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Storms

Matt. 8:23-27: Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm.

This is not meant to take anything away from the miracle itself.  Jesus calming the storm was an amazing act; something only God could pull off.  And so certainly, part of the point of Jesus doing that was so that the disciples would have yet another glimpse into who they were dealing with.  More and more they were beginning to understand that this Jesus wasn’t just an average carpenter or preacher.  The storm wasn’t the only thing that Jesus calmed that day.  And perhaps as great a miracle is what went on inside of the disciples.  Jesus calmed them. 

The wind and the waves were not the only unrest happening out on the lake.  Inside the boat, there was a lot of anxiety, panic, uncertainty, anger, helplessness.  This, while Jesus was sleeping.  With a word, Jesus took care of the external elements.  The waves died down, the wind stilled.  As for the disciples, they were amazed.  “Who is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey Him.”  In an instant, the disciples’ state was transformed from panic to peace, from anxiety to amazement, from helplessness to hope.  That’s what Jesus does…whether the storms go away immediately or not.

To be sure, the physical calming of the storm was key to the transformation of the disciples, but it was accomplished by Jesus with a word.  That Word of Jesus is available to us all the time.  Sometimes the storms don’t dissipate immediately.  But the Word is still present.  “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no ill, for thou art with me.”  “I will be with you always until the end of the age.”  Those are Words that calm storms today; the storms inside of us.  As the world continues in its chaos, the Words of our Lord don’t necessarily cause all the external wind and waves to dissipate immediately, but inside of us, the Word has exactly that effect.

Lord Jesus, may we be attentive to your Word, especially in the midst of all the storms.  Amen.


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Prayer Life

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“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  Romans 8:26-27

If your prayer life is anything like mine, it’s a rollercoaster.  There are times when I seem to get it.  My prayers come more freely, and I actually feel like I know what to ask for, and what to thank Him for.   And there are other times…I don’t even know what to say.  Worse, there are times when I resist praying, almost as if something is blocking me from praying.  Like a stream that has dried up completely.  In those times especially I often just mutter the Kyrie:  Lord, Have Mercy, Christ Have Mercy, Lord Have Mercy.

And here’s the thing:  He does have mercy!  And these verses explain it: “Even when we don’t know what to pray for (as we ought), the Spirit Himself intercedes…”  

Do you understand what that means?  When your prayer life appears to have dried up…it hasn’t.  “The Spirit Himself intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

What incredible comfort this is!  But so typical of God.  Never depending on us, He reminds us to depend on Him and trust Him.  

So when your prayer life is struggling, rejoice.  The Spirit is interceding for you.  You are indeed a saint, holy by virtue of Christ’s holiness covering you.  

Merciful Father, in those times when our prayer-life appears to have dried up, remind us that in our weakness Your Spirit is still interceding for us.  We thank and praise You that because of what Jesus has done for us, we are rightly called saints.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


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Be Joyful

flag of U.S.A.
 
1Thes. 5:16-18  Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus

Perhaps these verses of the Bible are as good as any to follow Independence Day weekend.  These have been strange and trying times for our nation.  Those who watch the news regularly are treated to bad circumstance after bad circumstance.  And I suppose a natural reaction to all that has been going on, and all that we’re told about it, is to conclude that we have much to be sad about when it comes to the United States.  If that is our reaction, 1 Thessalonians 5 might be a good place to look.

     “Be joyful always.”  No, this nation is not perfect.  There are many things about it that are far from perfect.  Yet, may we be joyful?  One of the great things about this country is that we can be joyful in public, praising God for all the blessings He has given us.  This will probably look odd to the onlooker.  In the midst of tensions, disease, division, we remain joyful because we know that there is so much more to this country than that.  And most of all, because we have a God who continually, richly blesses us.

     “Pray continually.”  This goes without saying.  Maybe in recent times more than most, you and I have been in prayer for this country and our leaders and our circumstances.  It is what God would have us do.  And the fact that we are guided by God’s Word and His will for right and wrong makes our prayers especially accurate and important.  Through the good and bad of this country, Christians like us will keep praying.

     “Give thanks in all circumstances.”  While we are treated daily to all that’s wrong, you and I know how much there is for which to be thankful regarding the United States.  Start naming those things.  A short devotion like this wouldn’t even begin to touch the surface of all with which God has blessed us.  And while others choose to wring their hands and declare the baseness of this nation, you and I know that while there is so much work to do to make it better, we are thankful.  God shed His grace on America, and He continues to do so. 

     So let others determine how they view our nation these days.  You and I will approach God with joy, in prayer, and full of thanksgiving.

Prayer: O Lord God, with joy, we thank you for this nation.  And we continually pray that you may be recognized more and more in it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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True Peace with Others

Peace neon signage

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

“Peace for our time” became one of the most ironic quotes in history following Hitler’s invasion of Poland and continued aggression less than a year after these words were spoken by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. While Chamberlain, and so many others in Europe, hoped and even prayed for peace, they severely underestimated their enemy.

Now, over eighty years later, peace seems no more possible for our time than it did when Hitler invaded Poland. In short order, most of us could list off more than a handful of potential places where armed conflict could breakout at any moment. Now consider also the last several weeks in our own country. Recent events around the globe and close to home remind us how fallen our world is. You can’t help but wonder if it will get worse before it gets better.

But peace is not just an international or even domestic concern. This lack of peace often becomes very personal in our lives as we experience confrontations with others at work, school, or even in our homes. Look around at your life. Where do you see tension or even hostility? Are all of your relationships “peaceful”?

As people approach the end of life, one of their great desires is to “make peace” with everyone. This is especially true of family members. No one wants to leave behind hard feelings and regrets. This is especially true for Children of God. Because of our peace with God, our hearts have been changed and we now seek peace with others, especially within God’s family.

So why wait until the end of life? Consider again Paul’s encouragement to us today, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Make today the day that you live out this encouraging word by God’s grace. Pray that He would lay on your heart those who you need to reconcile with and begin rebuilding a relationship. While no one of us may be able to change the world, by God’s grace, we can begin to bring to the immediate world around us.

Holy Spirit, work in me to be an agent of peace. Whether it is a member of my family, my school or workplace, or within my community, may I be the first to work for peace and in so doing show Your love and grace to others. It’s in Jesus name I pray, amen.


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Struggle with Sin

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“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 8:1-2

In Romans 7, Paul details the Christian’s constant struggle with sin.  And we all sigh in agreement, realizing our experience matches his.

But then these words from Chapter 8:  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”   The sigh turns into a smile, which turns into joy, which turns into peace.  My sins haven’t derailed my relationship with God!  Because I’m in Christ Jesus (baptized into Him, His Spirit dwelling inside of me), there is no condemnation for my sins!  He took the condemnation for me; He became the curse instead of me; He absorbed the wrath in my place.

But to know that we are not condemned is different than living like we’re not condemned.  Too often we dwell on our sins of the past; or the past sins of others.  Too often we allow our old mistakes to affect and infect our Today.  We aren’t condemned, yet we live as if we’re wearing an orange jumpsuit locked behind bars.  Cut it out!  When we dwell in our sins of the past, it’s a form of pride, because we’re torturing ourselves for not being perfect.  Let it go.  And remember that you are not condemned.  Repent, yes, but live joyfully in the full forgiveness that is yours.  You are not condemned!

Father, sometimes it seems too good to be true that we are not condemned for our sins.  Jesus paid for them, so by Your Spirit keep us from dwelling on them.  Help us to live lives of joyful freedom, knowing that we are not condemned.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.  


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