Luke 9:61, 62 Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.” Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” (The Message Bible)
I’ve been meaning to write one of these Afterthoughts about procrastination but I just keep putting it off. Most of us battle with our wills. We know what we ought to do whether that is pray, read the Bible or simply eat right and exercise. We can make a plan in our minds and just as easily set that plan aside. It is hard to get started and then it is hard to keep going. In the end we generally choose what we truly want, but what we truly want may be comfort or someone else to blame or pity. If we take the call of Christ seriously in terms of “taking up your cross daily” as Jesus said earlier (Luke 9:23) it is tremendously humbling. It will entail facing our failures to fulfill our commitments to God, asking for forgiveness, and starting all over again. Most of us don’t like that. So we keep putting it off. But is there really any way around it? This week, what do you need to begin, or begin again, in your promise to follow Jesus?
Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
There are those who are more than happy to give you the truth, or at least their version of the truth which is often really just their opinion. There are those who will speak lovingly which may merely mean sentimentally or, worse, manipulatively flatteringly. To put together truth and love in a sincere fashion where the truth is God’s truth and the love is God’s love is not so easy for us humans. And yet this is exactly what Paul says is the way communities of faith grow. The truth can be a harsh reality- we are not what we ought to be as individuals or as larger groups. There is a lot of pain and abuse around and inside us all the time. But there is also the truth of love, God’s love, that can be experienced and shared. This week, what is the truth you need to speak in love?
Acts 6:1 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. (The Message Bible)
If you have been around children much you have no doubt heard the complaint “So and so got more than I did. It’s not fair!” In the passage above, the young community of believers in the resurrected and, now ascended, Jesus were trying to meet the needs of the needy. Of course, one group felt the other group was getting better treatment. I wonder if any of the leaders suggested they just shut down the food distribution and let them all fend for themselves. That might have been my initial reaction. If anyone felt that way, it is not recorded. Instead the leaders work together to find a win-win solution where everyone is at least partially satisfied. I’m a pretty naive person by nature and tend to underestimate how hard it is for folks to work through problems together. Too often people of faith have had just as much difficulty with this as anyone else. The Twelve above called a meeting. When you see disagreements and division may God want you to initiate conversation? That can be a real act of faith requiring a lot of prayer. How can you help bring people together for God’s good this week?
1 Thessalonians 4:1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.
Ever hear the maxim “The good is the enemy of the great”? I googled it and found on goodreads.com/quotes that it is attributed to James C. Collins, an author of books about successful companies. The website quoted him thus: “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” Would Paul have agreed with this as he “urged” the Thessalonians above, that while they were in fact living obediently, “to do this more and more.” Can you be content in the love of God and still motivated to work daily on being better, more obedient, “to live a holy life”? The Christian life is something we aspire to while at the very same time it is a gift given to us without our deserving of it. We live in that tension, that paradox. How are you being instructed “to live in order to please God”? How could you “do this more and more?”
2 Timothy 3:15 from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
The above is referring to Timothy, a companion and pupil of Paul’s. It is interesting that Timothy did not have what we might think of as a traditional upbringing. In Acts 16:3 we are told “Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” Earlier in 2 Timothy Paul writes, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” It looks like Paul had some godly women in his life who pointed him towards the scriptures even though his Dad was not inclined to do so. Timothy is mentioned along with Paul in the opening of several letters that are now part of the Bible. He was nurtured in the Scriptures and actually got to contribute to the Scriptures. What have you been nurtures towards? To what are you contributing?
Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying—their prayers intensified by fasting—they presented these new leaders to the Master to whom they had entrusted their lives. (The Message Bible)
This coming summer in our church we are going to talk about leadership. Too often in churches we have an open space on a board and we simply try to fill that space with a body. Paul and Barnabas didn’t have large congregations from which to handpick these leaders and they weren’t in these cities for years at a time to get to know all the individuals thoroughly- more likely just months or sometimes weeks. They somehow (the passage speaks of prayer and fasting) selected leaders and gave them the most important lessons they knew so that those people could pass on those lessons to the rest of the congregation when Paul and Barnabas had moved on. Leaders set priorities. This has never been more important than in our information age as we are bombarded with voices and data and stories from all over. Leaders set priorities and then challenge the group to accept and implement those priorities. In your group, be it a congregation, a family, a bible study or work team, how do you help seek God’s priorities and put them into practice?
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Paul will go on to talk about suffering in the next few chapters so he is not talking about a peace here that is necessarily without pain. So, what does it mean to have “peace with God?” It means that God takes on the role of Father for us rather than simply judge. On this Father’s Day weekend, we might remember the way our fathers, when they were at their best, made us feel cared for and secure. God exceeds the goodness of even the best of fathers at their best. Perhaps there were times our Dads had to discipline. Perhaps in our adolescence we even thought of them occasionally antagonistically. But now, as adults, we understand and appreciate who they truly are and all they went and go through on our behalf. Turns out we were on the same side all along! So it is with God. Since in Jesus, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, we are on the same side, play on the same team. Not always a walk in the park, but a walk with God by our side. How has your relationship with your father taught you about God the Father?