Month: April 2013

Humbled to Pray


Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3

This verse is so convicting! How so? Well, for starters, I’m not that meek. I don’t think that I’m much like Moses at all. The Hebrew word (‘anaw) that the ESV translates as “meek” means, “humble.” See! Now you know why I’m not like Moses- I’m not very humble! But enough about me; let’s talk about Moses. Numbers 12:3 states that he was very humble, more than anyone alive at this time. The NET Bible suggests that the idea behind the Hebrew word ‘anaw is “more tolerant” or “longsuffering.” That helps us to better understand Moses. He was tolerant and patient with other people.

For instance, in Exodus 10:17 (after the 8th plague) Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to pray for him that Yahweh would forgive his sin and remove the plague of locusts. And Moses did it! He prayed for his enemy. Fast-forward to Exodus 32 where the nation of Israel breaks covenant with the Lord and worships the golden calf. How does Moses respond when Yahweh says that He is going to wipe them out? Moses intercedes! Moses also prayed for Miriam’s leprosy to be healed after she berated his leadership (Numbers 12:10-13) and for the Israelites after they grumbled about missing the food in Egypt (Numbers 14).

This is why Moses was humble. He was brought low by his own sinfulness that when he saw other sinners sinning, he was empathetic (remember, he killed a guy! See Exodus 2:11-15). And how did Moses respond to all of these people that let him down? He prayed for them. How convicting! I don’t know about you, but if I am ever passionate to pray for my “enemies” or those who let me down, I’m more inclined to pray an imprecatory prayer like Psalm 3:7. Well, maybe I wouldn’t pray that God would strike their cheek and knock their teeth out, but I might secretly desire it. Not so with Moses. He was so humbled by his own sin that he could extend grace and mercy to other sinners.

How about you? How do you respond when people doubt your leadership? How do you respond when people offend and hurt you? How do you respond when people let you down? How do you respond to your enemies? I often respond by rehearsing the pain and the wrongs. I often respond by having “conversations” in my head about what I will say to them, what harsh words I will speak to them to hurt them for hurting me. See! I told you I wasn’t like Moses! And I’m certainly not like Jesus. But He loves me and that’s why I’m trying to obey His command-

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.” Luke 6:27-29

Let’s become a church that spends less time rehearsing wrongs and more time rehearsing the Gospel. Let’s spend more time turning the other cheek and less time wishing that God would strike our enemies’ cheeks. Let’s be humbled by our own sin so that we will actually love our enemies, do good to them, and bless them. Only constant Gospel rehearsal will humble us to pray like Moses.


Walking Through the Front Door Messy


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. Psalm 139:1-4

If you stop and think about these verses, they are quite flabbergasting. God knows us. He knows every nook and cranny of any and everything about us. Before you said what you said to the person you talked to before you read this, God knew what you were going to say 10 million years ago. Psalm 139 is very humbling.

God knows everything about us and He still wants to be around us! He desires that we seek His face through prayer and yet we often struggle to pray. Or, we may honestly confess that we don’t desire prayer. Even if we come clean and say that we don’t like to pray or struggle to pray, God still wants to be around us. Amazing.

I’ve found these words from Paul Miller very encouraging-

“Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart… A needy heart is a praying heart. Dependency is the heartbeat of prayer… Jesus wants to be with us without pretense when we come to him in prayer. Instead, we often try to be something we aren’t… Nothing exposes our selfishness and powerlessness like prayer… God also cheers when we come to him with our wobbling, unsteady prayers… The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy… Don’t try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do… The only way to come to God is by taking off any spiritual mask. The real you has to meet the real God. He is a person… Tell him where you are weary. If you don’t begin with where you are, then where you are will sneak in the back door. Your mind will wander to where you are weary… The very things we try to get rid of— our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness— are what gets us in the front door! That’s how the gospel works. That’s how prayer works… So instead of being paralyzed by who you are, begin with who you are. That’s how the gospel works. God begins with you. It’s a little scary because you’re messed up.” Excerpts from The Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

God knows you. He knows you’re messed up. He knows that you have “issues.” And He still loves you and wants to be around you. He wants you to come messy- with your messy hair and messy life and messy family situation and all your crazy messiness. Come messy. That’s how the gospel works. That’s how prayer works. That’s how Jesus works!


Putting Promises to Work

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2nd Corinthians 1:20

Life can be discouraging. Ministry can be discouraging. The apostle Paul wasn’t immune to this. Just read the first chapter of 2nd Corinthians! How did Paul overcome discouragement? He clung to the promises of God. And that’s exactly what William Bridge (1600-1670) suggests we do in his book, A Lifting Up for the Downcast-

“Are all your comforts gone, and would you fain have them restored? Then read and read the Scriptures much. If you cannot read them yourself, get some others to read them to you… The more full a man’s mind is, the more free from temptations and fears. Now Scripture matter is the most filling matter. The more you see Christ walking in the sweet shades of divine love toward poor sinners, the sooner will your faith revive, and your comforts be restored. And where can you see Jesus Christ walking, and taking His turns with poor sinners under the shades of divine love, but in the Scriptures? Stand there awhile, and you shall see Him, and your heart will say, And why not one turn of love with me, oh my Saviour? Study, read, and read much the Scriptures.

But, say you, if I do read the Scriptures, and read them much, I shall then meet with some promise, possibly many, and now I cannot apply them, discouraged as I am; I shall see the promises indeed, and say, There is such and such an old friend of mine, but it is now mine enemy; the promise will not own me, and I cannot apply it, and so it will do me no good.

You cannot tell what the promise will do till you come to apply it. The promise never yields its power and strength till it is applied; it works when it is put to work, and not before… It may be you look upon such and such a promise at a distance, and you say, Oh, there is my enemy; now it will not help me, it will sting me, it will undo me; but put forth your hand again to it, and it will become a promise, a rod in your hand, as comfortable as ever it was before.

And if the promise does not come to you, go you to it. Sometimes the promise comes to us, sometimes we go to it. When the promise comes to you, you have joy; when you go to it, you have peace, and this peace may last longer than the joy. But remember this as an everlasting rule, that your very relying upon the promise makes it yours.”

Are you discouraged? Are you downcast? Then read God’s word. And keep reading it. Find a promise and hang on to it. God’s promises work when you put them to work.


Like Drinking Poison


Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

I know of two Christians who are angry at each other and won’t reconcile. The sad part is that they used to be very good friends. They used to spend time with each other, bear each other’s burdens, attend Bible study and prayer meetings together, serve alongside each other in ministry, etc and now they won’t even talk to each other. It’s so sad. But this story is not unique; it happens to many disciples. In fact, I have seen this numerous times in my life. Apparently it was happening in the church at Philippi (see Philippians 4:2-3). Maybe you’ve experienced this, too.

What do you do when this happens? The answer: rehearse the Gospel. That’s what Paul does in Ephesians 4:32-

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Unfortunately many people never get to verse 32. They stay stuck in the “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and…malice” of verse 31. Instead of reminding themselves that in Christ God has forgiven them of an ocean full of sin, they harbor bitterness and un-forgiveness. Instead of talking to the person that has offended them, they gossip about and slander the person. Meanwhile, as they nurse their hurts, they are actually doing harm to themselves.

There’s a quote I’ve heard many times (but no one seems to know who really authored it) that best captures how idiotic it is to harbor bitterness and un-forgiveness:

“Bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

It’s a little morbid, but true. When you harbor bitterness and refuse to forgive someone, you’re damaging yourself (and perhaps a whole church community!). If you’re struggling to forgive, think about Jesus. Think about the 10+ million sins that He has forgiven you of when you didn’t deserve it. Think about how good God has been to reconcile you to Himself. Rehearse the Gospel. Then forgive. And keep on forgiving (see Matthew 18:21-35). Pray for the hearts of all involved. Get outside help, if needed (see Philippians 4:2-3). Go to the person and talk. Tell them how you feel. Listen to their side. And watch God work. It’s amazing how a simple, honest conversation can be the catalyst for the Gospel to do its work.

Trying to remember that forgiven sinners forgive sinners,

Like a Weaned Child

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 131

I love this psalm. It’s probably one of my favorites. I love the imagery that David employs here. And it’s the perfect song for any of us that are stressing and worrying about life.

Somehow David has pulled off the miraculous. Life is chaotic. Life is stressful. And yet David doesn’t lift his heart up in pride by worrying about life, as if he was the solution. He does not assume to be God and claim to know how life should be. David’s eyes are not raised too high. He does not let all of the “unknowns” and “what ifs” occupy space in his mind. Thinking and stressing about all the marvelous and overwhelming issues of life are not consuming David.

David has calmed and quieted his soul. Just like a weaned child sitting in his mother’s lap, David is calm. What does the weaning process look like for a child? The child gets fussy and demands to nurse. The mother says “no” and the child gets fussy. The process continues until the child understands. Once the process is complete, the child can rest content when he sits in the lap of his mother. He is so close to that which used to provide tranquility and yet the child is not fussy or demanding. The child is calm.

David says that his soul is like that child. Life’s struggles are overwhelming him and yet David is calm. He’s not fussy or demanding. How? How is this possible when life is overwhelming? The answer: David’s hope is in the Lord. David knows that God is faithful. David knows that God has never let him down, therefore, he can trust Him. Never! Never has God let His people down! Why not trust this God? We would be crazy not to trust Him!

Got problems? Got burdens? Got stress? Then get Psalm 131. I mean get it real good into your heart. I mean, “get it.” Do you “get it?” Get it into your heart and rest because you hope in the Lord.

Praying that our souls would be like weaned, fussy-free children,