Posts Tagged ‘Romans’

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“PURE WORDS” – April 13

April 13, 2016

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”  Psalm 12:6

ncfcaThis past week I had the occasion to attend another NCFCA speech and debate tournament with my family.  I was afforded the opportunity to be a parent judge on multiple speech and debate rounds.  As a result, I had the privilege of judging the finals of the Biblical Presentation speeches.

This was the first time I had witnessed Biblical Presentation as it is a new event this year in the NCFCA.  “Biblical presentation is a speech that creatively develops and presents one or two selections of scriptures in an effort to foster understanding of God’s word, deepen the speaker’s Christian faith, and encourage the listener”.  NCFCA Speech

I now have a new favorite speech category.  I could not get enough of these speeches.  Each speech presented warmed my soul because at their core, each speech was the pure Word of God.  I got to listen to approximately 80 minutes of teenagers presenting 8-10 minutes each of memorized biblical passages, word for word,  in extremely engaging and creative ways.

There was one in particular that is still blessing me.  The speaker was not the most creative.  She did not have the most powerful or engaging voice.  She did not have the most dynamic interpretation.  However, she made the most significant impact on me in her 10 minutes.  She presented two of her favorite passages from Isaiah in such a genuine and heart-felt manner that tears welled up in my eyes from the unadulterated beauty of God’s word.

It was almost startling to hear sacred words simply spoken.   I was not preoccupied by her presentation.  Her interpretation was not a distraction.  On the contrary, I was drawn into the words.  I was captured by the Spirit.  I was renewed in the wonderful truths that filled the room with each utterance.

In recollecting that speech, I have been struck by the reality of how rare it is for us to simply hear the Word of God earnestly spoken in its entirety as the author intended.  So often, we sit silently reading our Bibles or we hear a few verses read before a Pastor spends an hour telling us what they mean.

Both are needed and good so I am not being critical.

However, the presentation of Isaiah reminded me of the power of the Word of God and the benefit from simply listening to the pure words of the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to hear anew the purity of your Word.  Thank you for showing me the beauty of inspired scripture.  I pray for all of those who are memorizing and sharing your Words through the NCFCA.  I pray that you will bless each one of these competitors and write your word on their hearts.   I pray that the purity of your words will abound and refine all those who hear for their enrichment and your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“DON’T JUDGE ME – I’M A FAN” – Jan. 3

January 3, 2016

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

I have struggled for motivation to climb upon my bicycle while it is clamped into the trainer.   However, I have to do something because the digits on my scale are continuing to increase inversely to the outdoors temperatures.  I’ve sought may aids to curb the monotony of a cycling trainer; music, cycling training videos, Tour de France videos, sermons, audiobooks, and even stand-up comics.  None has been able to keep me contentedly pedaling beyond 30 minutes.

However, I finally found my tonic for trainer tedium – Dark Matter.

Dark_Matter_Intertitle

My tonic is not the invisible matter constituting the majority of the universe.  Mine comes from the Syfy channel.  I got hooked on this story of a spaceship crew who awakens from stasis with no memory of who they are, what they have done, or why they are on board a mercenary spaceship.

I love a good story and if it is set in space, then it’s even better.

I saved watching Dark Matter as the carrot before my motionless bike.  I easily pedaled through each episode as subsequent adventures revealed mysteries of forgotten pasts.  I was actually starting to look forward to my time on that accursed contraption when it all came to an end.

The final episode of Season 1 successfully left me spinning on the edge of my saddle, wanting to know what will happen next.  I went to click on Season 2, to spin through another episode, but made a stark discovery.

There is no Season 2.

I was done.  I climbed off my bike and felt that familiar disdain for my next date with the trainer.  I searched the internet to discover whether there was another season with a growing concern.  I learned more about Dark Matter than I had intended.  I learned about the actors and the production.  I read reviews, both positive and negative.  I was delighted to find that there will be another season but annoyed to know that it is only in production.

I even discovered the WordPress blog of Joseph Mallozzi – Josephmallozzi’s Weblog.  He is the co-writer and creator of Dark Matter.  He has a lot of behind the scene photos of the current filming of Dark Matter on his blog.  I flipped through each post in my developing sense of fandom.

I learned that Dark Matter was originally a comic book that Joseph Mallozzi co-wrote.  So, I did what any newly minted fan would do.  I got on Amazon to see if I could buy one.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the compilation book of all four comics should arrive in two days.  I haven’t bought myself a comic book in three decades.

Don’t judge me, I’m a fan.

