Thursday, March 22, 2012

Give us this day

Every morning when my boys wake up, they get to watch a morning educational show while we get them breakfast.  While we are in the midst of preparing the morning meal, my youngest will come in and ask if it is time for breakfast yet because his tummy is hungry.  We gently tell him that we are still making it and it will be ready just as soon as their show is done.  That never satisfies him.  He wants breakfast, and he wants it now.  He acts as if he is almost afraid that there is not enough food to feed his hunger, and that we won't take care of his need.  Of course, that is completely silly.  As his parents, we will always make sure that he has enough to eat and to take care of him.  But his pressing need clouds his mind and he forgets that we love him and will always provide for him.

"Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11) 

Right now, I am doing a study about the Israelites in the desert.  After grumbling because they "missed" their life back in Egypt, God hears them and sends them down manna, or bread, from heaven.  He gives them just enough for the day... if they gather too much, it rots and fills with maggots.  Each morning they awake and there covering the ground like dew is the manna.  After time goes on, God asks that the Israelites give an offering back to him if their hearts lead them to do so.  They begin to give and give and give... so much so that Moses has to ask them to stop because they have more than enough.  More than enough... from people who have nothing and are wandering in the desert and are dependent on God for everything.  And they give!

"I am the bread of life, He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35)

It brings up the question, why am I not giving the way that God may be leading me to do so?  I find myself and my family in a time where we are just like the Israelites... God is providing us just enough manna for today.  The problem is that it leads me into fears about tomorrow.  When you have a family to provide for, young children to take care of, this obviously amps up those concerns and worries.  "What if there isn't enough?"  "What if God doesn't come through?"  "What if there is no manna tomorrow when I awake?"  The thing that is hard for us is that we love stability.  We love to know that we are taken care of and that we won't have to struggle.  It is so hard to completely trust and believe that our manna will be there.  It is hard for me to completely let go and trust. 

"Don't fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." (Philippians 4:6-7 from The Message)

In my devotion from yesterday morning from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, it says, "Trust me and don't be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song.  Think what it means to have Me as your Strength. ....  Instead of trying to fight your fears, concentrate on trusting Me." How powerful it is to have God as our strength.  Forgive me Lord for my untrust... help me to trust you more and let go of my fears.  Help me to remember that You are the Bread of Life and will provide for me every day. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Put me to suffering?

There is this prayer that we sometimes pray in the churches that I have been in.  It is the Wesley Covenant Prayer, and every time we say it, I just want to hide until it is over.
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
While it is an absolutely beautiful prayer, the words seem just a little crazy for me.  There are some parts of it that I just love... "I am no longer my own, but thine".  And then there is the dreaded line... the line that every time we get to, I refuse to say... "Put me to doing, put me to suffering".  Put me to suffering?  Who in their right mind would ever want to be put to suffering?  Certainly not me!  Only a person who has never really suffered would ever ask to be put to suffering... and even then I would think that they are completely crazy! 

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.  You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you." (Matthew 5: 3-4 from the Message)

And yet, Jesus says that we are blessed when we suffer (Matthew 5).  I find that I struggle with this, and that perhaps I need to have a more Godly view of life verses the worldly view that I have.  I am blessed when I suffer because it is then that I have the most intimate relationship with God, calling out to him to help me through the challenges that I face.  I am blessed because I can relate to and have compassion for those who suffer.  I am blessed because it is times like those that I have to completely rely on God to get me through them.

"Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in anguish.  How long, O Lord, how long?" (Psalm 6:2-3)
There are so many that I know of right now who are suffering.  A three-year-old suffering from a very dangerous cancer... a 5-year-old going through leukemia... a 33-year-old friend and mother of three who is going through breast cancer... my best friend dealing with lots of health issues, including the eventual loss of her sight... Oh Lord, there are those who are suffering!  And while I have gone through hard times in my life, I am not sure I can say that I truly knows what it is like to suffer... and I pray every day that I never do.  But for those that are suffering, I believe that they get to this point deep within themselves where they have to completely rely on God for everything.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

In Exodus, God's people are wandering the desert. Every day, they wake up and there on the ground outside of their tent is manna from heaven.  They are told to only gather enough for today.  They are made to trust that God will provide exactly what they need for that day.  All they must do is go out of their tent and gather their provisions.  We, too, are the same way.  We also are wandering a great desert, wondering if we will ever come to that land of milk and honey.  And there are so many difficulties that we face... so much suffering that we have to go through.  Yet God tells us that he will provide exactly what we need for today.  He will provide the exact amount of mercy and compassion... he will provide the exact amount of strength... he will provide the exact amount of peace... All we must do is go outside our tent and gather it. 

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be give to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)
I pray that I never have to go through that time of suffering.  But I do realize that it is in those moments that we tend to draw the closest to God because we desperately need what he freely gives to us.  And perhaps that is the sweetest part of suffering... to be driven into the arms of the One that loves you greater than you can ever imagine and to fully rely and trust in Him to give you exactly what you need for today.