Hello again Faithful Reader! If the old saying is true that times flies when you are having fun, then I must be having a blast!
It has been a month already since I began the next part of my journey at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. I am serving on staff there as Vicar (a fancy word for saying intern!)
I wrote the following for the October newsletter they put out. I hope it serves as an update for you all.
Also, I was given the honor of preaching for the first time there on September 24th. I’ve included the link to the ‘studio’ version of that sermon should you want to give a listen to my take on the inclusiveness that Jesus modeled.
From the newsletter:
Feels Like Home
Growing up in Oswego, my house was the place we all my friends would gather. As I look back, it is easy to see why. My parents went out of their way to make my buddies feel welcome and never letting any of them leave hungry. The homemade dinners and fresh baked desserts were prepared with the expectation of extra plates being needed, and they often were!
Betsy and I made it a point to have our home be like that as well. Our two kids knew that their friends were always welcome. The numerous sleepovers and meals shared let us know the kids were as comfortable around us as we were with them.
The wonderful welcome Betsy and I have received at St. Marks has reminded me of the times I just mentioned. Even behind the masks, the light in your eyes and the joy on your faces is easy to see. Part of me feels like my friends must have at my homestead as my parents made sure their needs were met in a caring way.
At no time have we felt like outsiders trying to make our way in. Instead, invitations have been extended to join in ministries or to simply share a little of ourselves with you in conversation.
As you may know, part of the ministry I have been involved with in recent years has afforded me opportunities to be in any number of different churches as a guest preacher, providing music with Betsy or leading bible studies. We believe each of these churches are doing their best to honor God in all that they do.
I find this true at St. Marks as well, but as a body of believers you stand apart from these others. I believe that is because of your humble devotion to serving Christ as you reach out throughout the Baldwinsville (and beyond) area. Betsy and I are honored and humbled to serve with you as together we extend the love of God to the world around us.
Just a quick scan of the Bible reveals that God has quite the record of providing real food on a miraculous scale to sustain the body. In the beginning of Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel you can read about one of those times as Jesus fed over 5,000 people from just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread with leftovers that filled 12 baskets!
Jesus had worked this mighty miracle as a setting for a plain talk on His true mission in the world. “I am the bread of life.” By saying it that way, ‘I am,” Jesus was identifying himself with God.
While it is true that Jesus spent much time ministering to people’s physical needs, the real purpose of His coming into the world was to save people’s souls.
Hearing this, the people began to lose interest. As long as there is free food, great; keep it coming. Be our King and feed us every day like the Israelites in the desert under Moses. Jesus’ first audience were thinking only of their own physical wants and needs. How many of us still do this too?
More than just another meal
Jesus addresses those grumbling as He points out that the manna, (in verses listed at the top) miracle that it was, did not provide the eternal ‘food’ that we all need. After all, their ancestors ate it and still died in the desert. Jesus is so much more than just another meal.
The first of the I am statements in John’s Gospel
Jesus, “I am the Bread of Life.” What does that say to you? The original audience had trouble processing that claim. What do you do with it?
Maybe before we examine that, a more basic question needs to be addressed first: Who is Jesus to you?
Is He: a cosmic talisman you call on when you are in trouble?
Some far-off or aloof deity/someone you choose to keep at arm’s length?
Is He your Savior (the A answer!). Yet the text today seems to be telling us that the Lord can be something in addition to Savior. Please remember that Jesus is salvation, plus or minus nothing.
Jesus: “I am the bread of life.” (twice) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Is He the Bread of Life to you?
When Jesus says you will never hunger or thirst again, obviously He does not mean physically. Rather, Jesus is telling us all that believing in Him brings with it a satisfaction that cannot be removed or replaced. It has been said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled perfectly by Jesus. That hole is what gets filled when you take the Bread of Life. Jesus brings to you the wholeness that only He can.
Remember, Jesus is not just another meal
Jesus does not want only to help us sustain life. No, rather He is offering all humanity eternal life! You, me and the whole world. This is God’s grace as it is poured out to us each day. John 10:10b records Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have live; and have it to the full.” Jesus has come to save and to have the life He offers to the full.
