“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the others way. He was despised, and we did not care… But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole…. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief…” – Isaiah 53:3, 5, 10a
When Jesus came and became man, he didn’t get a “safe space.” He instead left it to come to us. It is a good thing I am not Jesus! I would not walk away from perfect love and acceptance and trade it for despised and rejected. I would not give up a life of perfect joy for sorrow and a life of deepest grief. I would find it hard to walk away from all of heaven giving me their undivided attention for people who would turn their backs on him. But he did… for me… and I am ever grateful for it. He traded perfect bliss for being pierced. He walked away from never experiencing sin or its consequences, to bearing the weight of our sins in our place. And it was His Father’s plan.
Experiencing such love and sacrifice from Jesus stirs me to seek to live differently. May I live to not cause Him further sorrow or grief. May I not turn my back on Him or turn the other way when He is near me. May I always care about what Jesus thinks. May I embrace his being crushed for me to not only forgive me when I sin or fail in my intentions, but realize what Jesus has done for me is also the power to say “no” to anything that would cause Jesus sorrow and grief.
Father, thank you that the cross has covered all the grief I ever have or will cause You. Awaken my sensitivities as I make choices each day to bring you joy instead of sorrow.
Reading: Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 61, Isaiah 53, Isaiah 35
“For He will be like a blazing fire that refines metal…” -Mal. 3:2b
“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” -Mat. 3:11b
“And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” -Acts 10:38
These verses give a description of Jesus and what he does in those who believe. In essence, we become like Him. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured into our lives. Like Jesus, there is a fire in us. Like Jesus, we have the power of God with which we are anointed. Like Jesus, we have His Spirit in us, and His fire in us, and His power in us. We live life to do good wherever we go. We are used by God to set people free from being oppressed by the devil by people believing in Jesus through our testmony.
But am I/we living up to what I have been given? Do I/we live completely immersed in the Spirit, or do I go around ankle deep in him (so I can remain in control)? Am I consumed with a fire for God that burns up and separates the unnecessary? Am I doing good? Am I seeing people set free by faith in Christ?
If any of these are a less than satisfactory answer then it seems there are two essential things I need. I need a refreshing work of the Holy Spirit. Since the Spirit was poured out on me/us the moment we believed, what I need is a fresh work of God (via Acts 3:19) and the choice to respond to the Spirit whenever He moves or leads. Second, I need a fresh fire from God. A fire that means I am willing to be refined. A fire for God that moves me to lay aside good for best and to seek forgiveness and turn away from sin. Doing good, setting people free, and a life filled with the power of God stems from a life yielded to the Holy Spirit and the fire of God.
Campfires are mesmerizing. There is something appealing to it. John Wesley was once asked what his secret was to ministry. His answer was, “I go to setting myself on fire and people come watch me burn.” May I be a life on fire…
God, set me on fire and expand the cup of my life to enlarge the capacity I have for the overflowing presence of your Spirit in me.
Reading: Malachi 3, Matthew 3, Isaiah 11, Acts 10
Day 36 – Malachi 3, Matthew 3, Isaiah 11, Acts 10
Day 37 – Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 61, Isaiah 53, Isaiah 35
Day 38 – Psalm 55, Zechariah 11, Isaiah 52, Psalm 16
Day 39 – Psalm 110, Psalm 61, 1 Corinthians 10, 1 John 4
Day 40 – Matthew 28, John 14, John 10, Matthew 6
Day 41 – Matthew 16, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 3, 1 Timothy 3
Day 42 – 1 Peter 2, Matthew 5, Ephesians 3, Ephesians 4
“After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream… When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph… Then, after being warned in a dream…” – Matthew 2: 13a, 19, 22b
In the fulfilling of God’s promise to send His Son as Savior, God must lead Joseph. He leads him to protect the baby Jesus and fulfill Old Testament prophecies. God’s leading takes a form most of us would be uncomfortable with today, yet Joseph seems perfectly at home with the idea of God leading him through dreams. While I am not saying dreams are a primary means of God leading us, it does raise the question – is God the same today as then? God’s primary means of leading us is His Word and His Spirit within us. But do we/I leave room for God leading us in other ways (that agree with His Word)?
