Blog Archives

Mondays, Faith, and Encountering the Face of God

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day
10  For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

It is God’s will and express command that believers should do good works which the Holy Spirit works in them, and God is willing to be pleased with them for Christ’s sake and he promises to reward them gloriously in this and in the future life. (1)  

Our faith is not for ourselves alone; it is also for others. Faith wants to be shared. Consequently, it always involves a going out to others, going with the steps of a heart enlightened by the name of Jesus.  (2)

It is another Monday.
We’ve left our sanctuaries, and re-entered the harsh “reality” of the world.(3)
We’ve left behind the peace and joy and restoration we encountered at our churches.
We’ve left behind the security and love that surrounds our homes.

Now, in our workplaces, in our classrooms, in our doctor’s offices, we realize it is Monday.  The day we claim to dread, the day were frustrations forgotten for a brief moment called “the weekend” come back to hammer us.

It is now time we get to do God’s work, to see how the praises we sang and said yesterday turn into worship today.  For today is our day of worship, the day to praise God with our lives.  It is the day to see our faith become more than what we think, but to be what we know, what we rejoice in, to be what we share.

It is time to see God turn us into His masterpiece; It is time to encounter Jesus in the faces of the least of these.  Those broken, those beaten and harassed.  Those so destroyed by their own sin, those so crushed by the sins of others, that they don’t know how to do anything but strike out in frustration.  Those so broken that in pain they cause us pain and frustration. They may not look like the least, but God knows their need, and you’ve been sent, so go…to the least…

This is where worship proves the transformation that God is causing in our lives.  As we embrace those who antagonize us, who would hurt us,  who strike out with words, and yes sometimes with violence. As we go to them, as we trust in God’s guidance, we worship Him by embracing them.  We worship God by knowing He can change them, calm them, transform them. Even those that need a miracle to change.  In Christ, we find the strength to imitate Him, and bear our crosses, for them, because He bore a cross for us.

It’s a Monday; it is time to worship… let nothing distract you from His love, or the least of these.

 

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 557). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 317). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

(3)  I would contend that we confuse reality, for reality is best determined by God’s perspective, not our own.

Traveling Companions of the Cross – Lesson 1 Become Okay with being Last

Travelling Companions of the Cross

Lesson 1: Become Okay with Being Last….

Mark 9:30–37

 In Jesus Name

As we travel through life, may you be aware of God’s grace, of His mercy and love that rubs off on you, transforming your life, and the lives of your family.

The Theory

For the next 10 weeks, the lessons in our sermons are going to work on a theme.

It is based on the truth, that the longer you spend with someone, the more they rub off on you.  You parent of our preschoolers will notice this over the next 10-15 years, as your children will pick up behaviors they observe.  You might have already seen this, if they watch one particular show a lot and pick up on the verbal phrases of their favorite character.  It’s one of the reasons you will have to get used to handy many, doc McStuffins, Dora the Explorer, and movies like CARS, UP, and Frozen as the kids watch them 475 times each!

Part of our role as a school is to help you help them pick up the good behaviors, attitudes and phrases and discard those not so good.

Picking up behaviors, phrases, and attitudes is something we will do all of our lives.  To put it simply – we rub off on each other!  Without realizing it, we begin to act like those we admire, those we care about, and sometimes, those who antagonize us!

That’s the nature of the sermon series, the behaviors we pick up – as Christ’s companions In life.

The First Lesson – The First Lesson

In our second reading, we are going to see the first lesson, that we can be okay with being last, with being the servant of all.  Jesus gets the disciples – basically a term for apprentice or people who master something through on-the-job training, Jesus gets them alone for a while.  He knows his crucifixion is near, so he wants to explain to them again what will happen.  This is what he taught them

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.”

there is a problem, though, as we keep reading

32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

He couldn’t get to the point where he would explain to them that caring about people means this is the length you go to, to show them, love. That is part of His lesson for them throughout scripture.  Paul does a great explanation of that in Philippians 2, and in Romans and 1 Corinthians 12.  It is what he means by, imitate me, as I imitate Jesus.

They don’t understand yet that He has to die, or that He has to die so that they can live, so they can be free of the punishment their sins deserve.

Rather than ask, they keep quiet – they decide the lesson is too overwhelming… but they will learn, as will we

The First Quiz

The second part of the lesson occurs as the disciples argue who is the top student, the assistant to the rabbi-master.  That is what they are asking, “Jesus, who is in authority if you leave?”  For the greatest student always succeeded the master in that day.

As they are arguing about it, Jesus gives them the lesson again,

“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

And Jesus will show them what that means, as He heads to the cross, to die for them, and for us.  He does it because He is the greatest example of God’s love we have ever known.  He does it because the love of God drives him to do something no one else ever could.  He dies, as Isaiah prophesied said he would, 700 years before the cross,

5  But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6 (NLT)
The Refresher

Which brings us to the third lesson, as Jesus takes time for the youngest, the weakest, those that society would think aren’t worth the time of a master teacher.

