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!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

3/25/15 - by John Schroeder

The text for the day is from the sixth chapter of the Gospel by John. That chapter begins with Jesus feeding the 5000, after which he departs and hides himself. He was concerned that the crowd was going to carry him away and try to force him to be king. That evening, he does the whole walking on the water thing, and the next morning when the crowd found him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and it was clear he had not used a boat, they got a little excited. The text for today is Jesus' response to this crowd:

John 6:26-40 (I have linked to it, please click the link and read it, it would take too much space to reproduce it here.

In the passage, Jesus seems to be teaching three basic truths that add up to two big questions:
  • That if we follow Jesus for material gain, we are not really following Him. (The whole thing about "you seek Me because you ate...but that is food that perishes.)
  • The good stuff comes from heaven (the whole manna discussion.)
  • Jesus is the source of the good stuff for us, but (circling back to the first point)we have to be serious about it.
The commentaries usually rush to point out concerning this passage that Jesus is establishing His bona fides as the Messiah - the whole thing where he is the source of the gift, unlike Moses who asked God for the gift, and that he is the source of salvation.

But there are two questions out this passage that fascinate me far more:
  • Jesus uses our motives for seeking Him as a determining factor as to whether or not we are really, genuinely seeking him. Most of us tend to think that it does not matter why we seek Jesus, just that we do seek him.  So what should our motives be?
  • Jesus implies that there is stuff far better than material gain. That's a real "Sunday School lesson" thing to say, but nobody in Sunday School ever told me what that really good stuff is.  Just what is it?
These are the questions I want to examine here, and as we do so, I think we will find they are deeply related to each other.

What Should Our Motives Be?

Jesus teaches much of this same lesson, in somewhat less harsh terms, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6:25-34, the very famous passage where we are told to consider the birds and the flowers and not to worry food and clothing. In verse 33 Jesus says, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

Let's bottom line this, our motivation should not be about ourselves at all.  Our motivation is to join God's Kingdom and do what is right.  Our motivation in to put someone else, God, in charge and to be good.  That has absolutely nothing to do with my desires.  My desires are to be in charge, not let someone else be in charge.  My desires are for what feels good, and all of us know that what feels good often is not what is right.

In the end, our motivation for seeking Christ should be selfless, not selfish.  That is a hard sell.  It is easy to get people to come to Jesus when there is something in it for them, but it seems like to get to the good stuff, we have to give up asking the question, "What's in it for me?"

What Is The Good Stuff?

So, if I am no longer asking, "What's in it for me?" then we can be pretty sure the good stuff is not what we think we need or what feels good.  If Jesus will, as he says, "give us what we need," as if we can take it for granted like the air we breath, then the stuff we think we need is pretty ordinary and hardly good at all.

The good stuff is when we "live righteously."  Living righteously is about both attitude and action.  It does not just mean, euphemistically,  "no smoking, drinking, and chewing" though that ends up being part of the deal.  It means being so wholly transformed that we no longer want those things.  That's what Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount when He talks about "lust in the heart."

See, right now, I don't think we can really understand what the good stuff truly is because we still desire the mundane stuff or the bad stuff.  This is not a substitution problem, substituting good stuff in our desires for bad stuff, this is about changing our desires, or perhaps eliminating our desires altogether.

Speaking as a science and math person we live in a world that is essentially Euclidean and Newtonian.  Without belaboring the point, that means where there are three dimensions that meet at 90 degree angles (a corner in a room) and when you drop a rock it falls straight down.  But our science has begun to reveal that there are different worlds that operate on entirely different principles, where there are 10 dimensions meeting at 90 degree angles and where a dropped rock "falls" sideways.  I can do the math behind such things and even I can't really get my head around them.

God, because He is so much more than we can possibly be, lives in a world that even our science cannot reveal.  It is a world that in some ways makes no sense to us, like a rock falling sideways.  That's where the good stuff is.  It is good beyond our capacity to really understand good - at least for now.

That said, when we do get the good stuff, we will most certainly know it is the good stuff.  Not only that, when we get the good stuff, the hard sell of not asking "What's in it for me?" won't be so hard.  The good stuff is so good that other people are going to take one look at us and  want to join the party.

