Archive for March, 2011
When I was young, my bedroom was the only one upstairs. Outside the window, a large oak tree would cast shadows into my room. They danced on the floor near my bed, and I was scared. My parents knew of my fear, but believed it was a safe place for me. So with their words of promise, I headed up into the dark every night. After a while, their promise proved stronger than my fears. God made a promise to Abraham and to all of Abraham’s children, you and me included. God’s promise is far bigger than my parents’, but it’s just as real. Our promise is that we might be heirs of God’s kingdom. Do you rest in that promise? Does it propel you through your fear?
It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.
– Romans 4:13 NIV
Once, I was on a mission trip with youth, in a city where I did not speak the language. I found myself alone, walking some distance to meet up with the rest of the group. Suddenly, a woman I had just recently met drove down the road on a mo-ped. She stopped and signaled for me to get on the back. Without exchanging words, I got on and she graciously took me to my destination. Her hospitality to me, a foreigner in her land, spoke volumes. While I do not remember this woman’s name, I have not forgotten her gesture. God shows up in the craziest places, even driving a mo-ped. As we welcome strangers into our lives, we are changed. How might you entertain strangers during this Lenten season?
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
– Hebrews 13:2 NIV
It is a beautiful winter day in Minnesota. The naked trees stand tall in the midst of a snow- covered field, glistening in the afternoon sun. It seems like a perfect January day. Then the wind comes and the tone of the day changes. The temperature drops, the sky grows gray, the wind howls. God’s Spirit is as powerful as a winter wind in Minnesota. Always present, it sometimes is gentle and at other times ferocious. God’s Spirit is alive and active in all seasons of the church year, but during Lent its presence is often mysterious and surprising. Our lives can become so absorbed with earthly things that we often miss the divine presence in our midst. During this Lenten season, be attentive to God’s Spirit.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going…”
– John 3:8 NIV
There are many theories about why Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t tell anyone I’m the Messiah.” Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe Jesus was worried for the disciples’ safety in the face of opposition to Jesus, or perhaps, as it is been labeled, this was the “Messianic secret” of the book of Mark’s author. Jesus, however, does not say to us, “Don’t tell anyone I’m the Messiah.” In fact, it is our joy to tell others of God’s love in Jesus Christ for all God has created. It is our joy to tell others, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Now we rejoice in sharing the joy with which God has filled our hearts by loving us unconditionally.
Lord, may your joy inspire us in new ways to speak of and bring your love to our lives and our world. Amen.
Centuries ago, Paul proclaimed, “God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness.” We are inheritors of Abraham’s witness of faith and recipients of the saving gift of God’s unconditional love in Jesus. This means our Lenten journey does not have to be about trying to become more holy or righteous. Rather, we give up our striving to “look good” to God and explore more deeply how unconditional grace can strengthen us in faith and service. As we do this, God opens our hearts, enlivens our minds and inspires us to re-commit ourselves to be bearers of that unconditional grace in our lives.
Jesus, love of God incarnate, we praise you for bringing us to deeper faith in you. Amen.
Little green men, four leaf clovers, green beer, parades and corn beef and cabbage.
Those are the things that we think about when we think about St. Patrick’s Day. What we forget in the midst of the fun and folklore is who St. Patrick was and what he did. This is important for the church to remember on a day like today.
Before St. Patrick became a saint, he was actually kidnapped from Britain and held as a slave in Ireland for 10 years after which he escaped back to Europe. Then he was called by God in a vision to go back to the country and he was previously enslaved to battle Paganism and spread God’s word in Ireland.
So why is this important for the church?
In our culture, we get so caught up in the fun of the holidays that it’s easy for us to forget why they are there. When we take time to remember St. Patrick, we take time to remember a man who was called by God to witness to a group of people that brought him pain, suffering and enslavement. Imagine how St. Patrick must have felt when God told him where He wanted him to go. I’m sure Patrick argued with God, said no and complained about what God was asking him to do. Not wanting to bring up the pain of his past, but it was in that pain that God was calling Patrick to something new.
In Ezekiel 37 God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to a valley of dry bones and breath new life into them. That is the glory of the Gospel. God uses dead, dry, painful experiences of our past and breathes new life into them. Jesus gives new purpose and new mission in spite of the pain of our past. It’s our responsibility to not only listen to word of God in our lives, but take the next steps to see them come to fruition.
St. Patrick is a great example of this and today as we remember what he did, let it be a challenge to us in our own lives to move past the pain and suffering of our past and let God breath new life, purpose and mission into it in order to spread His Gospel among our world.
Pastor Steve Gold
How do you feel when things are difficult and someone says, “Don’t be afraid?” We might feel as if our suffering is not being taken seriously. When God said to Abram, “Do not be afraid,” Abram did not believe God. When we are afraid, God says to us, too, that we need not fear. But God can comfort us as no one else can. We know, even in the midst of our fear, God is present. The holy and living God walks with us, offering comfort, love and hope. With this God, as with no one else, we can trust that fear will not overcome us.
Your living presence sustains us, O God, in all things, even in our fear. Amen.
The writer of Proverbs knows perfectly well the limitations of human beings. We cannot have divine knowledge. We cannot gather the wind in our hands. We cannot wrap up the waters of the oceans in a garment. We did not establish the ends of the earth. The writer also knows who is able to do all this and more. It is that all-powerful one who “came as one among us” in Jesus Christ so that we might fully know God’s power and experience God’s compassion. To God be the glory!
O God, your power and compassion inspire our faith in you. We praise your name. Amen.
When Job’s friends challenge his faith in the midst of his unfolding troubles, he doesn’t argue with them. Instead, he boldly states, “To God, I would commit my cause.” Some days, it might seem as if our trust in God is so naïve as to be laughable to the world. In fact, some even say the content of our faith is totally irrelevant in the 21st century. We know this has been said of Christianity since Jesus walked the earth. But we need not be discouraged in the face of the challenges of living our lives by God’s promises. Rather, as Job did, we commit our cause to the Lord and move boldly into the world as we are led by God’s steadfast presence in the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit, we thank you for leading us where you would have us serve. Amen.
I celebrated my 60th birthday this past April. (Wow that means I will be 61 a month from now. I’ve hardly had time to get used to being 60. How did that happen?) Well, the point I was going to make was that although over 40 of those years have been spent trying to help other people know more about God I have come to realize that I know a lot less than I ever thought I would while at the same time I know more about things that I never thought would be important to know. I remember hearing it said that the older you get the less you will know. But of course there is no way to truly be prepared for how much you will not know about what you thought you did. Before I try to make sense out of what I just said, let me interject a few words on my “battle” with cancer which has added to my knowing that I don’t know much of anything and neither does my oncologist.
It has been 3 years since I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With it being stage 3 there is not a cure but it could be treated to slow its progress. To add to my knowledge of what I don’t know, I can now say that I don’t know a whole lot about this type of cancer other than it is slow growing and Jackie Kennedy Onassis died from it 17 years ago. My daughter challenged me to join in a clinical trial to help the health professionals to know more and maybe find a better treatment, if not a cure. Well, to bring us up to the present, last week I went in for my every 3 month blood work, CT scan and visit with my oncologist. The scan revealed some kind of irregularity in my spleen so I went right over to radiology to get a closer look. My Dr. called that same day to let me know that the irregularity was not so irregular; which is to say, I am good to go until the next visit.
What caught my attention while visiting with my oncologist was an awareness that he was struggling with not knowing as much as he thought he would know or should know after all his training and schooling. In my visit the issue of Lynn Kovach’s death came up and I was able to see through his usual demeanor of professionalism and saw his true vulnerability. You see, my Dr. is the same oncologist that was assigned to Lynn care when her cancer came back to claim her life. He just kept telling me that she was very “unlucky.” He showed up at the hospital shortly after Lynn expired when we were all attempting to deal with the “shock ” of this great loss of a dear friend, daughter, mother and wife. He seemed to be struggling with feeling that he should have known more and the only way he could explain it was that “she was unlucky.”
Now, I have been told that the average survival rate of people with stage 3 lymphoma is 7-10 years and if that is accurate I have an average of 4-7 years to live. Now I know that with the prayer support I have received, I have a good chance to beat the statistics. But the truth is, I don’t know how long I will live and neither does my doctor. One thing I do know is that it is not about being lucky or unlucky. I know that the longer I live, the more I will learn about what I don’t know. In that sense, God is becoming bigger and greater because God lives in all that is unknown. We are all being challenged in these times to hang onto one thing that we are told we can count on knowing. That is that God is good and He is the “rewarder” of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).
If we will be honest, then we all have to say that there is so much that we do not know. And the more honest we are the less shaken we will be when life doesn’t fit our “secure” paradigm. Here are some things that we do know! We do know that God is good and we can count on the truth that “He will cause all things to work for our good” (Rom. 8:28). By faith, we must move beyond the “devastation” of not knowing what we cannot know. We must also move beyond our need to always understand everything and simply trust God fully regarding what we can know. Romans 8:31 says, “Since God is for us, who can be against us?” And Genesis 18:25 tells us “Shall not the God of all the earth do justly.” Those are some truths that you and I can know and rely on.
FYI – I leave for SFO to fly out to Nigeria tomorrow at 4:30 AM along with Isaac and Tammy. Keep us in your prayers. You can follow what we’re doing in Nigeria by going to our blog. We’ll do our best to keep it updated.
Discipleship Team Pastor