A prayer of intercession

Isn’t it exciting to know that several hundred of us today will bring many of the same concerns to a loving Father who answers our prayers? Today will make a difference in the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in the world.

Take five minutes and meditate on James 5:13-18: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

People have many different needs — try to intercede on behalf of various kinds of struggles.

Please pray . . .

— for our elders and our congregation as we search for an Associate Minister.

— for the building program: wisdom, unity, God’s guidance

— for our young people who have recently started back to school, that they will live Christ around their friends.

— for our college students who are entering a new environment, that their faith will remain strong and vibrant.

— that our daily meditations and prayers will help each of us to have a conversational relationship with our Lord and Savior.

— that this congregation will maintain a spirit of love and unity.

— that we will do a better job of evangelizing this community.

Please pray for spiritual needs:

— pray for one specific person you know who is not a Christian and ask God to help you lead him or her to Christ in the next month

— we have several people attending Hoover to need to commit themselves to Jesus Christ; please pray for them by name

— we have many people whose faith is weak and who seem to be only marginally faithful to the Lord; please pray that God will show them the importance of total commitment

— pray that God will mature us all into true disciples of Jesus, devoting ourselves fully to Him

— pray that those of us who have children will bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord

— pray for your own children and grandchildren

Have a great Thursday!

In Christ,

Chuck

A prayer of adoration

Today we meditate on and express our adoration for God.

Listen to King David’s prayer in front of Israel:

“Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.

“Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.

“Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.

“In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

“And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.”     –1 Chronicles 29:10-13

Most parents occasionally grow weary with their children’s incessant requests. “Mommy, watch this!” “Daddy, will you buy that for me?” “Mommy, help me!” Sometimes they strain every last nerve, even to the point of snapping. (How many times can you watch a two-year-old jump over a ball???)

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably occasionally responded to yet another “Mommy?” or “Daddy?” with a terse, irritated, “What?!!!?” (What now? . . .)

Only to be met by a small voice that says, “I love you, Mommy.” “I love you, Daddy.” (Sorta melts your heart, doesn’t it?)

I don’t mean to imply that God is impatient like you and me, or that our constant requests irritate Him. At the same time, I wonder if He might enjoy our occasionally saying something like, “Lord, I just wanted to tell You that I love you with all my heart. I adore you and appreciate everything you are and all you do.” No requests, no complaints, just adoration.

Today, let’s practice this by meditating on David’s prayer of adoration and then offering a five-minute adoration prayer of our own.

Here are a couple of things you might try: As you meditate on the words in David’s prayer, take out a pen and paper and make a list of all the things you love about God. Don’t just do it mentally; actually take the time and effort to put pen to paper. Then, in your prayer of adoration, tell God that you love Him because of each thing on your list, naming them individually.

“Father, I love you because You love me even when I’m unlovable. I adore you because you’re so patient. I praise you because you forgive again and again and again.”

Be specific. Praise God for your friends (say their names). Praise Him for the kind word a friend said to you yesterday. Thank Him for the guy who let you into traffic this morning when you were running late.

Remember, don’t ask for anything in this prayer. Do nothing but express your love and adoration for your Heavenly Father. If you’re like me, you’ll need to be careful, because thoughts like “Lord, please help me . . .” creep in very easily.

So discipline yourself and ask for nothing at all. Just love God and tell Him so. Simply adore Him and praise Him and worship Him.

Among other blessings, this will keep prayer from becoming little more than a verbal wish list that we toss up to God a few times a day.

Enjoy your Wednesday! See you at church tonight!

In Christ,

Chuck

An inquisitive prayer

Today we meditate for 5 minutes and then pray a 5-minute inquisitive prayer:

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2, ESV).

Is it okay to question God? Or should we always simply have a “Not my will but yours be done” attitude?

Sometimes I want to ask God why He’s doing or not doing something. I want to have more insight into why He allows stuff to happen that doesn’t make sense. I want to know how long it’s going to take Him to act, to respond, to answer.

The more I read the Bible, the more I realize I’m not alone. In our meditation verses for today David repeatedly asks a simple question: “How long?”

I’ve prayed that prayer before, haven’t you? “Lord, I’ve been praying about this for weeks, for months, yet You seem to ignore me. How long?” “Father, don’t You see all the evil around us, all the pain and suffering . . . how much longer??”

As you meditate today, reflect on the times you’ve struggled with feelings of abandonment, times you felt alone. Look around you and reflect on how it often seems as if God’s enemies have the upper hand.

Today we’re praying an inquisitive prayer, so in your prayer time, ask God anything you can think of. Ask Him why He did something in your life that didn’t make sense, and still doesn’t. Ask Him very personal “Why?” questions that maybe you wouldn’t ever share with anyone else. He’ll listen, and He’ll care.

You’re struggling with a big decision — ask God which way to go.

Ask Him why He hasn’t answered a prayer yet. Ask Him about some of the bad stuff that’s going on in Libya today, or why there are hungry children in the world right now.

Don’t be afraid to ask God tough questions. He can handle our doubts and our struggles.

An African proverb says, “The one who asks questions doesn’t lose his way.”

So take five minutes and ask God anything you can think of. He may choose to give you clarity on something you’re struggling with. Today something may happen or a friend may say something that will help alleviate some doubts. Or God may, as he did with Job, simply ask you to trust that He’s in control and know that everything will work out in the end.

Either way, asking is good for our faith, as long as we ask while trusting that God as our sovereign Father works according to His own will and in ways that ultimately bless all of His children.

Here are the last two verses of our psalm for today: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6).

Have a great Tuesday!

In Christ,

Chuck

A prayer of contrition

This week we plan to spend five minutes each morning meditating on a passage of Scripture and then offering a five-minute prayer — a different kind of prayer each day. I’m excited that we’re doing this together!

Today, we pray to our Father a prayer of contrition. Remember — please use your prayer as nothing more than contrition — don’t ask for anything or pray for anyone else (you can do that later). For now, be contrite, nothing else, for five minutes.

[Remember, if you want to continue receiving these thoughts after tomorrow, please email me if you haven’t yet. Thanks!]

Our meditation passage for today is Psalm 51:2-5: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (ESV).

These words were written by King David shortly after God had convicted him of his terrible sins of adultery, deceit, and murder. I can’t help but think that the great King must have hovered over his pen, sobbing remorsefully as he wrote each word.

As we meditate and pray today, let’s take a long, hard look at ourselves. It’s easy to find everyone else’s faults, but it’s tempting to overlook, or perhaps justify, our own sins. Jesus had little patience for that kind of judgmental spirit.

After you meditate on the implications of David’s statements, take an additional five  minutes to confess your sins to God. If you’re honest, you’ll probably run out of time before you run out of sins. Four rules: be specific, be thorough, be honest, and be sorry.

Don’t get discouraged by this exercise . . . God has already forgiven us of our sins in Christ, but He wants us to recognize our need for forgiveness.

If you need some help getting started, here are a few probing questions . . .

Yesterday during worship, did you think more about how people looked at you than you did about how much you adored God? Did you scoff—however mildly—at the dress another lady wore to church? Did your mind wander during worship? Did you have a hard time focusing on worship because of an important meeting coming up this week?

How many of us have been impatient with our children in the last day or so? Have we neglected our spouse? Have we been more concerned about her not meeting my needs than I have been about meeting hers? Have we nagged or criticized?

Have we lusted in our hearts? Are we proud? Impatient? Irritable? Have we gossiped, made fun of others, avoided people who are different from us?

Isn’t it wonderful to be forgiven? No matter how bad our sins are, Jesus washes them away in His blood. That expression of grace makes us want to grow closer to the Lord and hurt Him less with our sins. That’s why we need to practice contrition quite often.

Notice David’s own words near the end of this same psalm. This is what God wants from us: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

Our hearts are broken and contrite before you today, O God!

Have a great Labor Day!

In Christ,

Chuck

I was glad

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!'” (Psalm 122:1).

This is part of a section of the Psalms called the “Songs of Ascents” because they were sung by pilgrims as they were ascending to the city of Jerusalem–located on a mountain–for one of the annual feasts. Their hearts ascended just as much as their feet.

As you prepare to meet with your church family to worship the Lord this morning, meditate on the significance of this verse. Entering God’s house to worship Him is a tremendous privilege, so let’s focus on preparing ourselves for worship.

Let’s spend more time preparing the internal than we do the external. God is much more impressed by worshipers who come anticipating to give Him their most sincere adoration and praise than he is with those who spent most of their time making sure they looked appropriately stylish, or that the kids looked perfect, or that everybody matched, or that no one is wearing the same thing they wore last Sunday. I doubt God cares much about those things.

I can’t wait to assemble with each of you in a couple of hours. We will sing to our Father together, honor Christ’s memory in Communion together, pray together, give together, and study the inspired Word of God together. I’m looking forward to preaching on the Spiritual Disciple of Prayer this morning.

It may be a bit rainy today, but it is still an incredibly beautiful day to come together as part of the family of God into the Lord’s house to worship Him!

See you in a little while. Let’s make it a day on which we sincerely praise God with all of our hearts!

In Christ,

Chuck

*****

‎‎KJV: I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

‎‎HCSB: I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

‎‎NLT: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

‎‎NKJV: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

‎‎NASB: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

‎‎NRSV: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

‎‎TNIV: I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

‎‎NCV: I was happy when they said to me, “Let’s go to the Temple of the LORD.”

‎‎GNB: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the LORD’s house.”

‎‎The Message: When they said, “Let’s go to the house of GOD,” my heart leaped for joy.

Love your neighbor

“And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, ESV).

Yesterday we thought about what it means to love God, but today the focus is on people around us.

Jesus is very consistent on this point: if we don’t love our neighbors, we don’t really love God. Everybody listening to Him wasn’t surprised when He said the greatest commandment was to love God — they had always believed that. But they weren’t quite ready for Him to put loving one’s neighbor on the same plane as love for God.

Remember the picture Jesus paints of judgement day? “As you did it (or not) to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:40, 45).

He taught us in the story of the Good Samaritan that a neighbor is someone who needs our help, regardless of his race, gender, religious beliefs, social status, educational background, or personality.

Today, as you meditate on this verse, ask for God to send someone into your path who needs your help. Be cautious, though. God will answer your prayer, and He might send the person at a very busy time of your day.

And then, on this beautiful late summer day, keep your eyes open for the neighbor that God wants you to love as yourself. Following Christ doesn’t just mean doing so abstractly. Christian living is an extremely practical, concrete, in-the-trenches kind of life. Find someone to love today . . . that’s loving both neighbor and God.

God bless you today!

In Christ,

Chuck

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‎‎NKJV: And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

‎‎NASB: “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

‎‎NRSV: And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

‎‎TNIV: And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

‎‎NCV: And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’

‎‎GNB: The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’

‎‎The Message: But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’

‎‎KJV: And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Selling out completely

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:34, ESV).

What does it really  mean to be God’s child? How could a relationship with God be distilled into one concise statement?

That’s what Jesus does here. Asked by someone who was testing his orthodoxy, Jesus went all the way back near the beginning of God’s interactions with humanity and quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. This portion of the Law was called the Shema because it begins with the Hebrew verb shema (“to hear”): “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Faithful Jews habitually quoted the Shema.

Sometimes we’re tempted to trade religion for relationship and point to external things as evidence of our commitment to Christ: I go to church, I read my Bible, I don’t break most of the commandments, at least none of the really big ones . . .

But Jesus takes us right back to the beginning point: Love God with everything that we are. Love Him emotionally, volitionally, and cognitively — what we feel, what we do, what we think. Commit everything that we are to Him, everything that we have or ever will have.

That’s difficult, not because God doesn’t deserve it, but because the world gives us so many options to distract us from the most important thing: our relationship to Christ. It’s hard because so often we’re selfish, wanting to hold back what’s most important to us.

As we meditate today, let’s think about what it means to be totally committed to God. Do I have closets that I try to keep hidden from Him? Am I reluctant to give one habit, one relationship, one part of my life?

Let’s ask God to fill every aspect of our lives with Himself and to help us truly to “sell out.” The ironic thing is, once we give Him everything, He frees us to live the fulfilled life He created us to live.

May God bless you today.

In Christ,

Chuck

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Alternate readings:

Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (NKJV)

And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ” (NASB)

He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “(NRSV)

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ ” (TNIV)

Jesus said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ ” (The Message)

Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ ” (NLT)

Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ ” (GNB)

Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ ” (NCV)

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (KJV)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (HCSB)

Oh how I love your law!

Today’s verse: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

The basic meaning of “meditation” is to rehearse, to go over a matter in your mind. For today, let’s “rehearse in our minds” how blessed we are to have access to the teachings of God. I think of little kids in Tanzania asking us if they could please have a Bible for their family. We were reading Tuesday night about other countries in Africa that are over 99% Muslim, and most people there have never even seen a Bible, and couldn’t read it if they had one.

