Category Archives: Bible Study

How Will I Find God’s Peace

 

Luke 15: 11-32 Jesus’ story of “The Lost Son”

          The last few days, my thoughts have focused on Jesus’ story of “The Lost Son.” In movies, books, and life, I seek happy endings. I smile when the lost son realizes his folly and returns home. I nod when the grieving father runs out to meet him when he is still a long way off. The elder son’s response of anger and righteous judgment feels good and proper. The father’s response also feels good.  Will the elder son understand his father’s plea for love and mercy? We aren’t told, so I can fill in my happy ending. Both sons have learned how to love. Father is wiser.

How does Jesus’ story end today? Too often today, addiction swallows us up leaving us lost, sleeping on the streets, even murdered. Sometimes it’s our commitment to overwork, an extramarital relationship, total self-indulgence, that carries us away from family, loved ones, God. Unlike the lost son in Jesus’ story, we don’t return home. We may have started home many times but we stumbled again and again and again. We can’t stay on that homeward path.

And so, too often, as parents, spouses, children, friends, we are left sitting at the gate, still loving, still praying, still hoping, still weeping. The opportunity to run down the path, arms open wide, love pouring forth, never comes.

Too often, as elder siblings, we keep plugging away, doing our best, resentment hidden and growing, judgment made. We want to hang onto our rage, our self-righteousness. We’re sure we are right. We don’t want help forgiving those who are unforgivable. We don’t want to face God’s unconditional love, God’s endless mercy, let alone participate in it.

Today, whether we are the lost son, the elder brother or the loving parent, we go to our death still paralysed, still lost on life’s journey. And so we think there is no possibility for a happy ending.

For me, the Good News, the “happy ending” comes when we learn to trust our Christian story which tells us that the power of God’s love is so strong, God’s plan for each one of us so flexible, so creative, that even death cannot keep us paralyzed. In fact, death, in whatever form it comes, opens the way for “new life,” the happy ending.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Jesus’ own life story tells us that whether our death brings forth the possibility of new life, transformation, abundance.

Today, whether we are facing the loss of a beloved person, the ending of a life-long dream, the closing of our precious church,– wherever we find ourselves present in Jesus’ story, we can trust that the resurrection will come. God will not be defeated. We may not see the transformation, but it will come, if not in this world than in the next. Weeping will end. Joy will come with the morning. We are not truly paralyzed. We can open ourselves to understanding, forgiveness and love. We can receive God’s peace that is beyond our understanding because we can trust in God’s transformation, whenever it happens.

God’s love will prevail

We have hope, for God has assured us there will be “a happy ending” in this life or the next. Our transformation is guaranteed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

We can hear and live Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) For this, I am truly grateful.

 

Check Out the Story!!!

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“Live the Story. Let Love Enter Your Heart.”

Part of my preparation for Christmas is attending our Keene United Church’s live re-enactment of the Christmas story at Lang Pioneer Village. This year as always, the service was well attended. It’s become a Christmas tradition for many.

Whether you claim no religion, or Christianity or another religion, the magic of the Christmas story can make a difference in your living. During these last few days before Christmas, I encourage you to seek out a variety of ways of learning more about the traditional Christmas story. Google “Live nativity presentations”. Consult your local library or bookstore. They’ll have lots of books to choose from, that tell the Christmas story. Dust off your Bible(or borrow or buy one) and find the Book of Luke. Open it to Chapter two and read the story together as a family. Once you’ve heard the story this year, use the following guide to think about the story.

1. What would it be like today to be Mary, 9 months pregnant and unmarried? Imagine travelling a long distance on a bus, using all your money for the ticket. When you get to family/friends, there is no place for you. You go to the homeless shelter.

2. Who are the Mary’s, the innkeepers, the shepherds, the Herods, the Wisemen today?

Thinking about the characters as real people like you and me will make a huge difference in your Christmas celebrations, secular or religious. Let the story speak to your life. On Dec. 25, 2015 make room in the Inn of your heart for love to enter.

“…the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

How Do I Access the Bible’s Wisdom?

Written On Your Heart
Written On Your Heart

In June, I led a workshop about Storytelling and Dynamic Worship for Small Rural Churches. Storytelling is fun and it requires detailed preparation. I needed to know my stories off by heart, which means a great deal of practice. As children, we were assigned memory work at school (High Flight) and at church (23rd Psalm). I remember this “memory work” being pure drudgery.

Today, we think we don’t need to memorize anything, because all we have to do is “google” it and we have it on our phone, i-pad or computer. I believe having access to something is good, but having it written on your heart, deep within your being is a totally different kind of knowing, one that affects every day decisions. When we learn words of wisdom or comfort or faith by heart, we take those words into our being. They become a part of us so that we can call them to mind when the going gets tough..

My suggestion for you is to choose a quote, a Bible verse, a poem, something that touches your heart. Think about those words. Talk about them with your friends. Write them out and put them on your fridge and your bathroom mirror. Read them. Speak them aloud, over and over again.

Once you have learned them completely, they will be available for wisdom in times of temptation, or difficult decisions, for strength when life feels over whelming, for peace in times of emotional and physical pain. Once learned by heart, you can choose a new set and repeat the process. These words will be your anchors in the seas of life. Then, when the batteries die or the lights go out, the wisdom and comfort of these words will be with you, because they are written on your heart.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Five Steps to a Dynamic Faith.

Five Steps to a Dynamic Faith.

By Janet Stobie

instruction manual

Our new kitchen island came with an instruction manual, and all the pieces numbered. Neither Tom nor I has natural ability to put things together, but we can read. We felt sure we could complete this project. The courier helped Tom lug the three boxes containing two hundred and fifty pounds of wood and metal up to our living room. I travelled to London for a sisters’ visit while Tom completed the assembly. Putting it together involved some mistakes and some faulty material, but Tom had the Manual. Today, our solid cherry wood kitchen island stands proudly in our kitchen.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had a “Do It Yourself Manual” for our Christian faith?

Well, we do. It’s called the Bible. Our problem is the Bible is mighty big and cumbersome and contains some words we don’t understand. Besides, it’s a collection of stories, not clear instructions. Consequently, many avoid the Bible.

I need help.
I need help.

Since today’s young people turn to the computer for everything, I decided to try “Google” as a short cut bypass for the Bible. I summarized Google’s information into the following five suggestions.

  1. Read the Bible, especially the stories of Jesus.
  2. Pray as though you believe.
  3. Join a Christian group for support. Church is the easiest.
  4. Take action to love and care for others.
  5. Be patient. God’s free gift of faith will come.

Even Google starts with “Read the Bible”. There are no short cuts to faith. Commitment and desire are foundational. Over my lifetime, I have learned that faith in God gives me an amazing basis for living. On the days when fear is running rampant in my mind, when exhaustion wracks my being, when pain is overwhelming, I know God is my anchor, my strength, my support.

Try the five steps. Pick up the Manual. God will welcome you to a life of faith.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, NIV)

“Have You Been Saved?”

I offer this post here on my own blog because it has received criticism elsewhere.

Basically, the objection as I understand it, is based on the basic thought that there might be more than one way to come to God.

Jesus words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) . No one comes to the Father but by me.” are the basis of the objection.

What exactly did Jesus mean by this statement?

Was he saying that only Christians who claim Jesus as Lord would inherit eternal life? Was he saying that everyone else is going to hell or will be left out?

Please read the post and then make your comment. I need your thoughts.

 

“Have you been saved?”

By Janet Stobie

Over the years, I have often been confronted with the question, “Have you been saved?” Usually I ask them to explain what they mean. Too often, I hear:

  1. Our amazing God, whose creation contains infinite variety, has only ONE way to “save” people.
  2. Our unconditionally loving God has created us all with a basic flaw that is leading us to eternal damnation.
  3. Our generous God, who offers blessings tamped down and overflowing, has limited the number of God’s creation to be saved, to just a tiny portion of the millions in this world.

I know I don’t have a complete and total understanding of God. Therefore, 

I see no value in putting limitations on God.

Over my lifetime, God has constantly surprised me.

Just when I think I have this faith thing figured out, God gives me yet another revelation.

Here are my thoughts and experiences for the moment.

I have experienced the beauty and goodness of a young man committed to the Muslim faith. I have discovered that the Koran and our Bible both speak about God’s endless unconditional love. Solid in my heart comes the realization that God is the source of all human beings, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and many more about whom I know nothing. Of course, God has more than one way to teach us about loving one another. Of course, God has more than one way to give us guidance, strength, comfort and courage. God must have more than one way to teach us how to live.

Every time I hold a baby, child or animal, I know again that we are all created for joy, love and goodness. I wonder why we are so worried about eternal damnation. Surely, God is stronger than any evil we can create. God certainly illustrated God’s power when God rose from death in Jesus, the Christ. In Jesus God triumphed over the worst we can do.

Actually, I’m beginning to wonder if what God is doing is saving us from ourselves. God creates and declares that creation is good. Maybe our world would take another step towards God’s realm if we gave up trying to decide who is in and who is out, in God’s eyes. I believe God calls us to focus on the goodness of God’s creation.

My question is:

How have you experienced God’s goodness today?

 Please post a Comment. Thank you.

 

 

Help!

I’m late! I’m late!

Our little holiday beckoned us to hurry,  Already we were late for our appointment in Toronto. I eased my aching body into the car seat and felt the stress slide away. From here on, the travelling was out of my control. Tom was driving. My back relaxed somewhat. The pain receded to a manageable level. Stress, I thought, makes my back hurt even more. How can I decrease the stress in my life?

On this particular day, I knew the source.

  1. Guilt – Thanks to my recent back injury, Tom had to do all the packing. I tried, It had taken me a half hour just to put a few things into my suitcase. I kept needing to stop and rest. I’d get up and put two or three things in the suitcase and have to sit back down.
  2. I really wasn’t well enough to travel.
  3. We were late leaving.

Once in the car, there was nothing I could do or should be doing. The relief was amazing. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that we were finally on the road. I asked for safe travel, and opened my devotional book to do my morning meditation. The writer introduced Psalm 27: “God is my strength and my salvation whom shall I fear.” Immediately, my mind slowed down. Of course, God is with us, I thought. Instead of fretting, I should have gotten this out when I first got up as I do every morning. Start your day with God has been my mantra for nearly thirty years. Now is not the time to change that pattern.

When stress seems to be running your life, I offer this solution:

  1. Identify the source.
  2. Discuss your problems with God,
  3. Read your favourite scriptures

Your faith may not change your life situation but it will change your attitude. Focusing on God’s strength and care helps us face our lives with patience and confidence.

Scripture:  “God is my strength and my salvation whom shall I fear.” (Psalm 27: 1)

 

How To Avoid Power Failure

My laptop computer is getting old and cranky. The battery power lasts for only an hour, and then it fails. I almost always try to find an outlet where I can plug in.

As the years pass, I too feel as if the battery that supplies my energy is failing. Although I know a good diet and exercise will help, what I really want is a power outlet. I’d like to plug in to a life source and get a dose of new life. I’m just like the rest of humanity that has searched for that “fountain of youth” for centuries.

This week, in my Bible, I read Isaiah 40:27-31. “They shall rise up on wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” The message for me was that when my battery gets low, I can plug in to God. I know that God does not promise a new young body, but God will ensure that I have the energy I need for the tasks that God has for me.

How do we plug in to God? The first step is prayer. When we take time to talk and to listen to God, we are opening ourselves to God’s power. Step two is to pick up our Bibles and begin to read. Start with the book of Mark, the shortest of the stories of Jesus’ life. Don’t just zoom through it. Read a short section. Think about it. Read it again. Focus on what God is saying to your life in that story. Talk with God about it. Step three: Talk with a friend about what you need and what you are learning. You’ll be amazed at the renewed strength and energy you will have.

