Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Readings: Psalm 126 and Isaiah 61: 1-4 and 8-11

Key verses: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”. (Psalm 126:5) and “The Spirit of the Lord is on me… to preach… bind up… release… proclaim…” (Isaiah 61:1)

In our Advent study this week we are looking at humility – at having the mind of Christ spoken of in Philippians 2.  One of the men in our Tuesday morning study said humility is thinking less of yourself so that you could think more of others.  Humility is an active practice.  These profound thoughts fit well with the humble servant hood that Jesus modeled and calls us to follow.  Our world is certainly in need of more humble servants.

Both the bigger world out there and many people’s lives are filled with hardship and suffering and trials.  There is plenty of oppression and abuse of power, lots of violence and other senseless actions, many struggling with addictions and unhealthy relationships, and a host of other issues.  Individuals we know face some of these issues as do whole groups in our communities.  There are lots of people in lots of places who would love to live into this verse: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy”.

As humble servants of Jesus Christ, we are called to help those in need to do just that.  It is what Jesus did and what He calls us to do.  For all who follow Jesus, we live into the words of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”  When we read on, we find the “why” – to preach the good news to the poor, to heal the broken, to bring freedom to the captives, to release prisoners from all that binds them, and to proclaim God’s blessings on all.  These are big words and big ideas.  But guess what?  We serve a big God.  We serve a God who wants to work in and through us – just like He did with Jesus – to see all these things to come to be.

Sometimes we don’t see God big enough.  Sometimes we fail to dream and other times we fail to trust.  Sometimes we doubt.  Into all of this God speaks through the apostle Paul: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  May we serve a big God, trusting that all things are possible when we call on the One who can do all things.  Amen and amen.


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Reading: Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, & 45

Verse Four: Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always.

Our Psalm today opens as a song of praise, recalling the works and wonders that God has done for His people.  The psalmist encourages the people to remember in song and to retell of God’s activity among the people through music.  It is through music that we best rejoice and give glory to God.  In verse four we read these words: “Look to the Lord and His strength, seek His face always”.  In looking to God and in remembering God’s mighty acts in song, we are reminded over and over of God’s strength and we are drawn back again.

Giving thanks and singing praises to God is not limited to the times when life is good.  It is also not limited to singing about just the times of blessing either.  The entire Psalm recalls both times of abundance and power as well as times of want and oppression.  In fact, it is often in and through trying times that we see God’s hand at work.  When God enters into our pain or when He relieves our burdens are experiences where we feel especially close to God and His strength.  They are moments that really remind us to look to God and to seek His face always.

Just as in Israel’s past and at points in our lives when life was hard, in some communities and neighborhoods life is hard.  Poverty and lack of decent employment opportunities couples with violence and substance abuse to create difficult environments to live in.  Poor schools and inadequate housing add to the hardships that exist in many inner cities and on some reservations.  All of these factors lead to higher levels of crime and gang activity and to higher rates of incarceration.  These places can be difficult places to seek His face.  Yet there God is, working in and through people’s lives, being worshipped in vibrant faith communities that joyfully sing of God’s goodness and love.  God’s presence is there in full force, allowing faithful disciples to both trust in God in the midst of hardship and also to go forth to be used by God to bring healing and hope and love.  May we all be encouraged and uplifted by God’s presence so that we can share His love and hope and peace today.

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At Work

Reading: Genesis 37: 12-28

Verses 23 and 24: They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern.

Joseph does not have the best of days.  He heads out to check on his brothers and the flocks and ends up being sold into slavery.  His brothers’ hatred of him most directly leads to this event.  But the hatred did not begin today.  It is something that has been building.  The favored son comes alone, wearing that coat that Dad gave him, and evil thoughts are at hand.  Our text reads, “They stripped him of his robe… they threw him into the cistern”.

We have a tendency to want to blame someone when bad things happen to us.  Sometimes we identity a person or group of people and we cast blame on them.  Sometimes it is an occurrence of nature that causes our hardship.  Sometimes when all else fails, we blame God.  Seldom do we look inward right away to find the source of our troubles or hardship.  Joseph probably first blamed his brothers and then maybe Israel for sending him out alone.  At some points He probably questioned or blamed God.  From what we know of Joseph, it is unlikely that he became introspective.

In reality, many had a hand in what happens to Joseph in our passage today.  Israel has favored and spoiled Joseph.  This day he sends him off alone to a group of brothers who are jealous and dislike Joseph.  Joseph himself has helped build the animosity by sharing his dreams and by tattling on his brothers.  Satan has also been at work, fanning the flames of anger and planting thoughts of murder.

