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Going Deeper with Jesus

Going Deeper small (2)This weekend, we begin a new 9-month sermon series at Gloria Dei, called “Going Deeper.”

Going deeper into God’s Word.
Going deeper in a relationship with Jesus.
Going deeper in our faith.

I was thinking about this idea of going deeper when I read this passage from Luke.

Now as they (Jesus and his disciples) went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Luke 10:38-39 ESV

A woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

Perhaps before we can even go deeper, we must first invite Jesus to join us where we are. He promises to always be with us, but He’s not pushy. He won’t force his way into someone’s life—or somewhere He’s not welcome.

But to welcome Jesus is to want Him present with us…to want to spend time with Him.

Martha’s sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

She sat and listened. She wasn’t multi-tasking and listening while doing something else. Her focus was only on Jesus. I can imagine her hanging on every word He said.

And I wonder, do we?

Do we solely focus on Jesus and listen to what He says?

When we open our Bibles to read His Word, does He have our full attention?

If we continue to read in Luke 10, we know that Martha was busy bustling about preparing and serving the meal. While Mary sat and listened. I think we can understand Martha’s frustration with Mary because we learn early in life that being busy is good. Being busy gets us places.

Jesus sees Martha’s busyness, but He doesn’t tell Mary to get up and help her.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 ESV

Martha is stressed out. Can you relate? I can.

Martha wasn’t out of line for wanting to serve Jesus, but she let it become more important than spending time with Him.

How often do we do the same—when obligations, even church obligations, weigh heavier than spending time with Jesus?

Mary had it right. Jesus was in their home and she wanted to spend her time going deeper in her friendship with Him.

We have the same opportunity to go deeper with Him every time we read God’s Word and let it soak in. Every time we worship Him. Every time we hear Him speak to us and we stop to listen.

In getting to know Him better, our faith grows deeper…and as Jesus said, it cannot be taken away from us.

What Are You Reading? (May 2015)

This month, we have for you a review of the book Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard from Vicar Dan Petrak, as well as some online Bible study resources.

Dan Petrak, Vicar

Killing JesusKilling Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

I recently finished reading Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. This book is one of a series written by O’Reilly and Dugard to bring a factual and detailed description to the death of Jesus of Nazareth. The authors employ historical context and events surrounding the various political, social, economic and religious influences of the day. Jesus’ life and death are accurately depicted from the perspectives of the Romans, Jews, and Jesus’ disciples to help the reader understand the interactions of the Jewish and Roman cultures two thousand years ago. The book’s title points to the death of Jesus on the cross, but it also describes life, ministry, crucifixion and his rising from the grave.

O’Reilly (a Roman Catholic) attempts to tell the story in an objective manner and cites all his sources throughout the book. His intent is not to preach or teach the Gospel, but the life and words of Jesus deliver the message of the Gospel and the reader learns the reason for Jesus’ life and his once for all sacrifice on the cross. Parts of all the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are all cited as well as other historical documents from the time period.  I most enjoyed the specific details describing what life would have been like living as a poor Jew two thousand years ago.  The style is easy to read and it seems to bridge the gap between the historical Jesus and the events surrounding his miraculous life.  I believe Christians and non-Christians would enjoy this book and it compels the reader to wrestle with who Jesus is and what does his life, death and resurrection mean to each of us. ~Dan

Online Bible Study Resources:

1 Thessalonians Bible Study by Pastor Joe Meyer (5 sessions)

First Thessalonians provides a glimpse into the future—a future that holds no tears, sickness or death. Even though the Thessalonians faced extreme persecution, Paul encouraged them to live and walk in a manner that honored God—a life that should ultimately be motivated by the hope of the return of Jesus Christ.

Knowing and Defending Your Faith by Pastor Joe Meyer (3 sessions with printable discussion guides)

In this study, Pastor Meyer digs deep into God’s Word and discusses how to talk to others about your faith in Jesus.

The Last Days by Pastor Joe Meyer (5 sessions with printable study guides)

Have you ever wondered about the Anti-Christ or what our world will be like before the Second Coming? In this study, Pastor Meyer explores the End Times, or Last Days, through a study of God’s Word for Biblical understanding of that incredible event that will happen very soon. In Revelation 22:7, Jesus said, “Behold I am coming soon” …and so He will.

What book, author, or study recommendations do you have to share with others?

What Are You Reading (March 2015)

What are you reading?

That’s the question we’ve been asking each month. Here are a few staff recommendations:


Pastor Joe Meyer, Senior Pastor

Just Walk Across the Room by Bill Hybels

This is a fantastic book filled with real life stories of how to share your faith.More than that, it’s a challenge to be missional in this world. ~Pastor Joe

From the back cover:

In Just Walk Across the Room, Bill Hybels introduces the next era in personal evangelism with a natural, relational approach that follows Jesus’ own example. When Christ “walked” clear across the cosmos 2,000 years ago, he had no formulas and no script—just an offer of redemption to people like us, many of whom were neck deep in pain of their own making.

Astounding things happen when you follow the model set by Jesus. Emphasizing the leading of the Holy Spirit, Hybels invites you to step out of your “Circle of Comfort” and into encounters with people who long for someone to take an interest in them—men and women with stories to tell and hearts that yearn to experience God’s love reaching out to them through your smile, your encouragement, your transparency, your friendship.


Laura Rath, Assistant to the Senior Pastor

Author Lynette Eason

I’ve recently read two Christian suspense novels by Lynette Eason. What I particularly liked about both of these, besides being good stories of suspense, was that the main characters are already Christians. In a lot of Christian fiction I’ve read, there is the predictable “tension” of whether or not the main character will be a believer by the end of the book. In these two books, the focus is the story itself, but we still get to see how the characters, as Christians, deal with trouble. ~Laura

No One to Trust by Lynette Eason

From Amazon:

Summer Abernathy wakes up one morning to find her husband missing, three men in her home intent on finding him, and the life she’s been living based on a lie. Which Kyle Abernathy did she marry? The computer programmer she met in line at the bank? Or the one who was apparently using that image as a cover?

The search for her husband—and answers—takes Summer ever deeper into a world of organized crime where people are used one moment and discarded the next. And with her deepest relationship of trust already shattered, Summer doesn’t know who to believe.




Nowhere to Turn by Lynette Eason

From Amazon:

The day Danielle Harding takes her eleven-year-old son and flees from her abusive husband is the same day Kurt Harding dies. A relieved Dani believes she and her son are finally safe–but in reality, things are just heating up. When Kurt was alive, he took something important from a mysterious individual—who wants the item back and believes Dani now has it. As she and her son run for their lives, they have nowhere to turn, until she hires Adam Buchanan of Operation Refuge and goes into hiding. Unfortunately, she won’t be able to hide for long . . .



Now it’s your turn…

What book (or author) have you read recently that you would recommend to others?


What Are You Reading? (February 2015)

What are you reading?

That’s the question we’re asking members of the Gloria Dei staff each month. Here are a few highlights:


Pastor Joe Meyer, Senior Pastor

Reliving the PassionReliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark by Walter Wangerin Jr.

I’ve read this book many times. With Ash Wednesday coming up (February 18), I would recommend it to anyone looking to enrich their Lenten experience. ~Pastor Joe

From Amazon:

No story has more significance than this: the death and resurrection of Jesus. But somehow the oft-repeated tale of Christ’s passion can become too familiar, too formalized, for us to experience its incredible immediacy.

The meditations in Reliving the Passion, which received a Gold Medallion Award in 1993, follow the story as given in the gospel of Mark—from the moment when the chief priests plot to kill Jesus to the Resurrection. But these readings are more than a recounting of events; they are an imaginary reenactment, leading the reader to re-experience the Passion or perhaps see it fully for the very first time.

As only a great storyteller can, Walter Wangerin enables the reader to see the story from the inside, to discover the strangeness and wonder of the events as they unfold. It’s like being there. In vivid images and richly personal detail, Wangerin helps us recognize our own faces on the streets of Jerusalem; breathe the dark and heavy air of Golgotha; and experience, as Mary and Peter did, the bewilderment, the challenge, and the ultimate revelation of knowing the man called Jesus.


