So often, we think, “If only I could see Jesus, then all my doubts and fears would be stilled.” It's easy for us to imagine that one simple act on God's part would make all the difference, but scripture shows us that God has done something much better to give us hope for the future.
Written by Pastor Ben McCary The psalms are as beautiful as they are diverse, and one of the most powerful lessons we can learn from them is the importance of God's forgiveness. There are so many times in our lives that we fall short of our goals or God's standards for us; Psalm 25 is one example of how to grow in the midst of it. The Bible is God's word to humanity, his hand book for how we're supposed to live, so you'd think it would be full of stories of people asking God for guidance. But, believe it or not, that's just not the case. The Bible is riddled with stories of God offering guidance, but very rarely do people ask for it. However, Psalm 25 is one example of someone asking for God's guidance.
In Psalm 25, God's guidance is shown in so many ways. It comes up 8 times:
- "Show me your ways, O Lord”
- “Teach me your paths”
- “Guide me”
- “He guides the humble”
- “He teaches them”
- “He will instruct him in the way”
- “The Lord confides in those who fear him”
- “He makes his covenant known to them”
The Psalm also shows all the blessings that God gives for those who humbly accept God's teaching:
- "They will never be put to shame" (v. 3)
- "He guides them" (v. 9)
- "They will have prosperity" (v.13)
- "His descendants will inherit the land" (v.13)
- "He will confide in them" (v.14)
So if this is so common in Psalm 25, why would it not be common in the rest of scripture? The answer becomes more clear when we look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. When people come to Jesus and call him teacher, more often than not they go away with a harsh lesson. Just look at this example:
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt 12.38-39). So often we come to God asking him to show us his paths, but we forget to leave behind the “sins of our youth.”
This Psalmist reminds us that we need to give up those old sins and come to get ready to change. It's only the humble who God is able to teach.
So how can you change? How does God want you to be humble? And how do you think God is going to bless you when you come to him with an open heart.
Written by Pastor Tim White Every morning when I say “Jambo Jesus” or “Hello Jesus” – I recognize your presence, Jesus, I am struck by a new dream. Someone to call on, a ministry to launch, enthusiasm to work on a problem, excitement about spending time with someone I really care about. Every morning God makes life new.
Last week as I was speaking at our community meeting I explained how we are pouring ourselves into reaching the next generation for Jesus Christ and it is working. I explained that with Pastor Rex Hamilton as executive pastor assigned to reach young families; Pastor T.J. Meaney building praise teams to reach the young and not so young; Pastors Ben McCary and Josh Zappone reaching and engaging high schoolers and middle schoolers; Pastor Becca McCary connecting with 3rd through 5th graders; and Janette Backlund running her innovative programs to reach young children - that we have a great team.
Pastor Rey Diaz is accepting our call to be our global pastor and represent us around the world. We look forward to each time he returns, hearing him share his heart from the pulpit.
Then, someone asked me the question that has been asked before, “What about the not so young? What are we doing to reach those important people?” Well I am glad you asked. We have a young dynamic minister named Pastor Linda Skinner, a youthful Vietnam War vet named Pastor David Gerzsenye, an amazing pastor named Michael Fernandez, a talented and young musical genius named Rhonda Jones, a beautiful pastor named Jackie White (I can say that because she is my wife). All of them working hard to reaching this age.
The church also has little old me, who is about ready to explode with enthusiasm for life and the opportunity to dream big and beautiful dreams with Jesus Christ. That part of our team is not too shabby either. We are refreshing our ministries, launching our church anew and there is no shortage of excitement as we try and build a great caring network.
After the meeting, one of my heroes, Colonel Erskine Austin, came up to talk to me and said, “If Pastor Rex needs any advice or sounding board on being an executive pastor please let him know that I am there to help.” Erskine did that job for 10 years – and I smiled as I said, “That is a great encouragement.”
So we are off to the races and I feel like I have the butterflies of a quarterback getting ready for the greatest season of his life.
Written by Fiona Monaghan
Samuel is an example of ‘never being too young to follow God.’ Dedicated as a baby he grew up serving God in the temple and he continued to serve God throughout his entire life.
Samuel was born to Hannah and Elkanah after waiting many years for a child. Hannah desperately wanted a child and she prayed a beautiful prayer (found in 1 Sam 1:10-11) promising that if God gave her a son she would dedicate his life to serving him. True to her word she sent him, when still young, to live as an apprentice to the priest Eli in the temple.
One night, when Samuel was still a young boy, he is called by the Lord in the night and he responds, “Speak for your servant listens…”
The Lord tells Samuel that a time of discipline is coming for the house of Eli. Many times God had warned Eli about the actions of his sons (known for being scoundrels and not respecting God or their duties as priests) yet they had persisted in their wayward actions. He had been patient, but now the consequences would follow.
This was the beginning of Samuel deliverying hard to hear words from God. He continued to work through Samuel, speaking to his people through him.
During this time, the Philistines were a force to be reckoned with. In one of the battles between the Philistines and the Israelites the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and tens of thousands of Israelites were killed (including Eli’s sons). Soon the Philistines discovered God’s power, he destroyed their idol, Dagon, and whatever town the Ark resided in people became sick with tumors. Out of fear of the Israelite’s God they returned Ark to Israel- even sending gifts with it in hopes of appease the God of Israel.
Once the Ark had been restored to Israel, they took it and hid it in a hillside home where it stayed for twenty years. The people mourned that God had abandoned them and they continued to turn to other gods. During this time Samuel had grown into a young man, seeing the actions of his people, he challenged the Israelites to change their ways,
“If you are really serious about wanting to return to the Lord, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Determine to obey only the Lord; then he will rescue form the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7:3 (NLT)
The Israelites listen and destroy the idols they had made. Samuel called his people together and led them in prayer and worship in the city of Mizpah. Here Samuel becomes the last Judge of Israel and the people of Israel recommit themselves to God.
The Philistines, seeing all the Israelites gathered, mobilize their armies to Mizpah. Samuel prays to God to help Israel and the Lord answers! He shows Himself ‘with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven’ and the Philistines were in such confusion that they were easy prey for the Israelites to overcome them.
Israel enjoyed twenty years of peace, as the Philistines were subdued. The land that had been taken was restored back to Israel. The people put their Jehovah back in the center of their lives and all was well.
Samuel proved to be a good and effective Judge, he continued to share God’s word and challenge His people for the rest of his life.
Does this read like a story for today? Maybe not with the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant, but don’t we often find that we turn away or forget God when things are going well and life is good?
Samuel was dedicated to doing God’s will and listening for His voice and while the Israelites did the same - life was good. If we follow Samuel’s example, saying to God ‘speak for your servant listens’ and then really do it in every area of our lives. We won’t be disappointed.
“God has put you here in your situation for a reason. Samuel was an amazingly gifted man, but even more important than that was his character. He stayed close to God no matter what and changed the world forever. It's our character that determines whether we will be a solution to the problems in our world” - Pastor Ben McCary
It's easy to see God in your past or imagine God in your future, but how do we did God now? Check out our video devotional by pastor Ben. He gives some tips on how to do it.
Check out the Washington Cathedral website for more sermons, information on how you can get involved, and more on all of the good things that God can do in your life.
We all want to know God's plan for our lives, but sometimes God's plan doesn't feel very close to our lives. This week, pastor Ben showed that it just takes is a small change in perspective to be able to see it.
The story of Naaman and Elisha shows us that God's providence is always near, usually closer than we realize. God had used Naaman to liberate Israel from the wicked king, Ahab. Later, when Naaman fell ill with leperousy, God used a servant girl in his house bring him to Elisha; he sent another servant boy to show him the wisdom in the Elisha's words; and the Elisha himself made Naaman go through the steps to be ritually clean so that he could worship God.
God was evident in so many ways that Naaman couldn't see:
- saved Israel from Ahab
- wife who speaks up
- prophet in israel
- servant boy who speaks up
A Better Way
Naaman expected to be healed from a disease, but he left having been cleansed so that he could worship God. Elisha was a great prophet, but even Elisha wasn't willing to speak to Naaman, much less touch him. Jesus shows us a better way. Jesus was willing to touch lepers and remind them of their human dignity.
Jesus heals us, but he also cleanses us. It is through Jesus that we're able to find wholeness and comfort, but it is also through Jesus that we become cleansed of our emotional filth and our past wrongs so that we can come to God freely. We know that we are loved by God because Jesus says that we are forgiven.
God's plan is underneath every little piece of our lives, the problem is that we can't see it most of the time. Just like rebar is to construction, God's plan is there underneath the surface, holding us together and making us stronger. It is God's providence that makes us capable of the great things that we do in our lives; it's also the thing holding keeping us from falling apart when our world goes bad.
[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/95818768" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="120" iframe="true" /]
So what do we do when God's plan isn't as clear?
Listen to someone from that you don't normally listen to. Maybe your kids. Maybe your spouse.
Tell the rumor! Share about what God has done. Share on facebook, in your work, to your family.
Take a day off to pray and ask God what his mission for your life might be.
Like what you see but want more? Check out Washington Cathedral's website for more information.
This week, pastor Ben continued on in our series on Washington Cathedral's core values. He talked about how Washington Cathedral is a place where everyone is valued, regardless of your church background or religious status.
Whenever we step into a new place, there are all sorts of signs – both visible and invisible – that help us feel welcomed or make us stand out. When it comes to church, this is no exception. But Jesus and the authors of the bible teach a very different way of interacting with people of diverse spiritual backgrounds. One of Christianity's founders, the apostle Paul, wrote a letter to one of his churches where he tries to help them understand this sort of interaction.
In the middle of this letter, he writes discussing people's dietary habits, how they dress in Christian gatherings, and how the rich and poor interact with one another. In pastor Ben's sermon, he discussed the first section, on eating (check out his thoughts on the second passage, dress, on his personal blog). In this passage, Paul advises the people in his church to be willing to step out of their comfort zones and into someone else's world as a way to show love and caring.
In the city of Corinth, there was a practice of offering animals as sacrifices to the gods of the Roman empire. After that, the priests in the temples would sell that meat at discount. The issue that the Corinthian Christians dealt with was whether this meat was to be considered safe to eat. In eating it, they might be saying that they submit to the Roman gods; in abstaining, they might be saying that they are against the reigning Imperial government and it's gods. They were in a lose – lose situation.
But Paul says that, because of Jesus' life and teachings, we no longer need to live in that lose – lose situation. Instead, we can live with a radical love and empathy for everyone, while also holding firmly to what we believe.
Being willing to step into a new world is difficult. Psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz says it this way:
Research has shown, again and again, that when we do move, we follow old habits. We don’t trust emergency exits. We almost always try to exit a room through the same door we entered. Forensic reconstruction after a famous restaurant fire in the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Kentucky confirmed that many of the victims sought to pay before leaving, and so died in a queue.
After twenty-five years as a psychoanalyst, I can’t say that this surprises me. We resist change. Committing ourselves to a small change, even one that is unmistakably in our best interest, is often more frightening than ignoring a dangerous situation.
We don’t want an exit if we don’t know exactly where it is going to take us, even – or perhaps especially – in an emergency.
We are vehemently faithful to our own view of the world, our story. We want to know what new story we’re stepping into before we exit the old one. We don’t want an exit if we don’t know exactly where it is going to take us, even – or perhaps especially – in an emergency.
Radical empathy is a value that Washington Cathedral tries to live out. Over the past 28 years, it has become one of our core values and we do it in a lot of ways. We have created a “Meta church” which accepts congregations from every kind of ethnic background. That is why we have a vibrant Brazilian congregation, a Korean congregation, and many others. We also have a variety of recovery and support groups.
This is a place where everyone is valued, but that means that everyone has to be willing to step out. If you've never been to church, Jesus has a plan for your life and calls you to step out and experience faith along with us here at Washington Cathedral; if you've been in church your entire life, Jesus calls us to step out and share our lives with everyone around us.
Pastor Ben's sermon this week will cover 1 Corinthians 10.24-33 & 11.17-34, but will skip 11.1-16. Here's some thoughts on the passage he didn't have time to comment on.