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Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Last Supper & Confusion

Dear God, I was at a church service Thursday night (the night before Good Friday), and I got to thinking about The Last Supper. I started to think about the real-time confusion the disciples must have experienced. There were things going on that they had no way of understanding. Jesus was saying things they didn’t understand. They were assuming things would play out in one way, but things were actually on a much different course—a course for which they had no paradigm. So I’ve decided to sit down and try to make a list of everything that happened that evening (as represented in all four Gospels combined), starting with Jesus washing their feet and ending with their walk to the Garden. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Jesus washes their feet and asks if they get what He’s teaching them (John 13:4)
  • Jesus wants to eat Passover with them before his suffering begins (Luke 22:15)
  • One of you will betray me (Matthew 26:21) Jesus says he’s telling them that so that they will no, after the fact, that He is who He says He is (John 13:19)
  • Jesus labels Judas as the traitor, but “no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.” (John 13:28)
  • Jesus says He is leaving soon and they cannot follow (John 13:33)
  • Disciples are troubled because Jesus tries to comfort them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)
  • They ask about the way to where Jesus is going. Jesus answers vaguely that He is the way…” (John 14:6)
  • Jesus tells them He is sending the Holy Spirit (John 14:16)
  • Jesus does some last-minute teaching about being the vine and branches (John 15:1)
  • Love one another and ignore hate for them (John 15:17-18)
  • Telling them this so they will not go astray (John 16:1)
  • Tries to explain Holy Spirit (John 16:5-16)
  • The disciples are openly confused and talking among themselves about what He means (John 16:17)
  • Jesus prays for Himself (John 17:1)
  • Jesus prays for His disciples (John 17:6)
  • Jesus prays for all believers (John 17:20)
  • Breaks bread as body and wine as blood for sins and covenant (Matthew 26:26-28)
  • Jesus will not drink wine again until in Father s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29)
  • Disciples argued about who would be greatest in Kingdom (Luke 22:24)
  • Everyone will scatter and abandon Jesus (Mark 14:27)
  • After  raised from the dead  Jesus will meet them in Galilee (Mark 14:28)
  • Get money, travel bag and a sword (Luke 22:36)
  • Peter’s denial predicted (Mark 14:30)

When I went through this exercise I either realized for the first time or remembered some interesting facts about this that I had forgotten. And they are all mainly about John’s version of the story. First, John gives us so much more about the conversation between them that night. There’s a lot of detail there. Second, John’s version of the story is five chapters long (chapters 13-17). Third, John makes zero mention of breaking the bread and pouring the wine. That part of the evening was apparently unimportant to him when compared with the other parts—and yet, as Christians of different denominations, we allow something like how we do communion divide us and count it as of the utmost importance. Are we missing something there? Has Satan used something beautiful as a way to divide us? But I digress.

The real point of all of this is to show that, even when Jesus spoke plainly to them about what was happening (e.g. pointing to Judas as His betrayer), they had no clue. They couldn’t see it. They were about to go through a horrific 72 hours and it seems that they were not prepared for it. Or were they?

Father, at the end of the day, you give us what we need to get through a crisis. It might not look the way we want it to look. It might all go bad. Things might get very dark, and we will need to find our way, moment by moment, with no light. We might be scared, confused, and overwhelmed. We might even feel like giving up. But you call us to press on in the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil (Psalm 23:4). And you will give us little remembrances of you and your words. So as my wife and I go through a current confusing time, and as we love some different relatives through their own uncertain times, help us to take your peace with us, embrace the confusion and overwhelmedness (is that a word?), and look forward to what we will have learned from this when it is all over.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Psalm 133

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.

Psalm 133

Dear God, I ran across this Psalm this morning, and it was so nice and short I thought I would just spend some time with it. Maybe I’ll even try to evaluate it as my wife would a poem.

First, I try to imagine what David was experiencing when he wrote it. Thankfully, the text gives us a hint. Before the Psalm starts it says, “A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.” So it’s not a song ABOUT pilgrims. It’s FOR them. David loved them. He loved his fellow Israelites, and he felt a kindred brotherhood with them. He appreciated their unity. He gave them a song to sing to help encourage their camaraderie and bind their spirits together. Since it was a pilgrimage (perhaps to celebrate the Passover), perhaps it was about worshipping you and remembering what you have done for all of them. Regardless, it was the unity of spirit that touched him and he wanted to say something about it.

Harmony is repeated a couple of times. It is precious. It is refreshing. Precious as the anointing oil poured over Aaron. Harmony often has to fight out sinful nature. We have our own brilliant thoughts and when people don’t agree with us we lose that harmony. But when we can find a common cause around which to rally, it can be “wonderful” and “pleasant.” David is making sure they don’t overlook how precious this experience is because it doesn’t happen all of the time.

“Refreshing as dew.” I wonder how much dew Israel gets. It’s so dry there, does it often get humid enough / cold enough to leave dew in the mountains? Is it unique? I always think of dew as kind of messy. It messes up my shoes when I walk through wet grass. It keeps me from mowing on a cool morning. But David calls it refreshing. And he calls this unity refreshing. When is the last time I experienced unity with a group of people? Whenever I do, refreshing is a good description of how it feels. Energizing would be another word.

And over all of this, in the midst of this unity, you pronounce your blessing. You love it when we come together. You anoint it. You encourage it. You redeem us in it and remind us that the world is not about us.