Imagine a seminary president, taking the time to show an unknown preschooler around a university.  Not with television crews and thousands following him, but just the child and a few friends.  Or think of computer CEO, playing some chutes and ladders with the 4-year-old daughter of one of his stockroom clerks.  Again, not in the limelight, but because he valued them. Or a superstar taking the time to visit a senior home, or a President or international religious leader, who would spend time, without the cameras with someone in the hospital, or a forgotten convict in prison.

The lesson is to love the least, and that is what the disciples of Jesus need to learn.

Note I didn’t say they learned it – for we are disciples as well.

That is the example Jesus gives the disciples, and yet takes it even deeper with these words,

37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf* welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

Here is the key to learning this lesson.  It is found in welcoming Christ, in welcoming the Father’s presence in their life.  Because Christ did exactly what He is teaching us, as He comes to us.  He loves those who everyone else says are not worth the time.  When we hear that by His authority, our sins are forgiven.  When He invites us to pray to the Father, and gives us the words for when we don’t have the words.

We show we’ve learned not just the lesson of not being first, and the value of serving others because we’ve realized that He is how He loves us.  As we realize that love for us, it changes us, to use a modern phrase, His character rubs off on us. We reflect the nature of God, the God who loves us, who comes to us, who put our salvation, our eternity before his own pleasure, and served us by dying for us.

It is because of this, that we know the peace of God that goes beyond all understanding, that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

Be a Missionary: Serve All People, including the most broken around us?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, 9  letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, 10  a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earthEphesians 1:8-10 (MSG)

22  On the contrary, we cannot do without the parts of the body that seem to be weaker; 23  and those parts that we think aren’t worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care; while the parts of the body which don’t look very nice are treated with special modesty, 24  which the more beautiful parts do not need. God himself has put the body together in such a way as to give greater honor to those parts that need it. 25  And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. 26  If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. 1 Corinthians 12:22-26 (TEV) 

“It’s easy to love the people who are standing hard and fast, pressing on to meet their higher calling.  
But the one’s who might be struiggling?  We tend to judge to harshly, and refuse to try and catch them when they’re falling.
We put people into boxes and draw our hard conclusions, and when they do the things we know they should not do we sometimes write them off as hopeless and we throw them to the dogs.  Our compassion and forgiveness sometimes seem in short supply.”  (1)

600  Serving and forming children, caring lovingly for the sick. To make ourselves understood by simple souls, we have to humble our intelligence; to understand poor sick people we have to humble our heart. In this way, on our knees in both intellect and body, it is easy to reach Jesus along that sure way of human wretchedness, of our own wretchedness. It will lead us to make ‘a nothing’ of ourselves in order to let God build on our nothingness.  (2)

On my mail pile, and about to be in my discard pile is a small poster, challenging people to “become a missionary.”  It saddens me in a way, because the it focuses mission somewhere “out there”.  It is of course, and there are those God is calling to be a missionary in places that are far different, far more “extreme”.   But it overlooks the fact that we are all missionaries, we are all “sent” as the apostles were, to take the gospel into places where only we go.  To our families, to our neighborhood, to our work places. 

We are missionaries when we determine to love those that are struggling, when we reach out to those that are falling, when we patiently work with them, helping them take each step, being there when they cannot.  Being willing to look at their situation, their actions, their lives, not to condemn them, but to realize how much they need God’s love, and how they will have to be nursed back to spiritual health. 

Make no mistake, ministering to the broken takes time and effort, patience and endurance, and mostly, trust in God.  Know that God has given us all we need to minister to them, He has provided all that is needed to see them brought into His family.  They are the ones to whom we are sent, even though the work may bend us over, and we feel like we will break.  If not break, that we will lose our patience, succumb to frustration, or even despair. 

Yet that is our calling, they aren’t just a mission field, they are the mission, they are the ones God has loved enough to send Jesus to die for, and to send us to serve, to minister to, to bring God’s love so that they can find healing.

Perhaps the challenge in doing so is that we have to confront our own brokenness, our own inability, our own failures.  Indeed we must, for it is then we see the power of God at work in our healing, that leads us to the confidence that God desires that they, yes, even they, can come to know that healing.   It is through our weakness, that we see the power of God unleashed, and trust Him enough to do what others see as impossible, There, in our humility, we find the very things they need, the mercy, the comfort, the peace, the love of God, who delights in making us His own.

SO do not fear, do not hide. cry out Lord Have Mercy, and go tho those He has sent you to, that they may learn the cry as well!

(1) from Celtic Daily Prayer, Harper One Publishing, pg. 307  (attributed to Chuck Firard)

(2) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2220-2224). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

%d bloggers like this: