1 Timothy 2:1-3
Monday, May 20, 2019
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,
Timothy tells us in particular to pray and intercede for kings and those in authority. There were many instances in the history of God’s people where they were befriended, protected, and even favored by kings and nations who weren’t part of God’s people. But God gave them favor in those situations. When Jesus healed the centurion’s servant, the centurion said that he was a man under authority… It is God who sets up kings, rulers, presidents, etc. and it is He who removes them. It is imperative we intercede for them, as their decisions affect our lives in this world. We may not personally like the leader, we may not agree with their motives or agendas, but what influence do we have? We may not be able to change them, but certainly God can.
The part that is good and pleases God is not necessarily for us to have a quiet life, but to live in godliness and holiness. When we are free from the stresses of living in fear and anxiety, we have more to share our lives in God.
Leaders in this world have a lot of power and authority to do good or to do evil. Timothy doesn’t differentiate if the leaders are “Christian”, “God-fearing”, or whatever. For the ones who do good, we pray for them and bless them because they offer help, support, and we can live at peace. They need prayer support to keep on doing good and nothing should divert them.
For the ones who don’t do as well, they need our prayers to convert their hearts and understanding. The scriptures tell us to pray for our enemies, for those who despitefully use us, for those who mistreat us. This could include those in authority, for the country, for the locality, for our bosses, for our parents, or for our church leaders as well.
LORD, I pray for wisdom for all in authority. I pray you would surround our leaders with wise god-fearing counselors who can see past the agendas of their own and put forth your wishes and hold your standard high. I thank you for our leaders because you allow them to be in those positions, for our benefit, to bless us as well as to point us closer to you. AMEN
Saturday, May 18, 2019
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus told this parable for a reason. Luke writes that Jesus told this parable because some people were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on others whom they considered less righteous. Jesus did not condemn the Pharisee, per se. The Pharisee did some good things, certainly, like giving his tithe, fasting on a regular basis and going to the Temple to pray. The problem is that he pointed out in his prayers that this tax collector was beneath him, and thanked God he was not like that man.
Maybe I don’t commit one particular sin, but I cannot think I am better just because I avoid one temptation only to fail in another area. I cannot judge one person for doing one wrong that I don’t, when perhaps that other person doesn’t get tripped up in the ways that I do. We have both done wrong things. Maybe my sins are less obvious, but they are there, nonetheless.
The tax collector may have indeed done wrong things, but he threw himself on the Lord’s mercy. He knew himself to be unworthy before the greatness of our God, and humbled himself as he prayed. The Pharisee, is so like us. We want to think we are superior to someone else – by our material goods, by our educational or professional background, even our family history or ethnic heritage. We find it so easy to overlook our shortcomings.
Words from Pope Francis – “God never tires of forgiving us, but we tire of asking him for forgiveness.” In our prayers today, may we find the grace to be humbled, and realize how unworthy we all are, but by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Purify my heart, Let me be as gold and precious silver. Purify my heart, Let me be as gold, pure gold.
Refiner’s fire, My heart’s one desire Is to be… holy; Set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be… holy; Set apart for You, my Master, Ready to do Your will.
Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within And make me holy. Purify my heart, Cleanse me from my sin, deep within.
Refiner’s fire, My heart’s one desire Is to be… holy; Set apart for You, Lord. I choose to be… holy.
Set apart for You, my Master, Ready to do Your will.
“Purify My Heart” by Brian Doerksen
Friday, May 17, 2019
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Let me share words by E.M. Bounds in his classic book, Purpose in Prayer. He writes: “We must not only pray, but we must pray with great urgency, with intentness and with repetition. We must not only pray, but we must pray again and again. We must not get tired of praying. We must be thoroughly in earnest, deeply concerned about the things for which we ask, for Jesus Christ made it very plain that the secret of prayer and its success lie in its urgency. We must press our prayers upon God.”
We may wonder why God wants us to continue praying, to keep asking after the heart of God. Why does Jesus share this parable? Is it because we are too lazy in our prayers, too much inclined to put ourselves in the center of the universe and too little inclined to let God be in charge? We presume we can change God’s mind with one short prayer that is more like a text message than a deep communion with God. We act as though by prayer we can order God around like some genie in a bottle.
God wants to know that prayer and, by extension our petitions, are important enough to spend quality time with God in prayer. God wants us to get to know Him by reading his Word and allowing it to be planted deep within our souls. Then we can judge the quality of our petitions to see whether it aligns with God’s plan for our lives. All this takes time, but God doesn’t want us to give up – either on our praying or on God’s love for us.
What’s the real point of prayer? Jesus lays it out plainly as he asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Prayer, like faith, takes time to mature – even a life time. May we be found faithful when Jesus returns.
Dear God, let me be mindful that you want me to stay close to you in prayer. I don’t want to utter a prayer once and walk away from you like some distant relative. I want to spend time getting to know you and coming to appreciate ever deeper facets of your love. You are so worth my time and attention, Lord! Keep me coming to you, ever praying and ever trusting in your guidance. Then I know that what I ask will be according to your will for me in Christ Jesus my savior. Amen.
Thursday, May 16, 2019
12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.
As we are going through our month of prayer, this is one critical passage not to omit. It speaks to me of how Jesus was devoted in prayer, of the closeness between Jesus and his heavenly Father. It is a model of committed discipleship, and how Jesus took concentrated time before making the decision as to whom would be his closest disciples.
There aren’t any mountains close to us here in our part of Ohio. I don’t count Alpine Valley as a mountain by any stretch of the imagination. I could go to one of our Geauga parks and walk on the trails, but they would frown on me spending the night there. Where might you and I go to spend some extended time in prayer? But maybe the better question is – when would we do that?
We are told that Jesus had a specific purpose in his prayer time here on the mountain – so that he could choose his disciples. According to one source I consulted, the gospels record twenty-five instances when Jesus prayed, and that isn’t counting times when more than one gospel records that same occasion. Here are just a few of the examples of when Jesus prayed: He prayed before he was baptized. He prayed before healing people. He prayed, giving God thanks before the multiplying of the loaves. He prayed for children. He prayed on a mountain top before he walked across the water, coming to the disciples on the sea. He prayed before teaching the disciples the Lord’s Prayer. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he prayed at his crucifixion. He is praying for us now.
Would you pray all night? Do you pray before making an important decision? Do you pray when someone is sick or facing a medical procedure? How has prayer made a difference for you? If Jesus felt compelled to pray to God, how can we not? Jesus was closer to God than any other human being and spent a long time in prayer. He is our example, but he is also our challenge in taking prayer seriously. Prayer is worth our time, and for Jesus, it was worth giving up a night of sleep.
Lord Jesus, you prayed because you knew it made a difference, and you continue to pray for me. Let me be faithful in prayer, holding to your example of why prayer is important. Thank you, Jesus, for being not only a model for prayer, but for your life given for me. You are one in nature with God the Father. In prayer let me also draw near, in praise of your name. Amen.
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
This psalm is called a psalm of praise, one written by David the King. It’s what is called an acrostic poem, because each verse begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Remember back in school when the teacher asked you to make a poem for “mother” or some other word? Take the “m” and decide how Mom made cookies or made the hurt go away? Then think of something for “o” and each of the other letters in the word. That’s an acrostic poem.
Our passage today is but a portion of this psalm of praise. It’s one well worth reading through the entire psalm. These particular verses remind us that God is near when we call upon the Lord, when we call upon God in truth. God is righteous and faithful in all things; therefore God will respond willingly to us as we endeavor to live in ways that are righteous and faithful, following God’s desires for us.
What if you were to write an alphabet of praise to God? What attributes might you say to God? You are amazing. Your beauty is evident in leaves emerging from trees and fragrant blossoms in the spring air. Your creation is an intricate, well-planned act of love that deserves our care and attention. And that’s just the A, B, and C of the alphabet!
I invite you to take a few moments to compose your own prayer of praise. Come up with other words to give praise to God, even if you don’t go through the entire alphabet. Give praise for God’s acts, for God’s character, for God’s righteousness and how God cares for the weak and downtrodden person. How does God give you joy? How does God keep you safe? How does God help you in your toughest moments? All these and more are reasons to give God praise, whether we can put them in alphabetical order or not.
