Saturday, March 21, 2009

Happy Saturday! I am hoping to complete my mid-term review today. I received B’s on both of my papers I submitted this week. I still have a ways to go to become an academic writer. My professor wrote some notes and I wrote back to him saying that I am better at expressing my beliefs on a subject and will work harder on writing an academic paper. My GPA is pretty good and if I can keep a good GPA after this semester I will receive a 70% tuition grant as I will be off of probation at Brite. (Everyone starts on probation).

Today’s devotion is continuing from the Max Lucado book, And the Angels Were Silent.

Matthew 21:3 says, “If anyone asks you why you are taking the donkey, say that the Lord needs it, and he will send it at once.”

This story is repeated in all four gospels. I have always loved this story and argued with people about why the donkey was surrendered so obediently? Can you imagine how the disciples sent to get the donkey must have felt? Did they ask Jesus, “Are you nuts? We are just supposed to go up to this total stranger and untie the donkey and walk away with his property? What if the owner asks what we are doing and we are just supposed to say the Lord has need of it? Is the owner going to call the local authorities? You know Jesus, they crucify people for stealing. Are you sure?”

In this passage, special attention needs to be considered in the use of language in the request. The language is a royal request. It was ancient law which required the citizen to give to the king anything the king requests. In the words “the Lord has need,” Jesus is declaring Himself the king. Jesus is speaking as one in authority.

Jesus is stating that as king He has rights to any possession of His subjects. Think about it. This is the only time that Jesus leads the parade. In His life Jesus has always been in the midst of the people, never out front except when He was preaching. And when Jesus finally leads the people, He arrives on a donkey. He does not arrive with a mighty and beautiful horse, a symbol of power, might, authority and leadership. He leads on a lowly donkey. The same beast that brought His mother, Mary to the stable in Bethlehem is the same beast that carried Him “triumphantly” into Jerusalem for the final time. The donkey is a beast of burden. The donkey would faithfully and without complaining carry loads far greater than his size and strength should allow. But yet, the donkey moved forward until it reached its destination. Not an animal that was ever celebrated, but an animal that was common. But how God used that common animal in such an uncommon way!

Let’s look at some other “donkeys” of which the Lord has had need; Moses’ rod, Rahab’s rope, Mary’s oil, David’s sling and Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross piece for Jesus on the Via Dolorosa. All of these acts of the people were donkeys. God had need of these acts of faith. These were all acts of faith made by people who were asked by God with the request, “the Lord has need.”

So I guess my question to myself and you is, “what is the donkey in my (our) life of which the Lord has need? And when He asks will I recognize His voice and surrender my donkey without question?”

God prepares those He calls and when the preparation is complete He asks us to surrender that which He has called us to do over to Him. Friends, there is nothing extraordinary about me. But God has allowed me to see and experience extraordinary events in my life that have caused amazing changes in me and what I believe to be the course of my future.

What is the donkey in your life? What is the act of faith you need to surrender because “the Lord has need.” We are the kingdom of God, Body of Christ. God counts on all of us to further His kingdom. He has chosen us to tell His story. God does not ask us to ride the donkey, He just tells us to surrender over that which we have so He can ride.

See you in worship. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS I think Jesus spoke to the owner of the donkey before He sent the disciples to retrieve the donkey. That makes sense to me.

PSS If there are any teachers out there and your received the TRS letter this week, my brother, Dr. Ken Helvey (love saying that!) is on the ballot for the TRS Board of Directors and asks for your vote. Ken is a wonderful man of faith, the Superintendant of Allen ISD and a totally great guy. You can vote online. Thanks.

