Finding Joy

An additional meditation today for those that need a little extra. I’ve been troubled by the disparity between the coverage of the Muslim massacre in New Zealand and the Christian massacre in Africa. As you might notice, I can pinpoint where the Muslim massacre was because of the amount of coverage it has received. Not so with the Christian one. I think it was Nigeria, but I may be mistaken. The news has not been as forthcoming about he 120 Christians killed by Muslim militants. Jesus was certainly understating when He said “in this world you will have trouble.”

I don’t care what your denomination is. When Christians are attacked anywhere, it’s not because they are Lutherans or Pentecostals, it’s because of Christ. As one of our founding fathers once coined, “either we hang together, or we hang separately.”

Now I don’t agree with Lutherans, Pentecostals, or Baptists on certain points of doctrine. But if you attack my family, you are attacking me. I really don’t care if these Christians in Nigeria were Independent Christian Church like I am, whether they believed in the plan of salvation and baptism by immersion. It doesn’t matter if they believed in the Trinity or Modalism. They believed that Jesus Christ was able to save them. They believed the gospel, and I doubt that high theology entered into it. They were attacked because they believe in Jesus, as I do. They believed in the resurrection of the Son of God as I do. They were killed because they identified as Christian, as I do. Their death puts all of us on notice. Evil is real and it seeks to devour us, and it attacking the most vulnerable of us.

Wolves attack the weak and the sick. Both of the targets I’ve mentioned were vulnerable to attack and made for easy targets. I’m sorry that such a person attacked the Muslims. It an act of evil. But he was not by his own explanation a Christian. The militants that attacked the Christian congregation in Nigeria were muslim by their admission. Both are regrettable. One is a lone wolf. The other is part of a pack. I will let you decide which is which.

Is there any good in this? The meditation above was based on Habakkuk, who lamented that the enemy that attacked Israel was wicked, that God was using a wicked nation to chastise the people of Israel. Is God doing so today? Is God allowing His people, the Christians of Nigeria, to be attacked to chastise them? To chastise us all? Do we wealthy and well-off Christians in the west have an obligation to our brothers in the east? You might think so if you read Romans 15. If there is good in this, it may be to call to those asleep to awaken to the threat at our door. Our brothers are being murdered. Do you care?

I won’t advocate for a particular organization here, because there are several worthy ones. I advocate for those whose voices you cannot hear by reason of distance. In our day-to-day, we seldom think outside those in our circle of friends. May I ask that you at least pray for these brothers and sisters on the front lines? I don’t know what form their help will take, but I know the Lord is not slack concerning His promises.

Dear Lord, please help my brothers and sisters who are subjected to constant harassment and persecution. I pray for those families whose tragedy spans generations and have little peace. You are a mighty and all-seeing God. Even now, I know you are putting things in motion that will bring justice to all these murderers. But I pray that the sacrifice of your lambs would not be in vain, and that lives will be changed, saved by the grace and mercy through your Son, that even those who killed might receive saving grace. For our enemies are not of flesh and blood, but of the powers of darkness that seek to destroy your church, your bride, wherever she is. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Nothing Too Small

www.bible.com/72/jhn.13.14.hcsb

John is the only gospel writer to include the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Because he does, aspiring preachers every year attempt to explain what this custom means and how important it is that Jesus does this. Washing the feet of the grit and dust of the road, in a world where everyone wore open-toed sandals, was a pretty common occurrence. For people who could afford it, servants were usually tasked with the job. But this was a time before floor-coverings were invented. So weren’t people washing their feet only to walk around on dirt floors? Maybe this only applies to going upstairs to living quarters. That would make more sense. Anyway, John makes the connection for us that only servants would be doing this job, and since Jesus stoops to do this for his disciples, they ought to do it for each other. I.e., no one is too good or important for this task of helping a brother. It is an act of humility, a lesson that was very easy to forget, as the church grew, more people venerated the apostles and their disciples, who grew accustomed to the veneration. Modern clergy inherited this sense of “above the rabble” and for used to being called special names like “Father”, “Reverend” and “Pastor”. Foot-washing is almost unknown outside of the Greek Orthodox tradition, which is why it has to be explained every year. Sadly, the lesson is often kept in this very ancient context.

The point is that leadership ought not to get so fancy that it forgets that everyone is a servant. Christianity is a religion of equals, not hierarchy. There is no “Father” or leader who ought to be treated with greater respect than any other brother or sister. All are saved according to the same blood. All are created by the same God. “God is no respecter of persons.” This also means that no job is too small or unimportant in His Kingdom. From the least to the greatest, all are important in God’s sight.

The story of the foot-washing remains one of the most important leadership lessons in the gospels. Never consider yourself too important, too busy, or your work too essential that you forget the law of love. That’s what got the Pharisees in trouble. Never consider yourself too good to help a brother.

God bless you today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

www.bible.com/72/1ch.16.24.hcsb

Time to wear green today! St. Patrick’s Day is one of my favorite special days because today we remember Patrick, the bishop of Ireland in the fourth century, whose exploits are legendary is even a little mythical. This day ought to be celebrated by missionaries everywhere, for above all, Patrick is known as an early cross-cultural missionary to the people of Ireland, who up to that point had not been exposed to Christianity. Patrick managed not only to spread the gospel among the Irish, but also found a bastion of western civilization while Europe burned.

Just a note for today. God bless.

All the Rest is Commentary

www.bible.com/72/deu.6.5.hcsb

This is the first and best commandment. It’s not the first of the Ten Commandments, but it is the first of the the two that Jesus recommended. The second is like unto the first, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To this Jesus adds the Christian commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” It all seems to be about love, doesn’t it?

Is it telling that all of these commandments command love? As if to say that love is not something that comes naturally from us. We must be told to do it. Is it somehow contrary to our nature to love God, neighbor, and our brother in Christ? Or is it that though we love, we don’t love the right things, and that these commandments are direct our love, instead of correcting our lack of love.

In regards to this, do you remember Ephesians 5? In that passage, women are commanded to respect and submit to their husbands, while husbands are commanded to love their wives, as Christ loved the church. While on the one hand, submission is not an easy nor popular thing to do, genuine self-sacrificial love is just as difficult for a man to express for his wife. This is the same kind of love commanded in all three commandments above.

If love wasn’t a commandment, would we do it? Do you struggle with love? It is hard for us to know what Love is when we’ve never been exposed to it. Many people experience unconditional love from their parents, but many don’t. Without that experience, it’s hard to imagine a God who is Love. For without love, it impossible to know God. It’s impossible to understand His motivations. That God would willingly sacrifice His own Son so that the world could be set free from sin. What kind of love is that?

I challenge you today to explore this love. 1 John is an excellent commentary on the love of God. If love is challenging for you, make this a matter of first priority in your prayer life. Because everything we are commanded to do comes from this.

If you struggle with love, let me pray with you. God bless you today.

Comfort Care

www.bible.com/72/psa.94.19.hcsb

We have a status in our hospital which we call Comfort Care, which essentially means to keep a patient comfortable while they are in the dying process. I know, probably a little too morbid for a Friday morning. You are just starting your day. You need a bit more encourage than that, am I right? I mean, you are probably not reading this to feel worse, or ponder the meaning of life so deeply that you forget why you are living. Well, ok.

This thought occurred to me this morning because this verse is talking about the care that God shared with us when we are filled with cares and anxieties. I think there is a hopelessness and defeatism in this world that we struggle with as Christians. We have to make hard moral choices, especially in healthcare, that we may not agree with personally, but policy and protocol say different. We experience what I have heard termed, “Moral Injury”, and we suffer incongruity. One the one hand we believe one thing, but must do something else contrary to it in order to be employed or continue to be an influence. I cannot sit here and tell you what the answer is. As a Christian healthcare provider, you may refuse to perform abortions, and I hope you do, but you must provide your patients with all the information about pregnancy options, which includes abortion. As a Healthcare Chaplain, you may see someone in spiritual pain, but you are not allowed to advocate for a particular faith unless the patient asks the question. A Chaplain who has been called by his God to preach the gospel and tell others about Jesus is not allowed to evangelize. That’s a moral quandary. But I can sweeten my tongue with the Word, and be loving and kind and compassionate, and draw deeply from the Well that is deeper than me to help me love when I am exhausted.

I can’t tell you how to live or offer specific advice. Christians living in the world have to make tough decisions when it comes to morality. But nothing is worth your eternal soul. Remember that. Keep your eternal perspective ever before you. Don’t let the enemy wear you down and make you forget whose you are.

God bless you on a Friday!

It’s not all Puppies and Rainbows

www.bible.com/72/jas.1.12.hcsb

Sometimes it is trials and suffering. Sometimes it takes a longer perspective than what I am enduring in the moment. Long suffering isn’t just a circumstance, it is a life perspective. Why? Because this world is not our home. The minute we think it is, we’ve been deceived. Oh sure, it’s a nice place to visit. /’c we have many good memories here, but it isn’t home.

Had the conversation yesterday about suicide. Some people will tell you that they have a plan and a means to kill them selves. Those are the folks that need need immediate attention. But then there are the faithful believers who tell you that they don’t mind dying, and that they are ready to go. They are not suicidal, they are simply prepared to die. There is a difference.

As a Christian, you know there is a better place for us, and this world loses its appeal. We look forward to what lay ahead because He is waiting for us. That makes death an unwelcome but necessary transition. And we get that. And that becomes our perspective.

So when you encounter various trials, you don’t like it, but you know the testing of your faith, since you have been found worthy to be tested, will benefit you, and you will see the benefit once the trial is over. Even more, a crown, the sign of victory, waits for you at the finish line. We endure these temporary, light afflictions, light compared to the glory to come. For when we’ve been there a thousand years, the 80 odd years we suffered here will only be a memory.

I grieve with those whose only life here is suffering, and I pray that God will give them glimpses of joy. Help us to know Lord that all of this we endure is worth the price of victory. Help us extend our joy to others. Father this world is so dark, sometimes it is hard to see your purposes, the good that you’ve promised. Help me be light to someone today.

God bless you in your walk with the Lord today. May you shine brightly in this world as a beacon of hope. May others see Him in your eyes.

All I Want

www.bible.com/72/psa.27.4.hcsb

Around the Meritt House this week, we are in the process of celebrating two birthdays. We are still waiting on gifts to arrive from Amazon for the first and a decent day for family to be together for the second. Preparing for birthdays typically involve the question, “What do you want for your birthday?” In today’s verse, I think we have found the official Christian answer.

The Psalmist’s request is to live, delight, and meditate in the Lord’s Temple. The Temple in the Psalmist’s day was a massive edifice of stone and cedar line with gold. It represented the physical glory of the Lord with all the wealth Israel could muster at the time. But it contained the best of the best they could offer. It represented Heaven on earth. The Psalmist humbly prays that he could be included among its citizens. With all of life’s concerns and hardships, he wishes to simply be at the Temple, being in the presence of God.

What is your chief desire? I wouldn’t mind being on a beach somewhere spending quality time with the Mrs. or spending time in a great museum being amazed at history. But the one thing that we can all do regardless of where we are is to spend time with the Lord, and isn’t that the one thing we long to do? Don’t we long to meditate on Him, spend time with Him, just be be in His comforting and protective presence, where nothing can harm us,, nothing can steal our joy?

We may not agree on what we want, but we all need this. I would encourage today to seek that moment of joy in His presence.