The Era of Extremes Has Influenced Our Theological Discussions

I believe we are living in an era of extremes. We are living in a time where we are more likely to see our differences than our commonalities, especially when it comes to our ideas about life.

This shouldn’t shock anyone. Our society has been impacted by our deepening political polarization. For decades, we have been more interested in “left versus right” than coming to a consensus. We define truth by what is expressed by our favorite media outlets, which often share our ideological views. Even more, we have become distrustful of others who do not share our opinions. With each passing election, we have become more divided and the trend does not seem to have an end in sight.

All aspects of our lives have been impacted by this polarization and era of extremes. This includes our theological discussions. The era of extreme living and polarization that we see in political interactions also impacts how we view others within the body of Christ. We have made discerning the truth and love of Jesus Christ into a battle of “theological left” against the “theological right” with the winners inheriting the keys to the Kingdom of God.

Instead of focusing on making disciples of Jesus Christ, we concentrate our energies on making theological straw men out of those we disagree with. This happens when we take something said by someone we disagree with and turn it into an articulation of what is wrong with that person’s theological views, often without the appropriate and needed context. We also have the tendency to build up theological leaders as representations of the worst of the worst or examples of what is wrong with the church. In both ways, and many others, we are too busy talking at each other than talking with one another. The inability to see our theological opposite as our brother and sister in Christ prevents us from growing together in what it means to follow God.

What pains me is that we are more like the Pharisees and Sadducees than we want to admit. The Pharisees and Sadducees were  focused on defending their own views than they were about truly being the people God had called them to be. Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we can become overwhelmed with defending our own views that it clouds our witness and ability to serve the kingdom. Our perspective must be the other way around. In serving the kingdom of God, we must strive to see each other not as opposites but as common partners. If we cannot do this simple task, it will not matter how strong our views are because they will be lost in our inability to love others.

The fact of the matter is that people are watching us. If all they see out of the church is a group of people who reflect political squabbles than the kingdom of God, then what message are we sending to the world about the church or about Christ? People will not hear us when we say that in Christ is love and truth if we do not share that same message with our theological opposite.

This era of extremes will continue for some time. My hope and prayer is that the day will come that it will not longer impact the church and how we view each other in the kingdom.

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Sunday’s Sermon: So Much More to Be Said

“There is so much more that I want to say to you.”

These words from Jesus, as he continues his farewell address to his disciples, hit me hard this week. Hard enough that I called a “pastoral audible” and switched from my desired preaching text of Proverbs 8 to this short passage from John 16. What hit me the most about this word is that I can relate to it. There is so much that is left to be said and could be done, yet such a short time to do it in.

I think about all the things I have wanted to express to you in our time together. I think of ideas of how to go out and be a blessing to others. As well, I think about the missed opportunities to express God’s grace with the people around us everyday. There is so much that is left to be said and could be done, yet such a short time to do it in.

With only four weeks until we say those difficult words of “goodbye,” there is not a lot of time to focus on the missional aspect of ministry. Much of the work of connecting with the community in new ways, sharing God’s love to the least of these, and engineering ways we can be a blessing to others is not work I can do right now. Setting out on new ministries is certainly not ideal, right now. It will be up to your new pastor, Elad, to lead you in what it means to reach out into our communities. This is not an attitude of “giving up,” but a recognition that the mission of the church does not exist with one pastor or a selected few favorite ones. The mission of the church continues as we, both clergy and laity, work together in our task of  making disciples in the name of Jesus Christ.

There is not much I can do about reaching out and encouraging us to do so. I recognize this. While I may not be able to focus on the things left undone, I can certainly focus on the things that have been unsaid. I believe our remaining time together allows an opportunity to focus on some things I would like to say to you before leaving for Covington. Over the course of these “final four” sermons, my prayer is this time will launch us into this new season with hope and a desire to serve God and others. As well, I hope these words do not reflect me so much as they reflect a life that is found in attaching ourselves to the Christ-like journey. Ministry is not about one person, but about all of us participating in the mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

As we reflect on John 16:12-15 what I want to say to you is perhaps more of a reminder. That is I hope we never miss an opportunity to hear the Holy Spirit teaching us what it means to follow God’s word.

