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First Thoughts Blog

Monthly Archives: March 2019

Day 21, Saturday (March 30) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

One with the Father
Day 21   Saturday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 10: 24-34
So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” 
 
The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”
 
CONSIDER
Jesus outrageously claimed, as a man, that he was “one” with God the Father. That means that who we see Jesus to be is what God is actually like. That means that what we see Jesus do is what God actually does in us and for us. That means there is no hidden God behind the back of Jesus. There is no secret God who will turn out to be other than who we see and hear Jesus to be.
 
What does Jesus’ oneness with the Father have to do with his declaration that he gives his sheep eternal life?
 
What does it have to do with our security that no one can snatch us out of his hand?

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, one with the Father, you are I AM,
the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no other.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 CORINTHIANS 12: 12-13, 26-27
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 
 
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 
 
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus is one with his Father in the bonds of the Spirit. He declares that we who are joined to him are one body with him, the one who is one with the Father.
That means we are one with each other for we share the same Spirit.
 
How does this reality challenge my idea that spirituality is an individual choice?
 
What does this oneness of Christ’s people have to do with the choices I make to pursue others who belong to him? To pursue reconciliation? To love those who are harder to love? To gather wandering sheep? To make the effort to show up? To open my heart? To seek greater expression of oneness in Christ who is one with the Father?
 
Close by singing these verses from the mystical ancient hymn “Of the Father’s Love Begotten:”
 
Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, he the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!
 
At his word, the worlds were framed. He commanded; it was done.
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining of the moon and the burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!
 
He is found in human fashion, death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish in the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!
 
Aurelius Prudentius, AD 400, trans. John Mason Neale. Of the Father’s Love Begotten. 1854.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 20, Friday (March 29) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The True Vine
Day 20   Friday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 15: 1-11
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
 
CONSIDER
Grapevines were all over ancient Israel. Wine was a staple of life and vineyards were crucial to the life and economy of God’s people. Also, Israel herself was likened to a vineyard planted by the LORD (Isaiah 5). Across the Temple was a gilded grapevine symbolizing a special people. But the prophet declared that the people had failed to produce a harvest. They were barren of faithfulness.
 
How does this context help us understand why Jesus likened himself to a vine?
 
How is Christ’s faithfulness necessary to our faithfulness and fruitfulness?
 
How does Jesus tell us to remain, or abide, in him, the Vine?

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, True Vine to my small branch,
hold me fast today and grow your fruit through me
that the world might taste you. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PSALM  52: 8-9
But I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
 
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
in the presence of the godly.
 
GALATIANS 5: 22-25
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
 
CONSIDER
The fruit of living from Jesus the Vine is a life that tastes like this Galatians passage. What tips does Psalm 52 give us for things we can do in order to live more as a fruitful vine?
 
What is the connection between living from Jesus and living for Jesus?
 
Close in prayer as you meditate on lines from this hymn, 
 
Thou true life-giving Vine, let me thy sweetness prove;
Renew my life with thine, refresh my soul with love.
Rough paths my feet have trod, since first their course began;
Feed me, thou Bread of God, help me, thou Son of Man.
 
John S. B. Monsell. I Hunger and I Thirst. 1866.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

My Cup Overflows

In well-known Psalm 23, David is so content, so overwhelmed with emotion in light of God’s provision and promised blessings that he proclaims, “My cup overflows!” Women, in some capacity or another, all yearn to feel like David in this psalm. We are all thirsty for God’s Word and God’s grace and blessings. We want to be “filled up” to the brim, to the point of overflowing! We show up with our empty cups, ready to be filled with God’s goodness and joy.
 
But often, we underestimate our ability to pour into other’s cups. We believe the lie that we can’t really contribute unless our own cup is overflowing.  Or maybe we miss opportunities to pour into others because we believe that we have nothing to offer, that our presence doesn’t really matter. Or more boldly, we don’t pour into others because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable for us, or because it means sacrificing something we don’t want to give up like our time or energy. But the truth is, on a daily basis, we can simultaneously feel “full” in some ways and “empty” in others. And so it’s possible to approach each day with an empty cup in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. 
 
Women’s ministry requires all of us. We are a complex gender, full of wants and needs, desires and dreams and emotions. We are absolutely not one size fits all. So we need all hands on deck. We need to retrain our brains to believe the truth that we do have something to offer, that our presence DOES matter. After all, God created us for a reason, giving each of us our own characteristics. And wherever he has put us, we express the gifts and strengths he’s given us. Even in our everyday lives, we have endless opportunities to be ministers of the gospel. God can use anyone (and we mean anyone!) to spread gospel truth and to be his hands and feet. We are all different, but we are all united in Christ.
 
So come thirsty. Come with an empty cup in one hand because the good news, more than anything else, is that God’s Truth is sufficient to fill us up. God is always ready and willing to pour out his grace. Come ready to drink up God’s goodness and joy.
 
But also come with a water pitcher, ready to serve his life-giving water to others. Come willing to be inconvenienced. Come willing to move into empty spaces and stir one another up in love using the gifts and talents he has instilled in you. Come willing to nurture other women in their relationship with Christ. It’s a weighty and important responsibility, but oh, what a privilege it is!    
 
We believe that God has intentionally placed every woman in this church, not only to grow our faith upward, but also to grow it outward, with one another. Our prayer is that Women’s Ministry would be a safe, honest, God-glorifying place where we can come together in study and prayer, serve one another in love, and connect in deep, meaningful ways. Our prayer is that we come together with compassion, attentiveness and grace-filled sacrifice, and then we take our water pitcher outside of the church walls, outside of Sunday morning and into the mission fields God has called us to. Our prayer is that each of us come with an empty cup in one hand and a water pitcher in the other. Let’s encourage a culture of water pourers, and may our cups overflow!
 
By Elizabeth Parker
Women's Ministry Director
 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1: 6-8).

 

Day 19, Thursday (March 28) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Way, the Truth and the Life
Day 19   Thursday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 13: 36-14: 9
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
 
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 
 
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
 
CONSIDER
On the last night before his crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples were worried that he was leaving them. They wanted to know where he was going and how they could follow him. Jesus did not give them a map, or even a list of instructions on how to reach him in heaven. Jesus assured them that he himself is both the road and the destination, both the goal and the plan. He is all, and we must be in him, not just knowing about him. 
 
In the 4th century, Augustine preached, “Christ-God is the country where we go, Christ-man is the way by which we go.” Jesus the man provided the way that we might go to live in and with Christ Jesus our God. 
 
What is the hard news in Jesus being the exclusive way to the Father?
 
What is the good news in Jesus being the way? 
 
What does it mean for your life that Jesus himself is the truth about God, life, the world and everything?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Sure Way and Only Truth,
lead me forth in your truth and teach me, 
for apart from you I have no good. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PSALM 16: 1-2, 11
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
 
CONSIDER
Recall times in your life when you “sought your own truth” apart from God. What were the effects of that?
 
Recall times when you “sought fullness of joy” apart from Christ. Describe the disappointment in such independent quests. Consider how the presence of the Triune God actually does fulfill us. What activities enhance the experiences of that presence?
 
Close by singing three verses from this hymn based on John 14: 7. The tune is the same as “Rejoice, the Lord Is King.”
 
You are the Way to God, Your blood our ransom paid;
In you we face our Judge and Maker unafraid.
Before the throne absolved we stand,
Your love has met your law’s demand.
 
You are the living Truth! All wisdom dwells in you,
The Source of every skill, the one eternal True!
O great I AM! In you we rest, 
Sure answer to our every quest.
 
You only are true Life! To know you is to live
The more abundant life that earth can never give.
O risen Lord! We live in you
In us each day your life renew!
 
Edith Margaret Clarkson. We Come, O Christ, to You. 1946.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Long Live God!

