Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love
I love the lyrics from Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing. Yes, I still love some hymns, as well as some modern praise and worship songs. This particular line stands out to me every time I hear or sing it. Prone to wander. Yes, Lord, I feel it. Yes, I’m prone to leave this God I love.
They say that all that wander are not lost. I would agree with that. But I think the opposite is true as well. Some that wander are lost. Some are wandering are lost. Let me explain, though, what I mean by lost.
What I don’t mean in this context is salvation. That is the topic for another post. No, what I mean is that feeling of being untethered. The sense of drifting away that can happen to any of us.
It’s nothing that we intend to do. It might start with one simple day. One day leads to another and suddenly we have drifted and wandered away. We have wandered and lost our way.
So, how do we prevent that?
We need an anchor. We need something to hold us close to where we need to be.
We can start with prayer. It’s hard to drift and wander from the Lord if we are actively talking to Him on a daily basis. We may justify skipping a day. Unfortunately, skipping one day leads to a couple and then a week. Before you know it, there is no prayer life. We have to fight for it. Pray. And pray some more.
Next we can be in God’s word. It may be a chapter or two. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It just needs to be something where we can hear from the Lord in what He has already spoken.
Finally, it’s good to know what your focuses in life should be. It might be two or three. It be seven. Call them your values or your personal constitution. It doesn’t matter. Just know them. Write them down. Keep them handy. Use them to help you stay grounded.
Do you ever wander and feel lost?
You often hear about people wanting a great quality of life. Usually you will hear about this as people begin to grow older. They want to do things such as exercise and eat healthy in order to improve their present quality of life and their quality of life in the later years. You can’t blame anyone for wanting to do this, so that they are able to continue doing many of the same things as they age as they do in the present. I wonder, though, if followers of Christ do the same thing so that they will have a great quality of eternal life.
Contrary, perhaps, to popular belief, eternal life doesn’t begin when we die. Jesus came to give to those who believe in him eternal life. So, once you have this eternal life, why wouldn’t someone do all they can to have a great quality of eternal life? Surely it isn’t just about punching a ticket to heaven, is it? So, what can we do to develop this great quality of eternal life right here and right now? I think it’s pretty simple.
1. Saturate your life with prayer.
2. Saturate your life with God’s word.
3. Saturate your life with Godly fellowship.
4. Saturate your life with Godly worship.
Do you do these things? Are there other things that you think will give you a great quality of eternal life right now?
Recently it was decided that I would change positions at work. After 4 1/2 years, I am soon going to be in major learning mode as I move to a new team to lead and manage. I’m looking forward to it and I hate to leave my old team at the same time. How this all happened is extremely interesting to me.
I have been praying for some time for a certain thing to happen in my job. If it happened, I would basically be promoted. It came time for my performance review, so my boss and I sat down to discuss the past year or so. I laid out what I wanted to do. I quickly learned that was not going to happen. Instead, what came out of our meeting, was that I and another manager would swap positions.
In other words, I didn’t get promoted.
There are several emotions that I could have felt. I could have been hurt because I didn’t get what I wanted. I could have been made because I didn’t get the promotion that I had planned on for a long time.
Instead, here is how I’m looking at it.
The Lord gives his children fish instead of snakes.
He gives his followers eggs instead of stones.
When I was praying, I was asking for one thing. The Holy Spirit was making intercession for me. He could have been saying to the Father, “Larry is asking for this job. This other job will be better for him.”
I don’t really know what the Lord has planned for me in this new position. I know that I will develop new skills. I will get to know some folks in a different way. I believe that He is working it out for good because I love Him and have been called according to His purpose.
I didn’t get promoted in a human sense, but I believe I did in a kingdom one.
Have you ever prayed for something only to get something totally different?
I don’t know if you do a lot of confession when you pray. I hope you do. Confession is, they say, good for the soul. I wonder, though, what most of us do when we confess to the Lord.
I wonder if in our confession we simply tell God what we did. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely think we should do that. Sure, the Lord already knows about it, but we should tell him that we know we have sinned.
But is there more? Do we just nonchalantly advise Him of the sin we have committed? Or do we really take it seriously?
Are we contrite? Do we really think that what we did was wrong? Do we really believe that we have sinned against our Creator? Do we wonder if there will be any consequences to our sin? Or do we simply say that we are forgiven, we can’t lose our salvation, and move on?
Are we grief-stricken? Do we wonder how we could have sinned instead of walking in the Spirit? Do we question why we aren’t filled with the Spirit in that moment? Are we devastated that what we did was not the fruit of the Spirit?
Do we repent? Not just say that we will never do it again, but do we really turn one hundred eighty degrees from the direction we have taken?
I know that I have spent too little time in my life thinking like this. What would happen if this was our attitude? We might find ourselves in fewer situations needing to be contrite, grief-stricken repent.
What does your confession look like?
Do you have your prayers answered?
I know, I know. All prayers are answered. We either get a yes, no, or not now/maybe later response anytime we pray. What I mean by my question is if you are really hearing or seeing prayers answered?
I think if I asked a lot of you that question, you would say, “Of course, I’m hearing and seeing my prayers answered.” But I wonder if that isn’t just to save face when our prayers seem stuck on the ceiling and we don’t seem to have any clear direction from the Lord in where to go or what to do.
I think it is easy for us to pray for big things. We pray for major illnesses. We pray for big decisions. We ask for our nation to return (if it was ever there) to being a Godly country.
But have you done this?
Did you pray for your trip to work today?
Have you prayed for those car keys that you can’t find?
Did you pray before you took a Tylenol when you had a headache?
I’m not guaranteeing that anything spectacular will happen if you do this. But I’m not saying that it won’t either.
The problem I find that I have is that I do not default to prayer. I take every other option first.
For the “little” things, I just don’t bother Him. It’s like I don’t want to waste His time with something insignificant. The problem is that there isn’t really anything insignificant for Him when it comes to us. He sent His Son to die on the cross for us. Do you really believe that He isn’t concerned with our dirve to work, our lost keys or our headache?
Jesus told the disciples to pray for their daily bread. He wants to be involved in the minute and basic things of our lives. Not just our cancer, who we should marry or our choice of colleges.
I find that I don’t want to nag Him too much. Yet, one of Christ’s parables is about a man who gives in because a guy won’t quit banging on his door. God is infinitely better than this man. He wants us to beat his door down with our prayers.
So, I have this problem with prayer. I don’t pray without ceasing. I pray with tons of ceasing. I pray for the big things in life, not those things that aren’t God-worthy.
It’s time to fix my problem.
Did you pray on your way to work today?
I have been in more churches in the past year or so than I have been in my life. Church searches will do that for you. I have been in churches ranging from a mega church to where barely one hundred people were there. I’ve been in traditional churches and uber-contemporary churches.
I had a list of things that I was looking for in a church. Some of these I even wrote down. Others I had in my head and perhaps I didn’t even realize they were there. Now that we have settled in a church and love it, I’ve come to realize that there are really four things that are most important in a church. I did not get these from some book or some preconceived idea of what I want in a church. I don’t even get these from the church I am a part of now. I don’t believe that any church is perfect or even has all four of these things nailed down. But these are what every church should be striving to excel at.
Word of God
The early church was devoted to the apostles’ teaching. The apostle’s were devoted to the word of God. This is what they preached. They preached from what we call the Old Testament. They preached what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them on a daily basis. They even got some other guys to help out with the physical needs so that they could spend their time devoted to the word.
Guess what happened? Thousands were coming to know the Lord. Their numbers were added to daily. They didn’t just wait for Sunday to preach and extend an invitation. There was something different about them.
Is that kind of power in our churches today? Perhaps some. Far too many fail. Nice little sermons that don’t really have any power are preached all across our nation. Many are basically self-help messages wrapped in Christian language. The Gospel must be driving what we say and proclaim. It is the power of God to salvation.
I don’t think this means that they simply got together to eat and laugh together. That may have been part of it. However, I believe they were devoted to fellowship with each other. They loved being together in Christ’s name. They sought it out. They worked for it. They pursued it. They didn’t just let it happen. These early believers depended on each other. If one needed help, they helped. If one was rejoicing, they all rejoiced. If one was grieving, they grieved together.
Do we have that type of fellowship in our churches now? Do we truly pursue fellowship the way the early church did? I know that we can use the excuse that it’s a different day and that we’re busier. Perhaps we’re too busy. Maybe there are things we should eliminate from our lives so that we can fellowship with our brothers and sisters.
Breaking of Bread
I used to think that they spent a lot of time eating together. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that today. But when I see that they were devoted to the breaking of the bread, I believe more was going on than simply eating. They were devoted to the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They spent time remembering together what Christ had done for them. They remembered that His body was broken. They remembered that His blood was shed.
Do we take this seriously? Do we really remember what He has done for us? Or is it something we’ve always done in our lives and in our church?
The early believers prayed. And they prayed together. I don’t think they simply gathered together on Wednesday night for a prayer meeting, called out some prayer requests and said a prayers. These folks where serious about their prayer. Things happened. Prisoners were freed. Souls were saved. The Church exploded.
Do we pray? I mean do we get down to real, serious prayer? The kind that is life and world-changing?
When I think of these things, I realize how much I fall short in these areas. Most of my life in church has been set on cruise control. I would simply be happy when I got “there”. We simply don’t have time. We and our churches are surrounded by people who need to hear the message of the gospel that we have. We don’t have time to float. Where do we start? A good place to start would be with our churches focused on these four qualities.
What do you think are the most important qualities of a church?
Sometimes you will hear someone say something to the effect that we should have “childlike faith.” I think they get this from Luke’s gospel. It doesn’t quite say that we should have childlike faith. Instead, this is what Jesus says:
Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.
So, the question isn’t really how we have childlike faith. Instead, the question becomes how do we receive the kingdom like a child?
A few days ago I went with a group of people from my church to a rehab center for addicts. It is a Christ centered facility. It was a fantastic experience to be able to spend time with these folks. Something interesting happened, though.
We prayed over a graduate of the program and anointed him with oil. He is facing some health issues that are definitely a cause for concern. Another gentleman spoke up and told his story. He said that he was a fairly new Christian. His wife had developed breast cancer. He came across the description in James about anointing with oil and prayer. What did he do? He did this for his wife. The results were that her breast cancer disappeared.
It seems to me that this gentleman received the kingdom of God like a child. I’ve explained that scripture in James away many times. I’ve heard it preached that way. I’ve heard plenty of scriptures explained away to mean something other than what they say.
What does a child do when we tell them something? They believe. They trust. They accept it without question. If an adult tells them something, they just believe what happens. We grow up and learn to not believe.
We’ve done that, it seems to me, with a lot of scripture. We try to make it mean something that makes sense to our adult minds rather than as a child would.
Was there anything special in the oil that we anointed that man with? How about the oil the other gentleman anointed his wife with? No. What was special is that we believe that God can heal him. The husband believed that God could heal his wife. What was special was the obedience, trust and faith that was displayed.
What does it mean to have childlike faith? It means obeying the word of God. It means trusting that God will do what He says. It means having faith in the work of Christ. It means coming to Jesus as a child.
Do you come to Christ as a child?
I remember it well. It was sometime in the fall of 1991. I was at the church I grew up in. I was really upping my game in church life. It’s too bad that I wouldn’t realize for a couple of more years that I needed more than just church in my life.
I was sitting there minding my own business listening to the prayer requests and the people who prayed for each item. That’s when I heard something I had never heard before.
“Larry Carter, will you pray for ______?”
I sat there stunned for a moment. Had the pastor really called my name? Was there time for me to slip out the door while every head was bowed and every eye closed? Would I spontaneously combust during my prayer?
I managed to croak out a prayer and obviously I am still alive. But this and other circumstances like it have always made me wonder something.
Why aren’t we taught to pray?
Jesus’ disciples found him praying in a certain place. I think this means that Jesus had a regular, planned spot where he prayed. After he finished, someone asked Him, “Lord teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”`
Think about what just happened. The disciples seemed to be watching Jesus pray. When he was done, they asked to be taught to do it like John’s disciples had been. Evidently, John the Baptist taught his followers how to pray. This was known publicly. Perhaps this particular disciple of Jesus had been one of John’s disciples and had firsthand knowledge of what John had done. So, they wanted to learn how to pray like Jesus. If John’s praying had been like Jesus’, then this would have been unnecessary. But Jesus’ praying was different. It was on another level compared to John’s.
What did Jesus do? He told them how to go about praying. He said when you pray do it like this.
It seems, though, that we are expected to just know how to pray or figure out how to do it on our own.
I remember as a kid watching my dad change the brakes on a car. He told me to watch while he did it. When it came time later to change the brakes on my own car, I didn’t know what to do. I had never done it. I had watched it be done, but I stared at the brakes not really understanding how to handle it.
Jesus basically said, “Here is how I pray. Now do it.” He threw his followers in right away. He taught them how to pray and then said when you pray, do it my way.
That’s the way a good teacher does it. They show you how to do it while you watch. Then they watch you do it while they watch. Finally, they let you do it on your own. Essentially, that’s what Jesus is doing. He is giving the disciples on the job training on the subject of prayer.
Do you know how to pray? I don’t mean do you know how to say words in front of a crowd and call it prayer. Have you learned how to pray? If not, I would suggest a few things.
1. Begin praying.
2. Seek someone who you think is a prayer warrior and ask them to pray with you.
3. Pray some more.
4. Pray about your praying.
5. Pray some more.
In other words, you won’t ever know how to pray unless you actually get down to the business of praying.
Do you know how to pray?
I’ve been a runner all of my life. However, I’ve recently had a period of my life where I haven’t been running. I’m trying to rectify that. These four thoughts have come to mind lately that parallel between my running and my spiritual life.
Starting Is The Hardest Part
Getting back into a running program is difficult. It is hard physically. It may be hard mentally. Life adjustments have to be made. Time adjustments have to be made.
It’s the same thing spiritually. It can be difficult. You may have to get earlier to read your Bible and pray. You may give up some things you have been doing. You may add other things like going to a small group. Regardless, it’s a change to your life and it can be difficult to start.
The More I Run, The More I Can Run
The great thing is that the more you run, the more you can run. You can’t jump right back into running a half marathon or marathon after a lengthy layoff. You have to build up. The more you run over several days, the longer you will be able to run. Eventually, your long runs begin to grow longer.
Spiritually, you may be able to read a chapter or two of your Bible. Your prayers may be very short. However, the more you read, the hungrier you become to read more. The more you pray, the richer your prayer life become.
Extra Baggage Slows You Down
After a running layoff, it’s inevitable that my weight has changed. I haven’t been exercising, so my weight has crept up. That slows me down and keeps me running at my normal pace.
You carry extra baggage after a spiritual layoff too. You may have attitudes that you need to be rid of. There may be sin in your life. Set aside those besetting sins and those things that encumber you. Getting back into a “spiritual program” will help you rid yourself of these like a running program will help lower your weight.
It’s A Daily Grind
Here’s the thing. You can’t run one day, then one day again next week and expect to see results. That won’t help you train for a marathon or help you lose weight. It takes a daily grind. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I love running. But it takes a daily commitment to it to see results.
Same thing in your spiritual life. It takes that daily grind. Get up. Read your Bible. Pray. Spend time in fellowship. Worship. It takes a daily commitment to these things to get your spiritual life back on track.
What would you add to these? What have you learned from something in your life that parallels your spiritual life?
I know that we are just about past the time for posts like this, but please indulge me one last one. I promise that I won’t continue these beginning of the year type posts.
What kind of year do you want? Since most of you who grace me with coming to this blog follow Christ, I specifically mean what kind of year spiritually do you want.
Do you want your year to be worship centered?
How about fellowship centered?
What about prayer? Do you want prayer to be the center of your life this year?
Bible study? Reading the Bible through? Would that be the focus of the next few months?
All of these are wonderful ideas. I want all of these things to be part of it, but I want all of them to point to and derive their power from one thing.
I want the Gospel to be the center of my life this year.
Someone may want to get all over me about that. Perhaps they would challenge me and say that Christ should be the center.
I don’t disagree. I just happen to think that you can’t have a Gospel centered year without Christ being the center.
So this year, at the center of my life, I want the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be central to everything I do and think.
Will I succeed? The answer is in the future. I do know that If I don’t go fishing there is a good chance I won’t catch a fish. If I don’t make the effort there is a pretty good chance that I won’t succeed.
I want 2013 to be a gospel centered year.
What is going to be the center of 2013 for you?