Monthly Archives: April 2012

Unanswered Prayer

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Do you ever feel like when you are praying that your prayers aren’t getting past the ceiling of the room? That for some reason or other your words are drifting off into a dark void of the unknown never to fall on the ears of God. You start to second guess all sorts of things; does God even care about this, or is he even listening? Should I be doing something different, asking in some other way? Is there even a God who is there to hear me or am I just sitting in a room talking to myself?

Why Doesn’t God Hear Me

I get so frustrated and disappointed by the perception that my prayers are either not being heard or not cared about. I have been praying for years upon years along with so many others for something, only to be responded to with deafening silence. Some days I just say “well it’s in God’s timing” and that will placate my emotions for the day. Other days I just get frustrated and depressed and wonder what use of praying even is. Every once in a while I will feel like God hears me and I begin to gather hope which is usually followed by crushing defeat. Then there are days I feel like I have all of Jobs friends living in my head telling me I must have done something to sever my lines of communication with God. Is there some unrepentant sin? Which leads me to James 5:16b  which says “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”, which logically leads to think maybe I am just not righteous enough? This leads to a plethora of self doubt, maybe I should be praying more, maybe I should be fasting, am I praying by faith, am I sincere enough in my prayer, is it according the the will of God? Because it says in the bible in 1John 5:14b “If we ask anything according to his will he will hear us” and John 14:14  Jesus says “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”. Well nothing is happening so therefore I must be doing something wrong.

There Is Hope

I know I am not alone in this, and the pebble in my shoe may not compare to your boulder. Maybe you too have been praying for something that is very painful for you. Maybe it is a life controlling addiction, maybe over financial woes where there seems to be no end. It could be the loss of a child, cancer, debilitating pain, severe anxiety, or depression, the list could go on.Does God seem silent to you too?  I came across a passage the other day which gave me hope and I hope it does you. It is found in the first chapter of Luke. It reads as follows

Luk 1:5  In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Luk 1:6  And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
Luk 1:7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luk 1:8  Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
Luk 1:9  according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Luk 1:10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
Luk 1:11  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Luk 1:12  And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
Luk 1:13  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Luk 1:14  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
If you look closely at this passage it says that Zachariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years. This leads us to believe they must have spent years upon years praying for a child.It may have been as much as 40 years of prayer where God was silent to them. Then one day out of nowhere and Angel appears to Zachariah and says “For your prayer has been heard”. How long must he have been waiting to hear those precious words.

It Actually is in God’s Timing

I am sure they both got frustrated just like you and I get frustrated by the perceived silence of God. But God’s plans are not our plans and he works on his time schedule not ours. While Elizabeth and Zachariah waited and most likely got depressed, got angry and probably wondered if they were praying right. God however was waiting for the right time to bless them in a way that was so far beyond what they could ever imagined. They ended up bearing a son known as John the Baptist, who had the privilege of ushering in the Ministry of Jesus and the great honor of baptizing him in the river Jordan. So when you get frustrated or depressed, just remember God does hear our prayers just like Zachariah and Elizabeth and sometimes he will blow our minds by how he answers them.

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You Are Going to Die

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You may not know when it will happen, where it will happen, or how, but either way, you are going to die. This is one thing that you can be sure of 100% unless you think you will be raptured, but for the sake of the argument let’s say not in your lifetime. If this is the one thing that you can have no doubt about, why do we not discuss it more? We will spend time talking about politics, work, sports, hobbies, vacations ad nauseam, but not what happens to us when we die?

I work at a cancer center so maybe this topic comes up with me more than others, but it is still a topic of taboo. When the topic of death does comes up, it is usually followed by a God forbid, or someone knocking on wood. We will venture to discuss death about other people occasionally, but rarely if ever about ourselves. Well let me be the one to tell you, you are going to die. How does that make you feel? Does the thought scare you? If so, what are you scared of? Is it the fear of the unknown or the fear of what you are leaving behind, such as children, a spouse or loved ones? Is this what keeps us from talking about it, fear?

