Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Deep, Deep Love

God’s love is amazing.  God’s love is unending.  God’s love is steadfast and true.  He calls us to abide in His love, to dwell in it, to soak it up, to share it with others.  His perfect love was shown on the cross as God allowed His Son to be our atoning sacrifice.

The cross is also the symbol of how we are to love.  The vertical beam represents the love that flows back and forth between us and God.  Despite our failings and stumblings, His love still always extends to us, always calls us back into relationship with Him.  As we find forgiveness after forgiveness and come to know how much God loves us, our own love begins to flow out to our fellow man.  This love is represented in the horizontal beam of the cross.

At times these relationships with our fellow man will challenge us.  Just as we are to others, some are harder for us to love.  Just as in “The Shack” the God character always said, “I am especially fond of that one,” we too are called to not only say this but to live this out.

One of the best parts of how big God’s love is is shown in our struggles to love all of our neighbors.  His love is so big that we can draw and draw upon it.  In those cases when we especially struggle to love one of our brothers or sisters, draw deep into the love of God.  Soak in His love.  Abide in His love.  Steep in His love.  Then go forth to love that friend in Christ.

Scripture reference: 1 John 4: 7-21

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One Step Closer

The good news of Jesus Christ is the greatest and most important news we ever received.  It is the information that forever changed our lives.  The story of who Jesus is, of what He did, and what He continues to do in our lives is a story that should continually be flowing out of each of us.  In order to do this we must know the stories of Jesus told in the Bible and also our own faith story.

In order to share our faith with another we do not need to know everything about Jesus and the Bible.  But we do need to have a solid knowledge base.  The Holy Spirit will prompt and remind us of the words we need at just a certain moment.  For the Spirit to be able to do this we must also do our part, spending time in the Word – reading, studying, reflecting.

We also need to know our own faith story well enough to provide witness to another person.  To stumble and bumble through any presentation is bad.  It is even worse when it is the most important story in our personal story book.

Once we are personally prepared to offer witness, we must be attuned to the Holy Spirit.  Just as Philip was led to a person who was ripe to hear the Word, we too will be led.  Just as Philip trusted the guidance of the Spirit, we too must trust the Spirit.  Lastly, we must have a willing heart.  Are we willing to share what has the power to change another’s life forever?  Do you remember when you were saved?  do you know the power of Jesus Christ in your life?  Help another person one step closer to Christ today.

Acts 8: 26-31

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Led by the Spirit

Philip was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, a place that is usually unsafe, especially alone.  He followed the Spirit’s lead.  In our own journeys of faith how often have we felt the nudge to go somewhere we questioned?  In those times when we allowed our inner fears to trump the nudge, each of us probably missed an opportunity to share our faith.

As Philip drew near to the eunuch, he heard him reading from Isaiah, “.. led like a sheep to the slaughter…”  Again led by the Spirit, Philip engaged the man in conversation.  How many times has God opened our eyes to someone who was wrestling with a passage of scripture or some other challenge life has brought their way?  Here to we each probably felt the nudge or heard the still, small voice saying “Go.”  Again we maybe missed the chance to share our faith or to bear another’s burdens as we chose to flee instead of to go.  We allow all the questions and doubts to again trump the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Philip was not seminary trained, he was just Spirit-led.  He did not have some extra-special connection or pipeline to the Holy Spirit. He had the same connection we have – through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Philip trusted the nudge.  Philip was committed to sharing the good news.  In this instance he forever changed a man’s life.  This week we will all probably have the opportunity to share our faith.  May our faith allow us to make the same decision Philip made: to go where the Spirit leads and to trust in our Lord and Savior.

Scripture reference: Acts 8: 26-40

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Words and Witness

The alpha and omega, the beginning and the end.  Our God is eternal.  Before the first particles started to come together to form the earth, God was long present.  We believe that Christ died to give us everlasting life.  This connects each of us to the eternal nature of God.

Today’s psalm reminds us of our connection both to God and to all of our fellow believers.  Although our physical time here on earth is limited, we are connected to a God that is limitless.  We are also connected to all who have come before who called on the name of Jesus.   It is the ‘great cloud of witness’ or the ‘communion of saints’ that form the first segment of believers.  The psalm also reminds us there are also future generations of believers yet to come.  One day each of us will be a part of heaven and unknown generations will follow in our footsteps.

