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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Quiet Time: Betrayal

by Stephen Huneck

Read: Matthew 26:20-22

Being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” – Matthew 26:22

Has an enemy ever been unfaithful to you? Of course not; only a friend can betray a friend. Have you ever been misled by an unscrupulous sales person? Sure you have! Why? Because they acted like they were your friend, when in reality they simply wanted something from you. A friend doesn’t want something from you, they just want you. That’s what surprised me when I see Jesus telling His disciples, His closest friends, “Truly I say to you, that one of you will betray me.”

Jesus knew who would betray Him, yet He spoke to the whole group sitting around the table for the Passover meal. I mean, He could’ve taken Judas aside and said, “You, snake! I know what you’re up to. Go do what you’re going to do and let me have this time alone with my friends.” But, instead, He causes everyone in the room with Him to question their commitment; to question their friendship. And, now here’s the part that surprised me: they all began to say to Him, “Surely not, I, Lord?” which tells me that they all thought they were capable of betraying Him!

Well, that got me to thinking. If the guys who were closest to Jesus, who walked with Him daily, and sat at His feet while he taught them the way of the cross. If these guys thought that they could actually forsake their friend, their “Lord”, where did that leave me? Could I desert Him? Would I turn my back on Him and walk away from our friendship?

You know what, I think I have left Him. I imagine we all have at one time or another. Yet, regardless of our waywardness, He never leaves us or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus may cause us to rethink our commitment to Him but He'll never betray His commitment to us. Think about it. Christ didn’t turn His back on even the most doubting of His disciples, Thomas (John 20:24-28) and he’ll never turn His back on us.

Jesus doesn't want something from you; Jesus simply wants you - all of you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quiet Time: Settle Down

Settle Down

Read: Philippians 4:4-7

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 (NAS)

“SETTLE DOWN!” Here it is forty years later and I can still hear my dad’s words bellowing from the driver’s seat to us kids in the back as we traveled on our annual summer road trip. My sister and I loved these long excursions from Florida to Indiana. They were an adventure. Dad liked to travel the back roads, which meant that we often saw things most vacationers never see. Like little known Civil War battle grounds maintained by the local historic societies or deep pits with sheer cliffs that peered down on crystalline blue green water left over from a long forgotten mining operation. But back roads also meant long…long…long periods of travel from one point to another. So, as kids often do, my sister and I became antsy, then rambunctious, and finally downright irritable. That’s when the order to “SETTLE DOWN!” barked from dad, and sometimes from both parents simultaneously! Can you relate? I don’t think many of us are very good at "settling down" these days, but God tells us the best way to do it.

Basically what I hear Him saying to us in Philippians is this: “Don’t be a worrier. I want you to bring everything, and I mean ‘everything’ to Me. Talk to me about your cares, concerns, hopes, and dreams And while you’re talking to Me, thank Me ahead of time. You know I’ll always answer and give you exactly what you need, may-be not what you want, but definitely what you need. As you do this, My peace, peace that you didn’t see coming or understand how it exists, will settle you down in My Son, Jesus Christ as you walk out your faith daily."

God wants us to talk to Him (prayer), listen to Him (read the Word) and rest in Him (simply relax); especially when something’s weighing heavy on our minds.

In other words, “Settle Down.” God’s got this.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quiet Time: A Really Good Day

A Really Good Day

Read: Philippians 1:27-30

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… - Philippians 1:27

Life can be frustrating. Recently I had one of those days at work where manpower, machines, and materials seemed to converge and conspire against me to develop the “perfect storm” of frustration. First, before the start of the day shift, over half of my crew members called in sick. Next, our two large lifts (we only have two) were scheduled for maintenance mid-morning, and finally, I discovered that a major preplanned job was shorted the material needed for completion and the best ETA for said materials was two weeks out. That’s when I remembered that morning’s bible study and knew that God made this day for me to walk for His glory. It was going to be a really good day.

Walking: moving forward one step at a time. I believe that’s how God wants us to live. Paul was in a prison at the writing of this letter to the Philippians, so, if anyone understood the concept of walking with Jesus it was him. He probably didn’t know for sure the date of his trial, he certainly didn’t have legal representation to help him navigate the myriad false accusations against him, and Roman law being what it was, he understood that his chances for a speedy and fair outcome were laughable. Yet, here he is, encouraging the Philippians to walk worthy of their calling in Christ regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.

Walk worthy. There it is again; the silver thread that connects everyone who names the name of Jesus. Some of us are homemakers, some blue collar work-a-day guys and gals, and others professionals within a chosen field of expertise. Yet, we’re all called by God to walk with Him in a manner worthy of the gospel regardless of the pressures and unforeseen challenges along the way.

That’s why I knew; regardless of the pressures experienced at work that day, no matter the frustration associated with a lack of resources, and in spite of the fact that there was no plan B or help on the way, I was going to have a great day. I was walking with Jesus right where He wanted me to be.

