Bending Our Will To His

As we pray to the Lord, His power changes our lives. I can’t remember who said it but someone made the comment that when we pray to God we don’t pull Him to us to do our bidding but He bends our will to His. This is similar to anchoring a ship to the land. You don’t pull the land to the ship. Instead, the land holds the anchor and the ship is then pulled to the land. I like this analogy as it reminds me that prayer is one of God’s means of changing me to become like Christ not changing Christ to do what I want. As we pray, the Lord changes us and gives us a view of Him that we wouldn’t otherwise see.

In this body of sin, it’s so easy to forget Who is in control of all circumstances and think we have to be the ones controlling the situations to force everyone to do what we think is right. It’s like the little girl, who is a master controller and manipulator, going into the kitchen and telling her mom, “I’m making up the food today and you will sit down.” That, instead of asking her mom if it would be alright for her to make the food and would Mama like to sit down and rest awhile? That is fine between adults but a little child has no business demanding that her parents obey her anymore than we have the right to order God around, even if we think it’s for a good cause.

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We should be so contented with the Lord’s dispersion that our hearts go out to Him in worship and praise through each situation. Of course, we cannot simply sit there and say, “Que sera sera!” We are commanded to pray and do it fervently. James 5:16-17. We are commanded to be kind to our enemies and pray for them who despitefully use us. Matthew 5:44. We are to do many more things because we love to obey the Lord’s commands but our contentment should be found in Him and not in ourselves or this world.

May our hearts be so overwhelmed with the Lord that we can say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever!!” Psalm 73:25-26.

Growing Old With Grace

When I was young, old age never bothered me. In fact, I would be hard pressed to even remember a time when I wondered for a fleeting moment what it would be like to grow old. It was other people that grew old – like grandparents. However, it is amazing what almost five decades will do to one’s perspective.

Yesterday, I was reminded again of the passing of years as someone I really did not know passed away and went to be with the Lord they loved. This individual was quite elderly and known to others I love. This brother in Christ had spent years sharing and teaching the Word of God. Despite being racked at times with pain, the main diseases that was eating him away was not what ultimately took him from this life of toil and pain. He closed his eyes in sleep as his heart gave out and woke up in a place where he would never sleep or be in pain again.

When I heard the news, I was reminded again that time is creeping up on us and flies back so quickly. James put it so succinctly when he said in James 4:14, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

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As I write this, it is a special day for another reason. Forty-four years ago today, in the cold, wind-swept, bone-chilling landscape of the country of Iceland, a healthy young boy was born. Almost from the first day my brother was brought home from the hospital, he was happy. He was the life of the party and often the clown. Yes, we had our ups and downs, but John David made the most of whatever oppositions got in his way.

In late 1995, John had just left the USAF with an honorable discharge and was making a home for himself in North Carolina. He had found a body of believers that he dearly loved and he had spent time with the men on a retreat where his heart was stirred to be more like the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, all of that changed when he went to work one cold November morning. I received a call that I should meet at the hospital. Arriving, I found out that my brother, who was less than 5 years younger than me had passed away at the young age of 22. He had acquired an infection in his heart and when his heart exploded, he was gone before he hit the floor.

That was 21 years ago. There are still times the pain and loneliness of not hearing his voice or the endless jokes is emotionally difficult. Even back then, we spoke of him lovingly at the funeral and afterwards, but old age was still a long ways off. I didn’t really dwell on the reality that it was still going to come for all who are left to face the world.

Far from this maddening world, my brother no longer has to walk the dark paths of these Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called them. John’s path led him to a promotion that is far better than anything he could have experienced in this life. In fact, the moment he crossed from death into life, the joys he would have known would have been crowned by meeting the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. That is not something that any true believer would want to take away from another believer. Yes, we miss those who have gone before us, and we can hope that others will miss us when it comes time for us to depart this life.

However, until it is time for us to close our eyes to sin, death, and the grave, we must focus on living our lives in such a way that we will hear, “Well done, you are a good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of the Lord!” We have no reason to fear the door of death. For the believer, the door is only the opening to the wonders of what eternity holds and the half can never be told this side of heaven.

