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Monthly Archives: February 2019

He Has Borne Our Griefs — Isaiah 53:1-6

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The above image is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image was created by Ned Bustard and is called “En Agonie (after Rouault).”

Isaiah 53:1-6 [NLT]

1 Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
    like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

Dear God, in so many ways I feel like a failure. I normally write these at the beginning of each day, but I ran out of time this morning and I was having trouble finding a scripture upon which to meditate, so I just went to work. Then something happened this afternoon that has caused me a lot of sorrow and even some fear. My tendency is to try to push through this pain and solve my problems in my own wisdom. But there is no peace in that. There is usually only foolishness.

So I sat down and opened up my new favorite book to find a Bible story and see what I can learn from how an artist has interpreted this passage. The passage itself is familiar to evangelical Christians, especially charismatic ones. The last part of verse 5 is often translated, “by his stripes we were healed,” and a lot of people praying for healing will quote this passage, although I personally believe they are using it out of context.

Anyway, the part of this passage that struck me this evening was verse 4: “Yet is was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!”

I had someone give me a compliment tonight that I absolutely felt like I did not deserve. He complimented what I consider to be a weakness, and I think if he knew me better he wouldn’t have complimented me at all. In fact, I told him as much. But it was that weakness that Jesus carried too. It was this sorrow I feel tonight that He carried as well. It wasn’t His sin. He had no sin. No, it was all about me and all of us.

Now, I want to turn my attention to the image that Ned Bustard did for this passage. It took me a while to see it, but it’s Jesus on the cross, from the waist up–or maybe just below the waist. It’s rough. Jesus arms are up on the cross, but his head is down. If He is not yet dead, he will be soon. His arm and pectorals are represented as being straight and stretched. There is a small horizontal cross in the middle of His chest. Is that intentional? His abdomen is done in circles as are his nipples. And I think His nakedness is showing. How often we forget that there was no loin cloth for modesty. Our God was hung naked for this sorrow. For my wickedness.

Father, this is the cross at which I am supposed to lay my burdens. This is the cross that is there to hold my sorrows and fears. I’ve been talking to people about how much you did for us last year, and how providential your timing was in some of our needs. Do I believe you can do that again? Am I prepared to seek you as much now as I did then? Well, it starts now. I give you this pain. I pray also for the others involved who are also in pain. Help them. I give you my fear. I pray also for the others involved who are fearful. I give you my worship. I pray that the others involved will worship you as well.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 

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Every Life Has A Story

Dear God, I read a blog post that was shared on Facebook by a cousin. It’s one of those great reminders about judging/not judging others. It’s about remembering to at least consider the person near you might be going through something more than you understand and to give them a little latitude.

One of the things I show to new staff members and volunteers when they join our nonprofit is a Chick-fil-A training video. The video depicts all of the people in the restaurant at a given moment going about their business, but underneath it captions what’s really going on in their lives. One of the subtle things it does is show the employees as well as the customers. Yes, all of us have something going on.

Father, thank you for the reminder that I need eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that can allow for the idea that damage done to the person next to me might be driving their behavior more than bad intentions. As I see board members this morning, my mentee at lunch, and staff, volunteers, patients, and family throughout the day help me to be a source of your peace to them. And please touch and heal my soul as well.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in Miscellaneous

 

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“I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe

I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
When I find myself standing in the Son
I can only imagine when all I would do is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine hey ya ah

Surrounded by Your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for You, Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in Your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine hey ya ah
I can only imagine yeah yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine ey ey ey
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship You
I can only imagine

Written by Bart Marshall Millard

 

Dear God, I was really having a hard time finding a scripture to spend some time with this morning, so I finally decided to see if I could just find a song and spend some time with it, both worshiping you and thinking about a piece of you perhaps a little differently because of what an artist/poet wrote down and shared.

This last weekend, at a retreat my wife and I attended for other couples, we watched a movie that was loosely based on how this song came to be. It took me back to the first time I remember hearing this song. I think it was the fall of 2001 and I was at church. We sang it, and it overwhelmed me. The idea of actually being in your presence and having zero idea of how I would respond to you. Will I stand? Will I fall? Will I sing? Will I dance? Will I be able to even move? My guess is that I would collapse with the revelation of how much greater you are than I could ever have imagined. I think I would wish I had never existed, collapse into a ball and then hide my face. And my faith gives me the hope that you would grab me, hug me in some celestial way, and tell me it’s okay, be not afraid.

Then there is the idea of seeing those who have gone before me. My daughter lost during pregnancy. My grandparents. My friends. My mother-in-law. I can only imagine what that will be like.

Father, thank you for this hope. Honestly, I don’t do what I do for this. I don’t pray to you today with Heaven as my motivation. It’s about relationship with you now and becoming the man you want me to be, need me to be, and know I can be. It’s about knowing you so well that your Spirit lives through me. Heaven is great, and it will be what happens for the vast majority of my existence, but for now my eyes are fixed on my time here on Earth. Walk with me this day.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2019 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Peter & John — 3 John

3 John 1:1-14 NIV
[1] The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. [2] Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. [3] It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. [4] I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. [5] Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. [6] They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. [7] It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. [8] We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth. [9] I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. [10] So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. [11] Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. [12] Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true. [13] I have much to write you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink. [14] I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name.

Dear God, there are two people described in this letter: Gaius and Diotrephes. The first is someone who loves others and is the recipient of the letter itself. The second is a man who has put himself and his own ideals before everyone else and you.

As I typed that and thought about the two men, the phrase from that old spiritual song “We are One in the Spirit” came to mind: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians be our love.”

When I look at Jesus being asked what the greatest commandment is, he replied that we should love the Lord our God… and love our neighbor as ourself. When Paul talked about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 13, he said that faith, hope and love are what remain, but the greatest of these is love. Later, when Paul talked about the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, the first fruit he lists is love. Love, love, love.

I couple of weeks ago, I was praying to you and talking about a dilemma I was having. I wasn’t sure how to respond to a hurtful situation. The word I got back from you during that prayer was, “Love, love, and love.” I told that to my wife, and we looked for a way to reach out to the people in question with that in mind and I think (I hope) we found it. We haven’t heard anything back, and I guess I didn’t really expect to. But I am hopeful that those seeds of love that we tried to sow will find some fertile soil and be ready for the harvest one day.

Father, even now I have someone in whom I love, but I feel compelled to address something that they do that is offensive to me and likely a lot of others. They don’t realize they are doing it, and I hesitate to address it with them, but remaining silent in awkwardness only allows the problem to fester. I have purposed in my heart this morning that it needs to be addressed, but I pray right now that I will be able to do it in love. Even now, typing this, I can see that there might be haughtiness in my heart about this. I don’t wan there to be any. I just feel compelled to peel back a layer of deception that might be hurtful to some.. Anyway, help me to do everything I do today in love. Help me to be more like Gaius and reject the arrogance of Diotrephes. Help me be the kind of person to whom John would have written, and not the kind he had to confront.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2019 in 3 John, Peter and John, Uncategorized

 

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The Redemption of Gomer — Hosea 3

The image above was done by Ned Bustard and is part of a book he put together called Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups. I am using it for my Bible studies on Saturdays as a way of integrating the arts into my Bible study.

Hosea 3 NIV
[1] The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes. ” [2] So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. [3] Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” [4] For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. [5] Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.

 

Dear God, this is a hard story. Why did Hosea have to go through this to make your point? Was his sacrifice necessary for us to read all of these years later?

Of the image that Ned Bustard made, he wrote: “In this piece a spurned husband dresses up in a tuxedo and comes out to the street corner with a wedding ring and an offer of marriage to his unfaithful wife who is standing under the street light, working as a prostitute.” As I look at his image, her face is expressionless–only lips. Her dress appears to be torn–perhaps from her customers tearing at her clothes. Her hair is not particularly smooth, but unkempt. And as he said, she is “under the streetlight.” She is showing off the merchandise, her body being the only thing that is important–not her face.

