God of love,

I was reading a book this week and words jumped off the page at me. I think I heard you speaking to me through the text: “It’s an obvious but often overlooked truth: Nothing changes until there is a change in behavior. Nothing has changed until people start acting differently.” (Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory.) The author’s intent was to teach about leadership, but the words spoke to me about my own life. I crave a closer relationship with you. I long to be sanctified by the power of your Holy Spirit. I want to know the power of your Spirit flowing through me to bring change to the world, but I find that I continue behaving the same way I have always behaved. God, I know that if I want to be a vessel of your Holy Spirit to transform our city with the love of Jesus, then I have to begin by being transformed myself. What keeps me frozen in the same habits I have practiced so long? What prevents me from actually doing the things I know will help me experience the life-change you offer me?

God, teach me once again to pray and worship, not only in times set aside for you, Sunday mornings and “quiet times” at dawn, but in every moment and in all I do. Lead me to study your Holy Scripture with a willing heart and mind, that I might find your living Word, rather than the words I want it to say. Open my heart to pursue new relationships, so that I might experience your love flowing into me and out of me through the people you put in my life. Give me the courage to share how you have been at work in my life, and to share my convictions as well as my doubts. And fill me up, that I might pour myself out into the world. These are the habits that will make the difference.

God, I know my salvation is not tied up in how I behave, but rather in your love and grace. You have already done everything necessary to restore my relationship with you, once and for all. But I want to take hold of that relationship, and live it joyfully every day. I want to “take hold of what I have already attained.” (Philippians 3:16) I have talked too much and done too little, God. Take over my life, that my habits might mirror those of your son Jesus, so that I might live and love as he did.

In the name of Christ, who is the way and the truth and the life, I pray.  Amen.

Tomorrow, February 23, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church will gather in St. Louis, Missouri to consider issues around human sexuality, and specifically same sex marriage and ordination. You may see stories in the media about the conference, and you may have already heard conversation about it on social media. I hope you will join me in prayer every day for the next five days for this gathering, that God would lead the delegates and work in their midst that God’s purposes, rather than their own agendas, would be accomplished. I have shared some thoughts about St. Luke’s and this General Conference here.

What would you say to the people you love most if you knew you had but days to live? How would you sum up what you hope your life has taught them? I am so excited about our Scripture+Shared study and sermon series for Lent, 2019. The study and series title is “The Book of Glory,” which is what the second half of the Gospel of John is often called. It includes Jesus’ “last discourse,” his parting gift to his disciples. We have recorded eight video lessons in which Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, New Testament professor at Perkins School of Theology at SMU, has conversations with me and some of our other pastors about these powerful chapters of Scripture, which lead up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Now is the time to download the app, sign up for a Scripture+Shared study group or reach out to a friend to study these verses together. In addition to the video lessons, I will be preaching on these chapters, and there are daily readings to help you in your personal devotional time during Lent. The study begins the week of March 3. To register, visithttps://my.stlukesmethodist.org/lift-group-finder or visit the Connection Center after the worship service.

Put next Sunday night, March 3, 7:00 pm in the sanctuary on your calendar. Our chancel choir will join with VOCES8, world renowned musical group, to sing Mozart’s requiem, and then some other music from their repertoire. This will be a great way to prepare our hearts for Lent.

Sunday, February 24

Dear Lord, We thank you for all the many blessings you have bestowed upon us. Let us be thankful to you in good times and bad. Let us listen and hear your will for us each day. Let us live out your will in all that we do. We pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen. -Prayer by Vicki Keiser, Church Council

Monday, February 25
God of refuge and strength, help me to trust in you with all my heart and to not rely on my own understanding. I submit all of my ways to you so that you can make my paths straight. Renew my strength so that I may persevere and not grow weary. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26
Everlasting God, in today’s world of instant gratification, we struggle with having the self-discipline to create good habits that will draw us closer to you and true joy. We pray that you would give us courage to take the next step in our journey of faith. Strengthen us to do hard things so that they become easier, and give us the focus that we need to make you our priority. Amen.

Wednesday, February 27
Heavenly Father, help me to seek you with all of my heart so that all of my worries diminish in your presence. Keep me focused on you so that I can rise above all that is holding me back. Let me live life with your full joy that cannot be contained. Amen.

Thursday, February 28
Glorious God, remind me that I am working for you and not for men. Let me always strive for excellence in all that I do, and help me to not settle for ordinary things. Let my life be a reflection of your values. Amen.

Friday, March 1
Dear Heavenly Father, I am thankful for this day. Thank you for this great church, the ministers, and the staff. In addition to the Sunday sermons, I am grateful for the Sunday School classes and other groups such as Walk to Emmaus, Men’s Life, and the Lift Group Bible Studies. I am grateful for the bonds and friendships made from being involved in these groups, the spiritual growth and the opportunity and atmosphere provided to become a better Christian. Amen. -Prayer by Mark Davis, Genesis Sunday School Class

Saturday, March 2
Heavenly Father, Scripture tells us that everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Help us to focus on your ways so that things might go well for us. Give us the strength and self-discipline that we need to do the right things especially when those things are difficult. Keep our focus on Kingdom work. Amen.