My favorite part of a wedding is when the bride first enters the room. Sure the flower girls are cute and the bridesmaid dresses will be the talk of the town, but everyone knows the wedding doesn’t truly begin until the doors are opened and the beautiful bride takes her first step down the aisle. There is just something truly special about that moment. The excitement is tangible, the groom is awestruck and many joyful tears are shed as she makes her way to her husband to be. I recently however observed a wedding where this highly anticipated moment was not coveted but rather dreaded.
While getting in a quick cardio workout at the gym a few days ago, I started flipping through the channels in hopes of finding something engaging to watch. One title intrigued me and I just had to see if the show lived up to its name. After a few minutes of viewing I quickly learned that “Married at First Sight” is exactly what it claims to be. The show follows six people who had previously been unlucky in love. These six individuals then sought the match making talents of four experts who specialize in various fields related to relationships. These experts then chose a lifelong mate for their clients. Sounds pretty mundane so far, but here’s the kicker: their clients would not meet their chosen one to love until their wedding day, nor would they even know each other’s name until they exchanged their vows!
What was most fascinating to me was the footage of each spouse-to-be in the few hours leading up to the big event. Over time I watched as the reality of what was really about to take place hit home. Previously calm and cool brides and grooms in just a matter of minutes became nervous wrecks. Just prior to their weddings both brides and grooms shared their last minute thoughts for the camera. My assumption was that their greatest fear would be that they would not like what they see when their mate was revealed. I discovered however that the very opposite was true. Common to all was the fear that they themselves would be the ones rejected, resulting in their hopes for happily ever after being dashed yet again.
Though I don’t personally know anyone who would engage in such a drastic social experiment, I do know that we all fear rejection. Whether it be the loss of love and affection from a spouse, disapproval from a parent, the defiance of a prodigal child or being passed over for that next promotion, we all have a tendency to work hard to measure up to what others expect of us. Like a bride waiting to open the doors to her dream wedding, we long for approval, for others to accept us for who we are and do life with us despite our flaws.
Not only do we fear the rejection of our peers, but many of us fear the ultimate denial, that of God Himself. Living in a world where success or failure often depends on performance, we mistakenly believe that we have to clean up our act before God could possibly love us. We forget that He sent Jesus to be our bridegroom, who waits in excited anticipation to shower His love on us regardless of the condition we are in.
As we celebrate this Easter season it is my prayer that we will remember God’s promise to us in Romans 8: “… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This Easter Sunday let’s embrace how much God loves us and the never-ending grace he extends to those who believe. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. And amazingly, we will never be rejected by it.
The trip to Indiana for my board certification interview was successful. Praise God! Monday morning was spent being examined and questioned by members of the APC (Association of Professional Chaplains.) It was challenging but good. When they called me back into the interview room and said “Congratulations” that word has never sounded so good. Your prayers were very appreciated!
During the interview I referred to one of my favorite verses. Ephesians 2:10 states “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I was asked how I see myself. I responded with the essence of this verse. I am God’s workmanship. When he created me he didn’t get it wrong. He made me just how he wanted me to be.
A verse I didn’t use but think of often is Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you…” Over the course of my life there have been times when I wasn’t all that excited about me. I’ve thought God could have made me a little taller or made my voice a little deeper or given me the ability to hit a golf ball a little farther. But he didn’t. He made me just like he planned and he finds great delight in his original design. And if he’s pleased then why shouldn’t I feel the same.
And the same is true for all of us. “You…are…his…workmanship” and He is pleased with what He has created!
- Pastor Mark
Galatians 6:8-10 Those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to live the life of a refugee. This past week I had a number of encounters with the subject, causing me to stop and contemplate what God was speaking into me.
First I ran into a missionary friend who works with refugees on a regular basis. It is not uncommon to meet John with a foreign friend who has come to America for help or education. This evening, the young man was from Tanzania.
Then I rented the movie, The Good Lie. Expecting to see a chick-flick, it turned out to be the story of 3 men from the Sudan who were rescued from a refugee camp in Kenya. I was wrecked. Not only had they run hundreds of miles from war on their homeland and seen their village destroyed, they then went to live in a camp where conditions were incommunicable. Coming to America was extremely difficult too as their family was split across the nation, they had to quickly get jobs to sustain themselves, and there were so many things they didn’t understand.
Having a couple of kids who have encountered refugees in their ministry work, I talked with my daughter, Kari, who was home from college. She talked about the child refugees she worked with in Bangladesh.
Monday morning as I grabbed the mail I was surprised to find a newsletter from Arrive Ministries (World Relief). “Every refugee has a story. Each one has a story of loss, dislocation and persecution.”
