Free To Serve

In a nation like the United States of America, we like to stress our freedoms, and we don’t like someone trying to suppress them.  How often have we heard the remark, “this is a free country, and I can do what I want.”  We don’t like the idea of someone dictating what we can and cannot do.  When someone infringes upon our rights, then we can become outraged.  We should be free to do what we want.

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, he addresses this idea of freedom.  Because of Jesus Christ, we have been set free.  Whereas the people had obediently followed the law to maintain their relationship with God, in Jesus, that relationship was now made right by God’s grace.  However, this new status before God did not give them the freedom to do whatever they wished or desired.  Instead, the freedom in Christ Jesus had a higher purpose.  In Galatians 5: 13, we read, “For you were called to freedom, brothers, and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.”  According to Paul, we should use our freedom not merely for ourselves and our own needs and wants, but we should use our freedom to serve others.

As a people of faith, we are called to center our lives not around our own needs or what is best for us, but instead, make our living about meeting others’ needs.  The question that we should ask in every situation is not, “how will this affect me” but rather, “how will this affect others?”  Through love for others, we decide how to live our lives.  Paul also states, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  As Christians, we realize that life is not about placing us at the center but about putting others before ourselves and serving them.  We are called to love our neighbor.

Now “love your neighbor” is a broad statement and rightly so.  We tend to limit our neighbors to people just like ourselves.  However, when we are called to love our neighbor, then there are no limits on who our neighbor is.  Our neighbor may be a lot different than ourselves.  We do not get to pick and choose our neighbor, but in Christ Jesus, every person is our neighbor.  I love the signage that I sometimes see, which says:

Love Thy Neighbor

Thy Homeless Neighbor

Thy Muslim Neighbor

Thy Black Neighbor

Thy Gay Neighbor

Thy Immigrant Neighbor

Thy Jewish Neighbor

Thy Christian Neighbor

Thy Atheist Neighbor

Thy Addicted neighbor

God’s neighborhood is pretty big and diverse.  As his followers, this is where we are called to live.  As a result, we are always looking out for the interests of others before our own.  In Christ Jesus, we are free to serve others by loving others the way that Jesus did.  We are free to choose other people’s needs before our own.  We are free to put others before ourselves.  We are free to love in the same way that God has loved us:  unconditionally.  This is what true freedom looks like.

Heavy Hearts

The normal heart is about the size of a clenched fist and weighs 300 to 350 grams, less than 1 pound.  When you consider your overall weight, it is small in size.  Yet, when it comes to importance, the human heart is essential.  The human heart begins to beat in the fetus at 3 to 4 weeks.  When you consider that it then beats for the rest of human life, it is an incredible organ.

Beyond its physical importance, we use heart metaphorically in many ways.  The end of a relationship may bring a broken heart.  A sports competitor is described as playing with all their heart.  If we are not excited about something, we might say our heart is just not into it.  Or if we are overburdened by something in life, we might confess that our heart is heavy.  We might sometimes concur with the great German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “My peace is gone, my heart is heavy. ”

In Proverbs 12: 25, we read, “Anxiety weighs down the heart.”  The writer of Proverbs recognized that sometimes we have heavy hearts.  It is impossible to live in the world and not have a heavy heart at times.  When problems grow great, worry settles in, and uncertainty fills the future, we can quickly feel like our hearts are sinking.  We often use the idiom to describe such a situation by saying, “my heart sank.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus sat around a table with his worried followers.  Jesus could tell that their hearts were sinking.  It was the night before Jesus’ death, and their lives seemed to be unraveling.  The heaviness of the hour was thick in the air, and it filled their hearts with a sense of despair.  Realizing this, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus’ remedy for a heavy heart is his peace.  Peace, which the apostle Paul said, “passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) Our hearts need not be overwhelmed by trouble when we allow God’s peace to guard them.  God gives us peace that can hold us steady and strong, even when our hearts seem to be failing us.  God’s peace will not fail us.  We will always face difficulties and challenges living in a broken world, but we can trust that God’s peace is stronger and can lift the heaviest of hearts.

Although we might look to other things and peoples to find our peace, these will always be inadequate. While they may offer short term peace to a heavy heart, true peace of heart can only come from God.  C.S. Lewis once said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”  May we trust in the peace that passes all understanding.  May we anchor our anxious hearts to the presence of Christ Jesus, and may we live in the hope that can lift our heavy hearts.




A Pebble in Your Shoe

It is an uncomfortable feeling.  You are walking when you realize that you have something in the shoe you are wearing.  In many cases, it may be a small rock or pebble that has found its way into your shoe.  And while it may not be huge, it can cause you discomfort and affect your walk.  Eventually, you have to sit down, take off your shoe, and remove whatever object is there.  Otherwise, you will continue to be uncomfortable, and your walk will be affected.

There are times when something happens in our daily living, causing a relationship with another to be damaged.  Something is said or not said, done or not done, that results in hurt feelings or anger.  Someone has made us mad, and we cannot stop dwelling on it.  Thus, like a small rock in our shoe, our inability to forgive and move on disrupts our lives,  leaves us irritated and frustrated.  Hence, each day we walk around miserable because of the past act, which has now turned into a grudge.  A grudge is defined as “a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.”  If you have ever carried a grudge around before, you know its impact on daily life.

The writer of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament offers wise counsel with respect to grudges.  In Proverbs 17: 9, we read, “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.”  As the writer suggests, we can easily dwell on actions in the past to the point that we grow more and more distant from our friends.  Many individuals daily live with broken relationships because of an inability to forgive.  And in many cases, this unforgiveness is a result of something relatively insignificant.  Rather than letting go of the act, we allow it to fester in our lives to the point that we walk around angry and agitated.  This can be a miserable way of living.