I find it interesting that I wasn’t really a fan of Dark Matter while Netflix held a trove of unwatched episodes.

It wasn’t until the streaming dried up that I even thought about the writer.
It wasn’t until the entertainment stopped that I began searching.
It wasn’t until I was forced to wait that I became a fan.

My reaction to Dark Matter reminded me of this quote from A.W. Pink.

Pink

I can testify to these dry seasons of the soul.

Most Christians will experience these periods of drought
if they follow Christ any length of time.

It is part of sanctification.

Have you ever wondered why we experience these periods where the river of God’s presence feels like it has dried up?

Some may say that these seasons are periods of preparation or testing or due to sin.  I agree in part.

However, I wonder if dry periods are simply a process to make us into fans.

When I enter a dry period, I tend to think more about God.  I confess that my thoughts often sound like complaints, “why is God doing this to me”, but my eyes definitely get focused back on Him.

When I feel spiritually lethargic, I tend to search more earnestly in His word.  I start digging into the mysteries of God and realize that I am usually not even asking the right questions.

When I am waiting on God, I inevitably begin to ask myself, who I am waiting for, which brings me back to the Gospel, the wonderful treasure of the good news of Jesus Christ and I become more of a fan.

A dry period  will inevitably
bring me to the glory of God.

It will make me a fan.

When I am a fully glorifying fan:

I am prepared to follow Christ in whatever He has called me to do.

I am ready to persevere through the suffering and trials that are before me.

I am willing to turn my back on the temptations of this world for the surpassing worth of my loving Savior.

The lukewarm Christian is a lukewarm fan.

Christians should be more enthusiastic than any of the fans in a sports stadium.

Our demeanor should clothe us as followers of Christ more than any avid comic con attendees.

Our homes should proudly display our fandom of the One.

We were created to be fans; we were created to worship.
A true fan should be easy to spot.

God wants us to be easy to spot.
God wants us to be true fans.
He is willing to take us through those dry periods to teach us that our fandom rests only in Him.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will make me into a fan.  Help me to want to join my voice with that of the Psalmist and declare your wondrous deeds in unabashed fandom.  Help me to accept the dry seasons.  Help to see that you are taking me to greater happiness.  Father, do your work in me even when I am not fully cooperating.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

piper

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“FALLING INTO OPTIMAL” – Dec. 15

December 15, 2015

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

I finally resolved to get on the trainer and spin.

For thirty minutes, I sat in the comfort of my couch, glancing into the adjoining room at the taunting image of my bike on the trainer.  The passage of time persuaded me that if a workout was going to happen, I had to get started.  So, I grumbled my way upstairs to change into some workout clothes thinking, “I just need to get this over with”.

Work clothes were quickly exchanged for cycling garb, a glass filled with water, and my new Surface Pro tablet tucked under my arm (I have taken to watching Netflix whileI spin; it helps to pass the time).  I began my descent into my personnel pain cave, quickly shuffling down the stairs with my stocking feet.

About two-thirds down the carpeted stairs, my feet suddenly slipped from one stair run, skipped off the next, and in an instant my balance was emptied while my hands remained full.  That would not last long.  Water splashed in my face as my tablet was flung down the remaining steps.  I crashed down on the steps, feet and arms in the air, without any time breaking my fall.  A stair rung bearing deeply into my ribs under the brunt of my falling mass.

I must have rocked the foundation of the house because my wife and kids were at the bottom of the stairs by the time I slid to the landing, wondering what had happened.

I would not be going for a spin on that night.

My fall happened nine days ago.  The carpet burns have healed nicely.  However, my ribs are another matter.  I had hoped that they were just bruised but as the days have passed, I have begun to accept that there might be more damage.  A couple ribs may have been broken; not really broken but just cracked a little bit; probably just bruised deeply.

There are some things that no cyclist can resist, particularly those who live in areas that have real winters – a moderate day in December.  We had just such a day, six days after my fall.  It was perfect weather, no falling moisture, temperatures around forty degrees, winds moderate.  Bruised ribs or not, I could not let this day slip by.

I left work early and soon had my tri-bike out on the rural roads near my home.  I quickly discovered that my ribs were happy only in one position.  Everything was pleasant, as long as I stayed down on my aero-bars.  It was not nearly as pleasant entering and exiting the aero-position.  As a result, I had one of my best rides since I stayed in the most aero-dynamic position for duration of the ride.

Sometimes not being able to assume our preferred position
forces us in the optimal position.

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(That is me on a tri-bike, wet roads, taking a selfie with broken ribs.
I didn’t say it was a good idea, just an irresistible one.)

