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Posts in Megan Grant
Jesus is the mensch!

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The three solas we have learned about so far have all focused on drawing power away from human authority and effort and instead putting God at the center of our understanding of spiritual salvation and growth. Today’s is no different!

Solus Christus is the idea that Jesus is at the center of everything: our lives, history, spirituality, the world… He alone is our king, our lord, and our savior.

It might seem weird to think that there was a point in Christianity where this wasn’t the case, where other people and institutions had supreme spiritual authority over Christian’s lives.

Yet, if we look closely at the way we live and think most of the time, it’s probably true of us as well.

We get worried about what our coworkers want us to do. We think our family is judging us and we change our actions. We want to look put together in front of our friends. So often, we are distracted by the desires and opinions of other people and neglect to remember the central figure of our lives, Jesus.

Let’s remind ourselves of the supremacy of Jesus today, friends. Let’s draw our worth and motivation from him.

 

 

Yet another Luther and Super Man.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

The masterminds of the Reformation were problematic in many ways. For example, Martin Luther had some serious racism problems, and John Calvin burned people for differing beliefs. It’s important to acknowledge that, while we benefit greatly from some of the shifts that emerged from the Reformation, its inception came about from the work of flawed individuals.

Along with sola scriptura which we learned yesterday, the Reformation also brought about the idea of sola fide (faith alone) and sola gratia (grace alone). These two ideas simply mean that we are saved by the grace of Jesus through faith alone.

Jesus is the reason for the good in our lives and the good we impart to others. We are able to live fulfilling lives in community and fruitfulness because of God’s intentional work in our lives.

Just as those flawed men reformed the church, may we reform our lives, our families, and our communities with full awareness of our need for the work of God in us and through us. Friends, we are very needy, and we are in good company! 

Take a few minutes and consider the ways in which God is influencing your morning. In what ways can you acknowledge Jesus this morning? How are you experiencing his grace? 

The B.I.B.L.E! Yes, that's the book for me!

Romans 15:4 (NIV) “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

One of the core gifts that emerged from the Reformation is sola scriptura which loosely translates to “scripture alone.” This is the belief that we can turn to the Bible to learn about Jesus and our relationship with God.

During the time of the Reformation, most people believed you had to learn about God through holy people like priests. Most Christians couldn’t even read the Bible, much less integrate its direct teaching into their daily lives.

What does the Bible look like in your life? If you are excited about something you have read recently, share it with someone today. Remind each other of the power of God’s Word in your life.

Not sure where to start or frustrated by what you are reading? Invite a friend into your conversation. Try to consider the quandary together! 

When we read the Bible looking for God, we open up the opportunity to learn from Jesus directly.  

May you find hope and peace in Jesus alone, and may the scriptures so greatly given to us aid you on your journey today!  

 

Happy Birthday, Protestantism!

1 John 1:9 (NIV)  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

This week is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation is the birth of Protestantism, when people began to split away from the Catholic Church. The Reformation started with a priest named Martin Luther, posting 95 Theses that criticized specific beliefs and practices within Catholicism.

There is tremendous value in this Reformation, as it led to the renewed understanding that forgiveness comes from God alone and thus limited practices inhibiting each believer from going to God without the need to go through a human intermediary. Isn’t it great to know that we can bring our weaknesses and failings to God with Jesus as our only intercessor?

Over the next couple of days, we will walk through some great changes brought about by the Reformation and dwell on the amazing freedoms we experience in our relationships with Jesus. 

In Blackwater Woods

Read this poem by Mary Oliver. Consider how much beauty and power there is in truly loving God's gifts in our lives (even our own lives!) but loving God more, still. 

"In Blackwater Woods" 

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars

 

of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,

 

the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders

 

of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is

 

nameless now.

Every year

everything

I have ever learned

 

in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side

 

is salvation,

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world

 

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

 

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it

go,

to let it go.

Divine Dividends

Mark 8:34-35

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Following Jesus is very difficult. It is often surprising on how much it costs us to live our lives for God.

Committing yourself to the work of Jesus in your life is the most expensive decision you will ever make. Jesus is a part of every facet of our lives, and He commands attention. It’s important to admit this to ourselves, and it’s also important to communicate this to our children and the people in our lives who value our opinions on spirituality and God.

Counting the cost and choosing Jesus will give us more fulfillment in our lives, our relationships, and our work. Let’s embrace the difficultly honestly and when our situation feels dire, let’s remember that, although pricey, our relationship with Jesus is infinitely more worthwhile than any of our other pursuits. 

The God Gotham Deserves

Mark 8:31-33 'He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”'

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the week He was to be crucified, the crowds surrounded Him shouting, "Hosanna!" meaning, "Save Now!" Throughout this time, many Jewish people believed the Messiah was to come help them overthrow Roman rule and grant Jews freedom once again. 

When they thought of rescue and freedom, they looked at the most obvious sign of oppression they experienced. We do the same thing all the time, don't we? If This could be gone, my life would be so much easier! If This Person would just stop, I wouldn't have to feel like this all the time! 

