“The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you…” – Romans 16:19a
A song by Johnny Cash speaks to something we all know: “Bad news travels like wildfire. Good news travels slow…” The negative, the shocking, the worst is what gets around fastest. So, how does this group of believers get talked about so much that Paul hears of their obedience? I mean obedience is like drinking water or eating, right? Who talks about someone because they drink water and eat healthy? And who keeps talking about this so that news spreads? It doesn’t happen. And on any given day, people who do the right thing do not get “reported” on. It makes me ask again, what about their obedience caused so much talk and praise? Their obedience had to be dramatically life changing for themselves and for others who encountered them. Do I live a life of obedience that clearly reveals God is changing me? And, does my obedience bring a dramatic life change in others? Does my obedience produce joy and inspiration to others that is life transforming?
Father, let me live a life that transforms myself, and all who cross my path each day.
Day 21 is a Catch up day! Yeah!
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have – Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials – gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.”-1 Corinthians 3:11-14
Jesus is the foundation everyone needs for life, and eternal life. But each of us builds on this foundation in ourselves and in others. What we build on top of our commitment to Christ matters. These verses list six kinds of materials. Three will survive a fire, and three will not. Three demonstrate value, three do not. We can build our own lives with eternal value – Gold, silver jewels. Or we can not build what God values in our lives, but build what we want which leads to wood, hay, straw. Our influence and relationships with others can build value into others, or it builds only temporary things. We can build into others gold, silver or jewels. We can also build a good time, but nothing of any depth spiritually – wood, hay, or straw.
For me, when I read this passage one question came to mind. How I/you answer this question may motivate changes. Will my work survive the fire (14)? Will yours?
Father lead me in making any and every change necessary to build eternal value in my life and in others.
Readings: Hebrews 12, 1 Corinthians 3, Psalm 58, 1 Peter 5
“Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.” – Psalm 112:1-2
What does it mean to “fear the Lord”? It has the meaning of respect, reverence. But these words also imply the person believes in God, and therefore, follows and loves Him. There are two promises for those who both fear and obey the Lord. First, their life is joyful. There is a joy that comes from following and loving the Lord. The more I love Him; the closer I am to him, the greater will be my joy. As I obey Him, I find joy. Obedience isn’t a task master seeking to restrict my life. It is a conduit to joy. It is joy because God’s commands are for our good – what is best for us. The second promise is the blessing and success of the next generation. The next generation is affected by my/our love for the Lord, our following the Lord, our obeying the Lord.
Watching the news this morning, I could not help thinking we are experiencing the truth of these words. The lack of civility, respect, basic kindness is a direct consequence of people who have not believed in or obeyed the Lord. The result is a generation (not all) now that is not blessed or successful (in their own eyes, and certainly in the eyes of God). I can also say that there are those in this generation that are experiencing success and blessing because of people in their lives who love and seek to obey the Lord. Their influence has blessed them. My/our spiritual lives can bless the next generation. God’s call on my life is to be that path of blessing to others.
Father, may my life this day lead to the blessing and success of others as I follow You.
Readings: Proverbs 15, 1 Kings 10, Micah 7, Psalm 112
“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn inwardly.” -2 Corinthians 11:28-29
The “everything else” is a listing of the abuses, torture, and suffering Paul has had to endure for following Jesus. I and any who read this have not even come close to the suffering this man endured. The list reminds me of how easy I have it. What do I have a right to complain about in comparison? Then he adds this at the end. It seems almost anticlimactic. But it is not. There is a connection.
Paul endured all he suffered because of relationship. He suffered for the sake of his relationship with Jesus and for the sake of those he ministered. When he speaks here, he speaks of relationship with people. When they struggle, he is burdened. When the are moving away from Christ and into sin he burns. Serving Jesus isn’t all fun and games. Serving is relationships. And in relationships, we grow to love people and hurt for them and struggle in prayer for them – even when they do not see their own situation. You go without sleep sometimes because of the burden. So, if you are never burdened for someone’s relationship with Christ something is wrong. And what is wrong is your relationship – with God and others. God’s call on my life is to live in relationship with Him, with others. Out of this, I will end up concerned for others. Out of this I too will “face the daily pressure.” They key is praying about it and turning it over to Christ, allowing Him to use me as He wills to make a difference in others. Yeah, a difference maker.
God, be pleased to work through me to be a more effective difference maker.
Mark 15:16-23, Matthew 27:27-34, Luke 23:26-33, John 19:16-17
“Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.” -Mark 15:21
He was just passing by… and everything changed. The man Mark attributes as carrying the cross of Jesus is referred to as the father of two sons. The sons are mentioned by name, apparently Mark’s readers knew them. Romans 16 mentions a “Rufus” perhaps this one. In any event, a man passing by is interrupted by Roman soldiers with their own agenda. It appears God had another agenda. Two sons, who after watching their Dad and Jesus going to the cross, are forever changed. It would seem they became believers, well known to the early Christians who read Mark’s gospel.
God is not limited to a church service, or a good worship set, or a great message from a Pastor. As we pass by in the daily routines of life, God can use a circumstance, a passing word to grab us and forever change the course of our lives. Maybe we look too much for a “great” church service. Maybe “great services” come from people who pay attention to “passing by” moments when Jesus shows up and calls us to something more… just like Rufus. Maybe people who walk with Jesus and carry His cross in life are used to bring a “passing by” moment for others. Maybe unbelievers can be used by God to create a “passing by” moment that transforms. To this day, one of the most unsettling “passing by” moments for me was the statement of an unbeliever who had no clue how God used it to speak into my life.
Lord, make me a Simon, and give me many “Alexander’s and Rufus’ “ in my life.
John 11:55-12:1, 9-19, Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11, 14-17, Luke 19:29-44
“Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.” -John 12:9-11
I sometimes allow a break between my reading the passage and writing. I read the above Scriptures early this morning thinking I knew what I was to focus on. When I sat down to write my focus completely changed to the above verses. (Perhaps we hurry too much for God to speak like instant oatmeal when some times He is steel cut oats.)
“On account of him”, how those words jump off the page. Jesus raised this man from the dead. Now this man’s life, his story, his sharing what happened caused many to believe in Jesus. What about me? Can it be said of me “on account of him… many believed?” Do I believe in my story? Do I tell it enough? Do I believe in what Jesus has done for me is so fantastic that it shows? All the time?
“On account of him” so many lives were changing that he became a target. Most of us are familiar with the plot to kill Jesus. But have we ever considered that there was a plot to kill Lazarus too? When your life is such that others turn to Jesus and believe because of your life – you become a target of the enemy. Am I a target? Am I on a hit list because “on account of me”?
Fellow believers in other parts of the world, especially those in Muslim ruled countries are targeted because “on account of him” others may believe in Jesus. Thus far, I/we have not encountered such persecution in the U.S.. But that does not diminish the reality that I can be a target of the devil. But am I/we? Or would I/we subtly prefer to not be on any radar?
I would rather be known as “on account of him…many…believed.”
Lord, Make me a Lazarus in our day.
An echo is a funny thing. While on vacation we hiked into a river with some fast moving whitewater. The noise was quite loud. My first thought was the volume of noise was because of all the rain we have had in the last two months. This certainly was a contributing factor! But another thought has occurred to me. Part of the noise is also the reflecting of the sound of the rushing water on the rocks and rock ledge walls. The echo magnified the sound even more.
This morning in my devotions I came across this verse in Genesis 48 “May my name be echoed in their lives (The Message).” These words are part of a blessing Jacob pronounces on Joseph’s two sons. It made me think of our influence on others in a fresh way.
Our lives can be echoed in how others live out their lives. Jacob was praying for an echo in Joseph’s sons. He wanted their lives to echo the life of blessing he had experienced from God. It makes me think about what do I want of my life to be echoed in others? I want an echo of the great love Jesus has for me. I want an echo of the wonderful undeserving grace I have known in Jesus. I want an echo of the leading and empowering of the Spirit. I want an echo of a love and hunger for the Word of God. I want an echo of serving the Lord. I want an echo of caring about others.
There is another side to me – the side I’m not so proud of… If I am to be an echo, I also must face my sinful side. I must face the places where I have failed my God, or lived in rebellion. Here, I would want my “echo” to be the opposite of my failings. Here I would want my echo to be that others can find the wonderful grace of Jesus for them – as I did.
We are an echo – good or bad. The important thing is to choose the echo you want to be in the lives of others and to live that life by the grace and strength of Jesus. It may mean “listening” or watching the echo you have already been creating. Is it the echo you want? Is it an echo pleasing to the Lord? Or are changes necessary.
I want to be an echo that magnifies the sound of Living Water. I want to live a life that is worthy of being echoed in others for the glory of Christ.
Shouting in the Canyon,