Sunday, March 31, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Easter Sunday, March 31, 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: Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; and Luke 24:1-12

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!
He is risen!
He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday


Holy Saturday, March 30, 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: Job 14:1-14; Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; and John 19:38-42

Today is a day of fasting and mourning.  Many churches remove the colored paraments from the altar and pulpit, as well as veiling the crosses.  Many believers, dressed in black, will visit fourteen churches on this day, meditating on one of the stations of the cross at each one.

Put yourself into the disciples’ shoes.  How would you feel?  Lost?  Betrayed?  Confused?

Thank God for sending his Son to atone for your sins.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Good Friday, March 29, 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: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, Hebrews 10:16-25, and John 18:1-19:42

It has been a long journey.  Forty days of looking at ourselves, finding things that don’t please God, and working out how to fix them.  And then today our Savior is betrayed, denied, beaten, mocked, and crucified – just like in today’s passage.

Thankfully, God is willing to forgive us for missing the mark.  He knows when we are truly trying to be disciples, and when we only say we are.  Ask God to help you with your walk. Thank him for his patience. You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2013Begin 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 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; and John 13:1-17, 31b-35

“Love one another!”  Jesus commands us to love each other, and even to wash each others’ feet.  Washing someone’s feet is a sign of humility and servanthood.  It’s not an easy task, especially when we don’t like the person whose feet we are washing.  Jesus’ command to wash feet applies in a figurative sense, too.  By doing things for others that would not otherwise do, we are allowing God’s grace to work through us.

Think about a time when you had the opportunity to wash someone’s feet, either figuratively or literally.  Did you stoop down and wash them, or did you pretend to not notice?  Jesus, in the ultimate foot-washing act, gave his body and blood to wash away our dirty sins.  Take a moment to thank God for that.  The next time God sends you an opportunity to was feet, make the most of it.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday of Holy Week, March 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: Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 70, Hebrews 12:1-3, and John 13:21-32

Jesus predicted that Judas Iscariot would betray him.  How often do we betray him as well?  How often do we allow our life, our sickness, our “suffering” to come between us and obedience?  How often do we become so lost in our pettiness that we forget all about Jesus?

Take a moment to ask God to forgive you for your betrayal.  Then, ask him to give you the grace to avoid doing it again.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday


Tuesday of Holy Week, March 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: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, and John 12:20-36

To the men who approached Philip about seeing Jesus, Jesus’ response was probably a head-scratcher.  Some guys say, “We want to see Jesus,” and he replies, “The time has come for me to be glorified.”  While Jesus’ response may seem a bit nutty, as usual he has a reason for saying what he said.

Jesus wanted his disciples to understand that the end was near.  Jesus knew that by the end of the week, he would be crucified.  He mentions this to the Twelve, and then says something else that catches our eye: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (verse 24).  In other words, we must be willing to die to self in order that we might be fruitful.

Take a moment to reflect on your self-denial.  Do you die to self, or do your sins and bad habits hang on to life?  Dying to self means to give up what you want and giving in to what God wants.  Ask God to help you do that.  His promise is that if we die to self, he is able to work in and through us.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday of Holy Week, March 25, 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: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 36:5-11, Hebrews 9:11-15 and John 12:1-11

Holy Week  is the most important week of the Christian year.  It is the time when we revisit Christ’s suffering and death in preparation for the resurrection.
Today’s passage in John tells the story of Jesus being anointed by Mary, Lazarus’ sister.  Judas Iscariot protested.  Jesus replied that she was anointing him for his burial.  The oil that Mary used on Jesus’ feet was very costly, and giving it to Jesus was a great sacrifice.

Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice you can offer to God.  Worship is a sacrifice.  Too many times we think that church is for us – our wants, our blessings, our desires – when actually it’s for God.  Ask God to show you what sacrifices you should be making.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Sixth Sunday in Lent, March 24, 2010 – Palm Sunday
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: (Liturgy of the Palms) Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 and Luke 19:28-40
(Liturgy of the Passion) Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, and Luke 22:14-23:56

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, March 23, 2010
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 31:9-16, Leviticus 23:1-8, and Luke 22:1-13

Jesus wanted to spend Passover with his disciples.  This would have been normal; most rabbis did this with their disciples.  What wasn’t normal was the way Jesus went about finding a room.  How many people can claim to know there will be a certain man in a certain place at a certain time with a certain pitcher of water?

We will soon see the significance of Jesus’ desire to spend that last evening with his disciples.  If you just can’t wait, read John 13-17: Those are the chapters that recount the discussion over dinner that night.

Go and share a meal with someone, preferably someone who doesn’t regularly go to church or who is in need.  Let it be your prayer.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, March 22, 2010
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 31:9-16, Isaiah 54:9-10, and Hebrews 2:10-18

Isaiah is prophesying about a day when God would no longer be angry at the Israelites for their sins, but would forgive them.  Their captivity would be as forgotten as the waters of Noah’s flood.

