Welcoming Children

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 18: 4-5

The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child.  And the person who welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.

The school year is now in its third week in the area of the country in which I live.  I have encountered many children to whom I have asked about their excitement to going or returning to school.  I have received many answers.  They wish summer was longer.  They are excited.  They are scared. They are looking forward to renewing their friendships from the previous year.  They are terrified that they will be bullied again this year.  If we think about it, those are the same answers we face to almost everything we face in our day-to-day living.  In both cases, though, we go on with fear and trepidation into the halls of the unknown, at any age, to continue our journey of life.  We shed the fears, the excitement, the unknowns, and dive headlong into a new learning experience.

Jesus was making this example known to the people around him.  In Luke, we find a similar story, in which the disciples try to keep the children from approaching Jesus.  Jesus’ ministry was to all people, not just the disciples, not just to the Jews, but to all people including the children.  Jesus takes it a step further by telling the people around him that unless we become like the child, we can never achieve greatness, and at the same time we must welcome all of the children of God in order to be inclusive enough to be known as welcoming Jesus into our lives.

Christianity is not an easy life.  We must work for it using the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given us.  We must prepare ourselves, as teachers have to prepare themselves for their new classes, to welcome the child(ren) of God into our lives.  It is by welcoming the unknowns, the people we know, the people we work with, and the people in our neighborhoods that we welcome Jesus into their lives.  It is by our example of our child-like spirit that we welcome people to a world of excitement, new learning, inquisitiveness, questioning, the constant “Why’s?”, some crying, some fear, some reassurances, and some belief.

Years ago in college I took a public speaking class.  One of the points the professor made that was when we talk to a group of people, we must appeal to the child-like spirit in them.  We do not treat them in a childish manner, but we look for the opportunity to illuminate their understanding so that they recognize and then enjoy what is being taught.  Then, we reach the audience to which we are speaking and engage them.

Isn’t that what we do with children?  We engage them in an activity, they learn, and in turn engage someone else with that same activity.  Have you ever watched children after the last day of school?  They play school, replaying the role of the teacher because they now know the material.

Jesus is telling us that we must welcome children – all children – with welcoming arms.  They, too, are looking for a way to cross the river of their life’s journey and are faced with the same challenges and fears that we, as adults, face.  For we, too, face the river with the same fears that a child would.  If we help someone else in their journey, will we not receive the same help from another person who sees our distresses, fears, and anxieties in life?  Who knows, the next person we meet, whether it is in the grocery store, at the drive-thru restaurant, at the bank, or even next door to us, may need that welcoming arms which Christ has given us.

Let us focus on being the welcoming arm in our community.  I used to be an EMT for a fire department in a nearby town.  I did not want to be an EMT to see people suffering or broken.  I wanted to help people and let them know that someone else was there to calm them, start them on the path to healing, and see that they were sent to the proper recovery so that they can resume their life.  Let us commit ourselves to the service of Jesus Christ, our Savior, and welcome all into our life with our child-like spirit, recognizing that Jesus Christ is in our midst.

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Friends Forever

Scripture Reading:  Romans 16: 1-16

Paul is giving his goodbyes in his letter to the Romans to those who have influenced his ministry while he was in Rome.  Some of those influences were help in the form of people giving him work, working for him, working for the ministry, conducting their own ministry to the approval of Paul’s message, and other influences that helped to create the Paul we read about in Romans.  Paul may have had some of these people as friends from previous acquaintances or knowledge, but Paul had not been to Rome, yet.  His letter was written as a prelude to his coming, as he had heard great things about the church that had been built up there and the works coming from that church.  So, Paul is addressing people that he knows or has become known to in the course of his work.

Some of us have a lot of friends.  These friends are found with the people that we work with, people we know from church, people we meet in our neighborhood, people we associate with in social circles, and other sources from where we get friends.  Some of those people become best friends, and maybe even best friends that we keep in contact throughout the rest of our lives.  Others we eventually lose as distance occurs between us, loss of contact throughout the years, or our directions and careers carry us away from each other.  Some people have no friends, tending to be by themselves, learning on their own, building their own personal framework from which they obtain their own strength.

