Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Bread of Life

Jesus, the bread of life, the bread of heaven, wants to feed us.  His food is for our spirits.   Jesus desires to pour into our hearts both to fill us with His joy and to sustain us in the hard days we all face.

The crowd in the story today is almost the same crowd who ate of the fishes and loaves the day before.  They have been physically fed by a miraculous work of Jesus and they are back wanting more.  Like us sometimes, they ask, “What must we do?”  But Jesus has no requirements.  There is no ticket to punch.  He simply wants to give us the bread of life.  Out of His great love for us, the gift of life is offered to all.

Jesus simply invites us into His presence to be fed.  We can ‘fill up’ in many ways – in worship, in prayer, in praise, in study.  At the table of the Lord we are fed.  His spirit and presence fill us up.  Oddly enough, over time we come to the place of desiring to offer our thanks. The ‘must’ becomes ‘can’ as we ask, “What can we do?”  As we are filled we come to want to share the bread of life with others through word, acts of mercy, and acts of kindness.This is our grateful response to Christ’s great love being poured into us.

As we ourselves continue to come to the bread of life, we grow to become more and more like Christ.  Out of His great love for us we are led to love others more.  In our churches, in our places of work or school, in our social settings, in or homes we will have opportunities to lead others to the table of our Lord.  This invitation is one of the greatest offers we can offer another.  This day may we find one who is lost and bring them to the table.

Scripture reference: John 6: 24-35

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Choose Life

Bread is usually a basic part of most people’s diets.  When Jesus proclaimed that He was the ‘bread of life’ those listening would have connected this to one of the necessities of life.  His Jewish audience would also connect this statement to the manna that saved their ancestors in the desert.  Jesus points out to them that that bread was also from God.

As food is a necessity for life, hunger can drive our thoughts and actions.  Jesus often spoke of meeting the needs of the those who were hungry by giving them something to eat.  Yet Jesus knew that this earthly food was only temporary.  Even though satisfied right then it was only for a moment.  So Jesus offered Himself to His audience and to us as the ‘bread of life’ – bread that satisfies a deeper hunger that resides in all of us.

Food satisfies out physical need or hunger.  But this is not the only type of hunger we face.  We all crave to be loved, to find companionship, to fit in, to be successful, to be in control, ….  The list goes on and on.  We are vulnerable to being tempted to try to fill our hungers in unhealthy and temporal ways.  The recent story of David and Bathsheba reminds us how quickly it can go bad when one gives in to the desires of our flesh.

Jesus offers Himself to us as the ‘bread of life’ in the passage today.  Through this, He offers us life abundant.  Jesus can also be our ‘living water’, rising up within us.  When we choose to walk with Jesus we are filled with His presence.  Like bread, He sustains us when we are in need or are struggling with temptations.  Like water, He quenches our thirst for all we desire.  When we choose Jesus, we choose life.

Scripture reference: John 6: 24-35

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Engaging Systems

Our sins are not always the things we do.  Sometimes they are the things we fail to do.  Our sins are not always personal; sometimes they are communal or corporate.

About once a month we have a homeless person come to church on  Sunday.  Sometimes it is some other individual who is noticeable because they are different from the regular worshiper.  As the people of God we are called to love all people and as a whole we really do well at this.  But not always.  Some days we are only as loving or good or welcoming as our weakest or lowest part.  So it is our task as fellow believers to notice these weaker parts and to build them up in love for all people.  We cannot and should not accept less.

As a society there are ills and things that are not ‘right’ in all of our communities.  These are things that certainly cause a tear to roll down God’s cheek.  As the people of God we are called to address the issues in our communities.  This does not mean simply jumping on the latest Facebook bandwagon and adding your ‘like’.  It means being on the streets and in the shelters and in the jails.  It means going to the places where the least, the lost, and the broken are and entering into relationships with them.

To truly be the people of God and to really love all of our neighbors, we must roll up our sleeves and get a little dirty.  We must truly walk alongside those in need to begin to see things at a systemic level.  It is at this level that we must begin change.  To end prejudice, injustice, and hate we must begin with fixing the systems that cause these evils.  As Christians we must engage the evils of the world.  We are called to be the light in the darkness.  Our light needs to shine into these dark places to begin real change at the base level.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-12

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Past Confession

Communion is a time we gather once a week or once a month as a community of faith.  In this sacrament we remember both what Christ did for us at the cross and what He continues to do for us.  Through Christ we can be cleansed, forgiven, and restored to a right relationship with God.

