Change is not readily accepted by most people. Yet, encountering Christ and submitting to God's will requires it.
Change is not readily accepted by most people. Yet, encountering Christ and submitting to God's will requires it.
November is a month typically dedicated to Thanksgiving. I often pray that people will be thankful for what we do have instead of focusing on what’s missing from our lives. Nevertheless, 3 days following Thanksgiving Day, we begin the season of a new Christian year – Advent. It happen… Read More
November is a month typically dedicated to Thanksgiving. I often pray that people will be thankful for what we do have instead of focusing on what’s missing from our lives. Nevertheless, 3 days following Thanksgiving Day, we begin the season of a new Christian year – Advent. It happens every year. Now, there may be some who aren’t aware of this season called Advent. It’s not because it doesn’t exist, but because very little attention is really aimed at preparing for Christmas from a spiritual perspective. Christmas is the day we all look forward to (at least in the realm of Christendom).
And yet, if we’re honest, we make plenty of time preparing for Christmas day. There are decorations to get out after almost a year of them being stored away. There is the preparation we make getting our homes decked out so that Christmas becomes a real, festive event. If we have children, we’re not shy about promoting Santa Claus as the real gift giver, usually giving Santa priority over God and Christ, if, in fact, they ever come up at all before Christmas day. There is the tree to decorate, and the purchasing of gifts (or gift cards because we can never really be sure what gift will make someone happy). And then of course there is the food. We can’t forget the food and all of the preparation that goes into making sure that we’ve eaten ourselves into coma, with more turkey, ham, beef, potatoes of every kind (sweet and Irish). And the dessert buffet is filled with cakes (cheese and other wise), pies, cookies and all the rest. At my house, we typically fill Christmas decorated tins for the grandchildren and great grandchildren with sugar cookies, chocolate chip, and snickerdoodles to add to the festiveness of the season. And all of that takes preparation.
Advent in the Christian year is really the time for preparation – a time to prepare to receive again the Christ child into our world and into our lives. There are four weeks of preparation. One week is dedicated to preparing to receive “Peace”. Yet another week is dedicated to preparing to receive “Hope”. Another week is dedicated to preparing us to receive the Love of God present with us. One week is dedicated to preparing to receive the “Joy” that comes with knowing that God, our Emmanuel, is with us.
Given that this is the season to prepare to receive one of the greatest Christmas gifts given to all people, whether believers or not, it seems only appropriate that those of us who share this faith prepare our hearts and spirits once again to celebrate and receive the “babe born in a manger”. It is he who brings the gifts of hope, peace, love, and joy into our lives and our world. After all, preparation is the key to being ready when he comes. Happy Thanksgiving. Now, prepare to receive the Christ child.
The United Methodist Church is experiencing another painful leg on their journey toward faithfulness. In this age and time, we (the United Methodist Church local church units) have determined to either remain a part of the United Methodist Church, or to disaffiliate over the issue of sexual and gender identification and th… Read More
The United Methodist Church is experiencing another painful leg on their journey toward faithfulness. In this age and time, we (the United Methodist Church local church units) have determined to either remain a part of the United Methodist Church, or to disaffiliate over the issue of sexual and gender identification and the acceptance of these individuals who claim their identity as LGBTQI persons of sacred worth. With the changing speed of communication, these issues race across the globe, becoming viral as some point to the demise of the United Methodist Church. However, I’m not sure this is the case. This is not the first time issues of disaffiliation have been a part of United Methodist Church history.
History would prove that the church has had disaffiliations in its past. Another denomination formed because of the church’s refusal to allow equality at the altar of Christ over the issue of prayer. That dispute resulted in Richard Allen choosing to disaffiliate and take with him other persons of African heritage who felt disenfranchised from the Methodist Episcopal Church to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Another issue of disaffiliation occurred over the issue of slavery. One faction of the Methodist Episcopal Church disaffiliated from the other and became two churches. One became the Methodist Episcopal Church North and the other became the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Some members of the church held that the enslavement of any of God’s people was “incompatible with the Christian teaching or the Bible”. (I don’t believe the language of The Book of Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church reflected these words). The other faction (ME South) felt that slavery was an acceptable practice and social construct.
Today’s issues of disaffiliation seem to be around gender identity and gender equity, sexual identity, sexual orientation, and whether or not persons who identify as a part of the LGBTQI community are truly persons of sacred worth who share fully in the life of the church, or whether they deserve less that the full unmerited grace of God because of who they are created to be.
For years the Church has sought what would be a painful divorce from those it deemed less than worthy to be members of the body of Christ.” Separation whenever it occurs is painful. There is grief and loss on both sides. And yet the church will remain regardless of its seeming brokenness. It will be different but will continue to promote the love of Christ as it understands it. I guess it will always be that way until, as Scripture says, “…we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13).
In these times when people are worried about climate change, the rising costs of food, shelter and clothing, the state of Democracy in our nation, RSV, and the continued status of COVID in the world, there seems to be very little to hope for. And yet as we approach Christmas, the one message of the season is hope. Join us for 4 weeks as we journey through the season of Advent beginning Sunday, November the 27th. We’ll examine the prophetic word from Jeremiah, Zechariah, Micah, and Malachi as they encourage their people (and ours) to look forward to the ”Hope of the World.”
Waiting is one of the most difficult things we do, especially if we’re waiting for something that we’ve longed for, but has… Read More
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Waiting is one of the most difficult things we do, especially if we’re waiting for something that we've longed for, but has been a long time coming. That waiting is amplified by the importance of the thing we’ve been waiting for. If all of our hopes are hinge on that one thing we’re waiting for, then there is a tension between our excitement in the thing we hope for and the patience with which we wait for it. Knowing that our hope is coming keeps us excited. But the timing of it, forces us to be patient, lest we turn ourselves into nervous wrecks while our minds scream the question, “When is it going to get here?” We soon learn that the difference between anxiety and anticipation. One is filled with patience, the other with nervous energy never trusting the outcome of our expectations.
Gracious God, in these anxious times, temper my excitement for all that I hope for with the patience brought about knowing You are faithful to Your word.
It is, perhaps, one of our greatest hopes that we live in safety. Our world seems to be in such turmoil that safety a… Read More
4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 There are many who say, "O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!"
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
It is, perhaps, one of our greatest hopes that we live in safety. Our world seems to be in such turmoil that safety and security are issues. It is possible to surround ourselves with things, specifically weapons that kill, to protect ourselves from harm. But at that, in our disturbed minds, we run the risk of harming the innocents or injuring someone we believe is displeasing to God. Then comes the guilt or indifference from the harm we’ve done. Finding respite from our sins, then leads us to our own pitiful sacrifices to atone for our wrongdoings. Our comfort comes in realizing that God is our hope, and that in God’s faithfulness and care, we are able to be at peace and find safety only because God provides it.
Merciful God, fill me with the certain hope of Your faithfulness. Enable me to live within that hope knowing that You are my safety and security.
One of our greatest hopes is God’s promise of justice and righteousness. We try as much as we can to institute it as… Read More
1 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
One of our greatest hopes is God’s promise of justice and righteousness. We try as much as we can to institute it as a principle of our lives, but our humanity often clouds our judgment. Biases, prejudices, and our blindness to what is fair and just, keep objectivity and equity for everyone just out of our reach. But it is our hope in God’s promise that excites us. It is our faith that one day God will institute His justice, equity, righteousness and faithfulness. It will not then just be principles on which we hang our laurels or hopes that excite us, yet linger in a distant future. It will become a reality that we can all experience. That’s a hope we can all stay excited about.
Gracious God, excite in me the ongoing hope that Your promise of justice, equity and righteousness have and are still to become a reality in Jesus Christ.
The hope of God’s promise has been with God’s people for years. When those hopes have become a reality, God has alway… Read More
10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon's seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
The hope of God’s promise has been with God’s people for years. When those hopes have become a reality, God has always given us something new to hope in. And with each new promise and each new hope, God’s people have become excited. We’ve longed for those days when God would no longer be absent among us, but when God would let us find Him, and live into the fulfillment of God’s promises for us. Because we aren’t there yet, it is the hope of God’s promises that keep us excited.
Holy God, keep me continually living with the excited hope that one day, Your promises will become a reality in my life and future with You.
Nothing quite comes over us as powerful as the emotion of anticipation. We feel it in our bodies in ways that our bra… Read More
14 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
Nothing quite comes over us as powerful as the emotion of anticipation. We feel it in our bodies in ways that our brain alerts us that something is about to happen. Our stomachs quiver. Our bodies begin to shake nervously. And our mind can’t or doesn’t stay focused on anything for very long before it’s drawn back to that one thing that we’re hoping for. Our restlessness kicks up in the excitement of our hope as we wait — and not patiently, but excitedly — looking perhaps for something that has been promised to us. And if we’ve waited for a long time, then it seems our excitement is in direct proportion to the time we’ve waited.
God gave us a promise long ago. It was a promise of certainty of God’s faithfulness. And that promise was so powerful that even today it awakens in us a fulfillment of that same hope — justice, and righteousness; safety and security; salvation and the presence of God among God’s people. It just might be that today those hopes are rekindled anew, not just because of our world situation, but because of our faith in Christ’s coming.
Holy and loving God, as we are called once again to remember your promises of salvation, we are also called to experience the exciting hope of His coming. Fill us with the excitement of renewed hope for the days of waiting still ahead.
We’ve become constrained in our praise of God. We’re constrained to the point of limiting how and where we offer up o… Read More
1 Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
We’ve become constrained in our praise of God. We’re constrained to the point of limiting how and where we offer up our praise with regard to all things. Some of us prefer silence, or a quiet atmosphere of worship. Musically, some only want to hear the organ. The idea of drums and tambourines is offensive and too noisy for some. Some of us prefer the more contemporary sounds of electronic instruments, bass, guitars, horns, and drums. Still other’s only desire is to hear the choir, while smaller ensembles are welcomed by others. And dancing seems all but out of the question. Yet Scripture is clear. Praise God anywhere and everywhere; with musical instruments of every kind. Then, let everything that has breath praise God, while musicians express their rejoicings of the Spirit through playing.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, enable and empower me to openly give praise to You anytime, anywhere, and in every way for all You’ve done and are doing.
The idea of the God’s glory filling the space of the sanctuary eludes us. It’s certainly not one of those experiences… Read More
3 Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the house, when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. 4 And the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD.
The idea of the God’s glory filling the space of the sanctuary eludes us. It’s certainly not one of those experiences that fits into our contemporary understanding of God’s presence in sacred space. And it’s difficult to determine what our response might be if anything of that nature were to take place. But, I wonder if the brightness of God’s glory could be a result of God’s presence being seen in the faces of those present in a more contemporary age. After all, if we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God’s Spirit is inside of us, it should be the glory of God that shines through us.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable and empower the brightness of Your glory to first be found in me that it might fill the space of Your sanctuary.
We experience life in different contexts. Some of us experience pain, disappointment, frustration and sorrow. But those are not the only experie… Read More
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
up to the horns of the altar!
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
We experience life in different contexts. Some of us experience pain, disappointment, frustration and sorrow. But those are not the only experiences we have. There is also joy, freedom, peace, comfort and satisfaction. That God has dared to allow us to experience the whole of life’s experiences means that we are not mono-dimensional. We’re allowed to experience the goodness of God, enabling us to praise God and understand God’s love in a personal way.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious and loving God, enable and empower me to continually give praise to You for Your goodness as I live and experience Your love daily.
I’m fairly confident that most people are more focused on what is going wrong in their lives than what is going right…. Read More
1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
I’m fairly confident that most people are more focused on what is going wrong in their lives than what is going right. Mistakes we make have the ability to become distractions that eat at us and endlessly nag at us. It’s typically not until we find a corrective course through forgiveness and reconciliation that we are able to go on with our lives as normal until the next mistake — and there will be a next mistake. When God forgives us — and God does forgive us — and welcomes us back into a right relationship, it’s then that we realize that God is worthy and due all praise.
Today’s Prayer —
Merciful God, may my mouth be always filled with praise for You and Your love and mercy. Thank You for the grace that makes me whole again.
One of the most devastating things in life can be walking around in darkness, living with falsehoods and untruths, and not… Read More
3 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
One of the most devastating things in life can be walking around in darkness, living with falsehoods and untruths, and not knowing (or believing) the truth. Nothing is more relieving than to discover that there is a light of truth that brings understanding and clarity of heart, mind, soul, and spirit. It is especially true that when that light and truth come from the wisdom of God, we find joy and release. Freedom from the lies of the past and clarity around the future when they come from God are all good reasons to give praise, making music to God’s ears.
Today’s Prayer —
Gracious God, enable me to celebrate Your light and truth as guides to the pathways of my life. In Your truth, I find joy that empowers me to always praise You.
There are those of us who decry the use of other than what we’ve come to know as standard instrumentation in worship. We ac… Read More
1 David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: 2 Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. 3 Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the LORD.
There are those of us who decry the use of other than what we’ve come to know as standard instrumentation in worship. We accept the piano and the organ, but frown on other instruments as being inappropriate at times. The guitar has become more acceptable, and a study of Holy Scripture will show us that stringed instruments and percussion instruments, drums and cymbals were a regular part of praising God. Perhaps when we sing, “Give me that old time religion”, it will include drums, cymbals, tambourines and guitars.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy God, teach me to accept all musical instruments as an acceptable means of giving praise and thanksgiving to You.
For those of us who are believers in God, we often come to worship — to give praise to God for various reasons. Some of us… Read More
11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the LORD), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”
the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God.
For those of us who are believers in God, we often come to worship — to give praise to God for various reasons. Some of us come not to praise God but to learn and grow in our understanding of who God is in our lives. But there is always music when we come. There is always a song sung by those present. There are always those of us who lift up our voices to sing of God’s praises. I sometimes wonder if we know why.
A part of me believes that we praise God through song because it’s our tradition. Music is an intentional part of the worship experience, but we don’t necessarily do it because we are thankful. It should be realized that true praise of God comes as an expression of thanksgiving. Praise of God comes when we realize what God has done, is doing, and will do among us and for us. And if we join together in one voice of praise and thanksgiving using all of our musical talents to praise God, it is still possible for God’s presence to be an awe-inspiring event — one that leaves us helpless to do anything but stand awe-struck in silence before our God.
Today’s Prayer —
Holy and loving God, enable my praise and thanksgiving for You to so fill the earthly temple of my body and spirit that I stand helpless and in awe of You and Your awesome love for me.
Poet and author John Donne reminds us that “No man (person) is an island unto himself.” Each of us becomes what we are beca… Read More
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
Poet and author John Donne reminds us that “No man (person) is an island unto himself.” Each of us becomes what we are because we are touched by someone else’s life. That person may be sent by God to do the very things that open our eyes, enlightening us, and allowing us to move forward to do God’s work in profound ways. By whatever means it happens, we are moved to a position of new truth, proclaiming our new discoveries with new found dedication and enthusiasm.
Merciful God, open my eyes that, in my life, I may fully know the truth about who You are that my witness may proclaim the truth.
None of us are Holy enough or righteous enough on our own to do what God calls us to do. Each of us must undergo some… Read More
6 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
7 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
None of us are Holy enough or righteous enough on our own to do what God calls us to do. Each of us must undergo some type of transformation to be truly useful to God. But for the person who embraces their change, a great and challenging future awaits them. The entire act of change begins with the act of humility. That requires an inward change of heart and mind. But then, we are always most useful to God after we’ve submitted our heart, mind, and spirit to God’s will.
Loving God, empower me to willingly embrace the changes You would make in my life so that I am fit to do whatever You would have me to do.
Many people think of God in a corporate way, meaning, their experience of God should be everyone’s experience of God. And yet, God has always ha… Read More
7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. 8 So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. 9 Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.
Many people think of God in a corporate way, meaning, their experience of God should be everyone’s experience of God. And yet, God has always had a rather personal and intimate relationship with people. God reveals God’s self to one person in one way, while others all around that person are seemingly oblivious to that person’s experience. That kind of intimacy alone has the power to change people. And such is the mystery of a God who chooses to be revealed (or not) to those with whom God has business specific to God’s plan for humanity.
Gracious God, humble me to embrace those changes that You make in my life that allow me to share in a more intimate relationship with You.
In some ways, it is expected that we share in the experiences of the persons we follow. That can be true in other are… Read More
20 Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
In some ways, it is expected that we share in the experiences of the persons we follow. That can be true in other areas of life besides the things of God. And persecution is no different. We experience persecution often because of others misunderstanding of our position or faith, rather than their understanding. It’s borne out of their passion for what they believe, and we become guilty by association with those who are persecuted for no other reason than we shared the same belief, principle, or faith perspective.
Holy God, empower me through my faith in Jesus Christ to gain strength from those who would persecute me because of my faith in Jesus as the Christ.
People don’t always understand how transformation and change in your life can be such a radical departure from what you’ve… Read More
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
People don’t always understand how transformation and change in your life can be such a radical departure from what you’ve been or done before. Their desire to know is often based on the fact that they don’t fully understand how or why. Sometimes their desire to know springs from curiosity. Sometimes there is the desire to drag you back into a previous lifestyle. The reasons are varied and often extensive. Yet, in the midst of great personal change, it sometimes becomes necessary to explain your new found position.
Loving Christ, enable me when it becomes necessary to justify changes that You’ve made in my life, that I will be able to testify to Your truth in all things.
When we are passionate about something, that passion may be displayed in ways that might make other people uncomfortable…. Read More
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
When we are passionate about something, that passion may be displayed in ways that might make other people uncomfortable. We label them overzealous and do what we can to avoid becoming who they are. If that person’s passion is properly directed, it has the potential to do enormous good for the individual and the world. We appreciate the passion that musicians, artists, athletes bring to their work. It makes the world a better place. However, if someone’s passion is misdirected, it has the potential to become terroristic in its execution. When that happens, it usually leaves most of us somewhat reticent to approach or be around such a person. God, however, has the ability to recognize the most beneficial characteristics of a person that can be used for God’s glory. God harnesses the passion that is misdirected and transforms it into a powerful tool of witness to God’s truth and glory. We are not always open to accept the changes that God wants to make in our lives. Sometimes God is compelled to do something radical inwardly to get the desired change outwardly.
Loving and gracious God, humble me to graciously embrace the change You would make in me. Enlighten me that I might truly know You, growing to become a more suitable witness to Your truth, and an instrument of Your divine plan.
Whatever is in the heart of people must come out at some point. We can only be true to who we are. Jesus spoke about this truth on several… Read More
38 “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Whatever is in the heart of people must come out at some point. We can only be true to who we are. Jesus spoke about this truth on several occasions indicating that good fruit can’t come from a bad tree, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. What is in us will undoubtedly be revealed to others as acts of the heart. It goes to say then, that if the Spirit of the Living God is alive inside of us, then those things we do will be life giving and borne of the Spirit of God. However, none of this could have happened before the fulfillment of the promise. God’s promise that we would receive the spirit has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Loving Christ, enable your Spirit alive in my heart to give evidence of the living waters of faith and love because of my relationship with you.
We are often anxious to know the truth. Our hearts search for it. Our minds are so curious about it that we dig up the earth, search for o… Read More
8 There is none like you among the gods,
O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.
9 All the nations you have made
shall come and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do
wondrous things; you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may
walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
We are often anxious to know the truth. Our hearts search for it. Our minds are so curious about it that we dig up the earth, search for old artifacts, look for signs, tangible and intangible, to know for certain that what we believe (or say we believe) has merit. When it comes to a God we can’t see, doing things that we can’t explain, in ways that we don’t understand, our knowledge about the truth becomes uncertain. But then, God gives us something within that informs us about the truth so we can be certain. And it’s not just that we somehow know. It’s that we know that we know that we know, and our knowledge of the way of the truth is unshakeable. God’s truth becomes our truth.
Almighty and eternal God, enable the presence of Your Spirit within me to be a witness to those who have not experienced You.
Confirmation of the Spirit is as much a fulfillment of God’s promises of the past as they are the reality of God’s presence here and now. David… Read More
29 Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Confirmation of the Spirit is as much a fulfillment of God’s promises of the past as they are the reality of God’s presence here and now. David knew about it and prophesied about it without having experienced it in the way we know it. He exhibited true faith. And now, those of us who are members of the body of the church of Christ live with the reality and fulfillment of God’s promises. We have received the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit dwells within us because Christ was necessary to effect the promise. For all purposes, practical and impractical, Christ is the promise and the Holy Spirit is God’s “in place warranty” that Christ and God are real.
Gracious Father, empower me to walk more humbly with you on my life’s journey as a confirmation of my experience of Your reality alive in me.
God’s promise has always been to deliver the Spirit of God to those who belonged to God’s family. God was nondiscriminatory in its distribution…. Read More
28 “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
God’s promise has always been to deliver the Spirit of God to those who belonged to God’s family. God was nondiscriminatory in its distribution. God’s Spirit was to go to old and young, men and women, slave and free alike. To that end, God’s desire is to be known among all people, not just those who claim to have some special dispensation of the Spirit. There is also the reality that the Spirit of God will know no boundaries. Wherever the people of God are, that’s where the Spirit of God will be present to dream the dreams and envision God’s vision for the world.
Almighty God, give me the openness to see, experience and the accept the presence of Your Holy Spirit working in the lives of others wherever I am.
The promise of the gift of the Spirit is not new. God’s promise of the presence of God’s Spirit as an available gift has been made know to the p… Read More
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
The promise of the gift of the Spirit is not new. God’s promise of the presence of God’s Spirit as an available gift has been made know to the prophets from the beginning. The reception of the gift is (in fact) a fulfillment of God’s promises. The Spirit’s purpose was singular — to make the presence of God a reality among the people of God. And with the promise comes a certain judgment. It is not a condemnation, but a judgment of revelation — that some have missed the opportunity to intimately commune with the Spirit of God, such that it becomes a sorrowful event. The situation almost begs us to recognize and accept the presence of the Spirit of Christ as a reality, and to mourn that all have not experienced God in this way.
Gracious God, grant that the awareness of my spiritual experience with your Holy Spirit continues to confirm the faithfulness of Your promises and that my faith is real.
The idea that, as humans, we might need help to negotiate the spiritual trials that would face us was not a new phenomenon to Jesus. He expresse… Read More
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
The idea that, as humans, we might need help to negotiate the spiritual trials that would face us was not a new phenomenon to Jesus. He expressed this reality even before the news of his departure was clear to the disciples. We have some difficulty acknowledging the presence of God within us. Perhaps it is because God is not an annoying presence that causes pain or anxiety. It may be because we are so unaware of God’s presence that we are lulled to sleep by God’s seeming inactivity in our day-to-day decisions. That may be because many of our decisions are not of a spiritual nature. But, when up against the wall and we seek that spiritual guidance that is so necessary, Jesus wants us to know that he is there.
Loving Christ, give me the comfort of knowing that in my day-to-day decisions, Your Spirit dwells in me and with me that I may experience You in real time.
God is often a silent partner in our lives. That is not to suggest that God is not with us. It is to suggest that we have a… Read More
4b “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
God is often a silent partner in our lives. That is not to suggest that God is not with us. It is to suggest that we have a basic insecurity about God’s presence when God is so silent. From time to time, God does speak to us, but often in non- traditional ways. To eliminate our frustration around what might appear to be God’s absence, God has provided an alternative to Christ’s physical presence by providing an eternal, ongoing, reality through which we can experience our Creator. God’s approach to our insecurities is to affirm us of God’s ongoing care for us through means other than a physical presence. This experience of God goes, in many real ways, to the heart of our experience with God. It is also a post-faith affirmation since those of us who believe in God have already taken the first step — believing that God is. This action of the part of God (to assure us that our experience of God is legitimate) is God’s way of giving us reassurance and affirmation that despite our insecurities, God is.
Eternal God, grant me the assurance of always knowing that no matter how uncertain life may become, I can always trust in You through Your Holy Spirit to be present with me.
It’s one thing to be let in the house. It’s another thing to be included as a part of the family with full rights, privilege… Read More
2 And the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.
It’s one thing to be let in the house. It’s another thing to be included as a part of the family with full rights, privileges, and benefits. In the biblical culture, there was a family ring signifying that one was a legitimate member of the family. It symbolized both connection and status and placed that person above the status of the hired help. When we are accepted by God we are placed above the status of hirelings. We are given the honor of becoming children of God. I believe that’s why Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Whether we are adopted or born into the family, God has claimed us. Perhaps our ring is the symbolic cross.
Loving God, allow me to wear my family ring humbly. Help me to acknowledge all people as children of Yours and brothers and sisters of mine whether they are living in the house of have chosen to leave.
To experience God’s acceptance is an act of restoration. In it we find full reception back into the family. It’s as if we’ve been given a new le… Read More
3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
To experience God’s acceptance is an act of restoration. In it we find full reception back into the family. It’s as if we’ve been given a new lease on life. Perhaps that is (or was) at one time our fascination with getting new Easter clothes. It is an outward statement that we are not the same — that we are different than we were before being clothed with ‘pure vestments’ and restored. Being included in the family is a significant act of grace, especially when the separation was initiated by us, but the restoration was not. However, God is ready with new wardrobe indicating our acceptance back into the family
Gracious God, may we always experience the joy and peace that comes with knowing that we are always accepted and loved by You.
The act of humility required to return home can be inwardly revealing. It requires a “coming to oneself”. There is a s… Read More
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
The act of humility required to return home can be inwardly revealing. It requires a “coming to oneself”. There is a sense that when one ‘comes to themselves’ they return to their right mind. Suddenly things are in perspective and the world is no longer skewed or distorted. In that relationship with God, there is the presumption (and perhaps an act of recognition) that confession opens the door of acceptance so that those who are away admit that there is a need for God. Hence gone is the arrogance and self-sufficiency. Then comes the willingness of God to openly welcome those back who realize the need for God. Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for they know their need for God.
Almighty God, grant me the wisdom to always be aware of my need for you.
People becoming angry with God isn’t a new thing. There is often a feeling of resentment whenever we think or experie… Read More
1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. 3 Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
People becoming angry with God isn’t a new thing. There is often a feeling of resentment whenever we think or experience someone receiving a blessing when we feel we deserve better or more. We feel slighted and resentful. And yet, there is a need for us to come to an understanding that perhaps our resentment is an acknowledgment that we’re not as grateful for the blessings we receive and experience as we are resentful that someone else may be getting more than we feel they deserve. This feeling of resentment can be coupled to a feeling of entitlement. It’s an ugly character trait. And as I’ve always heard, “God don’t like ugly!”
Gracious God, grant me the spirit of acceptance that my jealousy or resentment because of Your compassion towards them will not become a barrier to a right relationship with You.
There are scores of children who have found shame and embarrassment at how they have squandered their inheritance. There is… Read More
3 He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth
There are scores of children who have found shame and embarrassment at how they have squandered their inheritance. There is no doubt that the child who left acted unwisely. He squandered what he had. And more seriously, he has wasted his present and future resources. He now has nothing to look forward to and only regret to look back on. It is a tragedy when we live for the immediacy of the moment — when we seek what has become a cultural norm of instant gratification. Perhaps it is reflected in the restlessness of people thinking and believing that the next best thing is somewhere other than the place where they are. And so, off they go in search of a bigger, better deal, only to realize that there’s no place like home. Even still, pride keeps some from returning home.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to recognize that sometimes it’s better to accept the blessings of my present circumstances than to allow anger to drive me to self-destruction.
In a culture strong in traditions, the first born has certain inalienable rights that cannot be changed, regardless of events. The maternal rela… Read More
17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.
In a culture strong in traditions, the first born has certain inalienable rights that cannot be changed, regardless of events. The maternal relationship or the love of the father for the mother doesn’t matter. What’s important is birth order, especially when it comes to the inheritance due the children. This can often be a cause of enmity between siblings, especially when one seems favored over another. And perhaps it’s especially true when the scales of equality seem unbalanced. There’s an old comedy routine dedicated to the theme, “Mom always liked you best.” And when the child asks to step outside the cultural bounds of relationship, because of sibling jealousy, one might feel it better to leave and make it on their own than live in what might be perceived as an unfair environment? But what happens when the youngest child considers his parent as good as dead, asking for the inheritance even before there is an actual death? How does the order of birth play into the significance of legacy and inheritance? And what is the parent supposed to think when the child proclaims them dead while they are still alive?
Eternal God, strengthen my understanding that Your love for me is not based on when I was born, but upon acknowledging that my life rests in my relationship with You.
Acceptance is difficult, whether we are seeking acceptance from each other or, whether we are seeking acceptance from God…. Read More
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Acceptance is difficult, whether we are seeking acceptance from each other or, whether we are seeking acceptance from God. Mix in a bit of arrogance gone wild, pride, and selfishness and it becomes easy to see why other people’s acceptance of us may be difficult.
On the other hand, when we, like the older son, presume our faithfulness to anything, (done out of duty and not love) buys us a place of honor and both entitlement then it’s easy to become resentful of someone who appears to have taken advantage of a situation and then appears to get rewarded. We become angry and resentful of others and their actions, while at the same time disregarding the grace we receive each day, believing that somehow life just isn’t fair to us.
The truth is, we’re often willing to overlook our worst traits and consider them trivial in light of other people’s unacceptable characteristics. The only way (then) to acceptance is to eat a heaping helping of humble pie, admit we all fall short of reaching perfection, and offer ourselves humbly back into relationship with God knowing that God accepts and loves us just as we are. It’s there that we experience God as the one who seeks to restore, to heal, to bring us back into relationship, happy that we have returned to the one which we once considered as good as dead, or whether we’ve felt we’ve always deserved more than we’ve received. God’s love for us is so great, that we are loved and accepted whatever we believe the status of our relationship is.
Gracious God, allow me to come to my right mind and recognize that Your love for me has no limits and is always available to me. Let me live each day assured that Your love for me is unearned; that You love me, and I’m helpless to do anything about it.
The test of a person’s faith is not the depth of their belief in God when things are going well. Experiencing God thr… Read More
8 For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling;
9 I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed, even when I spoke:
“I am greatly afflicted”.
The test of a person’s faith is not the depth of their belief in God when things are going well. Experiencing God through faith is realized when suffering has invaded our lives. David said, “I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted.” Job’s encounter with God led him to believe God, even in the midst of his suffering. And who can forget the words of our Christ, hanging on the cross and saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Faith that believed, not just in fair weather, but in foul is the test to pass, primarily because faith in the face of difficulty invites confirmation that the rewards one receives are irrelevant to the suffering one endures.
Loving God, help me to seek to experience You, not just when things are going well, but in the midst of my suffering let me know You are near.
To experience God is to get to know God intimately. To a large extent, that means placing the reality of God and how… Read More
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
To experience God is to get to know God intimately. To a large extent, that means placing the reality of God and how we experience God on a spiritual level. For Paul, it meant not just believing in God, but sharing in the experience of God in Jesus Christ so that Christ’s suffering became his suffering (spiritually) and Christ’s glory could become his glory. To experience God in faith, then, is to encounter God at the point of sacrifice. It is that place where we stop depending on our merits and trust in the merits of Him who has experienced what it is to be human, who gave up everything so that we might only depend on the power of His grace.
Gracious God, keep me keenly aware of Your grace made available to me so that I may experience You at times when I have failed to be faithful.
Those who worship the Spirit of God must use that which is invisible to give honor, praise and glory to the invisible throu… Read More
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Those who worship the Spirit of God must use that which is invisible to give honor, praise and glory to the invisible through the invisible. No one has ever seen God. God is Spirit. And yet, no one has ever denied that we have spirit. But, has anyone ever seen our spirit. My guess is that the answer is, “No.” People may have seen evidence of our spirit. And yet, we believe in our spirit and celebrate the resultant power of our spirit to accomplish remarkable things. What we see is the product of our Spirit. And are we nothing more than a product of the Spirit of God. Imagine — that which others cannot see in us is a product of that which we cannot see — God.
Loving God, may I acknowledge each day that my spirit which I cannot see is born of Your spirit, which is also unseen and alive in me. Grant that I may always experience Your spirit alive in me.
Our world is filled with “things”, all of which came about before there was any proof that they were possible. The need for… Read More
22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
Our world is filled with “things”, all of which came about before there was any proof that they were possible. The need for a hole was enough to spark someone’s imagination to first, imagine a drill, and then create it. Even the lowly wheel (perhaps copied from something found in nature) was imagined before it came into being. More contemporary language says, “If you can conceive it and believe it, then you can achieve it.” This is nothing more than a paraphrase of Jesus’ statement. And yet at the core of the statement is faith — faith in what we believe is possible, even when we can’t lay our hands on it, or fully imagine what it may become. Faith is enough to motivate us to bring about that which is invisible and bring its unrealized vision into reality. This is the creative power of God at work in us.
Gracious God, give us all the wisdom to trust that through faith in you, we will be able to experience You in ways that make everything else understandable.
There is nothing surprising about our hope. What we look forward to is abundant with the ideas of things we can’t pre… Read More
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
There is nothing surprising about our hope. What we look forward to is abundant with the ideas of things we can’t presently see. We believe that there is life that follows after this life though we can’t see it. We believe in the wind, that it blows and caresses our skin, yet we can’t see it. We’ve acknowledged the temporary nature of our world, but have, in faith, believed that there is something more permanent outside of our human existence. To experience God through faith is to hope for that beyond what we can see.
Gracious God, bless me to continue to experience You in the unseen things of our world. Help me to grow in faith that my hopes are secure through my faith in You.
The creative power of God is captured in these words of Scripture. God existed and created out of nothing what we now experi… Read More
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
The creative power of God is captured in these words of Scripture. God existed and created out of nothing what we now experience as our reality. There was only darkness and it covered everything. And out of this nothingness God spoke. Science would lead us to creation with a Big Bang Theory. I have yet to see an explosion of any kind without a dissipation of energy and light. And there was light. But could a world designed with so much order come about from a random explosion? Could the formation of DNA and the litany of creative order be pure coincidence. Some say it is. But our faith says that it is not coincidence, but God-incidence. The entire creative process was God’s activity in the creative process from the beginning. Our faith supports our belief — is (in fact) our belief.
Almighty God, as I experience the vast expanse of Your created universe from the open sky to the smallest flower, I grow in my faith that I have experienced You in their existence. Empower me to continue to find assurance and discover Your presence in every living thing.
Experiencing God has a beginning point. That beginning point is not in God, so much, but is in the place where God is reveal… Read More
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Experiencing God has a beginning point. That beginning point is not in God, so much, but is in the place where God is revealed to us. In essence, experiencing God is the beginning point and foundation of all that we can see and all that we can know. It is the place we technically call faith. Faith, as we understand it is the place where we believe in God before we have a relationship with God. But it is not a blind belief. It is a belief that is grounded in the witness of those who have come before. It is testified to in the lives of Abraham, Enoch, and even the blood of Abel. That faith is certified by the presence of our world. Our belief and faith is captured in our own belief in things which we can’t see but we can imagine, and is borne in our hope. Our faith is an awareness of the presence of God through God’s revelation of God’s self to us. So, we can know without understanding and believe in the presence without having to see the substance. We see the product of God’s reality through faith, and through faith can actually touch the reality of God.
Gracious and eternal God, grant to me the peace that comes from knowing that Your reality is greater than anything I could imagine, but is evidenced in a belief that gives me hope. Strengthen my faith to always keep me certain of Your reality.
James doesn’t mince his words when he speaks about having confidence in approaching God. And if we’re honest with ourselves,… Read More
5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James doesn’t mince his words when he speaks about having confidence in approaching God. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we lack a generous amount confidence when it comes to drawing near to God. There is a prayer of confession that leads off with “God, we are not the people we like others to think we are.” Perhaps it is because we know who we are and even more to the point, God knows who we are. And so, we live in some fear that God will not accept us. But the invitation is to approach God and God will approach us. The outcome of approaching God is that we can share a deeper sense of intimacy with God, leading to greater confidence. Perhaps a humble refrain of the hymn, “Just As I Am” will create just enough humility that we can approach God with confidence.
Today’s Prayer –
Eternal and gracious God, empower my faith to give me the confidence to draw near to You seeking forgiveness, even when I know that I have failed you. Allow me to have confidence that you are always close to me.
It is a powerful feeling to be able to stand on your own. We live in culture where making it on your own is a powerful state… Read More
8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
It is a powerful feeling to be able to stand on your own. We live in culture where making it on your own is a powerful statement of accomplishment and strength. But a more powerful statement is made when we can admit that we can’t stand on our own merit. When we can face the reality that we have failed in our relationship with God, that we have fallen short of God’s glory — well, that too, is a powerful statement. And to know that we can put our trust in someone else — that, in fact, God has provided a perfect gift of grace — then, it is in that gift of grace that we can begin to find a bold confidence and strength in our faith, not in ourselves. Our confidence in our faith grows with our trust in the gift of God’s grace.
Today’s Prayer –
All loving God, thank you for .your wonderful gift of grace through faith. Grant that each day my confidence in Your grace will serve to increase my faith and strengthen my relationship with you
Coming to God is not something that we do on our own initially. We don’t search for God as much as we are allowed to discove… Read More
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Coming to God is not something that we do on our own initially. We don’t search for God as much as we are allowed to discover God. And it would seem that even that discovery is done by the Holy Spirit on behalf of God. It would seem then that drawing near to God (or approaching God) would give us confidence to approach God because we have been invited. There is a different level of confidence we possess when we’ve been invited to the party and are not just attending at the behest of a close friend. God desires intimacy with us; that is why God extends to us the invitation.
Today’s Prayer –
All loving God, thank you for extending an invitation to me that I might draw closer to you. Grant that my confidence in my relationship with you might grow always knowing that I can approach you because you have invited me.
Jesus has been given many titles. We’ve called him our Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Savior, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, a… Read More
19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Jesus has been given many titles. We’ve called him our Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Savior, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and other names appropriate to his role in our salvation. It is not often that we think of him as a High Priest. A High Priest offers sacrifices to God on behalf of the people as atonement for our sins. A High Priest has the authority to stand before God. But our High Priest is different in that Jesus has endured life as a mortal and has acted as a forerunner on our behalf. Jesus stands before God pleading our case for salvation, having offered his body as the sacrifice.
Today’s Prayer –
Gracious, I give thanks to You for providing me a High Priest who not only stands before you pleading my case, but who has first-hand knowledge of my human experience. Grant that I may have full confidence in his sacrifice of atonement for my salvation.
We live with the clear distinction between us and Christ. Our relationship with God has been severed on many occasions…. Read More
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
We live with the clear distinction between us and Christ. Our relationship with God has been severed on many occasions. When we live in a relationship separated from God by our willfulness, it is called sin. However, Jesus was never in a broken relationship with God. His life was a life lived totally in union with the will of God. The life of God was in Him and the love of God poured out from him. God had appointed Jesus to do what Jesus did in faith, always giving honor to his God and not taking human credit for his actions. He had no sin but became sin for us all that we might not have sin. Satan had no hold on him. He was sinless, and it is through his sinlessness are we restored to a right relationship with God through faith.
Today’s Prayer –
Almighty God, open my heart to accept the power of Christ and his sacrifice of love to take away my sin. Give me the confidence to approach you humbly yet boldly in the name of Jesus that I might experience the peace that only Christ can give.
We don’t often allow the humanity of Christ to drift forward in our consciousness. We frequently hold Jesus in such high God… Read More
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned — every one — to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
We don’t often allow the humanity of Christ to drift forward in our consciousness. We frequently hold Jesus in such high Godly esteem that we often diminish or neglect the human part of his life. Many people will refuse to believe that Jesus was divine (or, God present in flesh). Others will accept his divinity but are willing to overlook his humanity. For those of us who believe, his humanity and his divinity merge together in ways that let us know that he was both God in the flesh and Spirit. Jesus understood as much as anyone what we go through as humans and therefore empathizes with our human condition.
Today’s Prayer –
Loving God, enable me to gain confidence in my relationship with You through my understanding that Christ has lived through the human experience and understands what we go through.
It’s a difficult thing to overcome fear, but not impossible. One of the benefits to overcoming fear is gaining confidence. We gain confidence in ourse… Read More
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
It’s a difficult thing to overcome fear, but not impossible. One of the benefits to overcoming fear is gaining confidence. We gain confidence in ourselves and attain a certain resolve that allows us act in ways that highlight our confidence. Of course, there is a danger in gaining too much confidence. One of those dangers is becoming so confident that we become arrogant: arrogant in our beliefs, arrogant in our truths, arrogant in our faith. There is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. It’s difficult to tell when we step over the line. However, one of the major signs of arrogance is a loss of respect for the other. In our relationship with God, it is important to have a healthy fear (respect) for the Lord. But our God loves us so much that we are encouraged to have confidence in our relationship. We are invited to rest assured in our relationship with God; confident and not arrogant so that we may “walk humbly with” our God.
Today’s Prayer –
Loving God, remove all of my anxieties about drawing near to you. Give me the courage to approach you with boldness and humility that I may walk with you in confidence and in peace.
Moving and living in a culture that expresses being ‘woke’ as a negative virtue of liberalism, perhaps needs to be revisited…. Read More
33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.
Moving and living in a culture that expresses being ‘woke’ as a negative virtue of liberalism, perhaps needs to be revisited. Both in our scripture for today and Sunday’s scripture (Eph. 6:18) the admonition for God’s people is to “keep alert”, and to be awake. If we’re going to be ‘woke’ or awake, perhaps we should be remaining alert to those evils that tend to destroy us spiritually or awake to the presence of God’s love present around us. Whatever the circumstances, being awake (or woke) and alert to those spiritual dangers that compromise our relationship with God are of the highest priority.
Loving Christ, give me the wisdom and ability to remain alert and awake to those times when my spirit is being challenged by the world we live in.
Prayer (at times) seems like such a powerless form of protection. Yet, prayer is actually one of the most powerful weap… Read More
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Prayer (at times) seems like such a powerless form of protection. Yet, prayer is actually one of the most powerful weapons to use when engaging in spiritual warfare. Sometimes we find ourselves unable to speak because we can't find ‘the Word of God’ or we’re unable to find just the right words to say. At times, life so overwhelms us that we find ourselves speechless. It’s at those times of weakness that the spiritual armor of prayer is our most potent offense and defense. The spirit is able to communicate with God in ways that we can’t in a language of groans too deep for words. It’s at those times God is able to hear our petitions even though we can’t articulate them with our mouths.
Holy God, teach me to rely more each day on prayer as a way to defend myself against those unseen spiritual enemies that seek to destroy me and my relationship with You.
We have all (at times) underestimated the power of God’s word. We sometimes believe that the more we say or the louder we sa… Read More
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
We have all (at times) underestimated the power of God’s word. We sometimes believe that the more we say or the louder we say it will have the power to persuade people to believe and trust what we are saying. While at times we are comforted by other’s acceptance of what we say, we have in those moments been less likely to influence people. The danger that lies within is sometimes our willingness to distort God’s word to accomplish our purposes. Satan did it to Jesus in the wilderness. I’m convinced that we’re capable of doing it as well to achieve our purposes. But God’s word brings a power of its own to separate the truth from the lie, and the will of our flesh from the power and will of God’s Word.
Almighty God, grant me the wisdom to rely on Your Holy word to help me discern Your will above mine, and Your truth above all other proposed truths.
Often today we find ourselves being led by what we see, or what we thought we saw, or what we hear, or thought we heard. The… Read More
Isaiah 11:3-4a, 5
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Often today we find ourselves being led by what we see, or what we thought we saw, or what we hear, or thought we heard. There has always been a disconnect between what someone said, what someone meant, what we heard and what we understood in our hearing. That misunderstanding is what explains why two persons can see the same accident and supply two vastly different explanations of how it happened and often leads to unfair judgments. Perhaps it’s because everyone tends to tell the story that points people in the direction of favoring their particular truth. God tends to take a different view. Instead of discerning base on hearing, God’s understanding is based on what is right for the poor and God will be faithful to that.
