"Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." - C. S. Lewis

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Six Things I Learned from a Visit with the Doctor

1.  Needles aren't as bad as I work them up to be.  Every time I know I'm going to have a needle prick I get a little nervous about it...and every time I realize that needles aren't anything to worry about.

2. People are interesting.  I do not remember the last time I saw this doctor, and I certainly didn't recall his personality.  He entered the room with a loud, "Fancy meeting you here!" - like I had ever met him anywhere else.  In the next few minutes, I learned that he grew up with missionary parents in India, and that he followed his brother's footsteps by choosing the medical field.  I was surprised that I went for a simple, to-the-point physical and was receiving a riveting, far-from-to-the-point story of an interesting life.

3. Life is unpredictable.  The doctor told me that three of his friends died in the last year, two unexpectedly.  I suppose in the medical field he sees more of death and dying than most of us, but we all see some of it.

4. Wherever you are, be all there.  Okay, so I first heard this from Jim Elliot, but I think our family doctor would agree.  "Mom wanted me to be a preacher," he said.  "I did not want to be a preacher."  But he did not leave his faith out of his work.  Shrugging his shoulders as he sat in his office, he explained, "I preach here a lot."

5. Your deepest influence may not be what you once thought.  I imagine he realizes that he sometimes impacts patients like me.  He probably knows he has an influence on children who are scared of his office or adults who are scared of major life changes.  But as he began his medical career all those years ago, I doubt the doctor thought about what an influence he might have on those who work for him.  After he left the room, I mentioned to the doctor's medical assistant that the doctor seemed like a neat boss.  Without any hesitation, she agreed: "Oh, the best."

6. Ordinary can be extraordinary.  It certainly was an interesting doctor visit.  I wonder how many "ordinary" people have led such full lives and have so much to tell those of us who are still trying to decide how to fill our lives.  Maybe the doctor will write some of his hard-earned wisdom down for us sometime.  It is possible - "I may write a book one day," he told me.  Meanwhile, he did offer one piece of advice:

"Just live each day with joy and grace."
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What a Privilege: Access to the Throne of Grace

In Peter's second epistle, he wrote that some things in Paul's letters are "hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:15-16).  Good.  So I'm not the only one who hasn't figured it out.

Of course, Paul's letters are far from the only Biblical passages that leave me flummoxed.  Try this one: "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion" (Psalm 84:5).

Psalm 84:5 is very poetic.  I've heard of people choosing a "life verse," and I think I would definitely consider this one, even though at first glance I'm not sure I fully understand it.

The Gift

A few verses after Psalm 84:5, the psalmist writes, "O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!"  Hear my prayer.  Do we even realize the magnitude of prayer?  The sovereign God of the universe hearing us.

"What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer " (Joseph Scriven).

This beloved hymn calls prayer “a privilege.”  What a gift that we can approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).  Why do we so often see it as an obligation, a chore?

How Should We Then Pray?

When the disciples asked the Son of God to teach them how to pray (Luke 11), Jesus did not give an in-depth exposition or point-by-point explanation of the ways and works of prayer.  When one of His disciples asked for a lesson on prayer, Jesus…prayed.

He prayed other times, too.  There are times He prayed alone, early in the morning.  There are times He prayed in front of crowds, or with the disciples, and many of His prayers are recorded for us.  Isn’t it incredible that we have record of how the Son of God prayed to God?  What other lessons about or demonstrations of prayer could we need?

Throughout the Bible, it is clear that prayer is not a way to get whatever we want as if there were a genie hiding in a bottle.  Ultimately, God is sovereign and will answer our prayers however He chooses.  While we may not fully grasp the role of prayer in the events around us, we do know that there is power in prayer (James 5:16) and that God will ultimately do what is best for us (Matthew 7:11).

The Highway

In his commentary, Matthew Henry wrote, "In whose heart are the ways of them, that is, who, having placed their happiness in God as their end, rejoice in all the ways that lead to him…They not only walk in these ways, but they have them in their hearts..."

What a beautiful thought.  We have the ways that lead to God in our hearts!

When faced with decisions you can’t make on your own, pray.  When worried about family members or friends, pray.  When exhausted at the prospect of another day like yesterday, pray. Don't just stand there.  Pray!

We have a highway to Zion in our hearts.  What an mind-blowing picture!  We don't have to wait in line or take a number until we’re summoned.  We don't have to travel for days or weeks to reach His throne.  Despite our hectic days and harried moments, God has put the highway to His presence in our hearts.

So pray.  And remember that He is praying for you.

"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (Romans 8:33-34).

Image courtesy of porbital / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, January 3, 2014

Never Enough

They stood tall.  They stood righteous and devout.  To the common people around them, their holiness seemed out of reach.  They were part of the privileged few, the honored who were to represent the people to their God.

Then came One like no other, who claimed to be the Son of the God they served each day.  The God they honored by being...honorable.  But this Son of God did not praise their holiness as they expected.

"'You brood of vipers!'" He exclaimed.  "'How can you speak good, when you are evil?'" (Matthew 12:34).  "'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness'" (Matthew 23:27).  These men had been acclaimed as the spiritual leaders of their people - and that is what they were supposed to be.  How could they be full of rotting bones?  How could they be evil vipers?  Where did they go wrong?

We don't have to wonder!  In Matthew 23, Jesus gives clues as to what the Pharisees did wrong (and didn't do right).  Multiple times, He labels them "hypocrites," and at one point He explains, "'For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness'" (Matthew 23:23).  Tithing is not bad.  Neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness, however, is - especially for the spiritual leaders of God's people.

"And he said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."  You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.'  And he said to them, 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition'" (Mark 7:6-9).

Did you catch it?  Did you notice?  What was the accusation God made through Isaiah?  Their "'heart is far from me.'"  According to Scripture, it was even acknowledged that the Pharisees honored God with what they said ('"honors me with their lips'") and worshipped God, even if it was in vain.  What was missing in these Pharisees' way of life?

Their hearts.

Even though the Pharisees were tithing the littlest of spices, even though they were careful to do nothing resembling work on the Sabbath, even though they literally followed figurative commands in the ancient laws, it would never be enough.  And today, even if we tithe faithfully, attend church every Sunday, and regularly memorize Scripture, it can never be enough.  If our heart is not in it, all is lost.

Later, a man who declared himself "blameless" when it came to matters of the Jewish law (Philippians 3:6) would write: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

So that's it.  Even if we have the highest spiritual gifts, prophetic powers, incredible faith, and a martyr's mindset - even then, we are nothing without love.  Where are our hearts?  Even as we go about our "duty," our "obligations," our "service" - where are our hearts?  Where is yours?