Throughout generations there have always been times of uncertainty. Our world has consistently been in cycles of calm and chaos. Within each person’s own life, this uncertainty, calm and chaos occurs at a micro level which mimics the reality of the world. Above all of this exists the One who can calm our troubled lives. This One has the power to settle even the greatest chaos. What is even more amazing is that the One with such power, who has always been and is above all things, has each one of us on the mind and in the heart all the time. Our Lord even had us in mind when out of love, he placed himself beneath the power of sin and death to destroy it forever.
The verse for today is the answer to the trivia question, “What is the shortest verse in the Bible?” This comes in the midst of Jesus’s arrival to the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. The passage is a bit ambivalent in indicating to us the cause of Jesus’s weeping. Was the cause the weeping of Mary? Perhaps the cause was sadness over the death of Lazarus. Another potential cause may be the limited faith he saw in the people, especially Martha. Whatever the cause, the gospel writer tells us two different times that Jesus was moved. This movement of emotions leads Jesus to tears.
This verse is one of the most overlooked, important passages in Scripture. In these two words, we witness the depth of love Jesus has for us. No matter the cause of the tears, Jesus wept because of the sorrow found in the situation. The words also communicate to us that we have a Lord who shares in our grief and has felt our grief. What a comfort this type of intimacy can be as we journey through grief. Our tears are felt and shared in Jesus’s tears.
It is important to remember this verse. We are reminded that our Lord is not distant and unattached from us. No, our Lord is in the very midst of our experience. Our Lord feels for and with us every emotion we experience. What greater example of love can we ever desire? Oh wait, that comes later in the gospel.
There always seems to be some place on the planet where a drought is occurring. The level and the length of time may vary but the need for moisture is noticeable. Most living creatures not adapted for an arid climate need moisture of some form on a regular basis for survival. There are times when I seem to constantly be watering the plants in our landscaping in order to keep everything alive. Science tells us that humans can go through longer periods of time without food than we can without water in some form.
In today’s passage Jesus makes an offer to quench the thirst of anyone who comes to him. This thirst is not a physical one but instead it is a spiritual one. Not only does he promise to meet the spiritual thirst of people, he goes on to say that these individuals would be able to provide for the thirst of others. All of this is possible because the Spirit is the living water for all whose soul is thirsty.
An observant person can see that in the world today there is a great spiritual thirst. Just as the need existed when Jesus shared this invitation for his contemporaries, the people of our time have this great need. Everyone is searching for the one thing which will satisfy their thirst. Many attempt to fill the need with activity and possessions. Others use alcohol or drugs to eliminate the thirst. Still others may seek out cults and ethereal substances to overcome this drought in their lives.
The answer is found in what Jesus says in this passage. The Lord is the only one who can satisfy our thirst. As experienced in the Spirit, the living waters of Christ can flow in us and through us. We do not need to remain parched. When we receive what our soul pants for, we are able to share with others who are also thirsty.
Anticipating something can create anxiety for most of us. This anxiety increases if we do not know the timing of whatever we are anticipating. You might recall as a young child on a road trip the way you nagged your parents with the question, “Are we there yet?” Maybe you had a child who consistently would ask that question, or ask “when?” We think that by knowing the timing, we can manage our anxiety better. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.
We witness the annely of the disciples in today’s passage. Jesus tells them that the large, revered temple will be reduced to rubble and they want to know when. Jesus warns them that some people will come and try to convince them that the end is near based upon events which they see around them. He tells them not to be fooled because those events are just a part of the status of the world. Jesus says the wickedness in the world will increase but they are to stand strong in love. When others no longer live in and by love, Jesus’s followers are to do the opposite as a testimony of the kingdom in the world.
Since Jesus spoke these words, history has recorded individuals trying to convince people that the end of the world is close at hand. Even today we experience leaders, speakers, preachers, and public figures trying to equate natural or human-created events as signs of the end times. Whether it is true or not, our focus should not be on timing but instead our focus should be on remaining solid in love. Jesus clearly tells us that whatever is occurring around us, whatever wickedness is flooding the world, we are to not acquire a cold heart. The love which we daily receive from the Lord must create our foundation. This love surrounding us is also what we are to be sharing with others.
Leave the timing of the world’s demise to God. Do not let the world’s wickedness steal the love from you. Make love an alternative to the events of the world. By doing so, you will be testifying to the kingdom for others to see, a kingdom which is defined by love.
There exist many times in life when two opposing views present themselves. These views are usually based upon our perception. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? This question is often quoted to show the concepts of pessimism and optimism. We also eventually realize that life generally resides somewhere in the middle of opposing views.
In the familiar passage for today, we see this challenge of contrasts. The Israelites are seeing their lives solely from the perspective of what they do not have. This perspective leads to complaining and an amnesia in regards to all which the Lord has given them. God shows the people abundance in quail and manna. They had all that they needed, and an abundance remained.
