Category Archives: Faith

Don’t Block the View

March 24, 2015

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister”. NIV

Sometimes children will chide the “bossy” one in the group with the question, “Who died and left you in charge?” It is a pretty good zinger that usually leaves the one to whom it is addressed with not much to say. We deserve to hear that when we think we have all the answers. Living in the world of adults soon teaches us there are lots of effective ways to solve a problem and a quick rush to judgment might mean that we miss something useful. Wise Paul tells us not to judge others – we’re just not qualified! Then he tells us what we should be spending our time doing. We need to make sure that our lives reflect God’s love. We need to remember that others watch our lives to see if our faith really makes any difference on a day to day basis. Does faith mean more to us than just going to church on Sunday? A hymn I learned in childhood sums it up:

Let others see Jesus in you,

Let others see Jesus in you.

Keep telling the story, be faithful and true;

Let others see Jesus in you.

Your life’s a book before their eyes,

They’re reading it thro’ and thro’

Say, does it point them to the skies, Do others see Jesus in you?

Baylus Benjamin McKinney, 1924

Prayer: Oh Lord, May I never do anything that blocks the view of You. Amen.

Living Stones: The Family of God

As you come to Him, the living stone…rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him…you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.                                               1 Peter 2:3-5

In 1997, Madeline L’Engle co-authored a book with her editor and friend, Lucy Shaw, entitled “Friends for the Journey”.  The book is filled with wonderful stories of an enduring and often long-distance friendship shared by the two as they navigated the everyday changes of life and the sacred moments of worship together.  For more than forty years, they enjoyed the benefits of complimentary personalities.  They were comfortable with each other, no matter the circumstances, as they walked together in this friendship.

One afternoon as they traveled together in the New England pastoral countryside, they came upon a series of low fences made of fieldstones.  They speculated that these stones might have been made into a fence as a means of getting them out of the field.  But, then Lucy had an epiphany.  She noted that the convexity of one stone fit perfectly into the concavity of its neighbor.  The fence was built because the stones fit so well; even the gritty surfaces served to help keep them in place.  Stones of different sizes and shapes, held together, not by mortar, but by the careful fit of each stone in its place;  the way God puts us together, even today, to form His Spiritual Houses.

We fit together, as Children of God wherever we may be, not by chance, but by His Divine Orientation.  We all have gifts and talents, as God Himself has seen fit to give us.  It is up to us to discover what they are and how to use them for his honor and glory.  Each of us is like one of those fieldstones, some surfaces being grittier than others; but that only serves to keep us strong, headed in the same direction, and focused on Him.

Precious Father, thank you for building us into the household of faith; for allowing us to serve as living stones built upon our firm foundation.  Help us to be mindful of the needs of those you place so intentionally next to us, so that in serving each other, we bear witness of your love to the world and thereby serve you with our very lives.  AMEN.

Link

Andrae Crouch goes home and Heaven rejoices

Heaven rejoices today in a never ending welcome home celebration for Andrae. But it is no more and no less a celebration when any child of God goes home. I am grateful today for the opportunity of watching him work with the senior youth choir at Montreat Conference Center a few years ago. He had the whole place moving and giving Glory to God. For most of my adult life I have known his music and participated in the use of it in choral worship settings. “My Tribute” is particularly meaningful to me, but today, I think this rendition of “Soon and Very Soon” speaks volumes more about Andrae Crouch than I could ever say with the written word. Blessings.

Andrae Crouch

Andrae Crouch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmGiu9JfbIs   

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Epiphany! Shine On Christmas Star, Shine On!

The Christmas Star on the top of my tree reminds me of the Light of the world who in human form pierced the darkness and relative quiet of a stable so long ago. The tiny Light grew and illuminated the hearts of those around Him except those who would not receive Him. Incredibly two thousand years ago there were those who preferred to walk in darkness just as there are in today’s world.

Just as the Star lit the way to Bethlehem for the wise men guiding them on their journey, so Jesus lights the way for our journeys. In His own words He tells us that “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life”. (John 14:6) He is The Light that “shines in the darkness and the darkness has not (nor will it ever) overcome it”.

Darkness comes in different forms. Illness, loss, depression, war, hardship, hunger and thirst are a few examples. Imagine being lost alone in the dark. Terrifying right? But there is no darkness we can name, or think of, or experience that cannot be illuminated by the One Light of God. Some translations say the darkness cannot understand this Light and happily the darkness can never put it out. (John 1:5) I am grateful not to have to live in such Light-less hopelessness.

Can you see it?

Often we can’t see God’s Light until we have the 20/20 vision afforded by hind sight and reflection. Then we may be able to see the “AH! There – The light was there all along” moments. There is a light that shines steadfastly in the deepest darkness, and there is hope and peace beyond all human expectation and understanding in believing in God. I cannot answer the question no one can answer, the big “why” question; rather I want to suggest that we don’t even have to ask that question. It just does not matter. There are things in this life we will never understand no matter how intelligent or resourceful we are; we just have to accept things on faith in God alone. Once we have believed and acknowledged our need for God, we can begin to find the “peace that passes understanding” even in the hardest trial. And learn the lessons – because “pain is never pointless”.

If we have faith in God, then we also have the Light for this life to help us with whatever darkness we encounter. Whatever form darkness takes in our lives, we may be assured that the Light of Christ will penetrate it bringing grace and showing the way through. Will it be an unmistakable shaft of Light? Or a pin prick sized spot that grows slowly until all is illuminated? Yes to both. Sometimes we are graced with “Ah-ha! Moments” when all seems as clear as that shaft of Light. Other times the darkness is penetrated by a smaller Light, but a Light that grows and steadily warms the heart, clears the vision and points out the path.

I am often reminded of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as I reflect on Scripture. Today I am reminded of two very different songs, from two distinctive genres. The first is an old hymn text written by John Henry Sammis with music by Daniel Brink Towner in 1887.

Lyrics:

-1919

When we walk with the Lord In the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way; While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, For there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

The full lyrics may be found at this link: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/582

And the other piece was recorded by country music artist Emmylou Harris, with harmonic vocals provided by Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. It was recorded by Warner Brothers in 1979 but has been re-recorded several times by other artists.

Listen to the full piece here: http://www.metrolyrics.com/beautiful-star-of-bethlehem-lyrics-emmylou-harris.html

Oh, beautiful star of Bethlehem Shining afar through shadows dim

Giving the light for those who long have gone

Guiding the wise men on their way Unto the place where Jesus lay

Oh, beautiful star of Bethlehem, shine on

May the Light that brings life grow in your heart today, illuminating new corners of your life with the One True Light. The Light came into the world – to its very own people – but they did not receive it. But to those that did (and those that will today and tomorrow) the Light became the Light of the world. John 1:1-18.

Growing Larger: A Look at the Annunciation

37 For no word from God will ever fail.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Mary carried God. Jesus became human through Mary and the will of God. Jesus was truly human and truly Divine. Mary, a virgin, was truly human and truly obedient. Mary was the deliverer of God to the world, young inexperienced, yet trusting and faithful.

I see Mary as one who has pledged her virginity in faithfulness to God until her marriage with Joseph. That vow is important to her and of course to her family. Now stunningly she is visited by an angel – Gabriel himself – who tells her that she is to become pregnant via the Holy Spirit before her marriage to Joseph. The Bible does not say that she hesitated; it does say she was greatly troubled. Did her thoughts include: “wait, let me think about all this” or “what will my parents think?”, “what will Joseph say or do?” or “oh yeah! I could be stoned when people see me growing larger before my marriage”! All are thoughts that could have frightened her into a great panic. But Gabriel has already spoken peace to her heart perhaps not just because of the sudden surprise of his visitation, but maybe also to quiet any of these potential thoughts. He has told her he brings “good news for all people”, (Luke 2:10), so how can this be bad for Mary? She is a good Jewish girl awaiting the promised Messiah like her entire village and the whole Jewish world. Now she knows where and when He will come and she knows before anyone else.

She has been honored and blessed by God beyond human understanding. This is the knowledge that removes even the possibility of fear. God will take care of her and her situation and He has already thought of everything. (Just like He does for you and for me).

Luke’s account (1:26-38) also does not say that she wondered who would believe her story. Gabriel took care of that too by telling her about Elizabeth’s surprise and humanly impossible pregnancy. Strange things are happening and Mary knows that Elizabeth will understand, support and guide her. After the announcement by Gabriel, Mary wastes no time getting to Elizabeth.

Mary carried God in the form of a little baby boy that grew to be the One who sacrificed Himself for the sins of the whole world. Mary delivered Jesus to the world. Now He lives within all who accept His Lordship in their lives. How do we carry Him in this world? How do we deliver Him to those we encounter daily? Is it clear to others that Christ’s love is growing larger in our own hearts and lives every day?

As God cared for Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus by keeping them safe from Herod’s sword and from every other possibility of harm, He does the same for us. He loves us and wants us to love Him and each other through whatever crisis life might throw at us.  Those who are martyred for there faith and those who meet tragic deaths on this earth are not abandoned by God.  He is with them before, during and after their transition into the heavenly realm.  He has given us a promise, “Never will I leave you, and never will I forsake you”. Hebrews 13:5. “No word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1: 37. Amen.

Mary and Elizabeth: A lesson in love and nurture

Who do you look up to and aspire to be like?