When we really think about it, though, we all have people who have influenced our lives.  They may only offer an occasional word of encouragement or a bite of strength for us.  Some may offer constant companionship and words of wisdom in everything they say.  My wife is considered to be my best friend, confidant, and companion, from whom I receive my most precious moments in life.  She also helps encourage me to continue my journey across the river at the place that God has put me, telling me that I can and should continue to cross, even when the waters look too rough for me.  I have friends in my pastor, my church acquaintances, and a few of the neighbors in our block.

Friendship is important in that we have such an abundance of sources for inspiration.  We have examples that play as role models for us in our daily living.  We have people who offer us words of wisdom, and at times, words of warning.  Sometimes we may consider ourselves friendless, and it is this section that I write to remind us that we are not alone in our journeys.  We have people who are like the clouds that surround us with the presence of God which in turn puts the presence of God into our own life.

Paul closed most of his letters by mentioning those who had helped in that particular part of his journey, the people in the location he was at who had an effect on his life.  Regardless of where we are in our particular journey, there are people who affect our lives and create in us a boldness, richness, faith, and belief that we can cross regardless of the circumstances that we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, feel with our feet and hands, and taste with our tongue.  It is through the friends in our lives that we are able to live and move and have our being in God.

So, the next time we see or meet someone that we know, maybe they are there for us to grow in God, to experience a different aspect of God, or just to lend a hand in whatever God has given us to do.  Truly, friends are forever.  Jesus showed that by giving his life for all of us, as a friend would give his/her life for a brother/sister.  Let us give thanks to God for the friends in our lives and salute them for their parts in our lives.

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A Destiny to Faith

Scripture Reading – Hebrews 11: 23-29  (You can read this account of a faith story of Moses in this section.  Hebrews 11-13 is a definition of faith by examples.)

We read, see, and hear every day on computers, newspapers, magazines, TV, and the Internet (or even our phones) stories of non-descript people doing incredible things.  A story on the news last night highlighted a warrior’s mother who has started selling different pieces of wearable jewelry and bracelets in honor of those who have served in the armed forces in the past or currently.  I looked at some of her creations and was inspired by the hope she carried that her son will return safely and alive.  Her hope inspired a substance that could and should also inspire others.  It inspired me.  I looked at her website (http://www.bands4courage.com) and thought I would take some time and consider what I would want to wear to commemorate my support for the troops in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – a token to show that I, too, have hope for the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers that are overseas, not knowing what the next minute will hold for them other then hope.

And hope is the essence of faith – a substance believed in but not seen.  Faith is a belief in the unknown.  Each day that we wake up we are given another instance to walk in the unknown, knowing only that the light that lights up our path is the Word of God.  The woman mentioned above had no idea that she would become the week’s hero of the television station airing the show about her.  She was just doing something as a hobby, hoping to inspired belief and hope in safe returns.

What we do as Christians in not merely a service every Sunday, a Bible study here and there, and volunteering for the local bake sales when they are needed.  Instead, Christianity is an action whereby we show the Christ spirit within us.  We extent whatever hospitality we have and make sure that our neighbors, our friends, the people we meet on the street or in business, and those we love around us are treated with respect and given gifts of what we have to celebrate their entrance into our lives.

For me, the U.S. flag, the Air Force (which I was never able to join), and other symbols of our country in which we live and have the freedom to write and believe as we do are symbols that somewhere, somehow, someone is positioned in a position of danger to protect those things that I believe in whether they willingly or were given orders to be there.

Jesus was given orders to die on a cross, but Jesus’ actions did not stop there.  On the day of resurrection, Jesus became something new to the disciples and others who were following Christ.  They realized that death was no longer the victor, but the resurrection power of Jesus Christ became the tool with which we base our faith, hope, and love.  How we act and live that life should be an intentional part of every day for us.  When we get up in the morning, we need to take and inventory of all that God has blessed us with in our lives so that as we live and move and have our being in this world, that inventory becomes our tool bag, to be used to help others around us remember.

The word “remember” is one of the most-often used words in the Bible.  God wants us to remember the beginnings, the middles, and the current situations we are in so that we may strengthen someone else’s hope, thus strengthening their faith.  If we would remember all of God’s grace, the love of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, perhaps something will stir within us a compassion and a passion to keep on traveling across this river of stone in the river of life that God has given to us.  As the waters of the river are stirred in different directions, but to the same end, let us ignore the waves and ripples that may upset us, and instead look to Jesus for the guidance and direction we need to make it safely across in our own journeys.

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Love in Action

Scripture Reading:  1 John 3:22

My children!  Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (The English Translation of the Greek New Testament)

Today is Patriot Day – a day to remember the thousands of people injured and killed in the World Trade Center disaster on this date in 2001.  I fly my flag half-staff for the day, and I have a FDNY “Never Forget” t-shirt which I wore today as a reminder.  Since I had always wanted to be a fireman, but could not because of health issues, an event like September 11 will engrained on my memory as vividly as I remember the JFK assassination when I was seven years old.  It is one of those times in history that we cannot forget, nor can we forget the sacrifices made to rescue the trapped people.  The movie “World Trade Center” focuses on the lives of two of the Port Authority police men who were rescued.  I watched a show today focusing on FDNY’s Truck 6 and Engine 16 crews and their rescue and reunion.  On some network somewhere today is a show about this day.

The days and weeks following September 11, the people of the United States hung the U.S. flag to show the union of the country, the resolve of its people, and the determination that this event would not deter us as a people to be afraid.  As time passed, though, those flags came down.  Now, you rarely see anyone displaying a U.S. flag on their home.  Maybe words and talk got to them and they became afraid.  Maybe things they were hearing made them afraid, or may have caused them to be in a sense of false satisfaction that this could not happen again.  Or, maybe they did forget.

Words and talk are in much abundance all around us today.  How much action do we see from all of the reading and the talking and the listening that we encounter day after day after day?  It is the entrance of love in our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies that count as the catalyst for creating action in our lives.

As I always say, my theology is a theology of intention.  Throughout the Bible we read of God’s intentions for the people chosen for God’s work.  Maybe they are just stories passed down through folklore and legend; maybe they were real events in history.  Whatever they are, someone inspired by God wrote them down so that we may read and then do.  God has given us each specific gifts, talents, and abilities.  Some of us are called to leadership within the church.  Some of us are called to be ministers, yes, ministers of the gospel.

Our church’s Sunday bulletin lists the ministers in our church.  It starts with “All of God’s People” are ministers.  Then the list goes on with Senior Pastor, Youth Pastor, Licensed Minister (me), Sunday School Superintendent, and so on.  In the hearts of some are those to whom God has gifted with the ability to mow lawns, change light bulbs, sweep halls, clean the kitchen, help with events, and more that deal with the day-to-day operations of our local church buildings.  Some are gifted with the ability to teach children, the age-enhanced, families, and couples.  And then, there are some gifted with the “silent” actions of visiting the sick and shut-ins, the homeless, the under-employed, the unemployed, and our neighbors.  How many of us actually know who our neighbors are, their children, an offer to help out when they need it, or a watchful eye on their houses when they are gone?

God’s intentions for our lives is live the love in action, not by just talk and words filling our minds.  Good intentions do not pass the love on.  It is actions that show that we not only love our neighbor, but love God.  Through our actions, people will recognize that God-spirit in us and see the reflection of a resurrected Christ in our lives.  What is God calling you to do or to be?  Whatever that gift, talent, or ability is, let your pastor or your church groups know where you would like to be.  Then, live that love every day of the week.

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The Prayer Request

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 21: 22

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. (The English Version, Greek New Testament)

This  verse ends the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree while he and the disciples were traveling.  The tree was not doing its job of producing fruit, so essentially, Jesus fired the tree, resulting in the tree’s death.  The disciples thought that this was a great miracle (in Matthew’s terminology), but Jesus responded by also saying that they could say to the mountain to be cast into the sea, if they had the faith to do so.  Then, Jesus says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.

