How Much Persistence Do You Have When You Doubt?

How Much Persistence Do You Have When You Doubt?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today we look at a parable about not losing heart and the faith to walk on water and the commitment of an Apostle to live boldly. How Much Persistence Do You Have When You Doubt?

 

Scripture: Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” ‘ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

 

Luke 18:1-8 (NRSV)

 

Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him He lived there for two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

 

Acts 28:11-16, 30-31 (NRSV)

 

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

 

Matthew 14:22-33 (NRSV)

 

Message: Today’s scriptures converges with an appeal for us, in the storms of life, to be persistent in prayer. Whether our task is walking on water or convincing a judge of just action or committing, with sacrifice, to a cause greater than ourselves, we are to be in continual prayer. The parable about the woman with no rights, and no one to defend her, facing some matter of great injustice sets the stage. And it is in such a situation that we might fail in earthly matters of justice but we must not shirk from a spiritual firmness to press on with faith when others grow faint. We are not to bow before injustice systems but work for a just resolution for the cause of Christ. We are to realize that Christ desires that just as much as we pray, we would work for justice in this world with persistence and faith that produces hope that does not disappoint. Friends, our attitude and mindset make a difference. There are physical obstacles to overcome that might be difficult to move but it is the mental hindrances that are perhaps even more important. We must believe before we can accomplish a task worthy of glorifying God.

 

Pray we realize that God not only sets the agenda but also the timing of events. Pray that when no one will speak for us that we must find the faith and the courage to speak for ourselves. Pray we realize that God is just but also exceedingly patient and merciful. Pray we defend the orphans and the widows. Pray we realize that the world is filled with people who neither fear God nor respect the rights of people. Pray we be an answer to prayer for others by living without emotional hindrances but with great purpose as advocates for God. Pray we not grow discouraged. Pray we have a spiritual contentment that empower our love to act in faith and a physical commitment to overcome the obstacles that challenge justice. Pray the Kingdom of God come to rule in our hearts on earth as it is in heaven.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Why Remember Lot’s Wife?

Why Remember Lot’s Wife?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

People like to remember happy times and significant events. Memories are precious; they keep us connected to people, places, and events that have shaped us and influenced our lives. We may wish we could forget some things, but even life’s unpleasantries can offer lasting lessons learned through adversity. At the Last Supper Jesus shared a meal with His disciples and then led them in the ancient observance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread… Passover. Jesus, the Master Teacher, used this opportunity to plant an important memory in His disciples gathered in that upper room. Jesus shared this meal for their benefit and for ours. As Jesus raised the bread and the cup in thanksgiving, He added new significance to this ancient ritual. Luke records that Jesus told His disciples to observe the Passover “in remembrance of me.” Jesus took an old symbol and filled it with new meaning. Similarly, today we look at what, in some translations, is the second shortest verse in the Bible. We consider not the brevity of the passage but the deeper meaning of the event. Why Remember Lot’s Wife?

 

Scripture: Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed all of them —it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.’ Then they asked him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’

 

Luke 17:26-37 (NRSV)

 

Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

 

Luke 22:19-20 (NRSV)

 

But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, ‘Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.’

 

Genesis 19:16-17 (NRSV)

 

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

 

Genesis 19:26 (NRSV)

 

Message: When Jesus told His disciples to remember Lot’s wife, it comes as a surprising command, but if Jesus wanted to have his disciples to remember her, there must have been a good reason. The reason that it is so astounding is because this was the only person recorded in Scripture that Jesus ever told anyone to remember aside from himself. He did not tell them to remember Moses, or Abraham or Isaac, though he may have demonstrated it. We are told in scripture to remember the Sabbath but there was no specific request to remember any of the Judges or Prophets, or Kings, even though by the telling of stories Jesus helps us to do just that. Surly there is more to it than Jesus wanting his disciples to remember Lot’s wife because she started on a journey but did not make it. Maybe it is a moral warning and a directional command to not look back when God is in the process of offering us salvation. Interestingly Lot’s wife’s name is never given in the Bible. Like the Woman from Samaria at the well, no name is given. I think that by remembering her in a way that links the facts of her life to their impact on the present helps us to learn, but also becomes a holy moment, for Jesus had likened the disciples to salt. A literal interpretation of this saga only touches on the edges of its profound truth. For here the noun salt becomes a verb salt and the teaching of the Master continues. As Lot’s wife turned around, perhaps in loving concern for others, and took her eyes off the task at hand, she sinned against God’s command and she was turned into a block of salt…the representation of countless dried tears of those who have been lost. This seems too harsh a judgement, but then life is not fair is it. Perhaps friends, it is not just a remembering of facts but a remembering of them within the Covenants of God and our very emotions that engages God in the remembering of us. When life is not fair this might be the only thing that keeps us sane.

 

Pray with sorrow for those who are almost saved. Pray we realize that once we get started we cannot afford to look back. Pray we realize that what is done for the glory of God that lasts will be the memory that stays with us into our very salvation. Pray we realize that godly folk must sometimes flee from iniquity, when efforts to redeem fail. Pray we keep plowing forward and not look back even though we still remember what God redeems.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Ready For Jesus To Come In Your Heart Or In The Sky?

Are You Ready For Jesus To Come In Your Heart Or In The Sky?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

We have all heard of cults that predict the end is coming and the sky is falling. It moves some to repentance for a time but it is not long before the revolution loses its resolve. Things of this nature change both fast and slow. And I do not know the timing of what God has planned, for my life or yours or for all of humanity, but believe the final coming of Christ will be unmistakable. I believe it will not be a flash in the pan but a moment of universal enlightenment that will change everything forever. It will be charged with power. But it will not be a flood or the raining of fire and brimstone as with the time of Noah and Lot. It will be the very consumption of history itself but also the release of great power. And the turmoil and travail will be so severe before it that people will pray for Jesus to come in the flesh of a new creation so that the pain will end. For there will undoubtedly be suffering and rejection. Are You Ready For Jesus To Come In Your Heart Or In The Sky?

 

Scripture: Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ Then he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or “Look here!” Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation.

 

Luke 17:20-25 (NRSV)

 

Message: In contemplating today’s scripture, it reminded me that the completion of history itself is much like the reality of our own deaths. Maybe that is why Jesus pointed out that every age would have those who would be convinced that the end was near. Interestingly, some people at the time of Jesus thought that the inauguration of the Kingdom of God would be by force and bring the end of Rome. But by adopting the image and humility of Christ we today accept the destiny of submitting to the will of God and consider the idea of the Kingdom being the spiritual as well as a physical invitation to a life in relationship with the divine. Just as the Temple is in us so too is the Kingdom of God. And at its essence, the Kingdom of God for me is the spiritual experience of the King coming to reside in my heart and chiseling away at my desire to sin and birthing in me a new life. And perhaps you have experienced something similar. And if so you may have experienced a conversion of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit that will not only prepare us for the day of our own deaths but also to live lives of love now. And that opens a revelation that these words on this page cannot explain but can only through the mystery of the Spirit appearing here and there evoke the insight of love that last beyond time.

 

Pray we experience the Kingdom of God within us as a relationship with the divine. Pray this experience not be one imposed by force but by love. Pray we realize that Jesus came to save us all and the very heart of the Gospel message is to affirm that the Kingdom of God is here right now growing in our hearts and minds as a seed planted to grow and bring forth fruit for the healing of the nations and of creation itself. Pray we not turn back. Pray we keep moving forward in the mystery of our collective wisdom in Christ.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Are You Sitting Back And Waiting For God To Take Care Of Things?

Are You Sitting Back And Waiting For God To Take Care Of Things?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Patience is a virtue but often it is God’s patience waiting for our action of faith that is the tipping point. In today’s scripture, we have a message for those who think they are living by faith but not getting the results, they had hoped for. No disrespect here but, Are You Sitting Back And Waiting For God To Take Care Of Things?

 

Scripture: On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

 

Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)

 

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;

 

Isaiah 35:5-6 (NRSV)

 

Message: Many of us say we are living by faith but really do not understand that faith is more than simply believing God will take care of things while we wait. Sure, God is in control and certainly excessive worry is inappropriate but scripture is not always clear for me when it comes to faith and appropriate actions. Reason alone does not get us to an answer. Scripture can be applied in error. That is why a leader is important in deciding an issue. For, at our core, I do not know anyone who really likes waiting. It can be a test of our faith and even make us less thankful. Sometimes there are good reasons to wait. So, what are we to do when we are waiting? How are we to cure ingratitude that might develop in the wait? Perhaps the first thing to do is to realize that while we are waiting, it really takes a lot of effort to believe that God hears our prayers for healing and belonging. We need to be connected to a power that keeps our physical and spiritual hearts beating. Like the Israelites in the desert we need the Spirit guiding us. Of course, sometimes waiting is a process that is dictated by law and scripture and at other times it is awaiting something very new. The thing is that we are to have a degree of expectancy that something desired and miraculous is going to happen. In today’s text, we have a story within a story for the healing of people was tied up into the story of the coming of the Messiah and the reality is that Israel had been waiting a very long time for this to happen. The Jewish lepers had been waiting too but ultimately still relied on the law. Maybe the Samaritan was healed as a demonstration of new way though Christ. It was more that interesting that the Samaritan who had been part of the leper colony could not return to be part of the larger Jewish community once healed. But regardless his healing is the whole healing and not just the physical one. And it is this faith in something new and whole that glorifies God.

