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
Apr302018

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  - Matthew 5:4

Knowing Jesus should make you cry more often. That is not always what we expect. Instead, we expect that Jesus will give us joy (John 15:11) and wipe the tears from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). We prefer those promises because we don’t particularly like crying.

But here’s the thing, when we come to know Jesus, we get a glimpse of love, grace, righteousness, and peace. Knowing these things means that we also recognize their absence in our world. So, when we witness oppression or hunger or abuse or even death, we are aware that it doesn’t have to be this way. The only proper response to this is to grieve as we look to Jesus in prayer. The good news is that in the midst of our grief we are given hope because we already know the love, grace, righteousness, and peace of Jesus. So, we are comforted.

But there is still more reason to cry. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). In essence he is telling us not to hoard the comfort of Jesus to ourselves. Instead, we are to recognize that the places we see brokenness around us, we are to join in. We are to come alongside of the people around us. Our tears and our prayers bring to them the comfort of Christ.

So, do not be afraid to weep. Allow your tears to bear the comfort of Christ.

Dear Jesus, open our eyes to the world around us. Let our hearts be broken by the lack of your touch. Let our tears bear your comfort both to our own soul and to those of others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Sunday
Apr222018

Blessed Are the Poor

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” - Luke 6:20

There are a great number of people in our world who are ambitious for money. If you are not one of these, there is still a great likelihood that you afraid of poverty. I am convinced that more of us are driven by fear than by ambition. But either way, this verse today will challenge us.

In this opening statement in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares the place of our fear to be the place of blessing. Resist the urge to rationalize this away. Allow yourself to sit in the tension of these words.

I do not believe that Jesus commands those who follow him to be poor. I do not believe that Jesus values poverty above any other station. I do not believe that Jesus is telling us to become what we fear. But I do believe that Jesus’ intention is to transform our relationship with poverty… and with wealth.

Poverty is not to be feared because of Jesus. Because Jesus is, the poor are blessed with the kingdom of God. Those who have nothing else to cling to will find Jesus ready to invest his kingdom in them.

When we look at the poverty around us, let us look for the blessing of God’s Presence. Each person who has bottomed out, who is unable to provide for themselves, who has come to the end of their productivity, who has no power and no financial ability, whose opportunities are squandered or stolen… each of these is infinitely valued by Jesus. He chooses to invest his kingdom in these. Let us discover this and rejoice. Let us partner with the kingdom of God.

When we recognize the places that we are living from ambition or fear, let us begin to recognize the ways we cling to our self-sufficiency, our bounded safety, our justification and rationalization of our station, and how these things close us to the kingdom of God.

Hear once more these words of Jesus as recorded in the gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus’ intention is to bless. Poverty of spirit and poverty of bank account open both our eyes to our need and our hands to the provision of God. Jesus’ blessing is to invite us to no longer live by ambition or by fear, but rather by the secure investment of God’s kingdom in us.

Jesus, your blessings are sufficient to free me from all of my fears. Your kingdom is worthier than all of my ambitions. Bless me this day with poverty that is met by your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday
Apr152018

Fingerprints of God

12   As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. - Colossians 3:12

The other day, I had coffee with a dear and valuable member of my church. The time together provided me the opportunity to point out the ways I had witnessed compassion and kindness in him that, in my estimation, wasn’t human. I told him that I was taking what I saw as evidence that the Holy Spirit was finding a willing partner in him.

My hope in the conversation was twofold. First, I simply wanted to share how excited I was at being able to witness God reflected in him. Second, I was hoping to encourage him on the off chance that he wasn’t aware.

It is far too often we Christians aren’t aware of the ways God pours into and through us. We have a hard time believing that we, as Paul says in our text, are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved.” But we are. And this is not because of how compassionate, kind, humble, meek, and patient we can be. This is true because God chose us in Jesus. Period. God chose us even when we were anything but compassionate, kind, humble, meek, or patient.

