Friday, August 31, 2012

9/1/12- Need to communicate

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Thoughts: I used to live in the mountains of North Carolina and some of the back roads would be very sharp winding curves.  There would be times when I would be in a hurry but would be behind someone who was not going very fast.  I couldn't really see to pass the car because of the sharp curves that would go on for many miles.  To just take a chance would be to risk a head on collision with another car or even a truck.  If only there was someone up above in a plane who could tell me when the way was clear and give me direction!
    In some ways, that is what God does for us.  He tells us certain rules that help preserve our safety as well as our speed in life.  But the Holy Spirit is also alive to direct us.   We need to communicate with the One who sees all (better than Google earth)- talking to Him in prayer and listening through His Word.

Prayer: I cannot see the future Lord, but I see that you see. Help me to trust in you.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

8/31/12- The Possibility of Knowing God's Will

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34)

We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. (Col. 1:9). 

Thoughts: Paul Simon, in his song "Slip Sliding Away", gave a theological statement: "God only knows.  God makes his plan...the information is unavailable to the mortal man."  This is a blanket statement that is only partially true.  Sometimes God withholds information- because it is too much for us, or it would not do us any good to know all of God's plan.  Yet, scripture reveals enough of God and His will that we might please Him.  God is not silent. God speaks, and our task is to listen and to do God's will.
   Jesus obviously believed God's will was knowable- for He called doing God's word His nourishment- His "food."  Paul says he prayed that the church folk would be filled with the knowledge of God's will.  It is possible.  The first and greatest step is to believe that God can reveal His will.  We need to seek God's will like looking for a dropped pearl, or a hidden treasure.  If we seek it, we will find it. 

Prayer: Give me grace to believe that you have spoken and I may understand your will for me.  Then give me grace to find it and do it. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

8/30/12- Knowing God's Will

15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Thoughts: How can someone be so certain that "it is God's will" as this passage says?  We believe that God has revealed His will in scripture.  So the first question when asking if something is God's will is whether it is in scripture or not.  The slogan of the Reformation is "reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God."  We try to mold ourselves and be shaped by the form laid out by God.  If God has already told us "no" to something, then we do not need to continue to ask God for a "yes."  

Prayer: Help me to know and do your will, Lord. 

8/20/12- Knowing God's Will

35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)

 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Thoughts: Jesus says that it is possible to not only understand but to do God's will, and that in so doing we become united- a family of faith.  Paul says that the precursor to doing this is to allow God to change our mind and to not just give into the views of the world around us.  So the first step is to refuse to just be a chameleon in the world- going the way of the crowd with our eyes focused only on the here and now.  The peer pressure to be like everyone else is great. But resisting this pressure is essential to understanding, testing, and doing the will of God.  Ironically, we may think that God's demands to be holy are too high and unobtainable.  But so are the demands to be "normal."  No one ever completely fits in.  You cannot please everyone- who has their own definition of normality or average-ness.  Our goal is to do God's will - which is always above average, and is pleasing and perfect for us.  

Prayer: Lord, let my goal be not to sink into the least common denominator, but to rise above the crowd.  Let me seek your will above all else today. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Third Request of Lord's Prayer

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; Not my will, but yours  be done. (Lk. 22:42)

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Mt. 6:10

WSC Q. 103 (Sloan 2012)- What do we pray for in the third request?
A. The third request, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we ask that God would be gracious to make us have the ability to know, obey, and to submit to His will in everything as the angels do in heaven.

Thoughts: Jesus was willing to submit to God's will even when it meant a cross for Him.  That is why He could say in the garden- "Not my will but yours be done."  So we should submit to God's will knowing it is best- even if all we see before us is our own cross.

Prayer: Help me to know, obey, and submit to your will, O Lord.

Q. 103. For what do we pray in the third request?
A. In the third request (your will be done on earth as it is in heaven) we pray that by His grace God
would make us have the capability and the will to know, obey, and submit to His will in everything, as
the angels do in heaven.

