Saturday, June 11, 2011

Calling All Prayer Warriors -- to Wait!

Jeremiah 42:2-4, 7

A group of Judean army officers approached Jeremiah, asking his petition to God on their behalf.  They were committed to doing as the Lord commanded.

Verse 4:  “All right,” Jeremiah replied. “I will pray to the Lord your God, as you have asked, and I will tell you everything he says. I will hide nothing from you.”

Ready for this?  Keep in mind these men are willing to "surrender" to the will of God -- capitulate to His plan of attack.  Verse 7 says, "Ten days later the Lord gave his reply to Jeremiah."  Ten days later?  Are you serious?  These were warriors -- men of action!  They needed an answer!  

So often we think if we are open to God's will, being obedient, ready to do whatever He requires, we should have our response right away.  Our legalistic humanity tells us, "Do good things -- get a reward."  We're trained to think this way from childhood.  God is not a gumball machine or Social Studies teacher; He doesn't operate on our timetable or our terms.  Besides, even our best deeds are as filthy rags when it comes to redemption! 

To get to the Life Lesson portion of our program...

How can knowing this change our prayer life?  The prayer life that sometimes gets weary and routine because "God must be tired of hearing me ask for this, because I'm tired of asking!"  How can this change the things for which we pray?  Things we ignore because "God's not listening to me anyway."  How can this ignite our prayer life?  The prayer life that's been virtually non-existent because "I have no idea what to pray for -- I just don't understand God's will!"

AskPray!  James 5:16b --  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  In other words, prayer does change things -- especially us! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Just Think of It!

I'm letting Charles Spurgeon write my blog today -- there's nothing that can match the thought of this and no way I could possibly expound upon it:

"The kindness and love of God our Saviour."—Titus 3:4.

HOW sweet it is to behold the Saviour communing with His own beloved people! There can be nothing more delightful than, by the Divine Spirit, to be led into this fertile field of delight. Let the mind for an instant consider the history of the Redeemer's love, and a thousand enchanting acts of affection will suggest themselves, all of which have had for their design the weaving of the heart into Christ, and the intertwisting of the thoughts and emotions of the renewed soul with the mind of Jesus. When we meditate upon this amazing love, and behold the all-glorious Kinsman of the Church endowing her with all His ancient wealth, our souls may well faint for joy. Who is he that can endure such a weight of love? That partial sense of it which the Holy Spirit is sometimes pleased to afford, is more than the soul can contain; how transporting must be a complete view of it! When the soul shall have understanding to discern all the Saviour's gifts, wisdom wherewith to estimate them, and time in which to meditate upon them, such as the world to come will afford us, we shall then commune with Jesus in a nearer manner than at present. But who can imagine the sweetness of such fellowship? It must be one of the things which have not entered into the heart of man, but which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Oh, to burst open the door of our Joseph's granaries, and see the plenty which He hath stored up for us! This will overwhelm us with love. By faith we see, as in a glass darkly, the reflected image of His unbounded treasures, but when we shall actually see the heavenly things themselves, with our own eyes, how deep will be the stream of fellowship in which our soul shall bathe itself! Till then our loudest sonnets shall be reserved for our loving benefactor, Jesus Christ our Lord, whose love to us is wonderful, passing the love of women.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Do You See What I See?

Go get your checkbook registry, or open up another window and take a look at your bank account.  I'll wait.  No, I'll not be asking for donations.  You see that little box with your account balance in it?  Imagine it blank -- not as in zeros, but blank; no depressing little numbers to limit your thinking, no quick calculations as to how much will be left once the cable is paid and you've spent most of your paycheck on fuel.

Now, study your reflection in the mirror.  Or look over at the back of your hand.  Maybe just try standing up and sitting right back down again.  Now imagine your reflection without the gray hairs, the bags, sags, wrinkles and dark circles.  Imagine your hands like those of your six-year old nephew's -- wrinkle free, scar less, without the tell tale signs of a life spent cleaning, cooking, pulling weeds or turning wrenches.  Imagine being able to rise and sit without making "the old man noise" as you do.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV) says, "...for we live by faith, not by sight."  I got to thinking what that might look like.  What would it look like to spontaneously help someone in need even though money was a little tight that week?  What would happen if I boldly proclaimed what Jesus has done for me despite what others might think?  (Or maybe at the "wrong" time or in the "wrong" place.)  What would it look like to go on a missions trip, working hard rebuilding homes, or even walk to the post office to be a good steward -- despite my aching joints and my middle aged muscles?  Would it work for me to pray for the most callous, atheistic, "wicked" person I know, claiming victory rather than writing them off as a lost cause?

I don't believe that living in faith is about spending recklessly, conducting ourselves as if we don't need to answer to earthly authority or can suffer no physical consequences for our behavior.  Or that living by faith means making ridiculous statements or demonstrations of "faith."  We recognize earthly limitations such as illness, age, our need for sleep and nourishment, gravity, and financial responsibility, but we don't have to live as though God cannot work beyond those limitations, or even work a miracle through us that reaches beyond what we are humanly capable.  2 Corinthians 5:7 is not about exalting ourselves to super human status.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  It is about exalting God, relying so totally on Him, seeking His will and walking in accordance with it, that He directs our paths; that we become His vessels, instruments of His peace.  Obedience despite human reason; courage despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Oh, and just in case you still have that checkbook out -- you know where to reach me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

When Disaster Strikes

Ezekiel 11:16,17,20b

“Therefore, tell the exiles, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I have scattered you in the countries of the world, I will be a sanctuary to you during your time in exile.  I, the Sovereign Lord, will gather you back from the nations where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel once again.’
... Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.
Cut off, with only God on whom to rely. Cut off, no other options. “Brought low” – to your knees, no more lifelines but One.  Though far from earthly home and hearth, our Heavenly Father is never far from us. 

The Bethlehem Star – no maps, no gas stations at which to ask directions – only one thing to guide wise men to life eternal, to that King whom they seek.

The flame and the cloud – no other guide with which to find their way.  When God's people shifted their gaze to hand-hewn idols, they wandered, lost.

The face of Jesus on a stormy sea -- Peter's eyes fixated on His Lord keep him from certain death.  The exclusion of all else.  Only God and man.

Is God culling you from the herd today?  Is he pulling your gaze toward Him for your own good?  Is He romving distractions from your life?  Is He giving you real fortune to seek? 

Praise Him for the favor He is showing you!  Praise Him for His gracious and faithful love for you!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trading Religion for Requirement

Micah 6:8b

And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Why must we make things so complicated? 

I listen to the girls doing "Eenie, Meenie, Minee, Mo."  I remember adding all kinds of things to the end of the rhyme, sometimes doing calculations worthy of Nobel Prize, at lightning speeds just to ensure the desired result.  (Kids, don't ever let your parents witness this display of mathematical acumen -- it will be your Waterloo when it comes to homework and report cards later on!)  Sometimes we added just to add.  "My mother told me to pick this one and..."  Madison and Olivia do the same thing.  Their father does the same thing, for Pete's sake!  Is he trying to out last me?  Hoping eventually I'll surrender?  "Fine, fine, have it your way -- I can't take this anymore!"  Maybe.

We do the same thing when it comes to faith, salvation, and living as we should.  Perhaps it's cynicism that causes us to think, "If it sounds too good to be true..."  Maybe it's our desire to take some responsibility for our own salvation -- "In addition to trusting in Christ's redeeming blood you must..."  

A few months ago Scott and I made one of our great escapes to Lancaster.  I like Lancaster.  It's one of the places I go to "center" myself.  It is tradition, faith and simplicity to me -- visible reminders of the legacy my father gave me and the priorities my Father establishes for me.  On our last excursion we purchased a sign that now hangs in our family room:

"Do good things.  Love one another.  Leave the rest to God."

That is my reminder of Micah 6 -- what the Lord requires of me.  And it really is that simple.  If we are truly acting justly (with honesty, fairness, respect and honor), if we love mercy (compassion, kindness, forgiveness) and are walking humbly with God (with meekness and submissive respect, seeking God's will and acting in such a manner as to bring glory and honor to Him), we are doing all God requires.  It's that simple.