Archive for September, 2012

September 28, 2012

Doubting the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 79:4-5
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 31; Psalm 79

Atheism: In 1955, C.S. Lewis published Surprised by Joy about his accidental discovery of joy. In reflecting on his time as an atheist, he wrote, “I was, at this time, living as so many Atheists or Anti-theists, in a world of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with Him for creating a world.”

Contradictions: Many of us, even though we are Christians, still feel like we are living in a world of contradictions. We may believe God and His promises, but we still wrestle with doubt when it seems like our circumstances do not line up with what we believe. In Psalm 79, Asaph, who knows God’s great promises to His people, wonders, “We have become a taunt to our neighbors, mocked and derided by those around us. How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” [1]

Faith: There is a difference, however, between the doubt of atheism and the doubt of faith. Doubting without faith trusts in circumstances more than promises; doubting with faith trusts in promises more than circumstances. It is not sinful to ask, “How long, O Lord?” This kind of doubt is rooted in a belief that trusts God and His Word and, then, looks at life and asks, “I do believe God and His promises, but I do not understand how my circumstances right now are lining up with those promises.” This is an honest and authentic questioning that comes from not being able to make sense of things. This type of doubt is a symptom of believing God, not rejecting Him.

Prayer: Lord, We live in a world that is full of circumstances that are confusing in light of your promises. Yet we recognize that we have such little information to interpret our lives. Therefore, we believe your promises more than our circumstances, even as we honestly ask, “How long, O Lord?” May we approach you as children in faith, knowing that you are good and do good. Be patient with us in our doubting for we are frail and prone to wander. Remind us that Jesus died to cover our doubts and the Spirit lives within us to transform our doubts. For we are saved by the blood of Jesus, not by our (im)perfect faith. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 79:4 – 79:5 ESV

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September 27, 2012

Treasuring the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 78:40-42
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 30; Psalm 78:40-72

Opinion: Recently, Brian Jay Stanley (NYT) lamented that he was just “a pawn of others’ projects” [1]. He wrote, “I am not a name but an account number, a social security number, a customer ID, a ‘current resident’ of this address.” As he discovered this, however, he realized that he treated others as pawns, too: “At every stage of life, we desire to be noticed and affirmed by others … As adults, our successes give us little pleasure unless sweetened by others’ admiration. If we dress up, there must be others to see us or our work seems wasted – no one wears a tuxedo at home.”

Remember: The longing for admiration is not inherently bad. The problem arises when our hearts long for others’ admiration more than the Lord’s. As we saw last week [2], the Israelites rejected God as king because they wanted to be like the other nations. They treasured others’ opinions over the Lord’s. They failed to remember what God had done for them: “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them” [3].

Cross: He had redeemed and loved them. On the cross, we see how far His love is willing to go for us. When Jesus hung on that cross of execution in horrible pain, a thief who had lived a life of sin and was on the brink of eternal death said to him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” [4]. What a hopeless appeal! This man had no time to become good before he died. Yet Jesus showed him immeasurable grace and love, saying, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” [5]. This is a wonder! This was a dying man declaring a life-long sinner accepted, loved and paradise-bound. This was a mercy that swept a lifetime of sin and guilt away in a second.

Prayer: Lord, We confess that oftentimes we chase after the unmerciful and ungracious opinions of others when you offer us your life-changing and infinite love. We fail to remember your redemptive power. Change our hearts to treasure you and your opinion. May we be obedient stewards of your mercy until you take us with you in Paradise. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Brian Jay Stanley. “On Being Nothing.” The New York Times. 9 September 2012.  |  [2] 843 Acres. “Arguing with God: His Glory.” 21 September 2012.  |  [3] Psalm 78:40-42 ESV  |  [4] Luke 23:42 ESV  |  [5] Luke 23:43 ESV

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September 26, 2012

Believing the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 78:19, 21-22
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 29; Psalm 78:1-39

Norm: Several years ago, David Brooks wrote about his six-step program for “Kicking the Secularist Habit” [1]. The first step, he said, is accepting the fact that the secularist mindset is not the norm. He wrote, “Western foundations and universities send out squads of researchers to study and explain religious movements. But … religious groups should be sending out researchers to try to understand why there are pockets of people in the world who do not feel the constant presence of God in their lives, who do not fill their days with rituals and prayers and garments that bring them into contact with the divine, and who do not believe that God’s will should shape their public lives.”

