A Prayer for the Church

God, be with our church, with those who are called by Your name. Help us to realize that You are the most important thing in our lives, and that You and You alone have the power to change people’s hearts. Help us to realize our calling to love the lost, heal the wounded, both in body and in spirit, feed and clothe the poor, encourage the broken-hearted, and in all we do, to guide those around us to You. Let us see beyond the actions, beyond the anger and the hatred and the skepticism of all who reject You; let us see as much as You allow us to of their hearts, that we may know their pain and have only compassion and love for them, as You had love for us. Give us wisdom in dealing with people and with situations in life; only You know what is to come and what is truly best for us. Let us accept Your judgments and Your answers to our prayers, even when that answer is not what we want to hear.

Help us, Lord, to ignore those things that don’t matter that we might live in peace with each other, not striving to outdo each other in any way, but striving only to serve you with all of our hearts, minds, strength, and souls. Teach us humility and contentedness, teach us patience and mercy, teach us faith and love, but first, Lord, give us the courage to pray for these things in earnestness, for we know that You will always answer prayers for things that are in Your will for us. Help us to understand Your ways, that You often teach us love by giving us difficult people to love, that You show us how to be patient by letting us want things immediately. Help us to grow, Father, that we might be closer to You.

For our church, Father, please strengthen our faith. Show us that Your Word is still alive today, that it is not void or outdated or false. Show us our sins, and then show us our hearts that cause us to commit these sins. Most of all, change our hearts that we may seek You first above all things. Help us to be different from the world, let them see that You do change people, and that what we have is something they need. Give us the strength to weather persecution, to not only endure, but to praise You when it comes that we are counted worthy to suffer for Your glory. For it is always, Lord, about Your glory, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the honor forever.

Let Your will be done in our lives.

Amen.

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Shortsighted

A couple weeks ago, Leah and I spent the better part of the day going to the Dept. of Public Safety, then to the county tax office, then back to the Dept. of Public Safety to get our vehicles registered and our drivers licenses. We are officially Texans now, as our licenses came in the mail last week. But on both of them, there’s a restriction: we can’t drive without contacts or glasses because we’re both shortsighted.

In planning, we’re far more shortsighted than our eyes could ever be. According to the world’s terms, we’re probably doing well with our long-term plans. We have a timeline to buy a home and to start a family. We have two basic plans on how to invest to save for retirement and a rough idea of how much money we’ll need.

Yet we sometimes sacrifice our long-term plans for short-term happiness. Tomorrow, my first order of business is to get on redbox.com and reserve a copy of Spiderman 2 for Leah. It’s only $1.29, but strictly speaking, it hurts our long-term goals. We sometimes go out to eat or buy presents for each other or get other things we don’t actually require. We’re usually pretty good at denying ourselves in this way, but certainly not perfect. I also spend too much time doing things other than work. I try to limit internet and game time during the work day, but I could be better.

What we have largely lost sight of in this, though, is that both long-term and short-term goals for accumulating stuff or achieving life goals are nearly worthless when compared to a plan for how to serve God. Leah and I were working to this end, yes, but we had no plan and only a few vague goals that had no timeline.

We’re supposed to be laying up for ourselves treasures in Heaven rather than treasures on earth. Our planning to this point has been almost entirely of the treasures on earth variety. It doesn’t matter too much whether that planning is long-term or short-term; it’s still focused on getting the wrong type of reward. Our focus should primarily be on how to serve the kingdom of God, not on how to serve ourselves in this life. And to do this in the most efficient way, we felt we needed a plan.

Now, we know we can’t plan out exactly how God is going to work. I’m sure Joseph didn’t have a “go from prison to being the Pharaoh’s right-hand man in 7 years” plan. Still, he probably did have a plan for managing the resources of the prison and he definitely had one for getting through the 7 years of famine.

Leah and I talked this morning about what we want our long-term goals to be and this is what we came up with:
1. We want to get a book finished between the two of us every year. That means written, edited, and published, whether traditionally or self-published.
2. We want to get plugged into our church (when we find a good one, which we may have done this past Sunday) or a regular ministry. We don’t want to simply take from the church; we want to give back and love our neighbors.
3. While we don’t want to measure our success by numbers, we want to have measurable goals for certain things, like number of readers on our blogs. This wouldn’t be to verify the worth of our efforts, but rather to keep us doing these things on a daily or near-daily basis. For my part, I’d like 150 readers by the end of this year.

Then we talked about small, weekly goals. You can’t drive from Vancouver to the Florida Keys without a plan that includes many different roads. Likewise, you can’t simply say you want to accomplish a major goal within a year without daily, weekly, or at least monthly steps to keep you on track. For me, for my blogging, my goal is to have at least 3 posts a week, preferably 4 or 5, and to comment on at least 3 other blogs daily. Also, sometime this week, Leah is going to show me how to plug into various Google+ communities and post there.

I don’t know how God will bless or change our plans (we’re certainly not locked into them because we can’t control His will in any way), but it’s good to have a plan on how to serve Him. It provides clarity and direction.