Suffering

The vision offered by Jesus is in sharp contrast to the world’s vision. Jesus shows, both in his teachings and his life, the true joy is often hidden in the midst of sorrow, and that the dance of life finds its beginnings in grief. He says: “unless the grain of wheat dies it cannot bear fruit – unless we lose our lives, we cannot find them; Unless the son of man dies, he cannot send the spirit.”

The cross has become the most powerful symbol of this new vision. The cross is a symbol of death and of life, of suffering end of joy, of defeat and the victory. It’s the cross that shows us the way.

~~~ Henri Nouwen



There is an ancient Indian proverb that says, “He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.” Our society sees sufferings as defeat, and we never want to be defeated. The best way to handle suffering is to deny it exists. There are some people who see suffering as the way that God punishes us. I know that, as a child, I was taught that concept. Jesus, who is the Messiah come down from heaven, teaches us something vastly different.

Have you ever heard of a change agent? A change agent is a person from inside or outside an organization who helps an organization, or part of an organization, to transform how it operates. Jesus was the greatest change agent that ever existed, and he tells us that suffering is a tool of transformation. When we suffer, we learn more about ourselves and get new insights on the world. These insightful truths can lead us into new vistas of work and life.

We know that suffering was the change agent that led to our redemption through the death of Jesus. The Romans and the Jewish establishment saw the cross as the greatest of all defeats, but Jesus knew that it was the road to victory. The actions of Jesus, and his acceptance of the cross, generate a new meaning to suffering. It means that now suffering is a way of cleansing and renewal. In past days and in the view of the world today suffering can have no benefit.

Suffering brings redemption that gives us a way of life that is hard to see or imagine. When we experience the redemption of suffering our lives are turned around and made new. C. S. Lewis in his A Grief Observed put it this way, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it.” These sufferings can be used to drag us down or bring us to a new path that leads to a higher plain. It is up to us to decide how we handle suffering because , that is the way we redeem ourselves in this life.

Our suffering gives us the permission to move on. We go through emotions that change us and allow us to forge a new and necessary path. In suffering we are searching. As we suffer, we are drawn inward and cleanse ourselves of the things that weigh us down. Proverbs tells us, “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens his friend’s countenance”. Suffering is the iron that sharpens us for our journey. The pilgrimage of suffering is the journey to the next level. As we go to that level, we receive the ability to move on to the things that God has for us. The saddest thing in life is to be frozen in time. One who has the inability to use the ups and downs of life as the pathway to the future can really be miserable.

My hope for you is that you understand and acknowledge the inevitability of suffering as a part of your life’s journey. This acknowledgement will help you to cope and grow in your valley times of life.

A woman, when she gives birth, has sorrow because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she doesn’t remember the anguish anymore, for the joy that a human being is born into the world.

~~~John 16:21



Lord, Guide me by your spirit to be able to use the setbacks and defeats of my life as a way to move forward. Allow me to offer my sufferings to you so that they may become steppingstones to a stronger, greater faith. Please give me awareness of your presence and the comfort that comes with it when I suffer. I ask that you allow me to see suffering through the eyes that you did when you went to the cross.

Amen

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THIS WEEK – Service

Service – To be advantageous to a prescribed organization or person by contributing to the functions of that person or organization .

(Oxford Dictionary)

Service

Service means to take care of the needs of others. An imperative of the teachings of Jesus is to serve the world and to bring his message of salvation to all. A person who is a member of the military is said to be in the service. Every store offers customer service. Those are some of the many ways what we can use the word service, but what does it mean to be in service to the Lord?

Servants of the Lord put Jesus first. The writer of Romans says, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Serving the Lord means that we learn his ways and his will. Our lives are focused on pleasing the one who gave us life. God/Jesus, after all, is not only our creator but our redeemer. Jesus came to earth to set things right for us. He came to show the way to abundant life, and we must put our service to him first that we might share in his abundance.