We then must use each day’s grace for the purpose God gives it; that it nourishes us spiritually. All we have to do is merely acknowledge our need and accept what the Lord is offering daily. God knows your needs. Do you trust Him to supply that which you need, even if you do not understand it or can explain it?
30 years ago, May 3rd, 1991, was a Friday. Though I had no idea at the time, it was to be the anniversary of my new life in sobriety. As I have documented here before, I am an alcoholic. To be sure, I had no idea of that fact 30 years ago. In fact back then, I wasn’t looking for some way to stop drinking, I only wanted to get out from under the load of trouble I was in. My sick mind thought I might gain some sympathy if I could pass off the mess I had made of things, as in my own words at the time, “Maybe I drink a little too much.”
That may well be the understatement of my life! Yet, as AA has taught me, it is not the amount of alcohol that I consumed but rather what it did to me when I drank that is the problem.
The effect was that over 15 years I had become morally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. I was a wreck, on the fast track to an early grave and an appointment with eternity that would be spent apart from a loving God.
But on that Friday morning all those years ago, all I was aware of was how awful I felt physically. As bad as the stomach pain and shakes were, nothing compares with the devastation I felt as my Dad, with my wife riding shotgun, drove me the 90 minutes to the nearest treatment center that had an open bed. Not a word was spoken and I was left to my clouded thoughts of impending doom.
With my focus still solely on me, I had no understanding of the pain they were in or of their concern for the future. They were hurting at least as much as me. Blessedly, they jumped in fully to support me in the journey I was about to embark upon from the very start.
And what a journey! Of primary importance is this: In the small examination room I found myself in the detox were all sorts of literature from Alcoholics Anonymous. As I glanced at it, I saw the reference to a Higher Power. In that moment, the Lord revealed Himself to me as that Power by letting me know that He was with me and would see me through. I count May 3rd not only as my sobriety date (for I have not had a drop since, by the grace of God), but eternally more importantly as the date that Jesus Christ poured out His forgiving grace on me, thus assuring me of my forever home with Him.
Now that journey has completed 30 years. I lack the words to properly thank God for what He has done and continues to do for me. I started this day as I woke up asking Him to do for me what I cannot, that is to stay sober. Then I asked Him to help me see His will clearly today, that I may do and say things that bring Him honor. At days end I plan to thank Him again for what He has provided me.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful wife Betsy for her unwavering support of my recovery. I might have done it without her, but in no way would I have enjoyed it as much as I have. Her faith in God helped mine to grow. She continues to live that godly example out day by day, thus encouraging me to do the same.
To the many folks who have and are praying for me to stay sober, you have my deepest gratitude. Your belief in me has made me believe in myself.
To the countless friends I have, both past and present in AA, please know that I love you. Your sharing of life’s challenges and rewards have been a constant support for me as I too face them. I have found your willingness to be transparent about the struggles of life in recovery has shown me how to do the same. And for those times you have called me out, thanks so very much. You have cared enough to want to help me see the blind spots I sometimes put up, those times when I was being less than honest with myself and you. May the 30 years God has given me be an encouragement to you to hang in there for one more day.
30 years, wow! I remember clearly thinking in my early days of my AA experience about the long-term sobriety of some of the ‘old-timers.’ I was 31 when God set me on this path and I recall thinking at that time when one of these icons mentioned that kind of length of sobriety that I would be over 60 years old if and when I got there.
Well guess what, I’m there! And for whatever time God has left for me to continue on this journey, I pray that He will keep me ever hungry for more of Him, that I may grow in this life He has given me in order to give Him thanks and praise and to continue to share the Good News of His transforming love with all.
Thanks for reading.
Be blessed and be a blessing,
My name is Chuck, and I am an alcoholic. I am also a loved child of God, forever grateful for His overflowing mercy to an undeserving sinner like me.
