Thursday, January 26, 2012

Making a way through the jungle gym

"Make Your ways known to me, Lord, teach me your paths...
Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity."
-Psalm 25:4, 6 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Last night, while I was volunteering with kids for church, a small group of toddlers discovered a foam jungle-gym looking thing in the room.  It looked like something you'd see in a gymnastics gym, since it involved walking up a step, shimmying across a foam block, and then sliding down a triangle.  First just one boy played on it, but soon about four of the kids were playing on it. Other adult volunteers and I were trying to help them take turns so they wouldn't fall.

In Psalm 25, David writes about how he depended on God, the Lord, as His guide.  He realizes he didn't earn attention from God.  God has this great compassion and love that doesn't end.  The Lord of all is "good and upright" (verse 8), and He's full of love that is greater than any other.  Not only did He create and love us, but also He's able to change and lead us.

It still puts me in awe that God is here to save us.  Like David, sometimes we take our eyes off of God and are caught up in doing something that doesn't match up in how God is leading us.  God sent Jesus, though, to die for times when we turned against God.  We can come to Him and ask for forgiveness (verses 7, 11), and we can look to Him as our guide (verse 5, 8-9).

I pray thanks today that God is full of mercy and truth.  I pray that He helps us see our own need for Him and helps us see ways to share His love with others.

"Lord, I turn my hope to You" (Psalm 25:1).

(Photo from

Monday, January 23, 2012

Expect Challenges

Problems with Prayer? “Expect Challenges”
II Cor. 12:7-10, I Cor. 1:26-31, James 1: 2-3

            On Christmas day 2012 Charles Schulz Peanuts Classic comic strip published in the Houston Chronicle depicted Linus upset about something and talking earnestly with Charlie Brown.  Linus explained how he had gotten the bike and train set he’d asked for.  He got the ball glove he’d put on his list.  He had more toys than he could desire.  He turned and looked and Charlie Brown and said: “If I get everything I want, how will I ever develop any character.” 

Most of us are not at the place where Linus was on Christmas day.  We know we’re developing character. We’d like to develop a little less character. However, Paul noted that not everything he asked for was always granted him, even though we would agree that Paul was right in the center of God’s will for his life.  Indeed, he lamented that an unnamed “thorn in the flesh” never left him, and was a constant hindrance to him (II Cor. 12: 7-10).  Fortunately, the thorn in the flesh did not prevent him from accomplishing what God wanted him to do.

What does the presence of an unrelenting “thorn in the flesh” mean for us in our prayer life?  First of all, it does not mean that we are outside the will of God.  James 1:2-3 tells us that trials we experience are part of a process that matures us.  Don’t believe those who tell you that your seeming weaknesses are a sign of lack of faith. God chooses the weak things of threw world to confound the wise. I Cor. 1:26-31 tells us that God chose the foolish and weak things of the world to produce His results.  Why? So that God can be glorified and we’ll know that He gets the glory, and not us. Consequently, when God asks us to go outside of ourselves, and beyond our comfort zone, He does it to grow our faith and teach us to trust in Him.  When we see results, then we won’t be able to give anyone credit other than the God who provided. (I Cor. 1:29-31).

God answered prayers of many patriarchs in the Old Testament, and when He did, often they established a monument to remember the event. Abraham established one that he called “God Provides” in Gen. 22:14 when God provided a sacrifice instead of his only son.  Joshua established a monument for the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 4:1-24). The purpose of the monument was so everyone would remember that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so everyone will remember to fear the Lord. (Joshua 4:24).  We too can establish our own version of a monument to remember own answers - to increase our faith and remind us of God’s provision. Remember the old “pet rocks” created by some clever person back in the 70’s to make money.  Get one and put it in your pocket. Identify it with the answers to prayer you recall. Mark them in time and use them to increase your endurance of the tough times, and become more mature in the faith.    

Dana Martin

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Problems with Prayer?

“I Thank God For Unanswered Prayers”, Garth Brooks
Jeremiah 29:10-13, Hebrews 11: 17-19,
Genesis 22: 1-22, James 2: 21-23

                Garth Brooks wrote a song that has a nice sentiment, but is incorrect theologically.  His quote was “I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers,” recounting things he’d wanted in life that did not work out the way he had prayed. Primarily, the song focuses on a lost love which, unrequited, was replaced by something better. Indeed, we all remember a time when we asked for something we did not really need, or, if God had said “yes” would have left us in a worse position that we have ended up in.  The problem with the theology is that it really wasn’t an unanswered prayer at all.  God said “No” to Garth, and God had something better for him, his current love. As such, it was an answered prayer, just not answered as requested.

Many of us face problems that seem unresolved or unresolvable. The first consideration is our faith.  First, do we have the belief that God really has our best interest at heart. Jeremiah 29:10-13. Jeremiah had been the prophet of doom throughout his youthful years. Now that the children of Israel were taken into captivity the people came to him and asked how long the captivity would last wand what they should do during the interim.  Jeremiah told them that God had a plan for them, to prosper them and not to harm them.  He said, you will call on me and I will listen when you pray with all your heart (v 12-13).  God always has our best interests at heart.  What He wants is us to come to Him with all their heart. Too often we hold something back. Too often we count on our own strength and don’t turn it all over to Him.

Hebrews 11 is the roll-call of the faithful.  Beginning with the definition of faith (v1), it gives us examples of those who suffered and waited, sometimes beyond their life-span for the promised results they knew God would provide.  If we want real results we need to examine the lives of examples like these. Abraham for instance was promised to be the Father of a great nation, and how many kids did he have? One. When did he have that son? When his wife was 80 years old.  And guess what? Once that son had grown a bit, God asked for Isaac to be sacrificed to show Abraham’s faithfulness to God. Gen. 22 shows that when God called Abraham he said: “Here I am Lord.” When God asked Abraham to do the unthinkable (and sacrifice his only son) he went ahead and began accomplishing the task.  How was it walking up the mountain, knowing his son would be required of him?  How hard was it when the son asked him where is the sacrifice. It must have been close to impossible to draw back that knife, but God stopped His hand and provided a ram for the sacrifice (Gen 22: 13). In Hebrews 11;19 Paul recounts the event and said that Abraham believed in God even for raising his son from the dead, and his faith was counted to him as the justification for a blessing of an entire nation (Gen 22:16-17).

James 1:6-7 states emphatically that faith is an absolute requirement for answer to prayer. A doubter should not expect to hear his answer for he is like one driven a tossed by the sea, unstable in all his ways. Stability, like faith is seen by God in a person who evidence of what is hoped for the proof of the unseen. (Heb. 11:1).   God does not expect great accomplishments or fabulous sacrifices but a sustained and unwavering belief in His ability to provide in even the direst of circumstances. Our actions tell a lot about what we believe, and acting on that belief is a requirement for faith to have its legs. James 2: 21-23 reminds us that Abraham believed and he did what God said.  He didn’t run away, or question God, he went immediately, even to sacrifice his own son.  That kind of active faith, faith with legs, is what Goid honors,.  If we believe we pray and we go, even to a place with difficulty.  God recognized that kind of commitment in Abraham and will recognize it in us. Are we wavering doubting, tossed by the wind, and uncertain, or when called of God do we get up and go?  It is clear what will bring us answers.  Are we willing to go there?

Dana Martin

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spiritual Exercise 3: Run the Race!

   "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entanges, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for usLet us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right had of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition fron sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Spiritual Exercise #3 for the new year is:  Run the race of faith! (v. 1c)  We need to get in the race!  Every believer is to be in the race, not sitting on the sidelines.  When the Scripture says to "run with perseverance"--this tells us it is not always going to be easy.  The Christian life is not a sprint; it is a marathon.

The root of the word translated "race" is the word "agon" from which we get our word "agony."  It signifies an athletic endeavor in which we will face the desire to quit, to throw in the towel because the going gets tough.  The Christian life involves discipline--it can't be done on auto-pilot.  We are either advancing or back-sliding.  The Chrisitan race is NOT running in place!

"The race marked out for us" tells us we each have a specific race God intends for us to run.   When things get tough (and they will!), remember that in running the marathon, Christ is with us every step of the way! Let us make every day count in the race HE has marked out for us!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

hold tight

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed.  You know those who taught you, and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" -2 Timothy 3:14-17, Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

These verses were written by Paul to a man he was mentoring, Timothy.  To help set the scene of what he was talking about, Paul was talking about what false prophets, those who twisted the word of God, were saying.  Some words can damage, and some can bring life.  Paul reminded Timothy to stick to what God said is true.  The Bible tells us that it is God-breathed, and the writers were inspired by God.  The words are a testimony of the holy Trinity, our God three in one.  They explain who God is, who Jesus is, and the work of the Holy Spirit that lives inside  believers. By God's grace and mercy on us, He wants a relationship with us - He desires for us to know Him, trust Him and follow Him.  His words help us see and understand Him.  Trusting those words helps us follow His good and wise plan for us.

