22Jul

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Family Dynamics

Below is the podcoast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Mark 3:19b-35

 

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

 

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

 

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

Family Dynamics

 

Now I think we all know that a family can become divided for all kinds of reasons. And to those on the outside, these reasons may be important or seem insignificant. For example, on one hand, some families divide as a result of abuse and pain that would be impossible for most folks to tolerate or maybe some kind of financial or emotional stress that’s just difficult to set aside. On the other hand, though, some families divide over things that just seem stupid, like a random remark or a joke that was taken the wrong way. Or maybe it’s because of some kind of deep seated jealousy or some shallow concern for another family member. Let’s face it, there are many reasons why families split. But regardless of the reason, the result is always the same. A divided family ceases to be a source of strength and comfort and support. And even though I think that’s always a shame, it’s particularly difficult when these are desperately needed. I guess you could say that when a family ceases to be united, it ceases to be a family

 

And that same thing can happen to a church, in other words, the family of God. You see, regardless of how we view the serenity of the reasons, when we allow something, anything to break Christian unity, we cease to be the kind of family God has called us to be. And even though we might put forth our best effort, we actually become ineffective in supporting one another and sharing the good news to others. And so, just like it is with our biological parents and siblings, we need to be aware of the dynamics within our spiritual families.

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20Jul

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Sabbath Nazis

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Mark 3:1-6

 

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

 

Sabbath Nazis

 

One of my all-time television shows is Seinfeld; I can watch the same episodes over and over again. And I think my favorite Seinfeld episode dealt with a cook they called the Soup Nazi. Now this was the name he got because of the way he treated his customers. You see, when you placed a soup order, you had to follow a certain protocol,  and if you didn’t, he’d say, “No soup for you.” And if you heard those words, well, you were just out of luck. And the same thing applied to anyone who had the audacity to point out a mistake in the order. But his soup was so good, people were willing to put up with this just to get a spoon into his jambalaya.

 

But you know, the Soup Nazi had nothing on the Pharisees in this story we read nor a lot of us as we’re explaining the Christian faith to others. You see, just like those people at the synagogue, we can be pretty legalistic yet also arbitrary in how we define living as a follower of Jesus Christ. We sound as though God is waiting for people to step out-of-line just so he can lower the boom. Therefore, followers are constantly walking on eggshells, hoping that they don’t slip. Of course, that’s how God deals with them. He’s much more lenient with our little peccadilloes. In other words, the kind of good news that we often share is actually anything but good. And based on it’s rigidity, I think it’s more than reasonable to ask the question, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” 

 

Of course, regardless of what we might say, we know the answer. It’s always lawful to do good and to save life. In fact that’s what the law is all about, loving God and neighbor. You see, that’s really part of the good news. And it’s something we might need to remember before anyone accuses us of being Sabbath Nazis.

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19Jul

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - When We Come Up a Little Short

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Acts 12:1-17

 

About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

 

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, “Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

 

As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognizing Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, “Tell this to James and to the believers.“ Then he left and went to another place.

 

When We Come Up a Little Short

 

This is one amazing story. Peter was in jail, awaiting certain death. But all of a sudden, an angel appeared and freed him. My goodness, he even led Peter past two sets of guards all the way to an iron gate through which the apostle got out of the city. Now, this is what happened, a spectacular event, one that could only make sense to those who have faith.

 

But as we see in the rest of the story, that didn’t happen for those believers who were praying for Peter in the house of Mary. You see, even though they were dedicated to Christ and devoted to God and even though they were praying that Peter would be saved, they didn’t believe Rhoda when she told them that God had done exactly what they’d asked and that Peter was at the gate. In fact, they accused her of being crazy. You see, instead of believing that all things were possible for God, they questioned and doubted, until they finally opened the gate themselves and saw that Rhoda wasn’t crazy at all. In other words, in terms of faith, these Christians came up a little short.

