GRACE THAT REACHES MORE AND MORE
I’d like to use this space, this month, to share a ministry update, by means of a story.
Pastor Doug Opp initiated a chaplaincy ministry within the Audubon Fire Department. The Lord has continued to bless this ministry with expanding fruitfulness. What follows is a story I hope blesses your soul, “so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15).”
On the morning of September 28th the call rang out for a house on Walnut street engulfed in fire. We members on the fire department responded quickly. It took several hours to get the blaze completely put down. Meanwhile some elderly neighbors were feeling guilty, thinking they themselves did not respond and call in quickly enough to prevent such devastation. As things were coming under control and members were taking a recovery break, a few stopped over to encourage those concerned neighbors. The fire chief did the same as well. Since they were still quite upset he explained to this couple how the department had a chaplain on the team who was also a regular member of the department, presently on the back of the house helping put down the fire, but he would soon send to them the department’s chaplain.
Later, as I was inside the home, helping with some of the final checks for hot spots, the Chief gave me a heads-up. With an impish, shoulder shrugging chuckle he said, “I kind of put you on the spot. As I was encouraging those neighbors I told them how at the end of a major event like this, you bring all the members together to pray, and I told them I’d ask you to include them in the prayers. And, that I’d send you over to say hello and encourage them.” It was a great joy to visit and encourage these wonderful and helpful neighbors. It was equally joyful to hear our fire Chief express great confidence in God’s power and grace to bring comfort to distressed individuals.
Fast forward: the house is a blackened mess but no longer smoldering, the hoses and tools have been picked up and stowed away, and the onlooking neighbors, including that elderly couple witnessed an encouraging sight that must have caused “thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” Here is what they saw: In the middle of the street in front of the burned home (and for the whole neighborhood to see) the members of the Audubon Fire Department heeded the call of the chaplain, encircled him, bowed their heads, and gave a hearty AMEN at the conclusion of their kneeling, arms raised, praying chaplain.
I share this story “for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15)
Thank you for all your support and encouragement and partnership in God’s grace as it reaches more and more people.
A PRAYER FOR SUMMER.
Almighty Father, our glorious creator!!
Your wonders of creation bless us with joy and fill us with thanksgiving.
Thank you for lakes and ponds, streams, creeks and rivers. Thank you for creatures of the water; snakes, turtles, fish, otters, birds and many more besides. Thank you for boats and rafts and swimming places. Praise you Father for sending your son, King of all creation, our Lord and Savior Jesus. He knows of lakes and boats and rivers and of baptisms and fishing for men and for fish. Thank you Lord for roads and travel, for going and exploring new places. Thank you Lord for relatives and friends who visit and are visited. Thank you for coming into your creation and exploring it on roads and through travel, for showing us how to meet new people and make friends on our travels.
Thank you Father, for vegetables and flowers, for prairie plants and for animals and crops that grow. Thank you for the joy of sharing in your work of creation, tending to growing things. Thank you for weeds and the lessons they teach us about diligence and rooting out what doesn’t belong. Thank you for how they give us reason to work hard at making things beautiful. Thank you for long days and warm evenings and walks and sunsets. Thank you for the joy of summer and all it’s wonder and beauty, fun, frivolity and good work. Thank you for giving us such a beautiful creation to enjoy and tend to and to work at making orderly and beautiful. You are a great, glorious and good God. The wonders of creation proclaim your praise. Amen.
Peace to you,
A DINNER FOR JESUS; READ John 12:1-11
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Jesus (Luke 12:15)
We see two notable items at the end of this account. 1. large numbers of people were coming (presumably from Jerusalem) to see the man who was dead but was now alive again – Lazarus, and to see the one who brought him back from the tomb – Jesus. 2. the plot to murder Jesus now included offing Lazarus as well.
