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#Advent16–Pray for the King

A reading from the Psalms.

O God, help the king to judge as you would, and help his son to walk in godliness. Help him to give justice to your people, even to the poor. May the mountains and hills flourish in prosperity because of his good reign. Help him to defend the poor and needy and to crush their oppressors. May the poor and needy revere you constantly, as long as sun and moon continue in the skies! Yes, forever!

May the reign of this son of mine be as gentle and fruitful as the springtime rains upon the grass—like showers that water the earth! May all good men flourish in his reign with abundance of peace to the end of time.

Psalm 72:1-7 (TLB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Today’s text is a prayer from the Psalms for the king. It is a prayer that the king would rule with justice for all. It is a prayer for prosperity. It is a prayer for the poor to be defended against their oppressors.

What would our nation be like if we prayed this prayer every day?

Prayer changes things. Not necessarily because of the prayer itself, but because prayer ultimately sparks the one saying the prayer to action. So, when we pray for the king to rule with justice, we are sparked to ensure that the king is ruling with justice.

We pray. God moves. We act as a response to God’s movement. We bring ourselves inline with His Kingdom and work to ensure that His Kingdom is being brought to earth.

So, yes, believers should be politically active. However, our action must be filtered through the lens of the Kingdom of Heaven. “Your Kingdom come,” we pray.

Yes, believers should pray for the leaders. But, praying for the leader to see politically or morally the same way as we do is not what we are called to pray. We are called to pray “Your Kingdom come.” We are called to pray for the king to act justly for all people.

Rich.

Poor.

Homeless.

Homeowner.

Natural-born.

Immigrant.

Refugee.

We pray that the king would act with equal justice for all people. Additionally, we act with equal justice to all people.

When unjust laws are made. We need to continue to act justly. We don’t yield to the laws of the land when they stand in opposition to the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. We continue to do the Kingdom thing.

Here is where we must be careful. Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven more than any other subject. We need to seek to understand the principles that he outlines in these words. The best way to do that is to read prayerfully the things that He said. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most succinct places to start. For we Kingdom Citizens, it is our constitution that sits above all other constitutions.

Here’s my challenge to all of us. Let’s take time every day to prayerfully read the Sermon on the Mount. And, then, let’s try to live it out. As we do, let’s pray that the king lives it out as well.

Pray for the king. Pray for him to acts justly to all people. Pray for the prosperity of the land in which you dwell. Pray for the poor to be defended. Pray for those who oppress the poor to be stopped.

And, work to make it happen.

Advent 2012: Preparing the Path: Beyond the Circumstances

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emfmanuel.

A reading from the Paul’s epistle to the Philippians

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.  God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.

— Philippians 1:3-11 (NIV)

I want to live a life so confident in God’s goodness, wisdom, and power that even if I were in prison, I would continue to press on in the work of God’s kingdom. That’s the confidence in God that Paul shows in Philippians. I see so many glimpses of Paul’s uncompromising trust in the nature and character of God through these verses.

  1. He believes that prayer moves the heart of God. If he didn’t believe in the power of prayer, he wouldn’t be continually praying.
  2. He trusts in God’s justice. He does not show frustration in his circumstance of being in chains for Christ, nor does he succumb to a spirit of self-pity and despair.
  3. He uses the time as an opportunity to be praying, thanksgiving, writing, discipling believers, encouraging, making plans, remembering the goodness of God, and rejoicing!

Let’s allow this Word of God to transform us today–not allowing our circumstance to be the be all and end all. Rather, let’s not allow our circumstance to influence our behavior at all. Let’s be so wrapped up in who God is, that our actions are those which we would want others to imitate (Philippians 3:17, 4:9)!

Studying the Word at the Church in Ephesus

Studying the Word at the Church in Ephesus

Advent 2012: Preparing the Path–Justice

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

A reading from the Prophet Jeremiah

The LORD said: I made a wonderful promise to Israel and Judah, and the days are coming when I will keep it. I promise that the time will come when I will appoint a king from the family of David, a king who will be honest and rule with justice. In those days, Judah will be safe; Jerusalem will have peace and will be named “The LORD gives Justice.”

— Jeremiah 33:14-16 (CEV)

Justice.

For the past several months, one of the recurring subjects of meditation and discussion has been the idea of justice. And, here in this first Advent post, we’re confronted with it anew. This year’s Advent series is framed in the thematic context of “Preparing the Path”. As I ponder that theme coupled with this passage from Jeremiah, I’m struck with this thought: “Justice is at the beginning of the Path.”

It is often injustice that leads people to action. When people are mistreated, misrepresented, oppressed, or persecuted, we are led to act. We are led to usher in justice.

Yet, we often think of justice as the prosecution of those who have committed the mistreatment, misrepresentation, oppression, or persecution. In the Bible, justice is a different idea. Biblically, (in both Greek and Hebrew) justice shares a root with the word righteousness. They have the same basic idea–right legal and relational standing with God. In other words, to bring justice is to bring someone into a right legal and relational standing with God.

What if, for a moment, we stopped confusing justice and judgment.

Stopped confusing justice and retribution.

Stopped confusing justice and penalty.

And, what if, we viewed justice as bringing people into right legal and right relational standing with God.

Bringing people into a place of knowing who they are and whose they are.

Bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven.

What if, in this Advent season, we viewed justice as freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned.

Lightening the burden of those who work for us (Isaiah 58:6).

Letting the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6).

Removing the chains that bind people (Isaiah 58:6).

Feeding the hungry (Isaiah 58:7).

Providing shelter to the homeless (Isaiah 58:7).

Clothing the naked (Isaiah 58:7)

Helping relatives (Isaiah 58:7).

Bringing good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1).

Comforting the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).

Comforting those who mourn (Isaiah 61:1).

Rusty Playground in Central Asia (Used By Permission)

Rusty Playground in Central Asia (Used By Permission)

As I was writing this today, a friend in Central Asia posted a before-and-after picture of a playground. This playground is on a hillside that is home to the outcasts of society. It was rusted and battered. The ground around the play area was covered in trash. Yet, a handful of friends hiked up the hillside and spent the day cleaning and painting this playground. As I looked at those pictures again and again, I realized that what I was looking at was justice. It was loving the unloved. Something simple that will ultimately transform lives. And, as I was smiling at the picture, I know that Jesus was sitting on the edge of that playground smiling at those who had done the work.

And, we find ourselves at the edge of Advent. Walking down the ancient path that leads to the manger and the King resting therein. The King whose Kingdom will know no end. The King who will rule in honesty. The King who will rule with justice.

Will the path that you prepare be paved with justice?