One Thing

Authored by Mary Lucas

Bible verses and reflections:
Sometimes a speaker or teacher will say “If you don’t get anything else from this talk, then remember this ONE THING.” And then they will proceed to say what the most important point was that they wanted to get across.  These words stood out to me as I was thinking about all that we’ve lost lately….jobs, school, church, certain freedoms….and then I thought about the ONE THING that I have not lost…the presence of God in my life.  There is a song by Jesus Culture that emphasizes this ONE THING:
 
Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
This one thing remains
Your love never fails, and never gives up
It never runs out on me
Because on and on and on and on it goes
Before it overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains
This one thing remains
 
I began to think about those words (ONE THING) and wondered if they were in the Bible as if God was saying, okay if you don’t get anything else from reading this, then remember this ONE THING.  So, I looked up those words I found different people had discovered one thing:

  1. (David) ONE THING I ask:

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

  1. (disciples) ONE THING I lack:

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21 

  1. (Martha) ONE THING is necessary:

“But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (this is the story where Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus rather than busy herself like Martha)

  1.  (blind man given sight) ONE THING I know: 

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25 (this was the man, blind since birth, healed by Jesus and the Pharisees were asking the blind man about the healing, trying to find out if Jesus had sinned by healing on the Sabbath)

  1. (Paul) ONE THING I do:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
 
The focus of all these ONE THINGS was knowing God.
 
If you look back through these verses you will discover what these people discovered:
 
Knowing God is at the heart of prayer. (David)
Knowing God is at the heart of surrender. (disciples)
Knowing God is at the heart of service. (Martha)
Knowing God is at the heart of witness. (blind man)
Knowing God is at the heart of ambition. (Paul)
 
Quiet Time Suggestion:  
Perhaps you want to use some of these verses this week (and read the full passage where they come from) and think about the ONE THING that is important.

Betrayed

Read: John 13;21-32
vs. 21 – Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

Reflect:
Betrayal seems to be the most heinous of offences. Perhaps not so much for what was done, but rather, it always seems to be connected to someone you trust or someone you love. A promise broken, an action that crushes what you hold dear, a change of alliance with an opposition. There are many ways betrayal can occur.
 
Jesus handpicked his disciples for a three-year term of instruction on how God’s kingdom was coming through Christ. Judas Iscariot was among those whom he chose.  Loyalty to one’s rabbi (teacher) was expected without question. Yet Judas, who loved money, gave in to a temptation to betray Jesus to the religious leaders who wanted to kill him (Mark 14:1-11).
 
Midway through the Holy Week, as Jesus journeyed from Sunday’s “Hosannas” to the inhumanity of the cross, he hosted the last supper, the Passover Feast, and warned his disciples that one of them would betray him. Although the disciples looked at one another to see if they might learn who would do such a thing, no one knew except Judas himself and Jesus. Judas carried out his deed to betray Jesus as planned.
 
Do you suppose that Jesus treated Judas any less lovingly while he was with him for those three years?  Jesus knew that Judas would betray him and yet he loved him along with the other disciples. When I look at my own shortcomings and I realize that I too have betrayed my Lord, breaking his commands even while knowing to do better, I shudder at the thought. But I know that grace has been granted to me and I bow humbly before the cross with gratitude and thanks, while I ask for forgiveness.
 
Jesus was betrayed, but he never betrayed his Father or his people or his calling. What a beautiful Saviour is Jesus my Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for your love, compassion and forgiveness.
 
Pray:
Dear Lord, we bow at your table, at the foot of your cross, and before your empty tomb, asking forgiveness and grace when we have been disloyal, and we pray for more strength to be more loyal disciples. Amen.

A Visit To The Stream

Authored by Martha Dodd

Read: John 4:4-30, 39-42, John 7:37-39
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39 

Reflect:
Next to my home is a field, and where our property ends, a public foot path begins and extends the length of the field.  While foot traffic is usually light on the path, during stay-at-home orders, the path was more frequently travelled, as people were looking to get some exercise and fresh air.  

One day back in January, as I headed out for a walk, I needed a break from the beaten path, so I started a new trail through the snow.  I made my way through a thicket of trees to where I knew there was a stream. And the scene I discovered was remarkable!  As the stream meandered along its way, the sound of the water trickling over the rocks in its path was so restorative.   I stood on the bank of the stream, and wondered how I could have overlooked such beauty for so many years – not 500 feet from my front door. 

