Lucas Electric and the Garden of Gethsemane

This past weekend, I took my three and a half year old daughter to the Kiwanis Club Catch a Wave Car Show in Tempe (great show btw; I highly recommend it). The weather was perfect, the cars were all perfectly lined up and polished, and there was a faint scent of gasoline in the air – everything was perfect. This isn’t the first, and certainly not the last, car show that we have gone to together, and every time we go to a car show my daughter has a list of certain expectations: there will be cars, hopefully convertibles; we will eat food at the show, usually something we don’t normally eat, and she will walk me through the cars pointing out all the ones that she wants me to buy her when she’s old enough to drive. Everyone thinks this is cute and makes fun comments like, “she has good taste” and “uh-oh, you’re in trouble.” What most people don’t know is the plan. I hope that when she turns thirteen we will pick out a classic car together and spend the next three years rebuilding it, finishing just in time to get her license. The problem is that almost every car she likes, up to this point anyway, has a Lucas electrical system.

In case you don’t know, Lucas was the company that manufactures most of the electrical systems and components for British cars in the 60’s and 70's– which is what she seems fond of. Lucas electrical systems have a notorious reputation for being awful; they seem to always need tinkering, adjusting, fixing, and replacing. So every time she stands next to an Austin Healey or an MG and tells me that’s what she wants when she turns thirteen I panic a little on the inside. On the outside I smile and tell her we’ll see what she likes when she grows up, but on the inside part of me wants to talk her out of it just to avoid the inevitable hassle of a Lucas electrical system.

If her taste in cars does not change in the next ten years, there will come a day when we will have to have a serious talk about the reliability of some of these cars with Lucas components, and I hope that it is similar to Jesus’ conversation with God in Luke 22. If you remember, this is the part of the story where Jesus begs God not to die on the cross. With sweat like blood and earnest prayers, three times Jesus asks for the burden of death to be lifted from his shoulders. He doesn’t want to die a horrific death, no one can blame him for that. You wouldn’t want to either. But what makes this story so unique is after Jesus begs and pleads three times to not have to die, he ultimately has the wisdom to trust that his Father knows what is best, even if he disagrees or doesn’t understand. So with words that are now famous Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Don’t misread me: I’m not trying to compare myself to God. However, I do hope that by the time my daughter is thirteen she will trust me when I tell her she may not want a car with a Lucas electrical system, and will allow my counsel to sway her pick of car. I hope that she will trust my advice like Jesus trusted his Father. Because, as it turns out (SPOILERS), parents usually do want what is best for their kids. In the same way, God always wants what is best for you, even when you disagree on what is best. You may not want a car with a Lucas system, but when the day comes that you think you know best what you need and want, I pray that you may have the wisdom to trust God when you disagree on what is best for your life.

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Never too Busy

In Mark 5:21-43 are two stories intertwined with one another. The first story is that of Jairus and his little girl who is near death. Jairus finds Jesus, begs him to heal his 12 year old daughter, and Jesus leaves with Jairus to go meet the little girl. While on his way, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd, in which is a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years. Seeing her chance, she hedges her way closer to Jesus, sneaks up and touches the him of his tunic, and at once she is healed. Jesus, noticing that power has gone out from him looks through the crowd, seeking the person who had enough faith in him that they were able to be healed without his knowing. The woman came forward and told her story, and while Jesus was sending her on her way in peace, someone came to inform Jairus that his daughter had already died. Discouraged and ready to give up, Jairus thought about letting Jesus off the hook, but Jesus wasn't done yet. Determined, Jesus went to Jarius' house, found his dead daughter, grabbed her hand, and told her to get up. At once the little girl got up and had something to eat, and with that, Jesus had performed two impressive miracles in a short amount of time.
These two stories are interesting individually, but even more so together. A 12 year old girl dies - her blood stops flowing - while Jesus heals a woman who's blood would not stop flowing for 12 years. Jairus loses faith in Jesus' ability to raise his daughter from death while the woman in the crowd had so much faith that she didn't even need Jesus to pay her any attention for her miracle to occur. In many ways, these stories are connected, sometimes paralleling one another while also contrasting. The depth in these stories is immeasurable, and we could spend much more time with these stories than one blog entry allows.

