Monday, March 30, 2009


[From 3/28/09]

"For David says concerning (Jesus)... 'You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'"
(Acts 2:28)

It's shortly after Jesus' resurrection. The disciples have been gathered in Jerusalem waiting for the "promise" Jesus told them would come: The Holy Spirit. God's unseen presence among them. In Acts 2, it came! IN POWER!! Which compelled Peter to start "street preaching." And 3,000 are moved to give their lives to God.

Among the finer points of his message, Peter mentions a passage from Psalm 16. David acknowledged God's Holy Words in scripture & divine inspiration, plus the gladness that comes from spending time in God's presence. I also believe in the power of the "ways of life" found in the Bible. There's so much insight, truth & power here. It's not secret or hidden - but rather open & available to all who seek it. And as I seek God's words, I'm also made more aware of God's presence (in my life and in the world around me!). As David (& Paul) says, God's presence brings GLADNESS!

PRAYER: Help me to cherish the times I'm aware of your presence, Lord. I want to live in that perpetual state of gladness - knowing You and Your ways abound. AMEN.

In Awe

[From 3/21/09]

"But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you."
(Psalm 5:7)

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus," "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," "He Walks with Me and He Talks with Me"... these are all hymns (or chorus' of hymns) that espouse the divine/human intimacy that's possible. There's a lot of comfort in knowing that aspect of God.

But there's another aspect that is recorded far more often in the Bible: awe! God is so amazing! The psalmist speaks about this when he bows down before the Lord in awe, inside the temple.
To be honest, I'm not usually filled with an overwhelming sense of awe in most worship spaces here in the US. They're more build to engender intimacy. Visiting the European cathedrals, however, evokes more awe, in my opinion. Being outdoors in the grandeur of nature also definitely evokes awe in me! I'm completely taken aback by the beauty of God's creation. But recently in the Philippines, in a tiny room singing praise songs, I found myself overcome with awe as I reflected on the incredible faith & hope I'd experienced among the people I'd met there. Standing in that conference room in Manila, with tears running down my cheeks, I literally felt like falling to the ground and bowing my face before the Lord.

I don't want to abandon the intimacy and friendship aspect of my relationship with God. Not at all. But I know I could use more experiences of awe, too.

PRAYER: You are holy, Lord. You are the Almighty. You are the Author and CReator of All Life. You are God and I am not. And yet, You love me nontheless. Help m e to fall down on my face from time to time, filled with awe for your majesty! AMEN.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


"But some were there who said to one another in anger, 'Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than 300 denarii, and the money given to the poor.' And they scolded her."
(Mark 14:4-5)

It's the last week of Jesus' life. Time is running out. Jesus knows it. The disciples... well, that's debatable (despite Jesus' numerous discussions with them!). Jesus & Co. are dining at the house of Simon the Leper (another sign of Jesus' inclusive ministry!). In comes a woman with a jar of expensive ointment, and she proceeds to pour it over Jesus' head.

[Side note: In the Old Testament, kings were anointed by pouring oil over their heads. Could it be that this woman was testifying to the "kingship" of Jesus here? Jesus seems to recognize her act as 'preparing my body for burial' - also foreshadowing!]

The disciples get upset. "What a waste!" they exclaim. Well... um... 'waste' is kinda harsh, don'tcha think... given the fact that the poured it on JESUS!!! They remark something about how the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Now, giving to the poor is a noble cause, of course. But they weren't talking about THEIR RESOURCES... they were talking about her resources! (It's really easy to be generous with someone else's stuff, isn't it?) Jesus reminded them that money can always be given to the poor... but Jesus won't always be with them. Somehow, this unnamed woman got it.

I think the disciples probably felt a bit embarrassed, too. This woman was displaying deep intimacy, devotion & sacrifice here. I can see how it may have been uncomfortable to watch. Plus, they might have been feeling a bit guilty, too... given the fact that they're supposed to be his closest friends, yet she was the one pouring out her heart to Jesus. And Jesus recognized & honored that devotion of hers!

This isn't about 'giving to the poor.' That's understood to be essential and powerful. Granted. This story, however, is about what we're willing to give to Jesus. A year's salary? That's about the value of this woman's ointment. What are we willing to sacrifice for Christ now? It may seem absurd, extravagent, even 'wasteful' to some. But God knows our heart. And if we're giving it to Him willingly and in love, that's all that matters.

PRAYER: Lord, don't let me make excuses for avoiding intimacy with you. Remove all judgmentalism from my heart. Open me up to be able to willingly and lovingly sacrifice to you whenever it is most needed. AMEN.


[From 3-16-09]

"Jesus said to them, 'Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?'"
(Mark 12:24)

The religious authorities were constantly challenging Jesus, looking for ways to discredit him and trap him. (They must have felt threatened by him, in a big way!) In Mark 12, some Sadducees tried to get him to bite on a question of marriage laws and the afterlife. (The only problem is the Sadducees don't believe in an afterlife, so this clearly is an attempt to make Jesus look foolish.) Jesus refuses to play their game, admonishing them instead for their lack of knowledge of scripture (ouch!) and their inability to comprehend the power of God.

There's a difference between knowing about the scriptures (ie. having a "Trivial Pursuit" kind of knowledge of the Bible) and understanding the scriptures (living out the truths and big ideas of the Bible). Head knowledge vs. heart knowledge. I don't think God is very impressed with the former. He wants our hearts to fully embrace the power of God found through the Scriptures. I imagine God feels that He could do so much in/through us, if only we knew the power He has! But we, by and large, don't. We get caught up on what's humanly possible or likely to happen. Too bad. Too bad.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a deeper understanding of Your Holy Words... and the courage to believe in Your amazing power! AMEN.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"I have made you"

[From March 10, 2009]

"No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations."
(Genesis 17:5)

Abe's getting a name change. From Abram to Abraham. Might not seem like a big deal, but his new moniker means "Father of a Multitude." Abe is 99. He has exactly one child. Ishmael. A son born to his wife's servant girl. God had promised to make him a father of a multitude... but Abe and Sarai weren't getting very far in that dept. on their own, so Sarai gave Abe a "get started" gift. Although a son was born, Sarai wasn't pleased with the aftermath (quite a bit of jealousy surfaced between both women).

So now God changes Abe's name. A name that reminds him daily of what his identity is (though he still only has ONE child!). But I noticed something in how god spoke to Abe. God said, 'I HAVE MADE YOU the ancestor of a multitude of nations.' In the next 3 verses God says, 'I WILL make/establish/give" 4 times... indicating a future action. But in v.5, God says, "I have made you..."

When we're created - brought into this world - God has a plan for our lives (should we choose to accept it!). It may take over 100 years for us to grow into that role (see Abe!), but God sees us that way, nonetheless. Wow. What divine vision.

So did God know when I was born that I'd become a "shepherd of the flock"? Probably. But it's not just a career/occupation thing. I believe it's a sense of where we fit into the grand scope of God's Kingdom. Our task is to listen closely to the Spirit's whispers and follow the divine nudging to embrace that vision of ourselves!

What about you? Have you sensed God's "big picture" for your life? If not, don't fret. Abe figured it out at age 99!

PRAYER: Thank you for forming, creating, naming, gifting and calling me, O God. Keep me square in the vision of who You've made me to be. I want to follow Your guidance! AMEN.


[From March 9, 2009]

"When (Jesus) had entered, he said to them, 'Why do you make commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.' And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was."
(Mark 5:39-40)

Jairus, a leader in the synagogue, came to Jesus begging that He save his daughter, who was at the point of death. Before Jesus was able to make it to Jairus' house, however, word came that the girl was dead. Upon arrival, there was a big commotion! Sorrow abounded. Jesus offered a word of hope: "She's not dead - just sleeping!" Jairus believed enough to seek out Jesus. What was he thinking when he heard these words of the Master? ("Could it be?!? Is there a chance?!?"). We know what the rest of the room thought: "THEY LAUGHED AT HIM." (v.40).

