Prayer Is In Us

•06/10/2010 • Leave a Comment

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my sighing.

2 Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.

4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell.

5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all who do wrong.

6 You destroy those who tell lies;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
the LORD abhors.

7 But I, by your great mercy,
will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down
toward your holy temple.

8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make straight your way before me.

9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with destruction.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongue they speak deceit.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5)

C. S. Lewis said about prayer, “We must lay before him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” I think David may have been one of the best at this, of confessing what is in him rather than what ought to be in him. Often found prostrated before the Lord, David seemed to have a unique understanding of God’s loving embrace of the honest sinner.

There is brilliance in the life lived with an awareness of what is inside and what ought to be inside. The balance of maintaining honest dialogue about one’s weaknesses, while striving to be filled with the love that ought to exist in one’s heart is perhaps the essence of worship. At least David seemed to think so. He constantly walked this line in his relationship with God, of confessing his weakness and striving for redemption.

So many events in life expose our weaknesses and reveal what is really within us. My wife and I have experienced this with our first son, who is working toward his second birthday. We’ve realized we are weak to care for him completely, weak to love him unconditionally, weak to understand his needs fully, and on and on. We are weak to care, love, and understand and yet when we confess these weaknesses, it seems to only enhance our ability to parent him.

I think this must be what David understood and what C. S. Lewis understood—that only when we understand what is in us, or not in us, may we prepare to arrive at what ought to be in us.

d365

•03/04/2010 • Leave a Comment

I just finished up some writing with d365 and had a great time! d365 is an online devotional for youth, though folks of all ages frequent it. It’s a great site – check it out here.

Over the next few weeks I’ll try and post my devotions. This was my first time writing a devotion catered to a youth audience and was a definite change of pace for me.

I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.

When I called, you answered me;
you made me bold and stouthearted.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes,
with your right hand you save me.

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;
your love, O LORD, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands. (Psalm 138:1-3, 7-8)

How often do you perform with all of our heart? Maybe you perform well daily or weekly when you are competing in a sporting season, preparing for a recital or play, or studying for exams. When you perform well, isn’t the reward of your effort wonderful?

David worshipped God in this way—with all of his heart. He sang God’s praises in front of the “gods” and among all sorts of people that thought he was acting foolishly. But David’s worship was rewarded—when he called to the Lord he received an answer, when he was in trouble the Lord preserved his life, and when David sought the love of God he was given it for eternity.

It is easy to spend more time preparing and practicing for sporting events, recitals, or tests than we do preparing and practicing to have a faithful walk with God. Today, make a commitment to spend more time in spiritual preparation.

Prayer: Father, my priorities are mixed up most of the time and I give my greatest effort to events and people and situations that don’t matter nearly as much as you do. Help me Father to give you my greatest efforts each day, so that I may have the strength to give a good effort to everything else. Amen.

A Prayer: Attitudes

•02/18/2010 • Leave a Comment

Father, as broken and sinful people, our attitudes often do not bring glory to your name. Please forgive us for our attitudes of indifference toward those in pain, toward those suffering various trials, and toward those who live a life without knowing you. Forgive us for marginalizing those with great need and forgive us for our apathy and disinterest in their needs.

Father, we pray for renewal in our attitudes and we pray for the spiritual energy required to encourage and support those that have need. Father, reveal to us our prejudices and our heartless dealings with those around us. Please help our attitudes become a reflection of your great love and acceptance. Our attitudes are an overflow of our heart and so tonight we pray for a heart-renewal.

Help us and guide us this day. Help us and guide us to embrace, strengthen, and encourage those around us. We confess that in and of ourselves we are incapable of possessing an authentic attitude of love, compassion, and Christian service. And so we say, Father please.

Amen

d365: February 7-13

•02/08/2010 • Leave a Comment

I have written a series of devotions for d365, which is an online, ecumenical devotional intended for youth. You can follow the devotions here.

Bart Ehrman’s Jesus, Interrupted

•01/28/2010 • Leave a Comment

Bart Ehrman’s Controversial Book, Jesus, Interrupted, Re-released in Paperback

The problems with the Bible that New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman discussed in his bestseller Misquoting Jesus—and on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR, and Dateline NBC, among others—are expanded upon exponentially in his latest book: Jesus, Interrupted. This New York Times bestseller reveals how books in the Bible were actually forged by later authors, and that the New Testament itself is riddled with contradictory claims about Jesus—information that scholars know… but the general public does not. If you enjoy the work of Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and John Shelby Spong, you’ll find much to ponder in Jesus, Interrupted.

Book Description

Picking up where Bible expert Bart Ehrman’s New York Times bestseller Misquoting Jesus left off, Jesus, Interrupted addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches—and it’s not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed:

  • The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works.
  • The New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later
  • Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions
  • Established Christian doctrines—such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the trinity—were the inventions of still later theologians

These are not idiosyncratic perspectives of just one modern scholar. As Ehrman skillfully demonstrates, they have been the standard and widespread views of critical scholars across a full spectrum of denominations and traditions. Why is it most people have never heard such things? This is the book that pastors, educators, and anyone interested in the Bible have been waiting for—a clear and compelling account of the central challenges we face when attempting to reconstruct the life and message of Jesus.

Order here.

What Can a Man Give?

•12/31/2009 • Leave a Comment

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.  Matthew 16:24-28

“What can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Jesus beautifully and piercingly asked the disciples, “What can a man give in exchange for his soul?” I believe the implied answer is nothing. There is nothing a woman or a man can give to save the soul, unless it is something given to God. Only when we give our life to God, are we given the ability to fruitfully give to others.

When I think of giving and serving and living rightly, I think of the charge found in this gospel chapter. That to save one’s life means to lose it, and that one can gain the whole entire world while forfeiting one’s soul. So, it seems, we must give to lose and we must give without the intention of gaining the world or even our soul.

As one who often feels he has little to give, it is comforting to rest in the simple command to give oneself. Though resources may be small, clout minimal, and abilities weak, the giving of self is an endeavor in which all may participate.

This parable reminds me of another, The Widow’s Offering. A poor, widowed woman knew well that it was impossible to give something in exchange for one’s soul; aside from the diseased, there were likely none beneath her. And yet, her contribution was counted greater than that of wealthy men.

I live well within such passages, where I am given the courage to live within my means. It is an invaluable experience to give joyfully and within one’s means.

When Nothing Else Will Do

•10/23/2009 • Leave a Comment

3031181785_f21d79fa5e_mThe point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:
The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:1-13)

There are times in life when nothing will do the trick but these simple and yet profound covenantal words, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” For those of us misplaced without direction and purpose, God says, “I will be yours and you will be mine.” For those of us wrecked by unspeakable losses, God says, “I will be yours and you will be mine.” For those of us trapped in some form of addiction, God says, “I will be yours and you will be mine.” For those of us abused or profiled, God says, “I will be yours and you will be mine.”

For all of us that have passed through the old life and into the new through the free-flowing, redemptive blood of Christ, God says to us this day, “I am yours and you are mine.” I can think of no other words that offer such great hope. Regardless of where we are, of where we’ve been, of where we may soon go, God says to us this day, “I am yours and you are mine.”

When so many have so little, and others have so much, perhaps it is comforting to know that even the poor have the greatest treasure. I am thankful this day that I will never be without the company and the support and the guiding love of an all-embracing, all-empowering, all-accepting, and all-transforming God. No matter how misplaced, wrecked, trapped, or abused, there is One who proudly proclaims to his children, “I am yours and you are mine.” And for this I rejoice.

 
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