Advent (2014): O Root of Jesse

19DEC2014—3rd Friday ADVENT Year B

Advent: O Root of Jesse

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 40, 54, 51  Isaiah 10:5-19  2 Peter 2:17-22  Matt. 11:2-15

December 19th: —O Radix Jesse (Isaiah 11:10, Isaiah 52:15, Habakkuk 2:3): O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse.  Come, save us, and do not delay.

Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else? (Matt. 11:3)

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. (Matt. 11:15)

As I consider the questions from yesterday’s reflections, I have continued to ponder what it means to “have the peace of Christ” and how one becomes a peacemaker. Interestingly enough, a practical opportunity to engage these ideas presented itself to me today and I was able to glean more insight about maintaining an attitude of peace and bearing peace as a peacemaker.

As I’ve been reflecting upon past writings from Advent seasons past, I found the following words from a couple years ago. It’s interesting how this particular writing has shaped my journey since my originally writing. My spirit, my mind, and my emotions continue to be tested by circumstances and seasons of life, but I am more keen to understand I do not  have to be controlled by circumstances. I will continue to seek out my God in all facets and stations of life. He is my Master-Savior and it is He I desire to be controlled by—I do not want to be controlled by emotions or rash reactions to circumstances outside my control.

You are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19)

Today my peace was tested…not disturbed, but tested. I had a number of errands and appointments and was “on the go” much of the day.  While there were many opportunities for me to lose my peace, there was a solid foundation and I sensed the presence of God at every meeting and every turn of my day. Peace won. I maintained a peaceful attitude of heart and I think I lived the part of a peace-bearer, if not a peacemaker.

“If we realized and were constantly conscious that whatever we do to each other, to any human person, we do to Jesus, to the Son of God, to our beloved Savior, how then would we act?” -M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O.

Tonight presented a different scenario and my peace was disturbed. I realized at the moment that I was disturbed, I was being presented with a choice. I could allow the disruption to continue unraveling my peace or I could choose another path. At the same time I was realizing my choices, I had the consciousness to recognize that my inner joy and winsome attitude was slipping from me with almost equal proportion to my peace, which had been “disturbed.” I was aware that a swirl of unhealthy emotions was amassing at my mental gate waiting to be released into my spirit. I had the mental image of some type of infection being released into my bloodstream… At the same time these thoughts were being stirred in my mind, other memories and Scripture recollections were being called to my mind as well.

You are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:19)

I was on the cusp of being offended and angry; and for the most part, over something inconsequential. I had a choice to make; I could choose to be offended and allow my peace to be disturbed and have my joy dampened or I could choose to dip into the reservoir of Christian virtue and the teachings of Jesus who said; “You will know them by their love.” I remembered the greatest Christian virtue of all, love.

4  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

Love, and its practice, was the key to maintaining my peace, keeping ownership of my joy, and remaining credible as a witness to bearing peace and potentially being a peacemaker. What I determined is that there are countless opportunities to let peace and joy slip from us each day. I reflected earlier, with pride, how I had managed to maintain my peace in the throes of a potentially disruptive day. That pride was almost my undoing (Love is not boastful or proud) later in my evening. Instead of choosing offense and “wanting my own way,” I chose to love. I chose and I choose; patience, kindness, selflessness. I choose peace. I choose joy. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith. Love endures through every circumstance. Through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and Almighty God, Love wins.

I am grateful that Jesus has given us the words of life and a model to follow. I am thankful to Him for the Peace he has given to his disciples; the Peace Who is the Comforter and Holy Spirit. I boast in Christ my Savior that I am His servant and I can “joyfully” smile when I read Peter’s words, “You are a slave to whatever controls you…” And know that tonight, it was my surrender to the Holy Spirit and His control that maintained peace and joy in my soul.