Jesus redeems our lives in ways we do not expect and frankly often leaves many of the sorrows we've come to most want Him to remove. Peter is not alone in his exasperation here, is he? Merely human concerns feel awfully important most of the time. And most of our human concerns probably are much smaller than overthrowing an empire! 

Jesus teaches us again and again how to get out of our own way and listen to Him. He knows what we need rescuing from far better than us. If you find yourself angry or upset with His saving capabilities this week, pray this morning for the grace and patience to listen to His instruction in your day today. 

The Ultimate Renaissance Man

Mark 8:27-30

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

God is so many things to us. He is described as our Father, our Savior, our Light, our Redeemer, our King, and so many others it would take up this whole post just to list them. Most often when this is brought up, we are reminded of how blessed we are to have this sort of multiplicity with our God. It feels limitless. We are told to not put Him in a box or see Him as small when things get frustrating or  hard. This is often good advice, but sometimes it can feel very impersonal. 

This vastness can almost start to feel generic. We know He's always there. We know He's all powerful. The knowledge of our spiritual situations almost drowns out the overwhelming truth of God's role in our lives. He has so many roles! 

What do you need today, friends? Who do you need today? Can you ask God to fulfill that need? Explore the ways in which He does greet you in the concrete, specific minutiae of your life. When we invite Him into the small parts of ourselves, we become much more familiar with God's person. 

 

Staying Power

Mark 9:24b “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

The spiritual disciplines we have discussed this week are often difficult to implement into our daily lives. Here is an excerpt of a poem that addresses the hardship of trusting God. Friends, please remember, God loves us, He knows us, and He remains faithful when we are not.

Please read the poem and be reminded of God’s relentless pursuit of you.

“Staying Power” by Jeanne Murray Walker

I sometimes follow my doubts

outside to the yard and question the sky,

longing to have the fight settled, thinking

I can't go on like this, and finally I say

 

all right, it is improbable, all right, there

is no God. And then as if I'm focusing

a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.

It's the attention, maybe, to what isn't there

 

that makes the emptiness flare like a forest fire

until I have to spend the afternoon dragging

the hose to put the smoldering thing out.

Even on an ordinary day when a friend calls,

 

tells me they've found melanoma,

complains that the hospital is cold, I say God.

God, I say as my heart turns inside out.

Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,

 

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,

and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire

again, which—though they say it doesn't

exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.

 

Oh, we have only so many words to think with.

Say God's not fire, say anything, say God's

a phone, maybe. You know you didn't order a phone,

but there it is. It rings. You don't know who it could be.

 

You don't want to talk, so you pull out

the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer

til it bleeds springs and coils and clobbery

metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up

 

and a voice you love whispers hello.

This post may contain spoilers

1 Thessalonians 5:18b “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Have you ever wondered what God wants for you? Sometimes, this question is merely a distraction from the experience of following God in our daily lives.

It’s easy to get caught up with wanting to know the ending. We all have that friend who heretically reads the end of the book first because they can’t just wait to see what happens.

Occasionally, we wish we could skip ahead in our journeys because they are too stressful or hard or boring or tiring or whatever else we feel is too much to bear. Sometimes, life is just too much. We want a spoiler. We think God should just cut to the punch line.

When we practice celebration, prayer, and thanksgiving, we are told that we are living within the will of God. We are told we are living with Jesus!

This isn’t a fashionable truth, but we can learn to become more fulfilled and content as we lean into these three practices, allowing God to transform our lives.

Small, daily choices develop the good in our lives. We are not omnipresent like God is, so we must stick to meeting with Him today, in the moment we have been given. 

Blessings keep fallin' in my lap!

1 Thessalonians 5:18a “give thanks in all circumstances;”

Practicing thankfulness is the easiest way to grow more thankful in our lives.

Take ten minutes this morning and reflect on what is blessing your life at this time. Jot them down in a journal or share them with others. If there is a specific person, feel free to text them and let them know you are appreciating them this morning. 

Start with the major, obvious blessings and work your way to the easily overlooked ones that we are often too distracted to see. 

Have a seat!

1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing,”

Like yesterday, this verse can easily get a bad rap. The idea of never stopping a constant flow of words to God seems unrealistic to say the least.

The question for us this morning is: even if this is the case, can we honestly tell ourselves that praying more consistently than we currently do would be futile? (This is an actual query, not one of those holier-than-thou rhetorical questions.)

Can God enter your thoughts more frequently and more expansively than He currently does? For most of us, the answer is probably yes.

Think through your typical day. What do you think about? What matters to you as an individual? Let’s try inviting God into the ordinary courses of our consciousness. Let’s not constrain Him to moments of emotional upheaval or personal success.

God is real enough to be capable of casual conversation. He doesn’t have to be this overarching nebulous authority in our lives. Jesus invited His followers to take a seat at the table, and He is doing the same for you today. Will you join Him? 

Ain't no valley low enough!

1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always.”

Does this verse seem exhausting to anyone else?

This verse is easy to equate to those moments when people tell us to stop being too sensitive or negative. It can feel like the Bible is telling us to gloss over or invalidate our hurts and disappointments.

What if there was a different way to look at this passage?

What if God is saying that celebration can be complex?  

