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Monthly Archives: September 2017

John 3:19-21

John 3:19-21 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” 

Dear God, first, I want to pray for your light. I pray that I will embrace it in my own life. I pray for it in my wife’s life. I ask that my children will embrace your light and let go of any darkness they think they need. 

And then there is the need for your light in the world. In politics. In business. In churches and nonprofits. In friendships and marriages. 

And what does your light bring? Freedom. Peace. Love. Joy. Patience. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Kindness. Self control. (Galatians 5:22-23). That is what I want for my world. That is what I want for my life. 

Father, I’m sorry for anything I try to conceal for what I think is my own preservation and protection. I offer you my life, my service, and my ego. All I ask is for your Spirit in return. 

In Jesus’ name I pray,
Amen 

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Posted by on September 29, 2017 in John

 

Matthew 6:31-34

Matthew 6:31-34 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. 

Dear God, a couple of weeks ago I did a post about anxiety that I shared on Facebook. It really seemed to strike a nerve. It got a lot of “Shares.” My take away is that anxiety is very prevalent in our society. 

So what makes me anxious? I’m worried about work. Mainly funding, but also staff relationships and operational procedures and strategies. 

Then there is family. Some are going through season-of-life changes, some are divorcing, some are mourning the loss of spouses/parents, some are sick. 

Of course, I worry about my children. They are both living away from home and I think about them and how they are doing constantly. 

To some extent, I worry about our government leadership, although I have to confess that I am getting numb to the craziness in Washington and Austin. I’ve noticed friends of mine on both sides of the political spectrum getting REALLY upset by things that are happening. It seems like it is Midnight in America. That worries me a little. 

So what am I supposed to do about all of this? I’m supposed to daily, moment-by-moment, seek your Kingdom and choose to live righteously, and then you will give me what you think I need. Even if what I need is struggle–because sometimes I need a struggle so that I can remember to seek first your Kingdom–then that what I’ll get. 

Father, I don’t want to minimize the struggle that some face. I acknowledge that, compared to some, I don’t know what suffering is. I’m thinking of slaves and people being trafficked. I’m thinking of people in Africa who are victims of wars and warlords. Please free them. That is their need. Please show all of us who believe in you the role you have for us to play in their lives. We are your plan A. 

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2017 in Matthew

 

Hebrews 10:26-29

Hebrews 10:26-29 Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. 

Dear God, sometimes I run across passages that get me into uncomfortable territory. A lot of times they are the ones about heaven/hell and salvation/rejection. It can be frustrating to try to figure out where your lines are. I try to stop and think, Okay, as a dad, where would my lines be? But I am too flawed as a human father to possibly figure out where my lines would be compared to yours. 

As for my own behavior, am I intentionally sinning in any areas of my life? I watched a show last night that I enjoy, but one of the characters openly denies your existence. Is my watching of that show allowing Satan a foothold in my life, or is it just a harmless show that gives me entertainment? Are you holding anything against me?

Father, I guess the final answer is that I hope you find me faithful. I hope my life is an adequate living sacrifice–not because I want to do enough to get my fire insurance, but because you deserve that from me and you ask it of me for my good. 

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Hebrews

 

1 John 2:1-2

1 John 2:1-2 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. 

Dear God, I wish I had the kind of relationship with you where I could KNOW if some of the thoughts I have are of you or not. I woke up this morning with a sad, maybe you could even call it an alarming, thought about a relative. It was a new interpretation of something they told me a couple of weeks ago. Was our conversation a secret message that they needed help and I missed it? My wife says you tend to speak to me in my dreams. Is that what you did this morning? Were you nudging me?

Look at all of the question marks in that last sentence. This is what I’m talking about when it comes to wishing I could hear directly from you in audible, unmistakable words. I’m assuming that you don’t give us that ability on a regular basis because we can’t handle it (yes, I believe there are people who have the gift of prophesy which would be hearing directly from you, but even that isn’t 24/7, and they don’t have 100% accuracy in how they interpret what you say in their lives), but I wish there was a way that made things more obvious for me. 

I say all of this in relation to this verse because I fear something happened to this person where they made a mistake that needs your redemption, but they don’t know how to seek it or ask for it. So that is my prayer right now. Father, I pray that a couple of people about whom I am thinking right now will embrace the sacrifice you made, let go of their sins, receive your forgiveness, live in your redemption and freedom, and embrace your commands. I pray that your power would flow through them and that you would transform them into people who are worshippers of you, letting go of their burdens and embracing the yoke that you have for them to carry. And I pray the same thing for myself. I am sorry for the hundreds of times I fail you in my thoughts and in my words–in what I have done and what I have failed to do. Thank you for your death and resurrection through Jesus Christ, my Lord. I will worship you as best I can. 

By the power that his shed and resurrected blood I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2017 in 1 John

 

Romans 5:3-5

Romans 5:3-5 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

 

Dear God, I live in an area that grows a lot of peaches and grapes. I’ve learned a couple of things about the needs of these fruits that were counterintuitive to me. Too much water is not good for them, and they need stress as they grow to make their fruit sweeter. Peaches, while they can be hurt by a late freeze, need X number of hours of below freezing over the winter in order to produce good fruit.

So what would a life with too much water and no stress look like? For example, take a child and meet every one of her needs immediately as she has them. Give her supportive friends who never turn on her or betray her. Give her perfect parents. Give her no need for money because everything she desires is instantly provided. What kind of person will that create?

