Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lent, Day 35

" '...I do nothing on My own, but I say only what the Father taught Me.' " John 8:28b

I really wish that were my testimony! That I only do and say what the Father wants me to do! That is exactly what Jesus did, though. So He could honestly say, "When you've seen Me, you've seen the Father."

Can people say the same of me?

My offering to God: Today I will strive to follow God's Word rather than relying on myself.

Lent, Day 34

Yes, I failed to post yesterday. It was just one of "those days". Here are the Scripture verse and offering for yesterday, March 30.

" 'Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' " John 8:7b

The only One who was without sin was Jesus...and He didn't condemn her!

My offering to God: I will examine my own life when I'm tempted to condemn another.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lent, Day 33--Fifth Sunday

"Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there also will My servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves Me." John 12:26
The truth of following Christ...be wherever He is...and where would He be? Serving the poor, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoners, caring for the least, helping others...that's where He is, and where He wants us to be.

And the Father will honor us. Not with the honors of this world, but with eternal life. The best reward of all!

My offering to God: Today I will reflect on what it means to be a faithful servant of Christ.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lent, Day 32

" 'This is truly the Prophet.' Others said, 'This is the Messiah.' " John 7:40b-41a

The situation has not changed much: people are still trying to figure out who Jesus was, aren't they? Was He a prophet? A good teacher? A nice man? A deluded lunatic? The Messiah? God's Son? God? A great leader?

The answer to that question makes all the difference in the world!

My offering to God: Today I will reflect on who Jesus is.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lent, Day 31

"...many of the crowd began to believe in Him, and said, 'When the Messiah comes, will He perform more signs than this Man has done?' " John 7:31

They weren't quite to the point of knowing for sure that He was the Messiah, but they were getting close, weren't they?

It is so amazing to watch the progress of an "almost believer" on their journey toward Christ. They are seeing more and more; learning more and more. They aren't quite there, but almost. The neat thing is, too, that they are often closer than they think they are! So incredible to watch the process of the Holy Spirit's workings.

May we all have the joy of seeing new life this Easter!

My offering to God: I will thank God for the gift of faith.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lent, Day 30

" 'The works that the Father gave Me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on My behalf that the Father has sent Me.' " John 5:36b

The Pharisees always wanted signs and proofs. They had to see to believe. But even though they did see...they didn't believe. Of course, there were exceptions (like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea). There were leaders among the Jews who recognized that Jesus must be from God. The majority, though, just couldn't believe that this simple Man from Galilee could be all He claimed to be.

But certainly, they had seen, or at least heard of, the things Jesus did: the lame walked, the blind could see, the dead were raised, the demoniacs were set free...amazing things!

The question I have for myself today is the same, though. Do I believe Jesus truly is all the things He said He was? Do I need to see to believe? Am I like Thomas, too, who said he had to see the nail scars and feel Jesus' side to believe? Or am I like the blessed ones, whom Jesus said believe without seeing?

My offering to God: I will rejoice that Christ's works and signs reveal that He is the Son of God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lent, Day 29--The Feast of the Annunciation

" 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your word.' " Luke 1:38b

This passage is so beautiful. A young, Jewish virgin, visited by the angel Gabriel. Given a message that is astounding. Bear the Son of God?! And yet, Mary doesn't hesitate to say "yes" to God. The miracle of God placing His Son in her womb...wow.

The response to the Psalm today is, "Here I am, Lord. I come to do Your will." That is exactly what Mary was saying. And it is exactly what we must say to God, if we are going to walk in obedience: Yes, Lord! I'll do whatever You ask!

When I was younger, I always thought that meant some big life-change. But sometimes it simply means being faithful in some small, seemingly insignificant way: in the day-to-day; the ordinary things of life. Whatever He asks, though, whether it be big or small, I want to say, "YES!"

My offering to God: I will accept and embrace God's will and plan for my life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lent, Day 28

" 'Do you want to be well?' The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up...' " John 5:6b-7a

The story of the man by the pool is intriguing. There was a pool called Bethsaida (or Bethesda, or Bethzatha, depending on the translation you use). This pool was by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. Sick people lay all around: "invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed". Why were they there? An angel of the Lord visited this pool occasionally and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped into the pool first would be healed. Incredible!

