Monthly Archives: August 2012

Treasure in Clay Pots

Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.   2 Corinthians 4: 7

 

Isn’t that awesome? We have spiritual treasure within our hearts! And yet, we’re often more aware of our clay pot-ness, our imperfections. It’s easy to doubt that we can be of spiritual value when we are so human and therefore flawed, but that’s exactly how God designed us. St. Paul tells us why: so it’s crystal clear that the power and the glory belong to God, not to us.

 

What a relief! We don’t have to be perfect. Instead, we can stay out of the way as God shines within us. Sometimes our efforts to show that we’re good enough can drive others away. We try to impress them instead of listening to or encouraging them. We may judge them, to push our self-esteem up by comparison. But if we have this treasure within us, God gets the glory, not us, so it doesn’t matter how good our outsides look. We can relax enough to be genuine. We can afford to think about others instead of how we’re coming across. Acknowledging our human frailty to someone else might be the most inspirational thing we can do, giving them the encouragement they need to accept themselves.  Together, we can give the glory to God.

 

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that the power and glory belong to You, not us.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How can accepting our weakness help God’s light shine through us?

Trusting and Doing Good

Trust in the Lord and do good; live in the land and be safe. Psalm 37: 3

 

Believers don’t have a monopoly on doing good, but trusting God helps. It isn’t always easy to have the courage of our convictions, to speak the truth when it goes against the popular opinion, or to help another at the risk of jeopardizing our position.

 

I read about a woman who brought her children to church; a homeless person sat down next to her, having the aroma and unkempt looks that go with living on the street. When her daughter asked to use the bathroom, the woman was glad for the excuse and exited the pew with her kids in tow. But somewhere along that bathroom trip, the woman realized Who she was in church to worship and who He calls us to be. After her daughter came out of the bathroom, the woman ushered her children back to their original seat. When the opportunity presented itself, she greeted her fellow but homeless believer with a warm and sincere smile.

 

This woman was not only trusting the Lord’s admonition to love our neighbor, she was also “living in the land” of who she was—a member of the Body of Christ, and she was safe from self-righteousness, from fear, from judgmentalism.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me trust you when doing good seems like more than I can do.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What good might I do today, if I trust God more?

A Matter of Death and Life

…I am dead—killed by the Law itself—in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.  Paul’s letter to the Galatians 2:19-20

 

When did you die, Paul?

 

Was it on the road to Damascus, when your mission to persecute Christians was derailed after an encounter with Christ left you blind?

 

Or was it three days later, when Ananias (one of those you had targeted for persecution) healed you of your blindness by God’s grace?

 

Was it during one of the many times you yourself were beaten, jailed, and persecuted for sharing the Good News?

 

When did you die, Paul? It could have happened during any or all of those times, but I think you died—and Christ was most alive in you—after you healed the cripple in Lystra. The crowds thought that you and Barnabas were gods and wanted to worship you. You didn’t get swept away by adulation. You acknowledged your humanity, pointed the crowds to God, and gave Him the glory. You didn’t try to bask in one little scrap of glory for yourself, not even for a moment. You didn’t berate yourself—only a man with confidence could have carried the message the way you did—but you spoke the truth. Anchored in the faith and love of God, your humility and your greatness went hand in hand.

 

Prayer: Lord, teach our hearts to die to self-will, and live in Your love.

 

Reflection for sharing: How can we die to self-will and still love ourselves in a healthy way? What might you gain by dying to self today?

Asking and Receiving

And so I say to you: Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. Luke 11: 9

 

When I was a little girl, we had several apple trees in our back yard, which meant plenty of homemade pies and applesauce every summer. Late one summer night, my parents heard voices in our back yard. It turned out to be our new neighbors. Six kids, to be exact, were grabbing apples as fast as they could. Their father had been out of work for a while and I all those free apples seemed, well, just ripe for the picking.

 

I didn’t know what my parents would do to these trespassers, but when my mother confronted them, she simply said, “You can take all the apples you want, any time, but first, please just knock on our door and ask.”

 

Aren’t we like those kids sometimes? We all want good things—who doesn’t?  Sometimes we feel like we have to take matters into our own hands.  Maybe we’re afraid our requests will be denied or maybe we think it’s easier to get forgiven than permission. Maybe it wasn’t safe to ask the people in our past for what we needed.

 

But God has good things in store for us, just ripe for the picking. He wants to give us all the good our hearts can hold. Maybe the problem is we’re asking for the wrong things. Jesus concludes the above passage by saying that if we imperfect humans know how to give good things to our children, how much more, will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? We may not want the Holy Spirit. We may just want our wish list to be fulfilled. When we are weighed down by problems or sorrow, it’s understandable. But the Holy Spirit offers better, longer-lasting gifts than a quick fix: stronger faith, courage, wisdom, gifts that not only get us through the problem at hand, but become part of our character, lasting long after the crisis of the moment has passed.

 

Prayer:  Lord, we ask you to send us Your Spirit.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What can help us trust God to give us what we need rather than what we want?

