You are good. You are holy. The Gospel of Matthew says that no one knows the Son expect the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Thank you, Lord, for choosing me.
Thank you for your faithfulness and great love. Thank you for Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Thank you for being my constant companion. What an amazing friend you are. True. Loyal. Righteous. Honest. Infallible. What better friend can there be?
I’m afraid today my petitions are many. I see so much pain and yet I know you protect me from so much more.
For those who are sick, with disease, or in hospital, give them healing.
For those who are dying, give them peace.
For those who grieve, give them comfort.
For those who are far from you, show them the way back.
For those who doubt, give them faith.
And for those who fear, give them courage.
Lord, I confess that many times I fail you. But the deepest desire of my heart is to do your will. Forgive me, and give me strength to carry on in the knowledge that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. And you will never leave or forsake me.
I now lift up my eyes to the heavens and praise your holy name.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Forever. Amen.
A few days ago, as I was preparing my Sunday sermon, I was meditating on Acts 1:1-8. In particular, verse 8 which says, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
This is Jesus talking here, of course, and I heard it said recently that this is the message of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20, except that here we not only have the authority of Jesus when we go, but we also have the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The authority of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which entails everything from a constant companion, to a sage adviser, to a protective advocate. It makes me wonder why one third of the world’s population knows nothing of Jesus Christ.
But that’s a discussion for another day.
So as I prayed and meditated over these verses I got to thinking about how the Father sent the Son, and the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and finally, how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit send the church. And though I was thinking about the purpose and mission of the church, what came to mind was a brief moment in which I felt I clearly understood the Trinity.
Which was really amazing because while I fully believe in the Trinity, the Godhead Three in One as we used to say back in my Baptist days, I can’t say I understand it. I certainly can’t ever seem to put it in words. In fact, I have a dear friend who fairly new in his journey with Jesus, and he calls me on a regular basis to ask me about all the names for God there are in the Bible.
The conversation usually goes something like this: “Okay, so I’m reading the Bible, and there’s God, and Jesus, and some Spirit guy, and Lord, and Christ, and Jehovah, and some others I can’t remember, and my question is: are these all the same guy, or different people? What’s going on here?” So I muddle through a weak explanation which usually ends up being about how in the Christian life this is where faith comes in.
But back to my brief moment of clarity. My first thought was that of amazement. It was so clear. My second thought was that maybe I could now better explain this to my friend. My third thought? Well, that didn’t last very long. Because in thinking that maybe I could explain it better to my friend, the clarity was gone.
But what a gift it was while it lasted. And I praise God for it.
And I praise God for choosing me, and revealing himself to me, every day and in countless ways.
45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
Mark 6:45-52 (NIV)
This is my devotional reading for today. It’s a familiar story. Jesus fed 5000+ people, sent them away, and told his disciples to get on a boat and head out on the lake without him. He would meet them later. Then he took off for the hills to pray, and he prayed until the early morning hours.
It was probably around 5 or 6 in the morning when he walked back to shore and saw his friends out on the boat, and they were in trouble because of strong winds.
At this point Jesus walked out onto the lake and eventually the disciples saw him and at first they were terrified because they didn’t know it was him. I had never noticed it before but verse 48 said that Jesus would have passed them by.
Puzzling. Because Jesus doesn’t seem like much of a game player, at least not with his friends, and he certainly is not insincere. Two well worn commentaries that I checked would agree. This was not a statement about Jesus’ intentions, as much as it was about the disciples’ perspective. Because to them it looked like Jesus would pass them by in their time of distress, when, in reality, he was giving them a chance to see him. So they wouldn’t be afraid, and of course, they were afraid anyway.
So what is God saying to me in my devotional prayer and study time today? Maybe it’s that regardless of what things seem like, regardless of how things appear, Jesus sees me in my times of distress, and he plans to “get on the boat” with me.
In fact, he’s probably already there.
For I the Lord , love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge. that they are a people the Lord has blessed.
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest and a bride adorns herself with jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes a seed to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up from all nations.
In Sunday school this past week we had a discussion about God. What is our personal concept of God? What do we picture him to look like? What is the one word we would use to describe him?
One person said the word “everlasting.” That brought on a whole new conversation about faith, because this is a concept that’s hard to understand. This idea of always was, always is, and forever will be is something that causes my head to ache, especially the always was part. So I choose to believe it, accept it, and make it part of my faith journey.
