Keeping Our Focus
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry
“Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him (Jesus) to be received up, that He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,...” (Luke 9:51)
We are in the fifth week of Lent, looking toward Palm Sunday and our celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. So, my thoughts are drawn to the activities of Jesus and his disciples as they began their journey to Jerusalem. However, as I read through the Gospels, it doesn’t take long before I realize that his wasn’t a headlong rush to the Holy City. Indeed, it won’t be until ten chapters later that Luke tells us about Jesus’ trek from Bethphage to Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey while being hailed as King of the Jews. And a lot will have happened in the meantime.
We can’t herein provide detail of everything that Jesus did, but just to provide a sense of where Jesus went during this time, let’s try to track his movements a bit. First of all, it can be argued that this journey began at the Mount of Transfiguration. (Luke 9:28) It was there that Jesus was observed in the presence of Moses and Elijah and was transfigured into the fullness of the glory of God. And in Luke 9:31 it says that these Old Testament prophets “spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.” A clear reference to His trial and its result.
Now the Mount of Transfiguration is some 120 miles north of Jerusalem. Even by the most direct route, and with a purposeful walk, it would take at least 15 days to make the journey. But the Gospels also testify that Jesus didn’t take the direct route. In fact, even as He had his eyes, (and his heart) set on Jerusalem, He remained first and foremost about completing the mission His Father has set for Him. And following the chronology of the sum of the gospels we can assume that He spent as long as six months getting from The Mount of Transfiguration to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. We can track his movement from The Mountain back to Galilee where he spent quite a bit of time in and around Capernaum. From there He went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles before moving out into the Judean countryside and visiting friends in Bethany. Then we find him ministering in Perea, on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee, before finally returning to Bethany and Bethphage to prepare for His final entrance into Jerusalem.
Does all this moving about indicate that Jesus had lost his focus on Jerusalem, that He had forgotten what He heard on the Mount of Transfiguration and of the Father’s direction to head for Jerusalem? Not in the least. If anything, Jesus was even more aware of His mission and the timing of it. Perhaps He felt a new sense of urgency as He prepared His disciples for the trials and persecution they would have to endure. At the same time, He needed to prepare them to carry on the work they would be called to do in His name, and He was very aware of the schedule that had been laid out for Him, -- that He be in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. The place and the timing of Christ’s Passion would be critical for powerfully demonstrating how Jesus, the Son of God, was our Passover Lamb, being sacrificed that we might live. They, and we, needed to see and understand how this was necessary to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets as He had said was His purpose.
But all this is more than just a call to reflect upon some details of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. It is a call for us to consider our own walks with Him. Perhaps some of you have received a direction from the Lord by way of the Holy Spirit and set your eyes on the journey with anticipation of its completion, only to discover that there were a few stops to be made along the way? Perhaps you have, or will find yourself on a side trail, even a reversal of direction for a season, before one day arriving at the place to which He has been calling you all along.
The Lord is steadfast. He is also kind and considerate of matters in our lives, those things which are important to us. But if we too, remain steadfast in our trust of Him, we will arrive at the end of our journey precisely when and where He wants us to be.
What is Truth?
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry
The calendar has turned to March 15 and I have recalled the phrase, “Beware the Ides of March!” Just why, I don’t know, but some 60 plus years ago this phrase was implanted in my head by a well-meaning literature teacher under the pretense that somewhere, somehow, I would benefit by knowing even this little bit of wisdom from a play written by William Shakespeare 500 years earlier. Even worse, the play concerns an event in the history of the Roman Empire; the assassination of Julius Caesar. Perhaps, there is some benefit to my knowing something about this period of ancient history (even if I can’t today lay my finger on it) but why would such a detail pop into my mind and how can I even know the story is true? After all, is it really important that some ancient soothsayer warned Caesar to be especially careful on this one day in March of 44BC?
Okay, enough of this rambling. It’s giving me a headache and probably has you ready to throw this into the trash. But it has also caused me to consider a later Roman official who raised a similar question. Pilate the procurator of Judea, while questioning Jesus about charges that He was claiming to be king of the Jews, would ask directly, “Are you a king?” Jesus responded. “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” So, Pilate’s response was a sarcastic, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)
Perhaps Pilate’s question doesn’t seem to be so far-fetched in today’s world where the truth is so easily tossed aside to accommodate every whim of man and seen as a detriment more than an attribute. But for our purposes, let us ask that question and take it seriously. What is truth? More specifically, what is truth to the Christian?
Probably, your ready answer is, “God is truth.” And that would be correct; it is true because He says it is. But how do we know? Well, it begins with faith. I have maintained that four of the most important words in the Bible are its very first. “In the beginning God...” (Gen.1:1) This requires faith. If we cannot accept by faith these four words, we will have a very difficult time understanding and believing anything else God has to say to us. God was first and He will always be first. This is what Jesus meant in the verse from John 18 when he said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Paraphrased, this says, “Everyone who by faith believes I am who I say I am, listens and is obedient to My voice.”
The second part of knowing the truth is experience. We learn who and what to trust through life’s experiences. In Luke 7, we have the story of how John the Baptist, while in prison, had heard the good reports of Jesus’ work and sent messengers to Him inquiring if he was “the Coming One, or should they seek another.” Jesus’ response was, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
This is the answer to Pilate’s question, and it is the answer for anyone who asks, “What is truth.” God is truth, He has shown us this truth by giving us the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and He has embedded this truth in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Knowledge of this truth began in us the moment we first believed, and it has grown in us, and continues to grow in us as we faithfully experience Him, now and forever.
