Give Him Room!

Years ago, I discovered that one of our children had lied to me; a teacher informed me of the truth. I began to pray, and asked this child a general question that gave an opening to confess. Nothing. Over the next hours, I continued to pray for the Spirit to soften that child’s heart and bring conviction. Later in the day, I asked, “Is there anything you want to talk about while it’s just ‘us’?” and the head dropped, the words of confession came. God had done it! I was able to tell this child that the Holy Spirit is always with us and knows everything. He wants what is good for us, and will bring guilt when we have done wrong; He forgives and cleanses immediately when we confess and repent. The Lord also taught me that He is the better, always-present and perfect One to bring about conviction, that our children are His to deal with, that I need not (should not) try to do His sanctifying work. This approach is modeled all through Scripture.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?'” Isaac questions conniving Jacob repeatedly, “Who are you, my son? Are you really my son Esau?,” giving him numerous chances to fess up about his elaborate, deceptive plot. Nathan tells David a heart-wrenching story that mirrors his own weakly-excused greed and malice. Peter asks Sapphira to explain what happened, giving her a chance to come clean after her husband had already borne punishment for their agreed-upon lying. ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’ And she said, ‘Yes, for so much.’ But Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?'” (Genesis 3:8-9; 27:18-24; 2 Samuel 12:1-13; Acts 5:8-9) In every case, the truth eventually comes out, but conviction is deeper and the results more effective when the Spirit is given time and space to work.

Sequoias, looking skyward

Lord, You sent Your Spirit to convict, and to restore to comfort and abundant life. Open my ears to hear your “Where are you?” and my heart to admit the truth. Keep my lips from interrupting Your work, and teach me instead through intercessory prayer. May I willingly give You room to do your thing and have Your way– with me, with those I love. (John 10:10; 14:16-17; 16:7-9,13)

 

 

Undeterred

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”   Psalm 2:1-3

Acts 4 could be describing America and other lands today: religious and political leaders and others with culture-imposed clout get greatly annoyed because of any proclamation about Jesus. They gather together, pool their biblical ignorance, fret over the spread and influence of this teaching, and plot how to suppress the truth.

But the Spirit-filled apostles in the early church were undeterred. When the rulers, elders, scribes, and priestly family inquire about the power and name behind the miracles being done (where was their compassion and marveling gratitude?), Peter replied, “‘Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” 

Nepalese children in farm field

Still, the frustrated men had to quell this ‘threatening movement.’ “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’” Not only were Peter and John bold in their conviction, but they went to their friends and all “lifted their voices together” in praise and thanksgiving. Undeterred, they prayed, And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” God upheld His own, who cared more for His kingdom purposes and glory than their own lives or reputation. “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” 

As the heat rises in our culture, keep Your people true to You, Lord, undeterred in speaking and living Your word. Fill us with Your Spirit, increase in us dependent and bold faith. Stretch out Your hand of grace on us and through us to a needy, inquiring world.

 

 

Regarding the Small

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great.” “For who has despised the day of small things?” Psalm 104:24-25; 
Zechariah 4:10

Walking the beach yesterday morning, I prayed through several situations and thought through my day and upcoming week, hoofing it in mind and foot at an energetic clip. My sights were ahead and beyond where I actually was. I needed to turn around because of time, and then I saw the first one: a perfect coin-sized sand dollar before me on the smooth, surf-firmed surface. I picked it up, then another, then another. Each was distinct in shade and miniature size, resting on a shell, or half-buried in the sand, or drying white in the early sun. Within minutes, because I looked, I’d found dozens, God’s tiny treasures that my distracted thinking and speed would have caused me to overlook had I not adjusted my focus. O, Lord, how much do I miss?

 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:26,28-29

When I regard the small, Lord, You remind me You are great. This is the day You have made, may I rejoice and be glad in it. May I look for and savor the small things, and savor You above all. (Psalm 118:24)

The Clear Choice

Joshua finishes well. In Chapter 24, he gathers the tribes and summons Israel’s leaders, then speaks God’s words: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, and they served other gods,’ and now you dwell in a new land. In between, I took Abraham, I led, I gave children and lands, I sent Moses and Aaron, I plagued Egypt, I brought you out, I parted the sea and made it swallow the Egyptians, I brought you into the land, I destroyed the inhabitants before you, I blessed you, I delivered you, I held back the Jordan, I gave you Canaan’s leaders, ‘I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow.I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.'” 

