Saturday, May 30th
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
During these perplexing days of the pandemic, I have found myself wondering about discoveries that are being made of which we’re not yet aware. I’m thinking not only about the domains of health and medicine, but even beyond those… I wonder what some of the bright minds of our time are conceiving during their times of creative aloneness. My curiosity is piqued because of something I learned about Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most influential scientists of all time. Newton’s scholastic career was interrupted in 1665 by the black plague. To escape the outbreak, he left Cambridge and returned to his birthplace, Woolsthorpe Manor, near the town of Grantham. That year of seclusion Newton later described as his “annus mirabilis”, or “wonderful year.” At Woolsthorpe, Newton accomplished three significant things: (1) he invented the mathematical system called calculus; (2) he drilled a hole in the shutter of his bedroom window and held a prism up to the beam of sunlight that came through it, discovering that white light is made up of every color; and (3) he watched apples falling from the trees in his garden and theorized about a force called gravity, which keeps the moon revolving around planet earth. (I love what he wrote later: “I can calculate the movement of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.”) So, I have found myself thinking, “What are the Newtons of today doing?”
While Paul didn’t have to deal with a pandemic, unless you want to consider the Roman Empire or the Jewish Sanhedrin catastrophes for any Christian evangelist, he did have for the first time in several years some time when he wasn’t starting new churches or imprisoned for his beliefs. He took the opportunity of a three-month stay in Corinth to pen a letter to Rome. It became his longest letter, and it was unique in the sense that he was not writing for any causative problem or issue in a particular church. He had no relationship with the church in Rome prior to this writing, and what he sent was a theological testimony worked out in his mind and lived out in his missionary journeys. It was meant to be a letter of introduction of sorts, a formal effort to acquaint the Roman church with Paul the Apostle. What it became was a description of, and guide for, what it means to be the church.
The entire letter turns with our text for today. The first eleven chapters are theology, brilliant ideas eloquently stated. But in the twelfth chapter the letter pivots to how this theology is lived out in everyday terms by the church. We see this “pivot” in the word therefore. It is almost as if Paul is getting on his tiptoes to make a riveting conclusion, which he does. He talks about being the church as nothing less than making ourselves “living sacrifices,” of having our minds “transformed by and for the purpose of God.”
Curiously enough, I heard this transformation described once by none other than Peter Drucker, the business management expert. He said, “All nonprofit organizations have one essential product: a changed human being. This is a different approach from business. In business, your goal is not to change the customer; it’s not even to educate the customer; it’s to satisfy the customer. When GM tried to tell us what cars we ought to drive, we began to drive Toyotas. But non-profits aim for a different goal; they aim for change. Hospitals seek to change sick patients into healthy ones. Schools aim to change students into educated individuals…” And Drucker continues by saying, “I would dare say that the church’s aim is to make a difference in the way the parishioner lives . . . that is, to change the parishioner’s values –into God’s values.”
William Willimon tells of a friend from college who became an expert in east-west relationships back in the 1980’s, working for a large corporation that was negotiating contracts with the Soviet Union. At a lunch one day in Moscow his Russian counterpart said, “I am an atheist. I make decisions based on the idea that the material world is all there is. I do not believe there is anything more than what we see here in this world. You are a Christian, so you look at life differently than that. But we seem to work together with no problem. So tell me, how does being a Christian make a difference in the way you look at business, or in the way you vote, the way you spend your money? How are you different from me?” The man said that he was stumped by the question, because while he had always considered himself to be a Christian, he had never thought about it in those terms. So he sought out Will, his old friend from college, then chaplain at Duke University, and said to him, “How do I find a faith that matters, that makes a difference in who I am? How do I get a faith that costs something, that demands something of me?”
Robert Bolt makes this point in his marvelous screenplay that was made into the movie, The Mission. Bolt wrote exquisite screenplays, often with religious themes – A Man for All Seasons, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago and others, but it is in The Mission where he describes the struggle inherent in being authentically Christian, unequivocally the church. The story takes place in the eighteenth century where a Jesuit priest has traveled to the Paraguayan jungles to convert the Guaraní Indians, much to the chagrin of Portuguese slave traders. The movie is a moving depiction of the struggle over what it means to be truly Christian. In the story, Cardinal Altamirano, a Papal emissary, is sent by Rome to make a judgment on whether the efforts of this Jesuit band of brothers conform to the structures of the Catholic church. He has the difficult choice of whether to side with the spiritual inclinations of the Jesuit priests or the political realities of the Portuguese colonials. In one of the closing scenes between Altamirano and Hontar, a Portuguese statesman, Hontar laments that what happened was unfortunate but inevitable, because “we must work in the world; the world is thus.” Altamirano replies, “No, thus have we made the world . . . ” The movie reminds me of something the author James Carroll said when filming a documentary on his book, Constantine’s Sword, “Since the time of Constantine, whenever the church has had to decide between power and justice, it has chosen power.”
Just as new discoveries are undoubtedly being made across a wide range of disciplines during this time, transformational processes are occurring in the life of the church. My prayer is that we might be inspired by a passion such as Paul’s as we seek to be the body of Christ together.
A Time of Reflection and Prayer
Romans 12:1-2 says, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What does transformation mean to you? Is there a difference between faith as a matter of opinion/belief and a real, lived experience?
Craig Barnes says, “If we worship because it’s our duty, we’re missing the point. We don’t worship because we have to, but because we get to. Worship is our chance to see what’s going on from heaven’s perspective.” During this time of deep crisis, how might our community of faith be effective in perceiving and articulating to our world the heart of God?
