Monday, July 26, 2010

The Transforming Power of Prayer

I am sometimes accused of over emphasizing prayer. I have to say, I just don't get it. Prayer is the source of our communion with God. It's difficult for me to understand how prayer can be over used, over advised, or even overlooked as a genuine source of help. Prayer is not simply a "pat answer" that I provide when someone has a need; it's truly the very best thing I can do to help.

For me, prayer isn't about asking God to solve every problem - real or imagined - that surfaces in my life. It's about praising Him in all circumstances, pouring out my heart to Him, and asking Him to help me see things more through His point of view. It's about asking for His will, not mine, waiting on Him for His answer, and obeying the direction He provides.

I have seen many answers - some that I would consider miraculous - to many prayers offered personally or by friends of mine. There is no doubt that God hears each one. When we pray, it is our opportunity, and our great honor, to watch God move as He sees best. By God's grace, He doesn't give us everything we request. Instead, He acts with His eternal purposes in mind and joins us as we walk through this journey of life.

Recently, a friend shared her heart with me and I suggested that she pray very specifically about her situation. Her response was a curt, "I have prayed about this." From her tone, it was implied that she is frustrated with the lack of effect prayer has had in this instance. My answer: stay on you knees and keep praying - maybe it's you that God wants to change and not your circumstance.

Many times when we ask God to change our circumstance, He really desires to change us. We pray and ask for what we want; God sees us simultaneously as who we are now and who He wants us to be. We ask for Him to change the people next to us, but God desires to transform us. Are we willing to be the one He changes? Are we willing to receive His direction to us rather than drumming our fingers on a table until we see a change in someone else?

Even though His way isn't often the easiest or most comfortable path, we can rest in confidence knowing that His will is always best. I praise God for His shepherding over my life and am thankful for trust in Him that multiplies daily!

Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful
in prayer.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Teach them to obey

I feel very blessed. I believe that our Church has one of the world's best Pastors. In his sincere humility he would cringe at hearing those words, but here's why I think so: Outside of being an outstanding Bible teacher, he loves God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength, he is fully committed to making disciples based on the truth of Scripture, and he loves people more deeply than anyone I've ever met. But that's not the point of this post. I was traveling over the weekend and was privileged to hear another wonderful Pastor give a great message.

I have a heart for obedience. I strive to be obedient to God in all ways (hear me well, I fall short all the time) and desire to teach others to obey all that He has commanded (Matthew 28:20). In my role as a teacher, obedience is a point that I hit on time and time again. So, when the topic of obedience came up during the message, my ears perked up.

As we live out obedience in our own lives, we can become "ritualistic" or act as the Pharisees acted. For them, obedience was a hefty weight, a burden, and a task that could never be accomplished. It is impossible to follow all commands simultaneously. We are wretched, fleshly humans and most of us can barely touch our feet to the floor in the morning without falling short of pleasing God in some way (slight exaggeration, I know).

So how do we teach disciples to do the impossible? We live life together alongside them. We live it out and talk it through when we fall short. We lean on one another, and we admit our frailty and shortcomings to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Being a teacher -standing at the front of the classroom - doesn't make me less of a sinner than anyone else, it makes me more visible! That can be a frightening position, but I'm grateful for a group of ladies who laugh with me, not at me, and hold me accountable when necessary. It's a life journey and I'm thrilled to be part of a loving Body of believers.

Yes, I feel very blessed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Abba, Father"

Watching my grown children hurt is like having my heart ripped out. The complexity of what is bringing them pain is unimportant, because when I see them suffering over any issue, I simply want to cry. The irony is that I want God's blessing for both of them and I realize that as children of God, we all have to experience times of suffering in order to grow in Him. I would never want them to miss His blessing. In turn, I fully understand that times of suffering are necessary and will be turned to good by our faithful Father. As I watched my son struggle a week ago I prayed, "Lord, have your way with him... but please be gentle, " then cried the hidden tears of a loving Mom who could do very little to help.

Since we are God's children, I wonder how God feels when he sees us hurting. Let's look at Jesus, God's only begotten Son, as an example. He is described in Mark chapter 14 as "very distressed and troubled" in the garden just before His arrest. In prayer, Jesus cried out to the Father, calling Him "Abba." This is an Aramaic word for "Papa." When Jesus was suffering, He called out to His "Papa," His loving Father who is caring, gentle and compassionate.

A "Papa" can be thought of as a father who comes to his child when called, stands alongside during times of distress, and does not wish to see his child suffer. Unlike me, God could have stopped His Son's suffering since all things are possible for Him. Instead, He kept the bigger picture in mind, the salvation of God's people for all eternity, and allowed the pain.

God doesn't enjoy watching His children suffer, in fact, I believe it breaks His heart. But as a loving parent, He allows things that bring discomfort to accomplish His eternal plan. As Joseph said to his brothers who had tried to murder him, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20 NASB).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"I Want That!"

If someone said to me, "pleroo," I would politely say, "God bless you!" Many words that I don't recognize sound like sneezes to me. But dismissing this term with a casual joke would be a shame, for I would then miss an important gift from God.

Our Father desires that we be made complete - or filled - in may significant ways. "Pleroo" is the transliteration of the Greek word meaning: to fill to the full, to cause to abound, or to fill to the top so that nothing shall be wanting, to full measure, fill to the brim.

Think of the familiar illustration of a jar that is filled with rocks. The jar looks full - as if nothing else can be added. But we can now pour a large amount of sand into that jar and the sand will, indeed fit into the nooks and crannies of the rocks, especially if we gently shake the jar so that the sand will filter to the bottom. All of the spaces now look filled. But, if we pour water into the jar and add enough water so that it is level with the brim of the jar, NOW, the jar is truly filled. It has not been left wanting and is, indeed filled to the top. We cannot add anything else to the jar without causing the water to run over the sides. The jar is complete or filled and meets the definition of pleroo.

Paul prays that believers in the church of Colossae be filled with knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and understanding. King David is quoted in Acts as saying that the Lord fills us with gladness in His presence. Also in Acts, believers will be filled with the Holy Spirit. The first letter of John is written so that our joy may be made complete and Jesus, Himself prayed that we may have His joy made full.

When my daughter was small and spent time toddling around the house, the music from a TV commercial would often catch her attention. She would stop whatever she was doing, stare at the TV for a few seconds and give her full attention to the commercial, which was usually trying to sell her a toy. At the end of the commercial she would say with certainty, "I want that!" And within seconds, she was back to her toddling. Her words return to me often, mainly when I read a promise from God or see the light of Jesus shining through one of His people. I say to myself, "I want that." When I study what it means to be complete and filled with what God wants for me... peace... knowledge... wisdom... comfort... understanding... joy... gladness... and so much more, my spirit cries, "I want that!" And God is ever faithful!