Tag Archives: Jesus

School

school

School is still looking a lot different these days with kids still taking classes remotely from home, some going to school in a hybrid fashion only a few days a week with the other days at home learning, and others going to school full-time in regular fashion with masks, often in pods with small groups of students.

I got to thinking that we did not know many of these words over a year ago and now they are a normal part of our vocabulary as we schedule our days with our children. It also got me to thinking that learning takes place in many ways, ways that we might have thought were unworkable before.

What does this have to do with Jesus? It is important because it brings to light that Jesus was very adaptable in his teaching methods. He taught remotely in the homes of people living in various parts of the surrounding territory where he lived. He taught in hybrid ways, sometimes alone with a single person and sometimes with crowds of people. He taught in pods, if you will, sharing knowledge of God’s kingdom with a small group of 12 disciples.

His teaching style may have changed with each type of teaching circumstance, but his messages to his students was always the same. His lessons were to repent, to love, to tell, to listen, to pray, to trust, to grow in faith, and to live in hope. For all those who teach (which is all of us, in one way or another), our approach should be the same as Jesus’. We should always be ready to adapt and be flexible, but we should never change our lesson plan to instruct our students in the ways of Jesus and the power of his salvation for us. As Jesus himself said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Let the learning continue for all of you.

Citizenship

citizens with flags

On this day of inauguration, we are reminded as Christians that while we are citizens of this nation, we are also citizens of a divine kingdom. As St. Paul tells us, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). No matter who the president is, our King is Jesus and he rules over all in heaven and on earth, and our allegiance belongs ultimately to him.

So much is happening in our country that it is sometimes hard to know what rules to follow. But the commands of the kingdom of God are clear:

• Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19).

• In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy (1 Peter 3:15).

• Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace (2 Corinthians 13:11).

• Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people (Colossians 3:23).

These should be guidelines we live by above all others. May using them as our rules of order, if you will, bring about more blessings within our borders and greater unity among our residents.

Cloth Christmas Tree

cloth tree

Merry Christmas to you all! I send you good news of great joy to all the people, as the angel said to the shepherds on the night when Christ was born. The message that Christ has come for “all the people” makes me think of my cloth Christmas tree I bought at a little gift shop in downtown St. Charles, MO, a few year ago. It is made of felt squares of different colors and sizes stacked on top of one another to create a very festive Christmas tree shape.

Each of us is like a square of cloth, brought together with other “squares of cloth” to celebrate the good news of great joy for all the people. It does not matter if you are big or small, It does not matter what race or region of the world you are from. It does not matter whether you are on the top or at the bottom of society. We all join as one to create something beautiful to welcome our Savior. like all the squares come together to create this tree. And we all point to the star, which is Jesus, who is the light of our lives and the pinnacle of our existence.

As you gather round your trees on this day, take a look around you at the people celebrating with you. Sing a beautiful carol together in praise of the Christ Child. Say the lovely words of a prayer in unison to glorify the One who has come to deliver us all from sin, death and the devil. Join as one to uplift the Son today and always. Blessings, joy and peace to you this happy day!

Left Turns

left turn

When driving, making left turns are some of the most difficult maneuvers to undertake, especially on a busy road with traffic flying at a fast pace from both directions. Making a left turn often requires skill and boldness and quick thinking. At the heart of it all, making a left turn can take risk. That is why, for a time and at the bemusement of my friends and family, I avoided making left turns at all costs, even if it took me longer to get somewhere. I just didn’t want to take the risk. I have since returned to making left turns and have gained the strength to making the extra effort and possessing the patience to perform the task I once was averse to.

This experience made me realize that Jesus never avoided taking “left turns,” if you will. He took risks and did not turn the other way when lepers cried out to him for healing, when a blind man pleaded for mercy, when Pharisees came to him with questions. He did not take the easy way out and turn away from the cross, but turned directly toward it with all the difficulties and pain that appeared along the path toward it.

Jesus was a risk-taker and he wants us to be risk-takers, too. He does not want us to turn away from those who need our help. He does not want us to avoid talking to those who have questions about our faith. He does not want us to stop from carrying our cross for him. Not taking left turns is not an option in the Christian life. In fact, taking left turns, taking risks and chances is what Christianity is all about. Start making more left turns today.

Stress Ball

stress ball

I have a stress ball at my desk that I got at a conference long ago. I confess that I have given it a squeeze or two every once in a while when things have gotten tough in my life. It does indeed relieve the tension for a time and gives me a sense of calm for a moment. I have gotten the stress out. But the problem is that the stress comes back and I cannot be squeezing a stress ball every minute of the day. That is not a productive use of my time over the long haul.

That is why it is important for us to turn to Scripture for a more long-lasting stress relief. Consider these verses:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

Take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20

These words from Jesus are more effective than any stress ball might be at calming our troubled hearts and minds. Let them be your ultimate stress relievers in difficult times.

Love One Another

reaching out

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, knowing what laid ahead for him, he gave a new commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34). Jesus is talking here about no ordinary love. He is talking about a love that is grounded in what he was about to do on the cross. It is a love that is selfless, sacrificial, deep, complete and life-saving. Loving others as Jesus has loved us is not something that comes naturally to us as humans at first. We as humans at first want to love others only to please ourselves and satisfy our own needs and desires. But Jesus shows us a love that puts the other first and ourselves last. We find in Jesus a way of love that reaches outward and does not expect anything in return.

