Easter Sunday: Holy Week

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 28

Johnna’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

Matthew 28 has only 20 verses but it reveals so much!

Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!

After what appears to be a devastating loss to the disciples in the death of Jesus, imagine their surprise to find out that everything Jesus foretold would be realized! Chapter 28 is filled with life and worship! It also sets the stage for the birth of the church and the mission to follow.

Before dawn on Sunday, an amazing scene unfolds at the tomb. Accompanied by an earthquake, a mighty angel of the Lord descends from heaven right before the guards. He looks like lightening dressed in white. He breaks the seal on the tomb, rolls back the large stone, and sits on it. The guards shake in fear and then faint! (1-4)

Two women, both named Mary, have made their somber walk to the tomb that morning. It had been three days since they witnessed the death of their friend and they arrive on the scene around sunrise to find the angel present and the guards apparently unconscious on the ground.
The angel says, “Do not be afraid.” He then shows them Jesus’ empty tomb and tells them Jesus is risen, just as he said. He gives them a specific message to take back to the disciples.

The women quickly leave to do as instructed, but they are stopped along the way by Jesus Himself! They fall to the ground and take hold of His feet. They recognize that He is the Son of God, risen from the dead, and they worship Him. As the angel did, Jesus tells them not to be afraid and to go and tell His brothers to go to Galilee, where they will see Him. (9-10)

Matthew skips over appearances made by Jesus as described by the other gospel writers. He jumps straight to Jesus’ meeting with the eleven remaining disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus tells them that He is using His authority, given to Him by God the Father, to send them out on their lifelong mission. In this “Great commission,” Jesus commands His disciples to make more disciples of Him.(18-20)

I can only imagine the roller coaster of emotions felt by the two Mary’s and the disciples over the course of these three days.

Speaking of roller coasters, in December, I embarked on a roller coaster ride at Universal Studios called the VelociCoaster.
While waiting in line to board the ride, fear began to set in. It continued to increase at the sound of its screaming passengers and even more as I placed by phone and glasses in a locker, before being locked into my seat on the ride.
The roller coaster ride was terrifying! After surviving it and disembarking. I was both relieved and exhilarated at the same time. Still shaking several minutes later from the adrenaline, I retold the tale to anyone who would listen!

Do you think the Mary’s and the disciples had a similar experience with the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus? Do you think they told others of how Jesus conquered death with that much exhilaration?

As Christians, we are a part of this “Great commission”, tasked with making Disciples of Christ. How are you sharing the good news with others?

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

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Holy Saturday: Holy Week

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 27:55-66

Pastor Helen’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

In this time of waiting between the death and resurrection, there’s a character who is too often overlooked.  Yes, Joseph of Arimathea was the one who offered up his family’s tomb for Jesus, but he’s also much more.

Think about it: he was granted an audience with Pilate after normal business hours.  Does Pilate strike you as the kind of guy who would lovingly accept walk-ins at any hour? Not so much.  Yet, here the two were, talking burial logistics long after it would have been considered appropriate to do so in the day.  No. Pilate wouldn’t meet just anyone.  He also wouldn’t grant requests of just anyone, especially in cases of treason (which would have been the case of Jesus claiming to be who he was). Moreover, the use of linen and the family tomb indicate an honorable burial of prestige, which was also not commonplace for crucified criminals.

Across the board, Joseph was defying norms…and getting away with it! Joseph must have been a man of great affluence and influence. The latter means he would have also had a lot to lose by advocating on behalf of such a notorious “deceiver.”  Could you imagine? This wasn’t some guy.  This was a guy with enough means for a proper burial and influential enough to make it happen all outside of Pilate’s work day.  A man like that has a lot to lose, and yet he proceeded anyway.

Did he wonder if Pilate would refuse his request? If he would be admonished in some way for making it? Would there be other repercussions for being associated with Jesus? I don’t know if he worried about these things or not; but I do know it doesn’t seem as though he cared. Joseph put it all on the line for the one who put His life on it.

