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Morning Joy

white daisy flowers
 
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5
 
The clock in our house chimes the hours and then gives a single chime on the half hour. Imagine that you’re sick, just not feeling well at all, and you can’t sleep. You wake up to the half hour chime, but that really doesn’t tell you anything. It’s pitch dark outside so you can’t tell the time. You wish it were close to morning, but who knows?  How long will it take to get to the full hour when you can hear the chimes tell the time?  Thirty minutes.
 
But does it feel like thirty minutes as you’re there in bed waiting? No, it feels like an eternity plus thirty minutes.  You’re sure the clock has broken, the batteries have died, and time has stopped. If only it would hurry up and get to morning!
 
David who wrote Psalm 30 must have had that sort of night of waiting. We don’t know the exact difficulty he had, but we can all supply one of our own. You might be in the middle of a long, dark night right now. It’s certainly more than one night long. It’s been beyond one calendar page or a whole year’s worth of pages. Weeping continues throughout the length of our night.
 
But there is one certainty. The clock is moving. Though you think it must be broken, the clock is running and it will chime. It will finally be 4:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m. and then morning. Morning will come because it has to.
 
When God tells us Psalm 30:5, he gives us the same solid promise. Weeping endures through the night and the night is amazingly long, it seems. But there must be a morning and joy with it. God can’t say this to others and leave us out.  So we can pray for the patience to go through this long night but also for the faith that trusts a new morning and joy with it will come.
 
Dear Father in heaven, it’s been a long dark night at times.  But you promised that a brighter morning with joy would come.  Keep me trusting your promises even in the darkest times. Bring the brighter morning and the joy that comes with it, just as you promised. When that morning joy comes, remind me that it is all due to your kindness. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Bold Enough to Share Our Home (Part 1)

white house under maple trees

And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mark 2:16

By our standards, Jesus made some surprising choices when selecting His disciples. Would you have invited the same types of individuals into your inner circle, into your home? Would you have been bold enough to risk the disapproval of others?

When Jesus met Matthew, He looked beyond what others saw. Others saw a Jewish traitor, a man who worked for the enemy, the Romans, and who extorted money from his own countrymen just to pad his own pockets. Matthew was despised by many, but loved by Jesus; not because of what he did, but because of who he was, a man for whom Jesus would give His life.

Years ago, it was popular in some Christian circles to host what were known as “Matthew Parties.” This was a form of evangelism that encouraged Christians to invite unchurched friends to join them in their homes. As the relationships would grow, the hope was that Christ could be shared and that the Holy Spirit would work faith in the heart of the new friends.

While we may not use the phrase “Matthew Parties” anymore, are you bold enough to share your home with fellow church members or even those who are still a long way from God? There is a certain risk that comes with opening ourselves up this way. Matthew took a risk by introducing Jesus to His friends, but Jesus took an even greater risk. But for both, it was absolutely worth it.

God has called us into relationship with His Son at great cost to Himself. May we be so bold in sharing our lives, our homes, and our Lord, with those who He has put into our lives.

Lord Jesus, You came into this world to save sinners like us. There is no one beyond the reach of Your love. As Your dearly loved children, embolden us to share Your love with others that they too may know the peace and joy that comes only from You. Amen.


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Why Be Extravagant?

landscape photography of trees
 
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  (John 12:1-8)
 
Do you find Jesus’ words to be a bit unusual for Him?  After all, Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me (Matthew 19:21).  Jesus also instructed, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor (Luke 14:13).  After an impactful dinner with Jesus, from the depths of his transformed heart, Zacchaeus said to the Savior, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor (Luke 19:8).  So what gives here?

Jesus is reminding Judas, and all those gathered at the dinner, that they must realize who He is.  Some thought Him to be a prophet, some saw Him as an intelligent rabbi, others considered Him to be a pain in the side of the ruling religious class.  Mary knew exactly who Jesus is.  She saw Him as the long awaited Savior, the Messiah predicted to come in the name of the Lord, the Son of the Most High.  This is why she acts with such extravagance.  Jesus is truly worthy of her worship.

