Dear Lord, even if I pray in faith and dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, but am praying something which I will regret forever and which is not what You have planned, please ignore me. Thank you for hearing this prayer!
Three men in the Bible–really godly men, the best of the bunch–prayed at one time or other for the Lord to end their lives.
–Moses in Numbers 11:15 “If I’ve found favor in Thy sight, please kill me.”
–Elijah in I Kings 19:4 “That’s enough now, Lord. Take my life. I’m no better than my fathers (and they’re all dead).” My paraphrase.
–Jonah in Jonah 4:3 “Death is better to me than life, so please take my life from me, O Lord.”
Do you enjoy the TV quiz program “Jeopardy”?
If so, you have lots of company. My young friend Josh Woo was a contestant on that program when he was maybe 12. Anyway…
What makes the program unique is its format. They give you the answer and you provide the question. For example, if they said “1492,” you would say, “When did Columbus discover America?” If they said, “George Washington,” you would say, “Who was the first president of the U.S.?”
Well. Did you know that much of the New Testament was written in the Jeopardy format?
The epistles, for instance, are letters answering various needs in the early churches. The problem is we are not given the questions they address. So we have to work our way back. We have the answer; what is the question?
From my journal of Wednesday, December 31, 1997.
In my morning radio program “Phone Call from the Pastor” (Lifesongs 89.1 New Orleans), I told this:
This is a message to a young mother of two boys I saw at McDonald’s on Airline Highway yesterday. Your boys are perhaps 2 and 3-1/2. You say they were born 18 months apart. “They’re killing you,” I told you facetiously. “I hope you survive until they’re grown.” But what I thought was, “I hope they survive.”
Their behavior is suicidal. They are well on their way to becoming society’s worst nightmare. They are out of control.
You kept giving orders to the older one–sit down, be quiet, turn around, eat your lunch–and he kept ignoring and defying you. There was fire in the little guy’s eyes. He really did look like a miniature devil.
My heart went out to you. My wife and I raised two little boys who were three years apart. I know they can be very trying, especially on Mom. So, what I’m about to suggest to you comes from some experience with this subject.
(from my 1990 journal)
Before I saw her dead and murdered, I enjoyed her yard and ate her mulberries.
For only the third time in my life, I walked by Miss Boshell’s house and stood in her yard the other day. This time it was Spring. The yard is rich in green and the daffodils are everywhere. Mom says those flowers are from the bulbs Miss Boshell herself planted. Since she’s been dead 39 years, that’s quite a record. Buttercups–aka jonquils–must be more formidable than they appear. The trees have been cut down so what was her house-place looks a lot like an open field.
The first time I came here was in late summer around 1950. I was 10. Mom and several of us stood around in her yard and on the porch visiting. The simple white frame house was shadowed on all sides by large trees. The most interesting to us children was the mulberry tree out close to the road. Its fruit was large and juicy and hung down within reach. Nearby her muscadine vines competed for our attention. It was good to be in Miss Boshell’s yard that day. If the children talked to her at all, I don’t recall. Mom did that. We had other business.
A program on a science channel dealt with “Venus: Earth’s Evil Twin.” The two planets are similar in size, and according to the experts, have the same origin. But Venus is hellish, with acidic atmosphere and temperatures in the monstrous range.
Early in the program, the scientists began telling how Earth’s future is to become as Venus is now. Not next week. But in the distant future.
Now, personally, I have no trouble with anything that occurs on this planet a billion years down the road, which is the time period the experts dealt with. For one thing, I won’t be here, and neither will you. For another, scripture says “the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat” (2 Peter 3:12).
Wonder why they feel the need to say such?
Watch enough such science shows, and you come away feeling that their purpose was to unnerve the viewer, to frighten the audience with the awful fate awaiting the planet and possibly to eradicate any primitive thoughts of a God who could be expected to rescue us from such a future.
I suspect their ploy works. If one watches enough of this stuff, it would.
But there is one thing–one word actually–which keeps people of faith grounded, one word which is our answer to those who would frighten us about the future of this universe.
