Deep in the Pit

A prayer of one overwhelmed with trouble, pouring out problems before the LORD. LORD, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! 2 Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress. Bend down to listen, and answer me quickly when I call to you. 3 For my days disappear like smoke, and my bones burn like red-hot coals. 4 My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite.

17 He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas. 18 Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the LORD. [Psalm 102:1-4, 17-18 New Living Translation]

Have you ever been in this terrible place where it seemed that no matter how hard you prayed, God still didn’t answer your prayer? Maybe you cried out with all your heart and even fasted as you prayed but no answer came. Heaven seemed sealed shut to you, although you saw a quick resolution to other people’s prayers. You wanted to yell, “God, that’s not fair!” We don’t understand why our loving heavenly Father lingers over some prayers. According to Bible principles, God ought to answer them quickly because His will demands their answer. We’re at a loss and can’t explain it but we certainly feel like verses 1-4 of Psalm 102. Continue reading

I Did It My Way

The young mother had told her five-year-old son to sit down several times during the church service and finally gave him the look that says “obey or else.” When they reached home, she talked with him about the importance of being reverent in church and said she was finally glad he’d decided to mind her. He replied, “Oh, I was sitting on the outside but I was standing on the inside.” Continue reading

Get Rid of Those Chains!

Please see the poem “Unshackled Wings” which goes with this meditation.

Have you ever been in such a prison? Maybe you say, “of course not; I’ve never committed a crime that would put me in jail.” No, I never wound up in jail either, but in a prison nevertheless. For a very long time I didn’t recognize it because it had become such a part of me – insecurity, inferiority, trying to do things to prove my worth. Yes, I was a Christian and a “good girl” from my early childhood. But somehow over time, people said things that while wrong, I believed, and when I reached adulthood, I wasn’t very sure of myself.

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Today Is Special: I GET to Go to Church!

I woke up and thanked God that today was Sunday and I had the privilege of going to church to worship Him. Yes, it is a privilege when we live in a country where we can freely attend the church of our choice and worship how we please, but this isn’t an essay about freedom in our country. It’s about freedom in our spirit, where we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and give us that joy of worshipping our Lord.

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It Is Never Too Late

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

I saw this quote by George Eliot and pondered it awhile. Yes, we can’t turn the clock back, but we can start where we are today and make improvements. “If I only knew 20 years ago what I know now, what a difference it would have made.” We can probably all say that but life doesn’t work that way, does it? However, what good does it do us to live with regrets? That doesn’t gain any ground and only makes us depressed or doubting ourselves for the future.

Definitely, a better way exists through our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we can’t change mistakes we made in the past, but we can do things to try to right them, if possible. If not, we simply have to go on from there and learn not to make the same mistake again. How do we start?

2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Ephesians 4:22-24: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:9-10: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Hebrews 10:19-22: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

1 Peter 1:3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Today we can resolve to celebrate the new birth that we received when we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and to do our best to follow God’s way for us to live. We can change our frown for a smile and be pleasant to those who are not. That doesn’t hurt us and we will feel better for it; so will everyone around us. Grumpy people are contagious, but so are happy people. Which would you rather be around? Which would you rather be? Because of the new birth we have, we do have a choice. Our sins are taken from us, God is our Father, Jesus is our Lord and the Holy Spirit lives in us to guide us. Rejoice! Put the past behind and let this day be the beginning of the rest of your life and let it shine for our Lord.

 

 

Tug Boats and Oil Tankers

Tug Boats and Oil Tankers

My husband and I drove to the end of the Texas City dike Saturday, hoping to see some dolphins jumping and pelicans diving for fish. We saw neither, but what we did see greatly impressed me. For perhaps 30 minutes we watched a very large tug boat pushing an unusually long barge. I guessed the tug was either ocean-going or had made the trip down the inter-coastal waterway, probably going most of the way from Florida to south Texas along that route. Since we often go to the dike and also frequently go to Galveston and sometimes ride the ferry that goes four miles across to Bolivar Peninsular, I’m used to seeing tugs pushing barges, but I’ve never seen one so large or a group of barges so long.

