Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity, none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer. --François Fénelon

A man's daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows, with an empty chair beside his bed. The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me”, he said. “No, who are you?” said the father. The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the minister shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church, I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer, until one day four years ago; my best friend said to me, 'Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith, see Jesus in the chair. Jesus promised to be with us always. So, just speak to Him in the same way you're doing with me right now.' So, I tried it and I like it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he die in peace?” he asked. ”Yes,” the daughter replied, “When I left the house about two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him, but there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?' The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

There is no way to know if the story recounted above is true. There are no names, dates or places that we can pin to the narrative. However, just as Jesus taught the crowds and Disciples in parables, we also can learn from stories that teach us how to know God better. The actual events may or may not be true, but there is truth in the tale.

The truth lies in the privilege we have through Jesus Christ to come to God in prayer. The task that was once reserved for those set aside for holy work, is now available to all. In fact, it has always been available to everyone, but the human rules and laws restricted access to God by the common person, and reserved it for the priesthood.

Are you having trouble in your prayer life? Perhaps you feel that God doesn’t hear your prayers. Maybe you feel this way, because you have fallen into the trap of believing you are not eloquent or sophisticated enough to approach God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God hears you whether you use the language of the King James Bible, or the simple dialogue of a three-year-old. God has no use for our words anyway. He listens to our heart. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” He does not give the desires of our minds or our bodies. He listens to our hearts and gives us what our heart desires. If our heart is His, then we will desire the things that God wants for us.

Praying is simply talking to our Father. Pull up a chair and tell Him the desires of your heart.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:5-8

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6)

The internet can be used for so much that is productive. There is almost an infinite supply of information right at your fingertips. With just a few keystrokes, you can find out how to bake a turkey or who the actor was in that old movie you just watched. However, for every bit of usefulness the computer provides, there are at least two non-productive timewasters.

There are also some uses of the computer that do not readily fall into either one. There are some great games online. There are community sites that can bring you in touch with old friends. There are chat rooms and dating sites that can introduce you to a new friend.

Whether these are good or bad depends on the person who uses them. Certainly there have been some who have met online who are truly happy. However, there are predators out there just waiting to do harm to unsuspecting people.

A teacher in London named Julie Mcllroy was checking out some men on a dating website, when she came across a picture she liked. She sent the man a message. He replied and in the next several weeks she learned that his name was Allan Donnelly, and that he worked as an electrician.

They chatted for weeks, until Julie mentioned a certain shop she had just left. Allan commented that he like the same shop. They began asking some more pointed questions, and found out that they lived on the same street. Not only that, but they were only seven houses apart. "I was stunned... He asked me over for a cup of tea, and that was that," she said, while Donnelly, 53, added: "We've got the perfect compatibility. I'm a very lucky man."

These two lived on the same street, just seven houses apart for 17 years, but never met. They had to go on the internet in order to find each other, when all they really had to do was take a walk down the street.

Do we not treat God this way? God wants us to seek Him. He wants us to find Him. He wants us to love Him. God isn’t hiding from us, He is right there for us to find. The only problem is that we are seeking.

Did you ever play hide and seek, but hide too well? What happened? Nobody ever found you. What did you do? You might have made a small sound to get the attention of the others, but if that didn’t work, you finally came out to find them.

That is exactly what God does, only He isn’t hiding, He is in plain view. He is right next to us, watching us try to find Him in every place except where He is. He is beside us. He is with us. He is in us. We’re looking for salvation on the internet while He is whispering in our ear, “I’m right here. How can I love you today?” Are you seeking?

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' (Acts 17:26-28 NIV)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Little House" Truth

What do the television shows The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and Happy Days have in common? There are several common factors. First, they were all successful, highly rated shows in the late 1970’s. Secondly, they were all about a simpler time in our history.

I believe people flocked to these type shows as well as reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, Green Acres, and The Beverly Hillbillies, at this time, to help with some of the feelings of hopelessness. We were just bringing a war to a close that had grown very unpopular, gasoline seemed to be in short supply, the economy was in shambles, so people turned to wholesome television to remind them of a time when things weren’t so bad. (Sound familiar?)

Anyway, if you ask my wife what her all time favorite television show is, she will no doubt reply, “Little House on the Prairie”. She’s in good company. The show ran from 1974 to 1983 and was nominated for 3 Golden Globes, won 15 other awards, and was nominated for 34 more. The show was adored by so many people, for so long, that many of us watched Mary, Laura and Carrie grow up in our living rooms. (Click here to see the opeing credits and hear the theme song! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhHrOgOkXZw)

I was flipping channels a while back, and I came across an episode of Little House on the Prairie. In this episode, the circus came to town. Everyone in Walnut Grove is excited, but Nels Oleson, the local store owner, is shocked to spot his estranged older sister as the "fat lady." Hurt and disappointed by her brother's rejection, Annabelle draws comfort from her close-knit circus family and continues to approach her job with dignity. Nels is terrified to let anyone know his relation to her, even after observing her unwavering kindness to everyone in the community (namely the children at the blind school). After maintaining such secrecy for so long, Nels recognizes his foolishness and publicly expresses his feelings for his beloved sister.

One of the final scenes in the episode, Nels goes to her and tells her that he is sorry and offers to let her stay in Walnut Grove. Her response to him is one we all could learn from. She says, “I was put here for a purpose. Maybe not an exalted purpose, but a purpose. I make people laugh. I make them feel good. That’s not such a bad thing.”

You never know where you will find theological truth. Even a television show can offer up some very deep truths from God’s word. You may not feel that you were put here for an exalted purpose, but you were put on this earth, where you are right now, for a purpose. You may think you have the lowest, most demeaning job on the planet, but if you do it the best you can, with all your heart, then you are a success.

We make the mistake of buying into the garbage they feed us from Madison Avenue about how we should look, what car we should drive, what clothes to wear, and what kind of houses we should live in. We think we are not of worth if we don’t fit that mold. However, we should see the value that we are to God and let Him use us for His purpose. If we find His purpose for our lives, then whatever we are, or do, will be exalted in God’s Kingdom.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
(Proverbs 19:21)