Gospel

architecture art cathedral chapel
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am absolutely amazed by the Gospels and the Gospel genre. The more I study and learn, the more overwhelmed, humbled and awed I become. I knew that Gospel meant “Good News” but I had no idea that it was used in a propagandistic way to announce the birth or ascension of an emperor. For example, when Octavian (aka Caesar Augustus) was born, his birthday was celebrated as the inauguration of the good news (gospel) for the world. [What brings a massive smile to my face is that Octavian’s birth announcement was proclaimed by man while Jesus’s birth announcement was proclaimed by an angel from the Lord (Luke 2:8-14).]

The feature of the Gospels’ genre that has changed my life and that is continuing to change my life because I cannot stop thinking about it is this: the Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) wrote with the intent that Jesus was to be emulated. Based on genre alone, the original reader/hearer would have understood they were encouraged to submit to the Gospel writers’ proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that salvation has come through Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

Mark 1:1 affirms this premise, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1 ESV, emphasis mine). Again, just by genre alone the original audience would have known that Jesus was the main character and the one they should emulate. This just sets me absolutely on fire for God!

Pennington (Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, 2012, pp. 33-34) states, “To read the Gospels well is to submit to their proclamation.” How well am I reading the Gospels? By learning the genre of the Gospels, we can see plainly that the subject, Jesus, is the fulfillment of God’s kingdom and that believers through the Evangelists’ Gospels are motivated, encouraged and required to become more like Christ. While the Gospel message proclaims a historical Man, the Son of God, Jesus the Christ, born of a virgin, taking on flesh, living, breathing, working, playing and dwelling among people; who was crucified, dead and buried and on the third day rose again, the same Evangelists also proclaim the responsibility that believers/readers/hearers have in obeying their proclamation.

Father God, help us to submit to the Good News. Help us to obey and live out the Gospel that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, Your own Son who lived, died, rose from the dead and is now seated at Your right hand. Lord God, I ask that You will stir this reader/hearer to learn more about the Gospel genre. I ask Lord, that You will help each of us to read each Gospel account separately rather than trying to harmonize them. Lord, may we let Matthew speak for Matthew, Mark for Mark, Luke for Luke and John for John because each Evangelist was writing to a different audience and had a different message about Jesus and His life, character and mission. Lord God, may we be a people who read, share and live Your Gospel well. May we submit to the Evangelists call to emulate Jesus. Lord, may we allow You to transform our lives through Your Word and through our experiences with You. Thank You Father that You are NEVER more than a thought away. I thank You Lord for this reader, may You speak to them in a very personal way today. Thank You, Jesus, for Your Good News, Amen.

 

Goodbye, Hello

nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Father God, I ask that You will prepare this reader for October and October for them. Lord, I ask that for those who are anxious and nervous about what October will bring that You will give them peace and patience. Lord, for those in need of a new beginning, I ask that You will be present. Lord, for those who are hurting and for those who have lost loved ones in this past month, be with them. Comfort them. Lord God, I ask that whatever side of the political aisle this dear reader resides, they will remember You are above all. Father, thank You that You are greater than all our fears. You are greater than anything we will ever face. Lord, thank You for the gift of Your Spirit. Thank You for never abandoning us. Lord, thank You again for this reader. I ask that whatever this reading is seeking, You will bring them clarity. Father, I thank You that nothing we do will ever separate us from Your love. May we live free in Christ, may we believe that our identity is in Christ and not in this world. Lord, thank You for all that You have done, are doing and will do. We are counting on You, Jesus, and it is in Your Name we pray, Amen.

Junk

I have a love and dislike relationship with my husband’s truck! Yesterday, I found myself wandering in a pick and pull (junkyard) for hours looking for a VERY specific part for Nathan’s truck. Now, for those of you who do not know me, let me assure you, that is a SHOCKING statement! I do NOT like junk, I do NOT like being around unclean things and I most certainly did NOT know what a pick and pull was prior to yesterday!

As soon as the vehicle was in park I said to Nathan, “I will wait here.” He gave me a look and I said, “fine.” I got out of the vehicle with camera in hand ready to take a picture to send my mom, only to be greeted by a sign that read in big black letters, “NO CAMERAS, NO PICTURES!” I am already a bit on edge so imagine my surprise when I learned that just to enter this place was going to cost $2 USD per person! I was baffled at the thought that I had to pay to look at junk! I confess I did say rather loudly, “I should have stayed in the car!”

To help make this experience even more pleasant, some nice soul (yes, that is snarky!) decided it was a good time to burn plastic. Don’t you know the wind starts to pick up and the smoke blows right at me! At this point I am choking and miserable. I said a quick prayer asking God, “to help me NOT freak out on Nathan!”  God, in His mercy, responded by opening my eyes to my surroundings. He brought to mind Job sitting on the ash heap as his once well oiled life was turned into a dump/wasteland.  [What amazes me about the book of Job is that it is the oldest book in the Bible. Job lived after the Tower of Babel (Gen 10) and before Abraham (Gen 12), I mention these details because this means God addressed human suffering from the beginning!]

