“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” -John 14:6
Jesus – that name causes each one of us to make a choice.
Those who followed Jesus when he was on earth seemed to go in one of two directions. Either they always wanted to worship him and follow him and be with him and hang on his every word, or somehow it went the other way where they wanted to plot against him and crucify him and see him dead.
The one word that was always used for Jesus was “wonder.” No one could be neutral with Jesus, and so it is so today. No one can be neutral with Jesus. There is no middle road with him. There is no lukewarm. There’s yes or no. There’s either/or. There’s the narrow and difficult road or the wide and easy road – one that leads to life, and one that leads to death. There is no middle ground.
Jesus demands everything or nothing. His name has power and every time his name is mentioned, whether you know it or not, your soul is reminded of a choice you have yet to make: Will I do what he says? Or will I do what I say?
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to do what you say, but my own thoughts so often drown out your words of love and encouragement. I want to do the next right thing. Draw me close. Show me the way. Amen.
Reflection: What is your first response when you hear the name “Jesus”?
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:9-11
Jim Gaffigan, a standup comedian, is in a nightclub and everybody is drinking and having a good time. He says, “I like everyone to feel comfortable. That’s why I’m going to talk to you about Jesus.” Right? There’s something about Jesus.
Talking about Jesus is very similar to talking about sex. It really is. Think about it just for a moment with me. When you talk about sex, there is no neutral language. Either it’s a language of intimacy, love, and romance that stirs the heart. Or, it’s vulgar, offensive, funny. Or, it’s technical like scientific, medical language that sterilizes the topic and keeps it far away from our emotions.
We do that same thing with Jesus. We talk about Jesus as either as one who is deeply intimate and heart moving. Or, his name is used in a vulgar way, to curse or to swear. Or, we use some kind of technical, theological language to hold Jesus at a distance. That’s because Jesus stirs the heart, the emotions, the will, the mind. His very name has spiritual power and that’s why it cannot be mentioned in a neutral way.
To say “Jesus” anywhere moves everything. Millions of people have spent trillions of hours writing and making art and worshipping and lifting up this name. There is no name like Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, there is no name like your name. I call on your name and you fill my heart, you calm my fears, you show me the way. Amen.
Reflection: When have you called on the name “Jesus”?
“”I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5
Jesus, in John chapter 15, says to abide in the “vine” to bear much fruit, as in love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22b-23a). In the original Greek, the word Jesus uses is “menno.” It means to make your home in something.
I remember back in the day when we were in the mountains, when we would be out in the snow. There is something wonderful about coming out of the snow and going into a warm cabin. Everything on you is cold and wet, and then you sit down by the fire. One of the best parts is taking off the wet socks. They don’t just come right off; they peel off, and it feels good. You lay that wet sock by the fire, then the other one, and you kick those freezing bare feet up near the crackling fire, and they start to thaw and dry. As you lean back in the chair, you are menno-ing. You are finding a home, a cabin in the snow, a warm, comfortable, happy place.
Jesus says to “do that in me.” Find a home in him. Find your place and peace with him. He wants to be your cabin in the woods. Do that and you will bear fruit.
Prayer: Lord, what a wonderful way of describing what you are to me. You’re my home. In you, I find welcome, love, comfort, warmth, happiness. You are my shelter in a storm. Amen.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31
I feel so sad for women, today, because of the way magazines and movies portray them. They find the most beautiful woman they can find, put her in the most expensive outfit with makeup and the best lighting possible, and that is still not pretty enough, so they use a computer to make her waist smaller and her hair longer. They present this fake image that everybody – your sons and your husbands and your friends – see, and then you look at yourself in the mirror and you compare.
We live with these unrealistic expectations. We worry about not wanting to settle with the wrong person and about our image, how we look, and what people think about us. We worry about our kids, our politics, about China, the debt, and the environment. We live our lives poisoned by so much worry that we cannot enjoy today.
Jesus says to stop worrying. Smile. Today is a gift. Stop worrying. You’re going to be okay. I’m in control. That’s good news, isn’t it? That’s great news. And with all the changes that happen in a very volatile, very scary world, it’s not so scary because God is in control. That is good news…great news, indeed!
Prayer: Dear Lord, today is truly a gift. Today, I stop worrying about all things because only you are truly in control. Amen.
Reflection: What in this world causes you the greatest worry? How might God relieve this burden of worry from your heart?
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7
I did my undergraduate degree in marketing. It used to be all about finding a need and filling it. The newest thing in marketing is creating a new need and filling it. Why find a need when you can just make one?
You need this radio in your car. You don’t want it. No, you need it. You need this radio. And you know what? We can fill that need for you. Just sign on the dotted line and go into debt. And so we do! So, we see all of these things that we think we need, we go into debt to buy those things, and then the debt makes us worry.
And what about all the expectations of our society? If you watch enough reality TV, read enough magazines, your expectations go through the roof about what your house ought to look like, what your friends ought to be like, how your husband or wife ought to treat you.
