Shine like Stars

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Philippians 2, Job 12-15

Philippians 2:14-15 – Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

Lord God, you’ve made me and formed me.  You brought me to faith and declared me to be a light in this dark world.  Simply because of your grace and your call I am a light in this world and you call me to shine like stars in this dark, crooked and twisted generation.  At yet, Lord, sometimes I wonder how brightly I shine.  I wonder how many times I have shed a dark light on you.  My life often preaches a sermon to the world and it isn’t often a good one.  My words and my way of speaking preach a sermon to the world and, sometimes, it doesn’t put you in a good light.  Forgive me.  Forgive me Lord and remove my guilt from me.  Then, Lord, help me and change me.  Give me an attitude and a heart like yours.  Transform me into your likeness, into your image that I might shine more brightly so that more and more people may know you and your Son, Jesus, whom you have sent.  Amen.

God will Finish.

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Philippians 1, Job 9-11

Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began and good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.

Lord God, my heart is stirred as I think about all the believers whom you have put in my path, my family members, my fellow-church members, and even other Christians with whom I walk in life.  Lord, what I want for them is what you want. I want them to be with you in heaven. I want you to finish your work in their life.  Make it happen, dear Jesus.  You started a good work in them when you brought faith to them through Word and water.  You started a good work in them when your Spirit raised them to life and gave them faith.  Finish it!  Finish it, dear Jesus.  Keep them in this faith until the day that you return.  Keep them in this faith, always believing in you, until the day that they breathe their last and lie in the dust of the earth.  Finish your work in me, dear Jesus, so that together with them I may stand with you on the last day.  Finish your work in us that we may enjoy an eternity of joys with you and at your right hand.  Do whatever it takes, dear Father, to save all of us and everyone else too. That’s your desire and I’m sure that you will do it.  Amen.

Spent.

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2 Corinthians 12-13, Job 6-8

2 Corinthians 12:15 – I will gladly spend and be spent for your souls.

Lord Jesus, you spent everything for me.  You spent sleepless nights praying for me, for your disciples, even for the world.  You spent restless and exhausting days serving people.  Even when you wanted to escape, to get away and rest, you couldn’t.  Even there the crowds hounded you.  You were abused.  You had no pillow, no place to lay your head.  You were even persecuted and put to death for me, yes, even for the whole world.  You gladly spent everything for me.  Jesus, help me to spend and be spent for the souls in my life today and every day.  Give me gladness and a cheerful spirit as I pour myself out for their good, yes, that whatever I do might aim for their salvation.  Give me a cheerful heart that loves to give and give and to give and never to ask what I might get in return.  Give me joy to serve and serve and serve and serve and never ask how it will turn out.  Give me Paul’s desire and spirit to totally exhaust myself and to spend all my energy and all my other resources too so that the souls whom I meet might be saved, even at my expense. I can do this, Lord, not because I am paying for their salvation, but because, with you, I desire their salvation and the good of their souls.  Give me wisdom and insight to do whatever it takes for them to be saved.  I am yours, Lord Jesus, to be used and to be used up for their salvation.  Use me however you will.  Amen.

I am Weak!

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2 Corinthians 11, Job 4-5

2 Corinthians 11:30 – If I must boast, I will boast about the things that show my weakness.

Lord Jesus, this is not the way it normally goes.  Normally, if I’m going to puff out my chest and strut like a rooster it’s because I’ve done something great.  Normally, it’s because I’ve achieve something remarkable.  Normally, it’s because I’m strong in some way. This is not the way it normally goes, but I think I understand why Paul says this.  He says it first for the sake of his own salvation and then for the sake of the Corinthians.  If Paul boast in his own weakness, then he must realize that you are his only hope.  And if Paul brags about his weakness, then his people must realize that you, Lord, are their only hope as well.  Lord God, highlight in my own eyes and in the eyes of the people in my life the weaknesses.  Highlight my sins for me and others, that I might find joy and peace in your forgiveness. Highlight my frailties and imperfections, that I might lean on you for strength for when I am weak, then I am strong. Highlight where I am lacking skill or gifts, that I might learn to rejoice in the body of Christ and lean on her to do what I am not skilled or gifted to do.  Highlight my weaknesses and teach me to boast in it so that all whom I meet will know that our only hope – both mine and theirs – is you alone.  Then, my weakness is truly something to boast about.  Then, my weakness becomes strength as all people, including myself, put our trust in you.  I am weak Lord.  Be the salvation for me and for all who sees my weaknesses.  Amen.

