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.

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Tuesday
Nov132018

Giants in the Land: Deathly Afraid 

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
Philippians 1:21
 
I recently spoke with a friend who had lost a relative who had been slowly declining for years. As we talked about both the practical and the soulful aspects of this death, I asked if my friend’s relative had left plans for a funeral. My friend smiled sardonically and said, “Dying wasn’t in his plans.”
 
This is true for so many of us. We don’t like to think about or even consider death. But we all do… or will die. Perhaps we avoid death because there seems to be only grief and mystery in death. Perhaps we avoid death because the only emotions we find there are fear and sadness. But when we avoid death completely, we miss the most powerful promises that are given to us in Christ Jesus. Thus, we make decisions and live life with a pall of fear and denial where God offers us hope and promise.
 
The apostle Paul was able to clearly look at death in this passage from his letter to the Philippians. He did not do so with any sense of depression or fear. Nor did he approach the passage because of resignation in the gift of his life. Instead, he looked at death in the light of the hope that was given to him in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul lived his life in the hope of Jesus’ presence. Thus, it is not surprising that death promised more of the same.
 
What is important for us to see is how this affected how Paul lived. He was facing a trial for his faith that could lead to his death. In that situation, it would be understandable for Paul to do anything necessary to preserve his life. But because death was colored by hope instead of fear, Paul was resolute in his faith. Come what may, he chose to partner with the glory of God.
 
Dying might not be in your plans, but the promises of God provide the freedom to live without the fear of death. In fact, in Christ, dying need not be part of your plans because God’s promise is that “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
 
Do not be afraid of death. Ask God for the hope that is yours in Christ Jesus. Thus, live every moment of life you are given fully and free of the fear of death.
 
Dear Jesus, thank you for your promise of life… life now and life without end. We ask for faith to believe what we cannot see in regard to life and death. We ask that you step into our fear of the mystery and the sadness, the pain and the loss, and give us hope. Thus, free us to live in hope now and die in hope when it is time. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday
Nov062018

Giants in the Land: Hot Under the Collar

3 Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments 5 and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.  - 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
 
In his letter to the church, James, the brother of Jesus, made a very relevant statement about anger. He wrote, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
 
We exist in a time where anger drives much of the thought and action of our lives. Instead of listening and slowness of reacting, we are quick to anger. We are even quicker to believe that our anger is connected to our closeness to (and our opponent’s distance from) God’s righteousness. Into this milieu, James says clearly, “your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”
 
This simple decoupling of our anger from righteousness leaves many of us rudderless. Much of our politics and opinion and even relationship is informed by our anger. The apostle Paul offers us an alternative way of understanding anger in his second letter to the church in Corinth.
 
He begins by admitting that we are human. In terms of anger this allows for the presence of anger in our lives. Anger is not a sin. It is human.
 
But he quickly reminds us that we do not make our choices “according to human standards.” We are not alone to make sense of ourselves and our world simply based upon our anger responses. Instead, the Presence of God offers us the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit into each moment of our lives. When anger floods or smolders, we are able to take those impulses captive. The power of God enables us to tear down the strongholds of argument, opinion, defensiveness, self-protection, and ego that are at the root of our anger.
 
We do this slowing down and holding these things in the light of the knowledge of God. We are invited to anchor our thoughts to truths such as:

  • God is for us;
  • God loves us;
  • we are eternally valuable in his sight (and so is everybody else, even our opponent);
  • and God’s ultimate concern is healing and wholeness.

 
When we do this, two things happen. One, we are empowered to respond in love that considers the true cause of our anger. Two, the deep places of our pain and insecurity are healed in the surety of Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus, our anger is very intimate to us. For many of us, our anger has been the place of our refuge, protection, and self-care. The habit of anger is our stronghold. This morning, we ask you to gently step into the depths of us. Help us to slowly yield to you the ground we formerly entrusted to anger. Root us in the truth of your love for us, your love for others, and your love for the world. We ask that you grant us a small step to practice this unmasking of our anger today. As we entrust this intimacy to you, reveal to us the ways that you tear down strongholds, take thoughts captive, and ultimately make us whole. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday
Oct242018

Giants in the Land:  Addiction

1Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.Matthew 9:1-8

As we have spent time with the giants in the land, we have visited things in our walk with Christ that can inhibit and prohibit our walk from going forward in the way God would desire. In this story, the paralytic is a great representative for someone who has dealt with addiction. Verse 2 states some pretty powerful things.

