Sermon Seeds: Persistence in Prayer

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When I was in high school and experiencing all the typical teenage angst of relationship break-ups, peer pressure, and raging hormones, I had one encounter that forever shaped the way I move toward the future.

I felt a closeness to the the mother of one my friends…her whole family actually. This woman of faith died from breast cancer the fall of my senior year in high school—but not before imparting to me the words that became my mantra for life.

One evening, when my angst and stress was overwhelming, I went to her home. I poured out my heart, and at some point spewed my need to just give up.

She got right in my face, and quietly, but firmly told me to never, ever give up.

Here was this woman, my spiritual mentor at the time, dying from the ravages of cancer, on oxygen, barely able to move off the couch, telling me to never give up. Nothing in life comes easy, but it’s always, always, worth fighting for.

I can’t tell you how many times those words have come back to me, sustained me, pushed me, enabled me.

I apply them to work, to child-rearing, to writing, to facing the seemingly impossible.

And I apply them to prayer and my relationship with God.

The words of Jesus about prayer, “ask…seek…knock” are actually: keep on asking, keep on seeking…keep on knocking.”

Are you in a situation that seems overwhelming? Do you need a miracle? Never give up in prayer. God’s answer, his way, his truth, are worth fighting for.

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Message Meme: Follow Me

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One of the first instructions Jesus gave to those who would become his disciples: Follow me.

Follow. Follow my lead. Follow directions. Follow the leader.

We don’t always want to follow. Especially when the person we’re supposed to be following goes in a direction we’re not comfortable with, or a way that requires changing what we have planned.

Whether we’re dancing, working, learning, or trying to navigate a relationship, following  requires setting aside my way, my assumptions, and my leading. Following involves submission. The recognition that the one leading knows the way—or at least is in the position to tell me where to go or what to do.

Perhaps that’s why when the Disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he included this important principle in his teaching. Tucked there in the midst of words about forgiveness, provision, and honoring God, we are reminded to ask our Father to lead us.

And he will give us grace to follow.

 

 

Message Meme: Praying Together

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Last week we considered Jesus’ instruction to pray privately. He was concerned with the potential people possess to try to impress others with with their praying prowess, or maybe even their fear to pray in front of others for fear of judgement.

While many take that instruction and use it to denounce corporate prayer, a cursory read of the Bible would prove something quite different.

Jesus, when asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, gives them what we refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. And the prayer is an instruction to them in the plural: when all y’all pray, pray this way…Our Father.

The prayer is not a self-centered crowd cry of, “Mine, mine, mine, mine.”

After Jesus’ resurrection, when the ragtag group of believers was stuck together in the Upper Room, they filled their time with prayer. Acts 1:14 tells us they “joined together constantly in prayer.”

Praying alone solidifies our relationship with God. Praying together strengthens and grows us for our mission and ministry to the world.

We’re in this…together.

Message Meme: Content or Covet

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Contentment…satisfaction. These are the opposites of what leads us to coveting—being consumed with desiring what others have, not being happy or satisfied with ours.

We live in a world that celebrates striving over thriving. Work hard. Play harder. Have the best and the newest. We are no longer fulfilled by merely keeping up with the Jones, we have to exceed them at every turn, and who cares if the get trampled?

God does.

Back in the garden, the serpent spoke to Eve’s innate desire for more: eat from the forbidden tree and you’ll be as wise as God. To get ahead you can’t trust that God has your best at heart. She coveted what God had.

Dissatisfaction played a role in the murder of Able, and the birth rite theft of Esau. And who can forget how coveting his neighbor’s wife was nearly the demise of David.

The Apostle Paul’s comment to young Timothy must have been a jolt, even back then: “A godly life brings huge profits to people who are content with what they have (1 Timothy 6:6, God’s World Translation).”

I wonder what those profits might be?

 

Message Meme: Let’s Be Honest!

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Our commandment this week: Don’t tell lies about others.

This commandment has more to do with perjuring oneself as witness in court than telling someone everything is fine when it’s not, or that their new hairstyle looks fabulous when it really looks like a horrible hack job.

Remember back to the third commandment:

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Not taking the name of Lord in vain spoke directly to the ways we carried his name WELL in all we do and say.

There seems to me to be a direct correlation between these two commands. If we are carrying well the name and character of our neighbor (because the commands are about how we live and build community), then we will do everything positive in our power to build them up—not tear them down with lies and gossip.

Let’s be honest.

Message Meme: Don’t Take It

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Have you ever stolen something?

I’ve always hated that question. Mostly because I have to own up—yes, I have.

I took penny candy from the Fast Food Market in grade school.

Last week I even took a pen from the office where I was taking a class the other day.

I took a few extra minutes on my break a couple of jobs back.

I took five extra miles per hour on my way to the meeting I’m at.

I robbed someone of a blessing by declining their kind offer of assistance.

I robbed God of his glory by not giving him the credit due, or sharing his love.

I don’t think I’m in this boat alone. We could probably all own up to taking what isn’t ours. That’s what makes this commandment so important.

But why are we so prone to take what isn’t ours? More on that in Friday’s Sermon Seeds.

Prayer thoughts: Father God, this rule is hard. And the reasons we take are only symptoms of a greater heart issue. Help us to trust that you really do give us what we need so we can turn from this insatiable consuming greed—thinking we need more than we do. I want to be done with that apple. I want to bask in your lavish love and ample provision. Now, and always. Amen.

Message Meme: Purity

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This week we will consider the seventh commandment: Don’t commit adultery.

According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary (1839): The seventh commandment concerns chastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the body, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends to pollute the imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law, as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any other like matters.

Is it naive to believe that moral purity is possible?

God promises that the answer is a resounding, “NO!”

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).

Every thing we need to escape the corruption in the world.

 

Message Meme: Valuing Life

This week’s message will address the sixth commandment: Don’t murder.

As has been my practice in this series, I began my study by asking why would this commandment be important as God? God gives his rules to protect and/or grow us.

So why no murder?

Keep in mind these commandments are God’s foundational principles for the Jews who have just left Egypt and look forward to entering the Promised Land. They are leaving a place where their only value was their ability to work. God wants them to know their true value: he created them; he created them in his image; and he created them for relationship.

Those truths leave no room for murder—the intentional taking of another life.

Put that on one side of the equation: disregard for the created and loved life of another and on the other Jesus’ words:

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Would you give your life for anyone?

Message Meme: Family Trees

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Have you noticed the growth in companies where you can find your DNA and roots in your family tree? The top ones, according to a google search (now I’m going to get a landslide of ads since they think I’m interested now—whatever happened to just doing research?) are: MyHeritage; Ancestry (because everyone wants a leaf); Living DNA; Vitagene; 23andMe; and GPS Origins. Wikipedia listed the options alphabetically and had 36 in their list.

Have your researched your family tree? Why all the interest? And, does it really matter?

I remember as a child watching with utter fascination as my great-grandmother unrolled a large piece of very old looking paper reavealing our family tree. This historical piece took my family line all the way back to William Bradford. I knew the name because I studied about him in school! My awe and excitement bubbled up and over.

Why do we seek to know our genetic history and connections to the past? I believe God made us this way. Our spiritual wiring is all about connection and relationship.

So it’s not surprising to me that when God gave Moses the fifth commandment, the one that begins to address our horizontal relationships, he begins at home. And he begins with staying connected.

In the commercials for the different DNA searching companies, the people who are telling their stories are finding pride in their ethnicity—in where they’re from and their newly found identiies.

I can’t fill in a lot of the boxes in my family tree. Sometimes that makes me sad. Then I remember my spiritual tree goes back to a garden. Not all my ancestors have pretty stories. But my bottom line is this: I am a child of God.