November 23, 2017 Ezekiel 45,46; Mark 12:13-44

These are a few of our SOAP notes from today’s reading. We encourage you to read and journal on your own first, then join us in conversation about what God revealed to YOU today. Click HERE to go directly to the daily reading if you wish.

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Do You Know Who You Are Talking To? | Kelley Deases

S~ “Well said, teacher,” the man replied.  “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.”  Mark 12:32 (NIV)

O~  As Christians, we have the benefit of having the complete Scripture at our disposal.  More than likely, though, had I been a contemporary of Jesus I would have been highly skeptical of his claims to be God come to earth as a man.  But knowing what we know — who Christ is — I bristle when I read how people interacted with Him.  Of course, the vile attacks, assaults, criminal charges, and unjustified execution are too horrendous to even imagine.  But even the smug words in this verse where one teacher poses a question to a “fellow teacher” and then praises him for a well-articulated answer, almost as if he were a child who correctly recited his alphabet, are offensive as well when you fully grasp to whom the man is speaking.

A~  Inasmuch as the Bible can be like a mirror we gaze into and see ourselves, my next thought is: Is this me? Do I do this? Do I treat God with casual smugness in my words to Him or about Him?  In the things I do or don’t do?

I think, for me, the failure to show due respect comes out not as self-righteous superiority but as disregarding Him altogether at times.  Whenever I fail to spend time with Jesus first thing in the morning, I have essentially said to Him, to myself, and to others if I share, that my sleep, my work deadline, or whatever else I have going on in my day takes precedence over the wisdom and direction I could glean from the Lover of My Soul.  Whenever I try to handle my own issues, finances, or relationships without consultation from the Wonderful Counselor, I devalue His thoughts on those matters.  And whenever I fail to speak in defense of my faith (or, worse still, don’t even put myself in those positions at all!), I have disobeyed His command to “go and tell” and once again disrespected My Savior.

P~  Father, I am sorry for failing to give You the honor and awe You deserve in every circumstance.  Thank You for Your Word, which shows me how I fall short, but also reminds me how much You love me anyway.

Close is not good enough | Deanna George

S~ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any questions. Mark 12:34 (NIV)

O~ Not far from Heaven – Not quite there. Not quite believers. Close is not good enough. You need to have faith.

A~ God calls for obedience, faith, and commitment. It is not all in my head – if I believe then I am a Christian. It takes action. It takes heart. It takes a willingness to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Make the commitment every sing day. Choose to be obedient. Choose to have faith in who God is and what he is capable of. Choose to commit my mind and heart to him. EVERY DAY! Choose God’s mercy and grace. Live by grace, faith, and hope. Close enough is not good enough. He wants all of me: my brain, my heart, and my soul.

P~ Lord Jesus, thank you for having a how to instruction manual for following you. Through the years I have gone through periods where I realized I was sitting on the fence. I would have faith, but my heart wasn’t into obedience or choosing you daily. This tends to happen when things are going pretty good in my life. I start just going through the motions of my day to day tasks. This reminds me of the importance to share your love and joy with my family, friends, and people you put in my path. It’s scary to think that close is just not good enough when heaven is on the line. Please give me confidence, wisdom, an obedient heart, and the words to say so that I may encourage others to choose you. Please remind me when I am not actively choosing you daily. I’m all in, and I desire to choose you daily.

Thanksgiving | Joni Tyner

S~ Always be joyful.

Never stop praying.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

O~ Paul is reminding the church to keep pursuing Him with  prayer and a joyful heart of gratitude, through all circumstances in this life.

A~ As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving this year I’m struggling to find purpose and joy in a season of waiting on God as my prayers seem lost and unanswered.  I’m also very mindful of other believers whose lives seem to have nothing to be joyful or thankful for this year.  I don’t know any of the families from the tragedy in Las Vegas or Sutherland Springs church,  but I can only imagine their pain, questions and lack of desire to give thanks this year.   I think of my cousin who very unexpectedly buried her 23 year old son to an unintentional drug overdose as well as another friend who just buried her son.  All of these situations are awful and confusing and don’t appear to have anything to be thankful for.  All I can say is life can be really, really hard.

I don’t have words or answers for some of life’s biggest heartbreaks but Paul does give us a glimpse in 2 Corinthians 1:9. (this is the message version)

“It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation—I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.

So,  I think for me in the season of waiting on God, I need to continue to pray.  Continue to lift my hands in praise to the God who raised Jesus from the dead.  I love this part!!– “You and your prayers are part of the rescue operation.”  I need to continue to be faithful to show God’s love to others while I wait for circumstances to change in my own life. Just this morning, I was over at Fareway grocery store and there was a bell ringer that looked, well… he looked like life had be a series of tough breaks for him.  He smiled and greeted me with a mostly toothless grin and said something about getting him a turkey for thanksgiving.  I really couldn’t understand him due to the stuttering and jumbled words, but he projected joy.  As I shopped, I impulsively decided to purchase him a couple of donuts and gave them to him on my way out the door.  He was so shocked and grateful!!!  I don’t share that to elevate myself, but to simply show for $2.39 I think I really made this gentleman’s day.  I shared joy in the midst of my waiting.  Then, I saw on facebook, a random post about a stranger that was struggling with loneliness and some difficulties.  I noticed my dear friend whose heart is shattered from her own heartbreak give this man some encouragement through scripture.  She is choosing to lean into God and give to others.

I wonder if the true meaning of thanksgiving is a bit like that. It’s continuing to spread the joy of Jesus despite our own brokenness.  It’s continuing to pray in the waiting.  And is finding something to be grateful for in our sorrow.  Sure, I’m grateful for the expected things people often list, things like family, job, home, good food.  This year, I’m thankful for the presence of God during the “even if” times.

P~ Dear Lord,  I pray You keep the fire of hope and joy burning inside me as I wait on You.  I pray for unexpected blessings to shower those who are grieving and so sad this Thanksgiving.  Please hold their broken hearts so tenderly.  Help them see joy through their tears.  I pray  that I can be a vessel for You, I want to be part of the rescue operation. I ask that You breath fresh joy into my weary heart as I seek to abide in You.

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