Loving One Another

Posts tagged ‘Christ’

Outsiders


Jesus on the Cross

Jesus – simple, yet complex

Outsiders

A prophet is known
by the company he keeps.
If Jesus were a true prophet,
the right people would be His sheep.

But baaaaad people hung out
with Jesus – sinners of the worst sort.
Jesus scandalously kept company
with tax collectors, folks report.

His circle included prostitutes.
He dined with people of ill repute.
How did He respond to complainers?
Did He have a good word of refute?

No, He told the story of the lost –
Lost coins, lost sheep, lost kids.
Find the coin, search for lambs,
Be relentless finding others, Jesus bids.

But, though we’re concerned,
We have our limits, right?
Do we seek unending until we find?
No, it’s not about us and our plight.

It’s about God who searches.
It’s about our Lord who actively calls.
He needs us all …  you and me.
Invite the outsiders. Break down walls.

Amen?

Where is God?


Tragedy is a common denominator;
We all face it from time to time.
It saddens and isolates us.
It covers our hearts with grime.

The suffering we all endure
Is not foreign to our friends.
It is not foreign to our Lord.
God is in the darkness around each painful bend.

God sent His Son to the cross for us.
There is not a place He will not go.
He walks beside us in our desolation.
His presence is a comfort; don’t you know?

But God is not the cause of our sorrow.
Death – an early earthly departure –
is not the will of God; His heart breaks, too.
He gives us free will. Misuse of it breaks His heart – sure!

When we are in pain, we cry out to God
The way Jesus cried out from the cross.
“Why hast Thou forsaken me? Where are you?”
He answers, “I am here! I cry with you for your loss.”

Christ on Cross Illustration

Increase Our Faith


Increase Our Faith

Sermon Notes
–  from a message by Rev. Jean M Johnson based on Luke 17:5-10

If the disciples of Christ felt clueless,
How can I know anything for sure?
If they lived with the King of Peace,
Why weren’t their thoughts clear and pure?

They lived and rubbed elbows with
Our Lord, the Christ, Savior on earth.
They were with Him, hearing His parables,
Watching His miracles; some knew Him from birth.

Yet, they asked Christ to increase their faith.
Maybe it wasn’t a request to increase their hearts.
Maybe they were asking Him to increase their hands –
Give them the will to work and do their parts.

Because they had faith, the disciples needed
The humility for doing the mundane, daily grind.
Obeying and following Jesus means quietly doing
The duties of loving and serving with no thanks in mind.

Don’t ask for a great faith to do great things.
Be content with faith the size of a mustard seed
To do the work of serving God humbly,
Listening for the Holy Spirit to reveal every need.

Amen?

Hmmm… My prayer for today is one of gratitude for my God and for His Son, Jesus Christ, and for my faith. Yes, it is small as a mustard seed! But, is it sufficient to do God’s Will today? Oh Lord, increase my humility. Increase my ability to hear and see the needs around me. Increase the capacity of my hands and feet to be the hands and feet God uses for His small tasks here on earth. You have given me ears to hear, dear God, and eyes to see the needs around me. Increase my willingness to respond to Your nudges and help me do so with no expectation of recognition. Thank You for the fruits of the spirit alive and well in me: love, joy, and peace. I know faithfulness is a gift from You, also. Help me share those fruits and radiate the gifts freely today.

In Jesus Name –
Amen!

Help for Troubled Children


Sermon Notes
Guest Speaker – Michael Kalous

“Intermountain Thoughts”

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He lived in one hundred one places –
Cars, tents, parking lots, too,
Foster homes and back roads.
A hard life for years – quite a few.

The boy had a loving mother,
But his dad was a troubled guy.
God sent the boy Christ-like people
Who helped dry the tears he’d cry.

Then God sent him to InterMountain
Where his dorm parents were saints.
They gave him unconditional love –
Listened compassionately to his complaints.

With people behind him like his Grandma Grace,
And people with him who showed Christ’s love,
He found our Lord and Savior
And got to know our God above.

With God’s help and these beautiful people,
The damage of his young life faded.
God is able to use him now
And bless others whose bodies and souls were invaded.

With the common bond of a wounded soul,
He can tell his story and feel others’ pain.
He can reach out to a hurting world.
His road of suffering leads to God’s gain.

