Wiser Than My Prayers

30 09 2013

Amazing where God shows up in your day. I was running an errand, trying to remember the four (or was it five?) items on my list. I was counting minutes, counting to do’s, counting what’s not going to get dones, and counting ingredients for dinner. I hadn’t counted on God showing up and reminding me to count on Him.

As I passed the auto shop on my way down the road, I noticed a sign by the side of their door. It simply said, “God’s answers are wiser than our prayers.”

Wow. Hand over mouth, heart falling to its knees, eye-opening, soul-stretching, joy-swelling truth in those words.

God’s answers are wiser than the answers I come up with for myself. I have learned that lesson, although there are times when I need a refresher course. This little sign reminded me that God’s answers are wiser than my questions. You know the old saying, “Ask the wrong question and you will get the wrong answer”? Not with God. He always gives the right answer in the right way at the right time, even if I ask the wrong question in the wrong way at the wrong time. The unfolding of His purpose in my life isn’t limited by how smart I am, but by how surrendered I am.

My Jesus Resolution today is to count on God’s wisdom. As I pray, I am going to let trust in His love, faithfulness, goodness, and mercy frame how I approach His throne. When I pray, I am going to depend on the Holy Spirit to reframe my questions, requests, and even praises into a fragrant offering that aligns with God’s will. As I watch for His answers and anticipate His movement, I am going to count on the truth that God’s answers are wiser than my prayers. He will always answer in the way that is going to best help me look like Jesus.





Right Where You Are

27 09 2013

What would Jesus be doing if He stood in your shoes right where you are today?

Too many times we believe that our commitment is linked to our circumstances. We think that given ideal circumstances, we would be more committed, more passionate, more involved, and more faithful. We imagine that living this Jesus life would somehow be simpler, less demanding, or easier to embrace if we walked in different shoes than the ones on our feet today.

Someday becomes the rhythm that sets our steps. When I am married, when I have kids, when my kids move out, when I lose weight, when I have a job, when I retire, when I pay off my debt, when I feel better, when I’m not so tired, when I get the laundry done, when this relationship turns around, or when I kick this habit. We somehow imagine that the ideal circumstance just ahead will ignite a walk with Christ that we put off today.

God wants you to see yourself and your circumstances differently. Today, right where you are is the perfect place for you to experience His grace, dip deeply into His delight, and move into His presence. God isn’t more “there” in the ideal places. He isn’t waiting for a perfect you to show up before He can work. God wants you to stand right where you are and be like Jesus. Wherever that is. In the carpool line, next to the washing machine, in the midst of paying bills, in the nursing home, with an IV in your arm, when you are struggling under a deadline, wrestling with disappointment, or eating chocolate. We may not be able to do everything we want to do for Jesus, but we can be everything God wants us to be when we choose to look like Jesus right where we are.

My Jesus Resolution today is to let go of someday and embrace today. I won’t be more faithful tomorrow than I am today if I don’t commit myself to growth. I have to learn to see this moment as the best opportunity to imitate Jesus that I have. Many times I think that my commitment will change when my circumstances change. Perhaps my circumstances might change if my commitment changes. Maybe it will just be the way I see my circumstances that changes, but either way, I have a choice. Put Him off until someday or look like Jesus right where I am today.





The Discomfort Zone

25 09 2013

We get set in our ways, don’t we? We have our comfort zones, our spots that are safe, and we guard them fiercely. Change is not a welcome visitor inside the comfort zone. Change asks us to step outside of patterns established by desire or necessity and find a new balance. It asks us to adjust our attitudes, expand our vision, or adopt a new habit. It can be unsettling, even when we know it is a good thing.

The church pew is an interesting place for a comfort zone. If there should be anywhere less likely to be a comfort zone, it should be the church pew. Worship is an encounter with God. It is the moment when we should be the most deliberate about entering His presence, experiencing His grace, and being transformed by His purpose. It isn’t the place to stake a claim or draw a line in the sand. Rather it is a place of surrender. Too many times I come in guarded, intent on shielding my heart from disruption of what it finds comfortable. Grace, by its very nature, demands vulnerability, transparency, and humility. The only way to become saturated with Christ-likeness is to step out from under the umbrella of self into the downpour of His delight.

My Jesus Resolution today is to take a deep breath and step into the Discomfort Zone. Comfort has a gravity-like pull on my heart. My comfort with the status quo, with my sin, and with my selfishness is the heaviness that keeps my soul from flying free. Worship shakes our hearts free from the grip of comfort’s gravity. The habits of praise, prayer, community, study, and service reshape me into someone less comfortable with the world and more in tune with God. Grace understands that the only comfort zone that will truly satisfy my heart is found when I step outside of myself and into the arms of Jesus.





An Enlarged Heart

23 09 2013

“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.” – Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss was a philosopher. He nailed the human condition in his stories to children, using simple words and bright pictures to teach us in ways that make us smile and see ourselves in the absurdities of his characters. The Grinch is my favorite.

Everywhere I look, I can see the Grinch. People whose hearts are squeezed tight by bitterness, anger, jealousy, or grouchiness. The size of their hearts gives them tunnel vision. Their misery defines the boundaries of their world. They can’t see past it, and their too-small hearts prevent them from enjoying what is beautiful about the moment they are standing in.

The Grinch makes frequent appearances in my mirror. Worry, frustration, and fear squeeze at my heart making me grinchy with ingratitude. Negative thoughts overflow into whining as I allow my burdens, rather than my blessings, to define how I see others, my circumstances, and even myself.

There is a prayer in the Bible for those of us who suffer with Grinch-itis. Psalm 119:32 says, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” We can ask God to enlarge our hearts. Stop and think about that. We don’t have to be satisfied with shriveled, squeezed, or skimpy. His Word teaches us how to stretch our faith, expand our perspective, and increase our capacity for joy.

My Jesus Resolution today is to ask God to enlarge my heart. Just like the Grinch, my heart can grow. I don’t have to stay stuck with a shriveled soul. Running in the way of God’s commandments is the exercise my heart needs to strengthen what is weak, heal what is broken, and stretch what is squeezed. What kind of commands will make that type of dramatic difference? Love God. Love your neighbor. Rejoice always. Be thankful. Listen. Wait. Follow Me. In the story, the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes in a single day. How much might I grow when I ask God to enlarge my heart to make it look like Jesus?





Scared

20 09 2013

I know you are scared. So scared that it never seems to go away. It plays like a melody in the back of your mind, always there, sometimes blaring, sometimes a haunting whisper. Occasionally, for a just a moment, you forget that it is there. Yet even in that heartbeat of time when you realize that the fear is silent, it comes roaring back, consuming your peace and devouring your joy.

I wish that I could tell you that it is all going to be okay. At least okay in the way that we want to define okay. We all wish for sunny days, gentle breezes, and careless comfort. Unfortunately, storms can strike with a fury that surprises us, causing us to lose our balance and sending our worlds into a tailspin. I can’t promise no pain, no heartache, no tears, or no fear. I can only wrap my arms around you and whisper the promises made to both of us by the One who holds us next to His heart.

You are not alone. God is still in control. He sees your pain and catches your tears. His grace is sufficient. You are deeply loved. Wisdom is a prayer away. His timing is perfect. His answers are always saturated in His purpose. The cross blazes with God’s determination to call you His own. Waiting on Him is the work of faith. His mercies are new every morning.

My Jesus Resolution today is to realize that fear only has the power that I give it. Fear will whisper, “You can’t.”  God assures me that He can. Fear says stop. God says follow Me. Fear prods me to give up. God promises strength for the journey. Fear encourages me to whine and worry. God calls me to worship and rejoicing. Today I am going to breathe in grace, exhaling the fear that is suffocating my spirit. It isn’t wrong to be afraid. It is wrong to let fear have the last word.





Follow the Leader

18 09 2013

How long has it been since you played Follow the Leader? Marching behind a little one is a great way to get a new perspective. Their imaginations take over, and there are no boundaries to where we can go, what we can accomplish, or the enthusiasm it takes to get there. This children’s game is a great picture of our walk with God. In Follow the Leader, the followers imitate everything that the leader does. They walk where the leader walks, move like the leader moves, mirror the leader’s timing, and learn from the leader’s steps. The followers find joy in following. No need to worry about where to go next. The leader knows the way. No reason to rush or run ahead. The leader sets the pace.

Psalm 37:5 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” I love the confidence that flows from this promise. Commitment and trust open the door for God’s movement. God’s action will always bring God’s blessings. His movement will allow His purpose to take shape in our lives. His presence will inspire the transformation that is at the heart of His desire for our hearts. When God acts, He brings the full measure of His goodness, grace, power, and faithfulness into our lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to Follow the Leader. Following will require me to walk in step with God, rather than rushing ahead as I often do. It calls me to not be in such a rush to reach the destination, but rather enjoy the journey. There are smiles to be had on the way, conversations to be savored, little delights to be noticed. In the end, following the Leader isn’t just about getting where we need to go. It is primarily about learning to imitate the One who leads us.





The Prayer List

16 09 2013

Prayer is a privilege of those whose hearts belong to God. In prayer, we pour out our hearts to the Father, understanding that He is listening, loving, and looking out for our best. Prayer, ignited by faith, believes that people, relationships, circumstances, and hearts can be changed by the power of God.

Here are ten things to pray about today –

1. Pray for an opportunity to extend grace to a stranger.

2. Pray that your neighbor will see Jesus next door.

3. Pray for a child who is not a part of your family.

4. Pray for the most difficult person you know.

5. Pray when you pass by a funeral home or hospital.

6. Pray for courage to take that step of faith.

7. Pray for the last person who sent you an email, text, tweet, or message.

8. Pray to be brave enough to forgive – yourself or someone else.

9. Pray for time to laugh today.

10. Pray to look more like Jesus.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pray. I want to learn how to pray. I don’t want to pray a rote recital of self-imagined remedies. I want to pray bigger prayers, more humble prayers, deeper prayers, prayers that resonate with His grace. I long to experience mercy, kneel before glory, surrender to sovereignty, and be overwhelmed by awe. I don’t want to pray primarily for God to work in the world around me. I want to pray that He work in me.