We continue in our sermon series on thankfulness. Today we spend some time looking at the fact that we can be thankful that God wants to grow us.
Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:42–44
One of the undisputed tenets of our faith in Christ is that one day he will return to judge the living and dead. You may not believe that personally, but the Christian Church of every stripe does. Jesus promised that he would return, and we accept that as gospel truth.
Jesus also reminds us that we cannot predict the hour of his return. Many have tried and ended up looking foolish. There is no secret countdown clock to the “end” as much as we might like one.
Instead, Jesus tells us to be vigilant in our trust of him. We are to embrace the Boy Scout motto as it pertains to our faith, “be prepared.”
In two weeks, we will be celebrating the end of the church year and it always ends the same way, on Christ the King Sunday. We will remember that Jesus is our eternal King and will return one day.
This notion of Christ as our King isn’t some sort of end time idea. Christ is our King today, right now, in this moment. This isn’t some future transaction where we cease being under the rule of a human leader or government and then Jesus steps in and takes over. As a Christian, I know that Christ is my King today and forever. My allegiance is to Christ first and foremost.
I know that I will be spending way more time in the Kingdom of God (eternity) than I will spend in this life. I want to be ready when that day comes. I strive to be vigilant, awake and ready for Christ’s activity in my life. From my study of scripture, I know that I am not in the law enforcement business for Jesus but a grace giver of God’s love.
I feel sorry for my fellow Christians who think that Christianity is just about rules and keeping others in line. They are missing out on so much!
As the children of God, the best way to prepare for Christ’s return is to love others, forgive often and help those in need right now. It is easy to remain vigilant if you are able to love without judgment.
Today we spend some time unpacking the importance of All Saints Sunday and how that can transform our lives. And a quick encouragement before the election.
We are almost there. Election day is around the corner.
Are you ready for this season to be over? Really?
I hear the rumblings of a few that they are willing to move on after November 3rd provided their candidate of choice wins. And if they don’t it is either it is a case of voter fraud or voter suppression depending upon what side they are on.
I see a very immature response on the part of some in this election cycle who want to fight, argue or even name call. As I preached about several weeks ago, I was falsely accused of taking a side of a very specific political issue and then lectured to (online) about how this is the wrong position. The funny thing is, I wasn’t talking about that issue or anything related to it. We are polarized and for many people everything is seen through the lens of politics. As it turns out, some aren’t seeing things as clearly as they thought.
Are you ready to let go of the anger and hate?
Politics has become a religion with different denominations. Judgment and condemnation are for those who don’t follow the right leader. It is time to see that all of this is hurting our society even our churches in this country.
It is time to move beyond the tribal notion that God is a Republican or a Democrat. Christ is neither.
I am more concerned about how people treat others than who they vote for. After all, Jesus reminds us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” without a disclaimer stating who is excluded from this unconditional kindness.
Near the end of November, we will once again celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We remember that Jesus as our eternal king. Not one day, but right now. Jesus is our king today and forever.
That is a statement I can get behind. Jesus is my king. I am all for what He stands for… unconditional love, kindness, caring for those in need, healing for those who suffer, a voice for the voiceless, compassion, empathy and a seat at the table for anyone who wants to be in the presence of Christ.
It is time to move forward in Christ and in love.
Have you ever heard of the term “The Butterfly Effect?” The term was coined by Edward Lorenz a research meteorologist who designed a computer program to model the weather. He was able to reduce weather into several formulas that were able to be predicted.
In 1961 Lorenz was busy and wanted to shortcut his weather models by starting ½ way through. He inputted the numbers but rounded them off in order to hurry this up.
The output, the simulated weather pattern or prediction was significantly different than his earlier printout. He realized that rounding off the numbers made a significant difference. One one-thousandth or hundred thousandth made a huge difference.
Or to relate it to the Butterfly effect—tiny changes brought by a butterfly flapping his wings in San Francisco has the power to transform the weather in New York.
Meteorologists doubt that a butterfly in California can truly affect the weather on the east coast BUT it is the recognition that little things affect big change.
