For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

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Belgian Draft Horse (He and his partner pulled our sleigh (with 16 people aboard) through part of the Red Canyon Farm near Leavenworth, WA. | December 2019

My fellow photo club friend recently shared on Facebook that he was asked if he had a personal relationship with Jesus. He answered, “Why, yes I do. I know him well. We see each other regularly. He cuts my grass.” A rather snarky answer to the woman who was most likely sincere – if not a bit out of context. We cannot challenge someone beyond the relationship level we have with them. But I digress.

What if we who identify so closely with Jesus were known for our heart of service? What if she had noticed some way in which she could have served my friend? Might that be part of the story of God’s impact in his life? I wonder if he was already having a difficult day, and a touch of God’s kindness through the hands of a Jesus follower would have brought some of the balm of Gilead to his bruised heart? 

We’ll never know. But we do know that as followers of Jesus we are called to be servants. Paying attention to widows and orphans, caring for needy and sick people, going the extra mile with someone who really needs a second-mile friend: this is our calling. 

You may know the story of Jesus in the Upper Room with his disciples on the night he was betrayed. Not the story of the Last Supper, and Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper. The story of Jesus getting up from the table, wrapping his cloak around his waist, taking a bowl of water and a towel, and washing his disciples’ feet. You can find that account in John 13:1-20

Jesus served his disciples in a very menial way. Washing the feet of a guest was servant’s work. And Jesus was a true servant of God and man. He showed it in that act of humble service. I just now looked at the thesaurus for synonyms for service, but none filled the bill for me. Aid, help, helping hand, ministrations: none of them serve us as well as the word service. For service reminds us of servant. Jesus was a servant. 

We are called to be little Christs. That’s what the word Christian means. Little Christ. For most people that’s not what they think of when they hear the term Christian. But maybe, just maybe, we could move the needle just a bit in that direction if we were to dedicate ourselves to serving others. 

Zach Zehnder says in his book, The Red Letter Challenge, “While serving others won’t save you, it may help save someone else.” I’ve got to cogitate on that a bit…You?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

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Snow-Dusted Evergreen | Red Canyon Farm | December 2019

Imagine, if you will, the most perfect person in the world. Kind. Generous. Gracious. Understanding. Faithful. Honest. Generous. Reliable. Compassionate. Someone like that would be just a notch or two below Jesus. Now imagine a person who is the incarnation of evil. Vile. Ruthless. Conniving. Scheming. Selfish. Murderous. Abusive. Petty. Miserly.

If you put these two people on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “almost like Jesus” and 10 being “worse than Adolf Hitler,” where would you put yourself? Are you a 3? 5? 8?

Who needs more forgiveness? Is it the Stalins or the Mother Theresas of the world who stand in greatest need of forgiving grace? Perhaps an illustration will help. If you’re standing on the precipice of a great chasm, you know falling would mean certain death. Whether you take a small – even accidental – step, you’ll die. If you take a running leap, you’ll die.

The same is true of sin. Little or much sin kills. But thanks be to God: he has forgiven your sin and mine by Jesus’ death on the cross and secured our salvation by his resurrection from the grave. Jesus’ death is sufficient for all of us. No matter the extent or the gravity of our sins.

Forgiven we are to forgive. Maybe you need to lean into God’s forgiveness for you. Perhaps you need to forgive. In either case, forgiveness forms the foundation for life  together with God.

Jesus asks, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). 

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Snow Covered Evergreen | Red Canyon Farm | December 2019

We are beginning a 40 day challenge at St. John, of reading the words of Jesus and doing the things he calls us to do. We start with being: deepening our relationship with Jesus by spending time with him and reflecting on his word and character. There are four practices that deepen our relationship with Jesus:

  • Spending time with Jesus
  • Worshiping with others
  • Reading the Bible
  • Praying

Being with Jesus is essential to doing what Jesus commands. For that reason being is foundational and of primary importance.

This is a challenge for me. I’m not inclined toward just “being” with anyone. I want things to happen. I want to do things. I get bored with inactivity and inertia.

That shows up one way in how I keep my email inbox absolutely empty. My goal each day is to empty my inbox. I use it as my check list, and if I don’t need to act right then, I will often just put it into an appointment on my calendar. (I just checked, and I’m happy to say my email inbox still empty. I’m serious about this!)

Being means that I’m at peace with God and with myself. It means that I embrace the grace and truth of who Jesus is and rejoice in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It means that I pray to him both by expressing the desires of my heart, and by listening to his voice and seeking to know his word.

So now is the time to be with Jesus. There will be time for doing. But for now, I will just be. Will you join me?

