Tag Archives: God has your back

Breaking the Code v. 5

Matthew records this description of Jesus spending time with His Father, “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone …”

Prayer … Jesus did it and, when they asked, He taught the disciples how to pray by giving us what we now know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” (Matt 6) Why does it seem hard at times to even begin? What should a good Christian’s prayer life look like? At times I don’t even feel like a good Christian and feel like I can’t even get God’s attention. Books have been written on prayer, but when I think I should pray, I have things on my heart that make those books seem distant and kind of … not applicable in my situation.

So often I’ve found myself feeling unworthy and at a loss for words when I know there are things that only God can solve. When I think about some things that I need to leave with God, I know there are many unknowns about the situation that it is presumptuous for me to propose a solution that may be completely inappropriate. There are also things that are within my scope of responsibility but beyond my power to resolve.

Peter wrote (5:6-7) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the almighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” Instead of continuing to own all of life’s issues, as we’ve been trained to do, we need to humble ourselves and place our anxieties at His feet. He tells us that He cares for us. Which of us, when a child asks for a piece of bread will give that child a stone? God cares for us as His children. He tells us to look at the flowers in the field and how they are adorned. Even Solomon in all his riches and royal attire was not dressed as well as the flowers in the field. Still, God loves us even more than the flowers in the field. He cares for us and wants us to give Him all our cares.

There was a religious man in the temple square speaking eloquently so that all could hear, “Thank God I’m not like these peasants and ne’er do wells.” Jesus calls our attention to a tax collector standing quietly in the corner of the temple square, beating his chest in agony, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18) This parable of Jesus is intended to show us that it is not fancy words, but a contrite spirit (as Peter wrote) that captures God’s attention and is forgiven.

There have been many times in my life that I just needed to share my heart with God. In one season, I was in the habit of clearing the passenger seat of my car of all papers, and use my commute time to talk with God who I invited to travel with me so that we could just talk. That proved to be a time when I learned to really give Him all my junk and express the true desires of my heart. Jesus did this in the Garden of Gethsemane. He went alone in the garden, and asked the Father to let the burden of this crucifixion be done a different way, and to let Him escape it. He asked this, knowing full well that this moment was why He had come into our world and that this was the only way our sins could be covered. Jesus modeled baring His heart and soul in making the desires of His heart known to God, His Father. Paul wrote in the letter to the church at Philippi, “… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6)

Don’t over-complicate your prayers. Just sit down with God and speak to Him the desires of your heart. Some have envisioned the acronym ACTS as they think about prayer.

A – say a few words of Adoration from your heart to God, the Creator of all things. He is worthy of our praise. Look into some of the Psalms for some ideas of how to praise God our Father. Admire his creation if nothing else comes to mind.

C – one can’t help but come into the presence of the Almighty without Confessing our sins and shortcomings. We need to admit that we are sinful and need His forgiveness for our sins. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive those sins.

T – expressing Thanksgiving for the things in our lives that He has provided. Even when life is not going well, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” James wrote that we should consider it a joyful thing when we encounter various trials. He also wrote that every good and perfect gift is from above. So give thanks to the Father for His goodness to us.

S – we should offer prayers of Supplication. What is supplication? Well, it is asking for something humbly and leaning on the promises of God that He cares for us. Yes, it’s a 50 cent word but it completes the acronym with by telling us why we came here in the first place. This is the time to ask God for anything and everything that is on your heart. Christ did it and so should you.

Honestly, there are times when there simply isn’t time to go through all these steps. There are times when I’m talking with someone about something really important and I say a prayer asking God to guide my words so that they will honor Him. There are times when a situation is spiraling out of control that all we can do is cry for help. There are times when we lose someone we love dearly when we ask God for the comfort that only He can provide.

Prayer, the act of talking with God, helps us invoke a power beyond our own capabilities. The disciples were effectively praying when they awakened Jesus from His slumber in the middle of the storm, begging Him to help them. They had no idea that they would see the response they witnessed and the winds and the sea were stilled. When we pray we need to be ready for God to respond in ways we didn’t anticipate because He cares for us and loves us.

