Tag Archives: Jesus

Sunburn

sunburn

I recently got sunburns across my legs and torso after lying on a raft in the water for several hours, even though I had worn sunscreen (that apparently washed off). In the days that followed, I felt the sharp sensation of the sunburn under my clothes as I went about my tasks at work and home. I realized that unless I told somebody, no one would know the burning I was feeling.

This made me think of the Emmaus disciples, who said one to another after they saw Jesus: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). They did not hide the burning sensation they felt in Jesus’ presence. They told people about it. “That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together,” the Bible says (Luke 24:33).

When has your heart burned within you, spiritually speaking? While reading the Bible? During prayer? When singing in church? Did you tell anyone about your experience? If not, it’s time that you do. We burn with the power of the Holy Spirit within us to tell others about our encounters with Jesus. The only way for others to sense that Holy Spirit’s fire in you is to speak of it. Say what Jesus has opened your eyes to. Explain what being a disciple of Christ is all about. Exclaim what joy you feel because your Savior is alive in the world. Let your burning heart for the Lord be revealed as often as you can with as many as you can!

The Inner Circle

inner circle

The Gospels made it clear that Jesus had an inner circle of friends. Peter, James and John would gather with him when times were good (at the Mount of Transfiguration) and when times were bad (at the Garden of Gethsemane). This group of friends in no way takes away from the relationships that Jesus had with the other disciples and followers, but simply points to the fact that we as human beings need certain loved ones we can turn to when we are in desperate need of someone to lean on, vent to and share particular life moments with.

It is said that we are the average of our five best friends. So if that is so, what are the characteristics of your “inner circle” of friends that you have made a part of your own personality? Maybe it is a good listening ear, a heart for God’s Word, a welcoming nature, or a bringer of joy to any situation.

Christ should be at the heart of any Christian circle of friends. Think about ways in which Christ is made evident in your core group. Perhaps it is through prayer texts or times together at church or meals when grace is spoken. Ponder things that can make these friendships even more tied to Christ.

I think of the time on the cross when Jesus told John and his mother to care for one another. He built an inner circle there, and in that moment, the two of them became more than friends; they became family. The friends in my core group have taken to calling each other “frienily”—a melding of friends and family. That is what we are in Christ, after all, brothers and sisters in him and brothers and sisters to one another. And frienily does what a family does. They are there for one another, through thick and thin. Take a moment to thank God today for the family your friends have become for you through him.

Benediction

Benediction

I was thinking recently about how we approach the Benediction in worship. I find myself using it simply as a sort of indicator that church is over. But of course, the Benediction is much more than a closer. It is actually a beginner, if you will. It is a jump-start to moving out of the church and into the world with the word of peace and love and comfort from our God.

The original and traditional Benediction comes from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” It is spoken by Aaron, brother of Moses, as a way of placing the name of the Lord upon the Israelites. It was a way of God saying, “You are mine and I will take care of you.”

In Paul’s letters, we find new versions of the Benediction, such as:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:16-17).

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20-21).

For me, these benedictions from Paul highlight starting points that are helpful and practical for me to hear right now: seek harmony, let God do his great work, focus on Jesus, stay equipped with God’s will.

These are the good words that God has to give us as we go out and serve him. Don’t let the Benediction ever become rote. Let it be a rallying cry to get up and get going. The benefits will be beautiful.

Stones

many stones

Throughout the Gospels, there are many references to stones. Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” when they are ready to kill an adulterous woman (John 8:7). On Palm Sunday Jesus says that if the people stop praising him, “the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus goes “about a stone’s throw” away from his disciples to pray to his Father (Luke 22:41). Then when Jesus arises on Easter morning, the very large stone in front of his tomb is “rolled back” (Mark 16:4).

These stones in Scripture help us to learn what it means to be a follower of Christ in this world.

• We are never to throw stones at others in judgment of them. We are, instead, to be loving and forgiving. keenly aware of our own failings.

