Daily Reading 8

"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' " -Matthew 3:16-17

The scene unfolds on this crazy looking man, John, who is wading in the water, telling everyone about the need for forgiveness. When we hear this guy in the bible, he is usually talking about another person who was coming. Another person who would show people how to live and love each other. Lots of people were waiting in line that day to be baptized. Waiting for their chance to say publicly that they are changing how they act. What is so surprising about this entire scene is that Jesus is in the line with everyone else. He is in line with the Gentiles - people who were not born into the Jewish faith, those who were seen as unworthy and pretty much scum to many Jews. John is perplexed when Jesus gets in the water. He tries to convince Jesus to switch roles with him and do the baptizing instead. But this act was making way for Jesus to show us yet again that he is willing to act for us.

I really think that it would be great if you could read the last two paragraphs of Mr. Lucado's thoughts about this story. He is pretty much affirming that none of us is perfect. We've made mistakes, tried to do what is right, and sometimes we fail. The attempts never come out to be perfect. But Jesus waiting in that line with us to be baptized is our clue that he takes care of all of that stuff. He can measure up where we can't. He is willing to pay the price for us that we could not pay ourselves. When we are baptized, we are connecting to the time that Jesus was baptized. We are saying that we accept the gift that he gives to us - the wiping out of our sin. t was accomplished for us, by God coming here as a human, to do it perfectly because we were not able.

I believe I need to say thank you for that, and remember my baptism. I actually grew up going to the Catholic church. I cannot remember having baptism explained to me when I was young. It may have been, but I don't remember it. Within the last couple of years, someone told me the reason that there are water bowls posted at entrances/exits in a Catholic church... Their purpose is to help you to remember your baptism. To remember that Jesus paid the price for you and to remind you of the decision you made to live your life in His direction. I have actually had two baptisms. When I was a teenager, I got interested in learning more about God. A friend of mine sparked the interest and I went to a youth event. After several months of questions and discussions, I realized that some people that I had met had something that I wanted. They loved unconditionally and supported each other through really tough stuff. I prayed in my room one night telling God that I wanted what they had. My friend's parents had given me a bible. I read in Romans 10:9-10 "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved." After some more discussion, I decided that I wanted to tell others about what I had learned, so I had a baptism. I don't necessarily think that I had to be baptised again. I believe that my parents wanted me to live with God's direction when I was baptised as a baby. This was another way to show how God had been working in my life.


Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I came across this prayer in someone else's blog today. I remember it from a song that I used to know as a child in church. I can still remember the melody. I LOVE these words. The lyrics have always made me want to jump inside them and become part of the song. I think as this new year begins, I am going to try to pick one word that I can try to make a focus of my thinking and actions. The word that sticks with me from this prayer is peace. In being an agent of peace, many things are accomplished. I need peace for myself. I need to be able to accept and embrace some things that are tough before I can have that peace. Maybe I actually need to let some desires go. In rereading the words of the last few lines, I can also see that extending peace to others seems to bring peace to oneself.

Max Lucado Daily Reading 7

"Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God." -Mark 1:14

"God chose him for this purpose long before the world began." -1 Peter 1:20

If you haven't tried it yet, find a bible and read some of the rest of the context surrounding the verse that starts each day. It totally helps to understand what is going on. Too often, we read quotes or bible verses in isolation. As I read the beginning of this first chapter of mark, I saw that it introduced Jesus a bit differently than Luke. It talked about John the baptist and how he proclaimed that the Messiah was soon coming. He was announcing Jesus' entrance into a life of public scrutiny. Max points out that Jesus had to first say goodbye to private life at home with his family in the little town of Nazareth before he went out. The crazy thing about it all is that Jesus didn't have to do any of it. He could have kept quiet and led a normal life. But he allowed God's plan to unfold anyway. Not just to be killed, but to willingly carry his own tool of death- a cross, to have it done.
My favorite question so far in these daily readings posed by our author came today: "I wonder what kind of love is this? When you come up with a word for such love, give it to Christ." I have a new friend that is a fabulous writer. I think someday, she will express this sentiment in a way that I cannot. I have been talking about God with her for only a short time, and she is continually blowing me away with her insight about this lifelong spiritual journey. I am thankful for her and I am thankful for what God has done. "immense in mercy and with an incredible love. . . embraced us." - Ephesians 2:4


Max Lucado Daily Reading 6

"He's just a carpenter." -Mark 6:3

"No stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." -Isaiah 53:2

"He had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as a high priest to get rid of the people's sins, he would have already experienced it all himself - all the pain, all the testing - and would be able to help where help was needed." -Hebrews 2:17-18

Today's reading takes us to the dusty village of Nazareth. It is brought to our attention that jesus is working there as a carpenter and that he is being raised by his mother Mary, alone. Joseph must have died. The passages above show us that others around jesus didn't see anything extraordnary about his childhood. He did a job that was dingy, hard, and probably caused a lot of BO! He is living among a bunch of people who are not thought of by their government as more than laborers. He lived in a simple place and did a mundane job. He worked for others in a job of service.

I can kind of get a glimpse into God's reasoning for sending his Son to live among us. I can see that jesus would really relate to us because of his childhood and job in these stories that are referenced above. It makes me want to thank God for showing us that he understands. I know that he knows and that helps. Sometimes I really want to shake my fist at Him and complain about my circumstances. At least Jesus was here and felt some of the same emotions. He probably didn't experience all of it the same way that I do, but he was here and he did endure "earth's toughest pain".

