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Revelations 7:9-17 Work Those Spiritual Muscles April 16, 2016

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I don’t pretend to understand much of the Bible’s Book of the Revelation to John, but these verses, thanks to Handel’s Messiah, are very familiar. Even though that section of the piece is not the easiest, I always enjoy singing:

Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.

This morning a different part stood out to me in a section of verse 14 where there is a reference to “they who have come out of the great ordeal . . .”

I wondered about what was meant as the”great ordeal”, whether the writer was trying to rally the troops and referring to the martyrs and others who, in that century were enduring persecution and torture for spreading the new Christian faith, or anyone – then and now – who is simply living life with all its ups and downs.

I prefer the latter interpretation, especially after reading the devotional reading in my Upper Room Disciplines book. Besides commenting on diversity and how open to everyone God is (heaven – whatever that is – is open to everyone; no one but God gets to decide who is or isn’t welcome), Roy M. Carlisle, this week’s writer states, life, particularly spiritual life, is difficult.

We will struggle, experience dark times, and suffer, but if we have exercised the muscle of faith we will join that throng before the throne to say, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

I like the concept of a spiritual muscle. Since the beginning of last month, I have become more intentional about my physical being. I took on a challenge which involved a dietary change (including a daily protein shake and eliminating fast food from my daily diet) and a daily dance workout. I had to get up earlier in order to fit the exercise in and ran out of time for my morning devotional/meditation routine. By the end of the second week, the dance routines had become too stressful on my knees and ankles, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, and I stopped doing them. But the new way of eating had won me over and I went back to my old wake-up time, spending more time prepping my meals to take to work. I missed my morning devotions, however!

Eventually, I found new ways to exercise (I haven’t given up my first love, zumba, but my work schedule doesn’t allow it often enough.) Dance workouts that are less intense are available and can be done after work, a quick morning walk is great if there’s time, and food prep can be done in batches or prepped at work. I finally was able to feed my spiritual need again! New routines take time to assimilate.

Last week, I started a new challenge – a 7-day “detox” aimed at eliminating salt, refined sugars and other toxins by eating “cleaner”. No dairy products, alcohol, processed foods, or red meat – while drinking a gallon of water every day. This isn’t a diet for losing weight, but to cleanse naturally. It also addressed the mental part of us through relaxation, Zen, yoga, and walking. Light exercise while cleaning out the physical body.

It has been six weeks since I started my new physical routine. As we Methodists like to say, I’m still on that lifetime journey toward perfection! This past week has solidified the need for balance – physical, mental, social, and spiritual. Work the body’s muscles: take care of that “temple of the Holy Spirit” that has been given you; work that muscle known as your brain; stretch yourself out to help others and love all you meet; stretch your muscle of faith.

I realize I have rambled far longer than my usual posts here, but it has helped me process the process. I’m reminded of the sprinters who write “Hebrews 12:1” on their shoes, let us run with perseverance/endurance the race marked out for us . . .
I’ll finish with this short prayer at the end of Mr. Carlisle’s meditation.

Jesus, help us run the race and fight the good fight and do it for as long as we live. Amen.

John 20:19-31: Jesus Appears to the Disciples April 2, 2016

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The disciples are hiding behind locked doors in case the authorities try to arrest and execute them like they did Jesus. But locked doors are nothing to one who has conquered death, so Jesus appears to them inside the house, greeting them with the comforting and traditional, “Peace be with you.”

Peace is the gift we are all given by Christ Jesus. His greeting was and still is a traditional form of greeting, but the intention of His words are the promise and hope that belief in Christ With Us brings. With Christ, we are strengthened and made less fearful. The Creator and Sustainor has conquered death and is holding each one of us. There is no need to fear!

Clothed in Love April 2, 2016

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image (View from the window, Kings Beach, California, Christmas Eve Morning, 2015)

(April 2, 2016 – just discovered this was never published. It was written just before Christmas, yet a week after Easter, it is equally fitting.)

This week’s devotional is based on the theme of Love: God’s love for us and that same love we can share with everyone we encounter.

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 tells us of Hannah’s love for her son, Samuel, who was such a precious and long-awaited gift himself, that she dedicated him to be a priest. Every year, she made him a new robe and gave it to him the one time a year she got to see him. It was made with love and prayers, and the devotion writer, Nicola Vidamour, reminds us to accept gifts given us by everyone who makes the effort. If someone we know gives us a handmade gift, appreciate the time and love that went into it. Appreciate kind actions wherever they come from and try to be kind and loving to every person you encounter.

Colossians 3:12-14 reminds us

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

That’s the message for everyday, but it’s a good reminder in case we get too caught up in whatever stresses us during the Christmas season. As Rev. Vidamour writes, ” Colossians 3:14 tells us that love is the most important gift to clothe ourselves with. Love is the perfect accessory for every outfit since love binds everything together in perfect harmony.

We take a sidetrack to the traditional verses of Luke 2:1-20 on December 24:
The Christmas Eve story of Mary and Joseph and the baby born in Bethlehem. Wrapped in swaddling cloths as a human baby who would later be wrapped in burial cloth, only to leave them as risen Christ! This is the ultimate form of love: to give up godhood to live among your creation, not only to teach and mentor, but to die horribly in order to get the point across!

Hebrews 1:1-12 reminds us of that exactly:

LONG ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In a later verse, a comment is made about his earthly life set aside like his earthly clothes, “But you are the same, and your years will never end.”

Psalm 148 reminds us, “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.”

All that is beautiful and awesome and good is due to God’s creative powers. That little manger baby was also He who created the heavens and earth. What incredible love for us humans, we who are also God’s creatures, to have come to teach and die for us! Let’s forever praise him!