Sunday, September 26, 2010

Word, Promise, Savior

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 26, 2010
Luke 16:19-31

Abraham says to the rich man about his brothers that they have Moses and the Prophets.

We do too.

Lazarus died and went to heaven. The rich man died and landed in hell. Used to a life of luxury, he was now crying for some relief. Could Lazarus come down to give him even a drop of water? Even if Abraham had wanted to say yes, it was impossible because there was a chasm between them. People on either side could not cross over. Could Lazarus then go back to his brothers so they would be spared this torment? Again, Abraham’s answer was final: No, they have Moses and the Prophets. Just as the rich man had had. It was as if Abraham was saying to him: You also had the Word of God. You didn’t listen to it. You rejected it. If your brothers likewise don’t listen to the Word of God they won’t listen to a man who comes back from the dead.

Jesus tells this story so that we may know of what is available to us. The rich man had it. His brothers had it. Lazarus had it. We have it too. It is the Word of God.

Jesus is making it clear that the Word of God is sufficient. That’s what Abraham in Jesus’ story is making known to the rich man. He tells him that his brothers hear the same Word that Lazarus had heard. If they reject it that’s why they won’t spared, even as the rich man wasn’t.

When Jesus was telling this story the New Testament hadn’t been written. There was only the Old Testament. They didn’t know it as the “Old Testament” but simply as the Bible. And just like us, they had other names for it: the Word of God, the Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets, and the one Abraham uses in Jesus’ story: Moses and the Prophets. What Abraham was saying to the rich man is that just like he had had when he had been alive on earth, his brothers had the Bible, the Word of God. It was sufficient for salvation. That’s what was given to them. That’s what they needed. They didn’t need a man coming back from the grave to warn them of eternal punishment.

There’s something else given by God. It’s given in His Word. It’s the promise. It is the promise of salvation and of the Savior. Jesus told a seemingly story simple with Lazarus and the rich man. There’s a poor man who longs for just the scraps from the rich man’s daily feast and there’s a rich man who feasts lavishly every day and doesn’t seem to care that there’s a poor man outside his gate every day. The poor man dies and goes to heaven and the rich man dies and goes to hell.

But there’s another guy in there. He’s the one we know about. Abraham is straight out of the pages of the Old Testament, what was in Jesus’ day known simply as the Bible. And in that Bible was a very important teaching: the promise. The promise of a Savior. Salvation granted to God’s people through the Savior He would send. Abraham was the guy He made this promise through. You had to be a descendent of Abraham to be brought into the umbrella of the promise of salvation. Either that or be brought in through circumcision if you were born a Gentile. The New Testament tells us that being a descendent of that very promise is through faith, not through genealogy.

That’s how we know what the deal was about Lazarus. Yes, he was poor. Yes, he was deprived of many good things in this life. But the main thing is the thing we learn about when he was carried to heaven. He went to Abraham’s side. He was a recipient of the promise. He believed the promise of the Savior. He believed in the Savior. He may have actually been a physical descendent of Abraham. He may not have. We don’t know. That’s because we don’t need to know. He wasn’t saved by that. He was saved by faith. He was brought to heaven through the promise.

When there’s the Word there is the promise. And where there’s the promise there’s the Savior. The promise was of the Savior and the Savior has brought about His salvation. The Word is there for all to hear. It’s sad that so many would rather lavish themselves with the things of the world rather than the eternal blessings God grants in His Word through the promise by the Savior. However, there’s nothing in Jesus’ story of how ungodly it is to be rich and how honorable it is to be poor. There is only the Word that is made known to all and the promise that rings forth from it. Rich or poor, too many cling to the things of this world rather than take their delight in the things of God. The rich man woke every day to his riches and they were his god. Lazarus, even as he longed for a scrap of food, clung to the promise that His Savior would get him through—and He did, all the way to heaven.

That Lazarus was so poor he would have rejoiced to get a piece of bread shows us how great a Savior we really have. He is one that lifts us up from our depths to the heights of heavenly glory. The kind of Savior we have is not one who will tell the poor man to find a way to lift himself up out of his desperation. The kind of Savior we have is one who Himself became poor that we might become rich. The Savior who was promised in the Word is not one who came as a king, though He is the King of Kings. He is not the one who came as one who flaunted His glory, though He owns all glory and honor. The Savior promised, that the Word makes known, is the Servant of all. The one who suffered on behalf of all, even those who have no use for Him. He is the one who brought on Himself all sin, though He Himself is without sin. He is the one who suffered in our place the torment of hell, though He Himself is innocent.

