GOOD THINGS I’D FORGOTTEN I’D SAID
Dan Behrens, Co Pastor EFC
Here are a few things I’d forgotten I’d said over this last year. A few of them are actually pretty good. They are in no particular order here. If they were in some sort of order originally, I’ve forgotten that too. At any rate, let me say again…
- Unless you feel the Lord has called you specifically to be a judge or critic (for I do believe there is place for these), perhaps focus your energies on truth-telling. That is to say, speak the things that are true in keeping with righteousness and edification and reconciliation and affirmation. There is much brokenness all around us—broken promises, broken systems, broken relationships, broken people. Each of us has suffered wounds as much as we have inflicted wounds. Some more critical than others. Some nearly lost altogether. Some desperately needing your particular brand of tenderness.
- In the church where I pastor there a number of wonderful people who are ailing tonight in various ways, some in their bodies, some in their minds, some in their relationships; some are even suffering over pending decisions and uncertain outcomes. I know this is in no way unique to my church or the people I hold close. There is much that wears on us all. Some people have just the right words, words that comfort. I do not. Or at least I don’t have them now. Now… I pray in the spirit.
- Last Sunday I preached a message on the promise of God’s provision, how the provision of God is himself, and how this provision is most readily realized in our continuing to believe by way of demonstration—i.e. obediently moving ahead with doubt and uncertainty along for the ride. Funny. It’s now only Saturday and already I’m struggling with my own words; they feel rather empty and weighty at the same time. My prayers barely clear the floor. But my feet still move. And those first few steps of doing what we know we ought to do seem to conjure up a sort of resolution, whether or not our feelings ever really catch up.
- We read in the gospels how a group of men lowered a crippled friend down through a thatch roof to get him close to Jesus. Perhaps one of the most compassionate gestures anyone could do for a friend—get him close to Jesus. Braver still, the only real worthy gesture any one of us ‘cripples’ could reciprocate would be to actually receive this Jesus we are now so close to. Have you received him yet? You, the one all bound up in your reluctance? Blessed are we in this land of plenty, for there is not another thing needed from family, friends, neighbors or ministers to get us closer to Jesus. We are certainly close enough. He is right in our face. We now have to take him. And take him at his word!
- I have never been one for chasing big dreams, in the sense of pursuing grand accomplishments or wanting to see particular things come to pass. Others are. And praise God for that! Many of you are my heroes. I have encountered big disappointments, however, in the sense of having expectations of people or circumstances that completely bottomed out. Haven’t we all? We are hard to please. Yet I was thinking just this morning, maybe we all, for this one day, can conjure up in our mind that “other” category! You know what I mean. That type of experience that rises above any accomplishment, dives deeper than any disappointment, is more akin to another world, borderline miraculous. That category of experience where we say “God just did that” or “There is no way it should’ve happened that way” or “I could not have dreamt such a thing.” Hard to please yes, but not so hard to astonish. And isn’t that point? We could not ever have dreamt the size and scope of God. And we cannot, apart from Him, dream of what He has in store. Everything God gives is new to us: new information into old stale thinking. And that is by design. Dreams, no more than miracles, are not ours, but His. He is the dreamer! And His dreams are for you. #BIGGOD #BIGDREAMS
- If ever there was an essential to spinning your work day in a more positive, less anxious, direction—especially when the margins are running thin—its leave room for ice cream on the drive home.
- The story of Jesus healing a blind man in John chapter 9 is only 7 verses—the whole scene. In only 7 verses Jesus gives us a world of practical theology as he opens up the eyes of a social outcast. “I am here to work the will of God” he says. “But I will not always be here to work the will of God.” “While I am here, I am the light of the world” he says. “But the day will not last forever; night is surely coming.” Here we see the subtle hints of authority and dependence interwoven, of power and discretion working as one under the Father’s direction. And by the end of John’s gospel Jesus himself gives it all away… “greater things than this will you do” he says. And he says this to us. Is it then too far-fetched for us to believe that through our own prayers and petitions, comforts and encouragements, we too are making a kind of salve out spit and mud, applying whatever means necessary into those crusted areas entrusted to our care—our family, friends, neighbors, dare I say enemies—trusting that just as much in our day as in Jesus’ God opens blind eyes? I think not! We are the light of the world. Work in the world now. Be light.
- Then there was that widow with her “two copper coins” for the temple treasury. An odd scene really, tucked into the folds of the gospel amidst all the other busy bustle of temple commerce. Nothing ever really comes of it. Jesus makes a comment or two, but nothing in the way of intervention. No miracle for the poor widow. No rebuke of the rich prigs. Nothing. Just our Lord’s observation. I think about her. Her two coins remind me of two tiny precious stones. She holds two tiny stones tight in her hands then lets them go. Down down down into the temple treasury; two tiny stones, falling like the enormous temple columns Jesus refers to in the conversations that follow: “Not one stone here will be left upon another.” I like to imagine Jesus had already spotted his precious stone making her way along, fixed his gaze on her as he taught, as the words “devour widows houses” poured forth from his lips. And of whatever else he may have observed that day we ought to be mindful. We find his compassion falls equally on all parties—the widow and the scribe. As much as the scribe devours so also is he devoured in the end. The religious spirit spares no one.
- Pray. Believe. Smile. Walk. Listen. Laugh. Apologize. Forgive. Call. Text. Give (then give some more). Drink more water. Drink less Kombucha. Respond with patience. Fold the clothes. Pet the cat. Feed the dog. Read the bible. Adopt a parakeet. Encourage a friend. Ask more questions. Do more praising than correcting. Read out loud (it’s a different pathway of learning than reading silently). Do less defending than confessing. Eat smaller portions. Bear the burdens of others. Listen for Christ’s correction in your friends, family, parents and kids. Acknowledge and pay close attention to the fact that you are created in the image of God. Love yourself. Love others. Don’t over-emphasize “me time”. Limit your Netflix, Hulu, Sling, and Amazon Prime binge watching. Write out in your own handwriting one encouraging scripture a week and dwell on it five days. And if you are guilty of texting while driving, admit it, forgive yourself, then stop doing it. And stop saying yes to every ask of help that comes your way. Separate your recyclables. Lift your hands in praise to the Spirit of God. And wherever you’re at this morning, this season, this year… hang in there! Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t stop running. Too many others are pulling for you. Happy new year! Grace and Peace.
- Before Immanuel (God with Us) was revealed in our American christianity. Immanuel was first revealed to a young Jewish couple hiding in a cave in the middle of the night. God can be found. Perhaps most often while working in the dark.
- “Do not be afraid to take this child into your care Joseph. Both his Father and yours who will one day take the whole world into his everlasting arms.” –the visiting angel. In that first Christmas story it seems Joseph is called to adopt as his very own the One by whom we are all adopted, taken in, loved and cared for. In Joseph, it seems the invisible uncreated I AM entrusts himself into the hands of every father. From those first few cries forward we are brought into the story of Jesus being given over—for better or worse—into the hands of sinful men. Whether Joseph in his youth, John at his baptism, disciples in his ministry, Judas at dinner, soldiers at his crucifixion, doubters at his ascension, anyone and everyone on into the present. Joseph is long gone now. But we ought to be exceedingly mindful of our elder brother. For a season, sinful man as he was, held in his obedient hands the salvation of the world.
- Some of us need prayer today. Some of us need encouragement. Some of us need acknowledgement. Others need to be heard. Others need to be appreciated. Still others need a genuine smile, a high-five, a fist bump, a side-hug. I don’t know what we all really need. Maybe we all need to be cheered on, congratulated, applauded, recognized, preferred, loved. Or maybe its not so extreme. Maybe it’s simply that our legs are much more weary than we all thought they’d be in this stage of life, and what we’d like is the offer of a soft bench where we can hold up a minute and rest, set all these burdensome expectations down and talk. I don’t know what we all really need. But until I do… I have cleared room on the bench next to me for others looking for a safe place to land. People need a safe place to land! And when they do… pray, encourage, acknowledge, listen, appreciate, smile, cheer, congratulate, applaud, recognize, prefer and love. And then give them a high-five!
- A great many heroes of the faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, receive no mention in the bible, have no great ministry founding, no inspired apostolic movement or significant theological contribution. Rather, a great many of these did well simply to love those few entrusted to them, and by their enduring efforts tend to the Lord’s business while waiting for his return. Whatever expressions moved them, I can hardly imagine there not being included some form of regularly gathering for worship, willfully giving of goods as an offering, graciously welcoming the stranger, and faithfully praying for the sick. The timeline of faith has its fair share of notable fixed points, those significant events that mark our Christian history. But interspersed between and all throughout are those unidentifiable persons who, by some wild stirring within, kept the hope of righteousness flaming in their hearts. Over time, a great many of us (myself included) have seen that light and benefited greatly from it without having much considered the cost. Well, the cost is great. And the journey quite long. How could it not be? This is the nature of committed relationship. Men and women, literally our own family, long since died and raised again, even now rejoicing along with us over the very purpose for why we exist. So where is your rejoicing over the gathered church? Where is your willful sacrifice? Where is the stranger welcomed to your table? Let us all hear your persistent prayers for the ultimate gift of healing we are so patiently awaiting.