Tag Archives: God

Adoration: A prayer for worship


Lord God, heavenly being, where are you?
Where do you hide in the darkness of the night?
Where are you when the birds are singing,
When the sunlight glistens on a spider’s web,
Or catches the colours of a butterfly’s wings?

Do you see the trees bending with the wind,
The storm clouds wrestling in the darkening sky?
Do you catch the lightning bolt as it stabs the earth,
Or hear the thunder as it rolls across the hills?

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Filed under Prayers and Meditations

Prayer of involvement


A bauble on a Christmas tree.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lord, you made the world, and flung the stars into space.
You looked at what you had made and said, “I like it. I really like it.”
But you weren’t content with a bauble for your Christmas tree;
You stepped into time and space,
Engaged with your creation,
Called your people into being.

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Filed under Meditation & Prayer, Prayers and Meditations

The end?


I am preparing a post for tomorrow, but if everyone is right about the Mayan calendar I am wasting my time, and this will be my last post. Of course, I have to hurry; it’s already 21 December 2012 in New Zealand.

Somehow, I think tomorrow’s post will still go through.  The Mayans, after all, didn’t predict the end of the world; it was just the end of their calendar.  Had they lasted as long as this, they would no doubt have had the same excitement we did around the Y2K scenario, with their computers also threatening to implode. Of course, with the Mayans being so advanced, their computers would probably have solved the problem for them, and written up a new calendar while they were about it.

But the problem with predictions is that you just never know.

Of course, the weather bureau has it fine tuned.  They simply put it out there. If we want to plan a wedding or cancel a picnic based on their prediction, that’s our lookout.  They take no responsibility at all. Yet we keep coming back for more–every day!

Economists are the same. If we choose to put our money on their predictions, or refrain from buying on their fears, that’s our problem–read the fine print, they would tell us. But still, we listen.

Prophets on the other hand get bad press if their predictions fail.  I guess, “Thus says the Lord” carries more clout and greater expectation than, “Expect rain and thunder showers in the early afternoon….”

But does God declare the future in that way?  It would break the “rules of engagement” as it were.  Giving us a direct heads up allows us to prepare for (and perhaps even adjust) the future, which isn’t the way God usually works in his world.

The rich man sweltering in the fires of hell, in Jesus’s story of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), said to Abraham, “Send Lazarus to my father’s house, where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain.”

Abraham’s answer was, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone were to rise from death.”  (Or, presumably, if someone claimed to have a direct word from God.)

But God does break his own “rules”.  He does engage directly; he does give specific instructions; he does allow some to see the future; he does raise the dead and heal the blind.  These may not be the everyday, every-person norm, but they do happen enough for us to accept that they might happen again, soon.

There were those around the time of Herod the Great, who sensed that God was doing something new in Israel.  But most would have scoffed at Mary and Joseph had they tried to declare the angels’ visits, and justify her pregnancy. “Yes, God is doing something new, but a baby?”

God does speak directly to us, but he doesn’t often expect us to declare that word directly to the world: “God said….” “God told me….” And even less often, “God told me to tell you….”

God proclaimed the truth of the baby Jesus in unique ways to the individuals and groups involved.  Mary had a personal visit from an angel; Joseph had a dream (two, actually); the shepherds had the entire heavenly host (a flock of angels?), the astrologers, a star. And Simeon got to hold the baby, and sensed God’s presence. None of them appear to have openly declared their insights for some thirty years or more. But that didn’t lessen the profound and universal impact of the message when it did become known.

What about you?  What has been your experience of prophecy?

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Filed under Bible

Beggars on the street: to give or not to give


My friend over at Wondering Pilgrim wrote a post this morning called “Peace is a Pair of Shoes” (you can find it here).  He discusses the perennial problem of giving, and the questions raised when we give to the poor; or rather the questions we raise before we give to the poor, such as, Should I? Shouldn’t I?  Is this the right person?  Is this the best way to help?

They are good questions.  I don’t know about other parts of the world, but here at the bottom end of Africa traffic lights are overflowing with outstretched arms.  Some are empty; some hold a placard, “Plees help! No work! God bless!”  Other entrepreneurial souls offer sunglasses, plastic coat hangers, toys and Christmas hats.

Should I?  Shouldn’t I?  As always we would like definitive answers, wouldn’t we?  We need a formula so that whenever we are tapped on the shoulder or tapped on the heart, we can put the situation through the flow diagram and get the answer.  To give or not to give?

My rule is a simple one.  Don’t give to beggars on the street.  Yes, there are some who genuinely cannot find work, or whose disability precludes them from every form of income, and who are reduced to begging.  But there are too many others whose begging supports an addiction I am not willing to fund.  And the genuinely needy cases?  They are better helped through welfare groups and non profits, which are better equipped than I to identify the real needs of the community, and to make good use of my meagre offerings.

There, that was easy, wasn’t it?  The problem of the poor, sorted, and boxed and put away, nicely out of sight.  Except that Jesus didn’t treat the poor as a “problem”, did he?  He reached out to real people who were poor and broken, and lost and hungry.  He didn’t say to his followers, “Seek answers to the questions of life.”  He said, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

Jesus doesn’t give us or ask us to find answers, does he?  It’s the questions that are important.  There is never going to be an answer to the “problem of the poor”, or the lost, or the lonely, or the broken or the captive, just questions.  What does it mean to be a neighbour in this situation, for this person, on this day?  What does it mean for me to love, here and now?

