Tuesday Prayer: Follow

A quick note to my blog friends: I apologize for not being very active or reading your blogs lately. I am in the middle of teenage chaos and adjusting to a new job. It is all I can do to post once or twice a week right now, so know I miss you and hope to be back to reading and commenting soon – though realistically, it may be months! ❤

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12:25-26

Lord our God, the Almighty, we praise Your name today, for You are good! By Your power, You defeated death once for all, raising Jesus from death to life so that we who follow Him may also be dead to sin and alive to You in Jesus. Hallelujah, for He is risen!

O God, let our rejoicing not be limited to Easter Sunday but continue throughout the year. Truly, our Savior lives and is alive and active every single day. Likewise, we have joy in Him daily even when our choice to follow Him leads us into places we would rather not go. But Lord, often You call us to follow You into the difficult and uncomfortable places, for there is where You do Your greatest work. 

Today, we pray that the Spirit will increase our zeal for God and for Your Kingdom. Train our hearts to let go of our lives in this world, considering them disposable for the honor of following the King of Glory wherever He may call us. Teach us to go wherever You lead us,  Lord – even if You lead us so far out of our comfort zones that we have nothing to cling to but You. Maybe especially then.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8

And when we feel weak and inadequate because of the depths of the waters where You have brought us, remind us that Your power is perfected in our weakness. Your glory shines through most of all when it is clear that You were the one working all along. Teach us to trust You enough to lean on Your power and not on our own capabilities; to trust You enough to step out even onto the waves when You call us there.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Matthew 14:28-29

This week, Lord, we ask for You to give us the courage to put obedience to You above our comforts, to put Your will for us above our own will and desires, and to increase our trust in You. We do believe; help our unbelief! May our actions reflect our faith as You call us into a more intimate walk with You, setting us apart to display Your splendor here on earth.

As we step out in faith and follow You, may our trust in You grow with each new stride and may our addiction to security fade as we learn to exult more fully in You, amen. 

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:38-39

My Impatience: A Confession

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Exodus 5:22-23

When I selected this verse in a state of sleepiness last night, my intention was to revisit an idea I wrote – and somehow lost – a few years ago. Perhaps I will try again on another day.

However…

This morning, the Lord reminded me of the verse when I said something very similar to Him as we walked and talked together.

During my study of Revelation, I’ve found my heart torn in half. Every day I read it, I am filled with excitement and wonder as well as fear – but not fear for myself.

On one hand, I long to see the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord. I’m eager to see Him take possession of what is properly His and destroy evil once and for all time. I cannot wait for the end of pain and suffering and horror.

And yet…

I am burdened by fear for loved ones who do not know Him; who reject Him or who know of Him but choose not to walk in His ways. I am not yet ready for the Lord to come again because I want time for these to be able to choose Him. I don’t want their time to run out, and I don’t want to see them destroyed as unbelievers, on that Day or any other.

In short, I want to see them saved, delivered from sin – from the spiritual Egypt, if you will. Most of them I know and love. Some are the loved ones of dear friends. And I have been praying for them: Nathan. Jessie. Steve. Eric. Katie. Robert. Chris. Sherry. Gail. To name just a few.

This morning, I received the tragic news that one of the names from my list is no more. A precious friend’s brother took his own life. I found myself unintentionally echoing Moses’s words: “You have not delivered these people at all.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

And He reminded me that while He is patient, waiting for all to come to repentance, I am not. I am desperately impatient, and I want to see this thing done. Now. Maybe yesterday.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Still, in my heart of hearts, I know He will bring it to pass – in His way and in His time. I trust Him. So I continue to pray that He will make the stony hearts into hearts of flesh and pierce them with the Godly grief for sin which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

And I will continue to pray that each of these, and many more, will come to a saving faith in Yeshua Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also know that no matter how earnestly and desperately I may plead before the Throne of Grace on behalf of these, they each have a choice. God does not force Himself upon any of us. They have to choose for themselves whether or not they will surrender to the Lordship of Yeshua, because what He desires is for us to love Him back. And love is a choice.

So my prayers continue to rise to the Lord.

Oh Lord, let each one of these people choose You. Please turn their hearts to You. Open their eyes. Heal their hurts. Bring them into wisdom and knowledge of You, and let them taste and see that You are good. Protect them from the enemy’s schemes and from harm, and please do not allow another one to leave this earth until they have made their peace with You and been saved by Your glorious grace, amen.

And I continue to trust Him, knowing that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. All of them.

And I continue to love Him. No matter what.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Gentlemanly Disagreement

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.
(2 Timothy 2:14)

Is it just me or do my fellow countrymen in the US seem to be increasing in verbal combativeness and anger? Even a casual perusal of social media will reveal at least one vitriolic argument delivered with such vehemence that the reader raises a reflexive hand to ward off the virtual spittle.

