Thursday, January 04, 2007

"but God..."
trusting the Lord with the needs of our lives

On the Sunday before Christmas (the 24th) one of our associate pastors gave a brief encouragement from Ephesians 2:4. The verses he was referring to reads as follows:

Eph. 2:1 ¶ And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
Eph. 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Eph. 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Eph. 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Eph. 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Eph. 2:6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph. 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine).
He made the point that at Christmas and New Year's there are more suicides, traditionally, than any other time of the year. Ironic that the season of greatest joy and celebration (for some) is the season of greatest pain and hopelessness. Pastor James went on to make the point that whatever problems we maybe facing: depression, financial stress, loneliness, unforgiveness, divorce, death, loss of a job, a wayward child, troubled friendships, etc.; that we needed to place those cares "in a box", as it were, and give them to the Lord wrapped up in "but God..." wrapping paper. He wasn't being flippant or cute--the point is profound. He asked, "what problems are you facing that if God didn't intervene and grant the resolve you wouldn't see the victory?" He then said, "it is in the midst of those things, beloved, that you need to remind yourselves what the early church knew; that there is always hope; for when all things seem lost, there is strength to be derived from those two little words, "but God..."

Twenty-one times those two little words are mentioned in the New Testament. They are mostly stated in the area of the forgiveness of sins. But also in regards to our sanctification, judgment, healing, rescue from danger, salvation, glorification, the incarnation of Christ, etc. Those two words are very important to Scripture and therefore they should be to us.

So on the day after Christmas, I prepared a sheet of paper (one for each of the kids and myself as well) with the above verses printed at the top, along with a prayer that I wrote for my family--a prayer of trust, petition, dependency, reconcilliation, forgivenss, repentance, and hope in God for whatever needs there maybe in each of our lives. I then asked each of the kids (ages 11 to 17) to take fifteen minutes or so and write down on their piece of paper what things they would commit to the Lord and trust Him for that seemed insurmountable except that He intervened (Dad did this too). All of us then placed our sheets into envelopes with each of our names on them that say on the front, "but God..." We placed them on our tree (see photo above) as our gift to the Lord. We are going to open them in a few months and see how He has answered some of those requests and pleadings to His glory alone.

I thought this would encourage others of you to come together as a family before the throne of grace to find help in time of need. If you don't have a family, are single, or maybe divorced and a single parent as I am, just make this your personal petition before the Lord. I would encourage you to invite a few friends to join you in this time together. And you don't have to wait until next Christmas to begin--you can start today.

I'm facing some real needs right now for this ministry and for my family (maybe you are too). I am prayerfully excited to see how the Lord will answer each of those prayer-needs.

Lastly, this current series on contentment is not just so I will have something to write for the blogosphere. It is the the daily journey I am on right now. It is the crucible of grace the Lord has me in--and though painful some days, what an opportunity to trust Him completely--even for our daily bread.

Thank you for letting me share this with you.

Learning to trust God for the hard things,
Psalm 37

PS - tip for next year: I purchased our tree this year at Lowes. It cost only 15 bucks for an eight foot Douglas Fur. I really like that store :-). Grace and peace...


littlegal_66 said...

I was employed by Lowe's for four years while attending college. It was an interesting place to work, and it gave me a lot of material for my short-lived stand-up comedy endeavors....and I'm not referring to building materials, either! (I still prefer it over Home Depot, though). :-)
Now, they are building one (a Lowe's) here in our small community to accompany the new Walmart that's coming soon--I told someone the other day that when this town grows up, it wants to be Franklin. :-D

Seriously, you thanked us for allowing you to share this with us. Moreover, thank you for being willing to share it with us.

You know I'm praying for you.......

Carla Rolfe said...

Thank you for sharing this - it's a great idea for the whole family to participate in, and reinforce the importance of trusting God, for all things.


gigantor1231 said...

It is always exciting to hear things like this, I am always anticipating great things. I think as simplistic as this is God loves it too, I don't think that he wants us to wait until we are at some extreme point of desperation, he just wants us to ask and then wait and see him move.
I am a single parent too and I have been looking for ways to challenge my girls in their faith, this sounds like a great way to do it.


littlegal_66 said...

