Devotional Message, Sermon Prompts

Which Leper Are You This Thanksgiving?

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On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw, them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-17
Sigmund Freud had a horrible cancer to his mouth, and in 1926, he also developed heart trouble and spent time in a sanatorium. He returned to Vienna with a yearning for morning drives, and for the first time, he said, he experienced the glories of springtime in Vienna. “What a pity,” he wrote, “that one has to grow old and ill before making this discovery.” Thanksgiving is a great time to stop and think. To reflect on the things God has done for us this past year.

Luke has given us a story from the life of Jesus that helps us think about the importance of being thankful for God’s goodness to me. And this story can help us to grow in our understanding of having a grateful spirit. With the story of the ten lepers, Luke emphasizes this rare gift of a thankful spirit. Luke is the only Gospel writer who tells this story. It is possible that Luke met the grateful leper years later and heard the story from this man’s very lips.

Notice Jesus’ final words: “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. And Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give God praise?'” Only one had taken the time to thank the person who had made his recovery possible.

Have you noticed how infrequent gratitude is expressed these days? It seems like people have just come to expect everything to be given to them.

A man writing at the post office desk was approached by an older fellow who had a postcard in his hand. The old man said, “Sir, could you please address this note for me?” The man gladly did so, and he agreed to write a short message on the postcard, and he even signed it for the man, too.

Finally, the man doing the writing said to the older man, “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”

The old fellow thought about it for a minute, and he said, “Yes, at the end could you just put, ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'”

How often do you hear people express sincere gratitude? This Thanksgiving season try this experiment. Keep track of the number of complaints you hear each day, and compare that with the number of times you hear people express sincere words of gratitude. And do me a favor and when you read this post record the results in the comment section.

In the account of the Ten Lepers, it is evident that only one was grateful and showed a heart of gratitude. I think it is appropriate to connect the attitude of gratitude to the writings of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12. Paul writes, in Romans,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:1-8

John Stott in his book on Romans points out that gratitude flows out from an appreciation of God’s grace. Stott says that “there is no greater incentive to holy living than a contemplation of the mercies of God.” So, our thankfulness and our attitude of gratitude flow out of our sense of the mercy God has showered on us. If you struggle with, bring grateful it is possible that you also struggle to receive God’s grace in your life. Maybe you feel you don’t deserve that kind of love and attention from the Father? It is possible there is some unforgiven sin in your past that still haunts you? Could it be that there are just too many broken relationships in your past that you cannot seem to keep and maintain any relationships? Whatever it is that is keeping you outside of God’s grace know this, you are forgiven. You have been forgiven not because of who you are but because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. It is possible those other nine lepers didn’t feel worthy to come back and give thanks. Their past sins may have haunted them also, but look at what they missed out on a chance to have all the pain of the past forgiven.

In the parable of the ten lepers when the one realizes how powerfully God’s grace and mercy has been showered on him, his response is, Jesus I can’t thank you enough. You stooped down and showed me a lowly poor miserable sinner, amazing and all-encompassing grace. Dear Savior, you took time out of your day to reach down and heal me and not only physically but spiritually. When others turn, and run the other way, you stopped and embraced me. Lord, when I think of what you have given me back, all I can do is to you my gratitude and love.

That is our response as well. When we stop this Thanksgiving and reflect on what God through Jesus Christ has given us back our spiritual response is gratitude. Notice I said our spiritual response because I believe our natural response is to take all of this for granted. To assume that somehow we deserve God’s mercy and grace when we deserve wrath and punishment. But our spiritual response understands exactly what we have been given back. Spiritually we know that we are poor miserable sinners in need of God’s grace. Spiritually we realize that God did not need to waste any of his precious time with us.

Spiritually we understand that like the leper we stand before a holy and righteous God covered with the sores and the scabs of our sins. But instead of turning away Jesus comes to us grabs hold of us and tells us that he will take that uncleanness away and make us whole again. He will allow us through his death and resurrection back into fellowship with him and the Father. We give thanks to God for his mercy shown to us through his Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

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Devotional Message

How We Handle Grief Is a Reflection of Our Understanding of Heaven

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A woman carries a cross shaped key to gates of heaven

On November 1st every year the church stops to give thanks to God for all the Saints who have gone before us.  It is a time to remember all those special people that He put in our lives, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, grandchildren and friends.  All these special saints that were witnesses to us.  I want to take time in this post to honor them for their walk with God and to thank God for sending us such a great cloud of witnesses.

The devotional theme for today is “Blessed are they.”  I am not here to glorify their accomplishments or lift them up because these saints are especially kind and good people.  We give thanks to God for them because they have finished their race, they have fought the good fight, they ran with perseverance the course laid out for them and now they have received their reward. No more struggle with the flesh, no more pain and tears for these people, they are in our Father’s house, they are at peace.  So “Blessed are they” because they have obtained an inheritance that will not fade, one that no robber can break in and steal. They have received eternal life.  They have crossed over from death to life.  Their struggle is over, they won their crown of righteousness, and we thank God for them.

Today we will look at one of the most famous sermons ever written, the Sermon on the Mount.  We will look at the opening section of this sermon, a section called the Beatitudes.

The church of the Middle Ages gathered together a list of attitudes that not checked could led believers away from God.  They called this list the seven deadly sins.  The sins were: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.
The first destructive attitude was pride.  We see the pride of sin on display daily, in politics, Hollywood, in our families, and even surprisingly in the church.  And if we are not excluded.  Simply hold up a mirror I am sure you will discover another culprit, you as well.  The church defined pride as “excessive egotism, being so self-centered that a person had no room in their spirit for God.” [1] It is easy to allow our ego to get puffed up, or as my mom would say, “became too full of yourself.”  When our pride goes unchecked that condition affects our relationship with God.  Pride pushes the need for God out of our spirit.  Making it easy to ignore the need for God altogether. Pride is very dangerous not only to one’s spiritual health but to one’s physical life as well.

During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. “Nonsense,” snapped the general. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—-.” A moment later Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.

Today in the Word, August 30, 1993.
Martin Luther said, “Before God, everyone is compelled to lower his plumes.”

The Poor in Spirit

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

 This verse is communicating that the Christ follower who realizes he needs a Savior is blessed.  “Poor in spirit” does not indicate that your faith is inadequate or lacking something.  “Poor in spirit” is the condition that our spirit finds itself in because of our original sin.

There was this patient who went into the doctor’s office and sat down and said, “Okay, Doc here I am, help me.”  The doctor responded, “Well what is wrong with you?” The patient said, “How should I know you are the doctor?”  To which the doctor responded, “You have to help me help you. And believe you me, you do need help!”

The believer like this patient needs help.  The human soul is “poor in spirit” because we are sinners.  Sin separates us from God. Paul helps destroy any illusions we have that somehow, we are excluded from that claim in Romans 3, “…as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.’” Romans 3:10-11.  Armed with this firm understanding, we realize that we need help.

As Christians, we are well aware of the spiritual truth that we can’t save ourselves.  We are spiritually unable to stand before a just and holy God.  Thus, Christ comes to the rescue.  Christ stands in the gap for us.  He takes the full weight of our sins upon Himself.  And Christ gave His life as a ransom for a spiritually poor world.

Those Who Mourn

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Grief is never a blessed experience. Grief and sorrow are painful.  They test our faith and can rock our trust in God.  Yet, Jesus in this section says, “Blessed are those who mourn.”  But not because they are mourning, or they have endured a loss but blessed are they for they shall be comforted.  The blessing is in the fact that our faith in Jesus can help us work our way through even the most devastating losses.  Missionary John G. Paton shares this account.

Not long after arriving in New Hebrides as a pioneer missionary, John G. Paton and his wife rejoiced in the coming of a baby son to gladden their home. But the joy was short-lived. Soon death took both his wife and child, and Dr. Paton had to dig their graves and bury his loved ones with his own hands. In writing of this experience, he testified, “If it had not been for Jesus and the fellowship and grace He afforded me, I am certain I would have gone mad or died of grief beside their lonely graves.” Marvelously strengthened from above, the bereaved servant of God found that the promises of the Word were able to sustain him through the heartache and sorrow of his tragic loss. Our Daily Bread, August 6, 1992

In the original Greek, the word used for mourning is the strongest of those related to grief. It describes mourning the death of a person who is dearly loved.  Many reading this today are feeling the full weight of grief. You may be experiencing pain that is greater than any joy you have experienced in the past. Know that one day you too will be comforted.  The pain will be replaced with rejoicing.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.

Know that mourning is not the end but a transition point.  A transition for your loved one from death to life.  A transition for you from mourning to laughter.  A transition to a great reunion in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Blessed are we who fight the good fight and persevere for the kingdom of heaven awaits.

[1] Parish Publishing, LLC

 

Devotional Message

The 500th Anniversary of Reformation: It’s All About Grace!

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Today, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It was a world-shattering movement that began with Dr. Martin Luther and his 1517 work The Ninety-Five Theses.

Here is the reformation summarized by former Synod President Gerald Kieschnick.

  • In the late 15th century the Catholic Church was afflicted by internal corruption.
    • The sale of “indulgences” raised money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
    • Indulgences made people believe deceased loved ones could be released from purgatory.
    • The slogan was: “When a coin in the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
    • Onto this scene arrived a troubled man named Martin Luther.
    • Luther saw God as a God of justice and was tormented by unforgiven guilt and sin.
    • In a thunderstorm during which Luther’s traveling companion was killed by a bolt of lightning, Luther exclaimed, “Save me, St. Anne. I will become a monk!”
    • He survived, became a monk, but could find no peace with God through his own effort.
    • Luther’s discovery of God’s grace came primarily from Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
    • What happened next was an act of courage, motivated by what Luther had discovered.
    • He boldly spoke biblical truth to the church’s power by posting his 95 theses, intended as an invitation for a debate on topics of faith and church practice.
    • Pressure was placed on him to retract his criticism of church belief and practice.
    • He refused to do so and was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church.
    • Asked to retract his writings, Luther simply stated: “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, for I do not accept the authority of popes and councils because they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot, and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
    • Ultimately, Luther was excommunicated for refusing to retract his beliefs.

Luther began by criticizing the selling of indulgences. That transaction on the surface sounds like an excellent idea for the sinner. You get to buy forgiveness for an act you are going to commit or have committed. Luther was also insisting that the Pope had no authority over purgatory, which I would describe as a spiritual waiting room. The Catholic Catechism teaches that in purgatory one “undergoes purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven”[1]

The Catholic doctrine of the merits of the saints was another major sticking point as it had no foundation in the gospel. The Protestant position, yet, would come to incorporate other critical doctrinal changes such as sola scriptura (scripture alone). Scripture alone is the belief that God’s word as contained in the Bible has supreme authority in all matters of doctrine and practice. Every other writing is secondary.

And Sola Fide (faith alone). Faith alone is the key to the foundation of our Christian faith. We believe and confess that God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted and received through faith alone, and not based on good works.

The movement started by this monk is still a vital change today. God continues to bring new people to faith and transform the lives of His followers.  Today I want to cover two major points with you. God used this colossal shift in Luther’s understanding of how God operates to transform Luther and thus transform God’s Church.

The Weight of God vs. the Grace of God.

You can hear in Luther’s words just how deeply Luther felt the weight of God. How deeply he was tormented by his sins, and how that sin weighs on the heart of the sinner.

“Though I lived as a religious leader without reproach, I felt, with the most disturbed conscience imaginable, that I was a sinner before God. I did not love. Indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.” Dr. Martin Luther

The quote points to just how deeply Luther felt conflicted with God. How Luther was keenly aware of his sinfulness and the impact of God’s judgment on him for his sins. According to the Roman Catholic Church, Christians had to earn the merits of Jesus’ forgiveness. Nothing was free. Christ’s death for them was only a starting point; there was much more the sinner needed to do to achieve salvation. That need to earn forgiveness that idea that Christ is not enough left many good faithful Christians feeling the weight of being inadequate.

You can hear Paul’s frustration with the Galatians who were so readily abandoning the biblical foundation of grace. The Galatians like Luther was falling prey to the trap of looking to be saved based on their good deeds.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” Gal 3:1-4

When we approach the throne of God with only our good works to offer as a sacrifice, we quickly realize just how inadequate that appears before a perfect God. To offer our pitiful gifts to the God who created the Universe seems quite small. So, Christians were never confident they ever could work off all their sins.

Deep down the human heart knows that we are born in sin and have no legitimate way to earn the forgiveness of those sins. The frustration that humanity has when attempting to obtain favor with God through works is the feeling of being mistreated. Unfair treatment angers a lot of people, especially people like Luther who desperately want to play by the rules.

The Roman Catholic teaching struck a much more profound chord in Luther. It is part of human nature to long for the attention and praise of our fathers. This same desire extends to our Heavenly Father as well. According to the Church, Luther could never be sure he would receive that acceptance and love of the Heavenly Father.

The Grace of God.

The weight of God leads Luther to discover the grace of God. When Luther was hopeless, God opened the Scriptures to show him he was saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Luther came to understand, Jesus restored him to a right relationship with God. In this connection, Luther was unconditionally accepted by the Father. And the beauty of the message of Jesus is so are we.

Hear Paul’s words to the Ephesians,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.[1] Eph 2:4-9

Here is a moving illustration to explain God’s grace. An old Indian, after living many years in sin, was led to Christ by a missionary. Friends asked him to explain the change in his life. Reaching down, he picked up a little worm and placed it on a pile of leaves. Then, touching a match to the leaves, he watched them smolder and burst into flames. As the flames worked their way up to the center where the worm lay, the old chief suddenly plunged his hand into the center of the burning pile and snatched out the worm. Holding the worm gently in his hand, he gave this testimony to the grace of God: “Me. . . that worm.”[2]

Forgiveness should be a straightforward concept, but it wages war against all mortal reason.  Why would anyone give us anything for free?  Something we didn’t earn, or buy or barter?  God offers us forgiveness before we ask for it.  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he lays out this grand image of the nature of God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…”  Ephesians 2:4-6

God has an everlasting desire to keep us with Him for all eternity. The Almighty, knowing our weakness created a plan to rescue us from sin that was entirely independent of any efforts on our part.  Thank God, we are not saved by the good things we do and fall from grace by the bad things we do.  If that was the merit system, we were working under we would all be lost. God’s grace means salvation is completely apart from any virtue we may think we have garnered. Grace says that Jesus did it all for our sakes! Our salvation is a free gift of God.

So, if the Father of Lies, Satan, is trying to convince you that you are not worthy of God’s love, well you are not, and neither am I.  But we are worthy of God’s grace, not because of what we may do but because of what Jesus DID for us on the cross.  Jesus gave up His life so that God “…might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7

God loves us so genuinely that He sent His son Jesus Christ to reach into the fires of hell and pull us out. He values our relationship so much that God will not be satisfied with a surface connection. God desires to draw all people to himself for eternity. God sent Jesus to bring back all the lost sheep into the Fathers sheepfold.  People matter to God. You matter to God!

If you are feeling lost or are experiencing a sense of confusion and “disconnectedness” in life, Jesus the Good Shepherd is seeking you. Jesus will not stop searching and with relentless grace won’t end until He finds you.

If your spirits are down, if you are feeling a sense of hopelessness, or if you are searching for joy, the God of comfort and life wants to connect with you. You can stop running away from Him and instead return to Him. He is waiting there for you with open and forgiving arms. Move into the waiting arms of your Savior the Good Shepherd. It is there that you will find the desires of your heart.

All people matter to God. All people are equally important to God. We have not only been found, but we are also redeemed. We are loved!

If you, like Luther, are feeling the full weight of God in your life, know that Jesus took that pressure to Calvary’s cross on your behalf. If you still think that something in your past is too big even for Jesus to forgive, know that nothing is too big that the blood of Jesus will not cover.

Here is an interesting Reformation you may not know about Luther’s dream church and it’s not European.  Read the link below:

http://religionnews.com/2017/10/28/martin-luthers-dream-church-it-wasnt-in-europe/

 

Devotional Message

This Love Story Is Better Than Any on the Hallmark Channel

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The Bible is a book of love stories: the love of Jacob for Rachel, of Boaz for Ruth, and of Joseph for Mary. But the greatest story is not one of these; rather, it is the story of God’s love for ordinary people!

  1. It is the story of an unreasonable love. ‘‘For God so loved the world . . .’’

Unreasonable because God’s love is not requested, respected and is seldom reflected. When things go wrong in the world like war, terrorism, homelessness, disease, drug addiction, or political campaigns, people tend to blame God. The world’s response to trouble is to seek diplomatic, judicial, economic, and social solutions. God’s love is not respected (valued) because it is viewed as old-fashioned, rigid, and restrictive. God’s love is seldom reflected in a world that worships at the altars of success, popularity, and power. In the midst of all of that, God’s love breaks through, and He freely loves the world, with what is an irrational and unreasonable love!

  1. It is the story of a unreserved love. ‘‘. . . that He gave His only Son . . .’’

William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice in the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!” Without thinking of herself, the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria, and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord.- Max Lucado

Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost. The Bible says, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” Songs 8:7-9 Unreserved is God’s gift given freely. Without hesitation, no debates, committees, conferences, or deliberations, what He gave was the only one—unique, incomparable, unmatched, and without equal – His Son! What a unreserved love!

  1. It is the story of an unrestricted love. ‘‘. . . that whoever believes in Him . . .’’

A certain medieval monk announced he would be preaching next Sunday evening on “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix. First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound. In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chancel. There was nothing else to say. How beautiful is the power of the cross? The cross proclaims loudly that Christ’s work on our behalf is a story of unrestricted love in that there are no qualifications to measure up to, achievements to master, or requirements to maintain. The gift of salvation is universal and offered as a free gift to the world.

  1. It is the story of an unrestrained love. ‘‘. . . should not perish, but have everlasting life.’’

Unrestrained in that God’s love for you has no limits (there is nothing it cannot do), knows no bounds (there is no place where it is hindered or ineffective), and it will never end. As the writer of Hebrews describes it, “Your way of life should be free from the love of money, and you should be content with what you have. After all, he has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5. What an unrestrained love!

  1. Sadly, it is also a story of an unrealized love.

There are many who have yet to respond or even hear of God’s love. ‘‘For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God’’ (vv. 17, 18).

At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholars were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. One person suggested that what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone else quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about the resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Another participant slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally, during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”

The room fell silent.  Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached.  No other religion makes that claim. After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride. Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions. Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements. But the beauty of Christianity is that God’s grace is completely and totally free. We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it. It was not given to us because we were better than others because we gave more than someone else, we worked harder than another, were more talented, better looking, or more fit. None of that matters to God. – “What’s So Amazing About Grace” – Philip Yancey

Hear the text again from the Message Bible: “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one, and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”

So, our mission is clear, those who know God’s love have the privilege to take it to those who have yet to hear, so that they may not only understand the most significant Love Story ever told, but receive the full benefits of that love first hand through a life of eternity with God who made your salvation possible.

Devotional Message

You Were Chosen For A Divine Purpose

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But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.“ – 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)   

We are a Chosen Race

A one-legged school teacher from Scotland came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for service in China. “With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary?” Asked Taylor. 

“I do not see those with two legs going,” replied George Scott. He was accepted.  – Pillar of Fire, January First, 1983.

 This opening illustration is a reminder that no matter what our physical condition we are still a chosen people.  The only qualification for service is that we are believers.  Believers are a “chosen people,” we are a people who belong to God because we have been elected, chosen by him for a divine purpose.

The privilege of belonging is conveyed in our identity

 Peter describes us as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.”

 “In Exodus, the title applies to Israel, with whom God enacts his covenant at Sinai. Israel’s priesthood was such that they were to mirror to the nations the glory of Yahweh, so that all nations would see that no god rivals the Lord (cf. also Isa 61:6). Unfortunately, Israel mainly failed in this endeavor as the Assyrian (722 b.c.), and Babylonian (586 b.c.) exiles demonstrate. The reason for the exile is that Israel failed to keep God’s law. Now God’s kingdom of priests consists of the church of Jesus Christ. It too is to mediate God’s blessings to the nations, as it proclaims the gospel.”[1]

 

What makes this priesthood special is that no one can be a priest alone.  A priest is connected to someone.  In the case of the believer, our connection is to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are not replacing the one who gave His life as a ransom for our sins. Instead, we are called to share that message to a lost and dying world.

 

Jesus Christ is the priest before God.  It is He who offers up the sacrifice of Himself for our sake, and thankfully in our place. As a priest he does for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves, He stands in our place before the high court of God.  He hears the charges read against Him and takes the punishment due us and then turns to us after the sentencing and declares us not guilty.  By Jesus’ priestly sacrifice we are priests.   We live by the forgiveness that delivers us from the powers of sin, death, the devil, and the Law. We are living sacrifices whose lives are poured out in sacrifice to Him where He has put Himself to receive the sacrifice of our lives, that is our neighbor in his need.

