Wednesday, December 21, 2011

practical Christmas

Revelation 12

I thought Christmas was supposed to be about Jesus.

Brandi and I have been discussing how we are concerned that value of celebrating the birth of Christ may be severely clouded or even totally eclipsed by all of the social and media hype about Santa and presents.  Regardless of how the holiday of Christmas was initiated, the reality is that Christmas is a huge event in our American culture.  And while that culture continues to grow more and more secular (i.e., more and more about Santa and all of the stuff that you want him to give you), it seems to me that the Christmas holiday remains a powerful opportunity to focus on the gift of Christ for the salvation of the world.  And of course, it is impossible to disconnect His birth and life with His death and resurrection (i.e., Easter), but why not take advantage of the opportunity to focus on Christ and the joy and hope that His birth brings to the whole world?

So, with our children, we are planning on continuing to emphasize the celebration of Jesus's birthday.  Some people might think that a birthday party for Jesus is trite, but being the father of a two-year old, it seems to me like a birthday party would be valuable if it is helpful in synchronizing "Christmas" with "Jesus" in Beau's mind.  And while we don't want our children to be the ones that "spoil" the hoax of Santa for other children (especially our nieces and nephews), we want to reiterate the centrality of Jesus in Christmas by giving our children three gifts, as a reminder of Jesus receiving three gifts from the Wise Men.

Hopefully, through these practices, we will help our children focus on Jesus instead of getting caught up in the materialism of our society.

Heavenly Father, help us focus on Jesus.  Help us help our children to focus on Jesus.  Lord, please fill our hearts with joy and peace as we celebrate the birth of Christ.  And help us share this joy and peace with others.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, December 12, 2011

dining with Christ

Rev. 3

 2:7 "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

 2:17 "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

3:20 "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

My Brother Mark pointed this out to me this morning: life with Christ is about constantly being in fellowship with Him and being filled with His life.  We need to be overcomers, faithfully walking with Him.  It is both active and passive; we actively pursue Him and obey Him, and we rely on His grace and rest in His salvation.

Heavenly Father, I want to be an overcomer.  I want to enjoy the hidden manna and the fruit from the tree of life.  I want to share a meal with Christ as friends.  Lord, please help me walk in fellowship with you today.  Please deliver me from discouragement and despair, an help me share your life with others around me.  I love you, Lord, and I need you to carry me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

love one another

2 John

 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.

Moses taught it.  Jesus taught it.  This is not a new commandment.  So, why am I so lousy at loving one another?

Heavenly Father, please help me love people the way Jesus loves people.  Please pour your love through me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

love, sin, victory

1 John 5

I have been impressed the last few days about how much attention John gives to loving God and loving people (especially Brothers and Sisters in Christ).  I need to devote more attention to loving God and loving people, especially in my attitude towards people.

I have also been impressed with the repeating statements about children of God not sinning.  I need to take sin seriously.  It grieves God, it is not His character, and it is why Jesus died.

And this morning, I am impressed with the certainty of victory as we follow Him:

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.

Heavenly Father, I want to love you and love people.  Lord Jesus, I believe that you are the Christ and you are the Son of God.  I trust you, and I want to walk with you.  Lord, I need you.  Please grow your character in me.  Lord, I want to have the mind of Christ and live your victorious life in the Spirit.  I love you, and I devote myself to you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

waiting for His return

2 Peter 3

9 The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise [of Christ's return], as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. ... 14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

Last night, instead of having our home group, a few of us attended the worship service of a UTEP student organization called UNO U.  They have a student-led worship service in Spanish.  It was so refreshing to sing praises in Spanish and see the Lord working through students to share the hope of Christ at the university.  Sharing in praise and worship with them reminds me of when Brandi and I were members at Indiana Avenue when we were students.  When I participate in a worship service in a different language, it helps me see that Christ and His Kingdom transcend language, culture, space, and time.

I want to be living a holy, godly, pure, and blameless life to be pleasing in His sight.  I want to be connected and integrated with His global Body.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your patience and mercy.  Lord, please use me to help share the good news of Jesus Christ while there is still time.  Lord, thank you for your grace in my own life; please use me to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  I love you, Lord, and I want to serve you and worship you with my life.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

sharing His divine nature

2 Peter 1

4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption caused by human desires.  (NLT)

4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. (NASB)

4By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature. (AMP)

Sounds like heresy to me.  But it's not.  The truth is, by faith in Jesus Christ, God forgives us all of our sins, and the Holy Spirit brings life and presence to our human spirits.  We are able to experience eternal life because God assimilates us into His family through the work of Christ.  We have the opportunity, daily, to be in relational harmony and fellowship with God by worshiping Him in spirit and in truth.

Heavenly Father, I want to maintain good fellowship with you so that I can share in your divine nature.  Please help me stay pure in mind and heart so that I can be close to you.  Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Please help me keep in step with you.  I love you, and I want to know you and honor you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 28, 2011


1 Peter 5

 6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

We had a great Thanksgiving holiday with both of our families.