 

But I think what Peter did was remarkable. I mean, instead of condemning them, he told them the story so that they could share in the glory of what had happened. And then he gave them a job to do, to share this good news to James and the other believers. You see, he didn’t put them down or push them away. He treated them like friends. And I’ll tell you, that’s something we might want to keep in mind, and I’m talking about when we come up a little short in our faith. 

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18Jul

Exploring the Holy Land

Below is the podcast of Rev. Steve Cramers lecture on his trips to the Holy Land.

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18Jul

Cove Presbyterian Church Worship Service - July 16, 2017

Below is the podcast of the service I led on Sunday, July 16, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. During the service, Gary Mason and his puppet friends taught about honesty and faith.

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14Jul

Friday’s Essay - Get Out of the Way

Below is the podcast of an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can find other essays, sermons, devotions, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information. If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal

 

Often I feel as though I spend a lot of time getting in the way of God’s will. Of course, I don’t believe any of us can actually do that. I mean, God is the creator and sovereign Lord of the universe. There is no way that I can frustrate his will, regardless of what I might think or feel. No, God ultimately calls the shots and what he wants will happen. So, when I say that I feel as though I get in the way, I’m really not suggesting that I have the power to prevent God from doing what God has chosen to do.

 

Instead, often I feel a little like a stone in a creek or maybe a fish swimming up stream. I know I’m not able to change the flow of the brook or the current of the river. That’s going to keep moving. It just feels like I’m expending a lot of energy trying to counter an immutable flow. And I can tell you, even trying is pretty rough. As a matter of fact, not only does it wear me down, but it prevents me from doing a lot of other things that would be a lot more beneficial to everyone. But that’s not what I’m doing. Instead I’m in the middle of the channel, battered by a current I can neither stop nor control. Now, I’ve got to tell you, this is how I often feel. But I don’t think I’m alone. 

 

And I think the reason many of us feel this way is fairly obvious. I think we tend to get tunnel vision on what we think we should be doing. You see, we assume that we already know what’s right and appropriate. And if we’re Christians, we take it even further, because we assume we already know the will of God. In fact, often when we talk about it, we affirm our knowledge with so much confidence it pretty much closes off any future discussion. It’s like, “God told me to do it or say that or to go there. And since it was God, not only must you accept it, if something goes wrong later, you can’t blame me. Whatever happens must be God’s will too.” Or at least, that’s what a lot of Christians seem to think. And sometimes we’re right, or as right as anyone can be when claiming to know the mind of God. But other times, well, we’re probably wrong, but of course, we don’t see it. And so we keep going in the direction that we’ve chosen, even though that forces us constantly to resist the flow and battle the current. And since we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re right and the current is wrong, we keep up the struggle until God moves us to exact place we were meant to be. And all the effort and resistance and battling, in the end, it doesn’t mean a thing. But the exhaustion and frustration we feel is real.

 

And I’ll tell you, that’s the reason I believe that we need to learn how to get out of the way. And doing that starts with recognizing a simply and incontrovertible fact: that God is God and we’re not. I mean, even though we may see ourselves as unbelievably smart and so spiritual that God should be grateful we play on his team, it’s pure arrogance to assume that we can know the absolute and definitive will of God. I think we all know that kind arrogance can get us in big trouble. But instead of digging in our heals and tunneling our vision, we might need to work a little humility into our characters. And then we can pause, broaden our perspective and consider the talents and interests we have and the needs and troubles we face. And then with a clearer vision of the future and our role in it, we can move with and not against the divine flow. And when it seems as though the current is becoming more difficult, our humility will enable us to relax and  reevaluate the world and how might God have us respond, even if that means getting out of the way and so that the waters might flow without our permission or help.

 

And to me that just makes sense, because life is tough enough without having to struggle up stream. You see, when we abandon that arrogant attitude that we already know so that we can humbly look and listen, I believe we’ll all become more useful for God’s kingdom. And I’ll tell you, as I look at my own life, I hope I learn how to relax and get out of the way.

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13Jul

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Up to Us

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.


