Saturday, November 22, 2008
That happened to me last month - and something has been percolating inside me since.
We had a weekend visitor from another state - and another faith - who spent time with us a few weeks ago. Using a cursory glance, one would not think there was much in common with the way we each understand God. However, he made a simple observation and shared it with us over morning coffee - that has really changed my way of seeing my purpose with others - both believers and unbelievers. Like Balaam's angel - this purpose has always been here - but I am now seeing (and understanding) it in a much deeper way.
He simply said, "We Christians pray for one another. But how long has it been since you prayed with someone - involving yourself very intimately in their lives and their needs?"
My family has a simple white marker board in our living room covered in prayer requests. It includes family members, neighbors, friends all over the world and their needs of health, safety, direction, and faith. It is a constant reminder of all our needs - based on our human fraility - and our complete dependence on our Father. It is especially meaningful to me when we have company - and after they leave we see they have added their own names and needs to the board. What an honor to be asked to be included in their lives!
I realize that we could get into a very serious discussion about the purpose of prayer with an understanding to our serving a God who knows "the end from the beginning" and knows our needs before we ask them. But putting that aside - I wonder about the purpose of our praying for others? And how does our understanding line up with Jesus'involvement in with the people He encountered?
The way I see it "done" most (and the way I generally pray myself) is very safe. I realize a need someone has - and I ask God to take care of it for them. It's the same way for those involved in religious meetings - they pray a prayer about a person. Typically that person is not present - because they are sick or away dealing with the problem. If they are present - they are sitting in their pew (or chair) and we are in ours. When we ask God to help help them in a prayer this way - we are staying protected - both physically and emotionally. And the person in need is protected from the intimacy of our closer involvement, as well.
While that has always seemed the "right" way to handle prayer for others - I am beginning to see it differently. Now, this does get wrapped in WHY we pray in the first place - but bear with me - even if we might not agree on that. God already knows their needs. In fact, God knew they would have that need before it ever reared its ugly head. God may have very specific reasons for bringing that need into his/her life. How do they (or I) know that? Will my prayer change any of that? I would hope not. None of us is like Moses - God shared His plan with Moses. The Israelites simply were to follow. We are the Israelites - learning to follow and trust day by day.
So why pray at all? And how should I view my praying for others? I just don't think communication with the Living God should be such a safe, nearly scripted activity. I believe it is a huge, REAL, life altering experience. It seems to have become (especially in religious settings, before meals and before sleep) so usual and regular that prayers are even kept to the same number in a service - in an order stuck between songs and sermons - rather than REAL moments of communication between people in constant need for the adored Father. What if someone feels a need to share the prayers of their brothers and sisters between verses 3 and 4 of the 2nd song? How would everyone react? But I digress. Back to why do I pray? Especially for others?
My weekend guest helped me to see - prayer is for the person needing the prayer and for me. It is not for God. That being said - for me to simply say a prayer FOR someone or even write them on my board to keep them in my daily thoughts - is not the purpose. I believe we need to be more like Jesus and be so involved in the lives of others - their needs and happiness - that we are WITH them through the struggles. Our prayers should be WITH them - not about them. How long has it been since you've held someone's hand and prayed with them?
Every person Jesus was with had His total attention. He knew their lives, their marrage situations, their needs, their struggles, their strengths - and he related to each person THROUGH those. He did not have people mail in prayer requests, he didn't say "I will pray for you" nor did he have his followers collect requests so they could be prayed over during the "prayer service." He stopped what He was doing - and that person became his attention until the need was met.
We can't bring back sight, forgive sins or know hearts - but we can follow Jesus' example and be with the folks God has placed in our paths. Not just knowing about the problem, praying about the problem, sharing wisdom about the problem. We need to get our hands dirty - like Jesus did - not worrying about what others think. Jesus didn't care when he was harangued for hanging out with sinners. We do keep our robes clean - we don't join in the sin - but we do physically snatch the sufferer from the fire - which entails very personal involvement. We can't snatch from the fire when we are sitting on the sidelines. Yelling between your hands "I'm praying for you!" can't be heard above the roaring flames - and do nothing for the person who is burning. We have to get up - walk over - risk getting singed ourselves - but grab her out. That's what Jesus did. That's what I know now I am to do. No more safe prayers for me.
