Pray or Bail?

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For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

When the storm came and Jesus was asleep, the disciples woke Him up, almost accusing Him of slacking (Mark 4:35-41). After all, He was snoozing while they were frantically trying to save their boat and their lives. As they roused Him, what do you think they expected Him to do? I imagine they handed Him a bucket and yelled, “Help us bail!”

He had a better idea. He simply ordered the storm to cease. It seems that Jesus was operating under a different paradigm than His disciples were. He still is.

We tend to tackle our problems in ways that seems so logical, so appropriate given our circumstances. If we just work more frantically, try harder, or grit our teeth, we can manage somehow.

But Jesus has a better way. His ways of approaching the troubles of our lives are beyond our ability to imagine. That’s why there are times when we should stop bailing long enough to go find Jesus and ask Him to work on our behalf or to show us His better way of handling the mess we are in.

If we believe God will respond to our needs only in ways we can imagine, we will doubt. If we simply let God be God, we will have faith. Doubt is condemned. Faith is rewarded. We get to choose. Do we turn to Him? Do we trust Him?

“God is hanging on to you. He’s not waiting for you to save yourself and mature into someone who no longer needs Him. He will not let you go, come what may.” – Tullian Tchividjian

A Prodigal Thanksgiving

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“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” – James 1:17

There once was a great thanksgiving feast that involved two sons. One had asked for an early inheritance and then took off, spending all his money partying and having fun. The older son stayed home and worked in the family business doing all the right things.

When the irresponsible son ran out of money and was desperate, Jesus says he came to his senses. Apparently he realized how much had been provided for him and how much he missed the privilege of being under his father’s roof. He went home, a humbled man, thankful beyond measure that he was invited back into the family.

The older son, though, was miffed. He’d been faithful all this time, but it seems not having any fun at all. He had been obedient, clean-living, and hard-working. Sure, he had a home, family, and satisfaction in his work, but he was resentful and bitter. He wouldn’t even come to the thanksgiving feast his father was throwing for his brother’s homecoming.

In this parable, the father was thankful, the younger son was thankful (I’m sure other family members were, too, though Jesus didn’t mention them), but the older son was not thankful. Instead, he was angry that he was not the center of attention and celebration.

Only the truly humble are aware of the blessings poured out on us by our heavenly Father every day. A humble heart is a thankful (and happy!) heart.

So, let’s celebrate with friends and family the blessings of our Father’s generous love. It’s time for a party – happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

“Sincere gratitude flourishes only in a heart that is humble, convinced of its own poverty and thoroughly aware that it is nothing and can do nothing without continual help from God.” (from Divine Intimacy)

Just thinking . . .

Have you ever stopped to think about what you think about? What thoughts move in as soon as you’re not intentionally thinking of something else? Very likely, those thoughts are controlling your life.

"You become what you think about all day long." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You become what you think about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Haman, in the book of Esther, helps us understand this.  He had everything he could want: wealth, power, and prestige. But he didn’t appreciate or enjoy it, because all he could think about was that Mordecai the Jew would not bow to him. That thought eventually consumed him to the extent that he conspired to kill Mordecai and all the Jews in Persia. As the story unfolds, we find that he is caught in his own conspiracy and it costs him everything, including his life.

We must not let a past hurt, a present situation, or a future concern rob us of all God has given us in this present moment. We don’t want to be like Haman – getting hung up on one troublesome thing and then missing everything else God has given.

Instead, let’s choose to think about things that draw us to God – His Word, His creation, and His actions in the world. In fact, Paul gave us a good list in Philippians 4:8 when he told us to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

As we pay attention to our current thought habits and begin to develop new ones, we will notice that we become more joyful, useful, content, loving, and engaged. Everything changes when our thoughts change. Try it!

“Search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Seeing and Being Seen

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“I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.” ~Mary Gardiner Brainard

Do you remember Hagar, Sarah’s maid? When she and Sarah had a confrontation, Hagar ran away. As she sat despairingly in the desert, God spoke to her, told her to go back to Sarah, and then gave her promises about the son she carried and the descendants who would follow. Hagar’s difficult circumstances had not changed, but after she met God, she saw everything in new light. Her response was “You are the God who sees me . . . I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Gen. 16:13b)

I thought back on my own life and remembered all the times that “the God who sees” was with me just as He was with Hagar. I thought of times of financial stress, family crises, job pressures, and health issues. He was present at every turn for me. Seeing His hand, even in retrospect, is powerful. “Lord, You see, You know, You do not run away. You stick by my side and are more powerful, more loving, more consistent, and closer than any human companion could possibly be. Thank You for coming close to me when I felt lost and alone.”

The God who sees is also the God who lets us see Him. As we do, we become aware of His provision, guidance, and intervention. For Hagar it was promises about Ishmael and his descendants and direction to go back to Sarah. For me it has been reassurance, understanding, opened pathways, restored relationships, and wisdom.

My life is still messy sometimes, and I am sure yours is too. I am learning to look for God in the middle of the mess – I know for sure He is there! And He’s there in your mess, too. Stop and look – He wants us to see Him!

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

When I am Afraid

I am afraid sometimes, actually more times than I like to admit. When I am willing to look for help for my fear, I often find the psalms provide comfort and direction. Psalm 16 is one of my favorites.

Psalm 16:1a: Keep me safe, O God . . .

The first part of this verse helps me to slow down and identify my specific fear. What do I want to be kept safe from?

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. – Psalm 23:4 NLT

Accident?
Physical pain?
Emotional stress?
Failure?
Mistakes?
Sin?
Evil powers?

Once I identify the fear I am dealing with, I can pray specifically for the protection I need. The fears that most often surface for me relate to things I can’t control. When I know I don’t have influence over what may be about to happen, fear can strike to my core.

Psalm 16:1b: . . . for in You I take refuge.

Refuge in God means I trust Him to take care of me. It means I give up control to Him. He is my safe place. He protects me even from myself, my weaknesses, flaws, and lack of judgment, as well as from other people’s mistakes or intentions. As I surrender my will and my specifically identified fear to Him, room is created in my soul for peace to seep in. Little by little, by the power of the Holy Spirit, peace conquers fear and I am at rest.

Until next time, that is. Then we do it again. But God is never impatient with my call to Him for help and my desire to take refuge in Him. He just seems pleased that I am learning to trust Him when I am afraid. He is ready to welcome you to His safe place, too. Just ask Him.

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” – Frederick Buechner

Crumbs

Looking beyond the here and now

Looking beyond the here and now

What is the biggest thing you have asked God to do for you? Sometimes our focus is on the here and now, so we ask for things that we think will satisfy us. Maybe they do, for awhile at least.

The gospel writers tell the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus (Matthew 15) asking Him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Remember that? He told her that He came for the Jews, not the Gentiles and it was not right to take the bread meant for the children and give it to dogs. Her answer is bold, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Her request was immediate and desperate but, in light of the power and magnitude of Jesus, it was just a crumb. He gave it to her because of her faith.

When it comes to situations with family, demons, finances, health, and so on, I will take crumbs, too. Those are important and often heart-wrenching requests. But internally, Jesus reminds me, “Don’t be satisfied with crumbs. Pursue Me until you have full revelation of who I am. Don’t be satisfied with anything less.” I need Jesus more than I need quick answers to my desperate prayers. I need Him, not just the gifts He gives. I don’t want to be satisfied with crumbs when Jesus gives me Himself in full as the living bread!

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory