Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If My People Humble Themselves

Acts of Worship
Stewardship for Life


Feasting and Fasting

2 Chronicles 7:11-18  The Message

God’s Confirmation

11 Solomon completed building The Temple of God and the royal palace—the projects he had set his heart on doing. Everything was done—success! Satisfaction!
12-18 God appeared to Solomon that very night and said, “I accept your prayer; yes, I have chosen this place as a temple for sacrifice, a house of worship. If I ever shut off the supply of rain from the skies or order the locusts to eat the crops or send a plague on my people, and my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. From now on I’m alert day and night to the prayers offered at this place. Believe me, I’ve chosen and sanctified this Temple that you have built: My Name is stamped on it forever; my eyes are on it and my heart in it always. As for you, if you live in my presence as your father David lived, pure in heart and action, living the life I’ve set out for you, attentively obedient to my guidance and judgments, then I’ll back your kingly rule over Israel—make it a sure thing on a sure foundation. The same covenant guarantee I gave to David your father I’m giving to you, namely, ‘You can count on always having a descendant on Israel’s throne.’
 
For Reflection

How do you react to people who are puffed up in their faith?  How can one be credible if his faith advocates humility and the faithful person is not?  Maybe it is just because of inconsistencies in faith and action like this and others that is resulting a reduction in religiosity but not in spirituality.  " I believe in God," they say, " but i'm just not religious."  What does the ever increasing numbers of people that indicate they feel this way mean for the survival of God fearing people?

Pray
for those who claim the name of God either in a faith community or not.  Pray that they will not doubt in the face of fearful circumstances.  Pray that all who claim God's name will unite to meet the terror of common place cultures.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Humility before God

Acts of Worship
Stewardship for Life


Feasting and Fasting

Luke 18:9-14 The Message

The Story of the Tax Man and the Pharisee

9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

For Reflection
How many people did you try to become before you became yourself?  I suspect that if you have discovered who you are it was because you became engrossed in something larger than you.  You found out who you are because you lost yourself in a superordinate calling.  Folks rarely find themselves when they seek to do so. 
 
Did the Pharisee find himself by looking into a mirror that reflected only the costume of pride that hid his true identity?  Did the taxman look at himself in a more authentic way?
 
Pray
for the ability to look into God's eyes to find your self mirrored as God sees you.  Pray to discover God's grace at work in your life.  Pray for a humble life in the hollow of God's hands.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Draw Near to Me, O Lord

Acts of Worship
Stewardship for Life


Feasting and Fasting

Psalm 69:5-18  The Message

God, you know every sin I’ve committed;
My life’s a wide-open book before you.
Don’t let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me,
Dear Lord! God of the armies!
Don’t let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!
Because of you I look like an idiot,
I walk around ashamed to show my face.
My brothers shun me like a bum off the street;
My family treats me like an unwanted guest.
I love you more than I can say.
Because I’m madly in love with you,
They blame me for everything they dislike about you.
10 When I poured myself out in prayer and fasting,
All it got me was more contempt.
11 When I put on a sad face,
They treated me like a clown.
12 Now drunks and gluttons
Make up drinking songs about me.
13 And me? I pray.
God, it’s time for a break!
God, answer in love!
Answer with your sure salvation!
14 Rescue me from the swamp,
Don’t let me go under for good,
Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy;
This whirlpool is sucking me down.
15 Don’t let the swamp be my grave, the Black Hole
Swallow me, its jaws clenched around me.
16 Now answer me, God, because you love me;
Let me see your great mercy full-face.
17 Don’t look the other way; your servant can’t take it.
I’m in trouble. Answer right now!
18 Come close, God; get me out of here.
Rescue me from this deathtrap.
 
For Reflection
What you believe is telegraphed by how you act. What choices you make; the quality of relationships you build; your tendency to react to events in ways contrary to the conventional wisdom, the common culture, all signal the integrity of your belief and practice.  You have been admired for it and despised for it.  For some, it makes you trustworthy; for others, treacherous.  Contempt may follow you.  The Way is not always easy, but, it is always consistent with God's intention for humankind.

Pray
prayers of lamentation when the culture closes in on you.  Pray prayers confessing your weakness in the face of the ungodly.  Pray prayers adoration and praise when others would curse.  Pray prayers of supplication and intersession when life overwhelms you.  Pray authentically to deepen your relationship to the living God.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Prophets' Suffering and Patience

Acts of Worship
Learning to Pray


We Pray for One Another

James 5:1-12 The Message

Destroying Your Life from Within

1-3 And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.
4-6 All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. The groans of the workers you used and abused are a roar in the ears of the Master Avenger. You’ve looted the earth and lived it up. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder perfectly good persons, who stand there and take it.
7-8 Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work. Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.
Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know. The Judge is standing just around the corner.
10-11 Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.
12 And since you know that he cares, let your language show it. Don’t add words like “I swear to God” to your own words. Don’t show your impatience by concocting oaths to hurry up God. Just say yes or no. Just say what is true. That way, your language can’t be used against you.
 
For Reflection
Does God hate rich people?  No.  God loves us all.  God suffers with us.  God prays for us.  God's word gives us the option to escape the corrupting influence of the material world.  God gives us the opportunity to choose compassion over callousness, distributive justice over unfairness, peace over calamity, and forgiveness over vengeance.  Unjustness, calamity and vengeance extract their own toll. Godlessness yields suffering and false security.

Pray
to spend your time honoring God.  Pray for staying power in the Kingdom of God.  Pray for patience.  Pray to choose the righteous option.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Never Ceasing to Pray for You

Acts of Worship
Learning to Pray


We Pray for One Another

1 Samuel 12:19-25  The Message

19 Then all the people begged Samuel, “Pray to your God for us, your servants. Pray that we won’t die! On top of all our other sins, we’ve piled on one more—asking for a king!”
20-22 Samuel said to them, “Don’t be fearful. It’s true that you have done something very wrong. All the same, don’t turn your back on God. Worship and serve him heart and soul! Don’t chase after ghost-gods. There’s nothing to them. They can’t help you. They’re nothing but ghost-gods! God, simply because of who he is, is not going to walk off and leave his people. God took delight in making you into his very own people.
23-25 “And neither will I walk off and leave you. That would be a sin against God! I’m staying right here at my post praying for you and teaching you the good and right way to live. But I beg of you, fear God and worship him honestly and heartily. You’ve seen how greatly he has worked among you! Be warned: If you live badly, both you and your king will be thrown out.”
 
For Reflection
Fear and assumptions about self-worth can sometimes hold us back from seeking help.  In God there is little to fear.  In God is compassion.  In God each person is offered an infinite number of second chances.  One does not earn a right to the living God.  All people are offered grace on the same terms--no strings attached, obey and abide in God and you will live in the hollow of God's hands.

Pray
for those who assume that they are beyond salvation.  Pray that they will find the joy of a life lived in the hollow of God's hands. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You Heard My Plea

Acts of Worship
Learning to Pray


We Pray for One Another

Lamentations 3:52-60  The Message

52-54 “Enemies with no reason to be enemies
    hunted me down like a bird.
They threw me into a pit,
    then pelted me with stones.
Then the rains came and filled the pit.
    The water rose over my head. I said, ‘It’s all over.’
55-57 “I called out your name, O God,
    called from the bottom of the pit.
You listened when I called out, ‘Don’t shut your ears!
    Get me out of here! Save me!’
You came close when I called out.
    You said, ‘It’s going to be all right.’
58-60 “You took my side, Master;
    you brought me back alive!
God, you saw the wrongs heaped on me.
    Give me my day in court!
Yes, you saw their mean-minded schemes,
    their plots to destroy me.

For Reflection
When have you felt as though you were in a pit about to drown in the murky waters of life?  Remember your God.  Remember God's grace and compassion.  Remember God's promise of comfort and protection.  Remember God and pray.  Murky waters will be come clear.  You will bath in the healing water of your baptism.  You will not only survive, you will flourish!  Pray for rescue and you will find the pathway to righteousness.

Pray
for all those who are drowning in the murky waters of  life apart from the living God.  Pray that you will remember God's promise and find salvation in God's healing hands.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We Pray to God for You

Acts of Worship
Learning to Pray


We Pray for One Another

2 Thessalonians 1:5-12  The Message

5-10 All this trouble is a clear sign that God has decided to make you fit for the kingdom. You’re suffering now, but justice is on the way. When the Master Jesus appears out of heaven in a blaze of fire with his strong angels, he’ll even up the score by settling accounts with those who gave you such a bad time. His coming will be the break we’ve been waiting for. Those who refuse to know God and refuse to obey the Message will pay for what they’ve done. Eternal exile from the presence of the Master and his splendid power is their sentence. But on that very same day when he comes, he will be exalted by his followers and celebrated by all who believe—and all because you believed what we told you.
11-12 Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.
 
For Reflection
Vengeance is the Lord's not ours.  Vengeance can consume our souls.  God has made you fit to reject vengeance.  God has made you fit to walk in the shadow as a beacon of peace.  Have confidence in God.  God will make your life amount to something.  You do not suffer in vain.

Pray
that you will not be tempted by vengeful acts.  Pray that you will have the confidence in God who makes all things work for good.  Pray prayers of thanksgiving for the grace of God that is in you.