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Acts 20:24

Acts 20:24 NIV
[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 first read this verse 31 years ago. It was fall of my senior year in high school. I had committed myself to learning more scripture, and, although I don’t remember how I found this passage, this was one of the first ones I memorized. I should note that the project didn’t live much past this and scripture memory is not one of my strong suits.

I wish I could say I have lived this verse out more. I guess I have to some extent. I’ve been willing to make some sacrifices based on what I feel like you are calling me to do. I think I’ve also been able to use it to shun prosperity Gospel preaching and even the kind of “God’s gonna getcha” preaching that some pastors do. Why is there suffering in the world? How can people do such evil things? If I’m suffering, does that mean I’ve lost your favor? Well, this sentiment from Paul reminds me that I shouldn’t ask these questions from the perspective of my own welfare or the welfare around me. I need to ask myself, what task has Jesus given me?

Father, my first task is to testify about you, your love, your grace, and your call to repentance. My second task is to respond to what you have for me to do. Today, I am going to meet my new mentee for the first time. Help me to do that in your strength and power. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking to the ministerial association about early childhood development and therapeutic nursery for traumatized children. I also have a board meeting this morning when I will have an opportunity to inspire them and help give them a sense of your calling to them as board members. So I consider my life worth nothing to me. I only want to finish the race and complete the tasks you have given me—even if it costs me everything.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2018 in Acts

 

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Peter & John — Mark 1:35-39

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:35-39

 

Dear God, it looks like Simon was already showing his propensity for leadership among the group, even at this early stage. Some people are just built that way.  

One thing that I suppose your grace does is it enables you to look beyond the actions and see the natural gifts and talents below. For example, Saul (of the New Testament) did some awful things. He was zealously hateful of Christians, to the point of arresting and killing them. He had blood of your faithful on his hands. But Jesus’ death and resurrection allows you to look beyond the killing and the hate, and see what you can use for your kingdom. In Saul’s case, you could use his zeal and tenacity to spread your message to Rome and set the stage for Christianity’s growth throughout the world.

Simon is the same way. He was an obvious leader. Even in this early story, he led the others outside to find Jesus. He had a lot to learn. He was arrogant and brash. He was also very impetuous. But you refined that out of him. You built the foundation of the church through him. He might not have had as much to do with its growth as Saul would eventually do as Paul, but Paul could never have done what Simon later did as Peter.

Father, help me to play the role you have me to play as well as I can. Use my strengths for your kingdom while you take my weaknesses and shape my ministry through them. You have given me an audience tomorrow night for some of the things you have taught me through my weakness. Help me to tell them what you would want them to hear, but help me to do it through the humility of acknowledging my failures and embracing the grace given to me and the lessons I have learned. And I pray the same thing over my children. They are adults, but they are still maturing, as am I. My temptation is to evaluate them through their weaknesses, but they both have so many strengths. Help me to look at them the way you look at them. Take who they are and use them for your kingdom’s glory.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2018 in Mark, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – Salvation through Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Dear God, the idea of salvation through faith vs. works is still a difficult one for all of us. I am a big proponent of the idea that our brains are hard-wired by the age of three, meaning that whatever we know in the first three years is hard to change for the rest of our lives. In this case, for most of us, our parents expect us to perform in one way or another, rewarding good performance and disciplining bad performance. After three years of conditioning to this, how can we not expect the same of you.

The ministerial association asked me to preach at a community-wide Thanksgiving service in a few weeks. I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic I want to choose and what I want to say. My topic is going to be finding you in tragedy, and being thankful for what you do for us in the midst of strife. One of the ideas that will undoubtedly come up is whether or not you cause negative things in our lives or simply work through them when they happen. Do you reward and discipline us based on our behavior, or simply pour out your blessings continuously, supporting us in the difficult times as well as the good—they just look different. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think this verse will work as one of the verses I will use. It reminds us that our relationship with you has little to do with works because you simply cannot tolerate the best of us without grace.

Father, use me during this sermon in a few weeks as well as today. Use me as I work with our staff and board. Use me as I present to a group of donors who are coming to hear about the Center. Use me as I meet with patients, do my work, and represent the Center. Use me as I love my wife and parent my children. Use me as I write, speak, and, most importantly, listen. To the best of my ability, I offer myself to you.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Emails to God – A Living Sacrifice? (Romans 11:32; 12:1)

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all… Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Dear God, I don’t think I have ever seen these two verses linked together before, but after reading it again, they below together. Paul didn’t separate his letter into chapters. He wrote it all as one unit, and so if I look at 12:1 without looking at what came before it, then I am missing something. It’s the word “Therefore” that told me I should look at what preceded it, and what precedes it is Paul talking about the Israelites having their hearts hardened and you going to the Gentiles. Now all of us, in our disobedience, can receive your grace and mercy. So now I am supposed to offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you. This is how I can worship you.

So what does it mean to offer my body as a living sacrifice? What does that look like? And how am I doing? It’s funny how some days are better than others. Yesterday, for example, was an interesting day. I woke up with zero motivation. I went to church with my wife, but then I came home to take a nap. Then I watched my favorite football player play, followed by another nap. Then I spend the rest of the day reading a book. I had things I intended to accomplish yesterday (exercising, writing, paying bills), but I did none of it. I just let the day go. Did I make a mistake? Was I being selfish? Was I getting some rest that I needed? Did I fail to sacrifice myself to you?

Father, as I go through this day, help me to remember that I am choosing right now to completely submit myself to you as a living sacrifice. I am giving you all that I am for all that you are. During the day, as I start to take my life back, please remind me that I agreed to give it all to you. Be glorified through me, and help me to be the man you need me to be for the sake of my wife, my children, my coworkers, and everyone else with whom I come into contact.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Emails to God – Submitting to Scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Dear God, this is my first “email” to you in several days. Where has my head been? What has made me so buy that I couldn’t stop to do this? Sure, I traveled quite a bit (900 miles in 8 days), but I had time to do other things that I wanted to do. Why didn’t I discipline myself to stop and meditate on scripture? I have no good excuse. I am simply sorry.

I suppose this “verse of the day” from Bible Gateway is appropriate because it reminds me that I need to be mindful of scripture in my life. Each day’s reading almost always has something to say to me about how I can align myself more rightly with you. I’m not talking about being aligned through your grace, but aligned through my own thoughts.

Father, the first person scripture needs to be about teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness is me. Yes, I can use it to encourage and teach others, but only after I have submitted to its wisdom and authority myself. So here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that you’re my God. You’re altogether lovely. Altogether worthy. Altogether wonderful to me.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Emails to God – Remembering to Thank God (Philippians 1:3)

3 I thank my God every time I remember you.

Dear God, my life is so beholden to different people. From my wife, to my family of origin, to donors, to volunteer, to staff, to my children, etc. My life is blessed many, many times over. But do I remember to thank you every time I remember these people? Do I remember to thank you whenever I think about the blessings you provide to me? Do I remember to give you the glory you deserve when I talk about the blessings in my life?

Father, there is so much for which I can be thankful. I have a patient wife who loves me richly. I have one or two good friends who speak your words to me. I have parents who bless me with love. I have a job where you have raised up people to work alongside us to do your will. Help me to be ever mindful of the grace you show me through all of these people. Help me to remember that you are the one from whom all blessings flow. And help me to remember to thank you for all of this because you are worthy of thanks and praise.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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