What Have We Been Chosen to Do?

Because we have been called “ek” (the Greek verb in the text) which means “out” or “abroad” of darkness we have a been set apart for a divine purpose.  Our love for God and our confession compel us to go out into the world and “…proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Lenski in his great commentary said, “True believers cannot keep still, they simply must speak out with lip and with life. Thus, they function as a royal priesthood and ever offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. This is the confessional and the missionary spirit and activity of God’s people; for the sake of this God lets us remain in the world.”[2] 

 God left a royal priesthood behind to be a light that shines brightly in the darkness.  Be what God has chosen and redeemed you to be

 

[1] Schreiner, T. R. (2003). 1, 2 Peter, Jude (Vol. 37, pp. 114–115). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2]  Lenski, R. C. H. (1966). The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude (pp. 103–104). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House.

 

Devotional Message, Sermon Prompts

What are you Hiding in your Closet?

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When you visit someone’s home or office, it’s not uncommon to see certain symbols of success on display: plaques, certificates, diplomas, pictures, trophies, ribbons—it’s only natural for people to show these symbols of their greatest achievements. In my office hangs my two first place bowling trophies. If you have an hour, I can walk you through the frame by frame account of how we brought home the gold.

You won’t find plaques of failures in my office, and there are many I could display. Like, the time I missed that 7-10 split, and we lost the Pastor’s bowling championship game. Or during the championship Intramural Basketball final where I was supposedly called for a phantom foul that cost us the title. Seldom will you find reminders of people’s past failures? Don’t get me started on sermons that bombed. Those are my favorite, you have this great idea, and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t connect with people. These failures are usually hidden away in the back of the top shelf of the closet or a box in the attic.

In one of those places, there might be wedding pictures, painful reminders of a failed marriage; you might find old stationery containing a love letter from a failed relationship or business cards from a venture that went sour; there might be photos and letters from a lost loved one. Those are not the kind of things we keep on public display. We do our best to keep those reminders out of sight, and that’s the way it should be.

In this blog, we’re talking about the forgiveness of God. Admitting we are in need of God’s forgiveness implies that we have failed. We don’t display that failure either or try and pretend it never happened. The failure remains, the pain is still real, the need for reconciliation all the more evident. We need God’s forgiveness because we’ve all sinned and failed God.

Today we will look at a passage from Scripture where Jesus addresses this issue.

THE SETTING

To understand the parable that Jesus would use to teach this valuable lesson, we need to know the context of Luke 7.

Jesus had been invited by a Pharisee named Simon over to his house for dinner. In biblical times, it was virtuous to ask a teacher over for dinner, if they were from out of town, or had just taught in the synagogue. The homes were built around central courtyards in which the formal meals were held. The guests would recline on their left elbows while sitting on low-lying couches. They would eat with their right hands. Their feet would extend away from the table in keeping with the belief that the feet were unclean and offensive by nature.

Religious individuals often opened their homes for the poor. In banquets where unwanted people could enter, they were to remain quiet and away from the couches. They were just permitted to observe the discussion of the host and the guests. After the meal was complete, the poor might receive some of the leftovers.

In the midst of the meal, something shocking happened. The Bible uses the phrase, “When a woman,” the literal translation is, “And look, a woman!” It wasn’t worded that way because there was a lady present, but rather because of the type of woman she was. The Bible describes her as having “lived a sinful life.” A sinful life would mean that either she was married to a known sinner or she was a prostitute.

At some point, this lady must have had a remarkable encounter with Jesus. The account makes it clear that she is a broken woman, weeping because of the grace she had found from this rabbi from Nazareth. As she goes to pour perfume on his feet, her tears fall from her face and onto his dust-covered feet, streaking them. She was embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. She didn’t have a towel. So, she used what she had; she used her hair. This action, like many of her actions, was socially unacceptable because a woman was to loosen her hair only in the presence of her husband. The Talmud says that a woman could be divorced for letting down her hair in the presence of another man. The offense is severe, so much so that the rabbis put a woman undoing her hair in the same category as taking off her blouse and baring all. The guests and onlookers were in intense shock as they saw the events unfold before them.

The Pharisee was speechless. He doesn’t say anything, but he thinks it. The Pharisee’s thoughts betray him. Jesus picks up on what is running through his mind. “Does this ‘prophet’ not know who this woman is? Does he not realize that she’s a prostitute? Well, I’d never even talk to her, let alone let her grope me like that. I must be more righteous than he.”

Jesus calmly looks across the table at the Pharisee and says, “Simon, let me tell you something.” Then he begins to tell the Pharisee a short story with a valuable lesson about dealing with the mistakes of our past and moving on, about forgiving and forgetting.

THE STORY
The story is not long. In fact, it only takes two verses to tell the whole thing. In these two verses, a fundamental principle is proclaimed. Jesus said:

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debt of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”
The denarii were equivalent to a day’s wage. So, one man owed 500 days worth of work and another 50 days. Since individuals did not work on the Sabbath, it was going to take the one 20 months to work off the debt and the other two months. Both of these men were in a bad place financially. Both owed a large sum of money, and neither was going to be able to repay it.

