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Monday, November 21, 2022

Why Should We Pray Over our Meals?

“When we pray over our meals, it is an acknowledgment of God’s grace that has come to us through the provision of our food.”
Have you ever been in a restaurant where at one table, after people received their food, they just plowed right in and started eating, while at another table you observe a family bowing their heads over their food in prayer first? Where does this tradition of praying over meals come from? Is it a uniquely American tradition that came from the Pilgrims we read about in our history books, or is it something else?

Once when Jesus had His disciples together, He had some bread and a cup laid out for them. He was instituting what we call the Lord’s Supper or Communion, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves . . .’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them . . .” (Luke 22:17-19)

On another occasion, during a teaching ministry of Jesus, He provided food for thousands of people who were hungry “. . . he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” (Matthew 15:36) And when Jesus had a large group another time, He did the same thing, “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.” (John 6:11)

The Apostles of Jesus followed this example. When Paul was on a ship, before he ate with all those on board, the Scripture says, “. . . he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” (Acts 27:35)

When you see someone praying over their food, it does not come from some national tradition, it comes from the example Jesus set.

What does “giving thanks” mean? The Greek word for thanks written in English letters is eucharistos. Does it look familiar? It means to be thankful for God’s grace. His grace are His gifts given to us, not based on any worth within ourselves, but because of His mercy. In regards to praying over meals, it is an acknowledgment of this grace that has come to us through the provision of food.

There are three parts of giving thanks we see in each of the stories. First, there is the receiving of the food, as from God. Though we bought it with our money, and was made by ourselves or others, and ingredients provided through farmers, we still acknowledge God’s hand in it all. Second, is giving thanks to God. This is having a sense of gratitude toward the one who provided. Third, is giving to others. Jesus received the food, offered thanks, then gave. In each of the stories it was not just about giving thanks to satisfy their own appetites, it was also about giving unto others. The one providing the funds, gives of themself to buy the food. The cook gives of themself in preparing the meals. Another gives of themself to provide food for the poor and hungry. This is why inviting people to our home for a meal is important. It is a way of sharing with others, what God in His grace has provided for us.

Jesus has shown us the cross through giving thanks over a meal. He came from heaven to earth to receive humanity unto Himself. He offered thanks to His Father for the opportunity to show divine grace toward all people through providing forgiveness for their sins. Then He gave of Himself to die and rise again for that work to be completed. Giving thanks to God, is more than just for food, but for the Savior of the world who graciously died that we might live.

A prayer for you. Lord God, I praise you for your grace that has provided us the food we have eaten today. We are unworthy of such grace. We acknowledge your provision and pray that you will open a door for us to share with another, what you have given us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Monday, November 14, 2022

Stand Up and Speak Up! Say Something!

“Jesus had to stand up and speak up and did so with wisdom and divine power. He was not compelled by national zeal. He was driven by a higher cause; the truth of His Father’s Word.”

What should we do when see people engaging in things that are clearly morally wrong? When evil and lawlessness is unfolding before us, how should we respond? To often, our natural human response is to let things go. We will think about it and talk about it, but in the end, we are hesitant, timid and extremely cautious to get involved. Did you know that God sees things otherwise? He wants you to stand up and speak up against things that violate His most holy Word. That is His gospel, the good news! How so? Because it can save people from the unknown and dangerous consequences of their foolish immoral choices.

As Jesus was nearing the end of His ministry, He approached Jerusalem, where He would be crucified. He came into the city with the adoration of the people, but something changed within Him when He stepped into the temple. As He looked around and observed what was happening, a burning zeal swelled up inside Him. He saw people buying and selling. They had turned His Father’s temple into a business. He responded to this evil with decisive boldness. He swiftly approached a man’s table doing business. He grabbed it and flipped it upside down, causing the money to fly everywhere. Then He proceeded to another table, and another. The merchants could see a burning in His eyes and none challenged Him. Then He spoke out to all who could hear, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’, but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13) Afterwards He continued to teach and minister to people, but the religious leaders became incensed at such actions.

