Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Prayer

Father,

You have made it clear that what You have established is a religion of grace. In every respect, our relationship with You is based on grace. You couldn’t have made that any clearer.

But we have been misled. We have been told that if our lives are going to succeed, we will need to work at it. And if things aren't working well, that what we need to do is simply try harder. And while it may be that no one ever quite said it this way, the message that we have heard is that it all depends on us. Success or failure is in our hands. And that we had better do whatever is necessary so that we will succeed.

Father, in our saner moments we know that such thinking is wrong. But, Father, it's hard to get rid of that way of thinking. It has been impressed not just upon our minds but also upon our hearts. And so, we find ourselves trying to live based on our own abilities.

Father, we do pray about the different parts of life, asking for Your grace. But there are too many times when it becomes clear to us that we are still depending on ourselves. We see that when life really isn't working very well, when the anxiety levels have grown, when we’ve gotten stressed out. That’s when it becomes clear that our grasp of Your grace isn’t as solid as it needs to be.

Father, this is not good. For one thing, living this way just doesn't work. But worse than that, living this way dishonors You. And we really don't want to do that.

And so, Father, we look to You, the God of all grace. Rescue us from our sins, from our sinful thinking which leads to sinful living. Renew our minds so that our hearts will understand how life actually works. Make us depend on Your grace so that even as we do the hard work of living well we are doing that by putting our hope in Your grace and not in our efforts.

We ask for this, Father, so that our lives will function in the way that they are supposed to. We ask for this so that we will make You, our very gracious God, look as good as You actually are. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Repentance

Last week I spoke to you about faith. It seems only right that this week I follow that up by talking to you about repentance. These two are so closely tied together that you really can’t have the one without also having the other. This morning we’re going to explore some of what the Scriptures have to say about repentance. And we’ll do that by considering some questions.

Friday, August 17, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3.12-14

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we hear Your Law and what it calls us to be: compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving, loving. We stand condemned for all the times we have chosen not to be what You call us to be. As we remember these sins of ours, we are ashamed. You deserve better. Only because of the multitude of Your promises, we are bold to ask again for forgiveness. Forgive and change us so that we might walk as Jesus walked. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:10
  
The Lord enrich you with his grace, and nourish you with his blessing; the Lord defend you in trouble and keep you from all evil; the Lord accept your prayers, and absolve you from your offences, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Scripture to Meditate On

I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

For some of you who have been taught about the importance of Scripture memorization, this is likely a familiar verse. You were probably told that what we have here is an example of someone memorizing Scripture, an example that we are to imitate.

Memorizing Scripture is a great habit. But that's not what this verse is actually about. If it were it would say, 'I have stored up your word in my mind…' But it doesn't say that. It refers to the heart. The point of the verse is about how the Scriptures are to affect our inner life. The Scriptures are to re-make who we are on the inside, something that will show in how we live each day. Memorization can be a helpful tool with that goal in mind. But it will take more than memorization to reach the goal. It will take careful thinking about a particular Scripture followed by careful praying. And the point of the praying is that we would believe, from the depths of our heart, whatever that particular Scripture is about, and that, believing it from the heart, we would live it.

Did you notice the reason for doing this? Holiness. That's what we're aiming for when we work at not sinning against God. It is a sad fact that the pursuit of holiness has fallen on hard times these days. It's just not that important for so many Christians. That is to say, it isn't something that is worked at as a priority. And the lives of so many Christians reveal the fruit of that lack. But there are still those who work to get the Scriptures into their hearts, who work see their hearts changed, so that their lives will reflect God's holiness. God will use these saints in very powerful ways.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Build Your Faith


I've been slowly reading through Paul's letters to Timothy, maybe a verse or two at a time. The other day I came across this:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:5

What stood out to me was how Paul described Timothy's faith: sincere. So, as I thought about what Paul wrote, I wondered if there could be an insincere faith. And from there I considered whether there are other words that the Bible uses to describe someone's faith. What I found is that there is quite a list. Here are a few examples.

A Prayer

Father,

We are so grateful for the children that you have given to us. They are one of Your many blessing granted to us because of Jesus. It brings a smile to our faces when we see the younger ones march up front to hear a lesson from the Gospel. And we are impressed with those whom we have watched grow older and more mature, getting ready to take their place in this world.

And it’s that ‘taking their place in this world’ that concerns us, Father. Our world is, bit by bit, falling apart. Things that simply used to be assumed as good and true and right are now condemned by so many. Ideas that previous generations would have thought silly are now presented as the new norm. Our world is slowly but surely going crazy. And that makes us concerned for these children. Living as faithful disciples of Jesus is becoming increasingly difficult. They are going to have a harder time of it than we did when we were growing up.

And so, we pray for these children of ours. We ask that You would prepare them for life in an increasingly hostile world. What we want for them is a growing knowledge of You as their loving Father, a deep devotion to Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and a profound dependence on the Spirit of grace.

All of this has much to say about us, the older generations. We are the ones You have called to prepare them for adulthood, something that is a weighty responsibility. And so, we ask that You would also deal with us. Make clear to us the importance of our preparing them. Make us take the time to pass on to them the things that You have taught us. Make us listen to them, to carefully listen to them, so that we will understand their hopes, their fears, their questions.

Teach them to listen, too, Father. We do have some wisdom to pass on, wisdom that we have gained, to some extent, from our mistakes. But if they don’t take the time to listen and consider they will have to gain that wisdom through their own mistakes. We would rather they avoid that.

Father, it is so very helpful that we know that whether our world is falling apart as it pursues its sin or if we are in the midst of a grand and glorious revival that is changing many lives, You are God. Your plan is always right on schedule. Nothing frustrates You. This world will be restored, just as You planned, when we get to the end of it all. Make us believe that so that we all, children and adults, will rest in Your peace as we work to change this world by the Gospel. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.