Tag Archives: Wholeness

Giving Encouragement

Living in the Spirit
November 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

So then let us not fall asleep as those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
–1 Thessalonians 5:6-11

Sleep, of course, has its purpose in preparing us for the work of the day as does food and exercise, study and prayer. Our focus must, however, be on our purpose: building a world ruled by God’s love.

The need for quality sleep is in the news a lot. Modern people tend to sacrifice sleep for things they rank more important than sleep. Others get so caught up in the stress of the day; they cannot sleep as they revisit the problems turning them over and over in their minds. Still, others believe sleep allows time for our brains to process things unencumbered resulting in new insights.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to thy God to order and provide;
in ev’ry change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
thro’ thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

 Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
to guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice, who ruled them while He dwelt below.*

We do need to encourage one another whether we are missing sleep to sit with a sick friend or wrestling with an issue that seems to have no good conclusion or waiting patiently for God to open a window to let in light on a life situation ensconced in darkness.

Prayer: Lord, enable us all to be encouragers of others as we welcome encouragement ourselves. Amen.

Verses 1 and 2 of Be Still,My Soul by Kathrina von Schlegel see at https://hymnary.org/text/be_still_my_soul_the_lord_is_on_thy_side

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.

Finding God in the Dark

Living in the Spirit
November 16, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Now considering the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say ”There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. –1 Thessalonians 5:1-5

I do not feel like I am light. I sense darkness all around that I am unable to lessen. I have an emergency light that requires no batteries. A windup crank creates just enough energy to power the light for a very short time. I grow weary of cranking and re-cranking when required to rely on it, but the light always shines forth from my efforts if just for a little time. When depending on such a tool one grows more assured that darkness is not as powerful as we make it. In fact, knowing that that little light will always be there when needed, I can even take comfort in seeking God in the darkest of darkness. Why else do I close my eyes to pray? Closing my eyes shuts out the world and allows me to be alone with God. Do the principalities and powers that use darkness or opaqueness as a tool of fear not know they are enabling my relationship with God?

As a fan of The Screwtape Letter, I must assume that cosmic battles pitting darkness against light are a constant reality that ebb and flow. We, followers of Christ, struggle to maintain consistency in being the Body of Christ opening gaps in love allowing darkness to penetrate. Our one constant which we must hold to again and again is that Christ is the light of the world over which no darkness can prevail. We must keep turning the crank of service to God in love.

Prayer: Lord set our feet on the higher ground that defines our perspectives and lights the way to our service in support of your Kingdom coming. 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.

Walking with God

Living in the Spirit
November 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
   O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
As the eyes of servants
   look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid
   to the hand of her mistress,
   until he has mercy upon us.

 Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

Have we as people who identify as God followers lost the ability to walk humbly with our Lord? Have we relegated God to just another strategy to apply as needed to win a political campaign?

I was stunned when I heard someone defending a politician accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl by saying his actions were no different than the actions of Mary and Joseph. The assumption is that God approves the alleged action of the politician. Apparently, the speaker is not well acquainted with the story of the birth of Jesus recorded in Matthew. To the contrary, Joseph went beyond the call of duty by standing by Mary when he had had no sexual relations with Mary saving her from being stoned for becoming pregnant outside of marriage.

It is time for all the people of God to let God be God and for all of us to become the people God created us to be. For most of us that will require repentance and return to God’s leadership.

Prayer: Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
   for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than its fill
   of the scorn of those who are at ease,
   of the contempt of the proud.

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.

Self-Identified Privilege

 

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-7

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” ’—Judges 4:4-7

I named this web address after Deborah because I value her as a person of action. If you read her whole story in judges, the violence may overwhelm you. It does me, and I do not condone it. What I am impressed with is Deborah’s seeing injustice and doing something about it. Our country seems to have self-righteously lost its moral center.  What do I mean by that? I hear a lot of pontificating about what is wrong with our country from people who are caught up in sex scandals, business corruption, greed, and misuse of power. They seem to be under the impression, if they do something, it is right. Only what others do are subject to judgment and punishment. The sin described here is self-identified privilege, and it is epidemic in our land.