PSSS My friend and fellow teacher from Burton Hill lost her mother to cancer yesterday. Her name is Mechelle Berg. Please lift Mechelle and her family in prayer. We also lost a long time friend Buck Wunderlich to cancer earlier this week. He has two sons and also lost his wife and a daughter to cancer. Bruce will travel on Tuesday to the service in New Braunfels. Please lift this family up in prayer. Thanks and peace. gc

Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Friday! Happy first day of Spring! It is an absolutely beautiful day. I had an early morning appointment today and took a book to read. I love to read Max Lucado. He is a writer who speaks to my soul. Today I began to read, And the Angels Were Silent. This book not only chronicles the last week of the life of Jesus, but intersperses the theme of looking at the true character of people as they are facing death. As a mother who watched her own son die, I also watched the character of Christ grow in Casey. This book and its theme are very near to my heart. I think that the most important lesson Casey taught all of us was not only who to reach for in the hour of death, but the importance of the One he knew better than the rest of us so he could die without fear.

Matthew 20: 28 says, “In the same way, the Son of man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many people.”

The story goes like this…Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier and watched the planes fly off into the darkness on their way to the beach on D-Day. After the last plane disappeared Gen. Eisenhower went to his quarters and wrote a letter to be delivered to the White House the following day. The letter stated that the attack was a failure and he was to blame. Gen. Eisenhower took the blame for the failed attack before the attack ever took place. He took the blame and as a result Gen. Eisenhower became a hero. Jesus took the blame, became our savior and was crucified.

The first piece of fruit was crunched in the Garden of Eden and Jesus began His walk to the cross. Jesus took the sins committed by all now and the sins yet to be committed to the cross with Him on that Friday. Jesus came not to be served, but to be the servant of all by His Father’s will and His Fathers heart. I will use the words of Max Lucado because he explains this concept so well. “Jesus wears the title “the Son of Man.” Jesus did not write the note, but He paid the price. He did not just assume the blame, he seized the sin. “Friends, we must walk to the cross and leave our sins at the foot and Jesus will do the rest. The journey may not be one of joy, but aren’t we glad we can make the trip.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS Our friend David Russell came home from the hospital today. Praise God!!! Home health care is in place as well as wound care. He will sleep in Casey’s bed during recuperation and healing. We ask your continued prayers for Dave and Carme. She is still scheduled for breast surgery repair at the end of the month. Thank you, mighty and faithful prayer warriors. gc

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Thursday!! What a beautiful day for the last day of winter. When I return to school on Monday, my students and I will take Murray out of his Gevalia Coffee box where he has been hibernating since before Christmas and let him enjoy the beautiful spring weather. In case there are those of you who do not remember, Murray is our Build-a-Bear groundhog.

Today Geni and I went to Howe to visit Mom and Dad. We had lunch at Chili’s with my aunt and then went back to Mom and Dad’s for a wonderful visit for the remainder of the day. It was such a great day. Mom and Dad are doing well as are the rest of the family in the Sherman area.

Mark 15:37-38 says, “Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice and died. The curtain in the Temple was torn into two pieces, from top to bottom.”

The curtain referred to in this scripture was the huge curtain that separated the people from the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments and other sacred Hebrew documents. The Holy of Holies was only accessible to the priests of the temple and then only once a year. The size of the curtain was 60 feet tall and 30 feet wide. I am sure it weighed hundreds of pounds. At the moment of the death of Jesus the Bible records the curtain was torn from top to bottom. A curtain torn from top to bottom weighing hundreds of pounds fell to the ground in quite a dramatic motion leaving the Holy of Holies exposed for all to see. This curtain is a symbol of what separated the people from God. The only way to God was through the Levite priests as they carried their requests to God. When that curtain fell, the symbol of what separated the people from God was gone.

