Family in Prayer

What is S.U.P.V.?

For those new to our church, website and this blog, here's what it's all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight--you choose whatever time works for you--and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday.

May 13, 2015

 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.  And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and was confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?”   Acts 2: 4-8

 

I was meeting with a former co-worker of mine a couple of months ago. She and I had spent many an hour together, me counseling her on matters of the God’s love, her spiritual walk, self-worth, and challenges that the enemy puts on us. She had moved to a different area and it had been a while since we had chatted. She was telling me about her fiancé and how their relationship had began and progressed to where it was. He had not been one to regularly go to church—it was not that important to him. But, because it was important to her, he agreed to go with her. She said that he was a bit concerned after his first church visit, and asked her if she had spoken to the pastor about him coming with her. Surprised, she said that she hadn’t and asked why. He told her that the pastor’s sermon seemed to be specifically crafted for him! He felt like the pastor was talking to him and him alone as he preached the Lord’s message that day. She explained that it was the message that the Lord intended for him to hear, and that the Holy Spirit was working to enable him to hear it. He returned the next Sunday with her, and the next, and the next, and I’m happy to report that they were married last November.

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June 3, 2015

But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end.

                                                      Psalm 102: 27

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

                                                      Hebrews 13:8

 

My grandmother was born in 1910, and passed away in 2002. We were quite close, as I lived in the same city as she did (as did her sister, my great aunt who passed away not too long ago at the age of 104 and whose funeral I wrote about not too long ago in an SUPV. She and Grandma had a love-hate relationship, as do many twin sisters. But that’s a whole other story…or devotional). Occasionally Grandma and I would talk about all of the inventions and experiences that were available that she didn’t have in the early 20th century when she was growing up—television, commercial air travel, computers, cell phones—so many to mention! It always amazed me when we would chat about those things to think about what she has lived through and wonder what more was to come.

 

I was praying the other morning when I heard the newspaper delivery person driving through the neighborhood, throwing newspapers onto my neighbors’ driveways. I don’t get my news that way, and I wondered if my life was better or worse for it. I then pondered the impact of the digital devices I used so much and how normal I felt my life was. I thought about the lives my kids had, and marveled at whatever next big game changer product would be out there that they will adopt so easily (that I will probably struggle with learning how to program or use. I still occasionally have to ask one of the kids to show me which remote to use to get the TV to do what I want it to do after someone has watched a movie on the PS3. “It shouldn’t be so difficult!” I tell myself. But I digress.) And yes, even though my mind wandered during my prayers, the path I went down was relevant, as it led back to Him, as I contrasted the frenetic pace with which things were changing and His constancy and unchanging nature.

 


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June 10, 2015

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”   1 Samuel 16:7

 

A dear person, in response to an SUPV and promising that he wouldn’t flood my email with spammy-type emails, forwarded me the contents of the poem shown below in an email. I struggled not to cry when I read it, as it sums up quite well our human tendency to judge people based on appearance, life situation or circumstance, or any other source. The message touched my heart on multiple levels—for the visitor, for the congregant, for the person who fails to understand the message, for our world in how we got so sidetracked as to think this way at times. Please—read for yourself and see if there are personal attributes in which you can see yourself.

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May 5, 2015

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                                                        Romans 8:35-39

 A co-worker, Brian, reached out to me a couple of weeks ago for a one-time mentoring session. I’d just recently gotten a promotion, and Brian wanted to ask me the same questions he had asked of others in the same position and beyond, all of us being in the User Experience (UX) domain. I was open and frank with him, telling him that the route I’d followed into UX was a circuitous and seemingly atypical. There were others in our job class who had 15-20+ years of design experience, and were I truly honest, I felt that my measly 9 years paled in comparison. When I first went into the job, I struggled with confidence in my own head, as I was so worried that people would discount my position because of my lack of expertise. I kept waiting to be discovered for the fraud I thought I was, and truthfully, still am to a certain degree. There are scads of others who are more deserving of a promotion than I feel I do, and that’s not just me being humble.

Just last week, when Brian and I were in a meeting waiting for others to start, he shared with me that a conference that he had gone to had a session on Impostor Syndrome, the very thing that we realized we both had, given its definition (from Wikipedia: a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.)
 

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May 27, 2015

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.     James 1:26

 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?   1 John 4:20

 Robin asked me to write the devotionals for the youth mission trip based on the book they are studying in Sunday School Jesus > Religion, with the subtitle of Why He is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough. It was written by then twenty-three year old Jefferson Bethke, based on the overwhelming response he got to his YouTube recorded poem “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” back in 2012 (here is a link to a page that has the video and the words to the poem). Two excerpts of the poem are below:

 

If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean,

Because it’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken

I no longer have to hide my failures I don’t have to hide my sin,

Because my salvation doesn’t depend on me, it depends on him.

Because when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan,

God looked down on me and said, “I want that man!”

Which is so different from religious people, and why Jesus called ‘em fools

Don’t you see he’s so much better than just following some rules?

Now let me clarify, I love the church, I love the bible, and I believe in sin

But my question is if Jesus were here today, would your church let Him in?

Remember, He was called a drunkard and a glutton by “religious men”

The Son of God has not supported self-righteousness, not now, not then. ….
 

Because Religion says do, Jesus says done.

Religion says slave, Jesus says son,

Religion puts you in shackles but Jesus sets you free.

Religion makes you blind, but Jesus lets you see.

 

This is what makes religion and Jesus two different clans,

Religion is man searching for God, but Christianity is God searching for man.

Which is why salvation is freely mine, forgiveness is my own,

Not based on my efforts, but Christ’s obedience alone.

Because he took the crown of thorns, and blood that dripped down his face

He took what we all deserved, that’s why we call it grace
 

 


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April 22, 2015

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
                                                                                                Isaiah 40:28-31

There was a couple at a church I used to go to, a long time ago. The fact that the couple was so much in love could not escape anyone’s notice. He was a very attentive husband, handsome and funny, and she was beautiful, kind and with a gentle spirit. When she was pregnant with their first child, he doted on her, love and concern for her spilling out in the way he drew her into him as they shared a hymnbook, his hand on the small of her back. I recall sitting behind them, envious of their relationship, and feeling guilty for feeling so in church.

Over the course of several years, their family grew with the addition of another son, both boys handsome like their father. They seemed to be the perfect family, going on ski vacations, youth group outings, and being stalwarts in the church. When the husband contracted a serious illness, the church rallied around the family, taking care of their emotional and spiritual needs. It was an honor to pray for them, even after I changed churches. I knew that their faith would get them through the health challenges the husband would experience, from medical trials to sickness to the disease being treatable but not curable. She stayed strong, her gentle spirit reflecting the determination to rely on Him to see them through. I found myself in the position of envy again, wanting that quiet gentle spirit that shone so evidently in her.


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April 8, 2015

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
                                                               2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Two projects I am currently working deal with the facets of someone who has had an automobile claim where his or her car is totaled—when the amount to repair it exceeds the value to replace the vehicle. When that happens and the vehicle is financed, the insurance company needs to have customers sign a Power of Attorney (POA) for them (the insurance company) to be able to sign, on behalf of the customer, the seller’s part of the title they receive from the finance company. The customer has to sign the POA the exact way his or her name appears on the title. (thus endeth the lesson in insurance. Forgive me—I might have gone a little too in depth).


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April 1, 2015

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~~~Romans 5: 6-8~~~I sat Monday morning in the beauty of the San Fernando Cathedral in downtown San Antonio. I’d seen it only from the outside, having walked in front of it, on my way to a restaurant on a lunch break from jury duty. Being inside, though, was a breathtaking experience—beautiful stained glass windows, ornate walls and columns, gold- and wood-trimmed altar accoutrements, with acoustics that made the playing of Ave Maria resound in the heart of those in attendance. We were there for the funeral mass of my great aunt Mary Louise, my grandmother’s twin sister, who died at the blessed age of 104. As I watched people partake in Holy Communion (not being Catholic, I did not wish to offend by receiving the elements without having gone through my First Communion), I looked at the crucifix behind the altar. The nails in the hands and feet of my Lord Jesus, the crown of thorns atop the hung head of my Savior, the images of a beaten and bloodied back from the scourging, hidden from immediate view—all were signs of the most exquisite love offering humanity will ever know.

