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Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

I think it was Oreos that said the best was in the middle (or maybe it was a middle school …).

Not long ago I heard the perfect story about the middle, at the perfect time.

The story goes like this …

  • the middle of the Bible is the Psalms
  • the middle of the book of the Psalms is chapter 118
  • Psalms 117 has the smallest number of verses (2)
  • Psalms 119 has the largest number of verses (176)
  • There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 after it
  • 594X2=1188
  • Psalm 118:8 is the middle of the Bible
  • Psalm 118:8 tells us”

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord
   than to trust in man.”

So cool, right? What a beautiful story of God ensuring that the the very middle of his Word be such a significant verse.

Except that it may not actually be the center of the Bible, as there is the Catholic canon and the Protestant canon, some versions end up with a different middle and, well … the numbering of verses is not necessarily original.

So, it’s a cool story, but maybe not one to put too much stock into … except …

Except that I was introduced to this story when I was was struggling with the issue of trust.

So, Psalm 118:8 may not be the center of the Bible, but it is definitely the central message that God had waiting for me.

We (when I say ‘we’ I really mean ‘I’) often and so easily put our trust in all the wrong things … all the temporary things. We put our trust in our wealth, our health, our friendships, our family, our spouses, our jobs, our abilities our (name it … it’s right there on the tip of your tongue).

The thing is that there is only one solid, unwavering, always loving us, trustable one, and that is God.

After being reminded of this verse, I found myself asking of myself:

“can I trust in God alone?
can I trust in God if the ‘ifs’ of life happen?
can I trust in God if he is all I have?”

He is my middle, my center … I might need to say this on repeat for the rest of my days, but the best really is in the middle.

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Today followers of Jesus greet one another with the words,

“He is risen”

and the response is:

“He is risen indeed”

So, what does that traditional greeting mean?

It is in Luke 24:34 where the pair who had met the risen Jesus, announced to the other disciples:

“It is true! The Lord has risen”

In this statement is announced the miracle of Jesus overcoming death and rising from the grave … but, there is more to this.

Jesus rising from the dead, overcoming death … death, the major tool of Satan himself … means that Jesus has defeated death, Satan, evil … sin itself.

He is risen means that we know how this story ultimately ends.

In the rising of Jesus from his death bed, we can have confidence that in the end everyone who follows Jesus lives happily every after, for EVER! We can have confidence of life without death, disease, heartbreak, pollution, floods, cruelty to animals, environmental disasters, evil human leaders, starvation, homelessness etc., etc., etc.

He wins! Jesus is our living hope! Death and Satan are defeated!

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

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The way they looked at each other made others blush, envying the affection between them.

This couple had a love that showed in how they worked together, talked to and about each other, the sparkle in their eyes … that gateway to their souls, proclaiming that what others saw was real, authentic love.

I remember the shock that I felt in every fibre of my body, mind and soul when I heard that he had left her, left their family for the arms of another woman.

How could we, who believed in the love they were exhibiting, be so wrong? How could a love that seemed so real be such a sham?

This memory from the past came to my mind as I participated in communion, last weekend.

There is a reckoning, a getting real that happens when one is being invited to participate in communion.

Often there is a moment of opportunity to privately deal with our sin-stuff prior to participating. This opportunity always tugs at my heart, for I know I do not come to the communion table EVER with clean hands and heart.

You see we can shower and dress carefully, shave and ensure our make-up is applied expertly. We can shake hands and smile warmly, with seemingly abundant joy emanating from us. We can sign up to help with an outreach event, a dinner for the homeless, childcare during church. We can place our tithe in the basket, or direct deposit our giving. We can offer to pray to our social media friends. We can dine with the pastor …

But, when we come to take communion, to share in communion, share in the taking of his body, his blood …

None of what we do matters. None of how we look to others matters …

Like the seemingly perfect couple, it is who we are when we stand with the one we are linked to, in a convenant relationship.

It is who we are when stand before our God. How we pray, speak to him … when no one else is around. How we represent him, when no one is looking.

He knows our hearts. He knows we come to the table dirty.

We simply have to recognize that it is only he who can make us clean enough to come to his table.

“But the Lord said to Samuel,
“Do not consider his appearance or his height,
for I have rejected him.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

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Spoiler alert! It didn’t happen.

As I sat in a church service, I heard the invitation that has become a regular phrase in churches,

“invite your friends and family to our event at the church …”

All of a sudden I found myself wondering where this model of evangelism originated, because I was pretty certain I had never read of Jesus inviting people to church/synagog.

Jesus invited people to come, but not once did he say, “come to church.”

Jesus invitation to come was come to me.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Jesus made it abundantly clear that it was not through an institution that salvation be attained, but through a relationship with him alone. He spoke this to his disciples and followers, to the crowds as he shared his sermon on the mount.

He also shared the (his) salvation message while simply living life. He chatted with the Samaritan woman (one who his cultural group would not be talking to), while taking a drink and a rest at a well. He was speaking to people when a paralysed man (therefore, a sinner) was lowered through the roof, for him to meet and heal. Of his disciples, there were fishermen, a tax collector and a political zealot.

It would seem that when Jesus came into a new town, he dined, socialized and stayed with whoever would invite him to stay.

In response to Jesus having dinner at Levi’s house (along with other tax collectors and sinners), the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked his disciples, (Mark 2:16-17):

“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

He came to call people to follow him, but one had to admit they were sinners in order for a conversion to occur. Those who were already religious may have forgotten their own sin (don’t we all?).

Such was the case when the woman, caught in adultery, was brought to Jesus. He was challenged by the scribes and Pharisees with the Law of Moses which said that such a sin was to be punished by stoning. He responded by inviting the one without sin to throw the first stone … they all walked away.

This story was not just for, or about the scribes and Pharisees, though. It concluded with a question and a directive for life. Jesus asked the woman who condemns her, to which she replied, “no one.” Then Jesus says that he doesn’t either and to go, and sin no more.

Jesus spent time with the religious, but he also spent time with those who did not darken the doors of the church/synagog. He spent time in the synagog/church, but he also spent time where the non-church goers would have been.

Jesus said, “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19)

For we have to go to them to know them. We have to know them to make disciples of them.

So, what about church? Who is the church?

We are. We, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1) are the church of Christ. We bring the church to the sinners, not the sinners to the church. It is we who are the ministers, the disciples. It is through relationship that the Spirit, who lives in us, speaks … in whispers and shouts … to the lost.

 And Jesus said to him, 
“Today salvation has come to this house …
For the Son of Man came
to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:9-10

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Have you ever seen a dog that spends it’s days tethered to a post or pole? It might be aggressive and mean or it might pace nervously, but it also might just lay there in acceptance of it’s confinement situation.

I am not so excited to see such an animal, tethered alone. Certainly we have tethered our beasts, but it was while working outside ourselves (we tend to pick out the beasts that are flight risks), so that they can be with us, rather than alone inside.

But tethered, alone … that seems a recipe for fear

There are animals that, having been tethered for much of their lives, when untethered, remain in the confines that they have been left in. It is as though their physical chains have converted into mental ones, staying tied up, even when they have been set free.

To experience real freedom is to move beyond the confinements, the chains of the past … to move freely, into new places.

Sometimes, as individuals (but even as larger communities) who have accepted the freedom given to us through the work and blood of Jesus, we, like a tethered dog, remain in our original place of confinement … even if that is only in our minds.

We sit at the gate that is opened up wide for us to walk through, yet our minds remain tethered to the stake of our past.

There is one thing can move one so tethered to the past … trust.

Trust in others around us, who wrap their arms around our shoulders and whisper, “you can do it, take the first step,” or the call of all that is in front of us … freedom in Christ.

Galatians 5:1 reminds us that “freedom is what we have–Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again.”

We need to keep reminding ourselves that God is trustworthy … now lift that head and run free.

“Fear can keep us tethered,
terror can clip our wings,
but trust eases pain.
Hope can lighten the sky.
Love makes us courageous.”

Call the Midwife

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My upbringing has never allowed me to see that my being female is anything but equal to my spouse, my male siblings, peers, co-workers or members of my community.

Whether it was my place in my family, workplace or the plan of God, I have never believed (or been led to believe) that I am anything but equal to men.

I know this is not always the case, for all women.

I know of and know well, women who have felt manipulated, abused, undervalued and kicked to the floor (literally and figuratively) by male counterparts.

And I will simply never get it, never understand how any individual could believe that they have that right.

Men and women have been interdependent of one another since our creation in the garden. Men need women, women need men. This interdependence is a most powerful example of the concept of yin and yang, comparable to the ‘a time to’ verses of Ecclesiastes 3.

In the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the definition of Yin and Yang is that “all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites.”ides come in to shore, then move back out to the oceans.

Women and men are different, yet equal. Their interdependence is the force which should pull them together, for mutual, societal benefit.

For men who view women as a substandard creation is antithetical to the narrative of the Bible, to God’s intended plan.

It was through Mary, a young woman, who God first shared his plan of delivery of his son to our world, through she, herself. It was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, who Jesus first revealed himself for after rising from the grave. The roles they played were complimentary and significant to the story of the life of Christ.

Never once does Jesus hurt, abuse, demean or mock a woman. Never once does he turn his back on the needs of a woman. As a matter of fact, it was when a woman was behind him, who (Mark 5:24-34) had been bleeding for twelve years, that, through just the touch of his cloak, she was healed.

He treated woman with the same love, care and tenderness that he did men. He is our model and we all (men and women alike) must ensure that we are following his example.

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In typical human arrogance, we Christians often think we have things all figured out … particularly when it comes to God. Obviously Christians, followers of Christ, should know and understand God better than those who do not, but sometimes (often?) we inflict our human understanding onto the mind of God.

Usually this happens when we look at sin … not our sin, but the sins committed by others.

I expect that because, in human/worldly avenues, we tend to prioritize or pyramid things in life, we do the same when it comes to how we understand the heart of God.

So, when it comes to sin, we also prioritize or put them in a pyramid of seriousness … and we think that God does too.

But, “Gods ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8), his perspectives on the sins he hates might just surprise most of us (myself included, as I was reminded of these verses, just last week).

So, what does God hate?

According to Proverbs 6:16-19:

“There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:

  1.         haughty eyes,
  2.         a lying tongue,
  3.         hands that shed innocent blood,
  4.         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
  5.         feet that are quick to rush into evil,
  6.         a false witness who pours out lies
  7.         and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Hum … not quite the sins that preoccupy church discussions, are they? I cannot remember the last time I heard of a Christian organization worried about rampant lying, or haughty eyes.

Though I never doubt that there is a God, I love to be reminded that I am not him …

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts
.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

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