Tag Archives: Prayer

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.

The Sermon, part 17: The Model

Read Matthew 6:9-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is Yours, O LORD, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as the One who is over all things. (1 Chronicles 29:11, NLT)

jesusprayerThe Lord’s Prayer is considered to be the greatest Christian prayer in the history of Christianity; however, I would be amiss to leave out the fact that The Lord’s Prayer is, at its core, a wholly Jewish prayer. For instance, it was the custom in first century Jewish prayer to address God as “Our Father”. What’s more, there is nothing in this prayer that would go against the religious convictions of the Jewish people. All Jews are in line with praising God, praying for God’s will to be done, praying for God’s Kingdom to come, praying for daily bread, forgiveness, and the deliverance from the evil one.

There are a few things we can pull from this prayer that will benefit us as Christians. Jesus lays this prayer out as a model for his disciples to shape their prayer life around. First, this prayer only goes to show that Jesus’ spiel on public prayer was meant more as a rhetorical device than to be taken literally. The very usage of plural pronouns and determiners such as “we”, “us”, and “our”, suggests that this is a communal prayer that Jesus is modeling for his disciples. It is a prayer that is meant to be prayed corporately and in public.

Second, it is a prayer that is patterned in a way that put God at the center of it, but is not devoid of concern for the people praying. The prayer starts off with a praising of God. To quote the King James Version, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” This praising of God not only honors God as holy, but also clearly states who God is in relation to Jesus. For the word Father, Jesus does not use the Hebrew word for father, but rather uses the Aramaic word of “Abba”, which is a both a child’s term of endearment toward their papa or their dada, as well as it is an adults child’s formal way of addressing his/her father.

Thus, the  use of the word “Abba” denotes an intimate relationship between God (the Father), and Jesus the son. On top of that, the prayer implicates that God is not only Jesus’ father, but “our Father” as well. We are all God’s children, and those who believe in and follow Jesus acknowledge that they are included in that intimate father/child relationship. What’s more, it is implied that Jesus is not only our LORD (of which he certainly is), but also our brother.

The first half of the prayer deals with God and God’s will for this world. The people praying this prayer are, then, aligning themselves with God’s will, which is to bring heaven to earth and establish God’s Kingdom here. The second half of the prayer deals with us, and the way in which God’s Kingdom will be realized. “Daily bread” is a reference to “manna” which was provided to the Israelites during the Exodus. It is a reminder that in order to share in God’s future blessings when God’s Kingdom comes, we must trust that God provides for us in the here and now.

The prayer reinforces that to receive God’s forgiveness in the Kingdom to come, we are to be a people who forgive. This forgiveness, by the way, does not just refer to the forgiveness of sins, or forgiveness on a spiritual level. Jesus very intentionally utilizes “debt forgiveness” as a way of showing the expansiveness of God’s forgiveness. A debt can be rightly seen as metaphorical for sins, but it also points the Christian to God’s future Kingdom, where poverty, oppression, and social-economic injustice cease to be. This prayer is designed to realign the hearts of the people praying it with the heart of God. Forgive us what we owe you God (and let’s face it, we owe God EVERYTHING), just as we forgive others what they owe us. That includes sins, money, favors, allegiance, and anything that could be considered a debt.

The prayer then also acknowledges that EVIL exists, and that we are often tempted to join in with evil rather than resist it. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to maintain the status quo than to risk our livelihoods, our jobs, our families, and our lives to stand up for what is right; yet, in God’s kingdom the status quo will be overturned and replaced with God’s righteousness and justice. While the closing words of the prayer were not originally in Jesus’ prayer, they are biblical (1 Chronicles 29:11) and appropriately remind us that we are to LIVE FOR GOD and that GOD does not LIVE FOR US. It appropriately reminds us that we are to be converted to God’s will, and give up on trying to bend God to our will. In essence, it concludes where the prayer started off. In other words, our prayer life should center on God and God’s will for us. Our prayer life should also translate into how we live our lives and serve our God. This is the model Christ gave to us, and we are challenged and charged to follow it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.” – Henry B. Eyring

PRAYER
Silently, pray “The Lord’s Prayer” as often as you feel called to pray it.

