Archive for January, 2016

One-sided enemies

January 31st, 2016 by Maureen

but I say to you, love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely and persecuting you. Matt 5:44 YLT

We cannot help it when people consider us their enemies but we do have a choice about whether we consider them our enemies. The relationship that others think they are having with us does not have to define the relationship we are having with them. When people show animosity towards us our knee-jerk respond in kind. Love and blessing and goodwill may not seem like our default setting but these are the very responses that lie within the new creation that Christ has made us. What would change about our most stressed relationships if we simply stopped viewing people as enemies?

Lord, thank you that I don’t have to make enemies of those who have made an enemy of me.

Just perfection. Lose the “ism”

January 28th, 2016 by Maureen

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Phil. 3:12

This verse comes after Paul talks about shedding baggage and insignificant distractions in order to live out a life of discovering Christ. A call to perfection does not involve walking through a minefield of “thou shalt nots” trying to avoid stepping on one, but rather invites us to partake in His divine nature and experience the identity He gives us through redemption. We can’t make ourselves perfect. We can only partake in the perfection of Christ who has done everything necessary to redeem us. As we follow Christ we are catching up to the life that He intended for us and to the person who He has already made us.

Lord, free me from unrealistic perfectionism and general uptightness and help me be more aware of who I am in You and because of You.

Uncircle the wagons

January 27th, 2016 by Maureen

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Rom. 14:19

We form groups based on what makes us different from most but like others in the group. We market our organizations by highlighting our distinctions and perceived superiority. Sometimes we even circle the wagons to protect and isolate ourselves. Yet, we are part of something larger made up of others who are beloved by God, others who belong to their own groups because they are just as convinced as we are that we are “doing it right.” The love of Christ calls us to give and welcome love, to share in His grace and truth, to encourage and affirm beyond our own circles.

Lord, thank you for all those who love and seek You!

Glorious moments

January 26th, 2016 by Maureen

All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Jude 1:25

God doesn’t need our praises to feed ego, fuel power, or establish authority. Those are the things that happen when glory is misappropriated to human beings and when glory is misused by human beings. Our responses to His glory reconciles us to the truth and beauty of His nature that has always been, before any of us were made by Him or aware of Him at all. Christ said in John 17 that He gives us the glory the Father gave to Him. Our awareness of His glory makes us participants in that glory. God didn’t create us just so He could to listen to our incessant requests and apologies, though He is tender to those. This glory is the communion and fellowship for which He created us and redeemed us before humans ever experienced need or needed to repent.

Lord, I simply glorify You and bask in the glory You reflect back into me.

Taking the anxious out of toil

January 25th, 2016 by Maureen

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Ps. 127:2

Surrendering all our anxious toil and unresolved issues into God’s loving and capable hands is the beginning of a good night sleep. A good night’s sleep refreshes our minds so that we see solutions and connections more quickly, gives us perspective to identify and surrender the things we can’t change and helps us prioritize the things we can change and focus on those priorities the next day. Putting those things right back into His hands when we wake up is the beginning of a productive and relaxing day.

Lord, thank you for rest that takes the anxious out of toil and lets me proceed in confidence and peace.

Is God oversimplified?

January 24th, 2016 by Maureen

Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? Job 11:7

Faith accepts the inexplicable and ambiguous tension of God’s goodness in this imperfect human existence. Trust embraces the uncontrollable mystery of God’s deep, wide, long, high (perhaps border-less) love when our ability to understand and explain fails. Love tolerates complexities and contradictions created by interpretations. Being able to define, understand and explain something in clear, concrete terms gives us a sense of control. Following rules, evaluating behaviors, and creating ways to measure compliance provides a kind of certainty. Are our attempts to explain God motivated by a need for control and certainty or a need for a transcendent relationship with God beyond our own conceptions?

Lord, I don’t want to limit You.

Continuous revelation

January 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light. Daniel 2:22

There is a lot we don’t know and a lot we don’t understand about what we do know. God is constantly revealing more of Himself and His creation to those who seek answers and truths, for example, scientists may have found a new planet. Our Father loves that we explore His creation and seek His counsel. He’s has the information and the wisdom that can satisfy our longing for discovery and adventure,  or help us  work through our doubts and fears, and lead us to make enlightened choices. And He is also there to guide us when we have to act without all the information.

Lord, please help me find answers for the questions I ask and reveal those deep and mysterious ideas that I haven’t even thought to wonder about but actually need to know.

Empathy

January 18th, 2016 by Maureen

Be of one mind. Empathize with one another. Love each other as brothers. Be tenderhearted and keep a humble attitude. 1 Pet. 3:8

Often, when someone we love is hurting the best prayers we can pray come sliding down our cheeks like liquid empathy. Sometimes trying to assess someone else’s issues or fix their problems simply leads to judging or imposing our own voices over the voice of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes specificity in prayer gets in the way of real comfort and trust. Very often the best thing we can do for those who are hurting is to simply be there, to love them and to trust in God’s love and goodwill towards them.

Lord, help those I love to be aware of Your love and care through me.

Praying the dream

January 18th, 2016 by Maureen

Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Rescue the poor and helpless;
deliver them from the grasp of evil people. Ps. 82:3-4

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” …we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. – MLK

Lord, I pray Martin’s dream  today, a prayer for America and for the world.

Getting it….whatever “it” is

January 17th, 2016 by Maureen

Christ is set firmly at the Father’s right hand in heavenly places, far above principalities, and authority, and every name named, not only in this age (Paul’s) but in ages to come and put everything at His feet and made Him head of the assembly, His body, the fullness of Him who is filling the all in all.  Eph. 1:20b-22a

Ideas about Jesus and messages from Him are contained in scripture and teaching, but Jesus Himself is not contained by them. Great teachers, or even the Bible itself can talk about the properties of love, grace, and truth but cannot cause us to believe them or be transformed by them. It is the Holy Spirit Who takes our encounters with teaching and scripture beyond instructive and informative and makes them life-giving and transformative. Christ who is Lover of the world, gracious and merciful Forgiver of sins, Redeemer of humankind, Victor over death, hell and the grave, Filler of the all in all, is the final Authority. He is the filter though which we respond to everything else, including what is taught and written about Him.

Jesus, You are it.

That awkward transition phase before happily ever after

January 16th, 2016 by Maureen

If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:17  What we will be has not yet been made known, but we know when Christ appears we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. I Jn. 3:2

In fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast a human is cursed and must be transformed back into true human form by an act of love that yields supernatural results. The fairy tales usually jump straight from transformation to happily ever after, leaving out the awkward transition phase in which the the former beast must rediscover the rhythms of being human again; ex: the same fork would feel different in human hands than in beast claws. Though Christ has restored and transformed us, most of us are still figuring out the fork. Some of us even still see the reflection of the former beast when we look in the mirror. Watching Jesus teaches us how to be what He has already made us.

Lord, I don’t always see You clearly and sometimes I’m just not watching. Show me more of You so I can see myself as that new, transformed me.

 

Communication and listening

January 15th, 2016 by Maureen

Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. Mark 4:24

Sometimes when we read God’s word, hear teaching, or seek His guidance we think we “get it” right away when there is really a need for personal reflection before we can fully process what has been said. Somewhere between our ears and our hearts we may lose focus, fail to see ourselves as stakeholders, or just fill in the blanks with our own agendas or add contexts that do not actually apply.  Perhaps we can take the worship principles in Joel Houston’s The Stand and develop an arms-raised-hearts-abandoned-in awe-soul surrendered approach to listening to Him and for Him.

Lord, help me to fully receive and process what is said to me.

The people who matter

January 13th, 2016 by Maureen

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. 2 Cor. 5:16a

Humans have a tendency to make assumptions about one another based on appearance, income, zip code, and other superficial qualities. We tend to assign value based on talents, contributions, or earning potential. Jesus responded to each unique individual with genuine interest and love…and still does. We can choose to hear and value one another in the same way. The people who matter are all of us!

Lord, help me to listen better and love sincerely.

Transformative thinking

January 12th, 2016 by Maureen

…we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work among you will be extended. 2 Cor. 10:15b

Faith is not magical thinking, positive thinking, or wishful thinking. Faith is transformative thinking. It pushes our boundaries of influence and surpasses the limits of our current understanding, Faith pushes our inner boundaries beyond what we accept to be possibility and past the artificial limitations we place on God’s intervention. Faith accepts God’s definition of possible which goes exceedingly, abundantly beyond anything we can ask or think.

Lord, stretch my understanding of possible and push past the limits of what I can now believe from You and of You.

Jesus is a walking dictionary

January 11th, 2016 by Maureen

My peace I give you. I give not as the world gives. Jn. 14:27

Jesus redefines a lot of words. The world’s definition of peace is the absence of conflict or hostility and the presence of tranquility and quiet.  The world’s methods of achieving peace is to negotiate, compromise, threaten, withdraw, medicate, placate, and redirect. The peace Christ takes place in the middle of whatever reality we are in and is firmly grounded in His love, grace, and truth. The peace of Christ doesn’t happen because we re-prioritize, or because we pray or meditate hard enough, it happens because He is with us and we are with Him. It happens because we rest in who He is and trust Him rather than focusing on ourselves or the situation that disturbs us and posturing our own responses to it based on the world’s definitions.

Lord, take me into the peace you give, the peace I can neither achieve or control.

“All” is a big audacious word

January 9th, 2016 by Maureen

What shall we say in response to these things? He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. how will He not also graciously give us all things? Rom. 8:31-33

We have only experienced a few things out of the “all things” God means to give us. Sometimes we focus on what seems to be missing or lost from out lives when it is likely there are unappreciated aspects and unexplored layers and layers of bounty within the things we already have. Whatever seems missing or lost might be in there somewhere too. From out limited perspectives we have only scratched the surface of what God’s love, forgiveness, bounty, and restoration means.

Lord, increase my awareness and experiences with the all in “all things.”

Staying out of trouble is not the point

January 8th, 2016 by Maureen

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Pro. 2:10-11

Good choices happen because we have enough information to weigh and understand our options. Knowledge can only tell us the facts so that we understand what will keep us safe and keep us out of trouble. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the point either. Wisdom tells us how what we know  increases our awareness of Christ in us and our identities in Him. Our responses to what we know from this place of wisdom leads to enduring happiness and deep spiritual satisfaction rather than the circumstantial (and sometimes prideful) satisfaction that comes from staying out of trouble and doing the right thing.

Lord, connect knowledge and wisdom in my heart.

Hey, there, buoy

January 7th, 2016 by Maureen

He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! Ps. 107:29-30

The company of group of believers should be the safest harbor in this troubled world. Sometimes, with the best of intentions,  we make it something else. It takes patience to live in the tension of someone else getting from point A to point B with God without trying to shove him or her. Sometimes all people need from us, all God wants from us, is that we love others and create a calm place in their particular storm so that they can process what the Holy Spirit is doing in them. Only His voice can calm the storm. We are just safe harbors, or at least buoys they can cling to when their lives are so noisy that hearing Him is hard.

Lord, thank you for providing me with Your very own inspiration, support, comfort, and wisdom through the safe harbors in my life.

Embrace unexpected delights

January 6th, 2016 by Maureen

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Ps. 37:4
If our hearts are inflexible we tend to be constantly disappointed with God for not giving us what we want when we want it. When we relax and enjoy God rather than trying to dictate the terms of the relationship we develop flexibility, trust, and joy so that we can find delight in what He gives. God’s gifts can be so fabulously unexpected that we have no idea how much our hearts desired them until He gives them to us.
Lord, I’m open to Your delight today.

Through His eyes

January 4th, 2016 by Maureen

Bear with one another and forgive each other. Col. 3:13

It’s a fresh new year. Things will happen. People will offend and disappoint. Relationships will fill up with unresolved issues and conflicts. This is inevitable. George MacDonald wrote that “love is the opener as well as the closer of eyes.” God knows, loves, and delights in the deepest, untapped depths of who we are. He has forgiven our sins with utter and complete grace. He can help us see others through His own perceptive eyes so that we can appreciate and encourage them as they grow. He can give us His grace so that we bear with and accept the struggles and challenges other people experience as they grow.

Lord, open and close my eyes that I might see others as You see them.