Wonderful Surprise

This Sunday was my 8th year anniversary with the church I serve.

They surprised me with a plaque, a cake, a special gift, and wonderful cards written by the children’s Sunday School class. I am blessed.

Also, what makes me feel even more blessed is the way God is rebuilding this church, member by member, family by family. We are baptizing more adults than children. We are gaining new members by salvation rather than transfers. People are becoming involved rather than watching.

It is a real joy to see God work and to know it is not by our efforts but by his Spirit we are blessed!

Fridays

God intends for us to have a day of rest.  The method of rest has been debated about as much as any religious topic.

Today is my rest.  I rest by doing things I need to do without the rush and tension of a work day.  The slow pace allows me time to breath and practice.   On Fridays I wear jeans.  On Friday I do chores at home.  On Friday I even rest by giving the dog a bath.   But also, on Fridays ,  my awareness of God working around me increases and I reflect on the reality of prayer reaching people!

The text for Sunday keeps me company.   Fridays are often a walk in the garden with the Word.  My feelings toward the final unveiling grow.  Even so, our Lord is building the confidence of his own.

My rest comes in the mundane yet important, in the slow, unhurried mindset of doing those things I enjoy without the pressure of a “hobby”.   My rest, I am always reminded, is on a battlefield.  Even in rest one must be ready.

God is in this rest.  He overtakes temptation and gives strength and focus to those he loves.

This is my Friday prayer:

Lord,
I ask you for rest.
Amen

Standing Watch

One of the lectionary readings for this week is Habakkuk 2:1-4.  This passage is about standing watch and willingly waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled.  It is a wonderful passage to be recast into a personal prayer.

Lord of Heaven and Earth,
I will stand at my watchpost
and station myself prepared for conflict.
I watch and wait for Your direction
and for the response to my emotional wonderings.

Lord of Truth and Justice,
You have told me in Your Word,
You have proclaimed it loud and clear.
I am to await Your appointed time.
There will be an accounting
and a time for truth.
Help me to be patient, to trust
that You will vindicate and reward.
I need not fear the Proud,
Their own spirit will convict them.
Help me, Lord,
to live by faith
and to seek Your righteousness.
Amen.

Romans 7

There is a painful reality we live with.  It is the reality of our own repeated failures.

Try as we will our efforts are just that, our efforts.  Our efforts will always be limited by our finiteness.   Our efforts will, no matter how hard we try, still face the reality that we are sinners and we will sin.

Romans 7 is a special gift from God.  Romans 7 reminds us of nature we are born with and the grace which holds us in spite of the continual influence of our shadow, our dark side.

Praying through Romans 7:15-25 can be a powerful way to repent and return again to our dependence up Jesus for our justification.

Gracious Lord and forgiving God,
I do not know why I continue to defy You
and do those things I know are wrong.
I know they are wrong
because You have told me so
in Your word and in my heart.
I do know how easy it is for me
to give in to temptation
so I know that sin is still a powerful force
in my life.
I want to do what is right,
but time and time again I fail.
These failure weigh me down with guilt
and shame.
It is a war that is fought every moment
as long as I live in this present reality.
My heart,
stubborn as it is,
still cries out to You.
Thank You
My Savior, my Lord, my forgiving God
for loving me so much
and giving me the grace to continue
to seek You and the life You give.
Amen.

Delights and Disappointments

Mondays are often hard on pastors.  Mine, however, usually are quite upbeat.  Monday’s are a new time of preparation, a new time to join with God in what is to come.

Yesterday the Lord’s presence in our worship time broke through and a grandmother became a born again child.   God allowed me to be His voice telling her of His love, sacrifice, and desire to forgive her past and replace it with His promises.

Needless to say, I was filled with joy and the most wonderful ecstasy that comes with feeling the Spirit enter a soul and seal it.  There is little in this life that compares to these experiences.

But then came the evening.  Out of duty, I attended an organized religious event.  I tried hard to be a positive presence.   I prayed continually that God would forgive my negative thoughts and that He would let me see He was present.  He answered this prayer in the form of a young music minister.

However, in a moment of unguarded weakness, in a series of quick statements, my Spirit was broken and all my energy went into anger control.  The Lord put has hand over my mouth and thus I did not speak.  I took slow deep breaths in which both confession and requests for control were the elements of inhale and exhaling.  In His mercy I was able to soon leave.

I felt dirty.  I felt betrayed.  I was overwhelmed with feeling of disappointment.  I snapped at the one who I deeply love and jumped into my own wallow of self pity and regret.  I made a phone call to one of the offending party.  As usual I ended up just leaving a message as it is obvious this person marginalize me some time ago.  My thoughts and feeling made me physically sick.  I went to bed hoping sleep would bring merciful escape.  It did.

This morning, I awoke still carrying the burden of the evening before.  I would act upon what had happened the previous evening.  I have no doubt God wants me to take such action.  But first, I needed to reflect, to meditate upon both the Word and the testimony of greater Saints before.  Again, I found a prayer in the Great Cloud of Unknowing.  It will be my prayer today.

O God,
Who has called me into this cloud of unknowing,
guide me now and always.
Help me to put a cloud of forgetting below me,
that all the things and concerns of this busy life may be nothing to
because of my love for You and Your love for me.
And when You will that I enter into the cloud of unknowing,
let me be still and know that You are God,
Even as You are known by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

As I write, I feel the burden being lifted.  God is so good.

A Friday Night Wedding

This evening, I have been asked to guide a couple in sharing their vows to God and one another.  Tonight they are taking the steps to be joined legally as husband and wife.  It is their desire to have the wedding in a local park.

The couple both have children.  They want to include the children in the wedding.  In their vows, they want the children to hear that both parents are committed to loving them.   This is the first time I have had a couple directly ask me to include the children in their vows.

The weather tonight may be stormy.  If it is, the couple will not be able to have their wedding in the park.  I told them they could bring the wedding party to the church.  They were delighted.

I am so glad the church I serve is so open to allowing those in the community to use our buildings.  We do not charge for people to use our facilities.  The membership believes as I do that the church should not be in the rental business.  Our church really does want to be a shelter when the storms of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual) come.

A Prayer from the Great Cloud of Unknowing

In the theologically and mystically intense writing known as the Great Cloud of Unknowing I found a prayer I want to be my prayer for this day.

O my God, I thank You that You have kindled in me a desire and a longing for a closer walk with you.
I would be Your servant, a very special servant belonging to you. Help me to live so close to You and learn so well of You that I may love You with my whole heart and mind and soul and strength, to the glory of my Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

In a time in which many people hide behind the word anonymous to protect themselves, the writer of Cloud of Unknowing remained anonymous not to protect himself/herself but to keep the focus on God.

Our culture is entering a dark, dark time.  Our worship is more consumer oriented that seeking the pleasure of our Creator.  Discipleship has become a lost art.  In such times, it is a gift of grace to be drawn back toward the mystery, majesty, and desire of God for us.

Praying the Scripture

The Gospel passage for this week in Revised Common Lectionary is Luke 18:9-14.  The following is a recasting of this passage into a personal prayer.

Lord of Grace and Master of Love,
I beg You hear my prayer.
Please protect me from myself
When I allow arrogance to arise.
Please convict me to remember
I am a sinner saved by Your grace.

Lord, let me not depend on my efforts
to live a Spirit lead life,
but instead let me depend on You
and your mercy
continually as I live the life
You have given to me.

Lord, help me not to have contempt
for those with whom I struggle.
Instead let me pray for them
to be drawn close to You.

Lord help me be like the tax collector
while understanding
I am all to often the Pharisee.
I confess my sins to you.

Amen.