Holiness in a Water Bottle

If you’ve ever been to the Dominican Republic in say… June … or August, you can probably remember how satisfying a freezing-cold-partly-frozen water bottle is, after being outside… for like 5 minutes.

water bottle

You come inside, and you seek it. You chase after it. You look for it because you know how absolutely refreshing it is. Don’t you love when those little frozen slush pieces make it through the hole? The best!

When my students come in from recess, they want to dump out their warm water and get cold water. Most of the time I don’t let them, because hey, stop wasting water. But I understand why they want to get cold water.

So this week, as we studied Holy Week, and the Dominican heat creeped up on us, the water bottle became an excellent object lesson on holiness.

A fresh, partly frozen, never opened water bottle is a lot like holiness. It’s pure, undefiled, and it satisfies. But if I put one tiny droplet of poison into that bottle, would anyone drink it? My students gave a resounding NO WAY. But, there’s so much GOOD WATER in that bottle! It didn’t matter how much I told them about all the good water in that bottle, the tiny bit of poison was enough for them to know … drinking the water would hurt them. It could make them sick. It could kill them.

Ok fine. New scenario!

Brand new bottle of water! Partly frozen, with the slush on top, ready to be enjoyed. But before I offer it to you, I spit in it. Just  one. good. spit. Don’t worry, it’s not poison! It won’t kill you! Come on!

Still, the students responded, NO! They used words like “Guacala!”  “Asqueroso!” which translate directly to DISGUSTING!

Of course no one is going to drink poisoned water. And you’d be hard pressed to find a kid who’ll drink the water I just spit in.

I wanted them to understand holiness. The poison, the spit is sin. It hurts us. It kills us. And frankly, it’s disgusting! And that’s how God sees it too.

But once that water bottle is contaminated, there’s not really anything we can do to make it new again. And that’s where Jesus comes in! He doesn’t just dump out the water and fill it again with new water. He gives us a completely new water bottle that we offer to God. A holy water bottle, acceptable in front of our Holy God.

II Corinthians 5:17-19

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,  that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

This might not be a perfect metaphor, but the way the kids responded to the poison, and to the spit… that is how God responds to sin. It absolutely disgusts him! His holiness cannot tolerate the presence of sin. And that is exactly why He sent Jesus to die for our sins… because God, too, is longing for that satisfying water … that relationship with us. He wants it! He’s actively pursuing it… pursuing us! But He’s not drinking a nasty bottle of water. He won’t. But in Jesus, we have reconciliation. And God is pleased and delighted, and satisfied to have us in his presence, through Jesus’s blood sacrifice.

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Holy Week: Tuesday

On Tuesday, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the religious leaders… are livid with what Jesus has done. Just two days earlier they were worshiping him as the Messiah and king, and now—now that he’s overturned their money making schemes in the temple, now that Jesus isn’t doing what they think He should do, now they are furious.

What do they do? They scheme. They plan. They come up with questions to intentionally fool Jesus. They want to trick him with scenarios that can be manipulated to whatever they want them to be.

“By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you authority?”

“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”

“If  a woman’s husband dies, and she marries the brother, and then he dies, and then she marries again… whose wife will she be in heaven?”

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?”

Jesus, in response, tells parables, turns the questions on them, and they are the ones who are unable to give a response without confessing their own guilt.

Then you have the disciples, who want to follow Jesus, who want to believe him, but are certainly confused too, on what Jesus is planning to do. So they, too, ask him questions.

It’s interesting to compare the questions … The Pharisees and other religious leaders didn’t really care about the answers. They just wanted to prove Jesus wrong. Meanwhile, the disciples’ questions showed they believed, but they were confused and didn’t quite understand.

 

Thoughts for meditation:

It is important for us to do some introspection when we come to the throne of God, when we talk to God in Christ Jesus. Are we going to him to know him, or for our own personal agenda?

Am I questioning because I want to prove myself right, or because I want to understand God better?

 

An Introspective View of Holy Week: Holy Monday

Matthew 21:12-13 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus at the Temple

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[a] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

As noted on Palm Sunday, the Jewish people wanted King Jesus to come overthrow the Roman government. Instead of entering the political courts and overthrowing a government, Jesus entered his holy temple to overturn the tables. His anger was not against the Roman government, but against his own people, who had taken what was sacred and turned it into something quite unholy.

Jesus has called us and separated us to be holy. Daily, we take what he has given to us and we make ourselves unholy. In my life, Jesus doesn’t change me by destroying all the evil around me, or even taking me away from all that is wicked. Instead, he penetrates my soul, pursuing what is HIS. The unholiness that is within me awakens righteous anger. We are to be set apart. Holy. Pure. Undefiled.

Questions for meditation:

Am I more concerned with judgment for others or for personal holiness?

How can I renew my mind to have a right view of personal holiness?

 

 

An Introspective View of Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Matthew 21: 1-11 (NIV)

 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
    ‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[a]

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The Jewish people knew the Messiah was coming. They believed what they had been taught. Their king had come! They were excited; they welcomed him and praised him.