“God gives power to the weak and to those who have no might. God increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29)

Fuel For the Journey

Today we consciously think about the car’s gas gauge. We keep one eye on that needle as it slips toward the red line, dreading the next trip to the gas station. The cost of fuel for our cars eats up an ever increasing portion of our weekly budgets. Consequently, most of us endeavour to car pool whenever possible. It’s easy to be aware of the needs of the environment when we are motivated by the amount of money in our wallets or bank accounts.
Our bodies also need the fuel of rest in order to function efficiently. Most youngsters, after a day of school and play, sink into ten or twelve hours of untroubled sleep. Teens tend to enjoy their twelve hours between one a.m. and one p.m. whenever possible. They know their bodies need rest, too.
By the time we reach forty, sleep like gasoline for our cars, feels like an expensive essential luxury. Demands on our time have multiplied. Between our regular day job, and extra-curricular work as family taxi driver and problem solver, housekeeper, community volunteer and whatever else we do, we have to ration out our time for sleep. We’ve developed a pattern of offering our bodies just enough fuel to keep going. Psychologists tell us that sleep deprivation is an effective form of torture. When I look at today’s parents, and some of today’s seniors and young people as well, I see faces grey with fatigue.
What wisdom does the Bible offer for this dilemma?  In Genesis, God does the work of creation from morning till evening. Then God stops to rest and proclaim that day’s work good. God repeats this for six days. On the seventh, God rests all day. This simple pattern requires intentionality. Like a long distance runner, we must pace ourselves on life’s journey. Sleep is an essential fuel. We cannot live well without it.
It’s useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night anxiously working for food to eat, for God gives rest to his loved ones.  Psalm 127.2

Palm Sunday Meditation

I’ve heard the Palm Sunday scripture each year since I started Sunday School. As a child waving that giant fan like branch felt like a huge celebration. When I followed my friends down the church aisle, all those adults staring at me dampened the party somewhat, but certainly didn’t ruin it for me. I remember imagining I was there with Jesus, skipping along beside the donkey. The coming events of Holy week didn’t even register on my radar. I skipped passed Good Friday right on to Easter Sunday. I didn’t think about the significance of the parade or who might be watching.
            As an adult I want to understand more about this story. I want to find the relevance it has for me as an individual and for our world today. One way of doing that is to place myself in the story, but this time as an adult. I invite you to join me in this process. Therefore, I offer you my guided meditation. Open your Bible to Matthew 21:1-11 . Read through the story you find there. When you’ve finished reading, turn to the meditation below. Take some time to answer each question as thoroughly and honestly  as you can.
Sit back and take several deep breaths to help you relax. In your mind’s eye see the scene. You’re right outside the Golden Gates that mark the entrance to Jerusalem. The setting sun shines directly on those gates nearly blinding you, when you look back to the city. It’s hot and dry. There’s not much grass in this dry land. A growing crowd is lining both sides of the road and still more people are poring through the gates. People are jostling one another, excited because Jesus, the great teacher and healer is coming. You’ve found a good spot in the crowd. What thoughts are floating through your mind? Are you happy to be there? Are you anxious to see Jesus? How do you feel about him? Is he a hero or an enemy?
            As you peer down the road you see them coming, men, women, a few children their sandals kicking up dust in the dry air. One man is riding, the donkey just a little small, so his long legs drag in the dust.
The stranger standing next to you points and yells, “There he is.”
Your eyes follow the line of his pointing finger. You ask, “On the donkey, is that Jesus on the donkey.”
            The stranger nods. As they approach people around you cut palms from the trees and wave them. A chant rises from the watchers. “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna, to the son of David.” Are you joining them or standing back and just watching?
            A victorious king rides a donkey as he returns to his city. What victory is Jesus celebrating?
            The little party passes directly in front of you. Your eyes are drawn to Jesus. He turns his head. Your eyes meet and hold their gaze.
            What message are you receiving from Jesus? What would you like to tell him?
The moment is fleeting. He smiles and turns to someone else. In minutes the parade is over. Did you wave your flag?
As you watch the little band of people pass through the gates, you realize the sun has dropped even lower. They disappear from view. How are you feeling now? What will you tell your friends about this encounter?