How do you typically approach problems? Do you tend to ignore them until they become unmanageable, or do you immediately dive in and attempt to resolve them? For many of us, our approach falls somewhere in the middle.

When faced with a problem, we often try to draw upon past experiences and find a solution in a way that is familiar to us. At times, we may even distance ourselves from the problem, thinking that it is someone else’s responsibility to address. In other instances, we may look to someone else to take charge and solve the problem for us.

In the story of Lazarus, we see how his illness and subsequent death had left his siblings and Jesus’ disciples feeling helpless and powerless to do anything about the situation. However, Jesus arrives and invites them all to participate in something greater that God is working out in their midst. This serves as a powerful reminder that even when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, there is always a way to be a part of the solution.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him.

John 11:1-45 (ESV)

As Jesus converses with his disciples, they hang on to His every word. While this is a powerful example of the need to heed Jesus’ teachings, the disciples’ minds often lead them to jump to conclusions. Like many of us, the center of their first thoughts is on self-preservation: What might happen if we do this? Is it safe? These are the same thoughts that often consume us.

The disciples, like us, then make assumptions about what Jesus meant. When we rush to conclusions, we fail to surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and instead rely solely on our own understanding. Although Jesus often speaks in parables and veiled messages, it is crucial that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us as we interpret the scriptures. This involves breaking free from our preconceived notions and allowing God to reveal something new to us.

When faced with the death of a loved one, the toll on our emotions can be overwhelming. Similar situations can also arise that cause us to act out of our emotions rather than reason. In the case of Lazarus’ sister Martha, she approached Jesus in a state of emotional distress. Her feelings ranged from sadness and anger to disappointment, resentment, and confusion. In this emotional state, she accused Jesus, finding some relief in doing so.

However, Jesus invites us to bring our emotions to Him, even in grief. Mary and Martha were able to bring their true selves to Jesus in their mourning, and He did not rebuke them but instead offered them hope. We may have many emotions that we need to surrender to God to be freed from their hold on us. It requires us to love God and offer our emotions to Him, and in return, God offers us hope because He loves us.

Our physical condition often limits us from doing things for the glory of God. We tend to complain about various physical ailments and disabilities, but as demonstrated by Jesus, God’s glory can still shine through even in death. Instead of focusing on what we cannot do, God wants us to concentrate on how we can bring Him glory through our abilities.

When Martha hesitated to open Lazarus’ grave due to the potential stench, Jesus reminded her that physical limitations do not hinder God’s glory. Although not everyone can run a marathon, we are not called to dwell on that. Rather, we are urged to use our physical abilities to glorify God however we can. What we can do is what God calls us to do. So, let us not be hindered by our physical limitations but focus on using what we have to bring glory to God.

Physically, emotionally, and intellectually, we are most commonly bound to do what we have been doing. However, Christ calls us out of the tombs we built by holding ourselves down because we cannot rise above and beyond our previous limitations. We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us to rise above the various things in our life that hold us to embrace the status quo. This frees us from being hostage to solutions without power, but to plug into the Holy Spirit and God’s grace. Jesus invites us to strip off the linens and burial shroud, to move forward as God’s living church, bringing hope and peace to our communities and world.

Recovering From Spiritual Blindness

In our current environment, it is far too common to hear complaining about issues in the world. We seek to assign blame to politicians, or people’s choices. However, our blame game is nothing more than being blind to the mission of the Gospel in our world. Jesus calls us to have compassion, address the issue first, then seek to make a lasting change. The world has enough people complaining about problems without helping resolve them.

Without compassion and comprehension of a problem, we get trapped in repetitive cycles, unable to break free from our preconceptions. We continue to do the same things repeatedly, hoping for a different outcome. Our past experiences often hinder our ability to recognize God’s plans for our future, and the fear of reprisal from those in power can prevent us from speaking up, and we too often shift blame. Jesus orients us to an understanding that we are repeatedly blinded to the truth, but once we approach Him, our eyes are opened, enabling us to see clearly finally.

