Burning Bush 2.0 Reflections: Johah

Reflection Questions: Called Hearing and Responding to God’s Voice

Chapter 4: Jonah The Most Reluctant Prophet

Opening Prayer:

 Gracious God, we give you thanks for Jonah and all your prophets who struggled with reluctance, fear, and unwillingness to answer your calling.  We pray that you would sooth and quiet the conflicts within us, that we may more clearly hear your voice and more willingly answer your call; and we pray that we would see you working in our lives and in our world even where we don’t yet know to expect you.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 The book of Jonah is very short and very eventful.  Take this moment to read the 4 chapters of Jonah in one setting.

  •  Why did Jonah decide to flee God’s calling instead of answering it?  Have you ever done anything like that?

  •  Why do we ignore or run away from God’s different callings in our lives?

  •  What message does God give Jonah to proclaim?  Is there any hope in the message?

  •  What is the meaning of God’s love and forgiveness in your life?

  •  How and when have you experienced God’s second chance in your life?

  •  God asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?”  What are the things that anger us in our lives and world?  How do rid ourselves of our anger and seek ways of mercy?

 Closing Prayer

  Patient and merciful God, we thank you for the second chance your grant to your servants.  We thank you for the power of your Word spoken by even the reluctant and unwilling.  Help us to trust your love and mercy and share with any we encounter—even our enemies and those who wish us harm.  Amen.

Burning Bush 2.0 Reflections: Esther

Reflection Questions: Called Hearing and Responding to God’s Voice
Chapter 3: Esther

Opening Prayer: Gracious God, we give you thanks for the courage and witness of Esther, the wisdom and boldness of Mordecai, and the perseverance of your people in every age.  Grant us grace to see and grasp our own power to influence your world for the better, in our own time, grant us the courage to use it, and grant us clarity and patience for all who are divided from us.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 Scripture: Read the following scriptural material in the book of Esther.

Esther 1: 10-12, 16, 19                      Esther 5 : 1-3

Esther 2: 15-17                                   Esther 7 :1-5

Esther 3: 1, 5-6                                   Esther 9 :1-4

Esther 4: 10-17

 

  • Why might Queen Vashti be unwilling to appear at the King’s banquet?

  • What is the relationship between Mordecai and Esther?

  • Why does Mordecai tell Esther not to reveal that she is a Jew?  Have you ever felt the need to hide part of yourself like that?

 The Jewish minority in the Persian empire seems to have coexisted with their neighbors peaceably for many years. 

  • What can happen to make people turn against minority groups in this way?

  • Why is Esther reluctant to do what Mordecai asks?

  • Do you relate to Esther’s dilemma?  Are you ever afraid of the consequences of speaking up against an injustice?

 Think through stereotypes you hold or have held in your life.  What helped you examine your stereotypes more fully in your life?  What helped you rethink the stereotypes you have experienced in life?

 Look up the word “salvation”.  What does it mean for God to bring salvation to individuals, groups or countries?  What does it mean to be saved or experience “God’s salvation in your life?

Make a list of times God has saved you from difficulties or struggles. 

 Closing Prayer:

Almighty God, who holds the days and ages of every kingdom and every life in your almighty hand: Give to us your servants a heart with the boldness and faithfulness of Esther and Mordecai; free us from scorn and slander, both that we give and that we receive.  Make us instruments of your peace, justice, and reconciliation in the world.  Help us to hear your voice in the midst of the world’s disorder, to fold our hands in prayer and in labor, and to heed your calling in our time.  Amen.

 

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.

Henry David Thoreau in Walden (1854)

listen

The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he sat at the entrance of his tent in the day’s heat. He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them and bowed deeply.

Genesis 18:1-2

think

One of my favorite things about our house is the front porch. I love sitting outside on a warm night with something cold to drink, reading a book, and watching the neighbors walk by. Often, when someone walks by with their kids or their dog, we exchange a wave and sometimes a conversation is sparked. That’s easy with my neighbors, but I have to admit, if three men I didn’t know walked up my street I might say hello. But I’m for sure not inviting them to stay and eat my best food.