The banker had several options. He could force them into his service. He could have them thrown into the debtor’s prison. Or he could choose to forgive the debt. Now, I recognize that my banking aptitude is pretty small. But it would seem that forgiving the debt would be the worst decision financially for him. Others might hear about what he did and try and take advantage of him. Some of his fellow moneylenders might make fun of him. Despite the risk it was, he forgave them.

THE STINGER

The stinger to the parable was simple: We are indebted to God at a price that we cannot repay, and He wants to forgive us. The parable did not deal with the amount of sin in the heart, but rather the acknowledgment of the fact that there was a sin.

Jesus recognized that we are each coming from different life experiences. Some of us have tried to live a good life for our entire lives. We’ve always sought to conduct ourselves properly. We still make mistakes. We fail to meet the mark all the time. Others of us have lived a hard life. We’ve made glaring errors. Everybody knows it. We can’t hide it from anybody. The Bible tells us that everybody sins, that nobody’s perfect.

“For all have sinned and fell short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

However, we don’t have to end there. God wants to forgive us, and if we come to Him and admit our failures, the Bible promises that He will not only forgive, but He’ll forget.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-13

Jesus has a message for you today. Go to that closet where you are hiding those boxes of failures, guilt, unforgiven sins, and regret. There are probably dusty. Blow the dust off of them and open the boxes. Look deep inside. The trophies of your broken past pains are gone. Reach inside. Take out the object that is inside. It is a cross and attached to that cross is a note.

Read it. “You are looking for the symbols of your hurtful past. The things you are holding on to that are holding you back from receiving the love God has to offer unconditionally. Jesus took your trophies of regret, your tokens of guilt and replaced them with this cross. It is a reminder that you are forgiven. Your debt paid. Signed Jesus.” Know that God loves you. God has forgiven you. Live in the peace of that relationship with God.

Others probably are only understanding this for the first time, and you still struggle with why would God care so much. Wherever we stand in the process, God wants us to not only rejoice in that forgiven relationship with him but to take that a step further and share a similar relationship with those around us. To those who have hurt us, or who have made mistakes and failed us in life, it is time to give them the same gift God has given us, Forgiveness. I love the quote of E. H. Chapin, “Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.”

Devotional Message

Three Ways to Overcome Life’s Storms

Someone once penned these words,

Out of the Darkness

Out of the dark forbidding soil

The pure white lilies grow.

Out of the black and murky clouds,

Descends the stainless snow.

Out of the crawling earth-bound worm

A butterfly is born.

Out of the somber shrouded night,

Behold! A golden morn!

Out of the pain and stress of life,

The peace of God pours down.

Out of the nails — the spear — the cross,

Redemption — and a crown!

The most important thing you need to know about the storm is that a storm will force you to walk your talk. Trials will put the strength of your faith to the test. How do you survive the storms? How do you rest on the strength of your faith in the midst of the storm? Let’s take a look at Psalm 107.  David gives you three simple things you need to do when the storms of life are raging. First of all.

  1. Cry out to God.

In this Psalm David describes merchants experiencing the same kind of storm at sea that the disciples experienced. He says…

“…in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end.” Psalm 107: 26-27

Have you ever been there at your wits’ end? The storm is so overwhelmingly destructive that you have run out of ideas? Maybe you’re there right now. Maybe you’ve done everything that you know to do and your marriage is still crumbling. Maybe you’ve done everything that you know to do and your children continue to struggle. You have been to every specialist, tried all kinds of treatments, and your health is deteriorating.  After exhausting all your business knowledge, attending all kinds of seminars, borrowed against your home mortgage, you’ve done everything humanly possible yet your business is still failing.

If you are at your wits end in the midst of the storm, you have two options available. You can give up.  You can throw in the belief towel and decide that Christianity doesn’t work. When my life is falling apart this God seems to be asleep on a pillow. Let’s just forget the whole thing. That’s one option. To be honest I don’t think that is your best option.

The alternative is to do what the disciples did in Mark 4. They seek out Jesus and wake him up, crying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38

 Not the most articulate “prayer” in scripture, but it was effective. In the midst of your storm, you should follow that example: Cry out to God, and keep crying out to him until the storm has passed. Listen to what David wrote, (v. 28-29) Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.

When I hear people say, “I tried that. It didn’t work. I cried out to God for help, and nothing happened.” My question is always, “How long? How long did you cry out? For an hour? For a day? For a week?” God has His own pace, sometimes it takes longer. You need to pray as long as it takes to get an answer.

The results may not always be what we think we want, but we can be sure that the results will always work out for our good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 In the midst of the storm, cry out to God, and keep crying out to him for as long as you have breath. He will hear you and he will bring you out of your distress.

  1. Let God Guide You.

There is an amazing principle in the Christian life that I have seen many people forget.  The principle is this: If you ask for God’s guidance, he will give it to you.

When we seek God’s guidance, He guides us. When we seek His direction, He directs. When we place our future in God’s hands, He takes care of our future. Listen to what David wrote,

(v. 30) They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.

 To their desired Haven. There’s a place where you want to be in your life, a place of peace, a place of security, a place of hope, and comfort, and rest. A place of joy, and love, and fulfillment. He can get you there, but you have to let him guide you.  My problem has always been I don’t like that path God wants to take me on.  I like shortcuts.  However, the path that God leads me on has necessary potholes, trials, and lessons I need for the future leg of this journey.  I just need to trust God to guide the way.