In Scripture we read, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We were enemies of God when Christ died for us. We did not deserve his love, yet he loved us by giving his all for us. Jesus tells us elsewhere in Scripture: Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44). That is the Jesus kind of love we are expected to exhibit in our lives. It is a love that goes against conventional wisdom. Yet it is a love that we have experienced and a love that we (and Christ) want others to experience through us.

In these contentious times when people seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in nearly every aspect of society, it is time for us to let the love of Christ enter into the picture. Let us show compassion in a Christlike way to those who differ in their opinions than us. Let us show care as Jesus would to those who are against us in any way. For Jesus died for all and his love for all knows no bounds. Our love should be just as boundless.

Running on Empty

empty

I often see how far my car can go when it is on E. Not too smart, I know. I eventually succumb to reason and fill my tank to full. How often do we do the same thing when it comes to our energy level. Especially during these trying times, we can find ourselves at the end of the day running on empty, so to speak, after serving as teacher, parent, worker, boss, cook, family shopper, etc.

Our God does not want us running on empty. He wants us to fill ourselves up with the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to recharge our batteries, if you will, with the strength only he can provide.

Jesus himself took the time to be filled up with power and strength from above after long and hard days of serving people and spreading the Gospel. In Luke 5:16, we read that Jesus “would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” What are the places you go to to get away from it all and be renewed and restored in the Lord? Maybe it is during prayer at the end of the day. Maybe it is while you are on a long walk after dinner. Maybe it is reading Scripture in the early morning. Whatever it is that brings you fullness in your spiritual life, keep doing it and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to be with the Lord. In Galatians 6:9, we read, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” These times of renewal and restoration keep the weariness at bay. So keep your energy up and your tank full and God will continue to do great things through you.

Renewal

manger and tomb

Thank you, loving Father, for restoring our joy in you through the birth of your Son, Jesus. May his presence among us resurrect in us a new sense of peace and liveliness in living our lives refreshed by our Savior’s forgiveness and renewal. Amen.

The prayer above is something that I wrote recently for an Advent 2020 product, but was ultimately not used. So let’s enjoy a little Christmas in August by giving this prayer some thought.

For me, it’s nice to remember during any time of year that Jesus brings renewal and restoration. There is always a chance to start over again with Jesus. He is reborn in us each and every day. and any time we feel down and out, Jesus can lift us up and into his arms.

The concept of resurrection is a reminder that with Jesus alive in us, we have nothing to fear and we should be at peace. Living in him should be lively and active, something that moves us forward in our faith.

From manger to empty grave, our Jesus has moved forward for us. It’s our turn now to move forward for him with acts of forgiveness, love and service.

Biking

bike

I have been biking the last few Saturdays on a trail near my house. The trail had been closed for a time in the midst of the COVID shutdown, so I was excited to get back on it after some time away.

I learned a few things “getting back into the saddle.” The first thing is that you cannot get right back to where you once were. You have to ease your way in. I found that I was not going as fast as I was and that it took more energy. When I got home, I felt soreness in my shoulders and back.

The other thing I learned is that it is not best to bike in the baking sun of midday. The sweat was pouring down my face and all down my back in the 90-degree heat. On weeks when I rode a little later in the day, the sun was not as sweltering and there was a breeze along the way.

Lastly, I discovered that even the slightest incline can make a bike ride more difficult. I didn’t even realize I was going uphill until my body started objecting with aches and pains. Turning around and going downhill feels like a dream after that.

These experiences mirror the Christian life in that it sometimes takes time to get it right, to hit our stride as Christ’s disciples. We need to be patient with ourselves and not get discouraged when we don’t follow Christ the way we should or we miss opportunities to witness. More chances will come along. The path is long and God will never give up on us, so we should not give up on ourselves.

Life as a Christian can get uncomfortable sometimes. But don’t let the heat of hard times get to you. You can find ways to get around the heat and keep moving forward for the Lord and his plan for your life journey.

Uphill battles in our Christian way can startle us but when we keep pedaling through, we know that the downward slope is on the horizon with an easy ride toward heaven because Christ went up the hill of Calvary and came down victorious over sin and death forever through his death and resurrection.

Whether you bike or not, keep on going forward in the name of the Lord. As the Scripture says, “Let us run (bike) with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Now I See

reading glasses

It seems that no matter who you are and no matter what your eyesight has been in the past, once you reach or near a certain age you will need glasses. I have worn glasses nearly my entire life, but when I was getting into middle age, I discovered I needed new glasses and different glasses for various tasks.

This change in my eyesight needs reminded me of the following words from Scripture: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). This was said by the blind man who was healed by Jesus. He could not see, but now he could because of Jesus.

We have blindspots in our lives that change with age and that Jesus helps us to see. Like a new pair of glasses, Jesus helps us to see better the needs of older adults that we once were blind to when we were younger. He opens our eyes to opportunities to serve that we once did not see at all. Once blind to God at work in the world, we now see his hand reaching out to make things happen to his glory, through the lens of Jesus Christ.

No matter what your age or eyesight situation, let Jesus give you the vision to see what he can do through you.