For those of us who know Jesus, we are usually content enough to share what He has done in our lives with others…so long as we know it will be accepted.  We will pray at meals when we are with others who also pray at meals. We let Jesus into our conversations when we are with others who are like ourselves…but what about when we aren’t sure how someone will receive that we are “associated” with Jesus and believers?  Do we boldly go forth and maintain our truth? Or do we not say anything at all for not wanting to offend anyone?

Let’s not underemphasize that Jesus died. He did so even so those who admonished Him could come to believe if they chose to respond to His great love. He didn’t just die for people who were already Team Jesus, and he certainly didn’t teach in such a way as to keep the peace at all times.  As such, Jesus, and, in turn, Joseph, become unflinching models of remaining in Truth even when it becomes inconvenient or unpopular.  How can we be more like them today? Tomorrow? On a regular day during a regular week?

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Good Friday: Holy Week

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 26:36- Matthew 27:54

Cissie’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

Our journey today begins in Gethsemane. Jesus is in agony as He prepares for what’s to come. He wrestles deeply in the Garden of Gethsemane. It actually says in Luke 22:44, that Jesus was in such agony that he sweats drops of blood. This is an actual medical condition called “hemathohidrosis” where you sweat blood from being under great stress and duress. As we continue on in our journey we watch as Jesus runs to the Father and asks for the passing of this cup, but chooses to submit to the will of the Father (26:39 & 42).

We watch Him be betrayed by his closest friends and put on trial by his own people. Jesus was stripped, mocked, beaten, and ridiculed then nailed to a cross. On the cross at Golgotha, Jesus hung between two criminals (27:33-38). People passing by “hurling abuse at Him” (27:39). Jesus aches deeply from all He is enduring. If this was not difficult enough Jesus endured another painfilled suffering for us that we will never have to if we chose to respond to Him. Jesus endures the separation from the Father. He cries out to God “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?” which means “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (27:46).

As I think about the pain I have endured in my life. It pales in comparison. I’ve been deeply betrayed by someone close to me. I’ve been mocked and ridiculed for my faith. I’ve even had someone very close to me say they hate me to my face. I’ve been abused. I’ve cried in agony to God. What I have never had to endure was separation from God. He has walked intimately with me. Never once leaving or forsaking me as I ran to Him. Which is the key. We have a response to this gift. Acts 2:38 says, “Peter said to them, Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Repent means “to change one’s mind for the better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins”. To abhor something is to have disgust for it. Repentance is an action word that propels us forward away from the life we once lived. In authentic repentance, we see life change as we surrender our lives to Jesus’ lordship knowing confidently that He loves us and wants what is best for us. We move forward to live as Jesus calls us to, taking those steps of obedience like baptism. As we do, we enter into this beautiful love relationship as we trust and increase our faith in Him. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as we are given the ability to have victory and to walk in the fruits the Holy Spirit provides. (Galatians 5:22-33) It all comes down to a choice. We can ignore these gifts. We can actually even grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:17-32). That is our choice.

So, I ask, what choice will you make in light of this?

Do you want to receive the gift Jesus gives us? Do you want to walk intimately, but don’t know where to start? Find a close friend who has a relationship with Jesus or reach out to me. You can email me (Cissie) at moreandbetter83@gmail.com. I would love to talk with you.

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Wednesday: Holy Week

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 24-25

Johnna’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

People rarely just ‘stop by’ to visit any more, at least, not without making plans with you to do so. My house is usually ready for visitors anytime; however, depending on when you stopped by, you would see different versions of readiness.

If you were to visit on Friday, my house is in order and clean. If you were to stop by on Sunday, you would likely find my house is in shambles! You see, I probably had my three granddaughters all day Saturday and I am too tired to clean and put my house back in order until Sunday.

An unexpected guest after a day of mayhem, would find we had made quite a mess of things. I would be unprepared.

This reminds me of the parable regarding the unprepared bridesmaids in the book of Matthew 24:1-13.

The parable opens with a familiar phrase, “The kingdom of heaven will be like this.”

[Mind you, this is not in reference to my upside down house, (ha-ha) but rather how it will be for those who are unprepared for the return of Jesus!]

In this story, it is expected that the bridesmaids would await the arrival of the bridegroom and greet him with a procession of light in the darkness. All the maids are waiting with their lamps in eager expectation of the groom’s appearance.
The bridegroom is delayed.

Half of the maids brought extra oil for their lamps, anticipating a delay could occur. But the other half, to their horror, discovered that they would not have enough oil to keep their lamps burning. While the unprepared maids were away making arrangements that should have been made already, the groom arrived.

When they returned, they knocked on the door of the house, but their entrance to the wedding banquet was denied by the groom. The maids’ plea (25:11) recalls Jesus’ warning that not everyone who cries “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven (7:21-23).

The parable is summed up in saying the, bridegroom’s arrival was certain. The uncertainty of the timing illustrates the need for constant vigilance. Had the foolish maids not left, and just offered what they had, they would have been there to welcome their Lord.

Is my house always going to be ready for visitors, nope! But, if Jesus were to show up at my door amid the mess of Saturday evening, He would also find a home that is filled with love for Him and joyfully be welcomed into the mess of it! Having a house fit for the King is not the issue, just as running out of oil is not the problem.

When the King comes, just be ready to open the door. Give what you have. Let the King have a seat in your humble home; let the feasting begin, ready or not.

Is there something that you could do today to make ready for the return of Jesus?

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Tuesday: Holy Week

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 22-23

Pastor Helen’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

Grandmas are great storytellers. There’s just a way about them. The details they remember after all these years.  The way in which everything just seems like water under the bridge.  I can remember my grandma telling a childhood story about when she was totally distraught over not having an Easter dress.  It was the night before and had nothing special to wear on Sunday.

As the story goes, her mother scurried about their apartment and pieced together an ensemble from a fur coat, an old dress, and tassels from a lampshade! Extra fabric was fashioned to craft a bonnet. My great-grandma wasn’t a seamstress, but she did the best she could with what she had.

Now, let’s add in some context: this was Easter in 1930 during the Great Depression. Also, an Easter outfit complete with petticoat, gloves, and shiny shoes would have been a staple for Catholic families in the Bronx at that time, Depression or otherwise.

Understanding the times and the norms make all the difference in knowing why a dress was so important to my grandma at that age (just think about how our own kids want to keep up with trends).  Context also sheds light on the dire circumstances which would have led her mother to resort to home décor as a viable clothing accessory. In some ways, previously eccentric choices become normalized, and perhaps even admirable.

It’s this very kind of understanding history, norms, and culture that we should strive toward when reading Scripture. How can we fully grasp the parable of the wedding invitations unless we also understand how weddings fit into fabric of society? How can we grasp some of Jesus’ wittiest responses to those who questioned him if we don’t also know the Old Testament laws those very people were steadfast followers of.

The Holy Spirit will absolutely guide us in our understanding of scripture and will reveal whatever we need to learn and apply from a text.  That’s what He does!  That said, learning about the culture of 1st-centruy Palestine or Old Testament Hebrew law can go a long way in helping us make sense of what may originally seem a bit curious.

Nonetheless, just as one can glean that my great-grandmother must have loved my grandma very much, even without knowing the particulars of time and place, so it is with the passages we find here today.  We can see that the motive behind God and Jesus is love.  So, even if some details trip you up, as you read these two chapters, where can you find evidence of God’s love?How are those realizations magnified knowing what we will celebrate later this week?

Also, whenever Jesus shares a parable, as is the case today, He is telling us something about the Kingdom of God.  What can you learn about the Kingdom by applying that framework to the text?

