"If only I..." Have you ever started a sentence like that? If only I had a little more money... If only I were a little more artistic... If only I had an opportunity like that... I can't think of any more paralyzing words. "If only" sets us up for failure.
"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been." The poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote that. While his poem spoke specifically of a lost opportunity in love, the truth of his verse extends far beyond that. We all understand the truth behind it: What a sad thing to see wasted talent, wasted resources, wasted opportunities.
Once you were far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don't drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.
"I'm talking to you like you are sensible people. Think about what I'm saying. Isn't the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn't the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread."
Why? It's a classic question. Anyone who has raised children knows the power of the "why." They always want to know why, and we don't grow out of it. So last week, when we looked at Jesus saying, "Follow me," we looked at how his word gives us the power to do that. We never quite got around to asking that kindergarten question - Why?
"And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ."
If I knocked on your door and asked you if you would rather die than give up the teaching I'm ready to share with you, how would you respond? If I called you on the phone as you were eating dinner and told you to give up your home and your car and your relationships and follow me, how would that go over? I'm guessing not so well, right? I don't think I'd have too many followers.
My youngest granddaughter just lost her third tooth. She is grinning at everyone to show the gaps in her teeth. As a joke, I asked my daughter if she was going to buy a flipper to cover the gaps. She looked at me blankly. I guess she doesn't watch "Toddlers & Tiaras."
"Oh, I must find rest in God only, because my hope comes from him! Only God is my rock and my salvation- my stronghold!-I will not be shaken. My deliverance and glory depend on God. God is my strong rock. My refuge is in God. All you people: Trust in God at all times! Pour out your hearts before the Lord! God is our refuge!"
They say, "Politics makes strange bedfellows." We've probably all been surprised from time to time when we see two people or groups who would normally be at each other's throats suddenly work together because they've found a common enemy.
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
The memory is a dozen years old now, but vivid. I couldn't tell you what it was like outside, but I remember that room. I even remember what I was wearing. But even more clearly, I remember what my son looked like - a pudgy little nine-month old, in a hospital gown, snot dripping from his nose, coughing non-stop. He had pneumonia. It was awful. We were first time parents, trying to deal with a sickness we couldn't seem to do anything about. All day long, nurses had been in and out poking him for one reason or another ...