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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Common Good

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13

Verse Seven: Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Imagine the top graduate from culinary school deciding she wanted to go be a bank teller.  Imagine the college graduate with a degree in electrical engineering deciding he wanted to go mow lawns.  Imagine the gifted accountant deciding she did not want to be on the Finance team because they meet the night she likes to go to the grocery store.  Imagine the Dad that is awesome with middle School boys deciding he would rather join the golf league on Wednesday nights.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”.  The Spirit gives each of us gifts (or talents).  Verses eight through ten lists off some of these gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, tongues…  Verse eleven reads, “to each one”.  It does not say gifts are only given to some people, but to all people.  When one looks out over a congregation, one realizes that there is a very gifted bunch of folks sitting there.  As we each move through life, most of us come to know what our gift is.  Sometimes it is our passion that leads us to our gift and sometimes we ‘Didn’t our gift by trial and error.

Throughout it’s 2000+ year history, the church has been built by the gifts of millions of people.  Some are famous – Paul, Peter, Martin Luther, John Wesley… – but most are just common people, being used by God.  This is where most of us fit in.  We do not have extraordinary gifts, we are just good at and passionate about something.  Paul writes in our passage about the church being one body with many parts.  That is my church.  It is probably your church too.  Those gifted musicians make up a pretty good choir or praise team.  Those gifted leaders and teachers are running a pretty good VBS.  That gifted group of gardeners has the church flowers and plants looking nice again.  That collection of carpenters and handimen and business owners we call the Trustees sure did a great job on the remodel.

Verse seven ends with: “for the common good”.  It’s what it is all about.  For the good of each other, for the good of the church, for the good of the community, for the good of our lost and broken world.  May we all joyously share the gifts we have been blessed with for the common good.

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Reading: John 17: 1-5

Verse Four: I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do.

It was quite a night for Jesus and His disciples.  They gathered together one last time.  It has been a full night: the Passover meal with the institution of communion added in; the washing of the disciples’ feet; the predictions of denial and betrayal; and, the promise of the Holy Spirit.  Three chapters in John are dedicated to Jesus’ farewell discourse.  And then Jesus prays.  These are His last words in John before He is arrested in the garden.  This prayer us our reading today.

In verse four, Jesus says, “I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You have Me to do”.  He has completed the work God gave Him to do.  The work encompasses teaching us what to do as disciples of Jesus Christ.  As a good teacher, Jesus taught by example.  His work included teaching how to live as a child of God in a fallen world.  This certainly helps us see the world and those in it as God sees them, not as the world sees them.  Jesus’ task also included showing us how to be at work in the world.  This meant feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the orphans and widows, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger and the outcast.  It is being the very hands and feet of Jesus in our world.  The work also included healing.  This too is part of our work.  We pray for other’s physical healing.  We offer words of comfort and encouragement and lift up prayers for emotional and spiritual healing.  We also work to bring healing and restoration by fighting to end injustice and oppression and prejudice when and where we can.  All of this is the work Jesus completed when here on earth.  It is the work He commands us to continue.

Verse three reads, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent”.  Eternal life comes only through knowing God and Jesus Christ.  We come to know Him n the Word.  We come to know Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We also come to know Him through those we encounter in the world as we work as His hands and feet.  May we know Him well today in our study, in our prayer time, in our encounters with the Spirit, and in those we meet.

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Love, Obey Too

Reading: John 14: 18-21

Verse 21:  Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.

Jesus follows up His promise of the Holy Spirit with more words of reassurance in today’s passage.  The opening line reveals the intimacy and the depth of love that Jesus has for the disciples.  He tells them, “I will not leave you as orphans”.  They are family.  They are very closely connected together.  Jesus knows how incredibly difficult the next few days and weeks will be for the disciples.  These men left everything to follow Jesus.  And soon He will be physically gone.

“I will come to you”, He tells them.  Jesus reveals that the world will not see Him anymore, but that His followers will see Him again.  The risen and resurrected Christ will indeed visit the disciples and will be present with them.  They will know beyond any doubt that death could not hold Jesus.  He will talk and even eat with them.  “On that day” Jesus says, the disciples will realize fully that Jesus is in the Father and that they are in Jesus and Jesus is in them.  They will know the connection between God and Jesus and themselves.  They will know they belong to and live with Jesus in their hearts.  He will not leave them as orphans.

Lastly, Jesus returns to the concept of love and obedience.  He says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me”.  For Jesus there is a definite connection between belief and action.  He says don’t just know my commands but obey them.  Don’t just say you love me but really show we love Jesus.  For Jesus, this means love by obeying.  Then we will be loved by the Father and by Jesus.  It is all about connection and relationship.

