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Praying Specifically

Matthew 20:29-34 is the story of the Lord Jesus healing two blind men. These blind men were daily asking the wrong people for the wrong thing. They did not need money-they needed sight. As Jesus passed by, the men cried out, "Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son on David (20:31)."  Jesus answers them by saying, "What will ye that I shall do unto you (20:32)."

Let me ask you a question: Didn't the blind men already tell the Lord what they wanted? They asked for mercy. Is that a bad thing? No. Is it specific? No. To ask for mercy is kind of ambiguous. Everybody needs mercy. Jesus wanted to know what kind of mercy.

Their asking demonstrated the Lord's ability--He could. His answer demonstrated His will--He would. Do not get so spiritual that you pawn off prayer as just a spiritual exercise to become close to God. "God knows everything already, so my asking is just a discipline." Does God know everything? Yes. Does God want me to ask, and to ask specifically? Yes! You are not close to God if you are not depending on Him--if you do not realize you need him and ask for what you need. If you spend your time analyzing prayer scientifically, your dependence will be destroyed. Depend on God and ask Him for what you need.

Prayer does not just change you; prayer changes things. Often we can miss the point by emphasizing the secondary matters of prayer. Praying longer, more fervently, on your knees, before the sun rises, etc., may be valid points, but if you are not asking God--if you have no sense of need--your praying is a sham. If you live with a sense of need, all of those things-time, fervency, posture-will take care of themselves.
  • Do you think the Lord knows what you need?
  • Do you think others may even know what you need?
  • The question is, will you?

Father's Day Prayer

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Lord, please bless our fathers,

these men who mean so much to us,

who are greatly responsible

for who we are and who we are becoming.

Bless them for having the courage

to do what's necessary to keep us out of trouble,

for making us do the right thing,

for helping us build our character,

even when it makes us angry;

and bless them for pushing us to do our best,

even when they just want to love us.

Bless our fathers for being our protectors,

for leading us through stormy times to safety,

for making us believe that everything will be all right

and for making it so.

Bless our fathers for quietly making a living

to provide for those they love most,

for giving us food, clothing, shelter

and the other material things that really matter,

for unselfishly investing time and money in us

that they could have spent on themselves.

Bless our fathers, Lord,

for saving some energy for fun,

for leading us on adventures

to explore the outer reaches of ourselves,

for making us laugh,

for being our playmates and our friends.

Bless them for being our secure foundation, our rock,

for holding on tight to us...until it's time to let us go.

Lord, bless these men we look up to,

our role models, our heroes, our fathers.

In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

                                                ~Joanna Fuchs

God's Inheritance

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Genesis 48:21 "And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die: but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers."

Psalm 127:3 "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward."

A common bumperstick on the back of RV's traveling across America reads: "I'm spending my kids' inheritance." Often when it comes to any spiritual inheritance for our kids, we would be better off if we did! Conflict and concern over an inheritance has always been the case. The Old Testament is full of examples: Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Ishmael, Manasseh and Ephraim.

God's inheritance is what informs any other inheritance you may leave your kids. In Genesis 28, Jacob was alone and scared. With a rock for a pillow, he falls asleep and God sends him a message through a dream. The message was for the God of his fathers to become his God-the God of Jacob. Anything else you pass on to your kids will be to their hurt and not to their good without Christ.

You may spend scores of dollars and hours of time giving your kids piano lessons, soccer games, or horse riding lessons. But you are ruining your kids if do not give them God. And you must give them God intentionally-that is, on purpose, by design. It will not happen by accident, nor will it happen just by taking them to church or bringing them to the Bill Rice Ranch.

Nothing is more important than leaving your kids God's inheritance. Jacob told Joseph, "Behold, I die: but God shall be with you . . . ." Jacob saw God as his God when he came to the end of himself and claimed God for himself. And this was the God he passed on to his son . May God help us, both with our own kids and the "kids" we may work with in ministry, to make sure we give them God's inheritance.

The Last Temptation Jesus Faced

"Save thyself, and come down from the cross."  (Mark 15:30)

The last temptation Jesus faced is the ONE temptation we face constantly: "Save thyself, and come down from the cross!"

