Hope

hope

This morning the WORD for Today reading was Luke 8.  This is an amazing chapter with several wonderful stories … mostly about miracles!  In particular, I was captivated by a “scriptural-mash-up” of two stores that begin in verse 40 and conclude with verse 56 (the end of the chapter).

Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.  Luke 8:40-42

So Jesus was approached by a man who pleads with Him to help his daughter who is dying.  As a parent, I cannot think of anything more near and dear to my heart.  So when Jesus heads out to help her, everything looks good.  But pay careful attention to what happens next.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”  Luke 8:42b-48

Jesus starts out to care for a dying child and He gets caught in a traffic jam!  No cars, just people pressing in so tightly that “the crowds almost crushed him.”  I have been in traffic jams like that.  I have been in crowds like that.  They are no fun.  Worst of all, you cannot move.  Getting anywhere takes forever. Everything slows to a snail’s pace.  Normally, that might be okay.  But this time, Jesus is on His way to save a life!

Now, just think about the father of the little girl who is dying.  Can you imagine how he is feeling.  He knows his daughter is dying and this crowd is slowing Jesus down! Every minute matters!  Then, another excruciating delay.  Jesus stops to heal someone in the crowd … and have a conversation.  Yes, it is wonderful that Jesus cares.  Yes, this dad is happy for this woman’s healing.  But really!  This is taking too long!

Then, he sees a familiar face moving toward him.  And he can tell from the look on his servant’s face what the news will be.  She’s gone.  And the father’s frustration and fear, resolve into devastation!  All hope is gone.

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.” 50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.  Luke 8:49-56

Amazing!  Here’s what jumped out at me this morning.  I can get pretty frustrated with God.  I trust Him, but all too often his timing seems slow.  Sometimes His answers seem off.  Sometimes I just don’t like His answers (or lack thereof).  But the amazing thing is, Jesus IS really good at what He does!

Jesus can take the most frightening, frustrating, discouraging, and devastating circumstances and turn them into something beautiful.  He takes this heartbreaking situation and turns it into two miracles.  One of those miracles is beyond imagination!

You want other examples?  People:  Every one of the disciples were broken … and Jesus used them to change the world.  Places:  The stable where Jesus was born had to be stinky and gross … and of absolutely NO consequence to anyone and Jesus turned it into one of the most blessed places in the history of the world.  Situations:  The cross.  Covered in shame and pain and disgrace, the Cross has become the focal point of hope and forgiveness for all people and all time!

Jesus brings hope!  That’s what we are talking about in the sermon this weekend.  We all face (from time to time) frustration, fear, discouragement and devastation (and lots of other emotions).  Into EVERY ONE of those circumstances … EVERY ONE … Jesus brings hope!  You and I need hope.

Don’t Judge

luke6-37

A great reminder in my Word for Today reading this morning. Jesus was non-binary and calls us to be the same. (By “non-binary” I mean that Jesus didn’t jump to judgement and condemnation. He loved first.) It is so easy to jump to judgment, point out faults and flaws, and tell (or think) that others are just wrong. Jesus didn’t do that. If it works for Him, I think I should try it. Which is probably a good idea since He pretty much commanded it. 🙂

Luke 6 …

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
39 He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Luke 6:37-42

Encouragement!

This video is of a young girl competing in a swim meet. This is a great girl and a great family who are members at Concordia! Congratulations, Tessa!

The problem is, Tessa has no competitors for this event. She has to swim the entire race by herself. She was very nervous to swim, by herself, in front of all those people.

Here’s what her mom had to say …

This video is something that all of us will always remember, especially Tessa!! Of all the swimmers at the South Texas Championship meet, there were only two 8 year olds that qualified to swim at the meet, one of them being Tessa. One of the Finals Tessa (in the aqua suit/blue swim cap) made was in the 200 meter Individual Medley. The way it happened to work for this event was that Tessa had to swim the B Final all by herself! She was nervous to swim an event all by herself in front of all the crowd up in the stands at the University of Texas pool. Coach Jen was so nice in giving Tessa a pep talk and sitting with Tessa behind the block before the race. When Tessa started her race, we were all so amazed at the super supportive crowd! All the Wave families there stood up for her and the whole crowd cheered for her–it was especially neat when you see on the video Tessa doing the Breaststroke portion, how the crowd is cheering her on/yelling “Go!” with each stroke. I wish the video was more zoomed out, so you could see that also on the swim deck Sophia, Harold, all the Wave caoches (thank you Coach Jen, Coach Shawn & Coach Courtney) and opposing team coaches including the Nitro swim coaches and Quad A coaches were cheering for her/waving their arms so Tessa would see them as she swam, along with the Meet Officials cheering for her!! Tessa dropped 9 seconds! After Tessa’s swim, a Meet Official gave Tessa a goodie bag! Yes, we will ALWAYS remember that swim!!

