Friday, January 12, 2007

A Baptism Prayer

This is from the Book of Common Prayer, and a collect that is prayed upon one's baptism, and is helpful for each of us to remember our baptism.

At Baptism

Almighty God, by our baptism into the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, you turn us from the old life of sin: Grant that we, being reborn to new life in him, may live in righteousness and holiness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Baptism of the Lord: Friday, January 12, 2007

I try to keep the attention of my blogging upon the Word and off myself, but I wanted to share with you and ask your prayers for our son Thomas. He will be baptized this Sunday. Keep him and our family in your prayers as we draw forth to this holy event, and may the grace of our Lord be at work in his heart, drawing Thomas closer to Him, drawing Thomas closer to that moment where Thomas confirms that baptism and claims the salvation God has freely offered to him, and to each of us.

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 42:1-17

I love the notion within this passage of singing to the Lord a new song. Maybe that is just because I can't sing and look forward to that day when I can sing that new song But, we are called to sing to Him a new song today. I heard someone say once, a testimony is not just what God has done in your life, it is what God is doing now in your life. How many of us focus more on what God has done instead of what God is doing.

God is wanting to do something great in your life right now, if you will allow. He wants to do a new work in your life. He wants you to sing a new song. He wants you to know new life. He wants you to have new grace. He wants to fill you and bless you. He wants you to sing forth His praise. Today, in a new way. Will we do it?

New Testament Lesson

Ephesians 3:1-13

We see that grace is not given just be there, but it is given for a purpose. Paul says that grace was given him so that he could bring the good news to the Gentiles. All he went through, all he suffered, all he endured, was a means by which he could go about bringing the good new that Gentiles. There was a purpose behind it, it was not in vain.

Today, God gives you grace for a purpose and a reason. He gives you the power of His Spirit to draw you close, and to allow you to go and serve. This life we've been given has been given us to serve God. We are not our own, we are God's people, and we are supposed to live in such a manner. We do not have the rights to ourselves, God does. Let us live in such a holy manner.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 2:13-22

Jesus said He came not to save the righteous, but sinner. There is an irony there, for we are all sinners. We are all in need of His salvation and His redemption. We are all in need of His cleansing and His power. We are all sinners.

But, only those that realize it can be saved. Do you realize that in the end, Matthew came out better than the Pharisees? He admitted his sin, and was saved. They did not, and they were not. Even through, to the human eye, they may have "looked" better, they were sinner. Matthew confess, repented, and was saved. They did not, and they were not.

Today, would we rather appear to be righteous and wind up condemned, or would we rather admit our sin, and receive God's salvation. The choice is up to us.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Baptism of the Lord: Thursday, January 11, 2007

I wanted to share something different with you today. It from an email I receive each day called the Christian Quotation of the Day. You can check out their website by clicking here. Here is yesterday's CQOD.

Christian Quotation of the Day

January 10, 2007
[Jesus:] For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
-- Mark 8:36-38 (ESV)

The Gospel commission is the key to all problems of church history, large or small. It is the key to the success or failure of the many organizations built up to form the channels of witness to the world. Churches, societies, individuals, ... have concerned themselves with this or that theological problem. They have made worship central instead of the Gospel commission. They have concerned themselves with their relations with the State. They have concentrated on philanthropy and social service. Wherever they have done this and have forgotten the purpose for which the Master has placed them in the world, wherever they have lost the Master’s vision of a perishing humanity, wherever they have become inattentive to the cry of spiritual anguish, the Spirit has passed them by, and when they have persisted He has extinguished the light of their witness. And the pages of church history are strewn with their wreckage. They may have shouted their loyalty to Christ, they may even have suffered for Him. But if once they have forgotten that our Lord combined in a single phrase “for My sake and the Gospel’s,” devotion to Himself and loyalty to His commission, they have lost their influence and sunk into spiritual death.
... B. F. C. Atkinson (b.1895), Valiant in Fight [1937]

Quiet time reflection:
Lord, grant an opening to share the Gospel with _____ and _____.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Benedict and Sister Joan go from Preaching to Medling

I read this today from the Rule of Benedict and I wanted to share it with you as well:

Jan. 9 - May 10 - Sept. 9

To be worthy of the task of governing a monastery, the prioress or abbot must always remember what the title signifies and act accordingly. They are believed to hold the place of Christ in the monastery. Therefore, a prioress or abbot must never teach or decree or command anything that would deviate from God's instructions. On the contrary, everything they teach and command should, like the leaven of divine justice, permeate the minds of the community.

The social revolution of the Rule starts in this paragraph on authority. This will be a different kind of life than the sixth century Roman ever saw. The head of the monastery will not be a chief or a queen or a feudal lord. The superior of a monastery of Benedictines will be a Christ figure, simple, unassuming, immersed in God, loving of the marginal, doer of the gospel, beacon to the strong.

Once you begin to understand that, you begin to understand the whole new type of authority that the Rule models for a world gone wild with power. You begin to understand that it is not the laws of the mighty that will govern this group. It is the law of God that will preempt all other considerations.

Like Christ, this leader does not lead with brute force. This leader understands the leavening process. This leader, called appropriately abbot or abbess or prioress, is a spiritual parent, a catalyst for the spiritual and psychological growth of the individual monastic, not a border guard or a warden. This leader is not a parent who terrorizes a child into submission; this leader believes in the best and gives people the opportunities to make the mistakes that lead to growth.

The prioress and abbot provide an environment that confronts the monastic with the presence of God, that shows them the Way. After that it is up to the monastic to let the practices of the community and the rhythm of the prayer life work their way until the piercing good of God rises in them like yeast in bread.

The role of the spiritual leader, in other words, is not to make martinets out of people; it is to lead them to spiritual adulthood where they themselves make the kind of choices that give life depth and quality. Benedict does not make the superior of the monastery the ultimate norm of life. Pleasing the abbot is not what monastic life is all about. Becoming what the abbess or prioress thinks you should be is not the goal of monasticism. Following the leader is not the end for which we're made; finding God is. Benedict makes the superior of his monasteries a lover of people, a leader who can persuade a person to the heights, show them the mountain and let them go.

In our own culture, becoming someone important, climbing the corporate and ecclesiastical ladder has so often meant pleasing the person at the top rather than doing what conscience demands or the situation requires. That kind of leadership is for its own sake. It makes the guru, rather than the gospel, the norm of life. That kind of obedience puts the business before the soul. That kind of authority is not monastic and it is not spiritual. That kind of authority so often leads to the satisfaction of the system more than to the development of the person and the coming of the reign of God.

Baptism of the Lord: Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 40:25-31

I wonder why the youths faint and grow weary, while those that wait upon the Lord will mount up with wings like eagles. Could it be that when we do not wait upon Him, we waste all our time and energy fretting about, worried about things we can't control, tightly wound, too busy to stop and pray. And then, when we have run around worried, planning, scheming, fussing, and it gets time to do what we are called to, we can't because we are too tired.

But, those that wait upon the Lord are patient. They know that everything works in its due time. They know that the Lord is at work, even in the darkest and most hopeless situations. They know that even though the water is rising, worry does no good. Wait upon the Lord. He will make a way.

Today, you can worry about every little thing. You can run around for no reason. Or, you can wait upon the Lord. In waiting, we find the way. In needless running, we simply grow tired.

New Testament Lesson

Ephesians 1:15-23

We see a similar thought in this passage. Paul talks about the eyes of our hearts being opened. This world tells us to look not with these eyes, not the eyes of faith or the eyes of God's truth, simply look with the eyes where we see what it. Not, what can be. God tells us to look deeper. To hope deeper. To trust deeper. Not just to look with our eyes, look with the eyes of our heart. Our eyes may tell us we have troubles, the eyes of our heart tell us that God is not do. Our eyes may tell us there is no hope, the eyes of our heart tell us that God is not done.

This passage reminds us as well that the church is not mine. It is not yours. It is Jesus'. It is His body. It is His church. Are we operating our church in a way that gives Him glory? That serves His purpose? That does His ministry? Read the Gospels and see how Jesus lived. Then, look at your church. Are we being who we are called to be?

Gospel Lesson

Mark 1:14-28

We see in this passage, Jesus drew people to Him. First, the disciples, and then those that heard Him preach. There was something about Him that was new, that was powerful, that was alive, that was full of hope and glory and mercy. There was something about Him that lead others to want to be around Him. That lead them to want to follow Him. That caused others to leave behind all that they had to follow.

Is there something in your that causes others to want to follow your Jesus? Remember, we are the body, and we are to be leading others to Him. Are we living in a way that draws others to Him? Or does our life, our words, our actions cause others to think, "if that's a Christian, I want nothing to do with it."