Max Lucado Daily Reading 5

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." -Luke 2:40

Mr. Lucado discusses the first time that Jesus is acting upon the knowledge of who he is - God in human form. His parents have been traveling on a return trip home after visiting Jerusalem. They realize after 3 days that he is not with them. They look for him at relatives' homes and friends' houses, but do not think to look at the temple. Max points out that this is the first place that our Lord goes. He goes there first, showing us that we can do the same. In this visit, Jesus astounds many thinkers that are much older and have had more education. AND, even though he senses this call on his life, he returns home with his family. He spends time living with, taking care of , and focusing on them.

First of all, it amazes me to think that it took three days for Mary and Joseph to notice that their son was missing from their traveling group. There must have been a lot of people in that caravan! Reading this today, it does not surprise me that Jesus was in the temple. But then again, I only have a few pages to read, between his birth and this story. We have the benefit of reading the summary of what happened... Angels appeared announcing the arrival of the Messiah and we can quickly find out about how Jesus grows up and teaches people about the love of God. Mary and Joseph didn't have that knowledge. They were frantic, looking for their missing child. If I stop to think about it, this makes complete sense. Who wouldn't be frantic?

It also caught me off guard to think about how Jesus did spend a lot of his life at home with his family. It wasn't until in his early thirties that he went and gathered the disciples to help him tell about God's story to others. He really cared for his family. He made them a priority and helped them understand. What made the most sense to me was the line where Max asked, "What makes you think they'll believe you overseas if they don't believe you across the hall?" Lots of times, I need guidance because I am scared to start a conversation about spiritual things. I think I should try focusing on my actions, though first.


Max Lucado Reading Day 4

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16

Still pondering that amazing day of Jesus' birth, we are asked the question, "Would you do what Jesus did?" There are a lot of things to consider in this small question. Would I have given up the peace of heaven? What about the security of the Father's company and the worship of the angels? Or the control of the universe? Hmm. Trading in all of that for a cramped womb and then to have needs that have to be met by a mother and father. Did he know that later he would be humiliated and beaten when he gave all of that up?
Then we are asked to think about how that decision is completely because of love. Love is the difference maker. It was a choice that Christ made... to love.
It amazed me to try and put myself in Jesus' shoes and wonder if I would have made the same choices that he did. He could have stopped any time, when he was confronted with something that wasn't a "Godly" task, or when he was mistreated by others. But that is exactly what he did not do. He did not turn away from any situations that faced him. He experienced them as a man, even though he was God. This is love. That choice shows that he is willing to experience the pain and hurt, the mistreatment and mocking. He loved us enough to become one of us, so that we could understand who he is. He went all the way to the cross to show us how much he loves us. He loved us that much!


Max Lucado Daily Reading 3

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took Mary home to be his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." - Matthew 1:24-25

The big question asked by Max today is , "Why Joseph?" He questions the choice of this man as opposed to some lofty priest or scholar. What intrigued me is that the reason for God's choice of this man was probably because of the way he sacrificed his own reputation in order to be Mary's husband and the dad to Jesus.
Here on earth, we always seem to want the approval of others. Joseph knew that according to others, he should shun her publicly and then get out of the situation entirely.
It amazes me how similar this is to the story of Jesus talking with the woman caught in adultery. Men led her out to be stoned, telling Jesus of her sin and what should b e done. Instead of shunning her publicly like the other men did, he turned the situation around on them - "The one without sin should cast the first stone." Obviously the stones dropped and everyone went away. I wonder if when this happened later in his life, Jesus had any idea that his earthly father, Joseph had made a similar decision. His dad made a decision to let go his "unblemished reputation" because he believed. He put God's plan ahead of his own.
Today, I am praying that God will help me to put his plan ahead of my own and that you can do the same.


Max Lucado Daily Reading 2

Mary Cradles God
"And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no roomfor them in the inn." - Luke 2:7

Today, Max talked about the surroundings of the stable where Christ was born: cobwebs, minimal hay, hard earth, and parents weary of a long trip on foot. Then he speaks of mary contemplating what has just taken place. She remembers what the angels had said, "His kingdom will have no end," and she knows that in her arms is God in baby form.

The funniest part to me was Max's comment that, "He looks like anything but a king. his face is prunish and red. he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being." I am amazed when I think about how God limited himself in the form of a baby, putting his powerful self in the arms of a woman who would change his diapers and nourish him. I wonder what Mary thought as she held him for the first time?


Max Lucado Daily Reading 1

On Monday, a friend loaned me a book to read called 3:16 by Max Lucado. The amazing thing is that she read the ENTIRE thing over the course of Saturday morning. It was actually given to her the night before by another friend, who thought she would really like it. Well, she did. It answered a lot of questions that she was having. And so, on Sunday when I talked to her, we decided to use the 40-day devotional section at the back for discussion.
I think it would be a great way for discussion out there in the blogging world as well, so I am going to post here the scripture for the day and give a bit of summary as well as reflection about max's thoughts. I hope you'll consider reading the scriptures and commenting and questioning along with us!

"Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" -Luke 2:13-14

I love this part of Luke's story when the angels announce the arrival of Jesus to the shepards. One of my favorite Christmas movie moments is when Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. He recites this passage in Luke under the stage lights to a bunch of ordinary animated characters like Lucy, Pigpen, and old Charlie Brown. I think it is amazing how God announced the most important earthly arrival to normal, everyday beings. Even stinky, smelly shepards. They carried everything that they owned with them. He knew that they would be able to believe without needing to consult books or needing to clean themselves up first. They went straightaway to meet their Savior. What faith!