“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
This is the season for graduations, new beginnings not only for the graduates but for their families. For some, this is uncharted territory where there will be challenges, grand accomplishments, and seeing life from a whole new perspective. For others, there may be times of loneliness, or maybe hopelessness as this new adventure unfolds. God knows that every once in a while life can be a challenge to say the least. Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, “do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you be name and you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) You are not alone, and you are not without God, because you have been blessed by the promise that God has made to you to be with you always, “even to the end of the age.” The greatest blessing is received at the point where you accept the fact that the God who loves you will give you the strength, the wisdom, and the peace to “do all things,” no matter how difficult the task or circumstance. Louis L’Mour once wrote that, “There will be a time when you believe that everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” Put God, through our Risen Savior Jesus Christ at the very core of your being, and understand that all the strength and courage you need comes from the Lord, especially at times of new beginnings. God does know you by name and has loved you unconditionally from the time of your conception. May those who are graduating as well as their families and friends know that their strength comes through the Lord and that all have been incredibly blessed. The true celebration of the graduation season is the presence of God, who has been there throughout the journey, and will continue to be especially on the new adventures that lie ahead. It is by faith that mountains are moved and dreams achieved, because you “can do all things through him who strengthens you.” Celebrate the adventure; celebrate God. Thank you Jesus!
“It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
I Corinthians 13:7-8a
St. Paul, in his note to the Church of Corinth, defined for the people the essence of the love of God; grace. Grace is all about loving even when a person by all worldly definitions of love does not deserve our time let alone our love. Yet, unconditional love looks beyond what is perceived and hopes for what is possible. As a nation we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday. Perhaps for some it is a time to make a few extra bucks, but for us it is an opportunity to thank those women in our lives that have loved us through good times and through bad, challenges and joys, as well as those times that we just don’t feel like showing our face in public. A mom is not defined by the biological ability or reality of giving birth, rather a mom is someone in our lives that no matter what looks beyond our shortcomings and was, and is, always there for us, seeking nothing more than what is best for us. To me, a mom is someone who looks at another and shares the grace of God and undying hope and devotion. So the question is, “what does it take?” The love of a mom is beyond words, just as the love of Christ is without definition. Love takes believing beyond what is seen; hoping for what may seem unreachable, and enduring through the challenges along the way. To have the love of a mom requires the love of Christ in their heart, a love that has no bounds and the commitment to those God called them to nurture, support and “be there” no matter what life has dealt them and the choices they have made. What does it take to be a mom? It takes a love that “bears all things, believes all things, endures all things;” a mother’s love never ends. Thank you mom! Thank you Jesus!
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
As I pray over these words of Jesus, the pile grows down the hall in anticipation of our church’s annual rummage sale. There is a lot of stuff accumulated for the sale that will help support our mission team and the work of the church beyond our walls. We all have stuff, some more than others, but we all have stuff, enough that we can drop some of our stuff off for the sale and never really miss it. The celebration of life in abundance given by Jesus has nothing to do with the accumulation of stuff, wealth, or even the maintenance of good health. What Jesus offers to us in abundance is grace; the eternal presence of God in our lives whether we have much stuff, or no stuff, live in wealth or impoverished, healthy or struggling with illness, or caring for a loved one going through a difficult time. Abundant life is the celebration of God, through our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ, that makes real the promise of God to be with us, even to the end of the age. Our task, sometimes difficult, is to trust that God is with us throughout our lives offering abundance of living. There may be times that we do not feel the presence of God, just as Job felt; “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him; I turn to the right, but cannot see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.” (Job 23:8-10) There are times while on the journey we are blinded to God’s presence, even though it is there in abundance. We cannot see God as we build walls around our souls, but God is there, offering grace in abundance. We are frustrated by life’s twists and turns and consumed by day to day challenges, but God still is offering grace in abundance. We may even turn to God in despair and ask, “why God, how could you do such a thing,” and God is especially there, in abundance. God knows your journey, and God knows your challenges. Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and live in the abundance of God’s grace. Celebrate the Lord and you will be blessed, in abundance. Thank you Jesus!
