Thursday, April 24, 2014

Love Better

Hebrews 13:20-21
May God, who puts all things together,
    makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
    the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
    up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
    with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
    by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
    Oh, yes, yes, yes.

“May God…now put you together, provide you with everything you need to please him, make us into what gives him most pleasure, by means of the sacrifice of Jesus…”

Jesus asked if Peter loved him, to which he replied he did. Jesus then instructed him to feed and shepherd his sheep. This outward expression of love to Jesus is about taking care of his people. We are compelled to love God and each other; God enables us to do just that. We are dependent on God to overcome the obstacles set before us and make that a reality. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven, by forgiveness and grace we are taught to love, and by love we are empowered to serve one another. By grace, we are provided everything we need to please God—to become a sweet aroma of Christ.

Do we accept God’s offer and empowerment to love better? 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Petitioning Prayer

Hebrews 13:18-19
Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God. Pray that we may be together soon.

Earnestly we ought to be lifting one another up to God. This journey of bringing the Kingdom of God to here and now is not easy; it is full of obstacles and objections both within the church and without. We share that responsibility with one another. As such, we owe it to our friends and teammates to support and encourage them. The simple knowledge that someone is thinking of you, praying for you and wanting you to succeed can be the encouragement needed to get through the day. Our prayers to God for each other are like a petition—both an outward expression of solidarity and commitment and a request for help greater than we can provide. God’s ability to move within the heart is far superior to anything we can say or do. Whether friend or enemy, our prayers for one another invoke God to move. That alone can change our lives more so than the ones we’re praying for.

Are we petitioning God with our concerns and those of our neighbors?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bloodshed Politicking

Hebrews 13:17
Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?

We tend to presume that our leaders are strong, capable and fearless. Sometimes one or all of those characteristics are true. Sometimes none of them are. How many prophets feared the task set before them? Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, Hosea. The list continues. Moses needed Aaron to speak for him. Jesus himself asked for another way, that the cup might pass from his lips. The human condition is frail of itself, until it is joined to another. That God has placed our leaders in their positions does not permit us to let them fail. The bloodshed of politicking has no place in God’s Kingdom—we are obligated to give our leaders every opportunity to succeed; we must empower them to become men and women after God’s own heart. Such is the nature of the Kingdom.

God does not set us up for failure—why do we do so to one another?

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Common Good

Hebrews 13:16
Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship—a different kind of “sacrifice”—that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets.

Life is hard. It is a series of evolving challenges interspersed among the ebb and flow of daily needs, wants and obligations. We cannot expect it to be easy. We cannot force others to change. We cannot guarantee that problems won’t come. We are all subject to time and chance and are all dependent on one another, somehow and at some time. We were never meant to go through life alone—God created in Adam a help-mate for a reason: man is weak and subject to a great number of temptations, burdens and failures.

Christ died to provide us a chance; he overcame death that we might learn to live. Life is no longer a series of blood-sacrifices in atonement, always looking to the past and trying to be redeemed for what we have done. Rather, we are able to look forward, around the room at what is and past it to what could be. That could-be future requires “a different kind of sacrifice,” though: that we serve one another. We should not let the common good slip our mind.

What are you doing for the common good of your neighbors?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Let’s Go Outside

Hebrews 13:13-15
So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name.

There is a murky and messy world beyond the walls of church buildings. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves—it’s also inside the church buildings. No matter how hard we may try to justify otherwise, our calling is go be with people; to love them as ourselves. We cannot hide within the church and expect anything to change. We are the hands and feet of Jesus and we must go where Jesus wants to go. But that’s dangerous and dirty, uncomfortable and intimidating. We can find strength in God’s word, however, that he has not given us a spirit of fear. If we’re serious and committed to loving others, we have to actually do it. Our faith is in Jesus, and not in some person, thing or safety net. The brokenness may often be too difficult to bear, but that’s where Jesus thrives.

For the sake of your name, Jesus, lead and guide us.