If only such disagreements would stay buried among emojis and uppercase fonts. But I’ve seen an increasing number of public lashings-out as well. Not only shootings but aggressive driving and other hostilities seem to be becoming more and more pervasive.

It’s our new normal, somewhat infamously (and embarrassingly) highlighted during each new political rally for local, state, or federal elections.

But Christians, we have a calling and it is NOT to take part in vicious debate. In fact, we’re expressly told to love our enemies and respond to their acts of hostility with kindness and to overcome evil with good (see Matthew 5:38-45, Romans 12:21, et al).

We are called not to argumentativeness, but to truth.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.
(2 Timothy 2:15-17a)

Not only are we to uphold an unashamed adherence to truth, but when it becomes necessary for us to correct, we do so with gentleness. Not trying to fight fire with fire, but cooling the heat of the moment with the genuine love and humility modeled so excellently by our Lord when He asked, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” (Luke 23:24).

Somehow in our embracing of the sincere belief that modern man has evolved to such a greater degree of wisdom than our primitive and somewhat foolish ancestors, we have also evolved ourselves right out of the art of gentlemanly disagreement.

In our quest for Nietzsche’s “superman,” we’ve run roughshod over the man of honor, trampling him and cursing him for slowing us down in our frantic hurtling down the broad path. We’ve forgotten that path leads to destruction. Indeed, the track is littered with the detritus of its destination. Not that we’ve time to stop and take notice, of course.

Yet it wasn’t so many years ago that men could agree to disagree. Two men I know of went so far as to be the greatest of friends despite the absolute opposition of their ideologies.

G. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw were fabulous friends, yet their viewpoints could not have been more opposite. Chesterton was a Catholic, a prolific author, and from all accounts filled with a boundless joy. Shaw epitomized atheistic viewpoint and had some sympathies for communistic society.

Both men never ceased their attempts to convert one another to his own way of thinking. Both men frequently engaged in a hearty and heartfelt sparring with words.

But each of them respected the other, often praising his opponent’s clarity of thought or well-turned phrase even while rejecting the philosophy behind it. When Chesterton reached the end of this life – an end Shaw firmly maintained was his friend’s grand finale – Shaw, knowing that his long-time rival and colleague wasn’t the greatest money manager, he wrote to Chesterton’s widow:

“It seems the most ridiculous thing in the world that I, 18 years older than Gilbert, should be heartlessly surviving him. However, this is only to say that if you have any temporary bothers that I can remove, a line on a postcard (or three figures) will be sufficient.”

In 1936, three figures represented quite a sum of money. To put the gesture in perspective, it helps to realize that the average annual income at the time was less than $2000.

For the sake of the God we serve, for the sake of bearing His name well, and on the off chance any Shaws in our lives may be persuaded by the kindness of the Lord expressed through us, His body, let’s try to tone down the anger. Please? Let’s ramp up the humility and start jabbing those furious fingers into the face in the mirror.

Then, perhaps, we can see how ridiculous we look all hopped up and blotchy with rage. Then maybe we can enjoy a laugh or two at our own expense, and get back to the business of telling the world of the marvels Jesus Christ has done for us.

Starting, just maybe, with the marvel of how He worked in us a desire to remain in tandem with His Word of Truth as we reach out to others in love, patience, mercy, and unwavering faith in a God who is worth suffering a little shame for.

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth…
(2 Timothy 2:24-25)

Tuesday Prayer: Because He Knows

Bit of background on today’s prayer:

As some of you know, I have been studying Biblical Hebrew with the goal of someday being able to read the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek. The reason? I just plain love the Word that much; both the Word who was in the beginning and the Book. For real.

At any rate, I was working through a portion of Exodus 3 and came to the end of verse 7 where God says, “I know their suffering.”

Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings…  (Exodus 3:7)

The Hebrew word translated “I know” ( יָדַ֖עְתִּי) is transliterated yadati. The root, yada, connotes several concepts, among which are to discern or find out, to know by experience. It is the same word used metaphorically for carnal knowledge (as in “Adam knew his wife”), which in my mind implies a very intimate knowledge.

Then it hit me. God truly does intimately know the suffering of His people. He even knows suffering by experience, because He experienced suffering as one of us.

By the hands of those He came to save, He endured flogging and blows. By the mouths of those He supplied with the ability to speak, He sustained mockery. By the act of one of His closest companions, He faced betrayal. Upon the wood of a cross made from a tree He created, he bore our shame.

