Tag Archives: God’s Love

Love

Lent
April 12, 2017

Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:1-4

So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

I wish that I could wave a magic wand over the earth and in one swipe make everyone whole, including myself. How many of the problems in our world today can be traced back to a gap in someone’s self-worth? How many wars happen because of the need for some to prove they are better in some way than others?

The source of wholeness has come. There is no magic wand; there was a cross. There is a man, we call him Jesus, who came to show us the way to wholeness and then took the additional, extraordinary step to fill the gaps in our relationship with God by giving his very life for us. Some call it atonement, making us at one with God. Some identify it as salvation. Some know it as the gift of grace. He called it love.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your unconditional love. Thank you Lord for enabling me to love others. Amen.

*First verse of What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul Author unknown. See at http://www.hymnary.org/text/what_wondrous_love_is_this_o_my_soul_o_m

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.

Why Evil

Epiphany
February 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. –Genesis 3:1-7

Beware of the manipulators! Jesus put it this way, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15) Snakes and wolves are predators. They prey on others to their own advantage. There seems to be a lot of that going around these days, but I guess it has happened since the beginning of time. If what people are saying it too good to be true it probably is not true.

What drives us to go against our better judgment or common sense when we are the creation of the Almighty God who is love? Why do we turn away from God in search of short-term delights which never meet our needs? What is evil and why is it so alluring? 1 Timothy 6:10 may help us understand the nature of evil: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. Is evil an attractive shortcut described as the way to our heart’s desires? Evil leads us around through darkness to emptiness keeping us so busy on the journey we lose sight of the One who is the source of all we need.

God is still with us, still loving us, still welcoming us back into God’s arms, despite all that we do. God’s light illuminates darkness; God’s love fills emptiness.

Prayer: Lord forgive us when we get caught up in that which is not good for us nor is it beneficial for the development of your Kingdom. Keep us mindful of your purpose for our lives. Fill us with your love; fill us with your joy. 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.

Common Ground in Christ

Epiphany
January 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: John 1:29-42

One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter). –John 1:29-42

Do we routinely tell our friends about a wonderful restaurant we just discovered or a big sale at a local store or a new diet that works? Of course, we do. We want them to reap the same joy and benefits that we gained from experience. Do we share enthusiastically with our friends, the importance of the love of God in our lives and share God’s love with a community of faith? In our skeptical world going and telling about Jesus Christ is a tough sell.

History illustrates connections between the Christian faith and some very bad circumstances. Think Hitler. Today there are as many interpretations of scripture as there are people reading them, some opposed. We cluster with the people who think or believe like we do and try to dispute or avoid other viewpoints. Particularly, I think, in the USA, we are into establishing a difference between winners and losers.

What would happen if we took one year and dedicated it to only discussing and working on the things on which we can agree? We might not get everyone to agree, but if we could just find one thing on which most could agree that would be enough. Surely, feeding the hungry would qualify. Now we might disagree on the best way to do that but just getting a larger group to the table to discuss solutions might lead us toward the oneness we so desperately need.

Prayer: God, you called us to be one. Enable us to set aside that which divides us to work together on that which will make us one. 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.

Power of God’s Love

love-never-failsAdvent
November 22, 2016

 Scripture Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5

He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord! –Isaiah 2:4-5

I quote John 16:33 to myself often because it speaks a reminder I need not only to hear but to internalize:   I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ Jesus Christ speaks this truth for yesterday as with our ancestor in faith Isaiah; to today as we live our love every day rain or shine; and particularly to tomorrow as we continue to pull together with Christ the yoke of Kingdom building. Isaiah foresaw the impossible and called the people to walk in the light of the Lord toward making it a reality. God through Christ calls us to the same mission today.

