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A Passage and A Prayer 2/20/19

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

God’s call for us is to be humble. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” It’s a tall order to be humble, and something that is not entirely comfortable for us selfish and self-absorbed people. Babies yell and scream to get others to know what they need- and it is good, because we need to know what they need. We learn to share what we want and need in more healthy ways as we grow older. But we have been trained by our culture to continue to be selfish. “Have it your way,” fast food chains tell us. Buy whatever you want. Be controlled by your wants and desires.

But we want more from life than just food and clothing. We want more from life than just to have things our way. We want to have loving relationships and accomplish meaningful work. This is done by being humble. We count others to more significant than ourselves. We look to the needs of others. We seek to fulfill the needs of others.

How do we do that? When do we do it? When in the midst of conversations, pay attention to how you feel and react when someone shares what they need. Especially if someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. How do you feel when asked to do something you don’t want to do? That is the feeling of being humble. That feeling confronts us, challenges us, overwhelms our wills. God is calling us to meet that feeling and come to terms with that feeling. God is calling us to embrace that feeling and learn to love being humble. God is inviting us to see other people as worthy of our strength and will. God is calling us to sacrifice our wills for the sake of others. And it is in that action that we embrace the humility of Jesus and open the door for the power of Jesus to be at work in us and through us.

Jesus, empower us to be humble. It is hard to sacrifice our will. It is hard to think about ourselves less. It is hard to seek the good of others first. But we know that You can work miracles. You can change our hearts and minds. Give us Your Spirit, that we might model a life of humble love in a world obsessed with power, privilege, and prestige. In Your name, AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/18/19

Thank God things don’t go our way!

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

We have hopes. We have dreams. We have things we want to accomplish in this world. But then we wake up to reality when our hopes and dreams are dashed upon the rocky shores of reality. Life brings change and chaos so quickly into our path. This makes it very difficult for us to plan our lives.
As we seek to make plans, we struggle. “Is this something I can really accomplish?” “Should I aim that high?” If we don’t underestimate our ability, we also run the risk of aiming in the wrong direction. Choosing a career path that is outside of our gifting. Moving to a new city that we think is going to bring us new opportunities. Whether we struggle with uncertainty or misplaced confidence, we can all say, “Thank God things don’t go our way!”

No matter what we plan, God is the one in charge. God is the one directing our steps and guiding us along life. Jesus has bigger plans than we could ever have for ourselves. Jesus puts more purpose and meaning in our path than we could ever discover on our own. In Jesus, we can be certain that we are following God’s path- especially when things don’t go our way!
God will get us where we need to be; therefore we follow the path that God has put before us. How can we know what that path is? We pray; we seek God’s will; we read God’s Word. We try to make sense of where and how God is moving in our lives. Ask yourself, “Where do I sense God’s presence? Where am I serving others? Where am I filled with joy and purpose?” Pursue the places where you feel God’s purposes coming to pass. And the Lord will establish your steps!

Jesus, we want our lives to be directed by you. Show us where you would have us go. Lead us especially when things aren’t going our way. You have secured for us an eternal home and joy forever; please bless us with purpose and peace in the present as well. In your name, AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/15/19

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have (Philippians 1:29-30).
 
“We’re in this together!”

These are comforting words when we find ourselves in crisis situations.  It’s not necessarily that “misery likes company.”  The comfort is found in that others care for us and support us in times or trouble.

This is what Paul conveys to the Christians in Philippi.  He pulls no punches.  He comes right out and promises that they will face opposition in their Christian walk.  But, Paul reminds them that they are in this together. 

The word, “compassion,” comes from two Latin words, cum and passio.  Placed together, this meaning is “to suffer together.”  St. Peter reminds us that “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed(I Peter 3:14). The blessing comes in the fact that we still live in the forgiveness of sins; we still live with the Lord’s promise to use all things to draw us closer to Him; we still have the care and compassion of fellow Christians; we still have the promise of heaven.

Because we are in this together—we need to be together!

  • Spouses need to pray together, asking the Lord to provide the love and care for their marriage.
  • Families need to be engaged in devotions so children can be nurtured in the Christian faith.
  • We all need to be in a REACHGroup, where fellow Christians gather to study the Word, to care for one another and to reach out to others.
  • Worship must be a priority each and every week so we, together, can be fed by God’s Word and His Sacrament.

What a joy it is to be part of the family of faith in this world as we await the eternal family in heaven to come.

O Holy Spirit, fill me with the compassion to care for my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  Give to me the desire to meet together in Your Word that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of Your love and forgiveness.  I ask this in the name of Jesus.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/13/19

21 For to me to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21a).
 
“To live is Christ?”

What does this mean?

What do you live for?  Everyone must live for something.  Everyone must complete this sentence, “For me, to live is ______________.”  Everyone must fill in the blank.

Understand this—whatever you put in the blank is your god.  Some people live for their job.  Some live for more money.  Some live for their homes and furnishings.  Some live for their retirement portfolio.  Whatever you live for is your god.

The challenge comes when the things of the world no longer hold the promise they once offered.  How helpful is our job when we are laid-off?  How helpful is our home when we grow older and can no longer manage the upkeep?  How helpful is the retirement portfolio when the economy takes a downward turn?  The things of the world are transitory and passing. 

Paul realized that the One thing that is sure and certain is the love of Christ.  In His love, He left His heavenly throne to come and live the perfect life for us.  In love, He carried the guilt of our sin to the cross to pay for the sins of the world.  In His love, He shares with all who live and believe in Him, everlasting life.

“To live is Christ,” means:

  • We live through Christ.  Our lives are based on the fact that the Lord intentionally created us and then redeemed us.   We live in the conviction that the Lord is with us and uses all things for good in our lives.
  • We live for Christ.  When we fill in the blank with Jesus, we place our lives into proper priority.  With Christ as the center and the foundation of our lives we can better use our talents and abilities in our relationship with those around us.  We become better spouses, parents, children, employers, employees, friends, community members and members of the church.

They say, when it comes to the things of the world, “you can’t take it with you.”  And they are right.

But Jesus says, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

That’s why, “For me, to live is Christ.”

Blessed Jesus, protect us from the temptation to believe that our worth is based on our wealth.  Grant to us such a faith that we would treasure the gifts You freely give us—faith and forgiveness, life and salvation.  Assist us in keeping a faith in You as the center and foundation of our lives, and our homes.  We ask this in Your name and to Your glory.  Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/11/19

19 For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 
 (Philippians 1:19-20)

Paul sits in prison.  He waits.  He is in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, claiming Him to be the One and only God.  And now, Paul waits.  He is waiting to see if his appeal to Caesar will result in his release from incarceration or if he will be sentenced to death.

Paul doesn’t mention Caesar.  Paul doesn’t hang his hopes on appearing before the emperor on a good day when the Roman leader’s spirits are high and his attitude is good.

Instead, Paul is placing all his hopes on the Holy Spirit.  In other words, he is putting his life in the hands of the Lord who created him, redeemed him and called him into a lively faith.  It is this trust in the Lord that moves Paul to a confidence that he will be delivered.  But what does it mean to be “delivered?”  Paul can use the word to mean he will be leased from all charges and be freed to return to his daily activities with no legal repercussions.  Or, Paul could mean that he would lose his life at the hands of the Roman government, yet the Lord would take him to heaven where he would be delivered from the imperfections of this world and into the beauty and joy of heaven.

Paul figures that either way he wins.  He will either go to heaven and be with Jesus or he will be released and go back to see his friends in Philippi.

This should be our attitude in the midst of crisis.  I remember visiting someone in the hospital who was confronted with a serious diagnosis.  “I’ll be just fine,” the person told me, going on to explain, “either I will be cured and return to my family or I’ll die and go to heaven.  Either way, I win!”

This is the attitude of faith that carries us through the crises of life.  This is the truth that Christians claim as they cling to the cross of Jesus.  This is the peace that passes all understanding.  This is life!

Gracious Jesus, thank You for Your life, death and resurrection, which give me the confidence to face the challenges of life without fear, knowing and trusting that Your will is always for our good.  Give me Your Holy Spirit that this may be my confidence today and every day.  Amen.


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