Monthly Archives: April 2012

Self-reliance or God-reliance?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Proverbs3: 5

 

About this time last year, an event was scheduled that I just knew was a God-given opportunity for me. I was absolutely convinced that I was meant to be there. However, just before the appointed weekend, I broke my ankle in two places and had to cancel. I kept affirming that God knew all about it and had something in mind…but I didn’t like it one bit. This past year has brought me new opportunities, tasks, and learning experiences. Somewhere during this time, my feelings of disappointment about missing that event have come around. I believe there was a reason I didn’t get to go even though I still don’t know what that reason was. I’m at peace about it.

 

Of course we have to use the brains God gave us to make plans but we set ourselves up for disappointment when we take our plans as the final word. Trusting God instead of our limited understanding doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings when things don’t turn out as we think they should. After all, God gave us our emotions as well as our brains. It’s okay to feel whatever we feel, but our feelings don’t have the last word any more than our thoughts do. Opinions change. Feelings change. Plans change. But God is eternal. That’s why we are on firm ground when we put our trust in him.

 

Prayer: Lord, increase my trust in You.

 

Reflection for sharing: Think of a time when something you were sure of didn’t turn out the way you expected. What helped you work it through?

 

God Will Finish What He Started

Lord, your love is eternal. Complete the work that you have begun. Psalm 138: 8

 

If God’s love is eternal, it is always with us. If He called us to start on this journey of faith, we can rest assured that He will continue to draw us to Him. God will never abandon us. He will guide us and do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

 

 We co-operate by doing what we can. As we do the footwork, we become open to receive more guidance and continue being led, one step at a time. If we could see what the end looked like before we started, where would be the need for faith? God is to be trusted, because His love is eternal. If we have experienced–or even glimpsed–His loving care, it cannot disappear. Even when we feel like we’ve lost sight of Him or the purpose of the journey, He hasn’t lost sight of us. He has a plan for each of us and He will complete it, if we are willing to let Him.

 

Prayer: Lord, You are with me now. I trust you to complete the work you have begun and take me where you want me to be.

 

Reflection for sharing:  Do you sense some unfinished business, a “work” within you that only God can complete? How can you open yourself to His Presence working within you today?

Praising God Before The “gods”

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I sing praise to you before the gods. Psalm 138:1

 

What a beautiful thing it is to thank God from the bottom of our hearts. What a powerful thing it is to praise Him—especially “before the gods.” What gods might these be? Each of us probably has a different answer to that question. Money, successful careers or relationships, good looks, health, or brains, or even an active religious life might be gods to any of us. Enjoying our talents and gifts is fine, but trusting our well-being to them is dangerous. Any of these things can disappear for any number of reasons. Practicing gratitude for the good things we have enhances our enjoyment, and deepens our relationship with our Creator. When we can see past the blessings to the Giver, our gifts remain in their rightful place as gifts, not as idols.

 

 

It’s even possible to make gods out of our troubles, investing them with far too much importance. Maybe you’ve heard the expression: Don’t tell God how big your problems are; tell your problems how big your God is. 

 

Only One is eternal: Our God. If we take time to invest in our relationship with Him, a change in circumstances won’t go to our head or leave us crushed. He really is worthy of our praise, because when the gods fail us, He will remain. We have nothing to lose by keeping our perspective and priorities in order through praise and thanksgiving.

 

Prayer: Lord, we thank you for your gifts to us and we praise you for your power.

 

 

Reflection for sharing: What gods in your life need to hear you praise the One, True God?

 

 

Witnessing

And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith. Acts 6:7

 

How remarkable that “a great number of priests accepted the faith.” This passage from Acts is referring to the weeks after Jesus’ resurrection.  Maybe some who joined the group of believers had nothing to lose. After a life of begging, those grateful for healing may have had no other place in society. Poor believers were supported by the group, who shared resources in common. Physical, emotional, and spiritual support are attractive rewards for former outcasts.  But priests?  They had nothing to gain by joining this faction. In fact, they had a lot to lose—status in the community, expulsion from the Temple, contempt from their former associates.  But they joined anyway.

 

What opened their eyes to the truth? Surely the demonstration of the believers themselves played a strong part. Peter and John, with nothing on their resumes except fishing, were now the leaders of those who followed Jesus. Threats from the most powerful Temple authorities couldn’t stop them. People were being healed. The Holy Spirit promised by Jesus enabled His followers to speak boldly and live even more boldly. Not just their words, but their courage and the radical integrity of their way of life bore witness.

 

 

What about us? What have we seen or heard that makes us want to walk more closely with Christ? How might our actions and choices bear witness to others of the value of Christ’s truth?

 

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for empowering those who follow you to attract others. May our words and actions do the same.

 

Reflection for sharing: What have you seen that brought you closer to God’s truth? How can you share that truth with others?

Faith and Healing

Return, all of you who have turned away from the Lord; he will heal you and make you faithful. Jeremiah 3: 22

 

How often did Jesus tell people their faith had made them well? Healing and faith seem to go together. Some research studies have shown a connection between faith and physical health. But soul sickness can be damaging, too. One look at the headlines or reality TV demonstrates what happens when people live by self-propulsion rather than faith. Conflicts, frayed relationships, broken spirits—people hunger to live by faith and don’t know it. Some try to fill that empty space with other things: substances, power, romance, or fame. None of these things satisfy permanently.  When they let us down, it’s easy to mistakenly return to more of the same for another helping.

 

If we want to avoid self-defeating behaviors, we need to be faithful to the practices that nurture our growth. Connecting with God through prayer makes us more aware of His power, love, and presence in our lives. Connecting with other people also strengthens our spiritual health. Being in contact with those who are also seeking to grow spiritually encourages and inspires us. Acts of service not only help others, but also give us a sense of purpose and get us out of ourselves. Being faithful to an exercise routine contributes to our physical health. Being faithful to a spiritual routine is an investment in our mental and emotional health.

 

 

Prayer: Lord, make us whole and keep us faithful.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What healthy activities are you faithful about?

Saved, Not Judged

For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior. John 3: 17

 

What comfort! Jesus—who knows our very hearts inside and out—didn’t come to judge us. We don’t have to pretend to be good enough, or perfect, or what we think we should be. We can be who we are because Jesus is not pointing a finger at us.

 

Does that mean we have it made in the shade and can stay just the way we are? Of course not. Our Savior loves us too much. Oxford American Dictionary defines the word savior as “a person who rescues or delivers people from harm or danger.” When the harm and danger is of our own making, Jesus needs to save us from ourselves. That might involve bringing to our attention harmful behaviors we weren’t conscious of. That can be painful, but ultimately beneficial. If we do things that hurt ourselves and others, saving us implies a call to change. That can also be uncomfortable, but beneficial, not only for us, but for everyone we come in contact with.

 

Wouldn’t every day go a lot more smoothly if we could lay down a tendency to judge others so that our own flaws don’t look so bad? Realizing that we ourselves are accepted and loved as is, rather than judged, makes room in our hearts for saving grace.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for saving me from myself.

 

Reflection for sharing: What are some ways to appropriate Jesus’ saving love and make it more active in our lives today?

Easter Expectations

Then [Mary Magdalene] turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that is was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?”  John 20: 14-15

 

Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday with spices to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. The empty tomb led Mary to the conclusion that others had removed the body. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus when he spoke to her out side the tomb. I suspect that’s because the last thing she expected was for her Lord to be standing there, talking to her.

 

Jesus had told his disciples about his death and also that he would rise three days later before any of it happened, but they couldn’t wrap their minds around it. God is always bigger than our expectations. How could it be otherwise? We are limited. God is infinite. Easter Sunday bears witness to the fact that death is not the end of the story, but leads to new life.

 

“Who is it that you looking for?” The risen Christ exceeded what Mary was looking for based on her prior human experience. Can we be open to Him exceeding our expectations?

 

Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to Your glory.

 

Reflection for sharing: Who is it that you are looking for Jesus Christ to be in your life today?

 

Holy Thursday 2012

Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.  John 13:3-5

 

This passage connects Jesus’ awareness of his complete power and union with his perfect Father to his humble act of service. Jesus could have commanded the worship that was his due. What does he do instead? He serves his imperfect followers in the most menial way possible!

 

I remember watching a TV show when I was a little girl. A comedian did a funny impression of Cary Grant, who was in the audience. I expected Cary Grant to cry or get angry—that’s what I would have done. As an insecure child, I couldn’t afford to have my fragile self-image challenged. An important, popular celebrity like Mr. Grant wasn’t threatened by a playful joke at his expense.

 

Secure people can afford not to worry about their self-image. They can perform unglamorous tasks or work behind the scenes without needing the limelight. They’re free to reach out to people without social status without worrying about their dignity. Wondering what others might think can make some of us uncomfortable with certain forms of service. If so, maybe the problem isn’t lack of humility. Maybe we don’t feel good enough about ourselves.

 

Prayer: Lord, may I serve in whatever way you want me to.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How can growing in healthy self-confidence help us  serve others?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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