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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

harriet

It was recently announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Harriet Tubman is remembered as an abolitionist who risked her own life to rescue others, but it is the story of her living faith that truly made her famous.

She was born into slavery around 1820 and was raised as an illiterate child. Harriet’s mother often shared Bible stories and helped to develop a passionate faith in her child.

Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. She made use of a network known as the Underground Railroad to find her freedom. This informal, but well-organized system was composed of free and enslaved African Americans, white abolitionists and other religious activists. Most prominent among the latter in Maryland at the time were members of the Friends Church, also known as Quakers.

Even after securing her own freedom, Tubman later made more than 13 missions to rescue enslaved families and friends. Her notoriety and wide ranging success with the Underground Railroad grew. Tubman was nicknamed “Moses” after the biblical rescuer who delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

Tubman ultimately led hundreds of slaves to freedom. The groups would travel at night and always in secrecy. All of her rescue missions were successful. She “never lost a passenger” and attributed all of her strength and success to God.

Today, even as Christians are being persecuted for their faith, we should look to the story of Harriet Tubman and be reminded how important it is demonstrate a living faith. Harriet’s mother could not teach her daughter to read, but she could share Bible stories to develop a lasting faith. Christians could be fined and arrested for harboring fugitive slaves, but they carved out time and space to help people in need. They shared food, shelter, and protection with fellow believers so that they could find freedom. Harriet also practiced a living faith by crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, risking her own arrest to save others who had no way to escape the cruel grasp of slavery.

Just as God has richly provided for us in 2016, may we boldly live out our Christian faith in a way that benefits others and guides them to a newfound freedom.

 

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I think many people struggle with faith because of how they view God.  Some view God as a rule giver issuing edicts from on high.  Others view God as a divine Santa Claus bestowing gifts and answering prayers.  And many will fall in between the two.

Some resist seeing God as an authority figure altogether.  It may conjure harsh images from their past.  Others resist this view of God for the simple reason of maintaining control.

I believe that it is okay to view God as an authority figure.  There are plenty of times when I gladly submit to authority.  If my computer goes haywire, I call tech support and carefully follow the technician’s guidance.  Sometimes it is a slow, step-by-step process where I need assistance due to unfamiliar territory and a lack of knowledge.  Other times I call for a reminder, receive an update, or get a tune up on my machine and I am quickly back on track.

People also submit to authority when they want to master a difficult sport like golf, tennis, or rowing.  They hire a coach, pay for lessons, or join a club so that practice can yield a great swing, an ace shot, or a straight course on the water. Practice and instruction will yield better performance no matter what the sport.

People also visit the doctor when they are sick and in need of care.  Philip Yancey, the Christian author, shares that, “a doctor is probably the most helpful image for me to keep in mind while thinking about God and sin.”  His view of God speaks to our human condition.  The doctor wants to deliver physical health.  The doctor shares wisdom and expertise that I lack.  The doctor also knows what habits, issues, and conditions are likely to cause injury.   I often receive his opinion on things to avoid and a prescription that will improve my life.  We should seek out God’s advice and opinion for living just like we seek care from a doctor.

It is important how we view God.  Often we do not realize our view of God is skewed, but there is a plumb line to show us what is straight and true.  God has given us His Word as the clearest description of who He is.  In the Old Testament, God reveals His character – His love, righteousness, wrath, justice and promises. In the New Testament, God reveals Jesus – His character in flesh.

Take time to visit with our Great Physician who is always on call.  He knows what can heal, cure, restore, and redeem.

 

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Bible open

It is that time of year when everyone starts to think about new year resolutions. Do something different this year. Instead of focusing on your diet or exercise plan, take time to consider your spiritual condition and how it can improve.

Here is a list of challenging ways to strengthen your faith in 2014.

First, read your Bible on a daily basis.  This may seem daunting to many, but it is a worthy practice.  Take an honest look at your schedule to determine the best time and place to read scripture.  It is okay to block out the time on your calendar.  You can even set an appointment reminder on your computer or phone.  Try to eliminate potential distractions and interruptions on the front end.  Once you find the right time and place, stick to your plan.  Feed your faith.  Make time to hear the message of Jesus.  Allow it to sustain and encourage you in all things. Remember that reading the Bible is a valuable practice.  Every time you do so, you are making time to meet with God.  That is no trivial event.  Each meeting changes us, develops strength in tough times, and allows believers to grow in the example of Christ.

Second, keep a prayer journal.  As you pray for people, life events, and direction, write what you pray for.  How many prayer lists did you throw in the trash this year?  Too often we turn prayer lists into a “one and done” event with no follow through.  Carry these prayer needs over into the next week or next month.  We need to provide greater support to our brothers and sisters by praying them through the tough times of life.  Prayer needs to be more consistent in our lives.  A prayer journal helps us make the practice more constant and genuine.  It is okay to track prayer requests and organize them as you see fit.  This allows us to be more intentional in our petitions to God.  A prayer journal also allows you to see the progress and changes that take place over time.  Odds are that you will discover being transformed as well.

Third, discover your spiritual gifts.  We all have different gifts and abilities.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 shares, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  God has made us all unique, but we are called to use our talents and abilities to glorify God. Discover how God has gifted you.  Take a spiritual gift inventory.  There are plenty of surveys, tests, assessments, and analysis guides online or at your local Christian bookstore.  Remember that there are no wrong answers.  Each survey is a way to discover what characteristics and traits God has implanted in you for service. Once you have completed the survey, pray for God to reveal the best way to use your gifts and talents for the body of Christ.  Seek wisdom and opportunities to use the gifts that you have received from God.

As we prepare for 2014, remember to include God in your personal improvement plan.  These simple steps can strengthen your faith and build the spiritual muscle God wants you to have for the year ahead.

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Seven hundred years before Jesus was born the Prophet Isaiah recorded a message for all of humanity.  “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah gives us a description of the Messiah that bears repeating.

First, “the government will be on his shoulders.”  This affirms the lordship of our Messiah.  We will no longer be disappointed in the judges, leaders, and kings of this earth, instead we will have the perfect, holy, and righteous Son of God to lead us. We anticipate that reign, a day when Christ is Lord over all of creation.

Second, Jesus has become our “Wonderful Counselor”.  In Hebrew, the idea is that His counsel is a thing of wonder and awe.  He is the perfect ruler, a King with no flaws.  As God incarnate, Jesus is the source of all truth.  There is no corrupt judge or lying politician to rule.  Instead we will have the absolute best, a loving Savior who teaches us how to live and find eternity.

Third, Jesus is our “Mighty God”.  The word for “mighty” also means hero.  This conveys how Jesus saves us from death.  Because Christ is God, He can forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate us from the power of evil, redeem us, answer our prayers, restore our broken souls, and reign as Lord—“Mighty God”—over our newly ordered lives.  He is not only the Holy Son of God, but his actions rescue and deliver us.  In this way, he is the greatest hero of all time.

Fourth, Jesus is our “Eternal Father”.  Jesus, the Messiah, gives us “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12-13).  We are no longer orphans out on our own, but members of God’s family.  A family and kingdom that has no end.

Finally, Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”.  While many see this title as an end to war on earth, another battle is in mind.  Jesus brings about reconciliation between God and humanity.  He offers peace from God (Romans 1:7) to all who are the recipients of His grace.  He brings peace with God (Romans 5:1) to those who surrender to Him in faith.  He brings the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) to those who walk with Him.

This one verse continues to shine brightly among Scripture.  It delivers the promise of our Messiah.  It highlights the reign of our future and glorious King.  It also shares how we can ultimately be reconciled and redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

When George F. Handel composed his Messiah in 1741, Isaiah 9:6 was one of the Scriptural texts used.  He saw in this simple verse the profound message of a Savior arriving on earth and decided to set it to music.  May we never cease to praise and glorify God for the beautiful gift of Jesus, our newborn King!

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weddingRingsBible

There is an ever growing list of people who want nothing to do with marriage.  You can now add Lindsey Vonn to the list.  Vonn recently announced she has no plans to walk down the aisle again.