But for that to happen, we need to stop asking "What's in it for me."  That question grounds us in this world.  Getting to the good stuff starts when we move from selfishness to selflessness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3/24/15 by Donna Herrin

John 9:18-41
How does one even begin to blog about this passage? I am NOT the person to help you comprehend these scripture verses. I could barely get through the first verses; not because the passage is long, (although that in itself was a bit intimidating) but because I struggle with the parents of the blind man, specifically in verse 22. The Jews still disbelieving the man, ask the parents 18 “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?” 20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 

WHAT? They threw their blind son under the bus! 

What parent does this? I have been hung up on this passage for about a week. It’s crazy, but it has really bothered me. So much in fact that I had to put this passage away for a few days and try to forget about it. The parents were afraid. Parents aren’t supposed to be afraid, are they? More importantly, we’re not suppose to show fear. We’re suppose to be strong; Stand up and protect our children from oppression. It’s an unspoken law that is placed upon our heart the moment we meet our child for the first time. 

But as I dug deeper, I knew it wasn’t just the parents’ weakness that bothered me, it was my own weakness.

I put myself in the parents’ place and thought, “Have I have said or done the same thing because I was afraid that I would be put out of the ______________? (Fill in the blank with what matters most to you.) I remember as a child being told that someday I may have to defend my faith. That there may even come a time when I will have to declare my allegiance to Christ or die. I remember thinking, “Of course, I will never deny Christ. I will die before I deny Him.” Such easy words to say, but when faced with adversity have I been faithful? Have I remained silent, when I should have taken a stand? Have I turned my back on my Lord? I wish I could say that I am the model poster child for how a Christian should behave, but I am far from it. I have blown it, just like those parents. I have been afraid and have remained silent. I am Peter and I hear the rooster crow once again. 

And yet the time has come for many to be strong...

Lately, as I log on to the internet my eyes are drawn to the latest caption that more Christians have been beheaded or blown up. I find myself becoming physically ill at the thought of such hatred and violence. I can’t take it! Proverbs 3: 5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” That is what I must do. My heart aches for my fellow believers in Christ, for their families, and for their friends. I pray for their protection. I pray that God will give them the strength they need to not back down when they are told to deny Christ or die. I ask God to grant them peace in the midst of terror and sorrow. 

Lord, give me strength like theirs.

Lord, I am weak, like the blind man’s parents. I pray that you will give me the words to speak up for you and to tell others about you. That I will not remain silent when I have the chance to praise your name. To live boldly for you. To never walk away from a situation knowing that I had an opportunity to witness, but chose to remain silent. As your child, I thank you for loving me despite my flaws. As my Father, I love you for being the perfect example of what it takes to be a good parent, child, friend, and witness. I thank you for showing me the greatest love a parent could have when you sacrificed yourself to save us. Help me to be more like you. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

3/23/15 by Ashley Fernandez

Hello, my name is regret….
Hello, my name is defeat….
These are the voices, these are the lies
And I have believed them, for the very last time
Hello, my name is child of the one true King

I've been saved, I've been changed, and I have been set free

"Amazing Grace" is the song I sing

Hello, my name is child of the one true King.

I love this Matthew West song and every time I hear it I sing loudly that I am a child of the one true King.  But not before I have to stop and listen to the lyrics that remind me that I believe that I am broken, I have regret and I have been defeated.  These are the things that Satan wants us to believe.  And we believe it! 
When will we stop believing the lies and listen to our Father? 
Think about the blind man that Jesus healed.  (John 9: 1-17)  He did nothing to deserve the grace that Jesus lavished upon him, he only believed that Jesus could heal.  And Jesus did!  So many did not believe it.  They saw but still did not believe.  Is this how we are living out our daily lives?  Knowing that Jesus wants us to accept His grace, knowing that He is the one true King, but not believing?  Listening to the lies that we are not good enough, not   deserving enough?  How much will it take for us to believe that Jesus, our One True King, is for us and not against us?

My prayer today is that we live accepting Jesus’ grace, not believing the lies that Satan is telling us.  Let us be like the blind man, all trusting and knowing that we are children of the One True King!

Friday, March 20, 2015

3/20/15 by Kristin Jewell

I don't know about you, but when I'm really hungry, my whole world turns upside down. I start to feel jittery, can't form coherent thoughts, often say things I don't mean to say...my whole being starts to shut down.

John 6:53 says, "So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (ESV)

Even though Jesus isn't telling those listening to him to literally eat of his flesh and drink his blood, I can see that without consuming Jesus' blood and flesh, our whole being ceases to function in the same way that hunger affects us- "you have no life in you."

To eat of Jesus' body means we acknowledge that His presence is enough to sustain us and His word is sufficient enough to nourish us. When we drink of Jesus' blood, we receive the truth that His sacrifice on the Cross, the spilling of His blood and of His life for us, are enough to cover our sins.

Why must we see Jesus as the "main food group" for our lives? We need Him because the world is only feeding us junk. It boasts that we can be nourished by money, by power, by the love of others, by achievement...you name it. But, when we use these things to feed us, we are nourishing our heart, soul and mind just as sufficiently as a meal of Cheetos and Coca-Cola could. For a moment you are filled, but soon you start to feel that hunger; the aching of your stomach, the shaking of your hands and the edginess that comes when you really just need a wholesome meal.

All this world has to offer will end up starving us. What a gracious and loving Father we have who gives us the true Bread and Wine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

3/19/15 by Shirley Carlson

Jesus Is The Bread of Life...John 6:41-51

Just like Pat Chambers felt her scripture passage for the blog she wrote was perfect for her, I have the same feeling about this passage in John. 

Jesus said, “Yes, I am the bread of life!”  John 6: 48.

I love bread and there is very little that satisfies me more than bread--the aroma of it baking, the delicious taste, and the joy of baking it and sharing it with others.  In fact, for several years I kept a bread starter going and fed it every couple days.  By feeding it, I was then able to use some of the starter to make delicious loaves of bread.  Often there was more than we could eat and I was able to share both the bread and the starter with others.  However, in one of our moves, I lost the starter because a bread starter needs to be fed to keep its yeasty action going.  I miss not baking it now.  But every chance that I get, I relish the taste of good hearty bread.

But the passage in John 6:41-51 is not about my love for bread.  It is about Jesus once again using the ordinary experiences in our lives to teach us something.  By referring to himself as bread, a common staple in our diet, I believe he is saying that we need to feed on him daily for our spiritual nourishment.  Just like the aroma of baking bread permeates a home, Jesus wants our lives filled with his presence so that it permeates our lives forever.  Also, just like bread starter needs to be fed, we need to feed on his word.  When our faith is strong, we then can share it with others. 

In this passage, the crowd has difficulty in believing that Jesus is who he says he is. They know his parents and therefore reason that he is ordinary just like them.  And what does he mean when he says they are to eat from him and never be hungry again?  We can sympathize with their confusion.  So often we want proof, but Jesus wants us to chew on his words, to feast on his teachings, and to believe in him, our Savior.

Some things to think about:
            -When you think of Jesus as the Bread of Life what does that mean for you? 
            -What kind of bread would you choose to best describe Jesus?  Why?

            -How will you keep your starter going? 

Monday, March 16, 2015

3/16/15 by Jim Gorton

Lent is a season in which we are to discipline ourselves by fasting, prayer and study in expectation of the Passion of Christ, which in turn leads to the Resurrection and the abundance of new life promised by God to those who believe in him.  Ideally, Lent is a reminder to us that we owe all that we are and have in this life and in this world to God, a reminder to shape our lives in conformance with His will.

It is commonplace now to hear that ‘religion’ is responsible for many of the ills of our world and much of the wrongs that have been committed in it over the centuries.  That much has been done in the name of Christ which has ignored His spirit and His teachings is undeniable, but says nothing.  It is the usual false comparison with an ideal political or religious ideology and a system of thought, political or theological, as actually put into practice by mankind.
In this case, the ‘ideal’ is a world without religion, and in particular Christianity.  It is a world in which people would act in accordance with commonly understood ethics and morality as established by logic and reason, rather than through religious superstition.  This of course is the ideal without reference to the actions of mankind.

What would a world without Christianity look like?  As it happens, we have no shortage of examples, both from our own times, but also from ancient times and from cultures ruled by other religious systems.  The critical difference has been that Christians and Jews follow a God who has taught us that every person has an immortal soul, is equal before God and, as in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31, are accountable to God for their actions in life.  In Christianity, it is the poor and down-trodden who will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  Over time, peoples and nations who have followed Christ have established societies ruled by law which respects that even the lowliest beggar has an immortal soul and cannot be killed out of hand.

