Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Praying for Those on the Trail

In our town, we are blessed to have the Constitution Trail, a more than 45-mile hard surfaced trail running through the community, that was developed for walking, hiking, jogging and biking. The trail opened in 1989, using the old Illinois Central Gulf Railroad line that had been abandoned around this same time, which provided an appropriate pathway for a trail.
Each Wednesday morning, weather permitting, my good friend Neil and I enjoy spending time together walking the trail for two hours, covering five or more miles. We enjoy God’s creation (trees, birds, etc.) as we pass many people biking, walking, jogging, walking their dogs, pushing baby strollers, or sometimes running behind a baby stroller. I try to catch the eyes of those we pass by, with a smile, wave or “Good morning”.
One of the places we pass by on the trail is a small piece of land, adjacent to our church property, that our church purchased several years ago. We purchased the land with the intention of putting a few parking spaces on it, but that was never approved by the town, so it sits unused, except for being mowed by our faithful deacons. More than a year ago, my wife Tammy had an idea for the property, to put up what she calls a “Lucy Booth”.
Remember Lucy from the Peanuts series? A way for her to make money was to give advice, thus she set up a psychiatric help booth and charged five cents for advice. Tammy took that idea and developed her own sign in which Lucy advertised opinions for a nickel, thoughts for the day for a dime, and sound advice for a quarter. But next to Lucy’s booth, Snoopy offers prayer for free! (see sign above)
So, occasionally in the summer we go out to the church property along the trail and set up the sign. We bring some folding chairs and bottled water, and sit back.  What a joy it is to see the neighborhood children running with their basketball to go play at the church’s hoop.  We see many people walk or run by the sign, some of them looking at it. Most don’t make eye contact (as an introvert, I can understand that), but some do and we smile and wave to them. We pray for them as they go by. You never know what kind of problems someone is dealing with. It could be illness, loss of job, relationship issues, etc. Our only purpose is to be there for that person who is going through difficulties and just needs someone to talk to, or to pray for them.
I think it’s a wonderful way to be salt and light in our community (Matthew 5: 13-16), and use a piece of property that is not otherwise being used.
Have you done something similar in your community? Please share if you have. Blessings.

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Are We Too Preoccupied to Love Christ?


Think back to when you were first in love. You were completely devoted to that person. As you sat across the table from them you looked into their eyes hanging on every word they said. You laughed at every joke they told, whether it was funny or not. You touched their hand, and enjoyed the smell of their perfume or cologne. You wanted to know everything about them and to be fully known by them. Then, your smartphone buzzed. You quickly checked it to make sure it’s not an emergency. Then you think, maybe I better check what other calls and texts I’ve missed. All of a sudden, you’re no longer fully present. You’ve been pulled away from the person that you love and who is right in front of you to address what may be causing the buzzing on your phone.
When I was in seminary along with working 50+ hours a week, I was really stretched for time. After work, my wife and I would meet for a quick dinner before I would begin studying, but she could often tell my mind wasn’t on her. Even though I was sitting right in front of her, more than once she would tell me that I might be listening to her, but she knew I was thinking about all I had to do that evening.   Definitely preoccupied.
Isn’t this how our relationship with God becomes at times? When he first drew us to him we couldn’t get enough of him or his word. We just wanted to be in his presence, to learn all that we could about him and be known by him. Continue reading


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A Prayer for One Who is Suffering Physically


Heavenly Father, thank you for this morning. As I pull back the drapes I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I didn’t sleep all that well last night due to the pain, but I am thankful for the sleep that you did give me. I pray for energy to get through this day. Father, I sometimes feel like I am such a bother to my loved ones and friends. Really, I think I’m ready to “go home” now, but you have told me “not yet”.
It seems like it wasn’t too long ago that my body allowed me to enjoy so many of the blessings that you provide for us – playing golf on a beautiful summer day, walking our dog, travelling with my spouse, or just taking a leisurely stroll in the neighborhood. Now my body is limited and I’m always in pain, and so afraid of falling.
I started out walking with a cane, and now it’s usually with a walker and at times I’m in a wheelchair. Someone once told me that the “’Golden Years’ aren’t so golden”, and I know that’s true for some. I sometimes laugh when I see how many pills I have to take each day just to get through the day. Isn’t that just for “old people”?
Draw me close to you Father. I ask for healing today, oh my Lord.  Sometimes you are silent, and so I choose to trust you in your lovingkindness; trust you in your wisdom; trust You in Your word that by your silence you are stretching my faith because you say, “when you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. “  I Peter 1:6-7
So help me to find my joy in you and your Word and wait upon You.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

“Oh grant me wisdom from above, 
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of Your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
Within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say:
“Your perfect will in your perfect way.”
  (Keith & Kristyn Getty)

Help me to take my focus off of me and my pain and onto you and others. You know that my health doesn’t allow me to get to church or our small group as much as I would like, but I love my church and the members of my small group. Although I can’t be with them as much as I would like, I do pray for them. And Father, they are so kind to drop me notes, stop by for a visit, and even bring by dessert. I’m so thankful for them.
In this season of life, help me to find my purpose, my calling. My mind is still sharp, maybe I could lead a Bible Study in my home?  Show me how I can be a blessing to others, just as many have been a blessing to me.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen


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A.C.T.S. – The Model for Prayer I Use


As Christians, we know that prayer is the most powerful way for us to experience God. But most Christians would agree that their prayer life is not what it should be. I’ve read many books about prayer in an effort to improve my prayer life. Here are 10 of those books that I would recommend.
Many Christians want to know the way in which to pray, but they are just not sure how to get started. There are a number of models that people follow, such as what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6: 9-13). A new book I would recommend that discusses this model is Albert Mohler’s The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution. David’s prayer in Psalm 51 is a good model for contrition. Paul Miller in his excellent book A Praying Life, talks about the use of prayer cards (one for each person you are praying for), while a friend of mine uses a prayer jar. I have tended to use a prayer list to capture my prayer requests. In addition, in his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, the best book on prayer that I have read, Tim Keller writes “From earliest times, the Christian church adopted the Psalms of the Old Testament to be its prayer book”.
Some people use a daily “Quiet Time” for their prayer time, while others, including my wife, pray throughout the day.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