All this, God had done for them. And then, the culmination. Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Albemarle Estate chapel window, Charlottesville, VA

When reminded of the truth and history, when presented with all the evidence, how can anyone choose not to serve this God–Who delivers from captivity, works wonders, preserves us all the way we go, drives out our enemies, Who is holy and jealous for us?

Captivate my attention and my affection, Lord God. Incline my heart to You and You alone, to serve and obey.

“Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.”                                                                                                                -Frances Havergal (1874)

Asking Boldly

“You do not have, because you do not ask.” James 4:2

There is always a tension in making a request, raising money, or striking a deal, over the right amount. After an agreement is sealed, we can wonder, “Did I ask enough? Would they have given/done more? Could I have paid less?” With Jesus, it’s always better and more. A limited view of Him, usually blurred by human supposing and practicality, maybe by unworthiness and weak faith, limits yield and expectation in our asking. The key is to focus on the Giver.

When the young King Solomon asked God for wisdom to rule, God lavished on him riches, honor, and long life also. When the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon bearing extravagant gifts, she was overcome. “When she had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her. And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon.” (1 Kings 3; 10:4-5,13) She learned you can’t out-give a King.

Hands up! Girl at Singapore Botanical Gardens

When the lame-from-birth beggar in Acts 3 sees Peter and John, he asks for alms, and is stunned by their generous reply. Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” He never expected this!

Bountiful God, You supply generously according to your riches in Christ Jesus. Your thoughts and ways are higher than mine. When I have need, give me boldness to ask according to all You have and are, for I know You delight to answer. To You who are able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to You be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:19; James 1:5; Isaiah 55:8-9; Ephesians 3:20-21)

 

Am I Not Allowed?

Jesus tells a parable of laborers in a vineyard, who’ve been hired for the day, and incrementally throughout the day, by the Master. And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled  at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’” (Matthew 20:8-15)

Albemarle Estate vineyard, Charlottesville

How insidious is comparison! How unsettling and distorting is horizontal thinking! Even a repentant, restored Peter, after Jesus’s resurrection, falls prey to the tentacles of comparison, and Jesus’s puts a stop to it with, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22)

It is certain we will not understand all our Lord’s methods and reasons, but the more we seek Him and His character, how He works sovereignly in the lives of men, the greater our confidence will be in His purposes. Some He raises up, some He brings low. Some prosper, some suffer. Throughout the Scriptures He upends the supposing of men by exercising His authority over events and people, accomplishing every good plan. He does invite our questions, but sometimes answers them not by explaining His ways but by inviting our trust.

Lord, You own all–things, resources, time past, present and future– and have the right to do as You please. Cause me to delight in that, and in You.

Old and Vital

When asked what he loved most about his many years of ministry, Billy Graham replied, “It has been my fellowship with Jesus. To sense His presence, to glean His wisdom, to have Him guide and direct me—that has been my greatest joy.” I think Joshua might have said the same.

In Joshua 23, the humble assistant to Moses and mighty warrior-leader of Israel announces,I am now old and well advanced in years,” then stirs Israel’s leaders with his memorable final speech. He mentions not his courageous leadership, nor his close affiliation with the famous Moses; he takes no glory for achievements or victories. His spirit and his speech are vital because as he is cloaked in and captivated by the Lord his God, they are energized by the same. His life was lived in surrendered obedience, and he never retired; Joshua’s legacy to his nation was the LORD Himself. 

Joshua exalts God, reminding Israel of His great power and fidelity to His word. For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.  One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have been fulfilled for you.” He energizes their allegiance to Him alone, warning against turning from God’s law to the allure of the gods or people of their new land. “If you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.” He urges care in complete devotion, love, dependence, and obedience, and reminds them of the blessings that accompany an undivided heart. 

“Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” May I continually bear fruit, ever full of sap and green,” my life so bundled up in You that my work and words to my last breath point others to You, good and faithful King of kings. You are the only One worthy to be worshiped and obeyed. (Psalm 92:14; 71:18)