Turning to John 9, we see how Jesus treats a man’s blindness and then speaks to the Pharisees’ blindness in their response to witnessing this grace-filled act.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 9:1–41.

When Jesus’ disciples first saw the blind man, their first instinct was to try and determine who was responsible for the man’s blindness. This showed their blindness to Jesus’ purpose in the world. We often blame sin for the afflictions we find in others but remain blind to our own sin when afflicted. The trials faced by many in the world, while a result of sin, cannot be pinpointed to a specific sin but the problem of all sin in general. The danger of casting blame indiscriminately is that it prevents us from considering solutions that do not align with our preconceived notions and further confines us to darkness as we fail to recognize the positive in alternative views. To solve problems, we must first confess to our blindness and our sin and approach with humility.

Jesus’ solution for the recovery of sight was unconventional. Making mud, applying it to the man’s eyes on the Sabbath. He got in the dirt, literally and figuratively challenging the perception of the religious elite. When the problem was solved, the Pharisees did not rejoice. Rather, they looked at the man with questions and rejection. The solution was improper in their eyes because it was done at the wrong time. Sometimes we can question solutions because we should raise a flag if it solves one problem by creating three more problems. However, if the problem is solved, we should rejoice that the problem is gone. Solving problems is hard and often takes sacrifice, hard work, getting uncomfortable, and sometimes literally getting dirty. We need to rejoice that Jesus trusts the church with this work. Dirty work transforms our community and builds trust in the church’s commitment.

The Pharisees responded to the man’s recovered sight with cynicism and mistrust. This reaction put the man and his family on the defensive for accepting such a blessing. When questioned by the man for their inquisitiveness, they rejected and expelled the healed man. When approached by Jesus again after his rejection by the Pharisees, the man saw Jesus for who he was, the Son of God and the redeemer of the world. Jesus gave him sight, and with that sight, he proclaimed Christ. Our community will often look at our actions and may even be skeptical of our intentions; however, if we are consistent, truthful, and humble, they will see the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Jesus has given us sight and the Holy Spirit; if we embrace the power given to us, we can bring people to embrace God’s kingdom.

Sin blinds us and makes us incapable of following Christ, but Christ cured us by getting dirty and dealing with our sins through death and resurrection. God calls us to follow Christ, which means we must also get dirty and walk in faith. We often must set aside our skepticism and work with people and agencies we have previously shunned. If we act out of our faith in Christ, we will allow Jesus to heal our blindness and help us to do the saving work of the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit heals, and may the church rise and embrace our mission to bring sight to the blind.

Open Doors To Mercy

From time to time, we all find ourselves in places and with people that make us uneasy and feel like we are out of place. As Jesus ministered to the people, He encountered many who felt this way, and those that did have social belonging, Jesus challenged. In John 3, Jesus encounters Nicodemus, a Pharisee who had full standing within the community, and Jesus makes him question his previous understandings and put Nicodemus unease. Therefore, someone that had always belonged suddenly had to question their belonging.

How many of us have walked into a room and questioned whether we belonged in that place? We might feel as if the people all know each other, or they all dress differently than us, or we might not have the qualifications to be present in this group. Churches and other organizations must muster feelings of belonging to help retain people. However, the belonging must be authentic, just as Jesus shows to people throughout the Gospels.

The transition to John 4 shows Jesus traveling into Samaria, where the observant Jews would not want to speak with any locals because history has dictated the separation of these two related peoples. We allow history and propaganda to be a rationale for separating and breaking down the idea that we or others belong. If we hold tight to Jesus, we belong; if we hold tight to Jesus, we will recognize that others also belong, no matter their background. 

Jesus opens belonging to a Samaritan woman and all of us as He speaks to her at Jacob’s well. Jesus opens the door to mercy to this woman and shares freedom from our sin and everlasting life.

So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” 27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him. 31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. 

