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Posts Tagged ‘God does the impossible’


Acts 27:23-24: Do Not Fear – Part VIII

Monday, January 2, 2017

Philippe de Champaigne: The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1640, oil on canvas, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Binney, 3rd, no known copyright restrictions, 66.83

Philippe de Champaigne: The Adoration of the Shepherds

Paul is arrested and held as a prisoner for his faith in the risen Christ. As he journeys to Rome, he undergoes a number of trials, and it is into this environment, when fear might take over, that Paul is visited by a messenger from God.

For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you”. (NASB)

Paul tells us that when we experience darkness and anxiety, God does not desert us.

For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me and said, “Don’t be afraid, Paul! You must stand before the Emperor. And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you”. (GNT)

Paul reminds us that when great power overtakes us, the risen Christ brings us the courage to resist corruption.

“Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.” (MSG)

Ludolph Backhuysen: Paul's Shipwreck

Ludolph Backhuysen: Paul’s Shipwreck

Paul says that a life lived in Christ will never be smooth; and he tells us that when shipwrecks occur in our lives – as they always will – Christ will make the impossible possible.

Today, as we consider the courage of the shepherds who followed the star to the Bethlehem stable, we might ask ourselves, “What risks are we willing to take as we resist easy comfort? And what shipwrecks are we willing to experience as we follow the bright star of Christ?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the renewing power of God’s words to us, “Don’t give up. Do not be afraid”.

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angels-announcing-the-birth-of-christ-to-the-shepherds-flinck-govert-teunisz-1024x792-dec-30

Linck Govert Teunisz: Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds

Luke: Do Not Fear – Part V

Christmas Friday, December 30, 2016

Do not be afraid. We need to hear these words. We need to share these words. We need to use these words every day.

The angel of the Lord speaks to the high priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, assuring his that the Living God was making the impossible possible in their lives.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. (Luke 1:13)

The angel of the Lord speaks to the girl Mary, the mother of Jesus, assuring her that the Living God was entering her life in a special way.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

The angel of the Lord speaks to shepherds who guard their flocks on the night of Jesus’ birth, assuring them that a newness has just entered into a weary world.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

Jesus speaks to Jairus, a synagogue leader, assuring him that his daughter is alive and has not died.

But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, “Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well.” (Luke 8:50)

Jesus speaks to the people, assuring them that the darkness of the world can be dissipated by the light of truth and peace.

“I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)

Jesus speaks to his followers, assuring them that the evil of the world is transformed by love.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Anton Raphael Mengs: Dream of Saint Joseph

Anton Raphael Mengs: Dream of Saint Joseph

Lifetimes after these verses are recorded, we remind ourselves that the impossible is possible with God. All harm becomes goodness through God. Darkness becomes light. Despair becomes home. Doubt becomes faith. Evil becomes love. And for all of these reasons, we need not fear.

Today we might ask, “How do we live in order to remember that we need not be afraid? How do we live in such a way that we demonstrate our understanding that God is everywhere and lives in us? And how do we share this Good News in our thoughts words and deeds?

In Matthew 1:19An angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. To learn why, visit: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/why-did-joseph-plan-to-divorce-mary 

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to remember God’s words, “Do not be afraid”.

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Mark 7:31-37: Healing Deafness

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bartholomeus Breenbergh: Jesus Healing a Deaf-mute

Bartholomeus Breenbergh: Jesus Healing a Deaf-Mute

John the Baptist was imprisoned and when he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” (MSG) This week we are given an opportunity to give our own testimony.

Just like that . . . we are told, it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech was plain – just like that”.

Despite the impossibility of this cure, it takes place. Despite the audacity of the miracle, this average man is healed. Despite the doubts and raised eyebrows, we too might have our speech and hearing made crystal clear.

Some people brought a man who could neither hear nor speak . . .

We might also bring a neighbor or friend, a loved one or even an enemy to Jesus so that sound and speech might be pure and distinct.

They asked Jesus to lay a healing hand on him . . .

We might go ourselves to Christ for the clarity we so urgently need both in what we hear and what we say. In our age of instant communication and false news, we must be wise about what we hear. We must consider the words we will use and when we are to speak.

They said, “He’s done it all and done it well. He gives hearing to the deaf, speech to the speechless.”

Road rage versus kindness. Anger versus fear. Hatred versus love.

How do we hear the words that seem to engulf us? How do we respond to the needs of those around us and to our own needs? Where do we go for help when fear of speaking paralyzes us? How do we still our hearts and minds so that we might perceive the wisdom of Jesus? So that our ears are open and our words are wise?

When we explore varying translations of these verses from THE MESSAGE, we discover that our hearing and speech can always use the compassion and wisdom of Christ.

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Healing Blindness

Monday, December 12, 2016

Asserto Gioacchino: Healing of the Blind Man

Asserto Gioacchino: Healing of the Blind Man

John the Baptist was imprisoned and when he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” (MSG) This week we are given an opportunity to give our own testimony.

In each of the four Gospels we find stories of Jesus healing blindness. To be without vision in ancient times was a death sentence. There was no Braille system to help those without eyesight to communicate. There were no talking pedestrian crosswalks. No tactile pavers to warn of impending danger. The gift of healing was a gift of life. Reading just one of these stories speaks loudly to us.

Soon the town was buzzing. [The blind man’s] relatives and those who year after year had seen him as a blind man begging were saying, “Why, isn’t this the man we knew, who sat here and begged?” (John 9:1-41 MSG)

Jesus also brings sight to those who have eyes but do not see. Each of us might count ourselves in that number. How often do we hear a loved one express deep feelings and yet continue on as we were before?

You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears – can’t you hear? Don’t you remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand people? How many baskets full of leftover pieces did you take up?” (Mark 8:18-25 GNT)

Jesus also speaks to those of us who decide to put aside what we have clearly heard. How often do we turn a deaf ear to an opponent, negating their views without really listening?

Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. (Luke 18:35-43 NRSV)

Jesus tells us that we become what we believe. How might we best take in these stories and make them our own?

Jesus said to [the two blind men], “Do you really believe I can do this?” They said, “Why, yes, Master!” He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. (Matthew 9:27-31 MSG)

If we refuse to believe that with God all things are possible, what do we become? If we reject the reality that we ourselves are blind from time to time, how do we expect to change? If we want to see the world as it is with open eyes, and move into God’s kingdom with a full heart, how do we allow ourselves to accept God’s gift of healing for our blindness?

When we explore varying translations of these verses, we discover the message of hope that God will bring us a true vision of the world.

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Psalm 105:15: God’s Anointed

Monday, October 31, 2016prophets

Yesterday we spent time with this psalm.  Today we take a deeper look.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

How do we define faithfulness?  Do we admire our ability to hang on no matter what?  Are we stubborn to a fault in our persistence to see something through?  Do we waver and zigzag in order to gain ground?  Or do we model ourselves after Yahweh who is eternally faithful to his sheep?

Longevity.  Perseverance.  Constancy. 

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Do we duplicate as much as possible God’s fidelity in our own relationships?  Are we dedicated to truth and openness?  Are we predictable?  Do our relationships create a safe harbor?

Dedication.  Predictability.  Safety.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

What is it that stands in stark contrast with God’s fidelity?  The pursuit of petty agendas?  Egocentrism?  Meanness of spirit?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

What do we need to jettison in our lives in order to create serenity and peace in our relationships?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

How do we imitate God’s bringing forth of unity out of schism?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Can we see ourselves as prophets and anointed ones? If not, what do we want to change?  How do we become one with such a one who loves so well?

Longevity.  Perseverance.  Constancy. 

Dedication.  Predictability.  Safety.

For God all things are possible.  In Christ all wounds are healed.  Together with the Holy Spirit we are become one.  We are invited to enter into holy communion with one another.  We are invited to prophesy the Word of God.  We are anointed in God.  We are one in God.  We are blessed in God.  We are saved in God.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 9, 2009.

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Exodus 3: Fire in the Desert

Wednesday, October 19, 201604-chaz-russo

The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.

There are times in our lives when we experience an event that stuns us, when the impossible appears to be possible.

The angel of God appeared to Moses in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. 

There are times in our days when we know that the power of God buoys us, times in our nights when the Spirit of God heals and comforts us.

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

When we meet the impossible made possible, do we credit coincidence or chance before we credit our loving God with our rescue?

God says: I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey.

burning_bushWhen we hear God’s call to act as prophet, do we assume we are incapable or do we trust God’s plan to see us through?

Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

When we feel Christ’s presence in the dangerous moments of our lives, do we rise with hope or disappear in fear?

I’ll be with you, God says. And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent you: When you have brought my people out of Egypt, you will worship God right here at this very mountain.

When we hear the call to follow God’s heart, do we put aside our fears to follow? Do we dare to believe that a bush might burn in the desert and never disintegrate into ash?

 

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Jeremiah 32A Pledge of Land

Monday, September 12, 2016ffs-sunset-pinkclouds-Jeremiah32

A Favorite from August 29, 2010. 

God made a promise to Abraham to bring him descendants, renown and a land in which his progeny might be secure.  In return, Abraham and his descendants were to obey God, worship him only, and keep to him always.  Today we read about a time when the Promised Land is breaking into factions and falling into hostile hands.  The covenant into which the chosen had entered has come undone; the descendants of Abraham have been taken into exile to be scattered by the four winds.  All looks bleak and yet, God tells Jeremiah, redemption, healing, transformation and restoration are all possible. Indeed, all of this is at hand.  This is how much God loves us.

Some few of us prefer the solitary life but most humans look for security in a landholding either individually or as part of a group.  Private homes, rented and purchased apartments, communes, even tent cities of the homeless indicate this common yearning to have a place we call home and in which we might be secure.  Many of us go home for a holiday.  We look toward the end of a day when we might go home to kick off the worries of work to rejuvenate for the next morning.  The people who had once known the protection and security of the pillar of fire and smoke in the desert now suffer the insecurity of not knowing where they will lay their head at night.  They are vulnerable to the whims of capricious captors.  The siege works have arrived at the city to breach it; the city will be handed over to the Chaldeans who are attacking it, amid sword, famine, and pestilence. 

And what does God reply when his people ask to be rescued from these hopeless circumstances?  Is anything impossible to me?

It is true that in the next portion of this story the people are handed over to their attackers as a consequence of their having abandoned the terms of their covenant with God.  It is true that in this story God puts Israel out of sight for the incense they burned to Baal and the libations they poured to strange gods.  It is also true that even as God promises to hand over the corrupt ones to the king of Babylon he also will gather the lost together from all lands to which they were banished.  He will bring them back to the same place to settle them in safety.   The Lord God says, they shall be my people and I will be their God.  One heart and one way I will give them that they may hold me in awe always, to their own good and that of their children after them.  I will make them an eternal covenant, never cease doing good to them; into their hearts I will put an overpowering love of me, that they may never depart from me.  I will take delight in doing good to them: I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Perhaps the soul yearns for the security of a firm relationship with God just as the mind yearns for a pledge of land through which to be secure.  Imagine what a world it might be if we sought the security of the pledge of the heart . . . rather than a pledge of land.

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part IV

Friday, May 13, 2016

Kim French: Bull Rushes

Kim French: Bull Rushes

Job’s friends believe that he is guilty of some crime against God; why else does he suffer so heavily? Job’s friends do not understand that God has taken a dare from Satan (Job 1), trusting that Job will remain faithful no matter the circumstances. Bildad does not recognize Job as an instrument in God’s plan; he cannot imagine that God calls to the potential place in Job at his conception . . . or that God calls on the potential placed in each of us to respond to God’s immense love in such a steadfast manner.

Reeds can’t grow where there is no water . . .

God says: Send down your roots into my Word each day with confidence.

Evil people sprout like weeds in the sun, like weeds that spread all through the garden. Their roots wrap around the stones and hold fast . . . But then pull them up—no one will ever know they were there . . .

God says: Place all your hope in the promise of my mercy.

God will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy.

God says: My joy in you is endless and boundless.

Risen_LGThose who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.

God says: I have great plans for you. Plans for joy and not for woe. When evil visits you, remain in me. I am the only force that can bring about the miracle of your transformation. Take the dare that Satan hands to you by trusting me more than yourself. Follow me. Rest in me. Trust in me.  Remain in me. Take up the great dare that my love for you can bring about the impossible. 

When we spend time with these verses and reflect on varying translations, we begin to see the depths and breadth and height of God’s love for humanity. Use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore.

 

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John 20:1-10: The Impossible as Reality

Thursday, April 28, 2016Abundant-Life

 A Favorite from May 5, 2008.

 For some reason this chapter has popped up at Noontime several times.  Today, as always when this happens, we can look more closely at this reading . . . and this is what comes to me.

Today’s morning scripture reading is from Hebrews.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.  Because of it the ancients were well attested.  11:1-2

I have often tried to imagine the rainbow of emotions which swept through Mary, Peter and John when they saw the empty tomb.  There were so many explanations of what might have happened.

This is the time of year in which we always re-live the Resurrection story.  Two thousand years after the fact, we are still experiencing the mix of doubt, fear, hope and joy which swept through the early apostolic band.  They had been accompanied by Jesus in life . . . now they would be accompanied by him and the Spirit . . . for eternity.

We are surprised by the absence of something we thought existed . . . someone who once was a foundation . . . some idea that gave us meaning.  We see, hear and feel the emptiness and sorrow of that loss.  Slowly, and painfully, we explore the possibilities.  Little by little we come to the realization that our existence is paradox.  We are divine, we are human . . . we are human, we are divine.

jesus is risenWe are slow to believe . . . we see the empty tomb . . . we know that our eyes do not deceive . . . we can imagine the possibilities . . . and we dare to hope . . . we dare to dream . . . we dare to live in a way we have never lived before.  The impossible becomes reality.

 

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