This man, though, who had been sick for 38 years, had no one to put him into the water. So there he stayed, hoping beyond hope that someone would come along to help him get into the water. He most likely thought Jesus would do this for him. What a surprise when Jesus instead said, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk." And the man did!

The rest of the story is that the man met some Pharisees, who were upset that he carried his pallet on a Sabbath. But the man simply said that the man who healed him said to carry it! Later, Jesus saw the man in the temple, and said, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you." The man went to the Pharisees again, letting them know Who had healed him.

I think the fact that the man was in the temple after being healed could tell us quite a bit. He was there to worship so soon after being healed. (I'd have to check, but there's probably something in the Law regarding offering sacrifice after being healed.) Jesus' words to him were a reminder, though, to live up to his healing. "Remember where you came from," in a sense.

It is good for us to remember where the Lord brought us from, and then look forward to where He is taking us. The man's future was probably very unclear. But he needed to remember the years spent by the pool, and look forward to what he could do for God now that he was healed.

And by the way, where were all the Pharisees when this man needed assistance to get into the pool??? I guess that's a post for another day! :o)

My offering to God: I will comfort someone who is sick.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lent, Day 27

"Jesus said to him, 'You may go; your son will live.' The man believed what Jesus said to him and left." John 4:50

If you don't know the story this verse is taken from, you will miss out on a wonderful gem!

Jesus returned to Cana in Galilee (which is where He had turned the water into wine). There was an official whose son was sick. He came to Jesus, asking for his son to be healed, because the son was about to die. Jesus' first response: If you don't see sign, you won't believe. But the man persisted. When He did, Jesus spoke the words of the verse above. WITHOUT QUESTIONING FURTHER, the man simply believed and went home! On his way home, the man's servants came to him to report his son's miraculous recovery. They ascertained that it occured at the same moment Jesus said, "Your son will live." The end result? "He (the official) believed, and all his household." (verse 53b)

I find some incredible lessons from this short passage. First, the man knew Who to turn to for his son's healing. Second, Jesus' words were really prophetic: the miracle brought belief. (And will we believe without a miracle?) The official believed, and left. Because of what Jesus did for his son, not only did the man believe. His entire household. This usually would include the man's family, but also his servants. Amazing!

What does it take for us to believe? And when Jesus speaks, do we "believe and go" or do we "doubt and stay"?

My offering to God: I will trust the Word of God to guide me.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lent, Day 26

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life." John 3:16

My offering to God: I will rejoice in God's gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lent, Day 25

"O God, be merciful to me a sinner." Luke 18:13b

The full context of this verse is a story Jesus told about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both men were in the temple praying. The Pharisee looked down his nose at the tax collector. With great disdain he prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get." Talk about attitude! Comparing himself to a tax collector, he thought he looked pretty good. And just for added effect, he threw in some of his own good works. Trying to impress God, I guess.

On the other hand, the tax collector, full of grief over his sin, would not even lift his eyes. With eyes downcast, he beat his breast, and simply prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" He saw himself as he truly was, and repented.

This is the heart attitude God desires. We can always find someone worse than us--someone who makes us "look good" in comparison. But that is not the scale we are weighed on. We are compared to the righteousness of God. In that comparison, we are all found wanting. Not one of us can measure up to that standard. But when we come to that realization, we are truly ready to repent. We see our sin as God sees it, realize we can do nothing to redeem ourselves, and allow His righteousness to become ours. His forgiveness will wash us clean.

It's all a matter of the heart.

My offering to God: I will thank God for His mercy to me in forgiving my sins.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lent, Day 24

" 'The second is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' " Mark12:31

The two "greatest" commands Jesus gave them were the summary of the Ten Commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. How do we accomplish this second command?

Think about how much we love ourselves. We bathe ourselves. We give our bodies rest. We feed our bodies to sustain our lives. We clothe our bodies to keep them warm (and maintain modesty!). We do what is necessary to keep ourselves alive and comfortable. That's how much we love ourselves. And so, that's how much we are to love our neighbor!

My offering to God: I will perform a kind deed for someone in need.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lent, Day 23

"And He said to them, 'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?' " Luke 2:49

It has always been awe-inspiring for me to ponder this passage. At the time of this incident, Jesus was around 12 years old. Almost a man, in Jewish tradition. But yet, still a child. And there He was, teaching the teachers!

Of course, He was God. So He had a lot to teach them!

I see something else here, too, though. We can learn a lot from our children. There is a purity to their faith. There is a simplicity to their belief in God's promises. There is an honesty in children that adults so often lack. There is often a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that we, as reserved adults, could truly do well to imitate.

On another subject, today is the feast of St. Joseph, the earthly father of our Lord. I have such a great respect for him. He made some very difficult decisions. God honored him for those decisions. What a daunting task, to raise the Son of God!

My offering to God: Today I will set aside an extra hour to study the Bible. (Wow! This one is going to be difficult to do!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent, Day 22

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17

Jesus' teachings were troubling to the Jews. Everything they had been taught to obey and observe, it seemed He called into question. From the earliest age, a good Jew taught their child all the fine details of the Law. They were ingrained with the prophecies, as well, which foretold of their coming Messiah. And this Man said so many things that seemed to contradict what they had always believed.

And yet...He didn't really contradict them. Here stood before them the fulfillment of it all. The One they had been told to expect: was here! The ultimate fulfillment would come at the cross, and through His resurrection. He was the complete picture. Everything they would need to please God, they would find in Him.

Everything we need...we find in Him!

My offering to God: I'll thank Jesus for being the perfect sacrifice the law required and the prophets foretold.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent, Day 21

" 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.' " Matthew 18:21b-22, NASB

I cannot tell a lie. This verse has caused me to struggle more than just about any other verse in Scripture. It seems so much easier to allow the pain to hang around, wallow in the grief and hurt, and just mull over how much at fault the other person was, whenever I have been wronged. There are certain people in my life who have hurt me repeatedly. Most of them, I haven't seen in years. But when certain topics come up in conversation, or I sit and reminisce about the past, all that pain still sits deep inside me, just waiting to rise up and make me cry out, "You're unfair! You caused me so much pain, and you never even asked my forgiveness!"

But we have to remember that Jesus didn't say, "As many times as they ask for forgiveness, you must forgive." There is actually nothing said about the other party repenting at all. It is simply stated that we must forgive. That's hard to do, isn't it? I want to go to God and say, "But why should I forgive them? They're not even sorry!" Or, in other situations, "They're not really sorry, though, God! They keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect me to just keep forgiving them!"

There are no qualifications on what Jesus said, though. We must simply forgive. Period.

In another passage of Scripture, the author writes about not allowing a root of bitterness to take root in our hearts. "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled..." (Hebrews 12:14, 15, NKJV). The longer we hang onto an unforgiving spirit, and let it fester inside us, that pain becomes like some super-powered mulch which causes roots of bitterness to sink deep into our soul, growing faster and deeper the more we wallow in that pain. Forgiveness is like spiritual Round-Up. It kills the outward "plant" of anger and injury, and goes all the way to the root of bitterness, snuffing out its existence.

And just another thought on forgiveness. We may fool ourselves into thinking that by not forgiving the person, we are wounding them. Hardly. We are hurting ourselves, and our relationships, but not the person at fault. Forgiveness is the healing balm we need.

My offering to God: I will forgive those who have repeatedly offended me, just as Christ forgives me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lent, Day 20

It's always tough to make a name for yourself in your hometown. They know you almost too well. They've seen you as you grew up--all the mistakes! And so it was with Jesus. This was that "little Jesus" from down the street. You know, the one who worked in His dad's carpenter shop. How could He be the Son of God?

And yet, He truly was........

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lent, Day 19--Third Sunday of Lent

"While He was in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, many began to believe in Him when they saw the signs He was doing." John 2:23

Isn't it a sad commentary on human nature that we have to see to believe? We have to have that "wow" factor in order to be convinced of the validity of something. Jesus had taught to many crowds. But when they SAW the signs, then they believed. It is quite telling that later in the passage, it says that Jesus didn't commit Himself to them. Because He knew the hearts of men. He knew who was really following because their hearts sought Him. He also knew who followed simply because of the signs.

