Devotion in Public

Just when you think Christ’s words  aren’t that relevant, consider how we make known our devotion to him.

and now, some parody (or is it satire?  I get them confused):

 

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A Photograph, A Concern, A Prayer

photo: AFP via The Globe & Mail

photo: AFP via The Globe & Mail

The photograph is awful to look at.  So much so that I waffled on whether it is right or good to share it.  A little Syrian boy, almost certainly around the ages of my two daughters, washed up on a Turkish beach.  The story is important and can be read here.

The photograph is far less gruesome than many we are shown in media today.  It carries, though, far more weight than may others.  It encapsulates the desperation, the helplessness, the vulnerability of those fleeing as refugees from war and terror.  It hit me hard because I saw the photo and story just after I had wished my youngest a happy 4th birthday.

The world is rightly upset by photos like these.  And all people – I hope! – can work to find a solution for the present crisis.  The People of God can and should share in this common human concern.  Christians, however, have a unique concern and opportunity.

Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you…  (Matthew 2:13)  So said the angel to Joseph and thus the Lord and his family became refugees, displaced people fleeing violence.  There’s literally millions of concerns that we can have in the world, sometimes it is overwhelming but the Lord never wants us to forget that we’re to care about, and pray for, what is going on in the world.  God cares about displaced and fleeing people. They are amongst the most vulnerable.  Old Testament law is rife with calls to care for and treat justly refugees.  Here’s some good commentary on that sort of thing.  But perhaps most poignantly we can remember that Jesus, as a little boy, was a refugee himself.  A little boy just like that one washed up on the beach.

So we ought to let pictures like this hit us.  This despite that we are awash with images these days.  We ought to join with our secular, Muslim, and other neighbours in common concern.  And we need to pray.  It is good to pray out of our own spontaneous hearts but if we need some help, here’s some:

A Prayer for Refugees

Almighty and merciful God,
whose Son became a refugee
and had no place to call his own;

look with mercy on those who today
are fleeing from danger,
homeless and hungry.

Bless those who work to bring them relief;
inspire generosity and compassion in all our hearts;
and guide the nations of the world towards that day
when all will rejoice in your Kingdom of justice and of peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Put A Lighter To Your Prayers – God’s Word

zippo

Prayer is difficult but we often assume it ought not to be.  It is speech to God (and listening in silence too) and we may think that if we have a relationship with Him it should just flow.  Perhaps we’ve even been taught that prayer for a Christian is as natural as breathing.

Then we get on our knees, or sit in our chair, or walk through our neighbourhood, and we find that we have run out of things to say.  Or our mind can’t settle down long enough to connect with God in prayer.  We find that it is not as easy or free-flowing as we thought it’d be.

Fortunately, we have not been left without help.  God has inspired many prayers within Scripture.  The Psalter (Book of Psalms) is a book of 150 prayers.  As well, through the Old Testament (Exodus 15, 1 Kings 8:22-61) and the New Testament (Matthew 5:9-13, Philippians 2:1-11) there have been prayers deposited within the pages.  But any passage of Scripture can be used for meditation and inspiration for prayer.

The Reformer Martin Luther said that our hearts need “warming up” in prayer and that a chapter of Scripture may be used as a Feuerzeug, a lighter.  This is the same term used in modern German for a cigarette lighter.*

And that is what Scripture can do for our prayers – ignite them.  As I look within my heart, I don’t find always an instant supply of praise, request, or thanksgiving to God.  It may all be in there, I just need help finding it.  Reading, meditating, and then praying (putting in my own mouth the words of Scripture’s prayers) ignites my heart in prayer.  The extemporaneous prayers that may follow, or flow free from me next time, are fueled by the Word.

 

 

 

  • recounted by Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy, page 256.

Prayer for the start of Election season

Parliment Hill

Election campaigning can be a cynical time, or a divisive one.  There is, however, also an opportunity for Christians.  That is, to pray.

We’re taught by the example of the prophet Jeremiah to care for the society we live in and to pray for the common good:

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.  Jeremiah 29:7

In the wisdom of the Proverbs we’re told God is over and involved with our leaders:

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lordhe turns it wherever he will.  Proverbs 21:1

And we’re clearly commanded in the New Testament to pray for our neighbours and for those governing us:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  1 Timothy 2:1-2

 

So here is a prayer for our country, and for our present and future leaders:

Our God and King, we pray for the good of our country Canada and for your hand in this season.

Teach us how to be involved with the society we’ve been placed in, and how to participate, hold our convictions while not demonizing those who disagree with us.

Give us wisdom as we consider who our leaders should be.  We trust you to put in place the ones you choose according to your plans.  We ask that you would give them wisdom, guide them, and help them to govern our country with fairness, justice, and integrity.  Protect them, keep them safe, and help them to lead.

Guide them towards the right path for the good of all our neighbours.

We ask that you would increase prosperity for all Canadians.  Help businesses to grow and more people to be employed.  

Remember the poor among us and those without the means to better themselves.  Give them those means.

Give help to the immigrants and especially the refugees among us.  Help them establish themselves in Canada and have fruitful lives here.

Protect freedom of religion and conscience (our first freedom) for us and for all our neighbours: Sikh, Muslim, Jew, Christian, and the non-religious.

Let Canada be a country where the Gospel is not hindered and can be fruitful.

