The Word is Truth for Life

The Word is Truth for Life.jpg

How often do we look at the rainbow and think of God’s promise to us? The rainbow has been co-opted to mean other things, but as followers of Christ, it is something that we should seek to reclaim in our witness and our lives. The rainbow is intended to be a reminder to us that God is keeping his promise because as we read in Genesis (9:8-17), God created the rainbow as a reminder for him (as if God honestly would need a reminder) that he would never again wipe out all flesh through a flood. I could not imagine what it had to have been like for Noah and his family, particularly in those first days. I am sure that the cries for help could be heard from those that were outside of the Ark as the waters rose and covered all the earth. The deep sadness that each of them had to have felt like the great flood consumed family and friends. If we were to look at the flannelgraphs of the account of Noah and the Ark we might have an image of the oversized Noahs Arkbathtime boat that has all the animals loaded into overflowing. The image promotes a concept that helps to undermine the reality of the flood as a worldwide flood and how the various kinds of land and air animals were given refuge to ensure that life would continue on the earth. Again we are in a time that does not acknowledge God’s ultimate providence and rejects the flood or any of the biblical accounts as myth. Noahs ArkThe flood account is ultimately an account of God’s providence and His love for us, and the account of God’s creation of the rainbow is an affirmation of God’s true love and the keeping of His promise to us. God did not need to save Noah, his wife, son’s, and their wives along with a pair of each animal clean and unclean (seven pairs for those sacrificial animals). God did not need to save any of them, He created them all and to recreate was not beyond His ability, but He chose to save them and, in turn, us. This is the point of it all.

Paul speaks of our need to bow down to God in the reading from Ephesians (3:14-21) in response to His love for us. It is a reminder of why it is we bow to the Lord and why it is that we worship. We do not worship to make us feel better we worship because God is worthy of our praise. We are called Christian not because of who we are, but because of who it is that we worship. It is not by our own selection or power that we can follow Christ, but it is because of Christ and the revelation given us by the Holy Spirit that frees us from the bondage that we often find ourselves in because of the fallen nature of our world. We may not understand the love of God, but we truly aren’t meant to and neither can we fully comprehend it. His love for His creation is in the fact that He seeks ways in which to preserve it.

This final reflection is shown in the Gospels. Mark 6:45-56 is another step in the continued journey of Christ in the Gospels and a show of His providence and love for all of His creation. It is immediately following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with two fish and five loaves. The reality of what had occurred was still not understood as we find in the reading. The disciples did not understand that God was with them. They did not realize that it was His providence that was carrying them through. Jesus had gone up to pray, and they left ahead of Him. The night waters were choppy, and they were struggling to make it over. Jesus saw them, walked on the water, and met them planning to pass them by, but they were afraid not knowing it was him they saw. We honestly can not blame them, though. How would you react to seeing a man walking on water? He calms the storm, and they arrive on the other side and dock at Gennesaret. Here Jesus continues to heal as people in need of healing are brought to Him.

Nothing is too much for God. That is what we often fail to realize. We desire to blame God for all failings and shortcomings that are ours and do not want to give Him credit for all that He does for us. When we see great miracles, we often do not recognize them. When God’s Word is placed before us, the nature of many is to reject it or explain it away. The difficulty of Christ’s love for us is that it is beyond our own understanding and is not like the love that we show one another. It is far from the standard way in which we love or what we call love. Jesus’ love is not conditional as our love tends to be. It is not dependent upon how we act or how we respond but is there for us regardless of our personal actions when we call upon him and trust in him.

