Faith

Light in and of the World

Genesis 1:3-4

New International Version (NIV)

3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  4God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.


 What is light? According the Miriam-Webster dictionary light is simply a source of energy that makes it possible to see things.

Throughout scripture light is used to refer to God and Christ in various ways, but when we think of light as being the aforementioned source of energy we can begin to see why the biblical authors would use such a word.

It is a word to represent power, strength, illumination, guidance, protection, and glory.  It is a word that is cross-cultural and describes an element that every living human being would know: the sun.

Everyone is familiar with light whether in America, or a third world country, whether they were born before or after Thomas Edison.  Light is something we hold onto.  It is safety in the dark.  It reveals what is lurking in the shadows and causes them to run.

To ascribe the properties of light to the one true God demonstrates that He is Almighty,  all consuming, caring, compassionate, and above all things.  He is the one who commands the darkness to flee.

As we enjoy the sun and its light let us reflect and remember that this was God’s first creation and gift to all of the world.  He created light to guide the way and separate the darkness.  The sun may be powerful, but the Trinity is infinite.

How have you seen God’s power at work in your life?

What does His light in your life look like?

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We Are What We Eat!

Have you ever immediately regretted the decision to upgrade your meal to a medium or, dare I say, a large?

Yeah, me too!

93FF5ECD77Courtesy of Stocksnap

My body feels the weight of the grease and the smell lingers on my clothes.  My “I want it hot and now” mentality gives way to genetically modified potatoes and something that resembles chicken…or beef…or maybe pork?

A truly sustaining meal, however, would require time, planning, and preparation.  It would require patience, discipline, and effort.   I would have to learn how to bake, grill, or “skillet” this meal.  I would have to invest time, precious time, into the art of cooking.

Time is precious so the first thing that is sacrificed is my health.  I would rather take the quick fix than the slow mend.

How often do we treat our worship of God the same way?  One hour on a Sunday becomes the spiritual gas station where we pump just enough gas to “get us through”.  Justification becomes the mantra of the week:  Life is just too crazy right now, the kids are asking too much of me, work demands all my time, etc…

How easy it is set scripture, devotions, prayer, and silent moments to the side when it comes to living the Christian life.  We get caught up in the things that we see and experience in our everyday lives that the unseen world of faith becomes more blurry by the second.

Recently a friend of mine was preaching on Jesus’ statement of being the Bread of Life and he put this quote on the screen: We are (spiritually) what we eat (spiritually).  Simple yet profound.

We are (spiritually) what we eat (spiritually).

Do we consume things in our lives that will cause us to feel overwhelmed, dirty, or even a little smelly?  Or are we consuming the Truth that lifts our burdens, cleans, and washes over our sin?

Worship takes time.  It takes intentionality.  One hour on a Sunday will not be enough to sustain you throughout the week.  Start small.  Start prayer with one minute a day.  Start reading one verse a day.  Listen to an audio bible in your car.  Download a devotional app.

Control your time and your schedule.  Give God a place in your life so your daily worship can flourish.  Why not upgrade your relationship with God to the next level?

What does your spiritual diet look like?  What are some things you consume to stay healthy?

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The Same Power

Romans 8:11

New Living Translation (NLT)

11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.


Often there are songs that have lyrics that resonate with me.  This past week I was driving home after a meeting with our Worship Design team and such a song came on the radio.  This Sunday is VBS Sunday at our church and we had just finalized the outline for the service.

The theme for VBS this year is “Everest: Conquering Life’s Problems with God’s Mighty Power”.  The kids have been repeating the words “Hold On” as the leaders proclaim certain truths about God’s character and saving power.  As I was driving the chorus of Jeremy Camp’s new song “Same Power” broke through the silence and made me pause.

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a raging sea
Lives in us, lives in us
He lives in us, lives in us

I love it when poets and lyricists can give the scriptures a melody that sticks with you.  One that makes it easy for us to remember and recall God’s Truth.  All week the children have been learning this very truth.  They have been learning that God, who has done marvelous and amazing things, gives us the very Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead.

Do our lives reflect that Truth?  Do our actions suggest that we believe that God has given us that power?  Our children are learning about this and proclaiming “Hold On”.  May we reflect their cry. May we Hold On the Truth, Hold One to the promise, Hold On to Christ, and Hold On to the love of God.

 

How will you Hold On to the love of God this week? 

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Faith the Size of a Lemonade Stand

Recently I was driving to the bank on my lunch break when I came across two girls sitting at the end of their driveway behind a small table.  They had two pitchers of lemonade placed on the table and a small chalkboard easel with prices listed on it sitting off to the side.

8493KLE87D(Courtesy of stocksnap.io)

I smiled and continued on to my destination, but seeing those two girls got me thinking…

Does my faith reflect what it takes to run a lemonade stand?

Lemonade stands are usually exciting new opportunities for kids during the summer months when school is out, and it is also a good way for younger children to score some spending money!  I doubt that when those two girls decided to have a lemonade stand they had a strategy meeting, a financial goal, or even a statement of purpose drawn up.

I bet they grabbed a table, some chalk, and told their parents, with grins the size of bananas, that this is what they wanted to do.  I think the thrill of the people coming and purchasing a nice cool cup is all they needed.

That is what faith should be; getting caught up in the excitement of God and just doing something.  How often do we miss out on amazing adventures and new experiences because we wanted to map out every detail?  How often have we allowed our hesitation to get in the way?

I don’t want to miss out anymore.   I want my faith to reflect a love that does.  I want to get caught up in the excitement.  I want to take the lemons that I have been handed, make some lemonade, and wait for the blessings to come rolling in!

What lemons have you been handed in life? What are you going to do with them?

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Carte Blanche Yieldedness

Luke 18:22

New International Version (NIV)

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”


Lacking one thing is a challenge.  I tend to want all the right answers and know all the details of the path ahead of me.  I am not a fan of lacking vital information.  I used to have the Facebook app on my iPhone.  I checked it daily, hourly…maybe every thirty minutes.  If I’m being honest I was addicted to it.  I felt like it kept me in “the know” of what everyone was doing.  I justified that it helped know more about the lives of those I lead every Sunday morning.

In reality, however, I was addicted.  I’d check it just to pass time, and often I would find myself sucked into the black-hole of Youtube videos and movie trailers.  This one app, this one small portion of technology that took up less than 1GB of data had consumed me.  I knew without a doubt that it was a problem the day I went to delete it.  The decision to remove it from my phone, I am ashamed to say, took a good 15 minutes of internal debate.  But it had to go, it had gotten in the way of my relationship with Christ and took precious time away from my wife.

This was only technology.  What if we are called to give up more than that to follow Christ?  What if our comforts and lifestyles are keeping us from living a truly, 100%, and in the words of Bill Hybels, carte blanche yieldedness to the will of God?  I want that in my life.

What one thing is holding you back from having a “carte blanche yieldedness”? 

What steps can you take to change it?

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Partnerships

Acts 3:6-8

New International Version (NIV)

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.


Partnerships are characterized by two or more parties coming together with ideas and sharing the benefits of working together.  We form partnerships in school, at the office, on sports teams, and as the church.  We partner with one another to accomplish great and small things. Working together usually makes us feel good and each party walks away feeling satisfied and equally “paid”.

Peter was willing to trust in the partnership and authority he had with God, and in that authority he could do amazing things.  Just like Peter, when we partner with God we get way more than we could ever ask or imagine.  We get His Grace, Mercy, Love, and Holy Spirit.

We get the power to withstand hardship because we have Hope.  We the get the power to show others compassion because we have Love. We get the power of forgiveness because we have Grace and Mercy.  A partnership with God is unbalanced.  God will always give us more than we deserve, and He loves to do it!  He continually grants us His presence and continually guides us.

– God will always give us more than we deserve, and He loves to do it! –

May we remember the partnership we have with God, and let us be people who are willing to listen to His voice, respond, and give Him all the glory.

How will you respond to God this week?

 

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Oh For A Thousand Tongues To Sing

Acts 2:1-4

New International Version (NIV)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.


This Sunday is Pentecost.  It is the defining moment that the Church was given the authority and power to fulfill their mission from God.  It was the moment that God broke the barriers of Babel and proclaimed the Gospel in many languages.  It was a foretaste of what was to come.  It was a foretaste of God’s Word being available to all.