John 4:5-42 (ESV)

Many of us come from backgrounds that don’t fit perfectly into the image of an ideal Christian. There are things we have said or done that, in the eyes of God, would preclude us from joining the Kingdom of God. We are sinners and do not deserve any of the blessings of God. Our sin should prevent us from the glory of God, and standing next to Jesus in even our best behavior, we would look as if we do not belong, and thus because of our sin, we deserve death. Due to our sin, we identify with the woman in Samaria. Her sin and her nationality would have kept her away from Jesus. She did not belong, and we do not belong.

In Jesus’ exhausted state, He offers the woman mercy and grace. He approaches the woman and speaks with her in His first act of mercy. She was astonished and shocked because for years, she had been treated as subhuman due to the place she was born and then her sinful lifestyle, but Jesus addressed her humanity. The woman did not know how to respond, but Jesus reveals His divinity to her regardless of societal position. Similarly, Jesus showed us grace and mercy by coming to save us while we were still caught in the trappings of sin. The woman doesn’t immediately understand Jesus’ requests or statements, but Jesus doesn’t retract the benefit due to her misunderstanding. He offers her mercy and invites her into the Kingdom. Mercy opens the door to the Kingdom of God to us.

Just as the door to the Kingdom of God was opened to us through the mercy of Jesus, we need to be merciful with the people that surround us, even those that have harmed us in the past. We are not called to be gatekeepers but rather to help people find their way to the mercy seat of God. Jesus reminds the disciples that they have a task even in their lack of understanding. They are called to bring people before God, sharing with the world the Gospel message. A harvest is waiting, even though they did not plant the crops. God calls His people to answer the message by sharing merciful Grace with everyone, even those that have rejected them. We are both the harvest and the harvesters, and God desires to use us to spread the Gospel to all. Mercy is the invitation, and we must be willing to share mercy indiscriminately.

Jesus providing a merciful offering of grace to the people of Samaria led to a transformation in the community. People that were once shut off from access to God in Jerusalem find freedom and favor in Jesus as they receive life everlasting. We were once shut off from life with God because of sin. However, Jesus’ death and resurrection opened access to the Gospel and transformed life in God’s Kingdom. Those who have received mercy must now share that same mercy with those around us, even if it doesn’t seem like they belong. Through Christ, we now belong and have access to a new life in the Holy Spirit.

Becoming Brand New

Naturally, when we enter any new season, we seek to improve. We put on new routines and habits to improve our health, financial standing, and spiritual walk or faith. Several people will enter our purview and offer us some fad diet, new financial scheme, or even some new spiritual way to engage with God, but through the instruction of Jesus, the only way we truly become new is to give ourselves over to the radical transformation we are offered in following Christ Jesus.

Lent offers many of the same opportunities that the new year promises, but we must be aware that this is not just a time to start something new for the sake of starting something new. Rather we are called to reflect sincerely on what we have in our lives that draw us near to Christ and what things pull us away. Just as God made the Sabbath for humanity, God also gives us Lent to reflect on becoming a new creation and put ourselves in a position to serve God more fully.

We now reflect on the transformation Jesus offers Nicodemus and, in turn, the promise God makes for humanity by sending Jesus to the world. 

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:1-17(ESV)

Nicodemus saw the ministry of Jesus, and based on the face value, he knew that Jesus was more than just a good teacher, but that he had something different than the other teachers. Even today, we see teachers and leaders that show or promise great things, and we have a strange appeal to them. We often find ourselves looking at these teachers like Nicodemus looks at Jesus. However, when Jesus opens His mouth in response to Nicodemus, we see the difference between Jesus and someone just telling us something that sounds good because Nicodemus is befuddled by Jesus and needs further clarification.

Literalism and preconceptions often tie us down to our current understandings, or they cause us to throw everything out and fall into a lie. While Nicodemus certainly did not think Jesus was saying that one needs to come out of a literal womb a second time, he did need help guiding him to the fact that we all need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus explains and does not rebuke. If we have trouble understanding, don’t settle for a literal understanding that doesn’t make sense, but rather we must go before God and ask for guidance.