On the other hand, the husband has brought her her wedding ring that she left behind. He has made himself up as nice as he possibly could for her. His face if visible, and his hair is perfect, in contrast to her invisible face and unkempt hair. He wants to love her and take care of her. Will she accept his love?

Father, thank you for loving me. I have been the whore who has left you for others. I have pursued my own interests and sold out for advancement. I have also taken advantage of others for my gain. I am so sorry. I know I’ve repented of these things before, and you probably don’t remember what I’m talking about, but things like this bring them to mind again. And I am also reminded that, just like Hosea was called to a life of pain and sacrifice, I have no right to expect any different. I am amazed I have as much as I have. I am amazed you have answered my prayers in such powerful ways. You have been doubly good to me when I didn’t even deserve for you to be single-y good. Really, thank you!

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Peter & John — 2 John

2 John [NLT]
1 This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth— 2 because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.
3 Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.
4 How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.
5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. 6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
7 I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. 9 Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
10 If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. 11 Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.
12 I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.
13 Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.

Dear God, as I look at all of these passages the either reference Peter and/or John or were written by them, I am trying to figure out what I can learn about them and myself through who they were and how they fit into your kingdom and plan. In this case, 2 John is pretty short and has two main messages: Love others and reject deceivers. What a very succinct message. It must have been very much on his heart and important to him because he took the time to sit down and write it and send it on ahead of his visit.

One of the hard things to know is if I have been deceived or am deceiving others. Is my theology errant in any way that is material to your kingdom and your plan? Do I espouse beliefs that cause harm to your children? Are my thoughts on homosexuality, denominations, politics, or salvation in any way against your will? Do I ever cause harm to others when I share them?

Father, teach me. Help me to learn about you. I believe in you. I believe in the risen Christ. I do my best to love others, offer grace, and represent you to those around me. Raise up people/books/articles/etc. in my life that you will use to teach me your truth. Give me ears to hear. Give me eyes to see. Give me the words you want me to speak.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in 2 John, Peter and John

 

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Never Alone

“A Hand in the Flood” by Fred Smith

Dear God, I read this blog post this morning, and it made me think of the friends for whom I prayed yesterday. Then I thought about the hands that you have put there for me when I was in a desperate flood. Finally, I thought about the people who have contacted me in their own floods. None of us go through this life alone, and no self-made person did it without the generosity of someone else. No one.

Six years ago, I was completely in over my head as a father and husband. I was doing everything I could to make sense of it all. While not the saddest period of my life (that award would have to go to when my wife and I experienced a miscarriage early in our marriage), it was the time when I was the most desperate. I was flailing and looking for any branch or hand onto which I could grab. It broke me in an all new way.

One time when I was going through unemployment in 2005, a friend asked me what I thought you were teaching me through that time. I responded that I didn’t think I would know that until I was able to look back on it in retrospect. The same is trued for the last six years. Looking back, “the flood” seems smaller now than it did then. It’s a little like climbing a hill and looking back on a raging river. It doesn’t look nearly as problematic as it does when you are in the middle of it.

So what is my job today? The first thing I need to do is worship you. Regardless of my circumstances, you are worthy of my worship, and it is good for me to worship you. I did that a little in my prayer time with my wife this morning. Then I need to take each moment as it comes and remember to try to see the people and the situations with your eyes, and when I can’t do that, just try to rest in your assurance that You love us and you care. Finally, I need to either be willing to reach out to that hand that you have positioned to help me, or I need to be ready and willing to be that hand for someone else.

Father, show me what to do today. Keep me mindful of your presence, your power, and the calling you are putting on my life at any given moment. Love through me, and teach me how to receive the love of others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2019 in Miscellaneous

 

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