Archive for July, 2015

Sound check

July 31st, 2015 by Maureen

For we had the courage in our God to declare the gospel to you in spite of great opposition…not in deceit or impure motives or trickery…not to please men…not with flattering speech…or with pretext for greed. We could have made demands but instead we were gentle among you like a mother tenderly nursing her own children. I Thess. 2:2-7

We live in a noisy world where everybody has a public platform for expressing and opposing viewpoints. Before getting into the fray ask this: What’s the most important message to communicate? What’s my tone? What’s my motive? The message we carry about Christ is redemptive and life-giving and our motives for sharing His message and our tone in communicating His message should match the great news of His core message of love and reconciliation.

Lord, fill me with your grace and love before I open my mouth.

Live, move, exist

July 30th, 2015 by Maureen

For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said “For we, too, are his offspring.”  So since we are the offspring of God we ought not to think that the divine being is an image carved in gold or silver, or stone by human skill and imagination. Acts 17:30

Within all of us lie patterns of thought and responses to experiences that are common across time and geography. We desire meaning and long for transcendence. Art, science, philosophy, literature, social structures, innovation, and discovery are results of the image of the Maker within us that causes us to be makers ourselves. Beyond the products of our own imaginations, abstract thoughts, and tangible creations is a personal, loving Father. Our greatest satisfaction, connection, and revelations happen through awareness of and relationship with Him as we live and move and exist.

Lord, thank You for making us to be Your children.

Bigger and beyond

July 29th, 2015 by Maureen

He made every race and culture to live on all the face of the earth, allotting epochs and boundaries for each, that they might seek God, perhaps grope for Him, though He is not far from each one of us. Acts 17:26

Based on limitations of their own cultures, eras, and geography, ancient cultures developed ideas about the big questions everyone asks, like “who or what controls the universe?” and “why am I here?”  Do we settle for a god who fits our cultural presuppositions and boundaries? The God Who made us seekers, the God who desires full and authentic relationship with each of us enough to come down here and reveal Himself, is never far from us, even if we do.

Lord, thank You for being so near and always bigger and more than I think.

Life and breath and everything

July 28th, 2015 by Maureen

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though He needed anything. He himself gives all life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25

If God doesn’t want or need us to “serve” Him in any ceremonial sense why compartmentalize our sacred experiences with Him to church, prayer, Bible study, or service projects?  Maybe in tearing down the temple’s curtain God opened “all life and breath and everything” to the possibility of sacred experience. Maybe relationship with the Giver and Maker of everything offers us the experience of responding in His image, giving and making in response to His dwelling in us rather than compartmentalizing our responses to Him to places we are supposed to be or things we are supposed to do.

Lord, help me respond to You in all my life and breath and everything.

If we have to go there we might as well get something out of it

July 27th, 2015 by Maureen

In trouble we hold our heads up and  live in God-given confidence (kauchaomai) knowing that trouble produces endurance, and endurance produces tried and proven character, and that character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who God gave to us. Rom 5:3-5

The conflicts in our lives take us on a journey, and each part of that journey can be transformative. When troubles come we are not required to slap on a fake smile and “rejoice in trouble,”  but negativity isn’t constructive either. We can choose to view trouble with annoyance and fear or we can wipe off the fake smile or the grumpy face, roll up those sleeves, and approach trouble as a challenge, even an adventure. We can remain positive, confident, and peaceful that through each part of the journey God loves us, helps us, and equips us with what we need to get through.

Lord, let the hope that You built in me over the last journey grow through the next one.

The work of being instead of doing

July 26th, 2015 by Maureen

Speak the truth in love, grow up in every way into Him, who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body is joined and brought together in every supporting ligament according to the working (energeia) of every individual part, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph. 4:16

Greek word of the day: energeia. It does mean “work,” but refers to “power in action” and is used only to refer to “superhuman” power. Do we misdirect our efforts in focusing too much on what we are supposed to be doing, how to contribute, or where we fit? If Jesus does the work in us and through us, if the way the whole body fits together is His vision, then perhaps focus on His beauty, wonder, grace, truth, and love leads to being the part instead of playing the part.

Lord, take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Your love.

Sometimes we just disagree

July 25th, 2015 by Maureen

It was he who gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and the teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body until we all attain the to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature adulthood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…Eph. 4:11-13

Does “unity of the faith” mean we have to agree on every point of doctrine? If unity does mean agreement then is the “work of ministry” correcting the views of those who disagree with us? When leaders disagree who decides who is right and who is “immature?” This is not easy stuff. Perhaps “knowledge of the Son” is more than intellectual agreement about what it means to follow Jesus. Perhaps “unity of faith” means connecting over our mutual awe, love, and gratitude for Christ and letting our relationship with Him deepen through our loving connection with one another.