God still promises the same thing.  If we simply ask him to forgive us, he is faithful to do so.  Of course, that means that we can’t go right back to doing what we were doing before.  Part of repentance is changing how we think and act.  We need to say we’re sorry, and we also need to change our ways so that we don’t fall into the same sins.  We should try to be like Jesus, not like our old selves.

God is ready to forgive and put away your sins.  Will you let him?  Ask God to forgive you.  Ask him to help you not make those mistakes again.  Ask him to help you forgive yourself and others.  Ask him to help you live in repentance, not guilt.  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, March 21, 2010
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.  I

Read: Psalm 31:9-6, Isaiah 53:10-12, and Hebrews 2:1-9

The reading from Isaiah is part of what is known as the “suffering servant song”.  It is generally believed to be Messianic in content.

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday.  Part of the emphasis will be on the triumphal entry with palm branches and loud hosannas.  But part of the emphasis will be on Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion.

The resurrection and the crucifixion go hand in hand.  You can’t have one without the other, or else it’s all meaningless.  If we didn’t have the crucifixion, what point would there be to the resurrection?  If we didn’t have the resurrection, we’d be trying to follow a dead martyr.  We need them both.

As we head into Holy Week and we near the end of our journey to the cross, let’s take a moment to reflect on our experience so far.  What have you learned this Lent?  Where do you stand in your walk with Christ?  What else do you need to do to become more like him?  Write your own prayer.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, March 20, 2010
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 20, Habakkuk 3:2-15, and Luke 18:31-34

Jesus pulled his disciples aside and warned them the end was near.  He told them he was going to go to Jerusalem and die.  Yet they didn’t understand what was happening, because the meaning was hidden from them.

Sometimes the meaning seems hidden from us, too.  It feels like we’re just kind of bumbling along, hoping that God will give us a bit of clarity just so we can see what to do next.  But these times of fog are useful, because they help us grow.  A tree that doesn’t get enough water responds by growing deeper roots.  Later, when a storm passes over, the deep roots help keep it from blowing down in the wind.  If it wasn’t for the dry time, the roots wouldn’t have been able to hold.

Ask God to help you grow deeper roots.  Ask him to help you see where he is leading you.  Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, March 19, 2010
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 20, Judges 9:7-15, and I John 2:18-28

Don’t be deceived!  The enemy wants nothing more than to trick us into thinking we’re doing okay, when actually he’s got us all mixed up.  The most believable lies are the ones that are half-truths.  St. John was writing that we need to search for the full truth, because that’s where God is.

God wants us to search for truth.  He wants us to use discernment, learning to tell the difference between the truth and half-truth/half-lie. He doesn’t want us to fall into Satan’s trap and believe something that just isn’t true.  And the worst kinds of lies are the ones that have an element of truth to them, because they’re the hardest to figure out.

Take some time to pray about this.  Ask God to help you tell the difference between God’s truth and the enemy’s lies.  Ask him to give you discernment.  Write your own prayer.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, March 18, 2013 – St. Patrick of Ireland (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: Deuteronomy 32:1-9, Psalm 145:1-13, 2 Corinthians 4:1-12, and John 4:31-38

St. Patrick is perhaps the perfect example of Lenten discipline.  He was born near Dumbarton, in Scotland, in the year 387. When he was about sixteen, Patrick was taken captive by Irish marauders and sold as a slave to a chieftain. For six years he was a shepherd in the valley of the Braid and on the slopes of Slemish.

Patrick’s captivity became a preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption. His master, Milchu, was a Druid high priest, and this allowed Patrick to become familiar with all of the details of Druidism.

After six years, on the advice of an angel, Patrick fled from his master. He traveled until he found a ship ready to set sail. In a few days he was in Britain, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry. He went to France where he joined Saint Germain, bishop of Auxerre, and put himself under the bishop’s guidance and was ordained to the priesthood.

His arrival in Ireland (ca. 433) was greeted with opposition from Druid chieftans. He returned to Dalaradia where he had been a slave to pay the price of ransom to his former master, and to bring him to Christ but as he approached he saw the castle burning in the distance. The word of Patrick’s coming had preceded him, and the frenzied Milchu gathered his treasures into his mansion, set it on fire, and cast himself into the flames. An ancient record adds: “His pride could not endure the thought of being vanquished by his former slave.”

The druids and magicians fought to maintain their control over the Irish, but Patrick's prayer and faith triumphed. On Easter Day 433, after winning the Irish Chieftains over to Christianity, Saint Patrick is said to have plucked a shamrock to explain by its triple leaf and single stem the Blessed Trinity. This trefoil, called “Patrick's Cross,” became the symbol both of the saint and of Ireland itself.

Patrick endured hardship, which strengthened him for greater things.  He could have become bitter and died a slave, or escaped and never returned.  But God wanted more from Patrick.  Take some time to think about how Patrick’s example applies to you.  Are the hardships you have faced a training ground for God’s calling on your life?  Ask God to help you with this.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Father in heaven, you sent the great bishop Patrick to the people of Ireland to share his faith and to spend his life in loving service: Grant us grace that our lives might bear witness to the faith we profess, and our love bring others to the peace and joy of your Gospel, through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 17, 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: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, and John 12:1-8

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

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, March 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 126, Exodus 12:21-27, and John  11:45-57

Jesus has a tendency to make people mad.  He comes to us, rattling our cages, showing us things we would rather not see, and telling us things we don’t want to hear.  Jesus loves us, but in a way that can sting sometimes.  In fact, it is because he loves us that he does the things he does.  He wants us to take notice, and to listen to what he is saying.

The Pharisees were deeply offended by the things Jesus did and said.  They loved the status quo.  How many times have you heard (or even said) “But we’ve always done it this way!”?  How often have you used it as an excuse to not make any changes?
God wants us to change.  He loves us enough to redeem us from our sin, but he also loves us enough to ask us to grow and change into something better.  We are to be in his image, not the image that we’ve been in for as long as we can remember.

Ask God to show you some areas where change is needed.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Gracious God, we know that you confront us with our sin, so that we might repent.  You ask us to change, so that we might become more like Christ.  Grant us grace that we might be obedient to your loving commands and willing to change the things you ask us to change; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, March 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 126, Isaiah 43:8-15, and Philippians 2:25-3:1

Usually, the best person to ask about something is one who has experienced it first hand.  For instance, the best way to learn how to knit is to ask someone who knits.  Asking a non-knitter would be useless.

Today’s passage talks about telling others about our experiences with God.  God is saying, “Go ahead.  Put the word out.  Let people tell what they have seen with their own eyes; what they have heard with their own ears.”  God wants us to be vocal about our experiences!

How vocal are you about God?  It’s easy to sweep God under the rug, to not mention him to others.  It can be hard to talk about him with other disciples, and even harder with non-believers.  Ask God to show you how best to do this.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Lord God, teach us how to tell others about you.  Grant us grace to overcome our fears, so that we might spread the good news of redemption to all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, March 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 126, Isaiah 43:1-7, and Philippians 2:19-24

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you!”  God has paid the price of our sins, and now we are free.  We are restored into God’s family.  We are bought from slavery to sin and death.

 Take a closer look at verse two.  God said that when we walk through the waters, he will be with us.  When we go through the rivers, they will not overflow us.  Note that we still have to walk through those waters and rough rivers.  We still have work to do.  God still expects certain things from us.  We will go through things that will make us quake with terror.  However, God will still be with us, protecting us and guiding us.  He will not allow us to be swept away.

Think about some of the rivers you’ve had to cross.  Think about how God has been with you every step of the way.  What rivers do you face now?  Ask God to reassure you and to let you know that he is with you.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Father Almighty, grant us strength as we face obstacles in the path of life, and give us grace to overcome all adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, March 13, 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 53, 2 Kings 4:1-7, and Luke 9:10-17

We look at two situations today which illustrate how God provides.  In the first story, God provides enough oil to pay all of the widow’s debts, with some left over.  In the second story, God provides enough food to feed all the people, with some left over.  God’s grace and forgiveness is the same way.  God provides enough grace to overcome whatever our difficulty, with some left over.  His forgiveness washes away all our past sins, plus those we will do in the future.  God knows that we cannot find salvation alone or through good works, so he provides a way.

Take a moment to thank God for his mercy.  You may find the following prayer helpful:
God our Father, you have loved us when we were unlovable.  You have forgiven us when we were unforgivable.  You have had mercy on us when we failed you.  We thank you for your grace and mercy and love, and we glorify your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, March 12, 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 53, Leviticus 25:1-19, and Revelation 19:9-10

Today’s Old Testament passage talks about the Sabbath years and the year of Jubilee.  While this is important for many reasons, today we focus on the opportunity for fair dealing.  God didn’t want people to be greedy; instead, he wanted his people to deal fairly with each other.  Every fiftieth year was an opportunity to level the playing field, so that everyone would have an equal chance to succeed.

God still wants his people to deal fairly with one another.  He wants us to do what we say we’re going to do.  He doesn’t want us to speak evil of anyone, especially our fellow believers, either behind their backs or to their faces.  He wants us to live the way we say we do.

Do you deal fairly with others? Do you treat them as well as you would like to be treated, or do you judge, criticize, and destroy them?  Pray for the people you love.  Now, pray for those you do not love.  Ask God to help you deal fairly with those you do not like. You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty God, you have commanded us to deal fairly with each other and to love others as we love ourselves: grant us grace to love others as you have loved us, that we might be known as your servants; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, March 11, 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 53, Leviticus 23:26-41, and Revelation 19:1-8

God told Moses that he wanted the people to have a day every year where they reflected on their sins.  They were to offer sacrifices to atone for those sins.  God also wanted them to have a festival where they lived in booths or tents, to remember the time spent in the wilderness.

