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Dreams

Dear God, I was thinking a couple of days ago about the idea of dreams and interpreting them. I wonder how much or often you still speak to us in dreams. For example, in Genesis you have Joseph’s dreams and Pharaoh’s dreams. In Matthew, the other Joseph actually had angels visit him in his dreams. Well, last night, I had one that, if there’s an interpretation I’d love to hear it. If it’s just a revealing of my heart and psyche, it was very encouraging.

It was my wife and me and we had decided, for whatever reason, to recreate our wedding day now. Not renew our vows, although that was part of it, but actually recreate our wedding day. It was fraught with problems, but we were just delighted and laughed the whole time. Many things were going wrong, but we were just rolling with them and laughing.

The interesting thing is that there were missing people. Over the last 30 years we’ve lost several, including her parents, so she walked the aisle by herself, without her dad (Although, for some reason, she had on a heavy backpack the we had decided to use as a substitute for her dad. And the weight of the backpack didn’t burden her even while the weight of it made her stumble forward. She just laughed as she came down the aisle). Her aunt who played songs at our wedding was there, but she couldn’t remember the songs so she just kind of sang randomly. Oh, and I remember this. My wife and I were talking before the ceremony about how our original one wasn’t that religious, but then as we saw everything unfold we saw Jesus everywhere. In the songs we picked, the scriptures. It thrilled us to see how involved you had been from the beginning.

Father, I’m glad I’m talking about this dream I don’t think I’ve ever prayed about one like this before, but it’s encouraging me. It’s reminding me that you are there with us and you have been with us from the beginning. Thank you. It’s showing me that, even with our current struggles (I’m thinking of her heavy backpack) we are holding up well. So, for whatever reason, I feel like singing The Doxology to you. Praise God,from whom all blessing flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above the heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

“Vulnerable Conversation with Toby Mac about Grief and Loss”

“I started to learn to laugh, even in the first week a little bit, but not laugh as deeply, you know?” I don’t know if I’ll ever laugh as deeply. I don’t know if I’ll ever smile as big. But I can smile, and I can laugh. I don’t know if it will ever be–until eternity–if it will ever be fully.” (2:50 mark of video)

Dear God, I heard this interview yesterday and it struck a chord with me. Especially this quote. Especially as a parent, I think when we go through some sort of loss, whether it is a wayward child, a broken relationship, or the tragedy of death, when we are apart from them for any negative reason, I don’t think it’s ever possible to laugh as deeply or smile as big. There is always a cloud. Always an omnipresent pit in my stomach. I’m just grateful that you are omnipresent as well.

In the Bible in a Year podcast I’m listening to, they were covering the part of the Joseph story in Genesis where Judah is pleading with Joseph for Benjamin’s life (Genesis 44:18-34). Judah describes Jacob’s pain, and it reminds me of what Toby was saying in the video above. This brash, conniving, manipulating scoundrel was devastated by Joseph’s loss. Judah couldn’t bear to watch him lose Benjamin too.

I guess I had this sort of loss for about 10 years now. Neither of my children died, but I’ve been in some state of brokenness with one of both of them constantly over that time. And it’s true, what Toby said. I can laugh again, but it’s never been as deep. And I’ve smiled, but it’s never been as big. Mercifully, at least up to this point, the difference is that I have a hope that restoration is still possible. My time with them on this side of heaven is not sealed and lost forever. That’s why I pray for them. That’s why I hope. That’s why I burn candles. That’s why I worship. As Toby also said right before the quote above, you find us in the pit (or we find you there). If our pain is omnipresent, so are you.

Father, I pray for Toby and his wife. I pray for the rest of their family as well. I pray for my own family. Comfort and guide all of us. I am trusting that this is the path you need for all of us to walk to ultimately work your own wonder in each of our lives. Thank you for continuously sitting with me in this pain. Thank you for raising up people around me, including my wife, who are an encouragement and comfort to me. Thank you for loving me, my wife, and my children so completely.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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John 19:23-30 — “The Crucifixion” by Eric Gill

The above image called “The Crucifixion” and was created by Eric Gill. It is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard.

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:23-30 (NLT)

Dear God, as I sat down to look at this image this morning, even before reading the passage from John, I noticed something interesting. I noticed the circles around some of the characters’ heads–indicating they were saints, sanctified, or holy. One was Jesus. Two were obviously women (bottom of cross to the right). One was a man. At first I thought this might be the thief whom Jesus assured would be in paradise, but the face is clean and looking up–not dying. No, this is apparently John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. There is a fifth circle for the person on their knees to the left of the cross. It kind of looks like a woman, but I cannot be sure. Again, after reading the passage, I assume it is one of the other two Mary’s or Jesus’s mother Mary’s sister.

Other things I noticed that the artist, Eric Gill, chose to share with us (side note–I just looked up the artist for a link to share here and found that he apparently sexually abused his daughters. Completely heinous! But does it inform the art a little in that, while he allowed Jesus some modesty, he showed one of the thieves completely naked?): He portrays Jesus’s feet separately and not nailed together–I wonder why. He shows women and men who aren’t sanctified–no circles. I understand the man could represent the Pharisees, but who are the two women in front on John (in Gill’s mind). Who do they represent? It’s a reminder to me that it was likely both men and women who were glad to see Jesus die.

I confess, Father, that I know I would have been one of them had I been there at the time. I would not have believed. I don’t know that I’d have followed all of the way to the cross, but when I heard that the troublemaker, Jesus, had died I would have been happy. I am a fool, but knowing this about myself and how much I still love you gives me mercy for the non-sanctified people in the picture. I am sure you have mercy for them too. How do I know? Because Jesus asked you to. He did that so that every head in that picture would have a circle around it. So I join him in asking that you forgive me for what I am doing. Please allow for my foolishness and sinfulness in your plan.

In Jesus’s name, his wonderful, merciful, powerful, glorious name I pray,

Amen

 

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Gratitude

“The cure for resentment. The cure for jealousy and envy is gratitude.” Fr. Mike Schmitz

Dear God, I was listening to the Bible in a year podcast from this priest this morning and after concluding the story in Genesis 37 about Joseph and his brothers he made the statement above. It struck my ears. It made me want to think about it a little. When am I jealous? When am I insecure? When do I make worse decisions as opposed to the better decisions? Is gratitude/ingratitude a common denominator?

I’ve certainly been jealous and irrational before. I’ve envied. I’ve resented. Would stopping and counting my blessings in those moments have helped? Maybe. Probably. Yeah, I’m sure they would have. But it can be hard in real time to do that because self-pity can be so persuasive and pervasive.

Today was an interesting day because, well, it was a tough day by a lot of measures. COVID is wreaking havoc on my staff and our ability to function. Every time my phone buzzed with a text, it was with bad news. But then I was able to remember some of these verses this morning and another verse came to mind. I had to look it up for the exact reference, but it was 2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are pressed on every side, by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.” Now, I’m a little out of context on that verse because Paul is talking about some persecution that I have never had to relate to. Verses 9 and 10 say, “We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”

Father, even in the midst of a hard day, I was able to count my blessings. I was able to repeat the words, “I am pressed but not crushed.” And I was able to share those words with others, including someone in leadership at our local hospital. So thank you for your Word. Thank you for your presence. Thank you for the gift and grace of Jesus. Thank you for your love.

In Jesus’s precious name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2022 in Genesis

 

Genesis 33

33 Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept.

Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?”

“These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.

“And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?” Esau asked.

Jacob replied, “They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.”

“My brother, I have plenty,” Esau answered. “Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 But Jacob insisted, “No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.

12 “Well,” Esau said, “let’s be going. I will lead the way.”

13 But Jacob replied, “You can see, my lord, that some of the children are very young, and the flocks and herds have their young, too. If they are driven too hard, even for one day, all the animals could die. 14 Please, my lord, go ahead of your servant. We will follow slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for the livestock and the children. I will meet you at Seir.”

15 “All right,” Esau said, “but at least let me assign some of my men to guide and protect you.”

Jacob responded, “That’s not necessary. It’s enough that you’ve received me warmly, my lord!”

16 So Esau turned around and started back to Seir that same day. 17 Jacob, on the other hand, traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means “shelters”).

18 Later, having traveled all the way from Paddan-aram, Jacob arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the town. 19 Jacob bought the plot of land where he camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. 20 And there he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel.

Dear God, sometimes I wonder if it is ever possible to have a relationship with someone that is completely without manipulation. Well, let me change that. Yes, I believe it is possible for some people to have a relationship with others without any manipulation intended. But for someone like Jacob, his whole life is deception and self-preservation. I heard commentary on this passage and the next one in chapter 34 about is daughter Dinah that mentioned that Jacob didn’t want to deceive anymore. But that’s just not true. In this case, Jacob didn’t do what he told Esau he would do. He simply said what he had to say to survive the encounter, and then he didn’t follow Esau as he said he would, but set up camp somewhere else instead. Not that I disagree with Jacob’s decision to not put all of his people and belongings with Esau’s people, but he certainly wasn’t honest and forthright about it.

