sacrifice (4)


In 2 Timothy Paul gives us a marvelous example of integral hope in his life. Paul's life even at that difficult end was still buoyed by a higher purpose. 2 Timothy 4:1,2 reads,

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Paul challenges Timothy, and us, to preach the word. And faithful endurance in his painful situation was crucial to that encouragement. He saw his approaching death as part of his challenge and a crucial part of his worship. He encourages us in versus 6-8 by comparing his life to a drink offering.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

A drink offering was a powerful expression of devotion in the desert middle east where water is life. The first drink offering mentioned in Scripture was made by Jacob as he met God at Bethel in Genesis 35. As he emptied his canteen onto the ground, he was trusting his life to the Lord who had appeared to him. Later when drink offerings were included in worship in the Tabernacle the vessels for it were to be of gold, befitting costly devotion.

Paul sees his final circumstance as the ultimate worship and witness for God. And he could endure it however long it would last for two reasons. First, as he wrote earlier to the Philippian Church, (Philippians 1:22-24) God might still allow him to continue his purpose on this Earth. And, he knew the reward waiting for him in the presence of God was worth whatever he had to endure.

I have terminal cancer, and I don’t know how long I will live. I believe God has called me to write. It is an extension of my call to preach. And I want to write everything He leads me to write. But I also need to see what I may not be able to complete as a drink offering. If it is God's will for me not to live long enough to finish books that I am writing, I pour them out to Him in worship.

There are other things that I put in this category. I no longer have the strength or energy to Pastor a church. And I offer that loss in worship to God. I have also had a vision of prayer in the church like we have never prayed. Well, even the small platform that I had has diminished. And I don't see God allowing me to promote this. I had an idea for a prayer retreat center with prayer rooms devoted to prayer for every people group on Earth. Everyone coming to the center would be encouraged to spend at least an hour a day in one of the prayer rooms. Of course I do not know if this is the will of God at all, although the Scripture calls us to radical prayer. But even if this is God's will it does not look like I will get to be part of bringing it about. And I pour this out as a drink offering before God.

So whether I eat or drink(1 Cor. 10:31) or write or pray, I want to pour these things out as a drink offering to God.



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The Bible's Built-In Prayer Guide

If you're like me, you sometimes find yourself stuck trying to think of something to pray about.  While we're surrounded by people and matters to pray about, there are just some times when the mind gets stuck, and prayer can seemingly grind to a halt.

Recently, I was preparing a prayer guide for a prayer meeting focusing on Revival in the Church.  I was reading Romans 12, when quickly the Holy Spirit began to point out prayer points from within the text.  They began leaping off of the page right before my eyes!  Here are a few that caught my attention:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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...

Verses 9-16 have a wealth of prayer points packed in as well!

Some of these highlighted points can be prayed personally, while others can be prayed for the Church, a nation, community, or another group of people (either within or outside of the Church).

Here are a few prayer examples from the highlighted text above:

Lord, (from verse 1) I desire to be holy and pleasing to You everyday.  Help me to offer my body as a living sacrifice to You today.  I want to yield my agenda, priorities, and life to Your wisdom, love, grace, and guidance.  Please fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit, so that I may be increasingly sensitive to Your heart, and more obedient to Your promptings and will.

(From verse 2)- Father, I thank You for your presence in my life.  Thank You, too, for giving me Your Word, your Spirit, and the ability to read and take to heart what Your Word instructs.  I want to be able to confidently test and approve Your good and pleasing will.  Help transform my mind from this world's thinking into a mind that's renewed in Your ways of thinking.  You are my desire, Lord.  I love You dearly!  Grow my love for you deeper, still!

Verse 3- Father, I confess that I'm all too eager to think of myself more highly than I ought.  I want to think I'm smarter, more clever, faster, and better trained than others, but it's simply not true.  Thank you for quickly humbling me at times when I become puffed up in those ways of thinking or acting.  Help me to accurately see myself through Your eyes, so that I don't become the center of focus in my life, but so that You become and remain the center.  You are my all-in-all.

A way of praying verse 3 for the Church could look something like this:

Father, as a part of your Bride, the Church, I'm prone to thinking of myself more highly than I should.  And sadly, Father, I'm not alone in thinking with that mindset.  Many have been turned away from Christ due to encounters with Christians who have been prideful, hurtful, and sometimes just rude.  These are not attributes of You, Jesus; but many, including me, have given off that impression to others.  Please forgive me, and those in the Church who have hindered others from knowing You accurately, truthfully, and lovingly.  Please redeem those encounters, and help those of us within the Church to think of ourselves with sober judgment, not more highly than we ought.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

One of the benefits of prayer, is that God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us pray.  As we look at the Word of God, the Spirit can help us pray the Scripture back to God in ways in which honor God, and also change us, and others, from the inside, out.  The Spirit and the Word can also help us get unstuck when we feel caught at a dead end in prayer.

