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Monthly Archives: September 2021

John 3:20-21

All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
John 3:20-21

Dear God, thank you that you make it possible to be in the light. Thank you that you make it possible to just throw our shame away and let it go. Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for your mercy.

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday about how you take a knife to the knots of our sin and just cut it away. Sometimes there’s just simply no way to untie what we’ve done. We cannot make it better. We just need you to take your knife of mercy to it and release us from the bondage we created.

Of course, Jesus also said that we are to ask that you forgive us as we forgive others. That means, at least in certain cases where someone comes seeking forgiveness, that we need to take our own knife to a situation and, as much as possible, give mercy to the person. That doesn’t mean we have to trust indiscriminately again, but it does mean we can love beyond what might be deserved in our own minds.

Father, again, thank you for offering me a path to the light. I’m very sorry for my son and all of the knots I create. Help me to receive your mercy, extend mercy to myself, extend mercy to others, and then be willing to repent before you and others when I e made a mistake. For your glory alone, oh, Lord.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2021 in John

 

1 Corinthians 2:14-15

But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. But the one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned by no one.
1 Corinthians 2:14-15

Dear God, I absolutely need you and your discernment. I need to see the world through your eyes and be about your kingdom and will instead of my own.

I have a friend going through divorce mediation today. My perception is that there has been a lot of pain in this marriage, and now there is a lot of contention in the divorce. I’m not praying that the marriage be saved. I’m not even sure you want that at this point. But as both of these people, their attorneys, and the mediator go through this process today, my prayer for them is that the Holy Spirit will guide all of their hearts. I know what “winning” last oks like in the eyes of the world, but I don’t know what “winning” in today’s mediation from your perspective looks like. I know Jesus’s death on the cross looked like losing to everyone who was there, but it was actually part of the greatest victory of all time.

Of course, I have my own life situations, and from my own perspective it can certainly look like I’m losing. It can look like I’m failing. But I’ve been down this road with you before. I’ve trusted you and sought your guidance before, and I’ve seen the long-term “win” that comes from a short-term “loss.” In some of my current “losses,” my prayer is simply that you would guide everyone involved and make all of this pain count for your glory.

Father, I have this friend today going through the mediation. I have another friend with heart issues in a San Antonio hospital. Please be with them both. Comfort. Guide. Provide. Let your kingdom come to earth today in their lives. Let your will be done in their lives. For my mediation friend, give them your eyes so they can react to the situation as you see it. Use this pain to accomplish your will for everyone involved. Help everyone to see what a victory from your perspective looks like and to reject a worldly victory that brings a defeat for their soul. And for my friend with the heart issue, of course I ask that you heal her. But also comfort her. Use this to accomplish things in her life and the lives of her family and friends that you would never have accomplished otherwise. And in my life, give me your eyes so I can see beyond the physical world. Help me to see the powers and principalities at work around me, and to respond out of your victory 2,000 years ago.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2021 in 1 Corinthians

 

Matthew 6:33

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.

Matthew 6:33

Dear God, a couple of months ago I started to see the idea of your Kingdom coming as something we have to wait for as possibly errant. Perhaps it’s something we have to wait for and something that’s already here. Perhaps you want your kingdom to come into the world today. At this moment. Through me. Through your body.

So when Jesus tells me to seek first your kingdom and righteousness and then these things will me added to me, he’s once again encouraging me to be about your kingdom coming into the earth in this moment. When I take my eyes off of myself, and even the needs of food and clothing Jesus mentions in the previous verses, when I stop the worrying Jesus is talking about here, and simply seek to keep myself pure and love everyone I can, doing the work the Holy Spirit calls me to do, then something special can happen. To quote the hymn, “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of [your] glory and grace.”

Father, I have a budget meeting for work today. We are going to be talking about growth for next year. New programs. Helping others. Helping more people in new ways. It will obviously cost money and people resources. Help us. Help us, Holy Spirit, to ask good questions, be humble in the answers we seek, and find the best path for your kingdom to be here on earth, or at least in our community, as much as possible. Help us to do it for your glory and not ours. Give us your eyes, and make us about your righteousness and glory, not our own agenda.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2021 in Matthew

 

1 John 2:1

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.

1 John 2:1

Dear God, oh, how I need an advocate. I need your mercy. I can pursue “morality” and a philosophy of living by your code, but your can seem like nonsense to me sometimes. What do I mean by that? Well, it would be nice if I could just line up the 10 Commandments and do what I can to follow them, but I heard someone say something interesting recently: Only one of those commandments is against the law (5. killing and 7. stealing). Everything else, from worshipping you alone to not coveting is a moral guideline from our society’s perspective.

No, what my advocate told me is the most important thing to do is worship you with everything I have and then love my neighbor as myself. If I do these two things then everything else will flow from this (Matthew 22:37-40). And I can’t get them out of order. I can’t love others as myself without first worshipping you and receiving your forgiveness because I won’t be able to get myself out of my head as I try to love others as long as I am trying to justify myself as opposed to having Jesus advocate for me and justify me. It is the freedom you offer through him that gives me the ability to truly love others, even at my own expense.

Father, make me the man you need me to be today. I say this a lot, but I really, really need it today. Make me exactly who I need to be today. Help me to be patient. Help me to hear the Holy Spirit. Help me to love well and selflessly. Holy Spirit, speak to me and flow through me. Do your work today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2021 in 1 John

 

Hebrews 10:35-36

35 So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! 36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Hebrews 10:35-36

Dear God, I just got off of the phone with my friend/Christian brother. We talk every Friday morning and share our lives. I told him about how I’ve struggled to really dig into you this week. I mentioned this yesterday with the prayer I did about the “Ode to Joy” flash mob. As he and I prayed together this morning we prayed that we would remember our first love. That we would love the Lord, our God, with all of our heart, soul, and strength. And only after we did this, would we try to love our neighbor as ourselves. But nothing can happen until I simply love you. Worship you. Submit to you. Repent to you. Embrace you. Acknowledge my powerlessness over my life and realize, addiction or no addiction, that I need you to restore my life to sanity and keep me sane. That’s where it starts.

So this passage lends itself to that concept. Patient endurance. Paul’s talking about waiting for your return, but he’s not just saying to patiently wait. This translation uses the word endurance. Part of that endurance is disciplining myself to follow you, submit to you, and worship you. I’m not just a believer in you. You aren’t just a concept in my mind and a philosophical idea that I follow. You are my God and I am able to have a relationship with you. You are able to shape me and mold me. You lead me. You give me peace.

Father, I told my friend this morning that I’m just doing “okay,” and I don’t necessarily judge that based on my circumstances, but instead on the level of peace in my heart. In terms of peace, I’m just doing okay. But you are the vine and I am the branch. You are the source of the fruits of the Spirit, but my branch has to be connected to your vine for that fruit to grow. So here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that you are my God. Help me to carry you with me throughout my day. And let it all be for your glory and not mine, oh Lord!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2021 in Hebrews

 

“Ode to Joy” Flash Mob

[English Translation of “Ode to Joy” by Ludwig van Beethoven]

Oh friends, no more of these sounds! Let us sing more cheerful songs, More full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity, Daughter of Elysium, Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary!
Thy magic power reunites
All that custom has divided;
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs, Join in our song of praise!
But any who cannot must creep tearfully Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine, A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment, And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses through the
splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race, As a hero going to conquest.
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world! Brothers, above the starry canopy There must dwell a loving Father. Do you fall
in worship, you millions? World, do you know your Creator? Seek Him in the heavens!
Above the stars must He dwell.

Dear God, this song is so special to me. I’m pretty sure I’ve journaled on this version of the “Ode to Joy” before, but I came across it again a couple of nights ago and it so blessed me I needed to do it again.

What did this do for me? It brought me into worship when nothing else could. I had prayed. I listened to some Christian music that is meaningful to me. Nothing was helping. I was in a glum funk, and I couldn’t pull out of it. Then, for whatever reason (I’ll say it was the Holy Spirit), I was reminded of this video and I put it on. I literally had full-body chills and tears running down both cheeks. I was watching these people play and sing this song, and I joined in their chorus. My wife suggested it was a spiritual warfare situation, and somehow the Holy Spirit used this to break a spirit that was attacking me. Frankly, that’s exactly what it felt like. It literally felt like something broke.

Father, there is nothing like simply worshipping you. You are great. You are the source of love, joy, peace, etc. To be in your presence and joined by all of those who worship you is an amazing feeling. I guess that’s one of my favorite parts of this video. Not only do the players and singers gradually join the happy chorus, but the unsuspecting crowd joins as well. Everyone joined in some form of worship. Maybe some of them weren’t REALLY worshipping you, but many of them were. I certainly was as I watched it. Thank you for rescuing me not only from hell and a life and death spent apart from you, but for rescuing me a couple of nights ago. I needed you and I still need you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2021 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Ezra 1:1-6

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to rebuild for Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. And every survivor, at whatever place he may live, the people of that place are to support him with silver and gold, with equipment and cattle, together with a voluntary offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’” Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites rose up, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And all of those around them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with equipment, cattle, and with valuables, aside from everything that was given as a voluntary offering.
Ezra 1:1-6

Dear God, when I read this story this morning, I was struck by two things: Cyrus and the donations by the people. I don’t understand Cyrus and his motivations enough—in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever read much of Ezra before—so I want to talk about the people rallying together and giving sacrificially.

Having just come off of a great vacation, there is a part of me that longs for the ability to just live a self-absorbed life and put the problems of others and the world behind me. I would love to ignore and not think about the problems overseas or even at our own borders. I’d love to ignore the 15 deaths (23% of the overall deaths since the pandemic began) reported in our county over the last seven weeks. I’d love to not think about the challenges of our hospitals. I’d love to withdraw from it all and just live an insular life. But that would, frankly, be a sin. That would not be loving you with all of my heart, soul, and strength. That would not be loving my neighbor as myself. It would be me loving myself more. I would be loving me more than you. More than my neighbor. It would be completely inwardly focused. Ultimately, it would be very empty and leave me hollow. Yes, it would be a sin.

Father, help me to embrace the challenges you need me to embrace. Help me to reach out and help the people you have called me to help. I am sorry for how much trouble I’ve had coming back from this vacation. Perhaps I let go of too much while I was gone. But I am yours and I want to do your work today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2021 in Ezra

 

Ephesians 4:29-32

29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Dear God, I’m back from vacation, and I’m having trouble revving back up to speed. Tomorrow is work, but today is housekeeping items that need to be handled. Frankly, it’s (theoretically) a nice way to ease back into things, but I’m not wanting to. I just want to stay disengaged. Being disengaged, spending money indiscriminately on vacation without worrying about where it comes from, and living for myself each day can be pretty addictive, although I know it leads to emptiness. One, the money will obviously run out at some point, but, beyond the obvious, it’s just important that I die to myself and live for you. There is nothing but emptiness at the bottom of my own life if that is all I pursue.

I guess I’m putting all of this beside this passage (which came from Bible Gateway’s “Verse of the Day”) because 1.) it’s what’s on my heart, but 2.) because this is about how I engage with the world. What kind of ambassador am I for you? What will I do on your behalf to be a blessing to others? What kind of home will I provide in my heart to the Holy Spirit? Will I grieve you.

Father, I want to end this prayer by simply worshipping you. That’s where it all starts. Hallowed be your name. You are my God. You are the God who demands I drop all of my other gods for you, and that starts with the god of myself. I worship you as my savior. My hope. My redemption. My purpose. My master. I worship you as the creator of the universe, the author of good things in this earth, and the lover of my soul. Thank you for loving me. I am so sorry for failing to love you in the ways you deserve.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2021 in Ephesians

 

John 3:14-15

14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.

John 3:14-15

Dear God, I love this story and the whole context. Nicodemus is earnestly asking Jesus questions that he has, and Jesus is being pretty blunt with him. Of course, the next verse of this passage is possibly the most quoted New Testament verse–John 3:16, but the linking of Jesus’s analogy to the story in Numbers 21 about the Israelites being saved in the wilderness is really poignant.

I remember preaching on these passages a couple of years ago and thinking about the crosses (Protestant churches) or crucifixes (Catholic churches) that churches display in their congregations. There are some churches that even put the cross/crucifix on the top of a staff and carry them through the church. After going through that, it’s caused me to always think about this whenever I see a cross in a church–especially when carried on a staff for everyone to see. I think about how I need you to save me from myself. I need you to rescue me from my sin. I need Jesus and everything he did to free me.

Father, I need you today. I need Jesus’s rescue of me today. I need you to cover me and save me from myself. I can be so myopic in my attitudes. I can fall into self-pity. I can be selfish with my agenda. I can be lazy. I’m sorry for all of it. Be glorified through my life as I submit to you. Help me to completely submit to you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2021 in John, Numbers

 

Luke 7:1-10

1When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.”

So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” 10 And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Luke 7:1-10

Dear God, I was at a church yesterday that emphasized the inerrancy of scripture. And while I do believe that you speak to me through every passage of scripture and that you inspired it and provided it to us, the word inerrancy can have a lot of meanings.

For example, which version of scripture is inerrant? Which translation? Does it have to be in the original tongue of Hebrew or Greek (depending on the book) to be inerrant? If English translations are allowed, does it have to be King James, NIV, or NASB (1995 or the updated one)? Does The Message count?

Another example is passages like this. It can be inferred from this passage that Jesus sanctions slavery because he seemingly did not do anything to rebuke this centurion for having a slave. In fact, he complimented him and rewarded him. Now, I don’t believe that Jesus supported or continues to support slavery, but it is interesting that he seemingly chose to ignore the practice and didn’t make it part of his agenda.

Another example is biblical characters seemingly doing the wrong thing, but never being corrected on it. So does that make their behavior acceptable? I’m thinking about Samson. You used him when there was seemingly nothing redeemable about his behavior. Jacob was a scoundrel and much of his behavior was never addressed. Peter spearheaded naming Mathias an apostle when it was Paul you appear to have designated as Judas’s replacement.

No, I think we back ourselves into a narrow-minded corner if we insist that each word is absolutely inerrant. However, I do think you speak to me through each and every story. Each and every prophecy–whether I understand it or not. I know I’m in theologically dicey territory here, and I probably don’t have enough theological education to credibly make these arguments, but I cannot help but think that clinging to a concept like inerrancy of scripture is an intellectually lazy thing to do. And I feel like I can say that because I used to hold to that concept, although I had never bothered to define it. But studying scripture and thinking and praying through these things with you does mold me into the man you are continuously transforming me into being.

Father, Rich Mullins once said, “I don’t read scripture to know truth. I read it to know God.” You have given us the most peculiar of manuals by which we are to learn about you and live our lives. It is full of stories–mainly stories–mixed in with a few directives here at there. And I think the stories are great at teaching me. But I do need your Holy Spirit to fill in the gaps. And in terms of this story, I need you to show me what it is you have for me to focus on. Jesus wasn’t here to address slavery, but you’ve put it on others to address it over the millennia. Going back to Nehemiah, you didn’t put it on anyone else’s heart to rebuild Jerusalem, but you inspired a man who was in a unique position to address it. So help me to know, today, what you would have me do to 1.) refine myself into being the man you need me to be, and 2.) do what you need me to do so that your kingdom might 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 September 13, 2021 in Luke