Inasmuch as the cross is the place where Self is executed, Sin's power power broken, and Satan's defiance humiliated — it stands to reason that in a last ditch effort to reverse the curse which the cross has brought upon his head, the devil will thrash about endlessly with one goal in mind: to get you and I to abandon our post of trusting in Christ alone, and take up our own cause in our own power. "Save thyself, and come down from the cross."

The devil cannot touch us when we are on the cross, nor can sin's power sway us to pursue its many vanities while we abide in the Crucified One. And even our very selves are subdued in a submissive surrender, as the Lord puts to death all things within us that otherwise disqualify us for the Heavenly City. He is transforming us into His likeness. First there is death, and then, O blessed truth, there is resurrection! But, to experience it we must stay upon this Cross.

"Save thyself, and come down from the cross," the devil derisively taunts at us in those moments when we are slighted by someone, offended by another, or devalued yet by others. Someone does something, whether substantial or petty, and the devil jumps on the moment — "Are you just going to hang there and take that?" he asks with surly sarcasm; and then quickly adds his own suggestion of what we should do, "Save thyself, and come down from the cross!"

Defend yourself, justify yourself, advance yourself, exalt yourself, promote yourself, save yourself, pamper yourself, satisfy yourself, indulge yourself, prefer yourself — and the list goes on and on and on. This is the devil's plan for your life; he wants you to to be like him — a self-absorbed and self-deceived being.

Jesus, by contrast, has only one thing He would say to you in this regard — "Deny yourself," and then He adds, "Take up your cross daily, and follow Me."

Practically speaking, this simple truth has far-reaching implications. The Bible says that it is only by pride that contentions come. Pride is the citadel of Self, the throne room of our own selfish preoccupations and adorations. By embracing the cross of Jesus, and abiding thereupon — our affections are relocated away from our Selves, and placed rightfully upon our Savior. The peace of His presence then extends not only to us, but through us to others. And thus, slowly but steadily, His Kingdom increases in the earth.

For this cause alone you will hear ten thousand times in a day, the devil bringing his case in hopes of finding yourself a willing dupe for his dark employment — "Save thyself, and come down from the cross!"

Don't you dare do it!!

Keeping Track

Matthew 20:15 "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"

Have you been keeping track? Do you know someone who is always watching the clock, counting the minutes of overtime? Do you think God ever pays overtime? Does He know what you are doing today?

Matthew 20:1-16 is a parable about hired servants. The master hires workers, and he repeats to each group that he will give them "whatsoever is right" (20:4,7). So the servants had the same pay, but some of the workers angry because the workers hired later received the same pay. The master in the parable has some searching words for the angry servants: "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?"

By way of application, our Master-the Lord Jesus-can do what He wants with what belongs to Him. If we were the ones keeping track, we would keep a different record than God, both in salvation and daily work. Think of the thief on the cross: at his last moment of life, he prays what is really an incorrect prayer, and yet he received what he did not deserve! Can you hear the attitude of the hired servants coming out? The truth is, the thief on the cross received what he did not deserve, and you and I get the same thing at salvation. God can do what He wants with what is His.

God's goodness should never be reason for your jealousy. Romans 12:15 tells us to "weep with them weep" and "rejoice with them that do rejoice." It is much easier to weep with the weeping because it looks big-hearted. To rejoice with someone rejoicing is a horse of a different color. We think he is the last person who needs our help.

God's goodness should be reason to trust Him. The hired servants in Matthew 20 were equally faithful to the opportunities given, although the opportunities varied. Is God a Righteous Judge? Yes, God is a Good God; He is a Righteous God. Hebrews 6:10 reminds us that "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love . . . ." The fact of the matter is, anything we get beyond Hell is grace. We do not deserve salvation, and everything beyond Hell that God gives is grace. Are you keeping track, or do you think that you could trust God with that? Are you keeping track? Remember there is a God in Heaven Who is!

Don't Count God Out

Genesis 45:8 "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt."

Do you know how you got here? I mean-literally-how did you arrive at this blog today? "Through facebook or an "IE favorite" shortcut," you may say; or perhaps, "I just goggled a subject and this blog showed up with a bunch of others and I randomly chose it, it was an accident!" No matter what the case is, you could tell me how you got here, right?  More than likely you may be wrong, because none of these answers actually "answer" the question.  Let's try another route...