How can we share this with others?  We can share the Bible, God's Word, with its testimony of who God is.  It helps us explain why we follow Him.  We can also share our own testimony of God's work for us on the cross, through Christ, and God's work in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

We can share a verse like this one:
"For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace."
-Isaiah 9:6, HCSB

I pray God gives us faith to hold tight to His Word.  I pray He gives us courage, wisdom and love to share our faith today, and I pray others come to know His unending love.

Photo from

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

God's Love Never Fails!

1 Corinthians 13
The Message (MSG)

The Way of Love
"If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incomplete will be canceled." ♥1 Corinthians 13:1-10♥ msg

As a grown woman, before I ever heard the name of Jesus, my heart yearned for the kind of love that only God gives! I remember crying myself to sleep night after night as a child and teenager because I needed the kind of love that only God gives! I remember performing in sport after sport (sports was my "god" until I was 22) as I tried to find purpose and love in my life that only God gives! I remember (and I pray I never forget) all the emptiness that is in every life that is searching for the kind of love that only God gives! Jesus is Love & He Loves YOU with the kind of love that every person is searching for...A Love that NEVER Fails!!!

Who do we know that needs God's Love? Let's share Jesus and His Love with everyone that God puts in the path of our lives, you never know, who is searching and crying out for God's Love that Never Fails!!! "Love Never Fails" by Brandon Heath

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Phone Booth Solution

Does God Change as a Result of Our Prayers?
Part 6: The Phone Booth Solution
Genesis 18 -19:27, Jonah

            In the dark, a man was outside a phone booth trying to see the phone numbers in a phone book by pulling the phone book outside the booth to see the book in a street light.  Someone walked by and suggested that he enter the phone booth and close the door to see.  You see, old time phone booths had lights inside that only came on when you closed the door.   We are frequently that way.  We look for results every other way but the obvious one, going to God alone in prayer.  If we just enter into His presence the light to solve the problem, or understand the purpose of God in a current situation, could become obvious.

             We really don’t change God as a result of our prayers.  Instead we learn to 1) understand his will, 2) merge our will with His, 3) become more grateful for everything he does, 4) grow in fellowship with Him, and 5) become active participants in what He has going on already.

            In Genesis 18 Abraham argued with God about his threatened destruction of Sodom and Gamorrah (v20).  Like many of us bargaining with God we don’t see His righteous justice, or His long-term purpose.  Abraham bargained with God to save a city with thousands of residents. He told God He certainly would not destroy the righteous with the unrighteous if there were 50 righteous.  God agreed (v 23-26). Realizing there might not be that many, Abraham reduced his number to 45 (V.28); 40? (V. 29); 30? (V. 30), 20? (V. 31), 10 (verses 32-33).  When Abraham’s brother’s family was all that could be identified, the place was consumed by fire (Gen. 19:27-29).   Abraham’s understanding of where God’s heart was was adjusted by His prayers and observation of the circumstances.

Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah to preach repentance to an evil nation (1:1-3).  In fact, he ran the other way (v3). He was in communication with God but he did not like the answers he was getting. In the end he did what God wanted Him to do (preach to the Ninevites) (3:1-5) and much to his chagrin they repented when they were promised a similar fate to that of Sodom and Gomorrah (3:6). His problem was that He was not on the same page with God about the lives of each person whether they were righteous or not.  God wanted each person to have a second chance, and Jonah was more concerned over a plant that sheltered him than he was the people who were threatened with God’s judgment (4:6-11). He needed a perspective adjustment, and His continued communication with God led Him to see the results of God’s mercy even if he didn’t agree with it.

Many times we need to spend time with God.  We need to get closer to what He thinks and where his priorities are.  If we do, our priorities will definitely change. We’ll see His judgments as righteous and His mercy as amazing, even though we don’t understand why His judgment is stayed or executed.  

Close the door of the phone booth, stop trying to see God from another light.  Get close to His light. Get alone with God, stay in touch with the creator and He will, adjust your priorities, and change your perspective so you can be used to fulfill part of His plan

Monday, January 16, 2012

Can we really Pray without Ceasing?

Phil 4:8, I John 5:14-15, I Thess. 5:17

God never intended us to walk about in an otherwise evil world without His presence there with us on a daily basis.   Instead, He always wants to be in communication with us. I Thess. 5:17 reminds us we should pray without ceasing. How does that look in real life?  Are we supposed to sit around at a church alter doing nothing but praying?  No, God wants us to be His hands and feet to accomplish his tasks in the world.

Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ came up with a good description of what praying without ceasing looks like.  He called it Spiritual Breathing.  The concept has true merit because it keeps us in tune with God and sensitive to God’s desires at all times in or lives.  It involves the concept of confession whenever we realize we have done something outside the will of God. We don’t wait until Sunday, or even until our evening prayers,  In realization of something which would lead us away from the Holy spirit we immediately acknowledge the affront and discuss righting the relationship immediately. Have you ever hurt someone you cared about and immediately wanted to take it back.  I was canoeing down the Guadalupe river with my wife (when we were still dating) and I overturned the canoe at a falls.  In my efforts to right the canoe and get us back inside I also hit my wife in the head with a paddle.  I wanted that one back. (It’s a wonder she married me after that one).

Many times in life we do something so foolish we wish we had it back.  When we are constantly in a spirit of confession we are also constantly seeking to replace the derogatory things in our lives with the positives God wants us to emphasize (Phil. 4:8). We can be in constant communication with God such that we won’t go many minutes without discussing things with Him.  I frequent catch myself saying: ’What do you think about this Lord?” If we approach God in that way, He will always want to be there for us.  I John 5:14-15. Can we get there?  Can we always be in an attitude of involving God in everything we do? If we do we can see our lives more in tune with what God is doing, and see our lives closer to the center of Gods will.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do you think it’s come to that?

        Does God Change as a Result of Our Prayers?
Prayer? - Do you think it’s come to that?
I Thess. 5:17 and James 5: 13-18, Romans 8:26, Matt. 6:9-13

            Pastor Karl Elkins says the best prayer he had ever heard came from a woman whose life was crashing in.  Her husband had left her, he was behind in paying child support to her, her boss was insensitive, and he didn’t care about her situation, nor did he appreciate the long hours he required of her kept her away from home longer than she wanted to be.  She wasn’t sleeping and she was diagnosed with depression, but she didn’t have time to address it because she had two children under the age of ten.  At wits end, she asked her pastor what to do.  He asked her: “have you prayed about your situation?”  She asked, “Do you think it’s come to that?” He explained to her that prayer was not as complicated as she had made it out to be, and that it was just conversation with God.  She stared at him a minute, and then just bowed her head and yelled “HELP.”   Christians are promised a helper, the Holy Spirit, who will empower us to accomplish His work on earth. Acts 1:4-8, and we are also promised that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us when we pray and don’t know how to say what we need. Romans 8:26.  Sometimes we just don’t know what to say to God when we‘re in trouble, or how to say it.  

Some people think a relationship with God requires performance of an unknown and fearful set of prerequisite events unachievable by anyone other than the most righteous. Doesn’t it take a degree of perfection to come before a Holy a God with your problems? Nope.  Don’t get that idea.  God desires a repentant and obedient heart more than anything else. Psalm 51:16-17. Consequently, what can we better do for God than show Him that we rely on Him and that we know we cannot do it alone.

The question then becomes, what does prayer look like?  Jesus didn’t leave us without instruction.  He left us with His Model prayer. (Matt. 6:9-13). That prayer does several things.  The prayer begins by acknowledging God’s sovereignty over all situations (v9). It notes that God’s will is best for us, and that we understand His desires would be best for us in the long run (v10).  It acknowledges our needs and that we are right in asking for them to be taken care of, but one day at a time (v11).  Recall that the children of Israel were hungry in the wilderness and God provided for them, one day at a time (Ex. 16:1-36).  In verse 12 it talks about our relationships, debts and debtors, and reminds us that we are to have God’s perspective on that as well. Be willing to forgive someone else if you want forgiveness. (Matt. 18:21-35). Jesus then reminds us that we need to stay close to Him to be able to escape the wiles of the devil, and that we are correct to seek God’s participation in our lives to avoid falling into the snares of the evil one v.13). God recognizes the activity of Satan in our world and that we don’t have the strength to endure his deceit without God’s help.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Remove Hindrances: Spiritual Activity #2 for 2012

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."  (Hebrews 12:1)

Today's thought follows directly in line with Kelly's blog from yesterday about disciplining our bodies to "run the race."  We are told in this verse to "throw off everything that hinders."  The contrast between this phrase and the 2nd part, "the sin that so easily entangles,"  suggests that what is being referred to ion this first phrase are things that are not necessarily sinful in and of themselves, but which get in our way of running our spiritual race with excellence. 