I can honestly say that I’ve never questioned it. (I don’t know why I would question it really. If for some reason I would become an atheist today I would still have to grapple with the idea of everlasting. Because something had to start somewhere. Right?)
So today my Scripture reading is from Isaiah and there it is again: everlasting. God has made an everlasting covenant with his people.
An everlasting covenant that I am now part of because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A covenant that includes me because I believe. God told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him because of the covenant God would make with him. A covenant that I believe goes all the way back to the fall on Adam and Eve in the garden when God told the serpent that someone would come who would strike his head and bring redemption to those who believed.
An everlasting that doesn’t make my head ache. Because in it I feel secure, precious, and loved.
It has been suggested that I add writing in a journal to my daily prayer and devotional time. That is one reason I have come back to this blog.
Although today I don’t have much to say. It’s a foggy morning in The Brogue. Even though I’m on my second cup of coffee it seems my brain is just as foggy.
Today Matthew 9:35-38 tells me that Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless. They were like lost sheep without a shepherd.
Compassion is sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others according to the dictionary. Of course, Jesus took this to greater heights and depths than any of us ever could.
I remember a time in undergrad when a fellow student asked for “grace” concerning the due date of our latest assignment. I still chuckle when I think of our professor saying, “Compassion is not one of my spiritual gifts. The due date remains what it is.”
Of course, we know that compassion is not one of the spiritual gifts we can receive from God. If it were, I believe this world would look a lot different than what it does.
But if we are to live a life that mirrors Jesus’ life, it looks like compassion is something we are called to possess. We are called to the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others.
This means there are things that will have to be removed from my speech and thoughts. Things like……well, he brought that on himself……..she kind of had that coming……..and of course …..what did they think would happen?
Of course, this also means that apathy has no place in my life. Apathy and compassion are not neighbors. Not in the life of a Jesus follower anyway.
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about how happy I am. Not about anything in particular. I’m just utterly content with life. The move to York County has been good. I love my new church and the members of the church have been wonderful. I think they like me, too.
I love the parsonage. I am used to living in apartments, so this 4 bedroom bi-level with patio, deck, 2 car garage, and 1.3 acres seemed pretty vast at first. But don’t worry. I’m getting used to it. I’ve taken to calling it “The Manse.”
Since it is across the road from the church and the other buildings on the property I feel like I have my own little kingdom in this beautiful farm country they call The Brogue.
I am surrounded by corn fields and Amish families. The church chimes play at regular times throughout the day. From time to time I see deer, turkey, and groundhogs.
Vehicles pull in and out of the church parking lot many times during the day. I finally figured out that it is because the church parking lot has the best cell phone service for about a five mile radius.
It is peaceful here. I feel like I live on a retreat center. The church is active and life is busy and it is nice to come home to a place that is serene.
Yesterday was a nice day. The morning service went well, and Sunday school was fine. But in spite of all my happiness, I was reminded that everything is not perfect. I overheard something that I took personally. Nothing earth shattering. Just something that made me question my preaching. The thing is that the person I overheard might not have been referring to me, and I know that. But it played with my mind all day.
I prayed about it. Sermon prep for me is a constant conversation with God. I want to be true to Scripture. I want to speak God’s message. I don’t want to get to the end and find out I have messed that up.
In the end, I prayed for reassurance.
God answered. By email.
No the email wasn’t from God. It was from a couple who are interested in joining the church. She said my sermons spoke to her and that she is glad that the first Sunday she came she decided to give up watching her favorite television preacher to come.
I’m glad she did that, too. I’m glad God spoke to her through me. Maybe some day it will be appropriate for me to tell her that God spoke to me through her. Because through her words I was encouraged and I knew God was answering my prayer.
I am blessed beyond my imagination to get to do what I do.
I am blessed to known Jesus Christ as Redeemer, Lord, and Friend.
Monday, August 29, 2016.
My first day back from vacation. My first real vacation in years. And by “real” I mean it was part of my compensation package, it was paid, and I actually had plans to go somewhere. I’m not sure why that’s all important to me, but it is.
Where did I go? Back to Centre County for the Centre Hall Grange Fair & Encampment. I spent the week with friends who mean the world to me. I spent one afternoon with my mom and dad, and my brother Ronnie. They were pretty well behaved now that I think about it.