To me, this world is not really my home. I grow tired of the pain and the struggles that assail the flesh and the heart. If I should be left another 10, 20, or 30 years, I struggle to accept that more illnesses and heartache may well be my lot in life as it has been for much of my life.

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Each year that passes, I strangely find that growing old is something that did not really sneak up on me. Each year was filled with memories that resonate in my mind and heart. Each memory, whether good or bad or indifferent or sad or happy, was created as I lived the path that God had ordained for me to walk. One day, those memories may be forgotten as I get even older, but it will not diminish what I have been allowed to do by a gracious God who has been more merciful and gracious to me than I have or will ever deserve.

We live from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, and year to year. The time is precious and should be spent without regrets before the Lord. I do not fear the age I have become, but I welcome it because it puts me closer to the day when I will see the saints who have gone before me. I will see my grandparents, my brother, and friends who loved the Lord as well.

Growing older does have both advantages and disadvantages, but knowing what comes next makes the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. As believers, we are called to endure this race. Whether we are called to go at a young age or at an elderly age, our race is being encouraged on the sidelines of heaven by the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Therefore, it behooves us to run the race while looking to Jesus Christ alone!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1, 2

Power Of Prayer

Having looked at contentment in general and thankfulness, I think we have to be careful that we don’t forget about prayer. This is a fantastic way of coming to know the Sovereign of heaven. We really cannot be content or thankful without the Lord giving us that ability. As it says in Acts 17:28, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Prayer is the power of the true believer but not in the way people think. We don’t pray to God and expect answers as if He were our genie…you know, rub the magic lamp and He will grant all your wishes. It is beyond that! Think of it like this: when I have a relationship with someone I don’t just give them my wish list and say, “This is what I want. Give it to me.” On the other hand, I don’t hide away from them and pretend I don’t know them. if I truly want a relationship with someone I will go out of my way to work on that relationship.

As we pray to the Lord, His power changes our lives. We grow in the Lord just as a baby grows. We wouldn’t expect a baby to stay little the rest of his/her life and neither should we stay a babe in Christ. Somewhere in the middle of that growth we stop fretting and our contentment in Him grows. The peace that passes all understanding fills our hearts which allows us to guard our hearts and focus on the Lord instead of things around us.

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Does this mean it will happen overnight and we will never fret or worry again? Of course not! For some it will be a steady growth uphill and a believer who grows strong quickly. For others it might be a slower pace with lots of ups and downs, then for others it could be very slow growth but each true believer will grow. In 2 Peter 3:18, he tells us, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

This is just one reason for our thankfulness towards our Heavenly Father, Who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins. What a lovely picture this is and how appropriate that each thing we are commanded to do fits so perfectly together! Let us show Him our love by spending time with Him.

I love Romans 11:33, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” He is beyond our understanding, yet how beautiful He is and our praise towards Him should fill the heavens!

Being Thankful In Everything

One of the comments in response to my previous post shared another aspect of contentment that is vitally important in our lives. Robert kindly pointed out the aspect of being thankful in everything. Contentment is not just a matter of not fretting; although, it is important that we not fret when things don’t go our way. Contentment is also a matter of being thankful for what we have and what we don’t have.

We live in a culture of ungrateful people. You can help someone and never hear a thank you from them but end up being treated as if you caused them problems and they are entitled to what you gave them. This attitude permeates our culture but we, being true believers, should not have this attitude. When someone helps us out our very attitude should be gratefulness towards that person and we should let them know it. Even more importantly, we should be thanking the Lord that He moved their hearts in that direction.

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When the Lord takes something from us, we should be thankful for His loving ministrations. It is very possible we didn’t need whatever it was taken from us or not given to us. Maybe the thing we want will end up a stumbling block to us, maybe we will put that before the Lord in our worship, maybe we need to spend time with the Lord before He is willing to give us anything extra, and who knows what else could be the reason for Him to deny that specific thing to us. That is His peculiar knowledge that He may or may not reveal to us in time.

Charles Spurgeon was known to pray that if something he wanted was not good for him then he would rather the Lord keep it from him. This should be our desire, as well. Even the Lord prayed, not My will but Thine be done. Who are we to think that God has to give us something just because we demand it or deem it to be in our own best interests?

Contentment is not based on just one thing we receive or don’t receive in our lives. It is based on the whole of our lives. 1 Thess. 5:18 is very clear in that in everything we are to give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us. It’s based on no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, whether things are good or bad, whether evil is being done to us or good is being done to us…let us thank the Lord for all things. Is this easy? No, of course not but it’s the will of God and, as true believers, we are responsible to obey God. We should do it joyfully not just because it’s our responsibility but even more so because we love Him and want to obey Him in everything.

Wherever the Lord has placed us, let us be content in whatever situation we are and with whatever He deems necessary in our lives. Let us give ourselves wholly to being “content with such things as we have because He said, I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5).”

Speaking Graciously

Truth in grace. I love the new blog title. I’ve said for years that some people have no problem “speaking the truth” (or what they perceive that truth to be) but they forget the “in love” part.  If we love each other, our words will be “gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

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People complain about the internet being a place where some say things that they would never say to a person’s face. I personally love this mode of communication because it gives me time to think through how to respond to a person or situation. Not that I always do it perfectly, but I have the opportunity to slow down and allow God to speak through me as opposed to speaking off the top of my head words that might be full of pride and ignorance.

Whatever we do, whether in word or deed, we are to do it to the glory of God (Col. 3:17). I pray that I will never lose sight of that truth.

 

Contentment

Contentment…this can be a difficult subject both in learning and in life. This is something the Lord wants each of His children to learn, it is also something we should be willing to take great pains to learn. What is even harder but should be concerning to each of us who are the children of God is contentment in the midst of trials. You see, contentment in the Lord seems to be simple enough.

The Lord uses each situation for us to learn dependence on Him and a desire to fulfill His will. Yet, in the midst of that, as the backdrop of life, the trials we face are there for us to learn to be contented in the midst of that specific trial knowing Who is in control and the plans He has or us is not only for His honor and glory but also for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The Lord clearly told His disciples that the servant is not above the Master and if the world hated the Master and treated Him horribly then it would treat His servants just as bad, if not worse. As we grow in the grace of the Lord we find that life does not get easier but harder. Each trial or tribulation we face is that much harder than the last but, for each one, we are given the grace and strength to get through.

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When we fight the Lord, instead of gracefully letting Him have His way, we find that the way is so much more difficult than it should be. Fighting only brings anger and frustration our way instead of the peace that passes all understanding. It becomes easy to fume and fret about what we have to face in life. Instead of having a quiet spirit that comes from the Lord, we then have a complaining and fretful spirit. This brings us to a point of having to be disciplined by the Lord.

As the trial or tribulation comes into our lives we begin fretting and fuming that we don’t want it to happen. We were content for things to be as they were and yet it takes those trials to make us more like the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow in faith.

Many times we are like the child that grows impatient and demands their own way when things are not done exactly the way they want them. They sulk and throw temper tantrums because they think that all should be exactly as they would have it, not as the parents know is best for them. They want the candy, the fruit, the dessert, the sweets, the play time, the whatever the case may be instead of spending their time studying, or wanting to eat the proper and healthy foods the parents know they should have so they will grow up strong and wise.

The Lord knows exactly what we need in our lives to make us wise and strong believers. To fret against His wise bestowments (wise even in the midst of our trials) tells Him that we love this world more than Him. How can we desire the world above Him? Is wealth, comfort, life, health, friends, entertainment, sports, family, or anything else more important than Him? To put anything before Him is to worship the created thing more than the Creator, who gave His only begotten Son for our worthless souls.

As each trial comes into our lives let us be willing to thank the Lord for what He taught us already in the past trials and be willing to trust that “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.”