Stories like these make me think of just how opposite our culture has become. If most of us saw three men walking outside our home, we might offer them a wave and a hello and then continue about our own business, or we might go inside and lock the door.

Whom do you need to extend a radical welcome to? Are you paying close enough attention to see those opportunities?

Chris Cherry

 

pray

God, help me to see opportunities to welcome others. Help me to see all humans as my neighbors. Amen.

go

You Go now.

Move from a place of hiding.

Seek kindness and there you will find the face of God in every person you meet.

Read more

Devotions by Julie

Hello most precious one. You are getting close to the weekend. I hope you have relaxing plans. I was just scrolling on my computer and a phase popped up. "Faith comes before miracles." It really made me stop and go back to read it again. "Faith comes before miracles." Yep, I read it right. How often do we pray for a miracles to happen in our life.... a loved one who is sick, a child leaving home, a marriage that is rocky. What made me stop and think was that faith comes before a miracle. God says that He is always with us. He tells us we just need to ask in His name, in faith, and it shall be given unto me. That thought also made me stop and think. Do I expect God to answer everything I ask with a yes? Or does He ask me to show faith in Him, to trust that He knows best? A teacher in a class I once took told us that all reason and science go out the window when faith is introduced. He said that science and reason can be proven over and over again. Someone in the room said, but He answers my prayers over and over again. "So prove He exists!" The response was "prove that He doesn't." Faith is believing in someone or something, even when it seems inconceivable that my request can be answered. And remember, sometimes the answer is "no." My prayer for you is that you go to God with faith....the sure assurance that He is with you and has your best interest in His heart...and that you then look for the miracles. Miracles might be missed if you aren't staying conscious of the joy of living your life. May God shine on you and give you His peace. And may He always listen even when I can't talk. Love and hugs!

 

Devotions by Julie

Good morning precious child of God! I trust your day is treating you kindly. Have you ever woke up before your alarm went off and instead of getting out of bed you just lay there thinking of all the things you have to do today. Well, it was one of those moments for me. I was going through the day in my head and hoping that everyone will feel special. You see, I'm taking four grandkids who have birthdays in the month of June and first part of July. I am taking Zak with me so there is another grown up person for the four birthdays. It is a day I look forward to each year...when we celebrate all our anniversaries and all the birthdays plus fathers and Mother's Day. As I laid there going through the logistics of picking them all up, I started talking with God. "Am I nuts for doing this? Can I handle the noise and excitement these kids feel?" God always answers with "peace child, peace." And I go on to the next set of questions. This is probably the best time for a talk with me and my Father because I am still relaxed and ready to listen. My prayer for you today is to look at yourself. When is your time with God? When do you talk together and are you ready and willing to listen? Do you hear God's voice or is there only silence? Do you hear God's voice or do you get a feeling about something and trust that that is God's answer to you? I haven't always heard His voice the way I do now. That took lots of time and lots of learning to be still enough to listen. May you always feel His peace around you and may you rest in the arms of our Father. Love and hugs!

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.

from The Dance of Life by Henri Nouwen (2005)

listen

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7-19

think

When Paul wrote this letter, he was in prison, awaiting trial by the Romans that would most likely end with his death. This does not sound like a time to be giving thanks. Paul could have been lamenting, but he instead writes a letter to all of his friends and followers and offers them words of thanks. In this moment of great suffering, Paul celebrates.

When all seems hopeless, who is the first person that you would reach out to? When you reach out to them, would it be with lamenting or with thanksgiving?

In my home, before our children go to bed most nights, we pray together by sharing the good and the not-so-good moments of our day. We mention both, because even the not-so-good moments are still shaping us into becoming fully-formed people of God.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he taught them and us how to face adversity. May we all follow Paul’s lead and learn to be thankful for the good and not-so-good moments of our days, so that we may find the peace of God in all things.

Becky Caswell-Speight

 

pray

God, when life seems to be at it darkest, remind me to give thanks. Move me beyond the dire and into a time of remembering the people that have helped me through. Help me to use the good and the not-so-good moments of my life as examples to encourage others as I have been encouraged. Amen.

go

You Go now.

Move from a place of hiding.

Seek kindness and there you will find the face of God in every person you meet.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place;
[Jesus] comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace –
No work too hard for him. In faith receive from him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.

from “Be Still, for the Presence of the Lord” by David J. Evans (1986)

listen

Shepherd of Israel, listen! You, the one who leads Joseph as if he were a sheep. You, who are enthroned upon the winged heavenly creatures. Show yourself before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh! Wake up your power! Come to save us! Restore us, God! Make your face shine so that we can be saved!

Psalm 80:1-3

think

They were exhausted, hungry, in desperate need of a shower, and completely fired up! For 36 hours they had waited in line to buy tickets to the concert, and even with that they were a good twenty back from the front of the line. For some, the choice to spend 36 hours out in the cold to see someone in concert seems completely ridiculous. Why would you endure sleep deprivation, bad food, and inclement weather for a concert? Because some things are not only worth waiting for, they are worth sacrificing for. And for some fans, the preparing, the waiting, and the anticipating are all part of the experience.

God’s holy people waited a long time for God to “come to save us!” In the meantime, there was great struggle and much sacrifice. Yet amidst it all there was incredible faithfulness. The people of God faithfully learned how to live and, even more importantly, how to love in the preparing. Waiting is not easy for most of us, yet if we see it as an opportunity for blessing, we too will find love in the preparing.

Brian Prior

pray

Loving God, prepare me this day for the walk with you, which often calls for much waiting. Please give me strength and patience for the journey. Amen.

go

My soul magnifies the Lord,

And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

For this day, I know I am a beloved child of God.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place;
[Jesus] comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace –
No work too hard for him. In faith receive from him.
Be still, for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.

from “Be Still, for the Presence of the Lord” by David J. Evans (1986)

listen

When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

Luke 1:28-33

think

This was the day for which she felt like she had waited an eternity. The anticipation was so great, she had not slept at all the night before. Surrounded by her parents and her siblings she paced throughout the room, all the while rotating between texting and looking at the clock. The moment the clock reached the designated time she quickly logged in as instructed and waited. “Why is our internet so slow?!” she demanded. And then there it was, the letter announcing her acceptance into the college of her dreams! And now everyone was screaming and jumping and hugging and screaming.

Whether it’s anticipated or comes completely by surprise, learning about something that will impact our lives is often transformational.

Mary was clearly initially perplexed, yet she was also open as she pondered the possibilities of what this message meant for her. As we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, how might we open ourselves to hear something about the next adventure to which God is calling us?

Brian Prior

pray

Loving God, prepare me this day to open my ears that I may hear you, open my heart that I may love you, open my hands that I may serve you. Amen.

go

My soul magnifies the Lord,

And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

For this day, I know I am a beloved child of God.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.

from The Dance of Life by Henri Nouwen (2005)

listen

“God is indeed my salvation; I will trust and won’t be afraid. Yah, the Lord, is my strength and my shield; he has become my salvation.” You will draw water with joy from the springs of salvation.

Isaiah 12:2-3

think

What chore do you hate to do? Scrubbing the toilets? Vacuuming the stairs? In my house the chore that gets the most grumbles is doing the dishes. I think it’s because the dishes need to be washed and put up every day. The job is never actually complete.

In today’s scripture, that mundane, boring, grumbly chore would have probably been drawing water from the well. It was hot. Carrying the water was a heavy, hard job. It was a task that had to be done every day. The water jugs were never completely full.

And this is where the scripture decides to dive in. You will do this chore with joy from the springs of salvation?

Isaiah reminds us that God’s work can sometimes be mundane and even painful. But with God’s work there is always a reward to be had; for with God’s work, there is a spring that never runs dry. Let’s step up to the spring and begin doing the life-giving work that we all have been called to do.

Becky Caswell-Speight

pray

Giver of all good water, what chores need to be done? How can I draw from the Spring of Life? Move me from grumbling to joyfully sharing with the world. Amen.

go

Go now.

Move from a place of hiding.

Seek kindness and there you will find the face of God in every person you meet.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be.
Help me.

from “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant & Chris Eaton (1992)

listen

Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can withstand his appearance? He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. They will belong to the Lord, presenting a righteous offering.

Malachi 3:2-3

think

The process of purification is difficult. Refining anything takes time and a lot of energy. Cleaning what is dirty is not always easy. With each one of these examples, there is a process which means you need to start at the beginning to get a successful outcome.

While the Bible has all sorts of imagery that doesn’t always make sense, it seems like this verse helps to remind us that we are all in process and changing. In the process of refining, we separate what we need from what is no longer needed.

You may have picked up a habit or a frame of mind or even a friend that is not helping you move forward. This may be holding you back from being who you know God wants you to be. Now what? Where do you need to start separating what is no longer needed? How can you start the refining process today?

Amy Kim Kyremes-Parks

pray

Refiner of us all, thank you for sticking with me through my process of becoming. May this Advent push me forward as I prepare for your light, made flesh in this world. Amen.

go

Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.

from “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant & Chris Eaton (1992)

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Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

This is only the beginning.

God is up to something amazing in you.

Wait for it.

listen

“Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Don’t let that day fall upon you unexpectedly, like a trap. It will come upon everyone who lives on the face of the whole earth. Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand before the Human One.”

Luke 21:34-36

think

The most basic trap consists of two things: (1) a container and (2) the bait. The trap works because the bait is so easy to see, while the container is hard to see at all.

Towards the end of Jesus’ teaching in the temple, Luke’s gospel reports that Jesus warned his hearers of a kind trap. It’s the kind of trap that would be a surprise to those who were drunk, hungover, and worried. He predicted that they would take the bait and be caught off guard by what would happen.

It may seem like the bait that is all around us is no big deal and harmless, when in actuality, it’s the bait that keeps us from seeing what is really happening. Instead of falling for the trap today, we can look for the real thing — God’s will and way. Even if it looks like we’re missing out, when we look for God in hope, we won’t miss what Jesus has done and is doing all around us.

Tasha Gibson

pray

All-Wise God, thank you for showing me the traps around me. Please help me keep my eyes on you instead. Through Christ our Lord, amen.

go

This is not the end.

God is up to something wonderful in the world.

Watch for it.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

This is only the beginning.

God is up to something amazing in you.

Wait for it.

listen

Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is near. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until everything has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away."

Luke 21:29-33

think

Sometimes it is hard to know just how close we are to something. Tracking a package, a flight, or a phone’s location can often tell us where something is, but not always exactly when it will come to us. Unexpected things can happen that interrupt the path, delay the arrival, or change the destination altogether.

Jesus tells his hearers in the gospel according to Luke that trees are kind of like trackers. Just like trees track how soon summer will arrive, so too, Jesus says, things will happen to show that something else is changing too. Particularly, Jesus says that we can track the coming of the Kingdom of God by things we see.

We can’t get email notifications, text updates, or follow a dot on a map to tell us how close God’s Kingdom is to us today. However, we can believe that God’s Kingdom is coming to us and is near. Look out for God. God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of love, may be closer than you think.

Tasha Gibson

pray

God of Grace, thank you that you, by the Spirit, are on the move in the world. Open my eyes that I might see you all around me today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

go

This is not the end.

God is up to something wonderful in the world.

Watch for it.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

We fully open our hearts to you, O God, as we give.

listen

Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.

Mark 12:41-42

think

Before going to seminary, a new youth pastor back home said I could work with youth well. “What?” I said. She looked at me and told me to try. So I did. It didn’t seem like I did much, but the results were amazing.

We feel that what we are giving to God is so small. Perhaps that is what the poor widow felt as she approached the box. However, God loves what we give, and God takes what we give and transforms it to something mighty. Yes, the woman may have only given a penny, but Jesus highlighted that action which has been used for centuries to motivate folks to give.

So, my friends, there are times when we may feel that we cannot give at all. Perhaps it is fear, or perhaps we forget that God can take what we have, albeit small, and transform it to something huge – even changing the world.

Andy Hart

pray

God, what I have to give is so small. Please transform it to something big. Amen.

go

Someone once said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Go out today to make your life by giving.

Give love, give joy, give selflessly, give generously.

Give your all.

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Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

We fully open our hearts to you, O God, as we give.

listen

As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”

Mark 12:38-40

think

Jesus was not talking about lawyers. Back then, the people with the most power would interpret the laws and instruct what those laws were. They had lots of power and wealth, and they loved to strut around. Their motivation for giving was self-serving. They may have given it all, but their price was high.

So, why do you give? Is it so other people will notice what you gave? I remember playing basketball in junior high. There was a difference between those who had a heart for the team and played accordingly and those who played for themselves.

I have to wonder if we are truly giving if there is an ounce of self in the action. It’s worth taking the time to pause when we act and reflect on this question, for whenever our motivation is self-promotion, we are not truly giving. It is great to give our all, but let’s focus on the one we are giving to as opposed to what we can get out of it and who is watching and noticing our giving.

Andy Hart

pray

Holy One, thank you for this day. Please give me a heart to give out of love and not for selfish gain. Amen.

n.

go

Someone once said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Go out today to make your life by giving.

Give love, give joy, give selflessly, give generously.

Give your all.

Read more

Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

The root of generosity, as in most matters of faith, is trust.
Do I trust that there is enough to share?
Enough for me and for you and for all of us?
Do I trust in God's abundance?

listen

Go out and share with your heart.

Don’t share because you feel pressured. Don’t share with hesitation.

Share with cheerfulness and with love.

For you can trust in this: “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.”

based on 2 Corinthians 9:7-8

think

Paul writes to the church in Corinth: “Be the best … you are the best.”

Being the best is an idea that we’re familiar with: we want to dominate on the soccer field, win a marching band competition, become the valedictorian, get the promotion at work. Our competitive society pushes us to be the best, and that can feel like a lot of pressure!

Paul isn’t pressuring the Christians in Corinth to excel in sports or music, in school or at work. He’s encouraging them to be excellent in holy things: in their faith, in their commitment, in love. Paul says they don’t have to do this out of their own strength, though. The grace needed to be the best in holy things comes from Jesus Christ, whose way of self-emptying love for the world invites us all to an abundant life.

Jesus’ grace makes us rich so that we have enough to share generously of ourselves and be excellent in faith and love.

Meredith Forssman

pray

God, in a world that constantly tells me I need to do all that I can with all that I am to be the best in all that I do, your grace is a drink of cool, fresh water! Give me lots of it, so that I can be excellent in the things that matter — in loving and sharing generously with the world. Amen.

go

Go out and share with your heart.

Don’t share because you feel pressured. Don’t share with hesitation.

Share with cheerfulness and with love.

For you can trust in this: “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.”

based on 2 Corinthians 9:7-8

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Pause-Listen-Think-Pray-Go by D365

pause

The root of generosity, as in most matters of faith, is trust.
Do I trust that there is enough to share?
Enough for me and for you and for all of us?
Do I trust in God's abundance?

listen

Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him.

Lamentations 3:22-24

think

This week is about sharing generously, but the writer in Lamentations proclaims that we are the receivers of God’s many gifts. God’s faithful love and never-ending compassion sustain our lives. They are new every morning and they’ll never run out!

God’s love and mercy, compassion and kindness help me to trust in God’s great Enough. When I’ve reached the end of my rope, God’s compassion and mercy are renewed. When I'm mad or sad, God’s love and kindness hold me. And because these gifts never run out, there is enough for me to share them with others.

I can extend God’s compassion to the kid being bullied at school. I can extend God’s mercy to someone in need of my forgiveness. I can extend God’s kindness to a stranger.

There is enough of God’s faithful goodness for all of us. Thanks be to God!

Meredith Forssman

 

pray

Loving God, sometimes I question your mercy and love for me. It’s hard to believe that they will never run out. Thank you for renewing them each day! Help me to see and to share your gifts in my world. Amen.

go

Go out and share with your heart.

Don’t share because you feel pressured. Don’t share with hesitation.

Share with cheerfulness and with love.

For you can trust in this: “God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.”

based on 2 Corinthians 9:7-8

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