The significance of a meal

The significance of a meal

Scripture Reference

17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

18 “As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there.

20 When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table[a] with the Twelve. 21 While they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

22 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?”

23 He replied, “One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me. 24 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

25 Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?”

And Jesus told him, “You have said it.”

26 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.”

27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant[b] between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”

30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Out of all the scenarios that Jesus chose to culminate final moments with His disciples, the last supper was one of His top picks. He had communed with them before, and they had shared meals together, but this was different.

Jesus was aware there was a great trial that was ahead of Him, that would be triggered by one of the disciples He had poured into all along. I can imagine the crushing feelings and thoughts that were going through His mind, as He shared with the disciples the truth of what He had always known, it would be one of His own who would betray Him.

There is a posture that Jesus models to us: how to deal with betrayal in the works. A lot of times, solutions are provided after betrayal happens, wisdom is shared after the fact, but what do you do when you come into the knowledge of a betrayal in the works?

 

  1. Maintain your cool

Jesus was not erratic or irrational. The bible states in verse 21: “And while they were eating, He said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me”. His calmness to the situation reveals the posture that He had regarding what was going on. He was not afraid, everything was under control, He was keenly aware of that, and nothing was going to pull Him out of character.

 

  1. Maintain the main perspective

Jesus understood this was necessary for the fulfillment of destiny and prophecy. He was not weak. He understood the betrayal was part of the process. This reveals His maturity and focus on what was important, the cross. Fulfilling the will of His father was priority to Him, and nothing was going to stop that. Everything was working together to bring the prophecy to pass

 

  1. Maintain your integrity

Jesus understood, the disciples would come to the realization of the full context of what He meant during this Supper after His crucifixion. He was careful to maintain the integrity of Judas and not expose him to the disciples, because that could have meant harsh retaliation from them. He wanted the disciples to remember how to handle their enemies, and how to deal with delicate situations like this in a manner that was Christ-like.

 

There will be moments in your life when you will discern or become aware of betrayals that are in the works against you. It may be painful. For a moment, you may desire to come out of character to prove a point. My prayer for you is that you will remember that you have a Savior who understands the pain of betrayal because He overcame it. In that moment, may you find refuge in His love and guidance, to help you navigate through the emotional turmoil you may have, and ensure you make the right choices that will avoid regret in the years to come.

Prayer

Dear Father,

Many times I have held on to the pain of betrayal thinking that no one understood the pain I was in. I am glad to know you understand and you empathize with me. You were betrayed by one of your own disciples, but you proactively forgave him and never allowed the betrayal to become a hindrance to your destiny and purpose.

 

Teach me and help me to overcome betrayals that have occurred in my life, and give me the courage to learn from them and become better as I grow to be more like you. Surround me with the right people who will provide me with sound wisdom and help me to make decisions that will not compromise my faith walk. I believe you will guide me through the hard and tumultuous moments of my life with grace and strength.

 

In Jesus Name,

 

Amen

Will you recognize Him when you see Him?

Will you recognize Him when you see Him?

It had been a long day. Not long because I had crammed one activity after another into a very small window of time, but long in the tangible way I had felt every hour pass. Even though I arrived late to pick up my son from track practice, his older brother and I ended up having to wait for him to come out of the building. As he opened the van door, pitched his backpack into the van, and hopped onto the seat, I skipped my customary “Hi, how was your day” greeting. My mind was too harried to bother with perfunctory courtesies.

I swerved into the exit lane of the school driveway, but just then a man walking alongside a bicycle stepped into the crosswalk. He appeared to be talking to himself. At the precise moment when my car stopped to wait for him to pass, he turned and saw me. Now he was coming back toward the van. Oh no, not today, I thought. But yes, today was the day, and it has now become to me an act of mercy and life-altering grace that I will never forget.

I rolled down my window, lowered the radio volume so he wouldn’t hear the Christian music playing, and fixed my face with an impassive look that I hoped would indicate an absence of hostility but also a need to finish quickly whatever our interaction would be.

When he came to the window, I was expecting him to start explaining what he needed. But instead, he handed me a piece of notepaper that I could see was about half full of writing. As I started to read, he began saying something that I couldn’t quite make out, but I could tell he was probably hearing impaired. His note basically related that he was new in town, didn’t have a place to stay, had no friends or family in the area, and hadn’t eaten in three days. He concluded with a simple request for money to buy food.

Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the experience, I realize that should have been my first clue that something unexpected was about to happen. Even with all his apparent needs—without a home, physical and perhaps cognitive impairments, hunger, no family—he had narrowed his request down to one thing: I’m hungry. Can you help me get some food? I see this now for what it was: raw humility.

I looked up from the note and explained that I didn’t have any cash. Usually I at least have some loose change in my ashtray or the well in the driver side door, but not today. So being satisfied that I had dispatched my obligation as best I could, I apologized for being unable to help and began rolling my window back up. Unlike other people in his situation I’ve met before, he didn’t look angry, nor did he become aggressive. He took the note back from me, smiled, and started walking back in the direction he was originally going.

As I pulled out onto the road, I said to my sons, “I really need to start carrying some cash so I can help when situations like this come up.” They both mumbled, “Yeah,” and I could hear in their voices that surly cynicism people get when they hear someone say something that they knew would quickly be forgotten. They were right. I had said this before.

But this time it felt different.

Continuing in the vein of my day, I started mentally processing what had just happened. Unsolicited, I heard and felt God’s whisper in my heart, saying, “You don’t have any cash, but you can still give him something to eat.”

Duh, of course … I did have my debit card! In a flash, it hit me with such intensity that it came bursting out of my mouth without me really intending it to. “Hey, I have a card!” I shouted.

Now my sons were energized too. They both sat up straighter in their seats and started looking for a place we could stop and buy our stranger something to eat. At the same time, we all spotted the Burger King to our left. In my new excitement and haste to rectify my original un-helpfulness, I swung the van into the turn lane and practically skidded into the BK drive-thru line. We were all thinking the same thing: we needed to hurry because he might not be in the near vicinity for too long. My sons both started yelling things we could order, and we settled on grilled chicken, fries, and a sprite. We figured if he hadn’t eaten in three days, his stomach might be sensitive, so grilled rather than fried seemed to fit the bill. I also was price conscious because my own finances were pretty slim.

After we ordered and paid, we started looking for him. Panic began to rise as we scanned the street in front of us and the sidewalk on both sides and didn’t see him.

“There he is!”

My younger son spotted him in the parking lot of a corner convenience store where he appeared to be talking with another driver about his plight. I made a half u-turn into the store parking lot and pulled up beside our friend. When he shifted on his feet to face us, I could see on his face a flicker of recognition, but just shy of familiarity. My older son was closest to him, so I handed the bag of food to him and he reached out the window. A look of sheer surprise spread over the man’s face. Clearly he couldn’t believe we were back. My son handed him the bag, and tears welled up in the man’s eyes.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you so much, and God bless you,” the man said. We blessed him back and pulled off.

I knew what had just happened, but I also knew something else had happened. That simple hand-off of food had ushered something “other” into our midst. A hush fell over all three of us, and my spirit bore witness that the interior of my van had been transformed into holy ground. The presence of God was overwhelming. Tears started running down my face, and I saw that my younger son was struggling to hold back the tears that sat pooled right behind his eyelids. Finally he said, “Gosh, he was so grateful … poor guy.”

I heard what my son said, but I also heard someone else speaking: “Whatever you do to the least of these, you’ve done it unto Me. Thanks for feeding Me when I was hungry.” Then again: “When you give to the poor, you lend to the Lord. Thanks for the loan; I’ll pay you back.”

I was speechless. On a day when I felt the burden of so much of my own need, and was almost near the edge of panic about my own money situation, the Lord Himself visited my little tribe and gave us an opportunity to see Him, and to be blessed not just by Him but with Him. God was there as real as I’ve ever experienced Him. I saw Him in the man’s unashamed humility, his open gratitude, his peaceful demeanor despite what had to be a grinding existence, and his ready forgiveness of my earlier rejection. This man may indeed be a pauper by earthly standards, but he was just as sure a prince by eternal standards. In that simple act of obedience, I had received so much more than I had given.

Since my meeting him that day, now more than a month ago, I have thought of him every day and prayed for him when I thought to do it. He makes me wonder how many times, in our harried and distracted living, we miss the opportunity to see Jesus because we don’t recognize Him when we see Him.

Our cities and urban areas are full with people who need to be fed, clothed, comforted. But I believe we pass Him by because of the “distressing disguise” in which he appears to us. Run-down tenements, trash-strewn alleys, and overrun housing projects are not usually our idea of heavenly places. But heaven is where Jesus is, and I think maybe He’s waiting for us to realize that truth.

I almost wish I could see my hungry friend again, just so I could thank him. Through his humanity and his need, he gave me a glimpse of Someone I desperately needed to see. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Lent and the Least of These

Lent and the Least of These

During Lent, we commemorate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. As if it were New Year’s Eve, most Christians make a Lenten resolution, consecrate it with prayer, and stick it out until Easter. Our concern for particularity in this moment, while laudable, can prevent us from grasping — and being grasped by — a broader sense of mission. The immediacy of figuring out, “What am I going to give up?” can prevent us from asking, “What sort of person is God calling me to be within the church and the world?” The first question pivots around our personal aspirations; the second one opens up a vista of service and mission. Developing the latter theme, we might approach Lent as an opportunity to embrace the care of Christ and emulate his ministry of coming alongside and caring for the least of these.

Embracing the care of Christ can be painful, for it often requires a prior admission that we are wounded. Many recent college graduates work hard to secure employment and repay loans, only to experience job loss, a reduction of responsibility, or another economic shift causing them to move back in with their parents. They are wounded. Some 222,000 veterans have returned from Iraq to a jobless recovery, a gridlocked Congress, and employers who cannot grasp the relevance of leadership skills honed in a military context. They, too, are wounded.

Our individual ailments differ, but we share an Augustinian solidarity. The bishop of Hippo suggests that we are Good Samaritans, called to love across differences of race, class, religion, and other social realities. Yet we are also recipients of God’s boundary-bursting, Samaritan love — Jesus found us by the side of the road, bandaged our wounds, and nursed us into wholeness by the power of his Holy Spirit.

As a community whose health has been and is being restored, Christ calls us to tend to the social ills of his people and all people. Matthew 25:31-46, in particular, underscores the importance of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those who are in prison, and welcoming the stranger.

By caring with and for society’s most vulnerable members — Jesus calls them “the least of these” — we bear witness to the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in Christ. We embody his love by performing acts that immediately address the maladies of drug addiction, domestic violence, and chronic sickness. Moreover, our engagement in intermediate, systems-transforming work on behalf of the least of these — inmates, immigrants, gay and lesbian military personnel, and so on — testifies to the restorative justice of God’s kingdom in Christ.

Such care, whether personal or structural, does not itself build or establish God’s kingdom. To claim that it does collapses human initiative into divine work (making devils out of those who may oppose it for well-argued reasons) and, more dangerously, runs the risk of idolizing the stratification of power that enables such change (e.g., relief and development arms of denominations or national governments become sacrosanct instruments beyond critique). Our individual and collective care for “the least of these” represent necessary and yet feeble attempts to follow in the footsteps of our Lord who prioritized the marginalized in his ministry. Our call is not about politics, not about ideology, but about modeling the love and justice of Christ. Cornel West has famously remarked that, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” What does our Christian faith look like out on the street?

Lent reminds us that the church’s social service and justice-making efforts fall short of God’s glory, that our best attempts to repair the world are still broken, leading us to depend anew on the care of Christ. We are weak, but the consolations of our Lord are strong; through him we discover the strength to love, the power to carry on.

When Captivity has an end date

When Captivity has an end date

Scripture

Ezra 1: 1-8

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia,[a] the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: 

2 “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! 4 Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

5 Then God stirred the hearts of the priests and Levites and the leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. 6 And all their neighbors assisted by giving them articles of silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock. They gave them many valuable gifts in addition to all the voluntary offerings.

7 King Cyrus himself brought out the articles that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his own gods. 8 Cyrus directed Mithredath, the treasurer of Persia, to count these items and present them to Sheshbazzar, the leader of the exiles returning to Judah.

There are particular trials or situations that we deal with for such a long time, that it becomes a part of us. We connect and identify with the issue, wake up and go to bed with it, add it to our schedules and regular life, because that is all we know. We have never seen what life would be like, without it.

The danger we face when this happens, is we never prepare for what life will be like when we are free of this trial or situation. When the time of liberation happens, we can end up having withdrawal symptoms, missing the trial because we were so accustomed to the dysfunction it created in our lives.

There is a reason why God identifies Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The ending of a thing is just as powerful as its genesis. It symbolizes finality, the ushering of a new season, the conclusion of what was.

As a believer, there are certain things you should desire to end in your life. We were not created for constant bondage and captivity. To refuse to yearn for freedom is equivalent to the belief that we are serving God out of routine and religiosity, not out of the faith that He is able to deliver. When was the last time you truly believed and asked God for deliverance, and expected that He would do it?

Ezra 1 is a powerful chapter that depicts the timing of God and the power He has over the hearts of those in leadership. God is so true to His word, that He touched the heart of a king to release the children of Israel who were in captivity, so that a word He had released to the Prophet Jeremiah years before would be fulfilled.