The Sermon, part 16: God-Centered Prayer

Read Matthew 6:7-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: ‘Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: “To an Unknown God.” This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the One I’m telling you about.’” (Acts 17:22-23 NLT)

ladyonthemoonI have yet to reveal this in my devotions, but most who have known me over the years know that I had once practiced Wicca[i] for nearly a decade of my life. I was brought up in a Christian home, raised to be a Christian in a church, and had even experienced the call to become a pastor as a child. With that said, as a teenager I became disenfranchised with Christianity and with institutionalized religion as a whole. More than that, I was disenfranchised with myself and was seeking who I was, as opposed to who everyone else though I should be.

I know, I know, it’s a common teenage thing: the search for identity; but it’s not to be scoffed at, and it led me to Wicca. Honestly, I thank God for that. Yes, you heard me right, Wicca was a gift given to me from God and I am thankful for it. Through Wicca, God gave me the space to grow, to discover myself, to find my God-given identity, and it kept me seeking the divine rather than denying it. It gave me the space to, overtime, reconnect with my calling and to wrestle with my faith. What’s more, there is truth within the teachings of Wicca and I learned a great deal about God through it.

Since, then (in 2004 to be exact) I came back to Christ, not because Wicca was bad or wrong or (add your adjective here), but because Christ had laid a claim on my life long before I ever chose to go out and explore my spiritual identity. While I may have left the Church, I never left God and God never left me; rather, believe it or not, I grew closer to God through Wicca and gained a much better appreciation and affinity for God’s creation.

The relevance of all of this is that, because of my experience in religions outside of Christianity, I have something to offer in terms of understanding what Jesus is talking about when using the term “pagans” (depending on what translation you use). Matthew was written in Greek, and the word that Matthew quotes Jesus saying is, ἐθνικός (pronounced eth-nee-kos’).  This often gets translated to “pagan” or “Gentile”. It is where we get our English word “ethnic” from and, in Jesus’ Jewish context, it refers to anyone who is NOT ethnically Jewish and/or has not converted to Judaism.

In this passage, Jesus uses the common Jewish perception of Gentiles (or pagans) in regard to prayer. In the ancient pagan world, people would go to great lengths to pray the right prayers, say all the right things, and perform all the right rituals in order to appease the gods and make them happy. To fail to do so could result in the prayer not being answered. In other words, the prayer was intended to manipulate the gods to do what the person was praying for.

If taken literally, Jesus’ words could be seen as an oversimplification, if not a mischaracterization of those religions. In the ancient, Greco-Roman world, there were many different types of pagan religion and cult groups. Each of them had different practices and different beliefs. What’s more, to take his words and try to literally apply them to a modern-day, neopagan religion such as Wicca, would be a mischaracterization. Wicca is a religion that seeks to find balance and harmony with nature and doing one’s part to add to that balance. It is not a religion that solely focuses on self, nor does it seek to prayerfully appease angry, fickle gods.

Yet, Jesus’ point in teaching about prayer was not to put down “pagans” as much as it was to distinguish what prayer ought to be in the Judeo-Christian context. It ought not to be focused on self or on manipulating God/nature in order to affect self-driven (not always self-centered) change in the world around us. That is not what prayer, as defined by Jesus, ought to be. Yet, can Christians truly hold non-Christians to account on that? Do Christians model God-driven or self-driven prayer? Is one’s prayer life centered on self, and on what oneself needs, or is one’s prayer life centered on God and what God wills?

That is what Jesus is talking about in today’s passage. It is not a judgment against “pagans” or other religions, as Christians have unfortunately interpreted it; rather, it is a mirror that Jesus is holding up to Christians to measure themselves in. He utilized language that the people of his time would understand, drawing a comparison between the way the Greco-Roman world practiced prayer, and the way Christians ought to practice it.