Now, Jesus warns us to be on guard, to be on the lookout for the temptation of greed, for temptations of any kind. Perhaps, if we imagine a story within the story, we can see how easy it is for temptations to sneak their way past our defenses. The Setting: There are many people already going over to Bethany to snoop around the miracle worker and his latest miracle product. The Chief Priests recognize an opportunity to send a spy. Imagine you are recruited by an assistant to the chief priests to spy on Jesus of Nazareth. They are looking for a way, a time when the crowds are not around, to capture Jesus. You will bring them information to help in this project.
The wall around Martha, Mary and Lazarus’ house is low. The shuttered doors and windows open wide, allowing for air flow. Standing along that wall among numerous others it is easy to both see and hear much of what is going on in the great room especially as it opens to a grand mosaicked patio where guests move with ease in and out of the house proper. This is your story:
I am curious for my own sake as I stand here spying on Jesus. I feel cheap. Because I am. I took this offer from the chief priest’s assistant for two reasons – I was curious about this Lazarus and I needed the money. It’s that simple – and I sense I’m lying to myself. At first there is not much to see. There is nothing remarkable about Lazarus – except for his finances. This is quite a house, quite a party, AND some very potent and expensive perfume that lady just poured onto Jesus’ feet. The fragrance makes it all the way here to the street. I hear Jesus give that protesting man a sharp, stern rebuke. I hear Jesus expound. His comments about his burial sound fatalistic. My task masters will certainly be interested in learning that Jesus is fully aware of their plots to end his life. They’ll be greatly encouraged to learn Jesus seems fully aware that the net is closing in on him and his days are numbered. Maybe a bonus in it for me for that little tidbit. I see the weak link making a show of protesting the waste. That is some EXPENSIVE perfume. The whole bottle, wow! I’ll suggest hiring me for another task – recruiting the greedy one. Even I could tell his words were pretense. He is not a convincing actor. He was obviously more interested in the money than the poor. Maybe it just takes one to know one. Anyway, I am keenly aware of his embarrassment from that sharp rebuke, “LEAVE HER ALONE, you’ll always have the poor.” Much less money for the poor now, huh, Judas? And much less for you also, huh, Judas? This will be easy. I know how to leverage that embarrassment. The chief priests will gladly offer money to one who will put Jesus in their hands. I’ll suggest to the greedy one, Judas, he make a show of contributing to the poor – from funds supplied by an “anonymous” donor. I’ll suggest there is nothing wrong with using some of the funds for himself. In fact, the “anonymous” donor would have it this way if only he will lead the chief priests to a time and place to capture Jesus. They just want to question him, I’ll say. If it gets too unpleasant, I’m sure your master could use his supernatural power and just walk right out from the midst of them, I’ll say. It’s a win, win, win, Judas, I’ll say. A little for you, a little for the poor, a little for the spy. And the icing on the cake, Judas, you will look like a good guy following up your comments about the poor with some REAL action, I’ll say. Oh, he’ll go for it alright, and so will my handlers. Everybody wins.
I hope you can see from this little exercise how powerfully sneaky and twisted and simple it is for temptations to come our way and exploit our weaknesses. PRAYER – Lord Jesus, please protect me. Help me know where my vulnerability lies and help me guard against temptation from that area. Help me to “watch out!” and, “be on [my] guard.” AMEN
Off to the races: Summertime in Western Iowa
Figure 8 races are part of the Audubon culture. The races are new to me, and lots of fun! Local racers have their loyal fan base. Like Sunday morning the fans seem to always sit in their favorite “pew.” I go to the races as a new fan and a student of the culture. I think about the drivers in the race. They all want to win. I can’t imagine racing one of those cars without an in-the-gut-passion for winning. A racer’s goal may be to come in first, or to improve during the season, gaining experience to win next year, or “don’t come in last this time”. The precise goal of each racer doesn’t matter. The general goal, the drive to drive faster, and better, and to win, is all the same.