Stream in the middle of winterOn my next visit to the stream, I dressed warmly, took a lawn chair and stayed a little longer, observing things I hadn’t seen the first time.  Some days later, I noticed something interesting.  Others were finding their way to the stream along the trail, off the beaten path.       

In John 4, we learn about Jesus’ encounter with a woman at a well.  He recognized the thirst underlying everything in her life and made an astonishing offer – to place within her, a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Tim Keller puts it this way: “Jesus is saying ‘I have what every human soul longs for, and I will not just satisfy you with it, but I will change you so much on the inside, that your very heart and soul will be new.  You will have a whole new purpose, a whole new joy, a whole new dynamic in your inner being.’”*  

And we know she accepted Jesus’ offer because she left her water jar behind and went back into town to invite people to come and see Jesus…and they did…and many believed. 

This magnificent promise of Living Water is for us too, that as we surrender our lives and quench our thirst in Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit, who flows like a mighty river, into and through us to thirsty people.

Prayer:
Thank You Lord, that Your Holy Spirit lives in me, a deposit guaranteeing my inheritance. (Ephesians 1:13-14) Thank You that Your “mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23) and You are always ready to be for me, what I need today.   I ask You to show me any areas in my life where I am looking to other things to quench my thirst. I pray that as people meet Jesus in me, their thirst will be awakened to seek You. And if I am not feeling very thirsty for You today, please increase my thirst.   Amen!

*Tim Keller – Gospel in Life Podcast-Episode 539: The Gospel and the Outsider

Free To Forgive

Read: Colossians 3:12-17
vs. 13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

Reflect:
Sin is an ugly task master. When it presents itself, it is appealing and looks so enticing. Yet when it has been uncovered it is full of shame and pain. Often the pain is not just to me alone but to those around me as well. In all honesty I have known the pain of sin in my own failures and by those that are near to me and sometimes the pain is excruciating.

How did Jesus ever manage to take the sin of the world on his being in order to offer us forgiveness? Jesus, in the ultimate act of selfless love, took all the hurt and pain of sin and death in this world and carried it to the cross. This was an extremely heavy burden to bear. Yet God’s glory and power overcame this burden, conquering death and offering restoration, healing, and forgiveness to all who desire it.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God extends to creation this amazing gift of forgiveness that truly sets us free. Yet the gift of forgiveness is sometimes hard to accept, and oftentimes we do not want to give it freely. Sometimes the wounds of past hurts are deep, and the pain we must endure from them is overwhelming. Have you ever been there? Been at the place where you know you must forgive but just cannot find the strength to actually forgive? Will we ever be free of the pain?

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is powerful and beautiful. Forgiveness does not condone the hurt against you. Forgiveness acknowledges the very real hurt you have experienced and then seeks to let go of the feelings of anger and desires for revenge. Holding on to anger, harboring grudges, and wanting an offender to feel our hurt—or even more—can quickly consume our lives and trap us in bitterness and resentment. God wants so much more for us! Forgiveness opens up the door to fully live and experience all the joy, power, and freedom that God lovingly offers us. We can be set free. May God’s love free you to forgive today.

Pray: 
Forgiving God, you offer to us the beautiful gift of forgiveness. Work in us so that we can freely offer this gift to others. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Dispelling Doubt

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Mark 9:14-29. 
Vs. 24 – Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Reflect:
I really appreciate the bible’s honest accounts of people who had questions and doubts. Those stories allow me to breath a little easier when I have doubts. Early in my Christian life I was just like the father in our story today. I believed with all my heart that Jesus could heal people today. But like the dad I also had that twinge of uncertainty and doubt. While I was in Northern India, I questioned DR. R.B. Lal of the Yeshu Darbar movement, about the hundreds of people he and the pastors prayed over for healing, and things became a little clearer. He said, “The bible tells me to anoint the sick with oil and pray for their healing. So that is what I must do. The rest is up to Jesus.” All too often we want to have the results that support us rather than leaving it to God’s purposes.
 
It’s not that we don’t want to believe! It’s simply that sometimes we find it hard to believe. A believer from hundreds of years ago, St. John of the Cross, called that experience “the dark night of the soul.” Many of us have been through that dark night.
 
That was true of the father who came to Jesus, desperately longing for his son to be healed. He assured Jesus that he believed, but, in the same breath, he asked Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief. It was an example of doubt seeking faith, and, in response, Jesus honoured the father’s request.
 
God doesn’t want us to be stuck in doubt. The apostle John said, “I write these things to you who believe … so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
God wants us to live with the joy and peace that come from being certain Jesus is alive, trusting that we will live with him forever! But when we’re not sure, God understands – and he uses our questions and doubts to teach us to rely on him more fully.
 
Ask for his help, and he will restore your faith and deepen your trust.
 
Pray:
O God, sometimes I’m not sure and I want to believe. Help me overcome my unbelief! Assure me deep within so that I can live with the peace and joy you intend for me! Amen.

Because You Say So

Authored by Mary Lucas
 
Read: Luke 5: 1-11
 

Reflect: 
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Luke 5:1-6
 
I am sure Peter and the other fisherman were tired and frustrated.  They had been out working, fishing all night, and had caught nothing. They were now cleaning the big heavy nets getting ready to put them away so they could have a rest from the long night out on the water. Along comes Jesus, who is a carpenter, not a fisherman and tells Simon to take the boat out again into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.  His command would have made no sense to a fisherman. All fishermen know you fish at night when it is cool because that is when the fish come to the surface, and the nets were constructed of linen and less visible to fish at night.  Besides, they had already done that and caught nothing.  The chances of catching fish during the heat of the day would be very slim. Besides, they were tired; they had already cleaned the nets and were ready to put them away. 
 
Peter starts to explain this to the carpenter… “Jesus we have worked hard all night…we are tired…we’ve already cleaned up…. the fish aren’t biting…..BUT….”  The word ‘but’ is a great word in the bible for it shows that circumstances never get the last word.  Here Peter says, “but because you say so”.  Why was Peter willing to express such complete faith and obedience when it made no sense? Why should he obey a man that knew nothing about fishing? Why was Peter willing to walk in complete and immediate obedience to this man who was sitting in a boat, teaching?  I am not sure the exact reason, but I love how he said, “Because you say so, I will…” No questions asked. No hesitation. No arguing over why it made no sense. Only complete surrender. Total obedience. An immediate reaction.  I am challenged by Peter’s faith, by his unquestioning obedience to Jesus.
 
May we be the same and say, 
Because you say so, I will love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37).            
Because you say so, I will love my neighbour as I love myself (Matthew 22:39). 
Because you say so, I will love my enemies, and bless those who curse me (Matthew 5:44). 
Because you say so, I will strive for unity with all believers (John 17). 
Because you say so, I will be still and know that you are God (Psalm 46:10).
 
Pray:
Spend some time meditating on Jesus, thanking Him for being your Saviour, and acknowledging Him as your Lord, and ask where you need to be obedient to what He is asking of you.

Filled With Assurance

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: 1 Peter 1:8-12.
Vs. 10 – Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care
 

Reflect:
Do questions ever creep into the foundation of your faith? Do you ever wonder, in the big scheme of things; “Do I matter at all?” Those kinds of questions do not come from an innocent place. The devil roams about seeking who he might devour (1 Peter 5:8). Those questions devour our confidence in what we know to be true (Jn.13:34-35).
 
I imagine that every believer at some point in their life goes through some questions
that challenge their faith. But the Bible is God’s grand story of assurance. It reveals God’s faithfulness through the prophets, those bigger-than-life figures like Abraham, Moses, David, and Isaiah. It also reveals God’s story of deliverance for every individual who turns to Jesus. The apostle Peter teaches this through his discussion of the prophets.
 
The prophets spoke a message of grace for each one of us. They also searched—they hungered to know how their words would be fulfilled in Christ. They also served God’s people. The Lord revealed to them that they were servants of grace to us. All of them diligently doing the work of grace without seeing the fulfilment of God’s great salvation plan.
 
Ultimately the prophets share the joyful message that life and hope are found in Christ alone. The whole recorded drama of the Bible is for us! As a great theologically sound hymn puts it; “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
 
The Bible says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies with lingering sin or unhealthy habits or questionable attitudes that erode our assurance of Christ’s love. When Jesus declares that he loves us is there any better assurance than that?”
 
Pray:
Lord when I falter and fail, call me to repentance so I can know your love. When I doubt, grant me assurance; and when I feel lost, pour out your love, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Is The Ink Dry?

