Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Reading: Luke 12: 16-21

Jesus asks, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”  The answer we give to that question can come on the earthly level or on the spiritual level.  Jesus is posing a serious question that can be difficult to answer or even to wrestle with.

In terms of possessions, the things requiring bigger barns, our culture has shifted a great deal over the past fifty years.  We have gone from a society that cared for our family to the end of life to one that places our loved ones in a facility.  We often grew up and then lived in the same town all of our lives and now many young people cannot identify a ‘home town’s because they moved so often.  Great, great grandma Ethel’s China hutch that was eyed by many as her life ebbed away now has no value for young eyed.  Who would want that old thing?  In terms of our possessions, more and more it is about the bank account.  People want an inheritance they can spend how they want and on what they want.

To that end we have become a society that accumulates money.  Almost all else has become disposable.  Thus, for many their security is in how much they have in the bank.  Our reality is that we all need money.  Each of us requires ‘x’ dollars per day or week based on a number of factors.  This is determined by questions such as: ‘how big a house?’, ‘how new a car?’, ‘how often a vacation?’, ‘how many clothes in the closet?’

Looking at Jesus’ question from the spiritual side is a reality check.  If we are the recipient as well, are we preparing for life eternal?  If we prepare for this well, there is a trickle down affect.  The inheritance our children and grandchildren receive is the gift of faith.  The answers to the above questions are very different.  We see wealth as something we are blessed with so that we can bless others.  This holy day, may we wrestle with this side of the question.

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Reading: Luke 12: 13-15

The issue of greed is the central focus of today’s reading.  One brother asks Jesus to help him get his share of his father’s estate.  We do not know his status – rich, poor, comfortable, in deep need.  Nor do we know his brother’s situation.  Jesus does not seem to care about this.  He aims right at a huge issue in the day and probably for these brothers: greed.  This focus may or may not be related to the man’s request for his share of the inheritance.

Greed us certainly an issue still today.  So Jesus’ teaching on greed is still very relevant today.  It always will be so.  Just as the brother is warned to be on their guard against greed, we too are warned.  We must be on our guard against greed because it can so easily become consuming of our focus and attention.

In the parable Jesus is clear that greed is not the possessing of things but in being possessed by what we have or what we lust after.  It is entirely possible to have much and be possessed by none of it.  We can be richly blessed and be very generous in offering what we have when a need arises.  But it is hard.  To attain wealth takes some time and effort, therefore we tend to develop an attachment to our wealth.  This is hard especially in our culture.  The main message of society is more, more, more.  Society encourages us to own or have as much as we can.  This easily leads to the mindset of greed.

So Jesus is right to warn us of greed.  We must be on our guard to not be drawn into being possessed by what we possess or desire to possess.  To do so our focus must be on Christ and the treasures of His kingdom.  This is the true inheritance we must seek.  It is the only inheritance that matters.  Our possessions do not secure our future.  It is our relationship with Jesus Christ that secures our future.  He is the only way, truth, and life.  May we do all we can to seek Jesus as our all in all.  Holy Spirit work in us this day to set Jesus as our all in all. 

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New Creation 

Reading: Colossians 3: 1-11

Paul calls for a transformation from our old self that is of the world into a new self that is made in Christ’s image.  To accomplish this change we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  We cannot make this transition on our own.  It can be something we desire and even something we feel led to, but the power to transform human lives into eternal lives rests in God’s hands alone.

God’s love and grace are always reaching out to us, ever seeking to draw us closer to that love and grace.  We are born with an innate sense of God and good in us, with a spark of the divine, so to speak.  As we naturally see God’s love in the world, we do so through the spark of the divine that is within all humanity.

Early on life, God’s grace begins working in our lives.  John Wesley would call this prevenient grace, the grace that comes before.  It’s that grace on the doorstep of our life, inviting us into a relationship with God.  As we step through that door and begin to grow in our faith, this grace becomes justifying grace – that grace that helps us see the world as God sees it and to live our lives by God’s ways and will.  As we mature in our faith, God’s sanctifying grace begins to work in our lives, drawing us ever closer to Jesus, ever closer to perfection.  Although we never reach perfection in our earthly bodies, it is ever the goal.

To accomplish all this, Paul calls us to “put to death” all that is inside of us that does not draw us closer to God.  It is emotions, desires, drives, idols, friends, places, habits, … all that stands between us and God.  It is through faith in God and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives that we continue on our journey of faith, step by step, ever drawing closer to our Lord.  May God strengthen us all on our journey.

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Reading: Psalm 107: 43

Today’s verse is a great reminder to do something we seldom do enough of: consider the great love of the Lord.  In the busyness of our lives we rarely slow down enough to pause and recognize God’s role and presence in our lives.  Thus we rarely slow down enough to offer our praise and thanksgiving for God’s activity and presence in our lives.  The less we do this, the less we seem to be thankful to have God in our lives.

When we are in touch with God’s activity in our lives, we are grateful for the many ways we experience that love and presence.  We are also more aware of the ways we can use God’s love to engage others through the use of the gifts and talents that God has uniquely blessed us each with.  This is our grateful response.  This engagement also keeps us focused on God and our faith.  The more we recognize and offer our thanks for God in our life, the more we become aware of it.  It is a good cycle.

As a church, we too can become so focused on what we are doing to involve new people or whatever we think God is calling us to that we forget God is involved as well.  As the body becomes more and more us-centered we slowly but gradually lose the sense of God leading and guiding the church.  On the other hand, there are churches who seek God’s presence, direction, will… almost constantly.  These churches very much have God at the center of all they do.  Looking in from the outside one can see how alive the Spirit of God is in that place and in those people.  It is a beautiful and wonderful thing.

As children of God, we too must seek God’s presence and be aware of God’s handprints in our lives.  Our grateful response is to offer God our thanksgiving and praise.  In doing so we too will exude the light and love of God and Christ in us.  We will be a living example of Christ to all we encounter.  May our joyful, Christ-centered lives witness to our faith and the hope we have in Him this day.

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Reading: Psalm 107: 1-9

Sometimes as Christians it can be easy to settle into a comfortable faith.  The further we get from that last big brush with grace, the less we remember what redemption feels like.  It is in those times that we really struggle and Christ sweeps in to our rescue that we feel the strongest expressions of grace and forgiveness and redemption.  Once we get past those times when struggles were common in our early walk of faith, we can slip into a sort of cruise control.  Then it can be easy to forget that others are still in a struggle.  We lose touch with what it feels like to be held captive to something.

There are many people that struggle in life.  The battle may be with things such as drugs and alcohol.  It may be pornography.  It may be abuse.  It may be due to forces such as injustice or oppression.  It may be cultural or economic.  When we ourselves forget what redemption and that taste of freedom was like, we can lose our drive to help others find freedom from whatever is holding them captive.

The true freedom we find in Christ is the only real freedom from all that binds and holds humanity captive.  In our struggles we may succeed in the battle for a short time when we fight it on our own.  But Satan always regains a foothold when we try to do it alone because in us there is weakness.  It is only when we call on the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ that can find redemption from all that binds us.  It is by His strength alone that we have a chance in this battle.  But all who do not know Christ cannot call on His name.

As faithful disciples of Jesus Christ it is our call and charge to make the good news known to all people.  It is our call to share Christ with who struggle with the powers of this world so that all may come to know the redeeming and freeing power of Christ.  Only in Christ is true freedom found.  May we share Jesus and His redeeming love this day with all who are held captive to sin so that Christ may set them free.

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Simply Love 

Reading: Hosea 11: 5-11

We have a varied view of God.  Since God is vast and far beyond human understanding, it makes sense that we cannot pin down an exact image or view of God.  On one end of the spectrum we see God as judge and in that role God decides on consequences and hands out punishment for our choices.  On the other end we see God as love, giver of new mercies every morning and of endless grace and other blessings.

God is just and in our relationship expects obedience and faithfulness from us.  In the Old Testament God gave the people the covenant to uphold and the Law to follow, with its accompanying sets of sacrifices.  In the New Testament God brought the new covenant into being through the life and witness of Jesus Christ.  In the latter part of the New Testament and for us today, God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.  Even though we have all of this to help us be obedient and to follow God’s will and ways for our lives, we so often fail.  Even when we fail, God loves us.  Even when we fail time after time, God continues to love us.

The constant giving of love, mercy, and forgiveness that we experience from God transforms our lives.  We are made new creations, without blemish, every time we seek God’s throne of grace.  We are drawn in over and over and over again into God’s transforming love, marvelling that it is never withheld, that it is never conditional, and that it is given without cost.  God simply loves us, imperfect and sinful as we are.  God simply loves us.  For this we say, thanks be to God.

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Steadfast and True Love

Reading: Hosea 11: 1-4

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times”.  This oft-quoted parenting line may be familiar to you.  It’s familiarity is closely followed by the line, “When will you listen”?  This second line is probably thought more than it is shared!  Both seem to be staples of parenting.  As parents we try to reach out children all they need to know to grow into mature young adults.  We pour all we can into them hoping they turn out well.  When they stumble or fail, we love them anyway and we continue to pour our love and guidance into them.  They are ours and we love them dearly.

As one reads the Hosea passage, one can imagine God saying or thinking these familiar parenting lines.  Verse two particularly stood out to me: “The more I called Israel, the further they went from me”.  There are times when we too have felt as if our child had done exactly the opposite of what we asked.  So, as parents, we can relate to the frustration God is voicing about His children.

