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Showing posts from December, 2011

On Loosening the Screws

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Now is a great time to loosen- instead of tightening the screws- on the people in your life! In an image that comes right out of Dickens' England, screws were tightened on the prisoner's crank, making it more difficult for the inmate to twist. In order to occupy their time with labor, the treadmill was used in a similar fashion.

Before you start about a nice work out at the gym, and you didn't know Victorians cared for the health of their prisoners, know that this "activity" went on all day (for about six hours at a time), every day, not as "recreation," but as punishment intended to cause pain, suffering, and despair. On the typical prison diet with this kind of hard labor, inmates mostly died in prison long before serving out their sentence.

The term "tightening the screws" means that sometimes we make it more difficult for others for no other purpose than because we can. As if anyone needs life to be harder, it seems some folks exist to do…

Advent: Winter of the Spirit

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Though I have long lived away from the climates that offer four seasons, I think it's a disadvantage to never have lived to experience at least once each season in its fullness. Most places offer three seasons and parts of a fourth. Our calendars and lives are marked by the seasons.

But it's not as easy to name our current spiritual season. Many of the biblical references to the seasons are tied to the growing calendar, the rural festivals that reflected Israel at a certain stage of being settled as opposed to being nomadic. Whatever season we find ourselves in, each spiritual season comes with unique invitations to experience new depths of God's love and grace.

Winter deals specifically with dormancy. What is within that is just beginning, waiting for its time to come? Waiting and patience thus becomes winter's spiritual work. Thomas Keating once wrote that the virtue of humility requires or assumes humiliation. In similar fashion, the only way to more patience is th…

The Glorious Prayer and Lord (3)

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For thine is the kingdom and power and glory forever.

You won't find this phrase in either Luke or Matthew. Many Christians use this as a closing ascription to God. The words are used as a part of David's prayer in 1 Chronicles 29: 10-13. Also recall Revelation 5:12 and 7:12.

Some have suggested that these words were formed in the oral tradition through the cauldron of intense persecution, a time within two generations Jesus. Could these words have been on the lips of the first martyrs, those who were threatened to renounce Christ and proclaim Cesar as their king and god- or suffer the consequences?

Like any part of the Lord's Prayer, this conclusion can form the basis of multiple sessions. If you haven't already exhausted the kingdom theme, power and glory are great word studies with many biblical references. To end the prayer with these words is entirely in concert with counter-cultural nature of what we have already prayed in the text of this prayer. This…

The Glorious Prayer and Lord (2)

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And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Here a switch can be made effectively to Matthew's version in Matthew 6:9-13. This is appropriate due to the teaching of Matthew 6:14: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others. neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

The setting for Matthew is not the disciples' request for guidance in prayer, as in Luke. The context for the prayer in Mathew is the Sermon on the Mount, and chiefly, how not to be like the hypocrites. (6:2,5) References to pagan prayer are explicit here (6:7 ff.) not just in story form, as in Luke.

So the prayer as a whole is given to us to avoid duplicity and attain integrity of heart and life. If we are going to pray for forgiveness for ourselves, that implies we also practice it, or to deal with the weight and consequence of unforgiven debt. (Matt. 18:23-35)

And lead us …

The Glorious Prayer and Lord (1)

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One of the better discussions on the Lord's Prayer is Wright's The Lord and His Prayer. Wright develops the theme that this is a Kingdom prayer for Kingdom people. The other thing he accomplishes is that he brings in references from the whole Bible, the Old Testament and especially the story of Jesus in the Gospels, to explore what it means to pray this prayer. The book can be an excellent supplement to whatever approach you decide to use in teaching or study

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

I used Luke's version in Luke 11 as the backdrop for the first half of the study. In Luke, you have a clear invitation to all to engage the prayer as a beginner can, with the disciples asking Jesus how to pray, and the wonderful parable of verses 5-13 teaching about the nature of the Father's relationship to us, and the foundation of all prayer being God's giving to us in and through the Holy Spirit. God's self giving to us is what moves us to pray in the…

Wake Me Up When December's Gone

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I'm guessing that's the unspoken plea of thousands, maybe millions.

Most of us really hope that this Christmas will be different. That this year, we'll experience a deeper sense of ministry and love. I need the hope to become an intention, or else happenstance will determine the movements for me. And that just leaves me with the experience of having missed the chance to live more fully. Just to survive, we could surrender to the "this too shall pass" approach, but dangling by a thread is not conducive to any measure of abundant life.

The dance of ministry these some sixty days requires more than looking with resignation to the surrealistic schedule of events. The grueling demands of the season are framed as always, by the unplanned crisis that can turn life on a dime. So the case is stronger to make some choices, if I haven't already done so. What do I need to receive from the loving Holy Trinity? Is there one activity or practice that I can engage in a wa…