Tuesday Prayer: Communication

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
(Colossians 4:6)

Mighty Creator God, You fashioned mankind after Your own image, bestowing on us the blessings of creativity, of sight and hearing and speech so that we may see Your good works, hear Your voice, and lift our voices in praise to You. Yet we have fallen. From the first man down through the generations and spanning the billions of lives in human history, we have all fallen and soiled Your glorious image with the dirt of this earth.

All men but One, that is.

Your Son alone walked this earth as a man, redeeming mankind and presenting the perfect Image of God. He was Man as mankind was meant to be, walking in humility and love, honoring the Father and obedient to His will. It is through Him alone that we  can cover our rags once more in the resplendence of the Light of the world, the spotless garment of righteousness offered us by our King.

All of us who are in Christ now bear the privilege and the responsibility of bearing Your image well; of representing Your name and Your Kingdom accurately to a lost and dying world. For this reason today, Lord, we ask that You will set a guard over our lips and keep watch over the door to our mouths.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
(Psalms 141:3)

In all our communications with others – verbally, over social media, via body language, in our commute, around our tables, in our homes, in the marketplaces, or wherever we find ourselves – teach us to use gracious speech. Where firmness is needed, show us how to be unyielding and yet gentle as we not only proclaim Your truth but exemplify it in our lives.

Lord, when controversies arise as they so often do in this era of information overload, remind us that the Lord’s servant is not to be quarrelsome but kind to all, able to teach, and correcting those in opposition to Your truth with gentleness.

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…
(2 Timothy 2:23-25)

Instead of seeing people with viewpoints that oppose Your truth as our enemies, remind ourselves who our true enemy is – the accuser and father of lies. As we wage war against his forces on this earth, remind us to do battle with humility, always leaning on You, the Lord of Hosts who fights for us.

Remind us, too, to pray for those who are ensnared by the devil so that they may be set free by Christ. And as we pray for them, remind us to pray that we do not become entangled in sin ourselves but instead pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with a pure heart, amen.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(2 Timothy 2:22)

Analog Interaction in a Digital World

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
(Romans 12:4-5)

Because my time is short, today I hope to give you the nickel version of a topic which deserves much more time. Much more. I want to talk about church membership and why it is important to the believer.

I know, I know, I’ve heard it before. Truth be told, I’ve even said it before: I don’t need the church to worship God. I can worship Him in private. Et cetera.

When I was a young Christian, I believed that with all my heart even though I never did actually stop going to church. But as I’ve walked in some dark and frightening places with the Lord, He has shown me otherwise.

Because, friends, those dark and frightening places were not out there in the world but right here, in my own heart and soul.

I’ve walked with His light shining in the darkness, exposing sin and I’ve learned to call it what it is. My sin. My selfishness and self-protectiveness and approval addiction and other ugly features.

But I’ve no wish to focus on those things today. Many have been dredged up and removed, and while I’m sure there will be many more dead and decaying things dredged up in the future, today I want to focus on the Lord. He is the reason to be a part of a church, because the church is His body.

And you need it. And it needs you.

Friends, here’s the thing. If we are truly the body of Christ, we don’t really get to choose. It’s God who makes the body and He’s the one who gets to decide where the pieces go, what they do, and how they work together to achieve His purposes.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
(1 Corinthians 12:18)

If we take the arrangement of the body into our own hands – even choosing our own part to play – we invite chaos and disaster. In such a case, not only are we taking on the role of the Creator, we are also rebelling against the authority of the Head – a body made of parts with no control center, running amok and doing as they wish without a central purpose or direction.

And if you think of it in those terms, it’s more than a trifle ludicrous.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
(1 Corinthians 12:14-15)

It’s also somewhat mutinous. Just think of your own elbow deciding it would much prefer to digest food than be a hinge. Ew. Or your heart imposing a preference of beating on the outside where all can see his might instead of dutifully thumping away in a cage.

Or what if the heart bore a grudge against his bony housing and decided he would not beat at all as long as the ribs remained in their place? That would not be a healthy body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
(1 Corinthians 12:21)

Aside from that, there’s a simple fact we cannot afford to ignore. It is not in spite of the church’s fault but because of them that we need it.

By learning to be rejected and overlooked, by having our toes stepped on and stepping on the toes of others, by being burnt out or just burnt; in short, by belonging to a group of redeemed sinners in various stages of sanctification, we strive together and grind against one another and wear on one another.

We grow to be more Christlike because we learn to endure mistreatment like Christ. We see how far we are from being Christlike because we are forced to see how we mistreat others. Our pride is exposed and humility begins to take its place as we learn to submit to the Headship of Christ together.

In putting aside jealousy and self-importance, we learn to celebrate others’ success and mourn others’ losses as if they were our own. We become a single Body, living and breathing and worshiping no longer for self but for the eternal glory of our Head, Jesus Christ our Lord.