Lent, in many ways, serves the same purposes.  It is a time of reflection on our sins and shortcomings, a time to seek forgiveness, and a time spent in the wilderness.  Lent is a reminder that it is not about us, but about what God can do in and through us.

Reflect on your Lenten journey thus far.  What have you learned about yourself?  What sins or character traits do you need to overcome?  What can you do to become a better disciple?  You may find the following prayer helpful:
Almighty and most merciful God, we have devoted this season to searching ourselves that we might become closer to you.  Give us grace to see the things that displease you, and forgive us where we have failed you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Prodigal Son Parable in the Key of F

Feeling footloose and frisky, a feather-brained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the family finances. He flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune feasting fabulously with faithless friends. Finally facing famine and fleeced by his fellows in folly, he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy farmyard.

Fairly famished he fain would have filled his frame with the foraged foods of the fodder fragments left by the filthy farmyard creatures. 'Fooey', he said, 'My father's flunkies fare far fancier,' the frazzled fugitive found feverishly, frankly facing facts.

Frustrated by failure and filled with foreboding he forthwith fled to his family. Falling at his father's feet, he floundered forlornly.

'Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favour. 'But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching frantically flagged the flunkies. 'Fetch forth the finest fatling and fix a feast.'

But the fugitive's fault-finding frater frowned on the fickle forgiveness of the former folderol. His fury flashed.  But fussing was futile, for the far-sighted father figured, "Such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivity? The fugitive is found! Unfurl the flags, with fanfares flaring! Let fun and frolic freely flow!  Former failure is forgotten, folly is forsaken! And forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortitude." 
 
-- Author Unknown

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 10, 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: Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, and Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, March 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 32, Exodus 32:7-14, and Luke 15:1-10

“This man eats with sinners.”

Umm.... Your point is?

Of course Jesus ate with sinners.  He wants us to, as well.  And he means more than the other sinners at church, although that’s included.  He means we’re to go and meet people where they are, love them where they’re at, and minister to their needs.  He doesn’t want us to force them to change before joining us; he’s going to worry about that.  We just focus on being like Jesus.  That’s a lot more effective than giving out tracts about going to hell or shouting at people on street corners.

Have you shared a meal with someone who doesn’t really belong to a church?  How about sharing some of the bread you baked on Thursday?  Don’t just drop it off and then leave.  Invite them over for dinner, treat them like you would any other guest, and allow Jesus’ light to shine within you.  Let that be your prayer.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, March 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 32, Joshua 4:14-24, and 2 Corinthians 5:6-15

“We walk by faith, not by sight.”  Is faith blind confidence that what we’re doing is right?  No, not quite.  Faith is looking into the spiritual dimension and seeing what God wants you to do about a given situation, and then doing your part to bring it about.  It may look to everyone else that what we’re about to do is foolish, but if we’re being obedient to God’s will, then we’re walking by faith.

Of course, the obedience part is crucial.  We can’t just expect God to put a rubber stamp on whatever it is we’re wanting to do.  That’s not faith.  But if we’re walking with God and listening to God and then obeying God, when we set out to do what he’s told us to do we will not fail.

Are you walking by faith?  Are you listening to and obeying God?  Write your own prayer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

On the Subject of Baptism


I was asked a question yesterday about baptism – specifically, infant baptism. I wasn’t able to answer this at the time, since I was busy with homework, but I promised an answer as soon as I could get to it because it was a good question. However, I’ve decided to turn my answer into a blog post, because I’m sure there are others out there with questions about it. The subject of baptism seems to have been coming up frequently.

Christi P. from Indiana asks: “Joshua, not to start a debate but I’m curious about your view of baptism. I am familiar with the Presbyterian (which is Calvinist) view on baptizing infants but not familiar with the Methodist view. Do you believe that unbaptized infants and young children remain depraved?”

A fair question. (For context, the discussion had to do with something that John Calvin allegedly said about the depravity of infants and small children. It’s not exactly necessary for this discussion.) I want to answer the question, but it brings up a broader subject that I’d like to talk about as well, and that means that this post is quite long. If you’re just interested in the “tl;dr” version, skip down to the final paragraphs.

