Sometimes we are called upon by God to do things that are outside our comfort zone. Nowadays almost anything God asks us to do will tend to fall outside of what we usually do.
It is how our faith grows. We come to trust in the Lord as we walk into unchartered territories.
Our faith is truly tested when opposition comes up against us as we walk in a new thing. Rarely are there no troubles when it comes to doing something difficult.
The angel’s words to the women at the tomb who were about to embark on a journey none of them had ever taken before, rings ever truer today in an age of skepticism, fear, anger and hate.
“Do not be afraid.” Matthew 28:5 (NIV)
Let us take to heart the angel’s admonition as we begin to walk out in faith on the new things God is doing in the Church and in the world. There will be many changes in the coming months and years. Let us remain true to our God and have the courage to face the opposition that may come against us as we try to do God’s work in this Church and this creation we have been given.
Dear God, Holding fast to what endures – Your love, Your grace and Your justice – and letting go of what is but mere chaff, grant us the courage to live faithfully beyond our comfort zone. Amen.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NRSV)
This new commandment that Jesus gives us is not based on our love for ourselves or others. At its heart is God’s love for us. Just as God loves us, we should love one another.
How does God love us? How did Jesus love us?
Sacrificially. Giving up his life, his throne to come to earth, Jesus loves with us. Not over us. Not beneath us. But with us. This is God’s love for us. His is an honest and real love based in the reality of human life. Not a pie in the sky unattainable love but a real down to earth kind of love. One that includes the hard parts of life within it but still conquers all.
This is how they will know we are Jesus’ disciples.
Dear God, you showed us how to love one another. Help us to follow your example and know that the love you offered and which we now give, is one that is tested by the hardness of life and yet still remains victorious over hate. Amen.
This is the time of the year for of trick-or-treating, candy corn and costumes. We put on masks with our costumes to hide our true identities from those around us. Or we use costumes to become what we often dream we were.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)
The problem with Masks
The problem with masks is that they don’t let us see very well the world around us. While they are supposed to be used to scare away demons, they often obscure our vision of those demons.
So it is with all the masks we wear…even the everyday ones. They distort our sight and often narrow our ability to see all angles, views and perspectives.
While we can “play” with our masks and have fun on the day of All Hallows Eve, let us not play anymore with masks in our real life. Let us not hide and let us not deny ourselves the ability to see clearly and embrace the world God has displayed before us.
Dear God whom we cannot hide anything from help us to get rid of the masks we hide behind our daily lives. They distort our perception of reality and perpetuate this myth of “worldly perfection.” Perfection only lies with You and our journey toward You is what perfects us. Amen.
In chapel one morning I was struck by a verse in a worship song.
“Earth has no sorrow heaven cannot heal.”
What struck me was the absolute truth of this statement. There is no sorrow God cannot heal. Will it be a fast and pretty process? No. The verse doesn’t make that claim. Will it be a painless and easy process? No the verse doesn’t make that claim either.
We are promised a healing. What that looks like and how it progresses is up to each individual’s circumstances and lives. But if we are willing so too is God.
Almighty God, there is nothing above you. You have set us a little lower than yourself. There is nothing on Earth that heaven can’t deal with. Help us to remember to bring to you all our heartbrokenness and feelings of sadness so that we might once again know a deep love and happiness because we have gone through pain to get to the other side with you. Amen.
A New Psalm
Lord of Heaven and Earth
We stand before you vulnerable and confused.
We are overwhelmed by it all.
Lord help us!
Hear our cry, oh God!
Leave us not alone here.
We wrestle with all that is going on around us:
The persecution of our fellow Christians,
The bombing of families with children,
The trafficking of women into sexual slavery,
Floods and wildfires,
Large and small scale acts of violence and desecration.
There is so much to wear us down.
Yet we know you are God,
You are the Most High.
It is into Your hands we put ourselves and our brothers and sisters.
We pray and You hear.
We listen and we do.
And though it may seem our little acts have no effect,
We believe that a thousand ripples can cause a tidal wave
Of love that can wash away all that is not Your will.
Praise be to our God!
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4 NIV
Ever heard of a leap second?
Every once in a while due to the slowing of the Earth’s rotation, a leap second is inserted in to the telling of time. A leap second helps to keep time reckoned by the Earth’s rotation from drifting away from atomic time. The Earth’s slowing rotation is irregular. Because of this, leap seconds are inserted, not on a defined schedule, but as the need arise.
There is controversy over the implementation of leap seconds with some seeing no need for them. In computing, it is a very complicated process to insert leap seconds on such an irregular schedule.
You may ask yourself, what’s the big deal? It’s a second.
In today’s age, vast fortunes can be gained and lost in a second. A split second decision can change the fabric of the world. A second’s worth of love may make all the difference.
A lot can happen in a second or less. Why not have as many as we can get in order to live our lives to the fullest? Let’s thank God for every leap second and ask God to empower us to use them to God’s glory!
Dear God, You have given us abundant life. Help us to do good with it. Let us follow Your lead and count every second as precious. Though You are beyond space and time, we live within their confines. Let that not preclude us from doing Your will. Amen.
Pruning what is dead
As a gardener, there are certain things you have to do to keep a healthy garden. Most are obvious. Water your plants. Keep the garden free from vermin. Prune dead plants, leaves, vines, branches or flowers. “He [God] removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit …” John 15:2a (CEB)
What is not so obvious especially to a novice gardener is that one must, at times, prune healthy flowers, leaves, vines or branches. Why would one prune producing plants? It seems counterintuitive.
More experienced gardeners know why. “ … he [God] trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.” John 15:2b (CEB)
The Pruning Principle
Pruning what already is producing helps to produce more. As you are successful in ministry in your community, keep in mind the “pruning principle.” When we become more productive and fruitful, we will continue to be pruned, in order that we might keep producing. Usually this pruning occurs to one’s ego. Success often breeds a sense of pride in our work, as well it should. But sometimes pride can overwhelm our sense of self and make us prideful. So the Vineyard Master comes and prunes us so that we remain open to the work of the Spirit in our lives to produce continuous fruit in our ministries.
Lord, help us to see that pruning is a good thing, even though it may be a painful process to go through. You are the vine and we are the branches to Your will be done with glory! Amen.
Online there are many videos of animals opening gates humans have used to shut them in. One dog opened his cage door at the animal shelter to achieve freedom. Being a pack animal by nature, he would proceed to open all the other animals’ cages he could reach. The animals would all be loose when the humans returned the next morning. It wasn’t until they set up a camera that they figured out what was going on at night in the shelter.
Another video shows a cow using her mouth and tongue to open the gate to her pen.
In John 10:7-10 Jesus calls himself the “gate of the sheep.” Instead of hemming us in however, Jesus is an open gate to fertile pastures and safety. Jesus is not just the gate TO freedom, Jesus IS the freedom gate.
The Freedom Gate
I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest. John 10:9-10 (CEB)
Jesus is the freedom gate; the freedom from want and safety from thieves. It is not a selection process or a way to determine who can and cannot enter into Christ’s presence. All are welcome and saved.
Almighty One, Lord of hosts and the entire world, we thank You for Your infinite love for us even as we continue to not do Your will. You promised us life and life abundantly. Yet too many times we are too scared to go through the gate of your Son, afraid of being shut in, caught, or worse yet, not allowed in. But You remind us that Christ died for all and all are welcome. Amen.
I Am the Bread of Life
I have noticed in my travels that in nearly all cultures and even sub-cultures like the American South, bread is a staple in the diets of almost all people. It may take different forms and be called many things but it is in the final analysis bread.
How fitting is it that Jesus said in John 6:35 (CEB), “I am the bread of life.” Of all the food references he could have made, Jesus chose “bread,” not “meat,” not “vegetables” but “bread.”
Despite the warning against carbs and bread, it still remains a daily part of most people’s lives in a way that veggies and meat still do not. “Rice” rivals “bread” by sheer number in households, and even in places where “rice” is the main dish, there still exists “bread.”
When He says “I am the bread of life,” Jesus lands squarely in the middle of daily existence for nearly everyone. He is the sustainer of life, as long as you have bread and water you can hold out, but without one or the other life becomes very difficult. Like bread, Jesus is the very staple of a Christian’s life.
Bread will always be in our lives as human beings, despite all the carb warnings. It is too intrinsic to being human. Jesus too should always be in our lives. He is too intrinsic to being a Christian.
Dear God, Fill us with your amazing, sustaining bread. Let us take in your goodness for our soul. As you bring the rain and sun to grow the food for our stomachs, use the rain and sun in our lives to show us your comforting presence in the midst of our lives. For you alone are the holy one, the bread of life to our souls. Amen.
Sometimes I think God gets very frustrated with us. We set our sights on temporary things letting the eternal matters go by the wayside. But God in God’s Infinite Love, has Infinite Patience. While every generation thinks it will be the last one because the End is coming, we have yet to experience the End because God is showing His Infinite Patience. If it had been left up to us, we would have given up a long time ago.
But not God, whose mercies are new every morning. God, in His Infinite Patience, desires for all to return to God’s side.