211114 Not Far from the Kingdom of God

In Worship by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

Daily Bible Readings:

Monday, October 25. Read Deuteronomy 6:1-5. 1) This text is called by the Jews the Shema because verse 4 begins with this word. “Hear” is, in Hebrew, Shema. In other words, Moses is telling Israel to listen because this is important. 2) What is he telling them to do?

Tuesday, October 26. Read Leviticus 19:17-18. 1) What does Moses specifically tell the Israelites to avoid doing? 2) What concept does Moses use to define the sort of relationships God’s people are to have with one another?

Wednesday, October 27. Read I Samuel 15:22-23. 1) This text follows a terrible disobedience of King Saul. Look at verse 15. Why did Saul say he did it? 2) What does Samuel say to say in reply (verses 22-23)? 3) How do you think the modern day church does not “get this”?

Thursday, October 28. Read Hosea 6:4-6. 1) What did Hosea say Ephraim’s (Israel) love was like? 2) What did God say he preferred in verse 6?

Friday, October 29. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. 1) According to Paul, how does Love compare to faith or to righteous deeds? 2) What use is it to me or you if we focus on doing good things with flair rather than on loving others?

Saturday, October 30. Read Mark 12:28-34. This is Sunday’s sermon text.

Prayer for the Week:

O God, we’d like to think that we love you first. But maybe we don’t. Maybe, no probably, there are some things that we love more like jobs or family or recreation or Facebook or sleep. May your Spirit agitate us and create angst in us when we are distracted by trivia. Help us to put you first. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Hymn of the Week:

I’m Pressing on the Upward Way
by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1896

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining ev’ry day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith, on heaven’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground. [Refrain]

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught a joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground. [Refrain]

I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, lead me on to higher ground.” [Refrain]

Devotional Article of the Week:

Soul Work is Slow Work
Are you willing to take the time to let God work on you?
by Rubel Shelly

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16 NRS)

We’re spoiled to “instant” things. Instant messaging. Instant coffee. Instant photos. Instant rice. Instant access. Instant results. You get my drift, right? I’m as bad as most and worse than many about the desire for quick outcomes.

While I can defend the value of quick turnaround in many settings, I think it serves me poorly for the most part. It caters to my impatience. No, it serves to magnify my impatience. Not every destination can be reached by a shortcut.

Most of the people I know want to have a good reputation. But that can lead to the shortcut path of doing a good thing for the wrong reason. Doing it to get noticed. Being conspicuous with a gift for the sake of being honored. Building real character as the foundation for a good reputation is a slow thing that takes place over time and without calling attention to oneself. It can take an entire lifetime.

Churches may be the worst offenders of all. We have been given important things to do in this world. We have a mission from Jesus himself to tell everybody about the good news of God’s love. For most churches, this seems to translate to filling up our church buildings and making a splash in our communities. So we get loud, bully our own members, and elbow our way into the consciousness of people who’ve made it clear they aren’t that interested in what we are doing.

Both individual believers and whole communities of Christians seem to fall prey to the temptation. We try to get God’s results with the devil’s methods. We market to someone’s felt needs. Manipulate him with a Christian version of ads that worked in the last political campaign. Manipulate her with guilt into joining a study group or attending a weekend retreat. Something fishy is going on here.
Authentic faith doesn’t lend itself to slogans. Doesn’t advance by mass marketing. Doesn’t transform hearts and lives over a long weekend. Spiritual life is created through a personal relationship with God, nurtured in churches where people challenge and encourage one another, and brought to maturity through struggle and failure over time. There are no shortcuts. The growth of souls in love and faith, joy and peace, self-control and uprightness is slow work.

So be patient with yourself and others. Be skeptical of pat answers and shortcuts but open to struggle and questions. Don’t get fixated on programs for your spiritual growth, but focus instead on caring about others and helping them.

Right where you are today is where God wants to start to build you into a person who will reflect his nature. He won’t rush you. Be patient with yourself.

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