Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Still at Work

The Bible is our history book.  There are many people and stories that we recall, study, and know by heart.  They teach us who God is, what we are called to be like as people of faith, and show us examples of faithful witness.  As we look back into our history book of faith, we can see God at work in the lives of the people and places in the stories and accounts.

Since the time of Jesus and the disciples, faithful servants have continued to teach us what faith is and how we are to live in our world as disciples of Christ.  People like Martin Luther, Calvin, and Mother Teresa continue to explain and define who we are as a people of God.  We can look back on their lives and see the hand of God at work here as well.

In each of our denominations and local churches, our histories contain people and events that have shaped us.  For example, John Wesley had tremendous influence on the Methodist and Wesleyan movements and churches.  In our local churches it is a beloved pastor or a lay members viewed as a ‘saint’ plus significant local events that define who and what we are as a congregation.  And through all of these local people and events, we can see God at work too.  He continues to be present and active in our world.

People very likely look at your life too.  Maybe it is your student or your patient or your coworker or your exercise classmate.  Each of us is part of the story of God at work in our world.  He is still at work.  As we live as salt and light in the world. we are co-laborers with Christ.  May we labor well!

Scripture reference: Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, and 45c

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Claim All That He Offers

“Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12: 11-12

It can be hard to always love others.    It can be hard to always be ‘Christian’ towards others.  It can even be hard to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ with love all the time.  These words of Paul provide us with some insights and guidance for how to love all in a manner worthy of Christ’s love.

‘Keeping our spiritual fervor’ involves staying in love with God – one of Reuben Job’s ‘Three Simple Rules’.  When we are in love with God we naturally want to serve others and to meet the needs we can meet.  We stay in love with God by practicing our spiritual disciplines – worship, prayer, study, fasting, …

When we are ‘joyful in hope’ we are living into the belief that Jesus will be there for us.  We are expectant that He will be present to us and as we live with hope in our hearts, we are filled with joy.  When we are ‘patient in affliction’ we are living into the belief that although we endure for a moment, that Jesus will be there when we reach the other side or the end of our present situation.  In the midst of trial, we know that He is there with us and will be there always.  This allows for patience.  With patience we can gain much from the trials of life.  When we are ‘faithful in prayer’ we are living into the belief that through talking with Jesus we draw nearer to Him and draw strength from Him.

Though these four practices we equip ourselves to better love all we encounter each day.  This blessing from Hebrews 13 is also ours if we claim it: “May the God of peace equip you with every good thing that you may do His will, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.”  He wants to equip us with spiritual fervor, joyful hope, patient enduring, and a faithful prayer life.  May we claim all that He has to offer as we live daily with Christ.

Scripture reference: Romans 12: 9-21

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The Two Are Connected

At our church we have been emphasizing the ideas of “love God, love neighbor” for the last couple months.  For both parts of this statement, I have come to two realizations.  First, “more” is or needs to be implied because we will never love God or neighbor enough.  Second, how we love God and love neighbor is best shown through how we treat them.

Romans 12 is full of ‘how’ statements about how we are to love neighbor.  Love must be sincere.  Honor others over self.  Live in harmony.  Bless those who curse you.  Give food and drink to the needy – especially those who are your ‘enemy’.  Overcome evil with good.  This list is not complete, of course, but it is a good start.

The things on this list are also part of how we ‘show’ that we love God.  Our works are born out of that love.  The two cannot be separated.  We also connect to God through worship, prayer, devotions, reading the Bible, fellowship.  Through these practices we come to love God more.  Through these we also come to understand how to love neighbor more.  The two are connected.

Scripture reference: Romans 12: 9-21

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We Are Not Alone

When Moses encounters God in the burning bush he has some questions for God.  When we meet God in our own particular circumstance and we sense that God has a task or mission for us, we too have our own questions.  And maybe we ask the same two questions that Moses asked.

