Our immediate surroundings are not always the best indicators of the great world around us. Sometimes we, like Amos, can see only that the basket of fruit sitting before us is, well, a basket of fruit. That basket of fruit, however, might be one person’s livelihood. Or it could be the means to ward off another person’s constant hunger. God’s work in the world transcends the boundaries of time and space, but we humans must endure the boundaries of time and space – if only for a little while. Amos’ message of social justice demonstrates that how we treat people ultimately reflects how we treat God. May we constantly ask ourselves: What lies beyond that basket of fruit?
- How do you see beyond what is right in front of you?
This psalm attributed to David condemns an unidentified leader. The speaker attacks the enemy’s language in a way that criticizes the enemy’s entire way of living in the world. The speaker claims further that God will easily uproot and destroy the one who speaks with such wickedness. On the other hand, the psalmist, like the olive tree, remains firmly planted in the ground. This passage reveals a God many of us don’t like to think about. It also reveals some of the harmful ways that we interact with one another. No matter how we spin this psalm, it illustrates a grueling portrait of the struggle of walking with God and each other. It also reveals the struggle of walking against God in the company of those who are attempting to walk with God. Ultimately, every word and phrase matters.
- How do words shape what we believe?
- How do words identify who we are?
Oftentimes, the home in Christ feels contrary to the fast-paced culture in our surroundings. And so we gather together as Christians to celebrate the God we love and to learn more about this home we occupy. At times, the family lodging in Christ can start to feel a little too cramped, a bit too familiar. On some days, we may even wish to leave this dwelling in search of something more comfortable. Paul encourages us, however, to focus on the vastness of the life in Christ and to cherish the great diversity that God represents. Further, the life in Christ compels us to share this lovely dwelling place with those who might not even know that such a place exists. Can you imagine what it would be like to hear of such a place for the first time? How glorious it is to welcome new members to such an infinite home!
- How do you dwell in Christ? God? Each other?
- What are some ways that you share your life in Christ with others?
What a joy it is to take a break in the company of friends who love us when traveling! Luke’s gospel account teems with short vignettes of Jesus’ encounters with his neighbors: he heals children and a centurion slave, and feeds a multitude with few ingredients. The account of Mary and Martha portrayed here comes just after the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus attempts to illustrate what a neighbor is. In the account of Mary and Martha, it is all too easy for us to get caught up in judgment labels: Mary, Good Neighbor; Martha, Bad Neighbor. The deeper meaning to this story, however, is the need for us to build spaces in our life where relationships are the No. 1 priority. Our houses may not always look the way we want them to, but even a house worthy of being featured in the latest Better Homes and Gardens does not always create a space where relationships can grow. That space begins within our hearts.
- What determines a neighbor?
- What is your neighbor ministry?