Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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A Beautiful Vision

Reading: Ephesians 2: 11-22

Verse 19: “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens… with Jesus Christ himself as the cheif cornerstone”.

There is an old saying about fences not making good neighbors. They separate and keep us apart. Fences are like barriers. Each one of us is a unique creation of God. As unique creations we have characteristics that can make us look and feel and seem different from one another. “Can” is an important word. How we see each other is dependent upon our perspective.

In Ephesians 2, Paul is writing about the family of God. As Christians, this should be our identity. Through Jesus Christ, God reconciled all people to Himself. In Jesus’ eyes there is no skin color, no ethnicity, no gender, no past, no… All are His brothers and sisters. All are part of the family. There are no “foreigners and aliens” but only “fellow citizens” in God’s family.

We are united by Jesus Christ as we are “brought near through the blood of Christ”. It is His blood that washes away our sin. It is only our sin that separates us from God and, therefore, from the family. Sin is the only barrier that God sees. Through Jesus Christ we are restored and renewed and are made acceptable in God’s sight. This, to me, is why Jesus is the “chief cornerstone” – upon Jesus we all stand.

When this is our understanding of how we, sinners all, are made new creations who stand blameless in the family of God, then our understanding of each other is no longer earthly but heavenly. Like our sins, in Christ all the things that could separate us and could create barriers are also washed away. From this perspective, we are all simply children of God, united by the one Spirit. When we see each other this way, we see as Jesus sees. It is a beautiful vision for our world. May we each help this to become a bit more of a reality today. Amen.

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Seek the Lord

Reading: Psalm 9: 9-20

Verse Ten: “Those who know your name will trust in you; for you, Lord, have never foresaken those who seek you”.

Today’s section from Psalm 9 begins by reminding us of God’s love and care for us. David begins by reminding us that God is a “refuge for the oppressed” and is a “stronghold in times of trouble”. At times in our lives, God has certainly been these things for us. We can each recall times when God walked through the valley with us or when God brought relief to our trials or persecutions. God has been our protector and our defender at times.

David goes on to write, “Those who know your name will trust in you; for you, Lord, have never foresaken those who seek you”. This is almost an if-then statement. Those who know God will trust in God. Those who seek God will find that God is right there. The first verse, verse nine, helps us to these if-then statements. When we recall experiences where God was our refuge or when God was our stronghold, then we are more likely to trust and to seek God in our times of trial and suffering. While no one desires or tries to find testing or hardship, they are part of life. It is in these valleys and dark times that our faith resolve grows and our walk with God gains strength.

In our Psalm we also see David’s response to these moments when God has been there for him. He sings praises to God and proclaims to the nations what God has done. Thanksgiving recognizes that it was God who brought us through and proclamation allows or helps others to know about this great God. Thanksgiving keeps us humble and proclamation models God’s love for others.

Psalm 9 ends with a reality check of sorts. “Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph”. David knows our tendency towards being independent and self-sufficient. He closes with, “let the nations know that they are but men”. We are only human and God is God. It is a good reminder. This day may we who are powerless and weak turn quickly to our God who can do all things and whose strength is beyond measure. May we seek the Lord our God today and may we share the good news with all we meet!

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God Reality

Reading: Genesis 18:9-15 & 21:1-7

Verses 18:14 and 21:7 – Is anything too hard for the Lord?…. Yet I have born him a son in his old age.

Most of us live a very patterned life.  Sunday morning we go to church.  Wednesday night is youth group or a Bible study.  Monday through Friday morning we go to work.  Third Friday of the month is date night.  Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring.  Even within all of our routines are routines.  Worship is in the same order every Sunday.  First thing each morning is prayer time with a cup of coffee on the couch in the living room.

Within all of this we are called to live by faith.  But here too we like patterned or at least predictable.  Sure, we love for God to show up big on Sunday mornings in worship and we hope for His presence in our small group this Wednesday night.  We may even pray “your will be done” but hope it fits within our boxes.  We’d rather not have God show up unexpectedly as a coworker unburdens themselves at lunch.  We’d rather not have the Holy Spirit lead us to engage and love on that person we really don’t like so much.  All in all, even in our faith we prefer to stay well within our comfort zones.

Now we enter Abraham and Sarah’s story.  They are very old.  Her barrenness has caused much hurt and pain.  Years and years ago God promised Abraham descendant as numerous as the stars in the sky.  But it never came to be.  Now, as they near 100 years old, God again appears and says now is the time!  Sarah laughs.  You can’t blame her.  Her laugh is partly an expression of her deep sadness and her unrealized dream of a child.  It is also part honesty – really, a baby at 100?  Funny God, very funny.

God responds with a question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord”?  We all know the answer.  Nothing is impossible with God.  We know this to be true.  Yet most of the time we still prefer God in our boxes.  As Sarah becomes pregnant and begins to live into the reality of God, her mindset shifts.  She is experiencing the almost impossible through God’s power.  She is well outside her box.  You can picture her musing out loud as she asks the “who woulda thought” question.  Our passage closes with the reality, God’s reality: “Yet I have born him a son in his old age”.  Sarah fully understands now that nothing is impossible with God.  She knows this God reality.  May we live it each day as well.

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The Only Way

Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ grim news is understandable.  If we had been training under and serving alongside someone like Jesus for three years, the news that he was going to have to die would be hard to take.  Perhaps we too would have never heard the part that came after “rejected, killed, …”

Peter’s reaction is purely human.  It is where we live most  of our days as well.  Peter did not look far enough ahead and was just concerned with ‘now’ and how not having Jesus around would affect ‘tomorrow’.  We preoccupy and worry over how we fit in, how we are though of, what tomorrow will bring, and so on.  It was hard for human Peter to see divine Jesus’ bug picture.  Sometimes we fail to live with an eternal focus too.  Sometimes our eyes are fixated on the here and now.

Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  What a reality check; what a wake-up call.  Imagine of you heard those words spoken to someone in your small group or during a meeting at church.  Imagine if they were spoken to you!  Yet in reality these are words we need to use personally with ourselves all the time.  When we begin to veer off the path or when we go astray or when we just begin to feel temptation, we need to shout these words in our hearts and minds: get behind me Satan!

We are much like Peter.  We live human lives quite often.  We stumble and fall.  Often.  And, like Peter, we too have the cross and the promise of life eternal.  In that cross we seek and find grace and love and forgiveness.  Because of this each day we can deny self, take up our own cross, and seek to follow Jesus.  It is the only way.

Scripture reference: Mark 8: 31-38

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A Little More

After the feeding of the five thousand the disciples head out across the lake without Jesus.  He has sent them on ahead presumably with reassurances that He will join them later.  One can assume that the disciples thought Jesus meant in Capernaum, their destination.  About three miles into their journey, they discover another reality.  With water as far as the eye can see in the dark of the night, the disciples spot something approaching.

The disciples reality is jarred as  they must have moved from “Hey look” to “can’t be” to “it is?” as Jesus draws near to the boat.  Jesus was not on a jet ski or in a speed boat.  He was walking on the water.  This must have struck a chord of fear in the disciples as He had to reassure them and calm them as He climbed into the boat.  I bet his sandals and the edges of His clothing were not even wet.

The scriptures tell us that as Jesus joins them, just as He got into the boat, suddenly they were there on shore.  Once He joins them they are there.  Does this phenomenon occur in our lives?  Does it ever seem as if Jesus sends us out and we journey along on our own?  Then just at the right time He is there, right in the midst of life with us?  Then He too says, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”

His presence is an amazing part of this journey of faith.  Although God is omnipotent and omnipresent, it seems at times we get a little extra ‘bump’ – He is just a little more present, a little more with us when we need Him most.  He calms us with the same words again, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”  For this we say thank be to God!

Scripture reference: John 6: 16-21

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See, Hear, Smell, Touch

Often times Jesus and God are portrayed as one.  While they truly are in each other, I more often see them as two sides of the same coin.  Each plays a somewhat unique role in my life.  Yet they really are one – as I come to know Jesus more I also come to know God more.  As I draw closer to one, I draw closer to the other.  So, how does one make the relationship more intimate?

One way is to enter into the stories of Jesus.  Not just to read them but to enter in and become a part of the story.  To see, to hear, to smell, to…  For example, consider the story of the widow’s offering found at the end of Mark 13.  Pretty simple story – Jesus and the disciples are sitting in the temple area, watching people put their offering into the temple treasury.  The rich put in large amounts.  A widow comes along and puts in two small coins.  Jesus gathers the disciples close and tells them that she put in more than the others.  he goes on to explain that the rich put in some out of much wealth but the widow put in all she had, every last cent.  Only four verses.  Just as the disciples did, I am sure you get Jesus’ point.

But take a minute and explore the story with me.  Go a little deeper and be part of the story.  So, here you are sitting there with Jesus.  No one is talking.  You are just sitting there watching people make their offering.  Across the way is a Pharisee, arms folded across his chest, staring at the people as they make their deposits, mentally recording the ‘gift’.  Person after person, in fine clothes all beautifully adorned walk by him and place their coins in the top of  the box.  You can hear the rattle, rattle, rattle as they drop onto the pile already in the box.  They barely even slow down to put it in – except that last woman – took her a while to get all the coins through the slot.  You see the smug looks as they exchange glances with the overseer – you can almost hear them say, “See how much I love God!”  That lady pauses a second in front of the Pharisee – an extra wink included.

Then almost as if the breeze has shifted, you smell something different in the air.  It is not fine perfumes or burning incense.  It’s that smell of sweat and dirt, the one you carry with you after as long day’s work out in the sun.  Next you hear the shuffling of feet dragging across the hard floor of the temple.  It is not the click-clack of the fine footwear that has been passing the overseer.  Then you see her – messy hair, clothes a little more than worn, sandals that you would barely call shoes.  In your mind you begin to think, ‘Wow, who let her in…’ but then you snap back to the reality that you are sitting there with Jesus.  In your mind you maybe even slap yourself across the cheek!  You watch her as she slowly shuffles towards the treasury box.  Glancing back at the Pharisee you can see him frowning as he too watches her.  You can image what is running through his mind.  As she nears the box, her pace slows down.  It surprises you that she could go any slower.  Others that have come to make their offering slow down and the line backs up a bit behind her – they are keeping a bit of distance.  You notice her hand tightly clutching something, knuckles turning a little white.  Then she comes to a halt in front of the box.  She closes here eyes and you see her lips moving as she offers a prayer to God.  She slowly extends her hand and lets go of its contents.  You hear clink, clink as two little coins join the massive pile inside the box.  She shuffles on and does not even look up at the overseer.  You see him smirk and see his shoulders bounce a little as he chuckles at the meager offering.

Suddenly Jesus is quietly gathering the disciples around him.  His quick, simple whispers reveal why she was moving so slowly, why she was clutching the coins so tightly, why she stopped to pray as she made her gift.  As the circle breaks and you return to your perch across from the box, you have a whole new thinking concerning giving.  You see each person as they approach the box differently now.  Suddenly you know Jesus and God a little better than you did before.  Who knew a poor woman in such simple attire could teach us so much about giving?