Monthly Archives: December 2011

Emails to God – Riding Jesus’ Coat Tails (Matthew 9:18-26)

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

Dear God, this is almost the Cliff’s Notes version of these two stories. Matthew streamlines them for us. He doesn’t go through the whole process of Jesus asking who touched him to be healed. He doesn’t tell us about the little girl’s mourners who try to get rid of him. He just gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ power, and how it is related to the involved people’s respective faith. Mark gives us more detail, but Matthew gives us the basics. I am glad we have access to both.

In this case, Matthew is showing us a man who is, indeed, the Messiah. He is showing us the raw power that flowed through Jesus’ human frame. He (Matthew) remembers it as being one of the first things that happened when he joined the group. That must have been amazing for Matthew. I can imagine that he would have felt excited about his decision to leave his tax collection business and join Jesus’ entourage.

Of course, there will come a time when Matthew will wonder if he had made the biggest mistake of his life—namely the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. But for now, this is exciting stuff. Jesus is obviously special, and Matthew gets to ride the wave a little.

Father, remind me of how special you are. Yes, there are times of struggle, and each day has a little bit of struggle for me now, but for the most part, this is a time when I can look at just about every area of my life and see your blessings. So help me to remember that. Help me to feel your smile and live into the love that you have for me today. Help me to worship you the way you deserve to be worshipped.

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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – “You may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Luke 2:28-32)

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel

Dear God, I am going to break with the normal routine of going through Matthew and use for the verse of the day. I wonder what it would be like to perceivably reach the end of my life and be ready to go. Since I have had this job I have gotten more used to the idea of my own death because I see so many memorial donations come through for loved ones who have died. I can see that it truly happens to everyone—none of us are going to get out of life alive.

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with my wife’s 97-(soon to be 98-)year-old grandmother. It was a nice visit with her, and I think she is doing remarkably well. It was our last conversation right before we left that struck me. I think she is feeling her time ending. She told me that my wife and I need to be thinking about what we will want to say at her memorial service. She talked for a few minutes about the end and how her doctor told her he was trying to get her to 100, and she said that she didn’t really want that. I think she is about to the point where she is physically done. She is emotionally spend after having lost her daughter (my wife’s mother). She is even getting mentally spent.

Father, my prayer for her is that she will get to Simeon’s point of peace. That is the only thing that was missing from our conversation yesterday. She is tired, and she is girding herself for death, but she is not yet at peace with the idea. Help her, regardless of how many days, months, or even years she has left, to be at peace. Administer your peace through her remaining daughter. Administer your peace through her sons-in-law. Administer peace through her grandchildren, great grandchildren, and friends. Administer your peace through your spirit as she sits alone and ponders all that you are, all that you have been, and all that you will be to her.


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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Luke


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Emails to God – A Time for Everything (Matthew 9:14-17)

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Dear God, it seems to me that the message of this story is that there is a time and a place for everything. I Googled the scientific results of putting new wine in old wineskins and came across a couple of commentaries where people weren’t seeing the connection between the matter at hand (fasting while Jesus was among the disciples) and unshrunk cloth patching old garments and new wine being put in old wine skins. What is the connection? Well, the connection for me is that there is a time and a place for everything.

So, what are some of the areas where that applies to my life today? What kinds of things is there a time and a place for?

I have been visiting a Catholic church lately, and one of the results of that is that I am not allowed to take communion there since I am not Catholic. They believe in transubstantiation (the literal changing of the wine and the bread into the blood and body of Jesus) and I do not so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to partake while I am there. I’ve been okay with that. Right now, my wife and I are exploring our faith for this segment of our life, and what that might mean. But last night we went to an evangelical church for a Christmas Eve service, and it was the first time I have had communion in about 6 months. Frankly, the day had been a little rough for me, and I felt a little beaten up at that moment, so when I went up for communion I had to keep myself from literally breaking down and crying right there. I had tears in my eyes as I returned to my seat, and I sat there a while and had to regain my composure. I found that I have really missed communion. I have missed feeling like I am truly a part of the believers with whom I am worshipping. I have missed not feeling like someone on the outside looking in.

