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Today is Most Noble

God holds the future and redeems all of yesterday.

But today is closer to me.

What an amazing concept today, right now, really is. Today- I hope you aren’t planning a siege on your enemy. I hope you aren’t judging the person in the room. I hope you aren’t swallowed up in regret. I hope you aren’t poisoning your time with trivial, toxic thoughts of your own wealth, vanity or scheming revenge. I hope you are in the moment for this moment fashions eternity.

Today is a gift which is moving forward faster than thoughts or plans

Today is where i am right here and right now.

Today is an opportunity to change the little things

Today is closer. tomorrow is a promise and yesterday is an eternity from anything I could attain.

Today is most noble!

Containers, We Are

This reading could be utilized as a solo reading, duet, or group reading.

Reader 1: “For we do not preach ourselves.”

Reader 2: We don’t strut our talents.

Reader 1: We don’t flaunt our riches.

Reader 2: We don’t tout our strategy.

Reader 1: We don’t sell our style.

Reader 2: We don’t rely on our wisdom.

Reader 1: We preach “Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves” as the 21st-century representatives of Christ.

Reader 2: Anything more is tainted;

Reader 1: anything less is obsolete,

Reader 2: We speak Jesus into the darkness of a lost, chaotic world.

Reader 1: “For God, who said,”

Reader 2: “‘Let light shine out of darkness.’”

Reader 1: That same God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Reader 2: So who are we?

Reader 1: We are the containers:

Reader 2: we are the tank,

Reader 1: we are the glass,

Reader 2: we are the bowl.

Reader 1: We have our cracks;

Reader 2: we have our imperfections;

Reader 1: we have our nicks.

Reader 2: Where is our value?

Reader 1: Where is our worth?

Reader 2: Where is our glory?

Reader 1: Look inside our hearts?

Reader 2: If you see Christ at work,

Reader 1: if you hear the sound,

Reader 2: if you feel the beat,

Reader 1: if you see the shine of Christ,

Reader 2: you’ve seen our glory.

Reader 1: “We have this treasure in jars of clay”

Reader 2: “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Reader 1: We don’t boast in anything outside of Christ.

Reader 2: How foolish,

Reader 1: how unthinkable,

Reader 2: to claim that we are anything outside of Christ.

Reader 1: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed.”

Reader 2: Who can crush the power of God?

Reader 1: We are perplexed from time to time:

Reader 2: we doubt,

Reader 1: we disappoint,

Reader 2: we fail,

Reader 1: we have skinned knees

Reader 2: and calloused hands.

Reader 1: We run into our share of walls, obstacles, and predicaments:

Reader 2: “perplexed, but not in despair”;

Reader 1: down, but not out;

Reader 2: “persecuted, but not abandoned”;

Reader 1: “struck down, but not destroyed.”

Reader 2: Because we are vessels of God’s glory.

Reader 1: So, it’s OK if I fail.

Reader 2: If we speak the truth, and no one accepts it.

Reader 1: If we run through the fire, and we are left without a friend.

Reader 2: If we are far from the applause of our peers and families.

Reader 1: If no one sees a thing we do for Christ,

Reader 2: it doesn’t matter.

Reader 1: We don’t have to obsess over how we look,

Reader 2: what we accomplish,

Reader 1: where we are sent.

Reader 2: The only thing that matters, at the end of the race, is what we carry, and into whose arms we fall when we gasp our last breath and cross the finish line.

Reader 1: As long as “we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,”

Reader 2: “so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”

Reader 1: We are infinitely more than what we could be on our own.

Reader 2: “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.”

Reader 1: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away.”

Reader 2: The sands of time keep pouring down.

Both: “Yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

Reader 2: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Reader 1: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”

Reader 2: “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Reader 1: The glory of Jesus Christ.

Reader 2: The passion of the call.

Reader 1: The freedom of His grace:

Reader 2: His time,

Reader 1: His plan,

Reader 2: His heart,

Reader 1: His home.

Reader 2: So what do you say, oh jars of clay?

Reader 1: Let’s pop off the lid and let His power flood every corner of our souls.

Reader 2: It’s not a cakewalk,

Reader 1: but it’s not a funeral dirge, either.

Reader 2: It is eternal.

Reader 1: It is thrilling.

Reader 2: It is the real thing.

Reader 1: It is beyond us.

Reader 2: It is through us.

Reader 1: It is for us.

Reader 2: It is before us.

