Friday, July 31, 2015

God binds the brokenhearted Psalm 147:3

3He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Thoughts: The context of this verse is that God considers the hurting, humble, and helpless. It is not the strong (the strength of the horse/legs of the warrior 147:10) who are necessarily blessed of God.  God is the lifter of our hearts and heads.  Others may pass by the wounded person by the side of the road- but God Himself is the Good Samaritan who stops and helps. A contrite and humble heart He will not despise.  It is not just the broken in body that He heals- He also heals the brokenhearted.  Many in our culture are brokenhearted.  They have disobeyed God and gone their own way.  They are alone and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.  But the Good Shepherd goes after the straying and binds them, bringing them back into the fold.  God Himself is the Good Shepherd who binds our wounds, and heals our hearts.  Let us call out to Him in our times of sickness, loneliness, and sadness.  When no other human being can help- in fact- when they may make it worse, God our Maker is also our Healer. 

Prayer: Lord, you are the Great Physician.  Bind my brokenness and make me whole.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

There is Healing

26And He said, "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer."  (Exodus 15:26)

Thoughts: It is possible to be healed.  If the surgery will only make it worse, most doctors will not perform it.  But if there is a possibility- it would be worth doing.  There is healing with God.  It is primarily a healing of the soul.  If there is only a possibility that God can give you peace, hope, love, forgiveness, an abundant and eternal life- will you not try it?  Will you insist in not going to the Great Physician?
     This passage gives two important parts of healing.  He is the great preventer of illness.  He says, "I will put none of these diseases on you which I put on the Egyptians."  God protects us from germs, viruses, evil, hurt, and harm that we cannot see and cannot understand.
     God also is the great healer.  When there is no hope, there is hope.  Once I remember when my mother's twin sister died of a long illness my pastor visited and talked with my mother.  My mother wondered why God didn't heal her sister in answer to her prayers.  My pastor reminded her- now she is healed- more and better than any earthly healing.  God is not a magic lamp that has to heal with each wish.  But God does heal- and is able to do so.  The Maker of our bodies knows what is best for them and also how to make them well.  If you believe there is a God who heals- then you will come to the healer.  Forget not all His benefits- He heals all our diseases and removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.  (Ps. 103).  

Prayer: Lord, let me not forget you are the healer.  Let me not forget your great  benefits. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Heidelberg 129- Amen

20For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 1:20)

Thoughts: "Amen" literally means "so be it" or in prayer- "May it be so." God hears our hearts and our desires more than we even know the words to pray.  We do not have to have eloquent language for the Lord to answer our prayers. The grace of God from the Spirit is that He understands our real desire and seeks to answer that.  

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for the certainty of the word amen. Thank you that you hear our prayers and that is certain.  

Q & A 129
Q. What does that little word “Amen” express?
A. “Amen” means: This shall truly and surely be! It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer than that I really desire what I pray for.1

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Heidelberg 128- Glorifying God

10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10,11)

9t“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12)

Thoughts: In the end, all will glorify God.  Every person will admit that God is God and the truth is the truth.  All was created for God's glory and in the end the bad we do, the good we do, and all in between,  will be turned into a way to glorify God.  To glorify God means to reflect back to Him His honor.  We are called to reflect His light- as a small mirror reflects the light of the sun.  Our attention and direction are to be pointed to Him, and we are to shine his light wherever we go.  Jesus taught us to pray in His famous prayer that we would remember that all glory belongs to God.

Prayer: Lord, help me to honor you.  Help me to remember you win in the end and that all that is will glorify you.

Q & A 128
Q. What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?
A. For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever” means: We have made all these petitions of you because, as our all-powerful king, you are both willing and able to give us all that is good;and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.2

Monday, July 27, 2015

Heidelberg 127- Protect us from temptation and evil

7Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.…
(1 John 3:7-9)

Cast all your care on Him for He cares for  you.  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:7,8)

Thoughts: If we believe there is such a thing as evil- or sin- then we should believe there is such a thing as temptation to sin.  Temptations are not sin in and of themselves.  But listening to temptation, being fascinated by the temptation, indulging in the temptation and giving into it are different steps into sin.  The enemies of our soul- of our godliness- of our pleasing God are three according to this catechism: 1. The world- the giving into the pressure from others and culture to be just like everyone else; 2. The flesh- giving up self control in order to please our feelings alone; 3. The devil- the personification of evil.  Deliver us, O Lord, from the evil one (not just "evil" but the "one who is evil" in the Greek text of Matthew 6).  Just as there are godly spirits (angels) there are also ungodly spirits (demons and devil).  To deny the existence of any of these three enemies is to lower our defenses.  It would be like to swim in the ocean this week without looking for a shark's fin, walk in a lion's refuge without looking for lions, or walking in a minefield without looking out for landmines.  Before 911 America, for the most part, thought we were invulnerable to attacks and our enemies were powerless to really hurt us.  Since that time we are more aware.  It would be nice to think we could live in our house without locks or to use a computer without an antivirus program because there are no hackers or mean spirited viruses out there.  The best protection against evil and temptation is not our own work of self-control-- but the power of God found in prayer.  So jesus knows and teaches us the importance of praying for God's protection over us.  

Prayer: Lord, keep us from evil, hurt, and harm that I would cause no pain.  Protect me not for my comfort alone but so that you would be glorified through me.  If I face evil, give me the grace to bear up under it faithfully and truly for you.  

Q & A 127
Q. What does the sixth petition mean?
A. “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one” means:
By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment.And our sworn enemies— the devil,2 the world,3 and our own flesh—never stop attacking us. And so, Lord,
uphold us and make us strong  with the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in this spiritual struggle,but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.6

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Heidelberg 126 Forgiveness

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

Thoughts: Some think that Christians are weak because they offer forgiveness.  But we offer forgiveness undeserved because Christ offers it to us undeserved.  It was not weak for Christ to say on the cross, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."  Peace comes only if we are willing to forgive and relinquish the revenge that may be ours.  The Emanuel AME nine taught us that in forgiving a killer the state and many were changed and saw the power of God.  Those who are conscious of their need for forgiveness from God are more ready to forgive others.  But those who think they are righteous and do not need forgiveness (from God or anyone else) are not ready to forgive and are stagnant in their evil. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.  

Q & A 126
Q. What does the fifth petition mean?
A. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” means: Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us.Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.2

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Heidelbert 125- Give Us Daily Bread

But my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Philippians 4:19)

Thoughts: God does not just care about our souls- He also cares about our bodies. Jesus tried to let us know that we do not need to worry- it doesn't add to our life.  He reminds us to look at the lilies and the birds and to learn that God who cares for them cares even more for us.  God did not just wind up the world and leave.  No request is too big or too small.  Sometimes we may think daily bread could fall into either category.  This also tells us that God is not overly concerned about our savings account as He is about just the basics. To some it is a huge thing to be able to walk or to see or to hear or eat.  It would be a real miracle if God helped them to do that.  To others, it is such a small thing that they don't think God should take notice.  God does not care whether it is big or small to us.  The One who made the universe and the planets as well as each atom cares for us.  We think it is amazing that a data base can keep track of every human being in our country- and give them a credit score.  But if we, as unintelligent as we are, can do that, how much more can the Master of the Universe not only know but be able to help us in our time of need.  Today in America you can google your address and a picture shows of your house.  Should we not be surprised at the knowledge and care of God who is far greater than Google?  The Daily Bread reference is to the Manna that God fed the Israelites in the desert- it had to be harvested every day, and taught them to rely on God.  We should know that we too can rely on God- each and every day.

Q & A 125
Q. What does the fourth petition mean?
A. “Give us this day our daily bread” means: Do take care of all our physical needs1
so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good,and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing.And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and trust in you alone.4

Friday, July 24, 2015

Heidelberg 124- Will of God

21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Mt. 7:21)

Thoughts: God is personal and has a will- this is Jesus' teaching to us.  God is love.  Part of that love is wanting us to do what is best as described in scripture- the way our Maker designed us to be.  It is possible to know God's will and it is possible to do God's will.  More than that- we are called and created to listen and respond to the will of God.  Fighting or ignoring the will of God in life will not give us meaning, peace, love, or a sense of well being.  We are healthiest when we do the will of God- not matter what others may say or even how we feel.  It takes faith to believe that God is knowable and that He has communicated His will to us.  In Christ we see that this will is not only possible, but that it is best for us.  We are called to do this will faithfully.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to understand what you want me to do, and then give me the will and strength to do it for your glory.  

Q & A 124
Q. What does the third petition mean?
A. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means: Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.1
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to,as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.3

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heidelberg 122- The Name of God

Tell them "I am who I am" sent you. Ex. 3:13
Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Ex. 20:7
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (Jn. 14:13)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (Jn. 15:16)

Thoughts: The name of God is important.  God is not everything or anything.  God is a specific, personal being with a name.  There are many names for God in the Bible- pronouns like "God (El)" or attributes like "The Holy One" or "God Almighty (El Shaddai)".  But the name given to Moses in Exodus 3- ["Tell them I am sent you- I am who I am (Yahweh)], is the name above all names.  God has an address- a name.  Often the word "Lord" is used in place of this name.  in the New Testament Jesus is called "Lord."  Jesus is also the name by which we approach the triune God.  Our claim to the ear of the Father through the name of Jesus gives us the key to the door of the throne room- allowing us confidence in prayer.  The first step in prayer is knowing who we are addressing in prayer.  Christian prayer is not bending God to us but us to God.  We ask God about our needs and desires- but we do so recognizing that His will, not ours, is what needs to be done.  Our prayer is made to the Lord through the Son who died to give us good standing to communicate with Him.  Xerxes extended the golden scepter so Ruth could approach him.  Christ is the golden scepter that is extended to us.  We ask to the name and for the name.  All prayers recognize- it is His kingdom and His will- not ours- that should be done.  Older ways of praying would often add, "For the sake of your name" or "For the sake of your Son."  We ask that God would bless us that people would see the Blessor and glorify God.  We ask that God would bless us that we would have opportunity to bear fruit for His Kingdom. 

Prayer: Lord, let me not demean your name- but glorify your name.  
Q & A 122
Q. What does the first petition mean?
A. “Hallowed be your name” means: Help us to truly know you,to honor, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.And it means, Help us to direct all our living— what we think, say, and do— so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.3

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Heidelberg 121- Art in heaven

23Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:23-24)

32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Mt. 6:32-33)

Thoughts: The Father is the heavenly Father.  He is heavenly in that He is not bound to the earth but above the problems and sin of this world.  He is heavenly in that He is holy and true.  He is holy in that though He is everywhere and cares about everything (as a good Father) The concentration of His presence- His home- is in a better place.  He calls all of us to not concentrate on getting more of this world- or worrying about not having more of this world.  He calls us to focus on the kingdom come where His will is done.  His love is as a father's love but His power is not contained to this world.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to abide in your love and power.  

Q & A 121
Q. Why the words “in heaven”?
A. These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly,and to expect everything needed for body and soul from God’s almighty power.2

Monday, July 20, 2015

Heidelberg 120- Our Father

"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:13)

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." (Rom. 8:15)

Thoughts: We call God Father because He cares for us as a good father- a great father would.  God is not an "it" - a "force" who does not care about us.  He is not so far removed from us that He does not look down on us and help us.  One great teaching of Jesus was that God loves us- and loves us as a Father. Seven times in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus refers to God as "your heavenly Father."  Our heavenly Father forgives sins, provides for us, knows our needs, is perfect, cares for even the birds.  He is , in a sense the father of all- birds and all people.  But Jesus reminds us to believe and trust in God as Father.  The trinity names of Father and Son indicate a closeness in relationship, mind, and essence.  We are adopted children as we believe in God- adopted into a relationship of love.  

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that we can call out to you as our Father.  Help me to trust in your fatherly love. 

Q & A 120
Q. Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”?
A. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer what should be basic to our prayer— a childlike reverence and trust that through Christ God has become our Father, and that just as our parents do not refuse us the things of this life, even less will God our Father refuse to give us what we ask in faith.1

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Heidelberg 119- Lord's Prayer

9“This, then, is how you should pray:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,a
but deliver us from the evil one.b ’ (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV)

Thoughts: Everything we need physically or spiritually, the catechism says, is contained in this prayer.  The Lord's Prayer is a rabbinic prayer that was well thought out and meant to be memorized- as containing the rabbi's basic teachings.  There are seven petitions (or 6 petitions and a conclusion) we are taught to pray here.  It starts with praise and ends with praise (though both the NIV and the footnote to the catechism take off the last praise- I think wrongly).  The Lord's Prayer is both a pattern to give us direction to pray and also a real prayer to be used in asking God for what we need physically and spiritually.  

PRAYER: Lord, teach us to pray by your great prayer.  Help us to pray by your great prayer.  Make our prayers from the heart so that we may know you better.  

Q & A 119
Q. What is this prayer?
A. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial,  but rescue us from the evil one.* For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever. Amen.1**
1 Matt. 6:9-13Luke 11:2-4
*This text of the Lord's Prayer is from the New Revised Standard Version in keeping with the use of the NRSV throughout this edition of the catechism. Most biblical scholars will agree that it is an accurate translation of the Greek text and carries virtually the same meaning as the more traditional text of the Lord's Prayer **Earlier and better manuscripts of Matthew 6 omit the words “For the kingdom and … Amen.”

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Heidelberg 118- what to pray about

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

Thoughts: We are asked to pray instead of worry.  So what should we pray for?  Perhaps whatever we are worried about.  Sometimes we worry over things needlessly; sometimes we worry over things that are beyond our control; or we want things (or relationships) that are not good for us.  The answer to our prayer- for our own good is "No" on some occasions (sounds like the Garth Brooks song: "Sometimes God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." ).  Sometimes, however, the BIG things worry us.  Sometimes the little things worry us.  I know I worry more about little things for my grandkids- and their little things can become my big things- because they seem big to them (I lost my toy, I can't find my blankie, I don't see mommy).  Perhaps that is how God sees us- in love- and caring about what we care about.  I cannot help but recognize that never in scripture does it say to NOT pray about this or that.  The false teaching of today is that our concerns are either too big for God to handle or too small for God to care about.  But such thinking merely shrinks our understanding of the power of God- who created stars we have yet to see; or the love of God- who created micro-organisms and controls/sustains the universe by keeping some bacteria or viruses at bay.  Do not be afraid to pray for anything.  It honors God that you bring Him your worries and concerns- however great or small.  

Prayer: Lord, keep me from anxiety.  Keep me praying to you- and trusting in you.    

Q & A 118
Q. What did God command us to pray for?
A. Everything we need, spiritually and physically,as embraced in the prayer
Christ our Lord himself taught us.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Heidelberg `116 & 117 Why Prayer?

9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

7“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8)

Thoughts: Prayer is a means of obtaining grace and the presence of God. In other words, our relationship and love for God is helped greatly through prayer. Prayer is communicating with God from our heart.  The focus is on God and the words do not need to be spoken.  Prayer is a gift from God so that we might call on Him and find Him trustworthy.  Prayer also as adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication recognizes our humility and how great God is and our need for Him. 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of praying to you.  Help me to treasure this gift and to use it to honor you.    

Q & A 116
Q. Why do Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking God for them.2
Q & A 117
Q. What is the kind of prayer that pleases God and that he listens to?
A. First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, revealed to us in his Word, asking for everything God has commanded us to ask for.Second, we must fully recognize our need and misery, so that we humble ourselves in God’s majestic presence.2
Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what God promised us in his Word.3