UNLESS YOUR TURN TO GOD
“About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners that all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them; do not think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? ‘Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die.”
Then he told them a story: “A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have U found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’
“The gardener said, “Let‘s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.’” Luke 13:1-9 (Message)
Prayer: Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world through the life, death and resurrection of your Son. Help us to hear your word and obey it, and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord who lives and reigns in you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen
THE LORD’S PRAYER
“Pray then like this: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy 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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6: 9-13 (RSV)
In confirmation class, I heard the pastor say, “Saying the Lord’s Prayer means little, praying it means everything.” So true. How many times do we go in rote mode to get things done? Think about it; driving to the store, taking our meds, going to a staff meeting, singing a popular song, even saying good-by to a loved one each day.
Do we do the same thing when we pray the Lord’s Prayer? Do we hurry through it? Do we say it by rote, thinking about something else even as we are saying it? Or do we think about each word, phrase, prayerfully meaning it? “Our Father”, our heavenly Father, our loving, unconditionally, every second surrounding Father, Holy Father, and patient Father. Each time we take each word or phrase and prayerfully mean it, God hears you. As you pray each word or phrase you’re communing with God, talking to Him and Him to you. It slows you down, you begin to feel yourself relaxing and truly listening to God. Your prayer has new meaning. Try it.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank you for your patience with us when we rush through the prayer your Son, Jesus, taught us to pray. Amen
JUST DO IT
“Jesus stopped and called them.”What do you want me to do for you?” he asked them”. Matthew 20:31 (TEV)
Nike’s logo “Just Do It” carries a lot of weight in sport and retail. When we pray, people often ask how we learned to pray. The answer is, “Just by doing it.” God promises us that His grace is sufficient for all that He requires from us and that He will provide all that we need. If we stand on God’s promises as we pray, we know without a doubt that our prayer will be answered.
In Matthew 20:32, Jesus asks,” What do you want me to do for you?” Don’t you think that this is what He asks all who come to Him during trials, afflictions or struggles of any kind? If we make our requests earnestly and specially, what peace we will have by taking God at His word, believing He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words that reveal His goodness and grace.
Today, as you pray, take Christ’s word-His promise-and Christ’s sacrifice—His blood with you to the throne of grace through prayer. Not one of heaven’s blessings will be denied you reflect on: His promise for salvation; for provision; for deliverance; for God’s presence; for peace; for strength; for God’s blessings; for the Holy Spirit; for God’s protection, and for faith.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we ask that we may be blessed with Your presence, peace and joy through your son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen
JOY AND THANKSGIVING
“Lord, now letttest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Isreal.” Luke 2:29-32 (RSV)
One of my favorite paintings is Simeon lifting the baby Jesus up in the temple and giving thanks to God. I don’t know the artist, but through that picture I see the joy and thanksgiving that old Simeon had when he sang, “…for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples.”
I have sung the Simeon’s song many times and always feel a peace and quietness when I hear or read the scripture passage. This aged Simeon lifts baby Jesus up, knowing that he is ready and willing to depart this life in confidence. That moment, holding and praising God through His Son, was what Simeon was waiting for. His Lord had come. In his arms he held the bringer of salvation.
God revealed to Simeon the sorrow that would befall Mary and the tribulation and suffering that God’s people would experience. This child that Simeon waited to see born would die on behalf of all who believed in him so that they all might have eternal life.
Hearing Simeon’s words of joy and thanksgiving prompts me to lift up this Baby Jesus and to tell others of the good news for Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, let us open our lips to sing your praises wherever you lead us so others might know Jesus Christ’s gracious mercy and love. Amen
“And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry.” Isaiah 58:11 (TEV)
I am not a great gardener, but I am planning out my garden and thinking about what plants I want to be sure to have around the house this year. It is hard to wait for the right time for planting. And a garden requires constant care—watering, weeding, fertilizing, but the joy of watching plants grow and gathering the flowers or fruits provides much satisfaction.
As I was thinking about spring being a time of rebirth and growth, my thoughts turned to the hymn, “Lord, Let My Heart be Good Soil.” The words really touch me.
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
Open to the seed of your word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil,
Where love can grow and peace is understood.
When my heart is hard, break the stone away.
When my heart is cold, warm it with the day.
When my heart is lost, lead me on your way.
Lord, let my heart, Lord, let my heart,
Lord let me heart be good soil.
I find that sometimes I go through winters in my spiritual life-times where my heart is hard and cold. It is no more ready to receive God’s word of love than frozen ground is ready to be titled and receive seeds. Just as the seasons of winter melts into spring, God’s words of love is always waiting for me to soften my heart and to let its coldness warm in the light of His son, Christ Jesus. Unlike the season of winter that I can do nothing to hurry or change, my cold heart can be changed with just a prayer—anything, anyplace.
Prayer, Lord, what a joy it is to have my heart warmed by your love, to be open to the planting of your word, to grow in your peace and to be nurtured in the way you want me to go. Thank you. Amen
NOT BY MY POWER BUT GOD’S
“…Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4: 6b (RSV)
Once on a snorkeling trip, I was enjoying the beauty of God’s water world creations when a very large string ray came up under me and wrapped his wing-like pectoral fin around me. He was so large that I was totally engulfed in the tunnel of this creature’s fins. It was so unexpected that my body just went limp. I felt helpless and, not knowing to do, I was scared. I could not swim, as I was completely engulfed by the circle of the fins. As I gave a prayerful thought of “What do I do now?” a friend swam by and I grabbed on to his trunks and he pulled me from the tunnel.
As I reflected back on the string ray experience, I was reminded that our God has limitless resources. The only limit comes from us. Here I was weak and helpless, nut nearby there was great power available—the power of God to send me assistance. There is no limit to what we may ask and expect from our almighty God. All we must do is get in touch with Him and maintain communication with Him.
This remains true in all areas of our life. In our homes, personal relationships, service, etc. If we grab hold with only one little finger of faith, it will be enough to make His power ours to accomplish the act of service that now overwhelms us.
Prayer: Lord, as we commune with you today in prayer let us draw from You all that we need. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
ELBOWS INSTEAD OF HUGS
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection.” Romans 12: 9-10 (RSV)
With all the fear of catching one of the varieties of flu bugs around, people are asking friends and family not to shake hands or hug but to butt elbows instead.
Hugs to me are just another expression of love that Jesus Christ has shared with each one of us. Hugs make you feel good, and hugs make the person you’re hugging know that someone cares for them without saying words.
It’s been hard not sharing a hug or hand shake with friends. I’m a hands on type of person, so when I found this little untitled poem the other day by an unknown author, I had to share it with hugs.
“Hugging is healthy: It helps the body’s immunity system. It keeps you healthier, cures depression, reduces stress, induces sleep, is invigorating, rejuvenating, and has no unpleasant side effects. Hugging is nothing less than a miracle drug.
Hugging is all natural: it is organic, naturally sweet, no pesticides, no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, and is 100 % wholesome.
Hugging is practically perfect: there are no movable parts, no batteries to wear out, no periodic checkups, low energy consumption, high energy yield, inflation proof, non-fattening, no monthly payments, no insurance requirements, theft-proof, non-taxable, non-polluting, and of course, fully returnable.”
Why not share a hug with your loved ones right now. “We love, because he (God) first loved us.” I John 4:19
Prayer: Gracious Lord, we praise you and thank you for allowing us to share your love through the expression of hugs. Through your Spirit revealed in and by Jesus Christ we can meet and greet all by a hug. Amen