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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Just Another Wednesday?

I partook in an Ash Wednesday service last year at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Waupun.  My friend Peter Bird is the Vicar or Pastor there, and he had invited me.  I think it might have been my first Ash Wednesday service…ever. 

Ash Wednesday, for those not in the know, is a day of repentance which marks the beginning of Lent. Typically, the officiant makes a cross of dust on the penitent’s forehead, and says on this order: “From dust you were made; to dust you shall return.”

This evening, I read this thoughtful article on the meaning and message of Ash Wednesday…

Living in denial of death is typically a youthful response. We live recklessly, believing that death will come for the old, the weak, or the sick, but not for us. Such recklessness plunges out of airplanes and into strange beds, shunning any measure of caution.

Eventually, most death-deniers are brought into face-to-face encounters with the future they fear: the death of a friend or loved one, a bad diagnosis, an accident or close call. As the cultural myth goes, this brings us “down to earth” and we live in a more solemn acknowledgment of life’s realities…

Ash Wednesday serves to interrupt denial and panic both. It quietly reminds us, in the days before Easter, that death comes for all born under the curse, and it lays groundwork for the hope of Easter Sunday to ring all the louder and more powerful.

In truth, Ash Wednesday is about repentance and remembrance. We remember that Kansas wasn’t totally off the mark when they said, “All we are is dust in the wind”, and we are moved to repent for the sins in our lives which have become too casual, but for which Christ died.

So I don’t know if you made it to an Ash Wednesday service today, but if not, you would no doubt profit from a few minutes in the Lord’s presence remembering the reality of the curse…amidst the joyous backdrop of a risen Savior.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Learning Prayer from Jerry Seinfeld

Years ago, my friend Charlie introduced me to the concept of “plundering the Egyptians.”  It comes from when Israel was to finally leave Egypt, and they simply asked for all of Egypt’s stuff on the way out.  The people of Egypt, decimated by the various plagues, gave them gold, silver and clothing because they had found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35, 36).

Anyway, Charlie’s point was that we can get good stuff from those who don’t know the Lord, and today I ran across something that might help you in prayer.  It’s a concept from the comedian Jerry Seinfeld that has apparently helped him be productive through the years, and it’s simple. You can read all about it here, but I’ll sum up the basic idea: Decide you’re going to do something, even a small thing, every day, and when you accomplish it, put an X on the calendar. Take a look… 

It’s more commonly known as “Don’t Break the Chain,” and the concept is simple: spend some amount of time doing a desired activity every day and, when you do, cross off that day on a calendar. This creates a chain of Xs showing your progress. If you don’t do your specified task on one day, you don’t get an X and that chain is broken. It seems almost too simple to work, but it’s allowed me to accomplish so much more than I ever thought possible.  

If you don’t do it, you don’t get an X.  That’s your “punishment.” I feel somewhat compelled to introduce a warning: Don’t let an open day produce guilt – disappointment, yes – guilt, no.  Remember that missing exercise or your time in the Bible or prayer after doing any one of these things consistently for 45 days could make you feel like you need to confess.  Don’t do it.  The Bible is our guide, not a man-made exercise plan or anything else.  There is no law in the Bible that says you must have a 15 minute Bible or prayer time every day. 

But we need to do battle with the flesh which resists the Spirit, and this might just help in that every day struggle.  Try it out, and consider doing it in the most important aspect of your day – your time with the Lord in prayer.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Praying for the People of Edgewood Church

Can the staff of a church do anything more productive than pray together? I can’t think of what that would be, and so most every Monday, Edgewood’s staff spends 30 – 45 minutes in prayer over our Friendship Register prayer requests. A long time ago (10 years maybe?), someone complained that our administrative assistants were being paid to pray at our staff meetings.  We kept praying; the dissatisfied person left. Can’t please everybody, I guess.

Today was probably something of a record – we had 141 prayer requests from Waupun and Fond du Lac (about 10 more were marked confidential, and the full staff doesn’t see all these).  We usually receive around 100 – 110 non-confidential requests. (If you’re interested in personally praying through these requests each week, send an email to Pam Hron (phron@edgewoodcommunity.org), and she will put you on the list to receive these weekly requests.)