The only way to see the glory of God is to be stripped of all self-glory, self-righteousness, and pride. Rich or poor, we must fall to our knees before the throne of the Almighty God. We must confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean, utterly corrupt, without anything good within us before the holiness that is God Almighty. And there is where we will see what Lazarus saw. What the rich man was blinded from seeing by his own desire for opulence. What we will see is the very God who is rich in grace and mercy. The God of the Bible who gave the promise of the Savior. The God who still loves to bring us to His side in the refreshing waters of Baptism. We may have hard times or not much to live on but there is refreshment in the forgiveness of those waters of Holy Baptism.

You can look all you want outside the Holy Scriptures. You can listen to the vain promises of other religions. You can seek your salvation or even just a good life apart from the Savior who sought only the cross. He sought only to make good on the promise of salvation for sinners. The word of God does make that clear, that we are sinners in need of salvation. Thank God it also makes known the promise. And the Savior. Amen.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Means at Your Disposal

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 19, 2010
Luke 16:1-15

Have you ever come across a passage in the Bible and you say, What’s up with that? You don’t know how to interpret it, what to make of it, or what to do with it.

That’s kind of like some things that happen in life, isn’t it? You’re going along and something comes up you don’t know what to make of. What does it mean? How do you handle it? How do you ascertain what God is doing with you or how He’s going to work this out for your good?

On one hand, without even determining what today’s Gospel reading means it teaches us a powerful lesson. One that if we go no further we will be far ahead of the curve in life. Especially in those times where we’re scratching our head as to what God is doing in our lives or at least allowing to happen in our lives.

It makes sense that not everything in the Bible is going to be easily understood. God knows everything. He is above us in everything, including intellect, wisdom, and understanding. He is God, after all. His ways are not ours and His thoughts are not ours. His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. Not only that, we are dulled in our understanding by our sinful minds. Our thoughts are not centered on God but ourselves, so how can we even understand the spiritual things of God on our own?

Just take a look at many of the events of Jesus’ life on earth with His disciples and many others. Many times the disciples didn’t have a clue as to what Jesus meant in His teaching and even in His actions. The greatest example of all is the cross. They didn’t know why He must suffer and die. And yet Jesus was never deterred. He kept right on teaching and accomplishing His works and making His way to the cross. Whether people understood or not He was doing what He knew to be what needed to be done.

So if you go no further than that you will have understanding that is from God. Knowledge that blows away feeble human attempts at figuring out what’s going on in life. Wisdom that can only come from above. If you take from today’s Gospel reading this doctrine: that no matter what happens to you, God knows a whole lot more than you, can see a lot better of what you need than you, is more powerful than you, and can accomplish amazing things even through weakness and tragedy and those things we just don’t understand.

At the same time, there is the fact that there are passages in the Scripture that are tough to understand, but they’re there. What do we do with them? Ignore them? Pass them by so we can get to those parts that we can deal with easily? Those aren’t good options.

But what is a good option is to see an opportunity. When faced with difficulty you can take the easy way and despair. Or you can go toe to toe with the challenge. You can see the opportunity there that God can do amazing things even in, and even especially in, difficulty.

This is what the man did in the Gospel reading. He was staring at his life crashing down on him. He had had a good position. A manager of a wealthy man. He had it made, as many people would think it. But he either wasn’t very good at what he did or he just got careless. He was wasting his master’s possessions, which obviously wasn’t good for his master. So he was fired, which seems the sensible thing for the master to do. He needs to get someone in there who will manage the money in a way where it won’t be squandered away.

So this guy’s in trouble. He knows he has no chance. The master is in his right. So what is he going to do? He does what many people in this world will do. He takes advantage of his situation. He makes the most of it. He doesn’t despair or give up. He sees opportunity in the midst of his tragedy. He sees the tragedy *as* opportunity. He uses his position as manager one last time for his benefit so that he won’t be out on the streets when he’s sent packing.

The means at his disposal were the things of this world. He uses them in a way where he’ll make it in this world. This is what the “sons of this world,” as Jesus refers to them, do. They are much better at this than the “sons of light,” as Jesus refers to them. We usually refer to these two types of people as non-Christians and Christians, unbelievers and believers. It’s true, isn’t it, that Christians often aren’t very wise in the ways of the world. If we are to be moral and ethical and humble and selfless it’s pretty hard to get ahead in this world according to the world’s standard. Thus the difficulty with the sons of light in a world surrounding by sons of the world.

