Thursday, February 28, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, February 28, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 63:1-8, Daniel 3:19-30, and Revelation 2:8-11

Those of us who grew up in church have heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego many times.  It is an amazing story.  They were faithful to God to the point that they accepted death rather than reject God.  God, however, gave them life where others had died.

St. John wrote to the people in Smyrna (Turkey, not Tennessee) and told them that several of them would be arrested and tried for ten days.  He told them to remain faithful until death.  God promised a crown of life to those who remained faithful.
They were martyred.

God has a special reward for his followers who die as a result of their faith.  This isn’t to romanticize martyrdom – it’s a horrible, ugly thing.  But even in the midst of horror and unimaginable pain, God is there with us.

God takes the ugly and makes it beautiful.  God takes the pain and makes it comfortable.  That beauty and comfort seem awfully far away for those who are going through it, but God is faithful.  We should be faithful, too.  And if God expects us to be faithful in the midst of torture and death, how much more faithful should we be in less serious situations?

Will you remain faithful to God?  Will you give yourself to him?  Will you follow him, even in torture and pain?  Pray about this.  Ask God to give you the grace to remain faithful to him.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 105:1-15, 42; 2 Chronicles 20:1-22, and Luke 13:22-31

Today’s Gospel passage is the prequel to Sunday’s Gospel.  Someone asked Jesus if many would be saved, and his reply can seem a bit alarming.  However, we have to understand that he was not talking in terms of predestination – which is why it seems alarming to those of us who are good Wesleyans – but instead about Gentiles and Jews.  He was warning the Jews that they had better strive to get into the kingdom, because there was a time coming when they would wake up and realize they had been left.  The first (the Jews) would be last and the last (the Gentiles) would be first.

The word “strive” in verse 24 translates the Greek ἀγωνίζεσθε (a-gon-idz-the), which is the word from which we get “agonize”.  Wesley translated it “agonize, therefore, now by faith, prayer, holiness, patience.”  (Notes, 255)  Lent is just such a season.  Like Jesus did in the garden on the night in which he was betrayed, we spend some time in agony, trying to discover God’s will for us.  Sometimes, just like Jesus, we want God to take away the job he’s given us.  But Jesus told the Father, “Not my will, but yours.”  We should do the same.

Agonize over God.  It will take time.  It will take energy.  God’s worth it, though.  Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday


Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 105:1-15, 42; Numbers 14:10b-24; and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Moses managed to talk God down from destroying the Israelites and starting over again.  It seems a bit unbelievable that God would actually allow Moses to change God’s mind.  For God to be angry enough at Israel to even consider destroying them is one thing, and for God to listen to Moses’ argument is quite another.

St. Paul writes about how the symbols of baptism and Holy Communion surrounded the Israelites, but they could not please God and thus all died.  He writes that those symbols are there to help us not make the same mistakes the Israelites did.  Finally, he points out that temptation is common to everyone, and that God gives us an out if we’re not strong enough to bear it.

Temptation is a common theme in the season of Lent.  Temptation quickly gets old, especially if we’re trying to break our old habits and do something new.  Giving up soft drinks, for instance, is a good thing for many reasons, including health.  But it seems as though we want most what we cannot have!  The person who might go a week without thinking about soft drinks might decide to cut them out completely, and suddenly can think of nothing else.  Temptation, handled wrongly, leads us into trouble.  However, it can also make us stronger.  The answer to sin is not to avoid temptation, for that gives us a false strength.  The answer is to build our ability to withstand.  Sometimes the only way we can do that is with God’s grace.

Take some time to thank God for his grace.  Ask him to help you withstand temptation.  Write your own prayer.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, February 25, 2013 – St. Matthias, Apostle (Transferred)
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 15, Acts 1:15-26, Philippians 3:13b-21, and John 15:1, 6-16

We know very little about St. Matthias aside from the passage in Acts 1.  Tradition holds that he preached first in Judea and then in either Ethiopia or else in what is now the nation of Georgia (located between the Black and Caspian Seas, just north of Turkey).  Those who believe he went to Ethiopia say he went to a village of cannibals, and may have been killed and eaten by them.  However, there is also a marker in the Roman ruins in Georgia which claims he is buried nearby.  Still others say he was martyred in Jerusalem, or else died there of old age.  So the net result is that we know very little about him or his ministry.