DeAnn McCue, Director of Children’s MinistryA Mother's Search for Meaning

A Mother’s Search for Meaning: The Dance Goes On by Roberta Bandy

This book is the true story of a family whose first born son was born with a rare chromosome abnormality. This is a story of hope and faith through the midst of great heartache, but more than that, it is a story of love. ~DeAnn

From Amazon:

A biography about the gift of life. When their son was born with a rare chromosome abnormality, the Bandy family chose to cherish every day of his life. This is the true story of a remarkable young man whose life taught a profound lesson about love and faith. Readers who are searching for meaning and comfort will be encouraged by this family’s daily struggles with disability and how they learned to see the Creator’s splendor in the details. (Published by Concordia College)


Karen Kennedy, Director or Publicity and Promotions

Abba's ChildAbba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging by Brennan Manning

Since a trusted and dear friend recommended author Brennan Manning, I immediately ordered “Abba’s Child.” By chapter two, I was completely enthralled at his easy and simple way of expressing our human angst in life that manifests itself in a lot of ugly ways. He states that most things in life are aimed at hiding and masking our true selves. Therefore, we fill that need to be recognized, heard and loved by external accolades, such as career, work, family, friends, etc. However, he writes that our true identity, freeing us from all illusions, is found in Christ as His “beloved.” We are His and He is ours. I found this truth, exhilarating, freeing and extremely simple. ~ Karen

From Amazon:

Many Christians feel broken and angry but don’t think they can express these real feelings around others—or to God. So we put on a mask to hide our identity. Feelings of embarrassment and shame make us hide from the One who truly loves us. Author Brennan Manning encourages you to let go of this stressful, unreal impostor lifestyle and freely accept your identity as a child of God. Find the rest that you long for as you grow in character and accept His lordship. Includes discussion questions.

Now it’s your turn…what are you currently reading? Let us know by leaving a comment.


What Are You Reading? (January 2015)

With each New Year, many people make a list of books they plan to read throughout the year. Personally, I don’t make a list, but I always have a stack of books ready to choose from at home, and books in mind to look for at the public library or on WILBOR (the online library.) I’m also on the watch for new books and when they will be released by the publisher.

Today, we’re asking you…Do you make a reading list and what are you reading now?

Here are a few highlights of books Gloria Dei staff members are reading:


Pastor Phil Robarge, Director of Adult Ministry

Love DoesLove Does by Bob Goff 

“Before I read Love Does, I saw Bob at a conference. I walked away thinking that even though I didn’t know Bob personally, he was on my top five list of favorite people on the planet. He was funny, engaging, and made me think (which can be dangerous). Shortly after the conference I picked up Bob’s book Love Does and found that he writes just like he speaks—with passion and humor. 

I would recommend this book to people who are looking to be challenged to think about their life of faith differently. Because…God’s love changes things. It brings hope, it revives faith and makes a way forward where there seems to be a dead end. Love works and risks. God’s love does.” ~ Pastor Phil

From Amazon:

As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren’t good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll.

Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world’s best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it’s not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob’s love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.

When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.

Light and fun, unique and profound, the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.


Karen Kennedy, Director of Publicity and Promotions

Generous Justice by Timothy KellerGenerous Justice 2

“Being a fan of Timothy Keller caused me to read this book. I think I have read it three times and have underlined most of the book. It has caused me to think and rethink my responsibility to the most vulnerable in our society: the widows, the orphans, the refugees and the poor.”  ~ Karen

From Amazon:

It is commonly thought in secular society that the Bible is one of the greatest hindrances to doing justice. Isn’t it full of regressive views? Didn’t it condone slavery? Why look to the Bible for guidance on how to have a more just society? But Timothy Keller challenges these preconceived beliefs and presents the Bible as a fundamental source for promoting justice and compassion for those in need. In Generous Justice, he explores a life of justice empowered by an experience of grace: a generous, gracious justice. This book offers readers a new understanding of modern justice and human rights that will resonate with both the faithful and the skeptical.


Laura Rath, Assistant to the Senior Pastor

Hope 3 - smHope for the Weary Mom: Let God Meet You in the Mess by Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin

“I’ve been reading Stacey Thacker’s blog for years, so I was pretty excited to receive an advance copy of her new book. Co-authors Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin are two hope-filled moms living in the trenches of motherhood. They share from their own experiences and encourage fellow moms to find hope…even in the middle of the messiest days.

Hope for the Weary Mom releases on February 1, 2015, but can be pre-ordered now.” ~ Laura

From Amazon:

Do you ever feel like you’re fresh out of amazing? Daily pouring yourself out for your family, you’re tired, overwhelmed, and have nothing left to give. Hope for the Weary Mom is an honest look at where you find yourself living. In their new book, bloggers Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin (creators of the online communities Mothers of Daughters and The MOB Society) lead you to the God who meets you in your mess and show you that you don’t walk through life alone. You will…

  • invite God into your mess
  • reconnect with His heart for you
  • experience the peace and freedom of walking with Him

It’s easy to forget that God knows you by name when you’re numb with the daily grind. Join Stacey and Brooke and begin the journey from weariness to hope.


Now it’s your turn…what are you reading?


Merry Christmas!!

GD Merry ChristmasFor to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 NIV


What are you reading?

That’s the question we’ll be asking Gloria Dei staff each month and highlighting a few of those books here on the blog.

We’re asking you too…what are you reading? Share with others in the comments by telling us what’s on your reading list.


Jo Lynn Yeutsy, Director of Tiny Treasures

Left NeglectedLeft Neglected by Lisa Genova

“I just joined a book club, and this is the book that was chosen for this month because I hear it’s a good one to discuss. I’ve just started it, but it’s grabbed my attention so far!” ~ Jo Lynn

From Amazon:

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son’s teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it’s a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.


Karen Kennedy, Director of Publicity and Promotion

Wounded by God’s People by Anne Graham LotzWounded By God's People

“In a passing conversation, a friend mentioned this book, and it caught my attention. I loved the book’s detailed study of Abraham, Sarah, and especially Hagar. I had never considered Hagar’s plight, her emotional and spiritual darts came from every direction. In many regards, she was a product of a lot hurtful choices from others as well as from her own bad choices. But for me, the incredible part of her story is God did not leave her alone and actively pursued her. I finished reading the book with a fresh understanding that there is absolutely no person or situation that God does not want to redeem.” ~ Karen 

From Amazon:

Tucked into Abraham’s biography is the story of Hagar, a young Egyptian slave with whom Abraham had a son named Ishmael.  Hagar stood out because she was wounded—not physically, but in ways that were as emotionally and spiritually painful as any injury to a body would be. Some wounds were provoked by her own bad behavior, but others were inflicted by those who considered themselves God’s people.

Anne Graham Lotz too has been wounded by God’s people. Some wounds have been deeper than others, some have come out of nowhere, and still others have been provoked by her own behavior, but all of the wounds have been deeply painful. They seemed to hurt even more when the wounders wrapped their behavior in a semblance of religion or piety.

As Hagar’s story unfolds, you will discover that wounded people often become wounders themselves. While Anne identifies with the wounded, the unpleasant reality is that she also identifies with the wounders, because she has been one, too.  She knows from experience that wounding is a cycle that needs to be broken.  And by God’s grace, it can be.

Many have had similar experiences. And perhaps you are among those who have been so deeply hurt that you have confused God’s imperfect people with God. Maybe you have even run away from God as a result.  Or perhaps you have been a wounder to the extent that you are living in a self-imposed exile, believing you are unworthy to be restored to a warm, loving relationship with God or with God’s people. Whatever your hurts may be, Wounded by God’s People helps you to begin a healing journey—one that enables you to reclaim the joy of God’s presence and all the blessings God has for you.

God loves the wounded. And the wounders.


Laura Rath, Assistant to the Senior Pastor

Gluten FreedomGluten Freedom by Dr. Alessio Fasano

Is it gluten free? has become a frequent question in our world now. For some, eating gluten free is a choice. For many others, it’s a necessity, due to celiac disease and other gluten intolerances. For my family, celiac disease is a reality and eating gluten free is an absolute must. I’ve just started reading it, but I think it’s going to be a good resource.” ~ Laura

From Amazon:

World-renowned gluten-related disorders expert Dr. Alessio Fasano presents the groundbreaking roadmap to a gluten-free lifestyle, and how millions can live better by going gluten free.

For centuries, bread has been known as the “staff of life.” But for millions of Americans affected by gluten-related disorders, consuming gluten, the complex protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, can be hazardous to their health. In a recent poll presented by Scientific American, over 30% of Americans reported wanting to cut down or eliminate gluten from their diets; the gluten-free market is a $6.3 billion industry and continues to expand.

