Tag Archives: Christianity

A Verse for Meditation

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

English: Joseph made ruler in Egypt
English: Joseph made ruler in Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Questions for thought and prayer:

  • Genesis 39:21 says, “The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love.”Why does remembering Joseph’s story build up your gratitude for God’s steadfast love?
  • What if this is a really bad day for you? Should you go ahead and give thanks to the Lord, anyway? Why, or why not?
  • When we say that God is good, what exactly do we mean?
  • What does forever have to do with today?

© 2012 Katherine Harms

 

A Hymn for Meditation

 For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the earth (Photo credit: Ben Bawden)

For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,

for the love which
from our birth
over and around us lies;
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,

friends on earth
and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts
and mild.
Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

 For each perfect gift of thine,
peace on earth and joy in heaven.
For thyself, best gift divine,
to our world so freely given.

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
this our sacrifice of praise.

                      Folliott S. Pierpoint

 Questions for thought and prayer:

  •  At the end of each verse, you sing the words “sacrifice of praise.” Do you think it is a sacrifice to give praise to God? If ”sacrifice” means to surrender something that you might really want to keep, what are you sacrificing when you praise God?
  • The hymnwriter speaks of humans being immersed in love from the moment of birth. What does he mean? Do you agree with him? Why, or why not?
  • The third verse offers praise for “peace on earth,” recalling the promise of the angels when Jesus was born. Is there peace on earth? Where? Who has peace? Can there be peace on earth when nations are at war?
  • Even if you don’t write poetry, what would you include in a fourth verse to this hymn?

© 2012 Katherine Harms

 

 

 

 

When does simple restriction become outright persecution?

This week I read some news reports from Iran that set my mind whirling. I forget the actual wording of the headlines, but the story told of people being arrested for conducting Christian worship in an unauthorized location. I learned that this is a serious problem in Iran. Not only can people be arrested if they are discovered while worshiping in someone’s house or some other unregistered location, but people known to be Christians are sometimes simply stopped and questioned about their worship locations. Or about their beliefs. Or about whether they tried to tell a Muslim about Christ. Iran is a nation where the term “restrictive” takes on huge dimensions. Iran is serious about suppressing the expression or even the living evidence of Christianity.

It sounds like something nobody would ever imagine could happen in the USA. However, as I read it, I heard echoes. It hasn’t been that long since I read about a big uproar in California when a Homeowners Association took a couple to court for holding weeknight Bible studies in their home. Then, there was the late February announcement that was publicized in only one place that I ever found. The federal government announced a rule change for student loan forgiveness shortly after losing the Hosanna-Tabor case in the Supreme Court. Whereas previously, someone with a big student loan could earn loan forgiveness by serving in any capacity whatsoever with any 501 ( c ) 3 organization whatsoever, after February 28, 2012, a student could not earn loan forgiveness by serving with any 501 ( c ) 3 organization with a primary purpose of worship or proselytizing. In Christian circles we call “proselytizing” evangelism, but you see what is happening. Any lender can make any rules he likes for qualifying or forgiving the loan, but it is interesting that after the definition of the purpose of a 501 (c ) 3 organization worked against the government in Hosanna-Tabor, the federal government quickly revised the rules on loan forgiveness.

I must say something here. I think Christians should steer clear of money from any government at any level. That money always looks good up front, but there is an old rule that still holds true: he who pays the piper calls the tune. Some people say that the recipient of money becomes a puppet, operated by the strings attached to that money. However you word it, the recipient of government money is likely to be required to do some things in order to qualify for the money. A church that receives government money to operate a homeless shelter could very well discover that the government does not want the homeless to be subjected to suggestions about prayer and Bible study. That is their prerogative, and any faith organization that objects is not on firm ground, I think. My comments about loan forgiveness are about the standard being changed after many years of making no distinction. I actually believe it is a big mistake for a student to count on money from the government or on loan forgiveness of a duly incurred obligation. Nevertheless, the timing and nature of this change to the regulation looks suspicious to me.

I also read this week about Christians in numerous countries being set upon by mobs. The mobs accuse Christians of being spies or of polluting the minds of Muslims or Hindus by talking about Christ or of simply being socially unacceptable. These mobs inflicted actual physical injury to Christians, sometimes quite serious injuries. It made me think about Dan Savage’s diatribe that caused almost 200 young people to walk out of a meeting where Savage was supposed to be helping the group learn anti-bullying tactics. His rant was everything a bully could dream of, and the injury he inflicted was quite serious, even if no literal blood flowed.

My point is to say that in the land of the Constitution and the home of the First Amendment, anti-Christian sentiment is expressed in numerous ways. I don’t know the history of Iran’s restrictions and persecution of Christians, so I don’t know if there was a gradual increase in the intensity of restriction and persecution of Christians. I do know that the kind of things happening in the US today tell me that Christians need to be alert. It is no time to be complacent about our freedom to worship and our freedom to pray in public and our freedom to have Bible study wherever we like.

I don’t suggest we become aggressive, however. Jesus gives us the response to persecution, and it is the same message he gave us for every day. Put all your hope in God. Love God above all, and love the people around you. Love people who insult you and try to hurt you. Pray for them. Give them more than they ask for. Always show Christ to everyone you meet.

We should not have to struggle to remember these things. This is the way we are supposed to live whether or not we are persecuted. If we do this all the time, then some people will actually see Christ and get to know him for themselves. It won’t be our doing. It will be the work of the Holy Spirit using our faithful testimony to do what he does best – build faith in Christ.

We need to be watchful, because as citizens of the USA, we are the only ones who can really preserve, protect and defend our Constitutional freedoms. But while we are doing that, we must always be faithful to our first allegiance: Christ the Lord of all.

Pray Faithfully

I don’t know any Christians who do not want to be faithful in prayer. Sadly, many feel that they don’t have time. They are stressed, and even if they do remember to pray, they forget what they wanted to pray about. They sit down to pray, but their minds wonder if the kids have lunch money or if they remembered to send in this week’s time sheet, or etcetera. Friends ask for prayer, and weeks later, well-intentioned Christians guiltily recall that they never did pray at all. Eager to feel better, they mutter, “doesn’t God already know what he is going to do?”

I have found an easy way to keep my prayer commitments and enforce my prayer time with little effort on my part. I keep a small notebook with my Bible and my devotional book. I make sure this notebook isn’t big, because that would make the task seem big. A small notebook reminds me that the entries in it are personal and private.

In this notebook, I make small notes about prayer concerns. If somebody says to me, “Will you pray for my daughter?” I make a note about the daughter in my little notebook. I usually pray briefly about the issue at the time I make the note, or in the right circumstances, I may pray at length about this concern. Either way, the next morning, when I step aside for my private time with God, I open the notebook, and there is my reminder to pray for my friend’s daughter. I note date and topic, usually quite briefly. I date the entry, because my personal standard is to pray for a concern until it is resolved, or for a month, whichever comes first. An issue that still seems current and important after a month is recycled into the next month.

Each day, I pray for that month’s concerns. There are usually several – some are requests from friends, some are concerns in the news, and some are personal issues. As things develop or change, I make brief notes. When an issue is resolved, I write “Thank you” beside the entry. I love going through my month’s list and seeing several “Thank you” notes. It is encouraging to be reminded that God answers prayer. When a month passes with no news about an issue, I let it go. I believe that if God wants me to continue praying about an issue, I will hear more.

At first, my notebook was only about other people’s requests, but as I grew in my understanding of prayer, I began adding my own issues. It increased the number of entries each month, but it increased the number of “Thank you” entries, too.

For some entries, I actually write a sentence or two in the form of a prayer. On a day when my attention is not well focused, those little prayer sentences help me pray with greater assurance. Occasionally, the wording I feel led to use points me to better understanding of the outcome.

A prayer journal is a powerful tool for keeping your prayer commitments and for maturing in faith. The sight of it calls specific requests to mind, allowing you to touch those requests prayerfully as you continue your work. These interim prayers reinforce your relationship with the person who made the request and they build your understanding of Christ’s call to love and serve one another. The very fact that you have such a notebook will send you running to record requests and concerns that otherwise might flit unattended through your day and into oblivion until one day events remind you that you wish you had prayed about this situation.

A prayer journal is not magic. It won’t assure that you get what you want. It won’t make you pray when you think you don’t have time. It will prod your commitment to the discipline of prayer and to maturing discipleship in your daily life. If you want to pray faithfully, a prayer journal is a great tool for success.

A Hymn for Meditation

Looking forward to Trinity Sunday, this hymn inspires our praise and celebration of the mystery of the Trinity

 Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy Trinity
Holy Trinity (Photo credit: angelofsweetbitter2009)

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! 
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, holy, holy!
All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns
around the glassy sea;

Cherubim and seraphim
falling down before Thee,

Who was, and is, and
evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy!
Though the darkness hide Thee,

Though the eye of sinful man
Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy;
there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in
love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name,
in earth, and sky, and sea;

Holy, holy, holy;
merciful and mighty!

God in three Persons,
blessed Trinity!

Questions for thought:

  • What Bible stories come to mind as you read the words of this hymn?
  • How do those stories enhance your understanding of the Trinity?
  • Why do we need to remember that the Trinity is One God in Three Persons?
  • How does worship and praise of the Trinity nourish our faith?

© 2012 Katherine Harms