Monthly Archives: July 2011

Expectant Prayer: Looking for Answers?


How big is your God? How expectant are your prayers?

A book came into my hands when I was in college entitled, How Big is Your God? by J B Phillips. I don’t remember much from that book except that it dealt with how the expectancy of answered prayers and the daring in our requests is greatly affected by our perception of God. We pray small because we expect small answers.

Things haven’t changed much since the earliest century of Christianity.

I was reading my Bible one day and came across the following report from the early church:

Acts 12: 5-16:  “So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him . . . Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell . . . the chains fell off Peter’s wrists . . . They [Peter and the angel] passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened by itself and they went through it . . . he [Peter] went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were praying . . . and a servant girl answered the door.   When she recognized Peter’s voice . . . she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’ . . . ‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her . . . ‘It must be his angel [ghost]’ . . . Peter kept on knocking . . . when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished!”

The people had been praying for Peter’s protection and release, but when he stood before them, they were “astonished”!!  Did they not really believe their prayers would be answered?  Perhaps not.

Often in the midst of trouble we pray fervently to God for our need or the need of someone else.  But in that time of calling out to God, do we pray with expectancy?  Do we believe our prayers will be answered?

Prayers should not be merely well chosen words that have only an appearance of faith.

About 25 years ago my husband was serving as youth director at a small church in S. Easton, MA.  One Sunday morning the pastor’s young daughter shared that she had lost her favorite doll while shopping with her mom in a department store. She didn’t notice the loss until they got home from shopping. She was very upset, so her mom went back to the store to inquire about the lost doll. It had not been found or turned in to the lost and found.

That morning I felt moved by the Lord to pray out loud during the open prayer time that Kirsty’s doll would be found to show her how much God loved her.

Later that evening Kirsty’s mom phoned me. She said that when I prayed the prayer she was very skeptical about my request and was concerned that if the doll was not found it would hurt her daughter’s faith and she would have to do spiritual repair work.

However,  at her daughter’s insistence, despite her own resistance,   they returned to the store and discovered that the doll had been found that very day.

We should not be surprised when answers come to our prayers; even the most brazen, audacious requests.  We should have thankful hearts, ready to give praise to the One who invites us to pray, guides us in what to pray through His Holy Spirit, and sends the answer at the proper time.

Father, I thank you for access to Your throne room. I want to learn from You how to use that marvelous privilege of prayer in a way that whispers to Your heart, “I trust You.

My Dad is the biggest and He loves me.

How about you? How big is your God?

 

©2011, Marcy Alves

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Patient: Adjective or Noun?


Ever have those days when you wonder what else could go wrong? Those times when in order for one thing to happen, something else has to happen first? Do you, like so many of us, need to develop patience?

The word “patient” can be an adjective or a noun. We will learn to be patient or become a patient from all the fretting and worrying and grumping at circumstances that are often out of our control.

In that regard, the past few weeks have been very challenging for us.

First, we arrived home from a week at Camp Beebe in Quebec, to find that David’s “cave” computer was no longer working due to a power surge during a thunder storm. (The “cave” is his hide-away place where much play and little work is done on David’s day off.)  However, the cave computer is also used for personal work, like accessing and tracking our home checkbook and personal financial records, paying bills online, etc..

David took the computer to the computer geeks to determine its “fixability”. I need to complete our most recent household financial accounting and paying of bills, because I’m about 2 weeks behind. Meanwhile we ”wait”.

Next, our lawn tractor stopped operating again (third time this summer). It’s a John Deere tractor and the part needed this time is expensive, so David is trying to find a replacement part from a used tractor to save money. Both we and the lawn “wait”.

Then, I inadvertently left the garden sprinkler on for at least 1½ hours a few nights ago and our well began to regurgitate rusty water through our household faucets whenever we turned them on. A trusted friend with expertise in well issues assures us our well will refill with water and the rusty water in the pipes will clear up. In the meantime our laundry has to “wait”.

About 3 weeks ago I suffered a broken crown on one of my front teeth. It now has a temporary cap, but due to expense, the final crown has to “wait”.

