A child’s prayer: “Dear God, maybe Cain and Abel would not kill each other so much if they each had their own rooms. It works out OK with me and my brother.” belief.net
Last week one of our granddaughters had a medical emergency. I’ll tell you, no matter where you are in your relationship with God, this is one of those times you approach Him with all the vigor you can muster. The prayer might not sound pretty or sophisticated, but it’s real. “God, I’m worried. God, we need answers. God, give the doctors insight. God… help.” The second half of James 5:16 says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Some translations replace “effective” with “fervent.” That’s the kind of prayer you utter when you really want to get God’s attention. God, this morning I was praying, but right now, I’m PRAYING!
In broad strokes, when I think about our relationship with God, I consider understanding God by reading the bible, and communicating with God by prayer. God makes it clear that our attitude toward Him needs to be one of contrition and honesty. If there is anything standing in the way of our relationship with God we need to get it out in the open. Sometimes that means sharing it with a brother or sister you trust. You could also tell a group of believers you meet with on a regular basis that you have a struggle you need prayer for. Use wisdom deciding how much to share, and with whom. In the same way secrets stand in the way of our personal relationships, refusing to bring issues to God and stubbornly refusing to give up stuff we know God doesn’t approve of will cause our relationship with Him to go cold. Over and over the Bible admonishes us to take our sins, our needs, and our praise to God, who welcomes us as His children.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
James 5:13-16 NASB
God, show me everything I am
the things I won’t look at,
the things you can’t stand.
Encourage in my life
of your glory and praise
that I’ll reflect your blessings
the rest of my days.
©Joel Tipple 2/29/2020
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 ESV
The Venezuelan Poodle Moth is interesting because it’s so unique. You might say it’s a nonconformist since it’s different, but of course you’d be wrong. It was simply made that way. Humans are unique, in that their nonconformity may come as a result of birth or choice. Depending on your situation, you may say you don’t conform to the norm because that’s simply the way you are, but in many cases we are nonconformists because we’ve chosen to be.
There’s a common misconception in the world that being a Christian is all about conforming. If that’s true in the minds of so many, I suppose we’ve come full circle, because historically, Christians have been anything but conformists. Consider the response of Rome at the height of its power to the Christians who dared to be different. When Paul encouraged followers of Christ to not be conformed to their world, he was painfully aware of the high price those who took his advice literally might pay. Then, as now, holders of power were willing to do whatever was necessary to maintain the status quo. In the United States, where freedom of religion is a recognized right, Christians are able to worship freely, although tension between church and state still persists in the areas where our beliefs are impinged upon by legislation. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where you can worship as you please, it can be hard to relate to those who don’t have that freedom. Still, in some countries Christians are imprisoned or even executed for their beliefs. What does it say about the power of the Word when Christians in China must share pages torn from bibles? How do followers of Christ find the courage to stand for God when they live in a part of the world that punishes that stand with death? In our world we will remain unique in our desire to stand for God’s laws, even though the cost for that stand may be loss of freedom or death. That freedom, along with our responsibility to stand up for it, should never be taken lightly.
“Truly, there is a Christian note which makes the whole World vibrate, like an immense gong, in the divine Christ. This note is unique and universal, and in it alone consists the Gospel.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
There’s a tension between the world
and the way I am.
It comes from a choice I’ve made;
I suppose you can say it’s my stand.
I can’t boast of some inner strength
that makes me better than those
who go along.
Still, I’m thankful God’s given me
this unique song.
I’m a grateful nonconformist
trying to conform
to God’s plan.
© Joel Tipple 2/23/2020
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13 ESV
In 2005, the office supply chain, Staples, launched an ad campaign featuring the easy button. The idea was that Staples made everything customers could ever want in an office supply store easier, almost as easy as pressing a button. The commercials were funny, and featured everything from a child in class who doesn’t know the answer to his teacher’s question, to a cowboy wrangling a bucking horse, and a father changing his twin infants’ diapers. Have you ever wished for a button you could push to make life easier? Of course! It’s a tantalizing fantasy.
One of my dad’s favorite hobbies was wood working. He seemed to always have some sort of project going. His creations varied from small and practical, all the way to beautiful pieces of furniture that our family gets to cherish now in his memory. We even attached a little plaque to a curio cabinet he made our family with his name and the date it was made. I’m sure part of the enjoyment he derived from creating things was the work they involved. Making something can often be a hit and miss process of learning and improving. Even if no one else is grading your work, you are! Trying something, failing, then trying again, seems to be the way God made us. Grading our success at any endeavor gives us the kind of satisfaction any sort of participation trophy never could.
In our walk with God we often find ourselves running into walls of frustration as we try and sometimes fail to grow. God, our perfect judge, and Jesus, our perfect example, stand as measures of our progress as we live our lives. Searching God’s Word and approaching Him honestly and often are two of the best ways to know where we stand. Another important method is fellowship. Conversation with someone who is moving in the same direction, or is simply willing to listen, can help solve problems or cut them down to a more manageable size. Have you ever noticed how getting out of your head with someone’s help can give you better perspective?
