Friday, November 26, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
by Denny Harris, Executive Pastor of McLean Bible Church
In those fifteen words, the Psalmist has captured an essential element of prayer. The effectiveness of our prayer has far less to do with the words of our mouth than it does with the attitude and condition of our heart. At first glance, this may sound like one of those "too good to be true" offers. But it is true, not because it's about a great deal (you do this for me and I'll do this for you), but because it's about a great transformation of the heart. When we delight ourselves, first and foremost, in the Lord, when our focus is on His glory and His grace, He begins to transform the desires of our heart to mirror His own. And in that way, we experience the truth that prayer does not change things so much as it changes us at the deepest heart level.
It is a transformation that offers a rich reward. The writer is not talking about receiving normal, mundane things. Rather than our everyday needs, it's the infinitely higher level of our heart desires he has in mind -- the most precious concerns we might have.
Father, we realize that much of our prayer has to do with things that may only remotely reflect Your heart. Help us as we prepare for prayer to meditate on Your glory, Your grace and mercy. Help us to praise You not so much for what you do, but for who You are. We delight in You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Take Action: Commit to God that you will continue praying daily and ask Him to help you with that goal. He will!
P.S. Anyone else have a favorite verse? Share it with us in the comments!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Sometimes I feel like things are stagnant, like every day is the same. On days like that, I feel frustrated and impatient. I have a very good life, a good job, a great family - but sometimes I feel as though I need a change. I hope and I pray and I wait - and nothing seems to happen. Through several attempts at describing this phenomenon to my husband, here is what I've come up with.
A few years ago, every night at some point during his show, David Letterman would pull out a spiral bound notebook and write something to the effect of, "July 30th, 2010. Dear Diary: Today I did not hear from Oprah." And then he would close the notebook and put it away without another word.
Now, I live in Chicagoland. I've never been an Oprah watcher, but I have heard of her power. Second City says that Oprah can part the expressways the way Moses parted the Red Sea. My afternoon radio guy refers to her as "The Pope-rah." And Oprah was giving Mr. Letterman the silent treatment. Sometimes I feel that frustration, and on days like that, when my husband asks me how my day went, I reply, "I didn't hear from Oprah." He knows what I mean: Nothing bad happened, but I had been hoping for something better. Blah.
Well, eventually, David did hear from Oprah, and I'm sure they lived happily ever after. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm building the habit of reminding myself, "Today could be the day." And since I've started doing that, I start my day excited. Maybe I end my day saying, "I still didn't hear from Oprah"... but that doesn't mean that I won't tomorrow.
We begin each day with no idea what might happen - and I've forgotten how exciting that can be. Today could be the day someone finally gets a call about that job; or, it could be the day someone's kid finally gets out of diapers; or, it could be the day someone finally gets an offer on the house they've been trying to sell; or, something completely unexpected might happen. You could get a big win today - isn't that worth getting out of bed for?
When I started writing this, I intended this "devotion" to be about patience - I've been struggling, waiting for "Oprah's call" lately. But I remembered one of my college pastors once said, "Unwrap each day with the veracity of a six-year-old on Christmas morning." How many of us do that? So, I guess this message is really about anticipation and joy in waiting for God's perfect timing - and appreciating the little victories in between.
I never quite found the right verse for this message (open for suggestions) - but for now, let's try this one - it's the one my college pastor used in his sermon on living life to the fullest:
'But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.' --Malachi 4:2
And please, if you get a win, share with the rest of us in the comments! It could be contagious...
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Greetings from your favorite District Dweller! And happy 234th birthday, USA!
Hope y'all had a great Fourth of July. My gal pals I and made a last-minute dash to the National Mall and arrived just in time to watch the fireworks from a picture-perfect spot under a tree, right next to the Washington Monument. You must join us next time!!
Not surprisingly, there's lots of talk about independence and freedom in the capital this time of year, and it got me thinking about a verse that I came across a few weeks ago:
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." ~ Galatians 5:1
I love this Truth. We are free by His mercy, free in His grace. Free from the bonding slavery of sin, from the burden to work out our own salvation.
In Galatians 3, Paul explains the law and the promise:
"19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come... 22 the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."
John MacArthur puts it this way in his Bible commentary:
"...deliverance from the curse that the law pronounces on the sinner who has been striving unsuccessfully to achieve his own righteousness, but who has now embraced Christ and the salvation granted to him by grace."
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit" (Galatians 3:13-14)
Jesus Christ hung on a tree so that YOU would be FREE from the penalty of death...the eternal slavery of sin...the work of carrying this world's burdens on your own...
Have you embraced Christ and accepted His free gift of freedom?
It's something to celebrate!
Thinking on these things this week:
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." ~ Galatians 5:13
"As a prisoner of the LORD, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." ~ Ephesians 4:1
Monday, June 21, 2010
Something happened the other day, and it made me ANGRY. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers, but the stars aligned last week, and I was furious. Couldn't see straight. Had to physically remove myself from the room and walk around the building a couple of times, just to calm down. Pretty sure my eyes were flashing red flames.
As I steamed around in circles outside, I felt - even more than outrage - a strong sense that the Lord was trying to teach me something amid the rush of emotions I was experiencing: this, MLH, was an opportunity to practice what you preach.
And then James 1:19-20 came to mind...
"My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."
God's word weighed heavily on my heart, but I kept fuming. To keep myself from climbing the walls, I focused on the "quick and slow" parts. Over and over, I repeated verse 19. I even wrote it down on a post-it and hung it in my line of sight.
Quick and slow. Quick and slow.
And then it hit me. The reason we are to be quick and slow. Right there in verse 20: anger does not bring about the righteousness that GOD desires.
So then I thought, "well, what does?"
Hebrews 12:11 tells us that discipline produces a harvest of righteousness, but that discipline isn't fun; in fact, it is PAINful. Then James tells us in 3:18 that peacemakers who sow peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
So being a "peacemaker" means fighting off my inclination to flip the table and make some (justified, I think) accusations...to wail until I feel like I'm heard...to be angry with those who have wronged me.
I do not want to do that.
I want to get in someone's face and "be right."
But being right doesn't necessarily = being righteous.
If I apply my life to these Biblical principles, then my reaction must be the opposite of what I want to do. Being quick to listen and slow to anger requires practice!! Discipline!! These things do not come to me naturally!!
If I am to pursue the righteousness He has called me into, I must
CHOOSE to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Ouch. This discipline thing is hard.
Thinking on these things this week:
Proverbs 29:11 - A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
Ephesians 4:1 - As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
*photo found @ http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
So this week has had its ups and downs, as all weeks have in our household.
My girls and I just finished enjoying a glorious 2 weeks of vacation time with my husband. My oldest kept waking up in the morning and was positively gleeful when she came in to our room and, quote, "Daddy STILL home!" So many times she wakes up, only to find that Brett has left for his work week. It's not like he can say goodbye at 4 am, kiddo. We had a glorious vacation, even if we didn't really go anywhere. Just the fact that we were home as a family was vacation enough for me. Ah...warm fuzzies.
Brett took off for work last Sunday, and I packed up the girls and headed to my parents for the day. I was still living in post-vacation bliss, when I hopped on to Facebook before heading out the door. I saw on a former boyfriend's status that he and his wife were headed to Costa Rica on their honeymoon. Whoah...wife? Wedding? Married? I took a deep breathe, allowed my blood pressure and adrenaline to calm, and then thought to myself, "Sara, just grow up."
Have any of you ladies experienced this? It's a time when that long-lost ex, who for lack of a better term, completely "ruined" a good chunk of your life, suddenly pops back up, and your gut instinct kicks in. You first become upset because, darn it, he's HAPPY. Then you are filled with pitty for his poor new wife. Then your mind starts reflecting back on the past. It's takes a bit to explain, but it all happens in a millisecond.
These thoughts stayed in my head on the whole drive from Noblesville to Lafayette. All the time, I was reflecting on how I thought I had forgiven all the wrongs and just let go of that part of my life, but apparently I hadn't. On the drive, the sky was blue, the girls were sleeping, and I was pleasantly sipping a diet Coke and listening to music. Then I thought of all the things that happened in my life that were a result of that relationship. There's no conceivable way I would be living the life I had now without going through those bumps on the past. No way. And what would I do without my husband and my girls? I felt like a total shmuck. A child. A foolish little girl that held grudges. A person who doesn't forgive.
So my reflections came full circle on that short drive in the car. I realized that it's hard to say that you forgive someone. It's even harder to actually MEAN it. I have truly let go and forgiven, and now, as I thumb through the pages on Facebook and see pictures of his wedding, I am truly and honestly filled with JOY, which is a sentiment I thought I would never project toward him. I hope that his life is filled with as many, if not more, blessings than I have been given.
...and I hope he has wildly rambunctious children...
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Happy Easter, friends!
I spent Sunday morning at the Lincoln Memorial - I am always amazed at the beauty of His creation, and the colors were especially breathtaking at 0630. Wish you could have been there!
I watched the sunrise over our nation's Capitol and thanked God for the freedom to worship Him out loud and in public. But more than that, I was grateful for the miraculous, selfless sacrifice my Jesus offered so many years ago:
To love me enough to die for me.
To willingly lay His spotless life on the cross and exchange His perfection for my imperfections - past, present, and future.
To raise again on the third day in victory over death and sin.
To reconcile my heart to our Heavenly Father, never to be separated again.
