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Familiar and Physical

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with Joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:8-10) NIV

After this Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Tiberias Sea (the Sea of Galilee). This is how he did it: Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the brothers Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. Simon Peter announced, “I’m going fishing.” The rest of them replied, “We’re going with you.” They went out and got in the boat. They caught nothing that night. (John 21:1-3) – The Message

The disciples went back to Galilee from Jerusalem, because Jesus had told the women to tell his brothers that he would see them there. There were a lot of memories attached to Galilee for the brothers. The disciples named were Galileans and had been called from their occupations there to follow Jesus. There is speculation about the unnamed two in this report, but one of them was likely Peter’s brother Andrew, because Jesus called them while they were fishing. (Matthew 4:18-19)

Galilee is roughly 76 miles from Jerusalem. I wish it were possible to have heard what they talked about as they walked to their destination. Given the few hints we have as to the unique character of each of these men, some would be talkative and others would find it hard to say anything. Certainly they were all mentally and emotionally worn down and stressed about what might happen next. When Peter said, “I’m going fishing”, it may well have been a relief to do something familiar and very physical. And, if they caught something, it would provide them something to eat the next morning.

In a way I can relate. When life has caved in on me the greatest comfort at times has been the ordinary routine of doing something physical that meets my own or someone else’s needs. Sometimes it has been being in the sound booth at church making it possible for someone to be seen and heard as they led worship for Rock Solid High School or Teenage Community Bible Study. Other times it is simply to engage in a frenzy of house cleaning or gardening.

How about you? When you are mentally and emotionally exhausted is there some ordinary routine that tires you physically and releases stress in the process? Think about what it might be and plan to take one step toward doing that something. Ask Jesus to show what is causing mental and emotional stress in you. Often he tells you something you already know.Write down what you hear.Thank him for his care for you. Pray for grace to act on what you hear.

Familiar and Physical2022-05-15T21:04:34-06:00

Jesus Prepares for Us

Then Jesus told him,(Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many more miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. (John 20:29-31) NIV

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” Jesus provided far more God revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
(John 20:29-31) The Message

I do not believe Jesus was condemning Thomas when he said that those who believe without having seen the resurrected Jesus would be blessed. Jesus was telling him and the other disciples that their witness and the message they carry will be how other people would come to believe and trust in Jesus.

Jesus came to them and said, ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,”
(Matthew 28:18-20). NIV

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,(John 17:20a).

Because of the riches of the written scriptures available to us and a multitude of study and informational tools available, it is hard to imagine when all the words we read, the disciples heard directly from Jesus. They saw his facial expression, the look in his eyes, and heard the tone of his voice. They had his presence in the room with them.

I have to ask myself what would I have heard, what would I grasp, what would I remember? Would I have known Jesus as “My Lord and my God”?

I am grateful that Jesus prepared a way for those of us who would come to believe in him even though we have not seen him. I am grateful for the disciples whose living witness and gospel message went out and ultimately provided written testimony for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus.

Join me in thanking Jesus, the Living Word of God, for providing for all of us who come to believe in him through the witness of those disciples and for the scriptures that are available to strengthen and delight us.

Jesus Prepares for Us2022-05-08T20:26:50-06:00

Best Bible Study Ever!

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27 NIV)

Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. (Luke 24:27 The Message)

Then beginning with Moses and (throughout) all the prophets, He went on explaining and interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself. (Luke 24;27 The Amplified Bible)

Each time I read the Luke 24;13-31 about Cleopas and the other disciple, I try to imagine what it might have been like to hear Jesus, even though they didn’t recognize him, open the Scriptures to their minds and hearts as they walked along together.

I love reading the scriptures in various versions, because each version helps me see and understand something as if in a different voice. But I particularly like listening to audio scriptures because I can be read to – while I’m actively doing something else: sewing, walking, gardening, painting walls. There are things that stick with me when I hear the words better than when I see them. And I feel companioned by Jesus as I do ordinary tasks during my day.

For this devotional I found help on Google when I wanted to know some of what Jesus was teaching to those two disciples. I found 55 Old Testament Prophesies about Jesus, put out by the Jesus Film Project (A CRU Ministry). It covers 4 specific areas. Jesus’s birth, Jesus’s ministry, Jesus’s death and resurrection, and Jesus’s role in the church. With each of the prophesies cited, there is also the scripture that tells the fulfillment of that particular prophesy.

For audio Bible versions, I have the You Version, which along with a LARGE number of versions, also has many different languages for a variety of reader/listeners. Each version listed shows whether it is also in audio or only in print.

I also have the NIV, read by David Suchet, on my Apple Books site.

