How Foreigners Pray

I am a foreigner and stranger among you… (Genesis 23:4). 

Abraham and Peter remind us that God-fearing people are foreigners; they are not citizens of Earth. Christians are respectful of the people, laws, and customs of the land in which they sojourn, but they know that this land is not their home. 

Abraham wanted his son to have a wife who was of the same mindset—not attached to the place of sojourning but looking forward to Heaven. Abraham knew how an earthly–focused wife (like Lot’s wife) could distract her husband, so he sent his servant on a mission to find a heavenly-minded, godly woman for his son Isaac.

This servant was a godly leader in his own right. He was loyal and loving to Abraham’s family. Abraham gave him two simple boundaries: don’t take a wife from Canaan, and don’t take Isaac back to Mesopotamia (the land from which God had called Abraham). 

Notice how this godly leader undertook his mission:

  • He prayed a very specific prayer for success (24:12–14)
  • After praying, he “watched closely” (v. 21) to see how God would answer his prayer
  • He praised God when it appeared that his prayer has been answered (vv. 26, 27, 46)
  • He shared his answer to prayer with others to get confirmation (v. 50)
  • He quickly followed through with what God had provided (v. 56)

A mark of a godly leader is one who bathes his activities in prayer.

When God calls us to live in a certain way, it is fitting that He will answer our prayers that align with that way of living. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to “ask for anything in My name.” 

This is part 42 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Our Portrait In Genesis (book review)

The Complete Works Of Oswald ChambersI love having Oswald Chambers walk alongside me as I study the Bible. He is like a wise, insightful friend pointing out, “Did you see that? Did you notice what God is doing here? What do you think that means for you?” In Our Portrait In Genesis, Chambers walks with us through the first book of the Bible.

Previously I reviewed Not Knowing Where by Oswald Chambers, which looks specifically at the life of Abraham in Genesis 12-25. In Our Portrait, Chambers turns his attention to the other notable people in Genesis.

As he looks at Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, Noah, and the other patriarchs, Chambers is constantly pointing out the lessons we can learn from their lives and apply to our lives. Because of his training in psychology, Chambers is so skilled at knowing what was going on in the minds of these biblical examples, and then helping us examine our own thinking along the same lines.

Our Portrait and Not Knowing Where are tremendously helpful commentaries to read as you work your way through the book of Genesis. As always, you can’t go wrong picking up an Oswald Chambers book!

Thursdays With Oswald—Faith And Common Sense

Oswald ChambersThis is a periodic series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Faith And Common Sense 

     Common sense is not faith and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of Ishmael and Isaac, of the natural and the spiritual, of individuality and personality, of impulse and inspiration. Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism. The life of faith brings the two into right relationship.

     How am I going to find out what the will of God is? In one way only, by not trying to find out. If you are born again of the Spirit of God, you are the will of God, and your ordinary common sense decisions are God’s will for you unless He gives you an inner check. When He does, call a halt immediately and wait on Him. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind that you may make out His will, not in your mind, but in practical living. God’s will in my common sense life is not for me to accept conditions and say—“Oh well, it is the will of God,” but to apprehend them for Him, and that means conflict, and it is of God that we conflict. Doing the will of God is an active thing in my common sense life.

From Not Knowing Where [italics in original; bold font added by me]

Have you ever considered that we find the will of God by not trying to find the will of God? I love Chambers’ conclusion that as a Christian you are the will of God, now we just need to be renewed in our spirits to hear His voice and direction for us.

10 Quotes From “The Furious Longing Of God”

Furious Longing Of GodI love the way Brennan Manning writes! It’s so gut-level real. His words both convict me and encourage me to go deeper into God’s love. You can read my full book review of The Furious Longing Of God by clicking here. Below are some of the quotes I especially appreciated.

“The God I’ve come to know by sheer grace, the Jesus I met in the grounds of my own self, has furiously loved me regardless of my state—grace or disgrace. And why? For His love is never, never, never based on our performance, never conditioned by our moods—of elation or depression. The furious love of God knows no shadow of alteration or change. It is reliable. And always tender.”

“The foundation of the furious longing of God is the Father who is the originating Lover, the Son who is the full self-expression of that Love, and the Spirit who is the original and inexhaustible activity of that Love, drawing the created universe into itself.”

“Pagan philosophers such as Aristotle arrived at the existence of God via human reason and referred to Him in vague, impersonal terms: the uncaused cause, the immovable mover. The prophets of Israel revealed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in a warmer, more compassionate manner. But only Jesus revealed to an astonished Jewish community that God is truly Father.” 

“The degree of Abba’s love for me is in direct proportion to His love for Jesus. For example, I can love the mailman with twenty percent and my best friend with ninety percent. But with God, there is no division, no more and no less. God loves me as much as He loves Jesus. Wow!”

