Tag Archives: God’s purpose

Justice is God’s Purpose

Living in the Spirit
August 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
   make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
   tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
   his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
O offspring of his servant Abraham,
   children of Jacob, his chosen ones. –Psalm 105:1-6

I am a great creature of habits. I automatically move through my morning routine. While still in bed I pray and do a yoga routine. Once up, I eat breakfast while listening to a morning news show and scanning three newspapers. I blame my father for my addiction to news. I wonder how he would deal with a phone pinging the latest catastrophe while it is still happening. By 9:00 am, I am not only ready for some scripture but need to be reminded that God is working [God’s] purpose out*. Psalm 105 reminds us of that. There is a lot right with the world, and there remains much to make right. It helps to know that God is working to make all things right. We call it justice.

How do we recognize God’s justice in a world filled with bigotry and hate? Looking back through the history of God where do we see justice unfolding? From that beginning, humans demanded the knowledge of good and evil. In so doing we gained the ability to know the difference between right and wrong. (Genesis 3) Such knowledge results in facing the consequences of our just and unjust actions. God dealt with our ancestors where they were in understand as he deals with us today. I do not know when I learned that the scripture an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24) actually reduced punishment. Previously, gouging out an eye would have cost the perpetrator their life rather than letting the punishment fit the crime. Jesus cautioned us not to retaliate at all (Matthew 5) setting the stage for the restorative justice we pursue today.

Through all time, God sends us messengers one after another to save us from ourselves. We still learn much from the ancients and also from those speaking still today like the Reverend Doctor William Barber. It is important that we recognize the voice of God calling to us guiding us to choose the right.

Prayer: God of Justice, show us the right and empower our work toward justice for all. Amen.

*From hymn God is Working His Purpose Out by Arthur Campbell Ainger see at https://hymnary.org/text/god_is_working_his_purpose_out

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Purpose

Living in the Spirit
June 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 21:8-21

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’ The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. –Genesis 21:8-14

Does this story leave a bad taste in your mouth like it does mine? I wonder how the sudden loss of Isaac’s older brother, one he apparently enjoyed, impacted Isaac? For all the hubbub about Ismael and Isaac that surrounded Isaac’s birth, Isaac’s only accomplishment recorded for posterity was fathering Esau and Jacob, and Jacob tricked him.

God seems to work within human falterings and failures. At least I hope God does because I have made a few missteps along the way. We learn from our mistakes or we should. Paul says in Romans 8:28, We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

There it is again. We are called to be intentional about our purpose. What is God’s purpose for us? How do we know we are on the right track? There is an old ponderous hymn written in 19th-century language dealing with God’s purpose that says we must grow love in all people and work for the reign of the Prince of peace. I think those both are fitting for today.

God is working his purpose out,
as year succeeds to year,
God is working his purpose out,
and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

What can we do to work God’s work,
to prosper and increase
the love of God in all mankind,
the reign of the Prince of peace?
What can we do to hasten the time,
the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea?*

Prayer: Lord guide us in your prospering and increasing your purpose and when we go astray show us the way back to your path. Amen.

*First and third verses of God is Working His Purpose Out, Words by Arthur Campbell Ainger see at http://hymnary.org/text/god_is_working_his_purpose_out

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Love Endures Forever

Lent
April 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   his steadfast love endures forever! 

Let Israel say,
  ‘His steadfast love endures forever.’ –Psalm 118:1-2

The Psalms often start with the good news, for bad news happens and we need to be reminded whose we are and whose loving presence sustains us through everything. This is a good place to start as we march steadily toward the excitement of Palm Sunday followed by the realities of Holy Week.

I wrote a poem many years ago, that I really liked but somehow lost to never get back. I guess it was meant for me to experience at that time and place in my life. It was about how water by God’s design seems programmed to flow into and through larger and larger streams until it reaches an ocean. Our task as people of God is similar. We are called to be singular of purpose constantly moving toward Love and loving. Many things slow our loving, even stop it for a while, or reroute our path toward ultimate loving. Humans build dams to harness the power of flowing water, but we have learned water held too long stagnant loses its usefulness. So too, unshared love is not love at all.

Soak in God’s steadfast love this week. Turmoil and tragedy awaits just over the horizon. Let us remind ourselves that as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be* God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the constancy of your love. Strengthen us to your service. Amen.

*Taken from the Gloria Patri see at http://www.hymnary.org/text/glory_be_to_the_father_and_to_the_son

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

The Gift of Time

God's purposeLiving in the Spirit
August 6, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. –Ephesians 5:15-16

“Hi! How are you?” “Fine. I have been really busy. How about you?” “Me, too, I always seem to be running to catch up with myself.” This is a fairly common conversation for me, probably for you also. The truth is the opposite of busy is most likely dead. Even recovering from surgery, when I thought I could really catch up on my reading, I discovered healing is a busy process too, and reading in the after fog of anesthesia is not necessarily productive. What I am saying is it is easy to be busy. The greater challenge is to make our busyness count for something even if it is resting.

