I'm Resting on His Laurels
Resting on His Laurels (Hebrews 4)
Daily Bread with a Bit of Jam
Today was mowing day. Normally I pop in my MP3 player to mow. However, it wasn't as charged as it needed to be so I found myself pondering what I had read yesterday and was conversing with the Holy Spirit as I worked.
I was considering the story of the woman with the issue of blood who touched the hem of Jesus' garment and received healing. The Holy Spirit began to call my attention to the woman. Scripture says that she was saying to herself "if I only touch His cloak, I will get well." The object of her faith was not the cloak of Jesus. It was HIM and the power that she believed He possessed. He did not disappoint her.
Her faith was not in a religious system. It was not a combination of medicine and religion. It was not in some kind of symbolism or religious tradition. She didn't worship His cloak! She had heard about Jesus! She had learned that HE had the power to heal and that He was so powerful that all she needed to do was to connect to anything that was connected to Him and she would be healed. Wow! Do I see Jesus that way? Do I really believe that HE can do anything?
The Holy Spirit began to challenge me to consider who or what my faith is in. Modern religion tells us that if WE do this or that, God will answer. If we pray more, if we speak in tongues more, if we fast, or if we find a scripture and repeat it to ourselves a million times a day, then God will hear and answer our prayer. Did you notice what pronoun stands out there? WE! It's not WE! It's HIM! Anything WE do is simply works if the object of our faith is not HIM! HE is our healing. HE is everything that we need. It is HIS work on Calvary that gives us access to all the spiritual blessings of scripture, including salvation and healing. It has never and will never depend on us! We cannot earn blessings by doing religious activities or even by becoming "more spiritual." All it takes is faith in what HE accomplished by dying on the cross. Boy, does that ever relieve the pressure of thinking that there is something that we have to do outside of having simple faith and trust in the love of God and the finished work of Jesus. That's why He said "IT IS FINISHED!" It is! It sounds too simple. But it is just that simple, yet it seems a hard thing for humans to grasp because it not only removes us from any responsibility or control but it also puts us in the humble position of being needy and without any resources of our own. We can't "help" the Lord answer our prayers. But we do have to fight sometimes to believe. We rely completely on Jesus to save us, but after that, we stop relying on Him for our sanctification and enter into the realm of religious works. You see, there are religious works for us to do according to the book of Peter, but any sanctifying work IN us is solely accomplished through faith by the Holy Spirit. We cannot change ourselves, we cannot change our hearts, even after we are saved but we sure do give it the old college try. It will always end in failure. Only Christ, through the Holy Spirit can change the heart of man.
Our only fight is to fight the fight of faith, that is to keep Jesus as the only object of our faith. To put our trust in God to do what He said He would do and to believe that what Jesus did makes it all possible. This, my friends, is why Jesus should be the most precious thing to us. Not only did we need Him for salvation, but we need Him every single day for our sanctification too. The Holy Spirit does nothing in our lives unless our faith is in the one who already accomplished it for us. Christ conquered the sin nature so that it no longer has to reign in us, as it did before salvation. Now the Holy Spirit can work it in us. We only need to allow Him access which only comes through faith in Christ and Him crucified.
That is a challenging thing in today's modern church. There is so much religion and religious activity, none of which changes anything for us on a personal level. Only when we are looking unto Jesus, the author AND THE FINISHER of our faith can we live a life that glorifies God and guarantees us victory!
A friend gave me a bread recipe. She titled it "Charlie's Everyday Bread." It was a simple recipe, a bread without fanfare or pomp, suitable for supper or morning toast. It wasn't loaded with seeds or grains, not eye-catching like rye/pumpernickel swirl, and not delectable like cinnamon raisin. Yet, its simplicity made it useful in so many ways.
