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A Passage and A Prayer 2/27/19

Finding our future

“But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Make Your face shine on Your servant; save me by Your loving devotion.”
(Psalm 31:14-16)

So, what do you want to be when you grow up? I lost track of how many times I heard that question as a youth. Part of me always pushed away from giving an answer, but I was uncertain why. One year in school, we had a “Career Fair”, and I decided my future dream was to be a telemarketer! (God has a sense of humor, because I did spend some time calling people in college and asking them to become donors for the university…)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that gets us looking into the future, to a time ahead of us. More than that, though, the question claims that we are not big enough yet to handle our future. I think that is what rubs me the wrong way about it; why must we wait for a certain size or age requirement to start accomplishing God’s will for our lives? Is it like a roller coaster ride, where you have to be 48” high in faith before you can take the plunge? Do I have to wait to be the person God is calling me to be?

No. Our future begins the day we come to faith in Christ. Our forever has its foundation in our baptism, and each day becomes a chance for us to be the person God has made us to be. Today matters. Indeed, our times are in God’s hands, and Jesus even went so far as to say, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34).

This also means “growing up” is never behind you. You can’t outgrow God’s plan. You’re never too old, never past your prime. You can still enjoy the McDonald’s Play Place of God’s purposes! Find your future in today. God is shining his love upon you. God is delivering you from all evil, whether it is self-inflicted, caused by others, or perpetrated by Satan himself.  

So… what do you want to be today as you grow up in Christ? Jesus has a future for you, and your times are in his hands.
 
Lord God, Heavenly Father, You have created us to be Yours forever. We know that we don’t have to wait to experience Your love and community; this day, we seek to live out the plans You have for the rest of our lives. Make me into a gracious, humble, and loving person. Strengthen me to help others find their future in You, too. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/25/19

Moving Past the Past 
 
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
 
The past can have a power over us, drawing us to focus on the weight of our previous sins or the glories of past success. Focusing on the brokenness keeps us trapped by fear and insecurity, feeling unworthy to accomplish the things God has for us to do. But focusing on the success of our past can have a similar effect: it can keep us from seeing the things God is putting in our lives to do now.

When I was in college, I remember sharing stories about high school sports, the “glory days.” I wasn’t a great athlete; I definitely was not good enough to continue playing in college. But dwelling on the past helped me feel like I was still successful. It had the power to keep me from pursuing new things. I also remember failing to convince everyone of an idea I had for our youth group. I felt dejected and rejected after that, and that event had the power to keep me from speaking up afterward.

Paul is reminding us to move past the past. God has an eternal future for us- one with resurrection power and perfect restoration. We will not be able to claim it fully until the last day, but we should be reaching for the end, the goal or destination, of our lives. And that is eternal life in Christ. We can move past the past, because God has already come to peace with it. Jesus paid the price for our past. And Jesus has more for us to do. Each day we live is a day God gives for us to accomplish His will. Move past the past, and see what it is God has for you to do in the present.

Dear Lord Jesus, You have a reason for us to be here. You have a purpose and a plan for this day and for all my days. Show me how I can be reaching for the resurrection and living intentionally today. Help me to move past my past. Assure me of Your forgiveness. Remind me of my ongoing value. Let me always trust in Your promise of eternal life. AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/22/19

Setting the Example

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-11

My son was three, and he loved digging in the dirt. We made a “worm home” out of mud, shredded paper, and banana peels, and he loved to check on those worms daily. We would read books on worms. He loved worms. Then the day came. He made a wish, and this was his wish: “I wish I was a worm!” What? Who would wish to be a worm? Don’t you know their life cycle, how inept and low they are? My son, you are so much better than a worm. Please, don’t ever wish to be a worm. But it didn’t matter my logic, his wish was to be a worm.

Isn’t that what Jesus’ wish was? “I wish I were a human!” Wait Jesus, you are God. You are the spoken Word that created the world. You are the power that brought people into being. A human?! Don’t you know they are fallen, destined to die? Don’t you know their lives are suffering and agony? Jesus, do you know what you are saying?

