God keeps faith forever

Thoughts on Psalm 146:5-10

The Lord, our God, keeps faith forever.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

God keeps faith in you. God is convinced that God’s good work in you will come to its perfection.

God believes in you, you cannot see the wholeness God is working in you, but God does. Your loving Lord keeps faith that all will be as God envisions it; God sees the you God intended you to be and has faith you will emerge.

God keeps faith, holds steady, remains fixed on the target: you, complete and whole.

God never tires of working to lift you from shame, of nourishing your soul and your body, of releasing you to walk about freely, of opening your eyes to beauty great and small.

God keeps faith for you, loving the ways you line up with God’s goodness;  the way you value what God values, how you care for the ‘least of these.’ God strengthens you to stand against what violates love.

God reigns forever and keeps faith forever. Praise our God.

MM 2/16/15 don’t doubt yourself

Ask in faith without doubt. In this instance doubt means “to be at variance with one’s self, to hesitate.” So we are to ask for wisdom, and not argue with our self about God’s generosity in giving it, or our ability to act on it. The Holy Spirit makes it possible. Trust.

MM 2/16/15 Don't doubt yourself from Debby Bellingham on Vimeo.

Where is your faith?

Jesus can calm the storms in your life.

Jesus can calm the storms in your life.

Luke 8:22-25

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to believe good for another than it is for yourself? You can speak earnestly and sometimes eloquently about God’s great love for your friend; about how God’s plan for her life is good; about how God will provide for and protect her in every situation. But it’s a little bit harder to trust these precious truths when you’re the one who doubts your value; the one who fears the future; the one whose life is threatened.

Well, you are not alone. The disciples were (literally) in the same boat.

They had witnessed Jesus casting out demons from the man in the synagogue; they were present when Jesus forgave and healed the paralyzed man whose friends had lowered him through the roof; they were walking along with him when they entered Nain and Jesus brought back from the dead the widow’s son. They were not unacquainted with Jesus’ power over life and death. But they had never been the ones who were in need of one of his miraculous deeds. Up to their ears in water, fear pushed out faith and trust. “Master, we are perishing!” You can hear the panic in their voices.

Jesus responds with action, rebuking the wind and the waves and then an appropriate question, “Where is your faith?” Remember when I cured the leper, when just my word brought the centurion’s slave back from the edge of death, when the anonymous woman touched my robe and her bleeding stopped? You know I have power. Practice trusting what you know is true, this is the essence of faith.

“Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re going, but going anyway. A journey without maps. Paul Tillich said that doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” – Frederick Buechner

When fear arises, remember God’s power to overcome the raging storm, even in your life.

when your faith waivers ( a lesson from John the Baptist)

Have you ever had this experience? The faith you confidently held and expressed throughout your life suddenly seems thin and wobbly. What you previously believed without a doubt you now find yourself questioning. If so, you are in good company.

So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another? Luke 7:18,19

John, the one who while still in his mother’s womb recognized Jesus as the Messiah; the one who didn’t want to baptize Jesus because he felt unworthy to even untie his sandals; the one who pointed to Jesus and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world;” this John, the one who was convinced Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, now has doubts. John, in prison and anticipating death because of his faith, now needs reassurance that Jesus is indeed the Christ.

What did John do when he was experiencing a crises of faith?

He asked his friends to go to Jesus on his behalf. He had a trusted community with whom he could share his doubts, ones who would approach Jesus when he could not. Do you have such relationships? Your doubts might cause you to withdraw or isolate yourself. Do the opposite. Confide in your friends, admit your doubts, ask them to pray, borrow their faith until yours returns.

. .demons love darkness and hiddenness. Inner fears and struggles which remain isolated develop great power over us. But when we talk about them in a spirit of trust, they they can be looked at and dealt with. Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quickly leave us.  – Henri Nouwen The Road to Daybreak

How did Jesus respond to John’s dilemma?

He says, “look at the fruit of my ministry.” It’s so like Jesus to not answer a direct question with a direct answer. He’s committed to building our faith, not coddling our doubts. His answers cause us to examine our lives, pointing us to the ways we are no longer blind, lame, sick, deaf, dead or poor. His answers to our questions drive us to trust his character. Our faith, even as we doubt, is solid and true. Doubts will pass, our faith abides; and remember, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

Is faith in Jesus necessary?

Jesus gives what is needed, part one

Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take heart, Son. Your sins are forgiven.” Matt 9:2

Jesus observed some men carrying a paralytic and was impressed by their faith.

When I hear the word faith, I usually think “the faith”, a faith in God and God’s powerful love. But the faith these men exhibited was not in Jesus, they weren’t bringing their friend to him for healing. They were just on their way from one place to another, and if their friend was going to be part of the journey, he would have to be carried. They were willing to do so, they didn’t want to leave him behind.

Somehow, carrying him demonstrated faith. Faith is a complete trust and confidence in something or someone. Their faith rested on the relationship and love they shared with one another. They would be the legs of this friend, he could count on that.

This commitment to loving their friend is what impressed Jesus. This man didn’t need physical healing, he would always be carried in love. Jesus instead gave him an inner healing – hope, a sense of belonging to God’s family and a spiritual cleansing.

Whose legs are you?

Does your faith carry wounded people as you go, just so they won’t be left behind?

Who are your legs?

Will you trust God to give what is needed, not what you think is needed?

Jesus gives what is needed, part two

But Jesus, perceiving (the scribes) thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he then said to the paralytic—’stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. Matthew 9:4-7

The paralytic needed spiritual healing, Jesus gave it. He then offered the scribes what they needed, proof of his authority to forgive sins through his healing power.

Notice the efficiency of God, in offering the scribes what they needed, the paralyzed man received his legs! Everybody can win!

Who does God hate?

You know you are worshipping a false God, when this God hates the same people you do.

 -spoken by an unknown person at a retreat I recently attended

Jesus welcomes all questions, and all questioners. Mark 12 shows us three types of questioning souls. The first were people who came to Jesus with the intent of proving him wrong and getting him into trouble with the authorities. They came with false hearts and impure motives and left in “utter amazement.” The encounter changed them.

The Sadducees represent the next type of questioner. (Mark 12:18-27) They came to Jesus with a query about the law (on which they placed a high value) attempting to determine Jesus’ orthodoxy. Would he answer correctly? Would he be on their team?

Their minds were made up, only the right answer from Jesus would prove him credible. Notice I wrote that their minds were made up, their hearts were not involved.

Again, Jesus avoids their “game” and shows them their lack.

Is this not the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?” Mark 12:24

They did not fully understand the scriptures (the moral law) and they didn’t understand the power of God (the mystical Spirit.) Both are needed.

Ask St. Paul. His mind was made up and his heart was hard. It took the mysterious intervention of the Holy Spirit to expand his narrow understanding of God’s word. Paul’s excellent mind, with it’s predetermined and finite understanding of the Scriptures, needed to be set aside, his heart needed to be penetrated with the mystery of the living Lord.

Oh, there are Sadducees among us and within us; using Scriptures that prove our point, minimizing or ignoring the rest. Convinced of the correctness of our doctrine, or our theology, or style of worship, or spiritual practices, or who’s in the kingdom and who’s not (sadly, the list can be endless), we need God to agree with us. We have already determined which questions are allowable to ask and have the acceptable answers at the ready. Like the Sadducees, our minds are made up, we think in black and white.

I know this all too well. Jesus lovingly allows gray to enter the picture. He gently introduces paradox and mystery. He instructs from the Word of God and the Word of the life’s experience. Entering this mystery, letting go of our predetermined answers is the threshold of mature faith. God allows the questions, the unknown, and the uncertain, hoping it will cause us to give up control and cast ourselves on his love.

It’s a privilege to be poor? -part 2 of 2

In order to receive the good news, we must confess our poverty.

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor. The best news the poor could receive is that the resources they are lacking are now provided. The poor have no money to purchase what they need; they have no power to influence the system; they are faceless, invisible, abused and exploited. The poor need provision, recognition and protection. Jesus is our provision. Jesus is our power. Jesus is our protection. That is good news.

In order to receive the good news of Jesus, we must confess our poverty. This admission is a very humbling experience. It means admitting to ourselves and to others that we can’t take care of ourselves, we need help. It means we must rely on another to supply what, in our mind, we think we should be able to supply for ourselves. Sometimes it means admitting that we have particular needs or desires that we think (or wish) we didn’t. Admitting our poverty requires our ego to die. We can’t pretend that we are wealthy or powerful or that we have it all together. In this dying, we receive the gift of poverty.

To us who are the privileged poor, Jesus says, “do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear.”  Why? “Because your heavenly Father knows what you need and will supply your every need out of his abundant riches.” (Luke 12)  These promises are sweet, pretty and very poetic. They bring great comfort and are easy to believe when I am not in touch with my poverty. But when I am out of resources and in real need, I find myself wondering if they are practically and literally true. My soul cries, “I don’t see how you can provide, the need is too great.”   Doubt pushes out faith and and the vacancy in my soul is filled by fear.

Fear, the great thief, whispers,  “Will you have enough? Maybe you should withhold, God will understand.”  “Don’t be too generous, remember you have lots of bills to pay.”  “Ignore the pleas of that homeless man on the street, he’d just use the money for drugs.”  “You need to put that extra money aside for the future instead of taking the widow out for a nice dinner, her husband probably left her plenty of money. Who’s going to take care of you in your old age?”  “Why don’t miracle provisions happen for you, like they do for him? He must be more faithful than you. No wonder God doesn’t provide for you, you’re not obedient, you don’t deserve his kindness.”  On and on, fear wages it’s campaign of dread and worry.

In this cycle of fear and anxiety, be glad that Jesus knows our process intimately and interrupts fear’s tirade. Immediately after telling his followers not to worry, he adds these tender and gentle words, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  He knows that in the face of potential lack, our natural tendency will be fear. Jesus knows that we will forget his promises of provision and will think it is up to us to strategize our solvency. And this forgetting keeps us living in fear. We need to live in the place of trust, in the arms of the good shepherd, Jesus. Picture yourself, a little lamb, being carried in the strong and gentle arms of the one who loves you and gave his very life for the privilege of holding you close.  “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

With you in the journey,