Then a crazy thing starts to happen when we become aware of that chosen-ness. A fantastic thing begins to happen when we believe that we are beloved. We learn to live from that relationship. We live like we are part of who God is and what God is doing. We clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Often, that starts pretty small… so small that, maybe, no one notices. But it shapes us as willing partners with the God who continues to choose us… pours his love into us. Thus shaped, we clothe ourselves a bit more… shaping us more… clothing us more until we find people over coffee remarking about the ways they see God’s fingerprints all over us.

I like those kinds of coffees. I am in awe of the way that God choses and clothes his people… even people like us.

Jesus, open our eyes today to know your great love for us. Help us to believe that you have chosen to pour the fullness of yourself into us. Inspire us to partner with you by clothing ourselves for the relationship. May our lives slowly begin to testify to You with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

 

Monday
Mar262018

The God Hypothesis

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. - Luke 19:41-42

Many years ago, a German theologian noted a trend where people did not need what he called the “God Hypothesis” to explain things or to meet their needs. Instead of looking to God, they found their strength, boundaries, and understanding for life elsewhere.

There are a number of benefits to living this way. If we live as if God doesn’t matter, then we don’t have to abide by any expectations God might have upon us. We are free to pursue what we want, how we want, and without worry about any outside definition of what we should want. Theoretically, we don’t have to feel guilty (at least not for ways we damage relationship with God… guilt from our relationships with other people is a bit harder to shake). And it is a heck of a lot easier to communicate with other people who don’t expect God to be part of things. On the surface it sounds very freeing.

At the beginning of Holy Week, Jesus points out the downside to this “freedom.” People who don’t see Jesus miss the peace that Jesus brings.

I do not write this so that we can feel morally superior to an atheistic strawman (or even someone who is very real that you may know). I write this because all too often, we who believe in Jesus live practically as if God doesn’t matter. We do not look for God in our work. We do not look for Jesus in our entertainment. We do not expect the Holy Spirit to have any real practical influence on our daily lives. We certainly do not expect to find Jesus on a donkey riding into town. Is it possible that we also miss the things that make for peace?

So, what do we do? Let us be people who look for Jesus. Let us be people who begin to ask God to open our eyes to recognize where God is present in our work, in our entertainment, in our relationships, and in our daily lives. Let us be people who begin to take note and recognize and experience the ways Jesus brings peace.

Jesus, we confess the ways we get caught up in things and find ourselves in a place where you are “hidden from our eyes.” We desire to be people who know your peace. Will you help us to see this day the places you are with us? Help us to begin to recognize your presence, your guidance, and your peace. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Friday
Mar162018

Wisdom for Trials

2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. - James 1:2-4

This advice given to us by James, the brother of Jesus, makes a lot of sense. We learn in life. Our faith grows as we successfully face trials. I have heard it said that the difference between head knowledge and life knowledge is that life knowledge is head knowledge that passes through our hands. The information about our faith only becomes ours when we experience it to be true in life. So of course, the trials we face are opportunities to bring us to maturity in faith, lacking nothing.

Even though that makes a whole lot of sense, we are more often surprised when we come to times of trial. Instead of facing trials with joy so that our faith will be proven, we assume the fact that there is a trial is proof that faith does not work. “Shouldn’t God protect us from all of that?” we wonder instead. We find that we are all too easily swamped… that our hands seem to fumble with the opportunities to hold our faith in our trials.

That is why the next thing that James says is so important. He writes, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” If any of you are fumbling with it, having a hard time applying it, questioning why you have to do it, or just downright not understanding, here is what you do: ask God for wisdom. Ask God to help us with this application process, this maturing process, this filling process, this understanding process, this going through trials of any kind to find ourselves complete, lacking in nothing.

If you are anything like me, you could use a prayer for wisdom. So whether that is within a specific situation you are facing or just a general need to ask God for help, let’s pray:

Jesus, we confess the ways we need help. We know that you have promised to give wisdom to us when we ask. So, we ask for wisdom in this moment. We ask for wisdom to see and understand and experience faith passing through our hands in life in the particular situations we are struggling with (here is a good place to name those). We also ask for wisdom for the rest of the trials we will face today.

 

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