First, I can’t say for sure whether God speaks to anyone through burning bushes, but I do wonder if I would see it if God did speak to me this way because I am distracted and busy. Second, I wonder if the boldness of the ask is connected to the size of the task? Freeing 600,000 people from enslavement may require a little more assurance and encouragement than stepping out of our normal routine to feed people or answer the phone for a friend in need. The best thing to do seems to be to stay as present and aware as possible for God to speak through people and situations all around me. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel
WONDERING…Real questions from real people to learn more about faith! Questions are asked by people of all ages, children through adult. Read Pastor Trudy’s thoughtful answers.
The Old Testament were the stories that Jesus and His first followers knew. The Psalms were the songs that filled their homes and their worship. Understanding this can help us understand what problems Jesus was trying to solve. The reality is that the Old Testament has some wonderful, hopeful stories and the New Testament has some difficult, uncomfortable teachings. Having both helps us grow in our understanding. There is a famous saying, ‘those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.’ Reading the Old Testament can help us clearly see the ways people fall short of following God fully…and maybe can encourage us in living more faithfully. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel
Abraham and Sarah both seem to think that God tells jokes (Genesis 17:17; 18:12)! But God is sincere, promising Isaac to the aging couple. This begs the question – does God joke around, or is God always sincere? Here are a couple instances in scripture where God might be joking or laughing:
God sounds sarcastic as he addresses Job (Job 38:5)
God laughs at the foolishness of kings (Psalm 2:4; 59:8)
These aren’t instances of good humor – not like the jokes we might tell to lift others’ spirits, not “funny ha ha”… But even if God doesn’t tell knock-knock jokes, it is clear that God still appoints a time for our laughter (Ecclesiastes 3:4) and brings laughter to us.
A clear instance of God inspiring restorative laughter is found in the 126th Psalm, which I leave you with today:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are glad indeed.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses of the Negeb.
Those who sowed with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
There ARE two creation stories in the book of Genesis. The first begins with breath over the waters and a command for light. Then come the plants, then animals, then humans. In the second, God makes a person – a ‘mud-guy’ first and then builds up a creation around him. Wow, what a different perspective each gives us. Both stories are needed to hold the fullness of God’s plan… the perfect balance revealed in the first story and the role of humans in the second.
NEWS FLASH. We are human. Our motives and intentions are sometimes so well hidden that we aren’t even fully aware of them. So it is entirely possible that we will be certain that God closed a door even when it was just us not wanting to do a thing. Here’s the thing- God is persistent and will continue to open doors, windows, or move the things we’ve stacked in front of them so that God will stop pestering us. When we find ourselves in the same place over and over again, it may be time to look for the door and open it. God just may be on the other side! – Pastor Trudy Stoffel
What is faith about? Rather than just belief in the unbelievable, faith can be understood as a state of being that isn’t necessarily a choice. Luther talks about faith as a gift from God, citing Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”
Ok, so faith is a gift, and a state of being that includes what one theologian calls “ultimate concern” (Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, 1957). In this way, faith means being ultimately concerned with ultimate things, aka God.
This “concern” shows a direction of attention and a closeness between two parties (if they are concerned about one another, they are close in a way). So, faith in God means being concerned and drawn toward God through that concern. This might look like devotional practices, or prayer, or service, or learning, or worship!
Faith as ultimate concern means that God can also be faithful, as is expressed in many Psalms (33:4, 36:5, 92:2, 100:5, 119:90, etc. etc. etc.). Just as we are ultimately concerned with God, God is ultimately concerned with us! :-0
How is concern a gift from God? We all feel concerned from time to time, and rather than it being a negative thing, directing that concern toward God in devotion, service, and worship brings forth healing, love, and a free exchange of giftedness. Faith in God overflows into connection to one another.
– Vicar Aaron Musser
When we hear that God has a plan, we may picture God sitting with something like a 3-D model of the world or at a computer filled with Sims, actively picking up and moving each and every piece, micromanaging the whole creation. Or maybe with a giant wall calendar with everything already written in- like the day each person will die or moving the pieces to prevent or allow something to happen. God’s plan is actually a much bigger picture than any of that. When God says He has a plan, it is a plan of repentance, redemption, resurrection and restoration. And it happens over and over and over again in each of our lives. And it will keep happening- sometimes we might even notice. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel
The word ‘sin’ in Greek is ‘hamartia’, which means ‘missing the mark’. This sounds kind of like a mistake. However, when we look at the use of the word throughout the Gospels, it reveals that it is about missing the mark in a particular way. Sin is when we turn from God, often turning in on ourselves. Therefore it isn’t a list of ‘bad’ things, but a condition of being separated from God. Repentance literally means to turn around, as in, face the other direction or in this case, turn toward Jesus and follow wherever He leads. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel