Month: May 2015

Spirit Intercede

Romans 8:25-27

“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is,
because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

I am not an authority on prayer. In fact, for the most part I pretty well stink as a prayer warrior. One of my biggest problems with prayer—besides the obvious one of disciplining myself to do it regularly—is knowing what to pray for. I might think I know what I want in any given moment, but I am also fully aware that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). I might think I know what would bring God the greatest glory in any given situation, but I also know that God’s ways are higher than my ways, and that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). I also know that “a man’s heart plans his way,” while “the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). So ultimately, then, we are left to pray only for what we THINK God’s will is, or what we believe it might be.

Thank God we have the Spirit to intercede—or translate—for us, through groans we can’t understand. While that’s a comfort to me, I know that it is a source of frustration for others. Some will ask, if the Spirit is interceding anyway, and if we don’t even know how we ought to pray, then why do it at all? Well, it seems to me that there are a number of reasons for us to pray in concert with God and other believers.

  1. God invites us to participate in His processes. Not many perspectives on God recognize how relational He is, how He longs to be in constant communion with us. It’s a privilege that He extends this invitation to talk with Him whenever, however, and about whatever we desire. We shouldn’t take it for granted.
  2. The more time we spend in prayer, the more God can align OUR wills with His. I love Psalm 37:4—“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” What I love most about this verse is the meaning that sometimes eludes us. Namely, this scripture promises that, as we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will mold our desires to more closely match His desires for us. What a comfort.
  3. We become better in tune with the needs of others around us, and grow in compassion. At times, I’ve set out on a renewed commitment to prayer. And do you know what I have found? The more I pray, the more there is to pray about. I begin watching, listening, caring, and feeling empathy and grace for others. In short, I grow in compassion. It’s kind of like a muscle: if I exercise it more, it gets stronger. And by the same token, if I get out of the habit of regularly exercising compassion through prayer (among other things), it gets weaker. I begin to forget, overlook, focus inward, and dismiss—none of which are good traits to display as a follower of Christ.
  4. We learn faith and trust—in waiting, in receiving “nos” from God, in hearing “later” from Him. I am not I don’t know what’s best for me, or you, or anyone else. But God does. He is the all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful Heavenly Father. And He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). So whatever His answer is to our prayers, we can be assured that it is the right answer. And we can have peace in that.

So pray boldly, and then believe boldly in a Holy Spirit who is forever advocating for you and compensating for your weaknesses in the courts of God. And praise the Lord when He answers—no matter what that answer is!

A Tent on This Land

John 14:2-3 (KJV)

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you. 
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Twenty acres. 220,000 dollars. And what can best be described as a shack. Seriously. They didn’t even include this ‘structure’ in the property listing. But no matter. Every time we drive by, I think to myself (and often say out loud), I would gladly live in a tent on this land. It is SO perfect, so beautiful. It overlooks a gorgeous river valley and the green of the trees is absolutely vibrant. You probably wouldn’t even know there are that many shades of green without seeing them with your own eyes. Even in the winter, when bare and brown branches take over the once-lush foliage, the view brings me peace.

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It was this land, and the recollection of a popular country song by Florida Georgia Line, that birthed the hashtag #DreamDirt. Do you know what occurs to me, though? Any plot of land that I might find on this earth, no matter how beautiful and serene, is probably like a trash heap compared to heaven. And so, when I look ahead to eternity, I find myself thinking—with the utmost assurance—that I would gladly live in a tent (or a shack, or a trailer, or a lean-to, or an outhouse) on that land.

And yet, I read John 14:2-3 and realize that, in heaven, we won’t have to choose. Now, the mansions that John speaks of may not be literal. Rather, he may be referring to that with which we clothes ourselves. That is, they may be the heavenly counterpart to the earthly ‘tents’ that, according to Paul, are our bodies (http://www.tedmontgomery.com/bblovrvw/emails/mansionbodies.html). But even so, I look forward to that day, when I will arrive in heaven, stand next to Jesus, and sink my toes into the dream dirt that will no doubt be like none other I’ve ever seen. If it weren’t so, He would have told us. Believer, believe this promise!

The Healing Box

Romans 8:36-37

“As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Revelation 21:4

“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, Rejoice.”

Have you ever heard someone accused of “putting God in a box”? That is, we artificially limit Him to a realm of intention and action that is unfitting for an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful Creator and Heavenly Father. On the one hand, it’s understandable. We are finite creatures, living in a three-dimensional world—and so we find ourselves unable to comprehend the intricacies of God and of the universe. I get it. On the other hand, though, we need to acknowledge that God’s ways are higher than ours, that his knowledge is greater, that His will and plan are more perfect, good, and holy than we could even imagine.

Still, the temptation remains hard to resist—when we’re faced with trials, struggles, tragedies, and losses—to put God back in that box, to assume that He will or should act in accordance with our feeble understanding. Case in point: the healing box. How often, when faced with illness or injury, do we hear people pray for healing? But praying for healing is tricky, because we don’t know what KIND of healing God has in mind. Instead, we try to put God in a healing box by trying to dictate to Him what is best for us and our loved ones. But only He knows best.

I love how I once heard Beth Moore put it, that we are delivered from illness, delivered through illness, or delivered into glory. Amen to that! God may spare us from illness or injury. But it’s just as likely that He will allow us to experience one or both, and survive through His strength. Every bit as possible is the prospect that we will face these trials and that we will seemingly ‘succumb’ to them, at least when viewed through an earthly lens. But it is then when, as believers, we can have confidence and faith that God will usher us safely into heaven—that He will deliver us into glory.

Does this mean that our prayers need to display a fatalist resignation—“Oh well, God’s going to do whatever He wants anyway, so who cares?” By NO MEANS, as the apostle Paul might say. But when we pray for healing, we can reflect a heaven-sent peace by understanding and accepting that God WILL heal, one way or the other.

Some time ago, a family that we know of lost one of its members to cancer. In his honor, they dedicated a remission bell to the local cancer center. At that time, the family ceremoniously rang the bell, declaring David cancer free, since he was a believer and had arrived in heaven—safe and sound, and healed. Just yesterday, we had the opportunity to ring the bell on behalf of the mother of a good friend, whose earthly battle with cancer has now come to an end. But praise God her eternal life has only just begun. Welcome home, Robin!

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Mothers’ Dreams and Wishes

With Mothers’ Day coming up on Sunday, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on motherhood and what it looks like in action. And one aspect of that is that we, as mothers, have a lot of dreams for our kids. If you’re a mom, I’ll bet you can relate. But I think that we also let ourselves get caught up in some wishes that we hold onto for our kids as well. You may be asking by now, what’s the difference between dreams and wishes? Well, at least from my perspective, the two are vastly different.

If I were to list some wishes that I had for my kids, that list might include things like comfort, happiness, pleasure—fuzzy, feel-good kinds of things. On the other hand, if I were asked to list some dreams I have for my kids, I would say that I want them to display godly character. I would say that I went them to be used mightily by God and to accomplish amazing things for His kingdom. And through it all, I would want them to show humility and grace.

These are two different perspectives—one more temporal, and one more eternal. And where our focus is will, to a large degree, affect how we act out our role as mothers. I think of several mothers in the Bible who sought God’s best for their children because they placed their dreams for them ahead of their wishes for them. Think of Moses’ mother, who—in order to save his life—placed him in a basket in a river in hopes that someone would find and raise him and that he would accomplish God’s will for his life. Then there was Hannah, who—barren for SO long—promised God that if He gave her a child, she would offer him right back. And when God granted her request, she honored her promise, allowing Eli the priest to raise her son, Samuel, in the service of the Lord. And of course, there was Elizabeth—mother of John the Baptist—who conceived her child while barren and in her old age. He also was dedicated to the Lord and committed to serving Him as a messenger sent to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. And of course, let’s don’t forget Mary, the mother of Jesus, who accepted not only a difficult calling for herself, but also a difficult row to hoe for her child.

These women shared their faith and their faithfulness in common. But they also shared something else. Each of their children, in pursuit of their God-given callings, faced challenges, trials, tribulations, and suffering. Each of those children also remained faithful in spite of everything they endured. I wouldn’t describe their lives as full of comfort, happiness, and pleasure. But I would say that each developed godly character, that each was used mightily by God, that each accomplished amazing things for His kingdom, and that each showed humility and grace.

As mothers, I think it’s difficult to consider that our dreams for our children may take them into difficult places. And I’ve sometimes wondered whether these biblical mothers would have made different choices, had they known what lied ahead for their sons. But I always come to the conclusion that, no, they wouldn’t have. I believe that they placed their trust wholly and completely in a known and knowing God to do what was best, and to go with their children wherever He would lead them. I think their focus remained on the dreams that they had for their children, rather than on fleeting wishes. I pray that when you and I are faced with these choices, we will choose wisely, just as these women did.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

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How Then Should We Grieve?

1 Thessalonians 4:13

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep,
or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 makes clear that man’s longing for heaven is inevitable. And I know that, whatever heaven is like, it will not disappoint. So when a loved one goes on ahead of me, there’s a part of me that’s envious. But then there’s another part of me that knows how dearly they will be missed. I know that with the Lord, a thousand years is like a day. But, by the same token, our days on earth can sometimes feel like a thousand years. And it seems that days lived without those for whom we’ve cared most deeply are the longest ones of all.

So, in light of eternity, and our ultimate quest to get there, we’re faced with a sometimes difficult question: How then should we grieve? 1 Thessalonians 4:13 offers the key to godly grief—HOPE. We have hope that our loved ones are healed and whole in heaven—and happy. We have hope that we will see them again someday. We have hope that the Holy Spirit will comfort us through times of sadness and our sense of loss. We have hope that Jesus is preparing a place for us and preparing US for that place.

All of this hope rests in God, which is why 1 Thessalonians says that those without faith in God grieve without hope. I can only imagine the despair that death must bring in the absence of hope and faith. I pray that all who grieve without hope, without faith in God, and without the assurance of heaven will turn to Him and thereby find comfort and peace.

In Loving Memory of
Larry Kenrick
1942 – 2015