Tag Archives: faith

We Have a Savior

Living in the Spirit
June 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-14

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ –Genesis 22:9-14

‘The Lord will provide.’ The Lord did provide the earth and all that is in it, our very lives, and knowledge and talents to use the resources wisely if we so choose. Some believed over the centuries that after creation God stepped back to observe how we humans handle such gifts. Abraham, I think, felt a partnership with God and  from the beginning, sought and received God’s guidance through all of his life as did Moses, David, and the prophets. Jesus introduced a more particular understanding of God with us. Jesus’ followers seek to fulfill the vision of a Kingdom, the world, ruled by love, as a calling to be a part of his purpose.

‘The Lord will provide.’ Abraham speaks in the future tense. Was this event the point at which Abraham realized that the Lord’s provision is eternal? I must say in times like these when the world teems with fear and hate and divisiveness; we need a touch of such faith. We need the provision of hope when our personal and communal resources feel stretched to the breaking point. We need a Savior. Thank God, almighty, we have one.

Prayer: We thank you God for the gift of Jesus Christ who dwelt among us and dwells with us today and forever. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Trust in God

Living in the Spirit
June 24, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:24-39

‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. –Matthew 10:24-31

I do accept this teaching intellectually, but my inner-most being sometimes has trouble living into it. I read the book of Amos and see the similarities between those ancient times and now and understand that little has changed in human nature. Our weapons are more dangerous than theirs. Information travels much faster now. Our world is a universe, not some tribal settlements scattered about with a few strangers wandering through at times. Our idols are more abstract than theirs but, no, they too worshiped at the feet of greed and power.

How do we align so closely with God that we have no fear of Beelzebul (the chief evil spirit) or any of his minions? From where does trust come–experience perhaps? Having the fortitude to step out in faith to live and love the way Jesus taught us will be met with a full measure of God’s love. God had already taken the first step when God created us and loved us. We are next-step people. God never forces God’s self on anyone, but when we take our first step in his service, God is fully engaged in leading us out of the dark into the light.

Prayer:
Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit Divine*! Amen

*First verse and chorus of Open My Eyes by Clara H. Scott see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/807

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Doubt to Faith

Eastertide
April 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 20:19-31

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

  A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.
–John 20:24-31

Thomas was the one disciple who voluntarily committed to traveling with Jesus to Bethany to deal with Lazarus’ health issues. The disciples were cognizant of the fact that such a trip could result in Jesus’ death. Thomas essentially said let us go and die with him. Thomas’ commitment was not questionable.

I wonder why Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus made his first visit after his resurrection. Did Thomas just need some alone time? Perhaps he was somehow estranged from the others because he had supported Jesus’ decision to travel to Bethany. Maybe he had been sent to buy groceries. Nor do we know why he insisted on concrete proof of the disciples’ claim of seeing Jesus alive.

How do we think we would have responded in a similar situation? Is Christ alive in our lives
today? What does that mean? How does it impact our way of being? Tradition tells us that Thomas went forth as an apostle to the people of India, establishing the Christian religion there very early in its development. He did go into all the world and he did make disciples.

Prayer: God of Love thank you for taking us as we are and molding us in discipleship. Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

We all Need a Shim

Lent
March 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-11

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5

My house was built in 1923 with a crawl space foundation. Slabs were apparently not in vogue or perhaps even possible then, and basements are rare in Oklahoma. Several years ago, I bought two tall bookcases and when there were set up along a west wall in my living area they immediately formed a V. My floor had apparently shifted. I learned a new word in this process. I was told I needed shims. A shim is a thin piece of wood, metal, or stone that is often tapered, used to fill in the space necessary to make something that is leaning level. Having been a waitress in high school and college, I was well acquainted with the process. Table legs are notorious for magically attaining differing lengths resulting in the table rocking a bit. The “shim” most often used in restaurants to correct this problem in an emergency and in my experience, is a well-sized and folded paper napkin.

Faith is the shim in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Being justified by faith through the grace of God, we are enabled to share the love of God with perseverance and hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  I do not disagree with him. Enthusiasm is important and there are other factors too. I think Paul illustrates his life experience well in our scripture today. Nothing great ever gets done without a lot of hard work, taking two steps forward and one step back, and a total commitment to the mission while not sweating the small stuff.

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, enable us to do the work of your love with enthusiasm but also with a commitment to seeing it through to completion. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Faith Reckoned as Righteousness

Lent
March 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.’ Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. –Romans 4:1-5

“Daddy, Daddy look what I did! I tied my shoes today all by myself. Watch see how I can do it!” This young girl is on the road to becoming fully the person God created her to be. God expects that of all of us and it has nothing whatsoever to do with earning God’s love. In our “what’s in it for me” world that is a little hard to understand.

Doing something because it is simply the right thing to do seems to be in short supply today. At times, it appears some feel they have a license to do whatever evil crosses their minds. I am sure most of us experience a flash of anger, perhaps based on fear, when someone cuts us off while driving but we do not chase them down and kill them for it. On the other hand, many are blessed while having a bad day by a saint who simply holds a door for us or picks up a package we have dropped. There is a bit of righteousness in both not responding in kind or worse to evil and in developing the art of kindness in everything we do.

There is a story of hell and heaven, The Allegory of the Long Spoons, where a person is given a tour of both. In hell, he sees people starving while setting before a banquet table full of food. The problem was their spoons were too long for them to bring the food to their mouths. In heaven, he sees the same scene where all are well fed. Using the same sized spoons, each person feeds the neighbor across from him or her.

God’s grace is not only a gift for all God’s children, it is a model for our way of being.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gift of your grace. Infuse us with your love so that we can be graceful toward others. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory_of_the_long_spoons

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Spending Time in a Fog

Epiphany
February 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 24:12-18

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. –Exodus 24:15-18

I must say I do not think I have ever considered being in a fog, whether mental or physical, in positive terms. I like to know where I am and have some sense of what lies ahead of me. When I hear a morning weather report indicating zero visibility, I take caution. Driving becomes a slow and tedious process with every fiber of my being on alert. When I was a senior in high school with only one year of driving experience, I drove from our farm to a nearby town for a dental appointment in an early morning dense fog. That evening on the news I heard that a pedestrian was struck by a car and killed on my route about the same time I made my trip. I did not see anyone on the road and did not see the accident happening or being cleared. I trembled at the news as it could easily have been me driving the car that killed the man.

I rather think Moses was in a mental fog when he ascended the mountain wondering where do we go from here? He chose to walk into a dense fog as a part of finding his way out of a mental fog. Is that what faith is all about? Is faith taking our own lack of understanding deep into the presence of the mystery of God in search of wholeness and guidance? Is that done with the assurance a baby feels resting in the arms of a loving mother?

Prayer: Parent of all, give us the courage to enter your presence with the certain hope of your loving arms surrounding us. Make us whole as your Spirit’s wind blows away the fogs of life that overcome us. Show us your way, your truth, and your life. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Discerning God’s Will

will-of-godLiving in the Spirit
October 21, 2016

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
                                                                                                                                     –2 Timothy 4:16-18

One of the greatest challenges in life for all people of faith is balancing discernment on the three-legged stool of God’s will, our predispositions, and input from others, both fellow believers and culture. Most of us want to claim a position on the single pedestal of God’s will. What are the checks and balances to assure that we are not projecting our will as God’s will? We could strengthen our discernment by checking it out with other believers, but we must deal with the possibility that they share our predispositions. We do tend to flock with those who are like us. Think KKK.

The author of 2 Timothy finds himself in just such a situation. We do not know what the issues were that caused him to lose all support. There are times when each of us may take the lonely stance of standing against either our fellow believers, our culture, or both when we attempt to stand with God. People of faith must train like a good athlete. We must work to maintain a constant relationship with God, which includes turning all those personal predispositions over to God. God’s healing mercies can and will return us to wholeness when events of the past cloud our perceptions.

I am so glad those who canonized the Bible included the story of Gideon. (Judges 6) Gideon, who was not a warrior, felt called by God to lead and army. Gideon asked for a specific sign from God to assure that leading an army was in his future. He received the assurance. He then practiced the philosophy of believe but verify and asked for a backup sign and got it also. Gideon led the army to a successful conclusion. We all need to hear this story and understand that when our perceptions of ourselves or situations are getting in the way of our doing what we are called to do, God will help us through the dilemma as long as we trust the Lord to guide us.

Prayer: Lord of Mercy, strengthen our weak knees and give us the courage to do the things you are calling us to do. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Finding Faith

faith-and-justiceLiving in the Spirit
October 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ Strong’s concordance indicates that faith is always a gift from God*. It is a gift given to all. I doubt if many perceive of faith as a gift from God to accept or not. I wonder if faith in God appears on most of our wish lists. If it were possible to post the gift of faith on a resale site, would we see if we can sell it for something better? Is that rather like what we do as we search for gods of our own making?

Faith includes the attribute of confidence necessary for our successful journeying through life. I am a basketball fan. It is not unusual to hear a commentator talking about a rookie player having to gain the confidence of his playing before he fully develops as a seasoned professional. How much of our flailing through life results from our failure to engage God’s gift of confidence included in the package of faith?

Faith is the source of God’s divine persuasion* that channels us through rough waters as well as seemingly harmless stagnant pools. God brings together our desires with God’s insights to strengthen our growth and development as we strive to attain God’s purpose and our own which somehow become the same.

On Jesus’ return if justice is not the rule of the land, he surely might wonder what happened to all the faith he gave us.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your gift of faith that enables us to be sources of justice in our world now. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/4102.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Faith

trust-fallLiving in the Spirit
October 1, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you. –Luke 17:5-6

Is Jesus saying to his disciples you either have faith or you do not? Have you ever participated in a ropes course or something similar where you do some challenging, usually physical activities, with a group to increase group cohesion? Often one of the activities is to cross your arms over your chest and fall straight backward with the faith that your teammates will catch you. I am not an athlete. I am also afraid of heights and somewhat claustrophobic. I worked in a time when ropes courses were popular, and I had no choice but to participate. My goal when I was involved was simply to survive. I once suggested in a closing feedback period that having the group form a choir and sing a concert would result in the same sense of camaraderie. To me, it would have been a lot less dangerous and more fun. I got some pretty wicked looks from some of my team. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

I am not sure faith can be learned; it must be real, unexplainable trust. I think the ability to faith (and yes I know faith is not a verb), is planted in us as a part of being made in the image of God. Whether it grows and bears fruit is determined by our recognizing its presence at some point and welcoming it into our lives. C. S. Lewis thought God chased him down until he finally acknowledged faith. The thing about faith is that we all most likely will find a big tree in our way at one time or another and it is really good to know the One who can help us deal with our life’s big trees when needed.

Prayer: God Almighty, sometimes our faith in you is colored by experiences in life that make it difficult for us to trust anyone and that ultimately may impact our relationship with you. Help us turn toward you rather than away from you so that the truth of our relationship with you enables our relationships with others. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Rock of Refuge

Living in the Spirit
August 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 71:1-6

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
   let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
   incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge,
   a strong fortress, to save me,
   for you are my rock and my fortress. –Psalm 71:1-3

As we struggle to make sense of our world caught in fear of terrorism, racism, bigotry of all kinds, and intractable poverty; I am reminded of Stanley Hauerwas’ wise words, Never think you need to protect God. Because anytime you think you need to protect God, you can be sure that you are worshiping an idol.  We read our Bibles as history and as a result discount the parts that do not fit our modern understandings of the world. The Bible is the story of an indescribable, all-powerful God. The early story tellers awe of God prohibited them from even speaking the Lord’s name. The story of Abram’s Covenant with God* describes God’s using a fire pot to consume the offering laid out by Abram. In a similar way Elijah** called on God in Elijah’ joust with the priest of Baal and God once again fired the altar. These ancestors in faith leaned on God as they journeyed in faith.

We serve the same all-powerful God. I fear, particularly, we stubbornly independent disciples, forget at times whose we are and who we serve. Abram and Elijah were just as human as we are. It was their faith in their Rock of Refuge that enabled their ministry. God is still there to do that for us, if we let God.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when our faith falters. Be our Rock of Refuge as we journey in your service. Amen.

*Genesis 15
**1Kings 18

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.