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A compass and a companion

B-17-Jesus-pilot2014 is coming to a close!

I would be remiss if I did not reflect on the lessons that I have learned this year. If I could sum up the past 12 months in one quote, I would borrow the wise words of Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

I didn’t have any goals or resolutions in January. My resolve was to go with the flow. The problem with my course of action is that it did not include an objective. So I was distracted and consumed by what was going on in everyone’s life and trying to act accordingly (often times falling into various sins such as coveting).

Naturally, I was all over the place. I realize now that when you don’t know where you’re going, you either wander (ramble without a definite purpose or objective) or become stagnant (inactive). I found myself in both positions. Some days I wandered aimlessly, going nowhere fast. And other days, I felt stuck. It was depressing to the say the least.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 400 years. God was trying to take them somewhere (to the Promised Land), but they were stuck in the past. They lamented:  “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.” In essence, they were praising their hardships (remember they were enslaved to Egypt) instead of glorifying God for their newfound liberty.

As a result, many of them missed out on an opportunity to enter Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. The generation that was able to inhabit the land became corrupted over time. They forgot about God like their ancestors did and bowed down to other idols. Subsequently, God allowed for King Nebuchadnezzar to deport them to Babylon and hold them captive for 70 years.

In my wilderness experience, I longed for the good old days. King Solomon advised, Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions (Ecclesiastes 7:10).” I get it now. Longing for the past is an indication that you don’t trust God with your future. It also demonstrates your resilience to learn and grow from your downtime. Trust the process of trials because they serve a purpose. 

In my stagnant position, I envied the events going on in my peers’ lives. I was no different from the lame man at the side of the pool. He had been there for 38 years all the while watching others like him get into the water (stirred by an angel from time to time) and become healed from their disabilities.

When Jesus learned that he had been in the same position for such a long time, He asked the man, “Do you want to get well?” If you carefully read the text in John 5:1-9, you will notice that Jesus was not asking the man if he needed help getting into the pool. That’s because Jesus was trying to show him another way to the blessing. Sometimes, what works for others, may not work for you. You have to be open to taking an alternative route, especially if God is leading. Otherwise, you will become stuck in doing the same things over and over, and expecting a different result.

There’s a lesson to be learned in the Israelite’s history. Struggle and Success are one in the same because they can either make you or break you. In the former, you should be humbled by God’s grace. In the latter, you should be humbled by God’s favor. In either case, you should never forget His goodness.

Emotions have a way of robbing us of our memory and leading us astray. They are indeed a bad life compass. In 2015, I am determined to draw near to God when it rains and when the sun shines.

In the final analysis, I will always be in need of His covering; I need shelter from the storm and shade from the heat so that I may always be mindful of His sovereignty. But most importantly, I will always need Him to be my compass and companion on this journey called life.

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Keep People in Prayer…For Real

 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” 1 Timothy 2:1Image

I recently found a stack of sympathy cards that my husband and I received from our friends years ago after the loss of our unborn baby. Many of them read, “You are in our prayers.”

I wondered if our loved ones had really been praying for us or if they jotted those words to provide comfort for the moment. It’s not that our friends are bad people – I am sure they meant well – but, some of them were not even believers at the time.

And if I could be honest, there have been times when I have written and verbally shared those same thoughts to loved ones and I did not follow through with those prayers. It’s not that I didn’t want to pray for them. It’s just that I allowed time to pass and as a result, the promise slipped my mind or I had such a busy day that I felt too tired to pray.

But as valid as my excuses may seem to me, it doesn’t make my behavior OK. Instead, it reveals my lack of integrity. If I say I will do something, I must mean it and do it … right away. Besides, who is to say God is not counting on me to pray on behalf of whoever is in need of a miracle or blessing of some sort? I don’t ever want to let an opportunity to pray for someone slip my mind only to find out that their circumstances took a turn for the worse.

In the Old Testament, the Book of Ezekiel records the sins of the people, mainly the prophets and priests (God’s leaders) and princes (political leaders). According to one passage, they “have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (Ezekiel 22:29).

God was getting ready to unleash his wrath on them and was looking for someone who would pray on the people’s behalf. He said, “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one” (v. 30).

In other words, God was looking for someone to be a hedge of protection for the people because they were going to need it. The people were so sinful that there was no way they could pray for themselves. It is written: “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). Because there was not a righteous person to intercede for the land, God carried out His plan to punish the people.

There are other cases in which God was looking for someone to “stand in the gap” for the people and actually found some volunteers. In one case, Isaiah volunteered to preach the Good News to the people so that they might repent (Isaiah 6:8); Queen Esther prayed and fasted on behalf of the Jews, who were facing execution, and God protected them (Esther 4:5); and Moses stood in the gap for the Israelites when they complained, demonstrating their ungratefulness (Exodus 32).

Each of these individuals took initiative to pray in the midst of a crisis. They did not hesitate or allow enough time to pass for the situation to get worse. They recognized the danger and took advantage of the opportunity to pray.

Today, God is still looking for people to pray for the lost, the grieving, the needy and the oppressed. He is looking for people to “stand in the gap” for the church and world leaders.

The great thing about it is that he is not looking for a perfect human being. He is seeking believers with a willing heart and a spirit of readiness.