Discernment Committee

Committee Recommendation 

After engaging in a process of listening and studying, the Discernment Committee has prepared the following report with recommendations for the congregation. These recommendations will be considered during our next business meeting on Sunday, November 14, right after the worship service. There will be a town hall-style listening session on Sunday, November 7, at 6 p.m. in the RA for people to offer questions and comments about the recommendations. 

Discernment Committee

At the August 2021 business meeting, Pastor William presented a process for the church to discuss and decide on our policies regarding the inclusion of people in the LGBTQ community in the church. As part of that process, he recommended a special committee be formed to discern and draft recommendations on how we will operate reflecting what our congregation believes God’s will is for us. The charge of the committee is:

In light of resolutions and events between 2017 and 2019 that exposed a need for Faith Baptist Church to find agreement on the questions relating to church participation and membership of persons identifying with the LGBTQ community, and in light of requests from the pastor and church staff to have guidance for representing the church’s position and practices related to members of the LGTBQ community, the Moderator of Faith Baptist Church is calling to service a special committee. This committee will operate for the purpose of completing the following charge:

To 1) discern the church’s prayerful understanding of their calling as Faith Baptist Church to members of the LGTBQ community seeking inclusion in church membership and those seeking marriage. And based upon these findings 2) to recommend guidance to church staff and potential adjustments to church policies to align church practice with the position of the membership that will be considered at the November 2021 meeting of Faith Baptist Church at business.

The following persons agreed to serve: Mike Collins, Greg Earwood, Jawanna Herd, Cynthia Insko (elected chair), and Shelby Napier. Taking a cue from the charge to the committee, they named themselves the Discernment Committee.

Below you can find the conversation schedule, our bylaws, and our current building use policy. 

Prayer Guide

Everyone on the committee believes that prayer is integral to the process and agreed for the need to have a Prayer Guide. Greg Earwood volunteered to take on this task and present help in praying daily for God’s guidance. For each day of the week you will find a Scripture to read, the selection of a key verse, a prayer prompt, and additional insights.

(A note from Greg: As the person who offers this Prayer Guide on behalf of the committee, I want this to be clear: I alone am responsible for the structure, choices of Bible verses, prayer prompts and additional materials.)

We invite you, as faithful Baptists, to pray for the process as described by the title of a book by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing the Will of God. We ask you to join us in praying to God for yourself, our committee, our congregation, and LGBTQ persons as we seek understanding of the life and ministry of Faith Baptist Church in relation to persons identifying with the LGBTQ community.

October 24-October 30, 2021 

 

Christian Discernment is the practice of seeking God in all decisions of life. As we each desire to follow Jesus in our personal and congregational decisions, we join Christians throughout the centuries who have learned how to discern. Let’s draw from their wisdom and experience as we prayerfully consider how our church might best love LGBTQ persons. Our Discernment committee, elected by the church, has considered prayerfully the following questions, both in our personal lives and as we have listened to the congregation.

—-Cynthia Insko, Discernment Committee Chair

(Greg: I have slightly altered Cynthia’s paragraph to reflect what the committee has been doing in its process. I believe the questions below will bring focus to our prayers this week. Not only are they helpful for any spiritual decision, but especially in the choice for a way forward for Faith Baptist in relation to LGBTQ persons.)

Some Suggested Questions for Christian Discernment:

Excerpted from Ruth Haley Barton’s Pursuing God’s Will Together, p.68-69

 

Sunday, October 17

Read Hosea 14:9  

Key verse: “Whoever is wise, let that one understand these things; whoever is discerning, let that one know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them….”

Prayer Prompt:

Direction & Calling. How does this choice fit with the overall direction and calling of God on my life? Is there a word or phrase that captures my sense of calling these days, and will this choice enable me to continue living into my calling?

Monday, October 25

Read The Letter to the Philippians 4:8

Key verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Prayer Prompt:

Consolation and desolation.  Which choice brings the deepest sense of life, inner peace and freedom (Jn.10:10; Phil 4:7; 2 Cor.3:17) As I (we) consider moving in this direction, is there a growing sense of wholeness, authenticity and congruence with who I am in God?

