Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-20
A Great Start for Your Morning
I LOVE this text. When I visit with people who are going through a struggle with daily living, I always encourage them to read this passage from Ephesians the first thing in the morning, EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY. I tell them to start their morning off with this passage, because it will remind them that no matter what happens to them that day, that they will know that they are loved, cared for and PROTECTED with God’s Armor.
Use God’s Armor
When I was in college I coached a peewee football team at the local elementary school. Since I was the new guy, I was given all of the misfit kids that wanted to play, but really had no idea of what they were doing. The first day, one of my kids even put his helmet on backwards. I had to stop and explain what each piece of equipment was for, and why it was important.
The same holds true for the Gospel Armor, each piece is important and together they help to protect us from “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Now that we have increased our daily prayer lives with our 3:16 daily prayer, let’s add some extra protection for this ministry by wrapping it in God’s armor.
Rich in Faith, Hope and Trust
When I visited Tanzania for the first time, I was struck by the severe poverty and lack of material resources. When I looked around all I could see is what they did not have. Yet, by the third day, everything changed. Instead of seeing what they lacked, all I could see was what they had. Suddenly, I saw how rich they were in faith, hope, and trust, and how poor I was in comparison.
When we visited a new Lutheran secondary school built by the diocese we learned that their bishop came up with the idea to build a residential school on the top of a beautiful mountain. However, before moving forward with the project, the bishop encouraged the entire community to pray about the project for one full year. Their corporate prayers would ask for God’s affirmation, direction, and support.
During that year, people would climb to the top of the mountain to pray in the spot of the future school. As they prayed, each person would dig out a rock from the mountainside and leave it on the ground. By the time, the year of prayer ended, the rocks needed for the foundation of the dormitory were already unearthed and ready for construction.
As we begin a new chapter in our ministry and mission here at Grace
… it seems fitting to use the witness of our Tanzanian brothers and sisters in Christ as our model. In order for our plans and goals to be fruitful, they must be built on the foundation of prayer and discernment of God’s will.
Therefore, I am inviting you to join your community of faith in forty days of intentional prayer. Beginning on Sunday August 19th, 2018, please set aside 3:16pm each day to pray for our mission here at Grace.
Pray that God will direct our path forward.
Pray that God will help us discern a vision.
Pray that God will give us the courage to move into new and uncharted territory.
Let us open ourselves to God’s voice and call.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead,
Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7
Do people know who you are?
If you stood and began to address a group, any group, would those who are present be able to identify you? Or more importantly would what you say carry any weight because of who you are?
I once attended a church function where there were going to be a lot of clergy present. At one point, someone came into the room and began to bark orders as to where we were to stand and sit and how the process was going to go. He gave us our marching orders and then turned and left the room. After he left, several of those present looked at each other and said… “who the heck was that?”
In the text from Romans, Paul avoids this kind of confusion and questioning by starting off with his credentials. And Paul’s credentials did not so much as tell us WHO Paul was, but they told who WHOSE Paul was. And Whose he was, was Jesus’. Paul was a person called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.
We also are Called by Christ, and set apart to be God’s witnesses in this world. Let us make sure that when we encounter others that they know more about WHOSE we are than they know about us.
When Elijah was fleeing from the wrath of Jezebel, he did not know what was in store for him, but God did. God sent an angel to Elijah when he was at the point of giving up, and that angel brought him food and water. That angel brought him bread for his journey. “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” – 1 Kings 19:4-9
There are times in our lives when we can also feel as if the journey is going to be too long, and we want to give up or give in. Even though we may not know where that journey is leading, God does, and God sends messengers and angels to us to give us bread for our journey.
Enough that Sustains
That bread is Jesus and the Word of God. Are you eating enough to sustain you? Are you drinking in God’s Word enough to fulfill you?
We are standing at the start of a brand new journey together…
We are standing at the start of a brand new journey together and we don’t know where this road is leading, but God does. I want you to make sure that you are being filled by God’s Word. We have several adult Bible study options here at Grace as well as our children and youth Christian Education. I invite you to find a way to attend. Find a way to come and eat and drink and gain strength for our journey.
Some of you may remember from my introduction letter that many years ago, my wife, Sharon and I took a trip to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is a wonderful national park outside San Francisco where the majestic redwoods grow. When I saw these beautiful enormous trees for the first time, I was struck with a feeling of awe. I was amazed by their strength, their size, and their age. I was also amazed to learn that even though the redwoods are so tall and strong, each tree actually has a very short root system. Each individual tree has a root that is approximately ten feet long.
How Can That Be?
Think about it for a moment… a tree anywhere from a hundred to three hundred feet tall is supported only by a ten foot long root! How could that be? It doesn’t seem possible. In fact, what we learned is that it is not possible. If a redwood grew by itself, its root could not support the weight and height of the tree. Left alone, the tree would eventually pull up its own root, topple over, and die.
That is why redwoods never grow alone. They always grow in community. They grow in tree clusters. Each tree is surrounded by other trees. They are so close to one another that their roots interconnect by stretching out horizontally rather than vertically. This creates a literal web of roots so strong that it can support a whole community of trees, even ones that tower hundreds of feet above the earth.
We Grow Together in Christ
As I enter into the community here at Grace, I am very aware of two things:
- In a very profound way we (you and I) have always been a part of the same community. In baptism, we have been rooted together in Christ Jesus and therefore are part of the same body.
- Yet, at the same time, I am new to this cluster and need your support, prayers, and welcome as I begin to intertwine my roots with yours.
Perhaps the tension between one and two is an example of the tension in which we live as disciples of Christ. We are constantly living in the tension between building loving relationships with those who are already here and reaching out to invite new people to join the community. As a new person here, I look forward to meeting you all and beginning to build those connections. I look forward to hearing your stories and sharing mine.
A Cluster of Support
I am excited about our partnership in ministry together as we honor the past as well as look to the future. I pray that our ministry will be faithful to both our calling to love and care for the present body and our call to increase the body by reaching out to those who stand alone in need of a cluster to love, support, and pray with them.
Yours in Christ,
Summer is supposed to be a time for us to rest and recover from our hectic work schedules. A time when many of us take vacations and head away with family and friends to clear our minds and restore our spirits.
How are you doing with that?
In the lesson for today, Jesus’ disciples have just returned from their first Mission trip. They had been sent out among the people and they had healed and cured and cast out demons. They had experienced ministry in a new and very exciting way, and they couldn’t wait to share this wonderful news with Jesus. But Jesus knew that they were tired and worn out. He could see that they needed a break, so he sent them away by themselves to refresh, recharge, and re-energize.
In the creation story, we learn that God made this world in 6 days and on the 7th day God rested. It is important for us to remember that we need to take some time, and learn to breath, and restore our spirits and our bodies and our souls.
Step Up and Join us on this Journey
This is especially important for us here at Grace. Because we are about to start a journey together. We stand at the beginning of some new and very exciting ministry and we want to make sure that we are well rested at the start. I have already seen some of the joy and the enthusiasm that is present at Grace, and I can hardly wait for what is to come next.
But I will, because I want you to rest up, so that you will be ready. Ready to step in and step up and step out into this wonderfully exciting world of God’s. So enjoy your vacation, take some time to nap or read or write or play, and then come back to Grace and let’s get this party started.