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“Know Who You Are” (from Moana) by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina, and Opetaia Foa’i

“Know Who You Are” (from Moana)

Dear God, I got home from rehearsal last night and there was a gap between Friday night college football games so I flipped channels and landed on the movie Moana. It was towards the end so I rode it out until it was over. When it came up at the end, I remembered the reaction I had to this scene and song the first time I saw the movie.

I have an old friend I’ve know for over 20 years who, several years ago, chose to start going down a self-destructive path. In fact, at lunch yesterday, I was telling another friend about him and wondering what role you have for me to play in his life. Do I have a voice to speak into his life? If I said something, would he hear me? Would I come across as sanctimonious? Would it destroy the shreds of friendship we have left? On the other hand, am I failing him by not risking everything for him? And if I did say something, what would I say?

That’s where this song/scene comes in. I don’t know what happened to my friend that made him turn on a dime. I don’t know if he did something that caused him shame or if something shameful happened to him. Perhaps neither. Perhaps both. But there are times I feel like I know him in a way that he doesn’t. Or at least I remember something about him that he has forgotten. When I first saw this scene in 2016, I thought of him, and I thought of him again last night. Is it a coincidence that I was talking about him yesterday and then I saw this last night, or was it providence?

So, Father, if the green heart in this scene can represent the renewing mercy and grace you offer, show me how to carry it to my friend with this message.

I have crossed the horizon to find you

In other words, I’m willing to risk everything to bring you this message.

I know your name

I know you in a way and things about who you are that you’ve forgotten.

They have stolen the heart from inside you

Something happened that caused you shame. Whether it was self-inflicted or done to you, it stole and hid from you who you are.

But this does not define you

There is mercy and grace. You know God. I know you remember the mercy that is available. Don’t let the secret of whatever happened control you.

This is not who you are

This is the truth. You may not see it, but this is not who you are.

I know who you are

Please remember and cling to Jesus. Let him heal your wounds.

Father, show me the way to him that I might carry your message to him and to others around me as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2019 in Hymns and Songs

 

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1 John 1:8-2:2

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
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. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
1 John 2:1-2

Dear God, thank you. The “verse of the day was actually just 1 John 2:1. I just wanted to keep the others around it for context, but my first thought when I read verse 2:1 this morning was, “Thank you!” Thank you, Jesus, for pleading my case.

Funny, but I just got this song going on my head by For King and Country. It’s called “Priceless” and pretty much describes how you see me thanks to Jesus. I’m just so grateful. Thank you.

Now, here’s an interesting question: Why don’t I share more with others this thing for which I’m so grateful? Maybe I’m not as grateful as I think I am.

Father, first, thank you. Second, I’m sorry. Help me to take your message into my day and share it with others and give them the joy and peace you give me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2019 in 1 John

 

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Ephesians 1:5-8

Ephesians 1:5-8
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

Dear God, I intentionally prayed yesterday morning that you make me aware of the divine appointments you might have been setting up for me because I had a day ahead of me during which I was going to run into people from all socioeconomic areas. My first appointment of the day was with a scared person who is completely broke and about to have surgery. When I asked them if they had a church home, they said that they did in the past, but had felt judged and rejected by that church so they left. After talking about their issue, I was able to recommend some churches in town that might be good communities for them and then we had a chance to pray together. We were also able to pray about the surgery and I think they were able to leave my office feeling a little more at peace.

I won’t go through every other encounter throughout the day, but I was definitely more mindful of who you needed me to be in any given moment. I’m grateful for that. I don’t feel like I missed a lot of opportunities that you put in front of me. But one thing I probably need to be sure I remember as I have future opportunities is the message of this verse above. I carry Good News with me. You adopted us into your family. You purchased our freedom. You shower us with kindness, wisdom and understanding.

Father, give me wisdom in this day. Help me to be so in tune with you that I will know how to be your representative in any given situation. Let your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in Ephesians

 

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2 Corinthians 5:16-21

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 [NLT]

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Dear God, there is some work for us to do here. We have a task set out for us—to reconcile people to you through our knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did. We are Jesus’ ambassadors, and you use us to make your appeal to people. And what’s our message? That Jesus came to bring us freedom through the release of our sins by His own sacrifice.

There is a billboard out on the highway about five miles outside of my town. It’s says something like, “Jesus can free you from your sin.” I’ve had a negative initial reaction to it. Going back to my marketing training, I’ve wondered what I would say instead. For me, it all starts with the four questions a man taught me back in 1995. These are what I ask myself before I write a piece:

  • Who am I talking to?
  • What do they think?
  • What do I want them to think?
  • How do I get them to think that?

In the case of this billboard, part of my “what do they think?” answer is that I think the word sin has a lot of baggage and, for the purposes of this billboard, I probably would have avoided it. People are miserable in their sin. They hide it. The deny it. They hold onto it because it pretends to offer them what they think they want. What they don’t want is to be judged by me or preached at by a billboard.

So what would I put on that billboard? I heard a sermon on the gospel from Andy Stanley back in December, and this thesis was, “I understand not being able to bring yourself to believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t WANT it to be true.” That’s probably where I would go with this billboard. As your ambassador, I think my message should be, “The Jesus of the Bible can set you free!”

Father, help me to live this message to those who come across my path today. There are times when I feel like I am a terrible ambassador for you. I let way too many opportunities pass me by. I’m sorry for that. Please give me your eyes to see, ears to hear, courage to act, and words to say.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in 2 Corinthians

 

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Psalm 32

Psalm 32 [NIV]
[1] Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. [2] Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. [3] When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. [4] For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. [5] Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. [6] Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them. [7] You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. [8] I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. [9] Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. [10] Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. [11] Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

Dear God, I double checked to see who wrote this. It is one of David’s. I love that David knew the value of repentance. I love that he told others through things like these psalms that he is blessed because of his repentance, and his bones waste away when he remains silent (verse 3).

One of the great things that I love about the 12 Steps in AA is that you start off with acknowledging something that has either been a secret addiction or that you have been holding on to for a while. Then as you work through the steps you take a personal inventory and make amends when appropriate. That is great stuff.

I have a friend who went off the rails about 10 years ago, and I am convinced that something happened that either he did, was done to him, or both. I am of the firm belief that he won’t be free until he confesses it to you, and perhaps to someone else. Satan’s power is in the secret. He blackmails us. Shames us. Lies to us. And all it takes to break the power is your blood and repenting to you.

Father, help me to be fully repentant to you and to share my repentance with others when I need to. Help me to not hold onto my own idols and sin, but to let go and embrace the love you have for me. Do it all or your glory, Father.

I pray all of this by the power of Jesus’ blood and in His name,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2019 in Psalms

 

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Narrowing on Jesus and Widening my Love

No verse.

Dear God, I had a great conversation with some old friends of my wife last night, and one part of my conversation with the husband of the couple has kind of stuck with me this morning. I want to spend some time with you unpacking it a little this morning.

We were talking about loving other people who don’t believe the same things we do (religiously, politically, etc.) and he said (paraphrasing), the more I live the wider and wider my love for others gets and, simultaneously, the narrower and narrower I focus on Jesus. I really liked that, and I can relate. I know I still have a long way to go in loving others and not judging them, but I know I was better yesterday that I was the day before, and I hope I am going to be better today than I was yesterday. The more I focus on you/Jesus/the Holy Spirit (the Trinity), the more I start to see others with your eyes, and your eyes seem to be so merciful and loving. And then the ability to give that love and grace to others brings me a peace that I cannot have when I am judging them.

Father, thank you for sharpening me with some other pieces of iron yesterday. Thank you for sharpening me through my wife, my friends, and really everyone with whom you bring me into contact. Thank you for sharpening me through your scripture and through my prayer time with you. Thank you for caring enough about me to take the time to sharpen me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

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Peter & John — 2 John

2 John [NLT]
1 This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth— 2 because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.
3 Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.
4 How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.
5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. 6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
7 I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. 9 Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
10 If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. 11 Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.
12 I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.
13 Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.

Dear God, as I look at all of these passages the either reference Peter and/or John or were written by them, I am trying to figure out what I can learn about them and myself through who they were and how they fit into your kingdom and plan. In this case, 2 John is pretty short and has two main messages: Love others and reject deceivers. What a very succinct message. It must have been very much on his heart and important to him because he took the time to sit down and write it and send it on ahead of his visit.

One of the hard things to know is if I have been deceived or am deceiving others. Is my theology errant in any way that is material to your kingdom and your plan? Do I espouse beliefs that cause harm to your children? Are my thoughts on homosexuality, denominations, politics, or salvation in any way against your will? Do I ever cause harm to others when I share them?

Father, teach me. Help me to learn about you. I believe in you. I believe in the risen Christ. I do my best to love others, offer grace, and represent you to those around me. Raise up people/books/articles/etc. in my life that you will use to teach me your truth. Give me ears to hear. Give me eyes to see. Give me the words you want me to speak.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2019 in 2 John, Peter and John

 

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Division and Grace

Dear God, I heard/read a couple of things this week that are coming together into a complete thought.

This morning I read Fred Smith’s blog post called “The Great Wave of Schism.” It it he talked about the small cracks that form between us that eventually become breaks. It made me think of something that you taught me years ago. Causing division between people is Satan’s Plan A and he rarely needs a Plan B. It started with him causing division between you and Adam and Eve. It moved on to Cain and Abel and continues to this day. Right now our nation is unbelievably divided and our leadership is not helping. It feels like the trench warfare of WWI. Everyone is dug in. No one will advance and a lot of damage will be done.

Earlier this week I heard a sermon by Andy Stanley about the grace and justice that Jesus brought to the table. Frankly, I think it was the best sermon I’ve ever heard on describing your balance of grace and mercy. While I read Fred’s piece this morning, the thought occurred to me that grace and mercy are your Plan A to combat Satan’s Plan A, and you rarely need a Plan B.

Father, I’m glad you are the one that I serve. I know I fail. I know I can be part of divisions. I know I fail your sense of justice and I fall short of your glory. But your grace restores me to wholeness with you and then that experience enables me to extend grace to others. Help me to be a carrier of your grace into the world today.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Emails to God – Mission IMPOSSIBLE (Matthew 19:16-30)

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter thekingdom ofGod.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Dear God, verse 26 makes me think of a line I read in a book yesterday. It basically said that the God of Judaism and Christianity (you) is the only God who loves sinners. All other false gods that men make up hate sinners, but the true God loves sinners and made a way to connect with us by reaching out to us. When the disciples asked in verse 25, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus basically answered them that no one can be saved by their own merit—you have to do it for them.

I also like how Peter totally missed the meaning of verse 26 and goes back to a performance-based system in verse 27: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” It’s like a little kid trying to know how impressed you are with him and what he gets as his reward.

I once had a man work for me who was pretty insecure. He was always comparing himself with coworkers and trying to show how he was superior to them in how he did his job. It was hard to watch, but then when I stop and wonder how much of that I do myself I get a little humbled. I love for people to be impressed with me. I love it when I get glory and rewards. I’m better about it and less needy than I used to be, but it is still an issue.

Father, help me to embrace verse 26. Help me to embrace and absorb the idea that “impossible” means “IMPOSSIBLE”. It doesn’t mean “REALLY HARD”. It’s not like the show “Mission Impossible” where it really possible if you are smart enough, brave enough, and fortunate enough to pull it off—it is truly IMPOSSIBLE to be saved by my own ability or actions. It’s too late. That ship has sailed. I cannot save myself. I need YOU to make it POSSIBLE, which of course you already have. I just need to remember it and BELIEVE it.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Matthew

 

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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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