There are so many thoughts running through my mind this Resurrection Sunday as I consider again just what the Lord Jesus has accomplished for the world. The joy, awe and wonder are as fresh this morning as they were the many years ago when the Savior revealed to me His plan for saving my life, eternally. And yet, there is a sadness in me as well as I consider those near and dear to me who have rejected the love of Christ. Amidst the abundant joy in my heart there are sections that are broken for these people. In many of these cases I have attempted in my limited way to share what God has done for me with them in hopes they would grasp the availability of that same love for themselves.
But this is not a day for discouragement! Today my sole focus is on the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind, I would like to share a list (by no means in total) of the things I am grateful for because of the saving power of God as it has been revealed through Christ’s ultimate victory over death. As you read, I ask you to do two things. First, reflect in your own way the ramifications of Jesus’ resurrection on your life. And secondly, be intentional about living out a life of thanksgiving for the incredible gift He has given you, so that others may be attracted to God’s light through you.
Where do I start such a list of things I am thankful for because Jesus rose from the dead to forgive us? The totality of His mercy shown to sinners like me (us) is mind-boggling. So in no particular order, here goes:
Thank you, Jesus, for taking my place on that cross. You bore my sin in your body out of obedience to the Father and your love for me. Because of Your resurrection, You have defeated death and offered eternal life to all. You knew that there was no earthly way I/we could earn or deserve the Father’s mercy. So instead you demonstrated grace saturated in love to bring us to God.
Thank you, Jesus, for the hope you bring to us because of the above. You have not only supplied, at great cost to Yourself, the way out of our eternal predicament, but because You have, I can be filled with hope in the here and now. I do not have to wait until physical death to be with You. Instead, because of Your love, I can be in a nurturing relationship with You now! This developing relationship carries with it the security of Your ever-present care and protection, for You have promised to never leave nor forsake those who follow You.
Thank you, Jesus, of your on-going obedience to the Father, even after Your resurrection. By appearing to over 500 people, You made it known beyond doubt that You had come back to life.
Thank you, Jesus, for fulfilling the promise of sending the Holy Spirit after You ascended to heaven. And thank you, Holy Spirit, for Your on-going fulfillment of the Father’s work here on earth. You make the Scriptures come to life and You encourage the Church to fulfill its part in God’s plan as well as You move individual members to walk in obedience to Him.
Thank you, Jesus, for the many, many people You have placed in my path that have helped me to see You with greater clarity. These Saints are far to great in number to list individually here, but if you are/were a part of my life in Christ, I praise and thank God for you.
Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunities to serve You and make Your name known in the world today. Please help me to always remember that obedience to You is a matter of great joy to You, as it should be for me as well!
And thank you, Jesus, for the Scriptures. They truly are alive and active, filled with the very essence of the Father. May I/we in our gratitude for them continue to learn from them.
As I said, this is by no means a completed list, but I do believe it gets to the heart of the matter: I/we owe a debt to our Savior that we cannot repay. Yet out of His ever-loving heart, He has paid it for us. May we, in the lingo of today, take this love and ‘pay it forward’ in humility, love and gratitude.
May the blessings of the Resurrection of Jesus be deeply known to you today,
No April Fool’s joke here, the Scriptures that describe the events leading to the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus give us two examples of an angry Jesus.
When last we spoke, adoring crowds welcomed Jesus as He entered Jerusalem. The building excitement of His ministry seemed destined to conclude with Him being crowned King of the Jews. The events in the narrative of the following days do little to disprove the people’s belief that their earthly king was about to take his crown.
Picking up the story in Mark’s Gospel at Chapter 11, verses 12-19, we find evidence of an angry Jesus. It is now the following morning, and Jesus and His disciples are walking back to Jerusalem. Along the way, the author tells us Jesus was hungry and walked toward a fig tree, hoping to find something to eat. As He reached it, the Lord saw that it had only leaves and no fruit. Seemingly angry, Jesus then says to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mark 11:14 NIV)
We see another example of an angry Jesus later that same day as He entered the temple in Jerusalem. If you will recall, these were the days leading up to the important celebration of Passover. Many Jewish pilgrims would have been in Jerusalem for this event, fulfilling their vows in the temple. Those travelers who did not have the appropriate animals with them for the sacrificial rituals would have to buy them from opportunistic sellers in the courtyard of the temple. Also, because these people came from some great distances, the currency they used in their home village would not be usable at the temple. Therefore, money-changers were also doing a brisk business there.
