A Simple Truth
It is good to be reminded of the simple truths in life. Often these reminders come from unexpected places like around the dinner table this afternoon. Here's a snapshot of our conversation:
A (daughter): Do you love J (son)?
Me: Yes, of course!
A: Why do you love him?
Me: Because we just do.
A: But why?
Me: We just do, he's part of our family.
A: But why? Because God made him?
Me: [taken aback]: Yeah, that's right.
A simple conversation with an important reminder. Just as we love one another in our families because God created us and brought us together as a family, so too the church is to love each other and the world. In fact, that is the ultimate purpose for us as individuals and the church. To love because God first loved us and to see each person as a uniquely created individual made in the image of God.
What would the world look like if instead of labeling people according to race, or gender, or sexuality (which is the latest trendy label for people), we saw everyone as equal—all brothers and sisters in Christ who offers himself to those who trust in Him, all made in the image of God who breathed life into us, all sinners in need of God's redeeming?
How would our communities change if instead of looking down on that guy on the street who reeks of smoke and booze or the single mom who moved into town and is struggling to get by we were to see them as a brother or sister who God desperately wants to be in relationship with and wants to breathe new life into their spirits?
How would our lives change if instead of holding a grudge against that woman who did something to us a long time ago (and we can't even remember what that something was) we would love her as a fellow created human who has the imprint of God on her and freely offer her forgiveness.
Who is that person in your life that you need to love, not because of what they've done to earn your love but because of who they are — a child of God, created by Him, and loved by Him? Maybe it's your spouse, your sister, your child, your friend, or maybe it's you.
The simple reminder today is that God loves you because you are His creation. Show that love to the world around you today!
I've been taken with the idea of generosity recently; it seems to be popping up all around me (there's a lot that could be said but here is a small snapshot of my thoughts). Specifically, what does it mean to be a generous person? There are many possible ways to define generosity. Everyone would agree that helping a friend out in time of need is generous or volunteering at the local animal shelter or even donating money to Tele-Miracle to help sick kids. All of those are important and worthwhile ventures to be involved in. But I've been stuck on the question of why we are motivated to give to these ventures.
At a basic level, I think we act generously to others because that is how we ourselves would hope to be treated when the time comes that we need the assistance of others. There is a certain sense of helping with the thought of what we might get in return; whether we are totally conscious of this or not. Deeply connected to this symbiotic relationship is the feeling we get when we help others— a self-fulfilling satisfaction. We may not always admit it but it feels good to help out someone else. We are proud of what we have done.
All of this raises the question of how we are supposed to act as followers of Christ. Do we give generously of our time, money, and resources when it is convenient for us? When we can get something in return? When it is done out of pity or with self-righteousness? NO! We are called to give generously in a selfless manner for no other reason than the love of Christ which dwells in us. Our generosity is to be modeled after God's generosity who continually offers a fresh start through repentance, who showers undeserved blessings upon us, and who gave of Himself sacrificially on the cross for the sake of the whole world. A dear Scripture verse bears this truth: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16)
God gave sacrificially for everyone knowing that His gift would be rejected and mocked by some but received by others. He gave not with mind to what He will get in return but out of self-giving love for us who He made in His image. It is His love that characterizes this gift. It is my prayer that we may be challenged to a selfless generosity spurred by God's self-giving love as we see those around us as fellow image-bearers of God and show them love as God Himself loves all.
An Imposing Temple?
As I was doing my devotions out of the book of 1 Kings (yes, people actually read that book) this morning I came upon the passage where Solomon dedicates the temple he built to the Lord. The Lord replies with a promise of blessing and a warning (as good Lutherans know He is want to do). He promises to establish Solomon's line forever if Solomon walks with integrity before the Lord. But then comes the part that I tripped over. I'll quote it here in its entirety:
But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to
serve other gods and worship them, then I will...reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples....though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be
appalled and will scoff and say, 'Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple? People will
answer, 'Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other
gods, worshiping and service them--- that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them. 1 Kings 9:6-9 [bold mine].
