Wednesday, February 29 2012
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
This scripture gives us guidance in judging others. Every day we make decisions about other people and how we treat them. I have a wonderful “Lost and Found” story that certainly makes one more appreciative of other people.
On January 31, 2012 I was cleaning my kitchen after preparing food for a gathering the previous night. Before cleaning my stove, I took off my rings and put them in my slack’s pocket. After finishing my work I looked at my kitchen and, thinking it looked quite respectable, went to lunch and about my afternoon activities. While watching the news my doorbell rang and, upon opening the door, found a friend and another resident standing there. My friend asked, “Did you lose this?” I immediately grabbed my pocket. There was only one ring. My diamond wedding band was gone and, in tears, I thought of all the possible places it could fallen out of my pocket. I exclaimed "that’s my wedding band, where did you find It?" My friend explained they had been taking a walk in the halls of our residence and, that when she walks, she always walks with her head down. The first time around, she thought she saw something shiny, but went on. The second time around she picked up the shiny object then saw my name plate at the door. Every day my friend and I eat breakfast and dinner at the same table and she has mentioned several times how beautiful my ring was. Both ladies came into my apartment and we visited awhile as I shared how grateful I was that my ring had been found. The next day I purchased a gift for my friend to show my gratitude and also wrote her a note emphasizing what a wonderful person she is. God works in mysterious ways when it comes to losing and finding precious items. This experience reminds me that things are never lost when we put them in God’s hands. So often I find myself judging someone on merits that I think they should have. It is not my will, but Thy will we need to focus on every day.
As I pray every day, dear Lord, bless each person who comes into my presence and gives me a greater sense of acceptance of them that they will be blessed and so will I. Thank you God for helping to find this ring that is an everlasting sentimental piece to me that money could not replace. Amen. Marilyn S.
Tuesday, February 28 2012
"While life's dark maze I tread, and griefs around me spread, be thou my guide; bid darkness turn to day; wipe sorrow's tears away; nor let me ever stray from thee aside." From My Faith Looks Up to Thee by Ray Palmer
These words, written by Ray Palmer in 1831, show how we can ask God to get us through anything. The most important things in my life are faith and prayer. There was not a time when I had a great "conversion". I have been a believer for as long as I can remember. When I was five years old, we moved to East Kibby Street, and a neighbor took me to Sunday school at South Side.
During my 98 years, I have experienced some disappointments and losses, but God has always been there to lift me up. My first husband and my mother died within days of each other. God blessed me with a family and friends who helped me get through that.
When my children and grandchildren have experienced serious situations, I have put my trust in God. I pray every day and I often ask the Wednesday night prayer group to pray for my concerns. When my son-in-law was injured in an accident, I told him not worry, because I had his back.
I have been surrounded by good, Christian people all of my life. I am convinced that God had a plan for me. At times I didn't recognize this, but God has led me in spite of myself, in both good times and bad.
Heavenly Father, we put our faith and trust in You. Open our hearts and minds so we can see Your will for us. Amen.
Monday, February 27 2012
Matthew 25: 34-36
I recently took a group of our youth to an overnight up in Bowling Green. It was a good time and we all got to see some of our camp friends. But on our 90 minute drive in the van one of the youth asked me about a YouTube video that was going viral, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” I hadn’t seen it so she pulled it up on her phone to show the others in the van and so I could hear it.
The video is a spoken word poem that discusses the dissonance between the actions and teachings of Jesus and the actions of religion in today’s society. As I write this, the video has 18,673,279 views. That is a lot of people thinking about Jesus, evaluating Christianity, and questioning if we, the Church, are fulfilling our commission to spread the light of God to the world, caring for the least of these.
This passage makes us question if we are the sheep, or the goats? On the right or the left? How are we representing Christ in our lives? This passage makes me ask hard questions. Have I done enough? How much is enough? I can’t feed everyone, but have I fed enough? Who have I passed by and not invited into the Church. This scripture makes me question my journey. It forces me to be better.
This video prompted a discussion among some of the youth about the things they see in the church and how these things have shaped their view of our church and the people in the church. We also discussed how we can change the view and focus of the Church to evangelize to others and fulfill the needs of our Lord. When we follow Jesus’ example and his instructions people are fed, are able to drink from the living water, are invited in and clothed in love and, as a result, the Church will grow. I pray we can have the eyes of Jesus, so we can be the hands and feet of our Lord.
Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see
Sunday, February 26 2012
“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”
I sometimes find it so difficult to trust. I like to feel in control of my life. I try to direct my actions so I can feel safe and happy. I count my blessings and tell myself to trust in “God’s Plan”. Yet time and again I find myself facing circumstances that truly place a heavy burden on my heart. At times, we are all scared, sad, or full of grief and despair. God doesn’t promise that bad things won’t happen to any of us, even if we try to be faithful disciples in all our actions. We know that Jesus himself struggled to accept God’s will and suffered fear and doubt when He prayed in the garden. How can I trust that everything will turn out okay?
But while I may struggle to trust, I know God is my true refuge. When my soul is sick and I am frightened or sad, I can always go to God for sanctuary. He provides the place where I can lay down my burden and rest. With Him I find the comfort and strength I need. In Psalm 91, He tells us His wings will shelter us and we do not need to be afraid. He will be with us in trouble and He will deliver us. Trust and refuge: one word requires so much; one word promises so much.
Dear Lord, help me find the strength to trust and to let go of my need to worry and control. I know you are my strength and my refuge and are with me always. If I accept your refuge, I must also give my trust. Amen.
Saturday, February 25 2012
Psalm 51: 1-17
In this passage, David has been approached by the prophet Nathan. David has recently committed adultery with Bathsheba. He also arranged for her husband Uriah to be sent into the most dangerous part of the battle with the Hittites. Doing this, he arranged for Uriah’s death. David could have been put to death because of either of these sins, but he was not. Here David is acknowledging his sins and begging for mercy. God allowed mercy to overcome His judgment and He listened to David’s pleadings. Our merciful God does require of us a sincere and humble confession. He does not require animal sacrifices but He does require a contrite heart. We all have had times in our lives when we have sinned and asked God for forgiveness, and what matters to Him is the sincerity we feel and express.
At a time in my life when I was not close to God, I felt that I could control things and handle my life all by myself. I was young; I landed a good job and moved to a new city. I was a small town girl sowing her oats in the big city. How easy it is to get full of oneself! I decided to marry a young man I barely knew. Twelve years and three children later, I found myself in a situation that was miserable. After many hours of praying for guidance, I filed for divorce. I was aware that I was causing my parents a great deal of anxiety, but I truly felt that I was doing what God wanted me to do. I decided to focus my life on God and my children and not myself. After several years, I became good friends with a fellow teacher. We had similar interests and God was important in his life. We later married. I truly believe that God sent Chiv to me. Chiv was a blessing to me and my children. I thank God every day for forgiving me for the mistakes I’ve made and allowing me to find such a wonderful, loving husband and father for my children. God truly is a merciful God.
Dear Heavenly Father, For Thy mercy and grace we thank You. You have given us such blessings even if we do not deserve them. We ask You to help us to always follow Your guidance and always tell others of Your love and grace. Amen.
Friday, February 24 2012
February 24, 2012
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven"
Matthew 6: 1-6
Many people crave their five plus minutes of fame and notoriety. Television, radio, sports and some churches are filled with people who are puffed up with their own super egos of how special they are because of education, training or a revelation just for them. They love to shout about what they know, what they have done and how unique they are in their chosen field.
Tim Tebow, starter for the NFL Denver Broncos, is not at all bashful about praying in public when he does well.
Do you want everyone to know how special you are in your charitable giving and your gifts of praying? Do you pray for the food at a restaurant and, if so, is this done in honor and gratitude? Or is done it to show how special you are in a public setting?
The above passage is an introduction to the Lord's Prayer where Jesus taught his disciples that the real rewards are to give of ourselves and pray in private where the best rewards will be given.
Thursday, February 23 2012
"With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sins of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah: 6 6-8
I first became familiar with this verse, when the choir sang an anthem that was based upon it. Music has always moved me spiritually, and this scripture became meaningful to me.
The book of Micah was written around 742-687 B. C. to warn God's people that judgment was coming. In the midst of these predictions, Micah offered hope to the people because he talked about God's forgiveness and love. Jewish law demanded sacrifices to God, but Micah told the people that even huge sacrifices were not pleasing to God as long as they continued to sin.
The same is true for us today. Sometimes we think that we have to do something dramatic to get God's attention. We can't make up for our sins by occasionally doing something extraordinary. Spirituality doesn't average out. We need God in our lives every day. God has asked us to do some very basic things - to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with Him. Consistency is the key. If we stray from our path, we don't need to overcompensate. We should get back on track and continue our daily walk with God.
Loving God, we thank you for your grace and forgiveness. Walk with us each day as we strive to live in a way that is pleasing to You. Lead us to be just, kind and humble. Amen.
Wednesday, February 22 2012
The celebration of Lent occurs 40 days before Easter. It is a period of fasting and repentance for Christians in preparation for the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is generally thought to last for forty days in commemoration of Christ’s forty day fast between the period of his baptism and public ministry. However, the Latin word for Lent, Quadragesima, originally meant forty hours, not forty days. This referred to the forty hours of complete fasting which preceded Easter ceremonies in the early church. Later the period was extended to include Good Friday then to a six day period corresponding to a training period for baptismal candidates. Finally, it was fixed to a six week period or 40 days (not including Sundays and rounded from 36 days to 40).
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and is signified by the application of an ash cross placed on the forehead by the minister to the penitent. Ashes are preserved from the previous year’s Palm Sunday in which palm leaves are burned.
Maundy Thursday is associated with the Last Supper, the agony in the Garden, and the arrest of Jesus. Maundy arises from the Latin word mandatum meaning commandment. This is the first word in Christ’s statement at the Last Supper, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
In the days of the early Christian church, only Easter Sunday was celebrated as a holy day. By the fourth century, each day of the week preceding Easter was established as a holy day including Good Friday. To most Christians, Good Friday is really a misnomer in that it was a “bad” Friday-the crucifixion day of Jesus. Some believe the term ”Good” evolved from “God” or God’s Friday. Others believe “good” represents the good gift of salvation brought forth by the martyrdom. Regardless, it is a holy day throughout the Christian world.
In the Christian world, no other Holy Day can match the importance of Easter Sunday. It is the day in which Jesus was resurrected thus reuniting His deceased body with His spirit in eternal union. Furthermore, His resurrection marked a reconciliation between God and man thus opening the doors of resurrection for all mankind.
While the feast of Easter was first celebrated in the second century, it wasn’t until Constantine called The Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. that a date was officially pronounced. One debate of that Council was whether the observance of Easter should follow the Jewish custom of holding Passover on a weekday or should it be held on a Sunday. During this Council, it was decided to hold it on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Later the date of March 21 was selected as the vernal equinox.
The word Easter is believed to have originated either after the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, Eostre, or the rising of the sun in the east. Even today, many churches have early morning sunrise services on Easter.