Friday, September 4, 2015

No Other Authority

The Christian Community Comes Alive
Seeds of New Growth


Praying for One Another

Acts 4:13-22 The Message

13-14 They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed!—what could they say against that?
15-17 They sent them out of the room so they could work out a plan. They talked it over: “What can we do with these men? By now it’s known all over town that a miracle has occurred, and that they are behind it. There is no way we can refute that. But so that it doesn’t go any further, let’s silence them with threats so they won’t dare to use Jesus’ name ever again with anyone.”
18-20 They called them back and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”
21-22 The religious leaders renewed their threats, but then released them. They couldn’t come up with a charge that would stick, that would keep them in jail. The people wouldn’t have stood for it—they were all praising God over what had happened. The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old.
 
For Reflection 
The common society can not stand up to the Kingdom of God.  As much as the common people try to undermine, distort, and persecute those who work for the Kingdom, they will not succeed -- not if believers live their faith.

Pray
for those who are persecuted for living their faith.  Pray for those who lack the courage and the foresight to accept obedience to the Holy Spirit which abides in them.  Pray for the courage to live in Jesus name.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

No One Else

The Christian Community Comes Alive
Seeds of New Growth


Praying for One Another

Acts 4:1-12  The Message

Nothing to Hide

1-4 While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus. They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning, for by now it was late in the evening. But many of those who listened had already believed the Message—in round numbers about five thousand!
5-7 The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religion scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: “Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”
8-12 With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” 
For Reflection
Everybody who was anybody was there.  These were the formal and informal guardians of the common culture.
Why were they so threatened?  Peter's answer tells us why.  These "Jesus people" were living their new belief.

Who cares whom or how one worships?  Everybody cares how one lives out one's life!

Jesus, the discarded stone, is the flag of salvation.  Christ is the sign of the defeat of common sense.  Jesus is the symbol of God-sense, lived in the lives of the followers of  Christ.  When do you deny commonsense and follow God-sense?

Pray
Pray for those who follow God-sense.  Pray for the courage to deny the common sense of culture and follow the good sense of God-sense.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Greater Things through Prayer

The Christian Community Comes Alive
Seeds of New Growth


Praying for One Another

John 14:11-14  The Message

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do. 
 
For Reflection 
Consubstantial!  I like that term.  It means virtually the same.  God and Jesus are consubstantial; and now, in resurrection, literally so.  If one prays to God one prays to Christ.  If one prays to Christ one prays to God.
 
Christ has commissioned us to do His work.  As we pursue His work, Christ will answer any request we have that helps us realize the Kingdom of God.

Pray
that you will live for the advancement of God's Kingdom here and now.  Pray to Jesus for strength, courage and perseverance.  Pray to Christ for guidance, and for help as you seek to make the world more forgiving, compassionate, peaceful and just.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Open-hearted Life

The Christian Community Comes Alive
Seeds of New Growth


Praying for One Another

2 Corinthians 6:1-13  The Message

Staying at Our Post

1-10 Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,
I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.
Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
 
For Reflection 
This is the promise of God.  In the early church, the focus was on living the life that Christ taught.  What attracted people was not an alternative belief, but rather, an alternative life style, a life style rooted in building and sustaining a loving community. It was a community so subversive that it threatened the established common power.  Christians were persecuted and murdered not because of their faith but because of the way they lived.

Pray
for those who live the way of the Lord.  Pray that you will have the courage to live in God's counter-culture.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Prayer of Humility

The Christian Community Comes Alive
Seeds of New Growth


Praying for One Another


Matthew 6:9-15  The Message

7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.
14-15 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
For Reflection 
The Lord's Prayer is familiar to us all.  So familiar in fact, that we often repeat it with out thinking about it.  Sometimes the rote repetition looses some of its meaning.  Here in this translation the prayer may throw us for a loop.  That is the point!  Our feelings of discomfort make us take a new look at an old prayer.  There is no right way to pray.  Just talk to God.  Be humble and honest.

Pray
Pray this prayer in your own words, make this familiar prayer uniquely yours. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Contrite and Humble in Spirit

God's Prophets Demand Justice
God' Prophets Demand Justice


Advocates of Justice for All


Return to a Just God

Isaiah 57:10-21  The Message

3-10 “But you, children of a witch, come here!
    Sons of a slut, daughters of a whore.
What business do you have taunting,
    sneering, and sticking out your tongue?
Do you have any idea what wretches you’ve turned out to be?
    A race of rebels, a generation of liars.
You satisfy your lust any place you find some shade
    and fornicate at whim.
You kill your children at any convenient spot—
    any cave or crevasse will do.
You take stones from the creek
    and set up your sex-and-religion shrines.
You’ve chosen your fate.
    Your worship will be your doom.
You’ve climbed a high mountain
    to practice your foul sex-and-death religion.
Behind closed doors
    you assemble your precious gods and goddesses.
Deserting me, you’ve gone all out, stripped down
    and made your bed your place of worship.
You’ve climbed into bed with the ‘sacred’ whores
    and loved every minute of it,
    adoring every curve of their naked bodies.
You anoint your king-god with ointments
    and lavish perfumes on yourselves.
You send scouts to search out the latest in religion,
    send them all the way to hell and back.
You wear yourselves out trying the new and the different,
    and never see what a waste it all is.
You’ve always found strength for the latest fad,
    never got tired of trying new religions.
11-13 “Who talked you into the pursuit of this nonsense,
    leaving me high and dry,
    forgetting you ever knew me?
Because I don’t yell and make a scene
    do you think I don’t exist?
I’ll go over, detail by detail, all your ‘righteous’ attempts at religion,
    and expose the absurdity of it all.
Go ahead, cry for help to your collection of no-gods:
    A good wind will blow them away.
    They’re smoke, nothing but smoke.
“But anyone who runs to me for help
    will inherit the land,
    will end up owning my holy mountain!”
14 Someone says: “Build, build! Make a road!
    Clear the way, remove the rocks
    from the road my people will travel.”
15-21 A Message from the high and towering God,
    who lives in Eternity,
    whose name is Holy:
“I live in the high and holy places,
    but also with the low-spirited, the spirit-crushed,
And what I do is put new spirit in them,
    get them up and on their feet again.
For I’m not going to haul people into court endlessly,
    I’m not going to be angry forever.
Otherwise, people would lose heart.
    These souls I created would tire out and give up.
I was angry, good and angry, because of Israel’s sins.
    I struck him hard and turned away in anger,
    while he kept at his stubborn, willful ways.
When I looked again and saw what he was doing,
    I decided to heal him, lead him, and comfort him,
    creating a new language of praise for the mourners.
Peace to the far-off, peace to the near-at-hand,” says God
    “and yes, I will heal them.
But the wicked are storm-battered seas
    that can’t quiet down.
    The waves stir up garbage and mud.
There’s no peace,” God says, “for the wicked.”
For Reflection 
A few Sundays ago some one asked me if I thought Christianity was changing.  My answer, unhesitatingly, was yes!  God is always changing the way God's children worship.  Many feel that the Church is dying.  They point to the disruptive arguments about sex and women's rights and how to serve communion and who should read and interpret the Bible.  Many times the hypocrisy of the church seems cartoonish and driven by self preservation.

Ironically, the maturity of the church hangs in the balance of these arguments.  In my early years arguments about divorce and women as church officers (let alone in the ordained ministry} was argued with such intensity, such vitriol as some argue contemporary issues.  In the pressure of resolving these issues, God worked God's own way.  God will continue to present opportunities to grow into God's kingdom.

The church is not dying.  The church is maturing.  Those who reject religion or  leave religious institutions still have a desire for spiritual transcendence.  God has a long history of sending prophets and leaders to advance God's will.  God will see to it that God's church will evolve so that all will find a pathway to reconciliation and into a loving community, the household of God.

Pray
for those who challenge us.  Pray for those who fear change.  Pray for God's prophets who sacrifice themselves for the advancement of God's agenda.  Pray for the church universal. Pray for and hope for the establishment of the household of God.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Shall We Repent?

God's Prophets Demand Justice
God' Prophets Demand Justice


Advocates of Justice for All


Return to a Just God

Jeremiah 6:26-30  The Message

26 “Dear Daughter Zion: Dress in black.
    Blacken your face with ashes.
Weep most bitterly,
    as for an only child.
The countdown has begun . . .
    six, five, four, three . . .
    The Terror is on us!”
27-30 God gave me this task:
“I have made you the examiner of my people,
    to examine and weigh their lives.
They’re a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch,
    rotten to the core, the lot of them.
Refining fires are cranked up to white heat,
    but the ore stays a lump, unchanged.
It’s useless to keep trying any longer.
    Nothing can refine evil out of them.
Men will give up and call them ‘slag,’
    thrown on the slag heap by me, their God.”

For Reflection 
True repentance is turning away from sin and returning to God.   A homecoming filled with joy and the promise of a new life lived in the hollow of God's hand.  Repentance is confessing your sin and accepting the grace in God's forgiveness.  Repentance is practicing obedience to God's will.  Repentance is not just saying you are sorry and begging forgiveness is also wearing the new robes of righteousness.

Pray
prayers of confession and repentance.  Pray that you will rededicate yourself to the righteous life.