Monthly Archives: October 2021

Hearts Burning within Us

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) These were the words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus appeared to them and explained how Moses and the prophets foretold of his death and resurrection.  Although not initially recognizing him, they said that their hearts burned within them as he spoke. 

After the burial of my father, I was riding with my mother and brother out of the cemetery back to town, and I started to have this overwhelming sense of joy.  It was in the middle of January, on an overcast, cold day.  The snow drifts along the road were covered with soot from the windswept plowed fields of northern Iowa.  It was a bleak dreary day. 

Yet, here I was, inexplicably experiencing this heightened level of joy.  I said to my mother and brother, “I know this sounds odd, but I have this great feeling of joy.”  They both looked at me as if I were crazy and said nothing.  We drove on, but the moment of joy in me remained.  The next morning while I was praying in my father’s bedroom, the following words came into my mind, “The reason for your joy yesterday was because your father is with me in heaven.” 

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, my heart burned within me as I heard those words and recalled the joy from the prior afternoon.  I believed these words were from the Lord, and I wanted to hold onto every one of them. 

Has your heart ever burned within you, indicating a word or a thought from God? Perhaps being in the presence of a very holy person; possibly a sermon that opens your eyes to something that needs to change in your life; maybe a word of scripture that jumps off the page with new meaning, or the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit providing assurance to persevere in a time of suffering.

When Jesus later met with the disciples, he promised he would be with them always.  This promise is also meant for us.  If you have never experienced your heart burning within you from Jesus’ presence or word, Jesus invites you to open the door of your heart and invite him in.  He is always tarrying outside, waiting for our invitation.  

Have you ever experienced the presence of God or word that burned in your heart?

Accepting Service from Others

Several years ago our family was traveling from New York to the Midwest.  We alerted a former friend from law school and his wife that we would like to stop by to see them.  They expected us to stay with them overnight, but we decided to check into a motel, not wanting to “impose” upon them.  They were offended, interpreting our decision as a rejection of their offer of hospitality. 

When Jesus came to Peter at the Last Supper to wash his feet, Peter said, “You will never wash my feet.”  Jesus replied, Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.  (John 13:8)

How hard it is for us to accept being served by someone in authority, particularly when the service involves a menial task!  A servant serves his master.  An employee serves his or her boss.  Jesus, the master and teacher, was turning that paradigm upside down.  Peter was the first to proclaim Jesus to be “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16)  How could he allow the Son of God to wash his feet?  Unthinkable!

From earliest childhood, we are taught to be self-sufficient.  A young child proudly proclaims, “I did it by myself.”  One of the challenges of a disabling illness or injury is having to depend on someone else to do things for you that you would ordinarily do yourself. 

Like so many of Jesus’ words and actions, his example offers multiple lessons for us.  While we need to be willing to receive service, it is just as important for us to serve. When the disciples were arguing about whom among them was the greatest, Jesus told them, “Whoever wishes to be great among you, shall be your servant.”  He also reminded them, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26, 28)

In David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman, he tells the following story.  At a special reception Truman held for Stalin and Churchill at the Potsdam Peace Conference near the end of World War II, Sergeant Eugene List, an American concert pianist, played a Chopin waltz.  List asked if someone in the audience would be good enough to turn the pages.  Truman jumped to his feet, waived off another volunteer and did the job himself.   In a letter to his wife, List later wrote, “Imagine having the President of the United States turn the pages for you!…But that’s the kind of man the President is.” 

May we choose to follow both lessons from Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples – having a desire to love and serve the people in our lives, and responding with gracious acceptance when being served by others.

How willing are you to be served?

Praying for Our Leaders

A number of years ago in my morning prayer time, I found myself praying for my boss who headed up a legal department for a large oil company.  He was an exacting boss, but a good person with impeccable integrity. 

While praying, I received the thought,“Why are you limiting your prayers just for your direct boss – why not his boss and the entire management team including the CEO and board of directors?  Pray for wisdom, integrity and love in how they oversee the operations of the company.  Your prayers can impact areas and operations of the company far beyond your immediate responsibilities and sphere of influence.”

At the time, this was a new revelation to me.  As Christians in the workplace, we have the opportunity through prayer to impact more than just our particular job or position.  We can intercede for God’s grace to impact our bosses and the decisions they make.  We may not always see the results of our prayers, but we should never underestimate their power and influence.

The Book of Exodus reports that when the Amalekites attacked the Israelites in the desert at Rephidim, Moses stood on top of a hill with his arms raised and the staff of God in his hands.  As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but when he lowered his hands the Amalekites gained in the fight.  So Aaron and Hur had Moses sit on a rock as they held up his hands until sunset, and the Israelites won the battle. (Exodus 17:8-16)

Praying for our leaders is a way for us to hold up their hands in the battle they face in doing their jobs with integrity, concern for people, and excellence. 

All kinds of leaders need our prayers.  Pastors and spiritual leaders are in particular need of our prayer.   One of the first statements Pope Francis made after his election as he greeted the throngs in St. Peter’s square was to ask people to pray for him.  He continues to repeat this request to nearly every individual and group he meets.

Governmental leaders also need our prayer support.  Their positions make them especially vulnerable to temptations involving pride and corruption.  Regardless of our politics, we can regularly pray for the president’s protection, righteousness, and wisdom.  Remember the words of Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon, “Work for the good of the country to which I have exiled you; pray to Yahweh on its behalf, since on its welfare yours depends.” (Jeremiah 29:7 JB)

Like Aaron and Hur, let us support the hands of our bosses, pastors, and leaders in community and government with our ongoing intercession and prayer.

How do you support people in leadership – bosses, community and government leaders, pastors, etc.?

“Listen to Him”

Can we listen to God? 

Let me share a story of a time when I woke up in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep.  As I tossed and turned, a good friend and Christian brother kept coming to mind.  At first I just dismissed it as a random thought in my quest to go back to sleep.  But thoughts and a picture of him in my mind kept persisting.  I wasn’t going to sleep and the thoughts of him were not going away.  I started to wonder whether he was he experiencing some health issues, or was in physical danger? 

I was prompted to start praying for him– if it was a health issue or if he had an accident, I prayed that God would protect him from serious illness or injury and get him the medical care he needed. 

The next day I was shocked to learn that my friend, who was on a mission trip repairing houses, fell from a ladder that very morning, incurring a concussion and seven cracked ribs.  The timing of the prompting to pray for him the night before was beyond coincidence.  Fortunately, a co-worker was present who arranged for emergency transportation to the hospital.  He has since recovered and is doing fine.   

In Luke’s Gospel, describing the transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of Moses and Elijah speaking with him, he reports that a cloud covered Peter, James and John who were also present,  and God said to them, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35)    

Peter had been focusing on his delight at being present to witness this miraculous appearance of Moses and Elijah.  He makes kind of a silly offer to build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, as if they were going to hang around physically after having completed their mission of speaking with Jesus. 

In almost the form of a rebuke, God lets Peter and the others know that their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, is his very own son whom he has chosen.  He commands them to listen to his Son!  This is a command that is applicable not only to the apostles, but also their successors and followers, including us.  Do we listen to Jesus?  How do we listen?

There are multiple ways in which Jesus can speak to us.  He can do so directly by putting thoughts in our minds through the Holy Spirit.  He can speak to us through scripture and other spiritual writings.  He can speak to us through others and our life experiences.   

With respect to the above story, I can only conclude that the Holy Spirit was bringing my friend to mind and prompting me to intercede on his behalf.  I thank God for his grace and mercy, and for the Holy Spirit that led me to listen.

How do you listen to God?