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Monthly Archives: June 2018

Amazing Enough?

With no one else around, his choice would always be gospel, losing and finding himself in the old spirituals. He was happiest when he was singing his way back to spiritual safety. But he didn’t stay long enough. Self-loathing was waiting back up at the house, where Elvis was seen shooting at his TV screens, the Bible open beside him at St. Paul’s great ode to love, Corinthians 13. Elvis clearly didn’t believe God’s grace was amazing enough.”

Bono, Rolling Stone Magazine, 2004

Dear God, a man wrote a good editorial about Elvis in the Dallas Morning News, and he used the quote above from Bono in a piece that Bono wrote for Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004. It’s that last sentence that gets me: “Elvis clearly didn’t believe that God’s grace was amazing enough.”

One of the things that convinces me that you are real is our deep longing for you in times of trouble. C.S. Lewis addressed it in The Problem of Pain. Humans, throughout history, have sought you out. You are there. You are watching. You care. You love. You forgive. The words “amazing grace” are a sweet, sweet sound that saved a wretch like me. All of my faults, sins, vices, arrogance, selfishness, self-righteousness, etc. are allotted for in your amazing grace. I was once lost, but I’m so grateful you found me. But I had an advantage in being found. You first found my father, and then my father showed me where you were.

I love how Bono paints a picture of Elvis being drawn back to “spiritual safety.” You are a bedrock when all else is shifting sand. Our temptation is to get off of our foundation and start expanding our dwellings beyond you. I do it as much as Elvis did–he just had more opportunity than I do. But when I’ve built something outside of the foundation you’ve laid for me, the crumbling will one day come. I’ve learned this time and time again. What nonbelievers don’t understand is that there is so much peace in seeking you and building only on the foundation that you laid. They see it as limiting, but it is our path to becoming as close to you as possible.

Father, I heard a song based on the prayer of St. Francis this morning that I want to close with. “It is in giving that I receive. It is in pardoning that I am pardoned. And it is in dying that I am born to eternal life. Make me an instrument of your peace. I want to know what it’s like to follow you. When people look at me I want them to see the light of the world inside.” (“A Simple Prayer”) And I’ll add, help me to fully understand just how amazing your grace is.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

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Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart; I will sing your praises before the gods. I bow before your holy Temple as I worship. I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name. As soon as I pray, you answer me; you encourage me by giving me strength. Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord, for all of them will hear your words. Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways, for the glory of the Lord is very great. Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 138

Dear God, I am struck with the thought that David was this great king whom the people loved. He was great in battle. We don’t hear much about his wisdom as a judge, but we also don’t hear about corruption so I assume he was okay there. He was all these things, but the dimension of his life that set him apart was that he was a lover of you. He was humble enough to absolutely love and honor his God.

Some examples: He wrote psalms like this. He declared your name before Saul and Goliath on the day he defeated Goliath. He danced foolishly in front of everyone when they brought the Ark of the Covenant into town. He refused to kill Saul when he had the chance (twice) because you had anointed him. He was willing the cede power to Absolom if that was what you willed.

Father, no matter what I accomplish or do, I hope I will be remembered as a person who was a lover and worshipper of you. Let there be no doubt that I love you. I am flawed and imperfect. I make many mistakes and I miss multiple opportunities every day to honor and glorify you. But you are my God, you love me, and I love you. Thank you for everything.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2018 in Psalms

 

2 Peter 3:8-9

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

2 Peter 3:8-9

Dear God, a few weeks ago, I asked my wife her thoughts about the second coming. I think I said at the time that, for me, it feels like a distraction. If I spend my time thinking about the rapture and the second coming, always wondering and acting as if it might be around the corner, the I will take my eye off of the things you have for me day to day.

This passage is a reminder to me that I have to ignore my expectations of time and simply keep running the race that is set before me (Hebrews 12:1). It’s a long race. It can have easier parts and it will have hard parts. Some will be harder than I think I can bear. But what have I to fear? As I mentioned from the sermon I heard this last Sunday, when the disciples and Jesus were in the boat in the storm, Jesus didn’t say there was nothing to be afraid of. He asked them why they were afraid. There’s plenty around me to be afraid of, but there is ultimately no reason to be afraid.

Father, help me to run my race today. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on you as I go through the storm. Help me to fix my eyes on you as I decide every once in a while to get out of the boat to walk to you. Help me to decrease and seek absolutely nothing for myself (that’s probably the hardest thing I asked right there).

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2018 in 2 Peter, Hebrews

 

Matthew 16:24-26

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

Matthew 16:24-26

Dear God, okay, I’m going to go old school reference here, but every time I read this passage I think of an old Silverwind song called “I am in Love.” The first verse of the song is largely these words. I think I first heard it when I was about 9 or 10. I think we even saw them sing at a church in San Antonio at one point.

The heart of this passage has been my prayer for a lot of people who have worried me over the years. When it comes to needing peace, hope, joy, and freedom, this passage is the answer. A life built around chasing my own desires is just not going to bring me peace. And a life that holds onto my sin and protects the things of which I’m ashamed will only bind me up and hold me hostage. And in the end, when all of this is happening, I’m of no real value to anyone because I have nothing to offer someone in need.

Father, help me to not forget these lessons myself. Help me to be humble, transparent, and gracious. Help me to deny myself. I try, but I’m imperfect and there are still things to which I hold on. I’m sorry.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2018 in Matthew

 

Leviticus 19:17

“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin.

Leviticus 19:17

Dear God, the second part of this verse is interesting. I get the first part about not nursing hatred, but the part about confronting so that I don’t join in by adding to the wrong they’ve done is a concept I overlook.

I have a relative right now who is out of relationship with almost the entire family. It’s hard for me to know how to reach out to him. You know the whole thing so I don’t need to recount it here. I guess I probably need to think more about what my role is in reaching out to him.

Father, having been on the receiving end of passive aggressive hatred from family members, I can appreciate the idea of confronting directly. Help me to encourage others to confront me when it’s necessary, help me to respond well to the confrontation, and help me to also confront in a healthy way when the situation calls for it.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

“Nothing is Beyond You”

Nothing is Beyond You

Where could I go, where could I run

Even if I found the strength to fly

And if I rose on the wings of the dawn

And crashed through the corner of the sky

If I sailed past the edge of the sea

Even if I made my bed in Hell

Still there You would find me

‘Cause nothing is beyond You

You stand beyond the reach

Of our vain imaginations

Our misguided piety

The heavens stretch to hold You

And deep cries out to deep

Singing that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

Time cannot contain You

You fill eternity

Sin can never stain You

Death has lost its sting

And I cannot explain the way You came to love me

Except to say that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

If I should shrink back from the light

So I can sink into the dark

If I take cover and I close my eyes

Even then You would see my heart

And You’d cut through all my pain and rage

The darkness is not dark to You

And night’s as bright as day

Nothing is beyond You

You stand beyond the reach

Of our vain imaginations

Our misguided piety

The heavens stretch to hold You

And deep cries out to deep

Singing that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

And time cannot contain You

You fill eternity

Sin can never stain You

And death has lost its sting

And I cannot explain the way You came to love me

Except to say that nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

Nothing is beyond You

Songwriters: Mitch Mcvicker / Rich Mullins / Tom Booth

Dear God, the verse of the day was Jeremiah 23:24, and it made me think of this song. Nothing is beyond you. Whether it’s the places I might try to hide in my sin or my shame, or it’s your involvement in the problems and challenges I face, nothing is beyond you.

The pastor in church yesterday was talking about Jesus calling the storm on the boat and Jesus challenged the disciples asking them why they were afraid. “Notice he didn’t say there’s nothing to be afraid of,” the pastor said, “but, ‘Why are you afraid?’” I liked that. There’s plenty to fear. From nuclear wars all of the way down to the real challenges I face at work, but there’s no reason to fear.

Father, nothing is beyond you. I have a work problem that has haunted me all weekend and yet I have only prayed about it a little. This deserves much more prayer than that. Everyone involved deserves me to really be throwing myself before you and requesting your help in solving these vexing problems. So please help me. Please help us. Guide us exactly where you want us to go. I will spend more time praying about this today, but let it start here.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2018 in Hymns and Songs, Jeremiah

 

2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-3

Dear God, I look at the first couple of verses in this passage and I wonder what the “Lord’s message” is. Is Paul simply referring to salvation through Christ, or is he referring to the whole message of repentance, grace (both received and extended) and love? Is he referring to worshiping you?

I had a dream last night that I came across a person who was following their boss and crying. It was more than I could take so I got the person away from the boss and asked what happened. She and another person told me the boss was very mean to her that morning. I then asked the boss to meet with them and I got all over the boss (not in a healthy, constructive way, but in an angry, loud way) for not simply being kind. Frankly, my response to the boss wasn’t very kind either. It was obvious to me after I woke up that I have a lot of anger in me about all of the anger I see around me. It’s starting to feed on itself.

I heard about a situation this week when a business owner had a member of the President’s staff in their establishment and they asked them to leave because they don’t like the President, his staff, or their actions. As I thought about it this morning, this person allowed their anger to help further drive a wedge between people instead of taking the opportunity to say something like, “Mrs. XX, I love my country and I love you as a fellow person. You are welcome here any time. And while I have you here, I just want to express my concern. What I see you and the President doing [insert your concerns here].” This would have been so much more constructive than me reading about the incident of anger and rejection in the news.

Father, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Help me to turn loose of my anger. Guide me in addressing the challenges that are around me. Whether they are work, family, or whatever, it starts with submitting to you, receiving your grace, extending your grace, and being about loving others as well as I can.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in 2 Thessalonians