How often could Jesus look down at the decisions we make and the actions we take and think to Himself, “Get behind me, Satan”? How often do we disappoint our savior? How often do we fail to live up to our full potential?
Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. Yet when the end was nearing and He told them so, it was Peter who rebuked Jesus. Peter saw Jesus’ power and authority growing almost daily – why death now? Peter was trapped and he could only see what Jesus was describing from earthly eyes. Peter didn’t yet have resurrection eyes.
Sometimes we don’t either. Ok, maybe often we don’t. That is why we are often less than we could be. That’s why we don’t always feed the hungry or clothe the naked. Maybe faith is not the top priority.
Each day that we choose to walk with Jesus Christ, we are more than we used to be. As we get to know Him more, we grow closer to Him. It is a pretty neat little circle.
How do we come to see more and more with resurrection eyes? How do we focus in more on God’s priorities and less on the world’s? Time. T-I-M-E. In this season of self-examination, may we see ourselves more clearly and allow Him to lead us on His path. When we walk His path, we see the things He sees.
Scripture reference: Mark 8: 31-33
An Old testament belief and one that persists in some Christians today is the belief that bad things or trials are punishment from God. It is true that in the Old Testament there was punishment. The flood is perhaps the greatest example of this.
In the New Testament God is revealed in a different way. In Jesus we see a new way. Jesus teaches that a person’s blindness, for example, is not the result of the parent’s sins or even the sins of the person being afflicted. God does not choose to smite us.
Jesus also reveals that at times, hard choices are required. He also makes it clear that it is we who have to make the choices. One example would be the rich young ruler – he would not give up his great wealth to follow Jesus. It was a hard choice for him, but still his choice to make.
When adversity comes our way or when we face a hard choice, how our faith figures into the situation is paramount. Often in the trial we become closer to God because in our weakness He is made strong. When we depend on Him, we find He hears us and draws near and walks with us.
When we face a tough decision, in many of the cases we know what we should do, what God wants us to do. In some of these cases we still may make a poor choice… Sometimes though we are unsure. It is then we need Him most. And His response is the same – He hears us and draws near and walks with us. Thanks be to God for His faithfulness.
Scripture reference: Psalm 22: 23-25
“I promise.” When do we have to say these words? It is not usually in everyday life – your boss doesn’t make you promise to finish the project… We have to promise when we have been exceptionally forgetful or when the other person doubts we will follow through or thinks what we have said is unlikely or impossible. As adults, in general we do not have to make promises. Saying we will do something if usually sufficient.
God never has to promise. His word is always good. When we come to the point of trusting in God, we come to faith. True, at times we can struggle, but this too passes. We may momentarily wonder how God could ever forgive ‘that’ but in time we see God offers forgiveness to all who come with a truly repentant heart. And we get ourselves to that point and find His grace and love again.
Sometimes we are called to believe something that seems impossible or highly unlikely. Sometimes our faith calls us to step out into the unknown. Abraham is a great example for us. At almost 100 years of age, God told him he would not only have a child but would be the father to many nations. Abraham chose to believe God with all his heart. He did not waver. For this act of full obedience, abraham was credited as being righteous.
Paul tells us that we too are credited with righteousness when we actively pursue and fully trust in God. Our willingness puts us in a right relationship with God. When we walk in righteousness, God is close to us. When we pursue Him, He is easy to find. May we walk closely with God today, removing all doubts and barriers, so that we can experience His full love, mercy, and joy!
Scripture reference: Romans 4: 18-25
Faith leads to transformation. Faith, at its roots, is an active trust in the One who created us, the One we come to know. Faith moves beyond belief. It is in the space beyond belief that faith works in and through our lives to change us within.
We have many examples in the Bible of people who allowed faith to be their guide. For example, once Abraham and Sarah encountered God there was no looking back, only trust in the One who called them forward. The same was true for many others – Gideon, Esther, the disciples, Paul, Timothy – just to name a few.
Our faith is also a saving faith. Once we have personally encountered God, our faith rests on His grace. His grace saves us from our mistakes and reconciles us to Him. His grace always welcomes us back into relationship with our creator and king.
Like the many who came before, once we start to live into this trust, life will never be the same. In faith we begin to live into God’s promises, trusting His plan for our lives, seeking to be a part of the opportunities He places before us. In faith we allow His love to flow through us and into the lives of others. Our active faith leads us on a journey. The journey is always towards God presnce and perfection, living into all He has to offer for our lives.
Scripture reference: Romans 4: 13-17
Trust is an interesting concept. Trust is something we build up over time and we base it upon our experiences with that person. It is not universal – I may trust a common friend more than a mutual friend does. Once a trust is broken between friends, it is hard to get it fully back. In our humanity, we struggle with fully giving our trust back to someone who violated it.
How much do you trust God? How much do I? Three years ago I entered full-time ministry. I left teaching after 23 years. I felt a call to ministry that had gradually built over many years and I finally surrendered to those whispers of God that I felt in my heart. There was some trust involved – a lot. But there were also some things that made the decision feel safe – same town and church we had been in for 20 years, tons of family and close friend support…
In Genesis 17 God comes to Abram and Sarai when they were 99 years old. As they are ready to slide into retirement, God comes along and tells them they are going to start having babies. He tells them to move to an unknown foreign land. He tells them that they will be the father and mother of many nations and to change their names, accordingly, to Abraham and Sarah. And they did. Trust. They trusted God completely.
I often wonder where my trust level is. It is high? Do I trust God completely? Or is it low? One doesn’t really know until put to the test. God’s call to me was many nudges over a period of time, with a few human voices sprinkled in for good measure. I never heard God’s voice. But if a nudge came to move far away, to a distant place, to minister – how much would I trust? If a nudge came to leave all I know to enter the mission field – where would my trust level be?
