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Joel 2:23

Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring.
Joel 2:23

Dear God, I always talk about using peace as my litmus test for how I’m doing with you. Well, I’m apparently not doing well at the moment. I feel overwhelmed by both the amount of work I have to do and the problems I have to solve. I feel anxious about your provision. I sat down last night to start to work on next year’s budget for where I work, and even though you have provided financially and materially through great staff, I find myself being fearful about where the provision will come from next year. I talk a good game and I think people see the different fruits of the Spirit in me, but I’ll bet anyone who really knows me and were to talk to me now would see that peace isn’t there like it should be.

So what am I doing wrong? I’m spending daily time with you in prayer. I’m mixing in some praise and worship. I talk about you to others and I am quick to give you credit for all of the good things you have done this year. But you know what I’m not doing? I’m not trusting you for this moment and the next. I’m trying to solve it all myself. I’m trying to take you place in my life and, ultimately, the glory that you deserve for myself. I am not a humble man. As I look at our organization’s needs for next year, both in terms of services we offer and the resources we collect, my first thoughts are around how I will go out and put this all together and not how you will do it.

Then there is the work in front of me that I have to get done. I am simply pressing too hard and trying to get all of this done in my own strength. I can feel myself conjuring up the energy to do it, and it is exhausting. I’m being manic when I should simply be resting in you and working as unto you.

Father, help me to not try to be you. Help me to let go of my desire to supplant you and to take your glory. Let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven through my life in any way that you wish. Give me the strength you need me to have, give us the resources you need us to have, and when I am talking to someone who might partner with us, help me to do it from the perspective of it being about blessing them instead of blessing me. Oh, and I’m sorry for how I’ve been acting.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2019 in Joel

 

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Revelation

Dear God, I was speaking to a young man in my office yesterday who is heavily influenced by pastors that focus on the rapture and tribulation. He gave me a website to check out and a DVD to view. I watched a little of the DVD and looked at the cover of the website. I’m thinking about writing the young man today with my thoughts.

My first thought is that any time anyone around Jesus was afraid he told them to fear not. Jesus didn’t sell his message using fear. He offered mercy. If I believe what I say I believe and if I share that with others then the rapture and the tribulation will take care of themselves. My job isn’t to scare anyone into Heaven. That isn’t much of a sales pitch anyway.

While we were in my office, he referenced the fruits of the Spirit and said that the first one is love. I agreed with him, but then we listed through the others and I tried to point out peace to him. I’ve told you this many times before, but peace is the one thing that I can’t fake. I can pretty much put up a facade and fake the other fruits. To other people, I can make myself look loving, joyful, kind, gentle, etc., but I am unable to fake peace. When I am truly in you is when I am at peace, and if I am not following you then I have no peace.

Father, I could go on and on, but I guess the thing I really want to say is that I am grateful that you take away all my fear. Your love drives out all my fear. (1 John 4:18). I don’t have to fear the rapture, the tribulation, a one world government or the anti-Christ because you are my God. You have this. I am in you and you are in me. You gave me a great bridge to reach you through coming to earth through the part of your essence that is your son, Jesus, and showed me not only how much you love me, but also how to love and live. Thank you for all of this. I need you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

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Isaiah 26:1-3

In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song: Our city is strong! We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation. Open the gates to all who are righteous; allow the faithful to enter. You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaiah 26:1-3

Dear God, the verse of the day was verse 3 (You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!), and I really liked that. I picked up verse 1 and 2 just so we could have some context, but it’s verse 3 that’s on my heart this morning.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve said this to others, or even to you, but of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “peace” is my litmus test. I can fake love, joy, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness and self control, but the peace I experience comes from you. It’s different for my wife. She has told me that “joy” is hers. She can’t fake joy. But for me, it’s “peace.”

Where does my peace come from? One of the things that brings me peace is a clear conscience, and the only way I can experience a clear conscience is through repenting to you and receiving your grace. Then there is a peace that comes from just spending time with you. Even having typed out this prayer this morning will start my day in a peaceful way. Finally, there is just the peace that you minister to me as I fix my thoughts on you. To quote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.” Yes, indeed, the more I turn my eyes upon you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, the more the things of earth grow strangely dim and peace overcomes me.

Father, help me to turn my eyes upon you today. Be glorified through me. Help those I love, especially my wife, children, and extended family, to turn their eyes upon you as well. Give all of us peace, freedom, love, joy, faithfulness, gentleness patience, kindness and self control. And help us to share that with others for your glory’s sake.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2019 in Isaiah

 

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Ecclesiastes 4:4-6

4 Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

5 “Fools fold their idle hands,
leading them to ruin.”

6 And yet,

“Better to have one handful with quietness
than two handfuls with hard work
and chasing the wind.”
Ecclesiastes 4:4-6

Dear God, this kind of follows up on yesterday’s prayer. I heard it in an Andy Stanley sermon I listened to while I was on a bike ride last night. I wonder at what point Solomon emerged from this wisdom of pitying the oppressed and into being an oppressor. I was watching an interview with a movie star this morning and she mentioned that she had won her first major award at 26. She was young and pretty. But then, as she put it, people started to “remove obstacles” from her and she began to take advantage of being a star. Her father sat down with her at one point and told her, you’re becoming an ***hole. She said that she is now a believer in all of our need to have obstacles in front of us. It seems to me that she might be right in that the removal of obstacles from Solomon’s life became a detriment to the wisest man who ever lived.

All of that being said, there is a great message in these verses. When my drive for success is motivated by jealousy of and competition with others, then I will absolutely be chasing the wind. As Andy Stanley put it in the sermon, someone will always have an “er” over me. They will be smart-er, cut-er, rich-er, happi-er. They will have more successful children, better jobs, prettier homes, more fulfilling marriages, or whatever. I can’t chase them all. Better to focus on you and your call to me while ignoring all others. Following your call is the best way to find my contentment. Chasing the perceived success of someone else will only lead to exhaustion and emptiness.

Father, help me to be peacefully quiet. Help me to embrace all that you have for me today. Help me to bless others for their success and to care more about their peace and contentment than I do what they have that I don’t have. Help me to be an instrument of your peace in their lives.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2019 in Ecclesiastes

 

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Romans 15:13

Romans 15:13 [NLT]
13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dear God, what a great thing for me to pray for others. To pray for my children that you would completely fill them with joy and peace because they trust you. That they will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s also a great thing to pray for my wife, my extended family, the significant others of my children, my coworkers, my friends, etc.

And how about myself? Do I trust you so much that you completely fill me with joy and peace? Sometimes. Do I overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit? Occasionally I get there. How can I be a better example of this?

I guess it starts by deciding in what or whom I put my trust. I confess that it is usually me. I usually look to my own solutions. My own ideas. My own skills. But guess what—that method never leads me to joy and peace. Even if it all works out, there is an emptiness to it.

Right now, I am facing a couple of significant challenges at work. I know I have brought one of them to you in prayer and you seem to be moving, but as I sit here and type this, I realize that I have been trying to do the others in my own strength. I have not brought them to you in prayer. I have not put my hope and trust in you to get them resolved. And guess what. About one of my challenges I am feeling peace and joy and about the other two I am not.

Father, help me to surrender my whole life to you so that I might experience your peace and joy. Please guide me in my challenges. Please provide for the needs I have and the needs for which I am responsible at work, in my home, and in my community. Help me to turn it all over to you so that you might use my life to ripple through time as you need it to.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2019 in Romans

 

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“Peace” by Rich Mullins

Peace” by Rich Mullins

Though we’re strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that’s much to ask
But lay down your fears, come and join this feast
He has called us here, you and me

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls
This drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And though I love you, still we’re strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still His light shines in the dark
And His outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars to set us free

So may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In this Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Like those little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls the draught has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

Songwriters: David Strasser / Richard Mullins

Dear God, I was thinking about the potentially tumultuous day I have ahead of me today, and I thought of this song. I need your peace to fall on me today and then flow through me. I need it to fall on everyone at the office. I need it to fall on the patients and volunteers. I need it to fall on the staff. Peace. Peace of Christ.

What does “peace of Christ” look like? Well, it’s hard to explain because it is the peace that passes understanding. I cannot describe what the peace of Christ looks like, but I do know some things about it. First, it can get angry because Jesus did get angry. It also looks beyond the surface of others and sees them with your eyes. It comes from loving you with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving our neighbor as myself. It will help me to die to my rights and what makes me comfortable if it means doing what you’ve called me to do, and being truly okay with it.

Father, I am really going to need your wisdom, discernment, strength, and peace today. I submit myself to you and ask that you please be with me. Help me to be firm, but gentle. Help me to do something that is for your good and, ultimately, the good of everyone involved.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2019 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Peter & John — 2 Peter 1:1-2

2 Peter 1:1-2 NIV
[1] Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: [2] Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Dear God, I just finished 1 Peter yesterday talking about how he was wishing them peace, and now I see that he leads off this letter wishing them grace and peace. I know that the idea of unearned grace is unique to Christianity. I wonder how much the offering of peace is unique to it as well.

While I was talking about peace yesterday, I started thinking about the songs and hymns that I could think of that reference peace. Two came to mind instantly. The first is called “The Peace That Passes Understanding” (written by Claire Cloninger and Wayne Watson and performed by Wayne Watson). Here are the lyrics.

“The Peace That Passes Understanding”

Seasons of my soul
They come and go
But as they slip away
I know something else remains
That will not change

Places in my heart
Are torn apart
But in my brokenness, I find
That something stays behind
That will not change

The peace that passes understanding
Is a blessing that will never fade away
The peace that passes understanding
Is here to stay
The peace that passes understanding
Never passes away

Lord, in times of old
My heart had known
With quiet words of your tender love
And your gentle touch
That changes me

Even through the storm
I’m safe and I’m warm
Lord, You have comforted me
With grace in Your hiding place
I am at peace
Peace comes like the dawn
Peace that the world
Can’t understand
You take my hand and I stand
The waters may fall

The peace that passes understanding
Is a blessing that will never fade away
The peace that passes understanding
Is here to stay
The peace that passes understanding
Never passes away
Oh oh, oh oh

The peace that passes understanding
Is a blessing that will never fade away
The peace that passes understanding
Is here to stay
The peace that passes understanding
Never passes away

The other song is a hymn I’ve journaled about before, “It Is Well With My Soul,” written by Horatio Spafford after the tragic loss of his children at sea. Here are the lyrics. They start with “peace.”

“It Is Well With My Soul”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

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

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Father, storms will come. I will be pressed, but I can have peace in you. And even if I am ultimately crushed and my earthly life ends, I will be with you and it will be well with my soul. Thank you for offering this to all of us through your son.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Peter & John — 1 Peter 5:12-14

1 Peter 5:12-14 NIV
[12] With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. [13] She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. [14] Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Dear God, I don’t know how much there is to say about these final greetings, but it’s just nice that his last words in this letter are to encourage love and pray for peace.

Peace. Of the “Fruits of the Spirit” from Galatians 5:22, it’s the one I use most to evaluate how I’m doing with you. I can fake a lot of things including love, joy, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self control. I can will myself to exhibit all of those things. What I cannot will myself to do is experience peace.

Not that everyone is that way. My wife and I have talked about this, and for her it’s not peace. It’s another one that experiences more of when she is close to you. So I’m not pretending like this should be true for everyone.

A young friend who is a new believer and has really been through some emotionally trying things said recently that he is concerned about a lot of his friend from high school. They aren’t doing well. They seem stressed and depressed. And these are college students who, outside of worrying about their grades, shouldn’t have a lot of stress in their lives. But what I never go a chance to tell this young person is that I was worried in the same way about him just a few months ago. He has a peace about him that he has only recently begun to exhibit.

Father, please bring me peace and then make me an instrument of your peace. Help me to tap into you so that you will flow into me and then through me to others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in 1 Peter, Peter and John

 

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Emails to God – “Better Days” by the Goo Goo Dolls

Okay, for those of you who haven’t heard the Goo Goo Dolls, don’t judge their sound by their name. They are actually a very middle-of-the-road pop group. I was listening to this song the other day and there were a couple of lines that caught my ear. They made me wonder about the spiritual significance of this song and where the leaders of this band might be in their spiritual lives. First, before I go any further, here are the lyrics along with a link to the YouTube video.

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cuz I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And desire and love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

And it’s someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there’s 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again

So, when I looked at the whole song’s lyrics I started to wonder if it wasn’t a Christmas song (see the first line). Well, thank goodness for Wikipedia. I looked the song up and found that it originally appeared on a Christmas album produced for Target. Who knew? It IS a Christmas song after all. In fact, I encourage anyone reading this to take a look at the Wikipedia page and see how the song has been used in different tragedies over the last 7 years.

Now for the question, how do I feel about the song and its lyrics. I want to zoom in on the second verse (the one that originally caught my ear listening on the radio). There seems to be a lot of theology here. I’ll reprint it again here:

And it’s someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And that’s faith and trust and peace while we’re alive
And the one poor child that saved this world
And there’s 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

The second and third lines are something that I have felt for a long time. There is more to our faith than the promise of heaven. There is the idea there is something that only God can give: faith, trust, and peace while we are alive. I have friends who are struggling to find peace. Frankly, this has been a rough season for me, personally, and I have had moments of not feeling peace. But the other thing I have learned is that, in the midst of any turmoil I might experience, the only source of peace is God. So here’s my prayer:

Father, I don’t know the spiritual state of this song’s writers, but they left a message/reminder here for me. While they hope for “better days,” I don’t know that that is where my heart is focused. My focus is more on the idea of the idea that I can find peace in you, and there are so many people in the world for whom I need to pray. There are leaders of countries, mobs, terrorist organizations, armies, etc., and so many of them have influence on your world. So use my prayer and multiply it for those whom you know need it. Please guide this world. Represent yourself through your people, and influence the world through us. Influence it through our humility, servant hearts, and work. Bless our work and use it as unto yourself.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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Emails to God – “Peace” by Rich Mullins

Though we’re strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that’s much to ask
But lay down your fears, come and join this feast
He has called us here, you and me

[CHORUS:]
And may peace rain down from Heaven
Like little pieces of the sky
Little keepers of the promise
Falling on these souls
This drought has dried
In His Blood and in His Body
In the Bread and in this Wine
Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

And though I love you, still we’re strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still His light shines in the dark
And His outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach
Behind these prison bars to set us free

[CHORUS:]

[CHORUS:]

Peace to you
Peace of Christ to you

Dear God, how do I best communicate that someone who is ashamed of themselves is safe in my presence? Better still, how do I best communicate to them that they are safe in your presence?

I have always loved how this song starts: “Though we’re strangers still I love you, I love you more than your mask.” Just the acknowledgment that we know there’s a mask there (we all have one on), and it’s okay.

Laity Lodge is my favorite place on earth. What makes it so special? Is it that it is a lovely setting in the beautiful Texas Hill Country? Is it the great food or terrific Bible teaching at the retreats? That’s all great, but there is something that Howard Butt, Jr., established there over fifty years ago that is still true today. It is a safe place. It is a place where people who feel awful or even unsure about themselves and their sin before you and everyone else and turn it into a feeling of being loved and accepted.

Father, help me to 1.) feel safe in your presence, and 2.) help others to feel your love, compassion and “safeness.” Your outstretched arms are still strong enough to reach behind our prison bars to set us free.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Hymns and Songs

 

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