Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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A Process

Reading: 1st John 5: 1-6

Verse One: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well”.

Some view religion as a list of rules that one must follow. They see obedience as a burden. In today’s passage, John uses father-son language. When we look at the obedience that occurs in a parent-child relationship I think we get a good look at how mature obedience is a process that must be carefully developed.

Through early childhood the child looks up to the parents and behaves as a means to please their parents. This is mirrored in early faith as well as they join in table graces and bedtime prayers. Their faith is the faith of their parents. As a child grows and develops a sense of Independence, boundaries get pushed. There are an important set of years where skilled parents still exert some control yet begin to meter out more and more decision-making to their teenager. While this is rarely a smooth and gradual shift of the locus of control, when done ‘well’ the teen eventually learns good inner self-control and learns to take responsibility for one’s own actions and decisions.

A similar process occurs as the faith of the parents becomes a faith of their own. As a young person’s faith matures, they gain a sense of a personal faith that centers around a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The stories of Sunday school and vacation Bible School begin to take on a personal meaning and application. This too is a time of questioning and redefining boundaries and understandings that usually occurs during the teen years. When one professes faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, the love of God takes on a whole new meaning. As verse one states, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well”. When one comes to understand love and our faith this way, there is a shift in the locus of obedience. One moved from “having” to love God and neighbor to “wanting” to love God and neighbor. This becomes more like sharing a wonderful gift than carrying a heavy burden. This owning and living out of one’s faith is a process and can take many years.

Jesus is also involved in a process. He is in the process of conquering the world through love. He invited us to join him in this process of overcoming hate and sin with love. Each day may we join Jesus in the process. May it be so for me and for you. Amen.


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Covenant Relationship

Reading: Psalm 25: 1-10

Verse Ten: “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of the covenant”.

Our relationship with God is based in covenant. We each have our roles to play. In today’s Psalm, the two sides of the covenant are pretty well spelled out. While it is good to be reminded of our responsibilities, it is equally important to remember that a covenant says, “I will love you no matter what”. The ‘no matter what’ includes what I do, what you do, and what the world does as well.

The psalmist begins by lifting up his soul to God. In offering confession there is a trust that God will continue to love us – no matter what. It is through this trust that we can share anything with God. We can bring our sins, our doubts, our temptations, our joys, our anything. As covenant is about relationship, the psalmist next asks for God to show him God’s ways, to teach him God’s paths. To be in relationship means that we know and understand one another. In knowing God, the psalmist names God as Savior and as his hope.

In verse six the Psalm shifts to God’s responsibility. The psalmist reminds God of His great mercy and love and goodness. As the admission of sin is again acknowledged, so too is God’s greater love and mercy. It is really the love and mercy that holds the covenant together. The psalmist returns to our imperfect nature, asking God again to teach us sinners His ways. The Psalm reminds us that when we humbly seek God, He will guide us and teach us to walk in His ways.

Verse ten sums it up well: “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of the covenant”. Above all God is loving and faithful. He guides and instructs us when we are humble enough to admit our need. He forgives and redeems us when we are honest enough to admit our faults and failures. For our part, we seek to grow closer to God, to become more like Him, as we walk in His ways. Our covenant relationship is one of love. May all we do and say this day reflect our love of God and God’s love for us.

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Well Pleased

Reading: Matthew 3: 13-17

As Jesus is baptized the presence of God is made known.  The heavens open, the Spirit descends, and God speaks.  God claims Jesus as His Son and voices pleasure with Jesus.  God is proud of His son.  It is a good proud – proud of who He has become, proud of how Jesus lived His life, proud of who Jesus will become.  This is what all parents hope for.  All parents want to be able to say, “That’s my boy!” or “That’s my girl!” in conversations with friends and others.  Parents do not long to say this because their child is beautiful or has a fancy car.  They long to claim their child because of who they are.  And so it is with God.

As each of us was baptized, we too are claimed by God.  In baptism, we are brought into the family of God.  Through the sacrament of baptism, we are identified or marked as a child of God.  We are baptized into the name of Christ, making us a fellow brother or sister with Jesus.  There is also an earthly component to  the baptism.  For the child’s immediate family, there is a covenant to raise the child in the family of faith.  For the new extended family, there is also a role to play.  Those welcoming the new son or daughter into the family are also committing to raise up a young Christian.  From God on down to every member of the church, all have roles to play in raising this new child of God.

Beginning with baptism, we are part of God’s family.  We are always a child of God, but with the sacrament others are acknowledging the relationship and the responsibilities.  As family, we love each other no matter what.  As family, we will help model, teach, and encourage one another.  As family, we will correct and rebuke as necessary.  As family, we will do all we each can to help God say, “This is my daughter (or son).  With her (or him) I am well pleased”.  May it be so this day and every day.

