Wednesday, April 30, 2008

serve with joy

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy....
Galatians 5:22, CSB


Father, you are a God of joy. You delight in your creation. You created the universe and declared it good, and created mankind and declared your entire creation very good. Then, you entered your rest in joy.

You command your people to serve you with joy and you disciplined Israel when they did not follow you with joy (Dt 28). And you sent Jesus so that our lives might be made joyful (Lk 2:10; Jn 10:10). Those who are called by you accept your good news with joy (1 Thes 1:6).

All of heaven rejoices when one of your lost sheep in found (Lk 15:7-10) because you are a God of mercy and forgiveness, and in that your people rejoice, too. Jesus' disciples wept at his death, but that sadness and distress was replaced with joy at the news that he had risen (Jn 16:20; Mt 28:8). And our joy in Jesus' triumph can never be diminished (Jn 16:22)!

Father, I can approach you and ask for your blessing because you want to make my joy complete (Jn 16:24).

May the members of your church encourage each other and bring joy to each other (Ro 15:32). May your church realize that we are united together by your Spirit through your gospel. May we take seriously our calling to be a family and to look out for each other and pursue each other's joy. May your church, in joy, reach out a helping hand to those in need (2 Cor 8:2). May our joy overflow into service for others and may our service overflow into thanksgiving to you (2 Cor 9).

Father, may I come to truly know and grasp the wealth of your love and the joy you offer. May I take hold of that joy and live my life with passion, knowing that you alone are my ultimate source of joy and that I can count on your power. May I enjoy the freedom you have given me in Christ.

May I find joy in praying for the needs of others and for your glory (Php 1:4). May I find joy in evangelism, sharing your glory and love with others (Php 1:25). May I rejoice in any loss I may suffer for your name (He 10:34) and may any loss I suffer be for your name (1 Pet 2:20).

Father, let me truly experience the joy that can only come from knowing you and experiencing your blessing on my life. May joy overflow from my life so that I live every moment rejoicing in you, praising you, and demonstrating your goodness to the world around me.

I have confidence asking all this because you, who gave your son Jesus for my joy, will not hold back anything that is best for my joy. May your will be done. Amen.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

justice throughout the land

"LORD my God, You have now made Your servant king in my father David's place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. Your servant is among Your people You have chosen, a people too numerous to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"
Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this. So God said to him, "Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to understand justice, I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again.

1 Kings 3:7-12, CSB


Father, I just read of yet another man freed from prison after DNA evidence cleared his name. 27 years in prison; I cannot imagine it. Father, I praise you for those who seek justice in this world. I ask you to bless the work of Project Innocence and help them right injustices throughout our nation. And, father, I plead that your church--your people called by your name for your glory--would take up the cause of justice in our nation. May we cry out for truth to be known.

Many times, your people are loud about injustices, such as abortion. And I am thankful that your people are active in that cause. But I pray that we would defend all those who are innocent, children and adults. Injustice anywhere cannot be tolerated. You are a just God; may your church raise up your banner and fight for justice, too.

And I pray for James Woodard and all the other innocent men freed from prison. Father, bless them and help them forgive. And help them as they transition back into society. For those who know you and love you, may they rejoice in knowing you are in control. Just as you were in control when Joseph was enslaved, and you meant for good to come from that evil, you are in control in events happening today. May those victims of injustice who know you also know that you work all things for the good of those who love you. And for those who do not know you, open their hearts to your word so that they may see, though they were incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, you offer them forgiveness and redemption for the crimes they did commit.

I ask these things in the name of Jesus, my advocate against the adversary. Amen.


But the fruit of the Spirit is love....
Galatians 5:22, CSB


Father, you are love. In your love, you created mankind and blessed us. You made us in your own image to enjoy your forever. In love, you promised redemption to the first people who sinned against you. In love, you called Abram and gave him a new name; you gave him a son by your promise, and you made a great nation from him. In love, you sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of your people. In love, you brought Moses back to Egypt to lead your people into the Promised Land. In love, you bore with the Hebrews' grumbling through the desert. In love, you disciplined your people, even to the point of letting them be taken into captivity; but in love, you brought your people back to the Promised Land. In love, you sent prophets to your people and told them to look forward to your promised one. And when the time was right, you demonstrated your love to us by sending Jesus to live a perfect life and die a sinner's death, but then raised him from the dead and, through him, brought eternal life to all those who are called by you.

And to those you called, you have given your Holy Spirit to change our hearts so that we may love you and love like you. You changed John from a zealous youth who wanted to call down fire from heaven to kill the Samaritans into an elder whose heart was on fire for the cause of your mission. You changed Paul from a self-righteous Pharisee who sought the destruction of your church into a man who was willing to sacrifice his entire life for the cause of helping lose people find their home in your church. You have continued to change lives throughout history. You changed John Newton from the captain of a slave ship into a minister who stood amazed at the grace that saved a wretch like him. You changed George Muller from an rebellious sinner into a sinner saved by grace desiring nothing more than to show the world that you are faithful and can be trusted in everything.

Father, my I come to truly understand your love. May your love fill my heart and overflow from my soul. May your Spirit pour out your love into the hearts of your people so that your church would truly be known for the love it shows.

Father, teach us to love our enemies and give us the strength to put the needs of others above our own needs. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Give us a desire to ease the suffering of others and to heal their wounds.

Instead of loving you and loving what you love, our sinful nature leads us to love our own honor. We seek our own power and want to use that power over others. But, true love is a willingness to give our own lives in the service of others, just as Jesus willingly gave his life for us. Teach us to love.

Father, I pray that I would love you with my heart, all my soul, all my strength and my mind. And may that be true of everyone in your church.

I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen

Monday, April 28, 2008

obliterated from the earth

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh. Tell him: This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews says: Let My people go, so that they may worship Me. Otherwise, I am going to send all My plagues against you, your officials, and your people. Then you will know there is no one like Me in all the earth. By now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague, and you would have been obliterated from the earth. However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you My power and to make My name known in all the earth.
Exodus 9:13-16, CSB


How great is the patience of God? Father, you are in complete control over the universe and you sustain everything that exists. Nothing exists without you. At any moment, you can take a life or destroy an entire civilization. Yet, you bear patiently with humanity, even though we constantly rebel against you. We, who depend on you for our very lives, try in futility to live our lives apart from you. We try to make ourselves into gods and act as if we have control or knowledge. And though we live this way, you have not destroyed us. Instead, you speak to us. You teach us. You forgive us by the life, death and resurrection of your son, Jesus. How great is our God!

You do more than spare our lives. You have even gone beyond forgiving our sins and pardoning us for our rebellion. You have adopted us as your children and made us heirs with Christ of your eternal fortune that we will enjoy in heaven for ever. And you, God, who gave us your son, will be faithful and kind to supply us with our every need so that we may bring you glory.

Father, I pray that you would bless Charlotte and help Jennifer and me as we teach her to love you and live her life for you. Through your Spirit, father, call her and give her a heart for you.

Bless my church, father, and help us live as a community of your people; help us encourage one another and be salt and light among our neighbors.

And guide me and teach me so that I may know you better and live the glorious life you desire for your people.

And I ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

swimming in a septic tank

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan: "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! May the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn't this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"
Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel. So He spoke to those standing before Him, "Take off his filthy clothes!" Then He said to him, "See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes."

Zechariah 3:1-4, CSB

Note: The Hebrew term for "filthy" means his clothes were dripping with human waste, as if he had been swimming in a septic tank. There the high priest stood before God with the sight and smell of human waste covering his entire body. That is the disgusting reality of our sin in the eyes of God.


Oh Father, Yahweh, the personal and real, omniscient and omnipotent God who created and sustains everything, how amazing it is that you tolerate the awful sinfulness of mankind! Even Joshua, the high priest of Israel who helped rebuild the nation with Ezra and Nehemiah was a disgusting mess of sin in your eyes. Even the righteous acts of man are filth to you (Is 64:6). What hope can mankind have apart from you? None, there is no hope apart from you. May your people praise your name throughout the whole earth because you are merciful and gracious, loving and patient with us.