All who serve Jesus as Lord understand that they are to put others first. Jesus said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” What does it mean to be a servant of all? It means that we are continually looking out for the welfare of our fellow beings. We do not see ourselves as an independent entity but part of great community of creation. That vision of ourselves will drive us to look out for the wellbeing of all.

Service to the Lord means that we want to share His message to the world. It is our greatest desire that others may know his message of blessing and freedom. As servants we are commissioned to be the “tellers” of the story. We are to share that good news with all those that we meet. I am not talking about door knocking evangelism but living in a way that others will be drawn to him. It is not what we say, but what we do that brings people to Jesus. That is an aspect of our service.

The greatest service we render to the world is the desire to make the world a better place. We live in a confused and dark world. The message of Christ is a message of abundance. The more people get to know about the salvation of Jesus, the more ready they are to improve their lot in life. Such an improvement becomes contagious to all those around them. It is our job, our calling, our mission to make the world a better place. Because we are the people of the Trinity, we can make the world a better place.

I want you to take the time this week, and ask yourself – what am I doing in service to the Lord? 



Quotes BannerEverybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

~~~Martin Luther King Jr.

A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.

~~~Henry Ford

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.

We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.

~~~Mother Teresa

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.

~~~Carl Gustav Jung

The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.

~~~Gordon B. Hinckley

So long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.

~~~Ramana Maharshi

Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family.

~~~George Bernard Shaw

Life is for service.

~~~Fred Rogers

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.

~~~Albert Schweitzer



Scripture BannerAs each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

~~~1 Peter 4:10

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

~~~1 Peter 4:9-11

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

~~~Galatians 5:13

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

~~~Mark 10:45

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

~~~Colossians 3:23-24

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

~~~Isaiah 58:10

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ …

~~~Matthew 25:35-40

And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

~~~Mark 9:35

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

~~~Romans 12:11

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

~~~John 12:26

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

~~~Matthew 6:24Prayer Banner

Lord, I want to be of service to you. Open for me opportunities to learn more of you. Open for me opportunities to serve the unlovely. Open for me opportunities to make the world a better place. I pray that you will guide me through direction of your Holy Spirit to find a way to serve the world and make it a better place. Let all my thoughts be directed toward serving and not being served. Amen

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Prayer of the Week 2

Merton Prayer

“The Merton Prayer” from

Thoughts in Solitude

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Service

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Worship January 17,2021

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Choices

It is important to become aware that at every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy. Life has many sides to it. There are always sorrowful and joyful sides to the reality we live. And so we always have a choice to live the moment as cause for resentment or as a cause for joy. It is in the choice that our true freedom lies, and that freedom is, in the final analysis, the freedom to love.

~~~Henri Nouwen

If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose today whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.

~~~Joshua 24:15



Life is full of choices. We must choose things as simple as what we will wear today or where we will eat. More important choices come in the form of our finances, behavior and relationships. Our choices can lead us to harm or produce great good.

When I was the pastor of First UMC Mansfield, Louisiana, I was called out on Christmas Eve early in the morning to minister amid a tragic event. A young firefighter had been killed when his truck was struck by a train and immediately burst into flames. The event was sad enough, but the circumstances made it worse. It was Christmas and he was newly married with a baby on the way. If that were not bad enough, the chief told me that he did not have to respond to the call. He made a choice and it ended tragically. Sometimes we do not even have a clue as to what might happen as a result of our choices. I realize that this event is simply a random act, but we are in control of so many things. We cannot protect ourselves from things which we do not know, but we can make choices that better our lives. Bear in mind that the results of our choices can be incredibly significant.

The young man made a choice that he thought was the right thing to do, but chance took his life away from him. We all have choices to make about our daily activities, and there are things that are out of our control. We must remember that there are quite a few choices that we enter with our eyes wide open. Let us look at a few of them.

We choose how to react to situations, both good and bad. It is purely your choice whether you turn the other cheek or strike back. Are you going to continue an argument or move forward? We are faced with these types of choices every day. Joshua refers to the greatest of all choices. Choosing God determines much about how we make every other choice. Who do we serve-God or the world? This choice is where we begin.

As servants of the true God we choose a path in life that brings blessings. Many times in our lifetime, we have a path or direction to choose. These choices come in the form of a job opportunity, a chance to move to a bigger or smaller home or choose a good over evil. Life is full of these types of decisions, and we must make the most of them.

I feel that the biggest choice we have is how we react to an offence or a hurt. Statistics bear out that personal argument and disagreement are involved in many violent crimes. What does that mean? It means that how we react to hurt feelings, insults and unfairness is a great determining factor behind violence. Make the right choice and move forward. Nouwen stresses that choice gives us true freedom. A freedom to live life in a way that we determine. That is what choice really is-freedom.



Prayer

Lord, You have given me the freedom of choice in my life. Help me to make the right choice and to always bear in mind that my choices have grave consequences. Protect me from the temptation to be led away from you by the lure of the world. Keep me on the path that will usher in your goodness to my life.

Amen

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THIS WEEK – Wisdom

Definition

Wisdom – The combination of experience and knowledge with the ability to apply them judiciously ; sound judgment, prudence, practical sense.

(Oxford Dictionary)



Wisdom

Everyone in the world wants to be wise, because the one who possesses wisdom rules the world. Is that true? The answer would have to be yes and no. As we gain wisdom our ability to lead others is strengthened. The way to gain wisdom is to realize what you do not know. When that attitude descends upon us, we begin to desire and seek the opinions and knowledge of others and, more importantly, we realize what we do not know. This leads us to the path of wisdom in this life. Let us look at some ways we can begin the wisdom journey.

“Avoid company where it is not profitable or necessary, and in those occasions, speak little, and last. Silence is wisdom where speaking is folly, and always safe.” Those are the words of William Penn, the namesake and founder of the state of Pennsylvania. Let us focus on the concept of speaking little and last. The world is full of people who want to be heard but lacks in those who want to listen. If you find yourself frustrated that you do not get to speak first and loudest, then you may need this wisdom lesson. Pause, listen with openness and respect to those around you, and then speak after you have digested what has been said.

Learn the value of doubt. We can safely say that the one who never doubts himself is lacking in wisdom. No one is always right or knows all. Doubt can be a great blessing, because it leads to greater learning and opens new vistas of life. It can be very isolating and miserable to always think that you have arrived at the right conclusions and taken the right action. Doubt causes us to examine our motives and actions. This process builds wisdom.

The next building block is the virtue of silence. Our wisdom is evaluated by our ability to listen at peace. True silence is a strength. We are not truly silent when we do not speak but are boiling with frustration and anger. Wise people learn the discipline of silence by knowing the art of listening. Silence is an important part of wisdom.

Wisdom is a combination of knowledge and experience. That leads me to believe that the wise person seeks all the knowledge and experience that they can possibly absorb. Let us take advantage of any opportunity to learn a new fact or understand a new concept. If we are vivacious readers and learn of things that are not of immediate use, then we are equipped for whatever life throws at us. Experience is an important part of wisdom. The more we try to use our knowledge, the more it is tested. This testing teaches us that we all know far less that we think. Those tests bring wisdom.

The writer of Proverbs says that wisdom will guard us. Wisdom is the virtue that guards us from foolish and quick action. Wisdom allows us to know when to be silent and when to speak. This same wisdom allows us to carry on in time of distress and failure. Wisdom imparts to us the value of ourselves in a realistic way. We are never as great or as bad as our minds tell us. Every one of God’s creatures needs a gatekeeper, and wisdom is the one that guides, builds and protects us.                                                                                                    

Quotes Banner

Doubt is the origin of wisdom.

~~~Augustine of Hippo

The truest wisdom is a resolute determination.

~~~Napoleon Bonaparte

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

~~~Immanuel Kant

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.

~~~Albert Einstein

Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.

~~~Francis Bacon

A fool is known by his speech; and a wise man by silence.

