I’ve been holding off on blogging over the past couple of months, but I’d like to share some devotional readings that my wife, Linda, has written for our friends this summer. They’re great, and I think you’ll enjoy getting into them.
July 8, 2012
Summer Sabbath and the Parables.
This summer we are focusing on a few of Jesus’ parables. It will be fun to have all the ages in our services during this Summer Sabbath and the parables explain and confuse things for all ages alike. The parables probably will make more sense and be more easily understood by those under 12 than those over. People under 12 tend to be so much more literal and accepting of truth. And this is where I begin our summer Sabbath devotions this year.
The parables represent about one-third of Jesus’ teachings during His time on earth. He said they were teachings used to CONCEAL the Kingdom from those who didn’t trust in Him and to REVEAL the Kingdom to those of faith. (Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”) This is not comfort to me, and from the gospel readings, I don’t think it comforted the disciples either.
Over and over, after every parable they asked for an explanation. They struggled to know what it was that they were meant to understand from the parables. But the disciples didn’t understand, even with explanations sometimes. And to a large extent neither do I.
So what was it Jesus wanted us to hear and see in the parables?
Jesus used the parables to reveal the Kingdom of God, to reveal the King himself, and to reveal the nature of the King’s subjects (us). And we will look at the parables we cover this summer with this in mind.
Take last week’s parable of the sow-er, the seed, and the soil (Matthew 13:1-23). I’ve think I may have always looked at it from the wrong angle, focusing on my own heart or the hearts of those around me that are hard, rocky, dry, thorny, choked…. wishing I was better soil, they were better, we were better soil. Endlessly disappointed in my lack, our lack of being the followers (or soil) Jesus deserves. Frustrated that we it didn’t seem I/we could ever become good soil and stay that way…
But what if the point more, much more, was to reveal the Sow-er’s heart. To see that the parable is actually revealing more about the sow-er than the seed or soil, that is a new look, a whole different vantage. What if Jesus is pointing out to us that He is the One who sows into our lives. And He is such a generous, extravagant, merciful King, that He sows His love and mercy freely and unconditionally knowing fully that our hearts are at various times and to various degrees, rocky and hard, choked with distractions and anxieties, and even at times more given to be in places where Satan can trounce and steal. Realizing that about the Sow-er WOULD be GOOD NEWS!
The fact that we are varying degrees of poor soil most of the time is not news to us, or shouldn’t be if we take an honest look. And it is certainly not new news to our Lord. But to FOCUS on the love and generosity of the Sow-er, is to see this parable with a whole new purpose, it is to understand that Jesus was revealing His heart about us. This is picture of His covenant with us that He wanted us to have eyes to see.
The SECRET, the MYSTERY of the Kingdom is found in Jesus.
So if you have ears to hear, come near and listen, come near and ask, come near and spend some time being in His Presence. Focus with thanksgiving on His generous love evidenced in our daily life; His merciful grace that has rescued each of us over and over in spite of our hard head, heart or mind; and ask for ears to hear and eyes to see His active love in your life today.
Come near and ask for the revelation of His love, grace, and mercy and for a heart that is grateful.
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.” Ps 143:8
July 1, 2012
Another Summer Sabbath
The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
Another Summer Sabbath. Here we are again with another opportunity, another season to sit in His Presence, wait and listen. We practice this Sabbath time each summer where we intentionally slow down a bit. Even if the world and our commitments don’t, we purpose to slow down internally, spiritually; to wait and listen, rest and be in His Presence. It’s not natural, it’s not easy, it’s a little squirmy, a little frustrating, even a little bit of an exercise in futility and failure at times. But still. As an ongoing, practicing discipline of our faith, it is significant, it is beneficial, it is important, even crucial. We need time apart. Even if it is just to remind us, fail though we may, that we NEED time apart. Our own pro / con experiences aside, it still has value and is good.
We need to re-set our spiritual clocks. The truth is the best way to work is well rested. Our senses are sharp, our reflexes quick and our mind attuned. And the truth is also that too often we work until we are exhausted then get up and do it again, and again and again, until we drop. Not as productive, not at fruitful, but we work. This can be true with our relationships and our faith as much as our vocations.
So it is, fairly fair to say, a re-boot, a re-winding of our spiritual clocks is, if nothing else, a good idea in theory. But by stressing it every summer for 4 weeks or so, we remind ourselves; and one another that it is just that – a good idea. And whether it fits well with our individual lives or not, it is still a good reminder that we are not immune from over work, over exhaustion, over thinking, over committing, over doing of our lives to the point of numbness, to where we are just going through the motions of life without the fullness and presence it deserves. So that, as we are able, as we can find space in our lives, rest and being in His Presence are something of value, not to be ignored or neglected, what ever our reasoning (too hard, no time, don’t hear, don’t get Scripture, discomfort, failure). And it is humbling to admit we are no different than every saint that has gone before us. We too NEED His Presence, His Wisdom, His Grace, His Mercy and His Love in our lives desperately. And taking time to remember and practice time apart with the Lord and ourselves is undeniably crucial.
So if not now, soon, and often.
Just a reminder.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.