Archive for December, 2007

“Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to be his teacher or counselor? Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advise? Does he need instruction about what is good or what is best?” Isaiah 40:13-14 (NLT)

As I read this passage this morning I was struck at how often I am guilty of “giving the Lord advise” in my prayers. Does He need my advise? Obviously not. Does He need my counsel? Somehow, I don’t think so!

I’m very thankful that we have a God who regularly overlooks my poor choice of wording when I pray, that He sees my heart instead of just hearing my words. Sometimes I mispeak and God hears the good in my heart instead of the poorly worded request that comes from my lips. If I’m honest with myself, though, I know that there are other times when I’ve “cleaned up” the words I speak but the sentiment of my heart truly is to manipulate or “instruct” God in what needs to happen in a given situation. How arrogant of me!

Have you ever prayed “Lord, please help this other person ____________________” (fill in the blank), when what you mean in your heart is “Lord, let this person do what I want them to do”? Were you secretly trying to give God instructions or counsel about what He should do? You may have convinced yourself that you were praying what’s best for that person, yet what you were really praying was the equivalent of giving God instructions.

Although I often fail, I try to pray Scripture rather than solutions. Once while teaching on this subject I was asked the following question: “I have a friend who is about to lose his job. Shouldn’t I pray for him to keep his job?” My response was that while we know that it’s God’s will for the man to provide for his family, we don’t know that it is God’s will for him to have that particular job. As we learned more about the situation it became clear that the friend was in jeopardy of losing his job because his boss was asking him to do unethical things and he was refusing. In the midst of the crisis of needing to provide for his family both he and his friends were losing sight of the fact that God may have orchestrated these circumstances to move him into a new position. If I had prayed that he not lose his job, I might have been praying against the will of God. Rather, if I prayed that God would enable him to continue to provide for his family, enable him to see the “way out” (1 Cor 10:13) of this situation, continue to teach him His ways and conform him to the image of Christ, I would clearly be praying in God’s will.

This doesn’t always come easy for me. I’m a person who seeks solutions. It’s the way my mind works. I see or hear of a problem and my mind immediately begins to brainstorm solutions. It’s one of the ways I tend to be more like men than women. When women share problems with their husbands they are often frustrated because their husbands go into “fixit” mode immediately instead of just listening and being compassionate. I am more like that husband. When I hear a problem I automatically go into “fixit” mode. I’ve had to train myself to listen longer and then make my suggestions in a milder way than comes naturally to me. (I am admittedly better at this sometimes than at other times.)

This personality trait serves me well in many areas of my life. But it’s totally inappropriate in my relationship with God. God doesn’t need me to offer suggestions about how to solve a problem. He has already put the solution in motion. Scripture teaches us that He is always at work in our circumstances, past, present and future. My job is to watch and to listen. If my prayers were more “watch and listen” focused, I undoubtedly would have a more Christ-like walk with the Lord. (Ouch!)

Lord, as I look to 2008, help me to NOT (advertently or inadvertently) give You advice and instructions. Your wisdom is greater.

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The Thanksgiving and Christmas season offers so many opportunities to crash and burn! Over Thanksgiving weekend I was in a department store and saw the holiday decorations and I promised myself that this year I would NOT over plan. I promised myself that I would build in time to enjoy the season. Almost immediately things began to pop up that want to take a bigger bite out of my time than I thought they would. Many are good things. More work is good. Visiting with friends is good. Leading a New Year’s Eve worship time is good. But I am resolved to be like Mary and choose the “better part,” not just the good part.

So I am building in “holiday enjoyment” time this year. Some of that will be just plain fun. Some of it will be spending more time with God, reflecting on His message for me this season. I’m not going to feel guilty about what I’m NOT doing so that I can do these things because I believe that doing these things will honor God MORE than being harried and hassled all season. That’s what choosing the better part means.

Resist Stress

One of the things I’m doing is actively resisting stress (is that in and of itself stress-creating? it can be if you’re not careful) and practicing enjoying the season. But I don’t always get it right. Last week one day I said to Phil “I’m really stressed about meeting this deadline.” His response was priceless (if not original). He said “And how’s that working for you?” In other words, “is being stressed about meeting the deadline helping in any way?” Of course, the answer was “no.” So I took a deep breath and asked God to help me release the outcome to Him as I did my best to meet the deadline. I’m working on “apprehending” or “taking hold of” the grace that God has for me each day (but that’s a blog for another day).

Stop Grumbling

Our pastor has helped, as he’s preached 2 messages on being grateful and not grumbling. I need to be reminded of that from time to time and I appreciated the messages. When I’m overly busy or tired, it’s easy to fall into the trap of complaining. And once fallen in, it can be hard to snap out of it. Something inside of me actually enjoys grumbling! Isn’t that horrible? But I bet you’re like that too. I’ve found that most people are. Yet when we can get out of the trap, life is SO much more enjoyable. And of course we are much more a reflection of God’s grace and peace to the world.
Say “Thank You” to God…In Writing

Here’s one activity I recommend. Find a time (or make a time) to sit down and actually write a Thank You letter to God. I find that writing it down makes me think more and makes the whole process more “real” or “true” than just praying silently or aloud. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to create a Thank You letter to God that was 2 typed pages. I was also amazed at how far-reaching it was. I thanked Him for things that I don’t routinely thank Him for (because quite frankly my thank You’s are often quick and a prelude to what’s next — Ouch!). What that really means is that I was thankful for things I don’t usually reflect on. And what that means is that I am more thankful after writing the letter than I was before writing it because I am more aware of the things I have to be thankful for.

Try it…you’ll like it…and you’ll glorify God more.

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