Life together

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ~Matt 7:7-11 (CEB)

“How beautiful it is to see relationships in which asking and receiving are a joyful and loving way of life. Often we see those who cherish one another each seriously or playfully trying to out give the other. That is how relationships should be. Of course we must never eliminate the asking side of the relationship. Balance must be kept, for giving is not the same as imposition. That is why God does not just five us what we need without being asked. Prayer is nothing but a proper way for persons to interact. Thus Jesus very naturally moves in Matt. 7:7-11 from asking for what you want of others to asking for what you want from your Father, the one in the heavens. /these two relationships, he clearly taught, are on a continuous line.” ~From The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

Almighty God, you have called the church into being and have gathered us into one family. By the power of your Holy Spirit help us to live in unity and peace with all of you children. May our actions this day be fruit of our faith in your kingdom. In the name of Christ. Amen.

The power of prayer

LORD, you are my God. I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, planned long ago, faithful and sure. ~Isaiah 25:1 (CEB)

“There can be no substitute, no rival for prayer; it stands alone as the great spiritual force, and this force must be imminent and acting. It cannot be dispensed with during one generation, nor held in abeyance for the advance of any great movement- it must be continuous and particular, always, everywhere, and in everything. We cannot run our spiritual operations on the prayers of the past generation. Many persons believe in the efficacy of prayer, but not many pray. Prayer is the easiest and hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublimest; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities- they are limited only by the omnipotence of God.

Few Christians have anything but a vague idea of the power of prayer; fewer still have any experience of that power. The Church seems almost wholly unaware of the power God puts into her hand; this spiritual carte blanche on the infinite resources of God’s wisdom and power is rarely, if ever, used- never used to the full measure of honoring God. It is astounding how poor the use, how little the benefits. Prayer is our most formidable weapon, but the one in which we are the least skilled, the most averse to its use. We do everything else for the heathen save the thing God wants us to do; the only thing which does any good- makes all else we do efficient.” ~From Purpose in Prayers by Edward M. Bounds

Heavenly Father, Forgive me when I brush off prayer time with You. Forgive me when prayer is the last resort for a problem. Nudge me to start all things with prayer. Help to remember that the best thing I can do for someone in need is to pray. Lord, I step forth day determined to utilize this power You allow us. All things I now turn over to you in prayer. Amen.

Hidden in God

Yes, you will go out with celebration, and you will be brought back in peace. Even the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you; all the trees of the field will clap their hands. ~Isaiah 55:12 (CEB)

“Life is full of perils and of hidden reefs, on which we shall make shipwreck, without the continual succor of the grace of God. Yet how can we ask for it, unless we are with [God]? How can we be with [God], unless our thoughts are ever of [God]? How can [God] be in our thoughts, unless we form a holy habit of abiding in [God’s] Presence, there asking for the grace we need each moment of our life?

If you would go forward in the spiritual life, you must avoid relying on the subtle conclusions and fine reasonings of the unaided intellect. Unhappy they who seek to satisfy their desire therein! The Creator is the great teacher of Truth. We can reason laboriously for many years, but fuller far and deeper is the knowledge of the hidden things of Faith and of [God], which [God] flashes as light into the heart of the humble.

Nothing can give us so great relief in the trials and sorrows of life, as loving intercourse with God; when such is faithfully practiced, the evils that assail the body will prove light to us. God often ordains that we should suffer in the body to purify the soul, and to constrain us to abide with [God]. How can anyone whose life is hid with God, and whose only desire is God, be capable of feeling pain?” ~From The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence

Hide me in the shadow of Your love O Lord. Teach me Your ways so that I may know of Your Truths. My eyes search for You, my heart longs for You. Only Your Holy presence can satisfy this desire. Help me to turn away from those things that cannot placate my spirit, may they not distract me this day. Amen.

A need for saints

Teach me your way, LORD, so that I can walk in your truth. Make my heart focused only on honoring your name. I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify your name forever, because your faithful love toward me is awesome and because you’ve rescued my life from the lowest part of hell. ~Psalm 86:11-13 (CEB)

“The church and the world need saints. They need saints more than they need more canny politicians, more brilliant scientists, more grossly overpaid executives and entrepreneurs, more clever entertainers and talk-show hosts. Are there any on the horizon now that Mother Teresa is no longer with us, either of the extraordinary or of the ordinary kind? I think there are. Maybe I should say that there are saints ‘aborning’ by God’s grace. There are those whose lives have been irradiated by God’s grace, who seek not to be sage but to be faithful, who have learned how to get along in adversity, who are joyful, who are dream filled, and above all, who are prayerful. That is what the church and the world need most. It begins with you.” ~From Spiritual Preparations for Christian Leadership by E. Glenn Hinson

Almighty God, by the power of Your Holy Spirit open our eyes, ears, hearts, and very lives to Your presence so that today we may worship and serve You in faithfulness, be blessing and healing reminders of Your love to all whose lives we touch. We offer our prayers in the name of Christ. Amen.

Signs and wonders

Image result for signs and wonders

After their release, Peter and John returned to the brothers and sisters and reported everything the chief priests and elders had said. They listened, then lifted their voices in unison to God, “Master, you are the one who created the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. You are the one who spoke by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:

Why did the Gentiles rage,

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth took their stand

and the rulers gathered together as one

against the Lord and against his Christ.

Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with Gentiles and Israelites, did gather in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and plan had already determined would happen. Now, Lord, take note of their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence. Stretch out your hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus, your holy servant.” After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence. ~ Acts 4:23-31 (CEB)

“Living in a multicultural world, the disciples easily could have remained silent about their dramatic encounter with God in Jesus Christ. In a world of many religions, they might understandably have been timid about even mentioning their faith in Jesus Christ. In a time when allegiance to the official religion often was demanded, they would have found it so much simpler to go along with the crowd.  In a time, when advocacy of any new religion was dangerous, they would have been so much safer to hide any evidence of faith in Jesus Christ.

However, these very risks and dangers that could have sent the disciples running in fact prompted them to pray for boldness to declare the gospel. They did not ask for security, relief from persecution, or the demise of opposition. They asked for boldness to declare the gospel. They were not longing for their own safety; they were longing for faithfulness. And as soon as their prayers subsided, the place where they were gathered was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31). Their prayers were instantly answered.

How often has the Christian community of which you are a member prayed for boldness to declare the gospel? Probably not very often since we don’t place a great value on boldness to declare the gospel. But what if we did? What difference would it make in our lives, our congregations, and the communities in which we live? The early disciples found that praying for boldness gave them the wisdom, the faith, and the power to live faithful and effective lives. What are we praying for today?” ~A Guide for All Who Seek God, Rueben p. Job

Almighty God, may the transforming power of your gospel be at work in my life today and always. Amen.

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.

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