Monday is a day devoted to prayer, because let's be honest what Monday doesn't need some prayer. The amazing thing is that we have a God who is more ready to hear than even we are to speak. God invites us to come to Him. He even longs to hear our voice.
As we look around our community and world, we can see the fear, the anger, and the sad divisions that continue to exist. This week on Monday, I invite you to pray to God asking that God heal our community and our nation. We pray that the unity that is brought through the Gospel may be experienced in every aspect of society. As you pray, ask God to reveal to you how you might be a part of His answer to this prayer and that He might give you the courage to follow His lead.
Tuesday is a day that is all about encouraging one another and being encouraged within the context of community. The reality is that we were created by God to be in relationship with Him and other people. This is a day to invest in your relationships with other people.
Take some time to sit on your front porch or lawn or in your driveway. As people pass by, speak a work of love and encouragement to them. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple smile and a hello could make a world of difference in the day of someone that passes by. As you sit alone or as a family, spend some time listening to what is going on around you and take a moment to listen to those who stop to engage you.
Wednesday is a day that we turn our hearts and minds to diving in to God's Word that we might be a people of the book. We remember the words of Jesus from John 8, "if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Let’s join one another for a night to dive into God’s Word together.
This Wednesday we invite you to join us online for a Bible Study beginning at 7:00 PM using Zoom. This week we are going to continue our study taking a look at the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is one of the big books in the Old Testament that honestly doesn’t get nearly enough airtime. Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet, lived in some of the darkest days for the nations of Israel. The journey of the book of Jeremiah shows God doing some awesome things in Jeremiah as God uses him to convey a message of hope for all people.
The link to join the study can be found here:
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Thursdays, we turn our attention to equipping you in very practical ways as a follower of Jesus. On Thursday, we will look at some of the practicalities of following Jesus including things like spiritual disciplines, a special written devotion, a Bible Study to work through, or diving into the hard questions of the faith with honesty and humility.
This week we continue to think about the concept of the semi-circle focusing on the concept of rest. In the 3rd Commandment, God highlights a distinct part of how we were created and how the world was designed to work. We were designed both to work and to rest. We see this in the creation story as for 6 days God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, but on the 7th day God rested. Patterning our lives after God, we are commanded to take a day to rest and to worship that we might be equipped to do the work that we are called to do. This is not an either/or. We must rest and we must work. The semi-circle calls us to remember that in our lives we are called to have a balance between rest and work. Whenever we go too far on one side or the other our lives will be out of balance.
On this equipping Thursday, there is no formal study but an invitation or challenge to find a day or a night this week to simply rest in God. That might look different for you than for someone else, but intentionally set some time aside this week to rest in God.
Friday is a fun day. It's the end of the work week. It's the beginning of the weekend. And it's the day that as a church we really want to launch each and every one of you into mission. You were created and called to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world in need of hope, love, and especially Jesus. Each Friday there will be a challenge to be on mission in the specific context in which God has placed you.
On this launch Friday, I am very mindful of the world and the hurts that we are living in at this moment. I think President Mike Gibson of the Pacific Southwest District said it very well in the following letter:
It’s Time for Something that Only God Can Do!
A Message to the Church Regarding Racism and the Current Crisis in our Nation
Racism is a reality that has plagued our nation for hundreds of years.
There are moments when many think we’ve finally grown up. But times like this remind us that we are far from healed. Racism raises its systemic, ugly, sinful head without us even trying. It is woven into culture, families, and individuals. It is hard to shake because so many of us don’t see it in ourselves. Many declare, “Not me!” and that may be true . . . or not . . . or up to a point. And yet the finger that points at others is attached to a hand with three fingers pointing back.
Most of us cry out collectively in protest when the latest unjust death is revealed, as George Floyd is asphyxiated in Minnesota and Ahmaud Arbery is hunted down in Atlanta. In unison we shout, “I can’t breathe! Murder! Hatred!” Some try to offer explanations and excuses, but they don’t hold water. It is a horrible and collective embarrassment for us all - including the Church.
It is in THESE moments that the Pacific Southwest District, with all our diversity, multi-cultural communities, and immigrant peoples, must stand up and point the world to Jesus. The Church is the one entity in all of creation where a hope is offered that isn’t temporary - it is eternal. It is the only place where hearts are redeemed, and lives are transformed one person at a time. If you look to the government to do it, you’ll be greatly disappointed! The educational system can’t do it. The economy can’t buy its way out. Only Jesus can. He chooses to use His Church as an agent of grace that tears down the dividing walls of hostility. It happens when God’s Word reveals the systemic realities of our ugliness, calls us to our knees in repentance, tells us the Good News of forgiveness through Jesus’ suffering and death, and transforms us to live the contrast as a New Creation – as Resurrection People. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-16)
What Can the Church Do?
As a result of my conversations with the Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray, Jr., LCMS Black Ministry, Director and others in affected communities, the Church is asked to focus on three things: Pray, Listen, and Act.
Dear Church, pray that the Lord will grant us His grace and peace. Ask that He will give each of us new eyes to see. That the power of the Spirit will root out the seen and unseen sins of ignorance, intolerance, hatred, and racism in our world and in the Church. Pray that we will celebrate God’s unique creation in each person, race, and culture, knowing that we are more complete as people when we stand together. Ask that our Lord’s broken heart over sin and injustice be our broken hearts. Beg the Savior to bring hope and healing to our cities, states, nation, and world. Believe with all our hearts that God will do what He says: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God made the people of His Church to be the Children of God, empowered by the Spirit to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)Gather with diverse people in your homes and churches and become true centers of reconciliation. Listen! You don’t always have to be the one who speaks. As our grandmas said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Learn. Gain new perspectives. Don’t talk about each other, talk to one another. Seek to truly understand, not win an argument. See with eyes, free of scales, gained from the insights of another. Be humble and discover a narrative you’ve never heard before. Sit, quiet, and absorb. COVID-19 can’t stop you - grab a Zoom Room! Appreciate, celebrate, defend one another and if you listen to advice and accept instruction, you may gain wisdom for the future. (Proverbs 19:20)
Call and work for change but do it appropriately. Do no act of violence or hatred. These only beget more violence and hatred and increase our animosity toward one another. As you act, honor those in authority. Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1). It is time for the Church to do more than give lip service - reprioritize. What have you stopped doing during COVID that no one has noticed? Leave it in the past and redirect those resources. Make different choices and adjust budgets and focus to invest in the deeper issues of your community. Do more than stick Band-Aids on cancers. Determine what is essential. Embrace it. Focus on that which advances the message of the Gospel and truly expresses love for your neighbors. Let’s do the hard things right. And the King will answer, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Pray, Listen, and Act. It’s a good place to start.
Let’s take our cue this week from President Gibson. How can you pray, listen, and act today.
God’s Word makes pretty clear that we were created to work and to rest. We need rest, and yet in a go-go-go society that can be pretty hard. Rest doesn’t just mean sitting on our couch and doing nothing while mindlessly watching television. Rest looks different for each of us, but rest involves investing in our relationships with God and our families. It is a time to recharge to get ready for the week ahead. We urge you to spend your Saturday as a day of sabbath rest.