  1. Do not give up on any prophetic word that you received from the Lord. He is not a liar, it may not manifest the way you want it to, or when you think it is supposed to, but it will come to pass
  2. Renew your mind daily, to ensure you are not in double captivity. It is one thing to constantly deal with your trial, but another, to invite that trial to become bondage in your mindset. You begin to believe that you are worthy of the captivity, and in the moment liberation comes, you may detest freedom, because your mind is bound
  3. Survive if you have to, but do not quit. The blessing of surviving after a storm is the evidence that you are an overcomer. Living in survival mode and becoming a survivor mean different things. To become a survivor is a sign of victory. You endured something that should have broken you, but you made it to the other side. Living in survival mode is a mindset that makes you believe there is nothing better out there for you, and there is no point in trying. You live life to just make sure you are alive, not living life because you are alive
  4. When your captivity ends, worship and thank God because His deliverance has come. Do not allow yourself to become bitter and angry because of the years you have spent dealing with the trials and tribulations. It is not easy, and you will hurt and cry sometimes, but do not become bitter. Bitterness will blind you, and corrode you with anger. When freedom comes, your hope will have been tainted and all you will have is regret

Captivity has an end date, and the trial you are facing today, has a season that God has called “End”. Do not give up, do not stop praying, remember He is faithful, and He is watching His word to perform it in your life.

Prayer

Dear God,

Today, give me the heart of a child, to pray and share with you where it hurts. Let me not assume that you are not powerful enough to deliver me. Forgive me, for placing my situation at a higher place of focus than the power of your love for me. You will save me, you will deliver me, you will favor me, you will release me from every captivity, because you are a good God, and you keep your word. Remind me today, I serve a God of pure integrity, and revive my faith and hope in you that this trial, has an expiration date. This too, shall come to pass, and I will live to testify of your goodness towards me.

In Jesus Name

 

Amen

Prayers work

Prayers work

Scripture Reference

8:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied to Job:

2 “How long will you go on like this?
You sound like a blustering wind.
3 Does God twist justice?
Does the Almighty twist what is right?
4 Your children must have sinned against him,
so their punishment was well deserved.
5 But if you pray to God
and seek the favor of the Almighty,
6 and if you are pure and live with integrity,
he will surely rise up and restore your happy home.
7 And though you started with little,
you will end with much.

8 “Just ask the previous generation.
Pay attention to the experience of our ancestors.
9 For we were born but yesterday and know nothing.
Our days on earth are as fleeting as a shadow.
10 But those who came before us will teach you.
They will teach you the wisdom of old.

20 “But look, God will not reject a person of integrity,
nor will he lend a hand to the wicked.
21 He will once again fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy.
22 Those who hate you will be clothed with shame,
and the home of the wicked will be destroyed.”

In the journey of life, there are moments that will come where life will be difficult. Things will not make sense. It could be a hardship season for you. When those seasons come, it is easy to resort back to a place of fear, second guessing our faith, and wondering if God is really alive.

This scripture Job 8:5-8 reveals the power of prayer while seeking God in those difficult life seasons. What does seeking God look like? How do you seek God in a time of trouble?

  1. Do not be afraid to ask Him if you need help. A lot of times, there is a sense of guilt or fear wondering whether God can handle your situation. But the reality is seeking Him reveals He cares and acknowledges the effort you make
  2. Praying and asking for wisdom until you get the assurance that God has heard you. He will provide what you need. Assurance may not automatically come to you in prayer. However, as you seek Him regarding the situation, His peace will manifest that assures you He hears and will attend to you
  3. Be alert as you pray for the instructions that will accompany the prayers. God may impress on you to forgive an offense, or do something that may not seem relevant to what you are inquiring about in prayer, but obey even if it does not make sense to you in the moment.

You should never judge yourself in your expression of pleading with God in prayer. The posture of pleading should not be misconstrued with begging. If you have been begging God to answer your prayers, your viewpoint of Him may be one of trying to convince Him you are worthy of a breakthrough or an answer. Pleading with God is making an earnest appeal to Him from a posture of faith. Your faith in God’s power and sovereignty pushes you to appeal to Him for your breakthrough.

Pleading often pulls from an established testimony with God. You have seen His power and miraculous grace and you are confident in what He is able to do.

This scripture also reveals the power of knowing the history of God’s work in the world. Finding out what God has done from previous generations, allows us to see the continuous integrity of God’s ability to provide and take care of His own. During a time of need, you may pull on the God of your parents or grand-parents or someone who is dear to you, who has walked with the grace and power of God in such a way that it convinced you of His existence. When you know this beautiful history, it can be used to affirm your faith in the moments you need prayers answered.

I have learned that in this life, there will be trials and tribulations that you will go through. Prayer will make it possible for you to live life with hope. When you get to those seasons, may you be reminded that prayer works, a history with God is powerful, and your faith can give you the confidence to make an appeal for what you need from Him.

He is able to restore you to a prosperous state. That is something you should always desire.

 

Prayer

Dear Father,

I thank you today, for those who came before me, who consistently served you and established a history of faithfulness with you. I know I am an answered prayer for someone else. As I pray, help me to build a history with you, that others will be inspired by, that will make them believers in your Presence. I release any form of guilt that makes me feel afraid to appeal to you. By faith I believe, as I am seeking you earnestly, you will restore me to my prosperous state.

In Jesus Name

Amen