Vonn, the 2010 gold medal Olympian and girl friend to Tiger Woods, shared, “I’m done with that.  The box is checked.  I don’t really believe that you need to be married to someone to be their life partner.”

Her attitude on marriage is increasingly common.  Many couples prefer to live together or in a word cohabit, instead of getting married.  I’ve heard the arguments for the practice.  Folks want to save money, spend more time with the person they love, or test the compatibility of their relationship without all the messy legal problems if it should fail.

Some view the practice as a strong commitment while dating.  Others see it as a prelude to marriage.  But contemporary opinions now view cohabitation as a substitute for conventional marriage.

While attitudes and opinions support cohabitation, the facts do not.  In a piece entitled “The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage,” psychologist Meg Jay of the University of Virginia describes what is known as the “cohabitation effect”: “Couples who cohabit before marriage . . . tend to be less satisfied with their marriages-and more likely to divorce-than couples who do not.”  67% of cohabiting couples divorce compared to 45% of all first marriages.  Additional studies show that women who cohabit are more likely to be abused and to be depressed than women in a marriage.  And if that wasn’t enough bad news, researchers also found that couples who cohabit are more likely to cheat on one another.

This entire notion that you can test drive marriage hurts people and creates unnecessary heartache.  The biblical warnings against cohabitation are affirmed by statistics and the burgeoning trail of wounded people.  Couples often try cohabitation because they have not seen a successful marriage up close.

Pastors can help to reverse the trend by requiring premarital counseling before couples tie the knot.  Churches can also make a difference by mentoring engaged couples.  This is a great way to teach the biblical examples of marriage and build strong relationships.  When couples receive mentoring by their church, 76% stay together, 19% break up before marrying, and only 5% divorce or separate.

We can no longer accept a laissez faire approach to marriage in our community. God has designed the covenant of marriage and we need to continue teaching a biblical approach for couples.  They also deserve quality mentoring from pastors and church leaders who are willing to help the next generation.  May God raise up quality couples who are willing to mentor others and increase successful marriages throughout our community.

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world-trade-center-9-11-cross

Precious Lord, we seek you out on a day remembered for tragedy, heartache, and loss.  We are a grieving people who lost loved ones and friends.  We are a hurting people who were wounded, injured, battered, and bruised.  Across our land and in our faces, we still carry the horrible scars of that September day.

We are a nation who has lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends.  The pursuit of freedom has come with a price at home and abroad. There is pain and suffering from our time of conflict and war.

Redeem us Lord.  We cry out for your presence.  We cry out for your tender mercy. Comfort our grief.  Heal our brokenness.  Restore us anew.  Grant us your perfect peace through Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior.  Amen.

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2 mochas

It is amazing what a handful of people can do with purpose and direction.

In 2004, a group of college students went to Africa to help people in need.  As work projects moved forward, many of the young adults expressed frustration with a perceived inability to make an impact in Africa.  The size and scope of work projects seemed unending.  And with only a few dollars – rather than thousands – to spare, many people felt like their efforts equated to dropping a pebble into the Grand Canyon.

This compelled several people to create a new model of giving.  They asked, “what could be done if we gave up one or two premium coffees and used that money for Africa?”  The group realized that they did not have thousands or millions of dollars, but that they could be faithful with money already in their pockets. This concept of making a difference with faithful giving quickly launched the Mocha Club.

Today, people can sign up, pick a service project and donate the cost of two coffees to impact the people of Africa. This allows people across the globe to pool their resources and make a huge impact in the lives of needy families. Donors can select clean water, education, orphan care, or several other projects to support.  The success of Mocha Club has grown to have a massive impact both in Africa, and beyond.

7 dollars

You can learn more about the organization and see how to make a difference in Africa by clicking on https://www.themochaclub.org/ and join the fight to help people in need.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25, that those who are faithful with small things will be entrusted with great things. They will also hear our Savior say, “well done good and faithful servant.”  Let us continue the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  No matter how great or small the work may be.  May we be faithful in all that we do.

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