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Friendship

A few years ago, a colleague mentioned to me that he was going to meet with David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and author of some of my favorite books. I gave my colleague an assignment: “Ask him what he would do with several million dollars. What does he think the world really needs right now?”

A few weeks later, David published his answer in the New York Times, which really surprised me. His answer surprised me, too: “…friendship is not in great shame in America today [so]…I’d try to set up places that would cultivate friendships.”

Why? Friends help each other make good decisions. They bring out the best in each other. They hold each other accountable.

Good friends help each other become better people.

David Rogers, President, H.E. Butt Foundation
Echoes Vol. 4, No. 3

Dear God, I was trying to think of what I wanted to talk to you about this morning when I sat down to breakfast and I saw the latest issue of the H.E. Butt Foundation’s magazine/newsletter on the table. I opened it up with the intent of being inspired, and the first thing I saw on the inside cover was David Rogers’s editorial on the inside cover. The importance of friendship seemed like something good to pray to you about.

Friendships have been harder to achieve as an adult than I thought they would be. It is so easy to isolate. Even when I’m out in public, it is easy to have a hundred casual relationships that at one level are friends, but they certainly aren’t on a deeper level.

I suppose I’m grateful not only for my wife, but also for a friend with whom I visit every week on the phone. We share our lives with each other. We talk about accountability issues. I wish he lived closer, but, on the other hand, if he lived closer would we make the time to visit like we do now? Is the distance actually good for us in how we discipline ourselves to visit?

I don’t know how many levels of friendships there are, but let’s say I break it simply into three: Superficial, Moderate, and Deep. Superficial are the relationships I have with most of the people in this town. They know me, but they don’t really know me. And I’m the same way with them. Moderate friendships are like the ones in my church group. They are people with whom my wife and I meet once a month and we talk about our lives in those settings, but we don’t really see each other outside of that. Then there are the deep friendships, of which I only have a couple. I’m grateful for them, but I wonder if I shouldn’t have more.

Father, help me to find the relationships you want me to have so that you can use me in other men’s lives and so that you can use them in mine. Help us to sharpen each other so that we might be the men you need us to be for our families, our work, and our community. And most of all, for your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

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Ephesians 4:31-5:2

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Ephesians 4:31-5:2

Dear God, yesterday at Rotary one of our members gave a great invocation. He talked about civility and disagreeing with respect. He talked about our current national discourse on politics. He prayed that you would teach us to love each other.

I’m having to go to some meetings of different political parties during this 10-day stretch, and I’ve decided what I dread most about it isn’t what they say about their own beliefs, but how they insult people from the other side. And it goes beyond them thinking that they other person is wrong or even stupid. They start to claim that they aren’t patriotic and don’t love our country. They claim that the other side wants us to become fascists or socialists (depending on which group I’m visiting). The hate is real, and I don’t like being around it.

Father, I’ve been thinking about writing an editorial or letter to the editor about how we need each other. It starts with us needing you, moves to us needing our spouses, and then beyond that into our friends and community. As far as Republicans and Democrats go, the need each other too. They need each other for balance. If either one were in control, not balanced by the other, our country would either run into a ditch on the left of a ditch on the right. But with both sides holding onto the wheel, the car stays down the road. The same is true in my marriage, at work, in the boardroom where I work, and in our community. You made us all part of one body. Help me to me part of uniting it.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2019 in Ephesians

 

James 3:13-18

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.
James 3:13-18

Dear God, I’ve never thought of this passage in this way before, but this is another way of looking at the fruits of the Spirit in myself or someone else.

  • Honorable living
  • Good works
  • Humility
  • Peace loving
  • Gentle
  • Willing to yield
  • Mercy
  • Good deeds
  • No favoritism
  • Sincere
  • Peacemaking
  • Righteous

The opposite of God’s wisdom:

  • Bitter jealousy
  • Selfish ambition
  • Boasting
  • Lying
  • Selfishness
  • Disorder
  • Evil works

So I guess my question is, what do I do with the second type of person? How do I respond to them in my family, in my community, in my work, and even as my political/governmental leader?

Ironically, I think it goes back to the first list James gave me. If I’m in you and I’m doing those things then my life will influence the sphere you want me to influence. I will carry you into my world and be your ambassador. But if I try to manufacture those actions myself without relationship with you then I will find that second list creeping into and through my life.

Father, I’m sorry for any times yesterday I exhibited bitterness, jealousy, pride, lying, ambition, disorder, or evil in any way. I’m sure I touched on all of them in one way or another. Live through me so that my life will be whole and you can then use me however you will.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2019 in James

 

“Grace Wins” by Matthew West

“Grace Wins” by Matthew West

In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here
‘Cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole

And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that it lost

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time
Every time
I’m living proof grace wins every time

Source: LyricFind
Songwriter: Matthew West

Dear God, the lyrics of this song deserve some time. On a macro level, this song is all about your Plan A vs Satan’s Plan A. Satan’s Plan A is all about dividing us and using judgment and shame between us to accomplish it. Your Plan A is to do your work in the world through unity with us and then us with each other. The way we are able to do that is your grace for us and then our grace with each other. If we actually tap into your grace then, as this song says, “Grace wins every time.”

In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here
‘Cause grace could never reach that far

This is the first part in Satan’s Plan A. He lies to us about you. He takes the shame we feel in letting others down and he applies the same standard to you. Yes, our family and friends might judge us for what we’ve done, but you see us through the blood of Jesus. People who feel judged by you are taking the judgment they feel from others, including Christians, and associating that with you. But you are just waiting to love us and then give us freedom from whatever is behind our shame, whether it is something we’ve done or something that was done to us.

