Read Matthew 11:28-30
It reminds me of a passage from the writer of the psalms. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
…he binds their wounds…
Read 1 Sam 3.1-10
I remember like it was yesterday the first time my daughter Chloe said my name. To some it might have been considered unintelligible baby-gibberish, but because I wanted to hear her talk so badly, I was listening intently for it almost at every moment. I still cherish the memory of hearing “Da-Da” for the first time. There is something about the combination of focused attention and longing that allows us to truly hear.
When the young prophet Samuel was staying with Eli the priest, the Bible says he had never heard God’s voice before and did not realize it was even him speaking. It took a few times for even Eli to realize what was happening, but once he did, he helped Samuel to hear. You’ll never forget the moment when you hear God’s voice for yourself for the first time. It is a life-changing moment to know the God of Heaven and Earth knows your name and cares enough about you to speak directly to you.
So if you’ve never heard his voice or haven’t in a long time, and you long for it…just allow this season of prayer and fasting to focus your attention on him. Be waiting. Be listening. Be longing. When he does call your name, and he will, just answer “here I am Lord, your servant is listening…SPEAK.”
…speak Lord I am listening…
Running on empty?
Read Colossians 1:9-12
I often try to do things on my own and I don’t always ask for help. This is likely rooted in pride and fear. I want people to think I can do it all; pride. I don’t want to ask for help; fear. This is true for how I interact with people and God. Sometimes, I find myself running on empty. I try to get my work done and my family’s needs met all on my own power. I mean, who else is going to do it? Sound familiar?
This begs a few questions: Does God have unlimited power? Yes. Does he have unlimited time? Yes. Do we have unlimited power? No. Do we have unlimited time? No. Why then, do we solely rely on our limited resources when we have access to the unlimited resources of God? Why do we choose not to “…be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might…?” Maybe it is because we don’t believe it is available to us, or, we want to do things ourselves.
My amazing wife started praying this scripture over me years ago and has since become one of my favorite verses. There’s power in this prayer. Everything shifts for me when I choose this prayer.
Fall is almost here, school is back in session, and schedules will start to fill up. Here is my encouragement: Start praying daily; “God, will you give me your presence, joy, wisdom, and peace today. Help me to do things with you, and not on my own.” Take time each day to fill up your tank. It is way better than running on empty.
…be strengthened with all power…
Read Galatians 5:1-6
“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take away our FREEDOM!!!”
This line from Braveheart has been quoted to me more times than I can remember, and yes, I know it is an old movie (Millennials, feel free to insert snarky remarks here). However, it is a pivotal point in the story and resonates with anyone who has experienced a loss of freedom. Humans have historically done remarkable things to attain freedom.
So, what does this mean in the context of faith? Am I now free to do whatever I want? Does it seem to contradict everything you have learned? I mean, isn’t there this long list of no-no’s?
It all comes down to the context of what Paul was talking about. He was talking to people who were trying to do something (circumcision) from Jewish law to save themselves. Paul said they had “fallen away from grace” because they stopped resting in the grace Jesus had brought through his sacrifice, and started leaning on their actions (the law) to save them.
Jesus calls us to follow him, learn from him, love him, and love others. Yes, often we do it wrong. And this is the crux of it. We are all broken, blind, flawed, and therefore need a way out of our brokenness. We cannot fix ourselves, and this is exactly why Jesus came. He came because he wanted to give us freedom. Freedom from sin, shame, guilt, and from having to be perfect, which is impossible.
Today, rest in the fact that he paid your debt. Sit with that freedom and thank him. He was happy to do it for you, and would do it again in a heartbeat.
…this is exactly why Jesus came…
Read 1 John 4:7-21
I had the amazing honor of performing a wedding on Saturday for some dear friends. An absolute highlight of the weekend was a conversation I had with someone after the wedding who thinks I am a bit off my rocker for believing in Jesus. I loved this conversation because it was real and not the typical; news, weather, and sports. It was authentic.
I could not get 1 John 4 out of my head during our conversation. This person was “not into the whole God thing” because of the way they had seen and experienced religion in the past. They experienced a lot of control and judgement, “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”, and “accept Jesus or you are going to hell.” You see, these are all control tactics. When people are afraid, they want to control. Fear creates control in relationships.
But here is the thing: There is no fear in love, and we are all called to love. What is love you ask? Love is patient, kind, humble… (1 Cor 13:4-7). In Luke 6, Jesus tells us not to judge others unless we want to be judged in the same way.
This whole conversation made me wonder, how many others have experienced this same fear fueled control? I know I have. How many have missed God’s abundant and overwhelming love? How can we go and love? Is there someone in your life today you can show this kind of love to? Do you want to experience this kind of love?
…no fear in love…
He is listening
Read Psalms 28
Have you ever spoken in a group of people and no one seems to hear you or acknowledges what you said? I really hate that feeling. It makes me feel almost invisible. Sometimes when I pray I feel like I am tapping on a microphone saying, “Is this thing on?” I know he hears me, at least intellectually. But sometimes he can be so slow to respond (in my opinion) that I begin to wonder if he even hears me.
I think David felt this way too, and that give me some comfort. I mean, if the guy who was described as a man after God’s heart feels like he is not being heard, then it is ok for me to feel the same. However, scripture is riddled with verses talking about how he hears our prayers. How the Holy Spirit translates for us, and speaks for us. This inspires me to press on, and keep talking to him.
