Warnings

I confess that I have always loved apocalyptic stories. I have a weird fascination with the way the end-times are depicted in these fictional accounts. If you consume a lot of these kinds of stories, you realize that it is not the zombies, walking dead, aliens, monsters, robots, or spaceships that defeat humankind … it is humankind itself. People eventually turn on one another, much to the delight of the enemy.

Our Scripture today reads like a scary scene from a dystopian future. There are warnings. There are consequences for ignoring those warnings. There is death. There are epidemics. There is danger.

There are snakes. (Why did it have to be snakes??)

Paul starts out innocently enough, recalling the history of Israel and the blessings of God’s deliverance from slavery through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. God provided all of their daily needs, and they ate spiritual food and drank from the living waters.

But then the unthinkable happened:

1 Corinthians 10 (The Message)

10 1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ.

But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.

Yes, temptation, that death-eater of all satanic forces, came upon them with laser-beam accuracy and they all fell, one by one.

6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.

Sexual promiscuity, discontent, the party-culture, the disobedience to God’s will … it all came down on the people until the people all came down.

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

Paul pulls no punches. We are just as capable of falling as the Israelites. We will fall flat on our religions if we don’t listen to the warnings. We need to drop our self-confidence and immerse ourselves in a culture of God-confidence.

Where is God warning you about your behavior and temptations? Are you listening?

13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

Lent is a time to confront our temptation to stray, be lazy, lie, covet, cheat, and participate in all the destructive things that separate us from God. The good news is that he will help us overcome those temptations IF we turn to him for help and strength. That is a big IF. Too often we are so beguiled by the temptation that we end up running away from God.

Where is God calling you to trust him to help you?

God will never let you down.

Bright Hope for Tomorrow by Michelle Robertson

Drop Your Differences

How many of you have had to unfriend or unfollow friends or family members because of things they have posted on Facebook? You can’t see it from where you are sitting, but I am raising my hand. I hope it doesn’t shock you to know that I have even unfollowed (never unfriended) church members.

For those of you not on Facebook, this means that I no longer see their posts, but I remain ”friends” with them. But am I really? I tell myself that I am doing this for my peace of mind, as some folks post things that get me riled up. But it doesn’t say much about me that I can simply cut them off in that way. On the other hand, when I see them on Sundays, I don’t recall ten offensive things that they posted during week. Perhaps this ensures that my approach to them can be open and without hesitation. Is it better not to know?

A healthier way to handle these things would be to have a real life conversation and see if we could establish places of agreement, or at least try to drop our differences. Understanding someone’s perspective can lessen the sting of disagreement. You may never think alike, but understanding how someone came to their opinion can open up a relationship. And it’s biblical.

The truth is, we are constantly assessing each other by external things. Physical appearance, the size of our homes and cars, the things we put on social media, the amount of jewelry we wear, the kind of company we keep … these are the metrics by which we evaluate one another.

But is that the way God desires us to behave? Is that the way God evaluates us?

2 Corinthians (The Message)

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.

Paul reminds us that God looks upon the heart, and so should we. We are called to look beyond the superficial things and really consider the quality underneath.

I dearly love a man who posts things that make me roll my eyes and shake my head. But his capacity for helping people in need is enormous. He is willing to extend himself to the marginalized in ways that impact the kingdom. He allows God to use him in places where I would dare not go. When I see a post that raises the hair on the back of my neck, I need to remember these things.

The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives.

This is a powerful teaching. We are Christ’s representatives in the world. How are you doing with that? Can people see Jesus in your interactions? Can others feel the power of God’s love through what you say and do? Are your posts winning others to the Kingdom?

God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

This hit me hard today, because I would rather not engage with people who think differently than me. This is wrong. God persuades us to drop those differences and join together in an effort to make things right. Will we ever agree? Nope. Do we have enough in common to build upon? Yep. I need to remember that any friend of God is a friend of mine.

21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

Let us move forward in this Lent season and work to make things right between us.

Friends of a Feather by Michelle Robertson

Counting Stars

One of the unique aspects of the Outer Banks is the ability to see the stars at night. Our small population, the lack of high rise buildings and pollution, and our minimal use of street lights make this the perfect place to stargaze. I live on Colington Island, where there are no street lights on the side roads, so it is especially lovely to see the entire heavenly realm from our front porches.

