DayBreaks for 2/29/16 – Seeing As Jesus Sees

DayBreaks for 2/29/16: Seeing As Jesus Does

I would never presume to be able to tell you definitively what Jesus is thinking or seeing at any moment in time. Still, I think the New Testament gives us insights into how he sees and thinks.

John 4:35 (ESV) – Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

When Jesus made this statement, he was sitting beside a well in the homeland of the Samaritans – the people who were considered by observant Jews to be impure, filthy, great sinners and people who were worse than dogs. Rather than walk through Samaria, they would go way out of their way to walk from Galilee to Jerusalem…and that’s saying something given the geography and the heat of Israel.

When Jesus makes this statement, he’d already spoken to the Samaritan woman while the disciples were gone seeking food. His disciples come back from their shopping and were taken aback by the fact he was talking to a woman – let alone a Samaritan woman. Jesus, knowing their hearts and thoughts, encourages them to improve their vision. Where they saw despised Samaritans, Jesus saw a field of humanity ready to be harvested for the Kingdom.

Are we ever guilty of the same lack of vision today? Before you answer too quickly, picture yourself in the Middle East and in front of you is a vast field of ISIS soldiers. What would you see? What would you think? Would you see enemies and be eager to call down God’s wrath, or would you see a field that needed harvesting…and even further, would you be willing to go to work to help harvest that field?

I fear that we (perhaps I should speak simply for myself) see the condition of the world around us and think that it is a problem. But would Jesus see it that way? Does Jesus see the state of the world as the problem? I think not: Luke 10:2 (NLT) – These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.

Jesus doesn’t see the nature of the field being the problem. The problem is not the sinners…but the lack of believers willing to join in the harvest.

Why was the Samaritan woman so responsive to Jesus’ message? I suspect it was because she was so far gone into sin that caused her to respond. It is only those who realize their sinfulness and brokenness who will respond, and according to Jesus, there are many for who that is an accurate description. They are not to be hated or despised, but loved by Jesus’ followers…loved right into the Kingdom.

TODAY’S PRAYER: Jesus, teach us to see what you see.  Teach us to love as you love. Teach us to see the field as being white for harvest, and to pray for the Lord to send forth reapers – even us! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

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DayBreaks for 2/26/16 – A Not-so-Stupid Question

DayBreaks for 2/26/16: A Not-so-Stupid Question

Mark 10.46-52 captures the story of the healing of the blind man, Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus, as I’ll call him, (not to be confused with Bartimaeus Simpson!!!) cried out for Jesus to have pity on him.  Notice what happened when he and Jesus wound up face to face:  Jesus asked him a seemingly stupid question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

An outsider would say, “Well, Jesus, isn’t it obvious?   I mean, here’s a blind man, he can’t see!  What do you think he wants you to do for him, give him a new pair of shoes?!?!”  Ahhh – but there was more behind Jesus’ question than the obvious, I think. 

By asking the question, Jesus made Bartimaeus stop and think.  What did he really want from this “Son of David”?  He could have asked him for anything: a home, a chariot, to win the Jericho lottery that week, for a beautiful wife or loving children.  But he didn’t.  He wanted to see!  But Jesus question is still important for another reason: Bartimaeus needed to consider the implications of having sight.  It’s like Jesus was asking, “Are you really ready for the responsibilities of being able to see?  Have you thought it through?”  All of his life, Bartimaeus had been a beggar.  He’d never had to work, and while the wages of begging probably weren’t all that great, now he’d have to learn a skill, a trade.  He couldn’t beg anymore.  Being able to see is a wonderful gift, but it also carries with it the responsibility of seeing reality and reacting to it appropriately.

Several points:

  1. Jesus wants us to ask him for what we really want – and he wants us to carefully consider what we ask for and the price of getting what we want;
  2. Jesus, by coming into the world, has cleared up our vision, and because we have “seen” Him, we have seen the Father (John 14.9). Now we have no excuse for our blindness or remaining ignorant of the evils and wrongs done in this world and along with being able to see comes the responsibility to act as those who can see.

Have you cried out to the Lord to ask for something?  Jesus response to you is the same as that to Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?”.  It is a wonderful thing to follow Someone who cares enough to ask that kind of question and powerful enough to give us whatever we ask for.  But he’s not a cosmic vending machine who exists just to grant our requests.  He gives us things to use for His purposes, He has given us sight to see the truth, and He expects us to live changed lives as a result of being able to see the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, light and darkness.

Just as the promise of Isaiah 35.5 came true for Bartimaeus, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened…”, Jesus won’t refuse you, either.  Carefully consider what you ask for and also ask for the wisdom to use your sightedness correctly.

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Father, open our eyes to see your glory.  May we see your will for us clearly and may we live it faithfully.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/25/16 – Frothing and Faith

DayBreaks for 2/23/16: Frothing and Faith

The story of Jesus healing the demoniac, frothing boy in Luke 9 is an interesting one.  Jesus, Peter, John and James had just come down from the mount of Transfiguration only to be confronted by a large crowd and a man pleading with Jesus to heal his only child, a boy who was possessed.  Apparently, the other disciples of Jesus had tried to heal the boy but had been unable to do so. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the father or the crowd was skeptical about whether or not Jesus could do anything to help.  After all, his followers had failed.  Why should it be any different with this Nazarene rabbi?  Perhaps there wasn’t anything different about him.  But the father’s love for his only child caused him to hope against hope that there was something different about Jesus, something that made him greater than his followers.

Jesus rebukes the crowd (and possibly in particular, his disciples) for their lack of faith.  His compassion for the child causes him to heal the boy and return him to his father.  The passage concludes “Everyone was amazed at God’s great power.” 

Several things to note here:

  1. In spite of his frustration with the lack of faith of the people, Jesus’ compassion dominates the situation;
  2. Jesus power is greater than the sum of all the combined efforts of his followers to deal with the problem in this young boy’s life, and His power wasn’t limited by their lack of faith;
  3. The power of God amazes all who see it, but it sometimes takes eyes that are open to see it as His power and not some “freak” of circumstance.

I’m glad that Jesus’ work in our lives isn’t limited by the lack of faith of people around us.  I am concerned, however, that I limit what I let Him do in my life by my own lack of faith.  When I am not ready and willing to step forward when He calls unless I have a “safety net” of my own concocting in place, I limit His ability to do with me what He chooses.  Not only does that affect me, but others He may bring into my life.  

The lack of faith in the crowd could have prevented them from asking for a healing for the boy.  But it didn’t stop them from asking and it didn’t stop Jesus from giving.  As “The Promise” bible version put it: So often we are ashamed of our little faith.  But how glad we are to find out that Jesus understands and puts our broken hearts and lives back together even when our faith seems gone.  What is the greatest problem facing you right now?  You answer, “I know, but my faith is gone.”  Just tell that to Jesus!  He will understand.

What is the greatest problem you face today?  Give it to Him, even with a weak faith, and watch what He does with it!

TODAY’S PRAYER:  May we respond to you in faith, but thank you, Lord, that Your mercy and grace are not dispensed to us in the same measure as we demonstrate our faith.  Make us bold, Lord, to seek great things from You that further Your kingdom.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/23/16 – Lead Us to Calvary

DayBreaks for 2/23/16: Lead Us to Calvary

Galen is traveling. Today’s message is from the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

There is a wonderful old hymn, “Lead Me to Calvary.”  Three of the verses go like this:

King of my life I crown Thee now, Thine shall the glory be

Lest I forget Thy thorn-crowned brow, Lead me to Calvary.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,

Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

Show me the tomb where Thou was laid, Tenderly mourned and wept;

Angels in robes of light arrayed, Guarded Thee whilst Thou slept.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,

Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

May I be willing, Lord to bear daily my cross for Thee;

Even thy cup of grief to share, Thou has borne all for me.

Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony,

Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.

“Lead us to Calvary.  There are two ways to go there.  One way is to go as spectators, there for the show, not acknowledging our complicity in any way.  The other way is to go as penitent sinners, knowing our need for Christ even as we acknowledge our acquiescence in his death.” – Fleming Rutledge, The Undoing of Death

How long has it been since you’ve gone to Calvary – not as a spectator, but as a penitent?  What is there today that you need to repent of?  What will you nail to the cross today?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Jesus, we have much to repent of.  Already today, we’ve been impatient, anxious, envious, perhaps angry, lustful and bitter.  Don’t let those things live in our hearts, Lord.  Lead us ever so gently to your cross that we may fall on our knees in humility and repentance.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/22/16 – Either Way You’re Out

DayBreaks for 2/22/16: Either Way You’re Out

Galen is traveling. Today’s message is from the DayBreaks archive, 2006:

I’ve spoken before about my maternal grandfather.  Even though for nearly all his life he was an Iowa farmer, he saw so much change during his lifetime!  He was born in the 1800’s and lived for 102 years.  Consider all the change he saw in that time: cars, jets, nuclear power, two world wars (plus other wars), tractors, insect-resistant plants and seeds, space travel, moon landings…you get the idea.  It’s hard for me to realize that he undoubtedly saw and knew some people who fought in the Civil War. 

One day when I was just a young pup, I was helping him and one of his friends on the farm “put up hay.”  It was a hot, humid Iowa summer day, and I remember that we were sitting in the shade of a tree as we waited for the next load of hay to come in from the field, pulled by a tractor on a large hay wagon.  As we sat there, we talked about many things.  I asked him about some of the changes he’d seen in his life.  He wasn’t a very talkative man, but I’ll never forget something that he said to me.  As he talked about his life and the fact that he was still working hard (he lived alone and worked on the farm until he was 95 years old!), he told me “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” 

That impressed me.  I made it my own mantra, at least at times.  It sounded good.  Who wants to rust out – to be cast aside as useless?  When we think about our deaths, my guess is that we picture ourselves going out in a blaze of glory – doing something we love or something worthwhile.  None of us want to go out sitting alone in a chair – solitary figures passing into the shadows.

But now, I’m not so sure.  The great plague of our day is busyness – we have far too much that we try to do.  And we seek “balance” in our lives.  The problem, you see, with my grandfather’s advice, was that regardless of whether you wear out or rust out – you’re still out, and it doesn’t really matter how you got there.  We need to have ordered hearts – ready to do His bidding – but not hearts that are overwhelmed with busyness.  Too much to do can lead to ulcers and breakdowns.  To little leads to despair and emptiness. 

Are you looking for balance in your life?  Don’t.  Look to have a heart ordered after God.  Read the descriptions about the apostle Paul and his sufferings (2 Cor. 11:23-29) and ask yourself if you think Paul’s goal in life was to find a happy balance, or to pursue Christlikeness and His kingdom with every ounce of energy he had.  For you, what is it that you want on your tombstone: “He was the most balanced person I ever knew”?  That’s not what I want.

God wants more from us than burnout or rusting out.  He has a great purpose for each and every one of us.  Are you up for it?

2 Corinthians 11:23-29 – Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked . Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  God, we long to find meaning and purpose for our lives.   We are tired of busyness that doesn’t really count for anything.  We have bought into so many stories about what would make us happy and fulfilled.  And we have been very much deceived.  Help us to order our hearts and turn our ears to hear and do Your bidding.  Help us be all that You long to make us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/19/16 – What Humans Can Do

DayBreaks for 2/19/16: What Humans Can Do

In recent months we’ve been witness to terrifying images coming out of the middle east as terrorists have beheaded newspaper reporters and other captives.  We hear stories about suicide bombers who not only kill themselves, but women, children and babies.  Thankfully, most of us will never see someone tortured to death.  I pray we never do.

