Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 11- Mark 5:21-43

Mark 5:21-43 "Jesus raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman"

So Jesus crossed the lake in the night and then crosses back the next day. Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue is desperately searching for him. He was just there the day before. His daughter is sick to the point of death. He must have been willing to risk everything because that is what he was doing. As a leader in the synagogue he risked his position and reputation. The religious did not like Jesus. He questioned their time honored beliefs and did not follow their rules. But Jairus is desperate and he believes. He begs Jesus to come and he does.

On the way, a woman comes close. She is desperate. She has a bleeding disorder which makes her unclean. She risks everything for if she is discovered, she can be stoned. She is supposed to stay away from people. But she is desperate and she believes. She touches Jesus.

She is immediately healed but Jesus feels it. She is found out. Instead of ridicule or stoning, though she finds healing for her body and heart. She is remembered forever for her faith.  Jesus says that is what healed her.

Jairus, is delayed though. And then word comes. His daughter is dead. Jesus says, "Just keep believing." And he does. Jesus goes on and raises the girl to life.

~How many times has it happened to me where it is desperate and I doubt? This story so much reinforces my deep need for a deeper, stronger faith. I want to have the faith that risks all. Risks life, limb, and reputation and banks it all on Jesus. Even when it looks hopeless, He will come through. I look at the things that I face and right now they are not near as difficult and yet I struggle to trust. I so often attempt to do it on my own or with superficial prayers for God to provide. I have to learn to trust. To just believe. In spite of circumstances and step out on faith.

That is what I learned. How about you?


Day 10- Mark 4:35-41

Mark 4:35-41 "Jesus Calms the Storm"

We had been going all day. People had come to see Jesus early in the morning and we had been handling logistics and crowd control non-stop. We had tried repeatedly to get Jesus to take a break or get away for awhile. After all, he was healing, feeding, teaching, and traveling non-stop. He never stopped taking care of others. If anyone deserved a rest it was Jesus. Since we were with him, we did what he did or whatever else needed done. He was our teacher. We deserved a break too! Jesus would have none of it, though. He continued to heal and teach as if his life depended on it or as if he thought he would run out of time. That was crazy, though. He was, what, 30 maybe 31 years old? He had plenty of time.

Finally, some of the guys had wrangled some boats and Jesus had agreed it was time to move on. Across the lake he said. The boat guys asked if he was sure. They later told us they felt like a storm was coming on. They should have warned us. White Squall. That's what they called it. Thunder, lightning, rain, wind. I can't even begin to describe the wind. Waves rolling over the boat, tossing everything everywhere. We were sick. S-I-C-K sick. The sailors stopped swearing about God and started praying to him. Eventually it was too much. We just knew that the ship was going to be dashed against the other ships or destroyed by the storm. It was the end.

When we looked around, we couldn't find Jesus anywhere. HE MUST HAVE BEEN THROWN OVERBOARD!!! You can't imagine the panic. We stumbled all over the ship calling for him and looking for him. You will never guess where we found him. Everyone else above deck trying to save the ship and he was below. Asleep. How do you sleep through that? I have to admit, I was a little perturbed. I thought some of the other guys were really going to lose it. How could you sleep at a time like this? He was our teacher, our mentor our guide? How could you sleep when we needed you in such a desperate time? But there he was, asleep.

When we woke him up, he had the audacity to look at us as if we were crazy. Why were we waking him up he asked? As if it wasn't obvious! The ship was tossing all over the place as we took turns tossing our cookies. Why were we waking him up? He claimed to be God and he was asleep. We needed him. We were all about to die!!! He shook his head, stood up, and climbed the stairs. He walked to the rail and looked into the sky at the storm. Rain pelted and immediately soaked him to the skin. And then it happened. He raised his hands and spoke.

He said...

"Shhh. Be still."

And it did.

No gradual calming.

No wind and rain letting up.

No nice drizzle as the storm blew itself out.

One second it was the end, the next it was lake placid. Nothing so much as disturbed the calm except our heavy breathing. Softly he sighed, "Don't you get it? Haven't you seen enough? Where is your faith?" And then he went back to bed.

Dumbfounded. Probably the best word for it. I fell down where I was at right on my backside and didn't move for a long time. There were no words. Who is this man that even the winds and waves obey him?

~How many times has God brought me to and through a storm? When will I trust that I am safe and that He will provide?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 9- Mark 3:1-6

Mark 3:1-6 Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand.

I found this particular study difficult with the perspective taking. I struggled with putting myself in the shoes of the Pharisees. Not because I believe I am better or because I don't think there are things in my life that I can be rigid about too, but because their lack of compassion escapes me. When I think of the Micah 6:8 passage that we look at each week, I know that they were very aware of this passage and yet, they show no mercy. While I can somewhat understand the warped and skewed view of the day that sin brought about the deformity and there fore was justice, how does their actions show a "love of mercy" or any humility at all?

I also struggled to relate to the crippled man as there does not seem to be any area that stands out that I am "incapacitated" in. But, when I meditated on the idea of being deformed or ugly, I was able to realize that at I times I have some very ugly attitudes. I struggle with impatience and resentment. Those are truly ugly and in need of supernatural healing. I am ashamed of them. I hope, though, that as the man in the story was in the synagogue that I am continuing to pursue that which God calls me to be.

In the story, when I put myself in the shoes of Jesus, I feel his anger at their lack of mercy. I long to know more his sadness at their hardness of heart. I don't think I noticed that before. I feel like I always read it that he was angry at their hard hearts. That is not what the text says. It says he was angry when they would not respond about doing good. It says he was DEEPLY saddened by their hard hearts. I feel like I often get angry at hard hearts. I need to be saddened by them in order to truly be like Jesus. Even in their stubbornness and lack of mercy, Jesus was longing for their hearts to change. For them to see as he did and love as he loved. I pray the same for myself.

How about you? Were you able to see through the Pharisees eyes? Do you feel the sadness of Jesus at hard hearts?


Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 8- Mark 1:40-45

So this is an exciting new way to look at scripture. It makes me think of the movie "Vantage Point" where we see the same scene over and over through different lenses/perspectives.

Leprosy. The word for the scourge. It made the bearer untouchable, outcast, rejected, invisible. It made you stink, rot, lose sensations and tactile feeling, and then fall apart. A total state of dis-ease. Physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and in your family. Everything went from fine one minute to completely gone the next. The disease in that day was a TOTAL life wrecker. Loss of job, physical ability, looks, family, friends, social standing, home, rights. Loss of EVERYTHING. People run from you. If you come toward them, you can be killed. Bad news.

Then the leper approaches Jesus. No-no number one. Then Jesus touches him. No-no number two. Then he is completely and totally healed. Instantly. Impossible.

When I try to put myself in this story I instantly gravitate to one of the people the former leper talks to after being healed. I find it amazing, hard to believe but supported by the evidence in front of me. I begin to wonder, "Could he do it for me? Would he do it for me? Will Jesus really touch me where I am and bring the healing I need?" I have seen Jesus do wonderful, amazing things. I wonder if he will touch those things deepest in my heart?

Rewind. The leper. I know my hurts. I know my hungers and needs. I am desperate for God to impact me and give me direction and wisdom for my life. So many changes, hopes, and dreams. What does he want me to give my life too? My time? I long for clear understanding of his will.

Rewind. Jesus. I want to make an eternal impact on others. My heart breaks for the hurting and I want to help heal their hurts. I can, with the strength of the Father.

So much of this particular study just enhances in me a desire to seek and know God's specific will and purpose for my life. How he works through me. How he desires to work through me. I want to hear and see clearly where he is leading my path.

Father, show me what you really want for me. I long to be healed. I know you can. Help any unbelief you find in me.


Day 7- Philippians 4:19

"My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

"My God"- He is personal. I belong to him and He to me. We are in relationship. Not that I am in charge, but that He has said He will be my God and I will be His people. In all, He is still God.

"God"- The creator and sustainer of all things. The power behind the power. The source. The one who cannot be defined by words, feelings, thoughts, or anything other than himself. The totally other.

"will"- It is a done deal. He has given his word that it is going to happen. There is nothing to fear, worry about, or concern myself with.

"meet"- Provide. Join with. Fulfill.

"all your needs"- Not my wants, desires, or wishes (though He may grant some of those), but my needs. If I need it, I can have total assurance that it is taken care of. There is no need to worry or fret about it. Nothing will be overlooked or forgotten. All of them.

"according to his"- The needs will be met by what is already His! He is not fretting about how He will meet my needs, why should I? He already has them in hand. He already knows what I need and has the means to provide.

"glorious"- It is a reflection of Him. His store is above all we can imagine. We can't fathom how God does what He does, but He does it and it reflects who He is. What He will do to meet our needs will bring glory to Him because His means reflect His glory.

"riches"- He is not lacking. He has more than enough. We can be confident and pray with confidence. No praying, "If you don't mind" or "If you can spare it for me." He said we are his people and He is our God. We have real relationship and can approach the throne of grace with confidence.

"in Christ Jesus."- The kicker. All the above is contingent on relationship with Christ. The riches are in relationship with Him. The confidence is in relationship with Him. The glory is in Him. It is all in and through Christ Jesus. The one who makes it all possible.

What it boils down to for me (once I am in Christ) is trust. No matter what the obstacle or impossibility, I can trust. I must trust. In relationship with Christ it is imperative. It is at the core of relationship. He promised He will provide. It is done. As long as I am connected to Christ, His riches are overwhelming. They may not look like what I consider to be riches, but they will be what I need and they will bring Him glory.

Lord, Help me to trust!


Day 6- Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

First off, I apologize to any following that this is late. Rough couple days at home with sleep. Quite appropriate considering the verse I finally am getting to today. All things right now includes getting through the day and managing the day to day of a new child and preparing to go back to work. What the verse tells me is that I can do it. It is positive and confident action. The verse removes the opportunity for doubt or negativity (which I struggle with). When it is Christ who is providing the strength, nothing is impossible. Whether it be the overwhelming day to day or some extra difficult one time event, quoting those who I admire that say it, "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." That is becoming my mantra right now.

The important thing for me to remember in this verse is that it is not by my strength. That means I need to be leaning harder than ever on Jesus. I struggle with that. I so frequently try to do it myself. Just suck it up and get through it (usually with much more complaining than is necessary). I need to submit to His leading, His wisdom, His strength. When He leads and provides, I know I can do it. I need to start to see each and every part of every day as His leading and rely on His strength and wisdom to overcome and excel in each of those situations.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 5- Philippians 4:6

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

I was so excited to see this verse as today's subject. It is one half of my favorite piece of scripture. I am not exactly sure why it is a favorite as I struggle with it a lot. Even though I have engaged this particular verse literally hundreds of times, I still found something new.

I like that the verse is active. It starts out with the word "do." By its very nature it is practical. Due to the fact that it is in the word of God, I also believe that it makes it possible. That is an amazing thing since the next thing it says is not to worry about anything. I often seem to worry about most everything except when I am intently focused on not worrying and trusting God.

The "anything" and "everything" of this verse is reminiscent of our previous study on Day 2 with the word "whatever" from Philippians 1:27. Again, it brings to mind the day-to-day, extraordinary, intriguing, fascinating, boring, happy, sad, tremendously difficult, extremely easy, and all that is between. In all of that, don't worry and be thankful.

Thankful for what? Our blessings? The things we learn? The difficulties themselves? The joys AND sorrows? I think the answer to all the above is "YES!" That, once again, seems impossible. How can you be thankful when you lose a job? How can you be thankful when someone else receives all the things you ask for? How can you be thankful when the loved one does not get well? How can you be thankful for dirty dishes and no time to wash them? How can you be thankful for having to do it all alone? How can you be thankful when the one you love dies, is dying, or leaves you all alone? That is heavy stuff.

I believe the verse tells us how. It says by prayer and petition. What is that? Prayer is taking it to God, talking to him about it, and trusting Him with it. I think most of us understand in general what prayer is. Maybe we are struggling with the types of prayer or how to do it or what it's purpose truly is, but we get that it is intended to be communicating with our Heavenly Father.

What about petition, though? As I have reflected on this I have come to several of my own conclusions. First, I believe that petition is to bring it over and over as long as it is on your heart. It makes me think of the story in Luke 18 where Jesus tells the story of the persistent widow who goes to the judge asking for justice. Jesus says that the judge gives her justice because of her constant petitions. He goes on to say that God will also grant justice to those who are persistent. He does not tire of our requests; he longs to hear the desires of our hearts as long as we have those desires. Second, I think of our earthly petitions. When we want something done in our society, we start a petition. We get LOTS AND LOTS of people who agree with us to sign on. Shouldn't we do that with our prayers to God? James 5 tells us to confess and pray for each other for healing. I believe this is the other meaning of petitioning God; pray together and pray for each other specifically, frequently, and consistently.

Finally, present these requests to God. To me this means quit trying to do it myself. It is God who handles our requests and He does not need us to give our worries to Him and then try and figure it out and fix it ourselves. The idea of "presenting" them to Him is to give Him the present (gift) of our requests. We don't take gifts back. Once they are given they belong to the receiver of the gift. When we present our requests to God, they are His. We are to leave them with Him and not try and take them back.

To me, that is heavy stuff. True stuff, but very hard to do. Challenging.

Peace to you~


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day 4- Philippians 3:12b

"... I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 3:12b (NIV)

This one on its own had me stumped. By itself, I understood that pressing on had quite a few meanings. First, I haven't attained a goal. Second, it will take work. The idea of "press on" makes me think that I will have to push through things, be persistent, especially when things are difficult and/or mundane.  I also understood from this that I had a goal to reach; something to "take hold" of. Again I see the God-work in that Christ has already taken hold of me and will give me the strength to take hold of the goal. It will not come from my power, but by my persistent submission to the goal he has set for me. With all that said, it still felt empty without the context of the rest of the verse and surrounding text.

The context of Philippians chapter 3 is the idea that we have nothing in and of ourselves to boast of. Everything is worthless in light of being one with Christ. That is the goal he is speaking of. The prize we reach for. The end of the race. That is what we were taken hold of for: Unity (relationship) with Christ. Like every relationship, this one takes work; hence the "pressing on". As the bride of Christ, he has already taken hold of us. When we choose to join him (i.e. become a Christian, disciple, believer, follower, part of the body) we begin the relationship. It, however, is like any other relationship and we must continue to work daily, hourly, minute by minute, and second by second to reap the reward of making it all it is intended to be.

It makes me think of my own marriage. I remember that when Christina and I decided to get married, I was very excited about how great it was going to be. I can honestly say that it has been great and is getting better as time goes by. I can also see that there is a lot of potential that we have not reached in our relationship. The one thing I don't think anyone could have prepared me for, though, is how HARD it has been. The first few years were especially trying, but we still go through some very difficult, heart-wrenching times. Even with those, however, I can truthfully say it is much better than I could have imagined the day we wed. I am a truly blessed man.

All of that to say this, it has taken "pressing on" to make this relationship grow. There is implied commitment in that. There is no such thing as real relationship without commitment. That may sound hard or harsh, but it is true. You cannot get to the best of what a relationship is intended to be without difficulty, hard work, sweat, and tears. A person will not stick through or put in the required effort without commitment to the goal; the unity/oneness intended in a relationship. It goes for marriage and it goes for our relationship with Christ. It is why he took hold of us. Do we dare press on to take hold of Him? I am trying.

One last thought: I struggled with the idea of "that which he took hold of me." I believe I now understand what the end goal of His taking hold of me is: Unity and a relationship. What I don't understand and can't fathom is "Why?"

Thank you Abba.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day 3- Philippians 2:13

"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

I feel like this particular verse is full of some big ideas for me. The first thing I am drawn to is similar to an earlier study. Once again the idea that God is the one doing the work is presented. It is not about my strength, talents, abilities, discipline, or work ethic but God's strength and power that is at work with in me. That is such a relief if I can actually believe and buy in to that reality. It is hard to do, though. It is hard to let go of the reigns and trust that God is doing what he says. The verse says that God IS working in me. It is something that is already happening! This tells me that I must have first, a faith to believe that it is true and second, an openness and listening quality to be able to recognize God's work. I need to develop an awareness of what God is already doing so that I can join in.

The next big idea I see is the "what" that God is doing. He is giving me desire and power. This is really appealing to my selfishness if I don't read deeper. The desire and power are for what pleases Him, not me. That, however, is not the biggest idea.

Also, there is an expectation in the verse from God. He expects me to actually DO what it is that he desires and empowers me to do. Not just believe it, not just talk about it, but put it in to practice. This will require me to trust that what I see to do is actually from Him and trust that He has given me what I need to accomplish it. Those are big. So often I question, "Is this really what God wants me to do. Will He really see me through it or will I start and fail?" It is a leap of faith and it is a big valley to leap across at times. But, I still don't think that is the biggest idea in the verse.

I think, the biggest idea in the verse is that it all is a GIFT. It is free. And like all gifts, it is expected to be received. The work is being done by God. He has all the pieces and parts in place. I just have to receive the gift, unwrap it, and enjoy it. When I do, the verse implies that He will be pleased. He gives us the desires and power to do what pleases Him. Logically, what follows is that if I desire what He has put on my heart and do what He has empowered me to do, He will be pleased. If I can swallow this, the maker of the universe will be pleased with me.

That is too cool. I need to chew on it some more.


Day 2- Philippians 1:27a

"Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Philippians 1:27a (NIV)

WHATEVER- The word really sticks out. Especially in our culture today where it is often used as a brush off as if to say "so what, I 'm not listening, you don't matter." In this context, though, it is directly the opposite. It is of the utmost importance. Whatever- as in the phrase "in everything." Contextually, this shows up again in Philippians 4 when it talks about the circumstances NOT to worry in. There it says (paraphrased) Don't worry about anything, but in everything pray with thanks. Anyway, I digress. WHATEVER- In every circumstance: good, bad, happy, sad, exciting, mundane, easy, hard, once-in-a-lifetime, or everyday humdrum. No matter what, behave "as if" your are worthy of the sacrifice of Christ.

Now that is a thought- actually 2 thoughts.

First thought:  I am wrestling with the idea of "conduct yourself in a manner worthy." No matter how I read it, it feels like it means to behave "as if." i have heard this a lot in Christian circles. It comes out in different ways. "Fake it 'til you make it." "If you act as if you feel better than you do, you will begin to feel better." And other timeless 'wisdom?' What I struggle with is the fine line between acting "as if" because we know it is true even if we don't feel it and being inauthentic. I think one of the most devastating and often accurate claims against Christians is that of being fake. There is a long history of pretending. We doctor it up in nice phrases. We say all kinds of things and pretend that things don't affect us like other people who are not believers because we don't want to seem "worldly". Unfortunately, this often translates to those who are watching us as if we are fake, self-deceiving, lying, and/or many other sad perceptions. So, I struggle with how to be honest, authentic, truthful, and still be able to honestly articulate the truth that God is greater than our most dire situation and even when I don't feel it, I choose to trust.

Second thought: I struggle with how to in each and every moment, be submissive to the "good news" of Jesus sacrifice for me. Some moments, I find it easy to be grateful for God's gift of His son. It is much less difficult in those moments I recognize my need for mercy and grace. It is much more difficult when changing a diaper or doing dishes (I hate dishes) to be understanding of how I am to act "worthy of the gospel of Christ." How does one recognize the significance of the suffering of Christ, the death of Christ, and the separation from God of Christ in my place in the everyday mundane or even joyous, easy moments of life?  It is the "in the moment" replacing my thoughts of the present time and circumstances with the present impact of the love, forgiveness, and hope gifted to us by Jesus in His sacrifice.

What are your thoughts on the verse? Any answers for my questions? Looking forward to your thoughts.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day 1- Philippians 1:6

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

I think what has stood out to me the most is the nature of who does the work. So often in my faith I feel like I have so much I need to work on and so much I need to do to grow. In this verse, it is so evident that God does the work. Not only does He do the work, but I can be confident it will be a good work. It is already started and He will complete it in me. I just have to be open to it. As we looked at in our memory verse, it is about allowing God to work in us. He won't force it, but if we allow it, He will do it. I see that in this verse in the word "being." Being confident is passive confidence. It is not doing, but a state of being.

The other thing that stands out most to me, is how long God expects to be working on this. So many times I believe that there is this point I am growing to and then I will be mature. I don't say that, but it is how I act. I always say, "I will always have things to learn or areas in which I need to grow," but inside I feel like there is a point I will grow to where I have "arrived." It is healthy for me to see (so that I don't get discouraged) that God expects to complete His good work in me on the day of Christ Jesus. To me, that is when He comes back. He will ALWAYS be working His good work in me as long as I allow Him until He comes back. That is a good thought.

What's your thought?



So, for those of you who read what I wrote almost a year ago, you can tell I did not do well keeping up with this. However, I am hoping blogging will have a new life with this 40 Days In the Word study. After talking to Mark and Rebecca about it after life group, I am posting thoughts about the daily studies with the hope that we will be able to have a written conversation. It was a little sad for me when I realized that we would not have time to discuss the daily readings in life group.

So, most of all I look forward to your thoughts on the studies. I am inviting open conversation about your thoughts on my thoughts as well and hope that we can have life changing discussion as we dive deeper into the word.

I know that we all did not start on exactly the same day, so feel free to comment on each day as you come to them. As I conclude this post, know that I hope to immediately begin the next with Day 1 and 2 thoughts.

Here's to the adventure!