Revisiting Our Landmarks of God’s Grace to Gain the Courage to Go Forward

Rock Piles Demand to Be Noticed and Cause People to Recall the History

Rock Piles Demand to Be Noticed and Cause People to Recall the History

When we have to face challenges and the unknowns in moving forward, it helps to revisit the Landmarks of God’s great grace moments scattered across the history of our lives.

That’s what Elisha saw Elijah do as he prepared for the end of his life.  He followed Elijah on a tour of four places.  They visited Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the Jordan.

Gilgal is where stones were taken out of the river to build a monument.  This was to remind the Israelites that God had opened up the Jordan so they could cross over from the wilderness to the Promised land.

Next, they visited Bethel.  This was the place of Jacob’s ladder to heaven.  It was the place where Jacob had pressed in to get a blessing after wrestling with an angel all night.  Elisha saw this as another place where God kept His promises.  Jacob gained favor with his brother again and went on to become a very wealthy land owner.

The mighty walls of Jericho fell down in Israel’s first battle after entering the Promised Land.  At first glance the walls seemed impenetrable.  Yet, it because a place where the Israelites did what they could do, and God did what He could do.  The Israelites obeyed God and marched around it seven times, and then shouted.  God caused the walls to come down, all by themselves.  God did the impossible.  The Israelites never forgot it.  He can tear down walls and win battles as we obey His commands and His timing.

The Jordan is the river the Israelites first crossed over.  Before approaching the river, Elijah asked Elisha what He wanted.  Somehow, Elisha had moved past not wanting to discuss it.  He was now at the point of learning to ask for what He needed God to do.  He had moved from negative anticipation to positive planning.  Elisha asked for a double portion.  Elijah considered this and replied, “You have asked a very difficult thing. Yet, if you see me when I am taken fro you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”  2 Kings 2:10.

Elisha looked for this.  Elisha saw Elijah taken up.  He received the double portion.  He picked up the cloak and used the same cloak that represented what he didn’t really want (Elijah’s death) to be the tool that touched the river and allowed him to walk back over on dry land.  At that point, his ministry began .


The Invitation in “It is Finished”

Jesus declared, "It is Finished" on the cross

Jesus declared, “It is Finished” on the cross

It is Finished

One of the seven sentences Jesus spoke on the cross was the phrase “It is finished!”  John 19:30.  It wasn’t just the end of his life.  It was the end of the mankind’s death sentences.  The sacrifice was sufficiently satisfied: His innocent death for all of mankind’s sin.  This choice defined the highest level of love for a mostly undeserving group of people.  Love won. Jesus obeyed the Father’s heart of love to finish His mission on earth.  We don’t hear Jesus sharing any regrets for his choice.  None.  It’s over—forever.

And it goes deeper.  Beyond the debt of sin being paid, Jesus also conquered man’s most difficult challenge: death.  Jesus rose from the dead and offers life to all His followers.  While living, we have Jesus’ power in us to overcome every difficulty and challenge life brings.  We can act as Jesus did by seeing, believing, knowing, and expecting, “It is finished.”  Acting in faith and obedience will remove our mountains of evil and mountains of difficulty.  In other words, because of His complete work on the cross, we live with the hope that all of our mountains can be removed. The same power at work in Jesus is available to us through prayer and partnership with God.

Jack Hayford takes this theme one step further in his book How to Live Through a Bad Day. He writes, “’It is finished’ was the son of God’s invitation to join Jesus in the conviction that now—because of the Cross—there is nothing we struggle with that is without either a purpose or an end.  No struggle need ever be pointless.  No suffering need ever be unending.”

 


Prayers for the Parched: Ruth’s Humility

Boaz said to Ruth, "Don't Go and Glean in Another Field."

Boaz said to Ruth, “Don’t Go and Glean in Another Field.”

Boaz asked the foreman of his harvesters, “Whose young woman is that?”  The foreman replied, “She is the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi.  She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’  She went into the field and has worked steadily from morning till now, except for a short test in the shelter.”  So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me.  Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here.”  Ruth 2:5-8

 

There is never a point in Ruth’s story when she says, “Bummer, I gave up my life in Moab.  I should have gone home to my parents when I had the chance.  There’s no prosperity evident in this country.  I’ve got to go glean in the fields like a poverty stricken person.  I would have thought God would have showed up with some favor and prosperity before now.”

Rather Ruth was humble.  “May I glean in your field?”  God helps the humble.  He gave Ruth protection, favor, Boaz and Obed.

Father,

Thank you for Ruth and what a marvelous example she is.

Thank you God for being able to glean in your field

Father, put in me the desire to do and have

The right things                                      (planting seeds)

The right motive                                    (for God’s glory)

The right attitude                                   (humility)

The right heart                                        (heart after God)


Praying for Leaders Impacts Us, Their Followers

Let us Pray for President Obama

Let us Pray for President Obama

The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders.  “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”  1 Timothy 2:1-3.

Paul includes kings and all who are in authority.  Beyond a good idea and a strong Biblical encouragement, praying for leaders benefits us.  Leaders and their decisions impact their followers.  This truth plays out on the followers’ lives.

Consider the contrary.  Pharaoh was defiant to Moses’s request to “Let my people go.”  Pharaoh said “No” to Moses and to God.  First Pharaoh’s refusal brought several plagues to the land with severe physical and economical impact to the people.  Eventually, it brought death to every family in Egypt.

In another example of disobedience, King David’s disobedience to following God’s rules for transporting the Ark of the Covenant, brought instant death to a faithful lieutenant who simply reached out to balance the Ark.  See 2 Samuel 6:6-8. Not just an “Oops,” Uzzah’s family didn’t have a husband or father any longer.  At first glance, it seems severe.  But this pattern continues down history with leaders’ decisions having impact on follower’s lives, which extends to the lives of their families.

Who knows what interceding prayer might have done to impact rulers throughout history?  A friend of mine claims that it was faithful grandmothers at home in their prayer closets that opened the door for victory in WW2.

Culturally, we give and receive honor so easily at a personal level.  We understand that we are to be judged individually for our actions. Yet, we live in community.  We are called to pray for the leaders of our companies, our churches, our cities, our states and our nation.  I hear a lot of opining.  I hear a lot of complaints.  Much less frequently, I hear heart felt prayer for our leaders—regardless of their positions.

Maybe this is our season to expand our prayers from “Help me, (Give me…) and everyone I love,” to “Help them, (Give them…) O Sovereign Lord.”


Prayers for the Parched: My Heartbeat Prayer

Wanting in My Heart the Same Things God Wants for Me

Wanting in My Heart the Same Things God Wants for Me

My Heartbeat Prayer

And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.  Isaiah 58:11  KJV

This is a simple prayer that I say often.  Each line came independently months apart.  I say it now with the rhythm of a heartbeat.  It’s my heart beating after God’s heart.

Help me

Heal me

Guide me

Prepare me

Change me

Deliver me

Redeem me

Restore me

 


The Most Audacious Claim on Earth

Jesus is the Word.  He came and dwelt among us.  He speaks eternal truths.

Jesus is the Word. He came and dwelt among us. He speaks eternal truths.

Jesus said, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.”  Matthew 28:18.

This is an amazing claim when one considers that “All Authority” includes political authority, economic authority, social authority, and cultural authority.  Positively audacious!

In the natural, Jesus doesn’t even have authority over his own body.  The Roman centurions clobbered it and crucified it. Jesus’ followers faced failure.  All the disciples’ dreams were carried away and buried in the same tomb with Jesus.

Grief.  Disgrace.  Vulnerability.  Loss of a beloved friend and teacher.  Human judgments.  All seemed lost to the followers of Christ.

Three days later came the first physical sighting of a risen Jesus.  Some saw this.  Even so, not all believed.  It still didn’t make sense.  The significance wasn’t fully revealed and the truth was being processed through human emotions and human understanding levels. The supernatural receptors hadn’t been fully turned to receive and understand the revelation of what was unfolding before their eyes.

Now, after 2000 years, humans are still striving for a deeper understanding of the significance of this statement.  It contains the key that links understanding heaven’s operating system.  Jesus taught us to pray “Be it is on earth as it is in heaven.”  When we see miracles that defy the natural conditions of earth, we know we’ve caught a glimpse of glory.

Jesus shared some of this authority when he sent out the disciples in Luke 10:19.  “Behold I have given you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall in any means harm you.”  Some saints walk in this authority and it grabs people’s attention.  We see the evidence of Jesus’ power when demons are cast out, people are healed, and lives are restored through prayer in Jesus’ name.

Is there more to this audacious statement for us to understand and learn and act on?  May this season of lent before Easter bring more revelation to the significance of Jesus’ claim.


Who is Your 12th Man?

Seattle's Seahawk's 12th Man Factor

Seattle’s Seahawk’s 12th Man Factor

Sunday’s sermon at Open Door Church in Mountain View, California included a segment on how God launches us, often before we feel ready.  Our pastor used the context of Jesus launching the disciples to go out into all the world and, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” See Matthew 28: 19.

Two verses earlier it said that, “some disciples doubted,” even after seeing Jesus—post resurrection.  This doesn’t seem like a “ready” group.  With the loss of Judas, their group constituted of 11 disciples.  12 was the chosen number they started with, and were used to.  12 allowed for them to go out in groups of two.  12 is a number of wholeness.  11 seems like it’s not quite ready.  Theologian Dale Bruner says that “the number eleven limps.”

What Jesus tells the disciples, is “Go, and I will be with you.”  Jesus promises to accompany us as the invisible divine companion.

Using a football comparison, Jesus is “the 12th man.”  The term “12th man” comes from Seattle Seahawks’ stadium where the sound of fans’ cheering is considered as an much an advantage as having an additional player to the 11 member team.  Jesus is our additional team member everywhere we go.

Jesus’ promise remains true for all believers throughout time.  Not just a comfort, this promise propels to go forward whenever He prompts, ready or not.  Moving forward doesn’t depend on our ability ahead of time.  Our obedience brings His presence which includes His supernatural power and direction to accomplish all He has for us.  The angels in heaven cheer for God’s purposes fulfilled with obedient saints.

Prayer:  “Jesus please come and be my 12th man.  I listen for your nudges to go forward and choose to obey.”


Communion Pattern: Blessed, Broken and Given

"Take and Eat. This is My Body Broken for You." Mark 14:22

“Take and Eat. This is My Body Broken for You.” Mark 14:22

Mark 14:22 reads, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’”

Many of us come to the Communion table aware of our sin and needing to ask forgiveness.  We live knowing that temptations sometimes get the better of us.  We take our sins to the cross and receive his forgiveness, at the Communion table.  Some of us leave, having received forgiveness, but not quite feeling ready to fulfill our God given destiny.

Communion reminds us that God uses broken people to carry out His purposes in the world through us.  The verbs in Mark 14:22 outline the process:  Blessed, broken, and given out.  As we continually learn of God’s love, the significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we continue on our spiritual journey.  Along the way, we sin.  The journey path incorporates the steps of forgiveness, cleansing, and redemption.  The human condition keeps us breaking God’s laws and needing Jesus’ forgiveness and cleansing continually.  We repeatedly accept Jesus’ invitation to “Take and eat.”

Amazingly, God uses us people to carry His perfect message to others in our broken state. Most spiritual journeys produce mature Christians, who hopefully attain to live by God’s guidelines more and more closely.  Yet, He doesn’t wait for certain levels of performance to be usable.  He lets our stories be given out as they are.  Further, He often wants us willing to tell our story of brokenness.  The sustaining truth is that He loves people despite our sins.  He can use our stories of brokenness all along the journey path to draw people to Himself.

Jesus’ invitation to share the bread that night depicts this process all in one action.  We are blessed by God.  We are broken by sin.  And we are asked to give out our story to others.  When we partake in Communion, we are taking and eating the bread of His body given for us.   Our brokenness drives us to the table and extends Jesus’ invitation to all through our stories of broken lives where we all come to Jesus’ offer at the table:  “Take and eat, this is my Body.” His resurrected body becomes our healing.

 

 

 


Prayers for the Parched: Worship to the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Discernment

The Holy Spirit Gives Us Discernment

Worship to the Holy Spirit

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to prayer for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  Romans 8:26-27

Praise to you, O Holy Spirit

You have been given to live in us

You provide comfort

You encourage me

You strengthen my heart

You keep me doing good works

You keep me focused on truth

 

Holy Spirit, you are at work in me constantly bringing about sanctification

You are eternally holy

You are developing holiness in me

 

Holy Spirit, You point me to Jesus

Jesus is the solution to my thirst, to my hunger, to my need for light

You bring me into the fullness of Jesus

In Jesus, there is rest, gentleness, and renewal

You encourage me by bringing me to Jesus

Praise be to you, Holy Spirit, for praying for the people of God

You bear me up in my weaknesses

 

Thank you, Holy Spirit for assuring and confirming that I am a child of God

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for putting truth in my heart

Thank you for continually praying for me

Thank you for being my enabler

I worship you that you’re at work in my circumstances

With you, there is variety

You are the implementer of the phrase, “Getting it Done”

Show me how to work in conjunction with your ways

Thank you for your diligence


Prayers for the Parched: Perspectives

Same day.  Same circumstances: Two Different perspective.  Learning to Rejoice Always

Same day, Same circumstances: Two Different perspectives. Learning to Rejoice Always

Perspectives

Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NCV

Should you find yourself stuck in traffic; don’t despair

There are people in this world for whom driving is an unheard of privilege

 

Should you have a bad day at work;

Thank of the man who has been out of work for years

 

Should you despair over a relationship gone bad;

Think of the person who has never known what it’s like to love and be love in return

 

Should you grieve the passing of another weekend;

Think of the woman in dire straits, working twelve hours a day, seven days a week to feed her children

 

Should your car break down, leaving you miles from assistance;

Think of the paraplegic who world love the opportunity to take that walk

 

Should you notice a new gray hair in the mirror;

Think of the cancer patient I chemotherapy who wishes she had hair to examine

 

Should you find yourself at a loss and pondering what if life all about asking, “What is my purpose?”  Be thankful;

There are those who didn’t live long enough to get the opportunity

 

Should you find yourself the victim of other people’s bitterness, ignorance, smallness of insecurities;

Remember, things could be worse

You could be one of them.

 

Unknown Author