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Monthly Archives: May 2018

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

Dear God, I confess that I really don’t know what to do with the second coming stuff. Something about it really seems to encourage some people. I tend to find it to be more of a distraction. I guess my attitude is, hey, I’m running a marathon down here and someone is trying to tell me there’s a chance that the finish line MIGHT be just around the corner. Well, how does that help me now? I just want to keep plugging away.

Granted, the marathon I’m running is pretty easy compared to the races others must run. Even as I type this, I’m literally lying on the beach on vacation. So maybe these are encouraging words to someone whose race is harder than mine.

And really, don’t we kind of believe that the dead in Christ are already with you? Didn’t Moses appear at the Transfiguration? Don’t we run for the cloud of witnesses. Don’t we tell stories of those who die briefly having seen a glimpse of the afterlife? Is this where time meets timelessness?

See? It’s all a distraction. I could chase these questions all of the way to a logical end and the answers won’t get me any closer to accomplishing the tasks you have given to me.

Father, the last sentence says that we are to encourage each other with these words. Help me to be an encourager. Help me to strengthen others and to be strengthened through them. Help me to know what’s important and demands my thoughtful meditation and what is a distraction. And if I’m wrong about this particular issue and it is more important than I think it is, reveal it to me and teach me that too.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in 1 Thessalonians

 

Rest & Relaxation

No Verse.

Dear God, the last two months have been a whirlwind. When we woke up on March 26, everything was status quo. Then, by the end of the day, everything had changed and it set us on a stressful course for the next two months. Not a terrible or bad course. It’s not like we are experiencing great tragedy. In fact, in a lot of ways, things conspired to unfold the way we had been wanting them to. But in getting what we wanted it created a lot of work and some amount of stress.

So now we are going to get away for a couple of short days. We need it. We need some time away from our routines. I need to be away from my work. I need to sit and think, pray, read, study, relax, and even indulge in some of the more frivolous things I enjoy. My wife really needs it. The lion’s share of the burden from the last two months has fallen upon her. She has worked so hard, pushing through a lot of fatigue to ensure that everyone around her has what they need. She has been the ultimate giver. I hope I’m able to give back to her over the next couple of days, relying on what you and your provision for what she needs.

Father, I submit this vacation to you. Please give each of us what we need on a spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical level. Love us through each other, but more importantly, through your still small voice. Thank you for everything you’ve done and provided over the last two months. Thank you for what you will. Do this summer. Please watch over where I work and let your Holy Spirit move through the entire place. Be glorified.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2018 in Miscellaneous

 

Psalm 103:15-17a

Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him.

Psalm 103:15-17a

Dear God, I don’t think there are many people who ever get comfortable with the idea of this passage. Because it only happens once to us and it’s so final (and we have very few reports as to what the experience is like after having gone through it, the idea of our death is daunting and scary. We avoid it with everything we have. And now our technology has made it so that we have moral questions to face about quality of life and keeping someone alive artificially. Those are questions we didn’t have to ask 100 years ago.

My wife and I updated our wills and powers of attorney just last week. I’ll admit that I really struggled with the documents that addressed life support and resuscitation. It was and is really hard for me to know how to make a decision now about something that could happen in any number of ways in the future.

But the psalmist reminds me here that my life is short, but my access to your love is forever. And it’s okay for my life to be short (in relation to all of time) and finite. I can be at peace with whatever the length of my life is because, in the grand scheme of things, it is a rounding error compared with your eternity.

Father, help me to be responsible to use the days you have given me for whatever purposes you have for me. I know I’m going to miss opportunities, but please be with me and guide me into kissing as few as possible. I really don’t want to waste any of the days you have for me here on earth.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Psalms

 

Romans 12:14-16

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Romans 12:14-16

Dear God, you figured out early on that we all need community. Adam wasn’t doing well just hanging out by himself. He needed relationship. And when we are in community we need to embrace the art of loving you with all our hearts and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Taking these verses, when we are in conflict we need to pray for the other person and want the best for them. When someone is celebrating we need to celebrate. When someone is mourning, we need to mourn. We need to get out of ourselves and really care about others. We need to decrease and let you increase through us so that you might reach others through us.

And then there is humility. To be able to acknowledge that every human life is as worthy as mine. I have been very guilty of judging someone’s character by what I observe on the outside only to find that the successful person was morally bankrupt and the bankrupt person had a heart of pure gold. I’m sorry for this.

Father, I submit to all three verses today. Teach me to love well and to learn from everyone around me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Romans

 

Acts 20:24

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Acts 20:24

Dear God, I was 17 years old the first time I read this verse. It was early in my senior year and I was trying a short-lived plan to memorize scripture. But this was one of the first and it really stick with me. I don’t know if it’s fair to say that it is a “life verse,” but it’s close. I’ve always had a bit of an attitude of eschewing personal advancement or gain in deference to service. But frankly, I’ve always felt like a bit of a failure when it comes to the part about testifying about your Gospel.

But maybe I am doing the work assigned to me by you—no, that’s a cop-out. Yes, I do a lot of things to serve others in your name, but I am really weak in reaching out and offering your freedom that is available to others through your grace. The peace and joy that is available through the pursuit of relationship with you.

I saw a Facebook post today from a woman I know very tangentially, but she was expressing fear. I’ll admit that part of my reticence in commenting of contacting her was that she was a female that I’m not that close to and I might have been more likely to contact her if she were male, but still, I wondered what I would say to her. What of you would I offer to her? I was glad to see that several people had reached out to her.

Father, I consider my life worth nothing to me. If only I might finish the task and complete the mission you’ve given to me. The task of testifying to the Gospel of your grace.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2018 in Acts

 

John 3:17

God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:17

Dear God, my first introduction to this verse (the little known verse that follows the most famous verse in the Bible—John 3:16) was in church when I was in high school. As part of his benediction each week, our pastor would pick a couple of verses and and pronounce them over the congregation for a year. One year, he picked John 16 AND 17.

In this version, it says that you didn’t send Jesus into the world to “judge” the world. The NIV that my pastor used at the time used the word “condemn” instead. That’s the word that I hear when I hear this. And it was only recently that I put it together that Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus for this little rant. This is part of the whole “how can a person enter into his mother’s womb a second time” conversation. In the end, this encounter made a huge difference in Nicodemus’ life and it completely changed his trajectory.

That being said, it seems that you had a very specific purpose for sending Jesus into the world and it goes back to love. You are our father just constantly sending out love. My wife recently tried to describe the love that a parent has for their child to someone who has no children. They couldn’t understand why someone would absorb rejection and keep reaching out anyway. She told the young woman that there was really no way to explain it until she had children of her own. We have all rejected you and disappointed you so many times, and yet you keep reaching out, doing everything you can to be there for us and what we need.

Father, I am reaching back. I accept your love and I’m doing my best to return it. Being a father myself, I know that there is something to be said for earnestness, so I am sure my earnestness, inadequate as it may be, combined with your grace is enough for you. So thank you. Thank you for loving me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2018 in John

 

James 1:19

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

James 1:19

Dear God, James is correct that listening is the key, and oh, how I can be a bad listener. I love to talk. It’s probably a function of my insecurity. I want people to hear what I have to say, but I have got to be better about listening. Even when showing someone the nonprofit where I work, while giving a tour I know I should be asking them questions about themselves and trying to gauge how much interest they have in our work versus the work of another nonprofit, but I just sit there and yammer on about what we do. Yes, I am a bad listener.

But I think the key to what James is saying here is that being slow to anger and loving others is a function of good listening and compassion. When I think about it, my anger is usually driven by the decisions other people make. It’s hard to think of a time that I was angry and it was NOT related to something someone did. But if I can sit there and really listen to someone else, even people I don’t know like politicians, and understand why they are making the decisions they are making, it will be more likely to engage my empathy and then that will drive my sympathy for their point of view. Very few people are bad, evil people. Almost always, they are being driven by forces that are unseen by me, but in their mind the forces make their decision obviously right instead of obviously wrong, as I see it.

