“Come To Seek and Save” ( Luke 19: 10, KNOX ) by Carley Evans


English: Young Christ as the good shepherd
English: Young Christ as the good shepherd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve always loved the image of Jesus as shepherd, carrying the lamb on His shoulders. He’s also the shepherd who puts that lamb in with the others of the flock, then turns to search far and wide for the sheep that wander, the sheep that are lost in a ravine, in a flood, in a deep hole, amongst wolves.

That is what the Son of Man has come for, to search out and to save what was lost.

“Heard From the Beginning” ( 1 John 3:11 GNV ) by Carley Evans


When you’ve known some important truth from the very beginning of a movement, you’ve essentially no excuse for not understanding it. John writes that from the beginning, we’ve heard that we ought to love one another.

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

We therefore have no reason, no justification for backbiting, backstabbing, name-calling, undermining, belittling one another. We’ve no excuse for accusations against one another especially the excuse some call “tough love.” Tough love often looks like hatred. I’ve seen it mock, name-call, belittle, dismiss, accuse, and harm too many over the years and I deny its value in “building up the church.”

Paul calls us to build, not to destroy. We are to enhance one another’s walk with Christ, not demean those walks.

We’ve heard this from the beginning. Let’s act on what we know before others turn and devour us.

“Not Against Us?” ( Mark 9: 34-40, WYC ) by Carley Evans


34 And they were still; for they disputed among them[selves] in the way, who of them should be [the] greatest.

35 And he sat, and called the twelve, and said to them [and saith to them], If any man will be the first among you, he shall be the last of all, and the minister of all [and minister, or servant, of all].

36 And he took a child, and set him in the middle of them [in the midst of them]; and when he had embraced him, he said to them,

37 Whoever receiveth one of such children in my name [Whoever shall receive one of such children in my name], he receiveth me; and whoever receiveth me, he receiveth not me alone, but him that sent me.

38 John answered to him, and said [saying], Master, we saw one casting out fiends in thy name, which followeth not us, and we have forbidden him.

39 And Jesus said, Do not ye forbid him; for there is no man that doeth a work of power in my name [that doeth virtue in my name], and may soon speak evil of me.

40 [Forsooth] He that is not against us, is for us.

Can’t you see the twelve bickering among themselves over who is the greatest? Each one desiring to be closest to Jesus, desiring to be most admired by Him – can’t you imagine? Can’t you see them trying to stop an outsider from casting out demons in Jesus’ Name because “he is not one of us!”

Sometimes, we want an exclusive relationship with the Lord – no one else is allowed, especially outsiders. And often we forget Jesus embraces the child – the one who is innocent, unprotected, vulnerable, dependent. Instead we admire the powerful, the shrewd, the well-protected, the independent.

Jesus calls us to embrace children. As we act like Him and accept and receive the children in His Name, we find we also accept and receive Jesus and therefore accept and receive God, the Father. As we set aside our ambitions and seek to serve others, we find we are first. And we do not notice.

 

“Who Is The Innocent In Hands?” ( Psalm 24: 3-6, WYC ) by Carley Evans


“3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord; either who shall stand in the holy place of him? (Who shall go up on the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in his holy place?)

The innocent in hands, that is, in works, and in clean heart; which took not his soul in vain, neither swore in guile to his neighbour. (Those with innocent hands, or works, and with clean, or pure, hearts; they who took not their souls unto idols, nor swore falsely to their neighbours.)

He shall take blessing of the Lord; and mercy of God his health. (They shall receive a blessing from the Lord; mercy from the God of their salvation, or of their deliverance.)

This is the generation of men seeking him; of men seeking the face of God of Jacob. (This is the generation of people seeking him; of people seeking the face of the God of Jacob.)”

I know a little of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church; I know the psalms are considered weapons against the forces of evil. As the liturgy progresses with each side of the church chanting the verse to the other side and the other side chanting the next verse to the first side – and so on, back and forth; the sounds rise and form a shield. I’ve personally felt the power of the Word of God in the audible liturgical services at Mepkin Abbey.

Participation in the liturgy, for me, is an honor I wish all Christians might experience firsthand.

In the Christian Book of Prayer this psalm – Psalm 24 – is one that stands out as special along with Psalm 95 and 100 and another I can’t recall right this minute.

God asks us, “Who shall come up here to Me? Who is able to stand in My Holy Place?”

And He answers His own question, “The innocent in hands, the clean in heart, the one who does not lie.”

I know Who that is! Do you?

“Christ Makes Us Holy” ( Ephesians 5:25-26, WYC ) by Carley Evans


Bay window in Christ Church Hall

“Men, love ye your wives, as [and] Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it, [that he should make it holy; cleansing it with the washing of water], in the word of life,”

Paul speaks to men, but he says something so important here that I want to put aside his commanding men to love their wives and focus on Christ’s love of the Church. Christ loves the Church so very much that He gives Himself for it. And, in giving Himself for it, He makes the Church — that’s you and me — holy. Christ makes the Church holy by “cleansing it with the washing of water, in the Word of Life.”

Yes, Christ is an example for holy living. But Christ is also the cause of holiness. Without Christ’s sacrifice, holiness can not exist in the Church.

