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Monthly Archives: August 2019

Some Old CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) by Michael W. Smith

For those of you who read this blog, I’m doing something a little different with my prayer journal this morning. When I woke up a bit ago, I was wondering what scripture I should use to inspire my prayer time with God today. I looked at the Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups book and found an interesting image for Joseph interpreting dreams while in prison, but it didn’t really inspire me–at least not now.

When I went in to make my breakfast, I thought of some of the Christian music my wife and I listened to in the 80’s and 90’s. I started shuffling through some old Michael W. Smith songs and found some great lyrics and good memories. A couple of them really made me think about some people I know and how they struggle to be free from shame and guilt. A couple reminded me of what Jesus actually did here on earth and what he offered to us. So I have four songs I’m putting below that are my prayer today. I’m praying the lyrics of each of these songs to God as a prayer on behalf of those who are struggling and as worship to the God that make a bridge to wholeness.

“Cry for Love” — Michael W. Smith

My life is like a racing car hurtling towards the wall
At the speed of sound
My time has been so finely tuned
But I’ve never seen a human being so tightly wound

At times it seems beyond belief
I just need a bit of relief
Like a war-weary soldier
Marching up and over the edge
Take my hand and pull me up cause I’m falling too fast
Somehow I’ve lost my way – I’m cryin’ save me

Can you hear me…I’m calling out
I’m crying out…a cry for love
I can feel you…you’re touching me
You healing me…my cry for love

I will be the first to admit
I don’t have the strength to handle it alone anymore
I don’t have to fret, don’t have to explain
All my worrying’s in vain
I’m not alone anymore

Why is this so hard to believe
What is mine is mine to freely receive
Like the changing of seasons
This is the beauty of the word
And for all that I have seen and heard
Oh I want to come home
Somehow I’ll make my way – my way home to you

Can you hear me…I’m calling out
I’m crying out…a cry for love
I can feel you…you’re touching me
You healing me…my cry for love

Oh Father hear my call (Oh Father hear my call)
I know you’ll catch me when I fall
Oh Father hear my call
I know you’ll catch me when I fall
Oh I pray that you’ll hold me now
Hold me
And take my fear away
I’m cryin’ save me

Oh I know that you can hear me
Hear me crying out for love
Oh I know that you can feel my cry for love…ooh…
I can feel you – you’re calling out
You’re crying out – a cry for love
I can feel you – you’re touching me
You’re healing me – my cry for love

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Michael W. Smith / Brent Bourgeois

“I’ll Lead You Home” by Michael W. Smith

Wandering the road of desperate life
Aimlessly beneath a barren sky
Leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

So afraid that you will not be found
It won’t be long before your sun goes down
Just leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

[Chorus]
Hear me calling
Hear me calling
Just leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

A troubled mind and a doubter’s heart
You wonder how you ever got this far
Leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

Vultures of darkness ate the crumbs you left
You got no way to retrace your steps
Just leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

Hear me calling
Hear me calling
You’re lost and alone
Leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

So let it go and turn it over to
The one who chose to give his life for you
Leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

Hear me calling
Hear me calling
You’re lost and alone
Leave it to me
I’ll lead you home

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Michael W. Smith / Wayne Kirkpatrick

“Rocketown” by Michael W. Smith

A Friday night affair
Out in the city heat
Always a party there
Along the sordid street
And it was guaranteed
The place to be was Rocketown

The drinks were two for one
Inside the crowded bars
The girls would make their run
Out on the boulevard
It was the idol place
We lived the ways of Rocketown
Hang around by the street light
In the heart of the night life

There came a certain man
A stranger to the crowd
We didn’t understand
What he was all about
He walked a different pace
So out of place in Rocketown

They made a fool of him
They teased him when he’d speak
But when they knocked him down
He’d turn the other cheek
He told me I could find
A life outside of Rocketown
Hang around by the street light
In the heart of the night life

What was his mission
Where was he going
Why was his heart light
Always glowing
All I was missing
He stood there holding
What was his secret
Could I know it

