Sunday, July 26, 2020 @ 11:00 a.m.
Grace and peace to you through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen! You can trust in Him to bring you forth! Be confident in the Lord! Play it real safe! Be well!
…so very nice of you to join me in sharing the Lord’s trustworthy provision for today…
“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 11:28-30)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame,and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him, who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
Would you allow me to pray with you today?
Lord God, today we will continue our personal journey to persistently work on our faith concerns, that is, to truly love others without condition, and to accept ourselves as the person we are, even though — at first — it doesn’t always seem natural for us to do so. Forgive us, Lord, when we say, sometimes we need to “fake it before we make it”, that is, make it a real thing for us. We’re going to force ourselves to go through the motions. We’re going to work at loving others genuinely and accepting the persons we are, up until we have fulfilled our goal of being an apostle of love. Sustain us in that strategy for living — Lord, in a time of tragic pandemic and civil unrest, we are convinced we are on the right path to bring sustained justice and mercy into our world. Be with those who have contracted Covid-19 and those who have lost loved-ones to this virus. Protect all in our community and our nation and our world. Thank you, Jesus, for granting your wisdom to us. Amen.
Don’t give up! Keep up the daily struggle toward being a vessel of divine love in your home, community and world — but like James Joyce — go easy…don’t bump your head up against a stone wall…rather…let the side of your head rest upon your pillow…
“…let us not become weary in doing good…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up…therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers…” (Galatians 6:9-10)
It’s like physically going to the gym to keep in shape. Keep working at it. Keep practicing it. Often it doesn’t seem natural. Often it is uncomfortable. Many good people, even seasoned Christians become hardened by the journey. Don’t let it happen to you. Remain strong and confident in He who gives you strength and hope!
It literally takes years for heartfelt faith concerns to move from our mind to make their way into our heart and soul. We need to work (but ever so gently) to behave with diligence, effort and repeated practice to force out practices that created behaviors that brought us personal shame and self-hatred. We need to force ourselves to do things even when they don’t feel natural. We need to tell ourselves that we care about our attitudes toward others and also the negative attitude we have about ourselves. We need to tell ourselves we care about others and ourselves even when we don’t believe what we are saying. We need to work on it again, and again, and again…without being discouraged, or saying to our selves…that we’ll never make it.
It is unreasonable to expect the new way of life in Christ Jesus to sink in overnight. Yes…we may have to “act as if” for days, months, and years…until Christ-like behaviors become ingrained and natural. I keep thinking about treasured relationships with extended family members and also revered members of my home church in Wisconsin, thinking to myself…how am I ever going to become like one of these folks.
One of the reasons I am a Christian today is because of my pastor and the laypeople of my church family in town — who seemed to me so advanced in faith attitudes and actions. I have learned, it didn’t come naturally to them. With the assurance of the faith, they became the outstanding people they were.
Even after years, we may find ourselves in times of great need, in times of stress, in times of loss…or great misfortune…reverting back to old ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. We may have layers of feelings we just aren’t ready to acknowledge until years…indeed, decades…into our first coming into a life of faith in Christ. Now I’m not talking today about some fake show of religious piety here. I am talking about the genuine nature of true faith borne out like Saint Peter’s “fire of faith” making the believer like a gorgeous piece of pottery refined into a state of beauty and uniqueness. The journey is not easy. Often we fall short. Don’t give up. Your world needs you.
The Lord’s got a grip on us. He’s aware of what’s going on in our lives. So, don’t sweat it! It’s going to come around. In the Scriptures, Saint Paul suggests that we are becoming what we already are…what a concept! Chew on that powerful notion for a couple of minutes. In Jesus we are becoming what we already are.
In terms of the profound nature of your spiritual journey…Don’t give up! It takes a lot of time to get “Christ-centeredness” into the core of our being. Note! The victory is ours in advance. All our goals of being good to others, of accepting ourselves, of finding satisfaction in our lives, of being able to forgive and to be forgiven, of experiencing completeness in the Lord…all are guarantees in this life of faith. There is no failure in God. Nonetheless, keep practicing. Don’t give up when you temporarily fall short. It’s okay! Just keep working at it. But — Go gentle. Jesus says, one day at a time.
In our faith in Jesus, we are…what we are becoming…good, truly humble, supremely valued, strong, consistently genuine, reliable, trustworthy, efficient, and great to be with.Sometimes we lose track of the value of these characteristics. Keep working at it. Be gentle with yourself…the result will be that you are gentle with others. Through this process of gentleness and patience, you will be sanctified and also those you care for.
This is the “joy” component of true faith. We are fully human…the Lord knows us inside and out. Through the down-to-earth component of faith, we are able to accept ourselves and grow in true faith at a pace — that “includes us” — so that the guarantees of faith in Christ are guarantees for us, too…even though obviously we are “fully” human.
Then…just when we think we’ve arrived, we find we have more to learn. This is the joy of living our lives in the Lord Jesus. We look better to those around us, but we see a need for improvement in ourselves, but nonetheless, we are confident and we know we are loved, just as we are. I never thought the pastor of my youth who I looked up to with all my heart…saw himself as one who needed personal improvement. I’m sure now my boyhood pastor continued to keep becoming a good example to others.
Keep on…no matter what! Keep on plugging away at those unacceptable behaviors, one day at a time. “…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all things will be given to you as well…therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…Each day has enough trouble of its own…” (Jesus of Nazareth – Matthew 6:33-34)
Take things one day at a time. Accept the premise that you will be successful. Keep on loving God, loving others, and loving yourself and your efforts, even when it doesn’t seem natural, or productive. Keep on…no matter what!
One day, it will happen. You will wake up and find that what you’ve been struggling with and working so hard at, and forcing yourself to do, finally fits and feels comfortable. Your soul will have been refined by trusting in the Lord…and you will have participated in faith.
Then, you go on to learn something new, and exciting, and better. There is no failure with God. The Lord is worthy of our trust. The Word of the Lord is sufficient to cover all of our needs. It’s time for all of us to let go, and to let God create something of beauty.
I’d like to close with an anonymous written piece called “The High Calling” —
“If God has called you to be really like Jesus in all of your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put on you such demands of obedience, that He will not allow you to follow other Christians, and in many ways, He will seem to let other good people do things He will not let you do…The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hid in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade…Now when you are possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit in your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven.”
May the good Lord bless you in these trying times. May you be encouraged to know that you are loved with an everlasting, gracious, and powerful love in Christ Jesus! May you live out these days in great confidence to know that victory is yours in the Lord! Amen!Have a great Sunday! Make it a joyous celebration! Peace, joy, and love are yours!
(The Rev. Thomas Nibbe is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Pacifica.)