Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lent Day 38: LOVE

Maundy Thursday

Blessed Maundy Thursday! The word "maundy" comes from Middle English and French and means "command". And so today, on the day where Jesus had his Last Supper and commanded his followers to always remember him, may we reflect on the idea that he bore the darkness of the cross so that we could step out into the light and be the adopted Children of Light.

Let us use this day to reflect on the words of the Apostle John:

John 13:34-35 (Contemporary English Version)
But I am giving you a new commandYou must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.

In these verses he expounded upon Jesus’ command, and described what it means to be His disciples.

May you love as you are loved...
may others know you are a disciple by your love...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

PALM Sunday: To The One who rode in on a gentle donkey, and not a warhorse- Be all praise and honor forever



DID YOU KNOW: The Palm Sunday story is in all four gospels, yet Jesus' birth narrative is in only two?

Be blessed on this VERY important day!

May you each feel the deep solemnity and joy of this Holy Week.

HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST!

...To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph 3:21)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lent Day 19: LOAN

 
 

Today's post will be brief, as I am a little under the weather.  I hope that your day was a good one, and that you continue to make the attempt to recite the Shema in the morning and evening. 


Today, on this Nineteenth Day of Lent, I have only a brief observation, followed by minimal commentary. 

As I read my Facebook newsfeed, I notice an interesting string of threads with juxtaposing themes:  

My younger friends post stories of the trials of having small children and my older friends (sorry guys/gals) post stories about how they miss their grown kids, etc.

Most poignant was one I saw recently, posted by a friend from nursing school.  It read something like this:    "I love my kids.  I so miss the days when I was a young mother with small babies."

Today's message is brief:  our loved ones are on LOAN to us from God...in fact, our very lives are.

Today, may you enjoy the people and time that is on LOAN to you to the fullest.

Blessings to you...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent Day 18: SAFE



Recite the Primo Credo Today in the Morning and in the Evening:

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.
 The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.
 ~Mark 12:29-31

Today, on the Eighteenth Day of Lent, we continue to discuss the Primo Credo. We will be meditating on it over the period leading up to Resurrection (Easter) Sunday; and we will be trying to remember to recite it daily, once in the morning and once again in the evening. For over nearly three weeks now, we have stressed the importance of intentionality; thinking, feeling, and meaning the words as we repeat them- not just hollowly reciting them. Our goal is to let the words work in us, and hopefully through us, and back out of us.

Today’s Scripture Reading:

"...but whoever listens to me
will live in safety
and be at ease,
without fear of harm."
 
Proverbs 1:33
New International Version (NIV)

In the Message Bible it reads like this:
First pay attention to me,
and then relax. 
Now you can take it easy...
you’re in good hands.
 
 
It should come as no surprise that the concepts of "hearing"  and "listening" keep coming up in our conversations. We've also talked about obeying and abiding and keeping.  If you didn't know me, you might think I were legalistic, but that is actually far from the truth. 
 
Those who know me well, know that I tend to ask a lot of question, give a lot of push-back, ask for reasons and explanations...and just generally annoy the cr*p out of anyone trying to order me around and get me to blindly do what they tell me.  Oh yeah, and then there's that...I curse like a sailor.  So "a legalist" is so what I am not.
 
So then- why all this talk about obedience...
listening to God...
doing what Jesus says...
loving God and Jesus by keeping their commands?
 
Because I've found through trial and error (read here: A LOT of trial...) that when I follow through on the instructions I find in the Word of God, my life is simplified in that I tend to feel more at ease, less anxious, more relaxed, with less fear. SAFE, even. 
 
In a nutshell:  God and Jesus know what they are talking about and give great advice; they know how to keep me out of the self-imposed messes I tend to get myself into.  When I listen to them, I'm in good hands.
 
