Integrity

Are people innately good or are they innately evil?  I remember being asked this question in seminary.  I used to think that most people were innately good – that most folks really do want to do the right thing.  And, when I say the “right thing”…it means for me that one will choose to do the right thing when they know no one else is looking.  This is called integrity.  For me, there is nothing worse than to have my integrity questioned.

In 2 Kings 24:9-20, it seems that king after king “does what is evil in the sight of the Lord” (vv. 9, 19).  Notice, it doesn’t say, the king does what is evil in the sight of the people!  Because here is the thing…God sees us no matter what.  He knows our hearts.  He knows what our intentions are.  He knows our hate, our fear, and our evil spirits that live within us.  In all reality, we cannot escape from our actions, our words, our thoughts, or how we live out our days.  God sees it!  God knows every move we make!  God sees it all – even when you think no one else is looking!

Live your days as if someone is always watching you.  As Christians, we are role models to others for our Lord!  People will notice your acts of kindness and love.  People will notice when you reach out to help.  But, even more importantly, God sees you and is watching you!

Let us pray…Gracious God, thank you for the spirit that lives in us that guides us into your goodness and mercy.  Help us to always do the right thing, even when we think no one is looking.  Lead us to be the role model that you would want us to be for others.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

What is the Alternative?

Can the world get any worse than it is today?  Can our country get any worse than it is today?  I mean isn’t it difficult to avoid the obvious as we wake up each morning?  Martin Luther King, Jr had the dream of radical equality among races and gender?  Are we there yet?  NO!  Confidence of our government is at an all-time low – The stock market continues to soar, but wages remain stagnant.  The opioid crisis deepens.  We discover more and more accounts of sexual assault and abuse.  False alarms of a nuclear attack remind of the reality of that possibility.  And, church attendance everywhere continues to ebb.  No doubt, as we sit here this morning, we really may wonder –Is the Kingdom of God near?

But, today – not only does Jesus say that the Kingdom of God is near – but the time has been fulfilled!  Not only is the Kingdom of God come near – But NOW – right now – IT IS FULFILLED – meaning that GOD IS GETTING INVOLVED.

This “Fullness” that Jesus is talking about is from a Greek verb that means –Totality, completeness – Something rendered perfect – and filled to overflowing!

Jesus has been baptized, full of the Holy Spirit and now beginning his ministry – Jesus is calling his disciples – These disciples will no longer just be fishermen – but men who will fish for people.  These men whom Jesus chooses, leave everything to follow him – their jobs, their families, their livelihood, and their normal way of life.

They don’t wait until tomorrow.  They don’t run home to say good-bye to their familes.  They don’t even go and pack a suitcase of clothes.  They have no money.  Nor, do they even ask Jesus, “Where are we going?  What will we do?  How will we live day-to-day?  Where will we sleep?”  Jesus taps them on the shoulder and says, “Follow me.”  And, “IMMEDIATELY” – that very second, they leave what they are doing to follow Jesus.

How many of us would do that?  I’m guessing none of us –

And, as I have pondered this question myself, I have asked myself – “Why?”  Why would I NOT just leave everything to follow Jesus?  What is it about us humans that make it so difficult to get up and follow Jesus as we are called?  Of course, immediately, I think about – Trust and control.  We want control of our lives – and YES, it is really hard to trust –  And, in this case, the disciples had to completely trust in Jesus– 100% trust in Jesus just to take care of their everyday needs – They quit their jobs – so there wasn’t even going to be money to buy food!

Jesus says:  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

How does that affect you today?  What might that mean for us today as disciples?  To hear these words as the disciples did in that day – is this enough to hear for you to leave your everyday life and follow Jesus?

Our oldest son was about 6 years-old – in the first grade.  Bob and I were still trying to figure things out in our parenting skills – and now already four children in.

We had just watched a 20/20 TV show about how to discipline children.  One thing we knew for sure was that we never wanted our anger to hurt our children through discipline.  And, so after watching this, Bob and I discussed alternate forms of discipline – such as time-out.  The very next day, our sweet little boy was out playing.  It was a school night, so I called him in to get ready for bed.

He was always a good kid.  We never had any problems with him when being told what to do.  He had always obeyed.  But, this particular evening – I can still it today – our little boy was swinging round and round the lamppost.

It’s time to come in and get ready for bed, I said.

“Nope.”  I don’t want to come in.  I’m staying out here, he says.

Again, I said, “It’s time to come in – right now!”

Nope, I’m not coming in…

Now at this point, I’m starting to fill my blood pressure go up – and this time, I’m not going to be so nice about it.

“Come in the house – right now!”

And, he says – Well, I know you aren’t going to spank me, so I’m staying out!

Little did we know that while we thought he was in bed asleep that night we had our discussion, he was around the corner listening to our conversation.

