Tag Archives: prayer

A Lesson from Bedsheets

Raising three boys was a joy. A joy not without its challenges but still a joy. One of those challenges was finding a reliable, good trustworthy babysitter for those all too few occasions when my wife and I wanted to relish time alone. We were blessed with and by Pam. She was that rare combination of fun and firmness. Fun enough that the boys loved her (they still do) yet firm enough to keep them in check and enforce the rules.

In that vein, when Pam put the boys in bed she was sure to play a game of tucking the top sheets firmly under the sides of the mattress to help hold the boys in place. They enjoyed the game and challenge but also heard the message: “The sheets are tucked tightly around you so you don’t try to get up and become disobedient. If you become disobedient the fun stops. The bedsheets are hemming you in for your own good.”

The memory of that tactic reminds me that God is much like a babysitter. Recall the words of the Psalmist. “You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” The New Living Translation puts it: “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” And the Good News Translation words it: “You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power.” God hems us in! God keeps in our place! God hems us in and keeps us in our place for our own good. He tightens the sheets around us to remind us to stay put with Him so He can protect us and bless us.

The next time…

  • you’re not happy with life
  • not happy where you are or not happy you can’t go where you want to go,
  • not happy that you cannot do what you want to do,
  • you feel like God’s not being fair because He’s not answering your prayers and giving you what you want
  • you just wish God would just leave you alone

…spend some time wondering.

“What is God protecting me from?” “How is it God wants to bless me?” You may not come up with firm answers, but you will be reminded that God has your best interests at heart.

That’s the affirmation of the Psalmist: “Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.” (Psalm 139:6 Good News Translation) Then he recognizes how valuable God’s hemming us in really is.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.(Psalm 139:7-12 The Message)

Oh the beauty of God’s presence! We are never alone, always protected, always blessed by His loving hands. I realize our boys never thought of the Psalmist as they were being hemmed in. I didn’t think of Him for a long time either. But now that I have, each bedtime can take on new meaning. Each night, as I nestle under my bedsheet, I can envision God tucking in my sheets, reminding me He will protect and bless me through the night. It gives new meaning to my version of the old child’s prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep while grateful, Lord, my soul you keep. Guide and guard me through the night and wake me when your time is right.”

Thanks, Pam, for the lessons and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Bargaining

I am lousy at bargaining (1). In fact, I don’t like to do it. Just give me your best deal up front. So I seldom try to bargain. Except when it comes to God. I have tried bargaining with Him more times than I can recall. I guess that’s why I like the following story.

A little boy wanted a bike for Christmas. On Christmas Eve he hunted around the house and realized that none of the parcels were big enough to contain a bike. Worried that he might not be getting the bike, he got down on his knees and said, “God, I really want a bike for Christmas. I really do. More than anything else I want a bicycle. And God, if you give me a bicycle for Christmas, I promise I’ll be good for a month. For one month, God. I won’t do anything wrong. I will please only you.”

He went to bed and started to think that his bargain with God was not very realistic – after all, a month is a very long time. So he got back on his knees and said, “Okay, God. I’ll tell you what. I will give you a week. I will be good for a whole week if you give me a bicycle for Christmas.” He got back in bed – and started thinking about how his sister and how annoying she was, how she knew just what to say to get him wound him up and make him mad. He realized a week was probably too long also. So he got back on his knees again, and said, “Okay, God. I’ll tell you what. How about a day, okay? You give me a bike tomorrow for Christmas – I’ll be good for a day.”

Then he started thinking about his mother and how he had to keep his room tidy and all the other little things he didn’t do, and how he might fail even in a day. Then it hit him. He remembered a small, formal chapel, right near where he lived. He sneaked out of bed and hurried across the street. He opened the door to the chapel and just on the left was a little stone basin for holding water, and above that was a small statue of Mary.

He took the statue off the pedestal, ran out of the chapel, dashed across the street, sneaked upstairs, and barricaded himself in his bedroom. He put the statue in his wardrobe, closed the door, got down on his knees and prayed, “Okay, Jesus. If you ever want to see your mother again…”

I wonder if it worked? I doubt it. God really isn’t interested in bargains. Yes, He certainly tells us to ask – but never does He tell us to bargain for anything. The Psalmist learned this lesson. “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Ps. 51:16-17 New Living Translation) The prophet Hosea learned it. “You don’t want sacrifices. If I gave an entirely burned offering, you wouldn’t be pleased. A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God. You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.” (Hosea 6:6-7 Common English Bible). Peter learned it. In response to a man who offered to pay money for the spiritual gifts Peter was exercising, “Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God.” (Acts 8:20-22 New Living Translation)

