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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Emails to God – Works vs. Relationship (Luke 10:20)

Luke 10:20 – Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.
“Jesus Christ is saying here, ‘Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.’” Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Dear God, but the “works” feel so good, and they look so good. It feels good to look back on a day and know that I have done good things. I like having people being able to see the good things I do. I like feeling their adulation. I like feeling like I am pleasing you. But that’s not what it’s all about. In fact, It is the addiction to that feeling of having done good that has caused me some of my biggest problems. How does it cause problems. Because I start to pursue the adulation instead of pursuing you and the peace that comes from being in right relationship with you.

I have had different jobs in my pre- and post-college career. Some have been for Christian organizations and a couple have been with secular ones. It is interesting, but I think I found it easier to have a right relationship with you when I worked in a secular environment. It was easier when my vocation and my desire to do well at work didn’t get mixed up with how others see me living out my spiritual life. Not that I didn’t try to work to your glory in the secular environment, but I was able to point to the difference in how I did my job as an example of my love for you. Here, in my current job, I am expected to do good works and be an example for you.

Father, while I want to integrate my faith into every part of my life, including my work, I need your help to separate my work from my identity in you. I need you to help me be at peace in you instead of pursuing public glory for the things I do for you. Help me to find those lines and to embrace you as my provider, my king, and my God.

 

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Emails to God – Teach Me to Pray (My Utmost for His Highest, August 28 – By Oswald Chambers)

“Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer.”

Dear God, there is a fine line between my life and your life. Mr. Chambers makes an interesting distinction here in this regard. He is positing that the life of John Willome will be just fine without prayer. My own selfishness will flourish. My ability to indulge my own whims will be unchecked. In fact, the only checks on my life at all will be in how my life ends up relating to those around me—my wife, children, coworkers, etc. What will suffer is your life in me.

I think I am learning more and more that our lives, yours and mine, are mutually exclusive. I cannot embrace my selfishness and embrace you at the same time, so when I embrace you in times of prayer like this (and I mean truly submit myself to you and embrace you—not just praying without thought or emotion) then I have to let go of myself, at least for that time period. So the more I pray the more I let go of myself. The more I let go of myself then the more your life will replace mine. The more your life replaces mine the more Christ-like I become. The more Christ-like I become the more I will be at peace and you will receive glory.

Father, help me to be a more continual prayer. Help me to pray in the middle of conversations. Help me to pray while I drive, while I work, while I think in the middle of the day. Help me to pray as I husband my wife. Help me to pray as I parent my children. Help me to pray as I work in my office, or directly with patients, staff, volunteers, and donors. Help me to continuously turn loose of my own life so that yours might flourish within me.

 

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Emails to God – Surviving the Darkness (John 12:20-35)

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

Dear God, it was the Greeks’ request that started this speech. I’m sitting here and trying to find the connection between their request to see Jesus and his response, which ended with him hiding himself from everyone there.

As I sit here and try to hear your voice on this, the thought that is occurring to me is the idea that he was getting exasperated by the hype and wanted to bring everyone back to reality a little. He even includes the words in verse 27 when he says, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour…” The Greeks, as well as the others there, thought they were jumping on a fun bandwagon. Little did they know that a dark moon was rising.

Although it is nothing like the darkness that Jesus experienced, or even that others experience around me, I have felt like I have been under a dark moon over the last three years. It started with the end of my mother-in-law’s life and has brought difficult challenges at both work and home. I think the important thing for me to remember is the reason for these difficult times in our lives. Jesus says it at the end of verse 27 and in verse 28 when he says, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Father, there is terrible suffering in the world—much worse than anything I have experienced. But I am convinced that one of the key outcomes of anyone’s suffering is that you would glorify your name through it. Whether it be through the saved marriage, the renewed life that goes through repentance, the damaged person who is healed, or the poverty that one survives. Of course, there are unspeakably horrible tragedies like human trafficking, sexual assault, and things of that ilk. I don’t know what to do with these awful things, but to hope that you are there too, trying to redeem the victims and glorify your name to all who are around. So help us to live in that joy, regardless of whether or not there is any joy in our situations.

 

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Emails to God – Too Much Vulnerability? (Matthew 6:5-8)

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Dear God, I think one of the areas where I get myself into difficulty is that I don’t like to put a gloss on how things are going. When people ask me how things are going at work, I never want to just give a nice, “Oh, just great,” unless things are going great. Same thing for my personal life. My experience is that people get more out of my vulnerability and confessions of weakness as opposed to me trying to make everything look perfect.

So why does that get me into difficulty? Well, there are times when I think I might make things sound worse than they really are. There are also times when the people around me are expecting me to lead them through a difficult time and they need me to display confidence and a positive attitude. I know there have been times when I shared too much of my fears with my children—such as when I was unemployed back in 2003 and 2005. They needed to feel a little more security through those times than I gave them. In an effort to be vulnerable and transparent, I think I shared too much.

