Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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He Loves Us!!!

Satan is crafty and wise.  He is skillful.  And he is always on the prowl.  The angles and means of his attacks are actually quite impressive.  Satan uses many voices to plant fear, doubt, anxiety, guilt, lust… in our heads and hearts – some from inside our own heads, some from the voices of those we know, some from society and the media.At every chance he is working to build up our pride, our stubbornness, our individualism.  All with one goal – to pull us away from God.

But God doesn’t pull back.  He simply invites us into a relationship.  He says, “Here I am, come.”  He offers us love, no strings attached.  God is our true friend.  These things never change.

In our faith we need to be vigilant and alert to Satan’s attacks.  But just as sure as the attacks are to come, we can be even more sure of God’s love and care.  When we call upon  the saving name of Jesus, then Satan will flee.  God will strengthen us and will help us to be steadfast and firm.  God will never fail us because He loves us too much to allow that to happen.

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In His Time

Wait.  Be still now.  Seek Jesus.  Open up.  Listen.  He is faithful.

It is sometimes hard to discern between something we have dreamed up and something God is placing upon our hearts.  We must ask, where is the motivation to do this work coming from?  It may seem to be holy and righteous and goog, but it may not be ordained by God.  So how do we tell?

Prayer is the place to start.  But not just a “Dear God, show me the way.  Amen” type of prayer.  It must be a prayer of stillness, a prayer with all of your ears and heart, a prayer of listening.  A prayer that can be hard because it requires patience and time.

If it is God’s plan He will be faithful.  God will bestow upon you His “power from on high.”  The pieces will fall into place.  As you move into what God is calling you to, the Holy Spirit will fill you with conviction, courage, peace, perseverance, and His love.  He is faithful.  He is just.  He has a plan for you.  Trust in Him.

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Walking Boldly into the World

The period between the resurrection and the ascension was forty days.  This bridge between the three years that Jesus spent with the disciples and the ministry that was to come was so valuable to them.  They went from being sad, fearful, dejected, alone right after the crucifixion to feeling one of complete joy when the encountered the living Christ.  When the living Messiah ascended into heaven to be with God, their joy was made complete.

The risen Christ had taught them much in the time He walked the earth with them.  We are also blessed to be able to know His teachings and to learn to be like Christ through our study and reading of the scriptures.  As the risen Christ, He shows them (and us) the true meanings of the resurrection – that He has conquered sin and death AND that He can now send the Holy Spirit – to be with us all, every one of us, all the time.  This gift greatly expands His disciples and followers ability to minister to others.  It does the same for us.  The the presence of the Holy Spirit we are each empowered to proclaim the good news, to call for repentance, and to declare divine forgiveness for ourselves and for others.  Like the disciples, may we too walk boldly into the world, filled with the Holy Spirit, ministering in Jesus’ name.

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Waiting on Glory

In this life is joy and sorrow, elation and suffering.  All of us go through the ups and downs of life.  At times our choices and decisions bring sorrow and suffering upon us.  Suffering can take the form of caring for a family member dying from an illness.  Suffering can come in how people treat us because of our faith.  Suffering can come from the decision we make based upon our faith in Jesus Christ.  All of these things are part of the cost of following.  All of these things also test us.  Despite the testing being difficult, it will help us grow in our faith.

Peter tells us that we should rejoice in our suffering for Christ because that will bring us a greater joy when His glory is revealed.  By accepting and embracing the sufferings, we can draw closer to Christ, the source of our strength.  In times when we rely on Him, we become less and He becomes more.  In this we begin to see His glory revealed.  It is only a glimpse now, but we begin to see what it may be.  And, in the end, He will make our joy complete.

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See, Hear, Smell, Touch

Often times Jesus and God are portrayed as one.  While they truly are in each other, I more often see them as two sides of the same coin.  Each plays a somewhat unique role in my life.  Yet they really are one – as I come to know Jesus more I also come to know God more.  As I draw closer to one, I draw closer to the other.  So, how does one make the relationship more intimate?