As you go about your day, think about what it would be like for you to have concentrated time being taught by Jesus, your creator, redeemer, teacher and friend, as he opens the scriptures to your heart and mind. Savor time with Jesus and his word.

Best Bible Study Ever!2022-05-02T09:50:56-06:00

Called By Name

But Mary remained standing outside the tomb sobbing . As she wept, she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you sobbing?’ She told them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ On saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t recognize that it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her,’ Woman, why are you crying so? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing that it was the gardener, she replied, ‘Sir, if you carried Him from here, tell me where you put Him and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabonni!’ which means Teacher or Master.
(John 20;11-16) The Amplified Bible

Four Gospels: Four perspectives of Jesus’s resurrection, each with different details of who was there that first day of the week, how they responded, what they said, what they did, or didn’t, do and when.

I am grateful for the series on emotions that we had over the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It helps me have some understanding and compassion for the men and women disciples who two thousand plus years ago, experienced 3 years of following and learning from Jesus only to witness his arrest, to hide in fear from the religious leaders and the Roman brutality. I am in awe of the women who watched from a distance and of the courage of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risking their reputation by caring for Jesus’s dead body.

I can imagine Mary Magdalene and her overwhelming grief at not knowing where Jesus’s body had been taken and her mistake in thinking Jesus was the gardener.

My mother, whose name was Mary Jane, died 6 months after I was sent to Denver to live with my father’s sister and her husband. The last words we exchanged were while she was in bed and I stood at the door of her bedroom. When she died, it was decided that I wouldn’t be taken back for her memorial. For a long time my heart would jump when I saw a face or heard a voice that resembled mom’s. So when I think of the joy Mary Magdalene felt, as Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ I know something of how it would feel if I heard him call my name when I never expected to hear his voice again.

I am grateful for the Bible. In it I can read at any time how intimately God knows each of us,(Psalm 139), How much he loves us,John 3;16-17), how we listen to his voice and know it and that he and the Father are one, (John 10;27-31).

This week, savor the above scriptures and others about the first day of the resurrection. Also, the scriptures that remind you of Jesus and his Father’s love and care for you.

Called By Name2022-04-26T20:21:15-06:00

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus by night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds . Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19 38-42)

I have long wondered about these two men who cared for Jesus’ body and gave it a princely burial. Joseph and Nicodemus each had “back story”. It seems like they were trusted friends.

According to Matthew 20;57-60, Joseph was a rich man from Arimathea who used his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. According to Mark; 15;43, he was “a prominent member of the Council, was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, but went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” Luke describes him as a,”good and upright man who had not consented to the Council’s decision and action. Luke;23;50b.

John 3;1-2 describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, who came by night and engaged in a lengthy conversation with Jesus. He believed that Jesus was a teacher who came from God because of the signs he performed. In John 7;51, he speaks out in the Council, reminding them that their Law doesn’t condemn a man without first finding out directly from that man about what he is doing.

I’ve tried to imagine Joseph and Nicodemus overcoming their fear of the Jewish rulers out of their belief in and grieving love for Jesus. Even overcoming their natural repugnance at receiving, carrying and wrapping up Jesus’ beaten, bloody and crucified body. And then, after laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, rolling the stone in front of it, leaving to participate in the Passover Sabbath.

But now they have an insurmountable problem; Jewish Law says that a person who has anything to do with a dead human body becomes unclean and is prohibited from associating with other people. They would have to quarantine for 7 days, then go through a certain purifying process before they can be accepted again into their family and community. What these two disciples of Jesus have done will not remain secret, because now they can’t participate in the Passover meal with their families.

I wonder if Joseph and Nicodemus had any idea that they held in their arms the true,” Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”, and makes them truly clean?

We have the advantage of holding in our hands the scriptures that tell us what are, for those people, first time happenings. We can say, “It’s Friday, but Easter Sunday’s coming”, but they hadn’t experienced that when they walked away from the tomb and left Jesus’ body there. We don’t get to know the rest of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’s stories . We can imagine, but we don’t know.

I have a story, you have a story, we, as part of Jesus’ church, have a community story. We live in a resurrected Jesus, with an indwelling Holy Spirit and a Father in heaven. What am I, what are you, what are we willing to risk in loving and doing with our Lord. Read John 17 as a reminder of Jesus praying for us. Read 1 Corinthians 13 as a reminder of what faith, hope and love are.

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk2022-04-17T20:30:22-06:00

Disgust: As a Warning

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16) NIV

Those whom love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me. (Revelation 3:19&20) NIV

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1&2) MSG

Although the word disgust is not mentioned in the above scriptures, the physical response to it is. We can feel disgust when we perceive something as distasteful to our sense of taste or smell, and sometimes to our sight, hearing or touch.