Unfortunately, the wisdom of the world often clouds us from the wisdom of God. For the world, it is silly to believe that a worldwide flood occurred and two of every kind of land and air animal was rescued with eight people on a large wooden ship sealed with pitch. It is nonsense that God created the rainbow to remind Him of His promise to all creatures that He would never produce another worldwide flood to wipe out all creatures of flesh. I’m sure that many of the people at the time of the flood thought similar things of Creation as they lived further and further away from it and the length of lives that they lived. It is incredible how so many today are quick to disregard the Word of God and allegorize so much Scripture for the sake of human-made knowledge. God creating in six days is just crazy and to believe that all of Creation occurred six thousand years ago is illogical since the science is settled and shows otherwise. Christ’s love extends even to those who disbelieve the Creation account, but hearts are often hardened to God because of similar wisdom. I mean, seriously, Jesus walking on water and calming a storm with a word? It had to have been a flash freeze that allowed him to walk across and the healings were just because the people were comforted with the kind words Jesus had to offer. I would rather place my faith in the Word of God than the thoughts of men, but that is just me.

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The Good Shepherd is the Bread of Life

Good Shepherd is the Bread of LifeOften in worship, we confess that Jesus Christ is the bread of life. We confess a lot of things in song, prayers, and liturgy but how often do we honestly believe them to be true? When times are tough like what the people of Israel faced in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:1-6), we find words of hope as God does not forget those who he has claimed. The power of his promise endures all things and at all times. When we wander and find ourselves in danger, it is because we have strayed from the Lord not because the Lord has driven us away. Like in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and tried to hide from God, that is our tendency with God. In the midst of struggle we like to blame God, but at the same time, we want to cover up our shame, our sin. God still doesn’t leave us, but he always provides a way for us. Paul reminds of this in the reading from Ephesians (2:11-22). Again, it is when we are wholly reliant on our own abilities we find ourselves in trouble, but when we turn to Christ, we find reconciliation. Laws do not save us, they can drive us into further into despair because in them there is no hope, but when we turn to Christ, we receive all we need. The faith that we hold is no longer in our ability, but in God’s doing. So we come to one of the great miracles of God presented to us in Mark 6:30-44 in which we come to the five thousand men with women and children being fed. After all the long, arduous work Jesus leads the disciples away to a desolate place to get away and have some peace. The problem is that people see them in their boats and follow them meeting them at the desolate place. I am sure that the disciples were tired as was Jesus but the compassion was higher for the Lord for these people, so he does what he does and begins to teach them. Imagine the crowd. After some time the disciples urge him to send them off so they can get some food, but Jesus has other plans. He wants them to be fed. The number and the cost were overwhelming, so the disciples balk at this and question, Jesus. How often do we do this with God? Trying to say that something is impossible or too much for God to do with us. The great miracle is that with five loaves and two fish Jesus feeds all who are there, but God can not be stopped there. Not only are all fed and full, but twelve baskets full of the remaining were collected. God does not just provide, but he provides abundantly. That is the God we worship, and that is the God who saves. He never leaves us in the lurch but is ready to rescue us in times of need when we cry out to him. He didn’t need to provide for the people in the desolate place, and he doesn’t need to provide for me or anyone, but he does out his divine mercy and grace. That is the glorious God we worship! That is the blessing of our faith.

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Clinging to Christ as my Plumb

Clinging to Christ as my Plumb

I have never enjoyed correction. Most people don’t appreciate the correction, but correction is often essential. The idea of the plumb struck me deeply from the reading of Amos 7:7-15. For those that may not be familiar a plumb line is utilized in building to make sure that things are straight. Gravity is used to make the line. God uses this image in his prophecy given to Amos as a call to call the people of Israel back. The threat to the life of the king didn’t even give pause to the people of Israel to change. Instead, they wanted Amos to go away. How often do we run into that in our own lives? Instead of listening to the spirit of God or when we feel the pinch of our failure we react negatively and shut down instead of seeking the light of Christ. We like to feel like we are good and right.

