Tools - Backpack 5

When our children were very little my father-in-law could get them to overcome their shyness and approach him if he cupped his hands together and acted as if he had something special hidden there.  They would come close to him to see what it was that he had, what special treat he might be holding.

Although faith is a big part of our lives faith is one of those intangibles, strange and ethereal, that are difficult to comprehend.  It is not something we can hold in our hands, not something we can see and touch.  And yet at the same time it can be.

Jesus tries to explain what is going on with his ministry in this reading from Matthew.  What is Jesus in charge of?  Who understands Jesus?  Who understands God?

It may be difficult to live out faith.  It may be difficult to always be a strong believer in the Lord and all that God has done.  But we are called to do this.

To help us in our faith we can find confidence and strength in knowing that Jesus is Lord of all.  He is Lord over all things and also over all people.  He is Lord over each of us and we know that we are held firmly in his hands as we confront the doubts and fears and challenges of the world.

Like God, it is difficult for us to even come close to understanding Jesus.  His love and wisdom is far above our own capabilities.  The best we can do is try to imitate the Lord, try to live out love the way Jesus did.  What Jesus did in his teaching and ministry was to show us who God is.  Jesus helps us to know the Father.

We can find hope and joy in knowing that we are the people Jesus is talking about here.  Jesus has chosen to reveal God to each of us.  Knowing that we have been selected to be drawn closer to the Almighty should give us a confidence in our faith.

And although faith could be described as something you can’t see or touch, something that can’t be held in your hands, it can also be described as something you can see and touch and hold.  You see faith when you see someone at peace in the midst of turmoil.  You can feel faith when you feel the comfort God gives in the darkest of times.  You hold faith in your hands when you hold the hands of Jesus and go through your journey with your Savior at your side.

Faith is not something invisible we hold in our hands.  It is something that we show in how we live and how we act.  We make faith visible and tangible in what we do.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What lets you know you have faith?

Tools - Backpack 4

Last week someone in our church left a sizable cash donation to help out the prayer shawl ministry in our church.  We do not know who left the money, but we do know it was given in love and was meant to serve the good work that is being done for the kingdom of God.

No explanation was needed for the donation.  It was obvious what was intended.  What is also obvious is that whoever gave the money has a heart for other people and a heart for honoring and serving the Lord.  Through a simple sacrifice much information was communicated.  We did not need to see the person who gave to know that God’s love was being shared.

In today’s passage we have a small part of a prayer that Jesus offered.  What does Jesus say about what people know?  What has Jesus done?  What will he do?  Why?

I do not believe that there is any person who completely understands God.  Few even come close to comprehending the Almighty.  But that does not mean God does not exist.  This is the reason for faith – to have confidence in the Lord although we do not see Him or understand everything about Him.

Although we do not see God, although we cannot see Jesus, we know that God exists and that Christ is the living out of God’s love.  With that as our foundation we can live out the love of God in all that we do.  As we share love, as we express compassion and care to others, as we do good things in the world and strive to be holy we are making God’s love a reality.

As it was in the time of Christ, there are many people who do not know God.  They do not believe, or they have never experienced the presence of God, or they do not recognize the presence of God.  But like Jesus, we know God.  And we can make God known to others by living out our faith.  Although they do not know God, we do, and they will know Him through us.

As we make God known in the world with our own faithful attitudes, our expressions of love, our own hope in holiness, we must remember that Jesus is with us.  Christ is present to continue to make us aware of God.  Christ is with us to guide us and bless our efforts that bring God to the world.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you make God known in the world?

Tools - Backpack 3

My wife does a lot of work for “Group,” a Christian organization which publishes curriculum for Sunday school classes of all ages, Bible studies, inspirational books, and especially vacation Bible schools.  This company began as the work of one man, Thom Shultz, who published a magazine in his garage.  This growing corporation was his inspiration and reflects his goals and direction.

Just as a corporation may be the result of one person’s dream and inspiration, and just as this company may be an image of that person’s drive, so we as Christians and members of a church are the reflection and image of Jesus Christ.  What does the writer of Ephesians say about Jesus’ authority?  What is the church?

As we journey in our faith we must know that we are the living out of the love of God through Christ.  Because Jesus came to teach and preach and save, the church as we know it was born.  We are the embodiment of who Jesus was and is.

