Category Archives: prayer

Can I help you?

As a pastor for the past 21 years, I would LOVE to be able to see exactly what my listeners in the congregation are thinking… and where they are in their faith journey to help steer my praying (my private praying mostly, but also the public prayers) and to guide my sermons to help where people really are. HOWEVER, we can’t see these thought bubbles in real life! We only have two resources in this: people sharing directly with the pastor about concerns, questions, and struggles, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 
Because of the Holy Spirit, we do “get it right” quite often as we follow the Spirit’s leading and “nudging.” But what JOY when people talk directly with us and we can work directly with the Spirit to meet needs, offer clarification, provide comfort, extend a listening and caring ear, and pray personally with someone. 

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Call To Me…

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” –Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)

Last month I had the chance to sit in on one of the adult Sunday School classes here in my new church setting. The discussion was already underway, so I just listened and discovered they were talking about Romans and someone had drawn a comparison to something in Ezekiel. The idea raised was pretty interesting so I decided to look it up later on. But when I actually made it to some alone time that evening, I accidentally opened up to Jeremiah, chapter 33 to be specific. And verse three (quoted above) just captured my heart and mind!

And that quick, I “heard” God offering me that same opportunity he had given to the prophet some six centuries  before Jesus’ birth.

Jeremiah had been arrested and confined in Jerusalem during the time that the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzur had besieged the city. Jeremiah heard God’s calls for the nation to repent, and he faithfully shared those divine messages, but they fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, the leadership of his nation, King Zedekiah, wasn’t listening to sound counsel, nor was he turning to God to repent and do things God’s way. Jeremiah had to have  moments of doubt and wondering and grief and sorrow over what he could see was coming for his beloved land.

Now-a-days we are half-way around the world and over two and a half millenia have passed since Jeremiah’s day. I have days when I wonder what’s going to become of this land I love so much. Nobody seems to want to hear the call to repentance that God still extends to all. The leadership in our political parties and in official government positions seem intent at times to not only reject God’s ways, as laid out in the Bible, to actively promote the violating of any “rule” God might have laid down. Some of us have been wondering where this is all going to end… especially in light of what seems like hopeless choices for the election of various officials throughout our governmental system… or even our church organizations, allegedly “the people of God” and yet seemingly intent on turning our back on anything God has asked of us… at least if it involves repentance from sin.

This verse, as it JUMPED OUT at me that night, reminded me that my first responsibility in those moments of wondering about the future, or my country, or even my church, is not to cry out in frustration or to vow to vote for this one or that one or to try to come up with my own plans to “keep the peace.” Rather, Jeremiah 33:3, reminds me that my PRIMARY responsibility as I look around at all that’s happening is to…

… simply call out to God.

“Call to me and I will answer…”

And that quickly, the anxiety begins to lift a little and Jesus’ inviting words flood back into my memory:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”   —Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Jeremiah, even though he was facing overwhelming odds and great certainty that everything was falling apart, could call out to God and lay down his burdens before his lord. As I look at the uncertainty of my life, my nation, my health, my church denomination, my wife and children’s futures, my finances, even my own mental health… I can call out to my God and lay out all my burdens before Him… and give those burdens to him! He’ll take on those burdens and give me rest… and hope… and peace… even in a world that seems like its going to pot.

Oh yes, Lord! Remind me again and again that there is NO reason for me to carry all my cares, concerns, and burdens alone. Remind me to CALL to you and then lay these other things down to you as I simply draw closer to You, to learn from you and hear You. And I can then trust You to answer me and show me Your ways… even though I cannot see them from here. AMEN!

 

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Filed under Bible, Church Leadership, Eschatology, Mental Health, Methodist, prayer, Response

Ask In My Name

Chambers COMPLETE WORKSYesterday I came across The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, a book I picked up back in 2002. One section is the book of prayers published after Chambers’ death under the title Knocking at God’s Door. Chambers’ wife created this book by pulling some of her husband’s personal, spiritual prayers he had written out at the beginning of each day into his diaries.

The prayer she assigned to today picks up its theme from John 14:14 (Revised Version 1885):

“If ye shall ask Me anything in My Name, that will I do” (RV). It is all so mysterious, O Lord, and all so simple — I pray, and believe that Thou dost create something in answer to and by the very means of my prayer, that was not in existence before.”

I’ve known this verse for years… but never thought about it quite like this. My prayer is the impetus for God to create an answer for whatever it is I prayed about! My prayer is the spark that gets the answer started! NO WONDER the book of James (4:2) says that the reason we don’t get what we most desire or need is because we don’t ask for it! The engine doesn’t do much until it is started!

I also am aware that there is that disclaimer in there that says we don’t get just anything we ask for… but rather, when we ask in Jesus’ name, the Father will do whatever we ask. I take it that means that if I know something is clearly NOT in God’s will, then I can expect no result from praying for that thing. Asking in His name implies I come alongside Jesus and ask for the very things he’s offered… the very things that carry out his will on earth… and I get to be a part of what He’s doing!

–Chambers, Oswald. The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers. Discovery House Publishers, associated with RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan. copyright 2000. (Complete Works

–Chambers, Oswald. Knocking at God’s Door: A Little Book of Prayers. 1957. in Complete Works pages 635-652. August 19th entry found on page 646.

 

 

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Patiently Perservere and Endure

James 1:2-4, in the New Living Translation, says: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Here where the NLT uses the word “endurance,” the KJV says “patience” and the NIV “perseverance.” Whatever word you use the idea is that (1) if you are a believer, then temptations & trials WILL come, and (2) when they DO come, God has made sure that you ARE able to patiently persevere and endure whatever comes your way. Add to that the promise found in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

Oh God, help me to remember these promises and to patiently persevere and endure through whatever trials and temptations come my way. Help me to quickly identify those temptations when I’m facing one. Help me to then see where the “way out” is in the very midst of that temptation. I want to be able to find, and use, the ‘escape hatch!’

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God Give Me … A Daily Prayer

At some point when I was in school, Rev. John Clark, pastor of the Shinglehouse UMC, ran a prayer in the Sunday bulletin that caught my attention. I remember buying transparent contact paper in order to laminate it and then carried it in my wallet for over a decade. I used to pray it every day.

It still is a touchstone for me.

I have no idea who wrote it or what it’s title is. If you do, please let me know! Thanks!

Here it is…

God, give me eyes that I might see The work that can be done by me.

God, give me ears that I may hear The cries of those who need me near.

God, give me lips that I may speak Comfort and peace to all who seek.

God, give me a mind that I may know How to help those who need me so.

God, give me hands that I may do Some large or simple task for you.

God, give me prayer that I may pray Thy help and guidance every day.

And this one thing all else above God, give to me a heart to love.

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Accidental Evangelism

I originally shared this in another setting several years ago. The events described occurred in October 2006.

My daughter Sarah and I were in an accident this past week.

It was Tuesday night and we were on our way to pick up my 2 year old son from the babysitter. Sarah, 16, for some reason had decided to sit in the middle seat in our mini-van, and I, of course, was driving.

We came to the spot on route 322 where I needed to turn left onto Thunderbird Road. There was a lot of traffic coming from the opposite direction, so I stopped and waited for them to pass. Another car came from behind, unaware that the traffic ahead of her had come to a stop, and she rammed into the rear of our van. She apparently had been busy with a cell phone or maybe the radio, because there was no braking at all… She just drove into the back of our stopped car.

Both cars are probably totaled… although the insurance companies are still working on that end of things. As for us, we had seat belts on and, other than a bit of neck strain and some soreness, Sarah and I are fine. The ambulance trip and a couple hours at the ER confirmed that. The girl that hit us had a few more injuries, but I saw her later as she was being discharged, so I know she too is OK.

All of that is merely background.

Because when I saw her, when she was being discharged, she came to my ER room (I was last to be discharged), she again apologized and then she thanked me!

I was blown away! She simply thanked me for “being so nice.”

It’s moments like that that remind me that God really is still working on me. Family and friends can tell you that there were times in the past when my anger would have flared up and I would have expressed that anger… in not necessarily kind ways. But it didn’t even enter my mind this time… I knew that Sarah and I were pretty OK… but this girl (and her car) had taken the brunt of the damage. I literally was scared that there was something wrong with her… and afraid she might go into shock (or worse) at any moment.

Other than a praise for safety during the “giving thanks” part of our prayer time, I didn’t really bring my experience into the sermon today. Instead, we focused on the Scripture text from Acts 16 where Paul and Silas have a bad day. They had been harassed by a slave girl with a demon for days on end, until Paul finally turned around and cast the demon out of the girl… which upset the slave owners who had been making money off of her ‘talents.’ Paul & Silas were hauled in front of the magistrates, were stripped, were beaten with rods, and were thrown into the inner prison, bound and in stocks. To me, that would really be a bad day!

Frankly, I imagine I would be somewhere between loudly protesting and whining, moping, and crying. But according to Acts 16:25, Paul & Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God…”

WOW!

The thing that caught my attention even more was the next phrase: “… and the other prisoners were listening to them.” And a few verses later, after a Divine intervention occurs, the jailer himself notices the godly behavior of these men of God… and asks them how he might have what he notices in them. He says “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And we read in verse 31, their answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”

Paul & Silas, in the midst of a bad day, were godly. They prayed and they worshipped God… even in the midst of the ‘stuff’ of life that was going on around them. And everyone around them was noticing!!!

My pastor, right before I entered ministry, was Rev. David Bunnell, and I once heard him use an analogy of a teacup. He said that each of us are like a teacup… possibly ornate or ordinary, delicate or rugged, fancy or plain, small or large… but it doesn’t really matter what kind of teacup we are… it matters what our cup is filled with.

He then said that you can never really tell what’s in each other’s teacups… until your cup is bumped. When something happens that upsets you or messes up your day… then it’s like your cup gets bumped… and whatever is inside spills out a bit.

Many of us, when our cup’s bumped, have rage, bitterness, or sarcasm spill out. I’ve been guilty of this myself at times. But Jesus Christ offers us the chance to be ‘refilled’ by His Holy Spirit continually. You know this is reality when your cup gets bumped and people around you can see what you’ve filled your cup with.

This week my cup got bumped… and some of the love and grace of Jesus spilled out… But unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If it were a bigger bump, and more spilling occurred, I’m afraid the sludge and YUK that’s in the bottom of my cup might have spilled over too.

That’s why we need to make sure we’re allowing Jesus Christ to continue to fill us. It’s not enough to ‘be filled’ when we get saved and then we walk through life and the dust and dirt and debris of life settle into our cups. That’s why we need to be in a constant refilling, like a cup that’s attached to a garden hose… even if dirt falls into the cup… it’s swept away by the constant infilling from the hose…

That’s what I want. Not to be filled with Living Water or the Filling of the Holy Spirit like it was some one-time event in the past at which I can wistfully look back and remember. NO! I want to filled and refilled and renewed all the time… so the sludge of life doesn’t have a chance to settle in… and even the stuff that was already there is eventually washed away.

Guess I’ll know even better how that’s going the next time my cup gets bumped. How about you? It’s absolutely vital that we get this right, because as my week showed and Paul & Silas learned… the world around us will notice!

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Stand in the Gap?

I originally shared this when it was my turn to share devotions with a mens prayer breakfast on March 21, 2007. 

“Fed up, God decided to get rid of them— and except for Moses, his chosen, he would have. But Moses stood in the gap and deflected God’s anger, prevented it from destroying them utterly.”

— Psalm 106:23 (The Message)
“I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one.”
—Ezekiel 22:30 (The Message)
     Oh God, how many times are we, your chosen people in this day and age, the very ones you’re waiting for so that we can “stand in the gap” to turn away your anger like Moses did? Like you kept wanting someone to do in Ezekiel’s day, and you never did find someone who would do that?

 

Is this the explanation of how it is that you could “change your mind” in the Old Testament stories? I wonder if in every situation where people faced Your judgment, that it was always your intention to grant mercy to them IF someone would simply “stand in the gap” in order to “turn away your anger.” The judgment is deserved, but you’d rather offer grace and mercy and forgiveness… if someone would just intervene and intercede.

     You judged the people in the desert and they deserved to die…but Moses intervened, he stepped in and pleaded desperately for them… and for his sake, you showed them mercy. You didn’t give them what they really deserved….
     You judged the people in Ezekiel’s day and sent Ezekiel with your message and kept waiting for someone on the receiving end of that message to step in and plead for mercy for your people… and no one did… and so the judgment was carried out.
     Today, the world around us clearly has walked away from your ways. If you’re truly a righteous and just God, then You have to judge us… our people, our land, our nation… You’ve sent your warnings. Is the seeming pause we sense just a God-given chance for us, your chosen people, to “stand in the gap” and plead for our friends and neighbors and relatives? To plead for mercy? To pray for forgiveness?
     O God… we modern American Christians are more likely to condemn those around us than we are to be an advocate for them. We see their sin and think “God’ll get you for that!”
     We are SO wrong! Forgive us O God and change our wicked hearts! Give us the compassion and love of Moses that he felt for his friends and neighbors and relatives. Teach us to stand in the gap!

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