One-a-Day Monday 4/28/14

number 1Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

Your heart is not pure.

You will not see God.

Happy Monday.

Well, aren’t we glad that there’s more to the story than that.  Of course your heart is not pure; you know good and well what goes on in there.  I’m in the same boat, and so is everyone you know.  And everyone you don’t.

Praise God that he doesn’t leave us in that boat.

God wants us to see him.  He wants us to have fellowship with him.  And he knows that’s not going to happen if we are left to ourselves.  So he cleanses us, he renews us, he gives us that pure heart that allows us to see him.

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive        our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Before you go out into your Monday, do us both a favor—get your heart right before God.  Confess what needs confessing, address what needs addressing, let him purify your heart, so that you will see God.

Because, how are you supposed to walk with him if you can’t see him?

Happy Monday, Beloved.

Bubble

bubbleI have decided to create a bubble around myself.

Hold on a moment…there, it’s done.

My new bubble is a sphere approximately four-feet-seven-inches in diameter, centered on my xiphoid process. (That’s the little cartilage thingie at the bottom of your sternum.  I could have centered it on my belly button, but then you might not have taken me seriously.  I find that we rarely take the belly button seriously, but that is another topic for another time.)  My bubble is invisible, which is why I’m pointing it out.  I wouldn’t want you to stumble into it by mistake.

I call my new creation Michael’s-no-deception-no-pretense-no-mystery-no-posing-no-evasion-no guilt-no-condemnation-straight-up-straight-forward-I’m-a-big-boy-bubble-of-grace.  For discussion purposes, we’ll just call it “The Bubble.”  Continue reading

One-a-Day Friday 4/25/14

number 1Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7).

I need mercy like you wouldn’t believe.

Well, maybe you would.

I mean, I’m not an axe murderer or anything.  It’s just that I know what God requires, I know my heart, and I know that without the mercy of God I wouldn’t make it to my next breath.  So when I read this verse, I get really practical.  Actually, I get a little mercenary.  Or mercy-enary.  I figure, I give and I get.

As self-serving as that sounds, I think it makes me more merciful.  When I see a need, I think of all the times I have needed mercy. And all the times I will.  And I’m more likely to give.  I guess you could call it making a deposit in the mercy bank.

That is one account I never want to see overdrawn.

Think you might need mercy one of these days?

Then walk in mercy today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Thursday 4/24/14

number 1Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Father, grant me the hunger that only you can satisfy,

the thirst that only you can quench.

Create in me an emptiness that you alone can fill

because sometimes I think I’m complete

but I’m not;

I’m just crowded.

Father of all desire

let me crave

You.

One-a-Day Wednesday 4/23/14

number 1Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Let’s not read too much into this one, shall we?

I doubt that Jesus was literally promising you the world.  Really—what would you do with it if you had it?  A town, certainly, maybe even a small state—but the entire world?  Come now.  And what about that woman down the street, or the guy at work; do they also inherit the earth?  How do we do the sharesies on that one?  Jesus is teaching that those who walk with God will have all their needs completely met.  The earth and all that is in it are the Lord’s, and he gives joyfully to those who are his.

On another note, “Meek” is not the same as “Weak.”  When we read this verse, it’s easy to get the picture of these mousey, quiet, timid little people running the world someday.  It makes you wonder how anything would ever get done.  “Meek,” in the biblical sense, means to be humble and gentle before God and man.  A meek person trusts God to provide for him, and doesn’t feel the need to push and shove in order to get what is his.  One who trusts God, fully and completely, isn’t worried about the other guy.  He has nothing to prove and no one to beat.  He can afford to be gentle.

So, Beloved, will you walk in meekness today?  There may be a small county in it for you.

One-a-Day Tuesday 4/22/14

number 1Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

It’s good to mourn.

Oh maybe not good in the sense of, “Woohooo, my heart is breaking, I’ve lost everything I love—let’s get ice cream and cheesy puffs!”

Not good in that sense.

Good in the sense that it’s a natural part of who we are.  It’s healthy; it shows that we love.  After all, we don’t mourn that which we did not love.

God mourns.  Jesus mourned Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37).  He wept at the grave of Lazarus.  I believe that the Father mourns those who choose to live and die apart from him. When we mourn, we show that we are made in his image.  We reveal the stamp of our Creator.

And when we mourn, we are comforted.

There’s the promise.  The God of all peace, all healing, all love, stands ready to comfort us in our loss.  And that comfort outweighs our pain.

Eventually.

So, once again God invites us to be vulnerable and rest in his protection, to be weak and draw on his strength, to be empty and let him fill us, to be broken and allow him to restore.

When we are weak, he is strong—in us and through us.

What have you lost, Beloved?  What do you mourn?

Walk in his comfort today.

One-a-Day Monday 4/21/14

number 1Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3).

You’re not impressing him.  You know that, don’t you?

OK, so you pray, and you read the Word, and you tithe; you even visit sick orphans in prison. That’s great.  I applaud you.  But don’t think that you’re going to parlay that into some kind of spiritual currency.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I sometimes wish it did, but it doesn’t.

