Friday, February 27, 2015

2/27/15 by Marcia Randis

John 3:22-36
This passage has kingdom followers in the countryside raising questions to John the Baptist regarding Jesus and the roles each of the two leaders have. A few of the verses here really got my attention most as John the Baptist clarifies: (V27) "No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven." (V28) "You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, 'I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of Him..." (V30) "He must increase, but I must decrease."

The world we live in today focuses on the importance of being "somebody." It seems that the lifelong struggles are all about equipping ourselves to become somebody special, successful, rich  famous, or at least somebody highly respected for our personal accomplishments. Not many of us seem to be striving for a number two spot, a back seat, or merely a supporting role.
Yet this scripture finds John the Baptist excited that he has filled just such a "secondary" role preparing the way for Jesus' arrival. As I prayed through this passage this week I have been struck by how "equipping myself" for my role in this world has had little to do with pointing the way home to heaven. When I think about the gifts God has intended for me to use, I realize I have fallen short of letting Him use me for my intended purpose.

The message for me here has a lot more to do with setting my personal ego aside to become more fully who God has created me to be and serve Him according to His calling.  I am not the Savior. I am not even worthy of the "support role" if I don't understand who I am in Christ. We all have received gifts from heaven. I need to understand how to use my gifts, not just emulate others' talents and achievements here.

In a sermon last May Brother Lee asked us, "How big of a blessing do you want to be?" Then, in July he reminded us that sin is rooted when we resist God's will or His truths; and that we become slaves to the things in the world when we worship them instead of the creator. Then he finally pointed out that God gave us a choice to walk away or follow Him.

So...I may not be a president, an esteemed party leader, someone sought by throngs of influencial people, praised by successful citizens or even a popular peer. I may be simply an encourager to a forgotten or unnoticed child of God. I may only smile at or pray for a person in need. God may require me to advocate for someone who is not popular, someone rejected by this world that doesn't meet the worldly standards.

Just like you, I am who God created me to be. I am deeply loved by the Savior who willingly followed that path to the cross. I pray today that you know this truth too. That you will know and accept your real gifts, that you will also find joy in the journey just as John the Baptist did.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

2/26/15 by Lecia Van Horn

Today’s scripture -- John 3:16-21

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

When Lee asked me to write a blog post I thought I couldn’t write to the scripture referenced for the day. (John 3:16-21) He said to write what is on my heart… the challenges my family has been through in recent years – The pain behind the smile.

Phil and I have just begun grief counseling. We are dealing with extreme loss and near loss. Within the past two years, nine relatives and friends have died. Our daughter Kari has lost an additional five friends. (Death by cancer, suicide, murder, military friendly-fire in Afghanistan, hit and run, drowning, accidental falling through a ceiling skylight and natural cause.)

One Saturday night last June, we nearly lost both our daughter Kari and our son Brandon. Kari was held up at gunpoint near her home in West L.A. and it took three calls to 911, before officers showed up! The officers were angry with Kari and Phil until they realized it was the dispatchers who decided NOT to send officers – who told Kari and Phil they were just down the street and may have been able to catch the robber who got away with other accomplices in a car.

Phil brought Kari back to our home that night.

The following morning, as we were getting ready for church, our son Brandon called – saying he was at a sheriff’s station with friends in Battle Creek, Michigan. (Brandon was playing summer baseball in Battle Creek.) He and three other Christian ballplayers on his summer team were driving in a four-door pickup truck. As they drove under a freeway overpass that previous night, a big thud hit the passenger side of the truck. They didn’t know what it was. They thought it may have been a deer. They didn’t see anything so they kept driving back to their host family homes.

The driver of the pickup truck was staying with a host family whose father was a retired sheriff. The morning news reported a deadly hit and run and the search was on for the driver. It turned out that a large man had taken his life by jumping from the overpass, landing on top of the truck Brandon was in with his friends. There was no blood, but a large dent in the truck that could be seen in the daylight. The retired sheriff pieced together what apparently happened.
We were told if the man who took his life had hit the top of the truck’s cab or windshield inches away, it could have killed all four of them in addition to the man who took his life.

Understandably we came to church that Sunday physically shaking.
We pray for the robber, the accomplices, and the family of the man who took his life.
We give praise to God for protecting our children.

Every day and night we pray for protection over our family, our children by name: “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” Isaiah 54:17. We tithe and stand on Malachi 3:11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes.”

New Year’s Day evening, I took Phil to the E.R. after he experienced symptoms of a T.I.A.  Doctors wanted to make sure he did not have a stroke. He did not. He is taking steps to improve his health, while still working on trying to grow his business we believe God put together.

And there’s more loss.

An apparent joy-riding driver turned head-on at Kari forcing her off a Pasadena street, totaling my car, and sparing her. We have had one car the past three years.

Phil continues to work with his agency business, but there has been personal loss in a company crisis-based restructuring.

We lost our house, and there’s been other misfortune that I won’t explain here.

The Good:
Our children are ALIVE! THANK YOU GOD!
Things that have been stripped away from me during this time: false humility, pride and arrogance – things I didn’t know I had, but God knew, and showed them to me.
We have all gotten closer to God.
Kari has had two good career-building jobs since graduating from college and is moving on to her third in Macon, Georgia.
Brandon’s faith is growing stronger.

We pray for God to fulfill the desires of their hearts and ours. (Psalm 37).
We have a place to live.
We understand others have even more difficult trials and God seems to not be answering yes to their prayers, or saying no or not now.
We look forward to seeing how God gets the glory through this suffering – not just our pain, but also the pain our brothers and sisters in Christ are also suffering through now.

So I guess after all this I can tie in today’s scripture.
I am very grateful that we do have a God who loves us so much that He sent his one and only Son to save us! Jesus understands our suffering and promises to be with us in good times and in bad. I pray that those who prefer the darkness will listen to the Holy Spirit nudging them to search for and find God.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2/25/15 by Ashley Pollock

“Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs He was performing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people.” John 2:23-24

Technically, this particular entry was meant to focus on John 2:23-3:15, but I am having trouble getting past the first two verses. So I am going to leave the beginning of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (as found in John 3) for you faithful readers to dig into on your own and stick with what hit me like a freight train this morning. “…many people saw the signs He was performing AND believed in His name” (John 2:23). The phrasing of this verse makes it seem like the signs were the root of their faith and therefore Jesus did not “entrust Himself to them.” It would be easy to judge the nameless people in this passage for needing to see something to believe but doing so would be hypocritical for how often have I waited for Jesus to prove Himself to me? How often have I waited for Him to bring me through a trial before praising Him and reaffirming my faith in His goodness?

Today is day 23 of my stay at the luxurious Huntington Hospital – and believe me, it is luxurious as far as hospitals go. They are bringing me a cottage cheese and fruit plate as I type this! And while here, I, like the crowds in the verse above, have been amazed by the signs the Lord has performed. He has shown Himself in the love of people – people like my LCPC family who have sent cards, visitors, flowers and prayers. People like the children of CFC, who have sent me posters of their footprints and pictures of babies and rainbows. People like the families of a church I sang at one time in Kentucky who have been checking in regularly through social media. The Lord has shown Himself in the way He has quieted our baby girl’s heartbeat when it was racing and we were minutes away from having to call an emergency doctor and suddenly her heart slowed down to a normal pace again. He has shown Himself in several nurses who have not only taken care of me and baby Pollock but whispered that they would pray for me when they went home. God has shown Himself here. I am so grateful and it would be easy to leave it at that… perhaps I would have just left it at that if the Holy Spirit had not used those two verses above to convict me. You see, in my prayers these past three weeks I have been only thanking God for what He has done and the signs He has shown. I have praised Him for the people He has sent me. I have thanked Him for the medical marvels that have kept this pregnancy going. And God rightly deserves that praise and gratitude. He has been beyond generous. But in the midst of it all, I have forgotten that I worship God not just for what He does but for who He is. He is faithful. He is loving. He is good. He is loyal to His children. I have let my faith rest on His signs and that is not where it belongs. My faith belongs in Him – regardless of what He does or does not do. I want to be a servant that Jesus can trust to say on both my best day and my worst: You, Lord, are worthy. Worthy is the Lamb.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2/24/15 by Josh Horton

"Passage: John 2.13-22

In my small group with the 9th grade boys yesterday, while we were reading through a couple of passages in Luke, chapter 9, we read the story of when Jesus fed the 5,000 and then were moving on to Jesus asking the disciples who the people thought He was. And before we read Jesus' response, one of the boys shouted, “He's doing it again!” To which I replied, “...doing what...?” “He's teaching them a lesson! Everything Jesus does has this sneaky way of teaching the disciples a lesson and they never see it coming!”
How accurate that is. In the gospels, Jesus is almost constantly teaching His disciples some lesson or another; developing air-tight metaphors through his every move and word. As we read John 2.13-22, it at first seems Jesus travels to the temple because of frustration with what's going on inside. But we later find that Jesus had something even more important to talk about: the resurrection of His temple; His conquering of death itself. This passage then ends by explaining what is potentially the chief reason Jesus takes the disciples on this journey: V22, “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” The disciples remembered, and they believed.
What a blessing it is, that Jesus is true to His word. What a blessing it is, that we have a Savior who, by His character alone, gives us reason enough to have faith. When I read this passage, another passage immediately came to mind: 1 Cor 6.19-20, where in Paul says to the church in Corinth, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” It's interesting to me that Paul uses this imagery, as Jesus went to the literal temple in Jerusalem to “drive out” and over-turn the tables of all of the things that were distracting the Jews from God. It's almost as if Jesus does the same thing in our own hearts, the new temple of God...
In this period of lenten discipline, let us be encouraged that Jesus in his character, love and glory is both giving us reason to have faith that He will keep His promises, all the while cleansing and purifying our hearts to be evermore identical to His."

Monday, February 23, 2015

2/23/15 by Lee Cook

Mark 8:34-38

One of Peter's biggest obstacles to obedience was his inability to lay aside his own agenda and embrace Jesus' agenda. In Peter's defense, Jesus' agenda was almost unimaginable to Peter at the time. No one would have imagined the Messiah's vocation was to be defeated and executed as a criminal.

This morning, I am reflecting about my own agenda. Where are my blind spots? What agendas have I yet to abandon in order to follow Jesus? Following Jesus means letting go of everything for the sake of the Kingdom. What am I still clinging to?

One of the places where I have failed is in the area of evangelism. I talk about Jesus everyday but rarely to people outside the church. Most of my day is filled with meetings, sermon/class preparation, visits, and administration.  Almost all of that is church related, but I rarely escape these walls and find new ways to introduce others to the Risen Lord.

During this Lenten journey, one of my goals is to obey Jesus' call to go out and reap the harvest of the Kingdom.