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Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

Heart Repair

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tomorrow I have heart surgery. We went to class today at the surgeon’s office to get ready for it. Medically, the procedure that is scheduled is called “Minimally Invasive Mitral Valve Prolapse Repair/Replacement”. But, the fact the fact that someone is going to cut a hole in my side, spread my ribs apart, deflate my lung, stop my heart, cut into my heart, operate on a valve, restart my heart, and close the incisions leaving me with a chest tube, a catheter, and ventilator tubes in me doesn’t sound very “minimal”.

I’m not whining. Multitudes have worse diagnoses than mine with little hope for surgical repair. I’m just saying that something so involved can be called, “minimal”. It is “major” to me as the procedure will bring a level of health I haven’t known in years.

As I head to sleep this night, I remember the prayer of my Savior, “if it is possible (if there was some other way to bring about life) let this cup pass.” Like Jesus (and I am definitely not like Jesus) I don’t want to go through the pain and recovery of this surgery. But because there is no other way to life than this, no other way for me to be the strong husband, father, pastor, man that God needs me to be and that I want to be for God, I will go through this.

So, what I’m trying to say, is that I get it. Once again, I get it. I get in the tiniest fraction that my human mind and eternal soul can grasp what Jesus was praying in that Gethsemane Garden. He new what was best, but he was going to go through even worse physical abuse than I will and he did it without anesthesia, antibiotics, painkillers AND without a lot of friends and family around to cheer Him on telling Him that He was doing the right thing. I’m nowhere close to experiencing what He did, but He is letting me understand Him more. And, that alone is worth it! Thankfully, there will be more. More life. More love. And, yes, more Jesus!

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Complete Recovery

Years ago I was a youth pastor roaming the halls on a Sunday morning before Bible study. “Quick! Help me!” an adult teacher called me into her classroom, “Where in the Bible does it say we deserved Jesus to die on the cross?” (She was serious)  I answered, “I can’t think of a place that it does, but I can think of many places it says that we don’t deserve it.” She gave me a look that said, “are you sure went to seminary?” and walked away to find someone who could answer her question how she wanted. Knowing my fellow ministers, I doubt she got the answer she wanted.

In Luke 7, Jesus met a Roman centurion (military commander) who had a sick servant. Even though the Jewish elders told Jesus that the centurion “deserved” Jesus to heal the servant (after all, he gave lots of money), the centurion knew better. “I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof.” The man said he didn’t measure up to Jesus.  Jesus told everyone that the centurion “got it” more than any of the Jews Jesus had met. They were so busy trying to show they “deserved” God to recover them, that they missed it.

I have learned that me frustrated faith times stem from feeling entitled to God acting in my life. After all, I’m a pastor. I sacrifice a lot, right? (Invitations to Pity Party sent…)  But, my fulfilled faith times occur when I realize I’m getting more from God that I could ever deserve!

You can’t seek a Lord until you quit being one yourself. You can’t be lifted up until you admit how far down you are.

Recently, a young family in our church had a near tragic occurence. Their one-month old child developed spinal meningitis. If anyone didn’t “deserve” for this to happen, it would be them. Sweet folk, with servant hearts, they trusted the Lord through a midnight ambulance ride to Dallas and weeklong stay in pediatric ICU at Children’s Medical Center. The outcome could have been sad, but thanks be to God, they are now home with a healing baby! Another of our members is in an ICU this week, after an accident that has left him with many broken bones and a very long road of recovery. His parents, also members, are retired ministers. They are another “underserving” family. Our church is surrounding them with care and prayers.

Neither of these families have said, “we don’t deserve this”. Instead they are expressing awe and praise at how God is blessing them with love and peace during a time of difficulty. Like the centurion, they get it and have great faith. As the Lord works to bring about recovery in these homes, I’m reminded of how the people saw what Jesus did (heal sick and raise the dead), and how they responded in the rest of Luke 7:1-16.

They were filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” (Luke 7:16 NIV)

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Wardrobe Change

When groups get ready to go on trips, it is customary and right to gather round and pray for “traveling mercies.” Of course, the pastor (if present) is called upon to offer the prayer. I have been grateful to pray to God for saftey for groups of children, youth, and adults as they have journeyed to camps, retreates, and dinners. I am thankful about it because the prayers have been answered and the travels have been safe.

However, a few years ago, as I was praying before one of our mission journeys to the Rio Grande Valley, I circled with the group before we got on the bus/van/trucks/cars and felt led to pray this way: “Dear God, please keep us safe upon this mission trip, except when you want it to be dangerous.” It caused a change in my thinking (not my driving, we all want that to be safe) about the mission of the church. Sometimes, we want safety in the church. We preach safety in the church. “Just start following Jesus and everything will be alright,” we say. Except it hasn’t been that way for 2,000 years.

