The temperatures are rising outside as we transition from spring into summer. The increase in temperatures have drawn my thoughts toward heat and fire. My thoughts have also been focusing on the upcoming celebration of Pentecost in the Church. In the telling of events which occurred at Pentecost shortly after Jesus returning to the spiritual realms, we see the portrayal of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire on the shoulders of the disciples. Fire plays an important role throughout many Scripture accounts.
Today’s focus passage comes at the end of one of Luke’s stories about the appearances of Jesus post-resurrection. This story is often referred to at the “walk to Emmaus” because two disciples encounter the resurrected Jesus as they walk to Emmaus from Jerusalem. They discuss with Jesus the events of his death without recognizing him. He explains to them how the Hebrew Scriptures indicated these things had to happen. It was not until they reached Emmaus and were breaking bread with the Lord that they realized who they had been talking with during this time. This is where we join the story today.
The idea of their hearts burning within them drew my attention. Having the Lord open the Scriptures to them created this sensation. Clearly a glow or an overpowering sensation overcame the core of their being. This sensation is spiritual and not physical. It is unique and very specific. Imagine a fire burning within a person’s spirit.
This passage links well with all the occurrences of fire throughout the Bible. Whether it be the call of Moses at the “burning bush,” the galvanizing of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s faith in the furnace, or the telling of tongues of fire on disciple shoulders, the link between the Spirit and fire is clear. What these two disciples experienced as they listened to Jesus was the Spirit changing their hearts and perspectives.
Have you felt the burning of the Spirit in your being? I have had such a sensation at times in my life. The transforming by the Spirit is the basis. Each sensation is different and unique because the reason or need for transformation is different. The reason may be an altering of perspective such as in today’s story. Or maybe the need is to take our words and/or actions from the ordinary to the spiritual. Or possibly the situation calls for a cleansing of ourselves. Whatever the case, we come away recalling the sensation and being transformed. Be open to the sensation and transformation of the Spirit.
This week has made many of us feel as if we have been battered by a storm. The senseless killing of children in Texas which came so closely after the horrific murders of people in Buffalo, make us filled with questions, sadness, and anxiety. These events are a continuing trend in our nation. Add to this the exhaustion brought upon us by the pandemic and months of war in Ukraine. All of these situations combine to make us feel like we are in the midst of a never ending storm. How can we continue to stand?
Jesus has an answer to that question. He tells the crowd listening to him that they are to be like the wise person who built a house on rock. The rock on which we are to build our house is Jesus Christ and his teachings. Jesus taught that love is the answer to combat evil and sin. If we build our lives on the love found in Jesus’s words, we will overcome the sin within us and in the world around us.
Go to the teachings of Jesus and listen. Read the two chapters preceding this one in Matthew’s gospel. Then strive everyday to build your life upon Jesus’s words found in these three chapters.
The news from Texas yesterday is almost impossible to comprehend. Thinking about what type of response we believers in Christ might make, a great number of words from Scripture came to mind. However, instead of seeking answers and responses right now, I decided it is best to sit awhile in our grief. There will be time to seek answers and proper responses as led by the Spirit. So today, read of the grief Jeremiah lifts up and be surrounded by the shared grief knowing nineteen children and three adults were killed in an act of human violence. I am confident our Lord is shedding tears as well.
We were created to be independent and capable. When God envisioned humanity, humans were intended to be on a level in which a compatible relationship could be established between God and humanity. There is a built-in dependency between us and our Creator. Humans have attempted to live independent of God since shortly after creation. Each attempt results in some level of failure. When we break down and admit our need for the Lord, we do not find rejection but forgiveness and the grace of love.
Chris Tomlin puts our prayer into words and music…
Advice on how to live life seems to come from a variety of sources on a regular basis. Advertisers are always telling us what to eat, what to wear, where to live, how to spend our time, and just about every other detail you can imagine. We receive advice from family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers on the internet. Advice is easily given but often goes unheeded. Some advice falls under the category of “easier said than done.”
The writing which we read today in Scripture definitely is intended to be advice for believers to follow within the faith community. This advice seems to easily fit in the category mentioned above. It makes sense and on the surface appears to be easily followed. However, the truth, which everyone knows, is that this advice is much more difficult to put into practice than it is to hear it. As difficult as practicing this may be, and as frequently as we fail to consistently live it out, we are to continue to strive to follow it. By following this advice, we are living into the example of Jesus Christ.
Reread this passage. You may even choose to write it down and place it where you see it every morning. Then commit yourself to putting it into practice every day whether you are always successful or not.
The passage for today is one which always amazes me when I read it. The concept that by one person telling her story, a whole village is curious about Jesus, and many came to believe even before meeting him, is astonishing. The door of opportunity has been opened because instead of keeping silent, the woman shared her story.
This passage follows the telling of Jesus’s interaction with a woman at the well of Jacob. All of this takes place without any witnesses. It is recorded here only because the writer learned the story from the woman just as the villagers had learned it. If the woman had not shared this story of love and redemption, we would not have known about it.
The words in this passage convict us. When we choose not to share with others our stories regarding Jesus in our lives, we are preventing the possibility of others getting to know Jesus deeper. The Samaritan woman puts forth an example of how we are to share our encounters with the Lord. When we do, amazing results can occur as we read about here.
Conflict appears to be endless in today’s world. We are in a time when violence appears to be the preferred response in many circumstances. Wisdom is not often demonstrated. The world searches for peace and the wisdom which will bring it in the midst of conflict.
The writer of James tells us there are two kinds of wisdom. There is an earthly wisdom which is focused on the self and selfish gains. The other wisdom is described as one of humility, pure, peace-loving, considerate, merciful, and with a focus upon others. This wisdom is centered in the spiritual realm of the Lord.
As we seek answers for our times, we should seek the spiritual wisdom of the Lord. Finding such wisdom can be a challenge. Such wisdom will be demonstrated in how a person lives their life. Seeking a person who demonstrates the traits which we see listed in the latter portion of the passage should be our goal. We should also strive to demonstrate this wisdom ourselves.
When going on a trip, I have a tendency to overpack. This tendency may be attributed to my desire to be prepared for whatever may come my way. I pack a complete extra outfit in case I spill on myself or I have to unexpectedly stay for an extra day. Wanting to have the right outfit, I tend to include a casual outfit for each day as well as one dressier outfit in case we go to a fancier restaurant. Naturally, each outfit may require different shoes and different belts. Then there is also the need to have something to wear for just hanging out in the hotel room or the house where I am staying. You can see why I have a habit of overpacking.
Jesus feels that some of his disciples are ready to go out on their own to teach and heal. He sends them in pairs (probably for moral support). His instructions include what they should take along. They are basically to head out with the bare minimum. Leave almost everything behind is Jesus’s direction.
Jesus may have wanted the disciples to learn the value of dependency upon others. Today as I read this passage, I thought of another lesson Jesus may have intended to teach here. Possibly Jesus is teaching the benefit of leaving life’s trappings behind. By not taking so much with them, the disciples had less of a burden to carry as they traveled. They also did not approach a house with a lot of stuff to haul into the house when invited. A freeing could provide a better opportunity to focus on the needs of the ones who the disciples encounter.
What extra baggage may you be carrying when the Lord sends you? There are times when the trappings of the church should be left behind. For many of us, we have emotional baggage which we carry with us as we journey. Our opinions or judgments may be something we take with us into situations when we are sent. All of these cause our focus to be less on the ones to whom the Lord is sending us, and more on ourselves. Jesus tells us to leave these things behind.
What do you need to leave behind? How can leaving these things behind free you to be more focused on those to whom the Lord sends you? Afterall, do you really need to take anything but Christ where you go on your ministry journey?
Anticipating a trip to a new locale can be exciting but uneasy at the same time. Being able to explore and experience new sites generates excitement. The unknown and questions cause uneasiness. What will it be like? How will I feel and respond? Am I properly prepared? The new often prompts these two reactions within us.
The psalmist speaks of a longing for the time when she/he is standing in the presence of the Lord. There is an anticipation of this coming time. As I read these verses today, I heard the words of a contemporary group of psalmists, Mercy Me.
How do you make sure that you remember important things? I am a person who is very grateful for technology serving as a memory aid. Alexa helps me keep track of my various shopping lists. Google Calendar syncs with all my electronic devices and laptop so that I remember appointments, birthdays, and anniversaries. Microsoft To Do is on all my electronic devices to assist me in remembering the various tasks which I have each day. While the system is not perfect, i.e., I have to remember to add things to these various platforms, I would be much less successful in remembering things without this technology.
God wants the Israelites to remember the commands, laws, and decrees which they have been given. Like the various methods I use to remember important details, God gives the Israelites a variety of ways to remember. God instructs the people to integrate these guides into every aspect of their lives. They are to talk about them, create visual reminders, and incorporate them into their daily activities.
As the Israelites were instructed to remember God’s guidance, so we too are instructed. The teachings passed down to us through the prophets, Scripture writers, Apostles, faith leaders, and especially Jesus, should infiltrate every aspect of our lives. We should talk regularly about these teachings with our family and fellow believers. We should think about them throughout our daily activities. We should place reminders where we see them on a regular basis. This is how we impress them upon our hearts as God instructed the Israelites to do.