Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thursday Morning

Holy Lord,

  I pray that on this day I might have the wisdom to resist sin.  May I cling to you and see temptation as the snares of the devil, not worth pursuing but rather a reminder that I should flee to you, offering myself in worship and devotion to you.  Remind me of your grace, and how you relied on the Word to turn back the devil.  May I follow in your footsteps and do likewise!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Morning 4/28/2010

Dear God,

On this day, may the sunshine remind me of the way your victorious light burst forth from the tomb. May its warmth give me hope, may its light give me wisdom.

May the sounds of the birds remind me that all of creation is singing your name, and that this life is called to do the same.

May the beauty of the world remind me of your wisdom and overwhelming grace. May I bow low before your holy throne today, humbled in awe of all that you are.

I love you!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Hole in Our Gospel

  Want to be challenged?  Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, wrote the book for you!  The Hole in Our Gospel is an amazing tale of what happens when Christ leads.

  Richard Stearns was the CEO of Lenox China, the luxury tableware company.  From there he received an unexpected call, and though he fought it as much as he could, eventually he gave in and accepted the job as president of World Vision.

  To say it changed his life would be an understatement.  He went from Lenox China to places like Haiti and Uganda, seeing firsthand the devastation that is so common in our world.  He walked among the ruins of earthquakes and AIDS, and in doing so his heart saw the world, and our Gospel, in a new light.

  The hole in the Gospel Stearns refers to in the title is the lack of focus on social justice, particularly for those in foreign lands.  Stearns calls us to read the Gospels once more and realize that the prosperity Gospel has led us far from the message Christ preached.  When we read the Bible honestly and allow it to challenge us, we see a cry for those who love God to serve the least of these.

  Are we doing this?  Are we loving the least of these?  Are we serving those who live on $2 a day or less?  Do we recognize the need for clean water?  Stearns has plenty of statistics to astound, but more importantly he has stories, stories that will break your heart and ones that will gladden it.  Stearns has hope, for he sees the change the church can make when it puts its heart into it.  He is just hoping that more church members will do so, showing their love of God by loving their neighbors, even those in faraway lands.

Tuesday Morning

  Holy Lord,

  I rejoice in the gift of new life.  I laid my head down on my pillow and closed my eyes--in this act of faith you sustained me the entire night long, granting me the gift of today, that I might wake and see the world with new eyes, with a new heart.  As I wander into this new day, fill my soul with shouts of joy and thanksgiving, that this life might be a pleasant odor, a thankful sacrifice, to you.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Morning 4/26/2010

Holy Lord,

  On this first day of our week, lead me back to the tomb, that I might see that it is still empty, that hope still reigns.  I cannot possibly understand the emotions of those women on that first Easter morning, but I can know that your love encircles me and that I am invited to play a part in your redemptive story.  Thank you for your love, for your faith, for your strength.  Renew my heart once more, that I might follow you with passion and conviction.


Friday, April 23, 2010

The Blind Side

  I finally watched The Blind Side when Rachel's parents were in town.  Everyone I know had watched it, and they had all said it was amazing--we were simply waiting until it came out on Netflix.  It's hard for me to go to movie theaters and shell out $10 for a movie, especially when we're already paying for Netflix.  So we wait...

  It was amazing, just like I thought it would be.  The story of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family, with a lot of football thrown in.  Michael was the homeless, poor African American, the one who seemed to have been abandoned by most of the world and forgotten by much of the rest.  He was sleeping on a couch of a friend when a football coach noticed his athletic ability and got him admitted to a private Christian all white school.  The Tuohys figure out that he has nowhere to live and take him in, in the process being stretched in many different directions at once.

  I struggled with this movie for so many different reasons.  It's a great movie, one filled with sentimental moments and lines, all pieced into a great story about a young man overcoming adversity and becoming successful.  It's a great story about how the Tuohy family is stretched and confronts a world they didn't know.  And it forces us to ask a lot of questions about ourselves and society, some that, perhaps, we don't want to ask.

