Father, Should I?

Remember the game Mother May I — the children’s game where the children have to ask “mother may I take three steps forward” (or whatever movement they want to make) to the “mother” player, with the goal being to be the first person to reach where “mother” is standing.

I was reminded of this today, when the Bible opened to the first book of Samuel.  I read several stories about David going into battle.  Each time, he asked the Lord whether he should go.

David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue these raiders? Can I overtake them?” The LORD answered him: Go in pursuit, for you will certainly overtake them and bring about a rescue.

1 Samuel 30:8

I find that I frequently ask the Lord for help or things I want, things I think will help me on the path I have chosen.  But I don’t often ask him for advice as to what I should do.  Unlike the game, God does not require us to ask permission before we make a move.  We can always take 3 giant leaps forward, if we want.  But, I wonder what the result would be if we more frequently asked Him whether we should, before we made a move.  Is it any wonder that David accomplished so much on the battlefield, when he asked God before pursuing battle, if he should?  Perhaps, like in the children’s game, we would reach Father more easily if we asked for his permission and guidance?

Lord,

Thank you for everything you do for me, and your constant love and guidance.  Help me find the path that you have chosen.  I want to know your way, not my own. I need your guidance.  Help me to include you in my decision process to include you in every part of my life.  Help me to listen and hear what you say.  Help me to have the courage to follow.  That is what I want.  Prevent the many distractions from the world from clouding my vision or my heart’s desire.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Beautiful Day to Praise God!

I woke up early and took my bible out on the front porch to watch the world take light.  As the sun began to warm the earth with His warmth and light, the Bible opened to the Wisdom of Ben Sira:

The beauty of the celestial height and the pure firmament, heaven itself manifests its glory.  The sun at its rising shines at its fullest, a wonderful instrument, the work of the Most High!

Sirach 43:1-2

Although it stormed most of the night, God’s beauty continues to shine around us.  We lost electrical power during the night — just further evidence that our man-made power is no match for God’s power.  But no matter how dark the night or how powerful the storm, God always continues to shine His light around us, and His light is beautiful!

Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker, for majestic indeed is its splendor; It spans the heavens with its glory, the hand of God has stretched it out in power.

Sirach 43:11-12

The peacefulness of the morning surrounds me.  The melodious sound of the birds waking up and singing their own praises to the Lord is inspiring.  All I can think is how glorious is our God!  The Bible pages that opened before me capture my thoughts:

More than this we need not add; let the last word be, he is the all!

Let us praise him the more, since we cannot fathom him, for greater is he than all his works; Awesome indeed is the LORD, and wonderful his power.

Lift up your voices to glorify the LORD as much as you can, for there is still more.

Extol him with renewed strength, do not grow weary, for you cannot fathom him.  For who has seen him and can describe him?  Who can praise him as he is?  Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have I seen.  It is the LORD who has made all things; to those who fear him he gives wisdom.

Sirach 43:27-33

O God!  You are wonderful indeed!  Thank you for giving me this beautiful day and for holding me through the storms.  The green of new life pops brightly against the clear blue tranquil sky.  I am renewed!  Let my praise be not hollow.  You surround us with beauty, with love and with hope, as each day your light shines forth, if we take the time to see.  Help me to see.  Help me to take the time to see.  Send me as your messenger, if that is your will.  Prepare me for the storms that are surely to be ahead.  You are my light!  Help me to keep my eyes on you!

 

Why Can’t We Follow the Law?

Yesterday, the Bible opened to Zechariah, and since I had never read this book before (or, honestly, even knew it existed), I read it all.  I was struck by this verse:

These then are the things you must do: Speak the truth to one another; judge with honesty and complete justice in your gates.  Let none of you plot evil against another in your heart, nor love a false oath. For all these things I hate—oracle of the LORD.

Zechariah 8:16-17

I was struck not because it was something new, but because it was not new.  We hear these same things in the ten commandments and in Jesus’ words to us.  And of course, we (or at least I) still struggle to comply.  Sometimes it is easy to think, well He doesn’t really mean that or it is ok if I sin because He will forgive me again.  And yes, I know God will forgive when we turn to Him, but couldn’t I do a better job actually trying not to sin, actually trying not to do the things that God hates, the things that pull us away from him, the things that essentially thumb our nose at Him.  After all, He tells us what we should not do.  He tells us what hurts Him.  How do we feel when our children, our spouse or our friends do something that they know we do not like or have expressly asked them not to do?

Sometimes it feels like in today’s world, we are quick to ignore the rules that don’t suit us or that don’t match with what we want.  The media is filled right now with the immigration issue and whether any punishment should occur when someone illegally crosses the border.  What always strikes me about this whole debate is that we get mad when anyone wants to enforce the law.  There is no dispute that the immigrants at issue are “illegal”.  In other words they have broken our laws.  I am not saying I necessarily agree with the law (but the fix is to change the law), but what happened to the idea of following the law?  We pick and choose what laws we will follow.  How dare anyone tell us what we can and cannot do.  How dare anyone tell our children what they can and cannot do.  (How many times do we see in the media stories where parents are outraged because a school enforced a rule against their child?) How dare anyone discipline our children when they violate a rule.

Do we display the same attitude to God?  How dare God tell us what to do?  Oh I hope I do not!

God,

Forgive me!  Forgive me for turning away from you, for not listening, for not following your commandments.  Forgive me for not always holding love in my heart, for listening to, and spreading, gossip.  Forgive me for judging others, for not being honest with myself or others.  Forgive me for not trying enough to do better.  I want to be a better reflection of you and your love.  Help me Lord.  I need you.

Return, Repent, Rejoice, Rest

It has been awhile.  Life, as usual, has gotten in the way.  The daily grind.  The tireless pursuit of … what? career? money? love? rest? Exhausting.  Today, I returned to the Bible.  And here is where it opened:

In the second year of Darius, in the eighth month, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo:  The LORD was very angry with your ancestors.  Say to them: Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return to me—oracle of the LORD of hosts—and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts.  Do not be like your ancestors to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Turn from your evil ways and from your wicked deeds.  But they did not listen or pay attention to me—oracle of the LORD.— Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, can they live forever?  But my words and my statutes, with which I charged my servants the prophets, did these not overtake your ancestors?  Then they repented and admitted: “Just as the LORD of hosts intended to treat us according to our ways and deeds, so the LORD has done.”

Zechariah 1:1-6

How many times in the Bible does God remind us that all we need to do is return to Him?  Here are just a few examples:

  • Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God, For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment.  Joel 2:13
  • Return, Israel, to the LORD, your God; you have stumbled because of your iniquity.  Hosea 14:2
  • If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored; if you put iniquity far from your tent.  Job 22:23
  • I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.  Jeremiah 24:7
  • Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.  James 4:8
  • In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  Luke 15:10

Throughout the Bible, the message is consistent: return to God.  No matter where we have been, no matter what we have done… return…  repent… rejoice and rest in God’s love.  Jesus makes it clear with three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and finally the prodigal son.  Luke 15:1-32  And then he tells us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Lord,

Your mercy and love is far too gracious for us to comprehend.  I do not know how or why I let life get in the way, chasing things that do not bring me the peace and joy and rest that only you can provide.  Thank you for always being there when I return.  You have made this beautiful world full of so many wonderful things.  I want to see and experience it all, but I want to do that with you.

In Jesus’ name

Last night, we read that Jesus calls us to be like Him.  He calls us to love.  But He doesn’t stop there.  Not only must we love, but we are called to do God’s works.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

John 14:10-14

Jesus tells us that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.  His words and His works are done by the Father who lives within Him.  Jesus tells us: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”   “And will do greater ones than these!”  WOW!  Jesus calls us to live in Him and to allow God to live within us.  When we do, Jesus will continue to carry out God’s works through us.   If we ask anything of Jesus in His name, He will do it.  Really?  Anything?

Yes!  Of course, this isn’t a free for all.  We have to BELIEVE in Jesus and DO the works that Jesus does and ASK in Jesus’ name.  And when we are centered in that way, our asks will be good asks.  Anything that we truly seek in Jesus’ name, He will do.

Jesus,

I believe in you.  I believe that you are in God and God is in you.  Thank you for coming to earth and showing us God’s love and God’s works.  Help me to do works that glorify you.  Help me to do your will, to follow your plan.  You know that I struggle. Help me to stay on course.   Help me to see you in others, to love others even when I feel rejected or disagree with them, and to help others love.  Help me to be a reflection of you rather than trying to shine on my own.   I ask this in your name.  Amen.

I Wanna Be Like Christ

Remember the Gatorade commercials “I wanna be like Mike”?  In the commercials, kids try to emulate Michael Jordan while singing:

Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike

Again I try
Just need to fly
For just one day if I could
Be that way
I dream I move
I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike
I wanna be, I wanna be
Like Mike
Oh, if I could Be Like Mike

Today, as the NBA finals are being played kids are probably dreaming of being like LeBron James or Steph Curry.

Today the Bible opened to John and the reminder that we are called to be like Christ (not Mike).  Jesus tells us:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

This is how all will know that we are disciples of Christ — if we have love for one another — if we be like Christ and love no matter what.  Jesus says these words right after sending Judas off from the Last Supper to betray Him.  A reminder that we have to love even those who hurt us, who frustrate us, who challenge us, who don’t love us back.  That is how all will know that we are disciples of Christ — not by the cross around our neck or our appearance at Church on Sunday — but by our love — by our actions.

Maybe we could change the words to the song:

Again I try
Just need to fly
For just one day if I could
Be that way
I dream I love
Like  God above
Like Christ
If I could Be Like Christ
I wanna be, I wanna be
Like Christ
Oh, if I could Be Like Christ

 

Its a Rocky Road to Heaven

The news is horrible for anyone to hear: a 16 year old dead in a horrible freak accident.  And of course the questions immediately follow: why?  how could God let this happen?

It is another painful reminder that we all deal with tragedies. We all deal with pain and suffering.  We all face the devil.

Today two verses overtake me:

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

God loves us.  He does not set trials in our path.  He does not want us to be hurt.  But the trade off with allowing us to have free will is — He has to allow us to use it.  He does not control us or the people around us.  What kind of life would that be?  We would be no different than robots.  We are God’s children and as His children we grow in strength and maturity.  The way we grow is by facing trials big and small.  Think about your own children: if we do everything for them, how will they grow?  If we never let them make mistakes, how will they learn?  It is terribly hard sometimes because we want to protect them, we don’t want them to be hurt, but at the same time, we have to let them go to discover things on their own, to make their own choices and sometimes suffer the consequences.  Imagine how God must feel with all of us.  Yes, He could put us in a bubble, but how would that be for any of us?  How would we grow?  How would we truly know what joy and love are if we never experience the pain?  We appreciate the sun, when we experience the rain.  (and we appreciate the Son, when we experience the pain.)

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.

James 1:2–6

God may not fix every situation for us, but He is there with us, and if we are open to it, if we ask, He guides us with a way out.  Some trials may take a lot of perseverance.  Some may feel devastating and it may seem like the pain will never end, but God is there.

I have often wondered, if He loves us how can he allow us to suffer so much pain.  The idea of us allowing our own child to die seems unfathomable.  So how can God?  As I read Corinthians this morning this thought came to me:  our trials, our pain, our suffering is human.  They are not eternal.  Our life on earth is meant to be temporary (indeed we all must die to experience eternal life).  It is like when we watch our own child play a board game or video game.  They may make mistakes.  They may lose or their player may “die”.  They may even be heartbroken (I remember throwing a board game because I was so upset).  But as parents we know that these challenges are little ones.  As they get older, we watch them with their first girlfriend or boyfriend, we see them make mistakes, we see the heart break — they may feel devastated.  They may feel like they can never move on.  Although it is sometimes painful to watch, as parents we expect it and we know it will be ok because they are still young and there are bigger things in store for them.  Similarly, God knows that our entire life on earth whether it is 2 minutes or 102 years, is just a small blip in our eternity.  We are all still young.  We are all still children.  He knows we will be ok.  Because, if we let Him, He has bigger things in store for us.

God,

Thank you for giving us free will.  Sometimes it feels like it would be easier if you would take it away and control the world around us.  Sometimes it feels like the world is more than we can take.  Help us to always see the light and the hope no matter how dark or painful the things on earth may seem.  Help us to share the light and hope with others.  Help us to persevere through any trial and to know that this world is temporary and so is every struggle.  Help us to know that you never leave our side.

 

Father’s Love

I found a new favorite verse in the bible:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

Romans 8:14-15

I have heard before that we are children of God, and of course that sounds wonderful.  But tonight the part that struck me was that we “did not receive a spirit  of slavery to fall back into fear.”  God does not want slaves.  He does not want us to choose Him out of fear.  To me, the Old Testament often seems full of fear.

God sent His Son and His Spirit so that we would know His love.  His Spirit surrounds us, not to force us into a relationship with God, for what kind of a relationship would that be.  (Can a slave love his master, or is he always looking for the day when he can get away, when he is finally free.)   But rather the Spirit is a constant reminder that  God chooses us. He willingly adopts us.  He is not stuck with us like a birth parent might be.  Not only did He create us, but even with all of our faults and sins, He chooses us again and again every day. He sent His Spirit to lead us to Him, if we choose to follow, so that we can have a real relationship with Him, so that we can run to him like an innocent child runs to her father crying “daddy” as we leap into His arms, with total confidence, trust and the purest love.

Father!

Forgive me for turning away.  Send your Spirit to lead me and guide me.  I want to be with you!

 

 

 

Why Worry?

I worry.  A lot.  I worry about being a good parent.  Being a good spouse.  Being a good business partner.  I worry about making enough money, maintaining job security, obtaining financial security.  I worry about my health, and my family’s health.  I worry about my son’s future and whether I have done enough to help place him on the right path.  I worry about my faith, my future and my relationship with God.

Tonight, I read Matthew chapter 6:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?   Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?  Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.  But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.   If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’  All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.  Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Matthew 6:25-34

Do not worry about tomorrow.  That is a wonderful idea, isn’t it?  The Bible is filled with this idea.  But is it possible?  I struggle with this.   I want to be able to do this, but how?

This passage seems to provide an answer: Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

We worry about things on earth — things the pagans seek.  Things that won’t matter in our eternal life.  God.  That is all we really need.  That is all we need to seek.  If we just focus on Him, what is there to worry about?  Oh, I want to seek you Lord!  I want to cast my worries aside and focus on you.

Our Father,

You are all powerful in heaven and on earth.  Hallowed be your name!  Let your Kingdom come.  I pray that your will be done on earth and that I let go and let you take control.   Give us this day our daily bread — and the acceptance to know that is all we need.  Help me not to worry about tomorrow’s bread and instead to just seek you.  Forgive me for the times I fail and the times I turn away from you.  And help me to forgive others who fail me.  Lead me away from temptation and when I stray, deliver me from evil, so that I may always return to you.

 

Made and Loved by God

Tonight’s passage is wonderful (and easy to understand):

For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate.  How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?  But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Ruler and Lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

Wisdom 11:24-12:1

God loves us.  He made us.  He created us.  By His will, we exist.  We are His. It is just that simple.

As I read this scripture over, it almost makes me say “well, duh — of course He loves us.”  I can feel my soul breathe a deep sigh of relief, because this passage makes it so simple and clear.  We all have a tag on our soul that says Made by God.  (Who needs a Made in the USA tag — we all bear the Made in Heaven stamp!)

And just when I think it cannot get any better, the very last clause blows me away: “for your imperishable spirit is in all things.”

I watch my son, the one little part of God’s creation that I had a hand in making and I can see part of me in him (some good and some not so good).  God made us.  And just like part of me is in my son, part of God is in each of us.  And that is all good!  God’s imperishable spirit is in all of us!  We need to let that part shine!

God,

I love you!  I am not worthy of your love, but I am so grateful to have it.  Let your Spirit  fill me and shine through me!