Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Prayer

Almighty God, 

You have given us your Son. You have given us Yourself. 
Emmanuel. God is with us. 

When we are angry, afraid, alone, and anxious. 
You are with us. 

When we celebrate, are courageous, live in community, and are calm. 
You are with us.


Let this Christmas be our yearly reminder of your grace: 

You give us the Hope of the World. 
Bring hope to the world and to our world. 
With a baby, you brought joy into the world on this day so many years ago. 
Help us accept this gift and share it with others. 
You give us love in the person of Jesus. 
Help us to experience your love and to be more loving to others and to ourselves. 
You give us the Prince of Peace. 
Bring peace to the world and to our world. 
You give us the Resurrection and the Life. 
Raise us to new levels of life. 

Through the piles of presents – remind us of your presence. 
You are with us. 
In our brokenness and busyness – remind us who you are and whose we are.
You are with us. 

Jesus is the Light of the World! 
Thank you for lighting our path. 
Help us to be a reflection of his light to the world. 

You have given us your Son. You have given us Yourself. 
Emmanuel. God is with us. 
Encourage us to accept and embrace this most wonderful gift. 
Teach us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. 

Christmas. This day and because of this day. 
You are with us. 

Amen!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Joy and Boredom

Life is never boring but some people choose to be bored. The concept of boredom entails an inability to use up present moments in a personally fulfilling way. Boredom is a choice and self-defeating behavior that stands in opposition to joy. As boredom increases joy will decrease. As joy increases boredom will decrease. 

God Says 

Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless. So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him? God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him. But if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away and gives it to those who please him. This, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind. –Ecclesiastes 2:21-26


Something to Think About 

The writer of Ecclesiastes was experiencing boredom in his life. He mentions three times how life is meaningless, like chasing the wind. The reader can sense boredom and meaninglessness has replaced any and all joy. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Talk about or think about: Do you ever feel bored or experience boredom? Can you be joyful and bored at the same time? In what ways can you cooperate with God so that God can make you a new creation—absent of boredom and full of joy? 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

Boredom is part of my life. 

I am missing out on the beauty of Your world. 

     Some days I feel only like I am going through the motions of life. 

My relationships with others need more health and vitality. 
My relationship with You sometimes lacks excitement and joy. 

I want joy to be a bigger part of my life. 
I pray busyness and boredom don’t block the blessings of life.
I pray for the grace to receive love and for the strength to love You and others.
Help me love and be loved.

Bless me with Your joy. 


Amen.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Time and Joy

Dr. Suess asked the question: “How did it get so late so soon?” Many of us have asked similar questions: How is it possible my child is starting Kindergarten? How is it possible I am retiring? How did this vacation end so soon? Our dreams and visions are for abundance and joy. Not for time to pass by so fast. Yet the clock is predictable and relentless. Paul’s instruction is to make the best possible use of the time we have and to be open to the rhythms of God’s grace and joy.

God Says 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. –Ephesians 5:15-17


Something to Think About 

Many people report they are too busy. Others say that life is passing by too quickly. And others share they don’t have time to do the things they want to do. Being too busy and not having enough time for God is a barrier to the joy God wants to give you. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Think or talk about the following questions: What are some areas of your life that are not the best use of your time? What would you like to be doing more of? Do you feel you have enough time to spend with God? 

Make a plan to create environments where you can connect to God and experience joy. 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

Thank You for creating me. 
Thank You for the gift of time. 
You are good and generous. 

I confess the times I have wasted time. 
I confess the times I have been foolish and not wise. 
Forgive me for being a poor steward to the gift of time. 

Help me not be too busy for You. 
Teach me to be smart with my time and let me live in the present. 
Help me create environments where I can experience Your joy. 

Amen.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Joy and Anger

Anger is an obstacle to joy. It is not possible to simultaneously experience anger and joy. God’s plan for your life isn’t anger. God’s plan for your life is joy. Which would you rather live out: anger or joy? 