Once we realize the grace that has been poured upon us through our Lord Jesus Christ, we are a new creation through his glorious power. Paul speaks of the blessings in Ephesians 1:3-14. The adoption given to us as sons and daughters in Christ is such a glorious blessing. Just like a child adopted into a new family we are adopted as children of God and given a new name. The power of this should be most transformative for us all. The things of this world have no ultimate authority, they are but temporary. God’s love is the one permanent thing we can honestly count on. It is this to which we are called to cling. The reality of our life in Christ is that we are not called to define ourselves in the ways and things of this world, but are called to be established and refined in the Word of God.

Mark 6:14-29 brings this home as we look to Herod, who is a tragic figure in all reality. He is uncertain of his standing and is perplexed when confronted with John the Baptist, but being a man of the Jewish faith he has an awareness of the holiness of God though is not transformed by it. His ears were drawn to hear the preaching of John, yet he did not desire for a change. He was challenged yet unwilling to meet the challenge or find transformation. So often we find ourselves clinging to things that are of this world. I know this and God has continually worked to change me in my own life. The work he has done on me has not always come quickly and has not been by my own choosing. The changing in my own spirit has come through urgings and deep convictions that have been set deep down inside of me through the power of the Holy Spirit. This work does not stop nor is it ever a one-time thing, but a continual process which shapes and transforms me. The same is true for all Christians, and each has a different journey as we all struggle with the old as new rises up in us. Christ is transforming power. Christ is a renewing force. Pride can cause us to do such unimaginable things as we try to cling to that old Adam. That desire to be righteous on our own is the seed that draws us down this path, the willingness to say that we have free will in which we can determine to know God and can define ourselves as good continually draws us away from the truth that is in Christ. Christ is for those that see themselves as holy very perplexing, the Word of God is allegorized and made into a book of stories that are meant to develop a sacred, moral understanding. The reality is that Christ and his love for us are abounding and when we cling to him above all else, then and only then can we know true blessing. He is our plumb line, and in him, we are made plumb. It is not by our own effort or doing, but in our clinging to him. Only he can make us right and true. Only he can bring us to salvation. That is the power of the adoption that we receive through him. We are redeemed in Christ’s love and through his love alone. The peace of Christ gives us new life, and in that life, we are given hope. That hope carries us through the struggles and strife that we know in this world. It is through these things alone we can withstand it all as we cling to Christ as our plumb.

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Living in God’s Sufficient Grace

Living in Gods Sufficient Grace

As a pastor, I have known rejection. It is not unique for pastors, this I understand. Unfortunately, there are those that have the mindset that if a person is proclaiming Christ and is doing the work of God that all those that profess a faith in Christ will accept and follow. The truth is that the message of God is not always a message that is readily received. It would be wonderful if all that heard the Word would follow the Word. This we know is not the truth. Just because one attends a church does not necessarily mean they are of the Church. When God was speaking through the prophet Ezekiel and was filling him with visions, there were those within Israel that professed a faith though few were faithful followers of the God of Israel. At the time of Ezekiel, the majority of the people of Israel were following and doing things contrary to what God desired. Ezekiel was sent to call them back. Ezekiel 2:1-5 was meant to guide Ezekiel in the ministry to which he was called. He was expected to be a voice to the people of Israel to call back those whose hearts still sought the Lord to repent and return to him. The human heart is prone to rebel against God. We have adultress spirits. God uses preachers to call people back to himself.

Paul knew this about himself, also. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Paul cites this reality as he often does when he points to another as opposed to himself. He speaks of his struggles, and these words come to us in verse 9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV) It seems a strange thing to boast in, weakness. It was just as weird then as it is today. It was a counter-cultural statement then as it still is today. It is contrary to our nature. For those of us who trust in Christ, it is a statement of freedom in dependence. We are free in our full reliance on God’s grace. In our realization of this reality, we no longer must remain in our strength but walk in the confidence of what God has done and is currently doing within creation. Jesus did not enter into creation as one would expect God to enter. Jesus was like any normal man and not like many would have expected God to come into creation. He did not enter as a prince or someone of high standing, but the child of a carpenter. So, in humility, Christ shows us strength. No one could do what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. That is the power.

