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Monthly Archives: April 2018

Ephesians 4:14-15

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Ephesians 4:14-15

Dear God, is this where I am right now? Have I reached the level of Christian maturity where I am still outrageously flawed, but I am at least not tossed about by every wind of new teaching or tricked by lies that sound like truth?

The good news is that I don’t think I need to be preoccupied with answering those questions. The idea is that I am supposed to pursue you through things like spending time in prayer and scripture, go through trials holding you hand, and then I will slowly mature into the man you need me to be. Until then, your plan is sophisticated enough to allow for my weakness and failings. Your plan for the world is “John-proof.”

Father, help me to hear and speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ. Live through me. Love through me. Enter our community through all of the Christians here so that we might be a community that glorifies you, and so that my home might be one that glorifies you as well.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

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Posted by on April 30, 2018 in Ephesians

 

Job 19:21-27

“Have mercy on me, my friends, have mercy, for the hand of God has struck me. Must you also persecute me, like God does? Haven’t you chewed me up enough?

“Oh, that my words could be recorded. Oh, that they could be inscribed on a monument, carved with an iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!

Job 19:21-27

Dear God, these verses make me think of a few things.

  1. Sometimes friends don’t give good counsel because they don’t understand. And sometimes I am that friend that gives bad advice because I don’t understand. We mean well. Job’s friends meant well. But we are just wrong. So counsel should always be given gently.
  2. Job’s words were better than chiseled in stone. Here I am thousands of years later praying over and through them.
  3. Job realizes and acknowledges how small his life is in the grand scheme of things and that one day it will be over.
  4. He proclaims his faith in what he believes. You live. You reign. You will always reign. And just the thought of it overwhelms him.

Father, make me mindful about how how small my life is and how big you are. You are my God. You are THE God. These daily struggles are in front of me and they make me better. Some days are easier than others. But I know that you use all of them to transform me into the man you are making me to be.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2018 in Job

 

Philippians 2:5-8

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

Dear God, I need to do a word study on the word humble because it has been coming up a lot for me over the last eight days. I know I’ve mentioned this before in my journals this week, starting with the one I wrote last Saturday night before I preached. Maybe I’ll take some time to do that this week.

I’ll tell you, I did have one humbling thing come up in my work life the last couple of weeks— surveys. I decided a couple of weeks ago that we needed to survey our patients at work. I’ll admit that I was nervous because you never know what’s going to come back. Then, about five days after that, the consultant doing our board strategic planning retreat said she wanted to do surveys of our staff, board, volunteers, donors and community partners. The one with the staff really made me think twice. There have been some frustrations and factions develop between some of the staff members and my first concern was that it would come out in the surveys and reflect poorly on me to the board. But then I had two thoughts.

  1. No, this is why you do these things. If there’s something they need to know then this will tell it.
  2. (And this is where I’m being really honest with you, God) if I resist then it will make me look like I’m hiding something.
  3. I’ve actually already told some board members about the conflicts about which I know, so if something does come out it might surprise some of them, but others can tell them that these are problems I’ve been trying to address. Maybe I haven’t been adequate in handling them, but I haven’t tried to sweep them under the rug or hide them either.

Father, it all starts with humility. Then that leads to repentance. Then that leads to loving you and loving others. So I am truly sorry for my sins. I can think of some from yesterday. I will strive to spend some time worshipping you and others today. And please use these surveys at work to make all of us better.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2018 in Philippians

 

Luke 19:8-10

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:8-10

Dear God, a true son of Abraham. That’s a cool compliment I don’t think I’ve noticed before. I can here Jesus say it in a loud, boisterous tone—“A true son of Abraham!!” That might not be how he really said it, but I kind of like that interpretation.

I was describing by male lineage to someone about a week ago and I told them that come from a line of good men of whom I’m proud. Are there negative things that have been passed down through the generations like addictions? Yes. Are there even som physical things I’ve inherited from these guys that I could do without? Sure. But when push comes to shove, honesty and integrity are important values in at least the two men I have been able to know in my life. I hope I live up to being their son. And I hope my children can live up to that as well. It is a wonderful legacy to leave the future generations.

I could go on and on about the other positive things, but what I want to pray to you about is what it means to be a “true son of God!” If I were sitting around a table with Jesus and he were to pay someone that compliment, what would it mean? Well, that’s pretty much what he did with Zacchaeus when he called him a true son of Abraham. So what did Zacchaeus do to deserve this compliment? He repented and he made restoration. That’s pretty much it.

