Praying the Bible: Amazed He is Mindful of Me

alone-in-a-crowdIt is estimated that that the world’s population is over 7.3 billion people, and over 108 billion people have been born since time began.

The enormity of these statistics is hard to fathom.  Even more, it’s impossible to comprehend God’s infinite power to form, sustain, and fully know each individual person and the details of their lives.

I am a single drop in a massive sea of humanity; how amazing it is that the Creator of the universe is lovingly mindful of me!

King David was also amazed.  In Psalm 139, he expressed his awe-filled wonder at the Lord’s intimate involvement in his own life.

Take a few quiet moments to thoughtfully pray Psalm 139.  Like David, contemplate the Lord’s presence and power in your life, and praise Him for being mindful of you . . . fully, everywhere, and always!

Praying Psalm 139:

Praise God for His Knowledge of You (v. 1-6)

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

Praise God for His Presence with You (v. 7-12)

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

Praise God for His Plan for You (v. 13-18)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them.  How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I would count them, they are more than the sand.  I awake, and I am still with you.

Respond by Committing Yourself to Him and His Righteousness (v. 19-24)

Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God!  O men of blood, depart from me!  They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.  Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?  And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?  I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.  Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

 

The Hulk Isn’t the Only One: Are You Angry, Too?

hulkMy son is hooked on the Marvel super-hero movies that have hit the theaters in the last few years.  Whenever a new one comes out, we go on a date, a “mommy date” to be exact.  A bucket of popcorn, peanut M&Ms, a Coke, my sixteen year old son, and a Marvel movie—I’m loving it!!  I’ll admit, I’m as hooked as he is.

The Hulk of the 21st century Marvel movies really puts the 1970s TV character of the same name to shame.  The special effects used to transform today’s Bruce Banner into the Hulk make the pasty green body-builder Hulk of my childhood days look ridiculous.  Regardless, the Hulk of yesteryear and today share the same plaguing problem—anger . . . always brewing, sometimes explosive.

Bruce hates his anger, fears its control, and is shameful of its destruction.  Though he tries to subdue it, he repeatedly fails.  Bruce personally feels unsafe in his own skin, and he knows he jeopardizes the safety of those he loves—and hates.  Anger is a burden he cannot shake.

The Hulk is not alone.  Anger is a universal problem.  It is a real, human condition experienced by every single person.  Strangely, we don’t like to call it anger.  Rather, we prefer to use sanitized words such as “frustrated,” “annoyed,” “irritated,” “offended,” and so on.  Call it whatever you like, but anger is anger, and like the Hulk, it can consume us and leave a path of destruction.

What is Anger?

According to the American Psychological Association, “Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.”  In Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones describes anger as “. . . our whole-personed active response of negative moral judgment against perceived evil.”  He continues to explain, “Anger in Scripture conveys emotion, spanning the spectrum from red-hot rage to icy-blue rejection. But it always involves beliefs and motives, perceptions and desires.”  Simply put, someone does you wrong (whether real or perceived), and you have a mild to full-blown negative response toward that person which can run the gamut from a slight annoyance to an uncontrollable rage!  Are you angry?

How Else Can We Describe Anger?