 

Pray we be obedient to the Spirit. Pray we honor God with our faith. Pray we have a faith that prompts action, obedience and thankfulness. Pray we put our hope in God’s promises. Pray we expect mercy from Jesus even as we wait. Pray we trust in the Lord and not on our own understanding. Pray we realize that God works all things together for good for those called to a holy purpose. Pray that in seasons of waiting we take advantage of the opportunities to witness God at work in and through us for our eternal good and God’s glory. Pray we are cured both physically and spiritually. Pray we are made whole.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Has Our Religion Degenerated Into A Happiness Cult?

Has Our Religion Degenerated Into A Happiness Cult?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today we look at the parable of the farmer and his slave, and its cure for self-pity. It sets the standard for the ideal attitude of a disciple of Christ. We are to exhibit humility. The context in which we find this parable is a series of teachings for Jesus’ disciples about faith. The Lord’s insistence that forgiveness be granted continually is such a hard teaching that the disciples ask for an increase in faith. Jesus responds that authentic faith, though small, can accomplish amazing things. But these great works can lead to the danger of attributing them to personal achievement. And when we compare this to the internal and external ways of most churches we have to ask: Has Our Religion Degenerated Into A Happiness Cult?

 

Scripture: “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”

 

Luke 17:7-10 (NRSV)

 

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

 

Romans 1:1 (NRSV)

 

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Romans 6:15-23 (NRSV)

 

Message: Now you may be thinking that after we have done all we can do it would be alright to take a little pride in a well fought fight. But the parable from Luke initially reads like life is a bitch and then you die. It is not very happy at all. Culture’s response to this may have been an overcorrection toward greedy individualism and institutional endorphin making. But the slice of truth in today’s parable is that we should be humble if we seek sanctification. Thankfully this parable it is not all the truth in the Bible. Still it is an important truth for there is no special award for being less than perfect. And the only award in this scripture is in realizing that the work is never done. Friends, a disciple should never forget his position before God. He has been brought into the kingdom at great cost and sacrifice. And because such a price has been paid, the believer can take no credit for the work he does in God’s kingdom. His attitude can only be that of a humble and grateful servant who understands that service does not obligate God to him. But this is not just an external response to the world. It is an internal one of cognitive retraining that the apostle Paul speaks of and embodies. The apostle Paul was one who had this kind of attitude of humility. When thinking of what God had done for him, Paul speaks of sonship and freedom from slavery. When thinking of his own responsibility to Christ, he speaks of himself as a slave of Christ and as one who is under obligation to the Lord who redeemed him.

 

Pray we realize that our service for God does not obligate God. Pray we regard our service as nothing more than a duty. Pray we realize that hard work may help grow our faith but the glory of the work if it produces anything is to go to God. Pray we realize that even the best servants of Christ are still called unprofitable servants. Pray we realize that there is no room for pride when it comes to serving God. Pray we find freedom in service. Pray we are humble. Pray we not substitute false happiness for the hard work of a disciple. Pray we find joy in the work that does not puff us up. Pray we realize that we are a Temple for God and in the three parts of our mind be retrained from the perspective of steward, servant and slave for our very sanctification.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Do You Have Any Sorrow You Have Suppressed?

Do You Have Any Sorrow You Have Suppressed?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

There’s an elephant in the room, and its name is grief. We do not know how to grieve, and we do not want to learn. We would rather distract ourselves with a myriad of gadgets, movies, drugs, food and social media. But grief does not go away if we ignore it. We must face it every day that we have disappointments. And sometimes it requires some emotional archeology and that is a difficult business that takes some time. For this process may result in the unloading of one’s sub consciousness in a dangerous burst of emotionally charged thoughts where the sacred words of our Sabbath rest are overwhelmed. Still this need not be such a bad thing though I personally prefer we digest our emotions and not always be throwing them up. Do You Have Any Sorrow You Have Suppressed?