Try this way of praying.  Before you read the Word of God, or pray, ask God to fill and quicken you with His Holy Spirit.  He will powerfully meet you where you're at, and may lead you deeper into His Word than you ever expected or imagined!

Continue in prayer,

Rob Griepentrog

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Attributed to renowned investor Warren Buffet, “skin in the game” is a term describing the willingness of a company’s top executives to invest some of their own money in a project. It’s a sign of good faith and their confidence in the outcome.


The concept makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. Why should you or I want to invest in a company or a project if the insiders don’t believe in it enough to risk their own money?


But the skin-in-the-game principle actually started long before the days of Warren Buffet.


Perhaps you’ve heard the story of three-year-old Jenny, who was terrified by a fierce thunderstorm one night. With each flash of lightning or clap of thunder, she screamed in fear, pulling the covers over her head for protection. And when the covers proved inadequate to comfort her, she ran downstairs, where her mom was still working in the kitchen.


“I’m scared, Mommy!” she said, firmly wrapping her little arms around her mother’s legs.


“Go back to your room, Jenny,” her mom told her. “God will take care of you.”


“OK, mommy,” she reluctantly agreed.


But no sooner was she back in bed than another roar of thunder shook her room, once again sending Jenny back to the kitchen, where she wept as she clung to mom.


“What did I tell you, Jenny? God will take care of you,” the mother said, getting somewhat irritated.


“But mommy, God doesn’t have any skin on Him!” the little girl protested.


Well, even though we surely can sympathize with Jenny’s point, the good news is that God did, in fact, come to us with skin on. We’re told in John 1:14 that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Not content to remain hidden away somewhere in the heavenlies, our Lord became Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).


Yes, God put skin in the game. Real skin. You see, He believed enough in His “redemption project” to become personally involved—fully invested, we might say.


Notice that He didn’t just send His Word through prophets, angels, stone tablets, or handwriting on the wall. He came Himself and lived among us.


However, this doesn’t totally negate Jenny’s point. People today still are looking for “God with skin on.” They need something more than a pat answer or an encouraging Bible tweet. They’re longing to see and interact with other human beings who are filled with the presence and power of Christ (Colossians 1:27).


So the next time you send a tweet, post a blog, or put something on your Facebook wall, remember this sobering statement by the apostle Paul: “We were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also OUR OWN LIVES, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).


If Paul was still around today, I’m sure he would be using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and every other possible means of sending out the gospel. Yet, even more importantly, he would be modeling an “incarnational” faith and investing his life into people he loved.


For Paul, presenting our bodies as “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1) wasn’t just theology or theory. It meant putting our skin in the game.


As you interact with people through social media on your computer or smart phone today, don’t forget to also put some of your “skin” in the game. Your friends and followers may need to see you in person from time to time. Like Jenny, they may even need a hug.





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Everyday Sacrifice

I'm praying through the Spiritual Disciplines, asking God how I can put my love for Him into practice. This week I'm praying about sacrifice, asking God what He would like me to give or give up.

I thought of Jesus' life on earth, and the great sacrifice He paid for us. I thought about the smaller sacrifices in His earthly life, and this story came to mind:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. ...

About eight days after these words, He took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men were talking with Him—Moses and Elijah. They appeared in glory and were speaking of His death, which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep, and when they became fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who were standing with Him. As the two men were departing from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it’s good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.

While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud.

Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!”

After the voice had spoken, only Jesus was found. They kept silent, and in those days told no one what they had seen.

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. (Luke 9:23, 28-37)

Jesus took three close friends up the mountain to share an amazing experience. They caught a glimpse of Jesus in His glory, and they saw two Old Testament heroes. They heard the mighty voice of God the Father.

And then they all came back down the mountain to meet a large crowd—a crowd with needs. Jesus took up His daily routine again. There was no lingering in the glory; He had a job to do.

I have a job too. However glorious my morning quiet time, whatever truth and comfort God impresses on my heart, I do have to come down the stairs and make breakfast, do the laundry and care for my children.

Sometimes sacrifice is simply giving myself and giving up what I want to do. Before Jesus took the disciples up the mountain, He spoke to them about denying themselves and taking up their crosses daily. There are difficult, annoying and painful things that I must face as I serve God. Some are larger then others. Some are simply the everyday routine of work when I'd really rather sit down and drink my tea and look outside at the mountains.

And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

Lord, show me how to live in love today, to serve my family and You.

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