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Monthly Archives: October 2019

“Deep Dive” by Fred Smith

Please take a moment to read this blog post by Fred Smith before reading my prayer below.

Dear God, reading this blog yesterday morning gave me a lot to think about. It came out on a Thursday morning, and on Wednesdays I meet with a sixth-grade boy in a mentoring program at the local middle school. The boy has some particularly difficult circumstances and I’ll confess that I’ve wondered if I’m doing him any good at all. We get about half an hour a week together and I’ve been talking with him a little while he eats and then playing ping pong with him. I have no idea how he sees our time together, and I’ve been trying to think through if I need to do anything different. Then I read this blog post and it helped me a little. I even sent the link to the leadership of the mentoring program so they could see it too.

So what did I get out of it? I really liked how Fred Smith focused on the depth of character that anchors you in an upright position. It’s the first step to address before you start working about where you are going or how you’re going to get there. Do you have that character to anchor you in an upright position first?

It reminds me of the CPR class I took. When someone is in trauma they told you to remember A-B-C: Airway, Breathing, and Cardiovascular. Is the airway clear? Are they able to breathe? Is their heart pumping? In that order. The leg that is broken and pointed in the wrong direction is unimportant in that moment. First, A-B-C. I think that concept can be applied to this. As his mentor, my first concern should be how I can influence his keel. I don’t need to focus on how he’s doing in his classes or what he wants to be when he grows up. I mean, sure, those are things for us to discuss, but if I don’t spend some time purposefully talking about character things with him then I will be missing the point.

Father, help me to be what you need me to be for him. Now that you’ve given me this insight, help me to seek out people who can teach me how to do it. Show me exactly what you need for me to do for this boy. Do it all for your glory, sweet Jesus, so that he might be a reflection of you and experience your love, joy, and peace.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Psalm 19:12-14

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:12-14

Dear God, “the sins lurking in my heart.” I have them. We all do. Mine usually come back to some sort of selfishness or insecurity. They become about what I want. I want love, admiration, leisure, etc.; and then I let myself act in a way that will get me those things.

The irony is that the more I do the things that I think will get me what I want, the less appealing I am as a person. People don’t like needy people. You can’t get love by asking for love. You can’t earn admiration by seeking to be admired. And you can’t get fulfillment through leisure. On the contrary. When I selflessly give love is when people are more likely to return it (only if it’s not demanded or done on a quid pro pro basis). When I humbly serve without needing anything in return is when people are more interested in following my example. When I am generous and sympathetic to someone instead of badmouthing and judging them is when people will see something in me that is comfortable in my own skin.

Father, I suppose the best way to know all of the sins lurking in my heart is to, every day, clean house by fertilizing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life and then letting that fruit crowd out the weeds and thorns of the sin that binds me. So fill me with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, and self control. Let them completely envelop my life so that the sin is crowded out. Only the Holy Spirit can get me there.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2019 in Psalms

 

2 Samuel 7:1-13

When King David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, the king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!” Nathan replied to the king, “Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” But that same night the Lord said to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord has declared: Are you the one to build a house for me to live in? I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. I have always moved from one place to another with a tent and a Tabernacle as my dwelling. Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s tribal leaders, the shepherds of my people Israel. I have never asked them, “Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?”’ “Now go and say to my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I took you from tending sheep in the pasture and selected you to be the leader of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people Israel, planting them in a secure place where they will never be disturbed. Evil nations won’t oppress them as they’ve done in the past, starting from the time I appointed judges to rule my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. “‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne.
2 Samuel 7:1-13

Dear God, there are times when our hearts are in the right places and what we are wanting to do seems wise, but we are still wrong and not within your plan. This story is a good example. David wanted to worship you through building a temple for the Ark. To some extent, he felt like he was putting himself before you by living in his own palace while the Ark lived in a tent. He ran it by Nathan who thought David’s idea for building a temple was on the right track. And then you let them know that you were looking bigger picture than they were. You seemed to appreciate their hearts and the way they were thinking, but you simply stopped them and told them it wasn’t time yet.

I wonder what unforeseen complications building the temple would have had on David and his kingdom. Would it have distracted him from something important that you knew he would need to focus on? Who knows, but you?

I read someone one say one time that there was a time in their life where they were 100% certain they had heard your call and followed you. They felt completely within your will. At that point, feeling that way, they were afraid “to cross the street” if it meant being outside of your will.

I have felt that way before. I suppose I feel that way now. I have a board committee meeting later today and we will be making plans for 2020 and even 2021. How do we stay within your will? How do I stay within your will as I parent my adult children and love my wife?

Father, protect my path and make it straight. Guide me. Guide me with your Spirit. Guide me with the wise counsel of others. Help me to recognize your voice through them when I hear it. Make my life exactly what you need it to be for your glory’s sake and not my own.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2019 in 2 Samuel

 

Romans 12:2

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Dear God, it can be hard to know how to stand out for you in a secular world while still not coming across as judgmental or holier than thou. I’m in a play at our community theater right now with 12 other men and I’ve had some opportunities to differentiate myself a little.