When God speaks to us in and through the Bible, He uses everyday things we experience to teach us spiritual truth and spiritual realities and spiritual goals. In the following example I replaced the ancient Greek Games culture (foot races) with Audubon culture (Figure 8 races). 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that in a race all the [drivers drive] but only one gets the [trophy]? [Drive] in such a way as to get the [trophy].” At a recent race, I was talking to a fellow spectator who is a former Figure 8 race car driver. He was going on and on about that singular focus a driver has. Everything disappears except for the racetrack and that passion, that drive, that goal to stand next to the car in trophy lane, holding up the trophy and getting a picture taken. His passion for the thrill of the race and the striving for victory was infectious.
Imagine standing in Heaven’s trophy lane at the conclusion of your life’s racecourse. Picture yourself there for the photo op with Jesus at your side holding your hand high in the air – a victory salute. “Well done good and faithful servant,” Jesus yells to be heard over the cheers of angels and saints. With this image in mind, competitively and aggressively about your participation in God’s Kingdom. He wants to ignite in you a burning passion for making disciples, for making a difference, for victory and accomplishments in his name. “[Drive] in such a way as to get the [trophy],” means: Chase after knowing Jesus. Chase after learning to obey his commands. Chase after making spiritual progress. Chase after a growing experience of God in your daily life. Chase after living in the way of Jesus on purpose, effectively and productively. Chase after accomplishments in his name, making a difference in the lives of others. Chase after making disciples.
Do you have a friend or relative out ahead of you doing life in the ways above? Chase after that one as if you were in a race, observing technique, following the line, and when it looks like you are gaining, try to pass, try to excel. In this way, “spur one another on to love and good works” Hebrews 10:24. I have not seen participation awards at the Figure 8 races. So, when it comes to following Jesus, don’t be content with a mere participation award. Drive, race, believe, serve, follow in such a way as to get the trophy!
“He wanted to see who Jesus was….but could not, because of the crowd.” – Luke 19:3
You might recognize this quote above. It describes a man named Zacchaeus. He had sold out his own people. He had pursued money at the expense of his neighbors. He excelled in extortion, collecting taxes for the Romans from his own Jewish people. By the time we meet him in Luke’s Gospel, he has been promoted to chief tax collector.
What would it have been like to be part of that crowd, watching the scene unfold? Zacchaeus wants to see who Jesus is, but he is short. He can’t see over our heads. None of us have any interest in letting him near the front so he can see. We are unconcerned with Zacchaeus in all ways. He knows he is unwanted, and it is perfectly fine with us he knows it. Yet, looking back on it now, I wonder what it was like for him. Have you experienced being unwanted? Certainly, there is no shortage of unwanted people in this world. I wonder, in what ways do I contribute to others feeling unwanted, unimportant?
The crowd is surprised that Jesus wants to spend time with Zacchaeus. He is surprised. You and I would have been no different. What? – Jesus, a guest of that guy – the man running the extortionist, protection racket for the Mafia? But if Jesus had picked any random on-looker from the crowd wouldn’t we have been equally surprised? It is a huge crowd after all. Why him? Why her? For that matter, Why not me? But that begs an important and revealing question. Would I have been surprised if Jesus singled me out and invited himself to my home? Here is the point: If I am surprised to be wanted by Jesus, and if Zacchaeus is surprised to be wanted by Jesus, then there isn’t any reason to distance myself from Zacchaeus – in attitude or action.
It is fascinating and humbling for any of us to be wanted by Jesus. May the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwell in us deeply so that those who are unwanted find themselves surprisingly wanted – by you, by me, by Jesus.
Peace – Pastor Dan
Why is change so difficult? I can think of a few reasons. I am sure many of you reading this have great answers to that question. If several of us put our heads together we could probably come up with a comprehensive list. I won’t pretend to have mastered psychology and list a bunch of reasons people find change so difficult. In fact, I’m not generally concerned about the reasons. It is enough to know that change is difficult for most people, some more, some less. This fact is cause for compassion and patience.
By the words, “compassion and patience,” I do not mean avoiding change, or insulating from change. I do mean intentional effort to help others and ourselves process change. One way we can help one another process change is by remembering this: change, in and of itself is not a bad thing. It can be good, and change is promised and even commanded in the Bible.
