Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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As We Go Out

It is not natural for most people to get up in the morning and to wonder how they can be weak and powerless that day.  It is just not a place many of us feel comfortable being.  Most of us like to be in control of our own choices to some degree.  Some like to be in control of some of the choices others make as well.  But at a minimum we all like to feel we have some autonomy over at least ourselves.

Power comes in many forms.  And there are at least as many ways to abuse and distort power as well.  With power can come pride, ego, boasting, privilege, domination, and a host of other negative things.

Power can be good too.  It is just a different kind of power.  It is a power not of this world so this world is puzzled by it.  It is a power this world cannot defeat or destroy either.  This power is gentle yet strong, soft yet enduring, simple yet powerful.  God whispered to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  God was telling Paul, “I got it.”

The thorn Paul was facing and the thorns we face serve to remind us that we are weak and that we must rely on God and Him alone.  For when we fall to our knees and lift up our hands acknowledging that we cannot do it alone, then God’s grace and love and strength come rushing in.  His resurrection power is what allows us to be renewed each day, to take up our cross each day, and to follow Jesus Christ each day.  As we go out, we go with God.  He whispers to us too, “I got it.”

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 12: 2-10

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A Mighty Fortress

In general we live in a very secure world.  For the most part our homes are safe and we have emergency personnel that will respond quickly if we need them.  The writer of today’s psalm did not live this life.  Vulnerability and powerlessness typified the psalmist’s world.  For most of Israel’s existence another, greater power ruled over them.  In times when they ruled themselves, threats from all around were always present.  So the psalmist turns to God as the only source of true strength.  The writer sees God’s steadfast love as the only secure constant.  God is his or her fortress.

How many of us try to build our own fortress?  We build ourselves up walls with all of our degrees, with all of our wealth, with all of our possessions, with all of our positions or titles.  In these things we think we find security.  But all of these things are fleeting.  All are temporary.  Despite our best efforts, loss will come.   It may be a job or a loved one or a home.  In these moments and events we come to realize that we do not really control too much.  One higher is in control.

When we choose to surrender our illusion of being in control, we gain freedom.  When we choose to acknowledge that God alone has the power, we gain liberation.  When we choose to trust His leading, we find peace.  When we choose to surrender our worry and anxiety, we find rest.  As we give ourselves up more and more to God, we find what t he psalmist found.

We find that God is a mighty fortress.  We find great security in His unfailing love, in His steadfast mercy, and in His unending forgiveness.  With God as our stronghold we find rest, peace, joy, contentment, love, and so much more.  The God of the ages is our God in every moment, in every situation, and in every way.

Scripture reference: Psalm 48

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Full of Belief

When we get to the end of our rope, we often beg or plea for help.  When we feel there is nothing else that we can do, we turn for help.  When life deals us a hand that we cannot make sense of, we beg for a way to make sense of it all.

Jarius comes to Jesus.  He is a ruler in the synagogue.  For him to come to Jesus, he must be desperate.  He falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Jesus to come heal his sick daughter.  On their way to Jarius’ house a desperate, desperate woman turns to Jesus as her last resort and silently begs for healing.  She finds it in the hem of His cloak, in a faith strong enough to believe.

While still on the way, news come that the daughter is dead.  Jesus response to Jarius: “Do not be afraid.  Just believe.”  He is challenging Jarius to go beyond his desperate faith to a faith that is solid.  Jarius has seen the woman healed simply by touching Jesus’ cloak.  He heard Jesus credit the healing to her faith.  So maybe Jarius holds out a speck of hope.

The story ends in a house full of people crying and grieving when they arrive.  Jesus tells them she is only asleep and they laugh.  Upstairs, alone in the room with the parents and  the inner circle of disciples, Jesus calls the girl back from the dead.  She rises and walks around.  She is alive again.  “Just believe.”  Jarius and family must have.  The healed woman must have.  They turned to begging when they had no other choice.

