Wednesday, May 22, 2019

EmmDev 2019-05-22 [Keeping Going...] It's more than OK to ask for prayer


It's more than OK to ask for prayer

I've called our current series "Keeping Going..."

I've sensed that many of us are in that place where we are depleted emotionally, physically and spiritually and that we are constantly facing disappointments from society. The things we had hoped for from the economy, our politicians and so on have been slow in arriving and we experience high levels of anger and cynicism in society.

But we need to keep going.
We need to carry the flame of God's love to the world.
We should be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

So how do we do this?
I've already talked about discouragement and encouragement and yesterday Max Lucado helped us with the choices we must make every day.

Today I want to consider an idea that many people balk at:
Asking people to pray for you in your struggle.

This is something people hesitate to do:
"People are so busy - how can I burden them with prayer requests?"
"With so many people with much bigger needs than mine, how can I ask for prayer?"
"Do I even deserve having people pray for me and God answering those requests?"

But in our reading for today, Paul is adamant about about the power of prayer and fearless in asking for prayer:

  1. He "urges" the congregation in Rome to pray for Him
  2. He emphasises that we are family (brothers and sisters) in Christ
  3. He puts his request in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit. He's really indicating that God is completely behind this idea. (I love the fact that it is in Jesus' name as He is the one who knows our suffering and the "love of the Spirit" implies that the Spirit causes us to pray and that He prays with us.)
  4. He is adamant that when we struggle, praying to God for each other is effective.

So often we try to "go it alone". Sometimes we will sit down and share our burdens with others, but then that's all it is - an unburdening - we don't ask for the most important thing which is prayer. Some of the greatest breakthroughs in my spiritual journey have come when I have contacted a few mature Christian friends and said: "I am going through a struggle - please pray for me."

Not only is this a good thing, not only does it work, but Paul urges us to do it!

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.      (Romans15:30)


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

EmmDev 2019-05-21 [Keeping Going...] The Fruity Choice


The Fruity Choice

The picture you see is my view for my Quiet Time this morning. We've been blessed by friends who have let us use their timeshare and so we have a few days at Crystal Springs near Pilgrim's Rest.

As I had my devotions, the words of Max Lucado from his book "When God whispers your name" came to mind...

I'd like to share them with you. (You may have seen them before, but please read slowly and thoughtfully...)

It's quiet. It's early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day's demands. It is now that I must make a choice.

Because of Calvary, I'm free to choose. And so I choose.
I choose love. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical... the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace. I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose patience. I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I'll invite Him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.
I choose kindness. I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I choose goodness. I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness. Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.
I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful-ness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.       (Galatians5:22-23)


Friday, May 17, 2019

EmmDev 2019-05-17 [Keeping Going...] Discouragement - Encouragement


Discouragement - Encouragement

There is a story that Hell went out of business and Satan had to sell all his weapons. Doubt was on sale for a million dollars, murder was on sale for two million, deception was one-and-a-half million, and many others at similar prices. At the end of the table was a small box. It was on sale for a whopping ten million! One had to squint to read the writing on the box. It read "Discouragement."

Discouragement is one of the most pernicious enemies Christians face.

Here's how it works:

  • It sneaks up on you slowly.
  • It doesn't happen to you because you are sinning, but because you are doing right.
  • It's a little bit of tiredness here, a little bit of being taken for granted there, a bit of uphill in the road here and a bit of loneliness there and before you know it, your get-up-and-go has got up and left!
  • Once the get-up-and-go is gone, service to God and others becomes a bit of a slog, and, if it is not checked, you begin measure the personal cost of the service and before you know it, you're feeling sorry for yourself and the work for the Lord isn't fun any more!

So what is the antidote?
Encouragement.

We get encouraged in two important ways:

  1. Meeting together with God's people. We see others serving too. We see God moving in our midst and lives being changed and it makes it all worth it.
  2. We encourage each other. This is so important. If you see a fellow believer serving faithfully, take the time to pat them on the back and say "Good Job!" or drop them a text message or an email or write them a note. Get alongside and help if you see that the load is heavy. Remember them in your prayers.

We all need courage to keep serving God.
Life tends to dis-courage (i.e. pull courage apart e.g. dis-member dis-able)
But God's call is to "en"courage.
"En" is the Greek preposition for inward...
Our job is to put the courage back into people.

Let's instil courage back into those around us!

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
      (Hebrews10:25)


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

EmmDev 2019-05-07 Government


Government

We are on the eve of elections in South Africa. Tomorrow we go draw our crosses and participate in the process of governance in our land.

In the wake of corruption, scandals and leadership failures, there are many who are negative: about voting, about systems of governance and particularly about the diminishing overtly Christian practices in our government.

If anyone had reason to be negative about the governing powers, it was Paul. Rome was a totalitarian state that taxed its people heavily and enforced this with military might. Its leaders were morally, ethically and spiritually corrupt and, ultimately, Rome would persecute the church and Paul would be beheaded by the state.

Paul wrote about government to the church in Rome. This congregation's members would be driven into the catacombs and would face gladiators and lions. His views are so surprising, that I am surprised that some well-meaning copyist didn't leave these verses out! But this is what I love about the Bible: It doesn't just tell us what we want to hear, but also what we need to hear.

As we read the text, we see Paul making a number of points:

  1. God establishes government. Our world is a broken world and so no government is perfect and no leader is perfect, but God causes nations to rise and fall, He raises kings and princes and works out His purposes in the ebb and flow of history. It is important to note that God establishes authority and not individuals. It is never about people, but about governance. God establishes authority for the welfare of society. ("For he is God's servant to do you good") If your authority is not acting for the good of the people, use the system to move them out.
  2. We should not rebel against authority (unless we are being asked to do something contrary to God's will and even then we must still act lovingly). We should do what is right and pay taxes because this creates a stable and functioning society. When we don't, chaos ensues and so authority must also deal with those who do wrong.
  3. We should do right, not because of fear of punishment, but for the sake of conscience. The best governments instill a sense of self-governance in its citizens.
  4. We should also be as respectful as possible. This is tough, especially when our leaders behave badly. We don't have to tolerate bad behaviour, but respect their position
  5. At the end of the day, we need to fulfil our duties (or debt) to society. But even after we have "ticked all the boxes" there is one task that remains and this is to love.

Children draw kisses as little x-crosses. If you are voting tomorrow, let your x be a reminder that, above all else, you are being called to love your fellow human being. Imagine if we all started doing this!

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow human has fulfilled the law.      (Romans13:1-8)


Friday, April 19, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-19 [Lent2019] Easter in Three Pictures #3

Easter in Three Pictures #3

This year I found three images that have expressed so much of what I feel and believe around Holy Week. This third one is related to Resurrection Sunday. (And I'm sharing it with you, today, on Friday, because, after the heartbreak of the Cross, we need hope.)
There's a lot to like about this picture:

  • The solid stone of the grave hinting at the power death has over us.
  • The glorious light that depicts resurrection power,
  • The white robe portraying Jesus as sinless and pure
  • The bare feet reminding us that He shared in our vulnerable humanity
  • The striding up the stairs: Victory, Hope and Purpose
The words on the picture are spoken by the angel to the women who had come to embalm Jesus' body. The angel is the first preacher of the resurrection and he has a three point sermon:

  1. Don't be afraid. The crucified Jesus is Risen - just as He said.
    Fear has such a hold over us. We have to allow the resurrection speak to our fears.
  2. Come and see. He's not here! Although time is of the essence (he will tell them to go quickly to the disciples), there is time and place for the woman to be certain that Jesus is not there - that He is risen. In a time where the bodily resurrection seems to be negotiable for some theologians, we, with the women, are urged to absorb and appreciate the fact that the tomb is empty.
  3. Go and tell His disciples that He's going ahead and they must follow to see Him. It really is true that we see and experience the Risen Jesus best when we are following in His steps rather than waiting for Him to "prove" Himself to us.
I love the little phrase at the end of the angel's sermon: "Now (Behold/See) I have told you." It's as though he's saying "See! I've done it! I've faithfully discharged my duty, now so must you..."
It's my prayer that these three images of will lodge themselves deep in your heart as you worship Him this Easter:

  • The lone palm waving worshipper and the King
  • The cruel nails
  • The Victory of the empty tomb
And see, now I've told you....
The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."      (Matthew28:5-7)
This brings us to the end of the Lent 2019 series.
I pray it has been a blessing to you.
I'll be taking a break from e-devotions until May.


 

The Most Important Event

Today we celebrate the most important and yet tragic event of human history:
All the pain and guilt of broken humanity inflicted on the One who had done nothing wrong.
We've been reading through the Gospel of Mark through Lent.
The last reading is pasted below - nothing more needs to be said....
God bless you on this GOOD FRIDAY.
Theo

15 At dawn’s first light, the high priests, with the religious leaders and scholars, arranged a conference with the entire Jewish Council. After tying Jesus securely, they took him out and presented him to Pilate. 2-3 Pilate asked him, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?” He answered, “If you say so.” The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations. 4-5 Pilate asked again, “Aren’t you going to answer anything? That’s quite a list of accusations.” Still, he said nothing. Pilate was impressed, really impressed. 6-10 It was a custom at the Feast to release a prisoner, anyone the people asked for. There was one prisoner called Barabbas, locked up with the insurrectionists who had committed murder during the uprising against Rome. As the crowd came up and began to present its petition for him to release a prisoner, Pilate anticipated them: “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews to you?” Pilate knew by this time that it was through sheer spite that the high priests had turned Jesus over to him. 11-12 But the high priests by then had worked up the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas. Pilate came back, “So what do I do with this man you call King of the Jews?” 13 They yelled, “Nail him to a cross!” 14 Pilate objected, “But for what crime?” But they yelled all the louder, “Nail him to a cross!” 15 Pilate gave the crowd what it wanted, set Barabbas free and turned Jesus over for whipping and crucifixion. 16-20 The soldiers took Jesus into the palace (called Praetorium) and called together the entire brigade. They dressed him up in purple and put a crown plaited from a thornbush on his head. Then they began their mockery: “Bravo, King of the Jews!” They banged on his head with a club, spit on him, and knelt down in mock worship. After they had had their fun, they took off the purple cape and put his own clothes back on him. Then they marched out to nail him to the cross.
21 There was a man walking by, coming from work, Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. They made him carry Jesus’ cross. 22-24 The soldiers brought Jesus to Golgotha, meaning “Skull Hill.” They offered him a mild painkiller (wine mixed with myrrh), but he wouldn’t take it. And they nailed him to the cross. They divided up his clothes and threw dice to see who would get them. 25-30 They nailed him up at nine o’clock in the morning. The charge against him—the king of the jews—was printed on a poster. Along with him, they crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: “You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days—so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you’re really God’s Son, come down from that cross!” 31-32 The high priests, along with the religion scholars, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: “He saved others—but he can’t save himself! Messiah, is he? King of Israel? Then let him climb down from that cross. We’ll all become believers then!” Even the men crucified alongside him joined in the mockery. 33-34 At noon the sky became extremely dark. The darkness lasted three hours. At three o’clock, Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” 35-36 Some of the bystanders who heard him said, “Listen, he’s calling for Elijah.” Someone ran off, soaked a sponge in sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.” 37-39 But Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath. At that moment the Temple curtain ripped right down the middle. When the Roman captain standing guard in front of him saw that he had quit breathing, he said, “This has to be the Son of God!”
40-41 There were women watching from a distance, among them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women followed and served him, and had come up with him to Jerusalem. 42-45 Late in the afternoon, since it was the Day of Preparation (that is, Sabbath eve), Joseph of Arimathea, a highly respected member of the Jewish Council, came. He was one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God. Working up his courage, he went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate questioned whether he could be dead that soon and called for the captain to verify that he was really dead. Assured by the captain, he gave Joseph the corpse. 46-47 Having already purchased a linen shroud, Joseph took him down, wrapped him in the shroud, placed him in a tomb that had been cut into the rock, and rolled a large stone across the opening. Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Joses, watched the burial.
16 1-3 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so they could embalm him. Very early on Sunday morning, as the sun rose, they went to the tomb. They worried out loud to each other, “Who will roll back the stone from the tomb for us?” 4-5 Then they looked up, saw that it had been rolled back—it was a huge stone—and walked right in. They saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed all in white. They were completely taken aback, astonished. 6-7 He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” 8 They got out as fast as they could, beside themselves, their heads swimming. Stunned, they said nothing to anyone. 9-11 [After rising from the dead, Jesus appeared early on Sunday morning to Mary Magdalene, whom he had delivered from seven demons. She went to his former companions, now weeping and carrying on, and told them. When they heard her report that she had seen him alive and well, they didn’t believe her. 12-13 Later he appeared, but in a different form, to two of them out walking in the countryside. They went back and told the rest, but they weren’t believed either. 14-16 Still later, as the Eleven were eating supper, he appeared and took them to task most severely for their stubborn unbelief, refusing to believe those who had seen him raised up. Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. Whoever believes and is baptized is saved; whoever refuses to believe is damned. 17-18 “These are some of the signs that will accompany believers: They will throw out demons in my name, they will speak in new tongues, they will take snakes in their hands, they will drink poison and not be hurt, they will lay hands on the sick and make them well.” 19-20 Then the Master Jesus, after briefing them, was taken up to heaven, and he sat down beside God in the place of honour. And the disciples went everywhere preaching, the Master working right with them, validating the Message with indisputable evidence.]