Wow. Laughing at the Savior of the World. IN HIS FACE, no less! Why? They couldn't possibly conceive what He said. So they laughed. Wow. Did Jesus try to argue or reason with the scoffers? Did he work to convince them he was right? No. He simply kicked them out of the room. All of them. Time to leave. Period. Only Jairus and his wife were permitted to stay there with Jesus, the disciples, and the body of the girl (well, it was soon to be more than just a body again!).

This wasn't the only time in scripture that a point is made about the power of faith and belief being directly related to the power of blessing by God. When he was back in his hometown, Jesus couldn't do many works of power "because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:1-6). Faith, belief and trust become the wiring that connect the POWER SOURCE (God!) to the object of need.

This seems to be a key insight for leaders in the church today. it's always good to have a variety of opinions and perspectives, sure. But when it gets down to "crunch time," when it's crucial for ministry/healing/new life... it's not helpful to have doubters and scoffers around. Without being disrespectful or rude, simply put them out of the room. Jesus knew the wisdom in this. He was then able to bring new life to the little girl.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the wisdom to know when to apply this to my leadership at church... and in my own life. AMEN.

A Very Dangerous Place

[FROM March 7, 2009]

"(Jesus) looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart..."
(Mark 3:5)

It's early on in Jesus' ministry and he's already facing opposition. The religious leaders of his day are not "fans" or "supporters," by any means. In fact, they're outwardly antagonistic. Here in chapter 3 they've come to the synagogue specifically to try and trap Jesus. Jesus had to be aware of it. Instead of avoiding them or turning to leave, Jesus finds among the people there a man with a withered hand. He asked the leaders a simple question from scripture: "On the sabbath, is it lawful to do good or to do harm?" A simple question, indeed. Every child would know the prophets teach that it's always lawful to DO GOOD on the Sabbath (despite all of the sabbath rules and restrictions, this over-arching principle remains!).
They know the answer. But instead of testifying to the truth... instead of answering the question... they choose to remain silent. To speak would be to support Jesus and incriminate their own intentions. So they don't say a word.
It's a telling sign to Jesus. These are not people open to learning. They're set in their (wicked) ways. Mark tells us that Jesus had 2 immediate feelings: anger & sorrow. His anger was probably due to their stubbornness... and how these leaders refused to acknowledge the truth from scripture... instead opting for their own plans of destruction. And sorrow because this meant they weren't open to God's amazing gift of grace. Their hearts were hard. God didn't create us to have hard hearts.
The Bible would be such a safe book if it only dealt with stuff from the past. But it doesn't. It meddles in our own lives today. It asks us the very same questions it asked people of ages gone by. What's the condition of our hearts today? Are they soft & pliable... or hard & immovable? Are we more set on "being right" and getting our own way? Or are we actually open to hearing words of instruction and correction by The Master?
I pray that my heart is not hardened. I don't even want to get to the place where I KNOW WHAT'S RIGHT beyond a shadow of a doubt - beyond the possibility of God's correcting grace. That's a very dangerous place.
PRAYER: Breathe into me the breath of life, Lord. Soften up my hard heart. Open my eyes to the life-giving work of grace. Teach me. Teach me. Teach me. AMEN.

Friday, March 6, 2009


[From 3/5/09]

"At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee."
(Mark 1:28)

Fame. It's definitely one of the highly prized commodities in today's culture. "There's no such thing as 'bad press,'" the saying goes. Athletes, politicians, celebrities, businesses, universities - many are clamoring and jostling for their share of fame. Get your name & face out there for all to know, that's the motto!

One of the hallmarks of Jesus' early ministry, at least according to the gospel of Mark, is that his FAME began to spread. Early & often! I don't think it was due to his "PR Dept." or any "spin doctors" working as part of Jesus' entourage. Nor was it Jesus' style to seek out the crowds for the express purpose of being seen. He began his ministry. He met people where they were. He loved them unconditionally. He offered healing, grace & new life. They, by and large, desperately needed all he had. Thus, his fame spread.

Yesterday I heard a colleague of mine comment about how proud he was to be part of our group (the "Davao 29" - from our Philippines trip) and the work that Compassion International was doing in order to "make Jesus famous." It's not about us. No one person, pastor, church or even denomination deserves fame. It's all about Him. Period.