Does that mean I must scrap my rule, and give to every beggar I meet?  That would be another “answer” rather than a question, wouldn’t it?  “Give” is just as simplistic as “Don’t give”.  We are still looking for an answer, a rule; and we are not going to get one.  

Jesus doesn’t appear to us in formulae and flow diagrams; he comes to us as a human being.
“Which one?” we would like to know.  “Will we recognise him?”
Not many did then, why should it be any different now?
“What does he look like?”
Well, he comes as a baby (illegitimate at that), a child, a workman, a wandering rabbi, a blasphemer and a criminal—a traitor against church and state, a man on a cross.  We certainly won’t recognise him if we resolutely avoid eye contact.  No, we are not required to give every beggar whatever he or she wants, any more than God gives his children everything they want, but we are called to notice, to be aware. 

The point about the Good Samaritan was that he didn’t ask, “Who is my neighbour?”  He looked for opportunities to be a neighbour.  Your opportunities will be different from mine, because we are different, and our circumstances are different.  But if we keep our heads up, and if we are willing to risk looking people in the eye and asking God to reveal himself to us, the opportunities will come.  And the love of God, not the answers about God, will begin to flow more freely though us and in us.

Are you afraid?  I am, but if that’s where God is at work, isn’t that where we want to be?

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Filed under Community, Grace and Law

A prayer for Christ the King Sunday


Jesus, King of the rich and King of the poor.
We celebrate you as Christ the King today.
We confess that we celebrate with more than a little fear,
and great deal of uncertainty.
The world you called us to serve is a scary place;
The needs are so great; the suffering so intense.
We are afraid of what we will find there,
of the demands that will be made on us.

We like to be in control of our lives.
So we would like to keep our God in a bag, as it were.
Then God will be at our disposal not the other way round.
We can select our causes,
Pick and choose our neighbours,
and decide how much love we’ll provide at a time.

But if we acknowledge your reign,
if we place ourselves under your rule,
we leave the choices to you.  We simply follow.

Oh Babe of Bethlehem, how we want to keep you in a manger.
But this day reminds us that you did not come for our convenience,
You came to rule as King.

Help us to choose your rule,
To follow your way,
To trust you in the world of our neighbours
And in the carrying of their burdens.

King Jesus, free us from our distractions, and fill us with your love;

Amen

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Filed under Meditation & Prayer, Prayers and Meditations

Worship: A Life’s Work


In our Church family we recently completed seven weeks working through John van de Laar’s book, The Hour That Changes Everything.  In it he calls us to understand and enjoy worship as the heart and centre of our lives.  It is profound, yet it is simply written, and easy to read.  He centres on William Temple’s definition of worship:

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

The main part of the book comprises seven chapters, five of which expound on the quote: “Becoming Holy”, “Becoming True”, “Becoming Beautiful”, “Becoming Loving” and “Becoming Purposeful”.  There are three appendices.  The first contains fifty daily readings for personal use during the seven weeks (yes, for the mathematicians among you, the last week has eight readings).  The second contains notes for small groups on each of the seven chapters, and the third section contains readings and guidelines for Sunday worship.

Van de Laar continually reminds us that worship is not something we do for an hour on Sunday, but it is the whole of our lives.  The hour we spend together with the rest of God’s family, focussing our minds and sharpening the sword, is indeed the hour that changes everything, or it is nothing at all.

I received the following in an email this week, and it profoundly makes the same point.  It was written by David Barnett, who I am told is a missionary in Cambodia.  The interview he refers to is also the focus of a 2007 Christianity Today article.

Barnett heard about an interview between broadcaster Roy Firestone (ESPN’s Close-Up) and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, a seven-foot-tall, 255-pound specimen of pure muscle and athleticism.  He was one of the best big men in the history of the National Basketball Association, who led his team to back-to-back championships and was named an All-Star 10 times. 

He was also known as the hardest working big man in the NBA. Roy Firestone asked him, “Why do you work so hard? Your teammates tell me that every time you step onto the hard wood, you give it 110 percent. They tell me you practice spin moves and fade-away jump shots by the hour. They tell me you run wind sprints until you can’t anymore, relentlessly pushing yourself. They tell me that even in a scrimmage, you go for every rebound and every loose ball like you are in the finals of the NBA.  Why? You don’t have anything to prove. You have made it to the top. Why not just take it easy?”

Hakeem said, “Roy, I do not count what I do on the basketball court as work. Every time I step onto that court, I am not playing for me, but for Him. You see, the reason I work so hard is because basketball is not work…it is worship. It is my way of thanking God for His goodness to me.”

Hakeem Olajuwon is a Muslim, not a Christian. Yet God has given him an insight into life-as-worship that challenges us all.

When David Barnett heard about Hakeem’s response, he thought:

“What if I treated my job, not as work, but as worship?  What could I accomplish?
What if I treated my marriage, not as an obligation, but as worship?
What if I treated my parenthood, not as an activity, but as worship?
What if I treated my friendships, not merely as relationships, but as worship?
What if I treated my hobbies, not only as fun things to do, but as worship?
What if I treated community service, not just as a good thing to do to help others, but as worship?
What if I even drove my car, not merely as a way to get from here to there, but as worship?
What if I treated everything I do, everyone I meet, everything I say, as though it is an act of worship?

“How would that transform my life? What could I accomplish in my life? Who would I be able to touch and reach and attract to Christ?”

What about you and me?  What difference would it make if, with David Barnett, we decided to approach the whole of our lives as worship, as a means of giving God thanks and praise?  Even driving my car? 

Have you any experiences of life-as-worship to share with us?

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Filed under Worship & Preaching