Category Archives: Sunday

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

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!

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…Lead Us

Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Here’s my question for today. Do you believe God uses temptation to see what you’re made of?  My immediate answer was “no.”  I think that’s the right answer but temptation and evil are real and Jesus prayer recognizes that.  I want my answer to be real too, not just a gut reaction.

My observations:
Sometimes our focus is more on praying the devil out of our life than praying the Triune God into it to change us.  That seems like giving that evil one more power than we should.  Sometimes the devil is a convenient excuse for the bad behavior of broken people in a broken world doing awful things. 

The Santa Claus Theology: Job 1:9 “Satan replied, Would Job worship you if he got nothing out of it?”  Temptation is Satan’s power to destroy faith by convincing us God’s blessing is only a bribe for good behavior.

The Need Theology: James 1:13 “When tempted, no one should say, God is tempting me.  For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”  God doesn’t waste his power tempting us.  He’s focused on building faith first, then behavior. That faith has the power over temptation to reveal our broken desires to US so when we pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” we’ll finally understand  “desire” for the Triune God IS the blessing and gift.

This Then…Give Us This Day – That Mental Leap

3. Matthew 6:9 “This, then, is how you should pray:…
11 Give us today our daily bread

• Numbers 11: 5 We [the Israelites] remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
• Exodus 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” … 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”…21 Each morning everyone gathered as much [manna] as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.

It’s not much of a leap from this line of the Lord’s Prayer to the “manna” bread God provided daily for the Israelites. They ate it but they grumbled about it even though it was what sustained them during their wandering years until they reached the promised land.  Their grumbling was focused on the familiarity of what they had to eat but in reality their problem was what they “wanted” to eat. 

I’m not that different from the Israelites after all.  I’m not immune from grumbling about the “daily” aspect of the spiritual nourishment God has provided for me.  It’s hard to get up every day and want to look for fresh food in the familiar Book and the familiar Word when I could just flip on the TV.  I remember fondly the tasty spiritual meals I’ve already had and can easily forget they were just “enough for that day.” I confess I need to hear Jesus remind me “this then is how you should pray…give us today our daily bread” and then tell me “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 

I read and ponder daily because because Jesus is that mental leap for me that turns familiar bread into the bread of “wanting” what will sustain me until the banquet at end of my wanderings.  

This Then…123

Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,

Hallowed: regarded as holy; venerated; sacred

This, then…
1. Abba, your name itself is holy.
2. Your name is the prayer.
3. Your name is sacred in the life of your creation…my life.
I’m grateful you have chosen to be an eternal presence in the world you made.  I’m thankful for your willingness to teach me my life is your blessing.  Teach me to see holiness through your eyes not through rules of my own making. 

Because I Was There

John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 

Quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade: “The duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation.”

Could I look back and see the reality of the truth Jesus promised in John 16 and the ‘divine operation’ hidden under the shadow of my own duties?  The earliest shadow I remember goes way back to 1963 before I even recognized there was a journey of faith and I wasn’t on it. I was married.  I was a young mother.  I was in church.  I was in a Bible study.  I was ignorant…BUT I was there.  I’d married a preacher’s kid and you were “supposed” to go to church.  It was only a duty but they had free babysitting.  Isn’t that an interesting list of contradictions? 

I wanted to know how you could be an open person when life was teaching you to build a protective shell of “image” around yourself.  I knew about that!  I asked my question in that Bible study not realizing just how much it revealed what I didn’t know.  I didn’t know God would continue to work his divine operation hidden under the shadow of that one duty…because I was there.

I’m grateful for the discovery of that quote from Jean-Pierre de Caussade this week.  It’s true “the duties of each moment are the shadows beneath which hides the divine operation” and more importantly it confirms the truth of Jesus’s words, and the reality of his commitment: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”