Prayer

...now browsing by tag

 
 

October 17

Monday, October 17th, 2022

One of the most amusing events in the Bible is found in a passage I read this morning-Acts 12. Every time I read it I chuckle.  For several reasons.

First, the story. Peter is put in prison when Herod “feasted on” the Jews being pleased he had James put to death. BTW: his ego gets him in deep trouble later in the same chapter-verses 20-23. Anyway, Peter is imprisoned between 2 guards. How funny is that? Those two guards were a captive audience! There were also 2 guards watching the door to the prison. Peter is suddenly awakened by an angel (he does not know it is), taken outside the prison and then realizes it was an angel who freed him. Peter then heads off to the house of Mary, the mother of John, where they were praying for him. He knocks on the door and Rhoda answers it. She is so amazed to see Peter that she leaves him standing at the door and runs in to tell the others. 🙂  Then when she tells them Peter is at the door, they don’t believe her.

Two things stand out to me:

1. Was Peter’s release not what they were praying for? And yet, they didn’t believe Rhoda. I find it amusing Rhoda left Peter standing at the door. And I also find it somewhat amusing (if that is the right word) that they did not believe Peter was at the door…when that was what they were praying for!

2. I stand convicted. How many times have I seen God answer prayer only to be amazed. Amazed is not a bad word, because God’s work is sometime amazing. Maybe a better word is surprised. And even better one…shocked.

Let me clarify: I never want to lose the amazement of God working and answering prayer. But I also should not be amazed that He does. Does that make sense?  In this story, I would rather be Rhoda-so excited over seeing an answered prayer-than the ones praying for his release and doubting it happened.

May I never lose the wonder that comes from following Jesus and seeing God work.

September 8

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion I wrote about Principle #5:

God’s will is a flashlight, not a crystal ball; walk to the edge of the darkness and wait.

That got me thinking how some approach God’s Word (GW) with what I called the “crystal ball” or “floodlight” approach. Before I go any further though, I need to say one or two very important thoughts:

  1. I firmly believe GW is inspired by God and is totally inerrant (without error). I base that on 2 Tim. 3: 14-17, especially verse 16.
  2. I also firmly believe it is God’s primary way of speaking to His people. All things, all claims of people saying, “God told me this or that” must have their foundation in GW. For someone to say, for example, “I killed those people because God told me to” is hogwash and the person is either psychologically delusional or fishing for a reason to justify sin. God will NEVER violate His Word.

With those thoughts in mind, there are those who treat GW like a crystal ball or expect a floodlight to shine down on them with a neon sign and say, “Do this!” Some even expect a floodlight to highlight a verse. You have probably heard the story of the man who used this approach by opening his Bible and pointing to a verse. It said, “Judas went out and hung himself.”  He hurriedly closed his Bible and opened it again and pointed to another verse. It said, “What your hand finds to do do it with all your might.” That wasn’t what he wanted to hear either so he closed his Bible, opened it and pointed and the verse said, “What your hand finds to do, do quickly.”  That is the shotgun approach many take to finding guidance in GW. It is like they are expecting the Bible to be a crystal ball, rub it and all truth will come out. It is like they expect that approach to give them all the insight they need to make a right decision and to know God’s will.

Nope. While I believe GW is living and active, I don’t believe it is a crystal ball telling us what to do and when to do it. God has given each of His children the Holy Spirit and that Spirit leads and guides us. But he will never lead us to act contrary to the Word. God guides us by His Word and shows me the path I am to walk, but there is no neon sigh that lights up, either in GW or in life, which says, “Choose me!”  I go back to my friend’s statement (see August 17 post) where he said, “Bill, choose the one. In any case, even if it is the wrong one, God will not abandon you.”  He was right.

God will never lead us astray. The Holy Spirit will never say, “Go your own way.” Pray. Seek His will. Read His Word for wisdom and guidance and strength to follow. Walk with Him to the edge and wait. To borrow a few lines from The Trail:

If God loves me, then He protects me. He guides me by His Word and shows me the path to walk. A safe path, because He knows where the danger lies. So I walk to the edge of the darkness and wait. (p.110)

God’s Word is a lamp not a crystal ball to rubbed, nor is it a floodlight that will shine down to highlight an action to take. We are given His Spirit and a mind to make decisions that will always be in line with GW.

