Have you ever been tempted to claim to be better than you really are?
Have you ever retold the story in a way that accentuated your part a little more than was real?
Or maybe you kept a few of the details out of the story that would have kept others from thinking anything less than “you are quite spectacular”.
Why do we put forth something that isn’t the truth? It seems to me that it is pretty clearly a combination of pride and fear. We want people to think a certain way about us whether it is true or not. We have things we want to appear to be and we have another set of things that we don’t want people to know about us.
Who would ever admit to such thoughts? Hmmm…
Jesus never once pretended to be something that he wasn’t. He wasn’t a hypocrite. He knew who He was and not once did He act in a way that was contrary to his true identity or character. Jesus did not tell people one thing and then act in a different way. His words, his actions and the content of His heart were always in complete harmony.
Jesus intrudes into our lives to set us free from the prison of hypocrisy. If we choose to live our lives based on appearances there will never be any lasting confidence or assurance that we are OK. The Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that our God is well aware of the fact that we are far from perfect. Yet, in spite of this, He still claims us as His own when we stop competing or comparing and instead express thankfulness and praise that we are set free to be just who God created us to be – grace loving followers of Jesus.
We are invited by Luke to hear Jesus’ teaching on the position that comes our way when we don’t think too highly of ourselves and instead bask in the amazing love of God. Jesus wants us to be filled with the joy of our salvation – what a gift from God!
From one mercy recipient to another,
There are many people in my life that stand out as people that I admire, respect, appreciate, and value. There are many people in my life that have shaped and molded me into the man I am today. But while many can share in the process of this transformation, only one can take the credit for the largest portion of it: my dad. From the day I was born, my dad had a central role in showing me the ropes of life and what it took to be a Christian man. He did this through modeling, teaching, showing, and correcting. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times when I disagreed with him or thought I knew better, but in pretty much every case, he was the one in the right.
My dad taught me so many things that I value and utilize to this day, many of them I probably don’t really recognize because they have become so engrained in me. My dad taught me the value of hard work, the importance of loving others, the treasure of loving family, the joy of a smile or joke, the love of sports, the attitude of a servant, the passion for truth, and the need to be both a provider and protector for my wife and son. Some of these teachings meant that I had to learn things the hard way as there were many times I was too selfish and self-centered to really take in what he was trying to get across, but he was always there for me, patient with me when I failed to see, and always working hard to help me “get it.”
While not everyone can share in the experience of having a caring earthly father, we all can share in the reality that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us even more than any earthly father could. Our Father God loves us at all times, He is always there for us and is perfect in every way. We can come to Him in our brokenness and need because He is right there next to us. This Father of ours also pursues us when we go astray, running after us to show us His better way. Though we may try and run, His presence follows because He longs for relationship with His created child.
I am thankful that we have such a Father in the God that we serve. Even my earthly father has made his share of mistakes, which he would readily admit to, and I will make plenty of my own as a new father, but thankfully we can bank on the love and grace given to us freely by our Heavenly Father. Even in the midst of our rebellion of sin, God provided a way for us to be brought back into His family. What a gift!
Ben will be sharing with us from God’s Word this Sunday, July 26th
What are you doing?
Why are you doing it?
How are you doing it?
It is vitally important that we consider these questions as a congregation. This type of analysis needs to produce answers that fall in line with the heart of God. The answers will tell us whether or not we are continuing the work Jesus has given us or drifting into something less than being God’s people in the world today.
On one hand the nature of congregational life and ministry is different all over the globe or even in the same city. But on the other hand there are things that need to always be the same because it is God’s chosen way. One thing that is a non-negotiable for the Church of Jesus Christ in general and Oak Hill in particular is that we operate based on the fact that people matter. This is seen clearly in creation as we are made in the Image of God and as Jesus intruded into our broken world as our needed Savior to bring us back home.
I bring this up in the context of this week’s theme because we have a tendency to become overly impressed with our systems or our programs or our ideas and lose sight of what matters most. The main thing that Jesus had on His agenda was people. Oh, we can debate that His main point was to glorify the Father but I would argue that Jesus’ glorifying of the Father was completely wrapped up with His caring for and setting free of humanity. He knew full well that the Father would be glorified as people began to see God and themselves properly.
One of our core values at Oak Hill is relationships. There is an absolute necessity for this area of our congregational life to be developed, enhanced, supported, encouraged and the list could go on and on. I am making this a personal “top agenda” item as I meet with all of Oak Hill staff over the next month. The Lord has placed it on my heart and mind to make sure Jesus is setting our agenda in this particular area. We will look at our various areas of ministry with the idea of evaluating our relationship building.
