Sunday, June 21

But.... Even If

I've listened to TWO sermons this week on prayer. I was convicted by each one; and, after having some time to think about them, I have a couple of questions.

Question 1 -- If I really believed in the power of God Paul wrote about in Ephesians, wouldn't I ask God for more? Couldn't I pray BIGGER?

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all t hat we ask or think according to the power that works within us.... to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever." 3: 14-21

I think we're willing to ask God for BIG things when those things have to do with the spiritual, but I've been watching an ever growing assumption that to ask for anything big in other areas of life is quite nearly heresy. There's this phrase floating around Christian circles that is treated like a four letter word.... we almost have to whisper it.... and the pastors that seem to be preaching in line with this horrendous phrase might as well be printed on "WANTED" posters. Yes! You know it, prosperity gospel

I said it! And, I said it without a look of disgust on my face OR venom spewing from my mouth. If you know me at all, you now that I DO NOT believe God blesses financially or in any other way just because we are living a certain way. I CAN'T believe His reward to the extremely faithful is abundance and monetary prosperity. I'm not sure I really believe that those who've been slandered for teaching a prosperity gospel actually believe that either. (Disclaimer... I don't choose to listen to the pastors associated with the prosperity gospel... just not the style I prefer... but I've listened enough to believe that the public lynching may be slanderous and equally dangerous.)

Is it possible that we've taken God's call to contentment and traded it for complacency? Has this RAGE against the "prosperity gospel" given us an excuse to settle for LESS THAN? Could we be giving up on experiences with God we could only have in pursuing MORE WITH HIM than we currently have?

More intimacy in marriage,

More favor at work,

More stability in our finances, 

The Bible is full of scripture encouraging us to ASK big things in HIS name. Until this week, though, I've not heard the guidance to ask God for abundance.... in relationship, in work, or in finances. Why? There's probably a really good reason.


It's ugly. It can cause a person to miss God for the pursuit of more. And, it smothers gratitude. So, I have another question.

Question 2 -- How can I pray BIG prayers... prayers asking for God's abundance in all areas of my life.... and still live in the contentment and rest He calls me to? How can I seek MORE without allowing that MORE to steal gratitude and contentment?

I've found what I believe is the answer to that question...

Three kids in Babylon had, what I believe to be, the right idea about praying BIG and expecting God to answer. You know the story.... Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow down to the King's idol, and they were to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Just prior to being tossed in, the king gave them one, final opportunity to bow.

They could have responded in FEAR, bowing to the idol, and given up the opportunity to participate with God in the miracle.

They could have responded in COMPLACENCY, simply accepting death, and given up the opportunity to see God in the miracle.

They chose to respond BOLDLY. They didn't just ASK God for the miracle, they announced what God WOULD do for them. They prayed believing and God acted on their behalf. But, listen to their words. It seems the key to praying boldly WITH contentment is found here....

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and HE will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But, even if HE does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
 Daniel 3: 17 & 18

There it is! I don't think living contently means we don't push for more. It can't mean that we take everything 'as is' and live complacently. No! Paul says we serve a God of POWER, a God able to do more than I could even imagine. Jesus Himself said to ask anything in HIS name and it will be given. So, we ask for the BIG thing! And, we ask BELIEVING. We also ask TRUSTING that the goodness of God is goodness REGARDLESS of the answer.

So, participate with God in prayer. Be bold in your requests! Be specific and be honest. He KNOWS your heart's desires. Don't discount certain requests because you've labeled them as too big, too shallow, too (fill in the blank.) Just ask!

Believe in God's power to answer that request in a HUGE way. Ask Him to answer in a way that demonstrates HIMSELF and changes you for the better.

Trust that if God chooses not to answer big, HE IS still BIG, and POWERFUL, and GOOD! He knows best, and my acknowledgment of that fact allows me to live in contentment with HIS process. 

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he is going to happen, it shall be granted to him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted to you.
Mark 11: 23 & 24

Monday, June 15

Lessons Learned on a Baseball Field

Today, I had a conversation with my oldest. It was a conversation we've had before. For a couple of different reasons, though, we had it again today.

We had a conversation about baseball.....

"We play ball on Sundays and sometimes miss church, and MANY people don't think that's ok. Do you know why your dad and I have made this decision?"

Bless him.... His mom is a "talker outter." He's not! That's alright, because I wasn't either when I was twelve. After our short discussion driving to the ball fields, I had long thoughts about more than I said to him. Our baseball adventure has been A tool God has used to solidify a number of lessons He's taught me about Himself.

It ALL belongs to God! EveryTHING is His. Every MOMENT is His. Prior to Christ coming, God's people had the Sabbath day to enter into His HOLY rest.... to enter into His presence. They had strict times for this meeting with God, and they had strict ways to do it. Their Sabbath Law went way beyond remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Leviticus is FULL of heavy law that was to be obeyed. In Christ, EVERY day is a Sabbath. As a believer, I have the privilege of calling EVERY, SINGLE day Sabbath. I have the great honor to enter into HIS, HOLY REST every moment of every day. Praise Jesus! I can do this in my church, and I can do this on a ball field. I can meet with God right here during my morning quiet time, and I can chat with him as I stroll through the grocery store.

I'm humbled by this realization.

Freedom is freedom and captivity is captivity. Simple, right? Jesus spoke REPEATEDLY about freedom in the New Testament. It seems like He wouldn't have had to tell captives they are FREE more than once. I would think that prisoners would need ONLY ONE mention of freedom to run with it and never look back. But, Jesus kept reminding people they were free. Paul went on to remind US as well. I wonder why they kept forgetting? Why do I keep forgetting? I have a sneaky suspicion it has something to do with another word the Bible says MUCH about.... FEAR! In my own life, I've had times of fearing the opinions of others SO MUCH that I walked right back into my cell of LAW. It's neat and clean and nobody asks questions. The problem is this....

"Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the WHOLE law." Galatians 5: 2,3

Obeying the WHOLE law has proven to be an impossibility. Christ came because the Law had done it's job in showing us that we are incapable of COMPLETE obedience. So, on Sunday, I could refuse to let Caleb play at the times set up for him. We could let his team down every time there's a game scheduled prior to noon on a Sunday. ((And, let me be clear, If the Lord pressed upon Scotty or me to do that, WE WOULD!!)) Or, we could recognize that singling out that ONE law concerning the Sabbath would place me under obligation to keep the WHOLE law. And, THAT is not my calling.

I'm grateful for this lesson.

No matter where I am, JESUS is the point. Church is not. I LOVE church. I believe church membership is important. I do NOT believe a person can claim to be a GROWING, gospel centered Christian and NOT be part of a community of believers. But, I want to fall more and more in love with JESUS than my church. I want the same thing for my children. So, as long as my children are living with us, we will place importance on being in church on Sundays. When we aren't, though, we will outwardly express gratitude to a God that can be found wherever we are; in a car traveling on vacation, visiting relatives, or playing ball. To do ANYTHING else would be teaching them to love religion. John Eldridge says,

"Francis of Assisi was called “the second Christ” because his life was so totally given over to expressing the life of Jesus. What can we learn from this man devoted like no other? “As Saint Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ,” wrote Chesterton. Wow. Just let that sink in. Francis didn’t fall in love with church; he fell in love with Jesus. “His religion was not a thing like a theory but a thing like a love-affair.

Who even remembers him for that? If people know him now it’s only as the statue in the garden of the friar with the birds and bunnies. He’s been made a cartoon by the religious fog, just as it happened to Jesus. Which brings us back to something essential for loving Jesus, for making your faith more like a love affair—you are going to have to break with the religious. If you want Jesus, you’re going to have to end the relationship with the religious glaze."

I can't think of anything that would make me more sad that my children falling into a relationship with the religious glaze. I want them to LOVE God with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. During a few months out of the year, we get to celebrate a God that placed a love of ball  and a talent for the sport within Caleb ON THE VERY FIELD he gets to play. We do this on weekdays, on Saturdays, and , yes, on Sundays. 

I'm blessed by these experiences.

Yesterday, Caleb and I had our "talk" on the way to ball fields where we'd play no games. We gathered with other teams to pray for, support monetarily, and honor a family that lost a son Saturday. He was a ball player too. A summer storm blew in during his game, and he was struck by a falling limb getting off the field. Before going in, our coaches joined our boys together and spoke TRUTH to them.... truth about life and hardship, THE truth that BEING the gospel to the people God places in life is vitally important. We never know when our earthly time is over. But, when you are close enough to experience another person's end, you realize what matters. 

Having a relationship with Christ matters.

Lifting up HIS GREAT NAME in every area of life matters.

And, people matter!

I've been transformed by this tragedy.

I pray I never again second guess the life we've been given in THIS season God has called us to. Wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, I don't want to miss out on opportunities to love and serve God OR to be the recipient of that love and support.

What a HUGE price Jesus paid so that I could experience this at all times, in all places.... He did what the LAW could never do.

And, I am relieved.