Tag Archives: Love

A LOOK BACK: Tourniquet

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, since I will am away at Annual Conference this week, I thought I would have us  LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 180: Mary of Bethany

Read Luke 10:38-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”  (John 11:32, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MaryAointingJesusPart 180: Mary of Bethany. I belong to a group of clergy who meet to preach and discuss preaching before each other. It is a small covenant group that was established to help us all better hone our preaching skills. Like any group of professionals, clergy are always seeking ways to grow in their effectiveness as preachers, teachers and communicators.

Today, as I sit down and write this devotion on Mary of Bethany, I must confess that I was blessed to hear a sermon from a good friend and colleague, Rev. Amanda Rohrs-Dodge, on Martha and Mary of Bethany. The sermon was around the subject of hospitality and that there are really many different forms that hospitality comes in.

As was discussed in the last devotion, Martha and Mary had Jesus over as their guest. In that culture, one that was built on honor, it was a sacred duty to show radical hospitality to one’s guests. Such hospitality included making them feel at home, tending to their every need, preparing a feast, and ensuring that the guest had a safe place to rest and be. That is why, in the Old Testament, people like Lot went to troubling extremes to defend his guests from the towns people who were wanting to have their way with them.

As such, Martha was busy busy being the host, tending to Jesus’ every need and making sure everything was in order, dishes prepared, food cooked, etc. What’s more, when she saw Mary sitting and listening to Jesus rather than helping her with what needed to be done, she complained to Jesus about how unfair it was that Mary wasn’t helping out. She did this to scold her sister and she asked Jesus to send her sister away to help her.

This is where Rev. Amanda’s sermon comes in, because she shed light on an important point that I had never even considered before. While Martha was showing Jesus hospitality through taking on the role of the host, Mary was also showing Jesus hospitality by simply sitting and listening to him. She was showing radical hospitality through being present for Jesus. In fact, the account does not tell us that any one else was doing that. I just mentions that Mary was there listening to him.

Whether there were others or not is beyond the point. We so often look for God to be present with us, we look for Jesus to be present in our lives, but do we ever stop to consider being present for God? After all, what more does God want that a relationship with us? What’s more, how can we have a relationship with God if we are not present for God to have said relationship? Healthy relationships are always a two-way street.

Mary was not perfect at this, by any means. In her moment of grief and despair at the death of her brother, she was angry at Jesus because he wasn’t present for her brother when he was gravely ill. In not being present for her brother, she felt he had abandoned her as well. She wouldn’t have had to grieve and experience the pain death and loss if Jesus had just showed up.

With that said, in her grief she also failed initially to realize that Jesus, too, was grieving the loss of Lazarus. Knowing there is a grander plan in place does not make the death of a loved one any easier. Who was present for Jesus in his pain and in his grief? Yet, relationships are a give and take and Jesus understood why Mary was upset and it grieved him all the more.

Still, when not consumed by grief and despair, Mary was a person who chose to be present for Jesus. She didn’t look for him to serve her, she served him and looked to learn from the One she loved so dearly. That is why, while all the other disciples were missing the point, Mary was the one who anointed Jesus’ feet, an act that symbolically prepared his body and spirit for the brutal death he was about to face. That is why Jesus said that whenever people talk about his death and suffering, they will remember the kindness, compassion, and presence of Mary.

Indeed, this ought to challenge each of us to grow in our hospitality. We ought to be hospitable to others, and we ought to play the part of the host, attending to the physical needs of others. But we also need to balance the inner-Martha with Mary as well. We ought not merely be busy, but take time to actually be present with those we are serving. What’s more, we ought to reflect on how we can show hospitality to ourselves and to God. Let this be our challenge, that we grow from distracted, busy hosts to radically hospitable people.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
It is important that we not only show hospitality to other people, but that we show it to the One who first showed it to us. All that requires is our sincere presence.

PRAYER
Lord, You are always present for me, to the point I need not even ask for that. Now, Lord, I want to be present for you as well. Thank you for being in relationship with me and create in me a more hospitable and present spirit. Amen.

God’s People, part 179: Martha of Bethany

Read Luke 10:38-42

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him.”  (John 12:2, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-mary-marthaPart 179: Martha of Bethany. Martha has been the subject of many of sermons, devotions and even sections of books regarding women of faith. She was the sister of Mary and Lazarus and, along with her sister and brother, she was a close friend to Jesus of Nazareth. It is uncertain as to how Jesus became friends with them, whether or not they were long-time family friends. What we do know is that Jesus had a profound love for them and it is Jesus’ interactions with Martha and Mary where we see Jesus in his most profoundly human moments.

