Luke 17 & 18

Over and over in these two chapters we see examples of what faith in God looks like. In 17:5-10, we see the introduction to the power of faith, that faith means not being limited by our own small abilities. We also very quickly see that this power of faith does not make our small abilities useless or exempt us from any effort. In 17:11-19, we see that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can bring God glory through your faith. Even if you are the equivalent of a Biblical Samaritan, one of the most hated groups by the Jews of the time.

In 17:20-21, we find out where faith must grow, “…For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Take a moment to read that again and let it sink in. The remaining verses of the chapter outline the commitment required to have the kingdom of God within us. In this kingdom where the world’s measures of success and status do not apply, we cannot look back on the world with longing. In these verses we also see the result of having faith or not. It is uncomfortable to talk about the fact that not everyone will be saved, but what choice does God have if we refuse to let Him rule in our lives? He will not force us. We have to choose.

In 18:1-8 we see God’s end of the deal. He will hear us, always. In 18:9-14 we see that He will forgive us. In the following verses we jump back to how our attitude influences our faith. Faith grows in the heart of people who are as dependent on God as a child is on the adults around them. Secondly, the story of the rich young ruler illustrates that we are powerless to save ourselves, no matter how much we reach the world’s standards of success or how closely we follow the commandments. But then in 18:24-30 we see how God already has our powerlessness taken care of.

Now, for the climax of this whole sequence of passages about faith, we see Jesus point to His ultimate example of faith in 18:31-34. As a man, Jesus could have easily doubted that God would raise him from the dead. As a divine being, he fully knew what was coming and could have called it all off. But in 18:35-43, we see one of many examples of his tender compassion that made him not resist the pain required to save us. In this passage, we see Jesus’ interaction with just one man, so small in the grand scheme of things. So powerless in comparison to God’s might. But this man knows who Jesus is and has faith that He is the Messiah. He asks for his sight and Jesus heals him. And God is glorified.

Hunger prayer

Hungry for nothing but prayer, you’ve called me here.
Peace in the storm.

The weight on me is imagined;
A distraction from Your strength,
From Your rule, Your power, Your might.

I live in a different kingdom.
I am ruled by Your will, Your grace, Your freedom, not the tasks, demands and pleasures of this world.

Please heal my hardened heart from putting my priorities out of order. Please soften my soul so that I can love strongly and generously. Please focus my mind so I can seek Your face. Please strengthen my body so I can work towards Your purpose. Please give me courage to change. Bring me out of the boat, help me have faith to walk with You. Help me deny myself, take up my cross and follow You. I love You. All in Your will. Amen.

Psalms 19 prayer

Father. My King, my Savior, my Comforter. The heavens declare Your glory and the sky proclaims the work of Your hands. Help my life be like the sky. Help Your church be like the heavens. Help me get unwound from my uptight brain that can’t let go of things. Help Your church live by the expectations of Your kingdom instead of our own. Help me heal. Please be with others who need healing. Please remind me of Your presence when I am unable to remember it on my own. I love You, Father. Please provide us strength for tomorrow. All in Your Will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Daily Bread Prayer

Sitting quietly, I feel you coming near. Feel tears burning at the thought of Your grace, Your faithfulness. Because I am not so faithful. I am not so ready to extend grace at every moment. But yet You are so kind to me. So tender and sweet even though You are so powerful. You meet me with comfort and gentleness that I can’t find anywhere else. Father, You are so much bigger than any of the things I think about. You have given me every reason to trust You, and I do. But my trust is small. Help me trust You more. Help me trust in You so much that worldly cares fall away. Thank you for providing me the strength I need to get through everyday but also enough weakness to know that I need to turn to You again tomorrow. Please use me for Your purpose. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Confession Prayer

Father, You always find me when I am lost. I weep in the presence of Your graciousness. I come up short, I miss the mark, I get my priorities out of order… over and over. I leave You, in a slow wandering off, and then I turn back to You when I come up empty. I turn back to You hoping that I won’t leave again, but unable to promise it. I want to promise it though. I want to tell You that I will never abandon You or forsake You, but I am not strong enough. I need You. Who am I that You care for me, that You abide in me? How could I possibly forget that You are in me and all around me? How could I possibly forget the world is so much bigger than my version of it? And that in the end, this world is not what’s important. Cleanse me, purify me, create in me a clean heart. Against You and You only have I sinned. Please, Lord, have mercy on me. Please heal my hardened heart, my undisciplined mind, my weary body. Please heal our world. Please heal Your church. Help us join You in Your healing mission. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer of wholeness

