Sow & Gather

Easter

Extending An Olive Branch

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
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Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane and he told the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” Matthew 26:36 NIV

One of the things I love to do in spring is to plant new flowers and mow the grass. As I mow, I watch as the mower clips away the dead thatch from winter and allows the new sprigs of green grass to break through. Being outdoors gives me a sense of being close to my Creator. As I look around and take in the new greenery that emerges in spring, I am reminded how our lives ebb and flow with the seasons. Thousands of years ago one man named Jesus sensed a change coming with the emergence of spring. He knew that His time on earth was coming to an end.  

The city of Jerusalem where Jesus spent his final days was full of scenery. If you’ve ever visited Jerusalem or the areas around the city, they are seemingly impassible with rocky terrain and buildings crowded together. But if we go back and picture the scene thousands of years ago, the landscape would have looked differently. The walls around the city were present at that time, but there would have been more areas of green lush landscaping amidst the harsh mountainous terrain. As Jesus prepared to be taken into custody before his crucifixion, he chose not to run and hide, (as most of us would have done), but instead went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Previously, when I pictured the Garden of Gethsemane, I pictured something that looked like the Garden of Eden because that’s the kind of Garden I pictured the Son of God praying in. As I studied the pictures and read about the type of garden the Garden of Gethsemane was, I realized it wasn’t like the typical garden I had always pictured. 

The Garden of Gethsemane was rocky like the surrounding terrain. There were probably areas of grass to lie on and I’m sure there were bunches of flowers scattered throughout the garden. What is unique about this particular garden is the outcropping of olive trees. Olive trees are certainly not unique to the area, but what I find special about the place where Jesus chose to talk to God, is the symbolic nature of the garden. Jesus chose this garden, I believe, because of the olive trees and because an olive branch symbolizes Peace. In the book of Genesis, Noah sent a dove to find land after being in the ark for 40 days. The dove brought back an olive branch as a sign that the flood was over and peace was coming. God sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to earth as a sign that peace was coming. He is our olive branch. The gift God gives through His Son Jesus is the gift of eternal life.  

What better place for Jesus to choose to pray and feel the peace and presence of God than to be surrounded by a grove of olive trees? You or I might have chosen tulips or daisies to be surrounded by in our final days, but Jesus knew that His purpose was to bring about peace, so He prayed in the place where He might be reminded of His purpose. I know Jesus was probably in complete and total agony over what was about to happen. He even asked God if there was another way. But in the end, we know that Jesus was obedient and submitted to God’s will, He became our olive branch and because of that, we have the promise of hope in eternity with God. 

Dig Deeper |

Read the prayers of Jesus in the three Gospels; Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:27-31, Luke 22:39-46 

Action Item |

I don’t know if you enjoy gardening as I do. But if you have a moment this spring, go and look around you at the wonder that is our world. Marvel at God’s creation and thank Him for the Prince of Peace who came to save us. 

Prayer |

Heavenly Father, I am at awe of Your creation and the changing seasons. I am overwhelmed by the generous gift of Your Son Jesus. Thank You God for Your Grace by extending your Son to us as Your promise of hope that we might live eternally with You forever. Amen. 

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Do I Turn Away?

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
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They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again…Then they led him away to crucify him. Matthew 27: 30, 31b

I really do not like scary movies or movies with lots of blood and guts.  I watch NCIS on Tuesday nights, ready to close my eyes at any time.  I even have trouble watching Funniest Home Videos.  That show almost always involves falling, crashing, breaking and getting hurt.  It just makes me feel bad.  That’s just me. 

Knowing that about me, it’s reasonable that I struggle with the physical pain and suffering Jesus endured during crucifixion.  You’ve read the scriptures and then, of course, seen the movies.  I can hear the powerful pounding of the mallet against the spikes as they cut through muscle and wood.  Then there is the sound of the cross, heavy with the body of Christ, being dropped into the hole.  Thud.  Jesus had no way to physically brace Himself against the tearing of His skin and muscle with that jolt from horizontal to vertical.  Excruciating.   I turn off the TV, close my eyes or walk out of the room with fingers in my ears saying, “lalala” to drown out the sound.  I scan over the scripture as I read.  It’s far too painful to think about.  

