“Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.”
I Peter 1:22
As our nation racks its brain over the senseless violence that we have recently experienced, as we consider options that could lessen its probability, the answer has been with us from the beginning of time. This answer has been ridiculed, marginalized and even banned in the very places that are seeing the loss of young lives. We look to government leaders and gun control to solve growing violent behavior, and yes we as a nation need to address our current laws but gun control will not solve the epidemic if hearts and minds are not transformed by the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. So what if we prayed, not just at the time of tragedy but all the time? What if the Christian church, whose basis is the grace of God, were taken more seriously not only by our nation but by those of us who profess faith in Jesus Christ? Some ridicule our Christian faith as a mental illness, but at what cost; abandoning the very solution to the problem that needs to be seriously addressed. A few people are offended by Christian prayer and so even the church backs off in the name of inclusivity and “sensitivity” to the belief or nonbelief of others. The truth is and the fact is the Body of Christ, the church, is the solution if we take this message to the street, a message of hope and “genuine mutual love.” A heart transformed by the Love of God will not incite nor inflict violence because its obedience is to something far greater than itself. A heart transformed by grace celebrates the sanctity of all life and respects the lives of others. How do we as a church and as a nation begin the healing and saving process? We “love the Lord [our] God with all of [our] heart, and with all of [our] soul, and with all of [our] might, and love [our] neighbor as [ourselves].” (Jesus) And most importantly, “keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and your gates.” (God, from Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Do not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for in it is the revelation of God’s love in Jesus that is meant to be witnessed, especially in times such as these. May the church return to being a “thermostat” that transforms society rather than a “thermometer” that simply reacts to the challenges and whims of culture. (M.L King) “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with [us].” (#431UMH)
“He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
Have you ever traveled to a strange town and found yourself totally lost; nothing is familiar and questions of proper direction keep pouring into your head. The wilderness can be a scary place since there is much that is unknown that could be lurking with the potential of causing great harm. There are 2 options that are available to choose; you could pretend you are not lost and make it seem like you know the way forward, or you could admit you are lost and seek direction. Asking for help is admitting being lost and the acknowledgement that a proper way forward cannot be found. Once we put our ego away long enough to ask for help we start realizing we are in fact lost and that we do need help finding our way. As we walk through the wilderness of life, there are many temptations along the way that would really get us off track. If we try to find our way alone we will find ourselves lost, broken, and weakened to the point of making decisions that may not be the healthiest for ourselves and for those around us. Jesus does promise to be with us to the end of the age and does affirm that in the midst of the wilderness of life, he is there and will bind our brokenness and offer us hope that there is a way out no matter our broken spirit or just how lost we find ourselves. The first step to finding our way is to admit we are lost in the first place, to recognize that we truly need someone beyond ourselves to get back on the right path and heading in the right direction. Faith in Jesus Christ begins with acknowledging our “lostness” and the need to find the right path. Turn back to God, repent, and you will find healing for your spirit and rest for your weary soul. The wilderness is not a bad place when you are not facing it alone. Walk with the One that calls you by name, and you will know the grace that can only come from God. Thank you Jesus for walking with each of us through the wilderness of our lives and giving us hope that we are never walking alone.
“And remember I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
It has been about 2,000 years since Jesus walked the dusty roads of the Middle East. Cultures have come and gone as have kingdoms and principalities. How is it then that the ministry of Jesus the Christ has endured for so long? How is it despite the lament that the church of Jesus Christ is no longer relevant to the society in which we live, the Word of God that Jesus proclaimed is still the most important message that people need to hear? What we are called to let people know about transcends societal norms of the day and rises above cultural relevance. The most counter-cultural message the world has ever heard is the most enduring because it is the most needed. Jesus offers a message of hope and calls us, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, to relate to one another with “hearts filled with grace.” We are called to witness, to let them know, that they are not alone and that they do not need to depend on their own will but the will of God, which promises to be with them, in spite of a world darkened by self-centeredness and judgment, “even to the end of the age.” People need to know that they are loved by God no matter where they find themselves in life. The Word of God endures because it is counter-cultural and because it is irrelevant to cultural norms. There are only two expectations God has for you; to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul, and to love your neighbor;” on these two “hang all the law and the prophets.” By the way, in the realm of God which has no end, there is no “them” and “us,” only “we.” We have been offered a promise that nobody else can offer; the promise of eternal life. We need to remind ourselves every moment of the eternal affirmation through the promise made to us by Jesus; “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Word of God endures forever because it has been from the beginning and will always be the “Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Witness this message of hope and love with a heart “filled with grace” to a world in desperate need of the healing presence and saving grace of Jesus Christ, the most relevant and powerful message the world has ever known. Thank you Jesus for the privilege of witnessing you.