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A Passage and A Prayer 3/7/19


“As far as the east is from the west, so far have I separated you from your transgressions.” Psalm 103

 
“It’s not true!” your conscience screams. Not really. You are still the person who did those terrible things, who thought those despicable thoughts. You are the liar and cheat you always have been. What’s worse, we hold onto the sins and struggles of others. They will never be more than the sum of their past mistakes. Our hearts are so full of pain and hurt that we are blinded to reality.
 
You have been separated from your sinfulness. God performed open-sin surgery, and that demon was drowned. Put to death. Can the east ever meet the west? No. Can you ever be the sinful person God has already forgiven? No. But you still struggle to make this feel real. I know this, because I am just like you. We can’t wrap our minds around it. Our hearts fail to accept the new reality. And it keeps us from allowing the reality of forgiveness to shape our views of others.

Spend some time today coming to grips with the reality that God knows the darkest parts of you and still loves you. More than that, Jesus found that person to be so lovely that He gave up His life for that person. Jesus gave His life for you.
 
Dear Jesus, You forgive us and You strengthen us to forgive others. Help us to live in light of the freedom of forgiveness and unshackle us from the weight of our sins. In Your name, Amen.


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A Passage and A Prayer 3/4/19

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. [Mark 1:16-17]

Passage and a Prayer friends:

You have come to value and cherish this resource for the up-building of your spiritual life and your trust in Jesus. Pioneered by Pastor Pete Kelm, this is a powerful legacy that he has left on this community of faith. Maybe you have even heard Jesus’ call through these devotions you’ve received. “Follow me.” Jesus’ call is the same for us today as it was when he walked by the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Because of this, we are taking time this Lent to dive deeper into our relationship with Christ. We are going to follow along with the “Red Letter Challenge” for the 40 days of Lent. This Challenge will force us to wrestle with Jesus’ commands and words for our lives: we will be focusing on being with Christ, forgiving, loving, giving, and going. To do this, we will be sending out “A Passage and A Prayer” emails each day, Monday through Friday.

These daily e-mails will serve as reminders and challenges for us during Lent. These will be starting on Wednesday, March 6th. We know this is a change for the normal routine of “A Passage and A Prayer,” and if you would rather not receive these Daily Challenges, please reply to Danielle or click here to unsubscribe, so that she can pause the e-mails during Lent.

We are sure that these will be uplifting and serve to lead you deeper in your relationship with Jesus and service to the world, and we are looking forward to joining together during this “Red Letter Challenge!”

Dear Jesus, we seek to follow You. We want to leave behind our nets and baggage, and everything that is keeping us from entrusting our lives to You. We ask You to lead us during Lent and show us how You would have us live in this world. Guide us as we learn more about being, loving, forgiving, giving, and going in You. We love You, Jesus, and we give You thanks for the people with whom You have gathered us. In Your name, AMEN.


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A Passage and A Prayer 3/1/19

The Power of Endings

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
[John 19:28-30]

We treat things a little differently when we know the ending is approaching. We say things we normally wouldn’t say. We do things we normally wouldn’t do. We value the little moments a little bit more. My wife and I lived in St. Louis for a couple years, and the day we were moving out, we stopped one last time at our favorite coffee shop. The smell of the place, the taste of the coffee, the bustle inside all were accentuated because this would be our last time. This was the end of an era of our lives.

Endings hold a weight, a power, in our lives. Sometimes we don’t see them coming. We don’t know till after the end has passed. One of my best friends in high school died in a car accident, and I had no idea that the last time I spoke with him would be the last time. Those moments can overwhelm us with guilt and anxiety, not knowing how our relationship ended and not having the peace that comes with knowing the end.

Jesus knows all things. Jesus lived his entire life with the end in mind. He knew the cross was always at the end. Maybe this was part of the reason he found immense joy in every moment, every relationship, every interaction. He knew where his life was going and what he was going to accomplish. On the cross, he breathed out, “It is finished,” and it was. It was the end. The end of his life, and the guarantee of the end of ours. Not an end as in dying, but an end as in the goal or destination. Jesus’ life goal was to guarantee that the end of our lives would not be death, but rather resurrection.

We can live with the end in mind, too. Yes, we will suffer and struggle while on earth. But there is an eternal hope and joy that springs up from knowing Jesus has redeemed us from death and evil. We know the end! And that will shape our every day. How will we treat this life differently, knowing that the end is coming? How will we act toward others, knowing we will be spending eternity together? What will we do with the time we’ve been given, knowing that Jesus has work for us to do before the end?

Dear Jesus, You have secured eternity for us. Empower us now to live in light of Your love, to live today in light of eternity. Show us where to seek the good of others and how we can invest in people for their and our eternal good. We don’t always know Your purpose or timing, but we entrust ourselves to Your care and guidance. In Your name we pray, AMEN.


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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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