Authored by Martha Dodd
 
Read:  Hebrews 4:12
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 

Reflect:
After I finished university, I travelled to Taichung, Taiwan to teach English and Bible for a summer with a group of 20 other teachers.  Following a week of preparation, we were divided into smaller teams and stationed in various locations.  I flew to Magong City on Penghu Island, and while there were 3 other teachers from my group in the same city, I was essentially on my own each day as I prepared my lessons to teach several classes of students.
 
One morning as I was reading my Bible, I came across a passage that stopped me in my tracks.  Although I can’t remember the exact text of what I was reading that morning, I do remember it was so profoundly meaningful and relevant to my situation that I literally rubbed my fingers over the words on the page to see if the ink was dry. Out of my comfort zone and feeling overwhelmed, with no one physically present on whom I could lean, I found the encouragement and strength I needed in God and God alone, as He spoke to me in that moment, through the written Word.
 
Over the decades since then, the God of the Word has met me time and time again in the written Word to teach, rebuke, comfort, correct, assure, and spur me on.  There have also been occasions, however, when I’ve forfeited all this, mostly because I didn’t take the time.
 
I’ve heard it said that the Bible is the only book in the world where the Author shows up when we open its pages.  The God-breathed, written Word reveals the Living Word – Jesus Christ Himself.  Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” (John 6:35)
 
The words of Scripture are living and active and as we come to them to get to know Jesus, they become in us a source of life to feed and satisfy us, and through us, to nourish and refresh the hearts of others.
 
Prayer:
Lord, thank you that just like the Father in the story of the prodigal son, you are looking far away in the distance, longing to find me, to love me and bring me home. *  I ask you to meet me today in your written Word, as you open my eyes and ears to wonderful things there. (Psalm 119:18) And as You do, I want to testify, along with your followers, ‘My heart was burning within me as (You) talked with me and opened the Scriptures to me!’ (Luke 24:32)
 
*Henri Nouwen – The Return of the Prodigal Son

God Is My Rock 

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Psalm 18:1-5; 16-19, 30-31.   
V. 30 – He shields all who take refuge in him.
 

Reflect:
My first view of Mwanza, Tanzania, where we lived and worked for two years was early in the morning and it was the shoreline of Lake Victoria. The granite outcroppings were everywhere, and they were spectacular. Huge massive boulders perched high on top of smaller rocks, with small dwelling places scattered throughout. I often thought that if those boulders moved so many homes would be crushed. The boulders were at the time, however, providing shelter and a sense of security.
 
 When we pray like the psalmist, “God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge,” we aren’t using an image of a small, polished rock that we can put in our pocket. We should envision rocks like the huge boulders around Lake Victoria. We are also not thinking of the rock as cold, hard, and unfeeling.
 
We are thinking of other characteristics, such as protection, shelter, and solid reliability. In the Bible, God has revealed himself to be faithful, dependable, and strong. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God has unparalleled majesty, power, and endurance. There is no one like him.
 
This is why, for any reason, even in the midst of a pandemic, we can hide ourselves in the cleft of our saviour, our protector, our God—our Rock—and he will provide shelter for us. He will keep us safe from the storm.
 
Pray:
O God, our Rock, we turn to you and give you praise because you are strong and powerful. During these very uncertain days we hide ourselves in you and thank you for surrounding and protecting us. In your perfect name, Amen.

The Wise Thing To Do

Authored by Lou Geense
 
Read: Psalm 119:1-8.   Vs 1.
Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.

Reflect:
Whenever you get a new tool or gadget or even a new car, it makes sense to follow the maker’s instructions. They tell you what you need to know about using the new product. That would be the wise thing to do. I have to admit that I usually just use the item and when things did not work out as expected I go back to the instructions and look for pictures. Not a very wise thing to do.
 
As Psalm 119 begins, it points out that people who follow God’s way are blessed and blameless. But we need to clarify two things.

  1. In giving his Word, God tells us, “This is how I created you to live. When you live according to my instructions, you will be blessed.” This does not mean everything will be easy, but, whatever the circumstances—easy or difficult—your life with God and others will flourish because you aim to honour and obey God.
  2. What is the meaning of “blameless?” Blameless does not mean “perfect.” Everyone sins, falling short of God’s righteousness and perfection (Romans 3:23). But all who are redeemed by Christ, the Saviour, are declared righteous by God. When we believe in Christ as our Saviour, we long to be like him, to live God’s way, according to his Word. And Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The hunger for righteousness is what leads to true satisfaction.

What are you hungering for? If you want to please God, follow his Word with all your heart.

Pray:
O Lord, guide me in your ways, and “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.” Amen.