I am thankful for grace and mercy through Christ.  I am thankful for the hope of restoration and recovery; I am thankful that it is Christ who is the author and perfecter of my faith, not me.  I am thankful for a sweet and patient wife who loves the Lord. She is such a sincere and genuine person, and she is a devoted wife and mother.  I am thankful for two healthy sons who have joyful and peaceful attitudes.  I am thankful for loving and supportive families (both mine and Brandi's).  I am thankful for a great church body to be a part of with dear Brothers and Sisters.  I am thankful for a great job with friendly coworkers and dedicated students.  I am thankful for a warm house in the winter, food to eat, and clean water to drink.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your faithful love, and thank you for your kindness.  Thank you for taking care of us.  Lord, we can not live apart from you, and we need you every day to carry us.  We love you, and we want to walk with you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

wandering or focused?

James 5

I was sad when I read Hebrews 6:4-6:

 4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

But I am glad that James 5:19-20 follows:

 19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

So, how do we interpret Heb. 6:4-6 in light of James 5:19-20?  Well, my Brother RF says that the Hebrew culture back in Jesus's day regularly used hyperboles (an extremely exaggerated statement) to illustrate points (e.g., It is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven; it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich guy to go to Heaven). 

These two verses also stood out to me this morning:

 7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord's return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. 8 You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I want to be consciously aware that Jesus could return at any moment.  And if His return was near two thousand years ago, then I can imagine that we are right on the cusp of His return.

Heavenly Father, I love you.  Thank you for your Word and your Truth.  Lord Jesus, I love you.  Thank you for your sacrifice and love.  I want to be ready for you to return at any moment; I want to be expecting your arrival.  Holy Spirit, I love you.  Please help me keep in step with you.  I want to honor you and obey you.  Please help me be humble and submissive to your will.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 21, 2011

wisdom and peace

James 3

6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. ... 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

I have a long way to go in terms of controlling my tongue.  I have a long way to go in terms of growing in wisdom and understanding, too.

13 Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. ... 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

I have a long way to go.

But, thinking about one step at a time, what can I do today to grow just a little more.  It seems like a recurring theme in Chapter 3 is peace and gentleness. 

Heavenly Father, please help me be a peaceful person and a peace maker.  Lord Jesus, you brought us peace with God and peace with men; please help me be an agent of your peace today.  Lord, please help me be focused on you and your character; Lord, I need you to live your life through me.  I love you, and I want to be your servant today.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 18, 2011

thankfulness, holiness, and praise

Hebrews 13

On Wednesday night, we discussed Phil. 4:4-7 and I Thes. 5:16-18, and it seems to me that thankfulness is an antidote to anxiousness:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As I read Hebrews 12 yesterday, I was impressed by God's holiness and how He wants us to be holy.  Perseverance is the word that comes to mind:

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, ...  3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; ... 10 For [our earthly parents] disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but [Our Heavenly Father]
disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

And this morning, I am impressed that I need to be consistent in praising God:

 15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Heavenly Father, thank you for all that you have done for me.  I praise you for who you are.  I want to know you and walk with you; I want you to be pleased with the righteousness that you grow in me.  Lord, I want my life to honor you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

faith is seeking

Hebrews 11

1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. ... 6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. ... 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king's anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

I am familiar with verses 1 and 6, but verse 27b jumped out at me this morning (and I think it is connected with 6b).

Faith is fundamentally connected with seeking God.  Not only believing that He exists, but also seeking Him.  Keeping our eyes on Him, even though we can't see Him.

Heavenly Father, please reveal yourself to me.  Please help me believe you and seek you!  I want to know you and walk with you.  Please take control of my crazy life.  I want to know that I am walking in your path and cooperating with you in what you want to accomplish.  Please help me stay faithful to you.  I love you, Lord, and I need you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Hebrews 9

Saturday, we had a birthday party for Beau in Plains.  I am thankful for his life and the blessing that God has given us in him.  He is an amazing person, and I pray that the Lord will give us wisdom to raise him.

Sunday, the pastor preached about parenting.  I felt convicted that I need to spend more face-to-face time with Beau - not just being in the same room together or watching him play, but actually playing with him.

Heavenly Father, please help me be a father that reflects your character.  Please help me be a good father, and please give us wisdom to know how to interact with our children so that they will know you and love you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

learning obedience from suffering

Hebrews 5

These are some of the most profound verses to me, especially when I think about Jesus as the prototype for all of God's children:

7 While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. 8 Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. 9 In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Man, I wish there was an easier way.  Deep reverence - that's not bad; I can handle deep reverence.  Learning obedience through suffering?  How about learning obedience through jigsaw puzzles or arithmetic.  Even algebra or calculus.  But suffering?

I suppose that is REAL obedience.  No fooling anybody when obedience hurts.

Heavenly Father, I know that you are good and kind and just.  You are loving and merciful.  Thank you for your patience with me.  Thank you for the example of Christ for me to follow.  Lord Jesus, you are my example; please give me your mind - humble and not proud.  Lord, please help me be faithful to you, even through suffering.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Merciful and Faithful High Priest

Hebrews 2

I pray with a Brother over the phone on Monday mornings, and this morning, we both shared how we don't really know what to do in situations with our children.  His daughter is having a difficult time with school and family, and my oldest son is going through the "terrible twos".  We concluded that perhaps God is more concerned with how we go through these challenging situations than us figuring out exactly what we are supposed to do.  That is, He wants us to have the character of Christ.

 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Well, Jesus wasn't an earthly father, but He is called the Everlasting Father (, so I am sure that He understands parenting principles.  And the verse 18 quoted above indicates that he is familiar with our experience of suffering, so he can help us.

Heavenly Father, I know that you love us, and you care about the details of our lives.  Thank you for pouring out your love for us with Christ on the cross.  Thank you for restoring my relationship with you.  Lord, thank you for the opportunities to grow in the character of Christ.  Lord, please help me focus my mind on the spirit and not the flesh.  Lord, please give me peace and rest knowing that you are in control and taking care of me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

church leadership

Titus 1

(1) The apostolic mission:

1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. 2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.

"sent to proclaim faith ... and to teach ... godly lives"   (Note: eternal life could not be "promised [to us] before the world began" unless

(2) A pastoral role - appointing elders:

5 I left you on the island of Crete so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you.

(3) The lifestyle of an elder:

6 An elder must live a blameless life. He must be faithful to his wife, and his children must be believers who don't have a reputation for being wild or rebellious. 7 For an elder must live a blameless life. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered; he must not be a heavy drinker, violent, or dishonest with money. 8 Rather, he must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must love what is good. He must live wisely and be just. He must live a devout and disciplined life. 9 He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.

1 This is a trustworthy saying: "If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position." 2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. ...

As I think about what it means to be an elder, it is a sobering responsibility, but I think it involves a more invested participation in making disciples of Christ.

Heavenly Father, please use me as you see fit.  I want to serve your purpose.  Please help me continue growing in Christ and leading others to be disciples of Christ.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

a lifestyle of relational discipleship

2 Timothy 2

As the years go by, and I think about the commission of our Lord (Matt. 28:28-20), chapter 2 of 2 Timothy means more and more to me.

2 Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. 2 You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. 3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. ... 8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. ... 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. ... 15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. ... 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.  22 Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

I am thankful for Brothers (like Jon Houser and RF Pennington) who have shown me examples of what it looks like to live out these verses.

Heavenly Father, I want to be obedient to Christ, and I want to be used by you to make disciples.  Please help me focus on the important things and not get distracted by theological/spiritual knowledge, which can turn people into Pharisees.  I want to live a life of relational discipleship, being used by you in a cascade of disciples.  I love you, Lord.  Please help me focus my attention and heart on you only.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

limited atonement?

1 Timothy 4

The "L" in the "TULIP" of "Calvinism" stands for "Limited Atonement" (  I'm not sure that I understand the exact theological meaning of "Limited Atonement", but from what I have heard, the basic idea is that Jesus died only for those who believe.  But when I consider the following verses, it seems to me that Christ died for ALL:

John 3:16 "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

1 Tim. 4:10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy through Christ.  Lord, please help me share your good news with everyone, and help me be a disciple of Christ and make disciples of Christ.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Christ.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

great mystery

1 Timothy 3

16 Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:

   Christ was revealed in a human body
      and vindicated by the Spirit.
   He was seen by angels
      and announced to the nations.
   He was believed in throughout the world
      and taken to heaven in glory.

The term "mystery" does not mean that it is not understandable (Albert Barnes).  This is only a "mystery" in the sense that it was not revealed until Christ fulfilled it (1 Cor. 2:7).  Verse 16 provides a nice snapshot of Christ's deity and humanity, His ministry and mission on earth, and His eternal glory.

I want to participate in announcing to the nations and helping people believe throughout the world so that we can all spend eternity with Christ.

Heavenly Father, please help me be useful to advancing the Kingdom of Christ.  Lord, if you desire me to serve in a position as an elder or deacon, then please prepare me and my family for that spiritual responsibility.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 24, 2011

grace alone

1 Timothy 2

1 Tim. 1:14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. 15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.

1 Tim. 2:4 [God] wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

It is only by the grace of God that I know Him.  It is only by His grace that He saves me through Jesus Christ.  It is His grace that I have air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, shelter to live in, and a job to work.  It is His grace that I have a sweet wife who loves me and cares for me and our boys.  It is His grace that I have two healthy boys to train to follow Christ.  It is His grace that I have a local church to be connected to as we love God and love people together.

Heavenly Father, you are so kind and generous.  You are taking care of me, and I want to be grateful and thankful for how you have blessed me in Christ.  Lord, please use me; I want my life to be useful to you.   Please give me your joy and peace.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

sons of the light

1 Thess 5

5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don't belong to darkness and night. 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. 8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

 9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

We must let our light shine before men so that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in Heaven.  We are following the Light, and we are reflecting Him so that others may be drawn to Him and experience His mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, peace, joy, and hope.

Heavenly Father, please help me be sober-minded and focused clearly on you.  Though we walk in a dark world, please help us shine your light and lead others to experience your love.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spiritual viscosity

1 Thess. 3

In the study of fluid mechanics, viscosity is the property of the fluid which accounts for the transmission of the momentum of a small packet of fluid to it's adjacent neighbors. That is, viscosity quantifies the tendency of one packet of fluid to influence the speed of it's neighboring packets of fluid. For example, if a fluid has a very high viscosity, then the whole mass of fluid will tend to flow all together (like honey). However, if the viscosity is low, then some fluid may move quickly, while adjacent fluid moves slowly.

I think the communication to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ of our spiritual faithfulness to the Lord (i.e., "accountability") is spiritual viscosity:

So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith.  It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:7, 8 NLT)

It is essential that we communicate our faithfulness, as well as our struggles, to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  It is through this accountability that we can take care of each other and ensure that we all stay moving forward together.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the encouragement of my Brothers who are pursuing you faithfully.  Lord, please help me be an encouragement to my Brothers and Sisters.  Please help me walk with you and keep in step with you, and please help that rub off on the Brothers and Sisters that I am running this race with.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

live your lives in Him

Colossians 2

 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

In the church I grew up in, I feel like an enormous emphasis was placed on "accepting Jesus as Lord", but it didn't seem like there was a rigorous training on "continuing to live our lives in him".  I think you can teach about spiritual disciplines (e.g., praying, reading the Scriptures, meditating, praising, evangelizing, etc.), but unless they are practiced together with other Brothers and Sisters in a small group environment, I think they become more mechanical movements of a religion instead of an expression of the life of Christ in us.  I think I need to do a better job of living my life in Christ with His Body.

Heavenly Father, I want to be connected to you through Christ.  I want to be connected to Christ through your Holy Spirit and through the Body of Christ.  Lord, you have blessed me with some genuine Brothers and Sisters here; please help us walk with you all together.  We want to know you deeply and experience your love and grace together. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Colossians 1

Yesterday, I read Philippians 4, and I think I really need to focus on these verses for a while:

 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I have been pretty stressed and anxious about work, and I need to rejoice in the Lord and trust Him instead of worrying.  But it is not as easy as just saying it.  It truly requires a focus of the mind and heart.

I think verses 11-14 of Col. 1 reinforce where our peace comes from (i.e., focusing on God and His goodness instead of ourselves and our weakness):

 9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming us from death and sin and bringing us into your kingdom of light, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for forgiving us and empowering us through your Spirit to live a life worthy of you.  We want to please you and bear your good fruit so that others may taste and see that you are good.  Please strengthen us with endurance and patience so that we can run this race to finish and honor you.  Please deliver us from distractions and temptations; help us set our eyes and heart on Jesus Christ.  I love you, Lord.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, October 7, 2011

utilitarian perspective

Phil 1

OK, so it's not exactly utilitarianism, but I usually see my faith and my experience with Christ centered on me and for my benefit instead of centered on Christ and advancing His Church:

20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don't know which is better. 23I'm torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. ... 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.

Heavenly Father, please help me see my faith and my experience of you as a part of your plan where the focus is on Christ, not on me.  Lord Jesus, please help me see myself as your servant instead of you as my servant.  Lord, please help me see my life and death as beneficial to you and your Church, and help me live that way.  I love you, Lord.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

spiritual reality

Ephesians 6

 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Many times I get so busy that I forget about the spiritual reality.  It is easy for me to get so busy with my schedule and all of the stuff I need to accomplish that I forget that we are in an epic battle that counts for eternity.

Heavenly Father, please help me be aware of the spiritual reality, and please help me be prepared for spiritual battle.  Please deliver me from myself and empower me with your Holy Spirit so that I can be used by you to defeat the enemy and lead other people into a relationship with you for eternity.  I love you, Lord.  Please give me a sober and clear mind to see the importance of every hour of every day for eternity.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

children of God, children of the Light

Ephesians 5

 1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. ... 8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. ... 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don't act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

What does the Lord want me to do?  He wants us to love and worship Him, and love people.  He wants us to make disciples.  He wants us to not let the world corrupt us, but instead shine His light by consistently obeying the Spirit's leading in our lives.

For me, right now, I think I need to grow in joy and peace and not be so anxious and stressed.  I need to learn how to rest in God and trust Him.  I need to realign the focus of my life to honor God and follow Him.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your kindness and love.  Thank you for adopting me as your child.  Lord, I am a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, and the life of Christ is living in me.  Please help me die to myself daily and let the life of Christ fill me.  Holy Spirit, please sharpen my heart and mind to hear you and obey you.  I want to follow you, and I want to be used by you.  I love you, and I need you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

things that matter

Ephesians 4

I realized this morning that my mind is often focused on things that don't really matter in eternity.  I think these are some very important truths, things that do matter for eternity:

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

... 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Corporate and individual (though they are inextricable).  Unity with the Body, and unity with Christ.  Loving people, and loving God.  These are practical objectives/metrics for the Church.  Are we making disciples of Christ; am I living like a disciple of Christ? 

A disciple of Christ is a disciple-maker.

Heavenly Father, I love you.  Thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Holy Spirit, please empower me with inner strength today.  I want to be focused on the eternal things; I want to be focused on you.  Please help me love you and love people through my work.  I'm feeling a disconnect these days; please renew my understanding/vision of what my ministry is here so that I can express you for others to find you and walk with you.  Show me how to be a disciple maker and unity promoter here.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 3, 2011

eternal plan

Ephesians 3

I am so thankful for a healthy, beautiful baby boy.  The Lord has blessed us with our second son, Jude.  One of the reasons I liked the name Jude was for Jude 24-25:

 24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

This weekend, we drove up to Albuquerque to see the hot air balloon fiesta.  It was great!  Beau loved it.