As we seek guidance from the Lord, we must allow ourselves to be made new: mind, body, and soul. Some preconceptions need to be let go. As we encounter Jesus, we must be willing to let go of everything that we once thought and cherished for the sake of the kingdom of God. When we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us inside and out, we come face-to-face with our need to embrace our need for God in all areas of our life and not just superficially call out to God.

It was here that Nicodemus still struggled to hear what Jesus was proclaiming. He still wanted to hold onto the teachings, but Jesus said you need to be made fully new and let go of everything you held onto. Jesus tells him that he needs to give up everything and follow him and that if he chooses to continue in his old ways, it would be worse for him if he had never encountered Jesus and His teaching. Often the teaching we grew up on is ultimately the hardest thing to give up.

Jesus, throughout His ministry, asks people to give up everything and follow Him. This is the only way we can truly embrace the transformation of the Holy Spirit. Nicodemus struggled to let go of teaching, and the rich young ruler struggled to give up possessions. What do we struggle to give up? During the season of Lent, we often embrace giving up for a season, but Jesus asks us to give up everything to follow Him. However, Jesus gave up everything for our salvation.

God sent Jesus to save us, not condemn us. This requires a change of our mindset and a transformation of our hearts. God’s mission for us is to become new and transformed by the Holy Spirit. We are called to share this good news with the world and invite them to a relationship with the Holy One, the Creator of the Universe, because God loves us and His creation. May we not tarry to partake in this transformation, but may we be a people that are transformed and continually transforming into the new creation God calls us toward.

Forty Days and Forty Nights

Ash Wednesday opens up the season of Lent. This is typically a season where we focus on our relationship with God through reflection, sacrifice, renewal, and prayer. We examine how the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert after fasting for forty days and forty nights, and the devil subjected him to temptation. As we reflect on the devil’s temptations of Jesus, we can find that they are enticing and similar to our daily temptations. This Lenten season should be a season where we not only reflect on how we should respond to temptation but also as a time to prepare our hearts and minds for representing God in the way we act and speak.

Just as Jesus fasted during Lent, we can practice other disciplines to strengthen us to live obedient lives during this season. One of the most common Lenten practices is fasting, where individuals give up certain types of food or drink for self-denial and spiritual discipline. Some people choose to fast from all food for certain periods, while others give up certain types of food, such as meat or sweets. Many people use the season of Lent as a time of increased prayer and spiritual reflection. This may involve attending extra church services, praying the Stations of the Cross, or setting aside dedicated time for personal prayer and meditation. Some people use Lent to read and reflect on the Bible more deeply. This may involve reading through specific books or passages of the Bible, using daily devotionals or other reading plans, or attending Bible study groups. Lent is also a time for confession and repentance, where individuals may examine their lives and seek to turn away from sinful behaviors. Giving to the poor or performing acts of charity is another common Lenten practice. This may involve donating money or goods to a local charity, volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank, or performing other acts of kindness for those in need.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 4:1–11.

The narrative of Jesus in the desert follows the baptism by John and the Lord’s proclamation about Jesus as the Son of God. Instead of utilizing this proclamation as a powerful statement and marching through the region, Jesus fasts and prepares Himself for the temptations that will come. This forty days and forty nights parallels Israel’s forty years in the desert. However, Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. Jesus comes to bring victory where before we have only known failure.

“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

We want to be safe and secure, but we also often do things or eat things that are appealing more than doing things we need to do. When we are hungry, we will want to eat. Too often, however, we will fulfill that desire with that which is present more than we need. This is where we get the idea of not grocery shopping when hungry. God knows what we need, and it is imperative that we ask God to guide us to fill our needs and then look to where God can use us to fill the needs of others. Our sustenance and fulfillment cannot be found in purely material possessions or food, but we must lean into prayer, read the scriptures, and strengthen our relationship with God.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus knew that he had power, but that God’s Will is what we need to be obedient to for the sake of the Kingdom of God, not for our own sake. This is the magic spell test. We think that if we say the right prayers, read the right scriptures, or do the right disciplines; then God will do what we want. We are tempted to manipulate God to our will. God loves us and wants good for our lives, but in our obedience to God, we are not to attempt to persuade God to give us more because we are good, because our good is like filthy rags when compared to Jesus.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”

Power and wealth will attempt to lead us toward serving something other than God. However, they will lead us into a dangerous, self-serving spiral that pulls us away from God. The temptation that Jesus would have felt was something that was not sacrificial but rather self-serving and would have led to a power that would have been something that some Jews would have expected. The worship of the world’s power is enticing but winds up bowing to something less than God. When the followers of Jesus eschew the power offered by the world and lean into the sacrificial love of Jesus, we do not allow the world to dictate what power looks like and embrace the power found in God’s love.

Obedience to God won’t have the look of triumphant self-assertion, nor by embracing power and authority, but only through humility, service, and suffering. Let us be mindful of the temptations we face and seek to overcome them through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us rely on the Word of God for sustenance and trust in his will for our lives. And let us serve only God, seeking to honor him in all we do. During the march toward Easter, we remember that God is the true source of power in the world and that even though we face temptation, through practicing obedience, the Holy Spirit will empower us to defeat the temptations in our lives and live obediently to the will of God.

Pay Attention

Look Around. Movements and blessings surround us everywhere we are, and everywhere we go. People will see something and elevate it if it aligns with a previously held point of view. If, however, that thing that happens does not align with their point of view, they will dismiss it. As we turn to the scriptures, we must understand that we are to pay more attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing in our surroundings than listening and reading pundits or seeking out websites to proclaim what is good and bad. Let the Holy Spirit be our guide as we read the text.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)

What have you experienced in your faith journey? Before looking up what someone else thinks, you need to look at how you have been affected by God’s Grace. While our journeys with God will take many turns and twists, we can lean into our experiences to guide God’s truth. Peter goes on to express that the truth in the scriptures was not just found in the ancient texts but alive in front of him. We testify about a book written long ago and how God has brought the book alive in front of us. 

Looking at Scripture grounds us in the truth of the Gospel. We cannot find our way eventually to Scripture, but scripture has to be the grounding element in our minds and hearts. If God guides you through scripture, be confident you will find peace. This doesn’t eliminate us from looking for the truth in God’s creation but rather reminds us to seek out God’s truth in the Word, the world, and the history of the world.

The Holy Spirit moves among us, just as Jesus walked with the people during His time on Earth. We need to pay attention to the words around us and through us. His creation prophecies about the Kingdom of God instruct us on how to live. Humans seek to manipulate words, we see it all around us, but the Word of God must come forth through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just because someone quotes scripture doesn’t mean they are speaking for God, for you also need the Holy Spirit, so test the words against all of scripture. The Holy Spirit is alive among us right now. As we move forward, let us remember that we aren’t alone but that the Holy Spirit will reside with us through all, and we need to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to lead.

As we look back at our life, we must examine and pay attention to the areas where God was present. These point us to the scriptures and God’s Holy Word, and even though people may try and manipulate our experiences for their gain, we must lean into the Scriptures with the Holy Spirit as our guide to see where God wants us to move. Testimony leads to Scripture as Guided by the Holy Spirit.

This Choice Is Simple

A Reflection on Deuteronomy 30:15-20

In creating humanity, God wanted to give people choices. In doing so, the freedom to choose our path has been fraught, with people often choosing the path that leads to brokenness and chaos. The choices made guide humanity toward or away from the good that God intends for us. Whether we embrace opportunities to share in the blessings or avoid challenges, our choices lead us on our path.

If you chose one job over another, living in one area, or joining in versus sitting on the sidelines, these all have led you to where you are today. History is full of people who made choices that were often hard to make. Choices have repercussions. Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama, set off a chain reaction toward a civil rights movement in the United States. A choice helped change the course of history.

God changed the Israelite’s history through Moses’ arrival in Egypt. No longer caught in the trap of enslavement, they were now free to make more choices. It didn’t take long for them to use their new freedom to complain about how good it was in Egypt or for them to create idols for them to worship. The Israelites show us that freedom to choose will often lead us to unhealthy choices. This tendency to make bad choices leads to the confrontation we see in the passage of Deuteronomy found below.

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (ESV)

The people were doing their own thing, complaining about the process, and God reminded them of their ability to choose instead of scolding or punishing them. This generous response from God reminded the people of their most incredible power, the power to choose. God gives them a choice because He desires them to have the freedom to engage with Him in a relationship, not enslavement or bondage. However, there are consequences for rebellion and benefits for obedience. At this point, God lays a pro and con chart for them.

At a cursory glance, God’s list for the people doesn’t appear to be a choice, as one choice leads to “life and good” while the opposing decision is “death and evil.” From this point of view, God sounds like a parent saying to their child, “because I said so,” or the threat of a bully, “do this or else.” However, in the context of God releasing the people from bondage in Egypt and watching them wander around in the wilderness, we see God tenderly warning the people that how they behave is dangerous and detrimental and will ultimately lead to their destruction. God is like the father of the prodigal son, giving him what he asked for but going the extra step and reminding the son that their behavior will lead to despair. Ultimately, God cared for the people of Israel, not only those fleeing from Egypt but the generations that followed, and implored them to give up their evil ways and turn back to God.

Our sin keeps us away from God, and temptation surrounds us and opportunities to choose evil over good and death over life. God knows this and sent us a lifeboat when Jesus came to Earth. The Gospels present a picture of where the choices made by Israel had led them. A foreign nation conquered them; their faith became a tool of the powerful to oppress the weak; the people divided themselves into opposing groups. The result of sin is horror and death, just like the warnings stated; therefore, the people needed a Savior, and Jesus fulfilled this need. Jesus calls us to forgo sin and follow Him because in Jesus comes victory over evil and death, and obedience to Jesus is good and life-giving. While sin still knocks at our door, Jesus offers us a simple choice; give your burdens, your sin, and your heart to Him, and life, goodness, and blessing will follow.

That is the grace of God; choosing God is simple because of Jesus. There are no special rules you need to follow, no special process to find the right way to follow God. Choose to love God and love God’s creation, all people, not just the ones you like. God makes things simple for us because Jesus did the heavy lifting.

Jesus Gets It

A Reflection on Hebrews 2:14-18

Life is full of smiles and tears, joy and despair, good and bad. We often overlook the good to focus on the bad because bad news is more likely to lead us to a feeling. Bad sells better than good because our eyes would instead focus on the walls than the light at the end of the hall. Our hearts struggle to deal with cycles that drag us into the pit, and we end up hurting incredibly because of the darkness that envelops us. Even though there is light and hope; however when in the darkness, it is hard to hear or understand that. 

Have you recently received hard news? I spent the last half of 2021 in a state of limbo because we did not know whether my mother would live or die, and it was the kind of puzzle that frustrated the doctors and nurses because they didn’t have any answers either. Disease had taken hold of her and was not letting go. My family was in the same position many find themselves in, receiving bad news, trying to grasp what it means, and acting on the news. Hard news hits us and knocks us off balance; we just can’t grasp what and why. I remember this as a time when my mind was full of questions, my heart was full of aches, and my soul needed renewal.

The author of Hebrews connects these experiences with Jesus’ humanity and how because of Jesus becoming human, we connect to Jesus not only as a source of salvation from sin but also as a connection to the person that understands our human experience. Jesus gets our hurt and our pain, and because of that, Jesus can sit with us as our high priest and brother.

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. 

Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV)

If we claim Christ as our savior, our tendency will focus on the supernatural elements of Jesus. The Gospels are full of stories about how Jesus brought healing to those suffering and even the power to resurrect the dead. However, with this power was also a human that looked at people with compassion and mercy. Jesus had friends that suffered from disease, demon possession, and even friends that died. These experiences allowed Jesus to understand the pain we experience when a loved one suffers. If you are going through a time when you are hurting because those around you are hurting, Jesus gets it.

Many approached Jesus with contempt in their hearts. The Gospels teach us that the powerful people of the church constantly hounded Jesus and tried to trick and trap Him in His words and teachings. It must have felt as if the world was crashing down at each word uttered, but Jesus unflinchingly took on the questions and comments with mercy and grace. Every time Jesus saw the traps coming, and was frustrated that He could not catch a break from the Pharisees and Sadducees and would be tempted to lose His mind and lash out in anger. Sometimes we feel as if the world is collapsing and attacks are coming from all directions; Jesus gets it.

We rely on our friends and family to carry us and support us in the most challenging times. Jesus had a close group of friends that were family throughout the ministry on Earth, but one of these led to His arrest and ultimate death on the cross. The betrayal experienced by Jesus is more profound than the betrayal that most of us would experience, but the people he trusted most let him down, and we, too, are sometimes let down by those that we know and love the most. When we are let down by how our family and friends treat us, Jesus gets it.

There is no escape from the pain in our lives, but Jesus came to our world and experienced all the same hurts that we experience. Jesus came and lived among us, was tempted like us, lived life with other humans like us, had friends and family like us, and had people who didn’t like Him and could get hurt like us. We can turn to Jesus regardless of the situation because He gets it. Jesus died for us because He loves us, and Jesus wants us to come and bring all of our burdens to Him because Jesus gets it.

A Centered Life

Right now. God is calling us to change our focus from a hectic season full of stress, chaos, and preparation for gatherings and get-togethers, to center our minds on the HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE that come with the Christ Child. Jesus didn’t have an easy entry into the world, as there were stresses about when and where the birth would occur and having to take care of obligations, but God cared for them.

The Angels prepared others for the coming Christ and invited the world to receive the gift God had given. We hear the story in Luke’s Gospel about the circumstances that led to Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem and how Jesus was born in a less-than-ideal situation. Still, because of that, the shepherds came to celebrate the coming of the King, and the Kingdom of Heaven arrived here on Earth.

Luke 2:1-20 (ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 

16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

As we wrap up the Advent season, we look back at the last four weeks and our successes and failures in carrying out the Advent mission. Even as we worship tonight, things are probably swirling around our minds as we think about the last-minute preparations that need to be made for a “successful” Christmas. However, tonight as we look at the candles here, we are reminded that Jesus’ birth is evidence of a successful Christmas. 

Even if you haven’t stopped and reflected this season, you can now use this moment to listen to the Holy Spirit. You are being told to stop worrying. At this moment, allow God to center your heart and mind on the purpose of Advent. Prepare our hearts and minds for Christ to enter our world. 

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

When Jesus comes into the world, we are gifted salvation because Jesus brings greater gifts than we could imagine. However, we keep thinking and working toward finding the perfect gifts to get everyone when we only need to look around the wreath to proclaim the greatest gifts.


We await the coming of the King, our Hope brings our focus to God’s promises for us and alters our vision from the past and present toward a focus on future glory. All our actions right now reflect a vision focused on what Jesus has done for us and is doing for us heading into the future. Hope is something we have and something that we share with the world. Instead of crossing our fingers, we look at how the story unfolded in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and throughout the Roman Empire. Then we reflect on how that mission continues into each of us right where we live, work, and play.

Hope guides us to Christ, for there is no hope if not for Christ carrying out God’s mission here on Earth and in each of us. Humanity shows us that we give ourselves over to many worldly passions, and sin pulls us away from God into lawlessness and chaos. We tried to save ourselves, but Jesus reminds us that only through the power of our Savior were we able to be saved.


