“Speaking of God…”
Allan C. Groen.
In most cultures, people speak about God or beings or forces that express a similar concern. Clearly there is need to give a name to something that is other than the natural world of the skies above or the earth beneath and all it contains. Even something as vague as a slogan spiritual but not religion spites beyond the visible and tangible world.
Because we are more aware of the immensity of the world the suffering that can overwhelm us our ability to explain the universe without recourse to the gods or God we seem to have less need of resorting to God they thought the concept of a superior being becomes more difficult and problematic for many period any notion of God is receding into a distant background. For many God is an idea that scarcely functions. Prayer becomes stopgap measure we hope to never have to use, except in an emergency.
When we speak of God, we speak of what is inherently a mystery. We do not have God available to our senses like we do our everyday world. Everything in the universe is in principle knowable even though there is much we do not know or about the world. But God is not available to our senses, but possibly more to our intuition. This may be the reason why people don’t simply want to do to dismiss this idea of God even when they do not feel like they know much about him. The universe is too great and mysterious to be only a function of the movements of molecules. People are often not content to say that it is all a matter of physics and chemistry.
Now suppose that biochemistry, chemistry, biology could explain our consciousness our language, our sense of beauty, justice and love would that necessarily result in dismissing God? Much depends on our desire to include God or to exclude him.
There are many concepts of gods that we no longer find believable, for example, gods or spirits that live in the world. Most often they come as animism or polytheism, concepts that seemed at some time to make sense to people, they seem to be helpful in explaining a great deal. In the Bible we meet these as idols are false gods, gods who mostly were considered to be evil. Over against these, the Bible promotes monotheism, the belief in one God who, as creator, exists outside of the universe as well as in it . This God is presumed to be able to act on the world as well as interact with it.
However, to me, thinking of God as outside of the universe is a difficult concept as we now know that the universe is large beyond imagination. Where is God? How can a God outside of the universe interact with the universe? With earth? With people? Perhaps a developing understanding of the concept of the universe and its complexity needs to lead to a developing understanding of what we mean when we speak of God.
One option is to say that we believe in God but God that God has mysterious dimensions so we really cannot say much meaningful about God at all. We do not understand without this causing us any difficulty or discomfort. It would make good sense to believe in a God who is beyond our comprehension but who nevertheless is capable of the kinds of acts which the Bible attributes to him. In this case, however, we are to understand who God is, but God we think of God as the creator, as god of justice, as sustaining power, as the source of peace, joy and love. It is only as God who is capable of such interaction that makes God incredible or at least of interest to us. An old man in the Sky would be of no value or interest to us. In this case, would be content to let this God enjoy long naps in his heavenly easy chair.
Since God is wholly other, we need to be careful of any claims we make about God. It seems to me that the proofs for the existence of God are likely more suggestive than truly probative.
Since God is wholly other, then he is beyond our reach, our ability to discover him. We can do no more than speculate about who God is and what God’s actions might be. For many religions, especially of the past, the gods are at best indifferent to us, and often they are perceived as evil beings who have it in for us humans. Seldom do they seem to have benign intentions toward us. This is understandable given how frequently the forces of nature which seem to be forces of the gods, are destructive. Such gods are to be feared, rather than trusted or loved, perhaps even hated.
If God is wholly other, then perhaps all our talk about God is based on wishful thinking or about jumping to conclusions based on our observations. We have nothing but anthropomorphisms, a God who is much like the people we are and know, some of us decent, others truly horrible. We end up with a God to avoid, or perhaps a God to whom we become completely indifferent.
The other option is the one Christians adopt. It is that God makes himself known to us. God then must make himself known only to the extent that we can understand. God bends towards us; he condescends to us. The true grandeur of God is far beyond us and perhaps not necessary for us to know. Perhaps in the age to come, we will know an understand better. But we may have a degree of curiosity that does not need to be satisfied. We will enjoy and glorify the God whom we do not fully know.
The only way for us to know anything trustworthy about God is for God to make himself known to us. But does God indeed do that? If he does, should there not be one consistent message from God? Many Christians would say that there is indeed one coherent message in the Bible for us. This message is given by the Holy Spirit who caused inspired writers to compose books and letters that express everything we need to know.
But does the Bible indeed give such a message from start to finish? There are many common themes, but the final message is the Word who became flesh. The Bible is not only a book of history stories, parables, poetry and letters but it is ultimately the story which describes the person of Jesus who fulfills the promises of God. If there is an authentic message in the scripture one of authority it is not so much in the book as it is in the person the book describes to us. We meet Jesus as Lord and savior in the book. It’s basic purpose is to describe who the person is and what he does. The bible’s description of what Jesus has done and who he is, also comes through pluriform ways, different in each of the gospels. This is not necessarily a flaw as I see it, but the result of describing a complete complex person in complex ways.
