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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Romans 8:38-39

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Dear God, “neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow…” That’s an interesting thing to include in things that will not separate us from your love. On the one had, Jesus taught us to consider the lilies of the field and not worry, but here Paul is telling us that there’s grace for our humanness and brokenness. As we slowly work out our faith and learn not to worry, there is still room in your heart for us to do that.

Whenever I think about people with reason to worry I think about a father in Syria or The Sudan who cannot protect his wife, his children, or even himself from despots. I think about the sex trafficking victim who will likely never be rescued while she’s alive. I think about myself and my legitimate concern for my children as they live in the world. These fears aren’t sin. They are real, and they are the things that bring me to my knees. In my case, there is the opportunity for me to bring these and other concerns I have to you and learn to live in your peace through them. But for some others that I mentioned here, that opportunity for peace doesn’t exist—at least a peace that I’m capable of understanding. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t there to love each one.

Father, I really do feel your love and grace. Thank you. Thank you for your forgiveness and your provision. Thank you that your love for me is beyond anything that I can do to separate me from you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2018 in Romans

 

Romans 8:35-37

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” ) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

Romans 8:35-37

Dear God, I confess to you that I cannot stand prosperity Gospel preachers. I truly think of them as an enemy of your message. I can’t really think of any New Testament characters of whom A certain pastor would say they are living their best life now. There’s a lot of poverty, suffering, and death among the faithful.

I’ve always struggled with really understanding your message through the book of Job, but I read a Biblical commentary on the book that really helped me. Actually, I got part way through the commentary, but there was this one part that really spoke to me. It talked about six different levels of faith that I’ll list here.

1 Intuitive – projective faith: is associated with the child’s faith, based upon fantasy and imagination

2 Mythical-literal faith: is the family faith of the early school years, which is sustained by moral rules and either/or thinking

3 Synthetic – conventional faith: as an adolescent phase that conforms to the tradition of the community and creates the “kind” of person of faith it models or rejects

4 Individuative – reflective faith: is the faith of the young adult who is capable of critical thinking, independent reflection, and dialectical reasoning

5 Conjunctive faith: is a mid-life and old-age faith that integrates self-identity with a comprehensive world of you to see the order, coherence, and meaning of life in order to serve and be served

6 Universalizing faith: is the rare faith of the world citizen who incarnates a transcendent vision into a disciplined, active, and self-giving life. (Page 22)

The author made the argument that Job and his friends start out the book in the third level of faith. In their custom, good fortune expressed your favor and bad fortune your displeasure. But through Job’s suffering he learned that there is actually very little connection between a seemingly #blessed life and your favor. This is something that the early Christian Church surely figured out as they suffered for their pursuit of you.

My wife just interviewed an author who is writing a series of books that includes a Christian character. He is three books into a series that he expects to ultimately be 14 books. He told her that at some point the character will have multiple children and the youngest one will be the most like him and yet they will experience a period of deep estrangement. The character’s faith will not, and really should not, protect him from this kind of pain.

Father, I know people who have really suffered—much more than me. My prayer is that you will help me to be a minister to them and to embrace the path you have for me regardless of what it might be. And for my relatives who are suffering, please do not let this pain go in vain. Make it count, and make it count for your glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2018 in Romans

 

Ephesians 5:10-14

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Ephesians 5:10-14

Dear God, I was at a meeting with several pastors yesterday. One of them got to talking about how, about every four or five years, his denomination will have someone come in and talk to their annual conference about sexual issues in the workforce. He said the first year they did it they had a lawyer come in and it was awful. His instructions were, “Don’t look at porn on your church computer. Don’t flirt with the church secretary…” They never had him back. He said that, since then, they have used a therapist to do it, and he gave a description of this year’s message. It can be summed up with this: “I’ve never known anyone who was really following through on self-care who ended up in an affair.” Self care was defined as actively paying attention to all parts of your life—mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

Of course, that’s not always true. There are addictions that sometimes just grab us, but again, if there is self care to be done in my life then the addictions need to be addressed as part of that self care.

