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Four Things I Pray

June 3, 2020 1 comment

PrayerSometimes, I get so caught up in praying for the needs of others, I fail to pray for myself.

I was reminded of this during my quiet time, when I got to I Chronicles in my daily Bible reading.

In the margin of my Bible, I saw a previous note I’d written when I’d read the passage before—I’ve been reading the O.T. once a year and the N.T. twice a year for many years now—and I realized I’d gotten away from praying these four things for myself.

I pray the Lord will  Bless, Prosper, Guide, and Protect me.

Bless Me—spiritually, physically, and mentally.

Prosper Me—spiritually, personally, and financially.

Guide Me—spiritually, intellectually, and creatively

Protect Me—spiritually, physically, intellectually, and financially.

The common thread is that I’m always praying for myself spiritually. If the Lord will bless, prosper, guide, and protect me spiritually, everything else will fall into place.

The Biblical basis for my prayer is found in I Chronicles 4:10: ” . . . Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm . . .”

Ring a Prayer Bell

March 5, 2020 Leave a comment

Bell2I can’t remember where I got this little “angel bell.” It was given to me years ago. Other than a decorative item on a bookshelf, it isn’t much use to me, except when someone around our house gets sick. Then, I put it beside their bed, and when they need something, they ring it.

My mother, who was in a wheelchair during the last years of her life, had to use the bell a lot more than most family members did.

Whenever she rang it, she would apologize. “It’s nice to have an angel when I need help,” she’d say, “but I hate to be a bother.”

One day, when my grandson stayed with me when he was sick, I put it beside his bed.

He didn’t use it the way my mother did.

He rang it just to see if I could hear him ringing it. He rang it to ask for a drink, a cracker, or a bowl of ice cream. He rang it to call attention to something on television. He rang it because he was bored. He rang it to tell me he was happy to be at my house. He rang it to tell me he was glad he didn’t have to go to school.

God also has a bell. He calls it prayer. Whenever I ring His angel bell, He’s immediately at my side.

Sometimes, I think I’m using it too often, and  I need to apologize. “I’m sorry I have to ask for this again. I’m sorry I can’t  remember what you told me. I’m sorry I have to keep asking forgiveness for this sin.”

However, at other times,  I act just like my grandson. I ring it often, and sometimes, I’m asking for things I don’t even need.

But, according to Scripture, God doesn’t mind when He hears the angel bell ringing. He’s delighted His children want to spend time with Him, even if it’s just to ask Him for something. He’s happy His children believe He’s the answer to everything that matters.

God is overjoyed to hear that prayer bell ringing! Start ringing!

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Three “Finds” That Will Help You Find Your Way

August 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Finding Your WayIt’s easy to lose your way in the world. Our modern world has a myriad of paths from which to choose, and we can explore them all, saturating ourselves with facts and philosophies and desires and practices and beliefs.

However, like hikers exploring a new trail, there are some precautions we should take before we head off into the unknown. Otherwise, we’re sure to lose our way. These practices should serve us well, whether we’re looking at a belief system, a career choice, a new set of friends or anything requiring our time, money, and effort.

First, FIND a way to have a Daily Quiet Time
Spend at least thirty minutes every day in Bible study and prayer. It doesn’t matter how you do this. There’s a Bible reading plan out there that will match up with anyone’s learning style and preferences. The important thing is to put yourself in a position where your Father in heaven can communicate His love, His plan, and His desires for you, and  in return, you can catch a glimpse of His Glory.

Second, FIND a way to meet with others to worship God
Praising, loving, and serving God with other people will strengthen and enhance an individual’s faith. However, being with others in a faith-based group isn’t always about the individual’s needs. It’s about a people who together desire to give glory, honor and praise to an Almighty Creator who sacrificed His only son to make such a relationship possible.

Third, FIND a way to express your faith
Our belief in God requires an outlet. Otherwise, stagnation sets in. This expression can take many forms, and it may be different according to personality types. For some, it may mean singing, speaking, teaching or preaching. For others, it may mean journaling, writing, serving, or counseling.

Jeremiah 6:16: Thus says the Lord: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

How To Stay Away From God

June 6, 2015 4 comments

stay away 2There’s a verse of Scripture in Hebrews that gives me pause whenever I read it. It’s Hebrews 10:22, “Therefore . . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”

Drawing near to God sounds like a terrific idea. So, why don’t we draw near? What makes us stay away?

Believers don’t stay away from God on purpose. It’s usually the result of not doing something, rather than actually doing something.

Not confessing sin.  After the writer of Hebrews described what Jesus did for sinners by his death on the cross, he writes in verse 27, “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Unconfessed sin creates a reluctance and a fearfulness to be near the One whose responsibility it is to judge sin, and so we stay away.  

Not knowing truth. The writer uses the word,”therefore,” before telling believers to draw near to God. That’s because he’s been explaining great truths having to do with the meaning of the Lamb-like sacrifice and what the shedding of Christ’s blood did for sinners. He says such knowledge gives us confidence to come before God. The reverse is also true. By not knowing what Christ did when He laid down His life for us, we have no confidence and cannot draw near to Him.

Not having faith. The writer says we are to come before God “with full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who draws near to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him,” While our faith in God is a gift from Him (Ephesians 2:8-9), we must be willing to act on that faith or we will never draw near to Him.

What happens when we draw near? Hebrews 4:16 tells us we receive “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 7:25 says those who draw near to God will discover “He always lives to make intercession for them,”  and Hebrews 11:6 says anyone who draws near to God will find “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Draw near. Take the pathway into His Presence made just for you.

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God Has A Bell; He Wants To Hear You Ring It

April 14, 2015 1 comment

Bell2Last week, when my grandson was too sick to go to school, he spent the day at our house. Right after I’d tucked him in bed, he asked, “Do I get to have the bell?”

The “bell” is a hand-sized figurine of an angel gazing at a bird in her hands–not exactly the sort of thing an eleven-year old boy usually wants. However, there’s a small clapper in the hollow of the figurine, and when he grasps the head of the angel and shakes it, the high-pitched sound  is loud enough to be heard throughout the house.

I’ve had the bell for a number of years—it was given to me by a Bible study group—and a few years ago, I decided to put it to good use. Now, whenever anyone in my household gets sick, I put the bell within easy reach of their bedside. That way, if they need something, I can be summoned to their side.

My mother, who was in a wheelchair during the last years of her life, had to use the bell a lot more than most family members. Whenever she did, she would apologize for having to ring the bell. “It’s nice to have an angel when I need help,” she’d say, “but I hate to be a bother.”

My grandson, though, voiced no such sentiment when he rang the bell.

He rang it just to see if I could hear him ringing it. He rang it to ask for a drink, a cracker, a bowl of ice cream. He rang it to call attention to something on the television screen. He rang it to ask for a bowl of ice cream. He rang it because he said he was bored. He rang it to tell me he was happy to be at my house and not in school.

God also has a bell. He calls it prayer. Whenever I ring His  angel bell, He’s at my side immediately. Sometimes, I think I’m using it too often, and  I need to apologize. “I’m so sorry I have to ask for this again. I’m so sorry I can’t  remember what you told me. I’m so sorry I have to ask forgiveness for this sin.”

However, at other times,  I act just like my grandson. I ring it often and long, and I’m continually asking for something that I don’t even need. But, like a grandma who’s just happy her grandson wants to have her at his side, God doesn’t mind when He hears the angel bell ringing. He’s delighted His children want to spend time with Him, even if it’s just to ask Him for something. He’s happy His children believe He’s the answer to everything that matters.

He’s always overjoyed to hear that bell ringing! Ring away!

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

 

 

When God Doesn’t Answer, Don’t Act Dumb!

March 1, 2015 2 comments

Dumb 1God promises to hear the prayers of His children. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:14. And Jesus told His followers in John 16:23, “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

Quite often, though, when I claim this promise from Him, I overlook one important aspect of it—He never promised to answer my prayers immediately. And, my timetable isn’t even mentioned in this verse.

The truth is, God often delays his answer whenever His children ask Him for something. There have been very few times when God has answered my petition within hours of presenting Him with some perceived need in my life. I’ve heard stories about the doorbell ringing or a letter arriving as soon as the “Amen” was spoken, but it doesn’t happen very often. At least, not to me.

So, when God doesn’t answer immediately, how do I respond? It would be easy to list a few Do’s. For example, I should  1.Examine my heart for unconfessed sin. (1 Peter 3:12). 2. Question the motives behind my request. (James 4:3). 3. Realize God’s ways are not my ways (1 Corinthians 13:12).

But, the best example of what NOT to do, is found in Exodus 32:1. “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him,“Up, make us gods who shall go before us.”

The theology behind this passage is clear: When God delays answering your prayers, DON’T act dumb.

Don’t act dumb by 1. Providing your own answer. Like the golden calf, it will be a poor substitute for the real thing.

Don’t act dumb by 2. Acting out of fear. The Israelites rationalized their response by saying, “As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Exodus 32:1. Fears for their future clouded their faith in God’s ability to provide for them and caused them to act irrationally.

Don’t act dumb by 3. Asking God to bless sinful behavior. After acting against God’s will for them, the Israelites sought God’s blessing for their actions. “And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.” Exodus 32:6. Don’t expect God to bless something that came about as the result of sinful behavior.

The next time God delays in answering your petitions, don’t dumb down.

 

 

 

Is Your Life Out Of Focus?

October 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Out of FocusOne of the great things about most cameras today is the automatic focusing feature. I’m old enough to remember using a camera that required fiddling with a bunch of dials before snapping the picture. Most of the time, those waiting to be photographed weren’t very patient about this process, and, oftentimes, after all that effort, the photo turned out to be out of focus after all.

As children of God, it would be nice to have this automatic focusing mechanism built into our daily lives. Then, the moment our lives became blurry around the edges–from partaking of all the world has to offer, from neglecting Bible study, from participating in non-glorying-God activities–then our focus would automatically be returned to our Father, to concentrating on His plan for our lives, to living out Christ in us, “the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27).

However,  none of us has an automatic focusing mechanism. What we do have, though, is something even better–the Word of God. Whereas something working in the background and automatically redirecting one’s  focus towards God sounds good, in reality, such a device would ultimately lead to apathy and to taking God for granted. It  would not adhere to the command  “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

God’s Word redirects our focus to Him in numerous passages of Scripture throughout the Old and New Testament. One of my favorite such verses is 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Have you lost your focus? Direct your heart today to the love of God“The love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Direct your heart also to the steadfastness of Christ. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Spending time  with the Lord in daily Bible study and prayer brings clarity to our lives. It  sharpens an otherwise blurry picture.

I Can Do This!

January 25, 2012 2 comments

As I continually seek to be a student and teacher of God’s Word, I encounter many different methods, programs and suggestions about how to memorize, use, remember and put into practice what I’ve studied and taught, and it usually doesn’t take me very long when I’m reading through a suggestion to recognize if something will work for me or not.  More often than not though, I find myself saying, “I will never do this” or “I can’t even begin to understand how this would work.”  However, here are three helpful suggestions I recently read that made me say, “I can do this!”

How To Talk To God:  In this blog, Lisa gives some pointers about using God’s Word to talk to Him.  What happens when you speak God’s own words back to Him?  Find out here.

How To Walk By The Spirit:  In this sermon from John Piper on 1 Thessalonians 3, you’ll find a wonderful acronym called APTAT, which you can use to remember what to do when asked to do something you don’t believe you can do. Piper ‘s message is entitled “The Word Of God Is At Work In You,” and the application of this (which is about 30 minutes into the video if you want to watch it) is outlined in the written sermon called Applying The Text To Your Life.  Watch the video or read the sermon here.

How To View The Bible:  Along with many of you, I am reading the Bible through again this year.  In my plan I’m about to finish up Genesis, and I’ve seen the grace of God at every turn, from the moment of creation to God’s dealings with Joseph.  But this will not be the end of God’s grace.  In fact, the grace of God can be found in every book of the Bible.  Dane Ortlund outlines how every book of the Bible shows God’s grace.  You can read it here.

Packing Away Summer Clothes

October 12, 2011 1 comment

Whenever I put away my summer clothes in the fall and my winter clothes in the spring, I always tuck a little sheet of paper between the folds of the clothes.  This piece of paper contains a list of people, situations, concerns I’ve been praying about for the past several weeks.  When I unpack my clothes and retrieve the prayer list at the end of a season, usually April and October, then I’m able to see what was on my prayer list the previous six months.  Since I’ve been doing this for about 10 years, here’s what I’ve discovered.

There are some very big changes that can happen in six months:  Praying about a surgical procedure, a house purchase or a trip during April could mean by the time October arrives each of these requests has already been answered, and I am now recovered from my surgery, moved into my new house and paying the credit card bills on my trip. In April of last year, I was praying about moving my parents to Norman; and in October of last year, they had been living here for two months while six months later, my mother had passed away.  In April of this year, James and I were praying about when to retire from Bethel, and now he has been retired for two weeks. 

There are some things that don’t change in six months:  I’m sometimes amazed to realize the problems or people or relationships for which I’m currently praying have been on my list not just once but twice, maybe even more, and nothing has changed.  Six months may not be enough time to see the salvation of a friend or family member.  The resolution of an ongoing conflict can creep along at a less-than-desirable pace.  There are health issues that continue to persist.  In addition, there will always be requests for myself and family members that involve similar petitions year after year for the Lord’s blessing and guidance.

There are some things that are insignificant after six months:  The details of a seemingly overwhelming crisis in the spring can hardly be remembered by the time fall arrives. 

There are some surprising things that can occur in six months:  I can never anticipate what I will need to be praying for in the next week or the next month, so when I open up my list and realize a BIG EVENT happened, and six months ago it wasn’t even on my prayer radar, I’m amazed at how often the unexpected occurs.

So what is my incentive in reviewing this prayer list after six months?  Outside of observing the discoveries I’ve just outlined, I believe it is foremost to see how God has worked in answering these prayers.  As James and I go over the list, laughing about some things, amazed at surprising events, sorrowing over others, we just naturally start giving God glory and thanking Him for the way in which He answered our prayers.  Plus, we acknowledge our utter dependence upon Him for anything yet to be resolved. 

Prayer is for the glory of God.  Jesus said in John 14:13, “And whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  As I put away the list this week, I did it with a prayer and a question, “What will you do, Father, in the next six months, to give yourself glory through these requests?”

Feeling Abnormal With Normal

October 3, 2011 3 comments

Every Sunday, for all of my life (yes, even as an infant), I have gone to church.  It’s the normal thing for me to do.  I would feel abnormal not doing so.  But yesterday, as my husband and I went to church, I felt abnormal.

It wasn’t a different kind of church.  It wasn’t a different time to go to church.  There weren’t different songs being sung.  There wasn’t a different gospel being preached.

The difference was the church we attended wasn’t the one we had been attending for 17 years.  It wasn’t the church where my husband had been the senior pastor.  Our normal Sunday worship experience felt abnormal because God had spoken, we had obeyed (a little reluctantly I admit), and we had retired from this church.

Making His children uncomfortable in the ordinary is one of the ways God works to make Himself known to us.  Moses experienced feeling abnormal with normal when he took his sheep up the mountain to graze as he normally did and encountered an ordinary bush not being consumed by the fire that enveloped it.  From that bush, Moses heard the voice of God, obeyed His commands (though not always willingly and perfectly) and came to know Him in a relationship that Scripture identified as “friends.”

For church members used to having the same pastor for 17 years, I suspect their normal seemed abnormal yesterday also.  Like me, they may have found the abnormal uncomfortable, strange and, yes, fearful.  What do we do with these feelings?

Moses told God his misgivings about these changes from his normal.  I believe that’s the pattern God intends for us.  As we lay before Him our insecurities, we can be certain of His plans for us.  “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

The abnormal can be very good indeed.  Moses probably thought so.  What could be more abnormal than being friends with God?

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