I’m Sorry

S: Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly. John 7:24 (NIV)

Don’t be nitpickers; use your head – and heart! – to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right. John 7:24 (MSG)

O: Look below the surface – what is the heart of the matter.

A: Lord, while I know there is a greater message You are conveying here, I can’t look past this underlying theme of examining my own heart.

My country is on fire. It’s been burning for a long time – embers below the surface finally erupting into flames that cannot be ignored. So many opinions broadcasted on media platforms – trying to find the right words to extinguish or fuel the flames.

And still I’ve not yet heard the two small words that can initiate the greatest amount of healing…

“I’m sorry.”

I think it’s because it’s much easier to look around and judge how everyone else is responding to determine which is right, wrong, better, or worse. But change can’t really happen without beginning with myself.

I haven’t posted anything on social media about what is going on, not because I don’t care or I’m not heartbroken or enraged by it, but because I can’t just throw words up on a screen hoping they will somehow pacify the cries of injustice in our world.

The reality is our world is broken, and I’ve played a part in it. I’ve made judgements based on appearance. I may want to think I’m better than the violence on TV, but I know better. I know the words I’ve used to tear others down – even if they were never spoken – I know the thoughts in my heart. If I take time to look within, I can see my own prejudices.

And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for thinking that somehow I was better than you. That somehow you were a threat to my wellbeing – my safety. What I see so clearly now is that the biggest threat to me is myself.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)

It’s easy to fling opinions and judgements all over Facebook and Twitter. It’s much more difficult and painful to sit quietly with ourselves and evaluate our own hearts.

How have I contributed to this epidemic?

I’ve thought too much of and about myself. I’ve loved myself more than I have others. I’ve thought my ways were best.

How could I judge anyone else when I know my own sinful nature? How can I say this is right or wrong when my own motive is not love? How can I do any of this without examining my own heart first?

For all of this and countless other consequences of my sin, I’m a contributor to the problem.

What else could I possible say?

Only this: I’m sorry. Can you please forgive me?

P: God, I want to say, “Forgive us!” But I have to start with myself first. Can you forgive me? Change me from the inside out, Lord. Start with me.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Psalm 51:1-17 (NIV)

Photo by Lucxama Sylvain

What’s the Attraction?

S: And a massive crowd of people followed him everywhere. They were attracted by his miracles and the healings they watched him perform. John 6:2 (TPT)

O: Most of the masses were not interested in Jesus; they were there to witness the miraculous (v. 26) – maybe this was the first recorded FOMO (fear of missing out) mob, huh? They wanted to be there when the extraordinary happened, but when it came to actually believing in Jesus and accepting and applying His teachings, this fickle crowd couldn’t hang.

A: So what’s my attraction? What is it about Jesus that draws me in? I mean, you can’t read this passage of Scripture and not examine your own heart. At least I can’t.

And let’s be honest, following Jesus is a lot more involved than just following the latest trend.  

It’s everything.

It’s laying down all the flashy enticements of the world to pick up a cross – to be willing to die to yourself and all your selfish desires – to know Him more. That through this, others can know Him, too. It’s kind of crazy, really.

This kind of attraction can only be love.

Radical love.

Unrestrained love that reaches down from heaven to save the lost. Love that binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Love.

It’s always been love.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

P: Jesus, thank You for Your love and patience with us – with me. Thank You for this radical love that transforms us – may it be Your LOVE in us that attracts others to You. I love You, Jesus. Amen

Photo by Skitterphoto

Stand Up

S: when Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to be made well?” John 5:6 (NLT)

O: This man had been ill for 38 years – whether or not the man had ever experienced the ability to walk before it does not say, but I think we can conclude that at this point, he was doing all he know he could to be made well. Day after day, month after month, year after year the same thing – and no change.

Then, one day this man comes and asks if he wants to be made well, and he doesn’t respond with “yes,” he instead gives reason for why what he’s been doing isn’t working; not even realizing probably the confession of why he can’t get well on his own. Then Jesus commands him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Free will dictates that the ill man could have chosen not to, but how could he not? I can’t breeze past this charge from Jesus without envisioning that moment – without imagining what it must have been like to look into the eyes of God, to hear the love in His voice, the authority in its tone. The invitation to be made whole, to be free, right in front of him. How could he not respond in obedience?

Do not take lightly the very act of standing. When you are weary, broken, tired, and simply beat down, the idea of standing is exhausting. And yet, this is what Jesus asked of him first. “Stand up…” The first step necessary to move forward. Stand up.

A: When I’ve exhausted myself running in circles trying over and over again the things I thought would work, and they’ve left me unchanged, can I find it in me to stand up? When I’ve cried myself to sleep, wearied my soul with worry, can I usher up the strength to stand up?

When I can’t pick myself up off the floor, will I allow Jesus to?

Even if I cannot do so physically, I must do so spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. This is what it means to put my faith in Him. Regardless of what I can’t see in the present, I believe I will see in the future. This is hope. This is faith.

P: Jesus, help me to stand up. Help me to set aside all my reasons for doubt and unbelief. Transform my way of thinking so I can see what You see; free me from my own limitations, Lord. Help me to trust in You more and more.

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini)

And the Man Believed

S: Then Jesus told him, “Go back home. Your son will live!” And the man believed what Jesus said and started home. John 4:50 (NLT)

O: It is easy  to read past some things in Scripture (sometimes our familiarity with the passage can be a barrier to fresh revelation, so we must always approach God’s Word with prayer and help from Holy Spirit to understand), but I can’t help thinking about the reality of this man’s world – the unrecorded hours – between verses 50 and 51.

Nothing here in verse 50 gives evidence of a miracle – only Jesus saying to the man, “Go back home. Your son will live!” There is no recording of a flash of lightning, roll of thunder, or any other tangible reason for the man to believe Jesus other than the audible words uttered from His lips.  We know, too, that this was not a quick and easy trip for the government official, about 20-25 miles, and we can safely conclude (based on v. 52) that he had to bed down for the night at some point. So what happened in the hours in between?

Did the man toss and turn all night? Could he sleep at all? Was he wrestling all night with doubt and fear? Or was there a peace about him? Did he sleep soundly? Was there something about the way Jesus spoke those four words, “Your son will live!” that brought comfort and stillness to his spirit, like a blanket of reassurance?

A: I’ve experienced both, maybe you have too. I’ve struggled against the voices of doubt and fear; their taunting keeping me awake at night. And I’ve rested peacefully, reassured by the confidence in His Word – that what He said is true and will come to pass – sleeping safely under His wing.

Spending time reading and meditating on the words of Jesus doesn’t just help me sleep – it helps me live! This is the faith I want to see in my life – this is the faith I want to keep nurturing and growing – because this is the faith I want to see in others around me! I want to see a faith that believes even when there is no other tangible evidence to do so. A faith that believes in what He said. A faith that changes the world.

A faith that believes in Jesus.

P: God we need You. We need a reassurance that You see us – especially in our most desperate hour. This feels like a desperate hour, Lord. People are dying – by plague and by our own sinful hands. We need Your saving grace. We need Your direction. We need Your love. Oh God, help us to love one another. Help us to forgive. Help us to stand for what is right and fight against injustice. Help us to be brave when it feels like we can’t. Help us to know what to do. Speak to us the words we can hold onto through the night. It feels like such a long night.

Photo by LRMoore

Feed the Baby

S: Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. John 3:6 (NLT)

O: I don’t know why this hadn’t occurred to me before, because I’ve been in church long enough to have heard the expression, “baby Christians,” but this morning I was thinking about the truth in this label. While there may be some who accept Christ and are immediately made wise and mature in the Spirit (for the Father has put everything into Jesus’ hands, and He can freely give as He chooses), most of us (I can really only speak for myself here and my own experience) are responsible for nurturing, caring for, and feeding our spirit; we must choose to water, if you will, our spirit.