August 17

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

As I said in yesterday’s post (and so eloquently put by Ryan in his comments), one of the hardest things to do is to give up control, or at least the semblance of it. This is especially true when a decision needs to be made and one has several options.

Back in the early 80s, I found myself in a situation like that. I had been pastoring a church that just about killed my spirit. It was very legalistic, i.e. “We are right; you are wrong; and we will argue about it.” I didn’t know that at first, plus I was desparate to find a church since I’d been asked to leave from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor. To make matters tougher, money was very tight and I went through some burn-out.

Anyway, I interviewed at one church and scheduled a time to preach. In the meantime, another church asked for an interview which I had. The conundrum was the second church was more inviting to me but I had no promises with them. Church #1 has already had me come to preach and asked me to come.  (I had scheduled the interview before the “trial” sermon). What should I do?

I asked a friend. His words were wise: “Bill, there is no right or wrong. Take church #1. You already know their decision. You can’t make a wrong decision in this because God will be with you no matter what you choose. He will not abandon you.”

He was right. While the 3 years there were good ones, learning ones, and ended dubiously, the other church never called me back. In fact, several months later-six maybe-a young couple from that church reached out to me and found out what happened. They not only profusely apologized but sent some expense money (out of their own pocket).

My issue was control. I was unsure at the fork in the road and needed to make a decision. I wanted it to be THE. RIGHT. ONE. At least in my mind. I reached out to my friend because I wanted him to tell me what only God could. In a way, he did.

He told me to “Trust God.” He doesn’t make mistakes. And even though I may choose the one that gives me a rockier road, He will not abandon me.

TRUST GOD at the fork in the road. Seeking His desire does not give a wrong choice. One may be tougher and bring some learning lessons, but neither can be wrong.

August 10

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

As you read through Isaiah, there are some great passages. I’m about to hit some of them soon. but there are also some confusing ones-not confusing in the sense of “I don’t understand what it is saying”-but confusing in the sense of “How can this happen?”

A case in point is Isaiah 38-39. In chapter 38 King Hezekiah is on his death bed.  A boil seems to have ravaged his body to the point of death (39:21; 2 Kings 20:7). Hezekiah prays (more like wails) and God hears his prayer. He promises Hezekiah 15 more years of life (2 Kings 20:6).

But in those 15 years, two things happen which taint Hezekiah’s legacy.

1. He lets his head get too big. His pride is such that he opens his treasuries and shows the representatives from Babylon all he has (2 Chron. 32:25). Isaiah rebukes him and tells him that someday Babylon will come and carry away all his treasures.

2. Manasseh is born. One of, if not the most ungodly of kings, is born during the additional 15 years. A son like him is sure to taint a legacy.

Not all that happened during that 15 years is bad. For more on Hezekiah, I encourage you to read 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 32.

What a picture of contrasts don’t you think? A man who cries out to God for more time is given 15 more years. While he did some good things, Hezekiah is often remembered for his two missteps: pride gone awry and a wayward son.

What confuses me, of course, is his inability to acknowledge God’s answered prayer by a humble spirit. But I guess I should not be too shocked. I’m the same way. Blessed beyond measure, I sometimes fail to say thanks, but also take credit for my “state” and lose sight of where it came from. My pride rears its ugly head and I decide to do things my way. EPIC. FAIL.

“Father, may I humble myself before You and remember where it all came from.  Please help me to not lose sight of that truth.”

August 9

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture-least you think you have-and not have it register? Then one time you read it and BAM! the light goes on. This morning was one of  those times.

The Scripture in the spotlight: Isaiah 37: 14-20. (Please take a moment  and read it).

Sennacherib (S), the Assyrian king, planned to invade Judah. He sent his lackeys to threaten and badger Hezekiah into surrendering and not trust God. God surely would not save them. Outgunned and out-manned, Hezekiah does something totally unusual: he takes the letter from S, reads it, then heads to the temple and lays it out before God. Then he prays. It was not an “I’m scared spitless and don’t know what to do” kind of prayer. It was simply a prayer that acknowledged God’s power and might, Hezekiah’s weakness against S, and his trust that God would save them.

God answers Hezekiah’s prayer through Isaiah. I like the words Isaiah says in verse 21: “Because you have prayer to me (God) about S…” God is acknowledging Hezekiah’s correct response to the threat.

Now watch the result. Verses 36-38 -> 185,000 Assyrians dead. Not by Hezekiah’s hand or his army. “The angel of the Lord went out and struck…” Hezekiah didn’t lift a finger. S went home in disgrace and was eventually assassinated by his own sons.

Hezekiah averted a disaster by going to God first. What a great lesson! Instead of moving in his own strength (to sure defeat); relying on his own army; or even surrendering to S, he went to God and laid it all out before Him.

There’s gotta be a lesson there! 🙂

“Father, may I not  fret and worry and scheme in my own strength. Let me bring it all before You, lay it all before You, and trust You implicitly. “

July 25

Monday, July 25th, 2022

I will be MIA today and tomorrow (and possibly Wednesday depending on Jo’s report from the nursing home about her sister). The original plan was to leave after worship on Sunday and head to Ohio, stay until Tuesday morning and then head home early so I could spend part of the day either helping Tami with getting her classroom ready, or to do church ministry. But a phone call late Saturday from the nursing home about Jo’s sister, Vicki, may add another day to our trip.  Vicki is older than Jo but has been suffering from Type 2 diabetes for many years and also has dementia. She was having trouble breathing so they were going to have an X-ray done to see what was going on. The results will determine whether we go to visit her on Tuesday before we head home. So we may end up spending another day in Ohio.  Since I don’t take my computer and don’t like to do my blog on my phone, I don’t see me posting anything unless it would be really short or an update.

Jo and I would appreciate your prayers for our safe travel. It has been over a month since we have seen Janna or Braden and we were looking forward to just getting away (which I have not done this summer or in quite awhile).  I know Jo would also appreciate prayers for her sister, and also for her as she is POA.

Thanks. I will try to keep you posted in some way. Perhaps you can check back each day for an update.

June 21

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

This past Sunday, as part of the Father’s Cay special the church had, one of the men used the father with the demon-possessed son. You can find his story in Mt. 17 and also in Mk. 9. It is the Mark 9 passage which is actually fuller with information and I’d like to use that one.

As Jesus, Peter, James and John made their way down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were met by a swarm of people. Front and center was a father whose son was demon-possessed. He had begged and pleaded with the disciples to heal his son-to cast out the demon-but they were unable to. So the father tells Jesus what has been happening. Putting aside Jesus’ words about the faithlessness of the others, the father brings his son to Jesus and about that time the demon throws him on the ground and into convulsions. The conversation next is my point:

Jesus: “How long has this been happening?”

Father: “From childhood.”

Father: “But if you can do anything…” (emphasis mine)

Jesus: “IF? All things are possible to those who believe.”

Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus heals his son.

Notice the exchange? “If?”  “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

That father is me sometimes. There are occasions when I bring very little faith to the table. I’m barely holding on. But He is willing to take what little faith I have and make it greater. I have often said, “He takes my #2 faith and make is a #8 or a #10 faith.”

Jesus builds faith; He doesn’t tear it down. If there is any tearing down, it is to tear down our self-sufficient “faith” and build a kingdom faith.

May your (and my) faith increase.

 

March 10

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

I read this morning that at the conclusion of 2019 the Bible app, YouVersion, revealed that the most-shared, highlighted, and bookmarked verse of the year was Philippians 4:6-“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Think about that date…2019. The pandemic was just starting. I suspect that verse stayed in the Top 3 over the next two years as well. 

We are a worrying and fearful people. We are an anxious people. We have gadgets which are supposed to make our lives easier but I’m of the opinion they have done the opposite. Instead of sitting and enjoying one another’s company, we are on our phones. Even when you haven’t seen someone in awhile and the time should be spent laughing and visiting, our faces are planted on our phone and our fingers are either scrolling or typing at breakneck speed.

Sorry for the tangent. Off the soapbox. We are a worrying people. Some concern, of course, is natural and good. Love is like that. But our “worry-rate” is off the charts. Even followers of Jesus live in fear.

I have to believe God wonders about it all. We call ourselves followers of Jesus but then fret. The old cartoon of someone biting their fingernails off like a typewriter (remember those?) comes to mind. But, you see, I gave you Phil. 4:6. What I didn’t give you was verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The psalmist had a serious question in Psalm 13, one I suspect runs rather rampant these days: “How long, Lord, how long?” Stay tuned for my next devotion as I take a look at Psalm 13 and see what David found out in answer to his question.

Meanwhile...”May the Lord bless you and keep you, May the Lord cause His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift you up and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

February 2

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022

In my daily Encounter Time, I read several portions of Scripture. I read and underline through the Psalms on an almost daily basis. I’m almost always in the Psalms. Every other month I read a chapter a day of Proverbs. 31 chapters=31 days. I’m currently reading through the NT for the 2nd consecutive time since 2021. My first trip was through while using the New Living Translation. I am now slowly making my way using the NASB2020. I take it slow-one chapter at a time. I’m currently in Colossians.

To keep me more aware of what I’m reading (yes, my mind wanders) not only do I highlight a verse or two, I’d like to use this time to blog about a passage that stuck out to me. I do not know if this will be a 4 post effort-given there are 4 chapters in Colossians-or if I may stretch it out some. I’ll let the Lord lead me on that.

The church at Colossae was a mess. False teaching had gripped many-Gnosticism, angel worship, heresy about who Jesus was, emphasis on “holy” days, and many others. I’ll hit some of them.

But first let me just highlight a passage in chapter 1. In verses 9-12 we have a prayer by Paul that gets to the heart of how serious the problem was in Colossae. Please take a moment to read those verses- 1:9-12. Now take note of what Paul prays for. It is not a superficial “Lord be with them today” kind of prayer. Let’s take a look:

  • Be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…so that we can…
  • …Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • …Please Him in all respects
  • …Bear fruit in every good work
  • …Increase in the knowledge of God
  • …Be strengthened with all power
  • …Give thanks

In truth, each one of those could be broken down and discussed. But that is beyond my purpose this morning.  But they do serve as a true example of what to pray for when you are thinking of yourself and others.

Begin praying that God will bring that to fruit in your life. Also a question: which one of those would you like to see come alive in you?

“Father, may my prayers take on an air of alertness and earnestness for myself and for others.”

January 12

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

My mind is not here right now. Oh…it is in my Encounter Time and it has been a good “learning” morning. But as I read my mind was also on what I need to do later today and I was seeking advice and solace. Strength. Wisdom. Guidance.

I have a funeral today. No, not mine that I know of. 🙂 A good man named Kirby went to be with Jesus last week. We are laying to rest a man who fought long and hard. There is so much to say. He was the epitome of a family man and a man of grace-one who made everyone feel important.  He wasn’t into tooting his own horn. Diagnosed with MS in 2005, I never knew until years later when I saw him walking unsteadily one Sunday afternoon at a restaurant. I asked one of his children about it and he said, “Oh, that was his MS.” “MS? I didn’t even know.” I’m not sure they will ever be able to figure out what he died of. He had been in the hospital for close to two months (mostly ICU). He did get COVID but that is not what took his life (no matter what they may say). Complications set in each time he looked forward to getting to rehab. I think his body finally said, “Enough.”

It was a shock. Still is. I simply cannot imagine the pain his bride of close to 30 is going through. They have been together since Jr. High.  I can’t imagine the emptiness she feels, nor what the two young 20s son and daughter are feeling.

I’m praying for grace. Strength. Wisdom. He was a Christ-follower so that makes it somewhat easier, but the heart know what the heart wants (in this case).

Would you mind praying for his family today? Ronda. McKenzie. Hunter. And multiple other family and friends. I suspect it will be a packed house today. And please say a prayer for me and the other pastor (their former pastor who retired). Words are often forgotten but some stick with you. I’m praying I eulogize him but lift up the name of Jesus.

Thanks.

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE