Tag Archives: Prayer

RECLAIM, Episode 8: Listening

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM seeking after justice as a God-given requirement. Pastor Todd discusses what justice is and what it means to seek it out.

RECLAIM, Episode 8: Listening

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM listening as a wholesome and healthy part of our daily lives. Pastor Todd discusses what it means to truly listen to other voices and how that helps you grow spiritually and as a person.

RECLAIM, Episode 7: Faith

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom. This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM faith as a wholesome and healthy part of our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss who has faith, and how it can lead us to different levels of seeing.

RECLAIM, Episode 6: Gratitude

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM gratitude as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about what gratitude is, what it means to cultivate a grateful life, as well as why it is important an important spiritual discipline.

RECLAIM, Episode 5: Silence

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM silence as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about observing silence, as well as why it is important an important spiritual discipline.

RECLAIM, part 4: Worship

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -400).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM worship as a wholesome and healthy practice in our daily lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about worship, as well as why it is important to make everything we do worshipful.

RECLAIM, part 3: Prayer & Confession

RECLAIM premieres on YouTube every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST (GMT -500).

In this brand new video series, Pastor Todd of First United Methodist Church of Newton, NJ brings passionate awareness and helpful tips on various transformational Christian practices and theology. Each episode will inspire and motivate spiritual growth through time-tested practices and and wisdom.

This week’s episode invites you to RECLAIM prayer and confession as a wholesome and healthy practices in our lives. Pastor Todd will discuss about prayer, as well as why it is important to confess our sins to God, as well as to other Christians we trust. In this episode you will also find his own experiences with fasting, as well as tips for different ways to fast.

A Thanksgiving That Counts: 2020 Edition

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me; to those who go the right way I will show the salvation of God.”
(Psalms 50:23)

A Thanksgiving That Counts

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, it is easy for us to get warm and fuzzy about the festivities that are about to occur.  Well, maybe that was true previously, it may be less warm and fuzzy because of the COVID-19 restrictions in place that I certainly hope you will all be following responsibly. Still, the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, stuffed to its brim with stuffing. Mashed wax turnips, candied yams, and other sides being cooked on the stove.  All of these scents filling the air and blending with the wafting scent of warm apple and pumpkin pie sitting on the cooling racks.

As a vegan I don’t eat meat or dairy products; however, I am still getting excited about Thanksgiving as well. Albeit plant-based, I am a foodie all the same and I LOVE EATING. There will be aspects of Thanksgiving I miss this year due to the pandemic; however, that does not mean I will be any less thankful.

But as we sit down for dinner on Thanksgiving and prepare ourselves for the feast of all feasts, as we sit down and say our prayers of thanksgiving to God for the abundance we have, let us not forget that a good many people in this world do not have the abundance, or excess (depending on how you look at it), that we have.  A majority of people in the world are lacking the very necessities that they need to survive. Heck, this is even true in America too. Many people are lining up for hours to get what they can from food pantries. Many of these people have never had to rely on pantries before but are now because of the pandemic caused recession we’re in.

God gives each and every one of us what we need, but we often end up taking more than what we need in order to supply ourselves with what we want. We saw that  in the great toilet paper shortage of 2020.  In the process, billions of other people are lacking what they need. Is this because God has failed to give them what they need? No. This is because what God has given to all people has been hoarded by some. The majority of the world suffers as a result of the excessive abundance of a minority.

This is not being brought up to guilt anyone over the disparities of others; rather, it is being brought up as a reminder that praying our prayers of thanksgiving is not enough. God is calling us to something more than empty prayers, God is calling us to act out of our thanksgiving for what God has given us.  Instead of praying and eating our fill, God wants us to take our fill and share it with those in need.

In James 2:16, the author is warning his readers of just that.  It is not enough to tell someone in need that you are “praying” for them without actively seeking to help fill their needs.  That is not to say that prayer is useless, but that empty prayer is no prayer at all…just like empty faith, without deeds, is dead.  We are not a people of a dead faith, nor should we be people who pray dead prayers.

So, with all of that said, enjoy your Thanksgiving festivities tomorrow!  Enjoy your time spent with your household family and all of the good food and fun that God has given you.  As you pray your prayers of thanksgiving, also pray for God to guide you to fill a need of someone who is in need, just as God has filled you.  If you do, God will surely not let you down!  Remember that to whom much as been given, much is required .  Go and bear the hope, healing and wholeness that God wants you to bring to those who need it! God bless and Happy Thanksgiving! May your Thanksgiving be a thanksgiving that counts!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

A truly thankful person gives out of what there is to be thankful for.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for all you have given me. Guide me to fill the needs of those around me who are in need. Amen.

God’s People, part 95: Habakkuk

Read Habakkuk 1

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (Habakkuk‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

  Part 95: Habakkuk. An obscure prophet, of whom little is known, Habakkuk is believed to have lived around, or somewhere following, the rise of the Babylonians (aka the Chaldeans). Living during the seventh century BCE (ca. 612 BCE), he was an early contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Thus, Habakkuk saw the rise of the Babylonian Empire and the imminent danger that empire was to Judah. 

His short prophetic book consists of a series of questions and answers, concluding with a song of praise to God. It starts off with Habakkuk question God. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted” (Habakkuk‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NLT).‬‬

In this, as you can plainly see, the prophet was openly questioning the working of God. He reminded God of his cries for help and then accused God of not listening. He accuses God of ignoring the need for salvation and justice, leaving the wicked to far outnumber the righteous and, as a result, allowing justice to become perverted by wicked people.