My ribs got me to thinking about suffering.  I know how I fell down my stairs, but don’t know why.  I don’t know why most bad things happen.   However, the Bible consistently teaches that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, we are told that we should rejoice in our suffering.  I am not very good at rejoicing in my suffering.

Yet, I wonder if suffering is similar to my cycling experience.  Suffering forces us out of our preferences.  Suffering forces out of our strengths.  Suffering forces us out of our self-reliance.

Suffering forces us out of our preferred position and into the optimal position.

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need.
God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”
~Joni Eareckson Tada

Anyone who has suffered, knows that it will force you down on your knees in reliance upon God and keep you there.  What could be more optimal than that?

That optimal position will produce endurance, character, and hope.  Those are all exceptional results – we just have to stay down to receive them.

“Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”
~Joni Eareckson Tada

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will heal my ribs quickly.  Help me to understand suffering.  Help me to accept suffering in my own life and the lives of others.  Father, do your work in us.  Don’t leave us as we are.  Create in us the hope that will not disappoint by the means that you choose.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“NOT THE PERSON I WANT” – Mar 14

March 14, 2015

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:14

Why do I think the very thoughts I’ve turned from? Why do I seek out the very temptations that cause me to stumble? Why do I give words to the very thoughts that I know cause hurt? Why do I embrace the very indifference I find repulsive? Why do I embody the very selfishness that denies my worship? Why am I the very person I don’t want to be? Why do I do the very things I hate?

“I do the very thing I hate”, is a confession that every follower of Christ has made. Obedience to the commands of the One we love can be a baffling mystery of cyclical inconsistency. Those who are in Christ live in between worlds. We are new creations in Christ and yet we still live in the flesh.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:18-19

The flesh that we inhabit is bound to this sinful fallen world. Some may use this fact as an excuse to live in sin.  However, our existence does not excuse sinful disobedience but rather it should inform our obedience.

We do not follow Christ through the power of the flesh. We do not yield our will to the commands of the law by relying upon feeling and emotions.

Obedience is an act of will; Will is the result of decisions; Decisions are made either in the mind based on knowledge or from urges of the flesh.

Since the flesh can only produce sin, obedience to the Word of God must come from a mind willfully yielding to guidance of the Spirit in faith.

So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. Romans 7:26b

The Christian life should be progressively learning how to subject the feelings and emotions of a rebellious heart to the Christ-like decisions of a mind that loves God more than those fleshly urges. We have to learn how to do this. I find Proverbs helpful.

Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,  (Proverbs 2:2-4)

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5)

Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; (Proverb 2:9)

So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, (Proverbs 2:16)

So you will walk in the way of the good to the paths of the righteous. (Proverbs 2:20)

Proverbs shows the powerful progression of an engaged mind.

The children of God engage their minds in the wonderful search to know their Lord; praying for the Spirit to reveal insight and understanding; listening for the wisdom of God and inclining their hearts to understanding the comes only from faith.

God promises that those who seek Him in faith will find Him. They will be given the knowledge of God and understand the fear of the Lord. They will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.

The mind will have the understanding that it needs to bend the will from the flesh. Only when an engaged mind is working on the knowledge revealed through the Spirit can it make a decision that takes the flesh away from the forbidden woman and all other enticing temptations and onto the paths of the righteous, walking in the way of the good.

Our flesh will never be inclined to love God. Therefore, stop trying to obey God in your flesh.

Love God with your mind and watch your flesh follow.

“Loving God with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” ~ John Piper, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

PRAYER: Lord, you know how often I stray after the flesh.  You know how I disengage my mind to do what I don’t want to do.  Please forgive me.  Father, give me insight and understanding; make my ears attentive; incline my heart to understanding.  Help me to know you; show me yourself.  Teach me how to love and fear you.  I love you Lord; keep my feet on the path of righteousness in glorifying obedience to you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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PRIZE OF THE IRONMAN – June 5

June 5, 2014

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

 “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
~ Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson explains one of his most famous quotes

Training has been done;
Miles have been logged;
Intervals accumulated;
Laps swum; and
Injuries avoided;

The sugar-plums of my dreams have been replaced by visions of the swim, bike, and run.

All that remains is to race.

Swim race start (ITU ) World short course Tria...

The race for me is the Boise Ironman 70.3  that starts a mere 2 days from now. It would be a lie to pretend that I am not nervous. I have never raced this combination of distances. Therefore, the unknown of race day looms large in my mind.

