Thursday, September 30, 2010

Think, Control, Love, Pray

Last week's e-mail from my pastor covered the areas that have been running through my mind for the last few months, so I thought I'd just share his thoughts today.

Thoughts from the Pastor

Dear Members and Friends of Lake Crest Presbyterian Church,
It has been a while since I last sent you any “Thoughts from the Pastor”. It certainly has not been because I have had no thoughts, but because I have had much to think about and not found myself able to put anything in writing. Forgive me. I hope that this marks the beginning of new and helpful “Thoughts”.
I have been reminded lately of I Peter 7-8. It says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” While the “end of all things is near” part certainly got my attention, it was what followed that really hit me. The response that Peter is urging God’s people to have to the fact that the return of Christ might happen at any time, is not to run about evangelizing or defending the gospel or helping the poor. All of these things are good and right to do, but the first and foremost response to the impending return of our Lord is to pray. That is the last thing in the world many Christians would consider doing. Prayer is, after all, the last resort – isn’t it? Peter tells us that there are two things in the life of Christians which will initially impede their prayers – “fuzzy” thinking and the lack of self control.
Prayer is hindered when we do not think clearly. That is why we try to stay in the Word of God, so that the clarity of the Gospel might become a part of our thinking. Just a chapter later Peter reminds us (I Peter 5:8), “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” It is the devil’s delight to confuse and disorient Christians. He does this through faulty doctrine, misdirected ministry and apathy. Only a saturation with and submission to the Word of God, in dependence on the Holy Spirit, will protect us from sin-induced “fuzzy thinking”. This is important enough that Paul also addressed it in I Thessalonians 5:6 when he said, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Many Christians today are “asleep–at-the-wheel”. Let us not be so, but alert and ready for anything, with a growing knowledge of God’s Word at our fingertips.
Prayer is also hindered by a lack of self-control. Just look at any listing of the characteristics of unbelievers in the last days and you will see it. In II Timothy 3:3 we come in at the middle of a detailed description, “ …without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good…” It takes God-centeredness to pray. Self-centeredness just can’t make the grade. Christians that have a hard time giving up whatever pleases them more than God have a hard time praying to the God that says in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Who are we really fooling? The choices we make with our time, our resources and our affections; all reflect that which is most important in our hearts. Our god demands and gets most of our attention and affections. So just who is our god? This is a question all Christians do well to ask themselves often, for as John Calvin said of the human heart – it is a veritable factory of idols. Without constant vigilance, we would all be idolaters!
Prayer is also hindered by a lack of love. Prayer without the love of Christ is just a mantra. It really accomplishes nothing. A loving heart – one that loves others sacrificially as Christ has – is also a humble heart. Proverbs 3:34 reminds us that, “He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble.” Our finest example of prayer from a loving heart is Jesus Himself. The gospels tell us that He often woke early to pray and stayed up late praying. He was in a constant state of prayer. His desire was to be in communication with the Father before He did anything, so that whatever He did was according to the will of God. So it should be with us as well.
We cannot pray for others without loving them. We cannot ask for God’s help without loving Him. We cannot expect His help in hard times, especially at “the end of all things”, if we do not love Him enough to trust Him for everything we need. Paul told the Philippian Christians in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Let us love Him deeply!
My hope and prayer for all of us this week is for clarity of thought, self-control, increased prayer and loving hearts. May God’s Holy Spirit grow us up in all these areas to His glory and for our good as His redeemed people.

In Christ,

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious, to stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and give oneself again to God - what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth! I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him. Mayhap in mercy He shall give me a host of children that I may lead them through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies whose finger ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see Him, touch His garments, and smile into His eyes - ah then, not stars nor children shall matter, only Himself.

O Jesus, Master and enter and End of all, how long before that Glory is thine which has so long waited Thee? Now there is no thought of Thee among men; then there shall be thought for nothing else. Now other men are praised; then none shall care for any other's merits. Hasten, hasten, Glory of Heaven, take Thy crown, subdue Thy Kingdom, enthrall Thy creatures."
Jim Elliot

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Don't Forget Your Helmet

Wow, 2 years ago I posted this... last week's thoughts about helmets made me think of this so I thought I'd repost it.

A very funny thing happened to me yesterday…

I was sitting on my motorcycle, preparing to ride to a school meeting. I picked up my helmet and looked for the seam in the band that goes around the bottom of it so I would put it on the right way. As I looked at my helmet, I realized that it wasn’t symmetrical…. One end of it was wider than the other. Well, that sort of makes sense, heads are bigger around at the back than they are at the front. But then I realized that the seam in the band was at the narrow end of the helmet… and that seam is what I had always used to identify the back of my helmet. I mean, it’s sort of like a tag on a shirt, it ought to go in the back! I never looked at the stupid thing that way before. So, I put the helmet on with the seam in the front, and low and behold it was more comfortable that way. And the straps fit better. As I rode off down the road I was laughing hysterically inside at the absurdity of it. The further I got, the more comfortable the helmet became, and the more I laughed. I have been wearing that helmet for well over a year… backwards.

As I rode and laughed my mind began to rabbit trail along to other things. The thought of helmets led into the helmet of salvation, and I wondered if you could put on the helmet of salvation backwards. So many people think they are Christians because they come from a Christian family, or they go to church, or they aren’t really bad people and after all God wouldn’t really send anyone to hell, or if I do enough good things then God will love me. Or, people become Christians but never get beyond salvation; they never grow up to maturity. Then I thought about putting on the rest of the spiritual armor backwards. Which led me to Biblical principles in general. How many times have I thought I knew and understood something, only to find out later that I had been wrong? Or maybe not wrong, but my knowledge was incomplete. As I grow up in God, I am learning so many new things everyday; but also God reminds me often of the things I learned long ago but have forgotten, or He takes me deeper into the things I already knew – deeper into dependence on Him, deeper into His mercy, love and grace; deeper in the knowledge and wisdom of His love. The Christian life is not something you learn and do once and you are done. You do not arrive until heaven. This life is the journey, the ride. Along the way are many lessons to learn, some of them over and over.

So tell me, is your helmet on backwards? What lesson does God have for you today?

Rebecca A Givens

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Yesterday I rode the motorcycle to work. It was a great ride and I roared into the parking lot feeling pretty good. I swung off the bike, took off my helmet, and… a GIANT GRANDDADDY LONGLEGS SPIDER climbed out of it!!! It was all I could do to not throw the helmet across the parking lot and run screaming like a little girl in the opposite direction! But of course I am too cool and controlled to do that. I think I said a few choice words and hyperventilated instead.

They tell me that Granddaddy Longlegs are harmless, because their mouths are too small to bite you. But I really don’t want a spider, no matter how harmless, crawling around inside my helmet while my head is in there. Those legs are just creepy. I can tell you that the next time I rode I looked at the helmet very carefully before I put it on… and the whole ride I kept feeling things brush against my face and wondering if it was my own hair or something else’s legs.

While I was riding down the road wondering what was in my helmet that shouldn’t be, I remembered where I got this particular helmet. I acquired it indirectly from a kid who had gotten into trouble with drugs. Like a lot of motorcycle helmets, it was covered with stickers, some of which I didn’t want adorning my head. As I was removing the stickers, I found a pill tucked inside the lining of the helmet. I don’t know what it was, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t an aspirin!

So I was thinking about narcotics and spiders in my helmet when my mind drifted over into spiritual things, and I got to thinking about the helmet of salvation. Can you have things like spiders and drugs in your helmet of salvation? I have been studying church history, and I never realized that refuting heresy is what led to the various creeds and confessions and catechisms. The wording in those documents is very specific and exact for a reason. The details of how and what we think about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God affect every area of life. I can be saved but still have lots of other things wrong that will be detrimental to me. For instance, if I believe that there are many ways to God then I trivialize Christ’s work on the Cross, yet the Cross is the cornerstone of Christianity! I can believe in God, but if I don’t believe the whole Word of God is all true, then how can I know that any of it is true?

It is not enough to simply put on the helmet of salvation. I need to check my doctrine, my beliefs, and the way I live my life to make sure there are no spiders or narcotics hidden in there. That spider might not bite me, but I can tell you that if it crawls across my face while I am riding down the road it will cause a wreck. That pill won’t hurt me if I don’t swallow it, but would a policeman believe me if I told him it wasn’t mine and I don’t know how it got there, or would he arrest me for possession?

Take some time and study your Bible with a heart submitted to what God wants to show you. Make sure that your beliefs line up with what God says. Believe what God says. Don’t let a “harmless” spider or hidden drugs undermine your spiritual life.

©Rebecca A Givens, 09/03/10