Being Stretched

Seems like God is always stretching us, asking us to do what seems impossible. Today I am sitting in Tennessee, in a clean house. I went to church and then ate brunch at Cracker Barrel. I took an afternoon nap and spent time with my family. It was a picture perfect day and yet I am restless. This move has taken more faith than anything I’ve ever done. (Yes, more faith than even moving to Mexico in the first place!)

You know it is easy to work, to stay busy for God’s kingdom, but learning to rest, now that is a different type of work. “Take a sabbatical”, God said! And here we are, trying to rest and all the while feeling like a locomotive derailed. We have run so fast and hard for so long it’s difficult to know how to rest in God’s presence. I thought I would write, but writing has not come easy. It’s not that I don’t have feelings to process, it’s just that sharing leaves you vulnerable and I’m already emotionally exhausted. I’m not ready to hear a barrage of well intended opinions about what others think we should be doing. Mexico, missions, Hope House, Honduras, living in another country with different customs and language, I am left emotionally spent. Those in aid work call it compassion fatigue; and I know I suffer from it. I’ve seen and experienced vicarious trama. The poverty, the pain, the suffering that exists in the world has taken its toll. Now God encourages us to rest, recuperate, rejuvenate, refresh, relax and be revived. But I don’t know how to do that. And so we begin a new phase of this journey called life and I’m being stretched once again by the hand of the almighty.

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The Lord’s Prayer- Amen

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For the last 7 weeks we have been looking at The Lord’s Prayer, the example He gave us on How to pray. Often we take this gem for granted, missing its depth.

Our Father- We have the wonderful privilege of calling Him father! No one in the Old Testament dared to refer to God as father. Christ bought us that glorious right.

Who art in Heaven- God is not of this world. He is all knowing, all powerful, almighty, eternal, everlasting, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is bigger, greater and more powerful than our enemies. Nothing stands a chance to thwart His plans. He is like nothing and no one that we know.

Hallowed Be Thy Name- His name is holy and He is worthy of all respect and honor. No one out ranks him!

Thy Kingdom Come- May His reign be established everywhere: in my life, in the world.

Thy Will Be Done- May everything happen according to His will.

On Earth As It Is In Heaven- May God reign and may His will prevail on Earth just like it does in Heaven.

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread- All that we need for life, we ask you to provide.

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us- Forgive us Lord and help us show the same grace to others.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil- Lead us far from evil and temptation. Rescue us from the Evil One.

For Thine Is The Kingdom, The Power And The Glory Forever- I proclaim that you are King of the Kingdom! You have all power! All Glory is due You, now and forever more!

Praying as Jesus taught is powerful and effective. His prayer encompasses all of our needs and He alone can meet those needs. Not only can He meet our needs but He desires to meet them according to His riches in glory. This model prayer is but a tool given us by Jesus and we should not forget to use it. In doing so we invite the God of the Universe to work on our behalf.

A Little Time Away

Home Assignment, it’s a term that is new to us. After 16 years living full time on the mission field, I need a little time away. I’ve had a difficult time putting into words what I’m thinking and feeling. As I researched I came across the term “home Assignment”. (A time when missionaries return to their home country to strengthen their relationship with family, friends, and supporters. A time to further education. A time to step outside of the culture they are working and serving in and refocus to gain perspective. ) Yes that is what I need!

We have been working so hard for so long that we never stopped to breath. We ran as if in a race against time, learning language & culture; living hand to mouth, watching God do amazing things, and living under constant spiritual attack. We have been betrayed, beguiled, and belittled. My resolve isn’t what it once was. I am tired. Tired of sprinting this marathon. It is time to catch my breath.

In speaking of mission work, Karl Dahlfred wrote”…there is a certain level of culture stress that never goes away. Living day in and day out in a culture with different values, beliefs, and language than your own can create … stress. You can never fully identify or understand the people around you, nor they you.” Wow, I can identify with his statement.