[Jesus said to the lawyer] “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 [The Lawyer] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

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Sleigh Ride @ Red Tail Canyon Farm near Leavenworth, WA | December 2019

Seth Gehrke led our staff devotions today and invited us to imagine how the message of Jesus might have impacted the lawyer who asked Jesus the question, “Who is my neighbor?” We don’t know what happened. There is not even a hint of his reaction to Jesus’ command, “Go and do likewise.” You can check out the story here (Luke 10:25-37). (It might be good to do so even if you think you know it already.)

What if the lawyer had been touched by Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan? Put this into the modern day context and imagine what the impact would be. We shared some thoughts, some possible changes in behavior of a modern-day lawyer who was moved by Jesus’ teachings to show mercy.

It was a delightful exercise to consider how someone’s life might be changed by the message of Jesus: The lawyer we imagined…

  • Takes the case of the woman whose husband has left her and charges her no fee.
  • Gives his receptionist time off to care for her aging mother and doesn’t dock her pay.
  • Doesn’t lose his temper when someone cuts him off in traffic, and arrives home in a better mood. He is easier to live with at home.
  • Sleeps better at night in the peace that a life of mercy brings.
  • Mentors a young and struggling intern and helps him prepare for the Bar exam even though he loses some billable hours by doing so.
  • Tells his partners about his new way of looking at things and shares the way Jesus’ teaching has impacted his life.
  • Abandons some secret addictions and finds grace for himself and others.

It makes me think of ways in which my own personal mercy quotient might be raised if I take Jesus’ teachings more seriously. We don’t know what happened to the lawyer in this case. But we do know people who have taken Jesus’ words to heart. She is the kind and merciful friend who cleans your house and leaves dinner for your family when you’re sick. He’s the co-worker who is willing to donate his vacation days to a friend who is battling cancer.

What showing-mercy ideas does this trigger in your mind?

God reveals deep and hidden things. Daniel 2:22

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

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Keeping Watch | Red Tail Canyon Farm near Leavenworth, WA | January 2020

“We know precious little about God, but the little we know is precious.” This quote by Dr. Dale Meyer is actually his quote of a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. I love this thought! It is a reminder of our need to hold lightly our claim to know about God. It also reminds us that the truth that has been revealed to us is valuable and worth holding on to tightly.

It is also a reminder that what we know about God we know only because he has revealed it to us. It’s not something that we can know instinctively. There are truths and deep insights, wisdom and knowledge that only God can reveal. We know precious little, but the little we know is precious.

This reminds me that there will certainly be new depths of knowledge and truths about God yet to be revealed. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror,” Paul says, “but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12). There is more to be revealed to us and understood by us.

This calls for humble anticipation. What will it be like when we see Jesus face to face? What will be our experience when we face the final Day? I believe it will be two-fold amazement. We will be amazed at the desperate need we have for the grace of God. We will also be overwhelmed with joy in the abundance, beauty, glory, and splendor of God’s wisdom and grace. I can’t even imagine!

Here are five passages from the book of Psalms in the Bible. I pray that God’s word encourages you in your walk of faith, and that you will express that faith in worship of God and a life of faithful service for the sake of His reign and rule.

Psalm 12:6-7

The words of the Lord are pure words,
    like silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

You, O Lord, will keep them;
    you will guard us from this generation forever.

 

Psalm 42:1, 5

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Psalm 72:1-2, 18-19

Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice!

18 Blessed be the Lord,
the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

 

Psalm 102:1-2

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
Do not hide your face from me
    in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
    answer me speedily in the day when I call!

 

Psalm 132:9

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
    and let your saints shout for joy.

It is God who arms me with strength. Psalm 18:32 NIV

When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. Philemon 4,6

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Snow-dusted pine needles | Near Squilchuck State Park, Wenatchee, WA | December 2019

We were standing in line for dinner at a pastors conference. My colleague and his wife, and Diane and I were talking about life with all its challenges and hopes. He invited us  to their home in north Utah. We accepted.

When we got there his wife had made lentil soup. It was delicious. Their kindness and hospitality made a deep impression on us both. He had a way of getting to the heart of things and touched Diane deeply with his loving pastoral insights.

“Thank you,” we said as we were leaving. “This has been a real blessing to us. Can we have the recipe for the lentil soup? And how about the pizza sauce and dough. It was all so good!”

“Sure,” they said. “But don’t thank us. Thank God.”

Those words made an impression on me. And while I love to thank people for their kindness, gifts, and hospitality, I try to express my thanks to God – in their presence – when I thank them. After all, it is God who works in us to will and to do every good work (cf . Philippians 2:13).

Perhaps there is someone who is owed a thank you. You might need to write a note to him. You might want to express it personally to her. As you do, you might actually bolster his or her spirits by adding, “And I thank God for you!”