On the other hand, forgiveness can remove the power of an act to continue to agitate our living and, at the same time, strengthen our friendship with the person who has wronged us.  It is impossible to live in relationships with others and not be hurt at different times.  Even the best of us say and do things that bring hurt to others.  Forgiveness is like removing that rock from our shoe and then moving forward to walk anew.  It doesn’t mean we can completely forget what caused the hurt, but forgiveness allows us to let go so we do not continue to hurt.  Likewise, forgiveness is rich soil for a friendship to grow again.

Life is too short to walk around limping in unforgiveness.  Letting go and offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us sets us free to walk with a fresh new step and towards a brighter future for ourselves and our friend.


Under the Influence

Most often, when we hear the phrase “under the influence,” we think of individuals whose behavior has been influenced by alcohol or drugs.  We also tend to think of individuals under the influence of such substances while behind an automobile’s wheel.  We have read plenty of tragic stories where automobile accidents and death have resulted from driving under the influence.  Of course, driving under the influence can be seen in a driver whose driving is erratic.  What influences you will affect your behavior.

Every person lives their lives under the influence of something or someone.  Our living does not happen in a vacuum.  Our words and deeds are influenced by something, whether we recognize it or not.  The question we must ask ourselves is, what am I under the influence of?  Lots of things can influence us.  Our desire for wealth, or fame, or power, or pleasure, or self-aggrandizement can lead us to live our lives in a certain way.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, tried to simplify the influence equation.  In Colossians 3:17, we read, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Paul contends that as Christians, our words and our actions should be under the influence of the name of the Lord Jesus.  In the Bible, a person’s name was more than a legal identification; but it represented the person’s character.  It is why Moses asked for God’s name before he went to Pharaoh to seek the Hebrew people’s freedom from slavery.  When we are under the influence of the name of the Lord Jesus, then our words and deeds will mirror the character of Jesus.

In all honesty, there are times in which I fail to live under the influence of Jesus.  My words and deeds betray my relationship with him.  At times, people may look at our lives and wonder about our relationship with Jesus.  If Jesus is our Lord, then wouldn’t our lives look different?  Unfortunately, as followers of Jesus, we do not always do a good job following him with our words and actions.  We can call him Lord but appear to be under the influence of something else.

We might all benefit from examining our daily living as Christians.  Before we speak or act, we should consider what these words and actions look like in the light of Christ.  It would seem that Christ’s light is a light of love.  Jesus would tell us, “they will know you are my followers by your love.”  Are my words loving?  Are my actions loving?  How we answer these questions will reveal the influence we are under.


How Will We Know It’s You?

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, curbside service at restaurants has become popular.  You place your order on your phone or online, pull into specially mark parking, and text the restaurant to let them know you are there.  In some cases, you tell them the kind of car you are driving and its color as several people may be parked waiting on their order.  With your vehicle described, you wait for your food.

In the Gospel, we find Jesus riding into Jerusalem on what is traditionally called “Palm Sunday.”  It is the week of his crucifixion, and Jesus enters Jerusalem to a crowd of individuals who are excited to see his arrival.  For many, he is the Son of David, their messiah, and their new King.  Jesus is coming to restore Jerusalem to its glory days. With the number of people in the crowd on the crowded streets, how will they know he has arrived?

However, Jesus will not be arriving with a police escort with sirens blaring. The gospels tell us that Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey to fulfill the prophetic word of Zechariah.  In Matthew 21:5, we read, “Tell the city of Zion. Look, your King is coming to you! He is humble and rides on a donkey and a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  Jesus’ choice of transportation seems to go against the grain of what we would consider being used by a King.  How about the King pulled by a group of horses, chariot, or maybe riding a fierce-looking stallion?  But a donkey?  What is there to get excited about a simple, plain donkey? They were everywhere.  Where is the spark, the charisma, the show of power?  You can’t rev up your engine if you are riding on a donkey.

The scripture teaches us that Jesus came in humility.  Humility is the quality of being humble and means putting another person’s needs before your own and thinking of others before yourself.  Jesus is the perfect picture of humility, not only on this particular day but also throughout his ministry.  Jesus always lived by a philosophy that he had come to serve rather than be served.  In the day of Jesus, a king was surrounded by servants who did his every bidding.  Jesus, however, understood himself as a servant King, who came to offer love, mercy, compassion, and kindness to others.  Jesus didn’t make every act he performed about himself, but others.  On his last night with his disciples, Jesus knelt before them and washed their feet.  Jesus then told them he had given them an example to follow.

The great revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards once said, “We must view humility as one of the most essential things that characterize true Christianity.”  As followers of Jesus, we are called to lives of humility.  With Jesus as our example, we are called to put the needs of others before ourselves.  The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your interests, but the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-40) When we follow Jesus, we surrender our need to be in the limelight but joyfully choose to be a servant of others.  This is the kind of life that Jesus modeled and invites us to follow.

What would the world look like if we as Christians followed our leader?  How would we treat others?  What would our words sound like, and what would our actions say about us?  How do people know when we have arrived?  By the noise, we make about ourselves or by our silent service to others?  Christianity will have its most significant influence not on the noise it makes but by its willingness to love, serve, and live as Jesus did.  That’s how the world will know who we are riding with.

black donkey behind brown cage

Stump Speech

In a campaign season for political office, we become quite accustomed to candidates making speeches.  Sometimes they are called a stump speech.  A political stump speech is a standard speech used by a politician running for office.  In such a speech, the candidate usually reiterates their talking points, several things they want to accomplish or stop from happening by the other candidate.  Such speeches usually fire up the base, who are the ones who attend the events where the candidate is speaking.  Such events can draw a crowd.

Jesus drew a lot of crowds.  Throughout the gospels, you read the phrase, “and the crowds followed him.”  Jesus was used to having people hang on his every word.  In Luke 4, you might find what you could call Jesus’ first stump speech.  Jesus had just spent 40 days in the wilderness being tested by Satan.  Satan’s temptation was to be Jesus’ primary campaign advisor as he began his ministry.  Satan presented Jesus with all kinds of scenarios where he could gain a following.  Yet, with each temptation, Jesus refused to bow to Satan and remained committed to what God had called him to do.

