Thursday, December 17, 2009

Proverbs 4:18-19

Our world's history is marred by scorn and contempt. And the darkness of humanity is like the blackest of nights. But one night a light pierced the darkness, pushing back the sting of scorn and contempt and ushering in the light of hope and peace. It was a pivotal moment in our history when God reached down from heaven by sending his Son.

"The path of righteousness is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." -Proverbs 4:18-19

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

John 14:6

Are you a Bridge Builder? Do you narrow the gap between two different people groups?

Bridge Builders teach the value of linking the well-fed with the hungry.

Bridge Builders embody what it means to extend grace to those who do not know how to receive it.

Bridge Builders love their neighbors as themselves regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, culture or economic status.

Bridge Builders also check their foundation so that the structure is trustworthy and strong.

Jesus Christ is our ultimate example of what it means to be a Bridge Builder. He not only narrowed the gap between humanity and God when he died on the cross, he removed the gap completely. Jesus says "'I am the way and the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ( John 14:6)

Are there any gaps God is leading you to fill today?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Today's Woman at the Well

Today’s Woman at the Well

She stares out the window remembering a different time when showers were apart of her daily regime. Now they seem like a luxury. She envisions her favorite pair of black high healed shoes-the ones that looked great with that black miniskirt she used to wear to her favorite restaurant. Now she wears flats and eats at McDonald’s. But her personal favorite used to be Saturday mornings when she slept in till noon. Now she wakes up at 6:30 to an infant tugging at her breast.
Small grunting noises emerge from the tiny frame, all bundled up in pink, resting cozy in her arms. “But you’re beautiful,” she whispers, “and 100 percent worth it.” Her baby girl came into this world just two months earlier, and has taught her some new things about the lifestyle of infants; they scream like rock stars, and stay up all night like college students.
“It’s quite different from the days when I screamed like a rock star and stayed up all night as a college student,” she recalls.
“For the longest time I thought I needed to find myself, so I embarked on a journey, searching. I like to call it Tour de Me. And for some of the time I knew who I was, but for most of the time I traveled incognito. I couldn’t even recognize myself. So I found it easier to let people tell me who I was. Many men called me Available. But I know that God saw me as Too Vulnerable. Some men called me Tender, but God saw me as Meek. Those men knew me as Lover, and God, you knew me as Daughter. But I did not know you-yet.
Then one day after my journey had taken me far away, I hid from the scorn of society, but you found me. It was a time when the world accused me, but you loved me. At first I thought you were just another man, but when you struck up a conversation with me that day, I knew you were no mere man, but the Messiah. And I discovered that you were not trying to take something from me, like the others, but instead you wanted to give me something: mercy, grace, forgiveness, and salvation.

I found myself the day I found you, Jesus.

So my journey came to an end, but at the same time, it began.

Now I sit here today, redeemed and restored. I have returned to my first love and found new love in the process-love expressed in the shape of a cross, love expressed in the shape of a golden circle on my finger, and love wrapped in a tiny pink package.”

John 4:6-26
Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime.7 Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, "Please give me a drink."8 He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.
 9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.* She said to Jesus, "You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?"
 10 Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."
 11 "But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?12 And besides, do you think you're greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?"
 13 Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life."
 15 "Please, sir," the woman said, "give me this water! Then I'll never be thirsty again, and I won't have to come here to get water."
 16 "Go and get your husband," Jesus told her.
 17 "I don't have a husband," the woman replied.
 Jesus said, "You're right! You don't have a husband—18 for you have had five husbands, and you aren't even married to the man you're living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!"
 19 "Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet.20 So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim,* where our ancestors worshiped?"
 21 Jesus replied, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews.23 But the time is coming—indeed it's here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."
 25 The woman said, "I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."
 26 Then Jesus told her, "I AM the Messiah!"*

Monday, December 14, 2009

Matthew 6:33

Sometimes the root of our complacency can be that we are laboring in an area in which God has not crafted us to work. Do you know your strengths and your weaknesses? What are you passionate about? Perhaps it's time to revamp things a bit as you look to make some new year's resolutions in the weeks ahead. Just always remember to keep God at the center of your decision making.

"Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." -Matthew 6:33

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Isaiah 40:31

I walked in the cool of the morning.

A large hawk flew in the sky overhead like a shadow contrasting with the white puffy sky above. And just as he flew directly above me, he began to soar. The wind sustained his altitude and he lingered there before a gust of wind carried him away.

I wondered, Can I be content to just be carried and to soar?

But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Le Grande Maison

My name is Jake English. I live in a French Colonial Cottage pained vintage blue. I bought the home a few years back in hopes of transforming the property into a Bed and Breakfast. I am not a man born of French heritage but rather my bloodlines can be traced back to the Mayflower. My wife, Katie’s heart sings Stars and Stripes Forever. Her eyes and hair are the color of chestnuts, and she looks as though she has just stepped out of a scene from an American picnic.

