Week 04

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

Anger From A Pure Heart

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NIV)

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29 NIV)

Some find it unbelievable that the Son of God expressed anger. Is it legitimate to think that Jesus, because he had a truly pure heart that always pleased his Heavenly Father, lacked that unpleasant, but valuable core emotion?

It helps to know anger can give energy for action while fear and anxiety most often compel retreat. Of course, immediate action isn’t always advisable and retreat may be the best path under certain circumstances. Here are the words of David: Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. (Psalm 4:4 ESV)

John’s gospel records a really scary, seemingly impromptu expression of anger by Jesus. This event happens very close to the beginning of his public ministry.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17)

Jesus replicates this action three years later – again at Passover – just prior to his trial and crucifixion.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18 – also see Matthew 21 & Luke 19).

Jesus celebrated the Passover for many years prior to that first incident. It’s not hard to imagine him becoming angry, pondering, and repeatedly asking his Father why the esteemed priestly class had turned the Court of the Gentiles in the magnificent Temple into a dirty marketplace. He must have had a righteous aching to challenge these officials and clear the space for its intended purpose. But he waited for his Father’s approval for action.

Several things are worth more thought. In both cases, Jesus acted alone rather than seeking support. Also, teaching regarding his body being the true Temple accompanied both actions. Here’s what Jesus taught after the first episode.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:18-21 ESV)

Also reflect that Jesus cleansed the Temple a second time two or three Passovers later. So why didn’t he address the problem yearly? On one of those intervening Passovers it appears he remained in Galilee highlighting his teaching about the true manna from heaven rather than further irritating religious leaders in Jerusalem. Did his heavenly Father anticipate Jesus would jeopardize further ministry by escalating an already volatile situation?

There are no ten step formulas outlining how our Father wants us to process anger from a pure heart. The phrase “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:9 ESV) seems to place anger in a realistic setting. Reflect on the surrounding emotions of the Psalmist as you read Psalm 69 and his appeal to the Lord to act on his behalf.

Anger From A Pure Heart2022-03-21T07:49:42-06:00

Anger Can Breed Contempt

But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:5 NIV)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3 NIV)

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. (Psalm 4:4 NIV)

One of the first “difficult” emotions mentioned in Genesis is anger. In Genesis 4 Cain was angry because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice. Cain thought his offering of some fruit would be good enough. But when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice of the best of his flock and rejected Cain’s offhand sacrifice, Cain became angry. He plotted and murdered his brother Abel.

Another story on this theme of anger: In the book of Jonah, first the prophet ran away from God, then was swallowed by a big fish, next he was spat up onto the land, and finally, reluctantly, obeyed God’s command. He went to Nineveh and told the people that God was about to destroy them in 40 days. Afterwards, he went outside the city, sat on a hill, and hoped to watch the city’s destruction. But, when the people of Nineveh heard his message, they fasted, prayed to God, and they repented. God saw their repentance and relented; he didn’t destroy them.

Jonah became angry, sitting on his hill, because he believed the people of Nineveh didn’t deserve God’s mercy and compassion. Both Cain and Jonah thought they knew what God wanted, and both were mistaken in their understanding of God. Neither understood God’s compassion, nor God’s desire for worship by men who were motivated by a heart that was right with God.

Look at the 4th chapter of Jonah, note how many times God questions Jonah about his right to even be angry. Jonah’s whole world view is being challenged. Both Cain and Jonah were selfish, self-centered, angry men. Neither had compassion for other people. These men flew into a rage because someone else was being accepted by God, or wished to die simply because a vine had provided shade for only one day.

If anger in a person’s life is nurtured, instead of being acknowledged and rooted out, it can produce contempt for other people. Cain and Jonah are good examples of how anger can produce sin in a person. But Jonah himself says of God, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity,” (Jonah 4:2).

Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 in Ephesians 4:26 and then expounds on it. “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent,” (Psalm 4:4). Wise advice – when we are angry – stop – ponder – examine our hearts – let God tell us if we have a right to be angry – then listen to His answer.

Anger Can Breed Contempt2022-03-21T07:46:44-06:00

I’m Just Jealous

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. (Genesis 37:8)

Anger is a funny emotion. Even though it tends to be one of the most powerful emotions, it is almost always a secondary emotion. What do I mean by that? I mean, anger wells up in us because we feel another emotion. In other words, anger is a byproduct of another feeling. The story of Joseph and his brothers is an excellent example of this. The hatred and anger that wells up in Joseph’s brothers is a byproduct of jealousy. Other emotions that manifest themselves as anger may include fear, imperilment, and depression.

Joseph’s story exemplifies how jealousy becomes unchecked and when it is undealt with, it results in the act of extreme anger. If you go and read the results of this act of rage, you will see how damaging it is to Joseph. There is evidence that Joseph harbored anger towards his brothers, but eventually, he learned to forgive them.

So what about us? How does this information help us with our anger? Generally, anger carries with it a powerful physical and emotional feeling. If we learn that those sensations are a byproduct, they can function as a warning bell in our lives. If you can learn to listen to the emotion of anger, it can help you discover and deal with the actual feeling that is causing that anger. The next time you feel the sensations of anger, ask yourself, where is this coming from? Are you afraid? Are you jealous? Are you immersed? I have found it to be helpful to ask God these questions in prayer. Once you find the emotions behind your anger, you are one step closer to being able to diffuse your anger.

Take a moment to reflect on what anger feels like to you. Do you clench your fists? Do you grit your teeth? Knowing these responses can help you catch yourself more quickly and may help you reflect before you act out your anger.

I’m Just Jealous2022-03-21T07:44:42-06:00

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

How Do You Really Feel | Week 4

After the Fall, we meet second-generation humans and watch as they, too, wrestle with the weight of their shame (Genesis 4). Cain’s perception of his unworthiness before God, in comparison with his brother, proves only to nurture intense anger within him.

Cain and Abel find out quickly how explosive anger damages not only their brotherhood but has the potential to remove the very breath of life within them.

Anger is perhaps the most accessible emotion because it affects us physiologically. Our body temperature rises. We fill with energetic drive. Whether we tend to suppress or explode, we’re forced to do something with it.

However, anger is a surface emotion. Gifted counselors can usually trace anger down to places where we feel hurt or afraid. Then, they can trace our hurts and fears down to unmet needs or expectations – oftentimes rooted in shame.

This week, take some time to trace your anger down to its root and see what God wants to reveal to you about your unmet needs.

  1. Get Honest … What are you mad about? If your anger stems from a hurt, what has hurt you? If your anger stems from a fear, what are you afraid of? What need was unmet creating this hurt or fear? Share with Jesus your thoughts and feelings about this unmet need.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus has to say about your unmet need.
  3. Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you in this instance?
How Do You Really Feel | Week 42022-03-20T21:41:17-06:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Friday

With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1:8-10 NIV)

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV)

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9 NIV)

Expectations. As we become adults, we discover reality is often quite different from our expectations as a child. When we dwell on our expectations more than our reality, we become disappointed, sad, resentful, or even bitter with our actual life. When I was in my young 20’s, recently graduated from college, my expectations and reality collided. My desire was to be married – as all my friends were, and to become a mother. My reality – I was single – not married, a teacher – not a mother. I was disappointed, sad and depressed. My focus was wrong, my perspective needed changing. I remember a day when I wrote down all of my specific desires for a husband, I prayed about them, surrendered them to God, put them away in my Bible and submitted my possible future husband to the Creator and Author of my life.

Unfortunately, I have found myself having to do this time and again. I am someone who loves to be in control and have things work out exactly as I planned. I wanted blessings from God, on my terms, not on His terms. God did bless me with an incredible husband – several years later. He also blessed us with children – again after we had prayed and surrendered our desire to be parents to God. Then, we had a son with special needs – again, not the family we would have desired to have. But God used Joshua in our lives and in the lives of our family, and in the lives of many others. I discovered, when I yielded to God’s will, when I agreed with Him – that He knew best, when I trusted Him and simply did what He had put in front of me each day, God used Joshua to bring us joy, to show us what unconditional love looks like.

I think it is hard for us to pray as Jesus did in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” Matthew 26:39. We want to be in control, we want our desires, our plans, our expectations fulfilled. But – God desires to bless us so we can be a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-3). Listen to this song. Sing and pray these words to God. Surrender to him, submit to His perfect will to be made manifest in your life.  Song: New Wine By Hill Song (Short Version)

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Friday2022-01-22T19:25:25-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Thursday

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9b-13 NIV)

Think of yourself the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God, but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave – became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless life and then died a selfless, obedient death (and the worst kind of death at that) — crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth (even those long ago dead and buried) will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all to the glorious honor of God the Father.
(Philippians 2: 9-11 MSG)

Of all the collections of His teachings, I think the Lord’s prayer is the most significant because Jesus gives us the privilege of sharing his Father with him and he also includes us in praying for God’s kingdom coming to earth. The word “kingdom” implies a king and a king is a ruler. A ruler has the right and authority to tell the people in his kingdom what to do and how to do it. So what is this king like?

The first mention in the New Testament of Jesus as King is when the Magi come from the east looking for, “the one who has been born King of the Jews.” (Matthew 2:2 MSG). Philippians 2:9-11(MSG), the scripture mentioned above is key to my wonder and understanding of Jesus’s character as King. His coming to earth as a child is a reminder of his humility.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began to teach his disciples how different the kingdom of God will look from what was happening in their world at the time (Matthew 5). Jesus through the written word continues to do the same for us as we live in and carry him out into the world of our time. As you pray the first couple of lines of the Lord’s prayer and read the Philippians verses, ponder what Jesus, the King, was willing to become for you.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Thursday2022-01-24T08:28:39-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Wednesday

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

“Kingdom”, it’s not something most Americans understand aside from the movies. We don’t live in a nation with a king. It might be helpful for us to explore what this kingdom is; after all, Jesus teaches us to pray for its coming.

One of the most helpful definitions of the kingdom that I have encountered is from Dallas Willard, Christian philosopher, who said that the kingdom of God is “the range of God’s effective will.” The first time I read that definition I had to stop and think. The kingdom is where God’s will is active. When we pray this prayer, we ask for his authority and rulership to overthrow wherever it isn’t currently.

What would the world look like if God’s kingdom was in full effect? That is what we are asking God to do, and that is what God invites his children to bring into the world. One idea that has helped me to think about God’s kingdom is the idea of culture. I grew up overseas in Africa, and the culture is so different from America. The language, the jokes, the social cues, and the values of Africa are nothing like that of most Americans. The same is true of the Kingdom of God. When we pray this prayer, we want God’s culture to overshadow the world’s culture.

Our passage today is found in one of Jesus’ most famous sermons about the nature of his kingdom. To fully understand what we are asking for when we pray this prayer, we must learn the kingdom’s culture. That can be done by learning the character and teachings of the king. We can start learning the customs, language, and rules of the kingdom of God by listening to and obeying the way of Jesus. Only then can we see the benefits of his Good reign in the world.

Part of our aim as followers of Jesus and the prayers of this prayer is to learn the kingdom’s culture. Only then can we become productive citizens in that kingdom. When you read the scripture, ask yourself about the heart of King Jesus. You can also ask, what are the social cues/rules of the kingdom of God that I see in every scripture passage? For example, some of the strange cultural practices of the kingdom are, the first shall be last, the humble shall be exalted, and there is strength in our weakness. These ideas feel foreign to our world; that is because they are, they are native only to the kingdom of God.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Wednesday2022-01-22T19:22:34-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Tuesday

Exploring Genesis 1 gives us insight into this portion of Jesus’ model prayer, May your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Genesis 1:1-25 (NIV) is filled with this kind of language: God created…let there be…God made…God said…it was so…and God saw it was good. Comparatively, in Genesis 1:26 (NIV) a decided change in the flow of language takes place: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over…”

God then started speaking to the crown of His creation in Genesis 1:28 (NIV), God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” In verse 29, God began his impartation to mankind, Then God said, “I give you…” and finally, God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 NIV)

God spoke to man about the rest of His creation anticipating that humans would rule over it. Because Adam & Eve broke their trust in God (Genesis 3), the communication line between heaven and earth was compromised, even closed, resulting in separation, decay, suffering, and death for all God’s earthly creation. Jesus’ model prayer gives us not only hope for a final restoration, but a rite of passage to a daily restoration of God’s original plan contained in Genesis 1.

When will our Father answer this prayer?

Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:6-8 NIV)

Again, God speaks to man through His incarnation in Christ about how He will restore His relationship with those who are open to Him. “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” (Mark 16:15 NIV)

Of course, the gospel is filled with good news about the human Jesus’ restorative, earthly interactions with humanity, but good news can also be found in the continuing power of His death, burial and resurrection to impart eternal life and transform lives. The gospel is powerful to cancel the effects of the damage begun in Genesis 3 and to restore our spiritual relationship with Himself.

Take a few minutes to be in awe of the power of the gospel throughout the centuries and in our time. Then ask the Holy Spirit to funnel that power into your personal-sized portion for today.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Tuesday2022-01-22T19:17:57-07:00
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