• Our rejoicing in the Lord should never be self-serving; rocks and trees and all the earth give glory to God just as much as we do. We blend with them.

• Prayer should be personal and something separate from those around us, set apart a stone’s throw to focus our attention on talking to God alone.

• Rolling back all the large stones that hinder us from our Lord is no small task. Only the risen Jesus has the power to cast aside every heavy barrier that blocks us from a new relationship with him.

May the symbolism of these stones keep you rock-solid in your faith.

Fans

fan

There was a question on Facebook recently asking, “Do you use a fan at night?” And I was happy to see that many people said yes. I am one of those who turns my oscillating fan on low so the air blows across my bed each night. The wind gives me peace and helps me sleep, as well as the sound of the fan moving back and forth.

I just came to realize that the experience of having a fan blow over me each night is a reminder of the Holy Spirit in my life. The Holy Spirit that came with a loud rushing wind on Pentecost continues to blow over me in many ways throughout my life, giving me peace, inspiration, strength and rest. It is the Holy Spirit that moves over me to guide my steps and give me the words to say to others about the good news of Jesus Christ who came to comfort and save.

Fans cool us down when we are hot and uncomfortable, and the Holy Spirit calms us down when our souls are troubled and cools us down when we are hot under the collar about frustrations in life.

I am always put at ease with these words from Scripture: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). The quiet moan of the fan as it turns points to the groanings of the Spirit expressed to God on my behalf.

So often, I have discovered, the work of the Holy Spirit is ignored, forgotten or taken for granted, but the truth is that it is the driving force of our Christian life, so if a little fan at bedtime can remind me to celebrate the Holy Spirit’s active role in my spiritual growth, then I am grateful.

Showers

shower

Recently my shower in my bathroom was not working properly. Water was only dribbling out of the shower no matter how far I turned the faucet on. The culprit? Clogged holes in the shower head. After many attempts to unclog the holes, I ended up buying (and installing, believe it or not!) a whole new shower head with completely unclogged holes. The result? A strong and steady flow of water that pours out immediately with a simple turn of the faucet handle.

The experience made me wonder how many other things are clogged up in various ways in my life that need to be unclogged. I think of sadness that clogs up the flow of joy. I think of anger that blocks the way for love to pour out. I consider the frustrations of the past that stop me from freely springing forth with attempts to try again.

How do we get unclogged? The prophet Hosea puts it to us this way: “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3). We need to keep going, to keep flowing, to let our God unclog what is preventing us from moving forward. He showers blessings upon us that break through the barriers to a happy, holy life. Sometimes that unclogging means an entire system replacement of our former way of life, leading to spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit (like changing out the whole shower head). And sometimes it means daily having Jesus dig out the gunk of sin building up in individual little aspects of our lives (like taking a toothpick to every shower head hole each morning).

Either way the end result is a release of constant streams of goodness from above that enable us to be free of sin and refreshed for new life in Christ. Be made clean in him today!

Human Object Lesson

little child

Recently, I have been working on writing object lessons for each week of the school year which match the readings for the upcoming Sunday. I try to come up with some little trinket or picture to show the children to explain the point I am attempting to get across. Children are visual learners, after all, and are more likely to remember the message being shared if they recall the image they saw.

In one of the readings, I came across these verses:

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (Luke 9:46-48).

What strikes me in this scene is that Jesus used the little child as a human object lesson, if you will. He added a visual to his point. He made his lesson real and personal. “You should be like this actual innocent young person here.” Biblical historians note that in Jesus’ day, little children were not regarded as very valuable or important or worthwhile to society. But here Jesus turns that thinking on its head, putting a child front and center in his discussion with his disciples. The lesson then becomes that only the ones who welcome those who are as “out of the loop” as this little child are called greatest in the kingdom of God.

