even if it is ever truly forgiven, it will likely never be forgotten.
     Yet God tells us a completely different story.  He tells us that he will remember our sins no more. (Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:12, and Heb. 10:17)  There is no need to work our way back into his good graces for we—because of the finished work of Christ—are already there.  There is nothing else to add.  We can rest in the completed work of Christ.
     So let me ask you a question: Is God’s completed work on the cross enough for you?  Is it really done?  Or are you constantly trying to add to it?  Are you constantly trying to work or earn your way back to him?  And is the completed work of Christ enough for those in your life who constantly disappoint you and let you down?  What would it look like in those relationships if you chose to do what God does—to say it is finished, the work is done?  How different would our lives and relationships be?

Prayer

Closing Prayer:  Lord Jesus, thank you that you sat down.  Thank you that your purification of us is done.  Help us to rest in your completed work on the cross, and sit down ourselves.  Amen.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

new year's day 2019

Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, as I close the door on this old year, I ponder on the things I’ve done…on the things I’ve said and the joys I’ve had…then I wonder, have I lost or won?  I’ve thought of the new friends I have made, and of the old ones staunch and true…the path of the old year was made easier Lord, because I have walked it with You.

I think of all the many times, when my burdens were so heavy to bear, and how my faith slipped away from me…but somehow You were always standing there.  Now as I open the door to this New Year, and carefully peep inside, I wonder what it holds for me…but I’ll throw the door open wide.  And whatever it brings to me and mine, I’ll meet it with a heart so true…I know that, Lord whate’er it may be, You’ll be there to carry me through. ~Merrel Thompson

Scripture: Psalm 96:1-13

Journal: What new song will you sing to the Lord in the coming year?  What song is he singing in and through you?

Reflection:

I believe in all that has never been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me.
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If it is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through the widening channels
into the open sea.
(The Book of Hours, I 12, by Rainer Maria Rilke)

Prayer

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, in the year ahead: help me to live more like you lived, help me to care more like you cared, help me to serve more like you served, and help me to love more like you loved.  May I be more like you at the end of the year than I was at the beginning.  By your grace and power.  Amen.