Wednesday, July 27, 2011

At the finish line

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
(1st Corinthians 9:24)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2nd Timothy 4:7)

Lord Christ, St. Paul coaches us up and cheers us on to the finish line. There’s an Olympic refrain, but I’ve noticed something significant during a decade of nursing home visits. Most of us don’t sprint to the finish line and break the tape. Most of us don’t get to finish on our own terms.

We may limp or crawl to the finish line. We could be in a wheel chair, hospital bed or alone at home.

Holy Spirit, help me to build up my spiritual muscles. Indeed, they need to be in top form as my other parts begin to wear out or fail.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4)

Father, my confidence is not in my running ability. It’s in your abiding care. Amen.

Photo credit: Race of Grace

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Turning the other cheek

From Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-45)

An Eye for an Eye

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

Lord Christ, you set the bar high with turn the other cheek and love your enemies. I’m stretching, grasping, but it seems out of reach.

I don’t believe you’re recruiting Christian doormats or punching bags. This is a call to reign in the impulses for retaliation and vengeance, to consider the collateral damage of striking back. Are we peacemakers or pugilists?

In business, we might turn the other cheek if the legal fees are prohibitive, but it’s not our default response.

In sports, there’s always payback. It’s clubhouse etiquette.

And politics, that’s blood sport: two eyes for an eye, two teeth for a tooth.

With me, I’m afraid it’s a practiced hypocrisy. I can appear to turn the other cheek as I fold in a little sarcasm. I’m very good with a subtle verbal punch.

The Message speaks for you, Jesus:

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
(Matthew 5:48)

Holy Spirit, help me learn to forgive as God forgives, to love as God loves.* I’m inclined toward combat; create in me a peacemaker’s heart. Amen.

* - William Barclay

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

At the well with Jesus

Lord Christ, there’s a powerful line from your encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Returning to her village she exclaims:

He told me everything I’ve ever done.
(John 4:39)

It’s the same for us. You know our mistakes and misdeeds, our guilt or lack thereof, our wounds and our burdens.

I’m conflicted. There’s a longing for Divine intimacy with the wounds and burdens, but I go into hiding over the mistakes and guilt…as though you might not notice. Psalm 139 reminds me otherwise:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely...
(Psalm 139:1-4)

Jesus, you know me inside-out. Forgive the mistakes. Remove the guilt. Heal the wounds. Lift the burdens. And use me as an agent of your grace. Amen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Of Law & Love

Dear God, early in our journey I was looking for rules and order. (It
 probably had a lot to do with being a young parent!)

 I discovered that through Bible study.

But I always found refuge. I always felt love.

And both represent Biblical truth: your law and your love.

Father, early in our journey I used my interpretation of your rules as a 
cudgel - not to nudge others, but to judge others. And I lacked a corresponding inclination to share your love. Signs of an immature faith. 

Lord Christ, you have taught me that the Bible's high standards must be
 tempered with love and mercy. Your methods were teaching, healing,
 service, and ultimately, sacrifice. You did not travel Palestine as an 
enforcer. The "fruits of the Spirit" are not stridency, harshness or a 
closed mind.

St. Paul famously lists them:, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
 gentleness and self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23)

The Message amplifies:

...things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We
 develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the
 heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and 
people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to 
force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. 

Holy Spirit, I am challenged to take this beyond sentiment or ethical
 concept…to work out the implications in every detail of my life.* Signs of a maturing faith, I pray. Amen.

* - from
The Message translation, Galatians 5:25