All of that is fairly easily understood. But why is the master commending the guy for this one last act of deception? We do much better when Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. To forgive others as He has forgiven us. What is He doing to us here when He seems to be saying that it’s commendable what that guy did? As if that’s not confusing enough, He goes on to say: “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” It’s as if Jesus was thinking, “I’ve gotta throw something in there every now and then to keep them on their toes.”

But it’s in the Bible and so we have to deal with it. It’s the Word of God and so we can’t ignore it. Our Lord Himself is teaching us and so we must learn. One thing that’s helpful in hearing the Word of God and studying it is to remember that God is the one who has given us His Word and therefore is the one who interprets it. That means the Bible is the thing that interprets the Bible. There are a few times Jesus tells a parable and then interprets it. Here Jesus tells this story and then gives some words of teaching. The things He says are somewhat hard to understand themselves. They almost seem to go against what He was just saying in His story He told about the manager.

But they also show us where He is coming from. He is coming from an eternal perspective. We so often see our lives from a temporal point of view. He knows what will happen, we’re often just trying to figure out how we’re going to get by. Rather than see the difficulties in our lives or the things we don’t understand as problems, we can see them as opportunities. No one can serve two masters. If we latch on to the things of this world we will serve ourselves, not God.

He does give us the things of this world, though. And they are ready and available for our use. This is another principle for us to remember in life. The means at our disposal are there for just that. We can be faithful to God—humble, sincere, moral, ethical—and still make use of the things of the world.

One way to think about this is by looking at your life and seeing what is most important. Think about the things that are most important to you. Now think about the things you spend time on. Are they the same? Are they different? If you find that the things that are most important to you are those things you don’t spend time on, and the things you spend time on are things that are not most important to you then have an opportunity. Use the things of this world to spend your time on those things you really should be spending time on, rather than just those things that you do.

Take your family as an example. They’re important to you. But how much time do you actually spend with them? How much effort do you actually put into loving them and caring for them and cherishing them? I know, you’re busy. You’ve got a lot on your plate. You have responsibilities. Plus, they’re busy. Sometimes you feel like you hardly live in the same house with them. Or maybe you’re with them a lot but you’re not really together. There’s no magical way to love them. But there are many practical ways to do it. One simple way is to just spend time with them. You may not feel like it. You may be thinking about all the stuff you have to do. But another important principle is that feelings follow behavior. If you constantly rely on feelings and think that your behavior will come from that you may never end up doing anything. It would be great if we could always turn our feelings around and our behavior would follow suit, but sometimes those feelings never come, or at least in a lasting way. Show your family signs that you love them and it will make a world of difference. Give them a compliment on something important to them. Ask them how their day was and actually listen. Give them a small gesture of how important they are to you, maybe a note. Or for those of you who don’t do that anymore, texting them would do just as well.

You see, you can make friends for yourself, as Jesus says, with the means at your disposal. That’s the stuff of this world. Just don’t let those things become ends to themselves. It’s easy to get caught up in the things of this world. But how awesome is it if we can use the things of this world for purposes that are pleasing to God? So use those things that God has given you. Use that brain of yours, your abilities, the things you own. Use them to love and serve others. Use them to glorify God. Use them to be a disciple of Christ. Spend time in God’s Word. Read it daily. Take a little time each week to study the Bible with your brother and sister Christians in Bible Class so that you’re challenged by the Word and grow in the Word in a way you can’t get when it’s just you and God.

The more you’re in the Word the more you’ll see that each passage in the Scriptures lies at an intersection. The intersection is that portion of Scripture and the cross. Every passage of Scripture meets with the cross. You can try to understand each portion or the thing as a whole apart from the cross but you will get nowhere but where the sons of this world do. As a son of Light, however, you will see that the darkness of Calvary enlightens you. The Suffering of Christ on the cross sheds light on the suffering and confusion you encounter in your life.