Sorry I got off track above ^; I agree with Carla....your "prayer tree" is a great idea.

Here's what I do with our tree: These are just a few of the progressive photos of my two boys that I hang on the tree each year. Starting seven Christmases ago, with my oldest's first Christmas, I began placing their photos in wallet-size photo ornament frames. Each year, I place a photo of them from that particular year. Behind each photo is a folded slip of paper containing a letter from me--outlining their milestones from each year, their highlights, their favorites, etc.

More importantly, also behind each photo is a written copy of some of the prayers I'm praying on their behalf for the upcoming new year. Every proceeding year, I add a new one, pull out & review the paper from the preceeding Christmas, and thank Him for what He's done throughout that year. In 2016 and 2017, respectively, after their 18th Christmases, as I take down the tree, I plan to present 18 photo ornaments to them, along with my prayers for them and letters that are contained within them. (Of course, that's probably not practical for some of you who have as many as five or six children; 90-100+ photo ornaments could add a lot of weight to a tree!);-)

I may try to come up with a way to combine your concept with what I've been doing each year. Thanks.

donsands said...

Steve you're great. Thanks for serving the Lord.
Keep on.

ann said...

Thank YOU.

Michele Rayburn said...

I really do wish that Pastors would stop reminding us about the "s" word statistics at Christmas. I never heard Jesus mention suicide in His teachings and I think He must be saddened that we have to be reminded of it every year along with remembering His birth.

I think it's a well-known fact (about the "s" word) and to hear about it even at church, I think, only encourages the thought and even the very act. Wouldn't it be refreshing if we just stuck with Christ-centered teaching and not be conformed to this world's way of thinking, but rather be transformed by the renewing of our mind from the Scriptures only?

Maybe this sounds like knit-picking, but to some of us, this constant reminder (of the "s" word) at Christmas sounds more like a reminder that it is an option, rather than just an innocent statement of fact.

Suicide is Satan's counterfeit for "death to self". We hurt so bad sometimes, we want to die. But what God wants is for us to die to "self". Self-will is like a spoiled child who always wants his way, so he screams and cries and demands his way. Death to self would say that even though I really want something for myself, nevertheless I will accept God's will for the present time for my life, and I will rest in His will for each day to follow.

If we trust Him, we might see why these trials are coming our way. They usually come so that God will change us, change our heart, to conform us to the image of His Son. We may think it "unusual" (as James says) that we need to have these trials, but I suppose that conforming us to the image of His Son is more in line with God's higher purposes than our temporal happiness.

When we pray, we cannot expect the Lord to give us exactly what we want on our terms, but we can rest in knowing that He will give us what we need according to His will and according to His timing. If His answer is dead silence, that is where our faith will be forced to deepen, as we die to our self and our desires and will.

You know that you are always in our prayers, Steve.

In His Love,

Michele Rayburn said...

By the way, that's "nit-picking" :)
(Just seeing if you're paying attention!)

I have a little prayer that keeps coming to mind for you, Steve, from 3 John 2:

"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." Amen.

May this be a Happy and Spiritually Prosperous New Year for us all.

Love to you all,

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Steve, you have always been a blessing to me and my family. We love you and pray for you and your family every time we hear your music. May God bless you during this season.

Bhedr said...

I appreciate Lowes as well. Home Depot is kind of a truck driver purgatory. If you aren't spot on with your appointment they will hold a poor trucker overnight or even a weekend. I am so glad to be out of over the road driving though. Now we do deliver to Home Depot from time to time but instead as local drivers to their customers jobsites. sometimes they want us to come to their store. Usually they are on all fours because we have what they so desperately need since the customer is usually waiting and is the boss. Our company has little time to worry with the hassle and one time they had confused something with the customer and they were asking me to wait. My boss told me just to drop my load on their store lot. After all those years being told to felt kind of gratifying to dump the trusses and leave.

Lowes usually unloaded a trucker and let them go on their way. Did you ever notice that both stores seem to always grow across from each other. Its like that all around the nation for some reason.