Meet Jesus: Fastened ….GSJ6

fastenerJesus is fastened to the idea that our service is to God first in private and men second in private when necessary.

Matthew 6:16: And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17: But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18: that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Fast is Slow: Jesus’ fast was always one of dealing between Him and the Father. It goes along with the old English definition of suffering. To suffer means to allow, quietly. For Jesus it was incredibly important that your dealings with the Father not be public until it was absolutely necessary. Our challenge is to be quiet about the sufferings in our lives, especially the chosen ones. Jesus is fastened to the idea that our service is to God first in private and men second in private when necessary.

 Sally’s Commitment: Sally was committed to seeing her friend blessed.  Life had been cruel to Jake.  Sure, he had made plenty of mistakes.  That was not the point.  He needed a breakthrough in his relationships and his finances.  He needed to get on solid ground to start over.  She was committed to pray for his breakthrough.  For a week, she took time every day to listen to God for Jake and pray blessing over his life.  Jake was on his way to a new life in Christ through Sally’s prayer and fastened commitment.

This devotion is #6 of a bigger storyline… Watch the category GSJ Story for miniseries.

ACT! Start a fast. Maybe just one day. Stay away from whatever food group you love the most. Do it just to draw closer to God.

PRAY! Faithful Father, in Jesus I have all the strength necessary to fast His way. I repent of being more concerned about public recognition than that for which I have fasted. Allow me Father to continue to grow strong in you. Fasten me to Your presence. Fasten in me the concept that it is Your worship that is important. It is Your recognition by me that is important.

Meet Jesus: Us Too …GSJ5

domeNo body treats me as good and forgiving as He does.  And He expects me to do the same for others.

Matthew 6:14: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Do Me Like Jesus: Funny thing about Jesus, what His Father does, He does.  What He does, He expects us to do.  So He expects us to do like His Father.  An old song sings, “Can’t nobody do me like Jesus.  Can’t nobody do me like the Lord.”  That is true.  No body treats me as good and forgiving as He does.  And He expects me to do the same for others.

Team: Leadership was all about example to Greg.  Over and over he mulled on the characteristics he needed on the team for the new member.  They did not need to have a lot of experience leading others.  It was more important that they had experience leading themselves.  How had they handled life?  How had they advanced their skills?  How had they overlooked others’ problems in light of their own?  Could they handle rejection of ideas without personalizing?  Could they give examples of having to just accept offenses and get the job done?  

 Those thoughts pushed into his mind and challenged him in his own life.   How had he been doing in being gracious to his co-workers?  What about his family?  What about his friends?  Again, he went to prayer as he realized he was holding some things against other managers.  He needed to get those settled and forgiven in his heart before he brought on a new team member.  Otherwise, his angst would overflow onto the team.

This devotion is #5 of a bigger storyline… Watch the category GSJ Story for miniseries.

ACT! What did God forgive you of yesterday?  Who needs your forgiveness?  Write it off!  Quit looking for payback.  Set them free.  Don’t even ask them to say, “I’m sorry.”

PRAY!  Father, my hide is so tough.  I like to do things my way.  When I am honest, I know I would just like to do what I like to do.  Help me forgive and forget.  Help me not hold anything “against” another person.  Help me be like You.   Show me something to forgive today.  Help me take a burr out from under my saddle and get free.

Meet Jesus: Cleary Eyed …GSJ10

He wants us to have the dust out of our eyes so we can see clearly.

Matthew 7:5: Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

 Home Front: Mind the home front first.  Jesus is repetitive on this point.  Taking care of ourselves is His focus for us.

Windy: This area I live in has a constant wind blowing.  Sometimes the wind is 5 miles an hour.  Sometimes the wind is 25 miles an hour.  Always it is blowing dust and particles up into the air and eyes.  That can leave you bleary-eyed.  I keep a bottle of saline solution in my desk against those days when I catch something in the walk from the parking lot to the office.  It helps clear out any particle that blew in.  Even the smallest particle of dust can cause my vision to be clouded.

Clear: How can you focus when you are bleary-eyed?  Jesus wants us to be cleary-eyed.  He wants us to have the dust out of our eyes so we can see clearly.

Greg’s Hobnob: Greg’s feelings of joy were not echoed by Jake.  Greg was happy to see an old friend coming to his church.  Jake was not happy.  He and Greg had been friend’s years before.  Then Greg started hobnobbing with some do-gooders and would have nothing to do with him.  Those were painful memories for Jake.  Those emotions washed up on the shore of his mind as he walked.  Funny, how something from that long ago still affected him.  He was getting angry.  His wife was looking at him oddly wondering what was going on and what was getting ready to happen.  This is how he looked when he came home drinking.

This devotion is #10 of a bigger storyline… Watch the category GSJ Story for miniseries.

ACT!  Get some particle out.  Want is going on in your life that needs washed out?  Is someone else’s particle in your eye and you just need to be looking elsewhere?

PRAY! Father, help me be cleary-eyed.  Help me to tend to my business with You instead of worrying about others.  Surely, they have enough dust of their own.  Surely I need to keep my eyes clear.  Help me stay out of other’s activities in judgement.  Sufficient for me are the issues to which I need to tend.

Meet Jesus: Forgiveness …GSJ3

allowThere is a place in Jesus where we can just sit right down and not worry about anything.

Matthew 6:12: And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

 A Place To Rest: Forgiveness feels good.   When we meet the release of guilt, we relax.  That is purposeful.  In Jesus, we find a place to relax.  Yes, He can be a place as much as our friend and God.  There is a place in Jesus where we can just sit right down and not worry about anything.  The past dissipates.  The pain of mistakes subsides.  We lay our head in His lap and great heaves of breath take away the memories.  Remember to be the same for others in Him.

Character Meets Greg:  Attitude had always been important to Greg.  As he thought of the character traits he’d like to see in the new team member, forgiveness came to the front.  This was a tough assignment for someone.  There were years of resistance to the project the team was pursuing.  Tempers would flare.  People would be upset.  This new member needed to bring some forgiveness with them. As much as they would need excellent technical and communication skills, they needed a keen attitude of not taking up grievances and not holding grudges.  Greg went back to prayer.

 This devotion is #3 of a bigger storyline… Watch the category GSJ Story for miniseries.

ACT!  Sit down with Jesus for a moment.  Just enjoy not being guilty.

PRAY! Father of Forgiveness, it just feels wonderful to be with You.  Sitting at Your right hand with Jesus is a wonderful place of release.  So many times, Father, I can get caught up in the press of the day and the pursuit of power and accomplishment.  Help me get caught up in You.  Help me get caught up in Your wonderful presence in which there is nothing but joy.

Meet Jesus : Daily Provider …GSJ2

Each means the manna for the day is enough.  Don’t worry about tomorrow’s manna.

 Matthew 6:11: Give us this day our daily bread.

 Enough: Jehovah Jireh in the Old Testament was a name for God that foreshadowed this text of prayer.  In Jesus, we meet The LORD, Our Provider.  Provider is a compound Latin word just as ji-reh is a compound Hebrew word.  Each means “to see beforehand”.  Each means that the “pro-vision” for the journey is in the path waiting for us each day.  Each means the manna for the day is enough.  Don’t worry about tomorrow’s manna.

Sure Enough: Sally had been praying for her friend for months.  The job he had was good, but not what he wanted.  Family had to take second place to every decision of the company.  Her friend, Jake, was struggling.  His marriage was strained.  His time with his kids was pressed.  He had lost many years of good time with his family.  Maybe God could provide him a different opportunity.  She was encouraged after talking with Greg.  A new opportunity in Greg’s office might be Jake’s answer.  God could provide.

 This devotion is #2 of a bigger storyline… Watch the category GSJ Story for miniseries.

ACT! Take one worry about what you will need for today and throw it away. That’s right, throw it away.  Place it on the altar of prayer and don’t look back all day.

PRAY! Jehovah Jireh, You are my vision before I get there.  You have put in my path all that is necessary for life and Godliness.  You have made me a partaker of Your divine nature.  You have ordered my steps.  You have made my lines to fall in pleasant places.  Thank You, Father, for giving me my daily bread.  Thank You that in Jesus I have all I need every day according to Your riches in glory in Him.

Meet Jesus: Integral

 meetjesusnearathandHow in this world can our righteousness exceed that of the most religious?  

Matthew 5: 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus calls us to a higher place than religion.  It is not the place of pious righteousness born of obeisance to which He calls us.  Did that make sense?  It is not surface righteousness He wants.  It is not doing great motions that He wants.  He wants righteousness born of the spirit of the heart.  He wants our desires for living like God.  This goes beyond the righteousness of religion.

