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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

laying on of handsThere are times when a church or body of believers wants to raise up people among their own to take up some of the tasks and ministries that have been traditionally done by the pastor alone. And although many cannot go back to school or attend seminary, many faithful can and do pursue God and God’s Word privately. For this reason, through the laying on of hands and public prayer, both outward expressions of blessing and trust, I will, along with a few others, be so invested soon. I am humbled.

The community presented these seven to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. God’s word continued to grow. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased significantly. Even a large group of priests embraced the faith. [Acts 6:6-7, CEB]

With this designation will come some enjoyable opportunities like conducting weddings, blessing babies & families, and helping others navigate grief and coordinate memorial services. I expect to do some additional short term coursework again in counseling and hopefully, do more devotional writing. Feels right.

I have to confess, initially, I was rather cavalier about this idea, even thinking of it solely as a side job and a little extra income. But it has not taken long for God to show me that “ministering” or caring for others is not a lightweight mission but carries the burden of keeping them in the heart, praying for them, and diligently seeking God for what is best in that moment. Marriage, birth, and death are milestones of a life.

When the New Testament church expanded the responsibilities of its own people and publicly commissioned them, the believing community experienced exponential growth, enfolding some of the most “religiously” bound traditionalists as well as the lost and hurting into the koinonia of faith.

May my own faith be an authentic reflection of the God in whom I believe and entrust my life. And perhaps, as with so many Christian paradoxes, through reaching out to others in this capacity, my own healing with continue.

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Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.” [John 6:35-36, NIV]  I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” [Psalm 81:10-12, NIV]

 No one can make or convince another person to believe, particularly in the things of God. The proofs will always, somehow, fall short; the explanations sound hollow; the passion suspect. Believe or not: there is no try.

Belief in God requires an acceptance of “other” that is outside our normal range of perception. God is not like us. God is not just me or you or nature or the universe. God is all and God is nothing. God is paradox and logic. God is light and dark. alpha omega

God manifests among us through humans in a variety of ways and for this reason, there have been (and still are) saints and charlatans. Jesus is our prime, for those who believe, of course.

Jesus is the physical God with a specific message and example of grace and redemption and love. Jesus completed the circle of promise that was initiated in the heart and soul of sentient human: Adam, if you will.

But Jesus, the physical, departed earth more than 2000 years ago. What’s left? More God. Spirit. And faith that it all really happened, God really IS and WAS and WILL BE.

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tearsLike so many things in life, we are part of a circle. As we help bear the burdens of others, God bears ours (and that of the others we took upon ourselves). When a friend’s heart is heavy or circumstances pouring over them, we have a responsibility to help. Our fear is that we will be crushed or infected. But God’s promise is sure:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2, NIV] Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. [Psalm 68:19, NIV]

I had the opportunity this week to meet someone new and to hear her story, filled with disapmourn with those who mournpointment and sorrow. She needed to talk. She needed someone to listen. She need to offload. My cost was only time and my faith that God would ultimately carry the most of it. We are all so similar. Human pain and loss is universal. It’s easier to see it in others than to walk it. But time does bring some reprieve and the touch of others helping us hold up our heads, our hearts, our souls.

Another brother in my extended community of faith has passed, a contemporary with my own husband. I cannot reach out physically to his wife who has moved away, but I do lift her and her family up in prayer. This lifting is a conscious carrying that is just as important as listening or talking to someone in person. Prayer is vital to burden bearing. Even though she may not know about it, God is faithful. And another, closer to me, will feel the call to hold her close, to wipe her tears, to sit and listen, to laugh when she laughs and to weep when she weeps. [Romans 12:15] It is the way of faith.

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listentogodIf it’s true that God commands at all, then it would behoove us to know what that would be like. How do we hear or see God’s commands?

Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens . . . [Psalm 78:23, NIV] ; And he [Jesus] continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! [Mark 7:9, NIV]

On a recent NPR broadcast, they were discussing the evolution of hearing in medicine. For so long, all diagnoses were based on what a physician or healer could see in addition to the report of the patient. However, with the advent of some basic technology (the stethoscope), a doctor could not “hear” inside the body. In fact, they posited, that sight is like a movie screen, ever before us, but sound is like a swimming pool, all around us. The trick is to learn to discern what we are hearing.

Sounds are everywhere. We tend to tune out most of them. Even in the “silence,” there is sound. And certainly, inside the body, there are a multitude of noises and vibrations.

In the midst of all the clamor, we are told, there is also the “still small voice” of God.

There are many recorded commands of God in the Bible. For this reason, this book guides believers. But I believe there have been interpretations and assumptions about the commands: which are truly the commands of God and which are the fabrications of humans? Which are culturally grounded and which are unbound by time or space or geography?

We are also faced with the mystery of the law articulated through the Jewish history and God’s commands in the Old Testament and the power of grace with the appearance of the Messiah in the New Testament and Jesus’s commands.

