Praying With Gratitude

[In my January 1, 2015 post, I christened this the “Year of Learning” here on the blog. Each post, I’ll aim to share something recently discovered (or re-discovered) in the hope that you might add my learning to your own discoveries and make double-moves forward and upward this year!]

In her book “Jesus Calling“, Sarah Young shares these reflections on prayer as if being spoken by Jesus himself:

“When you bring me prayer requests, lay out your concerns before me. Speak to me candidly; pour out your heart. Then thank me for the answers that I have set into motion long before you can discern the results. When your requests come to mind again, continue to thank me for the answers that are on the way. If you keep on stating your concerns to me, you will live in a state of tension. When you thank me for how I am answering your prayers, your mindset becomes much more positive. Thankful prayers keep your focus on my presence and my promises.”

Man Holding Pray Word In PalmWhile I know the feeling of need that drives a person to voice prayer requests repeatedly, I believe that Sarah is onto something here, when she considers the way in which repetitious requesting impact our hearts.

She describes a feeling of tension. Within Scripture, Jesus advises us that a type of prayer is available to us – a type of prayer that looks considerably different than pagan prayers in which words and wishes are repeated tirelessly. He urges us to pray out of an assumption that our hearer is a thoroughly good Father, who is well aware of what we need but enjoys our asking all the same.

And this is why gratitude within prayer is so key. It rescues our tone from resembling a slave begging for favour from a stingy master, and it frees us to come as a deeply loved child comes to a kind father.

Gratitude helps us pray to the real God, out of who we really are before Him.

And that is something I need to learn over and over.

[On an aside, my 6-year-old determined what image I should use today. Count this as our first joint effort on the blog. :-)]

Thursday Thanks (66-70)

fiveEach week (I aim for Thursday), I’ll use this space to list five things (items, experiences, people, whatever) for which I’ve been recently grateful. Consider it my “blessings count”. Ann Voskamp’s famous challenge to list 1000 gifts seemed daunting — I’m committing to 500, a task which will take me two years of weekly posts to complete!

Here are the most recent entries on my list:

1) Countryside
A relative’s wedding yesterday pushed me to drive hours out of the city into the beautiful parts of our province. Lush fields, golden canola, quiet grids — the city has lots of perks, but these aren’t them.

2) Hugs
I have three sweet daughters and a beautiful wife. All four are exceptional huggers. Count this man as rich!

3) Skin
A week ago, I had a nasty blister that had left a very raw and open sore. A bit of care and a bit of time — it’s nearly healed. Skin astounds me!

4) Music
Our church ran its Vacation Bible School a week ago. In the aftermath, we borrowed the DVD that contained all the songs the kids learned. It is a special joy to watch my girls, right down to my two-year-old find pleasure in worship as they sing and move to those tunes.

5) Quiet
Worship this morning involved a darkened room and some hushed moments. I’m all for energy and celebration — and I want to be even more for them — but somehow the stripped-down hush holds a special sort of essence for this fellow.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Did any of this week’s list especially strike a chord with you?
  • What’s one thing you’re particularly grateful for this week?

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Can a Gum Commercial Make You Teary?

This one might.

Sunday Six-Pack (34)

Saturday escaped me, but the Six-Pack is rolling out before this weekend passes me by, all the same!

The best ministry-minded or faith-focused articles I could find this week? Here they are, with some grace space for a bit of who-knows-what.

If six options stuns you, start with my two *Picks of the Week*, and pick up steam from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Providential Accidents
Edward Fudge was writing about the doctrine of hell long before it became trendy. Here is an interview, with Scot McKnight, on his path and findings.

2) 42 Successful People Share the Best Advice They Ever Received
The Business Insider offers this pile of wisdom, much of which your mother may have shared with you back before you were paying attention.

3) Three Ways to Go Further, Faster (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Michael Hyatt offers the single most important move he’s made toward gaining on, and accomplishing, some of his life goals.

4) Why are Some Words More Persuasive than Others?
Lifehacker offers this piece on the psychology of language. Fascinating read for any communicator who cares about getting their point across as effectively or powerfully as possible.

5) The Most Overlooked Key to a Growing Church (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
In this short piece, Rick Warren reminds of a simple, easy-to-forget characteristic that should never be forgotten.

6) John Wesley’s Secret to Making Disciples
Gary Thompson‘s post shares the list of questions that used to guide Wesley’s “accountability groups” before the term even existed. Could this still work today to mature followers of Jesus?

Blessings on you, my friends.  May the week ahead be filled with God in ways that you can sense. Tune yourself in, and walk on!

YOUR TURN: Add a line below to direct other readers to the best stuff above or to highlight the piece that gave you something worth keeping.

Your input makes this post better!

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Abraham Would Wear a Cross

nonexpert_dance_waltzScripture displays a dance between the pronounced attributes of God. At least, it appears as a dance to our small eyes, capable of beholding only one thing at a time.

Straining to Step

God’s character is a primary example: He is just as only a Being of burning holiness can be, yet He is kind as only a Being of furious love can exhibit.  Our reach and rhythm find the steps of this dance greatly stretching. How can He be both?

While all of us discover God in real-time, the fact was even more pronounced for Abraham. No Scriptures to study, no preaching to process, he was discovering the substance of Yahweh solely as Yahweh revealed Himself.

The Sodom Study

On the outskirts of Sodom, a city reputed for its wickedness, God revealed to Abraham a side different from the kindness and guidance that had thus far characterized God’s tone. God’s holy justice had determined that Sodom’s time had arrived. The Consuming Fire was about to swallow an entire city.