In The Undoing of Death, Fleming Rutledge wrote: “But we are implicated in the powers of darkness just the same.  Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times about the movement to save the nuclear sites where the bombs were developed as tourist attractions.  One U.S. Senator said of the B Reactor, where plutonium was made for the Nagasaki bomb, “It would not be a place to spend a fun day; it would be sort of like the Holocaust Museum.”  But the president of the B Reactor Museum Association spoke with pride of the technological achievement: “When you stand in front of the reactor, you realize what humans can do…”  Yes.  When you look at a picture of the Crucifixion, you realize this is what humans can do.”

She makes a good point.  We want to believe the best about ourselves.  We want to deny that humans can do the kind of things “they” do…and then we realize to our great horror that we are “they.”  But we should present the other side of the picture, too: picture Mother Theresa, the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys, the martyrs in the jungles of South America as they carried the love of Jesus to the Waodani.  Yes, we are responsible for the Crucifixion.  We can also do things of such wonder and beauty, empowered by the Holy Spirit, that we scarcely are recognizable as humans.   It is at that moment in time that we must closely resemble the God in Who’s image we were created.  Humans, you see, are capable of both extremes.  That means we can choose.  What have you been choosing?  What will you choose in the moment of decision?

Romans 13:12 –The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don’t live in darkness . Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light.

TODAY’S PRAYER:  Lord, we want to be children of the Light, not of the darkness.  Help us to truly bear your image and likeness to people who so desperately need Your help.  Let us turn away from the unfruitful works of darkness.  May we become all that You intend for us to be!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/18/16 – The Real Story

DayBreaks for 2/18/16: The Real Story

From the DayBreaks archive, February 2006:

I love a good story!  I love stories of high adventure stories, historical stories, amusing anecdotes and just about any other kind of story you can think of.  We grew up on stories: Snow White, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Little Engine that Could, and of course a myriad of Aesop’s fables and other tall tales.  One of my favorite stories to read to my grand kids (and my children before them) was Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks.  Stories capture our imagination and we can visualize the action and feelings of those involved in the story. 

We also love to tell stories.  I love to tell stories about my family – about the adventures of our kids, their achievements, the things we did together and places we went to visit.  And, let’s be honest: we even love to tell stories about our surgeries and our experiences in that regard!  Stories help us learn and can help others avoid some of the same mistakes we’ve made in our own lives.

The first one of the world’s great books that I read was Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote.  I read it when I was in high school, and I was totally entranced.  I tried to picture myself as Don Quixote – who although he may have been more than a bit addled – had great dreams and visions and ambitions – and I found myself dreaming, with him, the Impossible Dream – and thinking I could make it come true. 

As Andree Seu writes in World Magazine, There is nothing more tragic than to walk around all your life in the wrong story – thinking yourself a knight-errant and mistaking windmills for giants, skinny stable horses for noble Rosinante, and unexceptional peasant girls for Dulcinea.

Some of the stories that we invest ourselves in aren’t worth our time.  Rather than getting caught up in stories about ourselves and our achievements.  Ms. Seu continued: Reminding yourself of the real story is good for what ails you.  If you’ve gotten too high and mighty, it reminds you that you are ‘dust.’  If you’re feeling like dust, it reminds you of your glorious destiny.

I hope and pray that we will become participants in the Great Story, the Unending Story that will be told, retold and sung about throughout eternal ages without end.  That story, you see, isn’t about me.  It’s not about my kids.  It’s not about you.  It’s about the Lamb that was slain, but Who lives forevermore.  That’s the real story that we need to be a part of.  

Each day our lives write another chapter in the story of humanity and more particularly, of our own lives.  What will your chapter look like at the end of the day today?

TODAY’S PRAYER:  How deceived we are, Father, when we think that the story of our life is about us!  Help us to engage in the Real Story, to live it, to tell it, and to enjoy it forever in the halls of Your heaven.  Let us tell THAT story every chance we get.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Copyright 2016, all rights reserved.