However, God is not a God who will just give whatever you want.  We sometimes confuse believing with wanting.  We all want things, miracles, good health, happy families, money to spend, and other things that we think are important to us, or will fulfill some longing for happiness.  God wants us to focus on believing first.  If we believe – a wholehearted trust in the grace of God to work in us – we will know how to pray.

The disciples asked Jesus how to prayer, which we all know and love as the “Lord’s Prayer.”  It really is not Jesus’ prayer, but how we should pray.  The focus on prayer is not on us.  It is on what God will provide, forgiveness of our sins, and provision for others.

When I was in grade school, I heard this verse preached in church on a Sunday morning.  I wanted a trumpet (specifically a cornet), so I prayed every day, and every spare minute I had that God would give me a trumpet.  Somehow, I would miraculously be able to play it with no lessons and no practice needed.  I learned later that God had other gifts, talents, and abilities that were given to me, and that a trumpet was not among them.  I also thought then that God was a “gimme” God.  I tried this in my teens by asking God to give me car.  I found that God did give me a car by giving me a job so that I could buy one.

In my adult years I have faced many health issues, now at a critical level in my life.  I have prayed for God to heal me.  I have found that God has done many miracles through medicine that have kept me alive so that I could fulfill my greatest calling, which was a ministry.  I have to remind myself that God has answered prayer through my believing, but not through my own wanting.

As the fig tree being cursed and then dying, the disciples were astonished.  Why did not Jesus just pass on to the next tree.  The tree’s purpose was to bear figs, which it was not doing.  If all of the other trees around were bearing fruit, then this particular tree’s thoughts were on doing something else, like just bearing leaves.  The tree did not believe in its fruit-bearing capabilities, and therefore was cursed and died.

In our daily lives we sometimes forget our own capabilities that God has put within us. We decide that the next day and not today are good excuses for not doing what God has called us to do.  How do we fix this?  It is through prayer and belief in the grace of God that we are called of God.  When we fix our minds on Christ, as Paul said, our minds will be focused on Christ and not on non-God activities.  Let us be a good tree, believing that what we are purposed to do in this world we will do with all of our heart.  Let us know how to pray, and then believe that God will answer those prayers.  Let our prayers be the sweet incense of the prayers of the saints that John wrote about in Revelation.

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Free People

Scripture:  1 Peter 2: 16

Live as free [people]; do not use your freedom, however, to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. (The English Version from the Greek New Testament, words in brackets mine)

This morning I was watching a news story on the television about a town in Ohio that is creating a memorial in remembrance of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.  The display is quite large, and the mayor of the city is encouraging everyone in town to fly their flags, just as the nation did after the disaster.  That was a time when the nation united with towns and homes across the country flying flags.  At that time, I was taking an EMT class, so the disaster to FDNY hit close to home.  I have a large flag pole in our yard, and I fly the flag every day.  This year I will be wearing a commemorative 9/11 shirt, flying the flag at half staff, and remembering what occurred on that terrible day.  The mayor of the town in Ohio was stating that he wanted the nation to remember as they did in 2001 and keep that spirit every day of the year – to be thankful that we are alive, live in the greatest country in the world, and have a say in who we are as a country.

Peter is writing the same elements in verses 11-17 in chapter 2.  He is telling the Christians that he knows to live their lives as the free people they are regardless of the persecutions they are or will be encountering.  He tells the reader to live as free people (the Greek word is men, so I bracketed people as a whole), working as God’s slaves.  Today, we could probably translate the slaves (from douloi) to servants.

Our actions, as intentional actions given to us by an intentional God, are never intended for permission for us to do evil. God’s purpose for us was and is never to create evil, live evil, or do evil deeds.  Instead, God has called us to follow Jesus’ teachings to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love God with a whole heart, to keep God’s word in our mind, to act with our heart, to hear with our ears, and to do all of these things with the intention of service to God.

We all serve someone or something.  If our intentions are to serve God, they we can do so.  We may not like what our local city, state, or even the nation is doing, but that is not an excuse to stop serving God.  God has enabled us with so many gifts, talents, and abilities to do things for the glory and praise of God that if our mind is stayed on God, our intentions will remain to serve God in any capacity we can.  Peter ends this section of Scripture by saying that in all of this service, not to forget what the people in authority are telling us.