A: It is no wonder then, that some of us seem to not be growing in the Spirit; what are we feeding ourselves? Are we feasting on the garbage of the world – trash on TV, gossip on social media, gibberish on the radio? Are we filtering the noise, or do we let it wander around in our minds & hearts?

The world is a feast for the flesh – a smorgasbord of all-you-can-eat fleshly desires. Food for the Spirit is not so easily accessible; you must put forth some effort to find it.  But if you desire the spirit within you to grow and mature, you will feed it with the Word of God…regularly. You will seek food from the Bread of Life! You will quench your thirst with the Living Water! You will remain connected to the Vine, and soak up His Light! You will walk through the Gate, and receive shelter and care from the Shepherd!

You will grow in spirit and in truth – following the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

But you have to feed the baby. You have to choose.

What will you feed your spirit today?

P: Jesus, I thank You for the nourishment of Your Word! Thank You for Your teachers who help us understand and digest the Word of God. May we continue to do the hard work of feeding our souls, but it is You we praise for making our Spirit grow! May we all continue to grow closer and closer to You. May you become more and more, and may we become less and less.

I love You, Lord. Amen

Photo by Kat Jayne

The Moment after the Miracle

S: After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and disciples. There they stayed a few days. John 2:12 (NIV)

O: After this (v. 11, “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.) He went down to Capernaum with His mom, His brothers, His disciples – His friends and stayed there a few days. Sitting here this morning, I can’t help but think about this moment – the moment after the miracle.

I imagine Jesus and his disciples, brothers, and Mary traveling to Capernaum conversing, eating, drinking, laughing – living! This simple verse brings a realness to this miracle that is often overlooked. I mean, surely this must have been the topic of conversation, the catalyst to a series of questions about how He did it, what was next, and what it all meant.

And then, You, Jesus – I imagine You, patient and all-knowing, listening to their questions, and explaining things in that way You do that brings about even more questions, but questions with answers that can only be found by examining our own hearts.  Answers that come in the quiet.

A: I don’t ever want to lose my awe of You, Jesus. I don’t want to rush past the moment after the miracle. I love witnessing Your miracles, God, but I treasure more the conversations You and I share about them – about You.  The chats we have together in the quiet when no one else is around – the way You always listen and the way You lead me to understanding.

It’s the moments after the miracle that often bring me closer to You. It’s the moments after the miracle that I experience the “realness” of Your presence and the depth of Your love and patience for us. It’s the moments after the miracle that I see more clearly Who You really are, and it leaves me a little undone, but in the best possible way.

Even in the moments after the miracles, You don’t leave. You are still there with me. You are with me always. Always patient. Always good and kind. Always leading and guiding. Always love. Always God.

P: God, I am in awe of You. I love You, Jesus. Thank You for all the moments of my life – the ones before, during, and after the miracle – that reveal Who You are. May You glory be revealed in the moments of my life – giving witness to the One Triune God! To You be the glory forever and ever! Amen.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Come & See

S: So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

O: “He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” I imagine images of Jesus – unfailing in love and faithfulness in flesh –flooding his memory as John writes these words. Jesus, the only One faithful enough to give His life that we might experience unfailing love.

The only One willing to reach past our disease of sin and death – to touch the unclean – and restore life.

John saw the glory of Jesus walking on earth – inviting everyone to come and see.

A:  I want to see that, too. I want to see our world transformed by the unfailing love and faithfulness of Jesus. This means I have to live out my faith – I must allow Your Spirit to be evident in my life – by dying to myself and letting Your Spirit lead. By allowing this to happen, I can give room for You to LOVE others through me. It is Your Spirit in me that invites them to know more about You – to experience You.

It is YOU I want them to see.