On the Sabbath, Jesus arrives at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.  Luke tells us that Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit as news about him began to spread.  While attending a synagogue meeting, Jesus was asked to read from the Hebrew scriptures.  Jesus stood and took the scroll and found a reading from the prophet Isaiah.  Jesus reads from Isaiah 61: 1-2

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

You might say, Isaiah’s words became Jesus’ first speech in his campaign to announce the Kingdom of God.  Jesus spoke about bringing good news to the poor, releasing captives, healing the blind, freeing the oppressed, and proclaiming the year of the Lord.  The crowd reacted favorably to Jesus’ remarks.  But when Jesus began to teach that his mission would also be to the Gentiles, then things went downhill fast.  The people became furious that Jesus would extend God’s blessings to the Gentiles; they were outsiders to the faith.  They grabbed Jesus, took him outside, and prepared to throw him downhill off a cliff for his words.  Somehow Jesus simply walked away from the mob.

Jesus would build his ministry around the coming of God’s Kingdom.  A Kingdom where all would be welcomed, none would be excluded, and all could enjoy the blessings of God.  Jesus’ message of inclusion was met by strong resistance, not only that day in the synagogue but throughout Jesus’ ministry.  Eventually, Jesus’ enemies would have him put to death on a cross.  They assumed that by silencing Jesus permanently, his mission would come to an end.  Little did they know that three days later, Jesus’ resurrection would inaugurate a whole new age.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to continue his message and ministry in the world.  Like Jesus, we must seek to bring the Kingdom of God to all people.  We are to actively seek to bring the Kingdom of God or Heaven to earth.  The Christian campaign is not merely a promise of future heaven but also a diligent work to bring God’s work and will into a broken world.  These are not campaign promises but Gospel reality.  We can never be content as followers of Jesus as long as individuals suffer in the present and until Jesus’ words in the synagogue become a reality:  “Today this scripture is fulfilled.”




Border Crossings

We hear a lot about border crossings today.  A border checkpoint is a place, generally between two countries, where travelers or goods are inspected. Authorization often is required to enter a country through its borders. Access-controlled borders often have a limited number of checkpoints where one can cross without legal sanctions.  In the United States, we have borders with Mexico and Canada.  As we are aware, crossing them illegally can get you arrested.  Borders define your land, much like your property lines in your yard.  In addition, the government of a region can only create and enforce laws within its borders.  Borders mark separation from one place to another.

There were well-defined borders in the Bible.  These borders were especially true when it came to the holiness code of the Jewish faith.  The code recognized that Israel’s people were separated from the rest of the world because God had chosen them.  The code also established borders between the holy and the unholy, the healthy and the sick, the righteous and the sinner.  An individual of the day knew where they stood when it came to borders.  You were on the inside, or you were on the outside, and the border was not easy to cross.

When you read the Gospel stories of Jesus, it appears that Jesus didn’t pay a lot of attention to the border rules of the day.  Jesus was quite aware of the distinct separation that existed at the time.  However, Jesus seemed to freely cross the borders as well as welcoming others who crossed over to meet him.  Jesus did not worry that he was a Jewish Rabbi, but instead, he invested himself in others’ lives, regardless of what side of the border they came from.  As a result, throughout the Gospels, you see Jesus interacting with those suffering from disease, tax collectors, women, children, Samaritans, Gentiles, and whoever else had a label upon them as being outsiders from the right side of the boarder.  Jesus illegally crossed borders to share God’s love with people.  It didn’t win him any points with the religious authorities who always complained about his loose interpretation of the law.  For Jesus, grace just trumped borders.

In our modern society, we, too, can find ourselves resting safely on our side of the border when it comes to living our lives.  We tend to hang with the same crowd and are often reluctant to reach out, engage, and befriend those who may be different.  We develop an us and them mentality, and we like it best when everyone knows their place.  As followers of Jesus, however, this is not an option.  As Jesus’ disciples, we must be willing to live in a world without borders, where every person is worthy of love.  As Christians, we do not get to pick and choose our borders, but we are called to stretch beyond our comfort zones and into the lives of those around us.  The Christian faith is about building bridges, not walls.  We must seek to model our lives after Jesus, who welcomed all.

When the early church found itself beginning to set up its borders, the apostle Paul wrote, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)  When we cross borders and enter into the lives of others, then we bring praise to God.  When we reach out in love and acceptance of others, we worship God.  It is no wonder then that the scriptures remind us about our place of worship, “My house will be a house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7)  There are no borders for God, but only people to be loved, embraced, and befriended.


Hitting the Brakes

For anyone who has ever driven a car, you know there are times when you have to hit the brakes.  Now it is impossible to drive a vehicle and not have to use the braking system.  With starts and stops, you have to gently press the brakes to slow your car down and bring it to a halt.  Yet, there are other times when you have to hit the brakes to avoid hitting something else and having an accident.  Instead of slowly pushing the brake pedal to ease your speed, you hit the brakes hard to bring the car to a screeching stop.  And while slamming on the brakes can create a scare for those in the car, sometimes it is necessary for all’s safety and well-being.

In the Bible, the prophet’s role was one that often slammed on the brakes for the people of Israel.  As God’s chosen people, Israel had entered into a covenantal relationship with God.  A covenant which called for faithful allegiance to God alone as well as an ethical responsibility for others.  The people had agreed to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds, and to love their neighbor.  However, there were times in which the people of Israel failed at both of these covenant promises.  They often chased after other gods and forgot their relationship with God. To make matters worse, even when the people claimed allegiance to God alone, it did not often translate into loving their neighbor.  Instead, Israel’s people allowed injustices to multiply, often neglecting the care for the most vulnerable in their society.  In some cases, the people mistreated these individuals, ignored others, and oppressed the least of these.  As a result, the prophets often cried out against the people, hitting the brakes and shaking things up with the injustices that prevailed.