One way is to enter into the stories of Jesus.  Not just to read them but to enter in and become a part of the story.  To see, to hear, to smell, to…  For example, consider the story of the widow’s offering found at the end of Mark 13.  Pretty simple story – Jesus and the disciples are sitting in the temple area, watching people put their offering into the temple treasury.  The rich put in large amounts.  A widow comes along and puts in two small coins.  Jesus gathers the disciples close and tells them that she put in more than the others.  he goes on to explain that the rich put in some out of much wealth but the widow put in all she had, every last cent.  Only four verses.  Just as the disciples did, I am sure you get Jesus’ point.

But take a minute and explore the story with me.  Go a little deeper and be part of the story.  So, here you are sitting there with Jesus.  No one is talking.  You are just sitting there watching people make their offering.  Across the way is a Pharisee, arms folded across his chest, staring at the people as they make their deposits, mentally recording the ‘gift’.  Person after person, in fine clothes all beautifully adorned walk by him and place their coins in the top of  the box.  You can hear the rattle, rattle, rattle as they drop onto the pile already in the box.  They barely even slow down to put it in – except that last woman – took her a while to get all the coins through the slot.  You see the smug looks as they exchange glances with the overseer – you can almost hear them say, “See how much I love God!”  That lady pauses a second in front of the Pharisee – an extra wink included.

Then almost as if the breeze has shifted, you smell something different in the air.  It is not fine perfumes or burning incense.  It’s that smell of sweat and dirt, the one you carry with you after as long day’s work out in the sun.  Next you hear the shuffling of feet dragging across the hard floor of the temple.  It is not the click-clack of the fine footwear that has been passing the overseer.  Then you see her – messy hair, clothes a little more than worn, sandals that you would barely call shoes.  In your mind you begin to think, ‘Wow, who let her in…’ but then you snap back to the reality that you are sitting there with Jesus.  In your mind you maybe even slap yourself across the cheek!  You watch her as she slowly shuffles towards the treasury box.  Glancing back at the Pharisee you can see him frowning as he too watches her.  You can image what is running through his mind.  As she nears the box, her pace slows down.  It surprises you that she could go any slower.  Others that have come to make their offering slow down and the line backs up a bit behind her – they are keeping a bit of distance.  You notice her hand tightly clutching something, knuckles turning a little white.  Then she comes to a halt in front of the box.  She closes here eyes and you see her lips moving as she offers a prayer to God.  She slowly extends her hand and lets go of its contents.  You hear clink, clink as two little coins join the massive pile inside the box.  She shuffles on and does not even look up at the overseer.  You see him smirk and see his shoulders bounce a little as he chuckles at the meager offering.

Suddenly Jesus is quietly gathering the disciples around him.  His quick, simple whispers reveal why she was moving so slowly, why she was clutching the coins so tightly, why she stopped to pray as she made her gift.  As the circle breaks and you return to your perch across from the box, you have a whole new thinking concerning giving.  You see each person as they approach the box differently now.  Suddenly you know Jesus and God a little better than you did before.  Who knew a poor woman in such simple attire could teach us so much about giving?



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Our Connection

In Youth group, their favorite way  to pray is in a circle, their own arms criss-crossed, holding each other’s hand.  A squeeze passes the prayer around the circle.  After someone closes, we raise arms and spin out away from the circle.  If you asked them why they like to pray this way, they would tell you it is because we spin at the end.  I think they also like being connected to each other through touch.

Sometimes the ‘squeeze’ moves around the circle like lightning.  Sometimes two middle school boys see who can ‘hold’ each other’s hand  the tightest.  And sometimes a Youth or an adult shares a heart-felt prayer.  You can feel the love and the focus and the energy zoom right in on them.  It is pretty cool.

Prayer is such a powerful weapon – for us to find guidance, peace, comfort, strength, … and to ward off Satan.  Prayer is our personal connection to God.  Prayer is how we call on the almighty and how we draw close to Him.  Come close often.

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Love More, Know More

Jesus promises to come to us, to not leave us a orphans. He offers hope in that because He lives, we will also live.  Life will bring our share of rejection, betrayal, sadness, crisicism, loneliness, …  Those things are just part of life.  But they are just one side of life too.

These trying experiences are part of the life Jesus went through in his thirty-something years here on the earth.  He felt and experienced all of these things.  When we live with Jesus in our hearts, we are not orphans.  He relates, He knows, He loves.

And because of this love, we are also loved by God.  He promises good for us.  His plans are for us to prosper.  We choose to live as Jesus lived and to love as Jesus loved.  We come to obey His commands out of this love for Him.  As we obey, we come to know Him more – He reveals Himself to us more and more.  It is a beautiful cycle – love more, know more.  We rejoice in this.  Paul wrote about the promise foung in it in Philippians 1:16: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  We love, we know.  The promise is yet to come.

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He Loves Us

Jesus said that if we love Him we will obey His commands.  Do you suppose He meant ALL the time?  Or just some of the time?  We know the answer to this question.  Hard as we might try, we cannot always obey.  Here is where vision runs smack into reality.  But we try.

God must have known this since the time of Adam and Eve’s sin – that mankind will always be a struggle.  Yet His love is so vast that He found a way to always allow us to renew our relationship with Him.  He first sent His Son so that we would know the way, the truth, and the life – as He intended us to live.  Then God allowed His Son to die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Yes, He loves us.

Yet the story doesn’t end there, good as it is.  Because He remembered that we struggle.  So God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to lead and guide us.  The advocate brings us back to that way, truth, and life and helps us to share the good news of Jess Christ with others.  Yes indeed!  He loves us.

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To the End of the Age

Jesus suffered a painful death as an act of obedience to God and out of love for us.  A pure and holy man went to the cross not only to suffer nd die but also to take upon Himself the sins of us all.  It is through this gift that we are able to find salvation for our souls.

After He died, Jesus was resurrected and sits at God’s right hand.  He sits to judge the living and the dead.  Peter tells us that after dying Jesus went and “preached to the spirits in prison”, those dead in their sins since the time of Noah.  Jesus wants us all to be saved.  Jesus judges us in accordance with how we live our lives as a follower or disciples of Christ.  Followers emulate the ways of the one they follow.  Disciples study one so that they can be like the one they study.

Our baptism was the beginning of our commitment to live as a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ.  Baptism is symbolic of the cleansing waters of the flood, when God washed clean the earth, removing man and his sin from the world.  Baptism is a promise to God to live with a purity of conscious.  At times we have suffering.  At times we have joy.  Most of the time we live between these two.  If we live in all these states as a faithful and obedient follower and disciple of Christ, our destiny is the same as Christ’s destiny.  Eternity awaits the faithful and obedient.  But in our day to day, we are called to take up the cross of Christ, to live for Him. For strength, remember the promise found in Matthew 28:20 – “I am always with you, even to the end of the age.”


Faith and Action

In the US we practice our faith in relative safety and peace.  Sure it may cost us a ‘friend’ here or there or an invite to the ‘big’ party.  But it is pretty unlikely that we’ll see scores of girls kidnapped from the local Christian school or that militiamen will attack our church one Sunday morning.  Yet many around the world face these or similar dangers and still practice their faith because they know the ultimate reward that God has in store.
Could we live such a brave faith?  Willing in any and all circumstances to do what God is calling us to do?  Could we bravely walk into the cafeteria or break room and share our faith with whoever is sitting there?  Could we give a little more than is comfortable to help a person in need?  Yes we can and great is our reward too.  Through our actions and words we can bring hope.  We can be the light and love the world so desperately needs.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”. We can both live out from these words and help others to come to know the truth of these words in their lives.  May we live a brave faith.