“If God is for us, who is against us?”
In the midst of our life, God is. I have spent the past few days praying over the crowds I have watched and been part of. Some people truly seem to be enjoying their life, but others seem heavily laden. Maybe they feel life has been stacked against them, they may look around and have the impression that theirs is the only life that is out of sync with everybody else. It is “them against the world.” It is interesting that in large crowds loneliness becomes magnified. So often when God seems far away, God is the closest. There is hope, even when the marginalizing clouds of uncertainty and loneliness hang heavy. No matter where life’s twists and turns take you, God is. God is with you, even to the end of the age. God is “for you” even when the world may have other ideas. The stuff around us can have a way of diminishing God’s presence in life, or so we may be led to believe. But there is exceeding good news, God has not, and will never leave you orphaned; you are not marginalized by God, you are loved more than you will ever know. Your life is of infinite value, whoever you are and what ever “crowd” you are in. All it takes is to turn around from living a life of separation and understanding that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that will separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God offered Jesus as proof, living proof, that with God you are never alone. What life has shown you may cause doubt, but what God has offered you in Jesus offers hope. Be convinced that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor ANYTHING else in all creation, will be able to separate [you] from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thank you Jesus.
“So if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; everything has become new!”
II Corinthians 5:17
What if clothing were designed to fit only one particular body style or preference? And what if everyone were required to wear one particular outfit all the time? It would seem pretty weird to see everyone look alike. We might try to make it work but deep down inside our spirit would want to break free of constantly being the same as everybody else and seeing everybody doing and thinking the same old things. The incredible gift we have been given is the opportunity to accept a whole new way to celebrate life and perceive others. Christ Jesus invites anyone and everyone to turn away from a dusty old life of sameness and the trappings of sin to a new life of adventure, joy and the peace of knowing that our faith is not a relic from the past rather it offers the ultimate freedom of living in this thing called grace which is eternal. Anyone and everyone are invited to experience grace, God’s unconditional love. Accepting Jesus Christ is all about celebrating the freedom of seeing people as children of God first and foremost. Accepting Jesus is acknowledging that our lives are not as they should be but God’s love for us is too big to ever let us stay that way. Living by faith is seeing God not as a judgmental tyrant requiring us live in lockstep with everybody else; rather it is about accepting the freedom of knowing that no matter where our journey leads us, we are never alone. Even if we have ventured far away from this thing called grace, God through Christ wants us back. Jesus the Christ celebrates your life and all the gifts you have been given; all you need to do is turn and accept the joy and freedom you are being offered by the one who “did not come into the world to judge the world but so that the world may be saved through him.” You are loved by God, more than you will ever know, accept that fact and experience the newness of life. Thank you Jesus!
“I have no gold or silver, but what I have I give to you; in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
Just when we think we have nothing to offer, Jesus comes alive in our soul. The very power of God fills us when we least expect it and when God’s presence is deeply needed, we are filled. Have you ever asked yourself, “What can I do?” Money may be tight, and physically every movement may be a challenge. Or maybe you are able to write a check to help someone, which is truly a gift, but do not feel beyond offering money you can be of any help. Truth is, you have everything you need. You have the power of the Holy Spirit to offer someone hope even in the midst of hopelessness. When Peter left church that morning and saw a need, he did not reach into his pocket for silver and gold; he reached into his heart and extended the hand of Christ. In a world of isolation, electronic relationships, and pleas for money, Jesus Christ offers us an opportunity to offer something far more profound; the gift of faith, hope and a hand of flesh and blood rather than a tweet or a post. When you extend the hand of Christ you are giving someone the hope that they are not alone, that no matter the circumstance God through the living Christ is with them, through you. Think of it this way, when you extend the hand of friendship, you are offering Christ. When you walk with someone in need, you walk with Christ. The greatest gift you can give someone is your time and your faith; “gold and silver have I none, but what I have is my Savior, and I give Him to you.” You have been blessed, go, and do likewise. Thank you Jesus.
“Very Truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”
Phillip, a disciple of Jesus, had a first row seat to the ministry of Jesus. He saw Jesus cure the sick, heal the physically and emotionally challenged, and with a word made God’s incredible message of grace and hope come alive for the people. Yet Phillip was not satisfied, he wanted more proof that Jesus was as close to God as Jesus said, “I am the way the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6) So often, we are satisfied being spectators rather than participators. We want the satisfaction of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior and that through the amazing grace that Jesus shared we may have eternal life. Yet Jesus wants more for us than simple understanding of the concept of faith. Jesus calls us to actually be a part of the life of faith and offers us the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish far more than Jesus did in his earthly ministry. If all we needed was an understanding of faith and the gift of Jesus Christ then all the Bible would amount to is another self-help manual and serving the church nothing more than time served. But through Jesus Christ we have been given an incredible gift, a gift that makes faith come alive and the word of God a reality. We are filled “all in all,” with the power of God’s Holy Spirit to do far more for our neighbor than Jesus ever did during his earthly ministry. The challenge for us is to believe that we are a beloved part of our faith, filled to the brim with the power to witness to the world a far more excellent way to live. You have been given a gift, a gift that cannot be taken away by anybody on this planet. You have been filled with the very presence of God to do far more than you could ever imagine. If you don’t believe that you have been filled with the grace of God, then look around and see what God has already given you. You have been blessed, and you have been filled, to the max! Thank you Jesus.
“But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
God speaks, we get all excited then comes the doubt; how can I…, what can I…., why can I…, and who cares anyhow…. In the marketing and the psychological world this doubt is called “cognitive dissonance;” part of our thinking is “all in” while another part says, “not sure this is the right thing to do.” Something has to give and often times the solution involves running, fast! Fear has a way of winning out and though our intentions are great our tendency is to hide from uncertainty. For Jonah, God called him to hold an entire city accountable, to take a stand in the name of the Lord; pretty heavy stuff, even for a card-carrying prophet like Jonah. Jonah knew he should listen to God and that would be the right thing, yet all he wanted to do was to run and hide. Prophets are no different than you and me in many ways; they have doubts and they question their abilities, their commitment, and their time. Maybe our “dissonance” lies in our reliance on ourselves rather than on God’s grace, mercy, and power. Jesus shows up in our lives and calls us to be “all in” for him, to make disciples and to know that by faith our lives and the lives around us can be transformed and made new yet we ask ourselves, “who am I, that the voice who calmed the sea, would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?” (Casting Crowns) You are a child of God, so unbelievably loved by God that through Christ God will “neither leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) As those fears and doubts start to add up and you begin to look around for your running shoes, remember the words of the Psalmist, “with the Lord on my side I do not fear.” Maybe it is all about trusting in the Lord even and especially in those times of doubt. Even to the end of the age, to the end of the age Jesus will be with you. Jesus is “all in for you,” no matter where life may lead. Thank you Jesus!
Rev. Tom Joyce, pastor
Fields United Methodist Church