“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” John 21:16
Love is an endearing term; we say we love the beach, trees, hotdogs, and warm summer days. We also love our family, friends, and our neighbor. But when we say we love Jesus our Lord, suddenly the very definition of love expands exponentially because now we are not only committing to share our love with others, we are also sharing the love of God through our Risen Savior Jesus Christ. Beth Moore, Christian author, would always say “love is a verb.” Love is an action word which commits all who say they love Jesus to a life of service to others , of seeing others as Jesus sees them, and living a life of grace and peace. Saying “I love you” is more than just something to say, it is a commitment of truly sharing the same love that Jesus has shared with you with someone else. For Jesus, love is not offered to a cause, it is offered to people. When we pray for others, we are confessing our love of God through extending Jesus to someone else in need. Prayer is affirmation of the active presence of God and our love of God that sets our lives in motion for the benefit of somebody else. Prayer becomes an action when we not only say we will lift someone up to the Lord in prayer, but we “just do it.” We pray because we love God so much we just cannot stop; we pray without ceasing. When we say we love someone we are promising to be “there for them,” no matter the challenges that they may be facing. Jesus is calling us to “just do it,” just love the people Jesus died for and was resurrected to redeem. Our Christian journey is not about rules and regulations; it is about loving others with the same love that God witnessed to us at Easter. Thank you Jesus!
“Jesus said to them again, peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
If the media were a gauge of the state of world peace, we are living in interesting times to be sure. When peace is offered it typically is defined by contract or “accord.” If even one stipulation is not fulfilled, then peace will soon become a distant memory and the fighting will resume. God’s peace offered by our Risen Savior does not work the same way. The peace that Jesus offers is not based upon a contract or a laundry list of things that must be done. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was resurrected he knew life would not be easy for them, in addition to their own personal issues, they will have the unbelief of those they encounter to battle. Before Jesus sent his disciples he offered the gift of peace, but unlike world peace that is here one day and gone the next, the peace of Christ is eternal and represents not the freedom from violence or pain but the absolute guarantee that in the midst of whatever journey we find ourselves on, Jesus is there with us. Peace is alive and well in the world because of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. All we need to do to experience the peace of Christ is to accept it; we need to know that even if there is no world peace or our lives are challenged we are offered the strength, resolve, and hope for a new day. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives so do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.” Thank you Jesus for the gift of your peace.
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Words cannot describe the depth of love Jesus has for you. On the night Jesus was betrayed he did not hold the sin of those turning away from him against them. Jesus never said, “How dare you do what you have done,” or “I hate you” for what you have done. Jesus did not say “you better love me or else…” No, Jesus loved his own, that includes you and me by the way, to the end. His love for you does not falter, does not fail. No matter what you have done, whatever ill-conceived word you have uttered, or uncaring thought in your head, Jesus loves you to the end. God’s love is so different from what our human emotions can conceive. God doesn’t wait around for our love; God’s love is shared even if ours falls short. When Jesus met with his disciples for the last time in that upper room, as a servant he washed the feet of his disciples, including the feet of Judas, the one who set in motion the events of the crucifixion, or so it would seem. Maybe God’s unconditional love truly set into motion the events of Jesus’ death on the cross. Maybe God so loves us that the cross was the only remedy for our shortcomings. There is light, and there is hope in the incredible and amazing grace of God. You are not alone; in fact you are the recipient of God’s unconditional love. The crucifixion and ultimate resurrection of Jesus Christ affirms that God’s intention for us is to accept the grace through our risen Savior Jesus Christ and to live a life unshackled by the burdens that seem to weigh heavy upon our souls that keep us from fully living in this unconditional love of Jesus the Christ. Accept the unconditional love of Jesus into your heart and soul; you are worthy because Jesus is worthy. Jesus is the one who died for you, especially you, so you may live. Thank you Jesus, for your incredible gift of unconditional love, that is with us, “even to the end of the age.”
“…the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully for all the deeds of power that they had seen.”
For the followers of Jesus, this was a big day. Jesus entering the gates of Jerusalem was the beginning of the end of Roman tyranny and oppression, or so they wanted to believe. The message of Jesus was one of peace, hope, and a whole new way of living. For the majority of those in the crowd, however, it was just noise, a distraction from business as usual. Maybe Jesus and his crew blocked people from getting to the market to shop, or to the Temple to pay their tithe or offer sacrifices; certainly the Pharisees saw all this shouting and Jesus’ message as disrupting the status quo not to mention bringing into question their authority as God’s representatives. This Sunday Christians throughout the world celebrate Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. We wave our palms, sing our hosannas, and proclaim the coming of salvation through Jesus the Christ. But what about the rest of the world? What is it to them, this belief in Jesus? Is Jesus a distraction to living life, or just additional noise on the congested streets of humanity? For Jesus, entering the holy city of Jerusalem was his offering of God’s eternal love to a world in desperate need of the truth, God’s truth, in their lives. We have a way of creating our own truth based on how we think life should be rather than living how God created us to live. What began as just noise to most of the crowd ended up as an eternal gift from God to everybody, those who believe and to those hardened to God’s word in their lives. Accept the message of Jesus the Christ and take the journey of faith. God speaks, especially in the crowds of humanity desperate for the Word that became flesh and dwelled among them. Thank you Jesus for another chance…
“If God is for us, who is against us?”