Use the means at your disposal each day of your life and throughout it. You have the Word of God. You are Baptized. You are fed by the Very Body and Blood of your Lord. You are commended in His sight because of His mercy. These are the means He uses to commend you, to shine His favor on you, to forgive you. Look around and see those who will welcome you along with your Lord into the eternal dwellings. Amen.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

What God Has for Dinner

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 12, 2010
Luke 15:1-10

You really can’t get a handle on God. The only way we know about Him is that He has made Himself known to us. God, as He makes Himself known to us in His Word, is spirit. He doesn’t have flesh and blood as you and I have. Except, He has become as one of us. He is above us and yet has come down below. He is almighty and yet laid aside His glory to become a man, just as you and I are men and women, human beings.

God doesn’t need anything. He has everything. Everything has come from Him. We, on the other hand, need a lot. There’s a lot that goes into our very survival. We need air, water, sleep, food. There’s no need to ask what God needs, He needs nothing. There’s every reason to ask what we need, we need everything.

Everyone has an opinion on God. Whether they’re atheists, people of different religions, or people of different denominations in Christianity, everyone has a take on God. They think He’s this way or that. They think He’s benevolent or taking us for a ride. They wonder what He’s up to or if He’s around at all. They believe He’s a loving God or doesn’t even care about us.

The thing they all have in common is that they all want to get a handle on Him. Whether they believe in Him or not, like Him or not, understand Him or not, trust in Him or not, they all want to be able to say, This is who God is, I have Him all figured out. And if I don’t understand something about Him, then I should be able to. Our natural inclination is frustration at not being able to have a handle on Him.

But God is God. We don’t know Him except that He has made Himself known to us. He is above us, apart from us, unable to be put in a box. The thing about God, though, is that He becomes a man. He needs air, food, water, sleep. And if we thought we couldn’t get a handle on Him as the Almighty Lord what do we do with Him when He’s a baby resting in His mother’s arms? Or eating a meal with ordinary people like you and me? Is this the kind of God that is supposed to help us understand Him better? Do we now have a better way of relating to Him?

Everybody has a different take on God, everybody’s trying to get a handle on Him, and now we’re not only trying to deal with a God who is up there and above us, but a God who actually comes down here and becomes as one of us. What do we do with that? Normally, if you were talking about God, you wouldn’t be asking questions like, What does God need? Where does God go when He needs some peace and quiet? What does God have for dinner? He doesn’t need to eat, doesn’t need food, and for that matter, He’s God, He’s got everything—He has no needs.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us of a need He has that we all share. Every day around dinner time, guess what Jesus did? He ate dinner. Yes, it’s pretty amazing that He tells us that He’s like that shepherd who leaves the whole flock to find the one so that he’s no longer lost. It is definitely great that He’s like that woman who turns her house upside down so that she can find that one lost coin and that when we realize that we’re like that coin, we have an amazing God.

But those stories He told weren’t just so that we could get a better idea of what kind of God we have. They were told to tell us who He is. He’s not just God—up there, saving us, seeking us, doing everything in His power to rescue us. He’s also God who is down here because He comes down here. He’s above us and yet eats with us. He has everything and yet shares a meal with us. What does God have for dinner is actually not that bad of a question after all. When it was time for dinner He ate what was served. He, though God, ate actual food, because He became an actual flesh and blood person.

But God didn’t do this just to say, Hey, I’m really like you after all. You can trust Me. You can know that you can relate to Me because I became like you. The point of Jesus becoming a man wasn’t just so that He could be like us. He could have gotten a TV dinner every night and ate by Himself. But He didn’t. He ate among people. With them. He came down to us to be in solidarity with us. God up there can tell us He loves us but that ends up being only so much words. God down here, among us, with us, having dinner with us, means that He is in fellowship with us, He is in a relationship with us, He wants to be with us. It’s not just what God has for dinner, it’s that He has dinner with us.

The reason it’s so remarkable that God will go to any lengths to reach the one lost sheep, to search for the one lost coin, is that this is the God who doesn’t just become a man for the sake of identifying with us but for the very sake of us. Jesus doesn’t just eat food, and He doesn’t just eat with certain people, He eats with sinners. This was the trouble the religious leaders had with Him. If He’s really God what kind of a god is He really? If He’s God, and therefore holy, He wouldn’t be defiling Himself by eating with sinners. But that’s exactly what the holy God does. He eats with sinners. He communes with them, identifies with them, reaches out to them, seeks them where they’re at. He joins in solidarity with them.

