Be Joyful and Pray!

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

One of my wife’s last public postings as prefaced with I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 – “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In that posting she made mention that I was beginning phased retirement and that we would have some extra time together.  It was extra time, bit all too brief as she passed two weeks later.   But the message resonates for me.  Joy!  yes, I am sad at her leaving, but I have joy over her destination.   But returning to her post she wrote:

“Much as we appreciate your prayers for me, especially as my condition continues to change so fast, I have a lot of spare time at home, so would ask you also to share your prayer needs with me too, so I can pray for you.”

“Pray without ceasing,” give thanksgiving in all things.  I am thankful that she was in my life.  I am thankful that she did not suffer.  I am thankful she was and is at peace.  But even more so I am thankful for her example.  She wanted to use her time of unceasing prayer to lift up the needs of others.

Accordingly, I ask that just as she did, if anyone reading this has prayer needs – please let me know.  I, and Dianne before me, do not need details, only an indication that there is a need.  I don’t want to pry into anyone’s life, nor create a “talking point.”   God will know what the need is – I just need to know to lift it up.

Pray for me too my friends.   I am still getting used to this “new normal,” and I above all want to remain strong.  Your prayers will help me to be so.

Padre

Seeing the Opportunities

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Image by Roman Grac from Pixabay 

Last week at our church’s weekly prayer meeting, Pastor Vince noted that he felt the call for the church to take this week’s Monday meeting to the streets.  Several of us stayed at the church building to offer up prayers of protection and support, while the others went out and prayed for the community, even entering into pubs and fast food establishments to pray for those there.

As with many godly acts it didn’t come easily.  The skies opened and the “street team” faced some of the heaviest downpours we have seen in several months.  But their fire was not dampened, and though wet they saw the opportunity to affect the community and took it.

” . . . As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (Romans 10:15b).”  The beauty was truly there in the obedience and commitment to make a difference!

This attitude of taking all of the available opportunities to serve God was one that Dianne understood.  It is, I am sure, more than coincidence that my perusal today of her testimony journal* contained this passage:

“i have been very aware that 1 Peter 5: 7 instructs us to cast all our anxieties on him, because we know that he cares for us. I know these trials are disguised opportunities, i just need to look for openings. I have been able to share my faith with my gp and now with the hospice workers i have met. Next week i meet the hospice doctor and another opportunity.  At the same time i continue these weekly postings, and talk with friends via im and give and receive encouragement and prayers. Even housebound, i can touch the outside world thanks to modern technology and hopefully give glory to God. For that i am very grateful. I can still serve Him, even now.”

Let us too, look for the opportunities to serve Him!

Padre

*Dianne’s posting 27 April 19

When God Says No

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Gethsemane  ©Padre’s Ramblings

 

God is not a cosmic Father Christmas, where our lists are checked twice, and then placed under the tree for us.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that God does not bless and prosper us, nor does He never “give in” to our whims.  It is more that God as an omni-benevolent being, gives us what is good for us, and sometimes that necessitates the answer, “No” to our petitions and entreaties.

A few weeks ago some of my students were struggling with the Epicurean dilemma.  If God is truly good, how can he allow evil?  The short answer is that firstly, He is not the author of evil, but rather of free will.  We in our abuse of that freedom, cause moral suffering.  Why have, I deviated from my starting point?  It is to illustrate that when we ask for things like, “God make so-in-so do this or that,” His answer will be “No.”  He will not restrict free will, as that would be contrary to His loving nature.  Just turn the request on its head.  Would you feel as if God (or anyone else for that matter) loved you if they “forced” you into compliance?

Associated with this are the other “No” answers we might receive.  “Let me win the lottery,” or “Make me famous,” may sound like positives, but are they actually what is “good for us?”  God cares about you and like “the birds of the air,” He will provide your needs, not necessarily our greeds.

And there is the ultimate “good” we also have to consider.  The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 9 wrote, “. . . a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant. I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.” God’s ultimate concern is for our salvation, our spiritual growth, and our relationship with Him.”

This was shown as well in the mission of His Son, Jesus.  Even He received the “negative” reply in the garden at Gethsemane.   Mark notes, “Going a little farther, he [Jesus] fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him [14:35].  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.”  Yet not what I will, but what you will [36].”  While not explicit, it is clear in Jesus’ yielding to carry out the plan of salvation, the Father’s will was to hold the course, or more simply, “No.”

We do not always see as God sees.  Our views are limited, and our insights to the consequences flawed.  His never are.  Let us not take the “silence of heaven” or the failure to have our wish list filled in every instance to “evidence” of the lack of a deity, or that that God is mean, but merely that He is looking after us in a way we have yet to understand.  In those instances let us, like Paul trust that His grace is enough for us.

For most of us, we have abundant evidence if we look back upon our relationship with God, that he is there, and that He has provided for what we have needed.

Padre

 

 

 

The Prayer of A Righteous . . .

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I have explored Genesis 18:22-33, before and like most passages of the Bible it has more than one key lesson that we can take from it.  In it, God has revealed His plan to destroy the cities of the valley, and Abraham intercedes and begs mercy for any righteous found there. It reads:

The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”  Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”  Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”  Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”  When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.”

God’s lesson on the “wages of sin” was to be manifested in a physical way, and those the sins inhabitants of the Sodom and Gomorrah were going to paid with immediate effect.

But we then have the intervention of Abraham, a righteous man. The consequence, “For the sake ten,” God would spare the cities.  Abraham didn’t sway God by some magical means (see Beyond Magical Thinking), but rather mitigated the situation by appeals to God’s own mercy. Abraham’s prayer of intervention was offered as an act of righteousness. It was an appeal for the sake of others. Above all else it was consistent with God’s own nature. Notice the prayer was not, “Oh God, can’t You just overlook evil.”

This prayer for mercy. A mercy which is in the very nature of God. A mercy evident in the words,  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”

God’s mercy and righteousness is being mirrored by Abraham. He is not at cross-purposes with God. This is, I guess, one aspect of what true righteousness is. To be united in mind with God and His purposes is at the root of why, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16b).”

Great things can be accomplished through prayer. We are not speaking of the “God let me win the lottery,” type prayers, which if we look at the example above probably driven by greed rather than righteousness. But rather prayers for healing, forgiveness, and of relationship, which foster well-being in the soul. These build up all who are involved, and bring peace.

Are we living righteously today? Are we channeling that righteousness to righteous goals? Are we praying with power?  These are just a few things to meditate on today.

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Impart

Freedom Impart

 

We live our lives –

According to a plan –

Etched out in our own ego’s heart.

 

But to truly live 

We should first learn to kneel

And be linked to that which gave us start.

 

Our ego blinds –

and our plans do bind –

While bended knee – freedom imparts.

 

Padre

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Secret Keeper’s Prompt:

| LIVE | KNEEL | PLAN | EGO | LINK |

Come To Safety

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Yesterday, I had a usually attentive student in the front of the class who seemed distracted. When I questioned if there was something the matter, she responded that it was the plug outlet on my wall that concerned her.  In the UK, plug points or mains terminals have their own separate on/off switches, allowing for the electricity to be shut off not only to any appliance connected to it, but to the point itself. Mine was an empty socket with a “live” current. Dangerous? No, unless you plan on sticking a paperclip into it, but an over-engineered safety feature.

We have become risk adverse to the extreme.  We don’t sleep in the open under a blanket, as a tent will protect us from the elements. We don’t sleep in a tent, as a cabin will protect us from bears. We don’t sleep in cabins, as modern homes will protect us from discomfort.

We are constantly looking for security, and a sense of certainty in an uncertain world. But is this a fool’s errand? Can we really ever make “ourselves” safe?

The Islamic call to prayer, the Adhan, is telling in this.  In the centre of the address are two key lines: “Come to prayer,” “Come to security.” I find this a really empowering concept. We cannot on our own control every aspect of our lives. But there is One who can.

While the Adhan is not Christian, this aspect of it is true to the teachings of the Bible. God is Jehovah Jireh – “The Lord Will Provide.”  Matthew 6:26, tells us,“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” Matthew continues, Jesus’ words in MT 7:7-8, Ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.”

We may not live in a world devoid of dangers, but rather than having multilayered, secondary, breakers and switches, let us hand it over to God.

Padre

 

 

Prayer Among the Candles

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Prayer Among the Candles

“God, go with you” had been uttered –

Now I stood alone,

In a dim corner of the cathedral –

To face God on my own.

 

I stood by the flickering tapers,

Far from all the rest,

And there I offered up my prayers,

Or tried my very best.

 

I was filled with the memory,

of things for which I should atone,

“Grant me mercy,” was my only plea –

As He smiling, nodded from His throne.

 

Padre

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Haunted Wordsmith Challenge

Memory, best, “go with you”

Manna (Bread of Life): Part 1

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The people of Israel spent forty years in the wilderness. This huge body of people travelled a land with all but the most meager of resources. So, God provided!

Exodus 16 reads:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt,  and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”  Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.  This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.

 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.  On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.  He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.  “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today.  Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”

Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

The people of Israel called the bread manna.It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”

While the above passage is rather lengthy, it nonetheless has several really useful lessons. The Hebrew children grumbled despite the miraculous rescue from Egypt.  Their minds were on their bellies.  In associated passages they moaned about missing the food they had in their bondage. Numbers 11: 5 reads, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Are we much different? Do we get caught up in the immediate rumble in the tummy, or any other “immediate urge,” rather than being thankful for what we have been blessed with?

But God responded to their grumbling, not with vengeance, but with providing for the need. He sent quail and manna. All the people had to do was collect the food they needed from what was deposited around their camp. They hadn’t asked for it, but their complaints were heard and catered for.

Jesus in His model prayer calls on us to be more direct (and yes, more reverent and respectful). Matthew 6: 9 to 11 guides us with the words, “‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread . . . .” Rather than moaning and complaining we are called to ask for our daily bread. Chapter 7, verses 8 and 9 continue this theme: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?”  Put simple, if we ask He is faithful in His loving kindness to give.

But there is a third lesson here as well. Notice in Jesus’ prayer that we are to ask for “daily bread.” Like the Israelites of old, we are to make “bread seeking” a daily act. We need to keep our lines of communication with the giver open.  We shouldn’t rest of the lazy approach of  “well I asked for that yesterday.” Look at the similar attitude of the Hebrews. “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it (the previous day’s bread) until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” Okay, the analogy is a little weak in that God honours our prayers (including past ones), but the application is still good.  We should seek His blessings in prayer daily.

The people were sustained by God. He provided not just food, but life itself. I will expand on this theme of the “Bread of Life” in the second part of this study.

Padre

From the Belly

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“A knot in the pit of the stomach,” or “feel it in the bowels,” are common phrases. They refer to a sense of anxiety deep down in us.   The images are clear as well: the pit is a hole, bowels are guts. But in the case of Jonah, the anxiety was more than figuratively in the belly. He was literally in a pit of the stomach, as he had been swallowed by a great fish.

He was paying the consequence of disobedience in a rather extreme way.  He ran away from God’s mission for him, and was subsequently thrown off a ship into the sea, where the fish swallowed him.

This should have logically been the end of the story.  But Jonah from the belly of despair (and the fish’s literal belly) called out.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.  He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,  and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me, seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit (Jonah 2: 1-6).”

In the total despair of being cut off from freedom, and even light, and air, he cried out. How often are we like that? We get ourselves into a situation, and then we remember God. But there is a sincerity in the prayer.  He shows a trust in God to hear him, and a confidence in being brought up from “the pit.” His seems to be a real faith rather than hedging his bets. Yes, he is desperate and there really is no other option, but it is not phrased as a “If you help me God, then I will X, Y, or Z.” It is “I am lost God, I trust you!”

When we are in the belly or pit of despair, let us remember the example.  Avoid “magical thinking,” or deal making with God. Simple surrender, and trust Him.

Padre

Prayer or The Semblance of Prayer?

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Prayer is the verbal or mental communication with deity.  We may ask for things, seek help for others, give thanks, or give praise. These words are sometimes accompanied by actions, but they are meant to be communication.  They are an essential element of relationship.

Some prayers are formal or liturgical.  Others are spontaneous and are just speaking you heart or mind.  They may be set to music, or presented as measured mental ideas. But they need to communicate in a positive manner.  Sometimes we are rotten in the way we communicate.  I know I can be bad at it. I wish I was always dynamically engaging with the ones I speak and share with.  But at times, especially when weary or when the mind is engaged in other pursuits, the engagement (and thus relationship) is not as pure or rich as it should be.

Let me here apologise to all I have ever failed to give my full attention, or with whom I have held back my heart.  Such times are rare, but still points of pain and shame for me.  I also need to address to God, for my prayers so very often ramble, or fall into catch phrases and  cliches.  Lord, help me to really love You (and communicate with You) with all my heart, mind and soul.

It seems the early disciples were not exempt from this either.  In Acts 12 we find Peter bound in prison.  He is on the eve of his execution, and the people of God have gathered to pray.  we must in context presume that among the things petitioned for, is Peter’s deliverance.  The result is an angelic visit to Peter’s cell, and a miraculous escape.  it is what happens next that is telling, however.

 “Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”  When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying.  Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door.  When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”  “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”  But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.  Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place (Acts 12:11-17).”

Peter goes to the place where the church is praying.  He knocks and is refused entry, because he can’t possibly be there.  “He is in jail, that’s what we are praying about.”  There seems to be no recognition that the things they are asking God for may happen. Are we that way?  Do we go through the motions without the firm expectation that he is faithful in granting what we as for? Or do we say the right words without a firm focus on what we are actually saying?

Do we pray or just seem to?  Just think what we will accomplish if we move beyond the semblance of prayer.

Padre