Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Believe in Jesus, Love One Another

God Loves Us
God's Eternal, Preserving, Renewing Love


The Source of all Love

1 John 3:18-24. The Message

When We Practice Real Love

18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
21-24 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

For Reflection
God is love, and we are made in love's image. We learn to be selfish. We learn to hate. But we are made to love.  So give in to loving.  The risk of loving is the sacrifice you make in response to God's love for you.  God doesn't want words of praise.  God's desire that we worship in works of praise.  Each kindness, each act of forgiveness, each action performed in humility is an act of worship honoring God.

Pray
Pray that you have the courage to love. Pray for the will and skill to love in the face of hate, in the face of oppression, in the face of prejudice,  in the face of injustices, and in the face of personal attacks.  Pray that you will measure all that you do by the fruits of your love.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Jesus and the Father's Love

God Loves Us
God's Eternal, Preserving, Renewing Love


The Source of all Love

John 14:18-24. The Message

18-20 “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.
21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”
23-24 “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.

For Reflection
As we enter the Lenten season, let us spend time with the Holy Spirit. Let us judge ourselves as we follow the path to the resurrection. Over the next few weeks, let the mysterious Holy Spirit purify us so that we may experience a recreation of commitment to follow the Way of Love. We see evidence of the fruits of lovelessness all around us. Let our loving kindness displace the hate, selfishness, and injustice that plagues us.

Pray
Now is the time for prayers of lament and confession.  Pray for forgiveness and repent. Pray for the infusion of love in a loveless world.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Thankful for God's Steadfast Love

God Loves Us
God's Eternal, Preserving, Renewing Love


The Source of all Love

Psalm 40:1-10. The Message

A David Psalm

40 1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
    At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
    pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
    to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
    a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
    they enter the mystery,
    abandoning themselves to God.
4-5 Blessed are you who give yourselves over to God,
    turn your backs on the world’s “sure thing,”
    ignore what the world worships;
The world’s a huge stockpile
    of God-wonders and God-thoughts.
Nothing and no one
    comes close to you!
I start talking about you, telling what I know,
    and quickly run out of words.
Neither numbers nor words
    account for you.
6 Doing something for you, bringing something to you—
    that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious—
    that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears
    so I can listen.
7-8 So I answered, “I’m coming.
    I read in your letter what you wrote about me,
And I’m coming to the party
    you’re throwing for me.”
That’s when God’s Word entered my life,
    became part of my very being.
9-10 I’ve preached you to the whole congregation,
    I’ve kept back nothing, God—you know that.
I didn’t keep the news of your ways
    a secret, didn’t keep it to myself.
I told it all, how dependable you are, how thorough.
    I didn’t hold back pieces of love and truth
For myself alone. I told it all,
    let the congregation know the whole story.

For Reflection
Do you feel imprisoned in your life?  Would you like to disembark this vessel of servitude to the commonplace?  Choose freedom. Choose a God-centered life.  Abandon yourself to God.  Live free in obedience to God's will.

Pray
Pray for the courage to abandon you common place life.  Pray to hear God's invitation to be God's partner and give yourself to the mission.  Pray so that God becomes the central force in your soul.

Practice Mutual Discipline

Creation: A Divine Cycle
The Birthing of a New Community


Christ Creates Holy Living

Matthew 18:15-20. The Message

15-17 “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love.
18-20 “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”

For Reflection
So, who is responsible for the first move? It seems to me, the responsibility for resolving issues belongs to the one who feels wronged. After all, the one who slighted or hurt you may not realize it. Thinking that because the other is the one to blame, he or she should apologize is an ineffective starting point for forgiveness and restitution.

How many attempts should one make to resolve differences? As many as it takes to achieve mutual resolution, an infinite number. After all, are not both of your souls at stake?

Pray
for the courage to take the first step. Pray that you will approach the resolution of conflict humbly, malice-free, and seeking the others best interest as your first interest. Pray so that you and God are in sync. Pray for God's whispered words of comfort and counsel.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wholeness by Prayer and Action

Creation: A Divine Cycle
The Birthing of a New Community


Christ Creates Holy Living

James 5:13-20. The Message

Prayer to Be Reckoned With

13-15 Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.
16-18 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.
19-20 My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

For Reflection
Bishop Fulton Sheen was once asked to open Congress with prayer.  As I can remember, he said, "There are three things a man must do for himself; blow his own nose, make his own love, and say his own prayers." With that comment, Bishop Sheen asked for silent prayer. This was not an abdication of prayer. Rather, Sheen encouraged private prayer, that if practiced, was impossible to disregard.

Sheen was a man who not only professed his Catholic faith, but also studied, explained, and practiced his faith. He was, above all, a good and righteous humble man. I tell you this because as a teen I was a TV fan.  I rarely missed one of his lectures. He was a great influence on me.

Sheen described prayer as, "taking a little rest to contact power for one's soul." We pray prayers of petition asking God to provide, to intercede. Often we ask God to change God's will. Perhaps we should ask rather for things that have spiritual worth.

We worship and praise God in prayer. But, does God need praise? I rather think not. We praise God because we need to acknowledge our gratitude and recognition for God's gifts and God's sovereignty.  This prayer strengthens our soul.

Our lives are a living prayer when our actions are offered up to God. As we understand that our lives are holy and act accordingly, we serve as prayer.

So, let us make prayer a common practice. Let us resolve to pray individually, to pray in communion with others, to petition God for our spiritual needs, to pray in praise and worship, and to live righteous lives -- a living prayer, not for God's sake, but for ours.

Pray
That you will often pray about all things. Pray to receive spiritual gifts. Pray in praise and worship. Pray that your actions will honor God.

*Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Prayer, "Life is Worth Living," TV Show, 1953  (See You-Tube."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gifts That Lead to Faithfulness

Creation: A Divine Cycle
The Birthing of a New Community


Christ Creates Holy Living

1 Peter 1:3-9. The Message

A New Life

3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

For Reflection
It was not easy for Christ, and it will not be easy for us. In our new lives in Christ, we will still face tribulation, disappointment, and grief. Yet, as our resurrected selves we meet these human conditions in a far different state. We face these trials with an abiding trust in God. And that makes all the difference. This is our inheritance. This is God's gift to us. This is our destiny.

Pray
prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God for his love of God's creation. Praise God for the opportunity to live our lives free from the seductions of our time in the loving and merciful kingdom of God. Pray for all who live in the name of Christ and who hope for the salvation of the world and endure tribulation to help God achieve it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Sower and the Seed

Creation: A Divine Cycle
The Birthing of a New Community


Christ Creates Holy Living

Luke 8:4-15The Message (MSG)

The Story of the Seeds

4-8 As they went from town to town, a lot of people joined in and traveled along. He addressed them, using this story: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.
“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
9 His disciples asked, “Why did you tell this story?”
10 He said, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. There are others who need stories. But even with stories some of them aren’t going to get it:
Their eyes are open but don’t see a thing,
Their ears are open but don’t hear a thing.
11-12 “This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved.
13 “The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.
14 “And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.
15 “But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.

For Reflection
By the life and ministry of Christ, we all have been given insight into God's kingdom. Not all of those who have heard the Gospel have accepted it. Some ignore what they see and hear. Some are excited and moved to accept the Good News, but they find life in the ordinary world too seductive to ignore.

Those who hear the Gospel and see the fruits of belief and practice seize the opportunities God offers. They will, in collaboration with God, develop a community of loving relationships, trust, justice, and freedom from the commonplace. The Kingdom of God resides in the souls of believers.

Pray
for the believers whose commitment to God will help fulfill God's will for our communal life. Pray that others who hear the offer of salvation from the seductions of our material world will see the fruits of our labors and come to live with us in God's Kingdom.