One way we carry people to Jesus is through prayer. Intercessory prayer gives us the privilege to bring other people, their needs, their requests, their pains to the person of Jesus.

 

Who are you in the story? Are you the paralyzed person in need of Jesus’ healing? Are you in a good place with Jesus? If so, are there others who you could be bringing to Jesus? Or are you like the Pharisees – doubting the authority of Jesus? Questioning whether Jesus is enough? Pray for God to reveal where you are and what to do next.

Tuesday
Oct162018

Giants in the Land: Insecurities Abound

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  - John 4:10
 
The story of the woman at the well is one that we should all be able to relate to.
 
The women went to the wellt was the hottest part of the day. In a place and time where there was no air conditioning, noon was the time most people slowed down and avoided hard labor. It was not the time most people chose to carry the heavy jug to the well to lug water back to town. But that was the reason the woman in the story went to the well at noon. She did not want to see anyone else.
 
We don’t really know the reason for her insecurity. We do not know what or who she was avoiding. But we all know what it is like to be insecure. We know what it is like to avoid the places of our pain, our rejection, the whispers and name calling, the reminders of our failure to live up to some standard or look. We know what it is like to carve out ways of coping and avoiding. We know what it is like to have our insecurities dictating how we live.
 
It is precisely in the place of her insecurities, her coping mechanisms, and her life dictated by anxiety that Jesus appears. He sits at the well. But he does not judge her or call her names. He asks her for a drink.
 
Into her insecurity he tells her, “You have value. I need you.” Would she believe him? Do we?
 
Jesus then invites her into a new way of being. He calls it living water. It is poetic… it is genius. It takes the reality of her insecurity as it is evident in her having to go to the well… and he solves it. But not with a bucket… he doesn’t have one of those. But he invites her to lose her insecurities in him… to be filled by him.
 
Into her insecurity he tells her, “I have all that you need. Will you look to me?” Will we?
 
When our insecurities assail us, let us pause and look for Jesus waiting for us at the well. Let us begin to look and listen to him. Let us be filled with living water.
 
Living God, you know our insecurities. You know the things and people and situations we worry about. We also know that you have stepped into our lives, that you meet us here. Open our ears that we might begin to hear you. Let us begin to know that you choose us, you value us, you love us. Then fill us with the living water of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday
Oct082018

Giants in the Land: Worried Sick

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4-7
 
This text is from a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi. Paul wrote it while he was in prison for being a Christian. The church Paul wrote to was in a town that similarly threatened people daily for being Christians.
 
If I were to put myself in either of these positions, I would say that they are tailor-made for worry. Paul must have been a man who knew anxiety. The church in Philippi were people who must have been constantly battling fear.
 
Even though we are neither imprisoned or under constant threat of oppression, most of us are worried. Low levels of fear are our constant companions. We cannot help but wonder how Paul and the church in Philippi were able to cope with their anxiety.
 
In this text, the apostle Paul gives us very practical steps toward peace. He says, “Do not worry about anything!” There is no circumstance that is an exception to his encouragement. When we realize this is a man writing from prison, who had been beaten and flogged, shipwrecked and pelted with stones (read in 2 Corinthians 11 for the full list), we can’t help but wonder how he can tell us this is possible.
 
Pray. That is the simple answer. The truth is that we all do that. But more often than not, our prayers are simply rehashing our worries toward the ceiling. They usually leave us more worried than we started.
 
So, Paul is more specific. Begin by rejoicing. Begin by focusing upon the strength and power, majesty and love or our God. Ultimately, we need to bring God into our worries. To do that, we need to recognize the fullness of God in rejoicing.
 
Then, we are to pray in supplication and thanksgiving. Supplication has a sense of honesty. We are to pray honest about ourselves and our circumstances. We are to pray honest about who God is. Thanksgiving means taking time to thank God for the ways we are blessed. Both of these together put the anxiety within the perspective of a God who blesses us.
 
Finally, we are to present our requests to God. We are to lay at Jesus’ feet the thing that otherwise would be causing us anxiety.
 
The result of this is peace. It is peace of not trying to control things on our own. It is the peace of the presence of God in the same space as our anxiety. It is peace that passes understanding.
 
Jesus, we begin by praising you for who you are. We praise you for your grace and love toward us. We confess the anxiety in our lives. We confess the ways that fear whispers into our lives and keeps us on edge. Step into the place of our worry. Open our eyes to the ways your blessings reveal your love all around us. Shift us to begin to lean upon your love for us. Thus, open us to begin to know your peace… peace that floods us and washes our anxiety away. In Jesus’ name, amen.