A few days ago I participated in a reflective prayer exercise. One part of the exercise involved reflecting on Colossians 1:9-12.
Many phrases and words in this passage caught my eye and fueled prayer.
But there were three words in particular that just stopped me momentarily before they redirected my prayer in another direction.
Those three words: “giving joyful thanks.”
“O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much…
seek to be understood as to understand….”
Just the prayer I needed this morning.
O God, who makes us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Grant us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the days to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I have a friend who contributed to Ben Carson’s presidential campaign. I have a friend who voted for Donald Trump. I have a friend who backed Bernie Sanders. I have a friend who campaigned for Marco Rubio. I have a friend still upset by Huckabee’s dropping out of the race. I have a friend with a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker still on her car. How are all these people my friends? Our bond as family in Christ supersedes our political positions. According to Pew, Churches of Christ are 50% Republican, 39% Democrat, and 11% Independent. I’m so thankful Jesus makes us ONE in God’s kingdom!
Some people are bitter. Some people are hurting. Some people are stressed. Some people are hardened. Some people are lonely. Some people are overwhelmed. Some people are directionless. Some people are entangled in sin. Some people are desperate. Some people are confused. Some people are fed up. Some people are running on empty. And all of these people need love. May the church be a people who loves them. All of them.
In the wake of the terrorist attack in his city, Paris Mayor Hidalgo said, “Parisian society is wounded but it can overcome hardships. I ask everyone to abstain from divisive speech and anger.” I not only appreciate the mayor’s sense of optimism, but also I appreciate his reminder about the power of words. James reminds us that the tongue is a fire (James 3:6). Our own experience validates that claim. May God help us control our tongues!
In his writings, Henri Nouwen warns against these three lies we believe: I am what I do. I am what I have. I am what others think and say. Nouwen says the way to overcome these three lies is to remember this truth: I am God’s beloved. It is my hope and prayer that at Christmas we will be reminded yet again that we are God’s beloved. The message of that baby, the Word become flesh, is unmistakable. God loves me. God loves the world.
I spent some time reading James and the following passage has me considering the tone of my social media posts. Before I post, I am evaluating what I am about to post in light of these words: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).
Donald Miller writes, “I’m convinced most people have no idea how beautiful their stories are.” I have a front row seat at my church from which to watch God transform lives. God has written some beautiful stories in the lives of people here. God has rewritten some life stories, taking a sad song and making it better. God continues writing some beautiful stories. Slow down long enough to realize how beautiful your life story really is.
When people gather in groups, they often stir up emotions. Unfortunately, they often stir up fear and hatred. But church is different, right? Church gatherings are a great place to stir up peace and love, faith and hope, security and serenity, courage and resolve. In fact, the writer of Hebrews writes of the need to think about how to spur one another to “love and good deeds.” Are you thinking about it? How are you going to encourage today?