Wednesday, October 27, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Beyond the Grave

Every October, we are inundated with decorations portraying death. People even decorate their front yards to look like cemeteries. In Mexico, Nov 2nd is "Día de los Muertos," literally the Day of the Dead. Over the past few years, I've realized Halloween is the only holiday that people of different faiths can celebrate together, which is a bit disturbing.

I started thinking about something I read the other day in my devotions. The last two verses in Luke 21. It says,
"Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple." I thought about the Mount of Olives. When we read about the Mount of Olives, it sounds like this romantic grove of olive trees. At the foot of this hillside is where Gethseme is located. For some reason I have never connected the dots until now. I have stood at the top of that hill and looked down into Jerusalem. It is not a beautiful olive grove, instead the whole hillside today is covered with graves. Now I don't know if there were that many graves on the hillside in Jesus day, but it was still a cemetery. In fact, this is a special place for the Jewish people to be buried. So if you think about it, why would Jesus spend the night in or near a cemetery? This is also the location where he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He took the path next to the cemetery.

John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundant. He often refers to himself as the bread of
life and the living water. Why would someone so confident of his purpose, sleep and walk among the dead? My thought is that he was using this as a metaphor to explain why he came. Maybe he was saying he was not afraid of death because he would overcome it. The scripture does not say anyone was with him when he spent the night on the hill.

What else is interesting having read the through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy is that the Israelites were not to touch a dead body or they would be defiled. Jesus was always creating a stir among the Pharisees. After all, he had brought a few who were dead back to life. I wonder if that could have been an issue for them as well. How can this man who claims to be the Messiah sleep where the dead sleep?

My last thought on this is, maybe Jesus was showing us in the natural what happens in the spiritual. That where he is, there is life. Maybe the cemetery represents us spiritually and it's only when he is there, that life happens. As I was just looking through the concordance, the Mount of Olives is only mentioned a few times in the Old Testament. But its only mentioned in the New Testament in reference to Jesus. Jesus actually spent a lot of time on the Mount of Olives. Did you know that Jesus never spent the night in Jerusalem, until the night he was crucified? The Mount of Olives is the location where Jesus will return. In Zechariah 14:4 it says that the Lord will stand with his feet on the Mount of Olives and it will split apart. Maybe Jesus spent time there so we would know where to look for him when he returns. That is how we will know the difference to those who claim to be the Messiah. If when they stand on it, it will split apart.

I've never known cemeteries to be places of holy ground, but I wonder if this cemetery could be considered holy ground because the One who brings life spent a lot of time there. On that day when the Messiah returns, the dead in Christ will rise (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Oh what a day it will be when Jesus comes back! I wonder what the spiritually dead will say then? Will they even be able to speak! Jesus is life and because he is, we can live beyond the grave!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Do Not Fear That Inflation Is Here

 This week in our "Epic" prayer and reading guide, we come across a very popular passage when Jesus taught on the topic of worry. The dictionary definition of worry is: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts and to torment with cares, anxieties, etc.; trouble; plague. I find it interesting that the word torment is used to describe worry. The word plague makes me think of being called a worry wort. Isn't a wort a virus? 


I wonder if Matthew and Luke were worriers and if that is why they both made it a point to write about this teaching of Jesus'. These two men were not fisherman either. Matthew was a tax collector and Luke was a physician. Matthew dealt with money and Luke dealt with health. Today they would be considered "white collar" professionals. Fisherman would be considered "blue collar" professionals and were probably used to living one day at a time. At least every time Jesus shows up while they are on the job, they aren't catching much or anything at all. Luke 12:22-34 says, "Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 


In the spring of 2008, flour, rice, eggs and cooking oil were hit by the economic bomb. Milk was at an all time high and bread prices were close to $4 a loaf. At that time, oil prices were rising quickly, much like they are today. Just two weeks ago gas was under $3 and it is now up to $3.19 in some locations. The news reported then, that farmers were not producing enough grain to feed people and livestock because they needed the ethanol to produce gas to feed our cars. (Ethanol is made from corn and other crops. It is a renewable fuel.) The media reported then also that bulk club stores were limiting purchases on rice and flour. The way the media reports these stories puts fear in the hearts of many of us, including me. Psalms 37:25 says, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread." 


I remember watching a Christian news broadcast during that crisis and they reported that some people had quit attending Sunday church because they couldn't afford the gas in their cars. I'm sure these people drove to work and the grocery store. I wonder what God must be thinking of us. Didn't Jesus conclude his teaching on worry with where our treasure is there our hearts will be? Not going to church to save gas? Yet people will drive out of their way to find the lowest prices for food and gas. Proverbs 13:22b says, "... but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous." Proverbs 13:23 says, "A poor man's field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away." Doesn't it seem that the high demand for oil is injustice and the poor farmers who have been growing food for people are now having to grow food for our cars? But this last verse truly left me with hope that God is looking out after His children. Proverbs 13:25 says, "The righteous eat to their hearts' content, but the stomach of the wicked goes hungry."