Plans

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Proverbs 19, Psalm 109

Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

O Lord, your plans stand forever.  Before the foundations of the earth were laid you planned the world’s salvation, even mine.  Even today, your plans are unfolding day by day.  Lord, thank you for the wisdom of your Word and the plans that your Spirit stirs in my as I consider your Word and look at my life, the callings in which you have placed me.  Give me wisdom from your Word so that my plans are according to your Word, your revealed will, and are not flowing from my own imaginations.  Give me wisdom then to make wise and good plans as I see you unfolding my life in front of me.  Help me to trust your unfolding of my life.  When it doesn’t unfold the way that I plan, teach me to trust you and rely on your working and guiding.  Your way is best.  My plans are only as good as they line up with your perfect will. But your purpose and your plan which overrides and overrules all of my plans will stand not just now, but forever.  Give me wisdom to submit to your purpose and plan.  Give me peace to trust your working and your guiding.  Amen.

God's Commendation

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2 Corinthians 10, Job 1-3

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 – Let the one who boasts, boast in the LORD.  For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Lord God, the temptation is always there for me.  It’s easy to recommend myself and to want to talk about my accomplishments and successes.  Even in private the temptation remains. I silently take pride and find confidence in the things that I’ve done.  I don’t just want to brag about things; I want to make my activities my boast and my claim before you. This is always a temptation.  But I am nothing.  My works are nothing.  Lord God, my commendation must come from. I have nothing to bring you, Lord, except sin.  Your blood must wash me. Your Son must clothe me. Your Spirit must fill me.  Your call must call me. Your strength must work in me. Your Word that comes from my mouth must.  You, Lord, my turn my dust into gold.  My only hope and boast is you.  Your Son, O Father, has sacrificed for me and has clothed me in his righteousness.  Your Spirit has called me – both to faith and to this calling in which I serve right now.  You, Father, have called me yours and have commended me to the world saying that I am your beloved Son whom you love.  You have put me where you want me when you want me there to do what you want me to do. It’s all you!  Father, help me find my confidence and my commendation in your grace and in your working in me alone.  Amen.

Above and Beyond

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2 Corinthians 8-9, Nehemiah 12-13

2 Corinthians 8:7 – But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this act of grace.

Lord God, you held nothing back when it came to loving me.  Though you had all things at your disposal and were rich, you gave it all up and held nothing back from me.  And you did all of that for me.  You gave up up your life, pouring out all of your life-blood for my salvation.  And there’s more.  Lord Jesus, you continue to give me grace in place of grace already given.  And you don’t just give a little bit, you give abundantly and extravagantly. You are over-the-top in your loving of me.  Fill me with your Spirit and help me to be just like you.  Help me to excel and abound in all that I do.  Forgive me for the times that I have done things half-heartedly.  And instead, help me to pursue you and your ways with reckless abandon, just throwing myself into it all.  Help me to excel in my believing and in my speaking.  Teach me to salt and pepper my every conversation with your Word and your truth. Fill me with more and more knowledge and an earnestness for the work to which you have called me.  Most of all, help me to abound in giving to others.  It’s easy to be stingy and closed-handed.  Lord God, move me by your love and promised care of me to give generously and with open hands to any and all who may need generosity from me.  Help me to be like you in this, dear Jesus.  Amen.