God is love. He invites many to the feast.  His son’s sacrifice on Calvary makes that possible, but will you accept the invitation? If you have accepted, will you allow the reality of the resurrection to transform your life?

In what ways will people know that He is both your Lord and Savior? Will people just be able to know by knowing you, or will they only find out after peeling back layers of information?  Those layers can be rich with context: our testimonies, how God has provided for us, how we know we can trust Him, etc. But, like scriptural context, they should just enhance what is already plainly evident: that we love Jesus above all else.

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Monday: Holy Week

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 21:18-46

Cissie’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

Just after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus gets right to work. As we saw yesterday, Jesus drove those buying and selling in the temple out. He cleanses the temple. Today we take a look at 3 parables as Jesus works on teaching truth to the Pharisees “the cleansing of the people”.

In Verses 18-22, Jesus teaches the parable of the Fig Tree. We see the destruction of the fig who bears leaves but no fruit. Teaching us that we can look alive, but without fruit we are dead.

In verses 23-27, Jesus answers the Jewish leaders. The religious leaders raised the question of Jesus’ authority, and He answered by raising the question of their competence to judge such an issue.

In verses 28-32, Jesus teaches the parable of the 2 sons. The point of this parable is that what matters is living for God, not eloquent speech. The religious leaders were good at talking the talk, but their stubborn unrepentant hearts showed a lack of walking the walk. Jesus was teaching them that repentant sinners would become sons and daughters before they would.

In verses 33-41, Jesus teaches the parable of the wicked servant. It was obvious to the Pharisees that they were the wicked servant. Jesus is telling them of things to come: His death and the shifting of spiritual authority from the Pharisees to the apostles.

In verses 42-46, Jesus warns the religious leaders of the result of their rejection that if they continued to reject God and His Messiah: Jesus, that God would pass the leadership of His work to others.

Ultimately, the choice before the religious leaders is the choice before each of us. We can be broken in humble surrender before God or be completely broken in judgment. In Isaiah 45:23, I love the way the NASB translation says it:

“I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.”

Whether we declare Jesus as Lord of our life this side of eternity or not we can guarantee one day we will all declare allegiance to Jesus.

It’s amazing how easy it is mix up our priorities and where our allegiance lays. We pledge allegiance to our flag and our countries. We even give our lives to our careers or school. We do in marriage or having a best friend. Even to our parents and kids, yet we neglect the most important allegiance; a relationship with God.

In a world filled with distractions by things or people buying for our allegiance. We need to remember to cultivate a heart surrendered to God first. Ready to move when He says move because He cares the most for us.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

I John 4:9-10

What is one way you can shift your priorities to make God first in your daily life today?

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Palm Sunday

I’ve partnered again with my home church, Wallenpaupack Church, to create another daily devotional, and we can’t wait to reveal what we have in store! Four writers over the eight days will help guide us through a Journey to the Resurrection as we read, contemplate and remark over Jesus’ final days…

Today’s daily reading for Holy Week: Matthew 21:1-17

Pastor Ken’s reflection on today’s Scripture:

I’ve always wanted to do it.  Imagine, a perfectly arranged game board of monopoly with houses and hotels lined up perfectly, the chance and community chest stacked neatly in their respective places.  Then as my last dollar is paid in rent and my last property is mortgaged I flip the boat over.  Everything happens is slow motion as pieces and paper fly.

My reason for flipping the table is because I am a sore loser.

Jesus was not a sore loser, he is a just victor.

The Palm Sunday story in Matthew plays out in two parts.  The first is the triumphal entry of King Jesus.  Where the people shout shout “Hosanna!” -which literally translated means, “Save us we pray!”

Then Jesus dismounts his donkey and walks into the temple courts.  The account from John tells us that Jesus “made a whip” which tells us this next move was premeditated (John 2:15).  He then proceeds to wreak havoc upon the people changing money and selling animals.

It was a festival where people were required to make sacrifices.  Pilgrims who had come from far away had to exchange their money and pay and exchange fee, or they had to borrow money at interest. Then they would take their local currency and buy animal sacrifices that were marked up.  All of this was sanctioned by the religious leaders because they received a cut of the profits.

Remember, Jesus is a just victor.

He walks into the temple, drives out the oppressors and thieves, then cares for the blind, sick, and lame.

This is what just victors do.  They liberate then they elevate.  Jesus does not only save us from our sins and go sit on a throne someplace.  He saves us, then cares for us.  He heals us and attends to our wounds inflicted by our oppressor.  Rebuilds the broken places and redeems the lost hearts.

You’ve got money changers living in your life.  The sin and the shame, identity crises, addiction, and the list goes on.  These thieves come only to steal kill and destroy, but the just victor comes so you will have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Next Step: What/who are the “money changers” in your life that prevent you or slow your progress toward a relationship with God?

Confess Jesus as victor and let him turn over the tables in your life.

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Insights from Seminary

As many of you know, I started seminary at Liberty University this past semester.  I’ve shared bits and pieces of major takeaways on the blog’s social media platforms, but the bulk of the learning has really been shared in the local church ministry setting.  Today, though, I’m sharing an assignment with you. Actually, as I type this, I’m doing the assignment. 

The assignment?  To write a blog!

The class?  Research, Writing, and Ministry Preparation (or, as my schedule shows, RTCH-500). 

Every student in the same degree path is required to take this class within their first two semesters…and here we are!

Part of the class focuses on Hermeneutics (fancy word for studying the Bible).  Another part of the class focuses on presenting information in the Turabian Style (like APA or MLA but on steroids….and yes, it’s as invigorating as it sounds). Then, a final part of the class brings me to this assignment: spiritual formation. Yes, spiritual formation can still happen even though I attend remotely!

I know, there are naysayers who don’t believe that true spiritual formation can happen in virtual settings, but then again, that’s probably not you since you’re the one reading a Christian blog right now 😊 The book we used, Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age, puts a lot of those objections to rest, or at least gives them a run for their money.  It is well worth the read if that’s something you’re into.

Who doesn’t love killing two birds with one stone?! (Apologies to my animal rights activist friends, it’s the best phrase I have at the moment, but I’m happy to be more inclusive…or exclusive as it were…if you have a suggestion you know how to find me).  #worksmarternotharder

OK, so back to this book and the assignment. 

We were asked to reflect on what we read (students are still being asked to do that, apparently) and share two main takeaways that we want to bring along with us on our walk into ministry.  I actually think that my selections can have broader implications than just to the seminarian or pastor so I’m hoping that you can glean something worthwhile as well.  I’ve always said here that I won’t ever share guidance that I wouldn’t or didn’t actually follow myself so you can be rest assured that any takeaways will be incredibly practical. 

A Perspective Shift

The first takeaway is more of a perspective shift than something which ought to be carried out.  That said, I think this shift can greatly inform future actions.  Also, I’ll note that the general sentiment is not new to us, but the authors present it is such a way that I have a new appreciation for how we fit into God’s plan. Here’s what they have to say:

As far as Scripture is concerned, growth is growth…God did not establish two separate laws of growth—one governing flowers and trees and another governing the Kingdom and the church. Growth in nature and growth in the Kingdom, the church, and the Christian partake of essentially/virtually identical patterns that require ecological connections and reciprocal interactions expressed as nutrient exchanges. In nature, the connections and exchanges are organic, while in the Kingdom and church, they are spiritual. In nature, the exchanges involve physical nutrients (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) In the church and Kingdom they involve spiritual nutrients (milk and meat of the Word) exchange through interactions with one another.[1]

Lowe & Lowe, Foundations of Faith in a Digital Age

If we keep this general framework in mind, we can apply what we know about growth to any of the organic metaphors in Scripture (i.e., I am the True Vine John 15:1, Body of Christ 1 Corinthians 12:27, etc.), which I think is probably what most of us have tried to do for an extent.  After all, we understand the idea that a metaphor is meant to refer to something else so we glean what we can from the imagery provided. Here, the authors explain how the growth metaphors work.

