Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Praying Through Philippians

Our church just recently finished a sermon series called Side by Side.  It was a study through the book of Philippians.  It was an incredibly challenging series and so good to go through.

As part of the series, we wanted to provide our people with the opportunity to pray through Scripture.  So, we developed 8 weeks worth of prayers that essentially helped us pray through the entire book of Philippians.  I've included those prayers below.  There is something powerful about combining the very words of God in our prayers to God.  It allows us to ask God to fulfill His promises and also reminds us that what He calls us to, He will empower us to do.  If you feel so led, please feel free to use these prayers for your own personal time with God.

Week 1

Monday:  Father, thank You for offering me grace. (1:2) Help me to recognize how much I need Your grace.  Please allow my need for grace to translate in to a willingness to offer grace to others this week when they need it most.  Amen.

Tuesday:  Jesus, thank You for offering me Your peace.  You said that it is Your peace that You leave with us and it is Your peace that You give us (John 14:27). Because it is Your peace, do not let my heart be troubled or afraid.  Help my heart to be at peace today.  Amen.

Wednesday:  Father, thank You for the joy that _______________ has brought in to my life. (1:4) Every time I remember them, I am grateful. (1:3) I am grateful for how they have invested in me and how they have pointed me to You in countless ways.  Father, may Your grace and Your peace overwhelm them this week (1:2) as they continue their partnership in the gospel (1:4)  Amen.

Thursday:  God, you have started a good work in my life and I trust You to finish it. (1:6) Lord, continue to refine me.  Continue Your work in my heart.  Keep me strong and sustain me to the end, so that I will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8) Amen.

Friday:  Jesus, there are many today who are being persecuted many today who are literally in chains because of defending and confirming the gospel.  (1:7) Remind me that we both share Your grace and are partners in the gospel (1:7) Help me to remember them more often in my prayers.  As men and women see their courage, may they be astonished and take note that they have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13) Keep them strong and sustain them to the end, Father (1 Corinthians 1:8) Amen.

Saturday: Jesus, you say that our love for one another will prove to the world that we are Your disciples. (John 13:35)  Knowing that, I pray that Your love would overwhelm me more and more each day so that my love for others will overflow from my life more and more.  Help me to know and see and discern the best way to love those you have placed and will place in my life. Holy Spirit, empower me to love beyond my own capabilities and give power that enables me live a life that is pure and blameless.  (1:9 – 10) Amen.

Sunday: Father God, fill me with the fruit of righteousness that comes only through Jesus Christ.  However you choose to produce righteousness in my life, may it all be for Your glory and for Your praise.  (1:11) Amen.

Week 2

Monday:  God, __________________ was a very painful time in my life.  I’m not sure I fully understand it or even want to reflect on it right now.  Even though I may not see it right now, may that painful time in my life be used to advance the gospel (1:12) Allow the gospel to advance in my own life so that I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4).  I pray also that the truth of the gospel will advance to those around me every day.  Win the hearts of my neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends.  Please open their eyes to Your truth and use me in that good work.  Amen.

Tuesday:  Father, I again pray for those who are being persecuted for faith in the gospel of Jesus.  Whatever happens to them, may it be used to advance the gospel (1:12) May what is happening to them make fellow believers (including myself) more confident and may we dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (1:14) Amen.

Wednesday: Father, may Christ be honored in my body, whether by my life or by my death. (1:20) If I live, let me live for You, Lord.  If I die, let my death bring glory to You, Lord.  Help me to remember that whether I live or die, I belong to You. (Romans 14:9) For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (1:21) Amen.

Thursday:  God, whatever happens in my life or around my life, please help me to live in such a way that the gospel is on full display.  May others see that You have not just saved me, but You are transforming me and sustaining me also. (1:27) Amen.

Friday:  God, help me to make every effort to stay united with other believers and to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3) Help me to stand united, striving side by side with those in my family, those in my small group, and those at my church in an effort to allow the gospel of Jesus to be revealed to others. (1:27) Amen.

Saturday:  Father, give me courage.  Help me not to be frightened.  Even if I have to suffer for Your sake, help me to do so in a way that allows your grace and your love to take center stage.  May it not be just the ways I serve You, but also the way in which I suffer for You that brings honor to Your name. (1:28) Amen.

Sunday:  Father, even if I have to go through many hardships (Acts 14:21), even if it will be granted to me to suffer for You (1:29), use my life to strengthen those with whom I serve side by side.  Help me to encourage them to remain true to the faith (Acts 14:22).  Amen.

