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Isaiah 53:1-11

Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord ’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
Isaiah 53:1-11

Dear God, I’ve read some of these prophecies about Jesus many times, but I found myself wondering this morning about him as a boy and then how he developed into a man. At what point did his identity start to form in his mind? When he first heard these words or other prophecies like this did your Holy Spirit whisper to him, “This is you”? Maybe Mary and/or Joseph told him. Maybe they told him the story of his conception and birth. Maybe they told him about the wise men and then fleeing to Egypt. I’m sure they waited until he was older until they told him about the children who died.

Then, at some point, he had to figure out something they didn’t understand at first. That Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t understand about John and Jesus. He had to understand this passage. He had to reject the idea that he would be loved and conquer. He had to embrace the words here that he would be despised. When he was in the temple at 12, maybe that’s what he was asking about. That’s a total guess, but he had a lot to learn. And then, when he got to his own baptism and 40 days of fasting followed by the temptations, he had to resist going against this prophecy. This prophecy and the plan you laid out for Jesus through it is the reason I can be here today. In fact, now that I think about it, maybe it was written more for Jesus than anyone else.

Father, I am grateful. I’m grateful for your plan. I’m grateful for Jesus. I’m grateful for Isaiah. I’m grateful for scripture. I’m so grateful. Thank you for all of this!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2021 in Isaiah

 

Luke 12:1

Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy.
Luke 12:1

Dear God, hypocrisy is such a fascinating thing. But let me start with yeast. Jesus uses yeast as his metaphor here. If he had been speaking to us today, I wonder if a more meaningful metaphor to us would be cancer. Beware of the cancer of the Pharisees. Cancer destroys while it grows unchecked. Jesus saw the disconnect between the Pharisees’ words and theology and their actions and actual lives as something that would spread like yeast through dough or cancer through the body.

How many times have I heard people say they don’t go to church anymore because of the hypocrites there? Never mind that, to some extent, we are all hypocrites—even the person complaining. But there are different levels, I suppose. I worked once for a CEO who was a level 9 hypocrite. What I mean by that is he was a completely different person at church than anywhere else. Surprisingly, he would hire people from church (I would have thought he would want to keep his duplicity on the down low) and they would be shocked at the difference between the man for whom they worked and the man with whom they worshipped. Mean, stealing and immoral by week, and talking a good game on Sunday. And I don’t think he recognized his hypocrisy.

So is there anything I can learn from him? Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he couldn’t see his hypocrisy or that it didn’t bother him, what can I do differently to help me see my own?

Of course, it starts with working with the Holy Spirit to inventory my own sins and repenting of them—on a regular basis. Not just saying, “God, forgive me,” but really repenting and turning from my sin. And then turning again when I do the inventory and realize I’ve done it again. Eventually, I will see myself doing it in real time, and then I will eventually stop doing it in real time.

The next step moves into getting closer and close to you so that more and more of my sin is revealed to me. I’m sure I’ve done three things today (at least) that were sins that I don’t even realize, and it’s not even 8:00 a.m. I’ve become aware of things over time. prejudices. Errant beliefs. Selfishness. Judging of others. It’s all there. It’s not just the obvious things in the 10 Commandments like lying and murder, but also the subtle things like making idols to replace you, not observing the Sabbath and coveting what others have.

Father, purify my heart. Make it right before you, and create a pure spirit within me. Let your Holy Spirit move throughout my entire being so that I might see what you need me to see, repent of my mistakes and hypocrisies, and worship you and you alone. And do it all for your glory. So that my life might be used by you for your purposes.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2021 in Luke

 

Jeremiah 29:10-11

This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:10-11

Dear God, it’s that 70 years that is the key. What happens during that 70 years? My first thought was that the people will be refined through the struggle and they will know how to love you better. But that doesn’t take 70 years. In fact, 70 years will likely see their deaths at some point.

No, 70 years will see their children, their children’s children, and even third and fourth generations born and raised up during the struggle. I think what the 70 years will do is create an entirely new society of people from top to bottom who will have known nothing but struggle and, if this first generation does it right, worshiping you through the struggle.

Father, I don’t know which generation I’m in, but it feels like I’m at the beginning of the decline. So help me to, first, be pure before you, worship you, and submit to you and, second, to teach others to do the same. Guide us as a society. Guide us as a world. I’m not saying we haven’t peaked and our stature as a nation in the world might never come back, but you never promised that to us. As much as we might like to think we are, this country is not your chosen people. But I am your chosen child. So help your children to be ambassadors to the world for your glory’s sake. That starts with me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2021 in Jeremiah

 

Luke 11:37-41

As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.
Luke 11:37-41

Dear God, this was a pretty audacious thing to say inside a Pharisee’s home and to his face. It almost makes me wonder of Jesus accepted the invitation in the first place so he could challenge this man.

When read in context, this entire chapter shows Jesus being very confrontational with everyone. With the crowd. With the Pharisees and other teachers of the law. No one is spared from rebuke. And I would love to sit here and think about how he might rebuke different churches for their different rules and legalistic theologies today, but it’s probably better if I deal with the log in my own eye as opposed to the speck in anyone else’s.