When I read in Eph. 3 about God's mysterious, eternal plan being revealed and accomplished through Christ and His Church, I am both encouraged and overwhelmed.  As I consider the routine of my daily/weekly schedule, I feel like my life is not so eternal.

 12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence. ...

 14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I know that I should be maturing spiritually, and I should be growing closer to the Lord.  I want to experience these verses, but I feel pretty tired these days.  I feel like my tiredness precludes me from experiencing these verses.  I guess, sometimes I feel like that dusty maroon balloon we saw yesterday, struggling to get inflated and off the ground.  But I suppose that I simply have to trust that if I submit myself to the Lord's plan and timing, he will carry me home.

Heavenly Father, I love you, and I need you.  I am nothing without you.  I know that you have blessed me so abundantly with faith in Christ, a wonderful family, a great job, .... but sometimes, I feel like an old farm truck spinning it's tires.  Please help me make traction and move forward, or up, depending on the analogy.  I know you are working, and I know it is an opportunity to grow in my faith when I can't exactly see it, but it's tough sometimes, you know?  Holy Spirit, please empower me with inner strength, and lead my heart to rest in Christ and trust Him.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, my savior.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

spiritual weapons of the mind

2 Cor 10

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Arguments and pretensions against the knowledge of God - these are the strongholds which we must destroy.  Immoral and rebellious behaviors are related to our knowledge/experience of God.  If we really know Him personally, then we will fear Him and desire to be holy like He is holy.  For me, practically, I find one of the greatest activation energy barriers to be my flesh and this world resisting and diminishing my desire to know Him.  Apathy and pride seem to be immovable barricades against The Way.

What weapons do I have to demolish these arguments and pretensions that block my knowledge of God?

Heavenly Father, please help me desire to know you so that I can know you and walk with you.  I love you, Lord.  Please give me grace to love you totally and desire to know you only.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


2 Corinthians 4

On Sunday, Greg talked about worry and how it is a sin of distrusting the promises of God.  Last night, in our small group, I asked what the promises of God are.  Straight away, someone quoted Romans 8:28-29.  And then we discussed Matthew 6:25ff.  I mentioned something about the promise that God is preparing the Church as the Bride of Christ and we can share in His joy for eternity.  Then I read 2 Corinthians 4 this morning.

His light is shining through us cracked pots.  We are beat up in this world, but through suffering we share in the death of Christ so that His life comes through our lives.

 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, "I believed in God, so I spoke." 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God's grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the promises that you see and know everything, that you will accomplish justice, that you use everything (even pain and suffering) for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose.  Thank you for the hope of eternal life with you.  Please help me set my focus on you and not me.  I love you, and I want to serve you and walk with you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm a letter!

2 Corinthians 3

3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This "letter" is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.

I pray that the Lord will continue to use me as a letter on the hearts of the Brothers who have invested so much in me.  I was thinking this morning about our youth minister, Rick, who invested enormous amounts of time and energy into our spiritual growth.  And then Jason and Russ in college ministry.  And then Nate, David, and Mark in graduate school.

I believe that all of us are ministers of His new covenant:

4 We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. 5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 6 He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. ...

And we continue to minister to others and be ministered to by others so that together, we all grow to be more like Christ:

 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace.  Thank you for Brothers and Sisters who have poured into my life so that I can be more like you and be a blessing to others.  Please continue to use me as a spiritual letter of encouragement and discipleship.  I want to be used by you to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How do I smell?

2 Corinthians 2

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ's triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

 17 You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ's authority, knowing that God is watching us.

You know how some flowers are very fragrant, and others are pretty mild.  I want to clearly smell like Christ.  Perhaps I can't change how people respond to the smell, but I want to make sure that they smell it.  It seems to me that peace and joy are two of the most important factors in terms of how potent the fragrance is.

Heavenly Father, please help me see my life through your eyes so that I won't be so distracted by things that don't really matter in the long run.  Lord, please help me love you with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Lord, please give me your peace and joy so that others will be drawn to you.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you for your forgiveness and mercy.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, September 9, 2011

works, character, and purpose

1 Corinthians 14

I think these last three chapters are related:
  • 1 Cor. 12 - works: spiritual gifts and what we do with them
  • 1 Cor. 13 - character: who we are; people of faith, hope, and love (especially love because God is love)
  • 1 Cor. 14 - purpose: how we work, with peace and order so that we build up the Body of Christ
Heavenly Father, please help me use the spiritual gifts that you have given me to express your love in tangible ways so that the Body of Christ will be strengthened and expanded locally and globally.  I love you, and I want to be used for your purpose.  I want to enjoy you and walk with you.  Please help me focus the attitude of my heart on loving and enjoying you instead of focusing on responsibilities and expectations.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

gift/part of teaching?

1 Corinthians 12

7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. ... 27 All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it. 28 Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:

   first are apostles,
   second are prophets,
   third are teachers,
   then those who do miracles,
   those who have the gift of healing,
   those who can help others,
   those who have the gift of leadership,
   those who speak in unknown languages.

Is there a difference between a spiritual gift (v. 7) and a spiritual body part (v. 27-28)?  According to Strong's, the Greek word in v. 7 could be translated as manifestation/expression/bestowment, and the Greek word in v. 27 is member/limb/part.  Interesting.

I think the Spirit has given me a desire and gifting to teach.  So, how should I serve?

Heavenly Father, please help me see how you want to use me to serve the Body of Christ.  Lord, please guide me and use me to help build up the Body.  I love you, and I need you.  Thank you for your kindness to me. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


1 Corinthians 6

11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ... 19 Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

Holiness is so important, but we can't make it a prize above Christ.  We have to let Christ make us holy; we can't do it ourselves.

Heavenly Father, thank you for making me holy through Christ.  Lord, please continue to cleanse me and transform me by renewing my mind and purifying my heart.  I love you, and I want to walk with you. Please help me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

religion: case study

1 Corinthians 4

20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power.

I was invited by one of my students to attend the Islamic ceremony of breaking fast after sunset during Ramadan, and I had the opportunity to attend last night.  It was a very interesting experience.  First of all, I was very impressed with their hospitality and welcome.  Everyone was extremely friendly.  I was also impressed with the level of detail of their religion.  We removed our shoes at the door.  We started by washing our hands, face, arms, and feet.  Immediately after sunset, we ate dates and drank buttermilk.  Then we men went into a large room for prayer (the women have a separate room).  We stood side by side, with our feet shoulder-width apart and almost touching the next guy's.  We stood with our arms crossed, then we would kneel, prostrate, kneel, prostrate, and stand up again.  One person led the prayers, all in Arabic.  After prayer, we went upstairs for dinner (the women ate dinner separately).  It was a delicious Jordanian meal of rice and lamb, chicken, lentil soup, flatbread, and humus.  After dinner, I was invited to go sit with one of the leaders so he could explain to me the basics of Islam.  From my Christian perspective, the belief statements that impressed me were:
  • there is only one God, God Almighty
  • there is Paradise and Hell
  • we all come from Adam
  • Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus were all prophets of God Almighty
  • Mohammad is the last and final prophet
  • Jesus is only human (not God), but he will return (though I am not quite sure why)
  • we don't need Jesus to forgive us, only God forgives
  • we need to believe in the one, true God, and we need to be grateful to Him for all of His blessing/favor upon us
  • all of our deeds, both good and bad, will be recorded, and we will be judged (and it seems like if our good outweighs our bad, then we get to go to Paradise)
  • doing extra good deeds will result in more reward in Paradise
Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to better understand the perspective of Muslims.  Lord, I want to know the true path, and I want to be a person of kindness and peace so that others can see your light.  Lord Jesus, please reveal yourself to these friends of mine, and please use my time and conversation with them to communicate your amazing love for them.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 29, 2011

the mind of Christ

1 Cor. 3

1 Cor. 2:16 ... But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus

So, do I already have the mind of Christ, and I need to use it?  Or, do I need to get the mind of Christ? Maybe it is both.

Rom. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind ...

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ, anyway?  For all three of these passages, the focus is on the corporate body of Christ.  So, having His mind seems to mean having His attitude of selflessness and sacrificial service to building up the Body of Christ.  It means having a perspective of eternity.

Heavenly Father, please help me use the mind of Christ that you have given me.  Please help me grow by having my mind renewed.  I want to see from your perspective and act accordingly.  I love you, Lord.  Please help me live for you and not for myself.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

joy and peace

Romans 15:1-13

 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.

I am beginning to realize that my life is so empty without the joy and peace of the Lord.  I need to be finding my value and security in Him instead of my work.  I can't let the stresses and responsibilities of my work crowd out the enjoyment of the Lord.  I even need to let the joy and peace and power of the Holy Spirit infuse life into my work.

Heavenly Father, please give me your perspective, and help me enjoy you.  Lord, please help me see you and walk with you so that I can experience your joy and peace.  I love you, Lord.  Please anoint me with the power of the Holy Spirit so that you can overflow yourself into others.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Romans 14:12-23

17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. 19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

I've been working too hard recently.  I need to slow down.  I need to focus on goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  I've been too busy to really do that.

Heavenly Father, please deliver me from the stresses that I've allowed to creep into my heart.  Please help me focus on you and seek first your Kingdom and your righteousness.  Please help me live a life walking in the Holy Spirit so that your goodness, peace, and joy will flow through me.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Romans 12:9-21

As I read these verses, especially after the previous eight, it seems to me that it is more about having the character of Christ and practicing a way of life as opposed to a list of things that you need to do:

9 Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. ... 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. ... 17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Heavenly Father, I want to know you and be like you so that these things are second-nature to me.  Lord, I want to be in harmony with your Holy Spirit so that I will know exactly what to do in each circumstance.  Lord, please help me set my mind on the Spirit today, and anoint me to do your work.  I want to spend today with you.  Please help me keep my focus on you, and forgive me for being so easily distracted.  I love you, Lord. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Romans 12:1-8

 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Funny, it doesn't say anything about the way you should feel. 

I feel pretty dry, spiritually, these days.  I feel like I have allowed the anxiety of my work to crowd out the joy of my salvation.  I feel religious. 

But I want to feel alive.  I want to feel the pulse of Christ's spiritual heartbeat in the Church.

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Heavenly Father, I want to give you my body as a living and holy sacrifice, in honor of the Ultimate Sacrifice.  I want to worship you in spirit and in truth.  I want to turn away from the ways of this world and let you transform the way I think.  I want to know your will, and I want to show that it is good, pleasing, and perfect.  I love you, Lord.  Please help me meditate on you all day.  I want to know you, and I want to walk with you.  I want to be integrated into your body.  I love you, and I need you, Lord.  I am nothing apart from you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 12, 2011

righteousness by faith

Romans 9:17-33

30 What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God's standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. 31 But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. 32 Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.

Sadly, even the religion of Christianity can get in the way of people simply trusting God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace.  Lord, please help me not be religious.   I want to genuinely trust you and walk with you in faith.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of  Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

humanity and divinity

Romans 9:1-16

I just mentioned in our home group discussion last night the importance of the humanity and divinity of Jesus.

5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.

Verse 16 is humbling, sobering, and reassuring, all at the same time:

 16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.  Lord Jesus, thank you for becoming a human so that we could be saved.  Lord God, thank you for showing me mercy through the person and work of Jesus.  Thank you for giving me faith to believe in Him.  Lord, I want to be investing in your Kingdom every day.  Please help me set my mind on the Spirit today and walk with you so that you can use me and dispense yourself into others.  Lord, may the words of my mouth and the attitude of my heart be pleasing in your sight. You are my Lord, my God, and my Savior.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Romans 8:18-39

22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don't yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

Hope - waiting patiently and confidently.  I think that is a good definition.  I think it reinforces the marathon theme or hiking trek theme of the life of a disciple.  We need to keep moving forward steadily, stay hydrated, stay fueled, and stay with our Brothers and Sisters.  We are waiting expectantly for Christ to come get us (if we don't go meet Him first).

I think we will be blown away by how much glory there will be.  Like sunsets and lightning bolts.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your promises of taking care of us.  Thank you for your promises that we will be with you forever.  Lord, please help us see our current experiences in light of eternity, and please give us encouragement to see how the suffering that we are going through is small compared to how great it will be to be with you forever.  I love you, Lord, and I want to focus on living with you instead of being religious.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Spirit of God lives in the Believer!

Romans 8:1-17

 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,

I think Romans 8 is one of the most pointed passages in Scripture.  He has adopted us into His family, and He has given us power and zoe life.  We are delivered from sin and death eternally, and practically.  Practically, it is by setting your mind on the Spirit that we experience life and peace.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy.  Thank you for giving us your Spirit to live in us and move us.  Lord, please let me set my mind on the Spirit today so that your life and peace will flow through me into others.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Romans 5:1-11

So, the first couple of verses and the last verse of this half chapter are really cheery:

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory. ... 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

I was reflecting on these verses and thinking to myself, "Oh, well, isn't that nice!"  And then I re-read the guts:

 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

I'm still trying to figure out how (practically) to rejoice when we run into problems and trials.  Rejoicing is not typically my first response.  I think it has something to do with the Holy Spirit filling our hearts with his love.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Thank you for giving me faith and your peace so that I can be your friend instead of your enemy.  Holy Spirit, please fill my heart with your love, and teach me to respond to the adversities in life with joy because I have hope in you for salvation.  I love you, Lord, and I want to walk with you today.  Please guide me and lead me to walk with you.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Romans 4:13-25

16 So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.

What is faith?

17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, "I have made you the father of many nations." This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing. ... 20 Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. ... 24 assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me faith.  Lord, please help me grow in my faith like Abraham, and please teach me to count on your promises.  Lord, please use me to help grow the faith of others.   Lord, you are the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.  I can trust in you, and you will never let me down.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Romans 4:1-12

Visiting with my Brother Mark on the phone this morning, he reminded me of the importance of meditating on the Scriptures throughout the day.  I have got to implement a practical strategy of enjoying the Lord through His Word throughout the day.  It is the enjoyment of the Lord that is the practical salvation from the temptations of this world.

In response to those who insist that a Believer must be baptized in order to be saved, it seems to me that this paragraph explains that it is faith alone:

9Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

I'm certainly not trying to argue that you should not be baptized, but I do think that baptism is not required for justification (if you can actually separate justification from sanctification).

Heavenly Father, thank you for your forgiveness.  Please help me see how bad my sin is so that I can appreciate how amazing your love and mercy are.  Lord, please help me walk with you and enjoy you throughout the day, and deliver me from the stress of trying to be good enough for everyone else.  I only need to see myself as you see me - made in your image, and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

sobering reality

Romans 2
6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. ... 16 And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone's secret life.
It's easy to get busy with the details of your life and trying to keep track of everything when you are so busy, but the truth is that our time here is very brief, and we need to make sure that we're making every moment count for eternity.  With a humble heart and a clean conscience, I need to keep in step with the Spirit and take advantage of opportunities to share the truth of Jesus Christ with others.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Thank you for judging my sin on the Cross so that I can have your forgiveness and fellowship with you.  Lord, I want to keep on doing good and seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that you offer.  I love you, Lord, and today I want to keep my mind focused on you and your eternal reality.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

we still must preach the Gospel

Romans 1:18-32

 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

It might be tempting to read those verses and think that we don't have an obligation to preach the Gospel and make disciples, but the preceding two verses are essential:

 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Heavenly Father, you are glorious, and it is true that you have shown yourself through your creation.  But Lord, please help me use your creation as a platform for the Gospel.  Please help me preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully so that others will experience your forgiveness and love.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

serving Him in my spirit

Romans 1:1-17

9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, ...