God Says 

Parents, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. –Ephesians 6:4 

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. –Psalm 37:8


Something to Think About 

Paul is writing to parents near the end of his letter to the Ephesians. He knows that anger promotes anger, neglect promotes loneliness, and discipline creates fruitfulness, abundance, and joy. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Think about or talk about some of the times you have been angry. What was that like for you? What was that like for people around you? What correlation did anger have to any joy you may have been experiencing? What are some things you can do to more constructively handle things that anger you so that they don’t eliminate or reduce your joy. 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

I confess, at times, my response to anger has not been good. 
I have hurt people I love. 
I have hurt people You love. 
I have hurt myself. 

Give me a heart for things that break Your heart. 
Let my words be encouraging and not destructive. 
Help me to act with compassion and grace. 
May I be a reflection of You. 

Don’t let my anger prevent others from experiencing joy. 
Don’t let my anger prevent me from experiencing joy. 
Fill me with Your joy. 
Let Your joy in my life be a light to the world. 

Amen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Potential and Permanence of Joy

Joy opens up possibilities for today and potential for the future. When God gives others can’t take away. Joy is not temporary based on circumstance. It is permanent based on God. Joy is because of God and through God. God doesn’t change. 

God Says 

No one can rob you of that joy. –John 16:22 

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. –James 1:2-4


Something to Think About 

Troubles in life can draw us closer to God. Intimacy with God gives us more joy. Pain and suffering isn’t the easiest way to experience joy—but joy can have unlikely sources. And joy can also be permanent. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Think about things or people or places that make you happy. Now think about things or people or places that make you unhappy. Describe a time when you went through a difficult event or season in life and how you experienced God’s presence during that time. Think about what your life would look like if it were defined by joy – a gift from God always available to you. 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

Help me to seek You in all circumstances. 
     During days of health and happiness. 
     During nights of uncertainty and pain. 

Keep drawing me closer to You. 
     Being grateful for blessedness. 
     Being hopeful for healing. 

During times of trials and trouble 
     Let me more fully embrace Your grace. 
     Let me more fully experience Your love. 

In all times, because of Your goodness. 
     Bless me with Your gift of joy. 
     Let me live out that joy each day. 

Amen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sadness and Joy

Grief, pain, and sadness are part of life. They are all inevitable. But death, disease, and dysfunction don’t have to define us. All have been defeated and will be defeated again. We can be defined by joy!

God Says

You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. –John 16:20



Something to Think About 

Jesus was telling his disciples they will experience loss. He was foreshadowing his own death. He also promises that grief is not where we are to remain. Grief can turn into joy. God’s plan for your life is not suffering. God’s plan for your life is joy! 

Individual or Family Activity 

Write a short letter to God about some of the grief or pain or brokenness in your life. Be honest. Be real. Tell God this isn’t where you want to remain and pray for joy in your life. 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

I have experienced loss in my life. 
I am experiencing loss in my life. 

I have been hurt but people I love. 
I have hurt people I love. 
I have hurt myself. 

People I love have been hurt or are hurting. 
I know what it is like to have a loved one die. 
The pain of the world is evident to me. 

Yet in the midst of despair Your voice still speaks. 
It is a voice of hope. 
It is a voice of peace. 
It is a voice that promises joy. 

Turn my sorrows in joy. 

Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Prayer and Joy

Last week we looked at the relationship between peace and prayer. Today we look at the relationship between joy and prayer. 

God Says

You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. –John 16:33


Something to Think About 

Would you describe your life as full of joy? Is there quite a bit of joy? Is there some joy? Or is it pretty much absent of joy? 

Now think of your prayer life. Is joy something you are praying for? God’s promise is that when we ask, using the name of Jesus, we will receive abundant joy. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Think or talk about joy that exists in your life. Is it something you only experience when you are happy? Or do you experience joy during life’s trials and tribulations? Make a commitment to praying for joy and begin praying for joy today. 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

Fill me with joy. 

When my life seems boring—fill me with joy. 
When my life is full of fear—fill me with joy. 
When I am sad—fill me with joy. 
When I am overwhelmed—fill me with joy. 

May my joy not depend on others, but on You. 
May my joy not depend on me, but on You. 
May I be as faithful in asking as You are in giving. 
May I accept and share Your gift of joy. 

Fill me with joy. 

Amen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

God's Gift of Joy

Like hope and peace: joy is a gift from God. It is different than happiness which depends on external circumstances. Happiness is good, but not permanent. Joy is better and is everlasting. 

God Says 

When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! –John 15:10-11


Something to Think About 

One of God’s initial gifts to humanity was the Ten Commandments. They can be seen as a list of things an austere God tells us to do or not to do. Or they can be viewed as God’s way of telling us how to put our lives together in a way that makes sense. The implication and the promise is that when we live according to God’s law—joy will overflow in our lives. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Think about or talk about God how following God’s Law would increase the joy in your life. What would you need to stop doing? What might be something you need to start doing? 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God - 

Thank you for times of happiness.
For laughs. For smiles. 
For family. For friends. 
For things I enjoy doing. 
For places that bless me. 

Yet I search for something deeper. 

When times are tough: Your power. 
When I feel alone: Your presence.
When going through the motions of life: Your passion.
When I live in the wilderness: Your pleasure. 

Let me follow You more closely.
May I see Your Law as a gift and embrace it.
Fill me with Your joy. Let Your joy overflow in my life.
And may others see Your joy in me. 

Amen.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Peace and Balance

Balance is the combination of our relationships, physical health, work, finances, emotional health, and spiritual development. We can lose balance when one of more of these becomes unhealthy and dysfunctional. 

God Says 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. –Ecclesiastes 3:1


Something to Think About 

We can’t and shouldn’t attempt to emphasize and do and be everything at once. Ecclesiastes writes beautiful and powerful words about balance: for everything there is a season and a time. Balance creates an environment where peace can be practiced and lived out. 

Individual or Family Activity 

Think or talk about what areas in your life are balanced. Think or talk about areas in your life that are out of balance. Pray about ways God can bring balance to your life and help you experience peace. 

Individual or Family Prayer

Hectic. Rushed. Worried. 
Stressed. Cluttered. Burdened. 
Lonely. Tired. Complex. 
It is my life but not Your plan for my life. 

By your grace, become the priority and passion of my life. 

When I lack – You sustain. 
When I am alone – You are present. 
When I am overwhelmed – You are my help. 
When I am defeated – You are my hope. 

You provide my needs. 

Faith. Family. Friends. 
Work. Wellness. Wealth. 
Sleep. School. Spending. 

I am pulled in all directions. Pull me in Your direction. 

I confess I have made choices that have caused me to lose balance.
Forgive me when these choices have been intentional. 

I live in an imperfect world that makes balanced living difficult. 
Give me wisdom not to conform to the patterns of the world but to be transformed by the Gospel. 

I pray for organization in the details of life. 
My distractions on non-essentials are many. I pray for focus on the essential things of life. 

Help me give my time, energy, and resources to the important – not the urgent. 
Help me say “no” to mediocre or even good things so I can say “yes” to the best. 

Let me embrace simplicity and flexibility rather than complexity and rigidness.
Give me clear purposes in life. I want to love and be loved by You. 
Make my relationships be life-giving and joyful for me and for those I relate to.
Help me love like you and extend my hand in service to those around me. 

I am a sinner. Lead me to experience your forgiveness and to share forgiveness with others. 
I am jealous and envious. Fill me with thankfulness and gratitude. 
I have neglected my body. Help me take care of myself through exercise, nutrition, and rest. 
I have let my work become my life. Allow me to see that my value comes from You. 

I am unbalanced. It is my life but not Your plan for my life. 
I am pulled in all directions. Pull me in your direction. 

Give me harmony and peace. 
Give me grace and balance. 

In the name of Jesus I pray, 

Amen.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Peace and Rest

Jesus was aware of the demands of the world. In His humanity, He experienced physical, emotional, and even spiritual fatigue. God’s grace offers us rest. 

God Says 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. -Matthew 10:28-29



Something to Think About 

Jesus makes an invitation to go to Him. To give Him your restlessness and heavy burdens. A promise comes with the invitation: Jesus will teach us and give us rest for our souls. We learn gentleness and humility. God’s grace will provide rest for our souls. 

Individual or Family Activity 

To give God our restlessness and heavy burdens—we must create environments where we can go to God. Think about or talk about what an environment would look like for you to encounter God and how rest would contribute to peace in your life. 

Individual or Family Prayer 

Dear God, 

I’m tired. I carry heavy burdens. My soul is restless.
I’m tired.
Tired that the demands of the day exceed my abilities and energies.
Tired that I am over-committed and under-resourced.
Tired of making mistakes, hurting others, and hurting myself.
Tired physically and emotionally. Tired of being out of balance.
Tired of pretending to be somebody I am not. Tired of being distant from You.
Help me come to You and give me rest. Rest for my soul.

I carry heavy burdens. 

Burdens from my past that are still hurting me today. 
Burdens from today that are preventing me from pursuing dreams for tomorrow. 
Burdens from tomorrow that may or may not ever materialize. 
Burdens of stress. Burdens of sadness. Burdens of dejection. Burdens of desolation. 
Burdens of pleasing others. Burdens of dysfunctional relationships. 
Help me come to You and give me rest. Rest for my soul. 

My soul is restless. 

Restless. I long for peace and contentment. 
Restless. I am searching and not finding. 
Restless. I can’t be still and experience Your presence. 
Restless. I struggle with patience and find it difficult to wait for You. 
Restless. I try to control the world around me instead of trusting in You. 

Help me come to You and give me rest. Rest for my soul. 

Remove all obstacles between You and me. 
The obstacles I have created. The obstacles formed by my environments. 

Give me the wisdom that I can do more and be more with You than without You. 
I have tried it on my own and it didn’t work. 

Teach me to love and be loved by You. 
I want to welcome You into my heart and all of my life. 

Heal me. Make me whole. Transform me into a new creation. 
I give You my fatigue, my burdens, and my restlessness. 

Help me come to You and give me rest. Rest for my soul. 

Amen.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Anxiety and Peace

Anxiety is feelings of unfocused worry and fear. It is often an overreaction to a situation that is neither as real or harmful as perceived. Anxiety is an obstacle to peace.

God Says

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. -1 Peter 5:7



Something to Think About

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. Peace is an opposite of anxiety. It is God’s gift of having confidence in our future. 

Individual or Family Activity

Think about some things that make you anxious. Which of these fears are real? Which probably are not real? Which of these can you do anything about? Which one can you do nothing about? Explore how less anxiety would restore peace to your life.

Individual or Family Prayer

Anxiety. The world gives and I receive.
Anxiety is part of my life. 

I worry how others perceive me. 
I worry about my future.
I worry about life.
I worry about death.

I pray tomorrow’s clouds don’t cover today’s sunshine.
I pray for faith to understand and experience that You are bigger than my fears.

Help me obey your command not to be afraid. Help me trust in You.
Bless me with peace.

Amen.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Humility and Peace

The Bible talks a lot about humility. Jesus demonstrated humility daily. Humility is knowing who you are and who you are not and being good with that. Humility is knowing who God is and being great with that. It is thinking of yourself pretty much the same way you think of everybody else. Humility opens the door to grace and peace.

God Says

But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” –James 4:6



Something to Think About

Humility is to trust and depend on God. It is the deep waters of peace when the world above us is full of trouble. Humility is a foundation for peace. Constant competition to be the best and jealously of others is a guarantee for a life absent of peace. James writes about the self-destructive nature of pride. Pride is the love of self before love of God and love of others. Pride doesn’t need grace because it already has itself.

Individual or Family Activity

Think about or talk about somebody you consider humble. What do you admire about them? Think about or talk about what some of your next steps to humility will be.


Individual or Family Prayer

Dear God,

Bless me with humility.

A humility that recognizes my unawareness and ignorance.
A humility that knows my weaknesses and needs.
A humility that admits my failures and mistakes.
A humility that welcomes constructive criticism and feedback. 

Let my words and actions reflect Your humility.

May I encourage and not hurt.
May I build-up and not tear down. 
May I compliment and not condemn.
May I think of others at their best and not their worst.

Bless me with humility and open the doors of Your grace.

