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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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.

Tuesday
Sep052017

Being Worthy

13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way. - Matthew 19:13-15

We tend to love this text.  We think its sweet because we tend to be a culture that values our kids.  We are more likely to think too highly of them.  So discipline is hard for us.  We find ourselves more interested in the happiness of children than anything else.

We look at the disciples in our text and think: “What bullies!”

But, I’m not sure we are all that much better.  The disciples were operating in a culture which told them who was worthy of attention and who was not.  To the disciples, kids were not.

We may add children to our list of who is worthy, but usually that is children who fit our cultural expectations.  I know because I have been around Youth Sports for some time now.  We tend to love kids as long as they conform to a certain image.  We love a winner.  We love a well-dressed and well-behaved kid.  We are quick to shoot nasty looks at a family in a restaurant whose kid is having a meltdown.  I’ve been at Little League games where the parents literally groan when certain kids come to the plate. I’ve called out to my own daughter when she was more interested in the ants on the field than the soccer game she was playing in by saying: “You better be good at math!” (Subtext, soccer is not your path to college.)

Even our love of kids has cultural boundaries… we love success… we love power… we love well-behaved and clean.

Part of Jesus’ point is to let them all come to him – even the snotty nosed ones… the ones tantrum-ing on the ground… the colicky ones… the uncoordinated ones… the ones with special needs… the less than cute ones.

 

Jesus’ real point in this passage is that he wants us to approach like those kids. We aren’t to come in power or cuteness or put together-ness.  We are to come as if we bring nothing to the table.  We are to come as the kid who can’t hit and isn’t good at math… we are to come so that we can be loved, accepted, and embraced.

Jesus, thank you for loving us and making room for us at your side.  We confess the ways we see children and ourselves with the expectations of worthiness.  We ask that you show us your great love for us as we bring nothing to the table.  Then show us how to love others with the same fullness and grace.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Tuesday
Aug222017

Monday Message: Tearing down our strongholds

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds...  2 Corinthians 10:3-4


This Sunday at church we spoke about the walls of Jericho in Joshua 6.  We talked about the ways that we are often rendered powerless by opposition to our faith or life circumstances.  We bump up against walls and fortifications that seem impenetrable.
 
Over the past week, I have felt powerless and deeply troubled by the events that unfolded during a political demonstration of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I have been speaking with a college friend who lives in Charlottesville.  We have been processing together what happened.
 
As we talked, we met walls in two places.  Most obviously, we were both grieved by what we read and witnessed in news accounts of the rhetoric and actions of the protestors.  This was easy for us both to condemn as contrary to our values and beliefs rooted in Christ Jesus.  More difficult were the walls that we bumped into within ourselves as we wrestled with our own history and complicity (if only indirect) with the racial divides and prejudices in our nation and our world.  Both grieved us and loomed large over us like the walls of Jericho.
 
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  Rather are weapons are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds,” the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and to us.  So, we talked, prayed, and invited the Holy Spirit to convict our hearts, to lead us in righteousness, and to show us how to face these walls.
 
We decided that the easy path would be to react in self-righteous anger at the broken and perverted actors in this drama.  Yes, it would protect us from introspection and give us the moral high ground that we craved.  But it would merely be warfare according to our flesh.
 
Instead, we chose to do the two things.  First, we prayed for ourselves.  We talked together and confessed and asked God to move us into his righteousness.  We submitted aspects of our world and culture that we had grown up with but fell short of this righteousness.  Second, we chose a man who we had both seen in news coverage who seemed instrumental in the worst of the events in Charlottesville.  We covenanted to pray for him by name.  We would ask God to protect others from him and to rescue him in Christ… even as Jesus is rescuing us from the brokenness of our pride, our fear, our hatred, and our self-righteous condemnation of the other.
 
We believe that the weapons of our warfare are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds… even the walls revealed to us in Charlottesville, Virginia.
 
Jesus, search us and know us.  Lead us to lay down all within us… all that has defined us that falls short of your best for us, for our neighbors, and for your glory.  Then teach us to move in you to tear down strongholds in our families, our work, our schools, our neighborhoods, and our world.  Move in your mercy through us to bless those around us.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday
Aug162017

Monday Message: Samuel Hears God

By Drew Hanson, Family Ministries Director

1 Samuel 3:1-4:1

In the story told Sunday, Samuel hears the voice of God. Even though Samuel is still very young, this event launches him into his life as one of Israel’s greatest priest, prophets, and leaders. It is a fun story; a story we love telling in Sunday School, as Samuel hears his name called and thinks it is Eli, the priest in charge of Israel’s worship and of Samuel’s development as a servant of the Lord. The story takes a serious turn, though, when God’s message comes to Eli through Samuel. 

God’s message to Eli, Israel’s priest, is that his job as priest is coming to a shameful close. Eli was not able to prepare the next generation of priests – his own sons – to be faithful priests. His sons are despicable priests, profaning God with actions and words. But Eli, imperfect as he is, does not allow this to diminish his role as Samuel’s mentor. He failed his first try to equip the next generation of priests, but in Samuel, he sees someone he can mentor. 

And so it is Eli – who is not at his best in his relationship with God – who leads and demonstrates to Samuel how to listen to God (v. 9). Then, Eli, when he hears the bad news against him, says “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” It is as if Eli uses his some of his final words in Scripture as priest to teach Samuel one last lesson: obedience to God, even if it’s against you, is crucial in our relationship with God. 

We are faced with Eli’s challenge. We are not always at our best in our relationship with God. We are imperfect. We sin. We fail, at times, to prepare the next generation for its responsibilities. But, we must never allow these failures or imperfections to keep us from continuing to mentor and lead the next generation. This past Sunday was Youth Sunday at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church. At our church, we recognize that our youth need Christian mentors. They don’t need perfect mentors. They don’t need mentors who have everything together, spiritually or otherwise. They need mentors who have walked the road of faith, no matter how bumpy it is, and still have a relationship with God. Young people need mentors. Can you pick up the call to be one?

For the youth of our church, you can also look to Samuel as a guide. Samuel listens and follows the leadership of his mentor, Eli. This act of following launches him into a career of being one Israel’s most important leaders.  When you find a mentor, learn from their experience. Learn from the mistakes they have made. Ask them about their faith, their walk with God. Ask them about bumps in the road and ask them about good times. Their experience with God will help you in your own discipleship. 

Lord God, you have placed us in others’ lives to lead. Help us to be faithful mentors. You have also placed others in our lives to follow. Help us to be faithful students. Give us the desire to continuously learn about you, follow you, worship you, and obey you. In Jesus’ name, amen.