Tag Archives: God with Us

God’s Steadfast Love

Living in the Spirit
November 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
   those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
   from the east and from the west,
   from the north and from the south. –Psalm 107:1-3

In small groups or Bible studies, we are often encouraged to share what God has done for us. Psalm 107 implores us to do so. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, I think it is as important for us to say what the lord has done for us to ourselves as it is to share it with others.  Particularly living in a world fraught with divisiveness and the questioning of formally trustworthy entities, understanding what one’s real priorities are grows more important. Our focus needs to turn more on the endurance of the steadfast love of God and how that plays out in our everyday living.

Listening to what others are saying is important also. I grow weary of hearing or reading viewpoints that are foreign to me about how we are to be as a society. I must admit I sometimes need to turn it off and retreat from the constant barrage of hate-filled rhetoric. In my heart, My guess is those with differing opinions feel the same about me. I know I need to listen to the backstory in what others are saying. From where do those ideas derive? How can we bridge the gulfs that divide us and find the common ground etched in God’s Word?

Desperate people get caught in desperate responses. Greedy people do not care who they hurt to garner wealth. How do we seek out those living lives of desperation and work alongside them to ease their suffering? How do we awaken those caught in the addiction of greed to the wealth of God’s love that overshadow all worldly riches? How do we keep the principalities and powers of the world at bay as we grow a Kingdom ruled by God’s love?

A good starting point is identifying and rejoicing in the everyday instances of God with Us.

Prayer: Lord, open doors of opportunities for us to share your steadfast love in our world today. 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.

 

Christ with Me

Living in the Spirit
September 11, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:19-31

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. –Exodus 14:19-20

There are times in all our lives when we are forced to rely on God totally. When the Israelites left Egypt was one such time.  The angel led them out and then the pillar of cloud moved behind them to protect them from the Egyptian Army. Saint Patrick wrote the following prayer that is an apt description of the faithfulness of God.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

What we need to understand is this is true all the time not just when we are at a breaking point. In fact, we would many times avoid reaching our wit’s end, if we walked in faith with God continuously. God is not only an emergency call center. God wants us to live and move and have our being so that our lives are led by peace and love, being cognizant of how our actions impact our world and all that is in it.

Prayer: Lord, make us mindful of dialogue with you in every moment of our lives. Help us to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) 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.

Ready and Willing

Lent
April 2, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 11:1-45

 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ –John 11:17-27

Martha first states her belief in a future resurrection acknowledging the coming of the Jewish Messiah who would follow in the footsteps of the most successful King in Hebrew history, David. The Messiah would be God fully revealed liken to the King of Paradise, the Creator of Life. In our scripture above, Jesus identifies himself as this anointed one who had power over death. In response to Jesus’ proclamation, Martha expresses her acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah. I really do not think we can comprehend how utterly profound her attestation was.

I also wonder if we are prepared for the fullness of God’s presence in our lives. We may long for some fantasy of a god with us, but when God shows up are we ready to engage with God or do we need to schedule God on our calendar at some future date and time? I rejoined the Y today at a physical therapist’s recommendation. I asked the Y staff when I could make an appointment to be reacquainted with the exercise machines when one of the staff said, “I can show you around right now.” Now I am not the athletic type. I must make myself take care of myself. It would not have bothered me if the Y staff had said that they could not work me in for some time in the distant future. I had done the bare minimum expected by the physical therapist, I joined. There this guy was saying let’s go, so I did.

The Lenten season is a good time to examine our spiritual well-being and to re-engage with God to make sure we are ready for our next adventure in faith so when God says “Let’s go!” We can and do.

Prayer: Lord help us keep our spirits, in shape as well as our bodies and minds so that when you need us we are ready and willing to serve. 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.

Fear Not, We have a Savior

fear-notChristmas
December 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-20

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ –Luke 2:8-14

The Greek word translated as fear in this scripture is phobeó that means to put to flight, to terrify, frighten*. It is the root word for the English phobia that means an exaggerated and often disabling fear usually inexplicable to the subject, occasionally having a logical but usually an illogical or symbolic object, class of objects, or situation**. Fear is a normal emotional response to a potential threat. Fear prepares our whole being for making proper responses to that which might harm us. The word phobia is descriptive of miss-channeled responses to fear by overreacting in a way that might be more harmful to us than the original threat. I know about phobias. I suffer from an illogical fear of tight places called claustrophobia. I trace it to being caught under our house when I was a child. I can talk myself out of it, but I still experience that first feeling of lack of control in some situations. I rejoiced when someone invented the open sided MRI.

There is a lot of fear going around right now. We must choose whether our response is logical or illogical, targeted toward peace on earth in all its facets or not. Today we celebrate God with Us. Today we rest in the assurance that we need now cower in illogical fear. Our Savior has come and is with us today. He calls us to use our fears to bring about peace on earth through love. More importantly, he offers his constant presence with us to help when we feel that first inkling of lack of control. God is in control.

Prayer: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’ Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/greek/5399.htm
**http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/phobia

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.

Active and Engaged Disciples

emmanuelAdvent
December 23, 2016

Scripture Reading: Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Active and engaged in living describes the vision Christ brought to us. He remains integrally involved training, redeeming, purifying, and making us zealous for good deeds. His work is as ongoing as ours is. We still have so much to learn. When calamity throws us to the ground, we continue to require Christ’s forbearance repeatedly to dust ourselves off and get back up to finish our journey. We occasionally find ourselves mired in the ways of the world needing Christ’s cleansing love to make us whole again. And there remain more good deeds calling us than we will ever be able to do without the synergy of God’s love in Christ and the fellowship of the Body of Christ in the world today.

We serve a risen Savior, and during Advent, we recall the time before his coming preparing to celebrate his arrival, God with Us. Let today be a day of thanksgiving for redemption draws nigh*.

