Tag Archives: Wholeness

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.

How to Love God

Living in the Spirit
October 28, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-46

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ –Matthew 22:34-39

What does it mean to love God? Strong’s Concordance* describes the Greek word, agapaó, used here for loving God as meaning to prefer God. It derives from the Greek word for God’s love, Agape. Loving God also speaks of wishing God well which I believe refers to supporting God’s purposes. Other descriptors of this type love include taking pleasure in God, longing for God, and holding God in esteem. It also denotes the love of reason as loving God.

The same word is used to describe how we are to love our neighbors. Here is where the rubber meets the road. We can extol God in word and song, but the way we love our neighbors demonstrates how we serve God’s purpose.

I liked the idea of loving God meaning preferring God over all others. The other ideas made sense to me. I was, however, surprised with the love of reason describing loving God. It makes sense. God created us in God’s image and gave us brains with which to reason. I wonder if the greatest sin in our world today is forgoing reason for selfish ends?

Prayer: Lord, help us discipline ourselves to using our power to reason to effect a world that reflects your purposes. Amen.

* http://biblehub.com/greek/25.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.

Empathy

Living in the Spirit
October 26, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1Thessalonians 2:1-8

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully maltreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
–1 Thessalonians 2:1-4

The quote, Preach the Gospel always and when necessary use words*, is needed as much now as ever. Our deeds matter and often speak louder than our words. Words are important too. Words can tear down, and words can lift up. Those of us who identify as Christian define Christ to others through our words and deeds just as Paul did. Empathy seems a lost art. In a diverse world we must invest the time to learn how what we do and what we say impacts the other. What might be comforting to me might cause pain to someone else.

When I arrived at an elder Pawnee woman’s home to update her case information many years ago, I found her making the most beautiful beaded baby moccasins. She said they were for her new grandbaby. There were beads across the toes that extended the length of the bottom of the tiny booty. I commented on the quality of her work and wondered if she would make some that I could buy. She was silent for a moment, finally replying, “You do not want moccasins like these. The beads on the bottom tell that my grandson will never walk on the earth. These are for his burial.” She was kind and understanding of my ignorance and she taught me the importance of empathy.

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts to glimpses of the world from the viewpoint of the people we encounter. Help us be conduits of your love as we serve in your name. Amen.

*Often attributed to St. Francis, but the author is unknown. Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/u/unknown109569.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.

 

God Knows our Names

Living in the Spirit
October 24, 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

I am terrible at remembering people’s names.  I might be able to tell you someone’s whole life story but not their name. Oh, their name will come to me in the middle of the night when I do not need it but not when I am trying to introduce them to someone. Yes, I have tried all the association tricks and other memory aids.

Remembering names is important, I think. It says, “This person is of worth to me.” God knew Moses by name indicating to Moses that he was of worth to God. Moses wanted to know more of God. When Moses asked, “Show me your glory” he wanted insight regarding the very Godness of God. (If I can make up a word here.) God would not reveal his face to Moses.

I take a couple of things away from this. First, God knows all his children by name including you and me. We were each uniquely created an are each a key component of the Kingdom of God. Second, we are not God and should never presume to play God. We need to let God be God and we be the people God created us to be.

Prayer: Omnipotent Lord, forgive me when I fail to answer when you call my name. And forgive me when I mistake my role with yours. 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.

Profiting from Addiction

Living in the Spirit
October 22, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:15-22

 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. –Matthew 22:18-22

Jewish leaders seemed dedicated to disgracing Jesus according to Matthew. Challenging him to address the unpopular issue of paying taxes to Rome was just one attempt. There are a lot of “gotcha” moments played out in our time, too. These appear on regular media and social media some with the bias of the reporter. It is distracting and often not worth our time or energy. Such discourse usually plays on our greatest fears or biases. I think that is rather what Jesus was telling the Pharisees in our scripture today.

The Jews did not like being under Roman rule much less paying taxes to them. Jesus caught between unhappy Jews, and the Roman authority called the Jewish leaders out for their attempt to discredit him.

There is a lesson here for us. We must pick our justice battles well. Many distractions are tossed at us sapping us of precious energy and resources while bad policies slide through with ease.

I learned from a New York Times and 60 Minutes report that a law passed in 2011 is enabling the spread of the opioid problem across our country. The law appeared apparently to be innocent but was well crafted to limit the DEA’s ability to oversee the transmission of these drugs to local pharmacies and doctors. There is a lot of money to be made in addictive drugs. Greed is a strong motivation thus the need for strong accountability.

More than 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids–nearly double in a decade.*

We can do better than that. By the grace of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we will.

Prayer: Lord, help us find our way out of the marshes of divisiveness and come together in oneness to find wholeness for all those caught in the folds of addiction. Amen.

*https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

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.

Privileged or Persecuted

Living in the Spirit
October 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, –1 Thessalonians 1:2-6

Having chosen to follow Christ, we enlisted in letting God choose us for whatever mission is needed. Opening ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern our calling is a challenging prospect. I love Gideon’s* experience in hearing his call to leave his regular job and lead the army. He asked for a sign and got it and then asked for a reversal of that sign as further proof and got that too. He was a very successful general even though he doubted his skills at carrying out the assignment. Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century monk, was called to do the dishes in his monastery. From that experience, we were gifted with his book The Practice of the Presence of God teaching us the importance of remaining in communion with God in all we do.,

History tells us that the Thessalonians faced serious persecution because of their faith and they remained steadfast in following the example of Christ. In our attempts to follow the path of the early Christians, I am concerned today that we may view the loss of privilege as persecution. The two are not related. Our call is to lift the persecuted from oppression not work to maintain our privilege that enables oppression. Loving God and loving one another requires us to want the very best for all, which includes both equity of opportunity and equality of participation in society.

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts to your call to do justice for all not just for a few. Amen.

*See Judges 6-8

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.

Greener Grass

Living in the Spirit
October 14, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. –Matthew 22:1-7

I had agreed to accompany a girlfriend on a canoe float trip down the Illinois river with a larger group when a guy I liked called with what I considered a better offer. I told my friend at the last minute; I would not be going. The thing is in a canoe two rowers are important. She went anyway, and a young teenager with his family was excited to get the chance to row. Fast forward 40 years, my girlfriend and I are still good friends in spite of my fickle behavior. I do not have a clue where the guy is or what he is doing.

To our peril, humans tend to seek greener grass in all aspects of our lives. Christ calls us to an eternal commitment. In our parable today some invited to a banquet put work first, others pursued criminal behavior. What appears to have the greatest short-term value may not be good for us at all.

In our world today, we seem to be blind to the long-term consequences of our actions until we are brought up short by some disaster. Loving others takes priority over selfish gain. Family is more important than a house. Our parable suggests that when we get our priorities straight in alignment with God from the start, we will grasp the abundant life to which Christ calls us.

Prayer: Lord, turn our dissatisfaction in life into energy to seek and find the life you provide, if we only respond to your invitation. 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.