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And How’s that Working Out For You?

I come from a community in which there are thousands of tourists attracted to seeing the Amish.  Unfortunately the locals’ opinion of the outsiders is often quite negative.  It has gone to the extreme that when natives see certain license plates on cars, they are all prepared to encounter someone who is (in local estimation) quite rude, abrupt, and demanding.  In retaliation, sometimes locals give tourists wrong directions on purpose.  It is a culture clash but more to the point it is a reflection of a worldview.  Worldview is defined as an overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.  Worldview is reflected in our own prejudices, expectations from life, and reactions to circumstances.  In the matter of prayer, my worldview influences how I perceive prayer and what I expect from it.

                         

I call this picture the baby seat view of prayer.  With this worldview prayer is a way of hedging our bets for a life where God will keep us safe and secure.  God will ensure I am warm, comfortable, and I should be able to ride through life without problems because I am safe in God’s arms. After all I am God’s child and don’t we all want to keep our children out of harm’s way.  The problem with this view is that we are not teddy bears and bad things happen to good people.

 

 

 

Another worldview of prayer life is the angry man view. With this view God is a tyrant who I had better not cross because he holds all the power.  I am powerless to change events, to hope for good resolutions, and I am at the mercy of fate.  God is like the Greek gods from mythology who were like humans on super steroids and they got what they wanted, regardless of the hearts they broke and the rules they shattered.

 

An individual’s worldview determines how I am going to address God, how I view circumstances of life, and what reasons I give for how all these facts line up.  Sometimes a person’s worldview is quite out of align to how God presents Himself in Scripture and then people end up continually disapointed, angry or indifferent to God.  That’s why I call today’s blog, “How’s That Working Out For You?”.  How is your prayer life playing out?

 

There are three questions I want you to answer in the next couple of days and for some reason they all relate to coffee even though I don’t drink coffee (go figure):

 

  1. As something bad happens in your life (and it could be quite small, as in your coffee spilled all over your car), where did God fit into that picture and what did He look like?

 

  1. When something pleasant happens (the coffee you ordered was fantastic), how did God fit into that picture and what were his motives?

 

  1. When you don’t get something you thought you deserved (as in the coffee you ordered was the wrong blend), why did you think you deserved the correct  flavor?  Why did God allow your expectations not to be met.

 

Something to think about:

 

Colossians 1:9-14

The Message (MSG)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

How is Paul’s prayer for you going to affect your day and how will your life be enriched with this worldview? 

MINT ICE CREAM

Over the past couple of years, even when money has gotten tighter than it ever has before, I have begun asking myself a question, “Why do I settle for second or third best?  I am not talking necessarily about large money items here.  For example, why in the world do I keep using a wash cloth that is totally ripped on all the outside edges? Why do I buy the clothes I don’t really like, but the sale price was so very good?  Why do I keep complaining in my head about the dirty bathroom floor, but I don’t get down and scrub it hard?  In other words, why do I settle for less in quality of life in the areas I can exert control?  It doesn’t take a lot to buy a new wash cloth; it actually saves money not to buy the clothes I don’t like; and it takes only about 15 minutes to scrub the bathroom floor (it’s a very little room).  Do I make the assumption that just because money is tight and time is also on a budget that I have to live life like I’m in the bottom of the heap?

I remember once I on purpose bought a flavor of ice cream which my husband didn’t like because he wasn’t supposed to have the sugar.  It was my favorite flavor (chocolate mint) and I knew he hated that variety.  Imagine my surprise when I went to the freezer a short time later and there was no ice cream.  I asked my spouse what had happened to it and he said that he had eaten it. I was stunned and asked why in the world he ate it since he didn’t even like that flavor and he said, “Because it was there.”  What an illustration for settling for less!  Why do we settle for something we don’t really want and that won’t improve our lives when it is just the easy way out?  Why are we just so complacent?

Why do we often settle for less in the vital area of the quality of our walk with Christ?  Do we just want to stay complacent and have an easy pain-free path?  In the Book of Ephesians the Apostle Paul expects in his prayers that the Ephesians are to have a relationship with the Father in which they are always getting to know Him better.  Paul’s prayers for them leave no place for them to have the attitude, “Oh, I can knock off the Christian stuff today and give myself a vacation.”  Paul writes: [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, by having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones) (Ephesians 1:17-18, Amplified Bible).  Note that Paul is always praying for them this way; it is not a once and done thing.  It must be a serious matter for Paul to be so burdened about this regarding the Ephesians, especially when Paul himself had a life filled to the brim with things that many would have considered more important: – death threats, beatings, shipwrecks, people turning on him (to name a few).

In this passage Paul also prays regarding “your heart being flooded with light”.  This can be a painful exercise.  For example, picture being in a room which is pitch black and suddenly having a spotlight shining in your face.  It would be a shock and probably quite stressful to the eyes.  However, once you were accustomed to the room suddenly being illuminated, you would desire to continue in the light and not be still groping around in the pitch black.  That’s the way our spiritual journey should be:  we never want to go back to the dark again.  We don’t want to settle for easy religion that never satisfies and we want Christ to shine the light even in the areas of our life which we have kept hidden for a long time from any spiritual light.

The International Bible translates the Ephesians passage this way: “17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”.  I love the terms “hope”, “riches” and “power”.  The hope to which He has called us is to be like Christ.  This hope can be quite unpleasant sometimes as the Holy Spirit shaves away at our lives so that Christ can shine.  It may feel like having to undergo surgery without anesthesia.  This hope is encouraging because even the most adverse circumstances, when placed in His hands, can become a delightful key in the Master’s plan.  In other words, there is nothing meaningless in a Christian’s life when God is at the helm.  There is no meaningless pain or heartache and there also is no meaningless joy.

The riches of the glorious inheritance mean that I am inheriting everything as a child of the King.  To name a few of these riches of our inheritance, we should consider incredible strength, love that is ever abounding, and the ability to persevere even as Christ persevered on the cross.  None of these riches are to be taken lightly.  As for the power, this is resurrection power.  That is quite incredible – the power of God to take this tattered life and to make it into something new and worthwhile.

This is an unusual life that Paul is praying for the Ephesians.  It is a hard life that can be filled with unexpected twists and turns, and I would liken it to a well written mystery book.  When I get a new book, I often read the first chapter of it and then promptly reading the last chapter.  Friends of mine can’t figure out this quirk of mine, but for me it makes sense – I want to know where I’m going.  I want to know that all the twists and turns have a purpose and I want to know that in the end this is all going to make sense.  That is exactly the faith God wants from us, to believe that all the joys and pain in the twists and turns have an eternal purpose and in His eyes the plan does make sense.  This is not a life for the faint-hearted or for those who want the easy path.  This is the life for those who want to go full-tilt for Christ, no matter the cost because we want a first class Christian life – one that is in step with the Savior.  This is the life that Paul prayed for, not only for the Ephesians but for all of us who call ourselves believers in the resurrected Christ.  What a life!!

38-42 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
Matthew 5:38-48 from The Message

Living Generously

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