The church in Laodicea would have understood well what Jesus was saying to them. The water that flowed into Laodicea came through aqueducts from miles away and arrived lukewarm and tasted unpleasant. The Laodiceans may have gotten used to it, but someone experiencing it for the first time would likely spit it out of their mouth. Cold water refreshes; hot water cleanses. Lukewarm does neither.

The problem in the Laodicean church was that they. as a community and individuals, had tucked their faith into a closet while they succumbed to the culture of wealth and self-sufficiency all around them. They were the only one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3 that were not persecuted for their faith. They may have even looked down on the other six churches with pride in their own advantages.

So Jesus gave them a heads-up warning,”I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” But he also tells them that he loves them, which is why he warns, rebukes and disciplines them. They need to become earnest and repent.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” These words are the most quoted of Jesus’ words and are frequently used to encourage a new believer to come to Christ, but they were originally written to a once thriving community of faith as a reminder of his presence and his desire for a renewed relationship.

As I write this, I’m hearing Jesus say to me that there is a closet door in my heart that he is patiently knocking at.
How about you? Is Jesus knocking at a door in your heart?

For this Holy Week, as we approach Easter, meditate on the above scriptures and ask Jesus how he desires you to respond to his voice.

Disgust: As a Warning2022-04-08T09:44:25-06:00

Men Were Very Much Afraid

Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the south country and dwelt between Kadash and Shur, and lived for a time in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah, his wife, “She is my sister”; and Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah into his harem.

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said,”Behold you are a dead man, because of the woman you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” But Abimelech had not come near her; so he said, “Lord, will you slay a people who are just and innocent? Did not the man tell me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of heart and innocence of hands I have done this.”

Then God said to him in the dream,”Yes, I know you did this in the integrity of your heart, for it was I who kept you back and spared you from sinning against me; therefore I did not give you occasion to touch her. So now restore to the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her to him, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”

So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called his servants, and told them all these things; and the men were exceedingly filled with reverence and fear.
Then Abimelech Called Abraham and said to him,”What have you done to us? How have I offended you that you should bring on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me what ought not be done to anyone.”

And Abimelech said to Abraham,”What did you see in us, that justified you in doing such a thing as this?”

And Abraham said,”Because I thought, surely there is no reverence or fear of God in all this place ; and they will slay me because of my wife.” (Genesis 20:1-11 AMP)

As a child, the last family with whom I lived was an aunt and uncle. I would lie out of fear, because if I told the truth I could guarantee that I would get punished somehow. When I came to Jesus as a 13 year old, it got worse. My aunt was down on the church and was determined to “put the fear of God in me” by what she said and did. I equated fear of the person I could see with being afraid of God who I couldn’t see. It took a long time for me to learn that fearing God also meant loving him with all my heart, soul, and mind because he loves me.

So in a way, I can understand why Abraham deceived Abimelech about Sarah. Abraham had gone out in faith in answer to God’s call and he had received an amazing promise, but the road was long, the years passed and there was much to learn in the waiting. Abraham heard God, but couldn’t see him, while the possibility of danger from men was all too visible.

Abimelech was able to hear God in his dream, defend himself to God, recognize how he had been protected from sinning against God, find out Abraham’s motives, and promptly obey God’s order to return Sarah.

It seems to me Abraham and Abimelech needed each other: Abimelech’s reverence for and obedience to God, as a reminder to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience to God in praying for Abimelech.

Right now I’m overwhelmed with all the stories of people in the Bible. I’m hanging on tight to how God searches and knows me, how he knows each of us (Psalm 139), how Jesus prayed for us (John 17), and how Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 5: 9-13). Join me in praying for each other these days before Easter.

Men Were Very Much Afraid2022-04-03T20:59:21-06:00

A God Who Grieves

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved at heart.

So the Lord said, “I will destroy, blot out and wipe away mankind from the face of the ground; not only man, but the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for it grieves and makes Me regretful that I have made them.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his (evil) generation; Noah walked in habitual fellowship with God. (Genesis 6;5-9b Amplified)

There is no record of how long it was between Genesis 1:31 when God saw everything he made and it was very good and Genesis 6;5, but a lot of changes went on in the lives of Adam’s “family line”. (Genesis 5;1-32) People lived a long time and “had many sons and daughters”.