In Psalm 51 we find ourselves with David just after he has been convicted of his transgressions with Bathsheba and Uriah.  In the opening verses we can hear David’s pain and sorrow just pouring out.  A man who is known for being close to God’s heart finds himself away from God because of his own actions.  David acknowledges the sinful nature inherently in all of mankind.  He acknowledges that his sin is against God.  And he acknowledges that God desires more.  All of this is true of us and our relationship with God as well.

Our reality is that we sin more than once a week and certainly more than once a month.  We need to come before God more regularly than at the communion table.  And His good news is that we can.  Lamentations 3 reminds us that God’s mercy and compassion never fail.  They are new every morning and great is His faithfulness.  Each day, each hour, each moment we can come before our loving God to be made new.

David goes on past confession and we must also go there.  In the second half of the psalm he asks God to create in him a pure heart and a steadfast spirit.  He asks God to restore the joy of His salvation within.  May the God of all love, hope, and mercy create in each of us a pure and willing heart and a steadfast spirit that willingly kneels at the cross of Jesus Christ each day, each hour, and each moment.

Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-12

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Sin can so easily slip into our lives.  Sometimes it is ‘small sin’ – unkind thoughts, jealous thoughts, angry thoughts.  We catch ourselves quickly, often wonder where that thought came from, and we seek forgiveness from God in order to mend our relationship with Him.  Maybe we do not check it so soon and the thoughts become words.  Then we must also seek to mend that human relationship with the one we offended or hurt.  In both cases we must look within to find the cause of the sin and work to make that right as well.

Sometimes the temptation is a little bigger and we succumb to it.  The pull is more that we think we can withstand on our own and the draw is greater than our desire to turn to God for help.  We head down a road we know we should not be on, moving forward anyway.  We have all been here before and will probably be there again.  Maybe we did not go as far as David went but we can certainly relate.

Nathan was a true friend to David and he was faithful to God.  He had these two characteristics we all need in those closest to us.  Led by God, Nathan came and spoke truth into David’s life.  He called him out and forced David to look at his sin.  I am positive that David knew he was sinning every step of the way.  We always do too.  David just needed a good friend like Nathan to name it so that he could own it.

Do you have a Nathan or two in your life?  Are you a Nathan to a couple people close to you who you value?  No matter how big or small we each are in the grand scheme of life, we all need to have accountability partners.  I need people willing to say, “John, we need to talk.”  Others need me to do this for them.  It is together that we grow in faith; in community we are each better.  May we each be the iron that sharpens iron.

Scripture reference: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

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A Little More

After the feeding of the five thousand the disciples head out across the lake without Jesus.  He has sent them on ahead presumably with reassurances that He will join them later.  One can assume that the disciples thought Jesus meant in Capernaum, their destination.  About three miles into their journey, they discover another reality.  With water as far as the eye can see in the dark of the night, the disciples spot something approaching.

The disciples reality is jarred as  they must have moved from “Hey look” to “can’t be” to “it is?” as Jesus draws near to the boat.  Jesus was not on a jet ski or in a speed boat.  He was walking on the water.  This must have struck a chord of fear in the disciples as He had to reassure them and calm them as He climbed into the boat.  I bet his sandals and the edges of His clothing were not even wet.

The scriptures tell us that as Jesus joins them, just as He got into the boat, suddenly they were there on shore.  Once He joins them they are there.  Does this phenomenon occur in our lives?  Does it ever seem as if Jesus sends us out and we journey along on our own?  Then just at the right time He is there, right in the midst of life with us?  Then He too says, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”

His presence is an amazing part of this journey of faith.  Although God is omnipotent and omnipresent, it seems at times we get a little extra ‘bump’ – He is just a little more present, a little more with us when we need Him most.  He calms us with the same words again, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”  For this we say thank be to God!

Scripture reference: John 6: 16-21

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Expect God

Expectations.  We all have them.  When someone you know and love is struggling with something, what do you expect?  When life throws you a curve ball, what us it that you expect?  For most of us, we expect to make it through, to be okay in the end.

A large crowd had gathered to hear Jesus teach that day.  They were spellbound with His words.  The day grew long.  Jesus tossed a problem to the disciples – feed them.  We’ve been there – maybe just not quite this extreme.  Boss or teacher or parent tosses us an assignment, project, or task that is due yesterday.  After the panic passes, we set to it and somehow get it done.  Sound familiar?