Thursday, April 18, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-18 [Lent2019] Easter in Three Pictures #2

Easter in Three Pictures #2

This year I found three images that have been so evocative of the feelings I have around Holy Week. The second one is related to Good Friday.
 
I use highlighting pencils to mark my Bible as I read. One year I decided to highlight any references to Jesus' suffering in purple as I re-read the Holy Week account in Mark's Gospel from Palm Sunday to the resurrection. I looked for obvious and not-so-obvious descriptions of Jesus' suffering.
The obvious ones were easy: The beating and mocking at the hands of the soldiers, hearing the crowd cry "crucify", carrying His cross and then hanging on it, and more.

The not-so-obvious ones included the times Jesus was not recognised for who He really was, where He saw the Court of the Gentiles being used as a market-place, where the Pharisees tried to catch Him out like a common conman, and the disciples who scolded the woman who anointed Him with perfume, calling her act of love a waste.

There's a lot of purple in Mark 11-16 in my Bible.
I grew up in the era that didn't feel we should portray Jesus. One of the most incredible scenes in the classic version of "Ben Hur" is the one where Jesus gives Ben Hur a drink of water, and while He is not portrayed, His life-changing influence is clear.

Portraying Jesus on the cross is a stretch for me.
And so this simple picture of the kind of nails used by the Roman soldiers really evokes the brokenness that Jesus embraced on the cross for me...
Good Friday is tough.

We could say that Jesus was nailed for our sin.
We could say that the cross was the last nail in His coffin.
We could say that He nailed sin, death and Satan.
We could say that He is as tough as nails.

And we should imagine holding those nails and a hammer in our hands.
We should imagine being pierced by those nails.
We should imagine trying to deal with all of life's nails alone.
And we should say - thank You Jesus for what you did for me!

Thomas thought about the nails...
Then he saw what the nails had done to Jesus.
And he believed!

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!"
But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"      (John20:24-27)


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-17 [Lent2019] Easter in Three Pictures #1


Easter in Three Pictures #1

This year I found three images that have been powerfully symbolic of the message of Holy Week. The first one is related to Palm Sunday.

Jesus was an 'unexpected' Messiah for the Jews. They had expected a political figure who would chase the Romans into the sea, establish an earthly throne in Jerusalem and set up a kingdom that the likes of King David would only have dreamed about. When Jesus came and established a heavenly kingdom - a kingdom of the heart - many expectations were disappointed. Some even suggest that Judas betrayed Jesus to "force His hand" - to propel Him into taking the route of power and conquest instead of humility.

What animal would you expect a coming Messiah to ride? Our imaginations swing to a great white stallion - a symbol of power, strength, and war (maybe even a holy war.)

But there is an old prophecy in Zechariah that was missed by the religious establishment... In contrast, to a King on a Stallion, the Messiah comes riding a donkey's foal. What connotations come from riding a donkey's foal? It was mode of transport for the elderly or children. It would be the mount chosen by a soothsaying prophet or a wise hermit.

Riding a donkey is not the declaration of war, but a statement of the intent of peace. This was Jesus' mode of transport on Palm Sunday as He entered Jerusalem. It was a week before Passover, Jerusalem was full of pilgrims, they were remembering the miraculous Exodus from Egypt and so nationalistic fervour ran high. Jesus sent a crystal clear message on that day: His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom. He was not willing to go to war to obtain peace. He came not as a Victor, but a Victim, and He would grant salvation by giving Himself.

So... put yourself in the sandals of the lone-worshipper in the picture....
Read again the beautiful promise of just Who it is riding the donkey...
Look at His title, consider His nature and the gift He bears. Consider His message: "I am the servant who brings peace by laying down my life."
And then "Rejoice greatly" and "Shout!"

Rejoice greatly O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your King comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.      (Zechariah9:9)


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-16 [Lent2019] Trials and Trouble: Hebrews


Trials and Trouble: Hebrews

We've been on the "Via Dolorosa" (the Way of Suffering that Jesus walked for us). We've explored how Paul, James and Peter approached the problem of pain in the light of Jesus' suffering for us. Our last perspective on this comes from the anonymous author of the letter to the Hebrews.

The letter is an amazing journey. It starts off talking about the fact that God has always spoken to His people: Through the prophets, the angels, the Law of Moses and the circumstances of history. But, says the Hebrews writer, God has now spoken through the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, God's Son.

This Son, he asserts, is greater than the angels. He is greater than Moses and the Law. He is greater than the Levitical Priesthood, both in His ability to obtain forgiveness and in His ability to identify with our brokenness and pain. Having no brokenness of His own, He can take on ours completely.

And so the writer confirms: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Heb4:15-16)

So, when trouble comes our way, the Hebrews writer urges us to "fix our eyes" on Jesus our perfect Priest, Intermediary and Intercessor:

  • He didn't have to go to the cross, but He chose to. (The "joy set before Him" was fulfilling the Father's Will and thereby obtaining our salvation
  • He endured the cross. This required tenacity, strength and courage.
  • He scorned its shame. He saw beyond the temporary suffering to the greater goal and so must we.
  • He sat down at the right hand of God. You only sit down when it's done. He pushed through to the end.

The bottom-line of the Hebrews writer's approach is this: When people who are faced with suffering ask "Where is God?" The answer is: "He's in the middle of it. The cross is the place where He speaks to our pain. When we look at Him facing the cross, we know that we are not alone and He shows us how to get through it."

Read the beautiful passage below and pray with me: "Dear Lord, when I'm in pain I tend to lose perspective and think that no-one has it as bad as me. But I'm not completely innocent like You were. I'm never a complete victim like You were. And yet You suffered and endured so that I'm not alone and I can get strength from You. Please help me to look to You when I struggle. In the name of the One who walked the Via Dolorosa. Amen."

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.      (Hebrews12:2-3)


Saturday, April 13, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-13 [Lent2019] Trials and Trouble: Paul#3


Trials and Trouble: Paul#3

Because Jesus walked the "Via Dolorosa" and rose from the dead, we have hope when we walk on the "Way of Suffering". Paul explains the power of God in the midst of our suffering: 

In our verse for today, Paul talks about "temptation" but the Greek word, Peirasmos, also means trial or hardship. It's the word he uses to describe his eye problem to the Galatians. It's the word he uses in Acts 20 to describe his sufferings on his missionary journeys. It's the word that James and Peter used in the passages we looked at earlier this week.

When we go through trouble, we are very tempted to believe that our trouble is bigger than anyone else's and that we are being hit harder than anyone else is being hit. Paul knocks this myth out of the park. When we suffer, we are not being given special treatment. We are not being "singled out" and God "doesn't have it in for us." We are simply experiencing or partaking in human brokenness.

This is so counter to our mid-suffering thinking processes. We obsess with "Why me Lord?" and "Why now Lord?" but Paul is quite clear. Our troubles are not unique or special - Our troubles are "common" to humanity. In fact, the Greek puts it like this: "To have trials is to be human."

But because of Jesus' "Via Dolorosa" we have two strong hopes:
  1. He knows our limits - He's been where we are. He pushed beyond the limits - He was God-forsaken so that we never have to be.
  2. He gives us a way out. Because He defeated death, sin and Satan, we share in His victory and He will carry us through our pain.
Read the beautiful passage below and pray with me: "Lord, sometimes I let pain get out of perspective. Thank You that You know my limits and that You will help me get through this. Help me to trust in You. In the name of the One who walked the Via Dolorosa. Amen."

