Tag Archives: Salvation

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.

Water for Souls

Good samaritanAdvent
December 8, 2015

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 12:2-6

Surely God is my salvation;
   I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
   he has become my salvation.  

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
   call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
   proclaim that his name is exalted. –Isaiah 12:2-3

I have been struggling recently with the importance of what we believe as it relates to our life of faith. Strange problem you say, surely what we believe drives our life of faith, but does it? Several years ago, but at least in the era of computers, I changed my screensaver to display a phrase I had read on a church marque that struck me as being particularly meaty: If you do not live it, you do not believe it. What is particularly puzzling to me of recent times is whether the phrase is reversible or not: If you live it, you believe it. Would that apply if you could not name “it” by its properly prescribed tenet of faith? Who is the Good Samaritan in our time and place?

These questions matter because many of us are having trouble relating to those in our society who were/are not steeped in our Judeo-Christian stories and traditions from birth, and probably do not even know from where the story of the Good Samaritan came nor would it have any cultural relevance for them. In a lot of instances, they would have stopped and helped an injured man by the side of the road while we, who know the story, roll up our windows, lock our doors, and drive on by. The government can take care of those folks as long as they do not raise our taxes to do it.

How meaningful is our message of salvation when it is only tied to an afterlife that does not exist in the minds of many whose existence on earth is closer to hell right now than it is to heaven?

Prayer: Lord, make us seekers of justice in a world where it is sorely lacking, not just justice for those who think and believe like us but for all your children even if we do not identify them by your name. 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.

Christ Our Advocate

AdvocateLiving in the Spirit
November 5, 2015

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28

For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. –Hebrews 9:24-28

A few months after I moved back to Oklahoma City after finishing graduate school in Denver, the heat in my new apartment went out. I called the property manager and reported the outage but nothing was done. This went on for a month so when it came time to pay my rent the next month I informed the property manager I was not paying my rent until he got my heat fixed, and I did not pay it. Now I had looked up the law related to renters and was in compliance with it in my actions. This went on for another month and I did not pay again as he still had not fixed my heat. He sued me in small claims court for the back rent. I panicked and was telling my Sunday school teacher about this mess and he agreed to go to court with me. The judge greeted my Sunday school teacher and looked at him with a question on his face that said, “What are you doing here?” I told the judge I fully intended to pay my rent as soon as my heat was fixed. The judge ordered the property manager to fix my heat as soon as possible and when that was done I was to pay all the rent I owed. He fixed it and I paid my rent.

I knew that my Sunday school teacher was an attorney. I also knew him to be a man of high integrity and a dedicated Christian. What I didn’t know was that he was one of most highly respected attorney’s in the state who was way out of place in small claims court.

Hebrews is telling us in our scripture today that when we have Christ standing by our side we have the best representation possible. There is no greater advocate. What a wonderful gift of grace.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your presence with us each moment of each day. Restore to [us] the joy of your salvation, and sustain in [us] a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:12) 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.

Good Things that Have Come

Living in the Spirit
October 29, 2015This is an image file scanned by a Microtek scanne

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:11-14

But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. –Hebrews 9:11-12

A horrible tragedy occurred in Stillwater, Oklahoma on October 24, 2015, a car rammed head on into a crowd of people at a parade killing four, injuring dozens. A two year old little boy, a first child thus the only child, in a family was among those killed. He was medi-flighted to the Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City and all that could be done to save him was, I am sure, done. Yet he died and his parents made the wonderful decision to donate his heart to save another child in another place awaiting such a gift of life. What precious parents this young couple were hoping in their grief to spare another family the same great loss. They emulated the God of Love who allowed God’s own son to give his life for the good things that resulted.

We must never take our salvation for granted. The grace God extended to us by the gift of a Son to teach us, to show us the ways of abundance as children of God, and ultimately to give his life in achieving his purpose cannot be diminished. It indeed is the greatest gift ever given.

I have often thought that if the people had turned around and followed the ways of Jesus, He would not have been executed and God’s kingdom would have flourished throughout the earth. I fear we humans have not learned from 2000 years of experience that the good things of God are far superior to the tantalizing things of the world even in the presence of the grace of God. We still have the opportunity to Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways. old now is earth, and none may count her days as the old hymn* says.

Prayer: God of Grace, forgive us for falling back into ways that do not lead to life as you designed it. Make us cognizant of the roles we play in changing the world to a place of shalom. Surround the family described here with your love and grant them the healing of their souls in this great loss. Amen.

*From Turn Back, O Man by Clifford Bax see at http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/t/t811.html. You also might recognize it from the musical Godspell

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.