This message is at the heart of Jesus’ words. He is preparing his disciples for his departure and tells them there is much he wants to say. Of course, Jesus also says that they could not “bear it now” if he told them any more. This is not reflective of anything about the disciples’ lack of understanding, but, perhaps, a recognition that for three years they had been drinking from a water hydrant of deep engagement with the Lord. What more could they take in?

Jesus likely knew this and says their eyes would be opened when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost. We talked about about this last week about how the Holy Spirit comes as a guide that shows us the way of following the Lord’s desires and helps us to interact with our world. Here, Jesus tells us when the Spirit comes he will be focused on teaching and guiding us to knowledge of all truth.

On this Trinity Sunday, the day we recognize how the Father, Son, and Spirit work in a relationship as one, we are reminded of truth’s origins. Ultimate truth is found in God’s character and holiness. It is the wisdom that comes from God. The Holy Spirit cannot teach anything that does not come from God. The Spirit cannot create truth, but only share it with each of us. The Spirit shows us the meaning of God’s wisdom and love in ways that gives glory to the Son.

It is important for us to remember that the Holy Spirit is always at work. The Spirit never stops pointing us to the fact that God’s truth is everywhere. We can see it throughout creation. Our Old Testament reading from Proverbs 8 connects us to the idea that God’s wisdom can be found in the world. This is the image we get from the roadside and gate imagery, which, for the original reader, would have brought to mind an image of centers of activity. In big and small ways, the Holy Spirit uses the things of this world to remind us of God’s truth and love.

For example, have you ever watched a movie or a television program and have been reminded of a Scripture story or an aspect of God’s love? Just last night, a friend of mine mentioned a scene from the classic show “The West Wing” where one character narrates a story that reminds you of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Holy Spirit uses things that may seem less than holy in order to bring us to a deeper dependence and understanding of who God is.

To hear the Spirit’s teaching, though, we must be willing to close out the distractions and to be attentive to God’s small voice. It is difficult. I admit this. Yet, when we turn out the voices of this world, the distractions of our day, and focus on trying to seek God in the moment, we might find that the Spirit of the Living God is present and has never stopped teaching us.

Of course, when we do hear the Spirit teaching us God’s truth we may find that this truth is more challenging and difficult than we expected. It is not the work of the Holy Spirit to water down God’s truth to make it more tolerable for all. To help us to articulate God’s love in ways that reaches people in appropriate ways, yes, but the Spirit is not interested in removing aspects of God’s truth so that it would be easier to hear. The Holy Spirit challenges what we perceive to be true and right and calls us to a deeper level of hope, truth, faith, and dependence upon God.

No one likes to be challenged. In our time together I have preached some challenging sermons. I know this, because I have been challenged my much of what I have preached. One of my key preaching philosophies is that sermons should be both challenging and engaging. They should engage our souls, but in ways that are understandable and applicable to today’s world. I never want to preach a gospel that says the life of following Christ is easy, because there is nothing easy about denying ourselves and taking on what the Lord desires of us. I do ask your forgiveness if I have preached in a way that made it seem like the life of Christ is easy. It is not. Following Christ challenges everything we are and requires our full devotion.

When we are challenged by the Spirit and God’s truth we recognize that sometimes it is a truth we needed to hear. It may not feel like it in the moment, but God opens our eyes to the Lord’s character and holiness in ways that brings us to a closer walk with the Lord. The Holy Spirit guides us along the journey of faith so that Christ’s love becomes central to who we are and how we live in this world. This happens through allowing the Spirit to work in us to help us understand more of who God is.

None of us can claim to know all there is to know about God. We do not reach a point in our spiritual growth and stop only to say, “we’ve reached the zenith of the Christian life.” There is no end to how we can grow in Christian love. The journey of becoming perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect, to reflect the Lord’s love, is a daily life of understanding who God is and what this means for us, our lives, and how we engage the world around us. We need the Holy Spirit to continue to open our eyes to the Lord’s wisdom and truth, so that we might grow closer to the person God desires for us to be.

Every day is a moment to hear and to gain a deeper appreciation of who God is. The Holy Spirit is always at work in our lives in showing us what it means to follow the Lord in all aspects of our lives. The Holy Spirit never stops teaching, which means we should never stop listening for God’s voice to speak in our lives.

