How Many More Days?

We have a little Christmas calendar, but is in the shape of a clock.  My youngest son is the keeper of the calendar.  Each day he adjusts the hand that signals one day closer to Christmas.  As we get closer and closer to the big day, he gathers more excitement in his voice as he announces that we are one step nearer to Santa’s visit.  We all laugh and encourage him to keep us on track.

MacDonald the Younger’s excitement reminds me of the eagerness that comes with the anticipation of what is to come.  Whether it be the joy of the Christmas season, the possibilities of traveling to new and exotic places, or a planned night out with my wife, I am guilty of being caught up in what lies ahead.  I recapture the energy of my youth.  There is a magic to this time of year.

I continue to think of the idea of joy and happiness and wonder if my life emulates this kind of excitement.  Have I become stale in my faith?  Heaven forbid that I have lost that moment when my life changed, and I surrendered my heart fully to the presence of God.  Have I truly forgotten the feeling of divine peace?  May it never be so.

My hope is that this Advent time will remind me of the joy of being a newcomer to the faith.  As I reclaim the special moment of my conversion, I hope to continue forward sharing the hope that is found in my faith.  Perhaps that is why we celebrate a season of anticipation every year; so that we can embrace and remember the freshness of belief.  This may be the time that hope is reborn, and excitement comes in our recalling of how we were made whole.

Imagination is a Good Thing

We are blessed with the gift of imagination.  It allows us to fill in dots in innovative and creative ways.  We explore, we learn, we grow.  All this from the brain that is hard wired to express our own unique view of the world and the Creator that fashioned us in the image of the Divine.  

We are blessed to be given the ability to live with a passion that moves us and motivates us to have a sense of meaning and purpose in the world.  When we connect spirit to spirit with the Prime Mover, there is nothing quite like it.  We are energized and equipped to have an awareness beyond our own comprehension.  This reality cannot be explained, it can only be experienced.

Beware of those who try to steal your joy.  Run from those who seek to overpower you and attempt to cast judgement on your own unique approach to understanding the world.  These people are wolves in sheeps clothing.  They cast doubt and despair on your joy.  To say that they are dangerous is an understatement.  Be on guard against them, for they will disguise themselves as well intentioned people filled with the spirit of God, only to leave you dazed, confused, and hurt.  You must avoid them at all cost.

Direct your energies to the God of your understanding.  Allow the joy of your unique vision of the Creator to be your primary focus.  This is what will sustain you and bring you joy.  This is the well spring of hope; this author and creator of all that we are.

Today, I am grateful for the people who strengthen me, and encourage me to look beyond the limitations of those who try to steal my joy.  I am grateful for a God who continues to work through me and empowers me beyond my own imagination.  Praise be to God who gives us a renewal of spirit each and every day.  I pray that you may live in the power of God, in your own language, in your own way.  Thanks be to God.

Finding Our Way

I enjoy the Gospel of Mark.  I enjoy the way the narrative of Jesus is told as the issue of miracles is deeply embedded in the rich tradition of the text.  The miraculous is witnessed throughout all of the population.  I am speaking about a people that strive to exist in the world and hungers to have the Divine change their lives.  We see the radical changes in the lives of those who Jesus heals.  All of these changes cannot be defined in any terms other than miraculous.
Ah yes, the miraculous.  That space in which there is no explanation for an occurrence in our everyday life.  Somehow that which is infinitely bigger than who we are steps into our lives and we are changed (or saved) as a result of this heavenly occurrence.
Jesus brought this incredible love of God into our world and empowered those who called upon the redemptive presence of God to be living miracles in the lives of all who they encountered.  “Wait a minute Joe!  Didn’t Jesus instruct us that the greatest two commandments are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves?”  While the answer to the question is yes, I believe that our actual obedience to these instructions to love is miraculous in itself.
How is someone’s life changed?  It is through the interaction with others.  God’s love is displayed in kindness.  Maybe this person has never known an act of mercy.  Maybe violence and abuse have been the barometers by which one may view their relationships with others.  This kind of pattern or cycle is reflected in how someone might perceive God.
We, the disciples of Christ, are called to set people free of all of the baggage that ties one to death.  We are called to be liberators who bring the miracle of truth to those in need.  This truth is grounded in the love and transformative power of Christ.  With the power of the Holy Spirit working through us, and yes even in spite of us, we offer a world the gift of restoration back to the Holy One.
Our calling began with that still small voice inside us.  I believe that is the presence of God in our lives.  Our teachers nurtured that voice.  These men and women of God encouraged us to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ.  We followed their example and now we are the ones to share the good news of faith, hope, and love to our world.
In the Gospel of Mark, we see how the disciples were taught and then empowered to share the incredible power of God by the greatest of all teachers.  We see how Jesus not only talked the talk, but walked the walk.  His lessons left a profound impact on not only a select group of men, but also the entire population who saw him demonstrating God’s love to humanity.  That love is displayed to us today in miraculous ways.  May we take the love that is shown to us and bring the miracle of God to our world.