I am not here to talk about the weather, but the Butterfly Effect has some validity as it relates to humanity.
Think about it. One man from a remote part of the planet preached love and peace and he changed the world. Jesus changed the world’s future with his message. Without Jesus, the world we live in would be completely different. Not just in mindset or belief but the things his followers accomplished in his name would also be erased or irrevocably different.
One person can make all the difference.
Before the pandemic, I went to UNLV to hear Father Greg Boyle speak. Father Boyle founded Homeboy Industries which helps gang members in Los Angeles become more than they ever could be in a gang. Father Boyle’s work has transformed many, many lives including the city itself.
The Butterfly Effect is real… at least as it relates to people.
Believe it or not, you and I can make a difference too.
If you worship with us on a regular basis at Community Lutheran Church communitylv.org, I have repeatedly cautioned those who worship there will be a “day after” the election. What we do right now will have a direct impact on November 4th.
In a world of hate, I choose to be kind to individuals. I may stand against what they are for but I don’t need to hate them.
I believe in love. I believe in Jesus. And I believe that those two things can change the world.
Today I ran across a wonderful article by Dr. Aisha Ahmad. Aisha Ahmad is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She is currently a Senior Fellow at Massey College and a Fellow at Trinity College, and was formerly an International Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School.
She takes the time to reflect the trauma of the past six months of the pandemic. I found this extremely helpful and wanted to share it with you.
Dr. Ahmad writes,
The 6-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to this “new normal” but might now feel like we’re running out of steam. Yet, at best, we are only 1/3 the way through this marathon. How can we keep going?
First, in my experience, this is a very normal time to struggle or slump. I *always* hit a wall 6 months into a tough assignment in a disaster zone. The desire to “get away” or “make it stop” is intense. I’ve done this many times and at 6 months, it’s like clockwork.
This time, our crisis is global and there is nowhere to run. That’s OK. I’ve had to power through that 6-month hump before and there is life on the other side. Right now, it feels like we are looking ahead at long, dark wintery tunnel. But it’s not going to be like that.
Rather, this is our next major adaptation phase. We’ve already re-learned how to do groceries, host meetings, and even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get shorter and colder, we need to be ready to innovate again.
This is my first pandemic, but not my first 6-month wall. So, what can I share to help you? First, the wall is real and normal. And frankly, it’s not productive to try to ram your head through it. It will break naturally in about 4-6 weeks if you ride it out.
Of course, there are things we have to do. Work. Teach. Cook. Exercise. But just don’t expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now, if you can meet your obligations and be kind to your loved ones, you get an A+.
Also, don’t be afraid that your happiness & creativity are gone for the rest of this marathon. Not true. I assure you that it will soon break & you will hit a new stride. But today, roll with it. Clear away less challenging projects. Read a novel. Download that meditation app.
Frankly, even though we cannot physically leave this disaster zone, try to give yourself a mental or figurative “shore leave”. Short mental escapes can offer respite and distance from the everyday struggle. Take more mental “leave” until you clear the wall.
In my experience, this 6-month wall both arrives and dissipates like clockwork. So I don’t fight it anymore. I don’t beat myself up over it. I just know that it will happen & trust that the dip will pass. In the meantime, I try to support my mental & emotional health.
Take heart. We have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months, with resourcefulness & courage. We have already found new ways to live, love, and be happy under these rough conditions. A miracle & a marvel. This is hard proof that we have what it takes to keep going.
So, dear friends, do not despair of the 6-month wall. It’s not permanent, nor will it define you in this period of adversity. Trust that the magic that helped you through the first phase is still there. Take a breath & pause. You’ll be on the other side in no time.
Isn’t that great advice for us?
We are encouraged to endure a little longer. That might sound impossible right now. I get it.
We might be more like King David when he wrote Psalm 6. Things weren’t going well when he wrote…
My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long? Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when they are dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Psalm 6:3-7
I certainly have days like that too.