It occurs to me that this teaching of Jesus would not have had the impact that it did were it not for the living, breathing child before them. Jesus continues to teach lessons to all the world through living, breathing you and me. We, too, are Jesus’ human object lessons. And what does he have to teach through us? We stand before the world as examples of sinners, for we have done what is evil in the sight of God. And we stand before the world as real-life illustrations of what it means to be loved and forgiven by Christ through his cross. We are called to live out our response to that grace through words and actions that are loving and caring, hopeful and helpful for all to see.

So think about it. What would you do if Jesus put you front and center before a crowd? It might be scary to consider at first, but in the end we know it is not about us but about what Christ has done through us. We are merely vessels that display his work in human lives. Now that’s a good object lesson to remember.

I See You

I see you

A common catch phrase in pop culture these days is the comment, “I see you.” It is used as a way of simply saying, “I recognize your recent accomplishment.” But it has recently taken on the connotation of “I understand where you are coming from,” “I realize what you are going through,” and even “I notice you as a potential love interest.”

Many times Jesus “sees” people where they are in significant ways. In John 1:47-49, we read, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” Jesus sees Nathanael as a good disciple even before Nathanael knows it. Nathanael responds with faith and gratitude. Jesus sees each of us the same way. He knows the potential within us to serve him even before we do sometimes. It is our role to respond with excitement to help others see what Jesus sees in each of us: devoted followers of him.

In another place in Scripture, Jesus “sees” people in another way. In Mark 6:33-34 we read, “Now many saw [Jesus and the disciples] going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Jesus sees that the crowds who ran to meet him are lost in their faith and he sees that they need help from him for spiritual direction. They are literally chasing him down for guidance. And Jesus obliges by teaching them through his Word. Jesus sees us searching for meaning in our lives too, and he stops to teach us through the words of Scripture and through our prayers with him. He reminds us that we who are lost have been found in him. We see him now as our Leader and Teacher and Friend.

Thank God today that Jesus says “I see you!” to us and means it!

First and Last

first and last

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all. Mark 9:35

Who are people who are usually thought to be first? You might say the richest or the ones with the most powerful jobs, or the ones who are famous or who star in movies and television shows.

Who are people who would be thought of as last? Maybe you would say people who are poor or homeless, or people who are meek and shy.

Jesus lets his disciples know that those who want to be first will be last of all. This is a way of saying it doesn’t matter how rich or famous you may be in the kingdom of God. If being rich and famous is most important to you, then you will be last in the kingdom of God because you do not put God first.

It is those who are poor in the things of this world who are put first in the kingdom of God because God looks out for the poor and lowly and cares about those who are humble the most. God chose a stutterer named Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God chose the little shepherd boy David to be king. God chose Mary, a simple young girl, to be the mother of Jesus. All over Scripture, God chose the last person you would expect to be the first person he picked.

What does this mean for you and me? It means that we should not seek to be first in the things of this earth. We should not run to be first in line or the first person to get served. We should be humble and let others go before us. Whenever we put ourselves last, we are putting ourselves first with God, because he loves those who put others above themselves.

So put yourself last on this earth that you might be first in the eyes of God. You will be blessed.

White As Snow

snow

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Isaiah 1:18

Many of you have experienced monster snowstorms this winter, and often multiple snowstorms in a row. While the aftermath of such storms can be difficult and frustrated, several people reported to me recently that when the snow is coming down and their yards are being slowly covered over, the sight is beautiful and something they enjoyed watching. I was among those who enjoyed this experience when snow softly fell in St. Louis in mid-February.

“Why this response?” I wondered. I think it has something to do with the feeling of everything becoming fresh and new. There is a sense that all the world is clean and bright.

Isaiah must have known the comfort of freshly fallen snow when he compared it to the forgiveness of sins. When we take our sins to God, they are completely covered over like snowflake upon snowflake.

They say that no two snowflakes are alike, and in the kingdom of God, each word of forgiveness is unique to every sin, so that no sin is left uncovered by his grace and mercy through the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

So the next time you find yourself looking out at a snowfall, think of the blessings of forgiveness that fall down on us one by one every day and renew our lives with the beauty of this gift.