Tag Archives: god

Faithfulness

weekly theme #49 Faithfulness*     

week containing the Sunday between October 2-8

Faithfulness seems to be a two-way street.  I receive God’s faithfulness and he receives mine.  Certainly, I have the better part of that arrangement, both in purity of the faithfulness and in its depth.  Yes, without a doubt, I am getting the better end of this relationship.  Then what keeps me from living in complete faith?

I think my faith in God is diluted by my faith in other items: people, money, position, medicine, strategy, organizations, and the like.  All those things are valuable but only as secondary to faith in, and to, the Lord.  What else hinders my faithfulness?  I tend to think of faithfulness as a personally generated quality.  Faithfulness is rooted in my faith, and I can’t generate faith on my own efforts.  God gives faith to me.  (Romans 12:3)  Acknowledging my need for more faith and humbling myself to admit I don’t control it are two excellent steps toward being more faithful.

Trial and difficulty provide pressures that humble me and force me to turn to God.  Either I can beg God to rescue me from my adversity or I can ask him to build my faith as I go through it.  Yes, even faithful people have trials.  Hebrews 11:32-12:2 shows that even faithful followers will suffer.  The severity of suffering will vary, perhaps gauged by what I can bear.  Suffering does not indicate poor faith in me or a lack of love and faithfulness by God.  Suffering and faithfulness can live in the same house.  In fact, Jesus modeled perfect faithfulness and love while simultaneously suffering.  He was faithful to Father as an obedient servant, and he was faithful to me as the loving Lamb of God.

Jesus told a story about a man who entrusted his servants with money to invest for him while he traveled.  (If you don’t know the story, see Matthew 25:144-30 or Luke 19:12-27.)  The story leaves out one character that I longed to know about.  What would have happened if the servant had invested the master’s money, but ended up with less than what the Master gave him?  How would the master have responded?  That bothered me for a long time, but someone told me that the master gave the money to the servants because he had faith they would succeed if they tried.  I don’t need to hide from God’s assignments because he already knows the results.  What happens will be no surprise to him.  Therefore, even if I don’t have faith in myself, I can have faith in the Master’s faith in me!

God is faithful regardless of my unfaithfulness because faithfulness is his character.  I can be faithful because of who he is and in the face of all other things.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Wise Stewards

weekly theme #47 Wise Stewards* 

week containing the Sunday between September 18-24

The mere title for this week convicts me.  God has gifted me with time, and I squander it on activities with few long-term benefits.  Time is not the only gift I squander.  My energy is misplaced or wasted, my mind is distracted or idle, my soul’s flame is erratic, and my emotions flare and fester rather than spur positive action.  Why can’t I be a wise steward in all of life?  Heneri J.M. Nouwen describes it as standing on one side of a huge canyon with the godly life on the other side.  I study, write, and talk about the beauty on the other side of the canyon, but I don’t seem to be able to establish myself there.  Lord, plant me on the other side!

Being a wise steward doesn’t mean I’m the boss.  Saint John of the Cross said that the Holy Spirit produces actions that are peaceful, gentle, and strong.  Being anxious, intolerant, pessimistic, wavering or domineering are all signs of my self-directing soul.  They are all responses to taking responsibilities not intended for me.  When I allow God to direct, he is responsible.  I am responsible to obey, and he is responsible for fruit.  When I usurp his authority to direct, it leads to internal feelings and external actions that are beneath the noble qualities found in family members of the King.  It is tempting to try to play the King, but it is also foolish and fatal.

What does the “wise” look like in stewardship?  James 3:17 uses several adjectives to describe godly wisdom: pure, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, yielding good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Two of those adjectives strike me with the meanings nestled in the Greek.

  • gentle (epieikeia) – knowing when strict justice becomes unjust; able to rightly give mercy; carrying out the spirit of the law rather than the letter
  • good (agathos) – inward good that produces benefit and genuinely good effects/results; appealing to our sense of morals more than to what is seen

It seems new for me to think of being a wise steward of both good and bad, but it makes sense.  Stewardship involves how I treat what comes to me, and bad comes along with good.  The steward of a garden must deal with both the crop and the weed.  A thought, whether good or bad, takes root and bears fruit unless the steward treats each differently.  How I treat the unpleasant in life may be as important as how I treat the blessings.  Both can shape my attitude, beliefs, and actions.  My actions, including my words, are the fruit of the inner me.  (Wisdom is proved right by her actions.  Matthew 11:19)

I have been a steward of people, but I have not always been a wise steward.  I lapsed into using people to complete projects rather than using projects to complete people.  Loving people, being a wise steward of those in my charge, is second in greatness only to loving God.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Forgiveness

weekly theme #45 Forgiveness*      

week containing the Sunday between September 4-10

When I read the theme for this week, I immediately thought of me forgiving others and asking others to forgive me.  However, the readings begin by focusing on God forgiving me.  Even though my sin required Jesus’ death, he forgives me.  Who is this God with such amazing grace and capacity to forgive?  Even more amazing, he eagerly forgives with love and joy rather than reluctantly with duty and a grudge. 