The second sight that intrigued me was an oil tanker, most likely going to the Houston ship channel. From our vantage point at the end of the dike, you could see the channels going both ways. Because of its high waterline, we knew the tanker was empty, so it was almost certainly going to be filled. Tankers are not unusual sights in this area either, but what caught my attention was how fast it was going compared to the tug – like seeing a car going 70 mph versus one going 30. While the tug was still making its slow way towards Galveston even when we left, the tanker came into view some time after we arrived and had made the bend quickly where we could no long see it from our parking place.

I thought of how God sometimes uses people. Some spend their whole lives serving Him and have great ministries, but they keep plodding away at them, taking years to build whatever it is God has for them to do. Other people come to have a relationship with Father God through our Lord Jesus Christ and seem very quickly to become known in a ministry that is equally important. Think of Billy Graham and Chuck Colson. Both are great servants of God, doing important work, but Dr. Graham spent his whole life serving the Lord, whereas Mr. Colson was converted when imprisoned near middle-age. That’s the way I thought of the huge tug and the tanker.

Leaving the end of the five-mile long dike and heading back towards Texas City and then home, we saw a much smaller tug pushing perhaps 5 barges. This tug was smaller than usual, so I figured it must not get out into the main part of Galveston Bay where waters can become quite rough. Probably it simply went from Texas City to Galveston, doing its job in the calmer waters. This tug was maybe a fourth or a fifth the size of the huge one. However, it was doing its job just as well; also, that job was just as important as the part the larger tug and the tanker played. Each was designed for their specific purpose.

So it is with God’s children. When we yield ourselves to Him, He sets us in the place He has already designed us to fill. I’m much more like the small tug than either of the others, but I can be happy because I’m doing what God has called me to do. The same can be true for each one of you. If we are fulfilling our God-given purpose, then it really doesn’t matter what size tug we are or even if we’re a tanker. Let’s just check to be sure each one of us is doing what our loving Father created us to do.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

 

A Child of Lord God Almighty!

How often do you stop and think of what it means to be a child of the Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, Creator of all that is? I know I don’t consider that often enough. Enough to make me totally humble. Enough to fill my heart with the greatest joy anyone could ever have, to raise my feet almost off the ground.

Think with me for a few moments just a bit of what this means to each of us. First of all, we can’t begin to imagine how much greater God is than we are. We all have an idea of that and know He is more than we can even consider with our small minds. But how often do we mentally bow down before Him like faithful servants, wanting only to do His desire? How much do consider just what God’s will is as we busily move through our days? Don’t we usually take them as they come and make our plans to do what we think best? How often during the course of the day do we stop and simply say “Thank you” for the tremendous blessing of being His child?

Do we consider how far removed from God we are in wisdom, knowledge, justice and especially holiness? Imagine a Father who knows the tiniest detail about you – your thoughts, feelings, strengths, weaknesses, and even how many hairs are on your head. And He knows that about every person living on earth, or who ever has lived or will ever live. That is some awesome God! Not only is He marvelously aware of us, our Father loves us more than any person can love another. Father loves in spite of all our faults, our disobedience and rebellion. Yes, He loves but unless Jesus’ blood covers us, we have no right to call Him Father or to expect to live eternally with Him.

On the other hand, look at what all we inherit when Jesus is our Savior: Yes, we live eternally with God in heaven, but even on earth we gain so much. I’m using two versions of a great Scripture that describes just what happens when we become a child of Almighty God. As you read either version, look for the many ways we are blessed that are listed in these verses. We know also that we have tremendous resources and riches that are not mentioned, like prayer to name just one.

Ephesians 1:2-19 NIV     Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ .

Ephesians 1:2-9 The Message       I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ. How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people — free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ. (THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Can you really read either version of that wonderful set of verses without feeling like clapping and shouting hallelujah? Maybe you decide to jump up and down instead, or to fall on your face in reverence and worship before this mighty God and Father. Yes, God exalts us by calling us His children, and we in turn are more humble than ever as we praise Him and dedicate our lives to this amazing One, who is willing to allow us to call Him Father, and He calls each of us His beloved child.

