Saturday, December 19, 2009

Steams In The Desert for December 18th

Personal Note To Begin: It has been a hard week. Scratch that. It's been a hard few months. There is lots that I could be complaining about and I am sad to say that I have whined, complained and questioned God. But throughout it all, God has been gracious. Throughout it all, no matter what my circumstances, God must be praised! Yesterday as I was incredibly discouraged and preparing for yet another exhausting, tiring medical test I grabbed my beloved copy of Streams in the Desert to find the following words. Hope that they bring refreshment to your soul as they did to mine.

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37

The gospel and the gift of God are structured so wonderfully that the very enemies and forces that are marshaled to fight against us actually help pave our way to the very gates of heaven and into the presence of God. Those forces can be used in the same way an eagle uses the fierce winds of a storm to soar to the sky. At first he sits perfectly still, high on a cliff, watching the sky as it fills with darkness and as the lightning strikes all around him. Yet he never moves until he feels the burst of the storm, and then with a screech he dives toward the winds, using them to carry him even higher.

This is also what God desires of each of His children. He wants us to be "more than conquerors," turning storm clouds into chariots of victory. It is obvious when an army becomes "more than conquerors," for it drives its enemies from the battlefield and confiscates their food and supplies. This is exactly what this Scripture passage means. There are spoils to be taken!

Dear believer, after experiencing the terrible valley of suffering, did you depart with the spoils? When you were struck with an injury and you thought you had lost everything, did you trust in God to the point that you came out richer than you were before? Being "more than [a] conqueror" means taking the spoils from the enemy and appropriating them for yourself. What your enemy had planed to use for your defeat, you can confiscate for your own use.

When Dr. Moon, of Brighton, England, was suddenly struck with blindness, he said, "Lord, I accept this 'talent' of blindness from You. Help me to use it for Your glory so that when You return, You may receive it 'back with interest' [Matt. 25:27]." Then God enabled him to invent the Moon Alphabet for the blind, through which thousands of blind people were enabled to read the Word of God and thereby come to the glorious saving knowledge of Christ. selected

God did not remove Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor. 12:7 KJV). The Lord did something much better - He conquered it and made it Paul's servant. The ministry of thorns has often been a greater ministry to humankind than the ministry of thrones. selected

Thursday, December 17, 2009

All Is Well

Are you ever haunted by lyrics? These are my haunting lyrics for today.

All is well all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love's light
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia
All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Lift up your voices and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well

All is well. I have been pondering those words. The emphasis could truly be on any word and bring incredible significance. ALL is well. all IS well. all is WELL.

It's true. All is well. Because of a baby born long ago, all is well. "All" is not perfect. Life still hurts. But all is well. Despite circumstances, God has been good and gracious and I know that He will be in the future as well. It is through Jesus alone that we may sing, "It is well with my soul!"

All is well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Streams In The Desert for December 16th

"There was also a prophetess, Anna...she never left the temple, but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying." (Luke 2:36-37)

"There is no doubt that it is by praying that we learn to pray, and that the more we pray, the better our prayers will be. People who pray in spurts are never likely to attain to the kind of prayer described in the Scriptures as "powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

Great power in prayer is within our reach, but we must work to obtain it. We should never even imagine that Abraham could have interceded so successfully for Sodom if he had not communed with God throughout the previous years of his life. Jacob's entire night of wrestling at Peniel was certainly not the first encounter he had with his God. And we can even look at our Lord's most beautiful and wonderful prayer in John 17, before His suffering and death, as the fruit of His many nights of devotion, and of His rising often before daybreak to pray.

If a person believes he can become powerful in prayer without making a commitment to it, he is living under a great delusion. The prayer of Elijah, which stopped the rain for heaven and later opened heaven's floodgates, was only one example of a long series of his mighty pleadings with God. Oh, if only we Christians would remember that perseverance in prayer is necessary for it to be effective and victorious!

The great intercessors, who are seldom mentioned in connection with the heros and martyrs of the faith, were nevertheless the greatest benefactors of the church. Yet their becoming the channels of the blessings of mercy to others was only made possible by their abiding at the mercy seat of God.

Remember, we must pray to pray, and continue in prayer so our prayers may continue."

-Charles H. Spurgeon

Sunday, December 13, 2009

prayer is not a formula

Sitting in front of a smoldering fire in my family room I am reminded that prayer is not a formula.

This semester I have been pouring over I Samuel chapter 1 where it records the story of Hannah, absolutely frantic for a son. Hannah is one of two wives to Elkanah (v. 2). Although she is barren (by the Lord's doing), her husband dearly loved her (v. 5). The Bible makes in clear that it was God who closed Hannah's womb (v. 5, 6), although her rival (Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah) had children. Year by year, as the family would go up the house of the Lord, at Shiloh (v. 3), Hannah would weep and refuse to eat (v. 7) because Peninnah made her life miserable.

One year, Hannah went alone to the temple in "bitterness of soul" (v. 10). Eli, the priest, was there watching this take place (v. 9). She "prayed to the LORD and wept in anguish" (v. 10). Her vow is found in verse 11, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head." Hannah continued praying before the Lord silently; she "spoke in her heart" (v. 13). Watching all of this transpire, Eli thought that she was drunk (v. 15). Sad, isn't it, that the priest was more accustom to seeing people drunk outside the temple than recognizing true desperation for God? Eli chides her for being drunk, but Hannah replies that she hasn't been drinking! Rather, she was "a woman of sorrowful spirit" having "poured out [her] heart before the Lord" (v. 14-15). This is similar language to Psalm 62:8, "Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah." Hannah says that before this time she had spoken "out of the abundance of her complaint and grief" (v. 16).

The language here is simple, but the grief that Hannah felt must have been truly heart-wrenching. She uses the word "affliction" showing how this issue was affecting her life; it was the "thorn in her flesh". In Old Testament culture, having children was an important part of a woman's life. On top of that, Hannah clearly had the desire to raise godly children and give them back to the Lord. Her motives were pure. Her desire for children was God-given. Yet, God hadn't answered her pleas. Have you ever pleaded desperately with the Lord for something? A legitimate need? A God-given desire?

Eli responds, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have asked of Him" (v. 17). Personal interjection here: a dear friend has been studying this passage with me and she keeps saying, "Don't you wish you had an Eli who could tell you that the Lord would grant your petition?"

Hannah, who has been weeping over this issue for years, gets up, goes on her way and eats (v. 19). Her countenance changes as well (v. 19). The next morning, the family rose early and worshiped before the Lord (v. 20). This, I believe, shows that Hannah pleaded and petitioned the Lord, but then she left it there at the alter of the Lord. After years of grieving over this issue, she is able to get up, go on her way, eat, no longer be sad and worship. She trusts that the Lord has heard her petition and that He can be trusted with it. In essence, her actions show the attitude of her heart, that she has given the issue to God and is leaving it there for Him to deal with.

Hannah bears a son.

Jump forward a book to II Samuel 12:16-23. David has committed adultery with Bathsheba and out of the adulterous relationship, a son is born. Just as the Lord (in I Samuel) closes Hannah's womb, here in II Samuel the Lord strikes David's child with illness (v. 15). David pleads with the Lord (v. 16). He fasts (v. 16). He is contrite on the floor (v. 16). He refused to be comforted (v. 17).

David's son died.

Once David receives the news, one would expect him to sink into a deep depression. Rather, he gets up off the ground, he washes and changes clothes, ate, and went into the house of the LORD and worshiped (v. 20).

Clearly two separate situations. Each has its own oscillating variables, which cannot be ignored. However the formula is similar. Sincere prayer. Heartfelt weeping. Refusal of food. Sacrificial worship. Purposeful surrender. Absolute desperation for God to work.

The same "formula" is found in both passages. God responds differently in each situation. In one He gives a child, in the other He takes a child. YET... Hannah and David respond similarly. Their actions show that God can be trusted as they completely and totally give the matter to Him and leave it there! Once their request has been laid out before the Lord, they arise from their weeping and continue with life.

Oh Lord, may I be as faithful to fully lay my requests before You and leave them there, knowing that You can be trusted with all aspects of my life including my deepest desires and needs. May I then continue life, living in full assurance that Your way is truly best.
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