I talked about this last night, but the truth is I’m still pretty guarded in how I expose myself to others and their needs. It makes me think of an old Steve Camp song called “Living Dangerously in the Hands of God.” I used to listen to that song a lot, but I suppose it is one of those songs that’s easier to sing bravely than live out in actuality.

Father, show me what it looks like to live dangerously today. Holy Spirit, guide me and counsel me. Do it all for your glory and so that your kingdom will come and your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2021 in Luke

 

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

I’m gonna make a change
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right

As I, turn up the collar on
My favorite winter coat
This wind is blowing my mind

I see the kids in the streets
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind?
Pretending not to see their needs

A summer disregard, a broken bottle top
And a one man soul
They follow each other on the wind ya’ know
‘Cause they got nowhere to go
That’s why I want you to know

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
Na-na-na, na-na-na
Na-na, na-na

I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya’ see
‘Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could’ve been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that
Change!

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
(Oh yeah!)
I’m asking him to change his ways
(Better change!)
No message could’ve been any clearer

If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change
You gotta get it right, while you got the time
You can’t close your, your mind!

That man, that man (With the man in the mirror)
That man, that man (Oh, yeah!)
That man, that man (I’m asking him to change his ways)
That man (Better change!)

No message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make the change

Na-na-na, na-na-na
Na-na, na-na
Gonna feel real good
Na-na-na, na-na-na
Na-na, na-na

I’m gonna make a change
It’s gonna feel real good!
Chime on!
(Change)

Just lift yourself
You know
You’ve got to stop it
Yourself!

I’ve got to make that change, today!
Hoo!
(Man in the mirror)

You got to
You got to not let yourself
Brother
Hoo!

You know, I’ve got to get
That man, that man
(Man in the mirror)

You’ve got to move! Chime on!
Chime on!

You got to

Stand up! Stand up! Stand up!
(Yeah! Make that change)
Stand up and lift yourself, now!
(Man in the mirror)

You know it!
You know it!
You know it!
You know it!

Make that change

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Glen Ballard / Siedah Garrett

Dear God, I watched an interview on Saturday with Siedah Garrett, the woman who wrote the lyrics of this song. It was inspirational and good-hearted. I enjoyed hearing how she wrote the song, and how Michael Jackson ended up deciding to record it. And it’s a good song. A really good song.

So I’ve sat with it for the last couple of days. I’ve decided that it’s great, but it’s definitely missing something. It’s missing you. It’s missing your love. It’s missing your broken heart and your Spirit motivating us. It’s missing the first step, which is our repentance. It’s missing the part where I ask you what you want me to do, and then I seek your provision as I move through it. It’s missing the possibility that I might have to be inconvenienced to do the work–well, maybe that part is in there.

I heard someone say one time that the church, your body, is your Plan A, and you don’t have a Plan B. Why is there suffering in the world? Well, as we talked about a few days ago from that interview I quoted about pain, it’s not for me to ask why. My job is to ask how you want me to respond to it.

I confess that I still limit my exposure. I still have some nicely drawn walls around my life. They might be a little, or a lot, wider than they were 20 years ago, but they are certainly still there.

Father, it doesn’t start with the man in the mirror. It starts with you. It starts with repenting for caring more about myself than I do you, your kingdom, or others. Then it moves to asking you to guide me into your work. Asking you to lay issues on my heart. Asking you to move me beyond my comfort zone, to give out of my need, and leave it all on the field. I’m sorry for not doing that. I’m sorry for not loving you with all of my heart, soul, and strength. I’m sorry for not loving my neighbor as myself. Help me to fulfill all of your law by simply doing those things.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2021 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Luke 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Luke 11:27-28

Dear God, what an interesting scene from Jesus’s life for Like to capture. Traditionally, Luke got at least some of his material from Mary (Jesus’s mother) herself. If that’s true and if she was the source for this story (two pretty big ifs) it’s an interesting thing for her to have pointed out about herself and Jesus’s attitude towards her vs. the message he came to deliver and work he came to do.

I would imagine that, if not at the time of this story then by the time she was telling Luke about this story, Mary had reached that ultimate level of faith where we realize that our lives are about you and your purposes and not us and our glory. It’s something that you don’t see tons of biblical characters achieve although it seems to be what you are trying to teach all of us. I guess it goes back to that same temptation that Satan used on Adam and Eve: to be like you and replace you with ourselves.

I go to a Catholic Church with my wife, and while I’ve observed that the do not worship Mary, they do certainly revere her. This passage in the context I’ve proposed above makes me wonder now, for the first time, what would Mary have to say about her role in the church and how does she feel about all of the acclamation. I’m thinking she would likely reject it.

Father, help me to reject any acclamation I might receive as well. I get too much credit and I tend to crave too much love. But it’s all about the message I have from you for others: “There is a hope. There is a peace that will make this life complete. Repent and humble yourself before God. Pursue him in discipleship and you will experience life in the most fulfilling way.”