Now, in Gluten Freedom, Alessio Fasano, MD, world-renowned expert and founder of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Celiac Research, reveals the latest developments in scientific research and treatment, and the answers they provide for this rapidly expanding audience. This groundbreaking, authoritative guide is an invaluable roadmap for the newly diagnosed, for those already dealing with gluten-related issues, and for anyone who thinks they may have an issue with gluten.

Distinguishing scientific fact from myth, Gluten Freedom explains the latest research, diagnostic procedures, and treatment/diet recommendations, helping consumers make the best choices for themselves and their families. Gluten Freedom also discusses important nutritional implications for behavior-related diagnoses such as autism and conditions such as depression, anxiety, and “foggy mind.” Other highlights include:

  • The differences between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy
  • Current best practices for gluten-related disorders at any age
  • Practical information on setting up a gluten-free kitchen, reading labels, and staying safe and healthy in a world filled with hidden sources of gluten
  • The psychological impact of a diagnosis and its effect on a family
  • Groundbreaking research for prevention and therapy
  • Reliable and accurate resources for patients, parents, and physicians
  • And even recipes for an authentic gluten-free Italian dinner from Dr. Fasano’s home kitchen

Now it’s your turn…what are you reading?

When Our Best Efforts Are Not Good Enough

God's grace

As a wife and mother, I really don’t like the times I have to admit that my best isn’t good enough. In fact, I wonder how often I really do admit it because as I think about it, it seems like I keep trying an awful lot. That’s our reality though, isn’t it? Don’t quit. Keep trying. Work harder.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not for giving up after one half-hearted attempt. I believe that we can’t succeed if we don’t bother to try. And we definitely learn a lot from the mistakes we make.

But sometimes…our best efforts are simply not good enough.

We can live in guilt and regret over this fact, or we can accept it. I accept it for others without smothering them with a guilt trip. I suspect you do to. We extend grace.

But grace for ourselves seems to be so much harder. So, we keep trying. We work harder. We keep beating ourselves up.

And yet, our best efforts still will not be good enough.

It sounds depressing, but it’s not—it’s freeing.

Because God extends to us His grace—His free and unearned favor proffered to us.

Where we are not enough, He is more than enough. Always.

Our determination, strength, energy, and hard work will never be enough to restore our relationship with God—but we don’t have to—because God already has. (<==Click to tweet.)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

God offered the sacrifice we could never offer. He did the work we cannot possibly do.

He gives us grace.

And through God’s grace, we are able to extend grace to others—and ourselves.

Grace is freedom. (<==Click to tweet.)

Freedom to no longer live in guilt and shame.

Freedom to accept that while our efforts are not enough, God’s grace is more than enough.

Freedom to stop trying to do—and live in what’s already been done.

Freedom to breathe a sigh of thankful relief and live in His grace.


In Christ,
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith


[Photo credit: Stock photo: Alone by lake]


This weekend, we begin a new sermon series at Gloria Dei called Half-Hearted Zealot. We’ll be exploring what it means to be either a fan or follower of Christ. Click here to follow the series: Half-Hearted Zealot.

Jesus shows the wayDo you follow Jesus?

It sounds like I’m asking if you follow someone on Twitter, doesn’t it? In fact, wouldn’t that be an easy way to be a follower of Jesus?

Follow Jesus. Check.

Like Him on Facebook. Check.

That’s our culture now. We follow and like from afar. We don’t really have to do anything, but once we click the button, we feel like we’re in. Except that we’re not.

Our online world is more of a fandom, I think, than true followers.

According to…

A fan is an ardent admirer of a pop star, film actor, football team, etc.; an aficionado or enthusiast.

A follower is a person who imitates, copies, or takes as a model or ideal; an attendant or servant.

Both definitions are nouns, but don’t miss the difference.

A fan is someone who is something. A follower is someone who does something.

The difference is subtle, but huge.

So, the better question is…

Are you a fan or follower of Jesus?

Fans know about Jesus. They believe in Him, but are concerned with how they look as a Christian. They want others to see their actions, but they want their actions to be acceptable in the eyes of others. They want to be and look like a follower, but may not be willing to actually do anything as a follower.

