Loving to Life Pt 5

SHOW GOD’S LOVE DAILY

As we continue in loving people and organizations to life, we remember we have been praying and seeking God’s direction, we have been allowing the people to be their real selves without judgement, we have been meeting with people in small groups, and we have begun a visioning process for the future of the church/person/organization.

This may all seem like a simple, easy-to-do process (it really is); but it will take time. It can take as long as God is needing. We have to be patient when things are not going as well as we would like right at first.

With this in mind, the saying “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is very true. When we are in a new area, the temptation is to go ahead and begin new steps, new vision, new processes without really taking the time to learn the history, the passions of the people, or really loving the people.

Our mission is to show people the value and worth they have in God through Jesus Christ. Because the people have value in the eyes of God, they also should have value in our eyes.

I have dared congregations and people to pray a very dangerous prayer: to ask God to break our hearts as his heart breaks. Why is this a dangerous prayer? Because, if we begin to see the world, the redemptive potential of the people and the world, we will find ourselves being more compassionate, and therefore, more loving. This goes against the flow and MO of the world.

We hear messages all the time of how evil people are, how many times people do bad things, how we should distance ourselves from those unlike us. The only issue with this is Jesus never did such thing. He was always with the people no one liked, or who were outcasts, and made them experience and live into the worth God has placed in them.

Helping people moving from a place of being stagnant means we have to make sure we love the people and then we show people love through acts and words of grace.

What are some ideas for this?

Number one is to simply spend time with the people and continue to listen to their stories. This is very important because you can simple be present with the people. We all love to know other people have interest in our lives. Now, we may not be able to get to everyone, at first, but this is okay. There are still many ways to try and interact with as many people as possible (many of which we have already talked about in the past few weeks.

Some other things we could do are:

  • Personal, handwritten notes: Have you noticed how many handwritten notes come through the mail now? When you get one, how do you feel?
  • Phone calls or texts just to check on the people
  • Visiting when sick, or at least calling
  • Showing up to important events with them
  • Thank you notes
  • Words of encouragement
  • Of course praying with and for people

These may all seem like small things, and they are; but they have a huge impact on the lives of the people we are around. As we continue to work through a process of loving people to life, keep in mind the great love God has for the world, for the people.

Ask God for help to love the people as he loves them. Seek to do everything, within reason, to show people God’s love through you. Show and remind them of their value in the eyes of Christ. Help them remember the worth they have because they are created in the image of God.

Then, watch God’s love begin to take over in you and see how much you care for the people you are working with and living around.

I Believe in the Relator God

Ancient Creed, Living Faith Blog Series Part 1

I invite you to take time to read the scriptures today.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

The Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32)

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

We are beginning a new series on the Apostles’ Creed. How many of us recite this creed week after week and haven’t thought about the meaning of the words in awhile? It is too easy to say the same thing week after week and not pay attention. But this creed has significant meaning still which should impact us on a daily basis. Over the next five weeks, I’ll invite all of us to recite this creed daily (found at the bottom of this post).

Today, we look at the first part: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;”

What does this mean to you? Think about the words “I believe.” This is what we usually use as a form of an opinion (i.e. I believe you will get a good grade. I believe this will happen. I believe (insert sports team) will win the game.). But, these words mean so much more than I think. Belief is actually placing the whole weight of who we are on the statement. Would you be willing to put the whole weight of your entire being on someone getting a good grade? Or even your favorite team winning?

Everything starts with God, the creator who created you and I out of love. God desires to love, so you and I exist. By creating the word, God revealed his all powerful nature. For us to see a larger scope of who God is, we get to look at the person of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity.

Jesus told this incredible parable (earthly story with a heavenly meaning) of the “Prodigal Son.” He told this story to the tax collectors and sinners that had gathered to hear him speak. This is an incredible story about the overwhelming love that God has for his creations, especially you and I. He gives all he can just so we can see how valued we are to him. Yes, we go off and do our own thing; but he is giving a chance to return to him. As we work on our confession and our sincere apology, God is coming toward us, giving us more than we ever dreamed of. More than we ever deserve.

The opening statement of the Apostles’ Creed is one that we cannot just pass over. God, the creator of the universe, created and has a special purpose and love for you and I that he cannot let go of. We are able to love because he desired and chose to love us first. I don’t know about you; but that is an incredible statement and truth.

The same God who set the universe into place, created the world and everything in it, took time to make you and I. When we take time to think about and embrace how much we are loved by the God, our worldview can and should shift to seeing God’s presence and handiwork all around us, especially his Holy Spirit within us.

 

You are invited to print this out, place this creed in a spot you’ll see every day and recite daily.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;*
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*Adapted from a sermon series idea “Ancient Creed, Living Faith” on www.seedbed.com

Recognizing Christ

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John 6:1-15 After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival. Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip,“Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain. 

This is a passage we read a lot and think we hear the same message each time. Today, I invite us to look at this passage in a different light.