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.      (1Corinthians10:13)


Friday, April 12, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-12 [Lent2019] Trials and Trouble: Paul#2


Trials and Trouble: Paul#2

We're still considering the "Via Dolorosa" that Jesus walked for us. We're still with Paul who also walked on the "Way of Suffering". In today's passage he talks about a "thorn in the flesh"...

Scholars aren't sure what his ailment was. Some suggest that it was an ongoing eye infection that disfigured him (puss streamed from his eyes) and limited his vision (when he wrote, he had to use big letters - he talks about it in Galatians.) Whatever the ailment was, it vexed him.

If you have ever had to deal with an ongoing condition or persistent pain, then you are in good company with Paul. Here's what he learned:

  1. Suffering can help us remain humble and see what is important. When everything always goes well, we become the centre of our universes and everything becomes about us. When we bump our heads against a problem we can't solve, it can re-focus us. It's important to note that Paul uses the passive voice: "there was given me a thorn..." It's not a case of God saying "Hmmmmmm, I see that Theo is getting a bit big for his boots - let me zap him with some trouble...." Paul uses the passive voice to make it clear that there is already trouble in the world because our world is broken. God allows trouble, but He is not its author. When trouble comes - which it does in a broken world - God is subversively at work helping us to grow.
  2. Sometimes healing and relief don't come immediately. This is a mystery. Why are some healed and some are not? Why are some spared from injury and others have to go through the challenges of recovery and convalescence? Sometimes we plead and God heals, other times we plead and "nothing" happens. (Although that "nothing" is often the strengthening of our character, resolve and courage.)
  3. God gives us grace and grace is enough. Some of the most incredible people I have met have been lying in hospital beds, sitting in wheelchairs or going through the most harrowing circumstances. Grace is the undeserved love of God that trumps the separating claim that pain has on us. Pain, misfortune, loss try to tell us that God is cross with us and that we deserve this. Grace says "I don't care what brokenness is doing to you - I am with you and my love will see you through it."

Read the incredible passage below and pray with me: "Lord sometimes the persistence of pain can drive me crazy. Please help me to keep my eyes on You and give me the "carbs" (grace) I need to finish this marathon. In the name of the One who walked the Via Dolorosa. Amen."

[It's pilgRim Friday where we read more Scripture. Significantly, our readings today take us into Jesus' "Via Dolorosa"... See below...]

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.      (2Corinthians12:7-10)


MK 13:1 As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
2 "Do you see all these great buildings?" replied Jesus. "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?"
5 Jesus said to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, I am he,' and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 "When you see the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong--let the reader understand--then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now--and never to be equaled again. 20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ!' or, Look, there he is!' do not believe it. 22 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
24 "But in those days, following that distress,
" the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
MK 13:25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'
26 "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!' "

MK 14:1 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. 2 "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot."
3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.
6 "Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?' 15 He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me--one who is eating with me."
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"
20 "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
23 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. 25 "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written:
" I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.'

28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."
29 Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not."
30 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today--yes, tonight--before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times."
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch."
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard." 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 "Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 "We heard him say, I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' " 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
"You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said.
68 But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway.
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean."
71 He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.

MK 15:1 Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
2 "Are you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate.
"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.
3 The chief priests accused him of many things. 4 So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of."
5 But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
6 Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. 7 A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. 8 The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
9 "Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate, 10 knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
12 "What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked them.
13 "Crucify him!" they shouted.
14 "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!"
15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, "Hail, king of the Jews!" 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
25 It was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. 27 They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 come down from the cross and save yourself!"
31 In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! 32 Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe." Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
33 At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, "Listen, he's calling Elijah."
36 One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. "Now leave him alone. Let's see if Elijah comes to take him down," he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-11 [Lent2019] Trials and Trouble: Paul#1


Trials and Trouble: Paul#1

Jesus' journey to the cross is called the "Via Dolorosa" (the Way of Suffering). Because Jesus embraced our suffering James, Paul, Peter and the early church were able to face suffering too. Yesterday we saw how Peter trumped trouble with hope, how he saw trouble as an opportunity to grow and how God draws near to us in trouble.

Today we come to Paul's perspective...

