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Posts Tagged ‘Ravi Zacharias’

praise

God has been faithful to teach us many, many things during our ten-year trial (see post).  There are three who share in our family business – Dana, his dad, and his brother, Larry.  It has been an unforeseen blessing that each has a vital Christian walk and each has placed himself under the teaching of God’s Word – when one of the three has been particularly harassed, one of the others seem able to draw from what God is teaching him and to bring a healing balm at the needed time.

Not all of God’s words to us have been soothing and re-assuring; more than our share have brought conviction and sorrowful repentance.  A couple of these verses, given early on in our trial, brought us face-to-face with our independence and a murmuring spirit which we know now to be dishonoring and grievous to our Maker.

One of the passages of which I speak is Deuteronomy 28:47-48 where the nation of Israel is being reprimanded.  Why? “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything. And he will put a yoke of iron on your neck until he has destroyed you.”  The NIV translates verse 47 “…you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity…”

There’s a scene in the movie The Hiding Place where Corrie ten Boom is being dished up a thin broth in the Nazi concentration camp where she and her sister, Betsie, were imprisoned in the last year of World War II.  The film shows previous scenes, times of prosperity, flash through Corrie’s mind as she recalls the feasts and fellowship which she had known before the war.

A similar thought was mine when I encountered Deuteronomy 28:47.  Scenes of past abundance flitted across my mind, days in which I was not careful to respond to God’s lavish goodness with “joyfulness and gladness of heart.”  I’ve written of this before, probably because it is a recurring theme in Dana’s and my training, but a thankful heart honors the loving care of our sovereign Father.   The ungodly and unrighteous are accused of this very thing in Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Because of our continued temptation to despair as we wonder if there will ever be a change to our present circumstances (a.k.a. failure to trust in the goodness of God’s purposes), Dana and I are trying to remind each other to look for every small grace that we encounter. I am praying for Dana that God would be the lifter of his head and he would raise his focus to see the gifts that surround us.

It’s a bit like Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God, though.  I’m convinced it would be life-giving, but in my frailty I seem only to be able to sustain the practice for short periods of time.  I pray that with use and Holy Spirit reminders, I might grow my capacity to see better my Father’s hand in the world around me.

To this end, I was particularly challenged by a prayer shared by Ravi Zacharius recently.  The prayer was written by Michel Quoist, a 20th century French Catholic priest and writer, as part of his book Prayers of Life.  Oh, that I might become by God’s grace an old woman who delights in the evidences of God’s care around me and my default way to walk through this world would be that of thanksgiving and gratitude. I pray that Quoist’s prayer will inspire you this Thanksgiving 2016 to similarly pray throughout your day.

– – – – –

Thank you, Lord, for all the gifts you’ve given to me today.

Thank you for all I have seen, heard, and received.

Thank you for the water that woke me up, the soap that smells so good, the toothpaste that refreshes.

Thank you for the clothes that protect us, for their color and their style.

Thank you for the newspaper so faithfully there, for the comics, for my morning smile.

Thank you for useful meetings, for justice done, and for the big games won.

Thank you for the street cleaning truck and the men who run it, for their morning shouts and all the early morning noises.

Thank you for my work, the tools, and my efforts.

Thank you for the metal in my hands, for the whine of the steel biting into it, and for the satisfied look of the foreman for the load of finished pieces.

Thank you for Jim, my friend, who loaned me his file, for Danny who shared his lunch with me, for Charlie who held the door open for me.

Thank you for the welcoming street that led me here, for the shop windows, the cars, and the passers-by, for all the life that flowed swiftly between the windowed walls of the houses.

Thank you for the food that sustains me, for the glass of water that refreshes me.

Thank you for the car that weekly took me where I wanted to be, for the fuel that made it go, for the wind that caressed my face, for the trees that nodded to me on the way.

Thank you for the boy I watched on the foot-path opposite, thank you for his roller skates, thank you for his comical grin when he fell.

Thank you for the morning greetings I received and all the smiles.

Thank you for my mother who welcomes me at home and for her tactful affection, for her silent presence.

Thank you for the roof that shelters me, for the lamps that light me, for the radio that plays, for the news, for music, and for singing.

Thank you for the bunch of flowers so pretty on my table.

Thank you for the tranquil night.

Thank you for the stars, Lord, and thank you, too, for silence.

Thank you for the time you’ve given me, Lord, for life, for grace, and for just being there.

Thank you, now, for listening to me, and taking me seriously, for gathering my gifts in your hands to offer them to your Father.

Thank you, Lord, thank you.

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christians-burden

“I never, ever in my wildest dreams, thought I would one day be going through chemo.”  The world of a professional acquaintance of mine (I’ll call her R) came crashing down mid-August when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

We were in pretty regular email contact last spring when R helped me in a professional capacity.  I happened to email her before school started just as a hi, how are you doing contact.  At that very time she had just received a professional opinion of breast cancer and was awaiting the official results of her diagnostic labs. In a few days, she wrote back and said that the cancer had been confirmed.  She was understandingly reeling from the news and said she needed time to process it all.  I let her know how sorry I was for her troubles.

