It’s good to be thankful!

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. “- Psalm 69:30

One day I was fussing around trying to get everything done, worrying about this and that when I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge: “Don’t you have something you want to thank Me for?” Of course I did. I stopped my whirlwind and gave him thanks for several things that came immediately to mind. Amazingly, as soon as I did, I felt my spirit move from restless to restful. 

So what really happened? God’s reminder to thank him was not for his benefit, it was for mine. A gratefulness pause made me realize all God does for me every day and how much he must love me to remind me of that even when I was “toiling and spinning” like the biblical lilies of the field. Recognizing his character, his faithfulness, and his consistent drawing of me to himself helped me to trust him even in the middle of what felt like chaos.

Trusting is an emotion that grows out of a confident relationship with God as we discover that he loves, protects, teaches, and rescues us – and has been doing it for years. Even brief moments of remembering his never-failing consistency nurtures the emotion of trust in my spirit. Over time, I am finding that trust is more often my first response to struggle instead of my second, third, or fourth.

Maybe we need to stop telling ourselves to trust God and, instead, start realizing who he is and what he does for us. As we make gratefulness a habit, trust happens. Understanding that has made a big difference for me. It can for you, too. Don’t you have something to thank him for right now?

Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude.” – Thomas Merton

This post is an update of an earlier blog, but one that seemed appropriate for today. Enjoy!

Saying “no” will break my heart.

Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple! 
– Psalm 65:4

Do you want to know how God really feels about you? Are you a bother to him? A pest? Do you talk too much? Ask for too much? Say the wrong thing? Take a deep breath. He’s saying something like this to you right now:

I want you to be near me. You can talk to me. You don’t have to stay in a corner or try not to be seen. Come closer. Stay close. I’m in love with you. I want you with me always.

“He will rejoice over you with gladness;
 he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

And, if that’s not enough, Jesus whispers, too:

I am your shepherd, your teacher. You can hear best when your heart is quiet and when you stay within the range of my voice. Stay close enough to hear me. 

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27

Finally, the Holy Spirit asks in his own way:

I’m reminding you that you are invited to the dance. You are welcome at the banquet. Please come. I love you so much that, if you say “no”, it will break my heart.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” – Ephesians 4:30

Are you convinced yet of God’s love? Be brave and get a little closer. 

Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.”  Jerry Bridges

Miracles or Wonders?

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” – Job 9:10

To some people everything’s a miracle: sunrises, finding extra money in their pocket, bumping into an old friend, and birds hatching in the tree outside their window. For others, miracles are phenomena of a time long past, but don’t happen today. Which is right?

The verse from Job, cited above, has helped me sort this out. Many of the things we see around us might be classified as wonders. Colorful flowers, the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, or a wound that heals – these are wonders, part of God’s natural world. He made the world to work this way and we are the benefactors of his love of beauty, order, and regeneration.

But, sometimes there are miracles, too – yes, even today. They are events that occur contrary to the natural course of things. For example, someone being unexplainably healed or a prodigal returning home with a changed heart. These miracles are God’s intervention in the normal course of a disease, affliction, or direction. I believe these miracles are his way of giving us a glimpse of how it will be when the world is eventually restored to its original perfection.

Miracles are miracles, not because they are part of the natural order, but because they interrupt it. But that interruption is not guaranteed. God loves having us trust him enough to ask, but only he decides when and how he will respond to our prayer.

So, while we pray for the miracle we so desparately desire, we can continue to enjoy the wonders of God that surround us every day. They are his gifts to us, too!

“Believe in miracles, but don’t put your faith in miracles. Put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Adrian Rogers

Longer Prayers

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

Don’t you wonder how Jesus spent all night in prayer with the Father? All night?

Years ago, when I had a severely depressed friend, I promised to spend an hour in prayer for her, pleading with God to meet the deepest needs of her heart. In about ten minutes, I had said all I had to say. But I had committed to an hour, so I expanded my prayer, repeated some things, and paused more often. It felt like a very long hour!

So, praying all night seems impossible to me! And the gospel writers indicate that it was Jesus’ habit to spend long hours in prayer.

Then I realized that for Jesus and God it was, very likely, a two-way conversation. Jesus talked and God responded, like a loving father and son would do. If you’re with someone you love, there are times when you talk and talk, then wonder where the time went.

That’s probably what it was like between Jesus and God. Intimate conversation. And God, with his heavenly perspective, giving direction, guiding Jesus’ ministry, telling him what to do next.

Jesus showed us how we humans can relate to our Father in heaven. Prayer is a big part of that: Asking for and then receiving direction, comfort, hope, empowerment, and provision. If it’s lovingly intimate and involves both speaking and listening, our short prayers tend to get longer. Jesus showed us what to do. It’s up to us to figure out how – through relationship with the One to whom we pray.

O, let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot on earth.” – Andrew Murray

Power Hungry

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. . . ” – Ephesians 3:16

Sometimes we feel helpless as we look at power in the world today. Nations testing other nations, each claiming superior force. Politicians exchanging influence for favors. Bosses barking out orders or withholding increases in pay. Authority, glory, and power are evident – but not for us it seems.

We don’t have to feel helpless because the Bible promises us power, Paul prayed for it for the Ephesian church, and Jesus promised it to his disciples. We can assume though, the kind of power Jesus and Paul were talking about isn’t very much like what we see in the world around us.

What does Christian, God-given power look like? I think Frank Laubach (missionary to India and Africa in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s) had it right when he prayed for power this way:

“. . . power to see souls behind faces, power to pray for those I see outside this car window, power to ooze into or push into the inner souls of others with my prayer and carry Thee with me all the way to the center.”

I’m hungry for that kind of power, aren’t you? Power to have understanding of the hidden needs of those we meet, power to pray constantly, power to reach people at a heart level with the truth of God’s love and provision for them, power to change them for eternity.

Please, Lord, may my life be lived under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit within me, for the good of those I touch, and for your great pleasure.

“If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Charles Spurgeon

Praying for Daylight

My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
    Yet the desires of my heart
turn night into day;
    in the face of the darkness light is near.
 – Job 17:11-12

Is sometimes the night so dark, the storm so strong, and the pain so deep that all you can do is pray for morning to come? You are not alone.

In Acts, we are told about the horrible storm Paul and Luke and many others experienced on their way to Rome. At one point, in the two-week-long nor’easter, the sailors took soundings and realized the water was getting shallower – they were approaching land. But it was the middle of the night, the ship was out of control, and they couldn’t see where they were headed. It was dark and scary and dangerous. Luke says, Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29). They did the only thing they could do – they waited and they prayed.

If you’re in a dark place right now, you can’t see what’s ahead, you are fearful and frantic, hang on. Morning will come. God promises it will. “. . . weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). 

In the meantime, focus all your attention on him. Pray for light. Pray for comfort. Pray for the security of his arms around you. Pray for the joy that will come when the storm subsides. The one who stills the waters is in the boat with you. He’s been there before. And he has promised never to leave you alone.

“Waiting for God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon our thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Abiding and Asking

“Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” – John 16:24

When Jesus knew he was about to be arrested and crucified, some of his last words to his disciples were these: “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

The last conversations of a person’s life are important ones. This was something Jesus wanted etched on the hearts of those he would soon leave behind. Let’s take a look at what he was asking of them (and us):

Abide in me: This directive describes a deeply united relationship with Jesus. Abiding requires our giving of attention to him, constantly staying close to him, and never wandering off on our own: Always connected by conversation, prayer, thought, and intention.

Let my words abide in you: He wants us to meditate on what he taught. And, we have so much of his teaching recorded in the gospels! We should study to know what he said, think about how his message applies to us today, and memorize enough of his words so the Spirit can bring them to our minds when we need them.

The result of those two kinds of abiding? An ongoing, effective prayer life. Jesus promises that if we stay close to him and open to him, he will hear and answer us when we pray. Maybe because we will be praying the right prayers!

“Jesus Christ does not want to be our helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work through us, using us as we use a pencil to write with–better still, using us as one of the fingers of His hand.” – Charles C. G. Trumbull