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
(1 Corinthians 12:26-27)

And as much as I love the blogging community, I also realize the limitations of digital relationships. There’s zero chance of an awkward encounter on the web. We aren’t forced to get through relationship difficulties on the internet; we can just unfriend,  mute, or ignore. Even delete. And we can’t blurt out something accidentally offensive. We have time to read and edit.

That is why in this day and age, we need to foster our face-to-face and shoulder-to-shoulder relationships, growing together and building one another up in love.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:15-16)

For more on this topic, check out: Hurt by Church? Me Too. Let’s Chat.

Tuesday Prayer: Idols

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
(Isaiah 44:6)

Most High, as You spoke through the prophet centuries ago, You are the first and the last and apart from You there is no God. You are the sole and supreme Authority, the One who existed before all else and in whom all things are held together. Everything is part of Your creation, made to serve Your purposes and subject to Your plans. Teach us to magnify Your name as it should be done and to serve no other God.

Lord, as we spend more time in Your word, the more we are forced to confront those areas in our lives which fall short of bringing You honor and glory. As we examine our hearts, our lives, and our loyalties through the light of Your truth, we find we are not so far removed from the faithless children of Israel as we would like to think. Like them, when You appear before us in glory we fall to our faces in awe, but also like them, when an obstacle appears or when Your promises seem delayed, we quickly fall prey to fear or turn our hearts to yearn after some other thing.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it…
(Exodus 32:7-8a)

Forgive us for our idolatry, subtle though it may be! Whether what we serve is our careers, our families, our pleasures, entertainments, or any other created thing, we pray that You will reveal all of them no matter how painful. And Lord, we invite You to tear down the idols, asking only that You will give us the faith and trust to work with You in removing whatever we have erected in the place of worship within our hearts.

As we submit to this process, we look forward to the freedom we will experience by walking fully and humbly in Your will. We long to see You exalted in our lives and ask for You to fill our hearts more and more with love for You.

Let us be genuine Kingdom seekers first and foremost, not serving you out of one side of our mouths and serving ourselves out of the other. Instead, Lord, make us fully Yours; a people of undivided minds and hearts loving You and serving You wholeheartedly. As we walk out our trust, use the light of Your freedom shining through our lives to set others free. May Your word speed ahead and be honored in us, in our families, and in every place we go with You, amen.

Tuesday Prayer

Somewhat erratically, I have posted a prayer for the Church. Many of these have sprung from prayers for my own local church body, but nearly all are applicable for the wider Church – the Body of Christ which exists worldwide and transcends differences in complexion, language, geography, or any other. So why not post them here? 

Why not, indeed… Let’s shoot for weekly and see what we get. 

Light of the world, You are the only source of true wisdom, revelation, and love. There is no dark side to Your inclinations nor any taint in your purity. You are good and holy and just, compassionate in Your dealings with us and patient to the extreme.

We worship You not only for the incredible works You have done but for who You are. Our God. Our King. You are enough. Your grace is sufficient for us.

Lord, as you know, we live in an age where even reality is called into question – as if there can be multiple realities based on nothing more substantial than the fluctuating mood of capricious beings such as we. In such times, You are the firm foundation which does not change; the solid Rock to which we can cling as the cultural storm rages around us.

But Lord, You are so much more besides.

You are also our Strength so that in You we do not merely cling to a dubious existence, barely getting through. Instead and by Your power at work in and through us, we are more than conquerors, able to thrive even in adversity and live out our trust in You day by day. Because of our salvation, we can even feel joy despite pain and loss.

Your Holy Spirit who gives us the strength to love the unlovely and to forgive those who hurt us in unforgivable ways – because we know we have been loved and forgiven so much more by You.

It is You, also, who gives us the boldness to stand firm on the Word of Truth even when the very idea of absolute truth is unpopular. Not because we are an argumentative and hateful people, Lord. May You forgive us if and when we are!  But instead, by Your Spirit we are a people who love others enough tell them the truth and to answer rejection and even persecution with forgiveness because we realize it is You they are rejecting, not us. And again, You are enough for us.

And we thank You, Lord. We praise Your name for the many prayers You have already answered and the many more You will answer. We thank You for the lost who are saved and for our loved ones whom You will save in time. We praise You for the healing of broken families and for families You will heal in the future as Your Spirit works in hearts and lives.

We honor You for setting us free from sin and we choose to live as an example to others, daily dying to ourselves so we might live for You.

We long to see Your Kingdom come and Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven, and so we set ourselves to faithful diligence in doing our part to see it done.

We recognize to fully engage our world with the Good News of salvation from sin, we must first engage it within ourselves. Before we lead others to the Gospel, we must believe it enough to live in continual humility, accepting responsibility for our sins and repenting fully – not once only but as a practice in cooperation with You for our sanctification.

And as a body, we hold one another accountable within our church local churches, loving one another with such a balance of grace and truth that our oddity stands out to the world as clearly as a city on a hill in a full blaze of electric lights in the dark of night.

Light of the world, let Your light shine in us as a beacon of hope for the disillusioned, the miscreant, the prodigal, and all who are deceived and lost so they may find their way home to You, amen.