Thankfulness

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him,  they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”  When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed.  One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.  He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” ~Luke 17:11-19 (CEB)

Only one of ten lepers returned to thank Jesus for healing them. It is easy to criticize the nine who did not thank Jesus for healing them. The sad realization is that is probably my average on a daily basis. I probably only thank God for one out of every ten blessing He bestows on me. If that much…

Sometimes God uses our children to remind us to be thankful. Through my sons prayers I am reminded that I too should be thankful for my bed, a warm house to call my own and a family that loves me. When I tell my son we are not to feel guilty that there are others that do not have these basic needs but that we are to thank God for what we do have, I am reminding myself of all that I take for granted on a daily basis. We are rich compared to some and for these rich blessings I am thankful. So ever grateful.

It is always right, O God, to praise you and to bless your name. Even if the harvest fail, even when economies falter, still you are our God; still you bless us richly. Help us to see your active hand in bounty or in scarcity, in pain as well as pleasure. When we fail to see you at work we fall into the sin of ingratitude, or even suppose that all that we have is the work of our own hands, the result of our own intelligence and industry. Forgive us, and save us from an existence so self-centered. Set us free from greedy and grasping hearts. By your generosity to us, teach us to be generous to others, and thus to give evidence to you that we are indeed your thankful people. This we pray through Jesus Christ, your most gracious and enduring gift to us, for whom be everlasting praise. Amen. ~From the book, This Day, a Wesleyan Way of Prayer, by Laurence Hull Stookey

The call of my heart

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed ). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter ). ~John 1:35-39 (CEB)

Are we looking for a miracle worker, a warrior to fight our battles, a savior to put right our lives? Just like us, in Bible times people flocked to Jesus looking to him for various reasons. Here in John we see two disciples who came looking for Jesus. The two disciples were followers of John the Baptist and were with him when he watched Jesus walk by and they heard him exclaim “Look here is the Lamb of God”. He surely must have known that to speak of Jesus in such a way would invite them to leave him and transfer their loyalty to this new and greater teacher; and yet he did it. There was no jealousy in John. He had come to attach men not to himself but to Christ.

John the Baptist was the first witness to Jesus’ identity and mission. John the Baptist begins a chain reaction of witnessing and discipleship, combined with affirmations of Jesus’ identity in titles: Lamb of God, Rabbi/Teacher, Messiah, son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man, Jesus is the one about whom Moses and the prophets wrote. Once Jesus was pointed out the two disciples decided to follow Jesus. It may well be that they were too shy to approach him directly and followed respectfully some distance behind. Then Jesus did something entirely characteristic. He turned and spoke to them. That is to say, he met them half way. He made things easier for them. He opened the door that they might come in. God does not leave us alone in our search. He comes out to meet us.

The initiative must be ours to begin with though. God will not force himself on us. But when the human mind begins to seek and the heart begins to long, God will come out to meet us. Jesus began by asking a most fundamental question, “What are you looking for?” The question is very relevant of the Palestinian time. Were they legalists, looking to have conversations about the Law like the scribes and Pharisees? Were they ambitious time-servers looking for position and power like the Sadducees? Were they nationalists looking for a military commander who would smash the power of Rome like the Zealots? Were they humble men of prayer looking for God and for his will? Or were they simply puzzled, bewildered sinful men looking for light on the road of life and forgiveness of God?

It would serve our selves well if we too allowed God to ask of us, “What are you searching for?” Some of us might answer that we are looking for security, a position that is safe, money enough to meet the needs and wants which will take away basic worries in life. Some of us are searching for what they would call a career, an opportunity to put their talents and abilities they believe themselves capable of doing. But these aims can be distorted as the world tells us what is important and what is right. Some of us are searching for some kind of peace, for something to enable us to be at peace with ourselves, with God and with others around us. This is the search for God; this only Jesus can meet and supply.

One point of hope that I pull from this reading is when Andrew shares with Simon Peter that the Messiah has been found. He brought Simon to meet Jesus, who looked at him and said “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Peter” When Jesus comes out to meet us, he doesn’t just see us as we are or as we used to be He sees us as what we can become. Jesus didn’t go into all the details or his purpose for his time here on Earth. He simply asked, Follow me. As the disciples obeyed and left their past behind them Jesus revealed more and more of his purpose to them. One of my favorite verses on the Bible comes from Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with a hope.” It gives me great comfort to know that God not only sees the actuality of who I am standing here right now but he also sees the possibilities of who I can become. God does not label me by my mistakes or by the lack of my ability. He says to me, Follow me and I will bless you and give you hope. He asks simply my obedience.

My search for God and learning what His will is for us is close to my heart. Sometimes it is hard to trust prompts from God. I have struggled for years trying to trust what I felt in my heart. But one thing I have finally begun to understand is that God places a desire and a passion in our hearts to do the things He calls us to do: Philippians 2:13 says “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (You will have a love & joy & passion for doing the things God has created you for & calls you to do). God calls to our hearts. He asks us to just believe.

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If you made it to the end of this long post I will share with you that this is part of the first message I ever gave to a group. I celebrate three years of stepping up to what God has called me to do. No longer am I hiding from who God has planned for me to be. I am thankful for all that He has shown me since accepting the dreams God has placed in my heart. I am eager to see where He will lead me.

Heavenly Father, I simply thank You for all you have done in my life. I thank You searching for me when I was lost and didn’t listen to me when I said that I didn’t want to be found. I thank You for the Hope you have placed in me. Help me to show Your love to others. Amen.

Prayer and worship

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat. ~Psalm 19:1-6 (CEB)

We have lost the sense of the sacred in what we do. Every act we do can be a form of prayer. Fixing dinner can be prayer. When I smile, that can be a prayer. Painting a picture or singing a song that can also be a prayer. When I do anything that brings joy to the Creator of the world, it is a prayer. It is a sacred act. Often we forget that the ordinary daily movements of life can be sacred.

Also taking notice of He’s creation around me can also be a form of worship. When I notice the changes of light with the time of the day or the season; the suddle colors of the hours before sunset as they change to amber and gold then into the darker shades of night… the songs of the birds, the wind on my face…   Every time I stop and notice I can feel the tension release from my stomach, my shoulders relax and my thoughts clear. For that one moment in time when I say “Ahhhh…”, I worship the One who created that ever changing scenery.

May I not be too busy this day to be in worship and prayer, O Lord. May I recognize the sacred in each moment of this day. May I not forget to see Your wonders around me. May I ever be thankful for the simple moments in live. Amen.

True happiness

This is why I kneel before the Father…  I ask that he will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.
~ Ephesians 3:14, 16-21 CEB

Everyday Miracles

Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did. The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first. They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely. You kept the good wine until now.” This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. ~John 2:6-11 (CEB)

God’s every day miracles don’t normally get our reactions. The fact that plants release as oxygen, the very gas we need to breathe to have life, is easily overlooked. Turning water into wine is an everyday occurrence too when you think about how the vines drink up the water so that it can form grapes. Only when the water is gathered not by rain but by ordinary people into jugs is our attention captured.

A miracle that breaks the rules reminds us that the rules themselves are miraculous. We need to rediscover with wonder the world around us, to see it anew. The world is not as the dismal Ecclesiastic writer in the Old Testament grumbles… that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccles 1:9); but the New Testament answers loudly and excitedly “Look! I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).

Of course I am going to have from time to time Ecclesiastes moods, but my imagination should be devoted to respond joyfully to the truth that in Christ everything is given back something of its freshness of the very first days of creation.

Heavenly Father, help me to slow down and look around me to the wonders of the world you have given me. May I not take for granted even the air I breathe instead help me marvel at your creativity. Amen.

Holy, Holy, Holy

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” ~Isa 6:3 (NIV)

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” ~Rev. 4:8 (NIV)

What do we mean when we say that God is holy? It is not that we are naming an attribute among many others such as love and mercy and wisdom and power. No, we are attempting to find something that collectively gathers and applies all His attributes. When we say God is Holy we are saying that He is unchangeable. Nothing about Him changes; His love never fluctuates; His mercy is inexhaustible; His wisdom cherishes all that is truly good; His power can always be trusted.

From One who never changes I do not need to wonder what will be the response when I turn to Him, whether in the dark of night or in the light of day. It matters not who I am or who I will be. It matters not where I have been or where I will go. I can seek Him in my strength and in my weakness. He is always God.

There are days that I fail family and friends. No matter how hard I try I cannot always be what they want me to be. Sometimes my failure may seem to push them away. They feel deprived of what they should have from me. But nothing is missing from God. Only He can handle all our high expectations. He will never disappoint. He knows the true desire of the heart and He answers those prayers.

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful that Your love never changes, Your mercy inexhaustible, Your wisdom timeless and Your power my only strength. Only You are Holy. Amen.

When spirituality dawns

It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” ~John 20:19-22 (CEB)

“Real spirituality dawns when our life with God becomes as real as the problems and joys we experience each day. Until then we live in two different worlds- one, a seemingly real, practical and demanding world; the other, a wistful, so-called ‘spiritual’ world. In our daily activities, we may see ourselves enmeshed in the world, perhaps burdened. However, in our prayer we walk in the mystery of God, we dwell in peace, and we wish we could simply remain there.

This separation cannot remain if all our life is to be filled with real meaning, peace, and awe, no matter how violent or stormy our days may become. When we are truly prayerful we join both worlds. As we become naturally aware of God throughout the day, we journey in both worlds simultaneously. That is truly the spiritual life.” ~From Everyday Simplicity by Robert J. Wicks

Lord, You have promised to meet those who seek Your face. Come now and reveal Your presence to me this day. Help me walk in Your mystery and dwell in your peace. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

One message to give…

The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son full of grace and truth. ~John 1:14 (CEB)

If I could give only one message to the world what would it be? If I had only a few seconds of fame, what would I want the world to know?

The message that I could shout from the top of Mount Lecont, is that God did not come down to earth in Jesus Christ to make life just a tiny bit better but to make things exceedingly remarkably better. God came down to earth not just so I could tolerate living here on earth but to transport my life right now into a life of real living. Jesus came not just to prepare the way for the next world but so that I might live life more freely now. Jesus came to show us how to live in a way that was a costly reconciling love, relentless hope and reverberating joy. God came down to earth so that we could live like Him. He came to save us from violence by showing us the way to peace. He came to save us from greed by showing us the way of compassion. He came to save us from our addiction of living for self by showing us the way of self-giving love. God came down to earth through Jesus Christ to save us from sin by showing us the way to forgiveness; to save us from death by showing us the way to live; to save us from sorrow by showing us how to be joyful.

The good news of the gospel is not that Jesus came to show us the way to climb up to God, but that God came down to us, descending into the real stuff of our everyday ordinary lives- God with us in Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Thank You Heavenly Father for the example You sent to me through Your Son Jesus Christ. I thank You for the examples of self-giving love, forgiveness and joy that he brings to my life. I thank You for his example of a peace that goes beyond my present understanding. I thank You O Lord, that I know the end of the Story and that You use all things for Your ultimate glory. Amen.

Remembering to say “Thank You”

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”

When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.” ~ Luke 17:11-19 (CEB)

I am thankful for holidays and traditions that slow me down and help me to remember to refocus my attention. Life gets so hectic. I don’t mean to be ungrateful. I don’t mean to overlook those things that God does for me. “Thanksgiving” reminds me that I need to think about the things that I am thankful for. “Thanksgiving” reminds me that I need to say thank you more often. “Thanksgiving” reminds me that I need to show my thankfulness by reaching out to those around me.

Thank you Lord for the signs you place in my life that redirect my focus to You. I thank you for the simple things I daily overlook. I thank you for a warm place to lay my head. I thank You for family and friends that love me. I thank You that I can choose the foods I eat and that I that I don’t have to go to sleep hungry. I thank You that I can worship you without risk to my life. Help me to see these blessings regularly. Amen.

In the end

A day is coming that belongs to the LORD,

when that which has been plundered from you will be divided among you.

I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for the battle,

the city will be captured,

the houses will be plundered,

and the women will be raped.

Half of the city will go forth into exile,

but what is left of the people won’t be eliminated from the city.

The LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.

On that day he will stand upon the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem.

The Mount of Olives will be split in half by a very large valley running from east to west.

Half of the mountain will move north,

and the other half will move south.

You will flee through the valley of my mountain,

because the valley of the mountains will reach to Azal.

You will flee just as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Judah’s King Uzziah.

The LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

On that day, there will be no light.

Splendid things will disappear.

On one day known to the LORD, there will be neither day nor night,

but at evening time there will be light.

On that day, running water will flow out from Jerusalem,

half of it to the Dead Sea

and half of it to the Mediterranean;

this will happen during the summer and the fall.

The LORD will become king over all the land.

On that day the LORD will be one,

and the LORD ‘s name will be one.

The entire land will become like the desert

from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem will be high up and firmly in place

from the Benjamin Gate to the place of the former gate,

to the Corner Gate, and from the Hananel Tower to the king’s wine vats.

People will dwell in it;

it will never again be destroyed.

Jerusalem will dwell securely.

This will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who

swarmed against Jerusalem:

their flesh will rot, even while standing on their feet;

their eyes will rot in their sockets;

and their tongues will rot in their mouths.

On that day, a great panic brought on by the LORD will fall upon them;

they will all grasp at the hand of their neighbors;

neighbors will attack each other.

Even Judah will fight in Jerusalem.

The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected:

gold, silver, and a great abundance of garments. ~Zech. 14:1-11 (CEB)

“Every United Methodist preacher since the time of John Wesley has been asked a series of questions before being admitted into full membership in an annual conference. The first question is, ‘Have you faith in Christ?’ The second question is, ‘Are you going on to perfection?’ Seventeen more questions follow, and every candidate is to be led in discussion and understanding of the questions by the resident bishop of the area.

Once during the turbulent sixties, Bishop Gerlad Kennedy was asking these historic question of candidates standing before him in the presence of the annual conference session. When asked if he was going on to perfection, one candidate responded ‘No!’ Bishop Kennedy quickly replied, ‘Then where are you going?’ It was an appropriate question then, and it is an appropriate question now- not only for preachers but also for all Christians.

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 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 our 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.” ~Rueben P. Job, A Guide for All Who Seek God

Almighty God, as you have given Jesus Christ to be Savior and Lord, grant us now grace to accept and rejoice in our salvation and in His lordship. Amen.

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