Parlor magicians hired to entertain children at birthday parties frequently begin tricks with a display of an empty hand, offering clear proof that there is nothing up their sleeve, nothing in the shiny top hat they are about to sit on the table in full view of the fascinated children. Then suddenly-presto!-a rabbit is pulled up by the ears, a dove with fluttering wings emerges, a shiny silver dollar flips into view. Something created out of nothing! We adults know that these are just parlor tricks, sleights of hand, practiced technique.
This quote comes from chapter seven of Andy Davis’s book, The Power of Christian Contentment. Davis is describing the best worship that comes from contented believers, and he shares this thought under the heading Most Comforted by Things Not Seen.
Some people want to know how the trick works. Not me. I’d rather not know. Were I to know, the awe and wonder would be gone. To keep the awe, I don’t want to know.
Often I’m tempted to know how God is going to do something, what He’s up to, or even to tell Him what to do. I’m learning that giving in to those temptations ruins contentment. Giving in also displays my lack of trust or my need for control. What I’m realizing is I’m also ruining my awe and wonder.
I need to stay off the stage and wait for presto!
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Omid Armin
A few months ago I received a copy of Ronnie Floyd’s book How To Pray, 20th Anniversary Edition. Was I excited? Ehh. Another book on prayer. I added it to the pile of books on my nightstand, and it waited its turn. That turn started a few weeks ago. Ended yesterday.
True to his promise, Floyd delivers a book for everyone. Whether you feel like a newborn or seasoned prayer, you will grow through his suggestions. He also delivers a book true to his objective-to be helpful. His help includes addressing barriers to giving keys discovering power and movement in your prayer life. All 19 chapters are practical, simple, and immediately applicable.
Of the books I’ve read on prayer, How To Pray is in the top three. I’d specifically encourage young (in age or in practice) Chistians to read it. Some books you read and pass along. Some books you read and add to your library. Then there are books that you read and reread. Floyd’s is a reread.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…”
This verse explains why a pandemic like COVID-19 creates such response. In our hearts we long for beauty and eternity. Anything that smothers that longing is threatening and unnatural. The promise of beauty and eternity gives us reason to desire heaven more. Why?
- Eternity won’t have restrictions
- Eternity won’t be isolating
- Eternity will be peaceful
- Eternity will contain yet-to-be-seen beauty
Yesterday a thought came to me while visiting a friend who is dying from cancer. He talked about all the different birds that visit his backyard feeder every day. Made me wonder, “Can you imagine what the wildlife in heaven will be like?”
No pandemic can threaten eternity. Nothing will ever again separate man from God. So much beauty…for eternity.
This morning our pastor spoke from I Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. Tonight, our Life Group discussed his notes and answered some discussion questions, one of which was “How do you speak to your giants?”
In our discussion a thought came to me. It’s possible, when I get really honest with myself and God, that I’m my own giant. My willingness to be content in fear may be my giant. My need to control may be my giant. My lack of grace to see people how God sees them may be my giant. In pondering how to speak to my giant, it very well could be I have to answer, “How do I speak to myself?”
What if my fear is my Goliath?
What if my pride is my Goliath?
What if my self righteousness is my Goliath?
What if the flesh and blood I’ve made my giant is only a distraction from the real one?
What if I’m Goliath?
I’m half through the autobiography of Jerry Kill, a successful college football coach known for turning around programs. One part of his personal story is a bout with kidney cancer. In the chapter recalling the bout, he gives a shoutout to his team chaplain with these words:
He is the best Christian man I know. He knows how to talk to you, how to relate to you, and he has the “it factor.” He’s a faith doctor. You have to have your medical doctors obviously, but he was a faith doctor for me.
That’s a first-hearing someone categorized as a faith doctor. Made me ask two questions:
- Who’s my faith doctor?
- Who’s faith doctor am I?
Maybe we all should ask those questions. After answering them, we could ask further ones like…
- How often do I see my faith doctor?
- What symptoms do I need to acknowledge to my faith doctor?
- How willing am I to be someone’s faith doctor?
- What fruits of the Spirit are needed to be someone’s faith doctor?
You get the gist. This chapter, by the way, was entitled Upsetting Cancer. Whatever spiritual issue you have that needs upsetting may well be worth answering these questions.
Better & Deeper!
The media, culture, and environment in which we live has sought to define love as a feeling that lives rooted deep within our emotional character. This could not be farther from the truth when understood through the focused lens of God’s Word. God defines love not in emotional terms but in commitment and covenant. God has self-defined Himself as love and rests His identity in His intention that He will never recant that commitment to humanity nor will He break His own special covenant no matter our propensities toward sinfulness or spiritual rebellion. (-The Pastor’s Wife and The Other Woman)
I started a new book last night. This quote is from a section discussing how our choices regarding our time indicate what is significant to us.
What is significant is more than what feels good. What we know we can count on, what is solid, what has been tested, what has survived fire-that is significant.
When we question our significance to God, here are three questions to ponder:
- What promises has He kept?
- How has He shown Himself to me recently?
- When was the last time He forgave me?
Turning the spotlight on the other person in the relationship, here are three questions for us:
- What promises have I made to God?
- How am I looking for God each day?
- How do I open my heart to God?
In seeking the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, the man of God must be willing to do whatever the Spirit leads him to do. This means he will probably be led out of his comfort zone.
This quote is another one from the book Uniquely Bivocational that has general meaning for anyone seeking God’s power in their lives. The chapter it is from focuses on how a pastor prepares to share a message. Yet the title, Receiving and Sharing a Word from the Lord, has application for anyone who wishes to speak into other’s lives as led by God.
Here’s how. Take the phrase “the man of God” out of the quote and replace it with the pronoun “I.” See what I mean? “…I must be willing to do whatever…and I will probably be led out of my comfort zone.”
God is limited when we refuse to be willing. God cannot do all he could if we insist on being comfortable. The god of comfort will keep us from experiencing the power of the God we profess, the God we need.
Believer, drop all the “buts” and “what ifs.” Offer your willingness. Embrace the uncomfortable. Prepare to experience God’s power unlike you ever have.
Recently-well, before “stay in place orders”-a ministry leader stopped by the office to leave some information. He was with The Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network. Check out their website; you’ll learn some things like I did.
One of the pieces this leader left with me was a book, Uniquely Bivocational: Understanding the Life of a Pastor who has a Second Job, which I’m reading now.
For sure, there are unique things to consider about a man finding himself living this out. However, after reading chapter 8, The Need for Balance, there are general things for believers, and particularly any ministry leaders, to keep in mind. For instance, here’s the list of twelve keys to achieving balance Gilder mentions:
- Put God first in your life
- Establish priorities
- Link your calling to your calendar
- Have a clear purpose and direction for your life
- Be proactive rather than reactive
- Maintain a clear conscience
- Find an accountability partner
- Have a family council
- Find the secret of contentment
- Realize you are not superman
- Make regular deposits into your emotional bank
- Do what you do as unto the Lord
Look like a list that could help your balance?
Yes, I’m reading this book as designed. But I’m finding that much of it could be generally applied to anyone desiring to live as God would have them-Uniquely.
Easter Sunday morning, I led a set of worship songs through Facebook Live on our church’s Facebook page. Here is a link to it on youtube.