Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A prayer about music

Master Musician, we come to sing Your praises and to reflect Your creativity. Some say You sung creation into existence; You have certainly given us a song. Music is as much a part of battle as armor and armaments. Trumpets, fifes, drums, and bagpipes have rallied troops on the battlefield; and in spiritual warfare we express our faith in song to do battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We sing resurrection melodies in triumph over sin and death, singing the triumphs of Your grace. Renew in us O Lord a melody in our hearts to overcome the trials we face, and to triumph in spite of all that is around us. This we pray, in Your thrice-holy Name, Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Grace..BC/AD

We’re in the Upper Room, hearing that Jesus plans to give His life for us. And we think that we have just entered an age of grace, which did not previously exist, which was alien to Old Testament times, which was not realized till Jesus. Yet in a sense, people in BC and AD both found salvation the same way--by grace. Jesus was the reality to which the sacrificial system had pointed. The OT gives us the foundation; the NT the fulfillment. How did the sons of Abraham obtain salvation? How were they pardoned? By living a holy life? Not possible. Israel clung to two things: One, that they were children of the Covenant, God’s chosen people; …and second, a system of atonement established by God--the Temple sacrifices for sin. Israel did not believe they could ever be “good enough.” But with a ritual in place, their sins were covered. What mattered then was how to live as God’s people. Why were Temple sacrifices necessary? Because sin cannot be overlooked. It must be punished. That was long ago. We may ask, “So what? What’s does that mean to us?” We live, not under God’s displeasure, but His acceptance, in spite of our many imperfections. This changes everything. It gives us hope. All because of grace. And what is grace? It is love that pays a price. Here’s how it worked… In the OT lambs were offered upon the altar. In the NT the Lamb of God offered Himself, upon the cross. That which normally was obtained by the Temple is now obtained through Jesus, the New Temple. He did for Israel what Israel could not do for itself. He was all that the Temple stood for and more. God promised in the OT to “tabernacle” with His people; literally to “dwell” with them. That was ultimately fulfilled, not with a building, but through Jesus. He is the place where Heaven and Earth join together. By claiming He was the Temple, Jesus meant that He was the means by which God was present with Israel. When the reality appeared, the Temple was needed no more…and thus in 70 AD it was destroyed. In Jesus the glory of the Lord has been revealed, and that glory has a human face. N.T. Wright points out, “Jesus is not only the Temple in person, but the one in whom everything that would normally happen in the Temple is fulfilled, completed, accomplished…All the functions of the Temple--festival, presence, priesthood, and sacrifice--have passed to Jesus.” Grace existed in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; grace came to completion in Christ, and grace will be with us all our days. Grace matters. We’re not alone and on our own; it all doesn’t depend on us. We live by the grace Jesus supplies. What a relief! How sweet the sound!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mulligan Grace

Golf teaches people many wonderful life lessons. Among them are these: patience, humility, gracious winning (rare), graceful losing, and “the mulligan”. For those not familiar with the golfing term "mulligan" don’t look it up in the official rules of golf. You won’t find it. A mulligan is a golfing term for a "do-over." You make a bad shot, and sometimes your partner will give you a chance to make amends. Someone wrote a book recently about Presidents and golf. JFK was nearly a professional golfer, but didn’t want people to know it. LBJ used the game of golf to practice politics. And Bill Clinton perfected the mulligan--he would challenge the limits of his fellow players’ patience and good favor by asking for dozens of mulligans in a round of golf. In the Bible, we have a spiritual mulligan. We call it grace. I John 1:9 reminds us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." A spiritual mulligan is there for the taking. We mistakenly think we have to be good enough to make it to Heaven, to deserve God’s favor. Let’s say that it takes 100 points to get to Heaven. How many points would you give Mother Teresa? Maybe 85. Saddam Hussein? 5 at best. How many would you give yourself? Jesus makes up the difference. A man got to the Pearly Gates and was told of this “system”, that he’d need 100 points to make it in. He said that he’d been faithful to his wife of over 50 years of marriage, and St Peter said, “That’s 3 points.” He said he’d been active in his church and was a deacon. Peter said, “Very good, 2 points.” The man was getting nervous. He said, “I worked as a volunteer at a food pantry.” Peter smiled. “Another 2 points.” The man groaned. At this rate the only way I’m going to make it is by the grace of God.” Peter said, “You just got 100 points! Welcome in!” British author CS Lewis was attending a conference on world religions. A question came up about what made Christianity unique, different from other faiths. He answered, “That’s easy; it’s grace.” No other religion has grace—God giving us what we don’t deserve--Heaven, and not giving us what we do deserve—that “other place”. We can be grateful that God loves us in spite of our faults. He can do so because Jesus took our punishment. Our sins must be paid for—and they were—on the cross.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Judging others

