It’s personal!

“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. – Psalm 139:5

If I were in Jesus’ sandals in the 1st Century, I might have been a bit more organized. For example, I would’ve had all the demon-possessed move to one side of the beach and all the sick and disabled on the other. Then I would’ve cast out all the demons with just one prayer, turning my attention to the sick with an instant healing for all. Jesus could have left this earth with every disease in Israel healed. But he didn’t.

He had his own way: Choosing to heal, forgive, and free from bondage – person-by-person. Even the bleeding woman who touched Jesus secretly was called out so he could look her in the eye, commend her faith, and tell her to go in peace. He actually permitted an argument from the Syro-Phoenician woman and engaged in conversations about requests for others with Jairus and the Roman Centurion.

Then there was the paralytic let down through the roof, blind Bartimaeus, the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda – these were all relational, eye-to-eye encounters. Jesus was doing more than healing: He was fixing the brokenness that didn’t show on the outside.

You and I have some of those kinds of needs, too – the ones inside that we  hide, don’t really want to deal with, or maybe just don’t realize we have. Jesus knows all of it and hears our prayers. But he responds in ways that give us what we really need – sometimes what we ask for, often something even better. With Jesus it’s always personal.

“I need to show Jesus my brokenness – show Him my wounds – and let Him touch them. Let Him cradle my heart in His hands and say, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’.”*

 

*from  https://beautybeyondbones.com/2018/02/12/an-ashy-valentines-day/

#miracles #prayer

Is that you, God?

“. . . your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” – Isaiah 30:21b

We’re beginning to understand that God really does communicate, often through thoughts he plants in our heads. Have you ever sensed that maybe God was speaking to you? Then you pause, wondering if it’s really him. Next time that happens, ask these questions:

Is it truth?

If the voice in my head says I’m stupid or unlovable or hopeless, I know it’s not from God. But if the voice says he wants more for me or from me and will help me grow, that’s likely from him. He never nags. He doesn’t whine. He always tells the truth.

Is it consistent with the Bible?

God will never ask us to do something that contradicts his written word. He won’t tell you to have a romantic relationship with someone who’s married or to go into debt for something you can’t afford. But, if what it seems he’s asking you to do is pure, loving, grace-filled, or healing, most likely you’re hearing from him.

Is it something I am willing to do?

Often God tests our obedience with small assignments. It will be something simple like talking to the person behind you in line at the store or helping a neighbor with yard work. If you think God is asking you to do something, just do it. Do it believing it would please him. Once we get into that habit, his voice becomes clearer and sometimes will stretch us a bit more. He doesn’t ask us to walk on water until he knows we’re willing to get into the boat!

“You must learn how God speaks; not doing so will constantly undermine your confidence in your personal relationship to him.” – Dallas Willard

 

#listeningprayer

Where’s your prodigal?

” . . . the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining”. – 1 John 2:8b

Has someone you love walked away? Rejected what you believe? Who you are? The way you live? It hurts, doesn’t it? And nothing you do seems to fix the problem.

Then sometimes God steps in. And when he does, we find out he had a plan all along. Onesimus was a slave to Philemon, a 1st-century Christian. One day, Onesimus ran away. Runaway slaves in that time could be put to death. It was a serious crime to break free.

Onesimus headed for Rome, probably thinking he would never be found on the crowded streets. But, God made sure Onesimus met Paul, and Paul introduced him to Jesus. Everything changed for Onesimus at that moment, and Paul apparently told him he had to make things right with Philemon. He had to go back home.

Paul sent him on his way with a letter to Philemon explaining the change in Onesimus now that he was a Jesus follower. He asked Philemon to take Onesimus back, not just as a slave, but as Christian brother. In fact, Paul says that maybe, just maybe, Onesimus’ escape was for an eternal purpose: “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for awhile, that you might have him back forever.” (v. 15)

God knows the bigger picture: He may have a plan for our prodigals that means we can have them back forever. So we stand still and strong, praying and trusting that, at just the right time, he’ll step in to help them find their way back to him and back to us. Keep the light on.

“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott

 

 

Love Songs

“I will sing a new song to you, O God.” – Psalm 144:9

I’ve been alone in the house a lot lately and find myself walking around singing to God. And the songs are not always hymns. Here was this morning’s melody, internally playing as I woke up:  “You make me so very happy. I’m so glad you came into my life.” (1)  I know it’s a secular love song, but for me, it applies to God, too. And I want Him to know how I feel.

Here’s another I like singing to Him:

You are so beautiful
To me
You are so beautiful
To me
Can’t you see?

You’re everything I hope for
You’re everything I need.
You are so beautiful to me
You are so beautiful to me (2)

He is everything I hope for and need and I want Him to know that I know it!

I’m not trivializing my relationship with God, but how do we show someone how much we love them? By giving, serving, listening, being faithful, and singing love songs. The longest book in the Bible is the book of Psalms – a hymnbook, really. So let’s sing. Maybe the more traditional songs are better, but I think God likes any sincere expression of love we give Him. And sometimes it’s just easier to sing our love than to say it.

Let’s make it a singing day today and, if this one is more your style, I think He’d like that, too:

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear (3)

“Those who wish to sing always find a song.” – Swedish Proverb

“God is still worthy of our highest, purest, strongest emotions. Singing helps express and ignite them.” – Bob Kauflin

 

  1. From You’ve Made Me so Very Happy by Brenda Holloway
  2. From You are so Beautiful by Joe Cocker
  3. From I Love You, Lord byPetra Lyrics

A Place for God

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:25-26

Wouldn’t it be sad if God has something to say to us and we’re not hearing Him over the noise of our world? If God is talking to me, I want to hear Him. I think you do, too.

Ezekiel was a prophet in ancient Israel at a critical time in their history. It was important that he hear God’s messages clearly. One day, God just picked him up, whisked him away, and set him down in a new place (Ez. 3:14-15). Sometimes God simply wants us to get away from where we are so we can hear His voice!

How might we use our present circumstances to allow God to take us away from the ordinary and into the extraordinary? We might find ourselves set aside because of illness, a broken relationship, job loss, or an empty nest. When these things happen, they can provide space to escape from busyness, experience God’s presence, and listen for His voice.

At other times, when life just goes on in whirlwind fashion, we can engineer a place for Him in our daily devotional times and occasional spiritual retreats. He longs to share His heart, direct our steps, and bring comfort and healing. But we have to be quieted, patiently waiting to hear Him speak. He doesn’t shout, He whispers. It’s easy to miss if we’re not paying attention. And paying attention requires time apart – focused, intentional, God-centered time.

The truth? Listening for His voice may well be the most important thing we have to do today.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” – Mother Teresa

 

 

 

#God

#prayer

Can you believe? Just a little bit?

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

I have a friend who was skeptical about the Bible. He’d read it, then question it. He tried to explain away miracles and dismissed any possibility of Jesus’ divinity. He looked at commands as cultural suggestions, to be revised at will.

But some of his rationalizations didn’t make sense – even to him. Eventually, he came to an intellectual impasse. One day he simply said to himself that, if the Bible were true, he’d be willing to believe. The next day, as he read the Bible, everything seemed to fall into place. His willingness to believe resulted in actual belief.

Sometimes we just don’t want to believe. We are not open to having our minds changed. If you are in that place, I would encourage you to take a step, just a small step toward the possibility of belief.

God is not like us. He thinks differently. He communicates differently. He has capacities and powers we cannot begin to understand. But He loves humans. He sent Jesus to reveal Himself to us. One of my favorite Jesus stories is when a father came asking for his son’s release from demonic powers. Jesus responded “Anything is possible for the one who believes”. The father, in complete honesty, answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

I have prayed that prayer many times. “I believe, Lord, but just a little. Help my little bit of belief to grow so I can know You as you truly are and trust You with my life.” Are you ready to pray that prayer, too?

“The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.” – Francis of Assisi

 

Note: In my discussions with this person and many others, I’ve had a chance to hear and explore the questions skeptics often ask. If you want to know more, you may be helped by my recent book, The Bible for Skeptics: A Conversation for Thinking People.   https://beverlyvankampen.com/resources/
#bible
#god

Is my way the right way?

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty.” – Psalm 91:1

Sometimes when I pray, I know how I want God to answer. So I’m specific and, honestly, any answer other than the one I’m praying for will not be acceptable to me. Do you ever do that? We sometimes forget that God’s perspective is better than ours! He knows things we cannot possibly know.

Centuries ago, people asked Jeremiah to pray for God’s direction about their going to Egypt. Jeremiah gave them God’s answer: They should stay in Israel where He would keep them safe. Their response? They call Jeremiah a liar! The problem was they were already packed to go before they asked Jeremiah to find out what God wanted. There was only one answer acceptable to them and they weren’t hearing it from Jeremiah, so they were angry. What they didn’t know was Babylon was on the move and soon would war with Egypt and the refugee Israelis would get caught in the crossfire. They could not see at all what God could see clearly.

Sometimes we struggle with giving control to God, trusting His direction. When we pray about a problem and we know what we want the answer to be, we would be wise to tell God that, though we desire to have our prayer answered our way, we are willing to accept His answer, whatever it is. That’s a safe prayer because

  • He sees what we cannot see,
  • His answers are always for our best good, and
  • He walks beside us when we’re willing to go His way.

“What I think and feel as I pray, rather than the words I speak, may be the real prayer, for God ‘hears’ that too.” – Philip Yancey