Paul recognised that people and their lives are but clay pots. (In Graeco-Roman culture, clay pots were regarded as not very valuable, used for menial functions and discarded easily.) His point is that life was fragile, undervalued and often regarded as disposable.

But there is a great treasure placed in us. God has breathed His Spirit into us and so we are valuable and strong. This means that although trouble comes, we have a remarkable capacity to survive. The persecutors of the early church discovered this to their frustration. They put Christians before lions and gladiators, set them on fire in Nero's garden and harassed them so badly that they had to hide in the catacomb graves underground and... still... the... church... survived!!!

What gives the followers of Jesus the power to survive trials and persecution? Jesus, the one who faced God's wrath for guilty humanity, carried all our brokenness on the cross and willingly surrendered to death not only rose from the dead but He lives in us! He knows our pain and His resurrection is at work in us.

So Paul says: death is at work, but so is life. There is no guarantee that there will not be pain and death, but life will triumph over death.

Read the incredible passage below and pray with me: "Lord there are days that I feel very much like a clay pot: Plain, ordinary, disposable and fragile. But you have given me Your breath. I have eternal value and You (the One who conquered death) will bring life to me. Thank You! In the name of the One who walked the Via Dolorosa. Amen."

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
      (2Corinthians4:7-12)


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-10 [Lent2019] Trials and Trouble: Peter


Trials and Trouble: Peter

We're still considering the "Via Dolorosa" (the Way of Suffering) that Jesus walked to the cross. Because Jesus embraced our suffering James, Paul, Peter and the early church were able to face suffering too. Yesterday we saw how James recognised that trouble comes, but can be faced with joy because we can grow through it and ask for wisdom as we need it.

Peter makes 3 vital points about our troubles and hardships:

1. Peter approaches trouble from the perspective of hope. Although some would accuse him of being "pie in the sky one day when we die", we need to remember that Peter was so sure in his hope that church history tells us that he requested to be crucified upside down because he didn't count himself worthy of dying like Jesus did. His future hope gave him the courage to do this. He saw an inheritance that would neither perish, spoil or fade...

2. But Peter was also convinced that trials and trouble offered an opportunity to grow. When gold is melted, the heaviness of its molecules means that all other impurities (the "dross") float to the top, leaving pure gold underneath. When we go through trouble, it brings an amazing clarity about the things that really matter and focuses our priorities like nothing else.

3. The other amazing thing about suffering is that God draws us near to Him in a way that defies logic and understanding. Although the trouble can make us feel far from God, we can emerge from a time of trial loving Him more and being more certain of his presence. This is the counter-intuitive aspect of our faith - our troubles don't diminish our hope but increase it: "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..."

Now read through the passage with these three points in mind and then pray with me: "Dear Lord, it's easy to lose hope when trouble comes. Help me to keep the bigger picture in mind. Thank you that trouble helps me to see the things that really matter. Help me to draw near to You and fill me with the courage+hope+purpose=joy that I need. In the name of the One who walked the Via Dolorosa. Amen.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.      (1Peter1:3-9)


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-09 [Lent2019] Trials and Trouble: James


Trials and Trouble: James

One of the great comforts of Easter is the "Via Dolorosa" - the road of pain and suffering that Jesus walked. For this week of Lent leading up to Palm Sunday, we're going to spend a bit of time considering our trials and trouble and how Jesus embraced our pain on the cross.

Our first guide is James. This is not James the brother of John who was a disciple. (That James was martyred in about 44 AD) This is James the son of Mary and Joseph, brother of Jesus. James considered his older brother to be deluded and so only came to faith when Jesus appeared to him after rising from the dead. He quickly rose to prominence as a leader in the early church and would eventually be martyred in about 62AD.

In his letter to the church, he gives four valuable guidelines through suffering:


Firstly, James doesn't talk about suffering as a "maybe" or a "possibly". He talks about trials and trouble as a "whenever". We are not promised a trouble-free life. Many of us spend overmuch time contemplating why trouble has come our way instead of recognising that we're in the company of Jesus, the early church and the heroes of the faith when we go through tough times.

Secondly, we must choose to face our troubles with joy. In Hebrews we read that Jesus "endured" the cross for the "joy set before Him." Joy is not a superficial happy emotion, but a powerful attitude that arises from purpose, faith and hope. We're called to do the same...

In the third place, God brings good out of our trouble. Later on in verse 13, James makes it clear that God is not the author of trouble, but He transforms it. Our trouble may seem a muddy bog, but in God's hands, mud becomes clay and can be formed into beautiful vessels. Trouble leads to Perseverance, Maturity and a Crown of Life.

Finally, trouble can shake our foundations. If it didn't, it would not be so troublesome. And so we're invited to ask for help (wisdom) in the midst of our trouble. The problem is that we often are driven by our emotions (up and down like the waves of the sea) when we have doubts. We can ask for wisdom, but we can't let our emotions drive the bus.

Now read through the passage with these four points in mind and then pray with me: "Dear Lord, there are times that trouble comes uninvited and unexpected. Help me to handle my trouble maturely and to grow through it. Give me faith in You, clarity of Your purpose for my life and hope that You will defeat all trouble. When my emotions want to drive the bus, give me the wisdom I need. I pray this for those around me going through tough times too. In the name of the One who walked the Via Dolorosa. Amen.


Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does...
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.      (James1:2-12)


Friday, April 5, 2019

EmmDev 2019-04-05 [Lent2019] A great habit


A great habit

On pilgRim Fridays we consider Reading more of God's Word.

Paul is encouraging his protege', Timothy, to persevere in the path of faith. It is not insignificant that the Scriptures play a very big role in this.

Timothy has known the Scriptures from infancy. There is a tremendous comfort that comes from having a deep familiarity with Scripture. It is an an advantage to read the Bible from childhood, but, it is never to late to start reading the scriptures regularly.

What are the benefits?

  • The Scriptures make us wise for salvation:- This means understanding and being grateful for our own salvation and for leading others to salvation.
  • The Scriptures are God-breathed:- We're getting in touch with God directly. We're hearing His voice, His perspective and His truth.
  • The Scriptures have practical life application: We find practical guidance for teaching, confronting that which is wrong (rebuking), correcting, and training in righteousness.

The outcome? We'll be properly equipped!

Yes but how?

Many people would like to have a better Bible-Reading-Habit but don't know where to start. Here are some telegram tips. There's much more to be said but this is a good start.

  1. Pray before you start - that the eyes of your heart will be open.
  2. Set aside a regular time of the day. (Create a habit) Some time when you're alert and awake. Some people use the 15 minutes when they have arrived at work early before the phones start ringing. Others use 15 minutes in their lunch break.
  3. Start small. Don't try to do too much!
  4. Use an easy to read translation.
  5. Start with the Gospels (Matthew-John) Leave Leviticus, Revelation, and Job for when you have had some practice at this!!! Read systematically through a Bible Book or use a Bible reading guide.
  6. Read page or two (not too much) go for quality above quantity. Read slowly and thoughtfully. I highlight verses that stand out.
  7. Summarise mentally or in a notebook... What did I learn about God, myself, or life today? Is there a prayer, action, or attitude re-alignment that needs to happen?
  8. Pray when you have finished - that you can apply what has been learned

(Your next 3 chapters from Mark are below...)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.      (2Timothy3:14-17)

MK 10:1 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.
2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"
3 "What did Moses command you?" he replied.
4 They said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away."
5 "It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law," Jesus replied. 6 "But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.' 7 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery."
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' "
20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
28 Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 "We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise."
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask."
36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
37 They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory."
38 "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"
39 "We can," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared."
41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
MK 11:1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you doing this?' tell him, 'The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.' "
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, "What are you doing, untying that colt?" 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
"Hosanna! "

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

10 "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!"

"Hosanna in the highest!"
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:

"'My house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations' ?

But you have made it 'a den of robbers.' "
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, they went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. "
27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you authority to do this?"
29 Jesus replied, "I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John's baptism--was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!"
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' 32 But if we say, 'From men' . . . ." (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, "We don't know."
Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
MK 12:1 He then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 "He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
7 "But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 "What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven't you read this scripture:
" 'The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes' ?"
12 Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn't we?"
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
"Caesar's," they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
And they were amazed at him.
18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"
24 Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising--have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob' ? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!"
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."
32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
" 'The Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet." '

37 David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 40 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on."