(These notes were presented in a sermon on Sunday, July 26, 2015)

Where do you see God in your life? What motivates us to see God in our everyday lives? Do we simply go when we’re hungry or need something? Do we only praise God when things are going right and forget about him when things go “wrong”? Or do we see and praise God in all aspects of our lives, recognizing he is part of every part, including the seemingly ordinary parts?

There are people sitting down, reading this, and need to be reminded that Jesus is with you. He is not turning you away. We can go to be with Jesus any time, and he will care for us. Jesus is with you and cares for you, even in the ordinary parts of the day, like meal times. All it takes is for us to see and notice his presence.

So, as we look at this passage, I invite you to consider the question, “What motivates you to go to be with Jesus?” We all have our reasons. Some person reading this may need to feel justified. Another valued. Another loved. Another seeking a friend. Someone may have hit rock bottom and are searching for a reason to continue living. Whatever our motive, we are still moving toward the presence of Christ.

The people followed Jesus up the mountain because they had seen him do miraculous signs of healing and they wanted to see more. The people seemed to be following Jesus as an entertainment venue. We can see throughout scripture how the people “missed it” and did not see what was really going on. It is easy to look back at events and see what happened, after all hindsight is 20×20! But if we think about it, we do the same thing today. We go to God and ask, plead for miracles. Do we stay and still praise him even when what we want doesn’t happen? It is challenging to want to be in the presence of Christ and not expect to be entertained or expect him to do something for us.

A point that we should not miss is that it doesn’t matter why the people were following Jesus up the mountain. Verse 5 says, “Jesus looked up and saw.” That is great news for us! Jesus took the time to, not only look at the people and notice they were there, he took the time to assess the situation and “see” what the people needed. The people wanted to see signs of a great prophet or magician, and Jesus knew they needed nourishment. He saw this need in all of the people present.

He saw the hurting. He saw the hungry. He saw the “religious.” He saw the hypocrites. He saw those hungry for God. He saw those hurting and seeking God. He saw the religious studying God. He saw people wanting to leave their hypocritical lives behind. He saw everyone! He sees you too.

So, Jesus asks a question. He asks Philip where they could get food to feed the people. Philip answered by saying there is not enough money. Jesus was asking WHERE (meaning we are going to feed these people) and Philip answered with a HOW (meaning I don’t see how we can do this task). Isn’t it amazing that the ones who were with Jesus daily and saw all the things he could do, still didn’t understand the power of God through Jesus? We all miss seeing and recognizing what Jesus can do in our lives and the world.

How is our response when we feel a nudging from the Holy Spirit to do some task? How do we respond when we sense a nudging to help someone? If we’re honest, we respond like I do a lot of the time. We’ll look at our limited resources and forget to keep the possibilities in mind. We can ask ourselves this to help keep things in perspective, “If we allowed God in the situation, how would it be different?” We could be so focused on the issue or problem at hand that we have tunnel vision and do not pay attention to the little opportunity right in front of us that could be a solution that God wants us to use.

It is in times like this we should recognize God and see he is still there and still working to take care of the needs of the people. When we allow God to come into the situation, we can see that we actually do have enough (and sometimes God somehow multiplies resources) to take care of the needs and situation. The amazing thing is that everyone is taking care of! He even provides for his people.

God is in all aspects of our lives, and his presence never changes. He is the same God from the beginning of time until the present day. He is the same when life is easy and when it is challenging and difficult (almost impossible). How do we know this? Jesus.

I love the book of John because there is always an underlying message in the book. Jesus is showing he can take care of the physical needs of the people; but he is really showing that he takes care of the spiritual needs (spiritual nourishing). Jesus is the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2) Jesus was right there in the beginning. God has been the same. We can see this by what Jesus has the disciples do. He asks them to collect the left over bread and fish in baskets and there was enough to fill 12 baskets. The bread (12 loaves for each tribe of Israel) within the Holy of Holies, in the Temple, was taken by baskets. Jesus was showing the God of the Old Testament is still the same today.

This is one of those miracles that can leave us with many questions. How did he actually multiply the bread and fish? Was it in a cave hidden already? Did people just share the food they brought? I’m not sure how it happened. I do believe Christ has the power to multiply food. His purpose was not to just feed the people some bread and fish. His purpose was to show the people he will feed with food that matters and will not leave us or go bad.

We can recognize that Jesus is more than we realize at times. How do you want Jesus in your life? As a “magic man”? Or as the Source of your life who can sustain you and provide you with everything you need?

The challenge for us is to recognize who Jesus is and see him as he really is.

Joined Together

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Galatians 3:6-9 Understand that in the same way that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, those who believe are the children of Abraham. But when it saw ahead of time that God would make the Gentiles righteous on the basis of faith, scripture preached the gospel in advance to Abraham: All the Gentiles will be blessed in you. Therefore, those who believe are blessed together with Abraham who believed.

We are all in search of belonging. Many people look to find fulfillment in passing fads. Others with people who really don’t care about them or make them feel worthless. Still others search for meaning and escape through different methods.

Where do you find your meaning and place of belonging? There have been times where I was searching for where I belonged and I made my identity wrapped up in my job. This is dangerous too, because we are always more than what we do. We are made in the image of God. This is where identity begins.

Look at the people who are surrounded by a community who supports, encourages and builds up. Who is actually more fulfilled? The person who attempts to find themselves in what they do, substances, people who make them feel no value? Or is it the person who is surrounded by a support structure to guide and encourage them through life’s journey?

The answer may seem obvious. (I hope.) This is what we find when we join in the Christian faith. Yes there are people who have been the wrong image and have done acts in the name of God that actually destroyed countless lives; but there are so many others who have professed faith in Christ that are good models and encouragers to help us live the life God calls us to live.

Think about this for a minute. When we profess faith in Christ, we actually are connected with people in the faith as far back as Abraham and Noah. This means that we can read their stories and we are reading about our family. We can see how they failed and how they succeeded. Yet through their failures, God was always with them. This gives me great joy because God is with me, and God is with you, especially when we fail and fall short of the glory of God.

We are children of God and this makes us part of the “blessings” that God promised Abraham. All it takes is childlike faith and trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (we’ll see this tomorrow).

Believing in Christ does bring incredible blessings; but be careful how blessings are thought of. We can lose everything in our life, yet still be the most blessed people because we have Jesus Christ with us and the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Are you searching for belonging? Faith ties us together with the people of faith before us. Follow their life and notice how God still worked through their life. He is working in your life too!

Praise be to God for this awesome community we belong to. We are free to know that we do not have to live this life alone.

#LiveFreeInChrist

Sabbath Rest

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus calls for those who are weary and burdened to come to him and he will give rest.

Rest. Our culture says that on our days off we should fill them  with play and non-work activities. At the end of the weekend, it is no wonder we do not feel rested. We really need to take time off from our time off!

Jesus is proposing a different kind of rest. In the rest he gives, we do not just try to stay busy and fill the time with activities we do not have time for during the week. When we rest, we focus on him and allow his Spirit to fill us. We take the time to be quiet before him. We look at the world differenly: not as projects or tasks to accomplish,  but as the incredible creation it is. We’ll be kinder toward other people who otherwise may annoy or frustrate us. We’ll instead see them as God’s masterpiecs who need to be reminded who and whose they are.

It is in this kind of rest, when we focus the attention off of ourselves that we can hear the “still small voice” of God who is calling out to us and desiring to be our guide.

May we rest and experience the true fullness of life that God through Jesus Christ givesto each person who is still and listens for the voice of Truth.

Why?

There is a simple question most children will ask and it consists of three letters–“Why?”. They are curious and are simply seeking out answers so they can try to learn what’s going on or the reason behind a particular question or statement,  etc.

As I have grown older, “why” has become a favorite question for me to ask simply because I enjoy learning the “behind the scenes” instead of what’s shown. Seeking answers to this simple, three worded,  question has helped me understand people and situations with a clearer view than just taking it at face value.

This question also teaches me and reminds me I do not know it all and that I still have much to learn. This excites me that I get to learn something new all of the time!

How often do you ask “why?” and listen to the answer? This simple question also helps us keep a childlike attitude when it comes to viewing the world and seeing people as they are. Not just their skin color or what they have; but as someone we can learn from and see how much value they have.

What Do You See?

Cloud gazing is fun and relaxing for me. It’s fun to see different shapes, animals, faces, etc.

We should all use our imaginations more. As children we make up games, rules, and like to come up with the best costume for Halloween. Our imaginations help our creativity. This shows we can have fun in life when more and more adults are taking life too seriously.

What do you see when you look around? Can you see leaves dancing with each other? Can you hear music when the wind blows over the water?

What do you see? I see a crocodile with a wide open mouth.

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Faded Reflections

If I were to ask you what you least liked about yourself you may go quiet and say you don’t want to talk about it, or you may quickly say something regarding your apearance. Why do we do this? Why do we see the worst in ourselves when our friends and others can see the best in us? It seems to be human nature to be pessimistic when it comes to our appearance or our perceived value we bring; but this means we’re just listening to the wrong voice.

I fall into this false paradigm about myself more than I care to admit. Most of ths time this way of thinking comes when someone cancels a meeting or shoots down an idea that has been on my mind for a while.  Sometimes I even fall into thinking I’m not good enough or “cool” enough to be in a position oraround certain types of people.

When we fall into this way of thinking, we should ask ourselves what voice are we really listening to? Do we listen to the voice that tells us we’re not that good, or to the voice that tries to tell us we are worth something?

The real challenge is to remember to not stay focused soley on us.  We should remember there are many people who think differently about us; people who know the real us.

It doesn’t take long for me to get out of a funk like this. The thing that helps me is I begin to talk with God. This may be something difficult for some  people; but there are ways we can take the focus off us. We can go to a park or find a place that will bring you joy. Finding a person to talk with helps a lot and so does writing down thoughts in a journal.

Whatever you do to get out of a bad state of mind, do it and come to the truth that you are special and have more value than comes to mind at times.