Martha clearly had a profound belief in Jesus. In the Gospel According to John, Martha was the woman who first approached Jesus when he arrived at her brother’s funeral. She was actively grieving the death of Lazarus, and she was visibly upset with Jesus who had not come in her brother’s time of need. She cried out to him, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Yet, Martha also believed in Jesus. Her faith was clearly placed in him and so she followed her initial grief-filled comment with this heart-felt statement of faith, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha knew, even if she could not help being angry at the whole situation, that Jesus was the answer to all questions. While she could not understand why her brother was allowed to die, she trusted in Jesus all the same.

It was also Martha who was notorious for being eager to serve. In the Gospel According to John 12:1-8, Martha was the one who prepared and served the meal in Simon the Leper’s house. This was the meal at which Martha’s sister, Mary, anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume. Martha was always busy serving Jesus in whatever way she could. She was a woman of GREAT hospitality.

With that said, sometimes her desire to serve also stood in her way. Like all human beings, Martha was not without her flaws. In the Gospel According to Luke, we see such as scene where Martha’s desire to serve brought her to scold her sister, Mary. Jesus had been visiting their house and Martha was busy being the hostess.

Culturally speaking, it was a great honor to have a teacher such as Jesus visit their home and the women of the house would work hard to make sure that the special guest received the “royal treatment”, as it were. Thus, Martha was working hard to show extraordinary hospitality to Jesus; however, Mary was sitting by Jesus’ side listening to his teaching and engaging in conversation.

Martha was incensed. That was no place for the likes of her sister to be. She ought to have been helping Martha in showing hospitality to Jesus. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” Jesus replied 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.”

While I am sure that interaction was humiliating to Martha, it teaches us a great deal about ourselves as well. It challenges us to pause and really reflect on whether or not we are putting our efforts in the right place. Sometimes we work and work on all of the wrong things. Or, perhaps what we are working on is good to an extent, but it is not what is ULTIMATELY GOOD.

This should challenge us to see where we are spending all of our efforts. Are they being invested in listening and following Jesus, or are they being put into the façade that the church can often become? Are our efforts invested in Jesus Christ, or are we putting on a “dinner theater” party that, ultimately misses the mark? Let us reflect on that and adjust, accordingly, to where the Holy Spirit is guiding us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Jesus is the answer. Now, what’s the question?” – Karl Barth

PRAYER
Lord, help me to invest my time in you and you alone. Let all other things fade, for you alone are the answer! Amen.

God’s People, part 178: Mary Magdalene

Read John 20:1-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.”  (Luke 8:1-3, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Paolo_Veronese,_The_Conversion_of_Mary_MagdalenePart 178: Mary Magdalene. Who was Mary Magdalene? Her name is one that is world-renowned. Everyone, Christian or not, can tell you who she was at least on the surface. Most would tell you that she was a woman follower fo Jesus, one of the most prominent women to follow Jesus during his lifetime. Most would call her a dear friend of Jesus’ and even a disciple. Most would correctly place her as one of the women present for Jesus’ crucifixion and death, as well as one of the women to witness his resurrection.

Many would also inform you that she was a former prostitute and/or adulterer and that Jesus had forgiven her of her sins and from that point she became a devoted disciple. They would tell you that she was the one who nearly got stoned to death for committing adultery and that Jesus saved from death. Of course, while the first half of the description is true, the second half found in this paragraph is patently false. It is a conflation of Mary Magdalene and the woman caught in adultery.

What’s more, the idea of her being a prostitute is nowhere to be found in the account of the adulterous woman, nor in any of the accounts we have on Mary Magdalene herself. That is another conflation of Mary Magdalene with the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50. Sadly, Mary’s name has been dragged through the mud over the course of the last two millennia and it is time that we right that wrong. There is no reason to believe that Mary was a prostitute or an adulterous woman, so, we should NOT believe that.

Here’s what we do know about Mary. Mary got the name Magdalene in the same way that Jesus got the name “Nazarene”. In other words, Magdalene was not her last name; rather, Magdalene refers to where she was from. Thus, Mary Magdalene actually means, Mary of Magdala (an important fishing town in Galilee). Beyond where she was from, we also know that she was a person of wealth. In fact, it says in Luke 3 that Mary, along with other well-to-do women, were actively supporting Jesus’ ministry. Thus, Mary was not merely following Jesus, she was financially supporting him.

Beyond that, Mary was a sinner, like all of us, who wrestled with demons…LITERALLY. It says in Luke 8:2 that Jesus had driven seven demons from Mary Magdalene and, it seems, that encounter changed the trajectory of life. She was no longer merely Mary of Magdala, but Mary the follower of Jesus.

What’s more, we can say that Mary Magdalene was the Apostle to the Apostles. She is the first one to whom Jesus appeared following his resurrection, and he sent her to the Apostles to proclaim his resurrection to them. The very word Apostle, apóstolos in Greek, literally means “the one who is sent”. Thus, Mary was sent to the Apostles to preach the Gospel to them!

Here’s what Mary’s story tells us. God chooses imperfect people who have demons to be his representatives here on earth. Where’s the Good News in that? Simple, we’re all imperfect people with demons! Each of us have something we need to be delivered from and, more importantly, each of us needs to be delivered of SIN and DEATH. Jesus exorcised the demons in Mary and that experience transformed her into the unlikeliest, and yet the most fervent, of Apostles. Without Mary Magdalene, there might have never been a Christianity.

That’s Good News and there’s more Good News where that comes from. You, too, are being called to preach Christ’s resurrection to all people. You too are being sent, despite all of the imperfection and hangups you have. You are being called to go out into the world and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to as many people as you can. You, too, have been called to be ambassadors of Christ and his kingdom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I have seen the Lord” – Mary Magdalene, John 20:18

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for Mary Magdalene and her witness to us. Use us in the same way you used her, so that we may become just as faithful in our witness of you to others! Amen.

God’s People, part 177: Matthias

Read Acts 1:12-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.”  (Act 2:1, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

MatthiasPart 177: Matthias. When looking to secure the future of a movement, one would hardly be inclined to leave it up to “chance”. One would, no doubt, do everything in his or her power to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that all things were in order. If a leader in the movement died, one would choose among the people a worthy replacement for that position. Nothing, if at all possible, would be left to chance.

Yet, when one pays close attention to what the Apostles did at the beginning of Acts, he or she will notice that the Apostles left the replacement of Judas up to the drawing of lots. Judas had killed himself due to the dishonor he felt in his betrayal of Jesus. Too guilty to continue on, Judas tragically took his own life. Need to replace him, the 11 remaining Apostles nominated two men out of 120 of Jesus’ disciples who had assembled to meet.

Yes, that is right, Jesus had far more than just 12 disciples. The 12 were Jesus’ inner circle whom he mentored to continue the movement on without him. From that can be gathered this fact: Jesus knew that he would not always be around to lead his disciples and, as a matter of fact, that was never his plan. From the time he called the 12 until the time he died and resurrected, Jesus had been preparing his disciples to be the Apostles who would carry his mission and ministry forward.

Out of those 2 men, Joseph Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias were nominated. Then to make the final decision, they drew lots. “Wait,” one might think, “they left the fate of Jesus’ mission and ministry up to chance?” The answer is, no. They did not; rather, they left the decision up to God. They trusted that whoever won out in the casting of lots was being selected by God. That was a sign of their faith and, clearly, something that Jesus must have conveyed to them along the way. It was not their decision, it was God’s.

As for Matthias, he was among those who had followed Jesus throughout his earthly ministry. He was, more than likely, among disciples who witnessed the resurrected Lord before he ascended. It is clear from Scripture that he did not witness the Lord ascend; however, he was among the 12 Apostles who received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room in Jerusalem during Pentecost.

Not much more is known about him. Aside from that brief mention in the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias disappears off of the page without a trace and into legend. According to Greek tradition, Matthias planted the faith around Cappadocia and the region of the Caspian Sea. According to Nicephorus, he first preached the Gospel in Judaea and then in Aethiopia (modern-day Georgia) where he was stoned to death. According to Coptic tradition, Matthias brought to to The City of Cannibals in Aethiopia.

In another tradition, he traveled to the barbarians and “meat-eaters” in Ethiopia. Again, another tradition has Matthias being stoned to death in Jerusalem. Making a long and disjointed story short, no one really knows what became of Matthias following his being selected as Apostle. Chances are that, regardless of where he took the Good News to, he was likely martyred for doing so.