In God’s providence, I pass by R’s house every day on my way to work.  The Lord has often laid it on my heart to pray for her.  I don’t know what her religious convictions are, so I have just prayed that God would use this great affliction to impress upon her the brevity of our time on earth and her need to answer one of the universal questions of life, namely, Is this all there is?  I asked God to use this crisis in her life to draw her to him.

This week I thought to encourage R by letting her know that I have been praying for her often as I pass her home.  I expressed my hope that her treatments have not been too grueling and she is feeling encouraged and sustained by those around her.  I closed with “peace” and that’s really all I wrote.  Although she knows I teach at a Christian school, she and I have had no conversations of a spiritual nature so I thought it best not to cast pearls.

Her reply has grieved me:

Hi Kim.  I’m here at work at the moment, but barely hanging on by my fingernails.  I am trying to push it until 3:00.  Yesterday was my first day back and I lasted about three hours.  Chemo is horrible.  I’m one week out from my first chemo, three treatments left to go, each spaced three weeks apart.  I have lost 19 pounds.  I have to dig very deep.

I am open to having you pray for me whenever you drive by.  The only thing I’m extremely not open to is when people suggest that this is God’s will for me.  I will not tolerate any of that nonsense.  Thank you for checking on me.

I was reminded of an Isaac Watts hymn to which I’ve very recently been introduced: “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place” (note: Aweful is different than awful), especially these lines:

…Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

So much is revealed by her reply.  Firstly, there seems to be a glaring disconnect to the human condition in her statement, “I never, ever in my wildest dreams, thought I would one day be going through chemo.”  Really???  I found that statement shocking since I think of that sort of thing all the time (probably my scale tips too far in the other direction).

You see, I know I live in a world where not only humanity is fallen and under a curse (hopelessly separated from the one, true, holy, living God if it were not for our rescue by said God), but all of creation is victim to this curse as well. True, God has given mankind dominion over his creation – an ability to seek and discover the uses and purposes of the treasures God has scattered throughout his universe, but I also know that this very creation has been “subjected to futility” along with mankind and is in “bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:19-21).  It, like I, await with “eager longing” our freedom from this bondage when Christ returns for his children.

I know that all of creation has experienced this decay from its original glory and is no longer as reliable as it once was.  It’s the reason why I don’t eat chocolate with abandon, or rich pasta, or pizza, or boxes of Good & Plenty, or (wait… I digress).  It’s what makes me get on the treadmill or pick up light weights periodically; not because I’m one of those endorphin addicts, but because I experience and confirm the Second Law of Thermodynamics:  “While quantity [of energy] remains the same (the First Law), the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually over time.”  Beyond a doubt, my matter is gradually deteriorating over time, as is that of my universe.  I know that given enough time, the resources I might currently rely upon for health (medicine or supplements, movement, heredity, treatments, etc.) will eventually fail me.  One day I will break down completely and die (with further deterioration occurring in the grave).

Beyond shock though, the rest of R’s message just plain makes me sad.  It is a window into how those with no hope beyond their own material resources deal with issues of life and death like cancer.  Her rejection of God’s sovereignty in her affairs is a rejection of that one thing which is my keel in rough seas and affords me peace in times of trial and suffering.  As the hymn writer Annie Flint has put it:  “To added afflictions, He addeth His mercy; to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.”  In exchange for this, R is left to dig very deep.  And what will she find there, I wonder?

She is “open” to my praying for her, but I wonder to what god she assumes I will pray.  Her sense of god seems to be a very small god who, if he exists at all, is not in control of his universe.  In condescending to allow me to pray for her, she is either allowing me my prayers but believing them to be useless, or she believes that this god’s main role is to help us out when we get into trouble or make us feel better so we can be happy.  She will not tolerate any nonsense which hints at this god having a greater purpose for her life than mere well being.

In Sunday School today, I couldn’t help think of R and her darkened understanding as we studied 2 Peter 1:1-4.  Peter writes to those in the faith, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (v2).  Peter knew what I have proven in my life… as I grow in my knowledge and understanding of God, my peace is multiplied.  It does not diminish my peace to know God as sovereign over every aspect of my life, it multiplies my peace.  This is because I know him to be as He has declared:  “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exodus 34:6).  It is a great peace to me and comfort in times of distress to know as Abraham Kuyper has declared: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”

For her own good and before it’s too late, I pray that R will dig very deep and come to the end of herself; that her finite resources exhausted, she will seek and find rest for her soul as only Jesus can give.  There have been tougher cases than R’s who have eventually bent their knees to the one, true God, Yahweh.   An encouragement to some is a warning to others:  One day “every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).  May R confess Jesus as Lord before that great and terrible day when the destinies of all will be fixed, even as many are suddenly made aware of their gross error in rejecting this mighty, sovereign God.

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sunrise on snowy field
Just sending this down the path.  It’s so worthy.  Ravi Zacharias‘ posted this New Year’s prayer of consecration this morning by Frances Ridley Havergal (1836–1879).  Sing it to Samuel Sebastian Wesley‘s tune, “The Church’s One Foundation. ”

Dear Father, let it be…

“Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in heaven, another year for Thee.”

                                                          — Frances Havergal (1874)

[Thanks, Dana, for helping me to find this.]

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