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Hebrews 10:19-11:2

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

Hebrews 10:19-11:2

Dear God, it’s interesting to go back and take these last two verses about faith and put them into the context of the words that came before. This is all about suffering for you and having faith that the “possessions” I have in you are worth losing my earthly possessions.

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

See, the problem is, however, that I really don’t know what it is to suffer at the hands of others. Outside of some occasional bullying in my life, I’ve never been persecuted. I’ve had loss. I’ve had trials, but I haven’t suffered the kinds of persecution the author is referring to here. That kind of “faith” is something with which I cannot empathize.

I think that lack of empathy is what those who are angry about things like those who protest by kneeling during the national anthem are experiencing. I understand those who are angry about it thinking that those who are doing it are being ungrateful, but it’s likely they have never experienced the persecution that minorities experience. They haven’t experienced the same America the minority has experienced.

So Father, help me to have the faith I need to accomplish what you need me to accomplish. Help me to have empathy for others and to stand beside them as they need faith to go through the trials before them. And help me to be who you need me to be to be a bridge builder between so many who are currently divided.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2020 in Hebrews

 

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Psalm 95:6-8

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.
Psalm 95:6-8

Dear God, it feels like the world is going crazy and we are just a couple of steps away from martial law. They are canceling public events. They are canceling travel. People are hoarding toilet paper (of all things). Fear is spreading at a rate I don’t think I’ve ever seen. If a terrorist group ever wanted to see what dropping a virus that starts a pandemic would do to our society, this is a great test case for them. They couldn’t have damaged our economy within two weeks more than this virus has damaged it.

It just feels like there is something I should be praying about here. It feels like this is something that we should be bringing to you in prayer. Not that we should necessarily be asking you to do something, but that we should be looking at ourselves. Are we too fearful? Are we not faithful enough? Have we lost our first love? Have we lost the love of our neighbors? I’m not even saying that we shouldn’t be canceling some of the things we’ve canceled and doing some of the things we are doing (although, again, toilet paper?!?), but I’m saying that we need to be coming to you in worship. We need to not be hardening our hearts. We need to be a source of your presence in the world.

Father, make this count, and make us part of your plan. Help us, your people, to not miss the opportunity before us. I don’t even know what that opportunity is, but I know that I don’t want to miss being used by you. I probably won’t know if I was or if we were until it is all over. This is an opportunity for us to grow closer to you through struggle. Please make this count. The deaths, economic hardships, etc. Make them count. Make them count for your glory and use us to be your light in the midst of this.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2020 in Psalms

 

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“Even If” by MercyMe

“Even If” by MercyMe

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now

But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Songwriters: Bart Millard / Ben Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Garcia / Tim Timmons

Dear God, this song hits me on a few levels. Let’s just dive in. There’s obviously the part of a person struggling with life and trying to lean into you for comfort and provision. But then it starts with the aspect of the singer being a public minister who, to some extent, is putting on a show for people and trying to tell them to trust you while simultaneously experiencing his own doubts:

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

A few years ago, I was asked to preach for a friend at the local Episcopal church. What made it complicated was that my own family was going through a terrible time and I didn’t feel like I had a legitimate right to tell anyone how to live their life. I remember struggling with that and actually referencing it during the sermon.

On the other hand, the worst sermon I ever heard was a man who got up on Father’s Day in 2014 and talked about every good and correct thing he had done as a father and how great his kids had turned out. I cannot imagine that that sermon did anyone in the audience any good other than perhaps some young parents with infants who were looking for good parenting tips. I suspect that a lot of the rest of us were feeling condemned.

So I can appreciate the fact that this song puts it all on the table, and in a way that doesn’t share too much personally but helps the band communicate to the audience that there is this struggle in their own lives. It’s a little like Facebook and only seeing others’ best parts of their lives. It’s not appropriate for me to put a lot of personal information about me or family members on that platform, but it is important to somehow communicate to others that my life is as challenging as theirs is. That’s how we bless others and we all grow. That’s how we sharpen each other.

Then there is the other part of this song. The struggle. And I see two aspects of what it’s communicating. The first is the chorus when it basically says that sometimes the struggle is part of the intended journey.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

There was a song by Scott Krippayne back in the 90s called “Sometimes He Calms the Storm” that meant a lot to me. The chorus said, “Sometimes he calms the storm with a whispered, ‘Peace be still.’ He can settle any sea, but it doesn’t mean he will. Sometimes he holds us close as the wind and waves go wild. Sometimes he calms the storm, but other times he calms his child.” Same thing. Sometimes, the storm is part of the journey. Paul had to go through prison. Jesus had to go through the 40 days of fasting and then the temptation. As I look back, I am certainly a better man and more useful to you because of the experiences.

