Life in 2010 lends itself to following the local school calendar – especially if you have kids in the district. The school board is wise to publish a calendar (and several revisions) so that families can know what life will bring. In our community, everyone worthy of their “weight” knows when the football team will open the season, play their most intense rivalries, and what date the state championship in football will be decided. Summer is about taking a deep breath, air conditioners, vacations, and the county fair. Summer is about a change of pace. It’s a time to evaluate, review, and refocus on God’s plan for our lives.
It’s been said that one should determine their own priorities. If left unattended, priorities will be determined by someone/something else. The Stoics were known for their simple plan of “Let us eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we will die!” I think you’ll agree. Their plan wasn’t full of hope. Blessings come when you and I allow God’s plan to be at the forefront of our lives. It’s not about our plan – but His!
We live in a society of busyness. We constantly check the time to determine if we’re late or what’s next on the agenda. This Summer – for such a time as this – let’s make sure we follow God’s plan for our lives. Let’s allow Him to determine our priorities. And may God find us faithful!
Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for the next three and a half years! Then he prayed for rain, and down it poured. The grass turned green, and the crops began to grow again. James 5:16-18 (cf. 1 Kings 18:42-45)
So how’s the prayer life? I’m not talking about how many meals you pray before consuming (although that should be a time of thanksgiving). Perhaps you say you’ll pray about something and it “slips” your mind. When huge challenges come your way, you are quick to pray for deliverance. We see athletes look/point to the sky after scoring or making a great play. At times, prayer is treated as a superstition. The thought is: “If I do the right thing/say the right words, God has to deliver.” The right “potion” is confirmed by what God does. If you did/said the right thing, He has to respond. But if He doesn’t answer the way you want, then what? What if no answer comes?
You covet other people’s prayers for your situations. But do take everything before God? Honestly, how’s your prayer life? Do you really believe in the power of prayer?
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish. He said, “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the world of the dead, and LORD, you heard me! You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. Then I said, “O LORD, you have driven me from your presence. How will I ever again see your holy Temple?
I sank beneath the waves, and death was very near. The waters closed in around me, and seaweed wrapped itself around my head. I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was locked out of life and imprisoned in the land of the dead. But you, O LORD my God, have snatched me from the yawning jaws of death. – Jonah 2:1-6 NLT
What do you need God to do for you today? He is able! God brings life to places that are dead.
My blogging friend at Community of Jesus posted this recently. It’s worth the read. I’m also interested in what you think.
Follow this link and read from Christianity Today, before returning to comment.
Are we really that self centered?
God calls us to things that are often uncomfortable. I’ve heard this taught many times, read about it, and in fact, experienced it in my own life. Recently, God is teaching me through James 1. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Because… Pure joy? Trials of many kinds? Really? And God says, “Really!”
I’ve experienced my own trials. But challenges in my life fail in comparison to that of Ezekiel. I’ve been reading through the prophet’s words and have marveled at what he was called to do. God is teaching the Israelites about their sin. And there comes a time for judgment. Ezekiel is told to lay on his side for 390 days (symbolizing the sin of Israel) and then 40 days for the sin of Judah. That would be challenging enough. But it doesn’t stop there.
Ezekiel is then told to store food for his “spiritual challenge” and a specific way to cook. Here’s where an interesting story becomes even more interesting. Eat the food as you would a barley cake; bake it in the sight of the people, using human excrement for fuel. God is making it clear that His name has been defiled. Can you imagine? Food cooked over human waste? Eeeewwww! Of course, Ezekiel will object. But not because you might think.
Then I said, “Not so, Sovereign LORD. I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth.” It seems Zeke is not concerned about anything God has called him to do, with the exception of what cooking fuel he will use. And based upon his argument, God relents and allows the prophet to cook on cow manure instead.
I have never been called to cook over human excrement (or cow manure for that matter). But there have been times God has told me to do something that (at first glance) seems to make no sense. However, when God’s calling is confirmed and I’ve followed his directions, I’ve been blessed with peace.
How about you? Any thoughts?
I’ve been looking at prayer and the blessings of prayer for the last several months. The church where I serve spends anywhere from five to ten minutes every Sunday on prayer. We attempt to recognize blessings and then offer an opportunity for those in attendance to share concerns they’re aware of. The leader then prays to conclude that part of our gathering.
At smaller gatherings e.g. Bible studies, small groups, etc., there are concerns brought up that may never be voiced in a large gathering. There are various reasons for this. More intimate settings allow for other needs to be voiced, and at times, more dialogue about the need seems to come freely. But here’s the thing. When does a prayer concern become gossip? When does a well meaning follower of Christ become guilty of the sin of gossip? When do Christians know of a concern and yet should keep their tongue immobilized?
I’ve got my thoughts. What are yours?
I’ve written on perspective previously (on that other site). However, it’s one of the things that I believe we can quickly forget. For that reason, consider this a therapeutic post for me. I’ve heard people complain about having Attention Deficit Disorder – spiritually. I’m tempted to diagnose myself with the same.
Troubles come and troubles go. Because of the Fall, we have to endure many hardships in life. Add to that our poor choices and the consequences and often times it seems to be more than we can bare. I’ve known people that seem to dissolve under a challenge, while others thrive while facing the same challenge.
The Hebrew people were facing several challenges at the same time: food shortage (at least in their mind), enemies, and opposition from within (cf. Numbers 10-14). There were many opportunities to grow one’s faith. Moses gathered a representative from each of the twelve tribes and charged them with exploring the land God had promised. The twelve spent forty days on their expedition and saw the same things. But the interesting thing is the twelve had two different reports. Their perspectives were different.
The latter part of Numbers 13 records the scouts reporting what they’d seen – “land flowing with milk and honey”, powerful people, and fortified cities. They even brought back a grapevine from the Promised Land, a vine that was so large it took two to carry on a pole. So far, everyone agrees on the report. That is, until verse 30. Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.‘
It seems to me that Caleb remembered God’s promise to give them the land and also remembered God’s faithfulness to His people. In other words, Caleb had taken the challenges before and used them to allow his faith to grow. This new challenge was just another opportunity to become the people God wanted them to be. Perspective: “God said…Let’s go! The LORD is with us.” Cf. Numbers 14:5-9 Caleb’s God seems to be powerful.
On the other hand, ten other scouts, who saw the same things perceived them a bit differently. But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…The land we explored devours those living in it…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’ Remember, same witnesses and different report. Perspective: “We can’t…They’re too big…We’ can’t. We can’t. We can’t.”
If you read a little more of the chapter, you begin to understand the lack of faith among the people. They’re even willing to choose a “leader” and return to bondage. All this after God has provided time and time again. This might be a good example of spiritual ADD. Their idea of God was one of impotence.
When you and I trust in God’s Word, remember his providence and protection, and act upon what we believe, God accomplishes something huge. The point is, God gets involved. As New Testament followers of Christ, we must agree with the Apostle Paul. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? Rom. 8:31
When challenges come your way, do you see like Caleb, Joshua, and Paul? Do you look at the challenge(s) as opportunities? Or do you see them as insurmountable? Are you quick to look for a leader to lead you back into bondage? How big is your God? Remember, all twelve had seen God work. Every one of them had witnessed the things in the Promised Land. And yet, it was all about perspective.
There are good kinds of stress and types of stress that overtake us and cause us harm. First Christian started a series Easter Sunday in an attempt to move from stressed-filled lives to the peace only Christ can give. The series applies to every life. We’re dealing with real stressors – our faith, our jobs, our sex lives, and our future.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew 11:28-29
Rest is a good thing. It’s a promise for each and every one of us. Question is, will we seek it in the right place (or through the one who brings true peace)?
Several years ago, I was touched by Phillip Yancey’s Disappointment With God. I’ve since read the book several times and passed it on to friends and others I thought might benefit from the read. In the work, Yancey attempts to answer huge questions: 1) Is God unfair?; 2) Is he silent; and 3) Is he hidden?
Questioning God is nothing new. After killing his brother Abel, Cain questioned God’s protection. Job questioned God’s presence during times of trial. Moses, Elijah, David, and the apostles also questioned God. These are just some of the many examples we have in God’s Word where the created asks questions of the Creator. I’m sure Christian martyrs also had their doubts from time to time. Surely you and I would have our doubts when we’ve been tied to a stake and the fire is burning the bottom of our feet.
I can remember a time in my life where I questioned God. Why? Why did this have to happen? Why now? This doesn’t make any sense. This isn’t fair. Don’t you know… I’ve read Yancey’s Finding God in Unexpected Places, N.T. Wright’s Evil and the Justice of God, and other works about questioning God.
Consider Paul’s writing to the Church in Colossae. …for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. 1:16 NRSV
If all things were created through Christ and for Christ, what gives me the right to ask why thousands died in Haiti? Why do I have to demand knowledge of tragedies? When things don’t work out like I think they should, what does God owe me? Isn’t it arrogant of the created to demand anything of the Creator?
As a kid, I thought forty year old people were just that – old. If life was a super slide, they had been to the top, pushed off, and were moving rapidly toward THE END. I won’t tell you what I thought of fifty or sixty year olds. For what it’s worth, my opinion has changed drastically. I’ve also heard and even said, “Age is simply a mindset. You’re only as old as you think.” I’ve come to realize that statement is a bit misleading. After all, I can’t do what I could twenty years ago. I’ve tried. And I end up disappointed.
Although I balked at the idea, the Doctor put me on cholesterol medicine. I’ve lost a bit of weight, exercised, and watched my diet the last three months. The bad cholesterol went down. The good cholesterol went up. And although I begged and pleaded to get off of the medicine, the good Doc said, “Keep doin’ what you’re doin’.” Cholesterol issues run in the family. And it’s another reminder of my age (I’m nearing the end of the slide).
Stress is somewhat like cholesterol. There is good stress. There’s also stress that seems to take over life. Good stress allows us to be aware of our surroundings and react appropriately. Bad stress causes me to wring my hands, worry, and feel I’ve lost control (and in my case eat, eat, and then eat). The trick is to keep the numbers within an ideal range. Whether it’s cholesterol or stress, they both include the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Jesus once declared, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV
It’s when I attempt to carry my own yoke that I fail. My flesh and bones are frail. I need rest. And God knows what I need and is willing to provide. I serve the One who gives rest. He’s willing to take my struggles upon Himself.
Beginning Easter Sunday (April 4), we’ll begin talking about resting in God’s promise. Whether it’s God’s will for my life, my finances, my job, my faith, or even my sex life, God is willing to provide rest. God is going to do great things this series. And it all begins on Resurrection Sunday. I hope you’ll join us!
How do you handle stress? Is it something you attempt to control or are you quick about giving it to God?