Matthias was the one elected to take Judas Iscariot’s place.  Some theologians have said that St. Paul should have been the twelfth apostle, and that the Eleven were too impatient.  However, we cannot fault them for doing the best they could under the circumstances, and at any rate we cannot say for certain one way or the other on the matter.  What we do know is this: Those who were part of the company of Apostles all gave their lives for the Gospel.  St. John is traditionally held to be the only one who died of natural causes, although the Romans certainly tried to kill him.  If the traditions are correct and Matthias was martyred, it means that he gave his very life for Jesus.

Take some time to pray about this.  Are you willing to give up your life for Christ?  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Second Sunday in Lent, February 24, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; and Luke 13:31-35

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 27, Psalm 118:26-29, and Matthew 23:37-39

Sometimes we just don’t want to do what God wants us to do.  Jesus wanted the Jews to see that he was the Messiah, sent from God to redeem them and give them new life.  But over the years, God’s people had killed the men that God had sent to show them the way, and Jesus was no exception.

Sometimes we kill prophets, too.

Not literally, usually.  But sometimes we refuse to hear what God is saying when someone speaks.  We don’t agree, or we don’t want to change our ways.  We don’t want to admit that maybe we were doing things wrong.

God is waiting to welcome us back, to shield us and care for us, to dust us off and put us back on our feet.  He wants us to follow him, to desire him, to want to be just like him.

Jerusalem had a nasty habit of rejecting God’s people.  We need to be sure that we don’t reject the people God sends to us.

Take a few moments to go over the past week.  What mistakes have you made?  What have you done to fix them?  Have you wronged anyone?  Have you confessed your sins and asked for forgiveness?

You may find the following prayer helpful.  After praying it, know that God loves you and forgives you whenever you ask.  Once he has forgiven you, you never have to worry about that again.  Work on not making those mistakes again.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, February 22, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 27, Genesis 14:17-24, and Philippians 3:17-20

Melchizedek is a mysterious fellow.  He suddenly appears in the Genesis narrative, unintroduced, but claiming to be a priest of God.  He’s identified as being the king of Salem, which later became known as Jerusalem.  The writer of Hebrews was fascinated by him as well, and drew some important parallels between Melchizedek and Christ.  Melchizedek was a real person, but he is a type of Christ.  This means that he is a symbol or shadow of Christ.  Suddenly the king of Salem (Salem means “peace”) appears on the scene, with bread and wine, and blesses Abram.  Abram then gives a tithe of the battle spoils to Melchizedek.  In much the same way, Jesus suddenly appeared, introduced only by John the Baptist, and when the time was right, he brought out bread and wine – the first Eucharist.

Abram didn’t take the things he had captured from his enemies, even though the king of Sodom invited him to keep whatever he wanted.  Abram only kept the food and clothing his servants needed, and the rest he returned to the rightful owner.  Abram wasn’t greedy.

We don’t need to be greedy, either.  God blessed Abram to the point of wealth, and still Abram was not greedy.  God told Abram that he was going to bless him so that he could be a blessing to others.  It is the same for us.

What lessons can you draw from this?  How can you be a blessing to others?  What do you find interesting about Melchizedek?  Spend some time praying about how you can be a blessing to others.  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 27; Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18; and Philippians 3:2-12

St. Paul talks about counting everything he had gained before finding Christ as garbage.  Most people would look at his life and disagree.  He had been educated in the finest Pharisaic school in Jerusalem, a disciple of Gamaliel himself.  He had risen to become a very important person among the Pharisees.  He had also been educated at the university in Tarsus, which is where he met Luke.  He was both a Jew and a Roman citizen.  He knew Greek rhetoric and poetry, and also the Hebrew scriptures.  He spoke Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.  Most people would love to have known all that he knew.  Most would have loved to have had the skills he possessed.  But he says that all of that is nothing, because Jesus is so much more important.

Sometimes we think we’ve arrived because of what we know or what we’ve accomplished.  Sometimes we get awfully full of ourselves.  God wants us to be humble, though.  He wants us to see that success isn’t measured by what we can do, but by how much we allow him to do in and through us.

Pray about this.  Ask God to help you see the difference between the things that you’ve tried to do yourself and the things that he’s done in you.  Ask him to help you have a humble spirit.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 17, Job 1, and Luke 21:34-22:6

Jesus warned his disciples to not be caught unawares.  He made a reference to “drunken carousing”, which means constant partying.  There’s nothing wrong with a good party, and the Bible doesn't really condemn drinking – only drunkenness.  But constant partying and constant drunkenness are things to be avoided.  The party because we have real life that we have to live and the drunkenness because it causes us to to do harm to ourselves and others, impairs judgment, and so on.  Jesus wants us to be aware of what is happening around us, wisely using our time.  Having a party now and then is a good thing, but we can’t let it become a lifestyle.

