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Monthly Archives: September 2018

Psalm 131

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord — now and always.

Psalm 131:1-3

Dear God, I woke up at 2:30 this morning worried about a friend who might have a serious health condition. My mind was really racing so I had the thought that I just need to be still before you. But even with that thought I was not able to still myself. Then I decided to listen to a sermon podcast from a church I have visited before. The pastor referenced this psalm. And while the sermon wasn’t about a topic that spoke to me, this passage did. It seemed to echo what I think you had spoken to me. Maybe it’s for me. Maybe it’s also for my friend.

In times like great illness, it is tempting to ask why me? Why does a loving God allow this to happen? Where is God in this tragedy? I’ve never thought of answering those questions with the first verse of this psalm: “Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.” The truth is, it is hubris to think I can understand your ways. It is my pride that drives me to think I can grasp the complexities of this world. Chaos Theory is not chaotic to you at all.

“Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

A child demands answers from her or his parent. Even the teenaged child expects justice and fairness. They expect the parent to provide and equitable structure. But that’s not how it works, and eventually that child should stop feeling sorry for themselves and make their way through life. They calm down and, if they are well-adjusted, they press on. Tragedy might possibly be falling upon my friend. I don’t know how she will respond, but maybe I can guide her into stillness before you.

“O Israel, put your hope in the Lord — now and always.”

Father, my hope is only in you. It is in you and your provision while I’m here on earth and it is in you in death. Not only for my life and death, but for the lives and deaths of everyone I know. Help me to live in that truth and to spread that truth. I am your child, but I should be weaned by now. I’ve been a discipline Christian for 31 years. Please help me to live in that maturity and to be able to share it with the world around me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2018 in Psalms

 

Planting Seeds

https://www.facebook.com/1308317/posts/10102477214668754/

Dear God, this link is to a Facebook post a friend shared with me. It’s a segment of a sermon in the 60s by a pastor who was defending the rights of black people. What struck me as I read this this morning is how he was willing to offend in the face of injustice. He was willing to let his conviction by you and the Holy Spirit and his love for others drive him into action that would cost him something.

While I was impressed with the sermon, I was left wondering if I am willing to do the same. The answer is no. No, I have allowed many many opportunities to stand up for an argument that I believe in pass me by.

A different friend visited me in my office yesterday. We started talking about healthcare (I work at a charitable medical clinic so it’s a natural conversation to have) and whether people have the “right” to it and what a good system looks like. I was proud of both of us for being able to keep the discussion friendly. We both commented at the end that it’s too bad our nation seems to have lost this ability to have “disagreements” like this.

Combining that conversation with this reading this morning, I found myself lying in bed wondering if, given my position in this community through my work, I shouldn’t be taking more of a public position about providing healthcare for everyone. I’ve never even really thoroughly articulated to myself why I do what I do. I can give some basic reasons, but perhaps it’s time to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and try to be an influencer who might not drive change in this generation, but will plant seeds for future ones.

Father, give me seeds to plant and help them to find at least a little fertile soil. Some will fall on the path. Some will fall in the rocks and among the thorns. But help some to find the soil. Work in me to make the seeds I plant of you. Make them good. And help them to find the soil you need them to find for the sake of your kingdom and your will.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2018 in Miscellaneous, Musings and Stories

 

Peter & John — Mark 1:16-20

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

Mark 1:16-20

Dear God, I wonder what it was that Jesus saw in these two sets of brothers that made him want to call them to be part of the 12. And I wonder what what going on inside them that they accepted.

I think it partly goes back to the idea of what are we selling when it comes to you and evangelization. Here were some guys who fished for a living. Simon and Andrew were probably not as well off as James and John, but I’m guessing they all felt a certain level of hopelessness. They were obviously hungering for something since they dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus. Jesus was calling people to repent and live holy lives. Is that what they felt they were missing?

Father, help me to be more sensitive to calling people to you. And help me to be more responsive to repenting for my own sins and embracing your grace. Help me to live the life you call me to live so that I might find your peace and be the best ambassador for you that I can.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 27:56

Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee.

Matthew 27:56

Dear God, it’s interesting that Matthew skips so much detail. We will find out in other Gospels that John was there with his mother. We will get Peter’s redemption scene along the water. There’s just a lot that Matthew leaves out.

I can’t remember how much the other Gospels mention her, but I’m curious to see how much them mention James and John’s mother. I know she gets mentioned as a foolish person asking for greatness for her sons, but I don’t remember anything beyond that. In this case, Matthew is careful to point out that she is here at the cross, but she’s not there at the tomb on Sunday morning. Was she too busy being worried about her boys? Was she part of hiding them? Of course, anything would be a guess, but it is notable that somewhere between Friday night and a Sunday morning her priorities shift.