 

A story: Sharon was looking.  So often she had seen religion in the lives of others.  That did not appeal to her.  She wanted something more.  She wanted relationship and meaning in her life.  How could she find it?  This group that met on Tuesday nights seemed to have something more.  Her coworker had convinced her to go the first time.  There was something in them more than just their bible-book and talk.  She wondered what it was.

ACT!  Is there a hunger for right living in you?  Is it bigger than just what you do, but how you think?

PRAY!  Father, where is the place of peace I seek.  In my life there are many mistakes.  So many times, I’ve lost sight of the goodness You want for me.  So many times, I have tried and failed to live up to Your ways and laws.  But, I want to follow You.  I want to live for You.  I want to connect with Your love every day and every hour.  Peace me, Father.  Flow the presence of Your Holy Spirit into me in new ways.  Break the old mold of my life and breathe something new in me.  Make my love for You fresh and vibrant.  Break me.

 

You may lose a life. But, you may gain a future.

copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

Ezekiel 47:9  And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.

You may lose a life.  But you may gain a future.

Days of Tornados

Every day we struggle with the immensity of life and death.  Both are enormous.  Both require tenacity.  Both require courage.  In Oklahoma City, we face another tragedy of epic proportions.  Some would refer to biblical proportions.  Many stories recorded in our Bible are such immense acts of God and people that they can appear unbelievable.  Trust me this morning seems unbelievable.

Last year my family and I lost many friends and members of the clans.  Age, accident, and disease ripped loved ones from our vision and arms.  In just a few weeks, the impact reached from California to Oklahoma to Mexico and touched close to my wife, my children, my friends and me.

Last year my job and work family was torn from my hands in the same weeks when these deaths occurred.  Insurance, office, and just a place to get up and go to work and see friends disappeared in a moment of reorganization and decisions in back rooms.

Last year my wife and I flew upside down at 65 miles per hour in our car landing intact in body but a total loss of vehicle we had just bought.  This happened in the same few weeks as the other disasters of loss.

You may lose a life.  But you may gain a future.

We lost our lives. The familiar is gone forever in many instances.  Months of rethinking and rebuilding create a new future.  The old is gone.  It is gone.  It is dead.  It is passed.  Like a dear friendship accumulated over 50 years, I cannot have coffee with him anymore.  I cannot laugh in the hallways of my old life and friendships, for the hallways are not there.  It is not the first time tragedy has struck and will not be the last.  It is the first time of such immensity and scope and hopefully the last of such proportion.   Life is full of passing and coming.  We pray it happens gradually and we have emotional landscape on which to recover.

This Pales.  May 20th, 2013 families lost children at school, their home, their neighborhood, their neighbors, all their possessions, their work place, their memories and familiar turn points as they drove the same streets for years.  Today, they do not even know where they are standing in front of what used to be a house.  There are no familiar landmarks on which to lean and position thinking.  They lost their lives.  Yes, they may be physically alive.  But they lost their lives.  The death count is not 91. The death count is uncountable.

Gain a Future: Now this morning they must start the work of gaining the future.  The future must be grasped and brought into reality.  That is not easy and will take many friends.

Every morning, I enter a strange new land of new friendships and new relationships.  What took a lifetime to build takes another lifetime to build.  I don’t have another lifetime. Do I?

Build:

Can God build a lifetime in a few months?  Yes.

Can God restore fortunes that took decades of labor and saving in a few weeks?  Yes.

Can God bring new friendships and loving relationships? Yes.

Does that replace what we have lost?  No.

You may lose a life.  But, you may gain a future.

What is lost is lost.  A new friendship does not replace an old one. The old one lingers in memory and mixed emotions.  It is not meant to be replaced.  A future must be grasped.

Grief Changes You: Many times I tell friends in grief, “You do not pass through grief.  It changes you.  The pain of loss only begins to heal when you can see the future without what you have lost.  You must be able to grasp a vision of the future without that person or item in it.  Allow grief to change you.  You become a different person.”

Grief comes in waves.  It can be too painful to process at once.  Tsunami grief can strangle a future and lock us in pain.  Ride the waves and grow stronger.  So how does one handle massive and complicated and expansive loss?  A week and even an entire month passes and I can’t even remember all that happened.  Pain dulls the senses.