And because He did these things and more, we who are in Christ have a great High Priest who intercedes for us before the Throne of Grace. When we turn from our own way and submit our lives fully to Him, we receive grace. Because the One who never sinned became sin for us, we become His righteousness when we, though faith, become His.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21)

So today, I raise my plea to Him:

El Roi, our God Who sees, we praise You for the simple yet profound fact that You do see us. You see us in all our afflictions, in each celebration, and in every mundane moment in between.

Nothing done in the darkness is hidden from Your sight and no evil passes without Your noticing it. Not only the wrongs others commit against us but also the wrongs perpetrated by us – all alike are noticed by You and wrought for the good of those who love You. For this, our hearts overflow with gratitude and praise.

Not only do You see us, but You know us far better, even, then we know ourselves. Before a word is on our tongue, You know it. You even know the number of hairs on our heads. But perhaps the most poignantly, You know the suffering of Your people because You also lived and suffered as a man.

Thanks to Your compassion and grace, we can trust You in the intimate way You see and know us. Because of Your love, this knowledge does not beat us down but instead inspires us to keep pressing forward, lifting our eyes off of ourselves and our sorrows and onto the Man of Sorrows who is acquainted with grief.

It is Christ’s experiential knowledge of suffering which allows us to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence. Because of what our Lord Jesus did in his time on earth, we have a high priest who has suffered in every way we have yet did so without falling to sin.

So it is today, Lord, that we as Your church humbly approach You and ask for a filling of Your mercy and grace. Please supply us with both in ample supply that we are enabled to serve You with fierce effectiveness, bearing much fruit for Your harvest – fruit that will last and that is rooted in mercy and grace as we share Your truth with others, amen. 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:15-16)

Tuesday Prayer: Seasons

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
(Psalms 24:1)

Awesome Creator, the earth is Yours and all it contains. From the vast expanse of the heavens which declare Your glory all the way to the tiniest details like the number of hairs on our heads, You are intimately acquainted with every bit. You have also made the world and its cycles, and You have provided the sun, moon, and stars to document the signs and seasons and days and years. All of it ultimately points to You, Lord, declaring Your glory and teaching us of Your ways.

Our lives, too, are governed by seasons. There are times of frantic activity and times of rest; seasons marked by trial and turmoil and seasons of utter peace and pure joy. As we grow in Christ and deepen our walk with You, the trials and the joys begin to overlap and become one because we begin to see how You use all of it – the good and the bad – to work together for the good of we who love You. Because of this, we can honestly rejoice in our suffering.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
(Romans 5:3)

Not only because of our trust in You to take what our enemy intends for evil and use it for good, but we can also rejoice because we do not serve a distant and impartial God. Instead, we serve a God who became a man and endured suffering as a man. You have suffered, and so we know that every moment of pain or trial is a glimpse into what You have already done for us.

So often, Lord, we turn things upside down, wondering why our amazing God would allow suffering in the world. A better understanding of You have us marvel at the wonder of a God who loves His creation so completely that He was willing to become a part of it, to suffer and die for it, so that by His priceless blood, all of creation might be redeemed.

When our life seasons bring times of darkness or hardship, remind us of Your love. Remind us that even the darkness is not dark to You, Lord, for nothing is hidden from Your light and nothing escapes Your notice. Nothing is wasted. No season is useless in the eternal economy of Your grace. Even our suffering and our blunders, even our scars and wounds are given purpose and meaning when surrendered to You.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalms 139:11-12)

Because You are good, we can trust You even in the dark and lonely places for if we belong to You, we are never actually alone. You have promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Teach our hearts a greater trust, a more complete devotion, and an endless sense of awe at the wonder of You, the King of Glory. May our lives be lived for Your service and our days be committed to loving obedience to Your purposes, amen.

Romans – Creature Worship

Romans 1:16-32

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

(Romans 1:24-25)

It’s a simple matter too look at this passage and dismiss it entirely as irrelevant. After all, there are no little stone gods nor candlelit alcoves in honor of carved images in my house.

And yet I find I am not so innocent after all.

When I examine my life in the light of the Word of God, I have to confess there are times when I have “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator:” a creature named Heather Davis.

This self-worship is called “pride” and it is detestable to a holy God – a putting of self in His rightful place.

With this in mind, as I read verse 18, I found not a condemnation of all those godless and wicked people out there in the world, but a warning that my life must not suppress the truth.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
(Romans 1:18)

Like Paul, I need to live as one who is not ashamed of the Good News, keeping in mind the fact that my role is one of immense and grave privilege. I am an ambassador for the King of kings and Lord of lords. As such, the way I live my life reflects Him, and if I live for myself, it reflects him inaccurately.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
(Romans 1:28)

Moving on to verse 28, I have to ask myself: How does this apply to me? It is of no use to read this on behalf of others only. Have I lived so the world can know I not only consider God worth knowing, I consider Him worth loving and obeying? Or do I put my own comfort, desires, or preferences in a position of higher authority than His will?

These are sobering questions. As I read on, I find I have been envious. I have been guilty of both slander and gossip, of acting maliciously, of foolishness and arrogance. I have been faithless.

As much as I would like to declare these are all sins from my distant past, I must be honest. I have been guilty of many of them in recent days.

And I am sorry. Truly, genuinely sorry. Not because of the people I have hurt, though I am sorry for them as well. Most of all, I am sorry for tarnishing the good Name of my Creator.

I do not applaud these things – not in me, not in others. Instead, I ask each day for the Lord to open my eyes to them in myself. My desire and intense longing is to walk humbly before my God, worship Him as God and dying to that twisted old creature called self.

Interestingly enough, all of my failures and crimes really only prove the truth of the basic tenants of my faith.

I am a sinner, incapable of saving myself. I am in need of a Savior, and when I fall, I cling to Him. I am thankful for Him not because I am so wonderful, but because I am so wretched.

Understanding this, how could I fail to worship such a merciful and magnificent Creator?

He must increase, and I must decrease!

Lord, have Your way in me. Forgive my every act of self- aggrandizement and change my life to one lived fully for You. May I be a tool useful to You, never suppressing Your Truth but living it out in heartfelt humility and joy in Your salvation, amen.

Going to the Dogs… or Maybe Not

In our years of pet ownership, my husband and I have developed our own dog ranking system, partially in jest and partly because…  well, partly because. In order, the hierarchy is:

  1. Good Dog
  2. Has Potential
  3. Bad Dog

Allow me to embellish.

This is Mayumi:Yumi001

Mayumi is a Good Dog.

Most of the time, she is very obedient… with occasional exceptions, usually because I haven’t given her adequate exercise. When small children are over, she is gentle and submissive. As for tricks, she can jump through hoops, sit, stay, high-five with alternating paws, close the door (well, sometimes), and play dead.

As a puppy, she would only quiet at night if she could see me. Overall, she is my loyal companion who follows me from room to room and generally wants to be near me. She is calm and can be trusted with people of all ages and animals of all sizes. I love this dog!

This is Chestnut:

Chestnut Has Potential.

For the most part, he is obedient (occasionally even surpassing Mayumi in coming when called), but he does lack self-control. He adores people, often rather exuberantly in wild, oafish boundings and clumsy gyrations that  threaten the vertical stability of moderately sized humans. Chestnut also has trouble holding his licker and frequently leaves slobber trails on… well, everything.

Due to his… enthusiasm… we crate him when small children or elderly people are visiting. Not all furry things that enter our yard survive except the three skunks that got him first (really, three times !!!).

My husband and I joke that his tombstone will read RIP Chestnut: He Had Potential. 

I have no pictures of Sable, but she was aptly named. Sable was a Bad Dog.

In the few weeks she lived here, she managed to frighten the children (who were still very young), lose all off-leash privileges in the house, and made me rue the day I first saw her. One rare occasion when she was allowed off the leash in our yard, she attacked me. Fortunately, I had some training in judo and her challenge went rather badly for her while I was angry but unhurt. Sable became a junkyard dog.

…And this is our Miscreant thinning the herd of origami reindeer given us by the talented Mr. Leonard Gluck.:
But he’s in a different class entirely.

Before I came to know and love the Most High, I was as dark-hearted as Sable, a miscreant in an altogether separate category – an aimless and nameless wastrel.

Can I even express how grateful this repentant reprobate is to the King who expunged her record of lawlessness by sentencing Himself to death in my stead? Can I find words for my awe that He did not stop there, but took up His life again? No, words fail.

Where I deserved a pitiless death, I received mercy… and yet He did not stop there. With grace beyond my wildest reckoning,  He called this waif, “Daughter, ” lavished upon me a spiritual inheritance of inestimable value, and has brought light and life to all that was deadened and darkened within me.

My Lord and my God! May the wonder of it never cease to astonish me!

If my God is truly powerful; if His grace is truly sufficient; if I believe that fullness of joy is found in His presence – in short, if He is truly all He says He is – my life ought to reflect nothing short of complete devotion and steadfast loyalty to Him.

Where He is, I want to be. When He commands, I want to obey, and though I may slip up from time to time, overall I want to be fully His, wholly trusting Him and trusted by Him around people of all ages.

May I never be a casual partaker of Grace, giving the Almighty a perfunctory nod as I tuck His gift carelessly in a pocket while asking Him to bless my self-determined course.

In short, I do not want to a disciple who merely Has Potential…

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
(Colossians 1:9-10)