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Light Within

Luke 11:35-36

 

Luke 11:35-36

See to it that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your body is full of light and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp is upon you.

I spent this summer having eye surgery. I did not get much writing done because my eyes got tired very easily. However, I never lost the ability to see well enough to read music and play piano except for the actual recovery time. For you see, I had developed a cataract in my right eye so thick and opaque light was no longer able to get into the eye. As soon as that was removed, and even before the eye healed, the amount of light that was suddenly flowing through the eye nearly restored my vision to my mid twenty’s level.

I began to have a new idea about the ‘light’ scriptures. This particular one talks about our whole life being lit if Christ’s light is in our life. Another scripture speaks of the eyes being the source of light for the whole body, referring to our soul being lit with Christ’s light results in our whole life being filled with light.

My doctor promised color would come alive again, and indeed it has. “Great vision is ahead for you!” I hardly believed him. But I could begin to believe as the light streaming into my eye for the first time in years became tolerable and vision cleared through healing. Most of that had happened even before I had surgery on the second eye.  

The lessons God has reminded me of start with the fact of my unawareness of what was happening. Quite a while ago, I was informed that cataracts were beginning to form, but it would be decades before I would even know they were there.  It has not been decades, but even at that I could not tell I was losing my awareness of bright colors. Just in the last two years have I gotten worried about my vision. Still I could not believe a cataract of such severe nature snuck up on me.

And the faith lesson is obvious. We drift away from God, really quite unaware our spiritual awareness has dimmed. Then something happens and we turn, hands out and blindly feel for God. Darkness has crept into our lives as we compromise with the darkness around us. What that looks like for each of us is different.  Sometimes we have sunken so low we can no longer believe change is possible. We can’t get a grip on God’s love, presence, and constant forgiving grace. Sometimes we even quit believing.

The light of life is gone.

I had not realized how tentative my life had become as I automatically adjusted to limitations. I no longer enjoyed driving and getting out by myself. I, unthinking, turned down opportunities to play piano because confidence faltered. I assumed it was all stress and the need for rest as my life’s situation had changed. That was partly true, but now I see, I just could not read music fast enough to keep up. God did use that to force me to get very much-needed rest, but once I could see better, confidence returned.

And, as we put out blind hands and encounter God, life slowly returns. Then, one day, full life is again possible. Christ’s light comes back into our souls, and once again we have light to shine onto those around us who look to us for illumination.

Of course, the answer to that is always be aware of and take care of things as they come into our lives. I had indeed taken steps to keep cataract development slow. I addressed the sugar thing that was heading toward diabetes and other physical things that are known to foster eye problems, yet I wasn’t quick enough. And as humans, we get sidetracked, by even good things, so easily. May God help us to identify those distractions as they are beginning to get the upper hand instead of waiting until we have lost the light from our spiritual eyes.

 

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Let Us Not Waver

Romans 4:20

For Abraham never wavered in believing God. Indeed his faith grew strong and was a glory to God.,,

 

It seems a long time ago, in the middle of a faith crisis related to ministry, God promised strength and release.

Specifically, he promised me the high level of stress I was experiencing would not last the rest of my life. God would provide protection for my mental and spiritual health. Through the years he has kept that promise in varying degrees:

Several times, just as the job I held was beginning to require business abilities I did not have, God intervened. Each time God changed my husband’s place of ministry, the change has also been the best thing for my changing needs.

Not that those changes were endured casually or without trauma, but in our faithfulness, and in God’s faithfulness, God’s timing has been proven best for all involved.

And now changes have come that sees that long ago promise move to a new level of fulfillment. Now I have the ability to enjoy a new role as a person in the pew instead of part of a pastoral family and worship team. With that comes a narrowing of the number of people who are influenced by who I am, how I use my abilities, how I express myself, and the decisions I make. At the same time if my decisions are not always the best, fewer people are negatively impacted.

This stress-worry is something God and I have worked on for years. And in this change God’s timing and faithfulness has been as astonishing as ever.

Sometimes God changes our just inner lives, sometimes just our physical lives. And often, as the result of God’s work in one or the other, both are changed. However it is, God’s promises are not forgotten.

But I don’t think most of us take God’s promises with us as part of our daily lives. We visit them when we are worried, upset, grieving, facing upheavals, or are troubled. But we don’t let them dwell with us like we do things that we are trying to solve or what we are worrying about. We don’t take them out and examine them like we do a problem. And I think we should.

… Abraham never wavered in believing. I wish I could say that. Abraham didn’t always make the best decision, and sometimes he tried to help God’s promise hurry up to take place, but the scripture says he did not waver in belief.