The Bible speaks to us in anthropomorphic language about God. This is not a problem. It seems obvious to me that God would have no choice but to speak to us in human terms and as a person who must be at least in part like us. First, we see the like, then we notice the otherness. There must be analogy before we can be dialectical. There should be no embarrassment to note that the basic message from God is difficult and complicated. We should not be perplexed by this but affirm it as inevitable. At the same time, the message of the Bible must be simple, at least in part. Would not God all people to be able to understand it?
The apologetic task of Christians is to try to show that the message goes beyond wishful thinking, beyond projection of what we would like, and that the language is ultimately based on reality. Christians need to show that our teaching is based on a sound foundation. This is easier said than done.
Is there any way that we can establish authoritatively that the truth that we preach is true? I do not believe that there is an objective truth in the sense that Euclidean geometry is true, or that a scientific statement is true, for example that 2 X 2= 4 , a statement we can make without fear of contradiction. But whatever we say in defense of the gospel, some will surely say this cannot be correct.
For an unbeliever, appealing to the Bible as authority does not help, it just backs the issue up a further step or it begs the question a step further. “Where does the Bible get its authority” has no easy answer. Possibly the best we can say is that we believe because it has the ring of truth, it makes sense, and it helps us understand life better than we could otherwise do. Here our conformation bias plays a major role. Do we want the message we hear to be true? Or are we inclined to dismiss it out of hand? Or we can go with Pascal’s wager. Betting on the message of the Bible will give us a more meaningful life than if we place our bet somewhere else.
Christians have a high view of God. We believe in a God who is worthy to be praised, whom we can love with all our heart, soul and mind We can commit ourselves to follow God, to trust his promises for us and to lead us safely home.
While we can certainly be critical of certain statements in the Bible, we take it for granted that all the great sayings of our God are true and reliable. The deeds and words, all the activities of the God with us and here for us, are indeed words to be trusted and on which we may build our lives.
We speak not only of the imminence of God but also of God’s transcendence. God is in the creation, but he was before any creation or any part of it existed, so he is beyond, outside and transcends. What that means is not very clear to me. God is immortal, invisible, dwells in inaccessible light, he is hidden from before our eyes. God is silent as light. That we see God as the great mystery is as it should be.
When people go to church, they should expect to find a community that speaks with wisdom, conviction and humility about God. They should not be surprised to find that this is a major emphasis in a believing community. For this reason, churches should do their very best to speak about God responsibly. The Bible has many dimensions and characteristics about God. All themes should, in due time, be part of the message in its totality.
How does it happen that faith seems impossible for some while it is the enduring rock and foundation of the lives of others? It appears to be the case that many Christians seldom or never have doubts or questions. Some major conversion event hit them so hard that faith never again left them, while others pray often for help with their unbelief. I relate better to the latter, questioning faith.
To speak of God would seem to be an act of unbridled hubris. However, we speak about God constantly in many cultures. We often think we know who God is, what God does and what God wills. The great diversity of ideas about god already suggests that we should speak about God with great caution and humility because what we believe or teach others to believe has a great impact and shapes us for better or worse. Therefore, we can understand that both much good and terrible evils have been perpetuated in the name of God or gods.
Our ideas of God are powerful character and behavior shaping whether God exists or not. Even when we say that there is no God, our lives will be shaped by that belief. Agnosticism and atheism are also life shaping worldview faiths.
No wonder there are so many ways of speaking about God. We clearly have a need, but who are we, with our puny minds, to think we can say things that can truly express who God is? Why do we try? Why do we feel the need? Why not just give it a rest? And why are we so quick to say that we are right and everyone who disagrees with us is wrong even murderously wrong? Why so inflexible, given our limitations? Can we not live with uncertainty? Questions? Doubts? Perhaps rigid orthodoxy suggests that we are not sure we can maintain our trust or faith if our understanding is not absolute. Perhaps questions left unanswered might collapse our confidence into chaos and quicksand.
Why do we want to speak about God? What is the purpose? I think it is more than just idle curiosity. God talk feels like fundamental human needs. We look for meaning, wisdom, joy, comfort, purpose. We don’t want a life that is mere vanity or suffering, strutting an hour on the stage and then … forgotten. Life has to be more than misery. When we decide there is no God, we turn to spirituality. “spiritual but not religious,” we say. Pure searching is difficult to maintain. We easily we resort to karma, fate or idols. Religions claim too much with too great assurance, proclaiming truths that are problematic. How can one believe in a God who permits, even seems to cause so much suffering? How can one in good conscience believe when there is so much violence, disease that takes a loved one away in an untimely death is the will of God? What makes us so sure? Pretty much everything we say seems to provide no comfort or value or truth. We say, “she is now united with her family.” Really? “He is with the Angels.” How do you know? Such things are acts and words of desperation, offering no comfort. Based on no discernible ground as far as we can tell. The grieving person says or thinks: “Easy for you to say.”
