“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’”
So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 8:1-7 NIV)
Hmm. That’s a lot of frogs! Seems Pharaoh thought so, too, because in verse 8 we read, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”
Moses, acting as God’s agent, was happy to oblige with one condition detailed in verse 9: “Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”
Moses simply asked Pharaoh to set the time for him to pray for Pharaoh, his officials and his people and POOF! The frogs would be gone. This plague would end. Sounds like a great deal. Moses prays to God for Pharaoh AND the frogs disappear! Bet Pharaoh was jumping up and down hearing this offer.
In verse 10, Pharaoh has a one word response to Moses’ offer. “Tomorrow.”
Pharaoh chose one more night with the frogs.
But isn’t that just like us? We want the blessing of God, but we don’t want to stop what we are doing; we don’t want to let go of some of the things, ideas, people or emotions that we are holding on to. We want to negotiate with God. We want one more night with the frogs.
THIS WEEK identify your frogs – the thoughts, emotions, thinking, habits or people that you need to let go. Pray for strength to trust God, and let this be your last night with the frogs!
Years ago a colleague (Mary) said, “One day you look in the mirror and you ask yourself who in the world is that? You feel so young in spirit and even in mind, but your neck, hands and that person in the mirror will tell you otherwise!” I laughed, and Mary simply said, “You’ll see.”
It’s 23 years later, and Mary’s “prophecy” has come true!
I tried to blame it on the mirror. You know, since research has proven that there are “skinny” mirrors (sometimes used in dressing rooms to make you appear slimmer in clothing and to boost sales), I figured there must be “old” mirrors though for the life of me I cannot imagine why someone would create one. And who would buy one though obviously I had one? But there they are…crows feet, scratching all around my eyes. Take heart, they’re not alone; the gray hairs in my brows are keeping them company!
What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Do you see that you were fearfully and wonderfully made? (Psalm 139:14)
Do you see the apple of God’s eye? (Psalm 17:1)
Do you see God’s treasured possession? (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Do you see that you are made in the image of God? (Genesis 1:27)
Do you see what God sees?
Satan offers us trick mirrors. He would have us see ourselves as less than our God created us to be. In his mirrors we see all our shortcomings. We see our struggles and inferiorities. We see shame and embarrassment. We see the stain and guilt of sin.
But if our life is hidden with Christ in God – if we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, then whenever God looks at us, He sees Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God covering us.
Superstition says it’s bad luck to break a mirror, but I say smash whatever mirror Satan keeps holding before you and look into the mirror of God. See what He sees – YOU – His child. (John 1:12) A new creature. (2 Corinthians 5:17) A fellow heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17) The righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) A temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:17) One who is chosen, holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4), redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7), complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10) and dearly loved (Colossians 2:12).
Now that’s the mirror you need!
THIS WEEK, take a look in the mirror. Do you see what God sees?
LIfeWay Research (2012) indicates that “61 percent of evangelical Christians do not share their faith regularly” – even though they believe it is their responsibility to do so. Further, nearly half of those who responded to the LifeWay survey said they have not invited a non-Christian friend to church in the past six months.
That’s frightening, unsettling, distressing, disappointing, concerning, alarming… I’ve got a whole list of adjectives and adverbs that I could wrap around this one! And when we butt this body of research up against a study by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) in collaboration with LifeWay (2009), we find that “67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be very or somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Another 63% say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would be effective. This same study reports that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are very or somewhat willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, and 56 percent are very or somewhat willing to receive such information from a friend or neighbor.” A similar LifeWay study summarized in Discipleship Journal (2008) reported 75% would be wlling to listen to someone talk about his/her Christian beliefs and 78% would enjoy an honest conversations with a friend about spiritual beliefs even if they had other beliefs.
Enough of the numbers; let’s cut to the point best summarized by Ed Stetzer, vice president of LifeWay Research and Ministry Development, “[M]any of your unchurched friends are ready for an invitation to conversation.” THIS is clearly the point for the question raised in Romans 10:14 (NLT), “But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?