Jesus says to be poor in spirit—to recognize that all you have to offer is really not so much at all.  I once survived for three weeks on generic ramen noodles, a dozen eggs, and tap water.  I couldn’t afford shampoo—I used dishwashing liquid. I don’t recommend it.  Needless to say, I did little entertaining during those weeks.  I knew that I had nothing to offer.

When we come to God, we need to realize that we have nothing to offer that he needs.  He owns everything.  He doesn’t need our spiritual ramen.  When we come to him, we need to be poor in spirit.

The tax collector in Luke 18 had it right.  He came with no demands, but with one simple plea: have mercy.  That’s the ticket to the kingdom.

It’s Monday.  The Lord of all stands ready to shower you with his love, his grace, his peace this morning.  You didn’t earn it; you can’t pay for it.  But you will need it before the day is out.  Receive it, Beloved.  Open your heart wide and receive it.

One-a-Day Sunday 4/20/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you celebrate Resurrection Sunday.

Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!

number 1…because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay (Psalm 16:10).

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself (Psalm 49:15).

For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave (Psalm 86:13).

 “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.  Where, O death, are your plagues?  Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14)

Lost

Alone

Confused

Empty

These words describe what I imagine the disciples felt on that Sunday morning.  They must have figured that, after all, Jesus had failed.

Has anyone ever been more gloriously wrong?

On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went with some of the other women to make sure that the body of Jesus was properly cared for.  Oh, the surprise they got!  The tomb was empty, the body was gone, and an angel announced, “He is not here; He has risen!”

Can you imagine?

Seriously, can you imagine it?  Imagine going with Mary and seeing the stone rolled away, hearing the angel’s words.  Imagine being with the disciples when she brings them the news.  Imagine running with Peter and John to see for yourself, and finding the tomb empty, the grave clothes neatly folded.  Imagine standing with Thomas, the doubter, as he touched the wounds on his living Lord.

Imagine.

His death satisfied the requirements of the old covenant—a perfect sacrifice to cover all sin always.

His resurrection broke the power of Death forever, and ushered in the New Covenant—a promise of grace and hope and peace.

His return will bring the fulfillment of history, as he gathers those who put their trust in him and takes them home forever.

He is risen, indeed!

Walk in joy today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Saturday 4/19/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

number 1Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones (Zechariah 13:7b).

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Everybody loves you when you’re winning.

What happened to the crowds?  Was it just last Sunday that the people were lining the streets, cheering for Jesus?  Now where are they?

Gone.

When the soldiers came for Jesus, the disciples scattered.  John followed, but at a distance.  He needed to know what was happening, but he couldn’t bring himself to intervene.

Peter, like John, followed at a distance.  He mingled with the crowd, where he could blend in and, hopefully, go unnoticed.  While he was standing with a group, a servant girl recognized him.  Here was Peter’s chance to stand tall for Christ.  Here was his golden opportunity to proclaim his loyalty to Jesus and stand with him—die with him, if need be.  After all, that is what he had promised Jesus.

What did he do?  You know what he did.  He denied his Lord.  Big, strong Peter couldn’t stand up to the questions of the lowliest servant girl.

What of the rest?  All we know is that they ran for it.

Don’t be too hard on the disciples.  I’m convinced they genuinely believed that they were up to the challenge.  When Peter said he would never betray Jesus, I think he meant it down to the marrow of his bones.  He didn’t have the courage, because he was only human.  Like us.  We know that John, and Mary, and a few others came to the cross before Jesus died; Jesus even spoke to John from the cross. But in the end, Jesus had to fulfill his purpose himself.

In the end, Jesus went to the cross alone.

He went to the grave alone.

He rose from the dead alone.

Because he had to.  That was the point—if anyone else could have done it, if anyone else could have helped, we wouldn’t have needed the perfect Son of God.

Jesus stood alone so that you will never have to.

Because he loves you.

You.

Walk in thankfulness today, Beloved.

One-a-Day Friday 4/18/14

Note:  This week, I am sharing from my devotional book Easter: Beyond the Bunny.  I hope you find it valuable as you prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday.

Good Friday

Betrayal and Sacrifice

number 1Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Matthew 26:14-27:65

Mark 14:17-15:47

Luke 22:47-23:56

John 13:18-30; 19:1-42

 

Betrayal

It’s a bitter, ugly word for a bitter, ugly deed.

Perhaps the worst thing about betrayal is that, by its very nature, betrayal involves someone you trust.  In a sense, you have to give the betrayer the power to hurt you by making yourself vulnerable.  Those who never make themselves vulnerable to others can never be betrayed.

But then, they can never really love, either.

Jesus, as we know, was betrayed by Judas Iscariot.  Jesus knew it was coming—he even announced it to the disciples at the Last Supper.  He was handed over to the Chief Priests, and then to the Romans, and then crucified.  Rather than synopsize this day, I suggest that you go read it for yourselves.  Pick one or more of the Gospel accounts I’ve listed above and go through it as a family.  It isn’t pretty.  It is essential.

As you read, remember that he knew what was coming.  He went to the cross on purpose because he loves you.

You.