The letter to the church at Thessaloniki tells us to pray without ceasing. Live in an attitude of prayer. Let prayer become the lifeline for your courage and love for others. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous because the Lord your God is with you. (Joshua 1) I leave you with that same word.

Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Christmas Eve 1968

Do you know what was happening on Christmas Eve, 1968? I can tell you what I was doing. In addition to trying to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, I was celebrating the birth of our oldest daughter, Debbie, the day before. She was born on December 23rd, 1968. Last night we celebrated her birthday with all the family together. As we were reflecting on what her presence in our family meant to each of us, there were ten mini celebrations of her impact in our lives.

That was indeed a life changing event for us all in so many ways. Her arrival in this world meant that I would be exempted from being drafted into the service of our country. Those were the days of the height of the Vietnam War. Being drafted was certain to have a battlefield assignment in guerrilla warfare. Those were the days of flower children, draft dodgers and when flag burning started. It was tumultuous time in our country. Lest you think the days we are in currently are uncharted territory, let me just assure you that the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was so right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

There was another significant event taking place that Christmas Eve. On December 24, 1968, three American astronauts were circling the moon. Many of you were not even born yet. Some were too young to remember, but many of us remember the day very well. What a historic moment! They sent back pictures of the earth and read the first 10 verses of the book of Genesis to an audience rapt in wonder and awe.

Seven months later, the United States landed men on the moon! As with so many major events, there is a back story. Eric Metaxas, who heads up the Colson Center shared one part of the back story in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Rather than restating the story, I’m providing a link to the op-ed Christmas Eve in Space and Communion on the Moon. The story shows that our battle against the powers of the air are not new. Satan, the prince of the power of the air, has been working to suppress the good news of the gospel since the Garden of Eden.

Mr. Metaxas shares the story of how that momentous arrival of men on the moon was celebrated by Buzz Aldrin with the taking of communion as the most appropriate thing he could do. He read portions of the book of John where Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches …” In light of the public pressure, even in those days, NASA advised that these actions and readings not be broadcast back to earth. Well known atheist, Madelyn O’Hair had filed suit for the Christmas Eve event. It is no wonder this story has been suppressed.

But on this Christmas Eve, I feel it is important that we hear the story of Buzz Aldrin. As so many in our country are giving their all to deny the truth of God’s word and the real story of Christmas, we should take encouragement from Buzz Aldrin’s story and his strength of faith.

Let’s be men and women who know who we are and Whose we are. Buzz knew Whose he was and could not let that moment pass without acknowledging the God of the universe. Let us take courage in our hearts to give thanks for the greatest gift EVER, the Christ child coming to earth for one purpose only. That purpose was to provide a way for us to have a relationship with the God who created the moon and the earth, not to mention thousands of galaxies that have yet to be discovered. We discover knew expanses of our universe every year, and our God created it all.

Blessings to you and your families this Christmas season. May Christ be your source of joy and peace as we give each other gifts to celebrate His birth, God’s gift to us.

Reflections on Family

One day a friend asked how it was that we had experienced success as a family. He has interacted with our family and wanted me to write down those things that we felt were foundational to our family situation.

I think it should be said here that any positive family dynamics are the result of people who desire and are willing to work hard at making the family successful. Is there an occasional stink bomb? Sure, but we are committed to working through these things. The list that follows is the beginning of telling the story.

While the list is not comprehensive, nor is it a guarantee for tranquility, I thought it might be of interest to some to reflect on some of the concepts that have influenced our family relationships. It must also be said here that those facing family challenges today should not throw in the towel. It is never too late to start to bring God into your family. It starts with you and prayer; just you and God. Earnest prayers are heard by God and God answers prayer. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by these reflections created over coffee and “donuts” one Wednesday morning in Breckenridge, CO.

Family
A Journey in Progress

Breakfast conversation with the six adults at Daylight Donuts, Breckenridge, CO
Reflection on a 50th Anniversary and what makes a family successful

  • Preceding prayers for the children and spouses of children and grandchildren by previous generations – Dad’s parents began praying for our daughter’s husbands from the day they learned we were expecting each child.
  • Dad invited Christ into his heart at the age of seven, and as a teenager re-committed his life to follow the Lord – Train up a child in the way he should go – raised in an environment filled with exposure to discussions of God
  • After reflecting on the story of Solomon, Dad asked God for two things, wisdom, because God was pleased with Solomon’s request, and a wife who would be strong in the faith when his faith was weak – Solomon’s wives led him away from God.
  • God answers Dad’s prayers by providing a wife of character, strong in the faith to compliment my weaknesses – a woman committed to God first, then to her husband
  • The family celebrates milestones birthdays, anniversaries, graduations
  • Modeling home leadership that demonstrates real faith by living out a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – lives that diligently try to exemplify the two great commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors
  • Mimi and Papa respect God’s model of the home by honoring sons-in-law leadership of their homes by communicating home leadership concepts through them
  • Overlooking, yet challenging, comments not well thought out – overlooking each others’ faults – not being easily offended by sins of commission or omission, slight or oversight – forgiveness (both asking and giving) is a key word
  • Abundant gift of hospitality, keeps us getting together at special occasions and random times
  • Sons-in-law knit together as they are great friends and cover for each other – part of God’s answer to the prayers of previous generations
  • Common commitment to faith and faithfulness – a conviction that a personal relationship with Christ is a top priority so the table is set for each family member to recognize the choice before them – prayer without ceasing for the faith and growth of each family member
  • Choosing church relationships and engagement are a priority and important part of family values and extended “family of believers” relationships
  • Trust – freedom, empowerment, and encouragement to succeed in being your own person – all that God made you to be
  • Being for each other – thinking the best of each other – presuming the best intentions
  • Sons-in-law still break bread with “Dad” – one SIL estimates over 1,000 hours of coffee in early morning hours – another mentored in the faith for over a year – investing in the heads of our homes
  • Higher mission and purpose – life is bigger than our family, e.g., FCA, Father Daughter, Father Son Retreats, Entertaining events like CEO roundtable, College and Career Group at church, involvement in church at all levels – lives focused on helping and praying for others keeps self in perspective
  • We all support the mission and purpose calling of each family
  • Investment in posterity – when girls were dating – invested in dating choice decisions
  • Humility that comes from study of and understanding of the scriptures
  • Marriages built on the biblical model; man is the head of the house, husband and wife are to love and respect each other
  • Play together. Family vacation to the beach or the mountains. Hiking and biking with ice cream treats afterwards. Movie nights, bowling, and playing games. A joyful heart is good medicine.
  • Focus on what unites us not divides.
  • We have very strong personalities in our family. All are leaders. The diversity of personalities can divide in a spirit competition or even playing favorites. Yet, a common commitment to a belief bring unity built on love and faith. Some families break under such differences. In love, it unites making us stronger.
  • Mentorship and pursuit of wisdom. Always seeking to learn from friends in the faith, family, and work who may impart insight especially during challenging seasons.
  • There is a glass cabinet in the foyer of our home containing the Bibles of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. This is our way of honoring our fathers and mothers, and thanking God for their faithfulness and prayerful impact in our lives and the lives of our respective family members. There is a rich history of godly people who prayed for their successor generations.

 

We then gathered the input of the grandkids (ages 11 – 20)

  • Laughter
  • Loyalty to each other
  • Joyful
  • Mimi’s capability to destroy our will to live in card games – we love to play games together
  • Thorough discussion – talk about real stuff – communication
  • We play a lot
  • Eat together
  • Own their own faith
  • Church is not a chore
  • Grateful – attitude of thankfulness

 

Powerful and Effective

There are some topics that are worth second, third and even unlimited visits. Prayer is one of those topics. At this moment, I’m called to pray for a very important time in my family’s life, and I’m encouraged to pray because of stories I’ve heard recently about how God has answered my prayers in ways that were considered impossible. A friend has had a strained relationship with a son. That son was coming to visit his father for many more days than was even considered useful by the father. The father shared his concern for the planned visit with me. So we began to pray.

We prayed that God would do a work in the hearts of both the father and the son. We prayed that God would glorify himself in the building of that long broken relationship. We prayed for healing. At times like this, it is important that we pray things that are in keeping with God’s word. God wants families to be whole. That is how he made them. God wants fathers to celebrate their sons, like the father of the prodigal son. God wants our parent child relationships to mirror those that he wants to have with us. As a son, I always wanted to have a close relationship with my father, yet at the same time I wanted to find my own faith, I wanted to make my own way in this world. Still, in the depths of my heart, I had a desire for the approval and support of my father. For reasons not completely clear to me to this day, my relationship with my dad didn’t become mutually rewarding until I was almost in my forties.

I have two sons in law who, like so many, have had awkward relationships at times with their fathers. For a short season, I wanted to step in to fill that gap, until I realized that these two men were coming to grips with the way God has made all of us. We are all made to desire the love of our fathers. Sadly, too many men will never experience that warm relationship, but that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately  desire it. So too with my friend, who for a variety of reasons has been distanced from his sons. With the one son coming to visit, we prayed for the time to be such that would allow for the relationship to be healed.

Despite the dismal outlook for the pending visit, prayer was critical. I was reminded of the scripture found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power and is working.” Another translation calls these prayers powerful and effective. We need to pray for each other, building each other up not only with encouraging words, but also in prayer, asking God to do his work in the lives of those we love. Hebrews 10:24-25 provide this instruction, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This stirring each other up and encouraging one another comes through exhortation and encouraging words, yes, but also through prayer.

If you had been able to hear the story told by my friend a day after his son’s visit, you would have known that these things happen only when the power of God is released through much prayer, calling on his character and desire to draw the hearts of the children to their fathers. The prophet Malachi describing the Day of the Lord says, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” It is important when we pray that we know the heart of God in these matters so that we can pray, knowing his will with all confidence asking God to remain faithful.

Christ gave us a great model for intercessory prayer, i.e., praying for each other. In John 17 he prayed for all of his followers, present and future. Christ prayed for you and me on that day. In the same way, we need to be praying for each other to be released from the guilt that so easily sidetracks us, to be filled with love for those around us so that we will model for the rest of the world what love of our brothers really means. Christ instructed us to follow his example of how he loved us, by loving each other to show that we are his disciples.

God bless.

Why Do We Hide From God?

This is the second article that my grandson, Matt Northway sent to me on Easter Sunday. The first is posted below this one. I have to admit that it warms the cockles of my heart to read what God is stirring in the hearts of my grandchildren. It is called a blessing! I won’t repeat the intro that I wrote on Matt here, so without further ado, Matt poses the question, why do we hide from God?

And why do we hide from God? We act like He doesn’t know everything. He has seen you at your worst and He has seen you at your best. He has seen your shame and He has seen you sin. But even then, He sent His son to die for you and forgave you. All through your troubles, He was painting a picture and He still is. He knew you before you had a heart beat. He knows what you have done in the past and He knows what you will do in the future. He’s painting a picture for you. He is the brush and we are the canvas. The paint is His plan for us and His promises to us that shapes each and every one of us to give us hope for the future of what is yet to come. “For I know the plans I have you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Why Are You So Afraid?