This is sinners. Not the big shots. Not the ones who are worthy. Not the ones who are the really strong Christians. The ones we would say Jesus has no business dealing with, let alone having a nice meal with them. You can’t get a handle on a God like this because you will never be able to comprehend a God who says “Be holy as I am holy” and then asks you to pass the salt as He receives you into His Kingdom and dines with you. No meal with Jesus is just a meal. What God has for dinner is not just food but a feast. What God desires to share with you is not just some enjoyable moments around the dinner table but the very Marriage Feast of the Lamb. That eternal and glorious feast that celebrates the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb who took upon Himself fallen humanity’s sin and sinfulness and guilt and attempts at boxing Him in. The Lamb who is one with the Father and yet a man in every respect that we are except without sin. A man who is blameless and yet was imputed with the unrighteousness of our fallen nature.

When you are Baptized you are a new creation. You are a child of God. You are in solidarity with Christ, the living God. You are promised a mansion in the eternal glory of heaven. And as long as you draw breath in this life you are a sinner. But don’t ever think that takes away from God’s love for you, from the promises of new and eternal life, from the fact that you are a new creation. It’s just the opposite. It shows you the greatest truth of all. You are the one Jesus receives and eats with. It was a horrifying fact to the religious leaders that Jesus receives sinners and eats with them. It is the greatest Gospel for you. He receives you. And when He has dinner, it’s not just a meal, it’s a feast. You are welcome at His table. You are fed at His eternal banquet.

There’s no need to get a handle on God. No matter how hard you try, you wouldn’t be able to. There’s no getting around the fact that God is God. He is above you and incomprehensible. What’s more, is that He is forever merciful and wants to dine with you at His feast. You can try to figure this out, mutter at what kind of god would do this, or simply rejoice that it is His eternal will and pleasure to welcome you to His eternal feast. Amen.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Is It Worth It?

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Zechariah and Elizabeth
September 5, 2010
Luke 14:25-35

It was a brief conversation. But I’ve never looked back. My brothers and I asked our dad if we could have a dog. His response was simple: if you clean up after it, feed it, and take care of it, sure! We didn’t really need to respond. We knew immediately we didn’t want a dog that bad.

Now the problem with this illustration is that those of you who love dogs will be thinking that the benefits of having a dog far outweigh the not so pleasant aspects of taking care of a dog. But actually, that isn’t a problem with the illustration at all. It actually makes the point.

If you’re going to get a dog you can’t just go to the pet store and buy one. Well, you could. But you’d find out quickly that there is a cost involved. There’s the cleaning up, and the feeding, and the taking care of it, and of course the actual cost in money. If you’re going to get a dog you should consider the cost first.

With many important things in our lives or things that will impact our lives there is a cost involved. We would do well to consider the cost ahead of time. If you’re going to buy a home you have to take into account many things that will affect your life, the basic of which perhaps is the actual cost in money involved. If you’re going to go back to school you’re going to have to figure out a lot things, if you can rearrange your schedule, have the time for the homework, how it will affect your family members. Oh yeah, and there’s also the actual cost in money. There are a lot of choices in where you can send your children to school. The neighborhood school may not be the best one. But the one you’d like to send them to may be too far away or too expensive. Many people want to get married and have a family without considering the cost. As my dad told me when I was growing up, when you marry someone, you’re not just marrying one person, you’re marrying into a family. It’s good to be prepared for this ahead of time so you’re not blindsided by things like where you’re going to celebrate Christmas, or if you’re in-laws are going to stay with you when they visit or in a motel.

Jesus uses two illustrations of His own. If you’re going to build a house, get your ducks in a row ahead of time, otherwise people will think you’re a fool when you’re half way through and find that you can’t finish. The other one concerns a king who is facing war and has to decide quickly if he can win with a smaller force or if he’d be better off sending a delegation for a peaceful resolution. Whether you are wanting to do something that’s important for yourself or you’re forced into a situation you’d rather not be in, you are wise if you count the cost. Getting a dog may sound like a great idea, but is it really worth it? Going back to school is admirable, but is it really the best thing to do at this particular time?

As Christians we’re inclined to think that being a Christian is a pretty good deal. What we might not consider as often is the cost involved. Even more, we might be inclined not to consider it at all. Wouldn’t we be happier if we just didn’t think about the hard stuff? It might seem that way but Jesus speaks forcefully about what it means to be a Christian. He speaks in terms that make us uncomfortable. If you take Jesus at His word you can’t ignore the words He sets before us. His words might even make us wonder what kind of a God He is. Why would He say that unless you hate your father and mother, brother and sister, and even your own life, you cannot be His disciple? Where’s the love? Where’s the command to love your neighbor as yourself? God in His Word commands us to love even our enemies. The Fourth commandment exhorts us to honor our father and mother.

