Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stop Asking Start Thanking

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I believe there is a greater lesson to be learned about prayer. Much, if not most, of our prayers are asking, and most of our asking is without merit. We ask for things without considering how appropriate our request is, if what we ask is in line with God’s intentions, or if He has already promised the provisions we’re asking for.

Or maybe I ask and receive not because I ask with wrong motives…

Or perhaps I ask without faith and expect God to honor that request…

I ask to be released from consequences. I ask to get the rewards I believe I deserve. I ask for favors and advantages over others. I ask God to help me do (or even make me do) what the Bible says I should do.

Can you imagine a Private asking a General to help him pick up the cigarette butts that his Sergeant told him to pick up?

We say, “God, help me love them,” or “God, love them through me.” All the while knowing I was told to love them myself.

In other words, we get messed up when the thrust of most of our prayers is asking.

Instead, we ought to spend more time thanking. Thanking means I acknowledge what He has done in the past (gratitude), I’m trusting God in advance for what He’s going to do (faith) and admitting to myself He is actively involved in my life currently (trust).

If I thank Him for His presence instead of asking Him to be with me, I am acknowledging that He has already promised never to leave me. If I thank Him for power that energizes my will to resist sin, I am confessing my choice to refuse temptation. If I thank Him in the middle of my trials, I am declaring He is sufficient for all my needs and praising Him for the opportunity to rely on Him. If I thank Him for knowing my situation when I am sick, I am stating He is my healer and knows of my suffering and is involved in my case.

Making our requests known through thanksgiving is a much greater testimony of trust than simply asking Him to do something.

Today, I choose to be forever grateful for all He is doing in my life…whether I am dealing with what makes me happy or sad.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Today I Choose...

From the pen of Oswald Chambers: “After sanctification it is difficult to state what your aim in life is, because God has taken you up into His purpose by the Holy Ghost; He is using you now for His purposes throughout the world as He used His Son for the purpose of our salvation. If you seek great things for yourself - God has called me for this and that; you are putting a barrier to God's use of you. As long as you have a personal interest in your own character, or any set ambition, you cannot get through into identification with God's interests. You can only get there by losing for ever any idea of yourself and by letting God take you right out into His purpose for the world, and because your goings are of the Lord, you can never understand your ways.

I have to learn that the aim in life is God's, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say - Lord, this gives me such heart-ache. To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do any thing He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self pity is of the devil, if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world. I have "a world within the world" in which I live, and God will never be able to get me outside it because I am afraid of being frost-bitten.”

This has become my daily struggle. Placing my desires underneath God’s intentions sounds easy but, trust me, desires rage within me at times and scream louder for attention than the voice of God calling me to Him. It is a battle yet resolved. So for this now, I “choose this day whom [I] will serve…”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Heart Check

It’s curious how mechanical we want things to be. Just give me steps to follow, a list of items to complete in order, and I’ll get it done. But leave something open ended, dependent upon my actions but not having those actions defined, and I’ll either stop too soon or go a different direction entirely.

Take the sacrificial system God gave the Israelites. Very specific. Do this, in order, according to this plan, and you will have this outcome. If I have sinned and need that sin covered, there is a prescribed plan. He tells me what to bring as my offering, how to present it to Him and assures me those actions will accomplish the purpose.

We don’t find out until later that it wasn’t the offering itself but the heart of the penitent person that was a vital ingredient. But at least there were specific actions that could be checked off.

Now if I have sinned, I have no offering to bring, no prescribed actions. All I am told is  confess and believe that confession satisfies God’s offering for forgiveness. Somehow that seems too little for so much. I have violated a command of God Himself. I have devalued His rule in my life. I have insulted His grace that sustains me. Surely an animal or something ought to have to die. Confession seems too small an action for such a provision as forgiveness.

But as David learned from Nathan, kill a million animals and you’ll still be dirty, offer God a contrite heart and broken spirit and He’ll clean you up. Which is easier?

The actions of sacrifice, the steps on my check-off list, give me more to do to help accomplish my purpose, but they are only busy-work. Dealing with God personally, according to how He said, as simple as that sounds, brings all of Heaven to bear on my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Throne of God Isn't Up for Grabs

When Naomi lost her family, her home and her ambition, she changed her name to Mara. Big deal? Yeah. Naomi meant pleasant, Mara bitter. Her losses gave her a new identity.

Since the Bible doesn’t tell everything about all that went on, I believe there was a conversation left out of this story. Someone who knew Naomi called her by that name. She said, “Don’t call me that anymore. I am now Mara.”

“Who told you you were now Mara?” the unnamed person asked.

“No one. I told myself that.”

“So you are choosing Bitterness to identify who you want to be?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So you’ve decided becoming bitter is how you’re going to deal with your loss?”


“How long do you plan to be bitter?”

“As long as it takes.”

“As long as what takes?”


“What is it?”

“I have no idea.”

Paul experienced a loss of some magnitude he couldn’t even describe what had happened—only that it left him with a disappointing thorn in his flesh. He asked God to remove it. Remove it or what? What would he do if God chose not to remove it? What if he had to live with his disappointment? How would that affect him?

Well, what Naomi missed, Paul heard. “My grace is sufficient for you,” God said. “You’re still going to carry this thorn but my grace will be your strength.”

Naomi chose a reaction that redefined her identity. Paul allowed his identity to keep him the same.

God never got off the throne in either situation. Naomi thought He had. Paul knew He hadn’t.

I think I will stand with Paul today. Because the throne of God isn't up for grabs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Praying Words From Empty Hearts

I don’t like people to read prayers. That may have a place in spiritual expression, but not in prayer. Prayer is conversation with God. How weird would it be for two people to write out their conversation with each other then sit down and take turns reading what they have written to each other? How is that conversation? Where’s the dynamic, the flow, the spontaneity?

Prayer requires my mind and heart to be engaged in talking with God. That’s why vain repetitions bug God so much. People have ceased praying when they simply repeat words.

And why do we ask God for things He’s already promised to do? Do we not trust Him to keep His word? Do we not think He’ll remember if we don’t remind Him?

We tell Him to be with us. He’s promised He will be with us always. Why would He not be with us on our trip, in our venture, in a worship service?

We ask Him to guide us. Isn’t that a guarantee that comes when we trust the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding?

We ask Him to empower us. He’s promised more power than we could ever imagine or ask for. Why would He place the source of all power within us then expect us to ask for what we already have?

We invite Him into our problems. He’s already there. It would be like asking someone already in the room to come into the room.

We ask Him to bless us. He has, way more than we could ever deserve. Everyday is full of His blessings. Why would He stop blessing us?

We ask Him for His favor. We’re His children for crying out loud. We are favored beyond all the rest of the world because we are His and He has committed Himself to us.

If we would ever stop and listen to what we’re saying to God in our prayers we would discover we are highly immature. How do I know? I just finished my prayer time and am ashamed to say much of it was just words.

I hope you’re doing better at this than I am today.

Monday, November 5, 2012

When You Only See His Eyelids

What does it mean when God blinks? Well, what happens when we blink? There is a momentary disconnect. For a millisecond you cannot see my eyes. If you cannot see my eyes you don’t know if I’m focused on you or not. Freeze that instant and you might think I’ve left the moment entirely.

When God blinks, He gives the appearance He has temporarily left us. Of course He hasn’t, but it is necessary He give the appearance He has left. Actually, when God blinks He is testing us to see what we choose to do when we think He isn’t looking. It’s a great strategy. A lot of unapproved activity goes on when kids think their parents aren’t looking.

When God tests us, He doesn't want us to participate in the unapproved activity. He definitely isn’t setting up an opportunity for us to fail. He’s just giving us the privilege of working on areas where we struggle with obedience.

Tests come under the category of refinement. The goal is purity—improving the quality of the life. How? By showing us where we have yet to surrender to Him. Why? So I can gain victory over my rebellious tendencies.

If I’m having problems with my anger, what do you think God is going to do? Insulate me from situations that aggravate me or give me tests that bring my anger to the surface?

If I’m having problems with fear, will He keep me safe or allow me to face situations that make me afraid?

If I’m having problems with loving others, will He keep difficult people out of my path or let me run into them all week.

If I'm having problems trusting Him, will He straighten the path and remove all the obstacles in my way or give me a detour where I have no way to get through it without relying on Him?

God isn’t trying to make my life harder—just the opposite. He’s trying to remove from my life the debris that clogs up the flow of His intentions within me. And blinking is the best way He can do that. By exposing my faults He forces me to deal with them.

So when God blinks, He hasn’t disconnected from us, He has intensified His gaze upon us urging us toward success.

PSALM 11:4 The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. (NASB)

Friday, November 2, 2012

When God Blinks

I can imagine the Lord’s frustration. While He was giving Moses the Law, the people were trying to replace Him with a golden calf. He was pouring His intentions into Moses’ life, those matters that would most benefit the people, and they were dancing at the altar of self-approval.

In His anger He told Moses to go ahead and lead the people the rest of the way without Him. That’s something I would have done. I’d have reached my limit and written them off. If they don’t want me, why should I want them?

But God’s words were not His intentions, only a test. Moses said, “If you don’t go with us, we’re not going. Without You we have no identity, no purpose, no reason to move. Without You we’re just people. You make us unique.”

Moses didn’t cause God to rethink His position. The threat of God’s absence was enough for Moses to realize how empty life would be if that were to happen. God merely blinked and during that blink, Moses saw the reality that his life held no meaning without God’s favor. Existing was not enough.

God often blinks in our lives to give us moments of desperation—periods of darkness where we grope about seeking answers. Go ahead and call it a reality check. He does it as a test to point out our insensitivity to His presence. It’s a reminder we have lowered His importance in our lives. It is a hint at what life could be like if we remained in the darkness. And for most of us that hint is more than enough to get us looking up.

When God blinks, He expects us to look to Him, examine what we sensed when darkness came, and renew ourselves to trust Him more.

Learn this new mantra—if God blinks, think up!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Darkness Doesn't Exist

They say darkness doesn’t exist. Light exists but darkness doesn’t. Darkness is the absence of light. You can make a room dark but you do so by turning the lights out. You can’t generate darkness. There is no “dark” switch. Darkness is an effect. It happens when something blocks the light.

There are various levels of darkness. It can be a little dark or a whole lot dark. I’ve watched an eclipse and saw the world dim. I’ve been inside caves and felt the darkness stinging my eyes.

If I feel dark in my soul only one thing has happened—somehow I the light got blocked. Paul says we have the Light of truth within us. Jesus explained that light is designed to shine but if you place a cover over the light, though the light’s still on, you get no effect from it. Like the sun on a rainy day. It’s still shining for all its worth but you can’t see it or feel it.

Darkness doesn’t trickle into my life, spill into my life, overwhelm my life—it comes on me when the light gets covered up.

Darkness cannot chase the light away, it cannot remove the light, it is unable to overcome the light. It cannot even make the light dim. Darkness has no power over the light. It only shows up when the light gets blocked.

Darkness doesn’t exist but shows up when I do not acknowledge, honor or respect the Light of lights who dwells within me. That’s why each day holds its own mystery. Yesterday could have been blazingly bright. Today could be dark and dismal. The difference would only be: what did I do or not do that caused the Light to get covered up?

God’s light is shining, in the right now, always. Today, I choose not to let anything get in the way. Today, I’m gonna let that Light shine!

ISA 60:1 Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen on you.