Things that are OK in and of themselves can become hindrances to running the race well if we place our focus on them.  Good things like our career, our possessions, our hobbies, our relationships--even our church "activities" --are all good things, but if they become our preoccupation then we are in trouble.

We need to ask ourselves:  "What is there in my  life that I need to remove to be prepared to run the race for Christ in 2012?   What is draining my time and energy that I could be using for Jesus Christ?"  Let us ask God to help us remove the things that hinder us in our devotion to Him and our primary task to make Him known.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

a race well-worth the run

"Don't you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way to win the prize.  Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything.  However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away.  Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one who beats the air.  Instead, I discipline my  body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching it to others, I myself will not be disqualified." 
-1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Holman Christian Standard Bible

My hometown of Houston this weekend will host the Aramco Half Marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon, and the time trials for Olympian Marathoners.  So, I've been reading articles like a fan!  This, with some help from friends, has inspired me to run more lately.  When I think of running, sometimes I turn to encouragement to hang in there to stick with it.  Today, in these verses, God reminded me about perseverance in the faith. The Holy Spirit gives believers courage to keep following Him and sharing what Christ has done for the world. 

As I think on this, I'm wondering, how can we be a living testimony of who God is?  This is a part of what Paul was saying, I think, when he said, "I discipline my that after preaching it to others, I myself will not be disqualified" – from reading the chapter, I think he meant that he wished to live out the gospel that he believed.  He doesn't continue living the faith because he fears losing his salvation, but he does it to honor God.  God gave him this desire to keep sharing the good news that Jesus Christ came to die for all we've done against Him. 

God's grace is incomparable, and I pray we share it with others (Acts 20:24).  It can be an encouraging reminder, since we are not perfect, that we can trust in His power to help us follow Him.  We can count on the Holy Spirit and God's Word in the Bible to give those who believe in Him the strength to live out and share their faith.  It's my prayer that we keep our trust in Him, our Redeemer.

(photo of Nick Arciniaga by Photo Run, found on

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does God Change as a Result of our Prayers? Part 3

Timing? - The Sponge Game. (I Sam. 1, Matt. 6: 25-34, Gen. 37:5- 42:8)

How often do you get your answers to prayer with lots of time to spare? How often have you correctly predicted the miraculous answer to the prayer you have been repeating for years? You still don’t have the answer you have been praying for? You are not alone. Joseph had a vision from God that someday his brothers would bow down to him (Gen. 37:5-8). Jealous, they sold him into slavery (v38), and he ended up rising to the head of staff of his Master’s household (Gen. 39:6) only to be thrown into prison for something he didn’t do (Gen. 39:19-20). Then in prison, he correctly predicted the outcome of visions of two of the prisoners (Gen. 40:12-14). When they promised to help him by getting him released, they forgot about him (40:23) until the King had a similar vision. Timing? About 20 years after the visions he’d seen one from God he saw his prayers answered as he rose to second in command of Egypt (Gen 41:28-36) with his brothers begging him for food in the middle of a famine (Gen. 42:7-8).

Hannah just knew her calling was to be a mom. I Samuel 1:1-20. However, year after year she had a household tormentor who reminded her of her infertility (v7). In a time when your offspring were your credentials she had none. But God did answer her prayer (v20). She has a son named Samuel and she fulfilled her promise to God to commit him to God’s service.

We too have issues with God’s timing. A friend of mine was going through a particularly rough patch in his life when he grabbed up a kitchen sponge from our sink, placed it precariously close to falling off the edge of our kitchen counter, and said that God was always there for him, but usually pulling him back from the edge right at the time he thought he was doomed to fall over the edge.

God doesn’t really play the “sponge game” with us, we just lack the closeness with God to understand he has it all under control. Jesus reassured each of us in the “sermon on the mount” that there is a cure for our anxiety. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus reminded us that we cannot add an inch to our height by “taking thought” (v27) and he reminds us that Solomon in all his glory was not adorned like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (v. 28-29). He ends his discourse on reliance by saying “seek first His kingdom and all these things will be provided to you (v33).”