Jesus draws people to Him. Do we, through the power of His Spirit, draw people to Him? That is our mission.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Baptism of the Lord: Monday, January 8, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Isaiah 40:12-23

This is one of those passages in the Bible where the read is questioned, do you really know what you are talking about? Were you there when God knit together the foundations of the earth? Can you contemplate the mysteries of God? Do you know what all God has done, can do, and will do?

And, this gives me a bit of peace. Why? I am not the only one that struggles with sin and temptation, and neither are you. In fact, our sins and temptations are not unique to us, in fact, we are not the only ones to struggle with them.

Do you not know that God has helped other triumph over the sin that defeats you? Do you not know that God has helped others emerge from the battle you face? Do you not know that God has seen and defeated your sin before? We can go to Him for help for He had helped others, just like you and me. We are not the first redeemed sinner He had helped, nor will we be the last.

New Testament Lesson

Ephesians 1:1-14

This passage reminds us that God was at work for our redemption before the foundations of the world were even laid in place. God has been working for your salvation before you could ever imagine. You are not here by chance; God has something for you. You have so much you can do through Him and for Him. He longs to see you grow closer and know Him more, and will do everything in His power to help you.

The question is will we go as far for God and He has gone for us.

Gospel Lesson

Mark 1:1-13

We see for Jesus that His ministry didn't stop at His baptism, instead that is when it began. If we are going to be like Jesus, we must learn that ministry, that the Christian life does not end at the alter, it begins there. The goal of salvation is to live for God, not just to be converted. In fact, conversion is truly about living for God in all that we do. And, the question is not have we walked to the alter, the question is not have we been baptized, the question is are we truly converted, are we truly living for God in all that we do.

That is what it mean to be Christian, to know Him as Savior, and to live for Him in all that we do. That is our calling, that should be our lives. Are we doing it?

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A thought from Benedict and Sister Joan

There is a great online version of the Rule of Benedict with Joan Chittister's commentary attached, just like the Rule that read from daily. I have gotten into the habit of using the online version, just like I have gotten into the habit of using the online version of the Daily Office. Anyway, I wanted to share with you part of todays reading, along with Sister Joan's comments:

Seeking workers in a multitude of people, God calls out and says again: "Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days (Ps 34:13)? If you hear this and your answer is "I do," God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, "keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from all deceit; turn away from evil and do good; let peace be your quest and aim (Ps 34: 14-15)." Once you have done this, my "eyes will be upon you and my ears will listen for your prayers; and even before you ask me, I will say" to you: "Here I am (Is 58:9)." What is more delightful than this voice of the Holy One calling to us? See how God's love shows us the way of life. Clothed then with faith and the performance of good works, let us set out on this way, with the gospel for our guide, that we may deserve to see the Holy One "who has called us to the eternal presence (I Thes 2:12)."

In Benedict's mind, apparently, the spiritual life is not a collection of asceticisms, it is a way of being in the world that is open to God and open to others. We struggle, of course, with temptations to separate the two. It is so easy to tell ourselves that we overlooked the needs of others because we were attending to the needs of God. It is so easy to go to church instead of going to a friend whose depression depresses us. It is so easy to want silence rather than the demands of the children. It is so much easier to read a book about religion than it is to listen to a husband talk about his job or a wife talk about her loneliness. It is so much easier to practice the privatized religion of prayers and penances than it is to make fools out of ourselves for the Christian religion of globalism and peace. Deep, deep spiritual traditions everywhere, however, reject those rationalizations: "Is there life after death?", a disciple once asked a Holy One. And the Holy One answered, "The great spiritual question of life is not 'Is there life after death?' The great spiritual question is, 'Is there life before death?'" Benedict obviously believes that life lived fully is life lived on two planes: attention to God and attention to the good of the other.

Christmas: Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 28:10-22

The Lord tells Jacob today that He will not leave Him until He is done with Jacob. Sometimes in prayer we pray for God's presence. Believe me, I do it all the time. But, in reality, that is a prayer we don't have to pray, for He is always with us. Now, it never hurts to remind ourselves of that, and quite often these prayers do that for us. But, God is always here.

