Tag Archives: God

What Does Jesus Want?

body-of-christLiving in the Spirit
September 3, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 14:25-33

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” –Luke 14:25-30

What is the most important thing in the world to me? The love of God including my relationship with God is high on my list, most of the time. I like to think it is on the top of my list, but I still have a list. Our scripture today does not seem to allow for a list. What is Jesus asking of his followers?

Serving as a member of the Body of Christ is not for the faint-hearted. It demands more than we sometimes think we have. It defines and shapes every aspect of our lives, how we relate to our families, the roles we play in communities, our work choices and practices, how we invest our resources, and on and on. God is not an appointment on our calendars:

Sunday morning at 11:00 am  Check_mark_23x20_02_svg

God is our very source of life and love, too powerful even to describe. God combined with each of us individually, and all of us collectively, who choose to follow in Christ’s footsteps, engages in creating a just, peaceful, and loving world every moment of every day. God through Jesus Christ invites all to be a part of that vision but wants us to recognize from the beginning that it is an invitation to a changed life.

Prayer: Lord, I believe in your vision; help me find my role in making it a reality, teach me new skills where I might need them, give me courage when it is lacking, strengthen my weak knees*, and guard my tongue**.

*See Hebrews 12:12
**See Psalm 141:3

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.

It’s a God Thing

Be still and knowEastertide
April 17, 2016

Scripture Reading: John 10:22-30

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.’
–John 10:27-30

It’s a God thing. Ever say that and mean it? When the perfect intersection of life and faith meet and both are better for the meeting, it is a God thing. I do not think it is something that we can create or duplicate as needed. It is not like a scientific experiment that we repeat under the exact same circumstances enough times that we can project a high probability of it happening every other time we repeat it. Our certainty measure comes from faith in that which is hoped for but not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) It results from the surety that God is active and present in our lives working toward the kingdom with attributes of wholeness, oneness, and justice.

You may have noticed, if you read these devotions regularly, that I stumble around trying to get the right name for God in relation to the subject with which I am dealing. There are some areas about which I have no problem. God is the creator. Jesus is the friend, the example of how to love. Christ is the redeemer. The Holy Spirit is faith’s energy. I find myself falling back on the Lord when two or more characteristics meld into the one I am referencing. Our ancestors in the faith struggled with this also. God in three persons blessed trinity. I have actually become comfortable with the flexibility of God. Isn’t that a part of God’s omnipotence?

The important thing, I think, is to acknowledge God’s work in our lives so that God can continue to grow our faith. After all, how else can we let God know we love the Lord?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the grace of your presence in the everyday aspects of our life of faith. 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.

Called to Be One

One in ChristjpgAdvent
December 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 148

Kings of the earth and all peoples,
   princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
   old and young together!  

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for his name alone is exalted;
   his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
  praise for all his faithful,
   for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord! –Psalm 148:11-14

Jesus called us to be one (John 17:21) when he walked on earth but that was not the first call. The ancients understood God’s desire that we all be one as is illustrated in Psalm 148. Yet today even those who claim to be the Body of Christ in the world are broken, separated by dogma and beliefs, arguments about who is right or wrong, as if what we believe about God is God. Our ancestors believed the world was flat until they discovered it was not.

God created us to be sentient beings capable of reasoning and discussing. No one enjoys a deep discussion of meaning more than I do, but the fear of God is truly only the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). We think we know a lot about health care and, indeed, we know a whole lot more now than was knew even fifty years ago. Yet we have only begun to mine the depth and breadth of health care much less the knowledge of God.

The one truth that seems to have stood the test of time is that God in love calls us to be one and when we act as one we have a much better understanding of the what and the who of God who is love and is the very source of love.

Prayer:
Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
   praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
   praise him, all his host!  

Praise him, sun and moon;
   praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
   and you waters above the heavens!  

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
   for he commanded and they were created.
He established them for ever and ever;
   he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. Amen. Psalm 148:1-6

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 does not Orbit Us

the-fear-of-the-lord-021Living in the Spirit
August 12, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.
   Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding.   His praise endures forever. 

I sometimes think we get our relationship with God backwards. We are called by God to do God’s bidding; God is not called to do ours. Jesus did say “ask and it shall be given to you” (Matthew 7:7), but that statement, I think, was given in the context of our being in synch with God. In our scripture today the phrase, “in the company of the upright, in the congregation” is not expressing a self-righteous elitism. It is acknowledging the synergy that occurs when more than one follower of God works together toward attaining God’s vision. God does not orbit us; we orbit God.