Today, that is a pretty hard pill to swallow.  It seems that most news shows have someone who is criticizing some branch of government, as if they could do a better job if they were in that position.  However, Peter says to do our job as free people who are serving Christ, not to serve evil, but to be servants of God, letting the leaders of our communities to lead the community.

God’s community of Jesus followers are intended to use what God has given us to show the community of non-believers that Jesus is truly alive and working in this odd world in which we live.  Let us remember that service to God and in the cause of Jesus is not just a Sunday activity, but a life style that calls for constant love and compassion for all of humanity.  Let us resolve ourselves to service for God in Jesus’ name as long as we are free to do so.

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Talk and See

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 12: 22

Then some people brought to Jesus a man who was blind and could not talke because he had a demon.  Jesus healed the man, so that he was able to talk and see.

Today is Wednesday, hump day, the middle of the week, three days left until the weekend.  We all, even us who are retired, look forward to the day of relaxation (not that we do not have those times in the week), but look forward to maybe that spontaneous trip to somewhere we have never been, an adventure we have never encountered, or a time to read our favorite book without any interruptions.  These are all things that we look forward to.

The demons in our lives do not allow us the freedom or the opportunity to think of these things.  They cause us to think of the negative things in our lives, blinding us to what we say or see.  We forget about hospitality and instead think of how militant we can become in our neighborhoods with the rules and regulations or even laws, using them against our neighbors just to satisfy some sense of superiority we may think we have.  We turn our eyes to the homeless, the under-employed, the unemployed, those in need, the needs of our churches, and even the needs of our friends to find satisfaction in the things that we can have – that continual pursuit of self-perpetuating self.  The more we have, the better off we are.  We must have more than the Jones’ down the street.

Sometimes in our lives, someone brings us to our senses.  They bring us to Jesus.  Sometimes in our daily routines we forget the Jesus we worship on Sunday.  But, someone brings us to Jesus.  And the bringing is not to merely see Jesus so that we can say we saw a famous person, a celebrity, and now are satisfied.  We are brought to Jesus because we need a specific healing.  The demons of neglect, blindness to our surroundings, and sin have removed us quite a distance from the one who sacrificed his life so that we may have life.  We distance ourselves through our own pride and selfishness so that we cannot see the Jesus in others around us.  It takes someone to bring us to Jesus, just as the people brought the blind and dumb man to Jesus.

The portion of Scripture for today (taken from the TEV version) says that Jesus healed the man so that he could both see and talk.  Those two events are important in their separate ways.  We must be able to see before talking.  We must be able to discern (a form of seeing) what God wants in our lives, live according to the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given us to use to further the kingdom of God, and separate what is the “us” stuff from the God stuff.  Then, we can speak of what God has done in our lives. 

Once this occurs, we can see the Jesus in the people around us.  Our attitudes shift to be more God-centered than self-centered.  Our actions become intentional actions that God has prepared in our hearts, reflecting the intentional actions of an active and living God.  This is a life that is provided through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and a life that we live by dying daily to ourselves.  We must get rid of the demons that hinder us from proper sight and speech and ask God to lead, guide, direct, and give us compassion for others.  One word that describes Jesus when he encounters groups of people is “compassion”. 

How can we channel the seeing and the speech that God has given us to “compassion”?  Merriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”  That involves us being able to see and talk as God has healed us.  It involves us getting rid of those demons that hinder our true worship of God throughout the week.  When we get up each morning, not just on Wednesdays, let us consider, reflect, and let God illuminate our lives so that we may be able to truly see and speak of the healing, compassionate nature of God through Jesus Christ.

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Scripture Lesson:  Matthew 16: 21-28

From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples:  “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law.  I will be put to death, and on the third day I will be raised to life.”  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  “God forbid it, Lord!” he said.  “This must never happen to you!”  Jesus turned around and said to Peter:  “Get away from me, Satan!  You are an obstacle in my way, for these thoughts of yours are men’s thoughts, not God’s!” 

Then Jesus said to his disciples:  “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget himself, carry his cross, and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his own life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  Will a man gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his life?  Of course not?  There is nothing a man can give to regain his life.  For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will repay everyone according to his deeds.  Remember this!  There are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.”

When I was in my early teens Dad and I would usually go up to the Sanderson homestead to visit with Dad’s uncle, maybe do some fishing, but mostly four-wheel through the trees, fields, and prairies.  One day Dad and Carl (Dad’s uncle) decided we could make a trip to Mount Baldy (the highest point in the Little Snowy Mountains in central Montana) in one day.  It would be a rush, since a couple of hours of the day were already spent, but they thought we could make it.  They rummaged through some papers in a drawer and found written directions to get there from the ranch.

We packed up some lunch, extra gas, a lot of Coke, threw everything into the back of Carl’s truck and took off.  We found all of the landmarks listed in the directions, but they ended without a sight of where we were supposed to be going.  Dad remembered that Halfmoon Pass should be close by, and when we saw a commercial airplane flying at eye level we knew we were getting close.

We ran into a big boulder in the middle of the road, so Dad drilled a few holes in the rock, stuffed it full of dynamite, and we ran while the fuse made its way to the rock.  After the earthshattering KABOOM, the rock was still in its place in the middle of the road.  The truck would have to stay behind.

We eventually made it to the top of the mountain where we could see many towns in the distance.  We had to turn around and walk the rest of the way back to the truck, but for me it was an adventure and a lesson in preparedness.

Jesus was talking plainly to the disciples at this portion of Scripture.  This is also the climax of the gospel of Matthew.  Jesus’ teaching has come to an end, and Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem knowing his destiny was to be the curse of the cross.  Jesus starts by giving the disciples directions on what was going to happen, what was going to change, and how the disciples should handle it given the various gifts, talents, and abilities that God had given them and that they had learned in the three years of Jesus’ teachings.

As most people when faced with a unwelcome challenge, we act like Peter and make up all kinds of reasons that what is going to happen should not.  We do not take the time to continue to follow Jesus, but stay in one place.  The disciples had stopped while Jesus continued to go because Jesus had to turn around to tell the disciples that Satan (or any obstacle in our journey with God) needed to back off.

Now it was time for the disciples to take up their own individual crosses and continue to follow Christ.  As it is for us, too, we must take up our cross and follow Christ.  That means that the journey may be hard, it may wear on us, we may become tired and exhausted, we may become injured, thirsty, dirty, sore, discouraged, and so on.  The end result of this amazing journey, though, is that three days later, Jesus was again alive, resurrected from the grave.

It is this resurrection life that we continue in our own individual journeys.  Our directions for accomplishing this journey were written down thousands of years ago so that we do not get lost.  Stories of people we have grown up with in the Bible were written so that when we reach a particular spot where we think we have to stop, Jesus is there to remind us that we are not yet done.  We are at the climax of the story of our journey.  The hard parts are ahead, but we have the assurance and re-assurance the Jesus will be there with us in our successes, in our failures, and in our falls.  Jesus is there to pick us up, point us in the right direction, and then lovingly teach us how to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Jesus is the map of our journey, giving us the landmarks of his teachings to let us know that we can and will make it.  Even when the boulders of life refuse to move for us, we have Christ to walk and talk with us.  As we think this week of the journey we are on, let us be reminded daily of God’s love and grace to us in giving Jesus as our guide, our healer, and our helper.  Amen.

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A Welcome Love

Scripture Reading:  2 Thessalonians 2:10

…They will perish because they did not welcome and love the truth so as to be saved. (TEV)

Paul is writing to the Thessalonian church for the second time at this point in Scripture.  Thessalonica was a port town, sitting on the edge of the water.  This particular section of Scripture is Paul’s description that this church was chosen for salvation (from the Ancient Greek Translation).  This portion, though, describes what will happen to someone who does not believe or someone who believes an anti-Christ.

I do not think that Paul is referring to the great anti-Christ who will deceive the whole earth, but I think that even in our time we have seen people who become so lifted up on a pedestal by their followers or congregations, that the meaning of Christianity, following Christ, and taking the Bible seriously, but not literally.  The church and the minister eventually fall.  It seems that the whole world is looking for one great savior to come and rescue them from all of the troubles in their lives.

The reality is that people must welcome and love the truth, as Paul states.  Jesus said that the truth will set us free.  There is no past tense, but infers that the love of God has always been there, the truth has been around for eons and ages, and will continue to work.  We will find that truth by welcoming it, and then loving that truth.  And, that truth is Jesus Christ, who is the way to salvation, the one who has called us.

I am an Internet shopper, I must confess.  I do not like walking for miles in stores looking for something.  For me, it is much easier to just search for an item, order it, and then wait the few days for it to come.  I welcome the mail, excited to get what I have ordered so that I can unpack it and put it on display or begin to use it or wear it.

Our excitement for what Jesus has for us daily should be a greater anticipation than just mail or whatever that anticipation in your life is.  Ask God when you first rise out of bed that you will be willing to wait with excitement, anticipation, and welcome.  When God gives that to you, you then will love what God has revealed, illuminated, or told you.  For God is still speaking in that still, small voice that requires us to be extremely intent on hearing.  What is your desire or dream that you welcome from God today?  When you receive it will you also love the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given you?  For then, you will know that Jesus Christ’s grace and gift of himself to you has become your life.

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A River Runs Through It

Sometimes a Scripture does not have to give us inspiration and an invitation to visit with the Holy.  Sometimes it is seeing something in nature, in a person, in a building, or something else outside of the church walls that reminds us that we are not alone, that God does indeed love us, and that we are a part of God’s own Creation.  It is in this vastness of seeing the greatness of God that we realize that we are only a very small portion of that Creation, so our duty then becomes being a part of the glory of God in whatever part God has given to us.

The experience began this morning.  We got up and left the house early for a trip from Boise, ID, to Sun Valley, ID, and then back through Lowman and Garden Valley.  In the loop as we drove we saw examples of God’s possibilities, God’s handiwork, God’s majestic-ness, and God’s working in people.  This was the first time both of us had been to Sun Valley.  When we arrived in Ketchum, though, we started the real experience expedition.

I found that there were many commercial buildings with “For Lease” or “For Sale” signs on them.  Some of the building were worn down and decrepit with windows boarded up, siding falling off, and weeds the size of tractors in the yard, but the sign was still there.  To someone these buildings would become useful some day, giving of their gifts of architecture and construction to some purpose – perhaps to house someone, create a new business, become an investment.

We also saw many areas of forests that had burned, some as recently as this summer.  However, the fires are now out.  New growth is starting,  First come the grasses, then the shrubbery, then aspens and other deciduous trees.  Eventually, the pines and spruces start to grow, and within ten or twenty years show the promise of becoming a new and mighty forest.  Again, God begins the process of re-creation.

As we approached the Stanley area, we saw the Salmon River flowing.  As my wife drove, I watched the river looking for spots where a person might cross over the stones.  There were many routes, some which could or would cross another route to get to the other side of the river.  I watched the water making the ripples as it splashed its force onto bigger rocks, working at them until they give and split in time to form smaller rocks.  This process continues until the large rocks can no longer be identified and only small round gravel lines the riverbed, making the river look like it flows slowly and smoothly over the rocks – until you roll up your pant legs and step in.  The water still remains as it has for thousand of years of carving the valley you are standing in.  The water is still icy cold, pointing to the source in the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance, yet standing, revealing the carving of the earth and glaciers through time.  All of these things God has done so that, in the end, the river can run through it.

As I look at my own journey that God has created just for me and me alone, I rejoice that God has given me the gifts, talents, and abilities that I have.  I, too, hope that I can withstand the carving of time that God is placing on me, and at the same time step from one rock to the other with the confidence that all that God does is good.  The book of Genesis says that God saw everything, and that it was good.  I pray that my day and yours may be filled with the whole goodness of God’s creating hand, as God works on you and your own personal journey.  What great things comes next in our journey?

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