Jesus taught us a new reality. If we live in his reality, we stop comparing and start appreciating the blessings of our lives as they are.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to live in your reality. I want to stop complaining, comparing, and overlooking the blessings in my life. I am now appreciating my life just as you designed it. Amen.
Reflection: What about your life is lacking? What are the greatest blessings in your life?
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33
Jesus, when he first said the words in today’s scripture in his Sermon on the Mount, he was addressing an audience of thousands of people who had a lot to worry about, probably a lot more than you and I have to worry about. They’re there because they wanted to see the new celebrity, the new famous rabbi. Some of them are there because they’re sick and they heard that this traveling itinerant preacher is actually a prophet and can heal people.
So, there’s Jesus, he’s preaching and healing people, not just because he wants them to be well, but he wants them to see that he’s living in a different reality. He tells all of them, “Don’t worry about your life, what you’re going to eat, and what you’re going to drink. And don’t worry about your body, what you’re going to wear.” Then he asks them, “Isn’t life more important than food and the body more important than clothing?” Imagine, he’s standing there before people that are hurting, sick, old, who have lost everything. He says, “Don’t worry about it.”
That’s a different message than the message the world is giving us, isn’t it? Very different.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I do worry about so many things. I try to stay positive, but I hear the news, I see others suffering, I feel a new ache or pain, and I fall right back into worry. Help me to find a way to leave all my worries at your feet. Amen.
Reflection: What is your greatest worry? How can God help you with that worry?
We lived in Colorado, where the skies seemed to change every two minutes. One day, my husband, Terry, and I were out doing our errands. Terry was driving with his eyes intently focused on heavy traffic, and I was riding with my eyes drawn to the expansive sky. A cloud above us was forming into a most unusual shape. “Whoa!” I exclaimed.
Terry heard my cry and reacted, suddenly applying the brakes. Through my side-view mirror, I saw a line of cars reacting to our car, screeching to a sudden halt.
“Don’t tell me,” Terry mustered a smile, still ashen from the false alarm. “You were on one of your Nellie cloud missions.”
My 80-something-year-old Aunt Nellie was recovering from surgery following a bad fall. Her days of recovery were spent reading and cloud watching through her front window. When I called to pray for her each week, she would update me on the week’s latest amazing cloud formations. The night before she had exclaimed, “My dear Sandra, guess what cloud I saw today? A dancing hippopotamus!”
Nellie always ended our weekly phone call by challenging me to see if I could top her unusual cloud sighting for the week. My discovery just moments ago in the car—two dolphins leaping and swimming across the sky—would surely bring a smile to my aunt’s face.
As Terry’s face regained its color, he resumed his safe driving, and I resumed my dolphin watch—only to discover an ominous cloud growing darker and larger than life by the second. In front of the rampaging cloud were two smaller clouds, mere remnants of my dolphins. By this time my imagination was in full throttle, as my little clouds appeared to sprout legs, running to escape being swallowed alive. OK Sandra, I thought, you are definitely projecting you and Terry and the past months on those little clouds. So I firmly declared out loud: “Now stop that!”
Before Terry could slam on the brakes again, I quickly shared with him the grim picture in the sky and how my cloud scenario reminded me of some financial challenges we had been facing the last few months. We of course knew we were not the only people facing economic challenges. The television news programs and newspaper headlines made it difficult to escape the topic.
As we drove on in somber—and I must admit, tense—silence, a shaft of the sun’s light broke through the clouds, flooding our car with vibrant warmth. In that moment I heard from somewhere in and around me that still small voice of the Lord: “Be at peace, the Son has always been here, even in the darkest of moments.”
I was reassured suddenly of the power of the triune God Almighty—forever faithful (see Heb. 10:23; 1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:9), reigning as the head above all His creation (see Col. 2:10), with Christ our hope of glory (see Col. 1:27; 1 Tim. 1:1), giving us always victorious outcomes and the abundant life, despite what the enemy threatens to steal, to kill, or to destroy (see John 10:10). If you or someone you know feels overwhelmed by grim financial forecasts, I invite and challenge you to turn to the power of God’s Word and His pathway—to true and lasting peace and strength for your day.
Press on. “Walk by faith, not by sight” (see 2 Cor. 5:7). Turn to your great, loving and faithful Lord. After all, His heart knows the load your shoulders are carrying. If you turn to Him, His hand will take that load and carry it so you won’t have to.
PRAYER POWER FOR THE WEEK OF 2/10/2014
This week thank the Lord that no matter how grim or dark our circumstances may be, He never leaves or forsakes us and “He is always there.”—Pray for those experiencing great financial loss through unemployment and homelessness. Remember those affected by the winter storms. Thank Him that His mercies are new every morning and that there is hope for each new day. Ask God how you can partner with others in prayer to see His hand move on their behalf, and be part of their solution. Pray for the safety of those participating in the Winter Olympics. Continue to pray for the persecuted church and the peace of Jerusalem as commanded by God. Pray that our leaders would seek God for wisdom when making decisions affecting the nation and the world. Eph. 3:20; Matt. 7:7.