How does that fit with this passage? Because the way I can justify praying to you through this blog and sharing it with the readers even though this verse discourages it is because I am not trying to impress anyone with what a grand prayer or Christian I am. I try to mention my faults in here. I try to mention my fears and vulnerabilities. But then I think people sometimes read it and start to get worried about me. I had a friend one time stop and ask me if I was okay. I said, “Yes. I’m really doing well. It is actually very therapeutic to journal prayers this way.” I then said, “You should try it some time. You’d be surprised by what comes out.”

Father, I don’t want to be a babbling pagan. I just want to have a life that is open to you in prayer. I want to find time in my day to stop and listen to your still small voice. I want you to use this blog to let others know that they are not alone. There is a fellow sojourner who struggles, questions, cries out, overcomes, and lives in victory with you. I want people to see something in Scripture that they might not have seen before. And I want others to have a look inside me and see beneath any veneer that I might intentionally or unintentionally put up around me. Be glorified through me in this process. Help me to decrease as you increase.

 

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Emails to God – Exercise and Prayer (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Dear God, it is so difficult to understand why I cannot be more attuned to your Spirit when things are going well. Why do I too often need to suffer first before I cry out to you? I was driving to work this morning and feeling pretty good. My marriage seems to be moving in the right direction. Kids are doing okay. Work is moving ahead and seems to be going in the right direction. So I was driving along and listening to some of my favorite secular singers on my Pandora app through my phone. About halfway to work, however, I thought, why am I listening to this? Why aren’t I filling myself with Christian music and thoughts right now? So I switched Pandora over the “Rich Mullins Radio” and listened to Christian music for the last five minutes of my drive (I’m blessed to only live less than 10 minutes from work).

Now, I’m sitting here disciplining myself to spend a little bit of time in prayer. It would be the easiest thing in the world to skip today. A little like skipping my exercise last night. I know I need it. I know I need you. I know it will be good for me. I know time with you is good for me. I know it will make me healthier. I know time with you will heal my soul. I know I’ll feel better when it’s over. I know I’ll feel better after I’ve touched you. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the discipline of regular exercise and the discipline of regular, thoughtful prayer. If I go out and exercise once a week then I won’t feel much difference, but a month of exercising will bring about a change in me. It’s the same thing with prayer. One prayer a week won’t really have much impact on my life, but a month of praying regularly will.

Father, thank you for bringing me here today. I am sorry that I often need to be poor in spirit before I end up on my knees before you. I am sorry that I still try to take control of my surroundings and the events in my life so often. But here, in this moment, I bring my life to you, I lay it at your feet, and I ask that you will please do with it and me as you will. Love through me. Parent through me. Husband through me. Lead through me. And serve through me.

 

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Emails to God – One thing I lack… (Luke 18:18-23)

18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”

21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.

Dear God, there is a fatigue in self-sufficiency. It can be hard to always do things yourself—to insist on being able to say that you are the one who deserves credit for everything you have accomplished. That’s what this rich young ruler was saying: “I have done it. I have done it all. From honoring the commandments to making money, I have done it within my power and succeeded.”

I am reading a book right now where the “hero” (protagonist is probably a better word because I don’t know that he is that heroic) has accomplished a lot on his own. He started out poor, became a star running back in college, and then a successful lawyer. But the writer is doing a good job of setting up the idea that, even though the man sees his life as safe and impenetrable, it is actually very fragile and only a couple of things have to go wrong for it to all fall apart.

Father, help me to surrender my resources, talent, sinfulness, and everything in between to you. Help me to embrace and absorb you a little more each day. Help me to never cease taking you into my being and surrendering all of me to you. I metaphorically turn my fists downward, open them up and drop everything to which I hold so tight, and then turn my open palms up to you, asking that you will them simply with your presence. And then help me to influence my children to do the same.

 

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Emails to God – Knowing Doctrine vs. Knowing Jesus (My Utmost for His Highest – August 16)

Dear God, I don’t normally read Oswald Chambers’ commentary about a verse. I just use the verses he uses and then pray to you about what you are saying to me. But today, I was compelled to read the first paragraph in his commentary and I ran across these two sentences:

It is possible to know all about doctrine and still not know Jesus. A person’s soul is in grave danger when the knowledge of doctrine surpasses Jesus, avoiding intimate touch with Him.

Wow. That is quite an indictment of so many of us. It begs the question, do I know more about doctrine than I do about Jesus?

As I think about it, I think Satan has used doctrine over the last several millennia to drive us away from each other and from Jesus. I think about the denominations and how each of us have our own doctrine. Then, individuals allow doctrine to come between them and their own denomination. For example, I know many Catholics who believe in birth control while the church’s official position is that it is a sin. Satan has used the issue to divide and even embitter some Catholics against the church. But what would happen if everyone involved took the attitude of knowing more about Jesus than they do doctrine. Better said, what if they knew Jesus, Himself, more than they knew doctrine.

Father, of course, I am in this same boat. I get my theology, and I hold onto different parts of it as if they are so important. But are they? Are they really? Where does my priority on implementing my theology stop and my desire to simply become one with your heart begin? Help me to answer that question and to find my way as I try to parent, husband, and lead in the different areas of my life. Be glorified in everything I do so that you might draw others to yourself and they might get to know the real you and not the “you” they learned through possible false or misleading doctrines.

 

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