Today, He didn't tell Jacob I'll leave whenever, He said I will not leave until I am done doing with you what I will do with you. God's presence in our lives is not dependant upon us, it is dependant upon Him. Now, our sin can hide Him from our eyes. Our lack of looking, our lack of hearing, our lack of searching can hide Him from us. But, He is there. Right now, in our lives, no matter where you read this, if in church, in your office, on your cell phone, He is there. Right now, He is here with you. Will you look? Will you listen? Will you seek? He is there. May we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 11:13-22

We see in this passage these great persons of faith, they lived in a way that did not reflect the reality of their eyes. They longed for a heavenly home, but their eyes could not see it. In may ways, faith is about living in the reality of what God will do. One day, we will be in that eternal life. Do we live in the reality? One day, we will stand before a Holy God. Do we live in that reality? One day we will give an account for our sins. Do we live in that reality?

As people of faith, we must live fully and totally devoted lives for God. We must live without a net, trusting God to catch us. We must live as if there is no tomorrow, for none is promised. We must live in a way that that stands out from this world and this culture. We must live lives of faith, lives that trust in what God is doing in our lives, and trusts in what God will do not only in our lives, but in the life of the world, and the life of the church.

Gospel Lesson

John 10:7-17

We see Jesus tell us that the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. I was once said until we have something to day for, we have nothing to live for. So much of our lives are taken up by things that do not matter. Today, do not focus on the things that are trivial. Focus on what matters. Do not focus on the trivial details that so fluster and frustrate us. Focus on the eternal. Focus on Jesus Christ, through the power of theHoly Spirit, being present with you even now.

Focus on the life giving power of the Spirit. . . .

Focus on the great love of God the Father. . . .

Focus on the life that you can know now through Jesus, and the life that is to come. . . .

Focus on how awesome it is that God gives you, and me, a mission in life for Him. . . .

Focus on His love. . . .

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Christmas: Monday, January 2, 2007

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Christmas Day and New Year's Day. We are back from our mission trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and everything should be back to normal as far as blogging.

Old Testament Lesson

Genesis 12:1-7

This passage has one of the more amazing phrases in all of scripture. The Lord tells Abram to go to the land that He will show him. He didn't say, go to Israel. He didn't say go to Jackson. He didn't even say go to Bogue Chitto, MS. He said go to where I will show you.

And, he did. That is faith. Faith is leaping when God says leap, even when you don't know where you will land. Faith is jumping when God says jump, even if you aren't sure why. Faith is trusting that God will be true to His word and true to His promises. Faith gives life. Faith gives hope. Faith gives it all.

But, faith is not safe. It is easier to keep God at an arm's length, to keep Him away. But, that will not bring life. That may bring the illusion of life, but not life itself. Our faith is often dry and weak because we keep God at an arms length. Today, invite Him in. Let Him have His way. Let Him work. And, jump when He says jump. You will be amazed at the life you receive.

New Testament Lesson

Hebrews 11:1-12

We see in this famous "Hall of Faith" the many acts of those great people of faith. And, notice what this faith does. It moves us to action. It moves us to a holy life. It moves us to love God and love our neighbor. It moves us to live for God with all that we are.

Faith is not just a feeling we feel alone, faith is a force that moves us to live for God in all that we do. Faith tells us that through God, we can climb that mountain, with that faith, defeat the power of sin, live free and a actually live for God. Faith starts with that belief in God, and if we believe, do we not believe that God can do all things.

It is one thing to believe in God. It is another to believe that God is still alive, working, challenging, calling, saving, and yes, calling us to do things that we might not want to do. But, that is true faith. James says that even the devils believe. Faith is not just believing in God. Faith is allowing God to change your life. Today, I hope we have true faith.

Gospel Lesson

John 6:35-42, 48-51

Those that come to Jesus will never huger or thirst. I was reading a Psalm this morning, Psalm 34 and it said that even the young lions will grow hungry, but those that wait and trust upon the Lord will never be hungry. We all hunger, we all thirst, but not just for food or drink, but for life. For true, life changing life. For faith that goes beyond the ordinary, for life that goes beyond the mundane, for meaning and relevance in life.

And today, our Savior says, come to me. And I will give you life and food and drink. Today, if you hunger, do not try to feed yourself on the world. Today, if you thrust, do not to try to satisfy yourself on the world. They will leave you empty. But, Jesus, He is life, He is the bread from heaven, He is the living water. He will supply our needs, and give us life. Oh, if we will simply bow down to Him and live in His grace.