What does it mean to serve God in my spirit?  Apparently, at least some aspect is accomplished in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, I want to serve you in my spirit.  I want to walk with you in the spirit; I want to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.  I love you, Lord.  Please, may I be faithful in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I pray in His name.

Monday, July 25, 2011

ministering to the Lord

Acts 28

Brother David in Austin pointed out this verse to me some time ago, and it still impresses me, especially the first part:

2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."(NASB)

Yesterday, I helped Beau put on his shoes before we went to church.  He got a big smile on his face, and without me saying anything, he went and found my shoes and brought them to me with the brightest eyes.  Based on the way my heart filled with joy in beholding my son thoughtfully and autonomously considering me, I imagine that "ministering to the Lord" is something like that.

Heavenly Father, I want to minister to you.  I want to think about you and what you desire in your Kingdom, and I want to joyfully work with you towards your goals.  I love you, Lord.  Please help me see you and walk with you today.  I love you, and I want to enjoy a day spent with you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thankful for my wife

I had a good prayer walk along the beach here in Miami this evening. I
feel more at peace. I am thankful for His grace through Christ. And
i'm thankful for His grace through Brandi in our marriage. She is
consistently so kind and compassionate to me, and she is such a
faithful wife, mother, and friend. I am so thankful for her
forgiveness. Every year I am impressed more and more how much was at
stake over a handful of years ago now. It kills me to think how close
I was to losing her and all the ways the Lord has blessed me through
her throughout my life. My life is so much better because of her.
Brandi is an incredible gift from the Lord, and I am sorry for how
much I take for granted. I sincerely want to be a better disciple,
husband, father, friend, and professor. I want to walk with the Lord
with joy and peace, and i want to be a vessel for Him to dispense
Himself into my family, friends, colleagues, and students. And I
especially want to be a servant to my wife.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the wonderful wife you have given me. I
know that she is a gift from you. Thank you for using her to teach me
your mercy and grace and steadfast love. Please continue to give her
patience with me as I learn and grow to be a better husband and
father. Lord, please help me show the love of Christ to Brandi, and
please help me show the love of the Father to our children. Please
use me to bless Brandi and serve her. Thank you for Brandi. I love
you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 18, 2011

following Christ

Acts 21

 12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."

I wish I was as determined to follow Christ as Paul was.  I also wish that I had as specific directions as Paul received.

Heavenly Father, please draw me to you.  Help me serve people the way you want to use me.  I love you, Lord, and I want to be closer to you.  I want to be useful in your Kingdom.  Please help me.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

making disciples

Acts 16

5 So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.

14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She was baptized along with other members of her household...

31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household." 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 ... Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

Make disciples of all nations... and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, Judea, and the rest of the world.

Do I have the mindset that Jesus has commissioned me to make disciples every day?

Heavenly Father, please help me seek first your Kingdom and your Righteousness.  I love you, Lord, and I want to invest my life in building your Kingdom.  I want others to know your love and mercy and experience your eternal life.  We need you, Lord.  Please use us for your glory.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

God's love for humanity

Acts 15

8 God knows people's hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus."

15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return
      and restore the fallen house of David.
   I will rebuild its ruins
      and restore it,
 17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord,
      including the Gentiles—
      all those I have called to be mine.

God has made a way for us to be reconnected to Him.  He has shown His love for us by sending Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and He has given us His own Holy Spirit.  He wants us to share this good news with others so that they may experience His expensive love.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love and care.  Thank you for sending Jesus.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit.  Please anoint me and empower me today with boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lord, please give me your perspective so that I can know your will and do it as I walk with you.  I love you, Lord, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Acts 14

I am so impressed with the persistence of Paul and Barnabas.  God called them to go and share the Gospel, and they did.  They persevered through riots and even being stoned.  They continued to preach the Gospel and make disciples.

I am reminded of Hebrews 12:

 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won't become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Heavenly Father, thank you for these examples of faith, and thank you for the example of Christ.  Lord, I want to obey you and run the race that you have marked out for me.  Lord, please give me wisdom to know what to do, and give me discernment to see what is of you and what is of my flesh.  Lord, may I be useful to you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

faithful preaching

Acts 9

In the first several chapters of Acts, many people believed in Jesus.  But some rejected Him.  Stephen was faithful to preach the truth.  But he was killed for faithfully preaching the Gospel.

Then Saul began a persecution campaign against the Church.  But the followers of Jesus continued to preach the truth about Christ.  Some were imprisoned and killed because of their faithful preaching.

After Saul was confronted by the Lord, he believed.  And he began preaching that Jesus is the Messiah, which caused several groups to plot his murder.

I wonder what it would look like if Believers in the US would be so bold.

Heavenly Father, please help me boldly preach the truth about Jesus.  I want to love you and follow you.  Please help me.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.