~~~ Pythagoras

The fool wonders, the wise man asks.

~~~Benjamin Disraeli

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

~~~Confucius

Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.

~~~Leonardo da Vinci

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

~~~Benjamin Franklin

There is only a finger’s difference between a wise man and a fool.

~~~ Diogenes

Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.

~~~ Kahlil Gibran



Scripture BannerIs wisdom with the aged,

   and understanding in length of days?

~~~Job 12:12

For the Lord gives wisdom;

   from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

~~~Proverbs 2:6

Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;

   love her, and she will guard you.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,

   and whatever else you get, get insight.

~~~Proverbs 4:6-7

When pride comes, then comes disgrace;

   but wisdom is with the humble.

The integrity of the upright guides them,

   but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

~~~Proverbs 11:2-3

By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,

   and by the fear of the Lord one avoids evil.

~~~Proverbs 16:6

To get wisdom is to love oneself;

   to keep understanding is to prosper.

~~~Proverbs 19:8

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

   fools despise wisdom and instruction.

~~~Proverbs 1:7

For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

~~~Ecclesiastes 2:26

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

~~~1 Corinthians 1:25

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

~~~James 3:17

A fool gives full vent to anger,

   but the wise quietly holds it back.

~~~Proverbs 29:11

Happy are those who find wisdom,

   and those who get understanding,

for her income is better than silver,

   and her revenue better than gold.

~~~Proverbs 3:13-14

Prayer Banner

Lord, This day I seek lady wisdom. She can lead me to the path that will bring joy and blessing in my life. I confess that I have often forsaken wisdom for the foolishness that plagues me. With your help I can focus on what is necessary to lead a life that develops wisdom each day. Give me enough doubt and enough hunger for knowledge to become wiser this very day.

Amen

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Prayer of the Week 1

Lord help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the beginning and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.

Amen

From  “Gates of Repentance.” Chaim Stern

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Wisdom

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Complete Joy

Joy is essential to spiritual life. Whatever we may think or say about God, when we are not joyful, our thought and words cannot bear fruit. Jesus reveals to us God’s love so that his joy may become ours and then our joy may become complete. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take away that love

~~~Henri Nouwen

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~~~Romans 8:38-39



Can you remember a time in your life that you were just exploding with joy? It would be hard for me to narrow down a joyous occasion that was greater than any other or the greatest. I will tell you about one of my big ones Six years ago, we purchased what is our “forever” home. I can remember very vividly walking into it for the first time with the realtor. It was so clear to us that this was the right place for us, we told him to put the paperwork together on the spot. Our offer was accepted, and I remember the joy we felt as we got the keys and entered our home. There were many repairs to be done, but the joy made the work seem miniscule. Every nail that was nailed and wall that was redone was pure joy. It is uncanny what joy can do for you.

When we experience joy, we can take on the world. We become confident and strong. Tasks that would have seemed insurmountable become achievable. Joy makes us feel invincible in a positive way. We know who we are and why we are here. This confidence allows us to learn new skills and tackle tough tasks. When joy enters our lives, it casts out low self-esteem and self-depreciating behavior.

An experience of joy heals hurt. It is estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or 6.7 percent of American adults, have had at least one major depressive episode each year. Often the source of this depression is hurt. We all have hurts that we carry around with us. Disappointment and hurt are normal occurrences in life. These hurts will rule us if we do not allow the joys to lay their claim on our lives. The joy of what God has given you can heal your greatest hurt.

Joy opens the portals of love and the ultimate portal of love is found in discovering the length breadth and depth of God’s love for us. He created us for his joy and wants us to experience that joy. He also created us in his image so that we might have the ability to share his love and joy to all who cross our paths. Jesus said,”. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” He created us so that we may share joy with one another.

Let us wake up each morning and discover the joy of being loved by God and spread it to the world.



Prayer

Lord, Fashion me into one of those people that complete your joy. Give me that confidence to trust you fully and use that trust to lead others to see your joy. Lead me to places that will allow me to share my joy with others. At times when I am down, I ask that you allow me to feel and experience your joy. For in it, I find healing and peace. May that joy fall upon me this moment.

Amen

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