However, we are the church. Church is not a destination nor is the church just the staff. WE are the church. WE are not alone. WE have each other.
Enduring is always easier together. But are we taking the time to connect with each other? I know we don’t have the luxury and the gift of meeting at church right now and so we must take the time to make a call, send an email or a card. We should not suffer alone. Let us endure together.
I understand that many won’t read this article and quite possibly the ones who need the most encouragement. For those who are still reading… Don’t give up! We will get through this, if we endure!
Let me end with the words of Saint Paul who blessed the church of Rome with these words…
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus… Romans 15:5
There is always a day after conflict. It doesn’t all end when one side wins and the other loses. Why does that matter to us? Because we have a big “day after” moment coming up in November.
2020 has been the year of unwelcome change. (That may be an understatement!)
Change can often produce anxiety, sadness, anger, apathy, listlessness and sleepless nights. I am sure we all have experienced at least one of those symptoms this year. I know I have.
This may be the most difficult year of my ministry because of the change that is beyond my control.
I mentioned the other day in our daily broadcast that this is a time of testing for the church. Let me be clear, God isn’t the one testing us, but it is a test none the less. We always have a choice to endure or to give up. I, for one, refuse to give up. The love of God will see us through if we don’t quit or walk away.
Life is obviously not normal right now. Tensions are high and frustration abounds. I feel it too.
In times like this I am reminded of what John Maxwell once said, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”
Most of us don’t like change, especially when we do not choose it. Yet, change happens all the time… even when there is not a pandemic! However, in 2020 we are inundated with daily reminders in our socially distanced and masked world that life has changed and there is not much we can do about it.
Between the moments of anxiety, I turn to Jesus to calm my fears and ask, “What do I need to learn to grow in my faith and grow as a person/pastor?”
What have I learned? I have learned to let go. I do not have control over much and that I can only do so much. I leave the rest to Jesus through prayer. I have come to greater trust that God is leading the way and I will continue to point to the One who is still out in front us.
I have taken many deep breaths in the past months and remind myself that Jesus is watching over us all and promises to lead us forward through this “sea change”. I remind myself that we haven’t gotten this far by chance.
In moments of uncertainty and anxiety I turn to this passage in Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:1-3
I believe that with my whole heart. Life may not be easy at times, but we are never without help and comfort. God is with us and we have each other.
God bless you,
We take a look at the next Fruit of the Holy Spirit: Faithfulness. I clear up some misconceptions about faith and how it is different than belief. Transformation begins with faith… not belief.
Who are you listening to? What are the voices in your life that are influencing you?
- 24 hour “news” channels?
Does Jesus even make the list? My guess is yes. But, to what extent?
There are voices all around telling us: what to believe, what to hate and what to fear. Often these same voices will tell you that only they can protect your family, your finances and your way of life.
I hear all the voices competing not just for our attention but for our heart, mind and soul. It is easy to be distracted by the opinions of others. The noise becomes dangerous when you are convinced these voices are compatible or in total agreement with our faith.
Pastor Paul wrote a letter to the church he started in Galatia. He saw that they were being influenced by others in an unfaithful way.
He cautioned them and he cautions us…
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Galatians 5:7-8
Paul saw his fledging church diligently following Jesus and then they went off the proverbial rails. He asked the same question I asked earlier, “Who is influencing your thinking?”
Then Paul tells this church point blank, “The way you are thinking doesn’t come from Jesus.” Wow.
This isn’t the only place where we are cautioned to NOT listen to every voice that tickles our ears.
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, shares God’s heart with Jerusalem as they go down a path toward destruction (literally)…
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:16
Remember that old Sunday School Song?
O be careful little ears what you hear
O be careful little ears what you hear
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love
So, be careful little ears what you hear…
If you didn’t go to Sunday School as a kid, we sang lots of songs like this. Some good, some cheesy. But you get the point–be selective of what you give your attention to.
Jesus reminds us of this simple truth…
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Are you listening to the Great Shepherd? Don’t buy into the fear and hate. Listen for love. Everything else is just noise.