Reaching out to Heaven

“Scripture and souls are the primary fields of operation of the Holy Spirit. . . God does not put us in charge of forming our personal spiritualities.  We grow in accordance with the revealed Word implanted in us by the Spirit” – Eugene Peterson

Does your prayer life need a lift? Sometimes we find ourselves repeating the same prayers every day. That’s OK, but sometimes we wish we had a fresh approach in reaching out to God. For me, that fresh approach is found in praying over the Scripture passage I’m reading. When I do, I’m interacting with God about the message he has given. I think he likes that.

If you want to try it, the psalms are a great place to start because most of them were written as prayers in the first place.  So we can pray along with David or the song-writers or the praise-givers and know that these words and these pleas are inspired already. God will honor his word.

Here are some specific suggestions for how we can pray God’s word back to him:

  1. Go through the passage line-by-line, thinking about what each phrase means. Then start a conversation with God about it.
  2. Pray the truth of what you are saying will penetrate your heart and be made evident in your life. 
  3. Focus on the intention of the words of Scripture as if they were your very own. 
  4. Pause to listen between lines or verses to hear what the Holy Spirit is telling you about application to your life or what he may be revealing to give you a fuller understanding of the text.
  5. Offer thanksgiving to God for whatever he brings to you mind as you pray his word.

God has begun the conversation. It’s our turn to respond.

“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” – Psalm 40:8


Patient and Kind

“There is no termination date on my commitment to you. You can’t get rid of my grace to you. You can’t outrun my mercy. You can’t evade my goodness.” – Dane Ortland

A friend once told me about her adult son who was always getting into trouble, mostly related to his penchant for alcohol. One time he came to her with yet another problem and said, “I bet you wish I’d never been born.” She told me that story with tears in her eyes, not because of the problems he caused, but because he could even think she would ever stop loving him.

God’s like that. No matter how much trouble we are, we are his, and he wants us to be close.

A friend once likened God’s relationship to us as that of a human trying to housetrain a puppy. When the puppy doesn’t make it to the papers, does a good master kick him for missing the mark? No, he picks him up and moves him to the papers. After awhile, the pup, wanting to please his master, begins to understand and do the right thing.

Once we’re adopted into God’s family, we are his – forever. If we keep falling into the same sin, he still loves us. If we fail to keep our promises to him, he still keeps his promises to us. He helps us get back up when we fall. Even if we run from him, he chases us to bring us back – just like a master would do with a runaway puppy!

And that kind of love makes us want to return to him. The thing we must never think is that he no longer wants us back. Our Master will never turn away one who wants to please him.

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” – Exodus 34:6b

Temporarily Rich

God gives us things to share; God doesn’t give us things to hold.” – Mother Teresa

When the people of Israel were freed from Egypt, they were told to ask their Egyptian neighbors for money, jewelry, and other forms of wealth. The Egyptians were so happy to see them go, they gave them what they asked for. When the Israelites left Egypt, they were very rich!

They walked to Mt. Sinai where God gave instructions for building a place where his presence could be known among his people. He told Moses to ask for donations of gold, silver, thread, dyes, and jewelry for this purpose. Through their Egyptian neighbors, he had given them everything needed for building the tabernacle, and now, he invited them to give it to him for their blessing and his glory. They realized that what they had so briefly owned was meant to be put to use according to God’s plan. But only if they wanted to. God loves cheerful giving, so did not coerce them to give more than they were willing to part with.

Don’t you think he still does that today? He gives us money or goods and then asks us to give back what we are willing to share. And he promises to bless us when we do. He gives us wealth and resources, not to be held onto, but to use – to meet our own needs, to bless others, and to support the work of his kingdom.

Maybe God has put something in my pocket or yours today that he wants us to give back to him or his people. We are temporarily rich. Our money and goods are just passing through our hands.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” – Hebrews 13:16

Easter changes everything.

“If Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be, . . . then, for all history past and all history future it is relevant because that is the very focal point for forgiveness and redemption.” – Josh McDowell

Leviticus teaches about unintentional sins – things people do that hurt or damage someone else or offend God, and they don’t even know they’d done it. When they realize their sin, they’re held responsible for making it right (Leviticus 5:17). And that meant actually taking an animal to the priest to be sacrificed to pay for the sin committed. Cumbersome. Messy. Expensive. Time-consuming. Embarrassing. Sin, even if unintentional, has terrible consequences!

Why don’t we handle guilt that way anymore? Because we don’t have to! Jesus came as the one-time-only sacrifice for the sins of the world (Hebrews 10:10b). We still hurt people or wrong them in many ways. We still offend God. But since Jesus came to die for us, we no longer have to bear our own sin. He took it all on himself on the cross. Since his resurrection that very first Easter Sunday, we simply believe that Jesus gave his life for us and confess our sinfulness to him. He forgives, cleanses, and makes us into new creatures able and willing to follow him.

What then? We worship him by giving ourselves and our bodies back to him in complete surrender to his will. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). He gave his body for us. We give ours to his service.

That’s why we’re thankful, why we worship, why we can live without guilt or regret. Jesus makes all things new!

” . . . if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9b