Why do we follow? Do we follow from our hearts, or simply for the "wow" moments He gives us throughout our lives?

The beauty of it all is that He doesn't stop doing miracles simply because some only follow for that reason. He still does those wonderful things for us because He loves us. And because He truly is the Son of God.

My offering to God: I will rejoice that Christ's miracles show He is the Son of God.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lent, Day 18

"But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found." Luke 15:32

The story of the prodigal son...the story of the forgiving father...the story of the judgmental older brother. I've heard this story labeled a few different ways. But no matter how you look at it, it's a beautiful story. We are all like the prodigal son, in need of forgiveness. We have a forgiving father in God, who welcomes us with open arms when we come to Him with a heart of true repentance. From the elder brother, we must learn the lesson of being accepting of all other prodigals who return to the Father.

My offering to God: I will pray for those who are far from the Father.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lent, Day 17

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Matthew 21:42b

I heard this verse many, many times as I was growing up. I knew it referred to Jesus somehow, and that He was the cornerstone. (I mean, come on! I sang the song as a solo many times: Jesus is the Cornerstone, came for sinners to atone. Though rejected by His own, He became the Cornerstone. Jesus is the Cornerstone... Remember that song?)

But I have to be honest. I didn't really understand what it meant.

Here's the picture: Whenever a building is built, there is a cornerstone, or capstone, on which the remainder of the building rests. If the cornerstone is set correctly, the rest of the building sits as it should. Often, there is a date placed on it as a historical reminder of when the building was built.

Jesus told them a parable once about the man who built his house on the sand and the wise man who built his house on a rock. That rock is Jesus. Okay? So we're getting a bit more of the picture.

Jesus is the "cornerstone" upon which our lives are to be built. He is also the cornerstone of the Church. His life and teachings are what everything is to rest upon. Getting clearer?

The religious leaders of His day rejected Him as their cornerstone. They did not want to build their lives or their religion on this Man. But He is the cornerstone. (Another place in the Bible calls Him the "chief" cornerstone.

Built on anything else, our lives are shaky at best.

My offering to God: I will make Christ the foundation of my life.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lent, Day 16

No, Pat, I didn't miss my daily post. Just a little late today! Long story...but here I am!

This story is one of Jesus' most amazing stories. We see a rich man who had all he needed and more. We see poor Lazarus, who has nothing. He would have loved the scraps. Both men die. Lazarus is in God's presence. The rich man, who once knew life in sumptuous luxury, now knows only torment. The lesson of the story is basically this: How did the rich man treat Lazarus, and how did that affect his eternity?

This all goes back to how we treat the least among us. Read through the Scriptures, and you will find a multitude of verses concerning the poor, the widows, and the fatherless. We are to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Is this socialism? No! It's Christianity in action!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lent, Day 15

As my readers know, I have been using the pages of the Food for the Poor daily Lenten calendar for my Lent posts. I copied the above from their website, simply because the picture of the little child captured my heart, and I wanted to share it with you.

On to the verse of the day...

Jesus gave us the greatest example of what it means to serve: to give your life. What more can I say? In the example of Christ on the cross, we see the ultimate Servant. Ponder the cross today, my friends. It is an overwhelming picture of love, grace, justice served, and servanthood.

This picture is of the "Cross in the Woods," near Indian River, Michigan. If you're ever in the area, take the time to visit. It is incredible. Walking up underneath that cross, and looking up into the face of Christ...is just amazing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent, Day 14

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:12

There's this seemingly incredible upside down feeling to the Kingdom. If I want to save my life, I must lose it. If I want to receive from God, I have to give. If I want God to reward my dedication to Him, I must meet with Him in secret. When we fast, we must act as if we are not. This verse follows that same pattern. If I want to be exalted, I have to humble myself? How do we do that?

First, we must dedicate ourselves to that secret place with God. Getting alone with Him on a daily basis allows Him to infuse us with who He is. He fills us with His love, renews us in and with His Holy Spirit, and deepens that intimacy we have with Him.

Then, as the overflow of that relationship, we begin to see others as God sees them. We put their needs ahead of ours, as we serve. And we do it for them, not for us. We do whatever it takes to minister to the least. We give and serve sacrificially.

