Behaving as God’s children

“But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.

“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return. ” ~Luke 6:27-38 (CEB)

“To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others.  Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence.  We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label.  When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division.   Jesus says it clearly:  “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).

In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible.  But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

What if the world’s New Year’s Resolution was to stop judging, condemning, classifying or labeling one another. Would we then have Peace?

Merry Christmas!

 

Let there be Peace on Earth Lord and let it begin with me. Amen

Forgiving the church

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. ~1 Cor 12:26-27 (CEB)

I was once by my perception, hurt deeply by “the church” or rather by the people in the church. I was confused. I couldn’t understand how “Christian people” could act in such a way as they did. I was holding them up to my standard of perfection and not seeing them through God’s eyes… wounded and broken like me.

“When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it.   But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.  When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.  The challenge is to forgive the Church.  This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially.  But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.” ~From Bread for the Journey, by Henri Nouwen

Although I never officially left a church over my wounds I know I was guilty of losing Jesus while I held onto my hurt and anger. Even though I continued to grace the steps of the church that hurt me I was blinded by pain, thus unable to see Jesus and His Grace for me. As always, unforgiveness only injures me. In time I was able to see that we are all human and none of us perfect. Now I see that time period as a necessary part of my journey. Many life lessons were learned as I regained my sight of Jesus through that time of trial. Most important of all was the reminder that Jesus forgives me every day and I need to extend that same grace to others.

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the grace you give me every day. Help me to see others as needing your grace too. May I not let my past hurts blind me so deeply as to not feel Your love this day. Amen.

The church

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength. God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future. God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way. ~Ephesians 1:18-23 (CEB)

This excerpt from Henri Nouwen’s book, Bread for the Journey, really makes me stop and remember how crazy mixed up I was in college. I never really lost my faith in God but I really struggled with the rest of the package. I have never really known how to word what I went through in my heart other than to say I had lost my faith in “religion”. I have since understood that the community of believers is not perfect but that we still need that community:

“The Church is an object of faith.  In the Apostles’ Creed we pray:  “I believe in God, the Father … in Jesus Christ, his only Son – in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  We must believe in the Church!  The Apostles’ Creed does not say that the Church is an organization that helps us to believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  No, we are called to believe in the Church with the same faith we believe in God.

Often it seems harder to believe in the Church than to believe in God.  But whenever we separate our belief in God from our belief in the Church, we become unbelievers.  God has given us the Church as the place where God becomes God-with-us.”

Heavenly Father, as we struggle to live in this world with people so different from ourselves, help us to come together through You. Help us be in communion with one another, all of us forgiven for our sins through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Wash me of preconceptions

From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him!  ~Isaiah 64:4 (CEB)

The contemplation of God is not effected by sight and hearing, nor is it comprehended by any of the customary perceptions of the mind. For no eye has seen and no ear has heard, nor does it belong to those things which usually enter into the heart. One who would approach the knowledge of things sublime must first purify one’s manner of life from all sensual and irrational emotion. That person must wash from his or her understanding every opinion derived from some preconception and withdraw from customary intercourse with companions, that is, with sense perceptions, which are, as it were, wedded to our nature as its companion. When so purified, then one assaults the mountain.

The knowledge of God is a mountain steep indeed and difficult to climb- the majority of people scarcely reach its base. If one were a Moses, he would ascend higher and hear the sound of trumpets which, as the text of the history says, becomes louder as one advances. For the preaching of the divine nature is truly a trumpet blast, which strikes the hearing, being already loud at the beginning but becoming yet louder at the end. ~From Gregory of Nyssa

Help me O Lord, to climb the mountain. I want to hear the trumpet blasts this Advent season. May all my preconceptions be washed away so that I can truly experience You in my life. Amen.

Corrected vision

This is the confidence that we have through Christ in the presence of God. It isn’t that we ourselves are qualified to claim that anything came from us. No, our qualification is from God. He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not based on what is written but on the Spirit, because what is written kills, but the Spirit gives life. ~ 2 Cor. 3:4-6 (CEB)

“It is not enough that we behave better; we must come to see reality differently. We must learn to see the depths of things, not just reality at a superficial level. This especially means we need to see the non-separateness of the world from God and the oneness of all reality in God: the Hidden Ground of Love in all that is. Prayer is a kind of corrective lens that, for some mysterious reason, seems to be my normal vision, and enables me to see what is as it really is.” ~From Silence on Fire by William H. Shannon

O God, the King eternal, who divides the day from the darkness, and turnest the shadow of death into the morning. Help me to see things as they are. Sharpen my focus to enable me to see Your truth this day. Amen.

Companionship

As Jesus walked alongside the Galilee Sea, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. ~Matt 4:18-22 (CEB)

“When Jesus begins his public ministry, one of the first things he does is to find companions, those individuals who will share his life and ministry in a special way. Whenever Jesus faces a difficult situation, he gathers these companions around himself- sometimes all twelve, sometimes only a few. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, needed the companionship of others. Even he, as strong and powerful and food as he was, couldn’t go it alone.

We can’t go it alone either. We cannot face the challenges of life without the support of others. This need for companionship is one we must never be ashamed of. We must never think, ‘If I were more mature, I could stand on my own two feet.’ Or, ‘If my faith were stronger, I wouldn’t have to rely so much on others.’ No, our need for companionship, fellowship, friendship, is in the very fabric of our human psyche. It is yet one more way that we are made in the image and likeness of God.” ~From Abundant Treasures by Melannie Svoboda

Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for the friends You have sent to walk this journey with me. I thank You for their companionship, fellowship and friendship that they have offered me. There is no way that I could manage this life without their support. Help me to be Your image to others so that they also will not find themselves alone. Amen

The saints who came before

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles ‘feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. ~Acts 4:32-37 (CEB)

“The way early disciples lived mystified people around them because the disciples seemed to live in another world, the principles that guided them clearly differed from those that guided others. They practiced a way of life both beautiful and mysterious. Their lives made sense only if one knew that they were living by the power and guidance of God. Their lives were governed by the reign of God and not by the press of politics of the call of culture. They were different because they chose to live their lives in obedience to and in the presence of God. Their radical love for God and neighbor resulted in dramatic actions that perplexed all who observed them.

When we move securely into the reign and presence of God, our lives also take on a beautiful and mysterious quality because God’s presence and principles are being expressed in all that we are and in all that we do. Our actions prompt sometimes gratitude and sometimes perplexity in others. They prompt sometimes joy and gratitude within our lives and sometimes weariness when our radical actions are misunderstood.

But we are not alone. The first-generation Christians lived this radical faith every day. Their actions caught the world’s attention both positively and negatively, but their actions- like ours- were not calculated to bring a response; rather, their actions and ours are a response. A response to God’s amazing grace that accepts us, assures us, sustains us, and always holds us close in the embrace of divine love. Such radical grace prompts a radical response.” From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

O God, prepare me, through the active presence of Your Spirit, to come before You worthily and to ask of You rightly; enlighten my understanding; purify my every desire; quicken my will to instant obedience to Your Word; strengthen every right purpose; direct me in Your way; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. ~adapted from The Book of Worship

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