The curtain separated the Jews from God. What curtains separates us from God? Jesus came that we may no longer be separated from God. God came to earth in the form of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we are welcomed before God at any time. The coming of Jesus removed all barriers between us and God. The sacrifice of Jesus meant no more animal sacrifices. God only requires from us a contrite heart and a broken spirit. A broken spirit than can only be healed by the forgiveness of the sacrificed Christ and the risen Lord. The curtain we have between us and God is our sin. Sin is the only thing that separates us from God. We do not have to take sacrifices or anything before God, we just take our brokenness and ask God to forgive us of our sins and mend our broken relationship. Heaven must have held its breath then wept bitterly when Jesus breathed His last. If there is any anger in heaven it must have happened on that Friday. But how heaven rejoices when the curtain of our sin is torn and the love and forgiveness of God floods our souls with cleansing water and we can once again go before God with the assurance that we are always welcome.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.
Happy Wednesday! I have enjoyed being able to have coffee with God in the morning this week. I am a bit more awake. I use several different devotional materials as a jumping off point for my journal entries. The Bible I used today is a daily devotional Bible. There are always several lessons centered on a central theme. Today’s themes were centered around the actions of the people during the time leading up to the actual crucifixion of Jesus.

Mark 15:20 says, “Then they led him out of the palace to be crucified.” 1Peter 2:24 says, “Christ carried our sins in His body on the cross…”

If you read Psalm 35: 11-16 these words seem to be words that could have actually been said or at least been thoughts Jesus could have thought. As I continue to learn more about scripture I am always amazed at how the Old Testament is connected to the New Testament.

The cross was a place for the worst of the worst. It was a place of death for murderers, thieves, assassins and the like. The cross was a place of shame. The accused was stripped, beaten and paraded through town. The townspeople spat and mocked the condemned person as they were paraded through town. The condemned person was made to wear a sign around their neck stating the crime of which they had been convicted. The cross piece was lashed to their bodies and they carried the cross though town to the place of crucifixion.

Christ carried that cross. Christ bore the shame of the city of Jerusalem. Satan hated God so much that he drove the hearts of men to carry out the crucifixion to shame the Son of God before heaven. How sad and broken hearted God must have been as well as the citizens of heaven. They watched the Prince of Peace die in pain and in shame.

Jesus never lied. Jesus never murdered. Jesus never stole. Jesus never cheated. And maybe we have never done any of these things either. But Jesus died for all of those sins for those people long ago and for the sins I have committed 2000 years later. I would love to tell you that I have not committed some of the aforementioned sins, but that would be a lie. And yet to whatever degree I have committed these sins and countless others, Christ died for me. He still bore the shame of the cross for the forgiveness of my sins so that when I go to the Father at my earthly death I go clean.I will go before the Father without blemish in body and spirit because Jesus bore my shame 2000 years ago.

Jesus loves us so much that He wants to spend time with us on earth and eternity with us in heaven. The only way for us to enter the gates of heaven and stand before the Father is to go without blemish. Only perfection can enter heaven. Jesus was the perfection of His Father. When He bore our sins on the cross of shame He took all of our sins with Him and laid them before the Father and said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” We need to make the same request as the thief on the cross, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response will be the same as it was 2000 years ago, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patty’s Day to you all! Today I finished my second paper and submitted it. I also completed and submitted three FAFSA applications and prepared corned beef, cabbage and potatoes for dinner. After supper, we loaded Jackson and Lamar, our bassets, in the back of Travis’ pick-up and all six of us went for a walk at River Legacy. It has been a full day! We drove the dogs through the drive-through at Starbucks after walking. It was too funny!

The next to last line of the Lord’s Prayer says, “And lead us not into temptation.”

I have always wondered about this line in the Lord’s Prayer. I have wondered why God would lead us into temptation. Temptation is walking the other way from where God is. And giving into temptation is falling into the hole of sin. Whether we land in that hole with our eyes wide open and with full knowledge of our actions or if we sort of slip into the hole by accident, we are still in the hole! James 1:13 says, “When people are tempted they should not say, God is tempting me.” God does not tempt us. I don’t think God can be tempted. I think this line of the prayer means, God keep me focused on you and away from the slippery spots and if I do fall, Father pick me up and set me back on the right path again.

