Archive for the 'Devotion' Category

Pondering Peacemaking


What does it mean to be a peacemaker?

Of course, I know Jesus’ words on the subject: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

But HOW?

With all the rancor seen in the world today, with so many people at odds with others, how can I be a peacemaker?

Perhaps it starts with me.

Instead of looking to foster peace between others in conflict, I should first address the conflict within me.

Why am *I* upset? What is it that moves me, shakes me, disturbs me?

Why am I NOT at peace with so many events happening around the world, in my community, and in my own life?

Could it be that I’ve lost sight of my Father?

Could it be that I’ve forgotten who I am, and Who has me?

I *am* a child of I AM.

THAT is my identity. That will always be true, whether I remember it consistently or not. I have been adopted into God’s family.

When I focus on the conflict I see, I absorb that conflict. I didn’t think I was that empathic, but — surprise, surprise — apparently, I get upset when I see those who are upset.

When I focus on the Father who sees all sides of the conflict that I witness, I am able to be at peace.

I remember Whose I am.


Lingering in Worship: Calling

Lingering in Worship: Calling Sermon Audio Here

Ezra 1:1-6

When I was a new Christian college student, someone challenged me to open the Bible, point to a random verse, and let it change my life. For the record, I think this is a bad practice, but at the time, I didn’t know any better. I prayed, asked the Lord to show me something that would change my life, and then opened my Bible to a random page. My finger landed in the book of Ezra. I’d never read it before, and to my surprise, I did indeed find a truth there that changed my life: the necessity and importance of worship.

Worship is ACTIVE:

God’s Call Moves Us To Consider ~ Ezra 1:1-2 (we mull over what we’ve heard)

  • 1 God moves the hearts of people
  • 2 realize you’re appointed! But for what?

Our Choice Moves Us To Respond ~ Ezra 1:3-4 (we decide we’re going to get involved)

  • 3 non-believers can encourage you in your faith…
  • 4 …and resource you, too!

Our Conclusion Moves Us To Plan ~ Ezra 1:5-6 (we ask HOW will we get involved?)

  • 5 we prepare to serve
  • 6 engage your neighbors in your faith

Worship isn’t an accident; it’s something we do ON PURPOSE. What kinds of choices do we make to prepare our lives for worship?

Pastoral Prayer from Psalm 138

from Psalm 138

from Psalm 138

Pastoral Prayer (Psalm 138)

Lord, once again, it is our privilege to come before You and pray… and in those times when we just don’t know what words to say in prayer, we thank You that we’re able to turn to the Psalms, and pray Your word back to You.

We let the Psalms inform us; we let them fill our hearts and reflect our state. So, from Psalm 138 I read and I pray:

1I will praise You, O LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing Your praise.

I read those words, Lord, and I’m reminded of that little g “gods” in quotes, and I think of all the things that vie for attention in my life, that try to replace You.

It’s our honor and privilege to come before You in prayer, even over those things. When I feel that siren song to stay online for just a little bit longer; or to feed that personal addiction a little bit stronger; I can come to You and pray instead. I can even pray through it, Lord.

2I will bow down toward Your holy temple and will praise Your name for Your love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.

Amen! Lord, I so agree with the Psalmist here that Your name and Your word trump everything. And when I get concerned about this life, and the issues that I face, and the information with which I’m being bombarded, I can once again reflect on Your name and Your word… and recognize that no matter what happens now, You win! I might walk through times of frustration in the the struggles of life, but at the end, You win! Thank You for that.

3When I called, You answered me; You made me bold and stouthearted. 6Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar…

and I have to admit, there’s times when I get proud enough to try to drown You out. I don’t want my boldness and my strength to come from me, because that’s that’s fallen stuff, broken stuff… so God, I ask that You forgive me for my sin, for my pride, for my tendency to try to stand on my own and do it my way, and that just doesn’t work.

And yet, You lovingly and consistently and faithfully call us back to You. You forgive us; You restore us; and we’re so grateful.

7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out Your hand against the anger of my foes, with Your right hand You save me.

