Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Word In, Word Out

In my community it is easy to go to church.  Access to a Bible is almost a given.  Finding a place to Worship or a Bible to read in our native language is not very difficult.  We have such open access to the Word.  All that holds us back is our personal choices concerning what to do with our time.  There are places in our whole though where the Word is simply not available in a language the people speak or read.  All they know of the Word of God is what is shared orally by a missionary or by someone who has heard one.  And for many of us in parts of the world where the access is so easy, the reality is that His Word remains a ‘foreign language’ to many.

God placed His words in Jeremiah’s mouth when He called him to service.  The Word is powerful.  God tells Jeremiah that God’s word can uproot and tear down kingdoms and that it can also build up and plant.  The truth in this remains with us today as well.  God’s word continues to work in our lives to destroy those little kingdoms we establish and also to continually build up and plant vision, hope, love, light, and such.  All of this so that we can live these things out and so that we can share them with others.  Just as God placed His Word in Jeremiah’s mouth to call people to God’s commandments and to the covenant, we too are given God’s Word to do the same.

We also share the Word orally.  The words we take in are given not only for our lives, but to share with others as well.  Perhaps it is with a friend who is struggling or maybe it is with one who is searching for direction or meaning in life.  There is a hunger for the Word of God everywhere, even here where access is easy and open.  May we who know God make the choice to be diligently in the Word so that we are rich in what we have to share.  And may we freely share His Word with all we meet to both uproot and destroy those things that keep us from God and to build up and plant those things that draw us to Him.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 1: 9-10

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Faith and Relationship

Jesus grew up and lived for almost 30 years in the same small town.  Almost everyone in town must have known Him.  But they knew Him in the kid-next-door sense.  They had watched Mary and Joseph raise Jesus.  The saw Him do all the things boys from good Jewish homes do – He read and studied the Scripture, He participated in the Passover and other holidays each year, He learned His father’s trade.  When Jesus began His ministry it was away from His hometown.  This passage tells us that as a teacher and healer, He was respected and admired.

In today’s reading we find Jesus back at home.  He reads a passage from Isaiah and all spoke well of Him.  They were amazed at the words that came from His mouth.  But then Jesus spoke of other prophets who went to and ministered to those from ‘outside’.  What He was implying stirred the people up to the point that they were about to throw Him off of a cliff.

It is interesting that this story is in the Bible.  It is not a feel-good story and the people do not seem to gain any understanding from Jesus’ words.  They seem to miss the fact that Naaman was healed by faith.  They don’t remember that the prophet went to the widow in Sidon because of her deep faith.  In His hometown the people knew Jesus the person.  They did not know the Messiah.  The teachings and healing that they were hearing about were admired and respected, not believed.  In essence Jesus was saying that they lacked faith.  They had to have faith, not just know who Jesus was.

The same is true for us.  We can know all the stories in the Bible.  But we must go beyond simply knowing the stories and must enter into a personal relationship with Jesus.  We must believe that the stories are true and that Jesus’ miracles still happen in our lives.  We must call on Him as Lord and Savior to allow any of His power to begin to work in our lives.  Believe.  Have faith.  Know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Scripture reference: Luke 4: 21-30

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Filled with Love

We can express our love for God in many ways.  It can be expressed in worship, in our daily disciplines, in our service to others, and in how we treat our neighbors.  The love we share with others wells up and out of the love of God within and for us.  When we share this love of God with others, they too can come to know that love themselves.

But at times we can “do” things without really loving.  Have you ever gone to church on a Sunday morning when you really did not want to?  You smile and chat, bow you head and sing along, maybe even nod approvingly during the sermon – but inside you are not present or engaged.  Ever been of service because it was expected?  You go and help cook and serve the meal at the mission but inside of you there is apathy or maybe the resentment and anger are just below the surface.  In these and similar situations, the love of God seems far away.  In times like these we are the clanging symbols Paul writes of in today’s passage.

We get to this place a number of ways, but there are two primary ways.  First, we forget to be thankful to God.  If we are not intentional about making time daily to be thankful to God for our many blessings, it can be easy to forget how much He loves us.  Without His love filling us up, we have little true love to offer others.  The second way is we forget to love ourselves.  Being a constant well of love to others leaves us empty inside.  We can be so busy being in ministry to others that we do not allow ourselves the Sabbath we need.  In this too we must be intentional.  We are at our best loving God and loving others when we have a thankful and rested heart, filled with God’s love for us.  Then we can truly offer His love to the world.

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 & 13

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Closer and Closer

The psalmist’s words exhibit a deep relationship with God.  There is a connection that the psalmist feels has been present since birth.  In this statement it is implied that being in a relationship with God is all the psalmist has ever known.  For their part there is no other desire than this relationship.