God made me a specific promise, and I lost sight of it several times. And I must confess I almost lost sight of God’s role in helping me carry the load. You may be more like Abraham in trying to help God’s work along in your impatience to get things done. God will help you know where you get ahead of God’s fulfilling his promises.

But just as God is constant, his promises should be part of our daily lives. Let us not waver.

 

A New Dictionary

I sometimes struggle with the basic religious language in today’s way of thinking. I hear it in secular productions – books too – the terminology of worship. But the ‘one’ they worship turns out to be men, ‘false gods’ or cultic.

As a result, I sometimes struggle with terms like surrender, giving oneself up for God, giving everything to God, live for the glory of God, and righteous. They are often presented as unreasonable demands of false gods.

I realize these terms have been taken from the Christian dictionary. But I’m afraid when I talk about them I end up sounding like the fantasy/magical culture of today. And the non-religious already have trouble understanding our intent.

I ask God help to find new ways to express the concepts to kids and people who see the fantasy, and lead them to the God of all gods. I feel like I’m starting all over. Perhaps we are back to the many gods culture of Paul’s time.

In my own personal relationship with God, I realize I cannot avoid these concepts for myself. I find myself stepping back before I remember they borrowed our dictionary, I didn’t borrow theirs. They are valid concepts for me.

There is a difference I need to remember: magic/fanciful false gods end up being selfish, with self-serving motives. People end up being mere tools for accomplishing goals. In the end, all the pretty words are harmful.

On the other hand, the end results of God’s words, are aimed at redemption. Of preserving and transforming me into my best, and helping others find their path to God. Not making everyone into ‘little gods,’ but people who know God.

The way our secular thought uses worship is giving one’s self up for God. But its tone is negative…. The person is gone…. Really gone. But in the Christian’s experience, there’s something mysterious about it.

The self we offer in worship takes a risk because of trust, and is not lost, but returned to us as a transformed, beautified person.

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Adult Children

Romans 8:12-17
So, then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh – 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die: but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs with Christ – if in fact we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified.

I John 3:1
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

 

As we celebrate mothers one month and father’s day the next we often study the scriptures Paul writes about us being God’s children.

God is father, and adopts us into the community of the children of God, and joint heirs with Jesus. And if we can grasp that, it changes our approach to God and life. We use terms like Christian confidence and boldness in approaching God and life. And that is good.

We also speak of being like children in trusting implicitly, without reservations, in God’s love. And that is good.

I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, when I was around my parents I sometimes reverted to feeling like a child. And I think that is natural. But as I grew up, my relationship with them changed. And as an adult, the element of friendship entered. I still was their child, I still trusted them, loved them, cared deeply for them, but my maturity was reflected in the relationship.

As I read this scripture, I wondered if our relationship shouldn’t change as we mature as a Christian. And this is not how we normally like to think. We want to remain as youngsters in Christ. That simple trust. That totally true or totally untrue world we live in as a child. And that was good. We don’t want to think about our relationship. We just want to feel. And we set about our lives based on what makes us feel good.

We choose our church, our activities, and service according to what fits our needs to feel fulfilled. As lay people we tend not to ask God to show is where he wants us to serve. That is an adult this to do. Learning to love as God taught us…others come first.

As youngsters, our love is based on what parents do for us, and we gradually begin to understand love is the basis of their actions. We all have seen the conflicts that results when either the parent or child fail to have a healthy view of the love interaction. It is a sign of maturity when we begin to respect who our parents are and learn to love them for who they are.

But in all of this, we remain their children.

As a young person, we are first drawn to Christ because of the things he does for us. As we begin to mature in Christ, we learn to love God because of who God is.

But in all of this we remain God’s children. We just become God’s adult children. But the emphasis the relationship changes. It is no longer primarily about what God does for us. It becomes about the fellowship, the joys of life, and the courage to persevere. And we come to see God at work even when he doesn’t do things our way.

Obviously the child parent illustration breaks down at some point due to age, but no matter the dynamics, we still remain our parents’ children.

And we remain God’s children. While retaining the childlike trust and wonder at the depth of God’s love, we should become the adult Children of God.

 

 

Compassion

God, I drove through what some cities call ‘the district,’

And saw the homeless, the down and out, the dirty,

Standing in doors of bars and cafes, looking out at something I couldn’t see.

And I thought to myself

These are your creations too

You love them as you love me.

When I drove through the rougher neighborhoods

With their little kept houses, motorcycles and souped up cars,

Where people drink and fight at home.

And I thought with an ache in my heart,

God, these are your people too.

As your church we – I – need to be reaching them.

As I walk through my territory

I look at the streets, apartment complexes,

Small homes … family places.

And I think to myself,

Here, too, they love and fight, sometimes in quiet desperation;

Many not knowing they too are your people.

Give me wisdom to know how to put love into action,

To what groups to give financial support,

In what causes to get involved.

I cannot reach everyone personally,

But I can give out pieces of your living Spirit

To anyone, everyone, with whom I come in contact.

Help me not to withdraw into my business like a shell,

When dealing with those different than I,

But always share your warmth and acceptance.

ON THE WAY

Matthew 9:18 – 22 (NIV)

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.”19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

 

On his way to another healing Jesus was interrupted.

On his way to helping someone, another asked for help.

His thoughts were focused ahead to the one at his destination

But as he went he stopped and helped the woman in front of him.

 

Some became impatient.

Some were puzzled.

Very few knew what was happening.

But she did – and so did Jesus.

 

Some also have suggested the scriptures at the end of the gospels

That say go ye to all the world….

Are better understood as saying

As you go to all the world, take the good news with you.

 

On the way to work or play, or eat out or meet your accountant,

One the way to funerals, or weddings, or births, or the hairdresser,

One the way to your desk, or worship, to serve or be served,

Stop and see the person in front of you.

 

See the person whose stress shows.

See the person who just needs a listener.

See the person who faces a challenge.

See the person who needs something you can supply.

 

A smile, shared laugh, a pen, a few extra dollars, a word of appreciation,

Your jacket, the ability to pick up a dropped item, a hand to open a door.

A push so someone’s shopping cart, a word of encouragement,

Better yet, recognize the person brimming over with good news – celebrate with them!

 

As you go along your way,

Take the good news of God’s presence in the world with you.

Scatter blessings and be the reminder things can be different

Remind people all is not negative, cold or impersonal by being personal, warm and positive.

 

The conversation between Jesus and the woman he healed on his way to another healing

Took but a few minutes – perhaps he had stopped to let someone pass,

Or got slowed down by the traffic and she took advantage of the moment to touch him,

But her courage and his response changed her life and leaves us with this reminder.

 

As you go,

On the way to the next thing, when you get slowed down,

Don’t forget to respond to the person in front of you.

When they are in need, or reach out – reach back.

 

Additional reference:

Matthew 28:19

New International Version (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

 

 

Wednesday and Thursday’s Prayer

God, Help me look at today.

I’m reminded of living near the ocean in the Northwest.
By Wednesday many people’s talk
Had already turned to the weekend’s visit to the beach.
No matter the season, many live for the weekend’s coastal adventure.

God, help me live today in your presence.
Help me do something for your kingdom each day,
Move closer to a goal, do something useful,
And/or work on the skills that bring me pleasure.

Help me be thankful for today
In spite of mid-week weariness.
If I concentrate on today’s joys and challenges,
The week’s road doesn’t seem to stretch so far beyond the horizon.

If there are preparations to be made,
Help me keep them in the right perspective,
Joyfully looking forward, without dread, or losing today’s importance.
Help me bask in today’s space and time.

Prayer meeting is pretty much part of the past, but not the need for it.
At mid-week I need that refreshment of spirit:
A gathering of resources for the longevity of my joyful attitudes.
Help me find something to enhance worship on this day.

Each day has its own feel
But the middle days get lost in the turning toward the weekend.
Help me make the best of this day,
In a way that makes me a better person for all days to come.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PREACH

In the last years of his life E. Stanley Jones had a stroke.
He recovered enough to write one more book with a daughter’s help.
As he wrote what he had learned he stated he felt
God was asking him to live out what he had written and preached his whole life.

Today God brought this man and his words to mind.
As life has changed, and I am no longer doing what I have done many years,
I find myself going over the words I have said over and over.

I always rebelled when people,
Usually during a discussion about music, Insisted they had no talent. I said,
“Just because you don’t have a public talent, like music,
Does not mean your talent is worth less.”

And now I am no longer regularly share the music publically,
I ask myself what as I to do?
How am I to be involved?
Can I just sit back?

We all know the answer to that last question.
I still have work to do.
I might even have undiscovered talents.
The question is, am I willing to practice what I’ve preached?

God, life is good, but take my need for public ministry.
Help me encourage those still on the front lines.
Help me enjoy being ministered to.
And help me find new ways to serve.

Jo Bower https://jobowerwrites.wordpress.com

Acceptance or Seeking

So today I prayed again, seeking God’s presence.
And that is the accepted language and thought pattern.