Manna Generosity

In the eighth and ninth chapters of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians there is a plea for generosity. For some time Paul had planned to take up a collection of funds among the Gentiles to give to the Christians in Jerusalem during their time of need. Paul saw in the Church the ability for those who had been blessed with wealth to share with those brothers and sisters in Christ who had not. In many of Paul's letters you see hints and references to this massive undertaking he planned, but none as clear as 2 Corinthians 8-9, in which Paul directly and boldly asks, demands, expects, and shames the Corinthians into donating to the Christians in Jerusalem. For example:

Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you. I’m not giving an order, but by mentioning the commitment of others, I’m trying to prove the authenticity of your love also. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for our sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty. 10 I’m giving you my opinion about this. It’s to your advantage to do this, since you not only started to do it last year but you wanted to do it too. 11 Now finish the job as well so that you finish it with as much enthusiasm as you started, given what you can afford. 12 A gift is appreciated because of what a person can afford, not because of what that person can’t afford, if it’s apparent that it’s done willingly. 13 It isn’t that we want others to have financial ease and you financial difficulties, but it’s a matter of equality. 14 At the present moment, your surplus can fill their deficit so that in the future their surplus can fill your deficit. In this way there is equality. 15 As it is written, "The one who gathered more didn’t have too much, and the one who gathered less didn’t have too little."

Cubist Psalm

There is something for everyone in Psalm 30. It captures a plethora of human emotions and different moments with God. No matter if you've just been through a trying time or you are about to begin one, Psalm 30 has much wisdom to offer.
1I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. 
2O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 
3O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. 
4Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. 
5For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 
6As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved." 
7By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 
8To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: 
9"What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
10Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!"
11You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 
12so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Hope in Lament

The last three weeks, the sermons at Gateway have been on the book of Judges. In fact, we are almost half-way through the book of judges. When we started this sermon series, I told you all that the theme running throughout the book that holds all of these stories together was the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. Perhaps this topic deserves a second look through the lens of Lamentations.
3:22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 
23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
25The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.
26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
27It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth,
28to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it,
29to put one's mouth to the dust (there may yet be hope),
30to give one's cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults.
31For the Lord will not reject forever.
32Although he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.

Trouble and Hope

Seems like one of the most universal constants in this world is not only trouble, but also the need to tell others of our troubles. We do not just lose our job, but we also share that hardship with others. We not only become terminally ill, but we also share that burden with others. We suffer, hurt, experience loss, and we tell our friends, family, co-workers, and Facebook. Just like Psalm 107.
1O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble
3and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
23Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the mighty waters;
24they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
25For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity;
27they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end.
28Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress;
29he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
31Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind.
32Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Words Without Knowledge

The story of Job is powerful, heartbreaking, convicting, and, to be honest, sometimes confusing. And the story of Job has it all: love, loss, happiness, tragedy, friendship, bad friends, giant animals, and twisters, angels, and God. In my opinion, however, the part of Job's story that resonates with me the most is God's monologue at the end of the book, in which we find these words in chapter 38:
1Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: 2"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. 4"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5Who determined its measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? 8"Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?-- 9when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, 11and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped'?"

Pine Trees

I have fond memories of growing up and observing the pine trees in our front yard. I know most kids probably don't pay much attention to the trees in their yard unless they have a tree house in them, but I was always fascinated by these pine trees. The speed with which they grew, their vitality despite seasonal changes, and the way they whispered when the winds blew always intrigued me. But more than anything, the way that these pine trees could lose all of their needles and so quickly replace them again always amazed me. In a matter of days these towering trees would cover our yard in orange and brown needles, and in just as little time (at least it seemed to me as a child) these trees would have new, thick, green needles once more. These pine trees would rid themselves of their old coverings and cover themselves in new needles time and time again without fail. As an adult, now I think back to these trees and I hear the words of Paul from 2 Corinthians 5, 

14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Tree of Growth

Keeping with the theme of trees, today's reading is from Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15. However, unlike yesterday's text from Ezekiel, in which God promised to provide a tree of rest for us, Psalm 92 promises growth for the righteous.
1It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
3to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
4For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
12The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
14In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap,
15showing that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Read more...

Tree of Rest

With the launch of our app (download for free!), we can now start uploading daily devotionals. For the time being, these posts will follow the lectionary - a centuries old rotation of biblical texts. Using the lectionary will help ensure a diversity of topics and scriptures while also being rhythmic and consistent. Every week you can expect a reading from the Old Testament, the psalms, the gospels, and the epistles. Today we begin with Ezekiel 17:22-24:
22Thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. 24All the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken; I will accomplish it. Read more...