Watch what happens …

As I was watching this video, I found myself with a tear in my eyes.  The love and care for this young swimmer was palpable.  All of those people, even though they were mostly strangers to Tessa, were putting themselves in her place and were taking the time and making the effort to cheer her on.

Remember, they were there with other competitors in other races.  They could have sat quietly and let the little girl “do her thing.”  But they didn’t.  They cheered!

Have you noticed that there seems to be a LOT of judgment and criticism within the Christian Church?  I couldn’t help but think: If we, the Church, could figure out how to be more like those swim fans and cheer for one another (instead of criticizing and condemning and picking each other apart), how amazing would that be!

Something has to change!  

But what?  My suggestion is that it begins with me (and you) – each of us making the choice, moment by moment and day by day, to live out what we believe. Jesus said, “By this all men will know the you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 8:31) When Jesus lives in us, when we have been blessed by God with the gift of faith, our hearts and minds and lives are supposed to change!

That change is observable, perhaps more than in anything else, in the way we love one another. When you love someone, it changes the way you interact with them. You want to build them up instead of tearing them down.

Make that choice today. I’ll do the same.  Let’s encourage the people around us!   Let’s show the world know who we REALLY are!

The Holy Spirit … in OKC

This was originally posted by Julie Tucker, our team leader in OKC this week …

Timothy joined us for VBS after seeing us when he was out for a bike ride on Monday, with about 15 minutes left! He has joined us since then and has been the first one here every day!
Today, he leaned over to one of our awesome youth leaders and said, “I am going to stop cussing, I don’t think it’s right.”  
Thank you Jesus for the work You are doing in this community!
This is Tim leading prayers!

#thatissoJesus #megamission2016 #J2e3 #concordiasashiningbrightlyinOKC

MegaMission to OKC!

IMG_4897They’re off!

High School students, College students, and Adults… 103 of the most amazing people in the world are heading off to Moore, OK this morning to serve the people there and share the love of Jesus.  I’ll be keeping you updated here with pictures and stories all week long.

In the meantime, please lift them up in prayer for safe travel.  While you are at it, ask God to keep them safe all week long and allow this week to be life-changing in the most positive way possible.  Bless the servants and those served in just the way He has planned.

May God use each of them to be a blessing to the people they serve.  At the very same time, join me in praying that God will fill each member of the team with His blessings and love beyond anything they could ever imagine!

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

My Confession (and prayer request)

Confession
I was strongly convicted this morning regarding Philippians 2:12-18 …

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Particularly with regard to “complaining and arguing,” I am not looking forward to serving as a delegate. I expect the convention to be boring at times, contentious much of the time, and generally not “my-cup-of-tea.” I volunteered to serve because I thought it would be important to be there. As I prepare and consider some of the resolutions and read some of the divisive and ugly things appearing online, I am even more convinced that it is important to be there. Nonetheless, I have been grumbling and complaining and NOT looking forward to being there.

Then God pulled out His 2×4 and got my attention …

In view of the incredible, painful, frightening and burdensome sacrifices that Christians are making around the world to share Jesus and proclaim the Gospel, my minuscule sacrifice of serving as a convention delegate (no matter how boring, contentious, or unpleasant it may be) is no sacrifice at all! I am ashamed and repentant.

I will engage as joyfully and faithfully as possible. I will also seek to allow Christ-in-me to SHINE! Please pray for me and all the delegates, those leading, the convention (in general), and the outcome. May God use this convention to move the LCMS away from contention and fighting to faithfulness and focus on reaching the lost!

Click here for a reminder and blessing.

The WORD for Today is Romans 13

girl tree climbing

girl tree climbing

The WORD for Today is Romans 13.

Reading through Romans 13, you might be tempted to think that Paul “getting it wrong” when we come to verse 11. “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” Romans 13:11b.  Surely Paul didn’t really think that the world was coming to an end in his lifetime.

However, I think we might be missing his point. This world and our lives are passing away. Our time is short. We are certainly closer to the end of our days today than we were yesterday. For some, today IS the day of our salvation!

No matter what else we understand, if we don’t realize that this world (and our lives) are temporary, we will “get it wrong.”I remember a song by a Christian artist named Rich Mullins called, “Live Right.”

Live like you’ll die tomorrow
Die knowing you’ll live forever,
Love like you’ll leave tomorrow
Believing love lasts forever.

Those words have stuck with me. They seem to echo the encouragement of Paul in Romans 13 (and a LOT of other places in Scripture). Live right! When we understand the true nature of our world and and time and our place in both, we can begin to awaken from the slumber that leads to conformity with the world.  You and I, through faith in Jesus Christ, are different and we ought to live that way!

Realize this: The things you do and say … even your attitude … matters! You and I have a chance to live in such a way that other come to know the “LOVE that lasts forever.” Let’s not waste time on the old ways. Let’s “put on the armor of light” and clothe ourselves in the grace, forgiveness, and love of Christ.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit bearing fruit in us, let’s live right!

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans‬ ‭13:11-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/rom.13.11-14.niv

Song: Live Right by Rich Mullins.