Lent: Day 15 – In our country, households needing food can go to government and local food programs. However, lands in other countries, where food has become unavailable, depend on outside programs to reach out to them. Over time and with persistence many of these programs have been very successful. There are times in our own spiritual life when we are simply hungry, when we go for a quick bite of the Holy Spirit with a song or scripture reading and it sustains our strength in this journey and gets us through every day trials and circumstances. Then there are other times when we find ourselves, in fact starving, when the usual nibbles and the regular meals are available but the usual resources we reach out to don’t seem to strengthen us and the resources that usually reach back to us don’t seem to have much affect. God in fact seems rather silent. The first time this happened in my own life I began to understand what it must be like consciously, at least to some effect, what starving children in severe poverty might experience. I am hungry. Why am I not being fed? Why is it that the food I have doesn’t nourish my need? Why is there no food? If we fill our selves with so much of the world around us, we may find our bodies full and yet still be hungry and to some extent spiritually starving. Over time and with persistence we must continue to discipline ourselves to eat of the spiritual food. It is inevitable that in our busy lives today the spiritual famines will come and we’ll unknowingly enter into physical storms. The good news is that we can have peace in knowing that starvation does not have to be our fate. We learn to sacrifice the tangible for the intangible and continue to reach out to God and allow God to reach out to us one morsel at a time and in time our strength is restored. Thanks be to God!
Genesis 43:1-15 Famine
Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go again, buy us a little more food.’
Mark 4:35-41 Storms
A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’
1 Corinthians 7:1-9 Sacrifice
Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Lent: Day 14 – The measure you give will be the measure you receive. We often expect more of God than what we put in to our relationship with him. Somehow that seems right to us. After all scripture speaks of abundance quite often (Ex. 34:6; 1Tim. 1:14; John. 10:10; Eph. 3:20, etc.). The “measure” I believe Christ speaks of in this gospel however is about time both consciously and physically. Some like to add money to the equation but I believe money is really a byproduct in the sense that what is given financially is as a result of the love that is connected to that relationship. We give financially to those things for which we have a great passion. The time we spend in our relationship with God is not unlike any amount of time we spend on any other relationship, which causes us to want to do more because the love has become so deep. Deep wisdom and knowledge comes with time. Without that time, what little wisdom and knowledge we have soon gives way to other thoughts and desires of the heart that often leads us in directions away from experiencing God’s abundant love within us. The more time you spend with God the more wisdom and knowledge you will receive. The more wisdom and knowledge you receive the more you want to share it with others. Who among us finds “true” love and doesn’t want to tell somebody about it. In the same way, I believe God wants us to get to know his true love, wisdom and knowledge just like that, with the same abundance, the same passion!
Mark 4:21-34 ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? …And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’
My momma always said, “Life was like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Forrest Gump 1994” Let’s face it chocolate is delectable, and delightfully pleasing until you bite into one and find something inside you could care less for. Some of you may be different but if I don’t like what’s inside I won’t eat it. If it’s bad enough I look for something to drink behind it to get the taste out of my mouth. I know it’s a bit extreme but its only candy right? What about the beautiful homes or buildings we go in to only to find that the toilets are dirty. Do you use the bathroom or wait until you get home or some other place where you feel more comfortable? In terms of one another, physical beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Thankfully, in God’s eye we are all beautiful and God couldn’t be more pleased when we take the time to care for ourselves and the things God has blessed us with. Again, in terms of relationship with each other and things, are we not disappointed when we unwrap the gift and don’t like what we find inside? I believe that when we neglect the gift of the spirit force that God has placed within us God becomes very disappointed and he will spit us out or simply stop using us altogether. Funny thing though, whenever I sit down with the same box of chocolates I work hard to remember the chocolates I enjoyed and I don’t always remember which one had the filling I despised. Moreover, a dirty toilet doesn’t always keep me from returning to a place I thought was overall a very nice place to visit. I just hope that the bathroom is clean. The good news is that when we care for the good of the spirit within (confess, repent, reconcile and forgive), God forgets our past experiences and will always give us another chance to be everything plus more of what He always intended us to be.
Haggai 1:1-15 These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house. Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?… Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? Says the Lord of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.
Matthew 23:27-39 ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.
Psalm 31 Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am driven far from your sight.’ But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help.
We pay attention to the things that matter to us, the things we love and the things of which we have expectations. We look for signs of growth in our children, signs of change in the weather, and signs of opportunity and promotion in our lives all the while making preparations for the coming change or expectation. As we move through this season and the coming celebration of our Savior’s birth, Mark’s gospel asks no less from us. Jesus urges us to take heed to the signs of the return of the “son of man” and make preparations for the ultimate reconciliation in Him. Those preparations involve heeding the instructions in the Word of God. But the only way we are able to do that is to know the Word. We can’t know the word unless we read God’s Word and pray for understanding in our lives. If there was ever a time to pay attention, now’s as good a time as any. So I say again, we pay attention to the things that we love and to the things of which we have expectation. The choice to love Christ is ours and our faith in Him gives us freedom to expect the things that he promises, but if we are not prepared to receive him, our faith is in vain. Perhaps it might be helpful to know that Christmas, the celebration of the coming of Christ, is never really out of season.
