Friday, January 18, 2019

Sharing God's Grace

Our Love for God

Loving God by Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Love

Philippians 1:3-11 The Message 

A Love That Will Grow

3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
7-8 It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!
9-11 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

For Reflection

I hope that my love is sincere and intelligent.  I wish to be known to have a faith that is rooted in reality. If that hope guides my life, I will have experienced a life worth living. 

Pray

Pray so that your life will be known for your love, sincerity, and hope.


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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Believing in and Suffering for Christ

Our Love for God

Loving God by Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Love

Philippians 1:27-30 
The Message

27-30 Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.

For Reflection

Live your life so that you are a credit to God and  Christ.  Live your life so that others will see the face of God in you. Live your life in the manner of Christ.

Pray

Pray so that you can grow into grace, equivalent in form to Christ. 

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Apostles Are Fools for Christ

Our Love for God

Loving God by Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Love

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 
The Message

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

For the most part, Corinth was a prosperous city. The new Christians probably reflected that affluence.  They had grown in the spirit of Grace, but not in humility.  These passages show the corrupting influence of pride. Corinthians take on the robe of privilege, not the mantle of sacrificial service.  Fellow Christians suffer while the privileged boast of their Christianity.

Such practice today is the contemporary manifestation of feudal violence, where the privileged class exploits the peasants to maintain their economic and social superiority.  This results in the inequitable distribution of a community's spiritual and economic wealth.  This inequity exacerbates the effects of the economic and social distance between those whose lives seem to be inoculated against the vagaries of life's pressures and those whose lives are dominated by them.

Economic and spiritual affluence is not a bad thing. But when one's self-perceived status blinds one from the suffering of others and causes one not share one's blessings, one violates the commandment to love.  Thus, prideful Christians belie their Christian attitudes, beliefs, and values by ignoring their responsibility to provide mechanisms for social and economic justice.  They cease to fulfill their Christian covenants.

Pray

Pray so that you grow in both Grace and humility.  Pray that you will always be mindful of God's will that all people receive the blessings that follow a commitment to The Way of Jesus Christ.  Pray that you will take up the cross of responsibility for your neighbor's wellbeing.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Spirit Rested on the Elders

Our Love for God

Loving God by Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Love

Numbers 11:24-34 
The Message

24-25 So Moses went out and told the people what God had said. He called together seventy of the leaders and had them stand around the Tent. God came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy leaders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they didn’t continue; it was a onetime event.
26 Meanwhile, two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. They were listed as leaders, but they didn’t leave camp to go to the Tent. Still, the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.
27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!”
28 Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ right-hand man since his youth, said, “Moses, master! Stop them!”
29 But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”
30-34 Then Moses and the leaders of Israel went back to the camp.

For Reflection

The contrast between the seventy who received the Spirit from God through Moses and the two elders who stayed in the camp shows us the will of God.  All but Eldad and Medad felt qualified to attend to Moses. Perhaps the two who remained in the camp felt unworthy of such a high calling.  If so, their humility attracted God's attention, and God gifted to them the power of the holy spirit to pray, prophesy, and teach according to the Spirit visited upon them.

Perhaps the others, like Joshua, were concerned that Moses' influence would be diminished by those who were not as qualified as the seventy thought they were.  The seventy were blessed with instruction from Moses and God and prophesied only once.

But it was those who saw themselves as unworthy to answer God's call who continued the work of God.  I suppose that if one thinks that he or she is more worthy than another in the sight of God, it is proof that they are unworthy.

Pray

Pray so that you will humble yourself at the feet of  Christ  Pray so that you will respond to the will of God through the Holy Spirit.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

God Sent Me to Preserve You

Our Love for God

Loving God by Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Christ

Genesis 45:1-8 The Message

45 1-2 Joseph couldn’t hold himself in any longer, keeping up a front before all his attendants. He cried out, “Leave! Clear out—everyone leave!” So there was no one with Joseph when he identified himself to his brothers. But his sobbing was so violent that the Egyptians couldn’t help but hear him. The news was soon reported to Pharaoh’s palace.
3 Joseph spoke to his brothers: “I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?” But his brothers couldn’t say a word. They were speechless—they couldn’t believe what they were hearing and seeing.
4-8 “Come closer to me,” Joseph said to his brothers. They came closer. “I am Joseph, your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel bad, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt.

For Reflection

We often speak of Joseph's act of forgiveness as the ultimate pattern for reconciliation.  We talk of his humility and his acceptance of his brothers.

But, today, I am struck by the meaning of Joseph's suffering. In his trials, By living through the hardship of betrayal by his siblings, and losing his family, Joseph has come to the knowledge of God's will.  His suffering has brought about the deliverance of his people. Without the wicked manipulations of his brothers, he would not have risen to power and not been a position to help.  He dismisses those who represent the violence of domination and calls his brothers unto him. Such calling is a profound grace, an act of salvation, not by human mercy, but by the action of a loving, compassionate God.

Pray

Pray so that you will see into the suffering trials of everyday living, to find the will of God that drives us toward Grace.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Boasting: an Insult to Christ

Our Love for God

Loving God, Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Love

James 4:13-17 The Message

Nothing but a Wisp of Fog

13-15 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.”
16-17 As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.

For Reflection

"Now that I am a Christian, I have a better chance for success."  "Look out world, God's on my side!"  " I am better than all of you in your petty attempts at attainment."  "Move over heathens!"

Statements like those above are an indication of belief in magic, not God.  These are the words of one destined to say, "Look what I've done."  "Alone, I fought the odds."  It is the epitome of idolatry to think that you, alone, have done anything.  It is never true.

Bragging is nothing but a wisp of fog, an indication of one's ignorance and "inshallah," if God wills, is an admission of trust in God, not an excuse for failure to see the will of God.

Pray

Pray so that you will be aware of those who have supported you and guided you.  Pray so that you will always remember that God has prepared the path for you. 


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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Walk In the Newness of Life

Our Love for God

Loving God, Trusting Christ

Submit to God in Love

Romans 6:1-14 The Message

When Death Becomes Life

6 1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!
3-5 That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.
6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead, it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.
12-14 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.

For Reflection

Yes, you have to die to your old life. Some write their obituary, listing all the dissatisfactions the old life caused.  Good riddance! The slate is clear. As a newborn enters the world, re-enter seeing all the promise of life anew. Free to act in the manner of Christ.  Free to love in the way of Christ. Free to claim your independence from the demands of ordinary secular existence.  Free to be courageous.  Free to reject sin.

Pray

Pray so that your transformation in Christ will be lasting.  Pray so that you will allow the Holy Spirit to influence your life.  Pray so that you are comfortable with saying no to your old life. Pray so that you find courage. Pray in the fellowship of believers and find rest in God's will.

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