Christ will return at some point.  He told us that it would be like a thief in the night.  We won’t know when it will be.  We sometimes see things about earthquakes, storms, and other natural phenomena and claim they’re a sign that Jesus is coming back soon.  But that’s not necessarily true.  Jesus said we won’t know it until it is happening.  We must be always ready.

Are you ready?  What do you have to do to get ready?  Ask God to help you.  Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 17, Zechariah 3:1-10, and 2 Peter 2:4-21

The prophet Zechariah writes about a vision he had.  The high priest, a man named Joshua (no relation to the second judge of Israel) was standing before the Lord, wearing nasty clothes, being accused by Satan.  God first rebuked Satan, then commanded that Joshua be given clean, new clothes.

When we’ve made mistakes and then come to God for forgiveness, God takes away our filthy clothes and replaces them with clean ones.  God removes the stain of sin from our hearts, washes us clean, and gives us another chance.  Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.

Take some time to thank God for his forgiveness.  Thank him for helping you do better.  Write your own prayer.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, February 18, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 17, 1 Chronicles 21:1-17, and 1 John 2:1-6

King David decided that he wanted a census of fighting men in the country.  We don’t think much about such things; by constitutional law we in the U.S. have a census every ten years.  It’s not that big of a deal.  However, David’s census wasn’t in order to figure out representation or anything like that.  It was to stroke David’s ego.  He wanted to know how many soldiers he had so he could go to war.

God was displeased by this.  When David went ahead with his plan, God sent a prophet to tell David he had sinned and would face the consequences.  God gave David a choice between three years of famine, three months of enemy oppression,  or three days of plague.  David chose the plague.

Even though David was a sinner, the Bible describes him as “a man after God’s own heart.”  Every time we see David going against what God wants, we also see David repenting.  Every time he messed up, he had a change of heart and prayed for God’s forgiveness.

We mess up, too.  Lent is a season where we can look at ourselves and see where we have gotten away from God, so that we can tell God we’re sorry.  And just like God always forgave David, God will always forgive us.  Then, once we’re forgiven, God will give us the grace to not make the same mistake twice.  But even if we make the same mistake time after time, God still forgives.

How has God forgiven you in the past?  Have you made the same mistakes over again?  Are there any areas where you consistently go against what God wants?  Take some time to pray about this, asking God to show you where you mess up and what you can do about it.  Ask him to help you not make those mistakes again.   Write your own prayer.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, February 16, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; and John 12:27-36

Walk in the light.  Don’t let the darkness overtake you, but walk in the light.
Ask God to give you light as you walk through this wilderness journey.  Ask him to show you where to go.  Ask him to help you through the difficulties.  Ask him to help you see the things in your life that he wants to remove.  Ask him to help you accept the things he wants to give you.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, February 15, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Exodus 6:1-13; and Acts 7:35-42

The Israelites didn’t exactly enjoy their time in the wilderness.  They complained against God the entire time.  The water wasn’t to their liking.  The food wasn’t good.  They kept trying to fire Moses and return to slavery.   That just goes to show how deceived we can be sometimes.

God was determined to bring them into something better than what they had known before, but they just didn’t want it.  Ultimately, God allowed the older generation to die in the wilderness, while preserving the younger ones.  This wasn’t an ageist move – had the children been the ones doing most of the griping, they would have been the ones to be left behind.  The older ones were the leaders, and they were the examples.  God can’t work if people won’t follow, so he had to wait for them to get out of the way before he could do something great.

Don’t be like the parents, complaining about every new thing God does.  Be open to the move of the Holy Spirit.  Allow God to change you, your family, and your church so that you can enter into his promise.  Because his promise is far better than going back to Egypt ever could be.  Forget the “golden years” that are now over.  Focus on the future and the blessings that God has promised.  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, February 14, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Exodus 5:10-23; and Acts 7:30-34

The Israelites, bound up in slavery in Egypt, were about to enter the wilderness. There was a time of pain before they could enter the promised land.  There was a time of preparation.  There was a time of putting aside their old baggage and coming to terms with God’s new way.

We’re entering a period of forty days in wilderness.  We shouldn’t be afraid – the wilderness can be an inhospitable place, but it can also help us get rid of the bad things in our lives as we try to hold only the good.

Many people set out every spring to hike the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Katahdyn, ME – a distance of over 2,100 miles.  They come with packs crammed full and hearts on fire.  But those first couple weeks are hard, brutal even.  The trail is strewn with cast off equipment, things that looked great in the store, things that had a lot of emotional attachment, but that ultimately were useless.  We get attached to beliefs, to programs, to ways of doing things.  But sometimes those things aren’t helpful at all, and must be discarded.

Pray about this.  Ask God to help you discard the useless baggage you carry.  Ask him to help you see what you need and what you don’t.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 – Ash Wednesday
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

I dare you to give up more than chocolate for Lent. I dare you to do more than the symbolic gestures.  Release something really big, like the urge to control everything, or independence from God and each other.  Let’s see what God can do if we give up something huge and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit. I dare you.

Will you do it?  Will you dare to think outside the box?  Will you give up your own selfish desires and allow God to work his way in you?  It’s a scary thing... how do we know we can trust him?  How do we know we won’t become one of those obnoxious Christians we see running around?

I dare you to take the next forty days and do something constructive.  Lent is a time to put aside unhelpful things, a time to assess where we stand in our journey of discipleship, and a time to pick up something that helps us in our walk with God.
We get into Lent and realize some of the baggage we’re carrying is useless weight and needs to be discarded.  We don’t really need some of the things we’ve long been accustomed to carrying.  Lent provides us the opportunity to cut those things out of our lives.  As we drop our useless baggage, we then have room to add things that we actually need.  Personal spiritual disciplines, for instance.

So, I dare you to do differently this year.  Don’t stop with giving up chocolate or carbonated drinks.  Don’t stop with giving up a TV program or favorite pastime.  I dare you to give up something fundamental to your identity, and allow the Holy Spirit free reign to work within you.

You may find the following prayer helpful:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 10, 2013 – Transfiguration of Our Lord
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Exodus 34:29-35, Psalm 99, 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 , and Luke 9:28-36

Today is a day of rest and worship.  Allow the readings to guide your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, February 9, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 99, Deuteronomy 9:15-24, and Luke 10:21-24

Jesus told his disciples that they had seen things that no one else had seen.  They had experienced things that would make others jealous.  They had gotten to live with the Son of God – and there were many who would have made great sacrifices in order to do the same.

We are about to end the season after Epiphany.  We are about to enter the season of Lent.  We’ve been focusing on Christ revealing himself to us.  Tomorrow is the climax of the season, when we follow Jesus to the mountain and see him transfigured.  God spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son.  Hear him!”

How has Christ revealed himself to you over the past few weeks?  Do you see him more clearly than before?  Are you ready to follow him into the wilderness?  Take some time to pray about this.  Ask God to continue to show himself to you.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, February 8, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 99, Deuteronomy 9:6-14, and Acts 10:1-8

Cornelius was an interesting person.  A man who was a military commander, yet believed in the God of the Jews.  A man who was required to worship Caesar, yet worshiped God.  A man who gave generously to help people, even though he wasn’t a Jew.

St. Peter had been worried about Cornelius.  He didn’t trust him.  But God  wanted the two men to meet, and told them both to go to Simon the Tanner’s home.  God knew that Cornelius would have access to the soldiers serving under him in a way that Peter never could.  God knew Peter could offer help to Cornelius that no one else could.  It was important for them to work together.  Peter just had to get over his initial distrust.

Has God ever sent you somewhere to meet someone?  Why?  Have you ever felt that you should meet someone, but felt so nervous that you didn’t?

Thank God for guiding you into relationships with other people.  Thank him for helping you overcome nervousness or distrust.  Ask him to continue to do so.  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, February 7, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 99, Deuteronomy 9:1-5, and Acts 3:11-16

Today’s reading in Acts picks up right after St. Peter and St. John healed a lame man right outside the temple.  Verse two tells us that the man had been lame since birth.
Why, then, had Jesus never healed this man?  Jesus passed him many times.  Why hadn’t Jesus healed him?

God used Peter and John to heal the man, and that gave them an opportunity to preach to those around.  The onlookers were amazed that someone whom they also had passed many times had been healed.  Peter pointed out that it was because the man believed in Jesus that he was healed, not because of any magic that Peter or John had.

Sometimes we are to be the instruments of God’s love and grace.  Just as we saw on Monday and Tuesday, we are to give healing to those to whom God sends us.  By doing so we say more in our actions than our words ever could.

Pray about this.  Ask God to send you where he wants you to go.  Ask him to help you minister to the person you find there.  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday


Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.
Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 56, Jeremiah 1:11-19, and Luke 19:41-44

In 66c.e., Jewish zealots finally managed to throw the Roman garrison out of Jerusalem.  War waged for four years, and in 70 the Roman emperor sent his general Titus, with four legions, to attack Jerusalem and end the standoff.  Titus surrounded Jerusalem, and then proceeded to lay seige to it.  Throughout the year, fighting waged back and forth, with the Roman army steadily growing closer.   Finally they pushed the defenders into the temple and a stronghold that overlooked the temple complex.  Walls had been knocked down, houses had been destroyed, and people had been killed.  Finally the day came when the Romans attacked the stronghold.  Somehow the temple caught fire and burned to the ground, despite Titus’ orders to spare it.  When the war was over, more than one million Jews had been killed, and Jerusalem was destroyed.  The temple itself was also destroyed, and the only remaining wall was actually part of the foundation.  Today it is known as the wailing wall.

Jesus’ prophecy came true less than fifty years from the time he uttered it.  We could argue that the results of First Jewish-Roman War were a punishment to the Jews for not accepting Jesus as the Messiah.  Perhaps this is true, because the zealots gained power by proclaiming their leader was the messiah, come to overthrow the Romans and create a new kingdom in Jerusalem.  Had they accepted Jesus, perhaps they wouldn’t have been so eager to follow the zealots.  Others may argue that these words weren’t actually spoken by Jesus, that they were added by a later editor who knew about the destruction of the temple.  Still others have different ideas about why Jesus might have said what he said.

We can boil it down to this, though: Following God is always a good thing.  Following God may not lead to roses and butterflies, but it does help us avoid many terrible things.  Following God is hard.  The results of rejecting God are much worse.
Will you follow God?  Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 56, 2 Kings 5:1-14, and 1 Corinthians 14:13-25

Today’s Old Testament reading is another reflection on Sunday’s Gospel lesson.  Jesus’ second point was that there were many lepers in Israel in Elisha’s day, yet the only one we know he healed was a Syrian soldier.  Today’s reading is that story.
Syria was another nation which the Israelites hated.  In Elisha’s day, they ruled over Israel, forcing them to send tribute to the Syrian king.  The Israelites, fiercely independent, were miserable under their reign.

Elisha didn’t see Naaman himself, but sent his servant to talk to him.  We may ask why, but we don’t really have any good answers.  Perhaps Elisha was just not willing to talk to this guy, who perhaps represented oppression and tyranny to him.  Perhaps he wanted to prove to Naaman that it wasn’t Elisha who was doing this magic, it was God who was working this miracle.  At any rate, he sent his servant to talk to Naaman, and Naaman didn’t like it one bit.  One of Naaman’s men talked him into doing what Elisha had prescribed, arguing that it couldn’t hurt and that it might actually help.  When it did, Naaman was very happy.

Just like yesterday, we can see that God wants us to help others, even if they’re the “wrong” color or nationality.  Even if they represent tyranny and oppression to us.  We can also see that God uses the strangest things to bring about healing.  The Jordan river isn’t special in and of itself.  Dip seven times in it and all you will have is very wet hair.  Unless, that is, God told you to do that so that you could be healed of some injury or illness.  The Jordan isn’t special, but it worked for Naaman because he was being obedient to God’s command, spoken through Elisha.

How has God healed you?  Has it been through strange means?  How can you take healing to someone else?  Ask God to help you be an instrument of healing.  Write your own prayer.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, February 4, 2013
Begin by praying the Collect for Grace and Collect for Purity.

Collect for Grace:
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us safely to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Purity:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we might perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Read: Psalm 56, 1 Kings 17:8-16, and 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Today’s Old Testament reading bounces off of yesterday’s Gospel.  Jesus was preaching in Nazareth, and one of his points was that there were many widows in Israel during Elijah’s time, but he was sent to a widow who was a Gentile, living in Zaraphath.  The famine that had affected Israel was also affecting nearby nations.  When the widow was close to running out of food, God sent Elijah to her.  He used Elijah to bless her with food for the rest of the famine.

Zaraphath belonged to Sidon, and Sidonites were a group upon whom the Israelites loved to look down.  They were considered to be dirty, loud, and offensive.  It may have been hard for Elijah to live with this woman, because of his cultural prejudices.
Sometimes we have to overcome our own ideas and minister to people who we don’t particularly like.  God is always pushing us to overlook outward things and look at the heart.  He created all of us in his image, and he loves all of us.  He wants us to love each other.  Elijah had to overcome his likes and dislikes in order to love and minister to this pagan woman.  Sometimes we have to do the same.

Take some time to pray about this.  How has God used you in the past to minister to people with whom you were unfamiliar, or possibly even disliked?  Are you willing to go if God sends you?  How can you show God’s love to someone who is from a different culture?  Ask God to help you.  Write your own prayer.