Knocking on Heaven’s Door


Knocking on heavens doorI sometimes wonder why it’s necessary for us to pray. I wonder why we need to “make our requests known” to our loving, all-knowing and all-powerful heavenly Father. If he’s aware of every hair on our heads, surely he’s also aware of every need in our hearts. I’m convinced we cannot “surprise” him with our requests; he knows what we need before we utter the words.

A couple of days ago, while I was flying from Baltimore back home to Albuquerque, I read a little book by Charles Spurgeon called “The Power in Prayer.” I read in this jam-packed little book that our heavenly Father attends to the needs of the ravens without them asking for sustenance. He clothes flowers with splendor, without them ever uttering a word.

So why is it necessary for us – the crown of his creation – to remind him of things he already knows?

Because Jesus told us to. He told us to ask. And he told us to seek, and to knock.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ ~Matthew 7.7, New International Version

Okay, so now that we’ve done these thing, what now?

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” ~Matthew 7.7, New Living Translation

We sometimes lose the full impact of Scripture because of the limitations of our English language. When Jesus told us to ask, seek, and knock, he was not making a suggestion. He was not simply “inviting” us to pray. His words are a command. In the Greek language, a command is an imperative.

And Jesus did not say that praying is a “once and done” activity. The words ask, seek and knock are in the present tense. That means we are commanded to pray this way as an ongoing, continual activity. In other words: Always be asking! Always be seeking! Always be knocking!

Praying can become as natural to us a breathing.

So why do we pray. Because Jesus told us to. And from my perspective, the reason he told us to pray continually – and in a persistent way – is to remind us of our utter dependency on him. We tend to forget that every breath we take is a gift from God. Every beat of our heart is a gift.

Now when I’m driving in my truck, talking with God about whatever comes to my mind, I’ve begun to “knock” as I talk. Sure, it’s probably a little crazy, but it reminds me why I’m praying. I’m praying because Jesus told me to.

And I’m noticing that something within me changes, in a peaceful kind of way, when I’m obedient to my Lord.

Works by Salvation


SCAREDIn our effort to avoid the appearance of “salvation by works,” we sometime dilute the truth of the gospel. Yes, we are saved by grace, and by grace alone. Salvation is a gift…unearnable, unattainable in our own strength. That’s what makes it the “gift of salvation.” We get that, right!

But nowhere in Scripture do I read that Jesus died so that we can live comfortable-cushy lives. And He did not save us so that we can go on living our lives the way we’ve always lived our lives…doing what we FEEL like doing; disregarding what we know to be true…as if we do not know the truth.

Jesus died so that we, too, can die. We are invited to “die to ourselves”…to our whims and our selfishness and our stubbornness…so that we can be made ALIVE in Christ. And the life we experience in Him sets us free – and empowers us – to become “faithful and obedient servants”.

Although we are not saved BY our works, we are saved TO work. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Ephesians 2.10

May we step up and be faithful and obedient servants…full of joy and compassion…and shine brightly in dim places.

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Don’t Stop Believin’


TightwireThere’s a story in the Bible that sheds some interesting light on faith. I’m encouraged to know that the people Jesus encountered while here on earth are people just like you and me. They were not super-human men and women with super-human faith.

There was a guy who had a son who was possessed by an evil spirit. The spirit would throw the kid to the ground and make him foam at the mouth and gnash his teeth. (Some of us with kids and grandkids can relate: we sometimes wonder if some strange spirit has invaded their body as they kick and scream on the floor.)

The father of the tortured boy asked Jesus to heal his son.

Here’s the conversation we read in the 9th chapter of Mark:

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” (This strikes me funny. The boy is rolling in the dirt, foaming at the mouth, and Jesus is having a casual conversation with the dad.)

The dad told Jesus, “From childhood. The spirit has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” (Can you imagine saying to the Son of God, “If you can!” Come to think of it…yes, I guess we can imagine that.)

Jesus repeated his words: “ ‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

WOW…me, too!

So…what can we learn from this encounter?

First, there was nothing impressive about the father’s faith. The guy said to Jesus, “If you can…” So faith is not the absence of doubt. Faith is refusing to allow our doubt to stop us from believing.

Second, it’s okay to be honest about our faith. We do not need to fake our faith. The man said, “I believe; help me in my unbelief.”

I can easily relate to the father of the tortured boy. I believe. And I wonder – not if he can – but if he will.

We sometimes mistakenly believe that the “size” of our faith is inadequate. But I don’t think it’s about the amount of our faith. We do not need to be the Superman (or Superwoman) of faith. I think it’s about whether or not we are willing to “risk” trusting God with all we’ve got. Like the little widow lady who gave her last few coins as an offering to God, it’s not the amount that impresses God. It’s about whether or not we will offer it all.

Possibly we have only a couple of small “coins” of faith. It’s enough! I believe God has some great things in store for those who are willing to trust him with everything they have to offer.

Pardon Me ~Your Humility is Showing


BraggingArrogance and showmanship – in the form of self-righteousness – annoy God. On the other hand, we who are Christ followers are told to be bold and bright – letting the light within us shine in such a way that it will be seen by everyone.

We’ve all cringed a bit when people seem to boast about the enormous amounts of time they spend on their knees in prayer, and how they’ve worn out their Bible (make that “Bibles”) from constant use. We find ourselves feeling a bit annoyed by this display of piety. Yet haven’t most of us boasted in similar ways?

In the 6th chapter of Matthew, here’s what Jesus teaches: “When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

And here’s what he teaches us about prayer (also in the 6th chapter of Matthew): “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Yet earlier, in the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

From my perspective, the decision about whether or not to “make my good deeds known” is a matter of the motivation of my heart. Here’s the question I must continually ask myself: “Is what I’m about to say for God’s glory…or for my glory?” I can tell the difference—usually. And I believe the ultimate “test” of my motivation is exposed in the response of other authentic Christians. (I specify other authentic Christians because anytime we open our mouth we are at risk of being misperceived by people who “project” their own self-righteous flaws onto us.)

The Bible does not tell us to avoid practicing our righteousness before others. Rather, we are told to not practice our righteousness—or to pray—to be seen by others. Which brings us back to the motivation of our heart. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 6.1

Praying or reading your Bible in a public place, such as a restaurant, may be a display of self-righteousness. Or, it may be an act of genuine gratitude for God’s Word and his provision. It’s a matter of one’s heart motivation.

I believe we need to be bold in our Lord. I believe we need to be “out there” proclaiming the good news of what he has done – and is doing – in our lives, and what he will do in the lives of others who will humbly receive his gift of Life. And when we boast, we must be reminded to “boast in the Lord.” ~1 Cor 1.31

Let us be continually checking our motives, and asking God to search our hearts, and expose anything within us that distracts others from the glory of our God.

We are his servants, and we are honored to have been invited to serve the King of kings and Lord of lords by serving his people—boldly…and for HIS glory!

Was Adam a Wimp…in the Beginning?


Adam (3)When did Adam become a wimp-of-a-man like us, blaming his wife for his foolish mistakes? Did God create him to be a milk toast kind of guy…a man who was too cowardly to take responsibility for his disobedience? Not likely. God created Adam in his own image.

I picture the newly created Adam as a confident man. It seems to me the moment his lungs were filled with the breath of God, and his eyelids opened, revealing the inexpressible beauty of his surroundings, Adam’s connection with his Creator would have instilled a deep sense of confidence. He had no competition, he had no hero image to live up to, and he had no shoes to fill. It seems that his primary inclination would have been to explore the wonderment of his surroundings—fearlessly. He would have been inclined to walk confidently with God in the stunning beauty of the garden.

Even so, Adam disobeyed God. Intentionally. He betrayed the One who breathed life into his body; the One who had instilled within him the almighty Spirit. Adam was not tricked or deceived; his choice was deliberate. We know we are inclined to disobey God, but we attribute our inclination to our “fallen nature.” Adam did not have a fallen nature. His nature—in the beginning—was pure and virtuous. So what could he possibly have been thinking when he took the bite of the forbidden fruit?

Something changed in an epic way when Adam took the bite. Perhaps at that very moment Adam became aware of his plight. He realized how ill-equipped he was to take responsibility for his rebellious choice, once he stepped out of the intimate fellowship he had enjoyed with his Creator friend. At that moment, Adam became a wimp like us. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have become wimps like him, since he was the first.

What if there was a way to regain the masculine strength Adam had in the beginning?

Actually, I believe there is a way to regain the sense of confident manhood we are intended to possess. But it doesn’t happen the way we think it should happen. It is not the result of our effort, or by pretending to be better than we are. It happens when we surrender our weaknesses to God. Men, it is in the admission of our weakness that we connect with God’s strength. God’s gracious strength flows into our lives through the humility of our spirit.

“God said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” ~2 Corinthians 12.9

…and yet have BELIEVED!


Empty tombWhile Rose and I watched the crucifixion of Jesus during the final episode of the Bible, I felt ashamed for the times I have not been faithful to God’s call. I regretted the times I avoided the “discomfort” of bearing witness to the work of God in my life.

Watching as our Lord was beaten mercilessly—as an innocent man—was almost too much to bear. There were times when I wanted to look away. But I was reminded that since he was willing to be beaten to death as the payment for my sin, how could I look away! How can I ever be a faithful witness to his grace if I cannot even bear to watch as he took my place?

After the beating, and the gruesome death, in three days the morning came. And the resurrection! I thought my heart would burst as I shared in the elation of Mary and the others when they discovered that the tomb was empty. All of my shame melted away as I witnessed Jesus’ kindness toward his disciples, even Peter. Their past failures and disbelief no longer mattered. Jesus died to release them, and us, from the penalty of sin. And he died to release us from the guilt and shame of our past foolishness.

I imagined what it would have been like to have been visited by Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. The look in his eyes supercharged my desire to “risk” being faithful to him, especially when things get a little uncomfortable. One day we will look into his eyes—and he will look into ours—as we give an account of the opportunities, and the gifts, he gave us to serve him.

Jesus commended his disciples for believing in him. And then he said something that reignited my faith: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~John 20.29

Rose and I looked at each other with a renewed awareness: That’s us! We, and all those who believe because of the witness of the disciples who were there to see with their eyes our risen Lord, are those who have not seen. Nevertheless, he has given us eyes of the heart to believe. Jesus tells us we are blessed for believing.

May we each experience a surge of confidence as we go about our day-to-day activities. Our Lord suffered the death that was meant for us, so that we can have everlasting life. How can we do less than bear witness to his amazing grace in our lives!

Runnin’ Naked…and Lovin’ It!


Running Silhouette“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” ~Hebrews 4.12-13

So here’s the question: Knowing the Bible “exposes” our innermost thoughts and desires, do we feel comforted…or condemned? Do we think of the revealing Word of God as a good and beneficial thing, or as a frightening thing?

It seems to me that the answer depends on our level of trust in the goodness of God. The more we trust him, the more safe we feel in our “nakedness” before him. Otherwise, we feel violated by God’s “intrusion” into our secret thoughts and desires.

I’m beginning to welcome the search light of God in my life. Knowing that he is for me and not against me makes all the difference. Although in the past I typically imagined God exposing the “bad” things lurking deep within my soul, it has occurred to me there are a few good things within me that God is exposing. For instance, one of the things he is exposing is my deep and enduring desire to be the man he designed me to be, and to be a husband and father and grandpa that will honor him.

He is exposing my willingness to learn to trust him more fully.  He is revealing my confidence that he is the One who will complete the work he has begun within me. Today, my greatest challenge is to live in humble submission to the things he reveals to me…as I live in his Word.

Sometimes when we’re reading the Bible, we simply quit reading too soon. Immediately after we read about God using his Word as a sword to slice and dice our innermost thoughts and desires, we read this:

“This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4.15-16

May we invite—and welcome—God’s loving revelation that brings healing into our lives and relationships, and peace that boggles our minds.

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