Ignore the Pecking Crows
I was outside today and saw a hawk flying in the sky. Three crows were dive bombing him, disturbing his flight, causing him to weave and bob to avoid their vicious attacks. He endured their harassments for a short time but then quickly began to circle, spiraling upward as he went until he reached an altitude so high that the crows refused to go there. There he soared and soared, freely gliding, dipping and rising. It looked musical as if the wind through his wings was producing a song of freedom, of deliverance, and peace.
This scenario is not unfamiliar to the child of God. The devil comes to mock, accuse, and lie about the child of God. He is like a crow, pecking, trying to keep us grounded to get hung up in the muck and mire of life.
It’s then we remember that Christ Himself now causes us to rise above the little irritants, yes I said little irritants of life, because the devil has been defeated by the work of Christ on the cross and has put the enemy under our feet! His attacks are futile, at best. Praise God!
So we can sing with the Israelites, “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted: The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.” Ex 15:1 And He has “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ep 2:6 “Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Col 3:1
Second Samuel 22:49 tells us that God ”will also bring me out from my enemies; You also raise me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent person.” So as the devil attacks, God causes us to rise above and causes us to soar with eagle’s wings.
So SOAR, child of God. Don’t look at your enemies or those who are coming against you. Look up at the one who is seated on the right hand of Almighty God and RISE. RISE up to be seated with Him! He is your vindication, your victory and your very great reward!
Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
After nearly 30 years at the same church, we are church hunting. To make things more difficult, we pastored the church that we left, of course, so finding a church has proven be a little more tricky, so we have been traveling around quite a bit to different churches, even trying different denominations. I've been surprised by what I'm hearing.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:7-11
This passage is my next stop on my red-letter journey (just reading the words of Jesus). I had committed to read only scripture and nothing else except my concordance. I do this several times a year. I love other’s words but I love The Word the most! Some days, I just hug it to my chest and cry because it’s life to me. The first time I did this was when I was pregnant with my 2nd child.
I was not able to have children. I was miraculously healed as I sat by myself with the Word in my living room. (That’s a story for another day.) After my first child was born, I had two miscarriages and I have to admit that it threw me for a loop. Didn’t God fix my body? Why was I having miscarriages? Did He renege on His promise? Did He change His mind? Did He change?
A few years later, I sat down to read my Bible. I had recently finished a book about generational curses and had seen some things in it that spoke to me which I had committed to prayer. When I opened my Bible, a promise calendar I had received in the mail fell out so I decided to read the promise for that day. It was from 2 Samuel 22:20-22.
“He also brought me forth into a broad place;
He rescued me, because He delighted in me.
“The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.
“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not acted wickedly against my God.
At that moment, it really didn’t mean anything to me. Later that day, I went to the doctor because I had been feeling flu-ish for a while. I was completely shocked when the doctor told me I was pregnant. Now normally, I would have been afraid because of the previous two pregnancies but instead, I felt a sweet peace and that verse echoed through my mind and I felt sure that God was promising me this child.
At about 8 weeks, I started to spot as I had the previous two pregnancies and the doctor informed me that my placenta was detaching and there was nothing they could do. I saw it on the sonogram. If it continued, I would lose the baby. Again, that verse echoed through my mind and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
At about 14 weeks, we traveled to Illinois to attend a Campus Pastor’s retreat. The second day there, I started to bleed heavily and passed a clot the size of a small saucer. My husband rushed me to the nearest medical center. They informed me that I was having a miscarriage, and transferrered me to the nearest hospital about 30 miles away. I refused to let the ambulance leave until my husband retrieved my Bible from the car where I had left it when we arrived at the emergency room. All the way to the hospital, I hugged 2 Samuel 22 to my chest and reminded God of what He had said to me. At the hospital, I received the same diagnosis from the gynecologist who saw me. There was no heartbeat and too much blood. Then something just rose up in me and I sat up on the bed, looked that doctor right in the eye, stuck my finger in his face and said, “I don’t care what you say. God promised me this baby and I’m having it when it’s due!” And then I laid back down. Well the doctor didn’t quite know what to think (and frankly, neither did I because I didn’t see that coming at all! It just came out!) He ordered an internal sonogram to take a look and prove to me that he was right in his diagnosis before committing me to the nearest mental facility. He came to my room afterwards with a puzzled look on his face. “You did not lose the baby. It’s just a really active one. It’s literally bouncing off the walls, going from side to side. That is why we couldn’t find a heartbeat. Furthermore, your placenta is perfectly attached and there is no scar tissue or any signs of bleeding. I really don’t understand this.” Needless to say, my second daughter was the only one of my four children that was born on her due date just as I had said and just as God had promised. When she was born, I sent a birth announcement and a letter with the plan of salvation to the doctor.
