Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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All Who Come

Jesus taught with authority. People could recognize there was something special about Him. The disciples dropped all the were doing at a simple call to come and follow. People brought the sick and afflicted to Jesus – simply for a touch of His hand.

This phenomena was occurring at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Jesus was teaching in the temple and all who heard were amazed. Even a man with an evil spirit in him recognized Jesus and his authority. After Jesus cast out the demon people were even more amazed at His authority.

He was one with authority. Jesus often used this authority to question the religious establishment. He questioned their treatment of those on the edges of society. Or maybe it was their lack of treatment. Either way, if Jesus were to look around our sanctuaries tomorrow, would he see a very homogenous crowd? A lack of a segment of our community or neighborhood would indicate what Jesus often critiqued about the establish religion.

In the example Jesus set for us, He loved all who came to Him. How open are we to sitting next to the lost and marginalized in worship or by us at the potluck? Jesus took all who came. This is or call too – to love neighbor as self, to reach out to those who are alone, to share His light for all to see.

Scripture reference: Mark 1: 21-28

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Jesus as Center

Idols are all of those things that we invest our time in, that we put our trust in, and that, in the end, draw us away from God.  Our idols can include our possessions or money, our job or position, our looks or our body.  It is all that we place ahead of or before God.  Idols are stumbling blocs in our relationship with God.

In times of need, when we are struggling or suffering and need strength or comfort, our idols can do very little for us.  For a time we can think our chosen idol is helping as it masks the pain or hardship for a time, but it cannot take is away.  Only God can do that.  Only through a relationship with Jesus Christ do we find true peace, comfort, rest, and contentment.

Our idols can also harm others, drawing their attention away from God.  One new to the faith may see you as an example to follow.  If we choose an idol over God, they too may make a similar choice for themselves.  The same is even more true for our children.  Their little eyes are watchful and their small ears are attentive.  What they observe in our lives, they mimic in theirs.

As our lives silently speak out about what we value and where we put our trust, does your life reveal Jesus as your center?  All in our life must fall under His authority.  It is a daily struggle to put God first in all we do, but we can have Jesus as our rock if we make a conscious choice to take our stand upon Him each day.  He is our firm foundation.  Thanks be to God!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

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Fact or Opinion?

In today’s reading Paul is writing to a church that is in conflict.  The issue is to eat or not eat food sacrificed to idols.  Today we do not have this particular issue in our churches, but we have others.  Paul’s advice to the Corinthians still applies to our churches today, many years later.

In our churches we all have facts and opinions.  Facts are the basic tenets of our faith – one God, Jesus resurrected, forgiveness of sins, love one another – and rules or laws that govern our church or denomination.  The tenets of our faith are unchangeable, universally true throughout time.  The second set can be changed through whatever process the church has in place.  Some of the laws and rules of a church tend to change over time, to better reflect the society and times in which the church exists.

And there are opinions – those things not explicitly explained in the Bible (like how to perform baptism) or are not in the Bible at all (like when to hold worship).  In these things we find all sorts of ways to find differences.  But arguing amongst ourselves or causing another to sin because of our actions is not living as a Christian.

Paul reminds us to let love be our guide and to be open to others.  He reminds us to always be building relationships.  He reminds us to find unity in our common ground.  Paul also reminds us to be aware of how our behavior influences others so that we are not a stumbling block.  Paul was wise.

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

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Ordinary, Everyday

What is your reaction when you see someone helping another?  How are you affected when you read of how one made a difference in another’s life?  When we witness God’s love being shared in real and tangible ways, our hearts and souls are lifted up.

Throughout the Bible we see God at work in the world on behalf of His people.  In the New Testament Jesus’ ministry is all about being active in the lives of the people He meets.  We see over and over again what it looks like for God to love the people of this world.

God often chose the unlikely to be His agent of change in the world.  Jesus continued this pattern when he called the disciples.  Ordinary, everyday people have always been a part of our story of faith.  Those who have been called have risen up and done great things for God, not because of their intelligence, position, or speaking ability but because they all came with a willing, loving heart.

As we witness God’s love continuing to make a difference in our world, may we too be drawn to allow others to glimpse God through us.  God calls us all to be a part of building His kingdom.  He continues to call ordinary, everyday people to shine His light and to share His love.  Can you hear Him calling?

Scripture reference: Psalm 111

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A Voice Calling

Job description: challenge the status quo, push people to grow and stretch themselves, be directly accountable to God

Any applicants?

Many jobs can be thankless.  Among them the job ‘prophet’ could be pretty high on a lot of people’s lists.  For most that were called in the Bible,”Yes!” was not their first reaction.

Prophets of old and prophets today have pretty much the same role.  A prophet has two primary job functions.  The first is to keep people oriented towards God.  A prophet calls us to live our lives with God at the center, following His ways and commands.  This runs counter to what the world so often tries to tell us and is therefore difficult.  A prophet tells us that ‘me’ does not come first.

The second role is to call for justice and equality for those whose voices are not heard by the those in power and in positions that can affect change.  A prophet calls for the care of the weak, for fair treatment of all, and for the stranger to be welcomed into our midst.  These calls too run counter to society’s norms.  A prophet tells us to give of ourselves and to become less so that others can become more.