Perhaps we each have similar relationships with our spouses or best friend.  While we have not been in the relationship since birth, over time it has grown to feel this way.  We feel as if we were “always” in the special relationship.  It is hard to remember a time when we were not deeply connected.

Both of these relationships share similar traits.  Over the years these relationships have seen good and bad sides as we have shared all of the joys and trials that are part of life.  There is also an intimacy that develops from being in the relationship day after day, year after year.  The level of honesty and openness is such that we can share anything with each other.  We grow to rely and depend on one another.

Many of us have this type of relationship with our spouse or best friend.  But is the same true of our relationship with God?  The psalmist certainly has this type of connection to God.  There is blunt honesty and high expectations in the writer’s relationship with God.  There is reliance and dependence also.  This is the type of relationship that God desires with all of His children.  To get there we must surrender some of self as we elevate the relationship above our own desires and wants.  Each day may we grow closer to God, falling more and more in love each day.

Scripture reference: Psalm 71: 4-6

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His Ways

The psalmist refers to God as their refuge, rescuer, and deliverer.  These are just a few of the many names we can attribute to God.  Others include, but are certainly not limited to, healer, provider, forgiver, restorer, reconciler, redeemer, comforter, King, and guide.  Each of these names speak to a characteristic or trait of God.  As His children, we call on Him to act on or to be these things as we seek His action through our prayers.  It is at times as if we are reminding God of who He is in hopes of finding healing or restoration or whatever it is we are petitioning God for.

The names we attach to God can also remind us of who He is.  The many and varied names remind us of how powerful and limitless our God is.  The fact that He is so many things to us reinforces the belief that God can be our all in all.  As we consider this, we come to realize that our God is capable of anything.

Yet, to us, God does not always do all that we ask.  Or so it appears to us.  For example, in the midst of a storm or trial in life, we ask our Great Deliverer to deliver us from the situation.  Or perhaps we come to our Great Healer and ask for Him to bring healing to a friend or loved one.  But we find that the trial goes on or that the person passes away.  We question if He is indeed deliverer or healer.  We forget that His plans are not our plans.  Maybe in the first case God was not quite done refining us.  Maybe in the second, the person found the healing they truly needed.  His ways are far above our ways.

In the end, if we are faithful, we will find deliverance or healing or whatever we seek.  May we be ever faithful and trust in His ways and in His plans for our lives.

Scripture reference: Psalm 71: 1-3

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Our Promises Too

The story of Jeremiah’s call is the call story many of us receive as well.  Like Jeremiah, God knew each of us before He formed us in the womb.  Like Jeremiah, God has a plan and a role for each of us to play in building His kingdom.  Like Jeremiah, God gives us the gifts, talents, and skills needed for the task.  And like Jeremiah, for most of us, our first response is, “Who, me?”

Who could blame God if He got angry when we respond this way?  It is kind of insulting that we question the omnipotent and omnipresent Creator of the universe and all that is in it.  But God is patient.  The only things that exceed His patience, in my opinion, are His grace and His love.  But He is patient.  When we ignore or deny the call or when we refuse to recognize or acknowledge the gifts and talents He had blessed us with, God just continues to nudge and prod and whisper and to bring before us people and opportunities until we choose to begin walking the path He has laid out for our lives.

We are not the first to question, deny, or run from our call.  Before Jeremiah there were people like Noah, Sarah and Abraham, and Moses – just to name a few.  There have been people like Esther, David, and a slew of others just like us who have taken their turn asking, “Who, me?”. Just as He was with all who have come before and required more than one ask, God was patient and used each one according to His plan.

If you are hesitant to answer God’s call, remember the promises He gave Jeremiah.  They are our promises too.  The first is: do not be afraid.  The second is: I am with you.  The third is: I will rescue you.  His promises are true.  As we live into God’s call upon our lives and as we boldly step out in faith, may we remember and hold onto these promises.  They are our promises too.  As we do so, He will bless us on our faith journey.

Scripture reference: Jeremiah 1: 4-10

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His Love Never Fails

God’s love never fails. While it is true that tongues will become still and knowledge will pass away, God’s love will always remain.  Paul ends this chapter in his letter to the Corinthians with the reminder that faith, hope, and love remain with us, but that the greatest of these is love.  It is knowing how deep and wide God’s love is that allows us to hold onto our faith and to keep hope even in our hardest trials.

Since the moment we were formed, God’s love surrounds us.  His love continues to be with us daily, giving us comfort, strength, and protection.   We see His love surrounding many in the Bible.  A few examples are when He guided the people through the sea as He protected them from the Egyptians; when He kept David safe as Saul pursued him; when He comforted Jesus in the wilderness; and when He gave Stephen strength in his time of persecution and stoning.  And these are just a few examples.

