What I Saw – October 9, 2018

I met with my pastors’ group for devotions yesterday.  Our text, taken from that days Moravian reading, was John 6:25-42.

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Our devotions leader grabbed the nearest bible, which was a 2011 NIV.

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I immediately saw several things in this passage.  The first was Jesus’ statement that the “work of God” is to believe in Him, the one sent by God.  This is immediately followed by a demand from the crowd for a sign which Jesus ignores.  I believed the reason Jesus ignores that demand is because He has already given them a sign.  He has given them several, in fact.  They have already been given enough to do what they are being asked to do, already been given enough to believe that God loves them.  I thought this was a call for me to “do the work” of believing that God loves me and has accepted me (something which is difficult for me).  This confused the leader at first; when I talked about “doing the work”, he thought I was talking about works or deeds (which, as we all know, are part of the Gospel system).  I explained that I was actually talking about the intellectual/emotional process of overcoming my belief that I am unaccepted/unacceptable and replacing it with the belief that I am accepted/acceptable.  This is a work in the sense that it is hard to do and requires me acting on the “signs” that Jesus has already given.  This idea was confirmed to me by Jesus’ follow-up statement that He will never drive away those God gives to Him, i.e., that I will not be driven away if I come to Him.  This was a great encouragement.

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Another great encouragement, though, was the way Jesus dealt with opposition.  I saw this as well.  I knew Jesus encountered opposition in this text; I learned that my first year of Bible college.  What I noticed this time, though, is that this opposition does not change Jesus or His message.  He does not allow Himself to get dragged into side-arguments (such as the accusation about His earthly parentage) nor does He adjust His gospel in any way.  He continues to proclaim the openness of God and the need to believe in the openness of God despite the crowd which is asking for bread and the Jews who grumbled against Him (we had some question during our time together about whether the crowd and the Jews were the same people or different people).  I take this as a model to follow.  I see that I must not get involved in the many arguments which are always erupting around me but must simply live by and present the good news that Jesus is our acceptor and savior.

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I further saw that Jesus lost by following this tactic.  The majority of the crowd abandoned Him that day, so this can legitimately be called a loss.  However, He won the war.  These people are not highly regarded today; no one is looking at them as a great example; in fact, most of us seem them as shallow and misguided.  Jesus’ truth, though, that He is the one sent by God to accept and save us, is highly regarded.  So Jesus lost the engagement but won the war. This is an encouragement to me as well.

And that’s what I saw in John 6:25-42.

What I Saw – October 3, 2018

I met with my church devotional group Wednesday night. After prayer, we got our scripture passage from the Moravian Daily Text.  It was John 5:1-15.

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Most of the folks there had the NIV (1984).  Since I believe using unfamiliar translations can help us hear God, I choose to read from The Passion Translation:

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I usually ask people what catches their attention in the text; I believe that is an indication of where the Spirit is taking them.  This time, though, I decided to do it the way I do my evening prayers (for which I use the watchword and doctrinal text from the Moravian).  I asked them to finish the statement, “I see that God is…”

One person said they saw that God is compassionate, willing to heal a crippled man.  Another said they saw that God sees and knows people.  Yet another said they saw that Jesus is a healer.  A fourth said they saw that God gives hope in hopeless situations.

This was a great start.  It gave us a “covenant truth”, that is, a truth about who God is.  It is so important to have covenant truths like the.  Covenant truths fuel or drive us for Kingdom truths (truths about what God wants us to do).  We actually see this in this John 5 passage.  Only after healing this man (a covenant action) does Jesus command this man to walk away from sin (a kingdom responsibility).

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It is the same with us.  Covenant truths result in and empower kingdom truths.  While we seem to see kingdom truths easier (most everybody looks at a Bible text and says something like, “Well, God wants me to trust more”), we can’t do them apart from covenant truths.

The way we did devotions this night made the covenant truths more obvious.  I then asked everyone what kingdom truths they thought the Spirit was leading them to via these covenant truths.  Some had immediate answers.  Others needed to think about it a little bit.  I won’t say what those truths were or weren’t either way, as that is their business.  But I will say it was good!

That’s what I (or we) saw on Wednesday, October 3.  Join us on November 7th when we will see more!

What I Saw – September 18, 2018

I met with my Tuesday morning pastors’ group for devotions today.  The Moravian Daily Text gave us John 1:1-13, which we read in the NASB.

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I find it difficult to hear God in texts that are too familiar.  I keep seeing the doctrines my Bible college professors taught me to see there.  This time, though, we all heard some significant things.

One of our group heard the term “creation” from verse 3.  That verse talks about Jesus’ participation in the creation of the world.  He understood from this that he is a creation of God, and thus must be loved by God since creators typically love their creations.

Another heard the term “testify” in verse 6.  She said that we have been called to testify to Jesus just as John did.  This idea was actually on my mind, too, as I had seen this commercial on TV while eating my breakfast:

She also connected this passage to the UP-IN-OUT triangle: verses 1-5 being UP, 7-8 being OUT, and 9-13 being IN.  She felt God was calling her to more OUT.

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At first, I just got a general vibe from this text that what God is offering me/calling me to is more than doctrines and beliefs and “going to Heaven when I die”.  I got the vibe that this is actually a story or a relationship.  As we continued to talk, though (and that’s why doing devotions in a group is so valuable), I realized that a finer point on this idea is that I am God’s child (verse 12) and that I can “rest” in being God’s child.  I don’t have to exhaust myself trying to earn some sort of status, as many people both outside and inside the church are doing.  I already have the greatest status there is, child of the Father King, and I can rest in that.  God is inviting me to rest in that, actually, inviting me to turn away from a lifestyle of competition and exertion that is destroying me.  It is an invitation I happily accept.

And that’s what I saw in our devotions today.

What I Saw – September 5, 2018

I met with several people from church on Wednesday night, September 5, 2018, to hear from God through the Scripture.

Following our traditional pattern, we read the Moravian Text’s New Testament reading for that day, which was Luke 20:39-51.

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This was a familiar passage.  Familiar passages can be difficult to use; they become too familiar to us; our familiarity with them keeps us from hearing God in them; we gloss over them or think we already know what they say.  But by reading slowly and looking at an unfamiliar translation (ESV), we were able to hear some interesting things.

Our attention was caught mostly by the fact that Jesus was praying.  We noticed that He was praying passionately even though He already received His answer (i.e., the cup would not be taken from Him).  We believed this was an indication that prayer is more than just asking God for things but is also a way to enter into the will of God.

This led us into the covenant triangle.

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We discussed the fact that obedience (which is what Jesus’ “thy will be done” prayer was) comes out of identity, which in turns comes from the Father’s acceptance/adoption of us.  We continued to discuss the fact that such obedience does not earn our identity but is an expression of our identity.  We noted that this obedience often comes through a time of prayer such as Jesus’ and takes a lot of trust.

After that, we asked what God might be calling us to do.  Since this was such a large message, I did not push anyone for a specific answer but allowed them to simply think about it.

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Here’s our whiteboard notes. The kids decorated it a little after we were done.

We finally concluded that this was not just a part of the Gospel story we all knew, nor was it even just a lesson God was trying to teach us.  We realized that this was actually Jesus living as a genuine disciple.  Yes, this is an example for us and can (and should) be used as such.  But it is a sincere example; Jesus did this not to teach us something (even though He does teach us in it) but because this is what disciples do; it is what He, as the premier disciple, needed to do at that moment.  Thus, such times of prayer, prayer offering submission to the will of God/a readiness to obey even in difficult circumstances, is what we need to do as well.

I was greatly encouraged by this devotional time.  I can’t wait for our next meeting on October 3rd.  I hope you can make it!

What I Saw – 2 Kings 4:15-28

My personal reading time gave me 2 Kings 1-5.  In those chapters, I found this passage 4:15-28).

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What I saw her was a woman who seemingly did not expect to receive goodness from God.  I can’t be sure that’s what is going on here (I’m always aware there might be elements in this historical stories that I miss which cause me to misinterpret), but that’s what it seemed like to me.  She somewhat rejected Elisha’s initial suggestion of receiving a son, and she references that rejection at the (temporary) death of her son.  It seemed to me like she didn’t expect God to give her anything good.

Whether or not that is the case for this woman, it is often the case for me.  For some reason, I don’t see God as “the giver of all good things”.  I don’t emotionally, that is.  Though I know the Scripture says this and I accept it intellectually, I struggle with it practically.

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This passage then reminded me to see God this way both intellectually and emotionally, to accept this truth practically, to believe that God will give good to me.  It reminded me to believe this not just when nothing is happening (as when Elisha first spoke to the woman) but when bad things are happening (as when her song died).  God is inviting me to not only know but trust that He is doing/will continue to do good to me, is giving/will continue to give good to me.

That’s what I saw in 2 Kings 4:15-28.

What I Saw – Luke 6:39-49

I met Tuesday morning with a group of pastors, as usual.  Our reading came from the Moravian Daily Text.  It was Luke 6:39-40.

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At first glance, this seems like a collection of disparate teachings.  The leader of our group suggested that this was a rabbinical style “string of pearls” teaching technique (apparently the rabbis wouldn’t teach for too long on one subject but would move from one to another to keep the people engaged).  Nonetheless, I saw a similar idea in most if not all of the teachings.  I saw several other ideas as well, which I recorded in my journal.

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The big thing I heard here is that most teachings have behind them the idea of a “good” or “fully trained” man.  This in turn lead to the question, “Am I good/fully trained?”  For me, this is a difficult question, one I’ve struggled with all my life.  I “feel” and/or believe the answer to be, “No.”  For that reason, I felt very challenged by these teachings.  I felt eliminated by them, in fact, as if they disqualify me or reveal my disqualification from the community of Christ.

As I continued to contemplate these things, I realized there is actually invitation here.  I think it comes when Jesus says “The student is above his teacher”.  With that, Jesus is eliminating all need for competition and comparison.  He is telling me that there is only so far I can go in this goodness/training, that I’m certainly not going to go further than or supersede Him (the teacher in question).  That being the case, I am free to pursue goodness and training without needing to wonder how much I and/or how much more I am than anybody else.  I took this to be an encouragement.  I saw, then, that Jesus was not eliminating me here (establishing that I am not good/fully trained) but encouraging me (asking me to pursue goodness/training).

One of the pastors in the group further suggested that this is not something we can do on our own, that goodness comes into us only from God.  I think this is suggested by the “foundation” idea Jesus ends the message on.  That foundation is obviously God/the teachings of God.  The man builds on it, puts some effort into setting himself upon it.  But that effort is only effective because God is there to begin with.

The main idea I took from this reading, then, is that God is an encourager, encouraging me to growth/training in His Kingdom.  The subsequent action I took from this reading was a need to ask God to make me good, to remove the evil stirred up in my heart/the plank in my eye/my blindness so that I can be good and fully trained as He is encouraging me to be.

And that’s what I saw in Luke 6:39-49.