Category Archives: Meditations
Snapshot of Divine Mercy
“Let the house of Israel say, ‘His mercy endures forever’” (Ps. 118:2).
Rudolf Haas was a member of the Nazi Party and an infamous commander of one of the most notorious places on earth: Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. Born in Germany, he was baptized Catholic but left the Faith as a young man, and wandered about aimlessly for a time. He joined the Nazi Party, which ascended to power in Germany in 1932. Haas was a devoted and ruthless advocate of the Nazi program of racial purity and eventually the Final Solution, or murder of Europe’s Jews.
Rising through the ranks, Haas eventually became commander of Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the final stop for millions of innocent people, Christian and Jew alike. In the meantime in Krakow, a Catholic Jesuit priest came home to his community, only to discover that they had been arrested by German authorities, and taken to Auschwitz. Determined to join his brothers, this priest broke into the camp, and was quickly arrested. When taken before Haas, the guards expected him to be immediately executed. But, to everyone’s surprise, the commander (who was called an “animal” because of his cruelty to prisoners), released him, thinking the priest not worth his time. Little did the infamous commander realize the wisdom of this decision.
After the war, Rudolf Haas was arrested and condemned to death in Auschwitz itself. He feared his Polish guards most of all because many of their friends and relatives were victims of Nazi cruelty. But the guards were kind and gracious to Haas. This touched his heart, and he converted back to the Faith. At one point, Haas asked for a priest to hear his Confession. Sadly not one priest could be found, but he remembered the name of the priest he had released a few months earlier, and the search began.
When the priest came to Haas, he spent the entire day hearing the death camp commander’s confession of sins. A day later, Rudolf Haas was executed for crimes against humanity.
The lesson on this second week of Easter is clear: if we expect God to be merciful to us, we must show mercy to our brothers and sisters. As we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” May the mercy we show others be returned to us.
The first three weeks of March we looked at different stages of discipleship. Unfortunately last week with my schedule I was unable to write one. For that I am sorry. This week we will wrap it up with the final two stages of discipleship as written about in the book Discipleshift.
To grow from a child to a young adult there are a few changes that will take place. First we grow physically. We grow in size. We grow in strength. Healthy growth will happen due to the food and drinks we consume and exercise. We also grow in maturity. The gap between being a child and a young adult is a big one and can be measured by the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” As a child we are still very selfish and look out for our own needs and desires.
As we grow into adulthood we realize the world is not just about us. If we are to be growers, we must live out what we are learning. We must put aside our pride and realize we are not always the best ones to decide how to live. Matthew 6:24 says “we cannot serve two masters.” It is impossible to serve two contradicting philosophies. I once heard this quote, “You cannot chase two rabbits at the same time. Both will get away.”
As growers we must be willing to sacrifice our time, our talent and treasure. God has blessed us in order to bless others. This might mean your willingness to give financially, using your talent to serve God and others in a multitude of ways. There is no better gift than time. If you want to show people you care give them your time. Whatever it might be find the purpose that God has placed you into and find a place to serve.
The final stage is becoming a parent. When I became a parent. I did not realize how selfish I could be. How easy it was to do anything I wanted. But when Tedy was born things changed. The biggest difference was that I had to learn to be intentional about what I did. Scheduling my day to fit in family, work, exercise and serving God was hard. When you intentionally live your life to serve others your life will change.
One thing about being a parent you have a smaller representation of yourself. No one wants their kids to still be living at home in the basement at age 35 still needing mom to cut their meat at dinner. How we live our lives will impact our children one way or the other, so we might as well be intentional about pouring into our children’s lives.
Parents are all in. God has called us according to the Great Commission, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In order to teach something you must first live it. Your child will know when your beliefs do or do not line up to your life style. You must learn to live in a way that follows through on your beliefs. So many children walk away from faith because there parents only talked faith but never lived it out.
This past Sunday was Easter and if we learned anything from it, we learned that Jesus was willing to put his Father’s will in front of his own. He laid down his “life as a ransom for many.” It was because of this sacrifice that our sins can be forgiven and that we can be a part of his kingdom. Jesus modeled a life of sacrifice so we could imitate him and live a life in pursuit of these same qualities.
So wherever you fall on the discipleship stages of infant, child, young adult or parent, be willing to take the next step. Enjoy where you are but do not dwell there. Do not become comfortable in one stage or the other. God has called us all to be disciples of him and it means to always strive to grow in your life and to serve others to help them grow.
By Pastor Nathan Richardson Heartland Community Church
Disciples are Connectors
Children are great. They have a sense of awe and wonder that is usually lost by the time one hits 30. One thing is not lost is everyone wants to be known and to be loved. This can lead us to doing some pretty crazy things to feel connected to others.
There is a story in Luke 2:41-52 that tells about when Jesus was 12 years old. He was in Jerusalem celebrating Passover with his parents. When the time came everybody packed up and started the trip back home, every one except Jesus. They were traveling with other friends and family and his parents assumed that Jesus was with them. After traveling for a day they realized Jesus was not. So they turned around and headed back to Jerusalem. When they arrived they looked for him for another day. This meant they had been separated for 3 days. They eventually found him at the temple. He was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
As someone new to the faith we must be willing to ask questions and listen. As someone who might be mentoring someone new in faith, you must also be willing to sit, listen and ask questions. There is no better way to connect with someone than actually hearing one’s story. Remember everyone wants to be known and be loved. People whom live this way I call connectors. They have this way of being able to connect with anyone because they spend more time listening than talking.
The first thing his parents say to him when they find him is, “why have you treated us like this? We have been looking for you.” Did I miss something here or is Jesus being blamed for being left in Jerusalem. He is 12 years old. Granted he is Jesus. But is it not his parent’s responsibility to know where he is?
It continues to say Jesus “grew in wisdom, and stature and in favor with God and man.” I love even as a perfect human being Jesus still grew in wisdom. But the last part of this really sticks out to me. It is important for us to have favor with God and man. It shows that we are living lives of faith, integrity and character.
Connectors need to establish ongoing relationships. In order for this to happen you must have character and integrity and be intentional about pursuing friendship. Every relationship does look different though. Jesus loves everybody but had different relationships with others. He preached to thousands, he ate with dunks and gluttons, but he only discipled 12, even focusing more on 3. We can learn a lot from Jesus about mentoring. If we mentored 3 people for a year with the intention that those 3 would each choose 3 people to mentor and so on. This process is called multiplication and within 5 years you would have indirectly impacted 243 people.
Mentoring with follow through would really have a difference within our community. The best mentors have an impact that will live on forever. Just look at the story of Jesus. In 3 years of mentoring 12 people he would create a movement that has an estimated billion followers today. How does 12 Disciples become a billion? When Jesus asked the disciples to leave everything and follow him he was looking for more than a fan. He was looking to be followed. He was not looking for acceptance but for a disciple.
One who accepts Jesus versus one who follows is the difference between a cultural Christian and a biblical disciple. A cultural Christian might go to church out of duty or respect. They might know what the Bible says but in the end their life was not impacted or did not change the way they lived. A cultural Christian will never impact anyone else because their own life was not impacted.
A biblical disciple however knows and obeys God’s word. Not out of duty but out of love. A biblical disciple is not perfect but their life has been completely transformed because of the impact of Jesus on their life. A biblical disciple has replaced what the world has told him for what Jesus tells him. A biblical disciple will change the world because God changed their life. May God continue to change each one of us as we continue in the faith.
By Nathan Richardson Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
Disciples are Gatherers
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
~ Luke 19:10
Last week we looked at the Five Stages of Discipleship as defined by the book Discipleshift by Jim Putnam. Just a quick review, those five stages were dead, infant, child, young adult and parent. Dead people usually do not find new life in Christ on their own. They usually have help from a parent, friend, a co-worker or a neighbor. During the rest of this article I refer to these type of people as gatherers. Dead people need gatherers in their life to find new life in Christ or to become an infant as we defined it in the five stages of discipleship.
Disciples are always involved in gathering. Gathering people helps the church to grow and move forward. Gathering helps the church to meet new people and engage them wherever they are at in life. Gathering primarily happens outside the walls of the church. Jesus set the example of gathering for us in Luke 5:1-11 when he went out to a lake and saw some fishermen cleaning their nets after a long night of fishing and not being able to catch a single fish. When Jesus saw the need he went in a boat pushed out a little from the waters edge and began to speak. After he was done he told Simon to push out a little further and to cast his nets. Jesus was willing to do anything to initiate a relationship with these fishermen. Simon said, “Master, we have been working hard all night and haven’t caught anything, but because you say so I will let down the nets.” This shows Simon had met Jesus before. He called him Master, and was willing to trust him by letting down the nets. When he did this the nets immediately filled up and began to break. Simon needed help from the others. They pulled the fish into the boats and due to the weight began to sink.
Simon responded to this miracle with, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man.” This is how most of us respond to Jesus. Many people I meet tell me if you knew what I have done you would not accept me. And for this reason many people do not think they are good enough for the church when that could not even be further from the truth. Jesus spent his ministry gathering the rejects, the unloved, and the hopeless. He would hang out with drunks and the gluttons.
Jesus responded to Simon, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men.” In Matthew and Mark’s account they added “Come, Follow me.” Jesus did not care about Simon’s past, and was inviting Simon, John and James to a new future. Jesus demonstrated for us to invite those who feel lost and are longing for more into a relationship with him. Simon’s response is a big one. He left everything and followed him. He was willing to leave his income, his boats, and his nets. He was willing to leave everything that he had worked hard for. He was willing to take a risk of losing everything for an unpredictable future with Jesus. He left the good for the best without knowing the outcome.
All of this happened because Jesus spent his life bringing hope to a broken and hurting world. He was willing to initiate relationships and gave an invitation to follow. Jesus was the ultimate gatherer, showing us how we should live our lives today going into the world to gather people, sharing the hope and peace that we so desperately need.