There is nothing more dangerous for the church than to follow Jesus. But there is no path safer than in the will of God.

I don’t know that everyone gets it (or wants to), but there is a sense of comfort that isn’t promised the church. Paul writes in Romans 13:14, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  Putting on Jesus clothes isn’t going to make us comfortable in worldly garb. Yet, the church (aka Body of Christ) keeps trying on the latest fashion.  When we do, we lose precious moments to change the world.

Our quirky, out of step, appearance (figuratively) is our best way to show the New Community God designed in the church is the Best Community for the world. We may not have the best lightshow, latte, or loudspeakers, but we do have the best Love.  A not-so-old hymn We are Called to be God’s People (Thomas A. Jackson, Copyright 1975, Broadman Press) says it very well:

We are called to be God’s people, showing by our lives His grace,
one in heart and one in spirit, sign of hope for all the race.
Let us show how He has changed us, and remade us as His own,
let us share our life together as we shall around His throne.

We are called to be God’s servants, working in His world today;
taking His own task upon us, all His sacred words obey.
Let us rise, then, to His summons, dedicate to Him our all,
that we may be faithful servants, quick to answer now His call.

We are called to be God’s prophets, speaking for the truth and right,
standing firm for godly justice, bringing evil things to light.
Let us seek the courage needed, our high calling to fulfill,
that the world may know the blessing of the doing of God’s will.

Cry Justice…

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Body Parts

…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:5-6a)

My body is not a democracy. This morning there was no vote about getting out of bed. The will won, and all the parts came…together.

The apostle Paul uses in this text (and in 1Corinthians 12) the human body as a metaphor for the church. Because we are made holy by Jesus, we can put our individual bodies into the team (the church) that belongs to Jesus. And if the church is Jesus’ body, we can count on Him to lead well. We know that Jesus will not ask us to do with our body any thing He wouldn’t have done with His own.

Nevertheless, we are taught to value individuality by the world.  That’s okay, but carried too far we miss out on the joy of being in a team/group/church where valuable work occurs.  When Paul says we are part of the body, individual identity isn’t “mcnugget-ed” (see this video http://youtu.be/OTzLVIc-O5E) but valued.

Knowing your part in the church matters. Knowing your part, and what you bring to the group helps out every organization of which you are a part. Your family, your workplace, your volunteer group, and yes, your church, needs you to “bring it” when it comes to doing what you do best. When you do, you will find that you and your group/team/workplace/family/church are more:

  • Powerful – you leverage everyone’s strengths in the team to the fullest potential. You work smarter together.
  • Productive – you are part of a more succesful team, with delegated responsibilites and outcomes.
  • Pleasant – you are less stressed as a team because each can count on one another.
  • Positive – you can make it through challenges because you see the big picture and the value of one another to the team.
  • Peaceful – you can solve problems, not make them because you know and do your part.

More later…

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Worth It

Mary J. died yesterday after 94 years of living.  Her life was lived like the Bible says you should, and of course she followed Jesus.  In fact, she followed Jesus so well, that even though she passed away at an age that usually prescribes a small funeral attendance, I predict our church building has a good crowd on Saturday morning for her funeral.  Mary was such an encourager. At 90, when her hearing was pretty much gone, she said to me after one sermon, “I couldn’t hear a word you said, but I know it was good!”  I hope you can be here as we gather and thank God for a life that pointed a lot of us toward Jesus. She would want us to know it is worth it to follow Jesus.  Mary is really living now.

This Friday evening, my daughter, Hayley graduates from High School.  Nearly two-hundred of her peers will have on their cap and gown and hear that it was worth it to learn all they learned over the past 12 years (how to color and do algebra).  Some will take the treasure of their education and invest it in good living.  Some will go on to further education.  Some will begin their work careers. All that good.  Some, however will toss the future to the wind like they will their mortar board cap.  Each of them is worth so much to God.  I hope they learn that soon if they don’t already know.

Tonight, I got a phone call from a young man I’ve been trying to reach for years.  He’s in his mid-twenties now and suffice to say, he’s done lots of living out of God’s will.  The main focus of our conversation arrived when he asked me, “I’ve been away from church for a long time now.  Is it okay if I come back?”  While getting misty-eyed, I told him that Jesus said a father had a son that was gone for a while too.  When the father saw the son coming home, the father ran to the son and hugged him.   I told the young man, he should expect a similar welcome.  Jesus went on to say that the father said,

‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”  (Luke 15:22-24 NIV)

So, my phone caller and I had a little celebration and look forward to another to come as we talked about what Grace really is.  All these years.  All these prayers.  Now, I see it was worth it.

I also believe it will be a celebration Friday night as we proud parents cheer on the grads. All the nights helping them learn math.  It’s gonna pay off.

I know it will be a celebration Saturday for Mary J. who has heard, “Welcome Home. You were worth it.”

And so are you.

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