Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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The Faithful Road

Reading: 1st Thessalonians 5: 16-24

Verses 21 and 22: “Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil”.

In his closing Paul reminds the Thessalonians of some basics of the faith. In short order he gives them three: live with joy, pray always, and be thankful in all things. As we each consider this short list, we quickly recognize one or two, maybe three, as challenging. Living joyfully, for example, is pretty easy when things are good. But on a really bad day or during a season of loss, living with joy can be a real effort. Similarly, in difficult times it can be hard to give thanks. After we’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed about someone or something, it can be trying to keep praying to a God who doesn’t seem to care enough to answer. Faith is not always easy. It was not meant to be easy. Jesus described the road as “narrow”. These are just some of the reasons we have company on the road.

In verse nineteen Paul warns us against putting out the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has always been represented as fire since that first Pentecost Sunday when “what seemed to be tongues of fire” came upon the followers of Jesus (Acts 2:3). The Holy Spirit is our main divine companion for our journey of faith. The indwelling presence of Jesus Christ lives inside of us, leading and guiding, teaching and correcting. We also walk the road with our brothers and sisters in Christ. They help and encourage us, challenge and uplift us, teach and mentor us. And we do the same for others.

In verses 21 and 22 Paul tells us to “Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil”. We are to allow the Spirit to do its work, yes, but we too must be an active participant on our own journey of faith. We are called to test things and situations and people against the truths of God. When unsure on our own, we turn to prayer and to good Christian counsel. We must hold onto the good – keeping those things and practices and people that help us stay close to Jesus and on the path of following him, well, close to us. Paul also admonishes us to avoid evil – don’t go to those places, events, web sites… that cause temptation, don’t hang out with those folks who cause you to sin…

As he closes Paul prays that God would “sanctify” or make us holy and righteous, blameless on the day we stand before the risen Lord. It is the hope for us all. Our passage for today closes with these great words of encouragement: “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it”. God is faithful. He will sanctify the faithful. Thanks be to God.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for these great reminders today. In the Spirit, walk with me day by day, being present until I meet you face to face. Amen.

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Ways of Wisdom

Reading: Proverbs 1: 20-33

Verse 33: “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”.

In my Bible, the passage for today is titled, “Warning Against Rejecting Wisdom”. My first thoughts are: who would reject wisdom? Don’t we all want to be wise? But upon a little more reflection, there are folks who are not wise, who do not make many ‘good’ decisions. And when honest, I must admit that I don’t always make the best decision. But is this all that the writer is talking about? It is being wise in life, yes, but it is more. The wisdom that calls out in the streets is God’s wisdom. It calls us to live according to God’s ways.

In a sense, God’s wisdom is calling out to Christians all the time. It is the Holy Spirit within leading and guiding us. It is also the Word of God that we read and meditate upon each day. It is the message we hear in church. It is the devotional thoughts that we consider daily. But because we are human beings, creatures inclined towards sin, sometimes we ignore the wisdom of God and sometimes we make decisions that run counter to the ways of God.

When we ignore God’s wisdom, I imagine the heavenly thoughts sound much like the words we read today. “How long will you simple ones love your simple ways?” wonders the God whose thoughts are always higher than our thoughts. He also laments, “If only you had responded to my rebuke…”. If you’d only listened to the Holy Spirit, if you’d really studied the Word… There are consequences to choosing something other than God’s wisdom. Verses 24 through 32 spell these out for us. None are good. God’s ways are always better.

Our passage today closes with these words of hope and promise: “Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm”. Listen to God’s wisdom and live in safety. Listen to God’s wisdom and be at ease. Listen to God’s wisdom and live without fear. Yes, life is better with God.

Lord God, turn my heart and ears to your voice, whether written, spoken, or whispered into my soul. Give me the courage to not only listen but to follow. Your call is often counter to the wisdom of the world, so empower me to walk in your ways of wisdom. May it be so today. Amen.

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Lean In

Reading: John 12: 27-33

Verse 27: “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour”.

Jesus, God in the flesh, feels troubled in His soul. If Jesus was feeling troubled and leaned into it, then maybe we should consider doing the same. There are times in our journeys of faith when we too feel unrest or troubling in our souls. These moments are often times when God is it is about to go to work. This too was the case with Jesus. He did not really want to go through the pain that lay ahead, but he also knew deep down in His soul that “it was for this very reason I came to this hour”.

Our natural inclinations when we get to a point of discomfort or unrest in our souls are to either run from it or to ignore it. We can try and find all sorts of things to distract us from the gurgle in our spirits. We can jump into more work or we can find a project to occupy our time and mind. There are many forms of busyness that we can try, yet the feeling remains. So, what if instead we pressed into it, seeking to find out what God was saying or trying to lead us to or towards?

Jesus leaned into the troubling in His soul, connecting to where God was leading. He did so because He knew it would bring glory to God. Perhaps when we feel that unrest or troubling in our souls we too can choose to trust God and allow Him to be fully in control as He seeks to do a work through us. Maybe, just maybe, we could seek His face in prayer and invite the work to begin. In doing so, we will live more fully into our relationship with God. May we each trust and obey, bringing glory and honor to God in all we do.

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Listen up!  Listen here.  Would you just listen!  How many times have we heard these words coming from parents, coaches, teachers, spouses, and bosses over the course of our lifetimes?  I would guess this number far outweighs the number of times someone has thanked us for taking the time to listen.  In the midst of casual conversation we often find our mind drifting to a different focus.  Worse yet, in an argument we are often considering what we want to say next instead of listening to the other person.  When caught not listening, often we get the dreaded question: what did I just say?

I think Jesus often felt this way with the disciples.  So often it seems they just do not get what seems so simple to understand.  Must not be listening!  It is no wonder that God’s instructions to Peter, James, and John is to listen to Jesus.  His instructions to us are the same.  Just listen.  How often do we hear or read the Word but don’t really listen to them?  When we listen to them they take root in our lives and cause growth to occur.

God is always trying to speak into our lives.  Whether through the Bible, the message given on a Sunday morning, the wise words of a friend or mentor, or through the whisper of the Holy Spirit, He is always speaking into our lives.  And just as in all other conversations, the key is to really focus in and understand what God is saying to each of us.

Where is God calling you?  How is He speaking into your life?  What direction is He guiding you?  What does He want you to do for Him?  May our ears be open, our minds tuned in, and our heart be welcoming to all that God had for us this day.

Scripture reference: Luke 9: 34-43

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Happy Stepping

In the early days of the church, the Jews lived very much in isolation.  If you were a faithful Jew, you did not talk to people outside of the Jewish community.  You did not associate with outsiders.  You did not spend time with people who were not Jewish.  About the only exception were the Romans – they occupied the land and you really did not have a choice.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, those who carried on His work and message were good Jews.  They too were chosen isolationists and only brought the message and teachings to their fellow Jews.  Just prior to today’s passage, God had argued with Peter in a vision.  God showed Peter a collection of all sorts of animals and told Peter to eat.  According to Jewish customs, some of the animals were unclean and Peter refused to eat.  Three times God said not to call unclean what God has made pure.

Next a servant of a Roman centurion appears looking for Peter.  The Spirit tells Peter to go with these men, so he does.  He goes but I bet there was some questioning in his head and some wrestling with what this vision was all about.  While there Peter shares the story of Jesus and Cornelius’ family and friends are converted.  The Holy Spirit descends on these people and they begin to speak in tongues and to worship.  This is an ‘ah-ha’ moment for the early church – God is for ALL people.  Suddenly the vision makes sense to Peter.

Have you ever had one of these ‘ah-ha’ moments?  Has God placed someone in your path who you questioned as being worthy of you or your time, but in the end your time with “that person” was awesome and God worked mightily in the situation?  He can and will do both anything and amazing things.  Like Peter and many others, our role is to trust in the Spirit’s leading and to boldly step out there in faith.  Happy stepping!!

Scripture reference: Acts 10: 44-48