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1353

May 31, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 11.1

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

Should God’s mighty men settle for anything less than the very best? Why should we want to do things any other way than Jesus did. How long ago did the WWJD campaign fill our spheres of influence and challenge us to reorient our thinking to ask that question first before we did anything and to keep our thoughts in check. It now has become just a matter of course, a part of our spiritual life default, to ask “What would Jesus do?” Yet, the disciples, fortunately for us, fall into this “lack of perspective” quandry when it came to effective prayer. As I was reading His Word for Today, the Holy Spirit challenged me to hear it differently than I had read it before; different from what I had been taught to hear it. Does it change the power of the prayer which Jesus taught them that the Church calls “The Lord’s Prayer”? Absolutely not, but it does bring into question a perspective that we cannot sink into ourselves because it is a worldly perspective that begins to dim the world’s view of who Jesus Christ is and can be in their lives. Curious?

One of the disciples was watching Jesus pray. Perhaps others were watching as well but only one was bold enough to beg the question and put forward his request. Luke does not mention who this disciple was but there are likely candidates. It could have been James or John, the Sons of Thunder, who in their boldness were willing to make requests of Jesus that caused the others to shake their head in amazement. Their desire to demonstrate their passion for Jesus and the gospel was apparent in their requests to sit at His right and left hand in Heaven or to call down judgment on cities that refused to accept Jesus as they journeyed to Jerusalem. It would not be beyond the realm of possibility for one of these to make this request. I do not think it would have been John because it does not appear in his gospel recollection of Jesus’ ministry. He had a penchant for saying “that disciple Jesus loved…” to speak of himself and that doesn’t appear. But, it could have been his brother James. It could have been Andrew who had been a disciple of John the Baptizer. When John declared, “Behold the Lamb of God,” Andrew and another of John’s disciples began to follow Jesus. It was Andrew who shared the good news with his brother Simon Peter. His faith and confidence in John could have led him to align his request for a teaching on prayer between Jesus and John. It doesn’t really matter but it does cause me to consider further the request as I imagine who said it.

What was the request from this one disciple. Yes, he made the request on behalf of his fellow disciples but that is easy enough to say something in the plural when we really mean “me.” We do it often enough because there is safety in numbers. But, Jesus’ response was to all the disciples just as it was to all those who were listening to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s remembrance of this teaching. But, even Matthew heard it with a different intentionality because Jesus’ prayer was in juxtaposition with the prayers of those who claimed to be righteous leaders of Israel but were engulfed in their austentatious presentations hoping to impress others that they were indeed righteous when they most certainly were not. In Luke, the prayer is remembered in contrast to the prayer of John. Really? Did Jesus pray differently than John? Was the request for Jesus to teach them to pray just as John taught his disciples to pray? Or was the request for Jesus to teach them to pray the way John prayed? John’s prayers must have been fired with fire and fury calling into accountability everyone and everything. His prayer had to be fueled with the need for repentance and denial. Ultimately, it would have had a “change the world” mentality and attitude to it with a dab of “locusts and honey” humility. Did the disciples think that Jesus needed a prayer make-over and get more fired up with some hellfire preaching in His prayer? If that was the case the disciples might have been Thaddeus or maybe even Judas Iscariot. But, why would we want to pray the way John the Baptist prayed? Why wouldn’t they, and we, want to pray the way Jesus prayed? Jesus moved mountains of people, calmed storms, fed multitudes and cast out demons. It makes sense that we would need to pray Jesus’ prayer. But, how often do we settle for something less? If we settle for a less prayer then will we accept a less life? Regardless of the framing and intention of the petition and the petitioner, Jesus answer was unique and distinct from anything the disciples had ever heard. Thank God for this! It means that inspite of our intentions and abilities, guided or misguided, Jesus is going to give us exactly what we need. We just need to ask. Ask it wrong if that is what it takes but ask Jesus. Don’t settle for anything less than the very best. And when you pray, pray like this…. (but that will be a study the begins on Sunday. Shalom.)

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, it is to You we pray. It is to You we turn our eyes. It is to You we direct our praise. You are everything we need. Thank You for wanting us. Amen.