From the beginning, prayer has been important to our staff.  When I started back in ’99, Mike Giebink and I agreed to pray together every day.  I guess things have changed a bit over 13 years – nowadays, he and I meet once a week and pray together during this time.  I meet the other guys one-on-one once a week as well (most always – everyone on Monday), and prayer is almost always a part of these regular times.  I once served in a ministry where I met my boss each week, but we rarely prayed together.  He loved God and such, but took a more “corporate” view of things.  Well, to each his own.

I’ll close with the words of the prophet Samuel…

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.

1 Samuel 12:23 (ESV)

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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Importance of Knowing God’s Great Love

I was favored with an earthly father who loved me a whole lot.  I’ll never forget a day that Dad and I went out flying a kite when I was growing up in Antioch, Illinois.  He was handling the kite as it flew high overhead, and then suddenly it began to twirl and twirl earthwards.  Finally, it crashed on the top of a building…and try as we might, we couldn’t get it down from the roof.

Dad knew our day of kite-flying had come to an abrupt end, and he knew how sad I was, and…in response, he himself was crestfallen.  As I reflected on it later, it occurred to me that my father was sad because I was sad. When you love someone and they are hurting, you hurt with them.  Even as a little boy, I saw and understood that, and the little incident with the kite became a picture of my father’s love for me.  I never forgot it.

Now, of course, our Heavenly Father is different than our earthly father in many ways (no kite gets out of His control), but when you have a good dad as I did, you get a slight picture of the love of your Father in Heaven.  This touches on prayer, of course, because understanding that God is favorably inclined toward me leads me to call on His name. 

The cross is the greatest demonstration of God’s love.  As I said this weekend, we do not serve a capricious, evil god, like Artemis of the Greeks, who demanded that Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter to propitiate her anger.  Many people have rejected the God of the Bible because they assume Yahweh is just another picture of Artemis.  In so doing, they reject the idea of atonement altogether; they may call themselves Christians but are so in name only.  But in truth, we serve a God who is the exact opposite of Artemis.  As Tim Keller said, “The doctrine of the Love of God is not that He demands no atonement, but that he provides one Himself.”

Let these words from the great Puritan writer John Owen wash over your heart as you consider the love of the Father for you…and let them drive you to prayer:

“The chief way that saints have communion with the Father is love – free, undeserved, eternal love.  Saints are to see God as full of love to them.  They are to receive Him as the One who loves them…Above all things the Father loves you.  Be fully assured in your hearts that the Father loves you…Many dark and disturbing thoughts arise to hinder our walk with God.  Few can rise to the height of the Father’s love by faith, so as to rest their souls in His love.  They live far below it in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds.  Abiding in the Father’s love, all is peace and quiet.  But how to rise up to the Father’s love? It is God’s will that He should always be seen as gentle, kind, tender, loving and unchangeable.  It is His will that we see Him as the Father – and the great fountain and reservoir of all grace and love.  This is what Christ came to reveal!

John Owen, Communion With God

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Those Who Trust God…Pray

What does it mean to trust in God?  It’s an important question, if for no other reason, because many people would claim their favorite verse to be Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

But how do you do that? How do you trust in Him with all your heart?  How do you keep from leaning on your own understanding?  Do you squinch up your face as you go through a hard time and try to hold on, figuratively, to a God you can’t see?

The answer to the question, “How do I truly trust God?” is found in a delightful verse in the 9th Psalm.  There, David gives us the key to trusting.  He writes:

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:10 (ESV)

Do you see it?  David says that if we know God, we will trust in God, and then he tells us exactly what it means to trust in Him, connecting the second half of the verse with the first half with the word, for…

To trust God, therefore, is to seek God.  Trust is not some vague feeling of reliance on the Lord.  Trust is always expressed to one degree or another, in seeking God, or in other words, in prayer.  Therefore, if I am trusting, I am praying.

To trust in the Lord with all my heart, therefore, is at least, to pray, to call on the One Who can make sense of my crazy life.  To seek Him means that I do not lean on myself and my own understanding, but I turn to Him, and rest in Him by seeking His face.

So how about you?  Do you trust God?  If so…you pray.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

More Answers to Prayer

 Here are more answered prayers from our 40 days.  But first, a couple of quotes to keep the fire hot…

“Ten minutes spent in the presence of Christ every day, aye, two minutes, will make the whole day different.” Henry Drummond.

“We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” R. A. Torrey

“Prayer can never be in excess.” C.H. Spurgeon

  • Our daughter has been suffering with stomach pain since 12-31-11. We had seen the doctor, had tests run, and we changed her diet extremely. None of this helped, and she was miserable. This week the doctor did x-rays, found the cause, and Hannah’s getting better! Praise God – Ben and Jen Duke
  • Had family and friends praying my job interview would go well and that I would get hired – I got the job, God is good!
  • 1/26/12   Praise the Lord that the epidural injection has helped the pain and numbness in my leg & delayed back surgery for awhile at least – Laura
  • Answered Prayer – KFC
  • Financial peace and safe deliver of a friend’s baby girl.  God is Good!
  • Praise God for one of my answered prayers.  Vicky Oppermann
  • Answered prayer – unknown disease- suddenly recovered – Tom
  • Saw my great grandson briefly 3 times within last week.  The third time, he ran up and gave me a big hug.  It just warmed my heart and gave me hope (although he’s getting over pneumonia)
  • In spite of or maybe because of the BIG Denver snow storm –  we had a safe and wonderful time with our kids and grandkids – God is GOOD and greatly to be praised!
  • Thanksgiving for Maria’s job and new place to live
  • Clinicals are going much better for our daughter
  • Joey, my 2 month old nephew spent 2 nights in the NICU because of a high fever.  He went home today.  The Pollack family
  • Reaffirmation in my heart that fear is not from God.  For God’s great assurance of strength and peace this week.
  • I am forgiven – Wriley Hoffner
  • $ blessings J kindness of others
  • For Family Ministry night!
  • Mom had a successful carpal tunnel surgery- Mark VZ
  • Kyle could drop a 3 credit class and still have enough credits to graduate in June.  He is happy.  Mark VZ
  • PTL for answered prayers for healing for family.
  • My doctor appt showed no need for operation – just meds to be take care of autoimmune condition – J
  • Sleep
  • My friend Cheryl even said the other day God must be looking out for me.  Thank you for your prayers for her!!  J R. Ryan
  • Our friends nephew (who is 17 was diagnosed with a rare cancer & we have prayed for comfort for him & his family & God has provided him w/treatment that is working!
  • Last weekend Paul prayed 3X – I got over throwing up.
  • My friend’s husband was not going to be able to fly out of Africa due to the wind storms.  But they are going to be able now.  Praise God for He is good and knows the desires of our hearts and sees our tears J
  • Praise for a blessed Saturday
  • The financial budget was met this week.
  • 1/29/12 Praise your name Lord for answering my unseen prayer requests.  
 
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Posted by on February 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Rote Prayers of My Childhood

Though I became a Christian at age 18, I’ve been praying for as long as I can remember.  In particular, I recall two memorized prayers.  The first was at mealtimes, and I prayed it over and over:

“God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”

Not to be too hard on my younger self, but this “prayer”, if you think about it, isn’t really a prayer, but two truthful statements followed by an exhortation to others to give thanks.  But I guess it was close enough, and I’m sure I prayed it over a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches growing up.

Then there was my nighttime prayer.  I’ll bet a lot of you know this one.  With Mom and Dad next to me as I knelt at the bedside, I prayed…

“Now I lay me down to sleep.  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.  God bless Mommy and Daddy and me.  God bless Grandma and Grandpa.  Help me to be a good boy, and do what Mommy and Daddy tells me.  Amen.”

As I remember, I continued to pray that one for quite a while even after my dear Grandma passed away.  Mind you, I had no theology of prayer for the dead at age 7, but instead, I was just guilty of mindless prayer, even at that age.  I don’t think Mom and Dad ever corrected me, but I don’t really know. Maybe they were daydreaming too, or maybe they thought I was missing Grandma.

There is another prayer that I remember from those growing up years. If the task wasn’t assigned to me with my “God is great…” prayer, Dad would generally pray at mealtimes.  It went like this…

“Lord, we thank Thee for Thy food and Thy many blessings. Amen.”

I trusted Christ in 1982 and, as often happens, became the designated pray-er in the family because of my newfound faith.  Dad became a Christian 4 years later, and though I couldn’t tell you when it first happened, I joyfully recall hearing my earthly father begin to truly pray to my Heavenly Father.  This time it was no rote prayer…this time he was actually talking to God.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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