8/27/12- Thy Kingdom Come

(Sloan translation 2012) Q. 102 WSC- What do we pray for in the second request of the Lord's Prayer?
A. In the second request, which is your kingdom come, we pray that the kingdom of evil may be destroyed, that the kingdom of grace be advanced, that we and others would be brought into and kept in it, and that this kingdom of glory would come quickly.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8) 

Thoughts: When God's kingdom comes, Satan's evil kingdom is destroyed.  Darkness flees when light comes in.  Our prayer is for the world to get better and better, but this is not merely a matter of secular evolution- but a continual movement of spreading the gospel and the Holy Spirit opening and working in the hearts of people.  The Shorter Catechism, which was adopted today in 1647 by the English parliament (8/27/1647) does not tell us exactly when or how the kingdom comes.  But it does tell us that we should make Christ king ourselves and do all we can to keep Him king in our hearts, and encourage others to pledge to Him as well.

Prayer: May your kingdom increase O Lord, and may mine decrease- so that my kingdom is enveloped into yours; may people no longer see my glory, buy yours only- for all glory comes from and goes to you.

(Modern Translation 1981) Q. 102. For what do we pray in the second request?
A. In the second request (your kingdom come) we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, that
the kingdom of grace may be advanced, with ourselves and others brought into and kept in it, and
that the kingdom of glory may come quickly.

(WSC 1647) Q. 102. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be
destroyed;214 and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced,215 ourselves and others brought
into it, and kept in it;216 and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.217

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kingdom Come- 2nd Petition of Lord's Prayer-

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matthew 6:33)

Your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:10)

Q. 102. For what do we pray in the second request?
A. In the second request (your kingdom come) we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, that
the kingdom of grace may be advanced, with ourselves and others brought into and kept in it, and
that the kingdom of glory may come quickly.

Thoughts: In the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 6, there is an emphasis on God's kingdom coming, and that we should seek to be a part of its coming.  Jesus points out in this petition of His great prayer and in the admonition to seek first God's kingdom, that life is not about us.  We are created to be something more than trying to make ourselves God.  The larger cause is found in the goodness of God.  God defines goodness, and if we believe that truly, then we will want His kingdom to come.  However, if we think we are the judge of what is good- then we will seek our own kingdom, and try to leave God out.  But, Jesus points out that worry and pressure come when we leave the Prince of Peace out of our kingdom.

Prayer: May I seek your will and kingdom first in my life above all else, God.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

8/16/12- The Lifely Hallow

“This, then, is how you should pray:“‘Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name," (Matthew 6:9)

 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17)

Q. 101. For what do we pray in the first request?
A. In the first request (hallowed by your name) we pray that God will enable us and others to glorify Him through His means of revelation and that He will work out everything to His own glory.

(Deathly hallows symbol)

Thoughts: In the blockbuster book and movies, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", death gives some special, powerful, hallowed objects to three brothers- a wand, a resurrection stone, and an invisible cloak.  Supposedly whoever possessed such things could escape death and gain immortality.  This is just a very good tale.  But reality is better than fiction-- there is a way to gain immortality.  
    The word "Hallow" means to make holy, to make sacred, to make special, to distinguish and differentiate from the everyday.  In some ways, the name of God is a "lifely hallow" if you will.  It is by God's name- calling on it, believing in it, trusting in it, changing by its power, that we escape the ordinary, escape the mundane evil that sucks life away  from us.  It is by the name of Jesus and what He has done on the cross- enacted by calling on Him, that we are saved.  Paul says, "Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."  When we live in, through, and by the name of Christ, then the power of Christ and His resurrection become real to us.  

Thoughts: May your name be honored by me and through me.  May I never forget to call on your name and live by your name.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

8/15/12- The Holy God

Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them Ye shall be holy;  for I the LORD your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:22)

“This, then, is how you should pray:“‘Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name," (Matthew 6:9)

Q. 101. For what do we pray in the first request?
A. In the first request (hallowed by your name) we pray that God will enable us and others to glorify Him through His means of revelation and that He will work out everything to His own glory.