The questions for us are these: Are we set apart for God, or are we set apart for ourselves? Are we living the talk, or are we talking differently than how we live? In what is to follow from this passage, Jesus is about to show us what God-driven/God-centered prayer is all about. Reflect on your prayer life between this devotion and next in order to prepare for the instruction our Lord is about to give.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Søren Kierkegaard.
PRAYER
Lord, I center my prayer on you. What is it you would have of me? Show me the way. Amen.

[i]Due to time and the focus of this devotion, I cannot go into detail about Wicca. If you want to learn more about it, here is a reasonable and accurate web site which you can visit: http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/wiccan-basics/

The Sermon, part 15: Authentic Prayer

Read Matthew 6:5-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law.” (Proverbs 28:9 NLT)

authentic-indian-laoshan-sandalwood-prayer-beads-bracelets-16-mm-beads-8a8143da7a340fb23016a36462a24820There can be no doubt that Jesus was for authenticity. Jesus was not a fan of fake people and he had a word he liked to use toward fake people: “hypocrites”. The word “hypocrites” in Greek (the language Matthew was written in) is ὑποκριτής (pronounced hoop-ok-ree-tace’) literally means “stage actor.” Thus, properly speaking, a hypocrite is a person who puts on a show.

Unfortunately, today’s passage has become one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted texts in the enitre New Testament. Throughout Christian history, it has been an unfortunate reality that Judaism has gotten the short end of the stick. They’ve taken the blame for “killing Jesus”, they’ve taken the blame for being more concerned with “the law” than with God or human beings, and they’ve taken the blame for just about everything you can imagine.

This, in my mind, is a blight on Christianity and it is to our shame that Christians have in the past and continue to look down their proverbial noses at our Jewish brothers and sisters. Do we forget that Jesus was a faithful Jewish rabbi and prophet? Do we forget that Jesus claimed to be the JEWISH messiah? Do we forget that Paul and some of the earliest Christians were, in fact, Jewish?

In fact, Paul had some choice words for Christians who were starting to discriminate against Jews within the church in Rome. “You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into His cultivated tree, He will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong” (Romans 11:24 NLT). While Paul was trying to understand Judaism in the context of the risen Christ, and he was trying to develop his own soteriology (understanding of Salvation) in light of the fact that many Jews had not accepted Christ as the Jewish Messiah, he also did not condone, nor did he participate in, the bashing or blaming of his Jewish brothers and sisters.

Now, back to prayer. Jesus states in verse 5 that one should not “pray as the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on the street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.” This verse was not meant to be taken literally as a pronouncement against public prayer. First off, the synagogue is known as a house of prayer and it is where countless Jews, Jesus included, went to pray and worship. Public prayer in the synagogue was normal and quite called for, just as it is called for in our churches.

Second, public prayer in the street corners was NOT a normal practice in Judaism, nor was it necessary. It is inherently wrong and slanderous for Christians to propogate this as a common practice in Judaism. Again, Jesus was not saying this a commanded prohibition against the act of public prayer, which he clearly wanted the church to engage in (Matthew 18:19-20), but on the intent behind it! This is important to note.

What Jesus is doing is calling us to look within our own hearts and search the motive(s) behind our prayer. Are we praying for recognition, to appear to be holy, or to gain some sort of selfish desire? Are we stage actors, putting on a good show and pretending to be something we totally are not? Or are we praying to GOD alone, for the sake of praying to God? Is our prayer centered on God, and God’s will, fully expectant that God objectively hears and listens to our prayers? Do we believe, or are we mere stage actors looking for something else?

Jesus’ comman to go in a closet, or to be alone when praying, is not meant to be taken literally; rather, it is asking us if our prayer is centered on God ALONE and, on top of that, are we totally focused on GOD alone. We can fake pray in the closet too, just as easily as we can in a public place. The location, nor the company, is not what matters, what matters is the authenticity. Where are you in your prayer life? Are you authentic? Are you solely focused on God, or are have you let others (yourself included) into that (metaphorical) space that is meant to be for God alone? Reflect on this and be challenged by it to further develop your prayer life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther

PRAYER
Lord, I offer you my authentic prayers for I know that you alone hear them when I pray. Amen.