I know a woman who is afraid of a friend in her life whom she fears is dangerous. She is gathering this information from the things he writes and shares. She has also referenced the types of shows he watches. Some of his stuff was recently brought to light and some authorities have challenged him on them. I don’t think he faces immediate legal problems, but I am hopeful that now that some of his private thoughts are out in the open it might be an opening for healing for him.

Father, help me to be willing to shine your light on the dark areas of my life so that I might be in complete communion with you. And I’ll add this man to my prayers. Please use this situation to help him heal and use it in this woman’s life to address any lingering secrets she has. She is the victim here, but I am hopeful that you will make this pain count for her and help her to be more whole from wounds of the past, decisions in the present, and plans for the future.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2018 in Ephesians

 

“Happy are they who bear their share of the world’s pain”

“Happy are they who bear their share of the world’s pain: In the long run they will know more happiness than those who avoid it.”

Dear God, this is a quote from a quote, and I’m not sure it’s something that Jesus really said (maybe it’s a slant on a beatitude), but it makes sense. I’ve described it to others as allowing myself to touch other people’s pain.

Back in 2003 when I first prayed to you about getting out of my bubble and being available to others in need, I didn’t realize how easy and simple my theology was. Everything was much more black and white. I was able to judge others and their decisions pretty easily. If they made decisions and had priorities that were different than mine then they were wrong because my life experience and knowledge were good enough for me to make that evaluation. But then I started to reach out. I started to work understand that there were a lot of people out there who come at life through a completely different lens and set of experiences than I do. I started to make room in my worldview for people who were different from me.

Father, now my danger is in judging those who don’t do this and reach out—for disapproving of the narrow-minded. Help me love everyone and to continue to reach out into uncomfortable areas. I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but I guess the good news is that I know that I’m still lacking.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

A Lack of Faith Isn’t the End of the World

No verse

Dear God, is there something poetic about being Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day on the same day? As I profess my love to my wife and my children, should I also be taking the opportunity to profess my love to you?

I do my best not to, but I know I take you for granted. I’m sorry for that. You are an amazing God. And I’ll confess that, having grown up Baptist, I don’t have a lot of reverence for Lent the way others do. I’m not even sure I had heard of Lent or knew what it was until I was older and met my wife. But now we are entering into the tragedy and the redemption of the Easter season. Tragedy in the telling of the story of the evil way we treated Jesus 2,000 years ago, but redemption in the way your plan allowed for our failings.

I was thinking this morning about last year at this time and how we had a relative who was dying. In retrospect, he had about seven weeks left to live. I remember praying for him and his wife. I also remember feeling like my faith wasn’t adequate to carry him through or to bring about your healing. But as I thought about it this morning, I think that a lack of faith has been given a bad connotation. Charlatan preachers have shamed people for not having enough faith for their healing. But to think that you would allow my lack of faith to disrupt your plans for the world is foolish. You accounted for Judas’ sin in your plan with Jesus. You can surely account for my lack of faith.

So, Father, I approach you in joy and freedom this morning. I also approach you in worship and love. Be glorified in me through my faithfulness. And please never never let me get in your way.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

1 Samuel 3:10

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

1 Samuel 3:10

Dear God, sometimes it can be hard to hear your voice. Or better said, it can be easy to miss your voice. All I know to say is that I hope your plan for my life is foolproof because there are times when I feel very foolish and like I am just barreling through situations without remembering to slow down and seek your counsel.

I remember reading something years ago when I was in a particular phase of stepping out in faith to do something that seemed foolish on its surface. It was a guy who talked about quitting his job because he knew he had heard from you that it was time. His comment was, “When you have that certainty you are in the middle of God’s will for your life, you get to a point where you don’t even want to cross the street unless you’re sure that’s what God wants you to do.”

Father, it can be hard to REALLY know what your will is, but when I find it I am so grateful to be there. Help me to hear your voice at any given time and to have the wherewithal to respond. Do it for your glory’s sake. Help me to decrease as you increase. Help me to find the peace and joy you have for me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2018 in 1 Samuel

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Dear God, I guess there are different ways to experience or live out “love.” One is what Paul is referring to here—how you feel about those around you or the things they do. I can be patient and kind. I can be not easily angered and keep to record of wrongs. All of that stuff. This is like unpacking one of the fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 (“And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…). So this is love.

