Extended quote from Ragamuffin Reflections by Brennan Manning
The prophet Jeremiah is a striking example of the Biblical paradox that surrender means victory, that in losing our life we find it. (Jesus Christ identifies with Jeremiah more than any other prophet and quotes him most frequently.) In the year 625 BC, the Lord summoned Jeremiah to a prophetic career. Jeremiah’s immediate response was reluctance. “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” he said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). He was nineteen at the time. Jeremiah was not the confident, self-assured type like Amos or Isaiah. Sensitive, accustomed to the quiet of small-town life, he was temperamentally unsuited for public life and the harsh treatment that is the customary “reward of the prophets.”
Timid and afraid, Jeremiah had no ambition for such a mission. In no way did he want to preach God’s Word to his fellow Israelites. Nothing pleased him more than to be Mr. Nobody, ignored by the ruling clique of royal counselors and priests. How content he would have been to live in the tiny world of his own heart. And so he remonstrated with God, “Ah, Lord God. I am only a boy.” Each of us can sympathize, because Jeremiah is Everyman and Everywoman.
Take a Stand, a devotion inspired by Jeremiah 1:17-19 (NIV)
The words from scripture are found in regular type.
Get yourself ready! There are things God leaves up to you Your part of the preparation Prayer and study and silence Clearing out the crap so there’s space for what is coming
Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Rise now from the green pasture From the still waters of comfort and slumber Preparation leads to action Sanctuary to Taking a Stand
Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. God alone is God They do not deserve your reverence Your awe They are human Dust and ashes, just like you
Today I have made you a fortified city,
an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land –
against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. The call is beyond you So God makes you more than you Steadfast Enduring Rock and Refuge Living Stone Rejected in the Redeeming Like your Christ Your Jesus
They will fight But the battle is the Lord’s
They will fight against you but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.
On this same theme, consider also reading The Stream of Justice, a stirring encouragement to continue our efforts for peace, freedom, and justice. Written by Steve Garnaas Holmes for Martin Luther King remembrances and similar occasions.
Mason Wartman quit his job on Wall Street to open Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia. The menu includes a $1 slice of cheese pizza, which makes for a nice meal for the neighborhood’s low income and homeless folks.
A customer had the idea to “pay it forward” by purchasing an extra slice of pizza for the next person who couldn’t pay for theirs. Mason grabbed a post-it note, marked the gift, and put it up on the wall for someone to use. The idea exploded and now Rosa’s walls are covered with post-it notes of smiley faces, prayers, encouragement along with a slice of pizza.
Rosa’s serves 50-100 persons daily who pay by post-it note. The practice transformed the neighborhood, building goodwill and community, breaking down barriers of loneliness and classism. One person wrote a thank you note on a paper plate, which also went up on the wall,
“God bless you. Because of you, I ate off this plate. It is the only thing I ate all day. I am a homeless veteran and get treated rudely. When I ask for help, Rosa’s treats me with respect. Truly a blessing. Thank you. Rob H. Do unto others as others do unto you.”
Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.
For Wesley, gain means to earn, to work. I suspect Mason’s shop brings a smile to Wesley’s face, and Jesus’.
Mason is modeling what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ about work:
Money itself is neither good nor evil and is used for both good and evil. Money is a powerful tool and gift of God
Wisdom is more valuable than money
A wise person is in right relationship with money
There is a meaningful connection between work, money, and faith
Work is good for us and the community we live in
If you’re retired, this applies to you as well. You’re just in a new season of work. Followers of Jesus never retire from Kingdom work.
Hard Honest Work
What makes a great employee or employer, the type of person you want to do business with? That person is diligent, attentive, responsible, put’s forth their best effort, strives for excellence and consistent improvement, is servant-hearted, passionate, self-motivated, a team player, teachable…
Wesley puts it this way
Never leave anything till tomorrow, which you can do today. And do it as well as possible. Do not sleep or yawn over it: Put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner.
Where do we find this kind of integrity and work ethic today? It should be with the people of God. True followers of Jesus should be the folk’s people want to hire and the folk’s people want to work for and the folks people want to do business with. When we fail to live and value hard work, we fail in our Christian witness.
The Shadow-side of Hard Work: Underwork and Overwork (Lazy and Work-a-holic)
There is profit in hard work, but mere talk leads to poverty.
The lazy have strong desires but receive nothing; the appetite of the diligent is satisfied.
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; be smart enough to stop.
Imagine a continuum with healthy, hard work in the middle. On one end, laziness, and the other, work-a-holic. Strength and focus from the Holy Spirit save us from laziness. Sabbath saves us from destroying our bodies, minds, and relationships with overwork. In practicing Sabbath, we show we trust God’s strength and provision more than our own.
Hard Honest Work
These are the ways of all who seek unjust gain; it costs them their lives.
The wages of the righteous lead to life; the earnings of the wicked lead to sin.
It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you don’t also practice Sabbath. It doesn’t matter how hard you work if it isn’t honest work. Some jobs are out of bounds for us as followers of Christ.
The litmus test for honest work: Does it bring glory to God and does it bless and build up the community? Honest work is rooted in loving our neighbor. This value prevents us from work which does injury to our neighbor. Wesley reminds us that as followers of Christ we refrain from work that unfairly affects another’s economic stability, that injures our neighbor’s health, or that contributes to another person’s sin.
Hard Honest Work is your calling from God
If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a calling from God. Your calling is just as sacred and important as that of a pastor or missionary. Reframe your idea of work as fulfilling your part in God’s greater purpose, God’s best purpose for your life. Focus your talents, skills, opportunities, and experience for God’s greater good. This is our “why” of work. This is worth getting out of bed in the morning and worthy of our best efforts. This is why we don’t bury our talents, nor hide them under a bushel. This is why we don’t sell out to something unworthy of our calling and God.
Jim Harnish puts it this way
Seeing our work as a calling from God puts the challenge to “earn all you can” in the context of the larger purpose for our work. Wesley’s instruction is not merely to earn money for its own sake but to earn it for the higher purpose of fulfilling God’s intention for our lives.
Contemplate the example of hard, honest work in Proverbs 31:10-31.
I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.
In the midst of our changing times
In the midst of our brokenness
Draw us again to your side
Call us and send us in your name
Give us the courage to travel light
To divest and downsize
And embrace the freedom that it brings
Give us the blessing of being fully present
Of trusting you for provision for ourselves
And your saving work
In the moment it is needed
Give us the wisdom to know our role
To move on from failure and rejection
To move on from accomplishment and welcome
The authority you give us does not dictate response
Nor is our faithfulness measured by the response
Ours is to go and to offer
To proclaim your deliverance and offer healing for body and soul
To proclaim your welcome and offer blessing no matter the location
To proclaim your repentance and offer your salvation and hope
We bow, humbly, before the honor of you choosing us
Grant us the authority and grace and strength we need
Send us forth to do your bidding
Yes that we are enough just as we are
Where we are
Yes to your calling
and the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon us to fulfill it
Yes to bearing and birthing
Your Word and your Promises and your Kingdom
in this time and place
Yes to all things being possible with you
Like our sister Mary we say
Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant
As you have said, let it be done to me
Like our sister Mary we sing and celebrate you
Our God, Our Liberator
For though we are your humble servants
You have noticed us
This affirmation is offered for all, but especially for those who lead God’s people during the holy-days of Christmas. It can be an weary and stressful time. It’s easy to miss the wonder and grace of God’s intimate presence with so much responsibility. The stakes feel sky high. Breathe, trust, receive brothers and sisters. The promises are for you as well.
Isaiah 42:6-7, The Voice
I am the Eternal One. By righteousness I have called you.
I will take you by the hand and keep you safe.
You are given as a covenant between Me and the people:
A light for the nations, a shining beacon to the world.
You will open blind eyes so they will see again.
You will lead prisoners, blinking, out from caverns of captivity,
from cells pitch black with despair.
Luke 2:28-32, The Voice
Simeon took Jesus into his arms and blessed God.
Simeon: Now, Lord and King, You can let me, Your humble servant, die in peace. You promised me that I would see with my own eyes what I’m seeing now: Your freedom, raised up in the presence of all peoples. He is the light who reveals Your message to the other nations,and He is the shining glory of Your covenant people, Israel.
Quote by Dr. Arthur Glasser, former dean of the Fuller School of World Mission (now Fuller School of Intercultural Studies)
It comes to mind when one reflects on Isaiah 49 and its portrayal of the Messiah (the embodiment of Israel), the Servant of Yahweh. The prophet projects himself into the situation facing Jewish exiles in Babylon toward the end of their 70-year captivity. Through him God tells the Servant that to confine His activities to returning the exiles to the land is too small a thing” (verse 6a). There is a larger task: “I will also make You a light to the nations, so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (verse 6b).
Often the phrase “Israel, a light to the nations” is removed from this context and made the rubric under which one lists significant and positive contributions Jewish people have made to world civilization. Indeed, we ought to be profoundly grateful for their positive contributions to the performing and visual arts, to the physical and behavioral sciences, to philosophy, government and literature. The world’s indebtedness to the Jewish people is incalculable. But the mandate of Isaiah 49 does not refer to cultural and social contributions. In this passage, being a light to the nations involves taking the good news of God and His salvation to the Gentile world.
Jesus called into being a band of Jewish disciples who submitted to His lordship and instruction. He gave them the task of proclaiming the “good news of the Kingdom of God” to every tribe, tongue and nation. He commissioned them by bestowing a foretaste of His new covenant with Israel predicted in Jeremiah 31:31- 34. He gave them the Holy Spirit to transform their lives and wrote His Law on their hearts. He particularly empowered them for worldwide witness (Acts 1:8). And they obeyed Him to such a degree that the world has never been the same since!
Those first thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus became Messiah’s “light to the Gentiles.” They spearheaded a movement of mission into the Middle East and India, North Africa, the Mediterranean world and Europe, and its outgoing momentum remains to this day.
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Light for the Nations
Radiant with grace and blessing
Hallelujah to Jesus!
Brilliant with deliverance
Overcoming all darkness and death
Hallelujah to Jesus!
A shining beacon of salvation and hope
Whoever follows you will have the light of life
This is the glory of your saving love
That you don’t just bless us,
Guard and guide us
That you don’t just forgive us,
Save and sanctify us
For you that is too light a thing
You make a place for us in your saving work
You call us
Each of us
You make a place for us in your family
and a place for us in your plan
that we might have purpose and meaning
that we might experience the fullness of your grace
that we might experience your power and the wielding of that power
Your hope and your hope made real in the world
Your love and your love in action
Glory to you, Most Blessed Savior!
Glory to you, Lord of Mercy and Light!
Glory to you and to the fulfillment of Your Kingdom
in us and in all!
Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.
Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.
As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.
If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.
This is the prayer of a man called to be a witness to the nations. This is what he said to his Lord on the day of his ordination. After the elders and ministers had prayed and laid their hands on him he withdrew to meet his Savior in the secret place and in the silence, farther in than his well-meaning brethren could take him. And he said:
O Lord, I have heard Thy voice and was afraid. Thou hast called me to an awesome task in a grave and perilous hour. Thou are about to shake all nations and the earth and also heaven, that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. O Lord, our Lord, Thou has stopped to honor me to be Thy servant. No man takes this honor upon himself save he that is called of God as was Aaron. Thou has ordained me Thy messenger to them that are stubborn of heart and hard of hearing. They have rejected Thee, the Master, and it is not to be expected that they will receive me, the servant.
My God, I shall not waste time deploring my weakness nor my unfittedness for the work. The responsibility is not mine but Thine. Thou hast said, “I knew thee—I ordained thee—I sanctified thee,” and Thou has also said, “Thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.” Who am I to argue with Thee or to call into question Thy sovereign choice? The decision is not mine but Thine. So be it, Lord. Thy will, not mine, be done.
Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou wilt honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live.
It is time, O God, for Thee to work, for the enemy has entered into Thy pastures and the sheep are torn and scattered. And false shepherds abound who deny the danger and laugh at the perils which surround Thy flock. The sheep are deceived by these hirelings and follow them with touching loyalty while the wolf closes in to kill and destroy. I beseech Thee, give me sharp eyes to detect the presence of the enemy; give me understanding to distinguish the false friend from the true. Give me vision to see and courage to report what I see faithfully. Make my voice so like Thine own that even the sick sheep will recognize it and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter, not a religious manager—but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from the bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay Thy terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I accept hard work and small rewards in this life. I ask for no easy place. I shall try to be blind to the little ways that I could make my life easier. If others seek the smoother path I shall try to take the hard way without judging them too harshly. I shall expect opposition and try to take it quietly when it comes. Or if, as sometimes it falleth out to Thy servants, I shall have grateful gifts pressed upon me by Thy kindly people, stand by me then and save me from the blight that often follows. Teach me to use whatever I receive in such manner that it will not injure my soul nor diminish my spiritual power. And if in Thy permissive providence honor should come to me from Thy church, let me not forget in that hour that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies, and that if men knew me as intimately as I know myself they would withhold their honors or bestow them upon others more worthy to receive them.
And now, O Lord of heaven and earth, I consecrate my remaining days to Thee; let them be many or few, as Thou wilt. Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven. Though I am chosen of Thee and honored by a high and holy calling, let me never forget that I am but a man of dust and ashes, a man with all the natural faults and passions that plague the race of men. I pray Thee therefore, my Lord and Redeemer, save me from myself and from all the injuries I may do myself while trying to be a blessing to others. Fill me with thy power by the Holy Spirit, and I will go in Thy strength and tell of Thy righteousness, even Thine only. I will spread abroad the message of redeeming love while my normal powers endure.
Then, dear Lord, when I am old and weary and too tired to go on, have a place ready for me above, and make me to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting. Amen.