Natalie Grant "More than Anything"

Friday, June 22, 2018

Down in the Valley

It has been a hard week. Almost six weeks ago we had a power outage that disabled our refrigerator.  We have a  total home warranty.  I'll spare you the blow by blow. Suffice it to say that it was impossible to speak to anyone who had any authority to really help us. We waited SIX WEEKS until we finally got the technician here to fix it yesterday.  

This whole thing meant that we had to eat out once a day and save leftovers for our dinner. That was an expense we could have done without.  Also add to that the loss of all the food in a full fridge and freezer....that's an enormous expense.

Top all that off with a week of increased pain and stiffness, especially in my ankles and shoulder and hands (and let's not forget the neck :)  )  and it has been a challenge to accomplish anything other than lying in my bed or recliner. 

It is so hard to maintain our fervor or our acceleration of passion isn't it?  In the post "I Thirst" I described a recent increase in my hunger to really know Jesus as he is portrayed in Scripture.  I confess that having been brought up in an Evangelical church, I cut my teeth on the Gospels. I know many of Jesus' words by heart.  And you know when you know something since you were a kid, it is really hard to keep it new and fresh isn't it?  But I have found that really going slowly and asking questions of God and seeking the answers has given me a new perspective and the taste that I have so far, spurs me to continue.

I was always kind of jealous of people who came to Christ in 20's and above...they could see dramatic changes in their lives.  They are filled with joy rather than "humdrumnimity."
When they come out of the waters of baptism they leap and shout for joy.  Me? I just wiped the water from my eyes and went looking for a towel.  Please don't take this to imply that it wasn't a profound experience for me...it was...but my emotions were not as near to the surface as were the others I described.

So when I study the Bible and things start to click for me; when God works in breathtaking ways; or whenever my passion is revived by God's giving me a glimpse of his glory--it excites me and awakens that "thirst" I mentioned, and it makes me want to pray more fervently and do nothing but study my Bible.  But sadly....even fervor pales if we do not keep the fire stoked.

The thing to do, I think, when faced by these "on again; off again" times of intimacy is to kind of accept them, in the sense that it is very hard for a fire to burn without dying down to hot ashes....but what is important is not to beat ourselves up over it--but most importantly--we should make very certain that in this normal period of lesser heat, we must keep our faith habits going.  Do not slack off in prayer (somehow it is easy to think that God is displeased with us for our "temperature fluctuation"  He is not.  It is a lie of Satan to cause you to misinterpret God.)  So keep praying.  And keep reading/studying.  Maybe seek out some new ministers to listen to online. (and you know you need to avoid the 50:1 charlatans that are out there who just want you to send them all your money.)  

Another suggestion.  Find someone to meet with and pray with regularly.  (try to stick with the policy of choosing someone of the same sex as  you are to avoid complications).  Pray for each other; pray for your families; pray for your church; and pray for our nation.  Be honest with each other about the struggle to remain hot in this ice box of a world.   I have had prayer partners like this all my adult life and it has helped me greatly to be encouraged to keep praying and working through my drop in fervor.  You will share a special bond with each other that will last for the rest of your days on Earth

Keep up your spiritual disciplines ...there are a number of these disciplines and I think the most helpful book out of all the books on the subject is
by Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline.
I have found it impossible not to feel passion and enthusiasm once again after re-visiting that book. I highly recommend it.

Accept these valleys.  But do not camp there... keep heading for the high lands.  Keep your equipment ready at hand and do not forget that God is going to work to bring you once again to your "hind's feet in High Places." You are equipped to climb the heights if you persist. Jeremiah 29:13 says this:
You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.(NASB)
Be blessed!














Sunday, June 17, 2018

I THIRST


If you come to Scripture with a wrong view of the character of God, you will keep trying to make God fit into your pattern for what he must be like….and when you do this, the Jesus in Scripture and the Father also, will continually NOT FIT your model. They will be harsh with people and you may not understand why.  God may demonstrate righteous rage and drown everyone on the planet and you kind of have to just step around that and not dig in too deeply, because when you do you may not like what you find.  Jesus may answer someone with what seems like a lack of compassion and you don’t understand it.  The biggest thing that is usually done is to close one’s eyes and create their OWN God….a God that pleases and acts predictably and is satisfied by oceans of self-effort.
 
Or, you will be perplexed, you may decide to dig deeper and find out WHY the disparity between your understanding and the God of Scripture exists and that is the best, most helpful thing you can do. You will read Scripture with hunger and you will cry out to God for understanding.  This response will lead you to Life.  Or you can keep squeezing God into your mold and when he breaks free and makes a mess of your mold and your plans and your opinion of yourself, you can close your eyes and keep trying to squeeze and press him in—or you will walk away from this difficult God and wash your hands all together.