Why did Jesus do this? The account shows no one forcing Him to do it. And if He would have done nothing, no one would have thought otherwise. He did it for the zeal of His Father and His Word. His passion for what was right burned inside Him. It grew to a holy and just anger over what He saw. He had to stand up and speak up and did so with wisdom and divine power. He was not compelled by national zeal. He was driven by a higher cause; the truth of His Father’s Word.

Jesus was the wisest man who ever lived. He knew He would anger the religious leaders, who had the authority to arrest Him. He knew it would create a chaotic and divisive scene. He knew He could possibly loose some followers. There was much risk in what He did, but He did it anyway. Why? Because He had to. Zeal for His Father so moved Him, there was no other option.

Where is such holy zeal today? We have many with a fiery national zeal, that rise up for things that violate our freedom of speech and religious liberty. But where are those with a heavenly zeal, that will stand up and speak up when God’s Word is violated?

Too many are willing to ignore or just talk about the evil things happening around us. Where are the pastors and local church leaders who are willing to address the sins of their community or nation at the risk of loosing members and finances?

Why did Jesus do this and why should we? To love our neighbor. When we respond to evil with a Jesus-like zeal and boldness, we are showing sacrificial love. Meaning, we are willing to sacrifice or risk it all to help people stop their sinful behavior and to turn toward Christ. There they will find forgiveness and newness of life. It will spare them from the eternal consequences of their darkened hearts. It is the most loving thing we could ever do for people. Are you willing to live like Jesus, no matter the cost?

A prayer for you. “Lord God, raise up a generation of divine zeal-filled men and women. Fill them with such a passion for you, your Word and others, that they are compelled to stand up and speak up for the glory of your name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Monday, November 7, 2022

Is Healing from Mental Illness Possible?

                                         Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay 

"The hope of the cross is that in Christ, there is a Savior that can help us in our struggle with mental illness."

There is something about mental illness in the headlines every day. For millions of families though, it is not a headline. Their child, spouse or grandchild lives with it. And life is not easy. They have regular counseling. Daily medications. Occasional visits to the hospital. And that is not even covering the financial costs and symptoms, which can bring incredible high levels of stress to families and care-givers.

Have you ever felt as if your disorder controls your life? Have you ever wondered if freedom from its control, or even healing is possible?

Jesus once came upon a man whose severe illness brought fear and great concern on the entire community. This is how he was described, “. . . no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him.” (Mark 5:3-4) His family, friends and people of his community tried all they could do to help him from being a danger to himself and others. They were at a loss for other options while the man lived a miserable day to day life.

But something happened to him when he encountered the Lord, “And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat . . . there met him . . . a man . . .” (Mk. 5:2) When the man came into the presence of Christ, without him realizing it, that was the first step toward the help he desperately needed. What did Jesus do? With all authority and power, He looked at the man eye to eye, and boldly stated, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” (Mk. 5:8) What was the result? A little time later, the man was in front of Jesus, “. . . sitting there, clothed and in his right mind . . .” (Mk. 5:15)

The story is not communicating that all mental illnesses are the result of an evil spirit, yet some are. Nor is it saying that every disorder Jesus will instantly heal, yet some He does. The larger message is how there is an important spiritual side to mental illness. The family and friends of the man helped him on the physical side, the best they knew how. But when Jesus arrived, He showed them there was a spiritual side to the man’s disorder, and His power to help him.

God sent Jesus to die on a cross and rise again to do a spiritual work by overcoming the curse of sin. Mental illness is part of this. The story is an illustration about how through the cross of Christ, the journey toward freedom from the dominating power and control of mental disorders is real.

What does that mean? Sometimes people may feel controlled by hopelessness, anger, anxiety, depression, addictions and in some extreme cases – thoughts of suicide. God’s Word uses the term of slavery to describe how we can feel enslaved by these things at times. The hope of the cross is that in Christ, there is a Savior that can help us in our struggle with mental illness. In Him, we can find His help and peace in the midst of the daily battle.

The Psalmist wrote, “. . . they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:28-29) Cry out to the Lord in your struggle and experience His peace and joy in the storm.

A prayer for you. “Father in heaven, millions have been touched by mental illness. You have hope for each of them. You died and rose again so they can have your peace. For nothing is impossible with you. Begin your healing today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”