We judge others by their actions; we judge ourselves by our intentions. We need to give others the benefit of the doubt. It’s easy to assume we know why people do what they do. We may be very wrong in our assessment; we don’t know their motives and we’re prone to misinterpret what we’ve heard (or think we've heard). Until we check things out, it might be best for us to say nothing, to reserve our judgment. A lot of times our problem is communication, which is going beyond what is said to what is meant. By not listening carefully, we may come to wrong conclusions over what people say and do. Thankfully, God forgives us because Jesus took the punishment we deserve. When we stand before the Almighty Judge we shouldn't want our “just deserts”; we should want mercy!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A prayer of Thanksgiving

Today, O LORD, we express our Thanksgiving. We begin with the simple things of our days: Fresh air to breathe, cool water to drink, The taste of food, the comforts of home. For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day! We recall the warmth of humankind that we have known: The caring of parents, the encouragement of friends; Even the tears we have shed and seen; The tightening of the grip in a simple handshake when we Feared the road before us in darkness; The whisper in the heart when temptation was fiercest The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open Page when a decision hung in the balance. Without You, O Lord, life would have no meaning; The pilgrims saw this truth and set their sails for a new world. For all this we make an act of Thanksgiving this day. Our Father--in humbleness of mind, simplicity of heart, And in our Savior’s Name--we pray, Amen. (Howard Thurman)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

8 Things you aren't taught in seminary

By Rev Dr John Huffman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (notes on his chapel lecture on 29 Oct 2013) 1) Seminary can be the best place in the world to lose your faith…by becoming professional, by a casual familiarity with religious work, and by a purely academic approach to Scripture that doesn’t touch the heart. 2) The necessity of maintaining a daily devotional time, apart from professional reading, sermon and Bible study preparation. 3) The highest calling in the world is not professional ministry. Clergy are not elite individuals, but player-coaches. 4) You will never be more in ministry than you are today. Don’t live for tomorrow. Be faithful right now. 5) Get involved in an accountability/covenant group where you can share and pray, and never be out of one. 6) Simple trust in God’s word is more important than a highly sophisticated answer to everything (plus-you don’t have all the answers). This is not to minimize academic excellence, but strive to be a trusting, loving person who is close to God. 7) Spend time knowing the news and culture so you can relate to the world of the people you’re ministering to, so you can speak to where they’re at. Go native. 8) Be faithful to biblical/moral standards now—not when you become a minister. Seeds are being sown right now, and some might well shipwreck your life.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

10 Prayer Tips

1. Choose a specific place to pray, away from distractions so you can concentrate. Ringing phones and crying children will sabotage your "quiet time" before it gets started. 2. Pray at the same time every day, if at all possible. Make it part of your regular routine and it will become a habit. Write it into your schedule and then treat it just like a daily appointment. 3. Pray out loud. Many people can pray under their breath or in their minds for long periods and still maintain intensity, but for most of us it's a quick ticket to dreamland. When we pray out loud we have to form intelligent sentences. We have to concentrate more on what we're praying about. 4. Keep a note pad handy so you can jot down different things that come to mind while you're before the Lord. Sometimes you'll get great ideas totally unrelated to what you've been praying about. If you jot them down you can quickly get back to the topic at hand without being too distracted. 5. Make a list to keep track of your prayer needs. This can be done several ways. Prayer needs can be listed by category like "Church," "Family," or "Unsaved friends." Or they may be listed by the days of the week. Each day you pray for a different set of needs. You may want to include prayer everyday for a different area of society that has a tremendous influence on the direction of our nation. These seven categories include 1) the church and religion, 2) the family and the home, 3) friends, 4) government/world events, 5) education, 6) the media, business and commerce, and 7) the arts and entertainment. 6. Redeem time for praying out of unused corners of your schedule. Those who have to drive to work can use the time talking with the Lord instead of yelling at bad drivers and potholes (just don't close your eyes!). Busy homemakers can combine prayer with housework, especially if the task doesn't require a lot of concentration. Joggers, swimmers and cyclists can use their workout time for prayer. 7. Change the pace during your prayer time. Include praise, thanksgiving and singing as well as petition. Spend some of your time reflecting on the Scripture, meditating on it and digesting its meaning. Write down your prayers occasionally…which leads to: 8. Keep a prayer journal. Here are two variations of this idea. The first is to keep track of what you prayed for and when you prayed for it. Leave a space to jot down the answer when it comes. This will help you to keep alert to God's answer so you can thank Him promptly. Sometimes prayer answers come in the back door and you don't want them to slip by you. The second variation is to write the entire prayer in your journal. Make it a personal letter to the Lord on a daily basis. Just write "Dear Lord" instead of "Dear Diary." 9. Pray with someone else. Though some prayers can only be said in solitude, there will be times when you'll want to join hearts with another person in prayer. If you commit to meet on a regular basis, the accountability can really help build consistency. Such prayer trysts can become powerful, life-changing events. A partner gives you accountability and encouragement to pray faithfully. 10. Pray one-sentence prayers. If the thought of laboring over a topic wears you out, pray short, sincere prayers instead. A sentence or two may be all that's needed to exhaust the topic for you for the time being. If so, just move on to the next item without feeling guilty for your brevity.