Mainly, I guess, there was one where I felt the need to stand up for you. The topic was the lines in the script that take your name in vain. Because we live in a conservative area, the theater director had already decided to take them out of the script and replace them with something else. The conversation among the cast was around whether that was a silly overreaction. My contribution to the conversation was that I can hear those words and not be offended, but if I were the actor assigned those lines I would ask that they be changed because I can’t say them.

Fast forward to Friday evening. Backstage, one of the older men in the cast asked me individually if he told a joke about a boy praying, would I be offended. My answer was, “I don’t know. Is the joke offensive?” I thought it was interesting though that he asked me that question. Did my “Lord’s name in vain” comment register that much or are there other things I’ve done to differentiate my world view from others? And the question that really concerns me is whether or not I’ve gone too far and, in the end, not represented you well.

Father, I want to be true to you and as salty in the world as I can be. Help me to do this. And on a side note, I have something tricky I have to do at work today. Help me to do it well.

In Jesus’s name (precious name) I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in Romans

 

Proverbs 1:8-9

My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. What you learn from them will crown you with grace and be a chain of honor around your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9

Dear God, I really hope I did right by my kids. I hope I made a difference. I think a lot of parents have doubts and regrets after their children are grown. I certainly have mine. I would hate to have let them (or you) down in this area.

I wonder what Solomon felt like he learned from Bathsheba and David. My assumption would be that he didn’t get a lot from David and his mother was more of the day to day presence. David was probably an example from afar as opposed to a direct instructor. Then I wonder what kind of father Solomon was. We don’t get much here except that the son who succeeded him was cruel. Huh. I guess it’s easier to give advice and talk the talk than it is to live it and walk the walk.

Father, teach me to still learn from my parents, who are both still living, and to know what my adult children need from me so I can give it to them. I love them so much.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2019 in Proverbs

 

Psalm 62:1-2

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2

Dear God, as I read this passage of David this morning, the words that strikes me are the verb and it’s adverb: “wait” and “quietly.” He could have used a lot of verbs and adverbs here.

  • Walk calmly
  • Run briskly
  • Pray earnestly
  • Sing joyfully

You get the idea. But David went the other way. He waits quietly before you. Have I ever waited quietly? What does that look like?

I’ve known people to have gone on silent retreats before. In fact, I attended one once. But I don’t think that’s what David is doing here. I doubt he went on silent retreats. But this makes me think that he did find time to just be still and quiet before you. Maybe he learned to do this as a shepherd when he was a boy. If you’re not used to it, being alone with your thoughts can be hard and scary.

Father, this is probably something I should attempt to do more. Help me to learn to wait quietly before you. Help me to make room for the Holy Spirit to grow. And please protect my thoughts from Satan.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Psalms

 

Proverbs 19:20

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.
Proverbs 19:20

Dear God, my ego is an interesting thing. I was in a meeting with some board members of the nonprofit where I work and the topic of continuing education for me came up. It was suggested that, at this stage of my career and given our nonprofit’s current state of development, I could use some training so we need to put money into the budget for that. On the one hand, I completely agree. I could use some outside advice to help us through this next phase of development. On the other hand, however, I’ll confess that my ego shouts out at me that I shouldn’t need this and I can figure it out on my own. I really hate that ego part of myself.

I’d love to sit and try to psychoanalyze myself through this, but it’s really pretty simple. It’s pride. It’s ego. It’s making myself my own god instead of heeding Solomon’s advice here: “Get all the advice and instruction you can…”

Father, I’m always praying about me decreasing and you increasing, but then I see how I react to things like this and I’m faced with how far I have to go. I’m sorry. Help me to accept all of the advice and instruction that is from you that I can. I don’t want to just take things from others without being discerning, but I certainly want to be “wise the rest of [my] life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2019 in Proverbs

 

Deuteronomy 13:1-4

“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.
Deuteronomy 13:1-4

Dear God, one of the things that is good about getting the “verse of the day” from Bible Gateway is that it will occasionally give me a random verse with which I’m not familiar. In this case, I’m sure I’ve read this before, but it’s been a long time and I’ve forgotten it.

The actual verse was verse 4, the last two sentences: “Serve only the Lord…” but I think the most important part is pointing out the false prophets at the beginning. I need to being everything I read or hear to you and the Holy Spirit in discernment. Even from people I trust.

For example, I really like the preaching of Andy Stanley, and I’m sure he works hard to vet his teaching for authenticity and accuracy. I’m also sure he’s been unknowingly wrong about some things. I have had the opportunity to preach and I am sure that I’ve made mistakes that made you wince. I’ve worked hard to make sure what I say is supported by scripture and consistent with what I know of you, but I’m sure I’ve been wrong. Heck, I’m sure I’ve put wrong things and incorrect conclusions in these prayers to you, and, because I blog them, someone might accidentally receive and start to believe some wrong theology.