Lord, unite us in and through and because of Christ.

Turn around

July 23rd, 2015 by Maureen

From then on Jesus began to proclaim, “repent (or metanoeó – change your mind)* for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt. 4:17

Jesus came to bring good news. He came to open the doors to His astonishing and delightful kingdom to us. It’s hard to feel excited about discovering what’s in the kingdom Christ has invited us into when sadness and fear are running the show.** Change usually requires some self-reflection and letting go of damaging ideas and practices, but change doesn’t happen by focusing on regretting past failures and avoiding future failures. When we turn around (metanoeó), the way we think and respond changes because our focus is now on exploring Christ’s kingdom and experiencing His presence.

Lord, the way I’ve repented has kept me running in place. I repent.

The current Webster’s defines “repent – to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.” * Strong’s defines”metanoeó – to change one’s mind or purpose.” There is a word, “metamelomai,” also translated “repent,” that does convey the ideas of remorse or sorrow that we currently associate with repentance.” The word has evolved to incorporate this regret or emotional self-flagellation, and that seems to be the emphasis associated with “repent” in much Christian thinking.

** Referencing Pixar’s Inside Out which offers a simplified visual on the inner workings of the mind. Here’s my review on it.

Nothing to prove

July 22nd, 2015 by Maureen

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matt. 14:14

Jesus was motivated by compassion and love.  He wasn’t trying to prove anything to God, to earn favor with religious leaders, to meet some goal He’d set for Himself, or to respond to the expectations of His followers. He wasn’t using healing as a PR campaign to amass more followers, though that was a result. He wasn’t proving His divinity or testing others’ faith through miracles, though belief was a factor in experiencing the miraculous. Jesus’ primary motive for the works He did, miraculous or otherwise, was love and compassion.

Lord, I want my primary motive for anything I do, especially “in Your name,” to be love and compassion.

Beginnings and endings

July 21st, 2015 by Maureen

Better the end of a thing than its beginning. Patience is better than haughtiness. Ecc. 7:8

Well, actually, the planning and vision part at the beginning can be exciting and the end can be disappointing if the final product doesn’t live up to the vision. What is great about endings is that we often don’t see the whole story until the end. Crisis and conflict is no time to identify big themes or recognize the character arc that we are experiencing. It’s only when we look back from the ending that we see the story we’be been in all along. If we approach each new story with hope and let it unfold in God’s time, under His direction, we are more likely to be happy with the way it ends.

Lord, thank you for every beginning and ending.

Contentment

July 20th, 2015 by Maureen

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself. I know what it is to be in want. I know what it is to have an abundance. Phil. 4:11b-12

Our goal-oriented, competitive, consumer culture is based on the idea of always needing more. Our culture rewards ambition and encourages us to constantly tweak and improve, accumulate and amass. In such a culture being content implies that we settle for less. If we are constantly worried about missing out we are definitely going to miss contentment. We allow ourselves contentment when we focus on awareness of God’s presence in the joy of now, whatever that now contains, dismissing what our culture tells us is missing.

Lord, help those who really don’t have enough and help me to be content with my more-than-enough life.

Slow your roll and value the person over the opinion

July 19th, 2015 by Maureen

So, let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19

People seem to be very reactionary right now, responding with anger and judgment toward those with differing positions, or clamoring to make sure certain viewpoints are represented in the marketplace of ideas. This behavior is unlikely to change minds. It’s very easy to forget that behind each opinion are people who God loves just as much as He loves each of us. When we prioritize people over taking offense, making a point, or being right we slow down enough to listen. Compassionately, objectively, graciously listen.

Lord, teach me better listening skills.

 

 

Gifted

July 18th, 2015 by Maureen

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph. 2:8

God gives us a gift. Some of us leave it in one place and return occasionally to make sure it’s still there. Some of us carry it around unopened. Some of us look inside and try to incorporate it into our existing lives. Some of us make it our life’s pursuit to explore its contents and invite others to explore it too. Some of us just climb inside the box and hide in it. Some of us just wear the paper it’s wrapped in.

Lord, thank you for this gift. Help me to fully experience what You intended in giving it to me!

 

Now is always the right time

July 17th, 2015 by Maureen

At just the right time I heard you, and in a day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is the right time. I Cor. 6:2

There is never a time that God is not saving us from something. Sometimes we pray to be spared heartache but instead He saves us from hopelessness in the midst of the heartache. Sometimes we pray to be spared from trouble but he saves us from shame in the midst of the trouble. Our earthly lives may still be vulnerable to the evils that happen because we walk this earth, but He delivers us from the spiritual marks that evil leaves. Instead His salvation leaves a mark on whatever we experience in every single moment.

Lord, help us see Your salvation in the hard moments and feel the sweetness of Your eternal arms when we hurt.

 

The love that connects us lasts longer than the issues that divide us

July 16th, 2015 by Maureen

Love will last forever. What we know is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the picture. When what is complete comes, the partial will be set aside. 1 Cor. 13:8b-9

Not one of us has all the answers. Each of us makes decisions, takes positions, and responds to other’s decisions and positions with partial knowledge. Even though we disagree with someone about lots of things, that person may drop an amazing truth that fills in a gap in our own knowledge. Maybe we need to spend more time listening for truth rather than error. Maybe we need to enjoy one another more and trust God to sort out the gaps in our mutually partial knowledge.

Lord, thank you for knowledge and truth and for all who speak it.

 

We need stories

July 15th, 2015 by Maureen

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear. They do not understand. Matt. 13:13

Research suggests that reading fiction improves empathy. We live narrative lives so it stands to reason that we relate to stories. Most of the time I remember the illustration in a sermon or lecture instead of the points. Often the story that illustrates a complex or abstract idea is the closest we can get to understanding, identifying, or internalizing that idea. Jesus not only used stories to make His points, He lived the narrative that illustrates the love, redemption, and restoration God wants us to internalize.

Lord, thank You for my story. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Playing the hot potato worry game

July 14th, 2015 by Maureen

Give all your worries and cares to God because He cares about you. I Pet. 5:9

God cares about all our hard, confusing conflicts, our unsolvable problems, our energy- and wallet- sapping illnesses, our needling distractions and obligations, our personal challenges and addictions, our rational and irrational fears, our family dramas, and every other draining worry that we carry around until worry gets too hot to hold. Knowing He’s caring and powerful we surrender our worries and feel better; but then, because of fear, impatience, control issues, or simply habit, we take the worries back to hold for awhile. Then we feel guilty about not trusting Him better. He still cares about us. Giving Him our worries isn’t a Christian accomplishment He’s judging; it’s a comfort He’s offering, and will keep offering as long as we have worries.

Lord, take these worries and keep reminding me to of why I left them with you!

It might be behind door number three…or four

July 13th, 2015 by Maureen

Ask it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and it will opened for you. Matt. 7:7

God is not the only active participant in this asking-seeking-knocking exchange. Sometimes we ask and God answers soon and obviously. The door is right in front of us and opens wide. Sometimes there’s a waiting period or a timing issue, but we keep knocking and eventually the door opens. Sometimes, though, God unlocks the door but we’re the ones who need to knock it open. And sometimes we have to seek out the unlocked door by trying a bunch of locked doors. Just because getting something is hard doesn’t necessarily mean that God isn’t helping us get it or doesn’t want us to have it. “Asking, seeking, and knocking” are active verbs.

Lord, I tried door number one and gave up. Strengthen and guide me on this renewed quest for an open door.

The gospel we preach

July 12th, 2015 by Maureen

If any one, even a messenger out of heaven proclaims a gospel other than the good news we preached to you, let him be (anathema) set aside. Gal. 1:8

Does the gospel we preach elevate love or retribution to the most powerful force in the universe? Does it rely on grace and forgiveness or fear and shame to motivate repentance? Does it emphasize authenticity or compliance? Does it focus on transformation or achievement? Is it a good news or more of the same?

Lord, help me express the transforming power of Your love and grace in the gospel I live and preach.

Revelation isn’t confirmation

July 11th, 2015 by Maureen

[I pray] that the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation by coming to know more of Him. Eph. 1:17

Revelation is the act of revealing or disclosing something not already known or realized. Revelation is not simply more information that confirms what we already know. In order to deepen relationship with each of us God reveals new insights about Himself and stretches us spiritually to accommodate His ever-growing presence within us. If we read and study the Bible, listen to sermons, read faith-related books, have theological and philosophical conversations, or seek the Spirit of God Himself through prayer desiring only to have our current understandings validated we close ourselves off from knowing more of Him.

Lord, reveal the breadth, length, depth, and height of Yourself that I can process right now and keep getting bigger.