One of the most prominent and well-known prophets in scripture is that of the prophet Isaiah.  This eighth-century prophet of Israel cried out against the people for allowing injustice to flourish in their society.  Isaiah 1 states, “learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. ” (Isaiah 1:17) Isaiah called the people to return to the ways of the covenant where all people were treated fairly, where the least of these were cared for, and where their faith in God refused to allow injustices to stand in society.  Isaiah reminds us that our faith must be active just by his word choice in the above scripture:  “learn, seek, rescue, defend, and plead.”  Isaiah “hit the brakes” and disrupted the comfortable ride of the people.

It is easy to become comfortable in our faith journey where we are content because our world’s injustices have no direct effect on us.  We know that people in our world are oppressed and suffering, but we often continue in our spiritual journey without much thought to their condition because it does not touch our own lives.  Or if we do respond to such a situation, we meet their current need without addressing our society’s unjust systems that have left them in their current state.  We can easily band aid the problem without considering the source of their wounds.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has been described as a modern classic.  Bonhoeffer once wrote, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”  Bonhoeffer, a modern-day prophet, realized that sometimes you had to hit the brakes.  It was not good enough to treat the victims of injustices, but one had to bring the injustice itself to a halt.  The church could not merely journey forward while so many were left behind.  At some point, the church would have to cry out, “enough is enough.”

So many in our world today continue to suffer injustice, oppression, and persecution.  Whether it is racism in our own country, global sex trafficking, poverty, inadequate healthcare, or other human rights issues, the church must be a prophetic voice and agent of change.  The church must provide a voice to the voiceless and be willing to sacrifice its sense of comfortableness as it engages the injustices in our society.  Like Jesus, sometimes you have to turn over tables and challenge the status quo.  As followers of Jesus, we cannot make a blind journey through life on cruise control but must be willing to hit the brakes even if it means throwing everything around in the car/church.

car vehicle technology sport
Photo by Victoria Ouarets on


I think most people are familiar with watermarks.  Originally a watermark is a more or less transparent image or text applied to a piece of paper, another image to either protect the original image or make it harder to copy the item, e.g., money stamp watermarks.  If you hold the paper in the right light, the watermark appears.  The watermark gives the paper authenticity.

As Christians, we are marked.  In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we read, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)  As Jesus’ followers, we are authenticated by God’s Spirit.  God has claimed us as his own and has placed his watermark upon us.  In our baptisms, we are marked and sealed with God’s Spirit.  As a result, our lives must reflect God’s ownership.  When people look at our lives, they should be able to tell to whom we belong.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul was addressing the life change that comes from following Jesus.  Paul speaks of a new lifestyle as Christ’s followers. Paul writes about putting away falsehoods, speaking the truth, changing behaviors, watching our speech, putting away wrath and anger, and offering forgiveness to one another.  If our lives do not match our watermark, then Paul says we will grieve the Holy Spirit.  To grieve means to make sad or sorrowful. It means to cause sorrow, pain, or distress.  It saddens God when our baptism marks us, but then we do not follow the ways of our Lord.

Following Jesus in our world is not easy.  The temptation to join the crowd and forget our watermark is easy.  We end up blending in, losing our identity in Christ, and failing to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the world. Instead, our lives must exemplify the Christ we came to follow if we are to be authentic.  Unfortunately, what the world often experiences from Christians and the church comes across as a cheap imitation.  Our confession of faith does not match our daily living.  C. S. Lewis in his classic work; Mere Christianity stated, “When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.”  The world will only true believe the good news of Christ Jesus when they see it in us.

As we live our daily lives as followers of Jesus, let us commit ourselves to God’s mark upon our lives.  May we be a Christian not merely in name, but in word and in deed.  Let us encourage one another in our walk as we all stumble at times.  And let us hold one another accountable in our faith so that the world will see our watermark and know to whom we belong.Baptism

Lost in our Thoughts

What are you thinking about?  We’ve asked that question of others, and others have directed that question toward us.  A lot of times, you can tell when someone is thinking about something.  They are there, but there is a disconnect with the environment around them.  They are lost in their thoughts.  The dictionary defines lost in thought this way:  “When you give all your attention to what you are thinking about and do not notice what is going on around you.”

It just seems that our minds are always thinking about something.  Some of our thoughts can be reasonably average like what is for supper, what do I need to pick up from the store, did I turn the lights off?  At other times, our thoughts can weigh much heavier upon our minds as we consider issues such as our health, relationships, finances, and other uncertainties.  Yes, we can get lost in our thoughts.  We can worry.

Everybody worries.  It would be impossible to live in the world and not find ourselves at times worried about something or someone in our lives.  Parents know what it means to worry about their children.  Business owners know what it means to worry about the bottom line.  A person who is dealing with a disease knows what it is like to worry about their health.  The list goes on.  Yet, worry is not a modern phenomenon, but it is as old as humanity itself.

In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus addresses worry.  Jesus speaks about worry related to the daily needs of food, drink, clothing, and shelter.  Jesus knew that the people of the day could easily get lost in thought and worry about these things.  Jesus states, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (Matthew 5: 28-30) Jesus called his hearers who found themselves lost in thought and worry to reframe their thinking by focusing on lilies.  Now I don’t think lilies were Jesus’ favorite flower.  Instead, Jesus pointed out lilies because they demonstrate God’s concern and care for the flowers of the field, and if God thinks about the flowers of the field, we can trust that we are always in God’s thoughts and on God’s mind.