That puts things in perspective for today.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ultimate Recycling Project

"And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.'"
(Revelation 21:5)

At the end of Revelation (which, quite literally is THE END!) we see the vision of what eternity might be like. It will be a renewed earth (and heaven). A new Jerusalem. There will be peace, light, diversity, joy and celebration. And God himself said He is making "all things new."

Maybe it's just semantics... but I find it interesting that God didn't say he's making "all new things." Rather, all things new. It's not an end to life/existence as we know it, with God starting over "from scratch." God, instead, is re-newing! Heck, you might even say God is going green - the ultimate recycling project! God will take "what is" (earth, humankind, creatures, etc.) and remake them (us!). Somehow better. Somehow more reflective of His purposes.

So it's not about leaving this world behind. it's not about abandoning everything in this life. It's about being renewed. It's about ALL OF CREATION being in perfect harmony with the Divine. Wow. That's cool.

PRAYER: Come, Lord Jesus! Renew, restore, reuse me in Your grand purposes & will. AMEN.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"It's all about me!" (NOT!)

"As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her alike measure of torment and grief..."
(Revelation 18:7)

"The city is doomed! Run away! RUN AWAY!!" That's the essence of Revelation 18. 'Babylon' is going down, says God (note: Babylon is actually a code for Rome - the early church couldn't speak openly against Rome, so they disguised it as Babylon!). Then follows a long litany of offenses she has committed. In verse 7, God says part of her sin is because "she glorified herself and lived luxuriously."

Now, I don't know enough about ancient Rome to speak on their self-glorification and luxurious living (and I didn't get to watch the HBO series on Rome, either! lol). But I do know about MY LIFE. I think we humans (or is it we Americans?!) have a tendency towards self-glorification. We want to be recognized... to get the credit when we do well... to be "right" in our discussions/arguments... to feel important. A healthy dose of this is fine, but when we go back for seconds & thirds, believing the lie that "it's all about me!", then we lose sight of the rest of the world around us, and our interconnectedness. And of course, we here in the US like to live luxuriously. We are one of the wealthiest nations in the world. We live in abundance & excess. My trip to the Philippines recently reminded me of this. Most of the world doesn't live like us. We have a responsibility from God to be mindful of that, and to do what we can to share with others.

PRAYER: I don't want to live life as though it's all about me, Lord. Help me with humility and generosity. Help me to live in harmony & partnership with my brothers and sisters all over the globe. AMEN.

Monday, March 2, 2009


"But they have conquered (the accuser) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death."
(Revelation 12:11)

Revelation is so hard to read! Most of the symbolism and images from this book are lost on us in today's society. We don't know exactly what the original author intended (heck, it was intentionally written to be hard to understand, precisely because those in the faith were talking about those in power!). Having said that, I was drawn to this brief statement in 12:11 re: the faithful... they conquered Evil by three things: 1) the blood of Jesus (Christ's atoning sacrifice); 2) Their testimony (their story of God's work in their life); 3) They didn't cling to life - even in the face of death.

It's this third aspect that jumped off the page to me today. I saw in my mind 2 types of people: those who'd do whatever it took to hold on to their life - begging & pleading, running from danger, bargaining, etc. I didn't see this as a "wise & savvy" group... but a panicked, stress-filled group that was terrified of death. The other group, however, had a peace and calm about them. They stood tall in the face of danger. They didn't panic. No fear was in their eyes. Such a contrast.

Now, does that mean the 2nd group was always safe & protected from evil? Of course not. But they knew death was not the end. They loved life and wanted to keep living, of course. But they trusted in The One Who Raises The Dead. So in the face of death, they did not fear, fret, panic or cling.

Most of us today aren't living in an environment where we face death on a regular basis. Then again, in the words of William Wallace ("Braveheart"): "Everyone dies... but not everyone really lives!" To 'really live' as a Christian is to put our entire life in the hands of Christ. To know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that our life is bound up together with His forever and ever.

May we live as though we're not afraid to die. But more importantly, may we trust in Christ so that here and now we can truly live this life - not cling to it! AMEN.