I know it would seem silly of me to write about this, but being a mom with two children heading into the teen years, and one of them being a boy, it is a concern. But the Word of God gives me hope that everything is going to be o.k. So if you, like me, struggle with worry, in the words of Jesus, "Do not be afraid!" He has proven Himself faithful over and over. And He has nothing to prove to us. He is God and everything in the earth belongs to Him and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10) Rather than worrying about rising costs, we should instead allow our faith to rise. We followers of Jesus shouldn't worry about inflation, we should match it with "in-faith-tion." Imagine what our world would be like if our faith rose to an all time high! It would be priceless! Do not fear, in-faith-tion is here!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Pass the Bread

It seems that bread is a common part of every meal. In today's diet fads, bread is the first thing to go. The problem for me is, I love my bread! I was always thankful that on the food pyramid it ranked on the bottom which meant, more bread was good.

This week as we read in the book of John, Jesus was talking about bread. John 6:27-33, 35, 47-58 says, "
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. 28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?'29 Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.' 32 Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'

35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'

47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."

Jesus clearly states that he is the bread from Heaven. It sounds a bit cannibalistic to be talking about eating flesh and drinking blood. This could be a problem for some people who don't know Jesus. Jesus is talking spiritually speaking.

It would seem that today in our Christian culture that we are on a spiritual Atkins diet. What's interesting is that doctors are finding the Atkins diet to be unhealthy for the heart because people binge on bacon and red meat. If we start cutting Jesus out of our daily life, we become heart disease victims. What I mean by that is that we stop focusing on forgiveness through Jesus and our spiritual arteries become clogged with the plaque of anger, bitterness, and most of all, unforgiveness. Jesus was very direct when he said he was the bread of life. He did not use a parable to explain this. He just came out and said it, twice!

In Jesus prayer that he was teaching his disciples to pray, he says "give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (paraphrased from Matthew 6:12) . I find it very interesting that daily bread and sin, temptation and evil fall in line behind the request for daily bread. That is ultimately what Jesus came to do. To be the bread of life that absorbs the sin and death that we deserve. I guess the question for today is, have you had your bread today? Don't deny yourself the bread of life. Instead, say "Pass the bread!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Batten Down the Hatches

Hurricane Hugo, hurricane Andrew, and one of the most unforgettable storms, hurricane Katrina are some of the most devastating storms in recent history. I bring up these storms to describe the passage in Mark 4 verses 35-41 when Jesus calmed the storm. It reads, "That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" I've experienced a Galilee squall. It's amazing how strong the wind gets. I stood looking out of our hotel room window during one of these winds and many of the mosaic tiles on the side of our balcony were missing. Probably from the frequent wind storms they get. The geographic location of the Sea of Galilee is in a valley between to hillsides. It is the perfect setting for the wind to whip through.

Now the disciples were experienced fishermen and it's likely they had experienced these before. Maybe this squall was stronger because God wanted to expose the fear in these men and to help them realize who they had been with was truly the Son of God. The men woke Jesus up, and asked him if he even cared that they were going to drown. Jesus must have been so tired from speaking all day that he didn't notice the boat rocking or it actually kept him asleep. The disciples didn't know what to think except they were going to die.

Aren't the circumstances of our lives similar to the weather? We can be cruising along on the smooth waters of life, then suddenly the wind begins to blow, the waves begin to swell and before you know it, the clouds have gathered overhead. Some of us, like the disciples start screaming, "Batten down the hatches!" when life gets stormy. It's easy to live by faith when the waters are smooth. The only way we are going to strengthen our faith is for God to stir up the weather so we can truly see His power that can preserve us in times of trouble.

I think in a spiritual sense crossing over to the other side is important in this passage. What made this storm any different? Fishing was usually done in the early morning hours when it is dark, so I don't think it was because it was dark. There was something intentional that God wanted them to know. These men had seen Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons, but they needed to experience the power that Jesus had for themselves. They needed to cross over from the "shore of fear to the other side of faith." This passage even mentions there were other boats out there with them. I think that is reminder to us that we are not alone in these storms. Others are sharing our experience too and they are watching us, as Jesus disciples, and how we get through it.

Maybe right now, you have experienced the loss of a home, a car, retirement, savings, a business, and even employment. The list goes on. You might even feel like Jesus is not concerned with your storm or maybe he's sleeping through it. But I want to encourage you that Jesus knows. Maybe you are wondering why He would allow you to have to go through this storm. Like Jesus telling the disciples to go over to the other side, maybe the Lord is telling you it's time to "go over to the other side." The other side being, no longer do I live by my own understanding, but to trust in Him completely, even if it doesn't make sense. God doesn't have to make sense to us, He can do the impossible. He loves us so much. If you are spending time with him, like the disciples did, then the question He asks is "Why are you so afraid?"

I don't know what your circumstance is right now. I have this illustration the Lord gave me about circumstance. The word circum means to go around and the word stance means a position while standing. When the squalls of life are spinning around you, Ephesians 6:14 says to stand firm! They say people, who are drowning, drown because they are panicking. When I think of the movie Titanic the people who panicked lost their lives. The ones who went directly to the life boats were saved. So while you are standing firm, waiting for the storm to pass, hold on to your life preserver, which is the Word of God. Psalm 119:50 says, "My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life." In the storms of life, God's promises are our life preservers. If you are in that place today you may not have time to "batten down the hatches." Instead go get your "life preserver" that is sitting on the shelf, coffee table, in that box that is out in the garage or in the trunk of your car. It will preserve your life and keep you drowning. (Photo above is a replica of the boat that Jesus would have been on)