Monday, October 31, 2011

God Is Good...All the Time!

(Speaking of Jesus) who, in the days of His flesh,
when He had offered up prayers and supplications,
with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death,
and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son,
yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
Hebrews 5:6-7

“God answered my prayer for (insert your prayer).  He is so good!”

We often hear people say this, and it’s true, God is good and faithful to answer our prayers.  But what about when He answers them with a “no”?  Or even worse, the dreaded “wait”? 

Do we say things like, “God didn't let me get that house!" or "God hasn't brought me a husband or wife!" or "God didn't let me get that job I wanted!" or "God didn't heal me or my loved one!  He is so good!”  Not usually.

Are we sending ourselves, and each other, a subtle message that God is not good when He doesn’t answer our prayers in the way and time we wanted?

Hebrews tells us that even Jesus prayed loudly and with tears to be saved from death.  He knew He had to face this death, but His humanness recoiled from the horror of it. 

Jesus, God’s beloved Son, knelt in the garden, alone, sweating drops of blood, pleading to His Father to take the cup of suffering and death from Him. 

And the Father heard His prayer.  But His answer was no. 

God had a good reason for telling His Son no.  He had a greater purpose than keeping His Son from seeing death.  He wanted to keep all of us from a spiritual death. 

The death of One for the life of many.  And God is glorified daily. 

And it says that Jesus learned obedience by what He suffered.  Jesus prayed and then rested in His Father’s wisdom to answer the prayer according to His good and perfect will. 

And in saying no, God was so good. 

When we pray to the Father, through Jesus Christ, with an attitude of godly fear--a reverence or respect—we can know our prayers have been heard.  And then we rest in God’s wisdom to answer according to His good and perfect will. 

Through the “no’s” and the “waits” we can have assurance that we are being moved in the direction of God’s plan for our lives.  And as we rest in His wisdom, we learn obedience through the things we suffer.  We learn that God has a greater purpose to accomplish than He could if He answered yes to every prayer.  We learn that it is by God’s grace and mercy that He sometimes answers with a no or a wait.

So if our prayers aren’t answered in the way or the time we want, we can still say, boldly and with confidence, He is so good!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Place for Prayer Requests

Hello Friends,
Prayer is where we find victory in every circumstance we face. It is there we meet with the Lord and find strength, courage, wisdom and discernment. 

I'd be delighted to join you in prayer. Just leave a comment or email me.  Details aren't necessary if you don't wish to leave them.  Jesus knows. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is
admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:6-8


Monday, October 24, 2011

Riding Bicycles and Other Wild Adventures

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:9-10

I must’ve been no older than five or six.  I held onto the handlebars of my little two-wheeler for dear life, glancing back at my dad as he pushed me down the center of our cul-de-sac.  I was wobbly and unsure.

Sure enough, after a few practice runs, I looked back and saw my dad standing there where we had started with a proud grin on his face.  It was a scary and thrilling moment.  I rode on for a bit and then turned around and peddled back to him.   

Now I am grown up and, inevitably, the time came that I didn’t need my dad anymore.  But now I have my heavenly Father and I will never outgrow my need for Him.  He guides me and never lets go.
Those first risks I took on a child’s bike were preparation for the more formidable adventures I have faced since.  Now, instead of facing a scraped knee, the Lord and I face wild waves in a darkened sea, swinging rickety bridges, and flames leaping from the mouths of volcanoes. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Funny how sometimes I’ll get through one of these adventures (we’ll just agree to call them that) and keep on going, forgetting to look back to see where my Father is headed, or if He’s still standing back there, waiting for me. 

I can put my brain on auto-pilot in the morning, assuming all is status quo, not realizing I’m headed straight into a tornado. 

I need to go back and grab my Father’s hand again.  I can’t go through these adventures without Him and survive.  Not well, anyway.  There’s a lot He wants to teach me along the way, like how to love and forgive when I’m staring into the jaws of a crocodile, or how to trust and even have joy when I'm climbing a vertical rock. 

And one fine day, I’ll sit down with my earthly dad and tell him about all the adventures the Lord and I had and what I learned.  And I’ll thank him for trusting me with my first push. 

Q: What great adventure are you and Lord having and what is He teaching you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lessons From a Rosebush...or, Is It Pruning Season Again?

I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.
And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken to you.
John 15:1-3

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t usually what I picture when I think of a rosebush.  Not many stoop to admire bare canes studded only with thorns.  

But the caretaker of this rosebush appreciates the work he has done in order to sculpt a living, growing masterpiece.  He knows that a lack of pruning will create a spindly, weak plant.

He has a vision for the beautiful and useful plant it will be when the pruning is over, colorful buds begin to re-appear and the powerful fragrance it gives will attract birds, bees and us when it is once again in full bloom.
The funny thing about pruning a rosebush is that it’s done just when the plant seems to be at its most beautiful--full of large, boldly-colored, intricate blooms.   The husbandman, in his wisdom, decides when and how much to prune each plant and for what reasons according to its individual needs.  Pruning a plant too early or too late can have devastating effects. 

Like the regal rosebush, we who are the children of the King find ourselves in varying stages of growth.  Some are newly planted and some are full of energy and ready to begin blooming. 

Some are full of growth and busy being pollinated by birds and bees or being picked by a child to give to his mother.  Some are being carried down the aisle by a bride and others are being used as a perfume or a healing medicine.  Some inspire song lyrics (or part of a band’s name), and some are being showcased in paintings and admired by many. 

And some have been pruned and lie dormant.

Pruning for the rosebush is as easy as sitting still.  Pruning for us can be a little more painful.  Sometimes it can be so painful we aren’t sure we’ll survive it. 

Pruning can come in the form of trials through financial loss, relationship struggles, in sickness, the death of a loved one or removal from a ministry.  It can come through sacrifice like a move across the country or world. 

All these can cut into our flesh and leave gaping wounds.  But the Caregiver of our souls binds up our wounds with His Word, applies the Son and fresh water through His Holy Spirit.  And when we are filled up and the time is right, we will begin to bloom again. 

We can’t see all the reasons why pruning comes at the time it does and why we sometimes have to be cut back so far.  But God knows the reasons.
Some Reasons to Prune Rosebushes and Us

1. To remove old, dead and damaged wood;

            Sometimes a part of our lives may be over, or we may have allowed some bad attitudes, like unforgiveness, to creep in and damage our faith, and they need to be cut away to allow for new and exciting things to begin growing.

2. To shape the plant;

            God shapes us as we mature so that we grow up in all areas and no part of us is lacking.

3. To remove canes that are growing in the wrong direction;

            Sometimes we may pick up some wrong thinking about who God is.  We learn to put away these false ideas about Him as He reveals who He really is so that we can know, love and worship the One, True God.

4. To encourage vigorous blooming and new, healthy shoots;

            Sometimes we feel like we’re cut down in the prime of our service to the Lord.  But God knows that we will be even more useful and more capable when we identify with the Lord in His suffering and so adopt His mind, His humility, and His heart toward people.  God changes our attitudes so that we are even more productive than before.

Whatever the individual reasons for our pruning, it is all meant to clean us up.  I find it interesting that in the verses in John above, the word for prune has the same meaning as the word for clean in the last verse.  What seems to us to be meaningless pain and suffering is really the Lord cleansing and preparing us during a time when we are still and listening intently to Him as we read His Word.  He grooms us so that we will reflect His beauty and magnify His Name. 

Wherever we are in our growth, we will soon find ourselves in another season, many times one we didn’t expect.  But God has a vision for you and me.  He knows each of our needs and how best to accomplish His plans. 

As we realize more and more that there is indeed a master plan, we can grow to appreciate the beauty of every stage of growth, offering comfort to others, being patient with ourselves and trusting in God's loving and wise hand.    

Monday, October 10, 2011

Waiting in the Dark

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.
Psalm 130:5

We’ve recently noticed how much our dog is losing his eyesight, especially when he comes in from lying out on the back patio in the sun.  Jake loves surveying his own little personal Ponderosa.  But when he comes in the house he’ll walk right into a pillow that’s been left on the floor or into a piece of furniture.  Or he’ll come in and just stand there, looking lost, as if he’s waiting for his eyes to adjust to the indoor light again. 

I let him in after his sunbath today and he did just that--stood there looking dazed, confused and thoroughly lost, not knowing which way to go.  There was nothing I could do but I wanted him to feel safe and not so alone.  So I sat down with him, pet him reassuringly and asked him, in a voice I reserve just for cute little babies and Jake, if he wanted me to wait with him until he could see again. And I did.  We sat there together, waiting, until his vision returned.

That is what the Lord does for us.  

There are times when the trials of our lives make us feel like everything around us is dark and we don’t know where our next steps should be.  What we could see the day before, those things that used to make sense, no longer make sense.  A fog descends around all logic and no answers come.  Even God may be silent.  And all there is to do is wait. 

Waiting seems to be the hardest thing to do.  The time ticks by like dog years and if the wait is long enough it can seem almost unbearable.  The pressure to do something, anything, can become overwhelming as our logic wants to take over. But waiting does not imply doing nothing.  When we wait on the Lord we are hoping, we are trusting, and we are growing as we learn to put all our faith in our Lord and in Him alone.   

So when darkness comes we wait for God to show us the way again--where to plant our next steps, which road to take, which decisions to make.  We wait for Him to give us insight into what to do next.

And while we wait, God sits with us.  He sits patiently by our side, loving us and calming our fears until we can see again.  He waits with us until the path is ready to be revealed, until the way has been cleared, until the events are lined up, until the other person is ready, until…

And when the time is just right, the fog is lifted, the light invades the darkness, and He gives us the vision for the thing He has prepared for and known about all along.  Some answers may come in this life, and some, not until the next.  But they will come.  And until then, He is there.  And since we always need sight for something new, He is always with us.  So take His hand and wait with Him until you can see again. 

Do you wait patiently for God to show you what to do next or do you have a tendency to try to run ahead in the dark?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Nails in the Long and Winding Road

“Then he {Jesus} said to them all:
‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily
and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for me will save it.’”
(Luke 9:23-24 NIV)

I started writing about my long and winding road back in March of 2009.  And like the song, it’s been a wild and windy night.  And like all winding roads, the turns in the path have kept me from seeing the end of it.  Where was I going?  What was this road leading me to?  I just kept walking, or standing, or crouching in a bend somewhere behind a rock to cry for a little bit.
God always got me up and walking again, but to where I didn’t know.  Oh, I know all roads for the believer lead to God Himself.  Though He’s promised to be on the road with me, there’s always a bigger revelation of who He is and of who I am in Him along the way.
But I’m beginning to catch a glimpse of what lies at the end of that road, and I don’t necessarily like it.  It’s fuzzy at first, but as time goes on, something starts to come into view.  It’s tall, it’s crude and it’s ugly.  It’s a cross.  It’s my cross. 

No one stands there to force me onto it.  But God is there to help me up, to be my strength as I crucify myself.  The nails are what I’ve been picking up along the way.  Every dream demolished is a nail.  Every time I’ve been misunderstood, every new body part that decides to start screaming with pain, every sleepless night, every rejection has been a nail, an opportunity to kill the flesh.

And I can throw those nails across the valley and run off the path, away from the cross, which would be the easiest thing to do.  I can hold onto my so-called right to be understood, or to have my dream or what have you.  That doesn’t mean I would get them, it just means I’d get resentful and bitter that I didn’t have them, because they are my rights.  Right?

Or I can give up my rights, climb up on the cross, with God beside me, and use those nails to die to myself.
I give up my right to be understood, or even heard…   Wham!

I give up my right to have my prayers answered in my way, in my time…   Wham!

I give up my dreams…  Wham! 

I give up my right to ever, ever, ever sleep through the night again…   Wham! 

I give up my right to be pain free…   Wham!

I give up my life…    

That’s what I want to do.  And if I do, if I get up on that cross and die, God promises to raise me to a life that is more full of life than I had before because then He can fill me up.  I die, He lives. And when He lives in and through me, all His dreams for me can be realized. 

And tomorrow I’ll have to get up and do it all over again. 

But someday, some bright day, the long, long night will be over, all the dying will be done, and all that’ll be left to do is live forever. 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20