Father, I’m grateful the other Gospels give us more about Peter’s redemption. I’m also glad we get more details above John. Continue to teach me as I go through this process and get into Mark tomorrow.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 26:57-58,62-75

Then the people who had arrested Jesus led him to the home of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of religious law and the elders had gathered. Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end… Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?” Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth. ” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

Matthew 26:57-58,62-75

Dear God, I wonder what it was like for Peter to sit outside Caiaphas’ house and listen to them beat Jesus. The adrenaline from the garden was gone. He didn’t have his sword any longer. Now he was just scared.

I am sure he felt helpless to stop what was happening to Jesus. I am sure he was scared for himself. As much as he had been anticipating a heroic opportunity to fight with Jesus and follow him to death, now he was anticipating a much less glorious death—helplessly being beaten and killed. Would he be forced to confess or deny that Jesus was the Messiah? Would he have to name names and indict his fellow disciples? I’ll bet he was playing it forward in his mind, and none of it was good. Admitting his identity and his allegiances would cost him everything and seemingly gain him nothing. His hubris in the upper room at the Passover meal was exposed.

It’s ironic, I suppose, that it was his love for Jesus that put him in this position. John is presumably around somewhere, but he is apparently successful at lying low. But Peter was up close. If he had run like the others he would never have been in the position to have to lie. Peter was still showing how special he was just by being there. He put himself in a position to fail, which is something that nearly all of the other disciples weren’t willing to do.

Father, I know I am going to fail you. I know that I will get into situations that will confuse me or even scare me, and I will let you down. But I guess my prayer is that you will still lead me to those situations and teach me in my failures as well as my successes. I don’t want to live so safely that I never fail. I want to live a life that exposes myself to opportunities to succeed for your glory and the potential for failure as well.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 26:50-56

Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.” Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear. “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Matthew 26:50-56

Dear God, it’s interesting that Matthew picks now to keep Peter anonymous. We know this because of the other Gospels. One weakness to my approach in just looking at a little bit from one Gospel at a time is that there are details available in the other Gospels that are pertinent to the story, some of which I’ve forgotten. But one I haven’t forgotten is why they even had the swords in the first place.

At the last supper, apparently Jesus told them to bring swords and if they didn’t have one to sell something so they could buy one. I’ve never understood that command. Why? Did Jesus just have a weak moment? Is there a lesson in there about the idea that there is a time and place for violence? Or did he want the opportunity to heal this man (oh, in other Gospels we learn that Jesus heals the ear)?

It’s a peculiar story with lots of emotions and drama. It’s obvious, however that Peter was, indeed ready to fight and die. In the moment he was ready to die for a Jesus. However, he had run the scenario in his mind of how it would happen. It would be a gloriously violent end and he didn’t mind drawing first blood. So when he told Jesus he would follow him to death he actually meant it—he just prepared for the wrong circumstances. He hadn’t really prepared his heart for whatever might come. Maybe this is why Jesus beseeched him to pray for himself just a short time earlier.

Father, I often lay out plans of glorious bravery in my head. I’ve imagined myself rushing a church shooter or airplane highjacker. But then other opportunities of confrontational bravery present themselves to me and I pass them by. So this is where I pray for myself. Help me. Help me to be as brave as you need me to be in any situation. Perhaps it will mean I should say something at the right time. Perhaps it will mean I should remain silent. Perhaps I will need my figurative sword and perhaps I won’t. Just prepare me and make me ready for what comes my way today.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 26:36-46

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[f] unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Matthew 26:36-46

 

Dear God, I wonder why Jesus singled out the Peter, James and John to go with him to pray. And then, after they fell asleep, he singled out Peter among the three of them. He seemingly allowed James and John to keep sleeping. But “he said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

 

I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before that Jesus admonishes Peter to pray not for Jesus and what he’s about to experience, but for Peter himself. Maybe he wasn’t worried as much about John and James. He knew that John would follow him all of the way to the cross. But Peter was about to be sifted and ripped apart and he didn’t know it. He didn’t know what the heck was going on.

