Palm Sunday: Rusty Nails

We are having a Life group fair and communion service on Sunday night. All of the Life group leaders were asked to bring finger foods to share, and we’ll have tables set up in the back of the church for people to browse the groups and meet each other. Then, we’ll move to our seats and have communion together. I’ve been looking forward to it, and since my ladies’ group meets at Whataburger one (very early) morning a week, we’re serving Whataburgers cut into pizza-wedge slices with toothpicks. It should be a hit! 🙂

The staff and elders are tag-teaming during the communion service, and I was asked to do the intro for the theme “Rusty Nails,” which we’ll play at the end of the service. There will be a bowl of nails as a prop/visual. It’s a lovely song, and it was completely new to me:

 

I thought I would share with you my notes that I’ll be speaking from. It’s pretty short (isn’t supposed to be a sermon), but hopefully it will be meaningful to people:

I can’t tell you how many times I have naively prayed over the years, “Lord, use me.” From summer youth camps to college Bible studies to women’s retreats to Life groups and mission trips, I always had such good intentions. I wanted to minister to people, to help the hurting and save the lost. I guess what I really wanted was for God to use me in feel-good ways that made me feel needed and appreciated.

Jesus did a lot of feel-good things in his ministry, as well: he healed the blind and lame; he played with children; he fed the hungry; he had an audience anywhere he went. And yet, he knew – oh, so much more fully than I ever have! – what it truly meant to let God use him. When he prayed in the garden before his arrest, Jesus begged his Father to spare him from what he was about to have to do, but then, he relented and offered himself for God’s use.

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: sometimes, life is hard. It can be painful, and it often doesn’t make sense. When we offer Jesus his rightful place as Lord of our lives, it means that we have to make sacrifices in our otherwise self-centered lives. Yet, nothing … nothing that he calls us to do or to be or to give up could ever compare to what he has already done for us.

These nails represent the sin – your and my sin – that he willingly, painfully, sacrificially paid for on our behalf. They also represent the freedom that we experience when we give ourselves fully to him and say to him, “Not what I want, but what you want.”

 

Pain & Promises (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 26, 2014)

Well-meaning people often tell naïve, new mothers-to-be that after the baby is born, you don’t even remember the pain, because you are so joyful. Those people lie. You do remember the pain.

Is the end result worth it? Absolutely; don’t get me wrong. Seeing that baby’s scrunchy little face and hearing that first cry is worth every bottom-lip-biting, cuss-stifling, abs-ripping hour that preceded it. Childbirth is something truly amazing to experience and witness. However, the joy of birth doesn’t mean that the pain never happened. It doesn’t mean that pain won’t still come.

It’s unfortunate that we can send a similarly messed-up message to the world about Christianity as these new moms are hearing about labor & delivery. John 16:33 (NIV) reminds us: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” God doesn’t promise health, wealth and fame. What he does promise – among other awesome guarantees, like his never-ending love and saving grace – is that he’ll never abandon us to deal with life alone (Hebrews 13:5-6).

In our study of Matthew 5 these past few weeks, we’ve seen time and again how those who stay committed to God through hard times are blessed. I think that sometimes when we (or perhaps it’s just me?) are on a high place, spiritually speaking, we tend to conveniently forget the difficulties that led us there. We don’t want to think about encountering any obstacles on the way down the mountain, either. We just want to think about the happy-go-lucky time that we’re having, in the moment. I like the way The Message paraphrases v. 8: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”

When we acknowledge the difficult & painful times but continue to trust God during them, then perhaps we’ll be better poised to appreciate the joyful times even more. Labor may feel unending while it is happening, but eventually there is a blessing to be held. Likewise, our trials may feel overwhelming at the time, but God can bring you out of it even stronger on the other side.