For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21 (NLT)
During the last week and a half or so, I have been able to read one chapter per night from a book called “The King’d Messenger”by Carolyn Clare Givens as a bedtime story for the young families of the congregation of my church. It is a fictional tale that is set in a faraway Kingdom where the King has several messengers who’s whole purpose is to serve the King, and the main character is a young messenger named, “Smuggins”.
Yesterday’s chapter was titled “The King’s Ambassador”, and in this chapter, Smuggins and the rest of the messengers were tasked to go throughout the Kingdom, including to people who had rebelled against the King, and to tell them that the King will forgive them if they only stop their rebellion. The messengers were scared to do this, but they gained confidence that if people were upset, they wouldn’t be upset at them; they would be upset at the King because they were relaying the words of the King. They were the King’s Ambassadors.
Like Smuggins, we are all messengers for our King, and we have been tasked to spread a message of reconciliation and love, just as Smuggins was tasked to tell others of the King’s offer of forgiveness. But what does that look like from inside of our doors as we are stuck inside?
I think it means something like calling those we love to check in on them and to see if they are doing okay, and then asking what we can pray for.
I think it means remaining faithful to God’s hope in the face of fear and confusion.
I think it means taking advantage of this time to have intentional conversations with those closest to us about the faith that pushes us onward; about the God who forgives us and calls us back to grace.
Monday March 30, 2020 – From Pastor Joyce Donigian
15 That is why, ever since I heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and of the love you have for Christians everywhere, 16-17 I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I want you to realize that God has been made rich because we who are Christ’s have been given to him! 19 I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in heaven, 21 far, far above any other king or ruler or dictator or leader. Yes, his honor is far more glorious than that of anyone else either in this world or in the world to come. 22 And God has put all things under his feet and made him the supreme Head of the Church— 23 which is his body, filled with himself, the Author and Giver of everything everywhere.
Ephesians 1:15-23 Living Bible (TLB)
Do you remember times in your life when someone praised you? Someone you admired who was now applauding your accomplishments? Or perhaps you remember winning an award or winning a sporting event and heard shouts of encouragement. Or perhaps it was an unexpected encouraging word from someone whom we have admired.
Whatever the situations, those memories bring smiles to our faces and warmth to our hearts. It is part of who we are to feel pleasure at getting compliments.
These words of Paul’s recorded in his letter to the Ephesians bring thoughts of comfort and pleasure because they remind us that God is pleased with us when we follow in Christ’s footsteps. Paul commends those reading this letter for their strong faith in Jesus and the love that they share with others.
What a compliment! Paul has not been with these folks to see first-hand how they are witnessing their faith and love; instead, he has heard reports from others. This means that their faith is faith in action – faith shown in how they relate to one another and to others. They are showing love in a way this can best explained by the shape of the cross – their love is both vertical – love for God in Christ and horizontal – love for those around them. This is a good reminder to all people. Too often we rely heavily on our own efforts, driven by our own wisdom, carried out by our own abilities. We too often can become more reliant on ourselves and less reliant on God.
Paul tells them something we all know – that we cannot be faithful to Jesus and not love the other Christians. Nor can we love other Christians rightly and not be faithful toward God. Christianity is built on these two principles – to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor. We are called to live beyond ourselves. We are called to live for Christ and for one another. Paul praises them and declares that he has heard of their faithfulness to Jesus and the love for the saints. This causes Paul to pray continually for the Ephesian Christians with thanksgiving to God. But listen to what Paul wants God to give these Christians.
Paul is also encouraging them to do more because their faith will lead them to greater wisdom and understanding. In other words, by continuing to live their faith, they will grow in the knowledge of who Christ is and what Christ has done for them. What he has heard about them is wonderful, but even greater things are in store for them as their faith continues to grow. Additionally, Paul knows from his own experience that as wisdom and understanding increase, they will gain greater insights into the indescribable power of God.
