A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Matthew 26:31-35 "I Will Never..."

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,  and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. 

 It started with Peter, then all the others joined in, "I will never..."  But in the end, they did.  Peter did, and the rest did as well. They did what they said they would never do.

This does make me stop and think.  Where am I deceived?  What am I capable of?  What remains in me that the enemy could exploit?

I don't suppose very many addicts started out thinking they would ever be addicts.  I don't guess very many murderers intended to be murderers.  Most leaders who experience moral failure never intended to have a moral failure. 

Whatever the sin, when it comes to the biggies, we would all like to think that we will never go there or do that.  And it seems that just making the declaration, "I will never..." is not a very effective preventative.  So, how do we guard against doing those things that we don't want to do -or perhaps against those things we kind of want to do but know we shouldn't do?  How do we lessen the risk?

I think maybe it starts with coming out of denial.  Obviously we (as humans) are capable of every kind of evil.  And we (as individual Christians) are capable of pretty much anything other people are capable of.  Just admitting that it could happen increases our ability to prevent it.

Admitting our vulnerability puts us in a good position to humbly seek God's provision.  When I understand that I am at risk, I am in a good position to actually ask Father, "What is the plan?  How can I stay connected to You in such a way that keeps me safe from the enemy's schemes?"  Clearly, I am at much greater risk when I am relying on my own strength and my own best thinking.

On my own, I am weak and vulnerable and and easy target -even when I feel strong and invulnerable. On the other hand, when I humbly admit my weakness and trust in Father's provision, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

So, Father, today show me Your plan.  Help me not to rely on my own thinking, rather, to trust You and follow You closely -one step behind You, walking where You walk.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Matthew 26:26-30 "A New Agreement"

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”
 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it,  for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.  Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” 
Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Keeping in mind that Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the traditional Passover meal, what Jesus does and says here is a little surprising.  Seder meals (the Passover meal) are scripted, kind of like a play.  Every year the same words get said at the same times in the course of the meal.  The meal is a remembrance of the Israelites' deliverance from bondage in Egypt.  They remembered how God had orchestrated their escape through Moses, and how He had provided for them in the wilderness and how He had brought them into their land.  Jewish people had celebrated this meal/play every year since ancient time.  In fact, modern Jewish people still celebrate the Seder meal.

Because Jesus' disciples were Jewish men, they had each celebrated this traditional Seder meal every single year of their lives.  They knew the script by heart.  So, it was surprising when Jesus picked up the bread in the middle of the meal and instead of saying the traditional words, He said, "This is my body, given for you...take it and eat it."  The disciples evidently obeyed, but were, no doubt, a little confused.  What did this mean?  They didn't understand.

A while later in the same meal, Jesus took the cup of wine -again, instead of reciting the familiar words of the Seder, He said, "In this cup is my blood -a new covenant between God and His people.  It is poured out for the forgiveness of sins....Take and drink."  Awkward, confusing, frightening words.

At the time, the disciples did not understand.  They did not yet know that the Kingdom Jesus talked of so often was not an overthrow of the Roman government -it was an overthrow of all political, social and religious systems for all time.  They did not know that yet -but they would learn it soon enough.

They would learn it, but I often wonder, have we learned it?  Do we know what it means that the first will be last and the last will be first?  Do we know what it means to treat everyone else as better than ourselves?  Have we learned to care for the widows and orphans and poor and broken of this world?  Do we treat the marginalized and hopeless with the same dignity and respect that we treat the prosperous?  Can we pray sincerely that Father will forgive our sins to the same degree that we are willing to forgive others when they sin against us?  Can we even pray sincerely that His will be accomplished here on earth in the same way it is is heaven?

This covenant in the shed blood of Jesus is about so much more than where we go when we die.  It is about how we live our lives here and now.  Yes, the Kingdom is coming.  But at the same time, the Kingdom has come -it is here.  It is at the same time, here and not yet.  We must not wait until Jesus returns to begin living in the Kingdom.  He shed His blood and gave His body so that we can begin living in the Kingdom now as we await the glorious fulfillment of the Kingdom later.

Lord, help me live today as a Kingdom person -seeking first your Kingdom and righteousness; help me trust You for anything else I need along the way.  Amen.