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Monthly Archives: April 2019

Ephesians 4:11-16

Ephesians 4:11-16
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 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. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Dear God, the simple translation of what Paul says here is that when we have achieved spiritual maturity we will speak in truth and love, among other things. So what does speaking in truth and love look like?

One of the interesting trends on social media right now is for people to NOT speak in truth and love. I saw an angry political post from someone yesterday, and I thought that the irony was that that person would probably agree with this passage and also agree that we shouldn’t post divisive things online. And I can sit here and judge that person for that, but what I’m trying to do is think through what areas of my life might I be doing the same thing–not living up to my own ideals and aspirations to live in unity with you?

I suppose we can start with politics and how I feel not only about certain beliefs, but also the people who believe them. Do I think about them and speak to them in truth and in love? Then there are societal issues. Drug abuse, crime, teen pregnancy, abuse, etc. Do I address those things in truth and love, or do I just complain and judge?

Father, the list can go on and on, but in the end I know the answer is that I am failing you, and not only you but also my community and those around me. Help me to love. Help me to love selflessly. Be glorified through me and use my life to be part of helping your kingdom to come and your will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2019 in Ephesians

 

John 19:25

Job 19:25
“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.
Dear God, you talk about taking verses out of context, this “verse of the day” from Bible Gateway is a great example. Job 19:25 is plucked out of the middle of a chapter in which Job is just going off on his friends and even you. Job was in the middle of a terrible trial. He couldn’t think straight, pray straight, or argue straight. In fact, this one verse is probably the only correct thing he says in the whole chapter. Everything else is muddled, confused, and sometimes just downright wrong.

I have a friend who is in a nursing home right now in terrible physical pain. When the pain was at its worst, he was not really capable of making good decisions. Then his wife was stressed and worried about him, and she was struggling to make the right decisions. No, when someone is in the midst of crisis it is rare that they can be on their game. It’s been called the “fog of war.” When my wife and I were really struggling with some things a few years ago, that’s the phrase we used over and over again.

The good news from this verse is that it is always true. In the midst of a trial, it is our tent pole. Our anchor. Our comfort. My Redeemer lives, and you will stand on the earth at last.

Father, in the midst of the storm, help me to simply be comforted by this knowledge. Help me to see you as my tent pole. Help me to feel you as my anchor, holding me in place against the rushing water. The water might push against me, go over me, and buffet me around, but it will not move me as long as you are my anchor. And in the end, I know that you will stand on the the earth, and I will be one of your worshipers.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Job

 

The Mockery of Baal — 1 Kings 18:25-29, 36-39


The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image is called “Prophets of Baal” as was created by Diego Jourdan Pereira.

1 Kings 18:25-29,36-39
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response. At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord , are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.” Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord —he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

Dear God, before I get into the image the Pereira created to go with this story, I want to focus for a minute on something that struck me while I was reading it. The prophets of Baal went to the links of cutting “themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.” The thought that I had that I don’t think I have had before is, how many times have I sacrificed myself waiting for an idol to pay off? Yes, looking back it seems like their custom was ridiculous, but is it any different than what I do when I expect my money, my job, my marriage, or my kids to do something for me. When I give and give and give to them not out of love but out of expectation of them, isn’t that just as foolish?

Now, back to this image, I’ll be rank and SA that I cannot make heads or tails of it. Is the large man in the picture Elijah? Are those images of Baal or the prophets of Baal under his arms? I see the bull’s horns on the bottom right. I see the Sun. But I’m not sure what else it is I’m seeing.

Father, at the end of the day, I just need to be reminded that It is easy for me to make idols–even an idol of you. Not the real you, of course, but of the you that my mind wants to create. The you that I expect to give me what I want and do what I want you to do. Making an idol of that image of you is as bad as making an idol out of anything else. I want to worship the real you. The powerful you. Not the you that does what I want you to do. I certainly need a God whom I serve, not one that serves me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Acts 20:35

Acts 20:35
35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Dear God, this is another Fred Smith-inspired blog today. Fred talked about acts of charity as being “penance for trivial sins.” His premise left me uneasy so I started to examine my heart and try to figure out why. I thought I’d spend some time with you about it this morning.

As I thought about it, I came back to this supposed quote from Jesus (I say supposed because it doesn’t appear in the Gospels, but must have come from another source that Paul used). Why? Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? What is it about giving that blesses us? Is it this notion that it helps to absolve us from our sin? Does it put some lipstick on the “pig” that is the fruit of our human flesh and make us feel better about it? Frankly, I don’t think that is it.

One of the things I learned about faith in studying Job is that the ultimate goal of faith is to get to where I literally do not see my own desires or goals as worth anything, but I get to a point that I can truly give thanks in all things, even suffering. My fortune or my suffering is not necessarily tied to my behavior, but what you happen to need of me and the role I have to play in your kingdom.

