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Category Archives: Books of the Bible

Mark 6:53-56

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
Mark 6:53-56

Dear God, for whatever reason the word “ran” caught my attention this morning. The first version of this story I read used the word “scurried.” These are words that apply to humans and not you. Whether it’s the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, the image of any type of franticness just doesn’t fit—except for one example.

When I was in college there was a song by Benny Hester called “When God Ran.” The only time we get an image of you running is in the Prodigal Son story. The second part of Luke 15:20:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

To quote “When God Ran”: The only time I ever saw him run is when he ran to me, took me in his arms, held my head to his chest, said, “My son’s come home again!” lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes, with forgiveness in his voice he said, “Son, do you know I still love you?” It took me by surprise when God ran.

Father, as a dad—as a dad who has been left by a child—I can see at least a little of this in me. It’s interesting because it really hasn’t left me angry at this child. I can see myself responding exactly how Jesus describes you in this parable. I heard a podcast last week who where a mom and dad were missing an adult daughter who had left. When she finally answered the phone one day, His first words were, “Please don’t hang up. We don’t care what you’ve done. We love you.”

Father, help me to live my life in such a way that franticness is not a part of it. Give me peace. Help me to exude you. And I pray that you will one day give me the opportunity to run to my child.

I pray this all under your authority, trusting in you no matter what.

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2023 in Luke, Mark

 

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Micah 6:6-8

What can we bring to the Lord?
    Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
    with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
    and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
    to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:6-8

Dear God, verse 8 is likely Micah’s most quoted verse, and I don’t like taking it out of context without looking at all of Micah, but I do thing the overall message of what you are saying through Micah in verses 1-5 and then Micah’s follow-up to the Israelites in verse 6-8. Do we sacrifice and bring a big, “I’m so sorry!” or do we resolve to do what is right, love mercy, and then walk humbly with you? What will it be for me today?

One caveat I have is doing what is right for the right reason. I can do what is right an awful lot, but sometimes it’s for the desire of selfish gain. I do what it right because I want it to influence an outcome that if preferrable to me. It can happen with my wife. It can happen in my job. Among friends.

What about loving mercy. I was reading a commentary that pointed out this morning that it is one thing to have mercy, but it’s another thing to love mercy. Do I find joy and peace in the mercy I extend to others, or do I get either some kind of power trip out of it or still secretly hold the grudge? When I extend mercy, is it rooted in you?

Then walking humbly with you. Well, humility is an interesting thing. To do something humbly with you can be tricky because I so love getting attention for being good. Even yesterday, I was offered an opportunity that some might consider to have some power and prestige. I can honestly tell you that that is not why I accepted. In fact, it’s why I almost declined. I accepted because I will be able to perform a duty in it. I almost declined because of the extra work and responsibility. I accepted because I think I might be in a unique position to have a positive influence and move the needle in the direction of mercy for our community.

Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, this morning, the afternoon, and this evening–all day long–I will have opportunities to do the right thing, love mercy, and walk humbly with you. Help me to do that in ever area of my life. As a husband. As a father. As a sibling. As a son. As a friend. As a boss. Aa an employee. And as a community member. As your child in this community, live through me and envelop my spheres of influence so that when others see me they simply see you.

I pray this under your Holy Authority,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2023 in Micah

 

Mark 5:21-23

21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Mark 5:21-23

Dear God, what kind of begging would it take from me to hear the answer I want to hear from you? My heart hurts, and I’d do it. You know what keeps me from doing it? You. Knowing that you have heard my prayers, you have overlooked nothing, and my faith that you are working out your plan in your perfect timing. I never had to beg for my child’s physical life. I guess, in some ways I have in the past, and you were…well, answering the prayers fit into your plans.

So now I have things on my heart that need your attention. I mentioned them last night in my prayer to you. Endangered pregnancies. Failing marriages. Strained relations between parents and children. Sick children. This morning, I can add someone who lost a brother. And you get to figure this all out. You get to take your knowledge of time and space and guide us through this world, all the while using our prayers to not only inform you on how we are feeling, but also form us into knowing you and becoming more and more like Jesus.

Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, please be in all of the situations on my heart. For friends, family, coworkers, and those about whom I just know of their situation. Holy Spirit, teach me, comfort me, guide me, and live through me. Help me to represent the Father well. Help me to be part of your kingdom coming and your will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

I pray all of this submitted to your authority,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2023 in Mark

 

Mark 9:30-34

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:30-34

Dear God, this is all supposition, but I wonder how their conversation went from Jesus saying he was about to be killed and them being afraid to ask to them arguing about who among them was the greatest. That’s a weird transition. Jesus was in some level of anguish and hesitation and they were taking their confusion and arguing about who was the greatest? Very odd.

I told you last Thursday that I really do feel like I’m largely past getting credit for things. That hasn’t always been the case. I don’t know. The older I get the smaller I’m starting to feel. And it’s ironic because, in actuality, this is probably the most influential I’ve ever been in my life. I have a lot of credibility in my little sphere of influence, and that’s great, but I’m certainly not seeking it anymore.

Probably my favorite thing is that I have people come to me when they are trying to solve a problem. I even had a really nice man come to my office today to help him figure out how to help high school students with severe acne. I do really like it that when people wonder how to help someone else, I am one of the people in town they come to for ideas. If I’m going to have a reputation, I want it to be that of someone who knows how to help others. Of course, I tried to talk a lot about you in my conversation with him. In fact, I was talking with a salesman for a staffing company today, and I was able to bring up my faith and praying with him as well. And I met a man on Saturday who I want to reach out and help. It seems like he needs you. Might I be the vessel through which you can bring him to yourself? Can I help him to know you and totally change his life? For his sake. For your sake. Not for mine.

Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, I simply love you. That’s it. I love you. My life is not perfect. I have sorrows, but I also have incredible joy. Be in my sorrows and use them to refine me. Be in my joys and help me to celebrate you in them. And please take care of the people I’m thinking of right now. Some have pregnancy issues. Some have memory and even brain aneurism issues. Some (a surprising number) have back issues and are either recovering from back surgery or preparing for back surgery. Some are going through a divorce. In that case, be with the child involved. Some have children dealing with substance abuse. There is a lot of pain and sorrow out there. Use it all. Use it all for your glory. Don’t waste any of the pain. Use it at, my Lord and my God.

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2023 in Mark

 

Hebrews 11:13

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.
Hebrews 11:13

Dear God, this is pretty much what it’s all about, I think. I experience pains and successes every day. I pray for outcomes for friends, family, and even myself. I pray for outcomes for things in the world. Ukraine. Victims of violence. I pray about a lot of things. I care about a lot of things. But I simply don’t know what you are doing, and I might not ever live to see it.

In this example, the author of Hebrews is using Abraham and Moses as examples of people who were praying and hoping for outcomes that they would not live to see. Their faith in you propelled them forward in their lives, but Abraham never saw what would happen with his grandchildren and who they would become. Moses didn’t reach the Promised Land. I have many, many more examples. Naomi never saw Jesse and David. Samson’s parents never understood why their son was the way he was and probably died feeling like failures. Zechariah and Elizabeth never knew how John the Baptist’s life would turn out, and, had they lived to see John’s beheading they would probably have felt like it was an opportunity lost.

So as for me and my life, yes there are pains in it. There are things that cause me anguish. All I have is my faith that you are doing something in this pain. You are using it to form me. You are using it to form those I love who are involved in that pain. If it takes me taking two steps backward so that your overall plan can take three steps forward–or even one step forward and it’s a net loss for me–that’s okay. It’s not about me, after all. Even if it takes all of the way up to my life just for a marginal advancement of your plan in the world, I will gladly offer that to you.

Father, help me to believe and internalize what I just said. Jesus, guide me through this with your example. Holy Spirit, use your still small voice to guide me and counsel me. When I need it, comfort me. When I need it, discipline me and move me forward. Refine me, oh God, into your image.

I pray this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2023 in Hebrews

 

James 4:4-10

You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud
    but gives grace to the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

James 4:4-10

Dear God, when I read this passage this morning it made me think of a praise song we used to sing at our church in Waco:

I just want to be with you, so come close and put your arms around me. I just want to love you. So come here and look right at me. So I can look into your eyes. So I can see into your heart. So I can feel you by my side, and know that you’re near.

Those might not be the exact words–it’s been a long time–but I think I’m close. But I think about everything James is saying here, and I just want to drop anything that I think is mine and sink into you. The verse of the day for Bible Gateway is verse 10, the last verse. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” That’s the New Living Translation. The New American Standard ends with, “he will exalt you.” Either way, I don’t want any of that. I really don’t. I get exalted too much in our community. And I used to crave other people’s admiration. Not so much anymore. Maybe it’s just that the more I sink into you the more I want to simply live a simple life of being your child. Loving your daughter. Loving my children. Loving my neighbors. I want to resist the devil. I want to come close to you so you will be close to me. I do have tears and deep sadness for my sin. I’m sorry for how I have and how I continue to still crave things of this world.

Father, I just want to be with you. So come close and put your arms around me. I just want to love you. So come here and look right at me. So I can look into your eyes. So I can see into your heart. So I can feel you by my side and know that you’re near.

I pray all of this in the name of the one Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2023 in James

 

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Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Dear God, so I’ve talked about the marriage conference this last weekend, which was GREAT! One thing interesting that has happened to me is that it has caused me to be more cautious about what I’m consuming. Even something as simple as the music I listen to and the YouTube videos I watch. Are they negative? Are they against you? Sure, it might not be about you, but is it against you?

It reminds me of the fall of 2020 when I stayed off of Facebook for a week while my wife and I were on vacation at the coast. Afterwards, after I had detoxed from it (and I mean detox in the literal sense because I now think it is toxic), I couldn’t bring myself to log on again. Even now, I will get on there long enough to post something from our nonprofit, share it on my page and then log off again.

Going back to this verse, I have to wonder what kinds of things Paul was talking about here in first century Philippi. They didn’t have songs on the radio, shows on TV, videos to stream, or even books/magazines in the home. So he was talking about really thinking about such things. Having that attitude. For us, there is so much input that can be negative from which we have to guard ourselves. But we also live in a time when there are a lot of positive resources too. The channels I can use to consume negative things can also be used for positive things. I have a lot more choices to make that the Philippians did, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still make the right ones.

Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, help me to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Help me to consume things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Help me to do it, first, as worship of you. Then help me to do it so that my soul might be shaped and I can love your daughter the way you want me to love her. To give myself up for her. To anguish over her and her wellbeing, regardless of what it costs me or how she responds to it. You are my God. She is my wife. You have given me a life that is unreasonably good. Thank you.

I pray all of this in your Holy Name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2023 in Philippians

 

Matthew 26:36-46

The above image is title “Christ on the Mount of Olives” and was created by Ernst Barlach. It is picture here as part of Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard.

36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[f] unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”

Matthew 26:36-46

Dear God, since I just came from a marriage conference this weekend and I came across this image this morning, I can’t help but go to Ephesians 5:25

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.

This picture embodies what I am supposed to do for my wife. Everyone focuses on the other verses in Ephesians 5 and freaks out over the instructions for wives (which are probably misinterpreted to some extent), but they don’t think about this image. I should love my wife so much that I’m willing to be put in this position for her. Jesus gave no excuse. I have no excuse. No matter what, this is what you call me to do. Who you call me to be. This is my duty regardless of what my emotions tell me. In fact, for husbands, this might be the most important image in this book.

As I look closely at the image I see vague images of people strewn through it. They are probably intended to be the disciples sleeping while Jesus is in anguish. I thought they could also represent the people of the world for whom he is submitting to this pain, anguish and torment. He will literally be separated from his consubstantiality with you at some point. His physical human body will not longer be part of the divine. For that moment, he will be giving it all for me. For his church. For his bride.

And what if my wife doesn’t get it? What if she is like the disciples who are sleeping in the background, completely unappreciative of what Jesus is doing? Not that my wife is any of these things, because she really is the best. But what if? Am I called to be any less than Jesus was in this moment?

Father, it was a really good conference. I pray now that your Holy Spirit will move in our community through it. Move from the bottom up. It’s obvious not many of the pastors or spiritual leaders in our community were interested in this. So this movement will depend upon those whom you led to come. Help them to carry you into their hearts, minds, souls, and bodies today. Help them to carry you and what we learned into their marriages and give them new insights into not only their own lives, but also the lives of friends and loved ones. Let the older women teach the younger. The older men teach the younger men as well. And may the man my daughter ultimately marries be Jesus for her. Let that be her standard for the man who is good enough for her. The man she deserves. And may my son learn to be Jesus for his eventual wife. And, oh yeah, let’s not forget about me. Help me to be exactly who you need me to be for my wife as well.

I offer all of this under the power and authority granted to me by the grace of Jesus,

Amen

 

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Galatians 6:7-10

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:7-10

Dear God, I was at a Sacred Marriage seminar by Gary Thomas, and he said something that struck me. I guess I’ve heard him say it before, but it landed with me a little more than in the past. [My paraphrase]: “People pursue happiness through any number of efforts to make themselves feel good in the moment, but the only way to real happiness is to pursue holiness.”

That is so true. What is true happiness but deep peace, and I’ve found there is no peace apart from you. And I cannot connect my branch with our a combination of my repentance and pursuit of you and your forgiveness when I fall short. Someone who is dear to me sees you as a set of rules to follow and the way he found what he calls happiness was to throw you off. But while I see him pursuing things that make him happy, I don’t see peace.

Father, I’m not perfect. I sin. I covet. I lie to preserve myself. I create idols that replace you. I lust. I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not. But I do love you, and I do want to pursue you and your holiness. There’s so much freedom in it. Freedom to simply worship you and then channel your presence into the world. I’ve never found more joy, peace, and “happiness” than when I’m in that place. Help me to be that man today.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2023 in Galatians

 

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Daniel 4:24-32

“The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar” by Matthew Clark. From Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard

24 “‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my lord the king. 25 You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. 26 But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules.

27 “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’

28 “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. 30 As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’

31 “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. 32 You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’

Daniel 4:24-32

Dear God, this story convicts me this morning. I found myself jokingly talking like Nebuchadnezzar this morning. I have a tricky issue I’m trying to think through, and I knew I wanted to spend some time with you in earnest prayer about it this morning, but I also had some ideas of my own. So as I talked to my wife about it, I jokingly said that I had come up with some ideas, but I would check in with the Holy Spirit to see if He had any thoughts on the matter, as if it would be an automatic ratification of what I had come up with. As if I could do any of this on my own.

Daniel’s words are for me this morning: “Stop sinning and do what is right.” In this case, it’s just hubris. But the truth is, the ideas I came up with overnight, while they were good, I do think they came from you and you speaking to me and not from me. No, I’m a fool. I’m vain. I want to be respected. I want to be liked. But you are the author of everything good, not only in my life but in me as well. If I have any good thoughts, they are from you. If I have any good decisions or counsel to provide someone else, it is from you. You are my only hope. You are the only thing that keeps me from making a complete disaster of my life. You and you alone.

As I look at this image created by Matthew Clark it can be a little hard to see what all he is putting in there. I see what I think is a snake coming around Nebuchadnezzar’s neck and under his beard. It’s almost like he’s wearing a helmet with oxen horns and ears. It looks like his mouth is hanging open. This is what it looks like when we descend into ourselves.

I want to reprint here what Bustard shares about this piece:

Verse 33 continues with, “Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” [Matthew Clark] writes, “the ‘horns of divinity’ appear in many ancient Sumerian and Babylonian idols. Also, the ancient peoples often thought of crazy people as touched by divinity. So, ironically, Nebuchadnezzar achieved what he desired to accomplish in chapter three when he commissioned the golden statue of himself–but not exactly the way he wanted!” Ultimately the king recovered his sanity and could “praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

Father, I am humble before you right now. I am an arrogant fool, and I am sorry. I experience success and I count is as credit to me. It is not. It is you. It is all about you. I pray that my life today might be about worshipping you and carrying you into the world. I pray that those who encounter me might experience a piece of you and your Holy Spirit today. My utmost for your highest. All that I am for all that you are. Take my life, Lord, and let it be consecrated unto you.

I pray all of this in the name of the Lord of Lords, the King of King, and my God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Amen

 

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