Make our country a safe place for the most vulnerable among us: the aged, those with disabilities, and the suffering.  Especially act on behalf of the unborn, who have no friend in any of the major parties.  Bring a time when every human life will be protected by law from conception to natural death.

God, give reconciliation between the First Nations and the rest of Canada.  Work to undo the historic wrongs against them and let them prosper.

Let righteousness, justice, and holiness increase in Canada.

Use our leaders to do these things. 

But we know that we can not put our ultimate trust in any party, politician, leader, or government.  Only You can fully be trusted to govern the world and so we worship You, look to You, and ask for Your mercy.

AMEN.

 

Truth & Reconciliation – and Prayer

T&RC

What follows is roughly what I shared as some pastoral commentary this Sunday with my own congregation, The King’s Fellowship.

This has been an historic week for Canada wherein the findings and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have been released.  They, of course, address the residential school system that has been, and remains, a blight on our national heritage.  Our own city, Winnipeg, is at the centre of these historic events.  It is critical that Christians are aware of this cultural moment and respond with prayer for victims and for our country.

The report findings and recommendations have been made public.  Justice Murray Sinclair, an altogether impressive man, has said: “we have led you to the mountain, we’ve shown you the path, now you must climb”*  The report is a challenge that Canada must respond to.  The specific recommendations can be discussed/debated and perhaps should be but that is to be done by those better qualified than myself.  What I can say is that while all Canadians should be made aware of the T&RC, those of us of Christian faith should embrace a special duty.  At this historical juncture – why shouldn’t we pray for the healing of our nation(s)?

The residential school system is the shame of our entire country.  We shouldn’t step back from acknowledging the Christian role in this system.  It was not just bad public policy.  Churches participated and that was bad evangelization, bad theology, bad methods, with a bad outcome.  We ought to pray for mercy.

And yet the Gospel message should both correct the bad that came before and be of present help now.  The Gospel, the good news of Jesus, has truth and reconciliation at heart of its message.  It has the truth of who God is and the truth of the human fallen condition.  It offers reconciliation between humanity and our Creator.  By implication it brings reconciliation between women and men to one another.

Now both sides of this issue in Canada need truth and reconciliation.  Even if no one is Christian on either side, God’s common grace can extend.  We can pray for truth to come forth and for reconciliation to happen between the First Nations and the rest of Canada.  We can pray that as the people who have experienced the ultimate truth and ultimate reconciliation.

Tree of life - City of GodWe can also bear in mind the end, the goal, of the Gospel. That is, the coming City of God.  We await a renewed society of perfect peace and justice, where perfect truth and complete reconciliation exist between us and our Creator, and between all the redeemed.  The Apostle John describes this City of God in the final scene of the entire Bible.  He tells what lies at the City’s centre – the Tree of Life.  And we’re told that …the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Rev 22:2)  In light of that final hope, we can pray for the healing of the nation of Canada and for the 600+ First Nations in our country.  Sin remains and so complete healing of the world will not happen until then.  We can, however, pray for partial but profound healing in our lifetimes.  If we care to read the findings and recommendations of the T&RC, we’ll know we need that healing.

 

 

 

* this is a paraphrase from memory of what I heard Justice Sinclair say on CBC radio.  It may not be an exact quote.

Be Still

Be Still

Be still, and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Praying my way through the Psalms I came across this well-known verse.  It’s often viewed as an encouragement to inner serenity.  Or it is a spiritual posture to take in the Presence of God.  If applications are made along those lines I certainly don’t wan to take that away from anyone.  To seek God’s peace, to balance one’s inner storm before Him as we spend time in His Presence is a wonderful thing.  In fact, one of the main objectives in prayer may well be to do just that.  And yet, while Psalm 46 doesn’t say less than that, it also says more.

Be still and know that I am God serves as a conclusion to the entire Psalm.  The lead up tells us a lot about.  God is a present help in trouble verse 1 tells us.  The earth will feel like it’s giving way (v 2), the sea is stormy and the mountains are trembling (v 2-3).  Nations are raging and kingdoms are in tumult (v 6).  The world seems as though it is chaotic and the circumstances of God’s People, from their perspective, don’t look cheery.  It is into this reality that the command to be still comes.

Why this matters is that it is saying something much larger than finding inner peace in prayer time.  It is that in times of great upheaval, we must never forget that God is God, and we are not to be moved.  God’s People (both Old Testament Jews and New Testament Christians) have faced the tumult of their times.  As Christians today, we face shifts in the our culture and troubles in the world.

When we read the news from North America we’re told from many sources:

That our culture is getting less faithful all the time.  (this is very Western centric but I’ll let that slide for now).

That our children won’t follow in our faith once they hit university.

That the world is getting worse and worse.

That Christianity is going to die unless it changes certain moral beliefs or gets “relevant”.

And so on…

But it is in face of all that, that God’s People are told to be still.  Be still and stay put, stay faithful to God’s great work no matter what this decade brings, or that century.  “The  Church must learn to think in centuries” it has been said, and that is a good maxim.  God is a in control over all history and not on e of His promises will fail.  That’s what is meant by the command to know that I am God.

To be still is to not be moved from the faith once delivered to the saints.  Decades come and decades go, centuries also come and go.  Public opinion goes this way, public opinion goes that way.  It may seem to the faithful that the world is shaking and rocking but we’re told to be still and know that I am God.  To stay where we are in terms of faithful witness and not forget that God is in control.