Tuesday, October 26

Read The Gospel of Mark 10:46-52

Key verse: “And Jesus said to him (blind man), ‘What do you want for me to do for you?’ And the blind man said to him, ‘Master, let me receive my sight.’ “ (v. 51)

Prayer Prompt:

Desire.  What is my deepest and most authentic desire relative to the choice I am facing? What is my response when Jesus asks me as he asks others in Scripture, “What do you want me to do for you? What is it you seek?”

Wednesday, October 27

Read The Second Letter to Timothy 3:16

Key verse: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Prayer Prompt:

Scripture.  Is there a particular Scripture that God is bringing to mind relative to this choice? What is it saying to me?

Thursday, October 28

Read The Letter to the Philippians 2:1-11

Key verses: “Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant….” (vv. 5-7a)

Prayer Prompt:

Life of Christ. Is this choice consistent with what I know about the mind and heart of Christ and his loving, redemptive purposes in the world?    

Friday, October 29

Read The Letter to the Galatians 5:16-24

Key verses: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….” (vv. 22-23a)

Prayer Prompt:

Character growth and development.  What is God doing in my character and spiritual growth, and will this choice continue to nurture this growth? How will this direction nurture the fruit of the Spirit in me—particularly the fruit of love, which is at the heart of our Christian calling and the litmus test for what it means to be truly Christian.    

Saturday, October 30

Read The First Letter to the Corinthians 13:1-13

Key verse: “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (v. 13)

Prayer Prompt:    

Love.  Given the primacy of love and unity in Christ’s teachings, what does love call for in this situation?

October 17-October 23, 2021 

The first major section of Ephesians (“chapters” 1-3) contains strong statements about God whose plan and purpose are to offer salvation in Christ and seal this with the Holy Spirit. One way to characterize this section is orthodoxy or right belief. The second major section of this letter (“chapters” 4-6) are applications of the first section. The second section is orthopraxy or right practice. A disclaimer: Dividing into two sections is somewhat arbitrary but clear enough to be helpful.

In the large picture, Ephesians does move from right belief (orthodoxy) to right practice (orthopraxy). Often in Ephesians the verb translated “to walk” reflects right practice as in “to live.” The emphasis this week will be placed on the occurrences of the verb “to walk.”  

Sunday, October 17

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 2:1-7

In this letter, the first use of the verb “to walk” describes a previous way of life characterized by trespasses and sins. While “you once walked” as if dead in relation to God, now a merciful and loving God made you alive in Christ.  

Key verses: “And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit at work in the sons of disobedience…. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….” (vv. 1-2, 4-5)

Prayer Prompt: Thank you, God, for abundant mercy and love in Christ that changes us from death to life.

Monday, October 18

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 2:8-10 (all verses printed below)

Key verses: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (vv. 8-10)

At the heart of the letter to Ephesians is this passage that points to right belief (response of faith in the grace of God revealed in Christ) and that leads to right practice (“good works”).

Prayer Prompt: Thank you, God, for your gift of salvation. Lead us along paths of right living.

Tuesday, October 19

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-7

Ephesians 4:1-7 begins the second “section” (chapters 4-6). This section focuses on right practice, that is, how we are to walk = to live in Christ.

Key verse: “I (Paul) therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead (“walk”) a lifeworthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (v. 1)

Verse 1 encourages believers to walk in a way worthy of the Lord. What that means is found in the virtues listed in verse 2: lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearing one another in love. The result is clear: oneness/unity in the church. This is not agreement on every detail or point of view but believers with these virtues are “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  

Prayer Prompt: If you have the hymnal we use at Faith (Celebrating Grace hymnal), read all of hymn #272, “They’ll Know We Are Christians.”

Verse 1 and refrain:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

Wednesday, October 20

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 5:1-2

Key verses: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (vv.1-2)  

Prayer Prompt: Help us, O Lord, to walk in love.

Thursday, October 21

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 5:3-10

The darkness is described in detail in 5:3-6, behaviors that are not fitting for “saints” (believers characterized by holiness).

