Over the 12 plus years I have been serving in ministry I have been amazed by many different peoples generosity. This Sunday was one I really needed. You see this past weekend I was sick. I mean dog tired sick. I have run my body ragged between a trip to Disney, VBS, Hosting a day camp and strategic planning. My body has literally been saying to me “Steve just STOP IT or else”. I was sick all weekend and Sunday morning I just wanted to lay in bed. I had been literally coughing all night and hadn’t slept except for about 2 hours from 8 AM-10 AM. I was miserable when I walked into St. John but I was there to help lead the service. In all honesty I should have stayed home, but God had another plan.
To open the service I made a few announcements. The most important one to me was a need we had for donations for a couple of our students who needed help to be able to attend the mission trip this summer. Throughout the service Jesus gave me the voice and allowed me to avoid coughing uncontrollable during the prayers and other parts I had to lead. It was truly a miracle that I made it through the service. Praise God He is faithful to me and got me to the other side so I could see His great goodness. I am so glad I was there because I got to see Jesus move.
At the end of the service I had three people I come forward and ask what they could do to help. One even wrote a check for the amount we needed for two of the students. I was amazed. I know I shouldn’t have been amazed but God brought those people forward to help reach a need for our young people. I should never be surprised by the generosity of Gods people for His mission. I am so glad Jesus brought me to that moment. I got to see Him work.
Today as you may be feeling down, or tired, or broken be reminded that Jesus is continuing to work in the lives of His people. He is working to bring about His good and we are blessed often when we can see it. My prayer for you today is that you see Jesus work his miracles working in your lives.
So this week we I was part of a team trying to help our staff be more physically healthy. One of the ways we are doing this is through a biggest loser challenge. For those that wanted to participate we broke them into teams to help us all be accountable. The goal is to help the staff have some bonding time and also help everyone be a little healthier. The most fascinating part of this activity is people’s fascination with numbers. Some people are terrified to share their number. Others will tell you if you ask.
The scale is a terrifying thing for many people. This week we set up a scale in the office for people to use if they wanted for our biggest loser challenge. I can tell you a few of them left that room with very angry faces. In fact, one told me we shouldn’t speak to her for the rest of the day. That scale can be terrifying, hurtful, and down right painful. It doesn’t paint the whole picture of health. I can however give us a snapshot of how we are doing. It doesn’t really tell you if you are healthy but it can tell you which direction you are heading in terms of your health. I for one wanted to throw it out the window.
(One note if you are a member of St. John or any Church please look after your Church workers’ health. Bring in some healthy snacks and less cookies we need the help!)
Kicking off this program got me thinking about not just my physical health but also many families’ spiritual health. Weight gain doesn’t happen over night it happens over months and years. Weight loss is the same way. Your health spiritually is very similar. We have good years and bad years. We have ups and we have downs. This is a great time of year to get on your faith life scale. (disclaimer, I am not saying if you are not doing the following things you do not love Jesus or you do not have faith so don’t comment non-stop and tell me I am preaching moralism please)
Are you in prayer as a family? As an individual? Are you in worship? Do you come to receive God’s blessings in Communion? Have you spent time in God’s word this week? Have you cared for someone beyond yourself? Have you served your neighbor? These questions don’t tell us if we have saving faith. This is just meant to help us look at our faith lives and reassess where God can work in us to be more faithful. Let us take a look in the mirror. Let us as Jesus’s disciples get on the scale and see where we are at. Maybe it is time in your life as it is in mine to lose a few pounds and get back to work.
One of the hardest parts of reading the scripture in a year is getting through the many sections of names. It can seem tedious, and well, down right boring. I have read them over and over many times. Going through long lists of names can be tedious and often funny when reading it out loud. But in those lists of names we are reminded of two very important things.
God remembers our name. This might seem so simple but is so powerful to me. We are not just some number on his score sheet. God doesn’t do a count of people just to say oh look I have 10,000 believers, or I have 20,000 believers. He has your name written in the book of life. You are his. He records them and reminded his believes so many years ago to do the same. As you read through those genealogies and read those names which might seem weird or just plain odd remember he has your name written in the book of life. He did it at your baptism and holds you close to himself. He knows you and knows your name. You are important to Him. He died and rose for you.
Lastly God is faithful. He took time to work out our salvation. He took time to work through all these people before us and was faithful. He promised to bring our salvation to completion and did through Jesus. God worked all these things so some of the most unfaithful, and awful people. He didn’t pick a bunch of amazing wonderful people. He chose us because he is faithful. God is good!
This last week we have done a good job as a family of reading our scripture each day. It isn’t always going to be easy but is going to help us see Jesus and His work for us. He knows you and your family by Name.
My God bless you as you read the scriptures as a family.
You can download a daily reader from: http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com/readingplan/oneyearbiblereadingplan.pdf
It is the day after Christmas. All those things under the tree that seemed new just 24 hours ago are looking less so. Soon all those decorations around the house will need to be taken down. All the stuff put away and life going back to normal. Maybe even a little dull. Soon the kids will be bored with their toys and other things they got for Christmas. It will all lose the luster of being new.
The day after Christmas reminds me of my own faith walk. Often what seems new each day gets a little dull. It is so easy for me to forget the newness of the gospel. The beauty of its work in my life. It is so easy to look at our faith and miss the point. When we focus on how we feel or look at something it can so easily dull in our minds.
So what can we do. How do we make it seem new every day? Well the answers aren’t simple. They don’t have an easy answer. We don’t have some simple way to make everything seem new. The reality is our emotions have little to do with the faith we trust in. With the God we believe came near to us. Time can sometimes make us lose focus on this. We can get caught up in the emotion of this moment. Yet God has promised he is near. In our baptism he came and claimed us as His own. In the Lord supper we experience the Grace of God in the Body and blood. In Worship we hear about the one who shed his blood for us. This is what helps us be new every day.
So today as you begin looking at the rest of the year. The decorations and presents look a little dull remember the one who was the reason you celebrated. Remember the God of the universe coming down for us. Remember the work of Christ to be near so that he could die for you and me. It is so simple; it isn’t a new story to hear or a new gift. It is the gift we received long ago, the gift that changes everything for you and me. The Gift of the Son of God coming to be with us, to die for us, and to rise again.
Fire is one of my favorite things. I love camping mostly because I get to build a fire and watch it. It is mesmerizing. It is amazing really. It is also a dangerous thing. When I was a young boy my dad and I were in the back of the property burning up some brush. It was mostly a white pile of hot embers at the time and so I threw in a new stick. My Dad was in the front of the house getting more wood and I grabed at that stick to move it again and BAM new flame burned my hand. My dad came running and got me some ice to help my hand heal. I was in a lot of pain but it could have been a lot worse. As a kid I didn’t understand the danger. I was in playing with fire.
Last week I had the privilege of sharing the staff devotion for the school teachers. I know most school devotions take the form of reading something you find meaningful to share with others. I read a text from Jude
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Jude 22-23 NIV
These verses remind us of the our ministry among each other. Every day my goal is to help my kids be snatched from the fire. I pray every day God uses me to snatch other kids and families from the fire. Their is no greater calling as a parent, Dad, friend or minister. This is serious business and God has called all of us to be a part of it. The Holy Spirit does the work. He changes hearts, He changes minds, we just get to be a part of it.
In the season of Christmas and the crazy times we are living remember to be merciful to those who are struggling. Be merciful to those who don’t know Jesus. Be merciful to all you meet. You just may be a part of snatching them from the fire.