Excruciating Vulnerability!

I’ll never forget my favorite professor from Norther Kentucky University who always told me, “You have to put yourself out there!  You will never know what you can be until you do!”  At the time, I was applying for a job at Procter and Gamble. I could think of a million reasons for them not to hire me…I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, and on and on.  I was afraid of rejection!  I was afraid of failure!  Putting ourselves “out there” is hard because it makes us vulnerable.  Vulnerability makes us feel uncomfortable. No one wants to be rejected, hurt, or feel like they don’t belong.

In Mark 5:21-43, there is a man named, Jarius.  He is a religious official, well-known in his community, and high up on the socio-economic ladder.  He probably could have had anything he wanted and needed.  But, he had a 12-year old daughter who was deathly ill. He could not make her well.  When Jesus got off the boat, Jarius was there falling at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come lay hands on his daughter.  Jesus begins to follow him with crowds of people closing in on him.

A woman, with ‘no name’ who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years wanted to get near Jesus. She had spent every penny on trying to get well. She lived on the margins of society, was considered “unclean,” and at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.  She believed that if only she could touch the clothes of Jesus, she might would be healed.  And, she was right! Soon after she touched Jesus’ cloak, she could feel the illness leave her body! With the crowds closing in, Jesus wanted to know who touched him.  She came forward in ‘fear and trembling.’ She admitted and confessed to Jesus that she was the one.

Excruciating Vulnerability…both Jarius and the ‘no name’ woman put themselves “out there” where they could have easily been rejected by Jesus.  For Jarius, it would have been complete embarrassment.  A man who could have had ‘anything,’ but could not heal his daughter.  For the ‘no name’ woman, she had nothing to lose.  She was already at the bottom, ostracized, and rejected by her family and the community . From one end of the spectrum to the other, Jesus loved them both, had compassion for them, and not only healed the daughter and the woman, but also made them whole again within their community. Their ‘excruciating vulnerability’ gave them power to be alive and free!

You see, putting yourself “out there” – making yourself vulnerable to the Lord, gives you the power to become free, whole, and filled with joy! To say, “Jesus, here I am…broken, a sinner, in pain, and hurting…An excruciating vulnerability – to admit before God all the things that are wrong with us – but yet, we are never rejected by the One who came to save us!  We have a God who loves us so much, in spite of everything we are and not who we should be. A God that forgives, heals, and restores our lives. A God who makes us whole, giving us a sense of belonging that brings us complete joy!

You Can’t Always Have What you Want!

This is a very materialistic world.  Now that it is getting closer to Christmas, we will begin to see ads for all the newest, greatest, and most expensive toys – IPhones, IPads, computers, and PlayStations, etc…It’s difficult to not want ownership of all these new- fangled electronics.  Tis the season for credit card fraud, computer hacking into personal accounts, and stealing identities in which, one has access to banking accounts, etc…

In 1 Kings 21:1-19, a king named Ahab wanted something that did not belong to him – A vineyard that belonged to a man named Naboth.  Ahab wanted the vineyard because it was near his house.  In Ahab’s defense, he did offer to Naboth either a fair trade in land or to pay him a fair price.  But, Naboth did not want to trade or sell the vineyard.  So, Ahab was a brat (in my book) – “He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat” (v.4).

King Ahab’s wife comes into the room and is like, “Good grief, get up and I’ll handle this issue.” And, so she does – she writes a letter in the king’s name and has Naboth killed so that Ahab can take ownership of the vineyard.  However, when Ahab goes to claim the vineyard, God sends his prophet Elijah to tell Ahab, “In the place where dogs liked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood” (v.19).

God loves justice!  What Ahab’s wife did was wrong! She took a situation into her own hands, in which it turned out in murder of an innocent man.  God saw the evil and now Ahab will pay the price!  However, for me, the real sin is that Ahab wanted something that did not belong to him!  This is called “coveting” – the desire to have what belongs to someone else.

When we desire something so bad that we will do whatever it takes to have that “thing,” we are headed down a very slippery slope.  The problem is that so many people think that they will find joy in having the material things of the world.  They miss having true JOY in Christ where one finds contentment and peace with all the blessings that God has bestowed upon them.

Is God asking you to release the desire for material things that you know you cannot afford?  How might God be calling you into a deeper relationship that will bring you contentment and peace?

Let us pray…Gracious and loving God, only you can give us what we really need and desire.  However, we tend to think the things of this world are more important than the grace, mercy, and love that you offer to us.  Help us to turn to you when our desire of worldly things are so great.  We love you so much.  Amen.

Sheer Silence

I have wondered many times lately what God might be trying to tell us. This past year has been filled with so many natural disasters – hurricane after hurricane, deadly earthquakes, flooding – while other places are in droughts, and fires that have literally burned down communities…and the list goes on it seems.  We may even wonder why God would let so horrific natural disasters happen, killing so many people in the process.

In 1 Kings 19:1-16, Elijah, a prophet, is running for his life.  He goes into the wilderness where there is absolutely nothing, but a “Broom” tree.  It’s a tree that offers much shade from the sun in the middle of the dessert.  Elijah falls asleep, but an angel wakes him up to give him food and water for the journey.  God asked him, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”  Elijah is clear, “I’m running for my life.  They want to kill me.  I’m the only one left (v.10!  They have killed all the other prophets.”  God instructs Elijah to go to the mountain and were the Lord will pass by.

Elijah goes to the mountain.  There is a great wind that splits the mountains (v.11).  There was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake…a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire (vv.11-12).  All these natural disasters were happening – but God was not there!  But, then there was ‘sheer silence” and Elijah heard it!  (v.12).  It is in the silence that Elijah heard God!

Here is what I believe…Natural disasters are a way for earth to take care of itself.  Unfortunately, we do a horrible job of taking care of the earth.  Maybe it’s earth rebelling.  That I don’t know.  But, what I do know is that God does not want us to suffer and hurt and be afraid.  God says to Elijah, “What are you doing here?”  What are we doing here?  I believe the answer is in the “sheer silence” of our day.

Blessings on your day!

Who is Your god?

We are human beings.  There is no way for us to get around who we are.  But, we are also created in the image of God.  Unfortunately, we abuse our free will and often choose ways that are not of God – but of human desire.  We think wrong things, we say wrong things, and we hope for the wrong things.  Sometimes, I believe that we need affirmation – a reminder of who we are and whose we are.

In 1 Kings 18:17-46, is the Mount Carmel Test.  The just of the story is that we have a choice.  We can follow in the ways of God, or we can choose to follow in the ways of other gods  But, God will always prevail!  Elijah puts Baal (the other god) to the test – knowing that God will reveal God’s self at the appropriate time.  And, God does! He shows up in the fire!  God affirms to the people who they are and whose they are.

We belong to God.  Let our actions demonstrate to others who we belong to and who we are in God and each other.  Will we fail?  Yes.  Will we mess up?  Yes.  But, with Jesus Christ, we do stand a chance!

Let us pray…Gracious God, we love you, but yet we still do not do as you would want us to.  Help us.  Guide us.  Let us choose you!  In your name we pray, Amen.

FAITH!

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Church Reformation, I am reminded of the heart of our belief in Christ Jesus– FAITH!  It is through our faith in Christ Jesus that we have this hope of a future that we cannot even fathom, comprehend, or begin to understand – how in the world we can be resurrected from death – into a new life with Christ!  I have witnessed, just recently, the amazing work of our Lord.  I have been affirmed that God is in control of every aspect of our lives!  God dreams our dreams for us!  Open your hearts and minds to God’s possibilities!  And, do not be afraid! (v.13).

In 1 Kings 16:29—17:16, Israel is in a drought.  They have no water to drink.  We know that as humans we cannot survive without water!  Elijah, a prophet in whom God sent, goes to a widow who is basically preparing for her death.  She says to Elijah, “…I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die” (v.12).  But, Elijah offers up another scenario: “Do not be afraid…The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth” (v.14).  God opened to her another possibility – LIFE!  And through faith, they ate for days and the promise Elijah made, was indeed truth!

If we can somehow wrap our minds around what Jesus Christ did – conquer death – have a means in which our SIN is Forgiven – then how much more can God do in our lives?  You see…only Christ has done the impossible and continues to do the possibilities in our lives that we cannot fathom, comprehend, or even begin to understand!  But, I promise you…when you recognize God’s amazing work and see God working in amazing ways, you will be overwhelmed!  It is living a Life in Christ!

Thanks be to God!

Is God Your Leader?

Read 1 kings 16:8-24, and what you will find is the people of Israel were no better than the people of this country today.  Sin was so prevalent then and it is prevalent today. In this text, we see king after king taking over the people of Israel.  Over- and -over again, the king leads his people away from God instead of towards God.  What really stands out to me is the importance of a leader and how he or she can impact the behavior of others.  Therefore, how do we stand up for justice in the midst of chaos and hate?  How do we hear the Word of God in a world where differences are being protested?  Here is what I think…

I believe that being a Christian is much harder than it was just 10-20 years ago.  Having a voice and a difference of opinion is a good thing; however, it is now being protested with hate, violence, and destruction.  As Christians, we are called to respect these differences, but with love, acceptance, and understanding.  I do not believe this means we have to agree with others and their way of living, but to listen to their stories with an understanding they may be different from us and our beliefs.  I believe it is most important that we realize that we are not the judge, but God who will judge all of us.  For me, this understanding is a huge relief!

There is only one way to stand strong in a world of sin – And, it is the same 2000 years ago as it is today… We do not stand a chance without a strong relationship with God.  God has to be our leader! God has to be the One who guides us and gives us strength to endure the evil in the world today!  Israel continued to sin.  The world continues to sin.  We continue to sin.  It is only Jesus Christ who died for us that gives us an inkling of an opportunity for forgiveness.

Let us pray, Gracious and Loving God, the world is a rough place to live in these days.  Help us to turn to You for leadership – giving us the guidance and the strength to live a life that is pleasing in your eyes.  We give thanks for Your Son Jesus Christ, the One who died for our sake.  Amen.

We Turn from God…

Have you ever worked so hard on a project and brought it to fruition?  Then when it was time to hand it over to the next person it seemed that all your work was destroyed?

In 1 Kings 11:41—12:11, 17-20, King Solomon, who was King David’s son has died.  Even though Solomon asked God for wisdom to lead his people, he lost his way and began to follow the ways of the people instead of the ways of the Lord.  Now Solomon’s son, Rehoboam is next in line to lead God’s people.  However, because Solomon lost his way, Israel is in a mess.  Does this sound familiar today?  No one in Israel now followed the ways of the Lord that King David worked so hard to get the people to obey God.

Imagine how God feels every day when those He loves so much do not obey Him.  God has done everything – including sending His only Son to bring His kingdom to fruition, but yet we still do not obey and we turn from Him.  It seems that no matter who God sends to help us follow Him, the people fail to follow His ways.   But yet, God still never gives up on us.

Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to turn to you for your guidance, grace, mercy, and love. You offer everything that we need to be happy in this life, but yet we still fail to follow your ways. Please Lord, help us to see that your Son, Jesus Christ will lead us into a new life that is truly life.  Amen.