“First, if we continue to picture God as a small-minded bookkeeper, a niggling customs officer rifling through our moral suitcase, as a policeman with a club who is going to bat us over the head every time we stumble and fall, or as a whimsical, capricious, and cantankerous thief who delights in raining on our parade and stealing our joy, we flatly deny what John writes in his first letter (4:16)—‘God is love.’ In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity. Secondly, if we continue to view ourselves as moral lepers and spiritual failures, if our lives are shadowed by low self-esteem, shame, remorse, unhealthy guilt, and self-hatred, we reject the teaching of Jesus and cling to our negative self-image.”

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus; namely His unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I should be. He loves me whether in a state of grace or disgrace, whether I live up to the lofty expectations of His gospel or I don’t. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am.”

“To affirm a person is to see the good in them that they cannot see in themselves and to repeat it in spite of appearances to the contrary.”

“Jesus said the world is going to recognize you as His by only one sign: the way you are with one another on the street every day. You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm them or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange.”

“The question is not can we heal? The question, the only question, is will we let the healing power of the risen Jesus flow through us to reach and touch others, so that they may dream and fight and bear and run where the brave dare not go?” 

“How is it then that we’ve come to imagine that Christianity consists primarily in what we do for God? How has this come to be the good news of Jesus? Is the kingdom that He proclaimed to be nothing more than a community of men and women who go to church on Sunday, take an annual spiritual retreat, read their Bibles every now and then, vigorously oppose abortion, don’t watch x-rated movies, never use vulgar language, smile a lot, hold doors open for people, root for the favorite team, and get along with everybody? Is that why Jesus went through the bleak and bloody horror of Calvary? Is that why He emerged in shattering glory from the tomb? Is that why He poured out His Holy Spirit on the church? To make nicer men and women with better morals? The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creations. Not to make people with better morals, but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love.”

Digging & Drinking

On Sunday we had our annual business meeting at Calvary Assembly of God. The actual business part was minimal. The more exciting things included hearing how God had blessed us last year, and looking forward to the greater things we can do for Him this year.

I shared a story from Genesis 26 about Isaac. This story just keeps rolling around in my mind.

Initially, God blessed Isaac just because he was Abraham’s son. God said, “Abraham obeyed me. He did everything I asked him to do, so I blessed him.” Then God challenged Isaac: “I am willing to bless you with even more if you, too, will follow Me.”

It’s interesting to note what Isaac did first. He reopened all of the old wells his father had dug, and he gave them the same name Abraham had given them…

…he honored the heritage of his father.

Honoring those who have gone before us is so important. But it’s not enough.

If Isaac was going to experience more of God’s blessings, he couldn’t be satisfied with just drinking from the old wells. Don’t get me wrong: it was good of him to reopen those wells…

…but if that’s all he did, he would have just maintained the status quo.

Isaac had to dig new wells. It didn’t start so well. The first two wells he tried to dig on his own led to quarrels with his neighbors…

…the enemy doesn’t fight against those who maintain the status quo.

…the enemy only quarrels with us when we try to dig new wells.

Isaac kept at it, and his third attempt was successful. Here’s the payoff:

…we can honor our heritage by reopening the old wells and drinking from them.

AND we can continue to dig new wells so that we can minister to more people.

It’s not EITHER-OR. It’s BOTH-AND.

I’m trying to maintain that balance…

…re-digging the old and drinking the new.

…looking back and looking forward.

…honoring our heritage and leaving a new legacy.

…digging and drinking.

Do Your Own Growing

An Irish Proverb says, “It doesn’t matter how tall your father was, you still have to do your own growing.” In other words, my genes may give me a certain predisposition, but I still have to grow on my own.

The same could be said spiritually: “It doesn’t matter how close to God your parents were, you have to approach Him yourself.”

Abraham was so close to God that he was called “friend of God.” His son Isaac had some great spiritual genes, but he still had to do his own growing.

Isaac had the perfect opportunity shortly after Abraham’s death. He and his wife Rebekah wanted to start a family, but they weren’t able to do so. Then comes this great phrase:

…Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife…

He got it! And God heard his prayer: Rebekah became pregnant with twins.

Rebekah’s parents were also close to God. But now pregnant and far, far away from home, she was having difficulty with her pregnancy. That’s when Rebekah had her chance to do her own spiritual growing,

…Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord…

She got it too!

Not only was this good for them as individuals, but undoubtedly it strengthened their marriage as well. I have found that couples who pray stay.

  • They stay close to God
  • They stay close to each other
  • They stay more committed to their families
  • They stay in a growth pattern

Are you doing your own growing today?

If you’re still riding someone else’s coattails, it’s time to start doing your own growing.

If you’re still blaming a parent for holding you back, it’s time to start doing your own growing.

You can do it—start talking to God yourself today!

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