  What would have happened to Michael if he couldn't have played football?  Would he have been completely forgotten by the world, his talents wasted because he couldn't block?  Would anyone have noticed him?  What about all the kids like Michael who have somehow slipped through the cracks?  How are we failing them?  And how is our society still so divided between rich and poor?  Why are we not doing more to reach across these lines, to enrich all of our lives, to ensure that we all have the same hope?

  Is this movie going to cure the world's problems?  No.  But it's a touching story about how people can grow.  And hopefully it forces us to think about areas where we are sheltered and how we can grow in those directions.  Are we truly living the faith we proclaim?  And, if not, how can we grow?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wed Morning 4/21/2010

Gracious Lord,

  The pain in this world is crying out in volumes too loud for any Christian too ignore.  The hunger and the disease, the poverty and the war, each one afflicting thousands, millions, while we stand idly by.  Fill us with your Spirit, that our voices, that our efforts, might be spent in helping the world turn and face this crisis.  Make us not idle spectators in the conflicts of life, but rather agents of change, that we might go forth in your name proclaiming the hope and life we have in you.  Make us salt.  Make us light.  Make us your hands and feet, Lord.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Morning 4/20/2010

God of every good gift,

  Surround me with your grace this morning.  Thank you for the gift of rest, of sleep.  You are so gracious to me, a sinner.  Despite the countless times I have forgotten you, you never forget me.  You never depart or allow me to be separated from you.  Your love continues to abide, and your Spirit strengthens me for your service.  Tune my heart once more, that I might listen for the cries of a needy world, and might find new ways to serve your children today.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday Morning, 4/15/2010

Dear Lord,

  Your blood is such a gift, because in it we are made clean.  We kneel at the foot of the cross and watch as the first drops water the earth, water the soul, and as we marvel at the love you show the process of regeneration begins.  Somehow we are immersed in the blood of Christ and come out clean as the day we were born.  Somehow we are washed in the waters and come out still covered in Christ.  Somehow the guilt and shame are washed away and we are born anew in you, Lord God.  Thank you, Lord, from a gratitude too deep for words to capture.  Thank you.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress

Another book on the long list of books I should have read by now is John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress.  How did I make it so long without reading it?  I don't know.  There are an infinite number of people I could blame it on--but it simply was never assigned, and despite the fact that I have owned it for years, I never sat down and tried to read it until a few weeks ago.

When I finally did, I loved it.  Every page of it seemed so true to me--I found myself in so many of the characters, from Mr. Worldly Wiseman to Mr. Money-Love to Mr. Hold the World...and far too, rarely, to Christian, the hero of the story.  He has recognized the death that awaits those who do not seek God, and he fought his way to the Gate, that he might enter the path to life.

  Perhaps it is because Bunyan does such an excellent job of highlighting how difficult the Christian walk is, but this book just feels so true.  It feels like an excellent handbook for remembering to remain focused on Christ, in spite of every challenge we face, for it is worth it.  Christian continues to talk about the goal of his life, to worship Christ in the heavenly city--nothing shall distract him from this goal.  This book convicted me because it is so easy to become distracted from the end goal of our lives.  We forget that we are made for eternity, to live forever worshiping Christ.  Perhaps in our walk together, we might remind one another of the end, that it is truly just a beginning.  Christian does not walk alone, but is joined in his journey by his brother Faithful, just as we do not venture alone.  Each of us goes along the Way, stumbling at times but always centered on Christ our Savior.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just for Fun

Thursday Morning

Glorious God,

  This world is so much bigger than I am.  I cannot grasp it in my mind, or understand the ways that it works.  I see joy and pain, and I wonder why some have so much more pain than others.  I pray for those in West Virginia, whom are captive to fear and filled with grief and mourning.  I wish I could pray for miracles, but even those seem beyond hope right now.  I pray that you will be present, that your Spirit will abide, that your love will comfort.  I pray for hope, for light in the darkness, for the love only you can give. 
  It seems almost too much to ask in overwhelming circumstances, and yet too little as well.  I feel powerless, so I pray that your power will fill this world, that we might know your love and truth.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Scots Confession, Chapter XVII