Today, may you find comfort in the safety of God's good hands.
 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent, Day 17: WARN


Recite the Primo Credo Today in the Morning and in the Evening:

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
~Mark 12:29-31

Today, on the Seventeenth Day of Lent, we continue to discuss the Primo Credo. We have been meditating on it over the Lenten period leading up to Resurrection (Easter) Sunday; and we have been trying to remember to recite it daily, once in the morning and once again in the evening. For the last two and a half weeks, we have stressed the importance of intentionality; thinking, feeling, and meaning the words as we repeat them- not just hollowly reciting them. Our goal is to let the words work in us, and hopefully through us, and back out of us.

Today’s Scripture Reading:

All this I have told you so that you will not go astray.

They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed,

a time is coming when everyone who kills you

will think he is offering service to God.

They will do such things because

they have not known the Father or me.

I have told you these things so that when their hour comes

you will remember that I warned you.

John 16:1-4
 
He may not have waved a red flag, but he might as well have...
 
Jesus warned his disciples of a time that was not going to be so pretty. He did this immediately after telling them a bunch of other important information. Remember from previous posts,  that we learned that Jesus stressed (in John 15) to his disciples the importance of abiding in him and KEEPing his commandments. He used an analogy, describing himself as the VINE and admonishing his disciple to abide in his love, keep his commandments, walk in his ways, to love one another. He did this for a very important reason- he wanted them to understand that it is only by doing these things that they would be able to withstand the difficulties that were inevitable in their futures.

The same goes for us. Unless we stick with Jesus and stick with each other- we’re in for a bumpier ride than if we follow his battle strategy.

Jesus’ battle strategy involves solidarity.

A friend of mine likes to use the game Red Rover as an analogy of what Christian unity and solidarity looks like.


She aptly describes a scenario in which, if elbows are not linked and locked tightly, a fatal “break” occurs and we are vulnerable.

That is why Christian love is a command, not an option.

We do it to survive and to thrive as individuals, but more importantly, it is through our unity and solidarity that the Gospel moves forward (even in the face of personal injury or death- as was the case for the disciples).

Today, as you go throughout your day, may you meditate on Jesus’ Red Flag warning that love should be the tie that binds us, and may you reflect on ways in which you play “Red Rover” with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Third Sunday of Lent: REST

Recite the Primo Credo Today in the Morning and in the Evening:

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. ~Mark 12:29-31
Today is the Third Sunday of Lent, and it is not a day included in the “40 Count”. Every Sunday, we will pause to REST and REFLECT on what we have learned over the past week (in this case, four days). Today, we will continue to reflect upon the Primo Credo, (a variation of the Hebrew Shema Yisrael that Jesus himself told us was the bedrock of our entire belief system.) We have been meditating on it now for ten days and will continue to do so until Resurrection (Easter) Sunday. We have been reciting it every morning and every evening, as faithful Followers of YHWH have been doing for thousands of years. We will take a “break” every Sunday through the Lenten period in order to REST. We will recite the SHEMA today and we will also spend time memorizing the passage below, which is a passage that we will be using in our continued discussion of the Shema.

Today’s Scripture Passage: Psalm 16:8-9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) 8 I keep the LORD in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely.

Today, as we reflect on the above scripture, we think about we have learned over the past week with regard to keeping, abiding, walking/talking, and loving.' Today, may you gain a deep understanding of how keeping The LORD in mind always, loving Him deeply and abiding in Him will lead you to a place of love for others that you could not achieve on your own. May you meditate on His abiding in you and how it is only through His persistent love toward you that you are able to abide in Him at all and therefore love others. May you rest in the knowledge that He is the one holding it all together.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lent, Day 16: VINE

Recite the Primo Credo Today in the Morning and in the Evening:

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. ~Mark 12:29-31

Today, on the Sixteenth Day of Lent, we continue to discuss the Primo Credo. We will be meditating on it over the period leading up to Resurrection (Easter) Sunday; and we will be trying to remember to recite it daily, once in the morning and once again in the evening. For over two weeks now, we have stressed the importance of intentionality; thinking, feeling, and meaning the words as we repeat them- not just hollowly reciting them. Our goal is to let the words work in us, and hopefully through us, and back out of us.

