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Thirsty

Ball mason jar on table
 
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, asa] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  John 7:37-39

Is there anything more terrible than being parched?  You forgot the water on the hike…you brought water for your softball game, but it was gone by the 3rd inning and now it’s the 10th…you’re on a new medication whose only purpose so far seems to be to suck every last little bit of moisture out of your mouth.

And is there anything better than a cool drink of water to quench that thirst?   Nope.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus loves to talk about physical things, visceral things, earth-y things.  Being parched is something we can all relate to – and so is quenching that thirst.

Enter the Holy Spirit, the One whom Jesus would give after He had been glorified.

The work of the spirit is not talked about in fluffy language.  His work is not described by lines of poetry.  No…the Spirit’s work is described by a palpable human need: thirst.

Our response has to be “Yes, Lord, I’m thirsty.  My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.  I’m parched.  I can’t go on.  I need You!”

We are hungry and need to be fed, sheep who need to be led, lost and need a way, branches that that needs a vine, dead bodies that need to be raised.

And Jesus is all of it, for us.

Gracious Father, continue to work by Your Spirit in the deep places of my heart, so that I see and acknowledge how thirsty I am.  Then, Loving Father, fill me up by Your Spirit so that out of my heart might flow rivers of Living Water.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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Season of Change (Part 2)

closeup photography of red leaf plant

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

So, if fall is coming, what do you have to do? Embracing fall means more than putting on two T shirts. It’s more than closing the window half way. Face it, when fall comes, you need a new mindset. It’s not two T shirts, it’s time for the sweater you haven’t worn since April. It’s not just closing the window, it’s calling the furnace repair man to make sure that your furnace is ready for winter. It’s not mowing the lawn less, it’s finding your rake and vowing that this year, you’re going to keep up with your neighbors in raking those maple leaves.

It’s having a new mind. That’s the point of Paul’s words. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t just give us a different pattern. He could have said, “Stop following the world’s pattern but instead take on God’s pattern.” That would have made sense. But Paul goes deeper than that when he says to stop being conformed to the outward pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. God doesn’t stop with a simple outward change. He offers us a deeper change by sharing his mind with us. It reminds us of Philippians 2:5 which says, “Have this mind among you which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  That was the mind of service and mercy shown to the world by his incarnation, death, and resurrection.

What would our new mind bring? Maybe we start by asking God’s help in embracing change. Embrace fall’s coming. Embrace God’s change of seasons in your mind. We can ask God to shape our thoughts. David spoke for us all in Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10, 12. Lord, bring us a new mind this fall.

Our Heavenly Father, we want more than an outward change, a slightly different pattern. Create a new mind that is closer to yours. Remind us of the humility and sacrifice of Jesus for us and give us his thoughts. Help us to welcome this change like a season we’ve been waiting for, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Good Fruit

red apples on white ceramic bowl
 
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  Matthew 7:15-19
 
When hunger strikes and I am craving a healthy snack (normally I prefer the sweet and the salty!) I look for fruit.  Bananas, apples, cherries, blueberries, and grapes are all amazing!  However, after a few days (or sometimes weeks) on the counter or in the fridge, that beautiful fruit can become a bruised, fuzzy, or smooshy substance that looks anything but something I would want to put in my mouth!  
 
Bad fruit is easy to spot.  In our life of faith we are to keep our eyes wide open identifying bad fruit, in this case it is the actions and words of false prophets.  False prophets are sneaky and appear, at first glance, like every other Christian.  Jesus describes them as “coming to you in sheep’s clothing, but are really ravenous wolves.”  Deceptive, false prophets, are hard to spot.
 
How can we tell a wolf from a real sheep?  We look to their fruit.  A bad tree bears bad fruit.  To determine truth, we compare the new prophet’s thoughts with the teachings of Moses, Paul, John and the other apostles, prophets, and evangelists whom God inspired to write the 66 books of the Bible.  If it matches… good fruit… listen.  If it does not match… bad fruit… wolf located… BEWARE!  The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
 
The good news of Jesus does not change.  Good fruit points us to Jesus. Jesus is the messiah.  Jesus died in our place.  Our sins are forgiven through Jesus.  You are saved by grace.  Jesus is the way, truth, and life, there is no way to the Father except through Him.  That’s Good Fruit… and Good news.
 
Prayer:  Good shepherd, we praise you for watching over us and pointing us to the good fruit of your Word.  Keep us alert and focused that we may not be led astray by false prophets or bad theology.  Teach us to discern bad fruit from the awesome goodness of your mercy and grace freely given to us through Jesus Christ.  It is in His precious name that we pray.  AMEN!