Forgiving is not the same as overlooking.  Forgiveness has obligation on both sides.  When I offend someone, I need to acknowledge my error to the offended and ask forgiveness.  I can’t dismiss it as minor or without consequence.  When someone asks me to forgive them, I cannot glibly dismiss their apology as if there was no substance to their request.  Maybe I did not recognize or feel their offense, but they did.  Coming to me took courage and humility that demands me to acknowledge their offense and respond in respect, love, and forgiveness.  Anything less may cause the person to hesitate to ask forgiveness in the future because they may think their offense was not noticed or that the apology will not be well received.  The process of offending, apologizing, forgiving, and healing is important and requires respect by all parties concerned.

I’ve heard people say that respect is earned, but I don’t agree.  Respect is due every human because of the eternal soul within them.  (Admiration, honor, friendship, and other opinions are usually earned.)  In this aspect, forgiveness is like respect; it need not be earned, only given.  This makes unrequested forgiveness a gift, not something earned by an offender’s apology.  In such cases, the gift is first to me.  I free myself from carrying the burdens of resentment, anger, and revenge.  I may never embrace my offender as a close friend, but I need not grasp them as my enemy.  The gift is secondly to those around me.  They do not suffer because of the moodiness born out of my unforgiving heart.  Finally, the offender may be redeemed through the evidence of my forgiveness.  This is a difficult journey to a worthy destination.

I end this week revisiting the start – God’s forgiveness toward me.  I need not be terrified of his punishment or even that he will ignore me.  He is a fearful God, powerful and righteous, and yet so loving.  “All you who fear the Lord, trust the Lord!  He is your helper; he is your shield.” (Psalm 115:11)

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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God’s Abundant Provision

weekly theme #40 God’s Abundant Provision*    

week containing the Sunday between July 31 – August 6

A few days ago, Psalm 37:4 prompted a good friend to share the desires of their heart.  I listened and considered the items they described and wondered what I would put on my list.  I meandered through some possibilities, but with each one, I asked “Why?”  What do I really want that creates that desire?  I finally ended up with a single word – peace.  I long for an end to strife, worry, crises of time, the reflex for more stuff, desire for accomplishment, unending projects, and restless nights.

That kind of peace is not man-made.  It’s supernatural.  I long for the time when all creation is surrounded and filled with the peace abundantly provided by him.  God provides such peace on his time schedule and in his way.  I need to accept that fact and watch for the unplanned and unusual.

God’s provision exceeds my needs, yet I continue to seek provisions elsewhere.  I do not seek provisions elsewhere because God fails to provide, but because I perceive my wants as needs or God’s timing as too slow.  Yet even then, he stands there offering me what I truly seek, as well as forgiving my impatient and individualistic behavior.

Provision is not the same as a life of personal ease.  Sometimes I am the provision for others; my sacrifice provides what they need.  Other times they sacrifice to provide what I need.  I must be willing to give and receive.  Psalm 105:16-22 tells of Joseph enduring harsh and unjust treatment until it was time for him to be God’s provision for the children of Abraham.  It was a time of testing for Joseph.  Why should I not also have a time testing?  A time that helps me grasp that God alone is enough.

I have a recurring struggle, an inner struggle, when I see so many needs and feel so ill-equipped to deal with them.  Matthew 14:13-21 describes a situation where the disciples felt the same way.  The need exceeded their resources, and they told Jesus how they felt.  Jesus simply replied, “Bring [what you have] to me.”  I am correct when I say the needs surrounding me exceed my resources, but in the hands of Jesus, they are enough, abundantly enough.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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God Our Source Of Hope

weekly theme #39 God Our Source Of Hope*      

week containing the Sunday between July 24-30

My best hope for the future cannot be any earthly thing, family, government, or especially me.  The object of hope must transcend all those things because any of those things can fail, even be the source of my hopelessness.  The source of my hope is critical to the longevity and endurance of my hope.  My hope persists if my source is personal and has a history of reliability.  God certainly meets those two criteria.  Jesus is LORD, and the qualities that make him the perfect LORD will never change.  He is the only thing eternal, and so are his qualities.  Therein is my hope, beyond time or space or any limitation.  The conditions in the world seem hopeless because the solutions seem beyond humanity’s capacity to understand, let alone accomplish them.  Exactly.

To me, hope sounds a little fragile compared to faith.  Faith seems assured and is akin to belief, and hope sounds a bit more wishful and uncertain.  I have experienced both hope and faith, and together they can give me an exciting anticipation for the future.

Many things can thwart my hope’s fulfillment, and two of them are totally my fault.  First, my hope may be within my grasp, but I don’t want to let go of that to which I am now clinging.  Second, I’m not looking for my hope’s fulfillment; I’m just hoping.  In addition, even when I am looking, I can be looking in the wrong places for that fulfillment of hope.    Hope cannot be passive.  Hope without my active cooperation and involvement is really begging.  Begging is appropriate at times, but I must not call it hope.

Stories are perhaps the best way to “teach” hope.  I can enter a story and find my places, both where I am and where I want to be.  Stories confront without being confrontational, call to me without yelling, and instruct without being bossy.  As long as there are stories of hope, there will be hope – and more stories!

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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