Change: I really don’t have the answer, because I am being changed into this future person.  He is different than the old man and in some ways the same.  We are human beings.  We are humans being.   It is the business of being that consumes us, morphs us, moves us, changes us and passes us through life and death, through coming and passing.

There is nothing ugly or evil about living and dying.  It is what it is. The normalcy of it can be called evil.

Defiant: In Oklahoma, we laugh about our defiant men, who when tornados come, run outside to watch.  With hubris, we look up in the fearsome clouds and talk to them.  “Move on”, we declare.  “Get out of my neighborhood.”  And, most times, it seems to work.  We go back to our homes where wife and kids are huddled under the stair well or in the bath tub or down in a safe room and say, “See, it is all gone, come out now.” Our defiance of evil pushes it aside.  Yet, sometimes it does not work and we have no answers for that day.  But, we will defiantly and resolutely stand in the face of such evil again and again and grasp our future. We are made of sterner stuff, we are the Oklahoma Standard.

Pain: It does not mean the pain subsides with a flippant face.  It means we must grasp the future with pain in tow.

Attitude: It does not mean the loss is lessened with a conquering attitude.  It means living in loss is unacceptable if you want to stay alive.

Another: Another loss is coming.  Another gain is coming.  Life is about the living through comings and goings.

So  let us pray!

Father, You are the God of the Future.  Every morning is new with You.  Every grace comes fresh with the rising of the sun and the changes of our lives.  You do not view death as final but You view death as entry to the next opportunity for life.  In You, we never die.  In You, we continue.  We move forward.  We change.  We are changed.  In You, we can live and move and have our being.  No matter the pain or problem or pressure.  In You is all we need. 

When a piece dies and goes on, we are still ready for the next living breath and living moment.  Death, where is your sting?  Grave, where is your victory.  We continue into the future in Christ.

Father, I pray those around me find this reality.  Without You all is death.  With You all is alive into the next moment.  You have no end.  Those in You have no end.

Show us.  Let us grieve into becoming our next self and next victory.  Let us die to the old and live to the new.  In You.

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Meet Jesus: Comforted Matthew 5:1

refreshFeeling a little dour today over a loss?  Read on….

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, ….. 4: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 

 Meeting Jesus means connecting with comfort.  Life is full of disconcerting events.  Comfort is a sure provision for the mournful, not for the moanful.  So often, we can connect with hard events and moan about our circumstances.  Moan and mourn are not the same.  Mourn focuses on the loss of a person we love.  Moan focuses on us and our present perceived personal pain.  We can moan over loss of a job, loss of a dog, loss of anything or anyone that had our affection.   Mourn is about the other person.  It is about the pain of the loss of removal of a loved one or some part of that loved one.  Mourning may be over abuse instigated against someone we love.  There is a piece of their future lost.  We mourn the loss on their behalf.  Mourning most time is over the loss of a loved one to this planet.  Jesus promises blessing to those who mourn.  They are in a position of pain on the account of another human being.  They will be comforted.  Take heart, there is comfort for those that love and mourn.  There is no real mourning without love.

 Charle’s Story: Charles was distraught in his soul.  For years, he had invested time and energy into this congregation.  Now, it had fallen on hardness.  Leadership had moved a destructive direction.  So many families now were simply sitting at home and not joined to any local congregation.  His heart was heavy.  At times, he moaned in prayer for restoration of his friends to a brighter life in Christ.  It hurt.  It was a mourning for them that would not leave him even five years after the cataclysm.

As he walked to his car from the coffee shop the sound of a familiar voice broke his dour mood.  The lilt in the greeting surprised him.  From eight cars away, a familiar face from five years ago beamed at him.  “Pastor Charles, remember me?  I go to Old Church.  Have a great day!  Glad to see you.”  It was a blessing.   It was a comfort.  Here was a face from long past that he had forgotten.  There was joy in the face and happiness in the voice.  His mood was lifted and comfort came in.

ACT!  For whom do you mourn?  Take a few minutes to think of some great joy they gave to you or even a little one.  Let a little light of comfort enter into the darkness.

 PRAY!   Father, there are moments of mourning that seem to overwhelm my soul.  My heart becomes dreary.   The slightest smile eludes my face.  Brighten me, Father.  Send some of that comfort my direction.  And, Father, let me find words to comfort another.  Let me find a way to speak a message that sends the hope into a heart of a future not a loss.  There is a future in comfort.  There is a surety of a brighter day on the other side of mourning.   There is a promise that joy can be heard in the morning after mourning.   There is the life of a new baby blessing the future to bring comfort.

Meet Jesus: Poor in Spirit Matthew 5:1

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

 Poor by Choice: For Jesus, there is a route to blessing that is markedly different than our thoughts.  The poor in spirit are those who purposefully humble themselves in relation to God.  These are those that rightly discern their poverty in relation to a great God over all the earth.  They do not pursue arguing with God, because they acknowledge Him as above and themselves as below.  Jesus is that way.  He confirmed that He only said what His Father told Him and only did what His Father instructed in the gospel of John.  He was one that did not consider it something to grab hold and keep to be equal with God, but humbled Himself in relation to the Father and became a man.  He exampled poor in spirit for us to see.

 One Family’s Test:  A situation comes to mind as I ponder this scripture.  One family came to me rocked with enigmas. Questions about life and death and healing and answers to prayer were coming with forcefulness.  Like all of us they faced a reality they did not want to face. The person had died.  This mother of four had her life cut short.  How could God allow such a thing?   Why did He not do as we imagined and simply grant a request for healing here on earth?  Did the scripture not say we could have whatever we willed?  Surely God must do what we ask?

These are all valid questions that seem to have no answers.

 The second question posed stronger.  What did God want us to do today?  Regardless of our understanding or lack of understanding of the situation at hand, what did He want us to do now?  Now that this mother and grandmother was gone, what was to be our walk in the kingdom of heaven this day?   Do we quit praying and believing?  Do we continue in prayer?  If He did not heal here and now would He hear our prayers for peace of mind and acceptance of a life without our lifelong friend? On the flip side of the coin, could we experience more of His kingdom by giving Him the benefit of our doubt or by doubting His benefit?

 Answers: It is tough stuff, but the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. Life requires us to relinquish our rights and demands and allow the wisdom and the hand of God to play out.  A heart of Jesus leads us to absorb the pains and confusions and admit we just don’t know all the answers, yet we will trust Him.  In the beginning of the new life with a loved one gone, this family chose to continue in trust with questions unanswered.  Sometimes that is all we can do.  It requires making a choice to be poor in spirit and large in faith.

 ACT!  Can you lay down your understanding and demands to find the newer will of God for your walk in the kingdom?  What does it take to become one poor in spirit and committed to His will being done on earth as it is in heaven, unquestioningly?  Test Him out.  Volunteer your ideas for His.

PRAY! God, You are God.  Me, I’m just me.  You are the greatest God of life and living.  The answers I don’t understand, You create.  Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  When I just about figure out life, You are bigger and greater than my wisdoms.   Teach me to obey.  Teach me to walk close to Your breathing.  Teach me to walk in Your ways even when I do not understand.  Then You will open new wisdoms for me.  Then You will open the windows of understanding on the other side of obedience.

Meet Jesus: Healer Matthew 4:23

meetjesushealerMatthew 4: 23: And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

 If anything, Jesus is a healer.  When you connect with Him, you connect with solutions for sickness, peace for pain, and elimination of disease.  All of that stuff is decidedly a curse on us due to our sin condition.  Jesus came to remove the curse.  All descriptions, forms, and expressions of destruction flee in His presence.

Last year was another learning experience for me.  After six months of sickness, the Healer appeared.   Really, I was looking for Him not healing, when He came.

For six months, I had suffered acid reflux.  For six months, I had not slept a full night.  For six months, I had altered eating, resting, and other habits.  For six months, I had followed the doctor’s orders and taken my pills.  Nothing worked.

While going through scripture in my personal study, I noticed the condition was gone.  For four days, I had slept with no problems.  While looking for Him in the scripture instead of looking for healing, I had found both.  He removed my curse while looking to Him the author and finisher of my faith.

ACT!  What dis-ease has attached itself to you?  Name it.  Don’t be afraid.  He is present to heal. Give it to Him for solution.

 PRAY!  Father, all descriptions, forms, and expressions of destruction must flee in the presence of Your Incredible Son, Jesus.  Jesus, You are here.  You are my master, my Lord, my Savior, my soon coming King.  I submit myself and my dis-eases to the healing of Your presence.  Jesus, meet me in the chamber of healing.  Friend and brother, release me from my pain.