Habakkuk has been praised by scholars for his literary genius, believing that he intentionally wrote his letter in this question and answer style in order to deliver the message with dramatic effect. Whether these prayers to God were prayers he actually prayed, or whether these prayers were articulating the serious questions of the “righteous” people of Judah, Habakkuk gives voice to the lament against God’s seeming inactivity in the midst of such corruption.

More than give voice to this kind of lament, Habakkuk actually gives people permission to lament in such ways, to pray in such ways, to pour out one’s heart to God in such ways. The prophet to does not record God’s response in a way that rebukes the inquirer; rather, God entertains the questions and gives answers to the specific work that God is doing.

This pattern happens in the second chapter and, in the third chapter, Habakkuk praised God for the work that God was doing, for God’s justice, and for God’s enduring presence. Thus, after a series of questions and answers, Habakkuk leads the reader into a song of praise of God, reinforcing the reality that God not only can handle our questions, but God will answer them.

This challenges the view of God that many people have, the view that God is distant and hard to approach. Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever found yourself questioning God? Have you ever felt guilty for questioning God? Habakkuk teaches us not only that God will enact justice and hold the wicked, the greedy, and those who abuse their powers accountable, but that God listens to us and does not get angry when we ask questions.

The challenge for us is to grow in our knowledge of God so that we can strenghten our relationship with God. The better we get to know God, the more we honestly and openly communicate (aka pray) with God, the more comfortable we will be with asking God the tough questions. The more we commuicate with God the better we will get at listening to God as well, and hearing God’s response. I pray, if you haven’t already, that you experience such growth.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed by the masses.” —Unknown Author, possibly summarizing “The Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s Republic

PRAYER

Lord, lead me into a deeper and stronger relationsip with you, one where I ask questions and listen for answers. Help me to see you clearly, so that I may see truth beyond the shadows that surround me. Amen.

The Sermon, part 24: Asking and Receiving

Read Matthew 7:7-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 NRSV)

askseekknockEvery Christmas season, kids beging to put their lists together to send to the jolly old elf in the North Pole. All year long, kids look forward to this particular holiday where their everything they want, or so they hope, will be lying under an evergreen tree wrapped in paper and a bow. With that said, all year long parents are reminding their children that they had better be nice or other wise Santa will be bringing them a lump of coal. Or worse still, they had better not be naught or Krampus (Google it) will come to visit them.

Still, kids know that they will end up with presents and not coal or some soul snatching, child-eating demon under their tree. They know that they are going to at least get some, if not all, of what they had put on their list. In fact, the list is just half of the equation. Not only do kids make their list out, but they persist in telling their parents that they really want this, or they really are hoping Santa gets them that. Their persistence is enough to get them what they want.

What is sad is that this kind of Christmas list mentality doesn’t end at Christmas time, no is it just prevelant with children. In fact, many grown Christians hold this mentality as well and it is how they approach their prayer life. God is seen as some sort of Santa Claus in the sky and faith is seen as some sort of vehicle that helps you believe God will fulfill your wish list. I guess this is the result of living in a consumer driven world, where the consumer (the church goer) is always right and expects to get what they paid for (through offering, or through faith and/or devtion, etc.).

Thus, many Christians approach today’s passage with that understanding in mind. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” That get’s interpreted into a prosperity driven message of persisting (aka bugging) God for what you want until you get it. If God doesn’t answer your prayer it’s because you didn’t pray hard enough, or you didn’t pray in the right manner, or you didn’t persist enough in your prayers.

This is a bad, bad, bad theology and it also happens to be completely missing the point of Jesus’ teaching here. First, it needs to be said that Jesus has already modeled what our prayer should look like in Matthew 6 (refer back to parts 15 & 16 of this series to refresh your memory). Today’s text comes in light of the Lord’s Prayer, and it is clear that the kind of prayer Jesus things we ough to be praying looks nothing like a Christmas wish list for Santa.

Rather, we should be praying for God’s will to be done, for God’s Kingdom to come, and for God to give us what we need spiritually and physically to carry on the work God’s calling us to do (this is different than praying for God to give us what we want). We should be praying for forgiveness (for ourself and others), and asking God to guide us every step of the way. Today’s text is setting up what are three Jewish expressions for prayer: Ask, seek, knock. These aren’t three unrelated expressions, either, but are three interrelated expressions that help us to establish a dynamic and vital prayer life.

Asking God implies less of a “begging” for God to gift us with things, as much as implies a complete dependence on God for everything, just as a child totally depends on his/her parents. We ask God, because we know God is the one who provides. Asking must be understood in light of our dependence on God, for it to truly be what Christ is teaching us. Yet, prayer does not just involve us asking and God supplying. God is not the only active participant, but we are as well.

Jesus’ three tiered approach to understanding prayer is that we will ask by seeking and knocking. In other words, we don’t just ask, sit back and wait. Rather, we ask for God’s will to be done all the while seeking it out and knocking on all of the doors until we find the one God has opened for us. Prayer is not just done with our words, but with our very actions. We should be living embodiments of our prayers, totally dependent on God, but totally an active participant in God’s plan for us and for this world. This is what it means to pray, according to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We ask God, not only with our words, but through our actions by seeking and knocking. When we are aligned with and dependent upon God’s will, and when we actively seek and knock in order to follow God’s will, we surely will receive what we are actively searching for.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for the gift of prayer. May your will be done, and may I ever seek and knock on doors until your will be revealed unto me. Amen.