However, sometimes I need to stop and remember why Jesus endured this terrible physical and spiritual pain.  Sin.  My sin and the sin of all mankind that came with a cost. There are no freebies.   

I heard a person very precious to me say, “God is so big and powerful that He knows we can’t obey him.  God’s not going to put us in time out.”  My sweet friend left out the part about the Perfect, Holy and Righteous God who cannot look on sin.  Jesus was the sacrifice for my sin…my “time out” that separated me from God. 

Looking through the eyes of God, not my frail, physical eyes, the external pain of the cross looks different.  I can see the total love and sacrifice of a Savior…for me, for you.  I can stop covering my eyes and turning away.  I can confess with deep sorrow the sins in my life.  Then I can delight in the joyful truth of the Resurrection and life everlasting with Jesus, who paid it all on the cross…for me, for you. 

Action Items |

Do I gloss over my own sin in my time with the Lord?  Do I remember that God takes sin seriously?  Ask Jesus to be your personal Savior. 

Dig Deeper |

Matthew 27:27-44; Philippians 2:6-11  

Prayer |

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the Cross and the Resurrection.  Your love for me, revealed though You allowing Your son, Jesus, to die a painful death, is beyond my understanding.  Help me Father to continue to confess my sin and seek You in all that I do.  Thank you for loving me.  Amen. 

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Jesus--The Resurrection and the Life. Do You Believe This?

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
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Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV 

One of my favorite activities with my dad is coloring Easter eggs. Every year my mom boils the eggs while my dad and I gather the vinegar, water, cups, spoons and, of course, the egg color kit. We spend time marking the eggs with the wax crayon, dropping the eggs into the contrasting colors, and then adding stickers after they are dry. And if you are like us, someone in your family always mixes all the colors together and produces that “ugly, brown” egg. We all remark how ugly it truly is and then …smile and laughter occurs. 

But during this activity, conversation is flowing not only about the eggs and the funky colors but about Jesus. The reason we even color those eggs is because of Jesus and what He did. It is time to remember that Jesus died on the cross for us for all those evil deeds we have participated in throughout our life. He was then buried in a dark tomb for three days. But thank goodness, on the third day or Easter, Jesus arose!!! And, because of His resurrection we are alive!  

But let’s pause a moment to ponder His resurrection. As Jesus said, “Do you believe this?” For me the answer is, "Yes." I have faith and have placed my life in Him. So in order to have life with Jesus, you must accept Him as your Lord and have faith in Him only. When you believe in His resurrection, you will have victory with Him! You will have victory over death! You will have life and will never die! This is great, good news. Hallelujah! 

Dig Deeper |

I Corinthians 15:3-6, Matthew 28:1-10

Action Item |

As you color eggs this Easter, ponder Jesus and His resurrection. 

Prayer |

Dear Risen Savior, You love me. You died for me and You arose for me to have life. Thank you. I praise you. Hallelujah you have risen. In Jesus' name, Amen. 

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Love Covers All

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
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Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins1 Peter 4:8 NIV

Have you ever listened to the beat of your own heart? The constant thumping rhythm lets us know that the heart is doing its job. As one of the most important organs of the body, it makes sense that it is located in the center of our body. Its critical function makes it essential to our survival. Your body cannot function without a heart.  

Different daily events elicit different rhythmic heart beats. During a normal day our heart beats at a cadence that is strong and steady. When we are exercising or rushing through the day, our heart begins to flutter and beat more rapidly. When we are resting our heart beat slows to a deliberate resting dub, dub…. 

Just as our physical activity makes our heart beat a certain way, spiritual or emotional matters of the heart can cause our heart to beat in similar cadence. When we experience feelings of joy or excitement, our heart beats more rapidly. When we suffer emotional pain and suffering, our heart feels that pain. With the heart being such an integral part of who we are, it’s appropriate that God places so much importance on matters of the heart throughout the Bible.  

One of the most important emotions both physical and spiritual is love. Love covers so many different areas of our lives. One can never underestimate the power this one seemingly simple word can invoke.  The word “heart” is used over 791 times in the NIV. The word “love” is used over 551 times. Together they are listed a total of over 1,342 times-- that’s a lot of love!  So, why all this emphasis on matters of the heart? Having walked beside Jesus during His time on earth, Peter saw first-hand how Jesus loved everyone. Peter experienced Jesus’ grace and forgiveness even after he had denied Him 3 times. Peter knew that the only way for people to truly understand the gift Jesus had given them was to love others. If you don’t have love in your heart, you are not able to grasp forgiveness.  