But again, there is a time and a place for everything, and it appears that this time in my life is not for belonging. It is for supporting my wife through her quest and for learning to love you through this time. I will say, however, it has really made me appreciate worshipping with like-minded people more than I thought it would, and it certainly made communion mean more to me than it probably has in a long time.

Father, help me to take this experience and build off of it. Help me to guide my children through this time. I pray that last night’s service was meaningful to them, even as we all explore our faith individually and as a family. Please touch our home. Please make us one as a family, and that starts with making my wife and me one. Please make us one, father, in every way. Give us one soul, heart, mind, and body. Parent our children through us and through others. Be glorified in our lives.

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:9-13)

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Dear God, I feel like I should “go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” The quote is from Hosea 6, and section is titled, “Israel Unrepentant,” in the NIV. It is the word “unrepentant” that helps me link the passage to the Pharisees and the tax collectors. I think that Jesus was appreciating the fact that he was with people who were at least willing to consider repentance, if not yet fully repentant, as opposed to being with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, who were a little more proud and self-righteous. Jesus was saying to the Pharisees, “You need to be on my page. You need to be showing everyone some mercy.”

Am I willing to be repentant? Am I willing to show mercy? I hope the answer to both of these is yes.

Today is Christmas Eve. As I sit here in my comfortable home, heated to 68 degrees, about to spend time with family, get gifts that I desire but don’t “need”, I think about those who are struggling through life. Yesterday, while I was driving to my office I saw an older woman walking down the street. It was cold and she was bundled up, and I think she was walking from a convenience store to an apartment complex nearby. I got to thinking about her life struggles. What is her life like now? Is she widowed? Is she sad? Does she wonder how she will pay her bills? Then, for some reason, I thought about her dead husband (remember, my imagination was going off by now, and I had him dead and one in my head) and how it would probably break his heart to see her struggling just to walk from the convenience store to her apartment in the cold. Then I thought about how I would feel if that were my wife one day, and I were looking down from heaven. It made me sad. So then I thought about stopping and at least offering her a ride, but I figured it would probably scare her to be offered a ride from a strange man, so I drove on. But I vowed in my heart that I would think about her the rest of the day and not let her memory slip past me too quickly.

Father, help me to desire mercy from myself and to offer it readily to others. Love others through me. As I see family over the next couple of days, use me as an instrument of your peace. Help me to parent my kids over the next couple of days. Help me to husband my wife. Help me to love my siblings, parents, in-laws, nieces, and nephew. Help me to not seek anything for myself, but to give of myself for others.

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Posted by on December 24, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Do I Appreciate Sin Forgiveness? (Matthew 9:1-8)

1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

Dear God, did Jesus intend to heal this man or simply forgive him of his sins? In reading the way this is written in the NIV, it is almost as if he would have let the forgiveness be the end of it. It was only when he was trying to prove a point to the teachers of the law that he moved forward with the healing. Perhaps he intended this all along, and this is how he was making his point. But it’s interesting to consider the idea that Jesus saw this man’s biggest need as getting his sins forgiven as opposed to walking. Do we perhaps take getting our sins forgiven too lightly?

I would say that we definitely take the forgiveness of our sins by you for granted. This is probably something that all Christians need to covet more—the idea that you would choose to forgive our sins. My mind tells me that healing someone and making them walk again is the bigger miracle, but I suppose if I were before you and your glory, and scared out of my mind (see Isaiah), then the idea at that moment that you would give me a “pass” for my sins would seem like a bigger deal than you healing my physical body.

Father, help me to remember the glory of your grace and redemption. Help me to remember to share that glory with others. For those who are lost and still seeking, please help me to share your love with them. Be glorified in me so that others might see you through me. Let that start with my children and my wife, and then flow into my coworkers, family and friends.

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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Who will Pass This Way? (Matthew 8:28-34)

28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Dear God, the end of verse 28 strikes me: “They were so violent that no one could pass that way.” There was a problem in the community’s midst and no one was willing to deal with it. Instead, they all worked around it and just waited for it to go away.

I can easily see myself doing that. The easiest thing to see in my life is homeless people. I run across them all of the time in my work, and they are soooo hard to help. Frankly, it’s intimidating to help them because you know it will require 1.) so much and 2.) so long. There isn’t a quick fix for some people. We have to invest in them, and, unfortunately, I find that I am not often up for the investment.

On the other hand, I saw some people last week make the decision to invest in someone’s life. They found a woman who is seemingly homeless. I say “seemingly” because it is hard to know exactly what the truth is. They brought her to us for dental care, but, between this one couple at one church and other man at another church, they have helped her with food, shelter, and even got her a job. How will it end? When will it end? Where will it end? I don’t know, but I know that I really admire these people because they decided to do what the people in this story wouldn’t do. They went the way that others didn’t want to pass and reached out to help.

Father, first, I pray for this woman and the people who are helping her. Guide her and direct her on her path. Draw her into you. Help her to feel you and your presence. Give her a long-term solution for her life. Second, I pray for the people who are ministering to her. Protect them and give them the strength, wisdom, and discernment they need to be your hands and feet to her. Give them an extra measure of joy this Christmas. And, finally, I pray that you will guide my family and me through each situation we encounter. Give us the courage to “pass that way” so that we might be a source of your love for others. Help me to teach your compassion to my children. Help me to understand what it is you would have me to do at any given moment.

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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Jesus Calms the Storm (Matthew 8:23-27)

23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Dear God, verse 25 is interesting because they implore Jesus to save them, but then they are amazed in verse 27. I guess my question is, when they went to Jesus and asked him to save them, what did they expect him to do? Were they just looking for comforting words? Did they want him to just say, “Don’t worry, the boat will be fine.”? Did they want him to start bailing water? Or did they want him to make the storm go away. Given what someone asked him a few passages before, it would have been interesting if they had had the presence to say, “Lord, if you are willing, save us!” I also wonder how Jesus would have responded if they had said, “Jesus, we are afraid. What should we do?”

Jesus’ response to them is a little curious too, asking them why they are so afraid. What were they supposed to expect from their faith in this situation? Were they supposed to be at peace without asking for help? Were they supposed to just know that they would be okay? Were they supposed to believe that they already had the authority to rebuke the wind and waves themselves? I would think that he would commend them for coming to him for help, but instead he used it as an opportunity to point out a deficiency in their faith.

There is a great song called, “Sometimes He Calms the Storm,” by Scott Krippayne. The chorus says, “Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered, ‘peace, be still,’ He can settle any sea, but it doesn’t mean he will. Sometimes He holds us close as the wind and waves go wild. Sometimes He calms the story, but other times he calms his child.” That song has always spoken to me because I don’t believe you are willing to calm every storm. Instead, you use the storm to grow me and my faith into something that couldn’t happen otherwise.

Father, help me to feel your peace. That is my own litmus test for how my faith is going—how is my peace. Right now, we are in a critical time of year at work. Help us to accomplish what you need for us to accomplish so that we might help those who need your help through us. Help us to draw people closer to you through our work. I feel like we might be missing something in this regard. So help us to do that. Help me to teach my children. Help me to love my wife. Help me to lead the staff at work so that all of us will bring your glory and honor through our lives and we won’t find ourselves screaming at you to save us, but we will instead find ourselves seeking your direction for us in the story.

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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Debating Prosperity Gospel (Matthew 8:14-22)

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities

and bore our diseases.”

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Dear God, I got into an interesting conversation with a couple of pastors last night. There is a certain television pastor out there who I cannot stand because of his prosperity message. This came up during my conversation with them and, to my surprise, they started defending him. Really? This guy? Is there something in this guy I have missed? Is there are depth there I haven’t seen? I respect these two men and feel that they have earnest faith. How can they support what this guy preaches?

I kind of liken it to this passage. In my own theology of how you work, there are people you intended to be wealthy, people you intended not to be wealthy, and people you intended to be poor. It’s not fair. To our eyes, it can sometimes seem like there is no rhyme or reason to it. Young, good people die. Old, grouchy people live. Who can explain it? But I think that a lot of my feelings on the subject come back to passages like this.

