God Gives Life 5

John 17:22-23

Many years ago in our previous church one of the members gave me a small cutting from one of her plants. It was a “Purple Passion,” a vining houseplant of reddish purple that I find quite nice to look at. It is an easy plant to share. If you clip a small bit of a stem and set it in a cup of water for two weeks it will start a new root system and begin a new plant.

I have given clippings from this plant to other people, sharing the beauty of this deep purple houseplant. I give it to those for whom I care so they can enjoy it too.

As Jesus prayed the night he was arrested he spoke of the love he was sharing. What did Jesus give to his disciples? Why did he do this?

In his time on earth Jesus gathered a group of followers. He selected twelve men to be his disciples, those people he would teach and train to be able to preach and minister as he did. He also had a larger following of faithful people that probably numbered over one-hundred (see Luke 10:1 and Acts 1:15).

He didn’t gather these followers just to occupy their time or to ensure that he had company in what he did. He gathered these people so that he might give to them the gift of life that comes from God. He shared the glory and love of God with them.

In sharing this gift he was working to make them all one, united in love and grace under God. He wanted them to experience the new life that comes from the love of God. And through these followers we are invited to be one with God and one with all believers.

The gift of everlasting life, the gift of a new and dynamic life filled with the mercy and love of God awaits any of us who will accept the love from Christ. We must prepare ourselves for this tremendous gift, anxiously readying ourselves to receive the Lord’s bounty.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to prepare for God’s gift of life?

God Gives Life 4

Psalm 139:23-24

We have several smoke detectors throughout our house. Every now and then the batteries will run low on one of them – usually in the middle of the night, for some reason – and when that happens the detector emits a high-pitched beep every minute or so. When that happens we must go throughout the house and listen for the beep, standing in the hall, standing in a bedroom, listening to determine where the problem is.

As Christians and children of God we have a hope for perfection and the promise of grace and love from God. However, in spite of our best efforts now and then we have faults. We fail to do what is right and holy and sometimes fall to temptation.

When that happens we must find the offense within ourselves. We must determine where our weakness lies and discover what part of us needs to be corrected. It sometimes requires time and effort. We must examine ourselves to find that place that is lacking.

Psalm 139 has acknowledged the greatness of God and His many expressions of love. The psalm begins with the comment that God knows us completely. Now, as the psalm draws to an end the psalmist makes a request of God. What are the many things asked of God?

If we are seeking a more perfect relationship with our Lord we must be pure of heart. If we want to have that deep connection with God we will want to have all of our imperfections forgiven and removed from us. Like the psalmist we may ask God to search us and test us. We may want the Lord to realize how sincere we are in our devotion to Him. Then we can ask the Lord to lead us in more holy ways.

Before we do that, however, we will need to search ourselves. We need to examine our own hearts and souls to determine if we are ready to receive God’s loving gift of eternal life. We need to be prepared for the salvation Jesus gives.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What part of your faith needs to be corrected and set on the right path?

God Gives Life 3

Luke 23:39-43

We are making plans for our annual vacation this summer. I get excited about going away to a place where we can relax and enjoy the incredible peace and beauty of God’s creation. It is kind of exciting to think that we can leave our familiar home in the morning and be in our vacation spot by sunset. In one day we can go from ordinary to extraordinary.

We see a similar change for a criminal who was crucified along with Jesus. What did one criminal do? What did the second criminal point out? What did he ask of Jesus? What did Jesus tell him?

We are all familiar with the image of three crosses when we consider the crucifixion. The Roman army occupying Jerusalem at the time of Christ would condemn criminals according to their crime, executing like offenders, crucifying them a few at a time. Jesus and these two other men were likely condemned for stirring up trouble for the government.

One of the two men was obviously angry about his fate and began to taunt and insult Jesus. But the second was more self-aware. He recognized that he was receiving the punishment that his behavior and actions had earned him.