  1. Remember to Remember God’s Faithfulness.

I began this post series by saying that I have known some people over the years who stopped walking with the Lord. Some of these are people in ministry, people who had experienced his work in their lives. And yet, for whatever reason, they chose to forget about God’s past faithfulness in their lives. When the storms of life came, they didn’t remember God’s provision in the past, they didn’t see any hope in the future, so they gave up in the present.

Here’s my challenge to you. When you’re going through the storm, make an effort to remember all that God has done for you in the past.

David wrote Psalm 77 while he was going through a time of trial. Listen to his words…

Has his [God’s] unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:8-12

 David says, “When I’m going through a time of trial, I will remember all that God has done in the past, and it will help me get through this.” He says something similar in Psalm 107: 31,

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.

David is saying, “Once you get through the storm, talk about it. Sing songs of thanksgiving to God, tell everyone you know about good God has been to you.”

God will get you through this storm like he has gotten you and so many others through the previous storms of life. When it happens, make sure that you remember to remember to thank him for his faithfulness.

The first post in this short series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/09/06/three-critical-lessons-about-lifes-storms/

 

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Devotional Message, Sermon Prompts

Three Critical Lessons About Life’s Storms

 

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A friend from my days at the seminary and I were catching up on life. We talked about scheduling a “family reunion” of sorts to get back together with some of the others we struggled with on this journey through the gauntlet of studies, fieldwork, internship, placement day and finally graduation. We noticed something rather alarming: many of the classmates are no longer in the ministry and some are no longer walking with the Lord. How can the fire that burned so bright in their hearts back then have been snuffed out in just a few short years?

There are some reasons. Life is hard and many struggles, to keep on top of the storms. Some people crumble under the weight of the ministry of their congregations. No amount of faithful service could overcome; they’re discouraged with the church. Others collapsed because someone close to them died. The pain of that loss was devastating. Still, other people surrendered when their marriage crumbled.

In this post, we will learn how to handle the storms of life. In the first section of this two-part message, we will study the storms of life.  The second post will give you the needed tools to navigate through the storms of life.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE STORMS OF LIFE

  1. Storms happen to everyone.

At a fundamental level, this makes sense.  However, when the storm forms on the horizon logic goes out the window, it is one thing for the storms to happen to someone else but this shouldn’t be happening to me. We rationalize that we don’t deserve this.  Jesus would remind us of a different reality.  He said, “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45

We are all familiar with the wind and waves of the storm.  In life, we have had to endure the storms of life. To be honest, I have tried to reject this concept in my personal life. Does this principle sound familiar? I organized my life a certain way: If I just get my income to a certain level, or if I get a handle on my relationships, and if I manage my schedule, once all those areas of my life are aligned I can prevent the storms. Come closer; it doesn’t work that way. The rain will still come.  The storms will still happen.  And they will happen to everyone.

In August of 2017, what happened to Houston is a prime example.  People planned. The residents gathered provisions.  Those Texans did all the hurricane preparedness steps, but no one could imagine the devastation that would occur.  No one could predict the severity of the storm.  The same is true in life.  You can prepare for life’s inevitable storms, but you can’t predict when and how bad the storms will be.

Obviously, some of the storms we face are the result of our sinfulness and our own bad decisions, but many are not.

The first thing you have to remember about the storm is that storms happen to everyone. Now, if your bad behavior has caused the storm in your life, obviously you need to change your behavior. But if it’s not your fault, then you need to accept the fact that storms happen to everyone.  The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

The second thing we need to know about the storm is:

  1. The pain doesn’t last forever.

If you’re going through the storm of divorce right now, you need to remind yourself that it won’t hurt this much forever. If you’ve lost someone you love, you need to tell yourself that the depth of the emptiness of your loss won’t last forever. If you are battling with depression, that sorrow and the emptiness will not last forever. There may be damage to deal with, you may have to pick up the pieces and move on, you may have to rebuild your life, but the pain that is caused by the suddenness of the storm will not last forever.

There’s another thing you need to know about the storm.

 

  1. Sometimes, in the midst of the storm, God seems to be silent.

In Mark 4 there’s a story about a storm.  Jesus and his disciples were on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, and suddenly a massive storm arose, the Bible called it “a furious squall” and began to rock the ship. The waves were crashing against the vessel to the point that it almost capsized, and the disciples were convinced that they were about to die. It was a ferocious storm, and they all panicked.

Where was Jesus in the midst of this? Mark tells us, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” Mark 4:38

I love the little detail that Mark adds. Jesus was asleep…on a cushion. In other words, while the disciples were staring death in the face, he was sleeping comfortably on a pillow!

Of course, we know how the story ends. Jesus calmed the storm, and they made it safely to the other side of the sea. But that doesn’t change the fact that in the midst of the storm, he seemed to be unaware of the crisis.

There will be times in your life when it seems like God isn’t paying attention to what is happening to you. There will be times when God is frustratingly silent. During these times, all you have to cling to is your faith.

When we read the story of the disciples panicking in the midst of the storm, we tend to think, “How foolish of them. Why would they be afraid? Jesus was right there with them, didn’t they know he would take care of them?