Jesus again returns to the promise to show Himself to those who love Him.  Jesus is often revealed to us in those whom we choose to love.  We can see Jesus in the eyes of a child at VBS.  We can see Jesus in the smile of the person on the street who we take time to feed and talk with.  Jesus lives in all of us.  He invites us to obey His commands and thus to reveal Jesus to the world through our love and action.  Jesus also invites us to encounter Himself in others – sometimes even in those we least expect to find Him in.  May it be so today.

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Kingdom Builders

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16

As followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the Spirit from God.  Through our baptism we become part of the family of God.  When we accept Christ as the Lord of our life, we are blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is the Spirit that helps us to discern and understand the things of God.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we come to know the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with and how to use them for the glory of God.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth to encourage them and to spur them on to action.  Paul reminds them that when they allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them that they will speak not with human words and wisdom but instead they will speak words taught by the Spirit.  With the power of the Holy Spirit they will speak to others “expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words”.  God will fill them with “the mind of Christ” so that they are able to share Jesus’ light and love with others.

Both remain true today.  God has blessed every member of every church with gifts to be used for the kingdom.  As members of the body of Christ, we are called to help each other discover our gifts and talents.  We do this through fellowship, by getting to know one another, and by inviting one another to come along as we go forth to serve Christ in the world.  We also do this through prayer and study, allowing the Spirit time and space to reveal who God created us to be.  Once we know our gifts and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the use of our gifts, then through the power of God we will be able to do great things for the kingdom of God.

May we each play our role well – both by seeking the Holy Spirit and by faithfully serving God with the gifts we have been blessed with.  May we each be kingdom builders today.

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1 Corinthians 1: 1-9

There is a definite focus on “call” in today’s passage.  Paul opens with his call “to be an apostle of Jesus Christ”.  He then reminds the church in Corinth of their “call to be holy”, right along with all others who “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This culture of call is one that is present throughout the Bible and is alive and well today.

Before Paul there is a long list of those called in the Bible.  Noah was called to build an arc.  Jonah was called to save Nineveh.  Moses was called to lead his people.  Job was called to endure much while remaining faithful.  Joshua was called to lead into the Promised Land.  Rahab was called to risk her life for God’s spies.  Fast forward and we find simple fisherman and unpopular tax collectors alike called by Jesus.  Almost all of the people that God called are much like us – normal, ordinary people.  Some were even outcasts and others were hated by their siblings.  Some served for just short periods and others served for years.  Some were even like Paul, who as Saul killed many Christians in his attempts to stamp out the new church.  The long and short of it is that God can and will continue to call any and all for service in the kingdom.

In addition to calling us, God also equips us.  Paul reminds us that in Christ we have been “enriched in every way” and that we “do not lack any spiritual gift”, that God has already given us what we need for the tasks at hand.  Paul then shares a promise: “He will keep you strong to the end”.  And lastly, Paul shares, “He has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.  Pretty good company as we answer God’s call on our lives.

We are each called and equipped by God to go forth into the world with Jesus Christ.  May we faithfully answer the call this day.

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Reading: Isaiah 49: 1-4

We are each chosen by God to be God’s servant.  We are each identified before birth: “before I was born the Lord called me”.  The Lord has followed that call with preparation.  God has planted His Word within us as we have grown and matured in our faith.  God has prepared us for service by making us a ‘polished arrow’.  God has equipped us with the Word so that our mouth is like a ‘sharpened sword’.  All of this so that we may live into verse four: “You are my servant… in whom I will display my splendor”.

Chosen by God, created for a purpose, equipped to fulfill that purpose.  Yes, this is what it says in Isaiah and throughout the Bible.  Yes, it can be hard to live into our call to serve God.  But it is what God desires for us, what God has planned for us.  So what is it that keeps us from living into what God created us to be?  I believe there are two culprits: us and Satan.

We doubt.  We worry.  We think ourselves not up to the task.  We think our faith or knowledge too limited to serve God.  We think our time has not yet come.  We remember past failures.  We fear rejection or criticism.  Then Satan partners with us and whispers lies into our minds.  Man, that is too much for you.  Woman, you could never do that.  Son, what if they ask you this question?  Daughter, remember the last time you tried to share your faith?  Satan, the great deceiver, fears that we will believe and cling to the truths and promises we find in the Word.  The devil fears that we will trust in God and will call upon God for all we need.  Satan knows the truth: nothing is impossible with God.

To our doubt and worry, God promises: I will be with you.  To our poor self-confidence, God promises: I will never leave or foresake you.  To our lack of felt knowledge, God promises: I will send the Holy Spirit to remind you of all things.  To our past failures, God promises: I have plans to prosper you.

Today’s passage ends with, “my reward is with God”.  This day may we trust fully into the promises of God, looking forward to the promise of life eternal.  This day may we may we embrace our role as servant of the most high God, knowing that God is with us, living our lives to bring glory to God.