Well, I didn’t think I needed to be hit over the head with a hammer, but when God wants our attention, he makes no bones about it. Life is not about doing what I can handle, but doing the work God needs me to do each day. I know he will give me supernatural strength to do the unimaginable. Wreck me again, God!
Philippians 4:13 ”I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
There was a time in my life when I really wanted to be good. I was in High School and I remember thinking it’s now time for me to start living the way Jesus wants me to live. Without getting into specifics, I wanted to become a perfect holy person…a PHP.
So I tried. I was improving, but there were still things that I needed to work on. So, I tried harder. Then things weren’t improving; and you might guess that I felt quite a bit of shame in my inability to be a PHP. Now looking back, there were two things I misunderstood about my faith. The first is that I can’t make myself Holy, only God does that: Romans 3:22. The second is that my motivations were totally selfish.
I made the mistake of thinking my actions towards holiness were noble; however, my actions towards holiness were nothing but me trying to become my own Lord. Sure, it sounds good that we want to beat ourselves up to become more like Christ. But the reality is, when we achieve our own holiness, what we have isn’t holy, it’s an idol.
Galatians 3:3 asks, “after beginning by means of the Sprit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”
Paul is asking why do we think that our salvation comes through the Sprit, but our holiness comes through our work? The reality is that both salvation and holiness come as a free gift of grace. We are unable to become holy as much as we are unable to save ourselves. Truly, both are products of the work of the Spirit.
This is where guilt and shame come from. They come from the idea that we have to somehow become a PHP. And if we don’t, than God is mightily unpleased with us. This is the alternative: righteousness comes freely from God, salvation comes freely from God, power comes freely from God, and even the process of becoming a PHP comes freely from God.
Off on a business trip some eight years ago I was eating dinner in a family restaurant I cannot recall. As I was finishing up I saw a nice young family come in; a young couple with two small children. By their actions I could see that this was not their usual routine. I could also see the unmistakable signs of distress, as the wife was wearing the head scarf, concealing baldness, and the pallor, a little more pale than the rest told me that she was battling cancer.
I considered them for a long time since I knew what it was like to be in that situation. I wanted to go over to them and offer an encouraging word, or pray over them, or maybe pay for their dinner…or something. Unfortunately while I allowed MY heart to ache a little and whispered a little prayer to MYSELF, I quietly paid my check and moved on. I was soon so convicted by my failure to act that I went back to that restaurant to try to make amends, but they were gone. I have not forgotten that family to this day. Fortunately God has used this to educate me in several ways because as I continue to read scripture; it keeps coming up.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17
There are so many small things I should have done to lighten their burden; just a little but I really did nothing. Appropriately I was saddened and ashamed and have vowed to not make that same kind of mistake.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:34-40
On the Judgment Day I want to be standing on the right… And finally I have tried my best to heed Jesus’ warning:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “ Matthew 6:1-4
This incident did not perfect me. I am still a sinner; too selfish, too forgetful of God’s teachings, to arrogant and unforgiving. By some strange coincidence however, often as I fall into each of these traps, I am reminded of that nice young family in that restaurant and am humbled to know that Jesus bore much greater burdens for my sake and I am once again resolved to learn from my failings.Read More
The best thing you can do for others is to follow Jesus.
One of the most difficult things in the Christina life is to see people you love make poor decisions. What is even more difficult is to see them walk away from their faith. If you are anything like me you want to do something about it—preferably in the form of a nice long lecture. You might reason to yourself saying, “they must not know what they are doing, or otherwise they would not leave their faith. It’s my job to correct them.”
One of the greatest temptations we have is to control other people. The older I get the clearer it is that I am not the reason why people come to God. I am not the reason people keep their faith in God. I am not the one holding all this stuff together. And if I step back and think about it, I don’t want that responsibility anyway.
Regardless of the decisions of others, I am first and foremost a child of God. I am called to be his disciple.
In the book of John we see Jesus calling Peter. Peter, as only Peter does, asks Jesus about John. He says, “Lord what about this man?” Jesus replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.”
“You follow me.” What a clear and simple calling we all have. Peter is only doing what we all do. We worry about others. We worry that situations aren’t fair. We worry that others aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. We worry that our loved ones might miss out on an amazing life or are in danger of hell. All along Jesus is telling us the same thing he tells Peter, “You follow me.”
Jesus wants all of us. The more we follow him, the more like him we become. Isn’t it to reason that if we are more like Jesus, everyone around us will surly be blessed? Does that not include those to whom we are most concerned?
We are called to follow. That means we are giving everyone the gift of a life that is becoming like Jesus every day. What is more powerful than that?Read More