If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Luke 24:44-53

 

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

 

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

 

Up to Us

 

After Jesus was raised, he opened the minds of the disciples to the scriptures. In other words, he gave them all the knowledge they’d need. And then he related what had been written to what had happened to him. And finally he offered them direction, that they were going to be witnesses to these things. You see, from that time forward, this would be their job. And to make that work possible, he promised a source of power from on high. You see, during forty days after the resurrection, this is what he offered his disciples. And then he left. He ascended into heaven. And the disciples were on their own to use what they’d learned to do the work they’d been called to do.

 

And you know, we’re in a similar place. I mean, through the inspiring power of God, our minds have been opened to scripture, and we have the ability to relate what we now understand to the reality of Jesus Christ. And we’ve also received the same commission, to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Now we already have all this stuff. But more than that, we’ve also received the promised power from on high, in other words, the Holy Spirit. And after being given all this, we’re on our own to do the work we’ve been given. You see, as we face a world that’s hungry for peace and hope, just like it was for the disciples, it’s now up to us.

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11Jul

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - Our Own Importance

Below is the podcast of a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, articles, and announcement on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Acts 9:36-43

 

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

 

Our Own Importance

 

I’ve often written about how we tend to overemphasize our own importance. And in general, I believe that’s true. I mean, arrogance has become a popular characteristic, and we’re allowed ourselves to be deceived by people who are constantly telling us how great they are. We believe what they say, as though their words make it true even though their actions don’t. And far too often we tend to see ourselves as the center of the universe, and we expect others to sacrifice themselves for our sakes. And of course this is a problem. You see, when we assume that our ideas, opinions and assumptions should never be questioned much less modified, we set ourselves up for disappointment when the situations themselves show us that we’re really not as smart as we think we are. In our world, it’s easy to develop an inflated view of our own importance.

 

But there’s one area where we might be timid when boldness is more appropriate. And it centers around sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us. For whatever reason, we pull back when we could move forward. And that’s a real shame, because God has given us all the tools to do the job, in other words, to be his witness to the world. For example, he gave Peter the ability to raise Dorcas from the dead, a power that Jesus demonstrated during his time on earth and which now rests on the church. Still, it’s up to us to decide that we’re going to use the power that we’ve been given. And if we do, as the Body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can change the world, and I think that’s important in anyone’s book.

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11Jul

Cove Presbyterian Church Worship Service - July 9, 2017

Below is the podcast of the service I led on Sunday, July 9, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia.

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11Jul

Sunday’s Sermon - The Friend Who’s Patient

Below is the podcast of a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, July 9, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. This was the fifth message in the series entitled "Living by the Spirit." You can find other sermons, devotions, essays, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community blog. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.


If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

And so here we are, plowing through this series on what the Apostle Paul considers living by the Spirit. In other words, this morning we’re going to continue talking about how we can show some spiritual fruits in our own lives. And to this point, we’ve considered four different topics. First, we looked at how easy it is to misinterpret and misuse the freedom we have in Christ and how that can lead to very unspiritual lives. And then second, we looked at how Christian love, the first spiritual fruit, is both a decision and an obligation. And then, in the third week, we looked at how Christian joy is grounded in faith and how it strengthens those who suffer and how it must be shared among believers within the church. And then, last week, in the fourth message, we looked at Christian peace and how God has called us to live in harmony with ourselves and with God and with one another. Now that’s what we’ve covered to this point.

And this morning, we’re going to talk about the fourth fruit shown by folks who are living by the Spirit, and now I’m talking about patience. And I’ll tell you, this is another one of those characteristics that’s a little sketchy in our world, as I think this little video illustrates.

I’ll tell you, I think we’ve all known people a little like the impatient friend in the video. But I’ve got to tell you, when I saw it the first time, I was kind of surprised by how frustrated I was with the other girl. I mean, why did she waste so much time getting everything arranged in the car and what was the deal in the restaurant, just order your food for crying out loud? I’ve got to tell you, that was frustrating, and it sort of surprised me. But what made me really uncomfortable was how often I act like the impatient one. I mean, nobody’s going to watch a complete show if I have the remote control. And I often interpret a yellow light as the universal symbol for acceleration. And just ask Debbie how often she’s finished a meal before me. I’m afraid that I’m a charted member of the impatient club. But, having said that, I don’t think I’m alone, not in our instant gratification world. I mean, I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t see a whole lot of folks who have either the ability or the willingness to take a step back and wait for much of anything. In fact, I think most of us are more like little Wednesday Addams in the movie, The Addams Family. They’re eating supper, and Wednesday asks her Uncle Fester to pass the salt. Mortica says to her, “What do we say?” You know, like “what’s the magic word?” And Wednesday says, “Now.” “Lord, give me patience. And give it to me now.” Or one I like even better, “Lord, give me patience, because if you give me strength, I’m going to need bail money too.” Let’s face it, patience is a real challenge for people now-a-days.

 

But there it is, the third fruit of the Spirit, darn it. And so, with that in mind, we’re going to talk a little bit about patience this morning, you know, about what it is and how we might develop it. And maybe, by the time we head downstairs for the luncheon, we’ll be less likely to push and shove so that we can be first one in line. But before we can really look at what patience demands, I think we need to be clear about what it is. And I’ll tell you why I believe that’s important. You see, in my opinion, patience has gotten a pretty bad rap in our microwave society. I mean, often it’s seen as something shown by people who are indecisive, you know, folks who are not able to make up their mind. Or it’s shows a lack of strength or courage or at least that’s what some assume; in other words, patient people are willing to put up with stuff they don’t like because they lack the guts to do anything about it. But I think more than that, people often equate patience with indulgence. For example, a parent might say they’re being patient with a naughty child, but in reality, that parent doesn’t want to deny his child anything and so he stands by and watches his kid run wild. I mean, that’s often the kind of stuff that people associate with patience.

 

But of course, that really has nothing to do with how patience is presented in the Bible, especially as it relates to God, the ultimate example of being patient. You see, when Paul wrote to the Romans that “God wanted to show his anger and reveal his power against everyone who deserved to be destroyed. But instead, he patiently put up with them,” [Romans 9:22] I don’t believe he was suggesting that God was being indecisive or compliant or indulgent. Instead, God’s patience is actually a sign of his mercy and his authority. Let me read the whole passage. Paul wrote: “God wanted to show his anger and reveal his power against everyone who deserved to be destroyed. But instead, he patiently put up with them. He did this by showing how glorious he is when he has pity on the people he has chosen to share in his glory. Whether Jews or Gentiles, we are those chosen ones...” [Romans 9:22-24] In other words, the kind of patience shown by God has a very definite purpose, namely mercy. And yet, this purpose shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness. In fact, God’s patience is really a blending of mercy and authority. And this is something that the writers in the Old Testament described over and over again. For example, the author of Exodus wrote, “Then he passed in front of Moses and called out, ‘I am the Lord God. I am merciful and very patient with my people. I show great love, and I can be trusted. I keep my promises to my people forever, but I also punish anyone who sins. When people sin, I punish them and their children, and also their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.’” [Exodus 34:6-7] You see what I mean by mercy and authority. And I think this is exactly what the prophet Nahum understood when he wrote, “The Lord God demands loyalty. In his anger, he takes revenge on his enemies. The Lord is powerful, yet patient; he makes sure that the guilty are always punished. He can be seen in storms and in whirlwinds; clouds are the dust from his feet.” [Nahum 1:2-3] Man, although patient, this is not a weak God. And for that reason, we really need to see his merciful patience and his patient mercy as both a gift and an opportunity, one that’s grounded in his will. As the prophet Joel wrote, “The Lord said: ‘It isn’t too late. You can still return to me with all your heart. Start crying and mourning! Go without eating. Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts. I am merciful, kind, and caring. I don’t easily lose my temper, and I don’t like to punish.’” [Joel 2:12-13] And I’ll tell you, Paul said the same thing, when he wrote, “You surely don’t think much of God’s wonderful goodness or of his patience and willingness to put up with you. Don’t you know that the reason God is good to you is because he wants you to turn to him?” [Romans 2:4]

You see, it’s actually a gift. That’s what biblical patience is all about, and I’ll tell you, that’s the kind of patience that we’re called to show, as best we can. And even though it won’t be easy, I think it’s possible. I’m telling you, it’s possible for us to be patient, but to develop it, to develop Christian patience, I think it demands three things. And let me briefly tell you what they are.

 

You see, if we’re serious about showing the kind of patience that’s intentional, well, that demands humility. You see, to be patient, I think we need to realize that it’s not all about us, you know, about what we think and what we believe and what we want. In fact, it’s really about moving past ourselves so that we can focus on the other guy, and I’m talking about, the guy who’s trying to find his way through a life that’s become too complicated or the kid who’s struggling to make good choices without a clear understanding of all the consequences or the older person who’s both scared and confused by a world that’s moving too fast at the same time life is slipping away. It comes down to putting aside a little bit of self for the sake of someone else. In fact, that may be the only way we can actually do what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “My friends, we beg you to warn anyone who isn’t living right. Encourage anyone who feels left out, help all who are weak, and be patient with everyone. Don’t be hateful to people, just because they are hateful to you. Rather, be good to each other and to everyone else.” [1 Thessalonians 5:14-15] You know, maybe it’s true; to be patient we also need to be humble. And that’s the first thing patience demands.

 

And second, I’m telling you, I think it also demands a willingness to love, you know what I mean, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Remember, a couple of weeks ago, when we were talking about love, we looked at 1 Corinthians 13, and we saw that love is a decision not a feeling, because the qualities that Paul listed as loving were practical, not emotional. Well, I think it’s interesting that as he was describing what love looks like, Paul wrote, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-6] You see, for Paul, patience was the first quality of love. And to the Ephesians he wrote, “As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you to live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.” [Ephesians 4:1-2] Christian patience is impossible without love, and Christian love is shown by our willingness to be patient. You see, I believe love is the second thing that patience demands.

 

And third, it definitely demands faith, and I’m talking about faith in God, the one who really defines patience in the first place. You see, I don’t think we can ever look past ourselves and our beliefs and thoughts and desires without some knowledge or hope that there’s something or someone out there greater than ourselves. And to reach out in love to someone who might do to us the same kind of thing that humanity did to Christ, well, I think that takes an awareness that ultimately neither they nor we will be writing our final chapter. In other words, to offer the gift of patience, man, I believe that takes some pretty definite trust in one who holds the future of creation and everything in it in his hands. In a word, it takes faith, at least it does according to Paul. He wrote to the Colossians, “We have not stopped praying for you since the first day we heard about you. In fact, we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives. Then you will live a life that honors the Lord, and you will always please him by doing good deeds. You will come to know God even better. His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy.”[Colossians 1:9-11] And a little later in the same letter, he said, “God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.” [Colossians 3:12-14]. You see, genuine Christian patience may only be possible for those who believe, for those who have faith. And that’s the third thing patience demands.

Of course, having said all this, I don’t expect to see a major up-tick in patience anytime soon. I mean, most people want immediate gratification, and they assume that waiting is actually a sign of weakness, you know, a sign that we lack confidence and principles and courage. You see, that’s what a lot of folks think. But of course, that’s not how God’s patience is described. For him, it’s a sign of both his mercy and authority and something we can only receive as a gift. And as believers whom Paul challenged to show this same quality in our lives, we can recognize that it’s going to demand humility and love and faith on our part. Of course, this kind of patience, it’s not going to be easy. But I’ll tell you, when we make the decision and put forth the effort, if they make a video of us, we’re going to be known as the friend who’s patient.

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