Lent: Day 8 – Sometimes we just have to work a little harder for the things we want and especially for the things in which we believe. Other times we have to work even harder for someone else we love, who doesn’t believe because they have lost hope, lost their way, or perhaps are simply paralyzed by fear, which keeps them moving forward in their lives. One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive our self for the things we’ve done or the things we believe we have done. The longer we convict our self, the longer it takes for us to believe that anyone else will forgive us. It is at this point in our lives when the people, with whom we have surrounded our selves, become very important. When because of our weakened faith, we are unable to see the blessing God has waiting for us, it is in and through the company we keep that supports and holds us up. Continually, while in our strength, we must discern the company that we keep, so that in our times of weakness we know that God’s presence will still be reached through the strength, prayers and efforts of those surrounding us, who not only believe but also desire to help build our faith on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
Mark 2:1-12 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”?
1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are discerned spiritually. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
Lent: Day 2 – It’s tricky. We say that we are Christian. We say that we have faith. Yet, our actions don’t reflect what we say we believe and we blame our life as it is, or at least as we see it, for our lack of faith. We begin our day with the words “If only…” conjuring up the spirit of the world we know and live in, allowing it to take precedent over the world God promises. Yet, the goal is to press on in this life towards that life God promises, knowing that through Christ we will in fact get there. We want to be reconciled, but where is “there”? What does “there” look like? How does “there” feel? What will I be doing when I arrive “there”? Consider this: perhaps today, “there” is wherever you are because God is willing to meet you in that place. “There” looks like whatever you see around you because all the earth belongs to God. “There” feels like peace, which passes all understanding of where you are, or what it looks like, because fear, anger, frustration and discontent has served no purpose, and won no victories. Ultimately, the beauty and comfort is, knowing that when you arrive “there”, you will find yourself imitating the one in whom you say you truly believe, living and responding in the presence of God’s promise because it fulfills the right purpose and glorifies Christ’s victory over the world. Perhaps, soon you will realize that “there” isn’t really a physical place at all? I told you it’s tricky, but keep the faith. God knows all the tricks.
John 17:1-8 …And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Philippians 3:12-21 …Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Habakkuk 3:1-0, 16-18
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Is it not true that God knows the heart of those who seek after him? For many claim to seek God but their motives are selfish and have no resemblance to his commandment to love our neighbor. Now we have all been there. None of us has worshipped perfectly, but the heart that cares nothing about the welfare of others will suffer the most not at the hands of humans but at the hands of God. Remember Jacob and Laban and trust God’s vengeance. Is it not true that God has no respect of person (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34)? For many who claim to know him still today blindly judge according to their own perceived status. Yet people will first remember how someone responded to their presence of being before they remember any particular act on their behalf? Is it not true that God sent his son to be the advocate for everyone whether they believe or not? Yet many claim to believe, and advocate only for themselves and not other people. The ground at the foot of the cross is level ground and only the atoning sacrifice of Christ himself is perfect for all people. Thus, the tangled web of life is easily reconciled by the heart, which seeks, confesses, believes and knows, that God gives the true light that shows the way to go.
Deception; God’s Avenges; Blind Authority; One True Advocate One True Light
Why would Jesus tell his disciples not to share with anyone who he was? Peter at least is convinced. After all who could possibly perform the miracles that the disciples themselves have witnessed? However, when the word “officially” reaches the authorities and Jesus is brought before them, who among the disciples remain present to defend him? As we look back over our own life how do we share the blessings we’ve experienced? To whom do we attribute those blessings? When Jesus asks Peter and the other disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” he is asking each of us the same question. It speaks to the essence of our relationship with Christ and I believe the question goes even deeper to asks of us who are we. What have we experienced in this relationship with Christ? Are we in fact ready to defend that experience? How will people know we are, who we say we are, if we don’t first understand who Christ is within us? For Peter, Jesus was The Good Shepherd. As a sheep it’s not uncommon to experience feelings of flight; Peter and all the other disciples did. But after the resurrection, Peter would become the shepherd. Eventually, that manifestation of the resurrection comes for each us as we journey to become shepherds of our own experience with Christ. It is then that we like Peter, are no longer hesitant of the truth about who we are in Christ, bold and reconciled to share the true experience of the Gospel.
Who Am I; The Good Shepherd; Shepherds For Christ
Absolutely nothing we do or say today is insignificant. Everything we do and say will affect either our selves or someone else in both small and large ways. With five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus fed five thousand people. When a task seems insurmountable to us, God will (if we allow him by giving him the glory) take whatever we have to offer regardless of its size, and make it work in our favor. Walk everyday in confidence knowing that with God our life has both purpose and meaning!
Nothing Insignificant; Insurmountable Tasks; God’s Favor
Happy New Year!
