Blessing: That which I cannot change





The last couple of days during Daily Prayer I've been covering the story of Balaam being hired to curse the Israelites (Numbers 22 - Numbers 23).  This story is fascinating to me on many different levels but one strain has captured my attention for the last few days.  The strain being the fact that God wanted to bless Israel because they were His and He would not allow them to be cursed.

Based upon the descriptions from the text, the setting has the Israelites spread out on a plain and it sounds like the Moabites are able to view them from above.  From this vantage point, Balaam is paid to curse them, but God doesn't allow it.  He turns the plans to curse into blessings.  Meanwhile, the Israelites have no idea that this is happening and yet God is putting them in the palm of His hand and He is protecting them.

While they meander below in the dailyness of life, God is making sure that blessings and not curses are spoken over them.  Here are a few verses that stand out to me:

Numbers 22:8
How can I curse
    those whom God has not cursed?
How can I denounce
    those whom the Lord has not denounced?

Numbers 22:19-20
19 God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfill?
20 I have received a command to bless;
    he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

This story has inspired me in my own personal prayer life.  Often times my prayers can focus on people's sin and me "helping God" figure out what He needs to do to help those people turn to the right way.  However, through the years, God has gently pulled me from this perspective and has continued to lovingly invite me to a new method of praying for others.  For me, these passages point towards an invitation towards a renewed perspective.


The call on Abraham's life was that he would be a blessing to the nations.  As Christians, we've been invited to extend that call to the nations by being the hands, the feet and the spirit of Christ to this world.  Like Balaam, I think that we've been invited to pray blessings over His people's lives, without them even needing to know that it is happening:

 I have received a command to bless;
    he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

Oftentimes the reality of God's call for our lives seems lofty, ethereal and unrealistic for our daily life.  But I think that may be because we make things harder than they need to be.  We have been called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.  And who are our neighbors? Whomever, God has put into your sphere of influence.  From that simple place of reality ask the Lord to teach you how to pray blessings over your neighbors, whomever they may be.

 


In Christ,




Grace Has Called My Name




Walking through the door into a gray day that was years ago.  A day that can well up tears in the same fresh way; yet it remains miles away.  The person that I am today different in so many ways.  Fresh sorrows and pains of life, mixed in with new joys, grace, love, understandings and hopes.

Love you always
Nevaeh Rae Wallace.

In Christ,

Breathe Deep






With the arrival of sunshine and spring there is a smell of newness in the air.  For me, there is nothing like tipping my head back in the warm sunshine and just taking in a deep breath.  A breath of life, a breath of hope, a breath of healing.

A discontentment sometimes settles into my soul because life isn't always peaceful, it isn't always joyful and I am not always living the way my mind wishes that I would live.  But in the discontentment I often get the gentle reminder that He is here with us, in the mess, in the darkness and in the yuckiness.  He isn't wishing it all away and He isn't discontent.

Life is life and He knows it.  

I heard a sermon recently and one line popped out in my mind and I can't let it go, "HE WANTED TO BE WITH THEM."  He Jesus, wanted to be with His disciples.  And do you know what his final earthly lines were: "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)."  He didn't just want to be with them, He wants to be with us -

He IS with us.

Today may you tip your head back and absorb this truth - He is with you Always.  It's an invitation into newness, into grace, into strength for today.

In Christ,




When the light goes out










On Friday, I attended my church's Good Friday service.  It was a very simple service and I didn't anticipate that there would be anything special about it.  In all honesty, I showed up to go through the motions.

The service was basically just reading through the events of Friday, straight from Scripture and then finishing up with our lectionary prayers, which were to be led by me.

I decided to close my eyes as the Scriptures were being read, in play form.  Different individuals from the congregation took on roles and read from their seats when their character was speaking.  As they read, pictures were forming vividly in my mind: Jesus bloody, mocked, bruised.  Simultaneously, as I heard the words about Jesus hanging between the two prisoners being mocked and accused of things that weren't true, I thought about my friend's daughter who that very week had been mocked, harassed and demeaned by a bully at school.  I was caught up in the realization that Jesus not only loved the mockers in that moment, but He also hung there to experience the rejection that His children would continue to experience even today. 

Hebrews 4:15: 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

As the service went on, I happened to open my eyes and saw my pastor walking across the front of the sanctuary.  He went and stood before the candle that represents the presence of Jesus and when, "'It is finished.'  Then he bowed his head and gave up His spirit," our pastor blew the candle out.  The presence of Jesus was metaphorically extinguished.

I was profoundly struck at that moment and the weight of what it meant laid heavy on me.  In that moment, everyone's hopes and dreams that Jesus truly was the Messiah went out.  The people then didn't have the answer, they didn't have the next page in the book.  All they had was darkness, hopelessness and despair.  They did not have the hope of the resurrection and the God they thought they knew was no longer.

As the darkness of that moment crept over me, it made me realize that there are some today who still feel that darkness and despair.  They've had the candle blown out.  Situations and circumstances of life have brought that darkness, heaviness and confusion of the unknown.  The God they thought they knew did not show up in the way they expected him to show up.  Personally, I've stood in front of a grave and have felt the tears of that darkness, hopelessness and despair.

The Scriptures continued until Jesus was laid in the tomb and after that point, I was to lead prayer.  In faltering words, I prayed forth the words I've said many times before but they were being shaped and carried in a new way.

One: A recognition that without the resurrection the words that I was praying were meaningless.  I have no hope of any of my prayers being answered or heard apart from the reality that Jesus is alive.  All my faith truly does rest on that reality.

Two: Those that I was praying for: the hungry and the homeless, the destitute and the oppressed, the sick the wounded, the lonely were most likely experiencing that darkness.  Many of those words were attached to real people, real faces, real situations.  I knew and know that they've and are experiencing the darkness of that moment and they need the reality of the resurrected Jesus in their lives.  But sometimes, yes, there is a waiting, like we were being asked to wait between Good Friday and Easter morning Sunday.

Three: For the sorrowful and bereaved.  Again, my mind went to the scene when my niece was no longer there. My heart and prayers went up for the loved ones I know that experienced similar loses and whose hearts are as heavy as the darkness felt on that day.

As we left the sanctuary, one of our members who was going to miss church on Sunday, was quietly walking up to people and whispering, "Happy Easter." I thought it was a perfect ending to the service.  In the midst of the darkness, the despair, the turmoil the secret was being eked out, "Happy Easter."  While our Easter moments may not always be two days away, our Redeemer does indeed live.  For me, I recognized in a new and profound way that all of our hopes and fears are truly dependent upon that single moment, Easter.

Perhaps due to the circumstances in your life, Easter morning was not able to be a joyous moment.  If so, may I quietly whisper to your heart, "Happy Easter?" If yes, may you know He is able to hold you in the darkness because He has entered there, too yet overcame.  In that fact, you can rest your heart.

In Christ,


St. Patrick's Day Prayer







Prayer is a profound mystery that envelops deep truth alongside the simplicity of child-like faith.  Last St.Patrick's Day I came across a prayer by Saint Patrick.  It quickly became one of my favorite prayers, because it is filled with so much Scriptural truth.  It is a prayer that provides a framework for how I live my life.  But before we get to it, I just wanted to share two quotes by Eugene Peterson from Tell it Slant on the topic of prayer:

Prayer accomplishes with us, within our spirits, deep within our souls, what is later lived out in the circumstances and conditions of our obedience.  A stiff upper lip won't do it.  A fierce resolve won't do it.  An exemplary life won't do it.

Prayer goes beneath the surface and penetrates the heart of the matter... When we pray we willingly participate in what God is doing, without knowing precisely what God is doing, how God is doing it, or when we will know what is going on - if ever (pg.237)

May this prayer by Saint Patrick lead you and guide you as you journey on in Christ:
 As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Amen

In Christ,
 


 

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