Christians speak of God not because we believe we have discovered God and can therefore describe God as if God were something within the creation like an animal, bird, fish or any object. Christians speak of God because we believe God has made himself known. What god has made known about Himself is profoundly different from anything else ever spoken about by anyone seeking after God. No one would have imagined that God has made himself known in the crucified and resurrected Christ. This Lamb of God is the essence of the gospel. For this reason, God can only be accurately and rightly known through the preaching of the gospel, not through research in a lab or through tight philosophical reasoning. The latter do hint or may hint at God, for example by learning ever more about the intricacies, order and beauty of creation, but they are unable to penetrate to the heart of the matter the gospel of the grace that has been made known to us in Christ Jesus.
If I’m correct, then I think we could think of the Bible as the biography of Jesus and more accurately of the triune God father, son and holy spirit. Obviously not everything in the Bible easily fits into that into that mode, or even at all, but I think the Bible can be described in that way, or even as the autobiography of God. In this case, preaching is basically an exploration of this biography. Because Jesus is the Christ, it is no wonder that there are diverse Christologies. It is difficult enough to write biographies of people because we are so complex, how much more so is it understandable and to be expected that writing the biography of Jesus is difficult and that we have four gospels, each with its own point of view.
We preachers do well to consider carefully before we say: “thus says the Lord.” We could be mistaken, and no doubt are mistaken from time to time. We need to be open to correction!
Christians make a bold claim: Christianity is superior to all philosophies or religions. All others are either incomplete or wrong. All seekers are either on the wrong track or only partway towards the true way. As Acts says we can be eager to find God, we can be devout, while at the same time we are not enlightened. It is easy to imagine people who are offended by such claims or find them a stumbling block. However, we must insist humbly on making this claim otherwise Christianity has nothing going for it. We can pick and choose what to believe or just walk away. Many are indeed walking away.
The uniqueness of Christiana T is not in its morality, its stories or its dogmas but in the crucified and resurrected Christ with without whom our faith is vain.
To fully describe the person and character of any human being is pretty well impossible, although we can see and learn a great deal and value one another accordingly. We can see a person as honest, trustworthy, wise, happy or to the contrary we may see them as deceptive, unreliable foolish, etc. What went into those descriptions often remains still a mystery. For each of us to describe our own person can also be mysterious and difficult. We are prone to self-deception, but If we pay attention to ourselves, we may discover new things, good or bad, and not just when we are young. It takes a desire to know and grow in our self knowledge.
Since it is true that we know ourselves and other people only in part, how much more true is this of Jesus, the Incarnate son of God? The personal stories of Jesus in his relation to the father and the spirit, in his relationship to history, creation and humans is a never ending, beautiful and fascinating story. The Bible gives us a surfeit of material.
Anyone who thinks that there might be something special about Jesus, has to give some account of what that might be. The accounts often boiled down too few items: his teaching his moral example, or his ability to heal, although such miracles are usually casually dismissed. Miracles could not have taken place. We know better than to believe in them. In any such case, most of what the Bible teaches is not taken seriously. We decide on our own what we think might be special or valuable. We do not in this case submit obediently under the Bible but stand critically over it. In this way it is always the case that we know best.
Christians insist, or should insist, that the only valid and authoritative view of Jesus is found in scripture, especially in the New Testament. Here the descriptions are both simple and complex. The stories of Jesus are simple enough so that anyone can get the basic message and turn to Jesus as Lord and savior. The stories are also complicated enough to keep interested scholars occupied for decades to try to truly understand who Jesus was and what he did and what he said. Because Jesus was a complex person his life and work are exceptional, therefore it should not be surprising to find a multifaceted and sometimes not totally coherent account. There are different authors who have different readers in mind.
Each of us has a unique story. Many will know parts of their story but probably not at its entirety. Probably no one knows all the details of their own stories. When we tell our own stories we often try to make ourselves seem better than we are. We tell our stories to impress as much as to inform. We tell stories that come out of a larger sense of ourselves. We tell some stories and not others, depending on the points we want to make. Any pastor knows that the story people tell are not necessarily the ones they need to tell. What is really our story, or the story of the person next to us on the bus, or the story of the person in the coffee shop? The big story within which our small stories find their place is the metanarrative.
About Jesus, we have both the stories and metanarratives and because of the nature of the stories we hear about Jesus, we suspect that his big story is fundamentally different from all other method narratives. What is this “otherness”? It is difficult to state this precisely because the story is indeed “other”. We have no perfect point of reference so in regards to Jesus, we know only in part not only because we never know a person fully, but because this is especially true of him.