Expanding the Horizon

Read Mark 1:21-28

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

YogiJesusA little over four years ago, I embarked on a cross-cultural trip to India. During my time there, I had zig-zagged across the large country starting in Bangalore, traveling to Kerala on the Western Coast, back to Madurai in Central Southern India, over to Chennai (aka Madras) in Tamil Nadu on the Eastern Coast of Southern India, and then finally up to New Delhi and Agra in Northern India. All of that packed with different cultural experiences, culture shocks, and all that packed in three weeks time.

It was both an exhausting and a rewarding trip. One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was that I got to see Jesus in a whole new light. Growing up America, I knew the Jesus of my childhood well. I knew the reverent, light-skinned, golden flowing hair, blue-eyed Jesus that taught us to love one another and died for our sins. I knew the resurrected Christ who promised would come again. Of course, the Jesus I grew up understanding was coming from my reading of Scripture through the lenses of Western art, film, church and cultural experiences.

And there is nothing wrong with those experiences, for they are very much a part of the foundation of my faith. With that said, in India I came across the meditating, guru Jesus. On the one hand the image was exotic, distinctly Indian, and seemingly foreign to me; however, as I began to look at that Jesus, sitting in the cross-legged position in a circle with his disciples, I began to realize that this, too, was the Jesus of Scripture. After all, to use the Indian term, Jesus was a guru, which simply means teacher (or Rabbi as it is called in Hebrew). Also, Jesus was very spiritually in tune with God and with himself, and he no doubt meditated on God, on the Scriptures and certainly prayed continually as a part of his spiritual discipline.

Some people might be pausing here and saying, “Hey, that sounds awfully like Eastern philosophy/religion to me! That can’t be Biblical!” But, with careful evaluation and study, one cannot help but notice that Judaism (and Jesus was a Jew), is a Middle-EASTERN religion…not originally a Western religion. The Scriptures are loaded with Middle-Eastern symbology, with an emphasis on meditation and communion with God, and with plenty of wise sages roaming the countryside with bands of followers. All of this truly corroborates the Indian image of Jesus that I saw in my travels through India.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying to abandon the way you have come to know Jesus. That would not be true to your relationship with him, nor would it be true to your personal faith experiences. What I am saying is that we should be willing to meet Jesus everywhere and anywhere we go, and we should be open to meeting him in the ways that others have gotten to know him too! After all Christianity is not about EAST or WEST, NORTH or SOUTH, HERE or THERE; rather, Christianity is about CHRIST!

Today’s challenge is for you to open yourself to Christ in ways you never thought possible. Can we ever know CHRIST fully enough? Is Christ as small as the limits of our own minds and theologies? Or is Christ transcendent of those limitations? I choose to believe the latter and, in my experience, I have not been disappointed in how, when, where and with who I meet my LORD and Savior! I pray the same becomes true for you as well!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit” – Asaph (Psalm 77:6)

PRAYER

Lord, open my heart and my mind to meet you everywhere, anywhere and anyway you reveal yourself to me. Amen.

The Trust Game

Read Genesis 16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalms 37:5)

Picture_12_xxxlargeWhen I was in High School, I remember that we used to have to do all sorts of different “team building” activities in gym. The idea was to teach the students how to work as a team, how to rely on each other as teammates and, most importantly, to learn to trust one another. If a team does not act as a single unit, it will fall apart into a fragmented mess.

One of the activities that our gym teachers would have us do involved a great deal of trust. They would blindfold some of the students and have them stand with their backs facing other students. In turn, the students were told to lean back and let themselves fall back into the arms of the people standing behind them.

I remember when it was my turn to be blindfolded. I remember how paralyzed I was for fear that the other person wouldn’t catch me. The last thing I wanted to do was to fall flat down on the ground, making a fool of myself in front of all my peers. It was hard, extremely hard, letting myself go in order to fall back into the arms of the person behind me. Eventually, I did let go, was caught in mid-air, and was relieved when my turn was over. With that said, I cannot say that I felt any more trust, nor was I looking forward to do that again.