 

Scripture: Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

 

Luke 17:1-6 (NRSV)

 

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

Matthew 5:4 (NRSV)

 

He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

 

Psalm 147:3 (NRSV)

he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

 

Revelation 21:4 (NRSV)

 

Message: Dealing with one’s grief is intertwined with forgiving others and obeying God and having greater faith in God on the journey of life. It is strangely like the uprooting of the mulberry tree in today’s text. There is no sleight of hand here, but instead the reality that a person must accept the limits of life and forgive themselves as well as others when it comes to sin. Here we are to learn to love in our own powerlessness. For God is after who we are, not anything else. So, all those things that we thought would give us security are pointless. We are to be who we are and allow God to bring that to redemption. Power, money, acceptance, all those things we thought would bring us comfort and security just do not work. And I for one grieve a bit in their loss but more so that people generally do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah enough to choose to love God first. The spiritual presence of God in the excitement of those things that boost our egos is what we typically seek. But it is not to stop there. We are to dig deeper. You see the way most do church these days really has two tiers. There are those who state a belief in Christ and believe they have been saved and that is it and there are those who try to follow Christ. For most congregations’ membership in the pew sitters of believers requires no life change, no change in behavior, and no transformation. These pursuits are considered noble and admirable, but completely optional. That is the big con. The transforming union with the divine is not a once and done endeavor. We are to seek being at the spiritual experience of the true self. We are to accept the invitation to a transforming union with Christ, from the time of our conception. Accepting and understanding the dynamics of one’s emotions is a start. The ego trip of our faith must end if we are to dig deeper. You see, we are sick and we need to be healed. But the motivations of our unconsciousness in the Holy Spirit can center us back to the beginning so that every sin can be forgiven and a divine unity and love can heal us. We must be born again. We must have our desert experience. We must have our anguish at the Olive Press. We must experience an exodus of our primitive emotions and thoughts before we can get closer to the center of life in unity with God. For our conversion, as a child of God, requires we have a healing of the emotions. We are to come to our senses. And in the night of the Spirit we are to bloom as our ego is replaced with the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and yes, both fear and of the Lord.

 

Pray we become more virtuous. Pray we experience the presence of God but despite this comfort take seriously our responsibility to not be trapped in sin. Pray when it comes to our own sanctification we demonstrate intellectual responsibility, perseverance, open-mindedness, empathy, integrity, intellectual courage, confidence in reason, love of truth, intellectual humility, imaginativeness, curiosity, fair-mindedness, and a degree of self-rule empowered by God. Pray we realize that our primitive emotions and thoughts must eventually be addressed before transformation can fully occur. Pray we not have psychic nausea in the process. Pray we understand that deep contemplative prayer can help us with the removal of barriers to being in unity with God. Pray we wait for God especially in the tension of change. Pray that our plans do not interfere with God’s plans. Pray we find God when we let go. Pray we discover our true self as God originally intended us to be. Pray we take seriously the commands of Christ and try to do them. Pray we serve in the church and in the world with the light of God’s love. Pray we want to be transformed into Christlikeness. Pray we trust and obey. Pray
we have an interior freedom that accepts the invitation. Pray that in the wounds of Christ we are healed.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

How Will You Respond To God’s Invitation?

How Will You Respond To God’s Invitation?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

This morning I was looking at some the events on this day in history and a couple of them I have shared in the message for in them both is a summons to see the hand of God in history. You see, the best experiences in life often start with a call and an offer to be engaged in a life changing experience but they do not always play out exactly as we might anticipate. There is reference to this idea in today’s scripture that has at its heart a promise and covenant and a relationship.
It is about a servant and a King and an opportunity to be strengthened in the process of submitting to a destiny ordained by God. How Will You Respond To God’s Invitation?