Week 3

Monday:  Jesus, You have given me so much. Your love has made such a difference in my life.  Thank You.  You have allowed me to be united with your Holy Spirit and also united with fellow brothers and sisters who have the same Holy Spirit.  I have been blessed.  Help me to be one in spirit and mind with my fellow believers at my church and around the world.  Lord, keep us unified.  (2:1 – 2) Amen.

Tuesday:  Father, in light of all the blessings I have received from You, please do not allow selfish ambition or vain conceit to enter my heart and therefore enter my relationships. (2:3) You tell me that if I harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in my heart, that this does not come down from heaven but rather is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.  For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there disorder and every evil practice will be found.  (James 3:13 – 16)  Protect my heart from this.  Amen.

Wednesday:  Father, help me to consider the interests of others and not just my own interests. Protect me from allowing my desires from always being what I find most important.  Give me the grace I need to look to the interests of others. (1:3) Help me to be devoted to others and to honor others above myself (Romans 12:10) I cannot do this on my own.  I need Your help.  Amen.

Thursday:  God, if I am to count others more significant than myself, I need humility.  (2:3) Help me to clothe myself with humility toward others because You, God, oppose the proud but show favor to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5).  Help me to therefore humble myself under Your mighty hand and trust that You will life me up in due time. (1 Peter 5:6) I do not expect humility to come easily nor do I expect it to lead to an easy life.  But, I will case all of my anxiety upon You because I trust that You care for me. (1 Peter 5:7).  Amen.

Friday:  Father, in my relationships, help me to have the same mindset of Jesus Christ.  (2:5) Jesus, you took on the very form of a servant.  (2:6) Help me to do the same.  Jesus, You became fully human in every way and by doing so You made atonement for the sins of people.  (Hebrews 2:17) Give me opportunities to serve others this week.  I’m sure it will not be easy or convenient.  But, because you suffered when tempted, you are able to help me when I am tempted to focus only on myself (Hebrews 2:18) Grant me Your help.  Amen.

Saturday:  Jesus, You have been exalted to the highest place and have been given a name that is above every name.  (1:9) You are seated at the right hand of the Father.  All things are placed under Your feet and You have been appointed to be head over everything for the Church. (Ephesians 1:19 – 21) You are before all things, and in You all things hold together.  In everything, You have supremacy.  (Colossians 1:17 – 18)  I praise Your name.

Sunday:  I bow my knees before You, Jesus.  I confess that You are Lord.  I do this to the glory of God the Father.  (2:10 – 11)  Amen.

Week 4

Monday:  Jesus, no matter where I am, no matter who I am with, help me to remember that I am first and foremost a follower of You.  You have called me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling, but you do not leave me alone in that calling (2:12) I trust and believe that it is You who is working in me to will and to act in order to fulfill Your good purpose (2:13) Help me to remember that You will not ask anything of me that You will not empower me to obey and that You will forgive when I fail to do so.  Amen.

Tuesday:  God, I know and believe that You are working in me.  You will finish what You have started and I trust that Your work is for my good and for Your good pleasure.  Help me to see Your grace in my life and help me to see Your grace working in the lives of others (2:13).  Amen.  

Wednesday:  Father, I invite you to move in my heart.  (Ezra 1:5) I may not always enjoy the process, but I know that You desire to remove my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of that’s God-willed, not self-willed (Ezekiel 36:26).  Help me to trust Your process and believe that what You are doing in me is meant to fulfill Your good purpose (1:13).  Amen.

Thursday:  Father, I will encounter something this week that will create inside of me a desire to grumble and complain.  But, help me to remember that when and if I do, my complaints are not so much about what is going on outside of me but more about what is going on inside of me.  My mouth speaks what my heart is full of (Luke 6:45) Create in me a pure heart, Oh Lord, my God. (Psalm 51:10).  Allow my words and my attitude to flow from a pure heart so that I may live a clean, innocent life as Your child and that I may shine like a bright light in a world full of crooked and perverse people (2:15).  Amen.

Friday: Father, help me to hold firm to the word of life (2:16).  Teach me Your decrees, O Lord, that I may follow them to the end (Psalm 119:33).  Your word is eternal and stands firm in the heavens (Psalm 119:89).  I trust that Your word is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness and it will help me be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).  Help me to never forget Your commandments for by them You give me life (Psalm 119:93).  Amen.