I think this is what our scripture today is addressing, owning and using our time wisely. Recognizing time as a gift from God not to be squandered. My mother set a shining example of the wise use of time. She could get more down in a limited amount of time than anyone I know. Yet she always took time to practice her spiritual disciplines. She read the Bible daily. When we were clearing out her house to sell it, we found dozens of notebooks filled with the results of her Bible study. I never saw her go to bed without kneeling beside the bed and praying. I think the moments Mom invested in communing with God were the key to her productivity in all the other areas of her life.

There is an old song, God is Working His Purpose Out*. Set to ponderous music, it no longer fits our need to keep everything upbeat and, therefore, it no longer is in many hymnals. I think the music is perfect for the words. God has been working God’s purpose out for eons and we are a part of that purpose. The question is are we working God’s purpose out through the value-driven use of the time God has given us.

Prayer: We thank you, God, for the gift of time. Order our lives in such a way that enables our time  to be fruitful toward your purpose. Amen.

*God Is Working His Purpose Out, by Arthur Campbell Aigner. See at http://www.oremus.org/hymnal/g/g179.html

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Violence and Love

Living in the Spirit
August 11, 2014
 

Scripture Reading: Genesis 45:1-15 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ And they came closer. He said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. —Genesis 45:4-5

My Sunday school class decided to study the book of 1 Kings this spring. Some felt they did not know much about this section of the Bible. Actually most of us did not know much about it. I am pretty sure now that some wished they hadn’t learned as much as we have. The history of the Kings of Israel following David’s death is pretty gory and cutthroat.

This has, however, been one of the best studies we have done that really forced us to grapple with the nature of God. Does God inflict evil to punish people for their sins? What about the innocents who get caught in the crossfire?  What is the source of evil? How come the “good” kings that are doing God’s will are just as violent or more so then the “bad” kings who did not follow God’s will? Actually using these rather barbaric stories by modern standards provide excellent fodder for dealing with such issues that occur in our world every day albeit usually at a less extreme level.

In our story today, Joseph has interpreted his brother’s selling him into slavery as a good thing. He says the result was that God sent Joseph ahead to preserve life, not only the lives of his family but the lives of many people throughout that area impacted by the famine. One thing my class pretty much agreed on in our study of Kings was that God works God’s purpose out in whatever muck we may throw at God.

So where does that leave us? There are a lot of really evil things that happen in our world every day. We as followers of Jesus Christ have chosen a path for life that is paved with love. God is working toward a world ruled by that love. We are called to work beside God and with God to the end that love will overcome evil. It actually already has in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God who is Love, we don’t understand the violence of the Israelite kingdoms some three thousand years ago any better than we understand the violence in our world today. We do know that your desire is that we live love in all that we do. We do know that we can only do that through your amazing grace. Strengthen us for the tasks you set before us. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God’s Purpose

Living in the Spirit
July 6, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’  — Matthew 11:28-30

This is one of my all-time favorite sayings of Jesus. There is nothing that means more to me than to know that I am yoked with him. At first blush we might consider that as a tremendous lack of freedom—of being enslaved. The paradox of faith is that being totally and completely in synch with God is the most freeing aspect of our lives. God did not create the world and all that lives as a part of it to be isolated, out of control random sparks of energy. We were created to be interdependent. We were created out of love for the purpose of loving. From the moment of each of our births, we had our first job: loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. While that is a most challenging avocation, we never ever have to do it alone. We have a co-worker striving with us each step of the way who is also everyone else’s co-worker, if they choose to accept his yoke.

A part of our job of loving our neighbor is telling them about this marvelous co-worker. Letting them know that there is one who can free them from all that infringes on their wholeness as a child of God. We then must let God’s love continue to work within us and them to mold us together into oneness. It is at this point that we struggle. It is really hard to stay active in our faith while at the same time trusting fully that God is working God’s purpose out through and among us when it seems like the world about us is falling apart. I don’t know about you but I sometimes need to tell God what God should be doing when it really is supposed to be the other way around.

I am a goal oriented person, but I have learned over the years (usually the hard way) that in most instances staying faithful to the process is what makes the end result happen. I love to sing and when I sing right, breathing properly for example and singing in my head not my throat, I can sing better and longer. When I push and sing primarily in my throat, I am soon hoarse and unable to sing. Being a Christian requires us to trust in the process, do it diligently, and know that God has got our backs.

Prayer: Thank you for your love and your yoke. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.