As it turned out, our team pulled together like never before, I was able to postpone the maintenance on the lifts until later in the day, and we scrounged enough material to allow our customer to move forward on his project without delay. Oh, and by the way, every team member who came in to work that day was a Jesus follower, so, we all took it as a opportunity to grow and walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus.

Yep, I would say it was good day; a really good day - walking with Jesus along life’s way.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quiet Time: Man of My (The) Word

Man of My The Word

Read: James 1:22-25

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. - James 1:25

My brother in law can fix or build anything. He’s an unbelievable craftsman. However, this isn’t what gets him the work. The reason most people hire him to rebuild their kitchens, baths, and fancy outdoor living spaces is because he actually does what he says he’ll do. If he says, “I’ll start on Monday, two weeks from now at seven o-clock in the morning.” That’s exactly what will happen. He is a man of his word. We should be men and women of our word, better yet, men and women of the Word; that’s where the unforeseen joy is found.

That's what I see here in this chapter from James. We need to read the word with our hearts and minds set on doing whatever it says to do. If we do this, actually do what we read, our lives will have meaning and purpose beyond what we can imagine.
I’ve found that the more I do the word, the closer I walk with God. The closer I walk with God, the more delight and affirmation I find in Him and receive from Him. It is as if I feel God's pleasure and that is a very pleasant feeling indeed.

Common sense tells us that we should want to be men or women of the Word. It has been proven powerful, historically accurate, experientially relevant, and holistically beneficial and true. But, perhaps the best part of being men and women of the Word is the unexpected joy we find in the journey.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quiet Time: Working Together

Working Together

Read: Mark 16:19-20

And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. – Mark 16:20

I have a friend who loves to help people. He actually told me that he wished there was a way he could help others for a living. For example: I asked him to show me how to change the brakes on my daughter's automobile. Well, my buddy got off work a half hour early, beat me to my house, had the car up on jacks and the wheels removed before I pulled onto my driveway. What a blessing. Changing the brakes was a snap, and I never doubted one moment that we'd get them done properly as long as he worked with me. That's what I love about this story in Mark; Jesus worked with the apostles as they spread the good news.

AMAZING! Jesus "worked with them". Understand, Jesus had already gone back home to heaven at this point, but here He is, still working on earth through His followers. How? Obviously He worked through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. God performed miracles through the apostles to show that the Message they were proclaiming was from the living God and that the power of Jesus was still alive and vibrant on planet earth.

Jesus still works with His followers today. Now, I can't say that I've seen a lot of honest to goodness miracles; no doubt, I've seen a few. None of them were very flashy, but they were indeed amazing and brought glory to God. And, I don't know about the stuff I've seen on television; it all looks a bit questionable to me, really. But, I do know Jesus works today because I've seen time and again, the unmitigated overwhelming evidence of a changed life when Jesus comes into the heart of a new believer.

A changed life; now that's a miracle - that's Jesus at work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quiet Time: No Backseat Drivers

No Backseat Drivers

Read: Mark 8:34-38

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" - Mark 8:34

I have a real problem with backseat drivers. (Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you) I like to drive, but I can’t stand to be told how to drive. I don’t even like to follow other cars in a caravan! That's kinda how I relate to what Jesus is saying in the passage from the gospel of Matthew.

I think God wants us to give up the backseat self-help, self-centered, disinfected Americanized brand of religiosity (is that a word?) and begin to learn self-sacrifice and the joy of saying no to yourself.
OK, OK, I just lost half of you didn't I? Too preachy, right?

But, really, when we're planning our future through the eyes of our past and the limited knowledge we've acquired through education and various experts in the field, aren’t we actually trying to tell God what ought to be? God's ways are higher (Isaiah 55:9) do we really think they're going to square with anything this world has to say?

So, practically speaking, before making plans, talk with the Planner (God) (Isaiah 55:9), ask Him to help you understand his roadmap (bible) for the next step (Psalm 25:3-5) and then believe that He will accomplish it for His glory (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Oh, and as we wait for clarity; let's actually wait - not worry (Isaiah 40:31). Worry wrecks the word's work in us (Matthew 13:22).

Listen, God doesn't need our help, he wants our heart. So if He says, "Take up and follow" we’re obviously going to need to drop something and He's surely going to lead us.

So, Just let Him drive.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quiet Time: Don't Tell

Don't Tell

Read: Mark 7:31-37

And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it.
- Mark 7:36

I can’t remember either of our kids tattling, although I’m sure they did. It’s just that we had simple guideline when they were growing up: "What you say may incriminate you" (talebearers tend to overlook their part in the process). So, our children quickly learned to shut up and move on. What is interesting in this passage of scripture though, is that Jesus is giving orders to a man healed of deafness, as well as, his buddies who just saw him get healed, not to tell a “good thing”.

