Sunday, April 25, 2010

Israel, Day 5-6

We've been up in the Galilee region for two days now. We've seen Bethsaida, the town of Peter, Andrew and Philip. We've seen Capernaum, Jesus home town and later Peter's. We visited Kursi and Corazin where Jesus did ministry. We crossed the Sea of Galilee to "the other side" in the region of the Ganesarenes where Jesus met the demoniac and sent Legion into a herd of pigs. We had lunch in Tiberias, Galilee's largest city. We passed by where Catholics believe Jesus reinstated Peter and where Jesus delivered the sermon on the mount. Tomorrow we drive north to visit the land that Philip, the son of Herod the Great, built up and controlled.
Of all that we've done here in Galilee I think two things stand out most. First, I've been challenged by the reinstatement of Peter in John 21 after Peter's denial. I struggle to see this as just a reinstatement. I think for Jesus, his words were more of a special great commission for Peter to return to Jerusalem to reach "his sheep," the Jews. This was far more consistent with Jesus teaching and Peter's trajectory.
Secondly, I've been challenge by the person of Mary of Magdalene. She was from a village called Magdal that sat on the valley exactly one day's journey between Nazareth and Capernaum. It sits just off the Lake of Galilee and would have been the obvious spot to rest after a long day of walking. Mary's house might have sat closest to the road and thus had many visitors. The OT commands Jews to offer hospitality to strangers and travelers and Mary was being an obedient Jew by taking in Jesus and the disciples as they passed through. In fact, Mary may have had so many visitors that she has been accused throughout history of being a prostitute. However, if she was placed in such a strategic place with such a strong gift of hospitality, there would no doubt be opposition. In fact, Luke 8:2 tells us that she was also the object of spiritual opposition; Jesus drove seven demons out of her. Thinking through the person of Mary of Magdalene really helps me understand how mission critical each person is in God's plan. Mary seems like a small figure in the Gospels but in reality, she is the person that made Jesus travels and mission trips all possible.
Anyway, these are just a few of my thoughts as I'm here in Galilee. This place is amazing. I could stay in Galilee for a month and not run out of things to see and places to go.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Israel, Day 4

Today we began with a walk to the temple mount. This area is the big square box over Mt. Moriah where the Temple once stood. After the Roman destruction in AD 70, the area has changed hands many times. Since the 700's it has been under Muslim control. It felt a bit strange to be in one of the most Holy places of Islam and Judaism... especially since I'm not Jewish or Muslim. We were watched the whole time and had to leave at 10:00 to make space for the Muslim call to prayer. We had a chance to walk by the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa mosque. In Hebrew and Muslim tradition, beneath the Dome, where the Holy of Holy stood and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, stands the Foundation stone. This stone represents the presence of God and the very first piece of matter created by God. This is why the temple mount is so sacred and controversial. There are only a few places where the bedrock of Mt. Moriah can be seen, under the Dome, on top of the Temple mount and beneath the mount inside the western wall tunnels where excavation began in the 1970's.
After the Temple mount we visited the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the cripple (John 5). Archaeology has uncovered a good portion of the southern pool and some Roman ruins built on top of this area. There is also a beautiful French Catholic church there were we all sang "I love you Lord" together. It sounded amazing.
From there we went through the Muslim quarter of the city. It's not nearly as nice, neat, pleasant or interesting as the rest. It did however get us back to the Jewish quarter where we returned to the Wailing wall and had some time to pray. At the wall were dozens of young boys celebrating their Bar Mitzvah along with fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and friends. It was fascinating to see these traditions played out here. Moms, grandmothers, aunts and sisters watched from the women's side where they cheered and threw candy.
I spent a little time at the wall praying. I couldn't help but think about the conflict in this place and wonder when Jesus will return to make it all new. How wonderful will it be when there is no need for a temple or a temple mount because Jesus is our temple and His presence will fill the earth! I spent longer than I planned at the wall praying but it wasn't anything deeply spiritual. Cold stone doesn't come close to the blessing of actually being the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This thought, that I am the Temple of the Holy Spirit, is what kept me at the wall in worship and gratitude. The wall just happened to be the most appropriate and available place to pray.
For lunch, I had the best falafle I've ever had (sorry Jocelyn, your's are good but these had french fries on top!).
After lunch we changed and visited the City of David. This is the area David captured from the Jebusites as he assumed the reign in Israel. This area stretches from the bottom of the Kidron valley up to Mt. Moriah where the Temple stood and in-between the spring of Gihon and the western valley. It's not really that large but it was all that David needed at the time. He conquered this city by entering a dry water tunnel that the Canaanites built nearly 1000 years earlier to secure water from the Gihon spring. This is the same spring that Hezekiah tapped in about 700 bc in order to bring water into the city walls and stave off the Syrian invasion. This tunnel is 500 meters long and winds down and around the bottom of Mt. Moriah. The fall from the spring to the pool of Shilom inside the city walls was less than 30 cm over that 500 meter stretch. We walked the entire length of that tunnel, through the water and out by the pool of Shilom. This is where Jesus sent the blind man to wash in John 7. It was also the source for water in the old city and the temple. This was a very important pool in the history of Israel. It was all due to Hezekiah's courage to do what most would consider to be impossible.
The walk was fun, dark, long and very interesting. In a few places we could see where the tunnel jogged to adjust and eventually connect. There were torch holders and small notches for tools and supplies. Nobody really knows how this project was done but it still boggles the mind and it still works to this day.
After dinner we traveled down to the Western wall and toured the tunnels beneath the city. This Western wall is the most treasured wall of the Temple mount since it is the closest to the foundation stone and the Holy of Holies. From these tunnels we could see original stones from the Herodian temple mount, Muslim construction on top of this and some Christian reconstruction from a 200 year stretch in which Crusaders controlled Jerusalem. Many artifacts and treasures have been found in these tunnels but digging has stopped since Muslims in control of the temple mount have strictly (and brutally) forbid it. It was fascinating to see and touch the various levels and layers of history right in front of me... like a big cake. I think seeing the history, geology and geography has been the most fascinating. It all makes so much more sense when viewed in person.
Our tour guide through the tunnels was a 26 year old Jewish girl from Maine who moved to Israel at 17 to pursue her faith. She now teaches at a Hebrew school... 7th grade! We talked a bunch afterward about the difference in culture and how kids grow up and interact. She said that kids here are much more difficult than American kids. It made me love my job all the more. :-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Israel, Day 3