Key verse: “for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” (v. 8)

Prayer Prompt: As children of light, let us “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (v. 10). To try to learn means to have discernment about living in the light.    

Friday, October 22

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 5:15-20

Key verse: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise persons but as wise.” (v. 15)

Prayer Prompt: Lord, we seek to be deliberate, thoughtful and intentional in the way we live.   

Saturday, October 23

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 6:18-20

This passage does not contain the word “walk,” but does emphasize the importance of prayer.

Key verse: “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (v. 18)

Prayer Prompt: Lord, we seek to be deliberate, thoughtful and intentional in the way we pray.   

October 10-October 16, 2021

Prayer focus: God the Holy Spirit

We started the Prayer Guide with the God of wisdom, love, grace, and peace. Last week we moved to a focus on Jesus, God the Son. This week we give attention to God the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, meaning “called alongside.” What a beautiful image of the One called to be alongside us. The Holy Spirit is not an “it” but the personal expression of God who is Comforter, Counselor, and Teacher for us.

Sunday, October 10

Read The Gospel according to John 14:25-27

Jesus prepares the disciples for their upcoming grief following his death by promising the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit was comforting for the disciples during the time following Jesus’ death. Additionally, the Spirit cares for the disciples in an extensive way after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into the heavens. In what is commonly called the “Farewell Address” (John 14-17), Jesus stresses the role of the Holy Spirit as Counselor who will teach them by helping them remember the instruction Jesus had communicated.

Key verse: “…the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (v. 26)

Prayer Prompt: Lord Jesus, we are open to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage” as we recall what Jesus said and how he lived.

Monday, October 11

Read The Acts of the Apostles 1:1-8

Acts tells an orderly account of how the eleven disciples of Jesus became apostles, literally ones sent out. Through the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit, these eleven and later many other believers were witnesses to Jesus as Messiah to all persons in all places. 

Key verse: Jesus: “ ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’ “ (v. 8)

Prayer Prompt: Help us to share with all persons the Good News of God in Jesus as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, October 12

Read The Letter to the Romans 8:12-17

Key verses: “For all who are led by God’s Spirit are children of God.” (v. 14)

Prayer Prompt: [“Abba” is a deeply affectionate address of God as Heavenly Father.] When we pray “Abba! Father!” your Spirit, O God, resonates with our spirits that we are children of God.  

Wednesday, October 13

Read The Letter to the Galatians 5:22-26

Key verses: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….” (vv. 22-23)  

Prayer Prompt: May our lives show the fruit of the Spirit. Meditate on each word.

Thursday, October 14

Read 2 Peter 1:17-21 

Key verses: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of humans, but persons moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (vv. 20-21)

Prayer Prompt: Spirit of God, guide us as we interpret Your Word.

Friday, October 15

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 1:11-14 and 4:30-32

The final two days of this week will keep the focus on the Holy Spirit with readings from Ephesians. These passages will also prepare us for a series of readings from Ephesians next week. Today’s readings emphasize believers being “sealed with the Holy Spirit” from two points of view. The first reading is related to praise for the gospel of salvation. The second reading is how not to “grieve the Holy Spirit” – what believers should not do. This admonition is then followed by what believers should do. Please read carefully both passages of Scripture.

Key verses: “In him [Christ] you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit….” (1:13) and “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (4:30)  

Prayer Prompt: Dear God, grant that all of us will “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put way from us, with all malice” and let us all “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (4:31-32)

Saturday, October 16

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 3:14-21

The first major section of Ephesians (“chapters” 1-3) are clearly strong statements about God whose plan and purpose is to offer salvation in Christ and seal this with the Holy Spirit. The second major section of this letter (“chapters” 4-6) are applications of the first section and will be highlighted next week. Today’s passage from Ephesians is the conclusion to the first section. This Scripture provides insight into the work of the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It closes with a prayer/benediction.