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1352

May 30, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 10.41

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

I wanted to dig deeper into this story and the words of comfort and challenge our Lord expressed in it. Jesus told Martha, “Only one thing is needed.” Remember the scene in ‘City Slickers’ when Curly told Mitch that the secret of life was just one thing. He, too, had many things to worry and be upset about. All of our lives are filled with moments of questions, challenges, concerns and worries. We can allow them to consume us and even take over the vision of our lives. In fact, some people are actually driven through life by their worries and concerns until they lose their identity and become the very problem they are so focused on. Martha was like that. She was the Alpha in the family. She took the lead and invited Jesus into her home which she shared with her sister Mary. She was the detail-oriented person who saw the structure and order of everything. She was motivated by doing the right thing for the right people at the right time in the right place. She was task-oriented. She was not only the Alpha but Type-A as well. But, in her desire to make sure everything was “just right” and perfect she surrendered the “one thing” that would truly make sense out of her life. She was so worried and upset about many things, and all those things were vital and important things and worthy of attention, that she had given herself to the task instead of giving herself to the one thing that would make the difference in her life. It would seem that Martha’s frustration in this situation was that Mary had found her one thing while Martha was still looking for it. Martha used all the stuff and work and good intentions as the substitute for the “one thing that could never be taken away.”

That one thing was surrendering all other things in our lives to be with Jesus. He was, is and will always be the ONE thing in our lives that matters. Everything else is important, has value and has the potential for doing good for others. But, what refines and defines them is our relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. No matter our good intentions, they cannot be perfect intentions unless they are intentional surrendered to and drawn out of a life centered on Jesus. How busy have our lives, mighty men of God, become with all the things that we have put into, collected, created and maintained them. How many “drivens” do we have that led us in one direction or another? How many times has the telephone rung and we cringe with the expectation of another thing to be accounted for and added to our list of things? What thing in our life’s inventory has we decided we don’t know how to live without? Or is it now how many things in the plural? Are we living life fearful of the “stick that broke the camel’s back”? I believe Jesus had a word for that moment of reality when He taught about how much easier it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven. The ‘eye of a needle’ was the familiar name given to a gate in the Jerusalem Wall. In order for a merchant to get his camel ladened with goods to be sold in market through the gate was to unpack the camel and get it on its knees and crawl through. Obviously, the easier way was to go to the main gate and forget about the worry. But, was it more expedient to the merchant who wanted to be first to the market to expedite the process? Or was it simply as lesson in the obvious which Jesus chose to illustrate the “one thing” that was needed. In our lives, we must put aside all other things and get on our knees in order to come into the presence of God if we are to enjoy His real blessing.

There is only One thing that is needed when everything else is said and done and that is Jesus Christ. Mary found it that day. She knew her sister would take care of the rest. She also knew that all that other stuff didn’t matter at that moment. But, Martha did find the one thing as well. We read about her again in the gospel of John. Her brother, Lazarus, was very ill and she sent for Jesus because she knew He could make a difference in his life. When she heard Jesus was coming, she ran out to meet Him and said, “Lord, if you had been here four days sooner, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” She confesses to Jesus that she believes He is the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world. She had found the ONE thing and it did make all the difference in the world for her and her sister and for their brother Lazarus.

Rejoice, mighty men of God, for you have found the ONE thing as well. But, now we must decide to make it our ONLY thing in life that matters. Through Him all things can work together for good if you believe and keep Him as your ONE thing.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, we believe that You are our One True God and that Jesus is Your One True Son and our Only Savior. Help our unbeliefs until they are all surrendered into Your presence and we are truly made whole by Your righteousness and Your love. Amen.

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1351

May 29, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 10.41

“The Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

We have heard this story rehearsed and repeated many times over about Mary and Martha. Martha was the “doer” in the family, the hostess with the mostess. She was the practical sister who believed that everything had to be just right in her home in order to entertain guests and welcome company. Luke gives us no introduction to the sisters and their home and why Jesus chose to visit there except for Martha’s invitation. We do not know what standing she had in the community. It may have well been because of her brother Lazarus whose own life after death experience was chronicled in the gospel according to John. But, that event must have occurred later because Luke invites us into the story as if Mary and Martha are relatively unknown. We can tell that for Martha this is a very big deal. All her hostess “i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.” Her entire focus was on making things right to be worthy of the honorable company now in her home who had accepted her invitation.

On the other hand, her sister Mary had no such concerns. It doesn’t mean that Mary was less motivated to keep a clean house or make it presentable to guests. It doesn’t mean she did not think it was important to have food and drink and niceties in the house to make others feel welcome. But, it did mean that Mary saw Jesus in a far different way than Martha. She was not consumed with a “works” righteousness attitude or a “Miss Manners” mentality that commanded give and serve demeanor. Instead, Mary made use of the time of Jesus’ coming to listen and learn. Housekeeping items were not nearly as important as gaining wisdom and power from the Master of her heart. That would have made Jesus the Master of her “house” as well. For the body is a temple, a house of the the Lord, where the spirit dwells within.. The greatest honor Mary could bestow on her Master was to worship and praise at the feet of Jesus.