Belief: Believing in God may be our cultural norm, but believing God is not. It’s one thing to believe that God exists. It’s another thing altogether to believe Him. To trust Him. To live a life dependent on Him. The Israelites believed in God. They believed He existed. But they did not believe God. As the Psalmist wrote, “They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” … His anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power” [2].

Promises: Sin comes from unbelief in God’s promises. Anxiety, indifference, envy, hate, pride, impatience – these come from unbelief in God’s promises. For example, when the Israelites were not tithing, God said to them, “You are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” [3]. When we do not tithe, it is because we do not believe God. Instead, we believe our bank statements or our budgetary reasoning. We do not think that He will provide for us abundantly.

Prayer: Lord, Our belief – like all other spiritual blessings – has been purchased by the death of Christ. The sin of unbelief has been covered by his blood and, therefore, your power and mercy was released through the cross to subdue our rebellion and bring us to you. Forgive us for not taking hold of the cross by believing your promises. Help us to obey you because we believe you and your promises. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] David Brooks. “Kicking the Secularist Habit.” The Atlantic. March 2003.  |  [2] Psalm 78:19, 21-22 ESV  |  [3] Malachi 3:9-10 NIV 1984

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September 25, 2012

Remembering the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 77:5-6, 11-12
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 28; Psalm 77

Crises: Our nation seems to be in a crisis. In his latest book, A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness notes that crises take us back to fundamental questions: “All crises are judgments of history that call into question an existing state of affairs. They sift and sort the character and condition of a nation and its capacity to respond. The deeper the crisis, the more serious the sifting and the deeper the questions it raises. At the very least, a crisis raises the question, ‘What should we do?’ … Deeper crises raise the deeper question, ‘Where are we, and how did we get here?’ … But the deepest crises of all are those that raise the question, ‘Who do we think we are?’ when doubt and uncertainty have entered our own thinking” [1].

Questions: We know this to be true in our personal lives. Things do not go as we hope or expect. We lose our jobs, say goodbye to loved ones, tank on our investments and feel lonely. Then we question ourselves and the love of God. As the Psalmist wondered, “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has His steadfast love forever ceased? Are His promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?” [2]

Choice: What should we do? The strategy of the Psalmist was to remember deliberately the wonders of God in history: “I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search … I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds” [3].

Prayer: Lord, Our struggle to feel your favor is typical in our lives. We will go through seasons when we wonder whether your promises are reliable and whether your compassion has ended. In this world, we will never rise above this struggle. But we cling to your Word as our hope to come through the other side of doubt and uncertainty with faith and hope. We make a conscious effort to set our minds to remember. For we want to fight for faith and joy. We do not want to live passively. Make this our strategy for life. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. pp. 13-14. Kindle edition.  |  [2] Psalm 77:7-9 ESV  |  [3] Psalm 77:5-6, 11-12 ESV

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September 24, 2012

Fearing the Lord

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 76:7
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 27; Psalm 75-76

Culture: Where is the fear of the Lord in our culture? On Family Guy, God appears as a recurring character that impresses young female admirers with magic tricks. John Lennon sang, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.” In Dogma, God is played by Alanis Morissette. Joan Osborne sings, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?”

Storm: The Psalmist sang of the goodness of the fear of the Lord: “You are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” [1] Yet how does this work? Aren’t we supposed to hope in God, not fear Him? John Piper explains, “Suppose you were exploring an unknown glacier in the north of Greenland in the dead of winter. Just as you reach a sheer cliff with a spectacular view of miles and miles of jagged ice and snow mountains, a terrible storm breaks in. The wind is so strong that the fear rises that it might blow you and your party right over the cliff. But in the midst of it, you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure, but the awesome might of the storm rages on and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers” [2].

