Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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I Am Sending You

Reading: Matthew 10: 1-23

Verse 16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.

Jesus is sending out the twelve to “drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease”.  In this passage today, they are being sent to fellow Jews.  Jesus calls these the “lost sheep” – tying back to why He had compassion on the crowds in Matthew 9:36.  The twelve are first to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is near” and then to heal diseases, raise the dead, and drive out demons.  The authority Jesus gives them to perform miracles will lend credence to the message they bring.

As we go out into the world, we go for the same reasons.  We go to share the good news of Jesus Christ as we work to heal a broken world.  Each of us who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior has a story to tell that will be good news for others.  Each of us can love and serve others too.  We may not be able to work miracles, but by caring for basic needs and by giving of our time and talents we do bring healing.  It is through our loving acts of service that we too gain footing to share Jesus with the lost.

Jesus warned the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”.  There is a defenselessness that comes to mind with this statement.  It requires trust in the Shepherd.  He goes on to advise them to be on guard against men.  Jesus warns them that persecution is going to be a part of the journey.  He also tells them that the Spirit will be with them.  The Holy Spirit will give them the words to say.  And then Jesus encourages them, stating that “he who stands firm to the end will be saved”.  Keep the faith, I am with you.

We too are sometimes sent to people or places that make us feel like sheep among wolves.  We too must trust into the lead, guidance, and protection of the Holy Spirit.  In those uncomfortable or outside our comfort zone times, if we keep the faith the Spirit will give us just the right words to say as well.  May we be like the twelve, trusting He who sends, going forth to share the good news and to bring healing to our broken world.  May our light draw others in to Jesus Christ – the One who saves.

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Law, Love

Reading: Psalm 119: 33-40

The psalmist writes of the joy of the law, of life lived in the pursuit of understanding God’s laws.  For the Israelites, living under God and pursuing the ways of God was the purpose of existence.  In the correct sense, the law reveals who God is and what God is like.  The first laws given, the ten commandments, were all about relationship.  The first part deals with our relationship with God and the second part deals with our relationship with each other.  All of the law added by God since these first ten still focused on these two relationships.  So to pursue God is to follow the law.  To love your fellow man is to follow the law.

Jesus came not to abolish the law or to change the relationships, but to fulfill the law.  He came to show us how to properly live out the law.  Much as the psalmist speaks of delighting in the law and finding healing and peace in the law, as Jesus lived out the law, He too brought peace and healing.  Life according to the law was life-giving for the Israelites.  This was always God’s intent.  To bring mankind back to this intent, God sent Jesus to perfect the law.  Jesus did so by returning to the original intent – living in a holy relationship with God and in a loving relationship with each other.

Just as the psalmist longed to understand the law and to obey it in his heart, we too seek to know Christ and to have Him live in our heart.  In this way we live in a right relationship with God and with one another.  As we study, read about, meditate on, and experience Jesus, may we too come to understand what it means to love as Christ loved God and as Christ first loved us.

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We’ve Always

Reading: Ephesians 3: 1-12

Paul begins our passage by reminding his audience of how he got to where he is at right now: by revelation of God.  He was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus, was struck blind for three days, and turned his life around 180 degrees.  Paul went from greatest persucutor of the church to the champion proclaimer of the church almost overnight.  It was a transformation that only God could lead.  The change God wrought in Paul gives him some authority to speak on God’s behalf.

But the news Paul is now sharing is difficult for many to accept.  At the core of this new church are ancient Jewish roots.  Almost all of the leaders and members of the church are Jews.  So, forever they have been “God’s chosen people”.  Of all the people in the world, only the Jews are chosen by God.  Since the time of creation, the Jews have been the one and only people of God.  This is one of the great “we’ve always done it this way” stories.  And now, Paul is preaching another story.

Today we still run into the “we’ve always…” stories.  A church I was at a while back ran a day center for the homeless and economically challenged.  Several people from the church volunteered at the center.  So, every once in a while, a volunteer would bring a guest with them to church.  This worked out OK because there was a buffer there.  But every so often a guest would respond to an invitation and would come on their own.  It was then that we learned who the few “we are God’s chosen people” followers were.  Yup, these guests are not just like us.  Yup, these guests are just like us: dearly loved children of God.

This was the revelation of God to Paul: all people are God’s people.  Red and yellow, black and white, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar, …  This is the continuing story of God.  It is, of course, the ultimate “we’ve always…” story.  Jesus loved and welcomed whoever came to Him.  There were no applications or interviews or screenings.  Come one, come all.  All were worthy of His love and care because all are children of God.  As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”, may we also seek to be the light in the darkness to bring healing and salvation to the world in need.

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Healing, Light, Justice

Reading: Isaiah 42: 1-9

As the new year lays out before us, it beckons us to look forward.  This time of year also causes us to look back, to consider the year that has just ended.  It is often a time of evaluation, of setting goals or realigning our priorities, and of taking stock of our lives.  All of these are good and healthy things to do.  When we take time to reflect on our lives, we live much more beyond ourselves and past the daily grind of life.

Today’s passage speaks of this idea of a life bigger than our own little worlds.  The opening verse begins by declaring, “Here is my servant… my chosen one in whom I delight”.  God speaks this of you and of me.  We each are so much more than this collection of cells.  We are God’s children, chosen by God to live a life of service to God.  This spiritual life calls us beyond ourselves and the day to day of life.  As God’s chosen ones, we are called to others.  The rest of verse one reads, “I will put my Spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations”.  As God’s chosen ones we are gifted with the Holy Spirit.  This gift helps us to live into God’s calling.  To me, this means truly living out the second commandment that Jesus gave: love neighbor.  There are, of course, many ways we can love our neighbors – bringing justice is just one of them.

After reminding us the He will take hold of our hand, will keep us, and will make us a covenant and a light for the Gentiles, God goes on to get specific about how we are to bring justice and to love our neighbors.  As a covenant to and a light for the people, God calls us to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, and to release those in “dungeons of darkness”.  I believe this call is both spiritual and physical.  God wants us each to be a part of the healing of the world.  He wants us to help people through the power of Jesus’ name.  It may be physically restoring someone’s vision or helping someone learn how to make different choices so that they do not end up back in prison.  It may be opening their eyes to the Word of God so that they are freed from the chains and darkness of sin.  And for many, it is both physical and spiritual healing that God desires us, His chosen ones, to bring to the broken of our world.

As we each reflect back on our past year and look forward to the year ahead, may part of our time be spent considering how each of us can specifically bring healing and light and justice to those living in a broken world.

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Reading: Matthew 11: 2-6

Jesus’ response to John the Baptist’s question is interesting.  Jesus speaks of the restorations prophesied about in Isaiah 35: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are healed…  All of these things listed are physical limitations.  Make no mistake, throughout the world people are healed every day from physical afflictions, all in the name of Jesus.  The work Jesus began continues through His followers.  Jesus’ response is interesting because the true healing Jesus brought was for our inner healing.  Ultimately Jesus Christ came to free us from the powers of sin and death so that we could one day enter eternal life.

When John preached in the wilderness, h called for people to repent of their sins and to make straight paths for the coming of the Messiah.  John challenged people to be rid of the sin in their lives so that they were ready to welcome the Messiah.  Jesus’ response to John’s question is about change in the physical sense.  John predicted one who would come to bring healing in the spiritual sense.

Jesus speaks of a healing that I think most often must come first.  Before people can hear the good news of Jesus Christ, they must first have their basic needs met.  It may be one of the physical limitations that Jesus speaks of that is a barrier to their spiritual lives.  It may be a physical limitation such as food or shelter or clothing.  Jesus certainly addressed our call to meet these needs as well.  By bringing healing and restoration in the physical realms, we open the way to healing and restoration in the spiritual realms.  This day, through our words, prayers, and actions, may we each bring healing to our broken world, all in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

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Tax Collector Witness

Reading: Luke 18: 9-14

The tax collector is honest and direct with God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.  As this man who stands at a distance and won’t even look up towards heaven utters these words, it is easy to imagine tears running down his cheeks and a little crackle in his voice.  He comes to the temple with his sins heavy upon him.  He comes to simply do what he needs to do: to lay his sins before God.  This tax collector knows that God’s mercy alone can remove these sins from his life.  He is humble and honest before God.  He recognizes God’s sovereignty and God’s love.

The tax collector is a great witness to the faith for us.  First, he realizes who he is, honesty admits it before God, and acknowledges that God alone can restore him.  Too often we instead live with ‘secret’ sins in our lives.  Access is easy to many addictions.  We rationalize our greed and jealousy as simply wanting the best in life.  The line of excess and gluttony is easily crossed.  The pull of gossip and being judgemental is great.  Like the tax collector, our guilt often weighs down upon us.

Second, the tax collector knows his great need for God.  In our independent, free choice, I’ll do what’s best for me culture, it’s easy to think that we are the center, that we are in control.  Yet, like the tax collector demonstrates, only in God do we find true power and love.  It is only when we enter humbly into God’s presence that we find true healing for our brokenness.  It is only when we admit that we have no power to remove the guilt and shame of our sin that God can restore us, can make us new again.

O merciful God, allow us to see the sins in our lives.  Make us humble as we enter into your presence, pour out your power and grace upon our lives.  Like the tax collector, restore us to a right relationship with you.

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To All in Need

Reading: Luke 17: 11-19

Our story begins today with Jesus travelling along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  There is long-standing tension between the peoples of these two regions.  We see this tension revealed in several stories in the New Testament.  Some on both sides of this tension would travel many miles out of the way simply to avoid crossing the other’s territory.

Ten lepers called out to Jesus.  Ten call out in faith.  Jesus sees ten children of God calling out in faith to be healed.  Jesus brings healing to all ten.  He saw ten lepers.  Jesus did not see one Samaritan and nine Jews.  He saw ten lepers in need of healing.

Healing comes to all ten.  Jesus sees only the condition that has kept them isolated from society.  Jesus does not see ethnicity or age or gender or any other differentiating characteristic.  He only sees their faith that has led them to call out for healing.  Their faith is what Jesus responds to.

Through this story, Jesus is calling us to love in the same way.  He is calling us to love all people.  All people are God’s children, all need God’s love.  Jesus is calling us to look past ethnicity and age and gender and religion and socio-economic status and … “Love one another as I have first loved you”.  Fully, completely, without filter or limit or hesitation.

One came back to thank Jesus for His healing touch.  The one who came back was a Samaritan.  The one who most in Jesus’ audience would see as an outsider came back to fall at Jesus’ feet and to thank Him.  We too will encounter others who feel like outsiders, who feel unworthy of Jesus’ presence.  We too can reach out and offer hope and love and healing in the name of Jesus.  To all in need, may we offer Jesus Christ, the only one who can heal all.  To all in need, may we offer Jesus and His love.