A more pressing question would be, if you ARE going to die why do we not spend more time trying to find out what happens to us when we die?

I know many people who when asked what happens when we die they respond, I have no idea, or say I don’t like to think about it. When I was in my late teens into my early twenties I was searching every religion to try and make sure I was on the right path. I am not saying I am better, or smarter than anyone, rather it does freak me out therefore I searched, studied, examined, prayed to whoever would listen for the truth to ensure peace about my eternal resting place. So it doesn’t make any sense to me and confounds me that more people don’t also agonize over their death and where there soul goes and what are the requirements to enter into a heaven if there is one.

Are we just turned back into dirt when we die and that’s that?

I have heard it from atheists who say there is nothing more to this life then what we are living, and when we die that’s it. Our bodies will turn into dust, we have no soul, there is no heaven, no hell, just nothingness. I have a hard time believing people actually believe that, because if this were true I think they would be living their lives differently. Why live a moral life? Why not step over everyone and take  what you want and live with a more reckless abandon. Although I guess if I did believe that, I wouldn’t want to think about death either.

If there is a Heaven and Hell are you 100% sure you are going to the right place?

I  will ask people who believe there is a heaven and hell, how do you know you are going to heaven?  Many will respond “hopefully I was good enough”.  I think hopefully? hopefully? Again, why is it that if we know we are going to die we don’t make sure we know where we are going and how to get there. Why is not our every waking hour consumed with making sure you are going to heaven especially if you think hell exists. The results are final and eternal. But instead we just hope we might be right and continue going about our daily routines like it is never going to happen.

Fortunately or not, you can not be good enough to get into heaven, so you don’t have to hope about being good enough or not. It says in the bible in Ephesians 2:8-9  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. But rather we need to follow Jesus, and accept his free gift of salvation that he offers to all who call upon him.

Act 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved…
Act 2:28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence…
Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…
For “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 Jn 1:9

How Can I Be Sure I am Going to Heaven?

Well if it is God’s heaven He makes up the rules and He gives us promises in His word. Like in Ephesians 1:13-14  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. And similarly founnd in 1Peter 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

So you can be sure of your final resting place, and not fear death, but rather curiously anticipate it with hope. So you too can say with confidence, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1Cor 15:55-57

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Man of Sorrows

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Sometimes we are to familiar with a story of the bible that it doesn’t resound with us the way it should. How many times we hear the story of the crucifixion and resurrection, and it still may touch us, but does it move us? Do we really take the time to ponder what was going on? What was Jesus feeling? What was racing through His mind the night before His death. I read a verse the other day that moved me.

Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane getting ready to pray. Jesus having full knowledge of what was about to happen to Him turns to a couple of His followers and says “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death;” Matt 26:38a esv. I think sometimes we forget that Jesus, being fully God was also fully man. He felt anxiety, pain, he had fear, Jesus fully aware of the verses in Isa 53:3 “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isa 53:4  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
Isa 53:5  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are  healed.” 

Jesus knew what lay ahead, the lashes to the back, the punches to the face, the mockery, the ridicule, the cross, the wrath of God, all await him. He was sorrowful unto death. Sweat of blood poured down His brow as He pleaded to the Father that there be some other way. Multiple times He begs the Father to have the wrath of our sin be resolved some other way. But there was none. Jesus finally concedes to the Father with, “Not my will, but yours be done”.

He not only had to bear the cross, but the sin of the world was about to be on His shoulders and for the first time ever He and the Father will be separated. And He did it willingly, no one forced Him, He did it out of love for me and for you. en the Roman gaurds came to the garden to arrest Him, He does not fight back but rather walks up to them and offers Himself to them. One of the disciples however is not as willing and lashes out against the Roman guard as Jesus replies to him “Do you thing that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Matt.26:53-4  Jesus could have stopped the pain, could have taken the easy way out and wiped out all his enemies. Instead He gave Himself up even to death, and death on a cross.

Sometimes we view God afar off, some great mystery in the sky. A God who is powerful and mighty, who sits and judges us. We forget that this God is a personal God, who took on the form of a man who walked among us. Has felt our pains, knows our temptations, understands our griefs. We read in Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

If you ever think that God doesn’t understand what you are going through, doesn’t understand your pain, your sadness, your anxiety, your temptations. Just remember Him in the Garden agonizing over His death sweating blood, who was sorrowful even to death and rest assured He knows. He then bids us to come to him in pray and He will give mercy the way only a loving Savior knows how.

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Worried About Anxiety

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I am about to start a new job after having worked at the same place for 18 years. I am beginning to have feelings of inadequacy, can I even do what they want me to? Is it going to be harder than I first expected? Did I make the right decision? How can I say goodbye to all the friendships I created over that time? This has created the opportunity to ponder what is anxiety and how can we overcome it?

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a displeasing feeling of fear and concern. But over what? We are also told that there in nothing to fear but fear itself. So are we just anxious about anxiousness? What is the root cause of worry, fear, anxiety? I think  it is the lack of control that we have over a situation. We are afraid of things we can’t control  like cancer, a plane crashing, paying bills, our health, our children’s health , and  our parents health. When you are pregnant the whole time the child is in the womb you are worried about 1000 different things. Is the heart beating right, does she have all her fingers, Is he going to be healthy? We worry because we can’t control the outcome.

How do we respond to our anxiety?

How do we overcome our fears and worries when they are out of our control. A lot of us will try to control things that we can control to compensate for this. For example, I work at a cancer center, and I have seen it time and time again when a patient will absolutely demand a specific time they want receive  their treatment. Even though they have no other appointments during the day, they will vehemently demand 10:00 a.m. and that’s that. Why? Because they can’t control their cancer, so they control something else instead. Since so many of us are worried about health  we do everything we can to control that. Every calorie is counted, every rep at the gym accounted for and every exercise well thought out for maximum results. Maybe your controlling comes out in different ways, such as the way your house has to be immaculate, or maybe you are a workaholic or you have your whole life written out on your day planner. This of course does not have any affect on what our anxiety is over, it just gives us a false sense of control over our life.

So then, how do we really overcome anxiety then?  We need to understand we are not in control, but we have a God who is. When we worry we say we need to have control, and if we don’t something bad might happen. We are saying God cannot handle my child’s sickness. God cannot handle how I am going to get money to pay the mortgage. God cannot deal handle cancer, our jobs, our travel, our parent’s sickness. I am the one who needs to handle these things, and if I can’t this is when anxiety strikes.

What does God say about our anxieties? 1) He says in Philippians 4:6-7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Here we are told instead of worrying, come to God in prayer and then the peace of God will guard us against being anxious. There is however a caveat. In order to have the peace OF God we need to have peace WITH God. It says in Romans 5:1 “Therefore since we have been justified by faith we have peace WITH God through our Lord Jesus Christ”  Jesus says you are either for me or against me, there in no in between. But if you are for Him and believe in Him you are then His child, and he will give you this peace that surpasses all understanding even in your worst circumstances.

2) Jesus says in Matt 6:25  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Mat 6:26  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Mat 6:27  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 
Jesus is telling us that the Father will take care of our needs so do not worry about them. Even if you did, He says, what will that help it will not add a single hour to your life.

3) 1Peter 5:7  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Not only will He give us this peace that surpasses all understanding and give us what we need, But here we are reminded that He cares for us. It says in Matthew 7:9-11  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?   If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  God loves us and wants to give us what we need, we just need to come to Him and ask.

We need to come to the realization that we are not in control. Rather we have a loving Creator who is in control over all things and promises to give us peace over whatever situation we are going through. It doesn’t mean that we will always get what we want or things will work out the way we want. But we know He loves us, and He has a plan for us and He is in control.

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