Jesus is worthy of our worship.  Mary’s generous action illustrates for us the importance of dedicating ourselves to serving and honoring Him with all we are and with all we have.  We are called to share the love of Christ in extravagant ways within our homes.  We are called to be compassionately extravagant toward our friends.  We are called to be extravagant with the kindness of Christ while we engage with those at work and school and community.

We are privileged to have our lives reflect the extravagant grace and mercy Jesus showers on us!
 
Prayer: What a privilege it is to live under Your canopy of grace, Lord.  You forgive our sins and renew our hearts.  You give to us joy in the promise of heaven.  Bless us with Your Holy Spirit that we may respond to Your extravagance in every aspect of our lives.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus.  Amen.

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Love Your Enemy?

green cup on saucer
 
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?   Matthew 5:43-47

OK.  Receiving the love of God is wonderful.  Loving those who are my brothers and sisters in the faith isn’t too hard.  But loving my enemy! Seriously!  Why?  What have those people done to deserve my love?  

The answer is simple:  nothing!  These people have done nothing to deserve our love.  Jesus knows this.  But Jesus also knows that we did nothing to merit His love.  Paul reminds us that, God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The amazing grace of our Lord has brought us the forgiveness of sins, new life today and life eternal to come in heaven.  All this is simply because He loves us.  His love claimed us.

Our love for others, especially our enemies, may claim those who live outside faith in Jesus.  Our love for others just may turn their heads.  Our love for those who don’t love us may cause them to see the love of Christ.

We have the freedom to love—even our enemies.  This is the power of the love of Jesus that He shares with us.  It is a love that heals and restores.  It is a love that gives life.  We have it—let’s share it!

Loving Jesus, thank You for saving me while I was still a sinner.  I pray that Your love for me would be the initiative I need to love others—especially those who oppose me.  Free me from the chains of hatred.  Keep me from the prison of grudges.  Free me that I may freely love.  I pray in Your powerful name.  Amen. 


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Care + Compassion

Person Holding Heart Shaped Cut Out
 
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  (John 12:1-8)
 
Judas!  A scoundrel.  A thief!  A traitor!  Nobody names their child “Judas.”  And for good reason.

Mary anoints Jesus with a very expensive perfume and uses a goodly amount to do so.  As mentioned in our devotion on Monday, Mary’s actions were a reflection of her heart.

But Judas steps in.  He scolds Mary for her extravagance.  Moving into a conversation that Judas thinks might be up Jesus’ compassion alley, he interrupts the beautiful moment and says, Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?  Ah, Judas is all heart.  Unfortunately, his heart was all for himself.  Using the guise of caring for the poor, Judas would have slipped his hand into the money bag and provided a little extra spending money for himself.

How easy it is for us to point a finger at Judas.  Selfish Judas.  Ignorant Judas.  Critical Judas.  We want to tell him to stop and take a good look in the mirror as he criticizes others.

Perhaps we should stop.  Maybe we should take a good look in the mirror.  At times we can be Judas.  It is easy for us to criticize others for a number of reasons.  When others succeed, we criticize out of jealousy.  When others are recognized for their contributions to a cause we accuse them of volunteering for all the wrong reasons.  When others come up with a good idea, we want to shoot it down simply because it wasn’t ours. 

Don’t you wish Judas would have spoken up with words of appreciation for Mary’s wonderful witness?  Don’t you wish Judas would have volunteered to go out and buy more perfume for the rest of the dinner guests to anoint Jesus?

We can make a positive impact by giving a word of thanks to those who provide service.  We can make a world of difference by speaking words of appreciation to others.  President Reagan had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office which read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  How wonderful the world would be if we all lived by this truth.
 
Prayer: Blessed Jesus, forgive my arrogance and ignorance.  Give me joy in working with others and give me Your Spirit that I may impact their lives with words of care and compassion.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus.  Amen.

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