The Immortality of Souls

The chosen departed are in peace, and rest from their labors; not that they sleep and are lost in oblivion as some fanatics hold, for they are delivered from all fear and torment, and all the temptations to which we and all God’s chosen are subject in this life, and because of which we are called the Kirk Militant. On the other hand, the reprobate and unfaithful departed have anguish, torment, and pain which cannot be expressed.  Neither the one nor the other is in such sleep that they feel no joy or torment, as is testified by Christ’s parable in St. Luke XVI, his words to the thief, and the words of the souls crying under the altar, “O Lord, thou that art righteous and just, how long shalt thou not revenge our blood upon those that dwell in the earth?”


  The proof of our faith in this comes only at death, when we pass through that shadow to discover the truth of the life in God that Christ has assured of us.  We are baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and due to grace, and grace alone, we have hope beyond death.

  This section brings up all sorts of questions--Do people go to hell?  What kind of life exists after death?  What kind of resurrected bodies do we have?  I don't have specific answers to these questions.  I do believe that hell is real and that people go there of their own desire to exist without God.  I do not believe there are streets paved with literal gold; I believe the glory of God makes gold look pale and cheap in comparison.  I believe life without God is miserable, and that all of our attempts to fill it up with idols is vain and empty.  But I don't know most of the answers to life after death.

  What I do know is that the Lord is righteous and just, and that through the grace of God that righteousness is imputed upon us.  Through the mercy of Christ on the cross, I have the promise of eternal life with God.  I don't know what this will look like.  I don't know what it will feel like.  I don't know what I will look like.  But I have faith that I will bow low before the throne of God, and for all of eternity will cry out, "Worthy is the Lamb!"

Wednesday Morning, 4/7/2010

Holy Lord,

  My unworthiness to worship you astounds me.  It seems as though the depth of my sin continues to infiltrate my every move, that even I can achieve pride in my decent acts.  Lord, I am completely dependent upon your love and grace.  Without you, I cannot begin to hope or dream of serving you.  My humble life is in your hands--use it to proclaim love to this world, that my life might bear witness to your resurrected son, Jesus Christ my Lord.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Up in the Air

  Rachel and I recently watched Up in the Air, a movie about a fiercely independent George Clooney firing people.  The story is that simple, and yet intensely complicated.  It delves into the range of human emotions, from the effect independence has on us to how fiercely we guard our hearts from others.

  I wouldn't recommend this movie for children, as it contains nudity and plenty of adult language & situations, but in the end, as unsatisfying as it is, I was left contemplating how important our human connections/interactions are.  We are made to live in community, and it is not good for us to be alone, as tempting as it is sometimes.  Relationships are hard work, and they take energy and time and emotions, but they are so very worth it.  I have seen the way that the church works, and it is beautiful to see people leaning on one another, in good times and in bad.  I cannot imagine life as the way Clooney lives it in this movie, completely independent, seeing relationships as too complex to be worth it.  I thrive on relationships, on connections with others, and this movie underscores how important they are to us.

Tuesday Morning 4/6/2010

Holy Lord,

  Thank you so much for your abiding love and grace.  I am amazed at all that you have done.  I stare into the empty tomb in wonder, trying to figure it all out, trying to wrap my mind around your love and grace, but I cannot comprehend such love.  It is too great for words.  I do the same with the babe in the tomb--it would have been so much easier to simply leave us to our sin, but you reached down from the heavens and touched us with grace.  Thank you.  May my entire life say thank you.


Monday, April 5, 2010

John Calvin: PIlgrim and Pastor

One of my goals for last year was to read more church history.  Well, I may be one year late, but I'm sure I can find something to blame it on...

