The Essence of Faith

Good morning! It is Friday, December 12, 2014. Only 13 more days!

Did you know that the last man to be executed by firing squad in the US asked for a bulletproof vest for his last wish?

Today is Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. Oddly enough, I do not own any of those. I do, however, take exception in referring to them as “ugly.” I’ve never thought they were ugly. A little “over the top,” perhaps, but certainly not ugly.

Not a whole lot to write about, on a personal level, this morning. Christi had her Huddle group last night. I spent the time, putting laundry away and playing WoW.

We did have a “town hall meeting” at work, yesterday. It wasn’t exactly encouraging. We were told that the company is lowering the number of “errors” we are allowed. Errors (this could be wrong quantities, wrong PO line item, part number, and so on, for receiving) are tracked on a rolling 12 month period, dropping off whenever they hit the 12 month mark. However, since the new policy is starting up on January 1, they said that no errors would drop off until 2016. But they aren’t going to start us off with zero. This means we will be carrying errors from this year for over 12 months. Also, the number that they lowered the allowable errors to means that, for people like me, who put out an average of around 10,000 goods receipts a year, I could have an accuracy percentage of 99.9% and still be in danger of termination from too many errors. Not exactly fair, from my view.

Ah, well . . . moving on.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Second Week of Advent

Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Psalm 100:2
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness . . . make your way straight before me.
Psalm 5:8
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar!

Psalm 118:25-27
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.
Psalm 69:6
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:15-18
Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.
The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Psalm 28:6-9
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare
the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Matthew 18:15-20

This is another tough passage that ends with a couple of verses that are probably taken out of context more than just about any other verses in the Bible (with the possible exception of Revelation 3:20). Jesus hands out some very clear instructions on “church discipline,” here. How sad it is that we seldom abide by these instructions. We must also not be confused and think that this contradicts his teachings on forgiveness. You can forgive someone for sinning against you, but if they have not repented and changed their ways, the church should follow these instructions. Yes, the church is for broken people. But it is for broken people who have a sincere desire to be “fixed.”

The two verses at the end of the passage are horribly taken out of context, frequently. Time and time again, I have heard people generically apply these verses to prayer, and while they may apply, the larger context of these particular verses is still that of church discipline. Verse 20 should be taken to show that Jesus will be present to validate the judgment of the church.

In all things, however, we must never let go of grace. We must be sure that the “sins” we are dealing with are truly sins. Let us never be guilty of “unfellowshiping” someone because they simply disagree with us about something.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Practice of Faith.”

“We are saved through faith–an unflagging, unwavering attachment to the person of Jesus Christ.”

What is the depth of my faith commitment? Is it just a language that I speak, or even the way I think? Or is it my way of living? Maurice Blondel is quoted as saying, “If you want to know what a person really believes, don’t listen to what he says but watch what he does.” I’ve even heard it said that the true test of a person’s faith is what they do when no one is watching. “Only the practice of faith can verify what we believe.” Does it permeate my whole existence?

“Does it form your judgments about death, about success? Does it influence the way you read the newspaper? Do you have a divine sense of humor that sees through people and events into the unfolding plan of God? When things are turbulent on the surface of your life, do you retain a quiet calm, firmly fixed in ultimate reality? As Therese of Lisieux said, ‘Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone remains.’ Does your faith shape your Advent season this year?”

. . . in whom we have boldness and access
with confidence through our faith in him.

Ephesians 3:12

Father, I confess that my faith doesn’t always permeate my very existence. While it does seem to affect the way I look at world events, it doesn’t always come through when I’m dealing with people on an individual level. It doesn’t always come through when I’m driving in traffic. And I am certainly not always retaining that “quiet calm” that Brennan asks about. May I attain the words quoted above, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone remains.” Grow my faith, Father. May it mature, as the mustard seed grows into a large tree.

I pray for this day, that our travel to and from work will be safe. I pray that our work day will be good, that we will be productive, while at the same time, displaying your Kingdom in all that we do. I pray that Stephanie will know your great love for her.

I lift up my friend and sister Jana, today, who will be visiting a neurosurgeon to see results from her MRI. I pray that things turn out good for her.

May we recognize that faith is more than just words we say; it should affect our entire lives.

Grace and peace, friends.

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