What shocks me most is the support given to the purveyors of such behavior by the people their actions probably hurt the most. The people who identify as privileged seem to be saying if you become like us all will be well as their supporters fall further and further into despair. We seem to be suffering from a collective case of being out of touch with reality. I keep remembering the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothing. We all need to read or re-read it.

How do we discern what is right, what is just? Jesus taught us that the most important guidance for righteousness is to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If loving oneself is the measure by which we must love others there is no place for privilege in our world.

Prayer: Lord, open our heart to your reality. Help us to see how what we do impacts others. 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.

Growing with God

Living in the Spirit
November 9, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 I do not invest a lot of time wondering what happens after death. My pat answer, when asked about my ideas about life after death, is to say that I believe I will be with God and that is all I need to know. I do strongly believe that my emphasis must be on how I can make a difference now and eternity will take care of itself. As a part of the Body of Christ, I am already with God. I do not see eternity as a reward of some kind so much as a continuation of a long-held relationship under different circumstance. The building of that relationship every day is key. I love the hymn Are Ye Able that describes this growth with God.

“Are ye able,” said the Master,
“to be crucified with me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“to the death we follow thee.”


Refrain:
Lord, we are able. Our spirits are thine.
Remold them, make us, like thee, divine.
Thy guiding radiance above us shall be
a beacon to God, to love, and lo*

 Prayer: Lord, grow us as people who catch your dream and strive to make it real for all your children so that one day your Kingdom comes and your will is done. Amen.

 *First verse and chorus of Are Ye Able word by Earl Marlett see at http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh530.sht

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.

One True God

Living in the Spirit
November 7, 2017

Scripture Reading: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘No, we will serve the Lord!’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ And they said, ‘We are witnesses.’ He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.’ The people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.’ So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. –Joshua 24:19-25

Who can serve the Lord who is holy? Set apart* is the English translation of the word holy. The Hebrew word translated holy could also be translated sacred**. Either suggest the singular, monotheistic nature of God.  Thus, if we worship other gods, we are not suited to serve the Lord. God demands that we get and keep our priorities straight.

What compels us to search for other gods particularly after having a long and rich history of relationship with the one true God? Is it a bit of the “what have you done for me recently” attitude? Perhaps it is a desire to test the success of God? We do that all the time with material things as people steeped in the scientific process. I grew disenchanted with my cable system and am experimenting with cutting the cable with mixed results. My changes solved most of the problems I had but created a few new ones. Are we shopping for a god that is just right for us? Raised in a time when marriage was a forever ideal, I watched the change to serial marriage or no marriage at all become the norm. Have we lost the value of lifelong commitments regarding God? Probably it is a little of all of these ideas, which seem to share the common denominator of not being satisfied with ourselves so finding the right god might help us find ourselves. In actuality accepting the love of the one true God and abiding in relationship with the Lord is the source of learning to love ourselves so we can love our neighbors as God loves us.

Prayer: God who is Love, help us to rest ourselves in your abiding loving and never to stray from its blessings. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/holy
**http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6918.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.

Who Do We Serve?

Living in the Spirit
November 6, 2017

Scripture Reading: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

‘Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

 Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’ –Joshua 24:14-18

We, of course, are far too sophisticated to worship idols, graven images; or are we?  Cities are passing laws to make it illegal to cross a street while texting or otherwise accessing an electronic device. An opioid epidemic is killing people of all ages across our land. Greed is rampant as we want more and more and seem never to be satisfied. Gaining power over others entices many to sell their souls to the highest bidder.

We are called to Choose this day whom [we] will serve and get our priorities in order as individuals, as communities of faith, as the whole Body of Christ.

As frustrated as I become with the functioning of our government both at the state and federal level, I sincerely believe our government reflects well the desires of our population. We have turned away from our most basic values of assuring the Common Good and are pursuing self-serving gain at the expense of our neighbors. We seem to have grown collectively out of touch with reality apparently similarly to what was happening in Joshua’s day and time.

