Big Enough God

Posted 1/13/2019

J. B. Phillips wrote a popular book entitled Is Your God Too Small? Another more recent book is entitled Is Your God Big Enough? I find myself pondering these two questions as I consider the anxieties and fears of many Christians these days. 

Is your God too small? Is your God so small He is unable to handle the trends and realities of the world in which we live? Is your God too small to ensure the continued existence of the Christian faith, no matter what may be the current political and cultural trends?

Is your God big enough? Is your God big enough to keep you safe, even in a world that to you may at times seem hostile? Is your God big enough to ensure you are able to be faithful, no matter what conditions may prevail in our world?

It seems to me one of the challenges that faces us as Christians in America at this time is believing in a God who is big enough. A God who is big enough to redeem and save — no matter what else may be going on in the world. A God who is big enough He is in control of history, no matter what may seem to be the current cultural or political trends. A God who is with us every step of the way and will enable us to remain faithful even as we pass through the difficult times.

Is your God too small? Is your God too small to be the one who is the redeemer of the world? Is your God big enough? Is your God big enough that He is able to redeem all of history? What size is your God? 

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Epiphany

Posted 1/6/2019

Epiphany. Such a strange word. In our world we tend to think of it as something that just comes to us — a flash of insight that comes out of the blue. 

Yet in Scripture, in the language of the Church, epiphany is about the revelation of God. It is about humans coming to see God, such as when Moses saw God in the burning bush. Within the church Epiphany is God showing himself to us. 

Today is called “Epiphany.” It is the last Sunday in the Christmas season and it is the Sunday we celebrate the coming of the magi (astrologers) to worship the Christ child. It is the day we remember the revelation of God’s grace offered to everyone — even Gentile astrologers. Even you and me.

And it is a day for us to reflect on to whom and where God might be revealing himself today. Epiphany is a day to recognize the broadness of God’s grace — a grace that reached out beyond the boundaries of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament (the Jews) to include Gentiles (all non-Jews), despite the barriers the Jews raised against this. A grace that still reaches out beyond all the barriers and boundaries we might erect. A grace that includes everyone — even our enemy!

As we celebrate Epiphany — God revealing himself to us — let us also take the time to consider the question, “To whom might God be revealing himself today? Who might be today’s magi, the unexpected ones who have come to see the wonder of God’s work of grace among us this day?”

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Waiting

Posted 12/23/2018

We live in a world where “time is money” and waiting is a waste. In our fast-paced, always on the go world, waiting is probably among the least liked activities of our lives. Yet we do a LOT of waiting! We wait for appointments and planes. We wait for spouses and children. We wait in checkout and traffic lines.  And in our Christian life we wait. During Advent we wait for the coming of Jesus. 

But what do we do while we wait? I know beginning in college I got in the habit of carrying something to work on with me almost everywhere I went. When I’d wind up waiting for an appointment, I’d pull out a book and study. When I wound up in a line, I’d grab my flashcards out of my pocket and review. I admit that while I don’t carry flashcards in my pockets anymore, I usually do carry something to read. I hate just sitting and waiting.

But what do we do while we wait for God to act? While we wait for the coming of the baby? While we wait for Jesus to come again? What do we do while we wait?

Scripture suggests at least 3 things we can do while we wait. 1. Share our longings and desires with God. Over and over in the Psalms we see fervent prayers offered while the psalmist waited. 2. Wonder at God’s promises. The truth is what God has promised is wondrous! When we know we are about to get the gift we’ve longed for since forever, we are filled with wonder. That is the gift God gives, and it calls for our wonder. 3. Praise God for what God has done and is doing. If God’s gift calls for our wonder, it also calls for our praise and thanksgiving. These are three things we can do while we wait.  

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Emmanuel

Posted 12/16/2018

The gift of God’s presence among us — the gift of Emmanuel — is the gift of Christmas. It is the gift for which we are preparing during these days of Advent. God’s wondrous gift of God’s own presence among us in Jesus means several things, things we reflect on during this time.

It means, as John the Baptist and the prophet recognized, that we are confronted with God’s holiness. God’s presence means finding ourselves faced with God’s judgment and purifying fire. It means coming to see ourselves as we really are.