Add this to the waiting on the Lord regarding ministry issues and health issues and the “wait” sometimes feels like “weight”.

What do you do with “weighty waits”? When life seem to be one long wait?

We have learned to turn to the One who has written a long love letter contained in 66 volumes, collected in a one-book-library called the Holy Bible. This loving Being who invites us to call Him “Father”, has given us many promises of protection,  direction, wisdom, guidance and provision.

He has also given us the presence of His Holy Spirit who produces spirit fruit in our lives as we allow Him to do the planting, cultivating and pruning. Among those fruits of the Spirit is one called “patience”.

For us, this is a time when the spiritual fruit of patience is so necessary, due to our recent irritating challenges. Of course the “ouch” is that the very things we go through that cry out for patience are the things that actually produce patience. (Rom. 5:3)

The need for the fruit will produce the fruit when we entrust the irritations to the Lord.

Patience is really endurance – holding up through whatever challenges come our way – waiting for resolutions or solutions. We will either learn to “wait” for God’s solution and/or wisdom for the problem, or suffer the consequences.

Our Father wants to produce in us a more secure and confident trust in Him. For this reason, He allows those times that stretch us and force us to slow down and think about things of eternal value, like patience? Problems we can’t solve are fertile ground for miracles, if we just hang in there.

You will either learn to be patient, or become one.  Adjective or noun, it’s your choice.

Where  do you measure on the patience meter?

©2011, Marcy Alves

World News?


Do you ever wonder about the kinds of news stories that are passed off as “world news” and how much of the “world” would really be interested in those stories?

Our own “news networks” sometimes seem to search out “news stories” that impugn, demean, inflame, marginalize or demonize issues or events for strictly political purposes.

The last couple of nights we watched as one of the major news networks attempted to disqualify Michele Bachmann as a viable Presidential candidate due to her husband’s “Christian counseling” clinic’s advice offered to one or more homosexual “clients”, one of which was a ”plant” with a hidden camera. Obviously that “client” was not there to receive counseling or advice for any other purpose than supporting a “scandalous” news story, with a sole intent of undermining a political campaign.

That a Christian counselor would attempt to lead an avowed homosexual out of the homosexual lifestyle by prayer and an experience with God is nothing new. Christians have been doing that for centuries –  matter of fact, since the beginning of Christianity.

Traditional Christianity, as well as the traditional Jewish faith, has always considered homosexuality as a sexual sin – like adultery, fornication, bestiality, sodomy, pornography, incest, etc.  A gay person who sleeps around is just as guilty of adultery and fornication as a straight person who sleeps around or has sex outside of marriage.

There are Holy Scriptures from both traditions that reveal God’s displeasure with homosexuality – at least the Christian and Jewish God’s displeasure. Some references you may want to check out for support are: Leviticus 18:1-29 & Job 31:1 Old Testament; Matt. 5:28, Romans 1:18-32 & 1 Corinthians 6:1-20 – New Testament.

If a counselor really believes that a person is living in a sinful state and that God has a way out, it’s his responsibility to counsel that person toward that way out – toward healing and deliverance from that sin – not just for this life, but for the possibility of life after death.

Testimonies from many who previously indulged themselves in the homosexual lifestyle and are no longer living in that bondage prove that such counsel can be exceedingly beneficial.  Not all who are counseled to escape such a lifestyle are “harmed” by such counsel – many are set free from the nagging guilt and shame often attending such a lifestyle. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.)

So why should such a “story” make the national or “world news” on a major network? It’s certainly not to inform or enlighten. Besides that, what does her husband’s counseling center have to do with whether Mrs. Bachmann is a qualified candidate? Such a story is a political ploy to distract and disrupt a campaign that seems to be picking up momentum.

Give us some other reason not to support a candidate – like something criminal – not a mere matter of religious belief. There are a lot of people out there who believe that those in the homosexual lifestyle need help. And while you may not agree with Mr. Bachmann’s counseling techniques, his work does not disqualify his wife.