Wow. Harsh words, especially in a society where we don't like to think about God's judgment. You might be saying, that's all well and good, but what has this to do with me? God laid on my heart that we, as the North American church are part of that imposing temple. We have build for ourselves a comfortable and grand institution. When you stop to think about it you see just how imposing it has been. Simply look at the church's revenue (not pointing the finger at just one church group) or the sway its held within government or the social conscience it has been. These are all well and good but do they miss the point?
As the church continues in what appears to be a never ending free-fall, becoming ridiculed by all peoples, what is the Lord trying to say to us? Is He bringing ruin upon the imposing institution of the church (note the word institution, we have the sure promise of Jesus that the Spirit will keep and sustain the church, overcoming all in Matthew 16:18)? Is He calling us to turn from the things that distract us and return to Him with integrity and uprightness? YES!
God does not delight in judgment but He uses it as a means of last resort to call His people to repentance (read the entire Old Testament and see what I mean!). May we see how our imposing temple distract from the Goodnews of the Kingdom and return to the Lord with our whole heart, delighting in His mercy, receiving His grace, and being strengthened by the Holy Spirit to persevere in truth and holiness as we proclaim the abundant life that is ours in Christ Jesus!
Before coming to Leader, I never really had an appreciation for rain. Sure, I lived in a region that regularly receives rain, I mean a ridiculous amount of rain. We're talking somewhere around 170 days of the year where there is measurable precipitation to the tune of 60" (yes, 5 feet!). When you are inundated by rain, you have a tendency to take it for granted and even complain about it. But in a place like this where everything revolves around and is dependent on moisture we eagerly await and even long for the life giving rain.
During this most recent rainfall, I could see people's expressions change. Even though it was dark and gloomy outside, people were rejoicing in the water falling from heaven. That got me thinking about our relationship with God. In many places throughout Scripture, the Lord is referred to as life-giving water, most dramatically in John 7 where He invites, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." Jesus is repeating the Father's invitation from Isaiah 55:1, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters."
In North America, we are surrounded by a plethora of options with which to encounter God. There are too many Bible translations to count, churches on every street corner to meet every possible person (for better and worse), and 'spiritual gurus' permeating the media. We are inundated with access to God. And yet, it seems that we take God for granted more and more everyday.
God invites us to come. To come to Him and drink. To come to him and receive the Spirit which is the streams that flow out from us. The invitation is there, we are inundated by it. Let's not take it for granted; instead, let's celebrate each time the Spirit fills us as we are drawn back to the life-giving relationship with Jesus our Lord.
Image: Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/rain-raindrops-window-glass-72914/
Season of Pentecost: Ordinary Time
On Sunday June 8, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. It is the day marking the birth of the church in the power of the promised Spirit of God. It is a day of celebration; a day of rejoicing in the powerful potential of the Church of Jesus Christ which is equipped to speak words of truth, healing, and life to the whole world as nothing else can. It is also a day in which the church prays for a fresh renewal, an outpouring of that same Spirit which came at Pentecost to be made real and alive to us today.
However, the power, the renewal, the promise of life isn't restricted to just Pentecost Sunday. It should be our desire to receive a fresh outpouring of the life giving Spirit everyday. Our church year helps to remind us of the importance of having this prayer at the centre of our lives. Until the middle of November we will be in the Season of Pentecost (only interrupted by a few Festival Sundays). Spending so much time in the Season of Pentecost, also called Ordinary Time, can leave us feeling complacent and well, ordinary. Much of the season takes place during the summer months when church activities slow down and many people are away on holidays; it can start to feel kind of dead around here. And yet, over the next 23 Sundays, we will focus on the life of the church; its hope, its promise, its mission in the world. The excitement and power of Pentecost Sunday carries forward to each day of our lives as the Holy Spirit draws us into a new relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ.
So while we may be in the season of Ordinary Time, it is my prayer that our time would not just be ordinary but that it would be a season of refreshing, renewal, and of life as we set our eyes on Jesus eagerly following where He leads.
Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.