Burdens

Getting right and staying right.

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Times Spent in Job

 

I go back to the Bible book of Job many times. Not because I have a morbid desire to examine suffering; rather because in it I find a most involved Lord who is in charge of everything, even the devil, and who turns mourning into dancing in His own right time.

The devil is real. The world is fallen. The hazards are many. None of this is beyond the Divine, or represents a failure or something that fell through the cracks. The fall of Lucifer because of pride (Isaiah 14) was foreseen by God as was the fall of Adam. That eventuality has been used to draw closer candidates for salvation and cleansing, to deepen relationship and trust, to provide stirring examples of hope and resilience and to generate hunger for Heaven and God’s ultimate community. The devil is sent on asignment.

But what about Job’s kids and livestock? They all get killed in this crucible. The children paid a price for irreverence, that is true. God’s greater purposes for the blessing of the Race have often required bloodshed and loss. He is sovereign; nobody challenges His agenda (read about Noah’s Flood or the rebukes of the prophet Amos).

For a time near the end of the Book Job attempts a pathetic challenge as God arises out of the storm. In the Lord’s comments one finds ample proof of His endless involvement with His creation, His understanding and cherishing, His rescue and coordination. Job also is a subject of this keeping care and the undying kernel of his trust causes him to repent in dust and ashes. A mighty victory has been won. He is instructed to stand as priest for the errors of his pompous friends in this ordeal. The restoration of his estate and household joy is swift.

I find here some of the richest of literature. I have walked with this Book through personal crises. I am armed with answers for those who complain, “How could a loving God do or allow this terrible thing?”

I am trusting as God gives the grace, and confident that I am never in a place more seemingly hopeless than Job. And remember friends, God was there for Job. Testing his pulse every step of the way; knowing that new intimacy was to be the outcome.

Love Lift Lighten

ln the average church service today the focus goes something like this:

“Listen. Learn. Lunch”. It seems of paramount importance to offer instruction in righteousness, with the congregation remaining largely passive, and with the sense of fellowship enhanced by meals, meals, meals. The whole process takes on the appearance of a good show or lecture. The professionals have the floor.

But Jesus once criticized the misdirection of the religious leaders by reminding them that “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” A marginal reference in my Bible suggests that He was reiterating a promise contained inIsaiah 56:

6Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

7Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

Prayer. ‘Well, we have prayer in the service. Usually right after collection. Pastor seems to touch upon all the bases.’

That’s not what I mean. There should be some extended periods of corporate prayer wherein parishioners feel a liberty to participate around the room in their expressions of love to Jesus and in petition, burden and praise. This would be fresh; would contribute to a sense of transparency and trust; would be new and original; would teach us about each other; would work toward the realization of family in the faith.

Too often congregations are spoon-fed the Bible which they should be learning on their own. There are numerous translations and study helps in this day and age. Leaders should get more excited about being the facilitators of a praying force.

One suggestion might be to run occasional retreats where a dozen or so would withdraw to a residence or other accommodation for three or four days without interruption. They would learn prayer by DOING IT TOGETHER. They would wait upon the Lord. They would learn trust by baring their souls in sensitive testimony. They would learn Jesus by sharing one of the Gospels right through in workshop. They would learn family in the casual conversations and good humour around the den or meal table. All of this equipping and “opening up” would be taken back to the larger assembly. It would break down the barrier between you and the fellow sitting one pew over who remains a stranger after weeks and weeks. What informal friendships and diverse projects of grace could be forged out of this!

I am reminded of how so many Catholic couples have said that their lives were changed by the Marriage Encounter Weekend. Could the above retreats not meet with similar success? Could they not also become a venue for inter-denominational understanding and partnership in helping the community?

Something has to move us out of the “spectator sport” of going to church. In my respectful submission it is prayer and testimony. It would lead in our services and other Church life to an emphasis on…”Love, Lift, Lighten”.

That is Body life for those who are caught up in a covenant of love with Jesus.

Take a look at the following small ebook:

http://issuu.com/deedub51/docs/love__lift__lighten

Moment

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Just one of those moments

I seldom know when

And you have my next breath

You draw me again

To thoughts of your goodness

To reckon my debt

To see you give gladly

My sure Shepherd yet.

And all of the day’s stress

And all still unsure

Erased by your presence

Arresting and pure.

Just how can you do this

With saints the world round

And make it so special

To each heart faith found?

But you are the Lord God

And once lived like us

Enduring the worst test

Your Cross bought our trust.

I’m rich in your presence

Released from each pain

Awaiting the moment

You visit again.

 

The Closet

Again to be here

When none other might care.

Be the motive of fear

Or of gratitude rare.

I will run to this space

Just to unload my heart;

Yes a quieter place

Set a little apart.

And You come through the gray

In the brilliance of love

And You settle the day

With Your calm from above.

And You hear, I am sure

Every plea, every verse.

A compassion so pure

Will consider my worst,

And will answer again

Lest I misunderstand;

Neither mishap nor men

Will remove from Thy Hand.

Father, this is the spot

Where I grow on my knees;

See what mercy has wrought;

Feel the Spirit’s fresh breeze.

Lord Teach Us to Pray

The disciples marveled at the Master’s night-long absences in prayer. He would return seemingly rested the next dawn and prepared with that relaxed calm for any eventuality. They had only seen scholarly rabbis approach a degree of confidence anywhere close. But they had always couched their pronouncements with the support of precedent. “Rabbi X would say this.” “Or Rabbi Y would argue that.”

But Jesus would give a description of the Father’s outlook on some issue, and then add, “And I say unto you, thus and so…” Surely this boldness had come about after much serious and complicated formulaic prayer, or so they thought.

I remember a book by the evangelist Mel Tari suggesting how very relaxed, honest and intimate Jesus’ prayers must have been (The Gentle Breeze of Jesus). Any father loves the time when a child crawls up onto his lap, just to be there, just to express his heart. The Father, by gesture or by simple affectionate word, will impart wisdom and comfort which will have magnified effect in this atmosphere of love.

Jesus’ model prayer, called the Lord’s Prayer, was more an impression of reverence and humble familial trust than it was a piece to be memorized. It’s essentials, the unfolding Kingdom, the keeping care of the Father, the humble submission of the child, the mutual pact of forgiveness, the irrepressible plan for the Father’s glory.

Jesus held repetitive, formulaic prayer in low esteem. Rather it should be simple, from the heart, direct in choice of words and filled with intervals of listening, of waiting for the Father’s input.

Look at some of the other successful prayers in the Bible. Jehoshaphat preparing for battle, “Lord we don’t know what to do; nevertheless our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). The silent inarticulate prayers of Hannah mourning in the temple over her barrenness (1 Samuel 1: 11-17). The cry for healing of blind Bartimaeus, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:46-48). The worship of the one repentent thief at Calvary, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Simple…all simple and heartfelt. A drawing close with delight to the loving attentiveness of Divinity.

And oh yes, Christians pray. They pray often.

Song for the Meek

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Beautifies the meek, yes

He does this oh so well

Dismisses doubters’ ranklings

And all their hate dispels

A grace that marches calmly

Through “everyday’s” demands

And hugs and uplifts

Tenderly

With carpenter’s strong hands.

He speaks a view celestial

A home for all oppressed

Where all who hold on bravely

Find comfort, kin and rest.

His victories challenge reason

Not brought by might or blade

Convicting simple goodness

The way new saints are made.

And oh to journey like him

With thoughts of righteous worth

And prayers to draw times closer

When meek shall rule the earth.

Gutsy Prayer

 

“Pastor, teach us to pray.” The two young couples approached Eugene Peterson in absolute earnest. They felt that their prayers were awkward, insincere, imitative, short and ineffectual.

“Why don’t you take a good look at the Psalms. King David was a man who knew how to pray. He covered most of the situations which you will face. Study his approach.”

Weeks passed and the Pastor heard no more, but then a somewhat apologetic knock at the door of his study. “It doesn’t seem to be helping, sir. The King James language seems so archaic and foreign. We cannot get at the heart of David through it all.”

‘Well friends, said Peterson, ‘that is unfortunate because those prayers were really quite visceral, frank, elemental and unrestrained. If David were ticked off he let God know. If desperate he hollered out for help. If joyful, the very heart-strings sang. Perhaps I might attempt a paraphrase of a couple of them to break the ice for you.’

Thus began the much celebrated paraphrase of the entire Bible which we now recognize as “The Message”.

Those young couples discovered a prayer life which was spontaneous, honest, unvarnished and delightfully personal. They were coming closer to God’s heart. Hearing from Him. Pleading in ways consistent with His will. Becoming angry where He was angry. Chuckling at the things that humoured Him. Delighting over His victories.

It took for them the vernacular and street-wise which Peterson had incorporated into his texts.

At a time of personal crisis, I found myself examining Peterson’s text and walking dark streets, yelling out at God in very direct terms about the need. He was not offended. He visited me. He settled me. He gave me fresh courage.

The answers came later…

 

https://sites.google.com/site/conversationabove/conversation-prayer