Daily Salvation

Mary Anointing Jesus' feetLent Holy Week April 1, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 I thank you that you have answered me    and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected    has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing;    it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made;    let us rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalm 118:21-24 

Salvation is a big word packed with meaning and meaningfulness but it may be the moment by moment points of salvation in each of our lives when we are truly saved. I don’t know about you but my world generally moves from busy to busy. I keep thinking once I get “that” done, whatever “that” is, I can rest and then something else pops up and I retarget my time for rest until I get the next “that” done. It is the moments of God’s grace sprinkled through my days that sustain and nourish me.

Wednesday of Holy Week has no real designation for emphasis. It is a day to prepare, a day for Jesus to be nourished. Tradition indicates that it is the day a Mary, we do not know which Mary, anointed Jesus’ feet with oil. (John 12:2) Some identify this as an act of preparation for his burial. I think it was the act of someone who saw his anguish and wished in some small way to relieve it.

Wednesday of Holy Week is also by tradition the day Judas betrayed Jesus. We will probably always question how one of Jesus’ disciples could sell him out. How many times have we each reneged on our commitment to God for a lesser god like money or power? It just takes a second, a spur of the moment to take that step. Indeed, each day is a day that God has given us to love or not. Our scripture today invites us to take the higher road and rejoice in the opportunity to serve God through our love.

 Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.*

 Prayer: O Lord, guard my moments and my days let them flow in ceaseless praise. Amen.

*First verse of Take My Life and Let It Be by Frances R. Havergal see hymn at http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/t/a/k/takemyli.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.

That Which Enslaves Us

Credit-Card-SlaveryLent March 3, 2015

Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17 Then God spoke all these words:  I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. — Exodus 20:1-6

It is interesting that the first commandant relates God’s salvation of the Israelites from slavery to worship of other gods. Israel’s salvation from Egyptian slavery, as far as I can tell, was an act of pure grace on God’s part. God heard the people’s cries and God responded. In relation to Egypt, there are none of the stories about Israel’s sinning and being taken into exile that followed in later stories. No claim that the slavery was the result of any specific misdeeds.  Yet the Bible reminds the children of Israel many, many times of God’s saving the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt and in most of those instances, I think, the Israelites had lost faith or took it for granted and were placing their trust in lesser gods.

Lent is a great time for us to dust off our faith that may have been stored in an honored place but left there for all practical purposes unattended.  What lesser gods are we serving? Most of us do not have little effigies to which we bow, but we do have other gods: the quest for power at any cost, the desire to control other people’s lives, greed in all its manifestation, addictions certainly to drugs and alcohol but to things also, and the need to be better than other people played out in self-righteousness.

Just as God groomed Moses and sent him to lead the Israelites out of slavery, God sent his son to bring us salvation, also a gift of pure grace. I know it is hard to take in our tit for tat world that such a thing could happen. It requires us to grasp an entirely new way of being. It demands our full commitment, our very lives. It is the way to God’s abundant life in Christ.

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy, grant us the strength and courage to accept your gift of grace and may our receiving it be reflected in our lives. 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.

Mystery Incarnate

ShepherdAdvent
December 24, 2014

Scripture Reading: Psalm 148

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

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 148:1-2, 9-14

I was sitting in my recliner watching the weather, which was reporting that a huge thunderstorm was headed my way with the possibilities of a tornado. The day outside looked calm in the late evening with the sun beginning to set. My dog, Micah, was asleep on my lap. He was never afraid of storms. Even though it looked find outside my window, he suddenly awoke and jumped to the floor with every hair on his back standing straight up. I grabbed him and ran for a safer part of my house. We had barely gotten settled when golf ball size hail began to pound against my roof and broke out all the windows on the west side of my house. I thought of Micah, who died a few years ago, when I read this scripture that includes references of animals praising God. Even though the prophets had foretold the coming of the Messiah, the sheep on that hillside near Bethlehem were most likely the first beings to know that something very special was happening the night of Jesus’ birth. Their reaction is probably what alerted the shepherds to pay attention.

God created all animals with instincts that serve to protect them from danger including us human beings. He also blessed us with some advanced abilities to reason and analyze both very good traits. There are times though when we may miss the mysteries of God with us, if we do not ride the waves of faith that lift us to the higher ground of God’s incarnation.

This Christmas Eve, whether in corporate worship, family worship, or individual worship, let us spend some time just resting in God’s love and marveling at God’s mysterious salvation.

Prayer: Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

Faith, Love, and Hope

suicideRatesByAgeLiving in the Spirit
November 14, 2014

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

I heard a radio interview with one of our wounded warriors this week in which he spoke of despair and a close-call with suicide, one of the leading causes of death among returning soldiers in the USA. The chart above illustrates that except for the very young, suicide is no respecter of ages. The young veteran went on to say that with the help of other soldiers, he had gotten his act together. Putting a serious drinking problem in its place, he has been sober for over a year now. With God’s help, he will continue to keep his sobriety one day at a time. It is not easy, but being a soldier was not easy either.

This all ran together for me as I considered Paul’s analogy of putting on the armor of faith, love, and hope with this young man’s interview as background. Indeed, what I heard in his voice was exactly that: faith, love, and hope. He found faith in himself through the supportive love of fellow soldiers and gained hope for the future.

We have been given a precious gift in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A gift we may take for granted at times, but a gift too valuable to hold tight to ourselves and not share with others. In having the courage to tell his story, this young veteran probably saved someone else’s life. I know he gave me a greater sense of faith, love, and hope.

Prayer: God of faith, deepen our faith
               so we may bear witness to Christ in the world;
              God of hope, strengthen our hope
              so we may be signposts to your transforming presence;
              God of love, kindle our love
              so that, in a fragile and divided world,
             we may be signs of the faith, hope, love
             which we share in Jesus Christ. Amen**

*The chart above was copied from https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures
**Bishop Christopher’s Call to Mission, http://www.southwark.anglican.org/FaithHopeLove/fhl-prayer

 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.

 

Salvation

pregnant teensLiving in the Spirit
Light a Candle for Children
September 26, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:1-13

 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. — Philippians 2:12-13

It seems to me that many of us spend a lot of time working out other people’s salvations and not a whole lot of time working out our own. Salvation comes from God. What we have been called to do is introduce people to God specifically by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ so that they can work out their own salvation through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. That is not to say that we introduce and then walk away. We are on our own journey of growing with God and God made it much easier to grow with God when we do it together by sharing in study, prayer, confession, service, and communion. My fear is that the time we invest in trying to identify the pitfalls in another’s life somehow removes the need to constantly survey ourselves for the stumbling blocks in our own lives. It is a paradox but it is true that the better our relationship with God the freer we are to love the other just as they are and be a conduit for their finding their own way to a more meaningful connection to God in whatever way God choses to use us.

This truth is particularly valuable when working with and for children and perhaps even more importantly when working with their parents. Lifestyles and values that are align to us, perhaps even repulsive, may be limiting our ability to love others. Sometimes we judge these lifestyles and values as sins and insist that others cannot know God unless they stop these so called “sins”. A quick review of Jesus’ life and ministry should dispel this approach. In most instances when he met a person that others had condemned as sinners, Jesus’ approach was to ask them “What do you want?” “What do you need?” He recognized the image of God in each of them no matter how much clutter might be trying to hide it. By doing so, Jesus was able to heal brokenness, return dignity, and save the person from themselves. He will do that for those we introduce to him just as he did it for us.

Oklahoma Fact: in 201 the teen birth rate in Oklahoma was 48.8 births per 1,000 females under the age of 19. The rate for the United States as a whole was 29.8. Oklahoma ranks second highest of the fifty states.*

Prayer: O Lord, help me to see your image in each child and each parent with whom I come into contact. Use me in whatever way you need me to help them grow with you. Amen.

*http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr62/nvsr62_09.pdf#table12

 

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.

Stumbling-Blocks

Stumpling blockLiving in the Spirit
August 30, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 16:21-28

 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ — Matthew 16:21-23

What are your stumbling-blocks? What are the things in your life that set your mind not on divine things but on human things?

 It is a practice at my church to give a small token of remembrance when someone is baptized. Each year during Lent we offer a Pastor’s Class for those considering to become a follower of Christ and being baptized. Several years ago I found a wonderful potter who made some individual chalices for this gift. The potter lived several miles from where I lived but he was going to have a booth at a large outdoor annual festival soon to be held in a suburb near me and we agreed that I would pick up the pottery at his booth.  I actually knew a parade was part of the festival but in my hurry to find the booth amid a huge crowd of people, I guess I forgot. Seeing some open space to my right I excused myself and stepped into it not realizing that the empty space was the street. The crowd was standing at the edge of the parade viewing space. The edge was the curb and the first step past the curb was about four to six inches lower than the curb. If an ugly picture of a short women falling all over herself into the middle of a parade flashed through your mind at this point, you have the right picture. The people on the curb were very gracious. I assured them I was fine as I limped quickly away. My stumbling-blocks had been impatience and pride. I had been guilty of placing a stumbling-block in my own path.

There are instances when others out of fear or greed or prejudice or for whatever reason place stumbling–blocks in our paths. Peter was doing that to Jesus in our scripture today. Our society does it with racism, sexism, poverty just to name a few.

When we place stumbling-blocks in our own way it reflects our need for wholeness. When a stumbling-block is placed in another’s path it most likely reflects a need for justice. God through Jesus Christ is our best source of finding personal wholeness. We may be God’s best resource for bringing about justice in our world.

Prayer: Help me to see my self-imposed stumbling-blocks and help me remove them from my being. Help me see the stumbling-blocks of injustice in this world, use me as you choose to help remove them from your sight. 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.