Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Uncommon Prayer Formats: Not-so-easy Community

•Click the headline for the compelte article
•Use each "step" as a prayer focus segment . . .
•Read the scripture section and the explanation
•Sing a hymn or chorus as a transiotn into each prayer segment

Ephesians 5:1-2 Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.(TNIV)

The word “therefore” indicates that Paul was reaching a conclusion, not starting something new, and the stuff before Ephesians 5:1-2 provides a not-so-easy road map to living a life of love that imitates Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul was calling for followers of Jesus to live a “life of love,” which sounds great until you actually try to do it. Jesus lived a life of love, and it got him killed. You want to try to be like Jesus?

Not-so-easy Step One:
Give up your life as an individual: (Eph 4:17-19)

These verses describe a life lived for the self. If ever there was a futile way of life, it is a life lived for ourselves alone. Living for ourselves hardens our hearts and brings us into darkness. If our goal is a new kind of community, then living for ourselves really is futile. Many people long for community but live for themselves. When we are separated from God the only things we become sensitive to are our own desires.

Not-so-easy Step Two:
Put on a new, Godly self: (Eph 4:20-22)

The Gospel that Paul presented in Ephesus was about more than personal forgiveness. He taught about the sacrificial Jesus who declared a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Paul presented Jesus as the one who did not follow his own desire but demonstrated love. When we consider others we are acting like our heavenly father. This choice is intentional: We have a part to play. We can choose to put off our individualistic ways and put on ways of thinking and acting that include others.

Not-so-easy Step Three:
Express your “new self” in terms of your ability to relate to others.

We put off falsehood and speak truth because we are members of one body.

He does say, “don’t get angry,” but rather we should work through our anger together. It’s hard work! Stealing (presuming upon the generosity of others) needs to be replaced not by working with the goal of “getting mine,” but having something to share with others.

Not-so-easy Step Four:
Create a welcome community for the Holy Spirit

Godly community is marked by wholesome communication. And communication doesn’t become wholesome magically: It happens only if we choose so. Our concern should be for building up others and benefiting others. In fact, this is the proper context for the phrase “grieve the Holy Spirit,” it’s about treating God’s people as people who deserve our best intentions. When God’s kids play nice together, the Holy Spirit shows up.

That’s why my friend suggested an environment full of opportunities to be offended. How else can we learn to forgive? There's a perfect place to be offended, it’s called “the church,” and it’s filled with people that will drive us crazy. But, if we can hang out in one place long enough, we will have the chance to become “imitators of God.”

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