He did that for me. And He did that for YOU.
Hope you're swimming in the JOY that is Resurrection Sunday and basking in the truth of this miracle: He is RISEN, indeed.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Most days I can barely keep my head above water. As laundry, dishes, social commitments and work responsibilities pile up, the sensation of drowning increases. How can I be a godly wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee and neighbor when I can't even remember to eat lunch? Yet here we read that Jesus (and Peter) not only kept their heads above water, but their entire bodies!! How?
The quick -- and accurate -- answer is Faith (vs. 31). But I am drawn to the verses earlier in the chapter that discuss all the stresses Jesus had experienced that same day. Jesus learned that John the Baptist had been beheaded and instead of getting to grieve for his cousin, he is followed by a crowd of at least 5,000 people. Matthew says, "He had compassion on them and healed their sick," (vs. 14) and then provides them with a plentiful supper out of 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread. His experiences of the day should have left him physically exhausted, spiritually drained and emotionally grieved. How then could he walk on water?
How can I walk on water?
I think verse 23 has my answer. Jesus "went up on a mountainside by himself to pray." He found a place, free of distractions, where he could talk to his Father. What better way to get faith strong enough to walk on water than to spend time with God? After all, as we learned as children, God made the water He helps us walk on (Genesis 1:9,10)!
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12,13
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Today we did not make it to church and so we had our own Sunday school together as a family. We studied...you guessed it...love. We talked about loving our neighbors and family, animals, and most importantly God. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the concept of love and forgetting the most important thing of all..."that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" John 3:16
I feel it is so important to impart to my kids how much God loves us, and how much we need to love others in return and yet I get still side tracked by silly holidays myself. That is why I am so grateful that Valentines Day fell on "church day" as Leah calls it, so we could have yet another reminder of Gods love!
Today we went to Dollar General to let the kids pick out one treat. After deliberating and picking up numerous things, only to find something else and pick it instead, they finally decided on their treats. We went to stand in the very long line to checkout and both kids were commenting on the balloons. The lady behind us had struck up a conversation with us and out of no where she whips out 2 dollars and gives one to each kid so they could pick out a balloon! What a perfect real world example of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Holding back tears I thanked the stranger and Leah looked at her and said "Love God with all your might" her attempt at our memory verse for the week!
This week we should strive to remember all of the ways God loves us and show those to our neighbors!
"We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." 1 John 4:16
"Love is patient, love is kind and it is not jealous...Love never fails...the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor 13 4-13
"You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself..." Lev 19:18
Sunday, January 31, 2010
I had a brief “God moment” in the car a few days ago. Brooke Fraser, one of my favorite Christian artists, was singing about love, and I was lamenting my lack of it (in the romantic sense). I sang along with the lyrics, allowing a selfish sadness to creep into my voice and my spirit as I harmonized with Brooke:
I’ll be waiting for you, baby
I’ll be holding back the darkest night
Love is waiting ‘til we’re ready
‘Til it’s right
Love is waiting
“Love is waiting…” Well, Brooke, waiting is hard. Frustrating, even. Full of distractions. Burdensome. Confusing. Painful. And, in my humanness, especially now, waiting is all of those things x 10. And I don’t feel like it. So there.
But I kept singing, as I’m wont to do when things hurt, and suddenly, it occurred to me what was coming out of my mouth: LOVE is waiting. Not “like,” or “good enough” or “right now.” LOVE. God’s best. Ordained, in His timing, meant-to-be, full of blessings, moving toward holiness – not happiness, two-shall-become-one LOVE is WAITING.
And you know what that makes love? Patient. And kind. Not envious or boastful. Not proud. Not rude or self-seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always PERSEVERES. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Love is WAITING. And if love - that which God is and exudes - is patient, then surely He in His perfection is worth waiting FOR, whatever our hearts’ desire. We, as Christ-followers, wait not for a husband, or a job, or a house, or anything tangible but for the LORD…for His confidence, His assurance, and His perfect peace.
That God would be so sweet to remind me what true love looks like – and that the wait is worth it – did much to soothe my tender spirit that night and in the days since then. What started out as a self-induced pity party on my drive home became a supernatural revelation through the Holy Spirit that God has already defined love. Indeed, He has demonstrated real love in its purest, truest form (John 3:16). So I need not worry about earthly companionship or the fulfillment of my selfish wants, however justified. My Creator in Heaven knows what I need before I even ask Him (Matthew 6:8) and has promised a hope and a future in Him (Jeremiah 29:11).
LOVE is patient. Always hopes. Always perseveres. Love never fails.
Romans 8:24-25 ~ Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 5:3-4 ~ Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Sprit, whom He has given us.
Romans 12:12 ~ Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
2 Peter 3:9 ~ The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you…
Psalm 130:5-6 ~ I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.