It means, as the hope of Israel reminds us, that God has come among us as Savior. While God’s holiness challenges our very sin; God’s grace walks among us as the gift of salvation. God’s last word in coming among us isn’t one of judgment, but one of grace. God’s desire is to redeem. 

And God’s desire to redeem leads to another wonderful truth about God among us — God delights in us. God rejoices in us. God takes joy in us. Like the parent who delights in his/her child, even when the child is not behaving; God continues to delight in us as his own creation. God loves us!

It is God’s love, God’s delight in us, God’s redemption that leads to the final aspect of what it means for God to be in our midst. It means our delighting in God. It means our hearts being filled with thanksgiving and praise to the one whose love for us is beyond all measure and whose desire for us is without limits. 

Christmas means God is in our midst. In Advent we prepare thankfully and joyfully ourselves for the wonderful, awe-inspiring reality of a holy God who loves us coming into our lives today. 

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Preparing for Jesus

Posted 12/9/2018

As we walk closer and closer to Christmas, the sounds of celebration surround us. Lights, laughter, plans for family gatherings — all these are parts of the way our world celebrates Christmas.

Yet as Christians who are preparing for the coming of Christ there is also a “somber” side to our celebration of Christmas. It is the recognition of the fact Jesus came to be our Savior. It is the acknowledgement that we are sinful and needy people — people who need someone to save us. 

In the midst of all the joyous celebrations, it can be hard to stop long enough to acknowledge why Jesus came. It is so much easier to simply celebrate the birth of a baby — always a joyous occasion. It is much easier to stay in Bethlehem at the stable. 

Yet this baby was born to grow up into a man who willingly died on a cross. This baby was born to restore our relationship with God. This baby invites us to acknowledge the truth about ourselves.

And when we do acknowledge that truth, we recognize that we need God’s forgiveness. We recognize that our lives need changed. We recognize that part of celebrating the birth of this baby is taking time to seriously consider our lives and our priorities. 

Taking time to prepare for this baby can be difficult in a world focused on only a joyous celebration. But opening our hearts to God’s transforming power that has come to us in Jesus is the way to prepare for this baby!

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Promises

Posted 12/2/2018

Already the lights of Christmas can be seen everywhere. It was several weeks ago that the stores began to try to entice us to begin our Christmas shopping. The Christmas parades have begun. The excitement of Christmas is in the air. We have entered into a time of expectation — a time filled with promise.

The very fact that this time of year is a time filled with promise is what fuels the anticipation of children. They eagerly look forward to Christmas Day. They can hardly wait to see what will be under the Christmas tree. The hustle, bustle and demands of Christmas may drive the excitement of the season out of the hearts of adults, but for children this time of year is nothing but excited anticipation of what is to come. 

And it is anticipation that lies at the heart of Advent. Anticipation of a promise — God’s promise. Advent is a time to remember the promises of God. To recall both what God has done in fulfilling his promises and what God still promises to do. It is a time to remember how God fulfilled the promise of the prophets that a savior would be born. It is time to remember the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem. But it is also time to remember the promises of God yet to be fulfilled. To remember with hope the promise of peace throughout the world. Of deep, lasting joy. Of love that extends to everyone. Of a hope fulfilled. Of God’s kingdom fully visible in our midst.

Advent is a time of expectation. It is a time of rejoicing in the  God’s fulfillment of promises and a time of waiting for God to completely fulfill His promises.

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Jesus is the Truth

Posted 11/25/2018

Pilate asked “What is truth?” In our world where there seems to be little agreement on facts, that might be a question many are asking today. However, there is one definition all Christians should be able to agree upon: Jesus is Truth.

To say Jesus is truth is to say that Jesus shows us the truth. Jesus shows us the truth about God. But Jesus also shows us the truth about ourselves. In Jesus, we are invited to take a long, hard and honest look at ourselves. We are encouraged to give up the illusions about ourselves that the world tries to tell us is the truth. We are enabled to see our own sinfulness, our own vulnerability, our own need for God.

To say Jesus is truth is to say Jesus lived the truth. Jesus lived as the one true human. In Jesus we see what humanity was created to be. In Jesus we see what God invites us to become. 

To say Jesus is truth is to say we want to live in the truth. We want to live in and for the one who is truly king — king of a kingdom that is both outside this world and that has come into this world in a decisive way in Jesus.

Jesus is truth — the king of truth. The one who holds — who is himself — all the truth that really matters. 

As Christians, we say Jesus is the truth, Jesus shows the truth, Jesus lived the truth. We also say we want to live in the truth Jesus reveals. We want to live the truth that Jesus revealed. We want our lives to be shaped by the truth Jesus shows us.

Jesus is the truth. On that we can depend.

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Hope

Posted 11/18/2018

Hope can be a fragile thing that broken dreams and disappointments can wipe away. Yet as Christians, we know that hope is an indispensable part of our faith. Without hope, our faith is meaningless — not even good for this world.

Yet how do we maintain hope in a world that is filled with so much hopelessness and so many disappointments and griefs? In a world like ours, is there any possibility of maintaining hope? And if so, what does that hope look like?

Some today believe hope looks like having a life without problems or difficulties. Yet Scripture doesn’t promise those who follow Jesus trouble-free lives. What Scripture promises is hope. And that hope is, at its heart, a trust in the faithfulness of God. It is a trust that finds expression in our confidence that God is able to bring good out of even what others intend for evil. (Consider the story of Joseph and his response to his brothers in Genesis 50:20.)

How can we have hope? We can have hope because we know the faithfulness of God. We have seen God’s faithfulness in sending Jesus, fulfilling promises given. We have seen God’s faithfulness in bringing new life out of Jesus’ death on the cross.

We can have hope because we have experienced God’s faithfulness in the gift of the Spirit. We have known God’s faithfulness in our own lives. We ourselves know we have passed from death to life by the power of the Spirit.

In a world filled with hopelessness and disappointments, we live in hope — hope in the faithfulness of God.

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Being Like Jesus

Posted 10/28/2018

Genesis tells us humanity was made in God’s image; and over and over in Scripture we are invited to become more and more like God in Christ. But what does that mean?

I used to think that becoming like Jesus meant primarily being a moral person — doing the right thing. But as I’ve grown older I think it is as much about our attitudes and characteristics as it is our actions. You see who we are drives what we do. 

And I think this is particularly true when it comes to stewardship. Yes, stewardship is about how much we give. But it is at a much deeper level about the kind of people we are. Are we generous people? Or are we reluctant to share with others — especially those we deem “not worthy”? Do we give gladly? Or do we give with a grudging heart? Do we plan to give and look for opportunities to give? Or do we only give when someone draws our attention to a crisis of some kind?

Jesus is the model we are given for our stewardship. Jesus gave everything. He left heaven and came to earth for our sake. He went to the cross and died for our sake. Jesus held nothing back. 

And Jesus did all this for us, as Paul reminds us, “while we were yet sinners.” Jesus didn’t do it because we were worthy in some way. He did it because he loves us — even when we are sinners.

So the question for us becomes, do we dare to give in a like manner? Do we dare to love in a similar way? Jesus is the model for our stewardship. Do we dare to be stewards who follow Jesus in our giving?

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It's All God's

Posted 10/21/2018

One of the hard things for we Americans to get from our heads into our hearts is the fact that all we have and all we are is a gift from God. We live in a society of “self-made men” (and women). Our society insists we are the ones who make something of ourselves — or have failed to make something of ourselves. 

Yet Scripture, and the Christian faith, takes a far different view of humanity. We may make ourselves, but when we grab the reins of our own lives in that way we are living in idolatry. We are seeking to live independently of God. The creation story in Genesis, however, tells us we are God’s creatures, whose very existence depends on God. We haven’t made ourselves — God made us. And it is God who has given us all our abilities, so even what we “earn” really comes from God.

That’s a tough message to accept in our culture because it goes against everything our culture tells us. But it is the truth that is at the core of Christian stewardship. We give because God has given to us. We give out of thanksgiving, knowing just how much God has given to us — literally everything we are and have. 

In our culture, stewardship isn’t easy. But it is a vital Christian discipline. It reminds us God is our creator. It helps us grow in gratitude. It teaches us compassion. 

As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, I invite you to take the coming month to seriously think about your stewardship — the way in which you are giving thanks to God for all God has given you.

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