There is a famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke. The prison warden is speaking to the prisoner, Luke, trying to teach him that resistance will only get him in trouble. The warden recognizes that Luke is obviously going to be a stubborn prisoner who refuses to give up, and says to him, "What we've got here is failure to communicate."
In some ways it seems to me that is where we are in the United States between various groups. We could cite Democrats and Republicans, pro-life and pro-choice, in favor of gay marriage and against gay marriage, pro- and anti-Confederate flag wavers, climate changers and deniers, and even Texans vs. the U.S. military. The issues are many and complicated. We not only don't communicate well, we also don't believe the other side has good intentions or is telling the truth. So it is not just a failure to communicate but a failure to trust.
It is a sad state to be in because open, honest, and trusting dialog is important in society. However, it is not a new problem in the U.S. or elsewhere. If it were we would never have had all the wars we have had.
Paul had a bit of the same problem in Corinth. He recognized that people didn't always understand him even though he made the effort to speak clearly. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 he explains that he didn't speak to them with great eloquence or wisdom, but he came in the power of the Spirit so that the truth of his message did not rest on his powers of persuasion but on the power of God. Spiritual truths need to be expressed with the power of the Spirit and with spiritual words. Otherwise, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). Perhaps what we need now in public discourse is a prophet who can speak the truths of God with the power of the Spirit so that the world can understand.
Let us pray. Come, Lord Jesus, send out your Spirit. Renew the face of the earth. Send prophets today like the prophets of old. But let us not have hardened hearts and closed minds. Help us to hear your truth and walk in it.
"Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." So goes the balance of the paragraph about the everyday lives of Jesus' followers (Acts 2:43-47).
There are still Christian communities that hold some, if not all, of their goods in common. There are some who eat together every day. Of those who have tried to live in common (and I am one of them) it seems to work best in small groups. I suppose there are sociological factors at play relating to group size, how well you know each other, and trust, when groups fall apart. It didn't always work for the disciples either, as we see at the end of chapter 4 and beginning of chapter 5.
But why did the disciples do this? Had they been living from a common purse with Jesus? Had they always eaten together? We don't know. Aside from donations they received, perhaps Peter and the other fishermen sometimes went off to fish, make a little money, and take care of their families before rejoining Jesus in his journey. Maybe Jesus occasionally worked in a carpentry shop as a day laborer.
The Gospel writers did not find those day-to-day details of enough importance to take up precious space on a scroll. Yet they would be interesting to know.
For reflection: Would I be trusting enough, and giving enough, to live in common with others? Would I sell things I own in order to give to people in need? Do I treat day laborers as if they might be Jesus?
Let us pray. Father, Creator, Multiplier, all we have comes from you. All we have we owe to you.
In the passage we last considered (Genesis 3:1-13), there is a question which should not be overlooked. God asks Adam, "Where are you?" Adam and Eve are hiding after they have sinned, and, in response to God, Adam admits he is afraid. Adam and Even had only "been away" from God for a day or perhaps even less. Yet they were already afraid to seek God out. So God went looking for them.
No matter how long we may have been away from God, he is seeking us every day, every hour. We don't need to be afraid to say, "Here I am" because he loves us.
Recently I was reading a novel called The Known World by Edward P. Jones. The main character is Henry Townsend who was born into slavery and bought out of slavery by his father. However, when Henry grows up, he himself owns over 30 slaves. It is a very disturbing book.
What reminded me of it was Psalm 49:7-9 - "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him -- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough -- that he should live on forever and not see decay." How much is a life worth in monetary terms? Yes, prices were determined for slaves dependent upon sex, age and health because they were seen as a commodity based upon their projected value in labor. Life insurance policies put a value on a person's life too. But how much is the life of a child (who has no labor value) worth to a parent? For all the parents who have lost a child to school violence in our country, what would they give to have their children back?
I have asked you before, now I invite you again, to pray for those people in our society who may be prone to violence either to themselves or to others. (I heard this week that a suicide occurs about every 15 minutes in the U.S.) You will find a suggested prayer on this website under Prayer Resources.
"The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough."
We have probably all had times when we felt like everyone was against us, we were being persecuted, life was worse than unfair. And if things didn't change soon, we didn't know what we would do.
Unfortunately, many people feel that way today. They have lost their job, defaulted on the mortgage, run out of unemployment benefits. What to do now?
Prayer changes things. Sometimes it just changes us, but that is better than nothing. When we cry out to God in our misery, circumstances are not necessarily better by the time we finish praying. We don't magically have a new job, the mortgage lender doesn't call and announce a refinancing opportunity, money doesn't fall to the floor in front of us. But, even so, we feel better.
God has heard us. God has listened. God has identified with us and brought us some measure of comfort. How he does that I don't know, but he has saved me more than once. When we cry out, "No one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life," he responds, "I am concerned for you. I am your refuge; I care for your life." He sets us free from our prison of despair (verse 7) and lifts up our head and our spirits.
If you are in this state today, cry out to God. He will not fail you.
All 39 species of Birds of Paradise have been photographed (for the first time) for an exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. The male birds’ plumage are gorgeous and their mating rituals amazing as they do their best to attract a female. The birds live on the island of New Guinea, near Australia, where food is plentiful and they have few predators. In evolution-speak, because of the bounty of food and lack of predators, they have had plenty of time and the inclination to develop fancier and fancier feathers while the females could afford to be pickier about choosing a mate. If the male doesn’t look good, strut his stuff and shake a tail feather better than the others, he’s out of luck. Unlike Genghis Khan (see
the post of 1/7/13), his genes don’t get passed on.
What does this have to do with prayer? Birds and fish were the first living things in the creation account that God told to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:22). God repeats that command when Noah releases the birds and other living creatures from the ark (Gen 8:17). The Birds of Paradise give praise to God by doing what he created them to do. They are being fruitful and multiplying in their own unique way.
They also provide a lesson to us: “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matt 6:26-27). We have just entered a new year. Many people are worried about the future, worried about the economy, worried about their jobs. Worrying accomplishes nothing good and, in fact, shows a lack of faith in God.
Prayer, on the other hand, shows trust in God. Place yourself and your family in God’s hands. Trust in him. He knows what you need (check out Matt 6:25-33). Seek him, his kingdom, his righteousness. He will take care of the rest. And you will have peace.
If you need help praying, don’t hesitate to call (301.760.7744) or write prayerrequest@MannaPrayerMinistries.com).
Clematis vines have tendrils which cause them to cling to the fence or wall on which they grow. I don't know what they are called, but they are extremely hard to disentangle from the fence when you want to move the vine or trim it. In fact, when I first tried to disentangle a clematis that was growing over adjacent plants, rather than growing up the fence where I wanted it to be, the plant nearly died. It seemed that every part of the vine I touched turned brown. I pried those tendrils loose ever-so-gently, but still they died.
Recently I've had it in mind that we need those same types of tendrils to cling to Jesus. We need to be hard to separate from him. I realize that in this image Jesus is the fence and we are the vine - not quite what Jesus said about him being the vine and us being the branches. But I think the image of the clinging vine has some merit.
Anyway, the message is cling to Jesus, be hard to separate from him, and, as always, keep close to him in prayer. (And I hope you enjoy the photo of the clematis vine from my backyard.)
Often we hesitate to ask others for help. Speaking for myself, I am generally reluctant to ask for help, but I'm getting better at it. Really, there is no reason not to ask others for help. Even Moses needed help. Because he had a speech impediment, Aaron spoke to Pharaoh for him. Of course, that would look awkward in the movies, so the movies don't show Moses that way.
In Exodus 17, during a battle with the Amalekites, Moses got help again. Ex 17:11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
If Moses is not ashamed to get help from others, we should not be ashamed to ask for help either. In fact, I am quite grateful for the many people who have helped me over the last several months. Many, many have prayed (and continue to pray) for me. Some have made donations of money or given in-kind donations. Others have offered words of encouragement, or even just ask how I am doing. I appreciate all of them.
If you would like prayer, I hope you will email me. I will respond with a prayer by email.
The word of the Lord is faithful and all his works to be trusted. Ps 33
We are never alone. God is always with us, whether we see him or not. Ask Jesus to show you where he is with you today. Is he beside you in your trial? Is he showing you a way out or a way through?
I have found this to be an effective and comforting way to pray. If I ask Jesus to show me where he is, he answers, and shows me where he is in my life. Usually I gain a different perspective on what is going on. Even if he doesn't show me a way to escape the current problem, he shows me that he is with me as I go through it.
We are never alone.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.