An abundant God

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one mind so that they may worship me all the days of their lives, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to stop treating them graciously. I will put into their hearts a sense of awe for me so that they won’t turn away from me. I will rejoice in treating them graciously, and I will plant them in this land faithfully and with all my heart and being. ~Jer. 32:38-41 (CEB)

“God’s apparent lack of restraint when it comes to creating things is but a symptom of a deeper” problem”: God lacks restraint when it comes to loving, too. In fact, God is most unrestrained when it comes to loving. Put another way, God cannot love except abundantly.

We see this abundance of God’s love demonstrated throughout [Hebrew Scriptures]. The Chosen People turn away from God again and again. What does God do? Does God throw up his divine hands in disgust and cry, ‘Enough already!’ and zap those Israelites into kingdom come? No, God continues to love them, taking them back again and again and again. There seems to be no end to God’s love. There is no end to God’s love.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

From beginning to end, God has only wanted one thing from us, a relationship. This theme runs throughout the Bible from the beginning to the end. God is a God of relationships. That is why He sent His son into the world to physically show us how to have a relationship with Him. During Advent I always marvel how He chose to come into the world: as a defenseless tiny infant, completely dependent on the humans around Him.

Heavenly Father, you are a God of relationships. You came into the world to model how we are to have a relationship with You and Your children. Help me today to remember those around me, help me foster relationships with them so that Your Kingdom can be realized here and now. Amen.

 

Our reason for being alive

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All of God’s promises have their yes in him. That is why we say Amen through him to the glory of God. ~2 Cor. 1:20 (CEB)

It is so easy to get swept up in thoughts of “Why am I even here on earth?” “Why do I even exist?” Especially during difficult times I can wonder if I even have a purpose. These are self-centered thoughts, a clue that I do not have my focus on God. When my eyes are turned to Him I am reminded that I am here to be His hands and feet to the world. Through Him, I do have a purpose.

“When Luther wrote, ‘Faith is the yes of the heart, a confidence on which one stakes one’s life,’ he was saying faith is a response of the whole self to God. It is not just our words: the creeds we confess, the prayers we pray, the way we argue our faith, or what we say in teaching our children. It is not just our works and deeds; our faithful attendance at church, our participation on committees, or our acts of love toward others.

This yes is an inner assent of the will. It is a willingness to receive the grace and the guidance of God. It can be so deep and far-reaching as to cause a real conversion of life, a real repentance, a turning around to go in a completely new direction. It always involves, says Luther, the daily death of the person we have been in order to fulfill our reason for being alive; to accomplish God’s will in our time and place.” ~From Faith, the Yes of the Heart by Grace Adolphsen Brame

Heavenly Father, in the season of waiting, help me to remember that I am here to be your hands and feet. Propel me forward this day, turn my eyes from self so that I may see Your will for me this day. Help me show Your compassion to those I meet this day. Amen.

When the waiting is done

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They will say, “This land, which was a desolation, has become like the garden of Eden.” And the cities that were ruined, ravaged, and razed are now fortified and inhabited. The surviving nations around you will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt what was torn down and have planted what was made desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it. The LORD God proclaims: I will also allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them: that I increase them like a human flock. Like the holy flock, like the flock of Jerusalem at its festivals, the ruined cities will be filled with a human flock. Then they will know that I am the LORD. ~Ezek 35:33-38 (CEB)

…And when the time of waiting is over, when that Light shines into all the dark places of our heart we will see that what once was ruins, the parts that were ravaged and razed are now fortified and inhabitable. Those who will see us will know that a mighty work has been done. They will know that we were not abandoned that God was busy tearing down and building up, planting new crops on restored grounds. People will look and see what God has done and know that He is Lord.

It is not for me that God does a mighty deed in my life. It is so others will know that God is in the business of saving lives. “Look and see what He has done for me… What He has done for me, He can do for You.”

My God is a mighty God. He is a hands-on-God. He seeks the lost, brings back the strayed, binds up the injured, and strengthens the weak. (Ezk 34:16)

Thank You O Lord, for seeking me when I have been lost; guiding me back when I have strayed; binding my wounds and giving me strength when I had none of my own. Help me to light the way that others might see what You have done for me that they might find hope in their darkness. Amen

In the silence

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The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. ~Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

Sometimes in my waiting I become anxious. Especially if during my time of waiting I feel that God is being silent. In the silence, I still must trust that He is busy working all things to come together for my good. I forget that in His silence He can be doing some of His mightiest works. Fear of the silence only lays traps for my heart, stumbling blocks for my feet. Even in the silence, my eyes should be trained on Him, trusting Him. In my trust, I find comfort and the realization that despite my perception of things, I am safe in God’s hands.