Reader 1: So open wide every chapter of today;

Reader 2: open the windows

Reader 1: and fasten your seat belts.

Reader 2: You contain the heart,

Reader 1: the DNA,

Both: the mind of the everlasting Champion!

The Birth and Crucifixion of Christ

A scripture reading that works well for Christmas or Easter.

Scriptures: Luke 2:6-14; 23:43; Mark 15:12-32; John 19:30

Reader 1: So it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

Reader 2: And Pilate answered them, What shall I do with this man you call King of the Jews? And they cried out, Crucify Him!

Reader 1: And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Reader 2: And they clothed Him in purple and fashioned a crown of thorns about His head.

Reader 1: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.

Reader 2: And they smote Him on the head with a reed and did spit upon Him, and bowing knees, worshiped Him.

Reader 1: And the angel said unto them, fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be to all people.

Reader 2: And Jesus said unto him, truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.

Reader 1: For unto you is born in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.

Reader 2: Likewise, the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, let this Christ King descend from the cross that we may see and believe. When Jesus, therefore, had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished. He bowed His head and He died.

Reader 1: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace . . .

 

Prayer of a Messy Follower

Thank You Jesus…
You’ve been so faithful to this messed-up follower.
You restore my sanity on a weekly basis.
You reach into the nothingness and give me everything I need.
You’ve been far greater and more powerful than everything I’ve faced.
If I did anything good, it was because of You.
You have never given up on me even though I’ve given you plenty of opportunities.
I can’t begin to know the number of times you have overlooked my weaknesses.
I can’t think of a time when You haven’t been there for me.
I wish I had the words to express how You bring me such peace.
I can only say, You have been so good to me.
I love you, Jesus.
If I didn’t take another breath, every step I’ve walked with You has been worth it.
I love the promise of Heaven, but if this life was all there was, I wouldn’t change a thing.
You deserve so much more of me, Jesus.
So tomorrow I’m going to try to hand more of my life over to You.
I just know I’ve got more to give and I can learn how to love You better than I did today.
So I’ll see You in the morning.

Declarations for Every Day

  • Today– I’ll live a life of celebration. The brooding life is not holy. To many, it might look holy but a grave-digger and skeptic do not a Kingdom make.
  • Today– I’ll simplify to remove distractions. Our inability to hear God is directly linked to the static of modern life. It’s perhaps the greatest plague of the church. We are uncomfortable with silence. The things we place before our eyes, the multitude of messages we receive on a daily basis, even the food that we eat potentially blocks our reception of God’s voice. We often expel the voice of God through texts, emails, Facebook, radio, TV, and music.
  • Today– I’ll meditate on Holy Scripture. Don’t just read it.  Become preoccupied with it! Stuff your self full of holy words and you’ll see it bring a blessing of peace over your life because your eyes and ears are open to His Word.
  • Today I’ll follow God’s heart and not my own. Keep in mind what God thinks of your heart:  It is deceitful. Culture says, “Follow your heart.” Please don’t. It’s a dead-end proposition. Discover the heart of God and follow His.  Stop all self-promotion campaigns. We all involved in a throne battle. Ask yourself: “Who will I place on the throne of my life? To which king will I bow down?”
  • Today I’ll clarify boundaries in my personal world. The ability to hear God is directly related to our ability to say no to lots of things in your life- even a few good things. We understand that we are not capable of doing everything for everybody. Your closest friends will not understand it. Some will be disappointed in you and others will think you are a prude, but celebrate your boundaries. If you understand the purpose you have been created to achieve, saying NO (sometimes in bold and all caps) is not just recommended, it is required.
  • Today I’ll seek discernment regarding my day. Every morning, ask for wisdom and courage.  You need them both in order to discern the voice of Holy God and to do whatever He tells you to do.
  • Today I won’t tolerate negativity. If you find yourself surrounded by negative, whiney, sarcastic people, consider the architecture of you life and think about doing a little renovation.
  • Today I’ll have faith in the process. St. John of the Cross, an early church father coined the term: the dark midnight of the soul. “The journey in Faith–the midnight of the soul when the light has all faded away and darkness has completely descended.” He concludes that many Christ followers don’t wish to endure the power of pain and tragedy that is necessary to pass through before the light shines again.  An overriding theme of the Bible is that suffering is not simply to be experienced but celebrated. It produces a deeper intimacy with God.

No matter what the day brings, if I rest in these declarations, I will be safely set.

What Kind of Church is It?

We often categorize our churches with fancy titles: Relevant, emergent, classic, reformed, fundamentalist, traditional, contemporary, liturgical, purpose-driven etc…  The list is really endless and the subtleties of each model vary. But what kind of church are we? Really…
  • Some churches are more like a country club, complete with secret handshakes, special membership privileges, and perks for members based upon you seniority and attitude. But we are not called to be a Country Club.
  • Some churches are more like a fashion show where once a week we are concerned more about what the members look like on the outside than who we are on the inside. But we are not called to be a fashion show.
  • Some churches are like a spa where healthy people come to be pampered with a painless personality makeover and self-help rallies devoid of the power of God. They’d never think about service or sacrifice because the church is meant only for enrichment—not spiritual warfare. But we are not called to be a spa.
  • Other churches are like courtrooms full of authority and judgment. Stern faces and hushed whispers are prevalent.  Some believe that these churches are holy because of the formal atmosphere and the lack of tolerance for things like laughter, celebration and dancing.  These churches are dead they just haven’t gotten the good grace to lie down. But we are not called to be a court.
  • And on the opposite side, we find the church of cool, where musicians display their gifts not to the glory of God but rather to the glory of themselves.   The tendency toward outlandishness knows no bounds. They are different just for the sake of being different. Messages aren’t centered on the God or the Bible. In fact, some sermons might cause you to wonder if there is really is a point beyond the emotions and the glitz of atmosphere. What is the vibe? This is the main question in the church of the cool.  But we are not called to be cool.
  • Each model apart from the work of Christ is like a cemetery. You can put flowers on the graves, you can have tea parties next to the tombs, you can pipe in the best music and serve the best meals but without Christ, the cemetery is still full of rot.  But we are not called into death.
So what about us?  Are we any of these churches?  For most churches, we’ve been all of these from time to time.  That’s why it is so important for us to be desperate and dependent upon God.  Do we want to see people who are hurting and in need come to us for help or are we satisfied with self-serving religious organizations that offer risk-free comfort and predictability. We were made for much great things; things that accompany wonder, miracles, new life and transformation.
How far are we willing to go? Who do we chose to exclude?  Jesus is still knocking at the doors of churches promising that if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Let’s invite people to the table through worship and become the kind of Church He desires to enter.
**Free use for sermon, bulletins, or websites.

Grace and Recompense

This Fire of Love
unquenched by Eden’s wreck
and flowing seemingly in perpetuity
toward all that soon will be
in all its violent beauty
He shall hold all hell’s poison and heaven’s glory.
Small beginning, love’s grandest story
from the heartbeat in a virgin’s womb
til one Sunday rising from the tomb
One
for all…
Once
for all…
This is the salvation from garrulous platitudes and languorous days
Advent… in slightest breath, in manger lay.
Ten-thousand kingdoms would bow through ages.
The cause of grace and recompense
From distant past to future tense:
Jesus

The Belly of the Beast

Everybody ends up
in the belly of the beast.
There are few exceptions
from the greatest to the least.
You stumble into quicksand.
You’re weary of the world.
Lies wreck your reputation.
Insults, viciously, are hurled.
Addiction lies in dormancy
then rears it’s ugly head.
Depression sinks in slowly,
Like the whispers of the dead.
A chronic, stubborn stronghold
infiltrates your weakened mind
Confidants betray you.
Sometimes, friends are hard to find.
Childless in your 40’s.
“Will I ever be a mother?”
Inside an unfamiliar place
Near no sister or no brother.
You’re in the doctor’s office
And hear devastating news.
You lose your hair to chemo.
Indeed, no one gets to choose.
Your marriage ends abruptly.
He left you with no choice.
And for others, it’s the silence.
Separated from His Voice.
Adversity just happens
and no one gets a pass.
But this- your devastation,
is God’s Holy Master Class
Yes, this strong Professor
is bolder than the rest,
His challenges are brutal
and He’s silent in the test.
He’s far above all reason
––mysterious is He.
His text book is His Word.
His school–– adversity.
But in each fearful crisis,
we’re cradled by the light
There’s joy within the suffering,
There’s peace amidst the fight
Within our devastation
––the bleak, forbidding war
God shakes us in our deadness,
with His fearsome roar
What we assumed would end us,
And our melancholy tales
speaks only of His grandeur,
His timing never fails.
And in our silent terror,
He’s not worried in the least
Despite how darkness lingers
in the belly of the beast.

You Can Have It All