Sunday’s Comin’

A reflective prayer based on Romans 1-5.

God our Father,

As we keep reading the letter
from Your Apostle,
from our Apostle,
to Your church at Rome,
to Your family at Skyline,
to our family at Skyline,
we are united by the Good News.

We are saved —
not by our works
not by our perfect doctrine
not by our obedience —
but by Jesus.

We needed salvation because of our sinfulness.
We are given salvation by Your grace.

Together we experience the fruit of being saved —
the joy
the peace
the Holy Spirit
the transformation.

We can’t wait to gather Together
to give You the praise
that You, and only You,
so richly deserve.

We love You!
In Jesus’ name,

A Reflective Prayer

a reflective prayer based on Romans 1:1-7

God our Father,

We read about Your servants —
called, set apart, and sent.

We read about Your Gospel —
promised and declared with power.

We read about Your Son —
human like David, divine like no other.

We read about Your saints —
called to belong to Jesus, people of grace and peace.

We read Your Scriptures —
prophecies, promises, and Good News.

We read about You, God.

And Sunday You call us Together,
that we might read and listen.

And our prayer is that
in all this reading and listening
we might come to know You,
to worship You, and
to be transformed by You.

To the praise of Your glorious grace.

In the name of the one who so embodies
both Your glory and Your grace.

William Hung, Spiritual Gifts, and Sober Judgment

Romans 12:3-8
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

William Hung auditioned for American Idol in 2004. Since that very day I have thought of him each and every time I have read a passage that speaks of spiritual gifts, particularly this one which instructs us to “keep it real” when assessing our giftedness. But I have to hand it to him, what he lacks in singing talent, he makes up for in being completely sincere.

God Knows the Heart

There was this time when Jesus was preaching to a house overflowing with people (in Mark 2). A group of guys showed up, with four of them carrying a paralyzed friend. They were trying to get in to see Jesus, apparently because they had heard of his healing the sick. After they tried to get in the house through the doors, they decided to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus.

They go to the roof, probably by climbing exterior stairs and began digging a hole in the roof. Imagine these guys tearing through the tiles on the roof while Jesus is preaching below. Imagine Jesus preaching while this group of determined guys opens up a hole above him.

When they get the opening large enough, they lower their friend down, right in front of Jesus. Jesus commends their faith and forgives the sins of the paralyzed guy. This incites the religious leaders who were present. They knew blasphemy when they heard it. Since only God can forgive sins, telling someone their sins are forgiven is tantamount to blasphemy. While the leaders had not yet spoken out, they were all thinking the same thing – Jesus is blaspheming!

The text tells us that Jesus knew exactly what the teachers of the law were thinking. They had said nothing. They didn’t have to say anything. Jesus knew “in his spirit” exactly what was on their hearts. In order to demonstrate that he had the authority to forgive sins, Jesus healed the paralyzed man.

Think about it for a moment – God knows our hearts. Is that frightening to you? Intimidating? Comforting? Some of each? Here are some other passages that remind us our wonderful God knows our hearts. Our God is wonderful, there is none like Him.

1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Chronicles 28:9

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Psalm 139:1-2
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

Jeremiah 17:9-10
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

Mark 2:8
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?

Mark 8:17
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?

Mark 12:15
Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”

Luke 16:15
He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

Acts 1:24
Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen

Acts 15:8
God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.

Romans 8:27
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

1 Thessalonians 2:4

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.

Revelation 2:23
I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

The Pillow

A couple of years ago my sister gave me a pillow for Christmas.

It has to be one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received. And it’s not even a pillow that you sleep on. It’s a decorative pillow. And I love it!

I don’t think I have ever owned a decorative pillow before. Prior to that Christmas if you had asked me if I would like to have a decorative pillow I would have surely said, “No” with little if any hesitation. But trust me when I say, I love this pillow.

In fact, I have the pillow sitting in a chair right across from my desk. I see the pillow every day. Some things that are in plain view become “invisible” after a while. They are there but because they are so familiar you don’t even notice them any more. Not so with this pillow.

It’s a nice pillow and all. The fabric is nice. The color looks good with the furniture in the office. But what’s so special about the pillow is the message that is embroidered on the front.

I smile because you are my brother.
I laugh because there is nothing you can do about it!


Every time I read the pillow I think of my big sister just laughing as she says those words. That alone makes it special.

But there is even greater significance. I think of the truth expressed in those embroidered words. You can’t pick your family. You’re stuck with whatever you happen to get. And that’s true not only with your physical family, but with the family of God as well.

I considered buying several of these pillows and sending them as “gifts” to brotherhood watchdogs who would love to eliminate me as their brother. I decided not to make the purchase for a couple of reasons. One, it would really waste money and energy on something that is not even healthy for me to dwell on. Two, deep in my heart I know better than to respond to evil with sarcastic evil.

So everyday I look at the pillow and I smile. I smile because I know that my standing with God is secure and unthreatened by any brotherhood hit man. And I laugh. I laugh because I know there is nothing any human being can do about my being their brother — whether they like it, or not.

Romans 8:31-34
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.


Where are the Words?

A famous country music star (with whom I shared a Nashville to Los Angeles flight a few years ago) was asked recently about the painful breakup with his actress-wife that ended in annulment. He responded with words that he might one day try using to make another country music hit.

The breakup, he said, was “like opening the door to your house and having someone come in and take your big-screen TV off the wall during the big game, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Say what?

Your marriage to a beautiful, famous, and talented woman has ended and you compare it to losing a big screen television?

Maybe he was trying to be creative or cute. Or maybe he was just telling the truth in the best way he knew how. Perhaps he just couldn’t find the right words to adequately express the pain he was feeling in the depths of his heart.

Who among us has never tried to paint a verbal picture only to realize that it didn’t work? And who among us has never been at a loss for words to describe the joys of the best experiences of life or the pain of our darkest days? There have been days when I needed to buy more than just a vowel; I needed to buy a whole string of words.

There is good news for Christians. When we can’t find the words, God can still understand. God’s Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts allows us to communicate with God even when we can’t find the words.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (Romans 8:26-27 NLT).

Thank You, God, for the work of Your Holy Spirit in our lives.


“It’s fantastic!”

According to The London Times those were the words of a woman who recently passed the test to receive her driver’s license.

To understand just how “fantastic” passing the test really was, you have to understand this woman is 50 years old and has been trying to pass the test since she was 17. That’s right, do the math, for 33 years she has been taking the test and failing it. She spent a small fortune on driver’s ed instruction in trying to pass the test.

While it is tempting to make fun of this woman, I will have to pass. After all, in this age of instant gratification we rarely witness someone wanting something badly enough to keep pursuing the goal through failure after failure.

The culture screams, “Right Now!” But God calls His own to be a people of endurance. Nothing builds up a spirit of endurance within our hearts like reading the scripture accounts of God’s enduring faithfulness to His people of old and fixing our eyes on Jesus as He endures the cross.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. . . .” Romans 15:4-5

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3

Our God is dependably steady, and that’s what I want to be. I want to be more like Him, not giving up at the first sign of opposition or failure, but continuing to pursue the goal.

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11

She’s right, you know, “It’s fantastic!”

With Sober Judgment

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3).

At one time or another, most of us have to fight the temptation to take ourselves too seriously. A good friend reminded me today of a helpful quote from the late Rich Mullins — one of my favorite song writers — that puts me in my rightful place.

“I had a prof one time… He said, ‘Class, you will forget almost everything I will teach you in here, so please remember this: that God spoke to Balaam through his ass, and He has been speaking through asses ever since. So, if God should choose to speak through you, you need not think too highly of yourself. And, if on meeting someone, right away you recognize what they are, listen to them anyway.”

May God give us all the sober judgment we so need.