Cleft: “At first,” he continues, “there was the fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called ‘fear’ vanished. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power. And so it is with God … Hope turns fear into a happy trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it serious. The terrors of God make the pleasures of His people intense” [3].

Prayer: Lord, Through the sacrifice of Christ, which cleanses us from sin, we find boldness to run to you, not from you. We hide from your anger within the safety of your embrace. In Christ, our worst storm has become our greatest comfort. Yet make us fear you in awe and wonder so that we cling to you, our refuge. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Psalm 76:7 ESV | [2] John Piper. “The Pleasure of God in Those Who Hope in His Love.” 15 March 1987. | [3] Id.

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September 21, 2012

Arguing with God: His Glory

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 72:18-19
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 24; Psalm 72

Last Friday, we wrote about filling our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that. [1]

Pre-Prayer Worship: None But Thee [2]
(by Young Oceans with Eric Marshall of Trinity Grace Chelsea)

Lord,

We confess that we stand in a long line of your people who have rejected your leadership. When the Israelites demanded, “Give us a king to lead us”, you lamented because you wanted to be their king. You even warned them that a king would take their land and resources without solving their problems. But they did not listen. Instead, they said, “We want a king! Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles” [3]. They did not meditate and muse on your promises: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” [4].

In your great mercy, however, you gave them many good kings who sought your face. Solomon, for example, asked for things that would bless others. He prayed, “Give the king your justice, O God … May he judge your people with righteousness” [5]. He also prayed for things that would benefit himself: “Long may [the king] live; may gold of Sheba be given to him! … May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!” [6]. But he tethered his requests to the great reality of knowing you as the ultimate king: “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! Amen and Amen!” [7] When he asked for blessings, he asked them for the sake of your glory. That by his rule, all people would know that you are king.

Today, we ask you to bless our leaders for the sake of your glory. Give them your justice that they may rule us with righteousness. Give them courage to defend the poor against the oppressor. Give them wisdom to make difficult decisions with limited information. May they be like rain that falls on mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In their days, may the righteous flourish and peace abound. Over all of this, however, we pray that they might know you. May they fear you while the sun endures. May they fall down before you. May your name endure forever.

Amen and Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See 843 Acres. “How to Argue with God.” 14 September 2012.  |  [2] Courtesy of Young Oceans with Eric Marshall, worship leader at Trinity Grace Chelsea. To order entire album, see iTunes or Amazon.com.  |  [3] See 1 Samuel 8.  |  [4] Exodus 14:14  |  [5] Psalm 72:1-4 ESV  |  [6] Psalm 72:15, 17 ESV  |  [7] Psalm 72:18-19

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September 20, 2012

Arguing with God: His Enemies

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 71:13
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 23; Psalm 70-71

Last Friday, we wrote about filling our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that. [1]

Pre-Prayer Worship: None But Thee [2]
(by Young Oceans with Eric Marshall of Trinity Grace Chelsea)

Lord,

When Jesus went to Gethsemane, it was not just human adversaries he was facing – soldiers, guards, even one of his friends turned traitor. “It was the concentration of all those unseen forces that opposed the kingdom of God because they knew it to be the powerful opponents of their own kingdom-dreams: the forces of oppression and violence, the unseen pull that makes people fight rather than be reconciled, that makes them choose brutality rather than humanity, tribe rather than world, self rather than God. These forces had opposed Jesus throughout his public career, sometimes shrieking at him from the lips of some poor deranged spirit, sometimes carping at him in the sneers of the religious, sometimes issuing threats against him from the royal palace” [3].

Today, your enemies are the same. The evil one and his minions mock your great name and blind people from seeing your glory. You are spoken against and demeaned throughout the world. Our culture is full of blasphemy. The evil one taunts your church, saying, “Do not let Christians deceive you, saying the Lord will deliver you. Surely the cross is foolishness.” His ability to spread discord and enmity is great and his manipulation and subtlety is clever.

Therefore, Lord, we pray as the Psalmist prayed, “May my accusers be put to shame and consumed; with scorn and disgrace may they be covered who seek my hurt” [4]. When those who seek injustice are victorious, your justice is trampled upon. When those who seek to wield the weapons of anger and mischief succeed, your peace and prosperity are mocked. Therefore, come into the battle and fight for your people and your name. Shame those who speak against you – even as you call them to know you. Come and show what your bare arm can do!

May all who seek you – even your enemies whose hearts we pray would return to you – rejoice and be glad! Arise and wake up to bless your people so that your name will not be shamed among your revilers. May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” For, in you, we take refuge; let us never be put to shame. For your righteousness reaches the heavens. You have done great things. O God, there is none but thee.

Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See 843 Acres. “How to Argue with God.” 14 September 2012.  |  [2] Courtesy of Young Oceans with Eric Marshall, worship leader at Trinity Grace Chelsea. To order entire album, see iTunes or Amazon.com.  |  [3] Mr. N.T. Wright. The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today (p. 84). Kindle Edition.  |  [4] Psalm 71:13 ESV. See also “Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt!” (Psalm 70:2 ESV)

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September 19, 2012

Arguing with God: Our Unworthiness

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 69:5
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 22; Psalm 69

Last Friday, we wrote about filling our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that. [1]

Pre-Prayer Worship: Come Holy One [2]
(by Young Oceans with Eric Marshall of Trinity Grace Chelsea)

Lord,

How great is our dilemma! For silence best becomes us in your presence, but love inflames our hearts and causes us to speak. Were we to stay quiet, the stones would cry out; yet if we speak, what shall we say? For the nearer we approach the throne, the less sure our words become. Teach us to know what we cannot know, for no one – apart from the Spirit – knows the things of God. Yet we yearn to know what cannot be known, to comprehend what is incomprehensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable. Deep calls to deep and we long to return to you. Let faith support us where reason fails. [3]

There is a wall, infinitely high, that separates us from you. Our sin is a great obstacle to knowing and enjoying you. Therefore, have mercy on us this morning. For our iniquity is great. Why should you go about doing little things? You are a great God and we are great sinners. For we confess the words of David, “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you” [4]. We cannot hide from you. Our sins are laid bare before your eyes.

Yet in our unworthiness, there is opportunity. For there is a fitness in us for the display of your grace. The greatness of our sin makes us perfect platforms for the greatness of your mercy to be displayed. Let the greatness of your love be seen in us. The power with which you restrain yourself is great indeed. So we creep down at the foot of your throne, crouching low and crying, “O God, do not break us. We are bruised reeds. Oh! Do not tread on our little lives. They are but as the withering grass. Will you hunt us? Will you come out? Will you watch us? Because we are so little and because the greatness of your mercy can be shown in us even though we are so insignificant, we plead that you would have mercy on us.” [5]

In Jesus, in whose name we plead, we have the final answer to our dilemma. We come to you through his wounds and mediation. In him, your steadfast love is good. Turn to us, according to your abundant mercy. Save us and build up your people so that your name will dwell among us.

Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See 843 Acres. “How to Argue with God.” 14 September 2012.  |  [2] Courtesy of Young Oceans with Eric Marshall, worship leader at Trinity Grace Chelsea. To order entire album, see iTunes or Amazon.com.  |  [3] This paragraph is filled with paraphrased references to A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy.  |  [4] Psalm 69:5 ESV  |  [5] See Charles Spurgeon. “Effective Prayer.” From Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 12, No. 700. (for more examples of prayer like this).

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September 18, 2012

Arguing with God: The Past

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 68:7-10
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 21; Psalm 68

Last Friday, we wrote about filling our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that. [1]

Pre-Prayer Worship: Come Holy One [2]
(by Young Oceans with Eric Marshall of Trinity Grace Chelsea)

Lord,

Meet with us this morning. Awaken us with a song of praise in our hearts and on our lips. Give us a vision for service in our cities. Incline our hearts to the Word and not to getting gain. Fill us with your Spirit of wisdom, joy and righteousness. Make us happy children, spouses, parents, friends, citizens and colleagues. Bind our hearts to one another and bind our hearts to you through the new covenant that is sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we look at the world around us, we see great turmoil. Not only is there confusion in our own country, as we prayed about yesterday, there is disorder throughout the nations. We think of Libya and the four embassy officials who died last week in a riot that has spilled over into Egypt and Yemen [3]. We mourn for the more than 200,000 Syrian refugees who have fled from civil war and are living in poorly resourced camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan [4].

In light of these circumstances, we plead the past to you. We pray, as David did: “O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain … Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy” [5]. Do not leave your work unfinished. What you have begun, do not fail to complete. You are an unchanging God, who will do in the future what you have done in the past. For you do not turn from your purpose and cannot be thwarted in your design. [6]

Therefore, go before us, as you did with the Hebrews. March through the wilderness and shake the earth. Cause the heavens to pour down rain in abundance. In your goodness, provide for the needy, displaced, homeless, and weak. Make yourself known to them. For you are a God who cares for victims of violence and oppression. You spread your cloak over refugees and foreigners. For your people were aliens in a land not their own and you sustained them. We were aliens without an inheritance to your promises and you adopted us through Jesus. Therefore, heal your people and use us as your hands and feet.

Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See 843 Acres. “How to Argue with God.” 14 September 2012.  |  [2] Courtesy of Young Oceans with Eric Marshall, worship leader at Trinity Grace Chelsea. To order entire album, see iTunes or Amazon.com.  |  [3] David Kirkpatrick and Steven Lee Myers. “Libya Attack Brings Challenges for U.S.” New York Times. 12 September 2012; CBS News. “U.S. braces for new violence over anti-Muslim film.” 14 September 2012.  |  [4] Wikipedia, “Refugees of the Syrian Civil War.” See also BBC Middle East. Video: “Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugees in Jordan.” AP. “Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugees in Turkey in role as UNHCR envoy.” 13 September 2012.  |  [5] Psalm 68:7-10 ESV  |  [6] See Charles Spurgeon. “Effective Prayer.” From Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 12, No. 700. (for more examples of prayer like this).

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September 17, 2012

Arguing with God: His Great Name

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Psalm 67:2
M’Cheyne Text: Ezekiel 20; Psalm 66-67

Last Friday, we wrote about filling our prayers with arguments before the Lord. This week, we model prayers that do that. [1]

Pre-Prayer Worship: Come Holy One [2]

Lord,

We are tired this morning. Help us. Open our eyes so that we may see wonders in your Word. O God. How mighty is your great name! Maker of heaven and earth and the universe. That you should hear our whispers when we are half awake. That you should spend time with us while millions pray. That you should call our feeble flesh the temple of the Holy Spirit. That you should speak to us personally through the Word and Spirit. O God, what condescension! What unutterable mercy to attend to us! Help us believe and feel this truth: that we are your people and that you are our God.

Today, we come together – 1,330 of us who read this devotional daily – and we raise our voices as one, saying, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among the nations” [3]. Yes, we pray that you would give us grace, blessings and favor. For we are a people who need you. Define us as your people and be our God.

We do not ask for your grace, blessings and favor only for our sake; we ask these things for the sake of your great name. When you tied your name to us, your people, you tied your glory and reputation to us. When the nations see how you bless us, they will see how great you are. Therefore, we pray that you give us grace, blessings and favor. That your way may be known on earth. That your saving power may be proclaimed among the nations. Fill us with joy in you. Give us delight in our salvation.

As we consider our nation, Lord, we wonder, “Who are we? Where are we? How did we get here? Where are we going?” We are in a state of confusion. Instead of being a city on a hill, we are a full of infighting and pettiness. Sadly, Lord, this is true even for the church. We have accepted relativism and tolerance over truth and virtue. Yet your Word teaches us that only the truth will set us free. Forgive us. Let us cling to truth so that we may receive your grace, blessings and favor. For the sake of your great name.

Amen.

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Footnotes

 [1] See 843 Acres. “How to Argue with God.” 14 September 2012.  |  [2] Courtesy of Young Oceans with Eric Marshall, worship leader at Trinity Grace Chelsea. To order entire album, see iTunes or Amazon.com.  |  [3] Psalm 67:2 ESV

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