Apr 06

April 6, 2014

day of rest: reflecting on today’s sermon

read | Matthew 8:23–27

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’”

Apr 05

April 5, 2014

read | Matthew 9:2–8

“And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This Man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.”

This story always impresses me. Well of course, healing miracles are impressive to be sure! But it also challenges me. Jesus was barely out of the boat when another request is placed before Him. This request came through the “carrying” of some unnamed men who brought a paralytic and placed him at Jesus feet. Jesus is neither annoyed nor inconvenienced. He does what Jesus does, without fanfare. Jesus honors the faith of those who brought their friend—the boldness of their belief and practical steps to give their buddy a chance to be healed. If after all, Jesus was who people were saying He was, there was a real chance for their friend on that stretcher to be healed. Would I have such faith? Would I be so bold? Do I bring the needs of my friends in such tangible and direct ways to Jesus?

I suspect we all are “paralyzed” about something. It may not be a physical paralysis we know, but paralyzed in other ways, unable to move in some area or direction in life. Now may not be a time when you feel paralysis, but I suspect if you are anything like me, there are times when issues or hurts, feelings or fears consume you and you get “stuck”—can’t move—paralyzed!

Jesus offers a remedy for healing the man in this Scripture—and it is available for us as well. Simply, He tells the man, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven!” If I was one of the friends who lugged my pal on some mat all the way to Jesus so he could be healed and heard Jesus’ response, I might question or wonder—“we must be here on the wrong day! We need the miracle of healing…not forgiveness!”

I wonder have you have considered the miraculous nature of Jesus’ forgiveness.

Jesus demonstrates power in many different ways. We see it here in these verses…an inward healing and a physical healing. No surprise the people were awed.

I don’t think we awe enough at the matters of God, at the power of God, at the compassion of God, at the forgiveness of God!

Where are you paralyzed? Where are you stuck? From what do you need healing? Who is helping you take it directly to the feet of Jesus…are you on your own, or is there a friend or small group who is with you on that journey? There is something powerful about the role of community in this story. Thanks to the men who carried their friend, thanks to the men whose faith was bold…a healing happened and a heart was freed from sin!

pray about:
What needs freeing in your heart this day? Can you bring it to the feet of Jesus? As He was in this story, Jesus is available now! He will listen. Can you trust Him with what is paralyzing for you?

– Rev. Care Crawford

Apr 04

April 4, 2014

read | Matthew 8:34–9:1

“Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.”

Focusing on these two verses, I feel an immediate pang of recognition. I used to be one of those townspeople. I saw who Jesus was, knew that His presence could disrupt my life, and therefore, wanted Him to please leave me alone. Sure, He was able to send demons packing, but holding onto my flock of pigs was much more important to me.

I’ve since welcomed Jesus into my life and have felt the peace and joy that this surrender brings. But this Scripture still convicts me. How many times do I continue to “ask Him to leave” by choosing to walk down a path or enter a conversation that I know He wants no part of? How often do I keep elements of my life separate from Him, as if to say to Jesus, “I’ve got this area covered. See You in an hour.”

Jesus never forces Himself on us. When the town asked Him to leave, He did so without any fuss. However, once we believe, He promises never to leave us or forsake us. I wonder, though: if I’m not welcoming Him into every thought, circumstance, and action, am I really reaping all the benefits of having a relationship with the living God?

Today, let us open up ALL parts of our lives to Him. Challenge yourself to think of areas in your life where you’ve shown Jesus that He’s not welcome. Maybe it’s your work, your taxes, your relationships, your conversations with friends. Perhaps it’s the television you watch, the internet sites you view, the “white lies” you tell, the truths you avoid. Welcome Jesus into all these places, and everything else in between.

It can be scary. After all, He may run your pigs off a cliff. But really, who wants a pack of demon possessed pigs anyway?

– Charlie Shahnaian

Apr 03

April 3, 2014

read | Matthew 8:30–33

“Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged Him, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs.”

I’ve never herded pigs. But as I read these verses, I found myself identifying with the pig herders. I’m a perplexed bystander.

We are not told why the demons want to enter the pigs. We are not told why Jesus decided to have them do so. We are not told why this causes the pigs to jump off the cliff, to their demise.

But, what a sight that must have been!

It seems this all happened in a moment. Then, with no pigs left to herd, the pig herders had some explaining to do. And they had quite a tale to tell!