Father, this psalm should probably be read at the beginning of every Christian retreat, every church service, and every holiday gathering for family. It reminds us of how tying our hearts and purposes together with others and joking together for a common goal can a beautiful experience through which you can bless us with your peace and joy.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2018 in Psalms

 

1 Timothy 2:1-6

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

1 Timothy 2:1-6

Dear God, I wish I really understood you. I have nearly 50 years of things that people have taught me, Bible verses that sometimes contradict each other, and then the whispering sin my own heart that I use to try to mold a picture of you, but there are too many potential problems in all of that. I can receive bad teaching and not know it. I can misinterpret what Scripture is telling me. And you know how wrong I can be. And yet, this seems to be part of your plan for all of us working out our faith with you. You’ve left it intentionally vague.

Rich Mullins once said in an interview, “I don’t read the Bible to know truth. I read it to know God.” I blanched when I first heard that, but then it started to make sense. I THINK you are probably too big and complicated for me to understand, even if you explained yourself as clearly as you could. So your solution is to give us an idea of who you are and then allow us to continue to seek after you and, when we are ready, to reveal a little more to us.

Father, my fear in all of this is that I will go off the theological deep end and start to allow too much of my own sinful, imperfect mind to form my theology. So, please, Holy Spirit, guide me and direct me in the way I should go. Help me to recognize when it is you talking and when I am being deceived by Satan. Be glorified in my life.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2018 in 1 Timothy

 

My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

Psalm 62:7

Dear God, this is one of my biggest struggles. Man, do I love to receive glory and praise from others! I have different board committee meetings this week and an actual board meeting for the nonprofit where I work. These people are my bosses and I want them to be impressed with me. The irony is that the purpose of these meetings is for me to be accountable to them—not impress them with any type of bravado.

But when things are down, where do I run? To you. You are my refuge. I’ve fasted and prayed for things before. I’ve even gotten better about praying to you in real time for problems that come up throughout the day. In fact, I have a couple of meeting topics today that could use your blessing and wisdom. And there are times where I feel like one of my roles in these particular meetings is to remind people that all of our victory and honor come from you and that you alone are our refuge.

Father, this is a day where my tendency is for me to want to increase in the eyes of others. I’m sorry for that. Help me to decrease as you increase. Be glorified in me so that others might become closer to you in their own lives. And please guide us and give us wisdom. Provide for our needs so that others might feel a touch of your presence.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2018 in Psalms

 

Matthew 5:8

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

Matthew 5:8

Dear God, this one verse was the focus for the My Utmost for His Highest devotion today so I thought I would just spend a little time with just these words.

So what does it mean to 1.) have a pure heart and 2.) see you? I think having a pure heart starts with, in my own eyes, me becoming less and less and you becoming more and more. The more I decrease and the more you increase in my own eyes the less I seek out worldly pleasures that will feed my ego, and look to worldly things to heal my emotional wounds. I love to get praise and attention. If I’m not getting what I want, I love to feel sorry for myself. All of that leads to an impure heart.

So what does seeing you mean? I assume it means seeing you in the afterlife, but I think it means something now too. I think it means that I get to lose myself in you and that enables me to both know you better and see the world and others the way you see it. In our church group last night, we talked about not judging others. I think that only truly happens when we have allowed ourselves to “decrease” to the point where we only see you and love others through your perspective on them.

Father, I will continue on this journey. I am not there yet. I still have so much desire for personal acclamation. I’m sorry for that. But, with your help, I will get better today. I worship you as my Lord and my God.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.” John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

Dear God, these last two sentences are great. I find it interesting that John’s disciples are jealous of the Messiah’s success. They were obviously enjoying the fame and attention they were getting by hanging out with this odd, but Godly guy. Now, they saw Jesus having more “success” than John (and maybe they had some personal rivalries with Jesus’ disciples) so they were concerned.

But since John was their teacher, you were able to teach them through John. The lesson? Jesus is greater. Celebrate his success. He must increase and all of us must decrease. I wonder what the conversations among them were like after this teaching from John. How did they handle this—especially since John was close to being arrested.

Father, help me to yield to your instruction. Help me to decrease and you increase. Help me to do whatever I can to bring glory to you and deflect it from myself. Help me to love. Help me to worship. Help me to do everything you have for me to do.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in John

 

Romans 6:23 (and 3:23, and 10:9-10)

When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:20-23

Dear God, I’ve never been much of a scripture memorizer, but Romans 6:23 is one that my high school youth minister had us memorize as he taught us how to lead someone to you: Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9-10. Those were to be our go-to verses. Funny how I can remember that over 30 years later. I’d say that’s the evidence of an effective youth minister.

Thinking of our sin and being a slave to it, I had a—oh, what’s the word—I’ll say tricky conversation with a friend yesterday morning. He was talking about some things his 17-year-old son is doing that concern him from a sinfulness standpoint. He and his wife have told the son they disapprove. They’ve had him talk with the youth minister at their church with seemingly little effect. I wasn’t sure how to counsel him because I’m actually not sure where I am on the topic. It’s a complicated world. My best advice to him was to make sure that, above all else, their son feels loved. Loved by them, loved by the youth minister, but most of all, loved by you.

I talked to my wife about the situation over lunch and she had really wise words—“I guess my question would be, what do you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to convince him he’s wrong because you can’t convince or convict a 17-year-old of anything?” Yes, that’s right. It’s the Holy Spirit that convicts and our heart chooses how to respond.

Father, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. And if you confess with my mouth the Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Save me, Father. I believe in Jesus. I confess that He is my Lord. Take care of my friend’s son and help all of them to work this out before the glory of your throne.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2018 in Romans