Although God is not mentioned in the text for today, God is also surely at work.  He softens Reuben’s heart and then Judah’s.  The caravan doesn’t just happen to come along.  Yes, in our lives nature, the bad decisions of others, and our own poor choices can cause us hardship and trial.  But in it all, God is still present.  God still has the bigger picture in sight.  His plans for us are ultimately for good and to prosper us.  As Joseph’s story unfolds, trials continue to come yet God remains at work always.  The same is true for us.  As the story of our lives unfold, may we trust into the God who loves us and seeks good for us.

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Shine the Light

Christians live in this world as a people set apart.  Although we are physically in this world, we long for our eternal home.  What guides our words, actions, and choices is foreign to the world in general.  The world does not understand the ways of God, so we live in this world trying to share God with those who do not yet know Him and His saving grace.

Being different sometimes brings negative attention.  Sometimes it is as simple as not fitting in because our faith prevents participation in something.  Sometimes it is not being invited because of how we are seen.  In other parts of the world it can be much worse.  The beatings and deaths that early Christians endured still happen in many places around the world.

Paul certainly experienced his share of trials, hardships, and tribulations.  In today’s reading is quite the list.  But he always kept sight of his hope.  He wrote, “Now is the day of salvation!”  No matter what life would bring his way, he knew that each day brought a new reconciliation with God.  Paul knew his calling in life: to share this Jesus Christ who was his all in all, his Lord and savior.

As a Christian we should stand out – in a good way.  Paul reminds us in this passage to not be a stumbling block to anyone.  In our words, actions, and choices may we shine the light and love of Jesus on all in our day today.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 6: 1-13

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Here, But…

It is not always easy to keep an eye on the eternal promises of God.  In the big picture we ‘get it’ – our real eternity rests with God and all the saints.  Yet at times we too get bogged down and lost in the day to day struggles we all face.

Sometimes though, it can feel like a millstone has been tied around our neck.  The uphill battle against a disease or illness, the sudden loss of a job or spouse or friend, another life change you never saw coming…  When it is more that the day to day troubles, which can be hard and very real too, it can be hard to remember God’s eternal promises.

All is not forever lost.  God suddenly pokes into our hard time and we are reminded of His great love.  Maybe it is through a friend or in a time of prayer or study or in a moment of solitude where He makes His presence known.  Like Paul we are reminded that these hardships are just temporary.  God’s plans will far outlive all of these earthly trials. What Christ offered on the cross has an eternal purpose and we are a part of that.

When we spend time daily with God, we experience the promise of being renewed day by day.  When we fix our eyes on the unseen, on our faith, we gain a sense of the eternal. When we remember that our earthly bodies are just temporary and we live for our eternal home built by God, we come to know our true reality.  We are here but not of this world.  Thanks be to God.

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 5:1

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Taking Stock

In 2nd Corinthians 5, Paul writes a long list of the things believers endure and a long list of the ‘rewards’ that make it worth enduring those things.  He proceeds the list with the warning not to accept God’s grace in vain.  If we accept the invitation to relationship with God, we must be prepared to endure now and then.  Paul is preparing us for a journey.

All believers have times or seasons where we feel a bit distant from God.  All believers go through trials and hardships that cause us to question God.  All believers wrestle with temptations that are not of God.  When we succumb to them, afterwards we question our strength of faith or wonder why we stumbled.  All part of the journey.

As we continue along the journey, we don’t only find these challenges, we also find growth and a deepening of our relationship with God.  The good things that Paul writes of are in essence the ‘why’ of staying on the journey.  We grow in patience, kindness, purity, knowledge, holiness of spirit, love, truthful speech, and the power of God.

In the midst of trial it sure is easy to see what we are facing or wrestling with.  But when life is ‘normal’, when things are sailing along, sometimes it is hard to identify progress and growth in our faith.  As we edge up to Lent, may we take a few minutes to take stock – to see where we have grown and drawn closer in our relationship with God.  Once an accounting has been made, give Him thanks!

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10

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Trust in God

As life became very difficult in Egypt, the Israelites could have chosen to rebel and fight.  They were numerous and probably coud have rebelled.  But instead they chose to turn to God and to trust Him.  Once they fully relied on God in their situation, amazing things happened.

In our lives, difficult people and situations will come.  Often our first instinct is to fight or to react.  In almost all cases this is not our best option.  Our best option is the same as the Israelites’ best option – God. To take a step back from the situation or person, to spend time in prayer, to turn it over to God – these are our best options.  As we faithfully trust God, we too will see some amazing things happen.

I see some parallels between Israel’s plight in Egypt and the persecution faced today by Christians around the world.  When I think of our brothers and sisters in Christ that face torture, death, and chaos on an almost daily basis, I am both very grateful for our freedoms here and also moved to prayer on their behalf.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to suffer for my faith in such a way.  May we hold our fellow Christians in prayer each day, that they may continue to be strong in the faith and to trust fully in the Lord.

Scripture reference: Exodus 14: 19-31