“Therefore be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)

“The Cheerful Giver” ( 2 Corinthians 9: 7, NEB ) by Carley Evans”


“Each person should give as he has decided for himself; there should be no reluctance, no sense of compulsion; God loves a cheerful giver.”

I’m certain you’ve sat in a church on a Sunday morning and listened to a pastor tell you to “bring the tithes into the treasury, all of them.” (Malachi 3:10) And to quickly assure you that there’s a great reward if you do so. Some people refer to this as the ‘prosperity’ gospel.

I prefer Paul’s exhortation here in his letter to the church at Corinth, in which he encourages each person to “decide for himself” without “compulsion” and without “reluctance” not only the amount to give but the time to give. Paul also tells the church “it is in God’s power to provide you richly with every good gift; thus you will have ample means in yourselves to meet each and every situation, with enough and to spare for every good cause.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-9) “You will always be rich enough to be generous.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Jesus warns that it is an error to honor the ‘traditions of men’ at the expense of taking care of your parents; to set aside the good you should do for your family in order to please a church. Instead, we should look to the needs of those who are our dependents. If our child is unclothed and hungry and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our mother is in the least expensive nursing facility we can locate and we give our money as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. If our neighbor is losing her house to foreclosure, and we give our money [under compulsion, that is] as a tithe to God, He is not pleased. (Mark 7:9-13)

God repeatedly states that He wearies of our offerings. What He desires is a contrite heart, humble and cheerful in giving to others in need. Look first to our families, meeting the needs of those we love. Then look to our friends and neighbors, then look to the poor and disenfranchised.

Decide for yourself, without compulsion, with no reluctance. For God loves a cheerful giver.

“My Love Be With All Of You” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 4 – 5, NEB ) by Carley Evans


Paul tells the believers of the church at Corinth, “I am always thanking God for you. I thank Him for His grace given to you in Christ Jesus. I thank Him for all the enrichment that has come to you in Christ. You possess full knowledge and you can given full expression to it.” Paul sincerely thanks God for these believers. He is grateful to God for His grace and for the knowledge imparted to these believers by Christ Himself. He’s even happy these believers are able to fully express their faith.

 

Yet, Paul has many concerns about their Christian walk — they are divided. (1 Corinthians 1:11, HCSB) They are immature. (1 Corinthians 3:2) They think they are “wise in this age” (1 Corinthians 3:18). They are judgmental. (1 Corinthians 4:5) They are proud. (1 Corinthians 4:6-7) They are immoral. (1 Corinthians 5:1) They take one another to court “before the unrighteous.” (1 Corinthians 6:1) They fight over things that don’t matter in the long run. (1 Corinthians 8: 8) They put their rights above the “weak consciences” of their brothers and sisters in Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12-13) They refuse to support their spiritual leaders. (1 Corinthians 9:7) They fail to conduct worship in an orderly fashion. (1 Corinthians 11:2; 14:22) They fail to recognize the Lord in the bread and wine of their communion feasts. (1 Corinthians 11:20-21) They forget the resurrection of the body. (1 Corinthians 15:36-37) They are reluctant to take up a collection for the saints. (1 Corinthians 16: 1-2)

 

At the end of his letter, Paul encourages these very same believers. He reminds them that “the churches of Asia greet” them. He tells them that “Priscilla and Aquila greet [them] warmly in the Lord, along with the church that meets in their home. All the brothers greet [them.]” (1 Corinthians 16:19-20)

 

Finally Paul writes, “My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 16:24)

“Forming One Body” (Romans 12: 5, NEB) by Carley Evans


“All of us, united with Christ, form one body, serving individually as limbs and organs to one another.”

I look at Facebook and see the Body of Christ, the Church — at least, the Facebook I know is the Church. We, all of us, are “united with Christ” and so “form one body”; but we are individuals. Each of us is unique with special gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. With our gifts, we serve one another.

“The gifts we possess differ as they are allotted to us by God’s grace. and must be exercised accordingly: the gift of inspired utterance, for example, in proportion to a man’s faith.” (Romans 12: 6 – 7)

We use our gifts to the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as for the benefit of the world in need. For we are commanded to “call down blessings on [our] persecutors — blessings, not curses.” (Romans 12: 14) We are to serve the Lord and one another “with unflagging energy, in ardour of spirit.” (Romans 12: 11) We are to “care as much about each other as about [ourselves].” (Romans 12: 16)

Each of us is special, but no one should “be conceited or think too highly of [himself].” Instead, each should “think [his] way to a sober estimate based on the measure of faith that God deals to each of [us].” (Romans 12: 3 – 4)

“Betrothed To God” (Hosea 3: 1, ESV) by Carley Evans


God promises, “I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2: 19 – 20)

God tells Hosea to “go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.”

Hosea obeys. He buys his woman. He tells his new wife that she must “dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3: 3) Hosea compares her to the children of Israel, saying they will “return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to His goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3: 5)

God is betrothing His children to Himself forever, that is — for always. He is betrothing His children in righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness. Whom do we suppose has these qualities? The children of God or God Himself?

Hosea is the husband who marries the adulteress. God is the Righteous Judge who marries sinners to Himself — giving them His Name forever. As a result, these sinners will come to “know the Lord.”

God says, “And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, you are My people; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ” (Hosea 2: 23)