I woke up this morning to see that the probable terrorists in the Boston bombings murdered one more person last night in an attempt to escape. One has so far been successful in eluding authorities, the other was apparently killed.
And today, people will celebrate the man’s death, that he “got what he deserved.” Today, followers of Jesus have to choose to follow Jesus instead of the culture.
Jesus says(from Matthew 5):
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.“You are the light of the world.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(R)”> A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(S)”> In the same way, let your light shine before others,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(T)”> that they may see your good deeds<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(U)”> and glorify<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(V)”> your Father in heaven.”“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AX)”> But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(AZ)”> of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?<sup class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(BB)”> Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”
To follow Jesus today means to pray for the remaining suspect. Not for his escape. Pray for his capture, but that it be peaceful. Pray for God to show mercy and break through to this man’s sinful and lost soul. It also means to pray for all who participate in acts of terror and murder in the name of religion.
To follow Jesus today means to speak of a God who loves people and desires that all would turn toward him.
To follow Jesus today means to not participate in bloodlust. I have read this morning comments wishing and hoping that we would reinstate public hangings for the remaining suspect. If you struggle with the need to see the terrorist in pain, ask God to take away your desire for revenge.
To follow Jesus today means to find those who would be your enemies and love them. Buy them coffee, give them a compliment, help them without expectation of anything in return. The Bible doesn’t say this will immediately change them, but it is commanded and Romans 13 says that giving a thirsty enemy a drink can lead them to repentance.
There are lots of other ways to follow Jesus today. Let’s show the rest of our country and the world that Jesus is our only hope and we will follow him.
“Give me Christ or else I die.”
Two nights ago Shiloh and I were relaying a few details about the Boston Marathon bombs to the twins so they can hear about it from us and ask us questions rather than from their friends about what happened. As we finish talking, Kennedy looks at us and immediately say, “We should be praying for them!” And so, she led us in a prayer for those in Boston who were hurt or scared. She prayed for their healing and that people would get out of the hospital and that they would get to know Jesus.
She did not pray for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
She did not pray for the liberals or conservatives to realize why it was their fault.
She did not pray for next year’s marathon.
She did pray for the people who were hurt and scared.
And she reminded me that in a world of 24 hour news and commentary, sometimes we can forget what really matters. We can forget people who are scared and hurting, lost and lonely, confused and in need of the grace, peace and love of Christ. So I joined with her in prayer and have continued her prayer since Monday night. Thank you God for 7 year olds who remember you and turn to you quickly.
May we be a people who never forget that God, not our government, is our savior. He is all we need.
One of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, passed away on Friday. He was a man who seemed to know God’s love and grace in immense ways. I learned a lot from his books over the last 13 or 14 years. His words forced me to consider a God actually loved me so much that he sent Jesus. Not in some theoretical way, but in the mess of my own life I found that God loved me deeply and wanted me to be near to him.
The 2nd chapter of “Abba’s Child” about the imposter was literally life changing. I could own the lies that I was trying to tell myself and others and let them get lost while I got to know Jesus. I didn’t have to be anything other than his beloved. I also learned much about what it means to listen to God and how to pray from Mannings writings.
I tried to pull some quotes from his books last night to share, but I have underlined so much of them that my list quickly started to become it’s own book. So I will share two:
“John (the disciple) did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing.”
“Jesus loves us as we are and not as we should be because none of us is as we should be.”
I have been posting a lot of prayers during my sabbatical because of the time it gives me to pray. I am enjoying the large amounts of time to be still and wait for the Lord immensely. This morning I came across Colossians 4:2, which tells us something of how to pray:
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
This verse tells us three things about prayer:
- Be devoted to it
- Be alert and ready
- Be thankful
As I sit in the early morning hours and read these words, my tired eyes are drawn to number 2. What does it mean to be alert and ready? The original greek word (gregoreuo) means to keep awake, refrain from sleep and so to remain alert, watchful and ready to meet danger or emergency. It means to be quick to perceive and act; being on the lookout.
We have to be ready prayer at all times! I think this seems easy until I think about how often I am drawn to prayer during the day. A hint, it’s not real often some days. If I’m devoted to prayer and being watchful, most of my day should be drawing me to prayer.
Why is be watchful for opportunities to pray important? It is holy work. It is the work of setting your mind on the things of heaven and then praying that it may be on earth as it is in heaven. I think this can look many different ways. A few suggestions:
- When someone needs prayer, pray with them right then rather than later by yourself. If you are alert, you will be ready and see the opportunity.
- Set aside regular times each day to stop and pray. At the church we stop each day at 10am and 2pm for 10-15 minutes of prayer. Making it a regular habit helps me be alert.
- Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. It will help you know when there is danger or emergency that you are to be meeting head on with prayer.
Right now I find myself in the midst of that third one, cultivating a deep inner prayer life and connection to the Holy Spirit. It seems slippery. For me, it is no easy thing to listen to and feel connected with the Holy Spirit. I think it takes work to learn. So I am working. And praying.
How can I pray for you today?
From “Celtic Benedictions” by J. Philip Newell:
May the light of God
illumine the heart of my soul.
May the flame of Christ
kindle me to love.
May the fire of the Spirit
free me to live
this day, tonight, and forever.
I encourage you to pray this prayer slowly and imagine each of these things happening as you pray them. As the light of God illuminates your heart, what do you see? As the flame of Christ creates a fire of love in you, where are supposed to spread the flame of Christ today? And what is the fire of the Spirit freeing you from?
The Prayer of Dag Hammarskjöld
Give me a pure heart – that I may see Thee,
A humble heart – that I may hear Thee,
A heart of love – that I may serve Thee,
A heart of faith – that I may abide in Thee.
We need each of these things, purity, humility, love, and faith. Spend time praying this prayer today and listening for God to speak to you about them in your life. Maybe He has words of encouragement, maybe you need to confess some things, maybe God is calling you see, hear, serve or abide in a new and deeper way. Whatever the case may be, pray…
Praying this passage this morning for myself, my family, my church and my fellow pastors:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.
God, fill us that we may live and breath for you alone.