When I reflect on my life, I do not have to think too long or too hard to recall many times when I am sure I disappointed or frustrated God.  There is a long list of missed opportunities and poor decisions that I am sure leave God shaking His head.  My heavenly Father says over and over again, “John, when will you…?”

The love we know and experience as earthly parents is just a fraction of the heavenly love God has for us, His earthly children.  No matter how many times we fail, question His love, or choose something other than His will or way for us, His love never changes.  His love remains steadfast and true.  May our grateful response this day be to share His amazing love with all we meet.

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Ask, Search, Knock 

Reading: Luke 11: 1-13

Today’s passage begins with the very familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer.  It is the model Jesus offered the disciples for daily use.  Jesus then goes on to describe the relationship we should seek with God through our prayers.

The first uses a story about asking a friend for bread in the middle of the night to teach us to be persistent in prayer.  He says the man did not get up and give his friend bread because he was his friend, but because the friend kept asking.  In our prayer life we too are called to be persistent, not because we can nag God into whatever we ask for but because through prayer He transforms us and aligns us with His will.

Jesus then goes on to illustrate that as human parents we know how to give good things to our children.  We do not give evil or bad things to our children but instead give them the ‘fish’ and the ‘egg’ they need for their daily sustenance.  Jesus then says that if we do this for our children out of our human love for them, then imagine how much more God will give us, His children, from His great love.

Sandwiched between these two stories that encourage us to come to God often in prayer is the ask, search, knock passage.  This is not an invitation to ask God for all the desires of our heart.  It is an invitation to a deeper relationship with God.  Jesus is encouraging us to ask, search, and knock so that we will experience the spiritual desires of our heart.  God’s loving response is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is through persistent and consistent asking, searching, and knocking that we come to a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.

God so desires an intimate personal relationship with us.  For our part, may we ever ask, search, and knock so that day by day we come to grow closer and closer to God.

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The Lord’s Prayer

Reading: Luke 11: 1-4

Today’s passage is oh so familiar.  In most every church, in all times of worship, this prayer is prayed.  The words are in the hymnal or bulletin or on the screen, but most really do not need the words.  The Lord’s Prayer is such a familiar prayer.  One must be careful to not simply go through the motions or to recite the prayer.  It must be prayed.

As the prayer begins with “Our father” it establishes our relationship with God.  We are God’s children.  In the role of parent, God seeks to provide for us, to protect us, to help us mature in our faith, to keep us on the path to life.  But most of all, God seeks to love us in a close personal relationship.

“Who art in heaven” reminds us of God’s authority and position.  God is above all and over all.  God dwells in that place of perfection with the saints and angels.  Yet God is not limited to just heaven.  God’s presence is everywhere all of the time.  We sense it in close personal ways at times and in large, powerful ways at other times.  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit we have a deep personal connection to the presence of God in our lives.  The Spirit dwells in each believer and the presence of God is active and alive in the world.

The prayer fittingly ends with requests.  Reflecting on what is established with the opening lines of the prayer, it does seem fitting that the prayer ends with requests of God.  After all, isn’t that what children do with their parent?  It concludes with requests for our daily bread, for forgiveness of our sins, for help forgiving others, and to be kept away from temptation.  The first request acknowledges our dependence on God for all of our daily needs.  Then it turns to relationship.  Forgive us when we mess up.  In this it admits that we will mess up.  It also deals with our need to offer forgiveness.  In these two requests we are asking to be kept in right relationship with God and with our neighbors.  The Lord’s Prayer concludes with our request to be kept from temptation.  This is one of the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, may it be slowly and with attention to detail.  Sit with each phrase, allow it to resonate deep within.  Allow it to bless you this day.

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Giving Self to God

Reading: Colossians 2: 6-19

We often try to fill our lives with so many things and activities that we think will bring us joy, happiness, contentment, peace.  We chase after things that appear to be just what we need to get us to that ‘place’ where we think all will be ‘good’.  As we pursue these things of the world we come to realize soon enough that they do not really satisfy.

In other seasons of life we fill our lives with so many things and activities that we do not seem to have time for Christ.  So many things simply consume our time and leave us exhausted and with little energy to pour into our relationship with Christ.  What little we have left that we do offer to Christ is a pittance of what it should be.  As we get completely run down we realize our need for Christ and our need to re-prioritize our lives.

In each day we have a finite amount of time and energy.  Christ needs to be the center of our lives if we are truly to find content and satisfied lives.  He is the big item that must first be given time and energy each day.  When Christ is our core and foundation, all else will fall into line, all else will be taken care of.  Our gift of our presence must be the first thing we give to Christ each day.  In this way we demonstrate our love for Him by giving Him our best and we also show our trust in Christ that all else will be cared for throughout the day.  Each day may be begin by dedicated ourselves to God, by giving Him the best moments of our day, and we will find the joy, happiness, contentment, peace we desire.