God is still God. And He is still good. To God be the glory

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! — Matthew 7:11

From Zac Smith: God cannot give me a bad gift … If God chooses to heal me, then God is God and he is good. If God chooses not to heal me, then God is still God, and he is still Good. To God be the glory.”

HT: John Piper

With God on your side is better than at arm’s length

I’ve been reading through “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. In it, he says that prayerlessness “is rooted in a core unbelief that can shape our lives, even as Christians. Because of prayerlessness, our lives are often marked by fear, anxiety, joylessness, and spiritual lethargy.” There is a lot about prayer that we either don’t understand or else we understand and don’t like. In a recent chapter I read, Miller talks about how there is a tendency  we have to avoid intimacy with God.

Why would we do that? Well, for one, we don’t really want God nosing around in our business. Miller says there is a reason, perhaps, that we keep God at arm’s length, even with our prayers to him:

Frankly, God makes us nervous when he gets too close. We don’t want a physical dependence on him. It feels hokey, like we are controlling God. Deep down we just don’t like grace. We don’t want to risk our prayer not being answered. We prefer the safety of isolation to engaging the living God. To embrace the Father and thus prayer is to accept what one pastor called “the sting of particularity.” (A Praying Life, p. 125)

The very human prayer of Jesus asking that “this cup pass from me.” is much different than what Miller sees as the Buddhist and Neoplatonic attitudes that have crept into the church. That is, the attitude that we need to resist our own desires and deny physical urges. Those kind of simple, intimate prayers are the ones we hear children saying because they are more humble than “wiser” adults.

I don’t have it all together. The thing I want to battle against is the attitude that I will not lay it all on the line when I pray. That is to deny a personal God, and it doesn’t honor him.

Team Jedi

My younger brother Merv is a career Army guy. He joined the Army out of high school in 1987 and has risen to his current rank of major since that time. He has served in two wars — The Gulf War and the current war in Iraq — and has been deployed all over the world.

But calling him “an Army guy” is just not enough. This is a guy, I remember when we were growing up, who always had a great sense of humor, was a great athlete, a talented writer and actor, a musician and a budding theologian (he memorized Galatians). Pretty awesome. He is a well-rounded guy, for sure.

I don’t see him that much since he’s usually training or traveling all over the world working to keep America a safe place for people to complain about what a crummy place this (you know who you are). For me, it was a thrill to see him in June at our Brott family reunion and for my kids to see and talk to him some.

These days he is back in Iraq serving with a unit he helped train from Fort Riley, Kan. The difference this time is that he is blogging for his hometown paper, The Sulphur Springs News Telegram. His blog, called Jedi’s Blog, will recount his unit’s preparation and yearlong mission in Iraq. I think it’s great for Merv to give people a glimpse of what life is like for the guys who serve in the armed forces. Besides being a decorated and outstanding soldier, he is also a very gifted writer. This is just a sample from his latest post, entitled “Nomads”:

We are still at the adapt and survive level, so the constant hum of the massive diesel generators powering our life-support systems is reassuring. These behemoths look like they were plucked from mammoth bulldozers. It’s kind of like listening to your own heartbeat. The constant thump-thump is intriguing, but there’s a little voice in the back of your head wondering, “What if it stops?” You hope you never hear silence with the big diesels.

I have listened to guys who have served in the Middle East come back and talk about their mission. I deeply appreciate what they do, but it’s obvious that public speaking is not some of these guys’ strengths. But, without being biased, I can say that the average reader will get a lot of out of the Jedi Blog.

Take a few minutes to check out Jedi’s Blog and, then, to remember the men of that unit, the Iraqis they’re working with and the people they’re working for before God in prayer. Also, pray for the families back here who said goodbye to these men while they do their jobs.

Is it offbeat that God answers prayer?

\"Strange News?\"In a completely unsurprising story from the Associated Press, two New Zealand men were in a plane that was about to go down due to a lack of fuel. What they did next was what many people, Christian or not, would have done: They prayed. And, not only did God hear their prayers, he caused them to land their plane next to a billboard that said “Jesus is Lord — The Bible.” Here is part of the story:

Grant Stubbs and Owen Wilson, both from the town of Blenheim on the country’s South Island, were flying up the sloping valley of Pelorus Sound when the engine spluttered, coughed and died.

 

“My friend and I are both Christians so our immediate reaction in a life-threatening situation was to ask for God’s help,” Stubbs told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Now, I say this is unsurprising because I know that God can — and does — answer prayer. I think God has a sense of humor in that he caused their plane to land near the sign so it could be “more newsworthy” (to the Associated Press, that is). After all, is it that remarkable that God answers prayers, often dramatically, every day? It shouldn’t be. After all, he says just as much in “The Bible.” Sidenote: I am irritated at these billboards that make broad statements and then attribute them to “The Bible” or “God,” meaning you cannot refute them. You can make many true-sounding statements that are not necessarily biblical this way e.g. — “You can’t beat your kids. — God”

So, this story about God answering a prayer in an amazing fashion now catches the eye of the Associated Press and ends up on its Web site under “AP Top Strange News.” This is the kind of world we live in, sadly. And, perhaps even sadder, I believe there are many Christians who think it strange that God actively works in our lives each minute so that they live their lives as if God is only there as some kind of cosmic 911 operator. Although I can’t be totally sure, the statement above by one of the men has that kind of ring to it.

Here’s the thing: Did the men think to pray to God before the trip or maybe before they realized their plane was in danger? I have a good friend who works as a missionary pilot. He flies in places that many people would say are extremely dangerous and is a great praying man. He e-mails updates before his trips and then sends out updates afterwards about how God answered those prayers. Most are uneventful, but there are several where you see how God answers prayers in a way different than was prayed, but it turned out that it was the best  way possible. And my friend acknowledges that in his updates.

These kind of stories (the one about the men in New Zealand) make big splashes and will get many people excited about Christianity and God. But the truth is that God is working day in and day out doing things that may seem mundane but are just as mighty. Jesus, who we worship as Lord, upholds the universe by his mighty hand:

 

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Hebrews 1:1-4

 


 

 

Pray without ceasing

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. — I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Prayer

We are told to “pray without ceasing” in the Bible. John MacArthur, in Pulpit Magazine, explores this question:

Unceasing, incessant prayer is essential to the vitality of your relationship to the Lord and your ability to function in the world. But exactly what does it mean to pray without ceasing?

The first time someone hears about the concept of praying without ceasing it may conjure up the image of Christians walking around with their hands folded, heads bowed, and eyes closed, bumping into things. While certain postures and specific times set aside for prayer have an important bearing on our communication with God, to “pray at all times” obviously does not mean we are to pray in formal or noticeable ways every waking moment. And it does not mean you’re supposed to devote yourself to reciting ritualistic patterns and forms of prayer.

To “pray without ceasing” refers to recurring prayer, not nonstop talking. Prayer is to be a way of life — you’re to be continually in an attitude of prayer. It is living in continual God-consciousness, where everything you see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to Him. It should be instant and intimate communication — not unlike that which we enjoy with our best friend.

read more here