Hopefully Devoted: How much love?

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The trial of a serial killer has captured the attention of most of the people in my little town. Finding an impartial jury has not been easy. Opinions are expressed in the morning coffee gatherings, in the papers, and on the regional news.

I met recently with a group who were close to one of the victims. Very early into our meetng, one of people spoke up: “I have a question. Do I have to pray for that guy?”

Easy answer: no.

But I’m not into easy answers.

I helped my questioning friend to tease out what she was really wanting to ask. She was somewhat resistant—seeking to hide the truth she was trying to avoid. But we finally got there. “Do I have to forgive him?”

What followed was an honest discussion about forgiveness. No one was comfortable…needing to forgive can do that.

As we were wrapping up our meeting, a new question surfaced: Do I have to like him?

Even easier answer: no!

Scripture says nothing about liking someone. I don’t think we’re wired to like everyone.

But we have to care about them. We have to love them.

Loving someone…caring for them…praying for them doesn’t mean we have to like them—and we certainly don’t have to like or condone what they did.

Perhaps the only thing we can pray for them is that they will find the strength to face the consequences of their actions.

If I did something horribly wrong I would hope someone prayed that much for me.

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Wednesday’s Word: Confident

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Truth? I don’t always feel confident. I rarely function with “no uncertainty.”

But I have boatloads of “strong belief.” And never ending trust in the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above ALL I could ask or even imagine.

So today, I will live and move in the “full assurance” that not CAN HE, but He will!

That’s the confidence I carry into today. How about you?

Message Meme: Praying Together

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Last week we considered Jesus’ instruction to pray privately. He was concerned with the potential people possess to try to impress others with with their praying prowess, or maybe even their fear to pray in front of others for fear of judgement.

While many take that instruction and use it to denounce corporate prayer, a cursory read of the Bible would prove something quite different.

Jesus, when asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, gives them what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. And the prayer is an instruction to them in the plural: when all y’all pray, pray this way…Our Father.

The prayer is not a self-centered crowd cry of, “Mine, mine, mine, mine.”

After Jesus’ resurrection, when the ragtag group of believers was stuck together in the Upper Room, they filled their time with prayer. Acts 1:14 tells us they “joined together constantly in prayer.”

Praying alone solidifies our relationship with God. Praying together strengthens and grows us for our mission and ministry to the world.

We’re in this…together.

Hopefully Devoted: Rewards

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Rewards.

We all want them. But do we want the right ones, from the right people?

Jesus has been asked by his disciples for lessons on prayer. There is a bit of irony in their request. The Jewish people prayed…a lot!

But what were they missing? What was Jesus directing them to see?

Jesus calls them to remember what they already know: the commandments. The first commandment addresses their need to put God first…and only.

If the prayers of the people are intended to impress others with the level or depth of their spirituality, then they are not directing their prayers to the Great I Am. Are the ones they are trying to impress going to be able to answer their prayers, meet their needs?

What reward is there in that kind of praying? If we wow others with the wordiness and theological prowess of our prayers, then we have received the reward we sought: we made an impression.

But our needs remain unmet.

Jesus tells them about making sure their relationship with God is first, and when they do the rewards: what they need will come.

Now that’s a reward system I can support!

 

 

Wednesday’s Word: Vivacious!

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Definition: (especially of a woman) attractively lively and animated.
synonyms: lively, spirited, bubbly, ebullient, buoyant, sparkling, lighthearted, jaunty, merry, happy, jolly, full of fun, cheery, cheerful, perky, sunny, breezy, enthusiastic, irrepressible, vibrant, vital, zestful, energetic, effervescent, dynamic

Attractively lively.

People aren’t always attracted to cheerful, perky, effervescence. I’m not sure why Eeyore prefers to stay melancholy.

I’m not saying I don’t get down sometimes, or discouraged, even disappointed. But I’m like the balls the kids hold underwater in the pool: I always spring back up.

I just don’t want my zest and lightheartedness to push people away. I want my joy to be encouraging, inviting, wooing.

When Paul wrote to Titus he said this: Jesus gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14, NIV).

The word Paul used for eager is often translated as zealous: bubbling over.

I want to be bubbling over for him!

Message Meme: When You Pray

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Tuesdays I plant a seed for the coming Sunday message. Starting Sunday I will begin a series which draws inspiration from Bob Hostetler’s book, The Red Letter Prayer Life, 17 Words From Jesus To Inspire Practical, Purposeful, Powerful Prayer. 

This week’s text is Jesus’ words on prayer after watching the self-absorbed Pharisees who prayed publically to get attention:

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 others. Truly I tell you, 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 6:5-6, NIV).”

Is Jesus saying we are only to pray in private? I don’t think so.

I believe Jesus is teaching his followers that until they work on their relationship with God through private prayer, their public prayer will only look like the performance of the Pharisees.

So when you pray, get alone with God and talk to him…really talk with him…and don’t perform.

Sermon Seeds: It’s All Different Now

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Mary has always been one of my favorite characters in the Easter story. Her devotion. Her faith. Her willingness to obey Jesus’ instruction to tell the Disciples what must have seemed positively ludicrous.

The moment when she goes from thinking Jesus is a hired garden hand, to hearing him speak her name…hearing Jesus say her name.

She wraps her arms around his feet—an act of worship, love, and hanging on. “I’ll never let you go again.”

Let go, Mary. Everything that was is gone…behold I make all things NEW!

Yes, I’m leaving, but I’ll never be gone and you will never be alone. My Spirit will always be with you.

Now go…tell.

Hmmm…isn’t there a Christmas song like that?

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Can you hear him speaking your name? Will you share the incredible news: He is not here. He is risen!

He is risen indeed.