Remove Obstacles

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2 Corinthians 6:3-18, 2 Corinthians 7, Nehemiah 9-11

2 Corinthians 6:3 – We put no obstacles in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.

Lord God, I hear Paul say this and immediately I wonder to myself how many times I have put obstacles in the way of me serving other people.  I wonder how many times I have been the obstacle.  I wonder how many times what I say, how I say it, pushes people away.  I wonder how many times my dress or my mannerisms have been a stumbling block to people hearing me.  Lord God, teach me to love people like you did.  Help me, out of that deep love that you have for me, to remove all obstacles from the path of people hearing the gospel from me.  Help me get rid of any stumbling block that would hinder them from being served by me.  Lord God, there are obstacles that I cannot remove. I cannot make your gospel more palatable or pleasant to the ears of hard hearts.  Lord God, this is an obstacle that you alone, by your gospel, can remove.  Lord God, remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.  Open their hearts to hear the gospel and believe it.  Lord God, use me how you will so that your gospel is heard, hearts are softened and faith is worked.  I stand with you and do not want any to perish.  Help me get out of the way so that people might see you.  Amen.

We won't give up.

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2 Corinthians 4:1 – 6:2, Nehemiah 8

2 Corinthians 4:1 – Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

2 Corinthians 4:16 – So, we do not lose heart.

2 Corinthians 5:6 – So we are always of good courage.

Lord Jesus, grant me a spirit.  Give me a courage and a determination like his.  Give me a renewed heart and steadfast courage so that I remain confident and heartened no matter what happens with me, no matter what is going on in my life, and no matter how things appear to be going. O Lord, take not your Holy Spirit from me, but grant me your steadfast Spirit to sustain me.  Restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me strength and courage of spirit.  I need this, Lord, because it is so easy for me to lose heart and grow discouraged.   I am weak.  I often don’t get done what I set out to do, not because of laziness or laxity, but because it doesn’t work out the way I thought it might.  I am often attacked my temptations of discouragement by the Devil so that I just want to throw up my hands.  “What’s the point anyway,” he tempts me to think.  I face obstacles within my own heart.  I face obstacles from outside, even from people who are within the Christian family.  Lord Jesus, all of this hardship and difficult, it turns me back to you. Help me remember what Paul remembered when he was attacked like this.  Help me remember that the work of my calling is a mercy from you.  I am called to this only by your grace and mercy.  More than that, since you have called me to this calling, you will also be with me in this calling and you will equip me and strengthen me to fulfill this calling.  Help me to remember that all of this hardship is preparing me for an eternity with you and glory to come with it.  Help me to remember to lean on you in all my troubles.  These troubles highlight my weaknesses and my failures.  But more than that, these troubles spotlight your glory, power, might and love. Lift up my eyes, I pray O Lord, from these light and momentary troubles to the love that you have for me.  Turn my heart toward the power that is at work in me and is just as surely at work in this world.  Turn my mind to things above where you, O Jesus, are seated at God’s right hand.  And then, Lord Jesus, as I turn my heart and mind there, grant me your Spirit and a spirit like Paul’s so that I refuse to quit.  Amen. 

Am I enough?

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2 Corinthians 2:12-17, 2 Corinthians 3, Nehemiah 6-7

2 Corinthians 3:4-5 – Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.

Lord God, as I wake up this Monday I’m wondering if I am up for the task in front of me. Am I enough?  Do I have enough time?  Do I have enough energy?  Do I have the right skills, the right gifts?  Do I have enough strength?  And I know that I’ll be challenged by doubts from the Devil and from the challenges of others. They’ll ask, “Are you sure that this is where God wants you?  Are you sure that you’re up for this?”  Lord God, help me remember today that I am not enough for this.  I am not strong enough, smart enough, skilled enough, or good enough for this.  But you are. And you have put me here for these tasks and in these callings. Lord, I find my sufficiency in you.  You alone are enough for me.  Your righteousness makes perfect, holy, and good; I get to claim your reputation as my own. More than that, Lord God, you are the one who created me and formed me, just as I am.  And though sin has thoroughly corrupted my nature, that did not stop you from making me with the skills and abilities that you wanted me to have.  You have, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully formed me.  You created me just as you wanted me to be; you gave me the skills and abilities.  And then, in still another gift of grace and mercy, you have given me these callings in my life (as a father/mother, son/daughter, employee/employer, etc).  And that wasn’t by accident either.  You have called me to this and have commanded me to fill this calling.  Everything about my day today is put in front of me by you on purpose so that I might do the good works that you prepared in advance for me to do.  Am I enough for today?  By your grace and mercy, I am.  By your strength and power, you will support me and equip me to do it.  Lord, give me confidence because my sufficiency is from you.  Amen.

The Name

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Proverbs 18, Psalm 108

Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs to it and is safe.

Lord God, your name is holy and good.  Your name carries with it all the weight of your reputation.  Your name teaches me about your power and your might, your righteousness and justice.  Your name teaches me about your love and mercy, your grace and compassion.  Your name tells me everything about you.  O God, my name is nothing.  I have nothing to claim, nothing to cling to.  My name does tell a story about me, but it is a story of failure and sin.  It is a story of letting you and others down.  My reputation gives me nothing to boast about.  Because of this I’m constantly on the run because I’m trying to maintain, protect, and even build up a reputation.  I’m constantly trying to make people think I’m great and make them think that I’m great.  And I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of trying to prove myself.  I’m tired of trying to protect me name.  I’m tired of trying to cover up.  Lord God, I’m running to you and your name.  I’m going to hide in your name.  I’m going to run to you and your reputation and I’ll rest there.  Your reputation has become mine; I believe it and it’s true.  You have given me, Lord God, the reputation of your Son as my own.  All the good that he did, I get to claim as if I had actually done it.  The perfect life that he lived, I get to take credit for it through faith.  Here I am safe, Lord.  Protect and keep me safe by your name, the name that you gave me at my baptism.  Help me, Lord, to rest in your reputation that has been given to me in my baptism so that I’m not chasing or running any more.  Your name is mine.  Your reputation is mine.  Here, Lord, I find my rest and am safe.  Amen.

Tune your ear, O God.

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2 Corinthians 1, 2 Corinthians 2:1-11, Nehemiah 1-5

Nehemiah 1:11 – O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.

Lord God, Father in heaven, tune your ear to me.  I pray, listen to my prayer today.  I confess that I do not deserve for you to hear my prayer. I do not deserve for you to pay attention to a thing that I have to say.  But Father, for the sake of your Son, tune your ear to my cry and be attentive to my prayer for mercy. Your people in Houston, in Edna, in Victoria, in Louisiana and in Texas are hurting.  Their lives have been torn apart by the Hurricane and the flooding that followed.  Your people here in Fort Worth are hurting as their live are torn apart by sickness and sadness, by hardship and trouble in different but still painful ways. Your church on earth is torn apart by division and by false teaching, by selfishness and by apathy.  Hear our prayer, Father. We have sinned against you.  All of us. Not one of us has clean hands.  We do not deserve for you to hear our prayers, but Father, for the sake of your Son, hear us!  Tune your ear to our cries for mercy.  We pray provide help, healing and hope to all who were crushed by the storms of last week.  We pray provide the same for those who are crushed by the hard circumstances of their life.  We pray, heal your church by the gospel of Jesus, so that we are one church on earth as it already is in heaven.  Give success to me today in all that I do.  As I seek your kingdom and your righteousness today, dear Lord, give success and strength to my hands as I seek to alleviate some of the suffering of those around me.  Help me do this, dear Lord.  Amen.

Christian Up

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1 Corinthians 16, Ezra 9-10

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.

Lord God, it is so easy to grow listless and apathetic about our life and our work as Christians.  At least, it comes easy to me.  We’re doing battle against evil and we never seem to make much, if any, headway.  The battle seems to be never ending.  I’m tempted to throw up my hands in discouraged resignation.  More than that, I easily slip into a spiritual carelessness and apathy and I don’t even seem to notice or care about it. I stop caring about my own relationship with you. I stop caring about the eternal destinations of other people in my life or even in the world. I feel so helpless against it that sometimes I stop caring about their fate.  Lord God, this call final call to action by the apostle Paul in these letter are a call to me.  Help me hear his call and to follow through.  I pray, keep me awake, watchful, alert and standing firm in the faith. I will fall asleep as the disciples did in Gethsemane unless your Holy Spirit keeps me alert.  I pray, Lord, keep me alert to the spiritual dangers facing my soul. Keep me from apathy, acedia, and despair.  Help me keep my eyes on you, always believing and trusting in you.  Then, Lord, make me bold, courageous and strong in my life and work for you.  Keep me from a timidity and weakness that is not fitting for a man or woman of God.  Give me a godly confidence. And help me to do everything in love.  Lord God, I am yours.  Give me boldness and courage to live that truth out in my life.  Amen.

Not in Vain

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1 Corinthians 15:35-58, Ezra 7-8

1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the LORD your labor is not in vain.

Lord God, your resurrection brings me so much hope.  In this world when we are constantly facing death, constantly trying to put off and avoid death, I need this hope. In this world when we often seem to be beating back the wind, your resurrection brings meaning back to my every action.  My body is constantly decaying around me.  I can feel it in my bones, in my back, my joints, my ligaments.  My very body preaches to me about my coming demise.  My conscience also constantly reminds me of my sin and my failure.  It preaches to me about my sin and it’s punishment.  But your resurrection, Lord Jesus, reminds me that all of that has been undone.  My sin has been truly and fully paid for.  I am not in my sins because you are raised from the dead.  Death will not be the end of me.  It will be but a semicolon on an eternity with you.  Lord Jesus, fill my heart with resurrection confidence as I live today.  Remove the fear of death from my heart and give me joy to live for you.  And then, help me to overflow in your works and in your ways.  My time is not wasted when I use it for you. My effort is not wasted when I follow you and obey your will.  Help me to joyfully obey and follow you today.  Then, then I can be sure that my labor is not a beating back of the wind.  Give me, Lord, resurrection confidence as I live and work today.  Amen.

First Things.

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1 Corinthians 15:1-34, Ezra 3-6

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received from: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Lord God, one of the first things that Paul wanted the Corinthians to know in his ministry to them was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  That was the first thing out of his mouth.  That was the chief message to which Paul kept coming back to throughout his whole ministry among them, even in these letters he wrote them.  I pray, Lord God, help this simple gospel truth find a primary place in my heart and life.  It’s easy for me to focus on the things I should be doing. It’s easy for me to focus on my sins and failures, areas of growth in my own life.  Jesus, I pray that you send your Holy Spirit to me and plant this gospel truth deep in my heart so that this is the primary and chief thing in my heart and life.  This gospel truth reminds me not to worry about what I am to do, but on what you have done.  This gospel truth teaches me not to carry a weight of guilt, but to rejoice in guilt that is dealt with and gone.  All has been finished and done.  All my sin has been forgiven and forgotten.  All victory has been won and has been given to me.  Help this simple gospel truth overwhelm and overflow from my heart into every crevice of my life.  This is the first, middle, and end of all the truth I really need to know for my life now and my eternity forever.  Amen.

Gifts from the Spirit

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1 Corinthians 14, Ezra 1-2

1 Corinthians 14:12 – So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

O Spirit, I long for your gifts. I want to be an evangelist like Paul.  I want to be a speaker like Peter.  I want to be more compassionate. I want to be able to give more to those in need.  I want to be better at all those things and more.  I long for your fruits.  I long, O Spirit of God, to be full of love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, gentleness and self-control.  Pour yourself out on me, O Holy Spirit, by your holy Word that I might be gifted by you in just the right way to serve as a member of Christ’s body. Make me the best body part I can be. And, I pray, also teach me contentment and even joy to serve with the gifts you have given me.  Help me find joy in who you have made me to be and how you have gifted me to serve.  And whatever gifts you have given me, O Spirit, help me to use them to build up the body of Christ, to strength and edify her, so that all of us are growing up into Christ, who is our head. Pour yourself out on me, O Spirit, that I might be part of the way you build up the church.  Amen.

Chorus

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Proverbs 17, Psalm 107

Psalm 107:8 – Let them give thanks to the LORD for his faithful love and his wonderful works for the human race.

Lord God, this is a constant refrain and chorus in my life.  This is a constant refrain throughout the history of the world, and especially in the history of your people.  They were lost.  We were oppressed and burdened.  We were in trouble.  And you heard our cry and answered.  You have been at work to save the human race from before the first people sinned.  You have been working to save and rescue me even before my heart gave its first beat.  Teach me to give thanks for your work in my life and in the lives of all humanity.  You are a good Father who rescues your people, yes, all people.  Let this be the refrain and chorus of my life: “I was in trouble and you rescued me.   They were in trouble and you saved them.” Amen.

Persistent

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31, 1 Corinthians 13, 2 Chronicles 34-36

2 Chronicles 36:15 – The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because of his compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.

Lord God, you are slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.  You show your faithfulness to generations of peoples even when they are faithless and rebellious against you.  Your patience with your people of Israel is shocking, really.  Their story reads the same on page after page.  Even with the most faithful kings there is an asterisk about their faithlessness and their turning away from. But you are persistent and you keep on sending prophets and pastors to them. You keep on sending them, even though they sometimes even beat, persecute and kill your prophets. You keep on persistently sending them because you love your people whom you bought with the blood of your Son.  Oh God, your faithfulness and persistence with people of this generation is just as shocking.  The godlessness and even false teaching that abounds on earth surely must sicken you.  Yet, you continue to send out your truth persistently.  O God, first, I ask help me to know the truth and listen to it when it come through your messengers.   Protect me from false teaching and false believing and help me to listen to the truth when it comes.  Then, God, make me one of those faithful messengers tho keep on going on with the message of your word and the comfort of your gospel out into the world. Help me shine like a light in this dark place.  Make me as persistent with your Word and your Gospel as you are.  Amen.

More Help

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1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 2 Chronicles 32-33

2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him.  With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.

Lord God, I’m seeing a theme among the kings of Israel, a lack of trust that shows up in so many ways.  Instead of trusting you, they trust their own military might; they seek out help from other kings and armies; sometimes – as here – they freak out and panic.  Though my battles may look very different from theirs since I’ve never been to war, I face the same issues of faithlessness.  I trust my own planning and ingenuity.  I trust other people to rescue, help, and heal me from the challenges of life and the sicknesses that come.  Or sometimes I just panic.  I do all of that, Lord, because I don’t trust you. Lord God, what a comforting word you leave here for your people and your king – “there are more with us than with him.”  O God, this word draws me closer to you.  It reminds me that you are on my side. You remind me that you are by my side and in my struggle with me.  It is not me against life, it is US.  And it’s not just you and me, there are so many more on OUR side. There is a countless angel host all around us, in this battle on our side.  Whatever I am up against, Lord God help me to remember to trust you first, middle, and last.  You are on my side. You proved it to me when your Son, suffered and died on the cross.  You proved your might when he was raised from the dead.  Nothing can stop you.  All victory was won by you. Help me, yes, teach me to trust you all the time.  You, along with all your angel host, are on my side and are with my on the plain.  Amen.

Advantage Them

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1 Corinthians 10:23 – 11:34; 2 Chronicles 29-31

1 Corinthians 10:32-33 – Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I seek to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Lord Jesus, Paul sets a high bar for balancing love and freedom.  I feel the tension.  I rejoice, Lord God, in the absolute freedom that you’ve given me.  There is nothing that I owe to you.  Your Son, Jesus, has paid the whole debt that I owed.  He was punished in my place and for my sin.  He has completely satisfied your anger and appeased your wrath.  There is nothing I owe you.  I am absolutely free now to live without rules and compulsion.  I am free and it is permissible to me to do anything that is not sinful. I can do anything, anything at all, that you have not called sin.  But, Lord God, this does not mean that I will. Though I may be free to do, this does not mean that it is loving to do it.  Love for you and love for all the other people in my life tempers my freedom.  I’m thinking about the people with whom I go to church.  I want them to be saved and I want what is for their advantage.  I’m thinking about the people who don’t go to a Christian church, who have been offended by the Christian church before, who have no idea what Christianity is all about.  I want them to know Jesus and to be saved by him.  I especially want what is for their good and salvation.  Lord God, this introduces a tension into my heart and life. What’s good for the lost may introduce trouble for the found. What’s good for the found may cause stumbling for the lost. Ach, Gott! This is hard! Give me wisdom to walk the tightrope between love for the lost and love for found.  Give me wisdom to know what to do and when to do it.  Give me wisdom to show love in any and every situation.  Keep me from giving moral offense and causing those who are in the faith to stumble and fall from it.  Keep me from giving offense to those who are not yet in the faith so that they are not drawn to it, but rather are pushed from it. Lord God, help me draw people to you by my life and by my exercise of my Christian freedom.  Amen.