All of this should challenge us in the following ways. First, how goes it with your faith? Do you have faith in God enough to leave major decisions up to him? Sometimes you may, sometimes you may not? This was clearly the case with the Apostles as well. Sometimes they cast lots seeking God’s will, other times they vied for their own will and way of doing things.

Second, do you take the time to discern what God’s will is for you and/or those around you? Do you prayerfully consider God in your decisions and do you follow God regardless of the cost. Matthias and the other eleven Apostles came to understand Jesus Christ as the Lord and they followed him to the ends of the earth, forsaking all else for the sake of the Gospel. That is what we are all called to do. Reflect on this and challenge yourself to grow deeper in your faith and more faithful in your response to God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” ­— Saint Peter in The Act of the Apostles 2:36, New Living Translation

PRAYER
Lord, grow me deeper in my faith and more faithful in my response to you. Apart from you this is not possible, but with you all things are possible. Amen.

God’s People, part 176: Judas Iscariot

Read Matthew 27:3-10

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means ‘Field of Blood’” (Act 1:18-19, NLT).

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

JudasIscariotPart 176: Judas Iscariot. The greatest enigma in the whole of the Bible, apart from the mystery of God, is Judas Iscariot. Who was he? What was he like as a human being? What brought him into the fold as one of Jesus’ disciples? What made him someone Jesus trusted enough to be the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry? What was running through his heart and mind when began to turn away from Jesus’ teachings? What was the reason for Judas deciding to betray the one he had called teacher and Lord? What caused this Judas to go from a faithfully daring disciple to a tragic traitor?

So, what do we know about Judas? Let’s start with his name. The name Judas is Greek for Judah. Judah, of course, is the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel and is where the name “Jews” comes from. As such, some people have tried to argue that Judas was a “made up” character constructed to blame the Jews for Jesus’ death; however, an overwhelming majority of scholars reject that claim.

Judah was an extremely popular name at that time. In fact, one of Jesus’ own half-brothers, had the same name. What’s more, there was more than one Judas among Jesus’ disciples. There was also Judas son of James, whom we discussed in the previous devotion. Thus, the majority of scholars believe Judas was a real person and that was his name.

The epithet which accompanies his first name, Iscariot, has also caused much debate among scholars. It was certainly used to distinguish him from the other disciples. The epithet has most commonly been understood as a Greek rendering of a Hebrew phrase (איש־קריות, Κ-Qrîyôtthat) meaning, “the man from Kerioth”, and seems to be supported by John 6:71.

Still, not everyone accepts this explanation. A popular explanation has been that Iscariot (Skaryota in Aramaic) is a play on the Latin word sicarius (or dagger man). If this were true, this would make Judas one of the Sicarii, a Jewish group of rebels known for committing acts of terrorism in the 40s and 50s AD. This interpretation has also found its way out of academia and into the world of film as well. In fact, the 1961 film, King of Kings (starring Jeffery Hunter as Jesus and Rip Torn as Judas Iscariot), utilizes this theory and portrays Judas as former sicarii (they incorrectly use the term zealot) who decided to betray Jesus to force his hand in striking down the Romans.

However, this view that Judas was a sicarii has no basis in Scripture, and there is no historical evidence that the sicarii ever existed during the 30s AD when Judas was alive. Thus, we don’t really know why Judas did what he did, or what he was before he was introduced in the Gospel accounts. We know that he was paid for his treachery, and the Gospel of John indicates that his motivation was greed; however, I would guess that there was more to it than just that. Still, we simply do not know why and we never will.

What we do know is that, at some point, Judas turned on Jesus and eventually betrayed him. We also know that Judas lived in a culture that took honor and shame very seriously. Once Jesus was arrested, convicted of treason, and crucified, Judas felt the weight of his actions crush him. The shame he had brought upon himself for betraying his teacher was unbearable. No doubt, you can see that shame played out in the Gospels.

The authors, and certainly those who conveyed the accounts to them, all looked upon Judas as a scourge for what he did. Every Gospel uses Iscariot to distinguish him from other Judases, and they always list him as Judas Iscariot (the one who betrayed Jesus). That shameful fact hung like an albatross around Judas’ neck and, sadly, he took his own life.