Gracious God, help me to strengthen my spirit through a process of discerning what is righteous and fair, giving me the wisdom to know the difference between Your will and my preferences.
Suffering has never been one of the strongest human desires. It’s not something that appears in the top 10 of our ‘be like J… Read More
1 Peter 4:1-2
1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Suffering has never been one of the strongest human desires. It’s not something that appears in the top 10 of our ‘be like Jesus’ to do list. And if we’re honest, we never put ourselves in a position of having to physically suffer for what we believe in. Our Scripture reminds us to “arm ourselves” mentally, or as is recorded in Philippians, “Have this same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus …”. One way to accomplish this is to always “having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness …”. There is no greater joy than having suffered for righteousness’ sake.
Loving God, empower me to arm myself with the same mind and thinking of Jesus that if I suffer, I will know that I suffered for the righteousness’ sake to glorify You.
We often live in a world where often physical and mental strength receive the highest praise. And yet, not very often is the… Read More
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
We often live in a world where often physical and mental strength receive the highest praise. And yet, not very often is the idea of becoming spiritually strengthened promoted. Nevertheless, being spiritually strengthened is God’s recommended pursuit for those born of the Spirit of Christ. It’s not for the purpose of saying we are Spiritually strong, but for the ultimate purpose of understanding the love of Christ in all of its power. Knowing the full power of Christ and his love brings us to a deeper and more profound understanding of God.
Loving God, give me the wisdom to grow my spiritual muscles so that I may gain a greater understanding of You and Your love in Jesus Christ.
American Express Card once ran an advertisement created to help people understand that when unpredictable financial situations ari… Read More
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
American Express Card once ran an advertisement created to help people understand that when unpredictable financial situations arise American Express card can be relied on for that needed layer of financial security. Their catch phrase was, “American Express – Never leave home without it.” It is important to remember the necessity of carrying certain things with us when we leave home. Because we’ve come to depend so heavily on our mobile device, leaving home without it is a cause for panic with most people. If rain is in the forecast, an umbrella is a must for those who will be out in the environment. Yet, I’m not sure that we give the same amount of consideration to our care where spiritual matters are concerned. At times we take our faith for granted, accepting whatever truth is placed before us, sometimes going along with the crowd failing to discern what’s right from what’s popular.
Where our spiritual lives are concerned, God invites us to always be aware of the spiritual forces that represent a danger to us. So, like the encouragement to “never leave home without our American Express Card” We are encouraged to always be prepared for the world by putting on the full armor of God and never leaving home without it. The last thing God wants for us is to be hurt by unseen spiritual forces because we left home spiritually unprotected from those things that could compromise our relationship with God.
Almighty God, enable me to always be adorned in those spiritual safeguards You’ve provided for my safety so that I will always be able to stand strong against every evil scheme directed toward me.
Lives are touched and changed when the story about God is conveyed with integrity. It doesn’t matter about your background or what… Read More
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
Lives are touched and changed when the story about God is conveyed with integrity. It doesn’t matter about your background or what one might be going through. It is the story we tell others about “this life” — a life lived in relationship with God that seems to be the way to do evangelism. The power of belief comes from having heard the story. And to hear the story, its important for those of us who believe to tell our story. It may be the most convincing story of all.
Today’s Prayer — Loving Christ, empower me to put aside whatever issues may prevent me from telling others the story of my life with You.
Having a story to tell doesn’t necessarily lead others to believe. It’s simply a reflection of the truth about our relations… Read More
24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?”
Having a story to tell doesn’t necessarily lead others to believe. It’s simply a reflection of the truth about our relationship with God. There may be times when God’s activity in our lives simply goes beyond what others are able to believe. And yet, what others are able or willing to believe shouldn’t interfere with our willingness or ability to tell our story. Perhaps, it will be our story that might explain something that has occurred to them that they hadn’t thought about. Who knows how God will work?
Today’s Prayer — Holy and gracious God, empower me to continue telling others the story of my faith, regardless of how unusual my story might be to others.
Telling our story or finding God’s reality and presence in the midst of story isn’t new. God’s presence and activity in our… Read More
37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Telling our story or finding God’s reality and presence in the midst of story isn’t new. God’s presence and activity in our lives and world has always been revealed in the stories of others. It’s reflected in the stories of saints of the past. Today, the continuing message of God to others is reliant upon our story and what we’ve experienced in our relationship with God. Our story is the most contemporary story we can tell of God’s reality.
Daily Prayer — Loving God, give me the courage and wisdom to continue to tell others of Your love through the experiences of the Bible and my story.
The very beginning of our faith journey begins with the story. And while it’s true that the story has been forthcoming for a… Read More
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
The very beginning of our faith journey begins with the story. And while it’s true that the story has been forthcoming for a long time, it was, in fact, John the Baptist who had the responsibility of being a verbal witness to the One who was coming into the world. John’s voice has been silent for a number of years, but not his story. His story has become our story to tell about the One who has not only come, but who is now raised and lives forever.
Daily Prayer — Almighty God, let me be faithful in my relationship to continue telling the story of how you came into my world that I might see you more clearly.
The story of Saul’s conversion is really a two part story. The first part tells of his encounter with Jesus Christ and being blinded. The second story… Read More
12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
The story of Saul’s conversion is really a two part story. The first part tells of his encounter with Jesus Christ and being blinded. The second story is about Ananias sharing the story of God in ways that connect him to Saul. Two different people — the same story of redemption. It’s possible that God can allow two people to share the same story of God’s reality in our world. Two people sharing the same story is a powerful witness to the reality of God.
Today, think of those who shared the same story of God in different ways ( example: John the Baptist and Jesus, Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch, David and Jonathan).
Daily Prayer — Gracious God, enable me to see the connecting relationship between my story and those of others as a witness to Your presence in my life.
We often shy away from telling others about our relationship with God. It may be that we’re afraid that they won’t believe us. It… Read More
5 As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.
6 In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.
We often shy away from telling others about our relationship with God. It may be that we’re afraid that they won’t believe us. It may be that we’ll offend them with what we believe is true about God. Nevertheless, telling others our story is like sowing seeds of faith. We don’t know whether the seeds we plant will bring forth fruit. We don’t even know how we came to believe. What is true is that telling our story is one way to plant the seeds of faith in others. God will provide the increase.
· Have you ever shared your story of your relationship with God to anyone?
· How did they come to know and accept God because you shared your story?
Today’s Prayer — Loving God, empower me, when the world around me is caving in, to rely on a faith that cannot be seen except through my trust in You.
Jesus tells many stories about God through a form of storytelling called the parable. His efforts were an attempt to get people to… Read More
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Jesus tells many stories about God through a form of storytelling called the parable. His efforts were an attempt to get people to see the everyday reality of God all around them — to allow them to connect to the reality of God through their everyday lives. Some people understood it. Some people didn’t. Perhaps because no one had endeavored to tell stories about God and their relationship with God in that way before. Perhaps it was because they refused to see God in the context of everyday events and images. And yet in all of these years, God hasn’t changed. Nor has our way of communicating and connecting others to the realities of God. Even in this twenty-first century context of experiencing the things about God, we endeavor to get people to see God and God’s truth through the telling of stories. Yes, we use the bible story. But the most powerful story we can tell is one in which we are the characters in the story we tell. It’s our story of our relationship with God that’s most likely to attract others to God’s truth.
Gracious and eternal God, enable and empower me to tell my story of my relationship with You in such a way that others may see and understand You and Your Kingdom more clearly.
Judgment comes to us whether we want it or not. Perhaps it has already come when we face and accept the truth about ourselves. Truth has a… Read More
19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God."
