God’s Will in a Short Reminder

Most of the time, I’m not confused about God’s will for me. I don’t fret over what I”m supposed to be doing and how God’s going to use me. If I need to know about those things, I can go to his Word and find out. I can memorize scripture to help me remember those things as I go about my day. His instructions are explained in simple terms and usually take the form of simple acts.

As I become more familiar with God’s will for me, I learn that there isn’t anything mentioned that I cannot do, but often there are things I balk at doing. Having scripture like the one above helps to remind me to keep it simple.

Rejoice. Pray in all circumstances. Give thanks. Put those three together and they spell Worship.

Be a blessing to someone today.

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A Peace That Transcends Everything

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7; emphasis mine).

Truthfully, the current patterns of the world are not worse than ever. Hard to believe, but it’s true.

We are in no more danger sitting at home in our living rooms than the ancients were. There has always been war. We have always seen unrest in families. Children have always, unfortunately, been neglected or abused. Economies crash. People betray us. Loved ones die.

Sin took its toll on Earth and we have never been the same. At one time, it got so bad that God flooded the earth and saved only one family.

Believe me, this is not meant to be a gloomy article or a prophecy about what God has in mind for us if we don’t obey. Today I merely point these things out because they are the reality we have always lived in.

However, for those who trust God in everything, we have hope. We also have peace because we know that, no matter how things look right now, keeping an eternal perspective presents the reality our Lord showed us.

Are you struggling today with unrest in your family? Is someone sick or have a chronic illness? Does your financial situation look sick as well? Is a loved one fighting to defend freedom in a foreign country and you wait while they come home? Are you grieving?

Whatever the situation, God will, if you ask, give you wisdom, strength to endure, and the knowledge you need to come through your struggle. You can be at peace when you understand how faithful he is.

God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Even though he sends the rains, he has compassion on those who suffer. Because God has shown me mercy and because I finally acknowledge that, I can have compassion on people who, a few years ago, I would have shown indignation. I might have even been angry with them without knowing their individual circumstances. It’s a humbling thing for God to show me how arrogant I can be.

Our struggles are temporary like everything else in the world. To keep this in mind also helps to endure and press on. Today, know that I’m praying for you. I don’t know your struggles, but God does, and he’s there for you when you call on him.

Heavenly Father, please help those reading this to know the peace which passes all understanding. Not a peace as the world gives through temporary things, but the peace which you give. Your love for us means you are faithful to provide, to still our hearts, to heal. Thank you for giving your Son, Jesus, who is our Savior and Friend. Amen.

 

Praying For “Them”

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).

“Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18).

No matter how difficult it may seem to pray for someone who hurts us, it’s always the right thing to do.

With Graciousness and Kindness Toward All

Slowly, my mind is changing about judgement calls on people based on their looks, their words and actions, or their attitudes. For a long time I’ve believed it was okay to take notice and immediately place someone in a category. The categories were, of course, arbitrary, based on personal preferences, what I’d been taught was ‘correct,’ and a solid belief that I was probably always right.

What Changed? The Lord has shown me more of Himself. I see him interact with a variety of people in Bible stories and He never seems to judge the way I do. His judgements are true. Whether it’s a Samaritan woman sitting alone at a well, a group of Pharisees verbally abusing Him, a man sitting in a booth cheating his fellow Jews on their taxes, or a Centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant––the Lord sees what’s in their hearts.

I can’t see into hearts.

The best I can do, when I watch someone ‘acting out,’ as I usually describe it, is to pray for that person to find a better way of expressing themselves. Perhaps I will pray for them to find the Light of Jesus. Perhaps the person is already someone who claims to have a relationship with Him; yet they ‘act out.’

That could be me on any given day.

God’s word gives instructions for when we discover what we name as their wrongdoing.

“Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own?  Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother” (Matthew 7:1-5)

The Apostle Paul makes another distinction.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12).

In other words, how can we expect anyone who has not seen the Light, to behave as if they have.

Again…That could be me on any given day.

Nevertheless, as disciples of Jesus, we are given warnings and instructions about heeding the teachings and the fruit of those inside the Church.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).

Ultimately, I can never know the motives of one’s heart. Only Jesus knows that. Since life experiences, ill health, daily stress, and any number of things can make me ‘act out’ even when I know it’s inappropriate, I long for the grace of Jesus.

And with the help of the Holy Spirit, I could offer that grace to others as well. To extend graciousness and kindness toward all. To pray for them as I would hope they would pray for me.

Acting on Affirmations

next-life-chapter-cropRead this quote all day until you have it memorized. Repeat it to your friends any chance you get. Type “amen” in the comments because you believe it’s true. Print it out and post it on your fridge. Do all those things if you want. But…

I’ve discovered if we don’t first deal with whatever is in the former chapters of our lives and get over what’s hurting us (resentment, regrets, open wounds, and unforgiveness for example), real and meaningful progress in life doesn’t occur.

Affirmations are okay. But an affirmation is only something positive we tell ourselves which doesn’t become real in our lives until we’ve acted on it. Take for example one I found on a list for Christians:

“I see others as God’s gift to me.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I believe this so-called affirmation is true. But if, in my daily walk-about, I don’t treat everyone as the gift I believe they are, my words are hollow.

God’s promises are the same. He offers so much to us that we don’t have to work for. However, even though many of those promises are a faith matter, even the most recognizable work in our lives may be accompanied by His “Now, go.”

Read about a man blind from birth in John 9:1-34. He wasn’t healed simply because Jesus put mud on his eyes. Jesus put the mud there; He did His part. Then Jesus told the man to go wash his eyes in a pool and he’d be healed. When the man acted on Jesus’s instructions, he went home with the gift of eyesight.

A friend of mine used to say, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw the worms into their nests.” Quite often, we mustn’t be content to sit and wait for God to simply come through with our need. On the contrary, we’ll discover that there’s work for us to do which coincides with the work He’s already doing for us.

Go ahead and read your “last chapter.” Then ask God how He’d like you to deal with it. I’m guessing that for you, as it was for me, He’s expecting you to do something. Listen with humility to what He’s saying to you.

Then, “Go.”

And be a blessing to someone today.

God Asks Questions

Occasionally, I ask God a question. It’s not a case of questioning God, which is entirely different. Sometimes I just feel the need to have a conversation in which he makes things clearer. I don’t always understand.

For instance, I sometimes ask, “What’s going on here, Lord?” Hoping he’ll give me insight to a situation or how another person is responding, I check in with him first. Another one I ask is “Will you please direct me here, Lord? I’m not sure which way to go.”

These, obviously, aren’t hard questions for God. He can answer any question. When he wants to. The thing I’ve learned about asking God a question is sometimes he answers in a way I wasn’t expecting. God’s answer to my question might be that I get another situation. When asking for direction, he more often than not leads me to some place I never even considered. Or someplace I thought of but didn’t want to go.man in woods praying

God is in the habit of asking me questions as well. In fact, I get more questions from God than he gets from me.  To inspire me toward further spiritual maturity and to being conformed to the image of his Son, the questions are much harder for me than my questions are for him.

Obviously.

Some time ago, God asked me about my motivations and wanted me to be clear on something. Turnabout is fair play with him, for sure. This is what he asked me:

“What is the difference between your devotion to Jesus and devotion to your idea of what Jesus wants?”

This question is one I return to repeatedly. Because I tend to think I know what God wants, my actions will reflect that. If I don’t stop and consider first my relationship with Jesus and remember what his mission is, I create my own mission.

Heavenly Father, I’m so grateful that you’re always working and that your Son is as well. The questions you ask are sometimes difficult for me because I so often think I know the way you work and how you want to work in the world. Please keep reminding me that you are the one in charge, even when I don’t understand what’s going on. You’re the perfect parent and I trust you to raise me as a good Father would. For your glory, Amen.

A Three-Word Prayer for Serenity

The graphic below shows a prayer, commonly referred to as the “Serenity Prayer,”* attributed to Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr and reportedly written in 1926. Niebuhr was a Lutheran pastor and theologian.

After knowing only the first four lines of the prayer, which I learned in 1984, it wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the entire thing. Even though at the time I hadn’t made a decision to follow Christ, the words made sense. Years after that, I was reciting the whole prayer from memory at a weekly small group.

Today, I believe the three most important words of this prayer aren’t, as some people choose to see them, acceptance, courage and wisdom. They are

“God, I surrender”

For me, surrendering to God creates a serenity and peace I can’t otherwise know.

SerenityPrayer with gull

*Usually Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is quoted using only the first four lines shown here.

A Prayer For Healing

Having illness in our lives can lead to discouragement. Whether it’s a common cold keeping us from being fully productive, a more lengthy and serious illness, or recovery from surgery, we can take our requests for healing and wholeness to God. His love and power work according to his will. Seek him and find him.

 

Dear God,prayer word

I feel broken and I seem to make this illness a definition of myself.

I know it’s not. I know there’s a whole person here-in body, mind and spirit.

But sometimes it seems my mind and body betray me, so wholeness isn’t how I feel.

I know you understand; this pain and anguish.

I know you are the Power that can make me whole.

Because you are truth. You are love. You are miracles.

I’m willing to let go now and release this condition to you.

I believe your will for me most of all is acceptance.

I accept your love. I accept your will and any outcome.

I accept your deliverance, which will help me to see that I am me, not my illness.

Amen

The Intruders

Prayer and meditation get to be a problem for me. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is. Sure, I can pray for a while and enjoy the company of the Lord some days with absolutely no problem. Then there are times when the noise in my brain is like the sound of scanning radio stations:

“Heavenly Father, thank you for being in my life today. You are worthy of my worship and I praise you for your faithfulness and love. Lord, I wish that Josie would stop gossiping about people. She can be so mean. Oh, wait, I do it too. Sorry. And by the way, thank you for forgiving my sin of gossiping. “Squirrel!” Lord, when I sit down to the computer to write today, please help me to write only what is on Your mind so that I can be an encouragement to others and not be a whiner.”

Then I whine.

Instead of guests in the temple of my body as I go to God in prayer, these rabbit trails are more like intruders. Do you see the problem I have? I’d like to be a great example and be one of those people who can pray for extended periods and nothing gets in the way. At this point in my walk with God, however, I’m just not.

As I said, I do have times when I enjoy a lengthy period of prayer. Occasions happen when I actually lose track of time in the morning and nearly make myself late for appointments. But as someone with the attention span of a spider monkey, I want to do this more often. Well, not the ‘late’ part.

Maybe you can relate and would like to do it too.

Reading and studying scripture is no problem for me; I eat it right up. And I’ve noticed that when Paul wrote his epistles, he would even include prayers in them. The man thought of everything. I would never think to write out a prayer for someone in a letter. But how blessed those people must have felt when they read them. They were also the kind of prayers with some meat to them because most of the time he prayed for their spiritual maturity or to know Christ more.

ex cu woman prayingIt’s been said that the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one. Well, here I am—God and everyone can know right here. (Okay, God already knew.) I’m thinking the solution must be somewhere in his Word.

Given my own way, I tend to complicate things. However, God’s ideas are usually simple ones. So what, do I ask, does he have to say to me about improving this area of my life? (Even Christ’s disciples implored him, “Teach us to pray.”)

What occurs to me first is what most people refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. The model prayer Jesus gave his disciples would be better called This Particular Disciple’s Prayer.

First, I worship and acknowledge the Lord for who he is. Next, I pray that his will—not mine—is done in all things. (By the way, if I truly want to pray God’s will, acknowledging who he is right off is pretty important. Honest worship takes the focus off me.) Then, I pray for only today’s needs because “tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34) Acknowledging his forgiveness to me and praying for the willingness to forgive others as I’m forgiven is what I take up next with God. Then, because evil is everywhere, I pray to be delivered from temptation.

Some folks might ask, “What about praying for others’ needs and what about this or that or that other thing?” Good call. I agree that we are to stand strong; put on our armor. Pray for others—believers and unbelievers alike. Those we love. Our enemies as well. That’s scriptural too.

I’m just saying that this simple model Christ offers is a great start for someone like me, who sometimes can’t string two coherent thoughts together even when I’m NOT praying. And though I’m admitting my general frustration, I also know that the words don’t matter as much as the fellowship we have with our heavenly Father. (If you’re not the spider monkey type, maybe you don’t relate to this at all. But we all have distractions in our lives and I think “intruders” happen more often than we like to admit.)

So I’m hoping that in this writing effort, I was maybe a little bit encouraging. I hope I said something God might offer as a solution to a problem. If not, I pray to do better next time. And, hey, while I’m at it…

Lord, you know all things. You know me better than I know myself. I am a scatterbrain sometimes. When I sit down to enjoy prayer time with you and meet you to meditate on your word, help me to focus on only our time together. Help me to clear the clutter from my mind and heart as I would clear the clutter from my home. Please also help all those who come to you today to lean in to you and trust you. Allow them to know that you hear their prayers. Remind us that your Spirit speaks for us when we don’t know how to pray and that your Son is always interceding on our behalf. Thank you for your mercy and love. In Christ’s name, amen.