Two kinds of tired


There is a kind of exhaustion that follows a major effort. When I finish a weekend of ministry in which I see the Spirit move in our church, I am tired, but it is tempered by the joy of serving. I have never run a 10K race, but I am told by those who do that there is a kind of runner’s high that follows that kind of exertion. There is another kind of tired that is soul-numbing, that saps every bit of strength, leaving a person feeling like a deflated balloon! When the daily grind hides any progress, when you give all you have and results are meager, when sorrow piles on top of trouble piled on top of pain – a person gets really tired!
The latter kind of exhaustion sometimes produces spiritual casualties. People find themselves slogging through a tough time; one thing after another going wrong. Somewhere deep inside they blame God for their mess and abandon the One who is their richest resource.  I have heard it said, “If He’s God and good, why would He allow me to go through such a hard time? He doesn’t care about me.”  In that moment, the devil rejoices in the success of his deception!  So, should we offer explanations or sing songs to the weary one? Here’s a clue from Proverbs. “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” (Proverbs 25:20, NLT) What that suffering saint needs is not reasons or explanations. He needs to be surrounded by love and patience.
Are you beat, numb, feeling that God is nowhere to be found? It’s not because you have a weak faith, or even necessarily because you have done wrong. You might have done a lot of good and right things! The Word encourages weary ones.
First, the Lord says – “Remember Jesus’ own experience!” God’s own Son endured exhaustion. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3, NIV)
Second, the Lord promises: “Faithfulness has a reward!”  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV)
Third, He offers help: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV) In the very next lines, Jesus does not offer an escape to a resort. Instead, He says, “Take my yoke upon you.”   He’s saying, “Learn how to work alongside of Me, in the way I work, with Me as your Partner in every effort.”  Have you presented that situation that exhausts your soul to Him? Instead of resisting it, fighting with it, and hating it; have you put it before Him and invited Him to step into the work with you?
Paul knew exhaustion! He knew hard times. He was given an ‘impossible’ calling. But, he never quit, never lost sight of the reward, and completed his calling with the help of the Lord. Here’s a word from the Word for weary souls. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. … I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)  And, tired friend, you can, too!
________________
Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, help me stand
I am tired, I am weak,
I am worn
Through the storm,
through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home
Precious Lord, Take My Hand
Copyright – Tommy Dorsey

Let’s grow!


 

I have some clothing that really ought to be thrown out, but I find comfort more important than style, so I keep on wearing them. I’m still listening to music recorded in the 70’s even though there’s some good stuff from this year, but Keith Green was so ‘right on’ when I was 21. There is a part of my life that is constantly developing. Spiritually, I am a different man in 2011 than I was in 1990!  I am much more tender-hearted, capable of allowing for mystery, more rooted in the grace of God. God is the same, but my ways of knowing Him continue to grow.
Choosing to grow spiritually requires willingness to let God lead us deeper into Himself, into the mysteries of His love and grace, into new work of His kingdom. Some people have a great year, finding something that really ‘works,’ and they just repeat it – over and over again. It’s like that movie “Groundhog Day” only it is their choice.  Trouble is, their effectiveness diminishes rapidly over time. Why? Because the world keeps on changing.  Those who will not grow are usually pushed to the periphery of life and wonder why they feel so isolated or alone. Many become bitter, constant critics of those who are innovators. Growth is often unpleasant, sometimes even painful. When we venture into new things we risk failure. Growth can cause friction with other people who like us ‘just the way we are’ because our growth demands change in their lives, too.
Paul describes the way a person who is growing in the Spirit lives. He is forward looking, able to let yesterday’s failure and success go. He recognizes that he is a person ‘in process.’
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,(complete or whole) but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15, NIV)
Whether you’re 18 or 81, growth is still possible. God has new purpose for each new day. There are discoveries about Him that wait just around the next corner in life. The Gospel of Christ, while unchanging in Truth, is constantly adapting to the world in which it is proclaimed. You can look back on yesterday, paralyzed by regret or fond remembrance, or you can pray, “Lord, take me deeper still!”
Are you growing in Christ? The Scripture says that the work of the Spirit in us will always produce growth. “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16, The Message)
_____________
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
-Oatman
Public Domain

God and Gold


 

In a TV commercial there is a guy with a somber face who declares that we all should “invest in gold.”  His charts show a steady increase in value when compared to cash. Many are paying attention to his pitch because everybody’s wondering where to put their savings. Is the US Government going to send shockwaves through the financial markets by defaulting on national debt?  Is inflation going to eat away the value of investments. What is ahead for the American economy? Nobody knows! The ‘experts’ are divided.  
Christians live as part of the economy and only the foolish ignore sound financial principles. Yet, there is the counter-balancing truth that our true treasure is not dollars or gold, but the promises of God.  Some financial decisions for those who are people of the Lord are clearly discerned from His Word.
·         There is the Tithe. I tithe (give the first 10% of my income to the church) regardless of the state of the economy. The first 10% belongs to the Lord and is not mine to spend on even those things that are ‘necessities.’
·         There is Debt Management.  The Scripture tells me not to count on tomorrow’s income to fund today’s desires. Who knows what may happen tomorrow? The only exceptions to that are for things that have enough enduring value to cover the debt created to own them – such as a mortgage.
·         There is Prudent preparation. I buy reasonable amounts of insurance, realizing that this is a prudent way to avoid financial ruin in the event of sickness or accident. I set aside a percentage of my income in savings, anticipating the day when I am, by reason of age or ill health, unable to produce the same level of income I have today.
·         There is Fiscal Discipline. The wise person refuses to spend more than he earns. He refuses easy credit offers, ‘get rich quick schemes,’ and putting his hope in gambling wins.
Yet, there is always this: in spite of our best efforts to prepare and to be wise, the world in which we live is unpredictable. The weather, the government, and things unseen – are beyond our control! So, ultimately we choose to trust these faith-building words from the Lord Jesus: “Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” (Luke 12:24-31, NLT)

Disciple, where is your greater security – in God, or in gold?
If all you owned on earth is swept away in flood or fire, will you still be a rich man?
If your wealth is diminished, will you still be a peaceful man?

There are two lines that keep a Believer at peace when the economic storms threaten — “He will certainly care for you,” and, “Seek the Kingdom above all else.”

Here’s a word from the Word — “Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34, NIV)
_______________

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
       Public domain

Awesome!


Driving through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado inspires awe. Towering peaks that climb to 14,000 feet above sea level leave a person breathless, literally. That rugged terrain has such grandeur, it defies description. Standing on the beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the early dawn, wrapped by the sound of the roll and crash of the ocean as gulls screech and whirl overhead, is an experience of which I never tire. Listening to a Beethoven symphony stills my soul. A baby’s murmur makes me cry.
The Name of Jesus rises above all that!  In time of sorrow, when my heart overflows with gladness, when I am hemmed in by troubles, when I need a Friend- I just say, “Jesus.” His Name is a prayer for me, a one word song of my soul, a declaration of my hope, a shout of triumph. One day when it is time to breathe my last, I hope my final word is “Jesus” for He is the Last Word! Yes, He is awesome in a way that nothing and no one can be.
Disciple, are you awed by the Lord or is your relationship with Him a practical and utilitarian one alone?
Do you worship Him because His majesty takes your breath away or because you hope to get something from Him?
Awe, it seems to me, is lost on many Christians. They speak of Jesus with a familiarity that implies He is a fishing buddy, a companion from the golf course. Such familiarity, while admirable in one way, robs us of the ability to completely trust Him, to obey Him without question, and to admire His wisdom. Yes, Jesus is our Friend, but He is also the Lord of Glory, the King of Heaven.  He is the Son of Man in Luke’s Gospel who held little children on His lap. I never forget that.  But, I remember that He is also revealed in these words: “Standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:13-16, NLT)
Pray for new revelation of the majesty of our King of Glory. Renew your appreciation for the works of His Creation, for the love that brought salvation, for the Resurrection that is our assurance of all things True. Worship Him!
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you
have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and
crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
(Psalm 8, NIV)

_____________________________

Just a cloud of dust


Some create quite a cloud of dust around themselves. They appear as a blur as they rush past!  They take on a new project, start another ministry, try a new experience, chase a new friendship. When you blow away the dust you don’t find much substance. They’re busy, but for what?  Others appear to be move effortlessly through life. They sound no trumpets, make few headlines, but they create beauty, build lasting relationship, and often only much later; people realize what a blessing they are. Something is happening that is out of sight, under the surface, that makes them truly effective. They have the edge of effectiveness.
Are you keeping that edge that is necessary for effectiveness? The Bible reminds us – “Since a dull ax requires great strength, sharpen the blade. That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10, NLT) Are you putting in long hours, sweating and toiling, but not really getting much accomplished?  Perhaps you’re focused more on activity than effectiveness.
Stephen Covey, author and coach, reminds us that we need renewal in four dimensions: the physical, the spiritual, the mental, and the social.
We need to take care of these physical bodies that serve as our earthly houses. The decline of strength with age is inevitable, but too often we hasten the process by foolishly ignoring the simplest tasks of maintenance. Many of us take better care of our cars than ourselves! God has made our bodies so wonderfully, with amazing recuperative powers. Monitor your diet, weight, exercise patterns, and rest if you want to stay effective.
The spiritual part of us is the core of our being! Yet, many push ‘soul maintenance’ to a place low on their list of priorities. Obvious choices keep a keen spiritual edge in us: regularly worshipping with others, practicing spiritual disciplines of prayer and Scripture intake, and serving God and others regularly. Then, there are the less obvious choices that are critically important. Are you quick to forgive?  Refuse to drag around resentment and/or bitterness because nothing saps spiritual vitality from a person like simmering resentment and a bitter heart. Jesus urges us to forgive quickly, because He knows it is our choice to do so and that we need to do it.  The Bible says that God’s love when accepted deeply, inevitably causes us to love others. “First we were loved, now we love. God loved us first.” (1 John 4:19, The Message)
A mind is an amazing thing. From the mysteries of our brains flow creativity, artistry, problem-solving, – all the creative gifts of God. A mind terrible thing to waste, but it happens so easily. Read books! Listen to good music. Spend some time in conversation about something other than the weather. Learn something new, just for the joy of knowing.
Some are more blessed than others with natural abilities to ‘connect’ with people around themselves. But, all of us can learn to build relationships, if we realize the importance of them. In a strange paradox, we are the most ‘connected’ society on earth in all of recorded history yet most of us don’t know even our next door neighbors. We live in little cocoons, inside our homes, with media as our company. Constantly tending to the real living connections to people around us, especially those key people whose gifts complement ours, brings maximum effectiveness for God.
All this isn’t a new revelation, is it? It’s really common sense. It is the middle of this Summer when it’s more easy to lose the edge, to slip into apathy, indolence, or empty pleasure.  My prayer is that God will stir you up. Spend a few moments setting some goals. Make them specific. Share them with somebody, maybe even posting your list on the frig for your family, so they can help you stay on task. Pray that God, the Holy Spirit, will give you insight, too. Ask Him to restore the edge so you won’t just be working hard, but also working effectively.
Here’s a word from the Word:

“Live wisely . . ., and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective …” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT)

Two cheeseburgers, still hungry!


I’m a man of simple tastes in food. A cheeseburger and fries pleases my palate. However, when I eat high fat, sugary, or salty foods, I find that I consume far more calories to find satisfaction. But, when I sit down to a great mesclun salad with the complex mixed flavors of arugula, leafy lettuce, and spinach followed up by a meal of carefully seasoned meat, I eat much less while being more deeply satisfied. If my  own experience is any guide, perhaps the reason we’re becoming a ‘fat’ nation is because we are primarily living on ‘fast’ food that leaves us feeling hungry long after we should be full.
One of the reasons many Christians spend so much time chasing satisfaction in  entertainment, sex, TV, and endless diversions is because their souls are empty. Many live on a spiritual diet of ‘fast’ food; pre-digested devotional material, 2 minute prayers, and once a week worship.  They avoid the complexities of spiritual disciplines such as meditation, silence, or fasting because they are hard, or just feel unfamiliar. Their relationship with the Lord is primarily based in emotion and rather than seek Him, they reach for a quick lift of inspiration. Their spirit, however, remains hungry for the Presence of the Living God.
We are made to know God and to be filled by His Spirit. If we do not pursue Him, either because of rebellion or ignorance, we will look for something or someone to fill up our soul! Curiously, when we find ourselves stressed by temptation, pressed to our limits by life’s trials, we will feel the pull of ‘the flesh.’  How easily our soul hunger can become confused with our sensual desires. An extra-marital affair we thought we would never even consider becomes so tempting when our future is clouded with uncertainty. Many of us pack on an extra 10 pounds of weight when we are transitioning through a major life change, simply because we try to find soul soothing in too many bowls of ice cream.
The Lord asks us a question and follows with a promise: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:2, NIV)   Mature disciples know in Whom they find lasting satisfaction. With the Psalmist they say, “I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.” (Psalm 63:4-6, NLT)
The Scripture teaches us to seek Him and His ways. Spend yourself to help the needy. Replace accusing words with encouragement. Become a person committed to justice, full of forgiveness, intimate with the Lord. Here’s what He promises about filling you up: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11, NIV)  
Jesus says: “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NLT)  That sounds like real soul satisfaction to me.
_______________
All my lifelong I had panted,
For a draught from some cool spring
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.
Feeding on the husks around me
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.
Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life, so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Thro’ His blood I now am saved.
Satisfied
Williams, Clara Teare / Hudson, Ralph E.
© Public Domain

The sin that grips pastors, princes, presidents, and peons


 

It’s the ‘acceptable’ sin, hard to see in ourselves, hiding behind so many good things, corrupting the best things. It convinces me that I must work longer or harder not to serve my purpose but rather to prove my worth. It congratulates me when I do something noble and then beats me up when I don’t meet the measure of success, when a project fails to produce the desired objective. It causes me to compare myself to others, envying some, treating others with disdain. Cruel words spring from its inspiration, harsh criticism of those knocked down by sin’s deceptions grow from it. It blinds me to my own foibles but gives me the eye of an eagle to see the stains on another’s character. The appeal to Eve in the Garden was built around it. Solomon was deceived by it. It is equally at home in a palace and a pigsty.
This sin, according to Isaiah, was in the heart of the most noble angel and caused his banishment from the Presence of God. “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world. For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead, down to its lowest depths. Everyone there will stare at you and ask, ‘Can this be the one who shook the earth and made the kingdoms of the world tremble?” (Isaiah 14:12-16, NLT)
Yes, that of which I write is the ancient sin: pride. More Christians shipwreck on the rocky shores of pride than because of lust, greed, laziness, and apathy combined!  We admire the person who learns to wrap pride in hard charging ambition, perfectionism that produces many good works, or even noble humanitarian work.  Yet, the wisdom of the Scripture warns that “Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12, NIV) James teaches that the gateway to greater grace is found in humility. “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.” (James 4:7, The Message)
There is but one antidote to the poison of pride.  We do not find humility in the fountain of greater work, nor is it gained in vain attempts at putting ourselves down. Even the choice to take second place or to do that which is of low esteem can feed pride’s ravenous appetite. Only true worship: kneeling and waiting before the Lord, allows the Spirit to break the hold of this acceptable sin. When the Spirit whispers a warning to our heart about a proud attitude, when need to find a quiet retreat. When we find ourselves looking desperately for affirmation, craving a word of praise, we know that we are but a step from pride and it is time to find a place with the Lord where He renews our joy in serving for His honor.
Our model is Christ Jesus of Whom the Scripture says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.” (Philippians 2:4-9, NLT)
Kneel before you stand.
Listen before you speak.
Wait in worship before you charge off to war.
Take this word from the Word and let it preserve you from this more subtle sin.
“First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.
It’s better to live humbly among the poor
than to live it up among the rich and famous.”
 (Proverbs 16:18-19, The Message)
____________
It’s our confession, Lord,
That we are weak,
So very weak, but You are strong.
And though we’ve nothing, Lord,
To lay at Your feet,
We come to Your feet and say,
“Help us along”.
A broken heart and a contrite spirit
You have yet to deny.
Your heart of mercy
Beats with love’s strong current,
Let the river flow
By Your Spirit now, Lord we cry,
“Let Your mercies fall from heaven,
Sweet mercies flow from heaven,
New mercies for today,
(Oh) Shower them down Lord,
As we pray.”
Sweet Mercies
Ruis, David
© 1995 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing (Admin. by Music Services)
CCLI License No. 810055

“Me” church


George says he is a Boy Scout. After a dozen years, he claims to have advanced to the level of an Eagle Scout. He sometimes puts on a scouting uniform, has reads the scout manuals, and he does do many things that Scouts do; service to community, citizenship in his country, and personal fitness. He’s even given himself scouting medals and awards. But, he’s never been to a Scout meeting or on a Scouting camp-out though there are several scout groups near where he lives.  Is George a Boy Scout?
“I don’t need a local church to be a Christian” is something I hear even from people I know to be sincere in their desire to please God. Many offer stories of churches that were shallow in faith, hungry for money, or hypocritical as the reason they abandoned the local church. Others say they found pastors boring or out of touch. Some point to unfriendly people. A few, more honest than the rest, admit to liking having Sunday free to do their own thing after a busy work week, preferring sleeping in to Scripture study, or a leisurely breakfast to worship. And, it is sometimes said, “I can be a better Christian without a church than I could be in the church.”  If that is true, then find a better church, don’t abandon the Bible’s plan for spiritual development.
Truth is, the Bible does not offer a solo spiritual experience as an option to a person who is serious about being a disciple of Christ. Those who would know and serve Him in the most effective and mature way are expected to be ‘in the Body.’  When I say, ‘church’ I am not referring to a building, but a group of people, called by God’s Spirit. They are united in shared love for Christ, learning and doing the Scripture’s teaching,  using their spiritual gifts to serve Christ’s purposes, and encouraging one another to a holy life. It can be a group of thousands or of a dozen. It can meet in a living room or a cathedral. They must recognize their mutual commitment and their part in the larger Body of Christ.
A person who refuses to deeply connect with a local church puts his own spiritual maturity on hold, risks sliding into spiritual apathy, will never be as effective in service, and walks in disobedience to the Lord’s clear teaching.  This is not based on a few select verses in the New Testament. All of the Christian life is described in plural terms.  We are called into ‘the body.’  We are urged not ‘forsake the assembly.’ We are told to ‘love each other deeply.’  Being ‘churched’ is part of being a disciple, critically important to growing deep in the Lord.
Americans love independence. The 11th commandment for many of us is ‘Thou shalt not tell me to do anything unless I feel it is in my best interest.’ That streak of independence often blinds us to the value of that which God deeply loves; His Church. How much does He love Her? “Christ gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.” (Ephesians 5:25-27, NLT)
If you think that ‘church’ is unimportant to your discipleship, read the 4th chapter of Ephesians carefully and ask yourself – does this make any sense without connection, real and meaningful, with other followers of Christ Jesus? 
Here’s a word from that chapter. Let it be your Word today. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1, NIV)  “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:11-16, NIV)

Spinning Your Prayers?

I am fascinated by the various ways that people pray. At the station where I buy my auto fuel in the early morning I hear a CD playing that has a man’s voice repeating lines over and over. To my ear, it sounds a little like an auctioneer. I asked the owner about the sounds and he told me they were his ‘morning prayers.’ I once visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem and saw Jewish people standing facing the wall, murmuring and moving in prayers. Many slipped little pieces of paper bearing their petitions into the cracks between the stones. Tibetan Buddhists spin prayer wheels, cylinders on which prayers are printed, believing that the act of spinning the wheels is the same as saying the prayers. Many Christians adopt rote prayers which they recite at various times.
Jesus calls us from ritual to conversation!  
God, He said, is not interested in the quantity of our words but in the condition of our heart as we come before Him. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:6-7, NIV) He constantly focuses us on our ‘Father,’ the caring, loving Person. The Scripture reminds us that when the Spirit is invited to live in us, we reach out to our “Abba” (Daddy) when we pray.
At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon prayed and he words are preserved for us in 2 Chronicles 6. The king, again and again, prays that God’s Name will be honored as He hears the prayers of the people and answers them. He acknowledges God’s greatness, yet clings to His personal promises.
But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you. May you watch over this Temple day and night, this place where you have said you would put your name. May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.” (2 Chronicles 6:18-21, NLT)
“In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands when they hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.” (2 Chronicles 6:32-33, NLT)
Are your prayers humble and focused on the Father’s love?
Is it your desire that He answer in a way that provides honor to His Great Name?
Our prayers need not be long and anguished to be heard. They need not be eloquent, lawyerly, and convincing. Our Father is looking for hearts that hunger for Him, for people who love Him, for those who bring their petitions with faith to receive. Jesus tore away the ritualism that blocks fervent, effective prayer. Don’t fall into that trap again, thinking that God can be impressed with religiosity. Instead, as He taught, simply ‘ask, seek, and knock.’ If you’re sad, cry with your Abba. If you’re afraid, tell Him. Share your joy. If you need to shout, do it. If you want to whisper, that’s fine with Him, too.
Just don’t ignore Him! No Father likes to be forgotten until a crisis arises or a storm blows in. Offer Him your worship often. Seek His Presence every day.
And, you will learn to pray in a way that honors His great Name.
_________________
Your Great Name
   
Lost are saved find their way
At the sound of Your great Name
All condemned feel no shame
At the sound of Your great Name
Ev’ry fear has no place
At the sound of Your great Name
The enemy he has to leave
At the sound of Your great Name
Jesus worthy is the Lamb
that was slain for us
The Son of God and man
You are high and lifted up
And all the world will praise
Your great Name
All the weak find their strength
At the sound of Your great Name
Hungry souls receive grace
At the sound of Your great Name
The fatherless find their rest
At the sound of Your great Name
The sick are healed the dead are raised
At the sound of Your great Name
Redeemer my Healer
Lord Almighty
Defender my Savior
You are my King
Sing the Name of Jesus
We worship the Name of Jesus
We bow before Jesus
There is no other Name but Jesus
© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music | TwoNords Music | (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)
Krissy Nordhoff | Michael Neale
CCLI License No. 810055  

 

I Don’t Want to be Alone

Last month my Mom, who is very ill, moved to live with us on the lower level of our home. This morning about 4:30, my phone rang in my bedroom, signaling she needed me.  When I showed up at her bedside, she was grateful and said, “I don’t want to be alone.”  When I had been near her for a few minutes her heart rate settled and she become more calm.

A little boy at our Vacation Bible School wailed- “I don’t know where my Mom is.”  We located Nancy and when she took him by the hand and put him back with his group, he was right with the world once again.
Young or old, none of us likes feeling isolated. Even a rich and powerful king wrote of the power of connectedness. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. … A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)  
Those who are riding the tide of success sometimes make the mistake of discarding friends, even family. Those same people often find themselves alone wondering who they can trust.  Some, finding themselves in pain, lash out at those who try to care and they, too, end up alone, blaming the very ones they pushed away for abandoning them. And, some discover their true wealth in the love of others! They make the proverb a principle for life: “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” (Proverbs 17:17, NLT)  I love Paul’s phrase about disciples who build their lives around shared love of Christ Jesus, “their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love.” (Colossians 2:2, ASV) Are the threads of your daily choices made meaningful and beautiful as they are inextricably woven with friends and fellow Christians?
Let’s never forget that we have a Friend for time and eternity in Jesus! Yes, He is Lord and God, Savior and Redeemer, but the amazing fact is that He is our Friend. In desperate times, we can simply breathe His Name – “Jesus, Jesus” – and know He is near. But, we only know this privilege if we walk with Him in obedience and faithfulness each day. Intimacy is not created in a moment of crisis. It is like a brick wall, laid up strong, one choice at a time.
“Stay in touch” is a phrase we use often as we go our separate ways. Let’s make it a choice often to reach out, to celebrate with one another, to encourage one another, to worship together – so we’ll never walk alone.
Here’s the word from the Word. “For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other. We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time. The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together. This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.” (1 John 3:11-16, The Message)
____________________________
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Scriven, Joseph M. / Converse, Charles C.

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