Out of my own hypocrisy

“So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:3-4)? God’s kindness is rich. God’s forbearance is rich. God’s patience is rich. Do we embrace this richness or treat it with contempt? Passing judgment on others while doing the same thing means showing contempt for these riches. Allowing God’s kindness to lead us to a change in heart and behavior is embracing these riches. In those moments when I seem to be stuck in sin, perhaps what I really need to do is spend time considering the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience. Same goes for the times when I am railing about sin in someone else’s life. A large dose of the riches of God can go a long way toward leading me out of my own hypocrisy.

Longing for the church

“I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:9b-12). Paul’s longing to be with his brothers and sisters is a reminder to me: do not take for granted opportunities to be together with the church. I am reminded how many times I have been strengthened by time together with my fellow Jesus-followers. How rich is this idea of mutual encouragement! I encourage. I am encouraged. That’s the way it works. That’s why I need to be with the church.

One God

“Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too…” (Romans 3:29). Try to imagine how these words sounded to Jewish first readers. Think they were difficult to hear? What kind of emotions do you think they evoked? Try to imagine how these words sounded to Gentile first readers. What kind of emotions do you think they evoked? If there is one God and he is God of the Jews and the Gentiles, what kind of behavior does that encourage? Listen to hear the word of the Lord!

Questions for Reflection

Here are some questions I used for a time of reflection and self-examination based on a readin of Romans 14 and 15.

When I feel a judgment coming on…think of Jesus rather than myself as the one to whom that person needs to answer.

When I feel a judgment coming on… think of Jesus as the one who died that I might have acceptance in spite of my shortcomings and sins.

When I feel a judgment coming on… remember that people are all equally sinners.

When I feel a judgment coming on… remember I am saved not by how much right I have done, I am saved by Jesus through the grace of God.

Who am I going to try to stop judging this week?

Who am I going to bear with this week?

Who am I going to accept this week?

A Prayer for Sunday

Our Father in heaven,

We call you Father.
We call You Father because You have adopted us.
We call You Father because You have accepted us into Your family.
You have accepted us as Your sons and daughters.

Thank You, God. Praise You, God.

Father, You gave Your Son to offer acceptance.
Jesus, You sacrificed all for us to be accepted.
Holy Spirit, You have been poured out into our hearts to assure us of God’s acceptance.

Thank You, God. Praise You, God.

Gather us Together Sunday, O God.
That we might remember how You love us.
That we might remember how You have accepted us.
So that we can start loving each other.
And start accepting each other.

Because too often we keep each other at arms length.
We get annoyed with one another.
We judge one another.
We feel superior to one another.
We give up on one another.

We need transformation, O God.
Transformation that is possible
through the power of Your Holy Spirit
making us into the likeness of Jesus.

We pray in Jesus’ name,

AMEN

A Morning Prayer

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship”
(Romans 12:1 TNIV).

Loving God,
Thank You for the night of rest.
I receive this day as a gift of Your grace.
I give it back to You as a living offering of worship.
In Jesus’ name,
AMEN

Weak + Strong = One

a reflective prayer based on Romans 14

God our Father,

We thank You for the way
You accept us
even when we are weak and imperfect.

May we be more like You, O God.

And God we confess our wrongdoing–
in passing judgement on the weak
in withholding acceptance
in looking down on those who differ
in condemning our brothers and sisters
in causing others to stumble
in confusing the nature of the kingdom
in neglecting peace as a priority
in failing to bear with one another.

Change our hearts and lives
that we may be more like You.

May the strong and the weak be one.

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.

Together on the Altar

a reflective prayer based on Romans 12

God our Father,

We are thankful for the opportunity to gather
as a church family to worship You.
For You are worthy of worship.
And glory.
And honor.

And we want our worship to continue throughout the week.
Long after we have left our gathering place
to go to our homes
to our places of business
to our schools.

We want to be sacrifices,
living sacrifices
to You.

We offer our bodies to You
in holy living
as a way of continuing our worship.

On the altar we think differently —
not thinking too highly of ourselves,
yet not forgetting how You have gifted us.

On the altar we react differently —
not seeking revenge,
but allowing others to wrong us.

On the altar we live differently —
we live for You
rather than for ourselves.

So here we are on the altar —
living sacrifices.
Please accept our worship as we gather.
Please accept our worship as we go home.

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.

Over Our Heads

a reflective prayer based on Romans 11:33-36

God our Father,

We are in over our heads with You.
Your wisdom is rich.
“Rich?”
Well, God, our words just fail us.
We don’t have the words
to adequately express the depth of Your wisdom.
So we say, “rich.”

Your judgments,
the way You work with all of us —
well, that’s over our heads, too.
We see only the outward appearance.
You see the heart’s inner workings.
We see outward Jew and Gentile.
You see circumcision of the heart.
You see inward Jews.
Jews of the heart.

And so not all Jews are really Jews.
Some Jews are really Gentiles.
And some Gentiles are really Jews.
But not all Jews have rejected You.
You, and You alone know how to sort all this out.
We do not.
We get confused just thinking about it.

While this is all over our heads,
we do understand that You are calling us to unite.
To come Together as one body.

Forgive us when we claim to
have You all figured out.
Forgive us when we reduce You to
a neatly packaged formula.
Forgive us when we want to give You counsel.

Help us trust You more.
Help us listen more.
Help us worship more.

Because all glory belongs to You.
Forever!

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.

Eager to Gather!

God our Father,

You love us when we are weak.
You love us when we are strong.
You love us when we are excited and happy.
You love us when we are discouraged and depressed.
You love us when we are interested and engaged.
You love us when we are disinterested and disengaged.
You love us when we are sinners.

Yes, even when we are sinners.

And Your love is just one and many reasons
that we are eager to be Together
to offer You our worship, honor, and praise.

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN.