Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When brothers dwell together in unity

We had several questions last week about why people should pray out loud at all so we decided to tackle that issue head on in our group Sunday night. What emerged from that meeting was such a treat! We've been working through some chapters in Ben Patterson's book, The Power and Pleasure of Praying the Psalms and this week we were in Ps. 133. The author opened the chapter talking about the first time he really knew that God loved him so we took some time to talk about the first time we each figured that out. In the author's life it was a time when he was in a really rich fellowship of believers and was being loved in community. That's kinda where our group is right now too.

When you look up the word "shaken" in Acts, you find out that God shook the place three times in that book, and all three times were when believers were praying in unity, "in one accord." So, I posited that it was hard for us to pray "in one accord" if we can't hear what each other is praying. That's partly true, but God showed the other part too. One person told about times in prayer meetings when someone started praying exactly what he and someone else were thinking at the same time. I'm sure I've had that happen too.

Yesterday, my day was disrupted by a sick kid. When we went to the pediatrician's office, I discovered that the purpose for being there was not to care for my child, but to care for my pediatrician--a fellow prayer warrior. The answer to her need for understanding came out of conversations I'd had with another friend last week--conversations where God was clearly steering our thoughts and hearts. As I called my friend later that evening to tell her what God had done through that conversation, I was again astounded by her faith and maturity. I realized that as I comforted her in her crises, it was not the same kind of comfort I would have given someone who has no hope or has no ability to walk in hope. She really had the capacity to allow herself to be strong despite the circumstances because of the hope that had come from perserverance in her trials. James 1:4 tells us that "Perserverance must finish its work so we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." I thought I'd never see that kind of saint. I thought I'd never be that kind of saint.

In reality, I'm not that kind of saint, at least not by myself, and neither is she. Together, with the Father, we are complete--not lacking anything. I guess Faith truly is a team sport.

Go team!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God's intervention in Chance, part II

I promised I would provide an update on the results of the challenge last week to accept all things as filtered through God's hand. Here goes:

Dennis and Karen were delayed on their trip home from her dad's house and missed (potentially) being in any one of three major accidents on the turnpike. Had they left on time, they would have been in real danger.

Lori got final word that she does, in fact, have breast cancer. I went with her yesterday to visit the surgeon. About 6 months ago, her bloodhound nearly ripped that one off of her chest jumping for a toy. Had she not followed up on the injury when she got her job back, they might not have found the cancer for quite awhile. The dog has probably saved her life. Lori tends to stay by herself most of the time and has been deeply injured in the past as she ministered in other churches. We got to talk about it for quite awhile last night. She and her family are ready and eager to get back to serving, and our group is well equipped to support her through this time.

Gail spent most of last week at Mayo Clinic with Charlie. He had a liver transplant 18 months ago and got pneumonia last week. Her post this morning was precious: "My mind is at peace. Charlie is doing great, I am at home, and all is right with my world. Praise the Lord for another awesome day!"

I had almost no work to do last week and ended up reading legislation all week. By the end of the week I wrote a plan that, if implemented, could completely change the entire structure of our communities throughout Florida. I have plenty of people around me that can get the plan press and we'll see what the Lord does from here.

As I talked with Lori last night, we talked about whether our group could even grow with people like all of us in it. Somehow, the Father was able to say through me that we would grow, but not in the same way as most. Most people would be overwhelmed by our lives--a typical suburban Christian wouldn't have an idea how to deal with families with Down syndrome, schizophrenia, liver transplants, unmarried daughters with disabled grandchildren, breast cancer, dysfunctional marriages, jobs slowly disappearing, etc. These are ordinary things for us. We have learned much about depending on God through suffering and have overcome much. We don't like the suffering, but love the fruit.

Later that night, the Father redirected me to Big Lots to get some supplies for our families and I ran into a clerk there that is dealing with a 31 year old son with suicidal bipolar. She and her husband have been depending on the Lord all by themselves. I realized that this is how we will grow--and quickly invited her to join us. Our group may not be for everyone, but we would each bury most other groups anyway--we are too heady a crowd.

Life is hard, but God is good.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

God and chance

Our Sunday night group was ready for a break, so we had movie night--One Night with the King--the story of Esther. I'm no movie critic, but I enjoy a great love story, especially one with so much political intrigue. Seizing on the teaching opportunity, afterward we talked about how Esther is the one book of the Bible that the name of God is not mentioned, though He walks through every page. To this day, the feast of Purim, which celebrates this event, is traditionally enjoyed with lots of sweets and gambling. The point of the gambling is that God rules over all the events of men--especially chance occurrences.

Proverbs 16:33 tells us "The Lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is of the Lord." The lot was roughly equivalent to dice. Einstein refused to believe that God would roll dice. He just failed to see that the table was rigged by God himself. I have often thought that Creationists have too small a God. The thought that we come from randomness has always been horrifying to Christians because it implies that the Hand of God no longer controls. It is in the very randomness of the universe that God's control is most easily seen. Colossians 1:17 tells us that "He is before all things and God holds all things together." Who is it that ensures that atoms don't fly apart?--God. Who is it that guarantees that a quarter will fall on heads half the time if you throw it an infinite number of times?--Again, He tells us that He does that Himself. God's control over all things, even randomness, is in stark contrast to our lack of control, and we should glorify Him for that.

The challenge this week to our group was to accept everything that happens this week as being filtered through the Hand of God, "who works all things together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose," and look for the good that He brings. Not all things that happen are good, but God promises to make all things good. The chief example of this is the cross--where He "disarmed the powers and authorities, (and) he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2:15) I've already had some odd things happen this week--I'll keep you posted on what the group brings back next week.