Taking it one step further, I think it’s not only important to understand individual spiritual growth and corporate spiritual growth, but also how the two should be necessarily reciprocal to one another.  There should mutual benefit whereby one strengths the other, so that neither is one always sucking the life out of the other nor is one always a consumer. 

No. This won’t do. 

Think of your best friend.  Not the one that always only texts when there’s drama.  Not the one you have to mentally prepare yourself to have a latte with.  The friend that you are happy to be around.  The one who is equally excited to see you.  The one who you exchange gifts with just because.  That’s what our relationship to the church should be like and vice versa.  Here’s how the author describes it with, you guessed it, another metaphor:

Psalm 1:1-3 draws a comparison between the ecology of trees and the righteous person–who like the tree is “planted by streams of water” and “yields its fruit in its season”. Trees do not grow alone; they grow as they connect to and interact with a greater ecology that provides part of the nourishment and nutrients needed to sustain life and produce growth. The tree also contributes to the ecology in which it lives by adding nutrients to the soil and atmosphere and by hosting birds who will build their nests in its limbs.

All of this the psalmist understands, not only about the ecology of trees but the ecology of the righteous person who does not flourish alone but as he or she is planted within a defined ecology. Righteous people avoid the detrimental social ecology described in Psalm 1:1— “council of the wicked,” “path of sinners,” “the seat of scoffers” — and places themselves within the beneficial ecology of the law of God and of God’s people who follow that law…

The flourishing trees and the righteous give evidence of health and vitality through observable indicators that confirm growth while also confirming the viability of the natural or spiritual ecosystem that produced them.[2]

Lowe & Lowe, Foundations of Faith in a Digital Age

Isn’t that incredible?! I don’t know why I never thought of our life in the church in such a way before, have you?  In some sense, my analogy to your best friend was flawed; it still focused on individual-to-individual relationships.  Here, we see how we are part of something bigger, something more lifegiving while we also serve to give life to it. Kinda like how Penn State alum are all part of a massive group of people who bleed blue and wear white to a football game once a year…but not.

So that’s the perspective I’m taking away from this class.  It’s much more wholistic than what I had going on in my brain prior to seminary. 

Now, and much more briefly, here’s an action step as my second takeaway:

I am intentionally going to work toward keeping human interactions human. 

Sounds easy, enough, right?


How many  hand-written letters did you write last month? Year?

When was the last time you didn’t text your sister when you wanted to tell them something? 

Technology is AMAZING and a timesaver in soooo many ways, but if we rely just on technology then we are missing something.  Perhaps facetime works best instead of coffee dates because of busy mom lives.  That works for a season, but don’t allow that to be diluted even more to only emoji-filled texts. 

Believe me, this message is for me more than anyone.  I would rather do almost anything at all then pick up the phone, but human interactions are necessary. As the authors mentioned, “technology alone cannot maintain human relationships and should not attempt to replace them.”[3]  So what does this mean for me, personally? 

If I’m shepherding a group of leaders at church then I need to be intentional about connecting with each of them individually outside of a group chat. If I’m hosting an online study, I need to create opportunities for interaction: interaction with me, with the content and between the participants themselves. I need to connect with the participants outside of the zoom, even if its just another zoom.

But, maybe your connections look differently.  Maybe they look more like mine when my ministry hat is swapped for my mom hat. 

Maybe you’re consistently opting for grocery delivery orders (guilty!) as opposed to getting out and have an opportunity to interact with, extend grace to, or bless someone.

Or, maybe you stick to streaming home workouts, but never interact with other health-minded adults irl. I’d say I’m guilty of that one, too, but tbh, I don’t work out at all and, at the moment, I don’t seem to have a shortage of health-minded friends…but you get the idea. 

