A Responsive Reading
“1:4…we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—”
People are talking. The change your faith has made in you is obvious and it strengthens our community to know that our prayers have played a part in that.
“1:9…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…”
It’s great to be around people who agree with what you know and understand. What’s even better, though, is the awareness that the Spirit is teaching each of us just what we need to know to agree with God himself. That’s what we want for you.
“1:10…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God”
Fruit doesn’t just happen. It’s a result of what you do AND your intimacy with God that results in your personal growth.
“1:11…so that you may have great endurance and patience”
You’ll need both of those things because our community is filled with people just like you. People who struggle to learn from each other how to endure through imperfection. People who have enough patience to believe God really is working to build This “Perfect” Community while we each practice “bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”
“1:12…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
And everybody said Amen!
2 Thessalonians Living Bible
1-3 & 7-8 And now, what about the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to meet him? Please don’t be upset and excited, dear brothers, by the rumor that this day of the Lord has already begun. If you hear of people having visions and special messages from God about this, or letters that are supposed to have come from me, don’t believe them. 3 Don’t be carried away and deceived regardless of what they say…7 As for the work this man of rebellion and hell will do when he comes, it is already going on, but he himself will not come until the one who is holding him back steps out of the way. 8 Then this wicked one will appear, whom the Lord Jesus will burn up with the breath of his mouth and destroy by his presence when he returns
Two topics seem to be a big part of the community of faith today; Jesus’ return and the miserable state of the world. Both are very real. The fact is, even in our community of faith, we are caught in between the hope of Jesus’ return, that we don’t know much about, and all the well-documented evil in our world we hear so much about. It’s hard to know how to reconcile all that. The “man of rebellion and hell” speaks loudly with many borrowed voices that come at us daily. They question the truth we know about the Lord, but can’t yet see. Those voices hope to leave us with impotent despair and to make what is unseen seem impossible to the world…and even to us. Those voices swear that our only hope is to be prepared for the worst with worry, despair and even guns and violence if need be. Don’t listen!
Jesus is the reconciler of life with a different voice and a true hope for living our life of faith right in the midst of a world that needs a makeover. You win and Jesus wins! John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By
“this-worldliness” I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
We’re on the last leg of our road trip and three long days of driving have left me unprepared for today’s post so I decided to go back to the very beginning of my digital journaling, October 10, 2012. This beginning was a challenge from the pastor to spend 40 days with God to see what he might do for each of us personally and for the church. It’s proved to be a lasting blessing.
5:32 am. Day 1 for the body & the BODY!
How odd it feels to get up and not flick on the tv to watch my recorded home improvement shows while I knit. This is a clue that I’ve chosen rightly I guess; 30 minutes to explore what God has in mind. High time.
“How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:22 Biblegateway VOD
My search begins: in Christ.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I love gifts, giving and getting. My heart is so full right now of creative giving as Christmas approaches. Dredging up the old illustrations of the Christmas Story for the card for the children at church; the wooden trees for the pastor’s girls and the Prayer Shawl ministry. You know how much these things mean to me. They’re really gifts from you that happen to pass through my hands. Thanks for that.
When I do those Spiritual gift tests I feel like I come up so short. I’m not a helper, I’m not an evangelist, I’m not a teacher but I have this one thing that you can use… creativity. It’s really my only voice and its taken so long for me to find a way to use it for you. The new thing is not the creativity itself but the people connection that has come with it [the prayer shawl ministry]. Having a way to take the words out of my heart and put them in someone else’s life is so perfect. It’s the exercise my Spiritual body has needed.
Galatians 4:4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
I’m lucky enough to have had good experience with a father’s love. It’s not quite the straightforward story you’d imagine though.
An excerpt from my post on 2/3/16
I was baptized when I was about 12. There was some huddled whispering among relatives at that time that was mysterious to me. Some of the mystery became clear shortly after my baptism when I learned the only Dad I’d ever known wasn’t my birth father at all but the process for adoption had been put in motion.
I really can’t add the word “step-” to this father because he was as real a Dad as one’s heart could hope for. It was his role in my life that formed my image of how a father’s caring and love worked in daily life. In case that sounds too syrupy, he was not a perfect man, by any means, but he knew about being a gentle and caring Dad. The truth is I’ll have to wait for some eternal future date to discover whether there is reality to my hope about his status with God.
But I am absolutely sure of this: that caring, humanly imperfect man played a part in helping me understand that adoption was A Matter of Hearts; his, mine and ours. The heart of that adoption made room, much later, for a new reality that “God [could send] the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
From John Piper February 10, 2007
The deepest and strongest foundation of adoption is located not in the act of humans adopting humans, but in God adopting humans. And this act is not part of his ordinary providence in the world; it is at the heart of the gospel.
Abba, Father…Thanks for both of your hearts.
Psalm 19 For the director of music. A psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
Memories and Northern Lights
• I remember the first embarrassing realization of how ignorant I was about religion and faith.
• I remember when I admitted Jesus had become something personal to me.
• I remember when I first saw myself through Christ’s eyes.
• I remember the display of Northern Lights on the Easter after I’d recognized that reality. I stood out on the deck in the cold Minnesota night to watch “The Skies Proclaim the work of his hands.” I was sure God was letting me know he’d gotten my message.
• I remember (most of the time) what I am like without Christ. I am one of those “sinners.”
• I remember (most of the time) that without these memories I might never have had anything worth remembering at all.
Psalm 46:10 NIV
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
We just started out on a nearly 4500 mile road trip and five stops to visit relatives and celebrate a grandson’s high school graduation. It’s busy and there’s a lot of driving and my normal routine has given way to new time tables, new renewals of valued relationships and new adventures, even on Sunday.
This verse is a perfect reminder that routines and daily sameness aren’t the necessary components to this definition of Being Still; it’s in our “knowing” that God is to be exalted. Stillness may only be one moment from a disrupted day that counts as exalting. This has been my moment.
Off for an exciting morning at the Estes Park Wool Market.
The Book of John – Chapter 1 NCV
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him. John said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the One I was talking about when I said, ‘A man will come after me, but he is greater than I am, because he was living before me.’ 31 Even I did not know who he was, although I came baptizing with water so that the people of Israel would know who he is.”
32-33 Then John said, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven in the form of a dove and rest on him. Until then I did not know who the Christ was. But the God who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘You will see the Spirit come down and rest on a man; he is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen this happen, and I tell you the truth: This man is the Son of God.”
Really a Dove
Why didn’t John know the reality of who Jesus was? I would have though family history would have cleared all that up. John’s relationship with Jesus was probably just like any other family. Relationships are all about perceived and shared experiences that have occurred over time. They can become the comfortable, and sometimes restrictive, place we expect others to fit in called the pigeon hole.
I don’t know if that was the case with John and Jesus but have we created a pigeon hole for Jesus? Did you know a pigeon is Really a Dove? …Then John said, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven in the form of a dove and rest on him. Until then I did not know who the Christ was. Something to ponder.
Hebrews 9:28 BibleGateway Verse of the Day [VOD]
…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
I said to myself “I’ll just take it easy and let BibleGateway tell me what to read and write about for a while using their daily verse as a starting point.” I’d worked through Hebrews. I’d found inspiration in some places but struggled for days in others to write down what I thought I was being taught; sometimes right up to the last minute before posting to this blog. Hebrews was a challenge to my “little gray cells.” I’d finished it up and couldn’t wait to get to something easier.
Surprise! Look what that very first VOD was! I couldn’t help but think irony must one of God’s tools. My hours of thinking and writing are important but not as important as this one verse from that book I’d declared “finished.” That Lesson of Irony was my reminder that God determines “finished,” not me. Got it!
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,
23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
The Church of the Firstborn
I started this journey through Hebrews knowing it was new territory with less traveled roads to explore. I’ve been kind of like a tourist who’s hit the high spots and I’m ready to leave.
I was hoping for a quick recap but there’s something here I don’t want to miss before I leave. I want to be a part of the “joyful assembly” of The Church of the Firstborn where:
• Birth order is trumped by born again and firstborn is now my birth right.
• Jesus speaks a better word on my behalf than any sacrifice I could make.
• My name is written in heaven.