Key verses: “that according to the riches of his (God the Father’s) glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth….” (vv. 16-18)

Prayer Prompt: “Now to him (God the Father) who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen” (3:20-21)

October 3-October 9, 2021

Prayer focus: Jesus, God the Son

This week we move from the God of wisdom, love, grace, and peace to a focus on Jesus, God the Son. Jesus is the revelation of God in human flesh. He is Savior and Lord and so the model for our faith!

Sunday, October 3

Read The Letter to the Hebrews 1:1-3

The opening of this letter shows the ongoing revelation of God. The majestic movement is from how God spoke through the prophets to how God spoke through a Son. Jesus as the Son is the ultimate revelation.

Key verse: “…in these last days [God] has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (v. 2)

Prayer Prompt: Because of Jesus, the Son of God, “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). 

Monday, October 4

Read The Gospel according to John 1:1, 14-18

The opening of the Gospel according to John is a beautiful and powerful hymn that bears witness to the eternal Word.

Key verses: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father….For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (vv. 14, 17)

Prayer Prompt: Like God the Son, may we be filled with the grace of acceptance and the truth of conviction.

Tuesday, October 5

Read The Gospel according to Luke 4:16-21

Key verses: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

            Because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

            He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

            and recovering of sight to the blind,

            to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

            to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’“ (vv. 18-19)

These key verses in the Gospel according to Luke, quoted from the prophet Isaiah, represent a summary of the ministry of Jesus. His ministry was directed primarily to the marginalized, the outcasts and the oppressed.   

Prayer Prompt: God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, we ask that Your grace and peace may be extended in the name of Jesus to all who are marginalized, especially LGBTQ persons inside or outside of the church.

Wednesday, October 6

Read The First Letter to the Corinthians 1:4-9

Key verse: “I [Paul] give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus.” (v. 4)

Prayer Prompt: Gracious God, thank you for the gift of Your Son Jesus. May all my speech and all my knowledge reflect Jesus Christ as Lord.

Thursday, October 7

Read The Letter to the Philippians 2:1-11

Key verse: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”  (v. 5)

Prayer Prompt: May we have the mind of Christ to guide our thoughts and our actions.

Friday, October 8

Read The Letter to the Hebrews 12:1-2

Key verse: “…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right of God.” (v. 2)

Prayer Prompt: We are grateful to God for those who have gone before us and pointed us to Jesus. This great cloud of witnesses includes saints through the ages, saints in our past, and saints now – family members, church members, and other Christians. Take time to name some of them in your prayer.   

Saturday, October 9

Read The Gospel according to Matthew 3:13-17                                                          

This passage references the baptism of Jesus by John the baptizer. Although John is reluctant to baptize Jesus, John consented because Jesus said “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  

Key verses: “And when Jesus was baptized…the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.’” (vv. 16-17)

This segment in the Gospel according to Matthew marks the transition from John the baptizer to Jesus who experiences the presence of “the Spirit of God” and the voice from heaven announcing him as “my beloved Son.”      

Prayer Prompt: May we too affirm the special significance of Jesus who calls us to follow him.

September 26-October 2, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of Shalom/Peace

In the Hebrew Bible, the word “shalom” is often translated “peace.” It is used sometimes to mean peace as in the absence of war. However, the word “shalom” has other meanings or connotations. So when you read “peace,” think of the broader concept of shalom as wholeness, completeness, and well-being.

Sunday, September 26

Read Numbers 6:22-26

The opening reading this week is a Benediction, words of blessing God gives to Moses to share with Aaron and the Israelites.

Key verses:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (vv. 24-26)

Prayer Prompt: We get to overhear your blessing, O God, given long ago and receive it for ourselves.

Monday, September 27

Read Leviticus 23:39-43

Key verses: “You shall dwell in booths for seven days; all that are native in Israel shall dwell in booths, that your generation may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (vv. 42-43)

In Jewish life this passage refers to the Festival of Booths (Hebrew plural is sukkot). It is one of the three major pilgrimage Festivals – Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Booths or Tabernacles)—when the ancient Israelites living in the Kingdom of Judah would make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, as commanded by the Torah. In particular, the Festival of Booths was observed to recall God’s redemptive deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. It particularly pointed to God’s protection while they dwelled in booths during the wilderness journey toward the Promised Land.