“The same can be said about us: How foolish we are to be afraid during the storm. Jesus is right here with us. Don’t we know that he will take care of us?” After all, he said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

It may seem that God is unaware of the crisis in our lives, but we have his promise otherwise. We have his promise that he knows every detail of our lives, and he is with us every step of the way. The same God who gave His Son as a ransom to save you will never abandon you in your hour of deepest need.  Next Wednesday, the follow-up post, “Three Ways to Navigate the Storms of Life.”

The other post in this short two-part series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/09/13/three-ways-to-overcome-lifes-storms

 

Devotional Message

How Bright Is Your Light?

Light bulb and salt shaker
A light bulb with salt pouring out of the bottom.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14–16

Of all the possible uses for a light, it is evident in Matthew 5 that Jesus has in mind the bringing of illumination through the revelation of God’s will for his people. John refers to Jesus as the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5).  So, it is not a reach to assume that those who would come after Jesus should reflect that light. Like the bright street lamps provide illumination to dark city streets, Christians are called by the Light of the World to allow their good works to shine brightly before the rest of the world so that others may praise God. To be clear, good works flow naturally out of the heart of the believer.  Good works are a love response to what Jesus has done for us.  They stem from a heart claimed by the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart.  With that in mind good works never are motivated by a desire for self-glorification rather they are always pointing people back to God and bringing glory to God.

Jesus chose these two powerful images in Matthew to make a critical point, being salt and light means to allow our witness in the world to make a kingdom impact.

What Impact Does Being Light have on society?

To help us gain further insight we look at the work of the prophet Isaiah.  These verses below were written once the people of Israel returned from exile in Babylon. The last chapters of Isaiah are filled with visions of hope for people whose lives had been uprooted and destroyed: and urgent warnings to prevent them from making the same mistakes again.  Isaiah is warning the people of Israel who are proud of their religious festivals and their holiness. They make fasting a big public production and ask why God isn’t impressed?  God, are you paying attention? They complain directly to God: “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” God! Give us some credit we are trying!

So God responds,

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

      to loose the bonds of wickedness,

      to undo the straps of the yoke,

      to let the oppressed go free,

      and to break every yoke?

      Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

      and bring the homeless poor into your house;

      when you see the naked, to cover him,

      and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

      Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

      and your healing shall spring up speedily;

      your righteousness shall go before you;

      the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.  Isaiah 58:6–8

Have we failed to be light?

Isaiah paints a very clear picture of what God desires.  God wants sincere worshippers.  People who worship God in Spirit and Truth, who live out their calling by letting their light shine before men, not to receive praise from God, but to point the lost and erring to God.  How does that look in a practical way?  Isaiah lays out some concrete examples: Authentic worship: “let the oppressed go free, shares your bread with the hungry, brings the homeless poor into your house, covers the naked and don’t hide from your own people.” That is the life God calls the Christian to live. That is what Jesus was calling us to do when he said to be salt and light.  Go, love the unlovable.  Welcome the stranger.  Feed the hunger.  Clothed the naked and by doing so, you will bring glory to your Father in heaven.

 

Devotional Message, The Journey of Faith

Are You Pushing God Away?

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The story has been told of a believer, Frederick Nolan, who was fleeing from his enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley with no place to hide, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting his enemies to find him soon.

Awaiting his death, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little bug had spun a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken and unmangled piece of art, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave without dismantling the web. And so, they went on. Having escaped, Nolan burst out and exclaimed:

“Where God is, a spider’s web is like a wall,

Where God is not, a wall is like a spider’s web.”

Where God is not, a wall is like a spider’s web.”How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing! (GWN) Luke 13:34b

Jesus Christ has shown himself more than willing, to receive and entertain any poor soul that comes to him, and put themselves under his Lordship. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, with such care and tenderness!”

How willing are we to give up control?

I can’t speak for other sinners, but I personally like to be in perceived control of my life.  Now mind you I have not often done a great job with that control, but I still love the idea that I am in control.  Take a step back and look at the reason we sinners struggle with the above verse.  It summarizes a struggle we have with Jesus for control.  Jesus enlightens us with the divine truth here.  You are not protected, not under the wings of Jesus, because of one reason, our “unwillingness.”  God didn’t turn His back on us. It’s is just the opposite.  We reject His care.  People chose self-reliance.  Our strength is more appealing. Independence rules that day. The pull yourself up by your own bootstraps has led us to desire to do things our own way.   Consequently, we come running to God when our strength fails. This desire for control left the blood of Jesus on Israel’s head and covers ours as well. Jesus laments the choices humanity makes. You read that remorse in the verse above. Oh, how I wished you had taken a different path.  That you made wise choices. Would it be better for you if you trusted in the One who cares for you deeply?  Jesus cares for you.  His care led Jesus to give His life to save you from your sins.

As we face the tough choices and times in our lives today may God guide us.  May He encourage us to trust in Him. The Holy Spirit points us back to the power of the Cross “It is my desire to gather you, to protect you from the trials of life, and through the blood of Christ gives you eternal life.” So, often in the midst of life’s toughest moments, we feel alone, isolated, wondering where is God in all this?  Know that God is there.  Waiting to bring you under His protective wings, if you are willing to give up control. God stands ready to encourage, ready to protect. Are you listening, are you seeking, are you willing? Maybe we are not trusting that the spider web is God’s wall and seeing only the spider web?

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father gives us hearts ready and willing to receive that word of encouragement and the protection offered by you. In Jesus name. Amen.