The Psalmist emphasized The Lord’s credentials that set God apart and worthy to be our anchor in life: majesty, righteousness, gracious, merciful, loyal, powerful, faithful, just, trustworthy, everlasting, holy, and awesome. These are all traits we are called to emulate as God’s people.

Understanding and acknowledging the sliver of knowing God made available to us, is the beginning of wisdom. We need to push passed the fear of such a One as this and work to know God even more fully as we grow in God’s love and service.

Prayer: O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly,
follow thee more nearly, day by day.* Amen.

*From Day by Day attributed to Richard of Chichester see at http://www.hymnary.org/text/day_by_day_dear_lord

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.

 

To God Be the Glory

tumblr_mhuytozEfu1s2nlcoo1_500Living in the Spirit
August 7, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20

So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. –Ephesians 5:17-20

We humans spend a lot of time chasing after things that do not satisfy our deepest needs. We are an addicted society. We keep returning endlessly to balms that do not heal applying temporal solutions to eternal issues. Whether we use alcohol, drugs, work, religion, sex, or food, we will never find fulfillment until we find God. There is fundamentally nothing evil about any of these things. They are actually all a part of normal life. It is when we substitute them for God we end up on a treadmill going nowhere.

I participated in a study many years ago written by Fred Craddock. In it he said something to the effect that we always sin in the areas of our greatest talents or gifts. I have never forgotten it. When we separate ourselves from God we are most likely being enticed into a bit of self-worship. If we trust we have been made in the image of God, we need to acknowledge our gifts are a responsibility not the source of adoration. Giving thanks to God at all times and for everything in the name of Jesus is a simple way, but the best way to focus our lives toward our purpose.

Much of our futile search for fulfillment in all of the wrong places, I think, results from our deep, deep understanding that our gifts, when used without God being a part of them, are void of meaning.

Prayer: Lord, let my songs and hymns be a blessing to you as I acknowledge you, the source of all that I am and ever hope to be. 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.

Before the Call

Hands_of_God_and_AdamLiving in the Spirit
May 25, 2015

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’—Isaiah 6:1-5

What is our vision of God? Artist throughout history have tried to capture a portrayal of God. I like Michelangelo’s portrait of The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where God’s finger and the finger of the first human reach to touch each other. It seems to capture strength and dependency, assertiveness and response, and the choice to love or not love.

Isaiah’s vision builds on God as larger than life in a full, formal worship service where every participant is fully engaged. Isaiah, like all of us made in the image of God, on seeing this vision understands that he is not even close to reflecting back to God the same image he has received nor have the other people of God with whom Isaiah lives and works.

Before we hear God’s call, we must accept the full measure of God’s love and amazing as it may seem that is not easy to do. It wasn’t for Isaiah. God chose to love us when God created us—no matter what, no strings attached. If we are to experience the full fruition of who we are, we must recognize that we are a part of our creator and our Creator is a part of us.  It is a paradox, but it is true: the closer we relate to God the more we realize our own wholeness.

We do not relate to God without God’s nurturing the way through the gift of God’s Son our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to guide us along the way.

Prayer: Lord grant me the wisdom to open myself fully to 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.

 

Run with Me Lord

Christ with usEastertide April 8, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 133

How very good and pleasant it is
   when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
   running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
   running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
   which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
   life for evermore.

Have you ever said, “I just wish everyone would get along.” There is nothing easy about relating to one another. It takes work. It takes forgiveness. It takes understanding. It takes fortitude to stand up for what you perceive to be right and flexibility to rethink and refocus when someone suggests perhaps a better way.

I do not know about you, but I work best with others when I am in synch with the Lord. Praying for and about someone with whom we seem to always clash is important. God can give us insight and understanding to which for whatever reason we may not be open. God can also give us patience when needed. It is a spiritual gift.

I was five when my paternal grandmother died. I do remember her as being loving and fun. I particularly remember sitting at her dressing table and having her powder my back with a big soft puff. My dad use to tell use that his mother prayed all the time. He would walk into the kitchen and hear her muttering what seemed to be to herself. He learned early on that she was praying. I think that is what praying without ceasing means. It is when the Lord is in every conversation we have giving us strength and guidance toward doing God’s will.