People started following Jesus because they got excited about him. They were excited about the miracles and they wanted to be near the power. So when a teacher of the law (I actually never noticed before that this was a teacher of the law who was saying this) said he would follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus had a surprising response. The same for the other disciple—a very insensitive response. He was saying that there was going to be a cost for following Jesus. Material possessions and ease of life were not necessarily part of the deal. For some they might be. But for others they won’t be. Heck, look at John the Baptist. He was fulfilled spiritually, but he did not live an easy life, nor did he die an easy death.

Father, I hope I didn’t offend these men too much, but, I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. I just don’t buy that you intended all of us who love you to live materially rewarded lives. The poor widow who Jesus saw put in her tiny offering went home poor and probably spent the rest of her life poor. That’s just how it is for some. They have a role to play. In her case, she is an example to me, and she never knew she would be. Help me to be willing to endure whatever it is you have for me to endure regardless of whether or not I see the purpose. And while I am thinking about it, for the wonderful blessings you give to me, including a good job and a healthy family, I thank you so much. You have been more than doubly good to me.

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Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – What Would I Have God Do? (Matthew 8:5-13)

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Dear God, first, let me say that this has to be a top-ten Bible story. It is always fun to find someone who impresses Jesus. Nicodemus does. The woman who argues with him and says that even the dogs get the scraps from the master’s table does. The widow who gives her money in the temple does. Even Peter impresses him every once in a while. So these stories are fun to see. I wonder if my response to something ever impresses you.

Then there is this passage itself. I don’t think I ever noticed verse seven before. Jesus asks him if He should come and heal him. He “asks” him. He was looking for faith, and in the next few verses he found it.

As I sit here today I wonder if Jesus isn’t asking me, “What would you have me do?” Hmm. There are so many things I would have you do God. First, there are my children. Please help me to raise them. I want them to eventually be completely submitted to you. Please help me to love my wife. Give her peace, and give her what you need her to have through me and through her friends, family, and work. Please help me at work. Bless our efforts and use them for your glory. Whether it be in raising money for our work or finding services for our patients, bless our efforts. Please help our friends. My wife mentioned a friend last night who is really struggling. Please help her with the loss of her mother. Help her with her marriage. Help her with her children. If you are willing, please help her.

Father, I give all of this to you and more. These are the things on my heart, and they are what I would have you do, provided that you are willing. So I hope you are pleased with me. I hope you are pleased with my heart because it truly longs to serve you well.

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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Lord, if you are willing… (Matthew 8:1-4)

1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Dear God, I got curious abut what gift Moses commanded so I Googled it (to no avail). Then I did a search for the word “leprosy” in the Bible and found that the word isn’t mentioned for the first time until 2 Samuel. Incidentally, “leper” doesn’t appear until Matthew. So I assume that the gift Jesus commanded him to give had to do with miraculous healing in general and not leprosy in particular. Interestingly, there is also no mention of this man disobeying Jesus in the rest of chapter 8, so perhaps he is one of the few healed people who did what he was supposed to do.

I wonder if the phrase I am looking for in my prayer life when I ask for remarkable things is, “If you are willing…?” I tend to hesitate to ask for supernatural things because I am unsure if you are “willing”. This uncertainty causes me not to ask. I know you can do anything. I have seen you do miraculous things. I am just hesitant to ask for the miraculous because I am afraid that it might be outside of your will.

Father, if you are willing you can provide for my family and make me the father I need to be for my children. Father, if you are willing you can heal our patients and our volunteers who are sick. Father, if you are willing, you can comfort those who mourn. Father, if you are willing, you can provide for our Center’s financial needs through our donors. Father, if you are willing, you can love others through me. Father, if you are willing, you can heal my heart and make me whole. But regardless of whether or not you are willing, I am your servant. You are my God. Help me to glorify you in everything that I do so that others might be drawn to you.

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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Matthew


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