God knows the hearts of man and when Jesus returned to his hometown after proclaiming the Gospel elsewhere was not met with open arms. Mark 6:1-13 shows us quite the contrary. He is met with questions and a little disdain. The people of Nazareth had seen Jesus grow up. They knew his family, they knew the history of his life in the community. In their opinion, there was nothing special about this son of a carpenter. Jesus was unable to do the ministry he had done in other places. The hearts of his neighbors were hardened against him. I have faced failures like this in ministry. Many pastors leave the ministry because of rejection like Jesus met. That is the difference between the son of God. Jesus did not lose heart. I am sure that he ached because of the love he had for these people, but I don’t know that he was surprised. Being God, he continued on his mission and sent out the disciples to proclaim the truth throughout Israel. Not only does he send them out, but he sends them out with nothing but the clothing on their backs. They were sent out to be wholly reliant on God. We are called to this mission as Christians. Our lives are meant to be lived in reliance on the providence of God. That is a humbling reality as we realize that everything we have is because of God and not because of our own doing. This is contrary to our very nature, our fallen nature. In my own life, I have had multiple opportunities to witness this as my wife, and I have stepped out in faith. This has not always been a choice. There have been times that this has been done because the reality was that we had no real option and have had to pray. Other times, other possible options did not feel right, so submission was more natural. If I were to say that either way was more comfortable then the other, I would be lying. It is never truly easy, but in following Christ and trusting in his providence there comes with it a sense of peace. My thorn is my pride and being one who has a strong sense of self, I am often humbled. I have had my share of suffering in the midst of it all. In the most significant points of struggle and pain, though, I have found great comfort and peace. When people have attacked me because I have proclaimed a word that caused them to feel convicted, I have relied on God all the more knowing that I am in his care. It did not end as I had hoped, often, but I have found things end as they needed to end. God has always provided a way. I can honestly say that as I reflect on some of the issues that arose and see where they led me eventually, I can see where my errors and my own thinking has gotten in my way. I have also found that being faithful to God’s Word has provided some difficulties as I have been challenged by those that did not feel that the way they saw things were not as the Bible had laid them out. It is hard to realize shortcomings, especially if you feel like you are a good person. To be shaped by the Word and not to form the Word around the way we want things to be is not something we like. Paul knew this and Jesus modeled this. When we lay it all down at the foot of the Cross, we find newness in life, freedom in Christ, and a new way in which we can live out our days. No longer fearful of God’s anger and punishment, but desiring to live a life that gives him all the glory. That is the blessing of our faith, and in that, we find our sufficiency in God’s Grace.

 

 

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Reaching for the Holiness of Christ

Reaching Out for the Holiness of ChristHave you ever had that moment where you felt there was no hope? There have been moments in my life which doors have slammed shut. I have had people say and do unimaginable things that just rocked my world. I have had people that I had thought were my support and had my back turn away. Like Jeremiah to the people of Israel in Lamentations (3:22-33) who, in spite of the adverse circumstances is proclaiming hope to the suffering people of Israel. The hope that comes from our Lord and him alone. We are often called to turn back to the Lord, to trust in him and in. When Paul is speaking to the people of Corinth (2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15), we find a message that points to the generous spirit of the Macedonians. Their generosity was not because of their circumstances but in spite of it. So often we define ourselves by the things of this world instead of in God and his love for us. Finally, in the Gospel lesson reading of late (Mark 5:21-43), we find the story of two seeking favor from God. The first is a father, Jairus, who through the leaders of the synagogue, approaches Christ with concern for his daughter. She’s very sick and is fearful that she will not survive. In desperation, he reaches out to this man who has been seen as holy for many. In the midst of this, we have a woman who had been hemorrhaging for years with no help and no hope. Her faith drives her to Jesus, who she knows in her spirit is most holy, believing to the depths of her soul will heal her. Her actions delay Jesus’ journey to the daughter of the official because he feels her touch and desires to know who it was that was healed to offer a message of further hope and healing. After providing her words of comfort, he continues and finds those that have lost faith because they feel that the opportunity for healing the girl has passed as she is now dead. In both scenarios, we see a sense of disbelief in what God can do and, to some extent, an opposition to any further action.