The world at the time of Christ’s Birth was a world in a chaotic state. By the world’s standards, there was great peace under the rule of Rome. However, there was turmoil within the different groups in the world, as people were disenfranchised, rulers took advantage of the people, and there was a growing disparity between the rich and the poor. What the world called peace resembled chaos and turmoil. 

An ordering and counting would regulate and help facilitate this peace even further. We hear of a census being taken, and Joseph and Mary, in an attempt to comply with this “ordering,” find themselves in a situation where Mary is giving birth in a place where they are not home but are in a situation where they are without peace and no place in the inn. 

However, God chose to bring His Son into our world in this chaotic situation. The chaos continues today, but God sends out His church to come into the world and bring God’s peace and order. 


The birth of a child naturally brings joy, but the circumstances around Mary’s pregnancy brought uncertainty that would have squashed the joy of some. Still, the joy that comes from the Lord cannot be squelched by circumstance or situation, but rather the joy that comes from the Lord strikes out against deep sorrow and shines light into the dark recesses of our souls.

Joy is not simply happiness but unbridled light that fills us at our core. It reminds us that we don’t exist simply to experience pleasure but that the Glory of God gives us a gift that we cannot simply look at and discard. The emotional state the shepherds felt when they encountered Jesus was more than a temporary euphoria but a joy they knew in their bones.

Through Joy, we are given a gift that lifts the people in our world. We enable people to look beyond their current circumstances and into a future defined by hope, peace, and love.


Through God’s love, humanity is embraced, and sin is forgiven. Love covers up and demolishes sin at its core. Where love exists, divisions fail, and love shows us how to draw closer to God. We are taught how to flee from the immorality that plagues the world, and embrace HOPE, PEACE, and JOY through LOVE. Love is a gift from the Almighty God.

The greatest of the gifts is love. Love defines God’s action that sent His Son to us, bringing salvation from sin. This gift transcended what we commonly think about love. There is more than simple emotion or feeling; love comes from the core of existence and creation. God created Hope, Peace, and Joy to connect with His creation, but sin broke that bond and relationship. Out of Love, God sought the ultimate sacrifice to make things right again with humanity.

At the Core of All the Gifts

At the core of all these gifts is the gift of Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates the free and perfect gift through the Christ Child. The gifts of Advent call to us to stop and reflect on the presence of Christ and that Christ is also a present to each of us that gives HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE. Once we receive these gifts, we are then charged to go out and share them with our neighbors.

It doesn’t require some grand showcase; it can simply be the telling of the story as found in Luke’s Gospel, the same one Linus told us in Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special. That is what Christmas is all about, after all.

Occupied with The Word

There are too many things begging us to pay attention to them, and we want to give equal attention to them all. Work wants us to do one thing, our family requires our attention over here, I need to get that project done on the house, exercise is important for our health, I need to run any number of errands, I want to hang out with friends, etc. The lists and number of things screaming at us for attention are far too numerous for us to fully give our attention to any of them.

Let me draw our attention to one verse in Acts 18. As Paul was in Corinth, where he went after leaving Athens, his partners in ministry had not yet arrived, but Paul went to work. Paul shared the Word, and the ESV interprets the author’s language as “occupied with the word”. The Greek understanding of this phrase shows that Paul was completely absorbed in knowing, understanding, and sharing the scriptures and the Gospel with the people of Corinth.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.  Acts 18:5 (ESV)

This level of absorption is the type of singular focus that he probably did not alter his course just because his partners in ministry had shown up. He most likely welcomed them as they arrived, but his focus and devotion to the scriptures, toward sharing the Gospel, and preaching to the people guided everything else in his life.

As a church and as Christians, we need to be occupied with the Word in such a way that everything in our life is informed by our study of the Gospel and the Word of God. How we treat our family, how we work, how we spend time with friends, how we take care of chores, how we speak with strangers, even how we exercise, all of this and more need to be treated in a way that is informed by the scriptures and the Gospel, such that when our people arrive they will see us occupied with The Word.