Following Jesus Day 20: All-in by Ben Gatton

7468051580_170e1549fbHere again we see Jesus talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven” and it’s power. In the parables that you read in this chapter there is one consistent theme, one consistent thread.There is only one way to live for the kingdom: all in. The Kingdom is like a little yeast that permeates the whole loaf, the one who lives for the Kingdom is the one whose roots grow deep and they are not consumed with a the worries of life and a desire for money, it’s like a treasure that is so valuable you sell everything else you own to acquire it. If there is one thing that Jesus is pretty clear about, it is that he doesn’t want casual and half-committed followers.

Take this opportunity to examine your heart, read the parable of the sower again. Which one describes you the best? Do you walk away from your faith the moment things get difficult? Do you find yourself turning to addictions or selfish desires habitually instead of turning to God? Are all of your thoughts bent toward acquiring safety and security for yourself or do you trust God to take care of you and your family?
God wants your whole heart, only then can he radically transform you into a new creation. Only then can the power of the Kingdom of Heaven work through you to point others to Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven truly is a treasure worth giving up our lives for, it is truly worth going all-in.

Following Jesus Day 17: Shepherd us, Lord by Jacequline Tookey

'Shepherd_and_Sheep'_by_Anton_Mauve,_Cincinnati_Art_MuseumFocus verses:  14-15

            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.

I have never shepherded sheep before, but I am told they are pretty docile, social, skittish, followers.  They are cute, wooly, but sometimes perceived as dumb because they have no sense of depth perception.  Occasionally wandering away from the shepherd and the herd, they can find themselves in danger, eaten by a wolf, caught between rocks, etc.  Sheep are definitely in need of a Shepherd, a leader, someone to look out for them, someone to keep them safe and out of harm’s way.

We Christians need a leader too.  Jesus is our good shepherd.  He leads us through life, shepherding us through relationships, difficulties, everyday life, trials, temptations, etc.  As we journey through our discipleship path, Jesus guides us by His Holy Spirit.  We need only let Him be our shepherd and follow Him.

Ask Him to shepherd you as you pray.

Let Him shepherd you through His word as you read the Bible.

Allow Him to shepherd you through each day and you will grow closer to the Good Shepherd.

Be a good sheep and follow Him!

Hymn:  He Leadeth Me:  O Blessed Thought, UMH # 128

Following Jesus Day 16: Pass it on by Tom Miller

In Luke 15, Jesus speaks about a lost sheep. The shepherd left the 99 sheep to go and find the one lost sheep. I can imagine that a few of the 99 sheep were very upset. One sheep might be telling the other sheep, “How dare that shepherd, who is responsible for my needs and my safety, leave me and go after that wayward, careless and good for nothing specimen of a sheep. This is not fair!”  Who among us has not heard or even said, “How dare this church use my money to give to needs of an underserving sinner rather than take care of my wants and desires. That is not fair!”

Also, Jesus tells of the prodigal son who demanded his inheritance and abandoned his father only to return when he had lost all his wealth. Upon his return, his father showered him with love. His brother became very upset and was jealous of his father’s love for the wayward son. He said of his father’s love to the wayward son, “This is not fair!”

As a resurrected Christian, we are not to be jealous of God’s unconditional love. We know we are blessed more than we deserve and we want everyone to experience the love of God. During the Lenten Season, pass on the unconditional love of God.


Following Jesus Day 15: Love God First by Tom Miller

16126-illustration-of-a-red-heart-pvLuke 14 is one of the most challenging chapters in the Bible. Jesus said, “whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple!” The Greek word,  miseo , used here for hate, can also be translated to mean ‘to love less than’.

John is saying that we must love Christ more than anyone else. Jesus says this so we can experience more and more love, not less love.  It is like a Christian married couple who are resurrected in Christ. The more and more they love God, the more and more they love each other.

Lent is a time to learn to love God more so that we might love others more.  We must even love those who do not deserve or earn our love. Lent is a time to be willing to give up our most precious objects and loved ones to God.

Who among us can do that? It is only by the grace of God that we are able to give our utmost to Christ. As a resurrected new creation in Christ, we end our prayers by saying, “Not my will but thy will be done.”


Following Jesus Day 14: How to do the impossible by Tom Miller

Brotvermehrungskirche_BW_3-2In John 6, the apostles still believed that circumstances in life were limited. Even though they had seen Jesus heal the sick, cure the lame, and give sight to the blind, they still did not get it.  Remember when Jesus asked the apostles to feed the 5000? They said, “No way! We do not have the money or the food to feed so many people.”

Jesus then asked them to give what they had. All they could find was a boy’s small poke of a five loaves and two fish.  Jesus took this meager food and gave thanks to God. Then He was able to feed all the people. When we face the impossible, as a resurrected Christian, if we give what we have to the Lord with confidence, then whatever takes place will be in the hands of God.

When we become resurrected in Christ then the impossible becomes possible. We have confidence that our life is not limited to our abilities. It is not limited to who we know. It is not limited to our age or our health. Our life becomes unlimited by the power of God. The impossible is possible.

In this season of Lent may we find peace in knowing that God does not expect us to do the impossible. He only asks that we give what we have and allow God to do the impossible through us.