Jesus comes upon this scene and angerly disperses these merchants, saying, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17 NIV) It is not difficult to close your eyes and picture the scene: mass confusion as small animals, various coins and bewildered worshipers are scattered about.
I don’t know about you, my Most Appreciated Readers, but I rarely spend much time contemplating an angry Jesus. I would much rather picture Him smiling at small children, teaching in the countryside or performing one of His many documented miracles. Yet, there is no denying that the Jesus told of here in Mark Chapter 11 is an angry one. And as I was taught early on, “if it is in the bible, it is important.”
What, then, is up with an angry Jesus? One view might be that He simply was under considerable pressure. His earthly time of ministry was coming to a close with a horrible, painful death on the horizon. I know that when I am feeling mounting expectations, I often can act more rashly by lashing out at things and people.
This is understandable with me, a foible human. But what about Jesus, the Son of God. Why not quietly point out to the temple vendors the issues He had with them and for that matter, how about miraculously make figs appear on that leafy tree?
Allow me to share an opinion or two on these occurrences. With the fig tree, I believe it would have been self-serving of the Lord to feed Himself in this way. Jesus had the power of heaven at His command, and He had used it wisely throughout His time on earth as a means to point people toward God the Father. It simply would not have been appropriate to manufacture a ‘to go’ meal with this power.
Also, as we read on, we find that Jesus and His disciples walk the same path to Jerusalem the next day. On it they see the fig tree in question, and it is withered. Jesus uses this to point out that those who were merely doing ‘religious things’ for their own profit were like this tree; lifeless in spirit and producing mothing of worth.
By clearing the temple in the manner in which He did, I believe Jesus was sending a strong and clear message about how we are to worship God. As He expelled the merchants and bankers, Jesus left no doubt as to what the priority is to be for those who claim to worship God: He alone is worth our undivided devotion. The temple was not to be a market, but rather a place where the world is set aside in order that focus could be placed solely and properly on the Father.
These emotional outbursts, if you will, serve another important point as well. Earlier I mentioned how it is I normally picture Jesus. These thoughts and images are of a loving Savior, who willingly sets aside everything in order that He reach the hearts of people. While this is a true picture of the Lord, it is not a complete one.
Along with being all-loving, the Savior is also perfect and holy. His justice is perfect always. His character cannot be impugned, nor should anyone doubt the complete honesty and consistency of His actions in dealing with creation.
I believe it to be essential in our spiritual growth to maintain this more complete picture of who and what God is, for it is in His perfection that we can completely place our trust. As we consider more of His character, we become able to better understand His love for us.
Yes, He is all-loving. But it is in the completeness of His nature that this total love can best be seen. He is holy. There is no part of Him that can abide with sin in any form. Yet, He loves us infinitely.
This is a love we cannot hope to earn, and blessedly, we do not have to. God, in His total wisdom, knows full well that you and I can never perform enough pious acts to win our way into His grace. Therefore, because His loves knows no bounds, He simply loves us because we are His creation.
This universal love was/is on display clearly upon the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion. The fullness of deity is found in Jesus (Colossian 2:9-10). He was both fully God and fully human as He walked the earth. This fullness includes everything we have considered here today, and so very much more.
Please take a few moments this week as you prepare to celebrate the Resurrection to consider more deeply the full nature of the God who saves.
Our pastor preached on John 3:14-21 this morning. Included in this passage is the familiar verse John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)
Pausing at these words, she then likened a life without Jesus to a car with a dead battery. This car, without a life-giving boost of electrical energy, will sit. It simply cannot function. Pastor Diane then went on to say that we can picture the forgiveness that Jesus offers us as jumper cables. They provide the connection between the power necessary to bring life to the lifeless vehicle. I love this analogy!
