Friday, September 16, 2011

Who Am I? I Am HIS!

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
should care to know my name, should care to feel my hurts?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
should choose to light the way for my ever-wandering heart?
Who am I, that the Eyes that see my sin
should look on me with love, and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the Voice that calmed the sea
should call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?
Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done,
not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are!
I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow,
a wave tossed by the ocean, a vapor in the wind;
still you hear me when I’m calling, Lord, You catch me when I’m falling,
You have shown me who I am: I am Yours. (Who Am I, by Casting Crowns)
The Lord spoke to Moses, calling him to an astonishing assignment: "Come now, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." Moses replied:

"Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:10-11) Can you hear the fear and sense of inadequacy in his voice?

The Lord spoke to David, promising him eternal blessings: "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever." A humbled and thankful David prayed in response:

"Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that you have brought me this far? . . . How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! For there is none like you, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard." (2 Samuel 7:21, 18 & 22) Can you hear the awe and gratitude in his prayer?

I can identify with "who am I" questions. I’ve experienced times of stunned gratitude (who am I, that the Lord should bless me with two children?) and moments of deep self-doubt (who am I, that God could think I can handle this ministry?).

The marvel in this question is that the answer never really lies in who I am, but in Who I belong to. I have learned that my God pours His grace into me beyond measure, although we both know I don’t deserve it. He also calls me to impossible things — and then He generously equips me for them.

In short, He chooses to bless, to call, to love, to save, because of who He is, what He has done, and what He intends to do.

I think back 24 years to October 1987, when God reached down to me in the midst of my very upside-down life, and turned me right-side up. Who am I, that the holy Lord, who dwells in inapproachable light, should rescue such a sinner?

When He changed me, my strongest desire was to dust off my Bible and read it cover to cover, because I could hear His voice there, and it was music to newly opened ears. Who am I, that the Word of Life should speak to me?

My heart echoes this song because I have learned its truth: it’s not a matter of who I am or what I’ve done. Every gift in my life, big or small, is because of Whose I am.

Praise God; I am His!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Parent's Poured-Out Prayer

Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord.
Lift up your hands to Him for the lives of your children . . .
— Lamentations 2:19

In her book The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian starts out with this Scripture passage, one I had never noticed before she singled it out. The prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations during Judah’s exile in Babylon, a time of great sorrow for God’s people, as they suffered the consequences of their sins. This call to prayer was for the well-being of the children, starved both of food and of their spiritual heritage, in hope that Israel would survive the horrors of exile and return to the Lord once more.

Ethnic annihilation and mass starvation are not imminent threats to our children as they were in Jeremiah’s day. But inherent in our culture are threats to our children’s spiritual health: materialism, self-indulgence, pride, immediate gratification, and the immorality that stems from these godless values. If we imagine that these factors are less of a danger to our children’s spirits than Babylon was to the nation of Israel, we are naive.

What are our prayers for our children like? Are we crying out to God for their spiritual health and protection? We may read the Bible with them, take them to church, teach them Christian morality. But what will make the vital difference for them will be a solid relationship with Christ. As parents, our most powerful tool toward that end is prayer.

So what do we pray? My maternal bias can move me to pray with love and might, but it can also sometimes interfere with me praying God’s will, as I become sidetracked by my own agenda. I find I pray most powerfully and consistently for them (not to mention for myself and others!) when I use Scripture. Then, I am confident that my prayers reflect God’s purposes.

Before my sons were born, I chose passages to pray for each of them.

For Matthew, I pray Matthew 22:37-39, that he would love the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul and strength, and would love his neighbor as himself.

For Benjamin, I pray Micah 6:8He has shown you what is good and what the Lord requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Another frequent Scripture prayer is from Ephesians 3:16-19 — that Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith, and that my children would know the strength and size of God’s love for them.

As we teach them, discipline them, enjoy them and love them, let’s also "pour out our hearts like water in the presence of the Lord . . . for the lives of our children." And may we know the unequalled joy of a parent’s answered prayer: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 4).

Other Scripture prayers
Colossians 2:6-8
Colossians 3:13-15
James 1:5
Philippians 1:9-11
Psalm 90:14, 16-17
Ephesians 5:1-2 & 6:10

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Giving Glory

Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
because of your mercy, because of your truth. (Psalm 115:1)

Absentmindedly stroking our part-Siamese kitten, Matthew looked up from his morning Bible reading and asked me: "Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible that animals bring glory to God?"

"Sure," I said, as my mind ran to Psalms.... maybe that part in Romans 8 about creation... or those last two chapters of Job...


"Well, by doing and being just what they are meant to, according to God’s purpose. Just like us! When we’re who God wants us to be, living out God’s purpose for us, we bring Him glory. It’s what He made us for."

We talked about flowers that blossom and bring glory to God, without even trying. Trees that go through their change of seasons, bringing glory to God. Birds that sing, heavens that speak, rocks ready to cry out, all creation declaring God’s glory and thus bringing Him glory.

"Mao gives delight to our family," Matthew concluded. "That’s how he brings God glory. That’s his purpose."

Our purpose is essentially the same, isn’t it? But how we bring God glory is far grander than the cat’s cuddle or the sky’s sunset or the blossoming crepe myrtle. None of them are created in God’s likeness! They reflect his beauty, His creativity, His nature. But humanity alone, of all creatures on earth, reflects the image of the Creator!

It is an astonishing fact that I am made in the image of the One who made me. And that God has given us the light of the knowledge of His glory in the precious face of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 4:6). His reflection in me, while scuffed and scarred by sin, nonetheless shines, because Jesus has washed the stain of my sin away. While stubborn marks remain, which dim His glory in me, His Spirit living in me is far greater than any power of sin.

To bring Him glory by being all He wants me to be, doing all He wants me to do: that’s what I want. And I’m not worried about the doing, because that naturally grows out of the being. As I focus on Jesus, I will grow more like Him, and the things I do will bring Him increasing glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).

As Augustine once said: Love God, and do whatever you please.

"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the strong man glory in his strength,
Nor the rich man in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this:

That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the LORD,
exercising lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.

For in these things I delight," says the LORD.
(Jeremiah 9:23-24)