Ponder Cast #11 “Complacent or Obedient?”

All great soul-winners have been men of much and mighty prayer, and all great revivals have been preceded and carried out by persevering, prevailing knee-work in the closet.
-Samuel Logan Brengle

Listen to today’s Ponder Cast here:  Ponder Cast #11

“Finding Refuge”

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.  “Selah” -Psalm 46:1-3

How are you today?
Do you feel beat up, crushed, broken and worn out?
How is your spirit?
Are you running on empty today?

There is much in the world that never seems to turn out right.
There is so much pain and suffering in our world!
Sometimes I feel as if this world is hopeless and that evil has won.
Sometimes I turn on the tv and hear news stories or genocides, terror, natural disasters, political tensions and it all just seems to inundate our lives.  Is this all that we are?  With all of our progressive science and medicines and technologies we still see death, famine, disease and death.

Some would say that this is just life, they way it has always been.
I’m not happy with that simplistic answer.   It seems too apathetic to me, too jaded.
Innocent die every day in every corner of the world, and we could compartmentalize this and say, “well at least it’s OVER THERE, and not here…”  Really?  Are we not all human?  Are we not all connected to the very fabric of what makes us live on this earth?  I don’t presume to have the answers to the sickness of our world, but I do know that there is refuge.  I do know that there is hope.  I do know that we can must rise above this existence!

Finding the Strength to overcome? 
It comes from God – “God is our refuge AND strength...” (Psalm 46:1)
Is God something evident in our lives today?
Are we relying on His strength?
Is He accessible to you?
Do you call out to Him in your desire to find refuge from your problems, sickness and fears?

He is our ever-present help in times of trouble! (Psalm 46:1)
When we recognize Him for who He is, we can find the strength and courage to overcome.
When we seek out His refuge in our lives, it makes all the difference in the world.
In fact the writer of this particular Psalm states that even if the earth gives way and everything crumbles before us we don’t have to fear.  Why?  Because God is near.  God will be our strength.  God will be our refuges. The creator of the very earth that is crumbling before our feet is there to offer His help to us.

I don’t know what is going on in your life today, but I do know that there is a mighty God who wants to be included in it!  He wants to be your guide, your refuge, and your strength!  If you’re seeking refuge the deluge of life today, look no further…because God is there!

Prayer:
Dear Lord, please help me in my day to day, moment by moment.  Help me with the problems that I am facing today.  You know my situations and I am seeking refuge in your loving arms!  Grant me peace, allow me to feel your strength and guidance just now.  In your Holy name I pray these things.  -Amen.

Something more to ponder today, He can and will be your refuge in your times of trouble…do you trust Him?
God bless!

Does God Really Answer Our Prayers?

This is a question many people face, both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Does God really care about us?
Does God really listen to us?
Does God really answer our prayers?

Facts: 
-Abraham was told by God that he would be the father of many, many children (a nation in fact).
The way God went about fulfilling this promise wasn’t exactly what Abraham expected.

-David was anointed as King of Israel well before he actually was crowned and while there was a living king in the kingdom…not exactly the way David or anyone expected.

– Jesus taught His disciples in a manner that was unique from other Rabbis.  He preached a message of peace in the midst of Roman oppression.  Many “Messiah’s” came before Him, but they preached hatred, war and revolution.  Jesus told the disciples and others, “If your enemy forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:41,44b)
The way Jesus went about fulfilling prophecy and His message of Messiah was not what anyone expected.

Back to Prayer…
So does God really answer our prayers?
The answer is “Yes”…but many times He doesn’t always answer in the ways that we expect or in the timing that we sometimes demand of Him.

We sometimes blame God when things do not go according to plan.
We sometimes get angry at God when sorrow and death visits our families.
We sometimes fear He isn’t even there listening to us…but He is!

He may not always answer our prayers in the way that we expect Him to, but He isn’t far from us and He isn’t ignoring us…He hears and He answers!

photoSomething more for us to ponder today!
HE ANSWERS US, JUST NOT ALWAYS IN THE WAYS THAT WE EXPECT HIM TO.

Come All Who Are Weary And Burdened…

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…”  Matthew 11:27-29

As a pastor I find these word of Jesus to be both refreshing and comforting.
We all face times in our lives when we feel anything but comforted and rested.  This passage isn’t really about physical rest though is it?  Jesus says that if we learn from Him we will find rest for our souls.