Who do you run to first when you need a sympathetic ear? Or when you need an understanding heart?

Whose advice do you value enough to go seek it out?

For Mary there was one answer: Elizabeth.

The angel came, Mary consented to let God’s will reign in her life and immediately she needs/wants to talk to Elizabeth. Something people thought was impossible is happening to Elizabeth. Something that defies the imagination is happening to Mary. They need to talk. A woman too old to conceive and carry a child is six months along. A woman almost too young has conceived of the Holy Spirit and is just pregnant. Two ends of the age spectrum separated by time and distance. Yet they are united by the God of their ancestors, of Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and more. There is really much that should separate them, yet what brings them together is more powerful than the unique circumstances which might isolate them. So Mary made the journey.

They not only talked, they sang praises to God! They were in close fellowship for almost three months. I can imagine them chatting over meal preparation, cutting the vegetables, preparing the bread, laughing and talking together making work seem like fun. Walking together to the well, one carries water to drink and the other carries the Water of Life. As the days pass, they walk a little slower, yet still with eager anticipation for the events yet to occur in their lives. It is a holy time of communion and mutual love and understanding not so different from our walk with the significant people in our lives.

The story of Mary and Elizabeth’s time together is a favorite of mine. I see them giving each other a very special gift – the gift of time. They took the time to talk about their common situations, about being pregnant and how that changed their lives. They may have talked about how to cope with those changes, and shared the joys, the concerns and the holy awe. These are things they might not have been comfortable saying to anyone else. Perhaps most important is the fact that Mary needs the nurture of this relationship and this fellowship with Elizabeth to help strengthen and prepare her for what lies ahead. Elizabeth’s home and heart is a safe place for Mary to rest as they enjoy their mutual fellowship and support.

We all have a desire at times to share things with the people we love. Special Joys and happy times are meant to be shared. So are concerns and cares. God places people in our lives for just such times as these;   we really are His gifts to each other. Our Father’s love for us is so great that He gives us what we need even when we don’t know what we need.

Gifts that give back – all year long

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, multiple songs, books and poems assure us this is true.

One very important reason for this is that it is a time of year when our thoughts and efforts tend to consider others before ourselves.  We busily plan parties, events, celebrations, and still find time to give our money, and energy to a special charity.

We think of the the true meaning of Christmas when we see nativity scenes or attend church.  But this season of the year is more than just a special time; it is more than just having a little time off with the family.  It is a way of thinking and feeling and of BEING in the world.  And it can last all year.

Do we give gifts to see the sparkle in the eyes of the recipient?  Do we give in hopes of making a child go crazy with excitement?  Do we give to make someone smile or laugh?  Do others look at your gift or use your gift the rest of the year with a special fondness for you the giver?  Do we give the gift that encourages and assures someone that we care and that we will be there for him or her through thick or thin?

God did.

Take a moment to recall how it feels when someone really gets the significance of a gift you have chosen specifically for them.  You know the one that jumped off the shelf into your arms screeming your friend or loved one’s name?  And then you wrapped it nicely and watched the reaction when it was opened….priceless.

That feeling comes from giving thoughtfully.

it is a tiny peak into the way God feels when He sees us receive the gift of a baby born in humble circumstances and when we pick that child up and place Him in our hearts to live – well I believe that brings God great JOY!

in this busy time of year let us remember to show our thanks for the most wonderful gift we could ever receive.  Let that spirit of thanksgiving for God’s special gift guide our thoughts words and deeds this Christmas and this year.

I found this list of 8 ideas for gifts that cost nothing, yet may mean everything to someone.  Feel free to add your own ideas to this list and share!

  • The gift of Listening:  but you must really listen.  No interruption, no daydreaming,no planning your response.  Just listening.
  • The gift of Affection:  Be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, and pats on the back.  Let these small aactions demonstrate theh love you have for family and friends. (I had a friend tell me once that hugs can be restorative.)
  • The gift of Laughter:  Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories.  Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”
  • The gift of a Written Note:  It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full sonnet.  A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime, and may even change a life.  (I have boxes of notes colleted over the years from friends and family that mean a lot to me even today when I go back and read them again.  These notes show where the joys and concerns of life have been shared with significant others.  Someone will have to throw them out when I die, but until then, they have a special set of shoe boxes to occupy.)
  • The gift of a Compliment: A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a super job” or “That was a wonderful meal” can make someone’s day. (I know this seems unimportant, but it even makes me smile when someone notices my hair cut!)
  • The Gift of a favor:  Every day, go out of your way to do something kind.
  • The gift of Solitude:  There are times when we want nothing better than to be left alone.  Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.
  • The gift of a Cheerful Disposition:  The easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone, really it’s not that hard to say, Hello or Thank You.