Just as the Holy Spirit never stops teaching, we must never stop listening for God’s voice and hear what the Lord is trying to say to us. I heard a pastor once say this, and I believe it to be true, that the most dangerous prayer we can ask is for the Holy Spirit to lead us each day. What if we prayed that prayer in a way that asks the Holy Spirit to speak to us in ways that shows us what God desires for us? Could you imagine if we prayed that prayer today, tomorrow, or even throughout this week?

I wonder what the Holy Spirit might say to each of you, to me, and to us this day and week. What word might God be trying to speak to us? What element of God’s love has the Lord been wanting to express to us? What work has God been trying to do in us?

There is so much God wants to open our eyes and hearts to. Let us always be open to the fact that the Spirit is at work in our lives and is pointing us to knowledge and love of all truth that comes from the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Five Thoughts for the Church

Today, I spoke at the Mackville Community Center for the last time as the pastor of Mackville UMC and Antioch UMC. Each month I offer a devotion to the weekly gathering of senior citizens in our community. These have been great opportunities to lead the entire community.

For my last devotion, I offered some general thoughts on the church and its mission. The thoughts were based on Matthew 28:18-20. They are not specific to Mackville or Antioch. In a way, these are things that I have come to feel and believe about the church over my last two years here.

1. There is no such thing as a small church. We can easily get caught up in the numbers game. For churches with small members, the focus on numbers can diminish the work for Christ that is taking place within the community. This happens when smaller membership churches see themselves as inadequate when compared to larger churches. The thing for all churches to remember is that every church – big and small – plays a role in the mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. The mission of the church is not small. Every church must work together and see that they are an expression of what God is doing in our communities. There is no small church, because the mission calls for all of us to work together as one body.

2. The mission field is here. This is a word especially for our rural communities that are now starting to see the cultural changes that larger communities have already seen. North America, and especially the United States, is not the Christian nation we have been raised to believe. We are the mission field and we must see our communities as mission areas for Christ. This requires a change in perspective. We cannot see our communities as safe harbors from the world, but as places where we are equipped to go out into our towns and share the name of Christ through acts of love.

3. Everyone has a purpose in the Kingdom of God. God has blessed each of us with gifts and talents. These are passions that make our hearts sing and inspire us in how we live in the world. God has given us these talents, whatever they may be, to sing the Lord’s praises and tell every one of God’s great name. Everyone of us has a purpose in God’s kingdom. What would it look like if the entire church recognized this? Imagine how strong our witness would be if we shared God’s love out of our gifts and talents, working together, to transform the world?

4. We must equip younger generations to be the church. This is not to ignore the contributions of other generations. The church must be multicultural and multi-generaitonal. At the same time, every church has a responsibility in reaching out to our young adults, youth, and children in ways that make them feel welcomed. We must equip younger generations to be leaders in the church and to be strong disciples of Christ. It is a work that will take all of us, but we cannot ignore our youth. We must engage them in ways that our holy and worshipful.

5. Have fun! Too often we see the church as a boring place that we go to once a week. If we see the church as boring then we cannot be upset when no one wants to visit our churches. We should be filled with joy, because of what Christ has done for us. That joy should inspire us in how we live and, also, how we celebrate together as the church. The church should be an exciting and loving gathering of disciples seeking together what it means to be followers of Christ today.

Sunday’s Sermon: Is This Really Goodbye?

In my young life, I have said goodbye quite a lot. I have more 12 times since I left home for West Virginia University in 1998. That is more than I would like.

Soon, we will make move number 13 when we leave Mackville and Antioch and take on a new challenge in Covington. We are already preparing for the move. Packed boxes are being stacked in the dinning room. Discarded items are being sorted. Reasonable quotes are being sought to move a family that came in as two and leaves as three to their next appointment.

All of this I can handle with relative easy. Packing a few boxes causes only momentary sourness. Getting rid of unused items reduces unwanted clutter. Finding a reliable and reasonably-priced moving company reduces the stress of quickly and efficiently moving.

What is difficult for me is the actual process of saying goodbye. It is not easy to say goodbye, yet I find myself in the beginning stages of this process. I find saying goodbye difficult because of the finality that comes with saying that word. The finality comes in the closing of one season of life or the redefinition of treasured relationships. Those are both difficult. From personal experience, relationships tend to fade once a goodbye has been said. Shared experiences are no longer shared and life begins to take on a new direction.