As I was staring at all the junk, I could not help but to think of Ezekiel 37 and his vision of a wasteland with dry bones; I thought about Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth, who we are first introduced as barren women. I also thought of Moses roaming the backside of the desert.

While I was walking around and watching Nathan dig and pray for this VERY specific part, God opened my eyes to see the junkyard as a metaphor for life. How many of us have circumstances where we are sitting on ash heaps? How many of us think our lives are a wasteland beyond hope? How many of us if we are honest think our lives are worthless junk, never amounting to anything? How many of us are going through a dry, barren and desolate time?

I do not know what Nathan said to interrupt me, but I could tell he was getting frantic he might not find this VERY specific part! It wasn’t much longer when Nathan let out a triumphant shout. He had found his VERY specific part! I hurried to give him the tools he had me carry. I will humbly confess, when I looked inside the beat up, foul smelling truck, I noticed what was left of the flooring and said, “there could be rats in this thing!” and at that, I freaked out! I said loud enough for anyone to hear, “I am SO glad that we are laying up treasure in heaven free from moths, rust, rats and thieves!” (Matt 6:20).  I will freely admit, the junkyard is a great reminder why we are to store up heavenly treasure rather than earthly treasure (Matt 6:19-21).

Each one of us has a VERY specific part in God’s story! Some of us have more miles than others, some of us have rougher exteriors, but the one thing that we have in common as believers is that we are NOT junk! No hurt, no pain, nothing that we go through is EVER wasted. Remember this: God never wastes a hurt! God also cannot and will not live with junk; you have inherent worth as being created in His Image (Gen 1:27).  I have NO idea what you are going through; however, for the person who endures and perseveres, the Lord will transform and restore. That does NOT necessarily mean God will restore in the same way as Job or reward with the VERY specific part for a truck. However, He will dust us off and give us new hearts. He will also give us peace with Himself and each other.

Father God, I thank You Lord that whether a person is a Jesus follower or not, they are created in Your image. Lord, I thank You for the VERY specific part each believer has in Your family, story and Kingdom. Lord while we may have junk in our lives, I thank You we are NOT junk! Remind this reader Lord, even if their life resembles a junkyard or wasteland, it does not mean it will always be this way. Lord, impress on this reader the importance of storing up treasure in Heaven rather than here on earth. Lord, thank You for Nathan. Thank You for his heart, humility and support in allowing me to share this experience! Thank You Father that You desire to pick and pull people from sin, junk, and darkness and place them into Your light and family, Amen.

For those wondering, Nathan has a 1975 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup truck that I have affectionally dubbed, “Gremlin.”

IMG_3055.jpg
Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn, 18 October 2017

 

 

Affirmation

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

Yesterday in Residency my professor had us do a team building exercise to affirm members of the class. After the exercise was finished, my professor asked, “did you think it was hard to look the person in the eye when you were affirming them? We have no issue looking people in the eye when we are correcting or disciplining them, yet we tend to not make eye contact when we say something positive.”

In typical Mandy fashion, I blurted out, “I have NO problem making eye contact with the person I am affirming, but I have difficulty making eye contact with the person affirming me.” There were other people in the room who agreed with what I said.

All morning I have been asking God to examine me and reveal to me, “how well am I affirming those whom I come in contact with daily?” I think I am good at encouraging and affirming people who I do not see often or people I know who are hurting, but again, how well am I really affirming those I interact with daily/live with? Am I affirming my husband or am I tearing him down? Am I affirming my mom or am I impatient and mean? I do not have children, but I would like to think I would ask myself if I am giving my child as much affirmation as I am giving them correction/discipline?

How about you, how well are you affirming those you live with/interact with daily?

God truly has a sense of humor! While I am asking God to test me to reveal how well I am affirming others, the Lord is asking me, “how well are you receiving affirmation?” OUCH! I confess, I do not take affirmation well. When someone affirms me, I do one of three things: I deflect with a joke, say thank you quickly, or change the subject. I just realized, when someone corrects me or speaks sternly to me, I keep my head up and look them in the eye, yet when they affirm me I gaze avert or put my head down.

As I reflect over my actions, I cannot help but wonder how many times my fear and pride hurt a well intended person? When I affirm someone, I want them to receive the message even if they feel uncomfortable. Again, as I reflect on this, what right do I have to dismiss someone when I do not want them to dismiss what I have to say? That is hypocrisy at its finest.

As believers we are called to affirm and support each other. I hope, dear reader, you will allow the Holy Spirit access to examine your mind, heart and actions when it comes to how you give and receive affirmation.

Lord God, help us to give and receive affirmation in a way that builds the body and displays Christ to this dark and hurting world. Thank You Father for the gift of community. Father God, thank You for this reader and may You meet with them right where they are, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

Who Are You Representing?

city commerce crowd downtown
Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

My mom had a motto growing up that I still hear to this day, “when you leave this house, you represent this family, how you act will determine how people view this family! Mandy, do you understand that you are a representative of this family?” I cannot tell you how many times I said to people when I did something foolish or ridiculous, “my family does not do this,” “I am not representing my family,” “please do not judge my family,” “only I do things like this!” My mom is one wise woman! No other line or motto has done more in/for my life than this!

Every single day you and I are representing something and someone; from the clothes we wear, to the car we drive and the food we eat. We represent our families, jobs, friends. Every moment of every day we are representatives of our beliefs. If you are a Christian, how well do you represent the Christ that you profess?

Are you representing Jesus authentically or are you selling some great version of yourself that only those super close to you would know is not 100% accurate?! Are you confident, timid, fearful, anxious, gentle in representing your faith? Do you fear judgment from others based on your faith and beliefs? If you are a Christian, whether you are in the home or outside of the home, you are Christ’s representative. How people view you is how people will view Christ. How you act will determine how people view Christ and His family (I told you my mom was wise 😉

Do not take my word for it, the Bible makes it clear that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation! Christ’s work on the cross has reconciled God and the believer. As such, you are Christ’s Ambassador and God is making an appeal of reconciliation through you to others (2 Cor 5:17-20). You, yes YOU are Christ’s Ambassador, you have the joy, privilege and responsibility of representing Christ! How confident are you that God will use you as an Ambassador to bring the message of reconciliation to other people? How motivated are you to represent Jesus in a way that brings Him glory, honor and praise?

Father God, I thank You Lord for Jesus and His Work on the Cross. Jesus, thank You for reconciling believers to the Father. Holy Spirit, thank You that You live in us, equip us and give us strength to be Christ’s Ambassadors. Lord God, I pray for this dear reader to represent You, to be Your Ambassador at work, home, school wherever this reader is located. Lord, I ask that You will give this reader confidence in their personal and public walk with You. Lord, I pray this dear reader will represent You well, Amen.

 

 

 

Goodbye August, Hello September

brown book page
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Hello Reader!

Please allow me to pray for you:

Father God, I thank You Lord for getting this reader through August. I ask Lord that You will prepare this reader for September and all that this month will hold for them.  Lord, I ask that You will continue to make Yourself known to this reader. Lord, I ask that You will prepare this reader for weather changes, health changes, family changes that may occur this coming month. Lord, I ask that You will flood this reader with wisdom, help them to make decisions based on what they know about Your character and Your Word. Thank You Father, that You are not a God of chaos. Lord, I ask that you fill this reader with the peace that passes all understanding. Lord, with all my heart I thank You and praise for all that You have done, are doing and will do for this reader! Prepare them for the coming month, in Jesus’s Holy and Precious Name I pray, Amen.

 

How Do I Respond?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have always been an inquisitive child. I have always wanted and at times demand to know “why?!” I have a tendency to feel that I am entitled to knowing “why” and can become quite indignant when there is no answer. In my life, “why” always leads to asking more “why” questions, which breeds greater frustration and despair if the “why” is unanswered.

Job is a great example to me of a person who asked “why?” Job did not have the knowledge or foresight to know that God was allowing him to be tested by Satan (Job 1:6-2:10). Thankfully, Job never cursed God and died as was suggested by his wife and friends. Throughout the book of Job, we learn how Job went from knowing about the Lord, to knowing Him personally through his trials and tribulations! The “whys?” drove Job to God, not away from God.

When I get frustrated, angry and consumed by asking “why,” I tend to pull away from God, not draw closer to Him. In those times, I am reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV). These verses humble and discipline me.

God is under no and I mean NO obligation to tell me/us “why.” God did not punish Job for asking why, but God did correct Job and his thinking. For Job and for us, God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. While there are some days I find contentment and acceptance with that thought, there are other days where I do not.

A few years ago, in my God Time (quiet time/devotional time) I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Mandy, you are asking the wrong question, why does not matter. Stop asking why and starting asking, how do I respond.”

This was a light bulb moment for me. As I said above, God is under NO obligation to explain or answer why. However, God is obligated and will most certainly help me/us respond to any situation, circumstance, person, event etc. in a way that aligns with His Word and Character. Going from asking, “why?” to “how do I respond” takes the focus off of the situation and places the focus on God. By asking “how do I respond?” I become responsible for my conduct/actions. Human responsibility and God’s Sovereignty are married.

“Why” is truly an unending cycle if it does not drive us to God. The “whys” of life can only be satisfied when we trust and rest in knowing that Jesus is our Sovereign Lord and that He knows what He is doing. We need to trust that He will enable us to respond as He wants us to respond.

Father God, this life is NOT easy! It is not easy to ask “how do I respond” instead of staying in the mire of “why?” Lord, help us to respond to life’s adversities in a way that honors You. Lord, I have no idea what this dear reader is facing. I pray this reader will know that I am in NO WAY dismissing what they are going through, nor do I suggest they should never ask “why?” Lord, may their “whys” drive them to You! Father God, I praise You that You know both why and how this reader should respond to whatever it is they are going through. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord, that even when things do not make sense, we know that Isaiah’s words are true. Lord, in all things, in all situations may we seek You. Lord, help us to endure adversity like Job so that when You say to Satan, “have you heard of my servant…” we will respond in a way that pleases and honors you. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.