Jesus did know what he was doing. From eternity, he had planned to give up the glory of God to become a person. Jesus would come as a person to make people godly. He became obedient to death in order to destroy the evil that enslaved the people he loves. He didn’t consider himself too great, but rather he stooped low. “I am a worm and not a man,” the psalmist wrote about the crucifixion, and how accurate that Jesus became more despised than a person becoming a worm.

And that is our example. A God willing to become a person so that people can become godly. We don’t have to become worms. Jesus is merely calling us to consider others to be more important than ourselves. So much easier! The master became our servant; so we can serve our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus, You are our righteousness, our hope and peace. Jesus, You are our example of what it means to be humble. Please help us to live like You. We know You gave up Your life for us; strengthen us to give up our wills for the sake of others. In Your name, AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/20/19

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

God’s call for us is to be humble. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” It’s a tall order to be humble, and something that is not entirely comfortable for us selfish and self-absorbed people. Babies yell and scream to get others to know what they need- and it is good, because we need to know what they need. We learn to share what we want and need in more healthy ways as we grow older. But we have been trained by our culture to continue to be selfish. “Have it your way,” fast food chains tell us. Buy whatever you want. Be controlled by your wants and desires.

But we want more from life than just food and clothing. We want more from life than just to have things our way. We want to have loving relationships and accomplish meaningful work. This is done by being humble. We count others to more significant than ourselves. We look to the needs of others. We seek to fulfill the needs of others.

How do we do that? When do we do it? When in the midst of conversations, pay attention to how you feel and react when someone shares what they need. Especially if someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. How do you feel when asked to do something you don’t want to do? That is the feeling of being humble. That feeling confronts us, challenges us, overwhelms our wills. God is calling us to meet that feeling and come to terms with that feeling. God is calling us to embrace that feeling and learn to love being humble. God is inviting us to see other people as worthy of our strength and will. God is calling us to sacrifice our wills for the sake of others. And it is in that action that we embrace the humility of Jesus and open the door for the power of Jesus to be at work in us and through us.

Jesus, empower us to be humble. It is hard to sacrifice our will. It is hard to think about ourselves less. It is hard to seek the good of others first. But we know that You can work miracles. You can change our hearts and minds. Give us Your Spirit, that we might model a life of humble love in a world obsessed with power, privilege, and prestige. In Your name, AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 2/18/19

Thank God things don’t go our way!

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

We have hopes. We have dreams. We have things we want to accomplish in this world. But then we wake up to reality when our hopes and dreams are dashed upon the rocky shores of reality. Life brings change and chaos so quickly into our path. This makes it very difficult for us to plan our lives.
As we seek to make plans, we struggle. “Is this something I can really accomplish?” “Should I aim that high?” If we don’t underestimate our ability, we also run the risk of aiming in the wrong direction. Choosing a career path that is outside of our gifting. Moving to a new city that we think is going to bring us new opportunities. Whether we struggle with uncertainty or misplaced confidence, we can all say, “Thank God things don’t go our way!”

No matter what we plan, God is the one in charge. God is the one directing our steps and guiding us along life. Jesus has bigger plans than we could ever have for ourselves. Jesus puts more purpose and meaning in our path than we could ever discover on our own. In Jesus, we can be certain that we are following God’s path- especially when things don’t go our way!
God will get us where we need to be; therefore we follow the path that God has put before us. How can we know what that path is? We pray; we seek God’s will; we read God’s Word. We try to make sense of where and how God is moving in our lives. Ask yourself, “Where do I sense God’s presence? Where am I serving others? Where am I filled with joy and purpose?” Pursue the places where you feel God’s purposes coming to pass. And the Lord will establish your steps!

Jesus, we want our lives to be directed by you. Show us where you would have us go. Lead us especially when things aren’t going our way. You have secured for us an eternal home and joy forever; please bless us with purpose and peace in the present as well. In your name, AMEN.


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