Reckoning With That Which Lasts

Painting a panoramic picture of those who trust in God, Jeremiah asks us to reckon with that which lasts. What are those things in our lives which are like a curse; chaff that is easily blown away? What provides an enduring anchor for our lives that not only gives us meaning but also holds us when life gets hard, ravaged and raw? Sit with these words long enough to allow wisdom and discernment to emerge for this season of your life. These words are not meant to keep us stuck in fear or shame but to guide us into the wisdom and freedom of a life anchored in God.

Jeremiah 17:5-10 TMG

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans,
Who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.
He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.
He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a specific word or phrase which was impressed upon your heart or mind as you listened to the text? Reflect on that and bring your reflection in your prayer.

What emotions were stirred in you in this time of listening? Gently notice them, name them, feel them and simply offer them as your prayer to God.

What longing does this passage stir in you? In the quiet, simply be with that longing between you and God.

Journal your prayer that flows out of your meditation and contemplation of this passage.

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Liberation Comes

Isaiah reminds us poignantly that the "tidings of comfort and joy" proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds includes the promise of physical and spiritual liberation. This promise of freedom extends to all people: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive prisoner, and the mourner.

Can we possibly imagine and join with Jesus in the liberation of our own hearts and those of our families, our neighborhoods, our cities?

Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Revive us again.

Isaiah 61:1-4. 8-9NLT
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,
    for the LORD has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the LORD’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the LORD has planted for his own glory.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins,
    repairing cities destroyed long ago.
They will revive them,
    though they have been deserted for many generations.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice.
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants will be recognized
    and honored among the nations.
Everyone will realize that they are a people
    the LORD has blessed.”

For Prayer and Reflection:
What phrase or word shimmered as you listened to or read the text? Bring it into prayer with Jesus.

Reflect on your experience of liberation described in the text. Is there something you want to say to Jesus? Journal your conversation.

What rebuilding projects have you seen God do in your life or would like to see?

Planted

In this next season, we will transition to praying with the Psalms. Coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer as the Prayer Book of the Bible, the Psalms guide us in relating to God through prayer. They aid us in knowing the character of God while helping us find our voice as we live in authentic relationship with God. No conversation seems 'out of bounds' in this book.

This weeks' Psalm has us planted by the streams of water. Come, join us there...

Psalm 1  (NIV)

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, a phrase, image, or feeling that shimmered as you listened? Bring it into your prayer with Jesus. Perhaps you want to draw or color your prayer.

In your prayer, picture yourself being planted by a stream. Notice your deepest desire as you are planted by the stream. What do you most want there?

When are you most aware of God watching over you? What feelings does that bring up for you? What does God see when God looks
upon you? Bring these ponderings into your prayer. 

Nurturing for Deep Roots

Have you ever wondered what causes a plant to become deeply rooted? In your life, how do you and the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, cooperate together to nurture deepening spiritual roots in your own life? Who and what are you rooted into?

Jesus begins teaching the crowds with parables conveying deeper truths within a story. His methods evoke desire in those who truly want to hear and understand. Listen and notice what Jesus is saying to you.

I pray that your roots may go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love. Ephesians 3:17 NLT

Mark 4:1-20 NKJV
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:

3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The Purpose of Parables

10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that

‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’”
The Parable of the Sower Explained

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

For Reflection and Prayer:
What did you hear or feel as you listened to the text?

If you were to give close attention to the sower (the farmer) what do you notice about the sower's character?

How have you experienced the seed planted within you?

What has nurtured a deepening rooted-ness of that seed within you? What has not been helpful?

It can be helpful to reflect on the fruit of one's spiritual practices. What do you notice? Which practices help you become more loving of God, yourself and others? More compassionate? More peaceful? Is there a new spiritual discipline which you are feeling led to explore or practice?