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 Show us that Your Word is still alive today, that it is not void or outdated or false.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.

Take it All

burden

Take it all, Lord, far from me

My life I entrust to You

I will serve, Lord, faithfully

In all You would have me do

There’s just one thing I’ll keep back

And the rest is Yours, I swear

For there’s one thing I still lack

And it’s hard for me to bear

I’m sorry, Father, for my sin

I will try to clean this mess

I cannot, Father, let You in

Until my heart’s looking its best

Thank You, my King, for giving

Me a love so pure and true

And now, my King, I’m living

To seek it ev’rywhere but You

Take it all, Lord, far from me

What is best for me You know

I will give, Lord, willingly

All the nothing I’ve let go.

Too Much Grace?

Our pastor, Gary Wilkerson (for those who have heard of David Wilkerson of The Cross and the Switchblade, Gary is his son), is a self-dubbed grace pastor. He preaches the message of God’s grace nearly every Sunday. He teaches from different passages in the Bible, but the fundamental message is often the same: God’s grace for you has already made you a new person and washed away all your sins. Any that you commit are when you’re not walking in that grace which is available.

Leah’s father really appreciates this message because his background was, to put it mildly, not in the church. Oddly, having been raised in the church all my life, with most of the pastors having taught grace more than law, I struggle more with it. I’m learning to have grace for others, to see their situations through their eyes, but there’s a part of me that is still rooted in the law, that demands adherence to the Bible’s precepts,

I think it is possible to lose the law by preaching only grace. Jesus did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it for all who believe in Him. We don’t live under the law anymore, but only because He has paid our penalties for us rather than because the law no longer exists. 

Because Jesus gave commandments on how to live, we are still under those laws, even if we are freed from certain ones, such as not eating pork. (I think I speak for most of us when I say thank God for bacon!) And these commands are harder than in the Old Testament because they governed not just actions, like O.T. law, but the heart.

And this is where I need more grace. Ever more grace. I have always been so black-and-white, such a rigid adherent to rules. I need to learn just how much grace I have available to me, a grace strong enough that the laws have already been fulfilled for me.

Tell Them About My Love

When I was in church on Sunday, the ideas for posts this week came fast and furious. At one point, I was going to blog about the pastor’s message. I asked God what He wanted me to say about correction vs. rejection (not the main thrust of the message, but an important point) and He responded, “Tell them about My love.”

And so my first post this week was about how much God loves us all. I could be as eloquent as Shakespeare and still fail miserably to capture the tiniest fraction of His love for us.

Whether I can say it well or not is not important. What is important is that I show it. Most of our communication with people has nothing to do with the words that come out of our mouths. It has been estimated that 55% of our communication with others is in our body language and facial expressions, 38% in our tone of voice, and 7% in our actual words. I would argue that there’s another component to consider: our actions.

When you talk to others, do you just say the right words, or do your expressions and tone make that person feel loved and accepted? Do your actions line up with your words and body language? There will likely be someone where you work or in your social circle who watches you a little more closely just because they know you’re a Christian. They will pay attention most of all to how your actions line up with what they know of the Bible (which may be unfair if their knowledge of it is limited or skewed) and to how much you love people. The one thing that seemingly all non-Christians who have heard of Jesus know about Him is that He commanded us to love others, not to judge them.

I know that when others offend, hurt, or annoy me, I’m not as charitable in my heart as I should be, even though I sometimes manage to say the right words. The problem is that people are very adept at reading when you don’t like them and we all crave love and acceptance. If the God you believe in is not enough to change you, why would people believe in Him to change them?

I honestly don’t mean to come down on anyone. God knows I’m desperately in need of this message myself. I just want you to ask yourself honestly how you’re coming across to other people you meet, whether your best friend, spouse, colleague, or a stranger on the corner begging for change. Do they feel loved after being with you? And how much love do you have for them, especially when you don’t like something they’ve done?

The Nature of Sin, Part 2

So why does it matter that your sins are almost entirely against God, regardless of what you’ve done to yourself or someone else?

There are two reasons:

1. When we sin against someone else or ourselves, we need to remember to repent to God as well. Too often, it seems we apologize to the person we wronged or, worse, “let it all blow over.” While it’s good and necessary to apologize when you’re wrong, if only 1% of your sin is against the other person, you’re missing an apology to God. It is His law that you transgressed, much more so than any infringement on someone else’s rights and you’ve harmed someone He cares about enough to die for. If you’ve sinned, go to that person, apologize, and try to make restitution, but don’t forget to ask God for forgiveness as well.

2. If God is willing to forgive everything other people have done to us and everything we have done, we have no reason to hold on to our grudges against others. There’s the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. He owed 10,000 talents to his king (I saw online that someone calculated this to be roughly $2.25 billion, assuming an $8/hr wage), way more than any normal person could ever hope to pay off. His king forgave the debt, but then this servant grabbed his debtor by the throat and threw him in prison when the debtor couldn’t pay the 100 denarii (roughly $2,000) he owed. This unforgiving servant had just been forgiven of a debt over a million times as large, yet held this pittance against the poor debtor. When the king found out, he was furious and threw the unforgiving servant in jail until every last penny was repaid (assumedly for the rest of his life). 

If sins against you are really 99% against God and He’s willing to forgive the person who wronged you, who are you to refuse to forgive the other 1%? It is God’s judgment on their sin that matters, so your refusal to forgive won’t really harm them. And it’s arrogant to put yourself above God, saying that your judgment on them is not satisfied when He claims it is.

Also, if you’ve been forgiven of such a heavy debt that there’s no way you could every pay it back, what right have you to hold the tiniest little debts that other people owe you against them? There can never be anything done to you that’s worse than what you do to God every time you sin, so there’s never any reason to withhold forgiveness.

Both of these are reasons we should forgive, but there’s a reason we must forgive that goes beyond even these…