I’ve found that the acrostic A.C.T.S. is the best model for me to use for my prayers. Each of the letters in this acrostic stand for one of the key elements of prayer: Continue reading


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A Prayer for Christmas Day


Father in Heaven, on this Christmas morning, we thank you for Jesus, your only, and beloved, son. The busy period leading up to Christmas is now over. The decorating of our homes, the gift buying and wrapping, the sending of cards, the parties with friends, special programs at church, etc. The sound of Christmas music has been filling the air, sharing the gospel in music with some who would not normally hear it.
We’ve been looking forward with joyful anticipation during Advent to celebrating Jesus’ birth, His first coming. This is indeed good news of great joy.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
We hear many in our culture talk about the “true meaning of Christmas”. Some say the true meaning of Christmas is peace, and indeed we are told that the angels praised God saying that there will be peace on earth among those with whom He is pleased (Luke 2:14). Tim Keller tells us that Christmas means the increase of peace, both with God and between people. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus that He would be the Prince of Peace:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6
Others say that Christmas is about light and hope.  Father, we know that there would be no Christmas at all without Jesus, who came to earth as a sacrifice for us.   He is our only hope and The Light of the World.
For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
We know that the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is You, O God, substituting yourself for man.  We are so glad to read in 2 Corinthians 5: 19 where Paul says “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them”.  Mark 10:45 tells us that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
He took the punishment we deserve and gave us His perfect life in its place so we can be reconciled with You.  Love came down at Christmas. That’s the meaning of Christmas.
Father, be with us today. Help those who will be with family and friends to enjoy the wonderful time together. For those who will be alone today, and perhaps missing loved ones, please help them to feel the presence of your Holy Spirit.   May we share this good news of great joy with everyone.  May we live this day and every day for your glory.
In Jesus precious name,
Amen


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A Morning Prayer ~ a Need for Workplace Grace

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this beautiful morning, and the good night of sleep you have given us. Use that sleep to refresh our bodies for this day so that we can serve you in our vocations and callings today.
We pray for our commute into the office, that we leave in plenty of time so that we don’t get upset when someone sits too long at a light that turns green. Help us to show your love on the roads we travel, giving other drivers the benefit of the doubt, even if it “wasn’t their turn” to go.  As we travel, prepare our hearts for the day ahead of us, and we lift up those we will meet with and come in contact with. You are sovereign and we are not. We don’t know what will happen today, but you do.
We pray for your guidance in the workplace today, no matter what our particular job is. Help us to treat others with kindness, so that they will see you through us. We want to shine your light in a dark world and point others to you, people who might never even consider going to a church on Sunday to worship you. Help us to use our words wisely. Perhaps those words will be used to encourage someone who is going through a difficult time. Perhaps our words will be needed as we lead others, perhaps providing constructive feedback. If so, let us do so with kindness. Help us to serve others in the workplace.  Help us to truly get to know our co-workers, finding out what it is that they value in their lives.  Use us for your glory.
Help us to make eye contact with those we pass by, offering them a smile, instead of ignoring them, or having our face in our phones. Give us patience to treat interruptions with grace, putting others needs in front of ours.
Help us to handle difficult people and situations that may come our way today with integrity. Help us to be honest, trustworthy and people of good character, admitting our faults, even when they could easily be covered up.
You are a worker too, and we are made in your image. So, help us to do our work well, with excellence and a positive attitude and approach, not to make ourselves look good, but for Your glory, because we are doing our work for You. We don’t want the credit for a job well done. No, all glory goes to You, who created us and equipped us to do our work.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


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A PRAYER FOR ADVENT

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. Each year, Advent begins four Sundays before December 25. This year it will be December 2 to December 24.  Advent means the coming of Christ.  It is the celebration of the first advent of Jesus, and the anxious awaiting of His second. During the next four weeks we will be preparing our hearts to remember the first coming of Jesus through reading, music, teaching, etc., while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to His promised second coming. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting, and a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises.
How are you going to prepare your hearts this Advent season when there is so much pressure – shopping, Christmas events (parties, concerts, etc.), sending Christmas cards or writing family Christmas letters, gifts buying, travel, family gatherings, house decorating – and on and on. We can get exhausted and defeated even thinking about it. Without a doubt, there are many things that can distract us from what most matters during this season.
My wife Tammy and I love the Christmas season. Over the past few years we’ve made it a practice to choose a book of Advent devotional readings each year. In year’s past we have read John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent and his Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, Nancy Guthrie’s Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent, and last year we chose Paul Tripp’s Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional. This year, we will read Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent.  We also both love to listen to Christmas music, both Christian and traditional holiday favorites. My favorite Christmas song is “O Holy Night”. Songs such as that truly draw our hearts to the Lord.
Let’s pray:
Father in Heaven, we pause this morning as we begin the Advent season. We are so thankful for the sacrifice of your only Son, Jesus Christ. He willingly came to earth to humble himself by becoming a man and pay the price for our sins.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

We are thankful for the price being paid once and for all.
Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

Help us to focus on Christ this Advent season when there are so many things, even good things, that can distract us from Him and why He came to this earth.  He came once to save us from our sins and He will come again to gather His people into His Kingdom.
We pray that many – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – will be drawn to Jesus this season. Prepare our hearts to remember His first coming as we anxiously wait for His promised final return.

In Jesus name,
Amen.