Redeemed 101

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south” (Psalm 107:1-3 NRSV).

We are very good at throwing around “Christian” words and phrases without truly understanding what in the world they mean.  The word of the week that calls to me is the word “redeemed”.  What does the word mean?  How does it fit into my life and my faith?  When I say that I have been redeemed, what am I really saying about God?

According to my little handy dandy dictionary on my iPhone one of the definitions of redeemed is “to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom.” The actual word “redeemed” originated in the late Middle Ages and is used in some combination with the verb “emere” which means “to purchase.”  There was a price that needed to be paid in order to release or restore a person from captivity.

It is important to understand from where we draw the understanding of God’s redemptive love.  Psalm 107 was written way before the time of Christ and is taken from the Hebrew Bible.  The Psalm is one of praise and celebrates the Hebraic understanding of the redemptive power of God.  In Jewish theology, the concept of being redeemed was to be set free.  One of the prime examples of a release from bondage occurred when the people that were called the “Children of Israel” were delivered out of slavery in Egypt and led by God to the land (Canaan) that was promised to the descendants of Abraham.  Another example of the redemptive act of God found in the Hebrew Bible is the return of those exiled in Babylon.  God called them back, or redeemed the people.  This restorative power of God displayed the covenantal agreement between the Hebrew people and God.  In the agreement God pledged that God would never leave His chosen people.  “Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6 NRSV).

As Christianity began to spread throughout the world, one of the key foundational components of the new faith was the redemptive gift that God offered humanity in the form of Christ, God’s son.  The idea of a purchase for something to be set free became a critical portion of the Christian understanding of redemption.  To understand the definition through the filter of my own Christian faith, God restored me from a prison in which my very soul was chained and offered Jesus as payment for my release. The concept of redemption further developed as God’s gift to the world (Jesus) became the price for our release from captivity.  We see the nature of the Divine flowing through the miracles that Jesus performed, the wisdom of Jesus’ teachings, and the ultimate sacrifice of Divine bloodshed on the cross.

The price that God paid to ensure our freedom was amazing.  The sacrificial offering of Jesus proved beyond any doubt that God loved humanity in an incredibly radical and awesome way.  Christ’s sacrificial act purchased our freedom from the bondage of sin and renewed our relationship with the All-Mighty.  Praise to the one who freed us from captivity!

When I talk about being redeemed I refer to God’s faithful and incredible effort to pay the ultimate price for my heart.  I often times am very humbled at such a gift.  It is very difficult to understand or comprehend that kind of love.  Praise be to God that I don’t have to fully understand it.  I simply accept the gift of love.

As we offer our gratitude for life during this Thanksgiving season, let us be grateful for our redemption.  Because of God’s gift, we are restored and made new people.  The past no longer matters.  What matters is that today, here and now, we honor this gift with our lives.  We are to share the message of God’s incredible act of mercy with our community and our world.  Thanks indeed be to the God who works a mighty act in me!

christopherjoiner

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