Jesus will be present in our begging too.  When we come to Him with our pleas and supplications, we too will find His presence.  When we go to Jesus full of faith, we will find Him there.  We must be aware that healing may not come.  It is about being with and giving our full faith to Jesus Christ, in both the good and the bad.  It is about growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Scripture reference: Mark 5: 21-43

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Powerful Words

Healing involves more than the physical.  It often includes the emotional and the spiritual as well.  Often getting “better” physically is easier than emotionally or spiritually because a prescription usually puts our bodies on the mend.  When we are broken emotionally or spiritually, the process of healing is usually more complex than a pill.

Yet when one is physically ill for a long period of time, it does affect your emotional and spiritual well-being also.  Try to imagine being the woman  in today’s scripture – afflicted with a bleeding problem for 12 years, unclean according to Jewish Law, broke because she has spent everything trying to get better.  Think what this has done to her mind and spirit.

Yet inside her still flickers a bit of hope.  She hears that Jesus is nearby.  She works her way through the crowd and sneaks up behind Him.  In faith she touches His cloak.  Talk about faith – “If I just touch His cloak…”  The bleeding stops.  She knows at once that she has been healed.  Imagine what that meant to her – able to be a part of society again, able to go into the temple, able to start to reassemble her life.  Jesus blesses her and sends her on her way.

“Your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.  Be freed from your suffering.”  Powerful words.  Powerful words spoken to you and me as well.  Words offered to us for our physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and wholeness.  Like the woman, we need to reach out to Jesus.  Like her, we need to go to Him in faith.  And like her, we too can feel His power released into our lives.  Go to Jesus.

Scripture reference: Mark 5: 25-34

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So Others May Simply Live

We often struggle with the question of “How much?”  It is a question that goes both ways.  How much do I keep for myself, storing it up in the bank?  How much should I give to the church and other charitable organizations?  It is a fine line that is difficult to define or explain.

Could one pay their bills and give the rest of what one has left away at the end of each month?  I suppose one could but it would cause problems when one needs new tires or when a child hits a growth spurt and needs new clothes.  But on the other extreme one does not need millions in the bank either.  In reality, most of us live between these extremes.

Another reality is that most of us live with much more than we need.  We live in abundance.  We live with an excess of food, cars, televisions, clothes, bedrooms in our homes, and on and on and on.  Can we learn to live with enough so that others may simply live?

To do so requires trust and living in community.  We must trust God and each other.  We need to learn to live relying on God to provide and trusting that others will come along side us when we need them to.  We must learn to live in true community, being sensitive to and responsive to the needs of others in our communities.  We must be OK with saying ‘no’ when it is appropriate or when we have nothing to give but still be willing to offer empathy or to help another to other resources.  May we learn to live with less so that others may simply live.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15

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Jesus was all about giving.  He was all about the ways in which He could offer Himself and His gifts to make other’s lives better.  He gave away all that He could for the sake of those He encountered.  Ultimately Jesus gave even His life for us.

The king of the universe who could control anything He wanted – nature, death, physical disabilities and limitations – humbled Himself and took on human form.  He who is more powerful than anyone, stooped down to our level and gave and gave and gave.  He calls us to follow.

Paul writes, “he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”  He was encouraging the church in Corinth to recognize the gift Jesus gave as a means of inspiring them to be generous.  Paul saw the church as a connected body.  He encouraged them to give now when they can and trust, in faith, that when they are in need, others will provide for them.

Jesus taught by example the practice of “self-emptying.”  He showed us the way.  As we give to others, we become less and Jesus becomes more.  In this process we die to self and come to see the world through His eyes.  John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer offers these words, “Let me be full, let me be empty.  Let me have all things, let me have nothing.”  God fills us up so that by giving to others we can be empty.  God blesses us so that in turn we can bless others.  This day may we be generous with all we have.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 8: 7-15

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Turn to Him

Psalm 130 has a somber tone to it.  It is one of the Penitential psalms.  Many if us can relate to this psalm type because we have all had times of sadness or depression.  These psalms resonate with us.  Sometimes we question God or our faith in these seasons.  In these times it is important to remember that God is always fully present with us, no matter our state of mind or heart.

