This past Friday was Independence Day in Madagascar. June 26, 1960 Madagascar officially became independent from France, althought practical independence would not come for another 15 years or so. Ten years ago while living in Chicago we had the opportunity to host about 50 Malagasy people from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota in a huge celebration.
This coming weekend is Independence day in America. For a couple centuries we have celebrated the freedom we have enjoyed, and even in these days when our freedom is under attack, often from our own elected servant leaders, we still have a level of freedom that is desired in much of the world.
Beyond that, however, we as Christians have a freedom that God beyond anything this world can ever understand. Paul while writing to the church at Galatia said:
It is for freedom that Christ came.
As we prepare to celebrate this weekend let us remember that we celebrate the greatest freedom of all, the freedom of an eternal life of joy in Jesus Christ.
The new year is upon us and well underway already. I cannot believe the first week is gone already. I'll have to be honest, however, for the first time, maybe ever, I really did not enjoy the Christmas season this year. Now there were great elements to the season, family, an incredible church, but there were also so many things missing and things that just weighed on my heart.
For the first time I had real insight into people who just fight their way through depression and the holidays. In life we all find ourselves at different stages and different times. For many we just need our burdens lifted, and new hope and new purpose.
This week we come to the second week of the series I have entitled MARKed. We are looking at the life of Christ as told in the Gospel according to Mark, and we are going to look at the balance of the first chapter this week. This chapter is Mark's description of the beginning of Jesus ministry, and there are four stories in this chapter where we see people healed.
In life we struggle, and we learn to adapt and to overcome, but often our pain lingers. In these stories, when these people encounter Jesus, they are completely healed and restored. There are no lingering effects, just joy. Someday we are promised that He will wipe every tear from our eyes and that we will be healed. I look forward to that day.
We are currently examining the four words that represent our core values here at Open Door Fellowship. Those words at Believing, Learn, Serve and Love. We have defined our mission as "learning, Serving, Loving, so that people may come to know Jesus. "
This past Sunday we looked at the concepts of Believing and Learning, and the scripture in Matthew where Jesus said "Take my yoke upon me and LEARN from me." So many times when people speak on this passage they focus on the part about the yoke, and miss the word LEARN, and yet that word is a key part of the passage.
It is important to notice here that Jesus did not say "learn about me", "learn of me", rather he said learn FROM me. What a key concept, we are commanded to learn from Jesus if we decide to follow Him.
There are many things we can learn from Jesus, but I think one of the most important is the concept of serving (one of our core values). In Philippians Chapter 2 Paul tells us that although Jesus was in very nature God he took on the form of a servant and humbled himself, even unto the point of death.
We must learn from Jesus how to be servants to this world. As we approach the Holidays of Thanksgiving an then Christmas, is it not the perfect time to serve as Jesus served? Isn't this the time for us as Christians to show what we have learned?
Today I went into Chick Fil A for the first time in 2019. Mainly I haven't gone this year because they no longer have the Cow Calendar and free stuff every month. I live on the cheap side! Even today I just went in to use up all the points off of my App and get free stuff. Beyond that I haven't had any motivation to go to a place I used to visit 3 to 4 times a week the previous seven years.
I took a few weeks off from writing the devotional thought as some of you have noticed. Sometimes we just need to step back and take breaks from things and refresh ourselves. These moments are part of life. It is why we have vacations and days off and the like. Yet, our work is never really finished, and sooner or later we have to resume what we are called to do.
In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul is writing to the church and he says, "Now finish the work so that the eager willingness with which you began it will lead to the completion of it according to your means."
As Christians, until the day Jesus returns, our work is never really done. We are to take the means at our disposal and finish what Christ has commanded us to do. For us here at Open Door Fellowship, this word from Paul reminds us that we still have much to do that lies in front of us. Over the next few weeks we will be discussing our Vision 2020 plan for the future of our church, but it is not just a vision about our church, it is a vision that embodies the continuing of Christ mission here on earth.
My prayer today for all of us is that we will take whatever God has given us and continue to press on to do the work of God's kingdom untili the day Jesus returns
I still remember it like it was yesterday and still tell the story from time to time when I am speaking somewhere.
Years ago there was a Bible study that came out under the title, "The Search for Significance." As human beings the questions often arise in our lives. If there is really a God in this great big expanse of a universe where I am just a tiny speck among billions, why would that God even notice me. Theories (and I do mean theories) have reduced human kind to everything from off shoots of apes, to a series of impulses, to, well, to nothing of significance.
This life that we have is short. Very short. In fact in the next presidential election cycle there will be a whole bunch of new eligible voters who weren't even born when the events of 9/11 happened. It all goes by in a blink of an eye. And if it all goes by so quick, what significance, if any, do I have.
The Psalmist addressees that question in Psalm 8. We find out that in God's creation human kind is the single most important creation. Last wee in Psalm 100 we were reminded that we are created by God, and that we are not capable of creating ourselves. This week we are reminded that not only are we created by God, we are given lives that have purpose and meaning. The Psalmist even tells us that because of who we are God crowns us with glory and honor.
Sometimes it is just good to be reminded that we are important in the site of God.
I always wanted to be a song writer. Growing up I was blessed with a couple of good friends who were quite musical, one could play the piano by ear like you couldn't believe, and the other one had the best voice I have ever heard in my life. I, on the other hand, could not sing or keep rhythm at all . But somewhere along the way I learned how to craft words.
I remember the first song that Jay and I crafted together on a church trip and then the one that Greg and I did together our junior year of high school. Music seems to speak to most of us in some way shape or form. One of my favorite memories is the song I wrote that was played at my wedding, with Greg on the piano and Jay doing the lyrics.
Now, years later, I am blessed with two children who are musically gifted in the ways I had only dreamed of. The things they can do amaze me. I could listen to them play and sing for days, and my house is filled with music all the time. The music isn't from my like I once hoped it would be, but it is a gift from God through my children.
Music speaks to us in the church still. Songs have been part of our worship for generations. In fact Psalm 100 tell us to make a joyful noise in the first verse and reminds us that God's truth endures to all generations in the last verse. May our hearts be filled with with God's song an God's music this week.
This past Sunday we wrapped the last of 10 stories from the Bible we have been doing in our series called STORY. In the story Jesus sits on the side of a hill to teach, and I commented that if sitting to tell stories is good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me, as I did most of the teaching in this series while seated.
When I was growing up Hee Haw was one of the more popular shows on television. I've seen a lot of reruns the last couple years, and one of my favorite sketches was also the one where Grandpa Jones would be pretending to wash the windows and a large chorus would ask, "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?"
He would then go then give a long rambling list with everything from cornbread, to black eyed peas, to peach cobbler, to whatever he could come up with, and the end the chorus would say, "Yum, yum."
We love our food. We all have certain things that we eat, that just make us feel good. We share meals with each other, because there is just something special about gathering around the table and sharing. In our society we are in such a hurry all the time we are grabbing our food and going, and we often miss the connection that comes from being with people and sharing with them.
I think Jesus understood this concept of sharing in a meal. I believe his motivation in John 6 wasn't just to feed hungry people, or to show a miracle to those who gathered. I think Jesus also understood that if feed the crowd that would mean that they would share in a meal, an experience, that would enhance community and engender conversation.
Jesus us wants us to do more than just eat and be filled. He wants us to share in a way that binds us together into his story.