Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Beauty of Prayer

I am up very early on a Sunday morning.  It was raining yesterday afternoon and evening.  We lit a fire and lounged during the late afternoon.  I was in bed really early and consequently I am up really early!  I love being up early on Sunday mornings because it gives me time to think, pray, and to get my heart ready for preaching.

Today we are studying Psalm 5 as we are in between books.  Next week we begin Roman--a major study for 2013.  I am very much looking forward to studying this book that Chuck Swindoll appropriately refers to as "The Christian Constitution."  But today, I have Psalm 5 before me and I feel led to mix things up at church today.  I'm looking forward to having a time of prayer and a time of thanksgiving in the middle of the message.  I'm also preaching first leading us into a time of taking the Lord's Supper and an extended time of worship.

Psalm 5:1-3 says this, "Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray.  In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch." I am blessed as I consider some things about David's example of prayer that I would like to share.

Directly to God.  I love the direct access we see here.  There is no need to pray to a "saint" or any other mediator.  We have direct access to the Father through Christ.  God hears our prayers and knows are hearts.  There is no need to sugar coat your words.  We can and should go to Him directly and boldly!

Personal relationship with God.  Did you notice how many times "my" was used in these three verses?  A ton!  Well, more like 7 times, but you get the point.  David cries that God is his God and King!  Do you have this relationship with God?  Good times, bad times, God is our personal God and He desires this relationship with Him!  We must guard ourselves from turning God into a lucky rabbit's foot and distorting our relationship into a religion, or maybe you need to ditch religion and gain a relationship?

Consistency in prayer.  I love the consistency of David's prayers.  He tells God He will hear from David every morning!  I'm not one to make rules concerning devotions, but there seems to be a pattern in the Scriptures to start the day with prayer.  I don't know about you, but my days always go better when I start it with prayer. 

Praying with expectancy.  We pray and forget.  I always been bad at keeping a prayer journal, but I always encourage people to keep one.  I enjoy going back and reviewing the prayers I have prayed long after the fact.  I am always encouraged reading them thinking to myself, "Wow, the Lord came through on that one!"  Let us not pray and move on, but let us be like David and wait expectantly after we pray trusting that God will respond!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Guest Opinion: Connecticut Tradegy

The events in Connecticut were simply tragic.  I have not had time to sit down and write out my thoughts about the events, but I received the following email from Ken Yoder a dear man at Valley Baptist Church.  The following is an email that he sent to his children after hearing the news.  He has given me permission to share it here:
This morning Mom and I were in the "Man Cave" going about our usual routine, Mom painting, I was building a new jig for my saw. We have a habit of listening to Rush on the radio. Rush was interrupted by the news of the incomprehensible tragedy that took place in Connecticut, it certainly affected us greatly.  I could not help but realize that "But by the grace of GOD there go us." How is this kind of evil even possible?  Obviously there are no answers to rationally explain how an individual could do something like this.  But I would like to share some thoughts on this event.
There are  two things that come to my mind when I hear of such a despicable thing as this happening. 
1.     One of the first things that I know from Scripture is something that Jesus told us in John 10:10 that explains the two forces in this world.  Let me quote that here: "The thief [referring Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  You see, depending who an individual desires to follow, that loyalty will determine how their life's actions will take them.  Satan does desire to steal, kill, and destroy any good, and unfortunately there are people who allow that evil to take hold of their lives.  Does it seem like there is more and more of this happening?  Yes, and the reason is that Satan and his demons are winning the battle in the United States.  Without God, the nation will perish; and we are seeing the results of this every day.  Another thing that Jesus said is in John 3:19-20: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." 
2.     The second thing that I also know from Scripture with regard to the taking of these innocent lives is that little children are precious to Jesus.  Matthew 19:14 says, "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’"  Scripture also tells us in 2 Samuel 12 that when David's baby was sick, he prayed for the baby to live, but when the baby died, he said in verse 23 that while he can't bring the baby back to life on this earth, he would go to him . . . meaning that the Lord receives those who are too young to make an informed decision.  What a joy that our loving Lord takes these children to be with Him forever.
What can we do?  We can pray for those families that lost their child; God can and does work, and He is God.  Pray for their comfort, and also that many will come to Him during this time of great sadness.

Trusting and Honoring GOD!!! (Numbers 20:12 NIV)
Your earthly farther;

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Can't Keep Up!

Do you like the game Tetris?  I haven't played it in a long time.  I'm not sure how my skills compare to other people, but I definitely have a strategy of placing my blocks.  I like symmetry so I try and keep the the top as level as possible.  The ideal situation is to have four rows completely leveled out with exception of the far right column that is fully open, just waiting for that long bar to slide in delivering massive points!  This game goes well for me as long as I have vision for what's coming.  If I can predetermine where I am going to place a particular piece, I can get it placed and stay ahead of things.  The problem is when things speed up and I cannot keep things neat and orderly in my landing area.  Everything eventually unravels and finally that last piece drops with no place to fall and the game seizes up.

I think life is a lot like the game Tetris.  We each have 24 hours coming our way each day.  There are times when I'm able to manage the responsibilities that fall my way and other times when things are falling so fast that I just don't know how I'm going to get them done.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 5:15-16, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil."  We live in a world that is so busy.  There is so much going on all of the time.  I am so prone to saying, "yes" to people that I often myself running thin.  In order to avoid my life becoming like the last 20 seconds of Tetris, I've discovered some practical things that really help...when applied!

Setting goals.  I like setting goals from being a child of God, husband, dad, pastor, chaplain, friend, etc, etc.  What are my responsibilities within the various aspects in my life?  I don't know that I write these out, but I probably should.  Once I examine my responsibilities I set goals for what I would like to achieve as it relates to the particular category.  I do better if I can see what's coming down the chute so I can figure out how to place it.

Prioritizing responsibilities.  Once I have responsibilities set out, planning starts to fall into place.  With my great mental/written list laid out, I begin to prioritize my responsibilities.  Some repeat daily, like time with God and family, others are weekly, or one time events.  As I begin to lay them out on a calendar, I often discover a problem--namely too much to do and not enough time to get it all done.

Pruning responsibilities.  I really don't like saying "No" to people, but I've learned that I have to in order to stay sane and to actually accomplish the things that God has called me to.  In the last year, I've had to make hard decisions to resign from boards and other things I really enjoy in order to focus on things I have been called to do.

Using an online calendar.  I never used a calendar in the military, I was just always there.  As a civilian, I have a ton of freedom to meet with people, study, and to handle small fires.  I wasn't a civilian very long before I started double booking and forgetting appointments that slipped through the cracks in my brain, or sat on a paper calendar back at my home or office.  I've been way more productive since the advent of a smart phone where I can track and adjust multiple calendars all the time from my phone wherever I am.

I imagine Tetris blocks falling from the sky as I hear the lyrics of this old song, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future..."  Time passes us all by at the same rate--one hour at a time.  I know we each have been allotted different amounts of total time as it slips by us, but I want to make the most of the time I am given in this life.  What have you done to best manage your time?