Archive | August, 2015

in & with

29 Aug

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Around the time hormones started messing up my little girl brain, my family took several snowmobile trips in the winter playground of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After driving 8-10 hours, we left cars (with keys in them in case they needed moving for the snowplow) at the last plowed crossroads, tied everything we needed for a week onto toboggans behind Arctic Cats and Ski-Doos, and floated through feet of snow into the white wilderness. I loved the beautiful virgin scenery, but I was the only cautious one in a long line of sleds. Other drivers got stuck and rescued from driving too fast into the unknown well before I got to there. I chugged along at the rear of the line way behind everyone else on the tracks they blazed. Holding everyone else up made me embarrassed and frustrated with myself.

A couple of hours into the early northern darkness, we arrived at camp and unloaded by sled headlights. The cabin was the same temperature as the air outside – every chair, table, and piece of fabric – including bedding – stole heat from anything above zero. We kept our snow suits, even our mittens, on and wished the heat of the fire in the stone fireplace into every corner way faster than physics could keep up. Rather than wedge ourselves into a circle around the small fire (there were about 15 of us), most of us kids headed for bed. Without water to wash up and brush our teeth (snow had to be melted on the cookstove to prime the pump), we lugged sleeping bags and blankets up the ladder into the (even colder) upstairs dorm room. I rolled out my bag on a creaky top bunk and climbed in with my snowsuit still on leaving only a breathing hole for my nose and mouth.

And then it began.

I sobbed, shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t like being the center of attention or exposing raw emotion, and that made me cry harder. After a few minutes, my dad came up and asked what he could do for me. It was sweet for him, but I was really embarrassed about the crying and probably said something like, “I’m OK.” He went back downstairs, and I started crying again. I wept until I fell into an exhausted and stressed-out sleep.

———-

After being gone on a ministry tour during which they healed people and drove out demons, the disciples witnessed an incredible miracle. Somehow they had fed 5000 men (with women and children) using a couple of fish and loaves of bread. Immediately after, Jesus sent them off by boat, and he went up the mountain to pray.

They were most likely exhausted mentally and physically as they struggled to row against a storm that came up. (I can imagine as they boarded they assumed the nightly land breeze would enable them to sail across without effort as they slept.) If this isn’t enough, they see a ghost walking toward them on the water!

At this point Jesus did something beautifully simple. When the disciples called out in fear, he got in the boat with them.

Presence is powerful.

In my preteen hysteria, I didn’t know what I needed. Looking back, I think I just needed my daddy to hold me. I needed him. He wanted to “fix it” for me; he didn’t realize he was the fix.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

In the account of these events in Mark  6 Jesus gave the disciples (and us) a concrete picture of one aspect of what takes place during worship. After the disciples had come to the end of themselves and their ability, life continued to hammer them. In their fear and exhaustion they needed Jesus. And he shows up!

Much is said about relationship when talking about worship– for good reason. The disciples didn’t need intellectual assistance or advice. Another boat coming to the rescue wouldn’t have been much help. They needed their Teacher, their Lord, and he climbed in the boat with them.

He was, and still is, the fix.

 

 

 

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Glimpse of Jesus’ Heart

22 Aug

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All around Jesus the cries of his followers proclaimed:

Hosanna!”

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

The praises rang out so loudly the Pharisees feared reprisals from the Roman governor for disturbing the peace. They told Jesus to quiet his followers, and Jesus replied, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Much can be learned about worship in this exchange in Luke 19, but the juxtaposition with the next passage is what grabs my heart as I read this morning:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

The crowd exalted Jesus at the top of their lungs– loud raucous praises filled the road from the Mount of Olives into the city. As they rounded a bend, Jesus saw Jerusalem and wept. Silent tears did not slip down his cheeks, the Greek word for wept means to convulse into sobs– the kind that would erupt from a father at the sudden death of his son.

Can you see it?

The crowd, wild with delight that their King has come at last, praises the Son of Man while his body shakes with unspeakable sorrow.

Did anyone notice? Did the crowd stop cheering? One by one, did they drop their arms and palm branches turning to one another in confusion? Did anyone ask Jesus what broke his heart? When he was finally able to speak and describe his pain, did anyone respond? If someone did, no record of it exists.

What we do know is that, as people praised the One who could save* them, they glimpsed his heart for those who don’t know him.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Often my worship of God with other believers is concerned with our relationship with Jesus – how much he loves us, that he has forgiven us of all our sins, when we’ll see him in heaven, etc. These are wonderful reasons to praise him and glorious realities to contemplate as we worship.

I’m not sure, however, that I have ever tried to glimpse his heart and see what breaks it during worship. Tomorrow will be the first time.

Will you join me?

———-

*Hosanna means: God saves

Outsiders on the Inside

16 Aug

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2

 

The Christians Peter wrote to were outsiders, scattered all over the Roman Empire, not clustered together in Jerusalem. Outsiders, especially in the First Century lived at the bottom of society. If they had a job it was most likely feeding pigs or washing feet. Some were probably beaten, others had their possessions confiscated, and most likely anyone trying to climb socially avoided them altogether.

These undesirables focused not outwardly, but on their relationship with God. While they saw the haves and the standard of living they enjoyed from the outside, they saw life from the inside of the Kingdom! These believers knew the sanctifying work of the Spirit and the regenerating power of Jesus’ blood.

And they possessed grace and peace – possessions of which those around them knew very little.

The mathematical word multiplied means an abundant increase in something that exists already. Elementary math students know that zero cannot be a multiplier. In other words, zero can’t be reproduced into two or three (or any other number of) piles. It literally doesn’t compute. In order for grace and peace to be multiplied to the Christians Peter addressed, by definition they must already possess them to some degree. In this introduction of his first letter, Peter prays that God will multiply, bestow a many-fold increase in, the amount they already have.

Peter knew what it was to be harassed– and he knew how much greater the grace and peace of God were compared to the life’s difficulties. He reminds his readers that the grace and peace of Jesus do not simply negate the hard stuff of life, they exponentially surpass it.

Abundance is a God-sized concept. He lavishes blessings like grace and peace on us until they fill and overflow our finite containers, spilling over onto those around us.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

Put all the hard stuff of you life in one place in your head. Or make an actual list. Include the unfair, as well as things you deserve, that hurt and make life difficult.

Now, in your heart gather up what you have in Christ, all of which you (and I) don’t deserve: grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, joy, eternal life, inheritance with Christ, a new heart…

Now compare lists.

The troubles we have in this world don’t come close to what we have in Christ. I’m ready to worship God now; I don’t have to wait for Sunday!

Back?

16 Aug

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Several times over the past month, I have had opportunities to lead devotionals before worship. Perhaps I will resume posting weekly. For now at least, I will post as the Lord leads, and let him decide if this will become a weekly routine again.

Thanks for reading.

As always, I welcome your comments as we learn together how to be worshipers in spirit and truth.

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