 

I’ve noticed in myself lately an apathy towards worshipping you throughout the day. You’ve done some amazing things for me both professionally and personally over the summer, and I guess I am not feeling like I deserve a little “me time.” And by “me time” I mean self-indulgence. I want to do things that artificially stimulate me. I want to listen to “fun” music as opposed to worshipful music. I want to dive headlong into watching college football even though a day of watching it alone will leave me feeling empty and unsatisfied. I want to eat out with friends and coworkers. In short, I’m fat and happy, and I apparently don’t feel the need for you. It’s probably as much or more of a time of prayer as ever, but I am asleep in the garden. Am I like John and unknowingly prepared to follow you to the cross, or am I like Peter and I should be in absolute prayer against falling into temptation?

 

Father, there are more subtleties to this story that I realized. When I look at it focused on Peter, James, and John instead of focusing on Jesus’ experience I am learning things I didn’t expect. So that you for what you are teaching me. Thank you for calling me back to you even though I can be so faithless. Help me to keep from falling into temptation. Help me to be strong for you and your Kingdom. Help me to be your servant in all things. I need you, Father. Help me.

 

In Jesus’ name I pray,

 

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 26:31-35

On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

Matthew 26:31-35

Dear God, I can appreciate Peter’s sentiment here. I want to believe the best about myself. I want to see myself as brave. In a world of church and school shootings, I’ve sat next to my wife in church and imagined what I would do if there was a shooter. I have to tell you, in my mind, I often come off as very brave, although it usually involves me dying in the process. But is that really what I would do.

I think I remember when I was growing up hearing people commonly say, “I’m willing to die for our freedoms.” But 9-11 changed that. When we all started to feel vulnerable of a mass scale we decided that it was okay to sacrifice some of our freedoms so that the government could do more to protect us. We gave them some of our privacy and in exchange we received some pretty good protections.

As for John and the other disciples, I wonder how many of them were ready to leave immediately. Hearing Jesus talk like this must have been difficult. It’s hard to be a coward while another one in your group is exhibiting so much bravery. But I’m sure at least a couple of them were saying, “Oh yeah, me too!” but inside they were thinking, “I think I have to go to the bathroom. I wonder if anyone will miss me if I don’t come back for awhile.

Father, there are a few lessons for me in this. One is of humility. I am not as strong as I think or hope I am. The other is leadership. Peters declarations, albeit hubristic, led those who were afraid to at least say the right thing. It was positive peer pressure. Well, I have that opportunity every day, not only in my work, but in my other relationships as well. So I guess my prayer is that you make me a humble and wise leader. And do it all for your glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 26:6-10,14-15

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy. While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head. The disciples were indignant when they saw this. “What a waste!” they said. “It could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, replied, “Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.

Matthew 26:6-10,14-15

Dear God, here’s something I don’t think I had ever linked. I don’t think I had ever wondered whether there was a connection between Simon the Leper and the woman with the perfume. Was Simon her friend? Is her gratitude for what Jesus did for Simon what drove her to do what she did? It’s never mentioned, but it’s an interesting, albeit vague, detail.

From there, I wonder how much of what the “disciples” were thinking and saying was shared by all or just a few. Did Peter and/or John agree? And then at the end, we know what Judas did. How many other disciples left this encounter angry and I satisfied?

I guess the final question is, how do I feel about this woman doing it and Jesus’ response? How often do I criticize how others worship you? Perhaps it is being critical of their style of worship. Perhaps I don’t like how they give their money. Maybe I’m just insecure about how my worship measures up or judgmental about how they aren’t as good as me.

Father, help me to look for and see the best in others. Help me to see those who love you and worship you along with them. Help me to learn from them. Help us to build your community so that others will be drawn to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Matthew 24:1-3

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? ”

Matthew 24:1-3

Dead God, I’d love to know more specifically who was talking when “the disciples” ask Jesus questions. It seems Matthew likes to tell us when it’s Peter speaking, but other than that we rarely get an insight into who is speaking. So I’ll just assume that, for the purposes of looking at Peter and John, that they were both thinking what “the disciples” were thinking in this story.

I’ve been in places before where I’ve told the person I’m with, “Wow, look at that building (or mountain, or valley, etc.).” I’ve been impressed with what I’m seeing. In this case, it seems that Jesus was trying to keep them dialed in and focused for this week. It’s almost as if to say, “Hey guys, we’re not here this week to take in the sites. We have work to do. I have work to do.” It’s like the coach of a small football team that takes his team to a big stadium to play. He’s trying to keep a team focused on the game and not let them get distracted by the beauty that, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter to how the team will perform.

Father, help me to keep my eye on the ball and stay focused. There is a lot of stuff going on. In fact, today is a huge day at work. I ask for your blessing upon this day. Make this work for your glory. And help me to see what’s important and what isn’t.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John

 

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