Friday, April 3, 2015

4/3/15 Good Friday by Christine Holmquist

I have had a lot of bitterness in my heart lately, so I found it interesting that Lee suggested John13: 34-38.  I really wasn’t sure what the Holy Spirit was going to lead me to or even if I would allow the Holly Spirit to work through me.  I hope some of you can relate to my honesty and appreciate that we all fall empty occasionally!  So after putting this off for 3 days and even considering canceling, I am so honored to share with you my reflections on John13: 34-38.   

John13: 34-38 abundantly defines our faith and is the most important part of our story as Christians…LOVE.   Not as Presbyterians that believe we should or shouldn’t allow gay marriage or who attends which service - but as Christians!  John 13: 34-38 reminds us that love is truly the message of Jesus.  When Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him 3 times, he isn’t cross with him, he isn’t trying to plead his side of the story, he isn’t giving him options or trying to change Peter’s mind.  He is simply sitting there with him and saying…listen this is going to happen but I love you anyway.

I often think of teenagers when I read this passage.  I think of all the times I was Peter growing up…the hurt I gave to my parents and how they loved me through it. That unconditional love that one has for their family - that love that doesn’t fail or leave us.

Today is Good Friday…the day our Lord was crucified.  A day that we should mediation on a love so immense that it permitted our God to allow his only son to die on that cross for us.  Hard for me to have any bitterness in my heart after faithfully reading those words!  Thank you Lee for leading me back into the word and not the politics of being a Christian!  May our church family be blessed with the ‘unconditional love’ of our Lord Jesus Christ through our love and compassion for one another. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

4/2/15 by Darrell Fernandez

John 17:1-11
Darrell’s view…. Extreme Glory to God.
I have always known that as Christians, we should live to glorify God.  While I know there are times my actions don’t glorify God, the continual aim for His glory seems reasonable right?
·         We live like Christians, right?
·         We give of ourselves to others with generosity…..
·         We think of others before ourselves….
·         We’re slow to anger, quick to listen….
·         We love our neighbors, and our enemies…
·         We pray, we worship, we share the word,
·         We praise God, and give thanks God for our blessings…
·          and there are many others ways we can glorify God.
But, do we do enough?  Do we glorify God out of obligation at times?  
Or… Do we glorify truly by a commitment and sacrifice of ourselves to be who we truly want to be, God’s servant with His glory in the highest of high priorities?
This scripture Lee provides today has been a bit of a challenge to follow and dissect many times.  But reading this scripture very carefully and thoughtfully, hearing Jesus’ passion to glorify God to be (Jesus himself) glorified by God is really interesting.  I believe it’s a lifestyle, but a challenge we can commit to!
Here’s a glorifying God lifestyle example…. Or better yet, an analogy that comes to mind….  “Jesus in the post-game pressroom.”
Jesus prayerfully reporting to the Father that his work is complete:  The football game is over.  Jesus praises God for Glory only after Jesus (and only Him, a one-man football team) just ran the winning touchdown from the back of the end zone against a tough team (ok. ok. ok. anyone’s best team - plug your’s here!)   But in the run He was battered, broken, and not going to survive because all the hits and all the adversaries.  But in the end, Jesus prayerfully reports from the pressroom and tells God “Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you.”
Jesus truly lives to glorify God!  Corny, sorry, but He takes no glory…. All to God!
When I think of Jesus’ words in this John 1:1-11 (mainly verses 1-4) I can see that my view of glorifying God is not up to par!  Wow I’ve got work to do! Here is some of my thinking and how I fall far short with some known examples for comparison… 
Jesus lives to glorify God!  Yes, and without a doubt… But think about a few examples for comparison…..
1.       Jesus was sent by God…   And He’s God’s Son.  That’s a BIG deal! 
·         And nothing better than a stable?
ü  What? Now that’s a rough start for the Son of God.
2.       Then, how many times was Jesus wanted dead?
·         I don’t know, but lots… and all for His own good works.
·         He’s the son of God and lives His life for God and does only good!…. And He is continually challenged!
ü  But His love and faith in the Father never waivers, not once
3.       Jesus was a teacher of teachers! Always bringing comfort and joy to others and also to so many He didn’t know or even see before.  And to many He did know who did not deserve His love.
·         Yet He was continually rejected…..
ü  Always for the glory of God and He stayed the course.
4.       He gave hope, great examples and parables that are such a value to so many (including myself and others every day as we read and hear the parables….)
·         But his enemies were growing and becoming large in size and numbers.
ü He stayed the course for the glory of God.
5.       He continually helped others.  Jesus performed miracles for many by giving sight to blind, healing diseased, healing bones, healing lame to walk, and bringing life to dead.
·         He was hated, rejected for all of these great deeds and gifts of life.
ü Always for the glory of God.
Jesus’ life examples are endless related to His good doings, yet Jesus receives no worldly glory.  And it is clear, that His glory is from God the Father only.  And the Glory that Jesus received from God was only a result of His giving Glory to His Father.  (Truly, not of this world.)