I would like to have more time for a half-marathon run to be comfortable.
I would like to have done an open water swim this year.
I would like to have stacked a few more bricks.

Français : Photo de Pierre Lavoie à l'entraîne...

Yet, all the things that I would like to have done, would not chase away the apprehension of race day unknowns I now feel. The challenge for a prepared racer is far less physical than it is mental. The body will perform how it has prepared. Muscles will pull and push to the levels they have been stretched. Lungs will exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide at their rate of capacity. Blood will carry all the essentials provided in order to accumulate miles at speed.  An athlete’s body will perform in accordance to the training plan it has developed under.

The mind is the unknown.130608-F-IZ428-500

What happens when you enter the pain locker?

 What happens when the fun stops and adversity begins?

 What happens when you feel like you have been punched in the mouth?

That is the test of the mind.

We all have a plan.
We all have visions of success.

Yet, the mind determines whether those plans will be abandoned in the face of adversity.

I think this may be why I am drawn to endurance events. I want to train my mind not to give up under adversity. I want the confidence that I will continue when the plan really matters. My race on Saturday does not really matter. There are no consequences for not finishing. I have no hope of winning.  I won’t even be competitive.

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The prize I seek from the Boise Ironman 70.3 is the realization that I can take a punch and still finish.

That is a prize that will reward throughout life. Life is full of adversity.

We will fail… be misunderstood… and ridiculed;

We will be disappointed… abandoned… and betrayed;

We will be attacked… face fear… and uncertainty;

We will make mistakes… experience loss…and know heartache;

We will be broken.

Any of these adversities can feel like a punch in the mouth. Suffering and trials can hit us so hard that we are willing to abandon our plan, even our first love, to gain relief. How can you be confident that you will endure all things when it really matters?

This is the prize of suffering.

It is why I will rejoice in the pain that comes from the Boise Ironman 70.3.

It is why I rejoice in all the suffering that I have endured.

I rejoice because I have learned that I can take a punch and won’t give up. Throughout my life, I believe that the Spirit of God has used those punches to produce in me a character of endurance. It is a character, grounded in faith, which gives me a confidence based in experience. It is that character that produces hope. I rejoice in that hope. It is this hope that will never put me to shame because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me.

What about you?

Can you take a punch in the mouth?
Are you confident in your character?
What has your character produced?

I realize that endurance events are not for everyone. However, there are plenty of opportunities in life to train our minds not to give up. It is why sticking with the small things matter. They are all opportunities to train our mind – and that is a prize worth enduring for.

My hope for you is:

When it gets hard, you go deep;
When it hurts, you look beyond;
When it is inconvenient, you continue;
When others run away, you stand;
When you want to give you, you take another step.

My hope for you is that you will rejoice in all the adversities of your life…because they will produce hope.

That hope is a prize worth training for.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for what you have taught me in suffering.  While I do not desire adversity, you have shown me the value it produces.  Thank you for the character that you have developed in me.  Thank you for the hope that will never disappoint.  Lord, train me in those areas were I am prone to give up.  Build within me a mental toughness to take a punch when it really matters and to continue to follow you. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“DENYING THE EVIDENCE” – April 30

April 30, 2013

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Romans 1:18-19

Atheist symbol, made by User:FaltaregoI like to read apologetics blogs.  However, there is a rather mixed bag in the blog-o-sphere.  There are probably more blogs of atheist apologists than there are for Christian apologists.  I recently saw one particularly condescending post from an individual who had found the key to unraveling the Christian religion.  He advocated focusing on what he called the incoherent arguments hide in the backyard of redemption.

One of these incoherent arguments was described as culpability for a sin nature that is neither requested nor avoidable. I thought that this statement encapsulates many of the arguments of secular atheists against Christ.  It is a misunderstanding of Christian doctrine sharpened into a spear.

I am again reminded of how important it is for followers of Christ to know what they believe.  We must know what the Bible actually teaches us so that we can prevent others from twisting it into something different.  This person’s twisting is a misrepresentation of the implications between a deprave nature and actual sin.  No person has ever faced the judgment of God due to a depraved nature.  People face the wrath of God due to their sin.

The culpability for the atheist and all people is the suppression of the truth that is evident by walking out our back doors and experiencing life.  The atheist, in particular, denies what their own eyes can know about God.  All one has to do is look at this incredible creation to see the divine nature and eternal power of God.

Atheism

Atheism (Photo credit: atheism)

Man’s culpability comes from being able to know that there is a God but then refusing to honor him or give thanks to Him.  That is the sin for which people are culpable.  The atheist is most culpable since they typically not only fail to honor God but they actually dishonor their Creator by overtly denying that He exists.

