Please, God.


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
what sings
of your glory and praise
that I’ll reflect your blessings
the rest of my days.


©Joel Tipple 2/29/2020

Hearing God

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27 ESV

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17 ESV

“Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”
From an essay titled, “Social Aims” by Ralph Waldo Emerson published in 1875.

Communication. It’s not so easy, is it? And we live in a time when communication is seemingly effortless. Unless the person we wish to speak with is located somewhere one of the many technologies dedicated to communication is not available, we are often able to connect almost instantly. Any time we want. Not that long ago, within the perspective of human history, one had to wait weeks or even months for a letter to find its recipient. I’m guessing letter writers were pretty careful with their words. Now, we live in a sea of words. Print media has virtually ceded power and influence to television and the internet. Vigilance over what we read and what we listen to is more important than ever. Who we listen to and believe and our responsibility to do our own due diligence is more critical than ever.

The two scriptures shown here at the top reveal aspects of God talking to us. One of the primary ways we are able to hear God is through scripture. The Bible we rely on to hear God remains remarkably unchanged. It is truly a miracle that it has stayed intact over the centuries. It’s clear God has kept a hedge of protection around his word. However, contrast those scriptures with the quote from Emerson. A Google search will reveal multiple versions of the original words, some differing so as to seem like the results of a game of telephone. Some of my favorite quotes are attributed to Winston Churchill. Unfortunately, there are a few that can’t be accurately sourced to the famed British leader, though they are repeated often.

So, we rely on scripture to hear God. Also, we rely on prayer. And part of prayer is listening. Being quiet. Finding a gentle river apart from the thundering sea of words and other sounds we are bombarded with every day. If sleep is a way for our body and mind to repair itself, surely prayer is a way to repair our spirit and hear God. Finally, we come to fellowship. God has designed us to be social beings, even for those of us who prefer solitude over crowds, there is a need to speak and be spoken to. God made us for community, where there is learning, sharing, and yes, healing, to be found.

I search for the hearing of you,
with every sense with which I was born.
I cry for the knowing of you,
and pray for the knowing to never be torn.
Teach me to gather every way
I can be with you.
Help me collect them,
as gifts beyond value.
Though the world may thunder away,
let me yet hear your whisper today,
the precious treasure,
the hearing of you.


© Joel Tipple 7/13/2019



Sad For No Reason

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And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
Matthew 14:23 NIV

In my lifetime our society has moved from not talking much about depression to being free to discuss its many manifestations and their treatments. Although there is still a lingering negative stigma to revealing openly one’s struggle with any sort of mental illness, our attitudes continue to evolve. We’ve come to understand that in one sense, a disease of the mind should not be viewed any differently than disease present in another part of the body. Part of the challenge of treating depression is the many ways it presents itself, both in type and severity, all the way from what we might call “the blues” to life-disrupting, debilitating clinical depression. Treatments depend on the individual and range from talk therapy to medication or a combination of the two. For myself, I believe we ignore our connection to God and his part in our healing at our peril.

In my early 20s, I, in essence, told God that, although I thought he was pretty awesome, I wanted to make a change in our relationship. I told God I thought we should just be friends. Now, who does that, really? Maybe all who claim to be Christians do at one time or another.  I may not have done it consciously, but what I tried to do (using a Facebook analogy) was unfollow God while still remaining friends. It was during these early years of my marriage to Lori that I experienced my first real bouts of depression. I was terribly sad and unsure, which made life at times tremendously difficult for my new wife. More than ever, we needed God to be the head of our household, but he was left in the hallway outside our $210 a month apartment.  The fact that we have stayed married through all the ups and downs of our life together can in part be attributed to our stubborn determination, but mostly it’s been God’s grace. Over the years I’ve learned some coping mechanisms for dealing with my own periods of depression, but I’ve found there is no substitute for my relationship with Jesus Christ, who certainly knew what it was like to be a human being.  There have been the typical life experiences to deal with that we all find challenging, like deaths and job loss, but also there have been times like earlier this week, when I simply found myself feeling unbearably sad, for no obvious reason. It is times like these when searching scripture and seeking the prayers of friends and family are my lifeline.

When night comes
but it’s not yet time for night.
When the fight comes
but you’ve no strength to fight,
God will hear you
and bear you up.

When you’re cold
but the fire’s still burning.
when you’re sad
but can’t tell why you’re hurting,
When you need a defender
whose aim is true.
That’s when God is there
to bear you up.

God makes time
and prayer
and doctors.
He makes room for us.
His schedule’s always open.
There’s nothing he hasn’t seen
from birth to death
and in between.
You can’t scare him away
because you’re frightened.
He’ll always bear you up.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40:1-3 NIV

© Joel Tipple 6/1/2019

 

Not So Pretty Prayers

After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.
Matthew 14:23 NASB

In the tumult of our lives,
the noise and chaos,
we don’t always take the time
to download peace.
Jesus was our model for connection
to our father, who would gladly hear our needs.
Our words don’t always have to be perfection.
God surely wants to hear our naked truth.
A genuine relationship is what he seeks from us,
so don’t try to sanitize your news.

© Joel Tipple 10/15/2018

The Wings of a Butterfly

We all live

and we all die.

God gives us some time in between.

By his grace, while we’re here,

like the butterfly,

we move our wings.

 

Just how much do we really matter?

How much could we really matter?

Ask a butterfly if the edies of air that are born

with the movement of its wings

can make a storm.

