Becoming Light — Hope of Advent

Scripture Focus: Nahum 2.2
2 The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob
    like the splendor of Israel,
though destroyers have laid them waste
    and have ruined their vines.

Ephesians 5.8
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

1 Thessalonians 5.5
5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

Reflection: Becoming Light — Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

As we close out the first week of Advent, we move from hope to love.

We can have hope because God has love for us as his motivation. The core of who God is, is love. Therefore, we can have hope.

No matter what army comes…
No matter what sickness stalks…
No matter what calamity crashes down on us…
No matter what attack the enemy brings against us…
No matter what destroyers come and lay our work to waste…
God is our restorer and he will work in us to bring forth his splendor.

Our hope is unshakeable because God’s love for us is unshakeable. Even in the judgment that Israel faced, even in the exile that would come in a few years for Judah, God was still working things together for their good. He was refining them through the struggle and the exile into a people who would become a light for the nations. This was always God’s intention for them and is his intention for us as well.

What does it take to be a light to the nations? Let us pray using some of Paul’s words from Ephesians 5.7-14 and 1 Thessalonians 5.4-8.

Remind us, Lord, we are not of the darkness 
We are children of the light and children of the day. 
We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 
So then, help us not be like those who are of the dark.
They are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 
Since we belong to the day, let us put on faith and love and hope as armor.

We were once darkness, Lord, but now you are making us light. 
Help us to live as children of light
May the fruit of the light shine from us.
May goodness, righteousness, and truth beam from us.
May this be pleasing to you, Lord. 
We reject the fruitless deeds of darkness and seek to expose them
In our communities and in our own hearts.
May everything exposed by the light be confessed and repented of.
By your grace, may we be transformed and become a light
We do not want to sleep any longer.
Wake us up.
Raise us from darkness and death to light and life.
Shine on us and through us, O Christ.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle
Today’s Readings
Nahum 2 (Listen – 2:06)
Luke 18 (Listen – 5:27)

This Weekend’s Readings
Nahum 3 (Listen – 3:04), Luke 19 (Listen -5:29)
Habakkuk 1 (Listen – 2:39), Luke 20 (Listen – 5:07)

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Read more about The Gift of Hope :: Hope of Advent
The hope of Advent is not a naive or weak hope, but one that perseveres into the darkness.

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Mustard Seed Prayers—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason from Texas
Prayer can take many forms and is not limited to a specific time and place. Our technology has taught us to abhor any downtime, fill any silence, and avoid every moment of solitude. It is these brief moments on the train, in the line, and on the couch when we can freely connect with an ever-present God.

Originally published, April 1, 2020, based on readings from Proverbs 19 & Colossians 2.

Scripture Focus: Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Ephesians 6.18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Reflection: Mustard Seed Prayers—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman (Prayer by Melissa Tillman)

There are some things which electronics cannot improve—some systems in which analog beats digital. Our previous car had no power-anything. Locks, windows, and seats all had to be moved manually. When it comes to the seats, my wife and I miss the manual adjustment. One swift movement— kachunk—was all it took for us to switch drivers. With the powered seat, we have to wait, listening to the electronic motor whirr. For me, this also involves cramming myself uncomfortably into the tiny space and waiting as it slowly expands. Even though it is only for a few seconds, we are accustomed to instantly moving from one to the other, and that makes it an annoying inconvenience. Power seats are an annoying waste of time.

Into this new crack of “waiting,” my wife injected the tiny seed of a prayer, similar to a breath prayer. At first, it was just to keep herself from being cranky about the powered seat—something similar to, “Keep me safe.” But it grew. It became a prayer that supported us through great difficulty and motivated us in tough decisions. We prayed the prayer at funerals, at weddings, when donating to causes, and when beginning difficult experiences. Soon it became a living prayer for our family. Many families have a “life verse,” but this became a “life prayer.”

“Lord, please keep us safe, keep us sane, help us focus.
Let our time, money, and energy 
Cover all that we need to do 
And all those we want to bless.”

Into any uncomfortable time of waiting, such as the one we are all in now, inject prayer. It is okay if it is not fancily worded. It is okay if it is selfish. It is okay if it is just a request. But don’t let it be just a stale repetition. Let it be like a seed that can grow. 

As God speaks to you, adjust your prayer. As new needs arise, adjust your prayer. As better wording occurs to you, adjust your prayer. Allow your prayer to be shaped and rewritten by your relationship with God and all that you learn and experience in God’s Word.

A prayer of a few words, thrown into an inconvenient crack in your life, can grow like a mustard seed into a towering tree that can provide spiritual shelter and sustenance for you and others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you, when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies. — Psalm 28.2

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 46 (Listen – 4:59)
Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers.

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Mustard Seed Prayers

Scripture Focus: Colossians 4.2
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Ephesians 6.18
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Philippians 4.6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Reflection: Mustard Seed Prayer
By John Tillman (Prayer by Melissa Tillman)

There are some things which electronics cannot improve—some systems in which analog beats digital. Our previous car had no power-anything. Locks, windows, and seats all had to be moved manually. When it comes to the seats, my wife and I miss the manual adjustment. One swift movement— kachunk—was all it took for us to switch drivers. With the powered seat, we have to wait, listening to the electronic motor whirr. For me, this also involves cramming myself uncomfortably into the tiny space and waiting as it slowly expands. Even though it is only for a few seconds, we are accustomed to instantly moving from one to the other, and that makes it an annoying inconvenience. Power seats are an annoying waste of time.

Into this new crack of “waiting,” my wife injected the tiny seed of a prayer, similar to a breath prayer. At first, it was just to keep herself from being cranky about the powered seat—something similar to, “Keep me safe.” But it grew. It became a prayer that supported us through great difficulty and motivated us in tough decisions. We prayed the prayer at funerals, at weddings, when donating to causes, and when beginning difficult experiences. Soon it became a living prayer for our family. Many families have a “life verse,” but this became a “life prayer.”

“Lord, please keep us safe, keep us sane, help us focus.
Let our time, money, and energy 
Cover all that we need to do 
And all those we want to bless.”

Into any uncomfortable time of waiting, such as the one we are all in now, inject prayer. It is okay if it is not fancily worded. It is okay if it is selfish. It is okay if it is just a request. But don’t let it be just a stale repetition. Let it be like a seed that can grow. 

As God speaks to you, adjust your prayer. As new needs arise, adjust your prayer. As better wording occurs to you, adjust your prayer. Allow your prayer to be shaped and rewritten by your relationship with God and all that you learn and experience in God’s Word.

A prayer of a few words, thrown into an inconvenient crack in your life, can grow like a mustard seed into a towering tree that can provide spiritual shelter and sustenance for you and others.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save his life from those who would condemn him. — Psalm 109.29-30

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 19 (Listen 3:09) 
Colossians 2 (Listen -3:45)

Read more about Breathing Prayers
Out of your relationship with God, you can also write your own breath prayers.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/breathing-prayers/

20200331

Read more about Prayer for Purpose, Community, and Freedom :: Guided Prayer
As we face a lengthening road through this crisis, we focus on prayer.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/breathing-prayers/

Confession as a Crucible

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 6.10, 13
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Reflection: Confession as a Crucible
By John Tillman

The crucible of COVID-19 is revealing in our society and ourselves the ugliest most sinful parts of our nature. 

In our society we have already seen this crucible give rise to racial hatred as Chinese-Americans face violence and verbal attacks. We have seen hoarding and even violence over scant medical supplies. We have seen carelessness and a selfish refusal to observe CDC guidelines by spring break partiers and planners of weddings and other gatherings. And being cooped up with our families for days, we have all probably seen our tempers and frustrations flare at one another.

These failings remind us that we are weak and it is only in God’s mighty power that we may be able to stand.

The purpose of the crucible is to cause these things to rise so that they may be removed and us purified. Rather than deny their existence or give in to their ugliness, may submission to Christ and his Word draw these elements out of us to be disposed of as dross and fruits of the Holy Spirit shine forth instead.

Lord, help us to see our current sufferings and struggles as evil that you will use for good.
May the flames of suffering that some may think will destroy us be used by your Holy Spirit to purify and strengthen us.

Reflect in prayer on part of the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” (The great hymn’s authorship is unknown, attributed only to the mysterious “K.” It was published in 1787 by John Rippon.)

“Fear not, I am with thee; oh be not dismayed
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand
When through the deep waters I call thee to go
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

*How Firm A Foundation” recording by Norton Hall Band — SBTS

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 13 (Listen 2:45) 
Ephesians 6 (Listen -3:17)

Read more about The Labor of Love
The believers were transformed by the labor of love within them. Their attitude towards their suffering had changed.

#Suffering #LaborOfLove #Love #Faith #Work #Transformation

Read more about Cameos of Love
May God raise up in us the image of Christ, and carve away from us other parts of our lives to show to the world, his perfect cameo

The Way of Love Amidst Fear

Scripture Focus: Ephesians 5.1

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

*Photo credit: Texas Baptist Men delivering 10,000 N95 masks, 2,000 biohazard suits and four decontamination tents to Texas Division of Emergency Management officials in Austin

Reflection: The Way of Love Amidst Fear
By John Tillman

In an email to students enrolled in his online course on the book of Philippians, (which I highly recommend) Professor N.T. Wright said concerning the pangs of social distancing, “It’s like an odd Lenten discipline, without any idea of when we might celebrate the Easter victory over this wretched disease once and for all.”

As people of hope not fear, we know that the Easter victory professor Wright refers to is coming. The one on the calendar will be here in 18 days. At the current pace of rising infection rates it is highly probable churches may not meet for this most sacred day of the year. I pray that if this occurs, it will make Easter more precious to us and more holy, not less.

It will be a difficult moment for the church as a whole, but one that reminds us that we live in between the resurrection of Christ and our ultimate resurrection victory on the last day. During this time, we live in suffering and groaning—even Creation itself groans with us. 

Meanwhile, in the groaning in-between in which we live, Paul challenges the Ephesians and us to walk in “the way of love,” following the example of Christ who went before his disciples into suffering and is with us now in the suffering we endure. We are to offer ourselves as he did, “a fragrant offering.”

As Christ prepared for his own suffering, he also prepared the disciples for the suffering they would endure both at that time and in the future. He told them, “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home (…as we are scattered…). You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone (…just as we are not alone…), for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16.32-33)

Fear is natural and one shouldn’t be ashamed of being afraid. However, the response of a Christian must be supernatural. As we have written before, we can respond TO fear instead of responding IN fear. (1 John 4.18)

While maintaining an abundance of caution, for the protection of the vulnerable, and following all CDC guidelines, to support the flourishing of our community, we can be known as people of peace rather than panic, people of faith rather than fear, people of sharing rather than hoarding, and people of sacrifice rather than self protection.

This is how we live the way of love in a time of fear.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.


Today’s Readings
Proverbs 12 (Listen 3:07) 
Ephesians 5 (Listen -3:42)

Read more about The Opposite of Hoarding
Hoarding is a natural response to fear…we are not to give in to our natural responses, but instead to respond supernaturally.

https://theparkforum.org/843-acres/the-opposite-of-hoarding/

Read more about Revelation of Love
Fear leads only to bad places. Decisions dominated by fear lead to selfish evil. Churches dominated by fear sanctify hatred. Governments dominated by fear commit atrocities.

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