I am writing this with a combination of excitement and confession as I consider the power of God that comes through living like Jesus. I am gripped by the reality that Oak Hill needs to humbly acknowledge that we need Jesus to be the Great Intruder of our Agendas today and every day. We can often go about our days giving lip service to God’s call to minister to people when in reality we are just doing ministry without really caring for people. Jesus’ agenda was about people and our agenda needs to match His.
With that truth in mind I want us to make sure we are enjoying “DOING” the right things the right way. Oh, I know we are not perfect and there will always be room for improvement but sometimes we just need to recalibrate and that is what we are going to do. Please pray for your staff at Oak Hill as we make sure people matter most. All of Jesus teachings and actions were driven to meet people’s needs. Nothing Jesus did was disconnected from loving people and bringing them back to God.
May Jesus set the agenda at Oak Hill,
Limits. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be able to fly. Not just fly in an airplane, or in a parachute, or hang glider mind you. No, I wanted to be able to fly without any aides whatsoever, completely on my own. Maybe it was from watching too much Peter Pan when I was a kid, but this desire in me was one that I had for a long time and, admittedly, still kind of have to this day. I think it would be great to be able to just jump up and take off to the sky, towering over trees, swooping past buildings, and doing awesome aerial tricks through the clouds. It was this euphoric feeling I wanted that made me do something a bit strange when I was about 8 years old. It was a very windy day and I decided that this would be the day that I would fly. I had thought it all up, actually dreamt it all up, the night before. I took one of the sheets from my bed and made my way outside to our propane gas tank that stood a few feet off the ground. I climbed to the top, grabbed hold of both ends of the sheet and jumped. My expectation was that the wind would gust underneath my makeshift parachute and carry me just high enough so that when I would let go, I would be flying. Needless to say, my feet unfortunately hit the ground mere seconds after I jumped.
Now, this story from my childhood is completely ridiculous. All of you from the moment this story began knew what the outcome would be. Humans can’t fly on their own, much less with a bed sheet on a windy day! The ability of flight is one of the physical limitations that we humans have. It just can’t happen for a varied number of reasons. It does not take long for us to recognize that we have many limitations, some physical, some emotional, some mental, and some spiritual. We can’t always do the things we would like to do and many times this is our own doing. Humanity’s greatest limitation though is that we all struggle with sin and its evil desires. This limitation creates more than just a small problem that we just can live with, like not being able to fly. This limitation creates division between us and others and, ultimately, us and God.
Thankfully, God did not and does not leave us to mire in our limitations. He sent His Son, Jesus, to conquer all on our behalf and offer us His gift of grace that overwhelms our limitation of sin. It is Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice of that life that is the key to our freedom. Hebrews 4:15-16 says that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we are welcome to come to Him, despite our many limitations and rely on His power to help us when we fail and fall short.
Ben will be bringing a message from God’s Word to us this Sunday, July 12th
I have never liked being afraid. It removes joy and peace so that I am left with a combination of anxiety and unwanted focus. When I am afraid my mind is consumed with something that doesn’t allow me to be very productive at all. For me, fear and worry go hand in hand. There are times that I really struggle with this.
In the past I may have been ok with worrying because I would say “it is just how I’m wired”. But I have come to realize that it is not so much of how I am made; it is more that I don’t trust God to be in control or engaged in what is causing me to be fearful and worried. This important realization could also be described as – I am going to deal with this on my own.
This absence of Jesus is not so much of a conscious decision to banish Jesus as it is that I am not deliberately bringing it to Him so that I am fully aware that He is with me. When I am fully aware of Jesus it is much easier to find myself trusting in Him. The reason for that shouldn’t really surprise me. Jesus loves me so much that He was willing to die for me; His love for me is perfect and powerful. When I am with Jesus He fills up my life as we are told in I John 4.18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”
This means that the real problem in my life is not so much that there are many things in this world that cause fear and worry. The real problem isn’t even really the fear or the worry itself. The problem in my life is the self-inflicted belief in the nonappearance of Jesus. More accurately, it would be forgetting that Jesus is “an ever-present help in trouble”. Jesus wants me to know that He is on-the-job being my Savior and my Lord. It is an everyday and always kind of deal!
As much as I would like to claim that I will never be afraid or worry again, I know that would simply not be true. This world has always had dangers and opposition to God’s people and God’s reign. This is true in our day just as it was true for Moses, David and Jesus. I have an invitation in the midst of all that causes turmoil in my soul. It is a powerful invitation that will never fail. It was placed in God’s Word as King David dealt with great opposition in Psalm 56,
Today, in a mixed up and broken world, God wants us to claim what David claimed. He wants us to understand Jesus still breaks through and saves. Jesus still intrudes into our fears and worries to bring us to a place of trust and hope.
Lord Jesus, help us to see you reign – always and even TODAY!
Pastor Nick Mundis