That day

Luke 6:17-26

“What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

That’s a line from the old hymn “When We All Get to Heaven.” The entire song is about waiting and hoping for the day we all see Jesus together. We’ll shout for joy that day. Until then, the promise of our future rejoicing is a prize worthy for remaining “true and faithful” now.

So, we commit ourselves to the way of God.

Now, we’ve said before Jesus does not seem to preoccupy himself with getting people to heaven. He preaches the reality of God’s kingdom here and now before us. He teaches us to pray for heaven’s reality to be here and now. No doubt Jesus believes there’s rejoicing in heaven. Remember what he said about the angels when a sinner repents?

Jesus, then, is heavenly minded, but not always in the way we tend to be. Most of us think merely of a heavenly reward for enduring this life. Jesus, though, wants the reality of heaven to impact this life. And not in a be-good-and-you’ll-get-your-reward kind of way.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.” Yes, that’s a blessing, apparently. Jesus then offered the appropriate response for when that happens. “Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven.”

On one hand, there is a heavenly reward involved. Prophets of old will rejoice with you side by side because they endured the same things. On the other hand, the rejoicing doesn’t begin in heaven. It starts today. “Rejoice on that day,” Jesus says. That day they reject you. That day they exclude you or defame you.

That day may be today. It may hurt and it may be a shock to your faith. But rejoice! Not because it’s happening to you. God doesn’t delight in our suffering. Rejoice because God’s way still reigns. Rejoice because that day they reject you doesn’t mean God ever has. Rejoice because you know God has not turned away from you.

Stay blessed…john

More than food

Ruth 1:6-18

Ruth is a beautiful story of redemption.

It begins by placing Naomi and her family in a famine during “the days when the judges ruled” (Ruth 1:1). When the judges ruled was a difficult time for all the people of God. There was no king to rule. So, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

Uh-oh!

Now, we don’t need to suggest God brought famine to the judges or the people. History knows leaders quite willing to withhold aid and support for their people. The judges and the people may not have caused the famine that brought death to Naomi’s family. I’m sure, though, they didn’t help. It’s bad news all around when people only do what’s right in their own eyes.

After her husband and two sons died, Naomi decides to return to her homeland. I assume there has been no help for her here anymore. The famine took her security. But she has heard “the Lord had considered his people and given them food” (Ruth 1:6).

After she and her two daughters-in-law began their journey back, she stopped.

I wonder what she had been thinking up to that point. How much did she wrestle with herself over this decision? What made her finally decide to send the other two back to their home?

Of course, one of the daughters-in-law doesn’t leave her. I don’t know that we’re supposed to make much of Orpah’s decision to return to her mother. But Ruth clung to Naomi. Her decision is altogether inspiring, convicting and irrational. It’s also a most compassionate act of sacrifice.

And she was a Moabite! They’re supposed to be enemies of God. But God’s family is always expanding, including even those people you’d rather forget.

Naomi had heard God gave food to the people back home. She hoped God would do the same for her. God did much more. The Lord blessed her with a daughter that would help care for her. They both became important parts of the story of God leading to Jesus.

All Naomi wanted was food, but she got so much more.

It’s a reminder today that God will care for us. Even out of tragedy and despair, God can and God does still work so much for our good.

Stay blessed…john

Your next stay

Acts 13:16-25

We had traveled to attend a family wedding. After many hours on the road, we were ready to be out of the car and into a comfortable room. As we pulled up to our hotel, nothing looked like the online advertisement. The outside was a bit dingy and dated. In our family, I’m the least bougie Fletcher. Even I wasn’t quite sure about this place. 

Neighborhood kids jumped the fence to have their time in the pool. Our room’s smell reached us before we reached the room. The final straw was the tub. I’ll just say I was more than okay with telling the hotel we would not be staying with them. We switched hotels and things were better. Better right up until it was clear we walked out of the elevator just in time to keep someone from breaking in our room.

The wedding was great. Family time was wonderful. Our stay was anything but. 

Even if we had stayed in our first hotel, we would’ve known our stay wouldn’t have lasted. That would’ve made it somewhat bearable. 

Most of life’s stays, though, don’t work like that. We don’t know how long we’ll have to endure. How long we’ll need strength and courage to maintain any sense of hope or encouragement.

It’s the great question of the psalms: How long, O Lord?

Once, Paul and his companions were asked to give a word of exhortation to the people at synagogue (Acts 13:15). Paul stood and began to recount the history of God’s people that led to Jesus. He began in Egypt. Today, I’m reflecting on the language used in his opening lines. According to Paul, God made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt (Acts 13:17). 

I had never considered Egypt as the people’s stay. That makes it sound like it was always going to temporary. If we remember the entire story, we remember it would be. Still, it had the possibility of being a comfortable or appealing stay. Exodus says otherwise. Of course, they didn’t know how long they’d be in Egypt. They didn’t know where their story would lead. 

And neither do we. So, what do we do? We’ll need faith and trust. Hope comes in handy, too. All that helps us to remember our story. If God’s been faithful before, God will be faithful again. How long your next stay is may not be clear, but God’s steadfast love is. 

Stay blessed…john