Although we may get caught up in our own desires and designs as we live out our lives as Christians, we must remember that what we are doing is representing Jesus to the world.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus.  We are the body of Christ.

We fulfill the desire and purpose of Jesus when we share the love of God with others.  We are the fullness of Christ when we express mercy and compassion to those in need – physically and spiritually.  Christ is both the foundation and the head of the church.  He is the motivating force of our faith.

We may feel challenged to be strong in our faith.  But we must remember that Jesus is at the head of the church.  He is the source of our faith, the Spirit that compels us forward in our beliefs.  It is the will of Christ that we are living out when we live a life of faith.  And all that we do in faith is contained in the love and grace of our Savior.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you keep Christ as your leader as you live out faith?

Tools - Backpack 2

I find that when I want to have a serious conversation with anyone I need to eliminate any distractions.  I can’t concentrate on the importance of what is being talked about if my computer screen is flickering in front of me, or the television is on, or there is a great deal of noise all around.

The same is true of our journey of faith.  If we will have the assurance of the presence and power of God we must eliminate all the distractions in our lives and concentrate on the Lord.  It is difficult to keep our hearts and minds and souls focused on what is holy and good when we are surrounded by all the things in life that will pull us away from God.

When questioned about his role as the Messiah Jesus compared himself to a shepherd.  What do we – the sheep – do?  What does Jesus give us?  What assurance does God offer?

Jesus is often referred to as the Good Shepherd.  Like a shepherd who tends sheep in a field, Jesus guides us and watches over us in our lives.  He is there to prod us deeper in our faith.  He is there to give us comfort and strength.

If we will have this secure foundation in our faith, if we will place all the tools of our beliefs into this backpack of God’s assurance, we must be willing to listen to the voice of Jesus.  We must attune ourselves to his leading.  We must pay attention to all that Jesus offers us.

And as we journey in our faith life we can rest assured that we are in the capable and loving hands of God.  As Jesus said, God is greater than all and no one – not our enemies, not the temptations of life, not even our own failings – can snatch us from God’s care.  Christ has given us eternal life through his loving sacrifice.  It is there for us and that is the beginning point of any faith journey.

We must learn to hear the voice of Jesus in the things that we do.  As we face each day with hope or despair, with anticipation or fear, we need to trust that Christ is there with us to watch over us.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Where do you hear the voice of Jesus in your life?

Tools - Backpack 1

Just as any person who sets out on a journey will only do so when they believe they can accomplish the journey, so we as believers set out on a journey of faith.  As the person on a journey may take with him or her the tools needed to complete the journey, we as believers take with us the tools God has given us to make this journey of faith.  From now until Palm Sunday we will be working through the Book of Ephesians, a letter to believers which provides the tools of faith we need for our journey.

A person may begin a long journey with the needed tools to finish the trek.  The first requirement may be a backpack.  In that backpack will be the other tools the traveler will want.

Although we have faith we often need strength in our faith.  As we begin a journey of being a Christian, whether new to the faith or moving deeper in our beliefs, we must take things with us.  Like a backpack that contains all the other tools, the aspects of our faith must be contained in something.  Our faith is wrapped up, held and contained, in the knowledge of the presence and power of God and the saving grace of Jesus.

Ephesians begins with the name “Paul,” indicating his authorship, but there is much debate as to who wrote this book.  Regardless of the author we can be assured that the letter was written by someone with tremendous faith.  What prayer is offered for the believer?  How might we gain wisdom and revelation?  What is the hope we are called to?

It seems clear that the purpose of the letter to the believers in Ephesus is to develop and strengthen a growing faith.  The author prays that God will work with the believers, and that prayer can be for each of us too.  The prayer is that all who have faith in God and in Jesus Christ will have the truth of the Lord’s grace and power revealed to them.

Through the working of God in our hearts and minds we can build a firm foundation for our beliefs.  The hope that is mentioned is not the hope of wishful thinking.  Rather it is confidence and assurance that God’s love is true, that Christ is indeed our Savior.

We need to open our hearts and souls to the power of God.  As believers we must invite God to move in our hearts and draw us deeper in our faith and confidence in the reality of the Lord.  This is the mighty strength of God.  He is able to fill us with knowledge – a firm, unswerving, unfailing certainty – that He is with us in all things.

When we know that God loves us and is with us then we have the glorious riches, an incredible inheritance, from our Savior.  God is with all who believe.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How do you know God is with you?