Superhero!

Last week, our church hosted kids 9-11 years old at a Superhero themed camp in the great outdoors. Truth be told, superheroes in modern culture aren’t my forte. While they’re all the rage right now, I could maybe identify two superheroes by name in a 3-man lineup. EEEEK – stick with me, all you Marvel fans out there – yes, I googled that.

 

So what’s a dork mom to do when she’s trying to hang with the cool kids all excited about superheroes? I don’t know, put on a mask and cape, and give yourself a cool super hero name! Double EEEEK! I couldn’t even think of a cool superpower!

But here was the cool thing about this camp – you know where this is going, right? JESUS is the ultimate, matchless, most powerful superhero EVER!!! And HE is a superhero I do know something about and has come to my rescue. I could write the never ending sequels to all the times He has saved the day and saved me.

 

While we swapped stories, sang songs, swam, hiked; we also learned about our Superhero Jesus! These kids just melted me and brought my heart to a much needed child-like place of faith. During one evening of devotions we shared in our small groups who some of the superheroes are in our life. I had one camper share that her parents were her superheroes because she was adopted from St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and born with medical problems. Her mom couldn’t take care of her, so her parents stepped in and adopted her and gave her a better life. Another one of my campers shared that her mom was a veteran and served in the military protecting people, and she was her superhero. These girls get it – they recognized at an early age how they had superheroes in their life. People that protected them, defended them, cared for them, even at their own risk or loss. These are people that are following Jesus and showing His sacrificial love. We learned an awesome song at camp with this verse: Jesus, You’re my Superhero, You swooped down and You rescued me”.

 

Jesus is our first and best Superhero, perfectly demonstrating how to love the unlovely, grace the sinner, and protect the weak. And while we can never perfectly mirror Jesus, we sure can strive for excellence! 1 Peter 1:16 encourages us to “Be Holy, for I am Holy”.

 

And as we open up to our reading for today – the entire book of Philemon (one chapter), we see Paul following in Jesus’ footsteps. He serves as a superhero to Onesimus, standing in the gap between Onesimus & Philemon, the recipient of this letter. Onesimus (I’ve heard it pronounced oh-NESS-i-muss) was a slave that ran away from Philemon, and while on the run he became a Christ follower, taught by Paul and loved by Paul. Paul sends him back to Philemon with this letter, vouching for Onesimus, building up his character, taking on his debt, and asking for him to be received how Philemon would receive Paul himself. He asks all these things in love, rather than requiring it from Philemon, as his superior in the early church.

 

This is a really cool letter to study with so many little glimpses of Jesus shining through. Paul humbles himself when he doesn’t have to. He has a heart for reconciliation between people he cares deeply for. Paul is willing to assume the debt or restitution of Onesimus – interceding for the people he is leading.

 

While we never know exactly how this situation ends, we do know that Paul was very confident that Philemon would respond favorable to Paul’s request of reconciliation (vs. 21). And at the very end of this letter we get one more little clue of reconciliation in Paul’s world. He sends greetings from Mark – who he was separated from in the ministry for a period of time due to a disagreement (Acts 13 & 15) and yet here we see that they have reconciled and Paul is sending greetings on Mark’s behalf. I love this picture of how the Holy Spirit leads people to reconciliation, and sometimes uses one another in the process.

 

Have you had someone stand in the gap for you, vouch for you, take on your debt when they weren’t responsible? Maybe someone backed you in the workplace, or stuck up for you in school. We are surrounded by superheroes that are following Jesus’ footsteps – from organ donors to foster parents, teachers and firemen. Take a moment and reflect on and thank God for the superheroes He has sent your way. These people are the gospel message in action – standing in the gap and interceding for us just like Jesus did at Calvary. Our perfect Superhero took on our sin debt, vouched for us, pleaded for our forgiveness, all while we were still sinners. Jesus is our Superhero!

Do Not Lose Heart

Good morning!

If you need some encouragement today, open right up to 2 Corinthians Chapter 4.
Paul opens and closes his letter with the message “Do not lose heart”, and I love the three message points he gives to support this message.
A third grade writing teacher would be proud of his intro, three supporting points, and a conclusion that restates his main message!
Paul gives us examples of how we may lose heart, specifically in ministry. Have you ever felt called to something and then when you are smack dab in the middle of it you start questioning the entire thing? How could this have been from God, it’s going terribly off track?  There are so many examples of this all around us.
  • Families fighting through government red tape to adopt a child.
  • Missionaries overseas who lose their funding unexpectedly.
  • A new college grad, eager and ready to serve but cannot find a job.
  • Parents everywhere who question their decisions and if they’re messing up their children!

Whatever ministry God has called you to, know that you are not alone in doubts, setbacks, feeling crushed from every side. (verse 9).  I love the encouragement Don’t Dig Up in Doubt What You Planted in Faith. 