So, what does this vinette have to teach us as mighty men of God? You think it is giving permission not to help around the house and make it presentable when company comes? No, not at all. In fact, it would tell us to make sure that our house, our lives, are in order…in priority order. In all things, Jesus first! In all things, we take our cue from Jesus and approach the day as if we have been sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His words for our lives. It means that we do not move forward until we have looked inward. Externals are important and necessary. We need the Martha-orientation in our lives but we need the Mary-priority first. Mary did not pass off the responsibility to Martha believing “oh, she will do it.” Martha probably would have done it anyway and been glad to bask in the glow of appreciation for all she had done. She probably would have turned offers of help away saying “it’s okay, I can do it.” But, all that does it keep the focus on her instead of where it belonged. Martha wanted credit, praise and appreciation. Mary, on the other hand, wanted to give glory and honor to the Master seeking first the kingdom of God knowing that everything else would be taken care of.

Be warned, mighty men of God, of the admonition given to Martha by Jesus. Martha, wanting affirmation, wanted Mary to give up what she had chosen as her best gift in order to validate Martha’s gift. She wanted to command Jesus to validate her by ordering Mary to stop listening and get to work. Jesus, without blatantly blasting Martha for her wrong thinking, reminded her of what was most important when He was “in the House.” It was not the time to be busy working to meet earthly standards but the moment to pursue the kingdom and celebrate Jesus by being with Him. Draw near to Jesus when you invite Him into your presence in times of prayer, study and reflection. Don’t just invite Him in. He stands at the door knocking and you ought to let Him in. But, when He comes in recognize the real reason He is there. He is there to bless your house and enrich your life. There is nothing He needs for His life than this. Doing the will of His heavenly Father is food and drink and hospitality for Him. It should be for us as well. Do not steal the opportunity away from yourself and others to sit at the feet of Jesus and glean from Him the words needed for your life today and forever by busying yourself with things that can never truly satisfy.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, before we put our house in order this morning, we have come to You to make sure our house (our heart, mind, body and soul) is ready for the day of Your visitation. May our aim today be to prepare the way for others to come near to You instead of serving us and validating our place in the world. Rather, we want to claim the joy of Your place in our world. Amen.

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1350

May 28, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 10.23

“Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

Don’t you want to hear and see what they heard and saw, too? The disciples must have been hyped on the day the seventy-two witnesses reported the results of the mission work they had done. The countless stories of healings, casting out of demons, the restoration of the lost, the kindnesses shown to them by those who believed and the encouragements they received when they did not act in bitterness toward those who refused the gospel and saw other doors opened to them. What praise reports they must have heard and found amazing! To watch the fervor and excitement of each of the seventy-two as they related their story and to see the movement of the Holy Spirit in full force must have been almost more than they could take in. Wow! What a problem, right?

But, shouldn’t that be happening today? Shouldn’t we be reporting back to the body of Christ out of which we work and worship the results of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ? Shouldn’t we, too, be excited about what all God is doing through our lives because we have been blessed, called apart, set aside and sent out to harvest the ready children of God who will believe and plant the seeds of opportunity for future generations? Isn’t this what our mighty life is supposed to be about? Or do we have to have some special service or ceremony to designate our commissioning into the service of the Lord? Are only a select few given the opportunity to “go and do likewise”?

I believe we can do far more than we are doing in sharing our testimony and our calling in the world. When Jesus declared the fields were white with harvest He was not limited in His vision to that current day. Instead, He was speaking opportunistically about each and every day. In each of our communities there are dozens, hundreds and thousands of unchurched people whose lives are begginig for peace, hope, healing and the good news of liberation from the captivity of sin and the lies of the enemy. We meet them daily but we may never greet them. What a learning moment for the disciples who had to be captivated by the fact that these seventy-two disciples were not of their twelve. These were other mighty men called by Christ who had the heart for the gospel and the kingdom of God in their midst. Their testimonies and witnesses were telling the disciples of how much there was to do, where to do it, how to do it and the glorious results of being faithful and obedient to the call. The disciples had to be inspired and challenged by everything they heard and saw. It makes me wonder if they were then chomping at the bit to “go and do likewise.”

Then in their excitement, amazement and anticipation, Jesus tossed in His purpose for this witness. He reminded them of the need for leadership and accountability when He said “I tell you prophets and kings have wanted to sit in your place.” Jesus was elated and filled with joy as He listened to the reports of the seventy-two. He knew this is what could happen and would happen when people were empowered with their desire to believe with the blessing of faith to do good works. But, they would need a homebase to come home to, a place to energize and recharge and a place to rest. They needed the opportunity to share what they had seen to make room for more to take in as well as to encourage others to take up the charge of being His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Such gatherings needed inspired and informed leadership. They would need the balance of a solid foundation to stand up and be restored as well as to launch back into the world again to further the kingdom of God on earth. The disciples were being trained and elevated to the place of awareness for their purpose as teachers, “angels,” and missionaries who had the authority not to lord it over people but to lead and guide them in the paths of righteousness for the sake of Jesus’ name.

Maybe it was a time in the disciples’ learning process where they were feeling restless and without purpose. Perhaps they were willing to settle for minor moments instead of preparing for major events. I do not know the place in their own heart and mind where they were but I have seen it myself in me and rejoice that I have a place of worship and praise where these reports do happen. It inspires me and others to carry on the work that is given to us each in our own way. It challenges me and others to “go and do likewise.” It can never be enough to just and watch and listen. Being a disciple, a follower of Christ, means to make it possible for others, the next generation of followers, to grow and expand the kingdom of God in their sphere of influence. Having faith is more, far more, than just having it for ourselves. Having faith means putting love into action so that they whole world can see and hear what we see and hear and believe.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, thank You for calling us to be Your witnesses to the ends of the earth and to the ends of the age. May our good reports bring opportunity for others to “go and do likewise” in Jesus’ name. Amen.

1349

May 27, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 10.21

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

Isn’t God good? I hope all God’s mighty men are smiling when they see and hear that question. Are you smiling and considering with amazement the goodness of God and how good He has been to you? You ought to be smiling because greater things than these is He ready to share with you! Isn’t God good? He loves you as only the best Father in the Universe and beyond the Universe can love you. He gives you the best of gifts and the opportunity to use them and enjoy them. Yes, there are trials and tests and challenges in life but they are just moments in our lives when we can exercise the good gifts which God has shared with us. He does not lavish us just for the purpose of saying “how good you are.” No, that is what earthly fathers do because their ability to love their children is hindered by the presence of sin. No, that is what earthly fathers do because their trust in being loved remains insecure and they want some conditions present to guarantee they are or at least will be loved. Earthly fathers give gifts that beg attention instead of give attention and focus to the future needs of their children. Appreciation can be shown to our children without having to go to the extreme all at once and all at the first. It is our Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to reveal His goodness and ours in moderation and step by step.

How awesome it is to see these words of Jesus following His admonition to the seventy-two (that means us as well) because His concern was about the gifting of earthly men and their conditional love as opposed to the gifting of god and His unconditional love. There is nothing we can do that can match the matchless grace of God. Yet, in our infancy we still cannot comprehend how much our gifting of others is worth in this world nor in the next. We still do not have the full mind of God. But, oh, when we see these treasures revealed what joy there is in the Holy Spirit that alerts us to the “see, it is working just as I planned.” You don’t think God enjoys the pleasure of discover and revelation in His children? Of course He does!

He also enjoys when we understand the full meaning of the sacrifices it takes to make it possible for us to enjoy the full measure of His love. He also enjoys when we are appropriately humble in that knowledge instead of puffed up like “wise” men as the Apostle Paul warned the mighty men of Corinth to avoid. He also appreciates the appropriateness of that awareness turned into remembrances which are truly lessons learned from the past applied to the future. As we celebrate those who have served this country through its military expressions in life and in death, let us be filled with joy and humility before one another, the world and especially before God. Without their sacrifice there would be a troubled freedom and a daunting captivity. Praise God that there are mighty men (and women) who have put their lives on the line for the sake of their family, their country and the world and its hope to be free. Let this joy and humility cover you today and temper your celebrations to be lessons to this next generation of what it means to be of true service. Not that we have the power and might to cause the enemy to submit but that we are using these gifts to glorify God and make safe His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, bless all Your children and Your servants as we remember that freedom and liberty come with a price but the greatest price has been paid by Your Son, our Savior, Jesus in whose name we live, serve and pray. Amen.

1348

May 26, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 10.17-18

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.’ Jesus replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice instead that your names are remembered in heaven.”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

Is there no more fitting legacy for a mighty man of God than these words of Jesus, “Your names are remembered in heaven.” I can’t help but think upon Jesus saying to others who feigned success, “You will call me Lord, Lord, but I swear that I will not know you.” What’s in a name?