Imagine approaching your failures with the recognition that you are far more valuable and worthy than the situation makes you feel. Let’s bring our hurt to God, and let’s allow Him to show us how valuable and important our emotions are to Him. From this place of belonging, we begin to recognize how each facet of our lives maintains value, regardless of setbacks.

This doesn’t mean the hard times don’t suck; it just means they are significant. They have purpose. Through the difficulty in our lives, can we learn to embrace hardship as a priceless part of our experience? So often, it is the circumstances that we would not choose ourselves that become our most precious gifts.

Feel your pain and your hurt, friends. That’s important. Yet, do not let bitterness overshadow the renewed potency of God’s grace revealed to us in those moments we would most like to avoid. 

Lost or Lost?

Luke 15: 3-7 Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

There are actually three parables in Luke 15 (the chapter where Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son), and each of them is about a person who finds something that was lost. In contrast with the father who waits for his lost son to return to him, the shepherd in this story goes looking for his lost sheep.

This seems to suggest that there are different sorts of "lost" a person can be. Sometimes we are lost without realizing it (like the son). You can imagine that if the father came looking for his son before the son was ready to come home, the son would probably have slammed the door in his father's face. The sheep, on the other hand, was lost and unable to find its own way back home. Perhaps it was hurt. Perhaps it didn't know which way to go. In this case, it is the endless compassion of the shepherd that leads him to find his lost sheep.

Sometimes we are lost in ways that make it impossible for us to come back on our own, and sometimes we're lost in ways that we aren't ready to admit or don't want to do anything about. These parables show us an infinitely gracious and wise father who is willing both to wait and to come looking.

If by chance you're feeling lost right now, what sort of lost are you? Talk to your father/shepherd a bit about what you're feeling and thinking.

Wild Geese

Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Please read this poem aloud and consider God’s expansive love for you. 

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Not a fixed point

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

This verse is lofty and hard to grasp. The writer acknowledges this in the second sentence by saying that, “we all… contemplate the Lord’s glory.” Instead of brushing past the difficulty of these last few verses, spend time this morning working through the truth here. What engages you? What don’t you understand?

Verse 18 suggests that our engagement with the truth of God and scripture is part of our transformation into God-likeness. God has lifted the veil so that we might explore His love for us. The knowledge and worship of God brings “ever-increasing glory.” So, we see that this inward transformation is a steady progression, not a fixed point, just as our understanding and relationship with God is a continual pursuit.

Some of the most beautiful things Jesus has given us are His words. Engage with them. Wrestle with them. We have the freedom to fully be ourselves in this process and allow Jesus to make up for any weaknesses or deficiencies. Can we trust Him in our convictions and our questions? Friends, the Lord’s person and glory are not something we can be experts on in a few days, or even a lifetime. We learn more, slowly, and the truth of God results in gradual change.

Take a Moment, Man!

2 Corinthians 3:16 “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

What is getting in your way this week? Take a few moments and allow yourself to recognize its impact on your peace of mind today. Before brainstorming ways to make it better or avoiding the discomfort, will you spend a few moments praying?

Perhaps ask God to be with you in the situation so that you can better recognize His love. If you feel comfortable, thank Him for the opportunity to recognize His ability to care for you in this, and ask to receive His perspective on the situation. If this is too much for you right now, just spend a few minutes in silence giving yourself a chance to rest for a moment in your day.

Shame inhibits our experience of the love of God. When we internalize negative events and emotions and transform them into shame, we hinder the peace and understanding provided by Jesus. Let’s recognize patterns of behavior that hurt ourselves and others, and rather than making them about our personal deficiencies, why don’t we work to rely more heavily on the grace of God in our broken places today? Even amidst any confusion or pain you are experiencing, you are known and acknowledged by God, and He is deeply invested in your life. 

Glory Be!

2 Corinthians 3:9-11 “If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!”

One reason this passage is significant is because it admits that the Law of the Torah has its own glory, distinct from the glory of salvation through Jesus.  In the church, there’s often talk about the joy and relief of being saved from a life of rules and regulations, which is understandable – this is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith. However, it’s also useful to address that grace often goes against our own desire. Sometimes, we want to choose the lesser glory of condemnation over the glory of acceptance.

Legalism provides a sense of control and ownership that Jesus does not grant us. In what ways are your sin or your good works being established as central to your identity?

Today, when you encounter areas of your life where you are prone to dig your heels in instead of yielding, try to put them in perspective, not denying the frustration or joy that they bring, but allowing them to be put in context within the “surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Philippians 3:8) 

What are you pretending not to know?

2 Corinthians 3:12-14 - “12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened.”

In yesterday’s sermon, Brenna discussed the power of authenticity in our communities and in us as individuals. The above verse makes a clear distinction between the example set by Moses and the Israelites and how we are to live today.

Instead of hiding the truth from our own hearts and from each other, what would it look like to be open and honest?

Think of one moment in the last week where you felt tension but didn’t address it, whether it was between you and another person, you and God, or just in your own mind. What tool(s) did you use to deflect this truth? Next time, what can you do to face it instead of obscuring or hiding the issue?