Portions of the Bible have been translated into over two thousand languages since it was first put together into one collection.  The Gospel is now more available than every before.  It is in major retail stores, online, in apps, and can be heard on certain television stations.   All this because a handful of men accepted Jesus’ call and followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We have one God, one Gospel, and one mission.  The Church is the light of the world and we have the power and authority to spread that light through our love.

 

Will you allow the Holy Spirit to guide your actions?

How can you share the love of Christ that is found in the Gospels this week?

 

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A Discipleship Kind of Love

1 John 4:21

New International Version (NIV)

21 And He has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.


I know that I would not be here writing this blog post had it not been for faithful and devoted followers of Christ who poured themselves into my life.  I owe a lot to the time that those key individuals spent teaching, mentoring, and taking a chance on me because they saw my potential.

How many opportunities for great people to rise up do we miss because we don’t take the time to invest in their walk with God.  Christianity is a community of believers, and it is impossible to be lived out in solidarity because God is communal by nature.  He has called us to gather, teach, encourage, empower, and love.  It is our responsibility, as believers, to respond.

My encouragement for you is to think about specific ways that you can invest in the lives of others.  How can you begin building up the youth in your congregation?  How can you begin encouraging your high school students?  How can you engage your college students and young adults?  How can you partner with all generations?

The seasoned have great wisdom to share with the novices and the novices have great energy and enthusiasm to share with the seasoned.  When the church disciples(teaches, loves, gives, sacrifices, encourages, empowers, and challenges) one another it builds strong foundations of faith.

How will you impact someone this week? 

What specific ways can you build into a member of your congregation today?

 

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Spirit Led

Luke 24:49

New International Version (NIV)

49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”


Can you imagine attempting to lead someone into a forest, up a mountain, across the ocean, or even through a city you have never been to?  To make matters worse, what if you had to do it without a map, GPS, or cell phone?

Our faith can sometimes feel this way.  We feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that is contained in the Bible.  We feel the weight of temptation and sin everyday.  We struggle to keep denominations straight.  We aren’t quite sure what we should or shouldn’t wear on a Sunday morning, and we shrink back from the thought of sharing our faith or reaching out in love because we don’t have all the answers.

But thankfully God did not leave us blind and Jesus was not content to leave us wandering around without a guide.  In the book of Acts Jesus sends the Helper, The Holy Spirit, to assist HIs people.  The Spirit is always speaking to believers: guiding, instructing, interpreting scripture, and speaking on our behalf.

Our responsibility is to learn to listen, learn to quiet our own desires and thoughts, and learn to follow His promptings.  Have you ever talked yourself out of doing something good like give money or time to someone in need?  How about volunteering?  How about showing love to someone who is a jerk?

Do we rationalize the prompts and move on, or are we open?  The choice to be love, say love, and do love is ours!  We don’t have to have all the answers, we just have to respond.

Are you willing to let the Spirit lead?

How will you show love this week?

 

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Love Does

Acts 8:27-29

New International Version (NIV)

27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”


Philip was not forced to stop and speak with someone from a completely different nationality than him, but he chose to listen to the Spirit’s prompt.  He chose to speak to someone completely different from him and he chose to do it out of love.  A love for Christ and a love for this stranger that he never met.  I think the words from Paul in his letter the church in Rome sum up our calling.

Romans 15:7-8

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

We, the gentiles, were on the outside of the promise until Christ came.  He welcomed us who were different and calls us to do the same.  We are the light of world, we are the sheep in shepherds clothing, and we are the vessels of love that God can use.  We only need to be willing to hear and answer the call to love.

That call could come in the form of offering the mow your neighbors lawn, pay for someones groceries, take out their trash, or stopping and getting to know the homeless person on the street.  Whatever the call, are you ready to respond?  Have you made room in your schedule to do love?

How will you choose to love this week?

** For practical examples, uplifting and wild stories, and God-honoring ways to do love I highly recommend the book Love Does by Bob Goff.**

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Ethan & Emilie

Embracing an Inspirational Life

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Jesus. Church. Culture.

Tales from the Great Adventure

a journal of living-like-we-mean-it, by Derek Maul