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Mundane faith open to the miraculous

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭27‬:‭14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Waiting for the Lord means that we are open to His leading. Waiting for Him means that there is the real possibility that He will reveal Himself to those who wait upon Him. Waiting doesn’t just mean sitting still but living towards Jesus, not just living from day to day, going about our own business.

People of faith can live out their faith in many different ways, whether it is trusting God for favourable weather, living with faithful integrity in the service of others, trusting God for the providence that is needed to go about our work and sometimes our play. What is striking is that while this is a faithful life we may become like the elder brother in the story of the Prodigal Son who did everything his father asked but really didn’t know his father at all. It is not people living faith lives aren’t being faithful but are they, are we being open to what Jesus could do beyond the normal.

What about you? Are you living a faithful life but does the miraculous seem too far fetched for you? Are we like Peter at times, when confronted by the blessing of Jesus, we feel ashamed when it comes to being confronted with the divine power of Jesus that we profess to believe but when we see it in real life we have to adjust our view of Jesus but also our view of ourselves, of our doubt and how far we are called to believe in Jesus and what He can really do in this world but also towards eternity. The power to transform our lives and our hearts.

Prayer for God’s deliverance from temptation

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (‭‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭10‬‬:‭13‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Let us pray.

Lord of all our situations and stresses. Lord of grace in the face of failures. Lord of righteousness meet us where we are in the face of the temptations that are swirling around our hearts and minds, drifting in front of our eyes and flowing in an out of our ears, creating unrest in our souls. Meet us in our uneasiness, that we would see Your righteous power confronting our weaknesses and bringing us back from void of sin and death into an eternal relationship with You.

Lord of all knowledge help us not fall into the temptation of failure but let us rest in Your knowledge of us that we are not beyond Your redemption and grace. That our past sins are not greater than Jesus’ righteous life, of His love for each of us even though we too often turn our backs on Him. Help us to remember Your holy name when we are confronted by the temptations of our hearts, the temptations of this world that try to lead us away from Your heavenly kingdom into darkness and despair.

Lord of rest and peace calm our raging minds in these uncertain times. Renew our being from the storms of temptation and fear. Create in us a pure and upright spirit through the gift of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us right thinking that we would not be deceived by our own devices. Led astray by our grand plans, obstructing Your will in and for our lives. May we experience Your continued presence in our waking and our sleeping as Your Holy Spirit quiets the swirling of our minds and teaches our bodies to breathe in Your rhythm of life.

Lord, our giver of life we pray all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Prayer for students taking exams

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭26‬:‭3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, as many students prepare to write exams for the first time, or for the first time in years may you grant them peace. Peace and clarity of mind as they study their various subjects. Peace to be able to recall the information they have spent time memorizing and learning. Lord comfort the anxiety and stress that many people deal with through their lives, these people who have trouble dealing with people yet need to be around people to attend school, to move to the next stage of their lives. Lord help them to be at peace with You and with those around them, to be able to function and learn and write the exams that are being put before them.

May the Lord of all knowledge help the anxious heart to find strength to face the unknown so that the unknown will become known. Lord speak Your words of grace and life through the distractions and challenges that many face. Words that draw us into peace instead of fear. Words that refocus our hearts on You the one who speaks order into chaos.

Lord comfort the stress filled bodies that struggle to sleep, that have forgotten the peace of simple relaxation. Bodies that are pointing towards a future but afraid to fail and afraid to succeed. Whatever we may face help us to not just know the knowledge that we have learned but also the eternal promises that root us in You.

Lord of our very souls, bring us to the waters of Your peace. In our struggles may we find the reassurance that we are Yours. Our lives are not based on our successes and failures, our identities are based on Your redemptive love. May the release of our stress give new life to our being so that the flourishing of Your life might grow in each of our lives so that You might be glorified.

Lord we pray for safety for those travelling to and from their schools that they may write, may return and live in the fullness of life, to play, to learn to grow. May we all be filled with Your blessing and grace. We pray this in Your name, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Gratitude in the face of temptation

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Does temptation control you?

Does it guide your steps, form your words?

