Monday, October 14, 2019

Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength

(credit Pathway Church)

In Mark 12:30, Jesus answers the question about which is the greatest command by saying that we should, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind, and all of your strength.”  In reading Ephesians 1:17-20, Paul offers a prayer for the believers in Ephesus that mirror these four aspects of loving God:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”

Things to think about:
·      God made us multidimensional beings with each aspect contributing to the whole.  Each part needs to be nurtured in order to grow and perform its ordained role.
·      Let’s look at each of these individually and consider how they apply for both the present and the future.
·      I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation so you may know Him better.
o   We need a teacher to help us understand the things that are beyond our ability to comprehend.  God is infinitely beyond our mortal grasp yet Paul’s prayer says He can be known with the help of the Spirit.
o   In what ways does the Spirit give us wisdom and revelation?
·      I pray that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened to know the hope to which He has called you
o   Hope resides in our hearts.  We need God’s light (love and truth) to shine into our hearts to give us hope in a hopeless world.
o   How have the eyes of your heart been enlightened to know this hope if you compared yourself to your pre-Christian self or even a younger version of yourself?
·      The riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people
o   Life isn’t over when we breathe our last earthly breath.  For those who have put their trust in Him, there is a glorious inheritance waiting for us.
o   How do you envision the riches of the glorious inheritance God has waiting for you?
·      His incomparably great power for us who believe.  That power is the same as the mighty power He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead.
o   We can’t try hard enough to live up to His holy standard but the very god news is we don’t have to go it alone.  The same power He provided when he did the impossible, raising a dead man to eternal life is amazingly available to us now.
o   How have you experienced His power in your life that could only be attributed to Him?

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Furious Squall

Just this past week, we have seen two examples come through our email list of people we care about going through serious health challenges.  The reality of this life is that sudden crises can pop up seemingly out of nowhere.  This week, we give praise for the miraculous result for Ron with many prayers being answered. Candidly though, sometimes it can feel like God is not paying attention.  Our passage below helps us have a better understanding of these moments when our fear overwhelms our faith.

Mark 4:35-41 - That day when evening came, He said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Things to think about:
·      To the extent there is such a thing as an “ordinary day with Jesus”, this scene starts out as an ordinary day with Jesus.  He was telling and explaining parables, and speaking to a large crowd about the kingdom of God.  When Jesus was finished for the day, He instructed the disciples to take Him to the other side of the lake.  Then things started getting interesting.
·      While He was sleeping (I love this detail of His humanity!) a furious squall arose, nearly capsizing the boat they were in.  I’m not sure how He could sleep while the boat was being overwhelmed by the water but apparently He could
o   Are you sleeping well or not so well these days? 
·      Now the disciples had already seen Jesus drive out a spirit, heal a paralyzed man, heal a man with a withered hand, and many others so they knew He had power like the world had never seen. So naturally they woke Him up and wanted to know if He cared about this current crisis.
o   “Don’t you care if we drown?”
o   Do you feel like you’re in danger of drowning? What waves are crashing over you?
§  Finances
§  Relationships
§  Health
§  Undisclosed bad habit
·      Of course, we know that Jesus does care.  He always “gets up” to calm the storm if we ask.
o   In fact, in Romans 8:34 it tells us that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us constantly
·      But sometimes it does appear that He’s still asleep.  The finances are still a mess, the relationship is still fractured, a loved one’s health doesn’t get better.  So how do we reconcile these things?
o   One of the most theologically sound things you can say is, “I don’t know.”
o   Isaiah 55: 8-9 - “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
§  Like children, we don’t always understand what’s going on.
§  During the final week of Jesus’ life, it certainly looked like God wasn’t paying attention to the furious squall as His son was imprisoned, humiliated, beaten, imprisoned and of course crucified.
§  But we know that a greater purpose, i.e., the payment for our sins, was being worked out.
o   It is perhaps over-quoted but it doesn’t make Romans 8:28 any less true – “All things work together for the good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” 
§  It doesn’t say all things ARE good, but that they work together FOR good.
·      So when the inevitable furious squalls come, let’s not let faith be overcome by fear.
o   Psalm 121:3-4 says God never sleeps or slumbers.  He is always watching over you.
o   Psalm 100:5 reminds us, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
o   Our text illustrates He is able. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him.”
o   He’s there, He cares, we need not despair!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

What's in Your Garden?

So maybe not exactly Capital One’s catchphrase but my mom gave me this idea recently as she was talking about a man at her retirement home.  She said he was a “rosarian”.  I honestly thought it was someone who was really into rosary beads!  Not so. It actually means someone who specializes in cultivating roses and this man had planted a beautiful rose garden outside of his apartment that my mom really enjoys looking at.  It got me thinking about what’s in my spiritual rose garden and is it pleasing to both God and others.  At the risk of mixing horticultural metaphors, in the parable of the sower and the seeds, Jesus says:

Matthew 13:8 – Other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop, some one hundredfold, some sixtyfold and some thirtyfold.

Things to think about:
·      For whatever reason, this word picture of a rose garden vividly describes for me how we should be using our time on earth to make something beautiful to honor God
o   Do you have a green thumb?  Do you like to be outside planting, watering, tending to a vegetable garden or flowerbed?
·      What might different flowers and fruit look like in your spiritual garden?
o   Disciples
§   Matthew 28:16-20 - In the Great Commission Jesus says we are to go and make disciples
o   Good works
§  James 2:26 – As the body without the Spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds dead
o   Spiritual Maturity
§  Galatians 5:22-23 - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control
o   What else comes to mind or is in the Bible that might be a kind of crop?
·      To continue with our botanical theme, Jesus says in John 15:5
o   “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
o   Roses that have been cut off from the rose bush may look pretty for a while but eventually they will die out.
§  We can fake it for a time but a separation from Jesus will result in a wilted and ultimately dead spiritual life
·      We also need to be mindful to keep weeds out of our garden
o   In Matthew 13, Jesus warns of the enemy coming in and planting weeds while we’re asleep.  While we can’t rid the world of weeds until Jesus comes back, we can be vigilant to minimize their impact on our lives.
·      In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
o    When God sees our lives, especially our lives as we cooperate with other believers to build His kingdom, He sees a beautiful, aromatic garden that gives Him great pleasure.
·      Let’s be motivated and empowered by a love for God and others to make our time here count for eternity.