But the romantic French enthralls me, so I chose to take a few entrepreneurial liberties and open a French establishment in the heart of the American countryside. At one point I hired a French chef whose culinary skill could match the distinctly French name of the B&B: Le Grande Maison. Nevertheless, my efforts to appease my identity crisis of somehow existing as an American owner of a French business inevitably failed. The chef turned out to have a temper as fiery as crème brulee, and given that my patrons would not recognize the French countryside if they were visiting France itself, business flopped.

Still, I am an optimist at heart. So, I started a second business to cater to my American clientele, called the White Pickett Fence Company, building custom made fences that satisfied any idealist’s dream. Despite my efforts, I have not constructed a fence so ideal as to land its design on a magazine cover. Now it’s nearly Christmas and as I stand outside my home on this crisp December night, my dreams also stand here beside me, like ghosts shivering in the night. From inside Katie turns off the lights, unaware I had slipped out in the cold to evaluate my ambitions.

It’s hopeless, I whisper and tramp through the slush, making my way back into Le Grande Maison. The night is dark and still.
Suddenly, I hear the footsteps of someone making their way through the slush behind me. You think you’ll keep her going, or you think you’re gonna fold?
What? I ask, half startled, turning around. The big house? Is it a go? Inquired an old man, partially balding with white hair that curled down over the collar of his trench coat.
I don’t know. I stammered, feeling stripped of my own self-confidence.
What if I told you I got some real estate real nice like this-A beauty of a place? I can give it to you for free. He offered with a smile.
What’s that, for free? You been drinking tonite, Mister?
No. Not at all. See, there’s a place where the streets are made of gold and there are mansions even more beautiful than you can imagine.
Naaa, not tonight. That’s not for me.
All right, but if you ever change your mind, it’s yours.

Jake! Suddenly Katie calls from inside the house. Jake. Jake . . . . ..
But then the tone of her voice blends with a deeper one . . .
Jake, Jake, wake up. Hey, English! The Preacher is here. It’s the Christmas Eve service. Remember, you said you would go.
Jake lay there in a shabby bed. His body once longed for the soft flannel sheets of Le Grande Maison, but instead his now aged body lay dead and motionless, not in a B&B but in the Federal Prison. His cellmate, Frankie stood by shaking his cold shoulder.
We called him English because he always walked around with a notepad and pencil writing things down, and talking with fancy words, like a professor or something. He musta died in his sleep. Guess he couldn’t live to see another Christmas in the Big House. No one really ever knew what he was in for-just know it happened many years ago. See Preacher, look here. I think he wrote something from the Bible. What’s it say?
Frankie handed the small notepad to the kind gentleman, who read the note aloud,

He wrote down Luke 23:39-43:

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

What’s that mean, Preacher? Frankie asked.
It means he could be in the Big House tonight. But not like one you or I have seen, it’s a greater one called Paradise.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Luke 2:7

Can you remember a time in your childhood when you had a crisis of belief upon discovering the truth about Santa? Did you feel frozen in a state of disappointment, or were your hunches merely confirmed?

Now fast forward 10, 20, 30 or 40 years to today: Christmas 2009. Is it possible that you once again find yourself frozen in a crisis of belief? Only this time you haven't lost faith in Father Christmas, but in God the Father.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the faith of your childhood, only not just in a myth, but in a man: the Son of Man.

" . . . she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." -Luke 2:7

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Luke 2:16-19

The nativity is more than painted ceramic figurines adorning a table, or a set of plastic dolls dressed as lawn decor. And while this Christmas symbol serves as a good reminder of the very first Christmas, how many times do we merely unpack the pieces from boxes stored in the attic without giving it a second thought. Does the nativity just get lost in the shuffle with the Christmas village and the Santa dolls?

I confess I have been guilty of decorating on a whim without reflecting on the depth of the nativity's meaning.

"So they (the shepherds) hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." -Luke 2:16-19

Monday, December 7, 2009

Romans 12:2

The demand for change overwhelmed me. It called to me incessantly. So I finally rose to the challenge. I answered the call, then watched as parts of my life went underwent transformation. I saw the severity of my chronic character flaws: perfectionism, defensiveness (both of which are mere manifestations of pride), and procrastination. The new light shed on these lingering flaws did not hold me to an empty, abandoned condition. Instead, I took it to the Lord. I asked him to clean me up-to renovate the condition of my heart. To make my life new, welcoming, inviting, not just to Him, but to others as well.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12:2

Saturday, December 5, 2009

1 Peter 4:8

During the holidays, family disfunction can yield to God's redemption.

Imagine the softening of a heart that is otherwise uptight and controlling, or the reunion of estranged loved ones, or an orphan adopted into a loving family.

This Christmas season, no matter how great your need is, God is greater still.

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." -1 Peter 4:8

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Philippians 4:12

Fact: The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.

But today did you find yourself standing on your tiptoes, trying to get a better view of the landscaping? Did the shrubs appear neatly arranged among decorative pavers with a patio furniture set from Pottery Barn?

We tend to imagine our lives to look like they are staged and ready for a catalogue photo shoot. But as we go through life, we realize that suddenly we are not so photogenic. Am I right?

Or can we claim to be more like Paul, who writes; "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
-Philippians 4:12