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What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Thursday

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9b-13 NIV)

Think of yourself the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God, but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave – became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless life and then died a selfless, obedient death (and the worst kind of death at that) — crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth (even those long ago dead and buried) will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all to the glorious honor of God the Father.
(Philippians 2: 9-11 MSG)

Of all the collections of His teachings, I think the Lord’s prayer is the most significant because Jesus gives us the privilege of sharing his Father with him and he also includes us in praying for God’s kingdom coming to earth. The word “kingdom” implies a king and a king is a ruler. A ruler has the right and authority to tell the people in his kingdom what to do and how to do it. So what is this king like?

The first mention in the New Testament of Jesus as King is when the Magi come from the east looking for, “the one who has been born King of the Jews.” (Matthew 2:2 MSG). Philippians 2:9-11(MSG), the scripture mentioned above is key to my wonder and understanding of Jesus’s character as King. His coming to earth as a child is a reminder of his humility.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began to teach his disciples how different the kingdom of God will look from what was happening in their world at the time (Matthew 5). Jesus through the written word continues to do the same for us as we live in and carry him out into the world of our time. As you pray the first couple of lines of the Lord’s prayer and read the Philippians verses, ponder what Jesus, the King, was willing to become for you.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Thursday2022-01-24T08:28:39-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Tuesday

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’”
Matthew 6:9a

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you are pleased to do.”
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11: 25-26

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:1b-3

“All I have is yours and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” John: 17: 10-11

The Aramaic “street language” word that Jesus used to start this prayer is “Abba” which describes an intimate relationship with his father. Sometimes “abba” has been referred to as “daddy” because of the affectionate intimacy it implies. There are varying opinions as to whether or not ”Daddy” is a correct use of the word.

The word, “Father” can have a difficult association for some of us. Memories of a not-so-great relationship with our own father intrude when we are told to think of and pray to God as Father.

My father had to live apart from my sister and I because of a debilitating physical disease that required isolation and prevented the contact he so wanted with us. He died when I was four years old. Although I never really got to know him except from what other people told me about him, I have this one treasured memory of him that makes me love the word “Father.”

The word that grabs me is “Our”. Jesus shares his Father with us. Perhaps that is the meaning of the intimate, “Abba,”! Jesus isn’t clutching his Father to himself, but wants us to learn to know the love of his Father and he wants us to learn to love his Father with him. We are invited to be included in God’s family with Jesus.

What do you think about and how do you feel when you hear, “Our Father,”? Neither Jesus nor his Father condemn us for our struggles. We can come honestly and ask for help in changing our perspective and learning to receive their love. Go back through the above scriptures. Ask Jesus to help you see and relate to his Father as he does.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Tuesday2022-01-13T07:58:54-07:00

Who and where is our shepherd? | Advent Week 1 | Thursday

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times

Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth . And he will be our peace.” Micah 5;2-5a

Certain words, including names of creatures and people’s occupations have carried a lot of baggage with them over the centuries. Two of these are sheep and shepherd.
No one I know likes to be called, “a sheep”, because the common perspective is that sheep are weak, stupid, fearful, needy, have a herd mentality and are inlined to scatter if frightened or attacked. “Shepherd” as a description of, “He who will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord his God,” was hardly a compliment in the days in which Micah was a prophet.

Perhaps it will help to know that,“the one who will come,” will be glad to do the ancient, humble work of a shepherd; caring for the sheep, providing feed and shelter, cool, clear water, protecting the safety of the whole flock, ensuring the health of each individual sheep. He’ll be tender with the sick and young ones and watch for those who stray or are orphaned so that they won’t be abandoned.

Sheep, too, are a lot smarter than they have been recognized as being. They have survived being domesticated for thousands of years by sometimes good and sometimes uncaring owners. The “flocking” instinct, so often denigrated, is a community survival-based way they have learned to live, ensuring enhanced comfort as they are in a group, because there is much greater strength in numbers than in going it alone. It only takes a newborn lamb minutes to be up seeking its own food source and it knows to stay near it’s mother in order to be self-sustaining.

Shepherds in biblical times walked in front of their sheep, rather than driving them, when moving them from pasture to pasture, always keeping an eye out for danger in front and checking behind to make sure none get lost or left behind. They had individual ways of calling their sheep so the sheep knew which shepherd to follow.

Read Psalm 23. David was the last of the shepherd kings and he knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd!” Pray and ask the Lord to show you ways he is caring for you during this Advent season. Thank him for each one he shows you.

by Carolyn Schmitt

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Who and where is our shepherd? | Advent Week 1 | Thursday2021-12-01T15:38:23-07:00

The Story Still Goes On | Acts 28

Commissioned:  Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus Prays: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21  

When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. Acts 28:16

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance! Acts 28:30-31

The book of Acts ends with Paul chained to a soldier in his own rented house in Rome. However, he was not prevented from teaching about Jesus Christ and proclaiming the kingdom of God to anyone and everyone who visited him. And the soldiers who rotated through as guards must have heard Paul’s message many times over. Philippians 1:13 mentions that the palace guard and everyone had learned that he was in chains for Christ. And people would be talking about Paul and coming to see him and hear the message and it would spread.

Looking back to Acts 2:5-11 we see that the people who heard about Jesus were from many parts of the known world. In Acts 2:41 we see that about 3,000 people believed and became disciples. From then until Stephen was stoned many more people joined the disciples, brought by both the preaching and teaching, and also by the life example of the apostles and other believers. Then, after Stephen was stoned and persecution broke out against the church, all but the apostles scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

And these believers took the message back, probably to the place they came from. And the gospel spread slowly, by word of mouth, by letters, by the writings that would become Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the letters from Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude and those who received them and the daily living of people through the centuries and now to us.

Most especially, Jesus was praying for each of us before his crucifixion and as the risen and ascended Christ, seated with his Father, he is praying for each of us by name now! Think about this! Jesus is praying for you! By name! Let the wonder of that wash over you, especially now as we head into the Advent season. Jesus, whose birth we will celebrate soon is with his Father, praying for you.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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The Story Still Goes On | Acts 282021-11-17T10:50:46-07:00

Distressed But Not Judging | Acts 17:16-23

The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got–all those idols!  The city was a junkyard of idols!

He discussed it with the Jews and other like-minded people at their meeting place. And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who happened along. He got to know some of the Epicureans and Stoic intellectuals pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with sarcasm: “What a moron!”  But others, listening to him go on about Jesus and the resurrection, were intrigued: “That’s a new slant on the gods. Tell us more.”   

These people got together and asked him to make a public presentation over at the Areopagus, where things were quieter. They said, “This is a new one on us. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. Where did you come up with this anyway?”  Explain it so we can understand.” Downtown Athens was a great place for gossip. The people hanging around, natives and tourists alike, waiting for the latest tidbit on most anything.

So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously.  When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with” Acts 17:16-23, The Message

This passage brings up different aspects of the culture in which the gospel was spreading through those who had come to believe in Jesus and live in the truth of the good news of the gospel. Paul had, by the time he got to Athens, been living and growing in his love of Jesus for around 16 years since his experience on the road to Damascus. In Athens, the culture expressed itself in idols and lots of conversations on philosophy about how to live and worship.

Culture, by simple definition, is a society’s way of life, customs, traditions, heritage, habits and values. Some of the cultural things that show up in this passage are not too different from now, such as ethnicity, worship styles and ideas about how to live life.

Paul’s attitude and actions may help us as we navigate similar situations in our own lives. For instance: Paul wasn’t angry at particular people. He was angry about the delusion that the idols represented. He went first to discuss it with the Jews and other, “like minded” people. He built a relationship with people he met as he walked around the city and agreed to present what he had to say in a basic and clear way. He acknowledged their commitment to religion and worship. He was courteous in his introduction of the true God and appealed to their intelligence. He didn’t nag or pass judgement on them if they disagreed.

How would you define the culture you live in and possibly prefer? Who do you know that has different, or very different ideas from yours? Are there people who can give you counsel about how to approach the situation or person? Pray about the situation, the people and your desire for Christ in their life.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Distressed But Not Judging | Acts 17:16-232021-11-11T14:54:12-07:00

In the Name of Jesus Christ: Change- Encouragement or Threat | Acts 16:16-21

One day on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortune-telling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!”She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that. When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square .Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace–dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood. Acts 16:16-21 The Message.

At first it wasn’t a problem for the slave girl’s owners that she followed Paul and Silas and yelled words telling what the two of them were about. Maybe there would be money in it. The trouble started when Paul ordered the spirit to- in the name of Jesus Christ- get out of her. Everybody now knew what Paul and Silas were doing, but the owners could no longer make money on the girl’s psychic abilities. Competition for attention had killed their business, and would likely destroy the economy if allowed to continue. Paul and Silas and the power they brought were a threat, so the owners started a riot in order to get rid of Paul, Silas and their message.

Words have power for both good or evil, depending on who is using them and for what purpose. Scripture is full of ways words have been used for good or evil, as encouragement or as threats. And in every age, and certainly, in ours, the word, “CHANGE” is one of those powerful words.

In Acts 1:1-9:1-32, as the Holy Spirit came and the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, huge changes happened in individuals, communities, the culture and started to spread into the world.

Go back through those chapters in Acts and pick one that encouraged or felt like a threat to you. Then look at one or more of the changes that have happened in your life as you follow Jesus and are learning to know his heart. How have you been encouraged or, perhaps, felt threatened? Using Psalm 139:23-24, go to the Lord, who knows you intimately and loves you deeply, and thank him for encouragement and talk with him about your felt threat.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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In the Name of Jesus Christ: Change- Encouragement or Threat | Acts 16:16-212021-11-04T14:59:41-06:00

Imaginative Reading | Acts 9:1-19

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6

Many have undertaken to draw up an orderly account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

Who, What, Where, When, Why and How are sometimes called the 5W1H questions to ask when you want to gather information or solve a problem. So, HOW might that help us when we read the Bible. It seems to me that the easiest way I can explain it is to give my own experience reading and studying the Bible this way.

WHO? Me, Carolyn Schmitt.

WHY? I want to learn to know God, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit in their relationship together and with us people.

HOW? By moving around in the scriptures and getting acquainted with the people through their stories. I want to know WHO they are, WHERE they are mentioned, WHEN they lived and WHAT their culture, landscapes, and actions were. Especially, I want to know about their interaction with God.

In our time I have the advantage of the written Word, the internet, and a multiplicity of written, audio and visual helps in the process of using the 5W1H words to find out information. Don’t know a word, a quote, a name? Just Google it and I’ve got it. But… HOW to move from information to life? I have to be willing to slow down; to imagine living in the time and at the walking pace of scripture. Then I need to be creative in using my ordinary day to live in relationship with WHO I’m learning to know.

Soon we will be through Halloween and Thanksgiving and into Advent, Christmas, Lent, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. The majority of these are special times for the church whose one foundation is Jesus Christ. In the process of Advent to Ascension, Jesus’ time on earth is about 6 months. There are clues in the whole Bible about the years Jesus lived before his baptism, especially Matthew 1:18-2:23, Luke 1:26-56 and Luke 2. Also Philippians 2:5-8 and Hebrews 4:14-5:10.

In Matthew 1:1-17 there are the names of 42 generations from Abraham to the Messiah, Jesus. Pick a WHO and learn about them, using the 5W1H questions. Imagine living in their time and culture. Think creatively HOW what you learn relates to the dailiness of your life, relationships and responsibilities.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Imaginative Reading | Acts 9:1-192021-11-02T12:32:17-06:00

Stephen, Man of God, Called: to Follow, to Serve, to Witness | Acts 6 and 7

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said.  Matthew 4:19

When he had finished washing the disciples’ feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know all these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:12-16

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peace-makers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18

Something I struggle with as I read the Bible is how condensed it is. Time often passes in a verse or two; babies are born and are adults by the next verse. There are many names, particularly in the Older Testament, but there’s no back story or daily life recorded about most of them and there are countless people who stuck it out with God who are unnamed. Psalm 139 is a great comfort to me because I learn in it how intimately God knows and cares for me and each person before, after, and around me.

In Acts 1, as they were gathered together all the apostles are listed by name as was Mary the mother of Jesus. But other than Phillip, the only ones mentioned later are Peter and John. And then, in Acts 6 and 7, we learn about Stephen.

I like to think of him as one of the unnamed disciples in the upper room when the Holy Spirit, as tongues of flame, separated and rested on each person in there. Stephen was chosen as one of the men, “full of the Spirit and wisdom,” to have responsibility for the fair distribution of food to the widows who had joined the growing community. He is described in Acts 6:8 as a man, who, “full of God’s grace and power performed great wonders and signs among the people.”

Then, when some Jews argued with Stephen they “could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke (Acts 6:10). When he is interrogated by the Sanhedrin, Stephen gives a condensed history of the ancestry and doings of God’s people including prophecy and the final indictment of their complicity in the crucifixion of Jesus. The men listening could not bear the truth, so they stoned Stephen. His last two sentences: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”, and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

What are the implications of this story for us in our life and time? How can we relate to a person like Stephen in our relationships, responsibilities and daily routines? The scriptures above give some answers: We are called by Jesus to follow him, to serve each other as he did, and to grow in the Holy Spirit-given wisdom from above. This week take some time and ask Jesus how he would have you follow him in your relationships, responsibilities and routines as a witness of him in your life.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Stephen, Man of God, Called: to Follow, to Serve, to Witness | Acts 6 and 72021-10-21T15:48:40-06:00

Immanence and Eminence | Acts 5:3-4

This is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives  forever and whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the spirit of the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestor raised Jesus from the dead –whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.  God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witness of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29-32

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

In a recent conversation about God being high and lifted up as well as close and all around us, the words, eminence and immanence came up. When I don’t know a word, I head for a dictionary or, these days, I Google it. Frankly, I’m not sure I really get it, but the closest I came was from a 1912 dictionary that describes someone who is eminent as high and lofty and there is no one above them. Whereas, immanent means to remain in or near.

As I read about the attitude of the important people, including Annas and Caiaphas the high priests who had questioned Jesus before his crucifixion, and others high up in the religious community of Jerusalem, it’s not surprising that they would get concerned and ultimately jealous because of what was happening as the apostles taught the good news of Jesus to the the crowd in the temple. Especially as the signs and wonders that the Holy Spirit was performing through the apostles among the people were drawing more of them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

It is also not surprising that they would get furious when confronted with the truth of their complicity in Jesus’ death, since they believed in worshiping God via an elaborate system of measurable rules that required intensive training. They resented the risk that would change things by the close relationship with Jesus and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

As I pondered- indeed, wrestled with- this portion of Acts, I realized how hard it is to take small bits of the riches of the written word of God and try to relate to a time when the people in the early church didn’t have it to refer to. The disciples at the time had to become attentive ”hearers of the Word” in order to become faithful “doers of the Word.”

In addition to reading the Bible, listening to the Bible is truly helpful. I have the You Version Holy Bible app, which has both visual and audio included for each of a variety of translations. Also, Audible and various other single translation versions are available online. Another practice may be reading the scriptures out loud alone or with someone. Try reading or listening to the Bible in a different way than you usually do this week and see how you receive the Word in a fresh way.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Immanence and Eminence | Acts 5:3-42021-10-14T12:31:07-06:00

Disciples in Training | Acts 2:42

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Acts 2:42

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. John 16:12-15

About three thousand people had joined the disciples on the day that Peter preached to the crowd. They came through repentance and baptism, and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, they knew little or nothing of Jesus: of his life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven. Nothing of what he taught and did. There was a lot to learn.

None of what we take for granted that tells us about Jesus had been written yet. The apostles taught by speaking. The stories of Jesus were so new and exciting to those first listeners that they devoted themselves daily to the apostles’ teaching. They also learned from fellowship with the other disciples, from sharing the sacrament of bread and wine and by being together in prayer.

The apostles, too, were learning more of what Jesus had to say to them that they had not been ready to bear before. The Holy Spirit was preparing the hearts, minds and memories for all those followers of Jesus to carry his message and live in his way throughout the world as they were scattered because of rising persecution.

Question: Has our easy access to information about God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dulled our sense of delight in hearing about and hearing from God? Do we need to ask the Holy Spirit to show us something in God’s word that we haven’t been ready, or perhaps have chosen not to see? May we begin again and ask that our eyes and ears be opened to receive God’s truth and love from his word.

I grew up singing an old hymn that still delights me. It was written in 1880 by a blind gospel hymn writer, Fanny Crosby. “Tell Me the Story of Jesus”. The lyrics are available online as are performances by various artists on Youtube.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Disciples in Training | Acts 2:422021-10-13T10:18:54-06:00
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