I usually fall off the path when I let go of the hand of the Father. The good news is that God is willing to pick us up and help us back on the path once again. When we do slip and fall (and we all do), God is waiting for us. He is waiting to forgive us at the moment we ask for forgiveness and we are back in fellowship with God and holding His hand once again. We can ask for forgiveness and be assured of that forgiveness because of the next line of the prayer; “and deliver us from evil.” We are asking to be delivered from the evil one. Satan has no power over God and so His forgiveness is the gift of His grace and our deliverance from evil. When we are walking the journey there will be twists and turns, slippery places, large gaping holes and choices to make. Choose to keep your hand firmly clasped in the hand of the Father.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Monday!! Spring Break! I have had coffee with God this morning. And I actually did not get up until about 8:00. For me, that is sleeping in!!

I have not written since Friday as I have been a part of the Happening Weekend # 39. The weekend was phenomenal. We had a total team of 30 with staff and participants. The weekend event was held at Advent Lutheran Church in Arlington. We cannot begin to say enough “thank yous” to Advent for their hospitality in meeting all of the needs of the weekend with such a spirit of grace and radical hospitality. Thank you, Advent.

God reigned over this weekend and the presence of the Holy Spirit was truly felt by all in attendance. The most wonderful outcome of this weekend is that everyone who attends whether staff or participant comes away with a closer walk with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The community of faith, body of Christ, has been increased and strengthened several fold in just a few short hours.

On a change of subject, due to weird electrical problems, we have been without internet for the last three days. Hopefully you will receive this writing today and our electrical issues will be solved. I ask for your prayers for this week. I have two papers I need to write and a mid-term for which to prepare. So I pray for focus and increased writing skills as I write academic papers. I am a fair devotion writer, but I have a long way to go to write academically. And my papers have to be emailed into my professor. I am counting on your prayers and thank you so much.

Mark 14: 33 says, “Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him, and He began to be very sad and troubled.”

I have been serving on Happening weekends for 6 years. I served as Observing Mom on the weekend when Casey served as Rector (youth leader of the weekend). I served as Spiritual Director for the first time on the weekend when Geni served as a Rector. This weekend I served as Spiritual Director as Travis served as Rector. I have also served on all of the weekends in between. I don’t know as to how many times I have been a part of these weekend events, but there have been many.

This weekend was profoundly different for you see it is the first weekend in 6 years I have served and Casey has not been on the team. Those who have known Casey felt his absence quite profoundly. On Saturday evening we all walk the Stations of the Cross. All three of my children have served as the priest as the dying Christ shares His final hours of life. Travis found the strength to say the words of sadness and sorrow of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with authority and strength of heart. After walking the Stations of the Cross the congregation is given the opportunity to spend time at the altar or at their seats as a time of reflection of what they have experienced. After some time of quietness, Geni, with the voice of an angel, begins to sing these words, “Deliver me, from all of the sadness…” shortly she is joined in the singing by her brother, Travis.

As far as I know, Jesus did not sing to His Father, but He certainly expressed the words of this passage of scripture. In this moment Jesus is not recognizing His divinity, but experiencing His humanity. He is reflecting on leaving the friends and family He has grown to love as well as looking at the horrific death He is about to experience. When Jesus goes to the garden (read the entire passage of Mark14: 27—52 for the whole story) He takes His friends of Peter, James and John. Jesus needs someone with whom to share His sorrow and sadness.

When you are sad, sorrowing or suffering do you like for someone to be with you? Maybe you don’t want to talk, but just the closeness of a friend or family member creates an atmosphere of not being alone. Jesus needed to speak to His Father, but He also needed to have His closest friends close by for support. (I know they fell asleep and that is a story for another entry.)

The next time you are sad, suffering or troubled, remember the garden. Go to the garden of prayer. Take a friend. The power of prayer is the most powerful way we communicate with the Father and He hears us. He hears and understands our sorrows and troubles because He has been there Himself. Even though the reasons for going to the garden may not be reasons of joy, be thankful we can go to the garden at anytime and Jesus will meet us there.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.