Where did they go wrong?

They had their own perception of what the Messiah would be like, what he would do.

They wanted him to overthrow the Roman control, take back Israel and be their physical king. They wanted to the Messiah to make right the things that had been done wrong to them. They wanted freedom from their oppressors, and judgment for their oppressors.

The Jewish people knew He was coming, but they had mentally created their own persona. They would soon find out that Jesus was not who they wanted him to be. Instead of admitting they were wrong and accepting their Messiah, they will change their shouts from “Hosanna!” to “Crucify Him!”

As I look forward to Holy Week, and how I will meditate on the Scriptures, and this important week in history, I want to make this personal for me and for my life. So many times, I take the Bible, I take Jesus, and I worship and shout his name, but I make up my own persona of who I think Jesus is or should be. I want him to come give me grace, and give judgment to others. I want him to be my king who protects me and punishes others. I make my own agenda for my Messiah, rather than humbling myself at his feet, worshiping and obeying Him for who He actually is.

Questions for meditation:
Are there traits of Jesus that I’ve “made up?”

What does the Bible say about who Jesus is?

What are some truths about Jesus that I have ignored?

How can I pray and give that over to Him, submitting to his will and who he is?

 

 

Give Me Understanding

Psalm 119:34 sits above my classroom behavior chart.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.

This morning’s devotional conversation was based on this verse and Proverbs 3:5-6. When we disobey, sometimes it’s on accident, and sometimes it’s because we like our way better. We just outright do whatever we want to do.

“When I tell you there’s 3 different papers for homework tonight, you’re all upset, and you don’t want to do it.” They all groaned at the news. “But then when I explain that it’s because there’s NO homework on Thursday, you’re happy and excited.” And they cheered.

Suddenly, they were ok with my instructions, with the assignments I’d given them. I pointed out to them that the situation didn’t change. However they had a new perspective based on information. New understanding changed the way they responded.

The situation didn’t change. Their attitude did.

As we learn in Proverbs 3:5-6, we shouldn’t lean on our own understanding of things. We so often think we know what’s best, or at least, we like our way best. Sometimes my way is God’s way, but often times it is not. And rather than obeying, I do what I want to do. Often sin because I don’t really have a deep understanding (wisdom!).  I just hear the situation and think, NOPE.  I know His way is best. I truly believe He wants what is good for me. So if that’s true, why do I still choose to go against His plan, his laws, his good guidance?

a lack of understanding.

On the surface I know these things to be true, but on a daily level, I don’t always meditate on who God is, how great He is, what his sacrifice on the cross really cost, how tiny I am, and how holy He is. If I’m standing before an almighty God, there’s pretty much zero chance I’m going to tell Him “No” to his face. Right? Because the utter awe and presence of God would put me in a respectful fear that would lead to obedience.

Understanding leads us to obedience because understanding of who God is changes our hearts and minds.

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.

 

Lord, give my students understanding because it is YOU who changes them.

Lord, give ME understanding because it is YOU who changes me.

Only you.

Undeserved Love

When the scribes and Pharisees brought the woman in adultery to Jesus, she was guilty without a doubt. The men knew this, and they wanted to see how Jesus would respond. This woman was literally in the act of sin when the men caught her, and brought her to the Lord for condemnation.

But Jesus didn’t condemn her.

Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”     John 8:10-11 (NASB)

Grace. He gave her grace. Undeserved. He gave her grace because he loved her. His love, too, is undeserved. She was guilty and worthy of condemnation, but He showed her love and grace.

Last week, Yeffry and I were at the park with a friend. There were several young kids there playing in the park, but also climbing in and all over a bus that sat behind the Lions’ Club building. They were rough housing and messing around, and most certainly shouldn’t have been doing what they were doing.

Several police officers showed up on their bikes and went after the boys. One officer swung his helmet at one of the kids; I don’t know if he was intending to hit him or just scare him, but he definitely took a swing with the helmet. Meanwhile, Yeffry had pulled out his phone to video t2017-12-27-PHOTO-00000467.jpghe incident. The police officers saw this, and addressed him.

In their all-powerful manner, they questioned Yeffry. My friend and I watched from afar. At the time, we didn’t know what was happening. All I heard was Yeffry saying, “Son niños!” They’re kids! After what seemed to be a very confrontational beginning, the mood calmed, and the officers ended up leaving, no harm done between them and Yeffry.

When we got home, I asked Yeffry what happened. He said, he saw what they were doing and that it wasn’t right so he grabbed his phone to video the incident. He told the officers that they were just kids. He told the officers they could’ve solved the problem with words rather than physical force. He asked them, “Would you want someone hitting your kids out on the street?”

One of the things I love about Yeffry (and there are many) is how he sees people, how he loves them. Those kids were doing wrong. They deserved a punishment, but Yeffry looked at them as if they were his kids. He wouldn’t want someone hitting them. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” That verse came to my head. The kids were guilty. But Yeffry’s response was love. grace. He wasn’t saying the kids were innocent; he was saying, “These kids are loved by someone.”