The following came to me on Easter Sunday. It came from a very special person in my life. The author of this post and the next one is my grandson, Matt. He is a junior at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, CO where he throws the shot put and discus. He is also a student leader in his schools chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). His mother was convinced that he was the original strong willed child. I think you’ll see in these next two posts that God has done a work in this young man’s heart. Through him, God has touched my heart and I’m not ashamed to say that pieces like these make me very proud.  Matt is growing in in his faith and in the knowledge of God. Here is what Matt shared from his heart on Easter Sunday … Why Are You So Afraid …

Jesus will protect you no matter what. Even though it may not seem so at certain times in
our lives, God has a plan for your life and a reason for everything. For God did not give you a spirit of timidity. So why are we so afraid? I strongly believe that it is because we have a lack of trust. If we say we trust in God and in His promises, why do we fear? There is no reason to fear because God says that He will protect us. “The fear of man is snare, but those who trust in the Lord are protected.” (Proverbs 29:25). We need to rebuke the fear of man. The devil puts a fear in our hearts of worrying about the future. We cannot look to the future and here’s why. First, only God knows what is going to happen so why worry because God will get His way. Second, looking into the future is leaning on your own understanding and not God’s. The best we can do, is to try our hardest and let God do the rest. We have to put our faith in Him. That’s all we can do.

People Believed, then …

Acts chapter 2 tells us of the days following Pentecost, the days when 20151204_095731the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, were teaching all who were within hearing range. Those who believed were filled with joy and joined in the fellowship of believers sharing what each one had. Verse 47 reports that they were praising God and having favor with all the people. This favor paved the way to tremendous growth in the number of people who were being saved. Exciting days those were, believers were being added to the body of Christ every day!

Then the Jewish leaders saw that many were following “the way” because the apostles were teaching in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in life after death. So they threw Peter and John in jail. Life begins to become complicated for the early Christians, not because of the Roman government, but because of the religious leaders. We have a saying these days that says, “We have found the enemy and they are us.” Isn’t that so often true? We feel constrained in following the word by our denominational preferences. Time passes and Paul, formerly Saul, begins to plant churches around the Western Asia world in places like Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Corinth, Athens, etc. The church at this point is growing through Paul’s teaching, yes, but also through the teaching of those who have learned from Paul.

In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul instructs Timothy as follows: “… what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This is how the churches where Timothy was ministering were to be (a) strengthened and (b) growing. Much of my life has been committed to mentoring and helping other men navigate life from a biblical perspective. A few years back, my son-in-law, Russell, gave me the 4-link chain shown in the picture above. I keep it on my key ring as a reminder of my purpose as I travel from meeting to meeting. Regardless of the subject of any meeting, it helps me keep an eternal perspective on the relationships interacting in those settings. How does it work?

Paul said, “what you have heard from me …” are the first two links … Paul (the first link) passing truth and the message on to Timothy (the second link). Timothy, then was to entrust those truths to faithful men (the third link) who, in turn, would be able to teach others also (the fourth link). With each sharing of the truths of the Gospel, a new chain is started. We are called to share the truth of Jesus Christ, His love and His death and resurrection and the resulting future hope with others. Recently, I’ve been blessed to observe a couple of men prepare to share their faith with others, including their children! We are all trusting God to prepare the hearts of these “others” that God has laid on the hearts of these men. Yes, some of our words will fall on rocky soil, but some will fall on rich soil eager to hear the good news of the Gospel.

A dear friend excitedly talked of “paying it forward” with another couple we both know. While scripture doesn’t have that specific terminology, the concept of sharing the good news of Jesus that we have received in a “pay it forward” manner certainly is biblical. We who have been gobsmacked by God’s grace, can’t wait to share with others who need to hear the freedom that comes from life in Jesus Christ.

My challenge to you is to be the first link in the chain. Take the scriptural truths that you have received and share them with a friend or neighbor or even someone you know at church. Be in prayer asking God to guide you to that person who needs to hear His good news (gospel). We live in a world that is fearful and doesn’t know where to turn. They know they are looking for answers, and that there has to be a better way. Even though the media ridicules God and faith, when you build relationships with people to the point where you can hear their hearts, and they can hear yours, God will open doors. We’ll talk about this in another blog, but we’re not talking here about a Billy Graham style campaign on another person. We’re talking about building a very personal trusting relationship which gives each person the opportunity to hear heart level desires.

Praying for each one of you, because you have a story to tell, a story of redemption and hope that another person needs to hear.