After an amazing breakfast of fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, spinach egg souffle, fresh bread, rich coffee... (it was amazing) we left the Dead Sea and went to Masada. Masada was one of Herod's eight palace fortresses that stood just off the sea on a plateau about 400 meters above the sea. It was completely inaccessible to enemy armies and was an engineering marvel. Here, in the middle of the desert, Herod managed to bring water up to the top, fill 70,000 cubic meters of water cisterns, farm enough food to feed thousands of troops, maintain two extravagant bath houses (with heated and cool water) and remain completely isolated from everything around him. It is believed that he could have stayed there with over 1000 people for about 10 years without anyone descending or ascending. After Herod's death the fortress remained relatively vacant until 70 AD when Zealots escaping the invasion of Jerusalem ran to Masada to take a stand. In 73 AD the Romans built a ramp up the side of the plateau and forced the massacre and eventual defeat of the Zealots. In many ways, this was the last stand of Israel until 1948 when the nation was reconstituted by the United Nations. The pictures are good but they really don't do it justice.
After Masada we went to Bet Guvrin. This was a Jewish community where the people lived nearly entirely underground in vast caverns carved into the foothills of Judea. These were really amazing and fun to climb around in. We also were introduced to a "Kharat" tree. This is the tree that produces a substitute chocolate from its pods and the beans/seeds inside are the standard from where we get the measurements for diamonds, the carat!
From there we went to the valley of Elah where David fought Goliath. We crossed the creek that runs down through that valley, from which David pulled his five smooth stones. We read the story from 1 Samuel 17 and tried to envision how that battle was set up. We had some great discussion about the Goliaths of ministry and faith in God.
We finished the day by Bet Shamesh. This is the valley where Samson harassed the Philistines and where the Ark of the Covenant traveled on its return to Jerusalem.
These areas are fairly built up and it's difficult to envision the stories while trains and cars pass before our eyes.
Nonetheless, we really enjoyed pulling out our Bibles and reading about these events.