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Generous Living

Reading: Luke 16: 1-9

In today’s passage a manager is fired for poor job performance.  He has mismanaged the owner’s resources.  We do not know if he is incompetent or lazy as well, but we do know he is somehow being dishonest and is wasting the owner’s resources.  The shrewd manner in which he then acts would maybe rule out incompetent.  In a handful of quick transactions, he not only shores up his future, he also gains commendation from the owner.

If we are honest, there are times we too waste the company’s resources.  There are times when we check our Facebook or when we text back and forth solidifying our weekend plans or update our fantasy football lineup at work.  And there are other times when our mind simply drifts for a few minutes.  Some days we would really like to just lay our heads down on our desk and take a little nap.  If the boss notices these types of things a few times, we too could find ourselves unemployed.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to offer our best effort in all we do.  We are called to work joyously in all of our labors – to work as if we were working for the Lord.  Always putting in a good days effort is a witness to our faith.  It is about respect for others and being personally responsible.

Personal responsibility forms us another way as well.  In the parable Jesus offers advice on the use of our resources.  He says to be generous with our money – it will gain us friends.  This idea also extends to our time and talents.  We should be generous with these as well.  When we share what God has blessed us with to help others, we are building up a treasure in heaven as well.  Generous living is a blessing all around.

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He Continues to Call

The disciples struggled to understand Jesus a lot of the time.  He often had to explain His parables and teachings to them.  They often said and did things that must have puzzled or maybe angered Jesus.  When Jesus instructed them to feed the crowd or to heal people they didn’t think they could really do that.  The disciples are a lot like us.

Today we in the church struggle with similar things.  Many will not take on some responsibility.  We just want to come on Sunday and worship and go home.  Many fear others who are different.  We just want to sit in our same pew and talk to the same people.  Many think of ministry to engage in but they are stuck in fear.  We don’t like risk and maybe we think we are not up to the task after all.  Many just want things to be nice and the same and comfortable.  We don’t ask the hard questions and we do not desire to pursue a deeper faith.

As we read the Bible or hear the stories at church we often wonder how the disciples did not ‘get it’.  We think it is so plain to see what Jesus meant and what He expected of them and knew they could do.  Yet in spite of their many failures, their lack of trust, and their petty arguing, Jesus never gave up on them.  He faithfully continued to pour into them, to teach them, to mold them.  In the end, the disciples accomplished some amazing things.  They built a church.

The good news is that He does not give up on us either.  Through what we read in the word, through the messages we hear, through the voice of the Holy Spirit – He continues to call us to live out our faith and to grow into the person God created us to be.  Like the disciples, sometimes we doubt.  We think maybe Jesus is looking for someone else or when we hear the testimony of someone for whom God has made a difference, we think Jesus wouldn’t do something like that in our life.  At times we are just like the disciples.  We question, we doubt, we fear.  Yet Jesus never gives up.  He wants us to have abundant life, free from fear and worry.  He continues to call.  In faith, may we follow Him.

Scripture reference: Mark 9: 30-34

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Good Stewards

After flooding the earth, God makes a covenant with Noah and his sons to never again destroy all life with a flood.  The rainbow is the symbol of this promise.  It is interesting that the covenant is just not with mankind, but with all living creatures and with the earth itself.

It is often said that mankind is God’s highest form of creation.  God even set man to steward over the earth and all living creatures (Genesis 1).  From the beginning, in the Garden, man was to care for the earth and all other life.

The rainbow was God’s promise to preserve and protect life, all life.  In the very end, God ill redeem and restore all of creation when He establishes the new heaven and earth.  All will be made whole again.  It is mankind’s responsibility to care for this earth and all of life on this earth until that day comes.

Our relationship like the earth is like the relationship between a parent and child.  The choices and decisions we make are (or should be) for the best interests of the earth.  And at times the earth is something we cannot control – storms, earthquakes, when it rains or snows, being just a few examples.

Even if most of us do not directly work with the earth or the other living creatures that inhabit the earth, we can make daily choices to do things like recycling and conserving water.  In our purchases, in how we vote, and in how we voice our public opinion, we can make decisions and choices that reflect other’s care for and use of the earth and it’s resources.  In these small ways we too can be good stewards of the natural world.

Scripture reference: Genesis 9: 8-17

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The Privelege of Being Family

In the array of colors that fill the horizon as the sun breakthrough at dawn, one catches their breath as you realize the quiet presence of God.  In the afternoon thunderstorm one hears the thunder and sees the lightning and senses the power of God.  Psalm 8 open with, “O Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is your name in al the earth!”

Standing at the window viewing a sunrise or watching a storm, one is pretty awed yet can also feel pretty small and insignificant at the same time.  At this one can wonder, “Who am I?” in the big scope of God’s creation.  Verse 4 of Psalm 8 voices this: “What is man that you are mindful of him?”  Yet within this we also see that He is mindful of us.  The psalm goes on to revel our role: “You made him ruler over all the works of your hands.”  This is an amazing gift that also comes with large responsibility.Within each of us, created in His image, we have God’s love, compassion, mercy, hope, …  We also have within us His capacity to heal, nurture, restore, and care for His creation.  What a privilege!!