These are just a few simple examples…. But on my best of best day of faith, if I put my commitment to glorify side to side, I fail.  Regarding his dedicated glory to God, Jesus says it all in verses 1-4:

1 “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do….”

1.       Does Jesus’ own glory, faith, commitment to glory for God and lifestyle come to him through glorifying God?
2.       Maybe we can consider doing all, giving all and being all for God; looking forward without even a thought of looking back… Just up!

God bless you for glory to God in all we do!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

4/1/15 by Jessica Mulheim Ward

According to Pope Benedict XVI, the purpose of Lent is to keep alive in our consciousness and our life the fact that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with but a process requiring constant practice.  He goes on to say, “Let us ask, then:  What does it mean to become a Christian?  How does this take place?”  If individuals are to become Christians they need the strength to overcome; they need the power to stand fast against the natural tendency to let themselves be carried along.

Okay, I’m sure many of you might be wondering why on Earth I’m quoting a Catholic Pope, when I belong to, and am writing for a Presbyterian Congregation.  Truth be told, I have never been very good at coloring in between the lines.  I like to take a little artistic license and dine a la carte at the spiritual buffet of Christianity.  Pope Benedict XVI’s words and ideas resonate deeply for me, especially as they relate to the lectionary reading for today: John 12:27–36.

The very human part of Jesus is speaking when he says, 27) Now my soul is troubled; and what shall I say?  Personally, I identify very deeply with his inner conflict.  For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from a troubled soul.  The trouble of my soul shows up in many forms: depression, anxiety, a feeling of being less than, a constant fear of not being enough, fear of failure and fear of criticism.  All that fear and troubled-ness takes on a life of its own and manifests in anger, irritability, guilt and shame.  So where does that leave me; a wife, a mother, a daughter a sister in Christ who longs to live a life of peace and faith and love?  It often leaves me lost in the dark.

With this passage I have to remind myself that the beauty of our Savior, Jesus Christ, lies solidly in the truth that he gave his life to carry the sins of our souls away.  Too often I forget what it truly means to be a Christian.  I am so quick to forget what Pope Benedict XIV says, that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew.  I find myself constantly being carried away by a current of earthly things: possessions, desires, destinations…all forms of distraction from the eternal flame of God’s love.

And so I’m left to wonder, how can I find the strength to overcome these earthly distractions and creep forward, arm in arm with Jesus, walking my way back to my Heavenly Father who created me in his image?
In John 12:35-36, Jesus addresses this question as clear as day: Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

It’s actually quite simple.  The strength I need to overcome all of my earthly distractions, my pain, and my fear comes only from a willingness to constantly practice my walk with Jesus in the light.  The trouble in my soul constantly lures me into the shadows of this earthly world, but that is not where my Creator wants me to dwell.  Everyday I stumble along my spiritual path, chasing the light and the love that God our Father placed into this realm for us to hold and share.  If I’m willing to practice my faith with reverent dedication, the path is luminous.  I see the light in many places: in my husband and the love he shares with me, in my children and the joy they bring to my life, in the safety of my friendships with people who accept me just as I am, in our church where many of you stand by my side and hold me up as I weather many dark storms, and in the love that my heavenly father gives me everyday through the sacrifice of his one and only son, Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for the opportunity that Lent provides me to refresh my commitment to become a Christian ever anew.  Heavenly Father, please grant me strength for the journey; that I may continue to walk in your beautiful light, leaving the darkness and trouble of my soul behind.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

3/31/15 By Carrie Hofmann

Who Put Jesus on the Cross?