In Matthew 5, Jesus contrasts what teachers said in the past with his own teachings. You heard but I say. It seems to me that in a way this is a provision of a new metanarrative. On a number of occasions in the gospels, the other teachers take exception to what Jesus said to the point of being so greatly offended that the teaching of Jesus becomes one of the main reasons for their desire to crucify him.
The meta narrative of Jesus is thus experienced as wholly other and this becomes one of the reasons for investigating who this man is who speaks with such authority and who dares also to reinterpret the teaching of the forefathers so drastically. The Pharisees and scribes have the same text but could scarcely interpret the text with greater diversity. Who is this man?”
The best title I can think of for the Christian metanarrative is “the coming of the Kingdom of God.” Stories need titles an so do metanarratives. Here are other metanarratives: the Enlightenment, Marxism, capitalism, romanticism, modernism, postmodernism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam.
It seems to me that all such meta stories are built on faith or accepted on the basis of faith. Therefore, all metanarratives are important in their own way. Perhaps a test for the usefulness of these metanarratives is how helpful they are in explaining issues for the formation of healthy societies and people. Here some clearly provide better insight than others. The story of capitalism, while flawed, has better results than Marxism or fascism which both resulted with oceans of blood in the streets.
For a set of ideas to be truly a metanarrative, there has to be something that is identifiable as idiomatic comma the heart of the matter. It does not seem likely to me that all our thought, words and deeds will fit perfectly into even our own meta narrative. Like all the pieces of the puzzle because our insights are always limited and imperfect, but there is always our own effort. We try to think as consistently Kingdom thoughts as we can about all the parts of life, politics, society, economy, art, and so forth.
Conversely when someone speaks of politics or whatever, we might well be able to deduce what this person holds as his her worldview or metanarrative. Someone who opposes medical care for all persons probably has a libertarian view as their narrative. There can also be a clash of narrative: someone may hold a libertarian view while thinking he or she is a Christian at heart for example.
Another way to speak of the clash of meta narratives is that, unintentionally, what we say we believe is our story while we live at odds with each other. This may be because we do not examine ourselves carefully, assuming that we are on the right path, but we also very readily pick up the dominant, clashing values of other narratives around us. An example would be that we buy into the idea that what we want to become in our minds becomes a need that has to be satisfied. This becomes a Creed that producers and that sellers promote and exploit in the hopes that their bottom line will improve. An example is that we have to have the latest gadget even though last year’s model still works perfectly well. We feel the need to belong to the “in-crowd.” We want to belong with the “big boys,” even if it means we live in perpetual debt. Here “no” is a very difficult but liberating word.
On the basis of john 1: 17, I would venture to say that the metanarratives of the two testaments are quite different. The flavor of the old tends to emphasize the law, but not exclusively, but the New Testament has greater emphasis on grace. I don’t say that the two testaments are contradictory but the new goes far beyond the old. There is grace in the covenant story of the old, but it is mixed with more emphasis on law than in the new. It is tempting to put a strong emphasis on obedience to the law, because it suggests that we are able to make a worthwhile contribution to our own well being and salvation. To be completely dependent on Jesus alone feels like an insult to our pride and to egos. However, obedience grows out of salvation, salvation does not grow out of obedience to the law. If obedience could do the trick it would be unnecessary for Jesus to die on the cross for us. So, the metanarrative of the new goes well beyond and completes that of the old.
Not all metanarratives are completely wrong. There is a great deal in society at large that has much to offer everyone, whether it is specifically Christian or not it. Is easy to be too critical of others while not being nearly critical enough of ourselves. It is hurtful if we criticize others without putting ourselves to the test. Things we assumed to be right might leave a lot to be desired.
Dear God, we need the gospel of salvation your servant Paul describes so beautifully.
You gave your truth, but we suppressed it, and so we deserve your wrath, for knowing you, we do not honor you, instead, we descend ever more deeply into a life of sin.
Therefore you give us up to various lusts,
to disordered sexual relations
and to debased minds.
We do things that are hurtful to others.
Sinful deeds arouse your wrath.
So we thank your providing us a glorious way out through who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
Therefore we thank and praise you for the gospel, for it is powerful with your power that is able to save everyone who has faith, for the gospel reveals to us the righteousness of God through faith and for faith.
Praise to you, Triune God, that this news has been proclaimed and believed throughout the world. Amen.
God of mercy and justice, we will never learn or appreciate why you gave your son to suffer and be crucified until we learn from Scripture what it means to be a sinner.
So we thank you for teaching us about the complex and dark ways of sin.
However, we would like to pretend that we are not sinners. We would like to see it as a minor problem we can repair or atone for by means of keeping the law, and doing some kind deeds for others from time to time.
The paths of sin are a deep and ugly mystery.
We will never understand sin’s treacherous ways.
But we know that sin drags us down to deep darkness.
We dare to presume upon your kindness, forbearance and patience.
We do not see your gifts as a call to repentance.
But God, you will judge the secret thoughts of all people. Thank you for providing the way of escape for all who repent. For such there will be honor, glory and peace.
So nudge all of us to be people who repent from the heart.
Hear our cry for mercy which we raise in the name of the crucified Jesus. Amen.
God of faithfulness and justice: it is difficult for us to admit it, but we are people under the power of sin, people who have your word, but we are also those who do not obey it.
You are right in judging us because right and wrong,
justice and evil matter. We cannot justify ourselves by deeds of the law.
We praise you for showing us a new way.
You restore relationships.
You provide the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Now through faith we know that there is justification through grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
You have provided Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, made effective not through works we have done, but through faith.
Through Christ Jesus, you have shown us your righteousness, patience and mercy.
You passed over sins committed in the past.
You have proven yourself to be righteous and now we sinners are made right in your sight. We affirm that we have no reason to boast, only reason for endless thankfulness and praise.
We thank you for Jesus Christ, the one who fulfills are righteousness for us. Amen.
God, you give life to the dead, and call into existence things that do not yet exist.
You give us the promise that we will inherit the world to come, not through works of the law, but through the righteousness that you give us through faith.
We celebrate the overwhelming importance of faith.
Our ancestor Abraham was counted righteous through faith before he was circumcised. When you called him to go, he went. He trusted you to show him the way and the place where he was to go.
So Abraham is the ancestor of all who believe,
and you count righteousness to us, too, only through faith, not through circumcision or baptism or any work of merit.
Forgive us when we are misguided enough to boast before you because we think we have done really well in our obedience to the law. We forget that we are saved through faith in the living and life-giving suffering of Christ on the cross.
May we never have any mistrust that makes us waver concerning your promises. May we grow stronger in faith every day, and give you glory.
We pray in the name of Jesus who opens the door to your kingdom for us. Amen.
God of grace and glory, we praise you for the dominion of your abounding grace, grace sufficient to cover all our sins, and the sins of the whole world.
Through justification, we have received varied and rich gifts. We have peace with you our God. We have received an open door to the grace in which we now live.
We may now boast in the hope of sharing your glory.
We even boast in our suffering and the growth of character that comes with it.
We are glad that your love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
We thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for you were crucified for us, bringing salvation. We did not deserve this gift. We did not merit it because of any goodness in us, but while we were yet sinners, you died for us and reconciled us to God. We are now saved by your life.
We are free because sin no longer exercises its dominion over us. We have received that abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness, and we exercise the dominion of life through the one man, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.
Father God, we thank you for all Jesus has done for us. Amen.
God of grace and glory, we recognize that there are two roads through life, the road of unbelievers and believers, the way that leads to life and the way that leads to death.
Our way begins with being baptized in Christ’s death for us. Thank you God, for this way leads to complete renewal, and it allows us to walk in newness of life.
God, a glorious future awaits us when we have been baptized into Christ: we will one day participate with him in a resurrection like his. God, this also means that our sinful natures will be destroyed! We are no longer enslaved to sin! We may consider ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus! God, forbid that we allow sin to reign in us.
Do not allow us to let us yield our bodies to sin as instruments of wickedness, but to present our whole being to you as tools of righteousness.
God, great are the gifts you have given us in Jesus because you love us.
We have become obedient from the heart to the teachings entrusted to us. We are set free from sin. We became passionate about pursuing righteousness.
We thank you, God, that in Christ we are made holy.
Your free gift to us is the unimaginable wonder of eternal life in Christ Jesus. Amen.
God, merciful and mighty, we admit that it is difficult for us to be the people we want to be, and even worse, it is difficult for us to be the people you want us to be.
With your servant Paul, we need to say that our condition is wretched.
On the one hand, God, the good news is that we are free from the law for we are in Christ Jesus. With him we have died to the law to bear fruit to you, our God.
On the other hand, the law and the commandments are holy, good and just, but we are still the old fleshly self, sold to sin. So your law is not our enemy. The sin that lives in our hearts is the real enemy. Therefore we are not able to save ourselves in spite of our best efforts to obey your holy and good law.
God, we are troubled because we are deeply divided within. Your law is good, but our hearts are sold to sin and we are troubled by who we are. In this crisis we cry out to you: “who will deliver us from this losing battle?”
And then with gratitude and joy we remember: “the victory is ours through Jesus Christ. Jesus, you are our Lord!”
Thank you for giving this rich gift to us and all your people. Amen.
Father God, you have provided for our needs and the needs of the whole creation because we are in Christ Jesus, and we have the Spirit of life in us.
We deserve condemnation but we have been set free.
We were held captive under the law of sin and death, but you have delivered us, because Jesus fulfilled the just requirements of the law through his death and resurrection.
Sin held dominion over us, but now, the Spirit of life which alone can please you, rules in our hearts.
We were estranged from you, but now we have received the spirit of adoption. Through the Spirit we recognize you as our Father.
The groaning creation also will be delivered from its bondage to decay to share the glory that you will make known to us.
Father, we groan along with your creation.
We are eagerly awaiting our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
We admit that we are weak, but your Spirit helps us in our weakness and prays for us to express our wordless groaning to you.
Father, we trust that you will work all to our good, and you will complete what you have begun for us until we are at last glorified with you.
In the meanwhile, you will give us all we need, because you are faithful, and you will see to it that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Thank you for your gifts in Christ. Amen.
Electing God, why do some believe and others not?
We try to understand. We want to be faithful to your word.
God, we would like to know why some people’s hearts are hardened. So few of your own people believe, despite all the advantages they have. They are children of Abraham and Sarah. From them the Messiah came, according to the flesh.
But God, it cannot be true that your word failed.
Throughout history, your purpose of election continues.
Electing God, we fail to understand your ways. We are perplexed and puzzled by your works, you, God of justice. We trust that faith comes at your initiative.
Your people Israel failed to understand that our works of righteousness based on law did not succeed in fulfilling the law.
And so we learn that Gentile and Jew can only be saved and receive righteousness through the gift of faith in Christ Jesus.
As it is the potter’s freedom to shape the clay according to what he wishes to make, so we acknowledge that it is your prerogative to show mercy to whom you will, and to harden hearts as you choose.
Through your Holy Spirit helps us to live with mystery. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God, we pray that you will enlighten everyone who is zealous for you. We learn that if we think we can make ourselves good enough before you, we will be disappointed, for we cannot be completely obedient.
So we thank you that Christ has done everything for us the law requires. There is a free and perfect righteousness for us.
The good news is not far away, but close by, on our lips and in our hearts.
For all who thirst for you, O God, the preaching of the gospel comes as fresh, clean water, the water of grace.
May all who hear the message confess Jesus Christ with the mouth, and believe with the heart. So may we all be made right with you, and be saved.
God, we believe your word that no one who trusts in you will be put to shame. We are confident that your arms of invitation reach out to all, to all who seek you, but also to the disobedient and contrary-minded.
Thank you, Father God, for your generosity to us. Amen.
God, we marvel at your riches, wisdom and knowledge.
They are very deep. We cannot search out your judgments, nor understand your ways.
God, it is no wonder that we do not fully understand how you deal with people, but we do trust that it is within your plan to bless, and that you have not changed your mind.
So we trust that salvation is a gift of grace. We do not deserve to be saved. Yet for us great mysteries remain: some people’s hearts remain hard, and yet this becomes the occasion for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles to make your own people jealous.
We learn that Israel’s stumbling has come to mean riches to the world. But God, how much richer everyone would become through Israel’s inclusion.
So God, we stand in awe of you. You are severe to the fallen. You are kind to all who continue in kindness.
You have power to graft broken olive shoots onto olive trees.
So the day will come, when the number of Gentiles has been completed, then also all Israel will be saved, for in your election plan Israel is also your beloved, and you will be merciful to all: enemies, the disobedient and sinful, too.
So to you be the glory forever. Amen.
Great are you, O God, and wonderful are all your works.
You are renewing the world you love.
You are bringing in your kingdom to heal the world.
We pray that our lives may be a fitting response to all you have done. By your Spirit we present our bodies as living sacrifices to you.By the renewing of our minds may we see what your will is, what is good and acceptable to you.
May we, your people, appreciate the value of the gifts and talents you have given us.
May none of us boast about our goodness, thinking we are more valuable than others.
Give us genuine love that holds on to the good.
May we honor and respect each person.
God, we desire to honor you together, and serve you eagerly.
Father, we pray that we will be good friends and companions to people in whatever their situation, of need or blessing, joy or sorrow, tears or laughter.
Strengthen our hearts that we may never be defeated by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Jesus, through your Spirit, you make us new. Thanks and praise to you for this wonderful work. Amen.
Lord God, governor of all people, each of us serves you in our own way, as you give us talents and callings.
Governing authorities are also your servants, called to pursue the peace and well-being of their subjects.
God, when those in positions of authority are basically good and just it is easier to comply with their governance, as in Paul’s day, but sometimes it becomes more difficult to agree and go along when those servants become evil, as when they persecute people for their faith, or impose burdens too heavy to bear.