Working from that philosophy, I believe there is a blessing of peace that you impart when we die to ourselves and turn loose. I think that learning to give of our time and resources gets us one step closer to that ultimate level of faith. I think that the balm we feel on our souls from performing charity isn’t as much penance and absolution as much as it is that one step we just took into living out the kind of faith you call us to.

In studying Job, one thing that occurred to me is that Paul got to that level of faith remarkably quickly. He was able to suffer greatly and never portray to others any semblance of self-pity. He said in Acts 20:24 that he considered his life worth nothing to him, and then he backed it up with the attitude he took in all of those years of prison.

Father, I’ll be honest and say that I tend to have a little bit of pride in the fact that I live a life that is sacrificial when I compare it to my neighbor. But the truth is that it is not nearly sacrificial enough. I know that because there are time when I still feel very sorry for myself and even greedy. The best way to combat that is to be sensitive to needs and then give generously. That is what will move me one step closer to the perspective on my life that you want me to have. Help me to get there.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Acts

 

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Colossians 1:27-28

Colossians 1:27-28

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.

Dear God, what are the “riches and glory of Christ” we are supposed to know and share? What are we selling when we talk about Jesus.

I’ve heard some of other religions, and even different denominations of Christianity, accuse some Christians of believing in a salvation that is too easy and cheap. After all, of our salvation isn’t works based then why ever try to be good at all?

But what I’m selling isn’t cheap salvation. To start with, I recognize that it wasn’t cheap for you. What I’m selling is selfless surrender and relationship. I know Paul says in one of his letters that if this isn’t all about ending up with you after we die then Christians are to be pitied, but I don’t totally agree with that. I don’t know where the “cut line” is for Heaven admission, but I have a much better idea of where the cut line is for relationship with you and the fruits of the Spirit that come from that. I can even see it in me as I vary in my levels of worship and prayer. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about my “fire insurance,” but I do wake up thinking that if I’m going to experience love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, and self control them I better spend some time with my God. And even in dark, scary times, your rod and your staff comfort me.

Father, help me to live in your presence today. Help me to submit to you in all areas. Help me to be what my nieces and nephew need when I see them later. Help my life to be what you need it to be–for me and for others.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2019 in Colossians

 

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1 Peter 1:18-19

1 Peter 1:18-19 [NLT]
18 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. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

 

 

Dear God, when I read this and the comparisons with Jesus life/death/resurrection and silver/gold I thought back to last week and the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. There was an image that showed the inside of the burned cathedral and the shiny gold cross noticeably undamaged in the charred room.

cross

Some posted online that it was a sign of your protection over it. Others countered their point that the fire just wasn’t hot enough to melt the cross. One person pointed out that wood fires often burn in the 600-degree range while gold needs it to be two to three times that temperature to melt. Was it a miracle or just chemistry?

My point is, the sacrifice that Jesus made is will never perish. It is more durable that the 900-year-old gold cross in Notre Dame Cathedral. It reaches deeper than the darkest parts of my heart. It gives me hope that my life can not only be meaningful now, but I can also expect to be in relationship with you for eternity.

Father, I inherited a sinful life from my ancestors, sure, but I’ve done enough on my own to add to it. I’m sorry. I really am. But I thank you for what you did, are doing, and continue to do. I worship you as my Passover Lamb, my Lord, and my God.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2019 in 1 Peter

 

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Romans 14:10-14

Romans 14:10-14 [NLT]
10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

 

Dear God, to answer Paul’s questions in verse 10, it’s so that we can feel better about ourselves. I love to judge others because it make me feel smarter than I am, holier than I am–just better than I am. But Paul reminds us in verse 12 that one day I will be standing before you and you won’t be grading on a curve. You won’t put us on a scale of how I compared with this person or that person. No, it will be you and me and I will have to give you an account of my life and my actions.

If all of that is true, then why do so many of us live our lives comparing ourselves to others? I still remember being at a retreat in the late 90’s and hearing a man give his life story. My dad did his introduction, and I was fooled a little. My dad talked about everything this guy had accomplished by the time he was the age I happened to be at that moment. Before the man even talked, I felt like a loser. Then within five minutes the man explained how he had been in federal prison for embezzlement, had lost his wife and his kids, and now he was trying to rebuild his life. I immediately repented to you for looking at the outside of a man instead of looking deeper and considering what else might be a reality in his life.

Of course, now we all get to see each other’s best parts on social media. And we get to judge each other as well. We judge people if we see them posting pictures of partying too much. We judge them if we see them with the new family for which they left their first family. We allow ourselves to feel inferior to the person who seems to have it all.

Father, help me to take my eyes off of the world and to turn them to you. Help me to stop trying to make my own case through comparison to others, and to simply live faithfully. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. And please forgive me for failing you so often. I am sorry.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Romans

 

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