Having finished Christianity's Dangerous Idea recently, I found this great little book on John Calvin called John Calvin:  Pilgrim and Pastor.  It's under 200 pages, which automatically prepares me to like it, and the author, W. Robert Godfrey, makes it very readable.

It's divided up into sections, some focusing on biographical information, most focused on his dealings and beliefs about Worship, the Sacraments, Predestination, etc.  Godfrey covers Calvin's life very well without feeling like giant pieces were left out for the sake of brevity. He puts Calvin in his context, ensuring that the reader understands the happenings of the times and the conflict that was alive and well in the church--one never feels lost in the book.  It is well-written, accessible, and generally enjoyable to read.  Perhaps I should have started my church history reading earlier...

Monday Morning, 4/5/2010

Thank you, Lord, for Easter.

It can be an exhausting day, but it is covered in grace.  From the first moments, when we gather to watch the sunrise, to the last, when I lay down my head and marvel at what it means to be saved, I am thrilled by your grace.

I try to understand what it all means, but I am swimming, lost without the ability to understand.  I am humbled by your power, by your wisdom.

I bow low before you, Lord, and pray that you might open my eyes, that I might see the best way to live so that you are glorified, that I choose the things you would choose, that I love the way you do, that I serve the way a grateful man should.  Transform me, that I might reflect your grace and love.

I love you


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

I just finished John Garvey's cheery little book, Death and the Rest of our Life.  This is not a book filled with laughs (or any laughs for that matter), but I had been carrying it around in my trunk (along with my golf shoes, a flashlight, a blanket and some Halloween decorations, in case you're curious what pastors have in their trunks) for some time and decided that Good Friday was as good as any other day to read it.

  It's not a bad little (89 pages) book.  It reflects on the ways we encounter death and asks how we deal with it.  Do we console ourselves with empty (and sometimes non-Christian) platitudes, refusing to confront the reality that everyone will eventually die?  Or do we accept the reality of our death and place our faith in resurrection?  Garvey urges us to take seriously the tragedy of death, but also not to avoid its coming.  While the unknown is natural to fear, in death we find something that promises more than we can ever have now.  In death we find the fullness of God.

It's a tough book to wrap your mind around, especially if you're reading it curled up on a couch with a cat stretched across your stomach, enveloped in the fullness of the blessings of life on a beautiful day, but death is an impending reality, whether I want to embrace it or not.

On Good Friday it becomes more real and yet less fearful.  On Good Friday we remember the death of a Savior, yet we see it through the lens of Easter Sunday.  Where, O Death, where is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?  (1 Cor. 15:55)  We still fear death because of the unknown, because it is the ultimate moment where our faith is put to the test, when we discover the answer to all of our deepest questions.  Yet in our fear we find comfort, because our Savior has done what we cannot do--He has gone to the depths of hell, experienced the pain of death, and returned to promise that death's power over us has been vanquished by God's love.  In this promise we find hope and life and wonder and joy, that through the veil of our tears on this sorrowful day we can rest assured that death is merely a shadow through which we pass before we are bathed in the full light of God.

So on Good Friday we remember with gratitude all that God has done.  We weep for sinful humanity, who has invented torturous deaths and was sinful enough to slay our Savior, but in the midst of our mourning we must remember that God was there in the middle of it, weeping for our sins while redeeming us all the while.  Thanks be to God who did not remain in the heavens but came down to dwell with us, that we might know God and share in God's triumph and glory over all created things.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday

Holy Lord,

  On this Thursday, so many years ago, you gathered with friends and loved ones to share in your last meal.  Even in this time of anguish, you were able to celebrate at the table with friends.  You shared in the feast, promising that you would not abandon us, even as the hour of your death drew near.
  I don't know how you focused on anything, knowing that the cross loomed close.  I don't know how you ate a meal, how you shared in fellowship, how you prayed.  But I am so grateful that you did.  Thank you, for love too strong to break, for compassion too deep for words.  Thank you, Lord, for your grace, love and peace.  May I always remember your love and grace.