October 2012


Prayer Focus: South Africa

Bible Reading: Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-38

Scripture

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44)

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mark 13:32-33)

Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”(Luke 21:36)

Observation

It matters not if you are reading Matthew, Mark or Luke, the message is the same: be ready! Christ visited our planet for 33 years and He promised to return. He is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness to be (honestly, I think 2000+ years is slow, too, but then again, compared to eternity…). This account also tells us clearly that we will not know when (and should not announce predictions to the world!). We simply must be ready…always.

Application

Are you ready for His return? It could be today. The only thing I am certain of with regard to His timing is that we are one day closer to His return today than we were yesterday!

A story is told of a man who was asked, “If you knew tomorrow was your last day on this earth, how would you spend it?” He replied, “I’d plant apple trees.” Shocked, the person asked, “Why would you use your final hours planting apple trees?” to which the man replied, “I try to live every day like it is my last. I plan on planting apple trees tomorrow so why would I change anything?”

Prayer

LORD, I’m ready for Your return. I want to be ready always. Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus! I want to always be ready for Your return…and also for whatever assignments You give me until Your return. In Your Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Somalia

Bible Reading: Matthew 22:15-23:39; Mark 12:13-44; Luke 20:20-21:4; 13:31-35

Scripture

41And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  Mark 12:41-44

Observation

Jesus had just finished telling the Pharisees and the Herodians to give to Caesar what was his and to God what is His.  Caesar can have his coins, but everything belongs to God.  Then, as now, people were stingy with their gifts, holding tightly to their money instead of trusting God.  A poor widow woman turns out to be a ray of hope.  Jesus sees her put in her two coins and knows that it’s all she has.  She didn’t just give a piece, she gave everything.  She was totally dependent on God to take care of her.

Application

Often we get stuck when it comes to giving.  We feel guilty if we don’t give enough and we feel like we’ve done our part if we give 10%.  The truth is giving isn’t just about money.  God asks that we be totally dependent on him so even the Old Testament tradition of 10% isn’t enough.  We owe God all our time, all our energy, and everything we have, not a 10% pittance which most of us don’t do anyway.

It’s not easy to do.  In fact, it may be the hardest thing Jesus calls us to do; Being totally dependent on the Lord, not worrying about where tomorrow’s food comes from, how next month’s mortgage will get paid, or how your kids will get through school.  Jesus asks us to set the worry for all that aside and trust Him for all things.  It’s easy, on paper, and nearly, maybe completely, impossible in practice.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying.  The more you depend on God the less you want the things of the world and its the things of this world that pull us away from God.

Prayer

Lord, you call us to seek you first, to depend on you and that you will care for us.  It’s difficult.  I need your help.  Show me how to set myself and what I want aside to be fully devoted to you and your will.  Thank you, Lord.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Somalia

Bible Reading: Matthew 21:23-22:14; Mark 11:27-12:12; Luke 20:1-19 ; John 12:37-50

Scripture

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (John 12:37)

Observation

People often say, “Prove to me that there is a God. If I could see God, I would believe.” This is simply not true. Many (most?) who encountered Jesus in the flesh—and His miracles—failed to believe. Three verses later, Jesus quotes Isaiah who said, “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them.” (John 12:40; Isaiah 6:10) This poses challenging question such as, “Why would God blind eyes and deaden hearts?” “Why doesn’t everyone believe?” and the age-old controversy, “Do we choose God or does God choose us?”

Application

I have no simple answer to the difficult questions. However, I am grateful for the faith that God has allowed me to have and I want to do whatever I can to encourage others to experience and follow Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Open the eyes of their heart, LORD. Open the eyes of their heart. I want them to see You. I want them to see You. Specifically, I pray for Rod, James, Doug, Don, Andrew, Curt, and Larry to follow You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Slovakia

Bible Reading: Matthew 20, Mark 10:32-52, Luke 18:31-43, Luke 19:1-27

Scripture:

31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him;33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” 34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. 35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?”“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:1-43)

Observation:

I’ve always seen this passage metaphorically as the huddle before the last play.  Jesus calls his disciples over and quietly gives them a heads up on what’s going to happen next.  He doesn’t want them caught unaware.  Even so, even after explaining it by the numbers, they didn’t get it.  The bible says that “the meaning was hidden from them” but when the events of the week unfold and they went over the order of events this moment returned to them (and thus are available for us).

I wonder if this frustrated him, that they didn’t get it.  Lots of other scripture in other places give us glimpses into Jesus’s frustration with their lack of understanding in general, though it’s not specifically mentioned in this passage.  Instead, Jesus keeps his thoughts (disappointment?) to himself and continues his walk toward Jerusalem.

As he passes by Jericho, on the roadside is a beggar, forced to those circumstances by blindness.  He hears the others  talking.  He knows this man called Jesus!  He knows not only who he is by reputation, but also what his destiny is!  He knows what scripture  and prophesy has to say about “The Son of David”,  and in the crowd, he calls out “Jesus!  Son of David!”  They try to shush him, but he just yells louder!  He’s excited!  Here is the man he has wanted to see with his own eyes,  the man who can heal him.  Change him.

Just as Jesus is passing by and wondering if he’s had enough time to impart wisdom and truth to his disciples, he hears this voice in the crowd.  Just as he’s wondering  “would they ever get it?” there is a man who blindly sees what his disciples have missed.  Jesus stops in his tracks and locks on to this poor begging man and asks “What would you have me do?”

Application:

I can’t help but wonder how often Jesus feels this way about me.  I so often don’t get it.  I forget what his big plan really is, cause I get caught up in my own little dramas.  I’m distracted by the by plays that happen on the sidelines or in the bleachers.