Father, may I recognize your leading in whatever form you choose, and may I follow eagerly as Joseph did.
Reading: Luke 2, Psalm 72, Hosea 11, Matthew 2
“In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all – the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” -Micah 4:1-2a
In cycling, if you want to ride a long distance, you have to build up that mileage now to do the miles later. My current weekly mileage should enable me to do a 40 mile ride. Maybe not at a great pace but I could complete it. Over 40 miles, say 50 or 60, and I would have to increase my weekly mileage. I need, and must want, to do now what I will be doing.
This is the thought I had in reading these verses – I want to do, experience with others, now what I will one day experience and do. “In the last days”, when Christ returns the place of worship will be the most important place on earth! While I know my body is a temple and I am an important place where God fully lives, I want to be in church with others who can’t wait to get there. I want to be a part of people “”streaming there to worship. There is something special about worshipping with others. There is no substitute. I want to worship with people who want to be there and along the way are inviting others to come with them to the place of worship. One day I will, but I also choose to do so now. Why? Because worship in the presence of God with others who are thirsty is overwhelming. It teaches me the ways of God and how to walk in his paths. Not just by the preaching; but also in the singing, the prayers, the way others worship, and how the Spirit moves as we interact with others. What is the most important place on earth to you (or me)?
Lord, keep my eyes and heart on the most important thing as it is expressed in the church of which I am a part.
Reading: Acts 13, Isaiah 7, Matthew 1, Micah 4
“What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people – the shepherds of my sheep – for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for, says the Lord…Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord have spoken! For the time is coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous descendent from King David’s line…” – Jeremiah 23:1, 4-5a
The “shepherd” description of spiritual leaders is used in the New Testament of the role of Pastor. It seems today the role of Pastor is more often portrayed as CEO, or the Dynamic speaker (aka the big TV preachers), rather than shepherd. But in most local churches, at least the Pastor’s I know, they take the role of shepherd seriously. As such we do not seek to destroy or scatter the ones we care for. We want what verse 4 says. We want a ministry where no one is lost or missing… want… But reality is different. People walk away occasionally. I would like to say we don’t take it personally, but we do, or I do – that comes with caring. Over time we find ways to remove the weight from our shoulders, for it was not ours to begin with.
However, verse 5 indicates when this effective shepherding will take place – When Jesus comes to rule. Perhaps we can take this promise two ways. Since the resurrection all who come to faith in Jesus are never lost or missing. Their salvation is secure. There are shepherds who will care for them. But a more complete fulfillment of this promise is the second coming of Christ where people will never be afraid; no one will be lost or missing.
For me, as a Pastor, the call is to be the shepherd He wants me to be – to care for. What of those reading who are not Pastors? Please understand we care more than you often see or know. Pray for your Pastor. How can you help your Pastor be more effective as a Shepherd?
Father, may we assume from the beginning that those who follow you care, instead of interpreting otherwise.
Reading: Galatians 4, Genesis 22, Psalm 132, Jeremiah 23
“May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life…” – 2 Peter 1:2-3a
If you race cars you do things to the car to get just a little more power, and speed. If you are a cyclist or runner who plans to compete (competitively) in a race, you train to get just a little more speed and endurance. In both cases you know exactly what more you are after. When it comes to my/our relationship with God what “more” should we seek? The verse does speak to our need for more of Jesus, more of knowing him. But the focus is on more grace and peace
as we grow in knowing Jesus. Why is more grace and peace so vital? I/we tend to limit what God does in and through us because of our past. More grace and peace is more of what is given to us in Christ. More grace and peace draws me to more dependence on Jesus. More grace and peace fills me with the power of forgiveness. More grace and peace feeds my confidence and courage in what God will do (rather than could do) in and through me. More grace and peace reminds me it is about His presence and working in me rather than my performance. More grace and peace not only is about forgiveness, it is also the strength to resist temptation or poor choices. Everything, and I mean everything, in my life depends on the grace and peace God has given me.
Father, give me more and more of Jesus, of grace, of your peace.
Reading: 2 Peter 1, Hebrews 7, 1 John 1, Psalm 2