But this condemned man turned to Jesus and asked to be remembered. In his own way he was seeking forgiveness from Jesus. And Jesus responded with the promise of a new life in heaven.

We may not be criminals or thieves or political rebels, but we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all deserving of condemnation. But God in His love and mercy offers us the tremendous gift of a new life if we will but receive it.

Through the sacrifice of Christ we are given a new life. That new life is a life eternally spent in heaven with God, but it is also a new life here on earth. When we accept Christ as our Savior the old sinfulness and guilt, the hopelessness of life, is taken away and we are set free with a new and joyous life filled with God’s love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you turn to Jesus to receive the gift of life?

God Gives Life 2

Luke 19:45-46

It’s spring. The days are warming up. The skies are clearing. It’s time for spring cleaning. It’s that time of the year when we go through our house and open the windows to let fresh air blow through and clear out the stale odors of winter. We sort through all the clutter that has gathered and toss out those things that are not necessary.

After arriving in Jerusalem for the Passover Jesus did a little of his own spring cleaning. Where did he go? What did he do? What did he say?

The temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ was a central meeting place for the faithful. Travelers gathered at the temple. Worshipers came to make their sacrifices. The temple was a busy place and in that busy-ness there sprang up small shops to sell sacrificial animals to believers who needed them to worship.

This market may seem necessary for worship, but we can also imagine that this system of supply and demand, of buying and selling, of changing money had become a hubbub of activity that gradually drifted farther and farther away from true worship. We can imagine that folks simply accepted the turmoil and noise of the temple market, something that detracted from true worship.

But Jesus knew that this was not the time and place for such activity. He chased out the vendors and money-changers. The temple was to be a place of prayer, a holy place where faithful believers could connect with the life-giving Spirit of God. Jesus was working to restore that holy connection that brings a new spirit to those who worship.

Like the temple, we can drift from the holy attitudes we should have. We may participate in worship services but these services may become humdrum and meaningless. We may have worries and concerns on our mind that keep us from connecting to God. Or we may allow the workings of our life to draw us away from time with God.

As we ready for Easter we must prepare our temples – ourselves – for our redemption. We must clear the clutter of our lives and make a clean place where we can recognize and receive the new life that God gives us.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you clear away the distractions so you can more readily receive the new life God offers?

God Gives Life 1

Luke 19:37-40

When my nephews were very little they stayed at our house from time to time. Once while they were there they knew their grandpa was coming home from work so they set up a vigil to watch for his arrival. Each positioned himself at a window in different rooms and kept their eyes on the road. They had a plan that whichever one saw grandpa first would begin shouting out a noise like a siren.

They were excited about who was coming. They were filled with anticipation and gladness. They couldn’t wait to see their grandpa.

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem marked the beginning of his last days on earth. He was coming to face his crucifixion. But he was also coming to provide all of us with the tremendous gift of everlasting life we receive because of his sacrifice.

What did the disciples do? What did they say? What was the reaction of the Pharisees? What did Jesus say?

I have always found this reading in Luke to be a very moving and exciting passage. The crowd of followers is shouting praise to Jesus because they knew him to be the Son of God. But the Pharisees just didn’t get it. All they heard was noise and they wanted it stopped.

But Jesus told them that if the people weren’t shouting the very stones would cry out praise. We can look at this verse and think that Jesus was speaking symbolically, that he was just making a point. But it has always been part of my faith and belief in the workings of God to take this statement literally.

Jesus had come to Jerusalem to fulfill his purpose. He was going to die on a cross, and in that death he would remove all of our sins. He would give us a new and everlasting life with God. His followers recognized the new life Jesus brought them and celebrated it. And if the people did not celebrate it the earth itself, all of God’s creation, would celebrate what Jesus was doing.

As we approach Easter Sunday we need to recognize that Jesus gives us life through his sacrifice. We need to celebrate the gift of love from God that makes us new again and supplies us with life eternal.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you celebrate the gift of life Jesus gives?