Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus: “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And you may have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is” (Ephesians 3:16-18).
Of all the things that concern us, shouldn’t we seek the safest place there is? Shouldn’t we center our lives on that which offers us peace, confidence, and hope? What is the antidote for the poison that spreads its malevolent destruction all around us? Fear and violence seem to be default settings these days, whether we are talking about North Korea or Charlottesville.
We are not called to hide from the darkness; we are summoned tp bring light into a dark world. We start where we are – one relationship at a time, one situation, one decision, one attitude, one act. Infused by the power Paul sought for the believers in Ephesus, we draw upon the greatest force the world has ever known. Fueled by a growing awareness and experience of God’s love, we are transformed as ministers of reconciliation … as bearers of good news … as messengers of hope.
Does that sound trite to you? Have you read the Scripture lately? Jesus didn’t promise an easy road, but He did promise to be present every step. He called those who would follow Him to a radical commitment. He never suggested that discipleship was simple or convenient.
Until we take seriously our calling, we will never experience what Paul prayed for the Ephesians. Can we really be satisfied with a comfortable, convenient faith? How can we?
Let’s go deeper!
If you have ever had to use crutches you know they are both blessing and curse. Having had foot surgery a few weeks ago, I have been reintroduced to the fun of navigating through life with these sticks. I’m keeping score – only one face plant so far. Kim and I spent several days trying to rent, even buy, crutches. A friend came to the rescue. Another friend let me borrow a kneeler. Life is good. I’ve been challenged by one of our senior adults to a race in the church hallways. I’m in training now.
I’ve noticed that most often the word “crutches” has a negative connotation. Crutches symbolize weakness, a need you cannot meet without help. Unhealthy relationships, substance abuse, laziness, and stunted growth are just a few of the downside aspects of crutches.
When there is a physical reason for crutches, most people I know can’t get rid of them fast enough. Putting them down indicates a return to health and normal activity.
So how do we get rid of crutches? I love the stories about Jesus when He rid people of their crutches. Sometimes He healed them, but He would always urge them to take the first step, to throw away the crutch. Remember the guy who had been a paralytic for 38 years? It’s found in John 5. Jesus actually asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” Sounds like a silly question but some people cling to their crutches.
Jesus told the man to pick up the mat he had been lying on for so long and to start walking, He gave the man dignity and accountability. The guy could have just stayed on the mat, physically and mentally. He expected the man to take the first step.
In our world of so many broken people, we yearn to see people be healed in mind, body, and spirit. We have been called to help people get rid of their crutches, to encourage them to get off the mat and get back into life.
Perhaps you and I will get the opportunity this week. Let’s pray we’ll be ready.
Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever wished for a mulligan – a do-over? All of us have. We have known failure. We have suffered consequences for words we shouldn’t say or ideas we should have forgotten or deeds that have been hurtful.
The author of the first gospel could relate. A young man, full of promise and energy, was invited to join a mission team that included his uncle and the apostle Paul. Heady stuff. There is no record of speech in the book of Acts but his role may have been as scribe. Before Luke joined the team (Acts 16:10), young John Mark may have been responsible for writing down the details of their journey.
Then things went wrong. Perhaps he was just homesick. Perhaps he just wasn’t cut out for mission work like this. We are not told the exact reasons but the young man left the team and headed back to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).
He left a mess behind. His uncle and the apostle would ultimately sever their partnership over the disagreement (Acts 15:37-39). Our mistakes can have a profound impact on others. Too often the consequences can be lingering or even permanent.
The biblical account doesn’t fill in the details but it was obvious that John Mark got the chance to start over. Later in Paul’s writing, we meet Mark again. In Colossians, Philemon, and 2 Timothy, he is mentioned as being valued, even treasured.
Yes, we make mistakes. But do we have to let our mistakes define us? The best evidence we have that John Mark was restored you can hold in your hands and read with your eyes. Mark was the instrument through whom Peter speaks to us today. Much of Peter’s teaching and preaching, providing an eye-witness account of the life and mission of Christ, are found in the pages of Mark’s gospel.
We can overcome failure. We can learn from defeat. We can be shaped by the hard times of life to make us more fitting for what God wishes to do in and through us. Just ask John Mark.
From Homiletics Magazine: “In the late summer of 2012 the Mars rover named ‘Curiosity’ landed on the surface of the red planet. It took just seven minutes for the rover to enter the atmosphere and touch down successfully – less time that a ride on Splash Mountain at Disney World. While most of the world tuned in and took notice of this amazing feat, many overlooked the fact that it was a long time coming – a very long time in fact. NASA engineers spent roughly 8 ½ months waiting.”
Who likes to wait? You stand in line and notice that another line is moving faster. So what do you do? You move into the apparently faster line only to see the register close or a person with fists full of coupons slow everything down. You pray, “Lord, give me patience.” Then He gives you something to be patient about.