Amen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Distraction and Peace

We live in a world full of distractions. Cable television, the Internet, social media, smart phones, demanding jobs, crowded schedules, email, etc…can keep us distracted and unfocused. Distractions are an obstacle to oneness with God, oneness with others, and experiencing peace.

God Says

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” –Mark 10:41-42


Something to Think About 

Jesus was visiting Mary and Martha. He was on His way to die and wanted to spend time with them. Martha was distracted by many things. She wasn’t able to focus on Jesus because she was too busy preparing a meal and cleaning the house. Nothing wrong with a nice meal and a clean house, but she also missed an opportunity to sit at the feet of God because she was distracted. 

Individual or Family Activity 

1. Think about or talk about: what are you missing out on because you are distracted? 

2. Plan an evening or a day free from distractions. Unplug from the world and plug into God’s grace. Journal or talk about what the experience was like to be free of distractions.


Individual or Family Prayer

Dear God,

I live in a world full of distractions.
Things that waste my time.
Harmless activities that may not be so harmless.

I confess times I have been too connected to the world and
            disconnected from You.
I have been preoccupied with work or information or leisure and
            disconnected from others.

Bless me with discipline so I am not wasting my time or my life.
Teach me to value community with others over entertainment.
Give me many undistracted and undisrupted moments with You.

Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Prayer and Peace

Peace is elusive. If it weren’t elusive, everybody would have it. Worry is prevalent and an obstacle to peace. Prayer makes peace possible. We begin our journey to more peace this week with prayer. 

God Says 

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:6-7



Something to Think About 

Paul says not to worry. He is on to something, of course. Think how much time you have wasted worrying about things that have never happened or worrying about things you can do nothing about. Prayer changes that. When we pray the promise is that we will experience God’s peace and that this peace will guard our hearts and our minds. 

Individual or Family Activity 

1. Spend time telling God what you need. (verse 6)
2. Spend time thanking God for what God has done. (verse 6)
3. Ask: How could God’s peace change your life or your lives together?

Individual or Family Prayer

Dear God,

Calm the giant waves of my heart.
Calm this storm inside me. 


Still my soul so I may find rest in You. 
Still my soul so I may experience Your peace. 

Give me a peace that surpasses what I can ever understand. 
Give me a peace the world can never take away. 

Amen.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

God's Gift of Peace

Peace is a gift. During the next week we will discover the potential and possibilities of peace. We will look at obstacles to peace and discover how to begin experiencing more of God’s peace in our lives.




God Says

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. –John 16:33

Something to Think About

Jesus never claims the world is going to be easy. He even says it is going to be difficult at times. He then declares he has overcome the world and because He has overcome the world we can overcome the world too. One of the first steps we take is accepting God’s peace.

Individual or Family Activity

Identify some areas that are making peace difficult in your lives. Write them on a sheet of paper. Make a commitment to dealing with these issues this week.




Individual or Family Prayer

Dear God -

In places like Somalia and Sudan – Connecticut and Korea
Bullets fly - Children die - Parents cry
Give us Your peace

Broken hearts
Lives too short
Fear of life and fear of death
Give us Your peace

Tears fall down our cheeks like rain from the sky
Knots in our stomach and sleepless nights
Worries about tomorrow compete for space in our mind with regrets from the past
Give us Your peace

Restlessness, impatience, annoyances, intolerance, frustration, and anger
They fill our lives like melted snow floods a fragile river
Give us Your peace

Prince of Peace – Take our burdens and give us rest.
Wonderful Counselor – Show us the way to peace.

Through the deepest valleys
In the darkest places
During the times we are completely alone
Show us the way to peace

Peace with You
Peace with others
Peace with the world
And peace with ourselves
Give us Your peace
           
Dysfunction, dismay, and despair – They exist in the world.
But you have overcome the world                                                            
Help us to be overcomers who embrace Your peace

We give you our fears
We offer you our failures                                                                                   
Our hearts are no longer troubled because of Your peace

You are God and Your peace surpasses all understanding
Guard our hearts and our minds                                                           
Teach us Your presence is greater than our struggles
Give us Your peace

Amen.