By the way, writing this blog does not mean that I am declaring my support of any particular candidate. It is declaring my lack of support for “news” that is not really “newsworthy”. Isn’t anything else going on nationally or internationally that could be on “world news”? Guess I’ll have to go to the BBC.

What are your thoughts of what’s news worthy?

©2011, Marcy Alves

The Purpose of Pain – part 2 of 2


Pain is no fun. We all would probably choose to live in a pain-free world, which would require an injury-free world, because to have an injury without pain could result in avoidable death. But as presented in part 1, pain does have purpose and the ability to feel pain is a gift from God.

But even though pain has positive purpose, it still hurts. Human pain of several kinds – mental, emotional and physical – are interconnected – affecting each others on-set and intensity.

We all have pain in our lives. What do we do about it? We need to ask questions like the following:

  • Do I prefer the pain to freedom from the pain? For example, this may be true about those who have been emotionally hurt and refuse to forgive those who have hurt them.
  • Is my physical pain caused by emotional injury or mental pain?
  • Is this pain really necessary? Or is there something I can do about it?
  • How can I handle this pain in the most beneficial way to me and those close to me?

Several years ago I received two phone calls in the same week. The first was from a friend who had lost her husband of 39 years from an unexpected heart attack. The second call was from a friend who just lost a close relative to cancer.

Both women would identify themselves as Christians. Both women were hurting – both were wondering if and when the grief would ever end. Yet their responses to their losses displayed quite a contrast to each other.

The first woman had released her husband and her grief to the Lord. She missed him greatly, but knew he was safe in the Lord’s keeping and that she would see him again some day.

The second woman, who had lost a nephew to cancer, was also a doctor. She was   bitter and angry with God. Her statement to me was, “When I see God He will have to answer to me for what He allowed to happen.”

Did the second woman love more deeply than the first woman?  Not on your life!  Was the first woman more loved by God? No. For God is strong enough to absorb our misplaced anger and disappointment.

There are three situations where pain overwhelmed me, and I was astonished that God did not answer my prayers the way I prayed them.

Auto Accident: A few years ago I was involved in an auto accident, which was not my fault. A driver attempting to pass me on a narrow road side-swiped my car, taking off the outside of my driver-side door. I was taken to court one year later by the insurance company of the owner of the other car. The driver of that car (who was not the owner) lied in court. I had asked God to make truth triumph. But the case was decided in liar’s favor.

What do you do when you’ve been hurt by a lie?  When you lose faith in our judicial system

I’ve learned to hold to the facts:  God spared my life and the lives of the people in the other car. And God is still in control; He will deal with that man who lied. I wanted Him to deal with that man who lied “now” at the time of the hearing.  However, as I look back on that court hearing years later, I want God to deal in mercy instead of judgment.

Broken engagement: Before I met my husband, David, I committed my affections and my future to a handsome young man. I was willing to give up my own plans and aspirations for him. We became engaged. He met someone else. End of love story, beginning of pain.

What do you do when your affection is not returned – when someone betrays your trust? The natural response is to ask, “What’s wrong with me? Was I not attractive enough? Not good enough? What did I do that lost his affection?”

I remember crying out to God, “You don’t know what will make me happy.

After nights of crying and soul searching, I asked God to heal me and to pick my husband for me.  I committed my love and trust and aspirations to Him. I found out He did know what kind of man would make me happy – one who would cherish me and our relationship. That’s my husband, David.

Miscarriage:  I was pregnant for the first time after 9 years of marriage. I had thanked God for this child. I offered the child to Him.  And God took the child before I ever got to hold it.

What do you do when God takes you at your word?  “God, this child, husband, person, occupation, object, dream I give to you.”  And He takes it.

There is a song we sing at Sunday celebration which says,

“You give and take away, you give and take away, My heart will choose to say, Blessed be your name.”

I decided long ago to let God be God in my life.

You see, I know that it is not our circumstances that hinder our faith, it is our response to our circumstances that hinder our faith walk.

Current Challenge: And now I have the challenge of breast cancer. As I’ve share in an earlier post, God has led me in a different way for dealing with it. But no matter which course you or I or anyone else my chose or be led to take, there is pain involved. I have the pain of people not understanding my choice of “treatment” – those who think I’ve really lost it.

Others who question whether my faith is strong or whether I’ve done something to deserve this.

Pain has a purpose:  I am learning more deeply what it means to trust my Heavenly Father’s love.

The Scriptures ask, “When he returns, will He find faith on the earth?” My heart cries out, if He returns in my lifetime, I want more than anything for the answer to be “yes” and I want Him to find that faith in me.

Pain can turn us toward God or away from Him. It’s our choice which direction we want to take. As for me and my house, we will “choose” the Lord.

©2011, Marcy Alves

The Purpose of Pain – part 1 of 2


Have you ever had a hurt that just wouldn’t go away? It might be physical, mental or emotional, but any of the three can put you in a bad place. If I were creating this world, I might be tempted to make it a painless place. But here we are in a world that can hurt.

There are two truths I know about pain:

  • First. like a red light on the dashboard, pain tells us that something is wrong.
  • Second, the ability to feel pain is a gift from God.

What?! Pain, a gift from God?! How can that be? A leper would have no problem agreeing with that statement. The absence of pain sensors is their greatest enemy.

What does pain do for us? Several things.

Physical Pain:

  • signals danger: “Take your hand off that hot pan!” “Get away from the hornet’s nest!” “Call for an ambulance now!”
  • reveals disease or other physical complications
  • reveals emotional stress or anxiety

Emotional Pain:

  • signals psychological danger: “Get out of that relationship!” “Let go of that grudge or that expectation!” “Forgive others!”
  • measures the level of affection we have for someone, some project, or some thing;
  • reveals our self-centeredness;
  • measures how active or alive our faith is – what our trust level in God is.

Mental Pain:

  • signals need for change in our thought processes.

Mental pain can often be the cause of or feed into both physical and emotional pain;

It can isolate us and distort our view of reality. It can intensify physical and emotional pain – keeping us from healing.

The Bible has a lot to say about the need for change in our mental processes:

  • “As a man thinks, so is he.’ Prov. 23:7
  • “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace . . . ” Rom. 8:6 (One way of thinking leads to death, the other to life.)
  • “. . . be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Rom. 12:2

We are so intricately designed by our Creator that physical, emotional, and mental pain are linked in their effects.

Physical pain can both affect and be affected by mental and emotional pain.

Mental pain, such as depression, can have physical causes, such as inflammation.

Physical pain can create emotional pain that results in mental distress: “Why is this happening to me? Have I done something wrong? Is God mad at me? Does God love me?”

C.S. Lewis said that “God whispers to us through our pleasures, but he shouts at us through our pain.”

What is God trying to communicate to us through our pain? Sometimes I wish He would not shout so loudly.

The challenge is to relate to God in the midst of our circumstances without laying blame on Him. Pain is God’s gift; it is a red light on our spiritual dashboard which measures not only our physical, mental, emotional health, but our spiritual health, our level of faith. Is our tank full, half-full or empty?

What we say we believe and what we do in response to pain often don’t match up.

  • We say we believe in God, but we live like unbelievers — we are Christians by proclamation but atheists by practice.
  • We say God is the all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, ever-present One, but we question His sovereignty in our lives over and over again, by our ceaseless question: “Why are you letting this happen to me?”
  • Like the old Ford Motor Company slogan, we think we “have a better idea” than God’s idea.
  • We say we are creations of God, yet, we see Him as our creation, and we can’t understand why He doesn’t do things the way we programmed Him when we made Him up.

Yet, if we had never existed, God would still exist — His eternal existence is quite apart from us.  And as this self-existent, eternal One, He is not answerable to any of us.

God has not failed because He has not done things our way.

When we hurt, instead of looking for the real cause of our pain – that within us which is sick, or injured and in need of God’s healing, we look for someone else to blame the pain on – and often we place the blame for our unhappiness on God.

How do you handle your pain? I’ll share in the next installment what I have learned to do in response to mine.

©2011, Marcy Alves

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