There is a Christian denomination in town that teaches that the congregation must accept what is taught from the pulpit regardless of their personal response to it. Therefore, they cannot visit other churches and they cannot hear teaching from anyone outside of their denomination. That’s too bad on two counts. It’s dangerous to give any human that much power over a group, and it’s so limiting to only hear limited perspectives on you and all that you are.

Father, in the end, there might be some mistakes made, but it finally comes down to verse 4: “Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” Help me to serve only you and to fear no one but you. Help me to obey your commands, make room to listen to you and your Holy Spirit, and simply cling to you for all of my life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2019 in Deuteronomy

 

“Mama” by Third Day

“Mama” by Third Day

Well hey Mama, take a look at me now
Things are going fine here in the big town
Hey Mama, if you could only see
All of my friends and how they love me

And I know, you said “I need Jesus”
But mama can’t you see I’m doing fine
Oh yes I know, you said “I need Jesus”
But mama I ain’t got the time, no I ain’t got the time, well no, no

And hey mama, well it’s been two long years
Since I have seen you, how are things you hear?
Hey mama, things they aren’t the same
Since I last wrote you, well things have changed

Yes I know, you say “I need Jesus”
But mama can’t you see I’m doing fine
Oh yes I know, you say “I need Jesus”
But mama I ain’t got the time, well I ain’t got the time, no, no
No, mama, no, no, no mama, mama no

Well, every thing’s going wrong
Yes, every thing’s going wrong
No, I can’t take it no more
Well, every thing’s going wrong
Yes, every thing’s going wrong
No, I can’t take it no more

Well, I need Jesus
I guess, I need Jesus, well forgive me
Come into my life, come into my heart
Precious Jesus, precious Jesus

And I know, you said “I need Jesus”
But mama can’t you see I’m doing, can’t you see I’m doing
Oh yes, I know I’m doing, you said “I need Jesus”
Well mama He is in my life, yes He is in my life, yeah, yeah
Yeah mama, Jesus save me
Yeah mama, yeah, yes
Yeah mama, Jesus save me
Yeah mama, mama, yeah

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Johnny Mac Powell / Samuel Tai Anderson / Bradley B. C. Avery / David Carr / Mark D. Lee

Dear God, there’s so much her, but I’ll start with this. According to the credits, this song was written by five guys. Isn’t it interesting how kids have different relationships with their parents. Boys have unique relationships with their moms. Girls do too, but it’s different still. I’m curious to know how these guys wrote this song and what their conversations were like. This obviously has echoes of the prodigal son story, but he’s talking to his mama and not his father.

In thinking about this song, I’m reminded of the song “The Hard Way” by DC Talk. The beginning of the chorus says, “Some people gotta learn the hard way. I guess I’m the kind of guy who has to find out for myself.” As a parent, one of the challenges is to give that child the leash they need to learn the hard way.

In this song, the mother had to give two years of silence. Sometimes it’s longer. The double-edged sword of stubbornness is that, on the one hand, it can be very hard to break that person’s will and get them to surrender to you, but, on the other hand, when they do come to the end of themselves they are able to apply that stubbornness into serving you. I think of Paul and his zeal for you. When he was killing and persecuting Christians he was doing it out of his zeal for you. But after his conversion, you used that zeal to reach the world.

Father, keep my children close to you. Direct their paths. Don’t let my wife or me get in your way. Give them the lives you have for them to lead. Give them the lives you need them to have for your glory’s sake and the sake of their peace and joy.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2019 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Psalm 63:1-8

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalm 63:1-8

Dear God, I think the most remarkable part of this psalm is the context. At the top it reads, “A psalm of David, regarding a time when David was in the wilderness of Judah.” This psalm came out of David not out of a time of abundance, but a time of struggle. We don’t know which wilderness story for David this is. Was it when he was running from Saul? Absalom?

Of course, the last three verses of this psalm are the reason I struggle with Psalms. David shift from praising you to hoping for your wrath for his enemies:

But those plotting to destroy me will come to ruin. They will go down into the depths of the earth. They will die by the sword and become the food of jackals. But the king will rejoice in God. All who swear to tell the truth will praise him, while liars will be silenced.
Psalm 63:9-11

The truth is, Jesus want me to love my enemies and hope for their reconciliation to you, even if it costs me. David didn’t know that and so he sometimes took his love for you and his humility before you and linked it to his disdain for his enemies. Of course, I don’t know what it’s like to have both the number of enemies David did and the types of enemies he did.

Father, help me to worship and praise you in all circumstances. Help me to glorify you in the midst of my victories and my defeats. Help me to love everyone around me and yearn for their joy and peace to be found in you, whether they are a friend or a foe. And thank you for everything. I do worship you as my God. You are worthy of all of my praise.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2019 in Psalms