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Friday, March 27, 2020

March 28 - Content with Mud Pies

My grandson just turned 5.  I love getting to watch him grow and learn. It is so fascinating to me to watch a child discover something for the very first time. 

I have noticed as a mom and a grandma that very young children are especially curious about small objects.  What would happen if a young child found a tiny mustard seed laying on the ground?  Picture in your mind what they would do with it. Can you see them holding it in their hand, squeezing it between their fingers, and turning it this way and that way, hold it up to the light?  Can you see their curious minds studying this tiny little seed with blazing intensity?

What do you think they are thinking?   

Yet they have never seen a seed grow before.  They have had no experience yet with putting a tiny seed into the ground.  They could never in their wildest imagination know that out of this tiny little insignificant object, something HUGE can grow.  Something bigger than them!!

Aren’t we like that child?  We in our humanness cannot ever hope to fully grasp the grand, magnificent ways of God.  Our minds are too limited, to small.  We get glimpses, yet God’s ways and His Kingdom is far beyond what we can ever think or imagine.

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis.   

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.  

Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. 

We are far too easily pleased.”  C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.

Lord, thank You for how far above our imagination You are!  Thank You that Your Kingdom and Your reign is far more expansive that I could ever comprehend.  Help me to trust that even the tiny, seemingly insignificant things that You have called me to do today are a part of Your grand plan for Your Kingdom.    

Thursday, March 26, 2020

March 27 - Parable of the Sower

Mark 4:1-20

Think of the parables like a filter. Some people are really interested in Jesus, some are pretending to be, and some aren’t interested at all. And the parables sort them out. The question Jesus is asking here is, “What kind of reception is my Word getting in your life?” 

The gospel reveals the condition of our hearts.
So how’s your heart these days? Is it hard and dry (v. 15), like the Pharisees, who resisted Jesus as their enemy rather than accepting him as their Lord? Religious as they were, the more Jesus spoke, healed, and taught, the harder their hearts became. Are Satan’s distractions, temptations, and lies closing your heart to the Word?

How’s your heart these days? Is it shallow and rocky (vv. 16-17), like the crowds that followed Jesus because he was “trending” in popularity? They sought what Jesus could give them in terms of some bread here, and a miracle there - but then left him when following became inconvenient, discouraging, or risky.

How’s your heart these days? Is it crowded and anxious (vv. 18-19), with too many “important” things all vying for your time and energy simultaneously? Are you preoccupied with so much that God has gotten lost in the shuffle? Perhaps it’s this heart of anxiety that is most prevalent in our culture right now. We worry about things we can’t control and allow them to control us.

How’s your heart these days? Is it soft and open (v. 20), like Jesus’ original disciples who welcomed his Word, and followed when it got hard, and stuck with him when they didn’t understand? They drew near and leaned in because they wanted more of him, and to them was given, not only the secrets of the kingdom, but the kingdom itself – the life that is truly life.

How’s your heart these days? If God’s Word has taken root, then there will be fruit. Okay, maybe not a hundredfold (yet)… but some growth in what St. Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” – qualities like love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). As we live through the current pandemic, perhaps it is clearer than ever that these are the things that matter most.

But this fruit doesn’t come by trying harder to be better or to achieve more. We’ll never remove enough rocks or pull out enough weeds for that. But thankfully, Jesus has done all that is necessary. In John 12:24 he says, “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. In this Lenten season, we remember that Jesus was speaking of himself, and the death he would die for us… for our forgiveness and salvation. He alone can make us new!

“Lord, let my heart be good soil, open to the seed of your Word. Lord, let my heart be good soil, where love can grow and peace is understood. When my heart is hard, break the stone away. When my heart is cold, warm it with the day. When my heart is lost, lead me on your way. Lord, let my heart, Lord let my heart, Lord let my heart be good soil” (song lyrics by Handt Hansen, 1985, Prince of Peace Publishing).

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March 26 - What's Yours is God's

Luke 19:11-27

When I was a little kid, I used to have a cassette tape of Bible stories for children. They were performed by one man who did all the voices. He was funny, entertaining, and I learned a lot. This story, the parable of the ten minas, was one of the stories on the tape. I have always remembered it so clearly--I can still hear the actor's voice in my head playing the parts of the king and each of his servants. When I was young, I couldn't believe the servant who had done nothing with his money. It just seemed so ridiculous! These other two guys clearly made a profit and worked hard; why couldn't he do the same? He always seemed selfish and paranoid to me.

Rereading this story as an adult, with student loans and a car payment and hope to buy a house soon, there's a part of me that understands the third servant's actions. If someone gave me $100 right now and told me to put it to good use for the kingdom, I know I would be tempted to use it for my own purposes. Worrying about money is stressful, especially when you feel like you don't have enough. It's the same with all of our resources--time, energy, talent. We can so easily get swept up in the material of this world and lose sight of our true purpose here on earth.

I think the key to this story is the fact that the king is the one who gave the servants that money, and told them to "put this money to work." The money was never really theirs in the first place. Just like everything we have, our money, our time, our energy, talent, relationships, possessions--none of it is really ours. They're all gifts from God. And what God asks of us is the same thing the king asked of his servants: to put our gifts to work for the good of the kingdom.

1. How are you using whatever God has given you for the kingdom?
2. How do you live daily life with open hands--open to what God asks, and open to what your neighbor might need?
3. What's one material thing in your life that you know you hold onto too tightly? We all have those things. Pray and ask God to help you release it in the knowledge that it's not really yours.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 25 - Persistence Pays

Luke 18:1-8

I remember as a kid, when I wanted something really bad, I would keep hounding my mother until she gave in. It was a lot of work, pleading and promising to do things for her, but in the long run I got what I wanted. Now, often the thing I was begging for wasn't that important (except to me), but in the moment it was all I could see. Mom knew there was no reasoning with me and so she relented. If it was something big and she told me to ask my father, that usually ended the conversation. I did not want anything bad enough to go that route.

In our reading today, there is a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him, seeking justice. (Luke 18:2-3) This judge kept refusing, but finally she wore him down. He got tired of dealing with her and so he made sure she got justice.

My mother loved me, and eventually she granted my wishes. This judge didn't care for the widow, but he tired of her whining and pleading so he too granted the widow's wishes. This scripture is teaching us that God, who love us so much more than anyone else, wants us to come to Him. He wants us to bother Him and persistently ask Him for what we want.

God will honor patient, persistent, persevering prayer. God will see that we get what we need and often what we want. "Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." (Mark 11:24)

Is there something you are praying for now, something you desperately need answers to? Keep praying and don't give up. God is listening and will hear and respond.