A few weeks ago, I returned from our Ash Wednesday service well after dark and was struck once again by the beauty of the night sky. The pancake supper and service had been very lovely and uplifting. Many families finally returned to church after a pandemic absence. Dare Challenge, our local drug and alcohol recovery group, was in attendance. I watched them joyfully consuming seconds and thirds of supper before helping to clean up and put tables away. I made ash crosses on foreheads that I hadn’t seen in a very long time, and my heart welled up with joy. Yes, I was wearing a mask. No, I didn’t care.

It finally felt normal.

Lent is a season when we pursue righteousness. We hunker down and get serious about Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, self-examination, repentance … anything that can draw us closer to the heart of God. Lent is the perfect time to get right with God.

Surprisingly, into this moment comes Abram. Speaking for myself, I did not see that coming.

Abram was a man whom God found to be righteous, and so God promised him more heirs than stars in the Outer Banks sky:

Genesis 15 (New International Version)

 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
    I am your shield,
    your very great reward.”

But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

You have to love Abram’s skills here. He is a master negotiator. Somehow he politely but forcefully reminds God that since God has given Abram no children, there cannot be heirs. I wonder if Abram was a lawyer in his past. Well played, Abram!

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

The promise is made, the course of Abram’s life is dramatically changed, and Abram believed:

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Belief is the cornerstone of righteousness. It is the foundation of all of our moral centering. When we believe in a loving God who provides, a saving Son who redeems, and a living Spirit who empowers us to to what is right, we are on the path toward righteousness.

Do you believe? Do you love God with all you heart, mind, soul, and strength?

As we continue on this Lenten journey together, may we encourage one another to remain on the path that leads to righteousness.

Moon Rise by Michelle Robertson

Come

What do you reach for when you are thirsty? Your answer may reveal where you live. Is it sweet tea? Welcome to the south! Do you get a “soda” or a “pop”? Years ago I discovered that there are parts of the country that call every type of soda “Coke”. Speaking for this Yankee, that is super confusing. For a lot of us, the day can’t even start until we’ve had that first-in-the-morning mug of hot coffee. A few Sundays ago, I watched a friend react to a sermon where the preacher talked about giving up coffee for Lent. She looked like a giant rat had just run across her feet. I shared in her horror.

Our beautiful passage today comes from Isaiah. Isaiah is my favorite book in the Bible, and this Scripture is one of the reasons I love it so much. It is lush in imagery, full of hope, rich in content, and offers a bottomless cup of cool water to our parched souls today:

Isaiah 55 (New International Version)

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.

The invitation is to come and partake of the waters that the Lord is offering. Jesus may have been referencing this passage in John 7 when he said “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” It makes sense that we are invited to buy wine and milk at no cost … Jesus has already paid the price. He offers us the waters of salvation, wholeness, forgiveness, and LIFE.

Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Isaiah reminds us that too often we thirst after things that can never satisfy. Wealth. Status. Popularity. Beauty. Power. God offers us the richest of fare if we come thirsting after his righteousness. Will we accept?

Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.

Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”

Isaiah reminds Israel that they have thirsted after the wrong things in their pursuit of unholy allies. The better alliance is found with the Lord, who endows Israel with splendor.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

In the end, we have to remember that God knows what we need and he will provide for us. But we need to hunger and thirst only for him … otherwise, we will continue to fill ourselves up with the empty calories of worldly living.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

What do you thirst after today? Be sure to drink a cup of Jesus. What a blessing it is to know that when we seek the Lord, he will be found. God is near to us when we call out for him. Do you need his help? Call out! God will hear you and respond with mercy and pardon.

Jesus invites us to come to the waters, where we will never be thirsty again.

Come to the Waters by Michelle Robertson

Called to Pray

A few years ago, I attended a prayer vigil for a missing child. After the pastor gave a homily, we were invited to form groups of ten people to pray. The pastor gave very explicit directions and said that if people felt uncomfortable praying aloud, they were welcome to remain silent. I was in a group of folks from different faith systems, including a man who described himself as an atheist. I was surprised that each person elected to pray when it was his or her turn. I think my favorite prayer came from the atheist. He simply said, “God, I don’t know what to say. But hear every else’s prayer.”

That might have been the best prayer of the night. 