Joshua’s recommitment to the values that got him and his people to the Promised Land is a good place for us to start rebuilding our states and nation.

Prayer: Create in us clean hearts and right spirits so that we can truly declare but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord, for he is God. 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.

Walking Humbly

Living in the Spirit
November 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 23:1-12

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. –Matthew 23:8-12

The Lord calls us to walk humbly with God*. Merriam-Webster** defines humble as having a low opinion of one’s own importance or merits:  modest or meek in spirit, manner, or appearance:  not proud or haughty.

What does it mean to walk with God in humility? My Aunt Nancy was a master crafter. She could knit and crochet better than anyone I knew. It was rare to visit with her when her hands were not flying through the motions making a sweater or afghan. She shared that her young son was watching her one day and said he wanted to learn how to knit. She sat him on her lap and went through the first easy steps of knitting until he could do it by himself. He sat down next to her and began knitting one tedious stitch at a time when he finally stopped in frustration and said, “No Mama, I want to knit clicky-clack like you.”  She hugged him close and told him he would be able to knit fast one day if he practiced very hard and over time learned all the stitches. God is our master teacher. Walking in humility with God means intentionally freeing ourselves of distractions and learning the master’s craft.

Modest and meek do not mean we become doormats. They mean we get our priorities straight in alignment with God’s and we do not let ourselves get in the way of fulfilling our potential.

Prayer:

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

 Refrain:
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

 Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

 When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.***

*Micah 6:8
**http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/humble
*** http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Just_a_Closer_Walk_with_Thee/

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.

Presence of God

Living in the Spirit
October 30, 2017

Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:7-17

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, “When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.” ’ Joshua then said to the Israelites, ‘Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.’ Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.’—Joshua 3:7-13

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.*

 I was surprised to see that Lanny Wolfe wrote this song in 1977. I seem to remember singing it all of my life. It is a good song reminding us of whose we are.

We tend to recognize the presence of the Lord in crises and at times of big events like the Israelites crossing into the Promised Land. I think we need to work a little harder at practicing the presence of God in all that we do. I am a strong believer in prevention first. I was a child welfare worker and supervisor. Guiding young people to recognize having children should be a decision, not an accident would be a good starting place. Providing parenting education for all youth as early as junior high would make a difference. Early identification and intervention to help current parents improve their skills would be beneficial.

Most areas of human endeavor could develop a similar listing of ways to prevent bad situations. Joshua prepared the Israelites for the next major step of their journey. He underscored the role of God in each segment of its development. Building and sustaining our relationship with God is the key to living the abundant life God provides for us. Stumbling alone finding our way until we get into trouble rarely turns out well.

Prayer: Lord, be present to us as we make ourselves present to you. Amen.

*Chorus of Surely the Presence by Lanny Wolfe see at https://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/Hymns/Presence-of-the-lord.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 America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Making Disciples or Not

Living in the Spirit
October 29, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-46

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. –Matthew 22:41-46

Those of us who center on Jesus’ commandments to love God and love one another might want to take a deeper dip into how Jesus dealt with his fellow believers. Throughout the gospels, the Pharisees challenged Jesus trying to catch him up in what they deemed “bad theology” apparently in the hope of discrediting him. He challenged them right back and knew his faith’s history and scriptures as well as they did. Do we?

I just read a blog* by John Pavlovitz where he asserts that some Christians are doing a better job of creating atheists than they are making disciples. Are we driving people out of the church because we may say the right words but do not live them or because we pick and choose our Biblical quotes as a means of supporting our bigotry and privilege?

Soul-searching, a quest for greater understanding of the ways of Jesus, and repentance of our ways that may differ from his all are indicated in such a time as these. Follow-up actions may include learning to dialogue across Christianity to try to understand how such divisiveness in our faith has occurred and how it can be healed.

Prayer: Lord, forgive us if our actions have driven anyone away from knowing you. Help us find ways to build bridges of understanding rather than putting up roadblocks. Amen.

*https://johnpavlovitz.com/2017/06/04/the-christians-making-atheists/

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.