Devotional


I was listening to the lectionary scripture {Matthew 2:1-12} being read yesterday and began to reflect on the many times that I had listened to the story of the three kings and never asked a critical question. What are the lessons that we learn from the Magi that visited Jesus which will help me be a better disciple of Jesus?

They were full of faith – They had followed other stars that led them to other kings and they were confident in this new star also leading them to a new king.  This was not a spiritual journey for them but it was about honoring the office and person.  This required great faith. To grow as a disciple means that you are growing in your faith.  To become mature would indicate that you walk daily by faith. This is a place of surrender.  Faithree-kings-day-january-6thth is not about you and what you can acquire but faith is about God working in you so that you can trust God completely.

The journey was a part of the process – Many times as people are maturing in Christ there are complaints about meeting the class schedules, driving across town for to pray with a group, meeting a new believer at times that are not convenient to you and questions about “Why isn’t Sunday morning enough?” The reality is that if we are going to grow as disciples of Christ we will have to learn that the process is not linear and the process will not be the same for everybody.

The magi were clear that the goal was to see the new born king even if it was 2 years after his actual birth. If our goal is to become mature committed disciples, we have to expect some challenges during the journey but never give up on the goal

They were generous – They brought their valuables to a future king. They had no previous relationship or allegiance to the future king and they gave freely.  This is especially interesting since they had to barter for their needs during the journey.

As we grow in our discipleship may we all be full of faith, be comfortable with the journey and be generous.

 

 

1-Timothy-2_5_6

Some of my fond early memories are connected to times when I was able to spend holidays with my extended family. Jeanette and Otto Thomas had seven children that nicknamed themselves the Fantastic 7. Along with their 18 children it was always a lot of fun.

Holidays were special already but when we meet at grandma’s house dinner time was a major production. There is always lots of food, lots of laughter and lots of conversation.  Needless to say with large families there were times when everybody did not agree on a specific topic or opinion and the volume level and intensity of the conversation would increase as the evening progressed but inevitably grandma would walk in the room and state her position and for the rest of the evening the focus would be on what activities we would participate in.  Grandma Thomas had a way of ending the confusion and redirecting everyone’s attention to what was really important, being with each other.  She had a unique way of not telling everybody that they were wrong but affirming her position and bringing everyone together.

As we live into this season of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ we are reminded that there is one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.  We are reminded that we can respect other religions, but the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is what makes it possible for me to have a relationship with God almighty.” I have no need to attack what others believe because I am clearly focused on the reality that my salvation is firmly rooted in the resurrection of the only man who was divine and human and lived on this earth with no sin.”

Challenge
As disciples of Jesus Christ how will you focus people on the essentials of the faith.  God’s sacrificial love for sending Jesus.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins and the resurrection that gives us access to God.

Prayer

Keep us on what really matters.

23 Examine me, God! Look at my heart!
Put me to the test! Know my anxious thoughts!
24 Look to see if there is any idolatrous way[f] in me,
then lead me on the eternal path!

Psalms 139

This entire season of Lent is a time of reflection, repentance and renewal. During the next 40 days we will have an opportunityashwednesday to reflect on our behavior, spiritual disciplines and the motives for our actions.  We get to repent of the sins of omission and commission. This makes us vulnerable but without the vulnerability we can’t experience humility. It is in our humility that we acknowledge our need for cleansing from God and that in this earthly journey we can’t do this without God.

But during this season of lent we have the opportunity to reflect on our shortcomings repent and be reconciled back to God.

image

#nofear #totaltrust #dontlookback

Luke 23:39-43
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

lfurtado-edit-iStock_sky

The difference between the two men being executed with Jesus was simple yet significantly complex. The difference was humility. To the casual observer it looks like there are three convicted criminals with no redeeming qualities. At first glance it appears that there is no need to acknowledge their individual and unique characteristics. If you were to operate with the initial presentation of facts you would miss the significant moment that Jesus shared on the cross.   (more…)

Determined Discipleship
Mark David Ribbins

The Death of Lazarus

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you,and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

 

It’s easy to follow Jesus, as long as He’s popular in the places where you’re following
— a lesson His disciples learned while watching the course of His ministry.

“ Called to be fishers of men? How cool to hang with Jesus!
Watching a temple crowd pick up rocks to stone Him, not so great.
Helping to feed 5000 with a bag lunch? Amazing experience!
Castigated by Pharisees for picking grain on the Sabbath, what a royal pain!”

(more…)

Questions for Reflection

What does the kingdom of God look like?

What heavy burdens are you worrying about that you need to hand over to God?

Can God handle taking care of me tomorrow if I am overwhelmed today?