When we give up so much of ourselves to a temptation, we start to act in a way to procure or make that temptation a reality. Now the simple temptations are easily overlooked but the deeper one, the ones that make the most difference in our lives, the owns we are afraid to have uncovered, to realize, to lose, these are the ones that have a power over us. Like David being tempted by his power to usurp God’s providence, to become a god delivering his own providence.

How do we deal with all these different temptations? These temptations that encourage us to distrust Jesus, to forget about God’s providence and to miss how He has been blessing us each and every day of our lives. We focus on what we want and what we don’t have instead of seeing Jesus, instead of living a life of gratitude. Gratitude becomes a new focal point of resistance against temptation. Gratitude for what Jesus has given to us, gratitude for the live that we are living, gratitude that He loves us more than we love ourselves.

How are you going to practise gratitude today?

In the face of temptation, the grace of Christ

““Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Why are temptations so interesting and mysterious?

We think that the things we are tempted by will make us better, fuller, more adequate, which means that somewhere something has made us feel less than. It is a theme that starts out in Genesis 3 and runs through different parts of the Bible. Temptation to run from the one who blesses us to the one who curses us. It seems like an obvious choice and yet somehow the subtleties overcome our rational mind and we quickly choose incorrectly.

Temptations are a reality, Jesus warns us of them yet for some reason, sin, our tainted self identity, our pride tainted image, greed for what could be. Temptation encourages us to dream and miss the reality of what is. To miss God and our relationship with Him in the mundane, the normal, the everyday. Temptation takes away the recognition of the everyday miracles, to recognize the burgeoning kingdom of God that comes into view through Jesus, the one who resisted temptation to give us life and forgiveness. To cover us in His righteousness and His grace.

Isn’t it strange that temptation makes us think that we can do better than Jesus? Yet He is the one who has given us more than we know. Whatever we are tempted with is more than we have any need for.

Prayer for Preparation

Let’s do something a little different today. As we pray I want us to take some time to examine our hearts, to examine our minds, and to examine our souls. This coming Sunday we are going to look at Luke 4:1-13

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭4‬:‭1‬-‭13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

In a way Jesus is taking time, while we read that He is being tempted by the devil, it is a deep time with the Holy Spirit. The temptations that the devil is putting forward helps to show a deep reliance on the Holy Spirit. The prayer below will be but a skeleton that you and the Holy Spirit will need to bring fullness to.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus may Your Holy Spirit help us as we pray. Guide us as we face the depths of our hearts. Reveal to us what we are hiding in our minds. Open up our eyes to see the brokenness in our soul but also Your grace working in us.
As You faced the temptations put before You Lord Jesus, You were not alone. Lord we confess that we are tempted by…..
Lord at times these temptations have become actions and words. You know our hearts and our minds but we admit consciously these sins to You. . . . .
In our busyness we have become tired. We have not always given You the time You deserve. We have tried to fill our lives with these idols . . . . .
We have tried to sate the soul hunger that yearns for Your divine love with these idols.
Our souls are crying out for You Lord Jesus but we are too easily distracted by appointments, and meetings, by visits and calls to be made, by new thoughts and old complaints. Our souls are hurting because . . . . Help us Lord to find healing. To hear Your voice calling to us speaking the words of life and forgiveness that will truly nourish our broken souls and bring healing and wholeness.
Lord break the power of these idols in our lives . . . .
Lord we know that we are not worthy of Your forgiveness but we ask You to forgive these sins . . . .
Lord grant us the strength of will, the discernment of Your Holy Spirit to resist these temptations . . . .
Lord we hold on to Your eternal promises to never leave us or forsake us, to forgive our sins and release us from their bondage and soul marring effect, to draw us closer and provide us with refuge in the tumultuous times and to hear our cries to You for help and grace. Jesus we trust in Your faithful love to surround us in our fallenness, our sinfulness and wash away our sins by Your grace and Your life renewing blood to bring us to Yourself in life preparing us for eternity with You. We pray this in Your Holy Name, Amen.

Prayer for Clarity

Let us pray.