It is for this reason that we must look within and without. We must read and contemplate and engage in conversation. But we must also pray, meditate, and spend time within the secret places of God alone.

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thank youIt’s pretty simple really, and repeated throughout scripture, from the Old Testament to the New, we are encouraged to “give thanks.” It’s a natural response and when it’s genuine, it’s the cinch to a bow or knot, those words wrap up the exchange. . . for that moment, for that day perhaps. But it’s never too late to reopen the conversation and it’s never too late to give thanks, whether it’s to God or to a stranger. The words carry power, the sentiment carries humanity and when thoughtfully given, recognizes the I-Thou in the other.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. [Psalm 107:1, NIV]
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. [I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV]
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. [I Chronicles 16:34, NIV]
Where human thanksgings, one to another, are considered polite and, unfortunately, in many cases, somewhat rote and even cavalier, the command to give thanks to God is fraught with much more weight. This is increasingly clear when life becomes overwhelming. But Paul, in I Thessalonians, admonishes us to give thanks in ALL circumstances (both delightful and dreadful). Well, we might think, “surely God doesn’t mean I am to give thanks for illness or corruption or betrayal or sorrow?”

Yes and no. I am not giving thanks for the situation itself but I am giving thanks that God is still in the midst of that state of affairs, and because God is there, I am promised that I can have confidence in the outcome, which will be God-covered (one way or another, sooner or later). I can, if I so choose, rest in this truth. I am given the opportunity to trust God again and again. I am given the chance to confirm my faith, my commitment, my relationship with the Godhead. It is a choice to give thanks. It’s not that the world will come to an end if I don’t, but I can improve my relationship to challenges, in that simple expression.

I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? [Jeremiah 32:27, NIV]

Thanks. Yeah. Just sayin.’ Thanks.

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palm treeSometimes it’s hard to believe that there is still life in a thing, in a situation. As people grow older and face their own mortality or, as in my circumstances, walk through the death of a loved one, time seems to be a kind of betrayer. We no longer appear to have the time to do anything new or worse, the energy to even begin, to try, to initiate. And when that happens, we go from stasis to decline. Unless–

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;

    he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” [Psalm 92:12-15, NIV]

What is bearing fruit at my age? Generally, it’s a metaphor for having children, but what else? I had an evangelist friend who maintained that bearing fruit meant bringing people to Christ. His quiver then, was full of “saved souls” [Psalm 127:3-5]. Others focus on the fruits of the spirit  [Galatians 5:22-23a]: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, looking to improve their characters through acts of generosity toward others, for truly, these fruits are mostly relationship-based. Still others interpret fruit as prosperity, bringing forth a cornucopia of wealth and plenty (aka, fruitfulness).

For me, today, I put forth a very simple meaning: fruit is the natural outcome of any living thing. We are all bearing fruit, all the time, whether it is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The nature of this fruit depends on our make-up, our beliefs, and our intentions.

seeds in the wind“A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit. Each tree is known by its own fruit. People don’t gather figs from thorny plants, nor do they pick grapes from prickly bushes. A good person produces good from the good treasury of the inner self, while an evil person produces evil from the evil treasury of the inner self. The inner self overflows with words that are spoken.” [Luke 6:43-45, CEB]

Today may be the result of my decisions made in my past, but tomorrow has the potential for anything, and depends so much on my choices today. And so goes the cycle, I learn to walk the day I made while at the same time, I can blow seeds into the days to come.

I have a future. Today I can plant a dream, still.

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secret gardenNever just enough for our western culture; we accumulate more and more, whether it is “just in case” or simply because we can. Slowly, movements are rising to counter this addictive behavior, but the change is slow. I am no stranger to largess and its grip on my choices, to my shame. But I’m getting better.

The Israelites did as they were told [by Moses]; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer [2 quarts], the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. [Exodus 16:17b-20a, NIV]

I sometimes make fun of my “crunchy” friends [urban dictionary: used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons], but really, I admire their tenacity. More appropriately, it should be Christians and other believers who lead the crusade for saving our planet from abuse, living simply, and letting go of an “over-abundant” mentality. Throughout scripture, God is shown to meet the needs of the people, if only we would trust.

Slowly, not necessarily by election, but by the circumstances of my losses, I am faced with releasing the amassed detritus of my life. I must choose to sift and consider what is enough. Oh, I know all the cliches of downsizing and that sounds so healthy and smart until it’s “you” who is doing it, sooner than later. But I think I’ve been missing the real lesson here. I have been choosing what to “let go,” when I should be examining what is just enough.

God is about just enough.

Back in the early nineties, a revival of sorts stormed Toronto at their “Airport Vineyard” and among the many phenomenon that manifested during that time, the people would wave and bask in the “spirit” and call out for “more.” Of course, it was the “more of you Lord” that was driving those prayers, but I want to start something else: give me what I need and teach me to embrace and flourish within the hedges of God’s endowment. No more is needed.

It is the secret garden of God.

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