When we can come to trust in God’s care and concern for our lives, then we can trust God with our anxiety, worries, and problems.  We can allow our thoughts to rest in God’s mind.   In doing so, we do not become so lost in our thoughts and weighed down with anxiety that we can’t enjoy the life God has blessed us with.  We can begin to think of all of God’s blessings, acts of mercy, times of provision, sustaining grace, and steadfast love.  When we get lost in these kinds of thoughts, we enjoy the peace of mind that only God can give.  That’s something to think about.

white flower in tilt shift lens
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

The Pursuit of Happiness, When We Were Made for Joy

It says it right there in the Declaration of Independence: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  These are three examples given of unalienable rights granted to all humans by their creator.  According to the Declaration of Independence,” we have a right to these.  I’m not sure why these three were identified as central, as I am not a historical scholar.  Yet, I have been intrigued by choice of the pursuit of happiness.

But what does happiness mean?  Happiness can mean different things for different people.  Is there a set standard for happiness, and who gets to define the standard?  What does it mean to pursue happiness?  When I think of pursuing something, I think of trying to chase something down, capture it, and claim it as my own.  And I guess if you are pursuing something, it doesn’t mean just sitting still, but actively going after whatever you are pursuing.

Well, I think most people want to be happy.  Happiness makes us feel good.  Happiness puts a smile on our faces.  Yet, it has been my experience that happiness never lasts, but it is fleeting.  Maybe this is why we are always pursuing it.  Once we attain it, it does not last long.  The new car eventually gets dinged and dented.  The new job becomes routine.  The new outfit goes out of style.  The new relationship begins to grow stale.  The next high wears off.  Happiness is off and running, so the pursuit begins again.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says these words to his disciples:  “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) Jesus promised his disciples that they could share in his joy.  Unlike happiness, joy seems to have a deeper and richer meaning to it.  John Piper defines Christian joy this way:  “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and the world.”  This kind of joy cannot be found or experienced in anything that the world has to offer, but instead, its source is in God alone.  When Jesus said to his disciples that he had said “these things,” so they might have joy, we have to ask what did Jesus say?

The verses preceding John 15:11 record Jesus speaking about our need to abide in Jesus and for Jesus to abide in us much like a branch does to a vine.  When we share our lives with Christ Jesus, then we become infused with Jesus’ joy.  We don’t pursue it or chase it down, but it is offered to us a gift of God’s grace.  An abiding relationship with Jesus Christ is the only real source of joy.  There may be happiness imitations, but they do not last.  Only the joy of the Lord is lasting and does not flee even in times of difficulty.  God’s joy is eternal.  What we receive now on earth is only amplified when we went enter into the joy of heaven.  As Fanny Crosby wrote in the great Christian hymn, Blessed Assurance:  “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.  Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine.”

What is it that we are pursuing?  What is it that we have found, and has it brought lasting happiness?  Happiness will continue to slip through our fingers.  Joy, however, will anchor itself in our hearts as a constant reminder of the trustworthy source of our joy:  Jesus.

photography of woman surrounded by sunflowers
Photo by Andre Furtado on




Bent Out of Shape

It happens.  Something happens that upsets us.  We get angry.  We get frustrated.  Even our physical demeanor changes as we become red face.  We get “bent out of shape”.  The phrase means to take offense; to become angry, agitated, or upset.  Something has set us off so much that we are all twisted up inside about it.  We can’t think straight, our emotions are high, and we are visibly upset.

In the Gospels, Jesus often caused people to get bent out of shape.  This was especially true of the religious leaders who disapproved of the way he conducted himself.  The Jewish religion of the day had strict guidelines and instructions on how one should live.  There were certain things you were not permitted to do.  This was especially true about the Jewish Sabbath.  Strict observance of the Sabbath meant working and other activities were simply not permitted.

In Luke 10: 13-17 we read the following story of Jesus healing a woman on the Sabbath.  “Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.”

This particular woman had been physically bent out of shape for 18 years.  She could not stand straight up, but hunched over, she lived looking at the ground.  When Jesus sees her condition, he extends compassion and heals the woman.  However, the leader of the synagogue becomes bent out of shape because Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  According to policy and procedures guidelines, Jesus should have waited till after the Sabbath.  Jesus broke the rules when he healed the bent out of shape woman.  I think most people when we read this story think how ridiculous it was for the leader of the synagogue to become so upset about breaking a rule to help a person.

Sometimes we become bent out of shape on things that really in the big picture don’t matter.  Someone says something or does something and immediately we find ourselves twisted up inside, walking around miserable and mad, and generally unhappy with life at the moment.  We end up bent out of shape about something we should have just let go in the first place.  Yet, for some reason, we are good at holding on to these feelings and allow them to disrupt all the goodness around us.  All the synagogue leader could see was his anger, while he missed the bigger picture.

So, the next time something bends us out of shape, let us think about what it is that is really making us upset.  Is it justified?  Is it worth it?  And if the answer is no, then just let it go and then go forth and live your life.  It is ironic in the story that the woman walks away free from her bent over condition while the religious leader leaves all bent out of shape.  We don’t have to live bent of our shape.  Jesus can straighten us all out as he teaches us about what really matters in life. Life is too short to get upset about some things.  Jesus always shows us a better way.




The Mess We Leave Behind: Politics and Conversations

For anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant as the wait staff or as a busboy or busgirl, there are times when you go to the table after the diners have left to find a mess.  Now there will always be dirty dishes and the like, but sometimes the table is a disaster.  Remnants of the meal are spread around the table, on the seats, and on the floor.  Everything is in disarray.  At other times you can tell that the diners intentionally left the table in nice shape, stacking dishes, collecting trash, and the like, because they know someone will have to clean up things.  Having waited on tables before in my life, I try hard now not to leave a mess behind for others to clean up.

As an American citizen, I am concerned about the mess we are leaving behind for future generations.  Our table fellowship has gotten awful messy.  While political disagreements have always been part of our American family, it has in recent years turned into a free-for-all of insults, sarcasm, ugliness, and hatefulness.  Civic conversations have given way to Jerry Springer Show like theatrics where the goal is not to discuss issues but to seek ways to destroy one another.  It has not helped that our national leaders have modeled this way of exchange for us.  When our leaders are unable to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity, and respect, then it filters down to the rest of us.  It shows up among circles of friends, families, workplaces, and churches.