I think I've shared this story before, but it bears repeating. There was a time early in our marriage when we were literally down to the last $50 in our bank account. No cash on hand. That was it. We were working at jobs that paid us only once a month. The end of the month was at least a week away. A missionary came to our church and shared the stories of the persecuted Christians he had dedicated his life to helping. He told stories of his personal sacrifices; the ways his own family gave beyond belief to minister to those in other countries who were being maimed, killed, wounded, and in many other ways persecuted for their faith. God pulled at our heartstrings. My husband leaned over during prayer and said, "I think we should give $50." My initial reaction was, "WHAT?! Are you crazy? How will we survive until we get paid?" After some more time in prayer, though, I wrote the check. A day or two later, money came to us in the mail from a totally unexpected source.

I don't tell you this story so you can say, "Wow! You guys really did a great thing." I tell you this, because I saw God's hand of provision, even when I was resistant to what He was calling us to do. And there was a part of me, at that time, that wanted to shout to others: "See how sacrificial we're being?" But we gave it in secret. We let God take care of the rest. No one ever walked up to us and congratulated us for giving out of our own poverty. We didn't receive a plaque with our names engraved in gold. I doubt anyone in that church ever knew we were giving our last dime, because we told no one! So how were we exalted?

For me, personally, I was, first of all, humbled by the dedication of the missionary, and especially in light of my own life. I was also humbled by the stories of the lives of those he ministered to, realizing that they were ready to give up even their lives for the Gospel of Christ. It brought me to a place of seeing myself and my resources in a new way. So we gave, however grudgingly.

Where does the exaltation come from? When the missionary returned at a later date, we heard stories of how the money our church gave was used to minister to our brothers and sisters in other countries. That was enough for me. But God went beyond that and supplied the money we needed to make it through until our next paychecks.

Because, as you see, exaltation in the Kingdom is much different than exaltation the way our world views it. Obedience can be its own reward, simply knowing that we have done as God asked.

Maybe this post was a little long, or a little rambling. But I hope that, in some small way, it has ministered to you today. And encouraged you to obedience, even when no one else is watching.

My offering to God: Today I will put the needs of others before my own.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Lent, Day 13

"Give and gifts will be given to you." Luke 6:38a (From Luke 6:36-38)

This whole passage is about giving.

--give mercy (v. 36)

--do not judge; do not condemn; forgive (v. 37)

--give generously (v. 38)

And what do we receive?

--mercy from God (v. 36)

--we will not be judged; we will not be condemned; we will be forgiven (v. 37)

--we will receive generously: overflowing blessings! (v. 38)

The motivation in giving should not be the receiving. The blessings God gives are simply the result of our selfless giving--looking out for others more than for ourselves.

My offering to God: Today I will donate to the less fortunate.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Second Sunday of Lent

I've lost track of what day of Lent this is! :o) Oh, well. That title was getting a bit monotonous anyway...

"This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him." Mark 9:7b

If you're not familiar with this passage, please take some time to look it up. (Mark 9:2-10) It is what is commonly known as the Transfiguration. Bear with me, because I truly love, love, love this account of an amazing event in Christ's life.

This is the story in a nutshell: Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain with Him to pray. While He was there, He was "transfigured". Literally, He changed in appearance. They saw Him in His glory. (Yet another proof of His deity.) He was bright and shining, and His garments were white. Moses and Elijah appeared there with Him. The disciples fell on their faces. In the midst of all of it, God spoke to them, "This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him." Wow! What an incredible experience this must have been for Peter, James, and John!

Peter got a little confused in all of this. He wanted to build tabernacles for each of them: Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But God set it all straight. Only Jesus deserved their worship. And how I do love this phrase, that when they looked up again, they saw, "Jesus only." Oh, my friends, may our lives be set on that course, too. That our focus is on Him alone. This world has so many distractions for us, but He alone deserves our praise.

And that is what Lent is truly all about. Regaining our focus. Setting aside worldly distractions to get back on track...

My offering to God: I will spend an hour today reading from Jesus' teachings in the Gospels and meditating on them.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lent, Day 11

"...love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you..." Matthew 5:44b

It's easy to pray for our loved ones. We know their needs, know what makes them happy, and we truly love them and desire God's best for them.