Granted, there are times when saying goodbye is important and can produce healthy and holy positives. As your pastor, it is important that I am able to separate myself mentally, physically, and spiritually when I live. That separation allows your new pastor to come in and effectively serve, while at the same time allows me the ability to freely serve my new congregation. At the same time, a church must also be willing to say goodbye in ways that lets go of an old pastor. This allows a congregation to welcome a new pastor with open hearts and arms.

This doesn’t mean saying goodbye is easy. No one can honestly say they enjoy saying or receiving a goodbye. When relationships and seasons end it is very painful and difficult. Goodbyes are tough.

Our reading, this morning, from Luke 24:44-53 feels like a goodbye. The bags have been packed. The moving truck is loaded. Everyone is standing around looking at each other waiting for someone to say, “it’s time to go.” This passage describes Jesus’ departure from earth. We expect this to be a sad story, but no one is sad. Instead, Luke reports that the disciples are filled with a worshipful joy.

While today is Mother’s Day, a day in which we honor the importance of our mothers, it is also Ascension Sunday. It is the day we give voice to an event that took place 40 days after the Resurrection, which was Thursday. The Ascension serves as a bridge. It moves the church from the celebration of the Easter season to the remembrance of the church’s birth at Pentecost. The Ascension of Christ is one of the most theologically significant events. It marks the moment when Jesus departs from the disciples and physical earth to take his place at the Father’s right hand. At the same time, it is also an event we struggle to understand. What does the Ascension mean? What does it say to us? How does it inform our witness and lives today?

These are key questions Luke tries to answer. Luke is the only gospel to focus on the Ascension. He covers the topic twice, both here and in Acts 1. This description is the shorter of the two and a more fuller description comes in Acts. What takes place in Bethany at Mount Olive anticipates what would occur in Acts and today.

At the most basic level, the Ascension is the moment when Jesus departs from earth and goes to heaven. Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples after his resurrection. This was time spent in fellowship, which included moments of teaching that equipped them for the ministry they would live in to. The Ascension marks an end to these encounters, which will not happen again until Jesus returns in his final glory. Jesus departure, then, marks the end to his earthly ministry.

Jesus can leave, in a physical sense, his disciples and the earth because his work is complete. He finished what he was called to do. Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to be the Lord and Savior of all. It was a work that was evident through his actions of healing and teaching. Most important, it was seen in how Jesus gave of himself so everyone can experience the grace and depths of God’s love. The cross was the means of redemption and the resurrection is the proof Jesus won the battle over sin and death. The work is finished.

That’s what took place, but what does the Ascension mean? It means Jesus has left to resume his place with God. His glorified body ascended to heaven and took the place the Son of God has held since before time. Jesus is now with God. It is a Trinitarian event that takes place. The Father sent the Son and now the Son has returned to the Father with the promise of the Spirit to come. From this heavenly place, Jesus will exercise his authority as Lord of all. According to theologian Thomas Oden, the Ascension marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in heaven.

The Ascension also means something else. It is a point Mark Tranvik focuses on his commentary on the passage. Because Jesus has returned to heaven, we can have confidence knowing God is approachable. This is because our Lord knows our pains and struggles. Jesus experienced them all. God “knows” our “loneliness, betrayal, rejection, thirst, and even death,” Tranvik writes, through Jesus’ earthly ministry. Our God is not a distant god who does not know what we feel. We worship the true God who has experienced our hurts and has walked where we have walked.

Worship is a key thought to focus upon. It helps us understand what the Ascension means today. Because Jesus is the Son of God, he is worthy of our joy and praise. This is why the disciples are overwhelmed with a sense of joy and worship the Lord after he departs. In Luke’s gospel, this is the first time the disciples respond to Jesus with acts of worship. To worship means we show our love and connection. It is right to worship Jesus because he is not just a teacher. He is not just a healer. He is the Son of God.

As well, the Ascension means something else to us today. Jesus’ departure was not a goodbye. Yes, it was an ending. Jesus would depart in a physical sense, but he has never really left us. The Ascension was the start of something wonderfully new, which would be experienced through the lives of the disciples and the entire church to come. Jesus’ living presence is all around us through the life of Holy Spirit working in and through us. We are never alone. The promise of Holy Spirit reaffirms this for us. The fact Jesus does not completely depart reminds us that we do not worship a distant god who is never here. We worship a God who is active, present, and involved in our lives.

This is what we are called to give witness to as a church. Luke records Jesus’ commissioning the disciples then and today to the work of telling the Good News of Jesus Christ to every nation, which means all cultures, regions, and locations. In a world that sometimes believes God has left or is no longer hearing us, the Ascension reminds us God has never left. Though Jesus departed in a physical sense he never said goodbye. Jesus is at work through the presence of the Holy Spirit and calls the church today to respond by telling the entire world that God is alive, is real, and is there for each of us.

We are called to witness to this fact that God has never left by the way we share this hope to the world. It’s a work we cannot do until we have experienced Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Ascension gives us the mission, while Pentecost gives us the ability to serve faithfully in the task before us.

For now, we find ourselves in the same posture the disciples found themselves on Mount Olives. That is a sense of awe of who our God is and the majestic nature of his work and name. We find ourselves rejoicing in the fact that Christ never said goodbye. It is joyous news that Jesus is with us always. This is news worthy of us to experience and to embrace. Jesus left to go be with the Father, so that we can experience a life with God in a deeper way. Praise be to God, indeed, for the Ascension.

I hope we find ourselves, this morning, simply in awe that Jesus is always with us. He has never left. Even though we expect to hear Jesus say the words “goodbye,” Jesus once against doesn’t give us what we expect. He gives us what we need to hear. That is the truth that Jesus is always with us, even when it seems like sometimes he is not. The Ascension reminds us that Jesus is actively involved in our lives by the fact that he sits in his place as the Son of God and Lord of Lords. His presence is felt through the presence of the Holy Spirit, God’s living presence which is active in each of us, the church, and the world.

Jesus may have departed in a physical sense, but it doesn’t mean he has left us to figure out this world on our own. Jesus would never do that. Our Lord is always with us. Jesus never says goodbye.

Sunday’s Sermon: More Than Checking a Box

Before the 140 characters of Twitter, before the first Facebook status was updated, before the first e-mail was sent, there was the classroom note.

The classroom note was an amazing piece of communication. It offered the handwritten musings of a distracted mind in the middle of a class lecture. Girlfriends would write boyfriends long essay notes. Boyfriends would write back with a short reply. Friends would write friends. If that wasn’t enough, the note would be folded in such a way to make passing to the intended recipient easier. (Personally, I would fold notes into the shape of a paper football.)

Unless we are the sentimental type, we have perhaps thrown away many of those classroom notes that we received. Even though we no longer posses our classroom notes, we likely remember some of its common features. One such feature was the classic “check yes or no” question. The question was a shy person’s way of communicating interest in a person about going out on a date. Do you want to see a movie Friday night? Check yes or no. The recipient would receive the question, mark the appropriate box, and then send the note back.

The concept “checking of box” might be worth reflecting upon today, especially when we think of our devotion to Christ. Sometimes, we all have the tendency of simply checking the box when it comes to our faith in Christ. What do I mean by this? Checking the box is an adage that says we are all in on Sunday morning, but the life of Christ doesn’t impact who we are the rest of the week. We will say “yes” to the Lord on Sunday, but by Monday morning, we are saying yes to something else.

How does this look? The Christian life is developed and strengthened by our worship of the Lord, both communal and private. On Sunday, we will worship the Lord in strong and mighty ways that give glory to God’s name. Later in the week, our memory of worship begins to fade, and we become distracted in our devotion. Other devotions, such as money, political identity, our careers, or even ourselves, begin to take control of us, shaping who we are and how we live. Instead of Christ shaping our entire being, our love of the Lord ends up only shaping this one hour we are together each week.

Christ seeks our total and true devotion. The call to follow Christ is more than simply checking a box that says we are present in the body, yet spiritually and emotionally absent. Absentee devotion to Christ is not true devotion. Jesus desires a devotion that is grounded by a desire to grow spiritually each day and allow Christ to reside within us. This occurs when our devotion to Christ is formed through hearing and doing what Christ desires.

That is the funny thing about Jesus. It is also the challenging thing. Jesus actually expects his followers to hear his teaching, to remember his words, and to apply them to our lives. Jesus’ words are not platitudes that speak of an utopian ideal. Instead, Jesus’ words are the Church’s missional guides that shows us the way to the Father. Jesus is the Word of Life who speaks to the way of an everlasting life in the Father’s arms. Thus, Jesus’ words are powerful. They are transformative. They are challenging. As well, they call us to take seriously his commands and what they mean for faithful devotion to the Lord. When Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers,” he truly means for us to reflect on what Jesus’ idea of peace looks like in a world constantly seeking revenge.

