Monday, September 1, 2014

Act with Justice and Righteousness

Sustaining Hope
The Days Are Surely Coming

A Vision of the Future

Jeremiah 22:1-9    The Message

22 1-3 God’s orders: “Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!
4-5 “‘If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots—they and their officials and the citizens of Judah. But if you don’t obey these commands, then I swear—God’s Decree!—this palace will end up a heap of rubble.’”
6-7 This is God’s verdict on Judah’s royal palace:
“I number you among my favorite places—
    like the lovely hills of Gilead,
    like the soaring peaks of Lebanon.
Yet I swear I’ll turn you into a wasteland,
    as empty as a ghost town.
I’ll hire a demolition crew,
    well-equipped with sledgehammers and wrecking bars,
Pound the country to a pulp
    and burn it all up.
8-9 “Travelers from all over will come through here and say to one another, ‘Why would God do such a thing to this wonderful city?’ They’ll be told, ‘Because they walked out on the covenant of their God, took up with other gods and worshiped them.’”
 
For Reflection
God expects more than belief.  God expects discipleship.  As God's disciples, we are asked to live righteous lives.  We are the stewards of God's kingdom, the angels in God's army, the advocates for justice, peace and forgiveness.
 
Pray
Kneel before God.  Pray prayers of confession, repentance, obedience, praise and thanksgiving.  Pray to serve God.

Friday, August 29, 2014

God Loves A Cheerful Giver

The People of God Set Priorities
Bearing One Another's Burdens

A Community Shares Its Resources

2 Corinthians 9:7-15  The Message

6-7 Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.
8-11 God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it,
He throws caution to the winds,
    giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
His right-living, right-giving ways
    never run out, never wear out.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.
12-15 Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!
 
For Reflection
Whatever God has given you it is not yours!  God's gifts belong to God.  God gives gifts to be used in God's name. You and I are merely stewards of those gifts.  Be generous in sharing God's gifts with the world.
 
Pray
for the wisdom to maximize the value of God's gifts to you.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sowing and Reaping Bountifully

The People of God Set Priorities
Bearing One Another's Burdens

A Community Shares Its Resources

2 Corinthians 9:1-7 The Message

1-2 If I wrote any more on this relief offering for the poor Christians, I’d be repeating myself. I know you’re on board and ready to go. I’ve been bragging about you all through Macedonia province, telling them, “Achaia province has been ready to go on this since last year.” Your enthusiasm by now has spread to most of them.
3-5 Now I’m sending the brothers to make sure you’re ready, as I said you would be, so my bragging won’t turn out to be just so much hot air. If some Macedonians and I happened to drop in on you and found you weren’t prepared, we’d all be pretty red-faced—you and us—for acting so sure of ourselves. So to make sure there will be no slipup, I’ve recruited these brothers as an advance team to get you and your promised offering all ready before I get there. I want you to have all the time you need to make this offering in your own way. I don’t want anything forced or hurried at the last minute.
6-7 Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving.

For Reflection
The re-distribution of wealth and opportunity is not just a do-gooder's advice.  There is real evidence of the harm in ignoring the poor.  In what countries is there most suffering and tyranny? What countries suffer from the most infant deaths?  In what countries is the land and people war torn?  The most lawless.  The most civil unrest?  The most crime ridden? The most disenfranchised?

The answer is easy, those with the greatest number of impoverished people.  Look to poverty and find the seeds of  hate and rebellion.
Pray
Kneel before God.  Pray for those who hold others in impoverishment.  Pray for those whose social and economic conditions drive anger and hate.  Pray that the bars on the doors of the impoverished will be broken.  Pray for the equitable distribution of the opportunity to live humane lives.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Show Proof of Your Love