Throughout my early adult years and through my 30’s I drove a series of what we call here in Upstate New York winter rats. Generally speaking, these vehicles have seen better days. Road salt usually has eaten through a fair part of the body, while years of hard driving and neglectful maintenance have rendered them less than reliable modes of transportation. Their one positive is that they are inexpensive to purchase.
Because these cars I drove during these times were not consistently dependable, and after a few times of having to call someone to come jump my dead battery, I purchased a booster pack.
This neat invention allows a person to jump start their own car without the help of another vehicle. The booster pack has its own set of pos/neg cables, so as long as you keep it charged up, it is available at a moments notice to transfer the life giving power within it to the dead battery.
As often happens with me when I get to thinking on these things, I carry the picture of jump-starting a car to my own life. It becomes easy to see that my life before Jesus was as dead as they come. Oh, I had all the working parts, but they existed without purpose or meaning. My spirit was without life. I was, without question, destined for the scrap heap as yet another vehicle that would no longer run.
God, by His wondrous grace, did for me what I could not: He attached His ‘cables’ of life to my dead terminals. He used the precious blood of the Savior Jesus Christ to bring life, true life, to me. Now I know that despite the various dents and faded paint on my ‘car,’ it is going to run forever because God has poured His eternal life into it.
As if that were not enough, I can picture God’s jumper-cables as more than a one and done connection. His power is absolute. It is unending and always available. All I need to do is recognize when my ‘battery’ starts to run low on power. I can then simply ask the Lord to plug that energy into me again. He has provided several options as to how I can do this.
I can get re-charged by reading the bible. The word of God has come from His very essence, therefore it contains all the power of the Almighty. I can also make this connection with God through prayer. He is available 24/7. All I need do is to come humbly to Him, speaking what is on my heart and listening for He has to reveal to me. Spending time in worship is another way I get a fresh influx of God’s power into my life. Praising Him simply for who He is and what He has done/is doing helps to align my spirit with His.
How about you? Do you have ways that help you connect to God’s infinite power. I would love to hear about them!
Many of my dear sisters and brothers in Christ will be receiving ashes on their foreheads today. As a non-denominational pastor, I’d like to share a few thoughts about Ash Wednesday means to me.
I was born to Roman Catholic parents. They faithfully went to Mass each Sunday, dragging my brother and me along with them. They also hit all the Holy Days of Obligation with us in tow. That meant that we got ashes on our foreheads every year at the beginning of Lent. At the time, all I cared about was that this was bringing us closer to Easter and a basket filled with yummy treats.
As I got a little older, I listened to the readings at these gatherings, again without any real impact on my life. As soon as I was old enough to decide whether I wanted to continue down my parent’s path of religious belief, I opted out.
Many years later life-changing things happened to me, and I found myself back in a church. This time it was Lutheran. These good folks also had a special midweek gathering at the beginning of the Lenten season where they, too, had ashes put on their foreheads.
By this time, thankfully, I knew more about the reasons behind this, which gave me a better appreciation of the symbolism. My faith journey continued and my family and I landed in a non-denominational church. I was, and am, still deeply moved by this approach. When church life here is lived in the proper light, this church answers to God and not the traditions of men. Therefore, I found no Ash Wednesday celebrations among these good people.
More time has passed, and I am now an ordained pastor of a non-denominational ministry. What may be surprising to some is that I will be assisting at an Ash Wednesday service at a Lutheran Church this evening. How did this come about, you might be asking?
My wife and I have been blessed to become friends with the Pastor of the local Lutheran Church. She is a dynamic person of God, whose devotion to the Word, to prayer, and to others is inspiring. We met at an ecumenical gathering of local pastors who get together every Saturday morning at 7 to pray for revival in our area.