In our own times, numbers of nations have attempted to found states in which an order was established which, as it certainly seemed to those who founded it and who followed it, arose out of the exercise of human reason to establish societies in which religion of no kind had any part, namely Lenin and Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, the killing fields of Cambodia and the ongoing example of North Korea, among others.  In each of these societies, people established a societal order along lines which seemed to them good as determined by their own wants or desires, untethered by any morals or ethics imposed from ‘outside,’ such as God.  That logic in all cases disposed of any belief in an immortal soul and disposed of any notion of the worth of a life.  The only absolute in these systems being human reason and logic, there was no logical reason for those who were in positions of power to allow the worth of any one or more individuals to frustrate or block the actions of those in power.  That millions were slaughtered in these states or as a result of their actions followed inevitably.

The society and legal system which we now enjoy and under which we shelter is essentially a construct of Christian societies, the result of a faith in which the worth of the individual soul was and is indisputable.  If that faith is tossed aside, however, there is no especial logic or reason which dictates that it continue to be the touchstone of our society, rather the reverse.  The history of the 20th century is testament to this if nothing else.

As part of our Lenten contemplation, we as Christians often attempt to acknowledge all that God has given us, but it is difficult most of the time to understand the enormity of that gift.  One such aspect of that gift has been in recent times, the ability to live in a society guided by His principles.

Friday, March 13, 2015

3/13/15 by Michelle Bouse

“Forgive” appears 42 times in the Old Testament, 33 times in the New Testament. The word “Forgiven” appears 17 times in the Old Testament and 28 times in the New Testament. And the word “Forgiving” appears 6 times in the Old Testament and 1 time in the New. (from http://garyeugenehowell.com)

We are here to love and forgive. The Lord asks us multiple times to do so.

Ephesians 4:32  "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
We have all said "I'm sorry," and we've all said "I forgive you," but did we mean it.  How many times did you pray for that situation or person after you forgave them?

True forgiveness is from the heart, it is when we not only pardon someone or something, but allow our heart to let it go – giving it to God. The healing continues when we pray and ask for blessings over the person or situation. Forgiveness always points back to Jesus' ultimate message, to love one another. If God has forgiven us, shouldn’t we then forgive others?

Forgiving is a process.  It is much easier (just like most things in life) when we ask God for help. So many of us are holding on to things that no longer serve us.  We say we forgive, but we won't forget. We learn our lesson, but won’t let it go. Anger, hurt & resentment are harmful.  It can make you sick and dims your light (and this world needs your light), the light of God’s love in your heart. God is the only one who can change our emotions, soften & heal our heart.  Asking God to help us forgive, is the only way we can surrender, let go and move on.

Luke 17:4 "Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and ask forgiveness, you must forgive."

On Ash Wednesday I asked the Lord to help me learn to forgive as he does. I asked for the strength and purity of heart to pray for those that have deeply hurt me.  I pray to forgive them, bless them and thank God with all my heart for holding my hand & healing my emotions.

I believe God gives us many opportunities to heal and learn the peace that comes from forgiveness. By forgiving others, in turn we are the ones who receive the greatest blessing of all.. Peace.

Is there someone or something in your life that needs forgiveness?  For Lent why not finally give up your deepest pain, let go of the anger, the past hurt & sorrow.. pray to forgive & be forgiven. Let God pour love back into your heart & fill in those cracks.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it!

We are made to love, not to hate. By not forgiving we are just blocking love.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

3/12/15 by Rachel Wolflick

John 8:21-32

“The truth will set you free”

Universities all around the world have that verse set in stone on their buildings. In a court of law we are sworn to” tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.” We ask our children to be truthful. We demand the truth. Or, is Jack Nicholson right, and we “can’t handle the truth!”

In John 18:35 Pilate asks, “What is truth?”

According to Merriam-Webster, the truth is a statement that is known to be correct as corroborated by evidence or related experience.
The Greek word for truth is aletheia, which translates to “hiding nothing”.

Truth is not simply whatever works. Lies can appear to “work”, but they are still lies.
Truth is not what makes people feel good. Unfortunately, bad news can be true.
Truth is not what the majority says is true. 51% of a group can reach a wrong conclusion.
Truth is not simply what is believed.  If someone believes a lie it is still a lie.