Abraham proceeded to open negotiations with the Almighty, by “drawing near” and querying, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23)

Torah-3C-AbrahamHe wanted to know how God ticked. Was His sense of justice so tightly wound that it would override what Abraham considered to be reasonable, percentage-based standards of grace?

“Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?”

And on the auction went, with Abraham bowing out of the bidding once Yahweh had agreed that He would spare the entire city if He found ten righteous people.

The Twist

Abraham was concerned that God’s holy justice burned so hot that an innocent few might suffer alongside the guilty masses.  But Yahweh flips it over and reveals that He is actually so gracious toward His faithful ones that He will allow rampant sin to go unpunished.

Said another way, Abraham feared that God was a sniper so eager to pull the trigger that innocent victims would be struck down. God displays a shocking willingness to let evil have its day in exchange for the safety of His people.

Abraham Would Wear a Cross

wooden-cross-weatheredIf Abraham were alive today, he would wear a cross around his neck. He would have to. What other ornament can even begin to capture this concept, this intimate interaction of perfect justice tempered by lavish love?

Jesus’ disciples approached from the opposite road to Abraham; they were eager to see fireworks. Let Rome burn!  Smite the Samaritans!  Humble Herod!  Bring the biggest cup you have, and pour down the judgment.

And God obliges.

In fact, He brings a larger vessel of venom than they could have imagined. His view encompasses the collective evil of humanity back to Eden. Horror movies and nightmares could not compete with the content of that cup.

And He unloaded His appropriated anger, dropping it like an atom bomb on a cross-beamed and convicted criminal.  Then He dared to tell us that love was at the center of the carnage–grace at its gutsiest.  Oh to be sure, there would be justice, swift and sweeping. Every evil would be exorcised, and wailing would ensue.  But the entire execution of justice would serve as a stay of execution for the guilty.

Jesus paid it all.
All to him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.

No doubt in my mind, Abraham would have worn a cross.  And as he wore it, he would have marveled. He might have recalled the most grievous days of his life, as he walked his son Isaac toward Mount Moriah. Willing to display his faithfulness to a God who appeared to making nonsensical requests, Abraham was pushed to the brink before a bleating broke the tension.

“God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Father had declared that to son. If Abraham were with us today, wearing that cross, he would stroke it as a treasure from another universe. And he would marvel at the prophetic nature of his Moriah-message.

Had Abraham’s sacrifice been carried out, it would have displayed his allegiance to an unseen Deity. But God’s son-sacrifice has been carried out, as an exhibition of His allegiance to people who lack all ability to dance with Him.

 

 

Worst Valentine’s Day Gifts Ever

My wife and I were low-key in our Valentine’s Day this year. Every woman in this video now dreams of “low key”.

It’s one thing for Jimmy Kimmel to come up with a dumb idea–that’s a regular occurrence. It’s another to see how many men stepped up to the plate.

Loved Ones Love Well

Throughout the month of Advent, posts here have drawn from pieces submitted to the Glen Elm Church of Christ Advent Blog.  They have covered the four traditional themes of the season: Hope, Peace, Joy, and now Love.

In speaking of love, Scripture’s call to Christ’s followers is clear:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

The One who is love (1 John 4:16) tells the ones who are His, to mimic His ways. Revealed in Scripture as “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in unfailing love”, this call to imitation is no light invitation.

How on earth could any of us live it out?

It is not that love is completely foreign to us. The vast majority of parents love their children without any nudging. Friends care for each other. Spouses cherish one another. The entire human race is said to bear the image of God, so it is hardly shocking that some “love genes” got passed from Father to children.

What is shocking though is how quickly love mutates into something less than divine.  And it is ME that taints the mixture. I don’t even mean that I add something that ruins the recipe. I mean that I am the something that taints the recipe.

And you do the same.

Well-intentioned and seeking the good, we march into St. Paul’s call. We will be “imitators of God”; we will “live a life of love”. With all the power in us, we will pursue this most holy call.

And we fail miserably, injuring others and ourselves in the process.  Our noblest efforts are undercut by insecurities that we mask and independence that we magnify.  Our hearts may long to love well, but our hearts are fragmented at best.  And when did something fractured ever show sufficient strength to live up to its billing?

No, if we are to be imitators of the love-God, it will require more than the powered housed within us.

A re-reading of the fine print in Ephesians 5:1-2 may make all the difference:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

There is one prerequisite to following God’s love-call with any measure of faithfulness; it is non-negotiable. No other credits will transfer in.  It is not that God is a stickler for details; it is simply that we cannot run before we walk.

Ahead of being loving, you must be loved.

Prior to imitating God’s loving ways, you must have felt God’s loving ways.

The topic of embracing, by faith, the love of God, even as it embraces us, could be the subject of a thousand posts.  (Perhaps this will serve as the first.)  But the conversation started here today is simply an affirmation that Paul knew of what he spoke: You cannot give what you do not have.

And if you do not have, it is not because the Being known as Love is holding back.

If even a sliver of suspicion has awakened within you, that a touch of God’s love might change life as you know it, seek Him in as exposed and trusting posture as you can strike and speak with those around you who appear to be living as “dearly loved children”.

I mean, who could dish out higher quality love than those called God’s “dearly loved children”?!

YOUR TURN: What barriers have you experienced in “moving into” the love of God? What advice would you offer someone who was seeking to feel more like a “dearly loved child”?  Your input makes this post better!

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