  1. Anger is active. When we become angry, we have physical and verbal responses.  It can affect our heart rate, hormones, facial expressions, and body language.  Often these responses are not accompanied with self-control.  Who has not seen an irate toddler throw a fit rolling around on the floor?  Who has not heard the slammed door or seen the scowling face of a teenager?  Who has never witnessed a raised voice or violent act?  We see these types of scenarios numerous times in Scripture.  Even Moses had his moments!  “As soon as Moses came near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing, and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tables from his hands and shattered them” (Exodus 32:19).  How do you physically & verbally express your anger?
  1. Anger seems justified. We have an internal sense of justice that is put on high alert when we have been offended.  We desire to right the wrong that has been done to us, but often this morphs into revenge.  We want to get even, to punish the offender!  Knowing this is a strong temptation for us and that God is the ultimate avenger, Paul wrote in Romans 12:17,19, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone . . . Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.”  Have you ever considered that your anger is revenge?
  1. Anger is not necessarily sinful.  God gets angry.  Psalm 7:11 shows that He is justly angered when His holiness is violated.  It reads, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.”  Jesus was also angry.  Not only did he display his indignation when he forcibly cleansed the temple, but Mark also records that he looked at the Pharisees with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart when He healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5).  Before you conveniently say, “See! Jesus was angry, so my anger is justified, too,” let me point out that righteous indignation is rare.  Just because Jesus, the perfect God-man could be angry without sin, does not mean that we have a handle on this!  Here are three helpful questions to help you determine if your anger is truly righteous and God-honoring (adapted from Uprooting Anger, Robert Jones).  Don’t answer these questions too quickly!
    1. Has a real offense taken place against God? (Or are you angry because you were offended?)
    2. Is your concern for God’s kingdom and concerns or your own? (At the cleansing of the temple, Jesus fulfilled Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for Your house consumes me.”)
    3. Is your anger righteously expressed in godly ways? (Galatians 6:1-2, Ephesians 4:32, etc.)
  1. Anger is dangerous. Anger is murderous by nature.  It wounds and kills.  Cain was angry with Abel, and killed him; Saul was angry with David, and sought to kill him.  Anger is not only revealed by murderous actions, but also by murderous words, for “with his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor” (Proverbs 11:9).  Anger destroys relationships and provides the devil an opportunity to cause division.  Ephesians 4:26-27 reminds us, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  Tragically, anger also leads to other grievous sins and consequences.  Anger breeds deceit, adultery, murder, and idolatry, to name a few.  As it says in Proverbs 29:22, “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.”  Have you recognized the dangers of your anger?
  1. Anger is contagious. Think of how one person’s anger affects a whole office, classroom, church, or family.  Like the old saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”  Isn’t that the truth!  In Proverbs 22:24-26 we are warned to beware the angry person and becoming like him: “Do not associate with a man given to anger, or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.”  Has your anger bred the same in the people around you?
  1. Anger is deceptive. In Jeremiah 17:9-10, the Lord says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give each man according to his ways.”  The Lord knows and understands our struggle with anger, even if try to justify it.  We may try to deny our anger by calling it something else (frustrated, annoyed, etc.).  Or, we may try to blame our anger on something or someone else.  “This is just the way I am!”  “I can’t help it, I was raised this way!” Or, “Well, if she didn’t say or do such-and-such, then I wouldn’t be angry!”  All of these are examples of self-deceptive excuses that might be used to deny our responsibility to acknowledge and deal with our anger.  Are you denying your anger?

NEXT TIME:  Where Does Anger Come From?

(Thank you to Jim Newheiser of ibcd.org for his many biblical insights reflected in this post.  For his audio & notes, see: “Anger Mismanagement: Only Grace Transforms the Heart.”)

For additional anger resources: Resources for Your Walk

Praying the Bible: To Treasure the Word

Woman-Praying-3 (1)I grew up in the San Fernando Valley in southern California, and on a hill overlooking the north side of the valley is the “Odyssey,” a restaurant known for its broad view (if there’s no smog!), special events (we held our wedding reception there), and a mouth-watering buffet overloaded with great food.  The super-sized buffet provides an unusual dose of dining sensory overload.  I just gained two pounds thinking about it.

The world is a different kind of buffet—we are offered, in every imaginable way, a myriad of beliefs and philosophies, most of which will destroy us if we swallow them.  To top it off, we encounter a daily buffet of our own thoughts and feelings which are often untrue, unhelpful, or downright distasteful.  Sometimes we pick at these buffets, and sometimes we eat until we are stuffed.  Then we regret it.

To keep us craving what is good and true, we need a healthy diet of God’s Word, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  To grow spiritually, we must treasure God’s Word as our very sustenance.  As we feed upon it, His thoughts become our thoughts, and His ways become our ways.

As you consider what your soul is feeding upon and how it is affecting you, here are a few verses to pray through today . . .

Sunday Prayer Time:

That I may treasure and value Scripture more than anything else, and that by it the Lord will transform my thinking and living.

“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (I Peter 2:2)

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)

Have a blessed Sunday!

Cheryl

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Praying the Bible: To Live for Christ

prayer-on-my-knees4Years ago when I attended Bible Study Fellowship, the teacher always began by personalizing and praying aloud through a Psalm.  I still remember those special moments as she led us in prayer each week. Praying Scripture is a wonderful way to pray, as it gives a depth and meaningfulness to our prayers that other times might be lacking.

I love the verse that says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we ask of Him” (I John 5:14-15).  His Word is His will, so we can be confident that the Lord hears and answers as we ask for the truth of His Word to bear fruit in our lives.

Each Sunday I plan to post a short, purposeful passage of Scripture you may wish to personalize in your own words and pray for yourself and others. Sunday is an ideal day to set aside additional moments to seek the Lord in prayer, and you will find this to be a cherished habit you will never regret!

Prayer Prompts for Today:  

That my primary purpose in life would be to live for Christ and not for myself.

“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (II Corinthians 5:14-15)

” . . . as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

Have a blessed Sunday!

Cheryl

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At the End of Myself

Woman ropeYesterday two friends told me, a few hours apart from each other, that they are at the end of themselves.  They are at the end of their ropes in their own particular circumstances.

I greatly admire and appreciate these friends.  If you knew either of these Christian women, you would say they have it all together.  They are strong, beautiful, and smart, and each have a super sense of humor.  Each of them would also be the first to tell you of her weaknesses.

Referring to parenting her son, one humbly said, “I am completely inadequate.”

About her finances and physical exhaustion, the other quietly cried, “I’m at the end of myself.”

These friends, who are truly Christ-followers, are being squeezed, and squeezed hard.  Their faith is being tested to a greater degree than they ever before imagined.

They could run away from their problems and ignore them.  They could put their “smarts” to work and manipulate solutions to their problems.  But, these women have tried these things before, and they are dead ends.

All they ask for now is God’s adequacy.

In II Corinthians 3:5 it says, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”  The ability to serve God does not come from our own strength or wisdom.  Our adequacy to do what He has called us to is not found in ourselves.

Our adequacy is FROM GOD.  We must depend upon Him.  What a Christian cliche!  Yes it is, so I’d like to break it down for a moment.  (Sometimes we make the Christian life way too complicated!)  What does it mean to “depend upon God” and find our adequacy in Him?

  1.  Know that God is at work in you.  If you are a born-again Christian, take comfort and confidence in knowing that He has given you a new heart to love and obey Him.  He has given you His Holy Spirit to lead you in truth and righteousness.  He has given you all you need in Christ to walk this path.
  2. Pray for God’s gracious help.  Pour out your concerns to Him.  Bring your requests before the Lord for your circumstances and for what’s going on inside of you.  He delights in answering your prayers and caring for you.
  3. Obey God’s Word.  Instead of leaning on your own understanding and coming up with your own solutions to your problems, do it God’s way.  Study the Scriptures to see how God would have you respond to Him, others, and your circumstances.  You want to see a woman who depends upon God and His adequacy in her life?  Then you will see a woman who obeys God’s Word no matter what.

When we are at the end of ourselves, we as Christians are at a place of significant spiritual growth.  Are you at the end of yourself?  How fortunate you really are.

Grace in the Grocery Aisle

Woman in Grocery StoreI hate grocery shopping.  Hate is a strong word.  Do I really hate grocery shopping?  Let me think about it . . . YES.

I don’t know what it is about grocery shopping that I deplore.  Maybe it’s figuring out menus, lists, etc.  Maybe it’s the wearisome monotony of walking the same aisles week after week.   Maybe it’s how it invades my valuable Saturday afternoons. Whatever it is . . . I disdain it.

One afternoon I headed off to the grocery store with a list in my hand and an over-sized, pity-party, life-is-miserable attitude in my heart.  I was exhausted, ticked off, and ready to quit.  I was sick and tired of taking care of everyone else, but never having time for me.  Me.  Me.  Me.

My frustration did not abate as I shopped.  It grew.  That grocery shopping trip was the last straw.  As I angrily stomped down the aisles and threw food into my overflowing shopping cart, defiant complaints overflowed my heart.  I’m so exhausted.  I never get a break.  There’s no end in sight.  There’s no way I can do all that my family needs me to do.  I have nothing left to give.  I can’t wait for the day when all this is over.

Then it happened.  Grace struck.

My kind and ever-patient Savior took me by the scruff of my stiff neck and directed my attention toward someone other than myself.  As I approached the check-out stand, I saw an elderly woman in her eighties.  She inched along slowly as if each step was painful.  Her cardigan sweater and elastic-waist pants hung loosely on her bent frame.  Her shopping cart served as her support, and wrinkles and age spots were visible from a distance.  But, what really caught my attention was the contents of her cart.

There wasn’t much.  Some lunch meat and a cheap loaf of bread.  A couple apples in a plastic bag.  A single quart of milk.  A small box of cookies.  That was it.

I stared at her cart and then looked at mine.  It takes a lot to feed a family of five, and the contrast couldn’t have been greater.  My shopping cart screamed to others that my house was full.  Her cart whispered to me that it would not always be this way.  Before me stood a woman who I imagined once pushed a cart like mine, and in an instant I realized that someday I would push a cart like hers.

My anger and discontent immediately dissipated and were replaced with tears of conviction.  This never-ending work and toil is not because of a curse, but because of a blessing!  I have children in my home, but one day they will be gone.  They will have moved on, and oh, how I will long for the days of a full shopping cart.

Proverbs 14:4 reads, “Where there are no oxen the stable is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”  If a farmer does not have oxen, he will have a sweet-smelling and orderly stable, but he will not have the benefits the oxen bring.  If I didn’t have children, my life would also be sweet-smelling and orderly, but I would not have the blessed, full life they bring.

Weary mother, it was God’s grace in the grocery aisle that arrested my attention and reminded me that my sacrificial life as a mother is a gift—not just to my children, but to me.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

Psalm 127:3-5

 

He Is Building a Palace

palace“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”  (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)

Have you ever been on a construction site for a new home?  It can be pretty ugly.  While walking through an unfinished building, it’s hard for homeowners to imagine exactly how their home will look when they finally are handed the keys. But when that day arrives, they breathe a sigh of relief.  Their new home is absolutely beautiful.

You and I are under construction, and it can be ugly, too. Changes need to be made. Habitual sins need to be hammered. A self-righteous heart needs to be drilled. A view of God needs to be expanded. It hurts. These changes aren’t simply made by adding a fresh coat of paint. These changes often come through pain. Ripping. Pushing. Pulling. Dragging. Nailing.

Oh, but there is hope.  Not a wishing hope.  Rather, a true, rock-solid hope.  It is a sure hope that stands on the promise of God spoken by Paul, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)  God is changing us.  Building us.  Sanctifying us.  He won’t stop until the job is done.  By His free grace, He has made us new creations and has set us apart to be holy, and now He is working in our sinful hearts to change us so that we will love righteousness and hate our sin.  Throughout this life we will grow less sinful and more obedient to Him, and in heaven God’s sanctifying work in our lives will be complete.  But, like walking through a home under construction, it’s difficult to imagine the finished product.

Take heart for you are in the hands of the Master Builder.  His skill is flawless, and His plans are perfect.  You will be made complete.  When that day arrives, you will breathe a sigh of relief.  You will be absolutely beautiful.