Reading the writings of atheists breaks my heart because they so vividly reveal the fallen nature of this world.  The aggressive and egotistical nature of many of these writings is evidence to how they have become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  (Romans 1:21)  I am reminded of how broken this world truly is and in need of redemption.

May our hearts break for the lost.  Let us not fall into their carefully laid traps that are really mere pits of futile and debased thinking.  Let us pray that God will open their eyes and acknowledge Him and His Son as their Savior .

PRAYER: Father, I pray for my atheist friends.  I know that their sin is great as is my own.  Father, I pray that you will tear down their intellectual walls that resist the message of this universe.  The message that you are God.  Lord, I ask that you draw them back from their futile and debased thinking.  I ask that you will soften their hearts and open their eyes to see your Son and to see their need for a Savior.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“ASHAMED OR PATIENT” – April 29

April 29, 2013

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ ” Romans 1:16-17

Conference TableI sit across his desk as I have done a thousand times.  For nearly 2 decades, my colleague and I have sat in these exact positions – working through business strategies, personnel conflicts, project staffing, client losses, and client awards; through times of determining bonuses and times of layoffs.

He is a man who I trust and care about. 

Once again as I sit in this familiar chair, the echoes of my prayers ring in my ears.  We prattle on about the renewing of the company healthcare benefits.  We dissect the advice of attorneys.  We wonder what it all means for the future of our little company.  We cover the mundane and the visionary but it is just Novocain to what I really want to talk about.

The topic that is of most importance in my heart never seems to have a place.  I have prayed for my friend since the day that I first met him.  I have had periods where through neglect he has slipped from my prayer time but he has been one of my most consistent prayers next to my family.

I know that as my faith has become more evident, our friendship has become more business.  I have felt the resistance to anything spiritual.

My friend’s preference is to keep his spiritual life on the basis of knowledge.  He cringes at the hard sell.  I have seen him harden every time a salesman has pushed for an immediate decision.  He is the type of man who takes a month to buy a sofa and a full day to finalize the purchase of a car.  Like all of his decisions, he wants to examine the presentations of the divine and determine truth through the logic of his own trusted mind.

I know this as I listen for any indication of an openness to discuss faith in our conversations.  It is an easy thing for an introverted man of self-control to prevent any such openings.  Therefore, I prayerfully wait for the appropriate time.

I wait and wonder if an opening will ever come.  Do I wait for God to create an opening?  Do I kick a crack open?  Do I lay the awkward question of salvation on the table and let the chips fall as they may?  I wonder if my hesitancy is unduly influenced by thoughts of myself; am I hesitant because I don’t want to be embarrassed?  Am I hesitant from a compassion that doesn’t want to see more walls erected to the truth of the gospel?

I know that the gospel has power.

I know that the Spirit draws and softens heart.

I know that salvation is not based on the perfect handling of the truths of Christ.

I know that my friend needs to believe upon the name of Jesus Christ because it is his only hope for it is the power of God for salvation.

I say that I care about him.  Do I care enough to be rejected?

I say I trust him.  Do I trust him enough to allow me to be heard?

I do not know the right answer. 

What I do know is that our God is gracious and merciful and that He wants all to come to His Son.  He wants my friend to be freed from his slavery to sin and rebellion against the one true God.  What I also know is that I am supposed to live in an unashamed and gentle manner.

For me, this means that I need to be intentional about living only one life.  I have a tendency to filter my conversations so that they won’t be offensive, awkward, or weird.  That usually means avoiding religion and politics.  The reality is that a gospel-oriented worldview will be weird and offensive to those who are lost.  I need to forget myself more completely and be the new creation that I am in Christ in gentleness and compassion.

I need to live an unfiltered life and acknowledge my Lord where I see Him regardless of who I am with; not to offend but to glorify God.  When I am walking in the Spirit, in an unashamed manner, without thoughts for myself, then the Spirit will give my words value beyond my thoughts for the precise moments that He has ordained.  God will faithfully use those who forget themselves and proclaim His good news.

May He bless the words given to my friend and draw him to Himself.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for my friend.  Draw him to yourself.  Soften his heart to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Lord, satisfy all the questions of his mind and give him the gift of faith.  Father, give me the boldness as you need from me.  Keep me from stepping out in my strength due to my impatience.  May the gentleness and compassion of your Spirit be evident in the words I speak with him.  Lord, I know that all things are possible for you; save my friend.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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