How did Joseph get to Egypt? You could say, "He was a slave"; or maybe, "He got there because of his jealous brothers and they punished him for doing what was right." An important lesson in the life of Joseph, as given to us in Genesis, is to not count God out.  In Genesis 45, Joseph's brothers are scared silly because the little brother they sold into slavery was now a powerful ruler to whom they were appealing. Was Joseph sold into slavery? Yes, but God was behind it. He was not sold-he was sent. He was not taken-he was sent by God. Joseph emphasizes this in Genesis 45:8, and Psalm 105:17 reemphasizes it: "He [God] sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:"

Do you feel that life is conspiring against you? Don't give "life" that much credit...It is God! Do not count God out of today! I have been in a church where I did not know of problems in the church, but God did. And the message that Sunday morning about unity was as specific and direct as if I did know. How? God knew! He was not ignorant-He even used an ignorant-of-the-problems preacher!

You do not know what is in the hearts of those around you today-you do not need to. Trust God and do not count Him out.  God has a track record; His record is consistent. And you can take that to the bank. Don't count God out of what is happening today. Perhaps you don't really know how you got here, but God does!

The Winsomeness of Jesus

[author's note: I rarely copy anything whole especially from a devotional but this was just such a good, simple albeit deeply stirring devotional.  I thought I would share it with you since it was such an encouragement to me.  It is written by G.H. Morrison]

And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son?  (Luke 4:22)

Christ's Manner Was Gracious
Our text tells us that the words of Christ were gracious words, and in every sense of the word gracious that is true. But the exact meaning of the terms which are here used is a little different from what we commonly imagine. His hearers were not referring to Christ's message; they were referring rather to Christ's manner. They marveled, not at the grace of which He spake; they marveled at the grace with which He spake. In other words, what so arrested them as they gathered round and listened to the Master was what I would call the winsomeness of Jesus. It is on that theme I wish to dwell. I desire to speak on the winsomeness of Christ. I shall try to unveil to you a little of that charm which was so characteristic of the Lord. And I shall do so in the one hope—to use the prophetic words of the old psalmist—that we may behold the beauty of the Lord.

Winsomeness Radiated from His Whole Life
You will note that this winsomeness of Jesus was not by any means confined to His discourse. It was in His speech that men felt the spell most powerfully, but it radiated out from His whole life. The moment He was baptized, on to the last agony on Calvary—at the marriage feast—at the table of Zacchaeus—out in the meadows where the lilies were—everywhere, in every different circumstance, men felt not only the holiness of Jesus; they were arrested also by His winsomeness. It was indeed this very winsomeness that was a stumbling block to godly Jews. It was so different from all that they had read of in the men whom God had sent to be His messengers. Had Christ been stern, and lived a rugged life, and dwelt apart in fellowship with heaven, they would have been swifter to recognize His claims. It was in such guise the ancient prophets lived. It was in such guise that John the Baptist lived. He was a rugged man of fiery speech, and he fared coarsely, and loved to be alone. And then came Jesus moving with delight among the homes and haunts of common people, and what I say is that this very winsomeness was a perpetual riddle to the Jews. They could not understand His childlike interest in every flower that made the meadow beautiful. They could not understand His love for children nor His quiet happiness in common life. Reverencing the old prophetic character as that of the true messenger from God, they were baffled by the winsomeness of Jesus.

Winsome in Spite of His Stupendous Claims about Himself
Now if you wish to feel the wonder of that winsomeness there are one or two considerations which are helpful. You have to think of it, for instance, in connection with the stupendous claims which Jesus made. One of the commonest features of the winsome character is a certain delightful and engaging diffidence. It is extremely rare to discover charm in anybody who seems a stranger to the grace of modesty. And though of course not for a single instant would I suggest that Christ was such a stranger, yet the fact remains that there never lived a man who made such amazing and stupendous claims. "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). Tell me, was there ever heard from human lips such amazing and unbounded self-assertion? And the wonderful thing is that with a note like that ringing like a trumpet through the ministry, men should still have felt that Christ was winsome. The fact is that unless Christ had lived men would have called His character impossible. So to assert, yet all the while to charm, is almost beyond credence psychologically. And it is just this glorious self-assertion sounding through the ministry of Christ that makes His winsomeness to thinking men such a baffling and amazing thing.

Winsome in Spite of His Loyalty to Truth
Again the wonder of Christ's winsomeness is deepened when we remember His loyalty to truth. Christ did not say, "I speak the truth"; He said, "I am…the truth." Now it is one of the sad things about the winsome character that it is not always the most truthful character. There is often more of truth in the blunt man than there is in the charming and attractive man. The former takes a sturdy pride in telling out exactly what he thinks; the latter, by his very temperament, is in peril of prophesying smooth things. When truth is unpleasant, the winsome character is continually under temptation to conceal it. There may still be a compliment upon the lip, although there is a curse within the heart. And that is why men are generally readier to trust one who is bold and blunt and rugged than one whose distinguishing attribute is charm. They have a lurking conviction that the winsome man, for all his winsomeness, is not quite sincere. They question if he be really genuine when in every society he is so delightful. And this is the wonder of Christ's winsomeness, not that men felt it and acknowledged it, but that they felt it in One who stirred them to the deeps by His passionate loyalty to truth. "I am ... the truth," said Jesus Christ; and He lived that out to the last syllable. Not by a hairbreadth did He ever swerve from all that had been given Him from heaven. And the strange thing is that, with such sublime fidelity to Himself and His brother and His God, He should yet have been so infinitely winsome. "We beheld his glory," says the Apostle John, "and it was full of grace and truth." That was the wonder of it in apostolic eyes, and that has been the wonder of the ages. There are men who are splendidly truthful and not gracious. There are men who are finely gracious and not truthful. This was the wonder of the Son of God, that He was full of grace and truth.

Winsome in Spite of His Trials
The wonder of that winsomeness is deepened also by the experiences of Christ's life on earth. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and men hid as it were their faces from Him. Had He always lived among the hills at Nazareth we might more easily have understood His charm. Dreaming His dreams there, where the world was beautiful, we might have expected a character of beauty. But Christ deliberately left that quietude, and flung Himself into the battle of humanity, and it is when we think how awful was that battle that we marvel to find Him winsome still. If ever there was a life to make one stern, it was the life that Jesus had to live. It was so hard, so misinterpreted, so ringed about with diabolic malice. Yet in spite of every lip that taunted Him, and every heart that hungered for His tripping, Christ never lost, whether in word or deed, the winsomeness that so attracted men. To be suspected as Jesus was suspected is not the common road to charm of character, it is not often that life blossoms out in an atmosphere of suspicion and of treachery. Yet every day Christ rose, there were the Pharisees, and there was Judas with his eyes of malice, and men said; "He is mad; he hath a devil"—and Jesus through it all was winsome still. Still had He eyes for the lilies of the field. Still was He happy in the home at Bethany. Still was He in love with little children, and happy-hearted and pitiful and courteous. It is this contrast between the outward lot and the infinite and inward grace of the Redeemer that makes so wonderful to thinking men what I call the winsomeness of Christ.

The Moral Beauty of Christ
Observe too, that to the very end Christ never lost that moral beauty. It did not pass away as the dew passes, under the burning heat of the high sun. I know few things in life more saddening than to meet again some comrade of our youth, and to discover how the years have marred the likeness which we cherished in our memory. As we remember him, in school or college, he was one of the most delightful of companions. There was a charm in him, a happy winsomeness, that made him a universal favorite. And now after the lapse of years we meet him again, it may be unexpectedly, and we discover, in an afternoon, that the years have robbed him of his best. He is no longer the happy-hearted comrade whom we remember in the golden days. He is irritable or heavy-hearted now, or he is worldly and cynical and bitter. Everybody called him winsome long ago; nobody could call him winsome now. He has gone out to his battle with the world, and the grim world has beaten him. My brother, Jesus Christ entered that battle, and for Him the struggle was terrific. And it grew fiercer every year He lived, till the last hour of agony and blood. And I shall tell you what convinces me that He came out victorious at the end: it is that on to the end He never lost the sweet and winsome beauty of the morning. No bitterness, even in the thick of it. No cynicism, even at the darkest. No cold suspicion of His brother man, though He knew man as he was never known. No forfeiting of deep and happy peace; no dimming of the mystic radiance, even when under the olives of Gethsemane the bloody sweat was dropping to the ground. With words of grace His ministry began, and there were words of grace upon the cross. With a deed of grace His ministry began, and there were deeds of grace in the resurrection garden. I want you to feel as you have never felt before the magnificent persistence of Christ's winsomeness, that you may be ashamed at what the years have been plundering from you.

The Importance of the Home
Now if you ask me what were the sources of this unequalled winsomeness of character, I think I should answer that they were chiefly two, and the first was the influence of home. We do not know much about the home in Nazareth—God in His wisdom has hung a veil on that—but we know enough from the Gospels to assure us that it was a home of happiness and peace. Martin Luther could never think of home without a certain shuddering of heart. There was no gladness for him in his Pater Noster, so loveless were his memories of his father. But Jesus, all through His stormy years, turned to His home with infinite delight, and clothed His deepest thoughts of God and man in the tender and sweet memories of Nazareth. There had He seen the woman sweep the house. There had He watched the hands that used the leaven. There had He learned, with innocent, childish lips, to run to the workshop and cry Abba Father. Out in the battle, with evil eyes upon Him, His thought went flashing back to happy Nazareth, and at the darkest He never lost His winsomeness, because He never lost the influence of home. There are homes where it is well-nigh impossible that the children ever should be winsome. There is so much bitterness in them, so much worldliness, so much unkindly and unguarded talk. There is so little of that gracious reverence that ought to encircle the great years of childhood, when the foot of the angel is still upon the ladder, and every bush is burning with its God. Out of such homes may come successful men, or smart and clever and fashionable women; but never, from such a barren childhood, is there built up the temper that is winsome. It takes a Mary to make a winsome son. It takes a home of reverence and of love. It takes a depth of fatherhood and motherhood that has never lost the hallowing of prayer. Men marveled at the grace with which He spake, and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" That was their difficulty, and, as often happens, at the heart of the difficulty was the explanation. They would have marveled less had they but known how quietly beautiful was that home in Nazareth, where those lips which were to draw the world stammered the first syllables of speech.

The Importance of Fellowship with the Father
But the winsomeness of Jesus had another source than the kindly influence of Nazareth. It was His knowledge of the Heavenly Father and His unbroken fellowship with Him. It was Charles Kingsley, was it not, who as he lay dying was heard murmuring, "How beautiful God is!" His heart was quieted in the dark valley by his vision of the beauty of the Lord. And no one, I think, can read the Gospel story and learn what Jesus saw of the divine, without echoing the words of Kingsley, and murmuring, "How beautiful is God." One would not call the God of Sinai glorious. He dwelt in the light that no man could approach, and He was infinite in holiness and majesty. But the God of Jesus is something more than that, as every page of the four Gospels shows us. He is not only infinitely holy, He is also infinitely winsome. He does not dwell apart in awful majesty; it is He who clothes the lilies of the field. His care is not limited to mighty empires; it is He who caters for the sparrow. And He makes the rain to fall on the evil and the good, and when we ask for bread He will not give a stone, and He has a ring and a robe and a sweet kiss of welcome for the poor battered son from the far country. Aristotle pictured an ideal man, and one of his marks was that he should never run. But the father, when he saw the prodigal far off, ran and fell upon his neck and kissed him. My brother, do you not feel the charm in that—the charm that has wooed and won through all the ages? There is more than authority in such a God; there is the grace of winsomeness as well. Christ felt, as man had never felt, the unsurpassable winsomeness of God. To that He clung with a faith which never faltered, in the teeth of everything that contradicted it. And I think it was that winsomeness of God, learned in the intimacy of a perfect sonship, that was one secret and unfailing spring of the winsomeness of our Redeemer. If God be holy, and nothing else than holy, those who trust in Him will be holy. His righteousness may make them righteous. It takes a God of love to make men lovable; a God of perfect grace to make them gracious. So that God in His infinite glory must be winning if men who know His name are to be winsome. It was that discovery which Jesus made. He walked in sonship with a winning God. All that He had ever seen at home was reinforced by what He saw in heaven. Until at last, reflecting as a mirror the sweet and kindly fatherhood of God, He lived in a winsomeness the world could never give, and at its dreariest could not take away. We cannot hope to repeat that. It is too high and wonderful for us. But at least we can pray, as the psalmist prayed of old, "Let the beauty of the Lord be upon us." And so it may be that as the days go by, not without many a pitiable failure, we too may come to show a little of the winsomeness of our Master and our Lord.