Judgment comes to us whether we want it or not. Perhaps it has already come when we face and accept the truth about ourselves. Truth has an ability to cast a light of revelation about who we really are and what we are really about. Is there grace? Absolutely, but grace without a look into the mirror of truth is a grace forced to cover a multitude of sins unrealized. Allowing ourselves to look into the mirror of our own life is shows that God is responsible for any transformation.
Holy God, allow me to look without hesitation into the mirror of Your truth so that my life may witness to Your power to transform me through grace.
I would imagine that the greatest sadness we experience is the pain that comes our failure to please God, or to show God’s love to someone who needs i… Read More
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! 25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.
I would imagine that the greatest sadness we experience is the pain that comes our failure to please God, or to show God’s love to someone who needs it because we’ve misjudged them. Perhaps the latter is the more painful because it usually means that we are now faced with the need to admit we were wrong. And yet it is that truth — admitting that we were wrong that shows we were willing to stand in the mirror of our own failings and see a God of grace.
Loving Christ, help me to stand without fear in the mirror of Your truth so that I may receive grace when I fall short and offer grace to others like me.
Being judgmental has been the immovable stain on who we are as Christians and people in general. It has led to us being labeled hypocrites, amon… Read More
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth." 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God?
Being judgmental has been the immovable stain on who we are as Christians and people in general. It has led to us being labeled hypocrites, among other things. The fact that the word of God forbids us to judge has not stopped us. And yet, the truth is still there that for every finger we point at others, there are three of our own pointing back at us. Perhaps a deeper look into the mirror of our own lives would invite us to seek the kind of spiritual transformation that the Holy Spirit desires to do in us.
Loving Christ, lead me away from the criticism of others and move me deeper into the transformational relationship of self-understanding found in You.
When we are in the position of having to view sin and crime, we understand sin or crime to be a very targeted assessment. We see what others hav… Read More
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
When we are in the position of having to view sin and crime, we understand sin or crime to be a very targeted assessment. We see what others have done specifically and reason that we’ve never done anything as bad as the thing(s) they’ve done. We therefore judge that they must be guilty and we, more innocent than they. Christ, however, sees sin and judgment, not by a particular sin, but by the violation of the much narrower spiritual code of love and forgiveness. How the world would change if we saw others as God saw us in God’s mirror of grace.
Gracious and forgiving Christ, transform me so that I can only judge others if I, myself, can stand on my own record of righteousness.
There is something about looking in the mirror from time to time that is revealing. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see where we’ve chang… Read More
9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
There is something about looking in the mirror from time to time that is revealing. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can see where we’ve changed. We can also see where change has been slow. We can see where we’ve grown. We can also see where growth has been stunted. Our inability to see clearly what needs to be changed is, in some ways, due to our lack of total self-understanding. We don’t know why we do what we do? Fortunately, God does. And God will lead us into full transformation in God’s time and at God’s speed.
Loving God, empower me to see myself more clearly in Your mirror of truth so that I may come to a greater understanding of myself and others.
It’s not very often that we think of self-knowledge and understanding as critical to who we are. It’s possible to get post graduate education in… Read More
21 He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
It’s not very often that we think of self-knowledge and understanding as critical to who we are. It’s possible to get post graduate education in the world and never be compelled to examine who we really are. But the discovery of who we are as children of God isn’t meant to be hidden. It isn’t meant to be secret. It would benefit the entire world if we could admit that we fall short of the glory of God. If we don’t confess it, it will eventually become evident.
Gracious Christ, enable and encourage me to look into the mirror of Your truth and admit what soon becomes everyone’s reality — we all need Your grace.
What appears to be a disconnected model of philosophy for living actually translates into a meaningful model for the Christian life. It is, perh… Read More
37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back." 39 He also told them a parable: "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
What appears to be a disconnected model of philosophy for living actually translates into a meaningful model for the Christian life. It is, perhaps, because when we seek God‘s wisdom, we are ourselves blind to what God is trying to reveal to us. Or perhaps it’s because we, too, are prone to make errors in judgment without knowing another person’s story, hurting people and needing forgiveness when we meant no ill intent, or simply withholding a needed grace from someone because we’ve judged incorrectly. If we could all see through the eyes of Christ, these human typos could be eliminated from the human landscape. Life in the mirror is a unique invitation by God to enter into self-evaluation, but more importantly understanding of others. We so easily see what’s wrong with others and know all too well how to fix them. However, fixing ourselves is a greater problem. If we’d spend greater amounts of time trying to understand our weaknesses, we might have a deeper insight into another person’s weaknesses. True change happens when we have a greater understanding of ourselves after looking at ourselves in the mirror.
Holy and gracious God, give me the courage to look in the mirror that reflects my life and see where change is needed. Enable me to humbly submit to your transforming power so that I may be made anew in your image.
The Adult Ministries group at Mason Memorial Community Church is a spiritual group who’s goal is to help others grow to a mature faith in God while providing comradery and fellowship with the congregation. To be a focus point in our community, we select projects which will help the needs of others.
Some of the Adult Ministry’s projects/activities are as follows:
1. Sack lunches at the Willa Gill Center
2. Thanksgiving and/or Christmas Baskets
3. Angel tree gifts for children at Christmas
4. Parents Night Out which gives adults in the community and church time to fellowship along with Bible study and dinner. We also distribute Gospel/Bible tracts for discussion.
5. Sponsor an Annual Gospel Musical
6. Purchase gift cards for groceries & pharmaceuticals to help people in need in our congregation & community
7. Christmas caroling at nursing homes where our members reside The Adult Ministry group is always open to new ideas/suggestions and members. We embrace Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”.
The United Methodist Men’s ministry of our local church is a core group of men, partnering with their pastor, to invite and initiate spiritual growth opportunities for all men of the church. Everyone has different gifts, graces, and areas of interest. Therefore, opportunities for participation include diverse ministries of the church, such as
We encourage leading and participating on committees, teaching Sunday school classes, youth ministries, scouting, mentoring, and assisting in leading worship service. The focus is both inward and outward. Inward — concentrating on those who attend and participate in the ministries within the church, and outward — to all men, assisting them to engage in the process of spiritual growth.
Our mission is to support spiritual growth among men, helping men to mature as disciples as they encourage spiritual formation in others.
Our goal is to empower the ministry of Jesus Christ through men within our congregation as we seek to capture the vision of God for our church —
“to become a living example of Jesus Christ active in service to our community.”
Churches United for Justice is a diverse and growing coalition of 17 churches throughout Wyandotte County. Members of these local parishes in Wyandotte county have come together based on the biblical imperative to “… do justice, ff.” (Micah 6:8), as well as Jesus’ reminder that while giving to the church is good, people of faith should pay more attention to the weightier matters of faith, justice, mercy, and faithfulness. (Matthew 23:23). In each of these reflections, justice is seen as primary for the health of the community and personal relationships. Justice in a biblical sense is the quality of being fair and reasonable. This often requires systemic change within communities.
The faiths participating in Churches United for Justice include United Methodist, Baptist, Philadelphia Bible, Peace and Fellowship, Church of Christ and Episcopal. These faith communities have come together believing that justice is a primary issue of faith and is the foundation of healthy relationships that build community.
Our church’s faith community participation is and will be in conjunction with the organization’s effort to focus on the need for affordable housing and curbing violence in our community.
Lead Organizer: Amber Adams
Associate Organizer: Brett Eisenhauer
Team Leader: Karen Shepherd