The challenge for us is to NOT read with judgment toward Judas. Yes, he betrayed Jesus; however, he was chosen by Jesus as one of his twelve and, no doubt, Jesus chose him for a reason. What’s more, Judas was not the only one to betray or abandon Jesus that night. Peter denied him 3 times, the other disciples ran (one of them ran away naked as his clothes were torn off of him) and hid away for fear of their own lives.

The challenge for us is for us to, instead of judging Judas, turn the mirror around at ourselves. How do we fall short of Jesus? How do we betray him? How do we turn our backs at him? What’s more, how do we come to a place of forgiveness for having betrayed him? How do we move beyond the guilt and shame of our sins and into the blessed assurance of God’s redemptive grace?

I believe that Jesus had already forgiven him when he uttered the words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He forgave Judas, the other disciples, the Jewish authorities, and the Romans. He also forgave you, and me, and us all. The choice is ours, just as it was Judas’, as to whether we choose to accept that forgiveness and move onward into serving the Risen Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Jesus Christ (Luke 23:34)

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for your forgiveness and for freeing me for joyful service. Amen.

God’s People, part 175: Bar James

Read Luke 6:12-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, ‘Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?’”  (John 14:22, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

St._Thaddeus,_St._Sandukht_and_other_Christians_in_Sanatruk's_prisonPart 175: Bar James. The twelve disciples, as a whole, are so well known because of their proximity to Jesus throughout his ministry as accounted for in the Gospels; however, if you were to ask people to name the twelve disciples off of the top of their heads, the list would sound a lot like this: “Peter, James, John, Andrew, Mathew… Thomas….. Judas……..???” That is because there isn’t a whole lot written about the other disciples.

Of course, the Judas mentioned in anyone’s list of the twelve would automatically be Judas Iscariot, who was the only one of the disciples named Judas, right? Well, not exactly. There was also Judas son of James among the Twelve. In fact, Judas was a common name in Jesus’ time. About 60 or so years before Jesus’ birth, there was a Jewish revolutionary ruling as King named Judas Maccabeus. His successful revolution against the Seleucid Dynasty resulted in the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple, an event that is still celebrated in the holiday of Hanukkah.

There was also the revolutionary named Judas of Galilee who founded the Zealot sect, which we discussed in our devotion on Simon the Zealot. As one can see, Judas (another form of Judah) was a popular name and so it makes sense that another disciple would be named Judas, beside the one known as Iscariot.

Judas son of James, also known by the name Jude (but not to be confused with Jesus’ half-brother of the same name), is so named in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 6:16) and is considered to be the same as the Judas who is listed in John’s Gospel (John 14:22). In Mark and Matthew, there is no Judas son of James listed as being one of the disciples. Instead, they list Thaddeus as one of the Twelve.

Most scholars believe that Thaddeus (which is a Greek nickname meaning “a courageous heart”) is the same person as Judas, son of James. This is quite plausible considering that some of the disciples took on nicknames such as Simon (called Peter), John and James (“sons of Thunder”), etc. Add to the fact that the name Judas was tarnished by Judas Iscariot, and perhaps having a nickname might be quite beneficial for someone with the same name.

Whatever the case may be, Judas went on to preach the Gospel throughout Judaea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya. Along with Bartholomew, Judas was the first to bring the Gospel to Armenia. Also, in what is a favorite tidbit for me, Jude is traditionally believed to have been a vegetarian. In about 65 A.D., Judas and Simon the Zealot were executed by beheading in Beirut.

My hope for those who are reading this is that they will reflect on all of the disciples and their sacrifice for the spreading of the Gospel. In an age where modernists and even seminary presidents try to dismiss the miraculous and scandalous claims of Jesus, these Apostles went to their deaths proclaiming it as Gospel truth. The question is this, who should we believe? Arm chair theologians and modernist historians, or those who were willing to give up their very lives to proclaim the Gospel as truth?

The challenge for all of us is to stop abandoning our hearts for our heads. Yes, God gave us heads to think with, to reason with, and discern with. Yes, we should be using our heads; however, God didn’t just give us our heads, but our hearts as well. None of us truly live by evidence alone. If we did, none of us would ever step foot into a car again, let alone a house. None of us could survive life without faith. None of us could survive (long) without reason and discernment. Learn to balance the two and place your faith in Jesus Christ, just as Judas son of James and the other Apostles did. Serve Christ, no matter the cost.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be strong and keep the faith. With you, all things are possible. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Living in Sin

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well.

So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

A LOOK BACK: Fulfilled: Easter Sunday

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well.

So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.