            There is a great silence in Christian circles today about mans responsibility for sin.  This basic human responsibility, that people are trying to evade, is a shadow cast over all of usthat the Lord was bruised and wounded and crucified for the whole human race. 
            We can blame Judas or pity Pilate or be shocked how the Jews turned their backs and put Jesus on the Cross.  They and we, put him on that Cross, not they alone.  That basic dishonesty that comes to light when you cheat a littleon your tax returnthat put him on the Cross.  That hating, backstabbing, jealousy, prideful, carnal,fleshly love of pleasureall of these in natural man, put him on the Cross.  All of Adams race share in putting him on that Cross.
            How can I even come to the Communion table and participate without becoming overwhelmed with shame and feeling such intense pain, I, too, am among those who helped put him on the Cross!
            As Andy also reminded us several weeks ago, how common is the characteristic of man to keep himself so busy with unimportant trifles, so that he is able to avoid deeper matters relating to life and existence.  We will gather with friends to chat of  latest fashions, money woes and world issues but an oppressive silence comes when we bring up spiritual subjects.  There seems to be an unwritten rule in polite religious society that we shouldnt get too personal.  Its not politically correct. 
            All the while, there is only one thing that is of vital and lasting importancethe fact that our Lord Jesus Christ was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought peace for us was upon Him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  We cant deny it.  We dont like to hear it.  But the evidence is against us.  He was profaned for our sakes.  Isaiah says, the punishment that brought us peace, was upon Him.
            How few of us realize that it is this peacewhich  restores us to God.  The chastisement fell upon Him so that we as individuals could experience peace with God, if we so desired.  But the chastisement was on him.  Beaten, scourged in public by Roman decree, whipped, bruised , bleedingthis was the answer to the peace of the world, to the peace of the human heart.
                        I am a forgiven and justified sinner.  As a truly penitent person who has realized the enormity of their sin and rebellion against God, I can feel so overwhelmed and disgusted with myselfI couldnt  possibly dare to ask God to let me off.  But peace has been established for those blows that fell on Christ Jesus.
            It was not for punishment for any wrongdoing.  But he was willing to suffer in order to correct me and perfect me so that his suffering would not end in suffering, but end with healing!
            This is the Glory of the Cross!  The Glory of this kind of atonement allows the repentant sinner to come into a peaceful and gracious fellowship with his God and Creator!  It began in suffering and ended in healing.  It began in His wounds and ended in our purification.  It began with his bruises and ended in our cleansing.  As a believing child of God, I must follow that holy longing and desire for a pure heart and clean hands that are a delight to the Lord.  Seek for your own, periods of wonder and amazement at this mystery of godlinessthis willingness of the Son of Man to take our place in punishment.
            Realize Gods peace through His stripes.  This is how God assures us we will be all right inside.  Let us treasure the purity of His cleansing and not make excuses for our wrongdoings. God still seeks humble, cleansed and trusting hearts through which to reveal His divine power and grace and life.
            Desire and know and cherish the presence of the Living God today.

—Adapted from The Radical Cross by A.W. Tozer

Monday, March 30, 2015

3/30/15 by Kerry Milbrodt

John 12:9-19

As I was contemplating these verses, I wrote down what seemed to be the main points 
and noted that many people who witnessed the raising of Lazarus were drawn to Jesus 
and followed Him to Jerusalem. The Pharisee’s hated that and determined to kill 
Lazarus as well as Jesus because His popularity was growing even more.
The day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey’s colt to praises and wild 
excitement must have seemed the end to their hopes that Jesus’ influence would fade 
away. Whether they knew it then or not, here was the fulfillment of scripture, “Blessed is 
He who comes in the name of the Lord! The King of Israel!”, though we in the 21st 
Century know what kind of king Jesus was and is.

So, knowing what we know now, what do we expect of Jesus? What kind of “king” do 
we want him to be in our lives? Are we living in expectation that things will be better if 
we “behave” and do our own, albeit pitiful, best to follow his teachings but not really 
commit to fully surrendering our selves to Him? Do we want to see the world truly 
changed by Jesus? I confess, I have always thought we would always be flawed, even 
when Jesus comes to bring Heaven and Earth together, but I was reminded recently 
that our nature will be completely transformed. Thank God for that!

