Changed In The Midst of Prayer

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” -John 14:12 (NASB95)

I love a good movie, one that draws me in with mystery and wonderment. In the movie,  “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in which the main character, Indiana Jones (Played by Harrison Ford) had to pass through several tests to reach the Holy Grail, learned that one of the tests he would have to pass was called the “leap from the lion’s mouth.”

With his father close to death and the grail the only hope to save him, Indy rushes through a rock archway below a carved lion’s head and finds himself standing on the edge of an enormous deep canyon that drops away into utter darkness. On the opposite side of this chasm is a rock wall with a doorway. But in between there’s nothing but air and no clear means to get to the other side. With no other options, and time running out, he does the only thing he can do; he looks straight ahead and steps out into the gaping chasm. Instead of falling to his death, his foot mysteriously lands on a solid surface, almost as though he were standing on a clear glass bridge.

I loved this scene because as the viewer, I was pulled all the way in and not able to understand initially why Indy didn’t just plummet to his death. But it’s when the camera shifted to the right that the viewer suddenly sees a bridge across the deep canyon in which the walking surface has been perfectly painted to match the opposite side of the canyon wall, thus from the perspective of the walker, the bridge was invisible. It’s only when the perspective changed that the carefully camouflaged bridge became evident.

Often God is about changing my perspective on many things in life. There was a time where I struggled with experiencing the intimacy of prayer that Jesus experienced with His Father. Today that experience is no longer a mystery, it is an intricate element in my walk with God.

Oswald Chambers once said; “It is not so true that ‘Prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes me,…”

How often it is that I have gone to the Lord in prayer asking Him to change a circumstance in my life, or to soften the heart of a person that needed to hear the Gospel, or to show another person that they are loved by Him.

Yet it was me that needed to change to be available for Him.  It’s been through the intimacy of prayer that I have allowed my Lord to mold and shape my heart to serve Him. God equips us to do good works (2 Tim 3:17) and He gives us the tools to do so (Romans 12:6). It is His desire that we experience ministry to others, that we become more like Him because of our encounter the Living God.

God is all-powerful, He could easily “do” for us, but that’s not how God works. He loves us, he wants to develop in each of us our personal and unique character. We each have a place in His Kingdom.

Jesus has gone to the Father, He will return one day, and when He does, we will want to hear these precious words; “Well done, good and faithful servant!” But to hear those words will require that I have allowed the hands of Jesus to mold my heart His way, to guide me in a shift of perspective and see life through His eyes with a completely surrendered spirit.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 FullLifeWord

Picking The Teams

It might have been September or early October, I can’t remember for sure, far too many years have transpired by now for me to be exactly confident of the date, I just know it was the Fall shortly after school started and I was in the fourth grade.

It was hot, the fields around the elementary school were dry, the grass on the hills devoid of any sign of green, save that of a few hearty Oak trees. I squinted as the sun beat down on me and my twenty or so classmates as we stood noisily in a row out on the blacktop. An occasional flash of yellow could be seen as the wings of a grasshopper would momentarily appear when the shadow of a child frightened it into flight.

Two boys, the most athletic of the class, were standing in front of us, carefully evaluating the pool of potential kickball teammates.

I hated this part.

The part where one after the other the kids would all be picked. Each Team Captain would take turns, back and forth, pointing to one of us to join their team. Soon there would only be one left.

Mostly that was me.

Just when I thought the experience would be over, the real dread and humiliation phase would begin. The conversation would typically shift from picking teammates to a negotiation between captains as to which team would be stuck with me.

This was worse than simply being last. I knew I was nothing but the kid with the crooked teeth, kinda gangly, and holding no appreciable athletic skills. I wasn’t particularly very good at anything, even academics. Eventually the teacher, against the visible and at times audible protest of one or both of the team captains, would put me on one of the teams.

Years later, I learned that unlike my elementary school team captains, when God is the team captain, He doesn’t  look at abilities or talents (Something that comes from God anyway), or how one outwardly appears. Rather he looks with great compassion at the heart.

Many examples of God’s choices are illustrated in the Scriptures. By any standards other than God’s, none of these individuals would have made the cut given the assignment that God had in mind for them. In one instance, God chose a young boy that was nothing but a simple shepherd, yet he grew up to become a great king (2 Samuel 2:1-7), God also chose a guy named Moses, who never led anything but sheep in a pasture, to lead God’s people out of captivity from the Egyptians. (Exodus 3) Later, God trusted a prostitute by the name of Rahab, who probably spent a lifetime never trusting anyone, to protect Joshua and his men from certain capture. (Joshua 2)

God continued to choose in like manner, when he came to us as Jesus. He chose lowly fishermen (Matthew 4:18-20), a disrespected tax collector (Mark 2:14), and others that society generally held in very low regard to serve as His early disciples. These twelve and ultimately countless others would serve as the engine that propelled the gospel of Christ into virtually every part of the world; the message of God’s gift of eternal life ultimately bridged virtually all social and economic barriers.

When I was sixteen, I finally figured out that I didn’t need to worry about abilities, talents, or good looks when it came to having a relationship with Jesus. In fact, there was nothing I had in my life that I could offer to God except myself and a willing heart.

I realized then, that Jesus had already picked me to join His team, He had all along. He had been knocking on the door of my heart (Revelation 3:20) and asking me to open that door and allow Him to enter my life. I had simply not opened the door. One evening I made the intentional choice to respond to His gentle knock, his open arms, and accepted the fullest expression of His love for me through his death and resurrection.

That evening, I prayed and surrendered my life to Jesus. I trusted that the work He did on the cross was sufficient, and in that moment I officially joined His team.

I’ve never looked back. It was and remains the best decision I’ve ever made. My eyes became open to the world in ways I had never thought possible. It was very much like having transitioned from seeing the world in black and white, to seeing the world from God’s perspective, in full color with a greater understanding. God has since done things in my life that I could never have done on my own; He has blessed me in more ways than I could count. And best of all, I have the assurance that I will get to experience Him for eternity!! Death and the fear of death no longer have mastery over my life.

Jesus said that he came to give us life and help us live it to the full. This is how God intended us to live our lives out.(John 10:10) Sure we’ll still face difficulties, troubles, heartaches, and all that comes with life, Jesus told us we would, but we’ll never be alone for He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

In the final analysis, I came to realize that I was picked by an eternal team captain that leads His team to victory through his boundless love, compassion, and sacrifice of self.

Remembering the True Enemy

“Katniss, when you are in the arena, you just remember who the true enemy is.”
― Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

When I visit with my Mom at her nursing home, we talk about a variety of topics. Often these topics are the same ones we covered in previous visits, although from her perspective they’re all new.

Despite her loss of memory, I’ve noticed that almost every visit incorporates some type of discussion around spiritual matters. We’ll talk about various passages in the Bible that she will bring up; each of us sharing our thoughts and ideas about a particular passage.

The last time we met, we spoke of a passage in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus encountered a woman from the Samaritan town of Sychar.

Jesus of course was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. Historically, these two peoples did not see eye to eye, in fact, a great deal of animosity and friction existed between both groups based upon events far back in history. Things were so bad that they could hardly be in proximity to one another, and would not typically speak to each other or accept food or drink from one another.

Jesus initiated conversation with her, and in doing so, broke social protocol by simply asking for a cup of water. With this, their dialogs begin, and soon thereafter she learned who Jesus really was, the promised messiah; God who came to save those that would place their faith in Him. She quickly saw his love and compassion, how it spanned and overcame all of the history of hate, hurt, and mindless harm that had come between the two people groups.

As my mom and I shared about this passage, we begin to imagine what a scene that must have been. What peace and joy that must have existed in that town as they experienced firsthand, the love and grace of God. Many lives were forever changed in the days that followed as the townspeople came to recognize and place their trust in Jesus. Old ways of thinking died, and new ways begin.

For some, it may have been the first time they’d realized that their common enemy was not found in their history of hate and distrust of each other, but rather, it was sin, a condition that caused an absence of a personal relationship with God, and allowed the effects of evil to cloud their minds and hearts.

Scriptures remind us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” rather our struggle is truly against the “spiritual forces of evil.” It was evil that kept hatred and anger alive between the Jews and Samaritans for many years, blinding them to the truth about God and His love for them.

As I’ve looked at the headlines during the past few weeks, my heart has been profoundly, yet unsurprisingly saddened, to see how little we have progressed in two thousand years since that unique encounter in the town of Sychar.

Regrettably, sin and evil feature prominently in our news and daily lives, but the scriptures offer hope, news of a different sort. The real Christmas story, is the story of God coming to this hurting world in the person of Jesus. He went on to overcome evil at the most basic level, and to bring us into a right relationship with Him.

I pray that as we celebrate Christmas this year…that we not only remember the real reason we celebrate, but that we also never forget “who the true enemy is.”

(“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Excerpt from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia.)

Followers

An interesting phenomenon has developed over the past several years.

It’s the idea of “followers.”

It’s really quiet an interesting study of social behavior.

Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vines, blogs such as this one, and others have built into their structure, this idea of having “followers.” People in the internet world simply click “follow” as an indicator that they are interested in what you are publishing or saying.

They then become a follower.

The system has become so normative across so many social platforms that it has been monetized. In the case of YouTube for instance, users with large followings can actually be paid for growing the number of followers that are active on their account.

Gaining visibility is the name of the game, and in our society, it would seem that the stranger, the more bizarre one can become, the more followers one can obtain.

It has been said that one of the strongest and most important psychological traits for the average person, is the importance of being accepted by others. Many have stumbled on this one trait. We often mistakenly attach it to our self-worth.

There are those whose measure of success in life is counted by the number of followers they have attracted. Such a perspective appeals too those who believe their personal value lies in the quantity of the followers they have accumulated.

Now that we have made “following” a metric on the internet, by monitoring and in some cases receiving payments for the number of followers we have, one has to wonder about the effect on the individual, and eventually society as a whole.

Yet the idea of social popularity and followers was a struggle long before the internet showed up.

The Scriptures record this about Jesus; that “a great crowd of people ‘followed’ him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick.” (John 6:2)

Many followed Jesus in His day because of what they saw him doing. It was unusual. Healing the chronically ill or feeding thousands from a few meager loaves of bread and a few fish, that type of news traveled fast, even in AD 33.

Thankfully Jesus was not the selfish and insecure individual that needed to do whatever he could do to get more people to follow Him. In fact, scriptures record that he didn’t go with the popularity model; rather he lived in reality and presented truth, truth that was often hard for a self-centered society to hear. (Some things haven’t changed much…)

When it comes to popularity, people are fickle creatures. A few verses later in the same chapter, we see that when Jesus began to share on a deeper level, a level that required life changes, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

The tendency today is to focus on fitting in at all costs. The internet has brought to the social table great visibility, and to a certain extent, another channel of social pressure to help us conform to the latest social cause or fad.

It takes real strength of character to be willing to follow Jesus, to not worry about what others think. It takes fortitude to stand up against the majority who believe that “might makes right”, that truth is whatever fifty-one percent of the people think is truth.

I think one only needs to see the news to see how well that system is working.

Thankfully Jesus is always available to us. He is the God of “do-overs” and “fresh starts.” Jesus tells us that we need only to choose to follow Him, and by doing so, we must choose to un-follow the alternatives.

Take a moment right now, think about your life. How’s it going? Are you taking the wide easy road, the road that everyone else is traveling on? Deep down, how satisfying has that choice been?

Do you want to start over, do a do-over in your life?

Here’s how:

  1. Admit to God that you have been traveling on the wrong road of life. That you’ve been living a life that has not been honoring to Him.
  2. Agree to do a total U-Turn in your life. To abandon a lifestyle that has never really satisfied you down deep. Redo your priorities, so that God is at the center of every part of your life. Tell God that you love Him and that you will follow Him all the days of your life! (Even when it’s not the popular thing to do! )
  3. If you do this as an act of faith, then the scriptures tell us that “Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!”

You can talk to God by praying, using your own words. There is no special formula. Just pray from your heart to God, and He will save you. If you feel lost and just don’t know what to pray, here’s a prayer of salvation that you can pray:

“Dear Lord,

I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. -Amen”