In 2021 the Festival of Booths (sukkoth) started at sunset on Monday, September 20, and ends at sunset today, Monday, September 27. On Tuesday, September 21, early in this year’s festival, my friend, Rabbi Gaylia Rooks, sent me the following text message: “May G!D shelter you under a sukkah of peace!” Because Jews do not pronounce or write the divine name, she substituted “G!D” for the divine name.  Sukkah is the singular form in Hebrew meaning “Booth,” referring to a place of protection and shelter. So Rabbi Rooks chose the verb “shelter” to relate intentionally to the idea of “a sukkah of peace.”

Prayer Prompt: “May God shelter you under a sukkah (booth/shelter) of peace!”

Tuesday, September 28

Read Isaiah 9:1-7

Key verse: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.’” (v. 6)

This passage is mostly known for its use in the Christmas season. The special names are indicative of the child’s character and mission. As Christians we see fulfillment in Jesus Christ. 

Prayer Prompt:  May Christ our Lord, the Prince of shalom/peace, dwell in us and teach us the ways of peace.

Wednesday, September 29

Read Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43

The story found in Acts 10 tells of Simon Peter’s providential encounter with the centurion Cornelius who is not Jewish but no pagan. He is described as “a devout man who feared God…gave alms generously…and prayed constantly” (Acts 10:2). Through a vision and then the encounter, Simon Peter has a change of mind and heart to see God’s acceptance differently than he did previously.

Key verses: “And Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all).’” (vv. 34-35)

Prayer Prompt: Let us be open, dear Lord, to the preaching of the good news of peace.

Thursday, September 30

Read The Letter to the Philippians 4:4-7

Today’s reading is from the Letter to the Philippians, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul. As noted last week, near the beginning of a letter like this, we see the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:2). For many years I have noted that the word order is significant, that is, grace necessarily comes before peace. Now in the final chapter of this letter, the importance of prayer is stressed with the result that God’s peace focuses on Christ Jesus.

Key verse: “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (v. 7)

Prayer Prompt: God, we need and pray for your peace – a wholeness, a well-being that translates into reconciliation.

Friday, October 1

Read The Letter to the Colossians 3:12-17

Today’s reading is from the Letter to the Colossians, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul. As noted last week, near the beginning of a letter like this, we see the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father” (1:2b). For many years I have noted that the word order is significant, that is, grace necessarily comes before peace. Now in the middle of Colossians 3 (vv. 12-17) is a list of Christian virtues and practices. In the middle of verses 12-17 is a strong encouragement to let Christ’s peace rule our lives (v. 15).  

Key verse and Prayer Prompt: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (v. 15)

Saturday, October 2

Read The Gospel according to John 14:25-27

John 14 is well known to Christians for its comfort in times of grief. In fact, John 14-17 is the “Farewell Address” of Jesus to prepare his disciples for the period of grief after his inevitable death. In the passage chosen, Jesus promises the presence of the Holy Spirit as Comforter/Counselor/Teacher. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, disciples were then and are now recipients of peace. 

Key verse: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (v.  27)

Prayer Prompt: For the promise and gift of peace we thank you. May your peace help us as we seek to pass that peace along to others.

September 19-25, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of GRACE

Some comments and prayers below will be building on the God of Wisdom and the God of Love from the two previous weeks. This week’s focus is the God of Grace. Several of the daily readings will be from the letters in the New Testament traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul. Consistently, near the beginning of each letter, we see the phrase “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” For many years I have noted that the word order is significant, that is, grace necessarily comes before peace.

Sunday, September 19

Reminder: The Discernment Committee will be hosting a Listening Session tonight at 6 p.m. at the church. We will assemble in the sanctuary for a brief opening. Then we will divide into small groups for you to express your hopes, fears, and questions about Faith Baptist Church in relation to the inclusion of persons who are LGBTQ+.

