Distracting Others From God

The prophet, Jeremiah, has some incisive words for us which call us back to discernment. His words call us to be present to God who is both near and far. They call us out of hiding, distraction, and forgetfulness. They implore each of us to continue to listen for the voice of God which burns true in our hearts and softens us.

Jeremiah 23:23-29 (NLT)
Am I a God who is only close at hand?” says the LORD. “No, I am far away at the same time.

Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the LORD.

“I have heard these prophets say, ‘Listen to the dream I had from God last night.’ And then they proceed to tell lies in my name. How long will this go on? If they are prophets, they are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say. By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me, just as their ancestors did by worshiping the idols of Baal.

“Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain! Does not my word burn like fire?” says the LORD. “Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces?

For Reflection and Prayer:
Listening with the “ear of your heart”, was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Gently repeat the word or phrase, giving it room to settle deeply in your heart.

Reflect on what you heard. Relish the words. You might choose to journal about what you heard.

Respond to what you heard and reflected on in your prayer with God. Is there a prayer of praise, thanksgiving or petition which rises within you?

Rest in God as you simply be with God in the quiet.

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The Spirit Poured Out

Might you imagine this wondrous moment on the Feast of the Harvest (Feast of First Fruits) when the Holy Spirit is poured out on every kind of people? What might it have been like for the outsiders to become insiders? For those unable to access God’s presence through the temple worship? To have God’s very Spirit filling, indwelling, empowering them?
As you pause to pray with the text, make space to notice your own longing for God’s presence. How does that longing reveal itself to you?

Acts 2:1-21 NLT
On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.

7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages! 9 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 12 They stood there amazed and perplexed. “What can this mean?” they asked each other.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!”

14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. 16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.

18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.19 And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below—blood and fire and clouds of smoke.20 The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red    before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.21 But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

For Reflection and Prayer:
What caught your attention-a word, a phrase, an image or emotion-as you listened to the text? Have a conversation with Jesus about what you heard.

Was there a particular feeling you experienced as you listened to the story? Bring that feeling into your prayer. How do you need Christ to meet you in that feeling?

Reflect on your own experience or longing for the Holy Spirit coming to you.

Be still and savor any consoling words or pictures in your prayer.

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All the Light We Need to Live In

Waiting in Advent is an invitation to keep looking for the light. This life of faith asks us to trust that our God will be faithful to provide all the light we need for where we are right now, in this present moment. Sometimes we are given glimmers of light upon the horizon and even then we do not always perceive it with our eyes. Sometimes it is a knowing in our spirit. And sometimes it seems as if it is only the Spirit which propels us to follow it. This is the vulnerable life of faith. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit will provide all the light we need to live in.

Isaiah 42:1-9 (TMG)
“Take a good look at my servant. I’m backing him to the hilt.
He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with him.
I’ve bathed him with my Spirit, my life. He’ll set everything right among the nations.
He won’t call attention to what he does with loud speeches or gaudy parades.
He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.
He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped
until he’s finished his work—to set things right on earth.
Far-flung ocean islands wait expectantly for his teaching.”

GOD’s Message, the God who created the cosmos, stretched out the skies,
laid out the earth and all that grows from it,
Who breathes life into earth’s people, makes them alive with his own life:
“I am GOD. I have called you to live right and well.
I have taken responsibility for you, kept you safe.
I have set you among my people to bind them to me,
and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations,
To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light:
opening blind eyes,
releasing prisoners from dungeons,
emptying the dark prisons.
I am GOD. That’s my name. I don’t franchise my glory, don’t endorse the no-god idols.
Take note: The earlier predictions of judgment have been fulfilled.
I’m announcing the new salvation work.
Before it bursts on the scene, I’m telling you all about it.”

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” John 8:12

The City doesn’t need sun or moon for light. God’s Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp! The nations will walk in its light and earth’s kings bring in their splendor. Rev. 21:24

For Reflection and Prayer:

If something captured your attention - a word, a phrase, an image - let this simmer in you and allow the Spirit to expand its meaning for you. Journal what you hear and your response.

Reflect on your own experience of light and darkness. How do you experience Christ with you in darkness and in the light? Bring this into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or images given to you. Pause to rest in God’s care.

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Private Garden Conversations

In Genesis, we are given a glimpse into the intimate conversations shared between God and Adam and Eve in the garden. The garden, then and now, is an intimate place to know and be known without any shame. It is a place where we can be vulnerable, let down our guard, take off our masks and speak about the private matters of the heart. Such a place of beauty, reverence, and humility invites us to be honest, still and listen.

This long text is set in a garden grove of olive trees. Within the shelter of branches, Jesus' closest friends draw near and enter into a private conversation with him. It seems like they listened to his long explanations without interrupting. Perhaps there were pauses of silence to allow the disciples space to absorb all that Jesus disclosed to them.

Today, Jesus is inviting you to return to the garden with him in your prayer. He is wiling to share a private conversation with you...Come, he is waiting for you...

Mark 13 (NIV)
13 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.

20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

For Reflection and Prayer:
What word(s) or phrase(s) in the passage calls out to you?

Is there anything you would like to ask Jesus about privately? You may want to journal your conversation.

This may be a hard passage to read and understand, yet does something in the passage stir within you? Sit, talk and listen with Jesus about this.

Jesus tells us that there are going to be hard days - both now and in the end times. What gives you hope to press on?