Holy Father. All praise, nothing but worship, to Your precious name. Your fullness is all around us, tangible and intangible, in pleasure and in pain. You offer the wholeness we crave, the meaning for our limited amount of time. You offer boundaries and freedom in perfect balance. You offer love, mercy, grace, forgiveness and companionship overflowing. You don’t expect us to be perfect or uniform or anything else, but instead You hope and yearn for us in all things to turn to You. You are always near, waiting for us to turn and come closer to You. We come to You with all that we have, our joys and our pain, our gratitude and our requests, our fears and our hopes, our lament and our praise. And You are with us in all of them. You know them intimately. You listen as we share them. You occupy the space that creates relationship. You make us full of awe as we think that the Eternal Creator and Sustainer of all is here to listen, to guide, to fill us up, to reconcile with us so that we can be in relationship. You are King of my days and all that is in them. I will worship You forever. Please help me live by faith. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Leviticus 23

The Bible is a story about God and His people; about Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the church. It is not about us. Perhaps we can relate to some of the stories or glean guidance from the wisdom in Scriptures. But what we can get real meaning from is seeking God in the stories.

We see God giving His people exactly what they need, over and over. We see His extended patience before delivering justice. We see His compassion while delivering justice. We see His love, mercy, grace and forgiveness as a response to human choices. We see His faithfulness, even when His people are unfaithful. We see His disregard for earthly status as a measure of whether someone has worth or a unique purpose in His plan. In passages such as Leviticus 23 that are full of laws that seem odd to our culture and time, we see God looking out for His people, giving them laws that are in their best interest, that will help them stay close to Him.

There are many places in Scripture that are difficult to explain without extensively studying the historical and cultural context, and that remain hard to explain even after such study. And honestly, it is hard to get excited about daily Bible reading when countless laws or genealogies make up the day’s portion of text. But what if instead of trying to explain or defend every verse of Scripture, we think about what the Scripture means in the context of God’s relationship with His people? The laws become examples of God guiding His people. The genealogies become an example of God caring about individuals, even when to us they seem lost in the larger scheme of things (and if they seem lost in the big picture to us, how much more amazing it is that they don’t seem like that to God!). Instead of reading scriptures for black and white answers and evidence for debates, what would happen if we read scripture for assurance? Assurance that God is still doing for His people today what He has been doing for His people since the beginning of time. Living out scripture would become less like a check list and more like a new perspective for seeing the world and what God is doing in our lives.

Ezekiel 43 & 47

These are incredible descriptions of God returning to his people. In chapter 43, the glory of the Lord fills the temple. There’s nothing I can say about it except to recommend a few readings of it.

In chapter 47, the beauty of the text also leaves little room for comment. Ezekiel describes a river that gradually grows deeper, even though it has no tributaries. This river also renews itself into fresh water. Salt water becomes fresh water. It gives life to many fruit bearing trees and living creatures. There are even swamps and marshes so that there can still be salt. The river is complete, perfect, full of diversity and pure. “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.” (Vs.12). What a beautiful promise. I love the metaphors in the Bible and am adding this one to the list. Even though I like to think about the beauty at the end of the river, I must keep in mind that the river grows gradually and eventually into “a river that no one could cross” (vs. 5). I must be patient to see the beauty at the end, and I must depend on God to take me there, because I can’t cross on my own.

What counts

Everything will pass away, but souls are eternal.
Souls are unique and to be treasured.
People are important.
All people.

You allow us to make our own choices.
You don’t force us, although you could.
Help us let others make their own choices.
Help us stop trying to force.

You loved Israel even when they were narrow-minded.
You loved us too.
Help us love those who seem narrow-minded.
Help us realize our own humanity.

Instead of condemning us straight to hell,
You said, “I’ll go to hell for you.”
Help us follow Moses, Paul, Jesus,
In this type of love, not swift condemnation.
Help us learn the kind of love from you,
that allows us to echo your words
and love so strongly that the hearer will know we mean them.

And through our love, they will more easily believe that you meant those words too.
That you did them.
That us going to hell for someone won’t really work, because none of us are perfect.
But it doesn’t need to work because it’s already been done.
For all of us.