Jesus himself tells a story about prayer in Luke 11:5-13. He says to keep knocking on the door and be persistent. He basically gives us permission to keep bugging God until he answers. That said, I can’t promise you will like the answer, but he will answer. Today, keep at it, if there is something you have asked God one hundred time and have heard nothing, ask one hundred and one times. He is a good Father, he does hear you, and he will answer.
Out of the boat
Read Matthew 14:22-33
I grew up surfing. I love the ocean, the waves, and riding a head high left that goes for days. This story always intrigues me because Peter gets to surf without a board. I also like it because Peter is a, jump first ask questions later, kind of guy.
Picture this; you are in a small boat, on a huge lake, at night, with wind and waves hitting you all night. Suddenly, you see a ghost walking on the water saying, “Don’t worry, it’s me.” Your response, “Sweet, I guess I’ll get out of the boat now and take a stroll on the water.”
At this point in the story Peter is not sure it is Jesus. I might have said, “Alright if it is you Jesus, what was the joke John told us last night?” However, this is exactly what I love about Peter. The hint of Jesus compels him to do the unimaginable to be near him.
This move from Seattle to Florida has definitely been out of the boat on the wind and waves for our whole family. We continue to reach out to Jesus to grab hold of him. It has been simultaneously scary and amazing, because he continues to keep us afloat.
Do you feel safe in the boat? Is Jesus is saying, “Come, I have something for you.” It does not have to entail moving across the country, it could be him calling you to forgive someone. Or, calling you to give your time, talent, or treasure to him in some way that scares you a bit. It could just be him calling you to fast and pray for the salvation of a friend or family member. Whatever the call may be, I encourage you, seek him in prayer. If he says come, get out of the boat.
…the hint of Jesus compels…
Faith like a seed
Read Matthew 17:14-20
This story in scripture has always confused me a bit. The disciples try to heal a boy. They can’t do it, and so they bring the boy to Jesus to ask him why they can’t heal him. Jesus says “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move…” (Matt 17:20)
Wait, what? I can imagine Peter saying, “Well thanks Jesus, we can’t heal him because our faith is small, and all we need is the faith of a tiny mustard seed. That clears everything up.” It is like Jesus is messing with them, saying “Your faith is soooo small, I mean smaller than a mustard seed. Get with it guys, grow some more faith.”
This is always the way I read it, until I learned the word Jesus used for “small” did not mean size, but duration, or frequency of time. So, to paraphrase what Jesus was really saying was, “You all gave up too soon. You just need to have a tiny mustard seed of faith that keeps going.”
Jesus wants us to persist, to keep going, keep praying, keep asking, and keep reaching out to him. He likes talking to and hearing from us. Because of this, he wants us to persevere. These 40 days are designed to help laser focus our hearts on Jesus. This way, we can know him better and experience more of what he has for us. Paul says in Colossians 4:2, “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.” I encourage you, please don’t give up, keep speaking to him, he loves it, and he does hear you.
…Pray diligently. Stay alert…
Read 2 Kings 2:1-14
So, I kind of love Star Wars. It is not my fault, I am a product of my upbringing. You spontaneously generate a Star Wars fan when you take a small child to a movie with spaceships and lightsabers. Star Wars has captured generations of people by speaking to an inherent need in every human. At our core, we want to learn to do things that make a difference. We want to affect our world. This is the core story of Star Wars.
Elijah and Elisha are (in my humble opinion) the first Jedi’s. Stay with me here. There is a master, and a student (aka discipleship). I love this part of the story in 2 Kings because Elisha, the student, never wants to leave the side of Elijah, his teacher. He has spent his life following and learning from Elijah and he wants what Elijah has. He is willing to go anywhere and do anything to get it. Elisha wants a double portion. Just like me at a buffet; when the food is good, I go back for seconds (sorry for the food analogy if you are fasting today). Elisha shows us how we should pursue growing in our faith.
Sometimes, we want learning opportunities to come to us while other times, we want to figure it out alone. What if instead, we (like Elisha) were willing to do whatever it took, to learn how to grow closer to God from someone else. We all need someone to learn from, and someone to teach. I encourage you today, if you are not being mentored or mentoring someone, then pray and ask God to bring those people to you.
…I want a double portion…
Read Ephesians 2:1-10
“Grace, it’s the name for a girl, it’s also a thought that can change the world.” (Bono). Yesterday, I heard the statement “that’s not fair” from a child who will remain nameless. Have you ever thought this, said it, or believed it with your whole heart? Good, me too.
We like fair; I like fair, at least most of the time. If some knucklehead speeds past us at 20 mph over the speed limit, we secretly hope there is a state trooper waiting at the next corner. Just, not when we are the knucklehead. There is an old hymn I love, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Unfortunately, when it saves a wretch like you it’s not so amazing, actually, it’s not fair. I don’t always want to pay the price for what I have done wrong, but I am ok with it if you do.
However, grace is not fair. It is the upside down of fair. Grace says; you totally broke something, and someone else comes in, fixes what you broke, and pays the bill. Grace is not cheap, but rather costly. It has a distinctively contagious quality; when you receive grace, you start to give grace. Jesus says in Luke 7:47 “…her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Ephesians 2 reminds me how much I have been forgiven. God has lavishly poured out piles and piles of grace on me. Take a moment and think of where you have received grace. This is not to instill shame, but rather, to see how priceless you are. The all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing God of the universe created you as a work of art and given you grace. He made you to join him in the good work he does, as an ambassador of his grace to change the world.
…a thought that can change the world…