God knows what it is like to wrestle with these feelings of sadness, emotional emptiness, and anguish.  In he form of Jesus, God experienced these emotions.  Jesus wept tears for Lazarus.  He sought solitude at times when the feelings of being completely drained rested heavy upon Him.  He cried blood tears of anguish in the garden.  Jesus has been there too so He intercedes for us and He reaches out a hand towards us.

The psalmist reminds us of God’s role too: “with the Lord is steadfast love and with Him is great power to redeem.”  It is a love that comes to us out of Jesus’ experiences.  It is a love that wants the best for us all of the time.  It is a love that brings healing and wholeness.  It is a love to which we are always called and invited into.

In the midst of the hard day, in the middle of the struggle, we must turn to Him.  Spend time in the Word, time in prayer, and time with Jesus.

Scripture reference: Psalm 130

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In Community

Loss can be hard to bear.  David pours out his heart ad h grieves for Saul and Jonathan.  Even though Saul had been difficult and at times antagonistic, David still offers up his grief over Sail’s death.  David was very close to Jonathan, Saul’s son, and yet in this eulogy it sounds as if he loved them equally.  In this sense it is a fairly common eulogy: it focuses on the positives of the deceased.

In our culture today the time immediately after the death seems to be the “acceptable” time to mourn.  Once the funeral is over society gives the impression that it is time to move on.  When sadness creeps back upon us at random times or because something reminded us of our loved one, we seek to find a private place so that we avoid the awkward or uncomfortable created by our sudden outpouring of emotions.

This is just the opposite of what it should be.  God created us for community.  In today’s writing from 2nd Samuel, David creates a shared way for the people to mourn.  He acknowledges the sense of community that God calls us to so that we may find the strength and support we need.  He calls us to be open and honest with our grief so that the healing process can lead us to a better place emotionally and spiritually.   David names and admits his grief and sorrow.  In doing so he offers others and us the permission to be open and honest with our emotions.  In community we can find strength and support.  There we offer it as well.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 1:1and 17-27

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Trust in His Presence

David’s lament pays tribute to the slain Saul and David.  He remembers them for their bravery and valor in battle.  He recalls their love for country and the grace they offered.  He puts word to the grief he feels over the loss of King and dear friend.

When someone close to us dies, we also do a similar thing.  When we gather for the wake or visitation we share pictures and other items that remind us of the one who has gone on.  We share our stories of time spent with our loved one or dear friend.  At the funeral we hear stories or memories shared by the pastor and often by those giving eulogies as a part of the service.  In these good and happy memories we release and relieve some of our grief.

In this text for today we see David’s trust and faith in God as well.  We too hold onto the same faith and trust in God.  He both welcomes our grief and extends His arms of comfort and love to each of us in our time of need.  We trust His presence in our time of need.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 1:1 and 17-27

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Has Been All Along

Jesus and the disciples set out across the lake in a boat at night.  It is hard to see and to read the sky at night.  A storm suddenly began and soon the disciples were fearing for their lives.  And Jesus was asleep.

Life can be routine.  We can go to work day after day.  Weekends come and go but don’t seem to really interrupt the routine.  They are just part of it.  Life is just moving along and suddenly there is a storm.  It seems to come out of nowhere and takes us by surprise.  We had been walking along, as if in the dark.  We call out to Jesus but realize that maybe we’ve let Him slip out of our daily life.  That matters not to Him.  He is right there.  Has been all along.

When the disciples woke Jesus because their fears had conquered them, He did not throw them overboard.  He realized their fear and rebuked the storm.  Immediate calm.  After giving them what I imagine was just enough time to take in what just happened, He turns to them.  In essence He asks, “After all this time, still no faith?”

When the storms of life suddenly blind side us, we flail and reach for Jesus.  In our minds we may even wonder how He could let this happen.  I don’t want to know what is on His mind.  Maybe His first question to us would be, “Where ya been?”  Truth be told, our faith waivers a lot.  In the trials we definitely think we need Jesus.  But He knows better.  That is why He is always right there.  And that is why He has been all along.  Thanks Jesus!

Scripture reference: Mark 4: 35-41