Run with Abandon

Life is hard. But God, our Father, is REAL! Reach for His hand today.

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Prayer or Wish List?

I received an unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer 10 days ago and began praying for peace, comfort, wisdom, and healing. My network of family and friends were also enlisted to bombard our heavenly Father with these requests. The sense of peace and comfort to the very core of my being was immediate. The comfort continued as I opened myself up to fellow Christ-followers who were on hand to give an encouraging word or a hug. I do not feel the wisdom for the decisions to be made but I am confident that it is being provided as I  move through this experience and at the exact time that I really need it. I believe I will become more and more aware of the path I am to take as I continue to seek the direction of the Father through the Holy Spirit that communes with my spirit. Healing has not yet occurred. I praise the Lord for the good news I received from the doctor a few days later in which she said “if you have to have cancer, this is a good one to have”. But, what about the times when I, or another, is not so pleased with the response to a prayer. Or, I don’t even feel an answer has been given? I think we have to keep in mind that our situation in this life is not based on what we feel but what we know! We are reminded in numerous places in the Bible to seek our Lord first and supremely. Then, let everything else fall into place as we walk with Him.

 

I share these thoughts because I think many of us struggle with the outcome of our prayers. We pray for what we want at any given time and are sincere in our attempts to leave them to the care of God. Unfortunately, it seems that we often view our list of prayers as an order to be submitted for immediate fulfillment in the exact way and time requested. But I can think of times in which a person in Biblical history was willing to submit the request but surrender the results. For example, we may be very familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into a fiery furnace because of their refusal to worship an image of gold even when commanded by the king to do so. They testified to their belief that the one true God had the ability to save them from certain death. For me, the really amazing part is that they confidently told the king that “even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Wow! They remained faithful to God and asked for His deliverance but left the outcome in His hands according to His will for His purposes. Then, we have the example of the Apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. He writes to the Corinthians that he “pleaded” to God for a “thorn in his flesh” to be removed. However, that prayer was never answered! Paul says that the Lord’s reply to him was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He goes on to write that he, therefore, welcomes ALL forms of difficulty in his life because he understands that it is during those times of weakness that God’s strength shines through. Finally, we have the example of Jesus praying in the garden just before he is betrayed, arrested, and crucified. His plea to His Father was for a different way…another method of redemption for the sinful children. But, a gruesome death upon a cross was the will of the Father and Jesus surrendered himself completely for that purpose.

 

I have NO doubt in God’s ability to fulfill absolutely any request I could possibly bring to Him. The real question is if I can leave the outcome to the will of Almighty God…and trust that will! Am I willing to submit the request but surrender the results?

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Imitate the Best

Our interests are as unique as we are! Our daughter loved to watch me prepare meals and experiment with some of her own ideas. Today, she is an amazing cook and is constantly creating new recipes. Our son, Drew, spent many hours practicing Tai Kwan Do and became a black belt in his early teen years. Our youngest son, Joshua, enjoyed team sports and particularly liked going to see a Major League baseball game with his dad as they discussed the many facets of the game. Yesterday, I watched a little boy on the beach as he learned to surf by observing his big brother. Our friend’s son watches golf on TV because he happens to enjoy that particular sport a great deal. What is the common factor? One of the best ways to learn a skill is to watch another who is proficient and imitate their methods!

If we want to be good at something, we might do research, take lessons, and start practicing in order to increase our skill level. Oftentimes, it would appear that it is laziness that interferes with success as the regular practice is uncomfortable or inconvenient. Or, perhaps an arrogant attitude is the culprit as an individual recognizes the work required but believes they are the exception and can achieve success without extreme effort. But, unless that person has some kind of unusual, raw talent, practice is essential to achieve success. But, one thing that seems to be universal is that we closely watch those who are the best in our area of interest.

We are called to “be imitators of God” in the first verse of Ephesians 5. In order to imitate God we must learn all that we can about the character of God. We can do that as we study the Old and New Testaments and we can read about the life of Jesus and learn the many ways he loved his heavenly Father and the people he interacted with daily. But we are often hindered in these efforts by our own lazy or arrogant ways. We are instructed in the Bible to reshape our attitudes and understand that this begins in the mind. What we think about absolutely affects how we act! And, what we think about is influenced by who we watch! It seems we are not always so willing to give up those areas of concealed sin.

Specifically, we must analyze what we put into our minds and evaluate how it affects our behavior. We need to consider what we watch and hear on TV, at the movies, on the radio, and among the people we hang out with daily.  It is a lie to believe we can fill our minds with unwholesomeness and expect God-honoring thought, words, and actions to result. We will imitate what we study. If we study just a little bit of unrighteousness, then maybe the output in our lives will be minimal. Is that really OK?  Ephesians 5: 3-6 seems to say otherwise as it states “there must not even be a hint” of un-holiness in our lives. We must understand that we have been called to a higher level of living. No matter how uncomfortable it is to be different from the world, that is exactly what we are commanded to do.  If
we want to get better at living our faith with passion in this world, then we must learn from the best. We must imitate the lifestyle of Jesus!

Recommended reading: The book of Ephesians (this blog focused on chapters 4 & 5)

Power is the Key

My computer died the other day in the middle of typing some thoughts for a blog. I lost everything because I didn’t listen to the warning! The electricity went out while we were staying at a condo on vacation and we bumped around in the dark because we didn’t have batteries for the flashlight. The last time I ran out of gas (and I hope it will be the last time) it was because I chose to ignore the little light that was telling me my tank was low. The electricity, batteries, and gas provided the power I wanted and needed at a crucial moment. I had access to all that I needed but I just didn’t take action to acquire it.

As Christ-followers, we have access to His power! The question is whether or not we will tap into that power.  Perhaps the problem is that it isn’t just a question of plugging in a cord or popping in a battery. Rather, we are called to be filled to the full measure of His power through the enlightenment of our hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to live in our inner being. We accomplished this, and much more, as we know God better.  In order to know God better, we must choose to spend time with him and allow him access to change us from the inside out. That was stated in a few short sentences but is accomplished with diligent work!

The alternative is to live life without the power of Almighty God and exist like a sailboat on the water without a useful sail! The scripture says we will be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men and their deceitful scheming.”  The way this plays out in our daily living is that we decide what to believe about everything and everybody by how we think, feel, or reason about the situation or person. We draw conclusions that may not be accurate about ourselves, our circumstances, our existence, and those with whom we have relationships. The power we have access to in our relationship with Jesus is what enables us to live in the truth. We have a security that comes from His power that is better than any sail or anchor attached to a boat in a storm. We simply have to take action to tap into the power.

Getting to know the God we serve is a privilege and a challenge. Think about the opportunity before us! We have access to the same source of power that parted the sea before the Israelites and raised Jesus from the dead. This power belongs to God and is to be used for His purposes. But, one of His purposes is that we grasp the vast dimensions of His love so that we can live a life that reflects that love in order to share it with others! The challenge comes as we recognize the amazing strength of our flesh, or natural desires, in resisting the decision to know God in this way. We have a natural desire to acquire the power without any strings attached so that we can enjoy the accolades from others.  I encourage you to open your heart completely to God and let Him search out the things that hinder or limit your acquisition of His power. This usually involves admission of sinful areas in our lives.  This kind of transparency before the Lord is intimidating but rewarding. We must press on, be determined, to grasp the power from His mighty hand and use it to His honor and glory every day of our lives!

Recommended reading: The book of Ephesians (this blog focused on chapters 3) and Psalm 19.

It’s Crazy…but do it anyhow!

Learn what it means to live your Christian life in a very real, out loud, obvious, and extravagant way!  To do this, you must “know him better” (Ephesians 1: 17). It is a worthy pursuit but one that will take much determination!

I have been happily married for 31 years but am thrilled, and a little surprised, when I learn something new about Andy. As much as I think I know my children, who are now grown, I find that I am constantly seeing aspects of their character that I was unaware of the day before. I share openly with my best girl friend on a regular basis and, yet, we both reach a new level of insight into the other as time goes on. Relationships that are important to us must involve growth in order for them to remain healthy. If Andy only knew me today at the same depth as he did on our wedding day then I do not believe we would enjoy the same level of trust, companionship, and intimacy. One might think that this advice goes without saying but it does not! We must intentionally seek depth if we desire to possess it!

Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus when he tells them that he is praying that God will “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better.” It is a good reminder to note that Paul is writing “To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” and not to the unbelievers of the city.  In other words, he is encouraging the people of the church to pursue God more and to open themselves up to the hope, the riches, and the power that was simply waiting for them to grasp. They had access but did not necessarily recognize or accept what had already been given due to the grace of our Lord God. Going to church on the weekend and small group meetings on weekdays are great tools to assist in achieving this goal but it should not stop there.

Run this course so that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” and you understand what it means to live radically different from the rest of the world. It may seem strange at first because you are choosing life patterns that are different from your former behavior. Your purpose is more completely tied to His purpose for your life. The more you run in this way, the more comfortable you will be with being different! The more you know the God you serve, the less you will care about what anybody else thinks of you.  The more you train your mind, the way you think on a daily basis, the more at home you will feel in new person you are in Christ Jesus.  The more you really know the person of Jesus Christ, the more you are able to tap into the grace you have been given and embrace the crazy concept of living a really radical life!

Recommended reading: The book of Ephesians

(this blog focused on chapters 1 & 2)

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