I had only recently come awake to Christ. My heart was full of praise. I  was eager to enter the drama of his saving acts. Around that time, Godspell became a hit Broadway musical. I had the soundtrack and one Easter Sunday, my father took me to see a visiting production. The crucifixion scene against a chain link fence was simple, searing and sad: 
    “O God, I’m dying,” sang Jesus.
    “O God, you’re dying,” echoed the disciples.
    “O God, I’m dead,” and Jesus sang no more.
    “O God, you’re dead,” mourned the disciples.
 
Then quietly, the music turned. All our hopes rode on a simple, wistful call:
    “Long live God. Long live God.”
 
Then, as resurrection dawned on the disciples, the band struck up and the soft wish became jubilant proclamation, “Long live God!” Jesus was alive. The show ended by taking us all the way back to the beginning lyric, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” 
 
Back then, there wasn’t much music that sang of Jesus in a style similar to songs I liked on the radio. Godspell filled an important gap. It brought me deep in the story of Jesus. Though several decades have passed, this musical still works to bring us Jesus exuberantly, creatively and winsomely. This April 5-7, it will be a great prelude to Easter. 
 
As ever, we will enter the story of Holy Week through a joyful Palm Sunday service, followed by egg hunts, a crawfish boil and tons of games and fellowship. The mood turns contemplative on Thursday with the Service of Shadows. Once again, we will enter the passion narrative through the voices of our great actors. This year, for the first time, we will mark Holy Saturday with a simple service called “The King Sleeps.” We will read and pray as we consider the prayers at hand for Jesus as he underwent death. Such entry into the sorrow releases great joy on Easter Sunday. We gather in the terraced garden for the sunrise service and then two festive services in the Sanctuary. These are the days when we draw closest to Christ Jesus as we join ourselves to his story. See you at the House! And know that especially in these holy days, I love being your pastor,
 
Gerrit

 

Day 18, Wednesday (March 27) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Resurrection and the Life
Day 18   Wednesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 11: 17-27
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
 
CONSIDER
How would you define resurrection?
 
In what way is Jesus himself the resurrection?
 
How does Christ’s resurrection affect our future resurrection?
 
Our present spiritual resurrection?
 
In what areas of your life do you desire to see resurrection?
 
What does the hope of future, embodied resurrection do for your daily life now?

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Resurrection and the Life, 
you wept over Lazarus as a man yet raised him as God; 
so by such tender mercy raise me to life in you.

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

ROMANS 6: 8-11, 13A
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 
 
Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.
 
CONSIDER
Paul considered that the literal events of Jesus’ death and resurrection have spiritual effects in us right now. 
 
Based on the hope that we will live in Christ, how are we to live right now? If you’ve ever had to leave home for work, you know it’s important to “present” yourself so your boss and coworkers know you are there and ready to go. Every day, we have to “show up” to our work as those who are in Christ by making a choice about who our boss is. By presenting ourselves either to the old life of sin or the new master, Jesus the resurrection. 
 
In what areas particularly do you feel led to renew your choice to be dead to sin and alive to God?
 
Will you claim the resurrection power of Jesus today for victory?
 
Close by singing these verses from Charles Wesley’s famous Easter hymn,
 
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise, Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise. Alleluia!
 
Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! 
 
Charles Wesley. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today. 1708.
 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 17, Tuesday (March 26) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Good Shepherd and the Door
Day 17   Tuesday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

PSALM 23: 1-3
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. 
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
 
JOHN 10: 7-15
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
 
CONSIDER
If Jesus is the door, where does entering through him lead?
 
What can happen if you try to get in some place without using the door?
 
Go back through the three verses from Psalm 23 and describe how Jesus fulfills each of the shepherding functions.
 
In John 10, what qualities of being a good shepherd does Jesus give?
 
What does it mean to you that Jesus your shepherd knows your name?

__________________________________________________

PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Shepherd of the Sheep, call me by name and tell me again that I am your own. Lead me through the Door of life. 

__________________________________________________

LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

1 PETER 2: 24-25
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
 
MATTHEW 7: 12-13
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.   
 
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
 
CONSIDER
Recall times when you felt as if you were straying like a lost sheep. Recall how Jesus your Shepherd brought you home. From what far pastures might you need to return today?
 
