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Your Way + Your Will

man staring at white sky taken at daytime
 
For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me.  Isaiah 8:11

I remember as a young child, when our family moved to a new neighborhood and I was to attend a new school.  I was a bit more shy in my younger years.  As my parents walked me into this new school, they put a hand on my shoulder.  This was not out of fear that I would bolt and run.  They promised me—gave me their word—that I was going to be just fine in this new environment.  The hand on my shoulder was one of comfort and security.  This hand of the one who loved me and gave me life was a sign that all was good and right. 

The heavenly Father does the same with His children.  We live in an imperfect world, which often causes us fear and worry.  We walk into each new day not knowing what we will face.  The Lord does two important things.  He gives us His Word that all will be fine.  He puts His hand on our shoulder to give us the assurance that His strength is on our side, protecting and directing us.  We never know what the future holds, but we know for sure who it is that holds the future.
 
This is why it is important for us to begin each day in His Word.  It is important that we hear the reassuring voice of the Savior and feel His strong hand on our shoulder.
 
I face challenges each day.  So do you.  We need to remember that it is not about the size of our problems, but it is about the size of our God.  His love never fails!

Father in heaven, thank You for the guidance You give to me each day.  There are those times that I would like to go in a different direction, but I trust in Your way and in Your will.  Strengthen my trust in You and my joy in living under the touch of Your hand.  Amen.  


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Season of Change (Part 3)

open bible book on brown wooden panel

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

This week we’ve been facing the fact that fall is coming and we might as well admit it. Much of getting ready is familiar. It’s finding the same rake you’ve had for years. It’s calling the same furnace repair man whose number is pasted on the side of your furnace. It’s getting your favorite sweatshirt out of the drawer, noticing that it’s been ten years now since the Packers ended the 2010 season by winning the Superbowl. Maybe it’s time for a new sweatshirt.

So, will you try something new this fall? That might take some persuading. I like my familiar things, old sweatshirts and old tools. Change comes best when it’s a gift. When someone gives me something and says, “Here, you’ll like this.” It’s like when our town librarian asks if I’ve ever read a certain author. She says, “Well, you like James Patterson (which I do!) and so I think you’ll like this one too.” How can I refuse? I’ve found a number of great books thanks to those suggestions.

Here, try something new and see if it works. Isn’t it surprising that God says that also in our text? He offers us a new mind and then says, “Try it, see if it works.” We might have expected God to say simply, “Do this.” Fair enough. But here God says that we can take the renewed mind that he gives us and try it out. He even says that we can judge if his way, his mind, works. God is confident that his mind brings the life that he has in mind for us. It’s new to us but old and tested to Him. Here’s his mind, fixed on forgiveness, peace, and kindness. He says, “Try my way. Millions have and it’s worked. Go ahead, try something new.” How can we refuse that kind of offer?  Lord, give us a new mind, your mind of hope and patience. I bet it’ll work.

Our Heavenly Father, what an offer!  You give us a new mind and let us see it work. Give us a mind that’s modeled after you, with faith, hope and love and every other gift you have. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Thirsty

Ball mason jar on table
 
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, asa] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  John 7:37-39

Is there anything more terrible than being parched?  You forgot the water on the hike…you brought water for your softball game, but it was gone by the 3rd inning and now it’s the 10th…you’re on a new medication whose only purpose so far seems to be to suck every last little bit of moisture out of your mouth.

And is there anything better than a cool drink of water to quench that thirst?   Nope.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus loves to talk about physical things, visceral things, earth-y things.  Being parched is something we can all relate to – and so is quenching that thirst.

Enter the Holy Spirit, the One whom Jesus would give after He had been glorified.

The work of the spirit is not talked about in fluffy language.  His work is not described by lines of poetry.  No…the Spirit’s work is described by a palpable human need: thirst.

Our response has to be “Yes, Lord, I’m thirsty.  My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.  I’m parched.  I can’t go on.  I need You!”

We are hungry and need to be fed, sheep who need to be led, lost and need a way, branches that that needs a vine, dead bodies that need to be raised.

And Jesus is all of it, for us.

Gracious Father, continue to work by Your Spirit in the deep places of my heart, so that I see and acknowledge how thirsty I am.  Then, Loving Father, fill me up by Your Spirit so that out of my heart might flow rivers of Living Water.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

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Season of Change (Part 2)

closeup photography of red leaf plant

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

So, if fall is coming, what do you have to do? Embracing fall means more than putting on two T shirts. It’s more than closing the window half way. Face it, when fall comes, you need a new mindset. It’s not two T shirts, it’s time for the sweater you haven’t worn since April. It’s not just closing the window, it’s calling the furnace repair man to make sure that your furnace is ready for winter. It’s not mowing the lawn less, it’s finding your rake and vowing that this year, you’re going to keep up with your neighbors in raking those maple leaves.

It’s having a new mind. That’s the point of Paul’s words. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t just give us a different pattern. He could have said, “Stop following the world’s pattern but instead take on God’s pattern.” That would have made sense. But Paul goes deeper than that when he says to stop being conformed to the outward pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. God doesn’t stop with a simple outward change. He offers us a deeper change by sharing his mind with us. It reminds us of Philippians 2:5 which says, “Have this mind among you which is yours in Christ Jesus.”  That was the mind of service and mercy shown to the world by his incarnation, death, and resurrection.

What would our new mind bring? Maybe we start by asking God’s help in embracing change. Embrace fall’s coming. Embrace God’s change of seasons in your mind. We can ask God to shape our thoughts. David spoke for us all in Psalm 51, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10, 12. Lord, bring us a new mind this fall.

Our Heavenly Father, we want more than an outward change, a slightly different pattern. Create a new mind that is closer to yours. Remind us of the humility and sacrifice of Jesus for us and give us his thoughts. Help us to welcome this change like a season we’ve been waiting for, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Good Fruit

red apples on white ceramic bowl
 
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”  Matthew 7:15-19
 
When hunger strikes and I am craving a healthy snack (normally I prefer the sweet and the salty!) I look for fruit.  Bananas, apples, cherries, blueberries, and grapes are all amazing!  However, after a few days (or sometimes weeks) on the counter or in the fridge, that beautiful fruit can become a bruised, fuzzy, or smooshy substance that looks anything but something I would want to put in my mouth!  
 
Bad fruit is easy to spot.  In our life of faith we are to keep our eyes wide open identifying bad fruit, in this case it is the actions and words of false prophets.  False prophets are sneaky and appear, at first glance, like every other Christian.  Jesus describes them as “coming to you in sheep’s clothing, but are really ravenous wolves.”  Deceptive, false prophets, are hard to spot.
 
How can we tell a wolf from a real sheep?  We look to their fruit.  A bad tree bears bad fruit.  To determine truth, we compare the new prophet’s thoughts with the teachings of Moses, Paul, John and the other apostles, prophets, and evangelists whom God inspired to write the 66 books of the Bible.  If it matches… good fruit… listen.  If it does not match… bad fruit… wolf located… BEWARE!  The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 1, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
 
The good news of Jesus does not change.  Good fruit points us to Jesus. Jesus is the messiah.  Jesus died in our place.  Our sins are forgiven through Jesus.  You are saved by grace.  Jesus is the way, truth, and life, there is no way to the Father except through Him.  That’s Good Fruit… and Good news.
 
Prayer:  Good shepherd, we praise you for watching over us and pointing us to the good fruit of your Word.  Keep us alert and focused that we may not be led astray by false prophets or bad theology.  Teach us to discern bad fruit from the awesome goodness of your mercy and grace freely given to us through Jesus Christ.  It is in His precious name that we pray.  AMEN!

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