Tag Archives: love

A Hymn for Meditation

Blessed Assurance 

Blessed assurance,
Jesus is mine!
Oh what a foretaste
Of glory divine!
Heir of salvation,
Purchase of God,
Born of his Spirit,
Washed in his blood.|
Refrain

Refrain:
This is my story,
This is my song.
Praising my Savior
All the day long.
This is my story,
This is my song.
Praising my Savior
All the day long.

Perfect submission,
Perfect delight.
Visions of rapture
Now burst on my sight.
Angels descending
Bring from above
Echoes of mercy,
Whispers of love.
Refrain

 Perfect submission,
All is at rest;
I in my Savior
Am happy and blest.
Watching and waiting,
Looking above,
Filled with his goodness,
Lost in his love.
Refrain

                  Fanny Crosby

  •  What is the basis of the hymnwriter’s assurance that Jesus is hers?
  • Fanny Crosby was blind. How does she see visions of rapture?
  • What Bible story comes to mind when you read the words “angels descending?”(Read Genesis 28:10-17 to help you remember.) What is the message of this vision? Which of Jesus’ names comes to mind when you read it?
  • What are the two different images of submission about? Do you agree with the hymnwriter’s understanding of this principle?
  • What is the hymnwriter waiting for?  (Read John 14:1-3)

 

 

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Pray for the Government?

I pray for government every week. I started doing this a little over a year ago after visiting the National Day of Prayer website. I borrowed their concept of praying for some aspect of our national life every day, but I modified the list a bit. I pray for government every Monday. My high-level prayer is that everyone in government will act with integrity and serve the people according to local, county, state and national law. Beyond that, I pray about specific issues in these various realms. It all sounds fairly benign when stated that way. I might just say “Bless everyone in government and keep our country safe,” but that is not nearly enough.

Praying for government is complicated. For starters, everyone in government, whether elected, appointed, or hired through some civil service process, is a human being. They are all sinners, just like me, and they all do things that make me crazy. Just because they are human. That, unfortunately, is the start, but not the end of the problem.

At every level, there are some people who are in it for what they can get out of it. They have figured out how to scam the system or beat the system to some advantage for themselves. They lie to the public, they lie to each other. They steal by deception or by blatant theft. In most cases, I only suspect, but I don’t have facts to support an accusation of outright criminal fraud. It is hard to pray for such people. I don’t know how to word a truthful prayer.

There are people in government who, to all appearances, serve with integrity and honor – until they don’t. It is easier to pray blessings on someone whose behavior and character appear to be honorable. It is a deep wound to discover that some of them have feet of clay. That discovery is such a challenge, especially if they retain their position of trust after I no longer trust them.

The biggest challenge is the political ideologies that I consider destructive and even unlawful. When I read that some politician or public official has embarked on a program that I consider to be sidestepping or even completely in opposition to our constitution or our laws, I can hardly bring myself to pray blessings on that person. I certainly cannot pray for the success of the program. My prayer is confused and halting. I am angry. I am hurt. I am afraid for the future.

It is even worse when day after day I hear national, state and local leaders line up to support this destructive action. I can pray that the program will be defeated or ended, but that is more like wishful thinking than prayer. In fact, my mental churning and emotional stew makes it very difficult for me to pray about these issues.

One day I wrote to a blogger whom I have long admired. We share a common political viewpoint, but we also share faith in Christ. I observed that even when she had to speak in opposition to a program or a candidate, she retained a level of focus that avoided the ad hominem attacks that so often cloud the issues in the public forum. I asked her how she keeps that clear perspective on the issues without scorning the human being. Her answer was very clear.

She said that she prays for the salvation of every person in government every day. Knowing that God sent Christ into the world in order that the world might be saved, she focuses her prayers on God’s will that all of us be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I was humbled. I knew immediately that she was right. God’s purpose for each of us is to know Christ and to be reconciled to God through him. We are all failing in our obedience, no matter our level of relationship with Christ, so it is always right to pray that each person will come to know him in a relationship shaped by love and grace.

Now I keep that prayer uppermost when I pray for our government. I still pray about the issues. I think God had a hand in the formation of the USA. The people who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the people who fought the Revolutionary War, the people who wrote our Constitution and who served as our early leaders all testified to faith in God, both in their lives and in the words they wrote in our founding documents. They relied on God for guidance in the establishment of our country. They, like me, were imperfect, but they did what they did as an outgrowth of their relationship with God. So I feel confident that God cares what becomes of us.

Therefore, remembering that God worked through flawed human beings to achieve his purpose in the founding of this country, I pray that he will continue to do that. I ask for his guidance in understanding the issues. I ask for his leadership in shaping my actions and comments with regard to the issues. I pray fervently for his will to be done in all things.

I pray for our government, and when I do so, I pray for myself. In this country, we can never exempt ourselves when we criticize the government, for we are the voters who elected the leaders who do the government’s work. If we really want the government to work the way God wants it to work, then we are all called to be God’s faithful servants, obedient to his will in our lives, including the way we vote. I have come a long way since the day I prayed for the defeat of a bill I thought was bad. We may be unhappy with our government for doing things we never expected when we voted for the incumbents, but we must always remember that in this country, at the most basic level, the government is us. We must pray fervently the petition in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Then we must speak and act and vote in accord with God’s will as we best understand it, and pray with love that our elected leadership will do the same.

The Ministry of Listening

On the night Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest friends, Jesus said that his followers would be identified in the culture at large by the love they showed to each other. We often think that we show love to one another by doing things for one another, and that idea is not wrong. Just today in my church, we blessed and prayed for a small group of people who are preparing to leave for El Salvador where they will help Habitat for Humanity build houses. We are accustomed in churches to use the word “ministry” for the types of activity that show our love for one another. We expect someone who performs a ministry to be actively doing something.

In today’s world, we expect people to be very active all the time, whether in ministry, or in other activities. I hear people apologize constantly for any failure to do something, by saying, “I was just so busy.” In other words, people have way too many activities on their to-do lists to do all the activities on the list. One of the casualties of all that busyness is listening. For example, I have a friend whom I seldom actually see or talk to. She is quite busy. She almost never answers the phone when I call. I leave voice mail. If I really want her attention, I send e-mail. She is more likely to answer her e-mail with a quick sentence or two than to call me back after hearing my voice mail. When we do see each other, it always takes a while to get through her recitation of her busy schedule before we can begin to talk about the things that make us interested in each other. This state of affairs is very common these days. A real conversation is about talking and listening, but way too much of our interaction with people is about saying, or texting, or tweeting, or e-mailing, what we have to say. Not nearly enough is about listening to others.

I am starting to understand in my old age that one of the kindest, most helpful things people can do for each other is to listen. Have you ever felt completely alone in a room full of people? It happens all the time. People with the gift of hosting are attuned to the signal that somebody in the room is isolated. They find that person, engage him or her in conversation, and introduce that person to someone by saying something like, “Ellen, have you met Jody? Just wait till you hear where she went on vacation this year.” Jody, who used to be isolated and lonely, now has a cue to speak up, a topic to talk about, and a listener primed to pay attention. Jody feels a lot better about things already.

In the book, No Future Without Forgiveness, the South African bishop Desmond Tutu describes the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as South Africa moved away from apartheid. He wrote that very often people said that the simple fact that the commission listened as they spoke was in itself healing. They needed to tell their stories, but they also needed attentive, respectful hearers. After the opportunity to speak the truth to someone who listened all the way to the end, they were ready to forgive the people who had done terrible things to them, or to those they loved. Simply speaking the truth to people who listened started the healing process.

It is easy to validate Bishop Tutu’s observations when you realize the value of counselors, psycho-therapists, and psychiatrists. These people provide the great service of listening to troubled people. Then they ask questions and listen again. Articles and books on the subject are full of examples of people who actually solved their own problems as they simply talked and talked and talked to someone who would listen.

It is a principle of relationship-building that people need to listen. If you want to have friends, you must be a friend, and one of the fastest ways to make a friend is to listen. As soon as you stop talking and give your full attention to the other person, that person starts to think better of you. If you are listening so attentively that you only speak to ask questions, you will endear yourself to the person speaking. It will be obvious that you are not scheming to figure out how to stop listening and start talking instead.

Good listeners don’t just sit quietly. They truly pay attention and try to get the whole story. Some of us tell our stories in a disjointed fashion, jumping forward and backward in time, making it hard for the listener to sort out the narrative. Good listeners ask questions, or even say things such as, “I think you said you went to your grandmother’s house before you went to work that day. Is that the way it was?” The dialogue in police stories on television often moves forward with the question, “And what happened next?” A good listener asks such questions and indicates to the speaker that there is plenty of time and plenty of attention for him to finish the story.

Good listeners actually look at the speaker, too. They aren’t checking the time or staring out the window. They make eye contact with the speaker, giving the non-verbal message that they value what the speaker is saying.

A good listener encourages the speaker by remaining silent when the speaker falls silent. Especially when a story is intensely personal, or when the story is about a very painful experience, the speaker may stop talking. He may be gathering his thoughts. He may be unable to speak due to emotion. He may not know how to put his real thoughts into words. A good listener won’t jump in to make comments or draw inappropriate conclusions before the story is ended. The speaker needs time, and good listeners make it seem that there is all the time in the world.

Jesus said that we should serve one another and love one another. One of the finest ways we can serve one another and show our love is to listen. We all go to God with our troubles and we expect that he will listen. If we want to be like him, we will learn how to serve family and friends by listening.