Perseverance is Rewarded

November 20, 2017

“Have sight; your faith has saved you.” (Luke 18:35-43)

Today we meet Bartimaeus, a persistent blind man. He heard Jesus was near, so he began to call out to Him. People tried to tell him to stop. Jesus was an important man. He couldn’t be bothered by blind beggars on the side of the road. Bartimaeus responded by calling out to Jesus even louder. He would not be denied; he would be heard.

And so he was. Jesus rewarded Bartimaeus’ perseverance by giving him his sight.

What others heard as annoying, Jesus heard as perseverance. What others viewed as embarrassing, Jesus saw as courageous. What others thought was impossible, Jesus made possible.

Bartimaeus was persistent because he believed Jesus could give him sight. Jesus saw a man of faith and rewarded him accordingly.

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Our God is an Awesome God!

November 17, 2017

For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen. (Wisdom 13:1-9)

I am gaining a new appreciation of the Book of Wisdom, as I have reflected on the weekday readings. The words provide some much…well, wisdom!

I often find myself caught up in the beauty of things I see around me.

I walk outside on a bright, sunny day with a bit of a nip in the air, take a deep breath and say, “What an awesome day!”

On vacation, I often get up at 4:00 a.m. to go out on the lake in a rowboat. I enjoy the quiet and the lake is like glass and so serene. I say to myself, “Wisconsin is so awesome!”

I see one of my grandchildren look up at his or her mother with an adoring look, a look that says, “You are so awesome!” I see this and get a bit choked up and think, “The love between a child and his mother is so awesome.”

Yes, beautiful weather, the nature that is all around us, and the love shared between one another are all awesome. Wisdom reminds us: For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen.

In other words, if you think what you are seeing around you is awesome, just imagine how awesome the Creator of all these things must be!

Our Gratitude Reminds Us of Our Helplessness

November 15, 2017

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Luke 17:11-19)

As Jesus was traveling, He came across ten lepers, and taking pity on them, cured them of their disease. Of the ten who were cured, only one returned to thank Jesus and offer Him praise.

We are like this at times, aren’t we? When we want something, we focus our time and energy on Jesus, hoping He will answer our prayers. And when He does, we turn from Him and go about our business, often taking credit for our good fortune. How quickly we forget.

You may wonder why we need to thank Jesus. He doesn’t need our gratitude, right? No, He does not need it, but we need to show it. In doing so we are humbled – we acknowledge that we are nothing without Him.

Our gratitude serves as a reminder of our own helplessness and our need to have Jesus in our lives.

Affirmation Shouldn’t Drive Your Behavior

November 14, 2017

When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’ (Luke 17:10)

Today’s reading from Luke gives us a reminder of our role as Christians. We are to do as we’ve been commanded. It is our job – it’s what we’re supposed to do.

But we don’t want to be unprofitable servants, do we? We want some profit – a kind word, a quick thank you, a little affirmation. Everyone deserves that, right? Is wanting that wrong?

No, wanting or appreciating a little affirmation here and there is not wrong. However, depending on it or needing it is wrong. Allowing it to drive our behavior is wrong.

It’s about humility. We do what God calls us to do because it is the right thing to do. As Christians, that’s what we signed up for. Our motivation is pleasing God and gaining eternal life. When we need affirmation or recognition to motivate us, our focus turns in on us and away from God.

Dear God: I Trust You

November 11, 2017

“…made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith…” (Romans 16:25-27)

As we head toward Christmas, and the celebration of Jesus coming into the world, it is a good time to reflect on our relationship with Him. Have we allowed it to be one-sided?

Yes, He came to save us from sin. Yes, He came to bring us joy and hope, and to allow us to experience unconditional love. But His birth, as Paul notes in his letter to the Romans, also calls us to an obedience of faith. We have a part to play in our relationship with Jesus.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer, an influential theologian who was martyred under the Nazi regime, said, “For faith is only real when there is obedience, never without it, and faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience.”

Obedience involves relinquishing control, a challenge for many of us. When we obey, we tell God, “I trust You.” That is faith.

Nothing in Our Creed Says “Private”

November 10, 2017

Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel… (Romans 15:14-21)

Sometimes it seems like we are ashamed of the Gospel; or at least we act as though we are ashamed of it. If we were really proud of the Gospel message, and striving to live it daily, we would be shouting it from the rooftops. We would share it enthusiastically whenever and with whomever we could.

Yet, we don’t do that. We certainly are in no danger of being put to death for proclaiming the Gospel message, so what is behind our hesitation to do so?

Many would respond, “My faith is personal. I prefer to keep it to myself.”

Your faith is personal. It is based on your individual relationship with God. However, I would argue that your faith is not private. It is meant to be shared with others.

“I believe in one (communal), holy (of God), catholic (universal), and apostolic (we are sent) Church…”

Nothing in our Creed says private.

Prepare For & Finish the Job!

November 8, 2017

Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? (Luke 14:25-33)

Two messages emerge from Luke’s Gospel reading for today:

*Prepare! Don’t be caught unaware and unprepared. Think through the cost of eternal life. What will you need to do? How will you need to live your life? Go into it with eyes wide open. You don’t want to get into the “project” thinking it’s easy, only to find that it is difficult, challenging work.

*Finish the job! Don’t allow the work to get the better of you. Keep your eye on the prize. Sacrificial work brings you closer to God and that much closer to eternal life. The “cost” is worth it!