God isn’t interested in bargains. What God gives He gives freely; it can’t be bargained for. The reality is He does not want what we can offer — He wants us. As for those bargains we do end up trying to make with God? Be careful. Should God decide to agree and keep His end of the bargain, we need to be prepared to keep our end. Far more times than I want to think about I’ve heard someone say or pray  “If God does such-and such” (like heal or grant their desire) “then I’ll…..” (be more faithful at church, give more, etc.). And when God did what they asked they fail to follow through. That’s plain dangerous. The side preacher warned:

“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God. Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few. Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool. When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him. It is better to say nothing than to make a promise and not keep it. Don’t let your mouth make you sin. And don’t defend yourself by telling the Temple messenger that the promise you made was a mistake. That would make God angry, and he might wipe out everything you have achieved. Talk is cheap, like daydreams and other useless activities. Fear God instead.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)

If you like to bargain, do it with gusto. You’ll probably get better deals than I will. And that’s fine. But be careful trying to bargain with God. The following ancient prayer of submission, prayed daily, is a good antidote to the desire to bargain – and it will take you straight to the throne and heart of God.

“I am willing, Lord, to receive what You give, to lack what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to surrender what You claim, to suffer what You ordain, to do what You command, to wait until You say ‘Go.’” (2)

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(1) Photo by Phad Pichetbovornkul on Unsplash

(2) From Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymns Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, August 15 entry

Sailing Through Life – Part 6 – The Key to Stability

It stopped me in my tracks. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. We were in port and for the first time I got a look at our anchor. Wow! It was huge! Like I said, I should have figured that, but then I hadn’t really thought about it. Even big ships need anchors – and they need big ones. (1)

That’s when it hit me. Rowboat anchors will not suffice. The cruise line could have used rowboat anchors – but the boat would not remain stable and would eventually drift away. Big ships need anchors – and they need big ones!

It also shouldn’t be surprising that God knows all this as well. The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote:

“For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”
Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:13-20 New Living Translation)

The young Hebrew Christians were facing difficult trials and heavy suffering. They were impacted financially, relationally, emotionally and physically. The temptation to go back on their conversion experience, to back off from their witnessing, to become a ‘quiet Christian’ was great. So the author reminds them they should and could remain stable. In essence he told them to take a look at their anchor – their hope in Jesus Christ. “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” How can we be sure? “It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.” They were anchored to the one who sits on the throne in the presence of God. Paul put it this way: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:6)

What a valuable reminder! Stormy situations surround us. Loved ones are ill and we can’t seem to help them get better. The cost of medical care is draining finances. Family relationships are difficult and fragile. Job pressures are mounting. And consider the shouting voices, the shameless bullies, the evil-filled terrorists, the selfish politicians, the biased newscasters, the revenge seeking popularity. Think of the increasing pressures to keep one’s faith quiet, the hate-filled crowds that want to violate an individual’s freedom of religion by verbally – and sometimes physically – beating them into submission. Reflect on the pressure to let children and grandchildren be schooled each day by anti-faith and anti-traditional morality school boards and teachers. Just try to stand up for traditional marriage or for a ‘natural’ definition of maleness and femaleness. And on and on it goes.

Am I being ‘too political?’ It probably depends on who you talk to! I believe I’m being realistic. The storms of life are constant and we have those moments when we wonder if we can hold our ground, if we can stay in the port of our faith. That’s when we look at our anchor. “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us.” The amazing thing is when we look at our anchor we don’t see an anchor like that pictured above. We see Jesus. He is our anchor of stability.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. (2)


Intently look at the picture of Christ as you slowly repeat the Lord’s Prayer. Then gently close your eyes, or look at a wall, or into the sky. The Lord will appear and reappear to you. (3)

(1) Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash
(2) Helen H. Lemmel
(3) From Donald W. Bartow – © 1982 Life Enrichment Publishers

Activating Your Access

Have you ever been in the presence of royalty? Or someone famous, someone in power? Have you ever been in a place where only select, favored people are allowed? Have you ever wished you could be? The good news is, you can be!

The past two weeks I’ve written about the inheritance we’ve received through the birth of Jesus Christ: we can claim our inheritance as children of God and can share His influence with others. Now we focus on the third aspect of our inheritance: “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Galatians 4:6)

We have a right to come into the very presence of God like a child coming to his parent. We have this right not because we know how to pray correctly, or know the right formula or combinations of words, or because we’ve been so good, or done enough good deeds that God has agreed to see us – but because we are His children! We have intimate access through prayer. As Hebrews 4:16 puts it: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus talked often about getting apart to be in the presence of His Father so he could be one with His Father. The reality is we have the same access to the Father as Jesus did. God will not turn us away. He’s never too busy for us. It’s said that Gordon Balfour wrote that his father worked part-time as a driver and guard for Brinks Armored Car Service. Once, as his school was only a city block from home, his dad stopped the truck at the school to give him a ride home.

Gordon came out of school and spotted the shiny grey armored car, complete with gun-ports, bullet-proof glass and rivet-heads everywhere. Gathered in a respectful circle around it were all the third-grade boys, gawking at this mysterious vehicle. Gordon pushed his way through the circle, went up to the truck and climbed up inside the cab. As he did so, the other students stared and held their breath at his bold move. Gordon knew what they did not know – that he was in reality approaching his father who loved him and would freely and gladly receive him. In the same way we have unlimited, free access – any time, for whatever reason – to God the Father. Jesus walks us in and says, “Dad, my brother – or sister – here wants to talk with you.” And God will give us His undivided attention!

But what would you say if you had God – your Father’s – undivided attention? I have to admit, I think I would be so overwhelmed that I might be at a loss for words. Yet no need to worry! Paul says the Holy Spirit cries in us and for us. What a tremendous inheritance and gift! When we are too overcome with emotion, too burdened with cares, too filled with doubts, too overwhelmed with sorrow that we do not know what to say – or cannot speak – the Spirit knows and speaks for us. Knowing our hearts, He understands how we feel and then takes those feelings and puts them into words and speaks for us – even cries out for us – with the Father. In Romans 8:26-27 Paul similarly writes: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

An elderly gentleman was ambling through his garden one day when he came upon his young granddaughter repeating the alphabet in an oddly reverent sort of way. “What on earth are you up to?” he asked. The little girl explained, “I’m praying, Grandpa. I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me, ‘cause he knows what I am thinking.” What a description of the Holy Spirit’s ministry for us!

So the truth is you have a right to bring to God anything and everything in your heart. You can bring it all boldly – your triumphs and tears, your strengths and struggles, your decisions and doubts, your boldness and brokenness, your wisdom and wordlessness. And all because you have intimacy with your Father through prayer. There’s a story from the days when the generals led their troops into battle rather than directing them from a ‘situation room’ half a world away. Alexander the Great’s position was about to be over-run by the enemy. Turning to a valiant young soldier at his side, the great military genius implored the boy to fight harder. “And if we survive this attack,” he said, “I’ll see that you are rewarded handsomely.” Survive they did! When the youth appeared later to claim a reward, Alexander gave him an impression of the royal seal saying, “Take this to the treasurer for your payment.” “How much shall it be?” asked the soldier. “That will be for you to decide. Ask for whatever amount you think appropriate. It will be paid.”

So the peasant youth presented the seal to the royal treasurer and named an enormous sum. Shocked by the amount, the treasurer balked. Insisting that they return to camp together, the treasurer told Alexander of the soldier’s ‘outlandish’ request. Pausing to recall the battle scene, the general finally replied, “Pay him. He honors me with the size of his request.”

Are you ready to exercise your rights, activate your access and claim your inheritance? Go ahead! Honor God with the size of your request!

Photo of Boy running to father is from www.storyblocks.com
Photo of money by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

At a Loss for Words

Sometimes I know I need help. It’s often when I am aware that I cannot communicate in an effective way.

  • For many years our congregation was blessed to have someone sign our entire worship service. I did not know how to communicate with the hearing impaired.
  • I have travelled in countries where I did not know the native language. I needed an interpreter.
  • On a few occasions my wife has accompanied me to a medical appointment. As a Registered Nurse she could express and understand things from a medical perspective I did not have.
  • There have been times I’ve been asked to speak, preach or pray at a specific event with which I was unfamiliar or which had certain expectations. I consulted speeches, sermons and prayers by others who knew the expectations and language.

I’ve always been grateful for those who could speak the necessary language.

And it is also true on an even deeper level.There have been difficult and even tragic situations into which I, as a pastor, was called to render support, assistance and comfort.

  • A family with young children had just lost their husband and father to cancer – another their wife and mother – another their young daughter, wife and mother because of a tumor
  • A family of a high school aged son and grandson killed in an auto accident
  • A young husband and wife whose baby was still born
  • A wife and mother whose husband just committed suicide
  • A man who came home to find his son had murdered his wife and daughter

I was, at least initially, at a loss for words, not sure what or how to communicate. I had no language, no words to say. How could I speak into life situations that are so horrific and difficult?

Yet I am grateful that in all these situations, and so many others, God through His Holy Spirit prompted me with what to say and do, or what not to say and do, or even to just be present – always something far more appropriate than I could ever have come up with on my own.

Similarly, I’m sometimes not sure what to say to God, how to pray to Him. Life and situations are simply overwhelming, complicated and confusing. That’s when I am grateful I know Someone who can help.

The Apostle Paul wrote about Him in Romans 8:26-27 — “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

I am moved by how A. B. Simpson responded to these verses. “This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand…so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest, with the incense of the great High Priest, before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted and answered in His name.” (1)

So today I have been reminded of just how grateful I am that Jesus left the earth so He could spend His Holy Spirit (John 14). Because of His great love I am never at a loss for words or instructions when I need them most. Thank you Jesus!

(1) As quoted in Streams in the Desert, Oct. 31

In the Midst of the Chaos

It was one of those wild Sundays. Worship went well and no one knew what all went on behind the scenes. That’s because God is good and honors our best efforts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to set the stage.

As usual, the worship orders were set, the music rehearsed, and the media presentations prepared. But as the Worship Team began to rehearse prior to the service, something went wrong with the technical equipment and we concluded there would be no multimedia for the opening song set.

We had a choice to make: panic or calm. Not to be unglued, our Worship Leader quickly pulled out familiar songs for the opening set, and in the process moved one of the originally planned opening songs to just after the sermon – in hopes things would be up and running by then. Our pre-service prayer was filled with pleas for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in the midst of the chaos. We knew Jesus would be our glue.

Many things happened during that service, two of which are important to know here. First, the worship went off smoothly, no one missed a beat or note, and people sang from the depths of their hearts. The glue held it together. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

Second, by sermon time the technical equipment was working again, so following the sermon we could invite people to sing the number that was moved, Potters Song. A visitor to the service was deeply moved by the song and following the service asked for prayer. Her life was in chaos and she sincerely wanted Jesus to take control. So we prayed. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

I was once again in awe of Jesus. Think about it. If there had not been a tech glitch, Potters Song would not have been placed at the very end and been such a powerful plea for submission. If our Worship Leader had not been so sensitive to the Spirit, we would have canceled singing Potters Song. If our media tech had not been able to get the system up and running, we would not have sung the song. If, if, if…but Jesus! Jesus holds it all together. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

As He so often does, Jesus took our chaos and held it all together, and took our visitor’s chaos and held it all together. In fact, I believe God created our chaos to lift up her chaos so she could experience Jesus’ healing touch in the midst of her chaos. As the apostle Paul emphatically wrote, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) And the Heidelberg Catechism powerfully confesses, “Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” It all happened by His fatherly hand! God created the chaos of the morning so Jesus could heal the chaos of one woman’s life – and in the process heal ours as well.

I’m still in awe of Jesus, in whom all things hold together. Your life either is, or will sometime again be in chaos. Don’t come unglued. Rather, “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.” You’ll be in awe of Jesus.

 

Who You Gonna’ Talk To?

I established last week that for guaranteed relief the number to dial is 8-476-634-7223 (THRONE GRACE). Your call will be answered from the throne of grace. Yet there is even greater news.

Your call will be answered by Jesus. No operator or assistant will put you on hold or tell you Jesus is not in or ask if you want to leave a message. Your call will always be answered by Jesus. And what’s so great about that? Jesus is the great high priest. He is, first of all, a priest for us. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.”(Hebrews 4:14-15)… “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…” (Hebrews 5:7-8) We need someone who understands us, who can identify with us, to represent us at the throne. That someone is Jesus. He makes the ideal priest because He came all the way into our world and our lives. Jesus meets us where we are so He can act before God on our behalf. The very Son of God has come all the way into our situations, understands our weaknesses and temptations; He has totally identified with us.

At the inhuman prison in Germany every Friday the Nazis made the prisoners completely undress for medical inspection. The women were humiliated at having to march by grinning guards. On one of those mornings Corrie TenBoom wrote, “Yet another page in the Bible leapt to life for me. ‘He hung naked on the Cross.’ I had not known – had not thought…the paintings, the carved crucifixes showed at the least a scrap of cloth. But this, I suddenly knew, was the respect and reverence of the artist. But oh – at the time itself, on that other Friday morning – there had been no reverence. No more than I saw in the faces around us now. I leaned toward Betsie, (her sister) ahead of me in line. Her shoulder blades stood out sharp and thin beneath her blue-mottled skin. ‘Betsie, they took HIS clothes too.’” Jesus is the ideal priest for us.

And Jesus is also the ideal priest for God. “We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…” (Hebrews 4:14) He comes to us on God’s behalf; He represents God. “No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. “And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:4-6) Jesus is someone who not only understands, but who can also help. “Such a high priest meets our need–one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (Hebrews 7:26-8:2) Jesus not only understands – He can help. Jesus puts us in touch with God; He has clout with God.

There’s an old story about a man walking down the street – let’s call him Pete. Pete fell into a hole. The walls are so steep he cannot get out. Pete hears someone walking by and hollers up “Can you help me out?” The walker was a doctor so he wrote out a prescription, threw it into the hole, and moves on. Hearing another person walk by Pete shouts up “I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” The walker was a pastor so he writes out a prayer, throws it into the hole, and moves on. Pete hears another person walking by and hollers up again. This walker is a friend of the man so he jumps into the hole to be with him. Pete exclaims, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both in the hole!” His friend replies, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.” Jesus is the Priest for us and for God; He’s been in our holes and knows the way out. He not only understands, but he can help.

Jesus, in fact, has already helped us – for Jesus purchased our salvation. Since only one who is holy could enter into the presence of God, only Christ could enter. “…once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (Hebrews 5:9) In Him the Scriptures are fulfilled. In Him we can return to our Father. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son? The young son greatly offended and disowned his father by claiming his inheritance early. He then wasted it all on lavish, foolish, sinful living. When he finally realized the error of his ways he returned home to his father – who raced out to greet him with open arms, and threw a feast to celebrate his return. Because of Jesus, we can always return to our Father.

Jesus is the source of salvation for all who come to him. Jesus left the eternity of heaven to carry our sorrows and bear our sins, and to taste our death. And when He did: “…at that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely, he was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:51) And He was – and is. For fast relief dial up the throne of grace and speak with Jesus, the great High Priest.

Please Bug Me

I once watched a movie about the daughter of the president of the United States. The plot centered on the daughter’s frustration of always being under the watchful eye of the Secret Service. It bugged her. At one point she snuck away for an adventuresome junket with a secret service agent who had befriended her. Yet she eventually shook him as well – only to be kidnapped. That experience led her to wish there were some Secret Service people around! While fictional, I’m sure most presidents’ children have had the desire to get out of sight for a while! What struck me is that I have had a similar feeling at times. I mean, it’s good to have God around, isn’t it – but have you ever wished you could shake him, if even for just a moment? Ever felt like shouting “Don’t bug me. Just leave me alone?”

David, in Psalm 139, addressed this desire when he wrote about the nearness of God. Verse 5: “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” God has laid his hand upon me. (1)

It means that my way is enclosed by God; I cannot escape him. But neither can anyone get at me! The image is of an army laying siege. When it does so, it blocks off all escape routes. So God is behind me forgiving me, before me preparing the way, above beneath and around me to protect me. God is managing and protecting my life. I can never shake nor escape God! While I may leave his path, He will never leave mine. I may sleep, He will not; I may forget Him, He will not forget me.

Verses 7-8 expand the thought: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” God is always present – it’s what theologians call the omnipresence of God. I can say I know someone in Texas who is the victim of flooding; it’s another thing to say I went to be with them to help them. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven he made a promise to his disciples. He didn’t just say “I know you well – you can do it. Go into all the world…” No. What He said was “Go into all the world…And surely I am with you always…”

At first hearing, that wounds wonderful. But are you really comfortable with it? It’s like a young lady who keeps saying she wants some young, handsome man to fall madly in love with her and sweep her off her feet. Then a man comes along and aggressively pursues her – and suddenly she’s frightened by him! She’s not sure she likes all the attention. Have you ever felt that way with God? Just once you wanted to see that movie, buy that magazine, tell that joke, cheat on that income tax, or to do whatever with no one, not even God knowing?

But think about it. Because God is with us, we can never say “I’m a total stranger. No one knows me. I am alone. There’s no one who understands or who can help me.” We are never alone. When you’re ready to lead that study, God is with you; when leaving for your job or school, when trying to make that sale, when you need to witness, when you are traveling, when someone you love needs confrontation, when you go to bed at night, when your loved one dies and the loneliness unbearable – you are never alone! Even in the heights and depths (Ps. 139:8), even in the valley of the shadow of death, God is always present. Would you really want it any other way?

I didn’t think so. May your prayer always be “Lord, please bug me.” (2)

(1)Photo from http://lacasamorett.com/foxgallery/hand-on-shoulder.html
(2) Photo from https://www.storyblocks.com/stock-image/a-woman-holds-her-hands-in-prayer-sju7s3t8pliydeuxk0