Our thoughts and Prayers (Make it meaningful)

Have you ever said, ‘I’ll prayer for you’ or ‘you’re in my thoughts and prayers’? Today this phrase has come under attack in the news, on social media and even with the younger generations. The attack isn’t that the phrase is inherently evil or bad but rather it’s seen as a cop out by many for a lack of action to change or deal with the problems in our world today. Yet we know that prayer changes hearts, thoughts and even bringing good out of troubling situations so I thought I would spend a little time in this week’s blog talking about how we can bring back meaning to the phrase ‘I’ll be praying for you’.

First thing first, it goes without saying (or maybe it needs to be said), but if you say you are going to pray for someone, do it. One of the best ways of going about this is by praying for them right then and there when you are talking to them. Another helpful way is by writing it down and placing it somewhere you see it on a daily basis (you can keep a journal, place the name and need in the place you do your daily devotions).  You can also put it in as a reminder on your phone to pray each day for the person. Whatever helps you to remember to pray, do it because as Jesus said, ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no’. Our word as Christians are important to keep.

Second thing, pray for God’s will in the situation. This is a little harder because you may not be aware at first of what God’s will may be for the one, you’re praying. Yes, they may have shared what they would like the outcome to be and the need they shared, but it may not be the will God has for that situation. So, if it seems the prayer isn’t being answered as you have been praying, start praying for God to show you how He wants you to pray. Pray the Holy Spirit will help you understand what is going on in that individual’s life and what they truly need. As God speaks, pray as He shows you.

Third, follow up with the one you are praying for if possible. Keeping informed is important so that as the situation changes you can change your prayers. This also let’s the one you are praying for know you are praying and that you do care.  The knowledge that your prayers are being lifted up can be an uplifting thought for the one who is being prayed for. By talking with the individual from time to time you can know when God has answered the prayer and you can celebrate with the one whose prayer has been fulfilled.

Finally, when the situation calls for you to act, take action. God uses us all to be His agents of grace in the world around us. There are situations that He brings before us so that we can be His hands and feet. As we pray for someone, ask and listen to God to see if He might want us to be an active role in helping those we are praying for. God will always equip us with what we need when He calls us to action. Keep praying but when God says move, get moving.

Prayer is important. For us prayer is our first and most powerful way we can help others (not our last resort). As we pray let God lead us in our words and actions in how we may be able to help. Pray constantly and from the heart. If we do this, then our ‘I’ll pray for you’ will mean more than anything else to those God puts in our lives to reach.

This week’s blog August 1st

I wonder if we really fully grasp who Jesus is. We can repeat the creeds, quote the Scriptures and state our beliefs—he is the Messiah, the Son of God, all God and all man. Yet, the question remains: do we really grasp who Jesus is?

The Creator of all things takes on the flesh of his creation. The Eternal, Infinite One becomes finite while remaining infinite. The Holy One chose to walk in unholy places. The Eternal Light shone in the darkness. The Way came and directed the lost. The Truth spoke to those living in error. The Life offered the resurrection to the dying. Purity reached out and touched the impure. The One who is total wholeness restored those totally broken.

He knew physical pain. He allowed his heart to be broken. He felt the wounds of rejection and betrayal. He who had never died gave up his life for those who had never lived. The One who has no needs reached out to all the needy and in love offered us all a new life with him.

This is what Jesus has done. This is who Jesus is. How can we keep from falling to our knees in worship? How can we not honor him every minute of our lives?

Who is Jesus to you?

This Week’s Blog July 18

It is hard to stop and listen. The noise of our world roars, rattles and clangs in our ears. Our thoughts are sprinting here and there with what we should do and how to handle life. Our hearts are filled with shouts of fear, worry, sorrow and guilt. How can one stop and listen in the midst of this cacophony?
The Lord speaks, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Listening takes effort. When we work at it and learn to tune into God’s still small voice we discover the life God has given us. We discover the heart of our Abba. We learn his desires, his love, and his care. We sense his presence, are blessed with his grace and are filled with his peace.
The voice of our Abba stands out when we quiet our hearts, and still our thoughts. His word enlightens our hearts. His mind cleanses our thoughts. His truth guides our lives. Now his life fills ours. Listen, be still, relax and know that he is God.
“Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints — but let them not return to folly.” Psalms 85:7-8 NIV

Quarrels Solve Nothing

In May of 1889 due to flood waters and neglect of needed repairs to a dam near Johnstown, PA, one of the most tragic events occurred in US history as the dam breached. According to the Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s website, 2,209 people died, 1,600 homes were destroyed and $17 million dollars of damage occurred as a ‘….great wave measured 35-40 feet high, hit Johnstown at 40 miles per hour.’[1] This dam’s breach effected the lives of many and may have been averted by proper maintenance.