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

I have some people in my heart right now who need to hear your call. This is where I struggle–what is my role in helping to be your voice to them? What exactly am I afraid of? I guess I’m afraid that if I address your grace for them then they will feel judged that I’m sitting around thinking they are awful people. In the case of a couple of them, in particular, I suspect things were done to them for which they feel shame and it has colored the rest of their lives. But it’s only a suspicion. How do I know? How do I broach the subject? How do I offer them your grace without sounding either 1.) sanctimonious or 2.) judgmental myself.

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe I tell them my story. Maybe I tell them about the guilt and shame I used to feel and how your grace won in my life. Maybe I need to tell them how I still feel shame over some of my decisions and I still need your grace. Maybe I need to tell them I love them and I truly want the best for them. Maybe I need to tell them that I have firsthand experience that your grace wins every time.

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole

I’ve experienced the tears and release of turning loose of my guilt and shame and embracing your forgiveness. It’s amazing. He’s right. “Words can’t describe the way it feels, when mercy floods a thirsty soul.” To quote Dennis Jernigan song, “I wish I could take your heart into my heart. I wish I could show you just how good it feels to let go of the pain you know is killing you and cling to the only one who can heal you.”

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that it lost

I’ll tell you who else wins. The man who feels shame for lust. The woman who feels shame for how her children turned out. For the person who felt judged by and could never please their parents. For the child who was sexually abused. For the adult who was sexually assaulted. For all of us, grace wins every time.

Father, I really, earnestly pray that you will guide me in knowing how to be your messenger of grace to those around me. Show me what to do in each relationship and opportunity I have.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2019 in Hymns and Songs

 

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1 Peter 3:8-9

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.
1 Peter 3:8-9

Dear God, I wish we could stop assuming the worst in others. Man, Satan is good at this. He is so good at dividing us.

But Peter is right here. We should sympathize with each other. We should love others as brothers and sisters. We should be tender hearted. We should be humble. We should NOT repay evil for evil. We should NOT retaliate with insults when people insult us. We should bless others who curse us.

Now I need to change all of the “we’s” above to “I’s.” This is for Christians as a group, but it’s for me personally as well. I can be too dismissive of other people. I can judge way too easily. In short, I can be as much a part of the problem as anyone.

Father, whether someone is as bad as I am wont to believe or not, I should still show them love. The worst person I know should feel as much love from me as the best person I know. Why? Because that’s how you love me. It’s how you love them. And I am yours. I am your ambassador. Help me to recognize these attitudes in myself and opportunities to love and reject hate in real time so that you might have glory and they might be drawn to you. At the end of the day, I know it will draw me closer to you as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2019 in 1 Peter

 

Philippians 4:4-5

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Philippians 4:4-5

Dear God, yes! This is exactly the type of verse I wanted to find this morning. Thank you for making it Bible Gateway’s verse of the day.

Why was I looking for a verse like this? Because I have a presentation tonight to a political group. And it doesn’t matter what type of political group or where they are on the “left” to “right” spectrum. There is a lot of anger and animosity out there, and I am sure there will be at least a little in the room tonight. When I woke up this morning, the word I felt like I was getting from you was to be a source of joy and hope to them. The goal for the evening is to leave them with joyful, tender hearts that are full of hope for how we can ALL work together for your glory.

So I sat down this morning and hoped I could find a verse to pray over today. That’s when I opened up www.biblegateway.com and saw the verse of the day at the top of the page. Thank you.

So this is my prayer–that I would be the embodiment of this passage. That I would be full of joy. That I would rejoice in ALL things. That I would be considerate in all that I do. And that I would be mindful that you are real, you are my God and to be worshipped, and that one way or another, I will one day meet you face to face–whether it be in death or your second coming.

Father, full the room tonight with your Holy Spirit. Fill it with your joy. Love through me. Represent yourself through me. And for any hearts in there that aren’t yours, turn them to you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Philippians

 

Psalm 121

I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.
Psalm 121:1-8

Dear God, I think the most important thing to know about this psalm is that it is “a psalm for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.” I like the idea of a group of people, walking together and singing this song along the way. Worshipping you through this song. Is it a song that Jesus used to sing with others when they walked to Jerusalem for the Passover? Did he sing it on his way to the fateful Passover? Put into that context–Jesus singing this as we walked to his torture and death–the song gains even more meaning and poignancy.

I haven’t even made it to work yet, and I’ve already had a work problem to solve this morning. But thankfully, you helped me solve it. And it wasn’t a slam dunk by any means. I recognize your provision. I hope that when you look down and see the problems I’m trying to solve, you see that the problems involve loving others and that I’m part of a group that is trying to do our best to represent you.

When I first read this passage this morning, I thought about the divisions between us and how there are so many people who are ideologically opposed to each other when the truth is, we all want the same thing. Why does it always take something special to unite us? Well, I know why. I’ve said it many times before. Satan’s Plan A is to divide us and he very rarely needs Plan B because Plan A is very good.

Father, as I do a radio interview today on a Tea Party radio show, and as I speak to both Tea Party and Democrat groups over the next 8 days, help me to be a united. Help me to love. Help me to be part of getting all of us to look to you, where our helps comes from. Keep watch over all of us. Unite us in our love for you and our love for each other. And when others who don’t love you look at us, let them see the God of the universe who is worthy of love because you love us so much.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2019 in Psalms