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
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.

Tuesday
Aug082017

Monday Message: Seek God

7 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” --Exodus 32:7-8

 
When you examine the story of the golden calf, the intentions of the people of Israel are not diabolical. 
 
Moses was the person who had always told them how to relate to God.  He had gone up on Mount Sinai to speak with the Lord and had not returned for six weeks.  If someone disappears in the wilderness for six weeks, it is safe to assume that something is amiss.  The people of Israel likely thought that Moses had been eaten by a mountain lion or fallen down a crevasse.  He did not seem likely to return.
 
The people of Israel assumed they needed a new way to relate to God.  They took a little of what Moses had given them, a bit of what they had learned in Egypt, a bit of what they wanted things to be like, and came up with a golden baby cow statue.  Likely they didn’t believe the statue was God.  But they needed something to rally around, a place to sacrifice, a central point to worship, and something to follow.  So, they cried out, “Here he is!  The God who saved us from Egypt!”
 
Of course, anyone with a children’s bible knows that this is the wrong way to relate to God.  You can’t just make up what you want things to be like and expect God to be flattered.  In our story, God wasn’t.  God became angry.  God was insulted.  They had chosen to be in relationship with what they wanted God to be.  God had been offering an opportunity for them to be in actual relationship with God.
 
Though the intentions of the people of Israel were not diabolical, the outcome of their actions was pretty close.
 
Now, I know that few of us are likely to worship a golden baby cow statue.  But it takes a bit more introspection to wonder if we are truly pursuing relationship with God.  Are we doing the hard work of seeking?  Are we doing the work of being in relationship?  Sometimes that goes against what we see in Egypt (the world we grew up in and know).  More often than not it challenges us in the way we want things to be.  At times, it even requires us to wait upon God’s answer to come down from the mountain.  But the result of this is being people who relate to the Living God.
 
The formula is as old as Moses.  We must make space in our time, our thoughts, and our hearts for God.  Pray.  Read the Bible.  Journal.  Allow the Holy Spirit to speak into our worlds… even to challenge what we see and what we assume.  Obey.  Live from that relationship.  If we do these things, we will begin to know and be shaped by the God who is… not the God of our own creation.
 
Dear Jesus, teach us to seek you.  In the midst of this busy day, we ask that you would give us the ability to recognize where we mistake You.  We ask for pockets of space to pause and pray.  We ask that in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday
Aug032017

Monday Message: Test Your Faith

After these things God tested Abraham. 

Genesis 22:1


The first verse of our text from this past Sunday should be enough to give us pause.  The idea of God testing our faith is terrifying.  But it should not be surprising.  We know that life is full of places where our faith is tested.  Knowing that God is present in these moments empowers the testing.
 
With God’s presence, another side of the testing is made known.  In the test, God is asking us to trust him.  When we are tested, we are being invited to test God.  We are invited to test whether God is… whether he loves us… whether he will show up when we need him.  When we test, we are opening our lives and making space for God to prove his faithfulness.
 
In the midst of the story of Abraham being tested, Abraham tested God.  He held his life open.  On the way to the place God asked him to sacrifice Isaac (listen to the sermon for the story here), Abraham continually voices hope. When he is pressed on his plan, he faithfully responds that God would provide.  Abraham steps into the testing by giving space for God to rescue.

Up to the very point of no return, God asked him to have faith.  Abraham held onto faith and tested God’s faithfulness.  God did show up.  He paused Abraham’s hand.  He affirmed his faith.  It was because of his faith that God said, “I will indeed bless you… and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:16-18)  It was because of this faith that God would bless Abraham, Isaac, and all of us.
 
In the test of faith, God discovered Abraham’s faith.  In the test of faith, Abraham discovered God’s faithfulness.
 
And so, it is with us.  In this life, our faith will be tested.  We are not alone in this testing.  God is with us.  With God’s presence, each test becomes a place where we can discover God’s faithfulness.
 
Jesus, we pray that in the tests of life we might discover how close you are to us.  We pray that, step-by-step, we might discover faith and your faithfulness.  Deepen us so that though we might question all else in life, we might rest securely in your love and faithfulness to us.  In Jesus name, Amen.


Wednesday
Jul192017

Monday Message: Kinship with Jesus

A friend loves at all times, and kinfolk are born to share adversity. - Proverbs 17:17

I just returned from a two plus week jaunt on the East Coast where I spent time with three distinct branches of my family.  In between, my wife, kids, and I spent hours on the road together.  On paper (or on social media posts), this makes for a wonderful family vacation.  In practice, it plunged us into the tension of family dynamics – both good and bad.

This proverb became something of a theme verse for me.  It was an important reminder to me to be nothing less than a friend to my wife, kids, and extended family.  A true friend loves at all times.  I want to be the type of friend whose love is deeper than the social dynamics, the circumstances (read: five hours into a seven hour road trip), differences of opinion and lifestyle (a family reunion with over 60 cousins gives a pretty broad slice of life), or the moods in the room.  I love the perspective that my kinfolk are given to me as partners in adversity.  We all spend too much time blaming each other for internal adversity and failing to recognize the partners we are given to support one another through external adversity.  I want adversity to bind me to my family as a gift from God!

All of this connected with the Bible Story we looked at on Sunday morning.  In our summer worship series, we are looking at what we typically think of as children’s Bible Stories from a “Big Church” perspective.  This Sunday, we looked at the story of Noah and the Flood.  On one level, this is a story of animals and a boat and a lot of rain.  It makes for a great mural on a Preschool wall.  On a deeper level, it wrestles with how the holiness of God and the unholiness of Creation play out.  That level makes a less appealing mural on a Preschool wall.  In the story, we see God deciding to live in the tension of relationship with human beings knowing that “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth” (Genesis 6:5, 8:21).  Even in this difference in holiness-ability, God basically says, “I am going to choose to be in relationship with you… to love you… to not beat up on you for your failings… to be friends… and, eventually through Jesus, to be kin.”

So, despite the tension of God being God and me being me, God says, “A friend loves at all times, and kinfolk are born to share adversity.”  I’m all in.  Jesus, thank you for choosing to be both friend and kinfolk with us!