Not Strange, But Sad

It’s strange that you can’t find words to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend.

Part of a recent Facebook post in my newsfeed, I found this statement nestled among similar ones designed to highlight Christian failings.  Instead of finding it strange, however, I found it sad.  And not in the way intended.

If the statement is reality for believers, then prayer has become something other than it was meant to be.  Something we do (or should do) because we’re Christians, rather than the means by which we become more intimately acquainted with our heavenly Father.  This is strange, but in a sad way.

Proverbs 18:24  NIV A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The friend who sticks closer than a brother is Jesus Christ, Who lives in us by His Spirit.  That’s as close as it gets.  In addition, He calls us His friend.1  If we are really friends, why is talking together so difficult?

friendship-1534626-639x479Friends talk with one another about anything and everything, listen to one another, find comfort in silence, work together to help others, interacting along the way.  The more time they spend together, the better they know one another.  The better they know one another, the more time they want to spend together.

Is this the kind of friendship I experience with Christ?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  How about you?  When the methods and mindsets from so many years of religion become my default mode, I lose the freedom in prayer for which my friend Christ Jesus has set me free.2  When the duty becomes my focus, rather than the relationship, that sense of intimate friendship is lost temporarily, leaving me unable to find words to speak.

That’s not strange, my friends.  It’s sad.

1 James 2:23

2 Galatians 5:1

It Took Only a Simple “Thank You”

Still in the midst of an ongoing problem with another believer, my bad thoughts were definitely having a negative effect on my attitude. What’s worse, I was making no effort to think differently, much less take those thoughts captive. At the same time, I was sinking fast and I knew it.

Yes, I had prayed concerning many different aspects of this dilemma, trying to remind myself the person was not the enemy. Sometimes I even interceded for them without any thought of our issues, only concerned for their needs as the Lord prompted me. I felt much better, much lighter, after praying that way. Before I realized it, though, I let my mind wander into the dark places again, and found myself trapped.

For some reason, this particular day was different. Though I was fully engaged in those negative thoughts, willfully rehearsing every real and perceived hurt, my spirit managed to speak above the din, asking the Lord for His help. And help He did.

“Thank You for forgiving them,” I heard myself say somewhat reluctantly.

When the reality of those words took hold in my brain, I repeated more emphatically, “Yes, thank You for forgiving them!”

It wasn’t a matter of my asking God to forgive them, for that was complete at the cross. Nor did I ask Him to help me forgive them, though He well knew I wasn’t doing so well with that. Actually, for just that reason – because He knew I was failing miserably at forgiving – He gave me just what was needed to find the absolute freedom of His forgiveness. I needed to see my offender the way He did – as another beloved child who needed the Savior. In that place, I was instantly thankful that He has forgiven both of us. Oh, the glorious freedom of the children of God!

Lest you think it’s all behind me now, that those thoughts no longer plague me, or that I immediately turn them away when they come to the surface, that isn’t the case. However, now I find a much easier return to freedom when I remember that simple “Thank You.”

Flawless, by Mercy Me, is so good I wanted to include it here, even though it’s not a perfect fit for the message. I hope it works its way into your heart as it has in mine.

God’s Still Dancing

God Danced the Day You Were Born has been around on artwork and greeting cards for many years.  I always liked it, but never gave more than a passing thought to the sentiment . . . until the other day.

It was the last opportunity I would have to pray with my son and daughter-in-law (without their toddler around to distract) before they headed to the hospital to deliver their second son – my second grandson.  I didn’t know in advance what I’d pray, since the typical things had already been covered in personal prayer.  I knew Holy Spirit was behind it, so I looked forward to what He’d communicate at this special time.  As always, it was perfect!

Rather than leading us to pray about the physical circumstances of this birth, the Lord revealed His heart in a deeper way.  As I began to pray with excitement about this precious baby we were about to meet, I could sense His eager anticipation, too.  As excited as we were at the prospect of seeing this new life, the One Who created Him was even more excited!  The Creator had knit Emmett together in his mother’s womb and already knew everything about him; yet, He was still excited about this baby’s world debut!

You know, it was the same when each of us was born.  God danced with excitement the day we made our entrance and the world got its first glimpse of yet another of His created ones.  He had, after all, declared the day of creation very good when He created each of us in the spirit realm, long before we were formed in the womb. (Genesis 1:31) 

Then we grew up, living so far from His perfection.  But God!  Because of His love for us, and His gift of Jesus Christ, He sees us as perfect, completely righteous.  We are in Christ.  He’s not disappointed with Christ, so He’s not disappointed with us.  Really.  And He’s still dancing!

The World Was Not Worthy

Hebrews 11:38 AMP  [Men] of whom the world was not worthy . . .

As I read the chapter of Hebrews this morning commonly referred to as the “hall of fame of faith,” the above phrase arrested my attention in a way it never has before.  Immediately previous to this verse was the brief mention of various men and women who lived before Christ came, yet they believed.  For their faith in what never manifested during their lifetime, some were mighty and strong in this life – in the power of His Spirit.  Others, refusing to deny the One in Whom they believed, were tortured in many ways, and died gruesome deaths at the hands of those who didn’t believe.

Yet, what does this verse say?  The world was not worthy of them.  They lived as though Christ had already come.  They lived so others would see Him, simply because they believed that God’s Word and His promises were true.  And then they died without seeing those promises fulfilled.  Still, they went from this earthly life into eternity without wavering in their faith.  How?

I don’t think this chapter is at all about the faith of the ones mentioned in it.  Rather, it’s about the faithfulness of the One Who promised them what they never saw in the natural.  The people who are mentioned were so focused on Him that the extreme difficulties in this life were unable to divert their attention to their temporary troubles.  They simply believed God was True.

How much better for us as believers today, for Christ has come, fulfilling the promise!  We can know with certainty the faithfulness of our God, where those mentioned in Hebrews 11 could only hope.  We have the written Word and the ability to read it for ourselves, with Holy Spirit as the Teacher Jesus promised would come – not having to rely solely on the teaching of others.  The world is not to be worthy of us, either.

It has everything to do with our focus, not with our perfect words and actions.  The more aware we become of Jesus Christ and His righteousness, and that we are (not will be) God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus1, the less consumed we are with our human failings and weaknesses.  This is when we find the strength to endure the struggles of our own lives.  Jesus becomes our indivertible focus.  Just as the world was not worthy of Him, the world is no longer worthy of us, either.

Oh, Lord, my prayer is selfish, even while including the entire body of Christ.  I’m asking You to help us so see Christ that our self-focus dims.  May the totality of our desire be that the world sees Jesus when they see us, not because we try so much harder to be Christ-like, but because we are so full of Him alone.  Help us to quit negating what You have already said about us – that we are Your righteousness in Christ, and that as He is so are we in this world2 – by reminding You of our every wrong thought, word, and deed.  Instead, help us to stay firmly entrenched in the complete, forever, nothing-left-out, finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross!  May You, alone, receive all glory and honor and praise, even as we stand firmly in the Truth that the world is not worthy of us, just as it was not worthy of our Christ.  Thank You for what You have already done, precious Lord Jesus!  Amen.

1 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 1 John 4:17

The Freedom of His Word

photo by Claudia Meyer, Paris

There was a time, many years ago, when I thought I was praying in earnest for someone who had some real problems.  Not only did she have problems, but she created problems for many in our congregation.  I understood enough about prayer not to focus on the symptoms that were obvious to all.  I wanted to know the root cause – why she acted like she did – knowing that the symptoms would leave when the root was removed.  When I asked the Lord to show me the root, His answer surprised me.

God responded to my question with a question. “What will you do with that information?”  With that simple question, He did show me a bad root – but it was in me.  He knew I would misuse the information I asked of Him.  Unbeknownst to me, I didn’t want to help this sister in her need, but to share the information with others as a prayer concern (aka gossip).  Any prayer that would have taken place as a result of my sharing this insight would have been tainted because of my wrong motive.

Gossip wasn’t the only problem here.  My motivation in praying for this woman wasn’t to help her at all.  I just wanted her to stop being such a problem for me and others in my congregation.  My motives were totally selfish and self-serving!  I had looked at her actions and attitudes only through my eyes of flesh, not through God’s eyes of unconditional love and desire to heal and deliver her into His freedom through Christ.

John 8:32 AMP  And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.

You know, the Lord never told me the root of that woman’s problem, for it wasn’t the truth I needed to know.  Instead, He told me the Truth I needed to know, that which needed to be worked into my life at that moment, so that I could begin to walk in His greater freedom for me!  Walking in the freedom of this Truth, I am now able to pray for others that the Truth might also set them free.