We have just heard that the President has extended social distancing guidelines until the end of April. We cannot know what this coming month might bring. Our lives are in so many ways put on hold. We are asked to rely on ourselves more than ever before since we are no longer able to rely on friends, social gatherings, and other activities that might add additional benefits to our lives. But we are not alone. We have our faith in God and our love for others to uplift and uphold us.
We are encouraged to find ways to show that faith and love in order that we might continue to grow in wisdom and understanding. Our all-powerful God is with us, seeing how we respond to this crisis. By staying home, even from church, we can slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Quakertown. While we are sheltering in place, we can pray in thanksgiving for all of those who have stepped up to care for those who are sick – the doctors, nurses, techs, EMTs, police, and all those unnamed folks who clean, mop, wipe, empty trash, and all of the other behind-the-scenes activities that are necessary to keep our hospitals as safe as possible. And to all of the volunteers who are making masks at home, all who are looking for ways to help during this difficult time – we give thanks to God for all these folks who are witnessing to their faith.
In all things we are to continue to grow in faith – faith in action – because we desire to grow in wisdom and understanding of the power, might, and love of our God.
There is a song that describes this longing for greater heart-knowledge of God. The title is “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” Below are the lyrics, but if you want to listen to these wonderful words, it is available on YouTube Here!
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord Open the eyes of my heart I want to see You I want to see You (repeated)
To see You high and lifted up Shinin’ in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love As we sing holy, holy, holy
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord Open the eyes of my heart I want to see You I want to see You (repeated)
To see You high and lifted up Shinin’ in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love As we sing holy, holy, holy
To see You high and lifted up Shinin’ in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love As we sing holy, holy, holy To see You high and lifted up Shinin’ in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love As we sing holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy We cry holy, holy, holy You are holy, holy, holy I want to see you
Holy, holy, holy Holy, holy, holy You are holy, holy, holy I want to see you
Holy, holy, holy Holy, holy, holy Holy, holy, holy, I want to see you
Source: LyricFind Songwriter: Paul Joseph Baloche
May you be blessed this day with the knowledge that our faith in Almighty God and our love for others will bring wisdom and understanding – even in such times as these. We (Pastors Doug and Joyce) have witnessed your faith and your love, your growing wisdom and understanding, and we thank God for you all. We pray for you. We love you. Be safe. Be well.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
I have never liked crowds, but for some reason, when I’m at large outdoor concerts, they don’t bother me. I tend to ignore the other people, and just focused with the people that I am with, and the music that is playing, and I get by. But the best concerts are not always the ones with the best sound, or even the best bands; the best concerts are the ones that make an impact on you and the people that you’re with. Sometimes this impact is just because the music is really good, sometimes its just because it was a lot of fun, but the really good concerts are the ones that inspire you to do something.
For a few years in a row in my teen years, I went to one of the largest outdoor Christian Music festivals in the country with a church group that I was connected with. I listened to some of the bands I saw, but the experience was much more than the music. For several days, I was surrounded by people I loved, I listened to motivational and encouraging music and special speakers, and on the last night the whole ‘audience’ lit candles and took communion. There were around 100,000 people there on the last night.
Those concert experiences had a drastic impact on my life for a few weeks and months afterwards. I was more into my faith, mor positive in general, and I kept wanting to go back.
But soon, the excitement faded as everyday life crept in.
When we pray, we remind ourselves that we have a God who listens to us and is able to help us through anything.
When we read the Bible, we remind ourselves that our faith is all about a story; a story of God caring for and guiding God’s people through many hardships and many joys.
When we gather to worship God together, even if its through a virtual service, we remind ourselves that we are part of a community of different people who are all seeking the one true God.
When we say the historic Creeds of the faith, or when we say The Lord’s Prayer, we are joining Christians around the globe and throughout time in worshiping our God.
In the everyday worries and stress of this crisis, in the times of bad news or fears, it will be easy to abandon the parts of our faith that inspire us with the strength to overcome fear. I will be easy to abandon a faith that provides true empathy and hope in the midst of suffering.
