We will explore the Holy Spirit's role in Creation, Biblical inspiration, empowering the Church, spiritual gifts, and the Christian life. We will wrap up the series just in time for Palm Sunday and Easter.
March 2018 Streams of Thought
We all have times when we just crash; we go 100 mph in 10
different directions and we have nothing left to give. We have one nerve left and we pray no one steps on it. Or we experience
crushing disappointment, a devastating diagnosis, a tragedy that
sends us off an emotional cliff. We long to feel, really feel, God's
grace, mercy, and love, but all we feel is exhaustion and pain.
Well-meaning friends will say things like, "God won't give you
more than you can handle." Where is that in the Bible? There are
experiences that are more than anyone can "handle." I like a
song I've heard several times from MercyMe called "Even If." The
chorus says: "I know You're able and I know You can/Save
through the fire with Your mighty hand/But even if You don't/My
hope is You alone."
I think of Job whose devastating loss was simply beyond comprehending; at one point he says, "Even if He kills me I will still trust Him." Job had no idea God allowed Satan to test him; but I think even then His trust would still have been in God. The first part of the book establishes his strong faith and reputation as a man who trusted God. That trust was definitely tested as the magnitude of his grief and pain set in. Job wasn't always, contrary to popular proverbial wisdom, very patient with his friends, the situation, or God. But he still, despite everything, trusted God.
Another part of that MercyMe song says God might not choose to move the mountains in our way; we might, instead, have to climb over or even tunnel through (with God's gracious help). One truth we find in that song and in the book of Job (and through all of Scripture for that matter) is that no matter what, God is the one constant in our lives. He will never love or care for us less on one day than on another. He will never, as His Son Jesus said, "leave us or forsake us." Even if God doesn't remove obstacles or pain right away, our hope can still be Him alone.
As we approach Easter we can point to the Resurrected Christ as the reason we believe our hope is God alone. In that event, when death was defeated forever, all our suffering, pain, and trials were put under the grace, mercy, and judgment of God. The Resurrection said "NO!" to the distant possibility that pain and suffering were meant to define us. And the power of that event is in the life of every person who chooses to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Grace and Peace,
February 2018 Streams of Thought
This is the time of the year we long for warmer days; we're ready for winter to be over and done with. It's a normal human reaction especially in the Midwest.
Sometimes we have long cold seasons in our inner lives; we just can't warm up to a new direction God wants us to go, a new co-worker, a new family situation, a new idea the Holy Spirit has shown us in God's Word.
We want to feel the warmth of grace, love, mercy, compassion, but it doesn't seem to happen. We pray, read Scripture, talk to trusted Christian friends.
Still we're cold inside. Sometimes it's willful, other times it might be we're just not ready; whatever it is God will help us. He's graciously patient, waiting for us to be ready, willing, and able to let Him bring the heat of His power into our lives.
He helps us overcome our resistance or help us be ready to embrace new ideas, things, or people (disclaimer: if a new idea, thing, or behavior [ours or someone else's] is clearly contrary to Scriptural teaching we should remain cold to it).
The thing we must not do is give up; we must continue to wait on God, ask for His help, be as open as possible to His grace and presence, let Him work even if it's uncomfortable.
When we reach the point of surrender to His grace we will wonder why we resisted or were apprehensive about His work in us. The coldness will melt, burn away, as the Holy Spirit enflames and bursts into fiery life within us.
When that happens we can know a holy spring has arrived that will bloom into new life.
Grace and peace,
January 2018 Streams of Thought
Another year has passed and we are in 2018; this year marks, among other things, the 100th anniversaries of the end of World War I and the start of the flu pandemic that swept the world in 1918-1919.
Other events that year included Mississippi being the first state to ratify the 18th Amendment (Prohibition), Russia became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic British women over 30 were granted the right to vote, and the U.S. authorized time zones and daylight saving time.
Every year brings events that are experienced and remembered by those living at the time; some, to borrow a phrase, "live in infamy." Others are forgettable or slightly significant.
The event we just celebrated, the birth of Jesus, is THE EVENT OF ALL TIME; there was never an event like it before and there won't be another like it again. That could be said of the invention of the steam engine, the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the birth of Jesus is completely outside the box on so many levels.
Christians believe it's nothing less than the Living God coming to us in human form. It's hard to explain much of history since that moment without reference to it. Whether it's the use of AD (Anno Domini, Latin for Year of Our Lord), the multiple medical centers that bear religious names, the incredible artwork of Rembrandt, or the fact the Church is a global entity, there's no ignoring the birth of Jesus.
Skeptics (atheists, agnostics, etc.) can rebel against the idea of God's existence but they have to come up with a REALLY GOOD explanation for two things: Judaism/Israel and the celebration of Christ's birth. Either it's all fiction or, more incredibly (and plausibly)it's all true. As Adam Hamilton has pointed out, arguments and debates rarely win the skeptics over. What does win them or make them sit up and take notice is a life lived for Christ.
In this New Year let that be our continuing goal: living lives that honor Jesus and bring His grace to others.
Grace and Peace,
December 2017 Streams of Thought
A recent commercial jingle for the Samsung Galaxy 8 cell phone said, "I've got the answer here inside of myself;" I'm not sure if that refers to the phone (likely) or the user but it struck me sideways.
What kind of question(s) needing answers are implied? The location of the nearest Starbucks or Buffalo Wild Wings? Or big questions like "Is there a God and does it matter?" I believe there is and it does, but that's another topic; a related topic is the almost religious fervor/ devotion/ faith that resides in the most militant tech-minded folks out there. Their faith is in progress--AI (Artificial Intelligence)--and a belief that one day all will be well through technology.
But I digress. There are blogs, forums, chat rooms, and e-books that address and debate the big questions. Many have a Christian worldview and that's good. But some questions can't be answered this side of heaven (check out Job 38-42). Christian blogs and forums often have good, helpful, and thoughtful insights and God uses them in powerful ways.
But nothing beats going directly to God in times of frustration, confusion, and pain (see Job again + the Psalms). An internet search is helpful, but God is the Ultimate Source of wisdom, strength, grace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and joy. And even if God (see Job again) doesn't answer directly, we can still come to Him and pour out our pain, grief, anger, frustration, and despair and rest in His holy and loving peace.
That's something the Galaxy 8, iPhone X, Google, or a
thousand gadgets or internet connections can never match, respond to, or do.
Grace and Peace,
Our church is easily accessible--no steps.
Come as you are
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able