Jesus knew that we couldn’t be close to God if we carried hatred in our hearts. God only accepts love. Because of love, He sent His Son to die for us.  When we choose to love those around us, we cannot harbor that burden of hatred anymore. When we choose to love, we allow forgiveness to enter our hearts, thereby allowing God to wipe our sins clean with the blanket of forgiveness. Love covers all! 

Key Verses |

Romans 5:81 John 4:7-8; 1 Corinthians 16:14 

Action Item |

So, as you read this, you are probably more aware of your own heart beat. If you get really still you can begin to rest in the peace of your own heart beat.  Allow God to speak to you today. If you are carrying any unforgiveness in your heart, listen to what God has to say to you.  If you pray for forgiveness, did you feel your heart beat a little faster in anticipation of God lifting that burden? Maybe your heart beats a little faster knowing that God is now in control and you no longer have to worry about the struggle you’re facing. Or, maybe your heart is beating strong and steady because you are resting in God’s promises.  Whatever your journey, love is a matter of the heart. 

Prayer |

Dear God, sometimes life gets so busy I forget to focus on loving others. Help me to listen more with my heart and stop trying to manipulate my situation. Help me to allow forgiveness to enter into my heart so that I can draw closer to You. Help me to show Your love to others. 

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God's Seasons

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
whatever he does prospers Psalm 1:3 #sowandgather

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:3 NIV

The fall season makes me long to see the vibrant foliage that carpets the southern part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and my home. I can almost feel the crisp, cool air and the bright, warm sun envelope me as I daydream about sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latte while taking in the view of the mountains.

This mountain range isn’t majestic like the Colorado Rockies, but the intensity of fall colors is breathtaking. The dogwood, sourwood and blackgum trees turn deep red, tulip-trees turn bright yellow, and the red maples a multi-colored brilliance.

I love that God gives us seasons to showcase His glory. He is the one who plants the tree; it is chosen and cultivated for a purpose and is rooted by streams of water. Those waters are a never-ending supply of God’s grace, love and provision.

Charles Spurgeon stated, “The man who delights in God’s Word, being taught by it, bringeth forth patience in the time of suffering, faith in the day of trial, and holy joy in the hour of prosperity.”

My desire is to be so deeply rooted in God’s Word and to take such delight from His presence that I will bear the fruit in season and yield the attitude and actions that honor God.

Dig Deeper |

Proverbs 11:30, Proverbs 3:18

Action Item |

Where are you planting your roots? Dig them deep into the soil of God’s Word which is alive and active. It will nourish your soul and give your strength in the seasons of drought.

Prayer |

Dear Father, the beauty of fall is just a glimpse of Your glory! Draw me to Your Word so that my roots will grow deep in You and that my life will bear fruit for Your glory.

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Take A Second Look At Easter

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
Take-A-Second-Look-At-Easter-He-Is-Risen #sowandgather #Easter www.sowandgather.com

He is not here, but He is risen. Luke 24:6

Fear, grief, and confusion must have mingled together on the morning that Mary Magdalene first visited the tomb. I can almost picture it, still dark just before the sun peaks up over the horizon. Oh what a dawn it was going to be, but they did not know that yet. As they reached the tomb, they discovered that the stone had been rolled away. Quite a feat since the stone probably weighed more than a ton, and it would have needed to be pushed uphill. 

When the angel spoke the words, “He is risen”, I wonder what thoughts went through their heads. Obviously, Mary lacked complete understanding because in John 20, she finds herself standing at the tomb for a second time on the same morning. And after everyone left, she remained weeping in deep grief over the loss of her Savior. Jesus was probably the only man who had shown any kind of love for her, as she was a prostitute and had been possessed with seven demons. Now, here at the tomb, she finds that she is all alone again. 

As she hovers on the ground, bowed over with the grief of her loss, Jesus gently calls her name, "Mary." Oh the love, the grace, the mercy, the acceptance she must have felt in Him calling her by name. Recognition has its genesis in her thoughts and she knows it is Him. 

Why was she the one that He appeared to first? Perhaps because of all those who followed Him, hers was the story that most showed God's great power to save. For who would believe a woman who had been soiled and demon-filled? She would have counted less than property. Worthless in the eyes of society, Jesus, God Himself, with this act revealed His own thoughts. She was valuable because her identity was in Him and not in what she had done. 

What if Mary had not gone back that second time? Would she have missed what Jesus wanted to reveal? I find too often that I fail to go back and take a second look so that I too might gain a greater understanding of what the resurrection means. Sin and death have been conquered. A new dawn has come with a sweet acceptance from a Savior who will call me by name and give me a brand new identity no matter what my past holds. What inexplicable joy and peace!

This new day brings with it the light of the risen Christ dawning in the darkness of the world. 

Dig Deeper |

John 20:1-18 

Action Item |

Take a second look at resurrection and what it means to you as believer. How are you allowing the resurrection to change how you live your life? 

Prayer |

God, thank you so much for raising Jesus from the dead. Thank you for showing me that you can breathe new life into me and that you are a God that keeps His promises. Help me to live my life in a way that reflects the hope resurrections gives. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Share The Message of Jesus

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
share-Jesus #Easter #Jesus sowandgather.com

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6 NIV

Recently I went into a convenience store with my youngest son to purchase snacks and after thoroughly looking at the wide array of candy, he picked out mints. As we left the store, he popped out the mint container and asked me if I wanted one.

As he handed me the mints, I noticed that the container was round and flat like a hockey puck and the label was full of color. I examined the container closely and noticed there were two openings on either side to acquire the mints. One opening was labeled “not to share” and the other “to share.” Upon opening the “not to share”, half of the container opened and it was so easy to grab one of the little mints. However the opening “to share” was teeny, tiny and you had to shake it vigorously to have even one mint fall out.

This exchange of mints challenged me to examine my life and I realized I live the same way. I am a believer in Jesus and like the first believers in the city of Anitoch, a Christian. (Acts 11:26) My purpose is to share and tell everyone about the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and how to have a relationship with Him and live with Him eternally.

However, I falter and there are days I can barely shake any words out about Jesus and when I do, the words are far and few. But Jesus wants me to do more, He wants me to share actively and generously and boldly speak about His love and life. Jesus wants my life’s container to be wide open shaking out Him and His love to everyone.

Dig Deeper |

Acts 1: 1-9, Matthew 28:18-20

Action Item |

Do you actively share your faith in Jesus with others? Search for reasons you chose “not to share” and ask God to overcome these obstacles and begin “to share” with others.

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, you are a saving God. Help me to share you with others in this world generously and with vigor. I want others to know and love you, too. Amen.

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The Light Always Shines in the Darkness

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
the-light-always-shines-in-the-darkeness #Easter #Jesus sowandgather.com

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12 NIV

Have you ever attended a Good Friday or Tenebrae service? This church service is on the Friday before Easter and by its name means “shadows” or “darkness.”

Upon entering this service a large splintered cross with jet black fabric draped on the crossbeams and a round thorny crown entwined on the upright is set front and center near the altar. The altar is stripped of all ornaments except for a black parament on the lectern. There are seven candles lit representing the seven last words of Jesus on the cross and one final candle representing Jesus himself.

As the service progresses, each of the seven words Jesus said is read with a few meditative words spoken in response. After each word one of the seven candles is extinguished and the lights are dimmed. The hymns that are sung are somber, introspective, and sorrowful but yet there are stanzas which ring with hope.

Finally, as he died on the cross, Jesus spoke these last words, “It is finished.” John 19:30 The candle is extinguished and there is darkness across the room except for one candle, the candle representing Jesus. This candle is taken out of the room and you hear this loud boom representing the stone locking the grave where Jesus is laid. At that moment the tears begin to fall. I cry. Jesus died for me. He died for my sins. He gave up his life for me. I cant’…I can’t believe he died for me and my sins.

But wait. Amongst the tears I can see the candle reappearing and it pierces the darkness. Jesus is the light and he is present. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) I know and have experienced through this service the death and forgiveness of my sins and the horror of this act. But I can now look forward to Easter when I will celebrate with the church the victory over death and the life I have in Jesus. I have hope. I can rejoice. I am forgiven. Hallelujah!

Dig Deeper |

John 19:16-42

Action Item |

Attend a Good Friday or Tenebrae Service

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, Wow! You are the Savior of the world. Thank you for dying on that rugged splintered cross for me and for forgiving my sins. Thank you for arising on the third day to give me victory over death and life eternal. You are truly the loving and saving God. Amen.

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Come To Jesus When You Need A Break

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
Come-To-Jesus-When-You-Need-A-Break sowandgather.com #sowandgather #Easter

He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

“I just want to crawl in a hole,” my sweet friend shared with me recently. Voicing what many feel in a variety of circumstances, she truly needs an escape. A deep feeling of sorrow surrounded me for this precious woman. She is facing many life struggles and difficult decisions. As I drove away from the conversation, my mind was flooded with the times I too have felt overwhelmed by life’s trials.

Women face a variety of struggles. The marriage relationship presents challenges through battles of the will, selfishness, and unmet needs. Parenthood brings a variety of insecurities, anxieties and indecision. Life itself, with our jobs, our outside commitments and even our daily routines, can sometimes overwhelm us.

All women have moments that lure them to the need for an escape.

We are overwhelmed with options when needing this escape! We can go with the Forest Gump solution and, “Run, sister, Run!” We can choose the Hollywood option and get the Oscar for faking it! We can take the Eeyore option and simply know that it won’t get better. Possibly, we can go with the, “It’s all about me” option and do as much as we can to feel pretty, relaxed, and fulfilled.

God offers us another option for escape. You see, in His divine knowledge, He knew we would, at times need an escape, a refuge. He very simply says,” when you need this refuge, COME TO ME”. Coming to Him doesn’t have to involve a physical action. It is a basic action of the heart and spirit.

Are you feeling like you want to crawl in a hole? If so there is truly only one escape that will give you true refuge; talk to Jesus. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, in your heart and spirit, go to Him now.

Digging Deeper |

Psalm 18

Action item |

What do you feel you need to escape from? List those life struggles and talk to Jesus about them now. Ask Him for wisdom. Resist the urge to escape in ways that will not truly help you.

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, you are our place of escape, our refuge. Let me hide here in your presence for just this moment so that I can receive your strength and power. Jesus give me a vision for my future and the hope that only you can give. Amen.

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In Christ, I am Dressed as Royalty

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
In-Christ-I-Am-Dressed-As-Royalty sowandgather.com #Easter

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him2 Corinthians 5:21

About this time each year, my mom would take my sister and me shopping to buy new dresses and shoes to wear on Easter Sunday. I loved looking at dresses in pretty spring colors and fun, new sandals.

Easter was a big celebration at our little mountain church. Everyone looked their very best on that morning. Some of the older women would wear hats and gloves, and I thought that was so “big city-like.” The little girls were dressed in their frilly petticoats, young girls in their sun dresses and heels, and boys in coats and ties (who couldn’t wait to take them off!) The church was filled with spring flowers and a cross that stood center stage with a purple sash draped over it.

Many years later, I still find myself wanting to buy something new for Easter Sunday. The anticipation of celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and King is exciting, but the new outfit I’ll wear will only feel good for the moment, and eventually those feelings and that dress will fade.

No matter how I try to cover it up or dress it up, I’m a sinner. Paul tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. I’m a sinner who God sent His Son for, (John 3:16). I’m a sinner who Jesus died for. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,” 2 Corinthians 5:21. I’m a sinner who once wore filthy rags.

The cross is a reminder that the blood of Jesus washed me clean, and through Him, I am clothed in righteousness. Without His sacrifice and His blood redeeming me, I am just covering up filthy rags (Romans 3:24).

Jesus bore my sin on that cross; He took my place. He has replaced my ugliness with His righteousness. I am humbled by how much God so loved me, and would grant me such mercy and grace.

It really doesn’t matter what I wear this Easter because as a daughter of the King, I’m already dressed as royalty.

Dig Deeper |

Romans 5:6; 1 Peter 2:22-24

Action Item |

As we prepare our hearts for Easter, have you submitted your life to Christ and allowed Him to wash you clean?

Prayer |

Dear Father, it is through Your amazing grace that I am saved and made new. May I walk in righteousness, through Your Son Jesus, all the days planned for me. Amen

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Desperate for Grace – Meeting Jesus At The Throne

grace, EasterMarci AnthonyComment
Meet Jesus At The Throne sowandgather.com #sowandgather

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of needHebrews 4:16 (NIV)

“I can’t face this day,” my first thoughts on a drab Monday morning.

The struggle to place my feet on the floor was intense. As I walked through the bathroom, I avoided my reflection. It simply was not a good weekend. Speaking frankly, I messed up a lot. I wasn’t a great mom and certainly not a great wife.

I kept trying to tell myself, “It’s a new day!” I wasn’t convinced. I felt the pull in my soul to sit with Jesus, but I just couldn’t do it. Guilt surrounded me as I went through the motions of making lunches, starting laundry and getting ready to workout. Morning became noonday, and the ache in my spirit remained. I desperately needed some grace. I desperately needed a rescue.

In my very own translation of scripture I was reminded that Jesus tells me to approach Him in my time of need. Oh dear sister, I was in a great time of need. I finally sat. I began my approach. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

Approaching the “throne of God’s grace” sounds intimidating, but if you have ever had a morning like mine, than you can think of no better place to be. How amazing that the God of the universe offers a place I don’t deserve (grace) and a place where HE withholds what I do deserve (mercy). The place where grace abounds is the only place we can run when we need forgiveness, hope and instruction. Sitting with Jesus was truly my only hope of rescue on the Monday afternoon.

My instinct was to stumble timidly to Jesus as I got ready to confess my sin. As I meditated on Hebrews 4:16, Jesus, oh so clearly, told me to do the contrary; to run to him with incredible confidence. That confidence, I discovered that day, did not resemble proud stomping, but a quiet run filled with the knowledge of rescue ahead.

And so it began, with tears running down my face, I poured out my deepest, truest thoughts, feelings, and confessions. In my time of need, on my knees before Jesus, I found the grace I had avoided throughout the day.

When you are covered in guilt and shame and are desperate for some grace and mercy, take it from a fellow sojourner, quietly run to the throne of God’s grace knowing rescue is ahead.

Digging Deeper |

Psalm 51

Action item |

What are the actions in your life that keep you in a cycle of guilt? Make a list of those items and confess them at the throne of grace today.

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, I thank you for your grace and mercy. I thank you that you provide a place of rescue. Jesus, give me the strength to run to you confidently. I confess my mistakes to you. Amen.

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The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth #sowandgather sowandgather.com

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Matthew 5:5

Have you ever had fire build up inside you, the kind that starts as a small flickering flame then grows in intensity? You try to hold it in, but the temperature in your body is turning your face red, your heart beats wildly, and then your mouth opens and the indignant words spew!

This can be the result of what happens when I feel offended, entitled or taken advantage of. My flesh wants to fire back a remark, give my reasons for why I’m right, and basically rebel.

What did Jesus mean when He said “Blessed are the meek”? Surely, He didn’t mean that I need to cower in the face of opposition and or lay down my rights -- right?

Jen Wilken, in her Sermon on the Mount study writes, “A meek person is someone who is not occupied with self at all, someone who does not insist on a set of rights.” Ouch.

Webster’s Dictionary defines meek as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment.”

Many people equate meekness with weakness, but actually it is the opposite.

Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and meek in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

When I take His yoke upon me, He is my strength. When I follow Jesus, He teaches me how to lay down my “natural” desire to fight, to rebel, to have my own way, and then, to submit in obedience to His will. When I do this, my eyes are not on me, but on Him.

A.W. Tozer once wrote, “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God more important than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything.”

Dig Deeper |

Jeremiah 6:16; Philippians 2:1-11

Action Item |

Do you have a rebellious spirit? Is it your way or the highway? If so, ask God to show you the root of your rebellion.

Prayer |

Dear Father, draw me close to You this day. Forgive my rebellious spirit, and teach me to lay aside my rights and to do Your will.

