Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

 

Jesus said that his sheep recognize his voice and follow (John 10:22-20). But with so many other voices vying for our attention these days, hearing demands even more intention! 

You have to admit it seems like it’s getting harder and harder to hear God’s voice amidst the chop and rise of the sea of facts and alternative facts in our day and age, of truth and truthiness, of information, misinformation, and downright misguided information, all of it eager to be sorted and processed, discarded or applied. (more…)

IF SOMEONE ASKED YOU TO PICK A SHAPE TO BE BEST SYMBOLIZE LOVE, WHAT WOULD IT BE? A circle? A Square? Maybe even a Möbius loop? For Christians, love comes in the shape of a cross. The cross represents a kind of love that the ancient Greeks called, “agape” love. Agape is the kind of love that willingly lays itself down for the other.

There’s power in the cross. I once almost quit the ministry, but a deeper understanding of the cross and all that it represents called me back. Where is it calling you?

May God continue to strengthen your faith as you carry the cross throughout your Lenten journey and beyond.

Dr. Mark

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This Lent I’m preaching a sermon series at the historic Old Stone Church in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The series is called Cross Words: There’s Power in the Cross! 

This afternoon, after our staff meeting, Old Stone’s Associate for Care, my friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. Dr. Charles D. Yoost shared this beautiful prayer from the Iona Community with me which connects so well with our Lenten  focus on the cross. Today, I share this prayer with all of you along with my own prayer that the cross may bring you closer to God and God’s purpose for your life this Lent and always.

O Christ,
The Master Carpenter,
who at the last through wood and nails,
purchased our salvation,
wield well your tools in the workshop of the world,
so that we, who come rough-hewn to your bench,
may here be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand.
We ask this for your name and for your sake.
Amen.

– From the Iona Community, Scotland

WHEN I WAS A KID GROWING UP IN CANADA, WE PLAYED A GAME CALLED, KING OF THE CASTLE. Friends who grew up in the States called it King of the Hill. Whatever you called it when you were a kid, the point of the game was basically the same. It was to step or stomp on your buddies, scratch and claw if you had to, so that you could get to the top of the heap and sing your victory song: I’m the King of the castle, you’re the dirty rascal (to the tune of Ring Around the Rosie)!

Check out O Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble. Be sure not to miss the wonderful ending.
It’s sure to leave you smiling!

The strange and sad thing is that we’ve seen grown-ups play an adult version of the very same game in business and politics, in love and marriage, and even in the church. We may even be thinking about one or two of them right now. They are folks for whom, it seems, that it doesn’t matter who gets hurt, so long as they can win, make it to the top, be number one, and stay there! (more…)

WOULD YOU RECOGNIZE JESUS IF HE STOOD UP IN WORSHIP, READ SCRIPTURE, AND PREACHED RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU? Well, guess what? Jesus did exactly that yet the people in his own hometown didn’t recognize him for who he truly was.

If you’re having a hard time spotting the truth these days, or feeling the presence of God in your life, or even experiencing the promised miracles of God, don’t despair.  (more…)

LET’S ADMIT IT. WE MAINLINE PROTESTANTS GET DOWNRIGHT SQUEAMISH WHEN ASK US IF WE’RE BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT OR FIRE! We tend to leave that kind of Spirit and fire business to our peppy Pentecostal siblings and their speaking in tongues, or to our quirky Charismatic cousins and their rolling in the aisles. No siree Bob Jones! A baptism of Spirit and fire just isn’t a part of our party line.

Baptism for us mainliners tends to be all about water. We have peace like river, joy like fountain, and love like an ocean but that Spirit and fire talk has been a bit of stumbling block for us forward thinking, Princeton University founding, academic loving, progressive Presbyterians and mainline Protestants.

Well listen up! That locust-breath, desert-dwelling prophet John the Baptist says baptism with Spirit and fire is what Jesus brings. “I baptize you with water,” says John,  “but one who is more powerful than I is coming . . . He will baptize you” en pnuemati agio kai puri – “with the Holy Spirit and purifying fire.”

Baptism with Spirit and fire is for even us Presbyterians, Methodists and the like, too. Perhaps there’s a way for God’s frozen chosen to get thawed out by God’s fiery Spirit but we just have to think about it in a new way.

Walter Brueggemann, one of the foremost biblical scholars of our times says that being baptized by fire means that “we may be visited by a spirit of openness, generosity, that “the force” may come over us, carry us to do obedient things we have not yet done, kingdom things we did not think we had in us, neighborly things from which we cringe.” Being baptized in Spirit and fire inspires a belief that “God may act in us, through us, beyond us” and in greater ways “than we imagined.”

In other words, being baptized by Spirit and fire means that we live with a certain confidence, a holy hope, because even though we can’t imagine a brighter future, or better outcome, or even a distinct possibility,  we know that our very good God can. God holds out more than we ever imagined! It’s like that old hymn says, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow!”

Baptism with Spirit and fire takes us beyond the limits of our own imaginations and opens us to the limitlessness of God’s. Baptism with Spirit and fire is the very essence of our faith that allows us to live with less fear and more trust, more courage, and more hope. More. Baptism with Spirit and fire allows us to get up off the couch and go up against the odds to work for peace and justice even in a world as divided, broken, and unjust as our own.

Next time you hear a voice from a closed mind – whether it belongs to someone else or even yourself, say, “Hey, sounds really nice, but somehow I just can’t imagine it ever happening!” You just tell that voice, “That’s okay, God can!”

Blessings of Peace and Love,
Mark

One of the first lessons of faith is also the hardest for me: There is a God, and I’m not it! Whether my heart is heavy with worry or sadness, or I’m burned out from the day-to-day grind, that’s when I have to remember this important rule more than ever. I’m not God, and not every load is mine to carry, at least not by myself. God is there to help me!

Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
– Jesus (Matthew 11:28-29)

What burdens are you shouldering right now? What’s weighing heavily on your heart or mind? Are you able to let it go or hand it over to God? Be still. Breathe deeply. And ask God to take it from here. Remember: God’s got this!

Love,
Mark