But our enemies??? Tough assignment, isn't it? LOVE them? I don't even like them much! But love them we must. And pray for those who persecute us? That's a hard one, too. I don't think we know as much about persecution in our country as Christians in other places. However, there is still an element of this in our nation, too. I have felt it some, personally, after our becoming Catholic. Praying for those who misunderstand us, and sometimes speak ill of us...that's really hard to do. But if we desire our lives to reflect the image of Christ, then love and pray we must.

My offering to God: I will pray for someone who has wronged me.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lent, Day 10

"...go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:24b

The theme of this verse may sound similar to my post from Lent, Day Seven. And perhaps it is. But there is more to this passage than simply saying we're sorry. This time, instead of us forgiving someone else, we're doing the asking!

Jesus says earlier in this passage, "If you remember that your brother has something against you." In other words, if you know you need to ask forgiveness from someone, get it done!

The whole picture of coming to the altar and offering a gift has a couple of implications. In the Old Testament, and before Christ's death and resurrection, the temple altar was the place of "offering a gift". At the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the Eucharist, or communion, the place of offering changed. As Catholics, we believe that we offer the Eucharist together, but I won't go into all that, simply because it's not the purpose of this post.

The truth is, any time we go to God in prayer, whatever form that takes, we need to know that we are forgiven by anyone we have offended.

My offering to God: I will ask for forgiveness from someone I have wronged.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lent, Day Nine

"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you." Matthew 7:12a

I know anyone who has been in Sunday school or church for any time at all has heard this verse many times over. It's actually pretty well-known in the secular world, too. Sadly, though the practice of this verse has fallen by the wayside in our culture. It's a "me, me, me" world out there. It seems like it is getting worse daily, too, as the economy worsens. It's so easy to become selfish and inward when it seems the world is taking and taking and taking some more.

But I don't think Jesus' words here were based on circumstances. It's very clear that He meant for us to do this ALWAYS.

My offering to God: I will perform a kind deed for someone today.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lent, Day Eight

"...at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here." (Luke 11:32b)

The background: Jonah was a prophet. Jonah was called of God to go to Ninevah and preach repentance to the people there. Jonah resisted. Jonah took a ship in the opposite direction of Ninevah. A storm arose. The ship's crew cast lots to see whose fault the storm could be...and the lot fell to Jonah. Jonah told the crew to throw him in the water. The storm ceased. A huge fish swallowed him. Jonah had three days to re-think his decision. He repented. The fish spit him out on the shore. Jonah headed to Ninevah, and finally preached the message God had sent him to preach. The king of Ninevah called his entire city to repentance. They responded by putting on sackcloth and ashes (remember Ash Wednesday?). They were truly sorry for their sins.

Jump to the time of the verse. Here was Jesus, the Creator of the universe, Lord of lords, Son of God, and yet they remained indifferent and skeptical to His call to repentance.

Do we?

My offering to God: I will rededicate my life to following Jesus.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Prayer for Lent

I saw this on a friend's blog, and thought it was great...

Fast from judging others: feast on the Christ indwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on patience.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on trust.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility; feast on non-violence.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with your presence, so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work.

(from The Essential Lenten Handbook: A Daily Companion, 2000, Ligouri)

Lent, Day Seven

"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you." Matthew 6:14

This verse is prefaced by what is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer, or the Our Father. I have always thought it should be called the Disciples' Prayer or the Apostles' Prayer, since He was teaching it to them. But that's beside the point.

As we are praying: acknowledging God's holiness, that we want His Kingdom to come, and that we need our daily provision, Jesus stuck in that one little thing that requires something of us. We ask God to forgive us, as we forgive others. Not: Help me to forgive others, just as You forgive me. That would be so much more easily accomplished, wouldn't it? But Jesus said, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." That was followed by, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Some translations add another part to the prayer, but that is not pertinent to this post.) Maybe because we are tempted to NOT forgive? Hmm.

