Posts tagged MMonday Message
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.

 

Gospel Love in Forgiveness

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us. - Ephesians 1:7-8

 

I often get the sense that there is a growing reluctance to repent. I am not sure if that is a cultural thing or just a thing that is growing in people around me. People work hard to hide, deny, or shift the blame for any brokenness or dysfunction in their lives. I get it. Life is hard enough as is without having to face the shame or guilt from our deficiencies.

Naturally, this creates a bit of tension when it comes to faith. The line from the church for too long has been driven by a perspective of an angry God looking to punish. I’m not sure if that really is anyone’s perspective. But a lot of people assume it is part of the package.

Not long ago, I got the sense that more was going on with God than anger at sin. For one, I became convinced that repentance is a relational thing with God more than a transactional thing. What I mean by that is that it is not like wart removal where God is just trying to zap as many blemishes as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rather, he knows us. It is part of his desire to be known by us better.

That is when this verse started to reframe things for me. It begins as we would expect. There is a connection between repentance and Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It is costly because it is important. It opens the way for forgiveness. But then there is this part about “the riches of his grace” and lavishing upon us. That doesn’t sound like God effectively and efficiently taking care of a problem. One does not lavish payment on a debt.

I began to wonder if God isn’t doing something else here… telling us something else. God is making a show of forgiveness. God is being lavish because our repentance is an opportunity for us to discover just how extravagant his love is for us. Perhaps it is our best opportunity to come to know the God who is not afraid to step into the darkest valleys to comfort and protect, to bring us to a place of wholeness in him.

So, maybe, just maybe, our reluctance to repent denies God the opportunity to do the thing he most desires to do. God wants to lavish upon us his love and grace. What better place to do it than where we are afraid we are least deserving.

Jesus, sometimes it is hard to believe the extent of your patience, your grace, and your love. I confess the ways I hide the worst of me from you for fear that you will not love me. Show me now the lavishness of your grace and love for me that I might believe not only for me but for the world. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Monday Message: You Are the Man!

Nathan said to David, “You are the man!   

2 Samuel 12:7

The past two Sundays, we have explored the lowest point in the life of King David.  He had taken his eyes off of God and moved down a path dictated by self-interest, lust, and power.  David’s story had become a story of sin.  

An interesting aspect of this story is that David seemed unaware that his was a story of sin.  Perhaps that is what happens to us when we live dictated by self-interest rather than communion with the Living God.  We set the rules around how we live rather than toward living the life of God given to us.  Nevertheless, David seemed either unaware or purposefully in denial of his story of sin.  

David was not fully aware of his sin story until Nathan spoke the words, “You are the man!”  In Nathan’s words, David was able to regain for a moment the perspective of a God-directed life.  David was able to see his life in the light of truth.  These words became a doorway back into Life!

Nearly three thousand years after Nathan and David, a Roman governor in the colony of Judea would conjure these words at the trial of Jesus.  He would present Jesus to the people that Jesus loved and say, “Here is the man!”  Again, these words would mark the doorway into life.  Again, these words would expose our darkness to the light of Truth.  Jesus would fully grasp Nathan’s words of condemnation over David, over me, and over you, and bear them to the cross.  The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus identified with our sins so that we might identify with his life. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The bridge to life for us are the convicting words, “You are the man!”  Let us invite God to open our eyes to the places where he calls us to identify with Jesus.  Let them lead us to the confession: “I am a sinner, a person in trouble, a person who needs help, a human that needs God.”  And in that confession, we will find the light of Truth and the doorway into the God-directed life.

Gracious Jesus, we are so grateful that you do not condemn us.  Rather you have come to know us in our darkest hours.  We confess our tendency to hide and pretend.  Open our eyes to know your truth.  Speak to us and give us the courage to accept the grace that leads us into the God-directed life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.