Wednesday February 17

Gratitude

Spend five minutes focusing on a couple of things you appreciate and thank God for them.

Word

Mark 8:11-12

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.”

Content

Be prepared

When Jesus lived on earth, people were always looking for signs that he is who he says he is. Well, when you see a guy change water into wine, feed 5000, and walk on water, what is it actually don’t understand of a man sent from God?

It is interesting that when it comes to looking at the big one, we have a similar response. We are way more interested in trying to make predictions and looking for signs, then we are simply being prepared. Like any Boy Scout will tell you. Be prepared. 

So, for a major natural disaster, like an earthquake, the absolute bare minimum is one gallon of water per person per day for three days  Count large pets, too. Imperishable food enough for everyone for a week. And extra medication, if it is the lifesaving type, with copies of the prescription. That’s a minimum, but how many of us don’t even have that? Be prepared. 

Or, here’s what Jesus says when he first starts talking about preparing for the big one. 

“The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

Me

 Put together the bare minimum earthquake kit for your home. Have you already done it? Then, think of someone you know who hasn’t and surprise them with the water and food part as a gift!

Ash Wednesday is a meaningful day in the life of Christians everywhere. This day which starts the season of Lent is well-receive by those who participate. There are few things that people are more involved in when it comes to living out Christian faith compared to past generations. One such thing is Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is becoming more popular, partially because it connects a very mysterious ancient ritual in the midst of today’s world.  While Ash Wednesday has been commemorated for over a thousand years, it is only recently that Christian groups have discovered its meaning beyond, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian, and Lutheran. I certainly experienced this last week. I reflect on my day.

We began in Preschool, with the children learning that we are created out of the same stuff as other parts of creation. We are brought alive by God breathing his Spirit into us. Experiencing the imposition of ashes was quite natural for this age who are used to dust and dirt and learning God formed us like they make Play-Doh figures!

Then, we had Ash Wednesday worship at Prime Time. I placed ashes on some foreheads that I have memorized over decades.  As we get older, the words, “…and to dust you shall return” take on greater and greater significance. Also, ashes for our granddaughter Kaylee, and ashes for the first time in a week of firsts for newly baptized Elise.

Next, ashes for those friends who couldn’t be at worship due to illness or hospitalization. Significant to know we are never alone in the Christian community.

Then it was on to my weekly Bible study at the Better Living halfway house for the recently homeless. I taught on Ash Wednesday and this became very meaningful to some of my friends there who had never experienced the ashes before. Even though they are not unfamiliar with dust and dirt, the ash cross takes on a new significance remembering God brings new life out of the ashes.

Worship again at LIFEhouse in the evening as we prayed for our friends who were having surgery or recovering. A reminder for all of our dependence on God.

Finally, closing the day at the hospital once again, a brief Ash Wednesday observance for several LIFEhouse folks who weren’t able to make the service as they were keeping vigil during our friend’s surgery at Holy Cross. The chaplain graciously let us close the evening in the chapel.

Lent is here and the significance of Ash Wednesday is not lost on us as we remember, reexamine, and renew our dependence on Jesus and his gift of himself.

PD

Tuesday February 16

Gratitude

Spend five minutes focusing on a couple of things you appreciate and thank God for them.

Word

Mark 13:1-2

As they were going out of the Temple, one of Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Teacher! Look at these huge stones, and these huge buildings!’

‘You see these enormous buildings?’ said Jesus. ‘There will not be one single stone left on top of another. They will all be torn down.’

 

Content

It’s personal

The stones used to build Herod’s Temple are huge. They are limestone blocks from local quarries situated above where the Temple is. Some of them are 80 tons! When Nancy and I walked below Jerusalem we saw some of the  original stones that Jesus and the disciple are talking about here. Amazing how they got them to the Temple. They used oxen, wooden rollers and gravity to roll them to the Temple sight. The stonecutters would leave chunks of stone projections on the rock so that ropes could be tied around them and then a crane would be used to place them on top of each other. 

The Temple was the most massive and beautiful building for hundreds of miles and off course pilgrims going to Jerusalem are going to be impressed. Then here is Jesus being kind of a party pooper about the whole thing! 

“Yah, the stones are pretty impressive but they won’t be standing soon.” What is he saying?

An earthquake is coming?

You might say that. The sacrificial system at the center of first century Judaism has already been disrupted by Jesus when he kicks out the Temple money changers. That is just a sign of things to come. The focus on sacrifice and following manmade rules of religious rituals are is going to end. The Temple is the seat of God, but soon God will work through more than a building…God is working through people!

God allowed his people to build the Temple in Jerusalem, but that is not his first choice. God chooses to bless the world through his people. 

And the Temple will be destroyed by the Romans in about 40 years, anyway…

Me

God is at work through me and not a church building. Wherever I go people are seeing the temple. Spend some time with God today talking about what kind of impact you are having on the lives of people around you.

Monday February 15

Gratitude

Spend five minutes focusing on a couple of things you appreciate and thank God for them.

Word

1 Kings 19:11-13

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Content

Expect shaking

Where were you January 17 at 4:30 a.m? Well, if you were home in the Valley, that was quite a wakeup call. The Northridge earthquake hit at that very moment. The epicenter where it all got started is .9 miles away from LIFEhouse Church.  If you thought it was a powerful earthquake, you would be correct. At the time, the worst intensity earthquake ever recorded in the history of the world. Now it is number two after the Japanese quake that brought the tsunami. Also, still today, the Northridge quake is fastest shaking earthquake ever. 

So, the bad news is we had loss of life, one of the most expensive disasters in American history, and we also got to be scared out of our wits. The good news is, I don’t care when the so called “big one” is coming, it will not be anywhere near as bad as the Northridge quake. Not likely. When you have ridden the worst, you can sneer: “Back off wimpy big one, San Andreas fault or whatever. We will not quiver from you.” 

In the Bible, people thought earthquakes were God speaking to us. Usually a bad sign. And even though it seems bad, actually earthquakes are good. At least That’s what geologists tell us. If we didn’t have earthquakes we would have no human life on earth. They shake up the nutrients and such. 

So, either earthquakes exist and so do you or there are no earthquakes and there is no you?

Me

Think about this. What is something that looked bad in your life that actually turned out to be good?

Wednesday, February 10

Gratitude

Spend five minutes focusing on a couple of things you appreciate and thank God for them.

Word

Mark 4:3-4

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.”

Content

With God, I am consistent. 

In the parable of the Sower and the Seed, the birds literally “devour” the seed. Gobble it up. Jesus compares these birds to Satan. 

Now Jesus uses this same word to accuse the religious lawyers of “devouring” widows houses. This is the only time Jesus uses this same exact word. We can assume he is calling the work of the lawyers satanic. This makes it especially condemning when he adds the phrase, “and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.”

So not only are the scribes acting in an evil way, they go out of their way to try to appear holy and special in their devotion. Evil and hypocritical. A double dose of bad.

Me

Think of ways your actions match your words of devotion to God. Is there aa disconnect? What can you and God do about it?

Tuesday, February 9

Gratitude

Spend five minutes focusing on a couple of things you appreciate and thank God for them.

Word

Luke 14:7-9

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

Content

With God, I have honor.

Jesus lives in a shame culture. Shame and honor are the competing responses. But, because we are beloved by God, we are immune to comparisons. No one is better than me. No one is worse. God has enough love and approval for everyone. 

When we think of it this way, we start seeing that we have more time to be truly present with people rather than looking around and being seen.

Me

Take the opportunity to eat at a Denny’s or other diner this week and sit at the counter. How was that experience?