The next point we are given is where our power comes from to overcome – the Holy Spirit! We are like jars of clay filled with an amazing power from God. The power is from Him, not from ourselves! If He calls you, He will equip you, even if in the moment you find yourself scratching your head and wondering how it will work out. You can’t do it alone – but He will do it through you!
Finally, Paul refocuses us on why we should not lose heart – because our glory is in eternity! All of the worries and afflictions of this life are nothing in comparison to eternity with Jesus! As our earthly bodies waste away, our hearts are being renewed and we are closer to eternity. If you’ve never seen this 4 minute video on eternity, click and watch Francis Chan as he shares this powerful visual.    https://youtu.be/86dsfBbZfWs
It’s so easy to focus on the small part of our lives that’s on earth, instead of the forever that will be with Jesus in heaven.

Unity vs. Uniformity

Two weeks ago, my daughter posed this question:

In light of being frustrated with herself (and likely a squabble with her little brother), she wanted to know why we couldn’t all just be the same, think the same, and make good choices every time. I can’t say I blame her line of thinking. Even as an adult, I have found myself scratching my head wondering why God wouldn’t just make me to do exactly what He wants me to do… or why He gave us all different minds and two people could process the exact same situation wildly different. Ummm… any spouses feeling me on this one?

Paul describes God’s design in 2 Cor 12:12-27.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Her 8 year old brain could process that God DID create us differently, and she understands that He gave us all the option to choose Him or turn away from Him. But her question is in the WHY.

Baby girl, there are just some things about God’s ways that are so far above our own ways, we may not understand till we are in heaven.

(I wonder when that line will get old…)

I asked her what she thought and we had a great conversation about robots. God could have created a bunch of people that were all identical, perfect, and He programmed to love Him.  But how much cooler is it that God created each person unique, and with a choice. Wouldn’t you rather create something that can choose to love you, than create something you force to? And wouldn’t you rather make 100 different rainbow loom bracelets, each with their own pattern and colors, rather than have 100 identical pink bracelets?

God is so powerful and so creative that He uniquely designed each one of us. AS HE CHOSE.  Did you catch that in verse 18? King James Version says “As it pleased Him”. So the answer to the “why”… because He wanted to. It made him happy. He chose it.

We can speculate about His creativity and being created in His image, and so many other attributes of God. And verse 24 tells us that He composed the body so that it would be different but unified. He gave us our bodies as an example of how we come together as the church. Even the parts that seem less honorable, He bestowed more honor.

God didn’t create us to be uniform, He created us to be unified.

In His perfect wisdom He designed us uniquely so we could be better together. Learn from one another. Serve one another. God designed us to synergize long before that was a business buzz word. We are greater together than the sum of our individual parts.

We can come up with a list of benefits of His “One Body with Many Members” design – but what would your list look like for the WHY behind it?

Because He Can.

Because it pleased Him.

What else?

Rooted in His Love

Today’s Readings: 1 Kings 6, Ephesians 3, Ezekiel 36, Psalm 86

Today we find Paul again in Ephesians 3 writing from prison. I did some reading about Paul’s experience and learned that he was under house arrest in Rome while he awaited trial. In the very first verse he describes himself as “a prisoner for Christ.” He goes on to say that he is a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles. This short phrase is so easy to skip over but I think it is really significant. What does it mean to us to be prisoners for Christ? To me, that means putting Jesus before all other things. That means dying to myself in order to put him first as he put me first on the cross. Paul goes on to explain to the Ephesians that they should not lose heart over his suffering. He says,

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” (Ephesians 3:8-9)

 What would it look like if I committed to bringing light to everyone and shared the plan! Even though he was under arrest, Paul maintained his faith that God was in control of everything. When I think of this in context of my life today, it gives me such comfort to know that God is in control. Then I think about the possibility of sharing that message with others. I know, sometimes we feel hesitant, we don’t know if it’s the right time or place to share the hope and promise of Jesus. Paul shows us through example that we too can gain strength by sharing the message in our times of weakness.

Paul goes on in Chapter 3 to pray for spiritual strength. I love this moment and these words. It reminds me that each of us are named, each of us are absolutely cherished in His heart.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ….” (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Did you read that? Did you take it in? Rooted and grounded in love! How many times this week can we repeat that sacred text to ourselves in times of worry or anger or fear. We are truly rooted and grounded in God’s love. So rooted that we may have strength to comprehend his love for us. Paul wants us to see that God’s love for us is multidimensional. It isn’t just at church, not just at home in our Bible or our daily devotional. God’s love for us fills all the spaces. Paul calls us as Christians to go to Him. He reminds us that God truly wants to hear from us.

Today’s message is so simple but to me it is so foundational. We can do better than survive each day. We can thrive in the knowledge of his love for us. We are rooted in Him; nothing can separate us from our grounding in Christ Jesus.

God, thank you for your words, help us to find our strength, to comprehend your all-encompassing love for us. Amen!