Many have speculated that Jesus was simply trying to keep the crowds down. He didn’t want these guys spreading the news about the healing because it would simply muck up the ministry opportunities. Whatever the reason, the fact is, Jesus wanted those who saw the healing to wait before spreading the good news. Well, they didn’t, and the more they talked the crazier things got. But, you know, who could blame them for talking? Well, for one, Jesus could.

Interestingly, the first word the deaf man heard was, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be Opened”. The next words he heard from Jesus were, “Be quiet!” Which goes to show you, that just because we hear and understand a command, doesn’t guarantee that we’ll follow it.

Then there were the friends of the deaf man. After pushing their way through the crowd and pretty much begging Jesus to heal their buddy, a very commendable thing in deed, they actually see Jesus accomplish what they asked Him to do, and it was “Katie bar the door” let’s have a party! I mean, really, what would you do? I for one would be hooting and hollering like a wild man! So, here you are all excited and that's when you hear Jesus, shushing you. He says, “Don’t tell anyone.” Yeh, right! Emotion and exuberance can cause us to turn a deaf ear to Christ’s commands if we’re not careful to quiet ourselves before acting.

The basic take away for me is, "Do what Jesus says to do even when what you want to do appears to be a good thing."Just wait; his timing is best.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Quiet Time: God Doesn't Need a Plan

God Doesn't Need a Plan

Read: Mark 6:35-44

They all ate and were satisfied - Mark 6:42

The story of the feeding of the five thousand seems to be a picture of poor planning until Jesus acts.

I mean, when I think of myself as one of the dads in the crowd of five thousand men with their families, I'd most likely be beating myself up for not bringing food along.

If I was one of the disciples, I think I might have been questioning Jesus' planning and organizing skills. After all, He should've either sent the crowds home a long time ago or sent out for food earlier in the day so that it'd arrive in time for dinner.

But the fact is that Jesus never needs to plan because He's always in control. Jesus is in control even when we blow it. Jesus can be trusted; all we need to do is offer Him what we have.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't plan, I'm simply pointing out, that when we've done our best to follow Christ and we realize that we've left something out, or that we don't have the stuff to do what needs doing, or we look around and see that we're in a pretty tough spot; that's when we can trust Jesus to make a lot out of the little we've got.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quiet Time: Don't Hide Your Hands; Open Them

Don't Hide Your Hands; Open Them

Read: Mark 3:1-8

He *said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” – Mark 3:3

Hands are more than body parts that help us grab hold of stuff. Hands are extensions of our personality, they help us communicate, and they can convey joy and openness, as well as, anger and hatred.

Anna was a Latin girl from my high school. Latinos love to talk with their hands. She was pretty, self confident, and friendly. Not normal. Most girls with her obvious datable qualities were somewhat aloof and stuck on themselves. But, there was something different about Anna. You see, Anna had a malformed arm that grew only six inches in length with a hand at the apex that consisted of a thumb, forefinger, and pinky. I noticed how she always made sure it was hidden, but I also noticed she didn’t let her difference define her. Honestly, I think she kept her arm covered for our benefit more than her own, because she knew how shallow kids could be.

Then, just this morning at the restaurant, as if to drive the story home, my prayer buddy, Kevin showed up with a severe allergic reaction manifesting itself on his hands. Right away he informed me, “I’d shake your hand, but I got something on my fingers after cleaning out my gutters at home.” I looked closely and saw that his hands looked as if boiling water had severely scalded them. I also noticed how Kevin made sure to keep his hands out of sight while we sat at the breakfast table. Again, more for my benefit than his, I’m sure.

I thought, "What’s Jesus trying to tell me?" In Mark’s gospel, Jesus didn’t allow the man with the withered hand to hide. To the contrary, Christ called him out and brought him forward. How many times had the guy sat in the back of the synagogue; unnoticed, overlooked, but very aware that others knew he was there. How often had he tried to cover up, hide, or disguise his malformed extremity, not because he had a problem with it, but because he knew that others just couldn’t handle his imperfection; his "curse" from God, as the religious nut jobs would have called it. But this man was neither cursed nor a mistake, he was simply different, and he was about to become a living breathing example of God's grace.

Then I thought, “Where were his friends?” Why didn’t someone step forward and say, “Hey, Jesus, before you start teaching, could you help my buddy?” Jesus even gave everybody at the church a second chance to show a little compassion by asking, “Is is lawful to do harm or good on the Sabbath?” but , no-one said a word. NO-ONE-SAID-A-WORD. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

However, that’s when it hit me. Would I have spoken up? Would I have raised my hand on behalf of the guy who couldn’t and asked Jesus to move on his behalf? Would I have stretched my hands toward heaven in praise for God’s intervention after the healing? Or, God forbid, would I have lifted a fist in protest?

You see, hands really do more, than just grab stuff. Hands reveal what’s in our heart.

I want to live life with open hands.