So yesterday I felt like I was playing catch up all day. I sifted through emails, sorted through a week’s worth of snail mail, and read the last 100 pages of a book that I needed to read for the Matthew 28 Mentoring Group meeting on Thursday.
I also watched the Pirates lose in extra innings to the Cubs until 1am.
I’m happy to be back in the Brogue. I am happy that driving back Sunday felt like driving home, even though I have only been here 2 months.
Praise the Lord. Honor the Lord. Revere the Lord!
God doesn’t despise those who suffer. He doesn’t hide his face from the afflicted. God listens to his child’s cry for help.
In God I find the reason for my praise as I gather with fellow believers. May we gather to seek the Lord and praise him. May our hearts live forever in his presence!
You are holy. You are good. You are love.
I confess my sins before you today. Help me to control what comes out of my mouth. Teach me not to hold petty grudges. May I focus on that which is good and pure.
Thank you for providing me with vacation time, and good friends to share it with, and the finances necessary to enjoy it. I especially thank you for molding me each day to be more like Jesus. So much, in fact, that I can go home and make wise decisions that honor you. We know that even a year ago that may not have been possible.
Father, I ask that you strengthen me, fill me with your Spirit. Take away my fear. In particular, help me through this fall season at Bethel UMC. Charge conference, the Matthew 28 group, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, meetings, social events, visitation….all are important to me. But show me what is important to you. Help me prioritize, and help me use my time wisely so that I honor you in all I do.
Father, be with my friend Terry. Please give him strength and wisdom.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
In Jesus name. Amen.
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Psalm 17:6-9: “I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. You save with your strength those who seek refuge from their enemies. Guard me as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. Protect me from wicked people who attack me, from murderous enemies who surround me.”
My morning “walk through the garden” with God has taken me to Psalm 17:6-9. There is a phrase that immediately jumps out at me.
“Bend down and listen….” I did a quick search on the Blue Letter Bible website and found that we see this phrase used in this particular manner about 7 more times throughout the Psalms. The psalmist is either asking God to bend down his divine ear, or God has already done just that. It seems like such a bold request, doesn’t it? Mere mortal man asking God to bend over just to listen to his cries.
As if God has to bend over to hear us.
Now picture it. Picture it as a father bending over to hear his young child. The child, at the mercy of his diminutive stature, is trying to have a word with his dad. Maybe they’re in a crowd, at a ballgame or at the market. Maybe the child is afraid or maybe he needs help. Perhaps what he needs the most is a minute to talk to his dad alone. The child could yell or scream to get his dad’s attention. But he doesn’t have to.
Because his dad has bent down to listen.
As the dad bends down, we see the image of father and child. Crouched down, face to face, the dad doesn’t seem so far away. The child can whisper in his ear. It is an intimate and private conversation. No one else can hear the boy’s needs or fears. After the dad listens to his child and calms his emotions, the dad picks his child up and carries him through the crowd.
And so it is with God. God doesn’t have to bend over to hear the psalmist. But the psalmist asks, and the heavenly Father stoops down to listen to his earthly child. It’s not about the psalmist making demands of God. It is a picture of a man who needs time alone with his Father in heaven. A man who needs lifted up from the troubles that surround him.
“Bend down and listen as I pray.”
What an amazing picture of the intimate and loving relationship we can have with our heavenly Father.
Blessings to all,
“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand I will not be shaken.” Psalm 15:5-8, New International Version.
As I read these verses I was reminded of a prayer that I recite often. It is adapted from the writing of Julian of Norwich. Here are a couple lines from it:
“God of your goodness, give me yourself. For you are enough to me. And I can ask for nothing less that is to your glory. And if I ask for anything less, I shall still be in want, for only in you have I all.”
“All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.”
My prayer for today……
“Lord, you are my portion and cup. You satisfy me. You feed me and quench my thirst in every way……physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It is true that you provide for my needs, and through others you provide for me. In fact, you provide for me in every way….food, clothes, a home, a car, friendship, and family. You have allowed for a pleasant life, one filled with love and laughter.
I am thankful for all of this.
But only in you have I all. It is not what others give me that causes me to praise you. it is not what you give me that causes me to bless your name. I don’t praise you because of things, although I am thankful for them. I praise you because of you, because of who you are: The holy and righteous God, the great Creator of the universe, my heavenly Father who loved me before I existed. Amen.”
The question that has been with me all day, since my metaphorical morning-walk-in-the-garden with God is this: Do I really believe that in God I really have all that I need?
I think I do believe it. Logic tells me it’s truth. If I believe God to be who I claim he is, then how could I believe otherwise?
On the other hand, I know I don’t always live that way, nor does my thought life always reflect it. It is, however, something I strive for. And right now, in this post, I am bouncing all over the place. Please hang in there for one more big bounce, because I think I have again stumbled onto something that has greatly influenced my devotional life. No, actually, it is a way in which my devotional life has affected my day to day existence.
As I have said previously, I have been working my way through the Psalms, a few verses at a time, asking the questions “what is the psalmist saying to God? and “what is God saying to me?” I follow that with prayer, and since licensing school I have consistently used prayer beads to guide me through my morning prayer and in all honesty I have used the above mentioned prayer of Julian of Norwich about 75% of time. The result of this is that after several months of reciting this, I have it practically memorized. This was not my intention, but apparently even a middle aged, menopausal brain like mine can retain some knowledge.
And the result of this result?
Well, it’s as if my way of thinking has been revamped, reconstructed, and renewed. Lines from this prayer come into my mind all the time. When I want something I can’t have I am reminded that “only in God have I all.” When I am frightened or worried I am reminded that God is sovereign and “all manner of things shall be well.” I am more at peace. I complain less. I tolerate more. I respond differently.
So does this mean that a life of devotion to God, through commitment to the disciplines, and through Scripture, prayer, and the words of the ancients can actually serve to change one’s thought life, and ultimately one’s life in general? I certainly hope so. In fact, I believe so!
Don’t get shook up, because I am not saying that the prayer of Julian should be in the canon. I am not placing on it the reverence with which I hold the Bible. But I do believe there is great value in the words of the ancients, and that is something I would not have said even ten years ago.
Because I was raised fundamentalist. And that’s a story for another day.
If you made it to the end of this post, bless you! Today I was writing for me. I was thinking out loud via blog post. I hope you gained something from it. If you did then thank the Holy Spirit because it surely wasn’t me!
Blessings to all!
When I was first appointed to my charge in May, someone sent me a bulletin template.
(Because I think we all know that one cannot properly worship without the bulletin. I am thinking of one particular Sunday that I forgot to take the bulletins with me, and after the first service someone said to me, “That was really different.” I had to get to my second service so I did not make an attempt to explain that it was exactly the same order of worship that we normally do sans bulletin in hand.)
But I digress.
So the week before my first Sunday I sat down at my Mac, downloaded the bulletin template, and began plugging things into empty spaces. It took me awhile but when I hit “save” I was pleased with the final product. On paper it looked pretty good. I had the call to worship, the hymns, the prayers, the scripture readings, the closing prayer, dismissal and benediction.
And really, it was good. I’m sure it’s been acceptable all these months.
But one thing has always bothered me: the announcements.
The announcements….where do you put them? Where do you place them in the order of worship so that the flow of worship is not disrupted? It’s like, well, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Much of this has come out of my seeking a deeper relationship with God in my personal prayer life, my alone time with God. As I have said in previous posts I have come to realize that prayer is a conversation with God and this realization has affected the way I do my morning devotions. In turn, this has caused me to think differently about the Sunday morning worship service. Does it not stand to reason that corporate worship is also a conversation with God? Does it not stand to reason that the order of the service is more than just filling in the empty holes in a template?
Think about this.
We light the candles and welcome Christ.
We stand together and give a call to worship.
We sing hymns of response.
We hear God speak through the reading of Scripture and we respond with the Lord’s Prayer.
We hear God’s voice again through the morning message and we respond in prayer.
We respond again by worshiping God through our offerings.
As we leave we are challenged to go into our communities and be salt and light.
It’s a conversation.
No wonder the announcements feel so awkward. it’s like we are all having this beautiful conversation with our Creator….in song, in prayer, in listening to the Living Word…..and at some point I put my hand up and say, “Hey God, can you hang on a minute, we need to go over here and talk about the trustee meeting, the upcoming hymn sing, and the joint worship service on the fifth Sunday of this month.”
I can’t seem to make them fit. Although it has been suggested to me that you do them first and then get on with worship or you save them for last and make them a part of the charge to the congregation. Kind of like “Serve the Lord with gladness………and here are some real ways you can serve God this week.”
That still seems a little awkward. But maybe it’s worth a try this week.