Prayer: Lord, in the busyness of this season, let us not lose sight of the significance of your coming to us in human form, an innocent baby, Savior of the World. Amen.

*Derived from Luke 21:28

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.

 

Sharing the Love of God with Us

prophetsAdvent
December 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
 and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. –Matthew 1:22-25

The message conveyed by the consistent referral to the prophets of old in the New Testament tells us today that God is God, has always been, and will always be. Simple as this statement is to make, it is the most comforting message we can receive. Running around crying out the sky is falling is not helpful. The prophets in much more poetic language tell us to keep being God’s people no matter what.

Just like the ancient Israelites when times seem good, we too get lulled into states of complacency. We do not want anyone to rock the boat but that is not the way of progress. Such attitudes slow the development of a society to follow God’s plan of love and reconciliation.

As we deepen our spiritual quest toward fuller appreciation of “God with Us” let us consider how God is leading us to greater love for all God’s children so that each human on this earth can attain the full measure of God-based contentment.

Prayer: Lover of all Souls, as we celebrate your coming in human form, grant us the courage to step out in faith to demonstrate your love in action to the world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, by permission. All rights reserved.

Come Holy Spirit

SpiritEpiphany
January 8, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 8:14-17

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

The author of the book of Hebrews tells us, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) The Holy Spirit is a mystery yet it is so real one can be convicted of its presence. I do not know what happened in this visit with Peter and John and the Samaritans or even the events described at Pentecost. I do know that there exists a power that is also a comfort and a comfort that is also very powerful that can and does engulf our lives sometimes when we least expect it, but always when we most need it.

The Holy Spirit, Our Advocate, God’s promised Comforter is the ultimate gift of God’s love an extension of Emmanuel, God with Us, now and forever with each of us and with all of God’s children as we strive collectively to bring about the Kingdom of God in our world today. Yet we cower in fear at bullies and things that go bump in the night. At least I do. Perhaps it is time that we step forth into the mystery and trust God to lead us as we are called to lead others out of the wilderness of hate and fear and greed.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit Heavenly Dove and lead us forth into the promises of God’s abiding love. 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.

Let us Love

cloud-he-first-loved-usChristmas
January 3, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 1:(1-9), 10-18

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. –John 1:14-18

Rules and laws are interesting. They provide order to life. As much as we may dislike traffic laws, can we image the chaos that would result if they did not exist. On the other hand, if there were no traffic laws we would probably all be more attentive to our driving or not depending on our personalities. Even with the traffic laws there are those who challenge them at every intersection speeding up when they see the light turn red gambling that they can get through the intersection before the cars going the other direction become aware that they have the green light. Rules and laws have their place but they are means to ends not ends unto themselves unless we make them so.

Love is both a means to an end and an end unto itself. Love is the source of peace and justice but also ultimately love is a glimpse of God even in its most rudimentary form. Love transcends rules and laws even while obeying them because they help us move through life with less complexity.

Jesus Christ came as God with us to help us to love not just to obey rules and laws. It is a gift of grace, the ultimate gift of grace in full measure that gives life meaning for all who claim it.

Prayer: O God enable us to love one another, because love is from you and is you. 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.

God with Us Part 2

Body of ChristChristmas
December 26, 2015

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. –Luke 2:41-44

To say that the change from mangers and shepherds and wise men and all to a self-assertive preteen in one liturgical Sunday is abrupt is a gross understatement. But so goes the role of parenting. There are few paradigms shifts of life as monumental as the birth of a child, particularly the first. Ask any parents, even those who have longed and carefully planned for the child.

It is the ultimate challenge of changing the center of one’s life to someone other than self. This tiny, fragile infant is totally dependent upon it caretakers, usually parents, to help it grow and develop in wisdom and truth.

It is the supreme commitment of continuing the species, claiming a place and role in the future of the world.

It is the consummate act of dedicating oneself to the goal of living in a world controlled by love.

Becoming a parent in most instances is the easiest job in the world to get and the hardest to do. In so many ways it mirrors the call of Christ, whose yoke is easy, but whose vision requires our everything.

Prayer: God of Love, whether we come to you with eyes wide open, by accident, or confused and unsure, meld us together as one to be your Body in the establishment of your Kingdom in this world. 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.

Sharing God’s Love

God-With-Us-WebAdvent
December 2, 2015

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:68-79

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
   the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ –Luke 1:76-79

Our scripture today is the reported words of a late-life parent welcoming his first child. The priest Zechariah is cherishing his son whom we know now as John the Baptist. Zechariah knew all too well the lessons of waiting. He not only waited for years to hold that first born son but he had waited his whole life long for the promised Deliverer of his people. He celebrates his son’s leading the way for the coming One.

Somehow, as it often is within a materialistic world, the prospect of waiting at this time of year has morphed from awaiting a Savior to awaiting jolly old St. Nicholas to awaiting Santa Claus. Somehow we humans have turned the precious gift of God’s love into an economic necessity for prosperity and a source of feeding the greed that is epidemic in our land. In the past I have wished we could somehow separate the Santa Claus event from the birth of Christ. Actually the Santa Claus event can be a fun time for family gatherings and gift exchanges. It does not have to be weighted down with over extended expenditures and accumulations of stuff we do not need. But it really has nothing to do with the coming of Immanuel, God with Us. The church needs to take back and own the recognition of the coming of the Christ now and in the future and not try to make businesses enforce it in their quest toward their bottom lines.

We who do look forward to the rule of love on this earth have the responsibility to share the love of God with those who do not know it. The celebration of the birth of the Christ Child is one that most can comprehend and appreciate. Let us invite the world to our table.

Prayer:
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.* Amen.

*Last verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel words by John M. Neale. See at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/o/c/ocomocom.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.