The paths of sheep on hillsides are quite narrow: describe a narrow way you are called to walk amidst the broad ways of this present culture.
 
Close by singing these two verses from the hymn:
 
Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care;
In thy pleasant pastures feeds us, for our use thy folds prepare:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, thou has bought us, thine we are.
 
We are thine, do thou befriend us, be the Guardian of our way;
Keep thy flock, from sin defend us, seek us when we go astray:
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus, hear, O hear us when we pray.
 
Dorothy Ann Thrupp. Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us. 1836.
 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 16, Monday (March 25) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

The Bread of Life
Day 16   Monday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 6: 29-35
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 
 
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
 
JOHN 6: 48-56
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
 
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
 
CONSIDER
In the days following the Exodus, the LORD’s people journeyed through the wilderness. God fed them by providing a bread-like substance called manna. It appeared every morning, just enough to satisfy the day’s needs. 
 
What improvement on manna, the bread from heaven, does Jesus declare in these passages?
 
What is the “health benefit” of eating Jesus, the bread of life?
 
How does he say that we “eat” of him? 
 
Recall a time or season of life in which Jesus sustained you with the bread of life through the wilderness.

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Bread of Life who alone can satisfy,
fill me with yourself this day. 

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LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

PSALM 145: 15-19
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
 
1 CORINTHIANS 10: 16
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
 
CONSIDER
How is communion a participation in Jesus the Bread of Life?
 
Why does it matter that we partake of the Lord’s Supper together?
 
How is the cumulative effect of the Supper more important than any one Sunday’s partaking? (As someone said, “I may not remember exactly what I had for lunch last Wednesday, but I know I’ve eaten!”)
 
In what ways have you found Jesus to be as necessary as basic food to your life?
 
Close by singing this verse from a hymn by Martin Luther:
 
Then let us feast this joyful day on Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away the old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls doth feed, he is our meat and drink indeed.
Faith lives upon no other. Hallelujah!
 
Martin Luther. Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands,  
adapting the medieval prayer called Exultet. 1524. 

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN

 

Day 15, Sunday (March 24) - Living into His Name

JESUS SAID, "I AM"

In Exodus 3, God revealed to Moses his sacred name: I Am who I Am. The name in Hebrews is just four letters, and we write in English as “The LORD.” Our God is not just any old God. He is the LORD I AM, the one who is pure being and pure freedom, pure potential: I will be who I will be. The ancient Hebrews reverenced this name as infinitely holy.
 
The fourth Gospel, however, places this name on the lips of Jesus as a way he identified himself. The shock to a Jewish audience cannot be overstated. “Before Abraham was, I am,” (John 8: 58) Jesus declared. No wonder they picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy! They knew Jesus knew what he was saying. 
 
Seven other times in John, Jesus made “I am” statements attached to a particular image which explained his person and work. “I am . . . the door, the way, the resurrection, the vine, the life, the bread of life, the good shepherd and the light of the world.” The mighty God in flesh came to be known through these basic images.
 
This week, we consider one of the earliest mosaics in Ravenna. It depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd. His face is beardless and young, though clearly powerful. He affectionately feeds a sheep from his own hand. This is not a detached God, a shepherd by proxy. He is among his sheep. His staff is the cross, by which he has cleansed us from sin and protects us from evil. The placidity of the flock, set against a peaceful backdrop of deep blue, reveals that they each know how the shepherd calls them by name and leads them gently through the world. The great I Am is our tender guardian.
 

The Light of the World
Day 15   Sunday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

JOHN 1: 4-5
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
 
JOHN 1: 9-13
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 
JOHN 8: 12
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
 
CONSIDER
The contrast between light and dark strikes deep in the human soul. Across times and cultures, the night represents stumbling, lostness, fear and death. Light represents hope, direction, healing and life. 
 
From earliest childhood, we long for light to shine in the darkness to dispel our fears, give us safety and bring a better day. John’s Gospel boldly begins with the recognition that humanity is in the dark and under the power of darkness. But Jesus has come to shine his light and so give us his life.
 
Could you come up with at least three endings to this sentence:
If Jesus is the light of the world, it means. . . . 
 
In which areas of darkness would you particularly like Jesus to shine this day?
 
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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, Light of the World, shine in the darkness of my heart 
and light the way before my feet. 

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LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7). 

JOHN 12: 35-36a
So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.
 
MATTHEW 5: 14-16
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
 
CONSIDER
Jesus alone is the true light of the world. But he also called his disciples the light of the world. We catch fire from his flame. We shine with his life within us. We illumine dark places with the love of the gospel.
 
When have you felt especially called upon to be light in a dark place?
 
Into which dark places will you go this week with the light of Christ?
 
How will you pray to let that light shine more brightly?
 
Close by singing the words to this simple yet deep worship song, 
 
Light of the world, 
You stepped down into darkness,
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Beauty that made this heart adore you,
Hope of a life spent with you.
 
Here I am to worship,
Here I am to bow down,
Here I am to say that you’re my God.
You’re altogether lovely,
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me.
 
Chris Tomlin. Here I Am to Worship. 2009.
 
 

Day 14, Saturday (March 23) - Living into His Name

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

Christ: The Messiah
Day 14   Saturday

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EXPLORE THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST

For us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8: 6).

MATTHEW 16: 13-18, 21
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
 
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
 
LUKE 24: 44-47
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
 
CONSIDER
The word “Christ” means anointed one. It is the Greek equivalent to the word “Messiah,” which also means anointed one. In the Old Testament days, kings were anointed with oil. They were set apart for the special office of leading the LORD’s people as the LORD’s chosen representative.
 
In Isaiah 61, one of the prophetic songs about the coming servant of the LORD who will redeem the LORD’s people, we read, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news. . . .” The coming Messiah would be anointed not with oil but with the Holy Spirit himself.
 
In his first recorded sermon, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and then declared, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 21). Jesus understood himself to be the Christ, and he knew that this name meant not only power and glory, but the deep suffering of his faithful ministry and atoning death. 

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PRAY THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Begin with the Jesus Prayer. Pray it reflectively several times, for yourself or on behalf of another. 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Then pray the day’s prayer slowly and repeatedly for at least a minute (that’s about seven times). Allow the prayer to take you into the meaning of the day’s facet of Jesus’ name. Pray it for yourself and/or on behalf of another. Take your time and trust this process!

Lord Jesus Christ, anointed by the Spirit, you heal and you save, you bring hope and peace, for you brought the Kingdom of heaven to earth through your living, dying, rising and ascending; come again to set all things right!

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LIVE INTO THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, 
so that through them you might become partakers of his divine
nature . . . For this very reason, supplement your faith with
virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness,
brotherly affection and love (2 Peter 1: 4-7).

2 CORINTHIANS 2: 14-16a
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
 
CONSIDER
The anointing oil used on kings had a powerfully pungent aroma. To the friends of the King, this aroma meant the life and peace of a good king reigning. To the enemies of the LORD’s anointed, this aroma meant the threat of his rule interrupting their plans and their personal sovereignty. Even today, we who smell Christ-like, as those anointed with his Spirit, find that some are attracted and some are repelled by our Christ in us. 
 
How does it help you to know that both reactions to Christ are normal?
 
Would it be helpful to get the “smell” of Christ off of us so no one would have to be disturbed by our association with him?
 
How does the anointing of the Spirit upon us advance the spread of the Gospel?
 
How do we get more and more of the “smell” of our Christ upon us?
 
Close by praying through song this verse and chorus from Chris Tomlin,
 
He became sin, who knew no sin;
That we might become his righteousness;
He humbled himself, and carried the cross.
Love so amazing, love so amazing.
 
Jesus, Messiah; name above all names;
Blessed redeemer; Immanuel.
The rescue for sinners, the ransom from heaven;
Jesus, Messiah, Lord of all.
 
Christ Tomlin. Jesus Messiah. 2008.

LISTEN TO TODAY'S HYMN