There’s another way of dealing with love, though. There’s seeing someone you love, or a community or organization you love and exhibiting these things do it, but that’s all fairly passive. There’s also seeing these things and responding to your call to impact them on your behalf. Whether it’s a family member in need of practice reaching out on out part or a social issue that needs to be addressed, I think it’s also important that we remember that those things we love can also be pursued, as long as we do it with your leadership, wisdom, and power.

Father, that’s where I get into trouble. I often see the thing and then just jump in and start pursuing it with my own wisdom. Help me to balance you call with the patience and wisdom I need so that what gets done might bring you as much glory as possible.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in 1 Corinthians

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Dear God, let me be a listener today. Help me to hear more than words. Help me to love through listening. Be glorified through me.

I look at this list, and I guess what Paul is saying here is that it’s okay to have these gifts and to use these gifts, but if I lead with them instead of leading with love then I am annoying. Today of all days, when I am going to be spending time with someone who is precious to me, I want to lead with love. It’s not about me. It’s not about feeding any insecure corners of my heart with neediness. It’s about loving that person and giving them what you need them to have through me.

Father, help me to be a true reflection of you today. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for the great conversation with good friends and great people last night. Thank you for loving me through them.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2018 in 1 Corinthians

 

Do We Have To Truly Suffer to Unite And Engage?

Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering. And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-5

Dear God, I wonder what it was really like for the Thessalonians to get this encouragement from Paul in the midst of their persecution. I also think it’s of note that in the midst of their persecution he describes their faith as flourishing and their love for one another as growing.

I hear Christians in our country claim that we are being persecuted by nonbelievers in our society. I can’t help but wonder if that were really true, wouldn’t that mean our solidarity with each other and our faith would be growing? Instead, we seem to be in a cycle right now that includes anger and a spirit of fighting back. Perhaps we aren’t truly being persecuted, but maybe it’s the opposite. Could it be that we are the ones trying to do the persecuting?

Another slant to this is our own community. We have a myriad of social issues in our small town, but somehow it feels like the church is being crockpotted into lethargy. We are the frog in the pot on a slow path to boiling. Would it really take outright persecution to finally get the church fully engaged in the problems instead of passionately doing it proactively (and I use the word “passionately” intentionally because what we are currently doing is often half-hearted)? And what about me? I have some concerns about what’s going on, I articulate them to others, and I even get involved in some committees to explore them, but am I really out there pursuing you and passionately taking you into my community through addressing these issues?

Father, I feel like I need a spiritual B12 shot. I’m spending time with you, but there’s no sense of urgency to my activity. I would hate to think they I have to be really pressed to get to that sense of urgency. Help me to find a path to a little more intensity, and if it can be without any specific suffering, but just through my love for and worship of you I would welcome that—but not my will but your will be done.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2018 in 1 Thessalonians

 

Matthew 5:43-45

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Matthew 5:43-45

Dear God, it’s important for me to remember that you love your enemies to, and that includes me. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to sometimes withdraw your presence from someone who is hostile towards you or flaunts unholiness in your face, but you are always there to reach out to your enemies and ready to forgive. You expect no more of me than you are willing to give yourself.

Speaking of enemies, I was at a funeral the other day and we read the 23rd Psalm. “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” How do you feel about that line? It strikes me as something David was communicating to you as he sorted out the fear or need he felt at the time with the fact that you had given him victory over a lot of enemies. But should I pray that? Is that statement true? In light of what Jesus is saying here, could it more rightly said that your table for me, regardless of my enemies’ condition, is enough and I am content with it?

Father, I don’t think I have many enemies, which is good, but as I go through the day I know there are people I don’t like. Help me to love and pray for them. Help me to let go of my need or desire for a nice table and to embrace you for the God who loves me and knows better than I do what good gifts I need as you channel my life to fit into your plan.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2018 in John