Pastor Wheatley has invited Betsy and me to participate at this evening’s service at her church: Betsy will lead us in song and I will help distribute ashes. This is what got me thinking about this topic today. Why me? And why ashes?
Non-denominational or not, I have concluded that the receiving of ashes on this day is a very good thing to do. The ashes themselves symbolize three things: our sinfulness, our mortality, and the hope we have in God through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
The first two of these of go together; the bible teaches (and my life proves) that all people are hopelessly lost in sin. Only God, in His mercy, can save us from eternal doom. The ashes remind me of this fact today. They also serve to refresh my memory about my own mortality; that no matter how good I feel physically today, at age 59, I am still much closer to the end of my natural life than I am to its beginning. When this sobering thought is taken with the first point made, I am ever so glad for the third one!
The ashes, placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross, are a visual reminder of the reality of the love of God for us all. Jesus, God’s Son, chose to die an awful death on a cross in order that sinners (that’s all of us) could be saved. Peter expressed it this way: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
I can’t save myself, and no other human can do it for me either. Only faith in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can. The ashes on my forehead remind me of this awesome truth again today. I’ll gladly hand them out and humbly receive them. The only title I bear today is follower of Christ, for it is the only one that truly matters.
I know, Faithful Readers, that many of you share in the belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. I rejoice with you! Though differences may exist in how we dot our I’s or cross our t’s, we firmly agree in the fact that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
I am also aware that some of you do not hold what I believe to be true. I am none the less grateful that you read what I offer here. My belief teaches me to be respectful of all so that I can gladly call you friend even if we hold diametrically opposed opinions.
That having been said, I am unashamedly bold in my proclamation about our loving God. I totally agree with what the Apostle Paul said: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16a). I attempt, though often poorly, to live out my life in ways that honor my Lord Jesus. To share the hope He has given me is the focal point of each of my days.
It is in this season we call Christmas that I quite often get to share what I know to be true about the birth of the Christ. I do so today under the title I have given this entry: From the Manger to the Cross, God’s Audacious Salvation Plan.
Audacious. It is the best word my limited vocabulary can come up with to describe what God set in motion when Jesus came to the world: as an infant! The same God who caused our world to be created. This same God that is simultaneously and always everywhere. The Creator of absolutely everything, and yet He desires that we enter into a loving and thriving relationship with Him.
With those and countless other accolades to describe this indescribable Deity, the ways in which to implement His salvation plan had to be equally diverse. Yet, with unlimited power and resources, He chose to come to our eternal rescue as a helpless human infant.
I recall from theology classes the necessity that He be both fully God and fully human in order to serve as the only acceptable sacrifice for sinful mankind. But still, with all the power of His own universe at His disposal, why not at least come as an adult, thereby avoiding all the things that can plague us humans as we grow. He could have still been all God/all man, but without acne, if you will.
But no. As a human baby He came. And as I consider these things again, how fitting. With unlimited power and possibilities, I must think there were more flashy ways to get this plan underway.
But as a human baby it was. As always with God, so perfect. The humility of an infant born with the royal bloodline of the Creator. How like our God to present His plan to save people swaddled in cloths and lying in an animal food trough.
From the earliest hours to the final ones as He hung on the cross, Jesus lived as the perfect example of love to all. To any who would doubt the depth of that love, please consider the horror of that crucifixion He suffered so that this audacious plan would come full circle.
Yes, it might have been splashier to do a huge intro, but the depth of His reveal has resonated through the world for over 2000 years now. I for one trust that His salvation plan is proceeding just as it should and am forever grateful that His love is so vast that it included an invitation to lowly ones such as myself.
A blessed celebration of the Savior’s birth to you all. I appreciate the time you spend with me and trust that our relationship will only grow deeper and better as we continue on together.
The Labor Day Holiday was established in 1884 in a time of unrest among the working class. Exploitation was often cited by the fledgling labor unions as low wages and long hours in unsafe conditions were often the rule. Workers were perceived as little more than replaceable parts in the greater machine; if you didn’t like conditions or the wages being offered, someone else would. The Carpenters and Machinist Unions both claim to be the impetus behind this movement.
