Wednesday (4/1/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of discipleship and commitment
Matthew 10:34-42 - “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
Jesus makes some hard statements in our verses today in order to show us how much commitment we need to follow him. He tells us that if we love our family more than we love him we are not worthy to be called his disciples. On the surface that may seem very contradictory to what we think is right but actually it is in line with the rest of Scripture. While I am sure that I don’t say it enough and I may not always show it, my family is the most important thing to me in this world. I am willing to make many sacrifices so that they can thrive in every area of their life.
Jesus is not saying that I have to hate my family and abandon them to follow him. This isn’t about reducing one love in order to increase another but maintaining the one and increasing another. I need to maintain my love for my family while I am learning to love Jesus even more! And the same thing goes for my life in general. It is not wrong for me to want to be healthy and happy and enjoy things. But if my life or my family is the top priority then I will not be able to follow Christ as I should.
True commitment is all about having the right priorities. My priority should always be Christ – not my family, not my church, not my job and not myself. But as I make Christ my priority, I will be the father and husband I should be. As I grow in my commitment to Christ, my church and my job will benefit and I will be better at those things. As I become a greater disciple of Christ, I will find that my life is filled with more joy and peace and all those things that we often try to find through toys and trophies.
That’s why it makes sense that Jesus would say that those who are desperately clinging to the things of this world will find out in the end that they have lost everything they thought those temporary things would provide. But when we give up those things and make Christ our priority – when we truly commit ourselves to him – we will find what life is really about. Take some time today to evaluate where your priorities are. Your family should be a priority. But as great as your love is for them, your love for Christ – and your commitment to him – should be even greater. And I believe that you will find that as your commitment to Christ grows, so will your love and commitment for your family.
Tuesday (3/31/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of discipleship and commitment
Matthew 10:16-33 - “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel. “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names! “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
Many times, fear and uncertainty can play a big part in my willingness (or unwillingness) to commit to someone. I like to know all of the possibilities – what could happen, what could go wrong, what we are going to do when things don’t go as planned. I want to have confidence in the people in charge, knowing that they are able to do what they say they can do. If I have enough faith in that leader, I am willing to follow them through some real difficult times.
Jesus presents a rather intimidating picture of what it means to be his disciple. There are no promises of an easy life but rather a promise of difficulty and struggle. He warns that a true disciple will be persecuted and betrayed and possibly even murdered. And then he gives us this incredible statement – don’t be afraid! How can we be anything but afraid when we consider the problems that Jesus himself said was possible?
The answer lies in where we place our faith. If I have faith in myself or my family as the “one thing” that will save me, I am going to be disappointed. The same goes for placing my faith in my friends, my career, my investments and my government. While all of these things provide some measure of security and comfort, none of them offer the same level of security as Jesus Christ. He reminds us that we have no reason to be afraid of those terrors that can take away our temporary things because we have a God who loves us more than anything. He has made a promise that he will keep us because we have value to him – value not because of who we are but because of who he is.
Don’t be afraid to follow Christ as a true disciple. He showed us how much he valued us on the cross when he paid for our sins. He showed us how much he loved us when he opened the tomb and rose again, conquering death. And he continues to show his commitment to us every day as he provides for us. While we may walk through valleys filled with shadows and death, we know that he is with us and we know that he is capable of getting us to the other side.
Monday (3/30/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of discipleship and commitment
Luke 9:22-27 - “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”
When I am trying to persuade someone to make a choice or do something, I tend highlight the positive aspects and minimize the negatives. I don’t want think I am a salesman but I realize that there is a certain way to present things that will get the results I prefer. Jesus was not like that. Sometimes it seems like he is actually trying to convince people to NOT follow him. Of course, Jesus wasn’t worried about gaining followers; his priority was on developing disciples.
Christ never hesitated to explain the reality of his expectations to those who wanted to be his disciples. True commitment to Christ means being willing to suffer. As we get closer to Holy Week and especially Good Friday, the statement that a true disciple of Christ must take up their cross daily carries so much more meaning for us. Just as Christ carried his cross to Golgotha and carried out his commitment, we need to do the same thing as his disciples.
