I had an early teenage growth spurt which made me a tall 7th and 8th grader. This allowed me to play basketball as a forward (closer to the basket) and I was a pretty good player. I led my team in scoring and rebounding that season (later others would grow, but I pretty much stayed the same height, which explains why I am not a very tall man).
As that season went on, I struggled with my grades and was forced to sit out for a while. I remember telling my dad that my team wouldn't win a game without me; but he said that I was being prideful and to cheer on my team. Well it turned out they did well without me after all. Other players stepped up and took more shots and we won our share during my time away. In truth I was just one player on a team, not the whole team.
Sometimes we get too full of ourselves. We start to think that we are important or needed and a gift to the world...but in reality the world was spinning before we came and will keep spinning once we are gone.
The author of Romans says "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement" (vs. 12:3).
As I head off to vacation this week I sometimes get worried about what might go wrong at the church while I'm gone or who might need me; but then I remember that I am just one small piece of a larger body of Christ and that others are more than capable of doing what I do by loving others in my absence.
Let's stay humble, after all it's God who does the real work, we just get to be a part.
We tend to think that the early church was some utopian time when all the believers were happy all the time; but this is far from the truth. We see seeds of division from early on in the life of the church. In Acts we see some widows being overlooked by the leadership and a decision has to be made to make sure they are taken care of. We see arguments between leaders (like Apollos and Paul) and huge amounts of disagreement about how to handle new non-Jewish converts to the faith. To be sure, there were arguments and strong feelings about many issues during those days (dietary laws, circumcision, false teachings...and many more) and yet the church found ways to work through those issues while continuing to show love and respect to those with whom they disagree.
It seems to me that we are once again in a divisive time. Our issues of disagreement are currently about wearing masks, politics, race relations and more. I worry that we, as a church and as a society, aren't doing a good job of continuing to show love and respect to those with whom we disagree. Are we going to allow these issues to divide us? We are stronger together and yet we are allowing these things to pull us apart.
Romans 8:31 says "if God is for us, who can be against us" and I hope that we find these words to be true now as much as ever. God is on our side. God does love each of us (regardless of how we vote or if we believe in the need for masks). I hope our bond of Christian love is much stronger than any political or social divide.
I pray that we will, as modeled by the early church, learn to disagree with each other and yet love each other still.
I like to imagine that each person has a bucket full of sand. The limited amount of sand in your bucket represents how much of your time, energy, and love that you can give to others on a weekly basis. The idea is that you will take your bucket and dump sand into the buckets of others who are empty and need God’s love. But, if all you do is give, give, give, then eventually your bucket will be empty too, and you won’t be able to love others the way that God has called us to. (Mark 12:31)
The Sabbath is YOUR day. You are given the Biblical freedom to relax and enjoy time with God. To go back to my analogy, this time with God on the Sabbath is what refills your bucket of sand—so that at the end of the day, you are ready to got out and share some more love once again.
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” -Mark 2:23-28
Jesus confirms for us what we already know. The Law given to Moses was given for the good of mankind—that we may live holy lives, set apart for the good of the Kingdom of Heaven.
I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July celebrations. I hope you spent time with loved ones, watched some rockets red glare and enjoyed time relaxing.
Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays for a lot of reasons. I do love fireworks. I love summer and have great memories of playing in sprinklers and swimming with my friends on hot humid days and of course, I love it because we get to celebrate the freedom that we enjoy as Americans. I am glad we are free to speak our minds, glad we are free to worship how we choose and so many other amazing freedoms that many in the world do not have. I know those freedoms didn't come easily or without great sacrifice and so it's good to remember all those who served and died to give us and to protect those freedoms.
I also know that freedom requires caution. Just because we CAN do something doesn't mean we SHOULD do it. For example, freedom of speech means that I CAN call someone rude names or use fowl language...but that doesn't mean I SHOULD do this (how can I love my neighbor while insulting them?).
As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:23, "Everything is permissible-but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"-but not everything is constructive."
I am so glad we have the freedom in this nation, but let us be careful not to use our freedoms to hurt others. The greatest law is not to love ourselves, but to love God and our neighbor.
In recent years there has been a push to do things locally. We are told (and I agree) that it's good to shop local, eat local and get our produce locally (like at a Farmer's Market for example). This makes sense because we get to support small businesses in our area and keep more of our money in our local economy, which helps our friends and neighbors rather than spending money at chain restaurants or from far away vendors on Amazon. My wife even gets honey from a local beekeeper to help with allergies, which apparently works.
Starting on Monday, July 6, we are going to do a local service week rather than go on our Kentucky mission trip as we had planned. While I would have LOVED to have gone on the mission trip, instead we get to serve our neighbors by staying and serving local.
Would you consider joining us? We have some great projects lined up and a real chance to make a difference in our own backyard. We will be serving local residents, helping at a local food pantry and cleaning up at local parks and trails (among a few other projects).
We are working every day that week (July 6-10) from about 9 am to 3 pm and could use more hands to share the work. Will you help us share God's love in physical ways with our friends and neighbors? Will you help us serve local? Just click on the link below to register. It's free and easy!