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Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone. -Proverbs 23:5
The mischievous artist Banksy pulled off another practical joke. His painting Girl with Balloon sold for one million pounds at Sotheby's auction house in London. Moments after the auctioneer yelled "Sold," an alarm sounded and the painting slipped halfway through a shredder mounted inside the bottom of the frame. Banksy tweeted a picture of bidders gasping at his ruined masterpiece, with the caption, "Going, going, gone."
Banksy relished pulling one over on the wealthy, but he need not have bothered. Wealth itself has plenty of pranks up its sleeve. God says, Do not wear yourself out to get rich . . . . Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.
Few things are less secure than money. We work hard to earn it, yet there are many ways to lose it. Investments go sour, inflation erodes, bills come, thieves steal, and fire and flood destroy. Even if we manage to keep our money, the time we have to spend it continually flies. Blink, and your life is going, going, gone.
What to do? God tells us a few verses later: always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off (vv. 17-18). Invest your life in Jesus; He alone will keep you forever.
Prayer for Today
God, help me to give my insecurities to You and to trust in Your goodness and faithfulness. Amen.
Everything the Lord has made should praise him in all the places he rules. My whole being, praise the Lord.
If you have not yet seen the Netflix special, Two Popes, make some time. The depth of the story and faith of the men it portrays and is challenging, moving, and inspiring. There are so many small conversations from the film that I've been thinking about for weeks now. In one, Cardinal Bergoglio (to be Pope Francis later), tells Pope Benedict a story. Bergoglio says as a young man, he asked an older priest if it was permissible to smoke while praying. The priests says of course not. Bergoglio asks the follow up... May I pray while I'm smoking? Pope Benedict chuckles, and Bergoglio says, "Perhaps we don't always ask the right question."
I think that's a point worth considering, especially in the context of prayer and worship, perhaps even more so in the western world and America. How often do we seek to make our prayer and worship more comfortable? Can I have a padded pew? My favorite pew? Can we skip singing new hymns? Only hymns? Only praise songs? Timpani, but not snares? Guitar but not electric? A specific time slot? Different day of the week? I'm as guilty as anyone. I'd love to have my coffee with me in worship. I have preferences for certain songs, styles of preaching. But what I like about what Bergoglio says is that it's not so much if we like the answer to our question but whether we are asking the right question. What if instead of asking if I could have my coffee in worship or more acoustic guitar or a comfier seat... what if I were to ask myself... when I go for coffee with friends, could I ask them what I can pray for them, and then we pray together? What if when I play my guitar, I pray? What if when I sit in my comfiest seat at home, I think of all my blessings and close my eyes and thank God?
This week, when you think of questions, preferences, statements that focus on your needs or desires, think of a new way to frame them. Get creative, especially about prayer and worship. Imagine a new question, a new perspective. Imagine inviting God into your life in new ways and new places. Invite God to your commute, your meals, your quality time with loved ones, your morning routine. And then share that with someone. Definitely share it with me. I'll be curious what you find.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to ask new questions and invite you into more of my life. Amen.
Yesterday, Brian and I were coming back from lunch. We parked behind the church offices and were walking toward the sidewalk by the playgrounds behind the church. There was a woman standing there on the sidewalk leaning against the playground fence. She appeared to be waiting for a ride. I couldn't help but notice her breathing apparatus, wondering if that is why she was waiting for a ride -- because it would be hard for her to walk to a car.
As we approached her, we both spoke and she cheerfully replied. After we had walked a few steps past her, she called out to us and said, "You know you're saving a lot of lives here, and we appreciate it." It was at that point that I realized she probably attended one of our many 12-step meetings that take place on our JCPC campus every week. You're saving a lot of lives. I remarked to Brian, "Now that's not something you hear every day." And yet that is why we are here. That is why Johns Creek Presbyterian Church exists -- to save lives. In our New Testament, the Greek words for "to save" and "to heal" come from the same root word.
This Sunday we will be looking at a story from Luke's gospel in which Jesus is healing the sick inside of a house. Because there are so many people, a man who has been paralyzed for life and who is brought by his friends to be healed by Jesus cannot get into the house where Jesus was healing. So, his friends take him up on the roof of the house, cut a hole in the roof, and lower the man down on his mat so that Jesus might heal him. Jesus notices the faith of the man's friends who brought him and lowered him into the room. But the first thing Jesus says to the man is this, "Friend, your sins are forgiven" - which is the language of salvation. Only then does Jesus then tell the man to "get up" and he is healed.
I am grateful that God is still in the business of healing and saving -- especially in a place like JCPC!
Prayer for Today
Gracious God, we thank you for sending Jesus into the world to save sinners like each one of us. We also thank you for sending Jesus to bring healing and wholeness to each one of us. What a friend we have in Jesus! Help us to bring our friends to Jesus -- the Friend of sinners. Amen.