Whose will be done?

I have a privileged life. I live a privileged life. Many who know me, and who know some of my life story, would think that I am mad and deluded for thinking that. But, I speak the truth. I am neither mad, nor deluded. Instead, I am privileged. I am privileged that out of the comfort I received in my own life journey, I am able to give others comfort. 

I am privileged in that for what has to be recognised as God’s grace on my life, that people readily open up to me and share their journey of life with me. It’s a privilege for me to tell someone I am praying for them. It’s a privilege when someone asks me to pray for them. And I call it a privilege, because I don’t ever want to take it for granted, that I am a participant and partner in God’s grace towards humanity. 

I have been journeying with a friend who is going through an extremely hard time. I am not going to go into the full details of their journey, except to say the spouse left in what can only be called extremely unusual, bewildering and painful circumstances. My friend apologetically calls me on a regular basis to which I reply – “If you want to talk about the rain, or lack of it, I will still talk to you.” 

Tonight we were talking about prayer. And he was surprised when I said, “I can’t pray for your spouse to come back to you! For I don’t think its right and proper for me to pray that prayer!”  Now by now, I am sure you my reader am a little shocked by my advice. “What” you ask? “Why;” you ask? “Don’t be daft”, you say. 

Allow me to make my case and if I don’t make it, then please comment and show me the error of my thinking. It appears that the deserting party has been living a double life. It appears this double life has been both covered up and encouraged by the family. It’s both deceitful and evil the extent of what has happened in his family. The family involved have a history where the husband or wife will just go on 3 month or 6 month holiday without the other, and not tell the other what they got up to. There are strong indications that there was abuse in the family, which was always covered over. 

Simply put, this family is truly broken by the effects of sin. 

It would only be a bandaid solution, if God was to grant the prayer for this person to return. In many ways, it would only save some face. In many ways the return may make the prayers sigh a sigh of relief. But the truth is, the returning spouse most likely is not returning with a sweetened heart. It doesn’t truly solve the problem of a heart broken by sin. 

“So Craig”, you ask me, “what should we pray?” To which I reply, “I am glad you asked.”

I find the prayers of the Apostle Paul a great help in knowing what to pray. You see he never prayed for someone to change their mind. He never prayed for someone to go and do something. Instead, he recognised the true condition of the heart. Hearts that are broken by and filled with sin. 

And so we find him asking the Lord of Lords that he would fill those broken hearts with the revelation of his love. That he would grant them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. That they may know the incredible and immeasurable power of his Spirit. That they would be filled to overflowing with the Spirit of holiness. That they may be rooted and firmly established in love. 

Do you notice the difference between the Apostle Paul’s ethos of praying, and the prayers we so often pray. Often our prayers are to modify someone’s behavior. We want those we pray for to modify their behaviour. The truth is, its impossible for any of us to modify our behaviour. It’s impossible for any of us to modify our hearts. And the truth is, I believe God isn’t into placebo’s and bandaids and modifying anyone’s behavior, so that they may appear to have a presence of godliness – but in actual fact, there has been no real heart change. 

Paul had a revelation that God is into changing the very essence of people dead in sin. He digs the God who makes alive those who are dead in trespass. And so I shared with my friend tonight;

I won’t pray that your wife comes back to you. Instead, I pray that you all will be strengthened in the inner being and that Jesus will dwell in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be rooted and established in the Love of God, knowing his will for your lives, and that you will be filled with all the fullness of God. 

When we read through the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us what the expectations and hallmarks of a Godly life are. But, I find it interesting that he doesn’t pray for the church in Ephesus to live that way. Instead, he prays that God will change the hearts and fill the inner being of those he is praying for, so that they will be able to live a life, displaying the hallmarks of a godly life. A life that glorifies God, simply because, its no longer they who live; but instead, its the living God, who lives within them. 

Which do you prefer. The band aid solution – or the surgeon to fix the real heart of the issue? 


Are we really listening?

The sermon on the mount is recorded in a number of Gospels. In Luke Jesus turns to his disciples and say’s

To you who are listening I say!

  • Love your enemies.
  • Do good to those who hate you.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Pray for those who mistreat you.
  • If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other one.
  • If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt.
  • Give to all you ask.
  • If anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
  • Do to others what you would have them do to you.

Matthew records Jesus saying to his disciples right before his ascension. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.

Are we really listening to what Jesus said?

God has given us the spirit of love!

2Ti 1:7  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and sound mind.

The love of God is a wonderful gift. For love grants us power, love and sound mind. Fear is the opposite of love. Fear produces hatred, it produces timidity and personal weakness, and it produces confusion.

God loves us so much that he promises to grant wisdom to any who ask him. Of course his wisdom is not like our wisdom at times…so we can at times think / say “What are you doing?”  God’s wisdom is peaceable; its kind and not easily angered…and of course his wisdom is his love…so through God’s love we can have peace in the midst of pain and confusion. We can draw on his power, which helps us through trying times and we can draw on his love to help us to forgive – when the alternative is to hate.

