Monday, July 08, 2013

band of brothers

A Prayer of Thanks for Long-Standing Friends

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philem. 1: 7)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him— a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Eccles. 4: 9– 12)

Heavenly Father, I cannot imagine how storms can be navigated, burdens borne, and hardships handled without the company of a few good friends. I praise you today for the gift of friendship— for the joy, encouragement, and refreshment you’ve just given me through a special band of brothers. It could not have come at a better time.

When we walk through difficult seasons we’re sometimes inclined to think, “No one can possibly understand what I’m going through; no one can begin to relate to my feelings and confusion; no one is a mess like me.” Those are the times when it’s easy to withdraw into isolation, fall into the pit of condemnation, and reach for some ill-chosen medication. That’s when the gift of long-standing friends becomes especially precious.

Father, I praise you for the gift of hearing my friends say these two words: “Me too.” I praise you for brothers who know how to “refresh the hearts of the saints”— including this saint. I praise you for friends who remind me of the truth and power of the gospel, of the love of Jesus, and of the bigger story you are always writing.

I praise you for friends who share their lives and not just their gospel. I praise you for friends who offer tears and not just their answers. I praise you for friends who give life-giving wisdom and not just mess-fixing formulas.

Father, these cherished friendships turn my heart heavenward. They simply remind me that the foundation and fountain of all good friendship is found in you. I praise you for befriending us in the gospel. It is overwhelming, settling, and centering to hear Jesus say to us, “I no longer call you servants.  .  .  . I call you friends” (John 15: 15 NIV). What wondrous love is this, indeed? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15: 13 NIV). Hallelujah, what a salvation! Hallelujah, what a Savior! I pray in Jesus’ most glorious and gracious name. Amen.

- Smith, Scotty. Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith. Baker Publishing Group.

Thanking God today for David, Steven & Stephen - my band of brothers! ...friends who stick closer than...


Thursday, June 20, 2013

weakness? sufficient grace or replacement grace?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12: 9–10) 

Heavenly Father, as I meditate on these words of Paul, I vacillate between feelings of anger and relief, for as a young follower of Jesus, I wasn’t taught to delight in weakness but rather to despise weakness, to deny weakness, to demonize weakness, to dethrone weakness. That’s why I totally understand Martin Luther’s statement that “bad theology is the worst taskmaster of all.” For I’ve suffered much under the merciless whip of several gospel distortions.

It was all about “the victorious Christian life”: overcoming and not underachieving, kind of like having a type A personality on spiritual steroids. I didn’t think in terms of sufficient grace, I wanted replacement grace— getting rid of anything unpleasant in my life. Thank you, Father, for rescuing me from this and other misrepresentations of life in Christ.

Thank you for the godly men and women you’ve brought into my life over the years, the humble and courageous servants of Jesus who’ve helped me understand the true riches of the gospel and the way of the cross. Increase their tribe, Lord; increase their tribe.

Father, I know I’m not to be defined by my weakness and brokenness, but I realize more than ever, that’s where Jesus meets me. I have no ability to change my heart. I very much want your power to rest on me. I very much need for your power to rest on me. I am desperate for all the sufficient grace you will give me.

As you continue to humble and gentle my heart, greatly increase my compassion toward others in their weakness and brokenness. Forgive my irritation, impatience, and avoidance of people whose need is much greater than my supply.

What a wonderful, merciful Savior you are, Jesus. Indeed, it was because you embraced the weakness of the cross that I can gladly boast in the weaknesses of my life and the more-than-sufficient supply of your grace. What a most profound, liberating, and hope-filled paradox. I pray in your holy and loving name. Amen.

Smith, Scotty (2011-09-01). Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith (p. 184). Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

new Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir CD

New Brooklyn Tab CD dropped today! A must have!
 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

aren't we all bruised reeds?

Not Breaking the Bruised Reeds

Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: "Well, I don't have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one." Often we also treat people this way. We say: "Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business...we'd better not take the risk of working with them." When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.

 - Henri J. M. Nouwen

Friday, March 08, 2013

are we really nonjudgmental?

Towards a Nonjudgmental life

One of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices.  Sometimes we aren't even aware how deeply rooted our prejudices are.  We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in colour, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle [socioeconomic status - blogger added] as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.

Strangers, people different than we are, stir up fear, discomfort, suspicion, and hostility.  They make us lose our sense of security just by being "other."  Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at "those other persons" as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God's heart.  Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear.

 - Henri J.M. Nouwen

Monday, March 04, 2013

grace unshackled

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  - Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Do we see Jesus as our perfect 'model'
or our perfect righteousness?

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.  - 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24  (ESV)

Let go of performance-based Christianity,
and rest in His finished work!