Paul’s exhortation to “Rejoice in hope; be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer,” could not be more timely for us today. Ask for guidance in finding joy, patience, and perseverance individually and as the church.
A Prayer to Guide our Prayers: Ernest T. Campbell
With yearnings that we cannot fully identify, much less describe; with fears too personal to voice; harboring hostilities of which we are ashamed; and weighted with a sense of guilt for having done so little with so much; we make bold now to pray for ourselves:
teach us what it means to live in you,
to rest in you,
to hope in you;
let your presence fill those homes where death has come;
let your wisdom fall like a gentle rain on the parched souls
of all who are confused;
let your warming, healing light kindle trust in those
who are sick or in any way afflicted;
let your joy overcome the dolefulness of those who have
forgotten how to laugh.
Shape your grace around our inmost needs, O God. Do not give us over to ourselves. Strive with us yet a little longer, for we love you and desire to serve you fully. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
By Rubye Box
But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
There is a reason for everything including waiting. Here is an example about today’s verse that I have experienced. Sitting in a restaurant, I gave my order to the waitress and then waited for my meal. I watched others come in, order and get their food while I sat there waiting for mine to arrive. Needless to say, I was getting somewhat frustrated. Why did I have to wait when others were getting their food right away? When the waitress brought my food, I had to ask why it took so long to prepare my order. She explained that the sauce that goes with my meal is prepared special by the chef. He can’t rush it and cannot make it ahead of time. It is custom made just for my order.
This is a reflection of our prayer life. We make requests of God. Our menu is His Word where He gave us His promises, explained the costs and assures us He will give us the desires of our heart. But if God doesn’t answer immediately or within our timeframe, we become impatient. “Lord, I prayed yesterday, and You still haven’t answered. I can’t wait much longer. Why is it taking so long?”
Others around us are seeing their prayers answered – God is moving in their lives. Yet, it appears that we’ve been overlooked or neglected. Then just when you think things are about to work out and your prayer has been answered, He pulls back the royal curtain of eternity and tells us, “Please remain seated and wait a while longer – I’m not finished yet!”
The questions pour from my heart. Do you know why the Lord has put you on the side? Do you know why you have had to wait for this blessing? Do you know why He has put you through more this time than ever before? Do you know why it seems as though He has not heard you and He does not care? Then you hear the small still voice, “Because the answer is custom made for you and since you made a request, and He only gives good and perfect things, it will come in His time and not yours. Custom made answers from God take time because they are prepared in a way that is perfect for us.” How many people have missed their blessings because they did not wait? Have patience. Keep on waiting. You made a request, now wait on God’s answer. He knows the need and He has the answer.
Father, forgive me for my impatience! So often I ask things of you and because of my anxiousness, I become frustrated and begin to doubt. Show me where my lack of trust in You has often cost me a special blessing from You. Help me to remember that all things are done in Your time. Amen
By Lance Mayes
It is easy to be afraid; we have so much to be afraid of — at least that’s what they tell us. We need to be afraid of North Korea. We need to be afraid of ISIS. We need to be afraid of foreign and domestic terrorists. We need to be afraid of those who want to traffic our children. We need to be afraid of immigrants. We need to be afraid of Muslims.
No we don’t. We don’t need to be afraid. Yes, we need to be wise, but we do not need to be afraid. We can trust that whatever we face, God is with us. We can have confidence that God listens to us.
We are to wait patiently for God. It is difficult for us to wait. We are so used to getting what we want when we want it. We can DVR TV programs and watch them whenever we want and even fast-forward through the commercials. God’s timing may be different than our timing. We can still trust that God has not and will not abandon us.
Be encouraged today. This video is from 2010. The text is from Old Testament times.
No question that putting fear behind us and waiting patiently on God is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible. What are you going through that is causing you fear? What is bringing you down? What is causing you discouragement?
Be encouraged today. Pray that God will give you the strength you need. May God hear our prayers.
By Bridgette Langford
What does it mean to have Joy?
Christ shares with us that in order for us to truly seek Joyfulness, our love must be genuine, we must hate evil, and should be devoted to loving one another above ourselves. We must have great energy and keep our spiritual passion for serving him. We must be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.
As I read this passage I began to think what does it mean to be joyful in hope, be patient in affliction and what does it truly mean to be faithful in prayer?
We have a desire for certain things to happen, but sometimes that waiting is hard. We all go through experiences in our lives. Some are good other are bad. No matter what life hands us we are to persist in our praying. This can be hard, depending on what is currently going on in your life. We must remain joyful as we wait upon the lord.
I must confess that the waiting part is hard. I often wonder how the prophets felt before Jesus came to earth. They shared with the world he was coming. They remained joyful in hope, even when they received affliction by those who did not believe. They remained faithful in prayer as they waited. This is a good example to us. We must do things with joy, passion, love, hope, and patience while remaining faithful in prayer.
I ask you to take a moment and think about the last time you were truly joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. When was the last time you let your joy shine in loving others? As we are in this period of advent and drawing closer to celebrating the birth of our Savior, I find great Joy in knowing my hope is found in Him and I hope yours is too. I want to encourage you if you have not already done so today to smile and be the light of Joy to all those you see.
Father, thank you so much for being our Joyful hope, help me to remain faithful in prayer in times of joy and sorrow. Allow me to be your servant, not just during this me but always. Thank for using me for your glory. God grant me peace in knowing I am doing your will for my life. Amen.