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. (Matt. 11:15)

A Psalm and a Prayer

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God… Oh the joys of those who trust the LORD… I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart. Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. Let the LORD keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my god, do not delay. (Psalm 40: 1-4, 8, 13, 16-17)

Gracious and eternal Lord, in your bounty you have sent us your Holy Spirit. May he teach us to think and do what is right, so that we, who without you cannot exist, may live in loving obedience to your will. Come Holy Spirit and enlarge your presence in me this day, that I may bring into the world more of your life and more of your love. Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come to you. Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Advent (2014): O Adonai

18DEC2014—3rd Thursday ADVENT Year B

Advent: O Adonai

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 50, 59, 60  Isaiah 9:18—10-4  2 Peter 2:10b-16  Matt. 3:1-12

December 18th:
O Adonai (Is. 11:4-5; 33:22): “O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.”

I observe the circumstances of life around me, looking at the timeline of life and drama that is occurring right now in the daily living of people who have surrendered their will to following the Christ who is their savior. While God the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and gives us Peace in the midst of our journey, sometimes the journey is exceedingly difficult. Jesus said this would be so; “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). Pursuing the Christ and His Cross requires grit, passion, singleness of heart, and faith in the big picture (Luke 14:25-35). There is nothing easy about being wholly committed to Jesus.

Similarly, there is nothing passive about surrendering or living wholly surrendered to the LORD, Jesus Christ. On the contrary… it requires more action, faith, will, tenacity, endurance, courage, and risk-taking than any venture or activity I have ever been part of. History and the experiences of many other countless millions of Christians will also testify to this reality. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.Just as this was true with Mary, Jesus promised it would be true with us; “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth… You know him because he lives with you now and later will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you” (John 14:15-18).

We are not alone and there is no such thing as a weak, wall-flower Christian. The ONE who opened His mouth and the universe came out…now lives in me. Weak? Passive? I think not. This is what surrendered to Christ is. As Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord, may it be unto me as He says.” This is not only our surrender, but it is our battle cry. We know the trials of our faith will prove our genuineness (1 Peter 1:6-9) and lead us to the eternally rich life with Christ each follower so desperately desires.

Behold, I am the servant of the Most High God. May it be done to me according to your word and your will. Amen. – Let everything within you watch and wait, for the Lord our God draws near. Alleluia.

A Psalm and a Prayer:

1 The Lord, the Mighty One, is God, and he has spoken;  he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where it sets.  2 From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.  3 Our God approaches, and he is not silent. Fire devours everything in his way, and a great storm rages around him. (Psalm 50:1-3 NLT)

He is the perfection of beauty, shining in glorious radiance. God approaches…and he is not silent; a storm rages around him and fire devours everything in his way. There is something calming and terrifying all at once in these words. I think I will continue to meditate upon them.

Blessed be you, Lord God of Israel, for you have looked favorably on your people and redeemed them; you have raised up a mighty Savior for us, just as you spoke through your holy prophets of old. O God of peace, sanctify me entirely; may you keep my spirit, soul and body sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because you have called me and you are faithful, I believe you will do this.

Pour into us now, O most loving One, the gift of eternal grace, so that, by the misfortunes of new deception, old error may not destroy us. O God, the Father of all humankind, you bid us listen to your Son, the well-beloved. Nourish our hearts on your word, purify the eyes of our mind, and fill us with joy at the vision of your glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God forever and ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): O Antiphons

17DEC2014—3rd Wednesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: O Antiphons

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Readings: Psalm 50, 59, 60  Isaiah 9:18—10-4  2 Peter 2:10b-16  Matt. 3:1-12

Beginning of the “O” Antiphons

Since the seventh century, this set of seven prayer texts has been sung or recited over the final days of Advent during daily service of vespers, or evening prayer. They are voiced in response to the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55). Each antiphonal prayer addressed God with “O” and a biblical name and concludes with a call for him to come. The phrases of prayers derive from Scripture. For the following seven days, we will be using these prayer texts in conjunction with our normal Advent devotions and meditations.

December 17th:
O Sapientia (Is. 11:2-3; 28:29): “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.”

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. He (Jesus) is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire. (Matt. 3:8, 12)

Today I am thinking about peace and what it really means to me. In a world full of conflict, injustice, oppression, greed, competitiveness, jealousy, hatred, war, and contempt…it seems peace might be something very important to us despite that the majority of this population appears to not hold peace with very high regard. Jesus said; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” He also said to his disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

I think the starting point for understanding peace is the definition Jesus probably was working with.

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is derived from a root denoting wholeness or completeness, and its frame of reference throughout Jewish literature is bound up with the notion of shelemut, perfection. Its significance is thus not limited to the political domain‑-to the absence of war and enmity‑-or to the social-‑to the absence of quarrel and strife. It ranges over several spheres and can refer in different contexts to bounteous physical conditions, to a moral value, and, ultimately, to a cosmic principle and divine attribute. In the Bible, the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well‑being, tranquility, prosperity, and security, circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace. (From Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought, edited by Arthur A. Cohen and Paul Mendes-Flohr, Twayne Publishers)

I feel as though I live with an abiding and deep peace within me. I believe I have received the “Peace of Christ” that Jesus spoke of in John 14, but I wonder how this peace radiates from me and affects people and circumstances around me. This, I think, is the most crucial question and will ultimately determine if I am a peacemaker. It is something I want to continue to meditate on and examine in my life.

A Psalm and a Prayer

The LORD, the Mighty One is God, and he has spoken; he has summoned all humanity from where the sun rises to where the sun sets. Our God approaches and he is not silent. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God. Repent, all of you who forget me… Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God. (Psalm 50:1, 3, 14, 22-23)

O Loving heavenly Father, whose blessed Son did suffer for the whole world, grant that we may know you better, love you more, and serve you with a more perfect will.

Lord, I admit that I often feel inadequate, in spite of your promises. Often I hold back. Help me to take the risks of faith, to be aware of your affirming presence in my life. Now, in Advent, sharpen my spirit and my senses, and enable me to pay attention to the moments of God-radiance when you ask me to look, to listen, and to be a peacemaker.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): Our Joy—Anchored Deeply in Christ

16DEC2014—3rd Tuesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Our Joy—Anchored Deeply in Christ

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 45, 47, 48  Isaiah 9:1-7  2 Peter 1:12-21  Luke 22:54-69

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7)

We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Day and night we walk in the graying dusk, the between time of the then, now, and yet to come.

The Promise of Him coming, anchored in the ancient faith stories.

By faith, I believe and by faith, He anchors me.

Momentary light afflictions remind us of our frailty; spiritual blessing and promise-filled joys buoy our tired hearts, providing hope-sustenance for eternal tomorrow.

We wait for the coming Christ, the One who changes our earthly mourning story…into eternal morning glory.

To Him we praise while we wait.

                                                         Jeff Borden ©18DEC2010

The promises of God and the historical record of their unfolding are what produce joy in His followers. My thoughts, based on this premise, follow:

  1. Joy is not about what happens to us.
  2. Joy is the meaning we give to what we do that determines the nature—the quality—of the lives we live.
  3. Joy is not about self-centeredness (John 5:30)
  4. Happiness (true happiness) is not about self-satisfaction; it is about the joy that comes with a sense of purpose.
  5. Joy comes from living our lives immersed in the will of God and not self-aggrandizement.
  6. Joy is not in “things,” if we are found in Christ, joy is in us.

A Psalm and a Prayer

Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! For the Lord Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth. (Psalm 47:1-2)

Incline a merciful ear to our cry, we pray, O LORD, and casting light on the darkness of our hearts, visit us with the grace of your Son.  Stifle the empty clamor of this too-often secularized Christmas season, and set us free to reject the greed and waste so prevalent around us. Let us confirm our convictions without speech, praising you with our actions and our lives as dazzling witness to Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): He Came So We Might Flourish

15DEC2014—3rd Monday ADVENT Year B

Advent: He Came So We Might Flourish

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 41, 52, 44  Isaiah 8:16—9:1  2 Peter 1:1-11  Luke 22:39-53

There are many thoughts swirling through my head inspired by these Scripture readings. The words of Peter are especially inspiring. When I am tempted to forget who I have been recreated to be, this reminder from Peter sets my feet back on a solid foundation and path. God has given us/me everything needed to live a godly life…even to the glorious wonder of sharing his divine nature. Just incredible! This is a good word to remember when days are dark.

 ”By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Jesus’ words to his disciples also serves as a reminder and a challenge for me as well. The constant discipline that keeps me closely knit to the guiding presence of God is prayer. An always constant awareness and running dialogue with the Godhead keeps us/me free from succumbing to temptations, whatever they may be. I am thankful for the disciplines God has guided me to that help me engage the divine partnership of transformation into his image. I am eternally grateful for the gift of God himself to me.

“Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” (Luke 22:40)

“The challenge of faith isn’t so much to trust God’s promises when we hear them as it is to continue trusting them when it does not appear to our best judgment that they are being fulfilled.” Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove; The Awakening of Hope.

A Psalm and a Prayer

“I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.” (Psalm 52:8-9)

Lord Jesus, Splendor of the Father’s glory, O true Sun, descend, sparkling with uninterrupted brightness; O radiance of the Holy Spirit, pour in upon our senses.

Almighty, eternal God, every good gift comes from you. Increase our faith, fill our hearts with love for you, and guide us through this life until we inherit life eternal. Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.

Let your mercy, O LORD, be upon me.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Advent (2014): The Joy of Christ Begets Divine Happiness

14DEC2014—3rd Sunday ADVENT Year B

Advent: The Joy of Christ Begets Divine Happiness

Scripture Reading:  Lectionary Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 126  Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11  1 Thess. 5:16-24  John 1:6-8, 19-28

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus… May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful. -1 Thess. 5:16-18, 23-24

Nothing about this side of eternity is easy; it is the reality of the path of tears mankind has tread since leaving the Garden. Every single day presents its challenges, distractions, exuberant celebrations, and grievous tragedies. Even on its very best days, life as we know it is exponentially less than what God had intended for His most treasured creation, humankind. It brings me no small amount of comfort then, to hear the words of the psalmist writing; “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” I love this. As we have walked the path of tears, God promises us that those very tears that can be looked upon with despair and sadness can also be the seeds of joy! What an incredible Redeemer God! Every loss, every sickness, every second we spend grieving, every single hurt whether emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual … every “rip” and “drip” …every tear and tear of our brokenness is promised bountiful redemptive resurrection. “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” And, God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful…”

I admit there are days I don’t remember this. Sometimes it takes every bit of energy combined from my “heart, mind, soul, and physical strength” to intentionally choose to exercise the faith God has given to me and be joyful-thankful-prayerful in every circumstance. It is in these moments though, when I exercise that faith to remember, reflect, and realize the awesome faithfulness of God who is always near me, who guides me from within my soul, who is never silent when I choose to hear Him in his many “voices” …it is in these moments when my joy begins to cause my whole body to tremble like a volcano before it erupts. The more I surrender my thoughts and my heart to God the more confident I am to know that His work in my life through the things I experience are perfecting me. The seeds of tears I sow are being watered by the rivers of the Holy Spirit and nurtured by the Master Gardener himself. On the day of harvest my soul will sing in the eternal chorus. This brings me unending joy… while I wait. He’s making me holy…blameless in soul and spirit. This is what my tears will produce.