Rejoice in being a child of the Lord God Almighty!

Be A Barnabas

When was the last time someone surprised you with a word of encouragement or praise for a job well done? Perhaps a friend wrote a note simply telling you they appreciate you. Whatever happened, it brought a smile to your face and made you feel just a bit better, didn’t it? We all appreciate such thoughtfulness and it inspires us to do even better in our work or family.

Let’s take the opportunity to encourage others as much as we can. A good example was Barnabas, an encourager par excellence. We all remember how he traveled with Paul on the first missionary journey, but even before that he was well-known to fellow Christians. Many people had heard the Gospel in Antioch and believed in Jesus as their Savior, as it was preached by those who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem. Acts 11:22-24 tells us News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Later, Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). Saul’s name had not yet been changed to Paul, the Greek form of the word.

Wouldn’t you like to be more like Barnabas? I certainly would! One of the spiritual gifts is encouragement, and Barnabas had it. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. . . if it is encouraging, let him encourage (Romans 12:6a, 8c). Perhaps we’d think, ‘Well, that’s not my spiritual gift, so I don’t need to encourage others.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone needs reassurance from time to time, and we may just be the person who can see that need and minister at a particular time.

God can use anyone in any way He likes, so our biggest job is to simply be available for the way He wants us to serve daily. I’ve heard people preaching the salvation message when they were simply talking in a small group of people; that did not mean God called them to be a pastor. He was only using an available person to speak to one who needed to hear. In the same way, God can use you and me to give a cheerful word to someone who may need it at that very minute. So, let’s start a new habit simply by being alert to the feelings of those around us wherever we are. See how God would use you in someone else’s life to bring a good word for the day to them!

 

Why Can’t I Be Happy with the Way God Made Me?

Ever have computer problems? Anyone thinking knows that machines are not made in God’s image, so it’s no wonder they sometimes fail to act as they are supposed to. However, since people are made by God in His image, then we need to act the way Jesus behaved while on earth. Therefore, how do we need to change our behavior so that when others see us, they see more of Jesus than they do a worldly person? We need to continually strive to become more Christ-like in our thoughts and actions so that we are a witness of Him to others. That is one side of the story. The other side of the story is that God loves us, warts and all; He accepts us even when we are unloving and unacceptable to others. That’s simply the way God’s kind of love is; it’s called agape love. That’s what we want to concentrate on today.

Romans 5:8 says: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we were at our very worst, God allowed His own Son to suffer the worst death imaginable so that we could become a child of God! That, my friend, is true love. When we can really get that fact into our hearts and spirits, not just our minds, it goes a long way towards releasing us from that superficial concentration on our physical appearance or inabilities and helps us become more accepting of ourselves. We see the attitudes we have that need to change, but we work on those and don’t beat ourselves up because of them. We gain a positive image of ourselves because we ARE made in the image of God. We also realize that the Holy Spirit lives in us and is working to give us the desire to change wrong thoughts and actions. It’s not all up to us; it’s simply following His guidance, which makes change much easier.

Let’s also get this thought deep within ourselves: Christ in you, the hope of glory, taken from Colossians 1:27. To them [the saints/believers in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. If Christ, though the Holy Spirit, lives within me, then consider seriously what I have to look forward to in heaven. And that applies equally to you also! And not only there but here on earth besides. Christ, through His Spirit, lives within us! What a tremendous idea, if we can only grasp it. That means that when we see a fellow Christ-follower, we don’t look at them so much on the outside, but we see what our Lord wants to make of them, just like we hope others look at us, seeing what He wants to make of us.

We see then that living the Christian life is balancing between us doing those things we need to do and relying on the Holy Spirit living within us to do what He needs to do. We come to a resting place where we can stop continually trying so hard to be perfect and relax in our Father’s hands, knowing that He will perfect what needs to be done within us. Philippians 1:6 tells us He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This means that when we believed in Jesus Christ as our Savior, God loved us enough not only to save us but also to work in us until we’re more like the image of our Lord, and He will keep on doing that until we are in heaven with our Father.

When we realize that, we can do that balancing act of doing those things we need to do and relying on the Holy Spirit to do within what we cannot do. Therefore, our spirits have peace because Hebrews 4:9-11 states: There remains, then, a Sabbath — rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their [the Jews in the wilderness] example of disobedience. There is an eternal rest waiting for us in heaven, but we also rest here on earth in allowing God to make us into the people He has called us to be. We’re no longer fighting a hard battle we’ll never win against a bad temper or inferiority or whatever other problems we face. We have confidence that our lives belong to a loving God who has a much better future for us than we can ever imagine. Now let’s rest in His goodness.

Bridge-Builders

A very sick little boy was stacking lots of Legos on top of each other, making several columns with them, when his dad asked, “What are you building with all the columns?”

The boy replied, “Oh, those aren’t just columns, Dad, they will be a very long bridge when I’m finished. You see, I’ve still got to put the connecting pieces on. My bridge will take people to a new land where they’ve never gone, a land full of everything good, and nothing bad ever happens there. No sickness and pain can cross that bridge because a huge army surrounds the bridge: that land is ruled over by an excellent and wise king who wants everyone to be happy and healthy. There are lots of things I can’t do, but I can build the best bridge ever.”

This story makes me think of you and me because Christians are also called to be bridge-builders. Perhaps we never think of ourselves that way, but we all know that Jesus tells us to be witnesses of Him. Matthew 28:18-20, known as the Great Commission, is probably the most well-known of these commands. In Mark 9:15 we read Jesus’ words, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Another well-known Scripture is Acts 1:8: just before Jesus ascended to heaven He told the disciples, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Now Jesus is the highway between sinful mankind and our totally righteous and holy God. We have no way to get to God the Father without Jesus. John 14:6 tells us, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. So we see that the only highway that takes us to God is Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. But you and I must build a bridge to those who do not know Him, so they can get to that wonderful highway of life, Jesus Christ the Savior.

If we are to be at all obedient to our Lord, we know we must tell others about their sin and God’s righteousness, but how do we explain this without turning them off? We can’t say, “You are a sinner and damned to hell,” even though they are. We need a way to explain to them why they are sinners and how to fix that awful condition. I’ve witnessed a stranger we’ll call Bill going into a home and opening his Bible to tell the truth of the Roman road to the homeowner, we’ll call Joe. Bill assumed Joe was an unbeliever because he didn’t attend the Bill’s church. In less than 10 minutes, poor Joe was so offended and disgusted with Bill, he said he was busy and showed Bill to the door. Obviously, Bill’s well-intended visit did no good.

That brings us to the point that first of all we must pray for those we think are unbelievers and then let the Lord show us how to build that bridge between them and our Savior. Often that starts with friendship so they can tell our lives are somehow different and gain interest in what – really Who – makes that difference. Our own testimony of how God has changed our lives and how we relate with a loving Father may be the very topic someone needs to hear so we can build that bridge. So the question is, what will we do? Will we build bridges so others can know the love and peace of the Father? If we don’t already, let’s start asking God to lead us to those who do not know Him as we go through our daily lives. When He leads us to someone, the Holy Spirit will show us how to build the bridge to Jesus.

Ask and Receive

When our older daughter was growing up, her friends started having their ears pierced, so naturally she wanted hers done. We told her she could have that for her 12th birthday present. Now why we made that condition, I have no remembrance since it was a long time ago. She may have asked more times but always had that limit; however, the time finally come and her desire was fulfilled. Our younger daughter is four years younger, and after a while she wanted the same thing, so got the same promise.

As I was thinking about prayer this morning and some prayers I’ve prayed for a long time, this memory came to mind. God often grants our prayers but puts us in a holding time first, for which He does not give us a reason. I’ve found though that we can learn tremendously more about God and ourselves during that time. Just as people hope for a cure to devastating diseases, so we long for an immediate answer to our prayers. Much research is done and one thing leads to another until finally one day two events come together to cause a cure to be found, we anticipate. In the same way, sometimes God orchestrates events so that our prayers are answered, but this may take much patience on our part.

As we pray and don’t see answers, we begin to see whether our motives are pure or selfish. Do I want this situation for my own convenience, or is it actually something that God desires also? Will it help or hinder someone else? Why do I desire this particular answer? Am I willing to wait for it if it doesn’t come quickly? Will I allow God to work in my life to make me more like the image of Christ, or do I continue to want my own way? What fruit of the Spirit am I lacking that God may impart to me during this time?

Galatians 5:22-24 tells us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Perhaps this is what God wants to do within us while we wait. Are we willing for Him to do that?

We also learn whether or not we truly trust God during waiting times. Will we continue to believe He is able to answer our prayers, or do we give up on Him? Do we persist in our faith, knowing without any doubt that our Father is loving and faithful, far more than we will ever understand? Do we continually rely on these qualities in Him, no matter what our circumstances seem to be? Will we be obedient to what God tells us to do in the meanwhile?

Probably always, God will demonstrate more of Himself to us in a holding time. As we grow more dependent, He manifests Himself to us – that is He shows us more of His character so that we begin to know Him better. John 14:21 says, “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him” (The Message*).

As we grow spiritually, we learn to love God more, to trust Him to plan good for us (see Jeremiah 29:11), to become obedient to do as He says, and to do that quickly without hesitation. While I’m not there yet, I’ve come a long way from when I was a teenager and read the following verses, believing them with a strong, child-like faith.

John 14:12-14  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (emphasis mine).

John 15:7-8 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (emphasis mine).

John 16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (emphasis mine).

As I said, when I was a teen I believed these verses with a child-like faith; when that prayer was not answered after much heart-felt pleading, I allowed this to distance my heart from my Father, more or less spiritually running away from home. I continued to act the part of a faithful child on the outside but inside I felt betrayed and dismayed. I could not understand why God did not keep His word to me. Now this particular prayer involved someone else believing in Jesus as their Savior, and God will not make anyone a robot. Even if it means their eternity in hell, God will not go against Himself when He gave us a free will to accept or reject Him. I did not understand that at the time and was sincere in my desire for the other person. I could not say now if my prayer also had some selfish interest in the answer. But this was to be a life-long lesson to me. It took many years after that division, but I was God’s child and He continued to woo me back to whole-heartedness with Himself. My Father did not give up on me.

You notice that I underlined some of the above phrases; that’s because I think they are vital to the verse. Some of these are conditions but two are results. John 14:12 mentions we must have faith in Jesus. That is not the faith of salvation but rather the faith of totally trusting that God’s word is true, without any doubt. Oh, how hard that is to gain when our circumstances look unfavorable! That’s when we must look to God and depend upon His faithfulness while keeping our eyes from dwelling on our situation – in other words, living by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We do not deny our circumstances but realize that God is mightier than they are.

John 15:7-8 gives two conditions and one result: Jesus says we must keep on putting Him first in our lives; even when we are busy, our spirits can be praying and thinking about spiritual issues (see Romans 8:26-27). Also, we must keep on studying the Bible. That’s not just reading a few verses, but thinking about Scripture and how it applies to our lives, asking the Holy Spirit to show us all we need to understand from God’s Word. Our Father promises that when we do these things, He will bring about the result of us being witnesses of Him and thus bearing fruit for eternal glory.

Will we always know how others are affected by our lives? No. How many have had someone in their younger lives mentor them and be a spiritual father or mother but later lose track of that person? That happened to me with one special friend; she was sent into my life for a reason and a season, as the saying goes. She moved many years ago, long before the time of inexpensive phone calls or email, and we eventually lost track of each other; but she was there when I needed her most and one day we will rejoice with each other in heaven.

John 16:24 tells us basically that when we learn to truly pray in faith and see those answers, we will have incomparable joy. What a result! We don’t pray for this joy but receive it as a result of the work God does in our lives as we draw close to Him. Perhaps this is one reason God delays answers to prayer – so that we will get continually closer to Him and becoming more like our Savior Jesus Christ.

Whatever your unanswered prayer may be, first of all ask yourself if God will be honored by the result and if you’re truly praying in faith. Then ask your loving Father to give you a Scripture to hold onto – a signpost that no matter what your eyes may see, you will know that you know that God will grant your request. Oh, how that helps us when we can read those verses back to God as an answer to our prayer. Not that we need to remind Him but rather ourselves of God’s faithfulness to fulfill what He has spoken. That doesn’t mean we pick a verse at random and say God will do this for me. No His Spirit leads us and plants that deep within our hearts so that it becomes a part of us that circumstances cannot uproot.

Let me encourage you to keep on persisting in faith and prayer, whether or not you see the result. We don’t necessarily need to keep on asking God for the same thing repeatedly, though we may. Jesus prayed three times before Calvary that if it was God’s will, He would not have to face the agony of the cross. When Jesus had His answer, the issue was settled. Paul also prayed three times for a certain thorn, or difficulty of some kind, to be taken from him. In both cases God said no but brought victory out of the situation. Because Jesus and Paul prayed three times, that does not mean we must do the same thing. God does not want us to write rules like this about how He will work in our lives or the way we live. Three prayers are not magic.

Sometimes God answers immediately with only one prayer; other times, we may pray many times. However, when we believe fully that God has said He will answer a prayer, we can start thanking Him for that answer. This builds up our faith much more than repeatedly begging God, and often our lack of faith is a real hindrance. We must stand firm against all assaults from Satan, the enemy of our souls. Ephesians 4:27 tells us Do not give the devil a foothold. Prayer can be a battle between righteousness and evil; we may be a warrior and not be aware of it. Let your courage and faith grow. God is always faithful.

Perhaps you think, well I’m just not there yet. That’s ok. If we are willing, God will always take us where He knows we need to go. All He asks of us is our willingness, and that can often be our battle. I’m a peace-lover. I do not like friction or strife and am not a competitive person. One lesson I’ve had to learn is that often we must fight spiritually for the answers to our prayers. John 10:10 states: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. In other words, Satan wants only to do things that harm us and those God calls to Himself. Jesus came to give us a true fullness of life, so that we have the Holy Spirit living within us and we no longer simply exist until our time of death comes. Yes, we often have to fight but we know God is the Victor and through Him, we win the war.

I’m reminded of the story of Oswald Chambers, a great servant of God and a man of faith that few others are. He prayed and saw God provide food for orphans; when there was nothing in the home, someone would bring milk and another brought bread. Multiple times this happened, as well as many other miracles God provided in answer to his faithful prayers. However, one answer was delayed a great many years – that of a loved one’s salvation. Rev. Oswald prayed daily for that man but never saw the answer. Nevertheless, on the day of his funeral, that man believed in Jesus to be his eternal Savior. God was faithful, even though the prayer wasn’t answered during his servant’s lifetime.

Hang on, stand firm, battle wisely; if God has led you to pray for a certain person or situation, then He will one day bring that answer. Your Father is always faithful. Ask and receive that your joy may be complete.

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* THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved. All other Scripture is from the NIV.

Hidden Diamonds

A friend gave me a beautifully wrapped present, about 4″x4″ square but quite heavy – for no reason! Excitedly, I opened it and then knew she could see the disappointment on my face, but I couldn’t help it; I almost was crying. Inside the gorgeous box was a dirty, ugly rock. I wished she had not given me anything than something like that. What must she think of our friendship?

She quickly tells me that she has verified that a diamond in the rough is inside and will train me and give me the tools to dig it out for myself. Really, if she wanted to give me a diamond, I’d rather not have to get it from that batch of coal! Of course, I couldn’t  tell her that.

I think this is the way it is with God sometimes when we are sick and ask for healing or for other types of prayer. We have no doubt that He can heal us: He is still the same as He was when the Old Testament prophets walked the earth and did miracles, the same as when Jesus walked the earth and the same as when John, Peter, Paul and the other disciples healed people. They prayed and God answered. HE HAS NOT CHANGED. So why doesn’t our Father who loves us so much heal us?

Perhaps at times He gives us what looks like a lump of coal and we need to do the work of discovering the diamond inside. Isaiah 45:3 states: I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

Our Lord doesn’t tell us what kinds of treasures we will gain, but He will be faithful to provide them if we are faithful to dig, scrap and clean until we find that diamond. After that, God may bring us the healing we desire and crave. However, we do know that many of His faithful people are not healed here on earth. We do not understand this, but God also tells us that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Even though we don’t understand all about healing, it is still right for us to pray for it because Psalm 103:2-5 tells us: Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (emphasis mine). In the New Testament, we read James’ admonition to all Christians, Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:14-16).

Certainly, we do not understand God’s ways of dealing with us, but when we do not get an answer to prayer, whether it’s for healing or something else, let us consider this little story of my friend who is God, the gift that looks like a lump of coal, and the diamond that’s the treasure our loving Father will give us when we continually seek Him. Whether or not our prayer is answered the way we desire, God always has our best interests in mind, so therefore, we can trust Him in all our circumstances.

From Today to Forever

I was reading the Bible this morning about Rahab, a prostitute who drastically changed her life by saving the lives of two spies when they came to check out Jericho before Israel conquered it. She understand that their God was far mightier than the gods her people served and knew they would be overcome. She asked the spies to save her family when they returned and then let them out a window with a scarlet cord so they could escape from the city. They promised anyone in her home would be spared as long as that scarlet cord was in the window. And so it was done (see Joshua 2). Jewish tradition says she went on to marry one of the spies, and we know she’s listed as the great-grandmother of King David (Matthew 1:5). Her name is even listed in what we think of as the “hall of fame of the faithful” in Hebrews 11:31.

As I pondered Rahab’s story, I thought how her life suddenly had been totally reversed – from prostitute to a protector of God’s people; what tremendous consequences that had not only for her and her family but then for the nation of Israel as a whole. It made me think of possibilities of change for me and for you also. We’re moral people and probably believers in Jesus Christ as our Savior; we consider ourselves ‘good people.’ But yes, we can change too. As I grow older, I keep finding myself telling God, “I want to live the rest of my life to honor you, however that looks.” Now that’s been a goal for many years, but I find it more important the longer I live. When our hair turns white, we know that whatever time we have left is vital if we’re going to make our lives count for eternity.

While I’m not ashamed of my past, I want my future to be even better, counting more for Jesus than ever before. I’m not content to simply relax in my recliner and let the days and years drift by. No, life must be meaningful and will be most so if what I do benefits God’s Kingdom rather than my own. Yes, I enjoy and am proud to be a good wife, mother and grandmother, but that’s not enough. I want my life to count to more than my own family when I’m gone. I want a spiritual legacy that invests in other people’s lives. While I’m not sure what all that entails and how it will come about, I want to be a part of the team that reaches into eternity and pulls down help for those who need comfort and peace. I want to share the love of God our Father and the Friend we have in Jesus with those who don’t know Him. How precious it is to know you are wrapped in God’s huge arms of love! Even on days when our world crumbles around us, we are still wrapped in Father’s loving arms. Even on days we act like a spoiled kid, they are still there when we least deserve them.  That’s the story the world needs to hear.

John 3:16-18 reminds us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Let’s look for ways we can spread this Good News to others and be an example of the love that Jesus came to bring to the whole world, if they would only accept Him. Let’s make our lives count for eternity, rather than just having “a good life” here on earth.

   A good character is the best tombstone. 

     Those who loved you and were helped by you

will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered.

Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.

~Charles H. Spurgeon

Be a Barnabas

When was the last time someone surprised you with a word of encouragement or praise for a job well done? Perhaps a friend wrote a note simply telling you they appreciate you. Whatever happened, it brought a smile to your face and made you feel just a bit better, didn’t it? We all appreciate such thoughtfulness and it inspires us to do even better in our work or family.

Let’s take the opportunity to encourage others as much as we can. A good example was Barnabas, an encourager par excellence. We all remember how he traveled with Paul on the first missionary journey, but even before that he was well-known to fellow Christians. Many people had heard the Gospel in Antioch and believed in Jesus as their Savior, as it was preached by those who had fled the persecution in Jerusalem. Acts 11:22-24 tells us News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Later Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). Saul’s name had not yet been changed to Paul, the Greek form of the word.

Wouldn’t you like to be more like Barnabas? I certainly would! One of the spiritual gifts is encouragement, and Barnabas had it. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. . . if it is encouraging, let him encourage (Romans 12:6a, 8c). Perhaps we’d think, ‘Well, that’s not my spiritual gift, so I don’t need to encourage others.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone needs reassurance from time to time, and we may just be the person who can see that need and minister at a particular time. God can use anyone in any way He likes, so our biggest job is to simply be available for the way He wants us to serve daily.

I’ve heard people preaching the salvation message when they were simply talking in a small group of people; that did not mean God called them to be a pastor. He was only using an available person to speak to one who needed to hear. In the same way, God can use you and me to give a cheerful word to someone who may need it at that very minute. So, let’s simply being alert to the feelings of those around us wherever we are. See how God would use you in someone else’s life to bring a good word for the day to them! I pray blessings for each of you.

 

 

God the Father — Daddy, Papa, Abba

I hope you were (or are) blessed as I was to have loving Christian parents in your life. What a difference that makes! Both of them are in glory now, but their influence remains in my life and the lives of our children. But if we are a child of God – if we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior, believing His death on Calvary covered our sins and made us right with God – then we also have another Father, who is even more loving, compassionate and forgiving. We often think of God as simply God or maybe even as Father, but how often do we think of Him as ‘Daddy’?

Using three references, I want to look at Abba in the Bible; it is the word used for Daddy or Papa at that time. It is only used in the New Testament since Jesus was the first to use it in addressing God, the Father. Because of His substitutionary death for us, we are now given the privilege to use this special word in addressing the God of the Universe. Mark 14:35-36 is the first use of that special word: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

A reference on these verses by IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament states: “Abba” is the Aramaic word for “Papa,” a term of great intimacy and affectionate respect. It was normally the first word a child would utter, but adults could use it for their fathers as well, and students sometimes used it of their teachers. Perhaps because it implied such intimacy, Jewish people never used it of God (though they did call him a heavenly father) except in an occasional parable by a charismatic teacher.

Romans 8:13-15 gives us the next use of Abba: For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

From the same commentary, we read about these verses: Although only a few Roman Jews spoke Aramaic, Jesus’ special address for his Father as “Papa” had become a name for God in early Christian prayers (Gal 4:6), perhaps by Jesus’ design (Matt 6:9). Roman adoption — which could take place at any age — canceled all previous debts and relationships, defining the new son wholly in terms of his new relationship to his father, whose heir he thus became.

Galatians 4:6-7 says: Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Referring once more to that commentary about these verses, we read: Roman adoptions required a witness of the transaction: the Holy Spirit performs this function here. That the Spirit should testify is natural, because Judaism understood the Spirit especially as the one who inspired the prophets; the Spirit here inspires believers, speaking to them as he did to the prophets, to remind them of their calling as God’s children. (From IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament by Craig S. Keener Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.)

Now that we understand the special relationship that Abba means, are you ready to address Father God as your Papa or Daddy? He has been waiting for you to take that step. He intends each of His children to have such an intimate relationship with Him that we fully come for each of our needs and also for each of our thanksgivings and praises. Then we can approach Abba on behalf of other children of God as well.

What a special place! As much as we may respect and love our earthly fathers, so much more does our heavenly Father want to be our Abba, our Papa, our Daddy. Doesn’t it absolutely amaze you that the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of the universe and all else that is, implores you and me to call Him our Abba, our Papa, our Daddy? Will you give Him that opportunity?

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