Mark 13:24-37 …‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.
At times the Kingdom of God seems far away and the ways of the world make demands, which sometimes overwhelm us. Whose authority do we fall under? To whom do the children of the earth give toll or tribute? This is a twist on the question Jesus poses to Peter in Matthew 17 and helps us to understand that we, who believe in The Word, neither belong to the ways of the world nor owe nothing to it. Our honor is given to God. Yet as we live in this world, we abide by its laws. However, we give God the glory because as children of God we know that our provision, our sustenance and our reward will return to us not only in abundance but also from unconventional sources. We should never underestimate God’s authority over this world.
Matthew 17:22-27 From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?’ When Peter said, ‘From others’, Jesus said to him, ‘Then the children are free… go to the lake and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.’
Let’s face it. There are times when we have to say no. We can’t say yes to everything. There is a limit to our ability to accommodate one another. It usually comes when there is a last minute request, or your own life or the life of your loved ones is jeopardized. Saying no does not mean we don’t care. We say no to our children and sometimes God says no to us. Never once do we stop caring for our children and never once does God stop caring for us. The kingdom parable about the wise and foolish bridesmaids (Matt. 25:1-13) helps us to understand that there are times when we have to say no. On any ordinary day we generally have plenty of time to help someone in need, but when requests are made at the last minute, often it’s just not possible to do. At the last hour we can hope that someone will be able to help us, but only God makes it possible for us to receive what we have not prepared for (grace). The wise bridesmaids are not called wise because they said no, but rather because they were prepared, they remembered to bring extra oil. Although wisdom may come with age, it mostly comes with discipline, experience and how quickly we learn from our mistakes. We too have to plant the seed of self-discipline. If we don’t discipline our selves to be prepared (keeping awake), neither will we remember to bring the oil.
Matthew 25: 1-13 The kingdom of heaven will be like this… The foolish said to the wise “Give us some of our oil…” But the wise replied, “No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Every Sunday morning, my maternal grandmother made the smallest pot of grits, probably not much bigger than a 1½-quart saucepan. In addition to my grandfather, there could be up to five other people at the breakfast table. However, it didn’t matter how many people showed up for breakfast that day, she never made more than that one saucepan. Every Sunday morning that we spent there, I remember thinking (never saying a word) that it wasn’t going to be enough. Miraculously, there were always grits in that pot. There was always enough for everyone to have a side of grits to go along with the eggs, bacon and toast she had also prepared. When I got up from that table I was always full and satisfied. I don’t really know how my grandmother was able to do what she did, but along with Jesus feeding the five thousand I now understand that if God gives you a task he as already made provision for the task to be carried through to completion. My grandmother’s reality was that when you live on a fixed income you learn to ration what you have based on the number of days between those incomes. At the same time she believed and understood her task was to feed whoever sat at the table. She took exactly what was provisioned for the day and by the grace of God did exactly that. When the believer has faith in God’s authority over provisions, everyone eats and everyone is satisfied.
Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled…
Deuteronomy 2:7 “For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.”
I am always intrigued by the amount of time and effort some people put into the curb appeal of their home, particularly during secular and religious holidays. This one caught my attention immediately: two “gravestones”, (one a celtic-styled cross, the other resembling chains on a screaming head with the caption “rest in peace”), and a grim reaper breathing over the back of both. Initially my first reaction was judgmental, purely sacrilegious. As readings from the Revised Common Lectionary in the past week have been from the kingdom parables, the one that came to mind was the parable of the wheat and tares (an injurious weed resembling wheat when young, Matthew 13:24-30). Perhaps the display means nothing to someone who doesn’t know or even understand the parable, but to this believer it raised a multitude of questions and concerns not merely from a community level but also every level in which we participate in life. In life or death, the saga of good and evil is a never ending story, but I believe through Christ we have the power in both to resist the breath of the enemy. Depending on your perception this display may invoke initial feelings of judgment, disgust, or even confusion and laughter. Either way there are several messages in this one scene (not necessarily all bad). I could go on and on but I’d rather invite your dialogue and I hope that you will in any way respond.
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.
Matthew 6:25-34 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, …do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
…and today’s joy is sufficient for today, but what’s the kingdom? I believe that Christ’s meaning in this passage is not necessarily a place but rather a state of being, a rule of life, and a realm of authority that lay within God’s purpose for our lives. Look around you. Everybody’s got a story to tell. I can assure you it’s not all good, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s rare (if at all possible) that everything in our life is well. Throughout this journey we learn to be content with the “good” out-weighing the “trouble”, because there are situations with which we simply have not control over. The good news is that we don’t have to dig that deep to find this realm of God if we live by faith in God’s grace and mercy, which outweighs all, good and not so good. Our faith however, only has righteousness if we live by it (James 2:17), which means responding to the good that we believe will manifest through Christ. God’s righteousness is his faithfulness to his people. When we have done all that we can do for the kingdom, God will provide.
Habakkuk 2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.
Romans 1:1-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, …For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.
Galatians 3:1-14 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.
Hebrews 10:32-39 so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet ‘in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith.