GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting – Day 5

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: Psalm 139:1,2; Acts 1:7,8; Acts 2:5,6

Last night Steve and I went to the annual meeting of our Homeowner’s Association. Steve has been to these before, but I haven’t ever gotten to one. It was fun to meet neighbors who live outside of the radius of our immediate area. I was so glad we went as we got to hear of concerns of our neighbors and even the deep pain of one neighbor who lives in a tough situation.

Then this morning Jerome led us into Acts 1 during our prayer time. We spent time praying into these verses describing God’s heart for us to be witnesses and His promise of the power for that. As we prayed I thought again of our neighborhood – both the immediate neighborhood and neighborhoods close by. I know many of the names and situations of our close by neighbors. We live in an area that is filled with people from many ethnic backgrounds. I love walking the neighborhood on summer evenings near dinner time. The cooking smells are exotic and amazing! I was drawn to Acts 2:5 “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in their own language.” God did a mighty work in Jerusalem that day. He provided power through Holy Spirit for His people to speak the Gospel to a group of people who feared God, but needed to know more. He provided this ready crowd to hear. And He provided a miraculous sign that drew that ready crowd to His ready people – the result was 3,000 people baptized that day!

My prayer turned toward the God-fearing and God-seeking people from every nation under heaven staying in Corvallis – even in my neighborhood. God has placed His Spirit of power in me. My prayer today is that He will create readiness in my neighbors and create divine appointments for me that will be the intersection of readiness for me, for them, and for Him!

Lord, I love the synergy of Psalm 139 with the energy of Acts in my heart today. You know me, You search me, You perceive my thoughts and all of this is about love. You seek relationship with every man and woman. You seek relationship with my neighbors. You know them, You search them, You perceive their thoughts. Lord bring them to me and me to them through the power of Your Holy Spirit and the energy of Your love — all for the purpose of knowing You!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting – Day 4

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: John 3:16; 1 John 4:18, 19; Romans 8:32

Steve led the prayer time at church today focusing on Suburban’s Pastoral transition. He started by leading us through Phil Geisart’s Day 4 devotional thought in the Week of Prayer and Fasting booklet. What a perfect theme for today – “God is Love.”

I confess that back in the fall of 2015, I felt anxious about the process we are in now. I was concerned about the new man and family coming to SCC. Who are they? What are they like? What would it be like to sit under the preaching of a different man? I mean, everyone at Suburban has had the huge blessing of sitting under Steve’s preaching for 30 years, but for me it is nearly my full Christian life! He has been my Pastor for over 40 years! There are only about 4 years of my walk in the Lord where I’ve regularly listened to another preacher. Crazy! In addition to that uncertainty, there was a measure of anxiety and grief about our loss of identity. Who would we be now? What does God have for us to do? I’m not ready to stop serving – what’s next?

God has been speaking peace into my troubled waters for several months now, probably beginning with Jubilee: REFRESH! I resonate to what the Lord says in one of our Jubilee scriptures, Isaiah 43 – “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” In the beginning of this year, my heart changed completely and I am in a state of high anticipation. I am excited and eager and ready to see, hear, and participate in what God is doing in Suburban. I’m sensing a time of ‘more’ coming – of growth and power and streams of living water flowing from us to bless our community. And this ‘more’ is for Suburban, but it will not bypass Steve and me. Praise God!

Today God gave little love gifts to me. I enjoy blessing others, but I struggle with gift giving. I want gifts I give to speak powerfully and somehow affirm the person I’m gifting. Today I gave the perfect gift! It was given at the Lord’s prompting – kind of a ‘I never would have thought of that’ kind of gift that spoke tons of love both from me and from God into this person’s life! So, so sweet! Thank You Lord! I heard from another person with whom I joined in prayer yesterday that God answered a very specific prayer. It is clear He is wooing the people for whom we prayed to Himself! Praise You Lord! Another person told me of God’s clear presence through a doctor she is seeing. She heard over and over from this doctor “I will take care of you; I will take care of you” and it felt like God Himself speaking this to her. Praise the Great Physician! And still another sees a long-held dream and prayer for God’s provision just on the cusp of fulfillment. Hallelujah to Jehovah-Jireh. All of this speaks of love, of provision, of a God who sees, hears, has compassion and who comes down.

I love Suburban, my church home for over 30 years. God loves Suburban, this bride of Christ, way more than I can even imagine. As I see Him answer so sweetly in individual lives that I love, my confidence and faith are boosted incredibly for us as His bride. He’s got this! He’s got us! I can’t wait! 🙂

 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Lord, Your love is astounding. I know that we don’t even grasp a tenth of how astounding it is. Jesus, thank You for taking on our sin and death so that we could have life and love. O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free; Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me; Underneath me, all around me is the current of Thy love; Leading onward, leading homeward, to Thy glorious rest above. AMEN!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting – Day 3

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: John 17

This morning Jamey Mills, our Discipleship Pastor, led us in prayer through John 17. There is so much in this passage that calls out to me. God’s glory is prominent in this prayer, glory before time began, glory demonstrated in the world and glory to come when we are with Jesus in eternity. I see a deep sense of mission, the mission Jesus fulfilled as he lived out being the way, the truth and the life – the only way to the Father. And unity speaks powerfully; the unity of Jesus and his Father is awesome to behold as is Jesus’ intercession for his followers then, and his followers throughout time, that we might experience their unity. And then a full circle back to glory and mission – in some way our unity gives the world the visual it needs to know that the Father sent Jesus and loves the world.

There is a puzzle in this scripture. At verse 11 Jesus asks the Father to protect his followers by the power of your name, the name that the Father gave Jesus. Then in verse 12 he reminds the Father that during his time on earth, he protected these followers by the power of the name the Father gave him. And finally in verse 15 he clarifies the request for protection, saying I’m not asking you to take them out of the world (the perfect protection, but a protection that leaves the world lost), but to keep them safe from the evil one. The puzzle arises in that even Jesus wasn’t able to protect every follower. He acknowledges that one was lost, the ‘… one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.’

As I processed this, it came powerfully to me that my cooperation is needed for Jesus’ prayer to be answered. I find myself thinking about Judas, the ‘one that was lost’. John 12:4-6 may be one of the most telling stories about his character. When Mary poured the pint of pure nard over Jesus’ feet Judas objected asking why the very expensive perfume wasn’t sold and the money given to the poor. John’s commentary on this is telling, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Clearly the ‘mission’ of Judas was not in keeping with the mission of Jesus. Jesus taught many times about money, how to handle this gift of God with integrity and honesty. Over and over again he revealed his mission to the apostles. He loved all of them and encouraged them to love. And given his recorded prayer for his followers in John 17, I believe he prayed for them, all of them, over the course of his ministry. Judas had ample opportunity to enter in, to follow Jesus, but to the bitter end Judas kept following his own way, even to the point of betraying Jesus.

I keep thinking back to yesterday and the sweet repentance brought about by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit living in me. Sin is the one thing that can completely destroy unity. It breaks my unity with God; it breaks my unity with others; it isolates me in my own little world. Praise God for Holy Spirit’s work in all believers. Jesus asked the Father to “Make them holy by your truth, teach them your word, which is truth.” John 17:17. As we each live out lives of following Jesus, cooperating with his work in us, attached to the vine, unafraid of God’s perfecting and perfect love, the unity Jesus prayed for becomes a reality!

Lord, I claim the truth of 1 John 4:18 that there is no fear in love. Your perfect love drives out my fear. As I live in your love I do not fear punishment, instead I look to you, the one who makes me perfect in love. Lord Jesus together with you I intercede asking Father for unity in the church that the world will know that Father sent you and that we are deeply, sacrificially loved. Thank you!!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting – Day 2

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: Hebrews 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Today was a long day with lots going on. The goings on were good – an early prayer time, a skype visit with someone I love dearly, Bible study set-up and a sweet time of study with ladies who love the Lord, and then a time of prayer again tonight. There wasn’t much time to focus in on personal prayer and listening to the Lord in His word.

But speak He did. I feel weary even thinking about this, but once again an entangled sin showed up in my life. I’m not weary with or at God. I SO appreciate Holy Spirit showing me this again. It is like a wild vine whose many tendrils weave in and out of my life. I will think Holy Spirit has finally weeded it out and destroyed it, only to have it show up again and again and again. I am sick to the death of it. My mind knows the folly of it. I can think through the genesis of the sin, the wounds that allowed it to take root so many years ago. I know and love and trust God so this sin should mean nothing to me, but once again it snuck in and I blindly succumbed.

I repented today. And God in His mercy showed me another place this same day where He used me and the gifts He has placed in me without my conscious knowledge. I spoke words, but honestly a bit like Balaam’s donkey did. Nothing of me or from me in this, just God using a small thing I said in a recipe He was crafting in another’s life. There is comfort in this.

Hebrews 12:1-3 also brings me comfort. There is a race marked out for me and God is not going to let me go hurtling blindly off course. It gives me heart and courage to realize that I am part of the joy set before Jesus. As I keep my eyes on Jesus, Holy Spirit continues to do the refining work in me that I so desperately need. I will not let my sin become my focus; instead I will trust Holy Spirit to open my eyes as needed so I can repent. I will keep my eyes on Jesus, the joy set before me!

Lord, You have saved me through and through. I’m so thankful that You see me as holy and perfect in Your sight because of the finished work of Jesus. But Lord, I am also incredibly thankful that as long as I dwell in this flesh You continue Your refining work causing me to become more and more like Jesus. Thank You for opening my eyes today and bringing me to a place of fresh repentance. Thank You for the joy and freedom in knowing You will do this in me in perfect love and I need not fear this work. You are SO GOOD!

 

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Week of Prayer and Fasting – Day 1

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This week I’m participating in a Week of Prayer and Fasting at Suburban Church. Suburban joins other area churches that select a week in the month of January to pray and fast before the Lord. This year Suburban’s theme is “Looking to Jesus”. For this week I will share devotional thoughts gleaned from the scripture passages and prayer times our Elders and other prayer leaders will share.

READ: Hebrews 12:1, 2; John 15

Honestly, as I began this day I felt a little fretful. I’m a creature of habit. I like my quiet time and the places the Lord takes me. As I begin the Week of Prayer and Fasting there is a Prayer and Fasting 2016 Devotional booklet in my hand. The booklet has a message from one of Suburban’s Elders for each day. Each message includes scripture to consider. In addition each day the devotional booklet includes recommendations from our Prayer Ministry team for how to pray and with that is a potentially different scripture focus. And then there is a guided morning prayer time with another scripture focus. And a guided evening prayer time with the possibility of another scripture focus. Can you say drinking at the fire hose?

My heart and mind changed after enjoying the guided prayer time this morning. The 2016 Devotional booklet had me focused on Hebrews 12:1,2. I didn’t have much time to spend in it before heading to the church, but a couple of messages came through loud and clear. Eyes on Jesus. Throw off that which hinders you. Throw off the sin that so easily entangles you. There is joy set before you. YES LORD! As I drove to church, the crystalline and nearly full moon was a beacon in the west that seemed to lead me there. Even if I wasn’t looking directly at it, I couldn’t help but see it anytime I traveled in a westerly direction. So beautiful and so compelling. It felt like a tangible picture of the pleasure of eyes on Jesus – following Him.

Then at church we focused in on John 15. The vine and branches. Remain in me. I’ll do the pruning. Produce fruit that lasts. All of a sudden the commands of Hebrews 12 and the rich story of remaining in Jesus, a branch of the vine, came together in a sweet synergy that just makes sense. I am to throw off that which hinders me and throw off the sin that so easily entangles, but the way for that to happen is to keep my eyes on Jesus, to remain firmly attached to the vine. I know that He is the great husbandman and he will cut off that which sucks life and diminishes fruit. He will also dig out the sin that wraps itself around me, almost becoming one with me to where I can’t even recognize it. But He knows and He will tear it out at the root and destroy it.

I came home filled and refreshed and excited for this week. This may be a Week of Prayer and Fasting, but I’m hearing a sweet invitation to a spiritual feast! There is a banquet laid before me, a smorgasbord in fact, and God will direct me into the nourishment that is what He has for me each day.

Lord, Wow! How I praise You for Your Word and for the way you are marking the race before me. Lord You’ve set a path for me to follow and this week that path comes through others that You have directed and led. This feels like a gourmet spiritual adventure. Thank You so much! Praise You for the table You have set before me!

