Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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God’s Design

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5:11

Verse 11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”.

On our faith journeys, we can try and go it alone. We are embarrassed by or ashamed of our sins and failures. We go through the motions of faith and pretend we are doing okay when our faith feels dry or when a trial has beset us. We try and push through seasons of doubt because society tells us we just need to try harder. Our pride and ego refuses to ask for help. But God did not design faith to be this way. God designed faith to be a communal pursuit. Yet if we are to truly be a part of the community of faith, if we are going to have real and deep relationships, then we must be honest and transparent, authentic and vulnerable, committed and compassionate.

Our passage today is just one verse. Again, it reads: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing”. Because the world is challenging, because the dark and evil are ever present, Paul knows that the believers need to be surrounded by Christian community. Paul begins by telling us to encourage one another. To be able to encourage one another, we need to really know how we each are doing. This is where honesty… comes into play. We must be willing to share our burdens with one another. We must also be willing to carry another’s burdens at times. We must be willing to tell others when our faith feels thin, allowing them to pour into us and to fill us up. Similarly, we must be willing to give of ourselves, to pour into another as we are able. Paul also urges us to build one another up. We do this by sharing our faith. This can be actual teaching or it can be living the faith so others can see what it looks like. Pastors and teachers and small group leaders and mentors are all a part of this process. We also build one another up by being present. We celebrate successes and achievements, we rejoice when a baby is born, we bring food and love and presence in times of hardship and suffering and loss.

The church in Thessalonica was living as a community. It was how God designed the church. As we ponder these thoughts today, may we each consider how we could encourage and build up the body of Christ this week.

Prayer: Living God, lead me by the power of the Holy Spirit to be an encourager and a builder. Help me to see the ways that I can help the community of faith to be like a family, like the heavenly fellowship that we all await. Bind us together in your love. Amen.

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Our Worship

What kind of worship do you think God likes best?  Yes, I did ask that.  I think God most likes the worship that brings all the glory and honor to Him.  That may happen in a lot of different styles and settings and experiences.

Ezra read from the scriptures and the people listened attentively.  They raised their hands up toward heaven, seeking to connect to God.  They bowed their heads low, seeking to demonstrate their obedience and submission to God, to His holy Word.  In prayer they laid low to the ground.  All of these gestures were done to bring honor and glory to God alone and to indicate the conditions of their hearts – hearts fully committed to God.  But this is not the only way on can worship God.  David danced in the streets as he worshiped God.  Jesus went alone up on the mountain to worship God.

In our churches, our worship can vary greatly too.  It amazes me how many ways we can worship God and bring our praises to glorify God.  Musically it can be a stirring organ or a rocking praise band or a beautiful piano gently playing a song.  Vocally it can be a moving choir or a single voice lifted beautifully in praise or it can be a whole congregation raising the roof.  Prayer can be vocal with hands lifted high or it can be kneeling at the rail with head bowed low in reverent silence.  The Word can be read together or it may just be the liturgist.  The variances in tone, gesture, inflection, pace, and so on can be great even within one sermon.

God desires our worship to reflect the condition of our heart.  Does our individual worship on a Sunday in church reveal a faith fully committed to God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength?  Does our worship fill us so completely full of God that we have to go through the week ahead pouring Him out to all we meet?  This is the worship God desires.

Scripture reference: Nehemiah 8: 5-6

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Bountifully Give

Jesus’ words about leaving home, family, friends, and job to follow Him seem to be difficult words.  To me it is an extension of the choice many make to die to self as they choose to put on Christ and become a new creation in Him.  Often this means we set aside some things and some people in our lives that keep us from fully pursuing a life lived in Christ.  A speaker I heard yesterday said we cannot be 99% in for Jesus – it needs to be 100%.  Until it is 100% we are holding something back.  As it says in Luke 9, we cannot put our hand to the plow and look back.  This sacrifice can be hard but we are promised great reward when we receive eternal life.

In a culture where rugged individualism is valued, we cannot allow that to isolate us or any new believers.  Christianity is not meant to be lived alone but in a community.  One’s new family and friends are the church – a group of loving and caring people who want to come along side the new believer and each other to encourage, strengthen, and support one another.  How we love and care for one another should reflect the love and care Jesus gave to the disciples.

Being such a community can be difficult in a society that so values wealth, power, and position.  These are not the things of God’s kingdom.  The economy in God’s kingdom is based on love, mercy, and forgiveness.  All of these are not things we accumulate to hoard and hold onto.  These are gifts from God that we experience so that we can give them away.  This day may we be filled with these things of God so that we may bountifully give them away.  May His light and love reign today!!

Scripture reference: Mark 10: 28-31

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Revealing Jesus?

In the day people thought Jesus was many things: teacher, prophet, healer.  Some even thought He was the Messiah, the Holy One of God.  Two thousand years later the answers are not all that different: a wise teacher, a good person, a revolutionary hero, a symbolic figurehead.  Some still see Him as Messiah.

In the day those who refused to see Jesus as the Messiah had something to hold on to.  The political and religious leaders had their positions and power to hold on to.  Others had the same things we do.  They and us hold onto our illusion that we are in control, of having time before we really have to commit to this Jesus, or of Him not being the absolute Lord of life.  Like many in the day and like many since then, we yield up some control of our life and offer a level of allegiance to Jesus the Christ.  But we hold onto some ourselves; we are not totally committed.

In the day Jesus’ disciple Peter correctly identified Him as the Messiah but Jesus told them not to tell anyone.  Perhaps the claim of divinity would have been too much right then or maybe some would look to Jesus for political and military leadership.  It was enough at that point for the disciples to know.  Soon many would come to know Jesus as the Son of God.

If one were to simply observe our life and listen in on the conversations we have, would we reveal Jesus as the Messiah?  If we are seeking to draw others to Jesus as Lord, then the answer has to be ‘yes’.  Our lives “reveal” who we ‘say’ Jesus is.  May we live in such a way as to reveal that Jesus is Lord of our life and is a Lord others want to get to know.

Scripture reference: Mark 8: 27-30