Tag Archives: Relationship with God

Silenc

Ordinary Time
January 17, 2018

Scripture Reading: Psalm 62:5-10

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
   for my hope is from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
   my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my deliverance and my honor
   my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 

Trust in him at all times, O people;
   pour out your heart before him;
   God is a refuge for us. –Psalm 62:5-8

The final two verses (9 and 10) of this scripture address the problem of greed which I will deal with tomorrow. My gut level reaction, after reading the first eight verses that segued into greed was: I am really tired of greed messing with my life and the lives of everyone else. So I went back and read these first eight verses again, and went for a walk. I believe that is a good prescription for people dedicated to justice, which includes alleviating all the damage caused by greed.

I am a child of the sixties who invested a lot of time and energy during that decade in stopping what I thought was an unjust war and eliminating racial discrimination. Here I am 50+ later still dealing with unjust war and racism. While I do get discouraged, my faith in God’s infinite justice is even stronger today. Why? I routinely spend time alone with God. God helps me ferret out what is important and what is not, where I can make a difference and where I cannot. I imagine God getting tired of my rantings and ravings. God has heard them over and over again. Once I get them off my chest, I am enabled to wait in silence and silence is the blessing that strengthens me to continue my work.

 Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.’ (Psalm 46:10)

One of my favorite classic books is J. B. Phillips’ Your God is Too Small: A Guide for Believers and Skeptics Alike. Perhaps it is time to dust it off and read it again. Perhaps it would help you too.

Prayer: Dear God, forgive me when I fail to recognize your omnipotence, unlimited power. 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Help is on the Way

Epiphany
January 6, 2018

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
–Mark 1:4-8

“Help is on the way!” are precious words to those who are in distress with seemingly no control of what life is dishing out to them. Most of us know the feeling. I wonder what it was about the first century that made God decide humans needed more knowledge/awareness of the consistent, constant help God offers. Is that why God came to us in human form?

God created a very complex world capable of working well together like a fine-tuned instrument and capable of chaos. Parents know what that is like watching an infant striving to move across the floor on hands and tummies and knees until one day they lift themselves up on hands and knees and crawl. Next, they take that first tentative step. Parents are torn between letting them develop and protecting them from the dangers of their development. At times we all need a hand to hold whether we are learning to walk, learning to work, learning to love, or learning to die. Immanuel, God with us, came among us for just such a purpose.

John the Baptist suggests that people particularly need fresh starts recognizing when the path they chose was not the right path. He could help them by guiding them to confess their sins and start again, but he foresaw one coming who could lead them, us to the path of righteousness for God needs all God’s children to work and love together to actualize God’s plan.  Jesus Christ came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10b)

Prayer: Thank you God for sharing yourself with us through Jesus Christ. Help us grow in your wisdom and truth. 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Tabernacling with God

Advent
December 18, 2017

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’

 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. –2 Samuel 7:1-9

Sharing a tent with others is a more intimate experience than sleeping in separate rooms in a house. The Greek word for tent is skénoó * used in John 1:14 regarding the word being made flesh translated as and lived among us.  A variant of the word skēnōsei appears in Revelation 21:3 translated as He will dwell with them following Christ’s return. A more exacting translation is he will tabernacle with them. All this is to say that the word tabernacle means more than just a tent. It describes dwelling in intimate communion with the resurrected Christ. God’s communion with Nathan in our scripture above is also expressing this relationship with God from the Hebrew perspective.

Nathan reports to David that memorializing God with a fine structure is not God’s greatest desire. God’s greatest desire is living intimately with each of God’s children. Relationship matters.

Setting aside time in our lives to spend with God assures God of our love but also allows us the opportunity to grow and learn from God’s wisdom. Read Nathan’s and God’s dialogue provided above again. How can we structure our alone time with God to enrich our relationship with God? Do we listen at least as much as we talk? I find it very difficult to shut the world totally out. It helps me to do physical exercises that require me to count the number of steps or repetitions. I find I can be still and know that God is God easier following this kind of distraction. If you cannot be still on your own,  you might want to try this. I will confess I have walked a lot of extra uncounted steps because the world can interfere even with my counting.

Prayer: God of Love, help us understand that what may be missing when we fill empty is you. Infuse us with your love so that we might love you more dearly and others more nearly. Amen.

http://biblehub.com/greek/4637.htm
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.

Intercessory Prayer

Living in the Spirit
October 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:12-23

The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.’ Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’, he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’ And the Lord continued, ‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’ –Exodus 33:17-23

Does routine contact with God make a difference? Made in the image of God, some part of each of us mirrors God. Think about our interactions with people. Are we more apt to respond to the needs of people with whom we have regular contact? I think we all are. When Moses approached God on behalf of his people, he relied on his previously established relationship, and God responded.

Intercessory prayer is a bit of a mystery to me, yet my gut tells me it is important. I often do not know what or how to pray for another. I distinctly remember one instance of prayer asking God to forgive the sins of another for which I received a clear revelation that that was not mine to ask.  There are also the instances of praying for healing with no idea of what the best outcome might be. We do not see the breadth and depth of life as God does. Am I faithful or namby-pamby by attaching the phrase “let your will be done” to every intercessory prayer? I have concluded the important aspect of intercessory prayer is following Moses’ example by just being ourselves before God and trusting God who knows us completely to respond in love.

My interest in intercessory prayer comes at a time when my country seems to be falling apart as a house divided. Moses was dealing with a house that gave up on God and turned to idols not being willing to follow God’s lead but deciding to shape a god in the image that best suited their selfish ambitions. Their idol worship did not work then and will not work now. Let us all keep praying and keep listening for the guidance of that still small voice, for God is working God’s purpose out.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for letting us deluge you with our fears, doubts, and uncertainties in how to deal with all that is confronting us. Help us to learn to be still and know that you are God and listen as much as or more than we talk to you. 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Images of our Making

Living in the Spirit
October 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:1-14

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel. –Exodus 32:1-6

We probably do not think we are as fickle as these folks who escaped from slavery. We need to think about that again. Ours is a society that demands instant gratification. I get upset if my computer buffers at all and even more out of sorts if it continues for any length of time. We are so caught up in instant gratification that car accidents have increased markedly over the past few years because distracted drivers are trying to do too many things at once. If this god doesn’t work the way we want it to, we go in search of one that will. They are called idols.

Idols are not real; they are images of our making. They are like the chocolate bunnies we got as children, hollow on the inside. A paradox exists concerning God having substance we cannot see and idols we can see that have no substance. We experience God in the depths of our being as the very image of God was implanted in us at our beginning. As I stand before a mirror and view my image, I can lift my hand and view the reality of the source of my image. I can see the reality of God in myself and the souls of all God’s other children. We must be open to God’s presence in ourselves and others to relate to God through the depth of our being.

The Israelites were in the infancy of their journey with God, although this certainly was not their first instance of doubt nor the last. We are not different from them today. We try to create God in the image we want God to be. Communing with God requires a life commitment with intentionality of purpose. Such practice is well worth the effort as we draw from the well that never grows dry. (See John 4:14)

Prayer: God, anchor us so deeply in your love that we are not drawn to substitute images of our making for you. 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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

A Cursing God?


Lent

March 7, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a

Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

I only remember my mother cursing one time. To this day, I do not remember to whom she was referring. She was reading a letter she had just received from some of her family in Arkansas. I may not have known the person but she said, “God damn him.” It was a prayer and she meant it. In my family, no one took the Lord’s name in vain. I think our society uses the word “curse” rather loosely, usually describing any kind of off colored slang. It means to ask a deity to bring evil down onto someone*.

I confess I do not want to consider God cursing anyone. I know Jesus cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12-25) which has always been beyond my understanding even though I have read several attempted explanations by theologians I respect. There are 200 cursing usages in the NRSV Bible. Perhaps my problem is that the act of cursing suggest that God gives up on some people. I don’t like to think that either. I do know there are times when walking away from someone who will not help themselves is necessary, but that is not the same as calling on God to bring evil onto someone. In today’s scripture, Abram doesn’t even have to call on God. God seems to volunteer to initiate cursing as situations indicate. Is it perhaps God’s way of saying, “I’ve got your back, no matter what?” I could see God doing that.

I probably need to understand my own motivations causing my questioning of the use of curses in the Bible. How does my apparent preconceived perception of God impact my own relationship with God? We filter most things following preset patterns. It is a good idea to challenge our filters to make sure they remain valid.

Prayer: God of Grace, cleanse my filters so that I can see you more clearly. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/curse

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.

Following Christ’s Game Plan

stay-the-courseLiving in the Spirit
September 19, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, ‘Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; –Jeremiah 32:1-3a

Today’s scripture is a rather ominous reading in the face of people on all sides of the political system in the USA thinking catastrophe will result if one of the other sides win. Outside forces reigning terror on Jerusalem surely resulted in internal divisions. We, too, are under the influence of fear from outside forces, and not just external political foes. Our world is changing quicker than we can buy new cell phones. The world gets smaller and smaller as we know where every earthquake or bombing occurs.  What role does a follower of Christ have in such a time as this? Jeremiah knew if Judah continued its current course it would fall.

Jesus commanded us to Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18b-20)

I watched a football game yesterday where the offense of one team played in such a way that the defense of the other team lost track of the action opening gaps for running backs to shoot through and score. The defensive coach advised his players that even if staying in their position went against their best instincts, they should not follow the action; they needed to stay the course, play the planned scheme. They heard his advice, and they won.

If I may take the metaphor a bit further even if you are not into football, we must remember that Christ is our coach, and we need to follow his plan.

Prayer: Lord, grant us your peace to enable us to take in your ways and make them our ways no matter what. 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.

Spiritual Vacuum

Love the otherLiving in the Spirit
July 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hosea 1:2-10

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.’ So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

 And the Lord said to him, ‘Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.’ Hosea 1:2-5

It seems that the prophets view the problems of the world as symptoms of a spiritual vacuum in the lives of God’s people. Such a vacuum often results from our shaping our religion to worship a God made in our image. We pick and choose ways of being that fit us comfortably as God’s ways and what others do as being outside of God’s spectrum.

I hate the ads on TV that illustrate someone eating a favorite food to excess that routinely makes them sick and then taking the magic elixir being advertised that relieves the resulting pain. Isn’t that sometimes how we treat our religion?

The way we live and the way we love makes a difference. We create most of our problems, and we are capable of creating solutions. It does require us to be intentional about our relationship with God learning from Christ’s example what God’s love is all about, and trusting God’s mercy to show us a better way. It does require us to take the beam out of our own eyes and let Jesus handle any judgment on others.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us when we fail to meet our obligations not only to love ourselves but to love all your children. 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.

Being a Psalmists

psa-51-12Lent
February 24, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 63:1-8

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
   my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
   as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
   beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
   my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
   I will lift up my hands and call on your name. –Psalm 63:1-4

This is my Psalm. I don’t really remember when I stumbled onto it at a time when it was exactly what I needed. Funny, I am sure it was a desperate time for me, but the desperation of the event has slipped into the annuals of not so significant. Yet, I have been blest by this Psalm ever since. I memorized it in the NIV version and thus it is awkward for me to read it aloud in any other version like this NRSV. I keep wanted to insert other words. I am also apt to do that with the verses I learned as a child from the King James. I still prefer the King James 23rd Psalm and John 3:16 flows readily from by tongue in its seventeenth century words.

While translation versions change, God does not change standing always ready to feed our thirsting souls. I, however, have changed in my willingness to seek God, now to trust without verification more often than not for I have beheld God’s glory. I saw it in the joy of the homeless woman testifying that she had found a home, a place to live; I have seen it in the trusting eyes of the children at my own church as they experience God; I hear it most often in music which speaks a language words cannot express; and I know it in the silence of deep meditation. Do you have a Psalm?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the gifts of the Psalmists whose words have stretched through the eons to open our hearts and minds to your love. Help us to be psalmists for others transferring to each person whose lives we touch the joy of your salvation. 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.

Cleaning our Granaries

WinnowingEpiphany
January 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ –Luke 3:15-17

We pause now in our discourse on baptism, for a brief side trip into keeping our granaries clean or letting the Messiah keep them clean. Although I was raised on a farm, we did not have a granary and I have no experience of cleaning one. I was at one-time adept at the periodic cleaning of our chicken house, and even though I have no experience of granary upkeep, I can assure you that cleaning chicken houses is much worse.

The art of being whole includes the winnowing of all the clutter from our life we pick up along the way inhibiting our being fully who God is calling us to be. First, I think it is important that we recognize that chaff in its origins is necessary and useful. The chaff is the part of a plant, like a corn husk, that protects the seed in its developmental stages. As the seed matures it must be separated from the chaff to be useful. Life events sometimes result in our building protective shields against threats to our wellbeing, which at the time might have been necessary, but can become crippling if made permanent. Often we become so use to these shields we do not recognize that they still are in use. Even when we do see them, we cannot turn them loose. Our relationship with Jesus Christ can free us of that which holds us back.

The start of a New Year is a great time to clean house to get the clutter out of our lives particularly that which is choking our hearts and minds, bodies and spirits and sapping our strength. Take some time for reflection and meditation. Give up to God those things that are impeding your being you.

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10) 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.