I’ve passed through many stages in the years we have lived in Mexico. First we had to learn the language. After we understood the words, we had to work on comprehension. We could know every word that a person was saying and still entirely miss the meaning. Then we began to understand the nuances of the language and culture and that was even worse than not knowing. In this stage we found ourselves asking questions like, “Did he really say what I think he said?” or “Certainly I didn’t understand her correctly!” This was a frustrating season. But after many years we felt right at home in Mexico. We could communicate with others and understood the basics of situations, but as we got older there was one profound notion that began to ring true with both of us. “We will always be the outsiders, the foreigners, the ones that don’t belong!” We will never fully understand all the idiosincrasias of living in a culture not our own and we will never truly be at home there. That is a heavy burden to bear.

So we’ve come to the fork in the road and after 16 years we decided to step away an take a little time. A break from 24/7 crisis management, a break from Mexico, a break from putting out fires and struggling to live in a foreign country.

It’s strange sitting in the crisp air of the Tennessee mountains. It’s so quiet here, I hear the crickets chirp and the fish splash in the pond and I’m reassured that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation but Deliver Us from Evil

This is one of my favorite parts of The Lord’s Prayer. I think I like it because it is such a practical plea. Temptation is a part of life that everyone has experienced. In 1 Peter 5:8, we are warned, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (NLT) In teaching us to pray, Jesus knew that we needed a straightforward answer to temptation and to overcoming the Evil One. Because of our great need, He taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil.”

While I find this verse comforting, some get bogged down in the wording, wondering why God would lead us into temptation. According to James 1:13 God can not be tempted nor does He tempt anyone, so clearly this verse is not intended to imply that God leads us into temptation. Proverbs 20:24 does say that our steps are ordered from the Lord. “So God does not do the tempting—he does not put evil desires in our hearts (for he can have no evil desires in his heart)—but he does bring us into the presence of many tests and temptations.” (John Piper)

The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to not be overtaken with temptation, and teaches us to ask for deliverance from the Evil one. “The inclusion of a request for God not to lead us into temptation teaches us that avoiding temptation should be one of the primary concerns of the Christian life.” (GotQuestions Ministries) Likewise, “The petition in the Lord’s Prayer not to be led into temptation reflects the believer’s desire to avoid the dangers of sin altogether.” Simply put, we are asking God to lead us away from temptation and to save us from the Devil’s schemes.

When Andrew Murray spoke of the Lord’s Prayer he said, “Our daily bread, the pardon of our sins, and then our being kept from all sin and the power of the evil one, in these three petitions all our personal need is comprehended.” In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has given us the key which unlocks the secret to all life’s need, but it is up to us to use it.

Photo Credit: Pixaby

Resources:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/does-god-lead-us-into-temptation

https://www.gotquestions.org/amp/lead-us-not-into-temptation.html

The Andrew Murray Collection: 21 Classic Works

Andrew Murray

https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=642937609

Forgive Us Our Sins as we Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us.

Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. “This is a hard teaching. The prayer for forgiveness is the only petition in the Lord’s Prayer that comes with a condition attached. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.” Philip Ryken

It is difficult to swallow that my personal forgiveness is contingent upon my willingness to forgive others, yet several times throughout the New Testament there are scriptures which state the same. In both the book of Matthew and Mark we are encouraged to forgive. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV) “…whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 ESV)

When praying The Lord’s Prayer, I find myself wanting to adjust the words to my own liking. Something like, “Forgive my sins as I would like for them to be forgiven.” or “Forgive my sins in spite of my unwillingness to forgive others.” are more like what I want to plea. On a good day, I might even pray, “Forgive my sins and help me to forgive others the way you do.” But rarely do I rush past that contingency phrase without wondering if I really am in agreement.

Quite honestly forgiving is a difficult task. It requires self discipline and willpower, with a side helping of perspective. Although logically we can understand that we should forgive others because God forgave us, that is easier said than done. But the mere fact that Jesus taught us to pray in this manner encourages us that forgiveness is possible. Andrew Murray reminds us that forgiveness is a necessity. “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness for the soul, And the provision for the one is as sure as for the other.” Forgiveness is a necessary decision, and is a muscle that must be exercised. Forgiveness is not contingent upon our feelings, nor if the person deserves forgiveness. Forgiveness hinges on the fact that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV) Forgiveness is a gratitude response for all that Christ has done for us.

I like what Philip Ryken has to say in a blog presented on Ligioner’s website, “There are still some things we owe to God, however — not out of debt, but out of gratitude — and one of those things is forgiveness.” He goes on to say, “From this petition we learn that we are not the only ones in debt. We have debtors of our own, people who owe us something for what they have done to us. And we are called to forgive them.”

It is important to note that Salvation is a gift of God through His grace alone. Salvation is not dependent on works. “But now, having been forgiven, by the grace of God we are also able to forgive. Indeed, our ability to forgive is one of the surest signs of our having been forgiven. Those who are truly forgiven, truly forgive.” (Philip Ryken)

Phillip Ryken goes on to point out that, “Giving such forgiveness can be very costly, and the more someone has hurt us, the harder it is to forgive. Yet forgiveness also brings great joy, not only to the forgiven, but especially to the forgiver.”

The bottom line is this, Forgiveness is not only a command, but also a great gift. We forgive, because He first forgave us, in doing so we don’t just bless others, but we too are blessed.

References:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/forgive-us-our-debts-as-we-forgive-our-debtors

https://www.rca.org/resources/lords-prayer

The Andrew Murray Collection: 21 Classic Works

Andrew Murray

https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=642937609

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

“When Jesus said to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” there is both the physical and the spiritual intent of that prayer. We cannot live without physical food for nourishment and we also cannot live spiritually if we do not have Christ in our lives every day.” (Robert H. Berendt)

In The Lord’s Prayer, the term daily bread therefore, references more that just food. Daily bread is a symbol which refers to the provision of all our daily needs. In the Old Testament, through the gift of morning manna, God provided for the Jews in the wilderness with “bread from heaven” (Ex.16:4) In the New Testament, Jesus is given to us to meet all of our needs as the “bread of Life” (Jn. 6:35). Father God desires to meet all of our needs and has reminded us to ask for such provision through prayer.

“This petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then, teaches us to come to God in a spirit of humble dependence, asking Him to provide what we need and to sustain us from day to day. We are not given license to ask for great riches, but we are encouraged to make our needs known to Him, trusting that He will provide.” (R.C.Sproul)

It is important to note that asking for our provision comes only after submitting to God as King and Lord. “When first the child has yielded himself to the Father in the care for His Name, His Kingdom, and His Will, he has full liberty to ask for his daily bread.” (Andrew Murray)

Let us look to Father God to meet our every need through His abundant provision.

Kina Dutro

Reference links:

https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/give-us-this-day-our-daily-bread

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-give-us-day-our-daily-bread-mean/

With Christ in the School of Prayer (Andrew Murray)

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

When we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”, we acknowledge that God is King and are asking that He would reign on earth as He does in His heavenly kingdom. The implications of this prayer can be powerful and far reaching! According to a devotional by Growing Christian Ministries, “In its widest sense, the kingdom of God can be defined simply as the realm where God rules.”

When we pray, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done, we are inviting God to rule in our lives. We are asking that we would be obedient to God and that His will would be done in our lives. Moreover, we are asking for God to have His way in the entire world. When speaking of The Lord’s Prayer, John Piper remarked, “This prayer is a prayer that God would continue transforming the world into a place where everyone obeys him perfectly and joyfully.” Imagine how our lives would be effected if King God had his way in our day to day affairs. In this simple phrase it encompasses all the little details of our lives: family, friendships, work, and play, the world around us. This prayer covers ALL that concerns us. When God’s will and kingdom reign are invited to be accomplished in our lives He takes care of all of the details, all we have to do is trust and rest in Him.

As simple as the gift of salvation, The Lord’s Prayer is a gift waiting to be unwrapped and enjoyed by God’s people.

References:

https://www.growingchristians.org/devotions/thy-kingdom-come/

https://www.desiringgod.org/labs/your-kingdom-come

https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-it-mean-pray-thy-kingdom-come/

http://www.lords-prayer-words.com/commentary/thy_kingdom_come.html