Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #17

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Prayer of Simple Trust (A Paraphrase of Psalm 131)

My prayer today, Lord, is a simple one. I just want to tell You that I’m trusting You. I’m turning my thoughts away from myself—those foolishly high and lofty wonderings of my mind. So much focus on self has got to go. I’m putting away those imaginings that I can impact the world with my beauty, brains, and brawn. Others seem to inhabit that realm where power and prestige are Goal One, but I’ve left all that.

What is in my power is only this: I settle my soul in Your love and faithfulness. In those rare, quiet moments when I’m really honest with myself—when all those false grand notions of my identity and importance are put away—I feel a stillness and quietness knowing You are here with me. Never leave me!

When I realize that everything I am and have and do is bound up with You I feel a deep, comforting peace. I’m like a weaned child with her mother. I do not demand to accomplish great things, go far places, or experience all that this world advertises. Just being with You exceeds all that.

Your presence fills and satisfies me like nothing else. I know all who put their hope in You find the same sense of rest. Help me remember, Lord, that this is the goal of faith: simple, soul-deep trust in You.

(Illustration Credit: [[File:Léon Perrault, 1894 – Mother with Child.jpg|thumb|Léon Perrault, 1894 – Mother with Child]])

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Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #10

Prayer Acknowledging God’s Help (Paraphrasing Psalm 124)

Without You, God, without Your faithful, loving and all-powerful help, I would have been swallowed up alive by the enemy; the subtle attacks of the spirit of this age, the insinuation of the evil one—enemy of my soul—and my own foolish whims and rebellious plans would have engulfed me. Like a great and hungry wave they would have crashed over my head and drawn me into their deep watery grave, senseless, faithless, hopeless.

But You were there for me; You were and are and will be ever near, protecting my soul for Your eternal kingdom.

Somehow I sensed Your presence, believed what You said about me, and came to You for forgiveness. And what did I receive? Love—Your soul deep, ever-present, faithful compassion, calling me Your dear child.

Like a bird released from the fowler’s snare, I have escaped the deception and self-destruction I see all around me. I am breathless thinking about my narrow escape. May I never forget that my help is in Your Great Name, Jesus, O Maker of heaven and earth.

Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 18

On Becoming Great.

“Unless you change…” began the speaker in ‘TEDx’ style, “you will never enter…” He had caught his listeners’ attention. The murmuring had stopped and mouths had gone dry. The group had been discussing strategies for becoming uniquely, individually great. How could they achieve not only their personal best, they debated, but actually rise to the top, stand on the pinnacle of the new dominion, become the greatest?

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus bluntly pointed out, as recorded in Matthew chapter 18. In other words, continue clawing and grasping for power and you won’t even be a part of My kingdom, never mind great in it. His followers’ position in the kingdom of heaven was not at stake—their entrance was.

Looking into the stunned faces of His followers, I’m sure Jesus felt compassion for them in their stumbling progress; it was only human nature for them to follow the promptings of pride, the psyche of superiority, the inclination to put oneself first. They really had no idea what He meant by saying they must become like little children. He would have to spell it out more clearly.

“Whoever humbles himself like this child,” He explained, drawing a toddler toward Him, “is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Humbles himself. It wasn’t a new idea. His followers had been versed in the Law and the Prophets since their own childhood. They had memorized the prophet Micah’s instruction to, “act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Surely the prophet had not meant the humiliation of childishness, though, had he?

“And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me,” Jesus continued. “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

It was going from bad to worse. First, they would have no part in His kingdom. Now, they were good for nothing but Davey Jones’ locker. What did it all mean?

Jesus was saying that simple faith in God is not just best practice; it is only practice in God’s kingdom. Unless a person humbles and entrusts herself or himself unreservedly to God’s plans, as a child would her father, there is no spiritual heart beating beneath the physical exterior.

“BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS:” begins a telegram sent to the Walker children by their father in the 1930s fictional series, Swallows and Amazons. “IF NOT DUFFERS WON”T DROWN.” In other words, if you act with pride and its consequent foolishness, you really deserve the consequences of which you find yourself victim.

Pride says, “I’m in charge of me”, “it’s my life; I’ll do with it as I please”, and makes other similar claims. In contrast, childlike humility toward God says, “You are in charge of me”, “I will follow Your lead”, and the person lives by that premise. The two attitudes are worlds apart. In fact, Jesus is saying that we all have a natural bent toward the former attitude: we don’t want to be like children, having to trust another for the good times we envision our lives ought to contain. When we come of age, our tendency is to slough off the mantle of childlike faith we once had that believed in a good and loving Creator. Remember those days?

Jesus is giving a warning: Eternity with God, believe it or not, is real. Take it or leave it, but we had better not imagine we can make up the rules. We cannot experience true greatness without first submitting ourselves to the process that changes great duffers into child-hearted believers. It is a process. Child-hearts occasionally revert to duffer-blundering galoots. The great thing is to say to Jesus, “I’m sorry”, and “make me like You.”—true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. That is Christ-like greatness.

And the great thing is that God is a Father unlike any other. He enfolds past-duffers into His great family in an embrace that turns them into children that reflect their Father’s greatness more than ever before. Let’s leave the life of a duffer behind. Together let’s become children on the journey that takes us great places.

(Photo Credit: By USAID – USAID, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10485032; CC BY-SA 3.0; 862878;By en:User:Steevven1 – URL: http://www.keysphotography.com/photopages/2007-03-04.php, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1746173)

Who Are You, Really? (Part 1)

 

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 The Child in You.

Sooner or later we all must face our identity. Simplistically speaking, identity describes who we are, but if we delve a little deeper we may discover that identity actually controls and governs how we think, speak and even act. When identity is manipulated or twisted by outside forces, individuals suffer great angst and confusion.

The era of the residential schools in Canada for first nation children illustrates the phenomenon. Instituted in order to aid the assimilation and integration of aboriginal culture into the growing Euro-Canadian dominating culture, residential schools were an identity experiment. The Canadian government was hoping that education would make future generations of aboriginal youth think like Euro-Canadians, become economically self-sufficient, and weigh less of a burden on the public purse. The experiment proved to be a dismal failure. Disruption of the family and lack of cultural anchoring left individuals deeply wounded. Recent governmental compensation for survivors of the residential schools experiment raises awareness of the complex nature of identity.

The Apostle Peter seems to be intrigued by identity. Perhaps his interest was first piqued when the extraordinary man named Jesus, whom he had come to follow, changed his name from ‘Simon’ (hears/listens) to ‘Peter’ (little stone). As a result of embracing this new identity, Peter began to recognize references to Christ in ancient prophecies where Christ is called the ‘stone’ (lithos), ‘cornerstone’ (gonia + kephale) and ‘massive rock’ (petra) (Isaiah 28:16; 8:14). Peter was beginning to see his identity in terms of following the Rock of Ages incarnated before him.

Thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter used a letter we call ‘First Peter’ to write to people scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Much of what he describes is about identity. In portions of the first and second chapter he will observe four elements of identity followers of Christ begin to develop as they become more ‘Christ-like’. Peter begins by calling followers of Christ to think of themselves as children.

“As obedient children,” Peter explains, “do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

True followers of Christ have been given a fresh start in God’s eyes, called the “new birth”; they are to be “obedient children” in relationship to this Heavenly Father with whom they are now connected by family ties. In fact, they are called to exercise their new God-given ability to be “holy”, pictured in the fresh innocence of a newborn infant. Peter instructs, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” Pure spiritual milk is the truth of God found in the Scriptures that feeds our souls and helps us mature into Christlike children of God.

Unlike external identities imposed on us by the agendas of culture around us, the identity of child of God is internal and integral to our being. It is what we were created by God to be. It not only defines who we are, it establishes whose we are. We belong to a loving, compassionate Father who has gifted us with an amazing inheritance: His own godly characteristics implanted within us. It is His nature in us that allows us to develop faith in Him, goodness from Him, knowledge of Him, self-control by Him, perseverance through Him, godliness like Him, brotherly kindness to those created by Him, and love for Him.

There is no angst or confusion in this identity. There is no moral law that is broken by this identity. To be God’s child is the beginning of an eternity of growth and development, of usefulness and challenge, of knowing we are the beloved of the Father. Join with me in thanking the Father that we can leave all other identities behind when we become children again—children of God.

(Photo Credit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/vatobob/)