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Monthly Archives: November 2019

Romans 15:4-13

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Remember that Christ came as a servant to the Jews to show that God is true to the promises he made to their ancestors. He also came so that the Gentiles might give glory to God for his mercies to them. That is what the psalmist meant when he wrote: “For this, I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing praises to your name.” And in another place it is written, “Rejoice with his people, you Gentiles.” And yet again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles. Praise him, all you people of the earth.” And in another place Isaiah said, “The heir to David’s throne will come, and he will rule over the Gentiles. They will place their hope on him.” I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:4-13

Dear God, patience. Patience, patience, patience. I measure time in days, weeks, months, and years while you measure it in decades, centuries, and millennia. Even after all of my prayers about dying to myself and waiting on you to work your plan out on your own timetable, I can get my feelings hurt and become completely selfish. But that good news is that you are teaching me. I did a little better this time than I’ve done before. I at least had the sense to keep my mouth shut. Then, after time, I was able to see beyond the surface and appreciate that there might be more at play than I realize.

I say all of this because Paul is talking here about patiently waiting on you. But I think waiting might mischaracterize it a little. I just have to adjust my eye to see what you are actually accomplishing. It might seem like a snail’s pace to me, but if I look closely I can see that you are working.

I also have no idea where you are going. Life is a little like a who dunnit? murder mystery. My wife and I saw Knives Out this week. It kept us guessing the entire time, but the final answer made perfect sense. In retrospect, I could see how all of the pieces fit. The same is true of life. It’s hard to figure out what you’re doing in real time, but I can often look back and see what your hand working.

Father, I’ll quote a Newsboys song here. “Lord, I don’t know where all this is going or how it all works out. Lead me to peace that’s past understanding. A peace beyond all doubt.”

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2019 in Romans

 

1 Chronicles 16:8

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.
1 Chronicles 16:8

Dear God, this was the beginning of David’s song as they moved the Ark to Jerusalem. What a time that must have been.

As I sat down to write this prayer to you this morning, I received a Happy Thanksgiving text from and old friend. About four or five years ago he went through a similar struggle to what I went through about six or seven years ago. I replied to his text that we both have a lot to be grateful for because you have really heard our prayers. You might not have answered them the way we hoped you would, but you helped us to endure and then you have let your plan unfold.

I’ll admit that I don’t always like your plan, but I have learned enough over the last few years to understand that I need to be grateful for what you are doing that I cannot see. I need to trust you and be faithful. Anyone reading these prayers knows I am a huge football fan, and a Baylor alum. Our coach talks a lot about the process. When he was new and they hadn’t played a game yet, he talked about the process. When the team went 1-11 in his first year, people mocked his process. Now that they are 10-1 this season, people are paying attention. But what is the process? Here is a link to an interview he gave this week about the upcoming game against Kansas. It’s the first time I’ve heard him specifically reference what the process is. The process part starts at the 3:00 mark:

So, according to Coach Rhule, the process is simply getting better every week. You take your eyes off of what you consider to be winning and you just grind to get better. Applied to life, I think that means ignoring what I perceive success to be. Whether it is how my life, my wife’s life, my children’s lives, or even politics and the world, I need to take my eyes off of my own wisdom and turn them to the daily grind of growing closer to you and then letting the chips fall where they may. One problem when I try to pursue my own outcomes is that sometimes my desired outcome is wrong and I am putting energy into something that feeds my own self instead of just worshipping you and living in the present.