We can often have a perspective like the Israelites. We look at the world around us, complaining about all the things we do not have. Quickly, we can forget what we have thanks to the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. All of which we truly need is provided by our God, and there is an abundance to share with others. Let each of us strive to achieve an attitude of abundance. If we succeed, it might just lead to less complaining and more gratitude.
Highly successful college basketball coach, John Wooden, is quoted as saying, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Wooden’s quote reminds us of the importance of always being in a learning mindset. Similarly, Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” These successful and brilliant men stress the importance of spending a lifetime learning. They also remind us that no matter how wise or knowledgeable one may appear, there is always something more which can, and should, be learned.
When it comes to our faith and understanding of God, this could not be more true. Our passage for today comes from the book of the Bible named Proverbs. A Google search of the word proverb gives this definition: “a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.” The proverbs found in this book are usually credited to Solomon who was considered to be the wisest king of the Israeli people. It is a collection of sayings and insights intended to assist the people of God in learning who God is, who they are, and how Gad intends them to live. These first verses are encouragement for the people to continue to always be learning.
We have not only the book of Proverbs but the Bible as a whole which invites us to continue to learn about our faith, our God, and ourselves. Add to this the insights provided by mothers and fathers in our faith and we have no limits in what is available to us from which to learn. Fellow believers and faith leaders of today continue to add to the lessons available to us.
None of us know all. Every day we are given the opportunity to learn and grow in our faith. Praise be to our Lord for the people and the learning given to us throughout our lives.
There is a fact of human reality which is impossible to overcome-no one can be two places at one time. The limits of our human existence include the inability to be in more than one location at any given time. If you have the need to avoid or be hidden from another person, you may be grateful for this reality since it may help you to escape detection. The flip side of this truth is that when we have a need or desire to be in two different locales at the same time, we must choose because this is impossible for us.
Due to the spiritual nature of God, the human limits of time and place do not apply. God can, and is, everywhere at all times. The psalmist states this in today’s verses. The psalmist affirms that there is nowhere which a person can go, or be, that the Lord is not present.
Realizing that the observation in this psalm is absolutely true carries a mixed dynamic for us. If we feel a need to hide from the Lord (which Adam and Eve once did), we cannot be successful. Our God will be present wherever we may go. The other portion of this dynamic is comforting because for us it means the Lord is always present. We are never alone in facing any aspect of life. God is there, always desiring to provide whatever we may need in the time and place of our existence.
This portion of the ancient song gives us two truths to incorporate in our lives:
Strive always to never have the need to hide from God.
Remember that you are never alone because the Lord is always with you.
We live in a world where our accomplishments, status, background, and experiences define who we are in life. The lesson which is frequently taught, starting at a young age, is that we are the only ones who can make a name for ourselves. Each of us has a longing to be known. This longing drives us to expend a lot of energy and resources to establish our name among our peers.
There is one with whom we do not have to make our name known. In fact, none of our accomplishments, efforts, status or anything else can establish our identity with this one being. God knows who we are even better than we know ourselves. Our true identity is found not in ourselves but in the Lord. Because we are known by God, we receive so much love and care from our Lord. When we remember that as a child of God, we are known, loved and have full acceptance, our striving to be known loses some importance.
Casting Crowns have communicated this beautifully in their song, Who Am I. Take time to listen to this song and reflect upon how the Lord has established your name in the Book of Life.
When an immigrant desires to become a citizen of the United States, there is quite a process which the person must complete. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website lists the following:
Be at least 18 years of age at the time you file the application;
Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under);
Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
Be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
Demonstrate good moral character;
Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
Demonstrate a loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and
Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.
This list causes one to wonder how many citizens by birth could make it through this process
In the passage from Philippians, Paul speaks of being citizens. He mentions that we are transformed to this citizenship through the power of Christ. Striving to follow the example of Jesus as witnessed in others is our responsibility as heavenly citizens.
Paul’s words speak valuable concepts to us. Being reminded that our citizenship is in heaven provides a proper perspective on our earthly one. With citizenship comes responsibility. This sense of responsibility should not be taken lightly. In both types of citizenship, our care for others is paramount. This is the example given to us by our Lord and is applicable in both arenas.
The passage chosen for today is part of a letter which Paul has written. Paul had received word that many of the believers in Galatia had started striving to live according to the Hebrew laws. They were concerned about earning righteousness with God. Someone had convinced them of the necessity to adhere to the law. This portion of Paul’s letter is to address this problem and redviert the people.
Paul outlines the problem with the idea of striving to adhere to the ancient law. By focusing on required performance and behavior, the believers are disregarding the grace secured for them by Christ. The direction which they have been taking places the spotlight on them and their actions instead of on Christ’s actions. Any behaviors which they follow should be in response to the grace which they received through Christ, not because they are trying to follow the law.
Even today there are people who fall into the same trap which the believers in Galatia had fallen into. They were confused by leaders who tried to convince them that their righteousness was based on their fidelity to the law. Some church leaders today make similar statements. Paul’s words in his letter are apropos for anyone who follows this pattern. The grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for us. Any attempts at earning righteousness discredits belief in Christ’s all-sufficient grace. Our lives should be lived as a response to this grace.