In Jesus’ name there is power and authority. Jesus declares to the seventy-two upon their report that He gave them authority over the demons, snakes, scorpions and the enemy as they proclaimed His name. We can certainly wrap our minds around the demons (evil spirits) and the enemy (Satan which Jesus saw fall from heaven like a bolt of lightning or maybe a meteor in my mind.) Even though the Catholic Church says they require a special service and ritual to conduct an exorcism, Jesus says it can be done in His name. Seems like “less is best” is an appropriate claim when fighting the Devil. We can get all wrapped up in the words and actions and traditions of what we think is needed. Movies have been created based on this idea. But, Jesus declares what is ideal is to preach the gospel, proclaim God’s powerful love and to command evil to be recognized and defeated in His Name. Why does it seem so difficult to experience success for some people? Jesus may give us an insight into this as well when He warns the seventy-two, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; think rather [in thanksgiving and humility] that your names are going to be remembered in heaven.” Does this not sound strangely similar to the dialogue Jesus had with the penitent thief of the cross next to His at the crucifixion? The thief asked only, “Remember me when You are in Your Kingdom!” To which Jesus replied, “This day you will join me in paradise!” Being remembered was not limited to having a thought, good or bad but in this case it was good, but that it was a living reality. The remembrance was the declaration of a life in the Kingdom of God where angels sing glory to God in the highest. Your names are being lifted up to the very ears of God who reigns above all and all else. The thief’s name and confession wasn’t only going to be talked about in Heaven but he himself was going to be recognized in Heaven. That is better than Norm walking into the Cheers bar and being greeted by all his buddies. Angels in heaven along with God will know you because of your willingness to be obedient to God and to serve Him first, only and always. [And, I believe, when the angels cheer and shout hallelujah in Heaven, the demons and Satan will cringe and grown in Hell. Hard for me to know which would actually be best from a human standpoint though if I am not known in Heaven then everything else would be hell.]

But, let’s take a moment to see what is framed in that admonition of Jesus to the seventy-two. The frame is “you have authority over demons and the ability to overcome the power of the enemy so that nothing can harm you.” “Harm you” certainly doesn’t mean they are necessarily exempt from persecution or death or trial. He warned His disciples of their fate and history reveals to us their gruesome earthly reward for the sake of their obedience to the gospel. Rather, “harm you” may be the actual authentication of their reward which is in Heaven. When these saints, and God’s mighty men throughout the ages, enter Heaven, they will not call out their name and we stand to claim what is rightfully ours. Instead, Jesus will take the gift of entry into Heaven and deliver it to us by name since He knows us in that spiritual intimacy that says “we belong.” Nothing in this world can take that privilege and blessing from us and leave us to a life apart from God beyond the edge of the chasm which sin desires to fix between us and Heaven. That chasm is the penalty fixed on Satan and all those who refuse obedience to God and choose servitude to God’s mightiest enemy which is spiritual death. God could bridge the gap but it only works when those on the other side desire to reach out to God and for God.

What is framed then? Jesus said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions.” I suppose He is speaking of the literal snakes and scorpions infesting the wilderness roads and trails they would travel as they go to find God’s people wherever they are and preach to them the Good News. What a comfort and relief to know they would not be harmed by these physical enemies who wish to inject their poison into the body, render it lifeless and then consume its rotting flesh as a feast. Remember how the Apostle Paul reaching out for wood to add to the fire after being shipwrecked was bitten by a snake but was not harmed? “Nothing shall harm you,” is what Jesus promised and Paul believed it; though he did not seek it out nor did he seek out being a martyr either. Yet, to suffer for the sake of the gospel was joy to him.

Could, then, snakes and scorpions be a reference to something less reptilian and spiderlike. Of course! Satan took on the appearance of a serpent, or snake, in the Garden of Eden. His venomous bite persuaded Eve to disobey Adam’s teaching of God’s warning. So infected, in fact, that she convinced Adam to join with her in the disobedience. With their shame, God cursed Satan saying, “The offspring of man will crush your head.” Of course, it didn’t do Adam and Eve any favors either as they would experience the pain and suffering of living in the world including death. Each time Satan desires to raise his head to strike at the heel of man with sickness, doubt, disease and disaster the Son of Man steps down on his head and reminds him he is the most accursed in the Kingdom. So, too, in the figurative sense Jesus had given the seventy-two mighty men authority to stamp out those who stood against God and declared captivity of His people as an eternal reality. Whether they were misguided and poisoned by the venomous doubts of a faithless generation schooled by the legalistic confines of Pharisaism or other such world systems, their threat was equal to the Accuser of God’s people himself- Satan.

But, Satan was never called a scorpion in scripture. That does not mean, however, that their venom is no less harmful to the spirit of man in this world. Jesus, in His teaching on prayer and asking God for what is needful, drew the illustration between God’s bestowing of gifts and blessings as our heavenly Father and those given by earthly fathers. He said that even if the earthly fathers were evil they would not give bad gifts such as “a snake instead of a fish” for dinner or “a scorpion instead of an egg” for breakfast. The hungering for righteousness is a hunger all God’s people. That hunger must be sated or it will consume the heart, mind and soul of man. Sadly, the world has been poisoned by the Serpent-King, Satan, and under the guise of “it won’t kill you” has persuaded humanity that bad gifts are preferable over the blessings of God because they can immediately satisfy the need. Unfortunately, he does not include the fine print which says “only increases the hunger for things that cannot satisfy leading to the most unsatisfying lie of all which is life in Hell.” Yet, Jesus proved that God’s gifts can overcome death. Paul sang “O death, where is your victory. O death, where is your sting? Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” How wonderful that the seventy-two had authority to know the difference between good gifts and bad gifts. They were told not to take anything with them but count upon the peace of God shared between believers to be their nourishment for the body, the journey and the mission.