That means that we shouldn’t be focused on just chasing the “American Dream”. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with being successful and enjoying some of the toys and luxuries that are available to us. But that can’t be our number one priority – I think we have all become very much aware of just how temporary all these things are over the last few weeks. We can spend all our resources chasing after the trophies of this world and watch them all crumble before us in no time at all.
Jesus said that if we are willing to give up our life for his sake, we will save it and gain so much more. As we struggle to hold on to what pieces of “normal life” are left to us in these days, let’s remember how fruitless it is to try to hang on to this life and all its temporary trophies. Maybe we can use this time to help us shed some of those things that are standing in the way of becoming a true disciple of Christ. Maybe we can use this time to help us grow in our commitment to following Christ in all things, knowing that he can and will provide.
Saturday (3/28/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of love and servanthood
1 John 4:7-21 - Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.
As we finish out our focus on love and servanthood, we come face to face with two realities that we must not only understand but put into practice. First, we are called to love each other because we have been given so much love. You hear me say this a lot – God loved us even when we are unlovable. We cannot repay his love. We cannot do anything to earn his love. He simply loves us. He showed us the depth of his love through the cross – Christ became man, lived a life free from sin and yet took our sin on the cross so that we could have new life.
The second reality we have to face regarding love is that because we have been shown this great love, we must love others. This is such an important concept to grasp that we read in today’s verses that if we say we love God but don’t love others we are a liar. That is a very strong statement to make! Nobody wants to be called a liar – that means that we are untrustworthy and unreliable. If I believe someone is a liar in one area, I tend to question every thing else they say or do.
A number of years ago as I was deciding to leave the manufacturing world and move into the pastorate, I read these verses and was confronted with the fact that I was unwilling to love several people. On a human level, I had every right to hate these individuals because of the things they had done to me and to others. But as I studied this passage, I realized that it was calling me a liar and questioning my love for God. That caused me to really evaluate my heart and realize that I not only needed to forgive but to also be forgiven.
The bottom line from this passage and the others we have focused on this past week is that if we claim to be Christians who are trying to follow Christ in every aspect of our life, we must love others. We need to love those who are good to us and those who are not. We need to love those who can help us in our life and those will never be able to help us. We need to love others because of the great love God has shown us. And that love should lead to a life of servanthood. It is not enough to say we love someone; we need to show it in how we live and interact with everyone around us.
And during this season of Lent we are reminded of the greatest example of love and servanthood we will ever see. Jesus not only said he loved us, he went out to the cross and died for us. His love produced an action that changed the course of the world. Now we are called to be like Jesus and show our love for others. How well are you loving others today?
Friday (3/27/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of love and servanthood
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 - 1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 8Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 9Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. 11When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 13Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
The classic passage on love. While these verses are often used at weddings, they should have a far greater reaching impact in our lives. The Apostle Paul was not addressing husbands and wives but every Christian. In chapter 12 Paul introduced the concept of spiritual gifts – special God-given abilities that every Christian receives to use to build the church. Paul then goes on to discuss how the church is like the human body which is made up of many different parts that each have a specific purpose allowing the body to function most effectively and efficiently. When one of those parts doesn’t do its job correctly, the whole body suffers in some way.
As chapter 12 transitions into chapter 13, Paul focuses our attention on our motivation for using these spiritual gifts. You could be the most eloquent speaker and convince everyone to do the right thing, but if you do it out of the wrong motivation you are just making noise. You could have some of the more visible and what are often viewed as powerful gifts like prophecy and knowledge and faith. But if you use them without love, your gifts are worthless. You could feed the poor and sacrifice everything you have including your life, but if you do it without this motivation of love, all your efforts are wasted.
In these difficult and frustrating days, it can be hard to love. Now that many of us are “homeschooling” in some way or another (by the way, I thank God for our teachers!!!) it can be so easy to forget about love. I have talked to so many parents and kids who are frustrated and angry and worn out. Even I can forget how much I love my boys when we are trying to get through an essay or math assignment. I have to remember that while I can help them get an A on their work through driving and yelling, maybe it would be better if they got a C and they walked away knowing how much I love them.
So far this week, I have encouraged you to show your love to everyone. Today, why not focus on your most important people – your family. Tell your kids or your spouse you love them. But don’t just say it; actually do it. Love on them as you want to be loved. And when you can’t seem to get your point across and the tensions start to rise, take a deep breath and remember that out of all the things you do our motivation has to be love. After all, love lasts forever!
Thursday (3/26/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of love and servanthood
Romans 13:8-14 - Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Prior to Christ’s ministry, the nation of Israel lived by the rules of the Mosaic Law. The understanding was that if they followed these laws perfectly, they would be right with God and they would be “good”. When Jesus came on to the scene, he turned that mindset upside down. He pointed out that the intent with the Mosaic Law was not to save them but to show them they needed to be saved. Paul repeated that message in his letters to the church.
Here in our passage today, Paul is reminding the church in Rome that they can keep the whole law by simply doing one thing – loving your neighbor. That was the answer that Jesus gave to a lawyer who asked which commandment was the most important to follow. That was the answer that Jesus modeled for us throughout his ministry. And Paul calls this our “obligation” or what we owe as Christians today.
I think of the many obligations I have in life. I am a pastor and that job brings a number of things I am expected to do like preaching, counseling and caring for people. I am also a husband and father so there is an obligation to be a good spouse and parent. And as a Christian I have an obligation to love others. Paul says that this is such and important obligation for us that it actually fulfills all the requirements of God’s law.
Don’t misunderstand this. Paul is NOT saying that if we just love each other and do good things for each other we can earn our salvation. Throughout the New Testament we see that salvation is through faith in Christ alone and has nothing to do with our works. We cannot earn salvation and we can never repay God for our salvation. But when we receive salvation, we now have and obligation love others because of how we were loved by Christ. When I understand the richness of God’s love shown to me through Christ my first reaction should be to show this love to others.
And I think Paul’s reminder is so relevant for us today. The days are dark right now. People are struggling and they need to hear the good news of Christ. You have an amazing opportunity right now to be the light of Christ in someone’s life who desperately needs it. You just have to be willing to love.
Dear church family,
Usually on Wednesday nights our church is alive with people of all ages anxious to spend time together and to study God’s Word. This week, the church will be quiet. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot meet! I am setting up an Online Prayer Group and I would love for you to take part tomorrow (Wednesday, 3/25) at 7 pm. All are welcome to join!
We will have Scripture reading, sharing and time in prayer together. We are sending out more information to your email this afternoon and in the church app - if you don't see it, message me and I will get you the information on connecting.
Wednesday (3/25/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of love and servanthood
Romans 12:9-21 - 9Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. 20Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
We are pretty skilled at pretending. We pretend that life is good and that we have it all together. We pretend to be happy or satisfied. And we pretend we love others all the time. If there is one concept that we have to come to grips with about Christianity it’s that God is more concerned about our heart than our appearances. In Romans 12 Paul is giving the church a list of characteristics that should describe every Christian. Every one of those characteristics can be traced back to a heart of love.
If we love people, we will hate evil and cling to good. If we love people we will honor and serve them. We won’t be focused on getting even or chasing revenge but will instead look for ways to serve others even when they hurt us. We will live in harmony and help those who need our help.
That is not an easy thing to do. We have all been hurt at some point in our life. We have all struggled with the desire to even the score with someone. But Paul makes it very clear that this mindset is unacceptable for us as Christians. In our desire to look like a good Christian, we often put on the fake smile and pretend that we are not hurting and angry. Many of us have learned how to tolerate those who have hurt us but not even that reaches the goal that we are given. We are to really love each other with genuine affection.
That might seem like an impossible task for us – how can I genuinely love those who are unlovable? For me, I have to constantly remind myself that often times, I am the unlovable one. I have hurt so many people over the course of my life, intentionally and unintentionally. I have failed my family and my friends and I have certainly failed my God. And yet, Christ still went to the cross to die for me because of his love. We read in our passage yesterday that if we want to be true followers of Christ – if we want to love Christ – we have to keep his commands. Do you remember what Jesus said when he was asked what the greatest commandment was? He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…and love your neighbor as yourself.” I think that is a pretty clear expectation on us to genuinely love others.
That is why we can’t just pretend any longer. As we love those around us, we express our love for God. If our love for others is not genuine then just how genuine is our love for Christ? Take some time today to evaluate your love for others. Are you just putting on a show and pretending or is your love real?
Monday (3/23/20) - Lord God, by your Word fill me with a spirit of love and servanthood
Mark 10:35-45 - Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We see it frequently – people calling in favors to get ahead. I was always told that you have to know someone to climb that old corporate ladder. And in my experience, it’s often true. Those people who are well connected seem to do better than those who are well qualified and skilled. It shouldn't surprise us that this philosophy has been around for many, many years. It had to be true back in Jesus’ time because we see two of his disciples asking for a favor.
They tried to ask this favor quietly but once all the other disciples heard about it, there were problems. Thankfully, Jesus stepped in and calmed everyone just before he challenged their understanding of how things should work. Jesus pointed out that it was the rulers and authorities of this world who were always trying to sell this idea of getting ahead no matter what. Jesus turned that idea around and told his disciples that if they really wanted to get ahead, they had to become a slave or a servant to everyone else. That was just as counter-culture in the disciple’s world as it is in ours.
But think of how this world would be different if we focused on serving each other and making each other the priority instead of ourselves. There might be a whole lot less fighting and anger and so much more love and kindness. That is the example Christ gave to us through his life. Understand that he wasn’t just nice for social reasons and to make the world a “better place”. He became a servant in order to reach the people with the truth of salvation. He served so that he could share the message that everyone of us needs to hear – that we are sinners and we need forgiveness. That is why we are called to be like Christ and to become servants. Yes, we want to change the world and make people’s lives better. But more importantly, we want to help people change their eternal destiny. That is the greatest act of love we can give.
By the way, when Jesus said that James and John would share the same bitterness that he would face, he wasn’t kidding. James was martyred for his faith in Christ and beheaded by King Herod. John lived to a ripe old age but only after he survived being thrown in to a cauldron of boiling oil and then exiled to the island of Patmos. Thankfully, they matured in Christ from the example in today’s text and both men became strong leaders in the early church and lived lives that showed what it meant to be a true servant. Now it is our turn to go and be servants to others.
Good morning church family!
As I am sitting at my desk this morning trying to mentally prepare for today...it just feels weird. Normally my Sunday morning is full of activity but today I find myself waiting. We have prerecorded our service this morning realizing how many different churches will be live streaming at the same time and the potential for problems. We will publish the service right at 10:45 this morning on Facebook and I will be online to interact with you via the comments.
If you could help me out with a few things I would really appreciate it. First, interact with us during the service - once you get the stream going let us know in the comments that you are there. Feel free to type in some comments or an all-caps AMEN when you feel led. While we won't reproduce the feel of our normal morning service (and we really aren't trying to) we can still interact with each other.
Second, I realize that many of you are living with a lot of uncertainty right now. If there is a specific way that we can pray for you and your family, please type it into the comments or direct message me so I can know how to pray.
Third, if you are able and willing to continue to give to the ministry of the church, please do so. I am certain that during this time we will have plenty of opportunities to use our Deacon Fund to help meet needs and we are still supporting our staff and missionaries through the General Fund. You can give through the church app by selecting the "GIVING" button on the front page or the menu. This will take you to a secure giving page where you can set up your account. You can also give through the web page - www.fbcmayville.com. You will find a "GIVE NOW" button in the top right corner. And of course, you can always mail in your giving to the church.
Fourth, please continue to pray - for our world and country, for our community and church. Pray specifically that we can use this time of fear and crisis to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make a practical change in our community.
I am looking forward to worshipping with you today. It may feel different for us but we can still be together, united in Christ.