TWICE A DAY ISN’T ENOUGH!

Peacocks - albinoThey [the Levites] are to stand every morning and evening to thank and praise the Lord. [1 Chronicles 23:30 (NLV)]

Several years ago, when my daughter and grand visited, we had a fun-filled day with excursions to both the botanic gardens and a private animal preserve. When offering grace over dinner, we thanked God for our meal and the many plants and animals we’d seen that day. Later that evening, I realized it wasn’t just the abundance and beauty of God’s creation for which I was thankful. I was grateful for the look of amazement on my grand’s face while petting an iguana and feeding a zebra, for the volunteer workers who make places like botanic gardens and animal refuges possible and for the donors who fund their cause. I was thankful for the people who rescue mistreated and abandoned animals and the grocery stores that donate food to feed those animals. I was thankful for Legos and the talented artist who created the delightful Lego sculptures at the gardens, the GPS that led us to the remote refuge, seeing peacocks with their beautiful plumage, and our laughter as we played silly card games after dinner. As the list continued, I realized how incredibly blessed we were, not just that particular day, but every day. After all, every day with which we’re blessed becomes an extraordinary day! The Levites were required to give thanks at least twice a day but twice a day hardly seems enough.

Father, forgive us when we fail to properly thank you for the many blessings in our lives. A few words are never enough to express our appreciation for the way you make our ordinary days so very extraordinary.

Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it. [A. W. Tozer]

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O Most High. It is good to tell of Your loving-kindness in the morning, and of how faithful You are at night, with harps, and with music of praise. For You have made me glad by what You have done, O Lord. I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands. [Psalm 92:1-4 (NLV)]

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IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA

Fools think they are doing right, but the wise listen to advice. [Proverbs 12:15 (NCV)]

Grand Tetons - rubber rabbit brushAfter it was returned by the Philistines, the Ark of God had been neglected in Kiriath-jearim for twenty years. Fresh from victories over the Philistines, David decided to bring the Ark back to its rightful home in Jerusalem. It certainly seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, ignoring the law’s clear instructions that the Ark could only rest on poles and carried on the shoulders of Levites, David had it placed on a cart pulled by oxen. The oxen stumbled, the cart tipped, and Uzzah reached out to steady it. Under Hebrew law, touching the sacred Ark was a capital offense and Uzzah was immediately struck dead. The Ark should never have been on a cart and it was David’s disobedience and carelessness that caused the man’s death. Nevertheless, David’s reaction was to get mad at God.

How many times do we have what seems like a good idea that turns out bad? We try to do the right thing the wrong way and then get mad at God when things don’t turn out well. How many times have other people been hurt because of our haste, overconfidence, or ignorance? David had wisely consulted the Lord on military strategy against the Philistines. Yet, when it came to moving the sacred Ark, he consulted only his officials, the officers in his army, and the people. Was it pride at his military victories that keep David from consulting God about this endeavor? Remembering that our Father knows best, let’s learn from David’s mistake and seek God’s advice in all of our actions.

Lord, no matter how noble the goal, stop us when we barge on ahead without consulting you. Keep us from both reckless action and thoughtless inaction; show us how to act carefully and prudently. Remind us that easy answers are rarely as easy as we think them to be. Please don’t let our idea of a solution ever create a greater problem.

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. [Proverbs 16:3 (NCV)]

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GOD BLESS EVERYONE

CANADA GEESEYou have heard that it was said, “Love your friends, hate your enemies.” But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. [Matthew 5:43-45 (GNT)]

In “The Family Circus,” a comic written by Bil and Jeff Keane, little Billy is saying his prayers. “And bless Mommy and Daddy, Bless Dolly, Bless PJ, …um.” He pauses and asks his Dad, “Is it all right if I add a few ‘Don’t bless’ to my list?” Obviously, his little brother Jeffy (and perhaps others) irritated him that day.

Sometimes, it is difficult to ask blessings for certain people in our lives. Jesus, however, made it abundantly clear that we aren’t to pick and choose who to love or for whom we pray. That includes difficult bosses, irritating neighbors, bothersome in-laws, and even annoying little brothers. We may just find that after praying for those bothersome individuals they cease being so annoying. Their behavior may change or, more likely, our attitude toward them will. It’s not easy to remain angry or upset with someone when we’re asking God’s blessings upon them!

Heavenly Father, fill me with your love so I am as generous with mine as you are with yours.

Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect. [Matthew 5:46-48 (GNT)]

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ENTERTAIN ME

So my people come pretending to be sincere and sit before you. They listen to your words, but they have no intention of doing what you say. Their mouths are full of lustful words, and their hearts seek only after money. You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it! [Ezekiel 33:31-32 (NLT)]

maccaw - naples zooEzekiel proclaimed God’s message to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. As the Lord’s prophet, he was commissioned to deliver words of both judgment and hope. Some of the exiles recognized him as a prophet but more did not. Although they found Ezekiel’s message entertaining, they had no intention of putting his words into practice. There’s a lesson here for today’s churches: pews filled with people there only for the music, amusement, food, or activities mean nothing if God’s word is not planted in people’s hearts.

In an effort to fill their seats, many churches are moving toward a liturgy of entertainment and many church-goers are becoming more interested in show than substance. I’ve attended services featuring ice skaters, a fighting cage, a t-shirt cannon, ballerinas, a live camel, an angel flying on an aerial hoop, a dragon-like Satan, wide-screen TVs showing popular movie clips, and even the Blues Brothers. While those were memorable services, I wonder if the line between entertainment and witness is getting blurred. The purpose of worship is to please God, not us, and it’s more about offering ourselves to God than offering applause to the band, singers and pastors. Church is about being active worshipers and learners, not passive listeners and watchers. Liking the sermon is not as important as learning from it and changing because of it. Jesus was never boring and, while His parables are interesting, He definitely was not about entertainment when He walked the earth. If entertainment had been His goal, there would have been far more miracles and far less talk of things like discipleship, sacrifice, cross-carrying, self-denial, commitment, and separation from the world.

For churches to be trendy and entertaining, they must keep reinventing themselves with bigger and better gimmicks. While a certain amount of entertainment might get us into church, it is commitment, depth, and community that should keep us there. Let’s not confuse filled seats with saved souls! It is God who is the star attraction at church and a relationship with Him is why we attend worship services. A.W. Tozer cautions us not to be like discontented spoiled children who, instead of a piece of candy, must be wooed into God’s house with promises of amusement, refreshment, fun and games. God might capture our attention with the big things but, as Elijah learned, God isn’t in the whirlwind, earthquake, or inferno; He is found in the gentle whisper.

Worship is not about my enjoyment. It is about my enjoyment of God. It is not about my pleasure or my delight or my satisfaction. It is about my pleasure, delight, and satisfaction in God. Worship is not simply about glorifying God. It is about glorifying God by enjoying Him forever. [Sam Storms]

And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. [1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)]

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THE PINKY

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. [1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)]

turtlesWhen a child, I was taught to pray the “Five Fingers of Prayer”—thanks, praise, confession, intercession and petition—as a way of remembering that God came first, others next and me last. A local Christian preschool uses the “Five-Finger Prayer” approach. Often attributed to Pope Francis, it helps little ones remember all of their “God blesses.” When the hands are folded in prayer, the thumb is nearest and reminds the child to pray for the people who are closest to him: his family and BFFs. Next is the index finger—that pointing finger used by teachers everywhere. This finger reminds the child to pray for those who teach. Next is the middle finger, the tallest one, which reminds the child to pray for those in authority: the pastor, the president and other government officials. The fourth finger is the weakest one. With this finger the child remembers those who are helpless, in trouble, or suffering. Finally, the child gets to the pinky and prays for himself. That little finger reminds him of his smallness (and the smallness of his needs) in relation to God’s greatness and the needs of others.

While there are no hard and fast rules about prayer except to believe in it and do it, we are told to pray for all people and to share one another’s burdens. It is both a responsibility and a privilege to lift others’ needs to God in prayer. Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom, Job for his friends, Moses for the Israelites, the early church for the imprisoned Peter, Daniel for his captive nation, Paul for the readers of his letters, and Jesus for His disciples. No special commission or training is needed to become a prayer warrior. We all are called to intercede for others and we have four fingers that remind us to do it.

There is nothing wrong with praying for ourselves. In the Lord’s Prayer, we were taught to ask for our daily needs, forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from temptation. The Psalms are filled with pleas for God to intervene in the psalmists’ lives. Hannah, Jabez, David, Paul and even Jesus prayed for themselves. Praying for ourselves brings us into an intimate relationship with God and invites His blessings into our lives. The problem arises when we come to God just for those blessings and never intercede for others. We stop seeing the needs surrounding us, become self-centered, and risk turning God into Santa Claus! While there are five fingers on our hands, when it comes to prayer, only the pinky belongs to us!

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. [Ephesians 6:18 (NLT)]

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2 (NLT)]

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YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. [Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)]

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. [Psalm 20:4 (NLT)]

oxeye daisy
What is it your heart desires? A photo safari in Africa or a river boat cruise along the Rhine? A paid-off mortgage or an enormous IRA? A private chef, personal trainer, maid or someone to chauffer the kids to their assorted activities? To be free of physical ailments or pain? A better paying job, longer vacation, or nicer boss? Better behaved children, a more loving spouse, or an abundance of friends? Are these the things our hearts desire or do we really desire the things that will accompany them—things like love, security, joy, serenity, a sense of well-being and peace? When we commit everything to the Lord, we will have those things, even without the luxury items, vacations, ideal situations, money or even the health.

Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else. [Woodrow Kroll]

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. [Psalm 73:25 (NLT)]

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. [Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)]

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