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.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Harvest of Righteousness

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

An Appeal for Reconciliation

James 3:13-18 The Message

Live Well, Live Wisely

13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
 
For Reflection
How do others know you?  What is your reputation?  Are you considered fair? trustworthy? competent? wise? humble? compassionate?

You are known by what you say, what you do, and what others say about you.  It is the only thing you truly own and the one thing of which you have little control.  All you can do is be consistent in treating others with dignity, honor and in humility.  You may not be able to control the perception of others, but you can control your willingness to forgive and your constant pursuit of righteous living.
 
Pray
for opportunities to find wisdom, to prove trust, to be just and fair minded, to be compassionate and humble.  Pray to forgive others who misrepresent you.  Pray to be consistent in your pursuit of a God-centered life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Ministry of Reconciliation

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

An Appeal for Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 The Message

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

For Reflection
The will of God is that we become stewards of each other.   God calls us to reconcile our relationships with each other as God has reconciled God's relationship with us.  In offering forgiveness, God has given us a new start.  In forgiving others, we initiate a fresh start without strings or expectations for a return.

Pray
that you will forgive.  Pray that your act of forgiving will lead toward making things right among each other.  Pray that all will learn to forgive and take that first step toward ending those things which prevent  righteousness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Making Peace Through the Cross

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

An Appeal for Reconciliation

Colossians 1:15-23 The Message

Christ Holds It All Together

15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
21-23 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.

For Reflection
Everyone finds a space within God's being.  God will reconcile all to God.  The Cross is the sign of God's love and God's desire for all to turn to God to be reconciled and saved from our own humanity.  To be freed from our humanity is a gift which can be derived only from reconciliation to the Creator.  Why would anyone turn away from that gift?
Pray
that you will accept the grace of God.  Pray that all will find the freedom from human suffering that is found in being  reconciled to God. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Failed Attempt at Reconciliation

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

An Appeal for Reconciliation

Acts 7:23-29 The Message

23-26 “When he was forty years old, he wondered how everything was going with his Hebrew kin and went out to look things over. He saw an Egyptian abusing one of them and stepped in, avenging his underdog brother by knocking the Egyptian flat. He thought his brothers would be glad that he was on their side, and even see him as an instrument of God to deliver them. But they didn’t see it that way. The next day two of them were fighting and he tried to break it up, told them to shake hands and get along with each other: ‘Friends, you are brothers, why are you beating up on each other?’
27-29 “The one who had started the fight said, ‘Who put you in charge of us? Are you going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard that, realizing that the word was out, he ran for his life and lived in exile over in Midian. During the years of exile, two sons were born to him.

For Reflection
"Who asked you to butt in?"   This is a common phrase for a common response to a helping action.  As every family knows, blood carries certain rights to intervene.  Even so, the intervention, no matter how well intentioned, can be rejected.   In order to successfully help another, one must be asked to help.

Two questions arise.  How ready to accept help are you?  Does your pride interfere with another's attempt to help you?  Secondly, are you prepared to help when asked or do you bull ahead and overstep your welcome assistance?

God wants to help.  However, God can be of little assistance if you refuse to be helped or refuse to ask for help.  As the adage goes, Ask and you will be given.
Pray
to God, the compassionate father, for help.  Pray that you will be ready to accept the opportunity for assistance when it presents itself.  Pray for those too proud to ask for help.  Pray for the success of helpers.  Pray for God's wisdom, patience and understanding when you are asked to help.  Pray to serve in humility.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Waiting for the Lord's Mercy

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

Treasure in Clay Jars

Jude 1:17-25  The Message

17-19 But remember, dear friends, that the apostles of our Master, Jesus Christ, told us this would happen: “In the last days there will be people who don’t take these things seriously anymore. They’ll treat them like a joke, and make a religion of their own whims and lusts.” These are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!
20-21 But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!
22-23 Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.
24-25 And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.

For Reflection
What is sin?

In my opinion, sin is anything we say, think, or do that separates us from God.  Religious or cultural rules are of little consequence unless violations, or for that matter, following them, separates us from the intentions that God has for living a life in the hollow of God's hand.
Pray
for Christian hospitality,  Pray for Christian humility,  Pray for Christian justice,  Pray for Christian peace.  Pray for Christian forgiveness.  Pray for Christian love.  Pray for all to grow into God's Grace.
Pray for mercy when we fall short of God's expectations.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Walking in Truth and Love

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

Treasure in Clay Jars

2 John 1-9  The Message

1-2 My dear congregation, I, your pastor, love you in very truth. And I’m not alone—everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in us loves you.
Let grace, mercy, and peace be with us in truth and love from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, Son of the Father!
4-6 I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other. Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed.

Don’t Walk Out on God

There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver! Antichrist!
8-9 And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you. Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.
10-11 If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his evil ways, making you his partner.
12-13 I have a lot more things to tell you, but I’d rather not use paper and ink. I hope to be there soon in person and have a heart-to-heart talk. That will be far more satisfying to both you and me. Everyone here in your sister congregation sends greetings.
 
For Reflection
Those who speak in anger, those who advocate violence, those who endorse exclusion, those who's rhetoric is a call to arms, those who focus on retribution in the name of God deceive us.  In God's name they make us a willing partner with the anti-Christ.  Be wary of those who turn the truth away from love.  Be cautious of those who disguise the truth in the cloak of hate.  God's will is reconciliation. God's will is peace.  God's will is forgiveness,   God's will is just.
 
Pray
for those who work for peace.  Pray for those who encourage inclusion.  Pray for those who suffer Grace.