God tells us in the Bible- when Jesus returns to establish the fullness of his kingdom, things are going to change. Wrongs will be made right. Creation will be liberated from the present corruption and “we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15:52).”
Jesus speaks with all authority on earth and in heaven when he says, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).” God changes hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. God changes prideful people into humble people. God changes self-centered people into caring and generous people. As swiftly as Jesus changed water into wine he changes hopeless into hopeful, faithless into faith-filled. God even uses change to change us. If you ask him to show the way(s) you need to change and become like a little child, he will show you. He will also work those changes in you, for your good, because he loves you and delights in you.
Peace, Pastor Dan.
Why You Should Cook Up Some New Friendships
I’m not much of a cook. I’ll try from time to time, but I don’t like it much. Mainly because I don’t think I’m very good at it. I tend to make a mess. It usually doesn’t turn out to be very tasty. And I’m slow. The slow part is what really gets me. It just seems to take me soooo loooong. I think many of us feel similarly about making the effort to build new friendships. We’ll try from time to time, but we don’t like it much. Mainly because we think we’re not very good at it. It often feels as though our efforts don’t produce much more than a mess. The outcome usually turns out to be less than what we’d hoped. And progress is slow. It just seems to take a long time. So, why make the effort at all?
Because – friendship is an important tool in God’s Kingdom. It’s an essential ingredient. Think of it like this- Jesus promised to build his church (Matthew 16). You know – Jesus’ first vocation was in construction. He worked with stone, he worked with wood. He built structures. I sure would like to have been employed by Jesus, working alongside him on job sites. I’d love to see his tool collection and learn from him, the designer and creator of the universe, how to build. We still can, you know – work alongside him and learn to build. Jesus is still in-to construction. He talks about building his church. He talks about making disciples. He says, “If you love me you will obey my instructions (John 14).” Friendship is an essential Kingdom ingredient. Friendship is an important tool. Friendship is the tool for building his church, for making disciples. Friendship is the tool for getting the truth of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, and resurrection across to people. And with this truth, the Holy Spirit builds forgiveness, life, and salvation into a soul.
Making the effort at new friendships can be messy and take longer than we like. Perhaps we’ve just been missing an ingredient in our friendship making recipe – Jesus. If the Master (builder) Chef is guiding and blessing our effort to cook up some friendship, if the goal of our effort is serving Jesus, then something fabulous will result. For example, after not hearing from a new friend for many months even after repeated attempts on my end, I recently got the following text message. “I need to apologize for how I handled things. Please forgive me…..I would love to meet and give you a hug.” I got a great-big bear hug later that day, and we also enjoyed a long conversation, picking up right where we left off. Jesus is building his church.
Hey, even in the kitchen I sometimes do alright. When I ask, “how did it turn out?” my wife says, “hmm, ahh, well…… it’s pretty good.” I wonder how it might turn out next time if I asked Jesus to bless my effort to cook something up? You do the same and let me know how it goes as you cook up a new friendship.
PEACE – Pastor Dan
Do you ever feel like you want to learn the Bible better but don’t know where to start? Or do you feel a sort of intimidation about the idea of joining a Bible study, thinking, “others will know so much more than me?” Do you ever feel a need to have solid Christian friends? Do you ever have a nagging feeling that your faith is not as strong as it should be? Do you have questions and even doubts? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then participating in a small group is the answer for you.
Small groups are a great place to bring your questions. There are two Bible Exploration Small Groups getting started at OSLC. I am very interested in helping more of these get started. I have the perfect resource designed for people who are new to exploring the Bible in a small group, and the format is based entirely on questions. And the questions have built in, multiple choice, answers, which often lead to great discussion and learning.
One of the groups is meeting in a home of an older couple and is comprised of young couples who are new to the Bible and authentic Christian faith. Let me know if you’d like to be a part of this group. The other group is a ladies group, primarily middle-aged women. Let me know if you’d like to join this group or have any questions at all.
As I interact with people lately a couple of themes keep surfacing. One theme is relationship difficulties. Some are difficulties in extended family relationships others are marital difficulties. It would be great if we had a small group specifically for those struggling with relationship difficulties. Please, let me know if you’d be willing to try. With God in the midst, a small group like this is just the thing that will bring hope, provide tools, and bring healing.