His perspective, the way he treats people, and the way he lives his life are all a reminder to me of Jesus’ love. Jesus’ undeserved love.

 

Relentless Love

Fighting against your own culture is hard. This could be your national culture, your family culture, even your Christian culture. I find myself fighting against all three, and probably more that I don’t even know I’m holding on to!

So much, I want to be Jesus to the people, but my Christian culture and my own perception of Christianity has led me down a road of knowledge. And even though I know the words of love and forgiveness and grace, my actions rarely match the Christian knowledge I have.

When I married Yeffry, I wondered how long it would be until he could lead me spiritually, considering I have been a believer so much longer than he has. Oh, I love how God puts us in our place. It hasn’t taken long at all. He’s been leading me spiritually in so many ways, but mostly in how to love people.

From the beginning of our relationship, Yeffry has repeatedly encouraged me to reach out to my dad, to be there for him, to call him, to be in his life. When my dad almost died in August, it was a moment of truth, where I was able to go and be there for him, just for him, with no selfish motivation, no reason to prove anything to anyone. That was Yeffry being Jesus to me. I’ve grown in how to truly love someone who is (often, but not always) difficult to love… unlovable, even. The world says, “He made his own choices. Now he has to face his own consequences.” Sure, this is true. But this isn’t Jesus. Jesus says, “You made your own choices, but I love you anyway. In fact, I’m going to relentlessly pursue you because I love you, no matter what choices you’re making.”

Man, that’s so hard for me to do with people, especially with my father, who, you know, I feel like made a lot of bad choices that really messed up a lot of things in my life. I’ve held on to all these feelings of bitterness and “rights” and blamed him for so much. As an adult, I looked back and thought of all these expectations I had for my father. And how often I was let down, even destroyed, at times.

So my dad almost died, due to his own choices, and Yeffry told me to go. To go and love him. He’s my dad. Love him. So I went.

And now that my dad has been well, it’s been wonderful. But then, he makes more bad choices. And now I have a choice to make. Part of me wants to walk away. But part of me hears Jesus in Yeffry saying, “Go, love him.” He’s made his choices, but I can still pursue my daddy relentlessly with love.

And I cannot do this in my own strength, or with the wrong motivation. It has to be Jesus in me. Lord, fill me with your grace and love so that I can turn around and pour it into my dad’s life.

The Power of Prayer is Jesus

I have no problem with people saying prayer is power, but let’s set the record straight: Our prayer is NOT the power. We pray to the One who HAS the power. Let your focus always be Jesus.

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My study today…

Ephesians 1:15-23

Paul says the people of Ephesus had these traits:

  1. faith in the Lord Jesus
  2. Love for all the saints

Paul thanked God that the people had these traits, and he prayed for them. Here is how he prayed for them:

He asked God to give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation… so they could KNOW GOD BETTER.

He asked God to open the eyes of their hearts…

  1. so they could know the HOPE to which they were called.
  2. so they could know the riches of his glorious inheritance.
  3. so they could know his incomparably great power for us who believe.

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  • Do I have faith in the Lord Jesus
  • Do I have love for all the saints?
  • These things Paul prayed for the people, these things already existed, but even with faith and love, there was still room for them to KNOW JESUS MORE! We need to open our hearts, be enlightened daily to our HOPE, HIS RICHES, and HIS GREAT POWER.
  • This list above is a GREAT way to pray for your fellow Christians, and for your missionaries! A lot of people pray for safety and wisdom and finances, but if we’re enlightened daily to see our hope, his riches, and his great power, imagine how different our lives would be!

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Paul’s final petition (above #3) was for the people to know God’s incomparably great power. Then Paul continues to explain that incomparably great power.

It’s the working of his mighty strength, that same strength that raised Jesus from the dead.

This power is in Jesus! Jesus, who is seated in heaven next to the Throne of God… He is so high above any authority, dominion, any power or title we could ever think of! Everything we face, everyday, is under the feet of the One with the power.

God put it all under his feet. And then He put Jesus as the head, the head of the church. And guess what, we are the body! We are the fullness of him WHO FILLS EVERYTHING IN EVERY WAY. 

From the head, the power flows down into the body. We receive power from the source: Jesus! His power is in us, but daily we need to be enlightened, we need to open the eyes of our hearts and be reminded of our HOPE, HIS RICHES, and HIS POWER that is already in us.

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  • Do I ask God for enlightenment daily?
  • Do I remember that power is already in me through Jesus, the head?
  • Do I meditate on my hope, his riches, and his power daily?
  • How would my daily life be different if these were the focus of my day? Would I worship differently? Would I obey differently? Would I attack daily tasks in a different way? Would I fear less? Would I worry less?

 

Prayer brings us to Jesus.

Jesus is the power.

Jesus is our power.

Jesus is the power of prayer.