Tuesday, April 27, 2010

True Spiritual Worship

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will."
Roman 12:1-2

It is good to study the Scripture in its context. So for the next couple of blogs we will study the twelfth chapter of Romans to gain new insights into God's truth. Paul begins this portion of his letter by urging us to remember God's sacrificial love and mercy towards us. "In view of God's mercy"…To show us mercy, Christ stepped out of heaven and took on the form of man and lived on earth bound with the limitations of a human body to demonstrate the love of His Heavenly Father to a lost and dying world. He demonstrated God's love through His powerful words, His tireless actions, His bold confrontations, His tenderhearted-compassion, His miracles, His prayers, and His teaching. He demonstrated it in His humility, choosing to wash His disciple's feet. He demonstrated His love in the Garden of Gethsemane, wrestling with His Father's will and choosing to submit to it. He demonstrated the Father's mercy, dying a sinner's shameful death though He had lived a sinless life.

Next He encourages us to respond to God's love with worship. But it is not simply singing praise songs. He defined reasonable worship as living sacrificially for God. This worship was to live out a commitment of renewing our minds in God's word and letting Him change us from the inside out  as we discern what His good and perfect will is. What does it mean to live sacrificially? It means giving up our will and to do the Father's just as Christ did in the Garden. It means sacrificing our pride and choosing to esteem others better than ourselves. It means serving one another, using the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gave us. It means refusing to let our emotions rule what we choose to do, tuning into other's needs as we let God fill us with passions that give us a zeal for Him and His work. It is giving up the right for revenge and being used an instrument of loving forgiveness. In fact, until today Offering ourselves as a living sacrifice is knitted to loving as Christ loved.

Will being a living Sacrifice be easy? NO WAY! We'll often find ourselves wanting to crawl off the altar to return to the familiarity of our old way of life. However, because of God's mercy in nailing each and every sin we have committed to the cross, we can and should be willing to die to ourselves on a daily basis. That requires we daily choose to live humbly and choose to be submissive to our Creator. It is easy to think one act of obedience or disobedience does not matter in the realm of a lifetime, but it does. Christ's one act of choosing to submit to His heavenly Father reconciled each of us to God for all eternity. His act bought our forgiveness. His act one translated us from the kingdom of darkness into God's glorious Kingdom of light! We have no way of knowing what each act of obedience, submission, or dying to self will achieve in the light of eternity; only God knows the full impact of our choices. 

In light of God's love, in light of His sacrifice, in light of His mercy, in light of Christ's humility, isn't it worth laying aside our pride and our rights at His feet and saying to Him, "I am yours, use me as you will?"

Prayer: Father, Your mercy is overwhelming when I pause and reflect on my life and the sin that is obvious and the sin that is hidden in the recesses of my heart. It is hard to comprehend a love that is so sacrificial that You would love me and send Christ to die for me knowing me as You do. As each of us spends time in your word, please burn it into our hearts and our minds. Transform us from the inside out so that we can truly live sacrificial lives that are a reflection of the death You died for us. Let us die to pride, selfishness, our own dreams and desires, and let us live to Your perfect will. Increase our ability to understand and apply your Word so that we can truly reflect your love to those around us. Father, please help each of us to understand what it means to truly be a living Sacrifice, made holy and pleasing by the Blood of your dear Son. Use us in the worlds we live in…home, church, school, and work…to be a picture of your perfect Son.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seeking and Saving the Lost

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately! I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner." But, Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord. "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. ""
Luke 19:1-10.

Most of us are familiar with the children's song about Zacchaeus. It’s easy to understand why children love the story. They can identify with being too small for a lot of things. I had not thought about the story of Zacchaeus since I quit teaching preschool many years ago. Then I looked at the passage and realized how meaningful this story really is and how much it tells us about God. 

Zacchaeus was a Jewish man, living in the town of Jericho. He was tiny in stature and in his culture that meant he was looked down upon. In addition he had become a chief tax collector for the Romans and his peers believed he was doing "dirty work" for the Roman government and treated him as if he were an enemy. At the time, most tax collectors became rich by taking extra taxes from people and putting it in their own pockets so they may have believed he had robbed them. All of these things would have cause him to be hated by the Jewish community.

Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus, but didn’t know what he looked like. He was curious, but couldn’t see past the crowd because of his short stature. He ran ahead and climbed up a tree and waited for Jesus to come. When Jesus came, He paused beneath Zacchaeus and looked up and called him by name! It amazed Zacchaeus that Jesus knew his name and where he was perched before He even glanced up. Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus' home and Zacchaeus responded quickly, coming down from the tree. He found in Christ a love and acceptance he had not experienced in a while. In light of his reputation, it may have been a long while since he had any fellowship with others in his home. As he began to experience Christ's love, Zacchaeus realized all of his wealth couldn't satisfy needs like Jesus could. 

As a result, Zacchaeus was changed from being a "thief" to a "giver." He told Christ he would restore what he wrongly took from people fourfold! The crowd criticized Jesus for spending time with Zacchaeus, but Christ did not respond to their criticism directly. Instead He told Zacchaeus, "This day is salvation come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

What can we learn from story about Zacchaeus? First, Christ seeks us out while we’re still sinners. He knows us by name and chooses to reveal Himself to us. His heart looks past our visible sins sees our invisible ones as well. He invites us to a face-to-face encounter so we can choose to either reject Him or embrace Him. If we embrace Him, it changes our hearts so we live in a radical way. What we need to realize is when we feel the most lost and believe that we are unredeemable, it could be the moment He calls our name and invites us to come to HIM! Lastly, Christ comes to seek and to save the lost and we want to be sure we're not like the crowds judging Zacchaeus and be open to the people God puts in our paths. We do not want our own biases to get in the way of their seeking the love of Christ. To be like Christ we need to be open to offering fellowship and discipleship to new believers, looking past their past to what they can become in the hands of a holy, powerful God. I know people who gave up trying to live for God, because they couldn’t live down mistakes. To prevent this, we need to offer acceptance, mercy and accountability to new believers. We can't help but smile at the instant change in Zacchaeus, and wonder if Zacchaeus, the wee little man, walked a little bit taller the day Jesus invited Himself to dine in His home.

Prayer: Father, sometimes when we have heard a story over and over we fail to see all the significant lessons in it that You would have us learn. Open our eyes to Your truth even in the familiar. Thank you for choosing us and reaching out to us when we are caught in our sin. Thank you for calling us by name and being a God who chooses to relate to us. Thank you for the way You reveal yourself to us even though our sin has tainted our lives. Thank you for maintaining the vision of what You have created us to be. Help us love the unloved people for Christ. Amen.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!