The widespread use of social media has only exasperated the problem.  The daily barrage of comments, sarcastic posts, and mean-spirited words are all over the place from all sides of politics.  We are quick to point the finger at our political opponent while failing to see our own shortcomings.  In fact, political opponents are now better described as political enemies.  The lines have been drawn and compromise is forgotten as an option.  Yes, we are creating quite a mess, but at what price?

Our children and grandchildren are watching us and taking it in.  If we continue to model this way of discourse, then it is only inevitable that they will follow suit as they age.  We will have left the table so messy, then they will not know how to begin to start the conversation.  They will think this is the normal of table conversation.  Left unchanged, we will be setting them up for a generation of division and animosity.  Is this really what we want to leave behind?

As people of faith, we have to do better.  We have to model a way of discourse that is guided by grace and humility.  We have to resist the temptation of joining in the free-for-all of insults, sarcasm, and hatred.  We have to live with a different mindset; the mind of Christ.  The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, would write, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4: 8-9) Imagine the salt and light we could be as Christians at the table if we operated under a different mindset than that of the rest of society.   Jesus told us that they will know we are his followers by our love for one another.  I think we would all probably rather be known for our love than our last political post on FACEBOOK.

As Christians, we can continue to talk, discuss, and debate the issues of the day.  Each voice is important.  Yet, we do so with the mind of Christ within us.  We must let the mind of Christ guide our conversations.  Again, the apostle Paul would write to the Philippians saying, “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 1-8)

We all want our voices to be heard in the political conversation.  However, are we willing to speak with voices guided by Jesus Christ?  We don’t have to leave a messy table for others to clean up.  We can leave a better place for those who come after us.  We cannot do it, however, on our own, but only by the guidance of God’s Spirit.  May we each ask God to guide our speech and its tone.  May we see others, even the ones we disagree with, as children of God.  And may we realize that our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus Christ.


Sloppy Saints

Did you ever ask a question of another, but did not get the answer you wanted to hear?  You ask the question hoping that the individual will affirm what you have already decided the answer to be.  In Matthew’s Gospel, the apostle Peter comes to Jesus asking a question about forgiveness.  In Matthew 18:21 we read, “Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Peter answered his question before Jesus could respond.  Peter wanted to know if he should forgive up to seven times.  Now it is not exactly clear what Peter meant by seven times.  Did he mean that when you forgave a church member seven times then you were done?  If an eighth time came along, then you didn’t have to forgive?  Or did the number seven mean perfection?  Was Peter asking Jesus if he had to offer perfect forgiveness? Now, whatever Peter meant, he does seem to be asking to see if there are limitations on forgiveness.  Is there only so much forgiveness to go around?

Jesus responds to Peter with a number of his own.  Jesus says, “Not seven times, but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”  (Matthew 18:22) Peter was probably confused by Jesus’ answer.  What does that even mean?  Jesus then goes on to tell a parable about a king who wished to settle accounts with servants.  As he called each servant before him to settle up, one servant came forward owing 10,000 talents.  In modern money, it is $3.48 billion.  There was no way this servant would ever be able to pay the king back.  So, as you would expect, the servant begs for more time to come up with what he owes.  The king is moved by his plea.  He does not grant the servant an extension but instead erases his entire debt.  He now owes nothing.  Freed from his debt, the servant heads out only to meet another servant who owes him just a little.  When this servant asks for more time, the recently forgiven servant will have nothing of it.  Instead, he threw him into prison until he could pay his debt.

This news makes it back to the king.  The king once again calls the servant before him demanding to know why he didn’t forgive his fellow servant after he had just received forgiveness.  Incensed with the servant, the king takes back his forgiveness and orders him to be tortured until he pays back everything.  The story ends with Jesus saying, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18: 35)

So back to the original question.  If a church member sins against me, how often should I forgive?  Well, the first truth here is that church members sin against one another.  Even though we are followers of Jesus, we still lug around with us the baggage of our human sinfulness.  As a result, as church members, we say and do things that cause hurt to others.  Any person who has ever spent time with a church family knows that this is true.  We can still wound others with our words, actions, or lack of action.  The church is by no means a perfect place, but a group of sloppy saints trying to do the right thing.  Yet, sometimes we get it wrong.

As a pastor for the last 30 years with the same church, I wish I could say I always got it right.  Yet, sometimes I am a sloppy saint.  We all are.  That is why forgiveness is such an important part of the church.  If we can’t forgive one another, then it makes our proclamation of God’s grace seem cheap or inauthentic.  If there is anywhere forgiveness should have a good root system is in the church.  Now, this does not mean excusing unacceptable or unharmful actions, but it does mean forgiveness should always be a part of our interactions with one another.  When unforgiveness plops down in a pew or a pulpit, then problems are inevitable.

Forgiveness is not easy.  It can be tough work.  Yet, Jesus has demonstrated what it looks like.  The only guideline is to forgive from your heart.  And when we can begin there, God can then take care of the rest.


Straight Talk

Jesus knew all along how his life would unfold.  He knew that there would come a point in which he would suffer and die.  The cross was continuously before him as he carried out his mission and ministry.  Each day drew him closer to this reality.  There would be difficult days ahead for him and his followers.  Thus, as Jesus journeyed with these twelve disciples, he tried to prepare them for the inevitable.  Hence, at different points in the Gospel narrative, Jesus tells his disciples directly that he will suffer and die.  In Mark 8: 31-32 we read, “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.”  Jesus wanted his followers to understand the severity of what was before them.  Jesus didn’t downplay the suffering that was ahead.  He was open and honest and wanted his followers to be prepared.

Now the disciples were slow to understand.  This is perhaps why Jesus spoke directly to them about his suffering more than once.  Jesus needed them to understand the days ahead, even it might create panic or stir up anxiety within them.  Not to prepare them for his cross and death would have left them in a worse state.

The anxiety was high the night before Jesus’ death as he gathered with his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus recognizes their anxiety and fear.  They are fearful of the future, uncertain about their lives, and what the unfolding hours will hold.  Jesus had already spoken about betrayal and denial amongst themselves.  They were afraid, plain and simple.  As their leader, Jesus knew he needed to address their fear and anxiety.  Hence, in John 14: 1-3 we read, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”  Jesus invited his followers to anchor their anxious hearts in him and that if they trusted in God, then they could trust in him.

In our lives, there are times in which fear and anxiety can feel overwhelming.  Life can create times in which we are uncertain about the present and the future is fearful.  Even as a people of faith, like Jesus’ disciples, we may doubt how we will get through.  Jesus, however, from the very beginning told his followers then, as well as today, that there would be difficult days ahead.  Jesus did not downplay the struggles we would face in following him.  Yet, in spite of the struggles we do face, Jesus promises that he will be present with us during these times and offers us hope beyond the struggles.  In John 16:33, on the same night before his death, Jesus says, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”  In his straight talk, Jesus didn’t offer a rosy picture of life. Rather, Jesus spoke truthfully about the difficulties of life, but difficulties that would ultimately be replaced by hope.  We can take heart that even in the midst of a troubling world, Jesus will conquer and bring victory to our lives.

Jesus offered an honest assessment of life in a broken world; it can be hard at times.  But then Jesus offered a promised hope; he has overcome it all, and so will we. Jesus will always be a non-anxious presence in our anxiety.  We can trust him to lead us through it and bring us to a better place.


Trash Night

Monday night is trash night at my house.  Bright and early Tuesday morning, you can hear the sounds of the truck as the sanitation workers will descend on our neighborhood and begin the weekly process of collecting the trash.  So, on Monday night we go throughout the house and collect the trash from the individual rooms.  Once gathered, we dump the trash in the large collection can and then roll it to the street.  While taking the trash out is not my favorite chore, I am grateful there are a time and a way to remove it.  Without the weekly pickup, it could get pretty trashy and smelly at the house.  You just can’t let trash pile up.

In our daily living, it is easy to allow our sins to pile up in our lives.  In the book of Isaiah, the prophet confesses, “For our transgressions are piled up before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities.” (Isaiah 59:12) Isaiah reminded the people that their sin, left unconfessed and forgiven, would pile up, and lead to death.  Sin has a way of rotting and stinking up our lives when we don’t let it go.  None of us are free from sin.  While each day may be different, we continue to do those things which are not pleasing to God.  The scriptures teach us that “all have sinned and fallen short of God.” (Romans 3:23) Even the best of the followers of Jesus continue to stumble in sin.

This is why we need confession in our lives.  Daily we have to acknowledge our sinfulness, confess our wrongs, and then trust them to God’s grace and forgiveness.  When we fail to recognize our sin and confess them to God, then we allow them to pile up in our lives which can create quite a mess.  Confession is like taking out the trash.  When we confess our sins, God’s grace removes the sin and sets us free.  As the apostle John would remind us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (John 1:9)

The amazing thing about God’s grace is that there is no single sin or no pile of sin that God cannot remove from our lives.  Regardless of how much our sin piles up or how much we feel as though we are beyond redemption, God’s grace will always be greater.  As Paul would write to the Romans, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more.” (Romans 5:20) In confession, we open ourselves up to God’s grace and the richness of God’s love.  Grace and love that can change our lives, restore our lives, renew our lives, and lead us into a fresh beginning.

If the trash needs to be taken out, then let us do it today and tomorrow, because God is there to pick it up every day.

dirty trash containers near green park
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An Aha Moment

Have you ever had an “aha moment?”  An aha moment is defined as a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.  For different reasons what was unknown or even forgotten is recognized or remembered.  There is a break in your line of thinking when the truth breaks in and you discover understanding.  These aha moments are often life lessons that cause us to rethink things in our lives.

In the book of James in the New Testament, the writer has what you might consider an aha moment.  In James 4: 14 we read, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  James confesses about the brevity of life.  Or as we might say in modern lingo, “time flies.”   I know that as I age, time does seem to go by faster.  I find myself often wondering, “where did the time go?”

In the third chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes, we read, There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2) Birth and death are indeed the bookends of life and living is found between the two.  In it is these daily moments of life that we share in many experiences.  While at any given time we might not think much about a moment, we should seek to see the value in every moment.  For as James reminds us, these collective moments in life are like a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Someone once said, “you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Life is indeed short.  This is why we should see each moment in life as a gift and not take any moment of time for granted.  Times spent with the people we love can easily come to an end in the brevity of life, thus we must value each moment.  As James states, “we do not know what tomorrow will bring.”  All we have is the present moment.  Hence, each moment gives us the opportunity to live in gratitude for that moment and the people, things, and places at that moment that give it meaning.  Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist who gave us The Jungle Book.  Kipling once said, “This is a brief life, but in its brevity, it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.”
We are only given one life.  As people of faith, we must see each moment as a gift of God’s grace. Each moment gives us the opportunity to glorify God by the way we live.  Each moment must be received in gratitude.  Each moment of life is an “aha moment” to be celebrated with the people in your life that make life such a grand adventure.  Right now is a good moment for all of us to thank God for this gift of life.




Head for the Hills

How many times have you said or heard another person say, “We better head for the hills?”  I know I have used it on occasion at different times sometimes jokingly and sometimes seriously.  Its dictionary definition reads: ” To move to higher ground, as in preparation for or response to a natural disaster.”  So, if the water is starting to rise in a flood, you might want to get to higher ground.  But often we use it metaphorically when we are facing a trial of some type in our lives.  If people head for the hills, they run away from trouble.

