Saturday, May 26, 2018

without guilt

Jesus says something interesting about guilt today in The One Year Bible, from John 15:1-27. He tells His disciples that if the religious leaders hadn't seen Him perform miracles, they wouldn't be guilty. But they did, so they are.

That brings up the church's teaching about those who haven't ever heard the gospel. To hear the gospel and reject it is one thing. But to die without ever having heard it is something else. The church teaches that those who never hear the gospel can be saved through their "invincible ignorance."

So that brings up the next question. If pagans who never hear the gospel are saved by their ignorance, then why should we evangelize? Wouldn't it be better to leave them in their ignorance to be saved?

But that is a fundamental misunderstanding of what a relationship with Jesus does in our lives. He makes us better people. He helps us live better lives. He doesn't just "get us into heaven", but rather He begins our experience of heaven on earth, in this life. And He makes us BIGGER people. Therese of Liseux was wondering about big people and little people one day, and her friend taught her that whether a cup is small or large, it can be filled up and be completely full. In heaven, we will all be completely full.

But some of us will be big cups, and some will be small cups. Which do you want to be?

God, thanks for helping us to become bigger cups.

Friday, May 25, 2018

glad to die

Today Jesus says something kind of startling in the One Year Bible reading from John 14:15-31. He says that if we really loved Him, we would be glad that He is going away, and going to the Father.

That reminds me of something St Therese of Liseux said to her mom. She told her mother more than once that she hoped that her mom would die soon. Her mom would express her shock and confusion, and Therese would explain that her mother would be much happier with Jesus and away from sin in heaven, so she hoped that she died soon so she could go there.

And while we might not desire to hasten the day for ourselves, neither should we fear it. The day that comes to every man will come to each of us, and the Bible tells us not to mourn like those who have no hope. Instead, we should be filled with peace and grace, knowing that we have a blessed hope of spending eternity with the One who loves us most.

Most of my friends are getting to the age where our parents and aunts and uncles will start coming to that day. As the world has gotten smaller, thanks to the internet, we will begin to see more and more as our friends' relatives go on to the next life. And so we should prepare ourselves to love them the way that Jesus told us we should love Him - by being glad that the day has come to meet the Savior.

God, please teach us to look forward to that day, and not to fear it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

a new command

Jesus gives us a new command today in the One Year Bible reading from John 13:31-14:14. He tells us to love each other.

What's that you say? It's not a new command? God told us to do this back in the Old Testament? Well, that's true. But notice there's something new about the way Jesus says it. He says to love each other "as I have loved you." Ah. That's a big difference.

See, there is some nebulosity in "love each other". There are even ways that we think we're loving that aren't love, like sexual relationships that aren't appropriate. We may have fuzzy feelings for someone, but that isn't the kind of love Jesus is talking about. We don't have fuzzy feelings for our enemies.

But this kind of love means being kind. Being gentle, and forgiving. Wishing the best for the other person, and doing what's necessary to help them. Ultimately, it means laying down your life for them.

A new command He gives us. Love one another. But not just any love.

His love.

God, please fill our hearts with Your love, so that we can love other people the way You commanded us.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

how to be a leader

It's a simple lesson we learn today from the One Year Bible, in John 13:1-30. Jesus washes the disciples' feet. Peter fights Him every step of the way, first insisting that He NOT wash Peter's feet at all, and then insisting that He wash all of Peter's body. Jesus is like, "Why can't you just do what I'm asking?" OK, He doesn't say those words, but that's the gist.

But then He teaches all of us what true leadership looks like. Servant leadership. Leading by serving. Jesus teaches us through example that the way we lead people is by serving them. If you want to be a great leader, learn to be a great servant.

I've found a practical way that this works. Any time I'm in a group, I find things that people are doing well and I compliment them on their work, and then I thank them for it. It's a form of service - being kind to them and lifting them up through your words. But I've found that doing so often puts me into a position of authority. When someone in the room has a question, they usually come to me as a leader, because I've established myself by serving.

Who can you serve today? How can God use your service to make you into a productive leader in His kingdom?

God, thank You for teaching us to lead by serving.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

when God speaks

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from John 12:20-50. Jesus is teaching many things, and at one point God the Father replies to Him. He says that He has glorified His name, and He will glorify it again.

This teaches us several things. Because there were many people present when God spoke. But some said it was just thunder. Some said it was an angel. And some said it was God. What God said is mysterious. What does He mean? What does that signify? It doesn't seem like something a human would say. If you say, "Your name be glorified" to a human, think how strange it would be if they said, "I have glorified my name before, and I will do it again."

So what do we learn here? Well, first we learn that God speaks to us, but we have to be listening to hear it. If we aren't ready to listen, we might just think it's thunder. Our hearts have to be prepared to hear His voice. He speaks to us every day, all throughout our lives. If we open our hearts to Him, we will hear His voice.

But when we DO hear Him, it might be so deep, and so full of the mystery of eternity, that we won't know what to do with it. And in some cases, there isn't anything TO do with it. We just meditate on the mystery. We drink in the depths of what He says to us, and allow it to make us bigger. Some mysteries can't be reduced to logic or usefulness. They just ARE. When we allow our minds to turn these truths over and think about them for a long time, we begin to see that they have a beauty like the sky, or like the sea. Not a use, but a beauty and truth of themselves, to be pondered.

So the take home today is to listen for His voice, and when He speaks to you, mull it over. Consider His words carefully. Allow them to sink into your mind, and transform you.

And don't always expect them to make logical sense or be useful. Sometimes His words, like His works, just are.

Thank You God for speaking to us. Help us hear You.

Monday, May 21, 2018

He gave it willingly

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from John 11:55-12:19. Here, we read about the Pharisees seeing Jesus's triumphal entry to Jerusalem. They say to each other, "There's nothing we can do! Everyone has gone after Him!"

This is one of the many times in the gospels that we see an example of Jesus GIVING His life, rather than anyone taking it from Him. Many times, people tried to kill Him, and He just walked away because His hour hadn't come yet. He went TO Jerusalem, knowing that there were many there who wanted to kill Him. He deliberately provoked and criticized those who wanted to kill Him.

It was His plan all along to come and give up His life as a ransom for many. To die, defeating sin and death, so that we could all live forever. He gave His life for us, so that we could live with Him.

So don't be afraid. Whatever waves are scaring you. However hard the wind might blow. No matter what hardship comes your way... He came and gave away His life to save you. Nothing is beyond Him. He will take care of you.

God, thank You for coming and giving up your life for us. Please help us to trust You more.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

more than we can imagine

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from John 11:1-54. This is the story of the raising of Lazarus. But what's interesting is to realize that if Mary and Martha and everyone in the story but Jesus had had their way, this would NOT be the story of the raising of Lazarus. It would just be another healing.

Jesus knew that Lazarus was going to die. And it's very important to notice THIS: He wept. He wasn't indifferent to the sufferings of His friends, EVEN THOUGH He knew that Lazarus was going to rise from the dead. He waited instead of going immediately to Lazarus and healing him. He waited, and Lazarus died. Then he went and turned what seemed to be a hopeless, horrible situation into an opportunity for everyone in the world, right down to the present day, to praise God.

As you're reading this, you might be suffering. Life does that, right? It brings us pain. And it's sometimes frustrating when Jesus waits. He COULD come and heal us right NOW, right? What's He waiting for?

Well, He's waiting in order to turn our pain, which He shares with us, because of which He weeps right along with us, into an opportunity for us to praise God. He WILL answer our needs, and transform our suffering into great joy.

Hang in there. The joy is coming.

God, thank You for hearing us, for weeping with us, and for transforming our sorrow into such great joy that we can't imagine it.