Everyone reading this email almost certainly has multiple copies.

If you have time, read the whole paragraph that contains verse 97. It tells of the blessings we receive from God’s Word: it helps us live more wisely, avoid temptation, and become more like God. Truth is, the Bible helps us in every part of our lives, not just the “spiritual” part.

It’s easy to forget how truly wonderful it is to be able to know the mind of God. We love the Word because it speaks of Him–His love, His mercy, His plans.

Let’s reflect on the whole Bible today, and as we pray over Psalm 119:97, thank God for revealing Himself to us in Scripture. We actually have access to the incredible resources of the mind of an omniscient God. When you encounter situations today, think about some principle or verse in Scripture that helps guide you in your response.

I’m always glad to hear how the Lord is using His Word to help your walk, so feel free to drop me an email.

May God bless you today!

In Christ,

Chuck

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Alternate translations:

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. (NKJV)

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. (NASB)

Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long. (NRSV)

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. (TNIV)

Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. (NLT)

O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day. (KJV)

How I love your teachings! I think about them all day long. (NCV)

How I love Your instruction! It is my meditation all day long. (HCSB)

Oh, how I love all you’ve revealed; I reverently ponder it all the day long. (The Message)

No complaining allowed

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning” (Philippians 2:14, ESV;

not verse 12 as I put on the PowerPoint Sunday).

It’s hard to know exactly what the Christians at Philippi were complaining about, but it was probably many of the same things that bother us. Were they griping about the slow-as-molasses storekeeper at the market? Was it too hot and dry in Philippi that summer? Were their co-workers unreliable and hard to put up with?

Sometimes we complain about life’s difficulties: an unreliable car, health problems, unrelenting traffic, too much homework.

But we may be just as tempted to gripe about some of life’s greatest blessings: our jobs, our children, our parents, our spouses, our friends, and our things.

Work probably has its irritations, but in an economy plagued by unemployment and in a world outside of America characterized by much lower standards of life, perhaps we should thank God for the job we have and focus on its good points.

Our children, parents, and spouses aren’t perfect, but aren’t we sinners as well?

Perhaps our cars, homes, and clothes aren’t exactly what we would have picked in a perfect world, but 2 billion people won’t get enough calories today, and hundreds of millions of children will go to bed hungry tonight.

As we meditate on this verse today, let’s open our hearts as God reminds us of life’s blessings, not its troubles. Let’s remember that a spirit of grumbling and complaining really reflects on our attitude toward the Lord. He wants us to thank and trust Him.

Have a great day!

In Christ,

Chuck

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Here are a few translations to help you as you reflect today:

Do all things without complaining and disputing (NKJV)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing (NASB)

Do all things without murmuring and arguing (NRSV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing (TNIV)

Do everything without complaining and arguing (NLT)

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! (The Message)

Do all things without murmurings and disputings (KJV)

Receiving His Peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, ESV)

Jesus spoke these words to His troubled and anxious apostles on Thursday night before He was crucified on Friday, and they were clearly bothered at the things He had been telling them about His impending death. In a world that achieved peace by the sword (the pax romana of the Roman Empire, the “Roman Peace”), Jesus brought peace of a completely different kind. He brought reconciliation between a holy God and sinful humanity which in turn creates peace between people and peace within hearts.

From political tension in Washington to violent civil war in Libya, our world certainly needs the Lord’s peace today.

But of course Jesus intended something more personal than ideological transformation. He wants us to have peace internally and relationally.

Some of you may be at odds with someone today, perhaps your husband or wife — an emotional distance, or even bitterness, that has been building over time. Maybe you and your son or daughter exchanged some tense words before school this morning. For others of you it may be simply that you feel a sense of turmoil within you and cannot quite identify its source. And it could be that you feel a disconnect between you and God.

Wherever you are emotionally this morning, meditate on the Lord’s gift of peace today. As you pray over John 14:27, ask the Lord to remove the anxiety and strife from your heart and give you the peace He promised. Don’t ask Him to transform someone else and make him or her easier to get along with; instead, ask Him to work on your heart and your disposition.

I’d like to leave you with the Lord’s blessing of peace in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

In Christ,

Chuck

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Here are a few other translations that might help you as you reflect on the Lord’s words today:

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (NKJV)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (NASB)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (NRSV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (TNIV)

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. (HCSB)

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (KJV)

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (NLT)

I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (The Message)