Don’t worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of its own (v34). The day’s worries can defeat us or teach us daily reliance when we don’t have the resources to handle them ourselves. The important thing to know about prayer and God’s timing is that God wants us to pray and turn it over to him. He is in control of the timing of the “big answer.” We are only responsible for daily faithfulness. We live for a God who cares. Let him worry about the details. Enjoy the air you breathe and the food you eat today. Don’t worry about how close you are to the edge. God will always save you from the precarious appearance of the “sponge game”.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Does God Change as a Result of Our Prayers? Part 2

Part 2 – Is there an “Adjustment Bureau”?
Job 23:13, Psalms 33:11, Malachi 3:6

            In 2011 a movie was released that asked a theological question in the format of a romantic adventure flick. A boy meets a girl who was not in God’s plan for him, but true love changes God’s plan for the couple and the future surrounding them.  It was called “The Adjustment Bureau” and it propounded the concept that God’s plans are flawed, and that they can be changed by the sincere efforts of humans who somehow know better than God.  

God is not afraid of our inquiries into the methods and characteristics of His Kingdom.  Indeed, Jesus used parable after parable to state: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Mathew 13:44; Matt. 13:47; Matt. 20:1, etc.   God wants us to know what his kingdom looks like, and how He operates. However, Jesus’s efforts were to tell us about a God that is omnipresent and immutable. Jesus wanted us to know God can be counted on to be consistent and always there for us.  He also wants us to know that God can be understood and relied upon.

Job 23:13 notes that God is in one mind and no one can turn Him. Psalm 33:11 says that the counsel of the lord stands forever. Isaiah 40:13 asks: Who can direct the Spirit of God or be His counselor? Malachi 3:6 confirms that He is the Lord and He does not change. Consequently, the simple answer is that, no, we don’t change God. Thankfully, He is the same now and forever, and He loves us in spite of our flaws and foibles. Don’t we want a God like that, one who can be counted on, and one who is consistent? one that won’t ever leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5)? 

Dana Martin 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Does God Change as a Result of Our Prayers? Part 1

Part 1 – Did Jesus Need to Pray? Matt. 26: 36-46 Matt. 6: 9-13

            When we tune into a radio station we have to tune into a very specific frequency.  If you have one of those old-style dial radios you know you have to turn the knob to find the station you seek, and you can easily miss it, run by it, or get interference from another station if you are not precisely tuned to the correct frequency.  “FM” on your FM radio dial stands for “frequency modulation” and it stands for how you identify specific stations.  The stations we listen to are defined by an address called the broadcast frequency.  If we like a station’s music or shows, we save them in our car’s digital memory so we don’t have to search for them every time we listen.  However, before the digital age, we had to dial in to the stations we liked, and some were hard to find.  I still have an old radio that I keep in my bathroom.  It really is difficult to find my favorite station, 89.3 KSBJ on that radio, so I seldom change the channel. It requires an investment of time to find it again if I accidentally stray from the station, so I only listen to 89.3 KSBJ on that radio.  If I need to listen to another station I use a different radio.

Finding God’s will in our lives can be like that.  We think it’s on one place and are just sure we know what’s right for us.  Frequently, though, we discover that we were wrong, and a door closes making it clear to us that God’s will for our lives was not where we initially thought it was. Other times we just know we are in tune with God’s will.  We know how we’re “wired in” and that God certainly has plans for us along a certain line of activities, but where specifically is hard to find. Also, when the question of the timing of the revelation of the will of God is not obvious in our lives, we fret over God’s timing.  

In a way, finding God’s will for our lives is much like tuning into one of those old dial radios.  As we search for it, we miss it, run by it, or get interference from another station close to the one we’re seeking.  Like all examples this one is not perfect.  However, how do we really “tune into” God’s will?  As much as we wish God’s will was clear for all of us, it is not always clear.  What means of “tuning in” do we have for our daily lives?

Prayer is the primary conduit by which we access God to get in touch with His will. When I started studying prayer it became clear to me that Jesus Himself spent a lot of time in prayer. His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26: 36-46) should be a clear indicator that God Himself, clothed in a frail human body, struggled over His calling even though He knew what was required of Him. He inquired “My father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me.”(Matt. 26:39). However, He concludes that very admonition with: “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26: 39b).   If Jesus needed prayer as a reassurance of God’s purpose in His human existence, and if Jesus inquired with God in a state “…swallowed up with sorrow, to the point of death.” (Matt. 26: 38), are we not justified in making earnest admissions of confusion and uncertainty during our walk here on earth?

Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 begins with: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done (v10),” and ends “…yours is the kingdom and power and glory forever. (v13)” As such, it is apparent that our prayers are to be an acknowledgement of our dependence on God, and a testimony to our willingness for His will to be done in our lives. 

Those of us who do not pray are those who don’t understand its purpose, or its invaluable benefits.  Does God change His plans because we pray?  Do we somehow change as a result of our earnest prayers?  Do we get closer to God because we pray? Is there power to be accessed by our prayers?   This series will study these questions.  By the end of this study we will more clearly see how much our prayers (in the sense of our efforts to find the will of God in our lives) are very similar to that search for our favorite station on the radio.  Dialing the radio to get to that “just right place” where the station is clear is similar to our sincere prayers, which enable us to be “tuned in” with God to find that “perfect will of God” for our lives.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Introducing Dana Martin

"And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" (Eccl. 4:12, NASB).

Happy New Year!

I thank God for each of you, our faithful followers, who stick with us through thick and thin! I am grateful for you and for Tracy Jones, Sharon Beougher, and Kelli Martin who continue to blog, even when I am unfaithful. God bless Kristi McCartney who has a new family (three adopted children) who are calling for her time during this important season of life. The truth is, we are all over our heads in busy-ness.

I want you to know that this year brings many changes for me. I am transitioning from working for Southern Seminary as director of women's leadership into being the president and ceo of JML, as well as the president of JM Leaders Foundation. The launch will be in the summer and you will hear much more about God's provision and His direction for us at that time. The purpose of JML will be to provide resources and equip leaders in evangelism. We will do that as we network with partners like churches, state conventions, universities, and seminaries, as well as others.

In the meantime, the next few months hold some great challenges for me. I am working on my dissertation which will require 100% of my time. Thank God for patient and gracious men who are cheering me onward. Only God knows the outcome but I'm going to give it one last push and see what happens. Kelli is also in her last semester at Southern so a May graduation is in sight for her. She is officially in the market for a full-time ministry position using her expertise in Christian education, writing, strategic planning, and people-skills. Dana is cheering for us in numerous ways. We wouldn't be able to do what we do without him! Your prayers for all of us are coveted and appreciated.

Dana has been sharing with me all the things the Lord has been teaching him about prayer. He has also been asking how he could help me to press onward while I attempted to finish writing. I have asked him to blog a series of what he has been learning. So, it addition to hearing from Tracy, Sharon, Kelli, and occasionally from me, you will be hearing from Dana. I know it will bless you as much as it has blessed me.

I pray you are having a wonderful start to your year and look forward to revealing what's coming during the summer to come! Thanks for your prayers!

In His love and mine,

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Spiritual Exercise in the New Year": 1st Exercise

Hebrews 12:1-3:  "Therefore, since we are surprised by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down on the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

The first spiritual exercise in this passage is to:  Remember forerunners of the faith (v. 1a).  This verses uses athletic imagery and therefore seems to imply that those in heaven are spectators in some sense--that we are to run the race envisioning them cheering us on.  These men and women faced obstacles just like we do.  But they placed their faith in God and through Him achieved victory.

Hebrews 11 shows us some specific people who can encourage us with some truths about God:
  • Noah had to wait 120 years to see God's plan fulfilled in His life (v. 7)
  • Sarah had to believe God for the impossible (v. 11-12).
  • Joseph was sold into slavery, was imprisoned on false charges, was forgotten by those he helped, and life seemed unfair to him--yet he trusted in God in spite of his circumstances (v. 22).
  • Despite miserable failures, Samson and David both show us God's grace and His plan to use them in migty ways.
All of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 cry out to us today:  "God is faithful!  You can trust Him!  Don't give up--God will see you through."  Remember the forerunners of the faith!  

(More"spiritual esercises for the new year to come.")

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

God Has Great Plans For You!

Please Read and memorize Jeremiah 29:11-13. With those promises in your heart, begin to evaluate your life goals:

♥Are your goals and plans specific?
♥Are your goals and plans God centered?
♥What changes do you need to make in order to set and meet the goals and plans God has for your life?
♥Who can you share Jeremiah 29:11-13 with that needs JESUS & the HOPE that these promises give?

•Keep a journal as you write down goals, plans, and changes while you follow God & His Word.
•Share your goals, plans, and changes with someone that you trust as they encourage you and hold you accountable.

Psalm 139:16 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Luke 11:28 "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it."