Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Faithful and Abiding Presence

Reading: Acts 3: 12-19

Verse 16: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong”.

In the opening verses of Acts 3 Peter heals a crippled beggar. The man had been carried to the same temple gate for years. All who came and went from the temple would know who this man was. This day he begs for Peter and John to give him some money. Instead, Peter commands him to walk in the name of Jesus. Instantly the man is made strong. He enters the temple courts, “walking and jumping” and praising God.

The people who saw this man walking and jumping were astonished. Peter asks them, “Why does this surprise you”? He then asks why they stare at John and himself, “as if by our own power or godliness” the man was healed. Peter continues on, explaining that it was the power of the risen Christ that healed the man. In verse sixteen he says, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong”. This complete healing has come through faith in Jesus Christ.

At times we too experience the healing or renewing or comforting or strengthening power of Jesus Christ. His power fills us as we pray or as we meditate on scripture. His power fills us as we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. His power fills us as we step beside another in love and compassion. Sometimes Jesus’ power comes in unseen or unexpected ways – that friend who calls just when we need their wisdom or loving words, that opportunity that opens up just when we are desperate for work, that peace that surrounds us just when we think we cannot go on. In many of these cases, we too stand in wonder, amazed at the power of Jesus Christ to change lives. Today may we pause and thank God for our own “times of refreshing” that come from the Lord. Thanks be to God for his presence and love!

Prayer: Lord, for all the times when you have shown the way, lifted me up, carried me through, spoken into my heart, strengthened my weary soul… thank you. Thank you for your abiding and faithful presence. Amen.

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Prepared to Offer Love

Reading: Psalm 100

Verse 4: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name”.

Psalm 100 is such a spirit-lifter! It is all about praising God and rejoicing in God’s goodness and love. The Psalm was written to be sung heading to and in worship. That is what the psalmist means, literally, when he writes, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise”. Enter into the tabernacle, enter into the temple, enter into the sanctuary, enter into the chapel… with thanksgiving and praise. We can all leave “life” behind and enter into that holy space to praise and worship the Lord. It is in that sacred place that we connect to the Holy One. There we are lifted up in spirit and filled with his presence and love. There we are renewed and refreshed. There we are prepared.

The second half of verse four reads, “give thanks to him and praise his name”. Once connected, lifted up, filled, renewed, refreshed, then we are prepared to exit the church to live lives that give thanks to the Lord and that bring praise to his holy name. We do so by living out and pouring out our faith into the world and into the lives of those we encounter. This is the feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty… that we have been reading about in Matthew 25. May we each see and live out the relationship between worship and life, seeking to make Jesus Christ and his love known in all we say and do and think.

Prayer: God of all generations, may my life be a fragrant and pleasing offering to you. May my times of connection ever be times of thanksgiving and praise, filling me to do your will in the world. Amen.

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A Model to Follow

Reading: 2nd Thessalonians 3: 6-9

Verse 9: “We did this in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow”.

As the church in Thessalonica begins to develop, there are some growing pains. It is to be expected with most new organizations. Paul and others have come and taught the good news of Jesus Christ. They have taught new believers what it looks like to live out the gospel in a community of faith. Paul and the others could not stay there forever, so now the church continues along on their own. As it does so, new churches need occasional reminders and sometimes they need the ones who planted it to come back for a refresher course.

Most of the content of Paul’s letters falls into two categories. He often writes to continue teaching both churches and individuals about how to live out the faith. These instructions can be applied to most churches and to the lives of most believers. Paul also writes to bring correction or to address as issue. These passages tend to be more direct and address a certain church, believer, or group of believers. Yet, at times, even these can be applied to churches and people. Our struggles are often the same. We find both of these categories in 2nd Thessalonians.

In the section we read today, Paul is addressing two groups that are having a negative impact on the church. There are some who are idle – they are not willing to work. They are simply relying on the generosity of others to get by. Paul reminds them that this was not the example that they set. Paul and friends “worked day and night” so that they could contribute rather than be a burden. Churches today have idle folks. Some are those that come around only when they need something. Others are those who are present but never give. They do not serve in the church and they do not give financially. They come and take and go back home.

Paul also addresses those who “do not live according to the teaching” that was given. Being idle would be one example. Similarly, in churches today, there are people who fall into this category. They come on Sunday morning or Saturday night and worship and bow their heads and listen to the message. Then they go out the door and live a worldly life. Their faith has little or no impact on the other 167 hours of their week.

To all of these Paul says, “We did this in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow”. We, like the church in Thessalonica and like the believers that made up that church, are all works in progress. At times we must pause and consider our progress and seek out areas where we are falling short. Is Paul speaking to you today? Could you offer more to your church? Could your walk of faith be more consistent or be closer to the example set by Jesus Christ?

Prayer: Lord God, as I consider these questions, I know I am far from the example set by Paul and especially far from the example set by Jesus. Draw me deeper into you and your love today. May this love be reflected out in all of my life. May it be so, O God. Amen.

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Refuge and Strength

Reading: Psalm 91: 1-6

Verse 2: “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust”.

The psalmist compares God to a home for those who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”. A sense of home is important to us. It is where we can go for safety and security when life rages about us. It is where we can go when we feel alone or cast aside – home is where we feel loved and where we belong. When we become frazzled at work or school and near our tipping point, home is where we can go to slow down and find renewal.

In verse two we read, “He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust”. When we are living within a relationship with God, we do find that God is our refuge and is a fortress about us. In God we find all the things that are good about a home: safety, security, love, belonging, relief, renewal. As the Psalm unfolds, we read images of how God protects us and cares for us. As I think back over my life, I can recall times when I was kept under God’s wing and times when the arrow flew close, but passed by. In these experiences, I rejoice in the Lord my God.

The experiences when God is near and when God does shield or protect or guide us build up our faith and our trust in God. In turn, this brings us hope when the storms rise or when the cold wind blows. With confidence we can call on the Lord our God, our refuge and strength. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Lord God, you are always there for me. I just have to turn to you and seek your presence. I thank you this day for the many times that you have rescued me, guided me, protected me, and on and on. You are an awesome and loving God! Amen.

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Through Prayer

Jesus went to God in prayer.  Sometime He went in “reverent submission”, seeking to align the will of His human mind and body with the will of God.  In the garden, as He faced torture and death on the cross, Jesus came before God with His human concerns but ultimately said, “Not my will but Yours.”  At other times Jesus prayed to reconnect to His Father.  In times up on the mountain or out in the wilderness, He drew near to God to be renewed and refreshed.  And some of the time Jesus prayed for others.  Even on the cross, Jesus interceded for those who were crucifying Him.

Our great high priest invites us to live a life of prayer that is obedient to the will of the Father, that connects to God, and that lifts up one another – even those who persecute us. For Jesus, prayer was always the first step.  It was never the last result.  At times we have this backwards.

Through prayer Jesus stayed connected to God and remained unblemished.  In this perfectly obedient state, Jesus went to the cross, bore our sins, and became the source of our eternal salvation.  We too connect to our God through prayer.  although we too come in all the ways Jesus came to the Father, we are no perfect.  We are blemished; we are sinners.  But because of Jesus, we also can come before God seeking to be washed clean, to be made new.  In those moments we are made new, unblemished and pure.  Jesus prayed often and set for us the example.  May we too take all to the Lord in prayer.

Scripture reference: Hebrews 5: 7-10

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There are times we get run down and tired.  Life can just seem to consume us and suddenly we find ourselves with very little left in the tank.  As the disciples returned to Jesus after being sent out two by two, they were excited by all they had done but Jesus could see they were exhausted too.  His desire was to find them rest.  So they load up the boat and head out.

But a buzz moves on ahead of them and by the time they land ashore, a large crowd has gathered.  And it is not a welcoming committee.  It is a crowd full of people with needs.  The Bible tells us Jesus saw them as “lost sheep” and that He takes compassion on them.  Jesus steps out of the boat and begins to teach and to heal many people.

I can imagine that Jesus saw the crowd flowing to where they were headed to land.  So I can surmise that He made the decision not to change course and to go away from the gathering crowd.  Jesus knew or felt He was up to the task ahead so He chose to engage the crowd and to minster to their needs.

At times we too must make that assessment.  As we see a potential need coming our way we to must assess if we have enough left in the tank to meet that need.  We must remember that at times even Jesus stepped away for solitude and refreshment.  A time of Sabbath is essential to being able to minister effectively.  When we are dry and empty, we have nothing left to pour out into others.  We must care for ourselves so that we can offer our best to the care of those in need.

Mark 6: 30-34 and 52-56

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God as Center

Psalm 123 is a song that the people would sing as they made their way to worship.  They would seek God’s mercy and hand of protection as they prepared their hearts and minds for a time in the presence of God.  The psalm speaks of the people looking toward God as we would look towards someone we trust completely; perhaps your parent or spouse fills this role, perhaps it is God.

For most of us, our world is busy and full of things that compete for our time and energies.  It can be a struggle to carve out space to gaze upon God each day.   But to do so is essential.  In that time and space, as we gaze upon our God, we find renewing of our souls, a calming of the things that swirl around us, and a focus on the things that really matter.  Then as we face the day and all of its things that tug and pull, then God goes with us and is present in the midst of it.

When God is the focus in our personal quiet time each day, then He walks with us all day long.  We begin to see Him in places we wouldn’t normally and in the people and events of our lives.  In those moments of blessing, we are able to connect with God, to be in His presence, and to share Him with others.  As God becomes the center of or lives, His presence will be in all we do and say.  Through this, others will be blessed as well.

Scripture reference: Psalm 123

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Sprit Fall Upon Us

Ever been so thirsty your throat was dry?  In those cases a sip of water is so refreshing.  Water may be clear and tasteless yet it is better than anything when you are parched.

Have you ever watched water pouring along the curb or gutter or even a gully after a quick downpour?  It picks up debris and carries it away.  The water may even cut away at what it is washing over.  Water can be pretty powerful.

Remember the last time you stepped outside just after a good rain – can you smell the freshness?  The water cleanses away the dust and dirt and also refreshes the life of all it falls upon.

The living water that come when we enter into relationship with Jesus does all these things too.  If we allow the Holy Spirit to be the promised well of living water welling up in us, it will refresh and replenish our soul when we are feeling dry.  This living water will also work its way through the cracks and crevices to carry away the baggage and things that can weigh us down.  This living water will also flow from us, into the lives of others.

It is both a gift and a gift to be offered to others.  Join me in praying, “Come Holy Spirit!  Come!”