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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Psalm 103:17-18

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Psalm 103:17-18

Dear God, I have to confess that the first thought that crossed my mind when I read this passage this morning was, this is w weird relationship. Your love is with me? Your love? Not your kindness. Not your generosity. Those are too simple compared to what this is saying—your LOVE is with me. That’s almost impossible to comprehend.

So if you love me, what are the implications of that? One thing or does NOT mean is that you will spoil me. You won’t just be there as my great genie waiting to just lavish me with comfort. It means you want the best for me and want me to be my best. That will mean guiding me through struggles. For me, it also seems to mean learning to be more sensitive to others’ needs and how to reach out to them. It means teaching me to find ultimate peace by dying to myself and my own wants or comfort. It means reaching that level of faith where I can truly consider my life worth nothing to me, but my purpose is to finish the race and complete the task you have given me—the task of testifying to your grace (Acts 20:24).

Father, I’m not there. Help me to get there. Love through me and bring your will and kingdom to earth through my life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Psalms

 

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Romans 12:15

Romans 12:15
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Dear God, this seems like a pretty simple statement from Paul, but it can be harder than it seems. Of course, this is the middle of a section where Paul is encouraging the readers to be loving. And this is what love looks like.

I have to say, this passage is actually not a strength of mine. I don’t mind addressing problems and serving others on a macro level, but I don’t often enough reach out to people individually. I have a former coworker who is going through some serious health issues right now, and I have gone over to visit him quite a bit, but that is certainly the exception. I can still be very selfish with my time.

Father, help me to be aware of the needs around me, and help me respond to your still small voice when you have work for me to do in the lives of individuals who are either mourning or rejoicing. Live through me so that your glory might be not only in my life, but also in their lives as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2019 in Romans

 

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Acts 20:24

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Dear God, I’ve never thought about this verse in terms of Memorial Day before, but it’s the verse of the day on Bible Gateway so perhaps someone there did. It is still so tragic to me that for thousands and thousands of years, what I’m sure numbers into the billions, people have died fighting each other. You’re born, your parents put uncountable hours into caring for you, you spend uncountable hours learning and growing, and then your life is gone. Just gone.

So many people have died nobly for their country or a cause. In the case of what we honor with this day, women and men of our country saw their earthly lives end to fight for whatever we felt was right at the time. The sacrifice they gave, and that their families gave, is immeasurable. I’ve said before that I tend to have a guilty feeling on days like this because I never served in the military. I admire veterans so much for even the sacrifice they made to take time from a civilian life to serve so that I could live my civilian life.

Of course, there is a spiritual aspect to this passage because that is what Paul was talking about. He knew that he was going to put himself at risk for his faith and what you were calling him to do. As it turned out, he was right. He was arrested. He was imprisoned for years. He ultimately died. But that sacrifice of his life ended up being the catalyst for the spread of Christianity to the West. He considered his life worth nothing to him. Had he considered it worth something–had he given in to the temptation those around him were making to him and not gone to Jerusalem, I might not be sitting here praying to you today.

Father, help me to consider my own life worth nothing to me. Help me to only consider the call you have given me. Help me to hear your still small voice. Help me to not let the sacrifice of Paul, the veterans who died, or even Jesus be in vain. Do it all so that your kingdom will come and your will will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2019 in Acts

 

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Acts 15:28-29 (The Message)

It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage. These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you!
Acts 15:28-29 (The Message)

Dear God, while I was on a bike ride this morning, I listened to a series of four sermons. Reading this passage from the lectionary today made me think of part of one of the sermons.

The pastor, Andy Stanley, was talking about sexual sin and drawing a line. He said (paraphrasing) that when people go to a counselor or a pastor for counseling and they say, “I have something to tell you and I’ve never told anyone this,” it is almost never about a speeding ticket or cheating on an expense report at work. Instead it is almost always about a sexual nature—whether it was something they chose to do or something that was done to them. Sex is such an important part of the human experience, and one that has been adulterated almost from the beginning, so it makes sense that you (God) would have opinions on it and what is best for us.

Since homosexuality is not an issue for me, I’m not going to try to parse that issue here. But I have plenty of my own. He also said, “If I were to ask each of you individually what your biggest regret is that you wish you could go back and change something that you did, the vast majority would give me an answer of a sexual nature.” That would be me. I certainly have things from my past that I regret and wish I could change. I have people I wish I could apologize to. Sex has certainly been something I didn’t always do right.

It’s made me wonder what kind of person I would be if something happened to my wife. After 30 years of being monogamous in marriage, would I be able to live a life in terms of sex that would be pleasing to you, or would I grieve you out of selfishness? I truly fear the answer.

Father, help me to guard the morality of sex and marriage. And I am sorry. I’m sorry for the bad example I’ve been in the past. I’m sorry that I probably hurt people. I am ashamed. Thank you for my wife. Thank you for the last 30 years of knowing her and growing in my relationship with you through her example. I have learned so much from her. Help me to truly live into that person I’m becoming, and not just live a morality that I think I “have” to.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Acts

 

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The Sower — Mark 4:1-20


The image above is from
Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Sower (after Van Gogh)” and was created by Ned Bustard.

Mark 4:1-20
Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Dear God, I used to pray this parable a lot when my children were little. I prayed that the seeds my wife and I were planting each day would find good soil. I prayed that we would be able to plant good seeds in the first place. I loved this illustration.

Now that they are in their 20’s, my prayer has shifted a little. They are on their own paths now. They struggle. They succeed. They have revelations and they have blinders. Just like me. I have all of those things in my life as well. But my prayer for them is slightly different. I am not the one doing much planting in their lives so I end up praying over the seeds that were planted long ago, some of which I am hoping are still there, but dormant with roots that are reaching for good soil. I pray for those who are planting seeds in their lives today. I pray for the soil in their heart.

Sometimes I have the presence of mind to pray about the soil in my own heart. Am I able to listen to those who bring your word to me, or do I dismiss them? Does Satan steal away the seed? Do I allow selfishness and pleasures of the world to choke it the seeds that get through? Do I intentionally cultivate the soil of my heart and make it seed-ready?

Now, for this image from Bustard. I guess one thing about this story is that the sower is not very discriminating. He is very generous with his seeds, scattering them everywhere. He doesn’t seem to care what kind of soil it finds. He’ll put some on the path. He’ll put some on shallow soil. He’ll put some in the thorns. And it seems that, just as randomly, some will find good soil. But the sower doesn’t seem to care. He just throws it out there. I should probably be more conscious of how I sow seeds. Am I stingy with them, or do I just spread them everywhere?

Another thing about this image is that I can see a big crop in the background. I think Bustard must have thought about what a 100-fold crop looked like and included it in the image. The Sun and the sky are there. The ground where the sower is walking is there. But the crop in the background is our goal.

Bustard says that his rendition of this story is inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s painting. Here it is for reference.

Apparently, according to Bustard, van Gogh’s piece was inspired by Jean Francois Millet’s piece describing the same parable Here is Millet’s image.

I guess the last thing I will notice about all of the art is that none of them created an image set in Jesus’s time. They are all more modern than that. I suppose Millet is the one who started with that concept. This isn’t just a story with a lesson for 2,000 years ago. It is a modern story.

Father, I will have opportunities to spread some seeds today. I will also have opportunities to prepare the soil of my heart to receive the seeds you have for me. Help me to be mindful of that. Help me to embrace this whole concept. Help me to give you a great harvest that will help your kingdom to come and your will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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God’s Inspirations

Dear God, I was speaking to a group of youth yesterday about the nonprofit where I work and I talked about how you take small seeds of ideas and grown them. In 1986, you led a woman to start doing some medical clinics with some missionaries in Northern Mexico. Six years later, you inspired her to start doing a one-night-a-week free clinic for people in the town where she lived. Ten years later, you inspired her and others to build on that and create a facility that would be a medical home for people. Now, 17 years later, what started as going to Mexico to help some people in 1986 has turned into a four-day-a-week clinic that has medical, dental, and mental health counseling services and a million dollar budget. Your blessing has been obvious, and I am grateful that your presence is still there. I wanted to show these high school students that big things can start from small seeds. They just need faith and patience.

I saw this video about the H.E. Butt Family Foundation Camp this morning. It made me think of the same thing—100 years ago a poor boy in Kerrville, Texas, promised himself that if he ever had enough money he would give kids an opportunity to experience nature. As he grew, he grew the family’s general store into a huge supermarket chain called H-E-B. In the early 50s, he and his wife found nearly 2,000 acres to purchase. From there they built camps for children and eventually an adult lodge for retreats. I am one of the beneficiaries of the seed you planted in his mind 100 years ago.

The H. E. Butt Family Foundation has impacted my life more than anything else. If you take away Howard Butt, Sr.’s vision and followthrough on that vision, I don’t know where I am right now.

  1. They hired my dad as a part-time bookkeeper in 1969 when he was in the Army and needing supplemental income to support his family.
  2. Nine years later, when my parents were separated, the man who hired him all those years ago invited him and my mom to a marriage retreat at which my father prayed to accept Christ and my after which my parents got back together.
  1. When I was 12, my dad came home from a retreat there and told me about a man he had med, Henry Parrish, who coached tennis. Through Henry, I got involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes which had a huge impact on how I came to be a discipling Christian.
  1. When I was 19, I was a camp counselor at one of the youth camps and met my wife there.
  1. I have been to numerous retreats over the last 27 years, and there have been times you have completely inspired me, including the retreat in April 2000 when you inspired me to start this prayer journal.

All of this started because someone had the seed of an inspiration. He didn’t think about how you would use that ranch for discipleship development or anything like that. He just wanted to offer kids the opportunity to experience nature. You took it from there.

Father, help men to heed your little nudgings and inspirations. Help me to not miss the seeds you want me to plant or that you want to plant in me. Give me the faith and the patience to do the work that is in front of me and then watch you grow it into what you have for it to be.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Galatians 5:13

Galatians 5:13
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.

Dear God, when I was younger, my friends and I used to reference this verse and say that someone who said they were Christians but living worldly lives were “living in their grace.” Of course, we were saying it sarcastically. How could they just blatantly do that? Of course, as I aged you revealed to me how much I do that in my own life. I am certainly not pure, and I still have sinful parts of me that I’ve either not realized need purging or have intentionally allowed to stick around.

So what IS the freedom Paul references here? Well, in the verse leading up to this, Paul is referencing circumcision and how it’s no longer important because of what Jesus’s death and resurrection did for us. So Jesus and what he did bring us freedom from the legalistic laws and ushers us into a realm where we have some flexibility to show love and grace. For the person who is not yet free because they haven’t experienced the grace Jesus offers, it can be hard, if not impossible, to offer that freedom to others.

Father, if I’m allowing anything sinful in my life right now that is holding me back, or, better said, holding you back from living more fully through me, please show it to me and help me to purge it. And help me to take the freedom Jesus gives me and use it to offer others freedom. Help me know how to be an encouragement to others. Right now, I have a young man on my heart who is in juvenile detention and just going through hell. I don’t know that I have anything to offer him, but I know he’s on my heart. Show me what to do for him and how to offer him Jesus’s freedom.

I pray all of this in Jesus’s name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2019 in Galatians

 

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