About seven years ago, when I first learned about Intermountain in Helena, Montana, I was a new member of Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, MT. A boy named Chip came to speak to us that summer about how he and his four siblings had been saved by an adoptive parent and a program at Intermountain that provided Christian counseling to struggling children and families. Kids like Michael who were physically, mentally, and/or sexually abused and young boys like Chip who were abandoned and/or neglected found the loving, professional help they needed. In addition to a school for pre-school through 8th grade children, there are four cottages on the site. Each one is “home” for up to eight children – and a set of highly trained, loving “dorm parents” live with them. The professional staff at Intermountain also goes into homes and public schools to provide support for parents and teachers. Most of the children aided by Intermountain have what is known as “attachment disorder” because of the way the adults who should have loved and protected them the most let them down in one miserable way or another. It is hard for them to trust any adult.

So, when people like Michael “make it good,” survive in spite of the odds, and go on to finish high school and college, become counselors, and return to the facility to “give back,” they have a greater opportunity for success. They create a “common bond with a wounded soul.” Their background makes them believable. It serves as a springboard to convince the troubled, mistrusting youngster that someone else CAN understand their plight. God uses their sad history to save another soul from a lifetime of continued abuse, neglect or abandonment. The cycle can be broken.

My gratitude goes out to Michael and to all the counselors at Intermountain and at children’s shelters across the world. May your rocky path serve as a lighthouse – a beacon to help others find their way toward a healthy and secure future. With God’s help, you can help heal the wounds and allow God’s children to love and trust again.

With gratitude for what you do and an understanding of the financial needs to carry on your programs, my husband and I donate a small amount monthly to Intermountain. I invite my readers to consider doing likewise. If each of us helped a little, it would add up to a lot – and more needs could be met. God bless you! And God bless the givers who help to make your work possible.

To learn more about Intermountain, log on to: http://www.intermountain.org/   Help meet the needs of a troubled child who is learning to trust again!

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What is Faith?


Foyer

When you enter the foyer of my home, you see a circle staircase that will take you up to my sanctuary. To the right of it is the word art my son and daughter-in-law gave to me for Mother’s Day. It says, “The Greatest of These is Love.” Bob and I appreciate so much the fact that our children see in us the LOVE which is a gift from God, who first loved us. That love is born of FAITH – another Gift from God.

A recent sermon at the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, Montana was a follow-up to the previous Sunday’s Trinity message. Rev. Jean Johnson explained that understanding the concept of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was a matter of Faith… only obtained from God. Not something we could work to obtain by ourselves.

Like LOVE, we receive faith from our Heavenly Father, and as Christians we learn how to LIVE it by studying the life of the Son, Jesus Christ. When we need a “refill,” we go to the Holy Spirit who is our Teacher and Guide here on earth. Today’s sermon contrasted FAITH based on such a gift with faith borne out of reasoning and pragmatic expectations. Here is what the sermon said to me. I took these “notes” while listening intently:

WHAT is FAITH?

Faith is not the product of reasoning.
Faith is a gift from God, our Father.
The skeptics question our beliefs –
And so do some sisters and brothers in Christ.

What does Faith give to me?
What do I get out of it?
Some Christian leaders teach that it is “utilitarian.”
Faith is good because it’s useful.

Pragmatism is a dominating force in the U.S.A.
It is the basis of our consumer society.
Pragmatists go beyond “What IS it?”
They go to “What is it good FOR?”

Some feel FAITH is magic words like “I Believe”
or “Eternal Life is mine.”
When pragmatists hit a crisis,
They give up on Faith; it failed them!

What IS the value of Faith?
Is it what it produces for us?
Most of us believe God is more than
A helpful idea that makes us feel better.

He is more than the Great Granter of wishes.
God is Good… All the time!
Even when our needs are not being fulfilled.
Is Jesus of value for what He can do for you?

Is Faith about getting what you need to make life worth living?
Or is FAITH about a relationship with God?
Prayer is not just a self-help therapy.
Prayer is about listening and praising.

It’s not just about talking and asking!
Do not surrender to pragmatism.
Receive the gift of faith from God.
Pray to listen for God’s desires – and SERVE.

What can I do for God?
What can God do IN me?
God’s tenacious desire to talk to me and love me…
That’s FAITH!

Amen?

Who is This God?


Last Sunday was Trinity Sunday.
Trinity… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
A matter of FAITH.
Read John 16: 12-15. Then ask yourself…

Who is this God who comes to us as a Teacher?
Why is there a prevalence of evil in this world?
If God really exists, as we see Him in our Design,
Then why does our Designer allow hate to be hurled?