Followers know about Jesus, but they also get to know Jesus personally. They believe in Him, but even more, they believe Him. They believe what Jesus says is true, and they are willing to act on it, regardless of what others might think.

Followers have an inner passion for who they are following. They know it won’t be easy to follow Him. In fact, everyday may be a struggle to put self aside and put Jesus first. But, they know it will be worth it.

As fans, we tend to rely on ourselves, thinking, I can’t possibly be a true follower—it’s frightening and overwhelming. I tried and I messed it up almost immediately. I know I’d keep failing.

As followers, we realize it’s not about us. We think, I can’t possibly be a true follower—it’s frightening and overwhelming. I tried and I messed it up almost immediately. I know I’ll keep failing—but I know God will keep extending grace and forgiveness.

God didn’t ask us to do it on our own. As followers, we have Someone to rely on—Jesus shows us the way…and God gives us what we need to follow. (<==Click to tweet.)

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT

In Christ,
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith


Photo credit: Stock photo: flight of stone stairs

Loving Your Neighbor


Pastor Robarge encouraged us to be the church in this week’s message. Here are some thoughts by Karen Kennedy wrestling with some of the details of being the church. Enjoy!

Recently, I have been reading (actually re-reading and re-re-reading) “Generous Justice,” a book by Timothy Keller.

Keller takes on the subject of justice by searching the Old Testament accounts, and how Israel was set up to make provisions for those most vulnerable, which included widows, orphans, refugees and the poor. He then shows Jesus’ heart to this “quadrant ” as Jesus fitly calls “the least of these.”

Personally, the book is making me feel very uncomfortable. I wish I could say that there was some fundamental problems with his logic or something theological wrong with his conclusions, but there is not. I think he is correct on his assessment on what followers of Jesus ought to be doing. The problem is that I am not doing it.

Not that I am not doing some of it–I am. The problem is that following Jesus demands more than what I have been giving.

Let me expose more of my quandary through a biblical and then a real-life example:

When an expert of the law asked Jesus the famous question, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t give an exact answer; instead he tells a story about a man who was beaten and left dead at the side of the road. The two who figuratively represented God, the priest and the Levite, ignored the man, continuing with their lives as normal. A Samaritan, who was considered the dirt of society, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn and took care of him throughout the night. His care continued the next day when he made arrangements with the inn keeper to look after the wounded man.

Jesus asks “who do you think was a neighbor to this man?”

What? The question was who is my neighbor? Not who was neighborly? Maybe the expert of the law really wanted to know who was his neighbor? And if he was to love that neighbor, maybe he thought he ought to know whom he should love. Maybe the expert was a list person, like me.

Unfortunately, I do not see a to-do “neighbor” list in this account. What I do see is a traveler who saw one person in need and immediately became committed into helping that person through his troubles. And this neighborly thing cost the traveler time and money, as well as a detour in his traveling plans.

And Jesus says this example shows that loving your neighbors involves mercy, and, at times, inconvenience, risk, money and sometimes danger.

A few weeks ago, in Des Moines, there was a fight that broke out with about 50 young teens. A lot of the details of what happened are still unclear according to the news. However, it was reported that a passerby in a SUV saw one of the teens lying at the side of the road, stopped and pulled the teen into her SUV.

What! I have a million questions to ask: “What were you thinking? Why didn’t you call the police? Don’t you know that you could have been sued by taking an underage child in your car without his parents’ permission? And was he bleeding? And if he was bleeding, weren’t you afraid of getting blood on your hands, and in your car?”

I think I am starting to sound like the possible scenarios (minus the SUV, of course) that the priest and the Levites could have entertained when they saw the injured man at the side of the road. Perhaps their minds filled up with logical reasons why they shouldn’t get involved, but the woman in the SUV, made a quick decision to get involved.

And Jesus tells us to “Go and do likewise.”

To me, that brings God’s second commandment of loving your neighbor to a whole new level. Not sure about you, but if the entire law and prophets now hinge upon loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves, I need to do more than think about it. I need to stop being so convenience-driven and ask God to enlarge my heart, so that my actions line up with His heart of love. I need to stop with all the reasons why not to become involved and “go and do likewise.”

What are the things that you wrestle with concerning being the church? And what should  change so that you can show the world Jesus?





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