There is a final image which informs us of the identity of the “scorpion” Jesus was alluding to as He taught the seventy-two upon their return from the mission field. In Revelation, chapter 9, the Lamb revealed to the Elder John a day in the future when the fifth angel sounded his trumpet and “a star fell from heaven which had the key to the Abyss.” And when the Abyss was opened locusts ascended and infected the earth with the venom of scorpions meant to harm only those who had not been sealed by the covenant of God. Their sting did not kill but made those who had not received Jesus as the Christ plead for death but death would not come. Yes, the seventy-two mighty men were protected from the snare and sting of death. In their forgiveness, they would not be stung nor would they cry out for death in difficult situations. Instead, they would proclaim life and receive the power to put death (mental, physical, emotional and spiritual) on the run begging for its own death and destruction instead of having its futility and emptiness torturing it for all eternity. That death will not come either only eternal torment of being caught between “O, what have I done. Lord, Lord, save me.” and “No matter what I think is right, I will not do it.” The burning of one’s heart, soul and mind for God is nothing in comparison to the burning for not knowing once it has been revealed. But, praise be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord that we have been given the authority over such turmoil, torment and trouble.

Rise up, sons of the seventy-two, and move into the world making a name for yourself in Heaven by proclaiming the Name which is above all names- Jesus Christ! You are given authority to give good gifts that feed a hungry world forever and to protect those who desire God to be safeguarded from the wiles of the Devil, Satan- the Accuser of God’s people, and all his followers.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, thank You for the gift of blessing and the authority to bless delivering us from the evil one and establishing these mighty men in Your Kingdom with the name of their Savior who knows their name forever. Amen.

1347

May 25, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 9.61-62

“Another man seeking to be a disciple of Jesus said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

As mighty men of God we have to know that once we have committed ourselves to following Christ there is no use in turning back to a former life. Oh, sure, we can turn back to a former life (as my Baptists friend are wont to say “backsliding”) but there is no good that can come from it. When we have those dialogues about “what ifs” and “good old days,” we have lost the vision of “what is” and “what are” good days. We are confessing and lamenting about our place in the here and now as if God’s presence and word has no more meaning and purpose in serving our “self.” We are weary and distraught about the conditions we face in the current day and place where we find ourselves. Even those who reach out, as the disciples once did, and beg for the end of time to come now, even desiring to call down fire and brimstone on the enemy or those who oppose Jesus’ word have lost sight of the Mighty God of the present day. He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow. His commitment to us had no “turning back” to it. Even when He committed to sparing Adam and Eve from their poor decision to trust themselves and the serpent more than God’s Word knowing the consequence would finally, once and for all, be the commitment of His Son to the cross- He did not turn back to when it all begin and wish He could start over. Our past has no future for us- save that Jesus has already died for our sins so that we will never have to spend eternity in hell!

Jesus knew the complexity of the issue of returning home. He experienced it Himself when He returned to Nazareth after beginning His ministry. Momentarily hailed and welcomed (did He get the key to the city from the mayor of Nazareth), once speaking and claiming the authenticity of the Word of God in Himself, they began to murmur and cast a wary eye. They begged for a miracle to validate His claim and more over to serve their personal need. Oh, can you imagine the chamber of commerce plying the trade “Jesus healed here” and “Jesus slept here” campaign to boost the local economy of local boy made good! But, He knew their faithlessness as well as their unfaithfulness and except for a few isolated laying on of hands He could and did not do good works there. Notice that He never returned to Bethlehem where He was born. What feelings rose up in Him as He thought of the tragedy His birth brought to many parents as Herod slaughtered all the male children under the age of two in hope of stopping what God had started. But, who can stop the saving grace of God? No one. But, many can refuse the saving grace of God by denying themselves of the opportunity to live in the midst of God’s truth which is known best in Jesus Christ.

Yes, Jesus knew, especially for this man, but for how many more, that there could be no turning back and return to Him once they did. The call of the past is a reflection of our surrender to the fear we cannot succeed or that others will not understand. What if this decision turns out badly or, in this case, what if Jesus really isn’t the Son of God? No, as mighty men of God we must make the commitment to press forward as followers of Christ and doers of the Way. Our hands must be pressed to the plow, the steering wheel, the doorbell, the mouse, the keyboard, the hammer, the pen, the brow, the wound and the hurt as a sign of our faith and faithfulness. To even take our eye off the future results in wandering far from it no matter how “forward” our thinking may be. Be fit for the Kingdom of God, mighty men, and for the service you have been created for in it! As the camp hymn declared, “No turning back! No turning back!”

