Eyes to See
Do you have eyes to see?
Easter was a wonderful celebration of the Resurrection. We sang, prayed, laughed, ate delicious treats, and delighted in God's big victory. It was a beautiful morning of worship.
But the blessing of Easter is as much about the subtlety of the event as it is the huge news of the Gospel. Not everyone got it. Only Mary Magdalene saw Jesus was not in the tomb. She ran and told the Disciples who were huddled together in fear. Only Peter and John ran to see the tomb. The rest stayed behind. Even when they came back to confirm it, Thomas could not believe in Jesus until he saw his wounds himself.
Nothing has changed. People still don't believe in Easter. Then and now, many see the same facts and can't trust God's power and work in our lives.
As Jesus said to Thomas when he finally showed him his wounds to prove his identity, "Because you have seen me, you have believed, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29
I find most people are still waiting for God to show them something new to change their minds and hearts. Simply put, we still don't believe. Jesus overcame death completely, has power and authority over EVERYTHING, so we have nothing to fear... yet we still worry over death, money, health, and our circumstances. We are still afraid. We still don't believe that the Resurrection means everything to us.
The things that are not of earth are hard for our earthly eyes to see.
So that is the project for today. Our prayer for you is that your eyes open to the work and power of God.
Do you see and appreciate the way God is weaving all things together for good for you? Do you pray thanks over the sunbeam that catches your eye and lifts your heart, or the song that says just what you need to hear, or the stranger who smiled at you just when your mind was racing towards worry? Are you looking for the people God draws near to you for your blessing of kind words, a prayer for their needs, or an invitation? Are you keeping track of how your generosity blesses your finances? Are you eager each week to get to church Sundays to be encouraged and to encourage others to draw closer to God?
Open your eyes and your spirit to all God is doing around you, and in you, and through you. He IS alive! Let his peace and the promise of His goodness saturate all things and TRUST in Him and His way.
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don't be troubled or afraid." -Jesus in John 14:27
See you Sunday at 10. We believe this one hour of worship each week can change every situation and every relationship in our lives! Come ready to grow, change, give, and serve! Invite a friend - you may never know the difference it will make in their life.
In the Shadow of the Cross
As we start Good Friday, we stand in the shadow of the cross.
Jesus has served the Last Supper, and He has taught His Disciples His Commandment to love one another.
Judas has betrayed him for silver coins.
Jesus has gone to the garden, distressed about the trials He knows He has to face.
The soldiers have come, Judas has kissed him on the cheek, and they have arrested Him.
He has been mocked and scorned for His teachings by the church leaders who will turn him over to the Roman authorities to be killed.
What remains for today is unthinkable... scourging, the crown of thorns, and He will be condemned to die.
He will be made to carry his own cross to Golgatha alongside common criminals to be crucified.
And finally this afternoon, He will be nailed to the sky for all to condemn as He draws His final breaths as a man on the cross.
Then as all the worshipers have left him to die, He will forgive His captors, and commend His spirit to God.
In the middle of the afternoon, they will verify his death with the spear. The sky itself will fall into darkness and the stones WILL cry out as they heave and tear apart the temple's curtain.
The people who love him will sit in the shadow of the cross as their teacher, their healer, their God-among-them suffers and is extinguished - seemingly gone from them forever.
The earth returns to the darkness of hopelessness. And fear and uncertainty seem to have won again.
Can you relate at all? Do you feel alone? Have you suffered loss, fear, pain, or sickness? Are you waiting in uncertainty for something you expected?
The shadow of the cross is for you. The shadow of the cross is for me. Regardless of how great we suffer, Jesus has been there too. The worst we can face will not ever be worse than what He has faced.
And the Good News is ...
the story IS NOT OVER. Your story, our story, His story... is not over.
So it begins...
"On this day around the world Christians remember that tense, sensitive time Jesus spent with his disciples in the upper room and the last supper he shared with them. Many refer to this day as "Maundy Thursday."
The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin word for commandment (mandatum), which Jesus talked about when he told his disciples that he was leaving them "a new commandment," that they "love one another." (Read more from Bible Gateway.)
Maundy Thursday is the day our celebration of Communion comes from. We serve the bread and cup to one another in worship Sundays every week to remember His gift and sacrifice as He first did on this day in the upper room.
But there's more to Maundy Thursday than being the first demonstration of Christian Communion. At this same meal, Jesus undressed, wrapped a towel around his waist and began washing His followers feet. One by one, around their table, he washed all their dirty feet off in a basin of water.
Imagine that! Here's a modern metaphor: you are called to an important meeting with your boss, the founder of your company. You don't understand what is going on at the company. You changed your whole life to work for it because you believe in it - but now you suspect there's trouble. Your boss has mentored you and frankly, you can't imagine ever working for a better leader. When you arrive at the corporate gathering, all the department heads are there. Your boss stands up, takes off their suit, puts on a bathrobe and says you have to get a foot massage from them. You're tired from traveling, you are nervous and anxious over the situation, and a foot massage would be great in another setting. But your boss on their knees touching your feet? That's crazy.
But Jesus did just that. His Disciples were as uncomfortable as you would be. And he did it because as He described, 'He did not come to be served but to serve.' This is possibly the most important and definitive lesson in Christianity. It defines our posture towards the world. And illustrates what Jesus himself meant when He commanded that we "love one another."