God, we ask that we may have the wisdom to be good citizens in our time, knowing that in our nation this may require something quite different from us than for people under dictatorships and other forms of tyranny.
Help us to love one another in fulfillment of your law, and stop us from showing disrespect to others. We understand that love never wrongs another.
Forgive us our imperfect love. Remind us that Jesus will one day return to judge the living and the dead.
Keep us wide awake, with enough oil in our lamps until that day.
Help us to live honorably. This can be difficult for us, so with your gracious help may we put on Christ, carrying him proudly always and everywhere.
O God, come quickly to help us. Amen.
Dear Father God, our scruples can be harmful to other people. Therefore we pray that we may learn to welcome and live in loving ways even when we disagree and have differences opinions on issues such as what we may eat, or passing judgment on others on matters on which we are ultimately only accountable to you, our God.
We confess that we can be quarrelsome and too quick to judge, too slow to make allowance for people we deem to be legalistic or weak. Help us to know our own minds and to become fully convinced of your truth while remaining open to correction. In all things may we give thanks and honor to you, for in life and death we are yours, our Savior and Lord, God of the living and the dead.
May we learn to see clearly when our scruples put a hindrance or stumbling block before another. Prevent us from doing anything leads to the ruin of another for whom Christ died. May we discern what really matters from the trivial. May we see what it means that your Kingdom is a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
God, instead of being quarrelsome, help us to do everything we can to pursue peace and leads to building each other up. May all we do proceed from faith.
Through Jesus, show us how to be faithful disciples always and everywhere. Amen.
God of steadfastness and encouragement,
grant that we may live together in harmony,
the strong and the weak,
the Jew and Gentile,
in accordance with the service with which Christ served us, for the glory of your name and so that everyone may be built up, especially our neighbors.
Teach us to welcome one another with the same grace with which Christ welcomed us, so that all of us,
sinful and broken, may live to the glory of you, our God,
because of your mercy.
God, fill us with joy and peace in believing,
so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thank you for the passion your servant Paul had for sharing the story of Jesus with those who had never heard.
May we be filled with that same passion for those who need to hear today.
Father, as Jesus had compassion on us, may we have compassionate hearts. Amen.
Eternal, wise God, we are thankful for all who have made our lives better for us by their friendship and hospitality. We will remember them.
We pray for discernment to notice people who cause dissensions and offences. They oppose the truth of the gospel. God, we desire to be wise in what is good, and to shun evil.
We trust that Satan’s defeat is near.
God, strengthen us by the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, the good news long kept secret, but now made known to the Gentiles as you commanded, to bring about the obedience of faith.
To you, wise God, be glory forever! Amen.
Dear God, your servant Jude has provided us with strong words of warning.
We are called, beloved and kept safe,
but through Jude You also warns us to contend for the faith,
for intruders steal in who pervert your grace, God,
and deny our only Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
Your destruction came upon unbelievers in the past,
and will come today on those who do not believe and commit ungodly acts.
So we, your beloved people,
are urged to build ourselves up in the faith, to continue loving you,
and to look forward to the mercy of eternal life.
May we reach out to the wavering,
snatching them from the fire,
and have mercy on others with fear,
so that we will not be corrupted by them.
Now, our God, you are able to keep us from falling.
You are able to make us stand without blemish in the presence of your glory with rejoicing.
To you, the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, power and authority,
before all time and now and forever.
God of your people,we thank you for the multitudes of people like Gaius.
He was faithful to the truth. He showed hospitality to strangers who were messengers of the gospel,
and who accepted no support from unbelievers.
May we, like them, follow their examples,
never imitate evil,
but only what is good,
for only good comes from God.
We pray for the well-being of all your servants, both physically and spiritually.
Give us your peace, Oh Lord!
We thank you for servants like John who love you, your people, and your truth.
We trust that your grace, mercy and peace will be with us,
from you, our God and Father,
and from your son, Jesus Christ, in truth and love.
Mall all your people walk in your truth and obey your commandment to love on another.
Keep us alert always to those who would deceive us with lies,
and help us to keep them at arm’s length.
1 John 1
it is a great privilege to have the word of life, that is Jesus Christ who was from the beginning, is now and shall be evermore.
We believe that you have revealed eternal life to us, and established fellowship with our brothers and sisters and with you, our God, and your son Jesus Christ. We have heard and believe this message, and it brings us complete joy.
God, in you are both life and light.
Enlivened and enlightened by you, may we walk in the light, for that is the way to wholesome relationships, and in this way the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
We believe and rejoice, knowing that you are faithful and just and will forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 JOHN 2
God, righteous and just in all your ways,
sin is a grievous matter in your sight.