Following Jesus Day 13: A Woman Who Needed God’s Love by Tom Miller

In Luke 7 a sinful woman poured perfume on the feet of Jesus as tears flow from her face. A good “church goer” is quick to say, “If Jesus knew what kind of woman she was, He would certainly not allow her to be near him.” A Pharisee said “This lady has a bad reputation.”  This ‘so called’ religious person saw her as the world saw her, as a sinful woman. Jesus saw her as a precious child of God in need of God’s love.

Her tears of joy displayed her own resurrection into a new creation in Christ.  Her tears of joy are from knowing that God does not focus on the past, but that God sees our potential. Her tears are from knowing that God loves us unconditionally. Her tears of joy are from knowing that the love of God cannot be earned but is freely given. Jesus said to her, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!” This lady experienced her own resurrection.

As a resurrected new creation in Christ, we too must look for the best in others and see others as a child of God. We do not see with the eyes of the world, but we see with the eyes of Christ. Christ also says to us today, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”


Following Jesus Day 12: The Woman at the Well by Tom Miller

We all know that Easter is about the resurrection of Christ. Did you know that Lent is about our own resurrection as we die to self and the world and become one in Christ? Let us hear again the story of Easter as if for the first time in the Fourth Chapter of the Gospel of John.

We read that a woman is asked by Jesus to give him a drink of water. Asking for assistance from those considered beneath you is a proven way to begin a relationship. Most people would rather give help than ask for help; and this woman was no different. Then Jesus asked her about her live-in boyfriend. This lady would easily fit in our culture today where  couples living together apart from marriage has become more the norm than the exception.

Jesus did not condemn this woman for her sin; however neither did he ignore her sin. Jesus led her to a new life, a resurrected life as she died to the world of sin and sought to live a new life in Christ.

How do we know that this sinful woman became a new creation in Christ? It is because she gave her testimony to her friends that led them to a new life in Christ. When our life becomes a testimony to the love of Jesus, then we know we too have been resurrected.

May we hear the Easter Story as if for the first time and we experience our own resurrection.


Following Jesus Day 11: Eternal Life by Jacqueline Tookey

We live in a temporary world filled with temporary things.  Cellphones, computers, and technical toys are all old just a few days after purchase, because of how fast technology is moving.  Fast food chains allow us to get and eat our food while driving from one place to the next.  Something gets a hole in it and we toss it for a new one instead of mending it. No wonder the concept of eternal life is hard for us to grasp these days.

In his Gospel, John tells us

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God loved all people so much that He gave His only Son, Jesus, to the world so that all who believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal, everlasting, unending, undying life.

How does it feel to know that you are not a throw-away?  You are not disposable.  Because God created you and loves you enough to give you His Son, you are special.  You will live in eternity with Him if you believe He is the risen Lord and share that good news.

This world is temporary, but you who are in Christ are eternal.

Question to ponder:  How does living life with the promise of eternal life change your every day?  Who are you living for, yourself, your family, Jesus?  How will others know of eternity through you?


Following Jesus Day 10: You Only Need a Little Faith by Jacqueline Tookey

Have you ever looked at another Christian and thought, “Wow, I wish I had their faith?”  The good news is we only need a little faith for God to do great things through us.  We don’t have to be a Mother Theresa or a Billy Graham.  We need only be the one who God created us to be, the one who believes in the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  With a little bit of faith, the size of a mustard seed, God can use us to spread the good news of salvation.  Our job is to prepare the soil of our hearts, minds, and soul.

Jesus uses many parables that teach the message of planting seeds of faith.  The season of Lent is a wonderful time to prepare our life-soil for God’s word.

Break up the crusty weed-infested soil– The weeds of our lives are bitterness, jealousy, worry, fear, doubt, anxiety, all the things that keep us from being fully open to His love and grace.  When we till these weeds of the heart, we are better able to receive and share His love.

Fertilize the land- Fill your mind and heart with God’s word, reading the faith stories, successes and failures, God to human relationships, that will help you grow spiritually.  Read of God’s love for His people, Christ’s call and sacrifices, the Lord’s eternal promises that bring instruction, challenge, and hope.

Provide A Water Source-  Jesus is the Living Water.  A way to let His living water flow to you and through you is to sit quietly in His presence without the daily distractions of cell phones, computers, television, etc.

Let Your Soul Receive Sunlight- Jesus is the light of the world.  When you spend time with Him, let Him shine light on the corners of your life that might need changing so you can prepare the way for His love, grace, mercy and calling.

Prepare your life-soil so God’s word can take great root in you.

Following Jesus Day 9: The Golden Rule by Jacqueline Tookey

Most of us have heard since our childhood years, “remember the golden rule, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”  It is a quote from Matthew 7 that has been assimilated into our culture as a saying to sway behavior.  Make sure you treat others the way you want to be treated.  It is such a simple message, yet one sometimes difficult to carry out.  If someone treats us badly, we tend to want to get even or talk badly about him.  Yet the golden rule applies here too.

We don’t want people to judge us, so don’t judge them.  If you do, Jesus says you will be judged.  When we see faults or sins in others, remember, we too have faults and fall short from time to time.  Treating others with compassion is acting on our faith.

We are told to ask, seek, and knock for God’s will, guidance and strength in loving others the way we want to be loved.  God will give it to us.  That’s how we can treat others with love and kindness, when our human nature says they don’t deserve it.

As you sit in the quiet presence of God today, ask for strength to love all others as you would like to be loved.  Let them see Jesus’s love shine through you.