Prayer of Meditation on Heaven

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young.  Psalm 84:1-2

Yearn ~ To long persistently, to feel tenderness

*****************

Oh Lord, I can see how so many have grown desperate and are driven to do irrational and desperate things without You as their hope.  They don’t know that You can be their Father, that they can be a son or daughter of promise.  They don’t know what could await them as a beloved child who comes home to Your presence.

I long for life with You.  Not just internal life, but external life.  This world groans for Your touch, to know the wholeness of the Eden You created.  No animal will fear for its life or the lives of its young.  Birds will build nests without a second thought for their young’s safety.  Children will play on the expanse of green meadows without fear of assault or kidnapping.  Anyone will nap under a tree without having to guard their belongings.

No relationship will be treacherous.  No one will betray another.  The most sensitive secrets will be shared without fear of judgment or rejection.  There will be no conflict about expressing an unfailing love for You.  All will worship.  All will call You, ‘Lord’.

The worse this world gets, the more my soul yearns for You.  While I ache, even weep, for the brokenness around me, I don’t despair.  I enjoy being a secure child who longs to come home.  You’re building a place for me and nothing threatens my future with You.

Today, I will see hundreds of signs that point to this earth’s corruption.  Litter, vile graffiti, bars over windows, airport security, dirty politics, broken relationships, and the ever frustrating battle within myself between my soul and my spirit.  If I don’t live in the hope of living in Your courts, I will surely lose my way.  My joy is in You and in the good news of Your Gospel.  Amen

And Jesus Gave Him Back To His Mother

As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the stretcher they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Luke 7:12-16

A dead son, an only son, was touched by Jesus. He rose to life and then ‘Jesus gave him back to his mother.’   In 2 Kings 4, Elisha laid on the dead son of a godly woman, her only son, and this boy also rose to life. The story concludes with the same line. ‘And he gave the boy back to his mother.’

There are circumstances only God can change. There are people only God can transform. There are loved ones we need to relinquish into God’s hands to do what only He can do. When He’s done, they return to us as different people.  For this mother from Nain, it wasn’t hard for her to let Jesus enter the picture. Things were desperate and death was the end of the road. But in the land of the living, we play the Savior —- trying to fix, inspire, motivate, chide —- and we don’t realize that it’s necessary to step back in order to let God step close. Loving from afar is difficult when we’ve been the caretaker. Entrusting them to Jesus’ care doesn’t seem like the most loving thing to do. His way of bringing about a yielded life is usually much more severe than ours. We like to cushion people to make their journey as easy as possible but Jesus is not so much about comfort as He is holiness. And isn’t that what we want for them? Is any divine measure too unkind if it culminates in surrender? Is any wound too bad if it is a saving wound?

For whom do I want change so badly that I stand in the way of God? Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. Do I trust God with someone with whom I’ve been so involved?  Wrapping my arms around a person and bringing them to the Savior in prayer is not failure on my part. It is the beginning of their redemptive story if they will just bow at the feet of Jesus.

Help us know how to apply this. People need You first, then we can love each other. Father us and help us relinquish control. Amen

Hard To Sit On It

Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing. Luke 23:8-9

Jesus had a lot of practice holding in the truth. He was under a God-imposed silence for thirty years. Jesus knew He was the Messiah. He knew He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Yet, when most of us would have caved to just blurt out the truth, He didn’t.

Can you imagine Him as a boy, then as a teenager, and finally as a grown man in His local synagogue? While the temple in Jerusalem could hold hundreds of thousands of people, rural synagogues were made up of a handful of local villagers. It was intimate. Everyone knew everyone.   And with the Jewish people languishing under the unfair rule of the Roman Empire, Jesus would have been raised on years of lament. Friends and family would have cried out in prayer for the coming of their Savior, for the Messiah to be born. And yet all the while, Jesus knew it was He. If He’d spoken, it might have brought hope to their despair. Didn’t that have value? I wonder if He asked this question of His heavenly Father.

When God released His tongue to speak of His true identity, it brought more controversy than comfort. His first disclosure happened at His local synagogue among friends and family. He declared that He was the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. As special a child as He had been, as unexplainable as a few of His miracles had appeared, His news was received as heresy. Long time friends and brothers drove him out to the edge of a cliff in order to trap Him and then execute Him. We’ll never know if Jesus had been waiting for that day to finally declare His mission and identity. Perhaps as a child, He thought He would be celebrated. All of that changed as He saw even family members join the company of accusers.

Many have the spiritual gift of discernment and of prophecy. They are the first ones to whom God discloses the truth of certain matters. It is lonely and the burden is great. The first thing one wants to do when seeing truth is to declare it. It’s hard to sit on it. And yet truth, when delivered outside of God’s timetable, has disastrous consequences. The hardest thing for a prophet is to see the truth and then have their mouth shut by the Spirit of God. The prophet is instructed to pray instead of talk. Where is the comfort for the one who sees what others do not see? It is in this ~ Jesus knows. His self-imposed silence spanned three decades. Though there were hundreds of scenarios when He was tempted to think it wise to speak up, His Father squelched it and silenced Him.

Oh Jesus, there was grace for you as a young Messiah and there is grace for us today who see but are cautioned to watch and pray behind closed mouths. Amen

 

Making Someone Feel Worse With My Good News

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 

Someone else’s shame is so easy to feed and I can do it without knowing it. How? By sharing my good news with a person who is experiencing struggles in the very same area as my victory.   Here are a few examples.

  • I’m in the peak of health and have just finished a 5k. I’m excited and want to share my success with a friend. The problem is, that friend has physical limitations. She is struggling with her health and discouraged by what she can no longer do. By sharing my good news in great detail, she feels worse but may never tell me because she loves me. There should have been a filter on my storytelling.
  • Over lunch, someone very well off financially shares news about their upcoming trip to Europe. She forgets the fact that one of her friends at the table is barely making ends meet. Nonetheless, stories of exotic travel continues. It’s very possible the woman who is fighting to stay afloat already feels shamed. Many wealthy people believe that if someone is poor, they had to have done something wrong. There should have been a filter on the storytelling.
  • You get together with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. You go armed with pictures and stories of your children, even your grandchildren. Talking about them brings you such joy. The problem is ~ your friend and her husband are struggling with family issues. Your friend lives wondering what they are all doing wrong. Without thinking, you share story after story about your family. Your friend is polite as she listens and long suffering as she looks at all the pictures. Meanwhile, while she cares about you, her grief has doubled. She’s too ashamed now to talk honestly and finds that her stories are caught in her throat. Shame has won. There should have been a filter on the storytelling.

You might be asking, “Shouldn’t the person who is hurting be able to share in someone else’s joy?” The answer is yes but the other person’s news should also be told with some sensitivity. If you’re the one who is fighting despair, a flood of good news feels far more painful than a simple condensed version. Applying a filter to my storytelling fits in with Paul’s words from Colossians. I clothe my ‘stories’ with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, and gentleness. To regard my hurting friend as more valuable than the joy I would get from telling my good news is what Jesus would ask of me. If I love her more than I love myself, if I am her servant, I refrain from exacerbating the pain inside her already wounded heart.

Help me prayerfully anticipate my audience – being willing to edit a story or two. Amen

 

Thorns of Worry

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. Matthew 13:7, 22

If you give enough water to anything in Georgia, you can probably grow it. Georgia is my home and though I’m a New England girl, I’ve been struck by how fast things grow here. That includes weeds. Leave a weed long enough and it can become quite pretty, confusing the novice gardener. Weeds blend in and destroy the landscape.   Spiritual weeds, grown and tolerated over time, choke out the possibility of good growth. The Word comes in strength and beauty but, almost instantly, its effectiveness is rendered powerless because of weeds. One kind Jesus addresses is the cares of this world.

Worries crowd out my ability to hear the Word of God. Historically, I come from a line of worriers. I’ve been taught, by example, to obsess over fears, to turn them around in my hands in every possible configuration until I find a solution. Weighed down by the impossibilities, I work myself up into a panic. How can I be still to hear God’s voice? I have too many cares and I lack the ability to concentrate.

As someone who used to live with panic attacks, I can give this advice.  Weed when weeds are small!  When anxious thoughts occur, grab them and kill them with the promises of God. The apostle Paul labeled it ‘taking every thought captive.’ I remember that fear is Satan’s biggest tactic.

Weeds of anxiety, fed over time, become strongholds. I develop a mindset of anxiety where, by default, my first response to any bad news is fear. I feed the beast without even making a conscious choice. Is the Word powerful enough to re-wire the way my brain works? Oh, yes. Can it demolish a toxic mindset and build a new one? Absolutely. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:5 The word for arguments is ‘logismos,’ or logic. It’s the way I’ve learned to think and process. Paul wanted believers to be assured that the Word of God is a weapon that demolishes hopeless mindsets, fearful mindsets, and even cynical mindsets.

As any of us look back at who we were twenty years ago, may we be able to say of ourselves – To the glory of God, I no longer think the way I used to think. In fact, I can’t even get in my own skin anymore. My thoughts can’t travel those old paths. Whether pleasures or cares, may neither be the culprit that smothers the stunning landscape of spiritual gardening.

I don’t think I still fully grasp the power of Your seeds. Enlarge me view of spiritual transformation – starting now. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Using What I Learned From a Religious Past

He [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52

Every child of God should be constrained to share their faith and to tell the story of their relationship with Jesus. The storylines differ from person to person. Some have come to Jesus with no history of Christianity whatsoever. They have had no teaching and must get to know their Lord without the benefit of familiarity. This has its benefits though. Their heart is a clean slate upon which God can write.

Others, like me, have come to Jesus with years of Christian history under their belt. We have been saturated in church culture. We know a lot of scripture and can espouse many of the doctrines. Much of this was learned under the heavy hand of legalism, and let’s face it ~ Hasn’t it been tempting to throw it all out and start fresh with Jesus?

In this short parable, Jesus makes it clear that the most effective teacher uses the new and the old. He reaches into the archives of the teaching he was given and realizes that even though the teachers were flawed, the doctrines were usually sound. And if sound, they are treasures.  Part of maturity is to be able to value the truth apart from the messengers who delivered it. While they often marred the face of a gracious God, God used them to build a rock-solid foundation of scripture into the spiritual fiber of their young people.

It took me a long time to value my history in the church. I swung the pendulum the other way and over-corrected. For a while, I threw out the hymns. I also stayed away from anything that resembled ‘hell, fire, and brimstone.’ I shunned all messages that lacked the blend of truth and grace. Eventually, I was able to make a move back to the middle. The hymns became new to me. The scriptures I had memorized were available to me in prayer, also in my attempt to encourage others. I understood their context without having to engage in a lot of study. God opened my eyes to see the treasures and helped me discard what had been unprofitable.

In this ministry and by the grace of God, I am able to teach from the old and the new. God has done a new work of grace in my life but each experience has been built upon, and has been accentuated by, the foundation of learning that has served me well.

This mixture is what we are to pass on to those who come after us. Mentoring must be balanced with love-driven education and experiences with Jesus. Otherwise, knowledge taught outside the context of a relationship with the Savior will become a burden, not a joy. When I sit and learn at the feet of Jesus, my teaching will become contagious and the learning, effortless.

If there is more of the old I need to embrace, reveal it. If there is more I am to discard, let it surface. Be the sifter, Lord Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Becoming a Legitimate Fruit Inspector

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

         Jesus offers this parable to His audience just after warning about judging others. That message, plus this one, addresses what is one of the most misunderstood messages of our Christian culture ~ that under no circumstances should we judge others.

         So is all judging wrong? And if wrong, why would Jesus bother to tell us about false prophets being bad trees? He obviously wanted us to beware of them and He gave us signs to identify who they were. I contend that this is righteous judging.

         My husband’s father, a well-known evangelist, when calling a spade a spade, was often accused of judging. His answer was both comical and truthful. He said, “I am not judging. I am fruit inspecting.” That’s biblical.

         What I can learn from this parable is that wolves do exist and with God’s help, I can recognize them. A righteous person bears good fruit and a wolf, as well as any unbeliever, bears bad fruit. If I believe that good fruit is defined as simply doing good things then I am spiritually immature and run the risk of being deceived by people with an agenda.

         Good fruit is to do good things for the sole purpose of glorifying God. As a child of God, I am to do everything to the glory of God. Period. I don’t do anything good for my own reputation and self-gain.

         This definition is critical and clarifying because I see unbelievers (and wolves) doing good things all the time. But if I possess Spirit-driven intuition, I realize that they are incapable of doing anything good with the intention of giving God glory. That is not their intent. They are, either, driven by human compassion at best or driven to the desire for power and recognition at the very worst. I must be a prayerful fruit inspector to tell the difference.

         What is a good example of a wolf in the Gospels, according to Jesus? The Pharisee who stood up to pray in public and said, “I’m glad I’m not like other people.” He then listed all the other people’s sins. (Luke 18) Not only was he unaware of his own innate sinfulness, he thought himself better than anyone else, and he wanted others to know through the use of public prayer. Jesus was clear that this was unrighteous. Bad fruit.

         Can I truly identify good fruit and bad fruit? Do I know myself well enough to know the difference in my own heart? I need to start there or the deception that goes that goes with my own sin will blind me when I need to understand others in a way where I am protected from spiritual wolves.

Foster and birth greater fruit inspecting skills. In Jesus’ name, Amen