Read Exodus 34:1-9                                                          

Key verse: “The Lord passed before [Moses], and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’” (v. 6)

Prayer Prompt: “Dear Lord, you speak to us through Scripture. You speak to us through the voices of the oppressed, outcasts, marginalized. You also rejoice with us through the uplifted. You remind us through Your voice and presence that You are always with us, and that You are always speaking to us. Keep us listening.  Keep us talking. And speak to us through each other.” (Adapted from Geoffrey Duncan, Courage to Love Liturgies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities)

Monday, September 20

Read The Gospel according to Luke 10:25-37

The story of the “Good Samaritan” is told by Jesus in response to a “lawyer” (not in modern sense; rather a Torah expert) who wanted clarification on who is his neighbor. In the story, a man beaten half dead by robbers is left on the side of the road. Both a priest and a Levite saw the man, offered no help and passed by on the other side.

Key verses: “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,” (v. 7) and took care of his needs. When the story concludes, Jesus asked who proved to be the neighbor. The lawyer gave the only right answer, “‘the one who had mercy on him’. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’“ (vv. 36-37) 

The “Good Samaritan” acts like God whose grace finds expression in being compassionate and merciful. In the Gospel according to Luke, this story pictures for us the ministry of Jesus as merciful and compassionate to persons in need, often the ones left hurting on the side of the road.

Prayer Prompt: Help us, God, to be like you, merciful and compassionate, especially as revealed in life and ministry of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 21

Read The Letter to the Ephesians 1:1-10

Key phrases: “Grace…and peace” (v. 2); God “destined us in love (v. 5); “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6); “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” (vv. 7-8)

To tie together the theme of this week, The God of Grace, with yesterday’s emphasis on mercy and compassion reflected in the story of the “Good Samaritan,” please read carefully the writing of Parker Palmer.

Palmer cites what he has learned from Roshi Joan Halifax regarding compassion. “Joan defines compassion as the capacity to attend to the experiences of others, to feel concern for others, to sense what will serve others, and to be able to be of service to others.” Palmer also notes compassion “demands grace and G.R.A.C.E.”

Prayer Prompt: “G.R.A.C.E. for Cultivating Compassion”

Gathering our attention – get focused, be present

Recalling intention – understand the ethical foundation of our humanity

Attuning to self/other – tune in to our biases and sense the needs of others

Consider what will serve – using wisdom and knowledge to inform our actions

Engage and ending – take actions that support others

[My thanks to Jawanna for sharing these helpful insights from Parker Palmer]

Wednesday, September 22

Read The Second Letter to the Corinthians 1:1-4

Key verse: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort….” (v. 3)

After the initial greeting (vv. 1-2) that includes extending the grace and peace of God, the powerful language of blessing expresses praise to God as “the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort.” The mercies of God are the catalyst for the comfort God provides in our times of difficulty. As elsewhere in Scripture, the blessing of comfort given to us by a merciful God is meant to be on the way to another person (v. 4).  

Prayer Prompt: With thanksgiving for Your mercies and comfort, lead me to share that comfort with others, especially persons identified with the LGBTQ+ community.  

Thursday, September 23

Read The Letter to the Philippians 1:1-11

Key phrases:Grace…peace” (v. 2); “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (v. 3); “thankful for your partnership in the gospel” (v. 5); “for you are all partakers of grace with me” (v. 7).

Prayer Prompt: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” (v. 9) 

Friday, September 24

Read The Letter to the Colossians 1:1-10

Key phrases:Grace…peace” (v. 2); “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (v. 3); “because of…your faith…and love…and because of the hope…” (vv. 4-5); [because] “of the gospel…from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth” (v. 6).

Prayer Prompt: “we pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…” (v. 9)

Saturday, September 25

Read The First Letter to the Thessalonians 1:1-5a

Key verses: “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to you and peace.”

The typical version of the greeting of grace and peace (v. 2) is abbreviated because God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are mentioned in the opening verse. In the introduction to this week’s emphasis on the God of Grace, I noted that the word order is significant, that is, grace necessarily comes before peace. But the pattern is grace and peace!

Prayer Prompt: “Our Response” to the God of Grace

Let us receive God’s gift of grace.

Let us celebrate grace by being gracious.

Let us open our hearts to God’s grace.

Let us celebrate grace by counting no one less worthy to receive it than we.

Let us open our minds to imagine the impact of God’s grace,

            proclaimed in word and deed in our world.

Let us celebrate grace by offering grace to all.

Adapted slightly from “Testimony” in the Celebrating Grace Hymnal (#585)

September 12-18, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of Love

The Bible often gives witness to the love of God. Two prominent locations in the New Testament for this emphasis are The Gospel according to John and the Letter of 1 John. Readings from them can be found in five of the seven daily offerings.

Sunday, September 12

Read The Gospel according to John 3:16-21 (read online)

Key verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (v. 16)

Prayer Prompt: Thank God for this inclusive love (“world”), expressed through the gift of God’s only Son, so that anyone (“whoever”) can receive this gift by believing in the Son.

John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. John 3:16 is a summary of the message of New Testament in one verse. Its content presents the essential nature of God as love. It declares that all persons are loved by God. This verse tells us that the demonstration of God’s love is revealed in the only Son of God. John 3:16 stresses “believing” in God’s Son. In fact, this Gospel does not employ the noun “faith,” but the action found in the verb “to believe.” All of this leads to the gift described as “eternal life.”

Monday, September 13

Read 1 John 4:7-12 (read online)

Key verse: “Beloved, let us love one another; for God is love, and the one who loves is born of God and knows God.” (v. 7)

Prayer Prompt: Ask for God’s help in the practice of loving one another.

The phrase “one another” occurs many times in Scripture. Most commonly this phrase refers to sisters and brothers in Christ. In our key verse quoted above, we are encouraged to love one another because God is love.

Paul and mission partners: “We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brothers and sisters, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

May love for one another increase at Faith Baptist Church!

Tuesday, September 14

Read 1 John 4:13-21 (read online)

Key verse: “So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in that one.” (v. 16)

Prayer Prompt: “Take my gifts and let me love You, God who first of all loved me.” (first line and title of Hymn #670 in Celebrating Grace Hymnal)

To explain the second part of the key verse:

“…the one who abides/remains/stays in love, abides/remains/stays in God, and God abides/remains/stays in that one.”

Wednesday, September 15

Read 1 John 3:11-18 (read online)

Key verse: “For this is message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” (v. 11)

Prayer Prompt: Remind us often, dear God, that love is what You want us to share with one another. 

When Bob Fox preached his final sermon as pastor at Faith from 1 John 3, he told us that one thing was important – love! Amen

Thursday, September 16

Read The Gospel according to John 14:18-24 (read online)

Key verse: Jesus in farewell address to disciples “The one who has my commandments and keeps them, that is the one who loves me; and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love and make myself manifest to that one.” (v. 21)

Prayer Prompt: Jesus encouraged his disciples then and us now to obey the commandments as evidence of his love in us. Pray for divine leadership to live like Christ in faithful obedience to the ways and will of God.

Friday, September 17

Read Psalm 103:1-14 (read online)

Key verse: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (v. 8)

Prayer Prompt: Think carefully about the picture of who God is according to this psalm. Consider especially God’s steadfast, faithful, abundant love.

“O God of Exodus and Easter, I remember all I know of your love poured out in deliverance and resurrection….I praise you for your unending mercy and your untiring faithfulness.” (Eugene Peterson, Praying with the Psalms)

Saturday, September 18

Read Romans 8:31-39 (read online)

Key verses: “For I am sure that neither death not life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39)

Prayer Prompt: Give thanks to God that absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God!

September 5-11, 2021

Prayer focus: The God of Wisdom

Sunday, September 5

Read Proverbs 2: 1-10 (read online)

Key verse: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” (v. 6)

Prayer Prompt: Lord, we want to be open to Your wisdom in order that we may “understand righteousness and justice, and equity, every good path.” (v. 9)

Prayer for God’s wisdom: We give thanks, O Lord, for Your love of us and all of Your good creation. We ask you to speak to us as we listen carefully for Your guidance to help us live according to Your will. Help us to serve You and our neighbors with greater love and compassion. May we practice Your wisdom and learn to leave all judgment in Your hands. We pray that we recognize Your presence with us through the Holy Spirit. Let us work alongside You to create a world shaped by Your unconditional love. We thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen. (adapted from the Human Rights Campaign)

Monday, September 6

Read Proverbs 22:17-19 (read online)

Key verse: “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge.” [v. 17 is from a wise voice regarding life and conduct]

Prayer prompt: Pray for ears that hear God’s Word.