Thoughts: God is holy enough so that even His name- the symbol of His person is holy.  This prayer is not just that we would not take God's name in vain, but that we would do more- that we would glorify God's name.  God gives us the ability to pray and the ability to glorify Him.  We are designed to glorify God and to praise His name.  We are made to hallow His name. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to hallow your name, to honor you and not to bring dishonor to you. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

8/12/12- Our Father

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, (Matthew 6:9)

He defends the cause of the fatherless.  (Deuteronomy 10:18)

When Jesus saw this [the disciples forbidding the children to see him], he was indignant and said, "Allow the little children to come to me and do not forbid them." (Mk. 10:14)
(Jesus and the little children- Carl Bloch)

WSC Q. 100- What does the introduction of the Lord's Prayer teach us?
A. The introduction of the Lord's Prayer, which is "Our Father who art in heaven" teaches us to draw near to God with holy reverence and confidence, as children draw close to a father who is able and ready to help us, and that we should pray with and for others. 

Thoughts: God cares for those who cannot care for themselves.  He cares for the fatherless and the widow.  The word "fatherless" not only means the orphan, but it could also incorporate those who have earthly fathers, but whose earthly fathers have abandoned them or do not show concern for them. When we have bad fathers, mean fathers, cold fathers, selfish fathers, sinful fathers- God defends the cause of the fatherless against them.
    So this is one reason why churches need to have children and child care as a priority for outreach and care.  It used to be said of Presbyterian missions that wherever a presbyterian mission station was started, a children's school was started as well.  We need to get back to that missionary attitude and reach out to the children of our community. 

Prayer: Help me Lord, to have a tender heart for the children around me, as you did.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

8/10/12- The Holy Name

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, (Matthew 6:9)

Thoughts: What do we pray for when we seek to Hallow- or make holy the name of God?  God's name is already holy, we only seek to recognize this holiness.  Too many have given up on any idea of truth or holiness in life.  The word holy or hallow means to be different or separate and pure.  It is the pure set apart from the impure.  We are asking then for God's name to be set apart.  It is really saying that God's identity- is different from other Gods and other beings, and we are asking that this holy identity be recognized.  In some ways it is similar to the third command of the Ten Commandments to not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.  But it is given in a positive sense.  As believers, we are called to live in such a way that it brings attention the differentiation of our God.  Our God is different and we do not need to be ashamed of this uniqueness for it is the power of salvation and the power that brings hope to the hopeless and forgiveness to the guilt-ridden.  As we live holy lives, it calls attention to the holiness of God and in some ways answers this prayer.  Our hope is that God's name would be hallowed in every corner of the earth. 

Prayer: May I bring honor to your holy name.  May I live for your sake and boldly bring forth your name with me wherever I go. 

Q. 101. For what do we pray in the first request?
A. In the first request (hallowed by your name) we pray that God will enable us and others to glorify Him through His means of revelation and that He will work out everything to His own glory.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

8/8/12- direction in Prayer

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come  (Luke 11:1,2)

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, (Matthew 6:7-9)

SCQ. 100 What does the preface of the Lord's Prayer teach us?
A. The preface of the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father in heaven", teaches us to come near to God with full, holy, reverence and confidence, as children come to a father who is able and ready to help us.  It also teaches us to pray with and for others. 

Thoughts: Prayer for Christians is directional.  It is not just talking to the air, or repeating the same mantra or word over and over until we enter into a trance-like state.  It is directed to the Father, and in trust that He cares and is able to do something in answer to our prayers.  They are not just cries, but conversations, addressed to a personal God.  The point of prayer is not simply to relieve blood pressure and lower heart rate- signs of inner peace (though many studies have shown prayer brings peace and such physical signs of peace).  Rather the point of prayer is communication with a person- to God. 

Prayer: Father, help me to grow in trust in you, and may my prayer be directed to you.  Incline your ear to hear and bring your hand to help 

8/7/12- Pursuing Peace in the Church

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Thoughts: What does this mean?  We live in such a consumer culture and it is hard to separate our consumer individualism with the Bible's admonition to be faithful and united with others.  This is different from "Be true to yourself" (Marcus Aurelius) or "To thine own self be true" (Polonius in Hamlet).  There is a sense in which being true to ourselves is important, but Christians are called beyond that to be true to a higher calling- God.  Often this means swallowing our pride and individualism to find peace with others we disagree with.  In the passage above Paul says "Make every effort" (spoudozontes) means "be diligent" to keep the unity or "exert yourself" to keep the unity of the Spirit.  This means bending, going the extra mile, getting beyond our pride and selfishness to keep peace.  
    In the Church, there is never a call to "leave the church if you disagree with it."  This is the consumer way of life, and is fueled by so many churches on every corner in America.  But whenever someone leaves a church to go church shopping, it weakens the Church and the kingdom.  Instead we are called to be faithful where we are, honoring God with our being a light shining in a darkened place.
    Often we let a desire for more members, more money, more growth ["for Christ"] get in the way of being a faithful missionary without immediate- but more important lasting fruit.  Many Christians today are like soldiers who are fighting the good fight- but when it looks like it will be a tough fight- leave the lines- and when people start leaving the lines, the fight is lost. But if we are "making every effort" "being diligently faithful" in keeping the unity and the peace of the Spirit, we are blessed by God. It is hard to be faithful in the midst of unfaithfulness, but that is what Jesus did.  It is what many Christians do when they are in a minority situation, and it is the calling of all of us. 

Thoughts: Today, Lord, let me pursue peace. (Song)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

8/6/12- Private Faith

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  “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 men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. (Matthew 6:1-6)

(Washington Praying in the woods)

Thoughts: Here Jesus is helping us see that religious acts are not done for the approval of others, but for the approval of God.  God sees all- even the things done and said in secret.  Giving is not for the approval of people.  This jives with what Jesus said about the widow in the Temple who gave more than all the rest because she put in all she had.  He knew that she had given her all.  God knows what we give, and seeks to bless those who bless Him. 
But prayer is the same.  We do not pray to be seen by people, but to be heard by God.  He is the focus of our prayers.  Too many today pray prayers to be heard by others, and God is the secondary audience. Jesus speaks of God as a Father (even before introducing the "Our Father").  The Father sees us and seeks to reward. 
    Faith in the end, is an individual thing of the heart that we do together, affecting the whole world. Yet, this does not mean that we should keep our faith to ourselves.  There is a balance between showing off and not hiding our light under a bushel.  
   In the church of America in the 1800s many Christians had "prayer closets."  They were little rooms people would retreat into for a long period of prayer.  In our busy secular-pushed day, we act like we are too busy for prayer.  Hybels has a book called "Too Busy Not to Pray."  Luther used to say when he was busiest that is when he needed to spend more time in prayer.  Time and space for prayer are important.  South Korea still has prayer closets in churches or retreat centers used on all-night prayer vigils on Fridays and special occasions.  But the best prayers are made alone when no one sees, and  our masks and pretense is stripped away, so we can get honest to God. 


Saturday, August 4, 2012

8/5/12- Joy and Strength in Worship

all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.
So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped theLord with their faces to the ground.
The Levites —Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructedthe people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. (Nehemiah 8:1-12)

Thoughts: The last part of verse 10 is an important and oft-quoted verse: "The Joy of the Lord is your strength."  But it is important to set the context to see where this joy of the Lord was found.  The people were a remnant, fewer, less secure,  but returned to their own land.  They gathered together and Ezra and the Levites read the Bible to them and preached from it as they read- so that people could understand it.
    So this joy came in worship with the gathered people of God.  It came as they read the Bible and heard it preached.  The joy of the Lord came despite their lack of numbers, a smaller place to worship, and ruins all around them.
    It is important in a time in which the Church has been or is being pruned that we find joy, strength in the Lord through worship and scripture. 

Prayer:  Help me find my joy. Help me to find my strength in you. 

8/4/12 Life in the stumps

And though a tenth remains in the land,
    it will again be laid waste. 
But as the terebinth and oak
    leave stumps when they are cut down,
    so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” (Isaiah 6:13)

Thoughts: It isn't pleasant to live in a time of pruning and stumps for the people of God.  Isaiah was talking about a time in which an enemy would arise and reduce the number and fruitfulness of God's people.  We live in a time in which secularism is winning, and many vehemently criticize Christians, and in a time in which Christians give in to the immorality around them.  Only a remnant is left.  Sounds pretty negative- right?
     Well Isaiah is telling the people there is hope even in such a time.  Never is the Church totally destroyed.  There is life even in a stump.  Later (Isaiah 9) he says that a shoot shall come forth from the stump of Jesse.  That is, the Messiah shall come forth.  Christians see that prophecy fulfilled in Jesus' coming from the old, seemingly dead Davidic line. In this passage it speaks of "the holy seed."  A seed is full of hope and the potential for life.  Often when we think we have no hope, God surprises us.  Christians are not such optimists that we do not think there are times of pruning.  Yet, we believe God is in control and will not utterly forsake His people.
    In Svalbord Norway there is a Global Seed Vault that duplicates major seeds  in case of some kind of global crisis (the entrance is pictured below).  Some would see this as a very negative thought, but in some ways it is positive- preserving a seed is important.  So we too should pass the seed of our faith onto the next generation. 

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to trust in you in the midst of a pruning time for your church.  Help me to not fall away by temptation or be deceived.  Preserve me, and help me to be a part of the passing on of the faith to others. 

(Svalbord Seed Vault entrance)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

8/3/12- Bible Bashing

Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth. (John 17:17)

"The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever." Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24

Thoughts: The Bible has been misused.  It has been misused falsely to condone slavery.  But never does the Bible condone slavery.  If anything it mollifies slavery by saying no Jew may enslave a Jew forever- but every seventh year Jewish slaves are set free (Dt. 15:12).  In the Roman world, fully one third of the population were slaves, and to not speak to them and their needs (most of the early Gentile Christian church was made of slaves) would be a huge oversight.  So Paul tells slaves that they are to find freedom in the Lord even in the midst of their work- working not for a harsh master but for the Lord, knowing that every slave has an eternal reward (Col. 3).  Paul says that in the church all are one- Jew- Gentile, male- female, slave-free (Gal. 3:28).  So often the abolitionists- were strong Christians like Wilberforce and Isaac Newton (the man who wrote "Amazing Grace"), and the Beechers in America.  Because some Christians misused the Bible to say what it did not say is wrong.  But if something good is misused, that does not mean the whole thing is useless.  If there are politicians who mess up- and misuse their own system for greed and selfish gain, that does not means that all of politics is rotten.
   The Bible has been misused to not allow women to have freedom or be in leadership.  Yet we forget how much the New Testament has been used to set women free.  In the Old Testament only males were circumcised.  In the Inter-Testamental period there is evidence that male converts were circumcised but female converts were baptized.  In the New Testament male and female were baptized, and were made one in baptism (cf. Gal. 3:28).  In the Old Testament Deborah was a judgess and a prophetess; Isaiah's wife was a prophetess too.  The women were the first gospel-tellers at the resurrection, Phoebe was a deaconness (Rom. 16:1), Anna was a prophetess, as were the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9), and Joel prophesied that when the Spirit comes women would prophesy- that is- speak forth God's Word (Joel 2, Acts 2:17).  While there are a couple of verses used out of context to keep women from talking or leading, certainly few can argue that women were not called and used of God to both talk and lead.
    Simply because the Bible has been misused does not mean that it is wrong about everything, or that we do not need to listen to the wisdom of the ages when it speaks of morality.  This week the debate over homosexuality has been heated up by Chik FilA's owner's statement in support of the traditional family and the owner of giving millions to redefine marriage in Washington state.  The homosexual debate is not about a gender in between male or female.  For Christians, no one should bash homosexuals.  Too many, think Christians are bashing homosexuals simply because they believe in traditional religious marriage.  Morality is not about genetic tendencies or orientations, but about acts.  If someone has a tendency toward alcoholism genetically (and this tendency has been proven) there is nothing wrong- but when they use their tendency to destroy their jobs, families, and themselves with alcohol abuse it becomes wrong.  If someone has a tendency for sexual addictiveness (some have argued this is a genetic tendency) that in itself is not wrong- unless sexual immorality is used to have multiple partners and broken promises, hearts, and dangerous stds are left behind. There are at least seven passages in scripture condemning not homosexual orientation, but the act of same gender sex (Gen 19; Lev. 18:22- "you shall not lie with a man as you lie with a woman"; 20:13; Deut 23:17-18; Mark 7:20-23; Rom. 1:18-32 "shameful lusts of women exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones- and in the same way men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another"; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim 1:8-11; 2 Pt 2:6-10; Jude 7; Rev. 21:8; 22:15).  Homosexuality is not the unforgivable sin, nor is it the only sin- but that does not mean the act is not sin.  Never is there anything in scripture that condemns slaves or women.  But there is much that condemns the act of sexual immorality- that is sexuality outside the borders of heterosexual marriage.
    Some would say that their ideology and well wishes for homosexuals trump what scripture says, for to condemn sexual immorality seems harsh.  Others might argue from creation (children are made naturally from heterosexual relationships and sustain the race) and from providence (the prevalence of sexually transmitted disease among homosexuals) to confirm that the scriptures are right.  The overall question is one that each one needs to answer- what is our standard for what we believe is right or true.  If scripture is in any sense revelation of God, in which God not only teaches us about God but also about how we should live, then scripture should be lifted above the opinion of experts, friends, or experience.  Anything good- any standard- can be misused (even the constitution has).  The Bible has been used wrongly, but our call is not to discard it but to use it wisely.