Father, thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done for me and my family over the last several years. I’m still concerned for all of our futures, but I no longer fear it. I no longer expect you to do what I want you to do. And I’m no longer disappointed in you. I was for a while, but I’m not anymore. I guess I needed to see a figurative 10-1 season from you to trust the process of grinding to love and know you more and more. Thank you for growing my faith. I know there is still a long way for me to go.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2019 in 1 Chronicles

 

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Isaiah 10:33-11:10

But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down. He will cut down the forest trees with an ax. Lebanon will fall to the Mighty One. [Chapter 11] Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment. In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord. In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.
Isaiah 10:33-11:10

Dear God, the passage for today was the first 10 verses of chapter 11, but I thought the last couple of verses of chapter 10 were important because they reference how the stump in 11:1 came to be. You had cut down the tree of Assyria. Out of that destruction, after that time of suffering under Assyria, you brought Jesus. Of course, as it turned out, Jesus came while Rome was in charge. But he still brought an entirely new covenant. He brought healing. He brought forgiveness. He brought peace. I could go in depth on the metaphor. The new Branch. The old root.

The people who first heard and read this didn’t have any idea what it meant. They had no idea how this would all work out. They didn’t know where, when, or who. All they knew was that there was hope.

For me, I have seen some frustrating things unfold in my life. I’ve been discouraged at times. But you are teaching me that you are doing things I cannot see. You are giving me hope. I don’t have to know where, when, or who? I don’t have to know how. But you have spoken to my heart and assured me that there is hope. My job is to put my trust in you, worship you, love you, and love my neighbors.

Father, thank you. Thank you for hope. Thank you for peace. Thank you for justice. Thank you for encouraging humility. Thank you for opportunities to love others and serve you. Thank you for everything you’re doing that I can and cannot see. Thank you for what you have done and what you will do. Thank you that you care at all. You don’t have to.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2019 in Isaiah

 

Hebrews 12:28-29

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.
Hebrews 12:28-29

Dear God, there is something I hate about myself. I am only really good at worshipping you when the chips are down and I’m in trouble. I was thinking about this yesterday. Things are in a pretty good spot for my wife and me right now. Yes, there are a couple of stressors in our lives, but comparatively things are really good. So, on paper, you’d think this would be a tome when I’m full of worship and gratitude. You’d think I’d see your provision for different things and just fall on my knees. You’d think I’d be singing worship songs all day. But I don’t. I take it all for granted and I start to indulge my own selfishness. I can just be the worst.

When I was a child, I would hear stories about the Israelites and how they would fall away from you. I judged them so harshly. No more. I get it.

Father, I’m grateful for these moments with you. I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit convicting next through scripture like he is right now. I’m grateful for everything you have done and are doing. There is so much around me in the lives of others that needs your attention. I should probably be more organized about this prayer list and entering into your presence on behalf of others. My wife is very good at this. Yes, I think this would probably be a good thing. I think I will develop a literal list and go to the chapel regularly to bring these things to you. I will also build in some time of worshipping you. You are so worthy of my praise. You are everything. You are my all in all. I will follow you regardless of my circumstances.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2019 in Hebrews

 

Colossians 3:16-17

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Colossians 3:16-17

Dear God, what is the richness of Christ that is supposed to fill my life and I am supposed to share? It takes me back to a great sermon I heard from Andy Stanley last December. He started with a thesis that he understands why people can’t bring themselves to believe in the Jesus of the Bible and that all of the things the Bible says happened really happened. He got that. What he couldn’t understand was why anyone wouldn’t want it to be true. The Jesus of the Bible and his message was so compelling, why wouldn’t you want him to have been real?

So what is it about Jesus that I should want to be real? What is the richness of him that should fill me? Well, how about forgiveness of all of my mistakes and a clean slate between me and you? How about the fruits of the Spirit that enter and grow in my life when I am in relationship with you? How about the standard he and you (and the Spirit) ask me to live up to, asking me to live a life that loves you and loves others, and going and sinning no more?

I think when it comes down to it, the richness comes from something I continually go back to–the fruits of the Spirit. When love, joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, goodness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23) are growing in your life and consuming the space that was once occupied by sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these (Galatians 5:19-21) then My life becomes richer richer.

