Friday, March 9, 2018

By Grace alone?

“God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places.  By grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”   Adapted from Ephesians 2:4-8

Paul was really big on salvation by grace alone.  In this he seems to be somewhat at odds with James, the brother of Jesus, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.  When you read the letter of James, he focus on work.  He says, “Show me your faith without works, and by my works, I will show you my faith.”  We have been saved by grace alone.  It is by our belief in God, our faith, that we receive that grace.  At the same time, if we have indeed have accepted what Jesus has done for us, then it should be visible by what we do for others.  We have been saved for a reason, so that through us, others might be fed, or clothed, or visited; so that others might see the hand of God at work in the world around them; so that others might also come to know the salvation of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Choose a Fruit of the Spirit for Lent

I was reminded this morning of one of our former Grace Church members who one year decided to ‘choose joy’ for Lent.  What a concept – to choose joy – over frustration, over anger, over jealousy, over all those things that distract us or draw us away from the joy of the Lord.  Joy is only one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  From Galatians 5:22-23 we learn:  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  The fruits of the Spirit are given to us as a free gift when we are living our life in tune to God’s love and promise.  

What if each person took on one of the Fruits of the Spirit as a Lenten discipline?  What if we responded to the world around us according to these fruits?  What difference could we create in today’s world?  If we live into even one of these fruits, and share them as our response to the world around us, they can and will make a monumental difference in a broken and torn world.  My prayer for all people during this Lenten season is that each of us can find that fruit of the Spirit which speaks to us and helps us to live into the fullness of God’s grace. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Out of a Believer’s heart

Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” ...  When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?  John 7:37-38, 40-41

When I read this scripture this morning, it was almost like a slap in the face.  My first thought was to sneer at the scoffers and then I realized that I have, on more than one occasion, allowed some little idiosyncrasy, some little flaw, some little minute detail distract me.  The most recent occasion was in viewing a ‘prophetic painting,’ and rather than looking at it with the eyes of Jesus, and seeing his presence there, I was finding some little flaw that distracted me from his message to me.  We are spiritually connected to God/Jesus, but we are also human.  And there are going to be times when that human side of us oversteps the spiritual.  My prayer today, “Lord, I am a believer.  Please let those streams of living water flow out of my heart that I might see you and worship you in spirit and in truth.  Amen.”   

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Those who have died in the Lord...

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. What a time for this scripture to come up in the lectionary readings.  Those who die in the Lord are on everyone’s mind this week following the massacre at the 1st Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.  Senseless killing and senseless death are beyond the imagination of ordinary people.  We don’t understand the kind of tormented soul who could commit such a heinous act.  And we grieve the loss of so many who were loved by family and friends and who worshipped and trusted in God.

Quite often we want to rail at God for allowing such evil and pain to exist in the world.  From our perspective, is it hard to remember that God does not consider physical death to be a tragedy.  The ones who died are with the Lord they loved, but those who are left behind are experiencing an unbearable hole in their lives and a deep, deep sorrow at their loss.  God is the ultimate comforter and healer.  For most, the wounds will eventually heal, but the experience reminds us that life in this world is uncertain and we need to hold close those we love and never take for granted those whose lives are entwined with ours.  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Focus on Jesus

Lately I have been using “Jesus Always” by Sarah Young as my morning reading.  Today’s reading includes the following: “Many Christians are defeated by focusing mainly on less important things - the news, weather, economy, loved one’s problems, their own problems, and so on.  Granted, in this world you will have troubles, but don’t let troubles become your primary focus.  Remind yourself that I am with you and I have overcome the world. I am nearer than the air you breathe yet I am infinite God.”
Too many things compete for our attention in this world today, and way too often we do focus on the sensationalism spewed out by our ‘news’ outlets.  It’s too easy to shake our heads and allow our blood pressure to rise at the atrocities inflicted upon one another and pronounce judgments on others for their actions or beliefs or whatever captures our imagination.  

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable for things they do or say, but we all too often allow ‘Satan’ to draw us away from focus on God’s goodness to an evil self-righteousness that only hurts ourselves more than others.  We forget that God does not want our anger.  He wants our compassion.  Micah 6:8 says, “What does God require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”   So I offer up the following prayer for the people of God:  

Come, Lord Jesus!  Be our guide and our focus.  Help us to find your way amid the maze of false paths laid out by those who would draw us away from your loving presence.  Send your Holy Spirit as our guide and your holy angels as our protection.   Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Living for Christ

“To me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”  Philippians 1:21. 

In this passage (Phil. 1:21-30)  Paul wrestles with the idea of dying to be one with Christ or living to spread the gospel message.  Even though his desire is to die and be with Christ, he understands that his purpose is to help others come to a fuller understanding of a life lived in grace.  

By remaining in this life as an encouraging agent, Paul is doing God’s work.  Through sharing his struggles, he gives us an example of what it looks like to follow Christ.  It is not always easy, but we are assured that the prize is worth the effort.  Christ himself is the prize, and Christ himself is our support.  We are never alone in our struggle.  Christ will always come alongside of us to share our burden.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Living forgiveness

Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.  Romans 14:3. Paul is responding to a problem in the Roman church.  Some people believe that they are better than others because of their practices in the faith.  He makes it clear in this passage that we are not to pass judgment.  Different people are at different places in their walk with Christ, and that’s okay.  

Some of us may honor the Lord in different ways and that’s okay.  Paul reminds us that we don’t live to ourselves but to the Lord.  When we died we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  And our Gospel lesson tells us that we will be judged according to the judgment we have passed on others.  One of the hardest things a Christian does might be to learn how to be non-judgmental.  We must remember that forgiveness is from God and is always to be passed on to those we meet.