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faith

the wonder of simple prayers

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“Prayer is the quiet, persistent living of our life of desire and faith in the presence of our God.” Andrew Murray

The Bible says we have God’s Spirit inside us. In other words, there is someone by your side every moment of every day. And even more amazing, this someone is purely good and perfectly wise and beautifully kind and insanely powerful and loves you unconditionally.

Why wouldn’t we share every detail with this person?

My answer to that question, though difficult to admit, is I get distracted by lesser things, or I’m so absorbed with myself that I don’t think of anyone else, or sin deafens my desire to share, or I’m juggling so many expectations and tasks I never still long enough to listen. I read that sentence, and I repent.

The gift of prayer, of ongoing conversation with infinite, holy, all-knowing God, reigning King Jesus, and Counselor Holy Spirit, is a gift I take for granted too often. And there’s a need for right understanding of this exchange. He’s not asking for long monologues and formal phrasing. He’s not expecting a pretty appearance or perfect grammar. Like I told my middle schoolers last Sunday, a way we worship is by confessing our need of Him. God is not glorified when He’s made small in our minds.

You do not need to swindle yourself into thinking that you are strong. You can face your weakness with joy because you know that you have been given grace for that weakness; grace that is not a thing, but a person—the Holy Spirit, who makes you the place where he dwells in power. Paul David Tripp

A way to magnify God’s greatness, care, and love is to invite Him into every decision, conversation, and circumstance.

I’ll paint a recent scenario for you. The morning of a meeting I know will result in awkwardness and honesty, I ask for God’s help in preparing what to say. At the table, I visualize Him sitting in the chair next to me. While others are speaking, I wait patiently, peacefully, awaiting His ‘cue’ to voice my opinion. Dialogue ensues. I lean over and ask what He thinks the topic, and I listen. The conversation ends, having had it’s uncomfortable but healthy interactions, and I see His smile, affirming He’s in control and I did well. In a situation I deemed a little trivial, something I would handle on my own, God worked with me. He helped me, and I could sense the difference it made. I actively engaged with His power and presence, and it turned a big gear inside me.

This could be our everyday experience. We may not perceive Him clearly or even feel His presence, but the Bible promises He is with us (2 Timothy 1:14). Some days will take greater faith than others, but I have no doubt the habit of sharing and listening will produce beautiful fruit in our lives.

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chronic pain: exchanging my brokenness for God’s wholeness

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There is something about suffering. For those of you who read this not near me on a daily basis, a little context: for 2+ years, I experienced constant pain in my neck. What began as a (surprising) pinched nerve after a 10k race resulted in a variety of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, dietary changes, a steroid injection, and lifestyle changes, with no relief.

I have, however, become quite educated on the spine. (If you aren’t interested in the anatomical explanation, feel free to skip down.) Hereditarily, I have a more ‘upright’ neck where most are curved. I also have disc degeneration (which is not uncommon) and a bone spur on the C5 disc. The facet joints, in between each disc, are primarily long and flat, but with my neck’s lack of curve, around the lower discs, those joints are shorter and steeper, causing sharp pain and stiffness. (Let it be noted with joy that I am now seeing a chiropractor and experiencing genuine relief.)

After two years with no real change, I was in a pit and needed new vision.

My feelings and knowledge were at odds with each other, and the battle was exhausting me.

When we choose Jesus, a desire is permanently implanted in us to glorify God with our lives. But when suffering walks in and decides to stay for a while, weariness, discouragement, self-absorption, and a lack of glorying can mark the days. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

How do I magnify God when I would rather stay hidden from the world and distract myself from the pain? How do I glorify God when my body isn’t what I think it should be, when every other movement hurts, restful sleep is a struggle, and giving of myself feels impossible?

My injury wasn’t debilitating, and didn’t call for surgery (for both I am deeply thankful), but managing daily chronic pain was new territory for me.

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resurrection vision: letting every sense of your humanity send you deeper into Jesus

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I was teaching a group of 7th-8th graders, reflecting on Easter’s truth, and it came out of my mouth before I even really knew what it meant: “in my time as a Christian, I have had a difficult time reconciling my continual sin and my identity as righteous in Christ because of his death and resurrection.”

The Bible speaks plainly and beautifully:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians 1:3-10)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

 

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Confession: I apologize to God most often for my forgetfulness.

I am blown away by the goodness of God, then I idolize entertainment and miss out spending time with Him. I am overrun by His Fatherly tenderness and love for me, then I make a mistake, am consumed with anxiety, and try to earn His favor. I forget the magnitude of His Son’s death on the cross in my place, and I give affection to lesser things.

Is it crazy to confess on the internet that I dislike this about myself? I don’t like that I still struggle with sin as badly as I do. I don’t like the constant battle with idolatry, pride, and selfishness. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s right to hate sin. But I don’t believe feeling weary in guilt-driven effort to avoid, stuff, and conquer it is what God planned. I don’t think this is the reality Jesus died for me to walk in.

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