Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wednesday of Wonder - What You Give to Others, He will Give to You

Prayer is one of those things, that really starts with God.  We are in the middle of it, but it's beginning and end is the heart of the Father.  The Lord holds a plan and creates a desire in us to ask Him for that plan to come to fruition.  We are stirred to desire something, stirred by the redemptive plan of Our All-Knowing, Almighty.

When we desire to His will, we will express that desire in intercession for others.  It goes back to the Lord to complete the cycle.  It is an eternal, blessed circle of hope and healing that always brings glory to Him, Who so well deserves it.  God gives us the desires of our heart when our hearts are given over to Him. Psalm 37:3-7a in the NIV says it this way,

Trust in the Lord and do good;dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Take delight in the Lord,     and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret... (emphasis mine)

When we delight in God, when we seek Him with our whole heart, doing good to bring others before Him in prayer, He will take our burdens and give us good gifts.  Sometimes in the process of doing good for others, we are given a gift as well.  You can call it a reward or blessing.  Either way, all good and perfect gifts come from the Father (James 1:7)

I experienced this circle of prayer and blessing just last week.  It was unexpected but welcome healing.  You see, my sweet husband got me a pedometer for my birthday a couple of weeks back.  Part of the package was a wrist band to hold it.  I wore it twice, then stopped.  A day or so later, I noticed a rash on arm where the wristband was, all the way around.  It didn't itch or bother me.  It was pretty minor and I sent a picture of it to my husband.  

It was like this for a few days, until I woke up and it was itching.  I put calamine lotion on it and that kept the itch at bay.  But the very next day, nothing would help the itch.  In fact, the itch woke me up in the middle of the night, driving me crazy!

I slathered on the lotion, took Advil and nothing.  Crazy itchiness.  It was awful.  But here is where the WONDER-ful part comes in.  I was driving to swim at the gym I belong to and the itching reminded me of something a friend of mine, going through chemotherapy, is dealing with.  Except her rash is 10x worse.  But still, what she was going through was up close and personal like never before.  I thought, "Maybe this is the Lord's way of keeping her in front of me to pray for her relief and comfort." So, I started to pray.  

The instant I spoke her name out, the itching stopped completely.

For hours nothing - no itch, no pain, no nothing.  If it wasn't on my wrist, I wouldn't have even noticed it was there.  Later that afternoon, after telling a couple of friends about my experience, it started to itch again, but I just started praying for my friend and it would stop.  It went on like this all day and into the next.

I still have the rash, it is running its course and looks horrible.  But any itch has abated as I employed my intercessor technique through the weekend. It is definitely going away.  My friend was constantly being lifted up before the Father, to the praise of His Name!  I'm confident the Lord accomplished His purposes in both of our lives, although her rash didn't instantly get better.  However, this week, she has a rest from chemo to recover and things are settling down.  It is clear God is answering prayers in her situation....and in mine!

I love seeing the testimony of His Word made real, like from Psalm 103:3-5,

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! (NLT)

What a WONDER-ful God in Heaven we have, so concerned with every little details of our lives, big and small.  Thank you Jesus, for suffering everything for us on the Cross, so we can believe in Your healing resurrection power!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Where is God when I'm Hurting?

From http://nailtothedoor.com
Where is God when I'm hurting?

Where is He when the pain is too much to bear?

Where is He when I need Him; when I can't handle any more?

Where is He?

If you've ever thought these questions, not even if you've expressed them out loud....just thought them; I want you to know something.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I probably said that louder then I meant to, so, sorry if I started you.  I wanted to get your attention because I know where you are coming from.  It's been awhile since I experienced the doubt and confusion of it, but I can plug right back in without trying very hard.

I was pondering it this morning in my quiet time because I know some folks in this place.  I'm also reading through the Prophets as part of Bible in 90 days.  (I can't wait to be done with these guys.)  The Prophets addressed some serious situations, still those situations were self-made by the people of Israel.  They'd been bad, turning from God, and had been that way for a LONG time.

Still, when the Judgement came, it wasn't pretty.  A lot of people were killed, brutally.  A lot were taken far from home and familiarity.  Very few were left behind.  It was an ugly time to be a Hebrew.

I think I can say with some authority that when serious trouble comes, by our own hand, or otherwise, we start to question God.  Our confidence in His master plan starts to ebb. When things go sideways - tragedy, illness, destruction and all the other ways life knocks us down - it is really easy to ask where God is. Even the venerated father of suffering, Job, asked when the Lord was going to show up so he could plead his case before the Almighty Judge.

If I'm being honest here, and I am, I have asked these questions.  I have silently screamed them into the cold, quiet, midnight darkness of my daughter's hospital room.

Where are you, Lord?  When are you going to show up and do....SOMETHING!

Something, anything I can touch, taste, smell, feel or see to make this situation even minutely better then it is right now.  I can't wait on ultimate redemption, I need relief NOW.  And I want you to know: I didn't get an answer right then.

There was no audible voice, nothing falling off the wall, not rush of warmth.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Just the lonely beeping of the machines on the IV pole.

It took a few months but I did discover the eternal truth that God was there all along.  Was I hopeless?  I mean, without hope of God never showing up on my behalf?

No, never.  Even as I was wordlessly venting my frustration, He was at work.  He did work.  He did heal.  He did all He promised.  I'm learning if I can just wait 5, 3 or even 1 more minute for God to act, He will.  I can put my hope in Him. The Apostle Paul, writing His magnum opus to the Roman Church, had this to say about the kind of hope we have in Christ, 

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:3-5, HCSB)

During my meditation this morning on those who might be asking where God is, I got an image in my head: a new coffee can.  When you take off the top, there is a seal over it, locking in all the goodness.  It is only when you peel back that seal when you get the rush of beautiful, fresh coffee smell.  All the grounds are settled, undisturbed.  You can see and smell the goodness.

But it is under the surface.  You have to peel it back or you will never get to it.  That's how it is with God when we are in pain.  You have to remove the layer blocking us from His goodness.  You have to humble yourself before Him, coming to Him for healing.  You have to give Him your pain.  He will not despise but honor it. (Psalm 51:17)

Our pain, our hurt is the seal on the coffee can.  He is there waiting to be revealed under the layer of our brokenness.  This is the answer to the question of where is God when we are hurting.  

Once we peel back the layers, we discover the goodness of God and that He has been there with us all along.  

Remember one more thing: it's Holy Week.  It's a good time to take it all to the Cross because Christ has already been suffered for you!  And believe in His power to work out everything for your good - because you love Him and are called for His purposes!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wednesdays of Wonder - The Generosity of God

If a person has a desperate need but never says it out loud, does God still hear?

Absolutely.

While, the Lord does not often clue me in on how He hears, when He hears or How He will respond, I know enough of Him to say He always does.  Sometimes the answers are obvious and other times, the Lord works in mysterious ways; ways so mysterious, we can never untangle the connections to get back to the root of the answer.

Except that the root is always Providence.

I love that name for God, even if it sounds old-timey.  It comes from the Latin providentia.  It essentially means seeing AND meeting the need in advance.  Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines God and His foreseeing provision as such, 

God not only looks ahead and attempts to make provision for his goals, but infallibly accomplishes what he sets out to do... Providence, then, is the sovereign, divine superintendence of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.1

Today's wonder-filled story is about an unspoken need and God meeting it.  He knew what was needed and provided abundantly above all expected.  It is because of His love for us, His children, He does that.  It is because He IS love He provides for us.  We are the apple of His eye and when we seek Him first, everything else will be added to us (Matt 6:33).

If you need something today, ask God for it.  It doesn't matter if it is money, healing, forgiveness, grace, wisdom, freedom.  Whatever it is, He wants to give it.  This isn't prosperity gospel.  This is going to the Source of all things, seeking Him above all else.  When we do that, He has promised to give. The boundaries of His love, I am confident, are much more than we can reach! (Eph 3:20)

Now onto Darly's story.....

Darly lives in Olympia, WA.  She has suffered, been through horrible things.  But now that she is free in Jesus, she works for justice for those in situations like she used to be.** However, Darly has had a difficult time financially.  Her church told her to let them know when she needs help, but she has been hesitant to do so.  A few weeks ago, she needed to pay her medicine but didn't have the funds.  Her pastor at Hidden Creek Community Church, Tim Heffer, has been preaching a series on Grace, Gratitude and Generosity.  So, after listening to his sermons, she writes, 

I had made (God) a promise to ask for help if I could not pay for my meds.

She did tell one of her friends her predicament. They both were working at the church food bank and her friend told her,

I only have a bunch of ones in my purse. It's the end of the month. But let's see what we can do.

A few hours later, after finishing work, Darly's friend called her over to discreetly give her the money. She opened her wallet and a shocked look came over her face; then tears came to her eyes.

"What's wrong?" Darly asked.

Her friend's voice was wobbly with tears when she said, "There are no ones in here."

Darly replied "Ok, that's ok, " (Not perceiving what the tears were about.)

"No," she said as she fanned out a number of bills. "They are all FIVES!"

Darly's friend explained she KNEW they were all ones because she had just counted them.  Yet, by the same power that raised Christ from the dead, the Holy Spirit made sure Darly's blessing wasn't just a little bit.  He supernaturally changed the currency of the bills!  It met her need, right where she was and then some.

Your takeaway from this is that God can handle all all your needs, spoken and unspoken.  Bring them to Him for He is a God of wonders and miracles.  Let Him show you what He can do for you today!

**You can read about the organization Darly works with, the the Justice and Mercy Foundation, on their website: http://tjamf.org.