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2021 in Luke

 

Psalm 63:1

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Dear God, I want to catch the description given to this psalm that’s actually listed in this translation: A psalm of David regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah. (NLT)

Isn’t it interesting that our best praise is usually done in our struggles. Yes, sometimes we remember to to worship you when something great has just happened, but for me, my best worship is done when I’m at the end of myself. I’m out of resources. I’m out of ideas. I’m out of ability. I’m out of hope. That’s when I’m reminded of who you are compared to me and I find myself saying words like David said here.

I talked with my son recently about a regret I have from his childhood. I was struggling through being unemployed and I decided to be transparent with my children and let them see my frustration and concern. Over the last 10 year or so, I’ve regretted that decision, thinking that young children, less than 10 years old, need to feel a sense of security and don’t need the burden of my stress. When we talked, however, he contradicted me and told me that as a man now, he appreciates what I did because he got to see me model how to deal with stress like that. He saw me praying. He saw me exercising a lot. He saw me trying and not quitting. So that ended up being a teachable moment to him, but it started with the struggle, followed by him witnessing how my faith in you integrated into my response to the struggle.

Father, there are struggles now that still keep me humble. Keep me hungry for you. Keep me thirsty for you. Thank you for reminding me during the hard times that you are my hope, comforter, and God. I search for you and cling to you in a dry and parched land. Right now, at least figuratively, our nation feels dry and parched. But I will rest in you and worship you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2021 in Psalms

 

Jonah 4:1-4

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”
Jonah 4:1-4

Dear God, ah, the part of the story no one ever tells. Jesus actually told at least two parables that I can think of off of the top of my head that describe Jonah here. One is the parable of the workers who were hired at different times during the day, and the other is how Jesus describes the older son in the Prodigal Son parable. I’m sure if I were to think about it more I could think of other instances in scripture that describe a similar frustration with your mercy.

I used to know a Muslim who had a hard time accepting Christianity because it taught a mercy that was too easy and not earned—at least not earned enough beyond asking for it. Now, as I sit here and think about it, I wonder if this repeated message of the “good” person who cannot extend mercy is meant for me too. Is there any part of your mercy I resent you giving to someone? Is there a part of me that withholds telling someone about you because I don’t think they deserve to find you and have you redeem them?

Father, I can’t think of anyone right now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a blindness to my own judgmental attitude towards others. So please open my eyes so I can see open my ears so I can hear. Open my heart so I can forgive and love.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2021 in Jonah

 

Jonah 3:1-10

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.” This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes. Then the king and his nobles sent this decree throughout the city: “No one, not even the animals from your herds and flocks, may eat or drink anything at all. People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence. Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.” When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah 3:1-10

Dear God, fasting is an interesting thing. I was thinking about it a couple of days ago in terms of praying for a breakthrough on something in my life. I decided I had been negligent in sacrificing in that way as I prayed so I decided to take yesterday and give up something that has become important to me and a big part of my day. It wasn’t food, but it was definitely a sacrifice. In fact, I even found myself starting to use the thing a few times just on autopilot, but I would quickly stop and then use that moment to talk to you about the issue on my heart. I can’t say that it at all changed how you might be answering the prayers I’ve prayed, but I do think it was important for my own soul and attitude towards this issue, not to mention opening my eyes to how dependent I’ve become on the thing I gave up. In fact, I think I will continue fasting from this thing today as well.

Father, fasting is another example of denying myself—dying to myself—taking up my cross and following you. You know what’s on my heart. You know the pain. In fact, there’s nothing I’m experiencing that you haven’t experienced. Either through your own existence or through Jesus’s experience on earth. You are the God who knows me. Please comfort me as I patiently, faithfully, and hopefully wait for your plan to materialize in your good time.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2021 in Jonah

 

Proverbs 27:1

Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.
Proverbs 27:1

Dear God, yesterday, I was talking about pain. I think one thing pain does, if I allow myself to truly experience it and don’t just live in denial, is keep us humble. The older I get, the less I brag about, although I’ve known plenty of older people who are foolish. But, in general, those who have had some tough life experiences tend to dial back the cockiness. And that also makes me, hopefully, more useful by you in the lives of others as they go through trials of their own.

As I sit here now, I wonder if there are areas of my life where I am still too braggadocious. Frankly, if I were to say there isn’t then that in and of itself would feel braggadocious. I would say that one thing I was convicted of this weekend is that I haven’t fasted in a while. I’ve been very comfortable in some of my circumstances and I haven’t necessarily pursued you with all of my heart, mind and strength. Perhaps that alone is an example of being too confident in tomorrow.

Father, I need you. I realize I need you. I need you in my mind, heart, body and soul. I need you to heal me from my sin. I need you to help me be who you need me to be in my relationships. I need you forgive me for my hubris and selfishness. I need you to help me forgive myself. I need you today, in this moment. I’ll need you tomorrow too, but that’s a lifetime from now. Right now, I’m just thinking about right now. I need you right now.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2021 in Proverbs