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2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we are confident in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we commanded you. May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Dear God, I think of two things when I read this. First, we are supposed to pray for things like blessing of the work you’ve called us to and protection from others. I probably don’t pray for specific things enough.

Second, the idea of having a “full understanding” and exuding an expression of your love, and then having patient endurance. I really like the phrase “patient endurance.”

I have several things happening today. I will address at least three groups throughout the day. While I am talking to all of them, I do pray that your Holy Spirit will completely fill me and express your love to those listening. One of my presentations is supposed to inspire people. One of them is to thank group of people and help them experience joy from their decision to partner with our group. And the third is to honor someone and give them a service award. The only way I will do justice to any of the three is if my heart is a complete expression of your love.

Father, please lead me into being all yours today. Help me to understand you a little better and worship you. Provide for what you know I need to be what you need me to be. Do it all for your glory and so that your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2019 in 2 Thessalonians

 

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Psalm 8

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8

Dear God, one of the nice things about this passage is that David recognizes the extent of your majesty through your love for humans. It’s one thing for you to be great and powerful. It’s another thing to take time from that and truly love us. You are interested in us. You are interested not only in us as humanity, but you are interested in us as individuals! That’s amazing!

So what do I do with that love? How do I respond to that kind of majesty? Well, sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I stop, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow you. I stop to worship. I stop to reach out and love my neighbor. But other times I find you too inconvenient. I lethargically watch TV (and not necessarily good TV) when I could be reading or writing. I spend my money on something self-indulgent instead of giving it to someone in need. I sleep a little later or scroll through Facebook instead of spending my daily time in prayer. I’m sorry for all of that.

Father, help me to embrace this idea of your love for me. Help me to not foolishly see it as something to take advantage of (assuming I can get what I want from you because you love me), but as opportunity for relationship and growth. You have done all of these wondrous things, and yet you love me. Thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2019 in Psalms

 

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Psalm 103:17-18

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Psalm 103:17-18

Dear God, I have to confess that the first thought that crossed my mind when I read this passage this morning was, this is w weird relationship. Your love is with me? Your love? Not your kindness. Not your generosity. Those are too simple compared to what this is saying—your LOVE is with me. That’s almost impossible to comprehend.

So if you love me, what are the implications of that? One thing or does NOT mean is that you will spoil me. You won’t just be there as my great genie waiting to just lavish me with comfort. It means you want the best for me and want me to be my best. That will mean guiding me through struggles. For me, it also seems to mean learning to be more sensitive to others’ needs and how to reach out to them. It means teaching me to find ultimate peace by dying to myself and my own wants or comfort. It means reaching that level of faith where I can truly consider my life worth nothing to me, but my purpose is to finish the race and complete the task you have given me—the task of testifying to your grace (Acts 20:24).

Father, I’m not there. Help me to get there. Love through me and bring your will and kingdom to earth through my life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Psalms

 

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The Redemption of Gomer — Hosea 3

The image above was done by Ned Bustard and is part of a book he put together called Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups. I am using it for my Bible studies on Saturdays as a way of integrating the arts into my Bible study.

Hosea 3 NIV
[1] The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes. ” [2] So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. [3] Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” [4] For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. [5] Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.

 

Dear God, this is a hard story. Why did Hosea have to go through this to make your point? Was his sacrifice necessary for us to read all of these years later?

Of the image that Ned Bustard made, he wrote: “In this piece a spurned husband dresses up in a tuxedo and comes out to the street corner with a wedding ring and an offer of marriage to his unfaithful wife who is standing under the street light, working as a prostitute.” As I look at his image, her face is expressionless–only lips. Her dress appears to be torn–perhaps from her customers tearing at her clothes. Her hair is not particularly smooth, but unkempt. And as he said, she is “under the streetlight.” She is showing off the merchandise, her body being the only thing that is important–not her face.

On the other hand, the husband has brought her her wedding ring that she left behind. He has made himself up as nice as he possibly could for her. His face if visible, and his hair is perfect, in contrast to her invisible face and unkempt hair. He wants to love her and take care of her. Will she accept his love?

Father, thank you for loving me. I have been the whore who has left you for others. I have pursued my own interests and sold out for advancement. I have also taken advantage of others for my gain. I am so sorry. I know I’ve repented of these things before, and you probably don’t remember what I’m talking about, but things like this bring them to mind again. And I am also reminded that, just like Hosea was called to a life of pain and sacrifice, I have no right to expect any different. I am amazed I have as much as I have. I am amazed you have answered my prayers in such powerful ways. You have been doubly good to me when I didn’t even deserve for you to be single-y good. Really, thank you!

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Emails to God – Salvation, Grace, and Sex Ed

When one of my children prayed to accept Christ, I found myself at a little bit of a loss. The child was an early teen and, having once been an early teen who foolishly felt compelled to go through the process of salvation over and over again because I felt like it didn’t take the previous 20 times, I felt a huge burden to plant initial seeds that would sustain them regardless of what their spiritual path would hold.

How does sex education fit into this? The best marriage book I ever read was Sacred Marriage by a guy named Gary Thomas. The subtitle of the book describes his thesis: What if God designed marriage to make us Holy more than to make us happy? I went through this book with a men’s group, and Mr. Thomas wisely left the chapter about sex close to the end because I think that’s why most of us in the group were reading the book. In fact, I think we stopped reading it after we got to that chapter. But in that chapter he had a unique point. He said, paraphrasing, that most of us (especially men) have a warped sense of sex as adults because the first time we were ever exposed to the concept of sex was through a worldly, non-Biblical lens. Perhaps it was pornography, or other kids talking at school. Maybe it was something in a movie or on TV. But what would it be like if our FIRST exposure to sex was in the framework within which God intended it to be? Would that impact how we experience it as adults?

My wife and I decided to take this challenge and “beat the world to the punch” when it came to our kids learning about sex. We went to the local Christian bookstore and found a book we felt comfortable sharing with our five-year-old son (and later with our daughter when she was about five). It was designed to specifically discuss sex in a way that God intended it for our lives (in an age-appropriate way). While I will probably never know for sure, in just observing my children, it feels like they are free from at least of a few of the hangups that have haunted me.

That brings me to my child’s salvation experience. I have this young, 13-year-old child who has just made the most important decision of their life. If I can only give them one lesson, what will it be? I went to the bookshelf in our study for some help. What I found was Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. I decided that the most important message I could share with my child was that God’s grace, love, and acceptance is not about our effort, but His. He loves us radically, and there is nothing we can do to change it.

Not wanting to intimidate my child with a Christian self-help book on their first day as a new Christian, I decided to make up a “Cliff’s Notes” kind of version of the first chapter. If they liked it I would do more. So I put three Bible passages together with 19 bullet points from a 20-page chapter onto two pieces of paper and gave it to them. My prayer is to thank God for bringing my child to faith and ask that He will use the foundation of a strong understanding of His grace to build the rest of their relationship with Him.

If any of you have suggestions about other things parents can do to help their children lay a good foundation and nurture further growth, please feel free to share them here.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Musings and Stories

 

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