The other theme is isolation. Obviously the cure for this is being with others. Exploring the Bible with others is obviously going to overcome feelings of isolation. But you must be willing to give it a try. Let me know if you are willing. I can help you get started.
I remember one small group I was a part of. Ten adult Christian friends and a large number of kids got together in a home for a Thanksgiving meal. It was such a magnificent feast, with everyone contributing something. During the meal, with homemade bread already on the table and glasses full of wine, we paused and celebrated the Lord’s Supper, the Great Thanksgiving. It remains to this day, one of the most meaningful and memorable communion experiences I’ve had. I’d love for you to get to know the joy and wonder of growing in Christian faith and love with others in a small group.
PRAYER -Thursday, December 16, 2021.
Yesterday was a strange weather day. We had 70 degrees and strong winds. Then we had a crazy rainstorm (it rained mud) with super gusts of wind, power outages, and tornados nearby. 29 people attended worship last night. I was surprised at that many. During our time of prayer, I was led by the Holy Spirit to pray for the families in our neighborhoods who are suffering from storms on the inside of the house not just the outside. These storms manifest as various depths of conflict, disharmony, hostility, violence, substance abuse, addictions – all sorts of dysfunction. God wants to bless homes with joy, love, peace, purpose, and faith in Jesus – and he wants those of us who are BLESSED in this way already to come alongside these storm-ridden homes and be used by God to lift them out of the dominion of darkness and into the Kingdom of Jesus.
Now, here is the punchline: That is how I prayed last night. Just this afternoon I came back to the church building after lunch. Leaning up against their car, right outside the church office doorway was a young couple taking a break from an intense meeting. They were having a “team meeting” (regarding their children) with social workers and lawyers. We became acquainted. I learned their names and a bit of their story. I was able to point them to a resource that would solve a practical problem they are experiencing. And, I was able to bless them with a crisp $100 bill thanks to a secret Santa-member of OSLC who supplies me with a stack of them this time of year for just such purposes. And, the three of us made a plan to see each other again. There it is, step one in last night’s prayer becoming reality.
Such is the power of prayer. I don’t mean my prayers. I mean anyone who prays in the character of, in the way of, in the name of Jesus. Dear ones, join me in praying for families in our neighborhoods who are suffering storms on the inside of their house. Then watch for how the Holy Spirit will order your steps to meet and interact with people in a way that makes you part of the answer to those prayers. “And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” – Jesus (John 14:13).
Elsewhere in this newsletter, you will read about, “LCMC – Three Days of Prayer.” Plan a time to pray in the ways suggested and in the way I have just encouraged. Jot it down on your calendar – a specific time. You’ll be more likely to do it if you write it down in your calendar. Even consider coming to the church building and sitting in the sanctuary during these Three Days of Prayer. The doors are open.
Peace – Pastor Dan
Happy New Year!!!!!
No, I’m not confused. We have arrived once again at the season of Advent. The season of Advent is for us Christians, the first month of the Christian year. It is very similar to the Israelites. God delivered them from bondage in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Regarding this Passover Exodus experience, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, this month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year (Exodus 12:1-2).” Christians mark time differently from the world.
We Christians live in the world, but we are called by God to live distinct and different from the world. Here is one such Biblical admonition from the Apostle Peter. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires that war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:11-12).” Here is another from the Apostle Paul. “Do everything without complaining or arguing; so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…(Philippians 2:14-15).” These exhortations will serve us well in the busy Advent season.
This Advent, like every Advent, we focus on the coming of the Messiah. As we prepare to celebrate the Messiah’s birth, his first advent(coming/arrival), I want you to realize something. The season of Advent gives us a long-range view of our Lord. Think of Advent’s Christmas preparations as if you were looking through a telescope. You can see Christmas in the forefront of your view, but the focus is in the distance. The distance is his second coming. During this Advent, look through Christmas to Jesus second coming as King and Judge and re-Creator. You will be blessed.