The disciples also panic.  They utter out loud what we usually only think.  What?!  Do you know what you are asking?  There are thousands here!  Can you see Jesus watching, arms folded, slight grin on His face?  Without being asked He steps in.  Just moments later thousands have eaten their fill and 12 baskets of leftovers are gathered up.  All from two fish and  five loaves of bread.  A miracle has happened.  All are amazed at His power.

Do you think they all expected to be fed?  Surely they could see there was no caravan of wagons laden with food.  Do you think any of the disciples’ first thought was to turn to Jesus when He handed out this impossible task?  Neither is mine.  It should be.  I read all about the miracles.  I believe them.  I hear of miracles in the world today.  I believe they happen all the time.  I just don’t expect them in my life.  I should.  Lord God, open my eyes and heart to the expectation of miracles in my life and in my world.  Help my unbelief.

Scripture reference: John 6: 1-15

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Immeasurably More

As we gather together in worship we get a glimpse of the community of faith in unity.  We come together in Word, in prayer, in song, in spirit, and in praise.  We come together on a regular basis to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to find forgiveness as a people of faith.  In worship we are rooted together.

We are all equal before God and nowhere is that more evident than in worship.  In those seats in the sacred space young and old, rich and poor come together.  We unite as one regardless of social, economic, or ethnic background.  All come together to offer our praise and thanksgiving to God.  In world we are blended together.

It is in worship that we experience God’s power, authority, grace, love, forgiveness, and presence.  Out time in worship is a time when we are made new and refreshed to return to our lives in the world.  It is also a tie when we are equipped and empowered to go forth into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

During worship we come to see through Word, prayer, sacrament, and song that our God is indeed great.  We come to see that He can and will do immeasurably more than we can ask for or imagine.  We come to feel His power within us and we are filled with His desire to share His glory with people through all the generations.  His is a presence experienced in community – community with each other and with God.  May all find Him in community with others this day.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 20-21

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His Great Love

God desires our openness and willingness of heart so that the Holy Spirit may dwell within each of us.  When we welcome in the Holy Spirit, we welcome in Christ.  When we are willing to live with Jesus Christ in our hearts, we begin to understand just how wide, long, deep, and high God’s love is for each of us.  With the understanding we begin to be rooted in that love; it becomes the core of who we are.

As communities of faith or congregations, this deep abiding love is what unites us.  The love of God draws us to one another in loving, caring relationships.  This love and sense of Christ dwelling in and among us begins to drive what we do as a people of faith.  This vast love of God takes the lead on how we love one another and how we love our neighbors.

God by nature and Jesus in example were all about being full of love.  When our cup is full of this love we are best able to extend and share His love with those in need of that love.  As our cup is filled by God, we begin to experience a life lived in His presence.

This love leads us to serve others, to care for others, and to minister to others.  We no longer seek to be in control or to hold onto power.  Instead we seek to empower others to live lives of faith and to claim this wide, long, deep, high love that God offers for themselves.  This love becomes contagious.  May we be contagious today.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 3: 14-19

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This Day, O Lord

In the world there are fools and wise people, evil doers and the righteous.  For the Christian, for me, it is a constant battle to live wisely and as a righteous person.  Both the internal and external challenges are plentiful each day.  It is only with His strength that one has a chance at being wise and righteous.

Unfortunately at times I can live foolishly and can be far from God.  In these times, what I think or say lacks more integrity.  I fall into self-indulgence and do not hold myself accountable.  I fail to remain close to God at all times.  But on these days and in these moments, if I am quick to respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, then I can find redemption and return to the path God intends for me.

Living wisely and seeking to be righteous is a plan that requires something more than I naturally have in me.  I must work at building up God’s presence in my life through the daily practices of prayer, stud, confession, meditation, and worship.  This connection to God allows me to reach out more quickly when temptation comes my way.  This connection sensitized me more to the Spirit’s convictions and promptings.

In living connected to and aligned with God, I more easily see the world and its needs as He does.  I come to know that God loves all people equally.  It is His will to come to those in need and to do all we can for them.  It is His will that His name be made known to the ends of the earth.  It is His will to live in a harmonious relationship with each of us.  This day, O Lord, may I live in step with You.  This day, O Lord, may I be your servant in all the places you put me today.

Scripture reference: Psalm 14