Technology is great, but in moderation. 

Now, to wrap up today’s blog I’m going to leave some advice for a future seminary student. Yes, this is also part of the assignment, just bear with me and don’t despair! This tidbit will serve all of us well, whether we are pursuing higher education in ministry or not. My advice is borrowed from another book we used in class: Surviving and Thriving in Seminary. It’s straightforward, life-altering, life-giving, and usually easier said than done.  Ready for it?

Spend time with God.[4]

I just wrapped up the entire Simply Still Series so I won’t revisit everything we reviewed over the last few weeks, but think about it: how much time do we really spend with God.  Not for God. Not learning about.  Just with.

John 15:1-5 teaches us how Jesus is the true vine, and we are to abide in Him.  We can actually apply the brief growth teaching from before to this metaphor as well.  How does one abide?  One is consistently with. Vine branches don’t just pick and choose when they get to be on the vine.  They are in a constant state of mutual benefit with the vine itself. 

How can we remain in Him if we don’t spend time with Him?

In His Presence?

In His Glory?

Praising Him for His work on the cross? For the mercy He shows us, not because we are worthy but because He is? 

While we can certainly present petitions, sorrows, and thanks to our King (and we should!), there is also something to be said about just being with Him. Not asking for a single thing; just being an open vessel to receive whatever the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us, as opposed to coming forth with a pre-populated agenda. 

Friends, if the idea of meeting God with a blank slate is scary to you, try just starting with 5-minute intervals.  Also, check out an earlier series on Meditating Biblically.  There’s a lot of suggestions there for those who desire to plunge into more intimate times with God.  If you’re not there yet, that’s OK.  Take what you can and leave the rest.

Well, friends, if you’ve stuck with me this long I appreciate you coming along for the ride of this assignment! As some of you know, I went to Asbury this week so I’m praying through what to share from that experience. It’s a lot to digest, but I’m sure you’ll be hearing about bits and pieces of it in my next few posts!

All my love,


[1] Stephen D. Lowe and Mary E. Lowe, Ecologies of Faith in a Digital Age (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 42.

[2] Ibid., 29-30.

[3] Ibid., 91.

[4] H. Daniel Zacharias and Benjamin K. Forrest, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 42.

Simply Still Series: Is Keeping the Sabbath Still for Real?

I used to think that the idea of “keeping the Sabbath” was totally old fashioned and didn’t relate to me in any way whatsoever. I was so wrong!  While Sabbath keeping is deeply rooted in Jewish law and tradition, it couldn’t be more relevant to modern Christian living and being still. It is still very much for real!

Before I delve into various aspects of the Sabbath, today and over the next few weeks, let’s take a moment to establish the concept of a Sabbath rest as part of God’s design for creation.  The Creation account in Genesis declares:

On the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Genesis 2:2

In this way, one way to look at the Sabbath is as a physical time of rest.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean napping, binge watching Yellowstone (although I’m totally guilty of that!), and taking relaxing baths.  It is not a rest as in merely abstaining from activity. Rather it is an intentional action which results in a much deeper, soulful, fulfilling time of replenishment.  This type of rest is known as menuha in Hebrew. Rabbi Heschel explains:

Menuha, which we usually render with ‘rest’ means much more than labor and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity of any kind.  Menuha here [in Genesis 2:2] is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive.  This must have been the views of the ancient rabbis if they believed that it took a special act of creation to bring it into being, that the universe would be incomplete without it.  What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.

Rabbi Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

Since the creation story is indeed seven days long, and not six, that necessarily stipulates that rest is also part of what was intended to be created.  Rabbi Heschel goes on:

We would surely expect the Bible to tell us that on the sixth day God finished His work.  Obviously, the ancient rabbis concluded, there was an act of creation on the seventh day.  Just as heaven and earth were created in six days, menuha was created on the Sabbath.  After six days of creation, what did the universe still lack? Menuha. Came the Sabbath, came menuha, and the universe was complete.

