I was chatting with a friend recently who has faced adversity, and we were reminded of the wonderful truth of James 1:2-4, that testing develops endurance and strong faith. As my trust in Jesus grows, whether I feel stronger or not, I truly am. Relying on His strength is the spiritual sweet spot that adversity invites us to. His grace is sufficient.
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4 NLT)
This week's quote comes from Mother Teresa, about showing Christian compassion. Be on the lookout for someone you can bring the love of Jesus to this week.
"God has identified himself with the hungry, the sick, the naked, the homeless; hunger, not only for bread, but for love, for care, to be somebody to someone; nakedness, not of clothing only, but nakedness of that compassion that very few people give to the unknown; homelessness, not only just from a shelter made of stone, but that homelessness that comes from having no one to call your own."
Came across the following from Charles Spurgeon. It ties in with us following God's leading and recognizing his glory and grace in our lives. More on that this Sunday. For now, enjoy Spurgeon's good words:
"He whose life is one even and smooth path will see little of the glory of the Lord. He has few occasions of self-emptying and, therefore, little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. Among the huge waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah because we feel our own littleness. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road."
As we look forward to celebrating Canada Day we can be grateful for the wonderful country we live in. We can be proud to be Canadian. But that kind of pride needs limits. Our highest allegiance is always to Jesus. I came across the following from Myron Augsburger:
"There is no other movement in the world so important as the church. The more genuinely the church can live as the body of Christ, serving under his headship and extending his mission, the more we enrich our respective societies and enhance the good among humanity."
"It is not right to try to remove all suffering, nor is it right to endure it stoically. Suffering can be used, turned to good account. What makes a life happy or unhappy is not outward circumstances, but our inner attitude to them." (Eberhard Arnold)
The quote above is from a book on forgiveness I've been reading, called "Why Forgive?" by Johann Christoph Arnold. Many intriguing stories of reconciliation and transformation that demonstrate the healing, freeing power of forgiveness. It is the Good News of Kingdom realities at work. The Enemy has no weapon against it.
Jesus has a way of turning things upside down. He certainly does with the definition of greatness. Carry the following quote into your day, it's from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
"Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it, by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
One of the Christian's most powerful weapons in life is the act of forgiveness. As human beings we are conditioned to seek justice or fairness, but so often in situations of loss, where we have been hurt or wronged by another, such fairness is elusive. Besides, our quest for retribution or even revenge becomes a cancer in our own souls. Nelson Mandela once said, Bitterness is the poison we drink hoping our enemy will die."
Jesus taught us to forgive, knowing very well its cost. He did so because he knew that it has tremendous healing power to arrest the cancer of anger and bitterness. He knew it was the way to defeat the enemy of our souls. He lived and died what he taught. He lives on to show how the Story ends. Forgiveness opens your heart to a new horizon. Like anything, we choose to live it by faith.
The following is from the pen of Johann Christoph Arnold:
"Indeed, far from leaving us weak and vulnerable, forgiveness
is empowering, both to the person who grants it and
the one who receives it. In bringing relief to the most difficult
situations, it allows us to lay aside the riddles of
retribution and human fairness, and to experience peace of
heart. Finally, it sets into motion a positive chain reaction
that passes on the fruits of our forgiveness to others."
Today's Easter thoughts come from a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. He notes that what Easter teaches us is:
"that this earthly life is merely an embryonic prelude to a new awakening, that death is not a period which ends this great sentence of life but a comma that punctuates it to more loftier significance."
Easter weekend may be over for another year, but the events it celebrates have changed our lives forever. May you rejoice in the gift of new life today!
As we approach Good Friday and Easter, these thoughts from Johann Ernst von Holst give a wonderful perspective on the mission of Jesus:
"The Passover was a festival in memory of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, but at the same time it was a prophecy of the freeing of the whole of humankind from the heavy yoke of sin and condemnation through the atoning death of the perfect Paschal Lamb. Jesus longed to fulfill this 1500-year-old prophecy and at long last to redeem the lost world through his sacrificial death, to close in this way the old covenant and set up the new one. But he saw still further beyond this deed of redemption. He looked into that sunny distance beyond time where his whole work would be brought to perfection, where he would celebrate the meal of joy on the transfigured earth with a redeemed humankind and drink with them the new fruit of the vine."
Today's Lenten thoughts are from Ann Spangler:
"The risen Jesus had appeared, not to rulers and kings, nor even first of all to his male disciples, but to a woman whose love had held her at the cross and led her to the grave. Mary Magdalene, a person who had been afflicted by demons, whose testimony would not have held up in court because she was a woman, was the first witness of the resurrection. Once again, God had revealed himself to the lowly, and it would only be the humble whose hearing was sharp enough to perceive the message of his love."
As we prepare to celebrate Palm Sunday and Holy Week at REMC, I am reminded of the cost of following Jesus, and the courage that was especially demonstrated by women. They joined the happy crowd at the parade of his triumphal entry, and they were still there, alone, at the foot of the cross, and again at his grave. Lord, give me that heart.
Pastor Ward Parkinson