The People of God Set Priorities
Bearing One Another's Burdens

A Community Shares Its Resources

2 Corinthians 8:16-24  The Message

10-20 So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. The heart regulates the hands. This isn’t so others can take it easy while you sweat it out. No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way, your surplus matching their deficit, their surplus matching your deficit. In the end you come out even. As it is written,
Nothing left over to the one with the most,
Nothing lacking to the one with the least.
I thank God for giving Titus the same devoted concern for you that I have. He was most considerate of how we felt, but his eagerness to go to you and help out with this relief offering is his own idea. We’re sending a companion along with him, someone very popular in the churches for his preaching of the Message. But there’s far more to him than popularity. He’s rock-solid trustworthy. The churches handpicked him to go with us as we travel about doing this work of sharing God’s gifts to honor God as well as we can, taking every precaution against scandal.
20-22 We don’t want anyone suspecting us of taking one penny of this money for ourselves. We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God. That’s why we’re sending another trusted friend along. He’s proved his dependability many times over, and carries on as energetically as the day he started. He’s heard much about you, and liked what he’s heard—so much so that he can’t wait to get there.
23-24 I don’t need to say anything further about Titus. We’ve been close associates in this work of serving you for a long time. The brothers who travel with him are delegates from churches, a real credit to Christ. Show them what you’re made of, the love I’ve been talking up in the churches. Let them see it for themselves!
 
For Reflection
Today we call it distributive justice or social justice.  Some label it socialism or even communism. What Paul refers to in this passage is neither.  To Paul, Christian stewardship means that we never ignore the plight of the poor.  In today's world, as in Paul's, the glaring gap between the wealthy and the impoverished defined justice.  Paul does not suggest a Robin Hood approach to economic and social impoverishment.  He does suggest that neglecting the needs of others is not good stewardship of your gifts, material or otherwise.  Poverty locks the impoverished into impoverishment just as wealth locks the wealthy into wealth, it just hurts more.
 
Pray
prayers of thanksgiving for those of all social and economic status who share their wealth.  Pray that you will be a good shepherd, and a wise steward of all of God's gifts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Measure of Your Gift

The People of God Set Priorities
Bearing One Another's Burdens

A Community Shares Its Resources

Luke 6:34-38  The Message

31-34 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.
35-36 “I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind.
37-38 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

For Reflection
I guess still the best rule for good living is "Do as you did be done by!"  As Christians, we are asked to love equally the lovable and the unlovable.  Furthermore, we are asked to expect nothing in return.
Such behavior doesn't seem to be hard, but, without Christ, without the Father, without the Holy Spirit, it is difficult.    It requires humility and selflessness.  To reflect that kind of love, one must give one's self to God completely. Forgiveness begets forgiveness.  Humility begets humility.  Love begets love.

Pray
for the presence of the Holy spirit to rise in you so that it overwhelms self-centered living and drives God-centered living.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Treasure in Heaven

The People of God Set Priorities
Bearing One Another's Burdens

A Community Shares Its Resources

Mark 10:17-27  The Message

To Enter God’s Kingdom

17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”
18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.”
20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
23-25 Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”
26 That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked.
27 Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”
 
For Reflection
I don't think Christ meant that only the poor will ever be qualified to be accepted into the Kingdom of God.  Often times our discipleship is defined by how well we follow the rules as though God was keeping a score card on each one of us.  It is never enough to play by the rules if by doing so one expects rewards from a grateful God.  God wants us to be completely committed to righteousness, transformed and so deeply engrossed in the Holy Spirit that we, by example and grace, bring others to realize God's transformational power. 
 
Pray
that you will forsake the worldly,  Pray that you will accept the profound grace of God.  Pray for your dependence on God.

Friday, August 22, 2014

First, be Reconciled

The People of God Set Priorities
Bearing One Another's Burdens

An Appeal for Reconciliation

Matthew 5:21-26 The Message

Murder

21-22 “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
25-26 “Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out 
For Reflection
The truth is words do hurt.  With words one murders the soul.  How many times have you said,  "He (She) is the one who owes me an apology."  If you are the one who feels harmed, why lay the burden on the other to initiate reconciliation? He or she may not know that he or she has harmed you.  You are the one feeling hurt.  You are the one who is responsible to initiate reconciliation.  You are the one who must forgive and hold no grudge so that reconciliation can move forward.  You are the one who must take the first step.  Vendetta and revenge is no path toward reconciliation,
 
Pray
that you will be able to forgive all transgressions as God has forgiven yours.  Pray that you will be willing to risk the first step toward reconciling harms.