Tag Archives: faith

Slides

slides

My aunt and uncle recently delivered to me 46 carousels of slides my grandfather took on trips to Europe and the Holy Land. “But how will I see them?” I wondered. My aunt and uncle brought an old projector that is no longer available in any stores for me to view the images. “But where will I show the slides when I have no blank walls?” My aunt and uncle brought a classic screen that I can unroll and stand anywhere in my home to clearly capture the images on a white background.

My experience with the slides made me think of this passage:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14-15).

We are like the projector that shines the light on the Word of God so that people can see it and understand it. Without the projector, the slides are useless. And without our witness, the message of the Gospel will never be known.

We are also like the screen. Without the Word of God reflected upon us, people will never see how the image of Christ will impact the blank slate of our lives. The story of our faith is revealed only when it is captured in our words and actions illuminated by Christ.

My grandpa’s journeys are shown in his slides. And our journey of faith is shown in our Savior. Do all you can to shine the light on the one who is the Light of the World. Then people will know. People will see. And people will believe.

Virtual Choirs

In this new age of keeping our distance, people have found creative ways to come together as disciples of Christ. One of those ways is through virtual choirs in which many people in various places and spaces lift up their voices to the Lord through Zoom or other video chat programs. It is interesting to watch and listen to virtual choirs to see the joy on singers’ faces and to still hear the harmonies blending beautifully through the screen.

Here is a link to one example of a virtual choir of Augustana College alumni singing, “For the Beauty of the Earth”:

The increase in virtual choirs during this time shows to me that people are craving the experience of singing songs to the Lord together. It is something that is missing from even in-person worship with parishioners’ voices muffled behind masks.

The virtual choir is a a visual representation of the expanse of the Church. The Church is never confined to one place, but is scattered throughout the nation and the world, bringing good news of the beauty our Lord provides to people throughout the earth. We have known in theory that the Church is present worldwide, but now we see it and sense it on our computer screens. When we join our voices with those we hear on screen, we feel the bond of faith we share and we welcome the community of believers into our hearts and homes. Our common tie to Christ as our Lord and Savior connects us and streams through us as we sing.

Search for virtual choirs online and let the notes you raise in chorus with them be a sacrifice of praise to the Lord for his many blessings and music to his ears.

A Boat in the Storm

When the disciples were with Jesus on the boat and a storm blew in, the disciples turned immediately to Jesus. But Jesus was asleep. “Save us,” they pleaded. But Jesus calmly said, “O you of little faith,” and quietly said to the wind and the waves and the rain, “Be still.” And immediately they were still and the disciples were astonished: “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey them him?”

This story is very much like our lives. We are very much at peace in the boat of our lives with Jesus asleep inside. Then when a storm comes along and rocks the boat of our lives, we panic and we rouse Jesus from slumber, begging him to save us. Jesus, without much fanfare, stills the storm in our lives and renews faith in us. Peace returns to our hearts and Jesus remains to dwell by our sides.

The boat of our lives continues to sail until it reaches the shore of heaven, where we will dwell in perfect harmony in blessed union with Christ and our fellow lifemates giving praise to our God who welcomes us to the eternal banks of glory in paradise.

The storms that come along can be all sorts of things. They can be physical upheavals like sickness and disease, chronic illness or pain. They can be earthly like rainstorms, hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes or other disasters. They can be spiritual turmoil like lack of faith and trust., a loss of reliance on prayer and devotions and a turning away from Scripture for help and strength.

When Jesus tells the wind and waves, “Be still,” he is telling us too, to be still. We are not to get anxious or panic when things start going wrong. The arrival of trouble means that we need to look to God and know that he is who he says he is. “Be still and know that he is God,” Psalm 46:10 says. In our stillness, we know and remember that God is trustworthy, faithful, strong, confident, courageous, comforting, loving, peaceful and caring. These attributes will never change, though the world continues to change all around us. The trouble and turmoil of this world obey the voice of the Lord. We should never think that trouble and turmoil can overcome the power of God in our lives.

When we think of Jesus sleeping in the boat during the storm, we often think he is not caring or paying attention to our troubles and turmoil. But the truth is that he is asleep because he is not worried about the trouble and turmoil. He is taking care of them.