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Season of Change (Part 1)

assorted-color lear hanging decor
 
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to this world” Romans 12:1-2A
 
It’s about this time of summer that we begin saying things like, “It’s starting to feel like fall” and “It is getting dark sooner, did you notice?” I hope that there are still many warm days, but, let’s face it, the signs of fall coming are all around us.  Next Monday is Labor Day and that’s come as late as possible this year.  Our chokeberry bushes are starting to turn red and the hydrangeas are turning from white to pink. I haven’t seen a red maple turn yet, but there’s a leaf somewhere that’s working on it.

So how do you feel about the change to fall? Maybe you’re a summer person and you’re going to wear those shorts right into late October. Or, maybe you’re a fall fan and you’ve already got your favorite sweatshirt and sweater ready to go. You’ve worn those summer T shirts plenty and are more than ready to put them away.

That’s the spirit that Paul is thinking of in our text. He is describing our old nature, our fallen world, and is saying, in essence, “It’s time for change!”  He tells us to recognize that we have been conformists to the old ways of this world and the old ways of our fallen nature. Oh, we have plenty of company in these ways. Anger? There’s plenty of anger all around us. Remembering grudges and old injuries? Tell someone your story of hurt and they are sure to top you with their story of something worse. Despair? Just look at us and even with masks on, we can see the worries and frowns on our faces.

But Paul says it’s time for change. Recognizing the old patterns of the world is the beginning of that change. Paul is going to tell us that God makes the change within us. The beginning is that familiar step of saying to God, “I need a new pattern, a new season in my life. Lord, I’ve been in this summer way of anger, fear, and worry too long. I want a new direction and it can only come from you.” That is the intention and gift of God for us as he moves us to a new place. Fall might not come right away today, but his invitation to change is here now.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, we need a new season in our lives. Move us out of the old steps and let us not be conformed to this world’s steps. Give us your direction and walk with us in a new season. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Missionaries

grayscale photography of clock

“Brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.  And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”  2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

There is a cosmic clock ticking, but you and I can’t read it.  The clock is ticking down to the Lord’s return and the meltdown of this world contaminated by sin.  The apostle Paul heard the clock ticking.  He’d been driven out of Thessalonica by mob violence, cutting short his ministry there.  Now he was in Corinth, where a different set of obstacles confronted him.  There was the pagan culture with its overt sexual immorality and philosophical disdain for anything as simple as the Gospel.  There were fractures in the fellowship of believers in Corinth and an undercurrent of opposition to the apostle himself. In the first chapter of this letter to the Thessalonians Paul wrote: “We constantly pray for you.” Now, near the end of his letter, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him and his mission, in view of the end of all things.

“Pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly.”  Then as now, there were political obstacles to the spread of the Gospel: governmental attitudes and policies, closed borders that make mission work difficult. Then as now, there were cultural barriers to the mission: language barriers, social mores and relational networks that can take years to navigate with the Gospel.  Then as now, there were insufficient funds to move missionaries, produce Christian literature and demonstrate Christian love with humanitarian aid.  But the biggest obstacle is inside the church, indifferent Christians and discouraged missionaries.  When Jesus urged prayer for mission work, he said: “Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people.”  Some of those evil people were and are in positions of authority, where their demonic hatred for Christ threatens both mission and missionary.  Others, as Paul experienced in Ephesus, see Christianity as a threat to their way of life and react violently.  There were and are religious leaders powerful enough to create intense opposition to any belief other than their own – Jewish leaders in Paul’s day or Muslim leaders in our day.  When wicked and evil people find their way into a church, the havoc they wreak becomes a distraction that overwhelms the church’s mission.

Why pray?  St. Paul’s answer is, “The Lord is faithful.”  God was faithful to his promise to send a Savior for the world; and because Jesus died for all, the church’s mission is valid.  God is faithful to his promise to answer prayer.  He clears away obstacles to the proclamation of the Gospel.   He sends his angels to watch over those who witness and teach his truth.  He positions people who need to know God’s love in the path of those who are eager to share it.  He encourages missionaries and emboldens witnesses, all in answer to prayer.  So, let’s do it. . .

PRAYER:  For missionaries across the globe we pray, Lord, that they may be given open doors as well as encouragement and support.  For Christians with a faith to share we pray, that they may recognize opportunities and seize them.  For our nation we pray, Lord, that opposition to your Church will be blunted and a renewed sense of mission in the Church occur.  We pray all this because Jesus gave our mission content and authority.  Amen.

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