Sower of peace

Dear friends, don’t be surprised about the fiery trials that have come among you to test you. These are not strange happenings. Instead, rejoice as you share Christ’s suffering. You share his suffering now so that you may also have overwhelming joy when his glory is revealed. If you are mocked because of Christ’s name, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory—indeed, the Spirit of God—rests on you.

Now none of you should suffer as a murderer or thief or evildoer or rebel. But don’t be ashamed if you suffer as one who belongs to Christ. Rather, honor God as you bear Christ’s name. Give honor to God, because it’s time for judgment to begin with God’s own household. But if judgment starts with us, what will happen to those who refuse to believe God’s good newsIf the righteous are barely rescued, what will happen to the godless and sinful? So then, those who suffer because they follow God’s will should commit their lives to a trustworthy creator by doing what is right. ~1 Peter 4:12-19 (CEB)

“The more I see of conflict in the church, the more I am moved by persons who allow conflict to become the occasion of their growth. And wherever several persons allow personal growth to happen, their collective growth may begin to reshape the community of which they are a part. To say this is in no way to make light of the number of church and denominational conflicts that swirl about us. It is to say, though, that Jesus seeks to form us even in the places of greatest friction. In the midst of division and hurt, he can draw us toward maturity in fresh and formative ways. This formation can take place whether we happen to be the focal point of a conflict; its anguished observer; or in some formally defined role, are present to the situation as ‘conflict manager.’

In matters of conflict, Jesus shapes his community fundamentally by point it toward a healing intent. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus deny conflict. At no time, in his own actions or in his counsel to others, does he ignore its presence or imply that conflict itself is evil. However, Jesus unceasingly encourages his followers to reach after wholeness.” ~From Discovering Community by Stephen V. Doughty

Heavenly Father, may I be an instrument of peace for You this day. Where there is strife help me to sow comfort; where there is hurt let me sow understanding; where there is hate, help me to sow love. Help me this day to restore wholeness, in Jesus name I ask this. Amen.

The privilege of holding a hand

Jesus was throwing out a demon that causes muteness. When the demon was gone, the man who couldn’t speak began to talk. The crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He throws out demons with the authority of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons.” Others were testing him, seeking a sign from heaven.

Because Jesus knew what they were thinking, he said to them, “Every kingdom involved in civil war becomes a wasteland, and a house torn apart by divisions will collapse. If Satan is at war with himself, how will his kingdom endure? I ask this because you say that I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul. If I throw out demons by the authority of Beelzebul, then by whose authority do your followers throw them out? Therefore, they will be your judges. But if I throw out demons by the powera of God, then God’s kingdom has already overtaken you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are secure. But as soon as a stronger one attacks and overpowers him, the stronger one takes away the armor he had trusted and divides the stolen goods.

“Whoever isn’t with me is against me, and whoever doesn’t gather with me, scatters. ~Luke 11:14-23 (CEB)

“The cup of suffering has many shapes and a variety of contents. In our tradition, the cup has special significance. It is a communal cup, meant for sharing. Abandonment at a time of suffering is the deepest of tragedies. Each time of suffering is the deepest of tragedies. Each time we pass the wine of the Eucharist, we are reminded of our communal relationships and our sharing is to continue in our picking up the burdens of the larger community.

Draining the cup of suffering is the final test of our sincerity in claiming discipleship. We can expect no right or left hand seats of honor, no prerogatives of power or monopoly on truth, no thrones, no outsiders. But we can have the privilege of holding one another, broken and bruised, in the embrace of our circle, of keeping watch with the dying or keeping vigil with the condemned, of walking alongside the exiled and the weary, of standing at the foot of the cross, not in despair or in bitterness, but open to the miracle of pending resurrection. And, finally, of waiting hopefully for our own welcome into life, wholeness at last!” ~From Seek Treasures in Small Fields by Joan Puls

Almighty God, as I go about my busy schedule today, let me not forget to hold the hands of the people You put in my path today. May I remember to take the time to foster and feed relationships, to embrace the weary, to stand with the saddened. Help me to help others to find joy in the moment so that in the present we will see Your face. Amen.

Words to be heard

When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this:

Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. ~Matt. 6:7-13 (CEB)

“The good news is that the scriptures, tradition, the experience of the saints, and our own experience tells us that it is possible to face the unknown and even to face opposition without fear and without defeat. To expect a life without struggle is unrealistic. But it is realistic to expect God’s help in living an authentic and joyful life as a Christian. To daily declare our love for God and neighbor, to give of ourselves as fully as we can to God, and to ask for God’s help in living an authentic life of faith is to be prepared to meet any and all opposition. Once and for all of life to God, we have nothing to lose. We have everything because, God has us. ~From A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader by Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the ways You have shown Your love for me in the big things and in the little things. You have met all my needs both big and small sometimes in ways that I would not have expected it. Help me to remember this day as the struggles come to remember all that You have done for me in the past. May those experiences give me the confidence to know that You will stand with me in the present and in the future. Amen.