My favorite parts of today were Masada and the valley of Elah. I kept thinking about Elijah and how much he enjoys that story of David and Goliath. I can't wait to show him the pictures and retell the story from where I stood.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 2

Today I got to see and experience one of my greatest Bible dreams.
I walked up En Gedi and swam under David's waterfall!
I actually bolted from our group (thanks for the recommendation Joel) and explored on my own.
I saw some amazing sights and spent time praying and meditating on some of David's Psalms while he was in that exact place.
I've always wanted to do that. I was a bit late for the bus but nobody seemed to notice since I wasn't the last one on.
We also spent time in the wilderness of Judea where Jesus was tempted, where Elijah was fed by ravens, where Elijah hid in the cave and God spoke in the gentle breeze, where the good Samaritan story took place and where Jesus and His disciples walked through on their way to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem for the last time.
While up on this mountainside looking down on the valley and the road between Jerusalem and Jericho I could understand how Elijah felt and heard the Lord in the gentle wind. God's presence is so much more there in the desert than in the hustle and bustle of over-commercialized Jerusalem and the gaudy religiosity of Bethlehem. But... isn't that how life is? God seems to always show up in the dry, lonely, still and trying times of life.
Doug and I escaped about 300 yards up the hillside to shoot some video and sit still for a few minutes. It was breathtaking just thinking about the significance of that valley.
We also traveled down the road beside the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized and the dead sea, the lowest place on earth. Tonight we are staying at a resort next to the lower Dead Sea. It's amazing! We floated in the Dead Sea and then hopped in the pool at the hotel. It was so relaxing after a long and hot day.
I'm now sitting at the McDonald's across from the hotel for some coffee and free wi-fi. It doesn't quite feel like Israel should but I'm grateful for the internet access and caffeine.
Tomorrow we see Masada and a few other OT sights on the way back to Jerusalem.
I'll update again tomorrow night.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jerusalem model


day 1b

Today was really fun. We began on the mount of olives and got a panoramic view of Jerusalem.

It's crazy how close together all of these landmarks are. This gave us a good opportunity to see the whole city, point out where historic locations would have been and unfold the high points of Israel's history.

Our tour guide, Adre is really good. He's a 30-something jewish man who really knows his Bible, NT included. After we saw the city from the Mount of Olives we crossed Jerusalem to the state museum where there is a very large replica of the city from the time of Jesus and the dead sea scrolls found in Qumron. These are the oldest existing manuscripts from the Hebrew Scriptures dating back to the 4th century. Their history is amazing and a clear sign of God's provision and protection for his word.
Next we drove into Bethlehem (Palestinian territory) where we saw Herodium and the Church of the Nativity. Herodium was one of 7 or 8 fortresses or palaces that Herod built in his day and it was believed to be the 3rd largest in the world at the time. (Who knows if it really was.) It's a real engineering marvel to see the cisterns and tunnels carved out of the stones. He also moved a mountain (really a large hill) to build up Herodium's foundation. It stands as a dominant point on the horizon line and is high enough to see parts of Jerusalem, the mount of olives and Bethlehem from the top. It's really impressive.
The church of the nativity was just gaudy and overdone. While the exact location of Jesus' birth cannot be known, the historical tradition is that it was close or under where this church now stands. The Catholics and Orthodox churches have turned it into quite a shrine. We were more interested to see the catacombs or tunnels under the church where St. Jerome copied the Scriptures into the common language for the people.
On our way out of Bethlehem we stopped at a gift shop owned by some Palestinian Christians. They had lots of stuff, silver and gold jewelry, lots of olive wood statuettes, tapestries and trinkets. We had fun bargaining with them and had some fun encounters with some street merchants on the way to the bus.
We returned back to the hotel at about 6:45 and enjoyed dinner together at the restaurant.
It was a full and tiring day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 1

Today begins my first tour through Israel. I woke up this morning in the old stone Gloria Hotel. The city is still and all that can be heard are birds and an occasional church bell. There are very few cars in the old city.

Today we visit Bethlehem and Herodium. We'll see the church of the Nativity and the Dead Sea Scrolls museum. On the way out of Jerusalem we'll see the the Mount of Olives and a few other sites. We'll focus our study on the beginning of Jesus life and his preparation for ministry.

Matthew 2:1-3
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jesus & Faith...

Matthew 2:36
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father."

I wonder how Jesus felt about this? Was it frustrating knowing all things for all of eternity past and then, when taking on flesh, to not know the hour or day of His own return? Why was this so important? I suppose it was a pretty good way for Jesus to identify with us in our faith.
Jesus identified with our hungers, our pains, our trials, our temptations, our frustrations, our relationships, our loss, our loneliness,... why not our faith? Why not our trust? "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man," (Luke 2:52). Does this suggest that He also grew in faith?
How wonderful it is to know that my Savior has fully identified with me in my humanity.

Thank you Jesus.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Matthew 23:23
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."

The scribes and Pharisees were fixated on the letter of the law and completely missed the spirit of the law. At first read it seems that Jesus is more concerned with the spirit than the letter, the "weightier things." However, the conclusion Jesus comes to is that God is concerned with both.
In my life, have I become fixated on one aspect of the law or Christian life that I neglect others? Have I become prideful and arrogant about one aspect of obedience while ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Has my labor in the Lord been without love (1 Cor. 13)? Have I become so comfortable with my Christian liberty that I've neglected by brother's faith and conscience (Rom 14)?

Father - forgive me for neglecting Your commands for the sake of my own self esteem. Forgive me for my pride and arrogance in what I choose to obey. Teach me to value both the spirit of the law and the letter. Open my eyes to where I need to grow and give me the courage to change. Amen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Washed & Wearing White for the Wedding

Matthew 22:11-13
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?'
The man was speechless.
"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Do I approach my relationship with Christ casually? Have I become so comfortable with Christ that I have forgotten His demand for purity and perfection (Mt. 5:48)? The man in this parable arrogantly showed up to the king's wedding banquet in the equivalent of blue jeans and a tee-shirt, unclean, unkempt and improper for such an exclusive and extravagant event. He heard the invitation but did not know the host. He believed hearing and answering the invitation was enough to privilege him to the banquet. But Christ expects so much more from the guests at His wedding banquet with His bride, the church (Rev. 19:7-8). He expects us to, by faith, be robed in Christ and His righteousness (Gal. 3:27). He expects us to put off our old way of living and put on the very nature, character and attributes of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:9-12). The expectation is clear, I must purify and prepare myself for that great day when I will stand before my beloved Savior and present myself to Him without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish (Eph. 5:27). To show up in any other way would be to demonstrate my disregard for or my lack of intimacy with Christ. To know Him and to love Him is to purify myself and prepare myself for eternity with Him.

Jesus - I love You. Help me to purify and prepare myself each day for your return. Let me be ready for the great wedding banquet of the Lamb. Let me be found washed and wearing white that I may be presented to You as a radiant gift, wholly pleasing to You. Amen.

"My Jesus, I Love Thee"
William R. Featherston, 1864

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Revelation 19:7-8
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear."
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Galatians 3:27 "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

Colossians 3:9-10 & 12
since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator....
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Ephesians 5:27
"to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."

Matthew 25:10,13
"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.... Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

how do you see Jesus?

Matthew 21:44
"He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."

There are only two ways to view Jesus Christ, the stone the builders (Israel) rejected (Mt. 21:42); either we will be broken and contrite, resulting in repentance and conformity to His image, or we will be hardened, resulting in judgment and discipline or punishment. Neutrality is not an option. To look to Jesus with casual familiarity or passive curiosity no better than disdain. For what Jesus has done on the cross alone demands something far greater than a pleasant thought or quaint nostalgia. To look to Jesus and be anything but broken is to miss the significance of His life and sacrifice. Such a response is both a moral and personal offense to God the Father who has given His only Son as the perfect sacrifice for sinful men. Such a response demands His judgment, discipline and punishment.
So how do I see Jesus? Do I read my Bible and listen to stories of Jesus with quaint familiarity or do I force myself to be broken by the person and work of Jesus Christ? Do I view the cross as a fortunate demonstration of God's love for me or as the heart-breaking and life-changing, saving and sanctifying work of a Holy God on my behalf. When I look to Christ and His cross I ought to be brought to be wrecked and reduced to repentance, obedience, purity, self-sacrifice and conformity to His image and nature. Far too often, for me, Jesus is simply too familiar.

Father, break me. Discipline me and shape me to see Jesus Christ, His work and the cross as You would have me see them. Let me be broken and contrite. Drive me to repentance, obedience, purity and conformity that I might walk away changed; looking more and more like Your Son each day. Amen.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kingdom Upside-down

Matthew 20:16
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Matthew 20:25-28
"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The kingdom of Jesus is upside-down to a kingdom of this world mindset.
If you want to learn to live and speak and act and treat others like Jesus, watch the world and do the opposite.

Serve instead of Lord.
Give instead of hoard.
Wait to be last,
instead of rushing right past.
Lift up rather than tare down.
Smile instead of frown.
Care for the poor,
don't close your door.
Keep no record of wrong,
but forgive all life-long.

Lord - let me live more counter-culturally and counter-intuitively. Help me keep your kingdom priority in mind. Amen.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Matthew 19:21
"Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

When the rich man asks Jesus about how to receive eternal life, Jesus gives an unexpected answer. He does not talk about faith or trust or a Christ-centered belief system. Instead, Jesus turns to the ten commandments (specifically the five that deal with earthly relationships; vs. 18-19) and concludes that perfection comes by sacrificing for the poor. Doesn't that sound like Jesus is teaching salvation by works?
Yet Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

The truth is that Jesus is not teaching that salvation comes by works. He is proving that our salvation will be proved by our works. The validity of our faith is tested by how we live it out. If we truly love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22:37-40) then we will hold nothing back from God and others. To say we love God with our lips and then deny Him with our lives, possessions and relationships is no love at all. Furthermore, how can we say we love God who we cannot see if we do not love our neighbor who has been created in His image?(1 Jn. 4:20)!

So what am I withholding from God? Where am I loving only in thought or word and not in action and sacrifice? "For (I am) God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for (me) to do" (Eph. 2:10).

Father, let my faith be true. Teach me to sacrifice and hold nothing back in my love for You and for others. Sharpen my hearing to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Let my faith be known by what I do, not only by what I belief. Amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

reconciliation and prayer

Matthew 18:19-20
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Most often I hear this verse quoted to claim things in prayer. However, this verse is not really about prayer, but reconciliation. This passage rests between Jesus' instructions on how to restore a wayward brother and the parable of the unforgiving servant. This passage seems then to be the secret to forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. If, when we are offended, we choose to respond in prayer along side our sinning brother (and perhaps one witness, vs. 16) then reconciliation and restoration is promised, it's inevitable. Prayers is the essential tool that places everything back into God's perspective. When we remind ourselves who God is in adoration (forgiving and merciful), vulnerable confess our sins, humble thank Him for His forgiveness and ask Him for the strength and resolve to reconcile, we can't help but receive what we ask for.

Father, teach me to make prayer my first response to an offense. Teach me to pray and not judge. Amen.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jesus described

Matthew 17:2
"He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light."

I find it ironic how Matthew inadvertently describes Jesus using Jesus own character and nature. When Jesus humanity was peeled back, the only words that even begin to describe who we see are the very essence of who Jesus is.

"like the sun" - Rev. 21:23 "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."

"White as light" - John 1:9 - "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world."
John 8:12 - "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

There is no comparison, analogy or metaphor that works for Jesus. He is like nothing on Earth and only He can adequately describe Himself. To see Him, we must strip away all our humanity and all that is earthly and focus on Him and His character alone.

Jesus, help me to see You and know You more fully. Open my eyes and illuminate my heart and mind to see You for You, apart from my own humanity. Peel back the veil and let me know You. Amen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Remembering God's Provisions

Matthew 15:33, "His disciples answered, 'Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feel such a crowd?"

Here, Jesus is about to feed the 4000, just one chapter away from His feeding of the 5000 and the disciples seem to forget who Jesus is and what He can do. In less than a chapter they have forgotten that He is "the bread of life" (Jn. 6:33).
But it's easy to judge the disciples for their forgetfulness and short-sightedness. It's a bit more difficult to examine our own lives and ask about our own manner of faith and trust. How often has God provided for our needs, protected us, preserved us or promoted us and we forget before the next trial or test arises in our lives? We worry and wonder and wander and work to find a solution all the while Jesus is waiting for us to come to Him. All the while, Jesus is testing us to see if we will trust in Him and acknowledge Him as the bread of life, the living water. He is more than sufficient to meet all my needs... and there is always plenty left over. None of God's provisions should be wasted in our lives (Jn. 6:12) - we should be overflowing with blessings and find a way to collect them all to provide for others. It all comes back to faith and remembering that He is more than able to meet all our needs according to His riches in Glory (Phil. 4:19).

Father, deepen my faith and remind me always of who You are. Be my Bread of Life and may I be sustained by You alone. Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Energized by serving

Matthew 14:13-14
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

After receiving the news that John the Baptist, His cousin, friend and partner in ministry had been beheaded for His sake, Jesus needed some down time. Yet it wasn't His alone time that seemed to rejuvenate Jesus. It was His ministry of healing and caring for the poor that seemed to bring Him strength and encouragement. In fact, He was so strengthened and energized by this ministry that He did not want the crowds to go away (vs. 16). Instead, He feeds the 5000+ people in the crowd! The only thing that drove Jesus back into solitude was the crowds desire to make Him king by force (Jn. 6:15).
This is not to minimize the importance of quiet time with God, but the question that presses on my heart is this, "Do I view ministry and serving as a burden or a blessing?" When I feel down or discouraged do I withdraw and become self-focused or do I embrace serving, the gift of God to draw my attention away from my own troubles and worries and place them back on Him and His priorities? The next time I feel like wallowing in my own self, will I chose to look outside myself and see the ministry before me?

Father - turn my eyes away from myself and let me focus on You and Your ministry. Let me be re-energized by serving and caring and giving and healing. Let me receive Your ministry as I minister to others. Amen.