Walking with Jesus #101

Walking With Jesus
10The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. Psalm 111:10
The wisdom that translates into a meaningful way of life must be learned from God over time. It is very different from learning knowledge which we can get from many sources of information. The writers of the Hebrew Bible called wisdom “the fear of the LORD.” We have a problem of understanding this as wisdom because of that little four-letter word “fear”. So in order to see how very blessed, we are as recipients of a Wisdom-giving God we need to study God’s Word, and pray and be in conversation with God daily. Then over time, and some difficult lessons in giving things over to God, can we be blessed as recipients of God’s mercy, love, and justice! That’s when we begin to see and learn of God’s wisdom. There are some alphabetic symbols we might use to express how God’s wisdom becomes a part of our lives. Symbols like X, Y, and Z.
“X” is the letter often used in mathematics to designate an unknown. It may also stand for an unknown person or thing like “X” marks the spot, or Mr. “X” is the one who will step forward when I call out his address.  For me “X” speaks of the mystery and wonder of God.  I don’t know about you, but I am constantly amazed at the ways God has worked his wisdom in certain events and people in my life.  When I am totally unaware of how God is working his wisdom in and through my life, God is always there with the “X” working out his wisdom in the events I never expected and in people I never expected. I gain insight into God’s wisdom only after the fact, when I look back and see how God has been working all along.
“Y” stands for the time it takes for God’s wisdom to become understood. That often takes Years. Year after year, I have been guided and blessed, and all I can humbly say is “Thanks be to God for God’s wisdom coming at just the right time!”
“Zzzzzzzz” is the symbol often used of quiet and trusting rest at night. That’s why in cartoons we see the zzzzz’s above the characters who are sleeping.  Well, Zzzzzzz is when I leave all things in God’s hands, to be directed, guided, and blessed as God sees fit to bless me and those around me. You have probably experienced those Zzzzzzz moments and times when you have finally decided to just turn things over to God and let God take care of it because you could not. Forgiveness that is finally given to another when you have held a grudge over them is a Zzzzzzz moment in time. It is a time when you put that person in God’s hands and give up all the harsh feelings, and stop holding things against them. A Zzzzzzz moment is also when you realize that God is truly in control and your attempt to control is not working. Well, Zzzzzz moments are blessed with mercy, love, and justice, and we can rest in God’s loving arms.
I have experienced both X, Y, and Z times in my life and all three have been eye-openers, and spirit-filled moments of God’s redeeming love and forgiveness, and moments of knowing the steadfast love of God. They usually have come after lengthy struggles, when I have tried to solve things for myself and failed. I give God thanks and praise for God’s wisdom which endures forever.
Questions:
  1. When have you experienced those X,Y and Z moments of God’s wisdom in your life?
  2. What holds you back from receiving God’s wisdom at times?
  3. Why do we need God’s wisdom rather than our own wisdom?

Walking with Jesus #100

Walking With Jesus
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1: 16-19
We don’t know what there was about Jesus that led Simon, Andrew, then immediately following those two came James, John, and others who left their homes and families to follow Jesus. There was something so remarkably compelling about Jesus that these and others followed Jesus into an uncertain future. They followed Jesus with no idea of where it would lead them.
As far as I can determine, the twelve persons Jesus called to be his companions were ordinary men. There is no indication that Jesus did any background checks to determine their IQ levels, financial judgment, professional skills, or religious education. He picked people perhaps like you and me. Besides, his disciples were anything but perfect. They often misunderstood him. They often hesitated to follow him and sometimes disagreed with him. Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him. But these were the persons who continued Jesus’ work on earth after he left, just ordinary people, like you and me. They were called and they immediately followed him.
Also, Jesus’ first disciples were “northerners,” from the northern province of Galilee. The capital of Israel was Jerusalem in the former southern kingdom, the religious center where the temple was. It is no wonder that Jesus was greeted with such skepticism when he traveled to Jerusalem from his home in the northlands of Galilee with his Galilean friends. The religious leaders in Jerusalem considered Jesus an “outsider” since he was from the north, Nazareth.
Every one of these disciples were chosen and called personally by Jesus, and we believe that God calls each one of us personally. God also calls us into the fields and careers of our lives and in those environments we are called to live out our call to follow Jesus. The fact is that God’s call is not limited to clergy. God calls people to be pastors and church workers, but God’s call is not limited to clergy. God calls every single one of us into a work for the Kingdom of God that is needed for our world.
I was visiting with two of our youth and young adult workers in our congregation this weekend. They are both university students, one in a pre-med preparation course of study and the other in aeronautical science preparing to work in the space industry.   As they talked about their hopes and dreams of the future I listened to dreamers who had goals for their lives and woven into their goals were their hopes, dreams and prayers, their call from God for serving God in medicine and in space sciences. As we each live our lives directed toward some profession God has called us to, we have many amazing opportunities to fish for people in that professional arena of calling. Like those first disciples, we each have to seek God’s leadership in learning how to use the skills we are learning to use in fishing for people.
Questions:
  1. What profession are you in and how are you called to fish for people in your work?
  2. Can you write down some of the ways God’s call is lived out in your profession?
  3. Do you pray for God’s leadership as you perform the tasks of your professional work?

Walking with Jesus #99

 

Walking With Jesus 

45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46.

“Come and See.”  That is what Philip told Nathaniel after he himself had been called to be a follower of Jesus.  He had discovered something in this man Jesus that he had to share with Nathaniel.  Nathaniel was a bit skeptical and said that he rather doubted anything good could come out of that little town of Nazareth.  It was not a lengthy invitation.  It was simply three non-threatening words to a skeptic, but it whetted Nathaniel’s interest just enough.

It is a well-known fact that many Christians find it difficult to share their faith with others.  We tend to keep our faith beliefs to ourselves and consider that religious beliefs are private matters.  We don’t want to offend others, and sometimes we think that if we invite someone to come and visit our worship services we might offend them in some way.  Likewise, religion is one of those topics that gets put off-limits in conversations.  The fact remains that if we often keep silent about the most important thing in our lives, the thing that defines or helps guide who and what we are and what we are becoming,  So we are trying to live two different lives.

Think, for a moment, about the effect those words might have on you if you were to hear them in another context about anything else.  They would likely generate a sense of wonder, curiosity, and perhaps excitement about whatever you were being invited to come and see.   You might even be grateful that your friend thought to ask you to check it out.

Those words are simple and warm and non-threatening.  They are a simple invitation to check out something and to join a community that your friend is part of.  Your friend wants you to come along and be part of something that they have found to be special, but it is totally up to you to see what it is all about.

 

Come and see are very easy, warm, and hospitable words. They are simple words of invitation to allow the person, to whom we address them, to look in on something that they might find to be interesting and important.  We are not called to cram our faith down another person’s throat or question their eternal destiny or threaten them with hellfire and brimstone.  Instead, we are called to simply offer an invitation to come and see what God is still doing in and through Jesus and the community of disciples who have chosen to follow him.

 

Questions:

  1. How often do you invite someone to worship with you or to come to Via de Cristo?
  2. Do you believe that the same Spirit who descended on Jesus at Baptism is still working in you?
  3. Do you believe that the same Spirit that inspired Philip to reach out to Nathaniel is still offering all kinds of people all over the world an invitation to “come and see”?

 

 

 