Finally, there’s the part about feeling like my faith in you just isn’t adequate. Do I really believe?

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now

I cannot count the number of times I’ve prayed to you, “Father, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:21-24). I wish my faith was greater. I really do. Thank you for loving me anyway.

Father, as I close this prayer, I guess I have three things I want to say. First, thank you for everything–the good and the bad. I know that you don’t necessarily cause the bad things to happen, but I am certain that you are my shepherd through them. Second, I promise to be as transparent as possible for the strengthening of not only my own soul, but so that the pain and struggle will not return void and others can be comforted or encouraged by me. And third, I promise to bring all of my faith to the table. I won’t leave anything back as I worship you and believe, not necessarily that you will calm my storm, but that you will use whatever I experience for your glory if I sacrifice it to you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2019 in Hymns and Songs, Mark

 

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God’s Inspirations

Dear God, I was speaking to a group of youth yesterday about the nonprofit where I work and I talked about how you take small seeds of ideas and grown them. In 1986, you led a woman to start doing some medical clinics with some missionaries in Northern Mexico. Six years later, you inspired her to start doing a one-night-a-week free clinic for people in the town where she lived. Ten years later, you inspired her and others to build on that and create a facility that would be a medical home for people. Now, 17 years later, what started as going to Mexico to help some people in 1986 has turned into a four-day-a-week clinic that has medical, dental, and mental health counseling services and a million dollar budget. Your blessing has been obvious, and I am grateful that your presence is still there. I wanted to show these high school students that big things can start from small seeds. They just need faith and patience.

I saw this video about the H.E. Butt Family Foundation Camp this morning. It made me think of the same thing—100 years ago a poor boy in Kerrville, Texas, promised himself that if he ever had enough money he would give kids an opportunity to experience nature. As he grew, he grew the family’s general store into a huge supermarket chain called H-E-B. In the early 50s, he and his wife found nearly 2,000 acres to purchase. From there they built camps for children and eventually an adult lodge for retreats. I am one of the beneficiaries of the seed you planted in his mind 100 years ago.

The H. E. Butt Family Foundation has impacted my life more than anything else. If you take away Howard Butt, Sr.’s vision and followthrough on that vision, I don’t know where I am right now.

  1. They hired my dad as a part-time bookkeeper in 1969 when he was in the Army and needing supplemental income to support his family.
  2. Nine years later, when my parents were separated, the man who hired him all those years ago invited him and my mom to a marriage retreat at which my father prayed to accept Christ and my after which my parents got back together.
  1. When I was 12, my dad came home from a retreat there and told me about a man he had med, Henry Parrish, who coached tennis. Through Henry, I got involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes which had a huge impact on how I came to be a discipling Christian.
  1. When I was 19, I was a camp counselor at one of the youth camps and met my wife there.
  1. I have been to numerous retreats over the last 27 years, and there have been times you have completely inspired me, including the retreat in April 2000 when you inspired me to start this prayer journal.

All of this started because someone had the seed of an inspiration. He didn’t think about how you would use that ranch for discipleship development or anything like that. He just wanted to offer kids the opportunity to experience nature. You took it from there.

Father, help men to heed your little nudgings and inspirations. Help me to not miss the seeds you want me to plant or that you want to plant in me. Give me the faith and the patience to do the work that is in front of me and then watch you grow it into what you have for it to be.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Hebrews 11:1

Hebrews 11:1
Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Dear God, sometimes you come through when I don’t even know I have to have faith for something.

I made a hard decision at work a couple of months ago that impacted a lot of people negatively. It hurt me and it hurt others, but I knew it was the right thing to do. It was what needed to be done. And now, two months later, for reasons completely unrelated to why I made the decision, I can see a broader picture of why it had to be made. You knew that something was coming down the track that I couldn’t see, and it seems to me from my earthly, human perspective that you have provided for the need that our organization has. Thank you.

And now my life of trying to have faith in you continues. There are people and things for whom/which I pray every day. Sometimes it feels like the prayers are going unanswered, but my faith tells me to keep praying. My faith tells me that you are listening, but that you plan is bigger, deeper, and more complicated than I can imagine. My faith tells me to be at peace, press on in my pursuit of you, and keep praying.

Father, please just be with me today. Help me to avoid mistakes. In the penitent prayer, I say that I have sinned in what I have done and what I have failed to do. Help me to not only do the right things, but also help me to not miss the right thing to do as well. Do it all for your glory and not mine.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2019 in Hebrews

 

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Acts 20:35

Acts 20:35
35 And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Dear God, this is another Fred Smith-inspired blog today. Fred talked about acts of charity as being “penance for trivial sins.” His premise left me uneasy so I started to examine my heart and try to figure out why. I thought I’d spend some time with you about it this morning.

As I thought about it, I came back to this supposed quote from Jesus (I say supposed because it doesn’t appear in the Gospels, but must have come from another source that Paul used). Why? Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? What is it about giving that blesses us? Is it this notion that it helps to absolve us from our sin? Does it put some lipstick on the “pig” that is the fruit of our human flesh and make us feel better about it? Frankly, I don’t think that is it.

One of the things I learned about faith in studying Job is that the ultimate goal of faith is to get to where I literally do not see my own desires or goals as worth anything, but I get to a point that I can truly give thanks in all things, even suffering. My fortune or my suffering is not necessarily tied to my behavior, but what you happen to need of me and the role I have to play in your kingdom.

Working from that philosophy, I believe there is a blessing of peace that you impart when we die to ourselves and turn loose. I think that learning to give of our time and resources gets us one step closer to that ultimate level of faith. I think that the balm we feel on our souls from performing charity isn’t as much penance and absolution as much as it is that one step we just took into living out the kind of faith you call us to.

In studying Job, one thing that occurred to me is that Paul got to that level of faith remarkably quickly. He was able to suffer greatly and never portray to others any semblance of self-pity. He said in Acts 20:24 that he considered his life worth nothing to him, and then he backed it up with the attitude he took in all of those years of prison.

Father, I’ll be honest and say that I tend to have a little bit of pride in the fact that I live a life that is sacrificial when I compare it to my neighbor. But the truth is that it is not nearly sacrificial enough. I know that because there are time when I still feel very sorry for myself and even greedy. The best way to combat that is to be sensitive to needs and then give generously. That is what will move me one step closer to the perspective on my life that you want me to have. Help me to get there.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Acts

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 1:3-11

2 Peter 1:3-11 NIV
[3] His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. [4] Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. [5] For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; [6] and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; [7] and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. [8] For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. [9] But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. [10] Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, [11] and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Dear God, the progressive list that Peter gives in verses 5-7 seems like something I should have memorized by now, kind of like the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5. Let me see if I can break it down into a more digestible format.

  1. Faith: We start with our faith in you.
  2. Faith + Goodness: I don’t know that Peter thought this ordering was inflexible, but I’m a little surprised Goodness is the first batter up after Faith. I might have thought Self-Discipline or something like that. But he chose Goodness.
  3. Goodness + Knowledge: If you’re going to have Faith and Goodness, but then you don’t start educating yourself about God through scripture and prayer then you will be left empty. A baby Christian who never grows.
  4. Knowledge + Self Control: So then if you are going to have Faith, Goodness, and Knowledge, you will need to be able to control yourself as well. That means in denying yourself of your vices, your carnal nature such as temper and self-righteousness. It also means self-discipline to pursue Knowledge.
  5. Self Control + Perseverance: Perseverance is what it becomes about. When I was first a Christian at the age of nine, I was like a lot of nine-year-olds in my lack of understanding of time and fatigue. All nine-year-olds think they can just sprint a mile and not give up. When I was nine, I had Faith, and I added Goodness, but then I didn’t add the other things and my faith failed over and over again. It wasn’t until I added Knowledge, Self Control, and Perseverance to the equation that my life changed.
  6. Perseverance + Godliness: Godliness is added over time only after Perseverance has exposed me to you long enough. I am more godly than I was yesterday and I will hopefully more godly tomorrow than I am today.
  7. Godliness + Mutual Affection: Ah, community. Community is the bonfire that keeps our coal going. I was talking with a friend this morning about how you built us for community. Within that community, we need to have empathetic affection for the others around us.
  8. Mutual Affection + Love: And if we are going to have that Mutual Affection, it is nothing if we don’t have your Love. Again, I don’t know that this list is necessarily in order. I would think that Love might have come earlier in the list, but this is Peter’s list, not mine.

Father, help me to be complete in all of these things and then help me to be a light that guides others to this same completeness. Help me to not miss any of these components. Probably the hardest one is perseverance. Help me to press on. Help me finish this race well. Help me to be your man in every area where you have me serving.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – Is it ever enough? (John 14:8-14)

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Dear God, Philip had good intentions in verse 8, but he was wrong. Jesus could have transfigured right there and shone in all of his glory for them, and the impact would have been gone in hours and days. Think of Peter, James, and John watching the transfiguration. You would think that seeing Jesus transfigured and speaking with Moses and Elijah would have been enough to keep them courageous during the crucifixion, but at least two of them were nowhere to be found.

Frankly, our human hearts can never be satisfied because Satan comes like a thief in the night and steals the memories of the glorious works you have done. He steals our faith, not it big chunks, but through erosion over time. My wife reminded me last night of a time that our church group prayed for a woman with cancer in her back. The prayer was in our living room and we all laid hands on her. The next day when they surgeon got in there they found the tumor was gone. They could see where it HAD been, but it wasn’t there anymore. A miracle had taken place in my own living room, yet how often does my heart doubt your power?

Father, thank you that Jesus knew, even in that moment, that Philip didn’t know what he was saying. Jesus knew it wouldn’t be enough. He knew that performing miracles and giving the Pharisees a sign wouldn’t be enough. He knew that faith is about us making a decision to submit ourselves to you and then pursuing you diligently and humbly. It isn’t about us being wowed and having our emotions manipulated. It is about us persevering even when the emotions are gone (see Mother Theresa). So I offer you my submission to your authority and ask that you please help me to feel your presence in my life today. Work through me. Love through me. Lead through me. Help me to represent you well.

 

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Emails to God – “Don’t Let The Fire Die” by Steven Curtis Chapman

I can still feel the prayers you prayed for me all those years
And I see now more than ever what a difference they have made
And I can still hear your voice spoken from a heart of great concern
Saying, “Keep your eyes on Jesus and love Him more than anything.”
And I’ve watched the wind blow hard against you
And I’ve seen your face get weakened by the pain
And I want you to know that I will be praying for you to hold on

[Chorus]
Don’t let the fire die
The flame has been dimmed by the tears that you’ve cried
But I can still see the spark of his love in your eyes
So don’t let the fire, oh, don’t let the fire die

This heavy weight you carry around of letting yourself and everybody down
Is pouring water on the passion that used to burn so bright
Well, I know you’ve got your reasons for resentment
And I know it’s more than I can understand
So just let me say that I’m going to be praying for you to let it all go

[Bridge]
Now, I’m not praying for the fire to burn the way it did before
Cause I believe the one who started this flame in your heart
He wants to give you more, so don’t let the fire die, don’t let the fire die.

Dear God, when I was on the airplane last Monday to come on this trip, this was one of the first songs that came up on my iPod. I have to admit that I wondered if you didn’t have a message in it for me. Did you have it play intentionally? Were you trying to encourage me?

This is the last day of my vacation, and I have to say that I think you have accomplished some things in me this week. Everything isn’t magically resolved, but you have given me some clarity on different challenges in my life. I don’t know what life will be like when I get home tomorrow, but I know that you will be with me.

So let’s look at this song and see what was going on with SCC when he wrote it. I could have this wrong, but I heard several years ago that this song was written for a relative, maybe even his mother. I think some hard life circumstances had turned her away from her faith. I don’t know what they were, but I can pretty easily see how it can happen.

Verse 1. As the writer of this song, I think about some of the pain that SCC has been through in his life—especially the pain of losing a young daughter just a few years ago. How did the years of prayers prepare him for that? How did watching his relative struggle with her faith prepare him for that? I have a young relative for whom I pray nearly every day, and I know that she does not want people to pray for her. There is some sort of pride issue there that befuddles me a little. But I continue to pray for her because I want your absolute best for her. Will I need her prayers for me one day? Probably. I have been vacationing with my parents this week, and I know there have been times when I needed their prayers. I suppose we would all like to think that we can handle life’s challenges on our own, but the truth is, I cannot handle it. I cannot do it without you. That’s what submitting my life to you is all about.

Verse 2. I think there are times when fatigue and then depression can just take over. Sometimes it is more than we can simply overcome on our own. I don’t know what the pain and sorrow are that SCC was specifically writing about here, but it’s not hard to imagine a life that is beaten down and trying to recover. It could be the loss of a loved one like a parent or child. It could be a damaged or broken marriage. It could be broken relationships with children. Heck, it could simply be the pursuit of self-indulgence. So this is where I sometimes need the prayer of others. One day, I will probably need the prayers of my young relative. I will need them to be the SCC in my life.

Bridge. I like this bridge because it acknowledges that the fire that burned before was not perfect. It had flaws in it. It was perhaps a little naïve. It didn’t respond to everything the way it was supposed to. So it isn’t to be pursued, but it is to be built upon. That’s what we are all called to do—purse the imperfections of our faith and use the solid parts as the foundation for adding to it even more.

Chorus. There have been times in my life when I have just wanted to “let the fire die”. I know a lot of people look at the exterior me and would be surprised to know that, but it’s true. And I would imagine it is true for more people than we know. One of the most encouraging things I ever heard was that Mother Theresa doubted her faith at times and felt like she went the last several decades of her life without hearing your voice or feeling your presence. I’m sure part of that was Satan attacking her. But he refused to let the fire die and she kept her faith in something that she could not see. Some people looked at the revelation of her doubts and struggles as confirmation that Christian faith is not all it’s cracked up to be. I disagree. I found it to be very encouraging.

Father, I know that Satan attacks our unity. Whether it is unity in marriage, with our children/parents, or even among employees at work. So protect my life from Satan’s attacks, please. Please protect my marriage and my relationships with my children. Help me to constantly seek your presence and invite you into all of these relationships. Keep my heart pure and humble. And help me to know how to lead my family in your ways.

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – 6 Levels of Faith (Mastering the New Testament: Job)

Mastering the Old Testament – Job (written by David McKenna)

Dear God, okay, I am going to do things a little differently for a while. I am on vacation and I feel compelled to spend some time really digging into the book of Job. Frankly, it has always daunted me a little because its structure is too complicated to just journal through like I normally do. This is literature, and it is to be contemplated and studied as such.

So, much like I did in high school when I had to read something that I feared would overwhelm me, I am using a commentary to help me. It is from Word’s Communicator’s Commentary Series, and all I have read so far is the Introduction, but it is great. There was one part of the Introduction that I want to pray through this morning because I think it will lay the groundwork for the rest of the book.

I am just going to shamelessly quote about half of a page here:

Obviously, faith is not static. Compatible with other theories of human development, a person either grows, plateaus, or regresses in faith as the circumstances of age, experience, and events change. [James] Fowler [from his book The Stages of Faith] has also devised a helpful scale of faith development with six sequential stages:

  1. Intuitive-projective faith is associated with a child’s faith, based upon fantasy and imagination.
  2. Mythical-literal faith is the family faith of the early school years, which is sustained by moral rules and either/or thinking.
  3. Synthetic-conventional faith is an adolescent faith that conforms to the tradition of the community and creates the “kind” of person of faith whom it models or rejects.
  4. Individuative-reflective faith is the faith of the young adult who is capable of critical thinking, independent reflection, and dialectical reasoning.
  5. Conjunctive faith is a mid-life and old-age faith that integrates self-identity with a comprehensive world view to see the order, coherence, and meaning of life in order to serve and be served.
  6. Universalizing faith is the rare faith of a world citizen who incarnates a transcendent vision into a disciplined, active, and self-giving life.

Wow, there is a lot of meat here, and I feel like I need to dig into each one and be able to understand and recall each one frontwards and backwards in order to move through the rest of this book. So let me at least try to start by writing a definition for each one in my own words.

  1. Intuitive-projective faith is something that you believe without facts or knowledge. Your intuition tells you it is true, whether it is nor not. Santa Claus is an example of this. So are the Bible stories like the burning bush, the walls ofJericho, etc. You hear it and no real explanation is necessary because you aren’t in to thinking about things critically yet.
  2. Mythical-literal faith is what you pick up from your family’s structure. It includes your family’s values (what foods you eat, how much TV and what kinds of TV you watch. It’s pretty black and white. There is little room for grey area. There is always a right and a wrong answer, and your family structure helps to define those right and wrong answers.
  3. Synthetic-conventional faith is a little more mature than Mythical-literal in that it takes into account the social norms of the surrounding community, but there still isn’t an independent interpretation of beliefs the group has. For example, is homosexuality a sin or not? One can let their community form this opinion for them instead of studying, contemplating, and putting together their own opinions and beliefs on the issue.
  4. Individuative-reflective faith is the beginning of independent thought—hence, “individuative”. This person is starting to critically analyze some of their own long-held beliefs. For example, “Is scripture truly inerrant, or are there inconsistencies with which I must deal?”
  5. Conjunctive faith involves having to know yourself and then adding life experience and knowledge of the world to that so that it can inform your faith. Individuative-reflective faith can still be idealistic because it is often ignorant of experience. Conjunctive faith is the coming together of all aspects of the human experience.
  6. Universalizing faith is where it all comes together into a life that is, on the one had, at peace, and, on the other hand, driven by faith in God and hearing His call regardless of the personal circumstances.

So knowing those levels of faith, I will hopefully be a little more prepared to experience Job’s faith walk along with the faith walks of his wife and friends. Where are each of them at any given time? Where am I in my life right now? Have I reached #6. Am I still at #3? I guess that’s what the writer of Job wanted me to figure out.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Job

 

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