But what if it’s not all my job?
I’m afraid I’ve assumed it’s my responsibility to find God – like he’s lost or hiding.

What if seeking God is not such hard work?
What if seeking God is as easy as turning my face (attention) towards him?

In the contemporary language seeking implies digging through,
Creating a path, tossing out distractions, and extreme, concentrated effort.

So, I approach God that way:
As if it’s a painful, birthing process.

What if, when I turn my face towards him I find the banquet table all set and God standing at the head?
His hand is out, gesturing to me to be seated, “We were looking for you,” he says.

What if God is seeking me,
With as much or more intense concern that drives me to seek God?

And my seeking is as much accepting God
As it is hunting for the perfect meeting place and creating the perfect attitude.

Perhaps salvation is really only one part mine and nine parts God’s work:
If I can overcome the unbelief and accept Jesus and his mission, the rest follows.

Perhaps God’s grace is not sought
As much as applied.

Perhaps it’s not so much about desperately searching for God’s will
As learning to see the gifts God gave me and opportunities God opens to me.

Perhaps living a Christian life is first about accepting God,
Then spending my life learning to see God at work.

Perhaps I do not grow because I do not see where God’s work needs my gifts…
So again today I read my devotionals and turn my face towards God.

Thanks to the Becomers Sunday School Class discussion for the new ideas. Jo

Sent from Catch Notes for Android https://catch.com

HALFWAY GIVERS

When I try to talk about totally giving myself to God
I struggle with it and just end up sounding pompous or at the least, stuffy.
But I’ve been given a new chance from a couple of different sources.
So I kind of put them together and hope I can see things differently.

It still seems to me it is a matter of building trust in who God is and his trustworthiness.
Few of us come away from that first, life changing encounter with this depth of trust.
It’s a maturing, letting Jesus become part of life, Believer (not a teenage Believer) thing.
I think of it as beginning to look for service beyond the ‘what God does for me” stage.

And we have to experience letting go of things before God can give us something better
Enough times times that we have faith in the process –
Almost like we have to practice letting go before we let go of “me.’
We have to learn to trust: God replaces what we give up with something better.

In reality when we, at conversion, give ourselves to God,
We are committing ourselves to the putting away of things as apostle Paul illustrates
As we grow from childhood into teen, then young adult, then adult Christians.
Some mature quickly and let can go of self in a short span of time, and some never can.

One source drew from Exodus 34:29, putting the relationship in covenant terms:
When God makes a covenant with us our life changes.
But something must die for something to be born born and the hard work.
The writer asks,
“What did Moses have to leave on top of the mountain to come down transformed?”

It seems to him as it does to me that more has to change than just our emotions.
We can’t come away from a transforming encounter with God
Bringing our “old life habits, ways of thinking, ways of being,” acting,
And ways of doing things “back with us if we truly are becoming a new person in Christ.”

The putting away of those things becomes the real spiritual work
That, in the end, brings me to the point of being able to finally let go of self
And enter into a new covenant with God in which He is the stronger partner
And provides love and strength for my giving myself to His care.

The struggle is in trusting enough to give up our old person, whom we are used to,
And believe God will transform us without wiping out who we are.
My second source says “The last thing we want to let go is ourselves.
It is the only thing we really own.”

And now, after giving up all these things, “Christ with imperious demands
Asks for that one last thing.
It is at this place that the real battle is joined.
All else has been skirmishes.”

Matthew 10:37 and Luke 14:25 – 27
Talk about loving God so much you are willing to surrender even family members.
“….Interestingly enough…life or self is the last thing mentioned.
Yes, (he’s willing to surrender) even his own life.

Jesus ….puts it last because he knows it is the last thing we give up.”
But what does our life look like if we stop halfway?
Changing what people can see, or the easy parts
Yet doing our best to serve and love God without surrendering self?

“A Missionary (for example) gives up home and loved ones…but not self…
Finds his inner self touchy over position, place and power.
The minister…finds himself preaching
With a great deal of vanity and ambition mixed in.

The layman (who doesn’t give up self) finds himself easily offended.”
Christ still works through us, but we keep getting in the way.
Eventually we block God’s gifts flowing through us,
And finally turn away from God in frustration.

There is no set timeline – like a second year Christian should have given up
The old way of thinking and by the fifth year, be ready to give up….. .
At the same time, we cut ourselves off from the best God has for us
If we become halfway givers – always holding some part of ourselves back,
Not quite trusting God enough to risk giving that one last thing – ourselves.

Tom Arthur “Disciplines 2013”
E. Stanley Jones “Victorious Living”

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