Trusting and believing in God is not always an easy journey. In fact, sometimes it is downright impossible for those that desire to fit in with the ways of the world. Often people rely more on the things of this world instead of seeking guidance from God. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for going out and not taking medicine or seeking medical care when needed believing that the Lord will heal you, often times that is the means which the Lord heals since he has given us doctors and medical professionals. What I do believe, though, is that just because a doctor holds an opinion does not mean that other things are not possible. God works in the impossible. For the hemorrhagic woman and Jairus’ daughter, there was no hope in the things of this world. They both required miraculous action. They did not need anything more than a little faith. A little belief in the possibility that God could do something. God desires us to turn to him first, though, we find how gracious and merciful he is even when we don’t. He is a jealous God, in the sense that he desires for our undivided devotion but not in a way in which he ignores us after we fail and fall short. When we turn to him, we find that his arms are open to us.

Unlike God, I am not always perfect. Shocking, right? {sarcasm} I don’t always appreciate the love of my children as I should. Sometimes my mind is elsewhere, and the things of this world distract my attention away from what is highly significant, my kids. God isn’t like that with us. He isn’t distracted but is always attentive and ready for us when we turn to him. He is never too busy to hear our prayers and, unlike me, isn’t bothered by the little things. I think parents can relate to that with their own kids when they come up with something that they believe to be really, really important like a drawing and we are caught up with something else, and we don’t often appreciate the thing that is important to them. That picture or lego creation for us is usually not significant (and honestly the business we may be attending to may be more critical in the worldly sense). For God, there is nothing more important than us, and our prayers are precious to him. Not that the faith we hold is centered on us, but the graciousness of God is because of who he is and is why he is worthy of our praise.

Psalm 8 highlights the humility which we should have when it comes to God in asking ourselves, “Who are we that God would have us on his mind?” So often, it seems otherwise as people act as though God owes them something. God desires for us to come to him and trust him and just because we pray, he is not required to answer our prayers as we see fit. Our wants do not equal his wishes or desires. As we understand our needs does not equal what he sees as our needs. He is all-knowing, we are not. He is all-powerful, we are not. He is everywhere at all times, we are not. He is eternal and uncreated, we are not. Ultimately, our disappointments with God are not because he has done something wrong, but because our hearts were not in line with his heart. In my youth, I cried against God when things did not go as I wanted them to go and for a time it drove me away from God, but, as I have grown, I have found that I have changed. There have been times where people have done cruel things that were shocking to my spirit, but God has always provided for me in spite of the outward appearance of things. The suffering in this world is momentary, but in God, we find hope that carries us through. Reaching toward that which is holy is something that comes not through work or action. Christ is never far from us. It is not a striving or a work that we must do. It comes in merely believing and that belief comes through submission. Submitting to the urgings of the Holy Spirit. By not resisting God and trying to do things on our own terms, but let God do his holy work within us. That is where the peace begins.

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The Storms of Life

The Storms of LIfeAnyone who knows me or knows my story is aware of the storms that I have faced in life. This is not a statement to make others feel for me or to seek any particular sense of sadness. It’s just a reality and one that I think most people can relate. Personally, I don’t believe that the struggles I’ve faced are any worse than those that many people face in life and I know many that have suffered far greater struggles. I am sure that most can relate.

I have faced difficulties as one who did not truly know or understand the fullness of grace afforded to us in Jesus Christ, so much so that I denied any faith in Jesus Christ and, for a time, was anti-Christian. I have also lived in Christ’s unmitigated grace, thankful for all that he provides. As I reflect, I don’t know how anyone could survive the struggles of this world without Christ. We can see the difficulties as we look at two recent lives, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, that ended as a result of suicide. Both lives would appear to have everything to live for yet we find that with all the outward trappings of success, in the end, it was not enough. Their deaths were a shock to many and the sad loss of great talent that blessed many lives.

We can’t speak to any one thing that drove either of them to see that all things were hopeless and for those survivors of a loved one who had died because of suicide the questions left behind are often significant. When faced with the storms of life, it can appear as there is no alternative. The readings from this past Sunday offer a great insight into the heart of God, and how he never leaves those he loves behind, as well as how one can survive great struggles in the midst of painful loss. The first reading is from Job 38:1-11, it is a response from God to the questions that Job had placed before God. Job had lost everything, yet he maintained his faith in God and did not curse or turn away from God. In reading this we might think it harsh, but God is reminding us that to ask “Why?” can often be the wrong question. We live in a sin-sick world that is fallen and full of temptations. Temptations that can easily distract us from God’s love and some of the difficulties are because of these temptations. Other issues, such as health issues and accidents often have nothing to do with our own actions but are just a part of our fallen world. Death and disease were not in the original creation, but because of the actions of Adam and Eve in the garden, it all entered in.

We are reminded in Psalm 124 of how God continues to provide for us and protects us in our daily living in spite of our failings, and then we jump into Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians in which we speak of how God through Jesus Christ we have entered into a favorable time. Paul speaks these words in spite of the struggles that they are facing at that time. The witness that Paul calls them to give is not to based on attempting to fit into the world, but by standing firm in their witness and the faith as it has been revealed. The struggles that he speaks of in 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 are real. The witness of our faith is not in living like the world, but contrary to it. It’s not that we don’t, as Christians, accept others because of their sin but quite the contrary, we are called to shine Christ’s love to all in spite of their sin and are called to be a light. This is not meant to be a facade, but a witness of lives transformed. The freedom of the Gospel is a freedom from the Law. Under Christ, we are no longer under threat of the Law’s condemnation but have been made free from the Law. Though for the sake of those with whom we desire to witness we may need to refrain from things that could cause one to stumble from or be resistant to the faith because of our poor witness. In the time of Paul, there were a great many practices that people of the gentile faiths followed. Though in Christ we know that there is nothing to the other gods a new convert could be easily confused if he or she saw a Christian doing the same as those of their former faith would do. To speak contrarily of another’s faith practice would also make a person unpopular at the minimum, but could possibly put the life of a believer in danger. As Christians, we are called to be different. Our lives and our actions are not to be like everyone else. God desires for those who follow him to not be just like everyone else, but weird. Being weird to those that do not know Christ should not trouble us. If we are mocked for our faith, so what? We aren’t to respond in kind, but we are called to respond in love.