Physical Decline and Spiritual Renewal

For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day.  2 Corinthians 4:16

 

 

As a kid growing up, I was a tomboy: climbing trees, arm wrestling, etc. Even when I outgrew the tomboy stage, I still had plenty of physical stamina…until a car accident and a diagnosis of MS hit me in quick succession. When I could no longer power my way through a situation, I had no choice but to start accepting life on life’s terms. As much as I had acknowledged intellectually that I depended on God and the people he put in my path, my heart didn’t learn this until I no longer had physical stamina to back me up. The less I could rely on my own strength, the more aware I became of my need for God.

 

I’ve seen this in others, too. Friends and family whose physical health declined often accept the opportunity to grow beyond their limited resources and tap into God’s power and wisdom. Of course, physical problems don’t guarantee spiritual growth, but they do offer the opportunity to surrender the idol of self-reliance.  We’re bound to experience loss of physical abilities as we grow older, but it’s not cause for discouragement.  When we open ourselves to spiritual growth, we can literally age gracefully.

 

Prayer:  Lord, I place myself under Your care today.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What are some ways to grow spiritually by accepting physical limitations?

Peer Pressure

We are honored and disgraced; we are insulted and praised. We are treated as liars, yet we speak the truth;   2 Corinthians 6: 8

 

It’s easy to hand over our self-esteem to the opinions of others. What would “they” think?  What would “they” say? If we give “their” comments too much power, we can totter back and forth between getting swelled heads to thinking we’re not good enough. Public opinion—even if the public is only the people in our little corner of the world—runs hot and cold.

 

Max Lucado wrote a wonderful children’s story about a puppet town. The puppets spent their days putting gold stars or gray stickers on each other, sometimes for no other reason than the amount of stars/stickers already accumulated. As you can imagine, the ones with lots of stars were eager to get more; the ones with gray stickers withdrew and felt sad. But one girl puppet was at peace. When others tried to put stars or stickers on her, they didn’t stick! Her secret was to spend a lot of time with the puppet maker, who loved her just the way she was.

 

I love thinking about that girl puppet. She makes me want to spend more time with my Maker.

 

Prayer:  Lord, may I bask in your unconditional love.

 

Reflection for sharing: What disturbs your peace of mind most: getting gold stars or gray stickers? What would it be like to let go of both? What would it be like to stop giving stars and stickers to others?

Freedom From Fears

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; he freed me from all my fears. Psalm 34: 4

 

The Psalmist says that the Lord freed him from all his fears, NOT from all his problems. Those are two different things. It’s easy to think if our problems are solved, we can stop worrying, right? But what if we are free to stop worrying even if our problems aren’t solved? That would be an even bigger blessing.  After all, when one problem is solved, even though we breathe a sigh of relief, there’s no guarantee we won’t have problems in the future.

 

What if—by God’s grace—our attitude shifted? Freedom from fear wouldn’t depend on changing circumstances beyond our control. Trusting that God knows what He’s doing involves taking a long-range perspective and acquiring the patience to allow a problem to work itself out after taking appropriate action. Freedom from self-centered fear that things won’t happen the way we want them too also involves developing our trust in God’s loving care. Building this trust might begin with counting our blessings and recognizing the ways God has already taken care of our needs.

 

We don’t have to live in fear. “Perfect love casts out fear.”  The truth is, as human beings, we don’t have perfect love–but God does. No wonder He is the one to turn to for freedom from our fears.

 

Prayer:  Lord, relieve me of all my fears by granting me trust in You.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How has God answered your prayers?

Fishing and Catching

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4: 18-20 RSV

 

 “The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad,” As A.K. Best said. On the few occasions that I’ve gone fishing, most of the time was spent baiting the hook, throwing out the line, and waiting, rather than actually catching anything.

 

How did Jesus catch people? It’s said that attitudes are caught, not taught. Jesus knew that. Although he taught about the kingdom of God, he also offered it to people by meeting them in their brokenness and need and extending compassion, healing, and forgiveness.

 

“You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” as another old saying goes. Jesus spoke the truth, but He spoke it with love. When we speak the truth in love or extend forgiveness or compassion to someone else, we are fishing the way Jesus did. We can leave the results, the catch, up to the Lord.

 

Prayer:  Lord, may my attitude toward others attract them to Your love.

 

Reflection for sharing: What do you find most attractive about God? How can you share that with someone else today?

Singing a New Song

Sing a new song to the Lord! Sing to the Lord, all the world!  Psalm 96:1

 

While reading this today, the first line of Psalm 98 also caught my eye because it began the same way: “Sing a new song to the Lord…” Then I happened to open my bible to Isaiah 42, and line 10 jumped out at me: “Sing a new song to the Lord; sing his praise…”

 

I guess God wants me to think about singing a new song to the Lord, but how? The call to praise God is nothing new—it’s as old as creation.

 

What would a new song be? What would it sound like? What would make it new? Maybe it starts with being open to the unfamiliar and asking questions. So I’m asking and I’d really appreciate your input.

 

How do you sing a new song to the Lord?

 

Prayer:  Lord, what kind of song would You like to hear?

 

Reflection for sharing: What makes a song of praise to God new?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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