If My People

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Last night I woke up around 4:30. I spent some time in prayer before curling up, ready to fall back asleep. But God had other plans. He kept bringing II Chronicles 7:14 to my mind. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I spent some time in bed considering this verse.

IF is conditional. If one thing happens, then the other will also happen. The opposite is implied: if one thing doesn’t happen, then neither does the other.

MY PEOPLE since God is speaking in the passage, these would be God’s people, or believers.

WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME Today, I would say CHRISTians are called by His name.

WILL HUMBLE THEMSELVES ANDPRAY If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray….”I had already prayed, so I wondered what God had in mind in the wee hours of the morning. What else? In my mind, God had some questions for me:

WHAT ABOUT POLITICS? Politics?

HOW OFTEN DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER, POLITICALLY? Oh. Well, I guess that’s not too humble.

ARE YOU ALL KNOWING, ALL WISE? Uh, no. You are. Forgive me for thinking I am God-like.

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF A POLITICIAN AS FOOLISH? (insert any number of derogatory names here.) WHO MADE YOU THEIR JUDGE? That’s pretty prideful of me. Forgive me, Father.

HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT OF PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR A PARTICULAR POLITICIAN OR PARTY AS FOOLISH? (insert derogatory name of choice.) WHEN YOU DO THIS, YOU ARE JUDGING THEM. THAT’S MY JOB. Guilty. Father, forgive me.

I am truly sorry, and I’ll work on my attitude. Can I go back to sleep now? I yawned and curled on my side, ready for some sleep.

NOT YET. WE AREN’T FINISHED. What else?

OTHERS, WHO DISAGREE WITH YOU POLITICALLY, ARE BEHAVING JUST AS BADLY AS YOU. Uh, okay…. I waited and thought a while. Yes, I see. They are just like me. Father, forgive them. I forgive them too.

THAT’S BETTER. I FORGIVE YOU, DAUGHTER. NOW WILL YOU TRUST ME TO DO MY WORK? REMEMBER, I AM IN CONTROL.  Yes, Father, with your guidance I will stay humble and pray.

THEN I WILL HEAR YOUR PRAYER AND HEAL YOUR LAND. CONTINUE TRUSTING ME AND SLEEP WELL, MY BELOVED.

His Darkest Hours

After Judas had collected his jingling 30 pieces of silver, a period of darkness and pain descended on Jesus.

When he tried to pray in the garden with his closest friends, they all fell asleep, leaving him to struggle alone.

The darkness continued, one thing after another. With Judas leading the way, a mob of citizens and soldiers entered the garden to arrest Jesus. His disciples fled in terror. Jesus was dragged to jail where he was questioned and beaten, and endured a “crown” of thorns jammed onto his head. He was ridiculed and spat upon. A dark time indeed, with both physical and mental pain.

In the morning he had a chance to be released, but the crowd chose instead to release Barabbas. Just a few days earlier, the crowd had cried “Hosanna” as he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. A few days later, they screamed, “Crucify him!”

Exhausted from the all-night ordeal and weakened from the beatings, he carried his heavy cross through the city, hearing the jeers of the crowd as he stumbled toward Golgotha, carrying his own instrument of death. Dark times indeed.

At the hill, the soldiers pounded nails through his hands and feet, suspending him on the cross for a slow, tortuous death. His mother and two other female followers knelt below him, while one of his disciples cowered in the shadows. The others abandoned him, trembling behind closed doors.

Near mid-day, he breathed his last. Then the ground quaked, the sky turned dark, the rocks cracked, and the curtain to the holy of holies was torn in two.

The man who came to save the world spent his last days in darkness and pain, abandoned by his followers and friends.

Fortunately, we know how this story ends. Out of the darkness comes light. Out of the pain comes joy.

Consumed by the corona virus pandemic, the world is in the midst of dark times. We fear this invisible enemy that hunts us. We are lonely, missing our family and friends. Many suffer the pain of illness and loss.

We know how Jesus’ story ends, but we don’t yet know the end of our story. When will all this darkness and pain end? I can’t answer that question, but I can share some encouraging words and remind you of God’s promises.

He will give you shelter and rest (Ps. 91:1). He has plans to prosper you and give you hope (Jeremiah 29:11). He gives us peace in times of trouble and fear (John 14:27).

In this time of darkness, cling to His promises for shelter, hope and peace. In the middle of the darkness, look toward the light. Accept His hope and peace.

Judas

Judas

You may have heard of me: my name is Judas. Yes, I attended the “last supper.” But my mind was elsewhere. Three years before I’d been drawn to Jesus because of politics. I had been so weary of the Roman rule I was ready to do anything to foster rebellion against them. How desperately I wanted our land back under our rule! Jesus was so loved. Everywhere He went people followed Him. They listened to His every word, ready to follow wherever He might go. He seemed a great candidate to lead the people to freedom.

But He didn’t go where I wanted Him to go. He didn’t give anti-Rome speeches. I didn’t hear calls to arms and action. I wondered if I had followed the wrong man. But He trusted me, putting me in charge of the groups’ treasure. Dutifully I gathered all the coins donated for His cause. I bought the food and other necessities for the group.

But as I carried the money bags, something changed. With every step I took that money jingled. It called to me. “Jingle…jingle…jingle. Judas, just think what you could do with all this money!” No longer would I waste my time watching Jesus heal the mobs of people who followed him wherever he went. The longer I managed the money, the more it called to me. I began stealing from the group treasury. Just a few coins at a time. A few coins here, a few coins there, and suddenly I had acquired a great amount of money.

No longer did I hang on every word Jesus spoke. All I heard was the jingling call of the coins. “Judas, Judas, take me. Take me! Think of all you can do with just a little more money.” Before long I had gone to the high priest and offered to betray Jesus. In exchange, he would give me thirty beautiful, jingly silver coins! I couldn’t wait.

During that “last supper” I had trouble concentrating. My mind kept wandering to the clink of the 30 pieces of silver dropping into my money bag. I knew just the place and time to betray Him, when no crowds would surround and protect him. Oh, I could almost hear the clink of that money falling into my hands.

Jesus’ voice pulled me from my reverie. He was saying something about betrayal. All the other men started babbling at once. “Is it me?” “Not me, Lord?”

He looked at me and I quickly said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”

He answered, “Yes, it is you.”

Clearly, Jesus knew. I gathered my money bag and left the room, hurrying toward my silver and my future.

Food for thought: In what ways do I betray Jesus by what I value, by my actions or lack of action? Am I being a Judas?

Jesus Washes the Disciples Feet

Photo by Andre Moura on Pexels.com

It was a job reserved for servants.  Not just any servants, either. Only the lowliest of servants washed the guests’ feet. Any man wealthy enough to have servants could expect to have one wash the dust from his feet on a daily basis.

Imagine this: You come home after a hard day’s work and collapse in your favorite chair. Almost immediately, a man kneels before you, setting a basin of water on the floor next to your tired, dirty feet. You look down, expecting to see your servant. Instead, you see the son of God kneeling before you. The One who created the heavens and the earth loosens your shoes. His strong, pierced hands hold your bare foot—your grimy, smelly foot!

Gently He dips your feet into the warm water and scrubs away all the dirt and odors of the day. Then He takes a towel from around His waist and blots your clean feet dry. You feel ashamed that the God who created you has done a servant’s task. When you protest, He responds, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13: 14 & 15).

Food for thought: Following Jesus example, in what ways can you “wash other’s feet”? How do you humble yourself before God? Before others?

Palm Sunday Meditation

One sleepless night not too long ago, I lay awake, imagining what it must have been like to watch a king enter the ancient city of Jerusalem.

I can still see it vividly in my mind’s eye.  Before I can even glimpse the king, trumpets herald his arrival.  Soon 40 soldiers enter the crowded city, each proudly straddling a high-stepping stallion.  Eyes staring at the road ahead, the men ride ramrod straight, armor and weapons glinting in the sun.  Between the two groups of mounted soldiers rolls an ornate carriage, resplendent with gold leaf.  Four perfectly matched black stallions, crimson ribbons braided into their manes and tails, pull the carriage effortlessly.  In that carriage sits the perfectly tailored king, his brocade coat trimmed in ermine.  Rubies and emeralds adorn his fingers.  The golden crown, encrusted with precious stones, reflects the bright sunlight.  As he passes, the cheering throng bows low, each man hoping the king will scatter some coins his way.

How different was our King’s triumphal entry!  No trumpets heralded his arrival.  No soldiers, no horses came before Him.  Instead of an elaborate entourage, He was accompanied by a few simple men, broad shouldered and tanned from hard, outdoor work. They walked alongside Him, wearing roughly woven clothes.  Jesus sat astride a young donkey.  He wore no gold nor gems, but only a simple cloak and sandals.  Although Jesus had no coins to throw to the people, His intangible gifts were far more costly than gold.  A slight smile played at the corners of His mouth, but the dark brown eyes filled with sorrow.  In spite of His poverty and ordinary appearance, the people sensed something special about this man.  They loudly cheered, “Hosanna, King of Kings!” and lay palm branches at His feet.

How quickly the cries of the crowd changed!  A few short days later the cheers of “Hosanna” changed to jeers and shouts of “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  Many of those who had proclaimed Him king now clamored for his death.  Even his closest friends ran away and denied they even knew him.

How, I wonder, could these people change so quickly?  How could they proclaim him king one day, and not even acknowledge his existence the next?  As I sit quietly and think, I realize, with humility and shame, that I have done the very same thing.  How many times have I gone on my merry way, never acknowledging Christ as the king of my life, never seeking His divine guidance?  How many times do I denying His existence by failing to speak out against injustice or not sharing His good news with another?  If He is truly king of my life, why do I not get down on my knees every day and praise my spiritual king?

Jesus, king of my life, help me to bow in humble obedience and recognition of your lordship in my life.

Choices

Photo by EVG photos on Pexels.com

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” 

                                                                                                –Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Every morning as I prepare for my day, I decide what to wear.  Looking in my closet, I have choices.  Do I wear a skirt today?  Slacks?  Jeans?  What top coordinates with the skirt or pants?  Both must match in color and appropriateness for the weather and occasion.  Next, I decide on appropriate accessories.  Which shoes?  Belt?  Scarf?  Jewelry?  All these choices match one another to create a unified whole.  Once I make my decisions and dress, I’m ready for the day.

Just as I daily choose what clothes I’ll wear, I have choices in what to don from my spiritual closet.   What shall I wear?  Shall it be a spirit of complaining or gratefulness?  If I choose complaining, I accessorize with sorrow and bitterness, to create a coordinated ensemble.  I wonder: Is this what a child of God would wear?  Is this appropriate attire for the daughter of the King?  Instead, I choose to wear gratefulness.  To match gratefulness, I choose compassion and humility, which naturally complement one another.  To accessorize, I choose good deeds for my feet.  The sparkling gem of God’s love unifies the ensemble.  Now I’m ready for the day. 

Father God, help me make wise choices as I choose clothing from my spiritual closet.

(I first published this devotional in The Secret Place, Fall 2017)

An Encouraging Word…especially for those who grieve

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Even though He knew Lazarus had died and was buried, Jesus wept. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He wept. When he saw Mary weeping, He wept. Like the tip of an iceberg, these two simple words give us a glimpse of the depth of Jesus’ love and compassion.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt. 5:4 NIV).

I pray that those of you who are grieving will experience His peace and comfort.