Daily Encouragement - August 14

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

— Matthew 15:10-20


A quick perusal of the news on any given day, can make a person depressed. There seems so much ugliness, so much violence, so much anger in so many places. To hear Jesus tell us, it just might be a sign that there is a problem in our hearts, after all what is in us tends to come out. NT Wright says of Christian formation, “there is a reason it is called second nature, and that is precisely because it is not our first nature.” We need our hearts to be reformed in the deepest sense of that word. We need the Spirit of God to come into our hearts, and change us from the inside that we might look like the gospel we read and love.


I just purchased a book of prayers from Walter Brueggemann, a noted Biblical scholar and theologian, entitled Prayers for a Privileged People. They are prayers that remind us of our place as persons who have experienced more comfort, more opportunity than millions; and they are prayers formed largely around the collect of purity that you hear me pray before preaching each week. In the first prayer, he speaks of the heart work we need and I offer that as a prayer for each of us:


The pastor says, “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open . . . “

   We rush to the next phrase,

but now we linger there.

    We ponder our hearts . . . 

our deepest feelings of love and devotion,

our closest organ of vitality,

our place of deep decision-making,

our instrument of being fully ourselves.


Our hearts — that throb for contact with you —

    Our hearts are open.

    They are not always open by our choice,

for we would like sometimes to

close our hearts and our minds and our hands.

    But they are open, because

our hearts cannot resist

your steady care and address.

    Our hearts are open for you, very God.

You are the one who has made us

so that our hearts are restless

till they rest in you.


Do your mysterious, majestic God-ing

    With our hearts:

reclaim,

renew,

re-enliven,

    That we may leave your presence

transplanted,

transformed,

transposed,

    Become by your attentiveness whom we

have not yet embraced,

        open and receptive,

        honest and undefensive,

        unafraid and committed to obedience.


Let the pulse of our heart throb now,

    According to the cadence of your rule;

    Command and we will obey,

    Overrule and we will yield

    Lead and we will walk

where we never thought to go.


Unto you . . .

   not unto each other,

   not unto our pet projects,

   not unto our favorite charity or passion.

Unto you . . . our hearts are open;

   we are yours; be our God—yet again.



Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart,

In my heart;

Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.

In my heart,

In my heart,

Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.


Pastor Tom Greener

Centenary United Methodist Church

309 New Street, New Bern, NC, 28560 

P.O. Box 1388, New Bern, NC 28563

Phone: 252.637.4181

Fax: 252.637.5602

Email: centenaryumc@centenarychurch.com

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