How appropriate it is to celebrate the naming of Christ Jesus, on the first day of the year; “God Saves.” In the Bible names have history and for many of us today our names have some kind of story behind them. Think about it though, from this first day forward and now that you’ve lived so many years, what would you like to be called? How would you like to be identified? This time next year will it still be relevant? Do you even want it to be? I have the kind of name that isn’t shared by too many people (at least not in the U.S). Years ago I used to be bothered that no one ever seemed to spell my name correctly and 99 % of the time mispronounced it. I was always excited when I met someone who not only shared my name but also spelled their name exactly like mine. It was almost as if I was an anomaly. I of course learned to get over it. These days I am happy to be named “Child of God,” and I thank him everyday that it’s who I am and who I want to be. The Good News is that with this name I never feel like an anomaly, just blessed. Have a Happy New Year and start it out right. Claim Your Name!
Naming of Christ Jesus; Good News; Claim Your Name
“Christmas isn’t just a day it’s a frame of mind, and that’s what’s been changing.” Miracle on 34th Street (1947) kind of reminds me of what it might be like if Jesus himself decided to physically pay earth a visit just before the rapture in an effort to save a few more people, and I found that one of those persons was me! As people get wind of his presence there is both excitement and fear. Immediately, the plot to discredit his existence is put into full motion. Where might Jesus find me in this story? Will I be the child who has been told there is no Christ? Will I be the mother who has been hurt by past relationships and now has difficulty accepting anything that is “intangible” without tangible proof? Perhaps Jesus may find me as a prosecutor or judge “just doing my job” in spite of the voices urging me not to participate and “wash my hands of the matter.” Or will I be the friend who is ready to defend simply on the basis of believing because “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” I know where I strive to be. I also know that things don’t always work out the way we want but they do work out for good (Romans 8:28). Also, I for one, happen to believe in angels from God. They are the many people God places in our lives who love, encourage, and support us when we need it. They remind us of whom we are in Christ. They are also the people we don’t see, perhaps six degrees of separation, but because God’s Spirit realms over all the earth we reap in abundance because the laborers continually sow. Some call it luck and others call it miracles. I call it God.
There is so much more in this story such as when Santa Clause, out of frustration for a moment gives in, but the lawyer who believes, convinces him that he mattered to those who believe and those beginning to believe. The theme reminded me of God deciding to not go with the Israelites into the Promise Land, and Moses speaks with God on behalf of the people (Exodus 32). God does in fact honor Moses request, but that’s another blog for another day. View the movie for yourself. I am sure you will find some interesting themes as well.
Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ (John 1:6-8, 19-28) In today’s world perhaps we’ve all at some point and time faced modern day Pharisee types (and at other times played its role) who rightfully question authenticity. After all they’ve studied the law and presumably followed its instruction. They too have been waiting for the Messiah to come and they need to be sure. Of course, we know in the end many of them chose not to believe that the Messiah was in fact among them despite John’s message, but that’s not the point. When the question comes before us, just like John, we need to know who we are! There is no need for pretense because like John, God has already anointed us to do what he has called us to do. If we by our testimony, confess with our mouth God’s authority within us to use the gift that he has given, it’s not our fault they don’t believe or our responsibility to make them believe who we are. However, for those other times when our own authority causes us to question God’s authority and testimony within others, what will we believe? It may help us to remember, that if we ever begin to think that we are the greatest person in the room, among our profession, or even in our own ministry, we limit God’s possibilities for growth within us.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”…‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’
There is a distinct difference between humiliation and humility. Humiliation is a sense of shame brought on us either by someone else or occasionally our self. Humility is a choice we make that reflects our acceptance of who we are at the core and quiet confidence in the guidance of a spirit greater than the self. We’re all familiar with the poverty to wealth stories and the greatest of these is the birth of Our Lord and Savior, born in the most humble of circumstances. Yet the manifestation of his life embodies a kind of wealth that everyone before and after, young and old, rich and poor can only achieve if they believe. It is the peace in the knowledge that God reigns over all. Christ knew this from the very beginning and I believe it is why he walked among us in the way that he did. He didn’t need the earthly royalty, prestige, or favor because his anointing came from God. So too does our anointing come from God without regard to circumstance. So, there is no shame in walking the way of the Gospel because in it there is room for error (on our part), forgiveness and growth.
Matthew 23:1-12 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat… They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; They do all their deeds to be seen by others… They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi… All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Our enemies can be found in many places, some high, some low and occasionally within our self.
For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection (care), and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brothers and sisters,be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:1-11). Always pay attention to who you are and to whom you belong knowing that God always keeps his promises and we will receive the blessing he has already prepared in his earthly and spiritual kingdom.