You did not leave Joshua, or your people, covered in such filth. But, through Jesus, you cleansed us--washed away all the sin leaving not a single toxic E. coli behind, and gave us heavenly clothing. You gave us the clothing of the priesthood and use as a nation of priests to minister to each other and to the lost and dying world.

I celebrate you God and your Servant, the Branch of David who you sent to be the propitiation for the sins of your people; you turned away your wrath from your people by the stone the builders rejected. And for others, the stone has become a stumbling block. Father, I pray that through your Spirit, people stumbling over Jesus right now would have their hearts opened and would hear the calling of their Shepherd. And I pray your people, as priests, would preach your good news and take your word to their neighbors and their enemies--making brothers and sisters out of both.

Bless your people and give us wisdom, strength, courage and love to turn the world upside down in your name, for your glory. Use us to bring justice and peace to our communities. May your people stand up and loudly reject the evils of our societies.

May your church serve as a witness to the preciousness of marriage; may our marriages serve as examples of love, forgiveness, faithfulness and godliness. May we recognize that what God has joined no man can separate.

May your church fight for justice and defend those who are oppressed. Father, I pray for Mohammed Maree and the political prisoners in Egypt and other repressive nations. Bring freedom and human dignity to those nations, but most importantly, bring your Spirit and your name to those nations; may the people in Egypt, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, and every nation in the world hear your truth and find freedom in you. Father, I especially pray for those prisoners who are suffering specifically for your name. Bless Li M and the prisoners of China; bless your church in China as that nations increases its injustices leading up to the Olympics. I pray for your missionaries in China and throughout Asia. I pray for M and the team working among the Muslim people. Continue to bless their ministry and bring fruit to their work. And I pray for those who have come to know your through their work; give them comfort as they battle the spiritual forces that rise against them when they give themselves to you. May your word fall on good soil and yield healthy crops.

Thank you for all you do for your people. You bless us in innumerable ways and forgive incalculable sins. May we rejoice always in your greatness.

I ask all this and praise you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

thrown from the nest

"...On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.... So those who were scattered went on their way proclaiming the message of good news. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and preached the Messiah to them.... So there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:1,4,5,8 CSB)

Sometimes God's plan requires his people to be pushed from their homes, neighbors, friends and jobs into unfamiliar territory--even uncomfortable territory. The first Christians were Jews, and as Acts details for us later in the story, they were not initially interested in sharing the good news with the non-Jewish world. So, how did God bring the good news to the Samaritans and many other communities? He allowed one of the most prominent Christians to be murdered, and he allowed persecution that caused the new believers to flee for their lives. And through that, he brought great joy to people everywhere.


Father, how amazing it is to realize that your ways are not my ways; your ways are greater than my ways. I cannot even fathom your providence that is so great you planned out redemption from the beginning of time and made it happen exactly according to every promise. No plan of yours can be thwarted and you frustrate the plans of those who fight against you. You used Paul's murderous rage to spread your good news and then you grabbed hold of Paul, changed his heart, saved him from his sin, and used him to spread your good news. You changed him so much that toward the end of his life, after immense suffering, he was able to say he could rejoice in living for your glory and proclaiming your name among the Gentiles, or he could just as readily rejoice in his own death because of his faith that death is no more than a gate on his path to eternal joy with you.

Father, I thank you for the witness of those who have lived before me and did so with a Spirit-filled love for your glory. Give me such a passion for your glory that I, too, could celebrate in living to proclaim your name or dying to be with you.

And father, I ask that you would bless your people throughout the world. Give us strength and courage, wisdom and faith, to live for you.

Bless Marsha and heal her arm. Show your mercy and care.
Bless the family of Ernie at this time after the death of his mother. Comfort those in the family who know you and love you; change the hearts of those who do not yet know you.
Bless Rhonda and meet her needs as only you can.
Be with Frank's parents and care for their health.
Work in Frank's heart and show him that he is lost without you; you are his only hope and salvation.
Bless all those affected by the tornado in Tennessee. Work through your people in that community to show your love and compassion.
Bless Myrna as she struggles to get her new home completed.

Father, give me the wisdom and spiritual maturity to lead my family to glorify you. Work in my heart to give me a true passion for you. I pray that you would bless my marriage; bring Jennifer and I closer together and help us, through our marriage, demonstrate to the world the mystery of Christ and his church. Bless Charlotte and help us be godly parents; help us raise her to know you and love you.

I ask all these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

living in postmodernism

There is a new viral video spreading through the Net called The Story of Stuff. Its topic is the ecological impact of our Western (especially American) consumerist culture. Since I'm teaching ecology right now, I decided to watch it. After fighting the urge to throw my computer, I decided to show the video to my students, and then after they all built up their rage against the machine of the military-industrial complex, I would show them the truth--how the film uses typical propaganda techniques to mislead viewers into thinking that corporate America is secretly trying to poison us all while driving polar bears into extinction.

Some of my students--the most liberal and least studious--actually became upset with me. They said it was not important to them whether every detail was true; they still agreed with the message of the video. And they said it was wrong of me to point out the lies in a video that encouraged people to be more environmental because by pointing out those lies, I might actually discourage environmentalism, which apparently is good enough in itself to justify lies used to justify environmentalism. Finally, they said that even though I had shown lies in the film, it was possible that someone else could maybe show lies in what I was saying, and their conclusion from that possibility is that since they can't trust anyone, they'll just stick with the message they personally like the most.

Postmodernism at work. Truth probably doesn't exist, and it's not worth investigating its existence because even if it does exist, it wouldn't be a significant consideration.


"Do not give false testimony against your neighbor." Exodus 20:16, CSB
This includes lies about the evils of Wal-Mart.

Father, I am so glad that you are truthful. I am so glad that I can learn your promises and build my life on faith that you never break your promises and that you accomplish everything you desire. I am so glad that I do not have to rely on my own wisdom to control the future; I can rely on your sovereign authority to make all things work for my good.

Father, when people reject truth, they reject you. When they reject truth, they reject your authority. When they reject truth, they reject their own sin. When they reject truth, they reject the validity of Jesus' death as the satisfaction of your righteous judgement and as the tearing of the temple curtains that separated your people from your presence.

Father, may the young people of the world see the lies surrounding them and see the truth of your word. May the young people of the world come to be freed by the truth. May your light shine in the darkness of the relativism, arrogance and apathy.

May your name by glorified and may your people, who you chose from the beginning of time, hear your voice and follow your commands to take your truth throughout the world.

I ask this is the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Yahweh is my God

I was preparing to teach a Bible study on Genesis 3 and I noticed something about the name of God. Much has been made in the past about the change in names between Gen 1 and Gen 2-3, from simply "God," to "the LORD God," but I saw something different. Gen 3 generally uses "the LORD God," referencing both the majestic, powerful, Creator Elohim ("God") of Gen 1 and the personal Yahweh ("LORD") of those called into his covenant. But, the serpent of Gen 3--Satan--only refers to "God." Satan does not use the personal name of God. And in answering the serpent's questions, Eve only refers to "God." Then, the serpent is even able to tell the woman that she can be like elohim, a term also used to describe angels and even earthly rulers. While she could never be like Yahweh, the serpent never claims she could be. And in her desire to be wise, she forgets the love and care of Yahweh.


Father, I praise you for not only being the Creator of the universe, which by itself makes you more worthy of praise than anything in creation, but I praise you for giving your people your name, Yahweh, by which we know you and live in a relationship with you. May your people always remember that we not only have a God who is in control, but we have a God who has chosen to love us, covenant with us, provide for us, disciple us, protect us, and forgive us. We have a God who knew from the beginning how things would end and from the beginning promised his people that you would make a way to restore us to what we destroyed. May your people look forward with hope and faith to the day when we are welcomed into your city and led back to the tree of life.

I praise you in Jesus' name. Amen.