Today most of us like to be comfortable, to maintain the status quo.  Change can be hard.  No wonder being a prophet is difficult.  But a faith that is not active and growing, bringing light into darkness, is dead.  That is not a good place to be.

May we learn to hear and welcome the prophet’s voice, both for what it calls us to spiritually and for the words spoken on behalf of the poor and powerless, words that bring hope, healing, justice, and love.

Scripture reference: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20

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Attuned to the Voice

Who would we identify as prophets of God in our world today?  Is it the big TV evangelists or the mega church lead pastors?  Is it the pastor of your local church or the leader of your small group?  Is it your spouse or best friend?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes!  A prophet can be all of these at certain times and points in our life an it can be others not mentioned above.  God can still speak in many ways through a wide variety of people.

Surely prophets are people like Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.  While this is a pretty impressive list, the Bible is full of prophets – many of whom came from out of nowhere.  Many spoke the word God gave them and faded back into regular life.  In this sense, we live today among many prophets.  Some are here for a while and others only for a short period of time.

One of the main jobs of a prophet is to align the people of faith with the will of God.  In this sense they help guide like a shepherd.  A prophet can also offer correction as we stray from God’s plan.  In our personal lives this comes mostly when we pursue worldly idols and when we fall to temptation.

In these terms, the voice of God can be heard from the many prophets in our lives.  We too may be a prophet to others.  We all need to be attuned to the voice that God has given a message to.  God is still very much alive and well and active in our world.  May His voice continue to lead and guide us all.

Scripture reference: Deuteronomy 8: 15-20

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Relationship Through Christ

God desires to be in a relationship with us.  God’s love should draw us to Him.  His free gift of salvation through Jesus is proof of that love.  A relationship with God should be the foundation of our life.

There are other faces that people see as God.  Some only know of God as vengeful and jealous, distant at best.  Some only know of a God ready to strike us down when we sin.  Some know God as one who expects perfection from us.  If one of these is the God we know, then entering into a relationship with Him is difficult.

God’s love is shown in Jesus.  Jesus was not vengeful or jealous but was willing to say what needed said, but always with love.  Jesus never struck anyone down but did cause them to look within and to see what needed cast out.  Jesus was perfection and calls us towards perfection.  Jesus experienced life as a human and can relate to our struggles.  His is the first hand there to lift us up after we have failed.

Relationship with God must come through His Son, Jesus Christ.  As we come to build this relationship, we are drawn to share it with others.  When others see love and nothing else as our motivation, they too are drawn towards faith.  Today may we be the light and love that our world needs.

Scripture reference: Psalm 62: 5-12

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We often live in this weird balance between knowing God can fill all our needs and trying to fill them with everything but God.  What we know in our minds and what we do with our actions just don’t connect.  Struggle and frustration are often the results.

I most often try to fill my needs with myself.  I fall into the trap that I can do it,  figure it out, make it happen on my own.  After failing I usually realize that only God can do it.  He can use me, but He is the source.  I need to first learn to turn to Him all of the time instead of just some of the time.

Our struggles can be emotional, physical, spiritual, relational, occupational or combinations of these and more.  There is also a vast array of ways to try and fill our needs but really only one place we should start.

In verse 8 David writes, “Trust in Him at all times, O people: pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”  Our refuge is strong and loving and completely worthy of our trust, for He never fails.

Scripture reference: Psalm 62: 5-12

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Perspective is an important thing.  As followers of Christ, we believe He will return one day to bring final judgment.  It could be today, next week, or in two thousand years.  From this perspective we live each day prepared for this to be the day.  In a sense we live with one eye always on heaven and our eternity.

Yet we must also keep today in perspective.  We cannot live detached from this world as we await the next.  Even if our lives in this world, though we may live to be hundred, are just a flash in the spectrum of eternity, each day still matters.  Each person and encounter is an opportunity to be Christ’s light and love.  Each is a chance to affect someone else’s eternity.

In the here and now it is our relationships that matter most.  Our relationship with Jesus Christ takes priority because it does reflect and impact the eternal.  And all of our present relationships are also important as each person is a child of God and has worth.  Each person – from our family members to the person we meet on the sidewalk – matters.

How we choose to live in each moment does impact our eternity.  All the choices, decisions, and actions play a role, as does the lack of action…  As we go through our day today, may our eyes be open, may our hearts be willing, and may our ears be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31

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All I Need

Simon, Andrew, James, and John all drop what they are doing when Jesus calls for them to come and follow.  There is no hesitation, no but…, no doubt in their mind that following Jesus is just what they should do.  They walk away from all they have ever known and walk toward wherever this one man will lead them.

Unlike these four men who just met Jesus, most of us have known Him for quite a while.  Jesus first came across my radar as a young boy attending Sunday school.  Since then my knowledge of Jesus has grown and our relationship has developed.  Many of you have had similar walks.  At some point all believers make a profession of faith and dedicate their lives to following Jesus.

So why is it so hard to follow the voice or the nudge of the Holy Spirit?  Why do we question so much when Jesus tries to lead us somewhere or to someone?

Faith. Hope. Love.

Lord, break my fears and cast out my doubts.  Help me to lay aside all that keeps me from following You wherever You lead.  Allow faith to be my guide.  Allow hope to be my strength.  Allow love to be all that I have to offer.  You are allI need and all I want.  In your name Jesus.  Amen.

Scripture reference: Mark 1: 16-20