Walking with Jesus #98

Walking With Jesus
10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11
As we remember and celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ it is important that we remember and renew the vows once spoken at our baptisms, either by our parents or by us — that time when we were washed of our sins and received the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Since many of us were baptized as infants it is important for us to remember what God did for us in our baptism, to renounce our sinful life and once again embrace the godly life of a Spirit-filled Christian. Even though we may have done this many times it is important to renew those vows again.
During the season of Epiphany, we will review not only the Baptism of Jesus and renew our Baptismal Vows, we will follow Jesus in his preparation for his earthly ministry and the calling of his disciples. It is a wonderful time for us to review our calling by God and renew our vows of answering God’s call to discipleship.
Divine light shines forth from this Child Jesus, which is the transparency of God in the world. The divine light that shines in the Child is not a foreign light to the earth. It is the Light at the heart of all life. It is the Light from which all things come. If this Light were extracted from the universe, everything would cease to exist. So this is a story about the Light of God which is at the heart of everything, the Light at the heart of you and me. This Light is Jesus, and we begin to see that light more clearly through our human eyes during this season of Epiphany as we follow Jesus from his Baptism in the Jordan into the wilderness to be tested and into his ministry.
Up until this moment, Jesus has been indistinguishable from the rest of the mass of humanity. Now Epiphany reveals the meaning of his life and mission. He is the light that comes directly from heaven. The Spirit, in the form of the dove, descends and rests on him as people watch. But only Jesus apparently hears the Voice – or at least, it is directed only to him: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased!” His baptism is his commitment to live out the reality of the Kingdom of God in the world in all of his daily life. It is a commitment to another way – to God’s Way. And God is well pleased! That is what our baptisms also mean for us. We are to live out the reality of the Kingdom of God in our daily lives.
Our own baptism into Christ is the means by which we, too, die and rise again to new life. The old order is renounced and dies. It is a statement of our repentance. The old order of our lives dies. Yet we are not lost in death, because God is the God of resurrection. So we rise to a new life and a new order. Nothing – not even death – can defeat God’s purposes.
Questions:
  1. Have you claimed your new life in Christ through your baptism?
  2. Are you discovering God’s purposes for you?
  3. Can you write down what your baptism means to you, for your life and others?

Walking with Jesus #97

Walking With Jesus

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5

Have you ever been camping and need to make a trip to the latrine in the woods in the middle of the night to relieve a physical need and you discover that the batteries are down in your flashlight?  You hate like everything to wake up your friend or loved one who is camping with you to borrow their flashlight.  Well, John is saying that the light that Jesus brings into the world does not run on batteries that deplete in power.  This light is the perpetual God light, His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born in a manger in Bethlehem.  And John says that the light of Christ will always overcome the darkness of our lives and our world.

Today as I write this on Dec. 26, I passed by our neighbor’s house and he was dismantling all of his outdoor Christmas lights.  I felt sad for him and all of the people in our neighborhood that had enjoyed the manger scene in his yard. It made me wish that Christmas would last longer, but for that household, Christmas is over.  When I think about the church year, Lent lasts six weeks, Easter seven weeks, Pentecost at least three times that, and yet, we have only two weeks for Christmas.  Really, our society only considers that it is important enough for two or three days because everyone has to get ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  I think it is important for us to be reminded that this light of God that has come into the world that God created and loves, lights our darkness and sees us through all of the darkest and most terrible moments of our lives.

The light of Christ says to me that our lives matter to God.  We matter so much that God made the decision to become human, like us, and share our mortal life and death, and defeat death with resurrection so that we might enjoy God’s eternal life, and learn how to love as God loves the world.

As we think about the difficult year of 2020, this coronavirus pandemic we have experienced and still live with, it matters so much to me that our welfare is of tremendous importance to God.  There is no worry or fear too small or, no challenge too great that God will not share our worries and our challenges.  God is so eager to equip and empower us, to share our worries and our challenges, as well as our joys and hopes with each other.  Because God has reached out to us as a human, and because he has reached out to all of humanity in love, God has empowered us to extend God’s light of Christ to all those around us.  So perhaps we need to think of Christmas all year long instead of a mere two weeks or twelve days.  We have been empowered to grab hold of the opportunity God has given us to share His love with others all year long every year of our earthbound lives.  That would mean that God’s love batteries would keep His light shining in us eternally and the darkness of our world will never overcome it.  I pray for you happy and brilliant shining with the love of Christ in the year of our Lord 2021.

Questions:

  1. What would it mean for you to keep Christmas all year long?
  2. In what ways do we rush through Christmas in the days following Christmas Day?
  3. How can you keep Christmas in your mind and heart all year long?
  4. Can you stop and think of some of the ways that the light of Christ shines through you?