I’m grateful that he still does miracles, heals people in front of me.  He reminds me that he has a plan, that even death doesn’t stop Him from it.

Prayer:

Lord, may I not be like the ones on the side of the road, squelching and shushing others from coming to you.  Thank you for striving with me, being patent with me while I learn and grow.  And Lord, I especially pray for those who come to you for healing.  Nothing is impossible for you!  Amen!

Prayer Focus: Singapore

Bible Reading: Mathew 19; Mark 10:1-31; Luke 16-18:30

Scripture: “He who is faithful in a little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” 

“Be on your guard! if your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”   (Luke 16:10-11; 17:3-5)

Observation: Here is a command to be faithful with what we have, with an implication that more might be possible. Here is also a command to forgive, and an implication that more might be asked of us.  A valid response to both is, “Lord, increase our faith [fulness].”

Application: So many times when we think of faith like a mustard seed, we think of great and migthy acts of freefalling with God, taking risks and seeing the impossible occur on a grand scale. I’ve never related it back to the concept of forgiveness. When I juxtaposed this thought with being faithful in all things, I had to stop and take a closer look. I know the teachings about money and serving two masters, which certainly applies in this context, but what if more might be gleaned from these passages? How much faith does it take to forgive? It can be challenging in the best of circumstances – someone wrongs you and repents, never to wrong you again – but can seem nearly impossible in situations described here – SEVEN times . . .in ONE day? Wouldn’t we question the sincerity? How sorry can they really be?

Over and over in Scripture we see verses that reference reconciliation – Eph 4:32 forgive as you’ve been forgiven; Col 3:13 forgive as the Lord forgave you; Luke 6:27 love your enemies; 2 Cor 5:18 we have the ministry of reconciliation.

What if forgiveness and reconciliation are the ‘true riches’? According to Jesus, we have the capacity to forgive – we have the capacity to be faithful in much. Do we have the desire? It’s much easier (though not always easy) to write a check rather than reach across the aisle, or the table, to restore fellowship with one another. Jesus says it doesn’t take much, just the faith of a mustard seed. I think the disciples got it right here – to paraphrase – “Wait a minute – that’s going to be difficult. Help me out here.” 

Prayer: Father, may we be faithful in all things, increase our faith, help us forgive. May we speak Truth into the lives of those around us, restore relationships, break down walls, and be overwhelmed with true riches that build your kingdom here on earth. For the Glory of Your name, Amen.

Prayer Focus: Sierra Leone

Bible Reading: Luke 14-15

Scripture

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:11, 26-27, 33)

Observation

There are many points in this short collection of verses. A disciple (learner) must look and act like their discipler. Jesus never asks us to go beyond what He did. Humility produces exaltation, a true paradox. In order to truly follow Jesus, we must give up everything.

Application

I like the idea of being a disciple of Jesus, but often the reality of the requirements causes me concern. My flesh wants to hang on to money, people, dreams, and power. Jesus said the path to greatness is humility. The path to life is death (to self). The path to discipleship is surrender.

Prayer

Jesus, I truly do want to be Your disciple…and I want to make disciples of others…of all nations. I know I must first be a disciple and remain in You. I need to surrender so much more in my life. You want it all, including my kids, my wife, my reputation, my education, my resources…everything. Once again, help me to want to want You. In Your Name, amen.

Prayer Focus:   Senegal, Seychelles,

Bible Reading:  John 7-9

Scripture –  

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?”Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

– John 9:1-11

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind.14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”  – John 9:13-17

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” John9: 24-30

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.  – John 9-24-38

Observation – So many wonderful stories and plots are in these books it is hard to focus on just one aspect.  But the one that calls out to me is the first part of John 9.  What we see here is the outline an unbeliever follows when coming to learn of Jesus and learning to be his disciple.  In John 9:11, the man only knew that “the man they call Jesus put some mud on my eyes.  In John 9:17, after learning a little more, the man now knew him as “a prophet”,.   In John 9:30, he knows that Jesus is not a sinner, and must be from God.  Finally when confronted with Jesus after the man was rejected by the Pharisees, the man believes and worships him.

Application –  As we discussed this morning at church, we are all in some manner on a continuum in our relationship to God and Jesus.  Some us openly reject him, some see him as a good teacher and moralist, some see him as a prophet of God, and some us see him as the SON OF GOD, that was, and is and always will be.  What is important is to realize where on that continuum those we deal with on a day to day basis are, those that we are called to disciple, those we hope to bring to Christ.  Only in that way can we find common ground to build a relationship and hope to lead them from strangers and enemies to friends.  I’ve been struggling lately, I was challenged a couple weeks ago at the M conference to Hug a Gay Person, Love a Commie, and Pray with an Islamic Person, in this way the Kingdom of God will be achieved.  The speaker, Bob Roberts from Northwood Church in Dallas, Texas was challenging us to love our neighbor, and to serve the sheep even as Jesus does.  We all have faults, we all have sinned and will sin again, but God made each and every one of us and it is HIS will that we reach them all.  Just as the blind beggar was brought to faith in Christ through the relationship and service he developed with “the man they call Jesus, ” we all as Christians need to cultivate relationships with our neighbors and find a way to make those we are acquainted with into the neighbors they actually are.

Prayer –  Lord help me to make a neighbor out of those I meet, help my to love the lost, have compassion for the afflicted, and grace for those that wrong me. Thank you Lord for loving us all, Open our Eyes Lord that we can see. Amen.

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