There are both older people in our churches and many examples in the Bible of people who give us a witness to what it means to live a life of faith.  These people teach us both by word and deed.  Their faithful witness in times past and in our current time helps us in our journeys of faith.

We are also a part of this educational process.  We too are examples of faith to those just beginning their relationship with Christ.  Our witness to them is important.  Just as the nurturing, teaching, and love poured into us helped us to grow in the faith, we too are called to do the same.  Our witness also calls us outside our immediate circles of faith and into the world.  Our words and deeds also call out to the unbeliever, inviting them into our communities of faith and into relationship with Jesus Christ.  Shine your light for all to see.

Scripture reference: Psalm 22: 25-31

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He Is Calling

The message of the gospel is for all people.  In His role as the Good Shepherd, Jesus cares for all of the ‘sheep’ in the world.  In today’s reading Jesus says there are sheep in the ‘other flock’ as well.  They too must become part of our flock.

Society has changed over the last fifty years.  For the most part we have lost the neighborhood church or parish.  Most people drive in to the church from their homes in neighborhoods spread out all over town.  In our community people drive past several other churches on their way to their church.  Often people are drawn to a church by denominational ties or because of a friend or family member who already attends that church.

One of the negatives to the community churches that dominate today is the reality that most churches have lost touch with their actual neighbors.  Churches in general minister to the flock that is already inside the walls but struggle to connect with the ‘other flock.’  Those outside the walls of the church physically and spiritually are the ones Jesus seeks too.

As followers of Jesus we are called to a mission and purpose.  We are called to share the love and light of Christ with the lost sheep, many of whom are our neighbors.  The message of the cross is too powerful to keep to ourselves.  As the sheep already in the flock, we know the voice of the Good Shepherd.  Can you hear His voice calling us to reach the least and the lost?  Can you hear His voice calling us outside the walls of our churches and into the lives of the ‘other flock’?  Can you hear the call to share the good news?  He is calling.  Will you follow?

Scripture reference: John 10: 15b-18

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Better and Better

In our daily walk of faith I think God is seeking effort not perfection.  There will be days when we struggle to focus in our daily prayer time.  Every now and then our lives are so harried we cannot even remember the scripture we just read, nevermind meditating and reflecting on it.  God does not expect perfect children.

God does expect effort though.  If it is our desire to know God, we must invest in the relationship.  In life we get to know someone by spending time with them, by observing them, by listening to their stories.  If it our desire to know God and to hear His voice, this will require time and effort on our part.

The Good Shepherd cares for each of us.  Jesus laid down His life for each and every one of us.  He wants to guide and protect us, to teach and give discernment, and to offer rest and peace.  Jesus knows each of us by name and He knows all of our needs.  His desire is that we would know Him intimately as well.  Jesus wants us to be so close to Him that hearing His voice becomes second nature to us.

It is through prayer, study of the Bible, meditation, worship, and reflection that we come to know Jesus.  In these, prayer is of particular importance.  It is within these moments of personal silence before our Savior that He can best speak to us.   We must provide time, space, and attention to hear His voice.  We can also hear His voice in the practice of these other disciplines as well.  For some this is especially true in worship.  As we consistently spend time with our Good Shepherd, we draw closer and closer.  This day and each day, may our hearing become better and better.

Scripture reference: John 10: 11-15ap

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A Living Testament

Faith is not so simple as saying “I believe.”  It is the requisite first step to a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Our faith is built in and upon the “I believes”: I believe in the virgin birth, in the teachings of Jesus, in His death and resurrection, and in the promise of eternal life.

But one cannot stop at this point of belief.  If one does, life is hard.  Belief will only get you so far.  It is the first step in the relationship, but one must see inward change as well.  It is possible to say ‘I believe’ and to go on living a life of sin.  Belief is like entering the cocoon.  The transformation comes once inward change begins.  To facilitate this change, it is necessary to invite the Holy Spirit to live within us.  Once we do this and experience the daily presence of Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Spirit, then our life is forever changed.