Many of these labor leaders were campaigning for an innovative idea, one that would curtail the overuse of the labor force. What they were asking for was not only one day from work per year to celebrate those who worked by the hour, but also for the idea of a balanced day. They were proposing that management establish an 8-hour work day which would then allow for this balance: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of rest.
That equation for the use of 24 hours sounds good, doesn’t it? However, as it is true today that you cannot legislate morality, coming up with a formula to live each 24 hours by is equally fruitless.
We might get one segment right, but overdo another which then disrupts the third. My experience and the experience of many that I know is that the segment that gets most short-changed is rest. Ask yourself, how’s this balance working for you? Many work more than 8 hours a day and yet will still attempt to get full time in on recreation. The result is less than ideal, for even though you get away from the workplace, fatigue still wins out. You can look at any of these three segments of time, I guarantee for most of us the one that gets cheated the most is rest/sleep.
As He is always faithful to do, God provides us exactly what we need. In the context of resting from our labors, please consider what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 11:28-30 in your search for balance:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (NIV)
Jesus calls us to life in Him. We have eternal life assured through the salvation He has won for us. Paul’s letter to Ephesians clearly spells this out:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God –9 not by works, so that none can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Salvation is God’s gift to all. We play no active part in it other than to receive it. God’s grace is extended to anyone that professes Jesus Christ as Savior.
However, there are plenty of God’s promises to us that do require us to do our part to realize them. With regard to the rest Jesus offers, He tells us that we are to “come to him, all who are weary and burdened.” Please do not miss that all-inclusive invitation to all of us who are weary and burdened!
Acknowledging that we play a part in experiencing this rest, what are we to do?
First, admit our need of this balanced life. If we’ve honestly looked, we’ve seen that we need to have it. Also, it’s ok to admit “I’m tired.” No shame in that, as matter of fact many of us succumb to pride when we push on through fatigue thinking we can overcome any obstacle if we work long and hard enough. This is rarely possible for us and never long-lasting. Only Jesus has ‘overcome the world.’ He’s the only one who could. Humbly go to Him seeking this rest.
And it’s not not just weary, but ‘burdened.’ What are you burdened by today? Finances, health, children, work, the state of the country/world, etc.? Plenty to be burdened about and they quickly become too heavy if we try to carry them on our own.
However, there are two things we need to do to hold up our end of the promise to have rest. In verse 29 of Matthew 11, Jesus tells us first to: “Take my yoke.” This is an act of our will. We take what Jesus offers, here referred to as a yoke (oxen teams; we’re made up of two animals with the smaller, less experienced one on the outside). Jesus is on the inside carrying the heavier load, to symbolize that the Lord’s guidance will bring us peace and rest.
Secondly, we are to learn from Him. “You’ve tried the rest, now try the best!” Look over your track record with dealing with problems and difficulties on your own, or in your way or power. If your past success rate is as low as mine in doing things this way, you can see that we have some things to learn from Jesus. Hence, once yoked to Him, we are to learn from Him; the One with the strength and wisdom, the One on the inside.
In conclusion: Doing life; isn’t that what the original proponents of Labor Day were attempting to legislate? So much time for this, that and the other thing. Jesus has been and is still offering this way of life all along!
His yoke is not easy because He expects less from us, rather it is light because He carries so much of the load! In the same way, our burdens don’t lighten or go away simply because we follow Jesus, but again because He carries the majority of the weight, they become so much lighter and easier for us to carry.
Is there a balance that can be found in life like the people who established Labor Day 135 years ago were striving for? If you are looking for a neat and well-structured formula of 8-8-8, the answer is most likely no.
But if the balance you seek has Jesus in the heart of all you do, then the answer is a resounding yes! Jesus has told us again today that He will give us rest. His offer is true and reliable. He will give it if we seek Him for it. It all boils down to a question of faith: Is what God’s Word says applicable to us today? If you believe that it is indeed ‘active and alive,’ the answer is again yes!
With the truth of God activated in your heart and mind, you can know and experience the wondrous truth that Jesus Himself provides the ‘rest for our souls’ that we need.
On this Labor Day, and every day, keep all that you do centered on the Lord Jesus. As you do, you will find that the rest He gives doesn’t just come at the end of our physical activity, but in fact is present and available to us all the time. As you let this truth take root in your heart, you will find that you will not need legislation to provide you balance between work, leisure and rest, Jesus Christ has and is your balance in abundance.
I would like to acknowledge and say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have recently started following this blog. I truly appreciate the time you take to read and respond.
For those who have been reading, putting up with, and/or groaning over the past 3+ years, a hearty thanks to you as well!
It occurs to me that those falling under the newer category might not know all the backstory that comes along with me. I’d like to take this opportunity to allow you the opportunity to catch up!
As I am embarking on a somewhat new aspect of my journey as a follower of Jesus Christ, I have been asked to write an essay introducing myself to the folks who will be considering me for a Rostered (ordained) ministry position within the Lutheran Church. The following is an excerpt from that essay. It is my hope that you, New Dear Reader, will take the time to get to know me a little better (and for those who have heard much of this, you may hit the like button and be on your way).
Thanks once again for sharing the ride with me.
Part 1: My Story
I was born on January 11th, 1960 in Oswego New York to Kenneth and Evelyn Copps. I have one older brother, Carl. I had a happy home-life growing up in in that small town. My parents provided for all our needs and most of my wants in a caring way. Dad worked full-time as a machinist while Mom stayed at home. I had some close friends through the years and it seemed we always congregated at my house. It was warm and open to everyone.
My parents were Roman Catholic and raised my brother and me in that faith. It never meant much to me as I saw going to church largely as an inconvenience on my time. Other than Confirmation, weekly Mass was my only exposure to Catholicism. Things of faith were rarely if ever brought up at home. Tending to shirk responsibility in those days, I was more than happy to do my 60 minutes per week at church and leave faith at that.
At the age of eighteen I opted out of regular church attendance, going back only to be married in 1983. My wife and I attended her local church, Holy Family in Fulton, New York for a brief period after marriage, but that attendance soon faltered as well.
I was well into the downward spiral of alcoholism at this point. The ensuing years are a blur even now. Finally, with my health failing, my wife ready to leave and at the brink of financial disaster, I sought help. A three week stay in a detox-center followed by a 28-day rehab helped prepare me to live a sober life.
It is at the beginning of recovery that my faith life came to be. In fact, I count both my sobriety date and the date of my salvation the same: May 3rd, 1991. It seems that the Bible stories I sat through as a child had some affect after all! I knew in my spirit that the Higher Power the AA literature speaks of was in fact Jesus Christ. I received His forgiveness at the detox-center and have been a follower of His ever since.
That last sentence hardly speaks to the wonder of these last 29 years. I owe a great debt of thanks to Pastor Brent Dahlseng. He took a great interest in my spiritual journey. He encouraged me to read God’s word and to become a person of prayer. He was a tremendous mentor and friend as he helped me navigate my new life with purpose.
God has been faithfully persistent as He continues to call me to His service. Starting as a Small-Group apprentice leader, I have now had the privilege of being on many different prayer ministries as well as hospital visitation teams.
As the Lord has helped me to discern His call on my life, I attended seminary (Rockbridge Seminary) and was granted a Master of Divinity in 2014. We had begun a home ministry by this point and the schooling and training the seminary provided me had enriched my ability to serve. This has proved especially true in my Hospice work as I provide pastoral care to patients and their families.
I was ordained by the Elim Fellowship of Lima, New York in April of 2018. I have had the pleasure to officiate at weddings and our home ministry is now ‘on the road,’ as we serve people in their homes by providing bible study, counseling and the opportunity to worship.
It is with much anticipation that I enter into this next phase of ministry. I continue to trust God will reveal His will to me as I embrace a deeper understanding of Lutheran theology in the service of the church.