Advent is that time of quiet expectancy for me. Outside can be dark, cold and bleary but I know that God is sending His Light to bring hope to the darkness. Light is coming to warm my heart. I shouldn’t be afraid of the darkness for it is just a time of preparation.

Prepare my heart O Lord, help me welcome the silence. Calm my anxious heart. I know that You are doing a might work and that because I place my trust in You I am safe. Help me to see reality and not my perception of the way things are. Give me strength to bear the silence knowing You have not abandoned me, just that You are busy working in those secret places of my heart, readying me for that Light You have promised. Amen.

What pleases God

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So then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus to keep living the way you already are and even do better in how you live and please God—just as you learned from us. Aim to live quietly, mind your own business, and earn your own living, just as I told you. That way you’ll behave appropriately toward outsiders, and you won’t be in need. ~ 1 Thes. 4:1,11-12 (CEB)

1 Thessalonians 4 verse 1 says you ought to live a life pleasing to God. I think that is one of those universal statements that is easily accepted by any of the religions based on belief in God. But then the observation prompts a universal question~

“How do I live a life that is pleasing to God.”

As always, if you keep reading the Bible, answers come to the questions we have.  Starting in verse 11 we begin to find our answers… We are to aspire to live quietly, to mind our own affairs and to work with our hands so that we can behave properly and be dependent on no one.

That just seems too simple…  another universal question arises, “What does God really require of me?” In Micah I find another simple answer. God requires of me to love Him, to be fair and to be compassionate (Micah 6:1-6:8).

That is pretty simple and straight forward. Sometimes it amazes me when I am looking for the complicated answers to “what pleases God” and “what does God require of me” to find that it is really so simple that even a child can understand it.

Heavenly Father, help me this day to live a life pleasing to you. Help me aspire to the quiet, life minding my own business. Help me to be Your hands and feet to others, loving as You would have me love. May I always be fair in what I do. May I always work hard for myself and others through the strength You freely give. Amen.

Pay attention!

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“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven. ~Matt 5:13-16 (CEB)

One of the dangers of waiting is forgetting to let my light shine while I wait. I have never been one to wait patiently. It almost paralyzes me. I have had several reminders in the past few days that I have been hiding my light. Reading this passage from Bread for the Journey was just another reminder that not only am I to be patient but active in my time of waiting:

“How do we wait for God?  We wait with patience.  But patience does not mean passivity.   Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise.  It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means “to suffer.”  Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants.  Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen

Heavenly Father, help me to shine for You. May I continue to be active in my time of waiting, continually seeking the ways that I can serve You this day. May I pay attention to what is happening here in these moments and live them to the fullest. Amen.

On to perfection

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So let’s press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics about Christ’s word. Let’s not lay a foundation of turning away from dead works, of faith in God,  of teaching about ritual ways to wash with water, laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment—all over again. ~Heb. 6:1-2 (CEB)

In the United Methodist Church, the second question of a series of questions a minister is asked before being admitted into full membership in an annual conference is “Are you going on to perfection?”

“Where are you going? If you continue on the course you have charted, where will it all end? So often we discount Christ’s return, forgetting that in many ways Jesus Christ has never left. Or we begin reasoning that since Christ has not returned yet, why think about it? But the truth is that at the very best, our lives are short and soon we will have reached out destination, whether Jesus Christ will have returned in a cosmic unfolding or not. Are you going on toward God? If not, where are you going? It is always a good time to review and if necessary redirect your life toward God.” ~From A Guide for All Who Seek Prayer, Rueben P. Job

Today on the Church calendar we are celebrating “Reign of Christ Sunday”. Next Sunday marks the first Sunday on the Christian Calendar. As we come to the end of the church year, it is an appropriate time for reflection and thoughts of new beginning.

Heavenly Father, help me to sort through and decide where I am going. Help me to move ever forward on my path toward You. Amen.

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