Father, help me to find every area in which I need to repent and help me to make restoration when possible. It makes me think of the 12 Steps in AA when one should take inventory and make amends except when to do so would harm someone else. That’s a really good step because it starts with humility and honest self-examination. Help me to continually do that and help me to model that for others as well. The secret truth is, real freedom from my shame and secrets comes from real repentance. Help me to be free.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Luke

 

Genesis 22:1-3

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.

Genesis 22:1-3

Dear God, I’ve journaled on this passage before. Some see it as a story about faith in you. I see it as a story about idolatry and repentance. I can only imagine what went through Abraham’s mind as he lie down trying to sleep that night. It says here he got up early, but I’ll bet he never went to sleep. How could he?

It’s those thoughts that probably ran through his head all night that fascinate me. I’ve never been in a situation nearly like that, with a horrific task ahead of me, but I’ve certainly had sleepless night when I knew I had something uncomfortable in my future. Abraham must have spent all night asking himself and you why he had to do this. Had he made an idol of his son? Was the promise you made about his descendants over? Should he go find Ishmael and Hagar and bring them back?

There are a lot of things that I can turn into idols, but probably the most common one with which I struggle is me. So much of the time, I put way too much confidence in my ability to handle situations and too much effort into how others see me. I think I’m better than I used to be at idolizing my wife or my children out of an insecure attempt to ensure their love. You helped to purify a lot of that out of me a few years ago. But I still struggle to be genuinely humble.

Father, I submit this whole area to you. You know my heart. You know how I love you. I pray that you will help me to decrease as you increase. Help me to use each moment as an opportunity to bring glory to you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2018 in Genesis

 

2 Timothy 4:2-4

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

Dear God, verse 3 hardly seems prophetic. I cannot imagine a time when most people would not follow their own desires and look for teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. That’s just how we roll.

During the last presidential election, I saw everyone, including me, seeking out an echo chamber that would affirm our point of view on the candidate. Whether it was only getting news from specific news sources we knew probably saw things the way we saw them, visiting with friends who were going to vote like us, or only following people on social media who believed like we did, it was a surprise for one side that one candidate won the popular vote because “everyone they knew” was voting for the other person, and it was a surprise to the other group when the other person won the electoral college.

I use this as an example because I think social media and its ability to customize what we consume from the Internet is helping to only entrench all of us into only hearing what we want to hear and causing us to lose the skill of listening to an opposing argument without being offended. Then, when it comes to putting ourselves into a position where someone comes along to speak your truth, it becomes even harder for us to hear them because our hearts are even harder and our ability to process an opposing view is diminished.

Father, I like to think I am more evolved and open minded than that, but I fell into the same trap during the last election that a lot of other people did. I love to think that I am smart and wise, but the truth is that I need to hear from the Holy Spirit, I need to be challenged, I sometimes need to receive rebuke, sometimes I need to repent, and sometimes I need to change my perspective, paradigm, or opinion. So I submit this prayer, that you will give me what you need me to have, teach me what you need me to know, and motivate me to do what you need me to do.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2018 in 2 Timothy

 

1 Peter 1:17-18

And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value.

1 Peter 1:17-18

Dear God, what does it mean to live in “reverent fear” of you? I think I have lived my life not as much fearing you as feeling a certain weight of accountability to you. I think that if any thought about you haunts me, it’s not a fear as much as it is a sense of, “How am I doing?”

Somewhere along the way in my life, I gained a great sense of duty. And, credit to my parents on this, I’m okay with submitting to authority. Even today, the nonprofit of which I’m the director will have board finance, executive, and fundraising committee meetings. People are going to be looking over my shoulder and seeing how I am doing, and I don’t mind. I think it’s appropriate. In fact, I get bothered and concerned if I perceive they aren’t doing it enough.

Well, I know you are doing it enough, and I know there are whole areas in my life in which I come up short—continuously. But that’s where verse 18 comes in, and I’m grateful I had a pastor when I was young who hammered home the idea of your love and grace. I don’t walk around feeling condemned by you for my failures, but welcomed by you to repent and move on.

Father, you know the current details of my life. From work, to family, to friends, to even my concerns about the world, I have a lot of living pieces about which I care. Please with your power and under your authority, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2018 in 1 Peter