Life is full of moments in which we want to head to the hills.  Life can suddenly turn upside down, the waters of anxiety can rise, and we can feel overwhelmed.  So, to avoid disaster we seek out something or someone for help.  Where do we escape to when life is swelling up around us like a flooded riverbank?  In Psalm 121, the psalmist considers his options while facing a difficult time.  He is ready to head to the hills, but where will his help come from.  In verses 1 and 2 we read, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”  The psalmist realized that help was needed so he looked to the hills.

In our lives, when we are faced with a struggle or difficulty, we all look to the hills.  The question is what is my hill and who is my help?  The psalmist confesses that his help comes from the Lord.  However, we don’t always turn their first.  We may head to the hills and turn to some vice to help ease our fear.  We may head to the hills and withdraw unto ourselves and cut ourselves off from everyone else.  We may head to the hills, become angry, and take it out on someone else.  We may head to the hills and lose ourselves in despair.  We all face these temptations when we are in trouble.

As people of faith, we must remind ourselves that ultimately our help comes from the Lord.  When we feel as though we need to head to the hills, we must remember that God will be there with us as our rock and our refuge.  We remember the words of the old gospel song, The Old Rugged Cross, when it states, “On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross.”  As Christians, the cross is our refuge and help.  In the cross, God stepped into the mess of our lives with a message of divine presence and deliverance.  Though life may rage against us at times, the cross is a constant reminder of God’s presence.  We need not fear the deepest valleys because our help comes from the Lord of the Hill.



Right in Front of Your Face

Have you ever gone looking for something and not be able to find it.  You feel as though you have searched carefully, yet you have no luck in your search.  Yet, eventually, you or someone else does find it and the object was in plain sight all the time.  It is right in front of your face, but you do not see it.  You wonder how and the world you missed it.

I love the autumn season, especially after a long hot summer.  As the days begin to cool, the colors also begin to turn.  Suddenly the color of green is replaced by red, yellow, and orange as the leaves on the trees begin their annual transformation. Lee Maynard was an American novelist, short story writer, and journalist born in West Virginia.  He once made this observation about Fall: “I loved Autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”  Indeed, in our created world, God’s artistic creativity is always on display.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Rome expresses how God’s work and presence can be experienced in the beauty of creation.  Paul writes in Romans 1: 20: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So, they are without excuse.”  For Paul, we are without excuse in not believing in God, because as we look at the beauty of creation, God is right in front of our faces.  God’s eternal power and divine nature can be seen and understood through the things God has made.  Thus, every autumn tree is a doxology, every harvest moon is a song, every fallen leave is a reminder of God’s grace.  God is all around us; we are just too busy and distracted at times to notice.

The challenge then becomes ours to find a way to see the wonder of God in our world.  We have to create ways to rest in the beauty of God’s creation, celebrating its wonder and diversity, and using it as a means of worship.  Like Nehemiah in the Old Testament we can proclaim:

“You alone are the Lord.
You have made the heavens,
The heaven of heavens with all their host,
The earth and all that is on it,
The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all of them
                                        And the heavenly host bows down before You.”                                         (Nehemiah 9:6)

We worship a creative and artistic God.  God could have chosen to give us a bland world of sameness, but God spiced it up.  The beauty of our created world is God’s good gift to all of us.  So, let us treasure it and care for it and celebrate it.  God is right in front of our faces in so many beautiful ways and we don’t have an excuse for missing God’s presence. So in every colored tree, every gentle breeze, every animal that scurries along, and every human face we meet, we get a glimpse of our God.

autumn autumn colours brown countryside
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You Can’t Hurry Love

We’ve all probably had the same experience.  You are sitting in your car at a stoplight when it is red.  The light turns green and you don’t start moving forward at the exact moment and someone starts honking their horn at you.  You’ve barely had the chance to react to the light change before someone has already grown impatient and thus, lays on their horn.  They want you to get moving so they can get moving and they are not happy to have to wait for a second more.  They have run out of patience.

I expect that most of us have become impatient about something at times.  We are tired of waiting, even if the wait is really not that long.  For whatever the reason, we need things to move along sooner than later and preferably now.  We live in an instant society.  We want everything now and having to wait for something just seems to go against the grain.  W.H Auden, the great American poet, once wrote, “Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.”  We just have a tough time waiting.  We want it all and we want it now.

The 13th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth is often called the love chapter.  We often tend to associate Paul’s words on love with weddings, but in actuality, the words are directed towards the church.  Paul is reminding these early Christians of what God’s love looks like in the life of a believer.  Hence, in his definition of Christian love Paul writes, “love is patient.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4)

In Christian love, we realize that we are all in the process of becoming who God desires us to be.  Yet, we are still a long way away from perfection.  We are still sinful creatures, prone to mistakes and failures, and slow to grow sometimes in our faith.  As a result, it is easy for us to get frustrated and impatient with one another.  How often have we found ourselves saying something like, “he just makes me so mad, she drives me crazy, why doesn’t he do this, what is taking her so long, and the list of questions goes on.  We think we know best for individuals, and we become frustrated when they don’t demonstrate it.

However, when we live with patient love, we are willing to walk beside another in this process of becoming what God desires in their lives.  We see it in Jesus and his circle of disciples.  The 12 he called to follow him as his personal disciples were constantly stumbling over one another, falling behind, failing to listen and understand, and downright hard-headed.  Yet, through it all, Jesus demonstrated his love by continuing to help guide them into who God wanted them to be.  Rather, than throwing up his hands in frustration and walking away, he stuck with them, through the ups and downs.  Jesus knew that you can’t hurry love.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we must practice patient love with one another.  We must remember that we are all on this journey together and that none of us have fully arrived.  We are still a work in process.  In patient love, we continue to encourage one another in our walk of faith while realizing that sometimes we stumble and fall.  There are no perfect Christians.  That is why love must be patient.  We must be patient with one another, just as our Lord is patient with each of us.