So why do we pray that our trials will be removed? Why do we pray for others that their lives will be easy? Why do we clamor for Joel Osteen’s message of our best life now? We know what too easy of a life will do to us, but we pursue it because our nature is to selfishly serve ourselves.

Father, frankly, lately I have felt like my path is too easy. And as I start this month of sabbatical (Sabbath) from work, I willingly submit myself to the process you have for me now and after. Do with me what you will. Do with my children what you will. Use the strain in their lives to crush any weeds and vines that are growing and develop and nurture the seeds that have been planted over the years that are of you. Create great and wonderful fruit in them so that they will live at peace in the center of your heart.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2017 in Romans, Uncategorized

 

Isaiah 49:5-6

Isaiah 49:5-6 And now the Lord speaks—
the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant,
who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.
The Lord has honored me,
and my God has given me strength.
He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
I will make you a light to the Gentiles,
and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

 

Dear God, am I doing enough to restore the people of my community to you? The people of our country? The people of the world? As my wife and I were praying together this morning, I got the image of our lives being a pebble that drops in the water. Our pebble only touches the water immediately adjacent to it, but then that water touches the water next to it until the ripple goes across the pond. I prayed that my wife’s and my lives would be the pebbles and produce the ripples you need them to produce.

So what is it you have for me to do today? Whom would you like my life to touch? I have a friend who is very sick? How can my life touch hers? I have another friend who just lost her husband. How can my life touch hers? Patients will come to us today looking for help. What will you have me do in their lives? I prayed something similar to this yesterday, and then we had a woman come to us who was mourning the loss of someone close to her. She wanted counseling from a therapist for her and her daughter immediately, and we didn’t have any to offer. But you spoke to me and I was able to ask our staff member to encourage her to go to her pastor and seek his pastoral counseling. Who knows, but that you might be making this tragic loss count for your glory?

Father, give me ears to hear, eyes to see, a heart that is willing and motivated, and the wisdom to know what to do. And may it all be under your authority, done in humility, and for your glory alone.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

Define Shame (2 Corinthians 4:2)

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

A couple of months ago, I woke up from a dream in which I was sitting in a classroom and a teacher gave us an assignment: “Define shame.” I questioned her and asked if we were supposed to define the verb or the noun. She looked at me and simply said, “Define shame.”

I woke up feeling like this was something I needed to do. It seemed divinely inspired. I needed to define shame. I sat down to do it a couple of times, but I ran into road blocks. I started thinking of biblical characters who experienced shame: Adam, Noah, Saul, David, Elijah, Peter, Thomas, etc. Frankly, nearly everyone in the Bible experienced shame because all of us are flawed and make mistakes (or have tragic things done to us). It’s one of the most refreshing things about reading the Bible–it is honest about what it’s like to be human.

So this “assignment” from my dream (something that felt divinely inspired at the time) has been sitting in the back of my brain. I’ve always drifted towards defining it as a noun, but I’ve still struggled. Then I ran across this passage from 2 Corinthians and I decided to take another swing at it. How would I define shame?

If I’m going to use this verse, and since I don’t read Greek or Hebrew, it’s probably a good idea to look at some different translations of this passage. Here are a few:

We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this. (New Living Translation)

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (New International Version)

but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (New American Standard)

But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (King James Version)

But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (New King James Version)

While Paul is talking about how he treats evangelism here, there are truths that go back to my dream and the assignment I received from the teacher. I think a key to what Paul is saying here is that shame changes us. Shame causes us to hide things. Shame causes us to deceive so that we can keep reality a secret.

Shame isn’t only driven by the things we do. Sometimes it is driven by the things that are done to us. I’m thinking about sexual abuse/assault. I’m thinking about the child who is ashamed of their parent because of prison or something else. I’m thinking about the shame of poverty. I’m thinking about substance abuse. I’m thinking about the shame a parent has when their child “didn’t turn out the way they should.”

Notice that all of the translations combine the same idea along with shame. The words they use are “secret,” “underhanded,” and “hidden.” That’s where Satan gets his power over us–over me. It’s when I am ashamed of something that I have done or was done to me, and I decide that it must be something that only I can know or I will be rejected.

I am not saying that we must share our shame with everybody, but I do believe that it needs to be shared with somebody (a spouse, parent, trusted friend, pastor, therapist, etc.).

When I first started dating my wife 28 years ago, we were talking late one night and I knew that this relationship was serious. We had already bonded quite a bit and I decided to take a chance. I told her my deepest, darkest secret. I took a chance that it would end the relationship there, but I wanted to know early on if she could accept me. Thankfully, she did. But if I had carried that secret into the rest of our relationship and the next 25 years of marriage, I would still be sitting here, even as I type this, in shame, deceiving her, and hoping she doesn’t find out how awful I really am. Instead, that secret has lost its power and I can be free. I also know that I can trust her and I am free to be honest with her.

I think the hopeful thing about this passage is that it ties our rejection of shame’s power over us with being honest. It’s a reminder to me that I need to be intentionally vulnerable to my wife, family, and close friends, and appropriately vulnerable with others. It is also a reminder to look beyond the deception that I see in others and try to consider that there might be something they are hiding that is driving their behavior.

So here is my personal response to the teacher in my dream.

shame (noun): the emotion felt over an embarrassing event that Satan then uses to separate us from God and the ones we love by leading us to deceive

 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in 2 Corinthians