Some didn’t like him near
Some laughed and turned away
But me, I longed to hear
All that he had to say
He had a peace of mind
I couldn’t find in Rocketown
And when I reached down inside me
I could feel the emptiness

What was his mission
Where was he going
Why was his heart light
Always glowing
All I was missing
He stood there holding
What was his secret
Could I know it

He said it’s in the heart
This change that comes to be
Now he had done his part
The choice was up to me
As we were standing there
He said a prayer for Rocketown
As we were standing there
He said a prayer for Rocketown
As we were standing there
He said a prayer for Rocketown
He walked off silently
And prayed for me
And Rocketown

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Wayne Kirkpatrick / Michael W. Smith

“Secret Ambition” by Michael W. Smith

Young man up on the hillside
Teaching new ways
Each word winning them over
Each heart a kindled flame

Old men watch from the outside
Guarding their prey
Threatened by the voice of the paragon
Leading their lambs away
Leading them far away

Nobody knew His secret ambition
Nobody knew His claim to fame
He broke the old rules steeped in tradition
He tore the holy veil away
Questioning those in powerful position
Running to those who called His name
But nobody knew His secret ambition
Was to give His life away

His rage shaking the temple
His word to the wise
His hand healing on the seventh day
His love wearing no disguise

Some say, “Death to the radical
He’s way out of line.”
Some say, “Praise be the miracle
God sends a blessed sign.
A blessed sign for troubled times.”

Nobody knew His secret ambition
Nobody knew His claim to fame
He broke the old rules steeped in tradition
He tore the holy veil away
Questioning those in powerful position
Running to those who called His name
But nobody knew His secret ambition
Was to give His life away

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Michael W. Smith / Wayne Kirkpatrick / Amy Grant Gill

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Posted by on August 31, 2019 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Galatians 3:26-29

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
Galatians 3:26-29

Dear God, why is prejudice just so darn easy? I’m in a production of “12 Angry Men” in our local community theater and I was talking with my wife this morning about what a difficult time the man playing the bigot is having rehearsing his last tirade over and over again. It’s just so evil. And it’s easy to judge that character, but how much of his views are some combination of what he was taught and his life experiences?

I suppose that, when it comes down to it, this is just Satan executing his game plan. He wants us divided against each other. From the beginning, he wanted to pit Adam and Eve against you and then each other. He wanted Cain to kill Abel. And on and on, right down to devotees of one news network being intolerant of those who watch and subscribe to the bias of another one. Division, division, division. It’s so easy!

Father, open my eyes to my own prejudices and the things I might do to foster division in all of my relationships and the ones that touch my life. Make my life a source of unity in our community. Let it start in my own family and go from there. And do it all for your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2019 in Galatians

 

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John 6:22-59

The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” But Jesus replied, “Stop complaining about what I said. For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God, have seen him.) “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
John 6:22-59

Dear God, this is such a complicated story. My first confession is that, if o had been there, I would never have followed Jesus. It’s just too much and the things he said were too out of the norm. I’d have been out.

The other thing I noticed is that these people, for the most part, were wanting to use Jesus instead of worship him. They wanted to take instead of give. I think that one of the things that Jesus might have been doing here was getting rid of the takers.

I saw an article the other day about people who leave the church. The key point was that when they publicly say they are leaving Christianity they never mention leaving Jesus. Just the church. They are disillusioned with your people because they (we) don’t live up to a standard they think we should. I would add that they don’t show up to worship and selflessly give. They show up to get something out of it.

I actually went through a period when I wasn’t disappointed in the church, but I was disappointed in you. I had to learn something about myself in the process. I felt like we had made a bargain and that if I worshipped you then I could expect something for my family in return. But true worship doesn’t include bargaining with you. True worship is simply dying to myself and surrendering myself to you. Literally giving my all for nothing more than relationship with you and then allowing that relationship and your Holy Spirit to change me and use me as you will.

Father, I’m very sorry for my selfishness and foolishness. I guess that’s all I have to say. I’m very sorry that I’m one of the people Jesus was talking to here.

In His name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2019 in John

 

Isaiah 26:1-3

In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaiah 26:1-3

Dear God, the verse of the day was verse 3 (You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!), and I really liked that. I picked up verse 1 and 2 just so we could have some context, but it’s verse 3 that’s on my heart this morning.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve said this to others, or even to you, but of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “peace” is my litmus test. I can fake love, joy, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness and self control, but the peace I experience comes from you. It’s different for my wife. She has told me that “joy” is hers. She can’t fake joy. But for me, it’s “peace.”

Where does my peace come from? One of the things that brings me peace is a clear conscience, and the only way I can experience a clear conscience is through repenting to you and receiving your grace. Then there is a peace that comes from just spending time with you. Even having typed out this prayer this morning will start my day in a peaceful way. Finally, there is just the peace that you minister to me as I fix my thoughts on you. To quote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.” Yes, indeed, the more I turn my eyes upon you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, the more the things of earth grow strangely dim and peace overcomes me.

Father, help me to turn my eyes upon you today. Be glorified through me. Help those I love, especially my wife, children, and extended family, to turn their eyes upon you as well. Give all of us peace, freedom, love, joy, faithfulness, gentleness patience, kindness and self control. And help us to share that with others for your glory’s sake.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2019 in Isaiah

 

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Romans 12:3-8

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Romans 12:3-8

Dear God, this is one of those lessons that bears repeating. You didn’t design us to be effective on our own. We need community. Adam needed community.

This is a little different take on this, but this morning I’m thinking of the widows I know. There’s a woman I know in town who is stubbornly hanging on to her independence even though her health is failing and her friends are trying to get her to move into an assisted living place in town. She needs what these friends and others are offering her, but she isn’t willing to accept it.

Accepting what others have to offer us can be so hard. For the person with dementia who needs to yield some amount of control. For the worker who tries to do everything themselves instead of enjoying the camaraderie of a team and sharing the load.

As for me, in some ways I’m getting better at this and in others I’m still stuck in the “get out of my way and just let me do it” mode. But I really am getting better.

Father, help me to 1.) continue to improve in becoming part of your body and 2.) help others to overcome their resistance to the help you might have called me to give them. Help me to accept help and to give help freely. Do it all for your glory and your kingdom’s progression on Earth.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2019 in Romans

 

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Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups — The Threshing Floor (Ruth 3:6-13)


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

So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law. After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.” “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”
Ruth 3:6-13

Dear God, I’ve spent some time looking at Ruth and Boaz, but I don’t know remember spending too much time thinking about Boaz himself. You know, trying to get into his skin. To do that, we have to go back to his introduction in chapter 2. Here are some verses in chapter 2 that are striking me about him and his character:

Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields Stay right behind the young women working in my field. See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to water they have drawn from the well.” (Ruth 2:8-9)

Not only did Boaz provide food for her, but he also cast a net of physical protection over her. I have been reminded over and over again how vulnerable women are to physical harm. I was talking with a friend yesterday morning about our daughters and wishing we could protect them better. My wife and I have talked about her uneasiness walking in crowds and fear of being groped by an anonymous man walking by. These just aren’t fears that I have, but they are real and legitimate fears for women. In fact, until this morning, I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to the physical danger Ruth was in by going out to glean in the fields. But Boaz thought about it.  Why did he care so much? What was it about Ruth that got his attention?

“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. May the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.” (Ruth 2:11-12)

I think that speaks for itself. So I guess my question is, were Ruth and Naomi manipulating Boaz in chapter 3? At the end of the day, I suppose this was part of the culture at the time. In fact, I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand this story because I don’t understand the culture of that time and place enough. But I do know that this ended up being part of your plan because these two people became David’s great-grandparents. Boaz did a lot of wonderful things, but he never knew he had done this. He was faithful in what you had given to him to steward, and the results would have been beyond anything he ever would have dreamed.

I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t go back to this image by Bustard and at least say what he had to say about it in his book:

Ben-Zion Weinman (1897-1987) was a sculptor, painter, and printmaker. An emigrant from Ukraine, he came to the United States in 1920 and was a founding member of a 1930’s avant-garde group called “The Ten.” Curing the 1950s he completed several portfolios of expressionistic etchings/aquatints. This print is a reworking of one of those pieces from The Books of Ruth, Job, and Song of Songs portfolio. The Bible is ambiguous about what may or may not have happened that night on the threshing floor: Weinman leaves the way open for either reading of the passage in his visualization of the famous night. He depicts both people asleep under the starlight, the future great-grandmother of King David under a blanket at the feed of Boaz, who snores against a heap of grain.

I looked for the original, and I couldn’t be sure which image was the one that Bustard used as the inspiration, but it’s interesting to consider that the author of Ruth left the events of that night vague. I’d never considered that before. I just took it for what was written on the page. Perhaps I’m naïve.

Father, help me to be faithful this day. Help me to not look to my legacy or my future because I have zero idea how you might be using me. The author Gary Thomas said in one of his books (it might have been Sacred Parenting) that our role in history is to be born, possibly procreate, and then get out of the way. What you do with our lives after that is up to you. Help me to embrace that simplicity and to offer you this one life that I get on earth to further your kingdom and your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Solomon — 1 Chronicles 22:2-19

So David gave orders to call together the foreigners living in Israel, and he assigned them the task of preparing finished stone for building the Temple of God. David provided large amounts of iron for the nails that would be needed for the doors in the gates and for the clamps, and he gave more bronze than could be weighed. He also provided innumerable cedar logs, for the men of Tyre and Sidon had brought vast amounts of cedar to David. David said, “My son Solomon is still young and inexperienced. And since the Temple to be built for the Lord must be a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world, I will begin making preparations for it now.” So David collected vast amounts of building materials before his death. Then David sent for his son Solomon and instructed him to build a Temple for the Lord, the God of Israel. “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will secure the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ “Now, my son, may the Lord be with you and give you success as you follow his directions in building the Temple of the Lord your God. And may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the Lord your God as you rule over Israel. For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the Lord gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart! “I have worked hard to provide materials for building the Temple of the Lord —nearly 4,000 tons of gold, 40,000 tons of silver, and so much iron and bronze that it cannot be weighed. I have also gathered timber and stone for the walls, though you may need to add more. You have a large number of skilled stonemasons and carpenters and craftsmen of every kind. You have expert goldsmiths and silversmiths and workers of bronze and iron. Now begin the work, and may the Lord be with you!” Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to assist Solomon in this project. “The Lord your God is with you,” he declared. “He has given you peace with the surrounding nations. He has handed them over to me, and they are now subject to the Lord and his people. Now seek the Lord your God with all your heart and soul. Build the sanctuary of the Lord God so that you can bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant and the holy vessels of God into the Temple built to honor the Lord ’s name.”
1 Chronicles 22:2-19

Dear God, I know I talked about this before when I covered the beginning of Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings, but it bears repeating that a lot of people worked very hard to hand a fully developed kingdom over to Solomon. He got a pretty turn-key situation.

I pretty much inherited the same kind of thing at my job, although on a much, much smaller scale. Heck, you could probably say the same thing for my life in general. I was born in this country which was built by the sacrifice (sometimes the ultimate sacrifice) of a lot of people. I was born into a family that gave me a chance at education and advancement in life. Yes, I walked into life, adulthood, and even this job with a lot of advantages. So what am I doing with them? Am I willing to do the hard work to live up to this responsibility. Am I ready to continue to worship you when my heart is “prone to wander” (as the line from “Come Thou Fount” says)?

Father, all I have is today…this moment. I can’t get too far out into the future or I will lose my focus on you. I can’t be tied down in the past or I won’t experience your victory. So help me to take advantage of this moment. Help me to start with worshipping you and spending time with you. Then help me to take the love you give me and give it to others around me. And finally, help me to respond to your calls to action and use the life you’ve given me so that you might enter the world as much as possible.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2019 in 1 Chronicles, Solomon

 

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