If our Intelligent Design didn’t just evolve,
Does there have to be a Benevolent Creator?
With all the violence and disasters and cruelty,
Where is the Creator, the Good and Evil Separator?

If we begin with an observation of what we see,
Our starting point limits us to only what is rational.
What about the place FAITH plays in our belief?
Faith is belief in the unobservable; Sometimes it’s irrational.

Our faith IN God is FROM God through the Holy Spirit,
From the quiet inspiration of the TRUTH Christ revealed.
God climbs down to us, revealing Himself to us
Through the Holy Spirit, the Teacher, through whom lives are healed.

Quietly, the Holy Spirit opens us up to the Good News.
Boldly we affirm our faith in a Loving Father.
How can we see the love in a hurting world of sin?
Be the Love; Live the Faith. Dwell on hate? Nope, why bother?!

(Sermon notes – from JanBeeks’ take on what she heard
Rev. Jean Johnson preach on May 26, 2013)

Increased LOVE, like FAITH, takes EFFORT


Yes, I want to be more kind, more loving, more at peace. Don’t we all? In my quiet meditation time this morning, I stumbled upon 2Peter 1:2-7 and the question that starts that scripture caught my heart. “Do you want more and more of God’s kindness and peace?” I was reading the Living Bible, paraphrased – a large print copy that used to belong to my father-in-law. Gratefully, I inherited it when he passed on to his eternal home. This passage was underlined. Grandpa had double-underlined the next sentence, “Then learn to know Him better and better.” Yes, that’s what my sanctuary time is all about each morning. Study God’s Word, and get to know Him better. What are some of the benefits? The rest of this passage spells it out – and I easily connected the idea of “increased faith” with the reality of “increased love.” But there is a long pathway that leads to increased love (which equates to more of God’s kindness and peace). It takes plain old good, hard work!

“For as you know Him better, He will give you, through His great power, everything you need for living a truly good life: He even shares His own glory and His own goodness with us!”

I have added the capitals to “Him.” The Bible doesn’t capitalize it. For me, the word requires a capital case letter when the him is not just any old him, but the One HIM, our Lord and Savior, God. So, when I share in His glory and goodness, it is special indeed! The scripture doesn’t stop there, though.

Verse 4- “And by that same mighty power, He has given us all the other rich and wonderful blessings He promised; for instance, the promise to save us from the lust and rottenness all around us, and to give us His own character.” Wow! What a promise!! How can I attain such blessings? Some would say it is totally by His grace. I don’t have to DO anything. Just because I BELIEVE I am His “chosen,” I will receive all these blessings. Well, not according to 2Peter 1: 5-7. Read on!

“BUT, to obtain these gifts, you need more than faith; you must also work hard to be good, and even that is not enough. For then you must learn to know God better and discover what He wants you to do.” (That’s always a trick to discern what He wants me to do!)

“Next, learn to put aside your own desires so that you will become patient and godly, gladly letting God have His way with you.” (I am reminded of my oldest grandson, Mikey. He’s now 20, but when he was barely able to pull himself up by his mother’s apron strings and stand knee-high next to her, he would tug on that apron as she warmed his bottle in hot water on the stove. Sure he was starving to death, he would cry, “Paaaay-shuns! Paaaay-shuns!” Ah, we long for it even as we are barely able to verbalize a sentence!)

“This will make possible the next step, which is for you to enjoy other people and to like them, and finally you will grow to love them deeply.”

Grow to love. Grow in faith. Work at it. Take the path that has “exercise stops” along the way. Exercise your goodness first – the goodness Christ has given you. Then stop to exercise wisdom – the knowledge we gain as we study God’s Word and practice being more and more like Christ. Next, exercise selflessness and self-control, the fruits that the Holy Spirit has planted in you. Practice patience and gentleness. Your next stop on the exercise trail is labeled “Gratitude.” It is there that you learn to be grateful for the gifts you have been given while you focus on the gifts in others. You see their goodness, compassion, and faithfulness as God sees them. Put on your Jesus glasses and appreciate all that is unique and wonderful about others. You see them as God’s creations. You have exercised enough now to love them. Love takes effort! It is a gift worth working for. Thank God, He has freely loved us long before we knew how to love Him back. But now we do! We are getting to know God better and better. Praise the Lord!

Yes, the bottom line is the key: Love One Another.

Amen?

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