8The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; Your love, O LORD, endures forever– do not abandon the works of Your hands.

So Lord, right now, we pray for those people who are in the midst of trouble. Your word says that You are the preserver of life, and so we pray– we lift up those who are struggling with physical illness. Of course we ask that You would be the healer; that You, Jehovah Rapha, would reach down and miraculously restore to perfect health those who are in sickness. Sometimes You do this, and we give You all the praise and glory, and it’s a huge shot in the arm for our faith.

And yet sometimes, You don’t. We don’t know why. If there were some formula that we could pray consistently, and make You intervene the way we want You to intervene every time, of course we’d pray it!

But that’s not how You work. You use this whole process of sickness and health and healing and even death to draw us closer to Yourself; that we would give You glory in all circumstances. So, Lord, we pray a very conflicted prayer: we ask You to heal. We have faith that You can; we see from Your word that You do; in fact, we’ve seen in our lives that You do, but You don’t always answer our prayer the same way — so we ask for healing and we also pray that Your will would be done.

In the midst of all of this, no matter how You answer, remind us that You do not abandon the works of Your hands. You are always there, always faithful; for this, we thank You.

4May all the kings of the earth praise You, O LORD, when they hear the words of Your mouth.
5May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great.

We thank You, Lord that all things are subject to You. We pray for the leaders of our world; we pray especially for those who would be the leaders of our country, and Lord, through this din of political noise that so often rises, we ask that You would speak to them. May You prompt them, may You remind them that the leaders of this country are supposed to be kind and compassionate.

Strong, yes, but not hateful. Bold leaders, yes, but not leading us into foolish choices that only build their administration. Lord, our founding forefathers, while they may not have been as Evangelical as some of us would like, recognized Your hand at work in the founding of this nation. God, we would ask that Your hand would be seen again; that You would move Your people to rise up and be called by Your name, and to take their stand in the ballot box.

Not to vote for any one particular candidate, but to vote as You would have them vote; that we would bathe this whole election process in prayer, recognizing that You are King over a country who has no King. May we realize that You need to be present as we choose a president.

In all things, we look to You; we ask for Your help, and we thank You for how You will respond in Jesus name. You taught us to pray together this prayer of recognition of kingdom and surrender; hear us as we pray, Our Father…

A Prayer After A Storm

I wrote this prayer years ago, in the aftermath of a hurricane. I found it this week as my family was cleaning out some old boxes, and I thought it might be worth sharing.

Infinite and Sovereign Lord, we ask that You would hear our prayer. We know You are aware of the longings of our hearts, the fears of our souls, the questions in our minds, and the faint nature of our spirits. Hear us from Heaven and speak deeply to our soul. Reassure us of Your infinite love as our finite minds so often lose sight of Your character, Your strength, Your wisdom, Your love, Your power, Your glory, and Your plan.

When the winds blow and the rains come down, we often take our cue from weather reports rather than take refuge in Your unchanging hand. Forgive us, Lord, when we cling to our fear, instead of trusting in Your heart. You know we are concerned about the storms of life, and we ask that You would calm the wind and the waves; let us not lose sight of You in the midst of the storm. We love You; we trust You; and we grasp the grace that You provide, even in the eye of calamity.

We offer up our praise because of how You have blessed us. We thank You for how You shower us with good and perfect gifts. We see Your provision in who You bring into our family. Thank You for the birth of children into loving families, and Lord, we ask that You bring new life into our church family as well. Lord, by Your sovereign will, graft new sons and daughters into Your faith family. We trust You to provide a place where Your people can grow and flourish.

Above all, Lord, break us and shape us so that we can be like Christ. As we share in His suffering, sculpt our hearts into what You would have us to be. It’s Your plan; it’s Your will. Have us pray like Jesus: not our will, but Yours be done. Hear us as we beg Your will be made known in us, and with one voice we say together, Our Father…

The Gospel Challenge ~ Feed The Crowd

The Gospel Challenge ~ Feed The Crowd Sermon Audio Here

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Sociology professor Anthony Campolo recalls a deeply moving incident that happened in a Christian junior high camp where he served. One of the campers, a boy with spastic paralysis, was the object of heartless ridicule. When he would ask a question, the boys would deliberately answer in a halting, mimicking way. One night his cabin group chose him to lead the devotions before the entire camp. It was one more effort to have some “fun” at his expense. Unashamedly the spastic boy stood up, and in his strained, slurred manner — each word coming with enormous effort — he said simple, “Jesus loves me — and I love Jesus!” That was all. Conviction fell upon those junior-highers. Many began to cry. Revival gripped the camp. Years afterward, Campolo still meets men in the ministry who came to Christ because of that testimony.

Our Daily Bread, April 1, 1993.

To Carry Out Our Convictions, Remember

The Context of Our Values
Mark 6:30-34

  • v30 gathered: Jesus is our central desire
  • v31/32 quiet place: recognize value of rest
  • v33/34 Jesus, moved by compassion, changed his plans

The Value of Connection
Mark 6:53-56

  • v53 minister in your regular context
  • v54/55 changed lives change lives
  • v56 connection with Jesus is crucial

The difference between a conviction and a preference, according to SCOTUS case Wisconsin v Yoder, 1972: A preference is a very strong belief, held with great strength; a conviction is a belief that you will not change. Our gospel challenge isn’t to talk about our preferences; it’s to share our conviction.

Beyond Coffee as “fellowship”


Thoughts on 1 Peter 1:8-16

8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

I read an article today that *really* caught my attention about starting a coffee shop. Let me share the major points from that article with you, but with an eye to sharing the Gospel, not just a great cup of coffee. “Today, I wanted to… [share] three tips for anyone mulling over the idea of starting a coffee shop, preparing to open one, and maybe even those who already run one.

1. Carefully Navigate the Trends

“…chances are your eye will catch what’s new, cool, hip and trendy. Be wary.”

2. Be the Coffee Person

“There is, however, an opportunity for true quality coffee shops out there that deliver on the promise of what’s preached.”

3. Build a Culture of Taking Care of People

“But at the core it’s about everyone being there to take care of people. We need to start from a point of honoring the space that coffee occupies in people’s lives.”

  • Verses 8-9: “we are receiving the goal of our faith” – We dare not get caught up in the the latest Christian trends for the sake of the trends themselves. Let us remind one another that it is salvation that matters.

  • Verses 10-12: “searched intently and with the greatest care” – Just as the article pointed out the need to keep the main thing the main thing, how much more do we, who are living in the Kingdom?

  • Verses 13-16: “set your hope fully on the grace to be given you” – We care for others as we live holy lives, worshiping Jesus through our every day choices and interactions.

Leadership Thoughts: Isaiah 57


Devotion: Isaiah 57:14-19

14And it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”

15For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

16I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me– the breath of man that I have created.

17I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways.

18I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him,

19creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”

These verses followed the passage in Isaiah that we looked at last week in the sermon. I was given a new-to-me set of commentaries from Pastor Joe, and was reading through the Isaiah volume, and was encouraged by what I read about chapter 57, as Isaiah tries to prepare God’s people for the time of salvation. Here’s what I found for us as leaders in our congregation:

  • Verse 14: “Build up; remove obstacles” – one of the challenges that we have as servant leaders in a congregational setting is to build up those who are already here, and to remove roadblocks that might prevent new people from joining us.

  • Verse 15: “high/holy & low/humble” – God’s perfect holiness is not something that we need to strive to attain; He’s already there. He works with us just as we are, and He is the one that shapes us.

  • Verse 16/17: God wants to *not* be angry, but when we cling to our sin instead of Him, we leave Him no choice; we cannot choose to flaunt our sin before a holy God without consequence.

  • Verse 18: And even so, God *actively* looks for ways to heal us; God-our-restorer uses broken people to minister to other broken people!

  • Verse 19: Changed lives result in praise to God; we who are being reconciled will see it in others. Watch for that praise that accompanies change, and encourage them.

Pastor Ed Backell

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