Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Love as He Loved

Reading: John 13: 31-35

If it is really lived out, Jesus command to love one another as He first loved us is hard.  I imagine as this new command first landed on the disciples’ ears, they recalled good things Jesus did – healings, teachings, even things not recorded in the Bible.  But as they continued to think about this new command, maybe their thoughts drifted back to when Jesus healed ‘that guy’ or when He offered loving words to a lowly Samaritan.  Who knows what their prejudices, hang ups, or inner struggles were – we all have them.

We too can spend time with Jesus by reading and meditating on the Word.  Through time with the Word we come to see and understand what Jesus meant by this new command.  We may not understand the ancient cultural reasons why a Jew and Samaritan did not talk to one another but we can see that Jesus offered Himself to all He encountered.  He did not judge or look down on or condemn anyone.  Even in His confrontations and exchanges with the religious authorities there is a feeling that Jesus is truly sad that they don’t get it.  Each time they return to come at Him again, He tries to continue to teach them, to help them see that He really is the Messiah.

The kind of people who came to mind for the disciples and the religious authorities that always came at Jesus are like the people who make it hard for us to love all as Jesus loved.  Yet hard is not impossible.  We have an excellent example to follow in He who gave the command.  We will at times fail.  But the key is to realize our failure, to repent, and to resume the journey.  When we seek to love all as Jesus first loved us, our love will grow and we come to love one we just couldn’t love just the other day.  May our love grow and grow as we come to be more and more and more like Jesus.

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Christ’s Love

Reading: John 13: 31-35

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.  For Jesus, these were not just words.  He lived them out each and every day with the disciples and the stranger alike.  The love Jesus exhibited was not passive; it sought out engagement and connection.  His love was not just for those that loved Him; it was also for those who opposed and persecuted Him and even for those who betrayed and crucified Him.  Jesus’ love was not given out with the expectation of something in return or with a thought of self-promotion; it was given freely, without any strings attached and with absolutely no consideration of self.

How this seems so against human nature!  In our day and age of ” just do it” and living for pleasure in this moment, Jesus’ love is radical and unexpected.  When we share His love with one who is in need, a common question is ‘Why?’. Another is ‘what do you want from me?’. Both are typical of people living in only the world’s culture and not ever experiencing the love of Christ.  When one explains that we are seeking to love others as Jesus first loved us, it is the beginning of understanding or at least questioning.  It is perhaps the beginning of a journey towards Christ.

In our world so filled with sin and evil, being this example of Christ’s love is so important.  For many, the self-pleasing and instant gratification type of love is all that they know.  It is essential that as followers of Jesus Christ, we abundantly offer self-giving and eternity impacting love.  It is a love that draws others into itself.  This day may we seek ways to offer Christ’s love to our world so in need.

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Reading: Revelation 21: 1-6

Our world and sometimes our lives can be filled with pain and death and oppression and injustice.  Sometimes these are things we must endure and get through.  Sometimes they are things from afar that we may be able to alleviate through our engagement with the causes or by providing relief in some form.  And sometimes they are things we see from afar and are powerless to affect the pain, suffering…

In Revelation we read that in the new heaven and earth, all will be made new.  Coupled with the promise that there will be no more pain, tears, death, or mourning, the vision is for a place where all is good, where happiness and joy abound.  It will be a place where all are content and where God’s love fills everyone and everything.

Sometimes, when one is locked in a deep struggle where there seems to be no hope and where there seems to be no way out, this promise of all things being made new is all one has to hold onto.  We are reminded that God’s word is trustworthy and true.  One day all will be made new and right.  God also reminds us that He is the beginning and the end.  This also means that He created each one of us and that He longs for us to return to Him, to dwell with Him.

When these are our promises, we can always look to the future and find at least this sliver of hope.  In our lives we will draw on these promises from time to time.  We will also have opportunities to share these promises with others.  May we ever look to our everlasting God and ever seek to share His promises with the lost and hurting.

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New Heaven

Reading: Revelation 21: 1-6

Today’s reading reminds us that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  In this new and restored creation God will dwell among His people, just as He did at the beginning of creation when He walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  All things will be made new and there will be no more pain or tears or violence or anything else that is sinful.  All will dwell in God’s love and presence.

At times, when experiencing a very difficult trial or when our health becomes very poor, we long for this new heaven and earth to be here now.  The idea of such a place where all is right and new sounds so good in the midst of the valley.  For many whose faith is solid, death is simply the first step into God making them new and whole again.

But this passage is not only about a time and place somewhere in the future.  It is a present tense promise as well.  In verse five it reads, “I am making everything new!” and in verse six we are promised water from the spring of eternal life.  God will not only restore the whole earth one day, He wants to begin to make each of us into a new creation in Him.  God’s desire is for us to begin living into this new life now.  Once we enter into a personal relationship with God, He offers new mercies each day, a restoration of the brokenness in our lives each day.

