Wednesday, January 27, 2010
It always intrigues me to observe how the Holy Spirit weaves a theme when people pray together with unified purpose.
Today, three friends and I met to pray for local government and church leaders in our city. The theme that developed was holiness: the beauty of God's holy presence, and holiness expressed through His people. One friend prayed for holiness to be more evident in the church. Another prayed that we would see God's face. A third praised God for His beauty.
We interceded on behalf of various groups -- pastors, worship leaders, small group teachers -- then, toward the end of our session, we came to a place of unusual silence. It was not the silence of the "heaviness" of God's presence, not the kind that hushes you with awe. It was a pause indicating a shift was coming.
So we chose to start reading and praying Scripture, starting with Revelation 5, a chapter that describes worship around the throne room of God.
Verse 5 reads,
"In a loud voice they sang:
'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!'"
Though we didn't sing the words, we did read loudly -- more loudly than usual.
Then Carol turned to Psalm 99 and prayed verse 9.
'We exalt you, LORD our God
and worship at Your holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy.'
Sometimes we read in unison, sometimes one of us prayed a passage we'd noticed. The more we read, the stronger our voices grew. It was as if God's Spirit was fanning glowing embers into a fire. I felt I was getting a shot of joy. I listened and participated as we prayed excerpts from the Psalms.
From time to time, two of us would start praying the same Scripture and we would laugh in joy and astonishment. God seemed to say, 'Yes, I am holy, and I will guide your praise. I will show you my delight and bless you as you praise Me.'
We asked... and we had an experience with the Beauty of Holiness.
For Your Consideration:
Will you share with me some nugget of your experience with the "Beauty of Holiness?"
What characteristics of God might be displayed when the Holy Spirit fans corporate prayer, using one prayer to inform or ignite another.
Why not take a literal 30 - 60 seconds to praise the Beauty of Holiness and get a fresh experience of God's delight?
I found that picture at www.renovare.us, a great site for spiritual formation resources.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
On the heels of Haiti's incomprehensible horror, I want to linger over Psalm 46.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging" (Psalm 46:1-3)
This horror reminds me of the concentration camps... too awful to imagine. In the movie, The Hiding Place, there was a scene of Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom as they led some women in a conversation about God’s love. An angry violinist on the lower bunk, huddled by necessity with the other women, shook her fists at Betsie. Once nimble fingered, accustomed to beautiful music, she’d been sorely injured in heart and hand by cruelty and forced labor.
‘Where is your loving God now?' Her taunt... reasonable... hung in the air for just a second before Bestie’s answer.
I remember Betsie’s answer was peaceful. It was something like, "If you knew Him, you would know He is good."
That kind of peace can only come from a deep KNOWING that God is truly good and is with us. In all our circumstances.
Suffering often thrusts us into a desperate search for answers. As we keep searching, we find One who is the answer, and who lovingly draws close.
Sometimes God's presence shows up in a white hot fire with Daniel’s three friends (Daniel 3:16-30). Sometimes, His presence gives us grace to die. More recently, God has been coming to many, dressed in human flesh, digging rubble, cleaning wounds, giving genrously and praying fervently.
For Your Consideration
“[Jesus] took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed"(See Isaiah 53, The Message).
Do you think Jesus' suffering for you was like or unlike His suffering for the people of Haiti?
How might the promises of Romans 8, epecially verse 28, help you process grief and suffering?
Will you pray that many in Haiti (and those who help) will come to know Jesus by name and in the power of His saving grace?
A classic devotional which often addresses suffering is Streams in the Desert. I highly recommend it.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
The idea of stewarding our God-stories came from John Maxwell's stewardship series. As I studied the material, I was quite taken by his phrase "Stewards of Our Testimony."
Dictionary.com defines a steward as "a person who manages another's property or financial affairs; one who administers anything as the agent of another or others."
The apostle Peter, who was caught off guard and denied Christ under pressure, later exhorted us to "set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience" (2 Peter 3:15-16a).
Impetuous Peter was now steadily operating under Authority. After Jesus' deep work in him, he was now able to share gently and respectfully. He had experienced Jesus' forgiveness and restoration. The power of the Spirit was writing another God-story and Peter was stewarding something bigger than himself.
Earlier in his letter, Peter mentions "You have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:24).
Interesting, isn't it, how our Overseer stewards us well while helping us become like Him?
Don't we have stories to tell?!
For Your Consideration:
What changes have you observed since you gave Christ authority in your life?
What does Jesus as your Shepherd and Overseer evoke?
How can you steward your testimony more effectively?
I found that sweet picture at http://www.missionaloutreachnetwork.com/group/bless. It's an interesting link to people who are sharing their faith in a variety of ways.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
There are a lot of forwards that can gobble up precious time, but every now and then I get a real winner.
Cleaning for a Reason, www.cleaningforareason.org, helps women fighting cancer by offering a reprieve: free house cleaning. A cancer patient -- weary, strained in energy and finances-- gets a rare opportunity to receive free, compassionate help.
All you have to do is load the zip code to find someone in your area. The testimonials express obvious appreciation of practical help during draining times. It's compassion cleaning house.
Some other good news is that diagnosed cancers in the US have been decreasing by 1.6% per year from 2001 to 2006. However, there are other realities to consider. The older we get, the higher the probability for diagnosis. For example, from ages 30-39, our likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis is 1 in 223; from ages 60-69, 1 in 27 (Statistics from the National Cancer Institute).
I’m not writing to induce fear, but to suggest thoughtful responses.
The little gem, www.cleaningforareason.org/index.html, is a great value.
Living healthily, the way I believe God intends, is the best way to ward off cancer. Making our own healthy choices is a must: regular mammograms, eating fruit and veggies, exercise, de-stressing our lives, and giving to others.
A vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ, in which we give Him our worries and listen for God’s counsel, is another very real way to detoxify.
While you check out this resource, you might also want to update your own spiritual house cleaning.
For Your Consideration
“'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'” (Matthew 25:37-40, NIV).
Might God be nudging you to reach out to help someone suffering from cancer?
What gifts has God placed in your hand to offer practical help to someone in need?
Might you, yourself, need some help with spiritual house cleaning?