Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Find Unity

Reading: 1st Corinthians 1: 10-18

Verse 17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel”.

In our passage today Paul addresses the division in the church in Corinth. He begins by appealing to them to agree with one another so that there may be no divisions. The quarrels are not over the carpet color or whether or not to have a praise band. The quarrel is equally silly. They are arguing over who to follow. Most have gone astray but a few are still focusing in on the only one to follow: Jesus Christ.

It appears that many are following men who teach about Jesus. This is where the disunity comes in. They have allowed a secondary issue (human leaders) to shift their focus away from the primary belief (Jesus Christ). On one level the quarreling is good. Secondary belief issues do matter. Things like how one understands communion and baptism are, for example, secondary issues that are important. Carpet color? Style of worship? Third level topics at best.

In verse seventeen Paul focuses in on the primary belief. Here he writes, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel”. The message of the gospel is the only primary belief. To know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to know what the life, death, and resurrection mean as a follower of Jesus – this is the one core belief of the faith. This belief in the gospel is the “power of God”. Paul is calling the church in Corinth to find unity in the one core belief. The same call remains today for us. May it be so.

Prayer: Loving God, it is easy to get upset over second and third level beliefs. It is easy. Too often we take the easy way out. Draw us together in the good news of Jesus Christ. Your son told us to love one another just as he had first loved us. Help us to truly do so, God. Amen.

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Praying for our Leaders

Reading: 1st Timothy 2: 1-7

Verse 1: “I urge that… requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone”.

Paul writes to Timothy, instructing and encouraging the younger leader. In today’s passage the topic is about prayer. At the time of the writing the Romans ruled over the land. One of Rome’s demands was to worship the Emperor. For a monotheistic people who believed in the one true God, this was a difficult request. Instead of worshipping the Emperor, Paul guides the believers to pray “for kings and all those in authority”. He is direct, writing “I urge that… requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone”.

The Romans taxed the people heavily and limited some of their freedoms. For some it may have been hard to pray for the Emperor. Today some disagree with our political leaders because of policies or decisions. Yet Paul’s advice to Timothy is still the practice we should follow. The reason is the same: “so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”. The Romans allowed the Israelites some religious freedoms – temple worship and sacrifices. Maybe this is partly because they were praying for them. We are free to go to church, to worship God, and to practice our religious beliefs. These freedoms remain in place. We are to pray for our leaders to be saved and to know Jesus. Why? So that they too can become Christians? Absolutely. To see the world through eyes of faith alters the choices and decisions made. Love for the least would reshape our care for those living in poverty and without the necessities. How we interact with other nations would change. The idea that “they will know we are Christians by our love” would positively impact our cities, states, nation, and world. This day and every day may we lift our leaders to God’s guidance, direction, and protection.

Prayer: Lord, I lift our mayor, our governor, our president, along with all other elected and appointed leaders, to you today. Lead and guide them in your ways of love, compassion, and justice. Align their thoughts, words, decisions, and actions with your will and your ways. Amen.

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Heaven Rejoices

Reading: Luke 15: 1-10

Verse 10: “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”.

The religious leaders are critical of Jesus for eating with sinners. His response is to tell two stories that let the religious leaders know that living out one’s faith is sometimes about living with the sinners. It is quite a contrast in their understandings of how faith works itself out. The Pharisees and other religious leaders think it is all about ministry to those already inside the four walls of the temple – to those just like them. Jesus was also about going outside the walls and ministering to the lost so that they could come inside the walls and could learn to be like him. These are radically different approaches.

Both stories that Jesus shares end in rejoicing. He illustrates the joy we experience when something that was lost is found. We have all experienced this in our lives. Whether it is car keys or that important letter or our purse or wallet or our phone… we all know that smile and good feeling that comes when we find that lost item. The shepherd feels it and the woman with the coin feels it. Heaven also feels it. In verse ten we read, “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. Verse seven is very similar: much rejoicing. How much more important to recover a lost soul than a set of car keys or whatever! Imagine for a moment what those celebrations in heaven look and feel like.

Yes, heaven is joyful when the church gathers for worship. Yes, there are probably knowing smiles, nods, high fives… when we kneel to pray or when we crack open our Bibles. I am sure that our practices of the faith are pleasing in God’s sight. But the living out of our faith cannot just be within the walls of our churches or just within our hearts. We must also practice what Jesus teaches in these two stories. Like him, we too need to seek the lost, to talk with them, to eat with them, to walk with them. We need to help them find a connection to the Good Shepherd. We are called to GO and to make disciples. Can we also make heaven rejoice today over one sinner who repents and turns to God?

Prayer: Lord, we are told that the harvest is ready, that the fields are ripe. Many people today are lost and are seeking that which is missing in their lives. Others are struggling with sin. Help me to reach out today to the lost and the broken. Amen.

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No Matter the Messanger

Luke announces the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry within the context of who is in charge officially.  He names Tiberius Caesar along with more local rulers like Herod and Pilate.  All were men with great power over the people they ruled.  They decided on most matters of daily life and had the power to decide who lived and who died.  Rome was powerful and kept a tight leash on its subjects.  Within this system the Jewish religious leaders – Annas and Caiaphas – had some limited power.  It was far less power than the Roman rulers, but far more than the common people of Israel.

Into this context of political and religious leaders who love pomp and circumstance, who love to appear large and in charge, steps John.  He was humble and dressed in the simplest of clothing.  Instead of palaces and villas, he lived in the desert.  Instead of fine food and other luxuries, he ate wild locusts and honey.  After looking at the leaders on big thrones and in fine attire, many ust of looked at John and said, “Huh?”  The authorities must have really wondered about leaving the fine trappings of their courts and heading out into the wilderness to listen to this peasant.

But wouldn’t we say the same thing if John were to appear in our town?  In my town he would live along the creek and take shleter under a bridge or he would live up in the low hills on the edge of town and sleep in a tent or lean-to.  After a few days of John living this way, maybe more than a few of us would rather not be too near him.  We are used to our important information coming from men and women in nice clothes or in black robes.  But they are not the only sources.

We must be open to God’s word coming from any source.  He has picked some surprising people and will continue to do so.  From the elderly to the child, from the suit to the rags, God can and will use anyone to bring His message to us.  He could even use you or me.  May we have eyes to see and ears to hear all that God desires us to see and hear, no matter the messanger.

Scripture reference: Luke 3: 1-2

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For the King

Our world has seen many great leaders.  From men like King David to men like JFK and MLK, Jr., we have seen many great men.  They lived for a period and lead well, but they passed on and history rolled on.  Only one leader has established himself as an eternal leader: Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ example lives on not only in the words of a Bible.  The words of David live on there too.  But through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus remains  alive and present to each of us.  This indwelling of the Holy Spirit allowed His followers to risk all as they moved out into the world to boldly proclaim this risen Son as the way, the truth, and the life.  Only death could silence them and many made this choice.

For His followers today, we still experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The same Spirit leads and guides and nudges and whispers to us.  It pushes us to live out our faith in the world as a living witness to what Jesus does in our own lives.

We too live with the warning – there may be a little suffering.  Maybe it is a little harassment, maybe a little rejection.  In all cases, God remains present.  The Holy Spirit continues to intercede in heaven and to work within us.  All to share our King with the world.  All to prepare ourselves for seeing Him face to face.  All this for a King!

Scripture reference: Mark 13: 5-8