We, as human beings, have a particularly hard time putting our trust in other people. And this is never any more evident than it is in the church. Too many times we find infighting, bickering, dissention, and all sorts of conflict rise over the issue of trust. But the trust issue doesn’t stop there. Though we attend church, we sing hymns, we praise God, and we pray to God, we ultimately find ourselves lacking in trust when it comes to God.

Though we say that we put our faith and trust in God, we often find ourselves acting in a way that would state otherwise. Though we say that we trust God to guide us through our situations, we find ourselves trying to do things our way, just like when Abraham figured he would have to sleep with his servant in order for God’s promise to come true. Instead of fully placing our trust in God, we pull back our trust in order to “take control” of things.

It is in those moments that we find ourselves in situations we could have otherwise avoided had we only placed our trust in God to guide us through. As the church, as Christians, we are called to be a people of faith and of trust. We are called to trust in God and we are called to trust in each other. If we do not stand together, and place our trust in one another, then what good news are we really displaying to the rest of the community? If we are lost in our own brokenness how can we ever witness to the hope, healing and wholeness that Christ has to offer?

The challenge today is for us, as Christians, to begin to reestablish our trust in God. It is time to let go and fall back into God’s arms. We need to trust that God will not let us fall and, so long as we love God and are called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), God will do mighty things in us, through us and even in spite of us. But how can we place our trust in God if we cannot even put our trust in those who are trying to serve God alongside of us? God desires all of us to be a people of trust. Place your trust in God and let God lead you from where you are to where God is calling you to be.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“Let the love of God lighten your life, let his kindness mold you into his presence, let him be your guide as you travel the road of life.” – Unknown

PRAYER

Lord, today I place my trust in you. Lead me in a way that deepens my trust in you and in your people. Amen.

 

Never at a Loss

Read Psalm 18:2-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” (Psalm 48:12-14)

Letting_Go_by_TheMadScientistI just recently watched a movie called “The Dead Matter” and, as you can probably guess by the title, it was a horror film about vampires trying to use some magical relic to raise the dead in order to use them as an army to…I can only guess…take over the world. Okay, so the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering but there was something about the film that struck me as being all too familiar to the human experience.

Gretchen, who is the main human character in the movie, accidentally stumbles upon the relic. She also happens to be a grieving sister who had recently lost her brother in a car accident. She wanted nothing more than to see her brother again. She missed him terribly and just could not let him go. As mentioned earlier, this relic has the power to bring the dead to life and, upon discovering that power, Gretchen seeks to bring back her brother.

Of course, that plan does not work out the way that Gretchen had hoped it would. Rather than bringing her brother back, everyone and their mother starts to come back to life. You can only imagine what kind of nightmare that would be. And even if she did bring her brother back from the dead, would he really still be her brother? I think we all can agree that whatever came back to bite her (pun completely intended), it would not be her brother.

While Gretchen was dealing with the loss of her brother, the fact of the matter is that, regardless of what kind we are dealing with, we often have a hard time dealing with loss. Whether it be our relationships, our careers, our sense of control, our comfort, or our way of doing things, there can be little doubt that we spend a great deal of our time trying to avoid letting go. Some people will resist any kind of change for fear of the loss that will come as a result of it. Indeed, it is hard for us to deal with loss.

Jesus was no stranger to loss. He lost his identity as a carpenter. He lost the comfort of his own home. He lost the trust of his family (who all thought he was crazy). He lost the chance of leading a “normal” life. He lost many of his followers when they realized their lives were on the line; and, in the end, Jesus lost his own life. Yet, Jesus let all of that go because he realized that regardless of the loss, he would never lose the hope of God’s presence.

Remember that you, too, are being called to let go of the things that are holding you back from living the life God has called you to live. Let go of your anxiety, let go of your fear, let go of your resistance to change, let go of your need for control, let go of your grudges, let go of it all. The more you let go, the more you realize that God never lets you go. Today’s challenge is for you to let go and let God’s presence fill you with hope, healing and wholeness.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.

PRAYER

Lord, teach me to let go and to put my trust completely in you. Amen.