Rabbi Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man

We’ve established that rest was intentional. However, it was also so important that God Himself partook in it, regardless of His own strength or actual necessity for such a pause.  I doubt God actually needed to rest, as we often think of the word, but He did it anyway. He did it within the confines of what was intended for the created order. How can such a realization change the way we think of rest?  Would anyone dare judge the Lord’s need for rest as weakness?  Perhaps, there is wisdom in the stillness. Perhaps there is something more to this Sabbath rest as implied by the Rabbi.

The act of resting is also intended for us.  With that truth in mind, we can also know that God wouldn’t intend rest for us if it wasn’t possible. 

So why don’t we rest when we know we ought to? While there are likely many reasons, some of which we’ve explored together in the Be Still Series, I think much of our apprehension to rest comes from a lack of trust in Him.

While we can say we trust the Lord, its an entirely different ballgame to actually align our lives in such a way which demonstrates our proclaimed trust.  It is this very concept which we will explore next week, followed by additional thoughts on how we can incorporate a Sabbath mindset into our everyday lives. 


Father God, thank you for giving us an example of not only how we should live our lives through your Son and written Word, but also how we should rest. I admit that sometimes I worry about not being able to accomplish everything I want to accomplish, so I forego resting as I ought. I need to trust you more, knowing that if you desire me to rest, I will be able to accomplish everything you desire me to accomplish while still being able to press pause and press into you. Help me trust you more.

In Jesus’ Holy & Precious Name,


Simply Still Series: Saying No

We need to get better at saying, “No”.  There, I said it!  I know, I know…we don’t want to let people down. We want to be reliable.  We want to come across as if we can do it all.  We want to help and not be helped.  I get it.  Here’s the thing: we can still be reliable, help and be helped all while also saying, “No,” when that response is what God would want for us.

Be wary of putting helping and declining at odds with one another: choosing between the two does not have to be an either/or decision. It can, and should, be a both/and dichotomy whereby one furthers the other: saying “no” to pave the way for something better and having the ability to better serve because something else was turned down.

When discerning what is aligned with God’s will for your life there are three main resources at your disposal: scripture, prayer and other believers.

We can’t do it all.  We weren’t meant to.  What if our saying, “No,” allows for someone else to say, “Yes?” Why would we allow ourselves to get burnt out over doing all the things when we could really excel in fewer areas that really highlight our gifts from God? A key component to being still is only taking on what God intends for us to take on.

Remember, just because we could doesn’t mean we should.

If turning down opportunities to serve (in the church or out of it) sounds like it could be challenging, take some time to practice.  Yep! Practice saying, “No.”  There’s two main approaches here: 

  1. Start with something small so you can build up some resistance, or
  2. Just go all in and decline a larger commitment.  Consequently, in turn, all other rejections may seem like a piece of cake. 

If this is something you really want to delve more into, I recommend the Cloud & Townsend book, Boundaries.  Part three, Developing Healthy Boundaries, might be especially useful for you. 

Here is an analogy from a Christian counselor I once saw.  It goes something like this:

A juggler, even the best in the world, can only juggle so many balls at the same time.  Even if every ball up in the air is “good”, there is still only so much that can be suspended midair at any given time.  Be intentional about what you pick up and allow to be juggled by you. 

My insightful therapist, a much wiser human than I


Father God, my desire to help others and do for my family is a double edged sword at times. Sometimes I have nothing left to give, and yet that still doesn’t stop me from taking on more commitments. I’ve already proven to you and others that I could do these things, but help me focus on what I should do. Give me the strength and discernment needed to respectfully decline the next opportunity that is not aligned with your will for me. I know that such a task will be done even better by someone who is truly called to play that role. Allow me to only commit to those activities which make the best use of the precious gifts you have graciously given to me.

In Jesus’ Holy & Precious Name, Amen.