Prayer: A Seldom Realized Privilege

king-jesusEach morning, John and I listen to John MacArthur’s Grace To You broadcast. Currently, Grace To You is featuring MacArthur’s most popular Christmas messages that he’s preached over the course of his fifty years of pastoring Grace Community Church. Today’s message focusing on the deity of Christ captured my attention, but not in the way you might expect.

As MacArthur preached on Jesus being the Son of the Most High, and therefore being God Incarnate, I thought about God as the Most High Being. I don’t meditate on the fact that He is the Most High often enough, which usually leads me to regard Him a little more casually than I should.

That casual attitude particularly shows up in my prayer life, I’m sorry to say. Yes, I know the stereotype of Continue reading

Never Underestimate Michelle Lesley — A Thanksgiving Testimony

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It’s Thanksgiving Day and I definitely feel thankful! When I posted my need for Personal Care Attendant help during Christmas week on Facebook, I hoped it might help. Usually it generates prayers, but seldom practical offers. Still, I always appreciate prayer.

The Facebook post, to my surprise, bore a little fruit right away. A friend immediately offered Monday and Friday if needed. Someone else might also be available that Friday, which would be great. Okay, two days down. Thank You Lord!

Yesterday afternoon we received a call from Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Sending Something You Can’t

Originally published  September 8, 2016:

lilacsMany people, in all innocence, assure their friends that they will send “good,” “positive,” or “healing” thoughts to suffering people. Occasionally, they combine these thoughts with prayers, although typically they serve as substitutes for prayer. Recently I’ve been in some online conversations with fellow evangelicals about the meaning and appropriateness of this sentiment, and those interactions have caused me to think about whether or not Christians ought to use this phraseology.

In fairness, let me begin by acknowledging that many Christians (and indeed many non-Christians) use this type of phrase simply to express the idea that they’re sympathizing with the hurting person. I get that point. Perhaps they’ve heard these phrases and figure they’re nothing more than an updated way of saying “thinking of you.” What’s wrong with keeping up with the current vernacular?

When I hear this type of phrase, however, I generally connect it with either New Age philosophy or Charismatic theology, both of which tend to promote ideas that humans possess “creative” power. New Agers would say that all people have this power, whereas Charismatics would restrict this power to those who are “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

Back in my Charismatic days, for example, someone in leadership over me said that she  considered a good thought to be equal to a prayer. At the time, I struggled with her comment, finding it both attractive and disturbing. Attractive, because praying doesn’t come easily for me. Disturbing because Scripture nowhere supports such an idea.

Thirty-one years later, I no longer feel attracted to the idea that thoughts have any  sort of metaphysical power. As I see it, the basic concept attributes abilities to man that belong exclusively to the sovereign Lord. In doing a preliminary Google search, I discovered that these types of phrases have their origin in a New Age practice known as Distance Healing.

Consider the following excerpt from a New Age blog post (which, please note, I do not endorse) entitled Sending Your Love From Afar: The Power of Distance Healing.

Visualize the person you want to heal. Feel the divine energy moving outward from you to that person. Do this from a state of mind of total relaxation and acceptance, meaning you do not doubt the effectiveness. You simply allow divine energy to do its work.

Icky-poo! Clearly, this method of “sending good thoughts” relies on the same lie that Satan told Eve in the garden:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ~~Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

Even as Spirit-filled Christians, we must take great care to remember that we are not “little christs” in the sense that we have power to heal or alleviate the suffering of others,  especially by sending positive thoughts. Only the Almighty God has that kind of power. When we claim that our thoughts can have a healing effect, we essentially commit blasphemy.

Again, I realize that many people don’t understand that phrases about sending healing, positive or even good thoughts carry connotations of New Age ideology.  I’ve written this essay, not to shame anyone who has uttered these phrases without knowing their connection to Distance Healing, but to avoid them from this point forward, lest anyone mistakenly associate us with this worldly and demonic philosophy.

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Praying About Twitter?

Head Stick Pics 005Arguably the biggest problem with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter is the insulation from face-to-face communication. It always has been easier to say things in writing rather than speaking to someone in person; I get that. Twice, I received romantic rejections from men who wrote letters because they lacked the courage to face me. Writing puts us in control by shielding us from the reactions of others.

As a complication, social media provides a layer of anonymity. We may not have ever met that person we fight with on Twitter, and we may never meet her. So we don’t feel all that bothered if we end up Continue reading

Seeking Our Comfort Or God’s Glory?

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Why do we ask God to deliver us from our besetting sins? Do we envision freedom from those bondages as a means of being happier or more successful? Will deliverance advance our positions in church or allow us to enjoy happier marriages? Will we be more comfortable if the Lord takes away a sin problem that seems to dominate us?

I began seriously praying about my anger issues during my first engagement. I reasoned, quite correctly, that I would damage a marriage if I didn’t learn to control my temper. That engagement ended, but the Lord soon brought John into my life. Again I begged Him to take away my anger so that I could be a good wife. So that I wouldn’t cause John to have a stroke. So that God would bless me. So that I would be happy.

So that I would be happy.

Isn’t that usually our motivation for asking our Father to deal with our sin? (I’m writing to myself now.) If we’re honest, we’ll admit that nine times out of ten, we indeed pray for our own repentance because we know we’ll feel better without that sin.

But what does Scripture say?

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ~~James 4:3 (ESV)

Golly, we say, we didn’t think that asking our Father to take away a sinful pattern had anything to do with selflessness! After all, doesn’t God want us to repent? Doesn’t He call us to holiness?

As a matter of fact, the Lord indeed calls His people to be holy. He cannot tolerate sin, so He wants those who call themselves His children to renounce their sins and live in holiness. Our personal holiness does, as a by-product, benefit us, often bring us tremendous joy. Certainly, we can praise God for the blessings that frequently accompany our repentance and obedience.

Those blessings mustn’t distract us from the ultimate purpose of personal holiness, however. God liberates us from sin for His sake, not ours.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ~~1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)

The Lord frees us from our besetting sins so that we might bring honor and glory to Him. As profoundly as we might benefit from His grace and mercy, He extends His grace and mercy to bring glory to Himself. He gives us the privilege of bringing Him honor and glory through our deliverance from sin.

I’m not sure that most of us think about His honor and glory when we pray to overcome whatever sin hampers us. And I wonder if our neglect of His honor and glory could be a reason (maybe even a big reason) that He allows us to have such prolonged battles with sin. I could be wrong on this point, but I believe I am correct in asserting that His glory is the only real reason for us to seek freedom from sin.

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Throwback Thursday: Transforming America

Originally published on July 3, 2017:

Pray For AmericaOur country has recently passed the second anniversary of the Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage. Truthfully, even though I knew that the decision would have disastrous ramifications for Bible-believing Christians, I hadn’t expected those ramifications to appear so quickly. Thankfully, religious liberties haven’t completely disappeared yet, but most of us feel the pressure to affirm homosexuality as a good thing. Popular evangelical celebrities like Jen Hatmaker haven even declared boldly that God considers same sex marriages to be holy.

But, while the growing pressure to enthusiastically embrace the LBGTQ most assuredly endangers those of us who stand firmly on Scripture’s pattern for human sexuality, I don’t   believe it profits us to spend a lot of time and effort trying to reclaim America as a Christian nation. I am, frankly, increasingly doubtful that it ever truly was one.

Rather, it seems more appropriate for believers to understand that our primary citizenship is in heaven, making us aliens in terms of this world. If we are to be shocked that western culture now approves of homosexuality, perhaps we should be shocked that it took this long for such a shift to happen. After all, the world is simply acting like the rebellious world it is.

I’m by no means suggesting that Christians acquiesce to LBGTQ ideology, so please don’t misinterpret me as saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” That posture may make people like Jen Hatmaker feel good about themselves, but true Christians will hold fast to God’s standards. We’ll remember the words our Lord Himself spoke:

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ ~~John 15:18-25 (ESV)

For a while, for reasons I don’t at all comprehend, western society tolerated Biblical Christianity (or at least a semblance of it) for the past 500 years. Perhaps we’ve gotten used to being socially acceptable,  therefore forgetting that we can’t expect the world to line up with godly values. Jesus never promised that we could transform America into a land that honors Him. Instead, the Obergefell decision should transform Christians into a people who understand that this world is not our home.

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Praising God For Breaking My Heart

John DrawingYesterday I read several chapters in Proverbs, carefully noticing all the verses on the sinfulness of anger and being a quarrelsome wife. I know all too well how weak I am in both areas. So I thought I approached them with humility, acknowledging my failures to honor the Lord by controlling my temper and respecting John.

Yeah,  well.  The wheelchair vendor put John in his new chair a few hours after I read those Scriptures. The new chair has multiple problems — far too many to enumerate here — that seriously impact John’s health. We’re talking life-threatening issues.

To make matters worse, his current wheelchair Continue reading