I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God. -Isaiah 61:10

I don’t want to lean too hard into my thoughts today, because I do understand where the sentiment of people is coming from when they try to draw a distinction between “Joy” and “Happiness.” I’m compassionate to their tension…but I have to admit that I get a little “itchy” when I have heard comments like “God isn’t concerned about my happiness.” I think I get what people are saying behind those words, but, uh, no. The real deal is that God is concerned about our happiness. The confusion comes when people are seeking happiness in things that might be other than the joy that God gives us, which leads to exhilarating happiness. When I find completion, wholeness, and fulfillment in all that is Christ, then I realize what the joy of the Lord is…and with Joy comes jubilation… happiness. Some folks might try to make the distinction between joy and happiness, but that would be a hard sell for me. When I look up the definitions in a dictionary, I find them used as synonyms for one another. My suspicion is that since some folks aren’t “happy” with their current state of existence, they will say they have the “joy of the Lord,” but they aren’t happy… and therefore, “God isn’t concerned about their happiness, but wants something else for them.” Or something. Truthfully, one can believe whatever they will, but I think if a person is experiencing the deep joy of union with God, they will be happy. Happiness is the effervescent, efficacious overflow of a Christ-infused, joy-filled heart. God has given me everything, including the Spirit of Himself. How can I not be happy in all circumstances?

Thank you Jesus; Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.

A Psalm and a Prayer

 1 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,
it was like a dream!
2 We were filled with laughter,
and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said,
“What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
What joy!

 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
as streams renew the desert.
5 Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
6 They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): The Reciprocity of Faith

13DEC2014—2nd Saturday ADVENT Year B

Advent: The Reciprocity of Faith

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 30, 32  Isaiah 8:1-15  2 Thess. 3:1-18  Luke 22:31-38

I am pondering faithfulness today and considering a number of aspects and dynamics that faithfulness plays out as it extends from God, interacts in our world, and circles back to God. I’m not entirely sure if that thesis consideration flows logically, but that’s kind of where I am at the moment.

I’m wondering how faithfulness works; to us…as we interpret it coming, or not coming, from God. I think in wondering how it (faithfulness) works, it helps to understand what it is. We humans are responsible for coining the word, but I think in the “big picture” it is God who defines it. So, how does God define faithfulness? I believe the best way to describe faithfulness is to examine God’s character in the Bible.

But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

Arthur Pink writes from the reformed perspective, so there are other points of view, but I still believe his observations give us a reasonable starting point when examining God’s faithfulness; he writes:

IMMUTABILITY is one of the Divine perfections which is not sufficiently pondered. It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures. God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations. GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN HIS ESSENCE. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN HIS ATTRIBUTES. Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so for ever. GOD IS IMMUTABLE IN HIS COUNSEL. His will never varies. (The Immutability of God; Arthur W. Pink)

I think it is a fairly safe comparison to equate God’s immutability with His faithfulness. It is on this assumption that I wholly believe in God as faithful. I believe his character is faithful, his love is faithful, his intent is faithful, and his promises are faithful. But, what does that mean to me really?

There are several ramifications that proceed from my understanding of God as faithful; first of which, his faithfulness is not dependent upon anything but himself. God is unchanging and God is faithful; period. Fact: I can trust Him. There may be things that make me uncomfortable about the working of God, but lack of trust is not one of them.

Secondly, God’s faithfulness is not diminished or sullied by my lack of faith. He is still faithful, His promises are still true, and His will and His counsel is always unchanging. It is this second point I wish to explore in greater detail…

I titled this meditation Faithfulness—Unwavering and Reciprocal; the faithfulness I refer to is twofold, God’s faithfulness and my own. As I have shared, I fully believe God’s faithfulness is unwavering… I cannot say the same for myself. While I try hard to be, I am not always faithful. My faith wavers at times and I stumble… I falter… I fall short. But, God remains faithful to me in spite of my shortcomings; He loves me when my actions show weakness and a distorted understanding of love. He stays faithful and true to His promises when I am prone to renegotiate or break mine. Yes, God’s faithfulness is unwavering. The thing about the law of reciprocity in this context is that it is not operationally applied from God to me to God; as I said, His faithfulness is not contingent on anything I do or believe. The alternative context is what is interesting though… and this is where I think the law of reciprocity reaps exponential reward in the life of the believer who exercises faith in God’s faithfulness. When I begin to act on the trust I have in God’s faithfulness, that act is reciprocally multiplied as my faith grows in God’s faithfulness. Confused yet? Let me share an illustration that I hope will bring some clarity.

Several years back our family was on vacation and made an impromptu stop at a random amusement park. One of the things we tried (me and my boys) was this killer twenty-something foot high rock climbing wall. The “ride” proprietor geared us up in harnesses, cables, hydraulic auto-belay system, and other safety gear. And then, we set out on our climb.

I’m sure you’ve seen these fiberglass climbing walls, they’re pretty straightforward with the standard foot holds and hand grabs… they’re not terribly difficult to climb. Plus, I think there is some assistance with the hydraulic belay system you’re attached to, the climb almost felt semi-assisted (aka it was easy going up). Another thing I remember about the climb is that it didn’t seem scary going up; I don’t think I even considered that I might slip or fall, I just climbed on up. I think this can be similar in our experience with God’s faithfulness. Some things we trust Him implicitly with and we just “go with it” devoid of fear or second guessing. We put our trust in God to take us up the “make believe wall” and faithfully believe in our “spiritual climbing gear.” Other times we might not trust Him so much.

I mentioned the climb up the wall. When we got to the top, we were supposed to kick back from the wall with our legs, let go and let the auto-belay system allow us to slowly and gently drop us back to the ground level. No matter that I knew the equipment worked. No matter that I saw people doing this (including my sons). I was practically paralyzed. My brain was saying “it’s all good, Borden, kick it and go.” My body, however, was screaming a paralyzed “NO!!!” and I couldn’t move… I just kinda hung out at the top of this fiberglass climbing wall with people staring up at me wondering what my trip was. The significance of this is pretty huge. You see, I’m practically fearless when it comes to stuff like this… I jumped out of an airplane for crying out loud without blinking, but I just couldn’t bring myself to kick away from the wall. Our faith journey with Jesus can have similar moments of doubt… we’ll trust him halfway through the journey, never fearing for a moment in the how, the way, or the what of where He’s leading us and then all of the sudden we freak… we get paralyzed and we refuse to go another step. Like me… on the wall.

Here’s where the reciprocity of our faith in God’s faithfulness begins to work. When we trust Him to take us or get us someplace, we can trust Him all the way. He is not a “half-way” God! We have to trust Him enough to “kick back from the wall of our doubt” and allow Him to show us His faithfulness manifold over and above what we ever thought it could be in our lives. This principle works; I have found it to be true over and over again… not that it is ever easy to “kick away” from a new wall, but it does get easier. See, when I finally kicked out, I floated almost weightlessly to the ground completely unharmed… just like the other people that were doing it. And here’s how we can take comfort with God’s leading us… surround ourselves by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and travel alongside us, we see people being buoyed and carried from one faith milestone and life transforming moment to another. We watch them, we walk with them, we follow them, and we learn of God’s ways in our lives through them.

A Psalm and a Prayer

Lord, hear my prayer. And let my cry come unto you. Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God. May divine help always be with us.

Lord of the church, by your unfailing mercy you purify and guard your people. Since without you we cannot stand fast, support and guide us always by your grace.

2 LORD, my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me. 3 LORD, you brought me up from the grave, brought me back to life from among those going down to the pit. 11 You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy 12 so that my whole being might sing praises to you and never stop. LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Psalm 30:2-3, 11-12 CEB)

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Advent (2014): Real Beginnings and Standing Firm

12DEC2014—2nd Friday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Real Beginnings and Standing Firm

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 31  Isaiah 7:1-9  2 Thess. 2:1-12  Luke 1:46-55

All preparation has a starting point—a place of beginning. Advent, the coming of Christ Jesus is our beginning. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

“With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. (2 Thess. 2:15 NLT)

I’ve been thinking about this idea of beginning places and starting points, how it relates to preparation. One idea I’ve had is that the starting point for my faith journey may not have been with the moment of the Incarnation. The preparation for my Christian experience was muddling around with a bunch of different spiritual experiments and concepts. I discarded this theory though, because all of those experiments failed. They were “sputter” starts and never really launched into anything significant.

“Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.” (Isaiah 7:9 NLT)

I think my real starting point and preparation did begin when I looked to the Incarnation. When I really took Jesus at his word and began to model my life from the beginning point of His condescension (Philippians 2:5-7; John 12:24-26), my journey started. This beginning point was not a failure to launch, but has been met with real change having a true spiritual vision to realize Christ-like transformation. Joan Chittister holds a firm line in her belief that the Coming of Christ is the beginning point of the spiritual journey.

If, focused on the Christ Child at the very beginning of the liturgical year (Advent), we do not have the spiritual vision to see meaning there and to develop it within ourselves, there is nothing else on earth that will ever be able to supply it for us. -Joan Chittister; The Liturgical Year

A Psalm and a Prayer:

I take refuge in you, LORD. You are the rock that protects me; the strong fortress that saves me. You guide me and lead me for the sake of your good name! I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, LORD, God of faithfulness—you have saved me. I trust you, LORD! I affirm, “You are my God.” My future is in your hands. Bless the LORD, because he has wondrously revealed his faithful love to me. All you who wait for the LORD, be strong and let your heart take courage. (Psalm 31 CEB)

O Lord, my God, grant us your peace; already, indeed, You have made us rich in all things! Give us peace of being at rest, that Sabbath peace, the peace which know no end. O great God of Peace, sanctify me entirely; may You keep my spirit, soul and body sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because You have called me and You are faithful, I believe You will do this.

O Lord, mindful of Your Great mercy, grant that I might serve You without fear, in holiness and righteousness this day and all the days of my life. May it be so to Your glory and the coming of Your Kingdom Eternal. Amen.

Advent (2014): Listening, Responding, Preparing

11DEC2014—2nd Thursday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Listening, Responding, Preparing

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 31  Isaiah 7:1-9  2 Thess. 2:1-12  Luke 1:46-55

Most of the day I have been meditating on another aspect of preparing; actually, I have been reflecting on the opposite of preparing, which is not preparing. I don’t think there would be many people, Christians, who would openly and honestly confess that they are not preparing for the Kingdom of God. Most Christians would not think they are not engaged in the process of becoming transformed into the living image of Christ. I believe most people probably think they are actively preparing themselves, and perhaps helping others, ready themselves for the Kingdom of God. I wonder how accurate our self-assessments are. I wonder; are we really in the process of preparing, actively surrendered to Christ Jesus, engaged in the slow and arduous process of losing ourselves so we might truly find our lives in God.

It was Ben Franklin, who said; “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” As pithy as this oft-cited quote might sound, it is loaded with wisdom and deep truth. The past couple weeks, our readings from the Book of Common Prayer have served up several chapters from the Prophet Isaiah. The story that is told is of a people who have become ambivalent and apathetic toward their God…taking Him for granted and making assumptions that He would be there for them no matter their state of “preparedness.” They were wrong and it led not only to their failure, but the destruction of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. Time and again, God sent prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others to the people and their leaders admonishing them to repent and prepare the way of the Lord—make their hearts ready—for they were supposed to be a holy people set aside for the work and purpose of the LORD.

Christians who permit themselves to be shaped by secular culture are guilty, not only of betraying God, but of losing their own true selves. -W. Paul Jones

The parallel is not so dissimilar for our own lives. Too often I think it goes unnoticed by us that we put our spiritual lives on auto-pilot and cruise through our days blissfully ignorant to the call of God. We tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy, but I think we want us to be happy and we tell ourselves that it is what God wants. Sadly, much of the time, our happiness will come in direct conflict with what God truly desires for us. We surround ourselves with wealth, comfort, building stockpiles of insurance and material goods, so we have little need of trusting in God. All the while, the Scriptures teach us about lean operation and simplicity, admonishing us to redistribute our wealth to those who are in need.