 

Scripture: And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

 

Isaiah 49:5-7 (NRSV)

 

Message: So, on this date of the anniversary of the closing of Ellis Island and the anniversary of the very first web page, I am seeking, with some degree of wonder, the challenge of seeing Jesus in the implied promises of God in the Spirit of God through the ongoing work of Christ in the hearts of his people through history. And I marvel at how all good things connect in Christ and in scripture. For you will not find a clearer picture of Jesus Christ playing this role anywhere else in the Old Testament better than in the Book of Isaiah. He has words of comfort but also a spiritual awareness of God’s loving intentions though history. It is an invitation to imagine a future that is joyous but also to understand the history of the world in a more welcoming way, knowing that there is a time and season to all things. Regardless, as part of our shared experience of faith there is a calling to respond to the covenant of God that is designed to permeate all things through Christ. In this calling to share in holy history, there is the promise of the Messiah who will be everything needed to bring victory….an everlasting liberation. It is an invitation for all who are weary and burdened to find rest and it is a personal invitation speaking to the heart of our shared existence across time. Friends, Jesus and the Gospel of grace is not a demand but a wonderful invitation. We have been chosen to share in it as an act of love. Friends, the world is filled with invitations and how we choose them needs to consider how we can glorify God in the acceptance.

 

Pray we respond to invitations with the wisdom of a knowledge of the promises of God. Pray we admit we the people need Jesus. Pray we be humble in seeking Jesus in ways old and new. Pray though that we have awareness…a deepening awareness of the promise of God in Christ. Pray we realize that the promise of God is not so much a demand on us as an invitation that has no obligation until we accept it. Pray we experience it as a meal and a wedding and a celebration and a dance and a concert of angels and as a means of our very salvation. Pray we accept the invitation of community and experience the moral demands of our conscience in the unfolding developments of holy history. Pray our acceptance of the invitation helps us experience the plan of redemption, the glory, the conscience of God’s righteousness, and live into Christ’s power and providence. Pray we take on the image of the invitation that affirms the constitution of Christ in us.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

What Do We Truly Value?

What Do We Truly Value?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

The command to love one another is a frequently repeated principle in the New Testament. It appears no less than nine times. But another principle we are directed to carry out is one the frozen chosen may have overlooked. It is to greet other believers with a holy kiss. This command is included in our lectionary text today and with our ongoing meditations on the parables gives us some insight into how we are to live. You see, the world is filled with lonely people that need a relationship. And one of the greatest things about the Christian life is that it is about relationships and invitations to them. You see, Christianity involves more than learning dogma, practicing the art of mental assent or inward introspection. Christianity is to be lived out in everyday community life as personal and tender as a kiss. Yes, there are great theological truths to be meditated upon and assimilated. There are deep philosophical truths to be examined and reflected upon. But we are to discover wealth much more in the relationships we share than in the money we make. However, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. Still we ask, What Do We Truly Value?

 

Scripture: Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

 

Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27 (NRSV)

 

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.

 

Luke 16:9-15 (NRSV)

 

Message: Some people shy away from conversations about money. Some shy away from relationships. These things can stress people out. However, Jesus did not feel that way. He was not wary of the subjects because he understood the power of money, resources and possessions. Jesus taught about the power of love but also warned that the pursuit of wealth can cause us to ignore God, undervalue family, walk over people and use them. Money can prompt us to act unethically, and engage in a host of other destructive actions. Jesus teaches us a lot about money and stewardship. Jesus teaches us about love. And the reality is that too many are insane about money and crazy about love. And Jesus knew that many would miss the whole point of both as many might miss the point of the parable of the Shrewd Steward. Friends, a better formula for being a “good” steward is to connect both love and money in a positive and honest way that glorifies God. Indeed, we are to make all the money we can. We are to save all the money we can. But then we are to invest in the lives of people all that we can. The heart of the Christian life is to understand the supernatural truths in our individual and corporate lives that is breathed inwardly and outwardly in loving relationships. It is not so much the flow of money but the flow or our emotions. Friends, we are to rejoice in the supernatural multiplications that surround spiritual blessings more so than the growth in our retirement accounts. We are to rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins more than the forgiveness of our financial debts.

 

Pray we live out our Christian experience in the here and now actively practicing and purposing relationships in which we invest time, money and emotions. Pray we be honest. Pray also that we be shrewd for we, like the unjust steward, can curry favor of others by sharing the Gospel of forgiveness. Pray we not cheat God. Pray we realize that without love the evangelical message has little power. Pray we realize that there are lots of ways to communicate in today’s world but some need to be personal and physical. Pray we reach out to those who are isolated and disconnected from God. Pray we experience and share the kiss of grace and peace from God our Father and from His Son Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world. Pray we live in the image of Christ fleshed out in the experience of a life we truly value.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

How Many Of You Are Investing In The Great Commission?