When unbelieving people question you about a God of war and the slaughter of his enemies…When they bring up the issue of hell and ask how a God of Love could be involved in anything like that….What do you say?  I confess to you that these are new questions for me.  Of course I have heard them, but I did not really answer them adequately…either to my questioning friends or to myself. I was the believer who is determined to believe in a God of love and who just basically ignored all of the examples of a God-who-is-hard-to-figure-out.

Yesterday I saw a video of Francis Chan and he was bringing up issues like these…and all my squirming and side-stepping came front and center and I decided I would take his (Chan’s) challenge to see for myself what the Bible has to say.  To ask God to explain to me and to accept by faith whatever it is that I find.  I am determined that I will KNOW GOD…as He really is…not just how I want Him to be.  I have no doubt that He exists…or that He really does love me.  I have seen too many examples of Him at work to have any doubt of that.  This is IMPORTANT stuff…because if I do not know and understand (as much as is possible) what God is really like, then I will not know or understand how I might please Him. OR what I must do to receive the life and the gifts that I know He has for me. 
 
I just read a devotional by John Piper and he said that God is a roaring mountain stream which is self-supplied and the God we try to make for ourselves is a trough that we must constantly labor to keep filled.  The Pharisees in Scripture and way too many people these days, try to labor to keep their supply of God filled.  All that He is to them is a consequence of their own effort….and this enraged Jesus.  Piper said at the end of the devotion: the only thing that we can offer God is our thirst.  

 Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for Righteousness, for they shall be filled.”   I believe that the same can be said about those  who hunger and thirst to know God…as He really is.  Lord, fill me with the knowledge of You as You really are.  Throw all of my suppositions and my mamby-pamby efforts to please you right out of the window.  Show me what it is you want from me and then supply the resources to give it to You.  I want to know you.  I THIRST to know you.  Give me the Living Water so that it removes my thirst for anything other than You.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Praying IN Faith FOR Faith

This morning I was reading a daily devotion I get in my email from www.BibleGateway.com, a quote by Rev. John Piper, one of my all -time favorite ministers of the Lord.  Here are parts of the paragraph he wrote: 
'Jesus prays for Peter's faith to be sustained even through sin, because he knows that God is the one who sustains faith. So we should pray for ourselves and for others this way....Let us pray daily: “O Lord, thank you for my faith. Sustain it. Strengthen it. Deepen it. Don't let it fail. Make it the power of my life, so that in everything I do you get the glory as the great Giver. Amen”'

In yesterday's post I told of how God has strengthened my faith by His daily responses to my prayers for small-to-God-important-to-me needs.  I have seen my faith grow through these God-encounters but it never really occurred to me that this process of faith-growing, is really a gift from God to me...so that in my next crisis, my next need, my next conversation about Him with others--I will have the wherewithal to get through the situation in a way that brings Him glory.

And, as in any gift I receive from God, it is important for me not to take it for granted or to presume on God's goodness and try to use this gift for my own benefit or glory.  Rather, daily I need to ask Him for that day's allotment of grace--and faith--and to thank Him with heartfelt gratitude for the work He is completing in me.  It is so easy, isn't it, when  we get a "big" answer to prayer, to want to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate our faith for having pulled it off.

Any time we ask for a response from God--whether for our own need or for someone else--it is critical that we do so in humility and with a spirit of deep gratitude, never falling prey to the temptation to conclude that we have the ability to wrest a reply from God for our need.  As Rev.Piper said in the article mentioned above, the prayer of the desperate father "Lord I believe; help my unbelief!" is a good one.  This man recognized his helplessness to heal his son but he knew that he had come to One who could get the job done. And it is this posture we take before God every time we bring our requests to Him.

Once my mom called me in tears, with a desperate prayer request.  I prayed with her and ending the prayer, I said, "And Lord please answer this prayer before I say 'amen' and may our faith be strengthened by that."  And do you know, her doorbell rang with the answer to her prayer....before I said "amen"!!!  And God honored my request for more faith as a result in me and I hope in her as well.  This is the way God delights to answer our prayers. Prayers offered in faith, for faith.

So as I approach my prayer list,  I will begin it with a request from God to grow my faith and I will end it with thanksgiving to the Father for enabling me to pray in faith for those needs.  Who knows what great things God will do in His people who begin to ask Him to grow their faith?