Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reflections for March 25, 2010

As our group returned from an association men’s event, I realized it was much later than I had anticipated. Not wanting my wife to worry, I took out my trusty cell phone to call home. After a couple of rings, I heard my own voice. It was my voice mail. After dialing several more times and getting the same results, I became frustrated. The only thing I could figure is that my granddaughter, who had been playing with my phone earlier in the day, had changed the settings of the phone.

Seeing and hearing my frustration, our driver suggested I use his cell phone. Once again I dialed the number. When I did I heard this ring, not coming from the phone in my hand but from the one in my lap. Then it dawned on me. I had been calling myself. When I realized what I had been doing, I was grateful that God had given me the ability to laugh at myself.

As I have thought about my lapse of mind, it dawned on me that I have similar experiences in my prayer life. Far too often, I go to my quiet place to pray and when I try to connect with God I fail, because I dial my own number instead. I talk about my needs, my aspirations, my ideas about how to fix other folks problems, etc. When I am finished, I get up feeling satisfied that I have fulfilled my responsibility to pray.

It is then that God speaks through the Holy Spirit and asks, “Do you remember the prayer I gave to my disciples, when they asked me to teach them to pray? It seems you forgot the “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done” part.” It is then I realize as long as I pray according to my wants, wisdom and power, all I can hope to receive is what I can do and that is not much, when it is measured against the awesomeness of God.

The feebleness of praying in our own will is evident when we consider the promise Jesus gave us. He said, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13, 14 NASB). I easily remember the “Whatever you ask” and the “ask anything” phrases but I am prone to forget the “in My name” requirement. When I forget, I miss the blessing He wished to give. In his book, With Christ in the School of Prayer, Andrew Murray sums it up this way: “Who can say what power a church could develop and exercise if it would assume the work of praying day and night for the coming of the Kingdom, for God's power, or for the salvation of souls? Most churches think their members gather simply to take care of and edify each other. They don't know that God rules the world by the prayers of His saints, that prayer is the power by which Satan is conquered, and that through prayer the Church on earth has access to the powers of the heavenly world. They do not remember that Jesus has, by His promise, made every assembly in His Name a gate to heaven, where His presence is to be felt, and His power experienced by the Father fulfilling their desires.”

Prayer: “Heavenly Father, help me to pray in the name of your Son, for the coming of Thy kingdom and in accordance to Thy will. Amen.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Reflection for March 18, 2010

Embrace The Cross

The public ministry of Christ began when He was thirty years old. His first recorded miracle was performed at a wedding. For many, this marks the beginning of His public ministry. His ministry was one of healing for those who were broken and downtrodden. Wherever He went He attracted crowds. Unfortunately, most of the people were interested in His miracles and not in a personnel relationship with the miracle worker.

When the excitement of the healing passed and Christ talked of the ultimate cost of following Him, the crowds quickly thinned. This falling away is graphically illustrated with the attitude change that took place between the trip into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the mob’s cry for crucifixion a few short days latter. How quickly they passed from cheering to jeering the Savior.

From the beginning He was a thorn in the side of the established religious leaders. Partly because they felt threatened by His teaching and partly because He did not resemble the Messiah they expected. They followed his ministry closely, not for the purpose of learning, but for the purpose of attacking him. In the end they felt they had won the struggle because Christ’s ministry ended in what appeared to be complete failure. His ministry of love and healing was rewarded with a painful trip to the cross.

Little has changed through the centuries. During this Easter season, people who wear the name Christian will gather all around the world to celebrate the resurrection of the Christ. They will recognize that something is missing in their life. They will desperately long for the peace, joy and abundant life that Christ has promised in the Gospels. However, when they are confronted with the high cost of discipleship, when they realize that they can not experience the fullness of the joy, peace and abundance that Christ wishes them to have without embracing the Cross and dying to self, they walk away and say, “This is too hard.”

Someone has explained it this way; “Our problem is not that we want too much. Our problem is that we settle for too little.” We settle for what man can do. We settle for what the world offers. We settle for less than what God promises because we are not willing to embrace the cross. C.S. Lewis explains it this way in “The Weight of Glory”. “Indeed, if we consider the staggering nature of the rewards promised us in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink, sex, and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. We are like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

This Easter do not settle for less that God would have you to have. Trust in Him; embrace the Cross; and believe that He will give you all that He has said.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Refections for March 11, 2010

"Opening A Rosebud"

Years ago I heard a story that reminded me of my own life. It was about a young seminarian walking in the seminary garden with one of his professors. The young man was expressing his doubts and frustrations about his future. He expressed his uncertainty about what God’s plan was for him. The two men approached a beautiful rose bush. The professor removed one of the rosebuds and handed it to the young student. He asked him to unfold the rosebud without damaging any of the petals. The student soon found his efforts to be in vain. The harder he tried the bigger mess he made. The rose petals began to come apart and to fall to the ground.

Seeing the young man’s frustration, the older man reminded the younger that only God could open the rosebud and display the beautiful peddles unharmed. He told him his life was like the rosebud. He reminded him to stop trying so hard and to trust in the Master to show him the way. The Master would straighten the curves and make the rough spots smooth. His only requirement was to trust the Master and to be receptive to His leadership.

As I listened to the story, I could not help but think of the different stages of my life. There have been times when I desperately wanted to know God’s will. The problem was I wanted to know it immediately. It was not that I wanted to be disobedient. To the contrary, I wanted to do great things for God. Each time I took things into my own hands, I fell on my face, frustrated and confused.

Out of the frustration came the realization that Jesus’ words, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” were true. If we are to be like the rose and to develop to our full potential, we must learn the secret of surrendering to the Master. He will unfold our lives and make us into what He wants us to be.

If you are like me, you do not like the idea of surrender. However, it is not until we accept the fact that apart from Him we can do nothing that we can realize that through Him we can do all things. When we finally surrender, the Master begins to bring things together and we begin to catch glimpses of the future and what He has in store for us. With each move He makes, we learn that He will always provide everything we need to do the thing or things He wants us to do.

Maybe you are frustrated in your search for God’s will for your life. Let me encourage you to give up and surrender to Him. Allow Him to peel back your petals and make you into the beautiful and useful person He wishes you to be.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reflections for March 4, 2010

"Learning The Word"

I purchased a new cell phone last week. It is considerably different from the one I had used the past two years. Because I am technologically challenged, the transition to the new phone has been traumatic. I have missed several calls because I was struggling to get the thing free from the clip on my belt. To make matters worse, it is a touch screen phone. Since I have fat fingers, it usually doesn’t stop where I want it to stop or I touch more than one symbol. The manual that came with it would be helpful, if I understood it. It would also help if the writing was large enough to read without a magnifying glass. With the problems I have all ready had, I tremble at the thought of what is going to happen when I attempt to send an email or go on line using it.

Despite the frustration it has caused me, I will continue to use it. In time I will become more familiar with it and it will become a great asset in my ministry. I see similarities between my struggle with my new phone and a new Christian’s struggle with the Bible.

We, who have been Christians for years, expect too much from the person who has recently become a Christian. This is especially true if we were raised in the church and had the benefits of childhood Christian education. We remember well the Bible stories we were taught in Sunday school or in our homes. We may have participated in Bible drills, where we memorized the books of the Bible and the key passages in them. When we finally came to the point of asking Christ to come into our hearts and to be our Savior and Lord, we were all ready on our way to feeling comfortable with the Bible.

This scenario is not true for many who come to the Lord today. Often, people come out of backgrounds where there was no reference to the Scriptures. Someone had shared the simple message of the Gospel with them; God had moved in their hearts; and they had asked Him to enter into their lives. At that point, they may not have known the difference between the Old and New Testament. Names like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, etc. meant nothing special to them. To simply hand someone like this a Bible and to say read it every day is not enough. It is a daunting

What this person needs is for someone to come along side and to help them learn to navigate the pages of the Scripture. He/she needs someone who will take nothing for granted, who will patiently assist the new believer become versed in Scripture. With assistance, the new believer will become more comfortable going it alone. When discouragement comes, we need to be there to encourage and assure the new believer of the importance of the Scripture in the life of a believer. Most important, we need to model the truths of the Scripture in our own lives.

While having someone to assist a new believer in becoming comfortable with Scripture is important, it is not always possible. However, the believer has a personal tutor. When we accept Christ, His Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts. His Spirit becomes our tutor. If we are faithful to continue in the Word, in due time it will come alive for us and we will see its importance in our lives. We will understand the truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”