It’s funny because I have some people in my life who I simply do not trust to tell me the truth. Even when they come and tell me something that appears true, there is always part of me that guards against being manipulated. I’ve tried to give them benefit of the doubt to them before, but I’ve learned that they are simply like Jacob. They are out for self-preservation and will say anything they have to say to get away with whatever it is they want. It’s hard to have relationships with people like that. You can try to marginalize them and keep them at arm’s length, but then there comes a point where they cross a line I simply cannot tolerate.

Father, first, help me to not be like Jacob in these situations. Help me to be the man my family needs me to be. I understand that somehow Jacob got your blessing and ended up being the patriarch of your people, but I assume that is more about your plan washing through the generations and unfolding the way it did as opposed to anything that Jacob himself did. I don’t know that there is any part of me that wants to be like Jacob, but I do want you to use my life in any way that you see fit. Right now, I have some things that have cost me and some prices I have paid. I don’t know if they are my fault or, like Job, it’s simply the path you have for me and those I love to walk. But I do know that I earnestly want to follow you, worship you and give you glory for all that you are.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2022 in Genesis

 

Genesis 27:5-13

But Rebekah overheard what Isaac had said to his son Esau. So when Esau left to hunt for the wild game, she said to her son Jacob, “Listen. I overheard your father say to Esau, ‘Bring me some wild game and prepare me a delicious meal. Then I will bless you in the Lord’s presence before I die.’ Now, my son, listen to me. Do exactly as I tell you. Go out to the flocks, and bring me two fine young goats. I’ll use them to prepare your father’s favorite dish. 10 Then take the food to your father so he can eat it and bless you before he dies.”

11 “But look,” Jacob replied to Rebekah, “my brother, Esau, is a hairy man, and my skin is smooth. 12 What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”

13 But his mother replied, “Then let the curse fall on me, my son! Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats for me!”

Genesis 27:5-13

Dear God, I’m sorry, but this story really irritated me this morning. My head’s not necessarily in a great place right now anyway, but this story of Rebekah being so manipulative and deceptive really rankled me. Maybe she was right after what you told her while she was still pregnant. Maybe she had no other choice because Isaac could only superficially see the masculine, manly son as the one who would be worthy of the blessing. As Rich Mullins said about what Rebekah’s brother Laban would later do to deceive Jacob: “Well, it’s right there in the Bible so it must not be a sin. But it sure does seem like an awful dirty trick.”

I guess the real take away from this is not that we should intentionally act like these people, but, when we do, we can know that your plan is still secure because you have allowed for our sinful humanness. Rebekah’s. Laban’s. Mine.

I guess the other lesson here is that it was okay for Esau to be upset about this because we was greatly wronged. But that didn’t justify his response. He didn’t have to go out and do things to intentionally upset his parents like going to Uncle Ishmael and getting wives from his daughters (Genesis 28:9). That was just throwing gasoline on a bad fire.

Father, help me to keep from sinning, and help me to keep from throwing more gasoline on the fires created by others. Make me an instrument of your peace. Do it for your plan, your glory, and my own peace.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2022 in Genesis

 

Genesis 26:7-11

When the men who lived there asked Isaac about his wife, Rebekah, he said, “She is my sister.” He was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “They will kill me to get her, because she is so beautiful.” But some time later, Abimelech, king of the Philistines, looked out his window and saw Isaac caressing Rebekah. Immediately, Abimelech called for Isaac and exclaimed, “She is obviously your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?” “Because I was afraid someone would kill me to get her from me,” Isaac replied. “How could you do this to us?” Abimelech exclaimed. “One of my people might easily have taken your wife and slept with her, and you would have made us guilty of great sin.” Then Abimelech issued a public proclamation: “Anyone who touches this man or his wife will be put to death!”
Genesis 26:7-11

Dear God, I liked the commentary I heard this morning about this story regarding Isaac and Rebekah. As I was sitting in my typical judgment over Isaac for his weakness, lack of faith, etc., the commentator asked how many times we repeat either the mistakes of those who came before us or even the same mistakes we’ve already made? How many times do I lose my faith and fall into my own traps?

One of the biggest things I worry about is the mistake(s) I make unknowingly. The harm I do without realizing it.

Father, this is a short and easy prayer today. Help me to not do any harm today. Lead me not into temptation. Help me to see it and embrace you with all that I have. Deliver me from evil, please, Lord.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2022 in Genesis

 

1 Peter 1:10-12

10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.

12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.

1 Peter 1:10-12

Dear God, my wife and I were talking about Abraham and some of the other “founding fathers” from Genesis this morning. We remarked how flawed they were and I was thinking about how they were just trying to figure a lot of things out and facing difficult circumstances I cannot imagine. The truth is, I stand on the shoulders of millennia of people who did a lot of hard work before me. And my part is to wake up and do my part so that the next generation can stand on my shoulders.

I wonder if part of my fear with society right now is that we are about to take two steps backward because things seem to be devolving so quickly. As the American (or Western) church, we have lost our first love. We have made nationalism and our country our idol instead of you. It was the kind of thing that the prophets to whom Peter is referring in this passage noticed in their time. They could see their society devolving and would come out and allow you to prophecy through them. You would tell them that bad things were about to happen. And it wasn’t so they could necessarily avoid it because there had to be a refining fire to get rid of the dross. But you did let them know that you were with them and would be with them through the regression. In the meantime, you wanted everyone who called on your name to simply be faithful to you.

Father, help me to be faithful to you. I have some significant decisions to make today. Help me to be faithful and wise. Help me to touch the lives you need me to touch. Forgive me for the idols I worship. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of you as my one true God. I am sorry for putting my faith in other things. I am grateful for you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2022 in 1 Peter

 

Genesis 10:6-12

The descendants of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

The descendants of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, who was the first heroic warrior on earth. Since he was the greatest hunter in the world, his name became proverbial. People would say, “This man is like Nimrod, the greatest hunter in the world.” 10 He built his kingdom in the land of Babylonia, with the cities of Babylon, Erech, Akkad, and Calneh. 11 From there he expanded his territory to Assyria, building the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, 12 and Resen (the great city located between Nineveh and Calah).

Genesis 10:6-12

Dear God, I wanted to follow up this morning on Noah’s curse of Ham and see how it ended up. I couldn’t remember. My assumption was that Moses, in recording all of this in writing, was using the curse story to explain the subjugation of Ham’s descendants over the millennia, but from going through this passage, it looks like Ham’s first several generations of descendants did just fine. In fact, they became quite powerful and influential.

I know that there is probably an interpretation of all of this that I don’t get. In fact, every passage I read is an English interpretation of a text written by someone in a different culture with different paradigms for life. Everything I process is an incomplete interpretation of the story because no one today can completely understand what it was like back then, why stories were handed down the way they were, or why Moses recorded them the way he recorded them.

Father, use the collected scripture you have provided to me to speak to me and teach me. Let your Holy Spirit whisper in my ear and guide me into submitting myself before you and knowing you better. Help me to be exactly the man you need me to be for the people in my life. Let your kingdom come into the world through me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2022 in Genesis

 

Genesis 9:20-27

After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked. When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham: “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.” Then Noah said, “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant! May God expand the territory of Japheth! May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.”
Genesis 9:20-27

Dear God, I was looking at this passage today and I came up with a controversial take on it. Is this a case where Noah was wrong in cursing Ham? Did he overreact out of shame? Was there more to their relationship than this story tells? Did Ham do the wrong thing? Sure. Was he disrespectful and mean? You bet. Did his actions deserve the curse of eternal slavery for him and his descendants? Well, that seems a little harsh.

I heard a teaching on this passage that I completely disagreed with. In fact, I’m not even going to repeat it here because I thought it was so ridiculous. But I think the person or people who came up with the theory were doing their best to justify Noah’s response to Ham instead of entertaining the idea that Noah made a mistake. The Bible’s forefathers made mistakes all of the time. Some of them were called out, but maybe all of them weren’t. Maybe some are just there for us to make our own judgment. Kind of like I’ve talked about with the disciples taking it upon themselves to appoint Mathias as Judas’s successor instead of waiting for you to bring Paul into the fold.

Father, I guess the point is that I make all of these mistakes too. I overreact. I make mistakes. Please keep my mistakes from reverberating too much through history. Help the dominoes that knock over because of my mistakes be few, and restore them to your original plan and design. And when I make the mistakes, make me quick to repent and redeem what I have done.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2022 in Genesis