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March 25, 2015

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.  So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”          ~Matthew 21: 18-22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ~Galatians 5:22-23a
 
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the season of Spring—where the renewal of life is evident in the greenness of the new grass, the chirping of the birds, budding of fruit trees, promising the bearing of fruit for harvesting later. It is around this time of year that the scripture reference above is set—Jesus, just the day before, had entered the city of Jerusalem, atop a donkey, to the cries of “Hosannah!” (and it should be noted that we are celebrating Palm Sunday this coming Sunday!). He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and drove out those making money in the temple. He healed the blind and the lame, all to the chagrin of the chief priests and scribes. He knew the eventuality of his death, soon, at the hands of the Jews.


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March 18, 2015

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ......Matthew 25:24-30 We had a lively discussion at last week’s prayer meeting (unabashed advertisement alert: we meet Thursday nights at 7:00 in the front office of the CE/Fellowship Hall building. Would love to have you join us!). We talked about a number of things—stuff going on in the church and questions about scripture, and how they all really do tie together. I can’t say the exact way we got onto the topic of the parable of the talents, but I can say that it was quite illuminating—I came away with an understanding thanks to Pastor Kevin, and I want to share it with you. Perhaps you have always understood it this way, so what I’m going to share is yesterday’s news, but I’m quite jazzed about it! My quibble with this parable has always been the third servant’s assessment of the master: he knew him to be a hard man, reaping where he had not sown--taking things that he did not work for. And the fact that the master acknowledged the servant’s assessment of him—I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how this portrayed God as the giving Father that He is.
The illumination that Kevin brought to mind is that the master’s personality is a reflection of each servant’s perception of him, and it affected the servant’s relationship and subsequent response. The first two servants confirmed the master’s trust in them, in that they doubled the amount of the talents entrusted to them. They worked hard to augment the master’s money. When the master returned, they presented their efforts to him, and received his high praise. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of the lord.” They got to enter into the JOY of the lord! They got to hear the words we all long to hear our master say!
But the third servant projects his evaluation of the master’s personality and reacts accordingly. Fearful, he does nothing with the responsibility he had been given but bury it in the ground. He was entrusted with something of amazing value by his lord and because of crippling fear, did absolutely nothing with it.
But what of the master’s response to his statement? It is better understood when you look at the response recorded in Luke’s version of this parable (Luke 19): ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow…’  The talent with which he had been entrusted is taken away and given to the first servant, and the third servant cast away.
Jesus gives us the take away from this parable: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”  Friends, Almighty God has given us much—resources, talents, love, but above all, He has given us His Son—the Word made flesh. When we share Lord Jesus with others, as the first two servants did, we are blessed, and we further the kingdom as we have been commanded to do. When we react in a spirit of fear, (which is not from Him, by the way) and we hide the gospel, the promise of salvation is taken away, and we are cast out into the darkness.
Let us, in all things, respond to the Lord in faith, in positivity, in joy. In our individual lives as well as our corporate church life, let us acknowledge that everything we have comes from Him, and is not ours to keep. He is not glorified if we reserve our time, talents, and tithes instead of sharing them in this world through our ministries, our benevolences, our outreach. Let us seek His discernment for how to spend His resources and invest them in the community for His kingdom. And now on to prayer requests: •      For all those in anguish, wherever they may be, struggling to understand tragedy in their life and God's role in that. •      For the arrival of Spring and the renewal it brings for all things. •      Praise and adoration for His boundless grace, His endless love and His matchless strength, all of which He shares and and blesses us with, continually. Continued prayers for revival in this place - His revival and conviction of all we do. •      Continued prayers for revival in this place - His revival and conviction of all we do. •      For those on our prayer list, and those who are not, who are suffering and afraid •      For a renewal of His presence in our midst that all who come to SOCPC will feel and come to know Him
Dear ones, He loves us so much, and expects us to share that love with others. Blessings are multiplied when we give of the resources He has given us. We are His church, here for the purposes of spreading the gospel and ministering to others. Let’s agree to commit to doing His work, knowing that He will not let us falter. Amen? From Pinterest: “Take a second to think about how blessed you are.”
And “Four things you can’t recover: The stone…after the throw The word…after it’s said The occasion…after it’s missed The time…after it’s gone” Blessed beyond words, Laura <><