Monthly Archives: November 2020

Thou Shall Not Be Afraid

Monday Week 1     November 30



Banner Week One.jpgHe shall judge between many peoples,

   and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;

they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,

   and their spears into pruning-hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

   neither shall they learn war anymore;

but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,

   and no one shall make them afraid;

   for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

~~~Micah 4:3-4

Week 1 Quote 1.jpg



Question – What  fears do I need to relinquish today?



Prayer Thought

Lord, Help me to seek God’s peace and find a path to a life without fear.

Amen

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Worship Advent 1 B

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Worship at St. Luke’s

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Thanksgiving Prayer

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The Hub

In my home country, the Netherlands, you still see many large wagon wheels, not on wagons, but as decorations at the entrances of farms or on the walls of restaurants. I have always been fascinated by these wagon wheels: with their wide rims, strong wooden spokes, and big hubs. These wheels help me to understand the importance of a life lived from the center. When I move along the rim, I can reach one spoke after the other, but when I stay at the hub, I am in touch with all the spokes at once.

~~~Henri Nouwen

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

~~~John 14:6



When I think of the word hub, I think of the binding center of an object or business. A hub is a focal point or center from which other things evolve. We often hear of airline hubs which are places where airlines concentrate passenger traffic and flight operations at a given airport. It means that you can go to a hub airport and literally go anywhere in the world, often nonstop. Nouwen images the wagon wheel hub as a place where you can be in touch with the entire wheel. It goes without saying that our relationship to Jesus as Lord is the hub of our faith. As Christ followers we need a hub of practice.

Let me suggest that the hub of our relationship is communication with God, and that communication is prayer. Without communication there is no understanding or action. We can learn all we can about a famous person, but until we communicate with them, we do not know them. The hub of being a follower of Christ is our commitment to study and service to the world, but these are meaningless without a personal relationship that is established with regular prayer. Prayer is not a luxury or an option, but the “hub center” from which all else in our relationship evolves. How should we pray?

We pray by setting aside time to communicate with God on a regular basis. This could be regularly attending a time of worship. In worship we are taken away from the distractions of the world and committed to a time to be with God. While we are in worship, we have the perfect opportunity to communicate with God. Worship is truly a time of other worldliness. In worship we are inspired by the mere fact that in worship we are not alone and gain strength from the communion of the saints, both past and present. In worship we are given specific times and ways to pray, and we are strengthened by the community that surrounds us. Worship is a time for prayer.

Prayer can also be a time of silence and reflection. This is a time that we can individually set aside to be in communication with God. Try to take just five minutes a day to listen to God and invite his peace into your spirit. You can start this with a simple repetitive prayer, such as the Jesus Prayer. Repeating the words can bring us into focus with God, and he will then he acts within our spirit. This works best when a time and /or a place is set aside. A room, a chair, a tree, anywhere you can be silent and focused..

Prayer can also be highly active. The use of written prayers, prayer beads of some sort or Christian icons can allow you to get in touch with God. Let me urge you to make prayer the hub of your practice as a Christian. The more you communicate, the better you will understand him and the fuller your life will become.

The scripture reminds us that all communication begins with our relationship with Jesus from whom all else comes. (John 14:6)

Prayer BannerLord, I want to communicate with you. May I come to know that prayer is the way that is accomplished. I implore you to help me to learn to pray regularly and effectively. May I see that prayer is the true hub of my relationship with you. Let my prayers be the center of my life and work as one of your followers. This I faithfully and humbly ask of you.

Amen

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THIS WEEK – Sacrifice

Sacrifice – The surrender of something valued or desired, especially ones life, for the sake of something regarded as more important or worthy , or in order to avoid a greater loss.

(Oxford Dictionary)



Sacrifice is an unpopular concept in modern American thought. We have been conditioned to think that we must sacrifice nothing, and that sacrifice is a sign of weakness. To the contrary, people who know how to sacrifice are some of the strongest people in the world.

Let me tell you the story of an obscure Japanese Ambassador.

Chiune Sugihara was born on a day of new beginnings January 1, 1900. As a boy, he cherished the dream of becoming the Japanese ambassador to Russia. By the 1930s, he was the ambassador to Lithuania, just a step away from Russia.

One morning, a huge throng of people gathered outside his home. They were Jews who had made their way across treacherous terrain from Poland desperately seeking his help. They wanted Japanese visas which would enable them to flee Eastern Europe and the Gestapo.

Three times Sugihara wired Tokyo for permission to provide the visas; three times he was rejected. He had to choose between the fulfillment of his dream as an ambassador and people’s lives. He chose the latter. He dared to disobey orders. For twenty-eight days he wrote visas by hand, barely sleeping or eating. Recalled to Tokyo, he was still writing visas and shoving them through the train windows into the hands of the refugees who ran alongside. Ultimately, he saved six thousand lives.

Sugihara was not only a courageous Japanese, he was also a committed Christian. He spent his remaining days in Japan, humbly selling light bulbs. When his story was finally told, his son was asked, “How did your father feel about his choice?” The young man replied, “My father’s life was fulfilled. When God needed him to do the right thing, he was available to do it.”

Most of us will not be faced with the level of sacrifice that was thrust upon Ambassador Sugihara, but if we were, I hope that we would all be able to show his level of courage and commitment. The true meaning of sacrifice is to be able to give up something precious for the sake of someone else. We should not spend our lives looking for that great sacrifice but preparing for when it comes.

We may never be called upon to make an ultimate sacrifice, but we need learn to make those small sacrifices that define out lives. A life that is defined by selfishness and greed has no joy. God created us for joy and abundance and the realization that we are all our brothers’ keepers. In order to live life to the fullest, we must be willing to make sacrifices. There are sacrifices to God and to our neighbors.

Sacrifice does not bring scarcity but abundance. The fruits of sacrifice are blessing, joy and fulfillment. As we condition ourselves to be willing and able to sacrifice with this knowledge, we begin to see a new and greater world.



Quotes BannerLove proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers, and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

~~~Thérèse of Lisieux

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.

~~~Pele

Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness.

~~~ Napoleon Hill

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

~~~Edmund Burke

Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.

~~~Mitch Albom

As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.

~~~Martin Luther King Jr.

The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.

~~~Gaylord Nelson

Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.

~~~Thomas Merton

The happiness of love is in action; its test is what one is willing to do for others.

~~~Lew Wallace 

Truth often sacrificed for the sake of stability and peace.

~~~Toba Beta



Scripture BannerSo Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

~~~Hebrews 9:28

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

~~~Luke 9:24

To do what is right and just

is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

~~~Proverbs 21:3

Honor the Lord with your wealth,

with the first fruits of all your crops.

~~~Proverbs 3:9

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

~~~Romans 6:13

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

~~~Matthew 20:28

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

~~~John 15:13

And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

~~~Ephesians 5:2

To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

And call upon the name of the Lord.

~~~Psalm 116:17

When you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted.

~~~Leviticus 22:29Prayer BannerLord, Sacrifice is a hard thing. I was born with a nature to keep and accumulate, but you taught me by your own sacrifice the value of giving for others. Let your example be the blueprint and guide for my life. I ask you this day to give me the courage and strength to sacrifice for others as the need arises. May I learn the blessings of living a life of selflessness.

Amen

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Sunday Worship 11-15-20

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Present in the Moment



It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries. So many things have happened in our lives about which we feel uneasy, regretful, angry, confused, or, at least, ambivalent. And all these feelings are often colored by guilt. Guilt that says: “You ought to have done something other than what you did; you ought to have said something other than what you said.” These “oughts” keep us feeling guilty about the past and prevent us from being fully present to the moment.

~~~Henri Nouwen

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

~~~2 Corinthians 5:17



We all live with a certain level of guilt for our past failures and fear of what we may face in the future. A recent article in Psychology Today points out that guilt is a natural reaction to harming another physically or emotionally. We can not avoid all guilt. but we can keep it from being the guiding force of our lives. Nouwen reminds us that guilt of the past can make us absent from the present. Guilty people become angry and lash out at the nearest target. They become paralyzed with fear and usually overreact to situations.

Guilt also taints our future actions and causes us to have a fear of fully living our present day. We are so afraid that we will repeat our mistakes that we do just that. How many times have you sat dazed by something that you have done in the past and missed an opportunity in the present? Our unresolved guilts are like a “snoozing alarm,”and they are just waiting for a chance to go off again.

Our task is to resolve those guilts and live the present moment to the fullest. Paul told the Corinthian church that being in Christ was being a new creation. Such a new creation is blessed with the renewal of life. We cannot erase the past, but we can renew ourselves through the grace of God. As we trust in the grace of God to redeem us, we can be assured that the same grace will relieve us of the burden of guilt and allow us to live to the fullest. Nouwen speaks of the “oughts” of life that keep us guilty and frozen in the present and the future. Because Christ has redeemed us we need not be burdened with the “oughts” of life but to simply live the day, and the “oughts” will take care of themselves.

Going boldly and unreservedly into the future is a daunting task. We all carry our guilt to some degree like a weight upon our shoulders. Let me say again that we have the grace of God to solve this problem. He has promised us that as we live for him, he will make our lives grand. Today I ask you to put the past to bed with the soothing grace of a God who loves us so dearly. It is like an ointment that heals a wound.

Prayer

Lord, The biggest challenge I face is to be present in the moment. My mind loads me down with guilt of past failures and fear of future failures. Make it possible for me to be present in this moment that you have given me, and know that you will continue to give me what I need to move forward. I ask you to bestow upon me the joy of this day so that I may journey victoriously into tomorrow.

Amen

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This Week-Gift



Gift – The voluntary transference of property without anything in return. A faculty, power, or quality bestowed; a virtue or endowment looked on as an emanation from heaven.

(Oxford Dictionary)



A gift is the voluntary transference of property without anything in return. Each year at Christmas time we begin to search for the right gifts for those who are close to us, but with that definition are we really giving gifts? Christmas is a traditional time of giving, but we must remember that a true gift expects nothing in return. We must understand that the gifts of the Christmas and birthday sort are the acknowledgement of the worth and value of our relationship to the receiver only if we do not expect quid pro quo.

To better understand the concept of gift, we must look to God’s gift to us. He created us and gifted us with this world, and when we rejected it he still loved us and gifted us further. From the time we rejected his gift, he began to try to win us back. He was determined to recreate his creation. When all else had failed he came himself and offered us a path of grace. God is the ultimate example of a gift giver. The quotes and scriptures I have published in this piece examine the many facets of the word.

We are gifted with the ability to do certain things in life. There are those who can make beautiful music or paint beautiful pictures, and others who can write prose and poetry. All these and more are natural gifts which were bestowed upon us by God when he created us. We would do well to be grateful to him for what he has given us and use our talents and gifts for the betterment of his creation.

There are other gifts that are not as easily visible or understood. Paul said to the Corinthian church,”And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” Simply put, God has equipped each one of us with the gift we need to be his partners in the salvation of his creation. This is most “other worldly” to think that God has given you something of himself that resides in you in a special way, and giving it with the free will to exercise it or to neglect it. He did give us a gift without expecting anything in return.

That is our challenge when we give to others. We are to learn to give without expectation of return. Just as we are overwhelmed by the grace of God, it is our hope that as we show our love to others it will be returned. That is the greatest gift of all.





Quotes Banner

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

― Mary Oliver

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

― J.R.R. Tolkien

What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.

― Hans Urs von Balthasar

Everyone has a gift for something, even if it is the gift of being a good friend.

― Marian Anderson

A friend is a gift you give yourself.

― Robert Louis Stevenson

My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.

― Jim Valvano

Every problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.

― Anthony Robbins

You can do something extraordinary, and something that a lot of people can’t do. And if you have the opportunity to work on your gifts, it seems like a crime not to. I mean, it’s just weakness to quit because something becomes too hard.

― Morgan Matson

Buy a gift for a dog, and you’ll be amazed at the way it will dance and swerve its tail, but if don’t have anything to offer to it, it won’t even recognize your arrival; such are the attributes of fake friends.

― Michael Bassey Johnson

A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.”

― Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The great art of giving consists in this the gift should cost very little and yet be greatly coveted, so that it may be the more highly appreciated.

― Baltasar Gracian

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, lie detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.

― Ernest Hemingway

Being present to yourself in love and with kindness is the ultimate gift.

― Amy Leigh Mercree





Scripture BannerAs each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

~~~1 Peter 4:10

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

~~~Romans 12:6

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

~~~1 Corinthians 12:4

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

~~~2 Timothy 1:6

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

~~~Ephesians 4:7

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~~~Romans 6:23

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

~~~James 1:17

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.

~~~1 Timothy 4:14

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

~~~John 4:10

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

~~~1 Corinthians 12:28

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,

The fruit of the womb is a reward.

~~~Psalm 127:3

Prayer Banner

Lord, The greatest gift you have given me is yourself. Now I implore you to give me the gift of giving to others in the manner you have given to me. With that gift I can begin to set the world right. Allow me to be your servant of giving, so that I may help spread joy and happiness to the world. In some small measure, help it to become what you intended it to be.

Amen

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Full of Promise

A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promise. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: “I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!” Imagine.

~~~Henri Nouwen

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope

~~~Jeremiah 29:11



I believe that we were all created in the image of God. That means we are full of promise. Henri Nouwen said of God’s intentions ,” I have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it!” These words resonate in my soul and create a new vision for life. The world would be so different if we viewed ourselves and all we encounter through such a perspective.

A life full of promise has self worth and strives to live life to the fullest. People who lack self worth are abused and many times become abusers. A healthy self worth brings us closer to God and each other. A person with a positive self image is more likely to help raise the status of others. Positive self worth makes the world a better place.

Being full of promise means that we believe that God is at work in the world. That makes all the difference! So many people live bleak and desperate lives because they believe that everything that happens is their doing. God wants to help us. He wants to make us more fully whole. We are the crown jewel of his creation, and we are special to him. God never stops creating and recreating, and we are the beneficiaries of his work.

Being full of promise just means that each day brings a new challenge and a new blessing, and both are part of God’s word within us. Face the day, and claim the promise everyday.

Prayer

Lord, It is good to know that you give us a promise of a future that is ripe with possibility. Strengthen us when we fall into negative thinking. Uplift us when we feel defeated. Give us the vision of a life of promise. We know that is the life you created for us.

Amen

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