Friday, August 30, 2013

We are on a mission

The Apostle Paul was quite the traveler. He and his missionary team took to heart the Great Commission, and were determined to evangelize everyone they could reach.  They were men of faith, men with a mission, and men with the willingness to spread the gospel message. 
Acts 19 begins by mentioning Apollos, who was doing the Lord's work in Corinth, and Paul making his way to Ephesus.  Verses 8-10 of that chapter lets us look into some of Paul's work.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

Notice the words of verse 8 in telling us Paul went in the synagogue and spoke boldly. His teaching there continued for three months and the scripture tells us he argued persuasively about God's kingdom.  I see in this description the man, Paul, completely devoted to his mission of teaching the gospel. Paul's success is not only because of his faithful determination, but also the power in the message he proclaimed. 

I want you to see both those elements as necessary if we are going to succeed in reaching the lost. We need people committed to the cause, strengthened by the power of the truth they proclaim. They are key elements if we are taking the gospel to unknown lands or next door. 

Some will quickly point out there were those that opposed the Lord's work which Paul was doing. These verses from Acts 19 let us know some who heard the word became obstinate and refused to believe. Their disbelief led them to attack the message. 

If someone chooses not to believe in Jesus and the events of the cross, that is their choice to make. When those people were encountered by Paul, he simply moved on to teach those who were hungry for God's truth. Next we find him leading discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  Paul was there for two years, telling folks about Jesus, while leading them in turning their hearts to God.  In fact, the last verse from our text above tells us because of Paul's teaching and discussions, all the Jews and Gentiles in Asia heard the word of the Lord.  Wow!  All those people in Asia, and through this evangelizing effort, they had all been told about Jesus.

Then I think about the relatively small town where I live and have lived for a little over 30 years. I know there are some that have not been told about Jesus. I wonder if there are some on my street?  I am not Paul and I could never match his accomplishments, but as a Christian, I carry with me in every step I take and every word I say, the responsibility of sharing Jesus. 

"Lord, help me see people as you see them. Melt my heart with the thoughts about those I see every day who are searching and hungry for something better.  Make me useful in the task, Father, of leading them to you. Amen."


Thursday, August 29, 2013


The newness of life experience when we become followers of Jesus brings about changes in us. Previous studies have described some of those changes and how they become reality in our lives. The question arises often concerning those changes and what God desires our outcome to be.  

Basically it can be described with a phrase used in Romans 8:9, and the change characterizes Christians as being "in the likeness of Christ." If you are like me, then you know that's going to be a pretty big order to fill.  We have studied the life of Jesus and seen his encounters with people, his teachings in the parables, his love toward the outcasts, and ultimately his death on the cross.  We come to know him as a teacher and as Lord and Savior, but now in Romans 8 God reveals his plans and intentions for us to be just like his son. 

A vast majority will quickly admit they can't do that. All people will recall various sins and blunders in their lives and immediately give up any hope of being just like Jesus.  The good news is we don't have to depend on our own goodness or our own abilities to be that good.  In fact, relying on those things will lead us further away from being Christ-like.  So we must conclude that for us to be like Jesus, the power to accomplish the task does not come through our strength or goodness. 

 In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul writes a section of scripture which describes the new covenant in contrast with the law of Moses, explaining how the new covenant is more glorious than the old. There is some information we need near the end of Paul's discourse. " And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

The transformation process is a result of his work in us, through the Spirit. That means as I open up more and more of my life to the control of Jesus, then my life externally, will demonstrate the things of Jesus. This is a progressive change as we yield ourselves to his direction and the only thing that can keep the transformation from happening is us.  

This is the big test of our faith. Do we trust him enough  to turn our lives over to him for his control and direction?  We cannot answer yes to that if we are harboring those hidden sins that no one will ever find out about. It cannot happen if we continue to show anything less than love toward our fellow man. 

The life in the Spirit is a life that is controlled by the Spirit. Our decisions, our families, our jobs, and even our relationships should be controlled by the Spirit which dwells within us. Paul said it like this in Romans 8:11," And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mr. Ed teaches Bible Class

"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister" 1 John  4:20-21

Early mornings are usually not my thing, but one morning recently I found myself awake at 4 AM.  Not being able to go back to sleep, I reached for the remote control and started some intense channel surfing.  I could not find a thing I wanted to watch......that is until I noticed the Hallmark Channel had reruns of the 1960's show, "Mr. Ed."  For the benefit of those whose culture is different from mine, I will explain that Mr. Ed was a talking horse.  His owner, Wilbur, was the only one he talked to, but Ed and Wilbur carried on complete conversations. The talked about neighborhood things, and usually there was a scolding in store for Mr. Ed since he got caught regularly stealing apples from the neighbor's apple tree. 

Oh, the neighbor, Roger.  He was not fond of any kind of animals and having a horse living in the barn next door was a constant point of neighborhood disagreement. Wilbur and Roger were pretty good friends except when it came to the horse.  And on most occasions, when those two were having one of their neighborly heated arguments, Mr. Ed  would sneak away for another stolen apple. 

It was following one of those arguments that Wilbur was complaining to Mr. Ed about Roger.  Right there in the 4 AM hour, on my HDTV in a black and white comedy rerun, Mr. Ed confided in Wilbur that he needed to be more forgiving toward his neighbor. As Wilbur praised the suggestion from Mr. Ed, it made me wonder if a talking horse might be something I need......or maybe we all need.  

Even in the church we could use some improvement on the ways we have chosen to settle our disagreements. Brotherly love is an excellent theme and one we hear about often. Still the above verses let us know that John directly addresses the subject in terms of black and white, with apparently no areas of gray.  We cannot love God while hating each other. 

Look at the second sentence from 1 John again, "For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."  Biblical verses like these need no more explanation.  We know what they mean. 

I must tell you there was a little more to the Mr. Ed story. After Ed's revelation that Wilbur should be more forgiving, Wilbur was quick to point out he and Roger would get along fine if it were not for the misbehavior of Mr. Ed.  That's it.  We, too, can blame our bitter feelings toward a brother, on someone else.  But when I go back and look again at the words of 1 John, there is nothing there that lets me place the blame on anyone but me!

One time Jesus was asked, "Which is the greatest commandment?"  Matthew 22 records the answer, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself."


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two Moons and God's Glory

Tonight you will have a chance to see one of those "once in a lifetime" phenomenon displays in the heavens.  Mars will be passing closer to the earth (still lots of miles away) when our moon comes up, it will appear that we on planet earth have gained another, much smaller moon.  There are lots of stories about this event, so to satisfy your own thinking, see it for yourself. 

When I learned about the scheduled appearance of Mars and the moon it brought to mind a couple of the Psalms that have been familiar for a long time.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;

    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.  
Psalm 19:1-4

God wants us to know, through his creation, who he is.  While using words like declare, proclaim, speech and knowledge, in describing the transmission of God's glory, his work and his revelation, the Psalmist next tells us they have no speech and no sound is heard from them. Yet God's creation keeps on declaring and proclaiming his power through the soundless words to the ends of the world. 

Tonight when you see Mars and the moon so close and in the same sky, the heavens are declaring his glory. 

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” 
Psalm 46:8-10
This Psalm lets me know how busy God must be. We are actually invited to come and take a look at all he has done and is doing.  "Busy" is something we can understand.  We have our schedules and deadlines.  We have appointments and jobs and kids.  There are dental appointments, grocery shopping and school plays.  God understands that, but he also wants us to take the time to "Be still, and know that I am God."  Letting God be God is one of the best decisions we can make. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

God speaks to a daughter

(A Borrowed Story)

Consumed by my loss, I didn't notice the hardness of the pew where I sat. I was at the funeral of my dearest friend - my mother.  She finally had lost her long battle with cancer. The hurt was so intense; I found it hard to breathe at times. Always supportive, Mother clapped loudest at my school plays, held a box of  tissues while listening to my first heartbreak, comforted me at my father's death, encouraged me in college, and prayed for me my entire life. When mother's illness was diagnosed, my sister had a new baby and my brother had recently married his childhood sweetheart, so it fell on me, the 27-year-old middle female child without entanglements, to take care of her.  I counted it an honor.

 "What now Lord?" I asked sitting in church. My life stretched out before me as an empty abyss. My place had been with our mother, preparing her meals, helping her walk, taking her to the doctor, seeing to her medication, reading the Bible together. Now  she was with the Lord. My work was finished, and I was alone.

 I heard a door open and slam shut at the back of the church. Quick footsteps hurried along the carpeted floor. An exasperated young man looked around briefly and then sat next to me. He folded his hands and placed them on his lap.  His eyes were brimming with tears. He began to sniffle. "I'm late," he explained, though no explanation was necessary. 

 After several eulogies, he leaned over and commented, "Why do they keep calling Mary by the name
of 'Margaret?'"  "Because, that was her name, Margaret. Never Mary, no one called her 'Mary,'" I whispered.
 I wondered why this person couldn't have sat on the other side of the church. He interrupted my grieving with his tears and fidgeting. Who was this stranger anyway?

 "No, that isn't correct," he insisted, as several  people glanced over at us whispering, "her name  is Mary, Mary Peters."   "That isn't who this is."   "Isn't this the Lutheran church?"  "No, the Lutheran church is across the street."  "Oh."  "I believe you're at the wrong funeral, Sir." 

The solemnity of the occasion mixed with the realization of the man's mistake bubbled up inside me and came out as  laughter. I cupped my hands over my face, hoping it would be interpreted as sobs. The creaking pew gave me away. Sharp  looks from other mourners only made the situation seem more hilarious.  I peeked at the bewildered, misguided man seated beside me. He was laughing too, as he glanced around, deciding it was too late for an uneventful exit. I imagined Mother laughing.

At the final "Amen," we darted out a door and into the parking lot. "I do believe we'll be the talk of the town," he smiled. He said his name was Rick and since he  had missed his aunt's funeral, asked me out for a cup of coffee. That afternoon began a lifelong journey for me with this man who attended the wrong funeral, but was in the right  place.  A year after our meeting, we  were married at a country church where he was the assistant pastor. This time we both arrived at the same church, right on time.

In my time of sorrow, God gave me laughter. In place of loneliness, God gave me love. This past June, we celebrated our twenty-second wedding anniversary.  Whenever anyone asks us how we met, Rick tells them, "Her mother and my Aunt Mary introduced us, and it's  truly a match made in heaven."

 REMEMBER, God doesn't make mistakes.  He puts us where we are supposed to be.