This picture exemplifies what I'm saying. It was painted following a dream that the founder of the Salvation Army (William Booth) had. Which type of believer, living in safety, are you? As you notice - most are just going about their lives - eating, drinking, being safe. The guy painting is probably painting a very spiritual piece. The singer might be singing a song to God. But most aren't even noticing the drowning. Some notice - and are offering help - if they drowner will come to them. Only one couple is out in the churning water (the fire) - grabbing drowners and pulling them to safety.
If you would like information on ordering this moving print - let me know. I have it hanging it our study. What a meaningful reminder of why God has "stationed" us here. It's not to eat and drink in safety. It is not all about us. We are here for others. We are here to do what God created us for - and that is simply to live so others see God. Who in this painting is living that way? Am I? Are you?
AJTX ~ 11.08
PS - here is a link to Booth's explanation of his dream:
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I guess if I were to say the ONE thing that bothers me about politics and spiritually minded folks is they don’t seem to be able to exist together. When I listen to a discussion about politics between Christians – I don’t hear or see anything different coming from them than I do unbelievers or the talking heads on the news. Doesn’t something seem wrong with this picture? Where are the joyful followers of God who feel a peace that passes understanding?
Most of us are pretty comfortable with going to the Bible as an example of how to live today – so I thought I might share a situation that I think applies to this.
There was once a man who terrified God’s people. He taunted them 2 times a day – calling attention to his power over them. He thrilled at their fear. He gloried in it.
“This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other! (1 Sam. 17:10)
While we are certainly in the threat of trying times – we aren’t having our lives nor even our pocketbooks actually in eminent danger. We don’t have taunt-ers advertising they have America by the shorthairs. We don’t have people on the news laughing at the predicament they have America in. Nor are they blaring in our streets over microphones, laughing as we are living in their grip of their terror.
Yet – that is exactly what Goliath was doing.
When Saul and his men heard the Philistine’s challenge they were terrified and lost all hope. ( 1 Sam. 17:11)
I wonder how our reaction to supposed fear compares to a man of God – David’s -reaction to a real one. It seems to me we fit more with Saul and his men. Did David complain, demean, organize hate groups, pass information around to ruin the name of Goliath? Did he take matters in his own hands, get numbers on his side, pass around bumper stickers that said “Vote like an Israeli” or “Get your 'Rally for Rocks' t-shirt here! Join our ranks!?”
David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Sam. 17:26)
David’s initial response to this real, impending problem is to talk about God. I don’t see the others around doing the same. They were too busy quivering. David’s mind goes to God immediately. It reminds me of Proverbs, “Acknowledge me in all your ways and I’ll direct your steps.” I wonder if Solomon’s words came from observing his father David’s life? His life with God and the faith he had were lived in his reality – not just his email posts or in bible class discussions.
Now the next part is something that’s particularly interesting to me. Ask any Christian and he/she will tell you all about the times that God has been involved in his life. They generally talk your ear off. :) Prayers have been answered, mountains moved, lives changed, hearts touched. The product of these experiences should be faith – a faith that is rooted deeply in experiences. But our faith does not seem to exist during times like these. God, who was strong enough for us to depend on in all those prayers and insurmountable life experiences, just doesn’t have what it takes in the serious governmental issues facing our country today. We need to wrest it from His hands and handle it ourselves.
“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37)
Have you heard this from the discussions of Christians during this election and times of financial troubles? I haven’t. Why not? Where is our faith?
I love this next one:
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Sam. 17:45-47)
Another point I like about this is WHY David called on God. It isn’t to save David’s skin. It isn’t so the Israelites can quit being terrorized. It’s not so they don’t lose their retirement or have lower taxes. It’s so the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. However, why are we calling on God today? (Those of us who even are taking that step at
David is God centered. Everyone else is Goliath centered.
Where is your center?
And the deal is – it’s ALL up to us. God doesn’t ask for the world to follow Him. He doesn’t demand numbers or percentages before he’ll step in. He says “However, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, search for me, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear [their prayer] from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)
My question is – why aren’t we witnessing this today among God’s children? Where are the humble, the pray-ers, the folks who change their wicked lives and beg for mercy? Where are those whose hearts, minds, and voices turn first to God – because He has proven Himself to us in the past through the experiences of our lives?
Where are those whose hearts, minds, and voices turn first to God – because He has proven Himself to us in the past through the experiences of our lives? Is our trust in the Savior who has faithfully delivered us from the lion and the bear or the carnal giant political system that never keeps its promises?
Monday, June 09, 2008
"We try to run from God and drown our miseries in empty pleasures or drink or work or social life but as surely as we think we have escaped, as surely as we think we have run far enough, God touches our sleeve with his love saying My child, my name and my nature are love and I must act according to what I am. When you tire of all your running and your wandering and your heartbreak, I'll be there to draw you to myself again."
That is the story of the Bible isn't it? At Bethlehem God entered the slave market where the whole human race was putting itself up for auction, prostituting itself and its humanity to a cheapened life. But on the cross the Lord Jesus paid the price, the full price for our freedom, and bought us back. This is the story of God's love and God's heart -- his loving desire to make of his people the full persons he intended them to be. (from pbc.org)
One of the wonderful aspects of following God is the realization that your existence matters. So many people don't feel (or realize) that - and that's witnessed by the huge success of books like The Purpose Driven Life and Your Best Life Now. People are searching for significance and meaning. Is there anything that distinguishes me from the person standing next to me in the elevator? Will my passing leave a hole - did my life leave a mark? Do I matter?
When one walks with God over years - he can look back and see the threads that God has woven - threads of realization and purpose that were being blended through life experiences. During the weaving the pattern is generally indistinguisable - but when looking back the design is so distinct and brilliant. God introduces a new understanding or depth to us. This brings a particular colored thread to our pattern. Then he adds a seemingly unrelated concept later (a new color) and then another. Years and experiences pass and one day we look back over the weaving of our life and see that those colors that were so different on the shuttles are now woven tightly into the pattern that is distinctly the intimate relationship between God and each of us - our purpose for being. God's good pleasure.
That is how the realization for this life long search for submission began. Looking back over my life, I was able to see a design in the unrelated threads that God had added to my life-tapestry over the past 30 years. Experiences and understandings that seemed totally unrelated to me at the time were now an amazing picture of God and his relationship with me. His teaching me.
I am sharing a personal experience with God here - but I do so with trepidation. People are always sharing dreams, experiences and revelations. I don't believe that is why God teaches us: in order that we go out and share what we heard or learned or saw. No, I believe God teaches us so that we become a person through the experience that He can then use to do His will. The experience was for us - the result of the experience - the person we become - is for others.
The resulting realization gave me a view of the multi-colored pathway to my present understanding of submission.
I've always loved contemplating on the relationship God shared with Moses. I believe one reason God shared so much with Moses is that Moses wanted God. He cared for Him - he liked Him. He talked to God as he would a friend. He even counseled/corrected God. Rather than being offended and raining down holy fire - God loved him - and listened. Moses wanted even more of God. (This was placed in opposition to the Israelites who said "That's OK Moses - we don't need to meet God on the mountain. You just head on up there yourself and come back and tell us. We'll do whatever you tell us to do." They certainly didn't want God.)
So, Moses said, "God? I want more. Can you show me yourself? Can I see Your Glory?" and God answered (quoted in Exodus 33:18-23)
"I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my
name (for the sake of His name)... my name 'The LORD.' . . . Then the LORD said,
"There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes
by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I
have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face
must not be seen."
So much to think about in that experience. I mean - can you even imagine? One, Moses wanted more of God - but in the phyiscal - couldn't handle it. God didn't say "you can't take Me" - He honored Moses' desire by giving him what he could take - but even THEN he had to cover Moses with his Hand. (one side note - I read a book that gave a very different Hebrew meaning to "you will see my back" and one that really rings true with me. Rather than God's physical "back" - that phrase means "where I have been." Wow. According to that translation, Moses couldn't take the presence (present) of God - but he could take where God had been as he passed Moses in the cleft - God in the past. Cogitate on that a bit.)
Ok, Moses took up more than I was planning. :) I'll get to how this led to Hosea next time.
From Moses to Hosea :)
My fascination with Moses' desire to know the Real God led me into the same desire. I prayed over several years that I be able to know Him - to be someone He could rely on - to be prepared as a sanctuary for Him. I wanted to be a place of rest - a life lived for Him, not focusing on what He could do for me. There were many aspects, side roads and rabbit trails leading towards this, but I'll spare you. :) I heard the following quote from C.S. Lewis in 1995 - just one of the new threads added to my life's tapestry: (before I even knew I had a tapestry :) )
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself (Mere Christianity)
So, I began a search for Him and praying for a "Flip this House" experience. What is He really like? What does He really like? How does He feel? What did Adam, Moses, David and others provide for Him, as far as relationship, that others didn't - others who were very moral good people? What did this verse mean from 2 Chronicles 16:9?:
God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are
totally committed to him. (The Message)
For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may
strongly support those whose heart is completely His. (New
Was that the key to God's friends? Their hearts are completely His? Must God search to and fro to find them?
These baby steps towards understanding God reminded me of His covering Moses as His Glory passed by. We are such weak humans and can only take small doses of God's reality. He must shield us or take things slowly for us to comprehend them. And just like the parables shared through Jesus - it's stories and life experiences that teach us best. My life experiences were leading me towards a very new understanding - and were an answer to what I had been seeking.I then became interested in Hosea's story. What an amazing experience! It has totally changed my view of God. Labeled a minor prophet - the message and how it came about is certainly not minor! Many scholars, wiser than me, have written great summaries and applications from this book - so I certainly won't attempt to do that here. My slant is a bit different.
(a piece of Hosea from the Dead Sea Scrolls)
God came to Hosea and said "I want you to get married." God had chosen the girl even - and it was one that pleased Hosea. A purty one! What follows is a heart breaking accounting of Hosea's love and Gomer's fickle adulterous lifestyle. She left the only one who loved her for a myriad of others who looked good fleetingly but only used her. Hosea still loved her - not because of who she was or what she did - but because of who he was - and his love for her. Her lowest lows did nothing to change him - other than him still working to take care of her, wanting to give her love - even in the background.
"It had to be tough on Hosea when people started to gossip about Gomer's promiscuity. But it had to be harder when he introduced someone to his family:"And I'd like you to meet my wife, Gomer. (Gomer, please cover up your cleavage.) And these are my three children: Castaway, Not Loved and Not My People." (from What Ticks God Off)
Why did God orchestrate this odd and miserable life for Hosea? Why did he choose such a fornicatin' woman for a man who was chosen as a mouthpiece for God Himself? Why did he put such negativity on those children for life by saddling them with such horrible, negative names? What sin had those kids committed to be treated this way? I see two important issues here.
- First - Hosea had totally submitted his life to God and, while he might be seen by others as a "vessel of dishonor" - he was being used by God and lived every work that God had prepared for him. He was a very important part of God's plan.
- Also, God had a message for Hosea to give - and He wanted Hosea to share it with the passion of a man who had LIVED the message - not just been told. God could have told Hosea - "Hey - go tell these people they are whores. They have left me for shoddy replacements who are only going to use and abuse them." But that is not what God chose to do. God had Hosea LIVE a physical experience that coincided with the spiritual message that God wanted him to share.
When we have experiences with God - it is not to share the nuts and bolts of what we've been through. That's intimate between God and ourselves - something tailored made for our depth, understanding and place in our individual walks. We have no record of Hosea saying, "Let me tell you what the Lord and I have been up to. He spoke to me and told me to marry Gomer . . . " No, Hosea lived the life God had set for him and then had the emotions to plead the message with God's emotions - the abandonment God felt . . the jealousy He was living with . . with the love He so wanted to give. Hosea knew the reality and could share it with tears and a broken heart. Can you imagine the message he gave?So, the various threads of my tapestry, that God began weaving before I even knew I was on a quest for learning about and experiencing submission, are beginning to exhibit a very definite pattern. It's all about submission. I am learning that submission to God is realizing there are works that He has prepared already for me to walk in. Those works are for His good pleasure - not mine. But, they are part of his plan and all I need to know/do/be has been provided through his creation of me. Also, I have learned that God is with me in all the experiences of my life and through them I learn more as I seek and knock. Those experiences are His and mine - not made to be shared. But the person I have become because of what he has provided and taught is a testimony to Him. Our Father needs people who are lights on a hill, the lower lights of the light house - the people who experienced the dark and the crashing waves on the rocks and can then point with confidence to God when others are white knuckling it through a shadow-of-death experience.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Since writing the last post, my submission both to God and my husband, has been sorely tested. Life happens, huh? :) I wondered why does it flow so smoothly at times but feel like a burden at others? I am basically the same person all the time - and so is my husband. Our personalities are actually quite similar and submission to him is not difficult. In my spiritual walk - it's no different. God doesn't change from one day to the next - doesn't make our relationship guess work. What is happening?
As I pondered this, a thought came to me. Many times throughout our marriage I happily submit to my husband because he is making a request or handling something in exactly the way I want him to - or exactly as I would do it. "Wonderful - thanks!" "Thanks for handling that problem for me!" Or, "You're so right in what you decided to do here - I am so proud of you!" This submission stuff is great! Everyone is happy - I'm freed from having to worry about certain things or handling issues. He makes a great decision that benefits us all and life is good. His decision might even be to leave the decision to me. Even better!
Kinda like with God. Here's an example: God wants me to be a good worker - actually working for Him rather than my boss. I love submitting to Him in my job, because by working that way I generally am awarded by a pat on the back, a raise and maybe a promotion. Not only did I get a raise, but I'm obeying God. Cool! This submitting stuff really works!
Ok - one problem here. Both examples above are when I am agreeing with my husband or agreeing with God. It's when they've come to a decision that I agree with or I can say "Amen!" to - or something I can see benefits me. What's not to submit to? Well, I'm not too sure that's submitting at all. I've experienced agreement.
The dictionary says agreement means harmony of people's opinions or actions. Contrarywise - the word submission means surrendering power to another. See the difference? In agreement - we are in harmony - we are moving the same direction . . we see things in the same way. When it comes to my "submission/agreement" to God - it is when His will fits in with my personality and when I see the wisdom in his ways - the end result benefits my life - whether physical or spiritual. That's what following God is for - right? It assures me life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Submitting to God means that I surrender my power to Him. His will is what rules in my life - not my own will that chooses agreement or not. I may not agree. In fact, if God gets involved in my life I would imagine it will be something I won't agree with. Why would God teach me or reveal to me something of which he and I already agree? What part of revelation is that?
Submitting means that I may be diametrically opposed to what I'm hearing or maybe I don't see that it's going to end in my understanding of the right way - but I do it anyway. And I don't do it grudgingly or with a heart that's filled with distrust or holding on to the power - but I do it cheerfully. My will - my power - has been given over.
There aren't many examples of this in the Bible. But one sticks out to me that illustrates this turning of will over perfectly.
Part of the story from Daniel 3:
Nebuchadnezzar asked them, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don't honor my gods or worship the gold statue that I set up? When you hear the sound of the rams' horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments, will you bow down and worship the gold statue I made? If you don't worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. What god can save you from my power then?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "We don't need to answer your last question. If our God, whom we honor, can save us from a blazing furnace and from your power, he will, Your Majesty. But if he doesn't, you should know, Your Majesty, we'll never honor your gods or worship the gold statue that you set up."
There is submission - but even if he doesn't . . .
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God could save them - but
they submitted to His decision of whether he would or not - and would submit to him to the end - even if the end meant a very painful death . . . a death that came about because they were doing the will of God.
So - my challenge to myself is to focus on submission - not to applaud myself for moments of agreement. Big challenge. It certainly goes against my natural self.