The Methodist understanding of baptism begins with the Anglican understanding. Wesley was an Anglican priest until his death, and his desire was not to form a new denomination (in fact, he adamantly opposed the formation of the Methodist Church his whole life), but to bring reform and renewal to the Church of England. To Wesley, baptism was both an ordinance and a Sacrament. This means that it is not only something we do because Jesus told us to do it, but it is something we do that has a spiritual component as well. An ordinance focuses on what we do. It is therefore empty of any meaning, and we have to come up with things to give it meaning. On the other hand, a sacrament is about God in action as we participate in the rite. It is therefore meaningful in and of itself, and does not need us to manufacture any. Meaning doesn’t come from what we say as much as the action of the Holy Spirit, working in and through the rite to grant us grace. Baptism is said to be “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” The rite itself is our way of verbalizing (and acting out) what God is doing inside the person being baptized.

This excerpt from www.umc.com’s “frequently asked questions about baptism” section also sheds some light:
In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to profess their faith, with divine grace. Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are – whatever our age.

Most traditions that practice or recognize as valid the baptism only of believers – those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ for themselves in some public way – practice baptism not as a means of grace by which God saves and claims us, but rather as a further act of public profession and/or an act of obedience to the command of Christ that his followers be baptized. That is why these “believer’s baptism only” traditions generally refer to baptism as an ordinance – an act ordained or commanded by Christ – rather than a sacrament. The term sacrament means “an oath” and refers to God’s covenant with us (first of all) and ours in response to God’s gracious provision of salvation in Jesus Christ.
What this means for Methodists, then, is that the rite of baptism is something very special, made even more so by the fact that God uses the rite to do a special work inside the person being baptized. This special work “sticks”, so to speak, so that even if that person later rejects God and then returns to God, rebaptism isn’t necessary – or even allowed. The Holy Spirit’s work was sufficient the first time, even if the person was away from God for a time. This is why Methodists never rebaptize people, even if doing so would be very meaningful for the people involved. The meaning isn’t in the outward rite (although it can be and quite often is meaningful), but in the inward work of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is the entrance rite to the Church. It marks an important part of our journey with Christ. It can be the beginning of our walk, or it can come at some point further along. Most American Protestants are most familiar with the “believers’ baptism”, and that is indeed the pattern closest to early Church practice. However, infant baptism began in the fourth century after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. More and more people were baptized as infants, and baptisms of older people who were new to the faith became fewer and fewer.

Infant baptism is never specifically mentioned in the Bible. Then again, neither are several other things that we kind of take for granted. For instance, we allow women to receive Communion, even though it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Many faith traditions have robed clergy, even though that's only mentioned as a reference to common clothing items of the time. If we exclude the things that the Bible is silent on, we have to sell our cars, forbid dancing, get rid of our instruments and microphones, sell our church buildings, and toss out our pews and offering plates. See how ridiculous that gets?

What we do know is this: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:14, NRSV). The kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children. The Greek word that is translated “little children” is the word τεκνίον (tek-ne-on), which means "a little child; (figuratively) someone deeply loved (endeared)" (Strong's Concordance). Certainly Jesus meant that we are to have a child-like faith and dependence on God. But he also meant that everyone, even the littlest, most vulnerable people, are welcome in God’s kingdom.

Second, baptism is an initiation into the Church. We baptize our infants because we want them to be a part of the body of Christ, and because we recognize that every means of receiving God’s grace is important. We need God’s prevenient grace to help us to find and choose God at a later time. In some ways, baptism takes the place of the Jewish practice of circumcision. God told Abraham that circumcision would be a sign of the covenant between God and his people. It was to be done on the eighth day, and it marked that boy permanently as a child of Abraham and a part of the covenant. Baptism doesn’t leave a physical mark, but it is something that is done to mark the person as one of God’s. It isn’t necessary for salvation. It isn’t sufficient for salvation. But it is an important step we take on our journey.

Third, baptism, especially for infants and those unable to answer for themselves, is a chance for parents or guardians and the wider congregation to make a covenant with God and each other to teach the one being baptized about Jesus. A couple of excerpts from the United Methodist baptismal liturgy are helpful.

The first one is in Baptismal Covenant I, which is printed in The United Methodist Hymnal, beginning on page 33. For those who are unable to answer for themselves (we will assume through the rest of this discussion for the sake of brevity and clarity that the one being baptized is a baby girl), the pastor turns to the candidate’s parents or guardians and asks, “Will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example she may be guided to accept God’s grace for herself, to profess her faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?” The parents both answer, “I will.” The pastor then asks the congregation, “Do you, as Christ’s body, the church, reaffirm both your rejection of sin and your commitment to Christ?” The congregation answers, “We will.”

The second comes right after the first. For all being baptized, no matter their ages or ability to speak for themselves, the pastor addresses the congregation. “Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include this person now before you in your care?” The congregation’s responds, “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround this person with a community of love and forgiveness, that she may grow in her trust of God, and be found faithful in her service to others. We will pray for her, that she may be a true disciple who walks in the way that leads to life.” This affirmation of responsibility to the people being baptized, even though they may be infants, is very important. Baptism is not something done apart from the wider community. Instead, God uses the gathered congregation to help nurture and minister to those who are baptized. We are to bear each others’ burdens and give each other love and forgiveness. This cannot happen if baptism is divorced from the larger community of faith.

