I have spent the majority of my life in central Indiana. I am a graduate of North centeral High School. I love to travel to visit family, especially my four nieces and nephews who live in Southeast Asia. I am the youngest of three. My oldest sister has Down Syndrome. After graduating from College, I began working at a church and for over 17 years served as a youth pastor and a caring ministries pastor. Currently, I am a Marriage and Family Therapist continuing in ministry through a different context.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the first believers of Jesus. The teachings of Jesus were so new and fresh and life changing. I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart when I was 6. I’ve lived with Jesus’ teaching my whole life. How do I live like those first believers? How do live with their excitement over Jesus?
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:15 NIV
These words by Jesus along with how He lived His life spark that joy and awe in me. Our God calls me…you…friend. What God does that? Ours does!! How does that change you? How do the following verses in our reading change you?
“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
John 16:22 NIV
““I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.””
John 16:33 NIV
“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”
John 17:11 NIV
Hear His words as if they are for the first time. This is your God.
Dear God, this is just a fraction of the words you have spoken over us. Soften our hearts, Lord, to your words. May we be moved by them and compelled to hear more and desire more. Fill our hearts with the awe and joy of the very first believers. May our lives be forever different because of You. Amen.
I love the parables of Jesus. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for the disciples who probably so desperately wanted Him to be clear! Of course, we have a thousand years of theologians interpreting His parables and feel confident of their meaning. The disciples didn’t have that…but…they had Jesus. I think I’d give up understanding to walk with Jesus.
“the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”
Luke 11:39 NIV
The Pharisees prized their understanding over having Jesus with them. Jesus teaching directly affected their power. Their lack of humility in their own understanding led to them fearing Jesus and scheming to get rid of Him.
How am I like the Pharisees?
I don’t want to be like the Pharisees clinging to power over people and over God. I am certain they were certain of what they believed and taught. And they were wrong. What am I wrong about?
Dear God, forgive me for my unbelief. Forgive me, also, for my arrogant belief that hurts others. God, may I continue to seek you. Pursue you. Follow you. Amen.
“Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.””
Matthew 26:10-13 NIV
This story in Matthew is one of my favorites in all of scripture. There are accounts in other gospels that tell the same story with some different details. The main part that I love the most is the way Jesus valued the woman.
In the previous chapter Jesus had linked serving the poor and those in need to loving Him. When the disciples see the woman “wasting” money they think, “we got this one!” They had just listened to Jesus teaching and wanted to prove they were listening. And they were, and they were right…and they were wrong.
The perfume the woman used was most likely her most valuable possession. She was figuratively and literally giving Jesus her life and her future. He had done something in her life that compelled her to give everything she had. THAT is loving Jesus! THAT is exactly what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 25 when he said to love the least of these is to love Him. She was living that out!
What compels me to love Jesus?
What compels you?
Dear God, you have done amazing things in my life, in the lives of those around me, in the world. Even when I don’t understand you are still good and have done good. Even when I lack the eyes to see, you are still moving and even better, still there…close. God I give you my life and my love. Amen.
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”
Habakkuk 1:2-4 NIV
I feel like a broken record. The Old Testament is filled with the people of God crying out to Him to hear them, His wrath against their sin and turning away from Him, their repentance and His rescue.
What I love about Habakkuk’s words above is how genuine they are. With all the wrath and judgement in the readings of late, we also see so much genuine emotion. The emotion of God and of His people. Emotions matter to God.
One question I try to also ask myself when reading the scripture is, what does this reveal about who God is? When I read the first part of Habakkuk I thought of how powerful listening is. Our God listens! He listens to our praise and gratitude and He also listens to our fears and heartaches and angers.
How are you different because you have a God who listens? A God who hears you…your heart, your struggles, your doubts.
Dear God, your patience in listening and hearing us speaks to your love. Thank you for your love and how you demonstrate it to us. I am changed because I genuinely know you hear me and desire to be with me. Amen.
Do you hear God? I was talking with someone the other day about how they hear God and it was very different from how I hear God. And, neither of us felt like hearing from God was a very frequent occurrence.
Throughout our reading today the words above were said many times. God spoke. God made Himself heard among His people. I have so many questions!
Did the Israelites Hear Him?
Did they understand what He said?
Did they believe what He said?
Do I believe what He says?
I would love nothing more than to sit face to face with God and hear clearly from Him. My heart longs for His clarity. The Israelites are such a clear reflection of how we continue to hear God, walk away, experience suffering, cry out to God, repent and experience His forgiveness.
When I struggle to Hear, I still have His presence. When I wonder if He hears me, I still have examples of how He heard His people in scripture. When I wonder if things will ever be ok, I have His promises.
Dear God, thank you for your words to the Israelites which speak directly to my heart today. May I be more and more aware of your promised presence. May I listen more closely to You. May I remember what You have done and that you are not done yet. Amen.
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