Paul also writes of setting aside childish ways and becoming mature in our faith.  This is what we continually do on our journey of faith.  As we grow in our faith, we learn to trust in God a little longer, to hold onto our hope a little tighter, and to rely on His love a little more.  It is a process though.  We are never suddenly right where we want to be in a growth process.  It takes time.  We experience a setback here and there.  But we must keep going forward and striving to grow in faith, hope, and love.

God’s love never fails.  May we ever keep this locked in our hearts and written on our minds as we continue on this journey of faith.  Blessings!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 13: 8-13

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A Personal Connection

In His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus goes to the temple and teaches from the scroll containing the words of the prophet Isaiah.  Luke makes mention that many there are aware of and appreciative of Jesus’ teachings up to this point.  What He reads that day would be a well-known passage.  The ideas of bringing the good news to the poor, releasing captives, bringing sight to the blind, setting the oppressed free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor all were part of the Jewish mindset.  Heads would have been nodding their approval.  But then Jesus added one more thing.  He claimed to be the fulfillment of this passage.  He states that He is this Messiah.  He created discomfort and ruffled feathers.

Fast forward to now.  When one speaks of sharing the good news, of freeing people from whatever oppresses or holds them back, of giving spiritual sight to one who is blind, all of us nod our heads approvingly.  We too view helping others as worthy and as the calling of the church.  But sadly enough we have our “just hold on a minute” line.  It’s a wonderful idea to feed and care for the needy.  Could you just do it over there?  It is great to share the gospel with those who have not heard it.  But do they have to come and worship here at our church?  It is noble and godly to help people overcome addiction and sins in their life.  But does little Suzy have to see it played out in person?

Sorry, but yes, we need to minister to people in our churches.  Alas, we must sit beside those new to the faith, to love and mentor them, to help them connect to God.  Yes, it is messy.  Folks who struggle need help in the form of a personal connection.  We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet, touching their lives directly and walking side by side with those who are new to faith or who are struggling.  May we find a little discomfort, may our feathers get a little ruffled, and may we like it.

Scripture reference: Luke 4: 14-21

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Special Together

God is pretty smart and very creative.  Consider for a moment the design and intricacy of our bodies.  Our bodies hum along, performing activity after activity without us having to think about it.  And in general our bodies last a long time.  If I drove the same truck every day for 50 years it would be absolutely amazing.  Yet here I sit, still running relatively well, hoping for another thirty or forty years out of this body.

The vast array of parts and functions that make up our bodies is another example of God’s genius.  Each part is pretty indispensable.  Imagine for a moment if all of our legs ended at our ankles – balance would be tough.  Imagine if we had one eye.  We could still see but would have no depth perception.  How close is that car?

Apparently there was some squabbling and division going on in Corinth.  Paul had to remind them that the gifts of the Spirit are like our body parts – all equally important and all necessary for the body of Christ to function properly.  They wanted to elevate certain gifts over others but Paul reminded them that all parts are for the common good.  Imagine where the church would be if all had the gift of prophecy but none had the gifts of teaching and administrating and healing.

A modern example of the need for diversity and the necessity of working together would be our praise team.  If we all played bass and did nothing else, we would not be much of a band.  We need singers and pianists and guitarists as well.  Each gift adds to the whole.

Each and everyone of us has gifts.  Are you using yours to the fullest?  Are you building up the body of Christ with your gifts?  Each of us is equally important and specifically designed to play our roles.  May the Lord bless you in the use of your gifts!

Scripture reference: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31

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God’s Law

The psalmist declares how wonderful is it is live according to God’s laws.  These perfect and trustworthy laws are more previous than gold for the psalmist.  How these two ideas run counter to our secular culture!  Society is nothing if not tolerant and tells us to live however makes us happy.  In society today, little is more important than wealth, so how could one possibly hold the law above accumulating wealth?

The beginning of Psalm 19 speaks of how the sun encompasses all with its light.  The same is true of God’s laws.  Although many will try to hide from His law, it surrounds them like the sun.  No one can really hide because in the end there will be a consequence for this choice.  So as people living under this perfect law, it is our call and command to show others the joy and peace and contentment we find in God’s ways.

In following God’s law we find life that is truly life.  His ways bring wisdom, enlighten our path, and gives joy to our heart.  The law also protects us from our human nature within.  It leads us away from living for our human desires and helps us to find contentment and peace in what God blessed us with from out of His goodness.  His ways allow us to live good, orderly, happy lives.

To live according to God’s laws and as He intended us to live is harder than living by the world’s ways.  It is a hard choice to make in today’s culture.  The culture says that getting more and more and more is the path to the good life.  But we know where that path ends up.  There is a more perfect way – the way of God.  May we live by God’s ways this day and every day so that we find true peace, joy, and contentment in this earthly life and in the eternal life that is to come.

Scripture reference: Psalm 19: 7-14