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When Loving Someone Is Hard

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
When Loving Someone Is Hard sowandgather.com #love #Easter

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. I John 4:7 NIV 

When my sons were young, I used to read them the stories of the Bible. I read the stories of Noah, Daniel, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus feeding the 5,000 and, of course, the story of Zacchaeus. When we read that story, we always sang this song. 

Listen as I sing: Zacchaeus was a wee, little man and a wee, little man was he. He climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Savior he wanted to see. And when the Savior came that way, he looked up in the tree and said, “Zacchaeus, you come down for I am going to your house for a tortilla.” What a tortilla? You eat tortillas in South Texas. You do not drink tea as the song is normally sung. Only true Texans would appreciate this version. 

Okay, let’s get on with it. 

Who was this Zacchaeus? He was a short, Jewish man who was a chief tax collector and very wealthy. However, he was hated and despised by all and very unlovable. 

But one wonderful day Jesus intentionally came to his home and Zacchaeus’ life changed. As Luke 19:9 stated, “Today salvation came to this house in this man.” Zacchaeus became a follower, or disciple of Jesus and his life was forever changed. 

One thing always sticks out to me when I think about Zacchaeus. He was a man who wasn’t liked and was very unlovable. I think about all the people in my life who are unlovable, and there are many. They are just plain hard to love. They have consisted of my family, my children’s friends and teachers, co-workers, bosses, and even people I volunteered with at school or other organizations. 

But, 1 John 4:7 calls me to love. I am to love the unlovable; I have no choice. It is a command. The only way I can truly love others, even those difficult people, is through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. So, this command prompts me to pray for help so that I can show the love of Christ to ALL people. Through Him, I can love anyone. 

Begin to invite the unlovable into your life, and share a tortilla! 

Dig Deeper |

Luke 19:1-10

Action Item |

Love the Zacchaeus in your life. 

Prayer |

Dear Jesus, Thank you for your love. Help me to show and act out your love to all, especially the unlovable. Amen.

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God is Always Faithful

EasterMarci AnthonyComment
God Is Always Faithful sowandgather.com #Easter

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

“God is so good and faithful!” That is the text I sent after hearing the good news about a doctor’s report. Would I have sent the same text had the results been bad? Wouldn’t it still be the same God? Why do I only consider Him “good and faithful” when it’s the news I want? Sometimes when I consider the news to be bad, it is actually when God is being the most faithful and good to me. 

I wonder if the apostle thought Jesus was still “good and faithful” when He laid in the tomb? If Jesus had not died on the cross to be risen up three days later, we would have no “good news” to share. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is such a familiar and comforting passage, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," says the Lord, "thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I have always loved this verse, but do you notice it doesn’t say anything about a pain free, easy, no problem life? Actually, it was written to the Israelites when they were about to go through a hard time of 70 years waiting on God. It tells us that God the Father THINKS about me…about you! He wants us to have a life of peace, a future, and a hope. 

1. Peace, in the midst of our life and all that comes to us. By Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, only He can give us peace. John 14:27 - “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 

2. A future, not just a future in 5, 15, or even 50 years. He gives us an eternal future. Jesus is right this moment preparing a place for each one of us who trust in Him. A special place just for you! This place isn’t close to Him or down the road, but it is in HIS FATHER’S HOUSE! John 14:2 - “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” 

3. Hope, not just for eternity, but also for right now, for today. I think I know what’s good for me but God knows what’s best for me. Am I willing to trust Him even when I don’t get the answer I really wanted? Even when the answer is hard and painful? I Corinthians 2:9 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 

What if the answers we didn’t like were actually protecting us from something worse or even preparing us for something better? 

Sometimes I think of all that God has promised: peace that is beyond human understanding; hope that is better than I could ever imagine, and a future to spend eternity with God. In the light of these promises, then why do I struggle when life seems too hard and the trials seem too much? 

As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this season and all the joy and gladness it means, remember that first Jesus had to endure the cross for you and me. We can trust Him regardless of what comes our way. 

Digging deeper |

Job 42:1-6; Psalm 84:11

Action item |

When you are going through hard times, do what Jesus did…”draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) 

Prayer |

Lord Jesus, thank You for willingly enduring the cross so that I can spend eternity in heaven. Help me to understand that everything that comes into my life has gone through my Father’s hands; the same hands that created me and everything in this world. I thank you, in Jesus name.

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