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

The word “listening” in Latin is obedire, and audire means “listening with great attention.” That is where the word “obedience” comes from. Jesus is called the obedient one, that means the listener. The Latin word for not listening, being deaf, is “surdus.”  If you are absolutely not listening, that is where the word “absurd” comes from. So it might be interesting to note that somebody who is not listening is leading an absurd life…

Now, to become a listener, one way to do it is to say, “How can I let the ‘Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want,'” enter in from my mind to my heart? I can say it is here and that is just a statement, but it becomes prayer when I experience the shepherding presence of God in the center of my being…Listening starts precisely when you move from the mind to the heart and let the truth of your being center you down. -Henri Nouwen, “Discovering Our Gift Through Service to Others,” [Speech given to members of Fadica, 1994]

The Song of Mary Magnificat Luke 1:46-55
My soul doth magnify the Lord, *
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
For he hath regarded *
the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold from henceforth *
all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me, *
and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him *
throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm; *
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat, *
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath helped his servant Israel, *
as he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

A Psalm and a Prayer:

1 I take refuge in you, LORD. 3 Guide me and lead me… 5 I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, LORD, God of faithfulness—you have save me. 7 I rejoice and celebrate in your faithful love. 14 I trust you, LORD! I affirm, “You are my God.” 15 My future is in your hands. 21 Bless the LORD, because he has wondrously revealed his faithful love to me… 24 All who wait for the LROD, be strong and let your heart take courage. (Psalm 31 CEB)

Give grace, O LORD Jesus, as I seek your way, that I may grow more and more into your likeness and that I may bear your ensign as a banner of hope and direction before all who are distraught and confused. Through this time of daily devotion instill in me your own gentleness, quiet my over-wrought alarms, and enable me to rest confidently in your wisdom. Lord, help us to rein in all the distractions that bombard us daily. Let us pay our full attention to you. Let us truly listen to your requests. Keep us from the shortsighted absurdity of bestowing our attention on the wrong things. These things grant by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Advent (2014): Reconciling Hope

10DEC2014—2nd Wednesday ADVENT Year B

Advent: Reconciling Hope

Scripture Reading:  Year One Readings from the Book of Common Prayer

Psalm 37  Isaiah 7:1-9  2 Thess. 2:1-12  Luke 22:1-13

Reconciliation is here… Restoration beckons us to come. What was broken does not have to remain broken any longer. Reconciliation and restoration are here; the timeless Lord, and Savior of men, King Jesus is here. Salvation has come. How can we ignore or take for granted such a great and significant event? John the Revelator exclaimed; “I witnessed in Heaven an event of great significance… It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ.” Hallelujah! The threshold of reconciliation has been breached! We have life-giving relationship restored with Creator God! This is the Good News! This is the great Joy of the hallelujah chorus sang by the angels of Heaven’s armies.

On the day that God became flesh in the child named Jesus, Eternity was healed…time became no more. The rip in Creator God’s cosmic tapestry caused by the sin of one man was sewn together through the act of humble submission and eternal love by one man—the God-man—Jesus.

“Then I witnessed in Heaven an event of Great Significance…” Reconciliation is here…Restoration beckons us to come

Christmas is not merely a day like every other day. It is a day made holy and special by a sacred mystery. It is not merely another day in the weary round of time. Today, eternity enters into time and time, sanctified, is caught up into Eternity. —Thomas Merton

A Psalm and a Prayer:

3 Trust the LORD and do good; live in the land, and farm faithfulness. Enjoy the LORD 5 Commit your way to the LORD! Trust Him! He will act… 23 A person’s steps are made secure by the LORD when they delight in his way. 24 Though they trip up, they won’t be thrown down, because the LORD holds their hand. 37 Observe those who have integrity and watch those whose heart is right. (Psalm 37:3, 5, 23-24, 37 CEB)

Good News, Great Joy, Reconciliation, and Restoration —an event of Great Significance indeed. Praise You, Lord Jesus. Maranatha — even so, come now, Lord Jesus, come.

Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. We humbly ask this, O Holy God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Remember us, both now and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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