A Very Merry Adoption

A Very Merry Adoption

Day 16

A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the land of the Bible

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 KJV

nativity-iconIn seven hours from the time of this writing (9AM CST) it will be midnight in Bethlehem. Crowds will fill Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity which was built over the place of Jesus’ birth; the oldest church in Christendom. And, in 17 days we will be on our way to the Holy Land where we too will worship in the place of Jesus’ birth. I want to invite all my readers to follow our pilgrimage as we post video clips of our time in Israel on my website, bradrileyministries.com.

Today is Christmas Eve, a day when most of the world, for one reason or another, stop to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. Even those who don’t worship Christ as Lord stop to remember the love they share with family and friends by giving gifts and having a special time of fellowship together. By celebrating Christmas, even in a secular way, they are acknowledging the greatest gift ever given.

Can you imagine, the birth of anyone causing the whole world to stop and celebrate? No other person has made that kind of impact – only Jesus has. The birth of Jesus is recognized by all the world because the life of Jesus was greater than any other person who ever lived or will ever live. No other person gave such love or taught his followers to not only love each other, but to love their enemies as well.

Today as you prepare to celebrate with your loved ones, as you bake your goodies and cook your festive dinners, would you pause for a moment to remember those who are alone in this world? For many people Christmas is a reminder of how alone they are. Many are alone because this is the first Christmas since a loved one died. Still others are alone because they are homeless, or have no family near. Perhaps you are one of the lonely? Whatever the reason for yours or their aloneness, I know a family who wants to adopt you into their family this year.

Two thousand years ago, a lonely couple far from home found themselves homeless, in need of shelter and about to give birth to a child. That birth made all the difference for the whole world, and it can make difference for you today if you will open your heart and invite the love of that Holy Family to adopt you today.

To each of you I pray a very Merry Christmas, but more than that a very merry adoption.

Day 16 has begun…

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: https://ancientanswers.org/tag/birth-of-christ/

http://triggerpit.com/2011/03/28/church-of-nativity-walk-trough-where-jesus-christ-was-born/

What, No Food?

What, No Food?

Day 25

A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the land of the Bible

Jesus said to them, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.” … Jesus said to them, “I am fed by doing the will of the one who sent me and by completing his work.

John 4:32,34 CEB

feastingUnfortunately, no one has to remind me to stop and eat. It’s more like they have remind me to stop eating. Food has always been a joyful thing to me. I have fond memories of home cooked meals growing up. My mother was a fantastic cook. In scripture, we find the concept of feasting through the Old and New Testaments. In fact, it’s the central theme of our redemption story. One day we will all feast with Jesus around the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). Each time we as Christians celebrate the Holy Eucharist (Communion), we are pointing to the great feast of the Lamb that will be the consummation of all feasting.

While scripture does have a lot to say about feasting, it also has much to say about fasting. Sometimes filling ourselves isn’t just about eating food. That’s what Jesus meant in John 4 when He said He had a kind of food that his disciples didn’t know about. You know that feeling you get from the satisfaction of knowing your work was a job well done? That feeling fills us to a point of satisfaction such that we don’t need anything else – sometimes, not even food. For Jesus, nothing was more satisfying than knowing He was doing the will of the Father.

Fasting, which is denying ourselves of food or other elements for a specified time that we may concentrate more fully on God and His Word, letting that fill us. When we begin to concentrate on Christ and His will for us we begin to see Him accomplish great things in and through us. Our upcoming pilgrimage is about taking time to do just that, concentrate on Jesus and His Word as we relive His story in His land.

Pilgrimage is about fasting and feasting. I would encourage each of you to begin fasting in some measure as you prepare to leave over the next 25 days. And to my readers, you too can begin fasting as you prepare to follow along with us. Fasting prepares us for great things from God.

As we step into the Holy Land in just 25 more days, a great feast will begin. We will be literally sitting at the table with Christ and His Holy Spirit as we fellowship and learn in the Land of the Bible. Believe me, the feasting that lies ahead of you on this pilgrimage is like a food you nothing about.

Day 25 has begun…

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/feasting-on-thanksgiving

http://pastorerickson.com/?p=16732

What Will You Bring to the Pool?

What Will You Bring to the Pool?

Day 26

A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the land of the Bible

A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

John 5:5-6 CEB

bethesda-416x312Think of something you really want. Now, how much do you really want it? It had always been a dream of mine to go to Israel, to walk in Jesus footsteps. I wanted to hear Him say to me the words He said to others in scripture. I wanted to put myself in their place. That is a great part of pilgrimage, to put yourself into the time and space where Christ lived, where He walked and talked, and worked so many miracles.

I remember standing by the ruins of the pool of Bethsaida where Jesus healed the man who’d been sick for 38 years. We don’t know his age or what was wrong with him exactly. Perhaps he was sick from something he’d done, or as the consequence of some sin. We don’t know. What we do know is that he hadn’t always been that way. And we know that he longed to be healed. 38 years is a long time to be carried out by someone and placed by the pool in hopes of being healed.

Jesus, being God, never asked a question he didn’t already know the answer to. So, when he asked the man if he wanted to get well, Jesus knew that he did. His 38 years by the pool demonstrated that. But how much did he want healing? Would he be willing to obey whatever Jesus told him to do? When Jesus told him to get up and walk, being a Jew, he knew that was to break a Sabbath law. But being in the presence of God, and hearing Jesus command, he knew he must; it was his moment for healing. God had heard his prayers of all the years.

As we journey to the Holy Land, we will visit the pool of Bethsaida. When I was there, I remember thinking of all things I wish I’d done different in life, things for which I too wanted healing. Healing is for more than just our physical bodies, it’s for our spirits, and emotions as well.

What will you bring with you to the pool? As you look in to the ancient ruins and think of how so many came there for healing, remember that the one who created the world stood there one day and brought the greatest healing of all. There isn’t any water in the pool anymore, but Jesus didn’t need the waters of the pool to heal the man that day. What will you bring to the pool? The only thing you need to bring – is faith.

Day 26 has begun…

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/jerusalem/the-bethesda-pool-site-of-one-of-jesus%E2%80%99-miracles/

https://www.abchomeandcommercial.com/blog/what-to-bring-to-the-pool/

Spirit, Truth and Snakes

Spirit, Truth and Snakes

Day 27

A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the land of the Bible

But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. 24 God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and truth.”

John 4:23-24 CEB

 

kentucky-snake-handlersAbout the age of 10 I was exposed to some new forms of worship. Me and a friend hopped on a flatbed railroad car and road it to the south end of town. We had heard there was an old-fashioned camp meeting going on in a church down there. Stories were going around about people rolling in the isles, picking up snakes and shouting in loud unknown tongues. Sounded like something I definitely needed to see, but from a distance of course. I hate snakes!

I was raised in a small Protestant denomination called the Church of the Brethren. Our worship services knew nothing of anything like the things we were hearing about. Ours were pretty orderly; sing a few hymns, a pastor led a prayer, some men would come down each isle and take up an offering, and the pastor preached a thoughtful sermon. There was nothing even remotely loud, no one spoke in a different language, and you can bet that if anyone brought a snake to church there would be some screaming and running around going on, but it would all be in a rush to get out of there!

When we were near the church grounds my friend and I hopped off the train and walked toward the church. It was summer, and it was hot. The windows were open so we could hear a lot of commotion going on. We never did go inside – just in case the snake stories were true. We didn’t even peek in the windows. Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to spy on someone else’s worship. Our curiosity had been satisfied just hearing what sounded like a lot of rowdiness going on inside; that was definitely a different kind of worship than we what we knew.

I remember that event peeked a curiosity within me about worship styles. I assumed all churches worshiped as the one our family went to. I began asking around among my friends about their worship services, especially about whether they had snakes or not. I had no interest in visiting a church with snakes. Did I mention that I hate snakes!

What I learned over the next ten years or so was that people, even with similar beliefs, worshiped God in many ways. In Jesus encounter with the woman at the well in John 4, He offered her words of life concerning authentic worship of God. She was curious about who was right. The Samaritans like herself worshipped differently form the Jews, though they were of a similar belief. In Jesus’ answer we hear great insight to apply in our own lives.

Jesus didn’t say that her Samaritan worship was all wrong. In fact, he didn’t say His Jewish worship was all right either. What he said was that the most important thing about our worship of God was not the place or style, but rather the content – it must be authentic and truthful. To worship in spirit and truth is to open your heart to God and respond as He leads you. For some that may mean singing with a charismatic spirit in their music. For some it may mean to kneel in amid candle light, softly chanting a prayer. And I suppose for some it may even mean picking up a snake as a test of faith (I’d pray hard about that one before you try it!). But regardless of style, it must be genuine in our spirit that we sense God is leading us as we worship.

In 27 days, we will embark on a journey to the land where Jesus worshipped. We will stop to pray in churches that have stood for almost two thousand years. As we do so, (And for those who follow us on the vlog, don’t be bothered by how different the houses of worship are form your modern American traditions. Allow yourself to step out of time and space and enter in to the spirit and truth of an ancient time among ancient stones and listen for the Spirit of God to speak to you, just as Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. If you will, you will find the true meaning of being a pilgrim.

Day 27 has begun…

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://www.denverpost.com/2014/02/26/pastors-death-doesnt-deter-snake-handling-ky-church/

http://who-god-is.com/what-does-it-mean-to-worship-god-in-spirit-and-truth

What Are You Looking For? Part II

What Are You Looking For? Part II

Day 28

A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the land of the Bible

What Are You Looking For?: Part II

 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew,[a] it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom”… “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom.”

 John 3:3,5 CEB

 

nicodemasCold, colder, warmer, warmer…hot! That’s what we hear when we play the game of looking for something and a person is trying to lead us with cold and warm clues. The closer we are to finding what we’re looking for the “hotter” we get. Then, when what we’re looking for is right under our noses but we still can’t see it, the clue giver says, “Now you’re red hot!” Sometimes we just can’t see what’s in plain sight. You know. We can’t see the forest for all the trees.

Yesterday, Day 28, We heard Jesus ask the question, “What are you looking for?” Today we hear Him tell us how to look for what we’re looking for. In John 3, Nicodemus was seeking answers to questions he didn’t know how to ask. He admitted that Jesus was from God, but his heart couldn’t quite believe this man from Nazareth was the answer to all the Jews longing and looking for the Messiah. So, without his even having asked a direct question, Jesus answers the real question on Nicodemus’ heart – “Are you the One?” Are you our Savior?”

Jesus offered Nicodemus words of life for everyone to hear. His answer was for everyone because we’re all still asking the same questions. The problem is too often we’re looking for answers in all the wrong places. Jesus told him that to enter God’s Kingdom, he must be born again. Nicodemus thought he was already in the Kingdom. But Jesus makes it clear no one can even see the Kingdom unless he or she is born anew…born of the Spirit.

Was that really too hard to understand? When Nicodemus asked Jesus how he could enter again into his mother’s womb, can’t you just hear Jesus wanting to say, “you’re getting colder”? Jesus knew Nicodemus was getting “warmer” when he recognized Jesus as a great man from God, but He needed him to see that He wasn’t just a “great man” …He was and is God.

As we embark on our journey to the Holy Land 28 days from now, we need to hear Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?”. But let’s be sure we hear the clues He’s giving us also. What awaits us in Galilee and Jerusalem is our getting, “warmer”, and “warmer” as we walk where Jesus walked. But we won’t find the answers to the Kingdom just by touching stones. We must open our hearts and allow the stones to shout to us that we must be born of the Spirit. Then, we will not only see the Holy Land… we will enter the Kingdom of God.

Day 28 has begun…

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://discoverynews.us/BIBLE%20CHARACTERS/NICODEMAS,_The_Religious_and_Respectable_Sinner.html

http://www.giveliveexplore.com/2012/10/05/the-art-of-the-pilgrimage/

What Are You Looking For?

What Are You Looking For?

Day 29 – What Are You Looking For?

A Countdown to Listening to Jesus in the Land of the Bible

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?” They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

John 1:38

 

come-and-seeIn John’s gospel, the first recorded words of Jesus are in the form of a question to two men who are following Him. We know the two men were Andrew and Simon Peter, brothers who became the first of the twelve to follow Jesus. Knowing the two were following, Jesus turned to them and asked, “What are you looking for?”. What a great question.

As pilgrims on a journey, do we know what we’re looking for? If we don’t then we aren’t really pilgrims, we’re just nomads. Nomads wander around with no particular destination in mind, no purpose that compels them towards something. But, disciples are followers. As disciples of Jesus we want to follow him wherever He goes. That’s what Andrew and Simon wanted.

Andrew saw Jesus first and went and found his brother Simon to tell him he’d found the Christ. Wow! Who wouldn’t follow the coming King of prophecy? The One all Israel anxiously awaited? Apparently, many didn’t follow Jesus that first day. Scripture doesn’t record a great multitude observed him and then followed along with Andrew and Simon. In fact, the great crowds didn’t begin following until they saw him work miracles.

How about you? Why do you follow Jesus? Is it because like Andrew, you know you’ve found the Messiah? Or, is it because that’s just what church going people do? In 29 days, we will begin a pilgrimage to follow Jesus. We will literally retrace His steps and walk where He walked. Not just because it’s a fun and exciting thing to do, like the crowds who wanted to see miracles. Rather, we follow because we want to see Jesus. Like the Greeks who found Philip and said, “Sir, we want to see Jesus?” (John 12:21)

In response to the request that the Greeks wanted to see Him, Jesus replied, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me” (John 12:26). We follow Jesus Christ the Risen Lamb, the Savior of the World. As such, we must also serve Him. As we follow Jesus to the land of His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, we follow as servants who desire to better learn how to serve Him in this world.

As we countdown the days to our pilgrimage let’s be sure we can answer Jesus’ question – “What are you looking for?” Then, let us hear Jesus calling to us as He did to Andrew and Simon… “Come and see”

Day 29 has begun…

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://www.giveliveexplore.com/2012/10/05/the-art-of-the-pilgrimage/

https://wn.com/andrew_simon_feldman

Blast-off!

Blast-off!

Day 30 – Words of Life: A Countdown to Hearing Jesus in the Land of the Bible

Based on John 6:68

major-astro-bw“Are you ready? All systems are go in T minus 5-4-3-2-1 – Blast-off!” Ever since I was a boy watching Major Astro on TV each day after school, I’ve loved countdowns. They’re exciting. They bring you to the moment when something big is about to happen. In 30 days from today something big will happen. I will be leading a team of 17 people on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We will leave for Israel on January 9, 2017 and return on January 18.

In this series called, Words of Life, I’d like to invite each of my readers to join us in spirit to prepare yourself for something big to happen. I will be writing and vlogging from Israel each day we are in the Holy Land. You too can follow our Pilgrimage on our daily updates. We will visit the holy sites where Jesus walked and ministered, where he lived and died, and most importantly where He rose from the grave!

When you visit the land of the Bible you will never read scripture the same way again; it comes alive to you. Each day until we leave, I want to offer a brief devotion to prepare us for what we will experience on our Pilgrimage together. Today, among all the talking heads and political commentary of times, we need to hear more than ever that there is only One who has the words of life. Words that can bring hope and pierce the vail of any darkness. Jesus Christ is that One.

In John 6:68, Simon Peter acknowledged that Jesus is the only One whose words mattered when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” The words of Jesus were difficult to hear that day as He talked of eating His body and drinking His blood. It sounded gruesome to many. Some thought He was crazy and they turned away from following Him after hearing those words. Jesus spoke those words while in the synagogue at Capernaum. We will visit that very place where Jesus spoke those words and I will bring a devotion on the deeper meaning of them that we often miss.

But for now, it’s important that we recognize what Peter did that day. There is no place else to go. Only Jesus has the words of life. It’s what Jesus wants to say to us that matters. I’ve written a book to accompany our journey titled, A Pilgrim’s Path: 31 days to Discovering Life In Christ. The book is a devotional journal to help you process the great challenges of life and how to discover the deep meaning of living IN Jesus Christ. While it’s available at Amazon and many other retailers, if you’d like a signed, personalized copy it’s available on my website for a limited time, with free shipping. (Be sure you give me your name, or the name of who it’s for on the order form).

In the words of Major Astro, “Join me here tomorrow boys and girls. Same time, same channel”. I hope you will “Blast-off” with me for a new adventure in the Words of Life.

Shalom,

Pastor Brad

image credit: http://pocketfulofginch.blogspot.com/2012/09/major-astro-circa-1970.html