Finally, one of my four favorite Beatles, George Harrison, wrote a song that includes the words, “You know it don’t come easy.” Even though I still occasionally find myself looking for that “easy button,” I guess I’m glad it doesn’t.
“… it is the greatest of all mistakes to begin life with the expectation that it is going to be easy, or with the wish to have it so.”
― Lucy Larcom,
What to my eyes is a mountain,
might be to yours a hill.
My marathon might be
your short walk.
I’m overjoyed at successfully boiling water,
while you carefully tend your souffle.
No matter where you’re at
your work is your work;
Mostly, I’m glad
God made it that way.
Possibly off the subject:
“Women are the most wonderful beings created by God, they are easy to understand when you show them love but hard to understand when you don’t.”
― Bamigboye Olurotimi
©Joel Tipple 2/16/2020
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
Our pastor came to visit the other day. He said that at my advanced age I should be thinking of the hereafter. I told him, “Oh, I do it all the time.”
“No matter where I am – in the living room, upstairs, in the kitchen, or down in the basement, I am always asking myself: ‘Now, what am I here after?'”
The Bible does reveal to us quite a bit about what we should be here after. When it comes to where it is, we often assume it’s found between four particular walls. However, as they say, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
“Many come to bring their clothes to church rather than themselves.”
Now, if you think I’m getting ready to advocate for not going to church because you don’t have to go to a church building, you’re only partially right. We absolutely should be part of a church body that regularly meets together. The Bible says, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT But that’s only part of the story, isn’t it? Although we should do all we can to strengthen our traditional church body, we need to make sure we aren’t leaving it in the building we visit on Sunday, and if we are to have any hope of bringing Christ to a world starving for Him, we have to exploit every opportunity to do that. That means bringing church with us. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in the advertising business. If God has used your local body of believers to make a positive change in your life, isn’t that worth sharing? Yes! Also, if you can bring church with you by being a positive influence where you work or having coffee with a friend and sharing their burden, shouldn’t you do that too? Expand your ideas about what church can mean in your life and all the lives of those within your sphere of influence. Recognize that while, in truth, God may not need our hands, feet, and voice, He both desires our service and has all authority to direct our path.
That includes, in all its various manifestations, “bringing church.”
“I tell people, and it’s the truth, I could sit in my garage for a week and it won’t make me a car. And you can sit in church till your bottom is flat and that won’t make you a servant of Christ.”
Bring church, yes,
the scriptures memorized,
but more, the principals
when you’re tired,
and you’d rather
take a nap.
and their dog
takes one fork in the road,
and God tells you to take the other.
when all the person in front of you
is a smile, a sincere word of encouragement,
and a genuine attempt to understand.
even when you’re discouraged
with the state of the world
and any effort you make
seems like bringing a squirt gun to a forest fire.
because, in the final analysis,
God told you to,
and He’s kept His promises.
So, now, it’s time to keep yours.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
©Joel Tipple 2/9/2020
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV
When Dorothy’s house flew in from Kansas to land on the Wicked Witch of the East in the “Wizard of Oz,” Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, asked Dorothy, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” Glinda assumed Dorothy had been the one responsible for killing the evil witch, so she wanted to know whether Dorothy’s motivation for using her house as a weapon was to rid Oz of a bad witch, or simply to replace one bad witch with another. Glinda already assumed Dorothy was powerful and using her power intentionally. She simply wanted to know what kind of power Dorothy was in the business of employing. Whose side was she on? A good thing to know, right? Here’s what I think. When houses are falling where we live, whether political, economic, or health related, the better question is, are we trusting in the power of the Lord?
We’re informed in our world daily of the push and pull of power. All kinds, good, evil, and as yet to be determined. In their personal and professional lives, people are constantly in the news for using or abusing their power. Because this is the world we live in, Christians must somehow square the moral equation of power use with how God would have us live. As we approach the dilemma of power discernment, it’s clear we must constantly seek God for wisdom. Without God’s view on the various powers at work in our lives, we run the risk of being blown about by every twist of influence and doctrine. The best shelter we can run to is the Bible, where God’s intention and ground rules for living are made clear.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:14 ESV
“There is a signature of wisdom and power impressed on the works of God, which evidently distinguishes them from the feeble imitations of men.–Not only the splendor of the sun, but the glimmering light of the glowworm, proclaims his glory.”
that formed us from dust,
and found remedy
for our rebellion
is the author of countless stories
of impossible-made-possible redemption.
Because the prayer of the pauper
to that of the king,
because no matter
how many times I give up on myself,
I know He’ll never give up on me,
I know and I trust in the power
of the all powerful God of all,
The One who redeems.
©Joel Tipple 2/1/2020