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

“Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:22-25 (NRSV)

Why is it important for Christians to gather? Some people would say we need to gather to collect offerings, so the church can survive. Others may think that it is necessary to gather because church is the place where God can be worshiped by God’s people. I have heard also that when people miss church, people feel empty. We need to remember that Paul is writing for the first century church, which is not probably the same image we think about church today.

Churches back in that time were basically houses hosting a few people who gathered clandestinely to know more about this Jesus, the son of God. They were simultaneously surrounded by multiple gods lifted up by people who praised living kings and rulers from the empires.

Paul, once convicted about Jesus’ love, talks about the power of gathering because by getting together, it gives identity to the worshippeople of God; identity in love, compassion, grace, and favor. Identity that is marked by the faith. Faith in the one who came to give his life against all political systems imposed. Through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, Paul was able to teach that a king is not the one who rules through oppression, but who loves with such power that brings hope to those that were lacking of it.

Gathering on a regular basis helps us to build self-discipline, and while the discipline takes place, our souls are transformed gradually to become what God intents for us. How? Through gatherings, we may see the reflection of our sinful nature in each other and at the same time we may reflect the grace that God provides. As part of congregational formation, the transformation may occur to help us grow as individuals as well as Body of Christ.

Now, the challenge that Paul brings us in this letter is to not only taking the image of gatherings in a place like our church, but also taking this personal and communal formation to other spheres of lives: home, work, friends, and enemies with the purpose to see “one another to love and good deeds.” It liberates us, frees us, and reshapes us.

Prayer: God almighty. Guide us to intentionally be open to your voice, so we can take the church -your church- with us wherever we go. Break the barriers of our minds, hearts, and souls, and change us in such a way that the transformation never ends. Please, forgive us for limiting your gatherings to one place. Merciful God, in your powerful son’s name, we pray. Amen.

Carlos Reyes

Monday February 23, 2015

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”   John 8: 6-7, 10-11 (NIV)

As children of God we have all sinned and fallen short of living in obedience to God’s Word. We have two basic responses. Many people choose the first response and run away from the church, accountability, and God. Because of the Holy Spirit living inside of us we are in constant turmoil and never at a place of rest and peace. Our second choice and the most powerful response is to run to the church so we can meet Jesus again. It is in the church that we can find reconciliation, renewal, and repent.

Lady PrayingJesus was to pronounce judgment on a woman caught in adultery. According to Jewish law, there was no need for a jury and no need for trial. Death by the hands of her accusers was the prescribed sentence. Her accusers, all men who had unrevealed sin in their lives, brought her before Jesus to gain confirmation about their intentions to stone her to death. They came to Jesus looking for validation of the judicial code; Jesus ignored the code, exposed the sins of the men, and gave the woman a directed verdict. Not only did he stop the crowd from their murderous intentions, he also pronounced a life-giving and life-changing sentence.

• Jesus restored her worth as a viable member of the community.
• Jesus redeemed her from worrying about the guilt that she previously carried.
• Jesus redirected her will from self-destructive behaviors to a life committed to worshiping God.
• Jesus reconnected her to the grace and unconditional love of God.

During this season of Lent I want you to know that this is a good time to recommit your life to Jesus Christ.  No matter what you have done, Jesus loves you and wants to be in a committed relationship with you. If you will confess and turn from sin and disobedience, Grace is available to everyone that invites Jesus to enter into our hearts as Lord and Savior. Will you let Him enter your life in a whole new way?

Those who are already believers and committed my challenge to you is to stop judging everyone people and take off your masks.  We are all sinners saved by grace. When people have the courage to seek God and search for community we should be ready to love them as Christ has loved us.

Prayer: God, even when I blow it and I am disobedient to you, allow me to experience your love and grace. Amen.

William T Chaney Jr
New Church Strategist for SEJ
Path 1

We are the aroma of ChristTo brew a great tasting cup of coffee you have to begin with spring water. You then choose the right coffee beans and grind them followed by water heated to 180-200 degrees preferably in a French Press. The combination of the beans being ground and being brewed releases a distinctive and unique aroma that can fill a house, a restaurant or a coffee shop. For many fresh brewed coffee serves as a wakeup call for the day. The anticipation of enjoying the coffee starts long before you taste the java.
As believers in Jesus Christ people should experience “the Christ aroma” as they observe our everyday interactions. In our text Paul was focused on sharing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with everyone. How is your life producing aroma’s of love and compassion? Do the people that you interact with on a regular basis experience you as just one of the group or does your interactions leaving asking, ”Why are you so special, compassionate and caring?”

Challenge:  We should live our lives in such a way that other people receive the wake up call to follow Jesus.
Prayer God , teach me to be compassionate to everyone I meet so that they can experience the love and grace that you have already shared in my life.

William T Chaney Jr
New Church Strategist
Path 1
Discipleship Ministries, Nashville TN

Next Page »