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Monday, January 27, 2014

Praying Dangerously Week 4

So far, I've shared questions and ponderings on praying dangerously. And challenged all of us, me included, to pray this first dangerous prayer: 

I surrender. Continue Your good work in me. Change me.

What I'd like to do today is offer an answer to one of my deepest questions and then ask you to join me and share with others where you need prayer. 

I'd love the honor of praying for you and knowing we are lifting each other up to our Lord, who is Himself the answer.

My question: How do we change what needs changing in us?

I could offer many "ten steps to a new you" lists, some of which have helped me and some have not.

I could say exercise, read the Bible more, reach out to others. All of which are good, very good, things to do. 

But many of us have tried various ways to accomplish those things and many more things...and failed. 

I'd like to offer another suggestion. 

It's not original. It's not a life-shattering revelation. 

It is where I am and what I've seen work in my life more than anything else I've ever done.

Believe in Christ and pray God's Word and don't give up. 

Simple. Not easy.

Prayer is the work. 

It's not all the work because sometimes we have to put feet to our faith, but prayer is what focuses us on what God wants and on who He is. 

John 6:29 "Jesus told them, 'This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the One He has sent.'"

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Never stop praying." 

Something I've started that keeps me from constantly begging God for relief or provision is to pray His Word for my children and myself.

For example: We have all struggled with anger over various injustices in our life situation. So I went to the Word and asked God what to pray about this issue. Then I wrote out a prayer based on Ephesians 4:26, 1 Peter 2:23, and Romans 12:17-21.

"May my children not sin by letting anger control them, but instead entrust themselves to God who judges justly. May they not seek revenge but leave it to the Lord, and may they overcome evil with good." 

It settles my heart to pray this way. To believe God hears, is good, and will answer according to His character and His will and His perfect timing. 

The praying isn't the hard part for me. The believing is. Which is why I go back to the Word and affirm the truth, no matter what I feel. 

Simple. Not easy. 

None of us will be perfect in this...or anything else. Which is one reason we don't give up. And we look forward to heaven when the imperfect disappears, and we will see the Perfect One face to face.

So there's my answer. I hope it encourages you and inspires you to dig into the Word and pray.

Now I'd like to ask what to pray for you...and yes, I mean you. 

What burden can you share that we can help you bear up under? What need do you have that we can pray God's Word for you? 

Father, thank You that You hear the cries and joys and fears and hopes of Your people and are already at work in all of our circumstances. Thank You that You capture every tear in a bottle, and You treasure every one of Your children. We are noticed and cared for and cherished, even when we don't feel it. You rejoice over us, You hold us in the palm of Your hand, and You promised You will never abandon us. May we draw near to You as individuals and as a group of pray-ers, lifting each other to You. You inhabit the praises and hear the prayers of Your people, so we come and thank You for who You are and what You will do in and through and for us. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Praying Dangerously January Week 3

There's an idea I've been wrestling with for some time now that I would love to discuss...

What does it mean to live with eternity in mind? 

The idea both thrills and terrifies me. 

Thrills because it means having my focus on Jesus and living in His peace because I know the end of my story - the second I leave this world, I'll be forever in the presence of my holy and loving God. Until then, somehow my life will make sense, and the ugly and the joyful moments will all mix together to create something beautiful. 

It's the somehow that gets me. 

It scares me because unlike church rules there are no boundaries to living this life. It means staying open to whatever God wants me to do whenever He wants me to do it. And trusting Him alone to take care of me. 

I don't know about you, but that blank check kind of living is hard. It's not my first choice. 

I know it's what surrender means- that God is in charge and I'm not. 

But how do you really live that way? At peace like Jesus in a boat in the midst of a storm. 

I feel like I'm living in the eye of a hurricane right now. It's peaceful at this moment, but something more is coming that could capsize my world. It's how I've lived these last few years. 

I want to be at peace and trust God has it all under control. Because His Word says He does. But it doesn't always look like He does. 

Life doesn't make sense.

How do you live with eternity in mind in the midst of a crazy, uncertain world? 

After years of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I'd really like a life where I know where my next meal is coming from, that I'll have a roof over my head, where my job is secure and pays the bills, where my kids and I are safe,  where I have medical insurance and can afford my insulin, and where I can serve God in a way that brings joy to others and my heart.

But life's not like that. 

It's messy and unpredictable and unknown. 

The reality is we don't know more than we know. 

Does living with eternity in mind mean not focusing on or ignoring the messy unknown but choosing to look higher? To a reality beyond our five senses? To the things that I know are true because God said they are true?

"So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on the things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." 2 Corinthians 4:18

What does living with eternity in mind mean?

I hope you'll join me in this dialogue. I want to learn more. You all have so much to teach.

Praying Dangerously January 2014 Week 2

I won't ask for a show of hands for how many people this week prayed our first dangerous prayer- I surrender. Continue Your good work in me. Change me. 

I do want to ask a follow up question related to last week. 

What is your big question to God?

Last week, I listed a lot of questions I've asked or am asking God...

Why? Are You really? Do You care? Do You really? Am I really? Will You really?

This week, I'm asking you... What's your big question to God? And how will His answer change you?

At the core, the big question for me is either Why? or Do I matter? 

I'd love to say my big question to God is what- what do You want me to do, Lord? 

That feels like a more mature, more grounded question. And in some ways it is. It's a great question. 

But I think most of us have to settle some other questions first. 

And those questions are important to God. 

God's Word tells us to come to Him. He can handle our doubts and questions. 

He already knows the deep questions of our hearts. 

So I ask God questions. A lot of questions. Often.

It's no surprise to me that I have three very inquisitive children. I love that...most of the time.

I'm thankful God invites me to come and ask, knock, seek...all of the time. 

Sometimes, however, God asks me to be still. To live with no answers. No game plan. No understanding of my situation and no answer to my why questions. 

I wonder if sometimes the lack of answers changes me more than the answers. 

The silence challenges me to be still and remember what I know.

God is good.
God loves me. Unconditionally. Forever.
God will provide. 
God is for me.
God promises my life has a purpose and He has a plan. 

I also wonder if what changes me most is asking the questions and continuing to ask of God until I find a place of peace in His arms. Answers or not.

So I come. 

Will you? 

Matthew 11:28-29, "Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.'"

Praying Dangerously

Change me, Lord. 

Our first dangerous, open-ended prayer. If we are going to see the God of the impossible do what only He can do, we need our eyes and hearts open to see and receive.

I don't know about you, but I have a laundry list of things I know need to change in me before I can really see. 

Questions I don't like to admit I ask. 

And things I'd rather God left alone or changed in other people.

You too?

So maybe before we even start praying for God to change us, we need to get honest about what really needs to change. 

Here's my list of what I'd like God to change in me:

Help me lose ten pounds.
Make me quicker to praise than complain.
Help me see people the way God sees them.
Help me forgive the way God forgives.
Make me not focused on myself but focused on Him and others.
Help me trust Him to do the impossible for me.
Help me believe God really does have a purpose and plan for my life. 

Let me be even more transparent here...under those honest requests are some huge hurts.

God, do You think I'm beautiful? Is that enough?
Why does life hurt so much? Are You really at work in the mess? Do You care?
How do You really see me?
Do You really not see my sin when You look at me? Am I really completely forgiven? I don't deserve it, how is it possible? 
Do You care about all of me, so much that I can rest in Your care and not worry about what I need? 
Do You really love me and not just put up with me because You're God and You sort of have to love me? 
Will You really use someone with my life story to change the world? 

Maybe you've never asked those questions. I hope you haven't. Those questions come from deep hurt, not theological doubt. 

Because even though my head and sometimes my heart knows the truth, and I can quote the Scriptures that answer those questions, there's still a frightened little girl inside who didn't get protected and wonders if there really is that protection available...for me. 

See, I believe without a hint of doubt that God loves my children, my family, my friends, and others with a miraculous, unconditional love. A love that is immeasurably more than can be imagined. 

But me? 

I'm afraid to believe that God loves me like that because that...would change everything.

A love like that  would change how I see myself. Accepted. Cherished. Precious. And in turn how I see and treat others.

A love like that would change how I think and speak, how I see circumstances. 

A love like that would change how I forgive.

In a love like that I would find security that all I need will be provided because God promised. Then I would share that love with others.

A love like that would change....everything.

And it has. 

But there's still more that needs to change. 

Praise God His Word promises, "I am certain that God, who began the good work in you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1: 6

So maybe our first dangerous prayer is better stated...

I surrender. Continue Your good work in me. Change me. 

What about you? What must change in You? How will you pray?

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