And so, while praying and reading, and listening to services may all provide you with an opportunity to engage with God and with the Church, strive to make those times inspiring for you. Take those times seriusly by prioritizing them in your life – like taking medicine for the soul.
At a time such as this, we cannot let our perception of the power of our faith fade from our sight, and from our lives.
1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
Romans 6:1-5 (The Message)
Five years ago, I adopted Ally, the first dog that I have had as an adult. When I was searching for a dog, I wanted the dog to be at least a year old, housebroken, and well-mannered, but Ally was a 4-month old puppy who was not housebroken, had a past that affected her disposition, and who was full of energy.
At the beginning, Ally would have many accidents in the apartment, and even in her crate! It took a little over a month to train her that going outside was the way to go, and even longer to train her that her crate was not a Porta Potty. But once she was housebroken and crate-trained, life was a lot easier! My canine companion and I had more time for other training, more time for snuggles, and I spent significantly less money on carpet cleaner, paper towels and shampoo!
BUT, she still had accidents every now and again, and even now, while she doesn’t have accidents nearly as much as before, if she is scared, or stressed, she might have an accident.
Ally is a good dog who is truly house-broken; her existence is no longer defined by not knowing where to go, or refusing to go where she needs to. But she still has accidents. These accidents don’t make her non-housebroken though – they are just accidents, and I know that.
Imagine though if Ally became housebroken, and then started making a habit of having accidents in the house to the point where I no longer could consider her housebroken anymore. I would then ask myself – maybe I wasn’t stern enough, maybe I was too forgiving, etc..
But the bottom line is that if Ally is truly housebroken, she won’t return to being non-housebroken if she is healthy. She may have accidents here and there, but the accidents wouldn’t define her existence.
When we accepted that Jesus came to earth to live a sinless life, perform miracles, teach us how to live, die on a cross for our sins, rose again, and when we proclaim that Jesus is our Lord and savior, we become changed.
For some of us, we can think of a day, a season, or a year, for when that may have happened, for some of us, that may have happened over a period of many years; Its just something that we grew up knowing, accepting, and believing.
After we reach that point, whenever it is, if we truly believe, we have ‘accidents’/sins that happen and that we do, but we are no longer defined by those things.
Because we seek to be daily surrendered to Jesus, we ask for forgiveness when we do something wrong, and our lives are defined by Christ’s forgiveness of us, our identity as Children of God, and they are not defined by our mistakes.
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NRSV)
When I was 15 years old, God showed me in a profound way that my life had meaning and that I had a purpose.
I went with a friend’s youth group to a beach retreat that spanned a full weekend in the summer of 2007. It was an exciting thing for me because I had only been to the beach once before, and they were going to be camping near the beach in tents. On that saturday, we packed our beach gear and headed to the shore.
Our charismatic leader made it easy for all of us to have a lot of fun that day, but one thing that I didn’t know about before that day was how to swim if you get caught in a riptide. As my friend and I were out in the water, we started to notice the water looking rough near the jetty, and we saw two people about our age by the jetty who looked scared. We called out to ask if they needed help, and when they said yes, we swam over and attempted to get them to safety.
But I didn’t know how to swim in a riptide…I was able to pull one of the them away from the jetty, but I quickly got swept up in the riptide myself as I lost my grip. I remember trying to swim straight towards shore, but every time I made a little progress, it was instantly taken away as I got pulled back in the other direction.
Eventually, as I continued to gasp for air and got some saltwater in return, I looked up to the sky, thinking I was going to drown, and told God that I was ready to Go – that God could take me then (A bit dramatic, I admit, but when you are 15 years old, thats par for the course). Immediately after that, and I can’t stress that enough, I was actually able to swim to shore when I had not been able to do so previously. I walked on shore with only a few scratches on my ankle, and a story that would define my life from that point on.
When I was on the boardwalk that night, I bought a cross necklace that I still wear today to always remind me of that instance when God told me that my life had a meaning and a purpose. After that day, the faith that I always knew and believed in became real and tangible, and I was committed to following Christ in a whole new way.
But to other people, that story could be explained by coincidence – the riptide could have just happened to stop immediately after my prayer. Likewise, as we are all struggling with what this COVID-19 crisis will mean for the health and finances of ourselves, our families and friends, and nation, some may say that believing in God is foolish optimism.
This faith seems especially foolish if that belief includes believing that our God died on a torture device at the hands of a human government over 2000 years ago. For if you or I were going to make up a religion, a God who suffered and died is not a logically good start.
But I believe that it is precisely that reason why Christianity is relevant for us today – Jesus came to earth, lived a life of righteousness, performed miracles, and healed and defended the lowest members of society, and STILL died on a cross and rose again in order to show us that sin can be forgiven and that an earthly death is not the end of our core existence.
Christianity provides the world with a God who understands the suffering and pain that we go through in the most empathetic way, and it also shows the world that there is HOPE beyond what is right in front of us.
Pray to the Lord today for help and guidance; knowing that God understands you at your weakest moment, and has cleared the path before you, through the cross, that leads to Hope and Peace.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:
And now, brothers, I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you, for I don’t want any misunderstanding about them. 2 You will remember that before you became Christians you went around from one idol to another, not one of which could speak a single word. 3 But now you are meeting people who claim to speak messages from the Spirit of God. How can you know whether they are really inspired by God or whether they are fakes? Here is the test: no one speaking by the power of the Spirit of God can curse Jesus, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” and really mean it, unless the Holy Spirit is helping him. 4 Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6 There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 7 The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (The Living Bible)
A devotional from Pastor Joyce of First UCC – Quakertown, PA:
To suggest that our lives have changed over the last couple of weeks is one of the biggest understatements ever made. Almost no part of our lives is quite the same. And yet, we are to continue on, knowing that there is one thing that hasn’t changed – and that is God’s love for us. Because God loves us unconditionally, we can show our gratitude by passing on some of that love to others. But how do we do that when we are confined to our homes, with little contact with others? Today’s scripture lesson helps us, I think. We all have at least one spiritual gift, and many of us have more than one. Yet how can we exercise our spiritual gifts when we are separated from one another?
Here’s one idea. Most of us have a church directory containing the names of members and friends of First Church. Each day, choose a person from the directory and pray for them. They may be someone you know well, or they may be almost a stranger. It doesn’t matter. You can still pray for them. And then, if you are feeling really inspired, call that person (their phone number is right there) and let them know you are praying for them. I can almost guarantee that this will be a day brightener to that person. My guess is that you will be able to hear them smile! Such an act will help spread the joy we have because we are all children of God.
And I can almost guarantee it will brighten your day as well – to be in prayer for another, knowing that you are using one of the spiritual gifts God, through the Holy Spirit, has given you. That is a truly awesome feeling – because we will be working for our awesome God. Feel the joy!
17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.
Acts 9:17-22 (NRSV)
Growing up with long eyelashes is incredibly frustrating. When I was a kid, I constantly got eyelashes in my eye, and I would become essentially debilitated for a good amount of time while I tried to get the eyelash out of eye, and usually making things worse.
When I had the eyelash in my eye, I couldn’t think of anything else, and the mind of a child quickly forgets what it was like before to see clearly, and to not be distracted by the irritation.
I’m sure that you’ve had times where you have had a stuffy or runny nose, back or neck pain, and though it may have been temporary, when you had those problems, you began to forget what it is like to live without those problems.
Paul had his sight taken away from him after just realizing that although he thought he was serving God – he was actually persecuting people that God loved!
Imagine how it must have felt to have your physical sight taken away. Throughout that time, Paul would have been constantly focusing on his blindness as he stumbled through his daily life, as he prayed, and as he thought.