Not every story turns out this well though, does it? Not all of my stories have. And if you’re like me, you might ask the Lord “Why?” It seems that there is a disconnect somewhere because this scripture and many others clearly promise that if you ask, seek and knock, believe, and ask according to His will, you will receive what you’re asking, seeking and knocking for. So what is missing? Did something get missed in the translation?
This is where the rubber hits the road in the Christian life, isn’t it? When things happen that seem to us contrary to what the Word says and we have no explanation. When we pray and pray for something good and it doesn’t come to pass. Well meaning people might just tell us that God is sovereign, everything happens for a reason and He knows best, and just to trust Him. That sounds so noble and there is some truth in that, but after so many times of repeating this mantra, a subtle distrust, an underlying suspicion of God will develop. The scripture above tells me that I should be delighted when God answers my prayers but I shouldn’t be surprised. I believe God really meant what He said in the A-S-K guarantee and is just looking to show Himself strong, to show off a little, just for me. He’s looking to delight me, as a good father does.
And here lies the dilemma. Sometimes what God says doesn’t happen for me. It might happen for others, but sometimes it doesn’t happen for me. So instead of just letting it go and setting myself up for it to happen again, I want to know why. Obviously, the problem lies with me. I want to know why because I believe that God meant what He said and that He is perfectly capable and wanting to prove Himself to me, and His Word trustworthy.
To glibbly say that God is sovereign just doesn’t cut it for me. If God’s sovereignty means that God is going to do what God is going to do, then what is the purpose of prayer? Why is there so much instruction in the Word concerning prayer if our prayers are not going to make a difference? Sometimes our prayer experiences make God look more schizophrenic than like the good father mentioned in the passage above. The distrust that builds causes us to neglect prayer or to quit praying altogether. Except when we’re in church. Or someone asks us to pray. Or we are desperate. Oh, we would never admit it out loud. It sounds too blasphemous. We just let life bowl us over instead of causing us to ask hard questions in search of the truth. And God gets lost or mis-represented in the shuffle.
Asking, seeking and knocking prayer is not some form of spiritual exercise to keep us busy. It’s not just some religious thing that we do because God tells us to. And it certainly was never meant to be an exercise in taking a shot in the dark! He has purpose in it and there is power in it, if we do it His way!
God does not hear every prayer. Uh oh, I think I probably just kicked someone’s sacred cow. But it’s true. If our hearts are not right before God and others, He will not hear our prayers. If we are not born again, if we have unforgiveness towards someone, if we are mistreating others, God will not hear or listen to our prayers. This is step one. If this describes you, stop right here and make it right, whatever it is or your prayers will not be heard or answered by God.
Step 2: Remember Honi? Remember how he was criticized for putting a demand on God? Remember how God answered and even adjusted His answer to meet Honi’s demands? Could it be that Honi was not being a spoiled brat but was actually acting in great faith? Isn’t it faith that moves the heart and hand of God? Jesus couldn’t resist faith. He never denied a faith-filled request-not once. What is faith? What does it look like in prayer? Is it simply an acknowledgement that God exists or does it go much deeper than that? How are faith and prayer related? Could it be that prayer takes faith and faith puts a demand on God? Could it be that prayer is more than just asking God for something, but actually expecting that because He is good and keeps His Word that He will give us what we asked for?
We may never understand everything about how prayer works in the Kingdom of God until we are living in the age to come. Still, there is plenty that the Bible says can happen, should happen, and that happened in past history that is not happening in my life. If God is no respector of persons, then that tells me that it's possible in my life as well. It seems to me that there is alot of prayer going on in the world and very little happening that we can see. I don't believe that prayer was meant solely to be an exercise in waiting, or patience, or blind trust. I think prayer is for the purpose of seeing results, of seeing God's Kingdom on earth as it was intended when Christ brought it here. This is what turns the head of the skeptical, unbelieving sinner.
Now I know that by now, your religious alarm bells may be going off! Oh no! Not that name it-claim it, blab it-grab it faith stuff! But just hang with me! If we want to have God's power in prayer, then we better understand God’s rules of prayer. We had better understand what scripture really says about prayer. Try reading the red letters and doing them! Go ahead! Experiment. Even if it makes you step out of your comfort zone! (Swimming upstream is never easy!) Wrestle with the parts that are hard or are not your experience. Be willing to take responsibility when the fault lies with you and make adjustments. If these red letters are not a reality, ask God why? Don’t we want to have all that Jesus bled and died for us to have? Don’t we want to live in the power and blessing of the Kingdom of God that was ushered in with the coming of Christ? I don’t want one drop of His precious blood to be wasted on my ignorance. I don't want the Holy Spirit to be inactive in my prayer life. If there is power available for me to live and see God’s power in my life and the lives of others, I want it! Don't you?
Step 3: Faith-our part in the prayer process. This is our next stop on this red-letter journey.
Below: My little miracle baby today!
I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately. As I thought about the account of Moses and the children of Israel in the desert, I pondered how the Israelites, having just been delivered from the oppression of Egypt, having just come through the Red Sea on dry land, and after spending 3 days sanctifying themselves in anticipation and preparation for meeting God Himself, could so quickly get to the place of worshipping a pagan image. How could they dance under the shadow of Mt. Sinai at the same time God was meeting with Moses, celebrating amidst the noise, smoke, fire and thunder of God's very presence? And why are we so prone to forget and wander from God, forgetting all that He has done and putting our trust in everything but Him?
I pondered on what true conversion and salvation looks like, how the Bible defines it, and how it is necessary for citizenship in the Kingdom of God (but not necessarily the modern definition of church). This was after reading a question posed by my Pastor when he raised the question of the difference between being a follower of Jesus and being a fan of Jesus. I pondered the difference between the church of God and the Kingdom of God. (More to come on that too!)
But today, after reading just the red letters of my Bible, I want to begin to broach the topic of prayer answers, or lack thereof, of asking and receiving, of faith and doubt, of the role players in prayer, and the possibilities in prayer.
Haven’t we all asked the “Whys?” of unanswered prayer and hard circumstances? Why God? Why this? Why now? Why me? I know I have. I don’t particularly think that it’s wrong to ask God questions, however, I do think it’s wrong to question God, to question His ability, motives and His methods. That only leads to bitterness, doubt and unbelief and is a dangerous place. Yet, at times, things happen that cause us to grow suspicious of what God is doing. His ways are higher than ours, His thoughts massively deeper than ours, and are done with an eternal purpose (a Kingdom purpose) in mind which may tax our ability to understand His eternal idea in the temporal. And although I do believe that God is sovereign, I don’t use that excuse to neglect my investigation of why things happen to me and what God wants me to learn, grow in, or change as a result. I don’t allow myself to think that I have no control of my own life because it is obvious from scripture that our lives are planned by God, but we have some input, the scripts can be altered. Prayer changes things.
I worked with a young lady whose life motto was “Everything happens for a reason.” It was a glib expression that she used everytime something bad happened to her. What I never understood was why she never took it one step further. She never tried to find out what the reason was. Seriously, I could have helped her out so many times if she would have asked but she continued in her self-imposed ignorance, rendering herself a particle in the chaotic cosmos of life, floating along as helplessly as a dried leaf floats down a fast moving stream. I am someone who wants to understand the “Whys?” of life, even if it proves me to be at fault. Even if it hurts. That’s called growth! That doesn’t mean that God has explained every bad thing that has ever happened to me, because He hasn’t (yet), but He has shown me many times when I was partially, or totally ignorant or complicit in them and I was able to make adjustments so that they could be avoided in the future. I’ve also found that the understanding the truth helps ease some of the angst that comes with hard times and gives me hope for the future.
I’m sure that Zacharius, after questioning God’s ability while ministering in the temple, never did that again. After being rendered mute for his wife’s entire pregnancy, I bet he learned his lesson. Just think of it. When Elizabeth wanted pickles and ice cream, he just had to go get them because he couldn’t tell her to go get them herself. Can you imagine having to go through the first pregnancy, at their age, without being able to say one word? Just having to listen to her complain of back pain, swollen feet, stretch marks and not being able to tell his buddies how much he was suffering too? Wow! What a predicament! LOL! While Elizabeth was telling everyone what a miracle her baby was, Zacharius was prevented from saying one word of his experience in the temple and boy, what a story he had to tell.
Meanwhile, in another town, after hearing even more incredible news from the angel, Mary, fully believing what the angel said was possible and would happen, simply questioned the “Hows?” of his message. I have to admit, I would probably have the same questions as she did because let’s face it, she was going to be asking people to believe the unbelievable when most would just believe that she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Afterall, there had been no miracles in Israel for 400 years, unless you believe the legends of people like Honi who slept for 70 years in an old tree trunk and who drew a circle around himself in the dust and vowed not to leave it until God answered his prayer. And that story is what got me to thinking about prayer and answers to prayer.
Honi, a Jewish scholar of the first century and a supposed miracle worker, petitioned God for rain when the rainy season was late in coming and vowed not to step outside the circle until God sent it. According to the legend, he stayed in the circle until God sent rain and when God did send rain, then he complained that it was too hard of a rain, so God changed it to a nice, soaking rain. (Boy could we use this man in Centre County these days! Instead, we have Moses living somewhere incognito in the area and he parts the waters of every rain storm that heads our way! Sorry, I got a little distracted by the drought!) Some people felt that Honi was irreverent in his prayer, making demands upon the Lord. Who did he think he was? But if the legend is true, it worked! And that is when my mind began to ponder. I began to think about desperate prayer, something our Pastor speaks of frequently. I began to think about making requests in prayer vs. making a demand in prayer. Obviously, this man put a demand on God, and God answered. He didn’t pray some flowery prayer softening God up with some praise and worship and meekly asking if God wouldn’t please send some rain, not too much, not too little, piously praying Proverbs 30:7-9, and adding at the end, “if it be Thy Will.” Of course, this is a legend and not Biblical truth. So I began to look in scripture at the prayers people have prayed and at the times when prayers were answered. I began to think about our position as children of the Kingdom and what rights, responsibilities and privileges that affords us. I began to remember the times I have been desperate in prayer, when I’ve taken authority over the works of the devil in prayer, when I’ve seen instantaneous miracles in prayer, and of all the answers to prayer I’ve received through the years. But mostly, I pondered who it is that I prayed to and what He has said about prayer and frankly, I think Honi was on to something.
So, if this has piqued your interest, stay tuned. In the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing more on this and the other things I have been pondering as well because if I know anything about my Pappa God, they all fit together for a reason that is going to change my life!
What from God's Word have you been pondering lately? I hope you have a place as lovely as the pond in the photo to do your "pondering." My husband and I often walk these grounds and discuss what God is showing us from His Word, inbetween photos, of course. My hubs is so patient with me. I just can't "see a photo" without at least trying to capture it with my camera. Oh, the life of an artsy-fartsy girl but you have to admit, God puts some beautiful art out there for us to enjoy and I want to remember every single piece of it.
Until next blog, could I suggest spending some time in God’s Word? Maybe you too, could read just the red letters of the New Testament. Or perhaps look up every reference to asking, seeking, knocking, prayer. Read the new testament and record every prayer answer and every request that was answered by Jesus. Find out if Jesus ever refused to answer when faith was present. Find out if Jesus ever refused to heal. Find out what Jesus said about faith. What He said about prayer. What He said IN prayer. Put a demand on the Holy Spirit to do what He does best, teaching and revealing the Word of God to your heart. I would be so bold to say that when He’s done, your life won’t be the same either.
The Lamplight Life
Did you ever feel like you are in limbo? Like your whole life is up in the air and you dont know how it's going to shake out? Like you're in a waiting room and everyone else's name has been called but yours? Like you're just doing nothing for God because alot the ways you served Him before are no longer part of your life's routine? Like you've lost your sphere of influence? Do you worry that you're wasting time while you struggle and pray to find a new normal because nothing in life feels normal anymore?
I've been feeling that way lately. But then I realize that time spent seeking God is never wasted time. He's heard and answered every prayer even if I don't see it yet. He does not see time as I do. What's 60 years to an eternal God? In His economy, I might not have waited very long at all.
Perhaps He is just enjoying having my undivided attention, where I'm just with Him instead of being busy doing things for Him. He has not let a single word I've spoken to Him go unheard. He has not let a single tear fall to the ground. He has kept every one and they are precious to Him.
Starting over or heading a different direction is daunting. There's so much that doesn't feel comfortable because it's new and different and unfamiliar.
I am full of desire to be busy about His business. In my heart, I want to be salt to the whole earth and light to the entire world and as I ponder how to do this, its almost overwhelming. But the key to re-starting is to start small, in my own home, to continue being light to all who enter there. That is more challenging than it sounds because home is where the real me is revealed but it's also where I can have the most impact.
So for today, I will shine as brightly as I can as the oil of His grace fuels my flame. I will surrender my tomorrow into His loving, capable hands and I will follow one day at a time even though I dont know where I'm headed. "But I do know who I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I've committed into Him until the day of His return."
Disciples and the World - “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor d...
Bible Gateway passage: Matthew 5:13-16 - New American Standard Bible
Disciples and the World - “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for…
Is He Enough?
In his sermon a few weeks ago, our Pastor asked the question, "Is Jesus enough?" If the only thing that God offered us was the knowledge of the Savior, would that be enough for us to be willing to give everything that we have to obtain it? Would we be willing to give up all the other blessings that we currently enjoy to just have Jesus? Would we be willing to sell our houses and go into the unknown just to have Him in His fullness or is He just something we have added to our lives to enhance them? Is He more than fire insurance? Would He be enough? That is a compelling question. Corrie Ten Boom said that "You can never learn that Christ is all you need until Christ is all you have." She certainly knew this truth in her life's deepest experience. What is my experience? Have I ever really been to the place where Christ was all I had? Have I found Christ to be all that I need in the darkest, deepest valleys of life? More importantly, do the mountaintop blessings and the comforts and acquisitions of life that He has so graciously provided for me pale in comparison to knowing Him? If it was all taken away, would I find that He is all that I want? Am I in love with the Blesser or the blessings? In 1999, after a devastating car accident that left two of my 4 children brain injured, I went to an appointment at the school district office to review test results for my daughter who was starting kindergarten just 3 months after being released from the hospital. They were devastating. My formerly bright, engaging, athletic, witty 5-year-old was barely functioning on the level of a two-year-old. To add to my distress, they informed me that they didn’t know much about working with brain injuries so they were sending a counselor to take a class so that they could better meet her needs. No brain injury is the same. Even the doctors can’t give you any definitive promises concerning them. Their efforts did little to reassure me. As I left the meeting, I was distraught so I headed for my church building and sat down at the piano and began to play and worship because at that moment, Jesus was the only one that could help me and the only one that could help my daughter. As I worshipped, the Spirit of God began to minister to my heart and this chorus flowed out of me. I love to worship You