Questions:
“Say is your soul weary?”
Are you dealing with trouble far too heavy for you to care for on your own?
Is your soul, the very fiber of your being, worn out, discouraged, defeated, burned out?
Are you tired of doing it your way only to find another dead end?

If any of these questions resound in you today then perhaps it’s time to let go of the strangle hold that you have on your life and allow God to help you.  It isn’t about losing control of your identity, it is about gaining a deeper, richer identity in Christ.  Our paths lead to temporal successes and failures, God’s path leads us to eternal successes and victories.

Are you in need of rest for your soul?
Are you in need of some soul-care?
His path is not easy, but we will find comfort and peace in knowing that He is with us each step of the way.

TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.

Something more to ponder today…have you allowed God’s Yoke to be placed upon you?  His rest and peace for the soul is beyond measure!  Ponder that!

Devotional Pondering – A Hard Truth: His will isn’t always our will!

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“May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven-Matthew 6:10

Many times, if we’re honest, our prayers contain a very personal aspect – our will.  There are certain things that we pray for that we want to happen, outcomes and accomplishments, dreams and aspirations.  Often times we want God to answer our prayers in the manner that suits us.  Sometimes He answers the way that “we hope” He would answer, while other times His answer isn’t what we expected.  

When we submit ourselves to Him, we are making a conscious attempt of complete surrender – come what may.  Jesus taught His disciples how to pray.  We call it “the Lord’s prayer”, and yet we should understand that Jesus was modeling how prayer should be.  Sure the words are important but so is the attitude in which we say those words.  The Lord’s prayer isn’t a “magic” saying either, it is not the only way to pray, but it models for us the type of prayers that should leave our lips and hearts.  

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The Danger
Taking our will out of our prayers might cause us some anxiety.  Our will is sometimes (in my case very, very, very) stubborn.  Our will is probably the last ounce of our old selves that remains within the face of complete surrender.  The will of God, however, can be dangerous to our personal dreams and aspirations because He might call us elsewhere…but...if we chose to accept His will over ours, He provides us with something far better than we could have ever hoped and dreamed of.

We serve a dangerous God.  
That doesn’t mean that He sets out to cause us pain or discomfort, but God calls us and prompts us to this attitude of complete surrender.  Faith is blind sometimes.  When we utter the words “Your Will be done” we have released our self-chosen pathways, our wants and our often selfish wishlists in life, which we have clutched tight-fisted and unwavering in resolve.  His will is not always our will, but can we face a simple truth that releases us to see this dangerous God?  That truth – He knows better than we do.  He can and will guide us.  He wants to lead us.  He is prepared to help us on this journey of Holiness, but we must utter those four, sometimes frightening, words – YOUR.  WILL.  BE.  DONE.

Confessions:
I still struggle with those words…do you? 

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Sometimes I find myself fighting against His will.  I think that I know better and so I pray my will into things, people and aspirations once again.  I take back that which I had surrendered to Him.  I take back my trust in His leading.  I take back my faith and choose my will over His..do you find yourself here as well?  I believe God wants us to honestly inventory our lives.  I believe He desires an honest relationship with us and we must actively decide whether or not those four words are true of us.  Are they true of you today? 

 

-Prayer: Dear Lord, I confess that I have not always prayed and surrendered to Your will.  Forgive me when I have taken You for granted and that of Your love.  Teach me to trust you more deeply.  Show me how I can live within Your will more fully.  I know that You long for a deeper relationship with me, guide me, break me, melt me, mold me again.  -Amen.

 

Devotional Pondering: Death, Lions, Stinky Dark Pits & Prayer.

Don’t mess with nature.”  This phrase is so true.  Many people have gone out into nature, whether on the plains of the Serengeti or in the vast expanse of the ocean or else where, without respect for the elements and the wildness of nature and have paid for it.  Nature is wild.  Nature is fierce.  Nature is hungry.  

…so are lions. 

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We all know the story of “Daniel and the Lion’s den’.  We’ve heard it in Sunday School or at a Vacation Bible School some where (maybe long ago) in our childhood.  I want to re-examine that story today.  I’ve been pondering something in my heart, and I feel the Lord has led me to this passage once more.  