We may ask, “What is truth?” But the answer comes in knowing Who is truth.
The Cost of Generosity
Written by Peggy Lundy - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Photo Credit: Rhonda Logan Bailey
In the mid '90s, I was unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. My money ran out and no jobs were available. I was miserable and depressed, grumpy and angry with God for not providing for me. He then encouraged me to begin my prayer time with thankfulness instead of complaints.
As I began practicing gratitude, He began to provide. Time and time again, needs would arise and each one would be met. I lived like that for about three years. Then the provision dried up again. But before the work and money were gone, I got a call. I was asked to be a nanny to three homeschooled kids and two special needs foster kids whose parents had just separated. I took the job even though it didn't pay enough to live on but, by then, I was walking and living in gratitude and trust.
One evening a week or two later, I had been invited to some friends' home for dinner. The mom called and asked me to pick up a gallon of milk on my way. “I will pay you back,” she assured me. So, with my last $5.00, I spent half of it on the milk. We had a great evening, but she forgot to pay me back. She could afford it, but I couldn't! I was about to ask for the money when I heard the Lord whisper to my heart, "Just give it to her. Don't cling to your poverty; be generous." So I did. I never said a word about the money.
I don't think she ever paid me back. However, within a few days, that same friend came to me and said she and her husband had been praying for me. They believed in the ministry I was having to this family going through divorce. They gave me $200 a month for the next six or eight months until the nanny job ended and another job came my way. It was enough each month.
I am convinced had I not been thankful, trusting, obedient, and generous with my little bit, then His greater provision would not have come.
It’s a little like the boy with his five loaves and two fish. If he had kept his lunch that day, and not given it to Jesus, then he would have fed only himself. Instead, he became part of one of the widest-reaching miracles of Jesus’ ministry.
Ask: What are we doing with the little bit in our hands? Are we generously giving it to Jesus and investing it in His Kingdom? Are we allowing Him to provide what we need? Or are we keeping it to spend on ourselves?
Pray: Father, please give us hearts that are so abandoned to trusting You that our generosity knows no limits.
Written by Rhonda Bailey - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Look at your journey.
What you’ve accomplished.
What you’ve left undone.
If you feel out of balance...
Perhaps, it’s time for an alignment.
Look to the cross...
Ask yourself the hard questions.
If it is unfinished, why didn't you finish it?
What stopped you from continuing forward?
Did the good intentions get twisted by fear or
circumstances beyond your control?
Are they valid answers or is the blame just
Perhaps it is time for an alignment.
Take it to the cross…
Where are you?
Are you where you want to be?
Doing what you want to be doing?
Are you feeling overwhelmed and unsure?
In need of answers and direction?
Did you get stuck in the comfort of your own doubt?
Perhaps it is time for an alignment.
Put it on the cross.
Activate your faith. Write a note telling of
the emptiness, the pain, the loss.
Tell the Lord that you’re letting go.
Allow yourself to be realigned
through His love.
For at the cross
He aligned The Way.
~ Rhonda Logan Bailey 02.22.2021
Scripture for Meditation: “I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead” (Philippians 3:13 TPT).
Watch and Listen:
You Are The Way
Lyrics by Rhonda Logan Bailey
Music by Justin Clifton
Slideshow: The Crosses at Heartland by Rhonda Logan Bailey
Give It to God
Written by Cameron Miller - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Photo (and fruit snack) Credit: Barb Yoder
“ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV)
My son recently turned two, and my wife and I are teaching him to do some tasks on his own. He takes his trash to the garbage can. He puts away his books. And on Sundays, when the congregation brings their offering up front and puts it in the basket, I hand him the money, and he gleefully runs up and puts it in.
His grandma attends church with us, and she’s a ready supply of treats. One day, he finished his fruit snacks and then promptly walked to the front of the auditorium and dropped his wrapper in the offering basket.
My son might not know the difference between a trash can and an offering basket, but in some ways, I feel like he understands the principles of letting go better than I do. He saw something he didn’t need anymore and didn’t want to hold onto and realized it needed to be given over to God, and he was glad to hand it over. He didn’t worry about whether he’d need that empty wrapper later on any more than a sparrow worries about the future or a lily of the field worries about tomorrow’s outfit. He wasn’t focused on who was watching or what they were thinking (I was but he wasn’t). And once he threw it in, it was gone from his mind; no regrets.
As for me, I’m not so quick to hand things over to God. I decided to give up social media for a time. I was initially looking at it more as a big sacrifice like the lamb without blemish out of the Old Testament. I was looking at it as a burdensome task I was undertaking to impress God. (As if Jesus hadn’t already done all of that.) Instead, I found that as soon as I cut the habit from my life, I realized how much time and energy I had been dedicating to serving it, and how much it had grown into an addiction and a crutch in my life. Giving it up wasn’t presenting God with a pure, unadulterated sacrifice. I was throwing my trash in the offering basket.
The next time you’re feeling weighed down, stressed out, or overburdened, stop and take a look at what's in your hand and in your heart. Is it something you need to be carrying around, or is it something that belongs in the hands of God? And if, at your next church service, you see an exasperated father fishing around suspiciously in the offering plate, please extend him some grace. You never know what someone else is going through.
Prayer: God, help me see the ways in which I’m carrying around trash I don’t need anymore. I want to give that over to You because You’ve got something so much better in mind for me. Thank You.
Song: “The Things We Leave Behind” by Michael Card https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzlZ4QXMMBw
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