I have much to be thankful for today.
I am blessed!
I make the above list while my mind continually drifts to Barb and her parents. She is in Fergus Falls caring for her mother and father as her dad prepares to meet Jesus face to face. Ray is in hospice care and it is a hard reality that death is coming soon – but so is a conclusion to cancer’s temporary power. Death has met its’ conqueror and His name is Jesus!
I am so very thankful that the completed power of the resurrection will become Ray’s ultimate reality. He will be done with pain and suffering. He will be home and it will all be good.
If you are reading this I am thankful for you too. I encourage you to take a few moments this week and be sure to express a gift of thankfulness to a few people in your life. It is far too easy to get caught up in all the activities of the season and just assume people know they matter to us. Along with that be sure to thank your God for His gifts of grace and truth.
Have a blessed awareness this Thanksgiving!
Have you ever aligned yourself to someone or something that in retrospect you wish you hadn’t? This can happen when we connect to a person or a cause, or it often happens when we depend upon someone’s word or character or abilities only to find we got nailed. It can occur when we find out that the charity we felt so good about was not truly getting the funds to the people they claimed to be supporting, or it can happen when we think everything we hear or read must be true since it is being reported by “respectable” news organizations. All through our lives we will need to make decisions about where to place our trust and our loyalties. In many ways, this is a stewardship issue!
Kim was in my 7th grade geometry class and she was absolutely amazing as far as I was concerned. What I meant by that is she was good at math, liked sports, was nice to me and when she smiled at me my stomach felt weird. Over the course of the year I found myself appreciating her more and more. One day I shared with Jeff that I liked the way Kim dealt with the Pythagorean Theorem and I thought she looked nice too. The next day I walked into class and the chalkboard read, “Nick loves Kim!” That is a painful childhood memory of misplaced loyalty.
I’m over Jeff’s stomping on my heart and soul but it is a simple picture of what can happen when we place trust and loyalty where it doesn’t belong. All through our lives we will make choices that will align us with things. We all need to do this as humans, but as followers of Jesus we need to think about it also in terms of worship and stewardship of our lives.
This Sunday’s section of Luke is the 16th chapter. Many people consider this one of the most complex chapters in all of Scripture, but the main theme of this section is really quite obvious.
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Jesus then goes on to describe how a rich man placed his loyalty with the “pleasures of this world” while ignoring God’s eternal kingdom and caring for others in this life. Jesus speaks in verse 13 about placing confidence in money as opposed to God, but He didn’t intend for us to limit this teaching to money alone.
What are you depending upon instead of God?
Where are your loyalties that might be misplaced?
Are your alliances delivering or should you look elsewhere – maybe God’s promises?
This world and your life can be filled with many disappointments if your main loyalties in life are anything other than God and His kingdom. People and human institutions will always fall short of the need for our souls to find our primary allegiance to our God.
When I first got married I imagined that Barb would appreciate grand surprises that would sweep her away from the regularities of life to weekend getaways. I was wrong! My lovely wife does not appreciate surprises – she prefers knowing what is coming up. At first this was somewhat of a disappointment because I like creating surprises.
But then an interesting thing happened as I got older. I needed to acknowledge that I don’t care much for most surprises either. I much prefer being able to plan and process things based on my time frames. If it is something that is good – well, then I want to anticipate it, picture it in my mind and simply look forward to the event.
Another area of my life that makes me think of surprises is my time at Oak Hill. There are many times when Natalie is deep in thought and I burst into her office causing her to almost pass out. I don’t think she enjoys when out of nowhere her world is suddenly invaded with an unexpected boisterous request from her “never-ending problem solving pool of great feats for Nick.”
If you can relate to unwanted jolts to your system of living life, then this week’s passage for Sunday is for you. In Luke 12-13 Jesus is calling people to watchfulness, worry removal and repentance. He wants us to live our lives both in God’s kingdom while at the same time living significant lives during our brief earthly years.
In Luke 13.1-9 we see Jesus being very clear with us. Be prepared because your days are limited. Don’t keep living your lives as if God isn’t real. Don’t keep ignoring God’s invitation to enjoy his love and ways. The Almighty Creator is not trying to sneak up and catch you off guard. He has been calling to you every day of your life in the glory of creation and in the cries of your heart.
Today is the day!
It is the day to turn toward God instead of trying to go on your own.
It is the day to trust God’s ways instead of continually ending up at dead ends.
It is the day to celebrate the love of God that came to you in all that Jesus delivered.
It is the day to find all you have ever truly needed was there all along – your soul is filled to overflowing in God and in God alone.
Jesus words are both confrontational in Luke 13 as well as invitational. It is a call to live a life that bears fruit. In God’s kingdom fruit is made up of things like love, faith, hope, justice, mercy and joy. Let’s both produce this fruit for others as well as enjoy it ourselves.
Have a surprisingly expected day in God’s Kingdom,
I thoroughly enjoy days that are filled with laughter, kindness and relational productivity. I love being with people who build each other up even amid differences of opinion. The effectiveness of whatever we are trying to accomplish is maximized when there is a trust that none of the group members is trying to dominate the process or the people. I pray that this will be the tone of life at Oak Hill.
In our text for this upcoming Sunday [Luke 11:14-54] Jesus is encountering people who are anything but cheering Him on to be all that He can be. Jesus at this point has performed miracles, taught and loved like no other. But the attitude of the religious leaders is seen in the conclusion of our passage this week.
53When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54waiting to catch him in something he might say.
It is one thing for Jesus to do neat things and say beautiful truths but it is a different matter altogether when His truth confronts me. That is not as universally accepted and celebrated. What about each of us? I believe the same issues are needing to be addressed in our lives today. Just as in Luke’s day, we struggle with going through the motions of worshiping God, trying to be impressive, not loving like we should and not treating God’s Word as the source of life and faith that it is.
So, the words of Jesus come to me this morning and every morning just as they did to the original hearers. They come with the power to set free or the power to accentuate the heart of opposition. How will we react to God’s Word today? Jesus always connects to us in love and truth. Will we receive and enjoy or will we ignore, oppose and attempt to go at it in our own power and resources?
I also want to take a moment to encourage you to be a part of this upcoming Sunday’s update during the Sunday School hour and the worship service. We will be blessed to have the David and Sonja Narvesen family with us to hear about their upcoming ministry to the Fulbe people including the villages where Oak Hill built wells last year. Our Overflowing Hope campaign ties directly to what God is calling them to do in the future. During the worship service, we will also hear specifically how our funds raised last fall are being allocated for the ongoing Gospel proclamation in Chad, Africa.
In Grace and Truth,
Pastor Nick Mundis