Today’s Scripture Reading: John 15:1-17, esp v. 5

I am the vine and you are the branches; If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; Apart from me, you can do nothing John 15:5


There is something poetic about the word “abide”. It brings to mind thoughts of safely and stability. These are concepts that are meaningful and necessary to an effective Christian walk. The actual word in the Greek text is “meno.” In chapter 15, John stresses the importance of believers abiding in Jesus by attributing the word “meno” to Jesus eleven times in this chapter. Interestingly, John utilizes the word twenty-seven times in his epistles (I, II, and III John). There must be significance to the concept and we can perhaps understand it if we take time to understand the point Jesus was making with the VINE analogy.
First, we need to read this passage and hear it with First Century Middle-Eastern ears (not 21st century American/Western ones). When Jesus used this analogy, the disciples were sure to have understood it in the context of “the vine” being Israel.  There are lots of passages in the Old Testament where the term vine is used for Israel, such as: Ps 80:8-16, Isa 5:1-7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1-8, 17:5-10, 19:10-14, and Hos 10:1. The vine to Israel was as symbolic as the bald eagle is to America. In fact, the vine was even put on some of the coins made by the Maccabees in the century BC. Additionally, this symbol was pominently displayed above the gate of the Temple- according to ancient historical accounts, including those of Josephus, there were golden vines and grape clusters as large as a man over the Temple gates.

To the people of Jesus’ day, the symbolism of this was similar to the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty- we can be quite sure that the symbolic significance would not have been missed on them. So, Jesus was not making a new analogy, per se, but he was attributing the symbolism differently- and that was what was so novel about what he says in John 15. When He says: “I AM the TRUE VINE”…that is one heck of a claim to be making! So here Jesus re-cast himself in the role of the true vine, making a clear statement that Israel as the vine was insufficient. He also re-casts the disciples (for they were Israelites/Jews) as branches.

Then, Jesus makes it clear that the branches have a responsibility. Johns uses the imperative verb “abide”- which indicates that direct and deliberate effort must be expended in order to maintain a close personal relationship to the true vine. Now, to be clear, we do not expend effort to abide in Christ, to gain salvation, or even to keep our salvation; we abide in Him because our fruitfulness as believers directly correlates to our intimacy with Jesus. Our Spiritual health and  our Christ-walk are inseparably connected (entwined and engrafted) to Him, and apart from our continued intimate connectedness to Him, we can do nothing…we cannot bear fruit.

It is important, also here to understand that Jesus spoke of “abiding” in two senses. He used it as a synonym for saving faith (6:56). However, He also used it to describe the intimate relationship that those who have exercised saving faith need to cultivate with God (8:31). All believers abide in Jesus in the first sense, but all do not abide in Him in the second sense (John 5:10; 1 John 3:24). It is in this second sense that Jesus spoke of abiding here (cf. vv. 9-10). He stressed the importance of believers abiding in Him by using the word meno (“abide”) three times in this verse.

In John 15:5, Jesus continues to stress the importance of believers abiding in Him (i.e., cultivating intimacy through loving obedience, 14:23; 15:10) to bear much fruit. So abide then has two distinct qualities or senses: the first is security (which includes, but is not limited to salvation); the second is a healthy, vibrant and flourishing intimate relationship.

I can think of nowhere else in scripture where the sense of security and healthy intimacy are captured than in the following scripture passage:


Psalm 16:8-9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

8 I keep the LORD in mind always.

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely.


It is clear from this passage that a life lived in “abide-ience” (under the Lordship of Christ) is hallmarked by…

-stability,

-contentment,

-joy, and

-security.

 
Today, as you reflect on your relationship With YHWH, may you experience and ever-growing sense of that unshakable confidence we have in and through the person of Jesus Christ.