Sustain and Rescue

When I went to BibleGateway.com this morning, I found a message just for me:

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:4, New International Version)

Defend and Protect is a great police motto.  I do need that, no doubt. Humble and abundant thanks to the folks who keep my street safe day and night.

Right now, though, Lord, give me Sustain and Rescue. I urgently lay claim to this promise. I qualify! Old age, check. Gray hairs, check (of those that are left).

So, Lord, sustain me in the good fight! Carry me through when I stumble and fall. Rescue me when I am outnumbered, out gunned, and out maneuvered.

Tally ho!

 

 

 

Of service

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 10, Verses 42-45, New International Version)

 

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (Peter’s First Letter, Chapter 4, Verse 10, New International Version)

September 1, 2013

Over the past few months, two situations have changed my prayer life. First, it was a suggestion about two months ago from my friend and prayer partner Benson Agbortogo that set the stage. He said that to attack the problems facing me I should begin praying for at least 7 people who had worse problems than I. The number 7 is, of course, one of those special numbers in the Bible. The number 7 also related to the fact that I had done some demographic research and calculations indicating some 700,000 men in the U.S. are facing major problems similar to mine.

So over the weeks, I began adding names to the group of those for whom I pray during my morning prayer walk. I now have 16 new names on my list.

Then just a couple of weeks ago during my prayer walk as I prayed for individuals as well as the 700,000 I don’t know, a sudden insight flashed across my mind. It felt like a ray of sunshine piercing gloom and fog: Pray for how I may be of service to these people. I normally prayed for blessings and the will of God in the lives of these folks and for favor with them. But I never thought to pray to be of service.

I felt sure that I would soon begin to see answers to this change in my prayers. I wasn’t sure how I would know or how it would happen or when, but I was sure. Today, I realized that just within the last two days I have begun to see answers to these prayers.

In the case of one family, I was able to help them in their housing search after a recent job change and relocation. In another case,I was able to share some very important information with one fellow facing some problems similar to mine.

It was just last night that I learned a very good friend had intervened in a major way to help a lady for whom I was praying. So now I have the opportunity to support this friend in serving this lady whose needs are so great.

I am looking forward with great anticipation to the answers yet to come. This is exciting.

 

Praise attack

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Paul’s Letter to the Church at Ephesus, Chapter 4, Verses 4-7, New International Version)

Are you facing huge problems, challenges, pain, suffering, etc.? Strike back with praise! Strike back with thanksgiving. Do this from the very time you wake up. This will set the nature of your day. You and not the circumstances will own your heart. This is crucial, urgent, essential. This is the  martial art of a grateful heart. Be grateful in spite of what is happening to you.

This is not Pollyanna dither. This is how you free your mind and emotions to fight back, to focus on the objective, and to move forward in spite of overwhelming odds.

On the other hand, if life is just great for you right now, then be especially diligent in thanking God for your situation. This will guard against pride.

 

Execute

Imagine the situation of John Smith. He wants a raise. He makes an appointment to talk to his boss. In the meeting, he prefaces his request with some comments on his satisfaction with being part of a great team with a great mission. Then, he does not ask for a raise. Rather, John asks his boss to please let him know if he has any guidance on how John could improve his contributions to the team and the mission. He adds that he’s had a few ideas himself but would really appreciate insight from the boss’s perspective. Now, let us imagine that the boss immediately asks John to share a couple of his ideas on how he might improve his work. John gives the boss a list he has brought with him of the top three initiatives he had been contemplating. After a few minutes of discussion and clarification, the boss tells John he thinks items 1 and 3 on his list are very important. Then, the boss adds another item to the list, one he sees as most urgent from his perspective. The boss then thanks John for sharing his thoughts and encourages him to pursue the three important items they have prioritized together.

The following week at the staff meeting, the boss brings up the three initiatives he and John had discussed. He turns to John and says, “Hey, John, how about a quick update on how you’re doing with those initiatives?” John is sweating. He looks embarrassed. He confesses he has done nothing at all. Will John get the raise he was hoping for?

In our prayers when we get as far as John got in the meeting with his boss, it is important to implement. Here is what I mean. Several months ago in prayer I got some input on what I needed to do regarding some specific health concerns. I wrote the priorities down. I put them on my to do list. Then for several months I kept rescheduling the priorities. Now my pain is the price of my procrastination. Can you  benefit from my error?

When God talks, it’s essential to write down his directives. It’s great to put them on the to do list. But if you don’t schedule them and DO them, they will not just happen. They will not get done. You want a raise in income, health, relationships? Listen to The Boss and EXECUTE!

Some people believe that God is infinitely patient. Even if we don’t execute in a timely manner, can’t we expect grace and mercy? The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 1, Verses 20-33 (Amplified Version), seems to convey a very different message.

20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the markets;

21 She cries at the head of the noisy intersections [in the chief gathering places]; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

22 How long, O simple ones [open to evil], will you love being simple? And the scoffers delight in scoffing and [self-confident] fools hate knowledge?

23 If you will turn (repent) and give heed to my reproof, behold, I [Wisdom] will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make my words known to you.

24 Because I have called and you have refused [to answer], have stretched out my hand and no man has heeded it,

25 And you treated as nothing all my counsel and would accept none of my reproof,

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when the thing comes that shall cause you terror and panic—

27 When your panic comes as a storm and desolation and your calamity comes on as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.

28 Then will they call upon me [Wisdom] but I will not answer; they will seek me early anddiligently but they will not find me.

29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord,

30 Would accept none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,

31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices.

32 For the backsliding of the simple shall slay them, and the careless ease of [self-confident] fools shall destroy them.

33 But whoso hearkens to me [Wisdom] shall dwell securely and in confident trust and shall be quiet, without fear or dread of evil.

Two, one

Does your mind ever get clearer when you’re exercising? I was on my exercise bike just now. Love that bike. Dad left it to me. A classic Schwinn Airdyne. Gets arms and legs, lungs and heart pumping. Oxygen reaches my brain. Fog clears, ideas begin to link. Insight and clarity flit in and out.

I thought of last night and my post, Keep aloof. My wife didn’t  like it. So I need to stress that the sin, the failure was mine. What she did was understandable. She was feeling lonely and wanted company. What I did was out of proportion. I got angry.

Pumping along on Dad’s Schwinn, I thought of Jesus. Images came. A Roman solider pounding a nail through Jesus’ right hand into the cross. Christ loving that guy in that moment of unspeakable pain. Christ forgiving, not cursing.

Then came an image of two natures in Christ: one divine, one human. Images came of Christ up early and out praying alone, a young Christ studying the scriptures, a troubled Christ praying in Gethsemane and sweating blood. The image came of human nature englobed in divine nature. The word “consistency” came to mind.

My thoughts turned to the latest admonition from my friend Benson Agbortogo. Consistency, consistency in commitment, consistency in purpose, consistency in prayer, consistency in the Word of God.

Oh, Lord, may I be consistent in love. May your divine nature englobe my human nature. Where there are two, may there be one when the chips are down.

 

Accounting diligence

Oh Lord, I procrastinate! Please attune me to your priorities, today and every day. Let the power of your Word guide me at every step. Not my will but thine be done. I especially need your help in getting caught up on accounting, tithing, budgeting, and prioritization of income generation activities. Make me a good steward of the resources you provide. Help me mend this leaky bucket. Enhance my Quicken skills! Please provide me a sheltered work space and time where I can focus and advance.

Cross up

While out on my prayer walk this morning, I was pondering how to live, how to face the day with courage, determination, love, and self discipline. How could I face the challenges, the many tough problems before me this day?

Suddenly, Christ’s call to take up our cross daily and follow him came to mind. As I walked, it occurred to me this call from Jesus is not a call to go around thinking, looking and acting like a saintly martyr. To the contrary, it is a call to victory, to joy, to peace.

The issue is not just taking up the cross. Many focus on that. They think of the unbearable spouse  or the impossible brat or the mother-in-law or the boss from hell or the illness or whatever as their personal sacrifice in life, just a “cross I have to bear.” Have you ever heard or maybe said that before? Ashamed to say, I have. Isn’t this fatalism?

Fatalism is a prescription for defeat, for failure, for stagnation. Dump the martyr complex! Dump the fatalism! Get moving! That’s the big issue. But to where? In what direction? And an even bigger issue with whom will you be travelling?

Jesus said to follow him, not sit around and bemoan our suffering and problems. So we have a pretty good travelling companion. But where are we supposed to follow? The destination is Crucifixion. Crucifixion is where we choose to die to our old selves and live to eternity.

Lot’s of folks, Christian and otherwise, recognize the importance of surmounting the ego if we are to live successful and happy lives. The ego as it turns out can be our worst enemy. To Crucify the ego is to live to one’s full possibilities. What irony! If I focus on me and what I want and need, I end up cutting myself off from what I need and want. If I focus on the people around me, on my community, my country, my world only then can I become all that I was meant to be. Only in serving, can I know peace.

Here is the passage where Jesus talks about picking up our cross and following him. Does it jibe with what came to me this morning?

23 And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]. 24 For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death]. 25 For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) himself? (Luke 9, Amplified Bible)

Please comment if you have some insights to share.