Monday Message

The Monday Message offers a chance to further reflect on the Sunday sermon.  This email based devotional is designed to help us continue to wrestle with God’s Word during the week. If you are not receiving this message you can sign up here.

Main Page Sidebar 2
Tuesday
Nov282017

Thanksgiving Freedom

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  - Galatians 5:1

There are a whole lot of things that we typically associate with slavery. We think of oppressive relationships. We think of economic systems. We think of exploitation. Surely, the apostle Paul would have us stand against things like this. But in this passage, that isn’t what he is talking about. In this passage, he is talking about the Bible… or rather, how people he knew were misusing the Bible.

When Paul wrote this text, certain people tried to convince other Christians they needed to obey the rules in the Bible perfectly. Their basic idea was that if you are good enough, God would approve. If you didn’t follow the rules, God wouldn’t approve.

Now, Paul hated this line of thinking. He felt it cuts people off from the grace of Jesus. He equated living in a way that relies upon our own effort to slavery. Jesus came to free us from that slavery!

Paul wants us to live from our relationship with God instead. He writes, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Perhaps living in faith and hope in the Holy Spirit is even more important than being good all of the time. Even if someone could perfectly follow the rules, it would be like having a son or daughter who learned to live perfectly from a book or list of rules. They might put together a great resume, but their Heavenly Father would miss the opportunity to intimately be part of it all. 

The best way to learn to live for God is in relationship. We pray and read the Scripture to learn to love like God loves. As we experience God’s Presence and grace, we are shaped by that love. In this text, Paul will eventually say that this is the way that the rules get obeyed in the way they were meant to be obeyed.

So, if your inability to toe the line keeps you from prayer. If you have guilt or shame that you just can’t shake. If you can’t seem to quite pull off being a good Christian, relax. Jesus has set you free from those things. Use that freedom to love God and be loved by him. That is really the only way to grow in the character and depth of your heavenly Father any way.

Dear Jesus, thank you that this Christian way is a way that leans into you. Thank you that you forgive and pick me up as readily as I need. Thank you that you love me. Please shape me by that love so I might live fully the freedom you give me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Saturday
Nov042017

Broken World, Glorify God

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. - 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

Many years ago, a friend of mine asked me who I thought the greatest Christian of all time was. I remember thinking about it for a few moments, slowly picturing than discarding so many of the names of the giants of the church. Eventually, I replied, “I bet it was some un-named farmer at some point in human history who would pray and love God each day as she ploughed her field or tended his livestock.”

I don’t know why I replied that way so many years ago. But I still hold to that answer.

So often, we imagine that Jesus is hungry for us to do great things for him. We assume that God is too important or lofty to consider the common things of our lives. But this text from the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians pushes us to consider Christ in our everyday. The choices we make in faith are opportunities for us to be part of nothing less than the glory of God.

Is it possible to plough a furrow to God’s glory? How about close a business deal… or eat a meal with family or friends? How about changing a baby’s diaper?

The beauty of this verse is that it is not speculative but inviting. It invites each one of us to try it with whatever is closest at hand. Are you about to drive home from work? Try to make your way in traffic with your heart set upon God being glorified. Try speaking with the people you pass in the office or on the phone as if the weight of glory was in the air.

If we do, we will find that the default patterns of selfishness or anxiety are crowded out. We may find our plans more interruptible but we will also discover the grace and presence of God in every square inch of our lives.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t sustain the effort. Over time, little efforts will turn to habits which will be filled with a way of life that knows God always and everywhere. But great things with God always begin here and now in that thing that is as common as everything.

Jesus, thank you for your intimate love for us. We bless you that you whisper eternity into our every breath. Help us to take up your invitation to live in glory. Help us to do it this moment, today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday
Oct232017

Broken World Love

…we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. - 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

I had a discussion with two church members about one of the divisive or hot topics of the day. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what the topic was. Think of the one that gets you most riled up or most sends your friends into indignation. Got it? Pretend that’s the one.

The two church members disagreed about the issue.  To their credit, they disagreed very respectfully. But they still disagreed so they asked me where I came down on the issue.  I decided to sidestep the question and exit the conversation as gracefully as possible. In retrospect, I think I avoided the argument because I still wasn’t sure that it mattered where I came down on the issue until I could figure out how I would come down.

This Sunday, we looked at Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he addressed one of the hot topics of his day. The first thing he said about it was, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Before giving an answer as to where he came down on the issue, Paul wanted to make sure that the Corinthians knew how they came down mattered most.

When we move in knowledge alone, even if we are right, we move with the temptation to lift ourselves and lower others. “We value truth and justice,” we tell ourselves.  Maybe we do.  But justice and truth are not best served by knowledge that puffs up.  They are best served by love that builds up.  Forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing are the fruit of love.

So, I have been trying to figure out how to engage in the polarizing issues of the day in love. I am trying to be sad rather than mad.  I am trying to avoid pointing out other people’s faults and instead listen to their pain. I am trying to love. And it is in the loving that God is most clearly known through me.

Jesus, we thank you for the ways you love us no matter where we stand. We thank you for your grace that reconnects and forgives. We want to be people who move in your love. Help us to engage with even the difficult things of our world in ways that build up the people around us. This… so that we might be part of the healing, grace, and love you offer to us all. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

Monday
Oct022017

Christ Undivided

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? - 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

The truth is that churches are broken. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because Christians are broken people. Usually, it is when Christians don’t think they are broken that churches manifest brokenness most clearly.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul is writing to a broken church. Ultimately, the brokenness of the church is alright. When Christians are aware of their brokenness they tend to rely upon God. Paul tells us that God “is the source of our life in Christ, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption….” (1 Cor. 1:30). That is a pretty good place to be: broken and filled with the life of Christ.

The problem for most churches comes when we notice other people’s brokenness and not our own. Apparently, that was happening in Corinth. The members of the church were segregating into factions. One might follow Apollos with the implicit idea that those who do not follow Apollos are missing out. Now, you probably don’t know much about Apollos or Cephas or how they differ from Paul. So, rarely will you find Christians today saying they belong to Apollos.

The problem is that doesn’t always mean we aren’t part of the factions shown in Corinth.

One faction in Corinth is very apparent in our churches. The apostle Paul says that a group in the church in Corinth said, “I belong to Christ.” That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? It is a good thing if it is said in brokenness. The problem is that too often it is said with an awareness of other peoples’ brokenness rather than our own. So, the subtext is, “I belong to Christ but I’m not sure you do.”

When we disagree about a bit of theology or practice with someone, we are pretty quick to question if “those” people are really Christians at all. I guess it is plausible that “those people” might not be Christian. But the moment we make that a part of our own definition, then we are just part of the quarrels of a broken church… or, as Paul puts it, we are part of dividing Christ.

The answer for a broken church is the grace found in the cross of Jesus Christ. Grace in the cross for us and for them. When we say it like that, the “them” gets swallowed up in grace to become part of us. And, when that happens, the broken church is able to say, “We belong to Christ undivided.”

Jesus, thank you for your grace that has grasped me in your embrace and is making me whole. Thank you that your grace is meant not just for me but for every person around me. Show me how to be part of your embrace for a broken world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday
Sep182017

Jacob's Ladder

50Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you,* you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

John 1:50-51

This Sunday we explored the story we commonly call Jacob’s Ladder from Genesis 28. In the story, a guy named Jacob fell asleep under the night sky while on a long journey. God appeared to him in a dream and revealed a stairway between heaven and earth with angels going up and down.

The man awoke the next morning and was keenly aware that God had revealed Godself to him in his dream. He trembled with fear and declared that the place he slept was the gate of heaven!

When we follow his story from that moment, it is hard to see where his dream had a discernable impact upon his life. He was less than upstanding before the dream. He was less than upstanding after his dream.

None of that should surprise us. Many of us have had experiences like that. Perhaps it was not a dream of a stairway to heaven, but it was a moment where we were keenly aware of God’s love, forgiveness, guidance, or presence. Perhaps something in a sermon or a song or a sunset struck us deeply. For a moment, God and faith and us all seem to be clear and balanced.

The truth is that many of us have also walked away from experiences like that and not done much with them. Perhaps we have been buoyed for a bit and were thankful that God lifted us. But we were no less a scoundrel after than we were before.

In the gospel of John, Jesus pushes a guy named Nathanael to dive more deeply after such a moment experienced under a fig tree. He said, “That impressed you? You will see more than that if you use that to press closer to me. Let it affirm you not just to go about your business but to follow me. And if you do, you will see that heaven and earth are connected in me!”

There is no end to the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. Those moments are invitations to begin to see life through a lens of faith where we can be part of the stairway that connects heaven to us.

Dear Jesus, we long to know your touch to strengthen us for the journey. Perhaps that is only half of the story. We ask that you would also give us courage to allow your touch to define our journey. This, that we might be part of heaven being known here on earth. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.