In the book of Proverbs, there is a verse that uses the imagery of destruction that a breached dam can cause with a common occurrence in our daily lives’ quarrels with others. Proverbs 17:14 says, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” It speaks to the fact that quarrels do not solve anything, but rather cause more destruction than good, but how so?

Quarrels or better stated verbal fights can inflict serious inflections mainly because the dam of our frustrations and anger overflow into the fight.  Often in the heat of the verbal battle, our anger gets the best of us and we say things that hurt others. In a quarrel it is no longer about solving an issue but rather an all-out assault to win our position over another. We do this not by listening or taking in account the other’s position, but rather having an attitude of I must win over the other at any cost. The result is devasting as each person in the quarrel leaves with hurt feelings, anger, resentment and an unresolved issue. Quarrels can leave us in the wake of broken relationships and broken spiritual life, even more in the church these verbal assaults can cause split churches and people abandoning church altogether.

As Christ followers there is another way we must act when dealing with disagreements in our relationships and in the church. One way is discussing an issue before it gets out of hand. This means coming to the table and allowing for each person to talk out the issue in a safe environment. To do this means to respect the other person and their point of view even if you disagree. Listen to what is being said without loading up your ammunition to fire back a response before they are done talking. Allow timeouts when discussing something that is causing yours, theirs or boths blood to boil. Cool off and come back once again to talk calmly and open mindedly with each other. Even call in a fellow brother or sister in Christ to help mediate peace in the situation.

Second, realize sometimes we are going to disagree and sometimes we won’t get our way.  We can attempt to come to a compromise yet in some situations a compromise is not feasible. In those instances for the greater good of peace we must learn to be okay with losing out on our position (unless losing out goes contrary to what the bible says). If we have stated our position and have been listened to, then that is all we should do. Our greater call is that God’s will be done thus our greater call is to show love over winning out in some dispute.

That brings us to the last thing, love. As Christians we must show love. Paul gives a laundry list of things that love is to a church in a huge dispute among themselves. He uses words like patient, forbearing, kind and does not boast to name a few. Yet at the end he says love never fails. No matter what win or lose we never fail when we share love. So the next time we see a quarrel coming, take a moment and heed Proverb 17:14. It may indeed keep us from feeling the damage a quarrel can cause in our lives.

[1] “Statistics about the Great Disaster.” Facts about the 1889 Flood, 2019, www.jaha.org/attractions/johnstown-flood-museum/flood-history/facts-about-the-1889-flood/.

God is in Control

Psalm 73- 1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” 12 This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Why does it seem that all too often the unjust get away with it or have it easy while those who act justly get the short end of the stick (have it rough)? Well, if you ever thought this, you aren’t the first; in fact there is a Psalm about this. In Psalm 73, the psalmist admits to almost falling in the trap of being envious of those doing wrong because when he compares his circumstances to those doing evil, it looks like they are carefree and his life is not. So, what should we do when we face injustice in the world and in our lives?
First, the Psalmist is too focused on this inequality between him and evil doers until he comes into the sanctuary of God. He remembers that God is in control and that God’s perfect justice will be fulfilled in the end. Justice is God’s in the end, He judges with a perfect wisdom and will not allow anything to go unaccounted for. We must place our trust in God and allow God to avenge for us rather than us take revenge.
Along with that thought of God and justice, we must not forget that God is a God of love and patience. God does not want to see anyone perish and is patient in allowing those who do evil the opportunity to come to Him and His grace. Remember we too at one time did what was not pleasing to the Lord and deserving of punishment, yet the Lord was patient with us and forgave us our sins.
Second, talking about forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive even the hardest, heinous injustice. We all remember that Jesus on the Cross, suffering the most heinous of injustices said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus was thinking of His persecutors as He suffered a painful and gruesome death. Our Lord knows what is to forgive those who hurt Him, aren’t we to follow in His footsteps?
One way to help us with forgiveness is a word called empathy. We put ourselves in their shoes. We look at their life, their upbringing, their culture (if applicable) and their fallenness with a desire to understand (not justify) them. It’s through this process that we gain empathy.
Finally, stand up for those who are being oppressed. One of the offenses of the Israelites in the days of the prophets was that they acted unjustly to those that were in the margins of society (the poor, the foreigners, widows, orphans, etc.). God wanted the leaders of Israel and the wealth to care for all, yet they did not follow God’s wishes and often took advantage and oppressed those who lived at the bottom of the social ranks. God still wants His people to stand up and help those in need. He wants to help stop injustices and for us to care for our fellow man.
We must always remember, even when evil in the world around us seems so strong, God is in control. God is redeeming this world and us as well. We must rest in the hope that one day this world will be restored to as it was before the fall. Even more, we must do our part as effective agents of God’s grace to combat the evil so prevalent in the world around us.

Who am I? (God’s view of us)

If you were to ask me who I am I would probably give altering answers according to when in my life that question was asked. In 40 years of my life I have taken on many roles that have shaped who I am today. These roles include or have been a son, student, a mascot, a husband, an Airmen, a veteran, a pastor, a dad, a brother and so on. If you were to take a moment and jot down all the different titles or roles you have held, it could be a long list too. Each one of those names you were to put down helped shape or define a part of who you are today. Still with all that, there is some greater titles and roles given to us when we come to Christ for salvation and receive Him in our lives.
Two Sundays ago, I preached on the question that Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” For this week’s blog I want to share what does God say I am when we come to Him for salvation. This may not be an exhausted list, but at least a little encouraging to see some of the ways God sees us.
First, we are children of God. In 1 John 3:1 it states, “3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” When we receive Christ in our lives we are adopted into the family of God. That of course is why we fellow followers of Christ call each other brothers and sisters. As children of God we can boldly go to the father with our requests. We are also loved by a heavenly Father; this love is a perfect love without strings attached. This also means we are heirs of the promise in Christ; that is to live in eternity with God forever.
Second, we are forgiven by grace. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Even though you may know this in your mind, it may be hard for us to accept sometimes. We live in a world where we must earn our way, whether it’s pay, respect and sadly in some relationships, love. Jesus, however, knew we could do nothing to take ourselves out of the sin that we were in, so He came to this world to pay the price of our salvation. Thank the Lord that we don’t need to earn it because we can’t.
Finally, we are being made new. Once again Paul states in Ephesians 4:22-24 “22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Salvation is more than a decision made with a prayer, it’s a process, it’s forming in us Christ and the removal of the old self. For many this comes gradually and for others dramatically, but for all of us we are being made new in the Spirit.
Having a healthy view of who we are in God is just as important as having a clear view of who Jesus is. When we come to an understanding of who God sees us as, we can begin to stop dwelling in the past us and move on in the new us in Christ. Viewing who we are in God’s eyes helps us to know we are loved, changed and forgiven. Then we can start forgiving ourselves from our past and loving ourselves in a healthy and Godly way.

Listen For God

When I lived in Idaho, I got the chance to go whitewater rafting a couple of times. Often as we would begin, the river was calm. I would think how boring get to the rapids now! Years later, reflecting on my trips, I realize that the calm may have been on purpose. Many of us on the trips were unskilled at whitewater rafting and though there was an extensive lesson on the banks of the river before we began, it wasn’t until we were on the river that we began to fully learn how to paddle, especially together. The biggest lesson though was learning to listen to the raft’s leader as he would call out directions for each of us to paddle in a certain way. During the calm waters, we learned to hear the leader’s voice and to follow his commands. Once we got to the rapids we had learned to listen and follow, thus making us able to navigate the dangerous waters.

In our Christian lives we to need to learn to listen to God, but how does he communicate. First is by His word. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16, 17, “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s word is there to instruct us in the way we should live so that when trials and temptations come our way, we might know how to respond and how to remain strong in the faith we have in Christ. The word also helps us to be prepared to do the work of God, so that we are equipped with the grace, faith, and holiness needed to represent Christ and His kingdom. The word is important for our lives and we should be in it.

The second way God speaks to us is through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who illuminates the scriptures so that we might be able to understand. Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit instructs us.

Along with instruction, the Holy Spirit also guides our lives. John 16:13 says, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” When we listen, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the Truth we have studied and thus guides our paths when trials and temptations come our way.

So, if this is how God speaks and leads what should we do, learn to listen. We must come to the scriptures with a sense of humility; that is come to be taught. We need learn where in our lives we may need to change to be in God’s truth. We also need to learn to listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice and prompting. Remember the Holy Spirit will never say something that is counter God’s word because He would be counter himself. The Holy Spirit will also not force Himself on us, we need to learn to quiet our hearts and minds to allow ourselves to hear what God might be saying.

Lastly, we need to do what God says. A passage that God has really put on my heart lately comes from James 1:22 that says, “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” When we read and listen to the Word of God but don’t put it into action, we fool ourselves. We fool ourselves into thinking we are followers, yet we don’t live out of the grace that was given to us. A grace that not only saves us from sin, but delivers us as well.

Integrity in Christ

The picture of the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is a pretty iconic piece and you can even see a print of it on the wall here at the Cross. Did you know however that “Leonardo Da Vinci’s late 15th Century masterpiece is technically unfinished. In the late 1970s the mural underwent extensive restoration and, in most pictures, shows a roof but in Milan, where the painting lies, the roof is incomplete.” 1
In this week’s blog I want to talk about a word that has a dual meaning in English, but also in Hebrew; integrity. Each word can be used in the sense of being righteous or morally upstanding in one’s behavior. The word can also be used as being whole or united. In Proverbs 11:3 it says: “3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” I think the two definitions can help us understand what the scripture is trying to tell us.
The ‘unfaithful’ mentioned here in this passage are those who are living in ‘duplicity’. This duplicity is in fact those who know God’s words yet do not follow them in their lives. Basically, the unfaithful are hypocrites, believing and knowing yet not living out their faith (or lack of). James talks to this in his letter when he wrote, “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)” God wants us to be more than believing, but living that belief out.
“The integrity of the up right guides them…” Here we see that righteousness guides our ways. This happens when we not only read (know) God’s word, but apply it in our lives. As believers, we must allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us as we learn the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, if we listen, will convict us of areas in our lives we need to change. As we yield our lives to the Word and Holy Spirit, God will give us the grace and strength. It is not our righteousness, but Christ’s righteousness being worked in us.
Integrity takes hold in our lives when we become united in Christ. His righteousness becomes ours and we are made complete. Men and women of integrity are those who walk in close relationship with Christ. Unlike Da Vinci’s masterpiece that is unfinished, we when united in Christ through the Word, Holy Spirit and Jesus’ grace, can be beautiful masterpieces on display to those around us and show how God’s grace can truly change us. Here is the thing though we need to be willing to unite with Christ by submitting wholly to Jesus.

1. Wil, English in the Real World. 15 Famous Unfinished Projects- don’t let English be one of them! https://englishlive.ef.com/blog/english-in-the-real-world/15-famous-unfinished-projects-dont-let-english-be-one-of-them)


I often share the story about my adventure with my friend Dan on the water. Dan invited me to go fishing with him once, which I was happy to accept. I was in the Air Force at the time and stationed in Idaho (there are some beautiful and great spots to fish at in ID). We set out with a small, metal boat attached to his pickup truck and headed to a local reservoir near the air base we were stationed at not knowing the perils we were about to face.
Everything seemed okay as we cast the boat from shore. The sun was shining, the temperature was not too hot and not too cold. We rowed out to the middle of a tributary of the reservoir and cast our lines for a quiet time of fishing. After a little time on the water, we began to see a storm off in the far distance. Dan wasn’t to concerned and thought it would pass to the west of us. So, we continued to fish even though the storm continued to move our way. It wasn’t until the water began to become choppy that we decided to head back in but of course was too late.
As we began to paddle, the choppy water began to hit against the side of the boat, the wind had also picked up and began to push against our attempts to get to shore. To make things worse, it began to rain, not a nice summer shower but a straight downpour. The boat began taking on water and there were a few moments that I thought we might have to swim for it (thank goodness we didn’t I might not have made it). After what seemed a life time of paddling, tired and weary we made the shore line almost a half a mile from where we cast off and Dan’s truck was parked.
When it comes to the story of the disciples in the boat with Jesus in the storm (Matthew 8 and Mark 4) I can relate. I could understand their panic as waves are battering them side to side, to see water filling up the boat and wondering if it was going to sink to the bottom. I would have been shocked to find anyone on the boat asleep let alone Jesus. The disciples, frantic for their life, wake Jesus and wonder if Jesus even cares that they might die. Jesus responds by calming the storm and then stating to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” to which the disciples stand in amazement of Jesus and His power over nature.
I think we can be just like the disciples in our lives. You might not be on a boat in the middle of a literal storm like I was in Idaho, but we face figurative ones through out our lives. These storms include things like financial hardships, broken relationships, deep seeded temptations/sins, waiting for a diagnosis to come back, facing a disease or upcoming surgery and many more which can be added to this list. All of these and more keep us up at night, flood the brain with worry and causes our bodies stress. Just like the disciples we can even be asking Jesus, “do you even care?”
The thing about the disciples in the boat was that they didn’t have to worry, they had the Lord of this world with them. Their boat and lives were not in real danger (though it may have seemed to be) because God Himself was with them. The problem was the disciples didn’t realize it and we don’t either. You see the same Lord that calmed the storm on the boat with the disciples, is the same Lord that can see us through ours. We must have faith though, to face the fear of the storm not by ourselves and our own strength but by knowing Jesus is right there with you. Jesus who defeated death and sin is there with us. Whether we see the storm taken away, pass through the storm or we cross over with Him, as believers we know that life is eternal in Him. So today I ask why are we so afraid, do we still have no faith?

Just For Today

Just for today: I will lift my eyes up to you, O Lord, and seek to tell you of my love for you.

Just for today: I will lay all of my questions down at your feet and leave them there.

Just for today: I will express my praise for you. I will rejoice in who you are.

Just for today: I thank you for all you have blessed me with. My life is so full.

Just for today: I will listen for the still small voice of your Spirit saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Just for today: I will place tomorrow in your hands and refuse to worry about it. Then when tomorrow comes, behold, it is another “today!”