We just don’t like to wait. We want our food fast. We want faster Internet. We cannot stand to wait. In our instant society, we pay a price for our impatience. We let impatience affect our moods and our actions. Just get behind the guy driving 55 mph in the left lane on the highway and let me know how that feels. Wait a minute, I already know. I’m not proud of the times when I get worked up about somebody’s pace of life that doesn’t fit mine.
Perhaps we should consider the things worth waiting for:
- A marriage to grow deeper and stronger
- A child to mature into a person who contributes to family and community
- A walk with God that illuminates His love for us
- A God-given ability to blossom
- Brokenness to heal and forgiveness to be experienced
There are plenty of others. Today I was thinking about the father in Luke 15 who had to wait for the prodigal to come to his senses. Not all of our stories come out the way we want them to, but this one does. When the boy comes home, he finds a patient father who waited with a prayerful heart. When he arrives, he is engulfed by loving arms. Yes, he blew it, but now he gets a second chance, a new beginning.
Isn’t that the nature of God? We can find Him in the story. We can also find ourselves – either as the prodigal or the older brother. Jesus said we should treat others as we wish to be treated. That may require something that we don’t like to do – be patient.
Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri are given credit for coming up with the idea of a roadway linking Chicago and Los Angeles. Their dream sat idle until Congress approved a national program of highway development. In the summer of 1926, the projected road was officially designated as Route 66. Connecting urban and rural communities, the highway provided a significant way for a still young America to open the way west for people who had never left their small town to discover their vast country, for the trucking industry to get their cargoes across the nation, for the military to be able to more rapid mobilizations, and for people who were looking for a new start.
Finding ways to link people still matters. The wonders of social networking are products of this ever-expanding information age but Facebook will never replace face to face. We need to be linked, in good times and bad. We need each other’s presence. We need to close the distance between us, particularly in a day when our differences are being overemphasized.
We need community. We need to feel we belong to something bigger than ourselves. We need interaction to share our beliefs, opinions, and passions. We need human touch whether it’s a hug or a kiss, a slap on the back or a kick in the pants.
Speaking of kicks, Bobby Troup, former pianist for the Tommy Dorsey band, wrote a lyrical tribute to the famed highway and included the phrase “get your kicks on Route 66” – sung by Nat King Cole in 1946. John Steinbeck proclaimed Route 66 as the Mother Road in his 1939 classic, The Grapes of Wrath. In the 1960’s, a television series captured the nation, starring Martin Milner and George Maharis who drove their sporty Corvette down the famous road looking for adventure.
The route represents a basic need for humans – a need for adventure. But, just like the two guys in the sports car way back when, adventure is most often best experienced with people we care about. Thank you to friends and family for remembering me on my route 66.
The G20 summit is over. Leaders of the top twenty economies gathered in Hamburg, Germany to display the brightest minds in government, business, and banking. The wattage in the city had to exceed that of a 60-watt bulb.
As a reminder of how astute and articulate people in positions of power can be, I offer some of these classic lines:
- “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been.” President Gerald Ford
- “And what is more, I agree with everything I just said.” Piet Koornoff, South African ambassador
- “That’s part of American greatness, is discrimination. Yes, sir. Inequality, I think, breeds freedom and gives man opportunity.” Lester Maddox, former Georgia governor
- “Wherever I have gone in this country, I have found Americans.” Alf Landon, presidential candidate
- “My fellow astronauts …” Dan Quayle, Vice-President at Apollo 11 ceremony
- “That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jack-ass, and I’m just the one to do it.” Congressional candidate in Texas
- “This is a great day for France!” President Nixon at Charles De Gaulle’s funeral
- “If I never get to Mexico again, it wouldn’t bother me. I don’t like the food or the climate.” Dan Eddy, member of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission, charged with promoting Texas-Mexico good relations
- “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.” Dr. David Edwards, head of the National Committee on Language
Sometimes it would be better if we just keep our mouths closed. James had good advice: “You must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” After all the blustery rhetoric spewed by our leaders, it would be nice to leave all the spin behind. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. How would that change the headlines? Naïve? Simplistic? Of course. I can dream, though … and pray.
I wonder what Will Rogers would say about America today. He never held back. He poked fun at everybody. Politically correct? He would laugh at the very idea.
Born in 1879 to a Cherokee family in the Oklahoma Territory, he became a beloved figure in his country and around the world. He traveled the globe three times, made over 70 movies, and wrote more than 4000 nationally syndicated columns. At one time, he was the highest Hollywood movie star. He came a long way from the prairie. His homespun humor coated his biting wit with keen observations about everything from politicians to gangsters.
He even wrote his own ending: “When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”
He did die and the world mourned. While flying with aviator Wiley Post, he died in a plane crash in northern Alaska at 55 years of age.
We could use a Will Rogers today. Here are a few of his best lines:
- “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
- “Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.”
- “A fool and his money are soon elected.”
- “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
- “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
- “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
- “I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him ‘father.’”
We could use some of his common sense, don’t you think?