Again and again Your word warns us about all manner of transgression:
disobeying Your commandments, we walk in darkness;
we do not love our brothers and sisters as we ought.
We love the world, and listen to what our flesh desires and what appeals to our eyes.
We are proud of our wealth and our achievements.
However, your word teaches us that all these are passing away.
We hear the warning against abandoning your people.
You tell us to be alert in the end times, when the Antichrist is coming.
Father, we know sin is such a grave matter that rather than to let sin conquer, you have provided an advocate, Jesus the righteous,
the one who made atoning sacrifice for our sins.
He is the true light that is already shining.
How blessed we are when we abide in the gospel, for then we abide in the Son and in the Father.
We pray for the gift of abiding in Jesus, until he is revealed,
for in abiding we may be confident and not ashamed in the day of his coming.
1 JOHN 3
Father God, without you we do not know who we are, but now that you have given your love to us, we receive a wonderful identity from you: we are your children! What love! And yet greater truth will be made known, for one will be like you.
Because we belong to you, we have great reason to fight against our sin, and to purify ourselves.
You call us to do what is right, and you give us help to live this new life, because we have been born of you, our God.
May your love bear fruit in us in loving one another and helping those in need. In Jesus, You have shown us to love not just in words, but in deeds.
God, as we strive to live as your children, our hearts will not condemn us: instead we will have boldness before you.
Encourage all people to believe in the name of your dear son, Jesus Christ.
Thank you because as we love, we know that Your Spirit lives in us.
1 JOHN 4
You are love, O God.
We do not know you through seeing you,
for no one has ever seen you,
but if we love on another, you live in us,
and we abide in you through the Spirit you have given us.
Through your Spirit show us clearly how to test the spirits, and to turn away from the antichrist who denies that Jesus came from you.
We, your little children are from you, our God.
We listen to the good news as brought by your servants the apostles.
We confess and rejoice because you gave Jesus as the lamb who gave himself as the atoning sacrifice for sin.
That is how great your love is for us.
And now we pray that your love will be made complete in the love we show each other.
This love we show has no fear in it:
it casts out fear.
And that is true because of the love you first gave us.
So now, you who are love, may we love our brothers and sisters, today and always.
1 JOHN 5
Father of your family,
you desire a world where love rules, and desires this, too.
We know that the world of love and holiness does not come by weapons, might, terror or any other human means.
We trust that only through faith in your only begotten Son can we be born anew to love for you and obedience to your commandments.
We believe the testimony that you have given us eternal life,
the new reality for today and for all time to come.
Thank you for the assurance that if we ask anything in name of Jesus, you hear us.
Through our prayers you forgive the sins of our brothers and sisters, unless these sins are mortal.
Thank you for giving us understanding that your word is true.
May we never put our trust in idols, but only in You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2 PETER 1
through faith in you and our Savior Jesus Christ, we have learned to value the good news above all else. In the good news we receive the knowledge that leads to goodness.
Your servant Peter encourages us to support faith with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, mutual affection and love.
None of our cleverly devised myths can make us effective and fruitful in the way the knowledge of Jesus does.
Make us eager to confirm our call and election, and so to enter the eternal kingdom which our Lord Jesus richly provides.
Make each one of us focus on Jesus, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in our hearts.
We rejoice that we have this shining lamp because holy men and women were moved to speak by the Holy Spirit speaking to us from God.
2 PETER 2
Master of the universe,
you warn us to be on the alert against false prophets. They have always been agitating among your people. Give us the discernment to know who they are, and especially to know if in any sense we ourselves teach what is false, even if we do so unintentionally.
We recognize that if we malign the truth, then soon sinful lives and deeds will follow, and your judgment and punishment will follow as well, and we are caught in a whirlpool of evil that will drag us down ever deeper.
At the same time we learn that you, Master, know how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day you come to judge the living and the dead.
And so we learn from you how utterly serious your relation is with your people. If we abandon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we will be entangled and overpowered by sin, and our final state will be worse after abandoning our Savior, then it was before we got to know him.
Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy.
2 PETER 3
Lord of the coming great day,
we are given to speculation as to when the great will happen, but Scripture does not tell us. It warns us to be prepared for otherwise the day will catch us by surprise, like a thief in the night.
God, those last days will be difficult days, with scoffers and sinners indulging their own lusts without concern for consequences, even though they have been warned of the coming destruction.
Because a great conflagration is coming, we should remember what kind of persons we should be. In the meanwhile, we wait for a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness is at home.
In this time of waiting, we remember your patience, Father, for your patience is our salvation.
In this time of waiting, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To You, Lord Jesus Christ, be glory both now and until the coming of the great day, the day of eternity. Amen.