Thursday, May 28, 2015

Love and Steadfastness

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


The Greatest Gift of Love

2 Thessalonians 3:1-5  The Message

1-3 One more thing, friends: Pray for us. Pray that the Master’s Word will simply take off and race through the country to a groundswell of response, just as it did among you. And pray that we’ll be rescued from these scoundrels who are trying to do us in. I’m finding that not all “believers” are believers. But the Master never lets us down. He’ll stick by you and protect you from evil.
4-5 Because of the Master, we have great confidence in you. We know you’re doing everything we told you and will continue doing it. May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God’s love and Christ’s endurance.
 
For Reflection 
Some times we just need to know that what we believe and what we are doing is recognized as authentic Christianity.  Paul is providing such feedback to the Thessalonians.  But, what is more powerful is your own recognition that because of what you believe and how you act out your beliefs brings comfort to those in distress, peace to those in turmoil and forgiveness to the unforgivable.  Have confidence in your faith.  Live in the world of agape.

Pray
for those whose lives are filled with distressing times.  Pray for peace for those in turmoil.  Pray prayers of intersession and forgive the unforgiving and the unforgivable.  Pray for the abiding love of God to surround you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Guided By the Spirit

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


The Greatest Gift of Love

Galatians 5:19-26  The Message

19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
 
For Reflection 
Say "Good by" to self-centeredness.  Say "Hello" to God-centeredness.  God doesn't punish the self-centered, they punish themselves.  Their punishment is a direct result of their self-centered word and deed.  God doesn't wave a magic wand and "poof" we are rewarded for good behavior.  Our salvation is a result of our God-centered word and deed.

So, live a creative God-centered life and reject a destructive self-centered life.  Live the life God has given you; a life like no other, a life that fits you comfortably, a life full of grace.

Pray
prayers of thanksgiving for the life God has given to you.  Pray that you will use your unique gifts for the glory of God.  Pray that you will live a creative life and lead others to grace.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Abounding in Steadfast Love

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


The Greatest Gift Is Love

Jonah 3:10-4:11 The Message (MSG)10 God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do.
1-2 Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, “God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!
“So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!”
God said, “What do you have to be angry about?”
But Jonah just left. He went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city.
God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up.
7-8 But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: “I’m better off dead!”
Then God said to Jonah, “What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?”
Jonah said, “Plenty of right. It’s made me angry enough to die!”
10-11 God said, “What’s this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can’t I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don’t yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?”
 
For Reflection 
How many times have you wanted retribution for a wrong?  During tragic times like the seemingly unjustified shooting of a young black man by a police officer or the horror of a senseless terrorist attack many will cry for justice.  What they really want is retribution.  An eye for an eye.  Some want it so badly that it clouds their judgment and they take matters violently into their own hands and feel perfectly justified in doing so.

But, is that what God wants?  Jonah and God struggle with the difference between retribution and justice.  God turns the common need for vengeance upside down.  Vengeance and retribution seem to be born of anger.  Forgiveness and reconciliation are born of love, a deep desire for rehabilitation and a return to God.

Pray
for those who strike out in anger.  Pray for those who hate.  Pray for those who want vengeance. Pray for those who offer the grace of God through overtures of forgiveness and peace.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Love and the Knowledge of God

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


The Greatest Gift Is Love

Hosea 6:1-7  The Message

1-3 “Come on, let’s go back to God.
    He hurt us, but he’ll heal us.
He hit us hard,
    but he’ll put us right again.
In a couple of days we’ll feel better.
    By the third day he’ll have made us brand-new,
Alive and on our feet,
    fit to face him.
We’re ready to study God,
    eager for God-knowledge.
As sure as dawn breaks,
    so sure is his daily arrival.
He comes as rain comes,
    as spring rain refreshing the ground.”
4-7 “What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
    What do I make of you, Judah?
Your declarations of love last no longer
    than morning mist and predawn dew.
That’s why I use prophets to shake you to attention,
    why my words cut you to the quick:
To wake you up to my judgment
    blazing like light.
I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.
    I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.
You broke the covenant—just like Adam!
    You broke faith with me—ungrateful wretches!
 
For Reflection 
Just like kids testing the limits of our parents, we test our limits with God.  We come back to God time an time again, taking for granted God's grace.  We think if we just go to church, or just sing hymns, or just participate in the community of the faithful, or just do good deeds, or just... Well you fill it in.

Preforming demonstrations just to please God is not what God wants.  God is not a God that can be bought through sacrifice and kind acts.  God wants invited into your life as an abiding presence.  A Holy Spirit that is a trusted confidant and adviser.  God wants your righteous acts to be a result of your love for him and for all human kind.  God wants a love that is always flowing from God's fountain into the world through you.

Pray
that you will be motivated to love because God loves you.  Pray for the steadfast abiding presence of the Holy Spirit to guide you and build you up.  Pray that you will act in love.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Excel in Your Gifts

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


Gift of Languages

1 Corinthians 4:6-13  The Message

All I’m doing right now, friends, is showing how these things pertain to Apollos and me so that you will learn restraint and not rush into making judgments without knowing all the facts. It’s important to look at things from God’s point of view. I would rather not see you inflating or deflating reputations based on mere hearsay.
7-8 For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting on top of the world—at least God’s world—and we’re right there, sitting alongside you!
9-13 It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better.
 
For Reflection
What an image, "...on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket."  I have felt that way sometimes.  Haven't  you?  Haven't we all been called to be misfits in our contemporary society?   When society ignores the poor we lament and advocate for compassion.  When society favors the rich and powerful we lament and advocate for justice.  When society uses false justification for retribution and hate we lament and advocate for peace and reconciliation.   Where society seeks order we lament and accept that life is messy.  We are indeed misfits.

Pray
prayers of praise and thanksgiving for the living God.  Pray for those who are misfits because the Holy Spirit guides their lives.  Pray for those who stand in contrast to  those who teach false prophesy.   Pray
for those who advocate for and practice forgiveness, compassion, peace and  distributive justice

Thursday, May 21, 2015

They Shall Prophesy

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


Gift of Languages

Acts 2:14-21  The Message

14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
    on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
    also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
    your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
    I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
    and they’ll prophesy.
I’ll set wonders in the sky above
    and signs on the earth below,
Blood and fire and billowing smoke,
    the sun turning black and the moon blood-red,
Before the Day of the Lord arrives,
    the Day tremendous and marvelous;
And whoever calls out for help
    to me, God, will be saved.”
 
For Reflection 
Prophecy is out of favor these days.  Maybe it is because the term "prophecy" brings to mind the Old Testament gloom and doom prophets or perhaps it is because it is seen as future telling and of little credibility.

What ever it is we should get over it!  Where are the contemporary prophets?  Who and how many are speaking out for God and speaking consistently about God's love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, sovereignty and justice.  Who is speaking about God's plan for history?  Who are the church's visionaries?  How often are these visionaries studied and explained?

The world has trivialized God.  People, once faithful, are leaving the church. Many have lost their faith. The world has made the absolute trivial.  Who will rise to make relevant what the world has sought to make absolute and ultimate.  

We need to become obsessed with the establishment of God's kingdom in economics, politics, education, race, the arts; drama, painting and writing, We need to look passed the self-delusion of contemporary society and see clearly with God's eyes, speaking with many voices proclaiming the gospel message of love, compassion, justice, and peace.

Pray
for those who have the courage to prophesy.  Pray for the courage to be obsessed with the realization of God's kingdom.  Pray that you will have the courage to prophesy as a witness to the Holy Spirit in your life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

We Hear in Our Own Languages

The Spirit Comes
Woven together in Love


Gift of Languages

Acts 2:8-13T  he Message

5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
    Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
    Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
 
For Reflection 
Indeed, what does this mean?  Two possibilities come to mind,  First, involves perception.  One gets from reading, listening, smelling, tasting and touching only what one brings to the task.  That is, what one understands from any experience is the result of the wealth of Information one brings to it.  (If all one sees are nails one brings a hammer.  If one sees nails and screws one brings a hammer and screwdriver.  Therefore, it would be wise to experience as many things as possible regarding your faith.  The more words you learn, the more experiences you have, the better you will become at understand your faith as it is understood and practiced.

Secondly each heard their own tongue proclaiming the gospel.  It doesn't matter what language you speak, God understands them all, God speaks them all. God is the God of the universe who is seeking to help you know and love God and his design for your life.

Pray
Pray in your own language, in your own words.  Pray about everything.  It doesn't matter how you pray.  It matters that you pray.  Prayer changes you and you change the world, one loving act at a time.