Moses first asks who is he that God should send him to Pharaoh.  Often, when we feel that God is leading us somewhere, ask the same basic question ‘ “Me? Are you sure?”  We seek two things with this question – reassurance that God is indeed choosing us because we have the gifts and talents to accomplish this mission and, secondly, that He will be with us.

His second question seeks to define who God is.  Jesus asked the disciples the same question – “Who do you say I am?”  It is important to know who we serve and to whom we belong.  Much like us when we go forth to share the good news or to serve, Moses wants to be able to tell them who sent him.  We do not go on our own.  We go in and through God.  He is a steadfast and true God.  We do not go alone.

Scripture reference: Exodus 3: 1-15

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He Is Calling

One afternoon while out moving the sheep Moses encountered God.  It was not in church during a moving song or inspiring message. Nope.  It was out in the wilderness.   Once God had Moses’ attention, He sent Moses off to do some work for God’s people.

Do you ever hear God calling?  There is no doubt – He is calling.  The question is whether or not we hear (and sometimes whether we listen to) the call.  Sometimes God’s till small voice comes in the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it comes in the words another speaks into our life.  Sometimes it comes in the form of one in need who crosses our path.  And sometimes it comes from a sudden event, one that forces us to look within and there we see what God is calling us to.

Tuning into God’s call requires surrender and obedience.  God has great plans for each and every one of us who call on His name.  May we listen well when His call comes in!

Scripture reference: Exodus 3: 1-15

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Da Nile and the Cross Beside It

So often our stumbling blocks are tha things of men.  It is too easy to let our life revolve around our position at work or how our bank account looks or what other people think of us.  In our humanity, it is pretty easy to be human!  But we can also stumble on heavenly things.  For example, at times we can allow doubt or fear to keep us from doing what God calls us to.

Jesus calls us to deny self and to take up our cross to follow Him.  There are two parts here.  First, we are called to deny self.  When we deny self we are putting all others above ourself and our needs, desires, interests, wants…  ALL others above self.  That is not just family, close friends, maybe a few people from the church.  It is also that coworker you really don’t like that much and that homeless lady you walk by on the way to your car.  But certainly when we deny self, we have more to offer to others.

The second part of this call is to take up our cross.  For Jesus, His cross led to the greatest gift ever and also to His physical death.  For us, our cross is both what we can offer to our broken world and a spiritual death to the things that keep us from fully following Jesus Christ.  For Jesus, His cross held all of our sins and He took it up and bore it for our salvation, the forgiveness of our sins.  On Jesus’ cross was love for mankind.  Love was truly the gift Jesus had to offer.  He denied self to love others fully.

It makes me wonder – what gift for mankind is on my cross or on your cross?  Maybe it is our gifts and talents that are on our crosses.  So when we deny self, it is what we have to offer to our fellow man.  If compassion is our gift, then when one denies self and takes up their cross, is it compassion that flows out?  If ones gift is teaching, then when one denies self and pours themselves into being a teacher, is it learning that pours out for others?

Scripture reference: Matthew 16: 21-28

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Listen and Be Present

Does our vision ever cloud what God wants us to see and experience?  Does our way of thinking how something should (or shouldn’t) be ever derail the wonderful thing that God is trying to unfold in front of us?  Yes and yes!

In Matthew 16, Jesus tells his disciples about his impending suffering and death.  Peter responds with “Never!”  Peter wants to hang onto the Jesus he has come to know and love over the last three years.  Peter cannot begin to see or understand what God will do through Jesus Christ.  How easy it is to get in the way of God’s plans.  We can be much the same way. We often cannot see the thing that God has in mind, so we try to limit God.

So often in life we want to avoid the uncomfortable when it is precisely where God wants us to be.  When one we know is in the midst of a loss, we want to help them move along and feel better instead of staying in that moment.  In that moment is where we find God’s comfort and hope.  In a difficult situation when one wants to talk about the struggle and the pain and the hurt, we try to move them along to recovery.  Sit, listen, feel where they are at and allow God to enter in and be present with those emotions and thoughts.  In time He will bring healing.  But we must resist our inclination to steer the bus.  Allow God to be in control.

In those times when God is asking us to listen and be present, do just that.  Just listen and be present.  Don’t try to fix things or make one feel better.Just be there and offer yourself to the one in need.  Remember, God is there too.

Scripture reference: Matthew 16: 21-28

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Choosing His Way

Our broken world needs God.  For many living in brokenness, we will be the first bible they every read.  Although we are not of this world, we are to be in the world.  God calls us to be His hands and feet, using whatever gifts He has given us to make His world a better place.  We cannot simply and only exit within the four walls of our homes and our churches.  We must step outside into the fray.

To be a “living sacrifice” we must be willing to give up and share some of our stuff – our time, our money and resources, our gifts and talents, and ourselves.  As God becomes more, we become less.  Our decisions and actions look less like ours and more like His.  ‘Other’ supercedes ‘self’.

As we become increasingly aware of the world’s needs and our role in meeting those needs, we become more aware that our whole life is an act of worship.  Our simple greeting of another becomes a way of sharing God’s love with another in need.  Our conversation with the store’s employee becomes an opportunity to minister.  Our choice of how to conduct ourselves at work becomes an extension of our worship.  Our choice of what to do with our free Saturday becomes a reflection of God being a priority in our life instead of ourself being the priority.

Our words offer hope, love, reconciliation, healing.  Our actions bring relief, justice, provision, protection.  As we live into this type of Christianity, God’s spirit and presence in our life grows deeper and deeper within us.  As people that are broken begin to know God through our words and actions, they begin to know God too.  Every word we offer and every action that we make can bring ourselves and other closer to God.  May we choose wisely this day.

Scripture reference: Romans 12: 1-8

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Are You One?

I believe God has a plan for our world.  When one looks at the amazing organization of planet earth, you can see that God is a planner and organizer.  Every single event and choice is not predestined, but God has an intent for how things will unfold.  Sometimes we see our role in His plan, but, more often than not, we don’t see it or at least its after the fact.

The key to being part of God’s plan is to be open to where He places us and to be willing to step into the situations that come before us.  To do this takes courage, boldness, faith, and trust.  God will provide all we need for all situations He places us into.

Like Moses’ sister by the riverside, we need to step into what God places before us.  Our role may be to simply offer kindness or to meet a basic need.  It may be grander or more significant.  That matters not.  God is looking for faithful servants, willing to build His kingdom. Are you one?

Scripture reference: Exodus 1:8-2:10

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Be Involved. Offer Yourself.

We all have gifts and talents.  God gives us these to use and for the benefit of others.  As the family of God, all of our talents and gifts are bound up together.  Paul reminds us that, like a human body, each member belongs to all of the other members of the body.

In Romans 12 Paul lists a few gifts: prophesying, teaching, serving, and encouraging.  I’m sure you can think of a few people in your church who have one (or more) of these gifts and maybe you even recognize your gift(s) on this list.  Paul also lists giving generously, leading diligently, and showing mercy cheerfully.  Know a few of these people too?

This list of seven gifts is obviously not all-inclusive.  Many gifts are not listed here yet are definitely gifts that God has bestowed on people.

But maybe you don’t know your gift.  Maybe as you thought about who you knew that was merciful, you thought of a person or two and wondered what their gift was.  The solution?  Try things out!  Maybe as you are teaching a class you discover that teaching is not your gift.  But while teaching you do discover that encouraging or mentoring is your gift.  Maybe as you fill a role serving you find that serving is not your gift.  But while there you do discover that offering compassion is just your thing.

Be involved.  Offer yourself.  God definitely gives each of us gifts.  He does not give us gifts to keep secretly tucked away.  God gives us gifts to use, to develop, to practice to be a part of building each other up and to build up His kingdom here on earth.

Scripture reference: Romans 12: 1-8