Matthew 6:5-6 (Contemporary English Version)

5 When you pray, don’t be like those show-offs who love to stand up and pray in the meeting places and on the street corners. They do this just to look good. I can assure you that they already have their reward.

6 When you pray, go into a room alone and close the door. PRAY TO YOUR FATHER in private. He knows what is done in private, and he will reward you.

Our focus on prayer during this season of Lent brings us to this passage in Matthew. Jesus is warning against the hypocrisy of praying loudly for the sake of praying loudly. I think we can stretch this a bit and consider that it warns against all kinds of hypocrisy in the church. If our intentions grow beyond serving the Lord with humble gladness, we have lost our way. You and I have seen preachers who parade around the stage calling attention to themselves. We have sat beside the matriarch dripping in jewels who seeks to bar “others” from participation in the church. We have watched the soloist sing a song for the sake of performance and adulation, not worship. We’ve watched the fog machines that defined “contemporary worship” go in and out of style. Pretense is not worship. Pretense is not worthy of our Lord.

Prayer is a calling to “get naked” with God. This certainly is an activity that should be done in a room alone. God invites us to strip off all pretense of faux righteousness and come clean. I have a friend who invites God to do “heart surgery” on him when he prays, and the analogy is good. Lying under a hospital sheet and exposing our hearts to the great Physician’s scapel is a Lent-worthy endeavor.

As we continue to move through this Lenten journey, I challenge you to set aside all your facades and just be real with God. Ask him to reveal any unconfessed sin that remains hidden deep, and be willing to be searched and known by him. I promise you that God will hear this prayer and heal you of everything that stands between you and him.

Use this beautiful verse from Psalm 139 as you pray:

Psalm 139 (New Revised Standard Version)

2Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Amen!

Hear Our Prayers, Oh Lord by Michelle Robertson

Fear Not

Last week, my friend and I were walking our dogs on a beautiful day on my beautiful street bordered by beautiful canals when a bicyclist passed us from behind. Our chatter continued, mostly along the lines of the warmth of the sun, the promise of spring, and when the ospreys might return to their Colington nests. The bicyclist returned, facing us this time, and I noticed that his neon green teeshirt bore an important message:

Fear Not.

“Fear not” is a phrase found often in the Bible, spoken by God to the people of Israel in times of great distress, and by Jesus to his followers as they encountered opposition, storms, and confusion. “Fear not” are the words often spoken by angels and messengers to the people they startled and terrified when they appeared.

Fear not. What does that say to you today?

As the war in Europe enters a second week, it is a message I wish we could send to the bold people of Ukraine. The images coming out of that region are horrific. Over one million men, woman, and children are now war refugees. Countless lives have been lost, there is massive destruction of property, and Putin’s evil agenda seems to have no stopping point. When will it end? How will it end?

Into this moment, Psalm 27 appears. It is a long one. As you read it, offer God your fears. Offer God your worries. Offer God your troubles. And pray for the people in Ukraine and Russia who are caught in this madness.

Psalm 27 (Common English Bible)

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
        Should I fear anyone?
    The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
        Should I be frightened of anything?

When evildoers come at me trying to eat me up—
    it’s they, my foes and my enemies,
    who stumble and fall!

If an army camps against me,
        my heart won’t be afraid.
    If war comes up against me,
        I will continue to trust in this:
    I have asked one thing from the Lord—

    it’s all I seek:
        to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life,
        seeing the Lord’s beauty
        and constantly adoring his temple.

Because he will shelter me in his own dwelling
    during troubling times;
    he will hide me in a secret place in his own tent;
        he will set me up high, safe on a rock.

Now my head is higher than the enemies surrounding me,
    and I will offer sacrifices in God’s tent—
        sacrifices with shouts of joy!
    I will sing and praise the Lord.

Lord, listen to my voice when I cry out—
    have mercy on me and answer me!
Come, my heart says, seek God’s face.
    Lord, I do seek your face!

Please don’t hide it from me!
    Don’t push your servant aside angrily—
        you have been my help!
    God who saves me,
        don’t neglect me!
        Don’t leave me all alone!

10 Even if my father and mother left me all alone,
    the Lord would take me in.
11 Lord, teach me your way;
    because of my opponents, lead me on a good path.
12 Don’t give me over to the desires of my enemies,
    because false witnesses and violent accusers
    have taken their stand against me.
13 But I have sure faith
    that I will experience the Lord’s goodness
    in the land of the living!