The power of imitating heavenly realities…

Real listening is an imitation of the heavenly reality of the God who listens. Therefore every time we slow down to hear what is going on around us; we find ourselves standing on holy ground.

Scripture say’s to be slow to speak and quick to listen. A common saying is that we have been given two ears and only one mouth…so we should listen twice as much as we speak Winking smile As a frequent blogger, I’m not quite sure what to make of that saying….

In the natural I find it hard to listen. Often the answers to the questions I have asked are already forming in my mind; and I’m ready to respond to what I think will be said… however in doing so, I am in reality only listening to myself and not to the other person.

Pastors / Churches believe they know the answer to problems. And indeed the Christian church does have the answer to the problem of Sin and his name is Jesus.  However do we as the Church, take the time to sit and listen to what is going on around us; so that we can hear the heart beat of what is going on around us, and therefore know how we can best answer the questions that are being raised and in doing so truly make Jesus known?

God doesn’t just hear. He listens. He listens not only to our every word. He listens to every unspoken word. He hears the cry of our heart. He see’s our every action and knows why we do and don’t do what we do and why we respond in the ways we do.

What power would the church have today if we could but do the same?

The Pastor must be an Observer

I came across two great quotes this morning.

God wants us to be present where we are. He invites us to see and to hear what is around us and, through it all, to discern the foot prints of the Holy. Richard Foster.

To acquire knowledge one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. Marilyn Von Savant.

I believe the pastor needs to be an active listener; active listening involves more then just hearing. It means to understand. For a pastor to understand the community in which they minister; they need to be active in listening to this community. This means to be engaging within it; and not be distant from it.

The pastors listening skills are sharpened by what they see. By what they feel. By how they touch and are touched. And the way they hear is affected by where they go. The very nature of hearing and listening demands a personal response to get involved. While the human nature of the pastor may incline the pastor to recoil and retreat from the horror within the community; the Holiness of God must compel the pastor to go forth in love and engage within and through this community, bringing with them the Love of Christ.

Brian LePort has written an article to honour such a pastor. May our gracious Lord continue to raise up many like him.

A pastoral NO NO!

Over the last couple of weeks I have heard a couple of stories where the faith of the person has been questioned. One person is going through the devastating situation of watching her father eaten away by cancer. There is a reasonable chance that this year will be the last time the family will get together for Christmas.  The other person suffers from a long term mental illness.

Both have been questioned about their level of faith recently. The person whose father has cancer was asked if she had given up the fight for her father in prayer and therefore giving up on God healing him. My other friend was questioned about their faith; if they had a demon and was asked all sorts of other questions.

I am glad to say that the people involved in asking these questions were not in a position of pastoral oversight. However these type of questions are a slap in the faith and produce doubt and not faith. Both these people have experienced and seen God’s healing power in the past.

The truth is that there is a time to live and a time to die. There is a time to be well and a time to be sick. In the same way there is a time to cry and a time to rejoice. There comes times in life when we need to grieve with those who are grieving and if by chance we feel we have the faith to pray for someone’s healing in the circumstances described; go ahead and pray quietly in your closet or with someone else. But what ever you do; don’t lay a guilt trip on the person or persons involved for not having enough faith.

It could well be the person is afflicted by a demonic presence. Certainly Jesus did say that some illnesses could be caused by such and that the only way to deal with it was through prayer and fasting. If you know a person who is afflicted and believe the problem is demonic, the onus is on you to go and pray and fast in your prayer closet and not place the onus to do that on the person who is afflicted.

I am not saying never pray with the people involved. For praying with and for others is very encouraging if it is done with sensitivity and love. If its not done in a way that builds the person / group up in real hope. If it doesn’t leave then encouraged and feeling loved…..then don’t bother praying with them.

For my friends whom I am talking about and many many more who are going through troublesome times of sickness, trials and grief I pray for you.

Father, I thank you for your mercy and love. I pray that you will cover those who are in need with a blanket of peace. I pray that you will strengthen them with your joy that comes from knowing you love them. I pray that you will lay your healing hand upon their bodies, their minds, emotions and their spirit. I pray that you will sustain them in these times and that they will know your presence working through, over and within them.

I thank you Father God that we can freely cry in your presence. We can freely tell you our doubts, our fears, our desires, our wants and can tell you about the pain and confusion that we have. And I thank you that in doing this we exercise our faith and trust in you and can be at peace in knowing that you love us; that you like us and that you know all that is going on in our lives.

It’s God’s kingdom….not ours.

I get increasingly frustrated at the level of work and rewards theology that is increasing within the western world. In Australia one such theology is much propagated about how God is blessing our nation because of what the Light Horsemen did in releasing Jerusalem from the Turks in World War 1.

Evan Trowbridge writes an interesting article about this very kind of Exceptional thinking which permeates America.

What do you think of it?


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