Strength in Your Touch

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“And, behold, a hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.” Daniel 10:10

 
When I first learned of Jesus as a child of five years old, the thing that attracted me to Him most was the fact that He reached out and touched, that He let the little children come unto Him. And here we have Daniel, who was fasting and praying and pouring his sorrowful heart out before the Lord, not only for himself but for his nation, his people. For three full weeks he ate nothing but plain, basic food (probably just what would sustain him to have energy to be faithful to his responsibilities), he drank no wine, and did not anoint himself with oil which I suppose would be like using aftershave for a pleasant odor. Something was on his heart and he was lifting it up to You Lord, and looking for and expecting an answer.

 
Well, because You are a God who reaches out and touches us, Daniel looked up one day and there he saw a man unlike any other. But the people around him didn’t see this vision. Instead, they trembled and in fear, fled and hid themselves leaving Daniel to himself and this man unlike any other. Daniel was not unaffected by the sight and presence before him. He lost all strength. All his goodness or loveliness of body and character was destroyed and void in the presence of this man. He was nothing but a spineless jellyfish in comparison. And at the sound of his voice, he was cast into a deep sleep prostrate, face down on the ground. Now imagine that the word for that deep sleep can also imply death. This is serious fear here. This is serious power.

 
Yet, here is this “man” who is not a man of earth, with such a foreboding presence and what does he do to Daniel? He reaches out his hand and touches Daniel, setting him up on his knees and on the palms of his hands. In other words, he begins to help him up. And as he is helping him up in his presence, he begins to speak words of encouragement to him. “Daniel, you are greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto you, and stand upright: for unto you am I sent.” And Daniel stood, still trembling.

 
There was something about this “man” that continued to be more than Daniel could handle so he continued his encouragement, “Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I am come for your words.” Do you know why it took three weeks, the length of time Daniel had been seeking God’s wisdom? The man visitor had been hindered fighting spiritual battles with Michael, the archangel, against the spiritual forces of the kings of Persia. Daniel’s prayers were a part of fighting that battle.

 
So this angelic man prepares to tell Daniel about what shall befall his people in the latter days and again Daniel’s face is to the ground and he became speechless. Come on now, this is a fearful thing. This isn’t the normal stuff of men here. And another being comes, like the “sons of men” and touches Daniel’s lips and opens his mouth so he can speak. Yet, even so, Daniel announced he was to weak to breath, and he was strengthless. So now one like the appearance of a man came and touched him and strengthened him and again encouraged him, “O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto you, be strong, yes, be strong.” And he was able to be strong and speak in his presence.

 
“Do you know why I am coming unto you?” he asked Daniel. And I’m wondering if it’s more of a statement like, “You know why I’ve come to you.” And now this “other” is going to continue the spiritual warfare that has been going on, that spiritual battle that Daniel has been praying over and seeking God. the battle of spiritual forces vying for control over Persia and those to effect Greece. But the truth of scripture concerning it all, the spiritual realms and the effects on men will be made clear to Daniel. Why? Because there were very few, almost none, holding faithfully and clinging to this fight but Michael, Israel’s prince. And I can’t help but think that Daniel was included.

 
Can you imagine a spiritual battle over extreme evil forces being fought by only three? And imagine that one of those fighting that extreme battle and not even realizing it, was a mere man? And God loved him dearly for it! I don’t know if this man angel was Christ or not, but he sure touched like Jesus does and he sure imparted strength and power like Jesus does, and he sure encouraged like Jesus does. But I love to think about why he came and touched Daniel and why Daniel was so beloved by God and the angels.

 
Here is this man, this man set above most other men, and yet all he wanted to do was know and understand and walk in the ways of His heavenly Father and Master and Lord and King. His eyes, no matter what was going on around him, were not distracted by wealth or disaster or love or anything. His eyes were so firmly seeking after You, Lord. He was completely Yours; You were his everything. And You always reach out and touch those who seek You.

 
And even if there is only one in all the world, “the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) Now, it’s not hard for God to search the whole world over. He can do it in a blink of an eye. He’s not just searching the world for good people doing good things. He’s not even searching for that at all. That’s not impressive to Him. That’s why Daniel fell in fear and the others ran. Goodness doesn’t cut the cake compared to God’s goodness. He’s looking for those “committed to His purposes” so He can make them strong in a world that is not committed.

 
When this “angelic man being” tells Daniel that none holds with him, it’s this Hebrew word chazaq. It’s about holding fast and standing with strength. It’s about God loaning us His power like when Daniel was afraid and enabling him to get up and speak. But He only does this when we are in line with His purposes and not ours. Because Daniel’s heart was in line with God’s heart, God laid on his heart those things to pray for and God gave him power to prevail even in the spiritual realm over the nations.

 
This is the kind of heart attitude and life attitude that God reaches out and touches. This is good news because we can turn our hearts to God like that. It’s not making the right choice in life or doing the right thing that brings power and fulfillment. It’s the One we choose to line our life and being up with. Success is about our goals being in line with God’s purposes. Why? Because success isn’t about what we attain. It never was. Success is all about being touched by God, having a relationship restored with Him, being His wholly and unabashedly, being the image of Him in this world that we were created to be, and delighting in Him every moment of every day. Wow! Our goals have gotten so messed up, haven’t they?

 
We’ve gone from relationship with a God who wants to joy in our presence and us in His, to a people who run after “domination, expansion, protection, success, and fame.” We settle for momentary pleasure instead of eternal pleasure. We even fight battles for it. And then someone comes along and tells us the “bad” news that this isn’t the way. There’s not just a better way; it’s the Only Way. But will we align our lives with God’s way? Do we even care to feel His touch? Do we want to know His power and His strength? Do we really want to see what He sees and fight for what He fights for?

 
I’ll never feel Your loving touch like Daniel did, or the woman with the bleeding issue, or the children at Your knee, or John as he leaned his head upon You until and unless I align my will and ways with Yours. Do I want to be on my own?  Do I want everything I do to be numbered?  Do I want to fall and my plans to fall with me? Am I completely mine or will I be completely Yours?  Only one leads to You and to Your fellowship and Your touch and Your strength. Is my heart completely Yours?