“By Water and the Spirit”, the United Methodist Church’s official document about baptism, has this to say about Wesley and his baptismal beliefs:
[Wesley] taught that in baptism a child was cleansed of the guilt of original sin, initiated into the covenant with God, admitted into the Church, made an heir of the divine kingdom, and spiritually born anew. He said that while baptism was neither essential to nor sufficient for salvation, it was the “ordinary means” that God designated for applying the benefits of the work of Christ in human lives.

On the other hand, although he affirmed the regenerating grace of infant baptism, he also insisted upon the necessity of adult conversion for those who have fallen from grace. A person who matures into moral accountability must respond to God’s grace in repentance and faith. Without personal decision and commitment to Christ, the baptismal gift is rendered ineffective.

Baptism for Wesley, therefore, was a part of the lifelong process of salvation. He saw spiritual rebirth as a twofold experience in the normal process of Christian development – to be received through baptism in infancy and through commitment to Christ later in life. Salvation included both God’s initiating activity of grace and a willing human response.
This is one reason why Methodists are supposed to avoid “dedicating” their babies. The theology behind dedication is quite different from the theology of baptism. Dedication is a very human act. It is simply a pledge to give something (in this case, a baby) to God. However, baptism is a divine act. It is a pledge and a gift that God gives to us. It includes vows of dedication, and then goes further to celebrate what God has done, is doing, and will do in that child’s life.

Many parents ask, “Isn’t it better to wait until children can decide for themselves whether or not to be baptized?”
No. We no more wait for our children to decide about being in the family of God than we wait for them to decide if they would like to be a part of our human family. As parents, we make many decisions – in matters of health, safety, [and] education, for example – for our children. Of course, they may later reject what we have done for them. But, this possibility does not relieve us of the responsibility to do all that we can for them spiritually, as we do in other aspects of their lives. (From www.umc.com).
Methodists practice infant baptism because we believe that it is a means of grace for both the one being baptized and for the wider community. We believe that it is the initiation into Christ’s body. We believe that baptism is a better option than dedication because dedication is a human act, whereas baptism is God acting in the person being baptized. We believe that to be saved we can do nothing for ourselves – no matter how old or young we are – and that in baptism God claims that person with divine grace.

“By Water and the Spirit” has this to say about infant baptism:
Infant baptism has been the historic practice of the overwhelming majority of the Church throughout the Christian centuries. While the New Testament contains no explicit mandate, there is ample evidence for the baptism of infants in Scripture (Acts 2:38-41, 16:15,33) and in early Christian doctrine and practice. Infant baptism rests firmly on the understanding that God prepares the way of faith before we request or even know that we need help (prevenient grace). The sacrament is a powerful expression of the reality that all persons come before God as no more than helpless infants, unable to do anything to save ourselves, dependent upon the grace of our loving God. The faithful covenant community of the Church serves as a means of grace for those whose lives are impacted by its ministry. Through the Church, God claims infants as well as adults to be participants in the gracious covenant of which baptism is the sign. This understanding of the workings of divine grace also applies to persons who for reasons of handicapping conditions or other limitations are unable to answer for themselves the questions of the baptismal ritual. While we may not be able to comprehend how God works in their lives, our faith teaches us that God’s grace is sufficient for their needs and, thus, they are appropriate recipients of baptism.

The Church affirms that children being born into the brokenness of the world should receive the cleansing and renewing forgiveness of God no less than adults. The saving grace made available through Christ's atonement is the only hope of salvation for persons of any age. In baptism infants enter into a new life in Christ as children of God and members of the Body of Christ. The baptism of an infant incorporates him or her into the community of faith and nurture, including membership in the local church.

The baptism of infants is properly understood and valued if the child is loved and nurtured by the faithful worshiping church and by the child’s own family. If a parent or sponsor (godparent) cannot or will not nurture the child in the faith, then baptism is to be postponed until Christian nurture is available. A child who dies without being baptized is received into the love and presence of God because the Spirit has worked in that child to bestow saving grace. If a child has been baptized but her or his family or sponsors do not faithfully nurture the child in the faith, the congregation has a particular responsibility for incorporating the child into its life.
Our tl;dr friends may rejoin us now. Christi’s question was whether Methodists believe that unbaptized babies remain depraved (in a large-scale sense). This is, in part, bouncing off something else I said in that conversation: “I believe in total depravity and original sin. I believe that we all are subject to the curse of sin brought onto humankind by Adam, and that the only way to escape it is to accept Christ as our Master and Lord. However, I draw a distinction between depravity in a general, human-scale sense and depravity on an individual scale. I would not say a child is depraved. I would, however, say that aside from God’s grace and mercy no one, no matter how old or young, is free of Adam’s curse. The key phrase here is ‘aside from God’s grace and mercy’. That’s the point where God’s prevenient grace has worked in a person’s life to the point that the person is able to recognize and choose to accept God’s justifying grace. Children grow at different rates, and some are able to recognize God’s prevenient grace earlier than others. Further, I believe that before a child is able to recognize God’s grace (because of age, developmental stage, or whatever), God counts the child innocent and blameless – in other words, I believe that babies and children that die before having the ability to accept Christ go to heaven.”