I imagine him praying something like this: “God, I wish I could see right now. I’m sorry for what I did. Please give me my sight back! I’m sorry”
And then maybe something like this happened as he thought about it longer: “God…Though I thought I could see clearly before, I was actually blind. Though I thought I read your laws well, I was blind to your heart. Though I saw the story of you saving your people over and over again, I was blind to who Jesus is. Though I read about your forgiveness, I was blind to what forgiveness meant until you blinded me with your truth instead of taking my life. I now know that I have a mission, and although I may be physically blind now, I have never seen more clearly!”
For Paul, spending time alone, without the distractions of his own desires and pursuits, was a time where he grew more reliant on God than he ever had before.
Right now, we are beginning to wonder when our country will get back to ‘normal’. Some of us are afraid of our upcoming bills at a time when we are not able to work. And churches across the country are wondering when they can get back together again.
But although this time brings with it a lot of problems, and a lot of worries, I believe that God will meet us in this time in larger ways than we could imagine. This past Sunday, our church had its first ever “virtual service”. We had no prior experience, and our congregation had no more instruction than we could give them in short notice. However, our “congregation” on that Sunday was large in number, and those who responded to the church about what they thought and what they were feeling during this time, warmed the hearts of the church staff because we saw other people’s faith, and it encouraged us in our own faith.
I believe that God wants us all to use this time away from the busyness of life for the betterment of our souls and our character. We could easily slip into worry and bitterness, but just as Paul was transformed while blind, I believe that we are going to be transformed while homebound.
Lets Commit to some actions:
Take more time to pray. Commit to a prayer schedule. Do not let fear or bitterness RULE over you – Instead RULE over your fears and bitterness with Prayer – seeking the hope, and peace of God.
Begin or end your day with a devotional and scriptural reading (If you have a smartphone, download “The Bible App” from Youversion, and find a reading plan that works for you!
Parents – Spiritually lead your children through family prayer time, and family bible reading time. Set the example for them to follow.
Parents – Take this time to have family game times – and if they get bored with what you have, grab some paper and some markers from the drawer and make a game together! 🙂
If you live alone – invest in your relationship with God, start a new hobby, get to know yourself more, and take advantage of thise time to yourself for your own betterment.
Spouses – Go to God in prayer Together, as well as apart from one another. Read a passage from the bible together and ask each other what each of you think. Make date nights at home something to look forward to. Play a card or board game and laugh together.
Spend more time in nature while being safe and maintaining social distancing. Over the last few weeks, I have seen more families outside together than ever before – that is a GREAT thing.
Above all – Use this time to seek God and love others – even at a distance.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.
Ephesians 5:1-2a (NLT)
Last night I couldn’t sleep. I found out that the governor of my state was forcing all non-essential businesses to close, and it got to me.
What does this mean for our town, state, and nation?
What will this do for members of my congregation?
Will people that I know be forced to go without pay for an undetermined amount of time?
What am I going to do if bills keep coming, but my pay doesn’t?
To worry is a natural human response to stress, but worrying can also be a pointless exercise. How much would I be able to do, laying in bed, in order to address any of the concerns on my minds?
The answer is that I wouldn’t be able to do anything but pray.
But why is prayer often option 2, and worry is option 1?
Because when we are stressed, we want to take control even when its almost impossible to control our situation right then and there. But what is option 1 to stress became seeking God’s help through prayer?
If we are to imitate God, then we have a clear example from Jesus as to how we are to respond to life’s pressure’s and worries – Prayer and Love.
Multiple times throughout Christ’s ministry on earth, He excused himself from the group and went off into nature to pray. Some of these times were in the middle of people demanding so much from him that He and his disciples were chased down from place to place. But still, Jesus excused himself to pray.
Because praying focused Him in his love towards His Father, and prayer grounded him and gave him the energy that He needed to love others well, even when he was stressed or worried.
We may be worried about things now, but do we turn to prayer first in order to love God, ourselves, and others despite our worries and fears?
The Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church: 7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
Philippians 3:7-11 (The Message)
My first professional interview was for a paid internship at an accounting and consulting firm in Allentown, PA back in 2013. A few weeks before the interview, I went to the mall and invested in a complete suit to wear, and I was assured that once the suit was tailored after my fitting that I was going to look my best.
The time came for me to pick up my investment in my future, and I tried the suit on in the store, and was assured by the clerk that it fit me well. On the morning of the interview, I dressed up in my suit, shirt, and tie, and discovered that it actually looked like I was wearing a cardboard box with a suit laid over top of it. The suit did not fit well, and I felt like a child trying on some of my Dad’s clothes.
Thankfully, I pushed past my insecurities, and attained that internship – despite wasting money on a suit that I’m now embarrassed to own. It wasn’t really ever about the suit; it was about the person within the suit.
In the passage for today, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church of Philippi describing how he had ‘bragging rights’ that he could use to back up what he was telling them, just like how other religious leaders of the day kept saying that they followed the laws of God. Paul, before he accepted that Jesus was the Messiah, was a strict oberser of the law of God, a respected religious leader, and was even willing to hunt down the Christians in order to lock them up, or have them be killed (Acts 9:1-19).
But then Paul discovered that although he invested a lot of his time into following a strict code of laws, THINKING that he was doing so to honor God, he actually was going against the heart of God by hating groups of people that God came to save. Paul began to see that all of his pride in doing all of the “right” things before was worthless in comparison with actually following and listening to the heart of God that Christ came to share with the world.
Sometimes we do our best to put our best foot forward and to do all of the right things, but if we aren’t seeking to follow the will AND heart of God in our faith, and in our relationship with other people, our efforts won’t be as great as we thought they would be; they’d be like that terribly fitting suit I got all those years ago – it may have seemed great at first, but later, you realise that its not about what we wear, or what we do – Its about who God is, and who we have become after being transformed by God, just as Paul was transformed from his old life, to his new life in Christ.
Take a moment to thank God for all that he has done for you.
Take a moment to pray for God to give you hope and peace.
Pray to the Lord to give you wisdom and courage to help share the love of God to those around you.
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:31-35 (NRSV)
In this passage, we see Jesus, who was in the middle of teaching a group of His followers, being interrupted by a request from his own family to speak with Him. His response to their request was with a question: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”, followed by a statement, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
I feel as though if any one of us said something like that in response to our family wanting to speak with us, we would be lectured by our mother to show a little respect.
But why did his family make the journey together about a days travel on foot from Nazareth to Capernaum where Jesus was teaching?
In the same chapter of Mark, verse 21 reads: “When his family heard it [that Jesus was healing people and casting out demons], they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.'”
Christ’s family traveled to Capernaum, and wanted to speak with Him, because they were concerned about Him, but they also made that journey because they struggled with the reality of who Jesus, their son and brother, was.
Therefore, when Jesus was told that his family was outside waiting for Him, He knew why they were there, and He had to send the message that although He loved them, that He was on a mission now, and that His prime concern was following the Will of God, the Father, and serving those within the Family of God, which was becoming much larger than before.
Pastors around the nation, and in other countries around the world, are struggling with knowing what the Will of God is at a time when they have decided to close the doors of the church building in order to protect their congregation and their community. Over the last week, I have seen church leaders have to make significant decisions in a matter of hours and days, and all of us are trying to think of ways to connect with people in a meaningful way when we cannot see them face to face.
What this passage today teaches us is that though we all may be separated, that we are all still brothers and sisters within the Family of God through Jesus Christ.
Church leaders are working just as hard, if not harder, to make sure that we connect with our members and with our community at this time.
Parents are working just as hard, if not harder, to care for their families and to lead them in prayer.
And individuals are praying just as much, if not more, than before.
What is God calling you to do to make the best of this situation?
How can you continue to share the message and love of God to others?