Friday, July 25, 2014

All Done Decently and in Order

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Seek the Good of  Others

1 Corinthians 14:37-40 The Message

37-38 If any one of you thinks God has something for you to say or has inspired you to do something, pay close attention to what I have written. This is the way the Master wants it. If you won’t play by these rules, God can’t use you. Sorry.
39-40 Three things, then, to sum this up: When you speak forth God’s truth, speak your heart out. Don’t tell people how they should or shouldn’t pray when they’re praying in tongues that you don’t understand. Be courteous and considerate in everything.
 
For Reflection
Sometimes I prefer to use an alternate translation.  In this case the NIV version makes more sense, than, "Sorry..."  It is, "But if anyone ignores this they themselves will be ignored."  To my way of thinking, God uses all, good and bad to God's ends.  

My prayer is that I do and say things that are fitting and orderly, courteous and considerate.  I pray to be humble.  I pray to be loving and supportive.   How about you?
 
Pray
to find your way in the Kingdom of God.  Pray that your ears hear the whispers of the Spirit.  Pray that your tongue speaks your heart and preserves the right for others to choose. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

So All Learn and Are Encouraged

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Seek the Good of  Others

1 Corinthians 14:27-33 The Message

26-33 So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight. If prayers are offered in tongues, two or three’s the limit, and then only if someone is present who can interpret what you’re saying. Otherwise, keep it between God and yourself. And no more than two or three speakers at a meeting, with the rest of you listening and taking it to heart. Take your turn, no one person taking over. Then each speaker gets a chance to say something special from God, and you all learn from each other. If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak. When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches—no exceptions.

For Reflection
How do you prepare for worship?  What do you contribute to the learning of all?  How well do we listen to each other? How well do we listen for the will of God?  How do we grow in Grace?
Pray
to learn more about who you are in Christ.  Pray to listen for the will of God in your life.  Pray to let the Spirit whispered wisdom guide you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Devoted to Good Works

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Seek the Good of  Others

Titus 3:8-14 The Message

3-8 It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.
8-11 I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone. Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print in the law code. That gets you nowhere. Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off.
12-13 As soon as I send either Artemas or Tychicus to you, come immediately and meet me in Nicopolis. I’ve decided to spend the winter there. Give Zenas the lawyer and Apollos a hearty send-off. Take good care of them.
14 Our people have to learn to be diligent in their work so that all necessities are met (especially among the needy) and they don’t end up with nothing to show for their lives.
 
For Reflection
Vengeance and retribution still seem to be major motivations for human interaction in all the world, "tit for tat", "eye for an eye", promises of violence.  When will it stop?  When will we say to each other, "enough,"  When will we learn to accept differences and the strength those differences offer to all of human kind?  When will the silent majorities in all nations, in all cultures, who are the victims of torment not of their making look forward to peaceful lives?
 
Pray
Kneel before God.  Pray prayers of confession, repentance, obedience, praise and thanksgiving. Pray for diligence in your righteousness, prayer and service to God.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Doing the Right Thing

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Seek the Good of Others

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
Muslims rarely speak of the future without uttering "inshallah".  This Arabic word meaning "God Willing," is also commonly used by Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Portuguese and Spanish speaking people.  James, obviously understands this common expression.  He uses it to remind the faithful that God is always in charge and that some events are a result of human will and not  the will of God.  Not to acknowledge God's sovereignty, may result in the mistaken idea that human kind are the masters of their fate; thus separating themselves from God and God's ultimate intention, God's will, for all in the Kingdom of God.
 
Pray
that you will realize the differences between the actions of human free will and the will of God.  Pray that you will accept the sovereignty of God and seek God's will for your life.  Pray that you will become increasingly grateful for God's intention for peace, forgiveness and justice.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Imitate What Is Good

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Seek the Good of Others

3 John 1:2-12 The Message

1-4 The Pastor, to my good friend Gaius: How truly I love you! We’re the best of friends, and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health—that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul! I was most happy when some friends arrived and brought the news that you persist in following the way of Truth. Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth!

Model the Good

5-8 Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. They’ve made a full report back to the church here, a message about your love. It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself! They set out under the banner of the Name, and get no help from unbelievers. So they deserve any support we can give them. In providing meals and a bed, we become their companions in spreading the Truth.
9-10 Earlier I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves being in charge, denigrates my counsel. If I come, you can be sure I’ll hold him to account for spreading vicious rumors about us.
As if that weren’t bad enough, he not only refuses hospitality to traveling Christians but tries to stop others from welcoming them. Worse yet, instead of inviting them in he throws them out.
11 Friend, don’t go along with evil. Model the good. The person who does good does God’s work. The person who does evil falsifies God, doesn’t know the first thing about God.
12 Everyone has a good word for Demetrius—the Truth itself stands up for Demetrius! We concur, and you know we don’t hand out endorsements lightly.
 
For Reflection
Who are your contemporary models of Christian practice?  How do you select them?  Paul suggests that hospitality to all whom you encounter is a good Christian practice.  

How do you define good?  Model those who are supportive, who are humble, who are gentle in judgment, who are guided by love which resides within them.  Model those fearless in grace.

Pray
that you will aspire toward righteousness.  Pray that you will model those who make wise judgments and are not judgmental.  Pray that you will be a humble servant of God ready to sacrifice yourself for your God.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Overcoming Temptation

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Overcoming Temptation

1 Corinthians 10:12-22  The Message

11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
13 No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
14 So, my very dear friends, when you see people reducing God to something they can use or control, get out of their company as fast as you can.
15-18 I assume I’m addressing believers now who are mature. Draw your own conclusions: When we drink the cup of blessing, aren’t we taking into ourselves the blood, the very life, of Christ? And isn’t it the same with the loaf of bread we break and eat? Don’t we take into ourselves the body, the very life, of Christ? Because there is one loaf, our many-ness becomes one-ness—Christ doesn’t become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don’t reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is. That’s basically what happened even in old Israel—those who ate the sacrifices offered on God’s altar entered into God’s action at the altar.
19-22 Do you see the difference? Sacrifices offered to idols are offered to nothing, for what’s the idol but a nothing? Or worse than nothing, a minus, a demon! I don’t want you to become part of something that reduces you to less than yourself. And you can’t have it both ways, banqueting with the Master one day and slumming with demons the next. Besides, the Master won’t put up with it. He wants us—all or nothing. Do you think you can get off with anything less?
 
For Reflection
To what extent are you worshiping a god of your making.  Even as Christians we personalize our god.  However holding only individual conceptions of God is like a blind person touching the tail of an elephant and declaring an elephant is a snake.  Individually we are limited in our understanding of God.  Together in the fellowship of the faithful, we have a more complete understanding.  We, in fellowship with each other and the Holy Spirit, become unified in Christ and Christ will raise us to meet the expectations for stewards in God's Kingdom.
 
Pray
that you will seek to grow in understanding, obedience, and grace in the Spirit of God.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Deterrents from Evil

The People of God Set Priorities
Living as a Community of Believers

Overcoming Temptation

1 Corinthians 10:1-10  The Message

10 1-5 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea. They went through the waters, in a baptism like ours, as Moses led them from enslaving death to salvation life. They all ate and drank identical food and drink, meals provided daily by God. They drank from the Rock, God’s fountain for them that stayed with them wherever they were. And the Rock was Christ. But just experiencing God’s wonder and grace didn’t seem to mean much—most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased.
6-10 The same thing could happen to us. We must be on guard so that we never get caught up in wanting our own way as they did. And we must not turn our religion into a circus as they did—“First the people partied, then they threw a dance.” We must not be sexually promiscuous—they paid for that, remember, with 23,000 deaths in one day! We must never try to get Christ to serve us instead of us serving him; they tried it, and God launched an epidemic of poisonous snakes. We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them.

For Reflection
Faith is a gift from God.  Religion is made for the convenience of human kind.  We often confuse the two by thinking that they are one and the same.  How many religious deviations from the faith have distorted the Christianity?  We all can name several.  But God-centered faith, and Christianity have survived because God has turned us away from the corruption of faith and offered unconditional love and reconciliation.  Praise God for God's abiding faith in human kind and God's eternal invitation to the Kingdom.
Pray
Prayers of thanksgiving for the faith God has invited us to enjoy.  Praise God for steadfast love and grace.  Pray that you will be an obedient servant of God.