This instance of child-rearing comes to mind for me as I think about this today’s text because what happened next…

I had to intervene in my child’s life to come in the house – get ready for bed –  Why?  So, that he could get up in the morning and be productive in school the next day.

And, why was that important?  Because I love him.  And, I wanted to do what was going to be the best thing for him.  Jesus has come to this world for us!  To guide us, to help us, to be with us, to love us –

To tell us “The time is NOW to COME AND FOLLOW ME!”

What is the alternative?

Well, I told Robert that evening – OK…then you can stay out here.  But, I’m closing the door now.  And, in just a bit, it’s going to get dark, and it’s going to get cold.  And, you’re going to be all alone.  But, once I shut this door, I’m going to lock the door and get ready for bed myself and you will just have to stay out here until the morning.  So, good-night.

Well, after about 3 seconds of thought, he let go of the lamp post and came in the house.

Is it not difficult to avoid the obvious as we wake up each morning?

Martin Luther King, Jr had the dream of radical equality among races and gender?  Are we there yet?  NO!  Confidence of our government is at an all-time low – The stock market continues to soar, but wages remain stagnant.  The opioid crisis deepens.  We discover more and more accounts of sexual assault and abuse.  False alarms of a nuclear attack remind of the reality of that possibility.  And, church attendance everywhere continues to ebb.  No doubt, as we sit here this morning, we really may wonder –

Is the Kingdom of God near?  The answer is YES!  THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR!

In fact, the time has been fulfilled!  And, Jesus calls us into a life that is full of grace, mercy, and forgiveness…He calls us into a life where though the world is hard and cold and feels as though everything is falling apart, – we are warm and fed with God’s love and amazing grace.

I find Jesus’ calling inviting…

After all, what is the alternative?  This world of chaos, hate, insecurities?  Or, a new life of Christ where there is love, hope, and God’s amazing grace?

I don’t know about you…but it only takes me about 3 seconds of thought to make my decision.

Why would we not drop everything to follow HIM?

Amen.

Change and Reform

I love change!  Most people do not.  But, I thrive on it.  I look forward to it.  I believe that if there is a better way, then I want to do the better way.  I am always up for trying something new and different if it means that people will be stirred in some way.  I love the feeling of new!  I love different!  I love thinking outside of the box.  I despise the status quo.  The status quo is comfortable.  The status quo is doing the same thing for the sake of the reason “It has always been that way or it’s the way we have always done it.”  Change creates reform!

In 2 Kings 23:1-25, Josiah who is king of Jerusalem recognizes the need for change.  The reason for change was because he had made a covenant before the Lord “to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statues, with all his heart and all his soul to perform the words of his covenant that were written in this book” (2 Kings 23:3).  So, Josiah goes and begins to ‘tear down’ in order that he can ‘build up.’  He gets rid of the ways of worshipping idols – tearing down altars of other gods.  Josiah brings reform.

Change can be very difficult for a lot of people.  Jesus came to earth and changed everything!  He changes the way we think.  He changes the way we worship.  And, he changes our hearts!  Jesus transforms, lifts us up, removes our sin, and creates in us a clean heart.

Let us pray…Gracious God, help us to let you into our lives to create change in us for the sake of your glory.  Take our fear and replace it with hope in our eternal life.  We love you so much.  Amen.

NOT GUILTY!

No doubt that when we or someone we love hears the devastating news of cancer or some other fatal disease, we may wonder what we did wrong to deserve that punishment.

In the Old Testament, the people of God had the mindset that if their parents and their ancestors sinned greatly, they were then afraid they would be the ones to pay for their sins – either through disaster or some grave disease.  In fact, if one was born handicapped, they believed it was because of the sin of the parents.

In 2 Kings 22:1-13, Josiah who is the son of David, is the King of Jerusalem.  He became King at the age of eight years old.  Josiah loved the Lord and was a fair man – “He did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 kings 22:2).  Josiah trusted that his people would deal honestly when he asked them to count the money and give it to the workers to repair the House of the Lord.  It wasn’t until the Book of the Law was found that Josiah realized that his ancestors had not obeyed the Words of the Book.  Now, he feared the wrath of God (2 Kings 22:13).

Still today, when people receive bad news from the doctor stating they have cancer or a fatal disease, they believe or think that it is because they have done something wrong.  But, God does not punish us for our sins.  God sent Jesus Christ to pay for our sins.  God does not give us cancer or make us sick!  However, God will be with you and give you peace in knowing that your suffering will end.  It’s how we respond to our circumstances in life that matter – believing that God will work all things out for God’s glory!

Let us pray…Gracious God, we pray for all those who are suffering.  Help us to remember that you love us and do not punish us – but hold us closely to you in your loving arms.  Help us to remember that You sent Your Son – Jesus Christ so that we will meet you face-to-face.  Amen.