"Do you know what I've done for you? You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and you speak correctly, because I am. If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other's feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. I assure you, servants aren't greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them." -Jesus in John 13:12-16
Now here's the hard reality. Christians have a very hard time being the servants RATHER the ones being served. Churches often look like a different - more human - kind of hierarchy and believers often use the exact opposite language and thinking from Jesus. Our comfort as believers is often the most important thing to us - and our church experience centers around how we are being served - rather than how we are serving one another. Our humanity just keeps creeping in, while Jesus' divinity - His example - His mandate - keeps getting pushed aside.
So do a gut check today on our remembrance of His great servanthood. As a believer, are you taking? Or are you giving away? Is your concern about your own comfort, desires, and tastes? Whose feet (metaphorically) are you washing?
Pray and reflect on this today. If you are able, celebrate Communion tonight... as a family, alone, or with friends. Read Matthew 26:17-30
Watch for our Good Friday devotional tomorrow.
See you Sunday at 10 as we celebrate EASTER!!! We believe this one hour of worship each week can change every situation and every relationship in our lives! It's our happiest day!
Happy St. Patrick's Day
Top of the mornin'!
It's St. Patrick's Day! This is one of our very favorite holidays - and not JUST because we love corned beef and dancing jigs. St. Patrick is one of the most inspiring missionaries in our faith!
Patrick was trafficked in slavery. In the fifth century he was a Christian child in England - then under Roman rule. According to the Confessio of Patrick, when he was about 16, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland - then NOT Christian but Druid - and very violent. He was put in slavery looking after animals, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a priest, he felt called to return to northern and western Ireland as a missionary, sharing Jesus in the land he was once enslaved.
St. Patrick was known for the creative ways he articulated Christianity to the native people of Ireland, using their symbols like the shamrock to describe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit in one. He used creativity, inspiration, and reliance on prayer to share Jesus with a dangerous society. That desire to share Jesus (to even difficult people) is the true lesson of St. Patrick!
So today as you enjoy some of the frivolous aspects of the day, remember your faith. Offer to pray for someone else's need. Be generous and bless someone who needs it - even if is just a second shamrock shake for a coworker. Invite someone to church this weekend. Sunday will be a fun worship with Palm Sunday and a little more St. Patrick's celebration!
Who Do You Care For?
Who do you care about?
It's not easy to care. Caring takes effort. Caring isn't convenient. Caring take resources, money, and time.
Jesus was asked a pivotal question, "what is the most important thing to God?" Jesus made faith simple: "love God and love your neighbor as yourself... every commandment boils down to these things."
Though Jesus' answer was simple, it certainly isn't easy. Love is choosing to care. Caring digs in and gets to know the other person. Caring understands the struggles, and the celebrations. Caring is measurable, in our thoughts, emotions, time, and money. Caring is the highest bar.
So how do you care for God? How do you care for others? What does your love look like? Does it invade your thoughts, emotions, time and money? Does it transform your ideas into action?
In the version of this story in the Gospel of Luke, the person asking the question had a follow up, "who is our neighbor?" In other words he asked, "ok, so who do I have to care about? Who do I have to love?"
Jesus answered by telling the famous story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) In the story, a man was attacked and badly hurt. Every religious leader passed the injured man by, avoiding the mess, but a member of a race despised and even avoided by Jewish people of that era, a Samaritan, took the injured man and paid for him to be nursed back to health.
The illustration is clear. We only love when we get involved. We must care. It feels like the messiness might be too hard... like it might be too much for us. We aren't alone when we feel that way. But we are wrong. The truth is the opposite, that we were made for love - even in the mess.
Modern society has shown over and again that when we don't care, when we isolate and ignore, when we avoid caring for God and others as a way of life, the cost to our soul is so high, so damaging, that we literally waste away in our selfishness, meaninglessness and even sickness. Our souls starve and die and then the bodies follow. We see it happen over and over.
Caring is the ONLY antidote. Caring is our ENTIRE purpose. Caring for God and others is our FULL life's meaning. Caring is how we get to the big life.
So who do you care for? How can you care for God and others more deeply?
Full of Hope
Another round of snow! Man, does it ever feel long waiting for spring this time of year. The little tastes of warmth, the change in the sunlight, it all indicates something is coming... but here we are scraping cars and shoveling side walks... and waiting.
Waiting is part of life. Patient waiting is hard. Something within us is wired for expectancy. That we look forward to things coming is uniquely human. Hope is a beautiful thing!
But looking forward can also make life more difficult. Worry is looking forward with fear. How often do you find yourself imagining what is next and dreading it? Worry can eat away at our peace, our joy, and increase the stress that drains our health.
So how do we fuel the positive side of looking ahead? Like so many aspects of life, God's answer is built on gratitude. Last Sunday we opened with a song built around Romans 8:28, "We know that God works all things together for good for those who are called according to His purposes." To stay centered on hope rather than worry, we must start with what we already know about God. How has God already worked things together for good for you in your past? When has God gotten you through your difficult seasons? Who has God drawn near to you to be an encourager when you needed it? Did situations you worried over in the past turn out okay? Give gratitude and be full of thanks for these God-actions in your past.
As you train yourself to look behind and reflect on God's good work in your life, you will start to look forward with hope. As you identify the way God's hand guided and is repairing your past, you will trust God to work in your future. And as you look at the imaginations of circumstances that now cause you worry, you will start to trust and have faith that God will also work in those circumstances for good. It is one of the many promises of God that we can really grab a hold of to live a richer, more abundant, big life!
Join us Sunday we devote our hour of worship together to growing in our understanding and trust of God's work in our lives. We believe committing our hearts to God during this one hour of worship each week can change every other hour we live.