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to hear you speaking by your Spirit through your Word.

8/2/12- The Hows of Prayer- a Model for Us

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, (Matthew 6:9)

11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Lk. 11:1)

Thoughts: In Luke the disciples ask Jesus to teach them a pattern of prayer as John the Baptist followers were taught a prayer (11:1).  Apparently each rabbi had a special prayer that contained the gist of their teachings.
In Matthew the Lord's Prayer is included in the basic teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, early in his ministry.  It is an amazing prayer that has an introduction, conclusion, and petitions in the middle. The part in the middle may be broken into two parts- a part that focuses on God and a part that focuses on humans- as as one person said the love of God and the love of neighbor.  Each of these two parts has three petitions: (1. Hallowed be thy name; 2. Thy Kingdom come, 3. Thy will be done); and (2. Daily bread; 3. Forgiveness; 4) Deliverance from temptation and evil).  We do not need to be dogmatic about how it is broken down.  But anyone can see the beauty of the pattern, but also the depth of the wisdom of Jesus, His care, and His belief in the personal care of a loving God.  
    Jesus was not concerned about our position (standing, sitting, kneeling, prostrate) or whether our eyes were opened or closed or whether we had our hands folded, legs crossed, etc.  The focus for Jesus is on the heart of prayer- the content- to whom we are praying, and what we are praying about.  The other things of prayer are secondary to the content.  In our world we tend to focus on the secondary fluffy things than the heart- but let us not forget the heart.
    From its very nature- as a rabbonic prayer- it is taught to be memorized (remmeber this was a predominantly oral culture), easily taught, and easily prayed.  Yet we must always struggle to not pray this prayer woodenly or with such rote that we cannot put our heart and soul into it.  That is always the struggle in life- to not "can" beauty so much that it loses its heart.  But when we personalize this prayer- by really praying it- lifting up our souls to God in it and through it- it is a real, beautiful, wonderful gift to us.  This prayer helps us to pray, teaches us about God, teaches us about what we really need, and strengthens us. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you have given us prayer as a gift.  Than you for the Lord's Prayer that teaches us how we might properly speak to you.