Lord, let me meditate on your character and your goodness. Let me consider the greatness of your being. You love each person and creature of your creation, and you have a plan for my life that gives me purpose and joy. Help me today to live up to what you wish for me, and may I live, praising your name. In Christ I pray, Amen.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
A few verses with much to say. The big word to describe them are “exhortations,” thirteen to be exact. They are so short, each of them, that the danger is we will forget them as soon as we read them. Love with sincerity? Check, got that. Hate evil – of course! But then we go on and five minutes later it’s as if we haven’t read any of the words.
Paul’s intent in writing to this mostly Gentile audience is that they “might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:16) Through the presence of the Holy Spirit within us by faith, God wishes us to be transformed from our hearts outward to the behaviors we do each day.
So what if we were to pray about each of them in turn? Lord, help me love others in ways that honor you. Don’t let me use glib words that are meaningless, but mean what I say and say only what is right and good. Jesus is my example of deep and abiding love, strong enough to decide I was worth dying for to redeem. He forgave me of my failures and I want to love others that same way. I know I don’t always do that, but I want to try again to do better.
If I can pray about living sincere love, maybe I can also pray about the pervasive presence of evil and institutions that perpetuate injustice, even harm. Lord, are you calling me to show I hate evil by seeking to rectify a wrong? Any one of these phrases are worthy of closer attention and a resolution to change.
I want to take a few minutes with each phrase, because God may be asking me to consider the deeper meaning of any of them and what impact they have on how I should live. Let Christ be my model and foundation as I pray, for Jesus lived all these words and more.
Lord, you are good, far beyond my imagining. You encourage me to walk more closely with Jesus in choosing to really live these simple phrases. Speak to me as I read them again and pray over them, but slowly this time. If I have failed in some specific way, point it out to me that I may repent. Let me keep these words imbedded in my heart, so that I may live for your glory. By your Holy Spirit, change me to be the person you want me to be. This I pray in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, May 13, 2019
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
7 Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. 8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.
Such wonderful images flow through these words of prayer! The writer has great confidence in God, knowing that as we call upon the Lord, so God will answer us. Incline your head, turn your ear as we pray, Lord, because you promise to listen when we pray with humble and repentant hearts.
When we pray, and I think just as importantly, when we are willing to listen to God as we pray, we may receive anew the wonders of God’s great love. I confess that my prayers can be one-sided at times. I put forth my requests or pleas for help, but I don’t take enough time to simply rest in God’s presence and wait to listen to God’s words to me. I miss out on the peace and assurance of God’s love because it’s like I have turned my back and walked away.
The psalmist speaks about how we by faith may find refuge from the wicked adversary in the shadow of God’s great wings. Think of a powerful eagle or soaring hawk and the breadth of its wingspan. We are like a small sparrow beside the might of a strong bird. We are insignificant beside our mighty God.
Yet God loves us, calls us the apple of his eye. God wants to protect us, care for us and give us the means to live in victory. All these resources are there for us as we pray. So today, join me to call on the Lord – in praise and confidence. Let us pray, knowing God loves us and wants to keep us safe. Let us pause and rest in the wonder of God’s great love.
Slow me down, Lord. Let me stop and listen and wait with expectation, for you are great, amazing beyond any words I could say. Let me praise you but not be so quick to go about my day, as if I have done my duty to you and need nothing more. Instead I want to walk with you and know you are there moment by moment, guiding me and protecting me and helping me. Open my heart to your presence, and I will be filled to overflowing. By your grace in Jesus Christ I pray, Amen.
What We Believe
We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only son and our savior, who lived among us to teach us and die for us. He rose again to give us the promise of eternal life in him John 3:16. He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is God dwelling in us John 14:15-17. We seek God’s word in the Bible, the foundation of our faith. Our mission as a church is to proclaim the good news of Christ to all. We honor Christ through worship and fellowship, encouraging one another in faith, hope and love 1 Corinthians 13:13, and serving our neighbors with compassion and justice.
We belong to the United Church of Christ. As a congregation we are granted the autonomy to govern our local church, and prayerfully make the best decisions we can on how to live out our calling as believers. Each person has the freedom and responsibility of discerning for themselves how faith in Jesus Christ impacts their daily walk and their worldview. We respect one another’s differences because even though we are diverse, we are still part of Christ’s body.
We look forward to welcoming you some day soon. Peace to you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
10:00 am Worship Service
10:00 am Children's Adventure Hour