The narrative is found in Daniel chapter 6.  Perhaps you would like to take some time and read it again for yourself.  

Here’s the context: Daniel (a prophet and servant of God) is an official in the Persian empire under King Darius.  In those days Kings of Persia were considered gods.  No one would dare defy an edict of the king, for to do so would mean that they defied the very gods the Persians worshiped.  

But…Daniel served God, the only God, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.  Despite the tricks of others who had been appointed to serve under the king to trap Daniel, Daniel never wavered or faltered.  Daniel chapter six describes what kind of man Daniel was –

10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

Did you catch that?  
Despite outward pressure to conform, Daniel did what he always did – He prayed.  He went upstairs, faced Jerusalem and prayed to God.  

How Serious Is Prayer to Us? 

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Daniel, despite a death sentence, continued to talk to his heavenly Father.  Our conversations with God ought to be like breathing to us.  It is vital.  It is imperative.  It connects us to the only certain, consistent, true power in the universe.  God loves it when we talk to Him.  In fact in the very beginning of time scripture records that He would physically come down and walk with Adam and Eve in the evenings…He wants to fellowship with us.  Prayer connects us to His fellowship and His love.  Prayer is serious business.  It ought not be taken lightly.  God doesn’t need a lot of “religious jargon” or flowery words to accompany our prayers.  They can be simple.  They should be honest.  They should be sincere.  Our prayers to Him are not prayers to a Genie in a bottle, or a litany of wish lists that we want from God.  He wants us to share with Him our lives, our concerns – both the large and small concerns…even the lions prowling around us ready to consume us.  

What are your Lions?

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Daniel was thrown into a dark, smelly pit that contained wild, blood thirsty lions.  He was all alone in that frightening situation.  All around him, in the inky darkness, prowled a fierce predator of nature.  Scripture doesn’t record Daniel screaming for his life.  The bible doesn’t record Daniel confessing his regret for defying King Darius’ edict – no!  Daniel was thrown into a pit of lions (a death sentence) and despite all odds, he continued to pray to God.  

What kind of lions are you facing today in your life?  What kind of pressures are you under?  Many within our world want Christians to buckle under these pressures, the father of lies Satan himself would love nothing more than for people of God to disobey and turn away from God.  The easy path in the midst of our lions is to conform to the world around us.  The easy path is to look, dress and act like everyone else around us…to fit in, to party it up, to do whatever pleases us.  But if we do, we will be consumed by the lions and we will be lost.  

That night, in the blood thirsty lion pit, a miracle happened.  God closed the mouths of the lions because a faithful servant of His needed saving.   

My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”  The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” -Daniel 6:22-23

Whatever lions you may be facing right now in your life, God says to us – “have faith in Me and have no fear!”  
1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”  
Are you facing wild, fierce pressures around you today?  Be bold, be strong and stand firm!  God will always be with you!

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me today to face my lions.  Forgive me when I have wavered and have given into the pressures of the world. Strength and equip me for today and help me to be Your faithful servant despite the prowling lions and looming pressures.  I long to be Yours and Yours alone!  -Amen.  

Something else to ponder today!  

Devotional Thought – “Lord Humble me, and Cleanse me”

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Create in me a clean heart, O God” Psalm 51:10

This is a psalm of David.  He wrote these words after his sins were found out and the prophet Nathan had confronted him.  When someone else knows about your sin, let alone God, the devastation can be total.  David doesn’t try to go “on the record” and defend his actions.  He doesn’t move away or run from his mistakes.  He confronts his sins.  He was a murderer, a liar and an adulterer.  He had been caught, found out, and left wanting.  Yet, David returned to the only place one can return to when humbled by crippling sin – God.  Scripture records this sinner to be “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) but what made David fulfill this kind of criteria in life?  How can we also be men and women after God’s own heart?  

Humility

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It should be noted that David was identified as such a man before his downfall; but this psalm and his actions following his downfall should also give us a clue into His humble character.  David was a shepherd as a young person.  He worked a lowly job which, at times, was considered one of the dirtiest and most undesirable jobs.  While working as a shepherd he wrote songs of praise to his God.  He understood where his joy came from and also his blessings.  

Following His downfall into sin, his reaction to being caught was not one of indignation but rather humility and grief.  He had broken God’s heart, and David pens these words of regret, remorse and was in search of God’s forgiveness.  Right relationship with His Salvation was his desire.  Sure he had messed up royally (no pun intended), but he longed to recover that which had been tarnished and nearly destroyed.  Scripture records David tearing his cloak, putting on sack cloth and pouring ashes on his head.  This is a sign of grief and mourning but is also a very humbling picture for us to see of a king.  

How humble are we?  Do we recognize how in need of a Savior we are daily?  We are all far from perfect people.  We all struggle with sin and temptation.  Do we seek after God with great passion just as David did, or do we merely think about Him on Sundays or special holidays?  Our lives were given to us as a gift.  Each one of us comes with struggles and concerns, but we don’t have to carry them alone.  Connecting with The Father connects us with the Divine and unburdens us, but we must first become humble.

Psalm 51:10-12

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Prayer: 
Dear Lord, I confess my sins to you today.  Forgive me when I have stumbled along this path.  Help me to be who You have called me to be.  Restore me, renew me and cleanse me.  I long to be a person after Your own heart, show me how I ought to live.  Instruct me in Your ways, and walk beside me every moment of every day.  -Amen

Reasons why I dislike waiting on God…but…

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“Wait on the Lord…and He shall strengthen your heart.” (Psalm 27:14)

The Reasons I dislike waiting on God: 

1.  I am impatient. 

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I am not the most patient man.  My children know this.  I must temper this very often when things are not done now.  We live in a fast paced society, it is “fast-food” driven.  We even have slogans from these “fast-food” establishments that back that claim up like “have it your way”.  

When it comes to waiting on God I am not patient.  I often want Him to answer me now.  I want instant responses and yet I know He doesn’t work like that. 

2. Waiting on God reminds me of how powerless I truly am.
Besides impatience, this waiting reminds me that I live in a temporal body and ultimately I can do nothing in this body to save my self from some certainties in life.  Death, sickness (in some regards), Taxes, laws of our world.  I am powerless and yet I must wait with that knowledge in mind.  Perhaps you can relate to me when I say that I am stubborn…are you?  In my stubbornness I, at times, refuse to admit that I cannot do something.  I must do the impossible.  I must becomes Superman and superdad, and superpastor…but when I am forced to slow down; when I am forced to wait on God I am reminded of just how powerless I truly am.   

3.  Waiting on God humbles me…it’s a matter of pride.
I just mentioned how stubborn I can be.  To ask for help from God and then having to wait for an answer can be a serious blow to my pride.  I’m just putting it out there…I can admit that pride is sometimes often a bane of mine.  I am proud of what I can do.  Proud of what I can accomplish.   I am proud that I am self-sufficient…and then BAM, I am knocked to my knees again.  Circumstances sometimes do not go my way, things I had planned don’t pan out, and I am humbled by the outcome.  Can you relate?  I sure hope so. Please tell me I’m not alone in this human failing.  I dislike this waiting, at times, because it means I have much more to surrender in terms of my pride to God.  

BUT…

This isn’t a bad thing.  
When I have to discipline my children, it’s not because I hate them or want to harm them, it is because I love them deeply and I want them to grow and make better decisions next time.  

This is sometimes why I find God will at times take His time in answering me.  He wants me to make better decisions.  He wants me to depend more on Him.  He wants me to tear down the fortresses of pride that I have erected and are now keeping me from Him.  The waiting isn’t because He is withholding His love from me…no, the waiting is because He loves me so much He wants me to be willing to surrender completely.  I dislike it severely at times (honestly It’s sometimes a “hate” thing), yet I know He loves me so much that He will not forget me.  He will not forsake me. 

FOR YOU AND FOR ME:

Truth:  waiting sucks!  There I said it.  
But in the waiting on God the discipline of surrender and humility can further shape us.  In the waiting we can also learn to trust Him more.  In this waiting we can learn to love Him and discover how much He loves us.  

-Just another thing for us to ponder.  

A Prayer of Supplication (Poem)

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You are MY Hiding place!

Lord, teach me to number our days
inspire me to walk in your ways
help me to do what you say…

You are MY everything! 

In my pride, tear down my walls
help me to hear when you call
and prod me when I stall…

You are MY Fortress of strength!

Lord, cleanse my lips when I speak
grant me passion for the weak
may You be the source that I seek…

You are MY Salvation and Rock!

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