Their explanation must have sounded incredible. The loss of an entire herd of pigs was an economic disaster and an unusual natural phenomenon. To report that the whole herd had suddenly rushed over the edge of the cliff must have sounded suspiciously like a cover story for pig herder incompetence. To blame it on the demoniacs must have appeared to be a convenient bit of easy scapegoating. To attribute this all to the teacher Jesus from Nazareth, about whom certain incredible rumors had started circulating, must have seemed like a ploy to explain the improbable with the fantastical.

Happily for them, the herders had witnesses! Those who had sought to pass by, but who had been blocked by the demoniacs, could verify this very odd tale. And, the no-longer-possessed demoniacs themselves were now living evidence that something very out of the ordinary had occurred.

The story the pig herders, the bystanders and the healed demoniacs had to tell is about life in the “upside down” Kingdom. It is a Kingdom where the normal rules don’t apply. Here the established authority relationships don’t stand. The reasons why unusual things happen in unusual ways are not usually clear in this Kingdom.

The only thing clear from the story is the authority of Jesus. He had authority over the demons. The demons plead “no contest” immediately. They know, in an instant, who He is and what His authority is. They simply beg for the torment of being in His presence to end quickly.

Does this quirky and perplexing demonstration of how the values of God’s Kingdom differ so greatly from the values of our world match your experience of life in God’s Kingdom? It does mine.

– Chuck Slocum

Apr 02

April 2, 2014

read | Matthew 8:28–29

“When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’”

It is a school night. You know you will have to go to bed soon, but your bedtime isn’t here just yet, and you are so close to completing this level of your video game. This last jump between buildings is a tricky one, but if you make it you’ll beat the level. Right as you are about to jump for joy and relish in your victory, the TV goes blank, and you immediately turn to stare at your mother with a look of horror and shock on your face. “That’s enough video games. It’s time to get ready for bed,” she says as she puts down the TV remote. “It’s my free time! What does it matter to you what I do, Mom?” you shout at her in response. “It’s not bedtime yet—I have 30 more minutes!”

We have all had situations like this, where an authority figure has seemingly cut our time short, making us obey what they tell us. If we can be frustrated over something like a bedtime, imagine how aggravated the demons must have been. They had possessed two men’s bodies and were terrorizing the area with violent acts. So when Jesus shows up, they are not happy to see Him. They react to His presence with a question. In Greek the text is ti hemin kai soi huie tou theou, which literally means “what to us and to You, Son of God?” This idiom means “what do we (being demons) have to do with You (Son of God)?” Or in layman’s terms, “Why don’t You mind Your own business?”

What’s interesting to note is how these demons address Him—“Son of God.” It is amazing to me how these fallen creatures recognize Jesus’ divinity the moment they see Him. Contrast that with the Jewish people, the Pharisees, and even the disciples who all interacted with Jesus yet either didn’t believe or didn’t fully grasp His true nature.

Along with recognizing His divinity, the demons also knew Jesus had the power to destroy them, but that there was an appointed time for Him to do so. At first it seems strange. These demons know they will be judged, but are indignant only at the fact that their wicked fun will be cut short before its time.

How often do we think similarly? How often do we say “what business is it of Yours” to God when talking about our own lives? Too often we forget that we have been given the gift of life and our time is not our own. We make excuses for our sins, or take Jesus’ sacrifice for granted, thinking that since our sins are forgiven it doesn’t really matter how we act. We make the mistake of thinking that the Kingdom of God is just something that will happen in the future without realizing that Jesus’ presence on earth made it possible to start living in the Kingdom now.

reflect:

How are you living your life?
Do you find yourself telling God to mind His own business until “the time” comes?
Or, are you striving to live in the Kingdom of God here and now?

– Rebekah Fear

Apr 01

April 1, 2014

read | Matthew 8:26–27

“And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of Man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”

Over the years, I have watched families and friends touched by tragedy, and in my own life felt the pain of loss and desperation during a major issue. These fishermen represent you and me as this little boat forged across this body of water with Jesus asleep and fishing to be done. As the clouds rolled in and the sea picked up, fear took over, and they tried to maintain their boat, protect the cargo, and not be afraid. The winds and the sea were too much for this crew as the winds increased and waves tossed the boat from side to side. Fear caused their lack of faith to come roaring to the surface within their spirits. Jesus looked at the storm and the crew and said, “Why are you fearful, Oh, you of little faith?” Have you felt that way with “little faith” during your tragedy or storm? I have, and have seen God’s amazing grace calm me down. I have seen it with families and friends as they fought for hope during their time of trials. They were able to release their fears into God’s care.

Jesus rebuked the wind and seas. Can you see the expressions on the crew of that boat when the sky turned blue, and the sea returned to calm from words spoken by their passenger. The fishermen say, “Who can this be that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” My friends, we are all surprised at the amazing grace of Jesus, and even when miracles happen in our life, we sit with open mouths in amazement. Yet we still have “little faith!”

No matter what your walk in life is, when the wind comes and the sea erupts we are all in the same boat. It is okay to stand there and be in awe as Jesus calms our storm. Remember, before the winds blew and the sea rolled, God knew it was going to happen, and He was already standing next to you.

–  David Hibbs

Mar 31

March 31, 2014

read | Matthew 8:23–25

“And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep. And they went and woke Him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’”

“Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in some Bible translations and also one of the most powerful in what it conveys—the perfect compassion and empathy of Christ. Here in this story of stilling the storm, we see quite an opposite—though no less powerful—reaction from Him: Jesus slept.

The disciples believed that they were in peril for their lives, the boat filling with water as they were tossed about, and rather than turning to find Jesus yelling and scared as they were, they find Him seemingly unconcerned and unresponsive.

Imagine the scene—the vessel nearly capsizing under huge walls of water beneath a darkened sky; the pale, terrified faces of the twelve; and Jesus, sleeping as if He hasn’t a care in the world…perhaps even snoring a little.

It’s almost comical, until we imagine ourselves in the disciples’ shoes—or until we remember the times in our own lives when we’ve felt tossed around and scared. Sometimes it seems like Jesus isn’t there for us, or that He’s taking a nap. When that happens, who among us hasn’t responded just as the disciples did? “Where are you Lord? Wake up! We’re dying over here! Save us!”

But we have a God who always knows what’s best. Sometimes He enters into our pain and weeps with us—and sometimes, God shows us that we need to trust Him and trust His authority over a seemingly impossible situation. We may think He’s asleep—but God knows exactly what’s happening. Nothing terrifies Him; He fears nothing. The Lord doesn’t share in our fear and anxiety, but is quietly present through it. We can trust Christ through our storms, and draw strength from knowing that whether they get calmed or not, Jesus is ever present with us.

prayer:
Lord, I know that I will encounter storms in my life. Help me always to seek You in the midst of them. Help me to rest in the knowledge that even when it seems like You’re not there, You are. Help me to keep my eyes on You when I’m afraid and anxious. I praise You for being my God and my Rock, my Stillness in the storm. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

– Mandy Fowler

Mar 30

March 30, 2014

day of rest: reflecting on today’s sermon

read | Matthew 15:21–28

“Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Mar 29

March 29, 2014

read | Matthew 15:28

“Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.”

Where is such faith today? Has our intellect and elevated state of higher learning silenced our belief, our need to cry out loud “Lord Jesus, help! Help me now!” Are we so ashamed to sink to bended knees, or prostrate ourselves on the floor or ground? Can we call out to the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us? The Holy Spirit was given to us to be our counselor, the God within us. The Spirit waits and hungers for our prayers, our asking the Spirit that for which we are longing. When our needs and longings are met, this leads to praise. Praise and thanksgiving open the doors to our hearts, allowing God to know we are open to Him, and He feels welcome and wanted.

When we stand against worldly views, and boldly stand as Christians…when we feel God’s love and have the courage to exercise our free will as believers…when we shout from the depths of our hearts, “Come Holy Spirit, come! Blessed gift from Jesus, come and heal my hurts, the secret hurts I hid deep inside!” we may truly say “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Today’s verse has deep meaning for me as it contrasts the way the world sees and thinks versus faith in God and His healing power. For 20 years I had a swelling and it was misdiagnosed as something men get when they age. A young doctor joined the office of my primary care doctor, and through testing the swelling—which has never been a problem—was diagnosed as a hernia. Advice from friends, doctors, and associates flared up like a wild fire. Fear over took, until I stood tall, on my knees, and for many a still night cried out, “I trust you, Lord Jesus! Help me Jesus!” After those nights and prayers, I rejected all the urging to have surgery. The swelling is still there, though, it is much smaller.

In the stillness, I wait to hear God’s Word to me, “Charles, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.”

– Charles Johnson

Mar 28

March 28, 2014

read | Matthew 15:26–27

“[Jesus] answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’”

Drop of Grace

I am asking for Your Grace
Pleading for Your Mercy
Just to be heard; to be seen.

Lord I am here before you,
Falling on my knees,
Full of faith…

I need your grace
I need your mercy
To cover me; to shelter me.

Jesus, I know I’m not worthy
But, I am here begging,
Boldly believing,

Lord, I will be satiated
With but a drop of Grace
And just a crumb of Mercy.

reflect:
Where do you need a drop of God’s grace today?
What would a crumb of God’s mercy look like for you?

–  Laura Addink

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