The days of abundant and joyous life do not have to wait until we enter heaven or until when the new heaven and earth comes.  God wants us to begin to experience a taste of that life here and now.  Through trusting in God now, we begin to experience His promises and blessings now.  May we live each day with God’s love and restoring power as a daily, present reality.

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Reading: Acts 11: 1-10

This day, may we experience God in a new or unexpected way.  May God break into our ordinary and reveal Himself to us in a way that grows our faith.  May it be through an encounter with Him or through someone who crosses our path this day.

In today’s text, Peter encounters God in a new way that totally changed how He looked at a whole group of people.  It was a radical shift that was made in a relatively short time frame.  Today’s story has two lessons for us as we continue on our faith journey.

First, God is patient.  God did not reveal the vision of the sheet and animals once and then hope Peter understood.  He kept running the vision until Peter understood what God wanted him to know.  We too require God’s patience.  The person God wants us to minister to or to enter a caring relationship with may come to us repeatedly if necessary – maybe in person, maybe through the Spirit bringing them to our mind, maybe through a conversation with another person – until we realize God is at work.  Then we must respond.

Second, God seeks to increase our faith through our experiences.  Peter knew that God loved him and the Jewish people through his life experiences.  Culturally and religiously he had been taught exclusivity in God’s love for humanity.  Through the vision, Peter’s understanding of God’s love  grew greatly.  Peter came to know God’s love as universal and unconditional and unlimited.  He now knew how BIG God’s love is.  We too must come to know this.  Once we understand that God loves all people, then how we seek, look at, interact with, relate to, and love others is radically changed.  May we  see that person or those people today in a new way, through eyes and a heart that reflects the vast and unconditional, unlimited, universal love of God.

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Praise the Lord!

Reading: Psalm 148

Praise certainly is the main idea of Psalm 148!  At the beginning is a general call to praise the Lord.  The  praise quickly begins in the heavens with the angels, moon, stars, and sun.  Each is called to praise God for both their own creation and for their eternal place in God’s creation.  Then the Psalm shifts to the earth and calls all to praise the Lord.  The psalmist calls upon the elements and parts of nature that God stirs to life.  Also called are all of the living creatures and all of humanity – from Kings to children to the old.

All of this leads us to see that in our daily life we should offer our praise.  Our praise should be deeply rooted in our prayer life, letting God know how grateful we are for all He has blessed us with.  Our praise should also shine out through our lives in such a way to bring glory to God in all we do.  Just as all of creation reveals God and is called upon to bring Him praise, so should all of our lives.

The Psalm draws near its end recognizing that God alone is to be exalted.  We are to  worship none other than God.  We are not to worship any other being or any other thing.  But in a world that pushes pleasure, self-satisfaction, and individual preferences, this is tough to do.  To worship Him alone takes discipline, dedication, and effort.  Even with  heaping amounts of these, we cannot obey on our own.

At the very end of the Psalm, it is written that the Lord has raised up a horn which is the “praise of all His saints”.  This strong and mighty King is Jesus, the perfector and witness of our faith.  In Him we find the example of how to live a life of praise that brings glory and praise to God alone.  In Jesus we also find the strength to do what we cannot do on our own.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we find guidance, direction, correction to help us follow Jesus’ ways and teachings.  May we join all of creation in praising the Lord!!

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Listen to My Voice

Reading: John 10: 22-30

Ever since mankind has known God, it has been all about the relationship.  Adam and Eve walked in the Garden and talked with God.  Although His presence changed, God has continued to communicate with mankind.  Initially it was through prophets and angels.  Then God entered the world in the flesh.  Jesus lived, walked among, taught, and even performed some miracles.  In His earthly life Jesus revealed who and what God is.

With Abraham, God established a covenant with His chosen people.  Israel was to be God’s people and He was to be their God.  This covenant came with some guidelines.  Over time the Law  grew to be something cumbersome.  Yet the covenant relationship remains.  God’s chosen people, by and large, continue living in covenant relationship with Him.

In time though, it became necessary to establish a new covenant.  Jesus came to accomplish this.  He reminded God’s chosen people of parts of the old covenant: love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love neighbor as self.  He added to the second: love as I have first loved you.  This was a different kind of love.  It was a radical kind of love.  In His love there are no outcasts, no outsiders, no strangers.  Jesus loved all.  He loves you and me.  Through His body and blood, He established a new covenant and offers the gift of eternal life.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”.  The new covenant is about relationship too.  It is about hearing Jesus say, ” love as I have first loved you”.  It is about Jesus knowing each of us as a follower.  May we ever hear His voice.  May we ever follow.