In no uncertain terms He is warning us that we must count the cost. You want to be a Christian? Then be aware of what’s at stake. Hate your father and mother. Renounce all you have. Consider now if this is worth it. You’re not deciding on whether to own a dog or buy a house or go back to school. You’re talking about your life. You’re talking about your family members, those who are most important to you and those you love the most. You’re talking about your life you live each day and your eternal destination when you die. You want to be a Christian, but is it worth it?

For some, this will seem a no-brainer; the benefits far outweigh the cost. For others, it won’t seem nearly as comfortable. For some, it will seem easy because it’s easy enough to dismiss these hard words of Christ and just go straight to the easy-to-digest words. For others it will be the stumbling block, the thing that will prevent them from signing on—why would I want to follow a Lord who calls on me to hate my own father and mother?

Whatever your reaction to the words of Christ, consider this: who is the one speaking them? It is Christ. Does He bring something to the table that I can’t? Does He offer something that no other God or religion does? Is He giving us something that is so hard for us that we can’t come to terms with it?

Or is He giving us something that is really what we need? These words are hard but we must put first things first. Our Lord is the one who is speaking them. What this means is that He isn’t just saying, Look, I’m God, you have to love Me and hate your mom and dad and even yourself. I’m the only important thing in your life, you have to get rid of everything in your life.

God says a lot of things in His Holy Word, the Bible. You’ll begin to see the difficulty here when it says that God creates the world and gives the crown of His creation, human beings, dominion over the earth. He is the God of blessings and gives us many things in this life to enjoy. He does command us to love others, most especially our father and mother, and certainly ourselves. Maybe Jesus didn’t really mean ‘hate’ your father and mother when He said to hate your father and mother.

But no, that takes away everything. If He didn’t mean what He says here how do we know He means what He says elsewhere? He says what He means and means what He says. But the way to understand this is not by trying to figure out how you’re supposed to love your parents and hate them at the same time. The way to understand it is only possible when you hear the words of Jesus as words He brings about, not what you’re supposed to try to figure out or accomplish by your own ability. Even when I’m frustrated with my family members I still love them. So how am I supposed to hate them so that I can be a faithful disciple of Christ?

I can’t. And Jesus knows this. He knows that too often the most important things in your life, including your family and your possessions, are more important to you than He is. You know what else He knows? He knows that you don’t even love your family members as you ought. So you can’t accomplish what your Lord calls you to no matter which way you slice it.

But you can count the cost. You can ask if it’s worth it. When you sit down to consider the cost involved don’t just hear the words but who is speaking them. It is Christ. He is the one bringing about what it is He speaks. We know this because He doesn’t speak apart from what He Himself does. He Himself considered the cost. He above all prayed to His Heavenly Father as to the worth of it all. The cost was too great. How could He bear it? Because we have a great God! He bore up under the temptation and the suffering and the cost involved. If you see Jesus’ words of the cost of discipleship apart from the cross of Christ then you will only see a God who is malevolent in His call to discipleship. Hate your own father and mother. Renounce all you have. This is a God of judgment demanding every fiber of us to be loyal to Him. Is this worth it? No, it can’t be worth it.

But if you stop looking at yourself, stop seeing a god who simply demands, who takes everything away from you, expects all from you, then you will see a Lord who is only there for you. Who gives you everything. Who loves you beyond compare with love that overflows to those who are closest to you in your life and even to your enemies. You will see the God who counted the cost and paid the cost. You will see a God whose vocabulary doesn’t include the phrase, Is it worth it? All He knows is that you are worth it. What He knows is that you are worth the forsaking of His only-begotten Son. What He more than anything wants you to know is that He pours out upon you grace and mercy and love by His beloved Son receiving damnation.

When you do consider the cost, consider it from the only way that your Lord calls you to consider it, through lens of His suffering, death, and resurrection. Consider the fact that He counted the cost and paid it and calls you to new life. Then you will see that the only way to truly love those you love the most is by putting God first, even if that means your relationship with them will be strained, or even broken off. You won’t see that it’s easy, only that it’s the truly best way and the way it needs to be. When your Lord and His cross are at the center of your life and your relationships you see what true love is and the freedom to love as He loves; that it’s worth it, no matter the cost. Amen.