And the following verse is our verse for today, to which I will also add verse 15: "...but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Ouch! That's tough, Lord! Why can't we just accept Your forgiveness, and do our best to forgive others? Wouldn't that be a bit more sensible? Wouldn't that still basically accomplish the same thing? No, it wouldn't.

It's this simple: We must forgive to be forgiven. Otherwise, we are harboring something in our hearts. Something for which we are not truly sorry. Something which cannot be forgiven unless we take care of it. Tough? Certainly. Impossible? Not at all. Whew. This Lent stuff isn't easy, is it?

My offering to God: I will make peace with a friend or family member who has hurt me.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Lent, Day Six

"Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40b

This verse is taken from the passage about the sheep and the goats. Jesus is speaking to the disciples about the Kingdom again. He tells them several parables about what the Kingdom is like, or can be compared to. This portion speaks of the time period when He will have come again in His glory, and will sit in judgment over the nations. He says here that He will separate them as sheep and goats would be separated by a shepherd. I'm not sure of the context of that, as I don't know a lot about shepherds, sheep, and goats. It's obvious from what He says here, though, that the sheep are the "good" ones, and the goats are the "bad". (I almost went for the pun there, but chose not to!)

And what are they judged on? Now here's where it can get a little tricky, so stay with me. He doesn't judge them on whether or not they ever said a "sinner's prayer". (Have you ever noticed that this prayer is absent from Scripture? It is also absent from Church history until the late 1800's. There's a reason for that...but that's not what this post is about!) He didn't judge them on whether they had memorized a lot of Scripture, though that is certainly a good thing to do. I digress. He didn't judge them for many things. But what He did judge them according to was their ability to follow His example and reach out to the least: those without food, those without drink, those who are "strangers" (read "aliens" or "immigrants"), those without clothing, those who are sick, and those in prison. The least... The unborn, the aged, the poor, the imprisoned, those deemed "least" by our society... The least...

Remember what we read a couple of days ago, when He was questioned why He ate with tax collectors and sinners? He was giving us an example! The least. They are the ones in most need, and the ones He wants us to reach out to. That's the final judgment: How did we treat the least among us? Did we ignore them? Did we simply figure, "They'll just use any money I give them to buy drugs or alcohol?" Or did we give, and let God take care of the details???

It is not an easy task. But it is what He has called us to.

My offering to God: I will help feed a homeless person who goes unnoticed by the world.

A little P.S. here. Please take time to go to my Ramblings of a Freckled Mom blog. There's an inspiring story about a young girl who made a difference!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lent, First Sunday

"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:15

There is so much packed into this one little verse. John Mark summarized Christ's entire life and message into three short sentences. My summary of his summary will be longer than his summary! :o)

First, "the time of fulfillment". Christ came to fulfill all the prophecies of a Savior and Messiah. He was the embodiment of the covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His life, death, and resurrection would complete everything begun in the Old Covenant. One man. The God-Man. Incredible!

Secondly, the "kingdom of God is at hand". Every day, Jesus established the Kingdom more and more, as hearts were turned toward God. Even today, in us, and through us, as we draw closer to God and are used as instruments to draw others to Him, we are seeing the Kingdom build and grow. In our hearts, His Kingdom is there. As we live as the people of God, we are His Kingdom in action. As others turn their hearts to Him, we see the Kingdom grow. The Church is His Kingdom on earth. That, to me, is quite amazing! And my words are not even beginning to do it justice.

Third, "Repent...". Turn away from your sins. Confess them. Be baptized for their remission (forgiveness and removal). It's a 180 degree turn! And not just a one-time event...a daily one!

And the fourth, "believe in the Gospel". Just repenting is really a good thing. But then, there's more! BELIEVE here, means much more than saying or thinking, "Yes, I agree with what the Bible says. I sure do concur that what Jesus said and did was true. Yep. Sure do!" That's a great start: repent, be baptized, mentally agree with that...but there's more to belief. It means to allow your lifestyle to come into line with all Jesus said and taught. To live it out daily. Don't get me wrong. I know this doesn't happen all at once. As our own Father Joe so eloquently, yet succinctly said this morning: It's a journey. But keep going on the journey! Don't stop at the preliminary steps! Grow in grace, dear friend!

My offering to God: I will examine my life and ask God to forgive my sins.