Friday, September 27, 2019

Just for You: Welcome
 A Call to Prayer 
From Carolyn

God is always calling us to come closer. His is an open invitation, issued from an open heart. James tells us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Well, how and when do we do this? We draw near to God as we pray.

Often in a church service or fellowship there is a special time set apart to pray: A Call to Prayer.  However, there are also other times when there is a call to prayer if we are alert and attentive.

This week two friends each told me something. Each communicated in her own words her own experience. Though different, each was a call to prayer for me.

One friend, thinking about a difficult situation she was called to respond to, told me her heart was resisting a bit. She said her life felt like a Rubik’s-Cube that she couldn’t complete because there was always one piece that wouldn’t fit.  I loved that analogy and as I considered it realized that at times it could apply to me! I asked her how I could pray for her. Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Pray I will trust God.”

My other friend told me of some significant changes and health concerns she is walking through. She also mentioned some anxiety that accompanies these concerns. I said I would pray. She responded, “Thank you! I'm obviously a control freak and I really don't want to trust God.      Well——I do want to trust God, I'm just not very good at it!”
I laughed out loud at the response of my second friend and told her, “Well, you and I make good company because I’m not very good at trusting God either!”

One of the things I value about these friends is their honesty. I also value these friends because they know both their need, and where their help comes from. Their desire is to trust God more with their challenging but different circumstances.

Both the challenges and the need to increase in trust, trust in the living God, are calls to prayer.

Jesus knows about our trust deficit. And we know how He responds to such. There was a man whose son had serious challenges. The father had tried everything for his son, to no avail. He brought the boy to Jesus, asking for help. Jesus said to the man, “If you only believe, I can help.” In this desperate situation, in which the father might have been losing hope, the man was brave and honest enough to cry out, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” There was a piece in his life that wouldn’t fit. He wanted to trust, but like my friend and me, this man was just not very good at it. But he came to Jesus and then cried out to Jesus, openly and honestly. That’s called prayer. The man prayed. (Mark 9:24) “I believe, help my unbelief!”

Ahh, but that trust deficit did not stop Jesus. The trust necessary was accomplished in drawing near to God. Drawing near in itself is a fledging faith accepted by Jesus. In another place Jesus said all one needs is a tiny bit of faith, like a small seed. And yet another word from Jesus is “all you who are weary and heavy laden come. I will give you rest.”

My difficult circumstances and my lack of great trust are a call to prayer. My tiny scrap of trust is pleasing to Him. I show my trust and actually increase it as I draw near to Him—repeatedly. My acknowledgement that He is the One who can increase my trust fund is pleasing to Him. He has spoken. Can you hear Him speaking? His heart is open. Come! Draw near!

I find the trust process begins with the small areas I encounter daily. You know, things like “when the dog bits, when the bee stings when I’m feeling sad.” Today those areas of trust might be:
when my plans are interrupted,
when I have to wait,
when that car cuts me off in traffic,
when the invitation doesn’t come,
or when I need to say “no.”

As I learn to depend on Him, to lean on Him in the small areas this becomes a pattern for depending on Him, trusting Him with the so-called bigger challenges of life. Any challenge and/or lack of trust in Jesus is a call to prayer.

This all starts with recognizing my need to trust (Trust is the path to His shalom.) and recognizing my own attempts to control. Trust comes as I draw near to Him, asking for trust-help, with a readiness to do the next thing He asks me to do. And in the way He asks me to do it. Always counting on Him to work a life-bringing miracle in me. Jesus is pleased with our child-like dependence.

My insufficient trust is a call to prayer that is often revealed in challenging circumstances.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Please turn my trust deficit into ruthless trust in You.

Lets’ pray for one another as we each seek to have our trust in God increase.

In anticipation and hope because God is both merciful and mighty,

Carolyn Roper

“Happy, Happy Trees”
Psalm 1

“Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; but he delight in the instruction of the Lord, and on that instruction he meditates day and night.” He shall be like a tree… (Psalm 1:1).

Alexander Pope had another take: 

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, 
As to be hated needs but to be seen; 
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, 
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Whatever—villainy and vice come easily. All we have to do is follow the crowd. First we take delight in its counsel, then we embrace its behavior, and adopt its cynicism. Inured to goodness we become distracted and heedless, blown about and borne along by every whim and vagary that comes our way.

Or, we can withdraw our roots from world of group-think and travel to the river of God. We can delight in and listen to God’s counsel, think about it and pray it into our souls. 

We can be a “happy, happy trees,” as John Keats would say, full of life and energy, towering over our former selves, verdant, multi–hued, and majestic. “The north cannot undo them, With a sleety whistle through them, Nor frozen thawings glue them, From budding at the prime” (“Happy Insensibility”).

The process begins with “meditation.”

To “meditate” is to “mutter” or speak softly,” with the implication of speaking quietly to one’s soul. It’s what an earlier generation of Christians called “spiritual reading.” 

Spiritual reading involves reading the scriptures slowly, thoughtfully, prayerfully until we’re arrested by a thought. Then “God’s word has come,” the old folks say, “God is speaking his word to me.” 

We can then think about that “word”, what it is, what it means and how we are to be changed by it.

Finally, we can turn our thoughts into prayer and ask God by his spirit to transform our attitudes and actions, for we are helpless to change ourselves. "Only God can make a tree.”

This “snippet” from psalm 1 and others that follow are the products of that practice. They’re not expositions of the psalms, per se, but those times when God spoke his word to me. I offer them to you with the prayer that he will speak to you as well. 

David Roper

On Eagle’s Wings Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the e...