Grow Pray Study 10.10.2022

Greater Love

BeReal – A Ministry of Upbring

October 10-15, 2022

MONDAY 10.10.22    Acts 17:2-8

Turning the world right-side up      

The message about Jesus wasn’t just “spiritual.” It clearly changed (and changes) the world now.

Scholar William Barclay wrote of today’s story, “When [Paul’s enemies] had dragged Jason and his friends before the magistrates, they charged the Christian missionaries with preaching political insurrection….‘Those,’ they said, ‘who are upsetting the civilized world (Literal Greek who have turned the world upside down) have arrived here’….When Christianity really goes into action it must cause a revolution both in the life of the individual and in the life of society.” *

  • Jesus was not just a nice, friendly storyteller. He was counter-cultural—his teachings and actions regularly upset the status quo. The people in charge quickly saw him as a threat, even though his human status and power were lower than theirs. As we become disciples Jesus tends to upset the status quo of our lives too. In what ways has Jesus turned your world upside down…or, more accurately, right-side-up?
  • Not going along with people or systems in power often feels like turning the world upside down. Whether in your home, work, friendships, or community and nation, those in power want to keep it, even if the ways they use their power don’t match God’s principles. Have you ever opposed a powerful force for reasons of principle? If so, what was the outcome? Regardless of the visible result, how did doing that affect your inner self?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I don’t want to maintain the status quo. I’m putting you in charge, to upset my life in the best way possible. Help me be a part of creating a world that is right-side-up. Amen.

* William Barclay, The Acts of the Apostles (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 128.

TUESDAY 10.11.22   Psalm 146:5-10

The God who gives justice 

Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, captured Psalm 146’s spirit in this comment: “Instead of politicizing faith with a religious right or a religious left, how can faith trump politics and help people find the moral center that could challenge partisan politics on all sides? Instead of what’s right or left, how do we discern what is right and wrong, and especially what will protect the most vulnerable people in our society whom our God calls us to defend?” *

  • The great hymn writer Isaac Watts based a hymn on Psalm 146. The second stanza said, “Happy are they whose hopes rely on Israel’s God…whose truth forever stands secure, who saves the oppressed and feeds the poor, for none shall find God’s promise vain.” God’s promise to give justice to the oppressed made the psalmist “truly happy.” Does it give you joy too? Why or why not?
  • The prophet Isaiah faced a society in Israel that created a large gap between a relatively few affluent, influential people and lots of poor, oppressed people (as our world still does). In Isaiah 29:18-21, he promised that “in that day” (the future when God sets right all that’s gone wrong) “the poor” and “the neediest” would rejoice, while “the tyrant” and “the mocker” would be no more. How can you, as one of God’s people today, work toward that ultimate godly goal, not against it?

Prayer: God of all creation, guide my thinking and my actions so that I may be one of your earthly helpers as you faithfully move our world toward your goal of justice for everyone. Amen.  * Jim Wallis quoted in a Sojourner’s email message on Sept. 29, 2017.

WEDNESDAY 10.12.22     Isaiah 58:6, 61:1-3, Luke 4:16-21

Jesus’ prophetic agenda 

In Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah about a mission to “preach good news to the poor…to liberate the oppressed.” Jesus said, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled.” Scholar John Goldingay wrote,

“This prophet’s task is to…declare that their release is imminent, that God’s year of favor and day of redress is here….By bringing this message the prophet will bind up the people, bring them comfort, and make it possible for them to give up mourning and put on celebration garments….Jesus…comes to bring good news to the lowly Jewish community of his day, living under Roman overlordship.” *

  • Isaiah 61:1-3, which Jesus quoted in Nazareth to define his mission, has a nice poetic ring. “To preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” What can you do each day to live out the meaning of those words in life’s gritty, unpoetic, day-to-day realities?
  • After Jesus said God reached far beyond Israel’s national and ethnic borders, his hometown hearers tried to kill him (Luke 4:24-28). Scholar N. T. Wright said Jesus meant “The servant-Messiah has not come to inflict punishment, but to bring the nations God’s love and mercy. That was a central theme in Israel’s own scriptures, yet…Jesus’ claim to be reaching out with healing to all people…was not what most first-century Jews wanted or expected.” ** Are you more glad or irritated that Jesus’ doesn’t limit his love and invitation to just your ideology, country, or race?

Prayer: Grow me into your partner in kicking down walls and tearing down lies that keep people from you. Amen.

* John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p. 235. 

** N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, pp. 48-49.)

THURSDAY 10.13.22    FRIDAY 10.14.22   Colossians 3:15-17

Living thankfully in an unjust world    

We can read today’s passage and think, “What uplifting devotional words.” Or we can think, “What an unrealistic view of life in a world full of injustice.” Remember: the apostle Paul was not writing abstract devotional thoughts. He and the early Christians lived in a world at least as cruel and unfair as ours— he wrote this from prison (cf. Colossians 4:10, 18). His words about peace, praise, and being “thankful people” were a survival manual for a spiritual combat zone, not just nice, detached pleasantries.

  • In just these three verses, Paul mentioned gratitude or thanks at least three times. If we could hook you to a “gratitude meter,” what might it show about the state of your heart right now? Without pretending that any painful or frustrating situations you face don’t exist, what inner choices can you make that would move you higher on the gratitude scale today?
  • Verse 17 covered a lot of ground: “Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.” Most of us face lots of hectic stresses. How can you “give thanks to God the Father” as you work, drive the freeway or fight airport lines, shop, react to the news, cheer or mourn for the Chiefs, Jayhawks, Tigers, or Wildcats (in alphabetical order—no complaints, please!) or keep up with all your kid’s school activities?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of this day. Thank you that whatever happens today, you will be with me. Thank you for clearing my vision so that I can see reasons to say, “thank you.” Amen.

SATURDAY 10.15.22   1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love: power to change the world   

Bishop Michael Curry (Bishop of the Episcopal Church ) suggests a radical perspective. “Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history; a movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world; a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about power. Real power. Power to change the world.” * You say you want to change the world? Then join in loving your neighbor with Jesus’ love!

• In which (if any) of your day-to-day relationships are you able to readily and easily live out most of the qualities of love Paul listed? In which relationships do you struggle to show these qualities, even with gritted teeth?  How can God’s love help you to grow in your capacity to love more naturally? Paul also said love does not boast and is not self-seeking. Have you ever wished other people would envy something about you or your life? Might a desire to produce envy in others ever tempt you to boast? As you compare Jesus’ positive impact on our world over the last 2,000 years with the sad legacy of all the violent, revenge-driven tyrants who’ve tried to build empires, can you more clearly understand Bishop Curry’s words about love’s “power to change the world”?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me clarity about my daily need for your forgiving, empowering grace to nurture and grow me. And grow me into a person who makes forgiving and loving a rhythm of my life. Amen. * Curry, Bishop Michael. The Power of Love (pp. 9-10). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.