A Time

Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Time is an interesting aspect of life. How we measure time, use time, and experience time has occupied the minds of humanity. Many of us when we were younger had a parent, or other adult figure in our lives, tell us that as a person ages, time seems to speed up. While all of us know this is not possible because humans experience time in rigidly defined increments, the feeling that these increments move faster is real to us. We know that every living aspect of creation has determined periods when aspects of life occur. How we live, our activities, the way our bodies respond, and so on changes. Some things become possible and appropriate while others become impossible and inappropriate.

The writer of Ecclesiastes states that there is a defined and appropriate time for everything. This passage goes through a series of contrasts in an attempt to support the central thought that a time exists for all things in creation. What is implied here but not specifically stated is the importance of understanding what season or period of time one is in as a way to choose appropriate actions. Also implied is realizing when an action or direction is not the right one at a specific time.

The rock band, The Byrds, appropriated these verses in a song entitled Turn, Turn, Turn. Listen to this song while you consider the following:

– What time are you currently in at this point in your life?

– Are you making decisions or setting direction according to what is right at this time?

– How do you choose which time to act upon?

Not Ashamed

Read Matthew 10:32-33

Jesus’s words here are difficult to hear. However, they make sense if we are honest. While it may be challenging to acknowledge Jesus and the relationship we have with him outside of our church buildings, it is only a challenge if we are ashamed or afraid. Being respectful of others does not have to mean denying our relationship with the Lord.

These verses reminded me of a song from my post. Listen to the words of this song, Consider how you acknowledge Jesus. Are there times and ways in which you act ashamed?

Not Alone

Read Psalm 36:5-9

Everyone of us have days when troubles seem to abound and solutions appear unattainable. Dreams and hopes can be shattered without any warning. Expectations may go unfulfilled. These are the difficult times in life. No one is exempt from these occurrences, even though others may not perceive them.

It is during these times that it is important to remember how vast God’s love is for each of us. We benefit by recalling the promises of companionship, support and guidance that the Lord has made to us. We are not alone in these times. God’s faithfulness endures forever for each person. Our cries for help are heard by our Lord and we are led by the hand through the darkness. We lay out our hurts, our grief, our hopelessness before the Lord and we are understood. When we  are weary, we receive support. When we are lost, we are led.

The psalmist reminds us of this. The song, Precious Lord, Take My Hand, also speaks to us when these times come into our lives.

Being Christian

Read Acts 11:25-26

In our verses for today, we hear of a gathering of disciples in a place called Antioch. This is where Barnabas brings Saul to help teach people about Jesus Christ. We read here that the followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians in Antioch. This recording of the name given to disciples of Jesus led me to think about what it means to be called Christian.

Growing up in the church and attending Sunday School almost every week, I learned a lot of songs about Jesus, God, and aspects of following Jesus. One such song which was learned was “Lord, I Want To Be A Christian.” The author of the song is unknown and it is listed as an African-American melody. Here are the lyrics:

Lord, I want to be a Christian
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be a Christian
In my heart.

Refrain 1:
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be a Christian
In my heart.

Lord, I want to be more loving
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more loving
In my heart.

Refrain 2:
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more loving
In my heart.

Lord, I want to be more holy
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more holy
In my heart.

Refrain 3:
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be more holy
In my heart.

Lord, I want to be like Jesus
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be like Jesus
In my heart.

Refrain 4:
In my heart, in my heart;
Lord, I want to be like Jesus
In my heart.

As I recalled these lyrics, a few items stood out to me. First is the repetition of the phrase, ” in my heart.” The general understanding of the use of heart in relation to a person is that we are speaking about the core of a person’s life.Since the heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, and blood is necessary to sust ain life, humans have viewed the heart at the center of our life. The desire to be a Christian in this song is a desire that our very core of life be identified as Christian.

Second, the progression of the verses is purposeful. The first verse communicates the overall desire to live as a follower of Jesus. The remaining verses detail how this will be demonstrated and acted upon. The song says that a Christian will be more loving, more holy, and more like Jesus. The song is actually a prayer that with the help of the Lord, the person may truly live from the core as a disciple of Jesus, given the name of Christian at Antioch.

May this be a daily prayer and good for each of us.

Big House

Today I was thinking about the inclusivity of the Lord’s love. From what we see in Jesus’s ministry and the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we learn that God’s love extends beyond all social and geographical boundaries. The limitations which we may have witnessed are human boundaries, not boundaries established by God. Over and over in the Gospel accounts, we observe Jesus shattering any and all boundaries to the love of God. A main component of Paul’s ministry as recorded in Acts and the letters is the message of God’s love to those outside the Hebrew people. This understanding reminded me of the song, Big House, by Audio Adrenaline. I share it with you now in hopes that you can imagine what God intends and that you might offer an invitation to others.

Needing the Lord

There are times when a person may not wish to admit the need to seek out help. It may be due to a sense of self pride. The barrier may be a feeling of shame or inadequacy. A person may not want to be considered a burden on someone else. Whatever the cause, the person does not reach out and admit to anyone their need for help. For anyone facing such a time, this song by Matt Maher reminds us that there is freedom found when we reach out to the Lord.

Our Lord stands always at the ready to assist each one of us. There is no judgment or shaming coming from the Lord. We find rest, support, love and hope in the Lord.

The Potter

Read Isaiah 64:8

Take a moment to look at this artwork created by Nicole Smith. As I gazed at this oil painting, the verse from Isaiah came into my mind. This verse acknowledges that God is the one who has created each of us. God’s hands have been on us and our lives since the day we were conceived. It is important to remember that God has not completed the work of molding us. Each day the molding and shaping of us continues and God’s hands remain on us.

We are not perfected pieces YET. There are times when we cave in on a side and need to be reshaped. We can collapse into a lump because of life’s pressures or our weaknesses. God does not give up on us when we appear to be ruined but gently works with us to begin our re-creation. When the world sees us as a useless lump of clay, God sees the masterpiece which we can become.

“You are the potter. I am the clay. Mold me and make me. This is what I pray.” – Change My Heart, Oh God – Eddie Espinosa

Opening the Eyes

Read Mark 8:22-26

In the story of Jesus healing a blind man near the town of Bethsaida, we see the power of Jesus to open that which has been closed. Jesus takes the blind man who has been brought to him outside of the village. The man is taken out of his comfort zone, his familiar. Once outside the village

Jesus touches his eyes and then asks the man to describe what he sees. The man’s description indicates to us that his sight is only partially restored. Like Paul describes in 1 Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly…” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NRSV) Jesus touches the man’s eyes again and the man’s eyesight is fully restored.

We are spiritually like the blind man. We are unable to see Jesus in a spiritual way. We remain in the familiar because we are unable to navigate safely in the spiritual realm. Then someone brings us to Jesus. Jesus takes us out of our comfort zone. Our spirits are touched by the Lord’s Spirit. At first we can only partially see the fullness of Christ and only partially understand the grace and magnitude of the Lord’s love. There will come a day when our hearts will be touched by the Spirit again and we will be open to see the completeness of our Lord. 

For now we pray this…

Promise of Presence

Today we pause from our exploration of the Lord’s Prayer to experience the promise of the Lord’s presence. Mack Brock, a contemporary Christiain artist, sings of this promise in Your Presence Is A Promise.

Brock reminds us that even in the darkest times of our lives, the Lord’s presence shines brighter. When we walk through the valleys on our journeys, God holds us even stronger. The presence of the Lord guides us, goes before us to prepare the future, and teaches us what we need to know. This promise is faithful and never ending.

What did you discover as you listened to this song?

What did this song affirm for you?

Just As I Am

Today I ran across the lyrics of one of my favorite childhood hymns, Just as I Am. This hymn was written by Charlotte Elliot in 1835. One night before a fundraising event hosted by her brother who was a pastor, she lay awake, troubled by her doubts and fears regarding her usefulness and her salvation. The next day, still troubled, she sat down to write her understanding of the Gospel message. The verses which she wrote became the hymn we have today. (This history was found on Wikipedia.)

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Charlotte Elliot, 1835

The words of this hymn resonated with me as a young boy and at various times throughout my life. Elliot’s words remind me that I can, and should, approach the Lord exactly as I am. I do not need to hide any part of myself. I do not need to have it all together in some proper way. All I need to do is come. When I do, I am certain to find love, acceptance, forgiveness, healing, and cleansing. There is no reason to doubt, fear or struggle in the Lord’s presence.