Would you like to participate in the 2016 Week of Prayer and Fasting? You can download the 2016 Week of Prayer and Fasting Devotional Booklet below.
2016 Prayer Fasting Booklet

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Identity

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READ: John 1:19-34

Identity. In today’s passage John the baptizer is questioned about his identity. He’s been very clear all along that he is not the Christ, but rather the “…voice of one calling in the desert make straight the way for the Lord.” But this puzzles the Jews of Jerusalem who send the priests and Levites to question him about his identity. The fact that John baptizes, that this is a hallmark of his ministry, seems to say to them that John is the Christ, or Elijah, or the ‘prophet’. They saw what John was doing in the wilderness as possible fulfillment of messianic prophecies in Ezekiel 36:25 and Zechariah 13:1 that pointed toward the coming of the Christ. And in a way, they were right! The prophecies were being fulfilled as John pointed the way toward the one to come. He says very clearly “…the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

John is very clear about his own identity. I suspect he heard from his mother and father stories of what the angel said about him prior to his birth. But he also knew because God revealed it to him. I say that because of his statement about Jesus that gives a clue about his understanding of his own mission and identity. “Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.’” John 1:32-34

The one who sent me to baptize with water told me. John had a special anointing from God and a fullness of the Spirit unavailable to men in general. God selected him for his specific purpose and spoke clearly to him, guiding him and using him. This was a prior-to-Jesus anointing. But then came Jesus – the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. The fullness of the Spirit that John knew is a gift of God into the life of every believer through Jesus. Our identity is found in Jesus, in following Him, in listening to the voice of the Spirit in us and through the gift of His Word. Jesus’ identity was confirmed over and over in the years of His life among us and in these first chapters of the gospels. And it is in this certainty of who Jesus is and who He is to us that we find the bedrock of our identity. Who am I? I am a follower of Jesus, the Son of God.

Lord, thank You for the certainty of who You are that I see in this passage from the Gospel of John. And thank You for John’s certainty of his own identity and his role. I can’t think of a better basis for life than the sure knowledge that I am Yours – a follower of Jesus, the Christ, the very Son of God. Give me ears to hear You as You guide and direct me throughout my days. I love You Lord and I receive Your love for me!

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GLEANINGS from Claudia: Following Jesus – Temptation

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READ: Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13

Jesus has just been baptized and declared to be the beloved Son of God. He is full of the Holy Spirit and that same Spirit drives Him into the Judean wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The three authors of the synoptic gospels use three different words to tell us about this act of the Spirit in Jesus’ life. Matthew indicates that Jesus is ‘led up’ or taken to the high Judean wilderness for this trial. Mark’s word is the most forceful indicating that Jesus is led by an irresistible force, compelled in stern although not violent language. And Luke uses a word also used to describe leading an animal with the idea that there is also one leading involved in the movement. Perhaps there is another way to describe what is happening, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and irresistibly followed the Holy Spirit up into the Judean wilderness where for forty days he was tempted by the devil”. I think in the past I’ve pictured Him led into the wilderness and more or less dumped there to endure the temptation on His own. Not so. The Spirit was with Him.

This is important to me. Jesus was tempted, a Greek word that means to try, make trial of, test for the purpose of ascertaining his quality, or what he thinks, or how he will behave. He faced this temptation in much the same way any of us face temptation. He did not have the physical presence of God or even of another man to help Him through, but He did have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit just like we who follow Him do.

Satan seemed bent on finding a chink in Jesus’ understanding of His identity and therefore His mission. Jesus was just come from the very powerful baptism experience where He and everyone nearby heard the words this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And now forty days of silence. No heavens being torn open. No audible voice of God. And in this time there was some kind of compelling demand to fast; to fast for forty days and nights in a place that offered little sustenance in any case. And scripture tells us that the temptations came at the end of the forty days when Jesus was ‘hungry’ – a word that implies to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire.

I see in Jesus’ response to the devil’s test such a key to how we too can power through temptation. Jesus knew the character of God and He knew the word of God. It was upon those two things that He stood firm against Satan’s insinuations … ‘IF you are the Son of God….’, test Your power; test God’s care for You; do what You are called to do, but do it through my shortcut. Satan even tried using scripture to sway Jesus, but Jesus knew scripture and God’s character so well that He found the truth under the lie that Satan was suggesting.

Jesus came to show us the way. In this test He shows us the way to stand up under temptation. We too can stand firm in our identity in Christ when we depend upon scripture and the character of God. I can’t prove this, but I believe that Jesus’ answers were Spirit led and supplied. Even alone in the wilderness He was in communion with God through Holy Spirit and depended upon that connection to ace the test of Satan.

Lord, You amaze me! Thank You that You went through this test and so clearly demonstrated how we too can face tests. Lord, thank You for the scripture that is imbedded in my heart – Your words to encourage, support, rebuke, and make me steadfast. And thank You for Your character that shines through Your Word and lives within me through Holy Spirit. I depend upon this … I depend upon You! Praise You Lord Jesus!

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