Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Prayer of AND

Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Definition:
AND – a conjunction used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly.

There are some people who can thrive and grow together debating their significant differences on various topics.  I want to be one of them.  I’d rather talk about the things that we agree on even though I may think something different.  That’s not endurance or encouragement, that’s avoidance.  Mind and voice are not exclusive, they’re connected by divine design.  That’s how I happened to notice every “and” in these two verses of Romans. That one little word can make such a big difference in my “attitude of mind” if I pay attention to my need for it.

It’s become the basis of my simple prayer for today.  “May the God who gives…” give me endurance AND encouragement; one mind AND one voice so we can grow AND thrive together to glorify the God AND father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen

Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  ” [followed by the rest of Paul’s long list].

Most of us know how to control our behavior so we “look” acceptable but we’ve all been tripped up by “stinkin’ thinkin’.” That’s the root of every thing on the list of things Paul says to avoid. That’s the darkness he’s talking about. Where in the world does that come from?

Good behavior can clean up the outside but it doesn’t wipe away the hidden and unbidden ideas that slip into our mind or show up in a dream.  What if they are our personal moments of awakening when what is buried in our mind is revealed to us?  “This is why it is said: Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

“…Ideas have consequences — consequences that bless or destroy. People’s behavior — good and bad — does not come out of nowhere. It comes from prevailing views of reality that take root in the mind and bring forth good or evil.” From John Piper in Solid Joys.

Don’t miss your opportunity to  “wake up;” to pray and confess those hidden and unbidden thoughts so Christ can change and renew that which is beyond your control – the secret parts of your mind.

The Real Point of Should and Don’t

Ephesians 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 

This chapter read like it was the “should and don’t” chapter.  I completely agreed with the “should and don’t” lists.  Of course I would; I’m still repenting of being a “should and don’t” person.  After looking at the whole chapter for a few days I’ve come to believe my first assessment of the chapter was “futility” thinking.  I mistakenly got so caught up in the “should and don’t” list I missed the real point.  

“Should and don’t” are like the back-door delivery system for renewal and transformation.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  I don’t believe God sends his servants to the back door.

This is the real point of the “should and don’t” list: to be captured by the Lord so our longing is more than to work the list.  We long to let the Lord change our minds so we can be renewed and transformed right right out in plain sight.

“Every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” is our “one hope” to “live a life worthy of the calling” we “have received…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

Insist on it!

Romans 12:1 & 2 –

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

Creatively writing about the Word and how it impacts my daily life has become a form of prayer for me. “Creativity” and “God’s mercy” are all I’ve got when I write.  There are no theological credits after my name.  My words feel like a sacrifice of worship.  When I see them in black and white I begin to recognize the challenges of the renewal and transformation of my own mind.  Writing becomes a metaphor for that process: pray, read, write, edit, rewrite, think, pray again and finally post what I’ve written knowing full well the moment I hit “Publish” there will be better words and further editing to come.  

“We let our mind descend into our heart and there stand in the presence of God.” Henri Nouwen in Spiritual Direction

Treasures God Creates our Blessings From

MSG Romans 12:1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Life is familiar, complicated and sometimes even confusing.  I want to honor God.  I want to be faithful.  I want to be obedient.  I want to do what’s right.  I want to be a good citizen.  I want to be a good wife. There’s nothing in that list I have’t failed at more than once.  There are just times when I need to hear: “So here’s what I want you to do…”  

As I thought about the rest of these two verses it reminded me of when our children were small [back in the olden days].  There were little handmade gifts often prompted by a teacher in school, maybe more a duty than the reality of their own hearts at the time.  Sometimes they were made of pieces of crumpled tissue paper in the shape of a heart glued to construction paper and decorated with their own shaky printing.  They were childish efforts meant to express some level of caring.  I saved them for many years and eventually some were returned to their “all grown-up” creators.  It was a way to let them know their simple gifts had been my treasures.

I think that must be how God deals with our offerings.  Ordinary life offerings may feel more like duty but they are the reality of our own heart right then.  They don’t have much material value but he saves them to be returned to you.  Our simple gifts are the treasures God creates our blessings from.

“So here’s what I want you to do…
• If the only way you honored God this week was to swallow some critical words rather than speak them…
•if the only way you were faithful was to open your Bible first even though you didn’t really feel the inspiration…
• if you did the right thing even when it wasn’t what you really wanted to do…
• if the whole political environment makes you want to gripe more than pray…
• if after decades of marriage you’re still in a slight period of adjustment…

Those are the crumpled pieces of tissue that are the shape of your heart at this moment.  Add your own shaky words of confession …”and place it before God as an offering…fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

That’s the blessing that will be returned to you [soorner rather than later I hope].  It’s your treasure “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” to remind you how priceless a childish gift really is to God.  Amen!

This Then…Yours is the Kingdom

6. Matthew 6:9 This, then, is how you should pray:..[“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”]

I was surprised to discover the familiar last line I know of the Lord’s Prayer is only footnoted in many versions of the Bible.  There’s a complicated issue of texts, dates and translations but the bottom line is many Christians have used it in worship since about 90AD when the Bible was completed. [click here for more details]

The words “familiar” and “complicated” in the same paragraph seem important to me. Familiar is comfortable and that’s what makes it complicated.  I’m often quite comfortable in this complicated world.  It’s easy to remember this is definitely not heaven…but forget it’s still part of God’s kingdom.  He’s given familiar things to remind me His glory can be found even in such a complicated place.  There’s comfort in the power of his Word and prayers to strengthen my desire to pray for the assurance he will unite our today with His forever.