Saturday:  God, I humbly ask you to show me today that I am not running or laboring in vain (1:16). You give me life and breath and You have decided exactly when and where I should live.  It is through You that I am able to do what I do and be who I am (Acts 17:25 – 28).  But, there are times when I get discouraged and sometimes wonder if the narrow road is worth it.  As I journey my life with you, in this specific time and in this specific place, help me to run and not grow weary to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).  Amen.

Sunday:  God, choosing to walk side by side with someone can be really difficult.  But, even if I feel like I’m being poured out like a drink offering, help me to rejoice. (2:17) Even when it’s difficult, help me to trust in Your unfailing love and allow my heart to rejoice in Your salvation (Psalm 13:5) I also pray for those walking side by side with me. I can be difficult as well.  Strengthen their resolve to strive side by side with me for the faith of the gospel (1:27). Amen.

Week 5

Monday:  God, I see that Timothy was someone who was willing to be sent (2:19).  He was known as someone willing to carry on Your work (1 Corinthians 16:10).  Give me that same willingness and same reputation.  May I be willing to go where You send me and to whom You send me too.  Amen.

Tuesday:  Oh, Lord, give me a genuine concern for others (2:20).  Forgive me for how often I am only looking out for my own interests (2:20) and help me to forget myself long enough to lend a helping hand (2:4) Because You, Jesus, are concerned for others, draw my heart to others as well.  Amen.

Wednesday:  Father, Timothy presented Himself to You as one approved, a worker who did not need to be ashamed and as one who rightly handled the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).  Grant me the grace I need to live in the same way and to serve side by side with others in the work of the gospel (2:22).  Amen.

Thursday:  God, is there someone You are sending me to in order to help take care of his or her needs (2:25)? If there is, please reveal that person to me.  Help me to know and discern what they need most.  I have faith that You will show this to me and trust that You will empower me in to help in some way.  Allow my faith to be accompanied by action (James 2:17).  Amen.

Friday:  Oh, Lord, I ask that You will shape me in to the type of person that when others see me, they will be glad (2:28).  Give me a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).  Give me such a heart for others that when they see me, they will see a person who is willing to do good to all people, but especially those of the faith with whom I strive side by side (Galatians 6:10).  May this be for Your glory and not mine.  Amen.

Saturday:  Jesus, open my eyes to those who refresh the spirit of others.  Such people need to be recognized (1 Corinthians 16:18).  Help me to know how to honor them and those like them (2:29).  Amen.

Sunday:  Father, I pray for those who are risking their life for the work of Christ (2:30).  Jesus, help them to keep their eyes fixed upon You, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before You endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus, as You are seated at the right hand of God the Father, may they feel Your prayers on their behalf (Romans 8:34).  Amen. 

Week 6

Monday:  Lord, help me to rejoice in You.  Do the internal work needed to help me rejoice even if my circumstances do not change (3:1).  Amen.

Tuesday:  Jesus, help me to watch out for those who say that I can manipulate Your feelings for me.  Guard me from making my relationship with You all about rules and behavior.  Jesus, I do not want You to be just a part of my life.  I want You to be my life!  I will boast in You and not in my own efforts.  I humbly fall upon the grace You offer and put no confidence in anything else except Your undeserved love for me (3:2-3).  Amen.

Wednesday:  God, I love to see how You chose to use Paul in ways that Paul never would have imagined.  You just always seem to choose the least likely people to accomplish Your mission.  The irony of You saving a Jewish man, and not just any Jewish man but one who excelled at Judaism (3:4 – 6) but then sending him to the Gentiles I’m amazed at Your plan.  You stripped Paul of all he had ever known and what he probably felt were his greatest strengths and You taught him that the gospel allows us to rest in Your acceptance rather than resting in what we think our strengths are. Help me not to limit how You want to use me and to learn to find rest in the gospel of Christ.  Amen.

Thursday:  My flesh only wants to lead me to myself.  Holy Spirit, You yearn to lead me to Jesus.  I pray that You will redirect my heart to the greatness and beauty and excellence of Jesus.  You know I often find myself thinking “If only I had this.  If only I had that.”  Take my “if only’s” and replace them with the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (3:8).  Amen.

Friday:  Jesus, I do not want to trust in my own efforts or my own obedience or even my right behavior.  I want to be found in You, not having a righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules, but only that which is found through faith in You.  I want to know You, Jesus.  I want to know the power of Your resurrection and share in Your sufferings, so that I may become like You in your death and so somehow attaining to the resurrection from the dead (3:8 – 11).  Amen.

