Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Reading: 2nd Kings 2: 1-7

Verse Four: “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho”… “I will not leave you”.

Elijah is known as the greatest Old Testament prophet according to most Biblical scholars. His tenure as prophet is full of great stories that demonstrate his obedience and faithfulness to God. Elisha is his prophet-in-training. Elisha will succeed Elijah as the next “prophet of God” in Israel. As we begin 2nd Kings 2, we hear that the time is now: “when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven…”. Elijah will not die a normal death. Instead he will be taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire. For his part, Elisha has been a few servant to Elijah and loves him dearly. He wants to be with him right to the end.

What unfolds over the course of our passage is sort of like a game of cat and mouse. Elijah says, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho”. Over and over Elisha’s response is, “I will not leave you”. Elijah wants to leave Elisha behind, maybe to spare him actually seeing Elijah go. Elisha keeps repeating his line, showing the deep dedication he has to Elijah. “Just one more moment..” is what Elisha is saying. At each juncture the prophets of that place remind Elisha that God is going to take Elijah today. And each time his response is the same: “Yes, I know. But do not speak of it”. Elisha is saying, I know already! You don’t need to remind me of it!

Elisha is as dedicated and faithful as Elijah. He will not leave the one he loves and serves. We have to admire Elisha’s level of commitment. It is one we would do well to emulate. As we reflect on this today, we first must ask ourselves: how could my life better reflect my love and dedication and commitment to Jesus? Secondly, we must ask: how could I be as faithful and dedicated to Jesus?

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Reading: Philippians 2: 1-5

Verse Two: Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

If you think back to when you were young, perhaps you can think of someone you wanted to be like.  Maybe it was one if your parents or maybe it was a grandparent.  Maybe it was an older brother or sister.  Maybe it was an older student on the team or in the choir or band.  Whatever the case, you looked up to that person for the qualities you admired in them.  They were qualities you wanted to have or practice as well.  As we mature in life, we often have mentors who help us along at work or in our faith or in our marriages…  They are usually more experienced and are “successful” and are willing to pour into us to make us ‘better’.

In today’s passage, Paul wants us to recall how Jesus brings us encouragement, comfort, compassion, love, tenderness, and fellowship.  He then says, “Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose”.  Paul is asking us to look to the ultimate role model and to emulate Jesus.  Do to others what Jesus does for us.  Jesus set aside selfish ambition and conceit.  Paul says for us to do the same.  Jesus chose humility – looking at others needs before His own.  Paul says for us to do the same.  Delve into the Word, understand what Jesus is really all about.  Get to know Him so well that you can emulate Him well.  But do not do this for just a day or even a week.  Keep reading, keep deepening your connection.  This is a lifetime project.

If we make Jesus Christ our role model, we still need mentors.  The journey of faith is not easy and it does take some experience.  It is far better to have wise counsel than it is to stumble along on our own.  Each Christian should seek out a wiser, more mature Christian as a mentor.  To be able to tap into and to learn from one who has walked where we want to walk is essential to our journey of faith.  May we each reflect on our journey to date and seek God’s direction on how and with whom to continue our path to being one in mind and spirit with Christ.

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Reading: Matthew 11: 16-19

Verse 19: The Son of Man came eating and drinking… a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were sent by God – one to proclaim the coming of the good news and the other to bring the good news.  Both men showed signs of God’s presence within them and were feared by the religious authorities for their connection to God.  As Jesus speaks today, He questions the current people’s ability to recognize what or who is before them.  In the end He says, “wisdom is proved right by her actions”.  Today we would maybe say “the proof is in the pudding”.  The question for us as followers of Jesus is: do we walk the walk?

In Jesus’ time, the tradition of becoming a Rabbi was a long and arduous process.  All young boys aspired to be a Rabbi.  The Rabbi was well respected and looked up to.  All young boys would study the Torah, memorizing each word of what we know as Genesis through Deuteronomy (180 pages in my Bible).  Those who showed exceptional promise would go on the further study.  Those who excelled here would ask to follow a Rabbi.  From this group a Rabbi would select three to five to follow him.  This small group would literally follow the Rabbi everywhere and would emulate all he did.  It was quite an involved process to get to train so that one day you might become the new Rabbi.  As others surpassed you, at whatever step, you would return home, most likely taking up the family business.

This was how one would become a religious authority.  It was how it was done.  John and Jesus simply responded to the call of God and went into ministry.  The authority that both men carried did gain respect from some, but not from all.  As our verses say, many called John ‘crazy’ or demon-possessed.  Jesus was looked down upon for the company He kept.  Verse 19 reads, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking… a friend of tax collectors and sinners”.  In the end both men served the God they loved.  Each man filled the exact role that God had planned for each.  John pointed to Jesus as the one to follow.  Jesus gave us the example to follow.  As we live out this day, may we clearly follow Jesus, looking to be His witness and His hands and feet in our world.

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Let Us Rejoice

Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2 & 19-29

The Psalm opens with a timeless line: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever”.  These three truths form some of the bedrock of our faith.  If one took the time, we could each list the many ways that we have personally experienced each of these truths in our lives.  As we grow in our faith, we come to appreciate each of these truths more and more.

The relationship we have with God is the overarching relationship in our life.  He actively seeks to guide and protect us, to bless us, and to bring us joy.  God desires to answer our prayers, to bring us success, and to receive our praise.  He is our strength in times of doubt, our courage in times of fear, our comforter in times of suffering, and our light in times of darkness.  Our relationship with God is the relationship which we should model all of our other relationships after.

For our part, we offer God our thanksgiving and praise for all He brings to the relationship.  Our grateful response is to seek to bring others into this relationship as well.  Jesus commanded all of His followers to go forth to make new disciples.  Jesus set the example for what our relationships with God and fellow man should look like and then said to go and do likewise, to love others as He first loved us.  We do this by being love, goodness, strength, courage, comfort, and light to those in our lives.

The psalmist also wrote, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”.  As we seek to emulate Christ and to bring Him to the corners of our world, we too will be blessed.  As we share the light and love of Christ with others, we too will be blessed.  Verse 24 reads, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”.  Each day is a day the Lord has made.  May we go out daily into our world rejoicing in all He has done for us, drawing others into our joy and praise, into His love and hope.

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Expressions of His Love

The journey of faith is a journey to grow more and more like Christ.  It is a journey that seeks to emulate the One who was without sin.  Our pursuit of being made into the image of Christ is an endless pursuit.

Paul reminds us today that we are to act toward one another as Christ acted toward us.  We are to treat one another in love.  We are to offer of ourselves.  We are to forgive freely.

Paul offer us a list of ‘don’ts’ followed by a ‘why’.  Don’t speak lies – speak truth to strengthen the body of Christ.  Don’t sin in anger – keep Satan at bay.  Don’t steal – work so that you have something to offer those in need.  Don’t talk coarsely – speak good things to build one another up.  Each ‘why’ is how we can become more like Christ.

Ultimately though, we will say unkind things, we will allow sin into out lives, we will take from others.  Out of His great love for us through, Jesus has paid the price for our sins.  Through His death and resurrection Jesus offers us forgiveness.  This wonderful grace of God makes us new every moment.  This deep love that God has for us is what draws us to faith.

As we continue to grow in Christ, our faith becomes more and more evident in how we talk, in our actions, and in how we live our lives.  All of these things are expressions of Christ’s love alive in us.  Today, may we grow to be more and more like Christ through how we love those we meet.

Scripture reference: Ephesians 5: 25-32

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Jesus is My Hero

Human heroes come in different shapes and sizes.  Heroes are admired for various reasons.  A big fan of science may admire Louis Pasteur or a big fan of rock and roll might really admire the Beatles.  But in my opinion, although great ou in their fields, they fall short of ‘hero’ status.  To some a Mother Teresa or an Anne Frank may be a hero, but may just be admired by most people.  A soldier who gives his life to save his fellow soldiers is a hero to many, and certainly to his fellow soldiers, but may not be a hero to all.

What qualities are required of our heroes?  Is it loyalty, courage, dedication, perseverance?  Maybe it is these qualities in some cases, other intangibles in different situations.

Would you put Jesus in the ‘hero’ category for you personally?  Most Christians would look at the life and teachings of Jesus, culminating in his death on the cross to pay the price for all of our sins followed by his resurrection, and look at Jesus as a hero.  The depth of his love and the sacrifice he made is courageous, extraordinary, and amazing. Jesus is my hero.

Heroes are often people others emulate.  If Jesus is your hero too, how will we emulate him today?  He calls us to love the world as he first loved the world.  Sounds like a great place to start!  Happy loving today!!!