Tag Archives: God’s Love

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.

Ask, Seek, Knock

open doorLiving in the Spirit
July 24, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ –Luke 11:9-13

Have we lost our way as God’s people? Do we consider all people children of God? Are the questions included in our scripture today truly descriptive of our attitudes and behaviors regarding all of God’s children? It seems we have drawn our lines of kinship, which skirt around some and totally ignore others. To whom are we passing out snakes and scorpions?

The question we most need to ask God is, “How can we love like Jesus?” Searching the gospels would be a great place to seek how Jesus loves. With the beginning glimmers of knowledge about Jesus’ love, we can actively knock on other doors, interact with strangers, recognize all of God’s children as our neighbors.

Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing*.

Prayer: Lord, tell us and show us how to love like Jesus. Cleanse our hearts, O, God and fill us with your Spirit of love. Amen.

*The first verse of Come Down, O Love Divine by Bianco da Siena. See at http://www.hymnary.org/text/come_down_o_love_divine

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 Image of the Invisible God

Jesus image of invisible GodLiving in the Spirit
July 14, 2016

Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:15-28

 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. –Colossians 1:15-20

I heard an interview with Alton Sterling’s son, Cameron, this morning. Alton Sterling was the man killed by police recently in Louisiana. Cameron was talking about breaking down in tears while his mother was interviewed. He said that when he placed his arm around his mother to comfort her, he felt another’s arm on top of his. When he looked, he saw no one and realized that it was his father’s unseen arm. Knowing that his dad would be with him in spirit, if not physically, was an amazing revelation. His tears expressed gratitude for the love that surpasses physical life. This teenager expressed empathy for the children of the slain police in Dallas, and he begged that we all just try to get along. This young man knows the love of Christ, the image of the invisible God, Paul describes in our scripture today.

We need to invest some time and energy in reconnecting with this Christ. Spend some time with him on the mountain reacquainting ourselves with the beatitudes. (Matthew 5). Hear his call to discipleship again by the sea of Galilee. Renew our commitment to leave our comfort zones and work to make the whole world a comfort zone of love for all one neighbor at a time.

We need to learn for a teenager with a broken heart.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we get so caught up in the busyness of our lives that we forget who we serve and why we serve you. Renew our faith, O, Lord. 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 Discipline of Love

Hebrews612Living in the Spirit
June 16, 2016

Scripture Reading: Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. –Galatians 3:23-26

Discipline, what is it exactly? According to Merriam -Webster Dictionary* it is:

  1. a subject that is taught
  2. training or experience that corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects especially the mental faculties or moral character
  3. punishment: such as a:  chastisement self-inflicted as mortification or imposed as a penance or as a penalty b:  punishment by one in authority especially with a view to correction or training
  4. control gained by enforcing obedience or order (as in a school or army): strict government to the end of effective action
  5. a rule or system of rules governing conduct or action: system of regulation
  6. an orderly or regular pattern of behavior

The word disciple, one who receives instruction from another, one who accepts the doctrines of another and assists in spreading or implementing them,** perhaps has more importance to those of us who claim to be disciples of Christ as it derives from the word discipline.

Paul takes us all the way back to family in describing the art of discipleship to Christ. We are shaped by family for better or for worse, learning how to care for ourselves and interact with others or not learning these things. In the life of Jesus and his teaching, we have received the ways of his discipline. Training not so much focused on punishment but blessed by love. One that builds on the love transmitted to us by our parents and others and, by God’s grace, a love that fills in voids that might be present in our love.

We cannot change another person. We can own our own issues and through the love and grace of God experience growth in our ability to love more completely. Through God’s love and our love, we can share this discipline of love with all people and that will overcome evil.

Prayer: Lord, teach me to love like Jesus. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Discipline

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.