This is semi-funny. In my retirement ministry–preaching in various churches–I naturally preach the passages that mean a great deal to me. And, since I know them so well, in many cases I quote the verses from memory. Often I don’t even carry a Bible to the pulpit with me. To read, I need cumbersome reading glasses, and if I already know the Scripture, what is the point? Just recite the passage and preach it. If someone asks–as they often do, probably not seriously– whether I have memorized all the Bible (try to imagine that!), I say, “No, I just preach the parts I’ve memorized.” That’s flippant, I suppose, but pretty much how it is.
I do love the Word of God. I love all of it, not just the parts I’ve preached again and again. And I love how those well-known familiar passages keep yielding insights and blessings. Here are a few thoughts on ten passages that I dearly love…
One. Romans 8 is the mother lode of spiritual insight.
In my sermon on prayer last Sunday morning, Romans 8:26 played a huge part. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…”
We are poor pray-ers. If the Apostle Paul did not know how to pray, it’s a lead-pipe cinch that you and I don’t!
But, we’re not to despair.
Then, here is what I would say to you….
One. –It’s an exciting and sometimes scary life. You get to see the work of the Lord up close; you also become the target of the enemy’s work.
Okay, you’re wondering why you would become a target, when all you want to do is to be married to this terrific guy who has heard God’s call to spread the gospel. What could anyone possibly find wrong with that? Answer: You have three enemies–the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is the system around you and it is no friend to grace; the flesh is the nature within you and it is hostile to God; and the devil is, well, you know who he is.
In Acts 20:28ff, Paul tells the pastors of Ephesus to expect trouble from two sources: bad people outside the church and troublemakers inside. That is still in effect today.
“O Thou who dost hear prayer, to Thee all men come” (Psalm 65:2).
God hears prayers. It’s what He does.
God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Scripture is consistent on this.
The disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘Our Father….'” (Luke 11:1ff).
Slow down. Do not rush through the “Our Father” (what we call “The Lord’s Prayer”). Look how it begins.
You are praying to the Father. He is not just yours, of course, but “our” Father. He has quite the large family.
He is the Father. He birthed us. Created us. Knows us.
God is on your side. He is not impartial and definitely not antagonistic. He wants to do well for you, to bless you in every way. Jesus said, “Fear not, little children. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
“Not responsible for broken windshields.”
We’ve all seen that sign on the back of large trucks on the highway.
But if the rock hitting my car flew out of that truck’s unsecured load, the driver is responsible, regardless of the sign. The lawcourts have established this, and lawyers get rich making the point…again and again and again.
I write on this website for pastors and church leaders. We try to encourage pastors to faithfulness and greater effectiveness, and to lift their spirits when circumstances crush them. As a result, I sometimes receive critical notes from those who have been abused by pastors.
My pastor husband divorced me and ran off with the secretary. The church supported him and kept him on. The children sided with their dad and now will have nothing to do with me. Where is God when this happened? I’ve quit going to church and question whether God really cares.
I hear from the adult children of ministers who were mistreated by their churches:
In a book of historical fiction on the Civil War, the author told of the train stopping in Birmingham, Alabama, and soldiers getting aboard.
That’s when I tossed it away.
Birmingham, Alabama did not exist during the Civil War. The city was founded in 1870, five years after the end of that war, and chartered the next year.
A western novel I was reading told of some goings-on in the city of New Orleans. The author made reference to the point at which Bourbon Street intersects with the Mississippi River. This famous street runs parallel to the river and at no point intersects it.
Then, the writer described a scene taking place in a New Orleans mansion “built in the mid-nineteenth century.” Well, hello. The story was taking place in 1865, by any accounts the middle of the 19th century.
Where were the editors, one wonders? Does no one in the publishing business read a book with a critical eye any more?
I stopped reading Fannie Flagg’s new book “The Whole Town’s Talking” a third of the way in. My daughter-in-law did the same thing. The difference is I had bought the book, whereas Julie had only to return hers to the library.