Witness Well

Witness Well

Why does God need our prayers?

The real reason for praying has little to do with asking for things. We pray simply because God wants us to pray. Prayer is talking to God.

Does He really need our prayers? No, God doesn’t need our prayers to bless us. The bigger question is, “Why does God want me to pray in the first place?”

Prayer is a means for us to build a faith-filled, loving relationship with our Creator. Asking for things is just one minor aspect of our relationship with God. He is already as good, concerned, informed and powerful as He can be. But since a loving relationship with Him is His highest concern for us, God constructs the order of things so that a loving relationship with him will be facilitated.

Because of this, God ordains that some things will only be done through prayer.

If God doesn’t need our prayers, then is prayer truly effective?

God commands us to pray for several reasons.

1. Prayer is a constant reminder that God is the only source for help and strength.
When we truly slow down and examine our lives, during good times and bad, it is God that receives all credit and glory.

2. We need to remember our relationship with God in our present fallen condition.
We have all heard studies and testimonies on the healing power of prayer, but God does not act like a cosmic vending machine. A person does not make a request, pull a lever, and have our request granted. People are miraculously healed and people tragically die. What’s the difference?  What didn’t work?

There are billions of variables that go into God’s moment by moment interaction with the world. There is His overall plan for humankind and for the universe. There is His plan for each individual. There is the strategy of the spiritual battle with which He is involved. There is the degree to which He has ordained our prayer to have consequences in the world.

To understand all of this would be like walking into a theater in the middle of a movie. Would you be able to explain the whole movie after only one minute of viewing? Or, would you be able to teach a chemistry class after reading one page of a textbook?

Prayer is a means to give us confidence and peace that God is working out all things for good, even when he says no to our prayer. Faith and trust becomes the critical element of being sure in what we hope and pray for and certain of what we do not see.

Thoughts from this article came from www.gregboyd.org.

Why didn’t God answer my prayer and save my wife from cancer?

 The heartbreaks of life cause us to ask the deepest of questions.

A young man is sitting across from me with pain etched deeply in his face.  Only a few weeks ago he stood by an open grave with three young children watching the casket being lowered in to the ground.  The stillness.  The pain.  The questions.

Where do I go from here?  What am I going to do with my children?  Oh God, if you are there, why me?  Why me!?!

Life has a way of throwing a pebble into the smooth surface of a still pond.  A chaotic splash and the ripples touches every part our soul.  The wrenching pain of an exposed heart can cripple us emotionally, physically, even spiritually.  The tragedies of life places on a precipice of either grasping for the reality of a Higher Being, or the cold rejection of a loving God.

Where can we find peace and solace in the depths of suffering?  Where can we turn for answers when God seems far away on some distant planet?  We need someone who understands our pain.  To share our grief, embrace our hearts, to put a hand on our shoulder and say, “I am always with you.  I will never leave you.”

We can never adequately answer why God would take a loved one in the prime of their lives.  We don’t know why God chose to not answer our prayers  — even the prayer of five-year girl kneeling at her bed.  The cold concrete answer for death – any death on this world – is sin.  If it wasn’t for sin, painful tragedies would never occur.  But what is more important than this explanation is this understanding — God was suffering with you throughout the whole affair.

Jesus Christ is not our adversary in times of suffering, he is our cure.  Jesus Christ suffers with us in our suffering.  He is a God who weeps, too.  His unconditional love is the only source for healing and peace.  Through his participation in our pain, he redeems it.  By his ultimate suffering on the cross, he heals our own suffering.  He is not off on some distant planet, but is with us each step of the way.  This truth alone reveals to us the magnitude of God’s love for us.  A loving Father sent his only Son to a dirty, sinful world.  Jesus experienced the hellish depth of all that is nightmarish in human existence on behalf of us.  He loved the unlovable.  He befriended the friendless.  Finally, he suffered for a world that is at once so beautiful and so ugly.

Questions are going to remain while we deal with the pain and suffering of life.  Jesus’ answer for us is to trust in him.  Christ wins our love and trust through the healing compassion of his Word and the warm understanding of his silent embrace.  He provides an understanding in the heart which the mind can never fully grasp.  Our trust rests on the belief that God works the best result out of all situations, whether good or bad, for the purpose of bringing us closer to him.  He wins our love in a way reasons could never do.

 

For some more good answer to tough questions, check out www.gregboyd.org.

Why does God allow bad people to do bad things?

Bombs blowing up in Baghdad and hundreds are killed. Political strife creates bedlam and innocent people are hurt.  Stalkers preying upon the innocent. The stories are numerous of bad people doing bad things causing us to wonder, “Where is God in all of this?”

The Bible states that God knows all things.  He knows the beginning and the end.  He is omniscient — knowing everything there is to know, including our past and our future. Yet, the question still lingers, “Why does God still create humans who turn out evil and do evil things?”

To tackle this difficult question, we need to go back to our original foundation of using God’s Word to construct our answer, because our human minds simply cannot comprehend on its own the wisdom of God.

Let’s start by remembering that evil (sin) entered into the world through Adam, the first man.  This is very important because we have now inherited a sinful nature from this one act of disobedience.  By nature, we are all anti-God.  All we can do and hope to do is sin.  In fact, even people whom we respect and adore the most on earth have the capacity to do the greatest type of evil.

So, why does God allow this world to continue in its present sinful condition?  The answer is love.   God’s greatest desire is for all people to come into a personal relationship of trust and faith in him.  The greatest display of God’s love is found in the sacrifice of his one and only son.  Jesus became our substitute on the cross so we may be proclaimed sinless before God.  It took the sacrifice of his Son to bring all sinners, including you and me, back home to him.  Yes, our sins cause bad things to happen.  And the consequences of some sins are far worse than others.  Yet, since God is omniscient, he can use instances of evil for his good purpose.

In the Bible, Jesus teaches us that evil will be planted among the good and it is not up to us to pass judgment.  Why?  Because we are all weeds.  It is only God who can transform us to be wheat.  Most people will choose to reject Him and God allows this to happen, but he alone will make the final judgment.  The question before us is simple: Is Jesus Lord of our lives or is he not?  Faith alone causes us to believe and accept God’s love for us.  In the meantime, we live out our lives in a fallen world with the opportunity given us to place our hope that through faith in Christ alone, our eternity in heaven will be far greater than our present reality.

 

For more info, check out www.gregboyd.org.

 

 

A peace surrounding death of a loved one

A friend from church recently died after a short bout with bone cancer. In her last weeks, she put together her own thoughts and her own funeral service of what it means to be in Christ to that point of death. Her thoughts focused on her 100% assurance that she will be with Christ forever in heaven.

And it got me to thinking ….

What is the assurance that she is talking about?

It means that Jesus will not depart from us when we must finally depart.

Our assurance rests on the truth that Christ has already conquered death by cutting the strands which bind us to our past. These leather-tough strands are the sins that bind us – both in this life and the next. Christ’s death erases all our sins. We are now given the opportunity to enjoy the present moment of our life in calmness and composure. We no longer have to feel burdened by what is past: the false starts we have made, the things for which we became guilty, everything that we didn’t carry through on, and everything that we still haven’t mastered.

Just as Christ has taken the burden of our past, he also bears the burden of our future. 

There are still many times when I catch myself going virtually out of my mind with worry and alarm for my future.  I will worry about my children, my job, and about our nation.   But when our thoughts turn eternal, when we truly ponder the meaning of death, we are reminded death lost its power against our foe.  Jesus declares himself to be on my side.  With that knowledge, I am certain that nothing that has not passed his approval can reach me.  The more worries and anxieties torment me, the more I have to “cast my burdens upon Him”  (1 Peter 5:7).   Then, by referring all this to him, I am bound more and more closely to him.  Again and again Christ has the opportunity to reassert himself as conqueror and to become Lord of my life.

And the most comforting fact of all is that our immortality does not lie with us.  Our immortality consists only in that faithfulness that does not let us go.

But how do the thoughts of eternal life affect my present?

In pondering this question, it is helpful to remember that paradise is not space and it is not time.  There is no moment when it begins and no spot where one can look for it.  When faith is granted to us we are already in paradise.  And when one day we see Him in whom we have believed, paradise will surround us in its fullness.  The “today” in which our history with Jesus Christ begins is also the beginning of paradise.  And at bottom it is never a “condition” but a “shape”.  It is the Savior himself in whose peace we are secure.

Will we ever see our loved ones who are dead?  What is helpful to remember is that our loved ones who died in Christ no longer belong to us; they are sheltered in His everlasting arms.  We can seek them only insofar as we seek those arms.  And we can be sure that if we are near those arms in which His own rest, then the ones to whom our hearts cry out are also quite near to us.  That must suffice for us.   In the meantime, let us concentrate on finding Him and making sure that those around us have found Him as well.

These words are basically a paraphrase of thoughts found in an outstanding book entitled “I Believe: The Christian Creed” by Helmut Thielicke.

My problem with distraction

So, what is wrong with me?

Why do I have such a difficult time praying longer than two minutes before my mind goes off on one of many distractions that have nothing to do with prayer, devotion, the Bible verse in front of me, or even God Himself?

We are called to be Christ-like – and yet I’m so unlike Him. Compared to Jesus, my life seems to be one of wandering around – looking at all the sights and sounds around me – with no real sense of purpose. I feel like I’m in a giant museum – going from exhibit to exhibit. I’m interested in some, bored by others, captivated by the wonder, but already anxious to see what’s next. But, you what the problem is? What really is getting to me this morning is that I already know what my purpose is. I know I have a very compelling mission and its very clear. I receive instructions and encouragement every morning when I open up God’s Word. And the Great Commission is not really it. It’s really an outpouring of my faith – not a duty. No, my main purpose in life is getting to know God better and better each day.

That is my mission.  However, I have a great difficulty in translating that mission to my day to day living. There seems to be a disconnect between knowing what my life is all about and what I actually end up doing. My choices seem to made in a given instant and very much dependent to the vast amount of influences begging for my attention. The “tyranny of the urgent” eagerly takes my attention and focus away from trying to hear that still, small voice of God. And I’m not winning this battle. What matters the most in my life, knowing God, is failing to capture my attention.

So, what is the solution?

Through frustration, I am reminded that God knows all about my weaknesses. He captures my attention just enough to realize that there is this thing called grace that God gives us each day. Complete forgiveness. And through this grace God gives and forgiveness, we are transformed. We are changed. Our flesh is crucified again, again and again. I’m realizing that my life is ultimately not about following a plan or carrying out a mission, but placing my full trust in a person. Jesus Christ. By faith in Him, the choices or the lack of choices that I am making now are being brought into a harmony with our eternal purpose that God is orchestrating in a magnificent way. I guess its all about trust, isn’t it? In a world that is begging and looking for trust, I am reminded this morning there is One who I can place my full trust in – always, forever and no matter what.

Reading your Bible: 5 Tips on how to cultivate this critical habit

HOW TO READ YOUR BIBLE:
Tips for cultivating this critical habit in the Christian life

Nothing can really take the place of our own quiet study of God’s Word.  We may measure our growth in grace by the growth of our love for private Bible study; and we may be sure that here is something seriously wrong when we lose our appetite for the Bread of Life.  There are a few ways to help us acquire this holy hunger for God’s Word.

1.             MAKE TIME FOR BIBLE STUDY
His Word must have our freshest and brightest thoughts.  WE must give Him our best and the firstfruits of our days.  So, there is not time for Bible study like the early morning.

2.             LOOK FOR THE TEACHING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
No one can explain the meaning of His words as He who wrote them.  The Holy Spirit speaks to us today as He did when He inspired the words of Holy Scripture written thousands of years ago.

3.             READ THE BIBLE METHODICALLY
On the whole there is probably no better way than to read the Bible through once every year.  His book can become a treasured friend and an inseparable companion.

4.             READ YOUR BIBLE WITH YOUR PEN IN HAND
Enjoy the Bible by marking it neatly; underlining and dating special verses which have cast a light upon their path on special days.

5.             TURN FROM THE PRINTED PAGE TO PRAYER
If a portion of Scripture hangs like a cluster of heavenly fruit, reach and gather it in through prayer.  Place the Bible down and allow your spirit to soar in thanksgiving.

God’s Word strengthens us, renews us and calls us to faith.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can accept the call of obedience and duty through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God will keep nothing back from us and by His Word, He will open to us His deepest and sweetest thoughts.

(Thoughts taken from Rev. F.B. Meyer (1847-1929): The Best From All His Works)

A spiritual lesson from gnats and mosquitos

“As we wait in bank lines, fight traffic, and struggle to make it through each day, it’s hard for us to realize that one day we will reign with Christ.”   (Kevin A. Miller)

Can you even imagine what heaven will be like?  We certainly receive glimpses of heaven while reading God’s Word.  We will be perfected beings living in a perfect world – living and reigning with God forever!

It’s funny how living in this world makes us focus so much on the present and not the future.  We struggle so mightily on things that are temporal, not eternal.  Our frets, our worries, our concerns cloud our vision of what lies in the future.  We like to “hold on” for each passing day.  The struggle and the fight becomes intense.  While difficult circumstances come at us like gnats and mosquitos at dusk, we stand and swat at those pesky creatures wondering why God created them in the first place.  Than we discover that He did create indeed create gnats and mosquitos and for a good reason (though we don’t know exactly why).  Why not in the same way can we look at difficult circumstances as God’s creation as well.  Isn’t that life in a fallen world?

So, for today, my focus will be on the fact that someday I will be reigning with Christ in heaven.  Forever.  And that future focus will allow me to overcome anything the world has to offer and what God has allowed for his purposes and more importantly, for my benefit.

Divine Interruptions

When you walk in the spirit, you never quite know when a person is going to pick your fruit.

In John 15, Christians are called to remain in Christ – to hold on to His promises – to trust in His Word.  As a result, we are given the ability to bear fruit – fruit that will last.  These are fruit that anyone would admire – peace, gentleness, joy, etc…  People notice fruit-filled Christians.  Then, out of nowhere, people will pick that fruit; desiring to have what you received.

A fruit-filled Christan will keep watch for opportunities to share that fruit with others.  The adventure associated with sharing is that you never quite know when and where that might happen.  With a  willing spirit, God provides those unique opportunities that we were originally created for and that match our specific gifts of the spirit.  As a result, witnessing does not become a task not something to be feared, but a pouring out that seems so natural.

We certainly live in a world with people who have desperate, gut-wrenching needs.  It can be quite overwhelming.  With so many distressing situations, we can easily throw up our hands and walk away — becoming immune to the hurts surrounding us.  But then God, through His Word, takes over.  He reminds us of who we are in Christ.  We are then renewed by His Spirit to be sensitive and open to all those divine interupptions that come our way.