How Many Of You Are Investing In The Great Commission?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today we look at the story of the unjust steward which is often called the story of the shrewd steward. The scripture compares the children of light and the children of the world. We also look at some encouraging last words of Paul about having a missionary heart. And the scripture got me to thinking about how we prepare financially and spiritually to use the gifts we have been given to glorify God. But then thinking about the story of the Good Samaritan, which has been on my mind, I had to face up to the fact that I am often too busy to help others and instead focus on my own comfort levels and in the process often not risk enough to even share the Gospel. The message here is a bit messy but so are the relationships of this world. Regardless it is clear that there is a proper and improper use of wealth. For God’s sake, we cannot take it with us. So, How Many Of You Are Investing In The Great Commission?

 

Scripture: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Matthew 28:18-20 (NRSV)

 

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.

 

Luke 16:1-8 (NRSV)

 

I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”

 

Romans 15:14-21 (NRSV)

 

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

 

Luke 10:29 (NRSV)

 

Message: Every person must someday give account of the life they have lived. Death is the judgement of life and when we do die, all the money in the world will be of no value to us at all. Therefore, as stewards now we should use wealth and talent and influence for our Lord’s good and not solely for our own pleasure and comfort. Really, complete comfort is a bit boring. That is why God wants us to risk using the gifts we have been given and moreover, God wants us to use them wisely for the Kingdom purpose of making disciples of the next generation as well as people around the world. And that means risking in ways that are not comfortable. We are to embrace the mess and realize that people can be a burden but also a great joy. So, if we are honest we will admit that even though we are struggling with this generational transition of the faith, if we invest some money wisely it might just make a difference. So, do not withhold the Good News when it is in your power to share it. Do not be selfish. Be helpful. Be honest. Be truthful. Be humble. Be a good neighbor to the next generation. Invest in relationships.

 

Pray we commit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Pray we devote ourselves to a pursuit of the Great Commission both near and far. Pray we have an active dialogue with those who need to hear the Gospel. Pray we be advocates. Pray we not be apathetic toward helping those in need. Pray we not be so busy that we fail to have time for Jesus. Pray we serve the common good within the will of God. Pray we use our money for a righteous purpose. Pray we invest in relationships.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson

Do You Know You Are God’s Temple?

Do You Know You Are God’s Temple?

 

Good Morning Friends,

 

Today’s scripture explores the nature of God’s Temple and God’s Sanctuary both in our hearts and minds, and on the altars of the world cleansed and redeemed for a holy purpose. It truly is a wonderful picture of hope if you believe and a frightening thought as well. Do You Know You Are God’s Temple?

 

Scripture: Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”

 

Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 (NRSV)

 

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 

1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17 (NRSV)

 

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

 

John 2:13-22 (NRSV)

 

Message: It may be your body and it may be the world you live in, but it still belongs to God. We have indeed been bought with a price. And it was not perishable things by which we were redeemed. It is the life of Jesus Christ who was ordained before the foundation of the world to set us free to glorify God. And because the Holy Spirit resides in us, therefore, we are to honor God as part of the Body of Christ. Now, if God meant simply to convey the idea that the Spirit lives within the believer, He could well have said we are home to God. But by choosing the word, temple, to describe the Spirit’s dwelling, scripture conveys the idea that our bodies are the shrine, or the sacred place, in which the Spirit not only lives, but is worshiped, revered, and honored. Therefore, how we behave, think and speak, and what we let into the temple becomes critically important as well, for every thought, word and deed is in God’s view. So too the world, as God’s Sanctuary, seems to convey a similar image for our collective worship. God expects all creation, both the visible and the invisible to become alive in the purity, power, prayer and praise of God. We are to experience this life not just as particles but as waves, not just as individuals but collectively. And that is why God cleans our house so our hearts and minds can be raised up as a new Temple. Friends, it is a bit of a prophetic mystery but my reading of today’s scripture encourages me to believe that all believers and all creation will ultimately live by the Spirit and in the Spirit in unity as a place of worship redeemed. And that beautiful picture of resurrection is the very nature of love.

 

Pray we realize that we have been consecrated for a holy purpose of bearing fruit. Pray we realize that God dwells in each one of us and that seed of faith and the Word made flesh can bear much fruit. Pray we not grieve the Spirit. Pray we live by the Spirit worshipping God with our every thought. Pray we no longer gratify the desires of our sinful nature but instead be part of a redeemed creation for God’s glory. Pray we are conformed to the image of God. Pray we are transformed by the purity, power, purpose, prayer and praise of God.

 

Blessings,

 

John Lawson