Friday, August 27, 2010

Persevering in Prayer

We read Luke 11 this evening in family devotions and this isn't the usual account of the Lord's prayer that I read. I usually read Matthew, but the surrounding context caught my attention. Take a look at verses 1-13.
It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples." And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. "So I say to you, 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. "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? "Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"
This is kind of a different blog post in that it is something that I don't really talk about, but it very much fits in with this passage. I don't really like to pray out loud in a group setting. I should rephrase that... I love to pray at any time, but I prefer to pray alone, out loud, with just me and the Lord. I was praying the other night and saying something to the effect of, "God, I feel like I am wearing You out with saying the same kinds of things over and over again. You know what I desire far more than I do, yet I ask again, not because You need to hear me ask again, but because it is good for my heart to keep asking You." I hadn't thought of this passage when I was praying, but I find it interesting that God wants us to not give up when it comes to praying for things that honor Him... the biggest of which is that He would fill us with His Spirit. Prayer is a mystery to me. I don't know exactly how it works... I can't comprehend how He is able to hear me and everyone else at the same time... and how His thoughts about me out-number the grains of sand... yet all these things are true. Prayer is extremely powerful. Do you ever pray for big and scary things? Perhaps things that you aren't even sure about, but you pray out of faith? The kinds of things where you literally tremble as you pray them? I do not always pray this way... in fact, far from it, but He is slowly teaching me to pray. For myself, I have found that praying starts with the knowledge of Him and His character... praising Him for those things and committing to fully believe Him and obey Him because of those things. From there, praying things that I know are His will with absolutely no doubt that He will answer because He has already said it's His will really builds my faith. They are things I know in my head, but with my lack of faith, I need to see it. I'm not saying that we should be the kinds of people that "ask for a sign" when we don't believe, but rather... believing what He has stated is true... for example, I know it's His will that I grow in the grace and knowledge of Him... so I pray specifically for that. I know it is His will for me to grow in humility and patience... so I pray that. I know it's His will that I love Him more... so I pray that. If you don't pray Biblical prayers, I'd challenge you to do so. There are more things than you could pray for in a life-time from scripture... so start now! Commit to be obedient... and pray these big things for His glory in your heart. After I pray these things, I generally bring my requests to Him... the things that I believe are within the boundaries of scripture... things that I believe would glorify Him, yet I do not know if they are part of His perfect plan. I bring these things to Him, "coming boldly before the throne of grace"... to a point that I am often scared to pray. Sometimes I even tell Him that I am scared of Him answering my prayer request... but I trust that He will provide the grace necessary to glorify Him in all things knowing that His plan is perfect and I want nothing other than THAT plan.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God, My Exceeding Joy

It's been a long day... woke up at 5:30 or so and decided to go back to bed until 6:30 but still felt tired. I'm thankful for the strength that He provides throughout the day. It was a great day... had a good time in the Word, had a good hard-working day, played some volleyball with the family, and now I'm here ready to hit the sack once again.

It looks like God may be re-opening the doors with team handball. When my team in LA started practicing on Sundays, I pretty much stopped playing. I figure if God wants me to continue, He is going to have to make it clear. They recently moved practices back to Saturdays (though it is like a solid 2 hrs away). Anyway, long story short, I am headed for a 4 day camp for preparation for the Pan American Games. The coach is my favorite coach... really neat encouraging but challenging guy. I love his coaching style. I don't know what God has planned, but He opened this door and so I am walking through it and trusting that He will lead either way. May He strip away any desire to make a name for myself and replace it with a desire to glorify Him alone.

I was reading in Psalm 43 this evening and verses 3 and 4 caught my attention.
O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God.
It is so essential that we are spending time in His Word so that we are being lead by the truth. Emotions and feelings are not good things to go by... especially considering He has given us His Word to guide us along with every spiritual blessing in Christ! It is then that we can have confidence that we will be drawn toward Him. I love the phrase in verse 4, the commitment to go to the alter of God because God is my exceeding joy. I truly can say that God is my exceeding joy. He is everything that I need. I don't need another breath if I have Him! The hard part is living in the reality of that. It is so easy to distract myself with the things of the world when truly all my true joy is found in Him. In Him we live, move, and breathe! May all be done for His glory... out of joy!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Lord Will Protect You From All Evil

Yesterday morning, I received an email from my handball coach (from the national team) and he said that he and his family were at the park by their hotel out in London and they got mugged. He, of course, had all their money on him... credit cards... cell phone... etc., but not passports, so basically, they were having trouble leaving the country because they had to pay for the hotel but had nothing to pay with. He was born in Europe, so it wasn't surprising that he was out there. Their plane was leaving in like 2 hrs, and I really didn't want to loan him $1,800, but was reminded of the verse in Psalm 112:5, "It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; He will maintain his cause in judgement."

I told God that it is His money and that I would go ahead and do it. I asked my coach to call me really quick... as I was headed out to work at that very moment. He said he couldn't call until he got to the airport. So, I tried to send him the money via westernunion or whatever it is. It failed for some reason. So, I told him... hey, sorry, but it didn't work and I'm at work... am the only one in the office at the moment and I just can't leave right now. (I usually don't check my normal email at work, but made an exception for this). He replied asking if I could perhaps send someone to do it for me.

So, after some more people got into the office... and thinking of James 2:16, "And one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what is that?". I got permission to leave for a bit. I probably would have just not done it expect for the fact that I said I would pray for him... so I kind of locked myself in. haha Anyway, went to print his email, and the printer failed. Ended up having to print to a different printer. At this point, with everything not working, I was sensing... that perhaps it's not God's will for me to do this!

I called mom (should have done that way sooner), asked her to call the handball office and check into it... and I went to the bank to check some things with them. Both came to the conclusion that it indeed was a scam. I have seen these things many times before, but it is always from a junk email address... this was actually from his real address with his real signature. It annoyed me greatly that he couldn't call me, and looking back, I was pretty unwise, but so thankful for His grace and protection. I'm reminded of Psalm 121...
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.
I am so thankful! :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wisdom From Above

I have neglected this blog far too long. Life has been so full these last several weeks... in a very good way... but full all the same. God has continually been working in my heart and I wish that I had written more here for my own sake (to remember everything), though I think it would challenge you all as well. Anyway, my Bible study has been exceedingly random these last several weeks, but very productive. I am continually amazed at how God can speak through really any part of His Word directly to my heart. One thing I have been focusing on is trusting Him. He has continually proved Himself faithful and trustworthy. As I pursue His wisdom in all the choices of life from the small day-to-day ones to the big life-changing ones, it is such a blessing knowing that not only does He know what is best... He created me and knows me better than I know myself, but He has promised not to withhold any good thing from those that walk uprightly. There is such security in trusting the Lord. The peace that comes with having absolutely no doubt that God's absolute best will indeed happen is a blessing beyond words.

I was reading tonight in James 3 and verses 17 and 18 stuck out to me.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Knowing that I am prone to seek my own will rather than God's, I love passages like this which differentiate between true wisdom from above and my wisdom... (or the lack thereof). This is down-to-earth and practical... "reasonable" is one of the characteristics of wisdom that comes from Him. Obviously, our reasoning can be off (and often is), but reasonable in combination with being without hypocrisy (meaning completely true and in no way fake), pure, full of mercy and good fruits (love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) shows us what true wisdom from the Lord looks like. As I seek His wisdom daily (because I lack wisdom), I need His work of grace in my heart to truly differentiate between my "wisdom" and the true wisdom that comes only from Him producing these good fruits. May He show me the foolishness of my "wisdom" and plant within me His wisdom not to puff me up, but to help me pursue Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.