Genesis 6-9 gives the account of Noah, his family, the ark, the flood and its aftermath. It is beyond imagining that God would not grieve at the death of so many people and so much of what he had created and declared good. His desire was for a relationship with mankind and a shared joy in all of his creation. Over and over God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness had been rejected. ( Psalm 78) is a recap of the Exodus for the next generation with the intent that they would not be like their stubborn and rebellious ancestors who had grieved the Lord God in the wilderness.

What the Lord really desires is expressed in (Ezekiel 33;10-11) Son of man say to the Israelites,’ This is what YOU are saying: “Our offenses and sins are weighing us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?’ “Say to them, As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways ! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

Right now I’m tired. I’ve looked at so many scriptures trying to decide on one to both admonish and encourage us in our walk with our Lord Jesus. I believe (1 John) is the one I am to read, ponder and share with you. It gently, but firmly reminds me to be honest with God and be aware of what can distract me from loving and living in Jesus. Join me in reading this love letter from John. And let us pray for each other as we read.

A God Who Grieves2022-03-29T07:50:07-06:00

Dealing With Anger Intelligently

Abel was a herdsman and Cain was a farmer. Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering did not get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk. God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at his brother and killed him. God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?” God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. (Genesis 2b-11 MSG)

This is a heartbreaking story about the results of the first biblical family’s broken relationship with God and the resultant broken relationships with each other. There are so many “firsts” in this story: Adam and Eve became the first to wait for the birth of a child. Eve was the first to experience the pain of childbirth and the wonder of a new life in the baby, Cain. Adam and Eve became the first parents of one child, then of two when Abel was born. And Cain and Abel became the first siblings.

What we don’t get to know is the daily interactions of this first family. Given all that went on in Genesis 3, what might have Adam and Eve’s attitude been toward each other, toward God and toward their children? Might there have been bickering? Perhaps favoritism shown, or competition between the boys that led to hidden anger in Cain? What kind of relationship to God was mirrored in the parents? There’s no way to know.

Both young men brought an offering to God. Cain brought some produce from his farm, and Abel brought choice cuts of meat from the first-born of his herd. Resentment and anger hardened Cain’s heart toward Abel and, in spite of God’s warning, he commits the first murder by killing Abel. Although he carries the consequences of his actions, God puts a mark on him to protect him from being killed.

As I read these first four chapters in Genesis and continue on through scriptural history and world history, I grieve. As I see what is happening in our world right now, I grieve. I don’t think I am alone, I think many of us grieve together.
During this time of Lent, in preparation for the events of Easter, I need to look deeply into myself and ask our Lord God if I’m harboring any resentment, anger or bitterness toward him or anyone. Join me in reading Psalm 51, Psalm 139 and John 3:16-21 during this time. Offer yourself and each other in prayer to God.

Dealing With Anger Intelligently2022-03-21T07:43:10-06:00

Naked and Unashamed

Then God said,”Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:20b-25)

Although verse 25 speaks particularly about their physical appearance, I believe it also refers to their relationship with the Lord God and with each other. There is no need to hide their thoughts or be careful of their words because there was nothing that had to be kept secret -– complete transparency.

I wish I didn’t have to drop down half of an inch in my bible from verse 25 to chapter 3, because it would be so grand to believe that Genesis 1 and 2 lasted, but the events in chapter 3 happened and the fallout continues.

I was raised by various relatives, on both sides of my family, who had been brought up under the weight of shame. Not anything specifically bad, but the shame of not measuring up to expectations. Some of it came from parents, some from siblings, and some, sad to say, from their churches. Duty and rules were the measurements of value and approval. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember actually hearing “I love you” from any of those who were directly involved with me.

About 40 years ago, two things happened that helped me get over the “shame” of seeking help to deal with my own fallout from my raising. First, I received some God-inspired wise words from my 13 year old daughter, “Mom, we want to become what you want us to, but it will come from the inside of us or not at all. And you get certain expressions on your face and tones in your voice and we shut you out!” The second was the movie, “ET”, in which I saw myself as that little, abandoned creature who tried so hard to belong. I cried through the whole movie. The next day I scheduled a counseling appointment with one of our pastors. After I told my story, crying most of the way through, the pastor said to me, “Carolyn, what I’m hearing is that to get any kind of love at all, you’ve had to perform more than adequately, and when you got close to succeeding, they changed the bar.” And then he said what I had said to others, but never heard for myself—“You need to remember, Carolyn, that God loves you because he does, no performance required.” That was the start of my healing.”

How about you? Does some part of my story relate in any way with yours? Do you need to hear for yourself that God loves you, no performance required? There is help for you individually and in support groups. Read and soak in 1 John 4:7-21.

Naked and Unashamed2022-03-14T08:25:17-06:00
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