Saturday:  Father, give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know You better (Ephesians 1:17) Help me to know Christ and the power of the His resurrection (3:10).  I pray also that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which I have been called, the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints, and Your incomparably great power for those who believe.  That power is like the working of Your mighty strength which You exerted in Christ when He was raised from the dead (Ephesians 1:18 – 20).  Yes, Father, I have many needs in my life.  But, whatever seems impossible to me right now does not require more power than it takes to raise the dead.  Open my eyes.  Help me to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.  Amen.

Sunday:  God, I live between the already and the not yet.  I believe that because Jesus lived the life I should have lived, that in Your eyes I am holy, without blemish, and free of accusation (Colossians 1:22).  But, while I live on this earth, I have not already been made perfect (3:12).  So, I ask that You give me the strength to press on and take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Help me to keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.  He endured the cross and disregarded its shame (Hebrews 3:12).  Help me to press on toward where You are calling me to Jesus.  Help me to hold true to what I have attained because of Him (3:16).  Amen.

Week 7

Monday:  Father, please give me a greater love for those you have placed in my life.  I ask that You will help me to say of the people You have placed around me that I love and long for them and that I find joy and pride in them (4:1).  I ask that You will help them to stand firm in You as I walk side by side with them (4:1).  Amen.

Tuesday:  God, relationships are difficult.  They can be messy and I often do not want to embrace the mess.  But, even in the most difficult of my relationships with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, help me to be of the same mind with them and to agree in the Lord (4:2).  I pray that I will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).  Amen.

Wednesday:  God, show me how I can help those having difficulty in their relationships.  Help me not to try to “fix” them or their relationships, but rather show me how to support them, encourage them, pour love in to them, and most of all point them to you as I labor side by side with them in the gospel (4:3).  Amen.

Thursday:  Holy Spirit, say it again and again to me today:  “Rejoice in the Lord.  Rejoice!”  (4:4) Amen.

Friday:  Father, a gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).  Fill me with Your wisdom because I trust that Your wisdom is pure, peace-loving, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).  May the gentleness you create in my life be evident to all and may it point others to You because you are near (4:5).  Amen.

Saturday:  Father, I do not know what I will face today, but whatever comes my way, I pray that I will not worry.  I pray that I will bring my anxiety to You and talk to You about what I need.  Jesus, you remind me to not to worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. (Matthew 6:34) But, I do sometimes find myself worrying and that worry chokes the seed of Your Word in my life rendering it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)  I have many concerns, but instead of worrying, remind me to pray. Remind me to tell You what I need, and to thank You for all You have done. (4:6) Help me to seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness and trust that all I need will be given.  (Matthew 6:33)  As I do this, allow Your peace, which exceeds all understanding, to guard my hearts and my mind as I live and abide in Christ Jesus. (4:6 – 7) Amen.

Sunday:  Lord, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, turn my heart toward those things so my mind will focus upon them (4:8).  As I do, I trust that You, the God of peace, will be with me (4:9).  Amen.

Week 8

Monday:  Lord, is there someone I need to be concerned about?  If there is, renew my concern for them and show me the best way to reach out and help (4:10).  Amen.

Tuesday:  Father, if there are any hardened areas in my heart, I hold You to Your promises and ask that You give me a new heart and put a new spirit in me.  Remove a heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)  Forgive me for the ways I have been discontent and ungrateful in my life.  Teach me the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  (4:12) Remind me, Father, that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6) and that grace is found that offers contentment through Jesus Christ.  (4:13)

Wednesday:  Father, I thank You for the people who have shared in my troubles (4:14).  I am thankful for those who have devoted themselves to me in love (Romans 12:10) and helped carry my burdens in obedience to You (Galatians 6:2).  Help me to do good to others in the same way (4:14).  Amen.

Thursday:  Father, show me how I can partner with Grace Community Church.  If it’s through giving, help me to be generous.  If it’s through serving, help me to serve sacrificially.  As I continue to be acquainted with the Gospel, help me to see the needs that You have enabled me to meet.  Allow this to be for the good of Your church and I thank You that I too can experience blessings from generosity (4:14 – 17).  Amen.

Friday:  Thank You, Father, for allowing me the opportunity to be generous.  Continue Your work of generosity in my heart because my generosity is a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, and is pleasing to You (4:18).  Amen.

Saturday:  I trust that You will supply all of my needs according to Your riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To You, my God and Father, be glory forever and ever (4:19 – 20).  Amen.

Sunday:  Lord, Jesus, may Your grace be with my spirit (4:23).  May Your grace sustain me, strengthen me, enable me, and continue to call me to greater heights as Your child.  Amen. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some Post-Election Thoughts

I’ve been processing the election for the past week.  I’m not sure if any of these thoughts will make sense and it’s not really in any particular order.  This is just a random collection of thoughts that have been on my mind since last Wednesday with no agenda involved whatsoever … except maybe that we take a look at our own hearts and take responsibility for our own actions and responses. 

·      I’ve seen many people on social media post things that say President-elect Trump has been chosen by God to save America.  I think one has to be extremely careful when bringing God into a conversation like that.  If someone chooses to say that about President-elect Trump, they would also have to be open to saying it about Hillary Clinton if she would have won.  God can choose whomever He desires and use whoever He desires and Romans 13:1 reminds us “all those in authority have been instituted by God.”  Whether it was Trump or Clinton, the winner would not have taken God by surprise and I’m pretty confident that He’s not scratching His head in heaven trying to figure out what to do next.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases.”  Also, if one chooses to bring God in to the conversation in that way, do they not also have to be open to the possibility that he could have been chosen by God in order to humble America?  Romans 9:17 talks about Pharaoh during the time of Moses and the exodus and says that he was specifically raised up so that God’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  All of that to say it always makes me uneasy when I hear people say that God “backed” their candidate. 

·      Broken people are in our government, which means they are not perfect. Some are honest. Some are dishonest. Some are wise. Some ... not so much. They all make mistakes and yet God is still Sovereign and in control. God simply isn't in control of my world. He's in control of THE world.

·      I’ve seen and heard of many on the “winning” side mock and make fun of those on the “losing” side who are hurting.  They’ve been called “whiners,” and “babies,” and have been told to “get over it already.”  There are four basic ways that we are going to respond to people:  1) Apathy … I know, but I don’t care.  2) Antipathy … I don’t know and I don’t care.  3) Sympathy … I care, but I don’t know.  4) Empathy … I know and I care.   How we view people will direct how we respond to them.   If one views another as a “whiner” then the response will most likely be one of apathy … I know you're upset, but I just don’t care that you are.  I’m not so sure apathy is a Christ-like response.  It’s a very clear indication that my heart is hardened toward another person and I’m distancing myself from them.  The whole essence of Christianity is that Christ moved toward us!  If we are Christian, are we not supposed to demonstrate Christ and at least be open to seeking to understand and make an effort to enter in to another’s situation? Ephesians 4:2 teaches:  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Nothing battles humility more than being on the “winning” side.  It’s difficult to be gentle if I’m busy gloating.  It’s really difficult to “bear with one another” when we’re busy complaining about one another.  It’s always easier to simply tell a person how they should be acting (which in reality is only how I want them to act) instead of sitting down with them and seeking to understand what truly lies behind their actions.  If you stay with someone long enough and just listen, what is truly going on inside of him or her will begin to reveal itself.  It doesn’t mean that we will agree with them or even condone their actions.  But, it does mean that we will have, as best as we could, tried to enter in to their situation and, in so doing, demonstrate Christ to them.

·      My disgusts or complaints toward another person are more a result of what is in my heart than what is in theirs.  Without humility, I will always be more willing to make the other person and their actions the issue rather than making my response to them the issue.

·      If someone is hurt or afraid or angry over the results of the election, it will always be easier to complain about the results or our government.  I’m not saying we do not have the right to do that, but could I suggest that we commit to doing at least twice as much praying for our government and it’s leaders than complaining about our government and its leaders. As followers of Jesus, we have the incredible opportunity and duty to pray for those in office.  If God guides the "king's" heart "wherever He pleases," let's pray that God guides it in the way of wisdom and integrity and morality and ultimately toward Him. (1 Timothy 2:1 - 2)

By the way, these are all first and foremost directed toward me.  This is what I have been wrestling with and seeking to come to grips with in my own life since last Wednesday.  I want to trust God.  I want to care for other people.  I want to respond in Christ-like ways to all people.  And, I want to pray.  Regardless of whether your candidate won or not, can we all agree that prayer is needed now more than ever.  “God, You say that where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  Protect our hearts from those things and give us Your wisdom, the wisdom from above which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  Empower those of us who follow You to be peacemakers who sow in peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.  Amen."  (James 3:16 – 18) 

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