From Discernment: A Path to Spiritual Awakening by Rose Mary Dougherty (pp19-21): “The habit of discernment is an attitude of listening to God in all of life. It is in the words of St. Benedict, listening ‘with the ear of the heart.’ ” It is a life of prayerful attention to God….Inherent to discernment is the belief that God is actively and caringly involved with us in every moment of our lives…In the habit of discernment our choices are again and again refined by the invitation to love….Discernment is a gift that has been given to all of us….Perhaps we need to pray that the eyes of our hearts be opened so we can see the gift that is there and look to the practices and people that might encourage us to cultivate our discerning hearts.” [Provided to committee by Chair Cynthia Insko] 

Special prayer request: The church-elected Discernment Committee meets tonight at 6 p.m. Please pray for this committee.

Tuesday, September 7

Read James 1:5-8 (read online)

Key verse (paraphrased): “If any of you lacks wisdom, let that one ask God who gives to all generously and without reproaching, and wisdom will be given.” (v. 5)  

Prayer Prompt: God, help us to “ask in faith with no doubting” for generous gift of wisdom.

Hear the refrain of stanza one from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour.”

Wednesday, September 8

Read James 3:13-18 (read online)

Key verse: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.” (v. 17)

Prayer Prompt: Pray to have and practice “the wisdom from above [God]” as described in verse 17.

Hear the refrain of stanza two from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the living of these days.

Thursday, September 9

Read Matthew 6: 9-13 (read online) –  The Lord’s Prayer/Model prayer from Jesus 

Key verse: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” v. 10

Prayer Prompt: Pray the Lord’s Prayer aloud, pausing to ponder the significance of each phrase.  

Hear the refrain of stanza three from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, serving Thee whom we adore.”

Friday, September 10

Read Matthew 7:7-12 (read online)

Key verse: “Ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (v. 7)

Prayer Prompt: Prayer is both listening to God and voicing our needs (we are typically better at the second). We are invited to ask, seek, knock. Try out each of these as you pray.

Hear the refrain of stanza four from the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory”

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, that we fail not man nor Thee”

Saturday, September 11

Read Matthew 6:25-33 (read online)

Key verse: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (v. 33)

Prayer Prompt: Seek God’s help in your priorities and in living the right way.

A Prayer for Wisdom and Peace When Making Big Decisions

Gracious God, you number our hairs and determine our days; you hang the stars and feed the sparrows; you open doors no one can shut and shut doors no one can open. Surely, we can trust you when the time comes for making big decisions, or for that matter, any decisions. We are in just such a season again, dear God, and we know we are not alone. We will trust you for generous wisdom, straight paths and peaceful hearts, all for your glory.

How we praise you for being the decision-making-God. It’s not our decisions, but yours that make all the difference. We will plan, but we trust you to order our steps. We will pray, but ask you to help us pray. We will search the Scriptures, but not looking for proof texts but for you, our God. All we want and need is you.

Free us from the paralysis of analysis—wanting to make the right decision, more than we want to be righteous people; wanting to be known as wise people, more than we want to know you. Free us from the idolatry of assuming there’s only one “perfect” choice in any given situation. Free us from making decisions primarily for our comfort and other’s approval, or fear their disapproval. Free us to know that good choices don’t always lead to the easiest outcomes, especially at first. Free us from second and twenty-second guessing our decisions.

So, make us more and more like Jesus, even as we trust you for the opening and closing of doors that are in front of us. All for your glory. Amen. 

[Jesuit prayer resource shared by Jawanna Herd and adapted for Prayer Guide by Greg Earwood]

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