That is what is different about Christians which Christ shows us in the Gospel reading from Mark 4:35-41. The disciples, I am confident, had no clue what was going to happen as they called out to Jesus Christ as he was sleeping in the front of the boat. The storm was bringing waves crashing against the boat and pouring water into the boat. I would dare bet that the minds of the disciples seeing Jesus sleeping in the midst of the storm was one less set of hands helping to bail water out of the boat and help keep the boat moving to the other side of the sea. It reminds me of an event of my youth. When I was an early teenager, my parents regularly visited a family friends lake home with me in tow. It was a beautiful area, but this particular visit I was the only youth. So, looking for some fun, I went out in the friend’s paddleboat and paddled across the lake. While I was returning back to the lake cabin, a storm moved quickly over the lake creating white caps that started to splash over the side of the paddle boat making it more cumbersome and heavier as it was bogging down and it became harder and harder to peddle. I was crying out to God and bailing out water as I was working to paddle, afraid the paddleboat would sink, which gave me a two-fold fear of losing our family friend’s paddleboat and having to fight to swim to shore and walk back to the cabin. As I was there our family friend and my dad pulled up in the boat and threw me a line. God is like that for us. The difficulties may not go away, and events can occur that are beyond your control that creates a lot of pain, but God does not leave you or forget you in the midst of it. In the midst of chaos, he can bring calm and a sense of peace. This can be confusing to many who do not believe because they only see the outward situation. Like the stories of the martyrs in recent years singing praises to God as they were being executed. For those that do not know Christ, who have not been met by him, that just seems crazy, weird. But that is how our Lord is. He prayed for people as they beat him, as nailed him to the cross, and as they mocked him while he hung dying. He did not curse them, he prayed for them. He gave the promise of paradise to one who hung beside him. He offers mercy to those who realize that they are trapped in a cycle of death and provides a way out, an escape. This doesn’t necessarily change everything outwardly, but inwardly everything is different, and that is the transformation. Financial blessings may come, but that would be minor compared to the eternal blessings received. The grace that God gives us is encapsulated in the words, “Peace, Be Still!” With Christ, I have weathered some terrible storms that I don’t think I could have otherwise survived and I know that my marriage would not have survived. God has blessed me with six beautiful, healthy children. It is not easy. Sometimes it is downright hard, but it is in those times I turn to Christ and recharge because he reminds me that I’m doing it wrong because I’m trying to do it on my own. In Christ, when the storms of life surround me I can cry out his words, “Peace, Be Still!” In doing so, I find that the peace he offers fills me and stills the trepidation in my soul. In Christ, there is always peace and that peace is not dependent upon the circumstances that may surround you, but in the one who has covered you in his embrace and has given you the promise of Paradise. Go in peace and serve the Lord. Amen.

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Planted by God for God’s Glory

Planted by GodGod is the planter of all things, it is through him that all things grow and we are cared for. We cannot make one thing grow by our own will or strength including our faith. In Ezekiel 17:22-24, we find the prophet conveying a word from God to his people using the imagery of a twig and cedar. Often we can become too confident in our own abilities that we forget all that God is doing our lives. Paul also reminds us of this in the reading for this past Sunday from 2 Corinthians 5:1-17 that all things of this world are temporary. When we place our hope in the things of this world we can forget the blessings that God has in store for us. We, also, are not able to create faith within ourselves or others, but we can be used as tools by our Lord to shine his light into lives that are caught up in darkness. God chooses us and often the Holy Spirit’s working within us is not comfortable, yet we should not be hardening our hearts. In the Gospel reading for Sunday St. Mark (4:26-34) about the parable of the mustard seed, in this imagery we find what God can do with the little that we may have to offer. You see, we don’t have to be giants in faith with everything together for God to use us. It is in the little things that we do that God can do great things. Sometimes we ignore the urgings of the Holy Spirit because we don’t realize what it is that God can do through us in the little we all truly have to offer. God uses broken people. The giants of faith weren’t giants because they had everything together, but because they laid their faith in God’s ability to use them and trusted in Him above all else. That is the power of our God. The image of Him taking a twig and placing it in a high place causing it to grow and be a place for the birds to nest above the other formerly high trees is a sign of His majesty, not ours. The tree placed high was done by God for His purposes not ours. The same is true with each and everyone of us. He has placed us where we are because of His purposes. Just because a church is trendy and large does not mean that they are doing the work of God, it just means that the church is trendy and large. The same is true when a church is smaller that they are not being faithful, it is just smaller. God can use both and, most importantly, lives can be transformed. A small church may never grow large and a large church may not change a lot of lives. You see, it is not about our work, but God’s working through us. In our Lutheran Confessions, particularly the Augsburg Confession of 1530 it states within Article IV that our salvation is not based upon our works which is regularly found within the writings of Paul throughout the New Testament. We can not save ourselves, but Christ has done that work for us and completes that work within us. That is the truth of our salvation. In that, we are free to proclaim his love in spite of our own shortcomings and see what great and glorious work that he can do within us in transforming lives around us. May his peace fill your heart and mind and know that in Christ we are firmly planted for His purposes not our own.

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