Father, help me to be your ambassador. That starts with me being worthy of representing you. Help me to be worthy of people knowing I’m a Christian and evaluating a life spent submitted to you by looking at me. Let them see all of the fruits of the Spirit in me, and that will start by me actually giving you good soil in my soul where you can grow.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2019 in Colossians, Galatians

 

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When People Let You Down

Dear God, being a Baylor fan, it’s been hard over the last four or five years to know whom I should like and whom I shouldn’t. There’s been scandal and I’ve heard conflicting information from various sources. Some have said that one football coach was to blame. Others have blamed the coach, the school president and the athletic director (AD). Some say the board of regents threw the other three under the bus, but the fault lies with them. They haven’t made it easy to be a Baylor fan.

So three years ago, the school hired a new president, AD, and coach. I think I like all three of them, but I have admittedly guarded my heart against them and tried to remain skeptical–especially of the coach. And the coach has made it hard because, even when he went 1-11 in his first year, he sure says things that I like and seems like someone I can trust.

Last Saturday morning, I found the video I linked above. It’s a 20-minute video of the coach speaking at a men’s conference after his first season (1-11) at Baylor. It was strikingly good and seemingly authentic. It spoke to me on a personal level, but it also pushed me closer to allowing myself to trust in him a little more.

Why am I praying to you about this this morning? Well, I woke up thinking about what appropriate trust in others looks like and how we should respond to their failings. When I give this coach, this AD, and/or this president my trust, what am I giving them?

  • I’m willing to donate to the athletic department, trusting that they will use the scholarship money to develop a young person and give them opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.
  • I’m willing to cheer and applaud for the team(s), trusting that they are people worthy of my applause.
  • I’m willing to travel to see them play, trusting that they are worth the time I’m giving to cheering them on, win or lose.
  • I’m willing to show my support for them through the clothes I wear, stickers I put on my car, and the flag I hang on my house, trusting that they aren’t doing things of which I would be ashamed. For example, I threw away my Big 12 Championship t-shirt when the scandal broke a few years ago because I just couldn’t wear it anymore.

Of course, the danger is always putting my trust in people and not in you. I’m not looking to Baylor’s athletic performance or how they behave behind the scenes to give me any kind of peace, which can only come from you. That means, when they disappoint me (not on the field, but off of it), I will look to see how they respond.

But back to the video I posted above. I think this video shows me a vulnerability and depth of character and knowledge of you that really encourages me. When a friend of mine listened to it he said, “Wow, he’s a real Christian.” I think that is true. That doesn’t mean that he is incorruptible anymore than I am. In fact, he’s probably more vulnerable because he has a lot more notoriety and power than I have. But I believe he’s the kind of man who will repent after failing instead of pretending like none of it is his fault.

Father, the lesson for me is to love people and be vulnerable myself. If I am going to appreciate someone else, it should be for the character they show, even when they fail. I should not look to them for my joy, but appreciate the work they do to bring your kingdom into the world. Matt Rhule isn’t perfect. He will make mistakes and fail. But I appreciate his willingness to vulnerably represent you. Thank you for his example and for the work you are doing through him, regardless of wins.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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The Four-Way Test

The Rotary Four-Way Test

Of the things we think, say, and do:

  • First, is it the truth?
  • Second, is it fair to all concerned?
  • Third, will it bring good will and better friendships?
  • Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Dear God, I joined Rotary over 12 years ago and I’m so glad I did. I’ve learned a lot, and it has been a good way for me to engage in community service outside of the work I do through the social service nonprofit where I work. One of the problems with working in a nonprofit focused on a single issue like healthcare, children or animals is that you can become myopic about your cause and you lose sight of other areas of need in the community. I would imagine that working in a church would present a similar problem.

Being in Rotary, however, exposes me to a variety of service projects. And even the speakers we have will sometimes talk about their social service activities or teach us something new. Frankly, it has also helped expose the nonprofit where I work to the members with whom I serve.

At the end of each meeting, we recite the four-way test I listed above. I’ve actually used this test several times. Years ago, I was in the middle of a crisis with our facility that ultimately resulted in our organization suing the builder. I didn’t want to do it, but their insurance company told us they wouldn’t engage with us until we brought a lawsuit. Through the whole process, however, whenever I had a decision to make or needed to give my advice to our board of directors, I would actively try to run it through this four-way test.

My problem with some Rotary clubs when I visit them is that they add a fifth test–Is it fun? Really? That’s a way to measure whether I should do something or not? I should base my decision making and choices on whether or not something is fun? No. I reject that. I prayed with my wife this morning and told her that a hard thing I had to do yesterday passed the four-way test, but it was not fun. As Fred Smith reminded us in his blog this morning, there is also duty, and oftentimes duty is not fun.

Father, help me to remember that you pretty much gave us a two-way test:

  • Am I loving you with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength?
  • Am I loving my neighbor as myself?

Paul said that a fruit of the Spirit is joy, but nowhere are we told in scripture that joy, fun or happiness should be our pursuit. That is just something Thomas Jefferson threw into the Declaration of Independence. Happiness is fleeting, but joy comes to us from the peace of doing our duty. Help me to do my duty today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Psalm 95

Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too. Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did. For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’”
Psalm 95

Dear God, since these are meant to be songs, sometimes I try to imagine sitting in church and singing them. Or singing them with my family. The first half of this psalm lends itself to that picture, but the last part seems like an awkward thing to sing. But is it?

The next thing I like to do is see who wrote it (this one is unknown) and then try to put myself in their place as they pinned these words. In this case, it seems that someone wanted to acknowledge you and worship you, but part of that worship was to fear you and your judgment for disobedience. At first, that seems harsh to me–a bit of a downer for a song like this. But is it?

Father, yes, you are powerful and worthy of my worship. And yes, you are demanding and worthy of my obedience. To obey is better than to sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). So help me to worship you through both my praise and my intentional obedience. Love through me. Work through me. Enter the world through me. And let your kingdom come and will be done through me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2019 in Psalms

 

Psalm 1:1-3

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.
Psalm 1:1-3

Dear God, my wife and I were driving the other day and she noticed a cypress tree in someone’s yard. She remarked how good it looked even though it wasn’t by a river–where we usually see cypress trees. Obviously, that tree has access to water from somewhere.

What do I do to make sure I have access to enough water? The psalmist here has some thoughts on both what to do and what to NOT do:

  • NOT do: follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
    Do: delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

So am I doing enough to guard my heart against being wicked? Do I join with mockers? Do I NOT love? Or do I delight in your law? Do I follow it? It reminds me of the teaching the exhorts is to follow your laws because you designed them for our joy and peace, not just to arbitrarily give us laws to follow.

Father, one of the fruits of the Spirit is the “joy” that the psalmist refers to here, and the way to cultivate the soil of my heart (or at least one of the ways) is to simply avoid evil and mockery and embrace your commands. Help me to be mindful of both of those facts as I go through this day.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2019 in Psalms

 

John 17:13-20

“Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.
John 17:13-20

Dear God, the actual verse posted on Bible Gateway today was 17: Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.

I wonder what Jesus meant by “your word.” Even The Message translation uses “word.” What does that mean in this context? Our current Christian vernacular would say that it’s the Bible, but only the Old Testament existed back then and they didn’t have it readily available in their homes like we do now. No, I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant by “word.”

I wonder if your word and truth are imparted knowledge through the Holy Spirit. But, boy, that seems like a dangerous system for us to cling to. It’s bad enough that some of us interpret the Bible for ourselves the way we do (like I’m doing right now). But I suppose that, when it comes down to it, you just want to make me holy. You want me to be open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. I currently have some theological views that are more liberal than the ones I held 20 years ago? Am I wrong now? Was I wrong then? The correct answer to both questions is, “Yes.” Even now, I am sure that I’m wrong about a lot of things.

Father, just help me to be holy and continue to teach me. Keep me from spreading heresy. Live through me. Love through me. Draw people to yourself through my life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2019 in John