P: Jesus, thank You for Your incredible unfailing love and faithfulness. Thank You for Your written word that is sharper than any two-edged sword and helps me to know Your truth. Holy Spirit, thank You for guiding me, for leading me on the path of life You have set before me. Please keep my steps aligned with Yours as I move closer to my kingdom purpose, inviting others along the way to “Come and see.”

Photo by Anemone123–2637160

Now You are Beginning to See

S: But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:16 (ESV)

O: Their spiritual eyes had not yet been opened; the disciples do not yet have the gift of Holy Spirit. All this time they have been trying to understand the teaching, meanings, and sayings of Jesus with their carnal minds. No wonder they had to keep asking Jesus for further explanation! The things of God’s kingdom are not easily seen without the help of His Spirit.

A: It’s okay to ask for help when I don’t fully understand Your Word; the gift of Your Spirit opens my spiritual eyes, providing supernatural sight to understand those things that cannot be comprehended in the natural. You long for me to understand.

Just like You did here for the disciples on the way to Emmaus. You explained all of it to them from beginning to end and then You opened their spiritual eyes to see. It was then that they could see all the pieces coming together culminating in the risen Christ, just as it had been foretold.

“…Now you are beginning to see.”

P: Lord, open my spiritual eyes to see more and more of Your wonders around me! Help me to see with a fresh perspective – a vision for eternity. Thank You for helping me to understand.

Thank You for walking alongside me in this journey. I am so grateful for the intimacy this study has brought to my relationship with You. May this only be the beginning of greater things to come!

I love You, Jesus.

Amen.

Photo by Jenna Hamra

A Voice That Prevails

S: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. Luke 23:23 (ESV)

O: No matter Pilate’s desire, it was the voice of the crowd that prevailed. United, loud, and ungiving in its demands. I know this was necessary to fulfill the Scriptures, but I can’t help but acknowledge the influence of a united and unyielding voice.

A: Are we who say we are followers of Jesus united and unyielding in our voice? Is our love loud and obvious? Or is there disunity and frustration in the body of Christ? If the only work Jesus calls us to is to believe in Him (John 6:29) and the greatest commandment is to love God and others – why is there disunity and frustration? Why are we not united?

One small word sums up every reason.

Sin.

But the good news is we are forgiven! This should be the underlying current in every word uttered from us, “Father forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Forgive them (me, you, them…everyone), Father, for they know not what they do.

Because of You, Jesus, we are forgiven.

P: Thank You, Jesus. Please help us to forgive and love like You. May this be what people can’t avoid, what they can’t dismiss – a crazy, outrageously obvious love for God and people that is united and influential. A voice of forgiveness and love.

A voice that prevails.

Photo by Erkan Utu

Am I Ready?

S: But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Luke 22:26 (ESV)

O: Here Your disciples are disputing about which of them was to be regarded as the greatest (v. 24), and You tell them that is not how it works in Your Kingdom; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The youngest is one who still has much to learn, and the servant is one who still has work to do; this is what we are to strive to become.

A: I’ve been wrestling with this a lot lately – wrestling with You really. I am afraid to step fully into the Kingdom role in which You are calling me. I don’t know how to be a leader; I feel like I’ve tried and failed, and I don’t want to go back there.

But I know that You are forward focused; if there is need to go back, it is only for my understanding – my development – not to remain there, but to grow from there. Your plan is to keep me moving forward, stepping into the woman of God You created me to be, walking boldly into the role You prepared for me long ago.

Your Word reminds me today that leadership is about servant-hood. A leader in Your Kingdom looks so very different than what the world expects. A leader in Your Kingdom is a servant – one who still has much to learn and work to do.

I’m not afraid of serving; I’m terrified of leading.

But I can serve.

P: Lord, forgive me of my fears. I don’t want to waste this time or the gifts You’ve given me. I want my life to be one that points to You – that brings You glory! I want to be Your servant, Jesus.

It is time? Am I ready?

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

Photo by marvelmozhko–6693180