The Receptive Life

"We are beggars; this is true." (Martin Luther)

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Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 35

He Knows My Eleventh Hour Request Scripture Reading:  Luke 23:32-43 Meditation In death, as in life, Jesus keeps company with sinners. Since his ministry began, the religious leaders have accused Jesus of hanging around the riffraff. When he talked about the value of lost things, the religious leaders were right there, watching with a legalistic eye, pointing their fingers, and shaking their heads in disgust. By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Sabbath of Love

“Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” Psalm 23:6a As the Good Shepherd leads the flock toward home, Beauty and Love, like two tireless sheepdogs, bring up the rear.  Every day they work the fields and watch over the flock. No need to fear what is behind, or what is on either side. Beauty and Love are pursuers, quick to pick up the scent of a beloved stray and even quicker to track it down. When the sheep begin to wander aimlessly, Beauty chases down one flank and Love the other. The two keep the […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 34

He Knows My Insults Scripture Reading:  Mark 15:16-32 Meditation Throughout the Passion of the Christ, insult upon insult is added to injury. During it all, Jesus stands silent. He’s like a lamb about to be taken to the slaughter. There is no response to the accusations. No words spoken in self-defense. Only silence. It’s the mark of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. “He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off— and did […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 33

He Knows My Neutrality Scripture Reading:  Matthew 27:11-26 Meditation Pontius Pilate is a good politician. As prefect of the Judean province, he knows whom to please and how best to please them. In his tenure, he has learned that the best political decisions aren’t always the morally right ones but the ones most expedient. Pilate commits only when he needs to commit. He plays the center when the costs are too high on either side. He only fights the battles that he can win and sits out the rest. And, above all else, he makes certain that he saves face […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 32

He Knows My Remorse Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:59-68; 27:1-10 Meditation The traitorous deed is done. The transaction between Judas and the High Priest is complete. The Son of Man is now in the hands of sinful men for the bargain price of thirty pieces of silver, compensation equivalent to that of a slave accidentally gored by an ox. Once again, the words that the prophet spoke about the Shepherd of Israel in days gone by have come alive in Jesus’ time. “Pay me what you think I’m worth.” They paid me an insulting sum, counting out thirty silver coins.1 After […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 31

He Knows My Denial Scripture Reading:  Mark 14:27-31,66-72 Meditation Tonight, Satan’s on the prowl and he’s salivating at the thought of a double portion—the Shepherd and his flock. Everyone knows that, once the Shepherd is gone, the sheep are easy prey. Attack Jesus and his disciples will scatter. “I will strike the shepherd; The sheep will go helter-skelter”.1 But as Satan stalks, Jesus prays. While Jesus walks with his disciples toward the Mount of Olives, he warns them that their world is about to fall apart. In a few hours, their Messianic dreams will turn into a nightmare. Unthinkable fears […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 30

He Knows My Betrayal Scripture Reading:  Matthew 26:17-30 Meditation The time of treachery is near. In a few hours Jesus will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. A cabal of religious leaders will deride and persecute him. They will prosecute him with a mock trial and render a contrived verdict of blasphemy. Then they will march him to Pilate and demand that Jesus be sentenced to a criminal’s death—crucifixion. That all of this is to happen is no surprise. The Scripture has made it clear. The Lamb of God will be sacrificed. At the cross, the angel of death will […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 29

He Knows My Plotting Scripture Reading:  John 11:38-57 Meditation After four days dead, Lazarus is now alive. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, had finally arrived. With his face still wet from a stream of tears, Jesus had made his way to the middle of the graveyard, ordered the stone rolled away, and had shouted out his beloved friend’s name. “Lazarus, come out!”1 When Jesus spoke Lazarus’ name, death let loose its grip, the breath of life returned, and Lazarus—still wrapped in burial clothes from toes to neck—sat up and baby stepped his way out of the tomb. It was an […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Sabbath of Celebration

“You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.” Psalm 23:5 When the sheep can’t seem to go the ‘second-mile’, the Good Shepherd stops in enemy territory, sets up a protective perimeter, and revives his flock with an all out spread. His hospitality goes beyond expectations:  six-course dinner right in front of the enemy; soothing oil for the head; blessings flowing over the brim. With the Shepherd as host, there is no lack of good things. Fed and well rested, the flock follows as the Shepherd leads […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 28

He Knows My Worship Scripture Reading:  Mark 12:38-44 Meditation Soon Jesus will offer himself up as the once and for all sacrifice for sin. As he prepares to take the final steps to the cross, he goes to the temple courts and finds a quiet place to sit. He positions himself so that his eyes can see and his ears can hear the sights and sounds of worship. From his vantage point, he notices everything. He hears the bleating of lambs. A sacrifice is about to be offered. Blood will be shed. Sin will be atoned for. With every lamb’s […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 27

He Knows My Tendency to Play It Safe Scripture Reading:  Matthew 25:14-30 Meditation When it comes to extending the kingdom of God, Jesus never played it safe. Throughout his ministry, there has never been any caution in his steps, only the determination to live all out for the purpose of his Father—nothing held back, all given. But living such a life is risky. It brings with it both rewards from heaven and consequences on earth. From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus has gone against the social mores of his culture and has raised the ire of the religious […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 26

He Knows My Separation Scripture Reading:  Luke 17:11-19 Meditation Living outside of a village, in the borderland between Galilee and Samaria, is a man who bears a double curse.  By birth he’s a Samaritan and by lot he’s a leper. He’s not morally responsible for either but both his lineage and his disease bring with them the sentence of a ceremonial curse—separation. According to strict social and religious norms, Jews aren’t supposed to associate with Samaritans. The Jews consider the dogs of Samaria to be religious half-breeds, a defiled mix of Jewish and mongrel blood spilled over from the Assyrian […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 25

He Knows My Anxiety Scripture Reading:  Luke 12:13-34 Meditation An unwieldy crowd of thousands follows Jesus. In the middle of the shoving and the toe stepping are two brothers at each other’s throats. Greed has a stranglehold on them. The two are obsessed with the equitable division of their dead father’s possessions and one of them thinks that his sibling’s proposed split is unfair. After looking at the slice of the inheritance that he was served, he compared it to his brother’s. Convinced that his is the smaller piece, he’s demanded that the case be taken to one of the […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 24

He Knows My Hypocrisy Scripture Reading:  Luke 11:37—12:3 Meditation As Jesus finishes talking to the crowd about the mood of the current age—proof appetites, curiosity cravings, and miracle meals—a religious leader pushes his way from the center of the pack of people to the front. When he’s within earshot of Jesus, the religious leader shouts over the buzz of the crowd, inviting him to come to his home for dinner. Jesus hears the request, makes eye contact with the man, and honors it by nodding his head. Then the man stands on his tiptoes and points the way over the heads […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 23

He Knows My Needs Scripture Reading:  Luke 11:1-13 Meditation It’s becoming painfully clear to the disciples that Christ-followers aren’t immune to trouble. Though the disciples place their feet in the footprints of their Master, the ministry path they walk is rough-and-tumble. Each day of the journey has its own share of ankle turning trials and knee buckling anxiety. The road to the cross is replete with treacherous terrain, loose gravel, formidable obstacles, and forked passages. As the disciples march with Jesus toward Jerusalem, they worry about a multitude of everyday needs: earthly provisions, heavenly protection, continual grace for ever-present trespasses, […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Sabbath of Safety

“Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.  Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.” Psalm 23:4 The Good Shepherd knows that the journey home must pass through, not around, Death Valley. Though there may be many troubles, toils, and snares, the Shepherd charts a course for home and comforts his flock with the promise of his presence. When danger comes, he doesn’t abandon the sheep; he runs to their side. And if enemies try to attack the flock, they’ll have to deal with the long shank of the Shepherd’s crook. […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 22

He Knows My Desperation Scripture Reading:  Mark 5:21-43 Meditation Desperate people resort to desperate measures. A synagogue leader named Jairus has a twelve-year-old daughter who’s at death’s door. There isn’t much time. Soon death will turn the knob and swing open the door. The grim reaper will pick the little girl up, carry her into his tomb, and then slam the door in Jairus’ face. Jairus is running out of hope and his daughter is running out of time. He must get to Jesus and—somehow—he  must get Jesus to come to his daughter. Desperation pushes Jairus toward Jesus; faith pulls […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 21

He Knows My Demons Scripture Reading:  Mark 5:1-20 Meditation Across the Sea of Galilee, on the east side of the lake, is the Gentile region of Gerasene. Nestled close to the shore is a small village, central base for the pig herders in the area and former home to the man possessed by a legion of demons. South of the village is a cliff with a steep slope that runs a straight slant directly into the lake.  A few miles from the slope are the cavern tombs, limestone beds reserved for the sleep of the dead. And living among the […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 20

He Knows My Darkness Scripture Reading:  John 9:1-41 Meditation Ever since his ministry began, Jesus has been invading the dark places. When Nicodemus came to him in the middle of the night, Jesus struck a match of love to guide him on his way. As Jesus sat by the well in Sychar, he kindled acceptance around a five time divorced Samaritan woman who was hiding in her shame. When asked to pass judgment on a woman who was caught in the act of adultery, he stoked the fires of forgiveness. Wherever he went, Jesus blazed like the sun. His love […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 19

He Knows My Hunger Scripture Reading:  John 6:22-59 Meditation Less than twenty-four hours ago, Jesus had taken a little boy’s lunch, looked toward heaven, blessed the five barley loaves and two fishes, multiplied them, and threw a kingdom picnic for more than five thousand growling stomachs. Those gathered on the grassy hill ate as much as they wanted. They stuffed themselves to the full. And when they had finished eating, there were twelve baskets overflowing with leftovers. Jesus, just like Moses, had delivered bread from heaven. When the people saw this miraculous sign they began to wonder if Jesus could […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 18

He Knows My Determination Scripture Reading:  Mark 7:24-30 Meditation On the northwest border of Galilee, in the region of Phoenicia, are the cities of Tyre and Sidon—ancient homes to the pagan fertility cults of Baal and Ashtoreth. According to the oral law, Jews were not to have any association with these Gentiles. Anyone who broke with the law and had contact with the filthy dogs from the north would be declared ritually unclean. Jesus breaks with the tradition of the elders and makes a break for Tyre. He leaves Galilee, disregards the ceremonial injunction, and deliberately heads for the “polluted […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 17

He Knows My Shame Scripture Reading:  John 8:1-11 Meditation She’s looking for “Mr. Right” in the wrong bed. It’s dawn. As the rest of the women in the village are getting dressed and going out the front door to do the morning chores, she’s sneaking through the back door of her neighbor’s house, getting undressed, taking off her wedding ring, and sliding under the covers into her forbidden lover’s embrace. The adulterous act feels all so right. And because it feels all so right, she wonders why it’s said to be all so wrong. Even if it is wrong, no one knows about […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Sabbath of Rest

“True to your word, you let me catch my breath, and send me in the right direction.” Psalm 23:3 Every journey has its share of starts and stops and it’s only the better part of wisdom that knows when it’s time to do which. Though the Good Shepherd asks his sheep to follow, he never outruns the flock. His pace might be steady but his steps never stride beyond the cries of the smallest lamb. Though some straggle, none are left behind. The Shepherd is always attentive to the needs of his flock. He knows when they need to stop. […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 16

He Knows My Refusal to Forgive Scripture Reading:  Matthew 18:15-35 Meditation Peter’s been hurt one too many times. One of his fellow believers has taken advantage of the gift of grace and has turned it into a license – a sanction to sin. To Peter’s credit, he’s tried to work it out. Step by step, he’s followed the law of love: in all things try and win the brother. “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or […]

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 15

He Knows My Rebellion Scripture Reading:  Matthew 16:13-28 Meditation As Jesus walks toward Jerusalem, Israel’s nationalistic morale is low but its Messianic expectations are high. The crowd that follows this itinerant preacher from Nazareth is looking for someone to reclaim the crown of the kingdom of David. If Jesus wants to lead the rebellion against Rome, they’re more than ready to follow. All he needs to do is give the word. But intermixed with the expectations are questions. “Who is this Jesus? Where’s he going? What’s he going to do when he gets there?” Opinions are many. Answers are few. […]