Prayer: Lord, you have gifted us with the honor of experiencing the greatest power on earth, your love. We thank you for sharing it with us. Help us to pass it on. 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’s Presence

 psalm-8915-geeky-and-sassyLiving in the Spirit
October 5, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 66:1-12

Come and see what God has done:
   he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
He turned the sea into dry land;
   they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might for ever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
   let the rebellious not exalt themselves. –Psalm 66:1-12

How often do we stop to take inventory of what God has done in our lives? We are blessed to have the Psalms to remind us of God’s presence. The Hebrew Bible most often focuses on the Exodus as the seminal event in the lives of the Israelites when they clearly experienced the life-giving and saving nature of God. As the Israelites ran from the Egyptians, the path opened for them to walk across the waters on dry ground and escape from harm’s way. Such life changing events stay with us. For Christians, the Incarnation and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior forever rewrote our history.

While such monumental events as these frame our faith systems, I believe the everyday encounters with God strengthen our souls just as much perhaps more. Granted we might never have entered into relationship with God without one of those Aha! Moments, we sustain faith by our daily journey with the Lord. Partaking in Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, whatever we prefer to name it, is a point in time when we intentionally reconnect with God. It is a time to be still and know that God is God.

Just as important are those moments when the reality of a small but highly relevant event in our lives strikes us as being indicative of God’s working. Some of us describe them as God things, little events that in and of themselves seem innocent enough but make a big, unexpected difference. The recognition of such occurrences is our opportunity to both speak to God’s presence in our lives and to thank God for it.

Prayer: God of Grace and God of Glory, we thank you for the monumental impacts your love has on us, and we grow in faith as we recognize and thank you for the God things we encounter in our daily walk with 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.

The Sky is Not Falling

right-pathLiving in the Spirit
September 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-7

For there is one God;
   there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human,
who gave himself a ransom for all —this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. –1 Timothy 2:4-7

Have we not all been appointed as heralds spreading the news of the awesome love of God coming to us in human form? Jesus came modeling for us God’s love. He even gave his life to demonstrate the level of God’s love. I find myself occasionally clucking around like Chicken Little*, “The Sky is falling, the sky is falling.” When I should be doing everything I can to reassure the world that fear has no place in the Kingdom of God. And I should be doing everything a can to assure love rules our world.

Remember the story, Chicken Little and her friends, in all their panic caused by an acorn falling on her head, rush to find the king to save them. They eventually run right into the den of Foxy Loxy never to be seen again.

Kingdom building may not be glamorous or thrilling in the eyes of the world. It demands everything we have. Remember Jesus described it as the Pearl of Great Price. (Matthew 13:45-46) I guess we all need to evaluate our priorities.

Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I get caught up in the frenzy of the news cycles. Order my life, help me synch my priorities with yours for I know Whom I have believed, And am persuaded that He is able To keep that which I’ve committed Unto Him against that day**. Amen.

 

*Folktale read at http://eleaston.com/chicken.html
**From the chorus of I Know Whom I Have Believed by Daniel W. Whittle. See at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/I_Know_Whom_I_Have_Believed/

Photo credit <!– HTML Credit Code for Can Stock Photo–>
<a href=”http://www.canstockphoto.com”>(c) Can Stock Photo</a>

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.

Quid Pro Quo

quid pro quoLiving in the Spirit
August 28, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 14:1, 7-14

He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ –Luke 14:12-14

We live in a quid pro quo world. You scratch my back I will scratch yours. Apparently, first century Galilee and Judea functioned within the same system. Is it human nature? And then along comes this man who blows quid pro quo away.

Grace, Paul would say, supersedes anything this world can offer. Jesus says he will repay at the resurrection of the righteous. What do you suppose we might get? When the righteous rule justice results.

These two concepts fit very nicely together. Striving for justice is a messy business. Advocates for justice cannot even agree on what justice looks like much less how to attain it. Frustration begets prayer. Prayer welcomes God to the solution table. God’s grace fills the gaps left vacant by our human endeavors. The synergy forged through just attempting to find common ground becomes strength for the next steps.

Jesus radically changes the focus of all our efforts. He forces us to dig deeply into the wellspring of learning to love like he loves because it is the only way that works.

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me! 

All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling
In His blessèd presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs*. Amen.

Prayer: Lord, when I am discouraged help me remember your love is all I need. Amen.

*Chorus and Second Verse of Love Lifted Me Words by James Rowen. See at http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/l/o/v/lovelift.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.

What Wrong Did God Do?

pool-vandalism-08-20100109Living in the Spirit
August 22, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 2:4-13

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
   that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord
   who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
   in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
   where no one lives?’ –Jeremiah 2:4-6

When I worked with juvenile delinquents, I cannot tell you how many parents raised the question that God asks in our scripture today, “What did we do wrong?” There are no perfect parents except God, and some have more shortfalls than others.

Our work with juveniles ran the full gamut from stupid teenage acts to murder. I remember four boys, 15 and 16-year-olds who thought it would be cool to climb over the wall around a motel pool with a few packs of beer. They became more destructive the drunker they got until they had thrown all the furniture and umbrellas into the pool. The police arrested them, and they landed in court the next day for a preliminary hearing. Each had a parent or parents present who were missing work and not happy. The parents of three of the boys stood before the judge next to their sons as deals were worked out in sentencing to community service, being grounded for what the boys thought was the rest of their lives, and paying for the damaged furniture. The fourth set of parents, very busy professionals, rose when the judge called them forward and said, “Our son is out of control, you will just have to do something about him” and left. The seasoned judge was stunned. The fourth boy seemed more immature and vulnerable than the others. He followed the crowd not the other way around. The judge placed him in state custody, and we placed him in a wonderful foster home in another town while we tried to figure out what to do. The metamorphous was amazing. He bonded quickly with the foster parents, attended school regularly, became a good student, and developed healthy friendships. After the judge had read the report at the follow-up hearing, he ordered the parents to pay child support to meet the cost of foster care and let the boy stay with his foster parents.

We serve a Savior who will never forsake us even show up for court and stand beside us. Why would we ever want to put him in the position of wondering what he had done wrong?

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we stray so far from you that you wonder what you have done wrong. Please do not give up on us. We know you keep loving us, help us to know that too. 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

Parenting 101

Moloch-and-His-Minions-e1460383254356Living in the Spirit
July 25, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hosea 11:1-11

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
   and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
   the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
   and offering incense to idols. –Hosea 11:1-2

All children age-appropriately test and try the wisdom they receive from their parents. It is how they grow and mature into strong, healthy adults. “Don’t touch; it’s hot” is a truth learned very quickly when a toddler’s hand just cannot resist the grill guarding a fire. Score one for the wisdom of parents.

My mother grew up in an age when a deck of playing cards was the devil’s handiwork. We never had such a deck in our home. When my brother, sister, and I were teenagers visiting friends, we routinely played spades and hearts without an iota of guilt. The inherent problems of gambling stuck, cast in the math of chance and better uses for hard earned money. Mom was a math teacher. Cultures change; God does not. There is always give and take as children grow into adults each as unique beings. We would want it no other way. Hopefully, all journeys toward adulthood are undergirded by loving parents who make the tough trip easier.

In the scripture today, Hosea describes God in the role of a loving parent who saved the people from oppression, gave them a way of being beyond the only things they knew–slavery, and traveled with them every step they took toward the promised land. Somewhere beyond their rescue, the people grew restless wanting to touch the grill and not get burned, and if God could not protect them, they would find a god that would. They turned their back on God’s wisdom and God’s love.

While God’s love never diminishes, the Lord grants us the freedom to follow God’s way and to accept the consequences of our decisions and actions. As we face the challenges and fears of our world today, we need to hold on more tightly than ever to God’s wisdom and not waste our time searching for other gods whose motivation is not love.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we hunt for other gods willing to allow us to live in danger’s way. Remind us of the wisdom of your loving ways. 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.