Why do we think we can give God advice? We do it all the time. We offer God advice every time we complain about the way our lives are going and every time we offer Him a helpful hint of how things could be done better.
I do it. You do it. We all do it. We try to make our words sound religious but the bottom line is that we, who cannot figure out how a brown cow can eat green grass and produce white milk, try to boss around the God who designed us and everything else, from how fast the sun burns fuel to what takes place inside of us at the cellular level.
So today, take a fast from telling God what He should do. Instead, ask for wisdom to see His handiwork in your life. Replace complaints with praise. God knows what He is doing. Read Romans 11:34-36.
Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
It’s plain to see that if we see prayer as a conversation and communion with the king on his throne then we will approach God as such–with humility and reverence. We can be bold, indeed, but not foolhardy or arrogant.
And if grace is the characterization of the divine throne then we should approach with joyfulness.
And because it is a throne, a place of decision, we should approach it with complete submission. We do not pray to God to instruct him as to what he ought to do. We can ask, but not dictate. Ultimately it must end with “Thy will be done.”
And yet because it is a throne of grace we ought to approach it with enlarged expectations. It does not become a king to give away pennies; he distributes large pieces of gold.
All of Jesus’ recorded prayers in public were short. When alone with God, he could spend the whole night in communion with God.
My experience is that those who pray most in their closets generally make short prayers in public. Long prayers are too often not prayers and they weary people. How short the publican’s prayer was: “God, be merciful to be me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The prayer of the thief on the cross was a short one: “Lord, remember me when I come into the Kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Peter’s prayer was “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).
If you go through the Scriptures you will find that the prayers that brought immediate answers were generally brief.
James tells us that the prophet Elijah was a man “subject to like passions as we are.”
That’s encouraging! A prophet of God, yet like us. We are apt to think that those mighty men and women were different from what we are.
Elijah brought down fire on Mt. Carmel against the prophets of Baal. But the God of Elijah still lives! We have the same access to God as Elijah did. We have the same warrant to go to God and ask the fire from heaven to come down and consume our lusts and passions, to burn up our dross, and to let Christ shine through us.
Many people want to grow spiritually without losing their independence to a church. That’s why I often hear, “I like Jesus, but not Christianity or churches.” Sometimes they’ve had bad experiences with churches. These people, for the most part, do want a relationship with Jesus, just not His Body or His Bride (2 metaphors that God uses for the church).
Sometimes this is understandable. I hear horror stories all the time that make me cringe and had I experienced them I, too, would be hesitant to get too involved with a church again. Some churches are unpleasant. They are filled with judgmental, self-righteous people. Yet, staying away, is just another form of self-righteousness.
Besides, there is no way you can grow spiritually apart from a deep involvement in a faith community. You can’t live the Christian life to its fullest potential without a family of believers for love and accountability. You can’t get to know Jesus deeper if you want nothing to do with His Body or His Bride.
Would you want to get close to someone who didn’t like you or your spouse?
Even before Jacob wrestled with God, Abraham verbally wrestles with God. When confronted with the destruction of an evil city, Abraham pleaded with God (in the first recorded prayer) to spare the city. God doesn’t heed his prayer because there were not even ten righteous there. Abraham failed but there is something deeply moving, infinitely tender, and wonderfully uplifting about that intercession of the friend of God for the wicked inhabitants.
That is the way we ought to feel towards other people, and that is the way we ought to approach God and to pray to Him. Who knows how much you and I owe to those who pleaded with God for our souls?
If our good works could save us then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. We would be like taxpayers with rights.
But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace–at God’s infinite cost–then there’s nothing He cannot ask of me.
Sheer grace has 2 edges to it:
- It cuts away fear.
- But if God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures, then we are not our own. We were bought with a price.
Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone (not our works), but not by faith that remains alone.”
Power. We think of strength or authority in our daily situations. A baseball hitter is known to have power when he hits lots of home runs. The President certainly has power as a ruler of a country. A boss has power over employees.
What does “power” mean in the context of Acts 1:8 (But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.)? Practically speaking, what power does the Spirit give me?
- The power over sin, the flesh, and Satan.
- The power of the Spirit bears fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.).
- The power of identity: I am God’s adopted child, righteous in His sight.
- The power to witness to God’s love and truth.
4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
Daniel’s opponents scrutinized him to find faults. They couldn’t find any so they basically made up some.
If someone examined my life (your life), would my (your) actions match my (your) convictions? Would I (you) be found blameless and faithful.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
While no one wants to mourn for any loss, there is a blessing even amidst mourning. People recognize mourning as a time to latch together and hold on to each other in comfort.
But a greater blessing for me in times of grief have been when I felt the total presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that everything is going to be OK and that God’s promises endure forever. They are sure and true.
It feels emotionally like the times as a child when I was sick and my mother or grandmother cared for me, patted my back when I vomited, put the washcloth on my forehead during a fever. I always knew they were there for me and it would get better.