 
Let the world turn its back to me. I want You to touch me and raise me up and give me strength that I might hold with You always. It’s funny, the religious leaders of Your day, Jesus, on earth wouldn’t touch other people’s burdens, but here You are, bearing our burdens with us. You touched Naman and other lepers no one would touch. You touched sick people whose family’s sought You for their healing. You touched the blind so they could see. And let’s not forget the crippled. Well, I’m like them all. I’m sick of spirit without Your touch. I’m blind and crippled without You. I’m an unholy cast off unless You do something inside of me. I’m just as desperate as Daniel for You, Lord, and I need Your touch just as much to raise me up and make me who I need to be in You. I want to be wholly Yours, Lord. Help my weakness so that You turn it into strength in You.

Ever More Faithful

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“Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Daniel 6:4)

 
Did you ever hear the expression “aging with dignity?” I read today’s account of Daniel and that’s what comes to my mind. I mean, when was the last time in any movie about Daniel, he was depicted as a 70 year old man being lowered into the lion’s den? According to Biblical timelines, he was probably a little older than that but just knowing that he was there around 605 BC when he refused to eat the king’s portion and then this lion’s den incident took place around 539 BC, we can easily do the calculations and see that Daniel is no longer a young man. But what else we see is that over all these years he has been a faithful man. And his age doesn’t stop him from continuing to be faithful.

 
For every time I have thought, “God, this is too hard. I can’t do it,” or “God, I’m too tired to go on,” Daniel may have felt that way, but he certainly didn’t live that way. I see a man whose sites were set on God. I see this faithful man who, because he was faithful first and foremost to God, was able to continually be faithful to those he served and those around him, no matter their walk of life or religious beliefs. I see a boy who was loved by those around him because of his character. I see him grow into a man who continues to be loved by those around him because of his character, well, loved by those who respect a faithful character.

 
I mean, here he is brought under another conquering ruler. And here God provides Darius, who, like Nebuchadnezzar, wanted to surround himself with wisdom. So who impresses him? Daniel. Our Daniel is set as one of the three highest satraps over the kingdom. Now, Daniel does his job so well that he is preferred over all the counselors so the king was wanting to set him over the whole entire realm. Why again? Because there was “an excellent spirit” in him.

 
What does it mean that there was “an excellent spirit” in him? Maybe to the king it meant Daniel’s mind was far above everyone elses and his wisdom surpassed all. But don’t forget that the word for spirit here, “ruach” is also used for God’s very breath and His living Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Could it be that Darius saw that Daniel was guided by God? That Daniel had a relationship and knowledge from a God like no other?
Well, Darius saw something extra special in Daniel. But, the other officials weren’t looking that way. They were just plain jealous of Daniel. So, what do you do, when you don’t like someone? You try to find fault in them. They wanted to ruin Daniel in the eyes of King Darius. Only, he was so faithful to the laws of the kingdom and to God that he was squeaky clean. If they were going to catch him up, it would have to be in something that went against His God. So they created a situation that would fit their cause.

 
So much for character in these men. They weren’t about faithfulness. They were about getting their own way. If deception would get them there, then that’s what they would use. Now, I’m pretty sure that Daniel was supposed to have a say in things. But these fellows approached King Darius with an idea that had not been shared with Daniel. Only they said, “All the high officials, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed…” Really? I don’t recall Daniel being included. So here is King Darius thinking that Daniel, along with all the others, has established this ordinance that no one should petition any god or man for thirty days, except for the king, or they would be thrown to the lions. Because they said all had agreed, Darius signed the injunction.

 
Knowing that Daniel prayed three times a day, the satraps watched for their opportunity. They had him! They knew one thing about Daniel. He was faithful and he would be faithful to his God no matter what. And he was, just as he always had been. They bring Daniel before King Darius. The king spent all night trying to find a way around the law, but there was no way once a law was signed. He felt terrible and tried to find a way to rescue him. But the king was forced to command Daniel to be lowered into the lion’s den. It was out of his hands. It was out of his control. But the king held onto one hope, that it wasn’t out of the control of Daniel’s God. “May your God whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

 
Darius was a king who cared about Daniel. He cared about what was happening around him here. I know because he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, he didn’t enjoy the king’s pleasures that night. Daniel was on his mind. The acts of the other satraps were on his mind. I’m supposing that Daniel’s God was on his mind.

 
The king didn’t wait, but at the break of day went to the pit. I think he was in anguish because God’s word says he cried with a lamentable cry. That sounds like a heartbreaking, heart wrenching kind of crying to me. And he called, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” And imagine the state of the king’s heart when he heard Daniel’s voice answer, “O King, live for ever. My God has sent His angel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before you, O King, have I done no hurt.”

 
So Daniel was lifted up and the deceitful satraps and their families were cast into the lions’ den instead. Only this time, the lions were not merciful at all. And before a whole nation, King Darius declared that Daniel’s God was a living God, steadfast for ever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, and whose dominion shall be to the end. He declared God to be a deliverer and a rescuer who works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who was even able to deliver Daniel from the power of the lions.

 
Now, what if Daniel isn’t supposed to be some unique and fantastic story? What if Daniel’s example is supposed to be one that we follow? I mean, most of the time Daniel was involved in normal affairs and normal life. Only he chose to live his every walking and every sleeping moment according to God’s ways and for God’s glory. He chose to be faithful in You, God. He didn’t choose just to be faithful sometimes, or only in the good times, but to be faithful. And so, when the hard decisions came, it didn’t matter how hard they were, he already knew the choice he would need to make, and he did it, he remained faithful no matter the cost. Because in truth, the cost of being unfaithful is far worse.

 
Jesus asked a question once, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and count the cost, whether you have sufficient fund to finish it?” (Luke 14:28) I need to be like Daniel and count the cost from the start so I already know that I have a sufficiency of all I need at any point down the road. Daniel’s life story reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” Well, who is, but God?

 
The truth is that Daniel wasn’t sufficient in and of himself. His sufficiency for every moment, for himself and for those around him, came from God. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” God, You not only delivered Daniel multiple times, but you made his life a continual ministry of Your Spirit and of You. You call us to the same life today. Your grace and power is just as sufficient for me today as it was for Paul and Daniel, and anyone else who would choose faithfulness in You. May we become people who would rather glory in our weaknesses so that You and the power of God in Christ Jesus might rest upon us and the world around us would see Your glory manifested in the midst of our faithfulness to a God who is ever more faithful to His children.

The Joy That is You

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“And many nations shall come, and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths:’ for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” Micah 4:2

This is exciting stuff here.  This isn’t something that happened yet at the time of Micah’s prophecy from You, Lord.  This was a promise of hope.  It was a promise of hope to the Israelites, to the people of God, and we must never forget that part of Your plan for the people of God was to be a light to the rest of the world so that they could become people of God.  Here we see not only that reminder, but that You will make that plan come to pass.

I’m pretty sure that the latter days started to come into place at the resurrection of Jesus.  And I’m pretty sure that we are still in the latter days.  But the latter days aren’t completed yet, and I don’t know if we only have hours or years or decades before they will be, but I do know this one thing, it will come.  It will be finished.  There will be a time when You have finalized Your plan.  I don’t just know that because of Micah.  Isaiah also affirms that by Your word.  “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  So this is exciting stuff here!  Maybe if we open our eyes to look for what You’re doing, we’ll get to see it unfolding and be in the midst of that unfolding!

Now, I know we’re not totally there yet because of the position of Jerusalem.  She’s not yet high and exalted “above the hills” in the eyes of all people yet.  As a matter of fact, there are still a multitude of nations trying to squash her and debase her.  Sorry, but that’s not going to happen.  Try as you might, but you just can’t negate God’s plan.  Sorry, but you just don’t know better and you haven’t got that kind of power no matter how much you want it. 

So even today, we see all these nations fighting against God.  There are many people, Jew and Gentile alike, who won’t acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, as our Savior and Lord, as God’s chosen One for the forgiveness of our sins and the redemption of HIs people.  But God hasn’t finished working or speaking yet.  And God is involved, intimately, with the affairs of men.  Your plan is for Israel to still be alight to the world, to draw nations to Your holy mountain.  But here’s what I think about that idea of coming to Your holy mountain and to Your house, the house of God, or the house of the Lord.

When I think about it, the house of the Lord has always been a place, a place that people could enter, a place where people came to be in the presence of the Lord.  First there was the Tabernacle that could move with the people wherever they went, from place to place, because God is always with us wherever we go.  There, I suppose, You were showing how You weren’t just with us wherever we went but You took us there and lead us there and stayed with us.  Your pillar of fire or smoke lead us on and guarded us.  It was more than a place to worship.  It was more than a tabernacle.  It was a relationship of You with Your people, one by one, and as a nation.  It was intimate.  You were involved.  You were there and so were they. 

Then You established a “resident” Temple on the mount in Jerusalem.  And it wasn’t that You weren’t guiding and protecting and walking with Your people any more.  It was that You were trying to remind them that they were to be a city on a hill, shining forth their light, the Light of You, to the nations, and inviting the nations into that same relationship with You.  I don’t think it was ever really about the building, but always to be about the relationship, the protection, the being drawn to You and the abiding and living in You. 

Think about it, nations are going to come, and haven’t they already started?  They are going to come and say, “Let’s go to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” (Micah 4:2)  Now we haven’t come to the point of every man sitting under his vine and fig tree without fear but that day is coming.  So maybe we ought to figure out how to prepare for it.  And maybe that preparation has to do with understanding the nature of Your house.

What is the nature of the House of the Lord?  Let’s listen to Jesus’ words, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’” (Mark 11:17)  Let’s go back to Isaiah 56.  God is sharing about His house.  He’s not just talking about the children of Israel.  He’s inviting strangers, and eunuchs, and anyone who will turn and cling to Him and His ways.  And here’s the beauty of His plan and promise to those who come to Him in faith and trust and obedience.  “Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.  Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My alter; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”  This is what the Lord, who gathers the outcast of Israel, says about gathering other outcasts outside of Israel.  And this is what His house is all about.

Your house isn’t just a house or a temple or a church or a tabernacle.  It never was just that.  Your house is about family.  It’s about being a member of Your family.  It’s about being adopted because even Abram was like an adopted child, adopted out of the family of Ur and into the family of God.  Adam and Eve lived in Your house before there ever was a building as we know it because the building was already there.  Their building has always been You.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:1 “that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  And Paul explains in Hebrews 9 how Christ, who became our high priest, through a “greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,” obtained eternal redemption for us through His blood.  Through Christ we enter into an eternal relationship with God that allows Him to dwell in us and allows us to dwell in Him.  By this relationship we are able to live in Him and for Him.

But what of this house of prayer?  This is essential to understanding.  I think of Hezekiah, that king who became sick to the point of death.  And he prayed fervently to the Lord for life.  And God heard and answered. (2 Kings 20:5)  But what made prayer special?  Was it just Hezekiah’s desperation? The Hebrew word for prayer is tefilla.  It has to do with “discernment, judging, intercession, and reflection.”  It’s also associated with the word naval in Hebrew.  Naval means to fall.  Is that what I think about when I think about prayer?  Do I think about falling?  Do I think about falling before You “and feeling [Your] presence on an intimate level…falling before [You], feeling [Your] love, sensing that one is never alone, that [You are] near and caring”? (Avraham Weiss)

I think of the story Jesus shared of the Pharisee and the tax collector who came to the temple.  The Pharisee came because of tradition and to extoll his goodness.  He had no relationship with You.  It wasn’t even about You.  It was all about him and his goodness.  He knew nothing of Your mercy and compassion for others or even how it had been extended toward himself.  He was coming to a house where he paid tribute to it’s Owner in his way by blessing it with his own presence.  But the tax collector, well, he was different.  The tax collector knew the Owner of the house.  He knew he was a sinner standing on ground that had been made holy by the One who prepared it.  He knew he wasn’t just in a building.  He wasn’t just in a house.  He knew he was in the presence of the Owner.  He knew what mercy and compassion it took to let him even come in the house.  That’s what the house of the Lord is about.

It’s not about what we think about the Lord.  It’s about what He has shared that we can know about Him.  It’s not about understanding everything.  Or else we wind up on the outside looking in like the Pharisee.  It’s about falling down before You and letting You reveal Yourself.  It’s about falling down into Your word.  It’s where I’m not in control of You, but You are in control of me and what I think and what I do and how I feel.  It’s when my words aren’t enough, like now.  It’s when I haven’t got it all but You do.  It’s when I’m empty unless I have You.  And I can’t just have You in my mind, I have to experience You.  This is what the house of the Lord is about.  It’s about a relationship.  It’s about entering into the intimacy that resides within the family of God.  It’s a real family with a real Father, and a real everything that we need.  It’s where we come to learn to live and feel and be.  This is the place of trust and life.

I’m pretty sure Abram went there all the time even though he didn’t have a tent or a building to enter.  That first tabernacle was just a pattern according to God.  It already existed in Him before Adam and Eve and before Abram.  And it still exists today.  In Revelation 7:15 we hear of how God shall spread His tabernacle over those before the throne.  And the great voice declares, in Revelation 21:3, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God…”

And thinking on these things brings me to David’s thoughts in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.”  Do you hear what David is saying?  He got it.  Who would want to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of his life if You weren’t present there, God?  I want to draw into Your presence like that.  I want to behold Your beauty.  I want to see You as You are, full of kindness, and favor, and pleasantness.  And I get to see it, just like David, by just being there, present, with You, by Your permission.   But I have to choose to meditate on You, by seeking and studying You.  I have to be involved in real prayer, real searching of Your word, really looking for security in You. 

What David was asking for was what the priests got to do.  But he was a warrior, a king, whose hands were stained with blood.  But his greatest heart’s desire was “to be in God’s holy presence and experience favor. David’s song is a pipe dream.  It is also my pipe dream.” (Skip Moen)  His obligations, whether important or trivial, prevented him from total absorption in You, in Your presence and being absorbed in Your word.  Don’t our obligations today have a tendency to do the same?  And like David, the permission isn’t ours to grant to come.  But the permission is Yours to grant, Lord.  And if we seek, and ask, and let ourselves fall, You invite, and You come, and You draw us to You.  It’s like Mary, who took flack from Martha, but You said she made the right choice.  I want to make that right choice.  I want to sit down, or fall down, and just be in Your house, in Your presence all the days of my life.  So help me, Lord, because You’re the One who can.  And help me to bring other family members into Your house so we can dwell together in the joy that is You.

The Inward Part of Prayer

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“But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.” Matthew 6:6

I saw “War Room” last week and it was a wonderful movie.  But that’s not what is moving me to meditate on prayer.  Lord, You were already at work at that and this is just where You have brought me today.  With all the other truths You’ve been having me mull over and meditate on, this has been something that’s been floating around in my thoughts and heart and today is the day to begin putting it into words and solidifying it.

I think there is a lot more to Your idea of prayer than meets the eye.  It was the same thing with Your idea of giving.  But before I even talk about that, I just want to understand Your perspective on pray, because maybe my perspective and Your perspective don’t line up like they ought to, like they need to.  So give me open eyes and an open heart to understand Your perspective.

If I google the types of prayer, I see lists that range from the four types of prayer to twenty-one.  I see things like thanksgiving, worship, fasting, intercession, faith, corporate prayer, consecration, and more.  Here in Matthew, Jesus tells us, “But you, when you pray…”  This is for me and this is for when I pray.  It’s the word “proseuchomai” and it’s all about praying to God, about supplication, sharing our needs, and worship.  It’s not just one kind of praying.  It’s the whole gamut.

But here’s the problem.  We’re feeble, we’re weak.  Paul knew it.  He shared, “[l]ikewise the Spirit also helps our weaknesses: ‘because what we may pray as we ought, we do not know’: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And He that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”  (Romans 8:26-27)  It’s not that we don’t know how to pray; it’s a problem of not knowing what to pray.  The problem is that I think finitely.  I only see the little picture in front of me, not the big picture.  Therefore, I don’t know on my own how to pray for and after Your will, God.  So, I don’t know the best way to pray in unison with You unless You show me.

I wonder if learning this is the beginning of praying in faith.  I mean, what if I learned to just worship You and lift You up and recall in prayer Your word and Your promises and Your Youness.  I wonder If I just lifted You up more and commended every situation and need to You and didn’t worry so much about asking You how to fix them, but I just trusted You to do the right thing in every situation and just focussed on You, if that might open the door to my drawing nearer to the Spirit and if my heart wouldn’t line up more closely with Yours.  Maybe even that way, I would be less effected by my circumstances because I wouldn’t be thinking about them so much.  That way, I wouldn’t be upset because You didn’t work things out my way.  That way, I might really just submit to You and basque in the beauty and wonder of who You are instead of basquing in the difficulties.

I mean I already know that I have a problem with my heart being decietful and desperately wicked.  It’s part of our humanness.  But I also know that there is Someone who knows the depths of my heart and can make me aware of it’s deceit.  And I know that this Someone who has the power to search my heart and test my heart and change my heart and teach me about my heart, has placed His Spirit there within my heart to give me the mind of Christ instead of my own mind.  So the One who searches my heart and knows the mind of the Spirit within my heart, allows Him to pray for me, and allows me to learn to be unified in that prayer.  I may not always understand the words, but the heart of the prayer is faith, by trusting the One who loves me so greatly.  So I make my prayer all about Him and He takes care of the rest.

So when I pray, it’s not for public scrutiny, it’s personal to and about God whether I pray corporately or in my own private nook.  My time with God is truly my time with You, Lord.  I get away, alone with You.  You even did that as an example when You were with Your disciples.  You took them to a dessert place and You withdrew from them to be with Your Heavenly Father.  I need to do the same.  I need to get alone and shut the door to shut the world out, to shut others momentarily out.  Why?  I need to be wholly under Your influence.  In a sense, I need to shut myself out because I need to set myself aside and open myself to You.  I need to worship You, my Father.  I need to get private and personal.  I need to get in You and I need You to get in me.  I need to get so personal that it reaches my inward parts and that I reach Your inward parts.  I need to throw all superficiallity away.

You see the inward parts of me, every one,  no matter the condition.  And when I see the inward parts of You and Your condition of holiness, I absolutely know how much I need You and how utterly dependent I am upon You and upon Your working in me.  And You promise that when I come to You like this, You see into the inward parts, the secret depths of me I can’t reach and fathom, the secret depths of You I can’t reach and fathom on my own, and You “reward me openly.”  That means You give it up to me.  When I worship You, You bring Your truths to pass.  When I worship You, I see You.  When I worship You, I experience You, I come to know You and see through Your perspective.  You make the secret known.  You reveal Your inward Self.  And You reveal Yourself openly.

The beauty of that word is that it means “shining.”  You shine Yourself on me, over me, in me, through me.  You make Yourself and Your ways apparent.  You reveal the internal You, externally to me.  You appear.  I come to know.   You make Yourself manifest.  The inward is seen outwardly.  The secret is revealed.

See, my Father already knows what I need, and my Father, You have it under control.  What I need to do when I pray is remember who You are.  I need to remind myself and revel in the fact that You are not only my Father, but the Father of those I’m praying for.  We are in this faith together.  I need to remember that You alone are holy and all that that means.  I need to remember that it’s all about Your kingdom and that Your kingdom is coming and You have invited me to be a part of bringing that to pass.  Your will is everything.  I must pray to know it and to do it and to be united with You in it.  I need to be reminded in worship that You are the one providing all my daily needs.  I need to be reminded as I worship that You are the One who has forgiven me so greatly, therefore I am to forgive others so greatly.  I need to be reminded as I worship You that I need You to keep me holy and to lead me in Your ways and away from sin and evil.  I need to be continually reminded through worshipping You and being alone with You that the kingdom is and was and always will be Yours, that all power belongs to You and falls under You, and that You are the only truly glorious One, and that You are all that You are forever and ever without end. Amen.

This is prayer.  This is what I’m called to find a quiet place to sit alone with You in and pursue.  This is worship.  This is trust.  This is faith.  This is how I’m constantly reminded of who You are so that my feeble mind and my feeble body won’t stray like a silly sheep.  This is prayer.

Do I know what I worship?  Really, do I know Who I worship?  Jesus said, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know…But the hour is coming, and is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:22-24)  Lord, teach me.  I need You desperately and inwardly and outwardly.  I need You.  I need to be reminded.  I need to be refilled.  I need to understand Your perpective.   I’m in desperate need to worship You in spirit and truth.  Lead me there and hold me there as I commit to seek You there in the secret inward place where You are found.

Consumed in a Song

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“Sing unto the Lord, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation.”  1 Chronicles 16:23

Singing.  That’s the word that You, Lord, layed on my heart today.  Why sing?  What’s so important about singing?  If singing wasn’t important, then why is the word “sing” used in 102 verses in Scripture?  As a matter of fact, the very first verse that uses the word sing is Exodus 15:1.  The Israelites had just been delivered out of 200 years of pain and slavery and miraculously crossed the Red Sea and watched God defeat Pharoah’s army before their very eyes.  “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spoke saying, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea… ‘”  And I’m thinking that singing is not just a suggestion but that singing is a necessity in my spiritual walk with You, Lord.

Now, I can’t help but look back and find out if the Hebrew idea of singing was just like ours or if there might have been something else to it.  And I found some things that don’t suprise me one little bit.  The Hebrew word for sing is “shiyr.”  And in most instances it has to do with worship.  Sometimes, in Hebrew, you can look at the letters and the original pictograph formed by those letters in a word, and even that pictograph tells you something about the word.  Skip Moen shares that picture, “The pictograph tells us that the word is about deeds or work that consumes the person. In other words, singing “eats” you up. It takes away what you were feeling and moves you to another experience. It is the divine transporter. This is why the Hebrew world considers singing to be praying.”  Hmm.  Let me think about that.  Singing=praying.  I need to hold that thought.  But let’s keep going.

Why did I even begin on this search this morning?  Because I wanted to see when You, Lord, thought people should sing and why we should sing.  Because what about those times when I am so filled with pain that I don’t even have words?  How can I sing then?  But what if those are the times I need most to sing?  What if that is the time I need most to worship You with someone else who has the words that I can’t find?  What if that’s the time I most need to be reminded that You triumph gloriously and I need to confirm that with my own mouth, with my heart, and with my emotions?

The Siach Safre Kodesh which is “stories of wisdom, biographies of famous rabbis, and Torah discourses”  shared this thought, “There are three ways in which a man expresses deep sorrow: the man on the lowest level cries; the man on the second level is silent; the man on the highest level knows how to turn his sorrow into song.”  And Abraham Heschel, an American rabbi and leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th century, in Between God and Man believed “true prayer is a song.”  My question is, how many times have I thought of singing in terms of sorrow and pain?  But that seems to be where the Hebrew roots of singing came from.

And I’m thinking that makes sense.  Think of all the spirituals that arose out of slavery in America.  Was it their good circumstances that birthed those songs?  Or was it something deeper?  Were those songs a prayer, a cry out to God, that lifted one another up?

If I go back to 2 Chronicles 20 I find the true story of Jehoshaphat.  And the Moabites and Ammonites and others were raising up against Israel.  And all the people of Israel came before You and cried out to You.  And You told them to not be afraid because You were going to take care of it and they would triumph in You.  And before they received the outcome, before the victory, here’s what they did.  Jehoshaphat appointed singers to the Lord!  You know what their job was?  To praise the beauty of His holiness as they went out before the army.  And as they went they would continually say, “Praise the LORD; for His mercy endures for ever.”  And God used their singing.  It was beautiful worship.  In their lack of strength, in their pain and distress, they stopped thinking about all that.  They put their minds and hearts and worship in Him.  And this is what happened.  “And when they began to sing and to praise” the Lord set ambushments against their enemies.  Notice that.  It wasn’t after they sang and praised.  It was when they began.  Maybe singing in the midst of pain is a sign of faith and worship.

I can’t help but think of Paul and Silas.  There they were sharing the Gospel and now their clothes are being torn off of them and they are being beaten and whipped.  And it wasn’t just a little.  Many stripes were laid on them and they were thrown in a nasty, smelly, dank prison and their feet fastened in stocks.  How is that for pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache?  But what did they do?  Did they remain bound by the pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache?  Or did they take that pain and sorrow and suffering and heartache and lift it to the Lord in song?  In the midst of the pain, while the wounds were raw, they prayed and sang praises unto God, unto You, Lord.  And what happened?  The prisoners heard.  And You acted just like with Jehoshaphat.  You sent a sudden earthquake and released them from their chains and were glorified before the prisoners and before the jailor.

What if I don’t sing?  Let that not even be a thought.  I must.  Because it’s not my song.  It’s Your song, Lord, and it’s the song You have placed in me and it must come forth.  As Psalm 40:3 says, You have put a new song in my mouth, even praise to You, my God: and as many hear they shall see and fear, and shall trust in You.  It matters if I sing to You and for You, or if I don’t.

There are times when all I can do is fall at Your feet without words because I hurt that much.  But You are bigger than the pain in me.  In every believer You have placed Your song and Your Holy Spirit will help me sing that song.  He will give me the words.  He will bring them back to mind.  And as I am faithful to sing what He gives me, I will experience the presence and filling of the Comfortor.  And when I can’t express it because the pain is so deep and the words won’t come and all I can do is cry or when even the tears won’t come, maybe then I need to run to others who have found the song and let that minister to me.  Maybe, as I listen to the words You gave them, I might just find myself being transported to You, and I might just find myself singing with them.  And maybe that won’t equal all the words I feel.   But walking in faith comes one step at a time, or, one song at a time.

I suppose I have to ask myself, does the pain hurt more than I miss that closeness with You?  I think we’ve all been there.  We’ve all experienced pain.  Some of us had to learn the value of singing in the Lord.  For some of us, singing just is part of who we are.  And some of us, well, we haven’t learned the value of singing yet.  But I want to learn to not wait for the good days to come.  I want to sing in expectation.  And I want to sing not because my circumstances are good but because I know the goodness of You, God, even in the midst of tragedy.  It’s not easy.  Walking in faith isn’t easy.  But it’s worth every hardship and every tragedy.  I want my focus to remain on You no matter what so I will be influenced by You and so that influence will make a difference in those around me.

Pain and loss hurt.  They hurt terribly.  And it’s a part of life that doesn’t necessarily go away.  I just have to learn how to fit it into Your picture, into Your plan.  And surrendering it to You doesn’t take the memory away, but it puts everything in perspective, and it brings healing.  Paul and Silas didn’t stop hurting when they sang.  But they rose above the pain in the midst of the pain.  They lifted themselves up to You and let You carry them in song.  I want to follow their example because there are things in this life I just can’t handle on my own.  I need You as much as they needed You.  And I don’t want to let pain defeat me, because I am more than a conqueror in You.

Skip Moen shared some more of prayer and song.  He said, “The reason prayer is transformed into song is because words fail me. My hurt runs too deep. My trauma is too strong. I can’t say what I can’t do, and what I can’t do is find a way out. So, I learn to sing praises to my King and my song “eats” up what would destroy or consume me and gives me peace…I know what it means to hurt right down to my soul.”  So, the question is, will I allow You to consume my pain?  Scripture says that You are a consuming fire.  Do You just consume sin?  Or do You consume anything that wants to keep me from You?  Lord, I want nothing more than to be consumed in and by You.

I suppose I always thought that was a reference to You burning things up, Lord.  But there is this other part of consuming that has to do with eating, with ingesting.  This word, “akal” is also used in Ezekiel 3:1 where You tell Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat what you find, eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.”  You didn’t say take a bite.  You said eat this whole scroll.  Taste if fully.  Then go do what it says.  But let’s keep going.  What did Ezekiel do?  “So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.’ Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.”  Maybe that’s what happens when I choose to sing in the midst of pain and suffering.  Maybe singing isn’t a suggestion but an imperative.  Maybe I must sing.  Maybe I must sing, Lord, so that I can taste and experience Your sweetness in my mouth.  Maybe I must sing so that You can fill my stomach and my body with Your sweetness.

Lord, no matter how deep the pain, give me a song.  And let me not hold that song in my heart.  Let me sing, even if the words squeak when they come out because I cry as I sing.  Let me sing, even if I fall to my knees and don’t know what to say.  Give me a song.  Even if it’s someone else’s song.  Just give me a song from You because You never stop singing.  Even the angels before Your throne continually sing praises to You.  Who am I to not sing?  Don’t let me lose that beautiful flavor of You.  And don’t let me neglect to share that beautiful flavor of You with those who would hear my singing.  Because maybe my song will give them words to sing, and lift them above their pain and sorrow.  Lord, just give the songs we need to sing.  And sing with us.  I can’t wait to see what You do.

Not Just a Puncture Wound

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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Matthew 6:13

We are all being led somewhere.  Some of us are leading ourselves.  Some of us are letting the world or others lead us.  And some of us are letting the Master of the Universe lead us.  Now, I’m here today because I believe this is where You have led me, Lord.  I was praying for someone and asking You to give me wisdom in praying and You put Your prayer in my head.  This is what You used when Your disciples asked You to teach them to pray.  And this part is what is standing out this early morning in me.

I want this for me and I want this for the family I’m praying for.  And it’s not that they’re doing bad things or being tempted per se.  I mean, not if I think of temptation like we usually do.  But what if temptation isn’t as obvious as I think?  What if temptation goes deeper than I think?

Skip Moen likened temptation to a puncture wound.  Think about it.  A puncture wound doesn’t seem so bad.  It covers itself back when the damaging instrument is pulled out.  There’s not much blood.  It hurts when it happens but then seems OK.  But let me tell you something, you better have your tetanus shot up to date.  You better keep an eye on it because there is probably an infection within coming up.

Temptation is like that.  It sinks a barb in and we think we’ve handled it for the moment.  But it may have gone deeper than we think.  There could be thoughts we haven’t handled or doubts that we haven’t noticed.  Think of a situation you are praying for.  What if it doesn’t turn out the way you want?  What will your response to God be?  Will you be angry?  Will you curse God?  Or will your response be like Job’s after he lost his wealth, all his children, and his health?  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him…”  Don’t tell me he wasn’t inflicted with many barbs of temptation.  I mean, his wife told him, “Curse God and die.”  I think temptation comes in all forms; even in the form of trials and difficult situations that test our faith.

I mean, who would think that suffering would tempt me?  But it does, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t my pain, whether in sickness or job loss or family problems sink deep?  And my faith may look strong on the outside but what about the doubts or thoughts being harbored on the inside?  Am I handling them rightly?  See, it’s so easy for me to think I’ve got everything covered when it’s an “outward” difficulty.  But I can’t forget that even though something attacks me on the outside, I’m not just waging a “battle of the flesh.”  Am I taking care of the spiritual warfare that is going on within?  Am I letting a stronghold creep into my heart?  Or am I attacking every thought, every doubt that’s raising it’s ugly head against Your truth, Lord, grabbing it, identifying it, and utterly destroying it?  If I’m in You, Jesus, Your divine power is there to enable me to do just that.

Paul knew we’d go through this.  So he powerfully reminded us “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  The Corinthians that Paul was talking to were going through some hard times and situations.  But what they were doing was fleeing to idols instead of You.  “Well, I’m not going to flee to an idol!”  Really?  What if I come into a hard situation, and I don’t “agree” with the way You are handling it, Lord?  Do I continue to trust You even when I don’t understand and can’t make sense and hurt like there’s no tomorrow?  Or do I trust in my own reasoning, my anger, my justification, or whatever else?  Isn’t it “funny” how I turn to myself as an idol without even realizing it?  I didn’t even realize what that puncture wound had done.

But Paul is telling me that when the tough times and decisions hit me, that You will get me through it.  You don’t snatch me out of it,  Your ultimate way of escape is for Your provision of strength and power for me to ENDURE it.   You know everything about me.  You know my limits.  And You know what You created me to be able to handle better than me.  Which means that every thing that happens in my life, no matter how terrible, is do-able and do-able well in Your power.  You give me the power to overcome in every situation.  I just need to act and think in belief, in agreement with You and Your word.   Because You have recreated me and renewed me to “endure living in a broken world.”  See, Your idea of enduring is from the Greek word “hupophero.”  It’s  the idea of  bearing “up under pressure.  It does not imply removal of the opposing force.  It implies the ability to resist that force, to bear the load.”   Because the whole point is, in You, I never have to bear the load alone.  And the fact is, that You bore the heavier load already for me when You went to the cross.  And look how You overcame.  So, I’ve got that same resurrection power behind me, if I’m in You.

So, prayer empowers me when I pray rightly.  Prayer should be me remembering who You are and what You are doing and Your promises to me.  I obey.  Every thought.  I follow Your path, even if it’s just in my thinking.  I handle the wrong thoughts, by capturing them and slaughtering them.  The truth is, I don’t need any devil whispering temptations to me.  I’m my own idol easily enough.  My desires kick in too easily.  I need every reminder of You.  And I must act upon those reminders immediately.  I must not ignore You or Your instructions.  I have to grab on because they are my weapon that will take me through and make me an overcomer in You.  I need to drop my pride and ask for directions from You.  I don’t want to wander off, and believe me, wandering off is very easy for my active mind.  “Lead me not into temptation.”  Don’t let me wander off Your path.  You would never lead me off, it’s me who wanders.  Help me!  But all the help is right here.  I have all I need in You and in Your word, if only I will rely on it and act upon it and guard it and do it and think it and live it.

So, Lord, deliver me from evil.  Evil is from the word “poneros”, from “ponos”, which means toil, to labor in pain under intense demands.  The Hebrew equivalent word is “atsav” “describing the toil in sorrow that accompanies the Fall.”  So what if evil isn’t just bad deeds?  What if evil includes the effects of sin, like death and pain and hardships?  Why?  Because I live in a broken world and evil is all about that brokenness.  Evil is about the lack or absence of God.  It’s all about independence from Your authority.  I live in a broken world that doesn’t acknowledge You as God.  But what about me?  Am I refusing Your authority in any situation?  Do I want to make this situation my own?  How’s my worship?  Because if I’m refusing Your authority, I’m going to lose in the area of worship.  I may win my way, but I’ll also win emptiness, because I’ll lose my intimacy with You.

No matter how hard this evil in the world is around me, in You, I can get under it’s weight and stand strong.  I’m stronger than Atlas, bearing the world on his shoulders.  When I respond rightly in You, I have Your strength strengthening me, and You hold all of creation by just the power of Your word.  You don’t even have to raise a pinky.  Atlas has to use his muscles.  Not You.  Evil hurts.  It stands in the face of You.  But evil is puny compared to You.  And You’ve got my back.

Paul wasn’t the only one trying to get me to understand this truth.  So did John.  And he used that word “poneros” too.  He reminded, “I have written to you fathers [spiritually matured believers], because you have known Him that is from the beginning [Jesus].  I have written to you, young men [believers in their earlier walk], becaue you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the Evil One [Satan and sin].”  The truth is that Sin is rampant.  This world is filled with it.  But in Christ, when I know Him, I am strong.  I am “ischuros.”  I am powerful, mighty, valiant!  In You, I’m empowered to tear down strongholds.  But it’s better, Lord, if I don’t let them get built in the first place.

Lord, no matter what happens in my life, to me, or the people around me, I want to keep a right focus on You.  I want to apply Your word rightly in my life and in my mind.  Bring to mind and point out everything I need for each moment.  And keep me constantly seeking You in Your word and in prayer and in fellowship.  Because I’m going to face hard, evil things.  But I abide in You.  And that’s where I want to stay, abiding in You.  And I want to make sure that Your word abides in me.  And you’ve already told me that I have overcome the Evil One.  And that means that I’ve already overcome every evil thing that gets thrown at me, because You have already empowered me in You.  So let me live in the middle of Your authority, Your control, Your power, always giving You the glory no matter what.  Let me remember that Job lost everything but You were still worth more.  Let me believe that though You slay me, yet will I trust You.  Let me believe that You are my salvation.  Let me trust in You for my justification.  Just don’t ever withdraw Your hand from me and don’t ever let Your dread make me afraid.  Let me hear Your voice, always.  Let me obey.  Hear my voice when I cry, and direct me to what I need to hear and obey.

Mountaintop Gratitude

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Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, and distributed it to the people who were sitting there.  He did the same with the fish, and they all had as much as they wanted.  John 6:11

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I’m so glad that You’ve been inviting me to just stay on that mountaintop with You.  I mean, this isn’t like one of those “mountaintop high” experiences.  This is like the time that my brother and I hiked to the top of Mary’s Rock on Skyline drive and then we just got to sit at the top.  And I had time to look down and be peacefully amazed at Your creation.  And I could look up and just peacefully and restfully think about You.  And it was just good to be there and relax and be grateful.  Not to mention the fact that meditating on Your Word was what gave me the strength to keep going and make it up to the top no matter how tired I got.

And spending today with You up on that mountain again with Your disciples and the little boy who offered his fish and loaves of bread has everything to do with gratefulness too.  There is that multitude of people.  I mean a mass of people.  And I thought it was kind of funny, and it made me smile, that You had John mention, “there was a lot of grass there.”  But maybe it’s not so funny that You had him mention the lot of grass for a lot of people.  That little detail is something in itself to be grateful for.  What if they all had to sit in the dirt?  But maybe You planned that mountaintop to speak from just so there would be plenty of grass for the people to sit on.  It mattered in Your Word enough to be mentioned, maybe it already mattered to You before anyone else even thought about it.

So, Philip doesn’t know how to feed all these people sitting in all that grass.  And Andrew brings the boy with his gift but doesn’t see how that will help.  But You take the gift, command them to have the people sit down, and then pray.  But the thing I’m focussed on today is how You prayed.  Now, I don’t have a word for word account here of what You said.  But, I believe that You gave me what I need to know so I can be amazed by You and so I can follow Your example in my own life.  Well, how did You pray?

John 6:11 says You, “took the bread, gave thanks to God, and distributed it to the people who were sitting there.  [You] did the same with the fish, and they all had as much as they wanted.”  You gave thanks to God.  That was Your prayer.  Now I don’t know Your exact words.  I don’t know if You gave the Hebrew blessing which is a prayer of thanks or if You gave thanks in other words.  But the point is, You gave thanks.

The Greek word used here is “eucharisteo.”  It literally means “thanking, thankfulness.”  There are other types of prayer too.  Gary W. Fick of United Prayer Tower came up with a list of nine different words for types of prayer.  They include these types of praying:  supplication, praying; petitioning, written request; the cry, beseeching; entreating, settling; calling upon, invoking; visioning prayer, asking; intercession, interceding; and interceding beyond words.  But “eucheristeo” doesn’t mean those things.  It means gratefulness.

You didn’t petition, beseech, invoke, or intercede here.  You demonstrated to me the power of gratefulness, of a truly thankful heart.  Which brings me to a couple more stops in Your Word.  Paul in Philippians 4:6  instructs me to not “worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.”  He goes on to say in Colossians 3:15 “The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body. And be thankful.”  It’s tough to have peace in hard situations like being asked to feed over 5000 people.  But true peace seams to be tied in with this thankfulness.   And Paul hasn’t said it enough yet.  Now I go to I Thessalonians 5:18 where he tells me “be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.”  Wow, thankfulness in “all circumstances.”  Can I do that?  And then Paul shares in Hebrews 12:28 an admonition to “Let us be thankful, then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please Him, with reverence and awe.”  Now the interesting thing about what Paul is sharing here is that he has just finished sharing how everything is going to be shaken and removed and then he ends with how our God is a destroying fire.  This is gratefulness in the midst of terrible stuff because God is more worthy of reverence and more awesome and more dangerous than the worst of the destroying fires I could ever go through.  It’s all a matter of my perspective.

So, how did You handle “impossible situations”?  You gave thanks.  Precept Austin says, “eucharisteo” “describes a person who is depending on God’s grace moment by moment…as one’s lifestyle, a life only possible under the control of the Spirit.”  That’s the kind of life I want.  That’s the kind of life You want for me.  Precept Austin continues to share that “giving thanks indicates the obligation of being thankful to someone for a favor done…in Colossians, Paul uses the present tense which calls for giving thanks to be our lifestyle, our natural (supernatural) response to all the people and circumstances which God allows or sends into our lives.   Of course the only way to accomplish this supernatural end is by means of reliance on the filling (control) of the Spirit, not by reliance on natural means!”  And I think he has that right on target.

“Gratefulness comes out of a heart that is desperate. One that has reached out to God and God has, in His love, responded to him. That is where thanksgiving comes from…Only the people who depend on Him appreciate Him and are thankful…Thanksgiving is a product of a spirit-filled heart. When you are filled with the Spirit of God, you are grateful for that which God is doing in your life.  It is a lifestyle. It is constantly having a thankful heart, just a grateful heart.”  These are some thoughts shared by Dr. Wayne Barber.  I don’t really know who he is, but I agree with him on these thoughts.  But it doesn’t matter if I agree with him.  What matters is what You think matters.  And gratefulness matters to You.

Well, Lord, there are a lot of things that You have placed in my life that can seem overwhelming.  Sometimes others don’t respond as I hoped they would.  Sometimes things don’t seem to make sense or turn out the way I envisioned.  But that is not to be my focus.  Lord, teach me to keep my focus on You, the God who is a Destroying Fire, not because You destroy, but because You are greater than all these things that seem overwhelming.  You ought to be the only thing in my life that overwhelms me.  I have no right to give that place to anything else but You.  So I will only be overwhelmed by You.  You are the only One worthy of that place.

And since You alone are worthy of being the Overwhelming One, I will be continually grateful as You overwhelm me.  I will trust in You and by Your power and Your reminders I will be grateful whether the answer is “Yes” or “No.”  I will be grateful and give thanks to You in the hard times and the good times.  But You are going to have to reshape me to do this.  It’s not natural for me to respond this way.  It’s not easy.  Make me totally dependent upon Your Holy Spirit and may Your Holy Spirit have His way in me to teach me to be grateful always and in every situation.  I want to be continually overwhelmed in You not because of what You are going to do, but because of Who You Are.  Because everything You have done and everything You will do all flows from that.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You that You are always my God.  Thank You that You are already at work.  Thank You that You call me to join in with You.  And let my thanks be more than words.  Let my life be a demonstration of my gratefulness.