The Holy Spirit then begins to work on that inward change.  In a short time the Spirit’s inner workings lead to outward expressions of God’s love.  Life more and more becomes about sharing the love of God with all that we meet.  No barrier holds us back or stands in our way.  The love of God conquers all.  Our transformation to a new creation draws nearer.

As we share the love of God with others, Christ comes to be more and more a part of who we are.  In time, He is our all in all.  n time our life becomes a living testament to His great love.

Scripture reference: 1 John 3: 21-24

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The Second Line

“God is love” is a widely used statement.  When I ask my Youth to describe Jesus using only one word, the word they always choose is “love.”  If we ask how much God or Jesus loves us, we know we cannot quantify the answer.  Their love for us is so vast we cannot comprehend it.  In the Bible our greatest example of ‘how much’ is found on the cross.  In this we get an inkling not only of how much but also the idea that love is intended to be shared or given away to and for others.

In my Upper Room Devotional book, today’s reading contains these words: “The person with true love from God displays the same kind of unconditional love towards all just as Jesus evidenced that agape love toward us.  We do not even consider refusing the needs of a sister or brother in need.”  If you were like me, you were thinking “yep, yep, yep…” as you read the first sentence.  Then you too got to the second sentence.  Conviction time!

As I wrestled with that second line, I came to realize this was really true of Jesus – He didn’t refuse anyone.  As I went further with these thoughts, I came to again see that this idea extended to the cross.  He didn’t die for some of our sins or for a select group of sinners.  Jesus died for all the sins of all the people.  When we are called to follow the example of Christ and to love our neighbors, God means all the people, all the time.  May God grant the strength, faith, and love necessary to walk this path of unconditional love and to do as Jesus did.

Scripture reference: 1 John 3: 16-24

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The Shepherd

Psalm 23 is probably the most well-known psalm.  It is so well-known because of its content.  It speaks so beautifully of the relationship we have with God.  In the words of the psalm we hear how fully David trusts in God because he knows God is always there.

In the psalm God is in the role of the shepherd.  David, and later Jesus, will come to play the role of shepherd as well.  In all of these cases the people are the sheep under the loving shepherd’s care.  This care is spelled out so so richly in Psalm 23.  Today we are the sheep as well.  In this care we find our needs are met.  We find times of rest when we refresh our souls.  We find both guidance and protection.

Beyond these basics, we also find care that extends to our spiritual and emotional needs.  The Good Shepherd prepares for us a table and blesses us with oil.  With Him we are assured that goodness and mercy will be with us all of our days.  Within this relationship we come to see that we do indeed dwell in the house of the Lord all our days.

When we get to this place in our relationship with the Shepherd, the fears, doubts, and other concerns of life do not have a grip on us.  We trust in His care. We rest in His love.  When we know our Shepherd is walking with us through all of life, then we begin to live life to the fullest.  Not only do we live in and enjoy the abundance of God’s grace and love, but we begin to share Him with others.  Our cup overflows into other’s lives.  Through sharing how the Shepherd cares for and loves us, we help others to come into His care as well.

Scripture reference: Psalm 23

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Power in the Name

Something as simple as a name can have a lot of meaning.  The names of famous people can invoke memories or emotions.  For each of us we also have a list of names that do the same things for us personally.  To others, our name has the same effect.

No name carries the power that the name of Jesus carries.  In today’s story a man finds healing when Peter and John call on the name of Jesus.  When the twelve were originally sent out, it was in the name of Jesus.  Then and after Jesus was resurrected, these ordinary men did many amazing works and miracles in the name of Jesus.

Jesus continues to be the cornerstone today.  He is the gate through which all of us must pass to enter eternal life.  Jesus himself declared that He is the only way to the Father; Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  The Holy Spirit only enters into each of us after we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Even to this day, Christians all around the world often end their prayers with the phrase “in the name of Jesus.”

A song I learned recently begins with the words “there is power in the name of Jesus” repeated several times.  It is followed by the words “to break every chain”, also repeated several times.  As broken, imperfect creatures, only the name of Jesus saves us.  He is the true cornerstone or foundation upon which our faith stands.  It is only through and in the name of Jesus that we find salvation.  In the personal relationship we each can have with Jesus we find grace, love, forgiveness.  Call on the name of Jesus and allow Him to break every chain.  Call on His name and be redeemed.

Scripture reference: Acts 4: 11-12