Friday, April 3, 2015

4/3/15 Good Friday by Christine Holmquist

I have had a lot of bitterness in my heart lately, so I found it interesting that Lee suggested John13: 34-38.  I really wasn’t sure what the Holy Spirit was going to lead me to or even if I would allow the Holly Spirit to work through me.  I hope some of you can relate to my honesty and appreciate that we all fall empty occasionally!  So after putting this off for 3 days and even considering canceling, I am so honored to share with you my reflections on John13: 34-38.   

John13: 34-38 abundantly defines our faith and is the most important part of our story as Christians…LOVE.   Not as Presbyterians that believe we should or shouldn’t allow gay marriage or who attends which service - but as Christians!  John 13: 34-38 reminds us that love is truly the message of Jesus.  When Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him 3 times, he isn’t cross with him, he isn’t trying to plead his side of the story, he isn’t giving him options or trying to change Peter’s mind.  He is simply sitting there with him and saying…listen this is going to happen but I love you anyway.

I often think of teenagers when I read this passage.  I think of all the times I was Peter growing up…the hurt I gave to my parents and how they loved me through it. That unconditional love that one has for their family - that love that doesn’t fail or leave us.

Today is Good Friday…the day our Lord was crucified.  A day that we should mediation on a love so immense that it permitted our God to allow his only son to die on that cross for us.  Hard for me to have any bitterness in my heart after faithfully reading those words!  Thank you Lee for leading me back into the word and not the politics of being a Christian!  May our church family be blessed with the ‘unconditional love’ of our Lord Jesus Christ through our love and compassion for one another. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

4/2/15 by Darrell Fernandez

John 17:1-11
Darrell’s view…. Extreme Glory to God.
I have always known that as Christians, we should live to glorify God.  While I know there are times my actions don’t glorify God, the continual aim for His glory seems reasonable right?
·         We live like Christians, right?
·         We give of ourselves to others with generosity…..
·         We think of others before ourselves….
·         We’re slow to anger, quick to listen….
·         We love our neighbors, and our enemies…
·         We pray, we worship, we share the word,
·         We praise God, and give thanks God for our blessings…
·          and there are many others ways we can glorify God.
But, do we do enough?  Do we glorify God out of obligation at times?  
Or… Do we glorify truly by a commitment and sacrifice of ourselves to be who we truly want to be, God’s servant with His glory in the highest of high priorities?
This scripture Lee provides today has been a bit of a challenge to follow and dissect many times.  But reading this scripture very carefully and thoughtfully, hearing Jesus’ passion to glorify God to be (Jesus himself) glorified by God is really interesting.  I believe it’s a lifestyle, but a challenge we can commit to!
Here’s a glorifying God lifestyle example…. Or better yet, an analogy that comes to mind….  “Jesus in the post-game pressroom.”
Jesus prayerfully reporting to the Father that his work is complete:  The football game is over.  Jesus praises God for Glory only after Jesus (and only Him, a one-man football team) just ran the winning touchdown from the back of the end zone against a tough team (ok. ok. ok. anyone’s best team - plug your’s here!)   But in the run He was battered, broken, and not going to survive because all the hits and all the adversaries.  But in the end, Jesus prayerfully reports from the pressroom and tells God “Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you.”
Jesus truly lives to glorify God!  Corny, sorry, but He takes no glory…. All to God!
When I think of Jesus’ words in this John 1:1-11 (mainly verses 1-4) I can see that my view of glorifying God is not up to par!  Wow I’ve got work to do! Here is some of my thinking and how I fall far short with some known examples for comparison… 
Jesus lives to glorify God!  Yes, and without a doubt… But think about a few examples for comparison…..
1.       Jesus was sent by God…   And He’s God’s Son.  That’s a BIG deal! 
·         And nothing better than a stable?
ü  What? Now that’s a rough start for the Son of God.
2.       Then, how many times was Jesus wanted dead?
·         I don’t know, but lots… and all for His own good works.
·         He’s the son of God and lives His life for God and does only good!…. And He is continually challenged!
ü  But His love and faith in the Father never waivers, not once
3.       Jesus was a teacher of teachers! Always bringing comfort and joy to others and also to so many He didn’t know or even see before.  And to many He did know who did not deserve His love.
·         Yet He was continually rejected…..
ü  Always for the glory of God and He stayed the course.
4.       He gave hope, great examples and parables that are such a value to so many (including myself and others every day as we read and hear the parables….)
·         But his enemies were growing and becoming large in size and numbers.
ü He stayed the course for the glory of God.
5.       He continually helped others.  Jesus performed miracles for many by giving sight to blind, healing diseased, healing bones, healing lame to walk, and bringing life to dead.
·         He was hated, rejected for all of these great deeds and gifts of life.
ü Always for the glory of God.
Jesus’ life examples are endless related to His good doings, yet Jesus receives no worldly glory.  And it is clear, that His glory is from God the Father only.  And the Glory that Jesus received from God was only a result of His giving Glory to His Father.  (Truly, not of this world.)

These are just a few simple examples…. But on my best of best day of faith, if I put my commitment to glorify side to side, I fail.  Regarding his dedicated glory to God, Jesus says it all in verses 1-4:

1 “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do….”

1.       Does Jesus’ own glory, faith, commitment to glory for God and lifestyle come to him through glorifying God?
2.       Maybe we can consider doing all, giving all and being all for God; looking forward without even a thought of looking back… Just up!

God bless you for glory to God in all we do!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

4/1/15 by Jessica Mulheim Ward

According to Pope Benedict XVI, the purpose of Lent is to keep alive in our consciousness and our life the fact that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew; that it is not an event now over and done with but a process requiring constant practice.  He goes on to say, “Let us ask, then:  What does it mean to become a Christian?  How does this take place?”  If individuals are to become Christians they need the strength to overcome; they need the power to stand fast against the natural tendency to let themselves be carried along.

Okay, I’m sure many of you might be wondering why on Earth I’m quoting a Catholic Pope, when I belong to, and am writing for a Presbyterian Congregation.  Truth be told, I have never been very good at coloring in between the lines.  I like to take a little artistic license and dine a la carte at the spiritual buffet of Christianity.  Pope Benedict XVI’s words and ideas resonate deeply for me, especially as they relate to the lectionary reading for today: John 12:27–36.

The very human part of Jesus is speaking when he says, 27) Now my soul is troubled; and what shall I say?  Personally, I identify very deeply with his inner conflict.  For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from a troubled soul.  The trouble of my soul shows up in many forms: depression, anxiety, a feeling of being less than, a constant fear of not being enough, fear of failure and fear of criticism.  All that fear and troubled-ness takes on a life of its own and manifests in anger, irritability, guilt and shame.  So where does that leave me; a wife, a mother, a daughter a sister in Christ who longs to live a life of peace and faith and love?  It often leaves me lost in the dark.

With this passage I have to remind myself that the beauty of our Savior, Jesus Christ, lies solidly in the truth that he gave his life to carry the sins of our souls away.  Too often I forget what it truly means to be a Christian.  I am so quick to forget what Pope Benedict XIV says, that being a Christian can only take the form of becoming a Christian ever anew.  I find myself constantly being carried away by a current of earthly things: possessions, desires, destinations…all forms of distraction from the eternal flame of God’s love.

And so I’m left to wonder, how can I find the strength to overcome these earthly distractions and creep forward, arm in arm with Jesus, walking my way back to my Heavenly Father who created me in his image?
In John 12:35-36, Jesus addresses this question as clear as day: Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”

It’s actually quite simple.  The strength I need to overcome all of my earthly distractions, my pain, and my fear comes only from a willingness to constantly practice my walk with Jesus in the light.  The trouble in my soul constantly lures me into the shadows of this earthly world, but that is not where my Creator wants me to dwell.  Everyday I stumble along my spiritual path, chasing the light and the love that God our Father placed into this realm for us to hold and share.  If I’m willing to practice my faith with reverent dedication, the path is luminous.  I see the light in many places: in my husband and the love he shares with me, in my children and the joy they bring to my life, in the safety of my friendships with people who accept me just as I am, in our church where many of you stand by my side and hold me up as I weather many dark storms, and in the love that my heavenly father gives me everyday through the sacrifice of his one and only son, Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for the opportunity that Lent provides me to refresh my commitment to become a Christian ever anew.  Heavenly Father, please grant me strength for the journey; that I may continue to walk in your beautiful light, leaving the darkness and trouble of my soul behind.