August 22, 2017 – Boast in the Lord- 2 Corinthians 10:12-18

boast god's love

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense.  We, however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us, to reach out even as far as you. For we were not overstepping our limits when we reached you; we were the first to come all the way to you with the good news of Christ. We do not boast beyond limits, that is, in the labors of others; but our hope is that, as your faith increases, our sphere of action among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may proclaim the good news in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in someone else’s sphere of action. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.  2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (NRSV)

It has been said that pride is the mother of all sins- the sin behind the Fall, for instance, was the desire to have the knowledge of good and evil, to be like God.

There is a time and a place to “toot one’s own horn” – it is fine to let others know where one has been and what one has done if that knowledge is helpful or beneficial to others. There is also a place for humility, for understanding that all good gifts come from God.  We dare not place our confidence in the gifts rather than in the Giver.

Then there are the braggarts of the world, constantly reminding the world of who they are, where they’ve been, the illustrious contributions they have made to the world, and of how Important they are. The truth is God has made every person with a purpose. We are all a part of the grand scheme of life whether we choose to be or not, and whether or not we want to turn our participation in this life into a grand drama.

Eventually it comes to a point where people brag about accomplishments that they have not achieved or have not achieved alone. This is also harmful because it creates resentment.  No one wants someone else to take credit for his or her work.

The purpose of the work we do on this earth is to bring glory to God, and to bring about His kingdom on earth. God’s work is going to happen whether we are directly involved in it or not.  God’s role for us in His work will be played out whether the whole world knows it or if it is a quiet secret between us and God.

(Jesus said):“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4 (NRSV)

God is the ultimate hero in the Biblical narrative, and also in the greater narrative of life. If we trust Him, brag about Him, keep on going on about how amazing His grace and His majesty is, we can’t go wrong in our boasting.  As to our good deeds, sometimes it is better to just keep those a secret between us and God.  Our capacity to do those good deeds came from Him, anyway.

August 10, 2017 – God in the Silence 1 Kings 19:9-18

Elijah-in-the-cave

At that place he (Elijah) came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”  Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.  Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.  Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:9-18 (NRSV)

The Lord was not in the wind.

The Lord was not in the earthquake.

The Lord was not in the fire.

 

After the fire, a sound of sheer silence- then the Lord spoke.

Elijah was pretty depleted and worn out at this time- having just dealt with Ahab and Jezebel and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-46 and 1 Kings 19:1-8) He was looking for God to come to him in a big and dramatic way, wrapped up in the whirlwind, but God waited to speak to Elijah in the calm after the storm.

Most of us have been in places where the storm around us is so intense that the breath is sucked right out of us, we fall to our knees, and we have no words with which to speak. God does not abandon us in those moments, but often He waits to speak to us until the storm is over- whether the storm is the shock of a physical injury or a sudden tragedy or the blow of a deep disappointment- or, like Elijah, when we are coming to the end of ourselves and what we can handle. He lets us rage and scream and bargain, and once we have completely emptied out our hearts and souls, God steps into that silent, empty space.  He speaks words of comfort and peace and healing, but after the storms, in the silence. He speaks through the silence so we can’t help but hear His words.

There is a strong theme of redemption and restoration and continuity in this passage as well. God reminds Elijah that he is not alone (even though he thinks he is the last man standing, he is not) and that God’s work will go on even after Elijah’s work is done.  In the silence after the storm, after God passes over Elijah’s fatigue and frustration and burnout, God spells out what Elijah has left to do, and who will carry on after he is gone.

Elisha will finish off and continue some of the projects that Elijah started. It’s encouraging to hear that, that the work we do for God’s kingdom is part of an ongoing endeavor.  We build on to the work of those who were before us, and God will ensure that there are people after us to build on the work we have done, even though sometimes when we are tired and burned out and overwhelmed by grief and sorrow , we think, “I am the only person doing anything for God.”

The truth is that God’s work will get done.  We as individuals aren’t called to do it all. The laborers might be few and the work intense, but God finds a way.  That doesn’t mean that we should just bow out and miss out on the joy of serving because “someone else will do it,” but it does mean that we are in this together.  Everyone has his or her purpose in God’s plan along with others.  Bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth is something we do together, not a solo effort.

Do we trust God that He does speak to us in the silence, and that we are not called to be-all and do-all, rather we are called to complete the purpose He created us for, to contribute a piece of an ongoing tapestry, to write a chapter in a never-ending story?

In the end, in the silence, God brings us rest. There will be a day when we will see Jesus and He will say to us:  “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”-  Matthew 25:21

July 10, 2017 Rest for the Weary- Matthew 11:28-30

JesusRest(Jesus said): “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This world is a weary world. The news is mostly depressing.  Infrastructures and buildings are continually deteriorating and we see evidence of entropy (the natural cycle of things going back to their original state, or, “from dust you came, to dust you shall return”) everywhere.  We live in a constant paradox, with one foot in each kingdom- the earthly kingdom of “right now” and the heavenly kingdom of “not yet.”

When we look around at the state of the world and we see everything that is in need of healing, when we see so much that is left undone or incomplete, or that is actively being torn down, it’s hard not to be weary.

The problem is we can’t fix everything that needs fixing. We can’t heal everything that needs healing. We can’t make every wrong right, no matter how much we want to, or how much we try.

The good news in this reality is that God didn’t intend for one person to do it all. He has a plan for each of His people, but in the end it’s all about God’s project.  He is the One Who calls the shots. He equips us for the tasks He set aside for us to do.  If God intends for us to do anything, He is the One Who provides the means for us to do it.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what God has planned for us to do. So many causes and unfinished works touch our hearts, but we are finite and limited creatures.  There are times when we simply have to come to God as we are and let Him show us His way.  There are times when we try to carry things that weren’t meant for us to carry, and in those times we have to surrender them over and let God carry them.

How often do we drag things around that we were never intended to carry? Whether it be guilt, insecurity, grief or a sense of not being/doing good enough, those are burdens we need to surrender to God.

Jesus promised us that He would be rest for our souls. In Him we have purpose, and our lives are productive and complete.

 

 

June 2, 2017-1 Samuel 16:10-13 God’s Chosen, God’s Heroes

Viktor Vasnetsov God of hosts

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”  Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”  He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”  Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. 1 Samuel 16:10-13 (NRSV)

God’s choices are not necessarily our choices. Why would God choose the shepherd boy when He could have set any man as king over Israel?  It is true that David had a heart for God, and God sees beyond a person’s appearance or status.  The point could be argued that God created David in just the right time and place and circumstance for His purpose.

God puts us in just the right place and circumstances for His purpose also, although sometimes that’s not easy for us to see. It is especially hard to see God’s place and purpose for us when we are in the places we don’t want to be, such as in places of trial or hardship or mourning.

Sometimes our heroism is hidden, and only God sees it.  As Jesus taught:

“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:2-4 (NRSV)

The reason why God chose David for such a lofty purpose-David, the man who would be king, the earthly forefather of Jesus, was because of his heart for God.  David had a heart surrendered to God.  David wasn’t about being the one with the highest status or the person that other men would think highly of.  He valued God more than the world and all its distractions and riches.

God sees and knows our every sacrifice, our every tear, our every joy.  He invites us to share in the heroics of HIS story, every day.

JOY