I believe that any unbaptized person, regardless of age, is depraved. Remember, I’m drawing a distinction between depravity on a general scale (which is just another way of saying “bound by sin”) and depravity on an individual level, which simply means that person has completely rejected God and is totally focused on pleasing the flesh. Babies don’t have any way of knowing God, so saying that they have rejected God is erroneous at best.

Baptism is neither necessary nor sufficient for salvation, although it is an important step in our walk with Christ. So the simple answer to Christi’s question is that yes, I believe that an unbaptized person remains bound by sin, unless and until God’s justifying grace cleanses that person (what most people refer to as “getting saved”). At that point, a person is free of past sin and the stain of past sin, but because we’re human, we are still able and willing to sin. God’s sanctifying grace comes to help us put aside our sinful, human natures and take on Christ’s sinless nature. It’s a lifelong process.

A long post, I know, but one that was fun to write and that hopefully answers a few questions.

Morning Prayer Guide - Thursday

Thursday, March 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 32, Joshua 4:1-13, and 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5

God wanted the Israelites to put up a marker where they had crossed the Jordan River.  He specifically told them it was so their children would ask why they were there, giving the parents the opportunity to teach them about how God had led them from slavery in Egypt to their new land.

Liturgy often serves the same purpose for us.  Kids are naturally curious, and they’re bound to ask why we do certain things.  That gives us an opportunity to teach them something about God.  There are other things, too; crosses, icons, paintings – the list is long.  God wants us to find ways to remember the things he’s done for us.

The Eucharist is a sacrament, which means that it’s something that we do because Jesus told us to do it.  A sacrament is about what God does in us.  When we celebrate Communion, God is working in us, giving us grace.  Communion is food for our spirits, in just the same way that dinner is food for our bodies.  To a smaller extent, Communion is a memorial.  It is a way to remember that Jesus died for us, giving his body and blood so that we might have life.  Communion is meant to be celebrated by the gathered community (see how similar the words are?), not in “drive-by” format.  It’s not something we hurry through because church is running long.  As St. Paul wrote, “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  Communion has visible elements, and those visible elements cause us and our children to ask questions about why we do it, what it means, and so forth.  But Communion is also invisible in that (just as we learned yesterday) we cannot see God working in us, but we can see the effects.

This may be quite a lot to digest.  Take the time you need in prayer, asking God to help you understand.  Ask him to help you find ways to put remembrances in your home, so that your family, especially the children, can see them and ask questions.  Write your own prayer.  Perhaps bake your own bread to see this in action, especially if you have kids or grandkids who can help.  Remember yesterday?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Wednesday

Wednesday, March 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 39, Numbers 13:17-27, and Luke 13:18-21

The kingdom is hidden within us, just like yeast in bread or seeds in a field.  Jesus said “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Lk. 17:21).

The way that yeast works is fascinating.  These small bacteria, present in the air around us and in nifty little envelopes at the grocery store, exist to eat sugar and turn it into carbon dioxide and alcohol.  In breadmaking, the alcohol cooks off, leaving only trace amounts.  The carbon dioxide escapes, too, but not before stretching the dough and leaving it light and airy.  When we mix yeast into a bread dough, we don’t see it anymore.  The bacteria itself is too small to see with the naked eye, and the little granules inside the envelopes from the store actually contain hundreds of millions of yeast cells.  Mixing them with warm water (what we call “proofing”) allows them to wake up and begin working.  Even in the few minutes it takes to measure and mix the other ingredients, the yeast begins to work.  But if we just sit and watch the kneaded dough, we won’t really be able to perceive it working.  And if we cut the dough ball in half, we still won’t be able to see it working.  But the results smell and taste delicious.

We can’t always see God working in our lives, or in someone else’s.  We don’t know what’s going on inside another person’s mind.  But we can see the effects.  It starts small, almost unnoticeable.  Before too long, though, something has changed.  We see the effects, but not always the process.

If you’re waiting to see if God is working, don’t panic.  You may not see it yet, but when God is done, you won’t be able to mistake it.  As long as you’re doing just what God wants you to do, he is working through you.  And sometimes, he is able to work in you even when you’re not exactly doing things the way he wants.  Take a moment to ask God to help you follow him.  Ask him to help you be patient and wait for his results.  Write your own prayer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Tuesday

Tuesday, March 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 39, Ezekiel 17:1-10, and Romans 2:1-16

St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, partly to invite himself to preach, and partly to help them with some doctrine.  His main point in today’s passage is that God will judge people in direct proportion to the amount of light they have.  Those who have never heard of Jesus or the Mosaic Law will still have to answer for their sins, but God takes into account the fact that they did not know the truth.  Those who have heard and have chosen to disregard it, however, will be in hot water.

This doesn’t mean that we should never tell anyone about Jesus, for fear that they won’t accept him and then face the consequences.  Jesus specifically told us to go out to the whole world and spread the good news.  People who die never having heard of God still die.  Paul argues that while they are apart from the law, and will be judged apart from the law, they are still judged.

The discussion fits in with the larger theme of the book, which is that the Mosaic Law is impossible to follow completely, and breaking one little bit is the same as breaking all of it – a lawbreaker is a lawbreaker, no matter how bad their crime was.  Of course, we know that God told the Israelites as part of the law itself to let the punishment fit the crime (in other words, the death penalty cannot be handed out for jaywalking).  But what God does is not up to us and our ideas of justice.  This author, for instance, abhors the concept of eternal conscious torment (the usual Protestant view of hell).  However, if that is the way God has chosen to handle it, then that is God’s business and not ours.  The point is that while we would like to think that God sets the punishment to be equal with the crime, so to speak, we in reality don’t quite know.  The best solution, in any case, is to follow Jesus.  That’s where we find life.  We don’t have to worry about what will happen at the end if we’re following Jesus, because Jesus has already taken care of it.

How is your walk with Jesus going?  Are you taking Jesus to those around you?  Write your own prayer.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Monday

Monday, March 4, 2013 – John and Charles Wesley (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 119:89-96, Proverbs 3:1-7, 1 Corinthians 3:5-11, and Matthew 13:47-52

John and Charles Wesley were the founders of Methodism.  They were both priests in the Church of England, and remained so their entire lives.  Charles is best known for his hymn writing; during his life he wrote over 8,000.  John was the primary force behind the Methodist movement, although he adamantly opposed the formation of a new denomination.  He saw it as a renewal movement within the Church of England.
The two taught that doing acts of mercy were important.  When they were in college, the brothers, along with the rest of the Holy Club they had formed, spent time in prayer and visiting those in prison.  John taught the Methodists to give, even when they had little to give.

The Wesleys worked tirelessly to bring people into a closer relationship with God.  Their hard work paid off, as over 80 million people worldwide call themselves Methodists or Wesleyans.

Are you working tirelessly to bring people into a closer relationship with God?  Are you giving all you can to help those in need?  How can you do better?  Ask God to help you.  You may find the following prayer helpful:

Lord God, you inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Sunday

Third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 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: Isaiah 55:1-9, Psalm 63:1-8, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, and Luke 13:1-9

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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Saturday

Saturday, March 2, 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, Isaiah 5:1-7, and Luke 6:43-45

Both of our readings talk about fruit.  Jesus told us that a good tree doesn’t give bad fruit.  A bad tree doesn’t give good fruit.  You can know a tree by its fruit.
You can know a disciple by his or her fruit.

It’s not an invitation to judge, but a call to self-inspection.  What kind of fruit do you give?

Jesus also pointed out (John 15) that sometimes a grape vine needs to be pruned.  Certainly tomato plants do, or else they don’t give good fruit.  The gardener has to remove the branches that aren’t bearing so that the plant’s energy and resources can be poured into the branches that are fruitful.

We sometimes have to prune off things that aren’t fruitful so that we can focus our time and energy on the things that are.  That works for individuals as well as churches.  Sometimes we have church programs that aren’t really fruitful, but that give us the warm fuzzy feelings of happy memories.  That’s not a terribly good reason to keep a program around.  Memories we’ll always have, but energy and resources are limited.  Sometimes Jesus wants us to prune back a bit so that we can focus on what he really wants us to do.

The same works in our own lives.  We get awfully attached to things that aren’t helpful anymore (if they ever were).  Sometimes we have to prune back so that we can focus on what Jesus really wants us to do.

Do you give good fruit, or bad fruit?  Do you have branches that aren’t fruitful?  Ask God to help you give good fruit.  Ask him to help you release the things that distract you from following him.  Write your own prayer.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Morning Prayer Guide - Friday

Friday, March 1, 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 12:1-4, and Revelation 3:1-6

St. John wrote to the church in Sardis to watch, for God would come on them in the way a thief comes in the middle of the night – without any warning.  Christ will return at some point, and we had better be ready.

Being ready for Jesus’ return really isn’t that hard.  We just have to be faithful to do what he’s told us to do.  Jesus said, “Follow me.”  If we do that, we won’t have any trouble.

What lessons can you draw from this?  What do you need to do better?  How can you be faithful to Jesus’ words?  Write your own prayer.