Father, this is a lesson of which I need to be reminded over and over again. Help me to remember to seek you and pray through difficult situations with others in real time. Help me to listen to them and to process the text and the subtext of what they are saying. Help me to be strong in empathy and slow to anger. Help me to draw on the grace that you give me as I try to extend grace and love to others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2018 in James

 

Romans 12:9-10

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

Romans 12:9-10

Dear God, why? Why do I have to love others? Why is it better to give than to receive? Of course, the answers are pretty obvious, but the failure to really think about the danger of being a self-absorbed narcissist who never shares my time, money, love, or grace with someone else can keep me from truly learning how to let go of my own life and find my peace in you.

I try to remember back to who I was before I started giving more of my time to nonprofit causes. My wife and I have always given our money to things. We have tithed and given extra since before we were married. But I didn’t start getting out of my bubble and experiencing the world through the point of view of others until right at 15 years ago. Now I can feel the disconnect between me and friends and family who don’t do this. I see, especially on Facebook, people whom I know love you and have loving hearts who lack empathy or an ability to embrace the idea that they don’t understand the legitimate reasons that lead others to make decisions that are contrary to their own decisions. Loving others richly really does help open someone up to the concept of just how small and unwise we can be.

Father, “not that I have already attained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12). Help me to love well today.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Philippians, Romans

 

Romans 14:20-15:2

Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another believer to stumble. You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning. We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

Romans 14:20-15:2

Dear God, the whole issue of what constitutes a sin in your eyes and what doesn’t is one that, again, Satan ha successfully used to divide Christians for the last 2,000 years—and it started almost immediately in the early church. And that’s just over the issue of “right and wrong.” Some examples of this would be drinking alcohol, premarital sex, same sex relationships/marriage, etc.

But then we get into differences in theology, which can be even more vague and have a potential to be man-made. Examples of this would be infant baptism, alcohol, musical instruments in worship, and even whether you can use anything but the King James Bible.

Man, we love to judge each other. And I confess to you that I do it. Growing up Baptist and now attending a Catholic church with my wife, there is a temptation to judge all kinds of things that I see because they a different than what I learned growing up. I emphasize those two words because a lot of us assume what we learned originally is the truth, but when we examine it more closely we start to realize that it has the potential to be as flawed as the thing we are criticizing.

Father, you cannot make me an instrument of your peace when I am going around judging people on a wholesale level. So help me to major in the majors, keep myself pure according to how you convict me, and love everyone I can.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Romans

 

Galatians 5:13-15

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

Galatians 5:13-15

Dear God, what does this freedom look like? The only way to experience this true freedom is to start with true repentance. That’s the only gateway to the freedom you offer. The person who just says, “God forgives me,” without first coming to the foot of the cross, denying themselves, confessing their sin to you, consciously turning from their sin and then receiving your forgiveness will never experience the freedom you have for all of us.

It’s interesting because freedom is a word I have used with my wife when talking about some friends who seem to be living with a lot of shame and pride. I’ve said, “There is freedom waiting for them if they will just let go of the secrets they are hiding and allow them to be exposed.” In some cases the secrets are what they did that I happen to know about. In other cases they are things that I suspect happened to them. Either way, they seem to be locked into a cycle of deception and angst.

There’s a Dennis Jernigan song where the chorus says, “I wish I could take your heart into my heart. I wish I could show you just how good it feels to let go of the things you know are killing you and cling to the only one who can heal you. But I know if I did then it wouldn’t be you. Cuz you, you’re the only one choosing for you. It’s true.”

Father, let it start with me. Let me know if there is anything I need to bring before your throne, repent, and receive freedom. And help me to know how to offer your gift of freedom to friends and those around me whom I truly love.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2018 in Galatians