Devotion to Christ is central to our passage from John 14:23-29. Once again, we are faced with the idea of love in response to Jesus’ resurrection. Last week, we said love was a commitment to each other and the world as Christ does. We love in the ways Christ has loved us. Jesus puts our love to the test here, and asks us to see if we have truly claimed Christ’s love as our own.

In this dialogue, Jesus responds to a disciple’s question about his revelation and says that those who love him are the ones who obey his teaching. They will experience his presence. Said another way, those who are truly devoted to this life are those who seek to grow in their devotion by following the Lord’s desires. They will feel the presence of Christ at work, because, Jesus says, God will be with those who seek to follow the Lord’s teaching. The Lord will reside with them. The presence of God is found in faithful devotion and obedience to Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus says that it is not enough to say you love Christ. The words of our love must be backed up by the heart of our actions. We have spent a lot of time lately in the church saying love is all you need. If you love Christ, then everything will be all right. Unfortunately, that is only part of the equation of the life of Christ. Holiness, a desire to grow in Christ’s likeness and follow the Lord’s words, must be central to who we are and our life in Christ. Our love of Christ must be rooted in a desire to take Jesus’ words seriously and apply them to our loves and the ways we interact with the world.

Indeed, Jesus’ words are challenging and cut against many of our world views. Jesus’ words ask us to consider who we truly are devoted to and who is the root of our love. This is not an easy task. It is not something we can do alone. Jesus knew this. He knew that alone we would not be able to be fully devoted to the Lord. We need help. We need the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Jesus says the Holy Spirit comes as an Advocate at work in our lives. God’s Spirit comes and teaches us what it means to follow Christ, reminds us of God’s words, and shows us the way forward. The Holy Spirit empowers us so that our devotion to the Lord is not empty words, but a life lived for the Lord. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, is the presence of God at work in our lives, who brings us to a deeper walk with the Lord. Even though Jesus has departed the world in a physical sense and reigns in heaven today, we have the confidence of the divine presence of God being with us always through the life of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus never leaves us alone to figure out what it means to be devoted to the Lord. God’s presence surrounds and guides us daily into what it means to be more than simply box checkers. The Spirit is continually at work in transforming us into the people God has called us to be – people who are devoted and in love with the Lord, who seek to follow the Lord’s desires, and who impact others in the name of Christ.

The presence of the Holy Spirit gives us the confidence to take on the challenging words of Christ. We do not have to say that Jesus’ words are too difficult. We do not have to say that Christ didn’t really mean those words when he said them. What we can say is something like this, “Jesus, I love you and I want to grow more like you. Help me to follow you through the guidance of your Spirit in my life.”

The fact that we are never alone is the peace of God that helps us to take on the difficult and challenging. God’s peace is comfort that helps direct our love and devotion to the Lord. It is the inner sense of calm that reminds us that God is with us. Jesus’ peace is the presence of God at work in our lives that helps us to remain committed to the Lord even when the world seeks to distract us away from Christ.

All of us have checked the box that says we love Christ and are devoted to him, only to find ourselves more connected to other desires. What if our devotion was truly centralized on seeking to follow Christ’s words and aligning ourselves more with his will than our own? I cannot promise you that this life will be without its pains or heartaches. Jesus never promises this life will be easy. Only that if we seek to be devoted to the Lord and follow in the Lord’s steps, we will find that Christ is with us, the Holy Spirit guides us, and it will be shown to what it means to take on the challenging words of Christ.

True love of Christ isn’t found in checking a box. It is found in a life daily devoted to taking on Christ’s words and making them real in our hearts. As we prepare to come to the table and share in the covenant meal of communion, now is a great time to allow the Spirit to examine our hearts. What is the measure of our devotion to the Lord? Are we simply checking a box that says we love Christ, but are not allowing that love to be fully realized in our lives each day? Are we seeking to follow the Lord’s desires with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?

The life of Christ is more than checking a box. It is a life fully devoted to the love and desires of the Lord. What would it look like if our lives were more than checking a box, but a life completely devoted to God? What would be different? What would change? Who would we be in Christ?