Prayer: Lord, help me include you in every conversation and when I seem to be running at full speed without you, remind me that I am not alone that you are running along beside me. 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.

Love like Jesus

MelchizedekLent March 19, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 5:5-10 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, ‘You are my Son,    today I have begotten you’; as he says also in another place, ‘You are a priest for ever,    according to the order of Melchizedek.’ — Hebrews 5:5-6

Hebrews 5:5-6 is a cautionary tale for the church today. We do not serve God for self-aggrandizement. It chills me when I hear people, particularly politicians and others trying to profit financially, wrapping God around themselves like an endorsement from on high.

Melchizedeck is noted as the King of Salem and priest of God Most High (Genesis 4:18) when he blesses Abraham. Hebrews 5:5-6 also bring the two roles together quoting from Psalms 2:7 and 110:4. The name Melchizedeck itself may mean King of Justice.* Even if it doesn’t mean that, it seems to me it is an apt descriptor of Jesus and his ministry.

Jesus was a servant leader. He welcomed all, loved all. He saw injustice and interpreted it for want it was, responding not by kingly edict, but by the way he loved. In so doing he demonstrated for us the way we are to love.

Churches need to invest their energies in developing disciples that love like Jesus. Who knows if that happened we might find ourselves living in a country that welcomed all, and loved all.

Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to the ways of Jesus’ love. Give us the courage to love like he loves. Amen.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek 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.

Exalted Father

AbrahamLent
February 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. — Genesis 17:4-7

“Abram” means exalted father. With the extension to “Abraham” he became exalted father of many nations.* He certainly was a very human father. Negotiating the tension between his wife and her handmaiden, the mother of his first child, he turned the handmaiden and her child away but, tradition says, he maintained contact with them and I presume helped to support them. This oldest son and his younger half-brother were at least on good enough terms to collaborate on their father’s funeral. (Genesis 25:9)

Abraham was a devout follower of God, obedient even to being willing to offer his younger son as a sacrifice, but God stopped him. God established an everlasting covenant with Abraham to be God to Abraham and to his offspring after him. Now that is a rather remarkable situation. Many Christians are asked to acknowledge our belief that Jesus is the Christ the son of God but have we ever thought about the fact that God chose to be our God? What does that mean? What does that mean to you personally?

If you have a chance, this week you might want to read the entire poem to the song we know as the God of Abraham Praise and contemplate the nature of God. The first verse of the poem is:

The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above; Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love; Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav’n confessed; I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.**

Prayer: Lord, as I contemplate the death of Jesus, I am drawn to finding a deeper understanding of our relationship and what it means to the way I live my life. I am a seeker; help me to find wholeness in you. Amen.

*http://biblehub.com/hebrew/85.htm
** Words: From The Yigdal of Daniel ben Judah, a Jewish judge in Rome, circa 1400, paraphrased by Thomas Olivers, cir­ca 1765; first appeared in The Gospel Magazine, April 1775. The lyrics are based on the 13 creeds of Moses Maimonides (circa 1130-1204). See at http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/o/godofabe.htm

God’s Perspective

Information OverloadEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
February 2, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:21-31

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
   Has it not been told you from the beginning?
   Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
   and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
   and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught,
   and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.  — Isaiah 40:21-23

Isaiah is challenging God’s people to have perspective. The people he was addressing were seeing the trees and not the forest. Problems grow insurmountable when they are all that we can see. Isaiah gives us a glimpse of God’s view. This is truth for today just as it was truth those many centuries ago.

The peoples of the earth seem to me to be running scared. Part of this is cause by the contagion of fear that happens when bits and pieces of news travel like electricity from one group to another. Our reaction in the United States to the recent Ebola case diagnosed on our shores was part wise learning from previous error as most medical facilities reviewed their protocols for dealing with contagious diseases, but it was part hysteria. Living in a world of instant information and a growing need for instant gratification contributes to both unjustifiable overreaction and the sense of not being able to do anything about everything so we do nothing at all.

The good news is that God created all beings to adapt to new environments. Just as the printing press changed the transmission of information some 700 years ago and the world changed because the masses gained greater access to knowledge, so too will we adapt to all that is changing about us. The thing we need to hold on to is that God is the one sure constant in our lives and that is all that really matters.

Prayer: Lord, give us glimpses of your perspective when we are blinded by the issues that beset us. Help us grow in spirit and in truth so that we might be sources of strength too. Amen.