In the midst of our life, God is. I have spent the past few days praying over the crowds I have watched and been part of. Some people truly seem to be enjoying their life, but others seem heavily laden. Maybe they feel life has been stacked against them, they may look around and have the impression that theirs is the only life that is out of sync with everybody else. It is “them against the world.” It is interesting that in large crowds loneliness becomes magnified. So often when God seems far away, God is the closest. There is hope, even when the marginalizing clouds of uncertainty and loneliness hang heavy. No matter where life’s twists and turns take you, God is. God is with you, even to the end of the age. God is “for you” even when the world may have other ideas. The stuff around us can have a way of diminishing God’s presence in life, or so we may be led to believe. But there is exceeding good news, God has not, and will never leave you orphaned; you are not marginalized by God, you are loved more than you will ever know. Your life is of infinite value, whoever you are and what ever “crowd” you are in. All it takes is to turn around from living a life of separation and understanding that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God offered Jesus as proof, living proof, that with God you are never alone. What life has shown you may cause doubt, but what God has offered you in Jesus offers hope. Be convinced that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation, will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thank you Jesus.
“So if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; everything has become new!”
II Corinthians 5:17
What if clothing were designed to fit only one particular body style or preference? And what if everyone were required to wear one particular outfit all the time? It would seem pretty weird to see everyone look alike. We might try to make it work but deep down inside our spirit would want to break free of constantly being the same as everybody else and seeing everybody doing and thinking the same old things. The incredible gift we have been given is the opportunity to accept a whole new way to celebrate life and perceive others. Christ Jesus invites anyone and everyone to turn away from a dusty old life of sameness and the trappings of sin to a new life of adventure, joy and the peace of knowing that our faith is not a relic from the past rather it offers the ultimate freedom of living in this thing called grace which is eternal. Anyone and everyone are invited to experience grace, God’s unconditional love. Accepting Jesus Christ is all about celebrating the freedom of seeing people as children of God first and foremost. Accepting Jesus is acknowledging that our lives are not as they should be but God’s love for us is too big to ever let us stay that way. Living by faith is seeing God not as a judgmental tyrant requiring us live in lockstep with everybody else; rather it is about accepting the freedom of knowing that no matter where our journey leads us, we are never alone. Even if we have ventured far away from this thing called grace, God through Christ wants us back. Jesus the Christ celebrates your life and all the gifts you have been given; all you need to do is turn and accept the joy and freedom you are being offered by the one who “did not come into the world to judge the world but so that the world may be saved through him.” You are loved by God, more than you will ever know, accept that fact and experience the newness of life. Thank you Jesus!
“I have no gold or silver, but what I have I give to you; in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
Just when we think we have nothing to offer, Jesus comes alive in our soul. The very power of God fills us when we least expect it and when God’s presence is deeply needed, we are filled. Have you ever asked yourself, “What can I do?” Money may be tight, and physically every movement may be a challenge. Or maybe you are able to write a check to help someone, which is truly a gift, but do not feel beyond offering money you can be of any help. Truth is, you have everything you need. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to offer someone hope even in the midst of hopelessness. When Peter left church that morning and saw a need, he did not reach into his pocket for silver and gold; he reached into his heart and extended the hand of Christ. In a world of isolation, electronic relationships, and pleas for money, Jesus Christ offers us an opportunity to offer something far more profound; the gift of faith, hope and a hand of flesh and blood rather than a tweet or a post. When you extend the hand of Christ you are giving someone the hope that they are not alone, that no matter the circumstance God through the living Christ is with them, through you. Think of it this way, when you extend the hand of friendship, you are offering Christ. When you walk with someone in need, you walk with Christ. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time and your faith; “gold and silver have I none, but what I have is my Savior, and I give Him to you.” You have been blessed, go, and do likewise. Thank you Jesus.