Our hope is in you, and you alone, Lord.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayers.

14 Hope in the Lord!
    Be strong! Let your heart take courage!
        Hope in the Lord!

New Day by Michelle Robertson

The Ash Wednesday Storm

In 1962, a stretch of five hundred miles on the East Coast was battered by a horrific Nor’easter that resulted in 40 deaths and over $500 million dollars in damage (in today’s dollars). The storm resulted in the destruction of Atlantic City’s Steel Pier, Ocean City’s famous boardwalk, and thousands of coastal homes, roads, bridges, and businesses. This storm is known to this day as one of the ten worst storms of the 20th Century.

The storm arrived without warning on Ash Wednesday and lingered for three days. Here on the Outer Banks, heroism and sacrifice resulted in no loss of life. Brave men and women worked tirelessly for days rowing small skiffs around their neighborhoods to take people who had been stranded on their rooftops to safety. Over 60 buildings were destroyed and 1,300 structures were heavily damaged. The southern part of Hatteras Island was cut off as the storm created a new water inlet, and food had to be ferried to the residents until the inlet could be filled. Winds of 70 mph battered homes and businesses all along the Banks, and waves up to 30 feet were recorded.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and we recall the devastating effects of the clouds and thick darkness as we read Joel’s warning of a storm of a different type:

Joel 2 (Common English Bible)

Blow the horn in Zion;
    give a shout on my holy mountain!
Let all the people of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming.
It is near—
    a day of darkness and no light,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Joel is one of the twelve minor prophets in the Old Testament. He warned of the devastation that continued apostasy and disobedience to God’s law would bring to the people of Israel. The day of the Lord would be a day of reckoning, bringing a blackness of punishment for the corporate sin of the nation.

Like blackness spread out upon the mountains,
    a great and powerful army comes,
        unlike any that has ever come before them,
        or will come after them in centuries ahead
.

But much like the Ash Wednesday Storm, help is on the way. There is a Rescuer who will brave the high seas and strong winds to fetch you off the roof of your home. Will you be wise enough to get into his boat?

Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your hearts,
        with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
        and not your clothing.
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is merciful and compassionate,
        very patient, full of faithful love,
            and ready to forgive.

Lent begins today, and of all the things that Lent is, it is truly a season of rescue from the storm. God invites us into the safe harbor of repentance and forgiveness, where we will find his mercy, compassion, patience, and love.

God invites us to return to him.

14 Who knows whether he will have a change of heart
    and leave a blessing behind him,
    a grain offering and a drink offering
            for the Lord your God?

Ash Wednesday should come in like a storm. It should blow us out of our complacency and flood us with clarity. It should level the idols we have erected on our shores and raze our temples of self-sufficiency and arrogance. It should linger long enough to erode all of our wantonness and allow a righteous wind to take its place. It should create inlets that cut us off from our sin.

A holy Lent involves returning to God with repentant hearts and spending time in prayer, study, fasting, self-denial, worship, and service. God offers us the blessing of renewal in this stormy season. Will you come aboard?

Save yourself!

Darkening Skys by Michelle Robertson

Wilderness Days

We come together this morning on the precipice of yet another Lent. Lent is a forty-day season of preparation for the celebration of Easter. During this time, we are called to reflect, repent, examine our souls, and take God’s call to discipleship very, very seriously.

If I’m honest, there have been seasons in my life where I have been wearied by Lent. The call to fast from things that distract me from God has sometimes felt like a call to abstain from joy. Even the music for Lent is written in a minor key! Of course Lent isn’t a call to abstain from joy, as we all know, but it still has a spirit of solemness and silence which needs to be respected. Lent appeals to the Eeyores among us. I, unfortunately, am a Tigger.

Lent is an invitation to return to the practices of worship, prayer, self-examination, repentance, fasting, Scripture study, and service. Each of these things are designed to draw us closer to Jesus’ heart, where our joy is made complete.

We start this journey on Ash Wednesday, and so today we get ready by remembering a forty-day period where Jesus experienced a wilderness of temptation as he was challenged by Satan:

Luke 4 (The Message)

1-2 Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.

