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Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Going Out

Reading: Acts 1: 1-11

Verse Eleven: “Why do you stand there, looking into the sky”?

The book of Acts opens with a brief recap of the forty days after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It reviews how Jesus offered “convincing proofs” that He was alive and it reiterates His promise to send the Holy Spirit. The disciples then ask when Jesus is returning to restore the kingdom of Israel. Yes, they are still thinking of earthly kingdoms instead of the heavenly kingdom. Again, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus is taken up into heaven and the disciples stand there staring up. Two angels appear and ask, “Why do you stand there, looking into the sky”?

The angels indicate that Jesus will come back. But the implication in the question is ‘stop staring, it is time to get to work’. There is much to be done, so let’s get busy. Much needs to be accomplished before Jesus returns, so let’s get to work. Quit standing around staring at the sky.

I wonder how often God thinks thoughts like these today. How much of our time is spent staring up at heaven instead of engaging the work that needs to be done down here? How much time do we spend each day in prayer and personal study and how little time do we devote each day to the acts of mercy that Jesus so often called His followers to?

Nothing builds itself. While it is wonderful that we Christians spend our “alone time” with God each day, we must spend at least that much time spending “face time” with the lost, least, and broken of this world. No one will come to faith and experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promises without someone first introducing that person to Jesus Christ. It is essential to go outside of our churches to find those who need a saving relationship with Jesus. They are not coming to us. We must go to them.

Each and every day may we look down and around us, seeking to be kingdom builders, going out into the world to share the light and love and hope if Jesus Christ with a world in need. Amen.

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Action

Reading: 1st John 3: 16-18

Verse Eighteen: “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”.

Already in the early days of the church John was seeing a struggle between the words Christians said and claimed and the actions that they were living out. In the first chapter of 1st John, he encourages the followers of Christ to walk in the light. Walking is an active verb – John wanted them to walk in the faith or to have an active faith. He continues this encouragement in chapter two and then turns to warnings against loving the world and being led astray by false teachings. In chapter three John turns to our call as children of God and how to live righteous lives. It is within this chapter that our passage today lies.

For John and for the church today, we cannot separate the idea of being a Christian from the idea of love. The two cannot be separated. Jesus was all about loving others and that is one of Jesus’ primary directives to His followers. In most churches, we do this very well with each other. Yes, we will disagree now and then, but by and large the folks in our churches love one another well. Those John was addressing must have done this well too. The challenge comes in loving those outside the walls of our churches, those who are different, those who struggle with sin or hardships in their lives.

John was challenging the church to love those in need in a time when persecution was high. We are challenged today in a time when it is pretty safe to be a Christian. Yet we too struggle to always help those who cannot help themselves and to offer self-sacrificing love that goes out and meets people’s needs where they are at. John wrote, “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”. Don’t say you love your neighbors but actually go out and love them. Don’t see injustice and do nothing about it. Don’t see the hungry without feeding them, the naked without clothing them, the lonely without visiting them…

There is much need and brokenness in our world. There is much love in our hearts. May the two meet not only in our thoughts and words but out there in the real world too. May we each be a part of making this happen today.


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News to Share

Reading: 1st John 1:1 to 2:2

Verse 2:2 – “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world”.

1st John opens with some excitement in the writing. In his words we can still sense the excitement related to the recent resurrection. John bases his authority to proclaim the gifts of eternal life and salvation from sins on his firsthand experience hearing, seeing, and touching Jesus. The opening section concludes with, “We write this to make our joy complete”. John receives joy from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

Coming off Easter Sunday we too should be full of good news to share with those in our world. Yesterday we joyously celebrated the risen Lord. Will we go out into the world sharing the joy? Will you?

John goes on in the remainder of 1st John 1 to encourage us to walk in the light. He writes, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness”. We must walk in the light to remain connected to God. John writes of the benefits of this choice. First, we have fellowship with one another. Second, we experience the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. For our part, we must confess and seek to repent of our sins. John also acknowledges the reality of sin in our lives. He reminds us that we do walk in darkness, in our sin, at times. John also warns us not to claim that we do not sin because then we “make Him out to be a list”. Don’t want to do that!

In 1st John 2, John goes on the address when we sin. He reminds us of two important details in our battle with sin. First, Jesus speaks to God on our behalf. He stands between God and our sins. Second, Jesus is the atoning sacrifice. He has already paid the price for our sins and, in fact, has paid the price for the sins of the whole world.

All of this is indeed good news worthy of sharing. There are none more in need of hearing this news than our broken and hurting brothers and sisters who are living lost lives. If we do not share the stories of the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, how can they come to know the healing and redeeming power of Jesus Christ in their lives? Yesterday we were reminded that we are Easter people, that we are resurrection people. The good news is always good. It is always worthy of sharing. May we each live our love of Jesus out loud each and every day, helping others to walk in the light of God’s love. Lord, give us the strength and courage so that it may be so. Amen.


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In Love

Readings: Isaiah 42: 1-9 and John 12: 1-11

Verse Six from Isaiah 42: “I will take you by the hand. I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the Gentiles”.

Today’s passage from Isaiah speaks of the “servant of the Lord”. Through New Testament eyes we see the servant who brought justice to the nations as Jesus. Just as they put their hope in God’s ways, so too do we. In verse six we find a mix of speaking of Jesus and speaking to us, His followers. The God who gives breath to His people says, “I will take you by the hand. I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the Gentiles”. The image of God holding our hand as we go through life is an awesome image. The thought that God will keep us safe and secure is comforting. The words that speak of making us a covenant to His people and a light for Gentiles is a bit halting. At first these words bring us pause. We want to say that is Jesus’ work. It at the very least, that is the work of the pastor or priest. But God is speaking to us here too. We are to be in a covenant relationship with each other. In our church we have been defining that as an “I love you no matter what” relationship. We are also called to love outward – to be a light to the non-believers in our lives. Through loving all people as Jesus loves us, we will be a light.

In John’s gospel we see love being poured out. One week and a couple thousand years ago, Jesus and the disciples are in Bethany at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As they relax after dinner, Mary – the one who had sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him teach – kneels again at Jesus’ feet and extends a gift of love to Jesus. Mary uses an expensive jar of perfume to anoint His feet. She then goes one step further and dries His feet with her hair. This act of love will be replicated when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.

In both the Isaiah text and in Mary’s example we have “go and do likewise” calls. In Isaiah 42:7 we are called to open the eyes of the blind, to free the captives, and to release those living in darkness. When we do these things we truly love one another and we are light to the world. In the example of Mary, we are called to see the blind and lost and broken as both Jesus and as Jesus saw them. We are to recognize Jesus in all and to minister to these just as Mary did – in love. It was love that led her to go one step farther and that calls ud do the same. As we enter into Holy Week, may we seek to love all we meet as we minister to them as Jesus did and would – in love. May it be so, bringing honor and glory to God.


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Present to Us

Readings: Psalm 31: 9-16 and Philippians 2: 9-11

Verse Sixteen: “Let your face shine on your servant and save me in your unfailing love”.

The readings today begin in the Psalm. Verses nine through thirteen speak of sufferings and trials. There is weakness and anguish and contempt and brokenness and slander and conspiring. For David, the author, it seems as if he has hit a pretty rough stretch. At times we can relate to what David is expressing. Life is not always easy and we sure can find ourselves tossed about.

In verse fourteen the Psalm takes a turn as David writes, “I trust in you, O Lord”. There is an assurance that God is near. The psalmist then writes, “my times are in your hands”, illustrating a deep trust in God. The section of the Psalm that we read today concludes with, “Let your face shine on your servant and save me in your unfailing love”. In the these words is a quiet confidence that God will always be present.

As we shift forward several hundred years, we find Paul writing about Jesus in Philippians. In the verses proceeding verse nine Paul has acknowledged Jesus’ humility and obedience as well as His servant’s attitude. In these characteristics we also see the trust and confidence in God’s presence that came out in Psalm 31.

For both David and Jesus, although great men, they suffered at times in this life. It was through these experiences that they came to truly look to God. By doing so, they came to have this deep and abiding trust that God would be present and that God would carry them through, that He would save them. As we journey through life we too can trust that God will always be present and that He will always carry us through. As we do this more and more we will come to that place of living with God ever-present to us. May we trust and lean into God this day and every day. Amen.


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Love Pure and Unending

Reading: Jeremiah 31:34

Verse 34b: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”.

God’s love, of course, is much greater than our love. It is greater not only in volume, but also in quality. It is a love that we cannot begin to see the bounds of. In Jesus, we see that God’s love is a love for all people, especially the least and the lost and the broken and the marginalized. God’s love is something that binds us together with God and with each other. It is a love that sees beyond faults and stumbles to always say, “I love you”.

In today’s passage, God is saying that His love will lead mankind to know Him in such an intimate way that one day we will no longer have to teach about God and His ways. As we look at the world that say seems a long way off. Yet within this is also revealed God’s patience. Jesus could have returned long ago and made all things new. But I think the delay shows God’s patience. He is saying, “Just one more. Let’s save just one more” over and over. This patience, of course, comes from His great love.

Our passage today concludes with this line: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”. Just more proof of God’s vast love. Not only does God offer forgiveness, but He does not remember our sins. Forgiven and forgotten. How I wish I was more like God in this way! It is easy to forgive someone that feels truly repentant. But if it feels shallow or if they turn around and do the same thing again, I can easily withhold forgiveness or place another mark on the chalkboard in my mind. The same mentality that leads us to feel like we need to return the favor or the compliment leads us to think we should keep track of wrongs and hurts.

This is not the love and forgiveness we experience from God. It is not the love and forgiveness modeled by Jesus. In Psalm 103 we are told that God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. In John 12 Jesus reminds us that He did not come to judge or condemn the world but to save it. Faith is all about love. Love conquers all things. May God and Jesus’ love in me conquer my penchant for keeping score and may my love God and others be pure and unending, just as is His love for me. May I love as He loves me. May it be so. Amen.


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Breaking Chains

Reading: 1st Peter 3: 18-22

Verse 18: “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”.

Noah was saved because of his righteousness. Because of this, he was chosen by God to survive the great flood. Out of the flood came God’s covenant to never again destroy the earth by water. Instead, God will have mankind’s best interests at heart. And then, at just the right time, God sent Jesus into the world. Instead of the rains, God sent love.

Christ came for two main purposes. The first was to show us what God’s love looks like when lived out to perfection. Before He died, Jesus made it abundantly clear that all Christians are to do the same – to live God’s love out into the world. The second and main reason Jesus came was to save mankind. Through the purchase of His blood, Jesus made atonement for our sins. Peter sums it up this way in our reading today: “For Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God”. For us, the unrighteous, Christ died to bring us to God.

Peter connects this gift from Christ to the waters of our baptism. In our baptism, the waters symbolically wash away our sins and our old life. In baptism, Peter also says we receive the “pledge of good conscience”. In simpler terms, this means that we are led to act and live righteous lives as we walk out our faith as a new creation in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit in us, which marks us as a child of God in our baptism, that leads us to walk out our faith, sharing God’s love with a world in need.

Peter refers to Christ, being made alive by the Spirit, going and preaching to “spirits in prison”. He went to hell to save some lost souls. This too is one way that we can live out God’s love. We can go to the lost and the broken and share the good news of Jesus Christ. We can lead them to the waters of baptism so that they too can be made clean and can receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, walking ever more as a beloved child of God.

As Christ’s light and love lived out in the world, may we be led by the Spirit to help the least and the lost break the chains of sin and death, freeing them to live a life in Christ. May it be so today and every day. Amen!