Saturday, January 2, 2021

40 Days of Prayer 2021

This year we're kicking off 2021 with 40 Days of Prayer on our YouTube channel! Each day we'll have a short video on a prayer topic. 

If you're following the two-year Bible reading plan, that'll help you, but it's not necessary to read those chapters to join us in prayer.

Don't forget to pray for two people each day as well! You can message them and let them know that you're lifting them up as well!

Let's ask God to bless us as we rebuild our faith, community, and mission!

PD

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Advent 2020, Sat., 12/26 - Matthew 28

Merry Post-Christmas! Advent is over...or is it?

PRAY for the Holy Spirit to give us a hunger for more of Christ everyday!

READ Matthew 28.

REFLECT
We've spent four weeks anticipating Christmas, and now that it's come and gone, I always feel a slight sense of emptiness. What do I have to look forward to next, cleaning up? I'm thankful for New Year's. It gives me a sense that there is more. The women who went to the tomb went to clean up Jesus' body. They felt they had some unfinished business, but that was going to be the end of it, and they probably had no inkling as to what they were supposed to do after that. The eleven apostles didn't even bother to go and check on things. But the angel gave them more Good News - Jesus was risen! And He was going to meet them in Galilee. And eventually they'd make their way back to Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit would come. And the story would continue. The fake news of the theft of the body was never going to hold up. God was doing more, building His church by telling His disciples to make disciples! And we expect Jesus to return!

RESPOND
Sometimes I think that Christians do not know what to do between celebrating Christmas (Jesus' birth), Easter (Jesus' resurrection), and the promised return (Jesus' Second Coming). Even the disciples, well, some of them had their doubts in Matthew 28:17. Do you doubt that Jesus is coming back? The way the world is, we need Jesus to come back. This confirms that Jesus isn't done yet. So what do we do while we're waiting? We do not have to feel that emptiness, that sudden let-down that December 26 often brings. God the Spirit is working in and through us every day. Do you want to experience more of God? Read and pray and worship God daily - it's not an academic exercise or a review session to get ready for the Final Exam - it's a relationship that we can enjoy daily! And serve others and make disciples - this is what God has told us to do, so if we want to experience God, we need to do the activity that God is doing! That's where we'll meet God! If we're sitting at home while all our friends are at the park, we cannot complain that they didn't include us if we chose not to go. We cannot complain about God not showing up if He told us to go somewhere and do something but we choose to do something else. The disciples had to go to Galilee, then return to Jerusalem. They still had to follow...and when they did, they experienced God in power and fullness of grace. Let's go! God's leading us! Let's keep going! There's more! Merry Christmas and Merry Post-Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Advent 2020, Fri., 12/25 - Matthew 27

Merry Christmas! We celebrate Christ's birth while also grasping how His life on earth would end. The fullness of Jesus' life is what made Him our atoning sacrifice. Praise God!

PRAY for God to give us love for Christ as we read today.

READ Matthew 27.

REFLECT
Reading through this long chapter, I see that Matthew weaves many testimonies together, and many different responses to Jesus. The chief priests and elders in tandem with Pilate - these represent the two sets of authorities before whom Jesus stood trial, the Jewish leaders and the Roman government. We also have Judas the betrayer, the crowd in Jerusalem, Barabbas (set free) and two robbers (crucified next to Jesus), the mocking soldiers, the testifying centurion (54), Simon the Cyrene (who carried the cross), Joseph of Arimathea, and some women who were followers of Jesus. (Where are the apostles?) The busy scenes make it hard to focus on the crucifixion itself. Jesus suffered. It was a long, drawn-out death. It was very public. It was unjust: there were many motions to free Jesus (even Pilate's wife), but the people shouted for Jesus' crucifixion. Everyone witnessed it. What a tragic day! But Jesus endured it all, gave it all, to save us and to glorify God.

RESPOND
Reading through this long chapter on Christmas Day is surreal. We had Christmas Eve service just a few hours ago, celebrating the beauty of the incarnation - Immanuel, God with us, God came to His people! The beauty of that scene is contrasted with the ugliness of this day-long execution. But think of this: the most beautiful human being ever to walk on the face of the earth ("He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation," Colossians 1:15) faced the ugliest death that mankind could devise. We should celebrate the beauty of Jesus' birth, life, and person. He gave His life as a gift for us. Merry Christmas! We have received the gift of beauty and salvation!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Advent 2020, Thu., 12/24 - Matthew 26

It is surreal to read the events leading up to the crucifixion (tomorrow's reading, on Christmas Day!) while anticipating our celebration of Christmas. This is Advent, celebrating all Christ did for us!

PRAY for God to give us a deep, deep appreciation for Christ.

READ Matthew 26.

REFLECT
This chapter is grievous! The beauty of Jesus dining at a (former) leper's house, having his head anointed by a woman's supply of expensive perfume - these are juxtaposed by the disciples' pettiness and shallow words of devotion. The ones who had spent the most time with Him "will all fall away" (31). But this is precisely why Jesus came to do what He did - no other man could perfectly obey God and earn righteousness. The sequence of events read like a script from a suspenseful, sorrowful movie. You know what's coming, and you cannot stop it. Judas' complaints, face-to-face betrayal, and leading of the mob. Peter's pledge ("even if I must die with you, I will not deny you," 35) and subsequent denial. The disciples failing to keep vigil in prayer and failure to stay by Jesus' side at his arrest. All of this in one night and all of this in one short, quick chapter. It shows us Jesus' determination, and our need for a Savior, our need for Jesus. 

RESPOND
I want to cry. Sometimes we look at the events of the world and think, "How can it be so bad? How can we be so bad?" I look at the history of my life and wonder if I've learned anything from the disciples' bad example. It's so hard to fathom - the disciples walked, talked, lived with Jesus! They saw His power, even saw Jesus resurrect people from death, and they still struggled! No, I am not better than them. I have His Word with me, His Spirit in me, and I still struggle. This magnifies my need, but it also deepens my appreciation for God's grace in sending His Son Jesus to take on humanity. What will I celebrate today/tonight? My God is with me. Though I struggle, Jesus overcomes even me. What a gift!

40 Days of Prayer 2021

This year we're kicking off 2021 with 40 Days of Prayer on our YouTube channel ! Each day we'll have a short video on a prayer topic...