Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Forgiveness instead of revenge

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 2:1-10
Tuesday May 31, 2016

Focus passage: So I encourage you to show your love for this person. 2 Corinthians 2:8

Forgiveness is a central component of our faith and our understanding of God’s working in our world – yet it may be one of the most difficult concepts to live out in our lives, because when we forgive we give up our natural tendency to seek revenge – to remain angry – to lash out – and to fuel our rage.  And we may find that we take on the same tendency for revenge when someone hurts someone we love.

In order to live fully in Christian community, we must embrace the spiritual discipline of forgiveness. 

I say that with great intention, forgiveness is a spiritual discipline, just like prayer is, it is something that we have to practice and work at.  I have found that for those who embrace the spiritual discipline of forgiveness that when something really big happens to them, they are more easily live into forgiveness and do not allow themselves to be altered in a harmful way by the action that has happened to them or to someone they love.


Prayer:  God help me to embrace forgiveness for myself and for others.  Be known in the mending of my brokenness and in the broken relationships in my life.  Amen. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Responding to a wrong

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 2:1-10
Monday May 30, 2016

Focus passage: So I encourage you to show your love for this person. 2 Corinthians 2:8

Some things never change, we find ways to communicate over distances and we at times lose the message either through simply forgetting the message or by actually losing the physical printed words, be it on paper or on screen.  This seems to be the case with Paul and his correspondence with the community in Corinth.  Some scholars believe that there is a missing letter between what we commonly refer to as First and Second Corinthians. 

Evidence for that missing letter comes in the passage for today. It seems that Paul was mistreated by a member of the community and instead of returning for a visit he sent a letter expressing his concern for this person’s actions.  The community responded by calling the member to account for his actions but then continued to treat the person poorly, which is only furthering the incident and brokenness.  Paul explains that the spiritual discipline of forgiveness needs to be practiced in their community.

Paul speaks to the community about the need for second chances.  Who do you need to give a second chance to?  Be in prayer for that person this week. 


Prayer:  God help me to embrace forgiveness for myself and for others.  Be known in the mending of my brokenness and in the broken relationships in my life.  Amen. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A story of second chances

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 2:1-10
Sunday May 29, 2016

Focus passage: This is why you should try your best to forgive and to comfort this person now instead, so that this person isn’t overwhelmed by too much sorrow. 2 Corinthians 7

I can remember quiet clearly the day that I crashed my mom’s car.  I had just turned 16 and was in a part of downtown St. Louis that my dad had asked me not to go to and I got into a car accident.  There was no hiding the fact that I did exactly the opposite of what my dad had asked me to do.  My mom had to come and get me and my friend because my dad was so angry with me. 

So the next day after a long night of not sleeping my dad finally came into my room and I really thought he was going to give me a long angry lecture and instead he just asked if I wanted to go and get some ice cream with him.  I said sure and he handed me the keys to his car, the one I hadn’t crashed.  At first I hesitated and he said you know Leslie you’ll have to get behind the wheel again.  It was my second chance, not to mention a moment of mercy and compassion on behalf of my dad.

Paul reminds us that in healthy Christian communities it is vital that we practice the spiritual discipline of forgiveness.

We practice forgiveness because we embrace the forgiveness that God has given to us.  God forgives us even when we don’t believe we deserve it because God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.


Prayer:  God help me to embrace forgiveness for myself and for others.  Be known in the mending of my brokenness and in the broken relationships in my life.  Amen. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Community

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Saturday May 28, 2016

Focus passage: God rescued us from a terrible death, and he will rescue us .  We have set our hope on him that he will rescue us again since you are helping with your prayer for us.  Then many people can thank God on our behalf for the gift that was give to us through the prayers of many people. 2 Corinthians 1:10-11


The reality is that we will never fully know what someone else is feeling or thinking in their own suffering.  But we can honor their story by compassionately listening:  by listening without judgment, by listening without trying to fix the situation.  It is one of the hardest tasks we have as Christians; we speak about it often in our elders meetings.  When someone is suffering we are to enter into their suffering with them, not try and pull them out of it.  We are to be a compassionate presence in each other’s lives.  We are to give one another the grace to deal with hard situations in the way that they need to.

We are called to share each other’s burdens.  To listen to their story so that we are more compassionate in our ministry alongside and to them.

Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Community

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Friday May 27, 2016

Focus passage: Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering so also you are partners in comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:7

The healing salve that God offers to us is found in community.  In Greek the word is koinonia.  In koinonia together we share in each other’s suffering and celebrate each other’s joy.
Because we often fail to turn to one another and to God, Paul reminds us that we will find comfort and consolation with God in community.

Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Responding to suffering

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Thursday May 26, 2016

Focus passage: That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings.  So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation.  If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:5-6

One of the main problems that happen in community is that, often, we suffer in silence.  We believe that if we have enough faith then we can handle any problem on our own with God’s help.  It might be when we are suffering from a physical or mental illness, it might be when we are enmeshed in a family conflict, or when we are injured physically, emotionally or spiritually, or when we have experienced job loss, or difficulty in making ends meet and paying our bills, or with broken relationships.  
One thing is for sure, being a follower of Christ does not mean that your life will be void of suffering.  What it does mean is that we don’t have to suffer alone.  
Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Responding to suffering

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Wednesday May 25, 2016

Focus passage: That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings.  So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation.  If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:5-6


Whenever we face suffering, we choose how we will respond to it.  We all have our way of dealing with suffering internally.  But here’s the amazing part: if you believe that God is still molding and crafting you, then you can see each situation of struggle as an opportunity for spiritual growth.  It becomes a time for you to open yourself to the comfort of God and then further open yourself to the suffering of others, so you can then be a presence of consolation and comfort in their lives.  
When others are suffering, we are given the opportunity to be a compassionate presence in their lives.

Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Abundant Consolation

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Tuesday May 24, 2016

Focus passage: Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering so also you are partners in comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:7
When we suffer, Paul assures us that Christ is with us and that gives us abundant consolation and grace but it also pulls us out of our own suffering so we are united in the suffering of Christ.  Which then has a ripple effect.  When we are aware that we are not alone in our suffering we become more aware of the suffering around us and are able to use our own journey to inform how we reach out to others who are suffering.
The abundant gift of Christ’s consolation and comfort then overflows from us into the lives of others.  

Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Monday, May 23, 2016

A theological understanding of suffering

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Monday May 23, 2016

Focus passage:  That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings.  So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation.  If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:5-6

Paul places suffering in a theological context in the first 11 verses of the letter.  It is all grounded in an understanding that Christ was a suffering Messiah and because of that, Christ knows the depth of our own suffering.
Like the Psalmist proclaims in Psalm 139, beginning in verse 7, “where could I go to get away from your spirit?  Where could I go to escape your presence?  If I went up to heaven you would be there.  If I went down to the grave, you would be there too!  If I could fly on the wings of the dawn, stopping only to rest only on the far side of the ocean – even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight!  If I said, “The darkness will definitely hide me; the light will become night around me,” even then the darkness isn’t too dark for you!”
Paul believes that the God who can raise the dead, can make all things new.

Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A blessing

Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11
Sunday May 22, 2016

Focus passage: May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed!  He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3

The Apostle Paul begins his letters with a blessing.  His blessing in 2nd Corinthians is unique.  It is an assurance that God is present with us especially when we are suffering.
Throughout the first 11 verses of his letter, the theme of consolation and comfort arise.  It is timely and pastoral because as we know the community in Corinth is fragmented, but so is the relationship between Paul and the community and so Paul takes some time to remind the community that God can help them through the rough patch they are in.  In the letter, Paul hopes that through the power of God who raised Jesus from the grave, that God will be able to heal the community and bring them to new life.

Prayer: God help me to fully know today that you are present in my life and in the lives of those I love, in the lives of those I struggle to love, and in the mended parts of my life (and community) and in the fragmented parts of my life (and community). Amen.  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fruith of the Spirit



Daily reading: Galatians 5:13-25
Saturday May 21, 2016

Focus passage: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against things like this. Galatians 5:22

What fruit do you need the Spirit to cultivate in your life?  Take time to look over the list and write down the one that you need to have cultivated in your life.

What fruit comes most naturally to you?  Write it down and be mindful of the ease in which it is in your life, take time to meditate on that as you also are mindful of the one you need the Spirit to cultivate within you.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit come, move in and among my community of faith, stir us and awaken us to Your call in our community today.  Amen.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Faithfulness



Daily reading: Galatians 5:13-25
Friday May 20, 2016

Focus passage: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against things like this. Galatians 5:22

When we choose to be faithful, we find that we are transformed by the Spirit.  It is a gift offered to each of us, we just have to be willing to receive it.  

The wonderful part of the gift is not just in the receiving, it is also in the giving.  We are called to share our gifts with others: To be a gentle presence in a turbulent situation, to find kind words when everyone else is tearing one another down, to be faithful in all things.  Allowing the Spirit to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in us transforms us from the inside out; it molds us into more faithful followers of Christ.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit come, move in and among my community of faith, stir us and awaken us to Your call in our community today.  Amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Challenge



Daily reading: Galatians 5:13-25
Thursday May 19, 2016

Focus passage: But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!  I say be guided b the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. Galatians 5:14-15

The Spirit is described in Acts 2 as a fierce wind and as flames.  One thing we know is that wind and flame are hard to contain and control, but their energy can be harnessed and utilized. 
The Spirit compels us forward, it leads us into tomorrow, it helps us to adapt to the changes that we are facing in our world and in our congregation.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, stagnant about the Spirit. 
And so with change we know that there will be resistance.  And we can choose how we will respond.  We can respond defensively or disrespectfully.  Our aim can be to lash out since you are hurt, because resistance is rarely pleasant.

We can as Paul wrote “tear one another to pieces” or we can utilize the gifts that the Spirit gives to each of us.  We can find ways to embody the Spirit that will bring about unity.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit come, move in and among my community of faith, stir us and awaken us to Your call in our community today.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Working together



Daily reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-27 and Galatians 5:13-25
Wednesday May 18, 2016

Focus passage: We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:13

Paul spoke passionately about the gifts of the Spirit to many communities.  He reminds us that just like our bodies cannot function without every part working together, the same is true with the church.  We all are gifted in different ways and together we are able to do ministry.  The gifts of the Spirit enhance our collective ministries.  The Spirit calls us into community and into service.

No one is given the gift of sitting back and watching everyone else work. 

Where it gets complicated in the life of a congregation is when we begin to believe that we know the correct way to do something and are unable to recognize that God has given each of us unique visions and insights into leadership.  And this is where the fruits of the Spirit come in; they are offered to us all and the help immeasurably in the utilization of our gifts of the Spirit.

 To Paul the fruits of the Spirit are both the glue that keeps the community together and also the healing salve that is needed when conflict arises.

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit come, move in and among my community of faith, stir us and awaken us to Your call in our community today.  Amen.

Temptation

Matthew 4:1-17 Back in the early years of my ministry, I led a group of senior high youth through a 30 hour fast. It was a trend a...