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All posts for the month February, 2014

When Prayer is a Fight

Published February 17, 2014 by Dawn

For whatever reason, I was really struggling to pray this evening. This seems to be happening more often as of late. Not because I don’t feel welcomed into fellowship with the Lord, but because I struggle to accept His invitation. I am very aware of my fleshly reactions lately, and I have never hated more than I hate my flesh. And it disgusts me so much, I feel like I am wearing ragged clothes into the presence of the King. Um … I don’t want to present myself to Him that way. So what do I do? Sadly, I just don’t present myself at all. I give Him like a shout out or a smile, or a look of longing, and then avoid His piercing gaze like the plague.

Then there’s the matter of all the prescribed ways to come into His presence. That’s the one that was really tripping me up this evening. I’ve read several books that tell you how to most effectively approach the throne room so that your prayers are definitely heard and then immediately answered. I’ve even done the hocus pocus described to procure favor from the King. But tonight, I just wanted to sit and talk with my Husband. Not tell Him how good He looked or how much I needed this or that, or flatter Him sufficiently to get His undivided attention. I just wanted to sit down with Him and talk. I wanted to express my heart, cry some maybe, listen to His voice of encouragement and gentle love. All the prescribed methods just weren’t in me tonight. I didn’t want to participate in the spiritual foreplay. But you know what? No book really deals with those nights when you just want to cuddle and talk … well, none that is, except the Bible.

As I was wrestling with my unwillingness to flatter God as a way of gaining His attention and favor before I could even pour my heart out to Him, my mind returned to this one phrase in the Bible repeated over and over throughout the first four books of the New Testament: “Jesus saw the crowds and He had compassion on them.”

Let me be honest here: The crowds always got on my nerves. I would read through the scriptures about how the crowds followed Jesus everywhere, begging for this and that. They didn’t want Him, or His companionship. They wanted His touch and then they’d be on their way. Like a jealous wife, I looked at the crowd as a major nuisance. I just wanted Jesus to step out of the boat into the crowd and say, “People, go home! Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something here?!” I mean, He couldn’t even mourn the loss of His beloved cousin John for too long before the crowd rushed on Him again. And you know what else perturbed me about the crowd? Their total lack of respect for Jesus. He had to hide out to get any sleep. Here I go again, all jealous-wifey about it. A man’s gotta sleep! Go home! They didn’t adore Him, or sing to Him to gain His favor. They pressed in around Him until He was backed into a boat or crammed into a house in the middle of town with no way out. And do you know what Jesus did? HE HAD COMPASSION ON THEM!

He and I are polar opposites. You can imagine my surprise tonight as I fought inwardly, both longing for Him and knowing I was not going to approach Him by way of a lie. There was no sincere worship in me. I just wanted to talk! So I sat here on my couch yearning for the Lord but unwilling to press in, and a song began to spill from my mouth: “Come just as you are. Hear the Spirit call. Come just as you are. Come and see. Come receive. Come and live forever. Come.” Come just as I am … skank clothes and all. Jesus was still willing to sit with me. Come to Him without a song … He was still willing to hear my prayer.

James scribed these words in 5:16, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” But Romans 3:10 quotes the Psalms that, “There is none who are righteous.” Do these two verses contradict one another? Seemingly so, until you take into account that this is the whole basis for the Gospel. Jesus became sin so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)! Seems that when I struggle to approach God because of my filth, it is because I have forgotten that only because Christ’s blood covers me am I made perfect and welcomed into the Father’s presence! Welcomed! Not because of anything I do or fail to do, but because I am right with God because of Jesus.

The truth blinding me right now is this: I am one of the crowd. Sure, maybe tonight I just want to snuggle up and talk about life. But there are times I only approach Him in need, or other times when I’m watching for a miracle. Days when I just want to be fed, or even just acknowledged. And He’s always so patient with me, and full of compassion. The truth is – and He knows this, thank goodness- I’m incapable of even desiring Him without His Spirit coaxing me (John 6:44). So in truth, I am just one of the throng, pressing in to Him, begging Him daily to do something in me or through me. And for the throng He has compassion!

“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, ardent multitudes have been crowding toward the Kingdom of Heaven…(Matt. 11:12, TLB)

 

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Waiting on the Promises

Published February 8, 2014 by Dawn

It had finally come to this. As she sat in the dust watching him lick away the final drops of water from the skein, Hagar began to despair. Great heaving sobs shook her  body as she realized the disparity of their situation. She looked up to Heaven and wept bitterly. “Haven’t I also served you well, Lord?”

Hagar’s life was a tragedy, by all accounts. At the end of the day, you can rightly surmise she had been used and then rejected. By becoming the surrogate in place of Sarah’s barren womb, she had only done her duty. It was a common practice for the women of that time to give their slaves to bear children in their place, and Hagar had submitted out of reverence in her lowly position. But it wasn’t long before hearts became bitter. As she recognized the silent rejection of her son, she began to hate Sarah more and more, and resent Abraham. There was talk of a promise and she had not missed the fact that Ishmael’s part in the inheritance of Abraham had been in question since his conception. As the firstborn, he had a right to it, but she had overheard the whispers of hesitation mingling with whispers of downright refusal. After all this time, Sarah still expected to bear a son, and it was said he would inherit all.

Hagar thought back to the prophecy given before Ishmael’s birth, that he would be a wild man and he would be against all people. Glancing over at him, hunched up against the brutal heat and desert wind, she wondered if even now, his hatred was surpassing her own. Abandoned, rejected since birth, Ishmael seemed to never have had a prayer. Again, she wept bitterly at the man her son was destined to become.

Hagar is a symbol to us today, of the far-reaching affects of what we do in the waiting. God had given Abraham and Sarah a promise, then He tested them in the waiting. We see through Hagar that they failed. Sarah failed to believe wholeheartedly, and Abraham failed to take authority in standing on the promise. As a result, they took matters into their own hand and really messed up some people. Hagar was used to fill in a God-sized gap, gave birth to a forsaken son, and literally changed the course of Abraham’s destiny. Instead of walking into God’s promise in freedom, Abraham walked into it with a little bit of baggage and a whole lot of bondage. He couldn’t control the women in his life, and he ultimately had to abandon his son because of it.

As the ripple widened, Ishmael became a nation that forever after opposed the nation born of Abraham’s covenant. While Abraham’s through Isaac begat the Israelite nation, Abraham through Ishmael begat the Arab nations that have since opposed Israel, even up to this very day. A war that began between Sarah and Hagar as a result of jealousy and pain hasn’t stopped since. All because two people struggled to receive a promise with a wholly devoted faith.

It behooves me to say God does not need our help in fulfilling His promises. He needs our cooperation, our obedience, but not our limited understanding getting in the way of His unlimited ability. If you’ve ever seen a toddler help make cookies, you know what it looks like when we help God out with our mistaken efforts. He’s working to make something delicious to bless us with, and our hands are in the way and we are quickly creating a mess. The problem increases when we involve the hearts of others. Their lives become fragmented as we use a piece here and a piece there to fill in the gaps where we feel God is not sufficient, and our enemy is standing by to sow those fragments back together with threads of anger, resentment and deep distress. And like a stone thrown into a pond, the ripples widen and widen, touching more and more people and wreaking havoc beyond imaginings. Let me say again, God does not need this kind of help.

There’s almost always a waiting period when it comes to the promises of God. God is very gracious in revealing things to His children. But like children, once we’ve heard it, we wait impatiently, with much longing and making plans the entire time. And then we start figuring out how we’re going to get there. And then we start moving in only the directions that make sense to us. And we screw things up. Anxiety in the promises long coming is detrimental to the beauty of God’s reality for us. If we could only be at peace and look with anticipation, yet move with surety at His commands, we’d eventually get there without problems. But who of us can do that? The results of our human efforts getting there will always be Hagar’s broken heart and Ishmael’s fury. And there will be war between what God intends and finally brings about, and the busyness of our own hands in the waiting. For Heaven’s sake, be still and know.

The Fixer-Upper

Published February 2, 2014 by Dawn

Not too far from my work there’s this house that I absolutely adore. It’s a dump, really. But when I look at it, I see what it used to be, or what it could be with some TLC, and I always tell my kids, “I’ll love to take that house and move it out into the middle of the country and live in it.” I have a plan for that house, if only in my dreams.

Most people, when looking at this house, probably only see the rot and ruin. They might focus on the massive decay: the boards that are loose or falling off, the foliage that has literally torn down the outer walls, the unkempt paint or the junk strewn about the front porch and yard. It’s bad, when looked at only with the naked eyes of flesh. But I look at that house with my heart and I love it.

If ever I could purchase that house, I’d do so knowing full well that making it livable would take a lot of work. It’s a fixer-upper, for sure. But the plans I have for that house keep it ever present on my radar. If only, if only.

It occurred to me the other day that this is how God looks at us. He knows us in the present, with all of our faults and frailties. He sees the parts of us that need some TLC, but His vision, His dream for us, is all about who we could be. Who we could be if we’d just surrender to Him. If we’d curl up at His feet and allow His love to begin a renewal process in us. And He adores us because He sees a beauty in us that no one else sees.

While we may only see the things that are wrong in us, and while others may focus on our shortcomings, our Loving Father sees the potential in us. He knows it well, because He placed it there. While we are stuck on all that we do wrong, He is rejoicing because we are not as bad as we used to be. You see, when He purchased us, He knew we were a fixer-upper. He knew the work that’d have to go into us to make us what He wants us to be. He loved us enough to pay the price to have us, and restore us. He adores us!

Thank you, Father, for this truth. It is liberating!