When we’re deciding on a direction for our lives, it is not uncommon to follow someone else’s example. As children, we naturally look to our parents. As we get older, teachers, friends, and siblings influence us. At work, we may choose a mentor, someone we respect, and imitate their work ethic or philosophy. Sometimes we even look to celebrities or heroes whose lifestyle we wish to duplicate in our own lives. Often those we choose to follow end up disappointing us in some way. We find out that even the greatest saints have feet of clay… or as one Christian author said, we’re all cracked pots.
Jesus is the one person whose example is always perfect and safe to follow. Earlier this week I went to Maundy Thursday service and I learned something about that (for those who are from not from liturgical background, this is the evening when we celebrate and remember the Last Supper). Before the Passover meal Jesus deliberately set an example for the disciples. He knew that His time with them was growing short and He wanted to impress upon them this matter of great importance.
“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them. ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.'” John 13: 12-17
Jesus set the example for us — servanthood. As His disciples, He expects us to follow. Are you moving in the right direction?
“…I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds …” Acts 26:20b
Did you know that the word repentance, as used in the Bible, actually means to “turn your guts (or insides) around”? Repentance doesn’t just mean saying “sorry” or even feeling sorry. It means going forward in a different direction — doing an about face. Many times, maybe most of the time, we really don’t want to do this. Sometimes we think we can’t do this, because the sin is so deeply ingrained. Saying sorry often means we’re sorry we got caught. We’re sorry our bad behavior was noticed. We want to look good instead of being good.
In the verse, the apostle Paul is explaining to King Agrippa exactly why the Jews want him to be prosecuted and put to death. He had the audacity to demand that they change their ways! He expected them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, and it made them furious!
True repentance is a willingness to turn away from our sin (whatever that happens to be) and start walking in a different direction, walking towards God’s way instead of our way. It’s difficult, and sometimes we’ll stumble or even fall. When that happens we need to get up, get going, and stay focused on the goal.
“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 the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Are you willing to turn around?
Lutherans aren’t too familiar with the Stations of the Cross. It’s usually a series of images, accompanied by prayers, intended to lead us on a pilgrimage through the sufferings of Christ during passion week. I found this Protestant version that I really like because it includes Scripture passages on which to meditate (remember for Lutherans it’s all about the Bible). Maybe you’ll find it helpful as well. You can also visit the link below.
|1. The Last Supper
|2. The Garden of Gethsemane
||Matthew 26:36-41; Luke 22:40-46
|3. Jesus before Pilate
||Mark 15:1-5, 15; John 19:4-16
|4. The Scourging and the crowning with thorns
||John 19:1-3; Mark 15:15-20
|5. The Receiving of the cross
||John 19:6, 15-17
|6. The Fall
|7. Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus
||Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26
|8. The Women of Jerusalem
|9. The Stripping of his Garments
|10. The Good Thief
|11. Mary and John Below the cross
|12. The Death of Jesus
||Luke 23:44-46; Mark 15:33-39; John 19:30
|13. The laying in the tomb
||Matthew 27:57-61; Luke 23:53-54
|14. The Resurrection
This little gem of a book would make a wonderful gift for a friend. It includes a presentation page, thick glossy pages and a beautiful photograph with each reading. The author, Diann Cotton, first got the idea when she found a page in her Bible listing over 250 names and attributes of Jesus. She began studying one or two a day, hoping to know Jesus better by the end of the year. Her own research, prayer and reflection led to the book.
Perfect to be used as a daily devotional, each reading includes a name or description of Jesus, the scriptural basis for the name, a definition, prayer and reflection question. The entries are ordered alphabetically, so you can easily find a particular name. The questions could easily be used as a journaling tool if that is part of your daily routine.
Interested in learning more, or purchasing this book? Click on the link below:
The day slips into memory; the storm
No longer keens among the weary trees.
A savage people in their anguish freeze
Before the God who wears a human form.
Stilled is the sound of battle, stilled the cry
Of pain, and stilled the voice of hate and fear—
For one brief moment all creation hears
The hush that echoes farther than the sky.
This night begins a day that for all time
Becomes the dawn of Time; the dream ignites.
The candle that alone withstands the night
Will kindle yet a flame to save mankind.
Listen for the laughter of the stars:
A child is born; tomorrow will be ours!
– M.A. Moore
One of my English major moments!
“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?”‘ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son’; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.'” Luke 1:34-37
Mary and Elizabeth were in impossible situations. Mary, unmarried and bearing a child she couldn’t explain — who would believe this was God’s Son? Elizabeth, barren for years and now old. The angel tells Mary with God, all things are possible, and she trusts him.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Most of us, when confronted with what seems to be an impossible difficulty, such as illness, job loss, divorce, etc.. pray for God to simply remove the problem. “Take it away, Lord!” we cry. ” Fix it! I simply can’t go through this suffering!” Mary didn’t do that. She was content for God’s will to be done in her life. God did do the impossible, but in the process Mary was probably often despised, puzzled, hurt and unsettled. God didn’t take away her pain, but He always provided a way through it, and He used if for good.
This is a part of the Christmas story we all need to remember. Our faith won’t make life easier. The Bible tells us we will endure trials and troubles; but God can and will do the impossible. He’ll guide us and stay with us and eventually work all those problems into a beautiful tapestry that reflects His will. Are you willing to trust Him as Mary did?