Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Glory and Strength

Reading: Psalm 29

The voice of God is everywhere.  It is both powerful and majestic.  We can recognize it in the loud thunder, in the forceful winds, and in the shaking of the lightning.  In the storms of life, it can be harder to hear God’s voice.  Yet God is everywhere.  It can be hard to hear God’s voice amidst the raging, but God is there.  God never leaves us.  Verse three reads, “the voice of the Lord is over the waters”.  If we tune into the rhythmic falling rain or the steadily moving waters, we can discern the voice of our God who “gives strength to His people: the Lord who blesses His people with peace”.  In the storm, if we can tune in and seek God’s voice, God is there.

It can be so hard to only see the chaos swirling around us in a storm or trial.  It can be hard to focus on anything other than the chaos.  But God is not in the chaos.  In times of chaos, it can help to go simple.  Taking a couple moments to utter a simple prayer over and over can be very powerful.  It can bring the peace and blessing promised in the Psalm.  One can use the Psalm, praying “O Lord” as you slowly breathe in and praying “give me strength” as you slowly breathe out.  Or one can pray “Lord God” and then “bless me with peace” as one breathes slowly in and out.  The short breathed prayer can also be specific to the need or trial at hand.  In those times of need, taking a few minutes to pray over and over as we breathe in and out certainly invites God in and provides fertile ground for the promised strength and peace to take root.

Simple prayers that invite God into our lives are powerful and effective.  They remind us of the power and majesty of our Lord.  The Psalm opens with the line, “ascribe the Lord glory and strength”.  In our times of trial and need, may we seek the Lord our God, trusting in God’s glory and strength.

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Community, Personal

Reading: Romans 15: 4-13

Community and personal connection to God flow through this section of Romans 15.  Paul reminds us that the coming of Jesus that we await is also the one spoken of by the prophets of old.  The Root of Jesse will save the world from its sins.  He is the one who offers endurance and encouragement and a spirit of unity among all believers.  Through this unity we glorify God.  There is a deep sense that unity pleases God.  Paul goes on to quote several Old Testament passages that include the Gentiles in God’s family, again seeking to build unity amongst all believers.

The vision that God sent Jesus for all people is a great one to lift up during Advent and particularly around Christmas.  As we draw nearer to the day, it is upon each of us to invite all to the celebration.  Paul clearly spells out that Christ came for all people.  Thus is a message we all need to share.  It is an open invitation that we need to proclaim.  May we fling wide the doors of our churches to welcome all into the gift of Jesus Christ!

We invite to allow others to begin to know and develop what we have – a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is this personal connection that underlies and undergirds our overall sense of Christian community.  The joy and hope and love and peace that we celebrate in Christmas is the same joy and hope and love and peace that we live with all year long because we know Jesus as Lord of our life.  While we are called to share this with others and to invite them to the birthday celebration, this season is also a time when we ourselves again invite Jesus into our hearts.  We prepare our hearts to once again welcome the Christ child.  It is a deeply personal time of connecting to Jesus Christ.  May our own hearts be filled with the gift of Jesus Christ as we fling open the doors of our hearts to welcome in the joy and hope and love and peace of our Savior.

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He Is with You

Reading: John 20: 19-31

In the hours and days after the crucifixion, the disciples hid in fear.  They gathered together for support, but we’re basically in hiding.  Who could blame them?  One may occasionally slip out but they returned quickly, probably with one eye turned back to see if they were being followed.  If the authorities could so easily strike down the shepherd, what resistance could the sheep really offer?

Fear was real and palpable amongst the disciples.  They had good reason to be hiding behind locked doors.  Then Jesus comes and stands in their midst.  Both times He opens with the same line: “Peace be with you”.  I imagine there was a short pause before He continued to talk.  Jesus could have offered them anything.  He chose peace.  Fear was controlling them and Jesus knew that for them to go on from here, to begin to spread the good news, that their fear must be conquered.

When asked why one did not share their faith or why one could not bring themselves to invite a friend to church or why one decided not to help the one in need before them, the answer is usually the same: fear.  In our minds we may try to rationalize our failure to act with some other excuse.  But when being truly honest, dear is usually the main reason.  So Jesus’ words speak to us too in our weakness, in our fear: peace be with you.  Peace be with you.  Peace.

‘Calm your fears my child, my peace is with you” – step out in trust and invite that hurting friend to church.  ‘Feel my peace washing over you’ – in faith share that burning message in your heart with the one who is seeking.  ‘Sense my peace washing away your fears’ – in the helping of a stranger, Christ is present.  Peace be with you.  Fear not, for He is with you.  Peace be with you.  Peace.

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Psalm 99 opens with, “The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble.”  This line evokes a powerful God.  goes on to speak of how God is holy and mighty and that we should worship at His footstool.  These words and images indicate a God that is far above mankind in status and place.  The psalmist almost makes God so far above us that we can barely connect to Him.  At times, particularly when I have sinned, it can be easy to see God in this manner.

But beginning in verse six, we are reminded that God connects with mankind in personal ways.  We are reminded of how Moses, Aaron, and Samuel all called on God and of how He answered them as He spoke directly with them.  Our mighty and holy and powerful God desires the same intimacy with us.  He longs for this on a daily, moment-by-moment basis, not just once a week or once in a while.

Often when we gather for worship, we begin by inviting God’s presence to be among us.  The words of the prayers, liturgies, sermon, and songs are all meant to help us connect to God and to feel His presence in our time of worship.  Our praise builds out of this sense of connection and relationship.  Our mighty and holy and powerful God desires a one-on-one connection with each of us.

As in the psalm, God desires to be our defender, our redeemer, and our champion of justice.  This desire is for all of the time, not just on a Sunday morning.  May we begin each day by inviting God to be present in our lives that day.  Throughout the day may we reach out and connect to Him, continually inviting Him into our lives.  And at the end of the day, may we thank God for His constant presence with us throughout that day.  May the Lord God be with you!

Scripture reference: Psalm 99

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Prayer Invite

Within each person is a spark of the divine.  This is what causes us to see God in our world and to have an innate pull within us to connect to God.  As John began to baptize in the wilderness, people started to wonder if he was indeed the Messiah that they were longing for.  John must have sensed this and Jesus’ imminent coming as he announced that he was not the Messiah but that the One was indeed coming.  John’s call to repent and to live a righteous life was to prepare the way for Jesus.

As we awaken and face each new day, are we like the people on the river bank?  Are we heading into our day expecting to see and experience God at work in our lives and world?  Do we face each day with the expectation that God can and will be present and active in our lives?

It is God’s desire to be present to and active in our lives each day.  So how do we invite God in and learn to live with eyes that are focused on seeing God?  It begins with us as it began with Jesus – in prayer.  After He was baptized, Jesus prayed to God and the Holy Spirit descended on Him.  Prayer is our initial point of connection to God as well.  Prayer draws us into relationship with God.

Sometimes we can lose our sense of expectation.  Life can get routine and we fail to see God in the ho-hum of the day to day.  But God is always there.  He desires to play the lead role in our life, but He does not force His way in.  Today and each day may we begin in prayer, inviting God to be present to us throughout our day.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 15-17 and 21-22