ONE PERSON, PART 2
Jesus calls his followers to make disciples. All of us who confess the faith outlined in the Apostles Creed are called by Jesus to make disciples. And Jesus promises that he will be with us always. The Holy Spirit of Jesus is with us and in us, empowering, enabling and creating opportunities for us to partner with him in his mission of making disciples. The most common way for God’s people to participate in this mission of making disciples is through relationships, through friendships, “one person at a time.”
Last month I wrote about the importance of taking time with people, one person at a time. I wrote about a friend (Mike) here in town who died suddenly. What I didn’t tell you is – he called me, “Pastor.” He is not a member of OSLC, yet he called me pastor. (This is not an uncommon occurrence.) Even though he was interested in coming to worship at OSLC, he struggled to make his way back into the halls of a church. This struggle was mainly fueled by a wrong conclusion he held. His wrong perspective was – thinking/feeling he needed to get himself cleaned up a bit more before coming. Nevertheless, he perceived me as his pastor. This was a correct conclusion he held. He was a disciple in the making. He is now, a disciple perfected.
My dear partners in the gospel, please continue your “one person at a time” endeavors. Take time for people. Take time to befriend those who need the saving power of Jesus in their lives. Your friendship is the bridge on which the gospel travels. Don’t worry if you don’t know how this disciple making business works. Don’t worry if you are unsure how your friendships can “make disciples.” You can lean on me. That’s what I’m here for. I will encourage, coach, equip, pray for, and help you in your disciple BEING and your disciple MAKING efforts. Let’s get together and see where God takes us.
I’ve lived in Audubon for a year and four months now. One thing that struck me from the very beginning and still impresses me is this: People take time for one another. People will stop what they are doing and visit when running in to one another.
I’m learning these days the importance of taking time for one person. This is the way of Jesus. Jesus taught the masses. But He also took time to give an individual his undivided attention. In Mark 10, we learn of a blind man calling out for His attention. Others tried to shush him. But Jesus made his way through the crowd and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” And in Luke 15, we learn that even the angels rejoice, not just over masses of people, but over one person.
Are you taking time for people, one person at a time? It could be the last time you see him or her. That happened to me last week; maybe you as well. I made a friend in town. I saw him last week, crossing the street towards his house. I stopped my motorcycle turned off the engine. We chatted for a bit. “I’ve got something for you,” he said. “Give me thirty seconds, I’ll be right back.” He came back with a big hard cover book in hand, smiling. “Here is that Steven King book we were talking about the other day.” “Thank you,” I said. “I’ll get it back to you when I’m done.” But I won’t be getting it back to him. He died suddenly after that encounter.
Take time for people. It very well could have eternal consequences.
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” – Jesus.
Bringing the Father Glory; What does it mean to glorify someone, to bring someone glory? It means – to cause someone to have glorious greatness in the eyes of another. When a producer makes a movie about a superhero, the intention is typically to cause the superhero to have glorious greatness in the eyes of the viewers/fans. I remember going to see one of the “Rocky” movies in the theater with my cousins. We were so pumped up. On our way out of the movie we were whooping and hollering and punching and pushing and jumping onto each other. Rocky had achieved glorious greatness in our eyes. We were electrified with energy, elation and enthusiasm. The producer and director and actors all succeeded. They brought Rocky Balboa glory.
In the above quotation, Jesus claims to have accomplished for The Father, the same thing the producer of the “Rocky” movie did for Rocky Balboa. Just a few sentences later Jesus claims that his disciples did the same thing for him. They caused Jesus to have glorious greatness in the eyes of others. How did they do that? They brought Jesus glory by following him. By their words and actions, they demonstrated a singular, primary, life ambition – to be an ardent student, an obedient servant, and devoted follower of Jesus. People took note of them. More importantly, they took note of Jesus. “Who is this Jesus?” they asked. “What kind of person must he be to warrant this sort of allegiance from those guys?”
Jesus prayed for you who believe in him, that you also would bring him glory. And his desire is to live in you in such a way that he brings glory to himself through you. How can you bring him glory? Pray to the Holy Spirit, to work in you, causing you to become an ardent student, an obedient servant, a devoted follower of Jesus. People will take note. More importantly they will take note of this Jesus you follow.
In this article I placed four phrases in italics. They are either direct quotations or paraphrases of the things Jesus was saying. Read John 17 and see if you can identify these four.
PEACE, Pastor Dan
“Wanting to justify himself he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor’?” – LUKE 10:29
A friend of mine is taking good care of his aging and slowly declining father. My friend’s mom died about six years ago. Part of his caretaking strategy has been to move in with his dad. It is often apparent that this has been a wise, useful, and necessary strategy. However, it is not always smooth or easy. There are times when they butt heads. Occasionally, my friend’s work requires him to travel. This provides a needed release valve for them both. But my friend carries with him the stress and guilt of wondering what dilemmas may arise while he is gone.
Dad has enough resources to hire some at-home help, or even for assisted living or nursing home care. My friend could certainly focus more ardently upon his own career if he encouraged Dad in this direction. However, his moral compass keeps him pointed in the same direction he is already going. Even if he were inclined to pressure Dad towards these alternatives, I do not believe he would win that argument.
When things are difficult I remind him, “you will never go wrong making Dad a priority.” By way of a terse warning, the Bible tells us this fact rather plainly: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1Timothy 5:8).”
Choices and decisions are presented to us daily. Prioritizing is always necessary. When you are given a choice between your list or a person, remember my friend. Intentionally make people a priority. You will never go wrong making people a priority. If you do this, God is faithful and trustworthy. He will make clear what items on your list are truly necessary and provide every resource needed to accomplish what truly needs doing. “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).” And by the way, my friend’s career…..he is thrilled with all the doors of opportunity God is opening right in front of him, right where he is.
The Body-Soul Connection
Martha’s brother had been dead and in the tomb four days. When Jesus arrived, there was much commotion. When the emotional dust and conversation cleared Jesus said, “take me to him….roll the stone away (despite objections regarding the foul odor spilling from the unsealed tomb) ….Lazarus come out…..unbind him from the burial cloths.” It was an exceedingly amazing day for everyone. Many people, then and since, have wondered where did his soul go while his body was in the tomb? What did he experience? These questions seek to explore and understand the mystery of the body-soul connection. We know the body-soul connection is severed upon death (to the criminal crucified next to him: “today you will be with me in paradise” -Jesus). But just exactly how the body-soul connection works while we are alive, remains mysterious. We do know the body-soul connection is unified. What effects the one, likewise the other, but not always in the same way. A Christian persecuted physically can experience a diminishing strength of body, yet simultaneously experience strength and clarity of soul. At other times, a bitterness of soul can accelerate and exacerbate diminishing physical health.
If Jesus explained what happened with Lazarus’ soul those four days, we do not have a record of it. There is no clarity on that front regarding the body-soul inner workings. But we can learn about this great mystery. We can learn through observation, personal experience, and the Holy Scriptures. Later this year we will examine this more closely in a series of messages. We’ll uncover what God reveals in his Word regarding the body and soul during life and after death. In the meantime, an observation: Last week, my wife and I led a Vespers worship time at the Friendship Home. Earlier I had a delightful conversation with several residents asking about where they ate dinner, with whom, what time – small talk. Initially, I directed these questions at a particular resident. She smiled contentedly and was completely unphased answering, “I don’t know,” to all three questions. Then, during worship, I asked the attendees for prayer requests. This same resident said I should pray for God to, “sort everything out.” I asked for clarification. She said I should pray for Jesus to return soon and sort out the mess of this world. What great fascination! On the one hand, her physical, (bodily) cognitive functioning is diminished. On the other hand, her soulish, cognitive functioning is crystal clear. Here is clear evidence Jesus statement, “I am the resurrection and the life. he who believes in me will live, even though he dies;” is absolute truth. What a profound and exciting mystery!