Who have YOU told lately? With whom have YOU shared the good news of God’s Gospel?
Let me share another tidbit from the 2009 LifeWay data. “Out of 13 approaches tested, personal invitations from family members or friends is the only method that a majority of Americans say would effectively draw them to church.” Television, radio and newspaper all have an impact as do visits from congregational teams, but the most effective method is one-on-one personal communication with a family member or friend. Church advertising and outreach methods clearly take a back seat to personal testimony and invitations. And consider one final extract from LifeWay’s data, “At particular points in life, people are more open to considering matters of faith, the survey (2009) found. The Christmas season is the most common time for people to be open to spiritual matters. Nearly half (47 percent) are more open to considering matters of faith at Christmas. Americans are also open to matters of faith during the Easter season (38 percent).”
Hebrews 3:15 cautions us not to harden our hearts when we hear while James 1:22 admonishes us to be doers of the word. And we know that Matthew 28:19 commands us to go, teach and make disciples. I’m thinking perfect storm – THIS is the ideal time for you to hear this word just weeks before Easter, the season when many hearts are open and eager to hear God’s truth. THIS is the ideal time for you to share!
THIS WEEK pray asking the Holy Spirit to lead you to the right opportunity and the right methodology to share your faith. Unsure how to get started? Explore the following resources. Share your experiences as well as your encouragement for others using our blog’s comment feature!
In the 70s Lynette Hawkins Stephens, a member of the famed Hawkins Family Singers, sang:
“God has not promised me sunshine.
That’s not the way it’s going to be
But a little rain…mixed with God’s sunshine
A little pain…makes me appreciate the good times.
God desires to fill your longings.
Every pain that you feel, He feels them just like you.
But He can’t afford to let you feel only good.
Then you can’t appreciate the good times.
Grateful. Grateful. Be grateful.
Be grateful because there’s someone else that’s worse off than you.
Be grateful because there’s someone else that’d love to be in your shoes!
Be grateful. My God said He would never forsake you.
Be grateful. God said He would never, never forsake you.
Be grateful. (Repeat)
For it will be alright!”
But sometimes, we get it twisted!
Indeed the Scriptures are saturated with God’s promises – great and precious, but they are not all about sunshine and roses or blue skies and happiness; they are good promises and they are promises for our good – through all the circumstances of life. (Read 2 Peter 1:4 and Joshua 23:14, NIV)
Matthew 11: 28-29 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” and Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” These passages tell me that we will experience burdens and we will grow weary. If we didn’t, we would have no need of rest. Weakness, weariness and exhaustion are ours but also promises of rest, power, strength and the ability to soar like eagles.
Undeniably, no one likes trials, troubles or tribulations. But we all have experienced them, are experiencing them or will experience them. It is just a matter of time. But because of the promises of God, Christians can look with different eyes at their challenges. James 1:2-4 tells us “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; [trials] Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” We can look with joy at our challenges knowing that they will result in our growth – increased faith, boundless patience, greater power, enduring strength… We can be grateful for these growth experiences and the love of God which will sustain us through each working them for good.
Gratitude is not easy. Bonnie McMaken says, “It is an intentional, courageous undertaking, challenging our assumptions of what God’s faithfulness looks like in good times and in bad. If we are only grateful during good times, our response hinges on God’s gifts to us, and our gratitude becomes conditional and weak…,” but “[b]ecause God is faithful, we can be receptive to [H]im even during difficulty. This doesn’t mean we like the situation or that we have to find some sort of good in it while we’re in that situation. Sometimes the only good thing we will meet is God himself, and [H]e will sustain us.” That alone, the assurance of meeting God and knowing that He will sustain us, seems to me enough to be grateful for.
Yesterday I watched 8 hours of television. I watched until the cable box automatically shut down to go into power save mode Even the cable company couldn’t believe someone would be actually watching television that long!
Yesterday I prayed 1 hour.
The Daily News says, “The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day. More if you’re African American. Quite a bit more. Less if you’re Hispanic or Asian American, but not that much less. For all ethnic groups, TV viewing time increases steadily as we get older, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company. Once we pass 65, we watch more than seven hours a day.”
The American Time Use Survey says that Americans spend on average 2 to 17 minutes each day on “religious activity.” In my home state, North Carolina, the average is 11 minutes per day.
I guess I could tell myself that I am “above average,” for a North Carolinian and for a Southerner. The Survey notes, “Southerners are more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than people from any other region, so it’s no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities.”
But I cannot make peace with these numbers.
Why don’t we pray?
The most popular excuse is time. We don’t have time. Well, I watched 8 hours of television. Trust me, it was not life-altering, mind-enriching, world-changing television. And I’ll wager that what you watch is not either. Mine was more of the home decorating, new cooking techniques, travel to an exotic land variety with a sprinkling of good health and diet suggestions. The truth of the matter, we have time.
The second most popular excuse is that it’s really not necessary. Really? Think of the many examples in the Scriptures when victory came through prayer – and when defeat came because of a lack of prayer. Two contrasting examples – (1) Elijah praying that it would not rain (and it did not for 3 1/2 years) and then his prayer for rain (and the sky poured causing the earth to produce fruit) and (2) the defeat of the Israelite army when they fought against the city of Ai. Confident in themselves, they did not pray or consult the Lord before going into battle. They were bold. They were self-centered. They were defeated. (See 1 Kings 17-19 and Joshua 7.)
We know, too, that while He was on earth, Jesus was faithful in spending vital time in prayer with the Father. Just as He sought time alone to talk with His Father, shouldn’t we? Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord. 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. The truth of the matter, we need to pray as Jesus prayed.
The third most popular excuse is that prayer does not make a difference. Sure, if we think prayer is magic, it doesn’t make a difference. Or if we think prayer is about presenting our shopping list or Christmas list to Santa God, it doesn’t make a difference. If we think prayer is about us and our sole benefit, it doesn’t make a difference. Finally, if we think prayer is about showing off – using fancy, 50-cent words and parading our theology before people, it doesn’t make a difference.
When we get that prayer is about a relationship with God, it makes a HUGE difference. Prayer is talking with, spending time with, loving and worshipping our Holy Father. Yes, we share our hearts and may make requests, but we also confess our faults, thank God for His love, praise Him for who He is, intercede for others and more. And prayer is knowing that God hears us, loves us and will answer us. The truth of the matter, prayer makes a difference. The difference is the relationship. The difference is the peace. The difference is the love.
Contrast this with television.
When I think about it, I don’t have time to watch that much television! There are too many people hurting and too many people lost; I need to intercede. There are too many shortcomings in my life; I need to confess. There are too many blessings in my life; I need to worship and adore my God.
When I think about it, television is not that necessary. Much of what I watch is pure entertainment. Now, I am all for laughing. I like learning new recipes and seeing new decorating ideas. I like escaping to other worlds. But none of that is essential to my survival, my success or my salvation.
When I think about it, television does not make a difference in my life. Yes, I learn a little because, more often than not, I choose programs that will teach, but can I compare those to time spent with my Lord? Think about your much-loved spouse, child or friend – would you rather spend time watching television or with them? Now, I have some colleagues that regularly toss their spouses aside for episodes of Scandal or Monday Night Football, but I am confident that when the end comes, they will not be wishing for more time with television, that they had not missed that touchdown or that one episode. They will be wishing they’d spent more time with the ones they loved and the ones that loved them. And no one loves you more than the Father.
Am I planning to give up television? That would be a, “No!” But I am rethinking what I watch and how much time I spend watching. I am also rethinking my prayer time. My focus won’t be how many minutes and hours I can spend praying so that I can hold them up before the Lord and say, “See, Lord, television 2 hours; prayer 3.” My focus will be about spending quality time engaged in necessary prayer talking to the One who loves me and who makes all the difference in my life!