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Acts 20:24

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Dear God, I’ve never thought about this verse in terms of Memorial Day before, but it’s the verse of the day on Bible Gateway so perhaps someone there did. It is still so tragic to me that for thousands and thousands of years, what I’m sure numbers into the billions, people have died fighting each other. You’re born, your parents put uncountable hours into caring for you, you spend uncountable hours learning and growing, and then your life is gone. Just gone.

So many people have died nobly for their country or a cause. In the case of what we honor with this day, women and men of our country saw their earthly lives end to fight for whatever we felt was right at the time. The sacrifice they gave, and that their families gave, is immeasurable. I’ve said before that I tend to have a guilty feeling on days like this because I never served in the military. I admire veterans so much for even the sacrifice they made to take time from a civilian life to serve so that I could live my civilian life.

Of course, there is a spiritual aspect to this passage because that is what Paul was talking about. He knew that he was going to put himself at risk for his faith and what you were calling him to do. As it turned out, he was right. He was arrested. He was imprisoned for years. He ultimately died. But that sacrifice of his life ended up being the catalyst for the spread of Christianity to the West. He considered his life worth nothing to him. Had he considered it worth something–had he given in to the temptation those around him were making to him and not gone to Jerusalem, I might not be sitting here praying to you today.

Father, help me to consider my own life worth nothing to me. Help me to only consider the call you have given me. Help me to hear your still small voice. Help me to not let the sacrifice of Paul, the veterans who died, or even Jesus be in vain. Do it all so that your kingdom will come and your will will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2019 in Acts

 

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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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Colossians 1:27-28

Colossians 1:27-28

For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.

Dear God, what are the “riches and glory of Christ” we are supposed to know and share? What are we selling when we talk about Jesus.

I’ve heard some of other religions, and even different denominations of Christianity, accuse some Christians of believing in a salvation that is too easy and cheap. After all, of our salvation isn’t works based then why ever try to be good at all?

But what I’m selling isn’t cheap salvation. To start with, I recognize that it wasn’t cheap for you. What I’m selling is selfless surrender and relationship. I know Paul says in one of his letters that if this isn’t all about ending up with you after we die then Christians are to be pitied, but I don’t totally agree with that. I don’t know where the “cut line” is for Heaven admission, but I have a much better idea of where the cut line is for relationship with you and the fruits of the Spirit that come from that. I can even see it in me as I vary in my levels of worship and prayer. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about my “fire insurance,” but I do wake up thinking that if I’m going to experience love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness, and self control them I better spend some time with my God. And even in dark, scary times, your rod and your staff comfort me.

Father, help me to live in your presence today. Help me to submit to you in all areas. Help me to be what my nieces and nephew need when I see them later. Help my life to be what you need it to be–for me and for others.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2019 in Colossians

 

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Romans 14:10-14

Romans 14:10-14 [NLT]
10 So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

 

Dear God, to answer Paul’s questions in verse 10, it’s so that we can feel better about ourselves. I love to judge others because it make me feel smarter than I am, holier than I am–just better than I am. But Paul reminds us in verse 12 that one day I will be standing before you and you won’t be grading on a curve. You won’t put us on a scale of how I compared with this person or that person. No, it will be you and me and I will have to give you an account of my life and my actions.

If all of that is true, then why do so many of us live our lives comparing ourselves to others? I still remember being at a retreat in the late 90’s and hearing a man give his life story. My dad did his introduction, and I was fooled a little. My dad talked about everything this guy had accomplished by the time he was the age I happened to be at that moment. Before the man even talked, I felt like a loser. Then within five minutes the man explained how he had been in federal prison for embezzlement, had lost his wife and his kids, and now he was trying to rebuild his life. I immediately repented to you for looking at the outside of a man instead of looking deeper and considering what else might be a reality in his life.

Of course, now we all get to see each other’s best parts on social media. And we get to judge each other as well. We judge people if we see them posting pictures of partying too much. We judge them if we see them with the new family for which they left their first family. We allow ourselves to feel inferior to the person who seems to have it all.

Father, help me to take my eyes off of the world and to turn them to you. Help me to stop trying to make my own case through comparison to others, and to simply live faithfully. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. And please forgive me for failing you so often. I am sorry.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Romans

 

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Peter & John — 1 John 5:1-5

1 John 5:1-5 (NLT)
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

Dear God, reading this letter, I can see where I have lived most of my life thinking of John as the promoter of love. I guess that’s why it caught me so off guard when I isolated the stories about him in the gospels and found that he was actually not very loving at all. There was something that Jesus saw in him that made him one of the “Big Three” in terms of the 12 disciples, but it’s never apparent what that was. Perhaps Jesus could see beyond what John was and look forward into what a redeemed John would look like.

It’s a little like Paul. As Saul, no one would have foreseen who he became as Paul, but your redemption turned his zealousness for you as a Jew to the truth of your oneness with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I wonder how much of our greatest strengths as Christians are the things that defined the evil part of our nature pre-Christ. That’s an interesting thesis to consider.

As for me, how do I consider who I was before your redemption and who I am now? I guess, a lot like John and less like Paul, the thing you seem to be hammering out of me is judgmentalism. Not that I don’t still judge people. But I used to really judge people for not being who I thought they should be and not acting the way I thought they should act. Now, the more I learn from you about myself the more I am willing to extend mercy and love to others instead of judging them. I am better at looking for what they see as their righteous motivations in the moment instead of judging them as having sinister motives that are meant for my detriment.

That leads to how I evaluate others. Do I see someone’s sin, or do I see a character trait that can be redeemed and used for your glory? Do I take the time to see them with your eyes, or do I just judge them and cast them off?

Father, to quote a song, give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see everything that I’ve been missing. Give me your love for humanity.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in 1 John, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 3:11-18

2 Peter 3:11-18 NIV
[11] Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives [12] as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. [13] But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. [14] So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. [15] Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. [16] He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. [17] Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. [18] But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Dear God, the reference to Paul here caught me off guard. I had forgotten that was there. I wonder what Peter and Paul thought of each other. I get the feeling that Paul was a little more cerebral than Peter was, and that kind of comes through in Peter’s comment in verse 16: “His letters contain some things which are hard to understand.” I wonder if Peter on one level appreciated Pauls depth and insights, and on the other hand thought he might overthink things a little.

As for the thesis of this chapter, it seems to be to be careful of false teachers and keep yourself pure. It reminds me of something I heard the Christian singer, Rich Mullins, say back in the 90s: “The world’s going to go the way the world’s going to go. So keep yourself pure and love everyone you can.”

Last weekend, I was praying through something and the word I got from you was that the answer was love, love, love, and love. This situation is tricky and it would be easy to get in my trench and just try to both defend myself and shell the other side. But what if, instead, I just showed love that is selfless and ultimately blameless? Isn’t that part of what you are calling me to do? Isn’t that basically what Peter is saying here?

Father, help me to worship you well and to let that flow through me. I visited with a friend yesterday who is struggling. I kind of presented your Gospel to her, but I felt very inadequate to do it. I don’t know if I was effective or not. But please use what I said for your glory in her life. Please give her the freedom, the peace, the hope, and the joy that you have for her through repentance and relationship. Show me the role I have to play in her life, and raise up a good woman who can also be your person for her.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in 2 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Peter & John — Galatians 2:11-13

Galatians 2:11-13
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Dear God, it’s interesting to see Peter give into peer pressure and Paul chastise him for it. It must have been tricky for Peter to lead in this environment. I wonder if there was a part of him that just had a hard time being certain that it was okay to eat what Gentiles ate. Did he believe, but Paul had to help his unbelief?

It makes me think about some of the issues that Christians currently differ about. Abortion is one issue where there are a lot of people who love you, but think it’s okay, while others who love you believe it is murder and it is the political issue that makes up 90% of their decision for whom to vote during an election. Homosexuality is another one. Is it okay or isn’t it?

I have a friend who is an associate pastor at a large church in a small town in another state. I asked him over lunch while he was in town recently how his church (it could be considered an evangelical Bible church) deals with this issue. He said that while they don’t condone it, they don’t call it out. He said that they are free to worship there, but cannot have any leadership roles. He also said that they would not be able to join as members. In retrospect, this feels to me a little like Peter in this story. Are you going to draw the line or aren’t you? At the same time, I can appreciate their dilemma because I am not 100% sure about this issue myself. I have homosexual people in my life whom I love and adore. I feel no compulsion to make them change to be in relationship with me. At the same time, I am not completely comfortable with their lifestyles, but I cannot tell if that is your conviction or the teaching I learned growing up.

Father, I don’t want to be a hypocrite, which is what Paul accuse Peter of in this passage. I don’t want to accept someone to their face and reject them to others. I suppose that is the most important thing I can do in situations such as what I described above. At the end of the day, I love these people and I am not in a position to judge or convict them. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. My job is to encourage them in their relationships with you and then count on the Holy Spirit to work with them in the various aspects of their lives the same as how the Holy Spirit works on me. I confess that I have grieved you as much sexually at different times in my life as much as any homosexual might have, and it has nothing to do with preferring the same or opposite sex. It goes back to the sexual immorality that Peter mentioned to the church back in Acts 15:28-29. It takes all forms, and it is important that I not use judgment of others to make me feel better about my own failings in this area.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2018 in Galatians, Peter and John

 

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