Lord of clarity, give us sight to see you in these tumultuous times.
Lord of clarity help us to hear You in the busyness of conflicting messages.
Lord of life help us to confront the erroneous in our lives.
Lord of life we seek You and not the simplicity of comfort.
Lord of grace we struggle to find our true identity in You.
Lord of grace we seek to find our true purpose in given from You.
We seek You day and night yet the noise of our society is alluring.
We seek You with all of our hearts, mind, body, and soul.
We seek Your blessing resisting the temptations of fame, of possession, of authority.
Our lives are Yours, guide us with Your Holy Spirit.
Nourish us with Your living words confronting our sins.
Flourish us with Your clarity that we might discern Your way in this world.
Enliven our broken soul with Your soul changing redemption,
With your life transforming love.
Lord Jesus, in You we have life, in You we have hope, in You we are reconciled and made whole.
We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Called to Jesus and Community

“And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭3‬:‭10‬-‭14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As John is confronting the sins of the people, he is not just helping them turn back to God, he is also helping them to live in a healthy community with each other. This is an important pairing that we too often miss when it comes to faith. Faith isn’t just about our relationship with Jesus, it overflows from this into our relationships with the people around us. Whether they are cherished family, helpful neighbours, pleasant strangers, or potential enemies we are to live and treat others out of our faith.

Sharing the blessing of God instead of hoarding it for ourselves is living out of faith because we are trusting that Jesus will provide for us. The same with not collecting more taxes that was needed. The tax collectors had been acting out of greed and possibly fear. A fear of scarcity instead of living in the faithful abundance of Jesus’ grace. The soldiers were acting from a place of superiority instead of recognizing their kinship with those they were abusing. The soldiers were abusing the gift that God had given them to protect yet they used it to advance their own cause.

When we all learn to live as Jesus has blessed us, and to be good stewards of the blessing that each of us has been given then we start to experience the fullness of being in an honouring community of faith, trusting that our Lord will continue to be faithful. It is when we start to impose our limits on Jesus that we start to fear and act for our own self preservation. Unfortunately we realize too late that when we are focus on our self preservation we are separating ourselves from the faithfulness of the one who can actually preserve us. Trust in Jesus, not in our own limited resourcefulness, for Jesus is able to bless us from His infinite grace and give us not just life but eternal life.

Come back to Me

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When we look at the people who were listening to John. There was the average person, government representatives, military personal. The range of people and social classes was great, but what else should you expect from those following the word of God.

God’s word stretches across any different social classes, geographical landscapes and into people’s hearts and lives. John’s words have power not because of his style, or location, it was because the words came from God, through the Holy Spirit. God’s words have power over the powerful. Our place in the world does not dictate or protect us from the truth of God’s words. When confronted with God’s truth, our lives are forever changed. Either we listen and follow and allow God’s words to lead us in life or we deny them and thus deny God and become separated from Him in our lives. At times God’s words and actions can seem like folly, the cross doesn’t make sense and yet it has brought the most life, this implement of death.

The cross, like God’s words call us to recognize our sin and our sinfulness and in that horrible realization of our own fallenness, God lifts us up and surrounds our broken selves with His eternal love and grace. The message of John prepared the way for the mighty work of God through Jesus Christ that is still calling us to be confronted with our own sin and the words and actions of our loving God saying come back to me. No matter how broken you are, come back to me. No matter how far you have wandered, come back to me. No matter how much you have forgotten about me, come back to me so that we can walk together again in life, in love, in peace.

Justice and God’s love

“And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭3‬:‭10‬-‭14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

When preparing for the message this week looking for a sermon illustration, it was rather troubling that in the first few locations that I looked the idea of justice did not appear. Justice is prevalent throughout the Bible, it is talked about in just about every other news article. Whether it is talking about the systemic racism between caucasians and people of different races from our own country or around the world. Or the war in Ukraine and the injustices that are being caused there. Or maybe it is the inequality between nations when it comes the the resources to fight against common sicknesses let alone the more detrimental illnesses like AIDS and Covid 19 let alone cancer, famine and drought.

We can take some of the blessings of our birth location for granted and argue away the reality of the injustices that are all around us or we could recognize the injustices and truly be stewards of the blessings that God has given us responsibility over to share with others.

The message that John gives is one of repentance of turning back to God and that in this action of turning away from your sinful ways, God will forgive you. It is not about begging for forgiveness it is about a humbly seeking God’s grace. It is about living in God’s blessing and grace that God gives freely to those who seek Him. It is a message for the common person or the leaders of the world, turn away from the injustices that you are perpetrating and share the blessing you have been given, as Jesus has blessed each of us with.