Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Collaborating with God (Page 1 of 2)

August 8, 2021 — Exactly as we are

Today’s Bible reading

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”–Mark 12:41-44

As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.–Matthew 14:15-21

More thoughts for meditation

This week, we’ve been looking at ways that God calls us to collaborate with him, and these stories might just take the cake. We’ve read about prophets who ran away, queens who needed a scolding to be brave, and the conversion of a prosecutor of Christians to a preacher to thousands. 

I think the beauty of these stories lie in their simplicity. Sure, God often calls us to bold, big action, but more often I think God just wants us to bring what we have. God meets us with our pennies, our loaves and fish, and works miracles. 

These seemingly small acts of faith take courage! Think of the woman, seeing fancy men parade their wealth into the temple, how easy it would be to feel inadequate, to be afraid of mocking. Consider the person standing in a crowd of thousands, how on earth would their lunch make a difference here? 

Suggestions for action

We don’t have to be the smartest, the strongest, the most wealthy – God made us, knows us, loves us, and wants us exactly as we are. God craves a relationship with us, and is constantly calling us to partake in the spreading of God’s good love. 

What are your pennies, or loaves and fish? A tithe to support justice in our community? A talent to share? Your time to encourage a friend in need? What can you bring to the table to share with your brothers and sisters? And before you start to doubt yourself – you are enough.

August 7, 2021 — Becoming new selves

Today’s Bible reading

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.[a] So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

Now there was a believer[b] in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him, so he can see again.”

“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 

Saul stayed with the believers[d] in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”

All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”–Acts 9

More thoughts for meditation

Saul was a Jewish leader, a righteous man of piety. You might know him as Paul – writer of large chunks of the New Testament, and some of the most memorized verses! (Romans 8:28, etc) 

God took a man who was renowned for imprisoning and murdering followers of Jesus, and turned him into an effective and well known preacher of the Gospel. Amazing! 

Later on in his life, Paul described his persecution of the church as being zealous for the traditions of his Fathers (Galatians 1:11-17) When persecuting the Jewish Christians, one could assume that he thought he was doing the right thing, the godly thing at the time.

Through an experience with God, Saul’s path was set straight. It even resulted in a new identity!  

Suggestions for action

Jesus has established a new way of doing things – socially, politically, religiously – his way does not conform to the right, left, tradition, or neo. In order to stay attuned to his path, I believe we are required to come before God, hands open, ready to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and to go with the flow of God’s will. 

It’s a tough question to consider, but let’s pause and reflect: are there any areas in your life where you think you are doing the right thing, but if you stopped to listen to God, they might call you in a different direction? Any traditions you hold tightly too? New ideas that make you clench your fists? Try coming before God with open hands and an open heart.

August 6, 2021 — Standing for justice

Today’s Bible reading

Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told Hathak to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.

Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”

When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

More thoughts for meditation

In the story of Esther, a Jewish woman becomes Queen for the intimidating King Xerxes. One of the king’s men, Haman, hated the Jews and was plotting to destroy them. She was in a unique position of power to prevent the annihilation of her people. 

When the opportunity came for her to act, she was afraid, and reasonably so! She knew what she ought to do, but the desire to preserve her hidden identity, comfort, and safety was strong. Mordecai, her uncle who had cared for her since her parent’s death, urged her to step up to save her people. It even took more than one nudge to get her going! 

Even after deciding she would go through with it, it took several days and the prayers of her people to build up the courage to go before the king – and in the end save her people.

Suggestions for Action

God calls us to stand for justice, to care for the downcast, to eat dinner with the outcast, and to forgive our enemies. Often these radical acts of love are scary – what if we get hurt? This story reminds us that when it comes to taking bold action, we don’t have to do it alone. Our community and family of fellow believers are here to support and encourage one another. 

What community do you have that encourages you to live selflessly, caring for others around you? Is there a tough or scary decision that lays ahead of you? Consider reaching out to a friend for support.

August 5, 2021 — Forgiving others

Today’s Bible reading 

“This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant.

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn, the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed.

Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”–Jonah 4

More thoughts for meditation

You may have heard of Jonah – a prophet, called to partake in spreading God’s love to people who were in desperate need. He is most famously known for getting swallowed by a fish during a storm while running from God. 

Jonah felt Nineveh deserved God’s judgement (and who knows, maybe they did!), so when God asked him to preach there, he ran the other direction. He knew of God’s great love and mercy, and had a hunch that his enemies would be spared. In the end, God calls him out – Jonah cared more for a plant, which is here one day and gone the next, than for hundreds of thousands of people who needed God.

It’s often hard for us to accept God’s love for our own selves, let alone accept his love and forgiveness for those we don’t like. 

Suggestions for action

Is God calling you to forgive someone that you don’t think deserves it? Maybe they hurt you, or someone else, and all you can hope for is God’s swift justice and judgment to rain upon them.

Remember that God is our good shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go find the lost one.

Be open to God’s mercy. Take a step towards forgiving. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your boundaries, it’s more about recognizing the grace God has shown you, and acknowledging that the people you forgive are also made in the image of God. Praise the Lord we have a God of second chances!

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