Do you believe everything you see on TV, read in the newspaper or on- line? Why do we spend more time reading and watching what we know is a lie rather than reading about what we know is “truth”?

We are so often distracted by the lies of this world that we are blind to the priceless gift God offers.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6

Maybe the truth isn’t a what.
Maybe the truth is a “Who”.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

3/11/15 by Craig Carlson

John 8:12 “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”.

There are two key words/concepts I take from the above verse – “light” and “follow”.
In researching this passage, I came across several interpretations of what light Jesus was referring too in this passage: (1) referring to the rising sun – what the sun was to the earth, he became to mankind, (2) referring to the golden lamps in the temple courts – he was the true light, able to enlighten the minds of men, or (3) referring to the pillar of cloud and fire which gave light and guided the Isrealites through the wilderness – he was the true guide to heaven through the wilderness of this world.
While I prefer the first interpretation, I think all three work well, and all illustrate the greatness of the light.

But the key to the passage, I think, is the “follow”.  In this context, I do not think following means only copying and imitating, but rather, I think it means trusting and putting your faith in another – in this case, Jesus.

Therefore, it is not enough to merely gaze upon and admire the “light”.  We must “follow” the light in order to seek true salvation.  And if we follow the light in this manner, then we should use that light to illuminate an increasingly dark world.  As followers of the light, the light of salvation is available to us, and is also available to others through us.  Let us shine!

Monday, March 9, 2015

3/9/15 by Christine Marks

John 7:14-36

What stood out and touched my heart while reading this scripture was in John 7:15. It says, "how did this man get such learning without ever having studied?"

I was reminded of the very beginning of my time here at LCPC. Almost immediately, I was asked to help teach Sunday School.  Very clearly I remember thinking, "Are they talking to ME? What do I know about teaching Sunday School?" At that stage in my life, my only "church knowledge", was my own Sunday School attendance up until about 8th grade (which frankly I had a hard time staying awake in) and attending Mass every Sunday throughout my youth.

Well, I accepted the offer feeling totally unqualified, but honored by the invitation and hopeful to do right by these young students.

To make a 10 year story brief...

Though I entered into this teaching challenge thinking, "You've got to be kidding me", and feeling totally unworthy, it has been through God's loving embrace, his gentle leading, love and guidance, that it became one of my greatest blessings. It has been an honor growing in the word alongside of these precious children. Being with them from the age of 5 until now at 15 and having the privilege of seeing them grow in their faith and love for the Lord has been priceless.

I realized that it was ME being taught through the love of God throughout this journey. I literally knew more about the band Journey than I did the bible 10 years ago, but god filled my heart and prepared me to grow with these amazing children.

My take away from this message in John is that stepping out in faith, when feeling so ill equipped, can turn into one of life's greatest gifts.

Jesus taught without having studied to bring people to His Father.

One of my most precious moments as a Sunday School teacher came a few months ago. When my father had become very ill, a group of students came up to me and said, "We have heard that your daddy is sick. We want you to know we are praying for him." Then several sets of precious arms wrapped around me.

Like our father in heaven loves us, so must we love one another.

With love and thanks,

Christine Marks

Friday, March 6, 2015

3/6/15 by Darren Pollock

If I testify about myself,” Jesus says, “my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony about me is true.” 

Having acknowledged a need for unbiased witnesses, Jesus first presents John the Baptist—a “burning and shining lamp” who testified to the truth about Christ. Back in John 1 this John described Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as One who was baptized by the Holy Spirit, and—yes—as the Son of God. In chapter three he adds the wonderful image of his need to become less as Christ becomes more. John’s witness, being human testimony, is not the basis for Christ’s own self-understanding, Jesus tells us, but John’s faithful witness to the truth about Christ and his reflecting of Christ’s light benefited those who heard his message.

          But there were yet greater witnesses—Jesus’ recommendation from John the Baptist, while persuasive to many, was not his “ace in the hole.” “I have a testimony greater than John’s,” Jesus continues, “The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf.” And, finally, the scriptures testify that Christ is who he claimed to be. Here, looming over the powerful-but-still-human testimony of John the Baptist, we have the supernatural trifecta of Christ’s miraculous and compassionate works, the Father’s testimony, and scripture’s prophecies all proclaiming univocally but in manifold splendor—like a beam of light bursting through a prism—that Christ is the perfect image of the invisible Father, the incarnate Word, the Living Water, the Bread of Life. All of the evidence points not to a blasphemer—the accusation leveled against Jesus in the first half of John 5—but to the Son of the Living God.
          Jesus is aware, though, of our idolatrous tendency to make this evidence itself the object of our faith—so that our focus is not on Christ, but on miracles, good deeds, prophesies, and the scriptures.
          “You search the scriptures,” Jesus laments, “because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
          These words are an indictment on all who seek their comfort and their salvation in traditions, doctrines, disciplines, feelings, blessings—that is, every Christian to some degree. There’s a twisted irony here, in that the Bible—that divinely-inspired testimony to Christ’s deity, the clearest means that we have of hearing God’s voice—can actually be an impediment to our relationship with Christ, if we read it for its own sake and neglect to see it pointing to Christ. As counter-intuitive as it might seem, Scripture does not itself contain salvation and eternal life; there are atheists who know the Bible better than 99% of Christians. The Bible is not the source of eternal life—the Bible directs us to Christ, who is the fountain of life.   

Thursday, March 5, 2015

3/5/15 by Jeff Jones

John 5: 19 - 29; The Authority of the Son

My rookie performance and I draw.... Trinitarianism.  Wow. I'm glad Lee saved the hard stuff for someone else.  Here's my best shot.

Earlier in the chapter we read that the Jewish leadership criticized Jesus for breaking the rules.  Their contempt escalated to murderous intentions when He claimed to be the Son of God and equal to God.

In today's passage Jesus unequivocally explains His oneness with the Father. It is heady stuff and I am out of my depth for most of it.  But verse 25 struck me:

"Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live."

Jesus, God in the flesh, speaks directly to these devout men.  He tells them they are dead and the only path to life is to hear His voice.  Based on their proximity it would seem hearing, in terms of auditory perception, would be a given.  Yet the chapter concludes with Jesus's skepticism as to whether He was heard. Thus hearing the voice of the Son of God must require more than sensory perception. It requires faith in the source of the voice and a transformational response that can only happen in the heart, not the ears.  Taking it further auditory perception must be irrelevant to hearing Jesus.  Therefore I am at no disadvantage to the leaders who were in His presence that day.  I have the same opportunity to hear His voice today. The question is do I hear Him?

If I'm honest the answer is 'sometimes' and usually when it is on my terms.  Our family has gone through extremely difficult times in recent years. In desperation I cried out and heard the Voice respond as clearly as a first person conversation.  But that's the easy part, when I have exhausted my worldly options.  The hard part is when my agenda yields seemingly positive results. My hands grip the wheel and I accelerate down my path with blinders.  The Voice speaks.  I perceive it but I do not hear it in my heart.  A worthy cause solicits a donation that I ignore.  I meet eyes with someone in need and I turn away. A tragedy unfolds and I respond with cynicism.  Jesus is speaking as clearly to me as the day John describes.  With so much on the line, a choice between living and death, why do I so often choose deafness and death?  It is a haunting question with only one answer. I am broken.

As Andy said this week God's Kingdom requires my work and not just when it is convenient for me.  The time has now come and sometimes isn't good enough.

"Jesus, forgive my deafness.  Open my heart so that I may hear You every day and be transformed into life."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

3/4/15 by Pat Chambers

Scripture: Luke 18:15-17

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."

I know what a shock…I picked a lesson that involves children.  More and more I hear Jesus words in my ear, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them: for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”  When I think about the children we serve at the Center for Children I think about the children that are typically developing, the child who is autistic, the child whose parents don’t work as a team any longer, the child who has medical needs, the compliant child, the disruptive child and all the children in-between.  How much different would my calling be if Jesus had said let the well behaved, typically developing, child of perfect parents  come to me, but he just said let the children come.  The parents who brought their children to Jesus wanted Jesus to lay his hands upon them.  They knew of the healing power, both physical and spiritual, which came from Jesus’ touch. If I am to be the hands and feet of Jesus then in my work and life, I must want the children to come to me, to CFC and to know Christ. I must invite all the children, not just the kids that are easy to be with and as we know the ones that are easy today might be the difficult ones tomorrow.    Jesus clearly shows us that no one is unimportant to God.    He comes to each person individually, no matter the age, that he might touch him or her with his healing love and power. 

So here is the challenge, do you /I show kindness to the youth we encounter in our neighborhood, home and church and do we pray for them that they may grow in the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus Christ? 

“Lord, may I become better at making sure our children and youth are given every opportunity to come to you and be given your blessing and healing power.  Make our children and youth grow strong in spirit and faith that they may follow you passionately. And as we grow with age, may we never lose that child-like simplicity and humility which draws us into your loving presence.  Amen”

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3/3/2015 by Mark Williams

 John 4:43-54

Following the teachings of Christ and applying them to my life is turning out to be one of the most difficult things I've ever experienced. The more I learn about Christ’s life and read his parables, the more I understand how much more I have to learn. Even when I’m sure abiding in Jesus will make me a better man, I still struggle, searching for stronger and better proof that following The Lord is what I’m called to do.

I've struggled a great deal over the years with the idea of submission — its always seemed to me more connected with things lost, given up, or removed; but I’m slowly seeing how the deeper meanings and explanations from the Bible have more to do with what is found, received, and filled.

There is a short little parable in John (4:43-54) about Jesus’s healing of a sick son of an important man. I've always assumed the official was a skeptical mayor or county clerk or maybe someone of royalty. But Jesus seems a bit frustrated with the man’s request to come and heal his son—I can imagine giving a deep sigh as he notes that unless some people actually see the “signs and wonder” then they do not believe.  But then something strange happens -- Jesus heals the boy, tells the father, effectively denying him the opportunity to actually see, with his own eyes, the miracle. Sure, the official gets the full benefits of the healing, namely his son’s miraculous recovery, but he was not there to see or witness it. He only heard about it from Jesus and his servant.

I take a great deal of courage from this story, in that the official eventually becomes a strong believer and encourages his entire family to do the same. I also love the fact that the father wants to know the exact moment that his son’s condition took a turn for the better, where he finds out it directly coincides with his own conversation with Jesus. It’s as if he wants one, last piece of proof to allow him to fully trust and give himself over to The Truth. Why do we do that? Why do I do that? All the proof he needed was already there, but he has a have one more. If nothing else, he can point to the exact moment of his decision to abide in Christ.

I can empathize with that kind of desire to know the exact moment when something happens, but it very rarely comes. With that said, I am encouraged that Jesus is patient enough to give me the time I need to figure out that abiding in Him will give me the strength not to need one more piece of proof.

Monday, March 2, 2015

3/2/15 by Andy Wilson

Jesus is a teacher like no other. Most religious teachers focus on how we should behave, or what we should believe about God. They offer us ethical or theological ideas that we weigh in our minds and either accept or reject.

But Jesus offers more than words. He offers himself. He is the ideal we should strive to imitate. He is the revelation of the Father that the ancient prophets longed to see. He is God’s Word, in the flesh. He is the truth that sets us free.  That’s what Jesus means when he tells his disciples:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.”
-          John 14: 6-7

Obedience is the key to understanding Jesus. We only truly understand Jesus when we begin to obey him. When it comes to Jesus’s teachings, in other words, faith leads to obedience, and obedience leads to greater understanding.

That isn’t true of other religious teachers. You can understand the teachings of Martin Luther or C. S. Lewis without actually obeying them. Any seminarian knows that. You can read their books – you can listen to lectures explaining the themes in their writings – you can take written exams about them and even pass those exams with flying colors without believing anything that’s taught by Luther or Lewis, and without putting any of their ideas into practice.

The point is that we have a different kind of relationship with Jesus than we have with even our most respected teachers. Since Jesus himself is the truth, it isn’t possible to hear and understand him, and at the same time to disbelieve and disobey him. True understanding of Jesus’s teachings always inspires obedience. And obedience to Jesus’s teachings always yields a deeper, more intimate knowledge of God.

That’s what the Apostle John means when he makes this uncompromising declaration to the Church:

We know that we have come to know [Jesus] if we keep his commands. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them… This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
-          1 John 2: 3-6

When we truly understand Jesus, we enter into a new kind of relationship with God. We open our hearts to him and welcome him in as our Lord and Savior. He takes away our sin. He plants his eternal life in us. He begins to shape us into his character. And we discover the joy and peace of losing ourselves in his good work.

-             Andy Wilson