Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Along the way ... January 28, 2014

Sunday I preached on two stories from Jesus' life - two stories that are sometimes called a "Markan sandwich" - Jairus' sick and dying daughter and the woman with a 12 year illness.  (Luke 8:40-56 and Mark 5:21-43)  Jesus heals them both miraculously, and in lots of ways unexpectedly to show that in Him God's kingdom has come.

But what caught my attention was the words of children's author Sally Lloyd-Jones who wrote,

"Jesus was making the sad things come untrue.
He was mending God's broken world."
(Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 220)

I have wrestled with defining the kingdom of God since seminary, and yet I believe Ms. Lloyd-Jones has captured it beautifully.  I know there are all kinds of theological terms that can be used to describe and/or define God's kingdom, but in reality this is the one that captures for each of us what God's kingdom means to us.  - Jesus came to make the sad things in God's broken world come untrue!

What a wonderful sentiment!  What an amazing truth!  The sad things are coming untrue!

Now I imagine each one of us can think of some sad things we wish were untrue, and the good news is that those things are coming untrue and one day will be completely untrue!  On that day, the day of Jesus' return, "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Revelation 21:4).  

I know for me this has become especially significant as I have dealt with my dad's recent death.  If not for the hope of the resurrection and the promise that the sad things are coming untrue, I would not know how to go on.  However, in light of God's promises, I know I will see my dad again and right now he is experiencing no pain or sickness, he is already made new, as all things will be one day.  

So what about you?  What sad things are you glad will one day become untrue?  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Along the Way ... January 21, 2014

Sunday I taught on Simon's call story from Luke's perspective (Luke 4:38-5:12).  It is always interesting to compare the accounts of the different gospel writers of the same events.  For example, for Matthew and Mark (Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18) it is easy.  "At once they left their nets and followed him."  But Luke offers a few more details that give us insight into the process by which Jesus called Simon in particular.

As I have been reflecting on Simon's call story, I have been challenged to think about my own call story, and the developing process it has been and still is.

My call began at my baptism.  I was baptized as an infant, and at that time God promised me that I was His child, and as I grew older I came to realize that God's promise was fulfilled in Jesus.  So I placed my faith in Jesus and accepted the name I had been given in my baptism; child of God.

As time has passed, through the work of the Holy Spirit, I have grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.  I have come to realize that the good things I do cannot make God love me more, and the bad things I do cannot make God love me less.  His love is consistent, or as the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, "God loves us with a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always, and forever love."  This has freed me to really love and serve God and others.

So I no longer (at least most days) seek validation in what I do, but realize that God loves me for me simply because I am His child.  This frees me to serve in greater ways.  I can serve every person (big or small, rich or poor, important or those on the margins) because God sees us all the same.   We are all created in His image, and reckoned to Him in Christ.  At the cross, the ground is level.

And this is why I serve as a chaplain in the New Mexico Air National Guard.  I serve because God is present and war fighters need to hear of His love and grace, they need to be reminded that God loves them no matter what, and they need to know that Jesus is the proof of God's love.   This is not something I knew so well 20 years ago when I first served in the US Air Force, so I would not have been as good a chaplain then, as I believe God has equipped me to be now.

I could go on about how God has pursued me, but I want to invite you to share your own story.  How has God shaped you for kingdom service, and what opportunities is He giving you today to serve?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Along the way ... January 14, 2013

This weekend I was serving those who serve in the New Mexico Air National Guard, and I was reminded of the power of presence in representing Jesus.

First, I was privileged to attend a Yellow Ribbon event with a group getting ready to deploy down range.  This particular group is one with whom I have spent a good amount of time since joining the Guard last May.  I spent the day basically "hanging out" with them, listening to their stories and situations, and eventually leading a class later in the day.  Many of the airmen expressed appreciation for my presence with them and through my presence God gave opportunities for me to speak truth in ways that brought encouragement.

Second, as I reflected on that day, I thought about the sermon text I had chosen for Sunday: John 8:12.  Jesus said, "I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  Along with the recognition that Jesus is the light of the world, I also pointed out that in Matthew 5:14, Jesus also said, "You are the light of the world ..."   This teaching is for all who put their full trust in Jesus, believing God's promise fulfilled in Him, and receiving the Holy Spirit.  A few verses later, Jesus highlights how our lights shine brightest.  "Let your light shine before people, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  Jesus says our lights shine brightest in what we do.  That's particularly relevant to a military community where proselytization is frowned upon, and I believe it is also relevant to each of us living and working in our society today.  People will see Jesus in us, and they see Him best in who we are and what we do.

I invite you to reflect on the truth that Jesus is the light of the world, and the related truth that Jesus says "you" are the light of the world, and then share your thoughts as we journey together along the way ...