When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this:

Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. ~Matt. 6:7-13 (CEB)

“The good news is that the scriptures, tradition, the experience of the saints, and our own experience tells us that it is possible to face the unknown and even to face opposition without fear and without defeat. To expect a life without struggle is unrealistic. But it is realistic to expect God’s help in living an authentic and joyful life as a Christian. To daily declare our love for God and neighbor, to give of ourselves as fully as we can to God, and to ask for God’s help in living an authentic life of faith is to be prepared to meet any and all opposition. Once and for all of life to God, we have nothing to lose. We have everything because, God has us. ~From A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader by Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the ways You have shown Your love for me in the big things and in the little things. You have met all my needs both big and small sometimes in ways that I would not have expected it. Help me to remember this day as the struggles come to remember all that You have done for me in the past. May those experiences give me the confidence to know that You will stand with me in the present and in the future. Amen.

Actions

For we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help. ~Heb. 4:15-16 (CEB)

The powers of this world do not want to see their authority and control usurped by another, even if that other is God. To preach a message and practice a life of authentic discipleship will make us uncomfortable and make others anxious and sometimes hostile. We are not above the struggle of what it means to follow Jesus. The complex issues of life do not lend themselves to easy answers. It is not easy to know with certainty the path we are to follow. And often, after careful discernment, the direction we hear is not the way we would have chosen. There is often resistance within us to the way we are convinced God is calling us to travel. It is a strenuous journey of faith that permits us to say with Mary, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38).

We should not expect instantly to be where Mary was in her witness. Neither should we think that there is something wrong with us because we struggle with internal or external opposition. Self-examination and the help of a faithful spiritual guide are ways to test our perceptions with reality” ~From A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader by Ruben P. Job

Almighty God, give me the strength this day to live out my witness. May my actions follow the words that I speak. May the path I take be the one You would have me travel today. Help me to do it with a happy heart and a willing spirit. Amen.

Solitude

For we don’t have a high priest who can’t sympathize with our weaknesses but instead one who was tempted in every way that we are, except without sin. Finally, let’s draw near to the throne of favor with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace when we need help. ~Heb. 4:15-16 (CEB)

“One of the earlier Christian writers describes the first stage of solitary prayer as the experience of a man who, after years of living with open doors, suddenly decides to shut them. The visitors who used to come and enter his home start pounding on his doors, wondering why they are not welcome so they gradually stop coming. This is the experience of anyone who decides to enter into solitude after a life without much spiritual discipline. At first, the many distractions keep presenting themselves. Later, as they receive less and less attention, they slowly withdraw.” ~From Making All Things New by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Guide me this day O Lord, help me to find the space for solitude with You. Give me the strength to brush away the distractions and to pay more attention to You. Help me to know Your will in all I do. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Authentic Discipleship

The Lord replied, “Go! This man is the agent I have chosen to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” ~Acts 9:16-16

“A casual glimpse at the life of John Wesley may lead us to believe that life for him was without opposition. He knew where God was calling him to go, who God was calling him to be, and the rest was simple. In retrospect, we may think that he chose a difficult way of discipleship, but that once the decision was made, and in spite of personal hardship, there was little internal or external opposition.

A deeper gaze at his life and ministry as revealed through his writing and the testimony of those who wrote about him suggests that he faced real opposition from the beginning until the end. Life was not simple or easy. The struggle for faithful discipleship resulted in opposition within his own life and opposition from those who could not agree with the way he had chosen. The search for authentic discipleship led him to go far beyond the common understanding or practice of the Christian faith, and this going beyond the commonly accepted way often led to opposition.” ~From A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader by Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, give me the strength today to do the tasks laid out for me. There are times I feel torn this way or that and it is hard to see the path You have given me. This day I ask for the will to be Your disciple in everything I do and to see clearly, to give freely, and to love fully. Amen.

Opposition

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them. They were incensed that the apostles were teaching the people and announcing that the resurrection of the dead was happening because of Jesus. They seized Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day. (It was already evening.) Many who heard the word became believers, and their number grew to about five thousand.

The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.” ~Acts 4:1-12 (CEB)

“Those who seek to follow Jesus will encounter opposition. It follows as surely as night follows day. The opposition may arise within ourselves; it may arise among the followers of Jesus; or it may arise in the world. It may be subtle, blatant, mild, or severe. But opposition is sure to come, so the issue is not whether it will appear but how we respond to opposition.

Following Jesus was not easy in the first century, and it is not easy in the twenty-first century. The level of opposition to Jesus from within his own family and his own religious group surprised his early followers. Two thousand years later we understand a little more about human personality, but the level of opposition to Jesus and his followers still surprise us.

We may be able to understand the opposition of the Roman government, but it is hard to understand the opposition of a religious community that claimed to be seeking God and faithfulness to God just as Jesus was. And yet, opposition still comes today from within the church as well as from without. How are we to face opposition when it comes? Squarely, humbly, openly, and with all the faith we can muster.

To commit to following Jesus is to commit myself to a lifelong journey of being led where Jesus wants me to go and not necessarily where I want to go. This situation often causes opposition within myself. Jesus may call me to do what I do not normally and easily do. Jesus may ask me to wait or remain silent when I wish to speak or move on. In each of these cases I experience opposition within to what Jesus calls me to do and to be.

External opposition can arise when God calls for an action that is not what the church wants or what the world wants. Am I to follow Jesus? If so, I will face and feel opposition. And yet, the only course for faithfulness is to follow where Jesus leads. May God always guide us, and may we have the grace to follow Jesus as faithfully when we face opposition as when we face affirmation, affection, and acclaim.” From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Lord Jesus Christ, you have shown us what it means to be a servant. We ask now for your grace and strength to faithfully follow in the footsteps of servanthood. We pray in the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

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