This is the difference between me and Jesus. I can guarantee that after forty days of not eating, I wouldn’t just be hungry … I would be hangry. I love how Peterson calls this time ”forty wilderness days and nights.” Just as Jesus was in a physical wilderness, he was in an emotional-support wilderness as well. There were no friends to listen to him, no disciples to offer comfort, no followers who would come along to mop his brow, and no one to bring him food. Have you ever been there? With no one nearby to console you, talk you through a rough time, hold your hand, or offer a tissue until you felt better? If you have experienced that, you know how Jesus felt. Just think of it: Jesus chose these wilderness days for our sake.

The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to really live.”

This is a striking reminder of why we need to be in God’s word every day. Jesus rebuked the Devil with Scripture. You can, too … if you know it.

5-7 For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.”

Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

If you could distill the purpose of Lent into one sentence, it might just be verse 8. Lent is a time to return to serving God with “absolute single-heartedness.”

9-11 For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that ‘he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone’?”

12 “Yes,” said Jesus, “and it’s also written, ‘Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’”

13 That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.

And of course that opportunity came on the night that Jesus gathered his friends in the Upper Room and one of them betrayed him. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. For now, may we commit to making this a holy, transformative, and significant Lent season by giving God our single-hearted attention, obedience, and love.

All Their Splendor by David Jones

Who is It?

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you loved? There are few things in life that can crush us the way that betrayal does. When you love someone deeply and have come to trust them with all of your intimate thoughts, your faults, your hopes, your insecurities, your future, etc. and then they turn on you like a rabid dog, it hurts deeply. I have known this pain. I’m sure you have, too.

So did Jesus.

As we make our way closer to the crucifixion, our text today drops us directly into the moment at the Last Supper when things came to a head. Jesus told his disciples to remember him in the future whenever they took the bread and shared the cup. As he distributed these things that would become the elements of Communion for believers, he looked around the table at his friends.

Imagine how close they all were at that point. They had worked together with Jesus for three long, hard years. They had gone without the necessities of life. They had left their homes, families, and vocations. They had suffered hunger and ridicule. They had bonded like brothers.

And then, betrayal happened.

John 13 (Common English Bible)

21 After he said these things, Jesus was deeply disturbed and testified, “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”

22 His disciples looked at each other, confused about which of them he was talking about.23 One of the disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side. 24 Simon Peter nodded at him to get him to ask Jesus who he was talking about. 25 Leaning back toward Jesus, this disciple asked, “Lord, who is it?”

We have to ask ourselves the same thing today. Lord, who is it….is it I? Have I betrayed you?

We betray our Lord when we dismiss the sacrifice that he made on our behalf and pursue worldly things. When we neglect worship, forget to pray, leave our Bibles to gather dust on the shelf, fail to teach our children how to be disciples, ignore his commandments, and fall short in serving the poor and the hungry in his name, we betray him. When we turn away from these things, we are just like the one who sold him out that night.

The good news is, God is always a God of second chances. It is never too late to start again. Where is God calling you back? It’s time to come home to him.

Coming Home by Vic Miles

Sheer Silliness

If you have ever raised a teenager, you may have gone through a period when said teenager decided that you know absolutely nothing. When we parent our toddlers and elementary-age children, we are the authority on everything. Then something strange happens when they enter Middle School…suddenly our parental brains empty of every last bit of knowledge as theirs fill up with all kinds of wisdom. Things we say to them at this point come off as sheer silliness and we are downright stupid in their eyes.

Luckily they grow out of that somewhere around the first year of college, when we miraculously become smart again.

Such is the case today in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. He writes to them about the way the truth of Jesus Christ is perceived by its critics:

1 Corinthians 1 (The Message)

18-21 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

He was addressing the culture of his time over 2,000 years ago, but the same teaching applies to today. The cross indeed is foolishness to those who have not received it. Knowing Jesus, it turns out, is a spiritual knowledge born of experience rather than a scholarly, intellectual pursuit. You can read all you want to about Christ, but until you accept him as Savior and Lord, you will never really know him.

22-25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so cheap, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

Is today the day when you will accept Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you being called to humble yourself in his sight and receive him as your personal redeemer? If you’ve been thinking about this for awhile but haven’t experienced it yet, today is your day. You are one prayer away from salvation.

Each one of us who has already made this commitment is personally called by God himself to tell others about Christ, God’s “ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.” The way to do that is to tell your personal story. How do you know Jesus? Go and tell. You never know what seeds you will sow.

Go and Tell by Kathy Schumacher