I am comforted by the knowledge that the world will be entirely different when Jesus 
comes again but we are living right now and don’t have any idea when that day will be. 
I find comfort in knowing that the war against sin and death has been won though the 
skirmishes with sin continue to weigh me down. I don’t want the weight of sin to “kill” 
the love of Jesus in my heart, to make me so discouraged that I give up.

So I remember the joy of the knowledge that I have angel armies by my side, the joy of 
friendship in my church family and my own family. I remember how faithful God has 
always been, every single day of my life and that He has a plan for me. I remember that 
there are so many other Believers who have experienced God’s love in their lives and
that we are part of the throngs who follow His light.

My expectation of Jesus is that His love is far beyond my understanding but simple in its 
truth. He died for my sins that I may live in his love and presence and that I must share 
that truth with the world, no matter how weak or ineffective I feel myself to be.
Hosanna in the highest!

Kerry Milbrodt

Friday, March 27, 2015

3/27/15 by Nancy Coler

Zephaniah 3:17Common English Bible (CEB)

17 The LORD your God is in your midst—a warrior bringing victory.

        He will create calm with his love;
        he will rejoice over you with singing.

When my husband was alive the television was on most of the time, or we would listen to music. This was fine with me. After he passed away seven years ago I kept the television on just for company, even if I wasn’t watching anything, or I would have music playing. Now something has shifted in me. 

Carving out times for silence in my life has become vital. Odd, seven years ago I would have been climbing the walls in a silent house, and frankly back then I wasn’t ready to feel the comforts of the quiet. Now, a hushed home is a place of peace, sanctuary and reflection. Reading often becomes my companion, the Bible, a book I am studying or reading for pleasure. Sometimes I just sit doing nothing because of the need to stop racing over powers me. I find solace in nature, taking a lone walk in the garden. These moments when I can invite God to come into my mind, when my mind stands still, are precious. This is my focus during Lenten season, to stop, be quiet within myself. My goal is to have my surroundings be still for 20 minutes. Sometimes it can extend to an hour, or hours on end. The Lord does create calm with his love, as the above scripture says.

White Eagle said, “Man has to learn to seek first the kingdom of heaven, the place of stillness and quiet at the highest level of which he is capable, and then the heavenly influences can pour into him, recreate him and use him for the salvation of mankind.”

My days are hectic, scattered, and I am bombarded with the input of media, freeway traffic, and schedules to keep. In this Lenten time of reflection, and beyond, it is important to savor the silence as I know I won’t hear God’s voice while the TV is turned on. To invite the Holy Spirit to pour into me, I must enter a place of stillness and quiet.

Life in the country teaches one that the really stimulating things are the quiet natural things, and the really wearisome things are the noisy, unnatural things--Beverley Nichols

Thursday, March 26, 2015

3/26/15 by Zillah Novak

This passage from the Gospel of John describes an encounter that took place toward the end of Jesus’ ministry. The verbal exchange occurs at the temple, the place where Israelites felt almost tangibly the presence of God, so it is ironic that it is here where this heated discussion about Jesus’ identity takes place.
                Jesus has made some claims that many hearers don’t understand - he is a shepherd who will give his life for his followers but who has power to take up his life again. Jesus states that he and God, “the Father,” are one.
                Jesus’ opponents demand an answer. “Are you really the Messiah we have waited for?” It appears there are two significant groups – those who are considering the evidence of three years of Jesus’ teaching about a Kingdom that wasn’t what they expected, as well as witnessing his deeds that  are not just great, but deeds of power and moral excellence.  These questioners are open to a new understanding of what it means to be kingdom people. The others stubbornly hold to their view of a militant Savior who will rescue God’s people but keep their cultural and religious traditions intact.
                Jesus answers the skeptics with patience, giving them an opportunity to reconsider their resistance. He asks them to at least believe the good works as evidence of his Father’s love and care, even if they do not accept him as his Son.
                Did the opponents really want more signs? Would another miracle convince them of his divinity? I doubt it!  I think their inflexibility was probably because they didn’t want to let go of long held attitudes and routines, and completely transform their lives.

                But for those early believers and for those of us today who recognize Jesus as the Good Shepherd who cares for “his sheep “and who trust in his promise of eternal life, we do not need all our questions answered. We can confidently trust the holy Shepherd to lead us safely through lush green fields, and also the dark valleys. What a tremendous promise, that no one can snatch us from the hands of Almighty God!