The Faith of the Centurion

faith

When Jesus encountered the centurion, it was the centurion who knew what Jesus could do for him. He asked for healing for his sick servant. The centurion understood what it meant to be leader over others. “I say ‘Go’ and they go. I say ‘Come’ and they come.” He knew the power a leader had and obedience a servant under his command had. We learn that Jesus is our supreme leader and we are his servants. It is our duty to obey him. The centurion showed obedience to the Lord, through his words and actions, and the Lord healed the centurion’s servant. The Lord even said, “Not in all of Israel have I found such faith.” This was a shocking statement because the centurion was not a member of the tribes of Israel, God’s people. The centurion was a Roman, an enemy of the people of God. The Romans were rulers over the Israelites. Israel was an occupied nation. What is interesting is that we live as foreigners in a foreign land. We are not citizens of the earth, but citizens of God’s kingdom. What this reminds us of is that followers of Christ are present in the kingdom of God. But there are those like the centurion who honor and respect the Savior and trust his judgment even though he is part of a group that does not believe in him.

Persecution

persecution

We don’t often think about being persecuted for our faith in our modern times, but the truth is that 1 in 9 Christians experience high levels of persecution worldwide and that on average 11 Christians are killed every day for their faith (World Watch List 2019, 5). What can we do with this information? What can be our response? One response, of course, is to pray for those who are being persecuted. Ask that God keep them strong and firm in their faith. Another response is to treasure the freedom we have to worship our Lord and Savior in this country and to recognize that we are blessed to be faithful in our following of Christ unobstructed and unencumbered. Lastly, we can respond by recognizing that following Christ can be a dangerous venture, and one that is not to be taken lightly. We may not experience persecution for our faith right now or as overtly in other countries, but we need to be aware that suffering is part of the Christian walk to one degree or another. We need to stay strong, therefore, in the face of those we may ridicule us for our faith or may question why we follow Christ. This type of “mini-persecution” should never deter us or turn us away from our Lord. This should only make a stronger. Our faith is a matter of life and death. As the Bible says, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). For his power is greater than any power that world can throw at us—even death!

Reaching Out to Generation Z

reaching out to Gen Z

Referred to as post-millennials, iGen, or most commonly Generation Z, this group’s oldest members (born between 1999 and 2001) are now entering college, classically a time when the “rubber hits the road” for faith and ministry in a young person’s life. Christianity Today recently led a panel discussion of pastors to get a bead on where these shepherds see Gen Z Christians going as they “head out on their own” in their faith. (From “Bringing GEN Z Into Focus,” CT Pastors Special Issue, Spring 2019, 24-25).

• They want to see how their faith speaks to every aspect of their lives: where they work, where they play, where they worship.

• They want to know how their faith will engage the issues that are important to them.

• They want their faith represent the diversity they see present in the world.

• They want their faith to have a digital presence.

What can we as faith leaders learn from these insight? First, we must show application of our Christian faith, not just talk about it on Sunday mornings. We need to give practical suggestions on how our faith can be lived out Monday to Saturday.

We also need to need shy away from issues that are of interest to Gen Zers, even if that might be uncomfortable for us. Give Gen Zers the space to talk about these issues and then share how these issues relate to our beliefs of faith.

While our faith communities may not be as diverse as we would hope them to be, we can in our worship incorporate music from other cultures and integrate text in sermons and other spoken parts of the service that resonate with various ethnic origins that represent the Church as a whole.

Having a digital presence as a faith community is key and keeping it up-to-date is essential for Gen Z to stay engaged and interested in what is happening at church through websites, Facebook pages, twitter handles and Instagram posts. They too are sharing their faith digitally, so we as a church body need to be in those spaces as well with clear Christian messages.

We have a wonderful opportunity to grow as a community of all generations through the input and impact of Generation Z.

Stay Strong

stay strongI found this prayer in a booklet I wrote long ago and it was one of those times when it felt like my past self was talking to my present self and saying, “Listen up!”

Here is the prayer:

I am feeling weak. But you, O God, are strong. And you give strength to your people. As you gave strength to Abraham, so keep me strong in my faith. As you gave strength to Moses, so keep me strong over the long haul. And as you gave strength to David, so keep me strong in the face of giant obstacles.

This prayer helps me to remember that I am not alone whenever I feel weak. Our great patriarchs felt weak in their lives, and God gave them strength. Abraham in his old age (and Sarah in her old age) were promised a son but it didn’t happen right away. But God gave Abraham strength to have faith in the promise. And Isaac was born in God’s time. God even gave Abraham the strength to be willing to sacrifice that son until an angel stopped him from going through with it. That same strength from God keeps me strong in my faith in him no matter what the promise or test.

I think of Moses, too, who felt weak in leading the Israelites out of slavery, saying he didn’t speak well. But God gave him strength to lead his people out of Egypt and guide them on a 40-year journey through the wilderness to the doorstep of the Promised Land. That same strength from God keeps me patient and confident in the extensive journeys through my life and through any qualms I may have of not being capable of completing the plans he has for me.

Then there is David, who as a young shepherd boy, seemed to be no match to the giant Goliath. But God gave David strength to fling his slingshot with a stone and fell that foe. God gives me that same strength against the giant foe of the devil that I may defeat his slings and arrows with the Word of God in my arsenal. I may be small in the grand scheme of things, but I am mighty in the presence of the Lord. Let me never forget that.

 

 

Gentleness

gentleness Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

One part of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. And in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wants to make sure that this congregation’s gentleness is evident to all. Why? Because the Lord is near. Our gentle ways should be what people are seeing at work in us when the Lord returns.

In a world that is often hostile, angry and at odds with one another, our gentleness as Christian people can stand out. What do we mean by being gentle? We only need to look to our Lord Jesus when he was on this earth for guidance. He said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He took little children into his arms and blessed them (Mark 10:16). He spoke gently even of those who were crucifying him, saying, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

In the same way, we can be people of gentleness by being humble in our approach to people, by embracing children and caring for those around us in a loving way, by blessing those around us with the peace of God and encouraging them in their endeavors. We can be gentle in our forgiving of those who have hurt us, recognizing that we are all sinful and in need of the grace and mercy found only in the cross.

Even when we witness to others of the hope we have in Christ, we are to do so “with gentleness and respect,” St. Peter says (1 Peter 3:15). We need to be comforting in how we share our faith, not overbearing. Our goal should always be to be kind and helpful and reassuring. That is what gentleness is all about. Be gentle in your ways today, with the help of God.

 

 

Moon Rocks

Moon rocksI read an article recently that after Neal Armstrong brought back moon rocks from the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, they were distributed to all 50 states, but many of the mementos vanished. Saddened by this development, intrepid rock hunter Joseph Gutheinz made it his mission to find the missing treasures. He has successfully located all the states’ rocks, except for 2, New York and Delaware, and he hopes to find those by the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019.

While some of the rocks were stolen, amazingly, Gutheinz discovered that an estimated 40 states did not record where they put the moon rocks, and they simply lost track of them.rock plaque

How could this happen, we ask ourselves. But the truth is that something similar can happen with the treasure of our faith in Christ that we have been given by the power of the Holy Spirit through our baptisms.

Our precious faith can sometimes get ignored under that piles of work assignments, school activities and personal hobbies. For instance, if you can’t think of where to find a Bible in your home, then perhaps it is time to put the Bible front and center in your living space to remind your entire household that our faith is precious and needs to be honored and recognized.

The same goes for those who have wondered away from the faith or whom we have simply lost touch with. If you haven’t talked to a special friend in the faith for awhile, it is probably time to set aside some time to search for them and reconnect with this treasured person in your life.

I am reminded of the parable of the woman searching for the lost coin. Like Getheinz with the moon rocks, she is determined to keep looking for the coin until she finds it, and then she is overjoyed when she does.

Our attitude should be the same in our re-embracing of our faith and our fellow followers of Christ. Never let the Word of God or the bonds we have with others disappear from our lives!

Loading Brush

loading brushIn Wendell Berry’s recent book, The Art of Loading Brush, he talks about the the fact that in agrarian life there is a certain way to go about, an “art”  to, the mundane task of loading brush. “The loader must pay attention to each limb so that all the brush can fit on one wagon load,” a character in Berry’s story says. “If the art of loading brush dies out, the art of making music finally will die out too,” the character continues. Berry draws a connection between the rural and the urban life and how the practices in one can inform the other and vice versa. We should not live in one world, and not be informed about the other, he dontends.

But Berry also makes it clear that something like loading brush needs to be learned and practiced. This is something that must to taught from one generation to another.

This reminds me of the words of our God in Deuteronomy 11:18-19:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

It is our task as parents and Sunday school teachers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, even neighbors and friends to pass on the faith to future generation so that they know about the great love of God for them. Otherwise the faith will die out if it is not passed on.

I am also reminded of the words of Romans 10:14-15:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The “going about of” faith, the “art” of faith, cannot continue if people are not told. We are to be “the beautiful feet” who share the practices of prayer, worship, Bible study and devotion, who proclaim that Christ is our Savior from sin, death and the devil, and that by believing in him we may have everlasting life in him. At times this teaching of the faith may seem mundane, but it is not optional, It is something that has to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit that all may know the truth of the Good News!

Who is someone you can teach the faith to today?