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Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to Pray God's Will

Praying according to God’s will is not always easy. I just received a prayer request concerning a young boy that suddenly became ill. The loving grandparent wrote, “We pray the Lord will help the doctors figure out what is wrong so they can treat it, or God can divinely heal him.” How do I pray? For the doctors to heal the boy, for God to heal the boy, or perhaps God has a greater plan.

When I have prayed prayers I thought were in God’s will and they were not answered my way, I felt discouraged. That happened to Ted Turner, the founder of the cable news network CNN , and it wreaked havoc with his faith. As a youngster he desired to be a missionary. When his little sister, Mary Jean, died of complications after being sick for five years from a rare form of lupus, he abandoned that idea. Turner recalled, “It just seemed so unfair, because she hadn't done anything wrong. Christianity couldn't give me any answers to that. So my faith got shaken."

I’m certain the apostle Paul also struggled in prayer. He prayed three times the “thorn in his flesh” be taken away. The Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It’s not the answer Paul pleaded for. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Often we feel incapable to of asking God specifically about securing this job or that job; or about moving here or there; or concerns related to our children, finances and vocational direction. We don’t see the big picture and God’s overall plan and purpose for our situation. God doesn’t answer a prayer the specific way we think He should, and we struggle with prayer.

That’s when Scripture encourages us not to quit praying!  “The Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray” (Romans 8:26 NLT).

The powerful word helps occurs here and only one other place in the New Testament. Picture someone carrying a heavy load and another person comes alongside to take the other end and bear the burden with him or her. Imagine your helper being the Holy Spirit!

The other occurence of “help” is when Jesus goes to Mary and Martha’s home and they get in a tiff. Martha’s making all the preparations for dinner while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Martha bursts, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Tell her to help me.” Martha wanted Mary to help bear her burden.

One bible scholar puts it, “as we pray, the Spirit says, ‘let Me grab the other end. Let me help you by picking up your burden and taking it before the Father’s throne. I know what to pray for when you don’t.”

Therefore, the Holy Spirit takes part with us, not instead of us, and for us “with groaning that cannot be expressed in words…the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will” (Romans 8:27 NLT). Consequently, our weak prayers become effective.

Our requests and petitions of all kinds to the Father (1 Timothy 2:1), may have a different outcome from what we had prayed. Yet, remember, the Holy Spirit carries our needs and conveys our cares to our loving Father all in keeping with His good, intentional plan and design for us. (Romans 8:28-29) What an encouragement to keep praying!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Even Short, Spontaneous Prayers are Powerful!

In The Washington Post, an article told about a 15-year-old girl who sent and received 6,473  text messages in a month. Remarking about her constant communication with friends, she said, “I’d die without it.” The average teen sends 3,339 texts per month.
Digital conversation illustrates what prayer could and should be. Paul says, “[We] do not cease to pray for you” (Colossians 1:9) and “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Constantly praying had sounded impossible for me, but then I learned about missionary Frank Lauback’s prayer strategy. He used to “shoot” prayers all day long. He was “texting” God, in a sense, staying in constant communication with Him.
My neighbor, Judy, works to maintain her nursing career in addition to caring for her husband with Alzheimer’s disease. Judy shares that Mike’s needs for her help are increasing daily. She says, “The days I feel overwhelmed and all alone, I keep calling out, ‘Jesus, help!’ And His presence calms me.”

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Whine, Worry or Worship

“Tom suffered so terrible,” said one lady. “We had taken him to healing services and prayer groups all over the country. He seemed better for a while, and our hopes soared. Then the cancer returned and months of agony before he died. How could God be so inconsistent? I can’t believe it was His will that Tom die so young. He was a Christian and wanted to serve God. If God did this just to teach the rest of us a lesson, why did Tom have to suffer? I can’t believe I’m supposed to praise God for what has happened.”

This story sharply contrasts with Elaine’s.

I fell, bruised my ribs and both knees badly. Walking was very painful. I slept for three days in my recliner. (Thank God for the recliner because sleeping in a bed was silly due to all the pain!) I worshiped and had peace. Friends told me to go to the hospital since I could have had a stroke—one was a nurse. I worshiped and praised God as a sacrifice of praise.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Do You Hold a Grudge?

 On October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA, and shot 10 young Amish girls. Charles Roberts, 32, a non-Amish milkman known to the children, shot the girls and then killed himself. Five of the girls died; the other five were seriously injured.

This shocking violence caused great anguish to the Amish Community. But, they did the unimaginable and chose to forgive their children’s killer within hours of the tragedy. While their hearts were broken, they expressed tangible acts of love and kindness for the gunman’s family. They didn’t just talk the talk; they walked the walk of forgiveness. They let go of nursing grudges and seized the opportunity to make their faith real.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Consider Becoming a "Drive-by" Jesus

A homeless man stands at a busy intersection holding a cardboard sign. The large printed letters unashamedly display his cry for help.  “I’m hungry.” Or, “Out of work.” I hear Jesus whisper, “He’s one of the least of these.” Compassion rises and begs a question. “How can I help him?”

Called to be Jesus’ hands, feet, and mouthpiece in this situation requires God’s wisdom. I think, if I hand him a few dollars, he’ll probably waste it on alcohol. Giving him a gospel tract might appease my conscience, but what if he can’t read? Words don’t fill an empty stomach, anyway. I have 30 seconds, at best, to make a positive difference in this lost soul’s life. I usually pray for him.

My friend, Julie, shared with me how she makes a difference. It’s practical, personal and simple. Put a few non-perishable items in a plastic bag. Include food in cans with flip tops and a plastic utensil, plus bottled water.  As the food is given, bless them in the name of Jesus.

This mercy act idea has taken hold in David’s heart. He recently shared his excitement:

Yesterday evening, I dropped off Leah at soccer practice, and then I went to Wal-Mart over on K-7 and Santa Fe in Olathe. As I turned into the parking lot, I saw a man standing at the corner holding a sign that asks for food. Psalm 37:7 says, “be still and wait for God to work.” As I did, the Lord snapped me awake and told me to pull over to get one of my "drive-by Jesus" bags out of the trunk.

 I drove around, pulled up next to the guy, and put the window down. I handed him a bag that included a 7-pack of white t-shirts and a box of Fiber One bars. He was so excited about getting these items! This is what he said. ‘I was just thinking I needed to head in and get some t-shirts!  All I have is this shirt [the shirt he was wearing]. This is just what I needed. This is totally unexpected! Thank you, man!’”
Steve Sjogren, an author and expert on servant evangelism, reminds us that it’s the kindness of God that leads people to repentance. (Romans 2:4) God’s kindness can be expressed through us by offering a word of encouragement, a prayer, or a "drive-by" Jesus bag. Steve notes that it takes 15-20 significant kindness nudges to help people come from where they are into relationship with Jesus. We could be the first nudge or the fifteenth nudge. It doesn’t matter if we’re the one who sows or the one who reaps (John 4:37). It matters that the Kingdom of God is brought to someone else through a practical means, through an action of love.

*Another forgotten, shunned people group, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, is having their Olympic games Aug. 9-16, in Akron, Ohio. Nine thousand participants are expected. Many believers are there to bring them the light and love of Jesus. Pray for the believers’ boldness, for the Lord to come in power, for healing and deliverances. Pray the Lord enlighten the LGBT community to God’s love for them. May His love lead many to repentance. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sally Deserves Better!

Sally’s news shocked me. Cancer cells have invaded her body. She’ll receive six rounds of chemo treatments causing severe nausea, baldness, and for Sally’s family, financial strain. I heard myself thinking, Sally deserves better.

I admire Sally. She and her husband love God and serve Him in the hard places. They have lived in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Amsterdam, Holland for more than 20 years. Currently, in South Africa, they tell people about Jesus, make disciples, and train leaders. I've always thought Sally deserves nothing but God’s best.

That same thought was expressed, shortly after, by someone pleading others to pray for her co-worker. “He’s an amazing guy and brilliant and was in a bad car accident. He’s having brain surgery. He doesn't deserve this.”

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Best Dad Ever!

Father’s day evokes a variety of memories and emotions. Some of us have been wounded by a father due to a distant, absent, harsh, or abusive relationship. Others are blessed and deeply grateful to have had a loving, faithful, involved dad.

God is unlike any Father we have ever known! The apostle Paul boasts about the “Father of Compassion” (1 Corinthians 1:3) Webster defines compassion: “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Paul knew more about distress than probably anyone of us! (2 Corinthians 6:5)

The following true story by Mel, a missionary in Guatemala, resonates with compassion. She reminds us how our heavenly Father treats us. Without limitations, His compassions are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:23-24)