Ask a butterfly.

 

Gather some thoughts.

Build some words.

Add a dash of joy

from a praise song you’ve heard.

Reach up your hands

to the giver of life

Make all we are and will become

ever sanctified

to Jesus.

 

 

God always has a reason

For his sometimes mysterious ways

Since he chooses us to be his hands and feet

Why would we waste even a day?

 

Wonderful Father, almighty creator,

would that we, and all life

Move at the direction

of your loving and just hands.

 

Gather some thoughts.

Build some words.

Add a dash of joy

from a praise song you’ve heard

Reach up your hands

to the giver of life

Make all we are and will become

ever sanctified

to Jesus.

 

©Joel Tipple
#7/16

Order My Heart

The world says I should listen
but I know you’ve an opinion
God, would you order my heart?

I need to hear what you say first.
My heart can be so wayward.
Examine each and every part.

I wake up to pursue your way
But the world and my ego often stand in the way.

I’m following you and asking you to mold my heart.
I’m such stubborn clay,
Father shape me, shape me.
Make my heart beat in time with your Holy Spirit now
I’m reaching out my arms.
Father hold me, hold me.

I’m hard of hearing
So come to my aid.
Help me sense your voice
today and all my days

I’m following you and asking you to mold my heart.
I’m such stubborn clay,
Father shape me, shape me.
Make my heart beat in time with your Holy Spirit now.
I’m reaching out my arms.
Father hold me, hold me.
Father hold me, hold me.

©Joel Tipple
#5/16

A Better Broken

I once made a foolish mistake that caused me to ruin my car. I made a sudden u-turn just before an on-ramp and the car in back of me didn’t have enough time or room to avoid plowing into my side. Thank God, no one was hurt, but my car was totaled, broken beyond the reasonable cost of repair.

Have you ever felt like that? Irreparably broken? Was it due to one major event that turned your life upside down? Or was it a long list of trauma, some bigger, some smaller, just piling up one on top of the other until you were simply so weighed down you felt unable to move?

Many of us at some time in our lives feel broken… maybe so badly we couldn’t believe anyone would want to invest in us, love us, value us. We buy into the lies the world tells us about who we are and what we should or should not expect to be possible in our lives. Before the hands of time have barely moved, we assume they’ve passed us by.

While where we find ourselves in life is certainly a combination of circumstances within and outside of our control, it’s never too late to turn our lives over to God. Beginning with recognizing our need for salvation and inability to save ourselves, we begin a new life. As God searches out and heals those broken areas of our life we discover our need to be… broken.

Although we can claim salvation the moment we recognize our need and ask for it, becoming a follower of Jesus is a daily journey. Every day we seek God. Every day we look for ways to find God’s will for our lives and do what He asks. But even when we know in our hearts our decision making ability is at best a distant second to God’s, out of habit and our still active sinful nature we keep trying to impose our own will. At its core, being broken and contrite before God is realizing and acting on the knowledge that God is God and we are not. For most of us being broken means the constant need to consciously surrender our will to Him. Not the broken we were when we came to God,
a better broken.

You took me in when I’d thrown myself out.
Words weren’t enough to save me.
Psychology and self help couldn’t breach
the walls I built to hide me.

Then God, you pushed through all my barriers,
and my fear of being exposed
fell away before your love and mercy.
Before your light my shadows fled.
Now I’m not afraid to be the me you made.

No longer broken,
but seeking a better broken.
Lord please exchange my will for yours.
You’ve kept all your promises,
though I often faltered.
Your guiding hand helped me through the door.

A better broken, Lord.
Lord, a better broken.
A better broken, Lord.
Lord, a better broken.

When I built my life with pride,
a stubborn stance on feet of clay,
from such a lofty height
came my greater fall.

But when I’m broken,
that’s when God can reach me.
When I’m broken,
my noise just fades away,
like fog dried by the sun,
then swept into the sea.

Struggles take on new meaning
when I’m broken.
Hurdles only mean I’m closer still
to the destination you saved for me,
toward your will
and design.

No longer bitter,
better broken.
Reconciled
by the words you’ve spoken.
A better broken, Lord,
a better broken.
A better broken, Lord,
a better broken.

©Joel Tipple
#1/15

My Attention

God
help me clear the clutter
reduce the noise
of my life
narrow my focus to what’s essential
first of all
your voice

tune my awareness
of your spirit
as I go about my day
slow down the moments
so I pay attention
lest I miss
what you say

you gave all
for my sake
called me home
set me apart
since you’ve made it new
I look to you
the architect of my heart.

©Joel Tipple
#37/14

The Gospel

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let me feel the gospel
Lord
anyone could say the words
so don’t let them pass right through me
hardly pausing on their way
let them change me
rearrange me
I’m willing to learn
God, you hear what my heart has to say.

let me carry the gospel
Father
its bright colors spilling forth
with grace to balance justice
east west south and north

friends we’ve become
your gospel and me
it’s the truth that shines
from the eyes of the knower
but it’s not only a companion
that wants to hang around
it would much rather be with
those who are sowers

gospel moves through music
through songs that inspire
through words lifting hearts
and taking us higher
like a good rain
washes the world clean
the gospel takes the scales from our eyes
while the riches of God it leaves

to everyone
around the world
to every land
and every flag unfurled
till the people all know
that Jesus died but now lives
we’ll share the precious gospel
just like our savior did

© Joel Tipple
#29/14