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, as Your eye is always on us may we keep our eyes on Him to which we have turned our gaze of heart, mind and soul. Your Will be done in and through these mighty men of Yours that their direction be always for Your Kingdom on earth as it will be in Heaven. Amen.

1346

May 23, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 9.59-60

“Jesus said to a man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to the man, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

The Holy Spirit is amazing. When Jesus sought to provide the necessary safeguards for the challenges His disciples would face following His death and resurrection, He prayed to His Father to send the Holy Spirit to them as a comforter and a guide. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the students of Christ would become the teachers of Christ and the leaders of the Body of Christ. When they would be at a loss for words, power, courage, determination or the will to press forward in the light of what might seem like impossible odds or superior foes, the Holy Spirit became the lynchpin of their purpose. The Holy Spirit divines wisdom and imputs power. The Holy Spirit enlivens the heartless and strengthens the weak. The Holy Spirit empowers gifts and bestows blessing. The Holy Spirit prays in us and through us when we are at a loss for words. The Holy Spirit continues to obey the will of our Heavenly Father and still creates newness at His command when we feel dead in the water.

I have heard the Spirit whisper about another facet of meaning which is alive in His Word for today which says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” How fitting this word is in light of the tragedies which have come to light this spring and now, we learn, some like the Boston Marathon bombings have roots to evil in the recent past. That facet of meaning is that what some may call conventional wisdom must be laid to rest because it is based on misconceptions and bitterness. One such “conventional wisdom” is something I read in an editorial about “Is suffering God’s will?” As if God takes pleasure in the pain and anguish of His creation, the thought ran like a mountain river gone wild that all of these events happened because God wants to punish His people and make them suffer. If God enjoyed watching His people suffer so much then why did He reach out to His people in Egyptian bondage and lead them to the Promised Land? Why did He intervene in the Egyptian pursuit providing a path to freedom through the Red Sea while holding back the enemy with a pillar of fire? Or why did He make it possible for the exiles in Babylon to not only be freed but their mission to return and build the temple be underwritten? Most of all, why would He bring His own Son into the world for our salvation. Yes, Jesus surrendered His life as an atonement for our sin and suffered horribly at the hands of misguided men who left little choice but that Jesus would have to die in order for us to live. What am I hearing?

I am hearing that there were always options for obedience and faithfulness which could have been chosen and pain and suffering to then set to the side from the Garden of Eden to our current day. God has made it known to us the power of destruction which exists in His creation as part of the creative force necessary. In part, we have learned to harness these forces and turn them into tools for good. In part, we ignore those forces and place ourselves in harm’s way. I still am amazed that we would seek to choose how to build better homes so we can live on the Andreas Fault or in flood and hurricane zones or in places where life can be easily threatened and ended. In part, this “dead thinking” and those who profess it as truth will only see death as the central focus. But, our God is not a God of the dead and “dead thinking.” Our God is a God of the living and the life-seeking!

What dead thinking still exists in our lives? Sin is “dead thinking.” The consequence of sin is death just as His Word proclaims. Sin is a turning away from God in order to turn toward yourself as the central focus and final option for life. God so wants that dead thinking and death itself to cease in His people. He knows those who adhere to it are left only to bury the results of it while never being able to lay it to rest. He also knows that those who choose life and faith in Him through His Son Jesus Christ will abide in His eternal peace and rest. They will respond to the challenges of “dead thinking” which put people in harm’s way before, during and after the event. They will bind up the wounds, minister to the grieving, proclaim the acceptable Day of the Lord, provide for the homeless and take in the “father”less. They will be the sprouts of new life and hope which gives credence to the presence of the Holy Spirit still teaching and still guiding. I am so proud of all of those who are life-seeking who do not bury the dead but consecrate those who are alive in Christ Jesus and put to rest the false impressions of how the enemy wants our God to be portrayed. Is that why Jesus said to the man, “Let the dead bury the dead but you go and preach the Kingdom of God.”? It certainly is another kernel of truth now planted in the fertile soil of our heart, mind and spirit to be nurtured into a visible reality for all the world to see and give glory to God.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, how glad we are that You are life-seeking and death-defying! If it were not for Your love, mercy and grace, we would be as good as dead and not just in this world but to what lies behind this world. How glad we are that we will not miss the fullness of Your glory which is yet to be revealed. Until that day, we commit ourselves to preaching the Good News, seek life for others and defy the lies of dead-thinking so that others may see and experience the truth which is Your love for all of us. Amen.

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1345

May 22, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 9.59-60

“Jesus said to a man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to the man, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

As mighty men of God, we have surrendered ourselves to obedience. It is an obedience centered on a trust relationship which can be called, and rightfully so, faith. As believers in and followers of Christ, we walk by faith and not by sight. We cannot see the future except for what God chooses to reveal to us; and He does reveal the future to us with a promise of faith. God believes and trusts in us.. If He did not then sending Jesus into the world would have been a futile effort and vain hope. But our God does not waste time or energy. He is exact and purposeful in all of His ways. But, He knows who we are and what we can become. Trusting in us is the extension of trusting in Himself. The same would be true for us. We trust, love and commune with others in direct proportion to how much we trust, love and commune with God as we do with ourselves. Wait! Isn’t that the very words Jesus says lives at the heart of the faith covenant which predates the law? Of course, it is. The first and greatest commandment is this: You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; the second is like it- you should love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you trust in yourself? Do you believe in yourself? If you see confusion in your relationships then perhaps you need to look at yourself and get back to basics- the basic of loving yourself. When Paul wrote to the mighty men of Corinth, he spoke of reflections as well. In his writing on love, he said “we see in a mirror dimly, but one day we shall see Him face to face.” What a joy it must be to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and see Jesus! What, that didn’t happen? Then it is just a dim mirror vision at the moment. Ever wonder why others may have a difficult time seeing the Jesus in you when you are seeking to do ministry or live your everyday life? Perhaps their lack of response is because of a dim vision. We need to sharpen it up, work on our focus, see the glory of God that floods our soul. It has happened but until we see it, believe it, trust in it and live it out then we stumble through life.

So, when Jesus said to the man, “Follow me,” He saw Himself in the man where the man was still struggling to see himself. He was still connected to the ways of men and not of God. As He challenged the man to enter into a trust relationship, a faith relationship, with Him there was the lesson of focus. Nothing can be more important that the obedient walk of faith in Jesus Christ. We do not have time to waste on the vain things of earth. Instead, seek the kingdom first, have a clear vision and commit to it. If you desire it enough to come near to Jesus, then desire it enough to let Jesus come near to you and be changed forever into a living, positive and prosperous mighty man of God.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, keep showing Yourself to us so that we can recognize the You in us. May the vision of Jesus in me be clear to see by all the world. Amen.

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1344

May 21, 2013

Love one another deeply from the heart of Jesus in 2013!

Luke 9.59-60

“Jesus said to a man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to the man, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'”

REFLECTING IN HIS WORD:

In light of yesterday’s reflection and the horrorific event in Moore, Oklahoma, in fact along a line from Newcastle to Moore, how do we understand the passage of teaching reflected by Luke on discipleship. Let me first say, and emphatically so, Jesus was not talking about the call to discipleship as an abandonment of tragic events where life and death are on the cusp. Jesus would be like the oil field worker in Moore who donned a hard hat and stepped into the ravaged school to search through the debris for life and death. With healing in His hands lives would have been restored as faith of His brothers and sisters, His spiritual family, was being stretched to the limit. Jesus would stand alongside the grieving families who, even if their children were spared, agonized over the loss of others and the mothers and fathers they belonged to.

As mighty men of God, our hearts cry out as well with sorrow and amazement. Truly one does not know the day nor the hour of our reunion with Jesus! We have seen community after community devastated this Spring and hear the echoes of “end times” in our background noise leaping forward. But, we cannot focus on the end. We must focus on the here and now responding with faith, hope and love to such situations. The healing presence of God must be made known to add comfort to wounded and weary lives. But, the testimony of faith must also be known so that those who are on the cusp of spiritual life and death are ministered to as well. Here is the place where the hand of God is visible in the awesome power of nature to destroy and to build up. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of God’s presence and justice being just like this…to plant and uproot, to tear down and build up. We have seen the prairie scorched and in days green sprouts of life take over.

Life will prevail in Moore, Oklahoma, as it has in West, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and many other communities who have endured life-endangering events. Life prevails because God is a God of the living and not of the dead. We must celebrate that those innocent lives are comforted in Heaven and in their time will enjoy a glad reunion with their family soon. We celebrate the hands of God reaching out in service and in prayer to those who have been in harm’s way and now face days of emotional, spiritual and physical recovery. We must bear in mind the words of our Lord Jesus about who we dispense our time to and for what purposes. Jesus challenges us to focus on life and not be overwhelmed with death. He is the victor over death and so the power of the kingdom is in our hands and the keys of life are as well.

God bless the communities who are grieving and now in recovery.

ABIDING IN HIS PRESENCE THROUGH PRAYER:

Father, even when we do not understand we pray to remain focused and faithful, humble and obedient, compassionate and mindful and seeking Your Wisdom and Will in and through our lives in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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