I think that if I had a real conversation with God, even if only one-sided, that I would go without question. But then I wonder… I hope I am found faithful. We all do. Lord God, make me faithful.
Scripture reference: Genesis 17: 1-7 and 15-16
When a baby is first born it is totally dependant on others for care. Most babies bond right away with their mother as they are fed, held, and loved. Soon a father becomes a known, loving presence as well. Babies bond and come to expect parents to be there when they cry, when they want to be held, when they need changed, and so on. Even though no parent is perfect, the baby comes to love and trust them.
God is our perfect parent. As we mature and grow in our faith, we learn that God will take care of our needs. We learn that He will forgive our sins and restore the relationship with us. We learn that when we cry out to Him, He will be there. We learn that no matter how long we wander away, He will be right there by our side when we turn back towards Him.
Perhaps this is the kind of love and trust that Jesus was talking about when He said that we need to have the faith of a little child. Maybe Jesus is calling us to live a life totally dependant on Him. Maybe Jesus wants us to cry out only to Him when we are in need. Maybe Jesus wants us only to come to Him when we find ourselves in sin or are wrestling with temptation.
The more we grow to love and trust in Him, the more we come to live and to love like Him. May we come to develop the faith of a little child.
Scripture reference: Psalm 22: 25-31
As soon as Jesus was baptized, He was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. For forty days, Jesus was tested. Today this forty day period of testing is represented by Lent, which is under way for us.
Lent began a few days ago with Ash Wednesday – a day when we put ashes on our forehead and acknowledge that we are mortal. In many places, the ashes were imposed with a prayer to create a pure heart and a steadfast spirit within each child of God as they received the ashes. This is to prepare us for the journey of Lent.
During Lent we are especially in tune with our faith. In tune with God as we seek His strength and love as we honestly face the sins we wrestle with. In tune with Holy Spirit as we accept the conviction of our sins and as we use the Spirit’s guidance away from our sins. In tune with Jesus as we pursue His example of a holy life and as we accept grace and forgiveness when we fail.
If we delve deeply and reflect honestly, our self-examination during Lent will reveal spaces to grow and will enrich our lives of faith. Our spiritual disciplines will yield much fruit in this season when we practice them faithfully. We cannot do this on our own. May we depend on the Spirit to lead, guide, and empower us to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, yielding a willing heart and mind bent on a better relationship with Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Scripture reference: Mark 1: 8-15
One of the unique and powerful ideas found in the Christian faith is the idea of cleansing. Early in the Bible God used water to cleanse the earth – only Noah and his family survived to flood. The ides of water as cleansing agent is also picked up in the New Testament. John the Baptist uses the waters of the Jordan River to baptize people. People confessed their sins, were called to repentance, and were baptized. The water washed them clean.
Our baptisms cleanse us too, but more so they mark us as members of God’s family. For most Christian denominations baptism represents the formal declaration of belonging to Christ. For many denominations it is also the point at which God’s grace starts to work in and shape our lives.
God’s grace becomes what washes us clean. Through His death on the cross, Jesus conquered sin and death. In His resurrection He showed all that sin and death hold no power over His followers.
Through our baptism and the inflowing of grace that follows, we are called to walk as children of the light. Our call in the midst of a world that pursues so much else is to share our story of faith and the story of what He can do for all of mankind. As we learn to surrender more and more to His good will, we grow to live more and more into the life we were first called to in our baptism.
Scripture reference: 2 Peter 3: 18-22
In all of creation, God bestowed upon mankind alone the ability to pray. It is a great honor to be able to intercede for one another in prayer. In prayer we can also find great comfort. In prayer we can find strength and peace.
Yet we are also just a part of creation. In our worlds and in our lives there is just so much we cannot control. At times we cannot control even ourselves, often falling into sin.
In Psalm 25 the writer recognizes all of this. He seeks what we seek – help to trust in God and to walk in His ways, forgiveness of our sins, and guidance for the humble. For the humble? Why must we be humble?
When we are humble we first remember that God is the creator. All is within His grasp, all is under His control. We are reminded of His supremacy.
When we are humble we recognize that we are not the only creation of God. Each and every person is a child of the King. In humility we treat all of our brothers and sisters with love, care, honor, and respect.
And lastly, when we are humble we come to see ourselves as we are: imperfect people, incapable of accomplishing much of significance on our own. In humility we come to see how much we need God. We come to see that even our gifts, talents, and all that we have come from Him. With a humble heart, may we offer ourselves in service to our God this day.
Scripture reference: Psalm 25: 1-10
After flooding the earth, God makes a covenant with Noah and his sons to never again destroy all life with a flood. The rainbow is the symbol of this promise. It is interesting that the covenant is just not with mankind, but with all living creatures and with the earth itself.
It is often said that mankind is God’s highest form of creation. God even set man to steward over the earth and all living creatures (Genesis 1). From the beginning, in the Garden, man was to care for the earth and all other life.
The rainbow was God’s promise to preserve and protect life, all life. In the very end, God ill redeem and restore all of creation when He establishes the new heaven and earth. All will be made whole again. It is mankind’s responsibility to care for this earth and all of life on this earth until that day comes.
Our relationship like the earth is like the relationship between a parent and child. The choices and decisions we make are (or should be) for the best interests of the earth. And at times the earth is something we cannot control – storms, earthquakes, when it rains or snows, being just a few examples.
Even if most of us do not directly work with the earth or the other living creatures that inhabit the earth, we can make daily choices to do things like recycling and conserving water. In our purchases, in how we vote, and in how we voice our public opinion, we can make decisions and choices that reflect other’s care for and use of the earth and it’s resources. In these small ways we too can be good stewards of the natural world.
Scripture reference: Genesis 9: 8-17