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.

July 13, 2017 Our Work for God’s Kingdom is Not in Vain- Isaiah 55:10-12, Luke 6:32-36

Jesus compassion 2For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

 For you shall go out in joy,and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. – Isaiah 55:10-12 (NRSV)

The journey of life is often tiring. Sometimes we look around and wonder if living as a Jesus follower really makes a difference.  Sometimes we pray and we don’t get answers.  Sometimes we reach out to others only to receive a cold shoulder or overt hostility.  Sometimes it seems as if life is just a series of setbacks, challenges and sucker punches.  We are instructed to wait on the Lord, but often we wonder, when is He going to show up?

Does the little bit of good we can do really matter?

Should we plant the seeds even if we never get to see the full grown tree?

It is rewarding when we can see the fruit of our labor. We all need encouragement and positive reinforcement, but there are times when we don’t always get those.  We get discouraged.

Along with the theme of God’s rest is trust – trusting that He is faithful, trusting that He does hear our prayers, and that living faithfully to Him does make a difference, even when we don’t see results.

God’s word will not return empty. That is a powerful affirmation that we see throughout Scripture.  When God says something He means it, and He will make it happen. We might not understand His timing or His mechanics, or what our role in His plans may be, but God is always faithful.

Elijah promised the widow that she would not run out of flour or oil (1 Kings 17:8-16) as long as the drought lasted, and she was rewarded for her faithfulness.  Jesus promised us as well that our faithfulness to Him will be rewarded, even if it’s not in a way we might expect:

(Jesus said): If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”- Luke 6:32-36 (NRSV)

Love isn’t an easy proposition. Many times love is a choice- to choose the path of love versus vengeance, and to seek involvement in the messy things of this world versus detachment from the needs of others.  It can be frustrating, tiring and overwhelming to be as Christ to others, especially when we don’t see results.  But Jesus tells us to be like Him, and to let Him handle both the results and the rewards.